Friday, July 31, 2015

In Brief: THE EDITOR (2014) Fantasia 2015

Life and art merge as an editor of giallo movies begins to have trouble with reality, his wife and the film he's working on. Could he actually be a masked killer?

Okay horror comedy will probably best appreciated by those who know the giallo genre. Done in the style of a 1970's film the film gloriously apes the look feel and sound of the films it's paying homage to and sending up. While not a bad film it's not a great one (and as such kind of got lost in my crushing schedule of Fantasia films)

Worth a look if you're interested if not at the festival then on home video

The film plays at midnight tonight. For more information and tickets go here.

crumbs (2015) Fantasia 2015

Unique science fiction film from Ethiopia is one of the headier science fiction films to be released recently.

Set in a a world after a great war (it ended not because anyone won but rather because the instinct for human survival kicked in) there are few people left. The artifacts from before the war are treasured. In the sky high above is a space ship of some sort that has hung there since before the war.

On earth life goes on Candy goes about his business trying to gather up lost treasures, avoiding the second generation Nazi's and just getting by with his girlfriend. When the bowling machines in the bowling alley come back to life Candy realizes something is afoot and he realizes he has to go speak to Santa Claus, if he can find him.

We've been here before and we haven't. We've seen similar things before (Tarkovsky's STALKER or some of the Polish  or Soviet Science Fiction Films of the 1970's& 80's or the novel CANTICLE FOR LIEBOWITZ) but nothing quite like this. Rarely has a world been so beautifully created. Rarely has any science fiction film, especially a post apocalyptic one, felt so right and so real. Granted the fact that the film was shot in Ethiopia as it is today, in places that are alien to much of the world helps, but at the same time the world beyond that is so consistent internally it all hangs together.

This is more a film of ideas and images than action. If you go in expecting anything but talk and small moments you'll be disappointed. This is a film that gets to your heart through your head.

Its also a film with lots of  ideas running around. There are the obvious notions of older civilizations being thought to be better, of how people misread objects of the past, of how we process things we've seen and make them part of our memory (say a movie watched too many times) are all at work here as are a dozen or so other ones. Its a film that one could and people will write doctoral thesis on. I need another three or four passes through the film to begin to get it all.

One of the best science fiction films in years is also one of the best films at Fantasia 2015 (and maybe 2015). A must see for those who want idea over gadgets.

CRUMBS plays later today and August 3rd for tickets an more info go here.

In Brief: AVA'S POSSESSIONS (2015)

Feeling like the low budget horror films from the late 1980's and early 1990's AVA'S POSSESSIONS  is a unique take on the demonic possession genre in that if focuses on what happens after the fact.

The plot has Ava being exorcised of a demon after 28 days. Her whole life is a mess, her boyfriend is gone, her friends and family are wary and the police want her locked up.Given a choice between jail, a hospital or Spirit Possession Anonymous, she chooses the last one and then things begin to get weird.

Small scale horror film with some thrills, some chill and a couple of laughs (Spirit Possession Anonymous) this is an entertaining little film. Playing better than many recent small horror films of the direct to home video variety, this is film that hits all the right buttons. While I don't have a lot to say about the film, my two reactions when the film was done was "That was really good" and most importantly "I know a bunch of people I need to show this to."  That's very high praise indeed.

AVA'S POSSESSIONS gets one screening at Fantasia this afternoon and is worth your time. For tickets and more information go here.

ON THE HORIZON (2015) Fantasia 2015

Looking like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Taylor Johnson and Sandy Leddin play a pair of star crossed lovers  destined to collide and break apart.

Casey is a successful photographer doing his thing. When Ellisa, the love of his life calls saying she's just broken up with her boyfriend he heads off to get her. They head off into the desert and spend some time together. However as she always does, when things get too intense between then she bolts. He's left to pick up the pieces and we watch as their lives cross and rercoss again.

One of the best looking films of 2015 this film both thrilled me and annoyed me, to the result that a film with some of the best sequences in any film this year is very good instead of really great.

The things that bothered me about the film are few in number but they are there. First some of the performances are uneven. Its mostly confined to a couple of the secondary characters, but there is a time or two where Leddin is talking with someone other than Johnson and her line reading is off. Its not terrible but it breaks the spell. There are also a couple of shifts in the plot (I won't say what, lest I spoil anything) that feel more contrived to get things going in a certain direction.

On the other hand there are moments where things just soar. Johnson's Casey is an intense ball of emotion and he nails the unbridled passion for his lady love to the wall and then some. Its as good a performance in a film as I've seen all year.

The sequences set to music are awesome. The first eight minutes may very well be my favorite opening of any film all year. This is followed by other sequences that move the plot along wordlessly with just image and music. You feel the intensity between the characters greater because of it.

Actually the whole look of the film is stunning. This small independent film looks better and feels more real than most big budgeted Hollywood films. Watching the film on a small screen I ached to see this on a big screen-something truly huge where the desert and salt flats and fancy rooms could fill the screen and over power me.

This is a stunning little film. Its a film that I wasn't planning on seeing but the opportunity presented itself so I jumped, with the result is a film that is going to live on in my memory. Its a film thatI can recommend and press into people's hands. Is it perfect, not but what is there behind the bump is fantastic.

Highly recommended to anyone who wants to see a really good film.

The film world premieres tonight at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fantasia 2015 Capsule reviews: BITE (2015) and THE DEMOLISHER (2015)

The husband of a police woman wounded in the line of duty decides to dish out justice  on evil doers- particularly the ones that hurt his wife. However as time goes on the lines blur. And we watch as a young woman is mistaken by the husband as being  part of the gang who injured his wife.

Not so much an action film or thriller, the filmmakers instead focus on the internal struggle of the characters, and the "demolisher" in particular. This is a film that wants to be about the cost of revenge and what some people mistakenly do to try and heal.

It kind of works and it kind of drifts into pretentious territory. The desire to do something different keeps the film from completely ever being the psychological thriller its striving to be. At the same time the lack of dialog and insistence about being more than an exploitation film keeps it from being a satisfying drama. I completely under stand what the filmmakers were going for, but I don't think they achieved it.

Girl on a bachelorette party trip gets bitten by something and begins to mutate.

Okay horror film is cursed with a couple of things working against it.

First it's similar to any number of other horror films (say BLOOD GLACIER) with the result that there is very little here that we haven't seen before.

Second the way the film is told isn't all that compelling. The film starts off as some kind of found footage tale and the changes to a traditional story as we see life after the girls get home and the changes come.The craft of the filmmaking is adequate but never compelling. It looks like a so may independent dramas that there is nothing to excite. Worse the pacing is off. It doesn't move the way it should with the result that it seems to take forever to get to the good stuff  in the second half .Bythat point things seem a bit jumbled.

I'm going to say something I probably shouldn't but I know my reaction to the film was influenced by all of the films I saw previously at Fantasia. There are so many other good films playing at the festival, that by the time I saw this, somewhere around the 25 film mark, this film this film was going to have to knock it out of the park. It had to do something to stand out, and it didn't quite to that. (And before the producers and director hunt me down I promise to try this film again when it gets a regular release)

BITE isn't a bad film. Its just nothing we haven't seen before.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Big Match (2014) Fantasia 2015

I want this movie in my collection....

Mixed Martial arts fighter Choi Ik-ho is arrested after his championship match is canceled and his brother goes missing. The cops think his brother killed someone and they think he knows where he is. While in lock up he's contacted by Ace a master criminal who produces a show where people are forced to travel across a city and fight. If Choi Ik-ho wants to see his brother again he'll take the help out of the jail cell and begin his trek across the city- fighting the cops and other people as he goes.

The plot line is nothing new but the sheer glee and humor is. The fact the film isn't deadly serious despite the bone crushing action is wonderful. Where films like RUNNING MAN or COWEB or any others never got the tone right or sacrificed plot for action BIG MATCH gets it all right. Well mostly right since the film has a few plot bumps of its own to deal with.

Outside of the jokes, which bubble up from the interaction of well drawn characters, the real reason to see this film is the action. The action is incredible. Its nice set up so that it flows naturally out of the situation at hand- a room full of cops leads into a battle with riot control cops in the parking area leads into a street chase which leads into...the next bigger fight or dangerous situation.

What I loved was that I lost myself in this utter nonsense as I waited for the next turn to pop up. This is the sort of movie that popcorn was invented for.(Okay well not really but you know what I mean)

This film is blast and a half and not a deep thought anywhere in it.

Definitely worth your time when it plays this afternoon at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

In Brief: BOY 7 (2015) Fantasia 2015

Amnesiac teen wanders out of  a subway and gets accosted by police. He manages to get away and in a restaurant finds a diary written my himself which explains his plight.

Dystopian science fiction tale is in no way new. The story of a hacker who is thrown in jail and reduced being a number all the while while struggling to get out of his situation and still fight his oppressors has been done to death. Or perhaps not to death, much more creatively.

While not a bad film, this is nothing you haven't seen before and better. On the other hand if you haven't seen a film like this do see this because this film was made for you. For me I lost interest some where about the time our hero got the diary and I realized how this was going to go.

While you won't hate the film you're not going to find yourself raving about it. Though I suspect  that had I seen this when I was 10 or 12 I would have loved it to death. If you're that age give it a shot.

The film's single Fantasia screening is tonight at 5. For more information and tickets go here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Visit (2015) Fantasia 2015

This may look like a toy on a set but its man in a containment suit  going to meet an alien
Documentary/essay exploring what would happen if an alien landed on earth. Using interviews with scientists the film ponders what we might do if confronted with an alien presence and how we would react.

Talking with scientists, some of whom are tasked by various governments and the United Nation to be the people who interact with any official alien contact . They discuss what should happen when we meet an alien, what actually may happen and a myrid of other topics, director Michael Madsen has created a thoughtful and thought provoking look something that one day may happen. It’s a highly intelligent examination of a subject that for many people is the fodder of Discovery Channel UFO show or Art Bell. If you never seriously considered what might happen if we made contact with an alien civilization this film will get your mind going.

I really liked the film a great deal. I think it’s a super introduction to the subject. This is a film I can and will be showing my friends who are skeptical that such an event will ever happen. They may very well be right but at the same time what if we did make contact?

What makes the film even better is that by examining what we would ask the aliens about themselves and trying to figure out how we would explain ourselves the film opens up the discussion to a large more, excuse the metaphor, down to earth one,; one that forces us to examine ourselves in the here and now. Its a discussion that I look forward to revisiting many times from here on out.

If there is any real problem with the film it’s that the core audience for the film, or at least the one's who are going to move to see it the quickest, are going to be the people who have made the UFO show a hit on cable- except that the film is in many ways too refined and too “real” for their tastes. As some one who loves fringe science I eat up all of the alien invasion shows. I love them and have all my life. However as with most of TV they have been dumbed down and aim for the craziest stories. They annoy me because there is so much bullshit in them I can’t watch them any more. The people who like those stupid ass shows are not going to like this straight on, cinematic essay. Its not isn’t full of anal probes.

For anyone who wants a thought for examination for a subject that many people would say is a way out topic

The film plays this afternoon and tomorrow at Fantasia. For more information and tickets go here.

I Am Chris Farley (2015)

I AM CHRIS FARLEY is hagiographic almost sickly sweet portrait of the late comedian as told by his friends and family.

Covering the life and times of Farley from birth to death which watch as Farley grows from a middle child needing attention to sports star wanting to be part of something on to his time at Second City, Saturday Night Live and beyond. It’s a night quite warts and all look at the man who made millions laugh.

I’m probably the wrong person for this film. I’m not a fan of Chris Farley. I never found the wonder in his performances. I found him to be little more than a big sad heavy guy trying to get attention. I went into the film in the hope of finding something that would make me appreciate him more. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Whatever magic Farley had that won him legions of fans gets lost in endless clips of Farley being the big loud guy.

And that’s the problem with the film, the footage of Farley is largely one note. It’s the same characters and the same shtick over and over again. We hear his friends talk about how there was more to Farley than going for the laugh, how his mentor Del Close would never have taken him under his wing if there wasn’t more to him then laughs- but the footage of Farley performing never really reveals that, its him mugging. I would have liked it more if we just had his friends talking about him rather than seeing similar footage over and over again.

My big take away from the film was a profound sense of sadness for Chris Farley. My heart broke for him. Here was this big guy who just wanted to belong, somewhere, anywhere and who seemed never to find that happy place. His brothers tell of him trying to gain his mother’s attention by constantly saying “look at me look at me”,. His high school friends talk of him looking for a place to belong so he joined the football team. Likewise his college friends talk of him joining the rugby team to just belong. Along the way we get stories of his drop the drawers antics that assured he’d be noticed. His was a story I could relate to but it’s clear from the friends stories and from the few interview clips that he was ultimately a broken soul. (the Letterman interview where he’s asked about being unloved is played for laughs but with everything around it ends up being emotionally crushing- it’s the truth played for laughs)

I AM CHRIS FARLEY is more a memorial service for a friend then it is a portrait of a comic “legend”. It’s a good film in that it lays out the life and times of its subject but it never crosses over into being great since it never manages to reveal why all of these wonderful people thought so highly of their friend.

Worth a look for fans when the film hits theaters on Friday

Monday, July 27, 2015

The End of the Tour (2015)

THE END OF THE TOUR is one of my favorite films of 2015. Its really close to the top of the list.

I have no idea if it's one of the "best" films, that classification is not important, what is important is that its a favorite- a fovorite on the order of a good friend, or in cinematic terms one of those movies you stop to watch every time it's on. This is one of those films that creeps into your soul and lives there, throwing up witty lines at oppurtune moments.

Based on ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF by David Lipsky THE END OF THE TOUR concerns the five days lLipsky spent with author David Foster Wallace as Wallace finished up his book tour for AN INFINITE JEST. Its basically two guys talking for two hours and the people they meet.

The film is witty and real and absolutely wondrous.

Forget the fictions of something like MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, this is the real deal. This is two highly intelligent people talking about life- not the life of high faluting ideas rather it's dogs and TV and Pop Tarts, relationships, and sex and insecurities. Its the insecurities  that bring the tension  as both men, both writers struggle to hide their own. Wallace, the genius fears he will be found out and declared a fraud while Lipsky fears he's not up to interviewing such a great man. Its very human and most amazingly exactly the sort of thing that we all experience daily, though  these guys have slightly more wit.

The two central performances are amazing. For once Jesse Eisenberg (Lipsky) is not a weird collection od ticks and mannerisms. Outside of his constant smoking he seems like a regular guy. Jason Segel should get an Oscar nomination of not the statue itself for his performance as Wallace. Its so perfect a performance that Wallace seems to inhabit him. Ive never seen film footage of Wallace but I have read interviewsand I suspect that if I did see film I'd want to know who the imposter was. Its a career defining performance that demands to be seen.

I don't know what else to say other than you need to see this film. It will make you feel good.

Ryuzo And His Seven Henchmen (2015) Fantasia 2015

Takashi Kitano has made another Yakuza film after his OUTRAGE films, only this time is more or less gentle comedy about bored gangsters wanting to get back into the game.

Ryuzo is an old tattooed yakuza member living at home with his son. His son is embarrassed by his dad and when he's practicing sword moves in the front yard he wants his dad to wear a shirt so the neighbors don't see. Hanging out with his old buddies he off handedly suggests they start a new family and before anyone knows it they are getting the "band" back together including guys who should stay in the hospital. They soon find themselves up against the modern day criminal-and it turns out not to be a fair fight.

Call this Takashi-Lite.

A small gem of a movie that is uniquely Japanese and uniquely Takashi Kitano film. Hitting every one of the oldster wants his old life tropes, Kitano spins them out in ways that you probably never thought of to make a film that is both familiar and something new with the reveal of some some of the old gang being in questionable taste but very funny (the razor expert no longer being able to shave for example)

While the film is not as out there as some of his comedies or as violent as some of the yakuza films the film is revealing in a gentleness and genuine love for the characters and their plight, something that isn't typical for many of the director's other films. While Kitano may have lost some of the intensity, there is a warmth that usually is missing in his films. This film is strangely like a big bear hug.

I call it a Lite film not because it's bad, rather because the lack of intensity or complexity make this a film that is going to be looked down on  by some people who want complex films every time instead of good films. This is a very good film

This film is a lot of fun. Highly recommended when the film plays tonight at 720 at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here

I'm not reviewing SEA FOG (aka Haemoo) (2014) just yet but go see it at Fantasia

I'm doing a short piece on HAEMOO for two reasons. First the film has been kicking around the festival circuit  for the last six months or so and I don't feel like it's live or die since I know a good number of the regular readers have seen it.  The other reason is that with the crush of films at Fantasia I can't spare the time to write the film up the way it should be written up. Simply put HAEMOO kicks serious ass and I need the time to do its themes and such justice.

The plot of the film has  a captain trying to convince the owner not to sell the ship. There are ways to make money...and so the decision is made to ferry a bunch of Chinese immigrants to shore. What should be an easy job turns by degrees more and more difficult as the crew and cargo clash, the coast guard shows up and the the plots and plans of the various people are revealed.

Its a white knuckle trip into hell that will knot up your stomach and make you talk to the screen.

I really like the film a great deal. I like it so much that I'm holding off reviewing it until I can really sit down and write it up- and watch it again since I was so into the film that I didn't take any notes. I'm mentioning the film because the film is so good you really need to see it, and since you only have one shot at seeing it, tonight at 950, I can't dicker around.

GO see this film. Trust me this is a big screen movie.

For tickets and more information go here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nightcap 7/26/15 SOUND + VISON, ANIMATION BLOCKPARTY and Randi's links

I know we've been doing mostly festivals the last month or so but there's more coming.
Wednesday Lincoln Center’s newest annual series SOUND + VISION opens. This is a fantastic collection of music documentaries from around the world. On the basis of last year’s selections this year’s series should kick serious butt.

The selection runs the gamut from a film on Haydn (IN SEARCH OF HAYDN), to a film on ska (LEGENDS OF SKA) to a look at Musicians who have to make music despite a ban bu Islamic fundamentalists (YOU WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST) to a free but silent screening of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW where the audience will wear headphones. Its a completely ecclectic and wonderful slate of films that is a must see.

The thing of real interest for me is the films of Julian Temple. He directed some great documentaries and the chance to see films like CLASH NEW YEARS DAY 77,  JOE STRUMMER THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN or THE FILTH AND THE FURY on a big screen with big sound is too good to pass up. I’m hoping to get to see a few of them.

Coverage here at Unseen is going to be hit or miss. Because of scheduling conflicts anything I get to is going to be the a last minute decision.

For tickets, the complete slate and more details go to the series page here
Animation Block Party starts Thursday here in New York. This is a glorious celebration of animation from around the world. It’s a killer showcase for films you may never see otherwise.

The fest begins with a free screening at Brookfield place down by the World Trade Center site before moving over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for three days of insanity. There are some really cool things coming to the BAM. First is the anniversary screening of GHOST IN THE SHELL. More so than the manga that spawned it the film changed science fiction and how we view man/machine inter face. Its also a damn good film. The festival is also screening a collection Sesame street bits. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 45 years you know how good that stuff is.

For information on all the Animation Blog Party events in the city go here.

The BAM portion of Animation Block Party's information and tickets can be had here
New releases mix with more Fantasia films this week. There is so much coming from Fantasia that reviews are coming straight through to August 7.

On the whole Fantasia's selections have been really good. There have been a few stinkers but largely this is once again a banner year.

I am trying to get the stuff reviewed before the films screen, but some times that isn't possible so if there is something you're curious about what I saw don't worry there is a good chance it maybe coming. On the other hand some things like ATTACK ON TITAN I haven't gotten access to.  Either way keep reading because more films than any sane mind can take in are coming .
And now and over flowing bounty of  Randi's links

Images from a new Al Hirschfeld book
Memories of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Remember that weird TCM Dick Tracy Special?
Space Volcanos
All the Criterion DVD titles plus links to the lasers, special editions and announced but never was
The almost Tim Burton Superman
Cartel Land stories
The MUPPET SHOW  Comic Con panel
DOOMED on the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie
MR TURNER sex scenes cause complaints
Old time radio
Robot Soccer
Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, and Grace Jones to star in Teutonic supernatural silent Western
Steven Universe
Embroidered Zoetropes (this is wickedly cool)
Which Angry New Yorker are you?
Chicago artist turns the city into a Monopoly gameboard
Being short at a concert
Giant animals you've never seen
A largely lazy list of the 100 best American films

Black and White: Dawn of Justice (2014) Fantasia 2015

This is the sequel to the crazy BLACK & WHITE EPISODE 1: THE DAWN OF ASSAULT. That film so action packed I saw it with a good number of other people standing in a small DVD  in New York's Chinatown. Everyone would come in see the movie playing on the TV and just stop to watch. By the time the film ended the store was full- and the entire stock of the film was sold out. Its a crazy film that ended on a jet and --well if you haven't seen it you'll have to go track it down.

This time out Wu Ying-Hsiung has to save Harbour City from a group of baddies who want to isolate the city and commit a biological attack. With time ticking down he's forced to work with Chen Zen a newbie cop who just happens to be there as all hell breaks loose.

Beginning with a kick ass highway chase the film segues instantly into the main plot as bridges are blown up and people are left stranded. People are being forced to get bombs to a certain place with the promise of safety for themselves or their loved ones and the police are trying to figure out what's going on.

A series of alternating exposition scenes that give the right details  to increase the tension alternate with a series of escalating action set pieces as our heroes battle the bad guys. Its finely tuned to make you feel as if you're in a vice and make you drop your popcorn as you wonder how the hell they are going to get out of that. (I don't know but I'm sure it's going to be crazy)

I not going to compare the two films. Its not worth it, each film has their own feel to them. Both have their joys and their flaws. Both are kind of equal in my mind (though the first film had the break of my having zero expectations regarding it, the second one I was like - wait there's more?)

The short review is that this, like the first film are musts for any action fan. Its a balls to the wall crazy ass action film that is entertaining as all hell.

The Fantasia screening happened last weekend, however that shouldn't stop you from putting this on your list of must sees.

(And no I have not run a review of the first film. I haven't seen it since I saw it in the DVD shop and I didn't want to review it until I could see it again and take proper notes)

The Arti: The Adventure Begins (2015) Fantasia 2015

The creators of LEGEND OF THE SACRED STONE return with another eye popping action tale done entirely with puppets. This time out a brother and sister, entrusted with a metal and wood robot that their father built go off to find "the Origin" and it's source.

This was one of my top five must see lists at Fantasia. Another film from the SACRED STONE people and I was there. The film looked even more amazing than the earlier film and I just had to see it.

If you noticed the plot description above is really sparse, there is a good reason for that, the plot is really sparse. Frankly there isn't much to it and on a certain level it's bit dumbed down from the earlier film. Its as if director Huang Wen Chang and writer Huang Liang Hsun tried to make a film that was going to pack them in with echoes of the Final Fantasy games and a cute bird. The plot isn't bad but it's never compelling on it's own terms.

On the other hand the visuals are incredible. Put this on the list of best action films of the year. Its amazing. I don't know what voodoo they used but this film is pure poetry. The actions are completely natural and seem even more real than the great martial arts films from the heyday of the Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest. My jaw just hung open the whole time going as I wondered how the hell they did it.

I am in awe.

This is one of the most alive and living films I've seen all year.

This film is a must see. For action film fans, for puppet lovers, for people who want to be wowed for any one who wants to see something really cool THE ARTI is a must. It may not have the best plot but its one of the few times you'll hear me say visuals and action trump plot,

What would Jim Henson have made of this? What would he have stolen?  My mind boggles at what the Muppet movies would have been like had the great minds behind this film and the Henson Studios got together.

See this film- however you can just see this film and be blown away.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

You must see BUNNY THE KILLER THING (2014) at Fantasia 2015

If you're any where near Montreal tonight you need to get to Fantasia and see BUNNY THE KILLER THING. Trust me if you love batshit crazy off the deep end films you have to see this. In all seriousness this maybe one of the greatest midnight films ever made. Its certainly a can't miss party film.

The plot of the film has a man injected with a serum that tuns him into a a giant bunny like creature with a huge 3 foot hard-on . He then roams the country side looking for women. He of course encounters people in a cabin....

This film is review proof.

Either you're going to want to see a black comedy about man in a bunny suit and three foot penis running around the Finnish woods looking to score and kill people or you're not. If you have no desire to see it you've moved on, if on the other hand you have a desire to see this you're either buying a ticket or trolling the internet to find a copy.

I applaud the second group.

Is it a perfect film?

Of hell no, there are dead spots and groaners but there is more than enough good moments to push this into classic midnight cult film territory.

Make no mistake this is low brow exploitation- it mixes horror comedy and grossness in ways that are unnatural. But its really well done.

The film gets one screening tonight at 1155 at Fantasia. If you can go do so. If not, mark this film on to you're must find list because I know this is coming to a screen near you real soon.

Forr tickets and information go here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

On the White Planet (2014) Fantasia 2015

Visually arresting film concerns a teen-aged boy of color. Not black or white color, but genuine color since he lives on a world where everything is black and white. People bleed white, he bleeds red, his skin is pink. Living on the fringes of society he forages for food and kills those who get in his way. His one wish is to turn white like everyone else. Hooking up with a group of criminals he thinks he may have found a family, however they have designs of their own.

Dark sad story that is like a gut punch. This is the story of the outside and of the thing or person that is different and how society seeks to destroy it.It is not a happy tale and when it was done I wanted to go outside and see life. This is a film that will depress you.

The film's visual style is interesting. Using a largely monochromatic animation art style the film will occasionally shift so it looks like charcoal or paint or comic books or even fleeting live action. Its something that works wonders with the telling of the story.

A must see for anyone who wants their animation to be more than just talking animals or giant robots.

The film plays today at 4 at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

The Ninja War of TORAKAGE (2014) Fantasia 2015

Yoshihiro Nishimura, the mad genius behind TOKYO GORE POLICE and HELLDRIVER returns to movie screens with a ninja film unlike any other ninja film. It also marks his huge step forward as a filmmaker.

The story is framed by Francisco, a Portuguese scholar  who tells us of a great war. The story concerns the hunt for the a gold scroll, which when briught together with another scroll will reveal the location of a treasure. When the head of a ninja clan fails to get the scroll, she forces Torakage, a ninja who left her clan, to take on the job.

If you've seen earlier Nishimura films you can kind of know what to expect, crazy action, gallons of blood, and weird creatures (one has wings made of hands and eyes all over her body). You also get tongue in cheek performances and meta scripts.

What you are not going to be expecting is a huge jump in story telling my Nishimura. I always have loved his craziness and the sense that anything can happen. What I never really liked was that there are times, more than I care to admit where the plot becomes optional. Here there seems to be a plot all the way through- sure there are period cybernetic battle suits and craziness on a huge scale- but there is an actual through line that's rather refreshing.

One of the things that I loved is that Nishimura actually stages many scenes as if these were real events. Previously his films felt like they were movies, here there is sense that if you stripped away the craziness you'd be in a world closer to ours than any of the directors other films. He fillms it with crowds, real locations and small details that give weight to it all. For example a giant mud puddle where the climax occurs is partly red with blood, not during the fight. In previous films that may not have been there,

In the end this is a solid little movie. Its a great film by a director who I've always loved and who seems to be maturing as he goes. Highly recommended for fans of Nishimura and ninja films who don't mind silliness.

The film plays late tonight at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fantasia2015 Capsules: OBSERVANCE, RAIDERS! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Man grieving the death of his son is hired to watch a woman- then things get weird.

I have no idea- I really don't. Might be because I saw this late and looked away or because it just didn't work for me but I just don't get it.

RAIDERS! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Story of the guys who began a shot for shot remake of  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when they were 11. Its the saga of how they did what they did over the following 7 plus years.

Intriguing story is made dull by the over length the realization that you've heard much of this before.  I got to a certain point and simply stopped caring. This is an over long DVD extra about a home movie. No offense to these guys and gals but  I like the idea of the remake a hell of a lot more than I like the remake. I likewise feel that I like the story of how they(in generalities) did it more than knowing the details.

To be brutally honest my over riding thought while watching this was why the fuck is this 92 minutes.

This is time I'll never get back.

You must go see CASH ONLY (2015) at Fantasia 2015

I did not want to see Cash Only

I mean I really didn't want to see Cash Only.

But I had some time and I figured Fantasia programmed it so how bad could it be?

It's not bad, it's freaking awesome.

All hail director Malik Bader and screenwriter/star Nickola Shreli. They have made one hell of a punch in the face crime drama. This is the sort of film that all the small scale inde crime dramas are shooting to be. This is one of those films that you don't compare it to anything, this is one of those films that in a year or two people will be trying to compare their films to it.

The plot of the film has a guy named Martini trying to make ends meet. He's up to his eye balls with gambling debts, his daughter's school is clamoring for money and the bank wants to foreclose on his rental property, With every one wanting money he finds a stash of money in an apartment he was clearing out. He figures that its his ticket to solvency but instead its a ride to hell as the owner comes looking for it.

Shot with a gritty you are their feel with a star making central performance this is a film that feels lived it. It comes at you like a crazy man with a knife. Its a film that leaves you feeling broken and bruised.

What a fantastic film.

I don't want to say more. the film world premieres tonight and if you're going you're in for something special. If you're not going  you have to put this film on your must see list. Trust me I see tons of similar films, most I never review, most I stop half way in, CASH ONLY grabbed me and held me even all the way through the end credits.

You must see it- for more information and tickets go here.

Gay Girl in Damascas: The Amina Profile opens tomorrow

The only film I covered at Sundance this year was this film-then called the AMINA  PROFILE.  It was this really good little film that a couple of people told me I should see because it was something special. 

Having seen it I can say it is.

I'm not going to say too much. this is the story that works best  if you know as little as possible. I will say that the film is something to either see it in theaters or on the SUNDANCENOW DOC CLUB website.

With that in mind here is my Sundance review:

Sandra, a French woman living in Montreal meets Amina, an Syrian American woman living in Damascus on line. As their relationship grows Amina becomes more empowered to the point that she begins a blog called Gay Girl in Damascus in which she would discuss being an out woman in the Middle East. Things eventually take a turn for the worst and it appears that Amina is kidnapped by forces in Syria. Sandra springs into action in order to free her girlfriend but what she finds isn't what she's expecting.

Following Sandra's quest to piece together what exactly happened and why THE AMINA PROFILE is a cracking good film. For those who don't know the story of what happened it's a mystery that sucks you in and drags you along (I'm not going to reveal what happened or happens). For those who know the story this serves as cautionary tale about not only love in today's Internet age but also a warning about how we view the politics of anything.

You'll forgive my lack of details as to what the film is and what happens but this is the sort of film that is going to play best the less you know what it is. Once I realized what the story at the heart of the film was, I had followed the actual events back in 2011, my perception of the film changed. There was an "ah ha" moment that made it all different, not worse just different.

Running a compact 85 minutes this film could possibly use a tiny bit of trimming of some of the reconstructions, but otherwise this is a super little film. Expect it to show up at any number of film festivals over the coming months so you'll have a good chance at catching it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

IN BRIEF: MASTER PLAN (2015) Fantasia 2015

You have one shot to catch the caper/thriller/revenge tale MASTER PLAN at Fantasia and that is tonight at 945 and if you like well done capers make your way to the J.A. De Seve Theatre.

The plot of the film has car thief Charles Ingvar Jönsson going on one last robbery with his partner and uncle. When he sees another car with a lap top on the seat he decides to steal both of them. It all goes horribly wrong and Charles uncle is killed. Vowing revenge he puts a team together....and you get the idea.

Solid caper isn't anything we haven't seen before (I mean the girl Charles is hot for not only is a thief but sports hair like Angelina Jolie in GONE IN 60 SECONDS) but it is entertaining. While I've complained about a couple of films at Fantasia not doing anything new with the tropes of whatever genre they are operating in, sometimes you can make something new out of something old-you just have to dress it up correctly.  MASTER PLAN dresses it up so that if it was the girl next door you'd suddenly become smitten because suddenly she looked hot in a new dress.

There isn't a great deal to say beyond that other than perhaps to say that you'll need a big bowl of popcorn.

For tickets and more information go here.

Frank the Bastard (2013)

Having bounced around for festivals for the last two years (wher it had been called East of Arcadia) FRANK THE BASTARD concerns a young woman who takes a road trip back to her old home town. She hasn't been there since her father took her away after her mother died when she was a child. Once there she finds a combination of welcoming “friends” who remember her dad and family and people who would rather she not ask about the past.

Good but not as good as it should be film has a great cast (any film either Chris Sarandon and William Sadler can’t be all bad and any film with both is much better just because they are in it) playing some really good characters. There is a compelling story at the center of the film.

The problem with the film is that the film doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it is. Is it a drama? A thriller? A horror movie? a combination? While there is nothing wrong with a film that can jump genres, it has to balance the tone, FRANK never gets the tone right with the result that while it remains a compelling drama it never generates the tension it should. Watching the film I was engaged but never tense.

I do like the film, It kept me watching all the way to the end without my attention wandering which says a great deal. Consider that any number of recent independent films had me checking my watch or checking my email. Its good enough I wish it was a better control of it's tome.

FRANK THE BASTARD hits select theaters Friday and is worth a shot.

The great FIVE STAR (2014) opens Friday

FIVE STAR was one of the gems of last year's Tribeca. It was one of those small scale movies  that Unseen was set up to highlight. It was also one of the reasons I go to Tribeca. I go to Tribeca to see films that I'd never notice otherwise.

You need to see this film. Not only is it a really good film, but it's also a chance for you to see James "Primo" Grant. Grant is a force of nature and some one who is going to be a huge star- trust me.

With the film opening Friday in New York and on the 31st in LA here's my Tribeca review:

The Brooklyn lensed Five Star tells the dual intersecting stories of John and Primo. John is a young man trying to get over the death of his recently deceased absentee father. John wants to know something about the man his father was. He also just wants to try and survive on the streets where people end up dead with a frightening frequency. Primo was a friend of the John’s dad. He’s a five star, a leader in the Blood gang. He desperately wants out of the life so that he can provide a better life for his growing family. He’s also looking to continue to make money and to that end he offers to take John into the life and act as a kind of surrogate father for the young man.

A good small scale film with a great sense of place and New York, Five Star reminds me of some of the best films that are frequently released by some of the smaller direct to video companies like Maverick. This is not to knock Five Star only to place it into the realm of some of the best films that most people are sadly missing.

Actually the film achieves true greatness during the sequences focusing on Primo and his life. Played by James "Primo" Grant, the character is based in large part the actors life, with his kids playing his kids, his fiance playing his fiancé and the details largely lining up. These sequences seem less drama and more real. If you removed John from the film and simply focused on Primo you could very well release the film as a documentary and no one would ever know. This is as real a film as you are likely to find anywhere. Not to put too fine a point on it these sequences, where Primo talks about his life, or interacts with his family are among my most favorite of the year. Additionally Grant is a true stand out and if there is any justice he’s going to be a huge actor since within the confines of this small film he shows he can literally do it all from comedy to drama to bad ass.

The problem with the film are the sequences with John. Saddled with the dramatic narrative the film falters here as John goes through some very cliché sequences that are dramatically fine, but could have been lifted from any urban/crime coming of age stories going back to the 1930’s (which was pointed out to me by Peter who liked the film more than I did). There is also a period late in the game involving the delivery/nondelivery of a package that seems to have been shuttled in from another film. Admittedly it doesn’t help that John’s sequences are full of actors who are all over the place in their abilities. While this adds a certain verite to the proceedings, it does make the it clear some people are acting or trying to.

I will say that one of pluses all the way around is the ending which puts what the film is really about into perspective. Its one of those endings that makes you want to see the film again because you’ll want to see it knowing what the real point of it all is.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ojuju (2014) Fantasia 2015

I'm torn about taking about OJUJU. It's not that it's a bad film, it's actually a pretty good one as a far as zombie films go. Hell it's a damn sight better than 95% of the low budget zombie crap that comes out of the US.  The problem is I don't think that if it wasn't a no budget film from Nigeria anyone would have paid any attention to it.

The plot of the film has some weed dealers getting bitten by a man they think is just a psycho. What he is is a zombie the first of many, and they are now infected. As the City slowly is over run the guys have to figure out what to do because they aren't feeling too good.

While the plot is nothing special, it's a basic boiler plate zombie plot line, its the location and the little details of life in Nigeria that set the film apart. Don't kid yourself the fact it was shot on the streets and inside the homes of the people making the film gives the film a sense of reality almost every other horror film.

For me the problem with the film comes from a leisurely pacing. Its not terrible, in fact it's kind of like real life, but it's a tad too slow so the film never quite sustains the tesnsion needed to generate the scares. There is some tension, but there should be more.

And such is my dilemma- here is a good and off beat horror film that is very much not run of the mill and is better than most of the zombie crap we see, but at the same time the pacing of the film never generates the frisson required to be really scary. It's probably best described as a film that's going to be admired more than it's loved (it will most certainly be liked)

The films one Fantasia screening started a short time ago, however expect this film to appear at a festival and theater near you very soon.

big significant things (2014)

Craig is on a tour of all the southern American tourist traps (the film's title is a reference to things like the World’s Largest Cedar Bucket which opens the film). As far as most of the world knows Craig's still at work. His girlfriend has no idea that he is on this escape from reality- which is actually an attempt to put off growing up and getting married to his lady. As time goes on and Craig drifts around the country he begins to question who he is and who he thought he was.

This is an examination of that moment when we stand on the edge of becoming a real adult and moving away from childish things. It’s a moment that comes to us all at different times, and it’s one that we all face differently. Some of us meet it head on, others of us cross the thresh hold unaware and some of us are like Craig, know exactly where we are standing and what that next step means. Some of us are like Craig and we’ll dance around as long as we can until we find we’ve stumbled over the line and grown up despite our best efforts not to.

I really like this film a great deal. It’s a film that manages to seriously examine all of the questions about growing up and being an adult without losing it sense of life. The dance that Craig performs and the twist and turns in his head and heart is the sort of battle many of us have gone through. I can see myself in some of the things that our hero goes through.

At the same time the character of Craig is a problem. As real as his internal battle is, I never completely found him relatable. There is something about him that kept him at arm’s length from me. Intellectually I related to him and his plight (much more than I’d care to admit) but at the same time there is something about Craig that keeps him distant. He’s a bit of a nebbish (and I grew weary of his listening to talk radio) and I didn’t wholly like him. I suspect that’s the point, until the end he is kind of a jerk. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it is something that kept me from falling madly and passionately in love with it.

I have to say that in its way, despite the reservations this is a must see. This film is director Bryan Reisberg first time out. It’s a film that doesn’t feel like a first film. There isn’t the sense that you get with many first films where the director wants to show off and get noticed. Here Reisberg seems more interested in telling a good story…and most interestingly doing it with characters that aren’t completely likable. I may not have love Craig, but I admire the fact that Reisberg was confident enough in what he was doing to give us a character warts and all. Many young filmmakers will simply try to please everyone with the result they end up pleasing no one.

Bryan Reisberg is one to watch..

BIG SIGNIFICANT THINGS opens Friday in theaters and VOD

Monday, July 20, 2015

Børning (2014) Fantasia 2015

I've seen any number of films that have had dedications to the late great Hal Needham but very few actually could live up to the auto insanity that he could bring to the screen,  Børning does that.

Despite what critics may say about SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT or CANNONBALL RUN the films were fun. They were pure spectacle made simply to entertain. And they did in spades returning a mint at the box office. Eventually Needham fell out of favor but ultimately the damage was done and how the world viewed car chases films was changed forever.

Børning tells the story of Roy. A supreme gearhead Roy loves to race. When a race with his pregnant wife ends with him winning the race but upside down in a ditch, he ends up thrown in jail-but not before seeing his new born daughter in her mother's arms. Years later, on a rare long weekend with his daughter (Roy had long since separated from his wife) Roy is challenged to a race by his old rival TT. As the two choose a course it turns into a 1350 mile race across Norway. What was to be some time with his daughter becomes even more crowded as dozens of other cars join the race for a variety of reasons.

The Fantasia promotional material compares it to CANNONBALL RUN and it's that but it also riffs on any number of other films as well. Actually what the film really is is a character driven chase film. Yes there are race scenes but always there are characters. People are driving the cars and interacting, not in the wise ass Burt Reynolds sort of a way, but in the way you interact with your buddies.  In this film people are more important than the cars.

What I like about the film is that it is not a straight out balls to the wall  chase film. we're a half hour in before we're at the big race. On top of that its not all crazy speeding and jockeying for position. This is very much a race that friends who didn't want to get killed would have. Yea there are duels but largely this is something else.

Hallvard Bræin, the cinematographer  for TROLL HUNTER, has made a great looking film. Norway looks lovely, the chases are pulse pounding, and every now and again there are these really wicked shots that are just wicked cool (I love when TT comes to challenge Roy and TT's car and camera circle around Roy).

He is also to be applauded for making a film that is pretty much computer graphic free. Other than some shots at the very end I didn't notice anything that was obviously CGI. How nice to have a race film that obeys the laws of physics and has cars that have real weight.

I had a blast seeing this film. This is hunker down and watch it with a huge bowl of popcorn sort of film. I hope to hell this gets a US theatrical release because I want to see this on a HUGE screen with a great sound system.

One of the absolute joys of Fantasia.

I've seen Meathead Goes Hog Wild (2015) but I'm holding off reviewing it until I can see it again. Fantasia 2015

I can't review this film.

I don't mean it in a bad way. I simply mean that this is one of those films where  the line in the festival description :

MEATHEAD GOES HOG WILD is not an easy film to describe, and it’s much more than what the ... synopsis or its seemingly quirky title hints at. It’s surely one of the most gonzo discoveries of 2015, a fascinating dive into a snake pit of disillusionment and alienated rage that poignantly addresses identity issues and racial tensions with invention, emotional rawness and amazingly odd streaks of humour.

is dead on. I need to see it again before I can really talk about it.

What I can say is MEATHEAD GOES HOG WILD is a truly unique cinematic experience that is by turns distancing, inviting, horrifying and very funny.  It has a low budget look  but high level ideas. Its a film that upends your expectations - even if you have none, even if you're told it's not going to be what you expect- its something else completely.

If I told you that the story concerns a guy who gets fired from a meat store, He then returns to get his job back but finds no one there so he breaks in, steals some meat and then tries to give it all away only to have the worst night of his life happen, you still wouldn't have any clue as to what awaits you.

You might think its a riff on Scorsese's AFTER HOURS or FALLING DOWN, and on some level you'd be right but also wrong since this film is going for more, its trying to make a point about class, about entitlement, about the racial divide and a few other things. Its a film that is very much going to go it's own way with moments that make you wonder how does this fit into the sysnopsis I was given.

Frankly I'm still sorting this all out. I'm still trying to work out what it all means or how I feel about it. That last one is hard to deduce....

Actually it's not. Good bad or indifferent this is a unique film. this is something special. This is something that is going to get under your skin and provoke a reaction. This is a film by filmmakers who want to challenge their audience, This my friends is exactly what Unseen Films was set up to highlight.

The films only showing is tonight at 7:35 and is a must see for anyone who loves to walk the fringes of cinema or who loves films that are no where near the beaten path.

This may very well be a masterpiece.

For tickets and more information go here.

Mad Women (2015)

MAD WOMEN opened in New York on the 10th and it opens in LA this Friday and to be perfectly honest it vexes me.  A well acted film with lots of meaty monologues the film is awkwardly plotted and using exploitation tactics to gain an audience despite positioning itself as a serious drama. I'm not sure which the film is (exploitation or serious drama) and I don't think writer, director and distributor Jeff Lipsky knows either.

The synopsis of the film varies depending on where you read it. At IMDB  the synopsis focuses on the mother character, in the pres material I was sent the focus is on Kelsey Lynn Stokes character named Nevada. The film as it's been released is firmly on Nevada. Nevada is trying to sort out where she belongs. She spends her days playing tennis and carrying on with a guy she met at the tennis court. She also is trying to cope with her father who has been sent to jail for statutory rape at a Jackson Brown concert and her mother who has just gotten out of jail for plotting to kill a man she said was domestic terrorist who was going to kill a doctor an abortion clinic. Her mother is running for mayor of their town on a weird libertarian platform, and if that wasn't enough she also has been diagnosed with cancer (the mother).

Carrying way too many plot lines for a two hour plus movie MAD WOMEN is best described as mad itself. Its a film that is completely off the rails in the way things run out. The circumstances of her father's crime don't really ring true (most people at the  Jackson Brown concerts I've been to are way past the age of consent), nor do the mother's political agenda/run for office. I won't even get into Nevada dating her stalker.  Very little of the film as a whole feels real. It all comes off as artificial.

It doesn't help that much of the film doesn't involve dialog, but rather long winded monologues and speeches. They don't feel as its an extended conversation, more that each character is talking at the others or that they are trying to be incredibly theatrical. I like the monologues a great deal, and I probably would love them in another film or six, I just wish there was real dialog and characters around them.

The performances  by all the cast are really good, and I completely understand why they took their roles, Lipsky's script gives them something they can chew on more than most other films.

The main selling point of the film is supposed to be an event so shocking that it will rock you to the core. The press material said that those seeing the film should reserve judgement until we get to the end of the film. Sadly  the shocking event, mother daughter incest, is a non-starter. Its so blandly handled that Nevada's boyfriend is kind of non-plused by it- he's more concerned that she's cheating on him, not that it's her mother. How are we supposed to get upset if the characters in the film aren't?

I have no clue.

I can't in good conscious recommend this film to anyone despite finding bits of the mosaic fine. Ultimately if writer/director Jeff Lipsky wasn't also a distributor this film would have stayed shelved forever.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


The "director and writer" of TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN do a commentary track for a film that ended with murder and tragedy.

The minds behind ROOM 237 took an old, and pretty good, adaption of Frankenstein and created a new commentary track where the director and the screenwriter come together to talk about the film and end up talking about the "real life" horror that ensued during and after filming. Its an extremely clever idea and for the most part works as an interesting experiment. I'm not sure it gets past the clever idea stage.

The problem for me is it never feels natural, it feels scripted all the way through. I've heard enough commentary tracks to know that some that try to be off the cuff are scripted, and DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY  has that down for the early bits as Clu Gallagher's director tries to remain on point against Zack Norman's onslaught. However as the conversation goes more and more pear shaped the two continue to sound like they are reading off a script, it never really sounds like two guys talking, its two guys reading lines of dialog. For me it was like watching a horror movie while I had on adequately acted radio show on at the same time.

As an idea I love this film a great deal, especially when you have Leon Vitali star of the original film come in for some mind bending meta moments. But, not to beat a dead horse, the problem is the talk never seems real. It never crosses the threshold into even its own reality.The result is that while we're interested in the "behind the scenes" story there is never enough suspense generated to really thrill us.  There is no horror. I was no more engaged than I am in an episode of a really good TV mystery series or cable true crime documentary.

This isn't to say that the film is bad. Its not. Rather I think the idea behind it is greater than the execution. Definitely worth seeing at some point but not something you need to rush out and see.

IN BRIEF: The Shamer's Daughter (2014) Fantasia 2015

Dina has inherited her mother's ability to look into a person's soul and see what's there. She can effectively make a person feel shame for what they are and what they've done. When the Lord, his wife and young children are found killed her mother is brought to the castle to shame the suspect- Nicodemus, the heir to the throne- who was found dead drunk with blood on his hands. However when Dina's mother insists that Nicodemus is innocent Dina is brought in to give the right finding. However when she too won't give the answer the Drakan Lord of Justice wants her life, is put in danger.

Not to put too fine a point on it SHAMER'S DAUGHTER may very well be one of the best fantasy's you'll ever run across, and if it's not quite in the league of Lord oft he Rings, it's only by a hairs breadth . Its one hell of a story full of suspense, adventure, great characters and dragons in the dungeon. This film just gets it right from start to finish.

I don't know what else to say this is just a damn good movie. It doesn't need me to do anything about it other than to get you a ticket to it or press a copy into your hands. I'd like to tell you to check it out at Fantasia but the film's only screening happened yesterday afternoon. I guess that's all that's left to say is put this on your must see lists

(And I'm told by the Fantasia Twitter  feed they are hoping to do a sequel.-fantastic-I'm dying to see what happens next).

IN BRIEF:Teana: 10,000 Years Later (2015) Fantasia 2015

In the future Devil Wu was imprisoned by a goddess. a thousand years later Devil Wu is released by his disciples in the hopes that he will revived the old world. Its up to a band of heroes to fight him.

This probably looks great in 3D. In 2D this looks like a video game on the big screen. Its not something you need to see. Stripped of the gee whiz factor of the visuals the film doesn't have much to recommend it. The plot is old hat, and it cobbles together bits from other better films. It also doesn't help that the English dub is merely adequate.

I have to say that I find it odd that a film created using computers and the latest technology is about the evils of said technology.

Worth a shot if you ever get a chance to see this in 3D on the big screen but other wise this can be missed.

Possibly the blandest film at this years Fantasia

IN BRIEF: Case of Hana and Alice (2015) Fantasia 2015

Animated prequel to the 2004 classic HANA AND ALICE is set at the time that the two girls meet. This film has Alice and her mom moving into a new house and going off to school. There Alice comes across the murder case of a student known as Judas. Judas was killed by his four wives also known as Judas. As a result of it all the students have come up with elaborate plans to prevent the ghosts from getting them. (As one character says "no it doesn't make sense"). Alice wants to get to the bottom of it and she discovers that her neighbor, Hana, is the keeper of the secrets needed to solve the mystery. That's the start of the story and a movie friendship.

This is an utterly charming film that has the original actresses reprising their roles and having a grand old time doing it. They appear to be having so much fun that we in the audience also end up having a blast. I was smiling from ear to ear.

The animation is a mix of rotoscoping and traditional animation. It makes for a visually odd moment or two early on as the realistic motion of some characters don't quite fit with the backgrounds. On the other hand it quickly becomes a bonus giving the film not only a unique look, but also allowing a fluidity of motion that we don't usually get in animated films.

Do you need to have seen the first film? Apparently not. I didn't see it (shhh- don't tell anyone) and I had no trouble following what was going on. In reading on the film I  discovered that there is only a few references to the earlier film, basically its a new film with the same characters.

I don't know what else to say. I had a grand old time and as soon as I'm done with Fantasia I'm planning on digging out my DVD of the original film and watching that.

The film plays in two hours at Famtasia and if you hurry you can make the screening.

For tickets and more information go here.

IN BRIEF: Possessed (2014) Fantasia 2015

Wickedly funny, not for kids (blood, nudity, cursing) animated film has the son of a power couple becoming possessed and turning to a defrocked priest for help. Its wicked and wild ride that's hysterical.

A vicious satire of the Catholic Church, the rich, family relationships and horror films, this is a film that has something to make everyone laugh. Its a twisted Claymation style where the priest is called Lenin, the evil spirit is Cthulu, space stations can kill you dead and nothing is sacred.

I would love to say more but I can't, I was too doubled over with laughter to take notes. And frankly I don't want to spoil the jokes or the joys (the film riffs brilliantly on several well known horror movies)

An absolute must see when it plays later today and on the 24th at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

This is one of my favorite films at Fantasia and maybe the year. When is this going to get a US release?

Japan Cuts Capsules 2- Asleep, Hibi Rock, This Country's Sky, The Make Up Room, Undulant Fever

With Japan Cuts ending later today here are the last bunch of films from the festival in easy to swallow capsule form.

UNDULANT FEVER (When I Sense the Sea)
Based on a notorious book written by an 18 year old young woman, the film charts the severely damaged mutually abusive relationship between a young woman and a slightly older fellow student. Every time she see him she is filled with lust. We follow as the pair drift together and part and as the roles change over time. Brooding angsty film was not my cup of tea. Partly I thought it was taking too long to get where it was going but mostly I didn't care for the two lead characters. I felt more like smacking them than anything. As for the eroticism, I was bored. While it has a bit more going on than other recent erotic films based on novels (50 Shades) its still just as eh.

Based on what director Kei Morikawa saw when making adult films this is the story of what happens in the make up room of a porn shoot. While the conceit of the film never leaving the makeup room is initially interesting the film rapidly bogs down into what the film started out to be, namely a one set stage play. While the film is funny at times the frequent static nature of the film works against it (which is the result of the dull camera work). This should have been better than it is.

Long time in coming and World Premiering film at Japan Cuts this is the story of life in a ward of Tokyo in the waning days of the Second World War is largely what happens when a 19 year old girl falls for her neighbor, a married man whose family has been evacuated from the city.  I'm not sure how or I should really review the film. The image seemed a tad grainy and the whole thing seemed as if it was a work in progress.  Allowing for that I will say that what I saw left me feeling mixed on the film. While I liked the look inside the city during war time, I found the plotting overly soapy and not to my taste. I'm not sure if its's the print or the fact that when I saw it I was coming to the end of two film festivals worth of films. I'll try it again down the line and get back to you.

Yu Irie's wild and crazy manga adaption was the Opening night film for Japan Cuts and its a blast and a half. Very much a live action comic come to life.  Both Eden and Mondo are taking runs by the film so let me just say I loved it.

Based on a book by Banana Yoshimoto's story about a woman in a perpetual dreamlike state, where she sleeps until the next encounter with a married lover whose wife is in a coma and while remembering a friend who committed suicide this is one of the dullest films I've ever seen. While I intellectually know what it was trying to do all it made me want to do was fall asleep. I don't care if Sakura Ando is in it the movie is a bore.

No Nightcap this week

There is no nightcap this week because I simply don't have the time.

If you haven't notice Japan Cuts is ending, Fantasia is in full force and there are tons of new releases this week.

I'm going crazy- loving it- but going nuts

The one thing that is making me nuts is the pieces from Fantasia are going long. I'm finish a film going I'll get a paragraph or two on the film and then writing a novel- or whats a novel compared to NYAFF and Japan Cuts pieces. Say what you will even if the films aren't good, Fantasia is throwing up some interesting stuff.

A word on the reviews- I can not post anything until the day the film screens. I'm somewhere around Wednesday as far a reviews are concerned. I'm working a head as best as I can.

I will not be able to see everything. Well given an extra three weeks I could but I have until August 4th to see all that I can. I think that means something close to 40 Fantasia films in 16 days. Its manageable but I have other  films to review as well. (I think the Fantasia reviews are going to run past the festival)

If you want a clue as to what I've seen check our Tumblr page since I'm posting stills of what I'm seeing as I see them.

Okay enough chit chat I have some ninja movies to get to.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

In Brief: CRIMSON WHALE (2014) Fantasia 2015

In the future the world is in ruin. Life and society kind of slink along.  A young orphan girl with the ability to talk to the whales (if there are any left) is recruited by a band of pirates who need her talent to get passed the "volcano whale" where a great treasure lies.

Incredibly dark and down beat tale is not for kids, its a very adult story of greed and the end of the world.

Let's cut to the chase- I'm mixed on the film. Running a scant 70 minutes the film feels extremely over long. Much of the first half or so feels like the film is spinning its wheels until it gets to the ship traveling to the island guarded by the whale. Once the crew begins the confrontation with the whale the film kicks into high gear and the story and the animation come together in perfect union.

Sadly I don't think it's enough to save the film which by that time has had way too many MOBY DICK allusions and moments that take too long to go anywhere.

While not a terrible movie it's the sort of thing  that is going to be best appreciated by animation junkies who won't mind singing the praises of the sequences that outshine the film as a whole.

The Fantasia screening is happening as this posts.

Sanchu Uprising: Voices at Dawn (2014) Japan Cuts 2015

The closing film of this year's Japan Cuts is a unique cinematic vision that is going to thrill some audiences and bore others to tears.

Set in 1726, the film follows a farmer in the Sanchu region of the country. He like many of the other farmers are running into trouble feeding and caring for his family thanks to the demands of their lord. Trying to rectify the situation the farmers negotiate but when that fails things become violent. As events transpire around him, Jehei debates whether or not to participate and what will happen to himself and his family on either road.

Shot in glorious black and white this is a kind of you are there film that puts us in the middle of the mental and emotional debate. Much like the the shading of the film, the decision to either fight or flee is neither black nor white but a shade of gray. No matter what choice is made there are going to be repercussions.

Increasingly set in the mental landscape of Jehei, the film shifts styles in telling becoming animation for a portion of it, shifting to muted colors towards the end and including songs which re-enforce some of themes. Its a trip that you have to go along with or else you're going to have a miserable time.

For me this is a film I can admire way more than I can like. I like that director Juichiro Yamasaki doesn't make it easy for the audience. I like that he moves the story to suit his ends and is willing to use the animation and late in the film theater tricks to get us to consider the story we've seen and what it means. This is a very heady mix of technical wizardry and food for thought.

If I am not writing up along discussion of the themes and ideas that are in play it's simply that I saw this film late in my coverage of the festival (somewhere well over 20 films in) and the film just over whelmed me, This isn't to say I didn't like the film its simply it requires one to engage with it and after so many films in so short a time I just  had to take it at face value.  I have to applaud the Japan Society for making this film the final one since the film maybe too much for an audience that spent the previous five hours watching a romance and a superhero film.

I like the film but I know I need to see it again in order to give it a fair shake. Somewhere in it is a heartfelt discussion about the things we do and the consequences they bring.

If you're up to the task of engaging with the film I recommend it, if not do take a pass.