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 […]
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, […]
March 11, 2013

Fists of The White Lotus (Lieh Lo, 1980)

Hong Kong has steadily been restoring old Shaw Bros. movie and showcasing them around the world. Fists of the White Lotus is the most recent of such classics to benefit from those efforts. Following the events of Executioners from Shaolin, Fists of the White Lotus confronts our heroes, Wen-ting and Chin-chung, with Pai-Mei’s brother, a White Lotus clan priest and […]
March 11, 2013

Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack (Takayuki Hirao, 2012)

Although it’s based on the work of one of Japan’s most prominent horror manga authors, Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack proves incapable of living up to expectations. An adaptation of Junji Ito’s manga, Gyo recounts the story of a modern-day Japan attacked by poisonous fish with mechanical legs, converting the population into organic masses excreting putrid gas, as they make their […]
February 26, 2013

Mitsuko delivers (Yuya Ishii, 2011)

Mitsuko delivers is a great beginning to the festival for me, starting with what could be the best acting performance of the year. Riisa Naka plays the eponymous Mitsuko, an energetic and pregnant young woman who travels back to her old stomping grounds and quickly befriends a cast of quirky local characters, forcing them to seek happiness, whether they’re open […]
January 2, 2012

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Johnny To and Wai Ka-fai, 2011)

Johnny To and Wai Ka-fai are two of the best Hong Kong directors of their generation (and To is one of the world’s best) and their production company, Milky Way, is a prominent example of industrial filmmaking without sacrificing quality and creativity. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is an example of Milky Way’s effective filmmaking formula, and both filmmakers love […]
December 30, 2011

Underwater Love (Shinji Imaoka, 2011)

Underwater Love is weird. No, I mean really weird. The unconventional premise attracted me, as I perused through this year’s thick Fantasia program. In the movie, a dreamy-eyed innocent fish factory worker meets a kappa, a Japanese anthropomorphic turtle-like water spirit that, as it happens, was a high-school comrade of hers. The two will eventually end up together, but not […]