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Lindsay R. Bellinger


Lindsay is a film journalist and an aspiring playwright currently based in Berlin.

Attending film festivals, reviewing films and collecting vinyl keeps her busy. Let her know what you think of her reviews.^^


Fantasy Filmfest 2018 Berlin Starts Out With a Bang: "Mandy" and "Mega Time Squad"


The Fantasy Filmfest started out with a bang this year! Panos Cosmatos' German premiere of "Mandy" was the opening film and it sold out. Many sad festival-goers were turned away left and right, me being one of them. Luckily, a lovely festival worker put me on the guest list for the next screening, the New Zealand adventure comedy "Mega Time Squad". Boy was I glad she did! Plus that gave me some time to reply to emails regarding my coverage of the International Oldenburg Film Festival, which starts next Wednesday in Oldenburg. Back to this festival, the Fantasy Filmfest has been running since 1987, when it began its humble roots in Hamburg, screening premieres and film classics like "The Little Shop of Horrors". This year it runs from September 5th to September 30th, with stops in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart. It opened this year in Berlin, as it's done since 2008 with the exception of last year. One might be under the misconception that the Fantasy Filmfest is pure fantasy along the lines of "Labyrinth" or "The Lord of the Rings" but that's not the case at all. It covers a fascinating blend of genre films that could be classified as sci-fi, horror, crime/thrillers and just simply bizarre. If one wants to see unconventional films in Germany in the original languages, then this is definitely the place to go. FEAR GOOD MOVIES is their slogan and it suits them perfectly. 



The opening shot of Tim van Dammen's "Mega Time Squad" follows a low-grade thug John (the likable Anton Tennet) as he goes door-to-door collecting money for his sleazy and not-too-scary local crime boss Shelton (Jonny Brugh). Bombastic electronic 80s beats pump up the volume, with artfully edited shots of Johnny doing his work. There are so many one-liners that had me chuckling throughout. The mix of the absurd and the straight deliveries is somewhat reminiscent of early Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg collaborations. You just gotta laugh at the awkwardness of it. The references to other films is also a bit of fun. I particularly enjoyed the allusions to "Taxi Driver" (a few to be honest) and "The Thomas Crown Affair" remake. John and his mate decide to steal loot from an antique Chinese store and end up with Shelton's bumbling goons after him. In the process, John takes a mysterious bracelet that the old Chinese store owner warns him against but to no avail. The time travel escapades center around this magical bracelet that allows John to jump back a few minutes. Even though warned, John still meets his former selves and that's when it might get a bit confusing.  
I was actually getting a bit concerned after what felt like 10 to 15 minutes; there were some scenes where only I and maybe one other dude was laughing. The majority of the pre-film and post-film conversations that I overheard were in German, which leads me to believe that their humor was either not on the same wave length or they simply didn't understand the English being used (both plausible, after having lived in Germany for going on 5 years now). Luckily, after the first 15 minutes are so the audience really started warming up to the quick-paced and dryly delivered comic antics. 
All in all, this second feature film from writer/director Tim van Dammen was a pleasurable ride. The music and editing kept things interesting when the dialogue wasn't killing it. It was nice to see the minorities, primarily Chinese and women, in the film were given a good amount of screen time, funny lines often performed straight and were not the first ones killed off. Kelly (the brilliant Hetty Gaskell-Hahn), Shelton's younger sister, doesn't need saving even though John might think she does. She's even introduced to John while making a bomb vest for her brother because that's clearly what good sisters do. For all of the strange and oddball humor the message at the end was a sweet one that might be more surprising to those who only read a short blurb about the film. 
Unfortunately van Dammen got sick while taking "Mega Time Squad" to other festivals so was unable to attend last night. It's too bad because it would have been interesting to hear how the audience at the festival in the UK reacted in comparison to the Fantasy FilmFest screening. I really do wonder whether or not there was minimal laughter in the early stages of the film because most of the German audience couldn't understand the jokes. It actually makes me remember when a German acquaintance in Stuttgart asked me to explain some jokes from "How I Met Your Mother" which he simply could not get. Not to say that this film has anything in common with HIMYM, just to point out how a large portion of the German-speaking population is okay with watching films dubbed into German. It's what they know, they grew up on it. At least in Berlin one can see original films or with German subtitles at several cinemas scattered throughout the city. I still cringe at the fact that while living in Stuttgart, a sizable German city of just over 600,000 residents, my friends and I only had one cinema that screened original version, non-dubbed films. Unfortunately, said cinema reminded me of the old one that I grew up with in Upstate New York, although with worse sound. The point that I'm trying to get across is that I really, truly hope that if this hilarious New Zealand film gets released in Germany and elsewhere it does so only in its original version. Too many jokes would be lost, which would be a crying shame. 





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About Lindsay R. Bellinger

With Dieter Kosslick during his last Berlinale.

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