Fantasia 2016: I saw Yoga Hosers and Kevin Smith and I’m very glad I did!

Harley Quinn Smith, left, and Lily-Rose Melody Depp give a decent rendition of O Canada during the closing credits of Kevin Smith's film Yoga Hosers. Depp even sings some of the French verses.
Harley Quinn Smith, left, and Lily-Rose Melody Depp give a decent rendition of O Canada during the closing credits of Kevin Smith’s film Yoga Hosers. Depp even sings some of the French verses.

I can’t imagine a better place to see Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers than at the Fantasia International Film Festival. The audience is famous for being warm, welcoming and enthusiastic. And to have Smith himself introduce his film and answer questions later. . .bonus!

I swear, he talked for ONE HOUR before the film even started. I was sitting down (he wasn’t!) and his talk was interesting, so I didn’t mind. After the film, almost everyone in the room stayed for the entire Q&A, even though the metro would close before he stopped talking. We’d figure out how to get home later.

If the critics who did not enjoy Yoga Hosers could have seen it with us…maybe they would have had a different reaction.

Smith told us that he had written the film with teenage girls in mind, after his wife had pointed out that he was taking their daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, to a lot of films about male superheroes. “BatMAN, SuperMAN, IronMAN, do you see a pattern here?” she had asked him. So he made a film about girls hanging out together, playing with their phones, and fighting evil.

Smith is famously fond of our country. Why is that? Well. . . His parents went to Niagara Falls, and then to Montreal, on their honeymoon, and after they had children, they took them to those cities, too. And then there’s hockey, and SCTV, and the DeGrassi TV series. Smith went to film school in Vancouver and met his good friend Scott A. Mosier there. This friendship was foretold by an Indian fakir, no less. (“You will meet someone with the initials S.A.M.”)

Smith said that when the Internet became available to one and all, he thought “Oh, good, now I can learn more about Canada!” He hopes to have dual citizenship one day. He would probably pass the exam easily enough! Daughter Harley came to the screening with him. She likes Montreal; he told her that’s good because “we might be moving here.” (You know, depending how the presidential elections go.)

What about the movie, Yoga Hosers? Of course it’s silly, but it was better than I expected. Harley Quinn Smith plays Colleen McKenzie, and her good friend Lily-Rose Melody Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, plays Colleen Collette. People call them Colleen M and Colleen C. (Or Colleen Squared.) I assume that the McKenzie name is a tribute to hoser brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie from SCTV. The two Colleens work in a Winnipeg convenience store (or dep, as we’d say here in Montreal) owned by Colleen C’s father.

The store has lots of maple syrup in stock, and even sells frozen poutine. As often as possible, the two Colleens head to the back to practice their singing. This inadvertently leads to the appearance of tiny men, made of bratwurst, wearing red jackets and Kaiser Wilhelm-type pointy helmets, who start killing people.

The two Colleens go to Terry Fox Preparatory School(!) Their history teacher, played by Vanessa Paradis, talks about Nazi sympathizers in Canada during World War II. Some U.S. or U.K. reviewers might not have grasped that that part of the story was not fictional at all. Sadly. (This might seem like a weird thing to mention, or even notice, in a film with bratwurst Nazis, but it seemed strange to me that Paradis, as the teacher, could wear skinny jeans at school while her students had to wear school uniforms. Also, we don’t do that junior, senior, sophomore stuff here in Canada. Whatever, though.)

Colleen M (Harley Quinn Smith) left, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) centre, and Colleen C are held prisoner in a secret, underground lair in Kevin Smith's film Yoga Hosers.
Colleen M (Harley Quinn Smith) left, Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) centre, and Colleen C are held prisoner in a secret, underground lair in Kevin Smith’s film Yoga Hosers.

Johnny Depp plays a Montreal detective named Guy Lapointe. He’s got bushy eyebrows and wears a beret. (Depp told Smith that he could do a very good Québécois accent, because of the time that he’s spent here in Montreal, but if Smith preferred a bad one, he could do that, too. “Dial it down to stupid,” Smith told him.

The yoga part of Yoga Hosers? The girls take a yoga class with Yogi Bayer (Justin Long). The moves he teaches them come in very handy when they have to defend themselves from murderous satanists, not to mention the Goalie Golem!

Yoga Hosers and Kevin Smith got lots of applause and a standing ovation from the Fantasia crowd. The introduction, the film itself and the post-film Q&A, took about 3.5 hours. Time well spent; I have no regrets!

During the Q&A, there was a heart-warming moment when a man in the audience said that he had met Smith last year at Comic-Con and the encouragement he got from Smith then  had led him to write his first feature film.

Yoga Hosers, written and directed by Kevin Smith, starring Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Ralph Garman, Stan Lee.

Los Angeles stands in for Winnipeg.

Yoga Hosers was seen at a sold-out screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal on Friday, July 29, 2016.

Fantasia 2016: Check out the manga film Bakuman on Saturday – you won’t be sorry!

In the film Bakuman, Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) play high-school students who want to get their manga into the magazine Shonen Jump.
In the film Bakuman, Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) play high-school students who want to get their manga into the magazine Shonen Jump.

I enjoyed Bakuman (バクマン。) very much. This Japanese film about breaking into the manga world has a good story, sympathetic characters, appealing actors, and lots of laughs. There are some lessons in friendship, co-operation and work/life balance, too, if you care to notice them; they didn’t seem heavy-handed to me, but feel free to ignore them if you’d rather.

And for the squeamish among you, no one gets any fingers cut off, either.

High-school students Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki), try to create a manga AND have it accepted by the prestigious weekly magazine Shonen Jump. They aim high, these guys! Moritaka will draw and Akito will create the storyline.

There are multiple motives, including pride, the spirit of competition, money, and a desire for a future as someone other than an office drone. Moritaka’s main reason is to impress fellow student Miho (Nana Komatsu). He spends most of his class time sketching her surreptitiously. But the pure joy of creation is a very big part of it, too, and that’s a big part of the film’s appeal for me.

Moritaka can draw very well, but he must learn some new techniques, with pens and brushes, to make a manga. We learn these techniques along with him, and hear the scritch, scritch, scritch of his pen quite clearly. He already has a big advantage, since he spent many of his childhood years in the studio of his late uncle, who was a famous manga artist. In fact, that studio is still available for him to work in. (I didn’t quite grasp why that room had been left unused all that time. But never mind!)

The visuals in Bakuman are great. Facts about manga scroll across the screen; sometimes it’s like we’re inside a drawing, other times the characters are fighting like martial artists, with giant pens and brushes as their weapons. The newsroom of Shonen Jump is a sight to behold – it’s huge with lots of art on the walls and enormous piles of paper everywhere. Is that the real office, or a set? I won’t stop writing to find out right now, but I’m mighty curious! If it’s a set, what a job it must have been to create it. Fun, too, I imagine. (UPDATE: It is a set, but it does look like the Shonen Jump office.)

Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) wield their drawing instruments like weapons in Bakuman, a film about the world of manga.
Moritaka (Takeru Satoh) and Akito (Ryunosuke Kamiki) wield their drawing instruments like weapons in Bakuman, a film about the world of manga.

Takayuki Yamada plays Akira Hattori, the editor our guys meet when they visit Shonen Jump. His character is rather scruffy and subdued, but he’s impressed by their work and he offers solid support and advice.

Lily Franky plays an editor-in-chief who seems very mean at best and downright sinister at other times. Since I’ve seen him play gangsters and psychopaths in other films, the sinister part might just be in my own head.

Shota Sometani, who seems to be in half the films coming out of Japan these days, plays Eiji Niizuma, a rival manga artist, who is also still in high school. He dresses in all in black and scuttles around in a crab-like manner that recalls assorted horror movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. He’s already ruined his body by spending so many hours scrunched over his drawings.

This film about manga artists is based on a manga itself. (Of course it is!) I can’t claim to know much about manga myself, but viewers who do will likely pick up lots of references and enjoy many inside jokes. Maybe they could share them with me!

Takeru Satoh was the star of the wonderful film If Cats Disappeared From the World, which had a sold-out screening at Fantasia this year. He was also the star of the live-action Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. Ryunosuke Kamiki was in two of the Rurouni Kenshin films, and in two other films in this year’s Fantasia selection, As the Gods Will, and Too Young To Die. He was in Poison Berry in My Brain, a hit at Fantasia 2015.

Bakuman
Directed by: Hitoshi One
Written by: Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata
Cast: Takeru Satoh, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Takayuki Yamada, Nana Komatsu
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Runtime: 120 min.
Distributor: Toho

You can see Bakuman as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival, at 6:40 p.m. Saturday, July 30, 2016, at the Hall Theatre of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd W. Fantasia runs until Aug. 3, 2016.

Wednesday night suggestion at Festival des films du monde: satirical superhero The Portuguese Falcon

David Chan Cordeiro, left, plays Partridge Kick, and Gonalo Waddington plays the Falcon in a satirical film from Portugal, Capit‹o Falc‹o (The Portuguese Falcon). The film is being shown at Montreal's Festival des films du monde.
David Chan Cordeiro, left, plays Partridge Kick, and Gonalo Waddington plays the Falcon in a satirical film from Portugal, Capit‹o Falc‹o (The Portuguese Falcon). The film is being shown at Montreal’s Festival des films du monde.

UPDATE: I saw The Portuguese Falcon on Wednesday night, and I thought it was pretty funny! The audience seemed to enjoy it, too. I hope to write a proper review after, but just wanted to add this note, right now. On Thursday, Sept. 3, it will be shown at noon. If you work in the daytime, maybe your boss(es) would allow you to take a long lunch to watch it? It’s a thought!

Capitão Falcão (The Portuguese Falcon in English) is a satire on superheroes. Instead of defending truth and justice and the American Way, as such characters usually do, the Falcon and his sidekick defend the fascist regime of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar from commies and feminists in the 1960s.

The film was directed by João Leitão, and written by him and Nuria Leon Bernardo. Gonçalo Waddington plays the Falcon and David Chan Cordeiro plays Partridge Kick, who is more or less Robin to his Batman.
Here’s the synopsis from the web site of Festival des films du monde: “A parody of Portugal’s first superhero: Captain Falcon. A fearless defender of the fascist regime of the 1960s, Falcon, along with his Asian sidekick, Partridge Kick, defends his nation against various threats: evildoers, thieves, and above all, the Red Peril: communists! But one day, Lisbon, the capital, starts experiencing mysterious attacks, and no one is sure who’s behind it all. Will Captain Falcon save the country once again?”

I haven’t seen The Portuguese Falcon yet, but it sounds like good cheesy, goofy fun, the kind of thing more likely to be seen at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. But we all like to laugh, don’t we?

The Portuguese Falcon, in Portuguese with English subtitles, is 106 minutes long.

Wednesday Sept. 2, 2015 – 9:30 PM – CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 14
Thursday Sept. 3, 2015 – 12:00 PM – CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 14

Cinéma Quartier Latin: 350 Emery St., Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

Go Away Mr. Tumor Review: Hilarity and heartbreak mix amazingly well in this popular film from China

Bai Baihe, left, and Daniel Wu promote their film Go Away, Mr. Tumor. (Xinhua photo)
Bai Baihe, left, and Daniel Wu promote their film Go Away, Mr. Tumor. (Xinhua photo)

Go Away Mr. Tumor is a film full of laughs about a woman who is very ill. This might sound questionable, but the people in the cinema where I saw it (Cineplex Odeom Forum) seemed to like it a lot. It worked for me, too! On top of that, Go Away Mr. Tumor, is drawing huge audiences in China. (Variety says it earned “$29.7 million in four days.”

The main character in Go Away Mr. Tumor is Xiong Dun, aka Bearton – “Xiong like bear, Dun like Newton,” she says – a graphic artist who is 29 but fast approaching 30, and comparing herself to others who did great things at that age, or at least started to do them. (The long list includes computer guys Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and writer Haruki Murakami.)

In the first few scenes, she is so very perky and quirky that I felt annoyed, and feared that I’d made a mistake by going to see the film. False alarm, though; things picked up quite quickly.

While entertaining her friends, in her very nice apartment, Xiong Dun (Bai Baihe, who also uses the name Fay Bai) collapses and ends up in a hospital. The first sight she sees upon waking are the eyes and long eyelashes of Dr. Liang (U.S. actor Daniel Wu.) All right then! Things are not so bad after all. They seem better still after he takes off his surgical mask.

Xiong spends more time dreaming and daydreaming about Dr. Liang, and figuring out how to get more of his attention, than she does thinking about her health problem, which turns out to be quite grave when her test results come back. She obviously thinks that being a patient is a pretty good thing; it allowed her to meet him, after all. There’s a delicate balance here; her craving for attention is almost puppyish, but she’s not pathetic in any way. And she’s quite cute, with her big eyes and gamine haircut. If not for those pesky doctor-patient taboos, who knows what might happen?

Daniel Wu plays Dr. Liang as a guy who’s very serious and very professional, but also very caring. He lives in a bit of a bubble though – he’s astonished to learn that his subordinates are afraid of him. He’s also very busy and mindful of all the proprieties. He gently explains to Xiong that it’s his job to look after her and her job to have faith in him. There doesn’t seem to be any possibilty of more than that. And yet. . .

The two characters do have a lovely rapport. Dr. Liang enjoys listening to Xiong’s stories about her childhood, and her rationale for her sunny outlook on life, even in the face of adversity. (Now and then, I did think that her optimism was a bit farfetched, but hey, some people really are like that. Also, yeah, that “trust me, have faith” thing is more than a little retro and patriarchal, but. . . )

Dream and fantasy sequences add much appeal to Go Away Mr. Tumor. Many are laugh-out loud hilarious, though with hindsight others don’t seem quite as funny as they had been.

In Xiong’s dreams, zombies are a metaphor for her illness. At first, she fights them alone, like a superhero in a video game, or a Marvel movie, wearing a cape, flying around via wirework and firing two guns at once like Chow Yun Fat in an old John Woo movie. Later, when a zombie has her in a chokehold, Dr. Liang appears, dressed all in black, armed with a crossbow, to save her with one well-timed, well-placed arrow. Pow! Peng! Cheers from the audience! (Spoiler, sorry!)

You want this guy on your side, right? Dr. Liang, (Daniel Wu) is prepared to go all out to protect the life of his patient.
You want this guy on your side, right? Dr. Liang, (Daniel Wu) is prepared to go all out to protect the life of his patient.

Another scene mocks the international popularity of romantic Korean TV dramas. Xiong, wearing adorable furry earmuffs, stands in a park amidst falling snowflakes. As she starts to fall over backwards, in a slow motion swoon, Dr. Liang appears, clad in a quietly elegant camel-hair coat. He catches her gracefully with one arm while stopping the snowfall with a masterful, magical snap of his fingers. “Oppa!” Xiong exclaims. (It means “big brother,” but it’s also what Korean girls call their boyfriends, and what fans write on messageboards devoted to their crush. Don’t ask me how I know.) As a further nod to Korea’s powerful influence, Xiong gives Dr. Liang some Korean hand lotion, to repair the damage done by his frequent hand washing. (He keeps it in an office drawer with his British tea.) Korea has its share of medical dramas, the “trust me, have faith” likely appears there, too.

Dr. Liang (Daniel Wu) and his patient Xiong Dun (Bai Baihe) in the Chinese film, Go Away Mr Tumor. Xiong has watched lots of Korean TV dramas and she has a crush on Dr. Liang, so she imagines many scenes like this one.
Dr. Liang (Daniel Wu) and his patient Xiong Dun (Bai Baihe) in the Chinese film, Go Away Mr Tumor. Xiong has watched lots of Korean TV dramas and she has a crush on Dr. Liang, so she imagines many scenes like this one.

Xiong’s friends are a loyal, supportive and entertaining bunch, with some quirks of their own. They visit her often in the hospital, and gleefully help her with an elaborate, spur-of-the-moment prank against her obnoxious ex-boyfriend.

The film is based on the real-life experiences of cartoonist Xiang Yao. (Xiong Dun/Bearton was her pen name, which she chose because bears were her favourite animal.) She had already written several comic books before she became ill; an article on the web site China.org.cn says that her other books were about “teenage love, weight-loss, living the single life and her lifelong idol Michael Jackson.”

Bears were Xiong Dun's favourite animal. Could you tell?
Bears were Xiong Dun’s favourite animal. Could you tell?

Once she became sick she wrote an online comic to raise money for her treatment and share her ordeal with her fans. (While she is often seen sketching in the film, the book is not actually mentioned.) In addition to Go Away Mr Tumor, various articles have rendered the English translation of the book’s title as Go To the Devil, Mr. Tumor, Be Gone, Mr. Tumor, Get out, Mr. Tumor, even F*** Off, Mr. Tumor! The article goes on to say that “More than one million books of the cartoons were sold, and the series inspired millions of people with its optimism and courage.” It includes this quote from Xiang: “I hope my drawings can entertain people and bring positive energy to me and to others. I am happy and delighted that they can enjoy it.”

Go away Mr Tumor Xiong Dun cartoon

 

BTW: The actors chosen to play her loving parents look quite a bit like their real-life counterparts.

Go Away Mr. Tumor (Gun dan ba! Zhong liu jun)
125 min., in Mandarin with English subtitles.
Director: Han Yan
Cast: Bai Baihe, Daniel Wu, Zhang Zixuan, Li Yuan, Liu Ruilin, Cheng Yi, Liu Lili, Li Jianyi, Temur Mamisashvili, Joel Adrian

In Montreal, Go Away Mr. Tumor is being shown at Cineplex Odeon Forum Cinemas. It’s also being shown in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, in several U.S. cities, and in New Zealand and Australia.

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Princess Jellyfish is wonderfully cute and fluffy fun

Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.
Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.

NOTE: Princess Jellyfish will be shown at 4 p.m., Saturday, July 25, 2015, as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

OMG!!! The plot of Princess Jellyfish is as unbelievable as your average fairy tale (or Japanese or Korean TV drama) but who cares? It’s so much fun! I was happy to make the old “leap of faith” and just go along for the ride. I can imagine the laughs and cheers in the Hall Cinema right now! Go see it if you can!

Princess Jellyfish is based on Kuragehime, a 15-volume manga that first appeared in November 2008. (An 11-episode anime was shown on Japanese TV in 2010.)

OK, that plot, as briefly as possible. Several nerdy women of assorted ages and interests live in Amamizukan, an old Tokyo apartment building. They call themelves The Sisterhood, though they could also be called otakus and NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training.)

Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.
Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.

Our main character, Tsukimi (Rena Nonen) who wants to be an illustrator, is obsessed with jellyfish. The walls of her room are covered in sketches of them. Ms. Banba studies trains and their schedules. Chieko is interested in traditional Japanese culture and always wears kimono; Mayaya is into the epic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (and toys assocated with it). Lady Jiji likes “elderly dandies.” Mme. Juon Mejiro is the most important person in the building; she is a manga artist who is never seen. She’s like some kind of oracle – the residents slip questions under her door, and she answers the same way. She has banned men from the building. The others have no problem with that, because men make them so uncomfortable anyway. So do fashionistas. They turn to stone (petrify!) when in the presence of either.

Kuranosuke (Masaki Suda), the cross-dressing son of a politician, meets this gang after helping Tsukimi out of a jellyfish-related jam. She tells them that his name is Kurako; his clothes, makeup and wig are convincing enough that they accept him as a woman. Somewhat surprisingly, they don’t say anything about his deep voice until well into the film. Kuranosuke explains to Tsukimi that he wears women’s clothing because he cares about fashion and has no interest in going into politics. Under his wig he has fashionably blond hair; at school the girls flock around him, eager for his attention.

The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn't it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.
The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn’t it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.

Developers want to tear down Amamizukan, and other nearby buildings, to improve the area, and make it all shiny and modern. (Some might wonder, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”)
Kuranosuke’s father assumes that supporting development will improve his political fortunes.

The Sisterhood is not happy about this at all, but they seem resigned to it; they have always felt powerless. Kuranosuke encourages them to make an effort to fight back, and not to just accept the decisions that others have made.

There are many themes in Princess Jellyfish. Among them: evil politicians and developers, which is connected to the old “you can’t fight City Hall” trope; feeling like an outcast, finding a place to fit in, the long-lasting scars of being bullied, longing for absent mothers. Some really old U.S. movies with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had a “we’ll put the show on right here in the barn!” trope and Princess Jellyfish has a modern approximation of that.
Note for K-drama fans: Chieko is in charge of the building while her mother is in Korea. As Chieko puts it, “she went there to chase Lee.” That would be actor Lee Byung-hun. In the manga Chieko’s mother is chasing Bae Yong-joon (Yon-sama) who became a huge star in Japan and elsewhere, because of his role in the popular Korean TV drama Winter Sonata. The Korea Times has more information about the Yon-sama phenomenon.

BTW: Masaki Suda plays Karuma Akabane in Assassination Classroom, another film, based on manga and anime, that was shown at Fantasia this year.

PRINCESS JELLYFISH
Director: Taisuke Kawamura
Screenplay: Toshiya Oono, Akiko Higashimura
Cast: Rena Noonen, Masaki Suda, Hiroki Hasegawa, Chizuru Ikewaki
Company: Asmik Ace Entertainment

Saturday, July 25, 4 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Possessed – animated mayhem and a diabolically good time!

Damian is possessed. He needs an exorcist! Scene from the Spanish claymation film Possessed (Pos eso) one of sveral animated films being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
Damian is possessed. He needs an exorcist! Scene from the Spanish claymation film Possessed (Pos eso) one of several animated films being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Possessed (Pos eso) is an irreverent claymation horror comedy from Spain. It spoofs The Exorcist, The Omen, Poltergeist and more; skewers hypocrisy, religion, celebrity culture, gossip tabloids and trash TV. It has amazingly detailed sets.

It includes the “you lookin’ at me?” speech from Taxi Driver, a reference to The Day The Earth Stood Still, flowers like the ones in Little Shop of Horrors, a musical duel in the Underworld and the sight of Exorcism For Dummies in a priest’s briefcase. It’s the goriest, most splattery animated film I’ve ever seen. All these things make it quite appropriate as the almost-midnight movie for Friday, July 24 at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Trini is a world-famous flamenco dancer, with a dead husband and a possessed son, in the Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso).
Trini is a world-famous flamenco dancer, with a dead husband and a possessed son, in the Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso).

Little Damian is the son of renowned flamenco dancer Trini and beloved bullfighter Gregorio. (The story of this couple sounded so familiar – it reminded me of a docudrama about a real-life dancer that I saw years ago.) Damian has been acting quite strange since his father died in a freak (cough, cough) accident. He does the old head-spinning thing from The Exorcist; the shrink who comes to analyze him is sent away totally befuddled. His mother and grandmother don’t know what to do.

A visit to a gypsy provides the answer – Damien is possessed, but Father Lenin has the power to free him. First they will have to find him, though – Father Lenin has lost his faith, left the church and is hanging out under a bridge. His horrible boss, the  bishop (who has the voice of Santiago Segura)  is the man reason for that.

Actor Santaigo Segura, who plays a corrupt cop in the Torrente film series, has all the evil roles wrapped up in the animated film Possessed (Pos eso). He plays an evil and corrupt bishop, the possessed boy Damian and Satan himself.
Actor Santaigo Segura, who plays a corrupt cop in the Torrente film series, has all the evil roles wrapped up in the animated film Possessed (Pos eso). He plays an evil and corrupt bishop, the possessed boy Damian and Satan himself.

Many people are thanked in the credits of Possessed; they include animator Bill Plympton, musician Slash, and the band Metallica.The film is dedicated to the memory of Ray Harryhausen, master of stop-motion animation and to flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia. How often do those two names appear together?

The Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso) includes a musical faceoff in hell - the devil and his drumsticks vs Trini's feet, stomping out flamenco rhythms. Trini is driven by the love of a mother and powered by the elusive duende.
The Spanish animated film Possessed (Pos eso) includes a musical faceoff in hell – the devil and his drumsticks vs Trini’s feet, stomping out flamenco rhythms. Trini is driven by the love of a mother and powered by the elusive duende.

Possessed (Pos eso)
Director: Sam
Screenplay: Rubén Ontiveros, Sam
Voice cast: Anabel Alonso, Josema Yuste, Santiago Segura, Nacho Vigalondo
Company: FilmSharks

Friday, July 24, 2015, 11:55 p.m., J.A. de Sève Theatre, in the J.W. McConnell Building of Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia 2015: Review of Hong Kong badminton film Full Strike

Badminton training in the Hong Kong sports comedy Full Strike, one of the films being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Badminton training in the Hong Kong sports comedy Full Strike, one of the films being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Full Strike is a Hong Kong badminton comedy. There are many laughs in it, but for the first 30 minutes or so, the colour palette is a dark and depressing blue-green, here are some miserable moments and lots of yelling. Don’t be discouraged, things do get brighter!

Josie Ho plays Ng Kau Sau, also known as “Beast Ng” a former badminton champion who lost her status because of her bad temper. Now she’s miserable and constantly being criticized by her family members, who call her lazy and useless.

One dark and stormy night she sees a meteor (or something) shaped like a badminton birdie. An alien (or possibly a homeless man dressed in plastic bags) chases her onto an abandoned badminton court. There are some scary guys lurking in the shadows, too.

She phones her brother for help. Next thing you know, we’re at the police station. Turns out the building she was in belongs to her brother and uncle and they’ve rented it to three vicious criminals, who have just finished 10-year sentences for robbing a jewelry store. They will open the One Spirit Badminton Club. Their leader is Lau Dan (Ekin Cheng).

The criminals swear they are turning over a new leaf. Beast’s cousin, Suck Nipple Ng, who also plays badminton, and has returned to Hong Kong after 30 years in North America, thinks that’s just a story and that they plan to steal antiques from his nearby home. He wants Ng to sign up for lessons at the club so she can spy on them. This puts her in an awkward spot. She wants to take up the sport again, because the birdie meteor and the alien feel like a message from above that she should do so. But are those crooks still dangerous, or are they sincere about reforming? There’s no doubt that her cousin and his badminton-team minions are totally obnoxious people. Whose side should she be on?

Saying too much more about the plot would be going into spoiler territory, but you can expect slow-mo walking, training montages that include using knives, cleavers and meat, besides the usual racquets, to increase strength and achieve good form, philosophical speeches about “ebb and flow,” the declaration that “if you’re not good at something, the more people laugh at you the more you have to do it,” AND prodigious projectile vomiting from the drunken-master Champion Chik.

All that training has a purpose – to win the Fantastic 5-Asia Badminton Tournament, to prove to everyone (including themselves) that the former crooks have now become athletes.

Anyone who watched Robbery and Kung Fu Killer at Fantasia might recognize a face and a place in Full Strike. Eric Kwok, who played the Big Boss in Robbery, is Suck Nipple Ng’s badminton coach. Suck Nipple Ng has a garden full of large, antique statues. (I think some of the statues represent the animals of the Chinese zodiac.) That same garden appears as a meeting place in Kung Fu Killer.

FULL STRIKE
Hong Kong, 2015, 108 min., DCP, Cantonese, with English and Chinese subtitles
Director: Derek Kwok, Henri Wong
Screenplay: Derek Kwok, Story Joe Chien, Yim Ka-Yee, Yan Pak-Wing
Cast: Josie Ho, Ekin Cheng, Ronald Cheng, Andew Lam, Susan Shaw
Company: Distribution Workshop

Friday, July 24, 2015, 6:20 p.m.
Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Korean police thriller A Hard Day

Homicide detective Ko (Lee Sun-kyun) is startled by the unexpected sounds coming from his mother's coffin, in the Korean film A Hard Day.
Homicide detective Ko (Lee Sun-kyun) is startled by the unexpected sounds coming from his mother’s coffin, in the Korean film A Hard Day.

As a policeman, Ko Gun-su (Lee Sun-kyun) ought to know that talking on the phone while driving is unwise. But the calls keep coming. His sister wants to know why he bolted from the funeral-home visitation for their mother, and when is he coming back, anyway? His very young daughter wants cake.

Meanwhile, his fellow (crooked) cops want to know if he will make it back to the station house before the guys from Internal Affairs get there. There are incriminating items in his locked desk.

Ko is really flustered, and the road is dark. He almost hits a dog. Before he recovers from that scare, he hits something else – a man this time. And that man is now dead. In a panic, he throws the body in the trunk. He does not notice the surveillance camera on a nearby post. He does not get to the office before Internal Affairs.

Ko and his fellow officers, including his chief, have been accepting bribes, and now Internal Affairs has proof. That’s bad enough, but now Ko is getting calls on his office phone and his cellphone, from someone who seems to know way too much about his unfortunate accident. And that someone wants to know where the body is.

In the Korean film A Hard Day, Detective Ko gets call after call - his phone won't stop ringing,
In the Korean film A Hard Day, Detective Ko gets call after call – his phone won’t stop ringing,

A Hard Day? You’d better believe it! The film’s title is very well chosen. Ko might not seem like a sympathetic figure at first, but he’s an angel compared to his monstrous mystery caller.

While Ko is often tongue-tied when it comes to explaining himself, he is quite wily and inventive. He won’t be giving up without a fight.
A Hard Day is full of twists, turns, high tension and dark humour. It was a big hit at the Directors Fortnight at Cannes 2014, and has won eight awards in South Korea alone. I enjoyed reading reviews from Cannes so much that I wrote a blog post back then, expressing hope that the film would come to Montreal as soon as possible. I didn’t realize that it would take more than one year.

A HARD DAY
Directed by Kim Seong-hun, with Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong, Shin Jung-geun, Jung Man-sik.
Monday, July 20, 2015, 17:15, Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W
Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, 12:30, J.A. de Sève Theatre, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Therapy for a Vampire

Karl Fischer as Dr. Sigmund Freud, Tobias Moretti as Count Geza von Kozsnom in the Austrian film Therapy For a Vampire.
Karl Fischer as Dr. Sigmund Freud, Tobias Moretti as Count Geza von Kozsnom in the Austrian film Therapy For a Vampire.

Therapy for a Vampire is a little confection from Austria, something to while away 87 minutes early on Friday afternoon.

The conceit is that a vampire consults Sigmund Freud in his Vienna office, in 1932. In the evening, of course. Count Geza von Kozsnom says that his life has lost its bite, that he has seen it all, that his blood runs cold, that he is tired of this endless night. Naturally, the good doctor assumes that his new patient is using the language of metaphor. Ha!

The Count no longer loves his wife, Elsa, and he’s had it with her constant questioning: “How do I look?” It’s that old problem with the mirrors, you know.

In a parallel situation, sort of, are Lucy and Viktor. Their relationship is rocky. He’s a painter who lives in the requisite garret and Lucy is his model and girlfriend. He never paints her as she really is, a bruntte with a bun, he paints a fantasy blonde, instead. Lucy is very hurt and insulted by this. (She doesn’t visit Freud, though.)

One day, who knows why, Lucy arrives at Viktor’s place in a bright orange dress, with her hair curled and dyed blonde. All the neighbourhood men are sending her chocolates and flowers and Viktor doesn’t like that one bit. Lucy’s new look reminds the Count of his long-lost true love, Nadila, who promised him that she’d be reincarnated some day.

The Count sends Elsa to Viktor to get her portrait painted; when it’s finished, she will know what she looks like; in the meantime, he will be freeto spend time with Lucy, telling her about her past life.

Viktor is quite happy to meet the mysterious Countess, and seems willing to forget about Lucy, but changing partners is not going to be as simple as all that.

Therapy for a Vampire, Horror/Comedy, Austria, (2014) 87 min., DCP, German, with English subtitles
Director: David Rühm
Screenplay: David Rühm
Cast: Tobias Moretti, Jeanette Hain, 
Cornelia Ivancan, Dominic Oley
Company: Picture Tree International

Therapy for a Vampire
Friday, July 17, 2015, 12:45 p.m.
J.A. de Sève Theatre, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

2015 Fantasia Film Festival will show 12 feature films from South Korea

Go Soo, left, and Han Suk-kyu in the Korean film The Royal Tailor, one of 12 feature flms from South Korea being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. The Royal Tailor is a period film with beautiful costumes and court intrigue.
Go Soo, left, and Han Suk-kyu in the Korean film The Royal Tailor, one of 12 feature flms from South Korea being shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. The Royal Tailor is a period film with beautiful costumes and court intrigue.

The Fantasia International Film Festival (July 14- August 4, 2015) is showing 12 feature films from South Korea this year. Two of them, A Hard Day and Socialphobia, will be shown twice, the rest get one screening only. There are two animated films, Crimson Whale and On the White Planet, palace politics in The Royal Tailor, larger world politics in Assassination, tragedy at sea in Haemoo, gangsters and real estate in Gangnam Blues, gangsters and gambling in Tazza: The Hidden Card. A man is manipulated into playing a deadly game in Big Match. Read below for more information about the films. To see more photos from these films, check out a post I wrote for the Korea-Canada blog.

South Korean films at The Fantasia International Film Festival, by date:

Thursday, July 16, 21:30: OFFICE
Saturday, July 18, 14:15: CRIMSON WHALE
Monday, July 20, 17:15: A HARD DAY
Monday, July 20, 21:40 GANGNAM BLUES
Wednesday, July 22, 17:15: THE ROYAL TAILOR

Friday, July 24, 16:00 ON THE WHITE PLANET
Sunday, July 26, 11:45 TAZZA: THE HIDDEN CARD
Monday, July 27, 21:50 HAEMOO
Wednesday, July 29, 18:45: BIG MATCH
Saturday, August 1, 21:45: SOCIALPHOBIA

Monday, August 3, 12:30: A HARD DAY
Tuesday, August 4, 12:30: SOCIALPHOBIA
Tuesday, August 4, 18:36: ASSASSINATION

South Korean films at The Fantasia International Film Festival are listed below, in alphabetical order, with plot details, stars, directors and dates and theatres. Click on a film’s title for more information; that will take you its page on the Fantasia web site.

ASSASSINATION
A political thriller set in 1933, when Korea was under Japanese occupation. Directed by Choi Dong-hoon, with Gianna Jun, Lee Jung-jae, Ha Jung-woo, Oh Dal-soo, Cho Jin-woong.
Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at 18:35, Concordia Hall Theatre

BIG MATCH
Lee Jeong-jae plays a mixed-martial artist suspected of murder in this thriller-action-comedy directed by Choi Ho. Other stars include Shin Ha-kyun, singer BoA, Lee Seong-min, Kim Eui-sung.
Wednesday, July 29, at 18:45, Concordia Hall Theatre

CRIMSON WHALE
Science-fantasy set in a devastated future, directed by Park Hye-mi, with voices from Lee Ji-sook, Kim Sung-in, Lee Young-gi, Kim Ji-hyung
Saturday, July 18, 14:15, J.A. de Sève Theatre

GANGNAM BLUES
Set in the 1970s when the now ritzy neighbourhood was just farmland and violent and unscrupulous types with dreams of riches made a killing, in more ways than one. Directed by Yoo Ha, with Lee Min-ho, Kim Rae-won, Jung Jin-young, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Seol-hyun
Monday, July 20, 2015, 21:40, Concordia Hall Theatre

HAEMOO (SEA FOG)
Greed and fear lead to horrific events at sea. Haemoo is based on a real-life tragedy. Directed by: Shim Sung-bo, with Kim Yun-seok, Park Yu-chun, Han Ye-ri, Moon Sung-keun, Kim Sang-ho.
Monday, July 27, 21:50, Concordia Hall Theatre

A HARD DAY
A crooked cop with lots to hide gets calls from someone who knows way too much about his illegal activities. Directed by Kim Seong-hun, with Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong, Shin Jung-geun, Jung Man-sik.
Monday, July 20, 2015, 17:15, Concordia Hall Theatre
Monday, Aug. 3 • 12:30, J.A. de Sève Theatre

OFFICE
A murderer is on the loose in an office building. Directed by Hong Won-chan, with Ko A-sung, Park Sung-woong, Bae Seong-woo, Kim Eui-sung, Ryu Hyun-kyung.
Thursday, July 16, 21:30, Concordia Hall Theatre

ON THE WHITE PLANET
“A brooding existential nightmare unfolding within a densely detailed landscape of surreal biological monstrosity, animator Hur Bum-wook’s award-winning debut feature is an intense and troubling tale of violence and vulnerability, hope and despair. Canadian premiere.” Directed by Hur Bum-wook, voices from Hong Bum-ki, Cho Min-su, Seo Yoon-sun, Son Chong-hwan.
Friday, July 24, 16:00, J.A. de Sève Theatre

THE ROYAL TAILOR
Beautiful costumes and palace intrigue in a period drama.
Directed by Lee Won-suk, with Han Seok-kyu, Ko Soo, Park Shin-hye, Yoo Yeon-seok, Ma Dong-seok.
Wednesday, July 22, 17:15, Concordia Hall Theatre

SOCIALPHOBIA
“Social media has scary consequences for two police-tech students and an Internet troll in this masterfully executed first feature film by Hong Seok-jae. Filled with stunning twists and keenly constructed characters . . Winner of the NETPAC and DGK Awards at the Busan Film Festival.” Directed by Hong Seok-jae, with Byun Yo-han, Lee Ju-seung.
Saturday, August 1, 21:45, J.A. de Sève Theatre
Tuesday, August 4, 12:30, J.A. de Sève Theatre

TAZZA: THE HIDDEN CARD
The violent, dirty double-crossing world of gambling. Sequel to Tazza: The High Rollers, with Kim Yun-seok as the baddest of the many bad guys and Choi Seung-hyun, (T.O.P. of boy band Big Bang) as the sort-of hero.
Directed by Kang Hyoung-chul, with Choi Seung-hyun, Shin Sae-kyeong, Yoo Hae-jin, Kwak Do-won, Kim Yun-seok
Sunday, July 26, 11:45, Concordia Hall Theatre

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

The Hall Theatre is in the Hall Building of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

The J.A. de Sève Theatre is in the J.W. McConnell Building of Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.