December 16, 2013

The Lady Assassin (Quang Dung Nguyen, 2013)

The Lady Assassin, a martial arts blockbuster, is my first Vietnamese film ever. A light Sunday night screening at this year’s Fantasia Festival, it was attended by a notable number of people from Montreal’s Vietnamese community. Billed as a Vietnamese wu xia, in the film, a princess sold in marriage is taken in by a team of high-flying, ass—kicking, thieving […]
November 6, 2013

Ip Man: The Final Fight (Herman Yau, 2013)

Ip Man: The Final Fight is the latest iteration of legendary Wing Chun martial artist Ip Man, after three different films recalling his exploits in China and Hong Kong. Helmed by Herman Yau, the director of Ip Man: The Legend is Born (2010), Ip Man: The Final Fight revisits the kung fu master’s arrival in Hong Kong in the 1950s […]
October 23, 2013

Key of Life (Kenji Uchida, 2012)

Key of Life’s premise is very close to Rough Cut’s (Hun Jang, 2008), but effectively mixes comedy and drama, resulting in a striking aesthetic blend. In it, a failed actor usurps a stranger’s life and discovers he has to pretend to be a killer-for hire, while that stranger, suffering from amnesia, is led to believe he’s the actor and begins to […]
October 22, 2013

Drug War (Johnny To, 2012)

A staple of the Fantasia Festival, and like Takashi Miike a very prolific director, Johnny To had a new film at Fantasia this year called Drug War. Sold as the dismantling by the police of a Hong Kong crime cartel with the help of a compromised boss turned informant, Drug War is so much more complex than just a straight […]
October 17, 2013

Shield of Straw (Takashi Miike, 2013) and Lesson of the Evil (Takashi Miike, 2012)

Shield of StrawMy first film at Fantasia in 2013 was Takashi Miike’s Shield of Straw, one of the director’s contribution to the festival. Miike is a known workhorse, directing sometimes three films per year, in a myriad of genres and styles. Yet, there seems to be a connecting thread through his films, which feels harder to ascertain for me than […]
October 17, 2013

My Fantasia 2013: Preamble

This year, Fantasia started with a change of venue (the Concordia Hall theater is gone for now, under construction), and we were welcomed back to the Imperial theater on Bleury Street. It’s an old new home since the festival started out showing films at the Imperial way back when.   On March 16th at 1PM, the tickets for the festival […]
September 30, 2013

The Human Race (Paul Hough, 2013)

The Human Race is an atypical survival horror film containing some sci-fi elements and archetypal characters in inventive genre-bending situations. Abducted from the same stretch of street in Los Angeles, 60+ strangers must run through an elaborate course and follow their unknown captors’ instructions to stay alive. As a small budget independent horror film, The Human Race reminded me of Night of […]
June 9, 2013

Graceland (Ron Morales, 2012)

In essence a morality tale, Graceland, part of the Fantasia 2012’s retrospective on Filipino cinema, makes a violent case against crooked morals and institutionalized corruption. In the film, Marlon, a driver for a wealthy politician, has his daughter kidnapped in a botched abduction that also results in the death of the politician’s daughter. Marlon must pretend his boss’s daughter is still […]
March 28, 2013

Sunny (Hyeong-Cheol Kang, 2011)

Sunny is at once a coming-of-age and a reunion film, with detective elements, feminine-pop aesthetics, fleshed-out characters and intricate narrative elements.   In the film, middle-aged Na-mi reunites with her high school friend, Choon-Hwa. Dying of cancer, Choon-Hwa’s last wish is to be able to see Sunny, their group of high school friends, reunited. Thus, Na-mi embarks on a search […]
March 26, 2013

Starry Starry Night (Tom Lin, 2011)

Starry Starry Night’s young love, innocence and whimsy are infectious. What it does, it does reasonably well.Based on the book by Jimmy Liao, Starry Starry Night is a coming-of-age story, depicting a summer of love and adventure. Xiao Mei’s life (our protagonist) isn’t going very well: her parents are getting divorced; she’s a pariah in her middle school and doesn’t […]
March 11, 2013

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Te-sheng Wei, 2011)

A Taiwanese epic about the indigenous people of the island of Taiwan; their lives, culture and values; before the encroachment of Japanese expansion. The most striking thing about WotR is how much of a labour of love it seems to be for its filmmaker; it is felt both in the movie’s story and in its direction. Te-sheng Wei, along with producer John […]
March 11, 2013

Punch (Han Lee, 2011)

Punch, a Korean drama, will more likely be remembered for the way it adds to the Korean conversation on immigration than for its other story elements. Teenager Wan-deuk consistently gets into fights at school while getting lousy grades. Wan-deuk’s mom abandoned them when he was a little boy and he was raised by his father, a small-time itinerant street performer, […]