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: Roar is worth seeing for its “are you serious?” factor

"Time for lunch yet?" Just some of thre lions to be seen in the re-released 1981 film Roar, which was shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
“Time for lunch yet?” Just some of the lions to be seen in the re-released 1981 film Roar, which was shown at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

Roar is not one of those “so bad that it’s good” films. No, it’s a “WHAT were they thinking?” kind of film.

If you enjoy looking at large cats, like lions, tigers, panthers, cougars, cheetahs, and jaguars, (and the occasional elephant, added for variety, I guess) as they roar, run, play, fight, lounge around, “talk,” yawn or sleep, then Roar is for you. There are more than 150 big cats in the film – you could probably spend several weeks, and thousands of dollars, on a safari and not see so many animals. Don’t expect much of a plot, though, much less a “narrative arc.” As if.

Roar was made by Noel Marshall, who was executive producer of The Exorcist. I guess he made lots of money from that, because he and his wife Tippi Hendren (famous for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds) were able to buy all those cats in the film. Marshall is in Roar, as is Hendren, her daughter Melanie Griffith, and his sons, John and Jerry. The film was released in 1981, though few people saw it then. It has since taken on new life after being re-released by Drafthouse Films.

The story is set in in Africa, though it was filmed in California. Marshall plays Hank, some kind of research guy, who is studying wild cats – and not from a distance, either. In early scenes we see lots of cats, making themselves at home inside and outside his sprawling house, and frightening some unexpected visitors. Three years earlier, when he had received a grant for his research, he abruptly flew to Africa, leaving wife and children behind. Now they are coming for a visit. (They conveniently share this information for our benefit. Paraphrase: “Gee, Dad sure took off fast after he got that grant! It’s three years since we’ve seen him now.”)

Hank knows that they’re coming too, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t head to the airport until long after their arrival. Meanwhile, tired of waiting around, they have taken a bus, and arrive at his place before he even reaches the airport (such as it is).

"Hey, wait for us!" Hank (Noel Marshall) thinks that he's going somewhere in that boat, but the lions have another idea, in a scene from the 1981 film Roar.
“Hey, wait for us!” Hank (Noel Marshall) thinks that he’s going somewhere in that boat, but the lions have another idea, in a scene from the 1981 film Roar.

Somehow, they don’t notice all the cats right away. . .but then they DO! For the next hour or so, wife and children will scream, wave their arms around and run away from the cats, who will chase them, of course. The thing is, Noah lives (all by himself, up until now) in a house with several storeys and many rooms, which permits LOTS of running. Upstairs, downstairs, from one room to another; there are more doors slamming than in your average French farce. And almost every room seems to have multiple doors, too.

Then there’s the roof. . . run to the roof, find more cats up there, run back downstairs, or jump off or fall off that roof, into the river. . .and more than once, too! When they aren’t running, the humans are trying to hide – in cupboards, in closets, in metal lockers, in rain barrels, even in the fridge – after taking the food out first.

If they want to come in, I don't think that the door is going to stop them. Scene from the 1981 film Roar.
If they want to come in, I don’t think that the door is going to stop them. Scene from the 1981 film Roar.

Meanwhile, between bad luck and his own stupid behaviour, things are not going well for Hank and his friend Mativo (Kyalo Mativo) either. Tigers climb into their boat (made me think of Life of Pi!) which makes it capsize. Then an elephant tears the boat to pieces, because. . . he felt like it, I guess. Hank and Mativo borrow bicycles, but wreck them pretty quickly. Hank somehow convinces a man to lend him a car, but he wrecks a tire by driving too fast. Almost ends up going off a cliff! The man is a menace, and an idiot, too!

There’s a strange character who might be satirical, or maybe not? He’s a bad-tempered member of the grant committee, who makes a visit to the compound and does not like what he sees. This guy decides that the big cats are dangerous and should all be shot. Not sent somewhere else, or even put in cages, but just shot. Boom! Dead! Our villain, obviously. There’s something weird about his gruff voice, with its hard-to-place accent, and it also sounds like it was added later, in post-production. If you’ve ever watched a badly dubbed foreign film, you have probably heard this voice before, or one very much like it.

The yelling and screaming and running was exhausting to watch and made Roar feel much longer than its 102 minutes. Ten or even 20 minutes could easily have been lopped off, I’d say. But maybe it qualifies as an “historical document” now. Roar would make excellent home viewing for people who enjoy sketching. Pause at almost any point, and you would have a selection of big cats in a variety of positions to choose from. Roar was an interesting experience – I’m not sorry that I watched it once, but I wouldn’t watch it again, except to do some sketching myself.

Family portrait: Husband, wife, lion, in a scene from the 1981 ilm Roar.s
Family portrait: Husband, wife, lion, in a scene from the 1981 film Roar.

ROAR
Director: Noel Marshall
Screenplay: Noel Marshall
Cast: Noel Marshall, Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, John Marshall, Jerry Marshall, Kyalo Mativo
Company: Olive Films

Seen at the 2015 Fantasia film Festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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

 

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.

Fantasia 2015 Day One: Full house, whoops, hollers and cheers!

Photo opportunity! From left, Fantasia Market & Industry Director Lindsay Peters,  Fantasia Marketing Director Marc Lamothe, SODEC President Monique Simard, Fantasia Festival President  Pierre Corbeil, Fantastique Week-End du Cinema QuŽebeŽcoise Director Isabelle Gauvreau pose for a picture before the sold-out screening of Miss Hokusai, on the first day of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, on Tuesday July 14, 2015.  Photo by Liz Ferguson
Photo opportunity! From left, Fantasia Market & Industry Director Lindsay Peters, Fantasia Marketing Director Marc Lamothe, SODEC President Monique Simard, Fantasia Festival President Pierre Corbeil, Fantastique Week-End du Cinema QuŽebeŽcoise Director Isabelle Gauvreau pose for a picture before the sold-out screening of Miss Hokusai, on the first day of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, on Tuesday July 14, 2015. Photo by Liz Ferguson

The first day of the Fantasia International Film Festival got off to a roaring start on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Every word from the stage in H-110 of the Hall Building was greeted with cheers, applause, whoops of joy, or some combination of all three.

People listened patiently when Marc Lamothe recited a long list of government and private-industry sponsors. Of course they did, because those sponsors allowed a small festival to become the big deal that it is today. Yay, for the sponsors!

All four films shown on Tuesday were sold out: Miss Hokusai, Ant-Man 3D, Therapy for a Vampire and Tangerine.

Miss Hokusai will be shown again at Fantasia on Saturday, July 25, at noon, in the Hall Theatre. Therapy For A Vampire will be shown again on Friday, July 17 at 12:45 p.m. at the J.A. De Sève Theatre. (Maybe nine-to-fivers could ask the boss for a long lunch hour? The film is only 87 minutes long.)

Ant-Man goes into general release in Montreal on Friday, July 17.

I saw Miss Hokusai and Ant-Man 3D, and while they are quite different, I found both quite entertaining.

http://fantasiafestival.com/2015/en

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Most screenings take place in two theatres at Concordia University, near the Guy metro. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

Fantasia 2015: Buy your tickets ASAP – procrastination could lead to tears

Tickets to the Quebec film Turbo Kid were all snapped up minutes after the box office opened at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Munro Chambers, left, plays the Kid, and Laurence Leboeuf plays Apple.
Tickets to the Quebec film Turbo Kid were all snapped up minutes after the box office opened at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Munro Chambers, left, plays the Kid, and Laurence Leboeuf plays Apple.

When it comes to buying tickets for the Fantasia International Film Festival, sooner is much better than later. You might be lucky enough to buy a ticket a few minutes before a film starts, but don’t count on it. Fantasia veterans know this, which is why there is always a very long line outside Concordia University’s Hall Building the first day that tickets go on sale.

Reports on Facebook say that a few hardy souls arrived at 5 a.m. on Saturday, July 11, though the box office would not be opening until 1 p.m.

Tickets for the Japanese film Attack on Titan were in high demand as well. Haruma Miura, above, plays Eren.
Tickets for the Japanese film Attack on Titan were in high demand as well. Haruma Miura, above, plays Eren.

Once ticket sales began, two films sold out within minutes, and by the end of the day, six films were sold out.
The two super popular selections were Attack On Titan (Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015 at 21:30) a Japanese film based on a manga and an anime TV series, and Turbo Kid (Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 19:00), a Quebec film that’s been winning praise and prizes at film festivals in the U.S., U.K., Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. It will be heading to South Korea and New Zealand soon. An extra screening of Turbo Kid has been added, at 23: 55 on Friday, July 31.

John DeFore of the Hollywood Reporter calls Turbo Kid: “An endearingly sincere romp through ’80s popcorn-flick tropes” and “a pitch-perfect pastiche that never mocks its inspirations.”

Jordan Crucchiola of Wired writes: “Nothing we saw at Sundance was as much fun as Turbo Kid and the enthusiasm of the filmmakers poured through every frame, infectious enough to turn a room full of indie film fans into kids again.”
Ard Vijn of TwitchFilm says: “its creators and co-directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell have infused the film with a mix of homage, parody and kick-assery that is very infectious. . .In every single part of filmmaking, Turbo Kid manages to rise above its expected level of quality.”

The other sold out films (in alphabetical order) are: Cooties (Friday, July 17, 22:00) a U.S. horror-comedy in which elementary school children turn into flesh-hungry little monsters. From the people who brought us Glee and the Saw movies. Very interesting combination, there!

Cop Car (Tuesday, July 28, 19:15) Two young boys steal a car belonging to an evil sheriff, who’s played by Kevin Bacon. Bacon will be here to present the films and answer questions.

Synchronicity (Wednesday, July 22, 19:15) a U.S. time travel film.

A scene from the Austrian film Therapy for a Vampire (Der Vampir auf der Couch) which will be shown twice at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Are those carpets gorgeous, or what?
A scene from the Austrian film Therapy for a Vampire (Der Vampir auf der Couch) which will be shown twice at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Are those carpets gorgeous, or what?

Therapy For A Vampire (Tuesday, July 14, 19:00) an Austrian comedy which sees a vampire consult pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. (As I write this, there are still tickets available for a 12:45 p.m. screening on Friday, July 17, 2015.)
The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

2015 Fantasia Film Festival Review: Hong Kong film Robbery

Derek Tsang, left, and J. Arie  in a scene from the Hong Kong film Robbery. They play convenience-store employees whose lives are in danger when they are help hostage in the store. Robbery will be shown at the 2015 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
Derek Tsang, left, and J. Arie in a scene from the Hong Kong film Robbery. They play convenience-store employees whose lives are in danger when they are help hostage in the store. Robbery will be shown at the 2015 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

The Hong Kong film Robbery will make you think more than twice about a late-night visits to the dep (or convenience store, for you non-Montrealers).

Robbery is a very black comedy, that’s to say, many parts are hilarious, but several people do end up dead. I was expecting the laughs, but not the deaths. Surprise!

In an early scene, Robbery’s main character, Lau Kin Ping, (played by Derek Tsang, 曾國祥) seems like a slacker, and a stoned one at that, but you can’t blame him much; he’s just one more poor guy in the cutthroat world of Hong Kong. After watching Bruce Lee’s advice to “Be like water, my friend,” Lau remarks that he’s 32, the same age the martial-arts actor was when he died, and adds: “I’m just a joke.”

Late one aimless night, Ping impulsively applies for a job in a 24-hour convenience store; he’s hired right away. The store is called Exceed. You know, as in “excessive.” This name is no accident, my friends.

The storeowner is played by Lam Suet (林雪). Anyone who’s seen more than a handful of HK films will probably know his face. He usually plays gangsters, and he often plays them for director Johnnie To. As the boss he’s quite cranky and insists that his employees push sell that night’s special, a $5 package of Pop Rocks. (Don’t freak out, one Hong Kong dollar is only worth 82 Canadian cents. Pretty good deal, actually!)

Ping’s co-worker, Mabel, is played by pop singer J. Arie. Ping is embarrassed because she’s better than he is at scanning etc., and she’s kind of smug about it, too, despite this, they soon establish a rapport.

Ping barely has time to settle in before his first customer arrives. One thing leads to another, very smoothly too, and before you know it, there are three unstable, unpredictable criminals, with assorted weapons, in the store. They are NOT working together, either. Far from it. Ping, Mabel, their boss and one unlucky customer are trapped in the store with these dangerous loons. Hmmmm, I wonder if they use the expression “Murphys’s Law: in Hong Kong?

Every time a new customer walks in, crooks and hostages try to act perfectly, excruciatingly, normal until that customer buys something and leaves. Lots of laughs and tension in those episodes. The film could have ended after the arrival of several police officers – but then it would have been a short, not a feature.

Derek Tsang, left,  as a newly hired convenience-store clerk and Lam Suet as his cranky boss in a scene from the Hong Kong film Robbery. Robbery will be shown at the 2015 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
Derek Tsang, left, as a newly hired convenience-store clerk and Lam Suet as his cranky boss in a scene from the Hong Kong film Robbery. Robbery will be shown at the 2015 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

There’s lots to like in Robbery – writer/director Fire Lee (aka LEE Ka Wing, or Ka Wing LEE) has fun with film clichés like macho posturing, super-observant people: training montages; walking in slow-motion, defusing a bomb, while seconds tick by on a conveniently large display; people pretending to be someone they’re not, and/or being perceived as someone they’re not; the old Mexican standoff (people standing in a circle pointing guns at each other), etc. Several flashbacks put a whole new light on the characters. And then there are the platitudes like this one: “Pain is good. . . pain is a feeling, it lets humans know they are alive.” Not to mention: “But you have ME!”

Quibbles: One female star has to wear a skimpy outfit in her scenes at the store, and perform an amateur strip tease, along with other humiliations. In regard to the outfit, writer/director Fire Lee might claim that he was showing: 1) how people judge a book by its cover; 2) the person who forced her to do these things is a very evil dude; 3) that he was mocking a cliché. Maybe, but to me this is just pandering to a segment of the male audience. Before anyone asks if sex is bad while deaths are OK, I’d say that the film could have been quite funny without either.

Somewhat random info and thoughts connected to Robbery: Fire Lee wrote the script for revenge flick Sasori, which was shown at Fantasia in 2008.
Actor/director Derek Tsang is the son of actor Eric Tsang. Derek Tsang is 35 now, and might have been 34 when Robbery was made, though he looks much younger. Derek Tsang went to the University of Toronto; he used to live in Vancouver.

J. Arie’s real name is Rachel Lui. She’s an accomplished piano player who also has a degree in law (to make her traditional parents happy.)
The berets that the Hong Kong police wear look quite dashing. Are their shirts really so form-fitting?

Robbery will be shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs from July 14 until Aug. 4, 2015.

Read more about it on Robbery’s page at the Fantasia web site.

Robbery: Written and directed by Fire Lee ( Ka Wing Lee)
Starring: Derek Tsang, J.Arie, Lam Suet, Feng Tsui Fan, Philip Keung, Anita Chui, Eric Kwok, Aaron Chow, Edward Ma
In Cantonese with English subtitles
90 minutes long

Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 18:45, and Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at 15:10, in the J.A. de Sève Theatre, 1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.