Our Team of Reviewers Tackle the Fantasia Film Festival
Below are our reviews of Fantasia films. The list will continue to be expanded for the duration of the festival.
Fantasia International Film Festival from July 19 to Aug. 9 in the Henry F. Hall Building at Concordia (1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., room H-110) / $9.00
Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below
When solitary Asuna is attacked by a dangerous creature on a bridge near her home, she is unexpectedly rescued by a mysterious boy who doesn’t quite seem to come from our world. Would this encounter be linked to the haunting melody she heard on the radio
the day before? After a tragic event the girl sets out on a life-changing journey to a hidden world below ours.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an endearing tale about loneliness, coping with the loss of loved ones and learning how to say goodbye. While the plot is not without fault and the music is a little too omnipresent, the emotional journey of the characters is compelling and the animation is–for the most part–lovely. The backdrops especially stand out: detailed renderings of vast green valleys, ancient ruins, dramatic cloudscapes and fantastical night skies make the hidden world of Argatha a beautiful albeit dangerous place.
The film will inevitably be compared to similar fare such as Laputa: Castle in the Sky or Princess Mononoke but is strong enough to stand on its own and is definitely worth the watch. (A.V)
The world premiere of Dead Sushi started with a bang as director Noboru Iguchi and lead actress Rina Takeda showed up on stage to introduce their latest film. Rina also showcased her karate skills by kicking some water bottles straight into the crowd.
The movie starts off with our protagonist Keiko (Rina Takeda) taking sushi lessons from her harsh father. Failing to meet his rigorous demands, she runs away from home and finds a job at an inn. When a group of men arrive for a company retreat, everything spirals out of control. They think that they’re in for a weekend of hot springs and delicious sushi, but the sushi come back to life for revenge and start eating people alive. Things get crazier and crazier as the characters have to fight for survival.
This movie is perfect for anyone wanting an action-packed night of zombie sushi fun. If you’re not familiar with Japanese splatter movies, this is definitely one to check out. From sushi nunchucks to sushi battleships, the audience was kept laughing and screaming the throughout the film. (A.W.)
July 27, 4:30 p.m.
In 1917’s China, detective Xu Baiju (Takeshi Kaneshiro) sets out to investigate a deadly altercation between bandits and a simple papermaker, Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen). He soon suspects that there’s more to the quiet villager than he lets on. As Baiju vows to uncover the truth, he sets events in motion that will bring shadows back from Jinxi’s troubled past.
Half martial arts film, half detective story, Wu Xia offers an interesting modern spin on the genre by showing the action though a forensic lense. And although there are fewer fight sequences than expected, they do not disappoint.
The film mixes humour and drama well and the photography is superb. While the film veers a bit too much into melodrama in the second half, it remains a very enjoyable action film. (A.V.)
Life is hard for a gangster in Japan. This is especially true for bleached haired bad boy Gu (Shota Matsuda), who seems to be rubbing all of the major gangs the wrong way. He tries to make a living to just get by, but attracts trouble and blame no matter where he goes. His violent nature only adds to his problems as he unknowingly beats up the younger brother of the head of the North Korean gang. He continues to try and live his life normally as the manager of a club until his trail of trouble finally catches up to him.
This film can be summed up with two words: extreme violence. The many fight scenes throughout the movie are fitting for the gangster genre, and every punch looks incredibly realistic. The audience was left gasping in shock each time a fist or a bat found a face, as if they themselves were hit. Coupled with excessive nudity and some unnecessary rape scenes, this film is not for the faint of heart.
Overall, Hard Romantiker delivers as an insight into how brutal life can get. Realistic fight scenes and constant humor throughout the film makes it a bankable watch, but know what you’re getting yourself into. (A.W.)
What happens when your mom and your dad are gold and silver medalists in Tae Kwon Do? Obviously, you and your siblings become experts in the deadly martial art too. The Kick is a story about a highly skilled martial arts family which accidentally gets caught up in a gangster’s plan to steal an historical artifact from Thailand: the Kris of Kings. The family then ends up clashing with a gang of thieves in order to get out of the mess in one piece.
There are no words to describe the insane action in The Kick. Flying jump kicks are everywhere and it is obvious that no wires and stunt doubles were used. Taeyang (Tae-Joo Na)’s incredible performance left the audience’s jaws on the floor as he performed stunt after stunt to perfection. Incredible as that may be, it turns out that all the other members of the cast are also martial arts experts, and leaving the audience on the edge of their seats the entire time. But not only does the movie keep you locked in with amazing fights, it also keeps you laughing with refreshing humor the whole time.
This is a must-see movie for all action movie fans! Also includes a bonus scene when two beautiful elephants from the heart of Thailand trample on stage to beat some bad guys. (A.W.)
Life is hard for a gangster in Japan. This is especially true for bleached haired bad boy Gu (Shota Matsuda), who seems to be rubbing all of the major gangs the wrong way. -Hard Romantiker
Outer Limits of Animation
Aptly named, The Outer Limits of Animation showed just about every type of animation you would never see before a Pixar movie.
From the dark and disturbing, such as the tale of suicidal bear in Moxie, to totally hilarious (Hachaturian Meets Dali and At the Opera), there’s a little bit of everything.
Unfortunately, that little bit of everything gets a bit long-winded somewhere around the 50-minute mark–where you may just find yourself wondering if Fantasia could have been a little more selective. And how the same guy that made the Rejected cartoons turned around something so meh.
But the beautifully done BYDLO and The Maker, plus some Concordia student work that holds its own against the professional stuff makes the entire production worthwhile. (J.W.)
This is the story of young Annie (Caity Lotz) who is thrown into her worst nightmare as she tries to uncover the mysteries of her childhood home. But both her sister and her cousin mysteriously disappear leaving only policeman Bill Creek (Casper Van Dien) to help her get through this disaster.
Overall this film succeeds as a scary ghost movie, coaxing many gasps and screams from the audience. Sadly though, there were many unaddressed issues in the plot as the film drew to an end. Thinking back after the screening, I found myself with lots of unanswered questions. I even question the importance of one of the main characters, who should have accomplished much more than they did.
One spectacular aspect about this movie is its location. From the beginning moments of the movie, you are thrown into Annie’s childhood home decorated with a myriad of religious artifacts so detailed you get shivers up your spine. The feeling the house gives you was absolutely perfect for this story.
At the Q&A session after the movie the producer said that it was pure coincidence that they found this house (and that it was already decorated like that), adding another element of creepiness to the film.
At the first viewing this movie manages to capture the audience and deliver some scares, but with some afterthought, the plot really could use some tightening. However, it is still a good late night horror show! (S.H.)
Part magician show, part mentalist act and part storytelling session, Play Dead is a filmed version of a play by the same name which toured off-Broadway a few years ago. Unctuous and affable Todd Robbins lead the audience through a playful and macabre series of well-crafted illusions that range from contacting the departed loved ones of an audience member to resurrecting serial killers.
While it is interesting to see the audience’s reactions when the room is plunged in total darkness –with the help of an infrared camera- it mainly makes us wish we could have seen the whole thing in person. The performance sadly loses some of its impact on viewers when seen through film. This being said, it still manages to give a taste of the atmosphere of the show.
And let’s face it: other than at Fantasia, there aren’t many places in Montreal where you can see a man eat a light bulb right in front of you. (A.V.)
Quick tells the story of an ex-biker who becomes the fastest motorcycle delivery boy in the city and is reunited with his ex-lover by bombs.
They are blackmailed into delivering bombs for a mysterious man, threatening to blow them up if they don’t cooperate, so they have no choice but to race through the city to deliver their deadly packages as the cops are hot on their tail. High speed crashes and a generous amount of explosions ensue.
This movie promised lots of action in the trailer and delivered so much more. With all the cars, motorcycles, buses, trains and buildings trashed in this movie, it is obvious that they had a nice budget. From the beginning to the end, it’s a never ending race across streets, alleys, on top of buildings, and in buildings with explosions at every corner and cars getting easily destroyed in spectacular ways. There just isn’t a single dull moment in this movie.
The script also benefits from the hilarious bickering between the two main characters, Ki-soo (Lee Min-Ki) and Ah-rom (Kang Ye-Won), throughout the film. Other members of the cast, notably Kim In-Kwon, are well known comedians and add a lot to the movie. There aren’t any extreme plot twists and this watches like a standard action movie, but the action and comedy make it stand out. (S.H)
After Michael (Peter Cilella) receives a video showing his estranged friend Chris (Vinny Curran) destroying himself with drugs in a dilapidated shack in the middle of the woods, he sets out to save him from himself.
Chris is refusing to go to rehab and Michael handcuffs him to the wall of the a shack and plans on waiting with him while he goes through forced withdrawal. Mysterious old photographs, VHS tapes, and journals chronicling the stories of the area’s past inhabitants start to appear on the premises. Chris and Michael are not only confronted to their own problems but also to the slow realization that something out there is watching their story unfold.
Clever, inventive and self-aware, Resolution is also incredibly funny thanks to the very strong chemistry between the two main actors. It is not exactly scary, but it maintains a sense of tension, unease and increasing eeriness from beginning to end. The story can be read on different levels and it proposes an intriguing half-meta reflection on myths, narrative structure and storytelling which is really interesting. Furthermore, the conclusion is nicely open-ended with some purposely unresolved plot points that are sure to spark interesting discussions after viewing. This is definitely one of the best movies at Fantasia this year. (A.V.)
Starry Starry Night
Starry Starry Night is the beautiful story of a boy and a girl meeting and falling in love like only children can, it’s an escape into a colourful, imaginary world.
What elevates this movie beyond a simple children’s love story is the art. It starts with the boy’s sketchbook, then school art projects, grandpa’s wooden sculptures and in framed puzzles of famous paintings that the family makes every year.
All of these artistic things add to the little girl’s incredible imagination, creating a fantastical world of painted swirling stars and origami animals strolling down the street. The animation and special effects bring the imaginary world she sees to life. (S.H.)
The Sword Identity’s trailer suggested an exciting martial arts movie full of secrets and deception. It turned out, instead, to be a movie with a slow pace and poorly thought out story.
It begins with a serious tone, telling the tale of two soldiers who used Japanese style swords to fight Japanese pirates in a previous war. Now that the war has ended, they are looking to start a school to pass on their unique sword style and techniques.
That’s where the pace of the film then slows to a crawl as one of the soldiers is captured and the other has to make his way around four Kung Fu masters of the city to save his ally and prove that his sword style is worthy enough to pass on.
The most confusing thing about this movie is that it feels like it was written by three separate people. The first part of the is serious and mysterious, making you anticipate a spectacular sword fight that never occurs.
The second part is mostly just slow artsy shots of stone walls. The last third is littered with bits of random comedy, sometimes making you laugh only because the scenes were so poorly done. All in all, this movie can’t really seem to decide what it wants to be. The fight scenes were very poorly done and I wonder if they even had a choreographer. (A.W.)
The Tall Man
Aug. 1, 1:00 p.m.
As was expressly stated to the audience before the beginning of the projection, Pascal Laugier’s The Tall Man is a very different beast than his previous film, Martyrs.
Jessica Biel stars as Julia Denning, a nurse operating a free clinic in an isolated and decaying mountain town surrounded by beautifully gloomy forests and misty mountains aptly names Cold Rock. Already beset by poverty, the village becomes plagued by the mysterious disappearance of its children. Parents whisper fearfully of a shadowy figure, the Tall Man, that carries children away in the night.
Although this may first appear as your typical horror story about kids’ nightmares and creepy local legends, The Tall Man relies more on suspense than actual horror. It is not exceptional, but it still proves to be a reasonably well-crafted thriller with enough plot twists and red herrings to keep you interested until the end.
But that’s where it falls short. While the film gets points for handling current social issues, its pace starts dragging in the third act as the final plot twist unfolds in a series of slow expository scenes. As is often the case in movies with a big twist at the end, the final explanation might not live up to everyone’s expectations. (A.V.)
From the start of the movie, we are thrown in the illogical world of Wrong with characters that range from a quirky neighbour who is unable to admit his morning jogging routine to the mysterious Master Cheng. Throughout the movie, the audience is constantly pleased with surprising humour created by surreal situations & characters. The pace of the film is slow enough just to give enough time for viewers to digest and enjoy all the strangeness going on onscreen.
Having seen Rubber (Quentin Dupieux’s past work on the bizarre adventures of a killer tire) at a previous Fantasia Festival, it was hard to know what to expect from this film, but it turned out to be a great and refreshing movie. (S.H)