Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Serious Horror, Killer Kung-Fu, the Wild, the Whimsical and All Else Anti-norm

This year Fantasia is knocking us dead with a sensational, voluminous heart-pounding  line-up of International premiers, Quebec ones and North American ones too. All genres are covered, and new ones have been invented. Nothing can slam dunk automatic  screen success and audience eagerness as  much as Fantasia can. Now into its 21st year. the country's most infamous off-the predictable charts festival is is saturated with over 150 features and 300 shorts, and let's include those eight documentaries too.
In fact, the closing film is one of the most important in its time. "A Taxi Driver", receives its international premiere here, and the director, Jang Hoon will be hosting this important screening. On May 18th, 1980 South Korea started its protracted protest against Chun Doo-hwan's diabolical dictatorhsip. Beaten, evne tortured hundreds of students endured the nation's mayhem and misery. The film pairs a struggling single father who drives a taxi with a German journalist intent on documenting the goings-on. They travel from Seoul to Gwangji, the the journey is a harrowing one. No stranger to Hoon, star actor, Song kang-ho  who drives the taxi into terror land is once again acting
Lots of  award-winning Korean films are begin served up this year, including "Rough Cut" and  "The Front Line".  
Themes on animal rights, vengeance, hauntings, heartwarming oddballs, community chaos, futuristic sci-fis and more are only some of the gut-wrenching and side splitting areas Fantasia will be presenting. There are animation masterpieces, underground gross-outs and, super fun comedies too that explore unconventional relationships and weird contexts of living.
This year Larry Cohen is the honoured recipient of a Fantasia Lifetime Achievement Award. His cult films have garnered admiration from Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, John Landis and the list goes on. The collage of films from this brilliant director is sure to sharpen your admiration for him too along with your own imagination. A fabulous assortment of free events cover films from the past, a live multi-media events, a book launch event (Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin) that basks in Vampires and more. A rare 35mm screening at the Cinemateque quebecoise on July 27th of Rollin's own "Le Viol Du Vampire" will be playing in its original two-part form.
Names such as "Charlize Theron who is in "Atomic Blond", and Arnold  Schwarzenegger will come to the screen in Terminator 2" Judgment Day" but this time - 26 years later, director, James Cameron presents a restored 3D version. Now, that'S a must-see!

The festival starts July 13th and runs to August 2nd.
For all info, visit the website:

Reviews follow:


In Japan, young girls become pop singers who live for pleasing their fans – men of all ages. In fact, most of these old guys idolize these girls - 10,000 young females that devote themselves to becoming an “idol”. They’ll sign their autographs in a line-up post concert for these guys.

In fact, they will do just about anything above board and strict rules to keep their fan base – including Rio. She’s 19 years old and travels on a bike to build her fans that live far away from her town. In fact, Rio spends most of her time using her webcam to delight her audience. But Rio is losing her looks or so she thinks and wants to join the ranks of true artists. Far beyond entertainment, this documentary offers a disturbing look into old men, young girls and the fantasy both have. An otaku is the world for a man whose whole life is wrapped up in these concerts given by the idols. It’s sad but very human. Pedophiles come to mind. It’s a UK-Quebec co- -production that garnered “Official selection at this year’s Sundance Festival. See it if you want to witness an aspect of Japan that worships young girls on stage.

This film will be aired at Fantasia, on July 26th.
 Consult the program via the website.


                              KILLING GROUND (Directed by Damien Power) ****

When Ian, a doctor and Sam, his girl friend retreat to Gungillee Falls, an Australian camping area of seclusion, this tranquil outback truly becomes a place where the woodsy would-be beauty turns into a place of cruelty and survival skills. Two local outlaws with a thirst for blood have been in these woods before and met up with a family whom they dispose of in a vile way.
 Ian and Sam are about to find out why a wandering baby is suddenly on the scene, and can they save it and find his parents?

Basically, the little one is the only member left of the family whose gruesome fate was sealed the moment they arrived at the same area two days earlier. Ian and Sam test their relationship and their own courage. Sam ends up being the heroine and Ian is not the man she thought he was. This is a finally made horror film that weaves past events with the present though the outcome seems to become one and the same. The film received official selection at Sundance this year, overlook Film festivals and Scary Movies X (Film Society of Lincoln Center). I will never camp go into the woods again after seeing this film.


                         SHIN GODZILLA (Directed by Hideaki Anno) **

A huge creature is destroying Tokyo, and the Japanese government departments begin to unravel that this creature is radioactive. It has fed off the radioactive waste during in the sea from the atomic bomb released in the country during WWII. No matter how they try to destroy this beast, nothing works, until they hatch an ingenious plan. Thermonuclear bombs may return to Japan and the world through the resurrection of Godzilla. There have been 29 Godzilla films, but this one just gets too boring.  I liked the special effects silliness of the older films – the last one being in 2005. The creature morphs bigger and bigger but no amount of size can rescue this


                                       THE FINAL MASTER (Directed by Xu Haofeng) ***
Tiajin has 19 martial arts schools, but when Master Chen, an old man arrives in town wanting to start his own school, but rules demand he trains his own apprentice who comes from Tiajin He’s a street punk named Geng. It would seem that a trio of establishment chiefs of the martial arts schools thwart Chen’s ambitions, and the cost is mighty. The fighting scenes are second to none and the crispness of timing that plays throughout this Chinese-made film is a joy to watch, however, the plots is confusing, and in the end, we long to see the fighting scenes, even if it means the heroes are in grave jeopardy. Swords of all shapes, styles and lengths prove amusing to behold which contrasts with the scene seriousness when they are used; the result is ironic comic impact. How these men do it is beyond belief. 

It is one of the best and most realistic martial arts films to come out of Asia, and was in this year’s Official Selection in the Udine Far East Film Festival, Night Vision.


              CONFIDENTIAL ASSIGNMENT (Directed by Kim Sung-hoon) ****

North Korean detective, Cheol-ryung (Hyun Bin) is guarding a Pyongyang laboratory, Cha, his superior and his gang of thugs steal plates for printing counterfeit US dollars. They invade and kill workers there, including Cheol-ryung’s wife. Cheol-rung must go to South Korea to get the plates back. He’s totally dedicated to his country, but is paired with Kang, (Kim Joo-hyuk) a policeman who certainly does not feel the same way. While Cheol-ryung is tight lipped about the operation, and Kang is passionately curious and caring, the latter is left in the dark as to why his North Korean partner is really here. Is it really to find a murderer, or is it for something else? The action is super, the comic scenes fetchingly touching, and the plot is brilliant. I loved the fact that North Korea has its hero in the film, and that in the end both men are able to embrace one another and soften their own hard-lined thoughts about each other. This is a must-see entertaining winner with some soft political themes embedded in the story. The chemistry between the two characters I great, mainly because their contrasting personalities in wonderfully exploited . There’s never a  lull in this original script. It was in this year’s official Selection in Hawaii’s International Film Festival.



The 28th century still has its battles and one evil man has destroyed a perfect planet of peaceful beings. Through lots of different dimensions Valerian and Laureline recapture a transistor that will bring rebirth to this planet. Incredible special effects are the highlight of this movie and the scene with Rihanna morphing into different creatures is eye-popping. But the plot is confusing, silly and totally predictable. On assignment from the Minister of Defense, these two hero get more than they bargained for, and all kinds of secrets come to the fore as each enters struggles to save Alpha, another planet that they are assigned to save but everyone else. The move was dubbed in French at the press screening. No idea why?


SHOCK WAVE (Directed by Chaak Dean Juan Ga) *****

Unbelievably excellent! This Hong Kong film pits an undercover agent who is a superb bomb detonator into a ring of thugs, but when he’s found out and called a traitor by Peng, who heads the ring, he’s in deep trouble. The leader plants bombs in the Cross-Harbor Tunnel and about 100 cars with passengers inside are held hostage in this tunnel. Peng will shoot at them all one by one if his brother is not released form prison and he specifically wants Cheung to arrange this. It was Cheung who put him in prison in the first place.  Horrid things happen in that tunnel and the ending is not a Disneyland happy one. I cried in this film shoes suspense, action and events melded together to create a top rate film with a story of several twists that leave us all on the edge of our seats. A blockbuster best earning Official Selection of the Udine Far East Festival.


COLD HELL (Directed by Stefan Ruzowitsky) *****

Ozge (Violetta Schurawlow), a Turkish independent woman. drives a taxi in Vienna, but her job takes on more energy when she goes for her boxing work-outs. She’s a woman with a chip on her shoulder and as we find out, it is merited. One night she comes home and finds a woman’s body on the ground outside her window. It has been burned, and soon her cousin faces the same fate when she retreats to Ozge’s apartment with her young daughter. But no one is safe. There’s a torturer killer on the loose and its takes a series of brutal encounters before she and her detective pal track him down. Ozge is a tough strong woman who knows how to defend herself and protect those she loves, but she ahs met her match in this serial killer villain who is out to skin alive Muslim woman. What a suspenseful film that has some humorous touches amidst the horrific scenes that play out.

   SPOOR (Directed by Agnieszka Holland & kasia Adamik) *****

Janina Duszejko, remarkably played by Agnieszka Mandat) lives  alone near the Czech-Polish border. Highly independent, her senior age does not deter her from her energy and passion. She has two beloved dogs who one day go missing. As an ardent protector of animals, she devotes herself to them in between her unkosher methods of connecting to children as a part-time school teacher. But everything in her village repulses her: the priest who teaches that animals are subservient to men and also must be hunted down. She hates the police chief who does not thing to help her protect animals or find her two missing dogs, and she hates one vile man who keeps dogs in his slum kennel where they are at death’s door. She eventually makes friends who truly rescue her after she blows her top in a manner that leaves not only animal tracks in her wake but human ones too.

 This is such a great story that turns a woman into a heroine and an older woman at that. It also addresses the topic of murderous hunting and the total disregard for animal rights. Hunting fans may not agree with the message in this marvelous film that won the Alfred Bauer prize in the Berlin International Festival. Two female writers adapted the novel with a different name to make this movie that resonates with an acute sensitivity typically embedded in women, and it has been put to excellent use by these two creative beings. Beautifully shot with inventive camera work as well.


HOUSE OF THE DISAPPEARED (Directed by Lim Dae-Woong) ****

Mi-Hee wakes up in her house to discover that one of her sons is missing, her husband has a knife in his stomach. She is arrested and let out 25 years later, only to discover why she keeps having visions and house haunting. This powerful film based on time lines and flashbacks unravels a touching story about family and mother/son love. The end is a twist that no one could ever imagine. A remake of Alejandro Hidalgo’s Venezuelan film,” House at the End of Time”, the director has beautifully crafted together (using astounding editing) an atmospheric mood piece that has us all intrigued. The star, Kim Yunjin was mesmerizing; her intensity was remarkable.


BAD BLACK (Directed by IGG Nabwana) ****
BAD BLACK (Directed by IGG Nabwana) ***
This is Ugandan kitsch at its best. In Kampala, Swazz aka. Schwarzenegger and his 10-year-old partner, rob a bank. Bad Black, a tough gal, is abandoned by her family as a girl and grows up to head a gang of thugs who she orders around to seek revenge on all who have wronged her. There’s a doctor who turns into a commando. Narrated by the director complete with his own sound effects and characters whose names are those of Holly wood’s own fighting icons, such as Stallone, Wesley Snipes (a kid in this case). This film is hilarious and breaks all boundaries regarding film rules and using real props. In fact, the helicopters, guns and others thing are made from metal waste and carved wood, and it shows. A cult film brought to you by Ramon production Studios. The film opens with scenes from Nabwana’s “Who Killed Captain Alex” – the first Wakaliwood film ever shown at a film fest which happened to be Fantasia in 1015. The film gives a raw look into Uganda’s ghetto life that ironically laughs at itself, as the scenes are so fast-paced and almost cartoonish in exaggeration. Fun all the way!


BAD GENIUS (Directed by Nattawat Poonpiriya) *****

Lynn is a math genius and soon she becomes the secret mentor forseveral schoolmates. She ingeniously develops a way to use the beginning notes of some piano pieces  to fill in multiple question answers by tapping her fingers. She shares with her pool of cheating students her technique during exam time, so they can watch her tapping and fill in their own answers. Things get totally out of control when she orchestrates a trip to Sydney to fill in answers and send them to her pool also taking the exam in Thailand just after she does, so they can copy her answers that she sends via her cell phone. Her equally smart friend does the other half of that exam the same way. Things don’t work out. A brilliant film full of suspense with nerve-wracking results.


                                             MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND (Ana Asensui) ****

The director (named Luciana) is featured in this film that is based on a true story one that actually happened to Ana. She has moved from Spain to New York in the hope of having a future and to forget a memory about a child that was killed and which she blames herself. We never really get any details about this. Ana can’t pay rent. Olga, one of her friends invites her to a secretive appointment that very night, but things become horrific for Ana when she enters the building that has the men and two women who are waiting for her and other girls behind a closed door in another room. People arrive and each girl is inspected by the people. The girls stand in their own little numbered circle. Things are very tense and the grand dame who runs it all, calls each girl in. What lies in the inner room is a game of life and death and bets are placed on the girls. Not to give away a spoiler, but the black locked purse each girl must carry – given by one of the operatives of this secret activity - contains the fate of whether the girl lives or dies. A deadly spider is involved. Before Ana enters the building she hides all her bag in a trash can. She has been instructed to get rid of the bag. This motive seems to show ironically that the safest bag is that which goes in the garbage New York is anything but beautiful in this compelling film.
This film uncovers the dreadful things many immigrant women will do to make a buck in the Big Apple.


                                                                    S.U.M.I. 1
                                                         (Directed by Christian Pasquaniello) **

S.U.M.I. 1 is a soldier posted for a 100 days in a metal strange sterile tower where he monitors and protects people left from the Nonesuch aliens who have ravaged earth. But soon his machines to monitor movement break down, and he begins to think the whole alien thing is a hoax. He believes that those in charge are simply scaring everyone to hide in underground bunkers and lead their lives that way. There is a surprise ending that is totally given too fast and which is preceded by long moments that do not build up suspense.


TOWN IN A LAKE (Directed by Jet Leyco) *

In a poor lakeside town of Matangtubig, Batangas in the Philippines, two school teenage girls get into a car at night. One of them is found murdered.the next day and the other never reappears. The crime rate in this village is basically nil up until now. The only eye witness to the car scene finally comes forward, but the film ends without ever answering our questions not the cops. Lots of shots of the water, the jungle and the schoolhouse filter aimlessly in this weird town. Magic is afoot here, but it is not one that works. The final scene shows the damage of the village from the Tsunami. The film ends abruptly. 


DARKLAND (Directed by Femar Ahmad) *****

This Danish movie gives you everything exceptional the viewer craves. Suspense, violence, revenge and drama that pulls you right in. Zaid is a surgeon from Iraq whose brother, Yasin is in desperate need of money, so one night he goes to Zaid and begs him, telling him he is in deep trouble. But Zaid turns a deaf ear on him. Yasin is found almost dead and the plug is pulled by his own brother at the hospital where he works. This film is about finding the culprits who killed his brother and eking out deadly revenge, but the price he pays is non-returnable. Before the final outcome, Zaid returns to a pal  of his to retrain as a boxer. Soon however, he begins injecting himself with steroids in order to fulfill his mission. There are so many unforgettable scenes in this movie that also show the tender side of Zaid with his pregnant wife. The violence is excessive and the villain brutal beyond words. The fight scenes are needed in many ways to speak for a man who needs to avenge his brother.  Dar Salim in the role of Zaid is a Vin Diesel look alike. He’s a fine actor that deserves to be internationally known.


PORK PIE (Directed by Matt Murphy) ****

John has left Suzie, his bride, right at the altar (back story) and his regret is intensely deep. He wants to drive hundreds of miles to reconcile, but his car breaks down, and so he ends up in a Mini Cooper with Luke – both fo whom are soon joined by Kiera, a fun, fantastic girl who falls for Luke, But soon the pair find themselves accused of shooting a maniac and they are speeding away from a police chase that takes them through New Zealand. Will John end of with Suzie and will Luke find Kiera after she is taken in by police? A hilarious ride that has a message about love, loyalty and longing for a world without carnivores. 


INDIANA (Directed by Toni Comas) *

The Spirit Doctors are brothers who are also two paranormal investigators. They help those whose houses and beings are possessed by supernatural forces. Michael (Gabe Fazio) actually has the gift of second sight and the ability to communicate with the dead, while Josh (Bradford West) deeply wishes he does and has convinced himself he can. And on one fateful summer's day, they find themselves dealing with events that make them question the nature of what they do, and uncover some of the real demons of this seemingly quiet part of America. A murder and the two brothers own demons tie together in a bizarre house where a shattered woman lies rotting away for fear of meeting the human who was truly a demon. Builds into nothing; anti-climactic.


ANOTHER WOLFCOP (Directed by Lowell Dean) bomb

Last and least is this stupid, infantile, totally bathroom humor non-plot film that is made for aberrant adults with an I.Q. under 2. Still the wolf costumes were fabulous. The gore was thick and endless.

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