Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Everyone's Favourite Festival!

Marking its 27th year, the guru of great and fantastically different films, this crowd-pleasing fest features these seven different category selections: Axis – now six years old screens imaginative shorts and features; Action with lots of nail-biting, pow-power thrills; Camera Lucinda delivers marginalized voices that dare to think differently; Genre du pays gives a historical perspective on Quebec cinema; Documentaries de la marge – stranger than fiction tales of odd-ball; Fantasia Underground – big and boldly independent film-makers who take risks; Fantastique week-ends du Cinema Québecois brings to the public locally-made shorts and some new features that put Quebec film-makers up front and centre; and Mon Premier Fantasia

Reviews follow

                                   RIVER'S EDGE (Directed by Isao Yukisada) ***
                                                                            Canadian premier

On the outskirts of Tokyo, teens have a ton of skeletons hanging in their private psyche. Each character has a burden to bear.  Heroine-like Haruna seems to feel little; she's a cool cat, but everyone turns to her for strength, especially Yamada who gets bullied and beaten up; he’s gay. His chatter-box girl friend has no idea he is - despite how cruelly he treats her. Finally and fatally, jealousy fires her up (hinting here at her ending); she can’t take it any more. Kozue is the bad boy bully in all this and a sex maniac. His sex toy gal  - there are two - one who meets a gory-girl ending; (I won’t give away the who-done-it spoiler). It’s a sad depressing  pseudo-melodramatic take on teen angst in Tokyo taken to its fullest. Believable and dark, death and desperation grip the tone of this unique film. Great acting for sure; a film deserving its many awards, but the 118 minutes does lag at times.


THE BRINK (Directed by Jonathon Li) ****
      Quebec Premiere

Energy galore – as much as the gore in this Hong Kong/China killer flick. Non-stop action with all kinds of dirty plot and character twists. Betrayal and greed makes the money go round. Fight scenes are sensational – as riveting as the any cop plot. Max Zhang charismatically plays Cheng – the fiercest of cops who’s totally consumed by tracking down the most brutal villain whose greed for gold is endless. He works for a big boss and when he offs him and many others, he finally lays his hands directly on gold bullions, he calls his own; He now heads the smugglers; the hiding place is deep in the sea.  There’s a message in the film that allof us should heed.  Despite a few non-credible character turn-abouts, the film is intensely satisfying to watch!     

MANDY (Directed by Panos Cosamtso)****
Canadian Premiere

Okay. Put a Greek film-maker with Nicolas Cage in a horror film, and you can be sure Aeschylus elements are sure to appear, including eyes being dug out. bloodshed, vengeance and narcissistic insanity. It’s an over-the-top plot stunningly shot in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of vivid hues morphing intensely as the scary music becomes ever more manic - along with the characters

Red Miller (note the name 'Red') played with excessive dramatic intensity by Nicolas Cage (well cast for this demanding role) must track down what happened to his wife Mandy. As he delves deep into tracking down her disappearance, he encounters the most heinous of creatures called humans. The result is bloody hell. The late Jóhann Jóhannsson produced a masterpiece of movie music as Miller and  the malevolent motorcycle-riding gangs -  clothed in the spikes fill the screen with graphic gore and guts. Linus Roachie who maniacally heads the cult was terrific and formidably frightening. Purgatory ws never so scary and somewhat camp at the same time.


                     WHAT A MAN WANTS (Directed by Lee Byeong-heon)***

Totally funny without being over the top. South Korean attitudes a la New York where the director lives this romantic comedy is about over and covert cheating on wives – even though one knows about it – and about the downside of marriage. One woman in particular has both brother-in-law and brother vying for her. Adultery has never been so playful, and we don’t scorn what we see, but laugh with all the characters – including  those unlucky wives. But here’s the thing: is food more important than love? They seem to be happy bedfellows. Seok-geun and Bong-soo steal the acting kudos!

                          DANS LA BRUME (Directed by Daniel Roby) *****
                                    THE MIST

Probably the most relevant film in the festival, this France/Canada co-production is so suspenseful and true to the state of affairs in our world today. It also is a reflection on the lethal perils Paris has endured. But the nature of the film’s death knell starts with an underground explosion that releases a humongous amount of toxic gas which smothers almost everyone. We meet young teenage daughter, Sarah who must spend every moment of her life inside a totally pure-air battery-run bubble; she suffers from Stinberger. Her two parents, Mathieu and Anna - both brilliant and courageous beyond belief - must find ways to get their daughter new batteries to keep that bubble going. Their task becomes daunting as they face their own unsurpassable obstacles. Both parents have to use oxygen masks. Like scavengers, they find two. But surviving becomes a test of strength, demanding every sinew in their bodies to hold their breath to save their daughter before the gas rises far beyond the roof tops of the entire city. 

The movie is not without dramatic irony, especially at the end. There is a touch of comic relief amidst the impending tragedy, when we meet the very old devoted couple living on the top floor to which Sarah's parents escape to avoid the gas onslaught. So powerful and brilliant, this film is in the festival's Cheval Noir Competition. Unique and gripping, La Brume should be seen by everyone (especially Trump).
The Quebec director has crafted a film masterpiece. You’ll be taking deep breaths watching this thrilling, compelling plot piloted by two exceptional actors are exceptional: Roman Duris and Olga Kurylenko. In fact, the entire close-knit cast is unforgettable – as is the mist that envelops the screen and lingers with us long after the film finishes.

                               BUFFALO BOYS (Directed by Mike Wiluan) *****

In 1860, the Dutch committed a brutal genocide. Led by Captain Van Trach, there was no peace for the oppressed Indonesians. The father of two brothers  - the family is from a royal line - is killed. The brothers, Arana, Jamar and their uncle flee in exile. They seek to free their people and decimate Trach and his horrid men. There are many excellent scenes that show the brutality of the Dutch; tragedy and terror reign. But the two brothers are triumphant at the end. This film is superbly executed and entertaining, with much action and suspense that is totally believable. It’s more than just a western with guns and train scenes. It’s about justice.

BROTHERS’ NEST (Directed by Clayton Jacobson) *****

Canadian Premiere

Two look-alike brothers (real bros in life) head to their step-father’s house where the boys had grown up. The older excessively manipulative Jeff has worked out (to the inth second) the plan to follow to kill their step-father. Terry, the gentler one of the two really doesn't have his heart in it, but lots of brotherly convincing why he should do it win’s out. There are many secrets revealed as the brothers spend the day at the cottage setting up the ultimate murder. Jeff was the son who totally adored his violent dad; not so with Terry, but he never agrees; Jeff pounces on him the minute terry has an unkind world to mutter about his father. Black comedy at its Australian finest filters hilariously through the film. This unforgettable movie gem graphically proves the best laid plans go astray.


        1987 WHEN TOMORROW COMES (Directed by Jang Joon-hwan)*****

A stunning tour de force that recaptures the horrific corruption in South Korea used by Chun Doo-hwan that turned the country into a regressive state of repression against students and adults who objected and were portrayed as Communists. But even the cause of democracy was crushed by his henchmen. North Korean defector Park Jeol-won has a personal axe to grind against all commies. He heads the office of Anticommunist Investigation.  Plot-wise, a student is tortured and a huge cover-up ensues. The Seoul Olympics is not too far off, and so all must look good. Lawyers, journalists and student revolutionaries are murdered. What a gripping film this is, and an important one. In this film, North Korea and South Korea could have been one and the same.

WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE (Directed by Colin Minihan)****

Quebec Premiere

A lesbian couple retreats to a wonderful cottage owned by the family of Jackie – the “husband” in the relationship. But Jackie’s family is dead, and here’s the tie-in to that: anyone once married to Jackie is dead as well. What Jules, her present wife of one year doesn’t know is she is next on the list of “fatal accidents”. 
Love scenes convince Jackie and us that this is a keeper couple, but what awaits Jules is nothing short of cliff hanging suspense. Jackie pushes her off a cliff, but she somehow makes it onto her feet. She is hunted down by Jackie but escapes in the car they came in.. But Jules does two stupid things that cost her more than a busted leg. A thrilling, terrifying movie about the twisted mind of a psychopath – one that anyone  could very well be married to. Money is the motivator for murder here, and doubly diabolical, because a psychopath is handling how it all plays out. Lots of gory scenes. Intense acting makes up for the moments that fall short of credible actions. A very good film.


THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION (Directed by Park Hoon-jung) *****
International Premiere

Cold-blooded assassins burst into a hospital to gun-down young children who are undergoing genetic engineering of the brain. One telekinetic girl, Ja-yoon escapes. She has no recollection of the massacre,, and she is taken in by a loving family who lives on a farm. Fast forward ten years, and this teen can sing, tend to farm chores, aces her grades and is headed for fame glory in a singing contest. Soon, she is being stalked by bad bloody men. The twists and irony leave us all surprised. Themes of memory, evil ambition and science come together to make this a thrilling Fantasia hit. No wonder it’s in the festival’s Cheval Noir Competition. I loved this film, and can hardly wait until Part ll comes out. 
Kim Da-min
The acting by newcomer, Kin Da-mi as the main character is outstanding. Casting was brilliant. This director who brought us I Saw The Devil in another Fantasia year, is a genius. The violence and  final daring denouement in this film is so vital to plot and character. It is utter suspense and blood-real entertainment in the most compelling way.  This is a must-see South Korean movie.


MADELAINES MADELINE (Directed by Josephine Decker) ***
Canadian Premiere

Madeline is mentally ill. Her immersive theatre improve group helps her cope in some ways. Her controlling teacher (beautiful acted by) Molly Parker is trying to bring centre stage the raw reality behind dark scenarios and uses Madeleine’s own personal experiences to get the theatre play she wants

She progresses deeper and deeper into Madelines’ secrets to do this, and both become off-balanced. It would seem the source of the young 18-year-old’s disturbing behavior is blamed on the very worried and suffocating mother – who actually means well. We seem to enter Madeleine’s work immediately; she's on camera in every scene too.

A well made film that seemingly relies on improvised scenes. But is it really her teacher and her mother who are to blame? Madeline has a violent streak. A very interesting close-up of unusual characters. Despite the intense dark theme that never let up, wavered, this piece of film is half theatre and half film


L’INFERNO (1911) Directed by Adolfo Padovan & Francesco Bertolini *****

Astounding, mesmerizing, brilliant! How wonderful that Fantasia brought the world’s oldest surviving feature-length film and the first feature ever produced in Italy to us all! Not only was this a first for the audience to view this silent genre restored film of superb theatrics, but we were treated to a live musical accompaniment by the very brilliant Maurizio Guarini. 

Mauricio Guarini
This 107th anniversary film gift  also gave us this genius composer highly renowned for memorable horror music scores. He's famous for Goblin, Suspiria, Deep Red and so many more movie soundtracks. 

Together, we all traveled with Dante and Virgil to the depths of Hell to witness the various tortures wrought upon those who have committed the deadly sins and more. The writhing bodies in black and white with patina hues, the fiery images, the grotesque scenes of Satan and his demons opening their jaws and using their pitch forks to torment those experiencing hell’s wrath. The various sadistic methods used - each one different depending on the sin - were so vivid and horrific, this film was remarkably frightening. So effective was the  portrayal of every imaginable torment, this miraculous film lingered in my mind long after I left saying my Hail Marys. Please see this legendary masterpiece of cinema wizardry.


(Directed by Tsui Hark)

Quebec Premiere

Epic and awesomely spectacular scenic creativity makes this film an instant classic. It could be a Louis B. Mayer film were it not made in China. A magic, all-powerful sword has been bestowed by the emperor for Dee’s prowess and loyalty. Five evil villains who possess endless magical power want to get hold of it, especially since the Empress orders them to get it. A series of shocking events take places including a flashback of history that shows the torturing of the old dynastic people to the present could take over. Peace and hatred are the forces that collide here. Which one will win out?

               BLEACH (Directed by Shinsuke Sato) ****
              (international premiere) Cheval Noir Competition

Ichigo Kurosaki, marvellously portrayed by the flawless-looking actor, Sota Fukushi) had a terrible tragedy happen to him involving the sudden accident of his mother that he blames himself for. He saw a little girl by the river, and he runs to her with his mother. All hell happens at this moment; that little girl ends up being an evil Hollow – monster that steals souls. Fast forward to Ichigo and we learn he sees ghosts and has great powers of strength. 

One night, he meets a roaming reaper in the guise of a girl named Rukia. That same night a Hallow appears and with the thrust of a sword in our star by Rukia, Ichigo is transformed into a reaper who has superpower strengths. What ensures is a fast-action power house plot that never seems to waver one second. Reapers and the hellish hallow of all have their face-up which pits Ichigo against the entity and other ‘grim reapers”. Will Ichigo be able to avenge his mother’s death and save himself and Rukia whom he wishes to have her stay with him as a human.on earth.

FLEUVE NOIR (Directed by Erick Zonca) ****

FLEUVE NOIR (Directed by Erick Zonca) ****
Canadian premiere

A mother’s worst nightmare: when  16-year-old Dany Arnault doesn’t show up to school one morning, his mother ably played by a distraught Sandrine Kimberlain heads immediately to the police. The report is taken by an unkempt, shabby-looking police commander named François Visconti. In this role, Vincent Cassel delivers a stunning 
 as the alcoholic very bitter cop who not only gets involved with the mother – believing her story completely, despite others in the force having doubts, but is really off course with one suspect: a neighbour who had tutored Dany, and fancies himself as a great writer. Irony is served up deliciously for us and commander Visconti. Let’s just say the father of Dany is never at home for a good reason, and his mentally handicapped daughter who barely speaks knows the truth. We don’t – until the end. This film  deservedly made the Cheval Noir Competition.


    Canadian premiere

Based on a Japanese manga series, Inuyashiki garnered the honours of being in Fantasia’s Cheval Noir Competition. This is a supernatural-based film that pits good against evil. One night the ageing Inuyshiki is hit by a strange explosion as is a young man and both become mechanical super-powered android, much in the vein of Robocop. However, Inuyashiki uses his powers to heal people; the other uses his powers like a psychopath to kill indiscriminately. Inuyashiki is almost bullied by his wife and teen daughter. It could well be a case of elder abuse. AS his daughter gets caught in the evil one’s destruction, her own father comes to her rescue. It seems to be Japan's remake of Superman in many ways, this Hollywood type film deftly pits these two compelling nemeses against one another in original ways that rely on excellent special effects and our own suspension of disbelief


BUY BUST (Directed by Eric Matti)   ***
Canadian Premiere

 Nina Manigan, played with great intensity by Anne Curtis) is part of a tough training cop squad. She’s been transferred to this new rookie squad after having lost her own squad in a shoot-out over drugs. They are about to entrap Biggie, the leader of this huge drug ring when everything goes form bad to rotten. Welcome to the squalor of the slums of Manila. Murder, mayhem and a riot resulting in a sea of killings, perpetrated by everyone, including the locals living in these tin tumbledown dwellings show everyone is against the police and the drug kings.
It really is a bloodbath because of botched up plans, and a rat within. This  fast action film graphically shows endless ways to cut up, stab, shoot, strangle, bat-beat and bludgeon those in the way. There is a Judas in the police force, but only the ending reveals who it is. Manigan saves the day of course. She’s a hero of comic book dimensions.

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (Directed by Shinichiro Ueda)*
Canadian Premiere

A Japanese gory film about a zombie boyfriend about to attack her girlfriend is being made by a merciless director. He will do anything to ensure it does not appear like she’s acting. Eventually, zombies enter the warehouse where they are shooting, and before you know it almost everyone gets killed. The film in two parts then shows everyone reading their parts and blocking them in a studio.  Low budget, not scary and dull characters don’t interest us. This is not one of the director’s finest “cuts”

RONDO (Directed by Drew Barnhardt)***
  World Premiere

Whatever you do, don’t knock on door 1216 for what lies inside – after you say the password, rondo - is your imminent death, and a gory one at that. Paul, a war vet drinks and has no life basically. He moves in with his sister, Jill) She gets him an appointment with a therapist who sends him to room 1216 in an apartment complex. Sick, twisted minds torture men who are there to abuse sexually a drugged woman. Paul witnesses the murder of one of the “clients” and he escapes. But not for long. His father comes into the picture, but his ending is assured in a gruesome manner. Only Jill can avenge her family’s murder, and she does so in a most unusual way. Lots of violence and tension. The ending is a memorable blood bath of epic proportions.


MEGA TIME SQUAD (Directed by Tim Van Dammen) **

Sorry fans of New Zealand films, which I certainly am, but this off-the-wall comedy has a silly plot but memorable lines said by characters who are into low-level crimes and heists. One character travels through time by means of pushing a tiny button on a magic bracelet to duplicate himself three-fold. The acting was great, the hodgepodge gimmicky crazy, but in the end, it’s a frivolous film without much going for it other than really funny actors. In the end, the guy gets the girl and the money. The mid-movie mayhem is pure farce.


TALES FROM THE HOOD 2 (Directed by Darin Scott & Rusty Cundieff) ***

Five stores farming black prejudice in America through plot horror based on killer gollywogs, gangsters, a channeler, and boy who sacrifices all to further the cause of Blacks, and two vampire girls. A special robot developed by a madman who si Trump incarnated is intent on ridding America of baddies to make the nation safe. But a cocky Mr. Simms (Keith David) tells stories of the above. It’s a fresh film that is well acted. The plot Sf paranoia, black oppression and stereotyping stigmas has found a unique voice in this unusual entertaining mad-cap film.


NEOMANILA (Directed by Mikhail Red)***
Canadian Premiere 


Toto, a young teen, is taken in by Irma and Raul, two very poor people caught in gang warfare who murder in order to get meth. They both like Toto, but things become heated and complicated for poor Toto. 

He can’t find money to get his brother out    of prison nor anyone who will confess to the crime he is in jail for.  Irma teaches Toto how to shoot, and Raul teaches Toto that suspect and victim are one and the same in Manila. This gritty, bare-bones dark film is raw     and realistic. Violence and ominous threats 
  are ever-present.


                                           (Directed by Satoshi Miki)
                                                                 World Premiere

Sin, Japan’s  most famous rock singer, shoots himself up with dope in his necks to give his raucous voice more power. On stage, his larynx bursts and blood spurts everywhere – even onto the crowd. Meanwhile, Fuska, a young busker sings in such a tiny voice outside, everyone laughs at her. Circumstances bring Sin and shy Fuka together and after a very lengthy time, Sin loses his voice and she gains her strength, - thanks to Sin yelling at her to give emotion.  She becomes as famous as Sin once was. His fate is one no one would want. I did not like this film which is in need of much editing. Parts were so slapstick and in other parts, it would seem the director is trying to get sympathy votes form us. Manipulative and somewhat childish, I have no idea why this film made it to the festival’s Cheval Noir Competition.


GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM (Directed by Jeong Beon-sik)***

                                                                           Quebec Premiere

A found-footage sleeper, this Blair Witch-type horror film has an added twist. Horror Times is a You Tub channel in need of one million hits to score big with the money. Ha-Joon directs all moves from a tent near an abandoned asylum. He has sent his crew in to try to enter all rooms, including one on the fourth floor that no one is able to open.  Those that did decades ago, never came out; they disappeared.

In fact, the film is live-streamed from the actual site, called Namyang Mental Hospital in Gonjam. Korea. The director and his on-camera man have previously gone in to plant scary things to make it all look real. It is a bit scary, but not until things actually terrorize the entire group; the film has a dastardly ending. Horror Times definitely lived up to its title. Some parts of this cheaply made film are real funny; other parts are jump-out-of-your seat funny.


I HAVE A DATE WITH SPRING (Directed by Baek Seung-bin) *

Slow moving and totally without pulse of a plot. The music was good though. We meet a young screen writer by a lake who has writer’s block and he's eating his own birthday cake. We meet a young girl who is an outcast who goes in a taxi with a vulgar mean guy. Each character seems to meet their own doom by being enticed by another who has no good intentions. What happens in the movie becomes the screen-writer’s inspirational plot. He seems to survive. It's everyone's birthday and the gift each receives causes their doom except for one.
We meet a professor who contacts blisters after he kisses a sick girl with the same ailment. The ending was silly and far fetched. The line in the film says: “The work is doomed anyway, so let’s all go nicely.” No one went nicely; but this film, to my mind, is doomed though it made Official Selection at Rotterdam’s festival. I think this South Korean film would be a good theatrical play.
To be honest, the sullen-speaking director had nothing to say about his film other than explaining what a tragi-comedy was. I think we know. But I did not hear one laugh or see one tear on anyone's face. It's the kind of film you either yawn through it or yen for more of it.


LUZ (Directed by Tilman Singer) Bomb!

Blood and aberrant sex seem to be what the film maker thinks makes for a good movie. Slow moving beyond painful, it makes you appreciate how difficult it really is to make a suspenseful demonic movie.
If you are going to make a demonic possession film, it had better be scary and believable. It should have a plot and one that we can relate to in some way. This film is about exchanging identities in dress and in body, going gay, and a taxi ride, and a totally disturbed girl who drives it. The film from the beginning is a bust; it begins at a bar with a conversation that is so unreal and silly, you’ll be begging for the bartender to hand you  a drink please!


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