CategoryFilm Festivals

Fantasia

We’re sadly not going to Fantasia this year, but next year with any luck, and it’s not like it doesn’t just keep getting better. I need to remember to call someone about ordering the program this year.

Chris said something insane about a shortage of must-see movies this year. Naaaah.
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Fantasia 2006: Breaking it down

Let’s go to the tape, Chumley. I amended two grades; in retrospect, Wilderness was a touch better than I gave it credit for, and Samurai Commando 1549, while excellent, was not quite “I’d want to own it on DVD.”

Which is the requirement for an A grade. B grades I’d recommend seeing. C grades, well. And D grades I’d recommend avoiding.

Grade A

The Great Yokai War (A+)
Isolation (A+)
Train Man (A+)
All Out High (A)
Evil Aliens (A)
Reincarnation (A)
Widerness (A, improved grade)
The Echo (A-)
Pusher 3 (A-)

Grade B

Five Deadly Venoms (B+)
Samurai Commando 1549 (B+, dropped a notch)
Shinobi (B+)
Three Mighty Men (B)
Ultraman Max (B)
Vampire Cop Ricky (B)
Aziris Nuna (B-)
The Descendant (B-)
The Order of One (B-)
Storm (B-)

Didn’t Make the Grade

Red Shoes (C+)
The Gravedancers (C-)
Subject Two (C-)

Junk (D)
Hell (incomplete/D)
Ressonances (D)

Miscellanea

DJ XL5’s Zappin’ Party Cavalcade

Fantasia 2006: The Great Yokai War

And finally…

The Great Yokai War. Just, whoa.

Miike isn’t one of my top five artists in the world (David Cronenberg, Richard Thompson, Wong Kar Wai, George R. R. Martin, probably Aimee Mann; list subject to change), but he’s the guy I’d like to play Being John Malkovich with. I want to see what he’s thinking while he works. I want to figure out what he’s trying to do, and I want to figure out how he keeps up his insane multi-movie-per-year pace while still churning out heart-stoppingly beautiful, perfect moments of film.

The Great Yokai War is almost painfully emotionally involving. Miike digs his hooks in early and holds you: he makes you care about what happens. There’s some sort of visceral reality in the way he shoots a movie that gets you; he has a way of immersing audiences which is just as effective here as it is in Audition. It’s just the specific emotional responses that are different.

Then I contemplate the climax of the movie, in which the world is saved by a freak coincidence and a legume. Plus pop music. Is Miike engaging in a cynical angry satire on children’s movies? I am honestly not sure. One Missed Call was in part a deeply barbed stab at Japanese cultural media, so maybe this was the same. There’s a scene where Tadashi Ino, the kid protagonist, dresses up for the big fight with a deeply snarky line pointed directly at Dragonball Z and its ilk, so there are hints of satire. But man, Miike clearly adores the Japanese cultural goblin tales he’s working with…

I got no idea. Hard to figure out. Either way it was a superbly beautiful, scary, thrilling, involving movie about saving the world. I’m a little sad about missing the rest of the movies Saturday night and Sunday, but exhaustion had set in, and this was about as good a capper as I could have asked for.

Grade: A+.

Fantasia 2006: Aziris Nuna

Saturday was our children’s movie day. Aziris Nuna was the first of the pair, and it was pretty much a generic children’s movie. It’s somewhat looser than you’d expect from a US flick of the same style, and a little more leering, but all in all it didn’t go anywhere weird or wild.

The opening shots were incredible: pyramids rising behind Moscow, and a ship of some sort kinda drifting over the city. This had me considerably excited, since the Fantasia blurb said “Aziris Nuna is set in an alternate reality that sees the architecture of Moscow blended with Egyptian temples and pyramids.” Alas, this was not the case — it’s set in our reality, with a bunch of time travel, and the opening shots are just cool effects.

The look of the film held up. It’s sort of Fifth Element, sort of Zathura. The effects and set design were pretty amazing, considering the whole thing cost less than four million to make. (This according to one of the producers, hanging out at the back of the theater as we filed out.) The acting was as good as you’d expect, and the thing was competently made. But, eh, it’s still just a children’s movie and it didn’t hold my interest.

Grade: B-.

Fantasia 2006: Five Deadly Venoms

The first time I saw Five Deadly Venoms, I was not as kind as I might have been. I enjoyed it a lot more this time — perhaps because I was in the mood, perhaps because it was on the big screen, or perhaps because I saw it in good company.

It’s still a sort of mystery with a lot of varied kung fu style, but I was ready for the pacing. I dug the range of fights quite a bit on second viewing; there’s great distinction between the five venoms. I was also forewarned that Lizard was played by Philip Kwok, who I have a fondness for from Hard-Boiled, so it was cool watching him mug around.

Grade: B+.

Fantasia 2006: The Order of One

Fantasia lists this as The Order of One, but IMDB has it as Order of One. Who knows? The official website uses the article, so there you go.

It’s a total DIY low budget indie flick, shot for under $100,000 in and around Montreal. The big bad evil martial arts master is played by a real sensei from a local dojo, and I’d bet on a bunch of his thugs being students from the dojo. This makes, anyhow, for some pretty fun martial arts scenes — I can’t complain about that.

Well, and I can’t complain about much of anything. I mean, it’s an enthusiastic low budget tribute to Sonny Chiba and 70s action flicks, right down to the split screen. Yeah, the picture quality sucks and some kind of transfer sync issue was doing something weird with the frames per second, but whatever! It’s a guy just out of prison getting his hands on a mystical sword and fighting off waves of assassins while trying to decide if he should deliver it to the good guys or keep it himself. What more do you want?

… no, you don’t get good acting, but they’re all having fun.

Grade: B- if you don’t mind the complete indie nature, C+ if the bad lighting bugs you. For me? B-.

Fantasia 2006: Evil Aliens

(Back! Back in the saddle again!)

Evil Aliens is the goriest film I saw all week. You know what you’re getting when a rotating spiky probe hits someone’s delicate rear end within the first five minutes of the movie. Sploosh!

It’s also a total riot. Everyone’s comparing it to Evil Dead, which is exactly accurate. You get all the gore in the world, a wickedly nasty sense of humor, plenty of self-aware parody, and evil alien monsters. I laughed all the way through when I wasn’t cringing in shock. There weren’t any really scary bits; the aliens are gonna do damage and people are gonna die and none of that comes as any kind of a surprise. There are a couple of jump scares, but the point is definitely blood, a bit of sex, and funny stuff. Also, the scene with the harvester is the best use of music in a horror movie ever, no really.

The whole plot is parody, really. Real aliens show up on a nearly empty Welsh island, and a tabloid journalism show heads off to film there after some cryptic reports. Inbred Welsh farmers kick the crap out of aliens; the crap kicking is returned. There are ley lines. It’s damned snarky.

We saw three British horror flicks over the week (two from England, one from Ireland), and they couldn’t have been more different: the gorefest Evil Aliens, the monster movie Isolation, and the survival horror flick Wilderness. All were excellent. British horror is completely rocking the house right now and I give them huge happy thumbs up and I want more, please.

Grade: A.

Tud

A combination of slight illness and scheduling mishaps is about to lead to a slightly early departure. Alas! The remainder of the reviews (everything up through The Great Yokai War) will come when we get back to Boston. It’s been an excellent week.

Fantasia 2006: Ressonances

I have absolutely no idea what Ressonances was doing on the program. I mean, there’ve been some movies I didn’t enjoy, but I get why they were there — interesting ideas, or love of the genre, or whatever. But this just bit.

The program says that Philippe Robert, the director, worked on a number of French flicks. When I finally found him on IMDB, it turns out he was a camera operator (and Ressonances isn’t listed at all). I’m surprised that his first feature film was so damned muddy and impenetrable; it looks like it was filmed at night with very little lighting. You’d think a camera operator would know better.

Peering through the murk, I tried to take the movie as a parody/homage to the classic monster in the woods movie. But it wasn’t really funny. I think the biggest laugh came when one of the characters referred to Zidane’s jersey as his lucky number, and that’s only funny because of the headbutt, which happened after the movie was made.

Grade: D.

Fantasia 2006: DJ XL5 Zappin' Party Cavalcade

So this is easy: it was a big collection of short films, everything from trailer remixes to Flash animation bits to traditional animation. It was fairly good. I guess you could reasonably stick your name on this kind of thing if your cutting and editing of shorts was really innovative, but in this case a bit of static between shorts doesn’t count. It was still fun to watch. I’d probably go for taking a break instead of watching one of these again next year, just cause it’s all viewable elsewhere fairly easily.

Grade: I dunno, how do you grade a compendium? I liked it.

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