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Movie Hullabaloo V: This KFC Is Too Loud

Updated on April 27, 2019
ChrisSawin profile image

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

Ma Dong-seok (left) in Well Go USA's, "Champion."
Ma Dong-seok (left) in Well Go USA's, "Champion."

Punch with Your Foot and Kick with Your Fist

The fifth annual cinematic mystery tour known as Movie Hullabaloo took place last Saturday, April 21, 2019 at Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra in Katy, TX. A lineup of five movies was chosen by a film adoring quartet which included Robert Saucedo – the programming director at Alamo Drafthouse Houston, Meredith Borders – the managing editor at Fangoria, Alan Cerny – film critic at ComingSoon.net, and newcomer to Hullabaloo Evan Saathoff – senior editor at Birth. Movies. Death. The film titles were kept hidden in secrecy until Hullabaloo began and were revealed one at a time as the previous film finished; just over 10 hours of film. The weather has been this pleasant mixture of a warm temperature with a cool breeze and this particular Saturday was no exception. The weather was so enjoyable that over 100 people decided to spend it inside watching movies for nearly half the day.

This was actually my third Hullabaloo overall and it’s a marathon that any movie fan shouldn’t miss. I attended Movie Hullabaloo Two (or Hullabatwo) in 2016. The lineup was Angels with Dirty Faces, I am a Knife with Legs, The Legend of Billie Jean, Spring, and Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. I wrote about it when Examiner.com still existed, but it’s now available at this random detour nobody asked for on the internet. I also attended Movie Hullabaloo Four, which took place April 14, 2018 with titles that included Arthur, American Pop, Hearts Beat Loud, Dune, and Ghost Stories. As for another quick statistic, this was my first time at Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra and Hullabaloo is a perfect inauguration for any new-to-you movie theater.

Christian Bale in Steven Spielberg's, "Empire of the Sun."
Christian Bale in Steven Spielberg's, "Empire of the Sun."

First up was Alan’s pick – Steven Spielberg’s coming-of-age war epic Empire of the Sun and is the theatrical debut of a young Christian Bale with a supporting cast that includes extremely young versions of John Malkovich, Joe Pantoliano, and Ben Stiller. The film was a 4K restoration on a laser projector and looked and sounded outstanding. Despite the film being 32 years old, there are some incredible sequences in the film like the slow crawl through the crowd in the car at the beginning of the film, that sequence of Bale caressing the nose of a plane as sparks rain down around him, the explosive attack on the internment camp, and the leftover valuables in the “rich pickings” sequence. At just over 150 minutes, Empire of the Sun was a bit much to kick Hullabaloo off; personally speaking of course. It’s an impressive film that had been on my watchlist for ages and I was happy to finally get to see it, but I honestly would probably never watch it again. Young Christian Bale is too hyper and annoying for me. What is considered childlike and, “just being a kid,” is bothersome and obnoxious to me.

Up next was Evan’s pick – a South Korean sports comedy called Champion. Starring Ma Dong-seok (Train to Busan, Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days), Champion is a film about arm wrestling that manages to reference Sylvester Stallone’s Over the Top. Ma Dong-seok is Mark/Baek Seung-min in the film and he’s a former arm wrestling pro that now does security for a living. He’s never felt like he’s been good at anything other than arm wrestling, so it’s no surprise that he’s pulled back into it. The arm wrestling factor of the film opens the door for the film to actually be about family. While Mark is big, he’s basically a gentle giant that only uses his mass to defend what he cares about the most. Champion is a touching film with a ton of heart and an incredible performance from Ma Dong-seok. The film also throws in a few poop and fart jokes, which I’m all about if they’re executed properly (spoiler: they totally are here).

The third film was the first advanced screening of the evening – Riley Stearns’ (Faults) dry, offbeat, and fantastically hilarious comedy The Art of Self-Defense due in theaters July 12th. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, and Alessandro Nivola, The Art of Self-Defense follows the socially awkward Casey (Eisenberg). Casey is assaulted one night and put in the hospital. When he recovers, he decides he wants to learn how to defend himself. He settles on taking karate where he meets the dojo master known as Sensei (Nivola) and his best student Anna (Poots) whose only flaw is that she isn’t a man. This film is outrageous and hysterical. It is honestly the best thing Jesse Eisenberg has ever done. Its big moments are a bit predictable, but it doesn’t take away from its superb writing. While you’re at it, you should check out Faults as well, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Meredith’s pick was the fourth choice of the evening – this undeniably bizarre Canadian “children’s film” called The Peanut Butter Solution. Meredith told this story, and I’m probably going to butcher this with my paraphrasing, about how she used to live near this gas station when she was a kid where she could rent VHS movies. This film was one she used to get over and over again despite her mom being unsettled by the film. Long before the accessibility of IMDb at our fingertips, Meredith couldn’t find anything about this film later on in life and thought she had dreamt it or made it up. She eventually discovered that everyone who encountered this film as kid had a similar experience. People they would talk to about this film thought they were full of it; stuff like that. Anyway, it was eventually found on IMDb and shown as part of this marathon. The film is pure 1980s cheese with awful acting, a bonkers storyline, and a ton of content that isn’t suitable for children. Funny side note: I share a birthday with the kid who played the weird, ant-obsessed best friend to the main character Conrad/Connie.

A still from the 1985 not-so-family-friendly "children's" film, "The Peanut Butter Solution."
A still from the 1985 not-so-family-friendly "children's" film, "The Peanut Butter Solution."

Last but not least was the black comedic drama The Death of Dick Long. Directed by Daniel Scheinert, one of the Daniels that co-directed Swiss Army Man (currently streaming on Netflix and a personal favorite), The Death of Dick Long is the type of film you want to go into as blind as possible, so this will be purposely vague. Three friends are in a band together and they cover the likes of Staind and Nickelback. They decide to get a little weird one night after band practice, which includes drinking, smoking, and getting into trouble. Whatever they do that night goes horribly wrong and it results in the death of their friend Dick Long. Zeke and Earl are left to try and cover up their friend’s death, but they’re both terrible at it. They try to avoid the authorities and their spouses, but they’re also awful at lying. The film is nothing like Swiss Army Man and it goes in this completely unseen direction because everything is played so straight. It makes you wonder how the people you know or who you’ve never met may seem normal on the surface, but deep down they’re actually more screwed up than anyone else. The film played at this year’s Sundance, but it currently doesn’t have a release date despite being picked up by A24.

Movie Hullabaloo has basically become the yearly tradition I don’t ever want to miss. Tickets are just under $29, but you’re getting five movies for less than $6 apiece and that’s a pretty serious bargain. The first Hullabaloo I attended had a performance from Bene, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead in person to talk about Spring, and we got to pet a rabbit. I think my only gripe about Hullabaloo was the lack of something interactive like that. Given that the first film we saw ate up nearly three hours, there wasn’t a ton of time in between films; just enough time to run to the bathroom. It would be cool to have guests or performances again; or an exclusive raffle or something. But honestly, don’t read too much into that. While it’s a criticism on one hand, it’s basically forced because Hullabaloo is a blast regardless. The programming is great and there are no complaints there. It reminds me of buying a grab bag at a convention or your favorite store. What’s included inside is a bunch of stuff you’ll probably love, but you have no idea what you’re going to get until it’s in your hands and you open it. Hullabaloo just has you open that mystery bag collectively in a theater with 100 other people you’ve likely never met. Sharing this kind of experience with that many people is special and that’s why there’s really nothing else quite like Hullabaloo.

The main cast of, "The Death of Dick Long," in a quieter time aka the beginning of the film.
The main cast of, "The Death of Dick Long," in a quieter time aka the beginning of the film.

© 2019 Chris Sawin

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