Saturday, May 18, 2024

Universal Language (2024) Cannes 2024

 


I started laughing almost from the first frame and continued doing so until the end credits. I laughed more at this film than almost any American comedy of the last two decades.

At the outset the plot of UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE seems to be several different stories. The truth is it’s all one big interconnected tale, you just have to stick with it until all the pieces line up.  Don't worry that isn’t going to be a problem because the film is going to be making you laugh out loud for most of its running time.

The humor is very much absurdist of the best sort. Think of it as something akin to the manic madness of a Marx Brothers comedy but with a more modern and less devil may care attitude.  Referencing the Marx’s may make you wonder how that is possible, but something happens in the first few minutes that makes you realize that is the absurdist territory we are operating in. (I will not spoil it)

What I love about the film is that the humor isn’t dry or forced.  Too many absurdist comedies don’t feel real and feel like they are trying to make a point. Eugène Ionesco’s plays which are excellent absurdist pieces, can, when done badly feel forced. Here there is things feel silly absurd but they also feel grounded. We can see the things that happen actually happen.  I can see myself trying to figure out how to get stuck money, deal with stolen glasses or pretty much anything else that happens here including dealing with turkeys.

I laughed out loud from start to finish, and when I wasn’t laughing I was smiling.

And I know there is more to this film beyond the laughs, but the laughs and smiles are what I took away from the film, so that is what I am reporting on.

I love this film.

Highly recommended.

Friday, May 17, 2024

HOLY COW (2024) Cannes 2024


HOLY COW is the story of Totone, an 18 year old young man who loves to party. When his father dies he tries to curb his wild ways so that he can care for his young sister.

This is a sweet coming of age film that is closer to reality than any other coming of age film I’ve seen. Life is messy. Relationships are messy. There are sex and beer and stuff. If it wasn’t for more adult elements this would be a great family film simply because what we see is feels closer to life.

To be honest I need to see HOLY COW a second time to really see the film for what it is. I say this because the write up for the film at Cannes gave me the impression that the film was going to be a bit more narrowly focused. Instead the film is bit more wide ranging and covers a lot of territory.

It’s that wide ranging nature that kind of hurts the film slightly. The problem is that the film juggles a large number of plot and thematic threads at the same time while trying to focus on the romantic thread a bit too much. If the film were another fifteen or twenty minutes longer things would have been a bit smoother. As it stands now this is a good little film, which you’ll want to see continue. (A sequel? Yes please)

House of Screaming Glass (2024) hits VOD Tuesday


If HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS had opened in 1974 it would have played in drive in across the South on the bottom half of double bills. It would have developed a cult reputation. It would have been released on VHS by Wizard in an over sized clam shell case. It would have bounced around other home video companies before getting a 50th anniversary release from Blue Under Ground, Vinegar Syndrome or Shout Factory.  Its a film a generation of horror fans would have watched every time it played at 2am.

That my friends is a rave.

Elizabeth Cadosia (Lani Call) inherits her grandmothers school. It comes with her collection of occult books and objects.  As she investigates them she finds her drawn into reading the spells and incantations....opening doorways that should remain closed.

Thanks to a tour de force performance by Lani Call this is a creepy film that sucks you in and carries us along. Call is the only person on screen for almost the entire film but she holds are attention so tightly that we can't help but travel into hell with her. If she wasn't as great as she is this film never would have worked.

This film is deliberately paced. It takes it's time going where it's going but it's so perfectly done we don't care. We want to see where this is going.

This is also a film about mood and tone. There really aren't jump scares, just unending dread. I would not have had to drive home from the drive-in had I seen it on a double or triple feature. This is a film that you want to watch late at night with all the lights off. I would hate to see this on a 2am double feature on TV with SKINAMARINK.

Under the right circumstances this film is as scary as they come.

Highly recommended

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Wendy Feinberg on Sugarcane (2023) which plays Hot Springs Documentary FF and Tulsa's Circle Cinema launch 0f Tulsa Hot Docs

 


Of the many documentary films I watched at this year’s Sundance Film Festival,  the world premiere of SUGARCANE, in my estimation, ranks among the best and  most important at the festival. I am not sure if I will be able to do this film the  justice that it deserves, but I will try.  

The film, co-directed by Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie, won the well deserved Directing Award in U.S. Documentary category at the festival and tells  the very powerful and emotional story of the indigenous children who lived on the  Sugarcane Indian Reservation in Canada and attended the St. Joseph’s Mission  Residential School.  

Beginning in 1894 indigenous Canadian children were forced to attend Canadian  government schools, most run by the Catholic Church. There were rumors of  abuse at these schools and unmarked graves were found of children who died  while living at the St. Joseph’s Mission School. In the film, many members of the  Sugarcane reservation are interviewed. A young Chief Willie Sellars speaks about  what has been done in the recent past to heal and honor the survivors, including  the celebration of Orange Shirt Day, honoring children taken from families and  sent to the mission. We meet Charlene Belleau, who is investigating the abuses at  the school, including the mysterious unmarked graves. Now deceased, I was  moved by Rick Gilbert, a survivor of the mission school, who traveled with a  group to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis to discuss the cruelties  experienced at the school. We hear from many other survivors of the abuses that  occurred at St. Joseph’s, including Ed Archie Noisecat, who is co-director Julian  Brave NoiseCat’s father, as well as his father’s mother (Julian’s grandmother), two  of the many that experienced multi-generational abuse at the school.  

It was heartbreaking to hear about the horrific physical and sexual abuse that  occurred at the school which led to the school being closed down in 1981.  Unfortunately, this abuse led to many unwanted pregnancies and deaths at the  school, as well as alcoholism, abandonment issues and a number of suicides by  survivors after leaving the school.  

Although sometimes disturbing to listen to the stories told by the survivors, I feel  that SUGARCANE is a gripping film that needs to be seen by all as a reminder of  the injustices that have been wrought upon native people, not only in Canada, but  around the world. In the film it is mentioned that this is also an American story  where more than twice as many children were taken from their families.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

When The Light Breaks (2024) Cannes 2024

 


Una's life over a long Icelandic day.

This is a good looking film that is essentially following one young lady as she has a lots of ups and downs happen in her life. It’s an “emotional” rollercoaster  where her life changes. I’m certain it means something to the filmmakers and their intended audience, however it never clicked with me. My lack of connection came from two points, the first the implied meaningfulness in every moment of the film. The silences drip with meaning as do each conversation. From the first frame to the last there is a sense that something important is happening. One of the reasons it seems important is that everything is staged to seem like it’s important. The placement of people in the frame is the other problem. People don’t face each other. Every conversation is arranged do that we always can see everyone’s face, They are talking to us and not each other. I know that sounds petty but the characters are often having heavy conversations and a lot of the time they are not looking at each other. It isn’t fatal, but it makes what should be a great film just good.

WHEN THE LIGHT BREAKS is a film you will like but may not love.

SImon of the Mountain (2024) Cannes 2024


Lorenzo Ferro gives a performance for the ages as 21 year old Simon, a disabled young man who desperately trying to navigate his way through the world and finding himself at odds with society.

Beginning and ending with Simon answering the same list of question this film is a portrait of a young man with  mental issues. Simon doesn't understand a great deal, but he is curious. It's his curiosity that gets him into trouble. His inability to fully navigate through the world makes waves for everyone around him, especially his mother.

Ferro is stunning as Simon. I couldn't believe that they found someone like Simon to play the role until I saw that Ferro is an actor and singer and not like Simon. His performance is so good he should be on the short list for every possible acting award. Watching him breath life into Simon Ferro commits body and soul. There isn't a word or look or gesture that isn't fully Simon's. Its a performance that will kick you in the ass.

And let's not forget the rest of the cast who are equally good- they all are...and they too are worthy of every award out there. 

What makes the film work is that the script is far from by rote From the opening attention grabbing sequence in the mountains on to the final fade out this film feels more like life than the vast majority of films ever produced.  Sure it's rough at times, but so is life. The bumps in Simon's life are like those real people would experience.

I was moved.

More importantly when the film was done I wanted to not only go again I wanted to tell everyone.

See this film.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

WIldcat (2023)


I’m not certain what I think of WILDCAT. It’s a beautifully made film with some great performances. However I’m not certain it pulls everything together the way it wants to.

The film is nominally a look at the life and beliefs of Flannery O’Connor via excerpts from her writing and scenes from her life (particularly around her efforts to write the novel Wise Blood). There are a lot of voice overs where we hear O’Connor’s thoughts. The film seeks to give us insight into the beliefs both personal and religious. (O’Connor was a devout Catholic)

Maya Hawke is wonderful as O’Connor. If she wasn’t on Hollywood’s radar for her talent, this film will do it. Her father has given her an excellent showcase for her talents.

Ethan Hawke’s direction is spot on. The film looks good. The scenes are beautifully staged. He’s created a world I’d love to fall into.

The problem with the film is the structure of the script.  A mix of sequences from several of O’Connor’s story blend with sequences from O’Connor’s life. The sequences from the stories act as surrogate representations of O’Connor’s life and faith.  The problem for me is that unless you have an idea about O’Connor’s work the stories don’t connect up smoothly to her life. We actively have to make assumptions as to why we are being shown the story we are seeing. Having had friends who were in a Catholic reading group  where they read a great deal of O’Connor I had a vague idea what some of the stories were, however, mostly  I felt a bit lost. I couldn’t fully get what I was supposed to be taking from the sequences.

It also doesn’t help that O’Connor’s works are what some have described as Southern or Catholic Grotesque, with very mannered prose and people living on the outskirts of society.  As O’Connor’s publisher mentions in the film  her writing can be like sticking pins in the reader’s eyes. She is a writer with a great academic reputation but unless someone was deeply Catholic or a lit major I don’t know anyone who actively read her works. Keeping her narration may allow us to hear her voice but it will distance most audiences.

And despite the misfire nature of the script I think WILDCAT is worth seeing. In an age where almost everything in cinema is the same preprocessed garbage, the film is decidedly it’s own thing. It’s a well made film with magnificent bits. Sure it doesn’t pull off the landing, but it’s a glorious ride to the end. It’s a film that tries to do something  and almost pulls it off.

If you want something that isn’t like anything else, this film is for you.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Brief thoughts on Expend4bles (2024)

 


Painfully awful final film in the series that seem to have been made for money rather than love.

Coming ten years after the last entry it shows all the signs of the strife that filled the last decade. Nothing in the film really works and it feels cobbled together. Are the established stars are there to allow the younger ones to get some sort of credibility? I don't know but no one should have been in thi film.

While I could forgive the poor plotting (it has something to do with stopping a World War) if the action was good, but it's not, with the sequences not having any snap. Everyone is walking through their moves. Worse the shoot outs have no sense of anyone being in the same place with all the stars seemingly being alone in their battles. Was any one on the same sound stage at the same time?

It all comes off as dull, which is what no action film should be.

This was a waste of my evening. Most damning it would have been the rare action my father turned off if he encountered it on cable

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Nightcap 5/12/23- Roger Corman has passed, Frosted is awful, we're doing Cannes, Mahoning has started it's season

 


Roger Corman has died and we are lessened.

The man literally changed the world because he influenced filmmakers across the world- if there was no Corman Hollywood and world cinema would look different. 

Yes, most of Hollywood from the 60's through today have a connection to him in one way or another (You don't need me to list the filmmakers) - but he was the guy bringing in so many foreign films into the US that he assured that Americans would eventually fall in love with world cinema. He brought in Bergman, Fellini and dozens of other directors other to America and made sure they were seen. He truly opened up the eyes of Hollywood to cinema outside of US shores... and made sure the films were subtitled-  at a time most people only knew dubbed exploitation fare. His love of cinema infected others and other distributors were born. Cconsider Corman also gave a start to Menaham  Golan who took Corman's lessons world wide with Cannon Films.

His love of both high art and exploitation helped me to love all cinema equally without guilt- regardless of where or what it was. It was all movies of equal weight with the only thing that mattered being how much we enjoyed the stories we were being told.

He also helped me understand budget didn't matter as long as you told a good story and sold it, it could look weak if we liked the characters.

He was a hell of a man to listen to. I saw him speak twice.  The first time at the New Yorker Fest he greeted everyone leaving his talk and would sign and take pictures with whomever asked.  I was too awe struck to say anything but hello. 

Corman was the first film maker I discovered on my own. Where other great directors were talked about, Corman was my own discovery as I realized his connection to all the films I was seeing and loving. That may sound odd now but in the early 70's when I discovered "movies" he was still largely seen as a business man, and a schlock filmmaker - his rep was only beginning to change on a larger scale as his students began to really shake up Hollywood and people were looking back not at his individual films but at the massive body of work he created. He was more than the guy who did the Poe films. Even as 9 or 10 year old I could see there was more than monster films to this guy.

The man maybe gone but his films live on.

In the end I see him as the Mr Chips of cinema a man whose legacy is not in the small body of the "exploitation" films he left behind but in the thousands of children he brought into the world, who may  have won every award under the sun and have, but most importantly brought enjoyment and hope to the world.

Hey TCM- I hope when you do your tribute to Roger Corman, you do it for multiple nights- One for the films he made, one for the films he produced, one for the films he imported (he brought a lot of foreign films and filmmakers to America), and one for the directors/performers who started with him.

God speed good sir.
Probably my favorite Corman film


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FROSTED is a terrible movie.

It’s a vanity show piece wrecked by writer director and star Jerry Seinfeld who cut it together so it plays like one his rjokes repeated for 90 minutes (not to mention his complete inability to act). There is a good film possible from the subject but the presentation and Seinfeld's inability to make a real film just doesn’t work.

--

This week we will be covering Cannes. I have a bunch of films reviewed. Some of them are spectacularly good. I’m not certain how many reviews I’ll will have since the films are coming in at random rate.

After Cannes we should be having coverage of Lincoln Centers Open Roads. I’ll have a full on curtain raiser but buy tickets. I’ve seen a bunch of the films already and enjoyed the hell out of everything that I’ve seen.  I think the series is one of the great hidden gem of New York since over the decade and a bit that I’ve been covering it I have almost never seen a stinker.

Go buy tickets.

I will then slide from Italy for Open Roads into Tribeca

I’ve only seen a couple of films so I can’t comment. I have to get other things out of the way before I dive in…

--


A big hug to everyone at the Mahoning Drive In. I was thinking about your loss and sending out good vibes toward your rescheduled opening weekend.

For those that don’t know Jeff Mattox the owner and projectionist of the drive in passed away during a medical procedure and they had to postpone the opening weekend.

The pushing back of their season resulted in rescheduling of several weekends so  please check the website if you have any tickets for any of their shows.

The website can be found here.

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Lastly this is one of my favorite posters of all time- its for the last film that Roger Corman directed according to IMDB

City Hunter (2024)


Private detective Ryo Saeba teams with hi dead partner's sister to find his killer. Along the way they find themselves chasing a corporation making a super soldier serum that turns people homicidal before killing them.

Wildly uneven manga adaption has some truly great sequences (most of the action) as well as some head scratcher WTF bits (the cosplay convention) to become a pretty okay film.While not as good as the 1993 Jackie Chan film, it's probably just as good as the 2018 French film.  It's not high art but it does entertain which is enough.

The problem here is the manic humor rarely blends with the serious nature making things a bit bumpy. Still I laughed and smiled and talked to the TV.

Recommended

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Worm Pornography


Ian Haig is one of the best people at bending your mind. His films  are a perfect mix of weird and normal that you completely buy and as such have your brain broken. 

Haig's latest film is WORM PORNOGRAPHY. The film is the ramblings of a damaged individual who is locked in a public restroom where he is slipping into madness while performing odd experiments. People and things are morphing into a shifting black void and worms, the result of a parasite trying to spread.

I can't really explain what this film is.  Haig's films defy classification. One part horror, one part experimental and one part art house they are one of a kind exercises in expanding the parameters of cinema, even if we are confined to a public toilet. Plot isn't what is important, rather experience is. Seeing an Ian Haig film is like being on a rollercoaster, I can tell you every thing that happens when you get on, but it's not the same as having the wind in your hair and feeling your stomach move inside you.

I am not going to lie and say this film is for everyone, its not. If you can't throw expectations aside then you are not going to click with this. Haig's films require an open mind and a willingness to engage. Having seen some of his earlier work I knew I had to be in a place to be there for the film. As a result I sat on the film for over two weeks until I was in the head space for the film. If you aren't sure then don't engage.

If are willing to see a film by a one of a kind artist give this film a look. Even if you don't like the film Haig is going to engage you. This is not a film that can just roll off your back. Its a film that will have you wondering what you just saw in the best in the best way.

Friday, May 10, 2024

THE 2024 HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL announces line-up for 19th edition (May 16-26)

Opening Night features the World Premiere of Nana Ghana’s You Are Always Right Here and an Uptown Shorts Spotlight

Saturday’s Spotlight Presentation will feature the NY Premiere of Nancy Saslow’s documentary Xernona Clayton: A Life in Black and White

New York, NY (April 30, 2024) – The 2024 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced the films and events for its 19th edition – returning as a fully in-person event taking place May 16-26 with special support from the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment. The film festival will open with the world premiere of Nana Ghana’s You Are Always Right Here, preceded by Gabri Christa’s short film Kankantri (the Silk Cotton Tree), and a special premiere curation of Uptown Shorts.

Due to their successful teaming last year, Harlem International Film Festival and Columbia University Zuckerman Institute’s free-to-the-public presentations will not just return but encompass all in-person screenings for the first four days of the film festival. Located at The Forum (601 West 125th Street), Hi’s famous Opening Night red carpet, screenings and panels will all be located at that central hub with the second weekend at Maysles Documentary Center (343 Malcolm X Boulevard). This year’s film lineup will once again celebrate and showcase relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent with a special focus on Harlem artists. Hi’s lineup features 61 films, including 24 features (10 narrative, 14 documentaries), 20 shorts (11 narrative, 9 documentaries, 1 television webisode), 2 experimental, 4 music videos, and 3 VR projects, 4 television webisodes, and 4 youth films.

Harlem International Film Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia, said. “This is our fourth year working with the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University and the second with the Forum, and we are thrilled to be able to provide so many programs free to the public. This festival is unique in our dual focus on world cinema alongside our homegrown talent here in the HUB ­– Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and the Bronx. This year’s lineup scores on both of those fronts yet again.”

Opening Night on Thursday, May 16 at The Forum will be highlighted by the world premiere of Nana Ghana’s You Are Always Right Here. The film looks at the relationship that develops during the lockdown between Eve, a woman drowning in grief and pain following a personal tragedy, and Adam, who attempts to help her navigate those dark waters. The screening will be preceded by the New York premiere of Gabri Christa’s short film Kankantri (The Silk Cotton Tree) about a woman who enters a place of worship and is transported to the parallel universe of all her ancestors who do not let her leave, until she participates in their dances and rituals. The directors of both films will attend and participate in post-screening Q&As. The evening will also include Hi’s popular Uptown Shorts Spotlightpresentation, featuring short films shot in Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and the Bronx.

The featured film for Saturday’s Spotlight Presentation will be Nancy Saslow’s documentary Xernona Clayton: A Life in Black and White. The film celebrates the life of Xernona Clayton, one of the most unheralded civil rights icons and African American pioneers of our time. Clayton is an extraordinary woman who has impacted our country so respectfully and quietly that many aren't aware of her enormous contributions. Following the screening will be a Q&A with Saslow and the icon herself, Xernona Clayton.

Additional highlights include Friday May 17 presentations featuring Cionin Lorenzo and Pearlette J Ramos’ Three (Extra) Ordinary Women, which takes us on a harrowing minute-by-minute journey with three women seeking to overcome traumatic events by reaching Africa’s tallest peak Mount Kilimanjaro. Balbinka Korzeniowska’s festival favorite Playing Through which dramatizes the fateful golf match between Ann Gregory, the first woman of color to enter the USGA Women's Amateur, and Babs Whatling, a privileged white woman from the south. Three (Extra) Ordinary Women director Cionin Lorenzo, and Playing Through producer Peter Odiorne will both attend and participate in post-screening Q&As. The evening will conclude with a live musical performance by Brad Corrigan, from the band Dispatch, prior to a screening of his film Ileana's Smile which follows the tragic story of a girl with a lightning smile who endures life in a trash dump community in Managua, Nicaragua, and the unlikely friendships that form around her.

Saturday, May 18 will feature a special panel discussion on colorism in Black and Latinx communities prior to a screening of Magdalena Albizu’s Negrita. The film focuses on diverse Afro Latinas who explore and confront culture and racism while defining their own identity in the United States. The film explores the ideology of Blackness, and how both American and Latino cultures perpetuate the belief that Blackness is to be destroyed.

For updates, registration, and more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to http://HarlemFilmFestival.org

2024 Harlem International Film Festival Official Selections

NORYANG: DEADLY SEA hits Blu-ray & Digital May 14


Last film in the Admiral Yi Sun-shin trilogy covers the events leading up to and during the Battle of Noryang Strait.

Following THE ADMIRAL:ROARING CURRENTS where Choi Min Sik played Yi and HASAN: RISING DRAGON where Park Hae-il played him, Kim Yun-seok puts his own spin on the great man in the story warring factions battling to remain in power and remain alive, with as much money as possible and hopefully without going to war.  As the film opens the political leaders want to let the Japanese go home. Yi doesn't trust them and thinks they should attack. Complicating things is the fact that no one knows if they can trust the Ming leader. He is playing his own angle. Of course things end up moving toward war...

After just over an hour of political intrigue and maneuvering NORYANG switches gears to the reason everyone came to the theater and that is to see the spectacular sea battle, Taking up roughly half the film the final battles are jaw dropping and bone crushing as they navies clash in blood fights to the death, it's amazing. To be certain some of the computer generated images aren't flawless, but it doesn't matter since  the drama and momentum is so strong we are carried along. Besides its only the odd shot and not sequences.

While I thought the film cold have been a bit clearer about some of the politics, my unhappiness was purely because the film moves through the non-action scenes with speed, I still knew what was going on and why. As a result by the time the ships are crashing into each other I was fully invested.

For those who are curious, I really have no opinion as to how this film compares to the first two. Each film is different enough that I don't want to compare them. Besides, the battle scenes in all three films kick serious ass which is all anyone needs to know- after all the battles are the selling point and make this film and the others must sees.

This is grand cinema. This is the sort of a film that you go to see in a theater because you can see it big and loud. It's a grand popcorn film of the highest order and highly recommended.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

The First Wave of Fantasia 2024 Titles

 FANTASIA ANNOUNCES A STUNNING FIRST WAVE OF TITLES FOR ITS 28th EDITION

 
Chuck Russell's WITCHBOARD, Chris Stuckmann’s SHELBY OAKS, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s CONFESSION, Miguel Llansó’s INFINITE SUMMER, Tomojiro Amano’s THIS MAN, Jayro Bustamante’s RITA, Hwang Wook’s MASH VILLE, Lowell Dean’s DARK MATCH, Lucía Puenzo's ELECTROPHILIA, the Adams family’s HELL HOLE, and Pratul Gaikwad’s DEAD DEAD FULL DEAD are among the debut 2024 titles announced by the Montreal fest
 
 
Thursday May 9, 2024 // Montreal, Quebec -- The Fantasia International Film Festival will celebrate its upcoming 28th edition with an electrifying program of screenings, workshops, and launch events running from July 18 through August 4, 2024, returning yet again at the Concordia Hall and J.A. de Sève cinemas, with additional screens and events at Montreal’s Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Musée.
 
The festival’s full lineup will be announced on July 3, but in the meantime, Fantasia is excited to reveal a select first wave of premiere titles, along with a first look at its 2024 poster art.
 
 

The festival’s 2024 poster art, created by Montreal visual artist Donald Caron, brings back two of the festival’s most-beloved characters from earlier editions, returning by popular demand. The cinema-loving cat and pug, barreling into the future on a sidecar motorcycle, embody the excitement, playfulness, and absurdity that Fantasia has championed since its inception in 1996.

 


CHUCK RUSSELL RETURNS TO HORROR WITH WITCHBOARD, A WILD RE-IMAGINING OF THE CLASSIC 80'S FRANCHISE!
 
From A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS and the beloved1988 remake of THE BLOB to THE MASKERASER, and THE SCORPION KING, director Chuck Russell has no shortage of imaginative fantasy/horror classics under his belt. Now he returns to the genre he’s marked so brilliantly with a radical reinvention of Kevin S. Tenney’s 1986 Canadian cult favorite WITCHBOARD. Emily (Madison Iseman, ANNABELLE COMES HOME) and her fiancé Christian (Aaron Dominguez, Hulu's Only Murderers in the Building) discover an ancient Wiccan artifact, a pendulum board, as they prepare to open a bistro in New Orleans' French Quarter. Emily becomes obsessed with the board's powers, exposing her to the ancient spirit of the Queen of Witches. Desperate to help his fiancé, Christian seeks the advice of occult expert Alexander Babtiste (Jamie Campbell Bower, Netflix's Stranger Things, the TWILIGHT saga), but Babtiste has dark secrets of his own. Shot in Montreal by cinematographer Yaron Levy (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING). Also starring David La Haye (TRUE NORTH), Charlie Tahan (Netflix's Ozark), Antonia Desplat (AppleTV+'s Shantaram), and Mel Jarnson (MORTAL KOMBAT). World Premiere. 
 
 

PRESENTED BY MIKE FLANAGAN, CHRIS STUCKMANN’S SHELBY OAKS IS HERE

A woman's desperate search for her long-lost sister, a famous YouTuber who investigated paranormal happenings, falls into obsession upon realizing that the imaginary demon from their childhood may have been real. After a successful Kickstarter campaign that broke records across the platform, the highly anticipated feature debut feature from YouTube creator Chris Stuckmann is finally here and ready to scare the pants off the world. SHELBY OAKS delivers in all departments. Starring Camille Sullivan (HUNTER HUNTER), Brendan Sexton III (DON’T BREATHE 2), Sarah Durn (RENFIELD), Keith David (THE THINGNOPE), and Michael Beach (AQUAMAN). Produced by Aaron B. Koontz, Cameron Burns, and Ashleigh Snead, and Executive Produced by Mike Flanagan and Trevor Macy, among others. World Premiere
 


MIGUEL LLANSÓ’S INFINITE SUMMER IS A TRIPPY, TRANSHUMANIST FEAT OF FILMMAKING

Estonia-based Miguel Llansó (CRUMBSJESUS SHOWS YOU THE WAY TO THE HIGHWAY) is a singular gift to cinema. Fantasia is proud to be bringing the visionary iconoclast back to Montreal for the World Premiere of what may be his most compelling creation yet: INFINITE SUMMER, a trippy transhumanist sci-fi exploration vibrant with humor, poignancy, and gonzo invention. On a summer break, Mia and her friends try a meditation app that that’s somehow related to the operating system of the Tallinn Zoo, changing in the body chemistry of its users into something between pollen and cosmic dust. Mia will need to choose between saving her friends or joining them.  An astonishing film, produced by legendary US producing partners Allison Rose Carter and Jon Read (EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCEAMERICAN HONEY), Rain Rannu (CHASING UNICORNS, THE INVISIBLE FIGHT), and Tõnu Hiielaid (KRATT), and Llansó himself, starring Hannah Gross (Netflix’s Mindhunter), Johanna Rosin, and Teele Kaljuvee-O'Brock.  World Premiere.
 


TRUTH BE TOLD, CONFESSION IS A MASTERFULLY CRAFTED SINGLE-LOCATION THRILLER

Every Winter since Sayuri’s tragic disappearance sixteen years ago, Asai and Jiyong climb the mountain where it happened to honor her memory. However, an intense blizzard and a catastrophic injury convince Jiyong he’s done for and, before forcing Asai to leave him to die, he shares a devastating revelation. Asai returns, however, after finding a nearby cabin and now, isolated for the night, the two have to deal with Jiyong’s not-so-last words... the hard way. Two award-winning Fantasia legends, director Nobuhiro Yamashita (LA LA LA AT ROCK BOTTOM) and actor/writer/director Yang Ik-june (BREATHLESS), along with superstar Toma Ikuta (THE MOLE SONG trilogy), team up to adapt a beloved manga into a narrative and technical achievement, one of the best single-location thrillers ever created. With stellar performances and masterful direction using every inch of his set to generate maximum tension, CONFESSION flirts with perfection at every level - and must be experienced in a theatre. North American Premiere
 


JAYRO BUSTAMANTE’S RITA WILL HAUNT YOUR MEMORY AND BREAK YOUR HEART

Following up on the international success of his brilliant LA LLORONA (2019), director Jayro Bustamante’s RITA fuses mythical fantasy and whimsical imagery with themes of childhood innocence and the potent emotional register of a story based on a harrowing real life event, wherein 41 young women needlessly burned to death inside a Guatemalan orphanage in the midst of a protest about inhumane conditions. At its core is the powerful performance of Guiliana Santa Cruz, who speaks for all the young women who suffered. As a result, the story speaks much to the power of female anger, and yet, not once does the director lose sense of the fact that at its heart, Rita’s tale is one of girlhood, of dreams, of an innocence lost, and regained within the bosom of female solidarity. World Premiere.
 


THIS MAN BLENDS WESTERN INSPIRATIONS WITH J-HORROR TROPES IN A PERFECT MELTING POT OF TERROR

An inexplicable wave of tragic deaths plunges two investigators into the heart of a fateful whirlwind, where logic and facts have no value as a far-fetched urban legend seems to come true. A mother plagued by terrifying dreams, seeing her friends and colleagues disappear one after the other, and her family witness the horror unfold. Director and screenwriter Tomojiro Amano (TRAPPED IN MAKYO) skillfully fuses the styles of Eastern and Western classics, referencing RINGUIT FOLLOWS, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET among others, to create an intimate, oppressive work that constantly keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as it slowly and subtly unveils the pandemic-like slaughter outside. At the crest of the international horror-film harvest of 2024, already a banner year, THIS MAN is sure to lodge itself in viewers' memories. With such potential, a Hollywood remake wouldn’t be surprising. International Premiere
 


LOWELL DEAN’S DARK MATCH CONJURES SIX-TIME CHAMP CHRIS JERICHO AS A CULT LEADER!

After his success with the WOLF COP films, Canadian filmmaker Lowell Dean switches it up and takes horror to the ring! When small-time wrestlers get a big payday for a private gig, they jump at the chance for fame and fortune, but the event, run by a mysterious leader who calls himself “The Prophet,” demands plenty of blood on the mats and involves a sinister, demonic deal! Set in the wrestling heyday of the 80s, DARK MATCH is an action-packed rumble on the ropes shot by acclaimed cinematographer Karim Hussain (INFINITY POOL, POSSESSOR). Starring wrestling legend Chris Jericho as the charismatic leader of its bloodthirsty cult, Ayisha Issa (TRANSPLANT), and Steven Ogg (AMC’s The Walking Dead), you’ll get more than your share of intrigue, action, and gore inside this ring! Septentrion Shadows section. World Premiere.
 


A SAMURAI IN TIME IS WORTH THE TIME AND TRAVEL TO SEE

An Edo-period swordsman is flung into the future, arriving in modern Kyoto to confront utter confusion—and an acting career. The medieval warrior transported to modern times is a variant of the time-travel subgenre that has been explored many times around the world. Award-winning writer/director Junichi Yasuda (GOHAN), however, offers a take on the theme that’s not only clever, funny, and distinctly Japanese, but remarkably poignant. Shot on location at Toei Studios Kyoto, A SAMURAI IN TIME is held together by the subtle and convincing performance of lead actor Makiya Yamaguchi. More than just a fun fish-out-of-water fantasy, it’s an homage to samurai cinema as it wanes as surely as the shogunate once did. International Premiere.
 


SWIPE RIGHT ON ELRIC KANE’S DATING APP CHILLER THE DEAD THING

A young woman, lost in a series of meaningless connections through dating apps, falls in love with a charismatic man who is hiding a dark secret that turns her affair into a dangerous obsession. Smart, tragic and unsettling, Pure Cinema host Elric Kane’s first solo-directed feature is a character-driven supernatural nightmare that explores the demons of modern dating in ways that are both horrific and disturbingly relatable.  Swipe right on this profound piece of genre cinema that is destined to become a horror classic. Staring Blu Hunt (Netflix’s Another Life), Ben Smith-Petersen (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD), Katherine Hughes (ECHO 3), and John Karna (SCREAM). Co-Written by Webb Wilcoxen (The Frontier). Produced by Monte Yazzie, Matt Mercer (BLISS), and Rebekah McKendry (GLORIOUS). World Premiere.
 


MASHING UP GENRES, MASH VILLE IS A KOREAN CULT CLASSIC IN THE MAKING

Someone has died after drinking the bootleg liquor brewed by Se-jong and his two younger brothers. While on a mission to retrieve their deadly booze before another person perishes from it, they come across two homicidal cultists who are terrorizing the villagers. The love that director Hwang Wook (LIVE HARDDOG EAT DOG) harbors for the Western, action, and comedy genres shines through from start to finish with stylish cinematography, quirky characters, and an incredibly entertaining screenplay. Most importantly, pitch-black humor abounds. Hwang and company commit to their absurdity, and it’s an absolute blast, a genre-mashing crowd-pleaser sure to be a Korean cult classic as time goes on. World Premiere
 


LUCÍA PUENZO’S ELECTROPHILIA CASTS A SUBVERSIVE NEW VISION

A woman wakes up from a coma six weeks after being struck by lightning and finds herself compulsively drawn to electric currents as her body’s workings begin to change. She soon joins an underground support group of strike survivors led by a dangerously charismatic doctor, opening a doorway into unexpected new explorations. A gripping, sensorial experience with a visceral emotional core, ELECTROPHILIA is the latest creation from Cannes-award-winning Argentinian filmmaker and novelist Lucía Puenzo (THE FISH CHILDXXY). Reminiscent of CRASH-era Cronenberg, it is a subversive and beautiful genre work, a different kind of self-discovery tale, and a new breed of dramatic thriller. Starring Mariana Di Girolamo (Pablo Larrain’s EMA), German Palacios (EL RAPTO), and Guillermo Pfening (THE GERMAN DOCTOR). North American Premiere.
 


A MORALLY CHALLENGING TALE OF REVENGE, PENALTY LOOP TAKES A FAMILIAR THEME ON A DEVILISHLY TWISTED PATH

Left bereft by the wanton and inexplicable murder of his girlfriend, Jun chooses his own justice, carefully planning the perfect murder of the man who led him to become what he wants to eliminate. Once the vengeance is consummated, he wakes up with a confirmed sense of déjà-vu and his target alive and well, repeating the same routine as the day before. Offering a breathless, dark, and innovative variation on the time-loop concept, writer/director Shinji Araki (THE TOWN OF HEADCOUNTS) establishes himself as a sure thing in contemporary Japanese genre cinema with this unpredictable, shocking narrative that constantly twists and turns toward a conclusion that’s as satisfying as it is devastating. Carried by a convincing duo of actors in perfect sync, PENALTY LOOP is an accomplishment condemning Araki to return to the forefront with each of his future projects. North American Premiere
 


THE ADAMS FAMILY BIRTH CREATURES AT A SERBIAN FRACKING SITE IN HELL HOLE

A road trip through Canadian oil fields conjured up fantasies of secrets deep in the dirt for the Adams family, and inspired them to create HELL HOLE, an indie rock-n-roll monster movie set at a far-away fracking site. Known for their DIY ethos, John and Lulu Adams and Toby Poser, partnering with Shudder, have joined the team behind The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs and FX legend Todd Masters to shoot their latest in Serbia with a local cast and crew. Absurd, mutinous, and transgressively comical, Hell Hole is old-school sci-fi horror, yet in typical family fashion, they subvert the genre with textures of biological and environmental horror in tandem with questions of gender and bodily autonomy. This will be the fourth time that Fantasia World Premieres work from the gifted filmmaking family, following launches of THE DEEPER YOU DIGHELLBENDER, and WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMSWorld Premiere.
 


DEAD DEAD FULL DEAD MUTATES THE WHODUNIT GENRE

Junior police officers Balraam and Zubeida make a cute couple, but not the most diligent detectives. Called to a posh apartment tower to investigate a reported murder, the seemingly straightforward case quickly becomes a conundrum that would confuse even Sherlock Holmes. When the victim herself returns from the afterlife, matters become even more muddled, and soon enough the question isn’t who killed her... but who didn’t?! With the deadpan delirium of his debut feature, Mumbai-based editor and filmmaker Pratul Gaikwad offers a very odd, otherworldly mutation on the much-loved mystery-comedy genre. Featuring paranormal powers and multiple manias, cosmic wonders and covert class warfare, celestial bureaucracy and dysfunctional love, and even a supernaturally transformed goat, Gaikwad’s surreal whodunit offers a bit of everything... except perhaps proper law-enforcement procedure. World Premiere
 


VOIVOD: WE ARE CONNECTED OFFERS A THUNDERING TRIBUTE TO LEGENDARY PROG METAL PIONEERS

From the moment they exploded out of Jonquière in the early ‘80s, Voivod have been widely hailed as one of the most original and influential metal bands in the world. Years in the making and produced with full access to the band’s archives, Felipe Belalcazar’s illuminating VOIVOD: WE ARE CONNECTED brings the story of a groundbreaking 40+ year career to the screen with energy, insight, and a palpable sense of love. The long-awaited doc will be launched in the very province that birthed the band and Fantasia couldn’t be more proud. With appearances by Tobias Forge (Ghost), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Jason Newsted (Metallica – and brief Voivod member), Zach Blair (Rise AgainstGWAR), Tom G Warrior (Celtic FrostTriptykon), and Ivan Doroschuk (Men Without Hats), among many others. Docs from the Edge section. World Premiere.
 


A FANTASTICAL JAPAN RETURNS IN FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA: FROM BIWA LAKE WITH LOVE

After stealing hearts at Fantasia 2019, where FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA won the Audience Award for Best Asian Feature, director Hideki Takeuchi returns to a fantastical version of Japan—“definitely not a portrayal of any actual place”—with a completely original story independent from the ’80s manga from which it takes its name. Japanese music superstar Gackt and co-star Fumi Nikaido are back as Rei and Momomi in FROM BIWA LAKE WITH LOVE, now supported by an equally delightful cast of new characters as they crank up the genre-bending, highly stylized shenanigans that made the first film so unforgettable. Complete with a boys-love triangle, hilarious parodic references including a wacky Willy Wonka number, and the return of its meta story-within-a-story structure, this sequel is a worthy continuation with even more to offer! North American Premiere.
 


A SPECIAL HOMECOMING FOR ANNICK BLANC'S ACCLAIMED HUNTING DAZE

Lauded following its premiere at SXSW, Annick Blanc's highly anticipated debut feature finally makes its way home. HUNTING DAZE takes us on a wild trip, following Nina's (Nahéma Ricci, ANTIGONE) journey as she takes refuge with a rowdy group of men after being stranded in a northern forest. The film plays like a drunken fever dream, exposing a microcosm of masculinity in which one's desire to belong threatens to upend the group. With dreamy visuals and transfixing performances by a cast of Quebec talent (Marc Beaupré, Alexandre Landry, Bruno Marcil), this is a bachelor weekend unlike any you've ever seen. Canadian Premiere.


The 28th edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival is presented by Videotron and is made possible with the financial contributions of Telefilm Canada, la Société́ de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC), le gouvernement du Québec, the city of Montréal, le Conseil des arts de Montréal, Tourisme Montréal, and the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC).

The festival would like to thank all its private partners, friends of the event, as well as official suppliers, venues, and all participating filmmakers, sales agents, and distributors for their invaluable support.

 

A second wave of Fantasia 2024 titles will be announced in early June with the festival’s full lineup to be revealed in early July. Ticket sales will commence shortly afterwards.
 
For the very latest in up-to-date information on this year’s announcements and events, please follow the Fantasia International Film Festival on Facebook, X/Twitter, and Instagram.

Gasoline Rainbow (2024)


Five high school aged kids set out in a van to travel 500 miles to see the ocean. Along the way life happens.

This is a form over content docudrama that succeeds as a work of art but is less successful as a narrative. This feels like a beautiful documentary, that might have worked had it been obvious by the shot choices and the way that things lay out that this free flowing trip across the Pacific Northwest was constructed by the cast and crew.  I say this in part because it's true and because the film moves the cast across the country in a way that only movies can move people. There is no real sense of danger, nor is there any real questioning when things go on, the kids just keep going.

Sure this a hymn of freedom and of impending lost innocence, but it's a professionally polished one. The result is a film that I admire  a lot more than I like. Its a film I would gladly watch with the sound off for the glorious pictures.

THREE PROMISES (2023) opens tomorrow


Yousef Srouji takes a collection of old VHS tapes and creates a look at his family and life in the Palestinian West Bank in the early 2000’s.

This moving portrait of life in a war zone is even more so owing to events happening in Israel. While the film would have been good before the insanity, the film now takes on a deeper resonance as a reminder that there are good people lost in the madness. (The final piece of text made me gasp-something it was never intended to have happen)

You will forgive me if I don’t say much more, but world events are coloring ny thoughts on the film so anything I have to say doesn’t feel truly right.

Do yourself a favor and just see this.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Stay with us (2023)


Comedian Gad Elmaleh returns home to France after several years in America so that he can convert to Catholicism. This does not sit well with his very Jewish parents.

Absolutely lovely, not to mention charming and funny exploration of the road to who we are and our path to "god". Based on the director and stars own journey the film probably not what you expect. Neither overly serious nor overly light in tome Elmaleh instead opts for a middle ground where real revelations are found. As some one  who is in a constant battle with my thoughts about god and the universe I found the path revealed here to be absolutely enlightening.

More importantly I was entertained. I laughed and I smiled and I connected to everyone on screen. Watching the film I found myself wanting to to call friends and family to tell them they really needed to see this. This is a film that will stay in my heart not because of the themes it explores but because of the cinematic friends on the screen. I love the people before me and I want to revisit them.

Highly recommended.

Bugsy Malone (1976)


I had a terrible crush on Foster before I saw Bugsy Malone (I remember seeing her in so many earlier films), but Bugsy Malone was one of four films in 1976 where Hollywood took notice of the legendary actress. In addition to this she had FREAKY FRIDAY, THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVED DOWN THE LANE and something called TAXI DRIVER which got her on Oscar’s radar. At the age of 13 she was so aware of the process of filmmaking that Alan Parker joked that if he got sick Foster could step in.  If nothing else 1976 showed Foster’s incredible range.

BUGSY MALONE is a very off beat musical set in a place that is kind of like Chicago during Prohibition. It's a world of gangsters and good guys populated with kids who sing with adult's voices while driving pedal cars and shooting guns that shoot cream pies.  

Unlike any other film ever made it is scarily familiar since it uses all the tropes of films we’ve seen before while creating something new.

It’s a blast and a half. I’ve been watching it since it came out where it warped my mind and filled me with a wonderful sense of fun.

The cast is solid, though I really don’t remember seeing anyone after this other than Foster and Scott Baio.

The most memorable thing about the film are the songs from Paul Williams. They are some his best film work and explains why he is one of the greatest composers ever. I had an 8-track of the soundtrack which explains why all the lyrics are burned into my brain.

This is just a great film, and you need to see it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Time of the Heathen (1961)


A drifter wanders the country side with his bible. When he sees the rape and murder of a black woman he flees with woman's son. Framed for the murder the pair has to run to stay alive.

Restored 1961 drama is a kick in the pants. Set in the years following the end of World War II the film has a lot to say about guilt, humanity and small town life. It's a film with a lot going on with in a simple narrative. 

What struck me about the film is that it feels very much like the work of George Romero. How the film is shot is very close to the way NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE AMUSEMENT PARK or the films made in between were shot. There is an unease in the framing of images and shot choice that make me wonder if Romero saw this film and learned from it.

While there is a formalness to some of the proceedings, the dialog feels less than natural, the film never stops feeling real. Indeed, in someways the film more real than real films since it touches some part of the place where we remember things.

I was moved. Honestly I agreed to  cover the film it was more with the hope of just using it for a filler. Instead I found a haunting film whose discovery is one of the great cinematic surprises of the year.

This is a film that any lover of cinema should track down.

Recommended.

Wendy Feinberg on THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ALLEE WILLIS (2024) SXSW


As a music lover, since I watched Scott Rosenbaum’s BANG! THE BERT BERNS STORY, about a prolific songwriter in the early60’s who died prematurely at age 38, I have not been so in awe of a person I never heard of until I saw director Alexis Spraic’s THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ALLEE WILLIS which premiered at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival. The first question I asked myself before I watched the film is, “Who in the world is Allee Willis?” And the 2nd question I asked, as I was watching was, “Why in the world have I never heard of her?”

Born in 1947 to a Jewish family in Detroit, she lost her mom at the age of 15 and turned to music as she struggled with family and personal problems. She gravitated to Motown/black music after listening to Barrett Strong’s “Money” and began writing music in the 70’s. Her mentor was Mary Wells, one of the very few female songwriters of the time. Thank goodness she didn’t listen to her dad, who warned her, “Stay away from black culture!”

I don’t want to give away too much of her accomplishments, as I think it will take away from watching the film and discovering, as I did, all that Allee achieved in her 72 years, but I will mention that she wrote Earth Wind and Fire’s iconic “September” and their “Boogie Woogie Wonderland”. She sold over 50 million records and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. Allee also was a successful multi-media artist, selling her works to the likes of actress Leslie Ann Warren and was among the earliest people to explore using the internet to promote herself, creating an internet show “Willisville” that was funded by businessman, Mark Cuban.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO ALLEE WILLIS is a wonderfully well-crafted film containing much archival footage, videoed by Willis herself, who began filming her life as a kid in the 1950’s. There are also interviews with many well-known personalities such as Cindy Lauper, Mark Cuban, Patti LaBelle, Paul Reubens and many more whose lives were touched by her.