Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fantasia 2013: Mini Reviews Part 1: Big Ass Spider, Helter Skelter, Big Bad Wolves, Saving General Yang & More

Amid the flurry of San Diego Comic-Con and just before the oncoming storm of Disney's D23 Expo, there was the film festival gem of the north we call Fantasia. How do we cover all these events? Well, if you are a regular reader, you know the answer is ...slowly. Guy's gotta make a buck in between all this geekiness!! The better answer (but not as funny) is, with a lot of help from some excellent people. Emilie Noetzel went straight from the floor at SDCC over to the streets of Canada to take in as many excellent films as she possibly could and give us the heads up on what we should be demanding get a wide release and what we should just slowly slide away from and pretend never is sometimes the case. Dive in!

Big Ass Spider
Fun, fun, fun!  There were a couple of technical difficulties with the screening, but it was still the most fun movie we saw at Fantasia Film Festival this year.  This movie’s premise is simple. An ever-growing spider attacks Los Angeles. Mayhem ensues. This could have easily been a very bad, SyFy-y type giant monster movie, but because of the effort and love of the genre put into the making of Big Ass Spider, it is much more than that.  Don’t be mistaken, it is a B-movie. Still, it is the best possible giant spider B-movie you can hope for.  It is fun, gory, funny, even a bit..  heart warming?

Big Bad Wolves
What would you do if your child was killed by a child molester/killer and you got your hands on the man you believe to be responsible?  Would you simply turn him in to the cops or would you take sweet, painful revenge on the man?  This movie looks at a terrible situation from the cops point of view, the father’s point of view and the possible killer’s point of view.  It is well crafted, well acted, and will keep your attention until the end despite its potentially Law & Order SVU-esque theme.

The Develerators (short)
A very short short film clocking in at about 5 minutes. It follows a group of friends as they find a way to stop time in a happy moment in their lives. Their story is simple and to the point. We do not get to know the characters enough to care about them, unfortunately, but maybe that’s the point, as they do not want to stick with the rest of the world for life. This short is interesting but not necessarily all that entertaining, but then again, maybe that’s the point?

See You Tomorrow, Everyone
A coming of age story. The lead (Satoru) has graduated elementary school but he refuses to leave the projects to go to a different school or to work. His plan is to stay in the projects forever, to live there, to learn there, to work there, to be the protector of the complex. His plan works for him, but not for many others. As time goes by, his classmates move away one by one. His life changes even though he does not want it to. This is a tale of growing up, becoming your own person, and becoming better.  Satoru is very slowly going through this. The story is touching, sad at times, happy at others. It is simple, yet complex and you want for Satoru to enrich his life and grow. He is a lovable character, yet not lovely. The story is great and makes you reflect on your own life and changes in it.

2 friends are roaming the Northeast states, breaking into vacation homes, living the (fairly) easy life. One is against the petrol culture and the other is a gloomy gent who just wants to coast by. They meet new people who eventually join them in their traipsing in the woods and enjoying the houses of others. The movie is about friendship and preparing for the next step in our lives. The 2 leads are loveable in their own ways. The story is simple but engaging, and the resulting film is fun to watch with a pace never too slow or too fast. Music plays a large roll in adding to the story and the overall feel of it. Doomsdays is a movie worth looking for if you can.

Helter Skelter
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Helter Skelter is a movie about our obsession with beauty and youth, how to obtain and keep them, how to be the most beautiful... the most youthful. Helter Skelter is a beautiful movie with crazy, colorful images and a potentially crazier story. Lilico is the lead model/actress/… in this story and in all of Japan. Her popularity is at its peek, so much so that you expect she may fall anytime now. Girls all want to be her... girls get surgery to be her. Did Lilico get surgery? Will her popularity last? The laws of chaos must apply.  Things take a turn for the odd and begin changing, and changing.. and changing. The movie moves fairly fast, like the world of fashion and pop stars it mirrors. This constant chaos makes for a very interesting movie that is never boring and consistently fun to watch.

Saving General Yang
The classic story of a father who gets ambushed in the desert while at war and the seven brothers who  journey off to retrieve him for their mother, as interpreted by Ronny Yu. It is a classic story of filial piety, loyalty, and family values. Yu’s version of the tale is entertaining and grandiose. The costume, hair and fight sequences are all done amazingly well. Fight scenes are exactly what action fans crave, aside from being sequences where you can actually see what is going on in the fight. There are no crazy cuts every 1/10th of a second. The camera lingers on each nuance of the fight... the hits, body parts landing blows or weapons connecting with their target. You see the action and  feel the strikes. It is a beautiful period piece and a fantastic action movie. If you are into this flavor of action, seek this one out.

Les Gouffres
A French movie about a man going to investigate crevasses that have appeared in the Earth, Les Gouffres is fairly interesting and quite weird to say the least. Most of the story is spent with his girlfriend/wife as she waits for him and discovers her own gouffre. The acting is excellent and the basic idea behind the film is great, but the development of the story is missing something. Les Gouffres is enjoyable enough and somewhat odd, but still leaves you hoping it would get better at some point. The is short and does not meander too much, but the way the movie is constructed, it does not achieve much momentum and the weirdness is just a basic weird and not compelling enough to draw you in significantly.

Les 4 Soldats
A sad, beautiful story of the children left behind without parental figures after the civil wars. They are forced to take care of themselves and each other while also being soldiers in a war theyhave no stake in. The characters are touching and compelling. You want their lives to improve and yet, you know the harsh reality if this situation. This movie is told from the point of view of Dom, one of the children, as he lives his life, occasionally breaking the 4th wall and talking directly to the viewers to let us know that this moment is important. Les 4 Soldats is very well made and the actors are so good you'll believe they actually are living the life we are allowed to view. This is a sad film that will undoubtedly leave you depressed, but sometimes great films are worth a little temporary discomfort.

Across the River (Oltre Il Guado)
A slow burn of a movie. A VERY slow burn of a movie. A man is doing studies on what is happening in the woods for scientific purposes. One night, while reviewing his videos, he sees something strange. He decides to go investigate and finds an odd, empty village  and decides to stay there. Eventually, creepy things start happening. Sadly, the creepy things take a bit too long to kick off, but once they get going, it is mostly worth it. Mostly. Across the River's eerie imagery is extremely effective and the acting is superb, giving the movie an extra layer of scare as you are pulled into the believability of each moment.

Part 2 coming soon!

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