Fantasia 2014

They say bartenders make great therapists, but does that still apply long after the bar has been sold and the bartender has moved on? Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) would probably say no after their couples therapist (Ted Danson) sends them on a very strange weekend retreat. The married couple arrives at the prescribed destination to find that the grounds — including a main house, guest house and numerous gardens — are theirs and theirs alone for the weekend. Well, kind of. It seems that part of the good doctor’s plan to help the couple work towards becoming better versions of themselves, and in the process become a better couple, involves a very unique way of facing and experiencing those better selves. The One I Love is about some very universal feelings and themes — ones we’ve all experienced in real life and seen portrayed onscreen — but it presents them in refreshingly original, engaging and entertaining ways. I’m being vague here for those that want to go in fresh, but fair warning, I’ll be revealing a little bit more after the jump. (Still nothing that legitimately counts as a spoiler though.)

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Fantasia 2014

Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is dead, and her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) is all torn up about it. Sure they were having troubles and it looked like they might be heading for a split, but now that she’s gone — as in gone gone — he’s finding it difficult to think about anything else as he sinks into his pit of despair. Hoping for company with like-minded people he takes to spending time with Beth’s equally distraught parents, but just a few days later they shut him out of their lives. Distraught and driven for similarly bereft companionship he heads to their house only to glimpse something odd through a window. Beth is still alive. Kind of. She’s returned from the dead, and overcome with joyful confusion her parents are hiding her from the world. Beth’s memory isn’t all that great — she’s really stressed about a test she has tomorrow and has no idea that she’s dead — but Zach isn’t bout to turn his back on this second chance at a struggling relationship. Every couple hits some bumps in the road right? He soon discovers though that some love stories are better off dead.

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Fantasia 2014

Follow all of our Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 coverage here. Mike (Aaron Staton) and his wife Wit (Wrenn Schmidt) had planned a quiet camping trip, just the two of them, but his brother Sean (Pablo Schreiber) has had a rough time since returning from Afghanistan so they invite him along. The brothers turn it into a hunting trip and a minor family reunion as they reminisce over events from their childhood, but all is not right and relaxed with the trio. Sean is living off the grid while Mike is handcuffed to it — he’s on his cell phone more than he’s on his wife — and their differences couldn’t be clearer. Wit meanwhile fears she’s drifting away from her husband due to his inattentiveness and hey look Sean sure does seem to be more understanding doesn’t he? Luckily they wake up the next morning with far more pressing matters. Someone has stolen their belongings and drawn Xs on their foreheads while they slept. Their clothes, supplies, guns and water are all gone. Inexplicably, Sean’s dog is missing too along with all but the floor of the tent that Mike and Wit were sleeping in. All of it taken without any of the three waking up. You saw where I said the tent they were sleeping in is gone too right? Barefoot, thirsty and confused they head into the woods in search of safety. Preservation shows promise in its opening fifteen minutes — time spent establishing characters and setting up a […]

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. The Taiga Cordillera is a big and lonely place along the top half of Canada. The northernmost part is even sparser with a population that caps off under a hundred souls, but it’s here where perhaps the greatest archaeological find of the century has been discovered. At least that’s what the on-site team believes and the reason why Peter Olsen (Michael Dickson) has arrived at this godforsaken place by helicopter. They’ve uncovered what looks to be the top of a stone monument belonging to a culture with no previous record of being in this part of the world. Olsen and the team debate the validity of the find, play poker and make plans for the fame in their future, but their celebration is short-lived. The group’s pet cat is murdered and splayed out like a sacrifice before the stone, they lose radio contact with civilization and the local workers, superstitious and terrified, flee into the wintry darkness towards guaranteed death. Madness and mistrust infect the remaining men, and then? Then things go really bad. Black Mountain Side is a beautifully-shot, creepy love letter to John Carpenter’s The Thing that finds its own identity amid the paranoia and bloodletting. Its budgetary limitations occasionally squelch its ambitions, but the terror remains atmospheric and effective to the final moments.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Lou Garou (Leo Fafard) is a bad cop. He’s not stealing evidence, abusing suspects’ rights or behaving like a character in a ’70s-style police corruption tale — he’s just a shitty cop. Constantly late for work, frequently drunk and disinterested in actually doing his job, Lou is simply not a good policeman. At least not until a late-night disturbance call results in him being attacked and changed in a very hairy way. He wakes up with a pentagram carved in his chest, razor-resistant stubble and an adverse reaction to the moon. What I’m saying is he’s been turned into a werewolf by a devilish cult for nefarious purposes! What those robe-wearing bastards couldn’t have predicted though is that lycanthropy plus copious amounts of alcohol equals one dedicated and highly effective police officer. (In their defense though no one saw that coming.) Now Lou is cleaning up Woodhaven one armed robber, drug dealer and cult member at a time. WolfCop is the kind of idea that makes you pause for the briefest second before smiling, nodding your head and saying “Sure, why not?” But while there are moments and sequences throughout the film’s 79-minute run-time that fully embrace and live up to that premise there are many, many more that fall flat or feel rushed.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. We’ve all been there. Up late perusing Craigslist you come across a request for something you’re pretty sure you can do for the money being offered, but when you actually get there you realize that “eating spotted dick” isn’t always a reference to pudding. The point is the internet is a scary place and in need of better regulation. Aaron (Patrick Brice) appears to be learning this the hard way when he responds to an ad looking for a videographer for a day’s shoot at a semi-remote cabin. He arrives and meets the man who hired him, Josef (Mark Duplass), who proceeds to explain the job. Josef has cancer, and with a baby on the way (and inspired by Michael Keaton in My Life) he wants to record a day with himself that can be shared with the child after he’s gone. Seems easy enough, but Aaron immediately senses something is a bit off with Josef. And you will too. Creep is a miraculous mash-up of found footage and mumblecore that by all rights should be the most unappealing thing caught on video since, well, pick just about anything involving a Kardashian. Instead it’s a smart and charismatic film that walks a fine line between thriller and comedy by constantly shifting and subverting expectations. Our experience with the genre tells us the film is about to zig but Duplass and Brice zag instead. It’s a wonderfully unsettling experience that you […]

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Once upon a time the Filipino film industry was second only to Hollywood in the number of films they released per year. That time was the ’70s and ’80s, but the odds are slim that you can even name a single locally-produced movie during that period. Pre and post Apocalypse Now the Philippines was the go-to locale for film productions looking for cheap crews, crazy stuntmen and geography that included everything from gorgeous jungles to bustling slums, but while foreign visitors churned out memorable features of varied quality local filmmakers struggled to make their mark beyond their own borders. That changed in 1981 with a little film called For Y’ur Height Only and its even smaller star, Weng Weng. A James Bond spoof ostensibly for kids, the lead was a 2’9″ man trained in karate and the art of wooing the ladies, and it turned Weng into a sensation… for a while. He made millions for his producers and was the face of Filipino cinema, but he seemingly vanished as quickly as he had appeared. What happened to him, where had he come from, and how many of the stories about him — he was a stand-up comedian, a secret agent, an airport greeter — contained anything resembling the truth? Australian film-lover and video store-owner Andrew Leavold needed answers to these questions and set off on a seven year journey to find them, a journey captured in […]

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Amelia Brooks (Beth Grant) is gone. Presumed dead, the accomplished swimmer went missing on a dive in the very lake she had been campaigning to preserve in her final years. Her three adult daughters arrive at their childhood home near the water to reminisce, console each other and make plans for their mother’s belongings, but their time together soon takes an unsettling turn. Dead birds begin appearing on their doorstep, an incident with a camera suggests a possible intruder and the local legend of Spirit Lake — a lake that reportedly has yet to reveal its bottom — begins to fill their imagination. Long ago seven sisters walked the water’s shore only to drown, one by one, and like the Pleiades of Greek mythology they’ve come to symbolize a sad state of grace that’s eternally out of reach. Are the legendary sisters reaching out for fresh blood? Has their mother returned from her watery grave? Or is something all together different haunting their waking hours? The Midnight Swim creates an ethereal state of unease in its atmosphere and characters, but more than just an unsettling thriller the film captures a sisterly slice of life with an effective ease. If only the film’s unnecessary insistence on a found footage-ish format wasn’t so damn distracting.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. The Daybreakers are a group of five men whose rap sheets include murder, armed robbery, assault and worse, but after trying their hand at kidnapping a three year old boy only to see the ransom drop go bust they decide to add something new to their repertoire — fatherhood. They raise the boy, now named Hwayi (Yeo Jin-gu), as their own. It’s a harsh childhood as five sociopathic fathers is no replacement for the love of a real parent, but he learns kindness and affection from his surrogate mother, Yeong-joo (Lim Ji-eun), who’s also a long-term captive of the men. Hwayi is raised to fear and respect his fathers, but they’re also capable of bonding with the boy in an attempt to shape him into one of them. Over the years they teach him their various specialties until finally, twelve years after stealing him from his parents, they take him on a job and pressure him to make his first kill. Already affected by being forced to murder someone, Hwayi is thrown for a far bigger loop when he discovers the identity of the victim and the details of his own existence. Hwayi: A Monster Boy is a rare example — and I don’t say this lightly — of nearly perfect genre cinema. Writer/director Jang Joon-hwan‘s long-awaited follow-up to 2003’s Save the Green Planet is a deft and bloody melange of action, suspense, comedy, heart, drama and humanity […]

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THE RUN

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Khaliff (Aaron Aziz) has returned to his home village after seven years away with the military. It’s no pleasant homecoming though as he arrives after his father is murdered by a group of thugs and his sister has been kidnapped. What’s an angry young man with elite military training to do? He begins investigating both crimes — a step the local authorities seem unwilling to take — and discovers a world of small town corruption, organized crime and sex slavery. With the help of a peppy cab driver and the woman Khaliff loved and left behind seven years ago he goes looking for his sister with both fists (and feet) flying. It’s never a good sign when you watch an action movie and think to yourself, with no exaggeration, “I could do that.” This is especially the case if you’re a movie blogger. The new Malaysian film, The Run (aka Lari), is just such an example though as it’s an action film with utterly unimpressive action. This leaves a familiar and simple plot to hold the movie up, but the execution there is equally inept.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler) is a recent college grad with an MBA and a strong desire to work. Unfortunately he’s holding out for something in upper management, and that something is not on his career horizon. Defeated he returns to his hometown to move back in with his mom and dad (Barbara Niven and Ray Wise), but while he expects living at home again to be a nightmare he’s unprepared for just how horrific it becomes. A little dead girl is discovered buried in their backyard, and the find is soon followed by all manner of supernatural shenanigans and terrifying apparitions. Raymond is no stranger to ghostly visitors as he used to regularly see and commune with the dead as a child. He lost the ability as he grew up, but reminded of his true calling and with the assistance of a dryly sarcastic bartender (Kat Dennings) he sets out to appease the vengeful spirit and return the household to normal. Director/co-writer Richard Bates Jr.‘s second film, Suburban Gothic, is a bit rough around the edges at times — due clearly to budgetary limitations as opposed to creative ones — but none of that gets in the way of the high energy and generous laughs packed into a tight and very funny 90 minutes.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Blaire (Shelley Hennig) is online chatting with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) while they wait for their other four friends to join. The couple takes a brief stab at cyber-sex before they’re interrupted by the gang, but something isn’t right with their Skype connection. A seventh person is on the call. No one knows who it is, the person isn’t speaking and nothing they do seems to get rid of it. They soon discover the mystery caller’s motive has something to do with the suicide of a girl named Laura Barnes exactly one year ago. Once the caller starts communicating it’s with death threats, shocking revelations and the seeming control of each person’s computer. Attempts to disconnect or reach outside help are squashed, efforts to delete certain pictures or accounts are made impossible and ultimately the six friends are forced to face just how tenuous their friendships truly are as they come face to face with the guilt of past misdeeds. Cybernatural uses a similar format to the recently released The Den, but it does so to tell a very different story. We see only what appears on Blaire’s laptop screen, and nothing else, but in those dozens of windows and tabs a tale of cruelty, failed relationships and revenge unfolds. This sounds terrible I know, but you’ll just have to trust me here. It’s a slickly made production that serves to enhance […]

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Fantasia 2014

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid) and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. A family is involved in a minor fender bender and proceed to snap some pics of the accident, but South Korean soldiers arrive in an attempt to confiscate their cameras. No photos are allowed this close to the border between South and North Korea, but the matriarch of the family stands firm asking the soldier incredulously, “What, do you think we’re spies?” Of course they are North Korean spies, passing themselves off as an entire family of four, and they’ve been living and working in the South for years. But while they’ve committed murder and other deeds in the name of the Great Leader back home the pressures of being away from their own families as well as being immersed in a more free and open society are beginning to take a toll. When news from the North triggers the team to take an unsanctioned action they find themselves on the wrong side of their vicious handlers and facing the end of not only their mission but also of their lives. Think of Red Family as a season of “The Americans” condensed into a 100 minutes, and you’ll have an idea of the genre dynamics and subjects at play here. The balance between honoring and respecting their homeland while facing constant exposure to a place that goes against everything they ever knew leads to temptations, behaviors and decisions that Kim Jong-un would most definitely […]

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Naoto Tamura (Yuki Yamada) is a bit of a dick. He’s obnoxious and indifferent to everyone around him including his hard-working mother, but he takes his attitude one step too far when he lashes out at her. While on his own a short while later he receives a package with a novel titled “Live” in it timed to a phone call and a video. His mother has been abducted, and she’ll be killed unless Naoto participates in and wins the caller’s elaborate “death triathlon.” He sets off to the first location only to discover that he’s not alone. A dozen other people, each frantic and glued to their cell phones, are also in the race. Other players lessen Naoto’s odds of winning, but so do the various obstacles put in their place including, but not limited to, a pair of bikini-clad crossbow-wielding women on roller skates. You probably thought Live was looking like a serious movie didn’t you.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Let’s just get this out of the way right up front. Yes, Zombeavers is about zombie-beavers. No, they don’t look even the slightest bit realistic. Yes, you’re still going to love this movie anyway. Three sorority sisters head to a remote cabin by a lake for a girls weekend away from the boys. The trip was motivated by the recent revelation that Jenn’s (Lexi Atkins) boyfriend cheated on her with an unknown skank leading Mary (Rachel Melvin) to organize the weekend to help her friend heal. Zoe (Cortney Palm) is just along for the ride and the possibility of a full-body tan. Their plans are interrupted by two types of mammals. First, their boyfriends arrive looking to set up camp in the girls’ vaginas, and then the undead beavers show up looking for food. So yes, it essentially follows the old horror trope about the dangers of young people mixing wood and beavers.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. The country is in disarray after a financial collapse. Which country isn’t exactly important, but judging by the accents and locations on display let’s go with the United States of Middle Eastern South Africa. Criminal syndicates run rampant while neutered and frequently bribed police struggle to keep them in check, and the biggest victims are also the smallest as child sex trafficking becomes the crime du jour. Into this societal morass comes a waif-like girl in the violent grip of a clearly malicious thug. Her name is Sawa (India Eisley), and after blowing out the back of the guy’s head with an exploding bullet she continues on her way up the food chain of evil deeds looking for the man at the top, the man responsible for her parents’ murder, the man she is intent on killing. Along for the ride are her father’s ex-partner (Samuel L. Jackson) and a homeless teen (Callan McAuliffe) who taught himself parkour. Kite, based on an anime from 1998, is a post-apocalyptic and mostly generic mash-up of The Professional and Léon, and before you say “But Rob, those are the same movie” rest assured that I know they’re the same movie. This film takes the former’s central conceit of a young girl’s thirst for revenge assisted by an adult and mixes it with the more sexualized latter film that was deemed too challenging for American audiences. Granted, it’s […]

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Fantasia

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Reiji (Tôma Ikuta) is not a good cop. Not only did he score the lowest in the police academy’s history, but the citizens he’s serviced have had nothing but complaints about his lack of work ethic and unprofessional behavior. The latest incident — one that leads him to defend and qualify his own level of perviness as compared to real criminals — ends in his long overdue dismissal from the force. But as that door closes a new window opens, and Reiji jumps right through. In a manner of speaking. His boss, in collaboration with Japan’s version of the DEA, want him to go undercover in the yakuza, specifically with the Sukiya-kai gang, to discover the source of a deadly new street drug and arrest the man at the top. It won’t be easy, but if there’s one man for the job it most definitely isn’t Reiji. Unfortunately, he’s all they have and the only one seemingly capable of passing their tests. The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji is a mouthful of a title, but it’s worth opening up and taking it in as the film is easily Takashi Miike‘s most purely entertaining movie in thirteen years. With a sharp script, great performances and just the right amount and kind of cartoonish antics the film manages to be incredibly funny, wildly engaging and a bonkers feast for the eyes that riffs beautifully on the […]

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Pathe

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Jacky (Vincent Lacoste) is just like every other guy in the Kingdom of Bubunne. He’s uneducated, forced to wear a burka-like outfit every day and is entirely subservient to women. The ladies rule the land by force and tradition and make up the entirety of the military and government all the way up to the General who is in complete charge. Men can be performers of course, but their duty is in household chores meaning the best they can hope for is to have one of the many powerful women take their leash — take them as their own in marriage — and become the head of their own household. But Jacky’s dreams go beyond finding a strong and successful woman to settle down with as he has his eyes and heart set on the General’s daughter (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who’s next in line to rule the kingdom and currently searching for a husband. The competition is stiff (see pic above), but with love and a whore of a revolutionary uncle on his side he just might stand a chance. Jacky in the Kingdom of Women is, quite obviously, a satirical take on gender politics, and it hits its target more often than not with humor that runs the gamut from biting to broad to scatological. It’s as far from subtlety as it is from reality, but the gags still work throughout. Unfortunately, it […]

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