Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Fantasia 18' Film Review - Bleach

Many a director has found it difficult to match the free-flowing format of manga. They have struggled with bringing the paperback heroes to the big screen. Shinsuke Sato may have found the right formula for the genre with Bleach. Sato's film mixes the two main elements teenage life and action. Ichigo
(Sota Fukushi) is strong with the spirits being in able to see them where other humans can't. Into his path comes Soul Reaper Rukia (Hana Sugisaki) who had a memorable turn in last years Blade of the Immortal losing her battle with a giant spider shape soul stealing Hollow. She transfers some of her power to Ichigo who proceeds to defeat the creature. However, Rukia did not account for Ichigo's spiritual abilities thus transferred all of her power to him trapping her on earth until she can claim them back.

The playful banter amongst the students in Ichigo's class are the most charming moments of the film. Orihime (Erina Mano) has a huge crush on Ichigo almost unable to speak in his presence. She becomes suspicious or Rukia who is paying the part of a transfer student until she can get her powers back. Ryo Yoshinzawa's Uryu has a special glowing bow looking to settle a score with Ichigo's Soul Reaper alter ego. Class normally starts with the students frantically recounting the remarkable events of the day before concluding with the thought that Ichigo is likely dead queuing him to enter the classroom proving them wrong.

Eventually, two senior Reapers Byakuya (Miyavi) and Renji (Taichi Saotome) come to the planet in search of Rukia both are outraged that she has given her powers to a human. To protect her Ichigo offers to take on the most powerful of all Hallows the Grand Fisher in exchange for Rukia to have her freedom.

Sato's film has the flavour of high school life a manga staple. The students exchange barbs in class, throw shade at rivals, recount events of the day before and hang out a Rob's Burgers en masse. The special effects team add a lot to the project from the initial appearance of Ichigo's Reaper sword to Uryu's electric bow to the weaponizing of full-sized car and buses in the climatic armed encounter.

Bleach is a faithful adaptation of the widely popular magna. Lovers of the franchise will like the persona of the stories hero onscreen right down to his orange hair. Sato hits all of the main beats. The action sequences a Sato strength are worthy of any North American popcorn movie. It.s a production that will hit a positive note with the Manga veteran, genre newcomer and action film enthusiast alike.

*** Out of 4

Bleach | Shinsuke Sato | Japan | 2018 | 108 Minutes.

Tags: Soul Reaper, Manga, Adaptation, Human, Ghosts, Afterlife, Widower, Anniversary, Grave, Sword, Bow and Arrow.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Loi Bao

Tam ( Cuong Seven) has a charmed existence. He's doing what he loves working on a graphic novel project. Has an adoring wife Linh (Nha Phuong) who runs a successful restaurant and a precocious kid who is always asking questions and challenging adults. His fortunes change with he received a diagnosis of a terminal illness numbering his days. He turns to a long timefamily friend Uncle Ma (Hoang Son) who tells him about a medical procedure that is highly experimental but if successful could eradicate his illness. Tam agrees to the procedure, is cured and gains enhanced, strength, agility, fighting skills but also the side effect of cellular memory of the donor.

Tam takes these new powers out for a spin doing good deeds in the community gaining the moniker of local hero. He is living the actions of the main character in his graphic novel Loi Bao. But his actions bring public attention and the interest of underworld figures who were familiar with the skills of the donor now on public display. As they close in the stakes rise along with the risk for Tam and his family.

Director Victor Vu presents a superhero tale that is part free running, a sprinkling of pseudoscience topped with a big dose of hand to hand combat. Vu film is high on production quality. The sound department has all of their levels cranked as even a production car coming to a stop vertebrates around the theatre. The fighting scenes benefit from the contribution of Vincent Wang who has experience on Marvel and James Bond sets on his resume. Wang's influence stands out especially in the crisp tight quarters hand to hand combat sequences especially in the climactic fight in a river setting.

Loi Bao is an action film that has several workable parts but the end product just doesn't hang together properly. The narrative has some wild elements that the audience is willing to buy momentum is stunted by a needless subplot stirred up by exaggerated cellular memory feelings. If your a fan of parkour and willing to double down on action over the odd flawed plot point then this film is worth a look

** 1/2 Out of 4.

Loi Bao | Victor Vu | Vietnam | 2017 | 105 Minutes.

Tags: Graphic Artist, Graphic Novel, Terminal Illness, Transplant, Assassin, Organ Trafficking, Mask, Coffee Shop

Fantasia 18' Film Review - Laplace's Witch

Takashi Miike is a prolific filmmaker. Two projects a year is standard with three or four not to of the question. Miike is also known as a moving target not beholden to any one genre. Therefore it's a bit disappointing that his so far only effort for 2018 Laplace's Witch is such an unenthusiastic pedestrian effort especially following his last effort last years brilliant Blade of the Immortal. 

Intrigue comes to a small town when a man's body is found in a remote area outside of town. The lead investigator Nakoka Yuri (Tamaki Hiroshi) can't explain how this occurred, therefore, he seeks the assistance of a Toyko geoscience  Professor Shusuke Aoe (Sho Sakurai). Soon after a second death occurs gain by hydrogen sulfide poising the only like to the two a young woman Madoka Uhara ( Suzu Hirose) who seems too interested in both murder scenes and has a knack of knowing how future events will occur. Both of the deaths are caused by a gas that could not be in that concentration naturally. As the story develops the theory of French Mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace is introduced showing how precise calculations can give the  skilled observer the tools to predict future outcome. The material is as dry as the last statement would indicate. None of the performances by the main cast do anything to elevate it either.

Miiki is at his best when pushing boundaries as he marks new territory. Unfortunately, those qualities are not displayed here with this film. The plot is a standard police investigation that under covers a shadowy research organization whose members look the part but underwhelm in the menace department.

One source of levity in the cast is delivered by Mirai Shida in the role of Aoe's research assistant Tetsuko Okunishi. She hovers in Aoe's office as he discusses his thoughts on the case her presence is especially effective when Investigator Yuri appears to have a confidential discussion. The other being the presence of a character based on a legendary Japanese director whose description is a mirror of Miike himself a fact that is not lost on the viewer.

Laplace Witch is a story that stays close to the source martial book by Keigo Higashino. However, it's directed by a helmer that the viewer would least like to see colouring between the lines. The premise has some merit. However, the delivery and performances are run of the mill. Resulting in a typical murder mystery production another descriptor you would not attached to a Miike film.

** Out of 4.

Laplace Witch | Takashi Miike | Japan | 2018 | 115 Minutes.

Tags: Murder, Resort Town, Hydrogen Sulfide, Mathematical Theory, Probability, Geology, Dice, Tornado, Coma, Crime Scene.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Luz

Having an interrogation of a demon in a police station may be the least unusual occurrence in director Tilman Singer's first feature Luz. A Chilean cab driver (Luana Velia) walks into a German police station showing signs of trauma after having been in an accident. It also appears that her passenger  Nora( Julia Riedler) a childhood friend from Chile who was in the cab has disappeared.  In a moments before scene Nora targets psychologist Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) in a bar, they have a drink then move to the bathroom where the former transfers a beam of light based energy to the later. Rossini receives a call to come to the police station to be part of the questioning of Luz that comes as no surprise to Nora.

A big part of the film is the subsequent interview by Rossini of Luz. Bertillon (Nadja Stubiger) pays close attention as lead investigator. Olarte (Johannes Benecke) watches from a sound both as translator/ recorder of the proceedings. Dr. Rossini relays on hypnosis to learn more about the events leading to a bizarre recount of details mixed with fantastic events unfolding in the conference room of the near empty police station.

Singer completed the project as her film studies thesis project. It is highly experimental relying heavily on the viewer's imagination to fill in the gaps of what occurs on screen. Her lead character continually reports a blasphemous mantra so appalling that the translator Olarte refuses to translate the Spanish version to German. Spirits appear to jump from person to person with the pace moving rapidly forward when Luz literally puts her foot down on an imaginary gas pedal of a mock-up of her cab using four chairs as stand-ins for seats.

Luz is an exorcism / inquisition set in the most unusual of settings. There is not the standard speaking in tongues, head spins or lashing out at cross-wielding, clergy interrogators. Instead, director Tillman Singer uses a softer approach exploring the psychological aspects of demonic possession. The results are just as horrifying and suspenseful told in a tight package with a modest 70 minute run time packaged with a grainy late 60's early 70's Italian cinema feel.

*** Out of 4.

Luz | Tilman Singer | Germany | 2018 | 70 Minutes.

Tags: Taxi Driver, Possession, Demon, Psychologist, Hypnosis, Interrogation, Police Station, Experimental Film.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Rondo

Paul (Luke Sorge) has been dishonourably discharged from the military with a case of PSTD. He is couch surfing at his sister Jill's (Brenna Otts)  home spending most of his time drinking hard alcohol. Jill gets tired of his act and sends him to a therapist Cassie (Gena Shaw) who diagnosis is that Paul needs to  expand his sex life giving him the instructions to attend a Rondo party. Paul takes the advice ending up in a 12th floor condo with two other guys that will each take their turns on an old man's young drugged up bride. Before his turn, Paul goes out on the balcony to see the guy that went before him get killed in the bedroom. In shock, Paul manages to escape but the organizers of the party have his address.

The tagline for the film describes it as an extreme horror thriller. The poster features a glass of whiskey with bullets and blood splashing into the glass. The second part of the piece does evolve into a revenge thriller cumulating with an epic confrontation at the scene of the crime.

Director Drew Barnhardt sights Alfred Hitchcock and Brian DePalma as his influences for the project. The Brian DePalma nod is very evident in one scene towards the end of the film where there's a shot of characters on multiple balconies along with one coming to the Apartment complex at street level. The Music from Ryan Franks and Scott Nickoley helps to build tension during the film but in some sections goes to the level or being repetitive or is cranked to a volume that is distracting from the action on the screen.

Reggie De Morton leads the Rondo party organizers as Lurdell. He gives out the instructions for the event in a slow distinct manner also acting as head cleaner when loose ends need tying off. Ketrick Copeland is the muscle as DeShawn. Copeland plays him towards the dimwitted side that has a large payoff in the final melee. Gina Shaw is memorable as the very pregnant therapist Cassie. She gives Jill her card that leads to an appointment with Paul setting the wheels of the films key events in motion.

Rondo is a twisted take on a sex party gone bad. There are rules, the participants meet for the first time then things get out of control once the clothes come off and the sex begins. The film will find an audience of those with an appetite for the extreme, gunplay and ritual sex. Despite its hash content there are several comedic moments that serve to round out the production.

** 1/2 Out of 4.

Rondo | Drew Barnhardt | USA | 2018 | 90 Minutes.

Tags: PSTD, Automatic Weapon, Bullets, Pregnancy, Sex Party, Password, Plastic.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Blue My Mind

Teenage girls go through major adjustments and changes in high school. It's tougher if you transfer to a new school in the middle of the year. These changes are trumped by hormonal and physical ones which  are taken to the extreme here. Mia (Luna Wedler) is the new girl. Mid-year transfer desperate to fit in with the cool kids. She starts by staring at their back of the class antics then marches up to them demanding a light for her smoke at recess only to learn it's not allowed. She's also battling with her mother at home as her dad appears to be disinterested. Mia behaviour becomes more reckless after physical changes begin to occur. The first change, her first period is natural, but next up is webbing growing between her toes then an uncontrollable desire to eat the goldfish out of the fish tank.

Director Lisa Brulmann used this story art her film thesis project in school. She has her pulse on the modern teen. Regular takes of designer drugs, normally shaken up and mixed with soft drinks, skipping school to go shopping and stealing at the local mall plus attending parties with older boys looking to take advantage of a young girl that's had too much at every opportunity.

Welder has a very physical role as Mia. She has heated confrontations with her mother. Pulls at her own body trying to stop the physical changes as they occur. Plus several aggressive encounters with males as they bounce the local term for having sex. Zoe Pastelle Holthuizen' Gianna has surprising depth as Gianna. She is the leader of the cool girls in class that likes to be chocked until she passes out for fun. But when a situation becomes intense she holds her head well excavating her friends from a bad situation or helping Mia to take the critical step in her transformation.

Blue My Mind is subtle take on a physical transformation piece that creeps up on the viewer until the changes go into overdrive in the final third. The young cast captures the rebel vibe of the modern rule breaking teenager. Director Lisa Brulmann's story is more about a young girl discovering herself than body horror as she physically morphs into something new.

*** Out of 4.

Blue My Mind | Lisa Brulmann | Switzerland |2017| 97 Minutes.

Tags: New Girl, Field Trip, Theme Park, Permission Slip, MDNA, Street Party, Tail, Gills, Pick Up Truck, Gold Fish.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Number 37

Randall (Irshaad Ally) is a small town criminal doing break and enter crimes in Cape Town. Looking to make a big score he borrows from dangerous loan shark Emmie (Danny Ross) to set up a drug deal. The deal goes bad his friend is killed and Randall ends up in a wheelchair now owing $25,000 to a no nonsense loan shark.

Upon his arrival at a rundown apartment, his girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman) gives him a pair of binoculars to help him pass the time. As he parks his wheelchair by the window he witnesses the death across the way of a dirty cop by apartment block enforcer Lawyer ( David Manuel) The money now in that apartment gives Randal a plan of how he can get the money to repay his debt.

Director Nosipho Dumisa clearly reboots Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window in a grittier South African local.  Mobility challenged, Randall's only outlet to the outside world is the binoculars. He trains them around the yard and into windows seeing what is going on in the Cape Flats apartment complex. The director also sets out her shots well mixed with the modern convince of the cell phone to raise the tension as Randall plot begins to unfold to spirit away Lawyer's money.

Irshadd Ally conveys the desperation of his situation and the helpless of his predicament strongly in the film. He is working in a very confined space and has to rely mainly on his verbal and facial reactions to events occurring elsewhere to get his emotions across. Monique Rockman is very effective as Pam. She is the cautious girlfriend at first, reluctant to participate in another of Randall's schemes but when its time to act she is resourceful and resilient. Danny Ross is cool, calm and singleminded in the role of Emmie. Money is owed to him, friendship and circumstances of the debtor do not matter. Debts have to be repaid and no one can get in the way of his recovery.

Number 37 is a thriller that gives more than just a nod to Alfred Hitchcock. The narrative thread thrives in this new setting bringing together Cape Flats realities of poor living conditions, crime, crooked cops and the lure to get rich quick. The cast shines in this up-tempo thriller that I can recommend.

*** Out of 4

Number 37 | Nosipho Dumisa | South Africa | 2018 | 100 Minutes.

Tags: Loan Shark, Drugs, Debt, Wheelchair, Third Floor, Apartment Complex, Blackmail, Interrogation, Payoff, Murder.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Tigers Are Not Afraid

10-year Old Estrella is a bright smart girl in school. Her class is in the middle of a lesson when gunfire rigs out just outside the school grounds forcing the entire class to duck for cover. School is canceled indefinitely. On television, a local politician running for office vows to clean up the community for the residents.  As Estrella leaves the grounds she is faced with police tape surrounding a dead cartel victim at the entrance to the school. Orphaned Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez) is living on the streets lurking in the shadows looking for food when not robbing cell phones from inattentive people passing by.

He stumbles upon cartel member Caco (Ianis Guerrerro) relieving himself beside a building not paying attention to his phone or gun which Shine lifts. He heads back to his band of orphaned boys showing his haul from the evening. Estrella returns home from school to find his mother missing. When she does not turn up the next day her worst fears begin to surface. Her mother has been taken away by the cartel.

Fantasy mixes with harsh reality in director Issa Lopez film. Estrella has been granted three wishes as she is surrounded by butterflies, birds, and snakes in this film space. Lopez brings the viewer into the bleak reality of a Mexican slum. The cartels have killed so many people that little kids are forced to join together for safety and survival. The film's art department are influential in creating this world including the swatting locations the kids occupy during the film. Cinematographer Juan Jose Saravia work with shadows, water, reflections, light and dark help to portray both the fantasy and desperation of the kids' situation. The spray painted murals tell the story of the relationships in the community with the kids and the cartel members some describing tragedy easily invoking tears.

Paola Lara fills the screen as Estrella. She is scared and frightened at first returning home to find her mother missing with no food available or coming. But she finds her strength and resolve becoming key planner for the orphaned group to the anger of Shine. Juan Ramon Lopez occupies that second in command role. He is moody upset that he lost control of the group but willing to step up at the most critical time.

Tigers are Not Afraid is a deep look at violence and fear experienced in cartel run Mexican communities. The young ensemble cast equates themselves on screen. The story is chilling but likely reflecting actual events. It's a desperate situation that needs to be exposed as done so here by Issa Lopez and her team.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Tigers Are Not Afraid | Issa Lopez | Mexico | 2017 | 83 Minutes.

Tags: Tigers, Snakes, Birds, Squatting, Graffiti, Hunger, Orphaned, Disappeared, Cartel, iPhone, Campaign.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - 1987 : When The Day Comes

The 6 month period from January to June 1987 bookended by two student deaths that truly made South Korea a democracy is the subject of 1987: When the Day Comes. Director Jang Joon-hwan explorers how the events effects families, government corruption, police brutality, media an underground spy network and the justice system in the feature. The film opens with the water torture death of student Park Jong-chul at the hands of the anti-communist department of the government. Kim Yun-seok takes the lead as Park Cheo-won director of Anti-Communist affairs. His foil is Choi Hwan (Park Cheo-won) the prosecutor that refused to rubberstamp their request to get rid of Park's body. After the first roadblock, the cover up unravels cumulating when Choi Hwan leaks the real autopsy report to journalist Yoon Sang-Sam (Lee Hee-jun) mounting public pressure and leading to charges in the director's department.

The other major storyline surrounds the death of student protestor Lee Han-yeol (Gang Dong-won) his campus cartoon club where activist activities occur plus his relationship with The Handmaiden's Kim Tae-ri  as Yeon-Hee whose Uncle Han Byung-Yong (Yoo Hae-jin) is involved in the underground spy network secretly passing messages to get the real news out to the public.

Director Jang takes on the monumental task of presenting perhaps the most important time in South Korea's history with this film delivering a very complicated subject clearly especially for an audience that is may not be familiar to the events. When a key character is introduced their two or three line bio is typewritten on the screen to inform the viewer. The backchannel underground spy network is explored passing messages through hidden notes in popular magazines rolled up and carried openly in public to avoid suspicion at random police street checks. The brutality of the police, torture interrogation techniques, intimidation and bribery perpetrated by those who claim their work is patriotic is also highlighted.

1987: When The Day Comes recounts a profoundly important time period in South Korean history. Its also a study on how important it is for people to take a stand, speak up and be accounted for seeing wrongs being committed. Here it started with Prosecutor Choi Hwan then spread to medical professionals, prison officials, the media all knowing the potential consequences. That underlying message is important at anytime but rings true today given the political climates in many spots around the world.

1987: When the Day Comes | Jang Joon-hwan | South Korea | 129 Minutes.

**** Out of 4

Tags: Water Torture, Student Protest, June Democracy Movment, Police Brutality, Government Cover Up, Tear Gas Canister, Running Shoes.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Heavy Trip

Turo (Johannes Holopainen) is the leader of a hardcore metal band in a small Finnish town where reindeer roam the streets and countryside. His band plays out of the basement of lead guitarist Lotvonen (Samuli Jaski) family slaughterhouse and have never had a public gig or written a song in their 12 years of existence. Bassist Pavi (Max Ovaska) knows every song ever recorded directing customers away from Justin Bieber and to death metal in his day job. The fourth member drummer Jynkky (Antti Heikkinen) has a car and willing to attempt anything once.

Turo travels through town on his bicycle going from jamming to his work at a mental hospital where he bonds with new patient Oula (Chike Ohanwe) The local layabouts make fun of his hair and all leather look. He visits his crush Miia (Minka Kuustonen) who runs a flower store having to dodge local celebrity swing musician and her cop father. One day a music promoter from Norway comes to town looking for reindeer blood taking their demo tape for consideration for a big festival.

In the last section of the film turns into a road trip as the boys attempt to get to the festival. They battle local rivals from their town plus a joyful interlude with the Norwegian border patrol preparing to intercept them after a tip from a rival. The other significant interaction involves a Viking re-enactment crew that helps the heros out on a key leg of their journey.

Heavy Trip is a realistic look at small town Finish life helmed by co-directors Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren. The sleepiness and remoteness of their hometown play a large part in shaping the story. The focus switches over the second half where the action picks up as the boys head out on the road. It's humor a filled piece with the underlying message to doggedly follow you dreams that I can recommend.

*** Out of 4
Heavy Trip | Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren | Finland / Norway | 2018 | 92 Minutes.

Tags: Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Slaughterhouse, Reindeer, Speed Trap, Blast Beats, Road Trip, Border Crossing, Music Festival.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Pledge

Justin (Zackery Byrd), Ethan (Philip Andre Botello), and David (Zack Weiner) are freshmen looking to pledge a frat. They tour around campus feeling rejection and being pranked at all points. After their latest rejection, a pretty girl Rachel (Erica Boozer) invites them to a party which they attend at a secluded mansion off campus. Once inside they are part of the best party of their lives then invited back the next night to pledge. However, things are different when they return. Host Max (Aaron Della Riva) Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite) and Bret (Jessi Pimentel) who were very friendly the night before are now barking orders, demanding responses of Yes, Sir putting the friends though increasing tough challengers.

Director Daniel Robbins working with writer Zack Weiner who plays David create a story that is primed for today. In the era of Charlottesville and the Alt-Right a shadowy group terrorizing in their minds lesser than individuals who are desperate to fit in. They are bully's sadists and psychopaths ready to show their superiority over others.

Weiner's script takes fraternity hazing in another direction. Here the venue is a beautiful mansion instead of a frat house. The number of fraternity brothers is reduced along with the those pledging. The hosts prefer the term social club to fraternity but the promise of belonging and network amongst the captains of industry still remain.

Pledge is an entertaining film underpinned by a storyline that delivers twists and turns plus a few unexpected swerves in the third act. Zackery Byrd's Justin and Aaron Della Riva's Max stand out on either side of the Pledge/ Host ledger. The horror is more psychological than physical in a story that will have to those looking to enter, in or just left the college arena. Followers, critics and observes of exclusive organizations will find some interest in the subject matter as well.

** 1/2 Out of 4.

Pledge | Daniel Robbins | U.S.A. | 2018 | Minutes.

Tags: Fraternity, Rushing, Rats, Ceremony, Rules, Party, Challenges, Mansion, Branding, Knives. Pledge Pin.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Anna & The Apocolopse

The first zombie musical at Christmas time was the goal set upon by John McPhail with Anna and the Apocalypse. The director had one stern rule: There would be no zombies singing in the film. With the premise, goal and rule firmly in place McPhail set off to create a pleasureful ride that has its cast singing at both the high and low points of their characters are mixed in with a good dose of humor, some groan-worthy quips and just enough gore to remind the viewer that they are watching a zombie movie and not an episode of Glee.

Anna (Ella Hunt) has done her best not to disappoint her janitor father Tony (Mark Benton) since her mother's death. But she has chosen to take a gap year after high school before heading to Uni. Her best friend John (Malcolm Cummings) is faithfully by her side hoping that Anna will see that he is boyfriend material over her current crush/hate Nick (Ben Wiggins). Meanwhile, school newspaper American transfer student Steph (Sarah Swine) is constantly battling soon to be principal Mr. Savage (Paul Kayne) who also delights in belittling Tony.

Things get messy on the night of the school play when a contagion begins to turn residents of the small Scottish town into Zombies. The kids choose their weapons from whatever is handy in order to battle their way though the Zombie horde in an attempt to make it to safety.

Roddy Heart and Tommy Reilly craft some catchy sons to back the production. They are uplifting and poignant capturing the sentiment that could easily be on the mind of a group of high school seniors.  Standing out is a solo number set to choreography reminiscent of Diamonds are a Girls best friend authored by Anna's best friend Lisa (Marli Sue) that is a sultry R rated ode to Santa.

Anna and The Apocalypse is an old fashioned toe tapper musical. The ensemble cast do not set a foot wrong. The villain is not who you would expect in an up-tempo musical experience that features enough  memorable killings to illicit that rush reaction from the audience.

*** Out of 4

Anna and The Apocalypse | John McPhail | UK/USA | 2018 | 92 Minutes.

Tags: Zombies, Christmas, Musical, Scotland, Bowling Alley, School Play, Baseball Bat, Candy Cane.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion

The aftermath of a medical/research facility massacre greats the audience in the first few frames of the film. A shadowy female (Cho Min-soon) seems to be in charge as she chastises her underlings. Another black clad figure (Park Hee-soon) appears to be head of security that is searching for the two children that escaped the facility. One a boy returns while the other a young girl escapes recovered by an elderly couple on the outskirts of the facility grounds that take her in as their own daughter.

Jump ahead ten years the girl Ja-Yo (Kim Da-mi) is now 19 and still at home with her adopted parents. She helps out on the farm comes first in all of her classes but appears weak in all physical activities. Her fortunes turn when she auditions for a national talent show egged on by her best friend Myung-hee (Ko Min-shi). First, she meets a mysterious boy (Choi Woo-shik) about her age on the train to Seoul then is confronted by a hit squad as she is leaving the television studio.

Director Park Hoon-Jung hits all the beats that mark a South Korean thriller. There are stylishly dressed villains, slick vehicles, gunplay, hand to hand combat, tough guy lines and an abundance of black attire. At the top of this pyramid is a young high school girl suffering from amnesia running around in sweats and a hoddie when not in her school uniform.

Newcomer (Kim Da-mi) leads the cast as Ja-Yo her complex character is the sweet and innocent straight A student Country girl on the talent show but when switched on a lethal killer that scares the toughest veteran. Choi Woo-shik is very effective as Gong-Ja second only to Ja -Yo in their youth training days. He has a calm playful approach to intimidation switching from Korean to perfect English when he really wants to make a point. Mainstay actors Cho-Min-Soon and Park Hee-soon anchor the cast as Professor Baek and Mr. Choi respectively.  While Ko Min -shi as Ja-Yo's bestie future manager/ sleepover pal Myung-hee seems to steal scenes that she is in on a regular basis.

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion checks all the boxes for a South Korean action film. Director Park brings to the screen a project that has Jason Bourne elements working in unison with child assassin  training films of the past. The movie is evenly paced taking the time needed to set up storylines and  characters for the payoff to come. It's a satisfying tour of covert operations that I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

The Witch Part 1 The Subversion | Park Hoon-Jung | South Korea | 125 Minutes.

Tags: Escape, Amnesia, Enhancements, Assassin, Talent Show, Levitation, Alzheimer's, Farm,

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Chained for Life

Mabel (Jess Weixler) wakes up in a mental /experimental surgery hospital looking for her doctor (Stephen Plunkett) she finds him in surgery where he immediately leaves the patient he is tending to address her needs. That opening scene sets the tone for the film within a film where Herr director (Charlie Korsmo) is crafting his first American film where Mabel a beautiful blind woman is seeking a cure among others with mutations and syndromes.

Director Aaron Schimberg focuses on the split between the accepted norms and those that do not fall into that category. It's in the film being made on screen, the separation of the two groups sleeping quarters and the interaction between actors and crew on set. At the top of this story is the interaction between Mabel and Rosenthal (Adam Peterson) who has a severe facial deformity. The pair develops a strong bond both on and off the set of the film. Even the title is taken from an early 50's film about Siamese twins and other circus type performers who make up a large part of the chorus here.

Adam Peterson is the standout in the cast as Rosenthal. Despite his physical deformity, he has many different and diverse interests with his depth of character coming through in every scene. Stephen Plunkett's Max is the opposite. He is your typical shallow actor and an obvious user only interacting with others if he sees a potential benefit for himself. Jess Weixler straddles both groups as Mabel. She likes the pampering on set as the lead actress but is genuinely concerned with the day workers are left in the hospital as the first billed cast and crew are provided better accommodations.

Aaron Schimberg takes a cynical look at beauty and accepted societal norms with Chained for Life. From the opening frame to the last sequence he highlights the different treatment of people based on where they sit on an arbitrary scale. The inside look at filmmaking and the ways that directors motivate actors is memorable.  It's an important reminder on how we treat each other in a production that I can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Chained for Life | Aaron Schimberg | U.S.A |  2018 | 91 Minutes 

Tags: Film,  Hospital, Experimental Surgery, Blindness, Deformity, Movie Set, Photography, Hospital, Siamese Twins.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - The Ranger

Punk rockers fall in between the crosshairs in Jenn Wexler's The Ranger. The film is a send up to the 80's origin of slasher films. Wrexler hits all of the genre's staples. A young girl lead Chelsea (Chloe Levine), her lecherous boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) and the rest of the punk crew that have to get out of the city to hid after a run-in with the law. The group gets into a graffiti-laden van headed to Chelsea's family cabin in the woods to hide out until the heat cools down. There they meet The Ranger (Jeremy Holm) whom Chelsea knows from her youth a stickler for the Park rules whose method of punishment to violators is much stronger than a ticket, fine or expulsion from the grounds.

Once at the cabin the teens do teenage things, smoking inside despite Chelsea's complaints, chase each other around, spray paint trees, party hard and, play loud music and build a fire. Chelsea returns to the cabin after a bit of alone time to find this scene that is disrupted by two precise rifle shots. The second taking the films first victim.

Chloe Levine's performance as Chelsea is the strongest element of the film. She has a violent streak in her as evidenced by the events from the prologue, her contemplated act during the run-in with the police and her respect for the rules even if it means calling out her friends. Jeremy Holm is more developed than normal for a slasher villain as the Ranger. He has a history with Chelsea, is practical and logical in his kills not straying away from State code.

The Ranger is a horror film that is more of a crowd pleaser than a seat squirmier. It's a good choice for those looking for a horror lite film. Chloe Levine's Chelsea comes to the fore embracing fully her darker nature in the final third of the production. On the other hand the hardcore horror watcher will find the frequency and ferociousness of the killings somewhat lacking.

**1/2  Out of 4.

The Ranger | Jenn Wexler | U.S.A.| 2018| 77 Minutes.

Tags: Punk Rock, Anarchy, Police, Raid, Cabin, Stabbing, Bear Trap, Rules, Spray Paint, Sandwich, Milk, Charlie Rich.

Fantasia "18 Film Review - The Witch in The Window

Beverley (Arija Bareikis) is at her wits end with her son Finn (Chris Tackle). His latest stunt involves poking around the internet where he shouldn't. As punishment, she is sending him off with her ex- husband Simon (Alex Draper)  into the country to work on one of his fixer upper houses. Andy is happy to have his 12-year-old son along hoping to reconnect.

Finn is unhappy to be in the country at first but soon warms to spending quality time with his dad in an old house that creaks, bangs, needs work but is full of character. The local electrician comes by to fix the wiring telling the pair of the history of the place. The old woman Lydia (Carol Stanzione)   that never left the place and was found dead sitting by the upstairs window. As father and son continue their work they begin to notice strange occurrences in the house.

Writer-Director Andy Mitton's story is more on the paranormal, psychological scale rather than the physical violent side of horror. The production relies more on practical effects, music and camera work to build suspense and anxiety. One particularly well written sequence stands out where Andy receives a phone call from Beverley near the midpoint of the film. He expect the conversation to go one way but instead heads in a different one. As the dialogue continues realization builds in Andy until he has reached a new level of entanglement with the house.

Alex Draper and Chris Tackle have solid chemistry as father and son. It begins with their banter on the way up peaking with a wonderful line from father to son hoping that he would catch Finn on the 12 side of 12 and not the 13 side. Once at the house Finn is eager to explore seeing quickly through his dad's stated goal to flip the property.

The Witch in The Window is a psychological thriller that is at its core the relationship between a dad and his son. In Simon's mind, his son is perfect but knowing his nature its better for him to step back and do something for him and his mom then being around to mess things up. Its a warm family tale hidden in a haunted house frame that I can recommend.

*** Out of 4.

The Witch In The Window | Andy Mitton | U.S.A. | 2018 | 77 Minutes.

Tags: Internet, Country House, Old Woman, Haunted House, Stereogram, Sleepwalking, Circular Saw, Barn, Pizza.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - The Dark

The zombie world has evolved greatly since Georgio Romero's original Night of the Living Dead. The creatures have moved far from their original slow lumbering origins to occupy every genre of film from comedy to romance. Therefore to find new territory in the space takes some doing which Justin P. Lange may have achieved with his initial feature. Lang has a basic premise, there is a monster in the woods so don't go into the woods. But his film has a deeper underlying message that there are monsters everywhere the most horrific of which abuse children. Alex (Toby Nichols) and Mina (Nadia Alexander) are thrown together by a twist of fate needing to fend for each other as adults and the authorities close in on their location.

The makeup team lead by Zane Knisley deserve prominent recognition for their work. The audience looks at Mina and Alex on screen for the majority of the film. Both  have severe facial scars that the audience has to buy to make the production work. But despite their physical appearances working in the background is the realization that the pair have way deeper scars on the inside from their past abuses.

Nadia Alexander as Mina starts out with a strong armor, not letting anyone in. Those who happen to wander into her territory are dispatched quickly in a very violent manner. One of these souls had Toby Nichol's Alex hidden in the back of their vehicle. Alexander's Nina evolves as she turns from executioner to protector for someone she sees that has suffered more than herself in turn both her inner and outer wounds begin to heal as well.

The Dark is a horror film that is long on practically over the current trend of post-production effects. The soundtrack is minimal instead the production uses background natural sounds or silence to create tension and suspense. Director Justin P. Lange supported by superior work by his make up team bring the Zombie genre to a totally new direction. We see events from Mina's point of view as the monster turns protector to a teenage boy more helpless and vulnerable than herself.

*** 1/2 Out of Four.

The Dark | Justin P. Lange | Austria | 2018 | 95 Minutes.

Tags: Zombie, The Woods, Kidnapped, Child Molestation, Alcoholic, Soup, Healing, Car Accident, Axe.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Parallel

What would you do if you had a portal into an alternate dimension where things were just about the same as yours but with a few small differences? Science may have taken a different path, artists may have expressed themselves differently or technology might have evolved a different path. Most intriguing is the possibility that a deceased loved one could be alive or someone that someone that you long for might be receptive to our feelings in an alt-world.  These are the questions that are explored in director Issac Ezaban's Parallel.

Four friends are running a start-up tech firm in Seattle, Washington pitching an idea for a parking app. Their client is considering terminating their deal unless they can complete the app in a few days as opposed to the original longer deadline as a rival can meet that timeline. The group is dejected until they find a false wall in their rented home revealing a mirror in the attic that is a portal to parallel universe where time moves significantly slower. At first, they go through to complete the app ahead of schedule then they begin to fray lines with the victimless act of bringing back winning lottery numbers before they are drawn in the home reality.

Director Isaac Ezban and writer Scott Blaszak have a lot to keep straight with the production. Characters going in and out of multiple dimensions, have to avoid their other selves, bringing back innovations, in art, technology and weaponry not yet invented back home. Devin (Amil Ameen) is looking for his dad who died in shame world A. The crew used different camera lenses spherical vs. anamorphic to distinguish characters and events in alt vs home timelines along with an amber tint for the original timeline then a blue hue for the alt spaces.

Mark Wallstrom's Noel is the most aggressive of the four at using their unfair advantage. He brings back innovations calling them his own. He also messes with individuals in other dimensions to mold the home timeline to his benefit. Leena (Georgina King) bends the rules as well. Appropriating art back home making her a large player in the Seattle painting scene. Josh (Mark O'Brien) uses the mirror to win the affections of a crush while Devin is the most opposed to mixing elements of different timelines together.

Parallel is a film that mixes science fiction, tech innovation and psychology. Ezban himself describes it as Flatliners meeting The Social Network. The fresh faced cast adapt to their mulit-layered roles well. Its a funny discovery piece a the outset then morphs into a suspenseful horror film in classic Twilight Zone mode as ambition and the consequences of messing with greater forces descend on the group.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Parallel | Issac Ezaban | Canada | 2018 | 104 minutes.

Tags: Portal, Mirrors, Time Travel, Appropriation, Sci-Fi, App, Ray Gun, Corruption, Suicide, Gallery, Tech, Ambition, Deception.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - The Outlaws

In 2004 Seoul's Chinatown in the Garibong district was being brutalized by gang rivalries from back home that had come to the city and set up shop. They ran arcades, gambling dens, girls, leaning on the local shopkeepers and restaurants for protection money. The police set up a project to clean up the area. Local detective Ma Seok-do (Don Lee / Ma Dong-seok) leads the Police task force. Ma's style is the heavy confrontational hands-on approach with his fellow detectives often covering up security cameras in the station as he caries out his unique interrogation techniques. The local constabulary manage to keep a happy balance between the rival forces until a new player comes to town lead by
Jang Chen (Yoon Kye-sang) looking to collect debts run up back in China. The trio is ruthless looking to take body parts for payment delays, stabbing rivals while generally upsetting the uneasy balance in the community.

Don Lee shines in the lead role. He is tough, pragmatic yet funny with a superior sense of timing as he delivers his lines. Yoon Kye-Sang is a worth equal as his foil Jang Chen. He is steely calm letting his two subordinates do most of the dirty work until he comes across a rival that requires his personal attention then he unleashes a furiousness that puts the rest of his crew to shame.

Director Kang Yun-sung delves into the Korean Chinese rivalry focusing on the narrow streets and back alleys of the seedier parts of town. Small cramped spaces, street vendor stalls, multi-level low rooftops and railings fill the frame making the perfect setting for tight quartered had to hand combat. The story has three threads but all will be familiar to the viewer who will come to these subjects with a personal frame of reference.

The Outlaws is a successful crime drama. Lead actor Don Lee commands the screen with fellow policemen and gangsters reacting to his major presence and high likability factors. Based on a true story the narrative recounts a critical time in Chinese Korean relations that needed a tough approach which is clearly displayed here.

***1/2 Out of 4.

The Outlaws | Kang Yu-sung |South Korea | 121 Minutes.

Tags: Seoul,  Garibong District, Crime, Debt Collector, Axe, Gangs, Interrogation, Bats, Birthday Party, Stab Proof Vest.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Mega Time Squad

John (Anton Tenant) is the errand boy for local heavy Shelton  (Jonny Brugh) he gets yelled at belittled and threatened on a regular basis. John has ideas of lofty goals hatching a plan to steal from  the Chinese gangsters new to town. Shelton doesn't like them his best friend Gaz (Arlo Gibson) will help so what could go wrong? Plus he's sweet on Shelton's sister Kelly (Heddy Gaskell-Khan) who likes him right back challenging him to grow a set.  The pair roll up on the drop location, grab the cash, make their getaway along with an ancient Chinese bracelet John picks up making their way to a drop off location.

Things go awry after the pals make their escape. John happens into an abandoned camper where he receives advise from himself. Ignoring it at first he realizes soon after that the tip was valuable using the bracelet to escape capture learning that it has the power to move him a few moments back in the past creating a clone.  After a few more moments he has a little team going that form the basis of his new gang. With his squad assembled John battles his old boss and the Chinese for control of the drop money in a series of events that are heavy on the screwball factor.

Director Tim van Dammen violates all the accepted rules of time travel with this film. John interacts with his other selves repletely. They don't get along not trusting each other. His other forms are jealous of his budding relationship with Kelly. The multiple version of John on screen all at once is reminiscent of Michael Keaton in Multiplicity. John, Shelton and their dimwitted crime gang produce a bevy of sophomoric moments including some running ones that still warrant a laugh.

Mega Time Squad is a fun farce from New Zealand an under-represent player in world cinema.
The jokes are often local and sometimes a bit harsh. But in the end its good clean fun that will put a smile on your face as you exit the theatre.

*** Out of 4.

Mega Time Squad | Tim van Dammen | New Zealand | 2018 | 86 Minutes.

Tags: Time Travel, Armed Robbery, Double Cross, Chinese Mythology, Demon, Suicide Vest, Paeroa, Michelangelo, Donatello.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Cam

Alice aka. Lola (Madeline Brewer) is a cam girl. She works out of her home baring herself to her followers in her online room. She's partially nude, never fully explicit more selling allurement then the actual act. She has a regular group of followers that log into her room for her live shows. They give her tributes in the form of coins. As she accumulates more and larger tributes she heads up the popularity chart hovering near the top 50 in her goal to reach Baby Doll who is at 1. As her rank rises Lola does more daring acts until one day she wakes up to find herself locked out of her account. She's been replicated online, her room still going her follows still contributing as she watches her herself from the sidelines doing live shows with the rewards no longer going into her account.

Screenwriter Izza Mizzei, herself a former Cam girl pens a tale that is light on its feet while being heavy with dread of a person who's online presence has taken a life of it's own and beginning to close in on the originators' personal life. Camming can be lucrative, however the platform takes a good chunk of your earning and the job is full of pitfalls explaining your new found wealth, boundary breaching fans, friends, family and friends finding out, plus the real threat of identity theft played out to the extreme here. Director Daniel Goldhaber keeps the story moving highlighting online rivalries and the minimal effort required to locate private information online.

Madeline Brewer commits totally to the role of Lola. She lays herself bare to the camera, dives into the physicality of extreme stunts in her room. Brewer builds the suspense to a fever pitch as she is first horrified then eager to perform the darkest fantasies of her fans as the tributes double and triple for her to perform an act.  Pat Darrah is notable as Lola super fan| Tinkerboy. He's a tall sweaty out of work I.T. guy always in her chat room for live shows, looking to get into private chats a believable representation of an obsessive chat room member likely based on someone the screenwriter knows from the past. Look for Melora Walters as Madeline's hair salon owing mom Lynne. She's happy that her daughter has her own house, is purchasing upscale furniture and is thriving at her web based business.

Cam is a suspenseful thriller for the digital age. We've all experienced being locked out of an online account, disappointment with 24-hour technical support and the annoying can I help you with anything else after you concern has not been addressed. This is the type of boundary pushing subject matter Hitchcock would be exploring if directing today. Well written acted and shot seemingly on a micro-budget its a film I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Cam | Daniel Goldhaber | U.S.A. | 2018 | 94 Minutes.

Tags: Chat Room, Live Show, Whale, Webcam, Private Chat, Access Code, Locked Out, Suicide Show, Date Night.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Fantasia '18 Film Review - Lifechanger

Drew (Voiced by Bill Oberst Jr.) has a condition. He rots appearing first on his hands then neck. The decomposing condition forces him to find a new host an act he calls taking. Drew morphs into that new person leaving their body an embalmed shell. Our protagonists first step after a taking is to dispose of that shell. A routine he has down pat after years of repetition involving a hammer, garbage bags, gasoline and a saw. At the outset of the piece, the cycle time has hastened. The rot is now starting after 6 hours of taking a new form where in the past Drew could maintain a persona for years.

The one bright light in his existence is Julia (Lora Burke). She's a fixture in the bar that he frequents along with the puppy Max that greets him every time he approaches. Drew feels that he has a connection to Julia like only one other time that he has experienced before. The benefit and curse of his condition is that he absorbs the voice, shape, look and memory of the people taken. Meaning he has all of their skills, fears hopes and dreams up in his head.

Writer-Director Justin McConnell brings a fresh take to the body snatcher, shapeshifter, replacement narrative. Here outside forces are in control often putting the protagonist under pressure of a quick jump to a new host as the rotting of the current spreads. As forced to do in the Emily (Elista Bako) portion doing the normal fix of ordering in, more for the delivery guy than the food. McConnell alongside cinematographer Sasha Moric feature differing angles and natural light wherever possible to track their characters as they move through the frame.

Lora Burke is the constant in another strong performance coming off her role as the titular character in Poor Agnes. She has suffered tragedy in the past frequents a local bar to get her creative writing juices flowing playing the foil to Drew's different incarnations. Sam White is effective as Dr. Richardson a family man occupying a segment that delivers a memorable line commenting on his proficiency at his profession. Rachel VanDuzer features in one of the longer segments. She is Dr. Richardson's employee having  to deal with a hook up that moves to fast, a nosy neighbour plus a jealous and controlling boyfriend.

Well acted, briskly paced and tactfully shot Lifechanger features a solid linear progression despite multiple central character changes. The ensemble cast succeed in convincing the viewer that they are Drew helped by the repeated encounters with Julia. The film is as much Sci-Fi as horror both elements being vital to the plot of a film that I can strongly recommend.

***1/2  Out of 4.

Lifechanger | Justin McConnell | Canada | 2018 | 84 Minutes.

Tags: Rotting, Corpse, Wound, Farm, Hammer, Saw, Shovel, Duct Tape, Garbage Bags, Gasoline, Writer, Counsellor, Dentist, Detective, Cocaine, Antibiotics, Painkillers, Whisky, Gin.

Fantasia '18 Film Review - The Fortress

The history of outside forces trying to influence their will on Korea is long and winding. Today both West and East jostle to impose their influence. The 1950's saw the Korean War that split the country in two while in the 1600's the focus of this film the Japan were followed by China into the country to make their claim. In 1636 the Korean court had looked to the Chinese Ming dynasty for support. However, the Quing were on the rise sending an army equipped with modern warfare tools including cannons into the country to assert their power over the Royal court. King Injo (Park Hae-il) and his ministers are held up in isolated Namhan Fortress in the dead of a particularly harsh winter cut off from their larger army with the local villagers caught in the crossfire.

Interior Minister Choi Myung-gil (Lee Byung-Hun) leads one camp seeking peace and survival amongst the kings advisors while Minister of Rights Kim Sang-heon (Kim Yoon-seok) is the hawk wanting to fight never bowing down to the invading barbarians. The inner struggle between the two camps plus the Prime Minster somewhere in the middle battling for the King's favour at other is one of the fascinating elements of the piece. The other being the plight of the ordinary soldiers and conscripted townspeople lead by the local blacksmith Seo Nal-soi (Go Soo) who struggle to avoid frostbite and starvation as they guard the outside walls of the fortress with inadequate clothing and weaponry. 

Hwang Dong-hyuk presents a story of historical significance that was very well received at home. A close-up view of the inner workings of a court, backstabbing amongst officials is a tried and true occurrence from Ancient Greece all the way up to today's government officials. Where the story shines and could have used some more expansion is in the battle scenes. The skilled outnumbered Korean sword and marksmen battle Chinese cavalry and cannons leading towards and inventible result. 

Top-billed Lee Byung-Hun and  Kim Yoon-seok are unwavering in their positions. With the fortress surrounded, the Emperor outside their gates and their troops starving they each dig in to their positions. Kim's Minister of Rights is the better fleshed out character as he opens the piece killing an old man that lead the court across the frozen lake to the fortress when he refused to not do so the same for the approaching Chinese. The upshot of his actions left the old man's granddaughter with no surviving relatives forcing Kim to take care of her when she wanders makes up to the Fortress in search of her missing grandfather. 

The Fortress is a historical political piece that will likely have limited appeal. Director Hwang Dong-hyuk takes advantage of the time period of the events to display a winter swept harsh environment on screen. The film has a long runtime that could have benefited from a culling of the preamble before the first battle. However, those with an interest in the behind door maneuvering of high stakes politics in any era find it worth the watch. 

*** Out of 4. 

The Fortress | Hwang Dong-hyuk | South Korea | 2017 | 140 Minutes. 

Tags: Korea, 17th Century, Joseon Dynasty, Manchu Quing, Blacksmith, Courier, Siege, Fortress, Royal Letters,  Pigs Fat, Suicide, Prostration.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Film Review - Sorry To Bother You

Cassius "Cash" Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is fumbling aimlessly through life. He lives in his Uncle's Sergio (Terry Crews) garage. Spends time with his performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) and drives a car on its last legs deemed The Bucket in an alternate version of modern-day Oakland. With absolutely nothing going Cash takes a job at a telemarketing firm Regal View soon discovering if he puts on his white voice (Dubbed by David Cross) the potential customer on the other end of the line will feel more at easy allowing Cash to vault to record sales. His success gets him access to the golden elevator promoted to Power Caller where he can make real money selling military weapons and labor from a company called WorryFree owned by Steve Lift (Armie Hamner). A controversial company that offers a job, housing and food in exchange for signing a lifetime contact. Activist see the companies actions as slavery form a group called left eye of which Detroit is a proud member sabotaging the company at every opportunity. Cash's success catches the eye of Steve List gaining an invite to an exclusive party where Lift has a lucrative hard to resist offer for the new golden boy.

Writer-director Boots Riley goes up to the line with this film then obliterates it. The narrative is a strong comment on current American society giving a distinct picture of where the country will end up if the current path is not altered. Worry Free is a shot at corporate culture from Walmart to Apple that currently has factories housing employes ringed with suicide nets. Reality television is squered though I Got The S*it Kicked Out of Me the most popular show on television. The scrip features several running gags that add to the mayhem including Cassius' head bandage for a minor injury that seemingly bleeds for weeks, Detroit's wonderful message filled tops and earrings. Plus a plot device to drop Cash's work station into space of the target he is calling putting him virtually face to face with his mark.

Lakeith Stanfield steps onto rarified ground as Cassius"Cash"Green. He is a modern-day everyman struggling to get by to earn enough money to put gas in the tank of a broken down wreck. He moves slowly with a slight slouch but is easy going with a telephone at his ear with a deal to close Tessa Thompson continues her streak of delightful performances as Detroit. She is fierce, opinionated and dedicated to her art and beliefs. Detroit forces Cash to make a choice between her and dubious financial glory. Look for Steven Yeun in a supporting role as Squeeze a radical union activist at Regal View. He moves from company to company organizing workers using wildcat strikes as a preferred tool.

Sorry To Bother You is the right movie for our current times. The real world gap between rich and poor plays out right in front of the viewer. Our hero wants to make a difference gains the golden ticket then is faced with real choices. Boots Riley's razor sardonic wit lights up the screen in a film that I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Sorry To Bother You | Boots Riley |  U.S.A. | 2018 | 105 Minutes.

Tags : Telemarketing, Oakland, Sales, Strike, Picket line, Alter Ego, Head Wound, Rapping.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

levelFILM Review - Mary Shelley

A young girl sitting beside her mother's grave is a fitting spot to introduce the audience to the author of Frankenstein Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning). The daughter of two romantic era minds leaning towards the macabre. Thinking of curdling blood, ghosts and tearing flesh when she scribbles stories in her notebook. Her passions conflict with the sensibilities of her order driven step-mother. Leading her kind father to send his sixteen-year-old daughter to Scotland for a change of scenery. There, she meets her soon to be chum Isabel Baxter (Maise Williams) followed by her partner in joy, sorrow, creativity and debauchery Percy Shelly (Douglas Booth). Upon her return to London, she runs off with Percy and her half-sister Claire (Bel Powley) then 18 when inspired by a challenge while visiting with Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) in Lake Geneva to write Frankenstein during which a gentle Dr. Polidori (Ben Hardy) also penned the Vampire.

Director Haiffa al-Mansour plays against type in helming the film. Mansour's prior feature Wadjda is set in Saudi Arabia featuring a pre-teen who also bucks the social norms of the day in her setting. The story has it's uneven moments but does shine when portraying the transient lifestyle of the romantic era scribers. On the other side of the ledger are the petulant child attitudes of Percy and Byron as they booze insult and torment Mary, Claire and the Doctor. Ironically the mocking pair end up with credit for the novices Mary and the Doctor's creations.

Elle Fanning has good moments as Mary especially when battling against her step-mother, father, Percy and then publishers when attempting to get Frankenstein published. Bel Powely is effective as Claire Clairmont. Taking to bed when Mary traveled to Scotland. Tagging along when Mary runs off with Percy. Claire embodies the romantic era woman, displaying her charms to both Lord Byron and Percy perfectly happy to be a layabout wherever the troop shall land. Stephen Dillane is steadying in the role of Mary's dad William Godwin. A respected philosopher who will not let anyone speak badly of Mary's ultra-feminist mom. He is firm when needed but encouraging to Mary's growth and development.

Mary Shelly takes a different approach to tell the tale of the creation of Frankenstein. The attention is focused directly on the writer and her personal experiences as opposed to the excess and horror of that time in Geneva as portrayed in Ken Russell's Gothic. A bit more of the harder edge could have helped to show the inspiration for the tale as opposed to rooting it in the repeated disappointments she suffered at the hands of Percy. The film features several good elements of the time but lacks that electric spark to jolt the piece to life.

**1/2 Out of 4.

Marry Shelley | Haiffa al-Mansour | UK/ Luxembourg/USA | 2018 | 120 Minutes.

Tags: Frankenstein, Author, Poet, Romantic Era, Gothic, Scotland, Switzerland, London, Wine, Phantasmagoria, Galvanising, Reanimation, Science Fiction, The Nightmare.