The 20th anniversary of Montreal’s Fantasia Festival took over Concordia for three weeks last month, and what a glorious three weeks of cinematic goodness that was. A lot of these films should be hitting theaters, Blu-Ray, or VOD in the near future, so keep an eye out for the amazing stuff you missed. I managed to see over 40 flicks this year, and here’s yet another small sampling of some of my faves…
Kill Zone 2 (SPL 2: Time For Consequences)
Director: Soi Cheang
Screenplay: Jill Lai Yin Leung, Wong Ying
Cast: Tony Jaa, Wu Jing, Simon Yam, Zhang Jin, Louis Koo
Country: Hong Kong
What’s it about?
Blood transfusions, heart transplants, language barriers, an adorable sick child, a prison guard, an undercover cop with a drug problem, a bunch of gangsters and a whole mess of violence implode in easily one of the best action flicks I have ever seen. A simple description can’t do justice to how perfectly structured and interwoven this film’s plot is, but suffice to say it’s a wonderful ride full of twists and turns and, again, the best action I’ve ever seen on film. I stand by that hyperbole!
Why should you watch it?
If you liked the RAID films and felt they could never be topped, this is said topping. In less competent hands this film would seem convoluted and fall apart, but the filmmakers manage to make everything work perfectly. Everything has a payoff, Everything is perfectly set up. At times it feels like five movies at once but it still manages to bring everything together.
You have everything you could possibly want in an action film that combines some of the best in Thai and Hong Kong cinema. You have cold, ruthless villains, you have protagonists with something worth fighting for, you have people striving for redemption.
There’s also an additional layer with the two main heroes not being able to communicate with one another. The language barrier is huge in this. Things that could be solved in a matter of minutes are stretched out and keep things tense. It’s frustrating but in the best possible way. The stakes are raised and the tension builds in an already tense action flick, and that’s everything I could ask for.
On the subject of the action. again, the action is on the edge of your seat, mind-blowing awesomeness. One particular scene involves a prison riot, and it’s easily one of the craziest fights I have ever seen. If that was the only scene in the entire movie, that would be enough to recommend this movie, but luckily there are several scenes just like that that completely raise the bar in action cinema. People flying thru buses, a gun fight in an airport that would make John Woo blush, and a fantastic full-on end fight that just oozes style and grace.
I cannot properly describe how incredible the stunt work and fight choreography is. Doing so would be a disservice to the film. So here’s another clip with no context whatsoever:
Batshit crazy is an understatement. This film is epic in every sense. It just came out on BluRay, so scoop this one up as soon as you can!
_Beware the Slenderman
Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky – Country: U.S.A.
What’s it about?
The true story of the two young girls who were jailed for attempted murder in the name of the Slenderman, the fictional modern day boogie man of the internet age.
Why should you watch it?
If you’re fascinated with true crime, the weird depths of the internet, and unsettling documentaries, you’re definitely in luck, because it doesn’t get stranger than this brand new HBO documentary.
Slenderman is a well-researched doc that explores the background behind the spooky meme and the two troubled kids who took things too far. In addition to examining who these kids were and how they ended up where they are now, the film also gets into the impact it’s had on their parents.
Frequently in tales of murderous children, the blame goes to the parents, and this doc does explore that aspect, but it also does it in a way where it isn’t too one-sided or impartial to any argument or viewpoint. Did these parents fuck up? Are they fully to blame? Is there more to this on a whole? It’s a very well-balanced look that doesn’t insult the viewer.
The film also paints a very detailed picture of the tragic events. It’s horrifying because it’s all very real. These things really happened. These two children are currently in prison, for committing a very real crime. A crime that wasn’t in the heat of the moment or out of self-defense, but a planned conspiracy of murder in order to appease a giant nefarious entity. Two pre-teens who were sent to adult court for attempted murder that stemmed from believing in internet folklore. But why?
That’s where this film takes a bigger look at the problems at hand, mainly complications within the court system in general, especially recognizing and dealing with mental health issues. That’s when things get all the more depressing in realizing this whole thing could possibly have been prevented?
Fascinating and creepy, this doc is a must in an age where people seem to be more and more disconnected from reality. If you’re enjoying things like Making a Murder on Netflix, definitely keep an eye out for this one when it hits HBO. This film will definitely stay with you, and sure to get plenty of attention as the criminal court case is still ongoing and still present in the news.
Director: Clay Liford
Screenplay: Clay Liford
Cast: Michael Johnston, Hannah Marks, Michael Ian Black, Missi Pyle, Jessie Ennis
What’s it about?
A teen, with a penchant for writing homoerotic fan fiction, befriends a fellow slash fic writing classmate, and the two embark on a friendship that teaches them a lot about themselves in the process, in this funny coming of age flick.
Why should you watch it?
You can’t get more genre film than a genre film about a very particular genre. This film is a very quirky, and very funny look at the odd world of Slash-Fic, but it’s also very loving look that humanizes every character involved.
Yes, there’s a lot of giggles at a very giggle-inducing part of Fandom, but it’s done with a lot of heart. No one is mocked for wanting to write about their fave sci-fi characters getting it on. It’s quite endearing.
There’s plenty of feels to be had. The actors are likable and believable. You care about them and their confusion. You remember back to when you were a kid yourself trying to figure things out. Granted, maybe you weren’t writing slash fic, but you were still trying to figure yourself, out, and that’s what these kids are doing here.
I like how flawed these characters are. I like that they fuck up. They’re high school kids. That’s what they do. They’re not perfect and they haven’t figured everything out. They lie about their age. They lie to themselves about who they are. They don’t have all the answers. And that’s okay.
I also like that the film didn’t go the obvious route. There’s a certain part of the film that easily could have taken a left turn to creepy afterschool special territory… and it didn’t. Which further goes to show how much love this film has for the subject matter. There’s a huge contingent of slashers that could be considered creeps Ville, and the film touches on that without going full steam ahead, and again, it really humanizes the participants.
The film also offers great commentary on fandom in general and our connection to the geeky things that we love. The sense of ownership we place on these properties we don’t own, but we feel we do. Some great jabs are taken at big screen adaptations and the fans themselves for putting up with it.
The fan fiction itself is presented in a very novel way by having the stories within the story depicted in lavish set pieces with full on costumes and makeup. Despite VANGUARD (the science fiction subject matter of the lead’s fancy) being a made up property within the film, you really get a sense of what it’s about. There’s a level of world building and effort that the director has made to make us feel that this really COULD be a property that exists. It’s that added layer of creating a vast, fictional, alien world within a film that takes place in normal everyday lives. It’s also fun how the film keeps cutting back and forth between the fiction and the reality.
If you want an unconventional rom-com/slice-of-life/coming-of-age tale about fan fiction, check out this touching story about identity, love, growing up, and smutty writing.