Fantasia Film Festival

Fantasia 2015: “Marshland” is a gripping procedural about the effects of violence

On the surface, the Spanish film Marshland, by director/co-writer Alberto Rodríguez, is a mere procedural. A gripping one, complete with a thrilling third act car chase and a compelling whodunit at its heart, and ornamented by gorgeous cinematography from Alex Catalán, but a buddy cop procedural nonetheless. Just underneath this captivating veneer, though, is a haunting tale about violence’s lack of transience, and one which situates it within the aftermath of political upheaval.

Sion Sono’s ‘Tag’ Movie Review – is a lean chase film about the nature of reality

Delivering a brisk and fast-paced action comedy about the nature of reality, Sion Sono’s Tag stands out as among the best films so far this year. Sion Sono has never been a stranger to pushing boundaries – his films have consistently tackled taboo subjects through the gauze of the unreal. His most famous works operate on the tone of hysteria, as emotions and actions are amplified to create a surreal and fantastical landscape.

‘Cop Car’ Movie Review – is an ode to both the joys and perils of growing up as kids

Cop Car is the type of movie that knows exactly what it is as well as how to press the right buttons to excite the audience. On first glance, the concept sounds rather far fetched. Then again, kids, because of their nature, do incredibly stupid things. If some chap is foolish enough to leave his or her car unattended and a couple of bored 10 or 11-year olds creep up, who knows what preposterous ideas their imaginations will conjure up.

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Sion Sono’s ‘Love & Peace’ – a genre-busting scene-to-scene surplus of cinematic lunacy

With Love & Peace, the director comes out of his comfort zone to deliver a startlingly touching and accessible film that the whole family can enjoy. Based on a screenplay he wrote two decades ago, Sion Sono gives the rock movie a makeover by fusing together slapstick, romance, politics, classic Hollywood Christmas movies, Tokusatsu films and stop-motion animation. A bizarre thing, this crazy movie is every movie you loved as a kid crammed into 117 minutes of cinematic lunacy.

‘The Blue Hour’ Movie Review – is sexy, intimate and full of dread

The Blue Hour is a beautiful, dark and mysterious ghost story from Thai filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana. Tam (Atthaphan Poonsawas) is a gay teen who doesn’t fit in at school or within his family. He arranges a meeting with the dashing Phum (Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang) at an abandoned swimming pool. Their hook-up quickly develops into something more serious as they find comfort and safety in each other’s friendship. As their relationship progresses, Tam’s life becomes increasingly confused as he struggles to differentiate dream from reality.

Fantasia 2015: ‘Synchronicity’s’ obtuse storytelling and excellent visuals make for a mixed bag

Shadows abound, pierced with swaths of light cut to ribbons by venetian blinds. Odd, angular futurist architecture juts into the sky, illuminated by spotlights from passing flying vehicles. There are fans slowly rotating everywhere. This is the future, after all. There must be fans. If nothing else, Synchronicity cuts an interesting shape, a quasi-dystopian future that seems devoid of affection, warmth. Taken purely on visuals, Synchronicity is top-notch. The problem, then, lies in storytelling.

‘Kung Fu Killer’ attempts to be something more, half succeeds

A homicidal martial artist, a kung fu killer if you will, is on the loose challenging the best fighters in their discipline (boxing, kicking, weapons, etc.) to prove he alone is the greatest fighter on the planet. Hahou Mo, played by the phenomenal martial arts actor Donnie Yen (whose Yuen Wu Ping collaboration, Iron Monkey, is among the greatest in kung fu cinema), is serving a prison sentence for losing his control and killing a man, and just so happens to hold the title of the greatest fighter on the planet. Upon learning of the crimes, he offers his expertise to catch the madman before he kills again.

Fantasia 2015: ‘100 Yen Love’ is a unique boxing drama

In some ways, the Japanese director Masaharu Take’s 100 Yen Love feels about as old-hat as the 12/8, bluesy guitar music which makes up the bulk of the film’s score: it’s yet another boxing drama about an outcast who finds herself in the ring. There’s nothing in the story we haven’t heard before, and, like the music, its willingness to rehash cliches makes it risk self-parody. But conveying art through established traditions can have a certain nostalgic charm, and both the music and the film it provides the soundtrack for play off tropes to create a crowd-pleaser which oozes appeal.

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Fantasia 2015: ‘We Are Still Here’ – What’s not to love?

Taking cues from late ’70’s /early ’80s horror (primarily director Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery and John Carpenter’s The Fog), writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s directorial debut We Are Still Here doesn’t break new ground, but serves as a suspenseful and well-crafted old-fashioned ghost story.

Fantasia 2015: ‘Extinction’ is a clumsy melodrama

Some films just can’t stick to their strengths. There are some good jump scares inside Extinction, the post-apocalyptic zombie film from Spanish director Miguel Ángel Vivas, adapted from a novel by his countrymen Juan de Dios Garduño, but Vivas (who co-wrote the script with Alberto Marini) is too keen to turn his film into a melodrama to focus on the fright. The result is a plodding zombie drama with too much tonal inconsistency to succeed as either a character study or a terrifying gorefest.

Fantasia 2015: ‘Deathgasm’ is the best Kiwi horror/comedy since ‘Dead Alive’

New Zealand hasn’t produced many horror films over the years, but those it has given birth to are remarkably strong entries. The late ’80s and early ’90s witnessed the rise of Kiwi director Peter Jackson who made a name for himself with the Bad Taste (1988) and Dead Alive (1992). Jackson helped shine a spotlight on the countries genre offerings and his success no doubt opened the door for a new generation of Kiwi genre filmmakers. The latest of these films to make its way Stateside is Jason Lei Howden’s outrageous debut feature Deathgasm about a group of suburban metal heads who summon a demonic force.

‘Ludo’ Movie Review – is beyond saving

All the youthful energy in the world couldn’t save Ludo. The film opens with bombast, as an exploration of the night life of Kolkata, and two young couples who are hungry for sex. Cultural puritanicalism prevents them from finding a hotel room, but they end up finding refuge in a closed shopping mall where they are free to indulge in their baser instincts. Here they encounter an elderly couple, trapped and hungry, and are introduced to a mysterious game. From here on, the film abandons linearity and expectations, taking us on a whirlwind phantasmagorical journey into the past and the collective unconscious, where it similarly loses all sense of grounding.

‘The Hallow’ Movie Review – is hollow horror

Irish legends are rich with horrifying monsters, painful realities and a genuine sense of despair. Perhaps rooted in the Irish struggle, many of the lessons from their myths evoke inequality and injustice – it does not matter who you are, what you believe or what you do, you are not above nature’s law. What is nature’s law? It is a perverse combination of God’s will and an amoral natural world. Set in the mostly undisturbed forests of Ireland, The Hallow is about a conservationist (Joseph Mawle) and his young family. Despite many warnings from the locals, he persists in investigating the forests, eventually inspiring its wrath.

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Fantasia 2015: ‘Tangerine’ may just be the most important film of 2015

Tangerine not only stars transgender folk in transgender roles, but the film isn’t only about transgender issues, a refreshing change from all the movies mentioned above. Tangerine is really a film about sex workers, that just so happens to follow a pair of MTF characters in and around West Hollywood. Tangerine has no interest in depicting these transgender characters as martyrs or victims – but rather as real people with real problems. They are complicated, fascinating, deeply flawed, vulnerable, insecure, selfish and outrageously funny.

Fantasia 2015: ‘Bridgend’ is a grueling, compelling experience

A feeling of gloom pervades every frame of Bridgend, the Danish teen drama which makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia. Even as the kids drink and dance in ecstasy (in a scene which wouldn’t be out of place in Skins, the British soap where star Hannah Murray got her break) or skinny dip in large groups, there’s an undeniable sense of melancholy in their maniacal celebrations. Given the sadness evident in otherwise ebullient scenes such as these, the ominous shots of the countryside shrouded in darkness or mournful messages on a computer screen make life in the film’s titular Welsh town seem unbearably grim.

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