Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 9, No. 3, 2010
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Nancy Snipper
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert




So far, A & O film critic Sylvain Richard has had time to see the following films. Here are his ratings, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


Sylvain RichardAmong Sylvain Richard's best ever genre films = (The Devils;UK 1971 by Ken Russell, The Eye; Thai 2002 by Oxide & Dany Pang, Blood River; England 2008 by Adam Mason, Immortel; France 2004 by Enki Bilal, Natural City; Korea 2003 by Byung - Chun Min, Behind The Mask; USA 2006 by Scott Glosserman, Good Cop Bad Cop; Canada 2006 by Eric Canuel , Wild Blue Yonder; Germany 2006 by Werner Herzog, The Ferryman; New Zealand 2007 by Chris Graham, L:Change the World; Japan 2008 by Hideo Nakata).


3.0 -- MESRINE: L'ENNEMI PUBLIC N° 1 (MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1), Jean-François Richet
(Part two of a two part biography of Jacques Mesrine, 1936–1979, legendary French criminal). This covers Mesrine’s (portrayed with realistic charisma by Vincent Cassel) life from his return to France in 1973 (when he was quickly declared public enemy number one) until his death on Nov. 2nd 1979 when he was shot down by the police led by Commissioner Broussard (Olivier Gourmet). Part two deals with Mesrine’s nurturing of the legend and myth behind the gangster and his desire for media attention. Overall this two-part epic thriller is a remarkable portrayal of the last of the old-school outlaws.

(Part one of a two part biography of Jacques Mesrine, 1936–1979, legendary French criminal). This covers Mesrine’s (portrayed with gripping intensity by Vincent Cassel) from his service in Algeria (1959) to his stint in a Québec penitentiary in 1969. In Algeria he was ordered to perpetuate all manner of viciousness. In France he became acquainted with Guido (Gerard Depardieu) who teaches him respect. When Mesrine runs afoul of certain underworld heavies, he flees to Québec with his companion Jeanne (Cécile de France) where he becomes involved with the FLQ through Jean-Paul Mercier (Roy Dupuis). After a daring escape from a Québec penitentiary he returns to France.

1.7 -- WOUND, David Blyth
This tale of incest, revenge, bondage and mental illness goes nowhere and is just a series of jumbled images.

2.5 -- DREAM HOME, Pang Ho-Cheung
How far would you go to get your dream home. Chaing Lai-sheung (played with a determined sense of eeriness by Josie Ho) has had a dream of owning a home with a view of the sea. This slasher film includes a satirical poke on the mortgage crisis.

3.8 -- INTO ETERNITY, Michael Madsen
A very important, fascinating and informative documentary that deals with finding a permanent solution to safely disposing of nuclear waste. One solution presented is the Onkalo Project in Finland whereby the waste is buried deep underground until the cavern is full, after which it will be sealed. The issue that arise from this is how we warn our descendants 100,000 years from now about the dangers of releasing its contents. Deals with a contemporary issue with a science-fiction approach.

3.7 -- A LITTLE POND, Lee Saang-woo
A reconstruction of a tragic incident that took place early in the Korean War; an incident that could have been avoided and is unfortunately still denied. The residents of the quiet small village of Nogunri are going about their day-to-day activities seemingly untouched by the war; they fear the communists might arrive but are confident that the Americans will protect and rescue them. In late July of 1950, the Americans arrive and order the villagers to evacuate. The villagers begin heading south, but are intercepted by the Americans. Due to the confusion in the early stages of the war and the fear that North Koreans soldiers are passing themselves off as civilians, the order is given that no refugees are allowed to pass. Thus the massacre of innocent civilians -- men, women and children. This film will shed a different light on American involvement in the Korean War.

2.8 -- THE PERFECT HOST, Nick Tomnay
A deliciously tasty, dark comedy that progressively gets darker with its totally unexpected twists. John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) is bleeding profusely and is seeking a cover. He has just robbed a bank and is trying to evade the law. Entering a posh neighbourhood, he comes to the residence of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce in a perfect performance). John alleges that he is a friend of a friend. Warwick ‘naively’ takes the bait and lets John enter and even invites him to stay for a dinner party that he is hosting that evening. Now get ready for a fun ride into a dark and absurd world that distorts all conventions of a home-invasion thriller.

2.1 -- SUMMER WARS, Mamoru Hosoda
Satirical science fiction animation focusing on a breakdown of a worldwide network called Oz. Kenji, a college nerd, is invited by Natsuki, the most popular girl in school, to go with her to her family estate in Ueda. She declares to him that it is to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday, but when she gets there she announces to the whole extended family, of longstanding political and economic clout, that they are a couple. The film just had too many things going on at the same time resulting in considerable confusion and lack of focus. The animation was colourful and the characters were quirky and charming.

2.5 -- RINCO’S RESTAURANT, Mai Tominaga
Rinco’s lifelong dream has been to open her own restaurant using the recipes that were passed down to her from her grandmother. It's about to happen until her boyfriend leaves without notice. Due to the resulting sorrow, she loses her voice and needs to return to live with her bitter mother who prefers the pet pig to her own daughter. Helped by a neighbourhood friend, she finally opens a small restaurant nearby -- so small in fact that she can only serve one customer at a time. Doomed to fail one may say, but for one important (magical) element -- her dishes allow the customer to have his/her wishes come true. A beautifully imaged film that is sure to strike a few emotional chords.

2.9 -- VAMPIRES, Vincent Lanoo
Mockumentary following an aristocratic Belgian family of Vampires. A film crew follows them as they go about their day to day routine. The family is composed of a Lugosi-esque father, a demented mother, a rebellious son and a daughter who pine to become human. Consequent to an indiscretion by the son, the family is banished to Montreal, Québec. This is an excellent exercise in providing a delightful and humouristic insight into the social life of a vampire and the cultural differences that exist even among different vampire societies.

2.6 -- THE SHRINE, Jon Knautz
Carmen is a journalist who craves for something more exciting than just local news and events. Without her editor-in-chief’s permission, she decides to investigate the disappearance of a backpacker in a remote village in Poland. Along with her assistant Sarah and her boyfriend/photographer Marcus, she travels to the village of Alwaina. What they discover will change their lives forever. Their presence unleashes a very old and terrifying secret in the midst of a mysterious fog that hangs frozen in the forest near the village. This is a far cry from Jon Knautz’s previous film “Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer.” It is darker and freakier and establishes the director as a major player in Canadian genre cinema.

3.2 -- KING OF THORN, Kazuyoshi Katayama
An apocalyptic survival animation involving a mysterious virus, called Medusa, that suddenly petrifies its victims: a doomsday cult and a powerful biochemical corporation. One hundred and sixty individuals are selected to be sent to a cryogenic facility and put to sleep for 100 years. The location is an ancient castle in Scotland. When they awake (not knowing how long they have been asleep) it is to a nightmare. Many perish, leaving a few to try and escape the environs of the castle. This animation is multilayered, dense, containing many twists and turns that will make this an instant classic amongst fans of the genre.

2.7 -- SUCK, Rob Stefaniuk
The Winners are a rock band that truly ‘suck.’ No one comes to their gigs, no hits on their web site etc. That is until the bass player gets turned into a vampire and the group starts to buzz. But is it a good thing, since the female bassist has developed somewhat of an appetite. In this film, vampirism is an allegory for addiction. Malcolm McDowell as the Vampire Hunter and David Foley as the band’s manager stand out in their performances. An outstanding cast overall that includes significant roles from the likes of Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Alex Lifeson (of Rush) and many more resulting in a very funny yet dark and entertaining film.

2.2 -- SOPHIE’S REVENGE, Eva Jin
A goofy comedy that deals with the two sides of love -- the beauty VS the darker pain of heartbreak. Sophie (a successful comic artist) is preparing to marry Jeff (a prosperous surgeon). Joanna (a venomous actress) steals Jeff away from Sophie. Devastated, Sophie develops a plan not only to get Jeff back but to also get revenge on Joanna. The story unfolds through the comic imagery of her latest work. The template followed is the classic genre formula.

3.3 -- CENTURION, Neil Marshall
A medieval war epic based on the myth of the Ninth Roman Legion of the second century when Rome was conquering Britain. During a campaign, the legion is ambushed by the Picts. The general is captured and his fighters are devastated. Led by Quintas Dias (Michael Fassbinder), they raid the Pict’s camp and rescue the general. During the battle, they kill the leader’s son. The Picts vow vengeance and the warriors relentlessly pursue the Romans. Against the spectacular backdrop of the Scottish Highlands is dark, atmospheric and violent mystical tale with an element of horror. The Legion had disappeared into the mists of Scotland without a trace. The lines between good and evil are blurred.

2.8 -- UNDER THE SCARES, Steve Villeneuve
An independent locally made documentary that explores the backgrounds and ins and outs behind the makings of indie genre films. Shot between 2006 and 2009 in many locations, film includes clips from such films and interviews with many involved. Among them are Lloyd Kaufman, Maurice Deveraux and Hershel Gordon Lewis. Plenty of knowledge packed into 80 min. A pleasure to see a film that has many faces that one recognizes.

2.3 -- A GUN TO THE HEAD, Blaine Thurier
A witty comedy showing how peer pressure can really ruin one’s evening. Trevor is trying to live a normal life with his wife. During a dinner party with her boss and wife, Trevor receives a call from Darren, his deadbeat cousin and former partner in crime. Darren convinces Trevor to join him for a beer. Darren then pressures Trevor to accompany him to complete some dealing. What ensues is a comedy of errors as the situation goes from bad to worse. The dialogue was a bit forced and somewhat predictable.

2.4 -- MACHOTAILDROP, Corey Adams, Alex Craig
Skateboarding fantasy about Machotaildrop headed by the Baron -- an eccentric man with sinister plans involving his star skateboarders. This film has a somewhat allegorical message regarding the conflict between commercial skateboarding and that which is street-based.

2.6 -- WHAT IS NOT ROMANCE, Hong Eu-ji
A minimalist , simply drawn animation about Mr. and Mrs. Hwang spending their 27th anniversary at home on a rainy evening, reminiscing on their marriage in the company of their four children. An irresistible and touching picture of a domestic life that was not so romantic.

2.4 -- [REC] 2, Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plazawak
Picks up where the first left off. We are back in the same building but this time a S.W.A.T. team has been sent in. Its mission is to retrieve a blood sample of the girl who was the first infected. Of course all is being documented on film. The shock value that marked the first instalment (as with Blair Witch) is not apparent in the second instalment. The premise veers away from the virus that causes zombieism to more of a possession concept that is passed on through a virus.

2.4 -- DOGHOUSE, Jake West
Six testosterone filled and never serious buddies plan a alcohol filled weekend for a recently divorced pal to cheer him up. They travel to a remote village where all of the women have developed ‘voracious’ appetites. An over-the-top scream of a film where “Happy Tree Friends” meet “Shaun of the Dead,” before passing through a host of other films that have “dead” in the title or that involve ‘male only’ getaways. Film gives a new dimension to the battle between the sexes.

2.8 -- WOOCHI, Choi Dong-hoon
A fantasy that involves magic and goblins that begins during the Chosun Dynasty and carries forth to modern times -- 500 years later. A well acted film that contains the right mix of action and humour and plenty of fantastical special effects that makes for quality entertainment.

2.3 -- BLADES OF BLOOD, Lee Jun-ik
A Sageuk (Korean historical drama) set in 1592, when Japan’s invasion of Korea was taking place. It is a common tale of political ambitions, revenge and mending broken hearts. Sweeping sword fights, lush landscapes, well-timed humour and exquisite costumes are off-set by poor subtitles and shoddy editing.

2.6 -- SMALL GAUGE TRAUMA 2010, Various Directors
Fantasia’s annual collection of 11 edgy and outlandish international shorts did not quite measure up to previous years in terms of shock value. The main focus this year was humour with Alberto González Vázquez’s “El fin del mondo” (a speech in Spanish by Ronald Reagan) and Joseph Nanni’s “Necronomicon” (a spiel for a book that is quite the opposite of the Bible). Overall two of the 11 stood out. The first was “Ninjas” by Brazilian director Dennison Ramalho, about a young police officer coming to grips with shooting an innocent boy. Secondly “Alice Jacobs is Dead” by Alex Horwitz and starring John Lazar and Adrienne Barbeau, about a research scientist keeping his (un)dead wife around in the hopes of developing a cure for the Zombie virus.

2.2 -- LOVE IN A PUFF, Pang Ho-Cheung
During a smoking break, Cherie and Jimmy meet and in the course of the next seven days develop a romantic relationship. Witty banter, profanity and useless chit chat typical of those in their 20s and 30s (and lots of smoking) fill up the time. Interview segments interrupt the flow of the narrative.

3.0 -- A SERBIAN FILM, Srdjian Spasojevic
This is an extremely disturbing, shocking and graphic film. It is an expression of Srdjian’s vision of post-Milosevic Serbia. Milos, a retired porno star, accepts an invitation from ex-partner and friend Layla. He is to be the lead in an ‘art porn’ film. The director, who seems intelligent, charming and convincing, tells Milos that his instincts are more important than the script. Milos, happily married and proud father of a son, whose savings from his previous films running low, signs the contract which is lucrative enough for all of his financial needs. On the first day of shooting things seem to be a little weird going on weirder. When he decides to pull out, it's already too late and he descends into an unspeakable level of depravity never witnessed before in the history of cinema. Strictly adult viewing.

2.4 -- CASTAWAY ON THE MOON, Lee Hae-jun
Kim, whose life is in shambles, jumps off one of the bridges that crosses the Han River. He awakens to himself on Bam Island, unused and a repository for all the garbage thrown into the river. Though still able to see Seoul’s skyline, Kim must now learn to survive without the commodities of modern life. A young woman, who has locked herself in her bedroom (due to intense social anxiety -- a ‘Hikikomori’) is observing him. Thinking he is a lonely alien, she decides to risk venturing out of her room and throws a message in a bottle to communicate with him. This is one of main sources of humour in this urban vision of a modern Robinson Crusoe. Film has some memorable scenes but it is somewhat repetitious.

Vic (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compson) with cold, brutal precision plan to kidnap Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), the daughter of a billionaire. Every detail has been considered so nothing can go wrong -- right? As the story line advances, tensions rise and flaws in the master plan begin to appear. Excellent performances and chemistry between the three raise this kidnap thriller above others in the genre. Enough twists keep the suspense active until the final scene.

2.4 -- THE EXECUTIONER, Choi Jin-ho
A prison-death-sentence drama that focuses not on those condemned but the officers assigned to carry out the executions. A potentially powerful concept weakened by editing and less than credible performances.

2.7 -- AIR DOLL, Hirokazu Kore-eda
A cute and sentimental feature film with a touch of darkness about an air doll and its owner named Nozemi, played with off-beat beauty and ingenious wonderment by Bae Du-na. One day when the owner leaves for work, Nozemi comes to life. Stepping out into the real world, she desires to explore and learn about life. She gets a job in a video store where the two who work there are willing to answer even her most basic questions. Dramatically impacting, open-hearted film that looks poetically at the harsh realities of life through the child-like eyes of an air doll.

2.4 -- BLACK LIGHTNING, Alexandr Voytinsky
An action fantasy about a flying car. Dima is an average Moscow student. For his birthday, his tram driving and traditional-thinking father gives him a beat up black Volga. When Dima discovers that it can fly, he initially wants to junk it, but when his father is murdered, he becomes a reluctant superhero going by the name of ‘Black Lightning.’ Film leans heavily on special effects which are at times blatantly obvious. The dialogue and performances are somewhat over-the-top.

2.4 -- THE NEIGHBOR ZOMBIE, Oh Young-doo, Ryu Hoon, Jan Yoon-hung, Hong Yoon-geun
The premise of this anthology is a cure for AIDS has been developed. Since it was so groundbreaking, no testing was done and it was immediately put on the market. A short while later, a mutated virus breaks out and turns many into flesh eating Zombies. The six narratives cover different aspects of the plague. This is South Korea’s first entry into the genre. Despite being a blatantly low-budget affair, it qualifies as a diversionary entertaining Zombie flick.

3.4 -- ACCIDENT, Soi Cheang Pou-Soi
A Johhnie To produced thriller about a group of four assassins with a novel approach. They evade detection and capture by conceiving and staging their executions to look like accidents. When a job goes wrong, the question arises ‘Who is out to get them?’ A complex and multi-layered thriller that keeps audience glued to the screen. With riveting performances and perfect direction, the result rises above a mere crime thriller to a psychological study of a descent into an obsessive paranoia.

Animated whose central figure is Haruka, a teenage girl whose mother passed away years ago and whose father is a workaholic. She fondly remembers and longs to find a mirror that her mother gave her. While giving an offering at a shrine deep in the forest she spots a fox-like creature scurrying with certain items. She follows it to a hidden nook which turns out to be a gateway to his home -- Oblivion Island. All that has been lost through neglect is there. And so begins an adventure to retrieve her lost mirror and to save both the Island and humanity from the Baron who has an evil plan. Film features gorgeous imagery and memorable characters. Japan’s Production I.G., the studio behind the success, is setting out to challenge Pixar in the realm of family-oriented animation. The imagery is both colourful and exquisitely detailed. We are literally drawn into the world of Oblivion Island and its inhabitants.

2.5 -- VAN VON HUNTER, Stu Levy, Steven Calcote
Mockumentary on the evil vanquishing hero (who put the ‘van’ in vanquishing) from the land of Dikay, Van Von Hunter. After vanquishing all evil from Dikay, Hunter finds himself without employment and decides to go to Hollywood. Tokyopop has decided to do a screen version of their manga on Van Von Hunter. So he is cast, of course, in the leading role. The project is a fiasco so our hero travels to Japan to be a reporter. Surprisingly, he rises to stardom but subsequently, mysteriously disappears. Done in a similar style to “Borat” and “Bruno” yet not as vulgar, this film has many funny moments and a credible performance by Yuri Lowenthal as Van Von Hunter. Many scenes are improvised as our hero appears in costume in Hollywood and Tokyo.

3.6 -- THE LAND BEFORE TIME, Don Bluth
A special evening to give a life-time achievement award to Don Bluth and Gary Goldman ("American Tale" and "The secret of Nimh") was highlighted by this classic 1988 animation about a group of orphaned dinosaurs trekking to the legendary ‘Great Valley.’ When they arrive they will be in complete safety and have plenty to eat. Yet along the way they must face many dangers and tremendous challenges. In the style of traditional animation where every image is hand drawn, we mourn the bygone era when animation was a deep expression of the complex range of human emotions.

2.4 -- BRASS KNUCKLE BOYS, Kankuro Kudo
A rock-against-all-odds ensemble comedy (This is "Spinal Tap" and "Detroit Metal City") is about a has-been Punk Band who performed their last concert in 1983. Twenty five years later talent scout Kanna Kurita finds the concert recorded on YouTube. She brings it to the attention of her boss, Tokita, who reveals to her his past history with Punk. To her surprise, he gives her the task of reuniting the band (all of whom are middle-aged) and putting them on a national tour after signing the band to a one record deal. With hilarious gags, this is an average film that is sure to please but will soon be forgotten.

1.8 -- I HEART DOOMSDAY, Patrick Downing
From an explosion, the mad scientist Max Von Max is seriously disfigured and his beautiful assistant Tatiana has been in a coma for three years. When she awakes, she has lost all of her memory and now works in a grocery store and goes by the name of Jane. Obsessed to win back her love, Max creates a remote-controlled cyborg. Juvenile, immature plot and performances to match are what marks this film.

2.4 -- THE NAKED KITCHEN, Hong Ji-young
The story of a love triangle that develops between a young man, his wife and his cooking teacher. He has quit his job and wants to become a chef and owner of his own restaurant. His cooking teacher is the man with whom she had just had a torrid sexual encounter that afternoon. Now she is faced with a dilemma: her childhood sweetheart and husband or the handsome stranger who is living with them. She feels she can love both. The resulting complications give rise to a very funny film with the usual plot lines.

2.7 -- PHASMA EX MACHINA, Matt Osterman
An unusual blend of the paranormal with science-fiction. Cody is a young man who in the wake of the death of his parents is now faced with the responsibility of taking care of his younger brother. After reading up on the paranormal, Cody becomes obsessed with building a machine that can bring back his parents, but the results are not what he expects. A film that effectively melds the scientific with the paranormal.

2.4 -- ALIEN VS NINJA, Seiji Chiba, Yuji Shimomura
Aliens (which are remarkably similar to those of Ridley Scott) attack a group of Ninjas in this delightful crowd-pleasing action comedy. The audience, depending on its orientation, will cheer for one side or the other.

2.3 -- RUBBER, Quentin Dupieux
We follow the path of a vengeful serial killer, who also happens to be in love, who coldly, telepathically blows his victims heads off. Who or what is this vicious psycho-killer? Well it’s a used car tire named Robert; an original concept that quickly loses interest.

2.8 -- PHOBIA 2, 5 Thai Directors
Five of Thailand’s top genre film directors contribute their own distinct vision of horror in this anthology sequel to 2008’s “4BIA.” Four of the tales presented are guaranteed to terrify and the last is a parody. Paween Purvitpanya directs “Novice,” a jungle psychological thriller about a young delinquent sent to a Buddhist monastery. Visute Poolverlak’s “Ward” involves a young man with broken legs being terrorised by a comatose patient in the next bed. “Backpackers,” by Songyos Sugmakanan, follows the fate of two Japanese hitchhikers being picked up by a pair of truck drivers with a somewhat macabre cargo. Parkpoom Wongpoom’s “Salvage” sends a strong message about false advertising. A car saleswoman is terrorised by the ghosts of the accident victims of the cars she is selling. Lastly Banjong Pisankanum’s “In the End” is a fictitious sequel to his “Alone.”

2.4 -- MARWENCOL, Jeff Maimberg
In April of 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked and beaten senseless by five thugs just outside of a bar. After spending 9 days in a coma, Mark had to relearn everything (he was 38) since his memory was totally shattered. To help cope with this and initially to relearn his motor skills, Mark set out (using Barbie dolls and scale-model army toys) to create an elaborate, wishful history of his life. This is a profile of an imaginary world called Marencol.

2.6 -- THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG, Mladen Djordjivec
An original approach to the use of pornography. In this film it is used as a vessel of rage against the political deception of a post Milosevic Serbia. Marko desparately wants to make a feature film but no producer wants to finance his artistic ambitions. Finally a producer of porn agrees to finance him. Out of desperation he agrees and he gathers together a colourful band of outcasts. Unable to come up with viable concepts for his film, Marko takes the show on the road doing a live porno cabaret. This attracts the attention of a wealthy financier who agrees to finance them with one stipulation -- they film consensual victims being snuffed out. The situation begins to unravel.

2.5 -- DOWN TERRACE, Ben Wheatley
A dark, witty and caustic comedy about a crime family trying to maintain control and keep the ‘business’ going. Karl has just been released from jail and so has his father Bill. Karl returns to find that his girlfriend is pregnant, and along with his father, is wondering who in the organization snitched. Hair trigger tempers, paranoia and mutual suspicions flare up and increasing blood pressures leads to an ever-mounting body count.

2.8 -- SECRET REUNION , Jang Hun
What begins as an espionage thriller turns into a buddy movie with the right touch of humour. Lee (Song Kang-Ho) is an agent for the South Korean Government, whose mission is to capture North Korean spies. Song (Gang Dong-Wong) is a North Korean spy who works for a ruthless assassin known as Shadow (Jeong Gook-Hwong). After a disastrous and blood-soaked failure to capture Shadow, Lee is fired from the Agency and Song is branded as a traitor. Six years later they meet again . . . Excellent performances in this somewhat complex, comedic-espionage-buddy thriller.

2.8 -- MAI MAI MIRACLE, Sunan Katabuchi
Animated centering on a nine-year-old girl named Shingo, who has a vivid imagination which she attributes to a perpetual cowlick (mai mai) in her hair. When her grandfather recounts what life was like in the village 1,000 years ago, she imagines an elaborate Land of Suo, including a strong willed yet lonely princess named Nagiko. Meanwhile, Kiiko, an upper-class, kind-hearted yet delicate girl, arrives in the village. Shingo and Kiiko become instant friends and as the days go by the link to Nagiko becomes stronger. Colourful imagery and the innocence of childhood combine to make this a delight for the whole family.

2.9 -- A HOLY PLACE, Djordje Kadijevic
Serbian version of classic gothic horror story “VIY” by Nikolai Gogol. A reluctant theology student is forced to spend three nights locked in a spooky church reciting the Psalms over an (un)dead young woman. Terrified at the prospect of this, he draws a circle of protection around him. Still the supernatural is too strong. Erotically charged and terrifying, this obscure genre gem from 1990 deserves wider recognition.

2.7 -- OUTCAST, Colm McCarthy
Urban legend based on Irish folklore yet anchored in modern times. This first feature involves an over protective mother on the run with her teenage son, a hunter with a tattoo that has ancient powers and a savage creature.

2.0 -- GINTAMA: THE MOVIE, Shinji Takamatsu
Action-fantasy animation set in Medieval Edo with an alternative history. Alien space craft fill the sky and the city has a futuristic look. The usual features of this genre are present: frequent yelling, explosive flashes and an inconsistent plot and editing. I found it be too self-absorbed.

2.6 -- HEARTLESS, Philip Ridley
Jamie Morgan was born with a disfigurement that covers one side of his face -- a heart-shaped birthmark. Taunted and branded a freak all his life, Jamie is a very lonely and sensitive to the cruelty and ugliness that abound in the world. He is approached by a Mephistophelian character named ‘Poppa B` who in return for some grisly favours promises to remove the birthmark. What could have been a powerful message about the human condition turns out to be just an above average tale of Satanic dealings.

2.3 -- TWISTED SEDUCTION, Dominique Adams
David kidnaps Francesca and brings her to an abandoned warehouse. The purpose: according to his scientific analysis they are nearly perfectly compatible. Despite being a bit far-fetched on top of which the emotional reactions are not credible, the director and the two principles show strong potential.

2.4 -- POSSESSED, Lee Young-soo
A chilling yet routine horror about possession. Much religious overtones as Christian values collide with Asian spiritism.

3.5 -- T.T. SYNDROME, Dejan Zeèeviæ
Made on a shoe-string budget, this Serbian 2002 slasher film contains a level of graphic horror and violence that would make even the most violent equivalent from the West seem tame by comparison. The hard-hitting score by Andrej Acin and the decrepit setting in a Turkish Bath and Public Toilet heavily contribute to the grim and foreboding atmosphere. Opens in 1958, when a woman gives birth and flushes her baby down the toilet. In 1982 a young couple is brutally murdered and dismembered with their body parts also flushed. In 2001 a group of youth looking to score some dope meet at the Bath. Twists and turns in abundance keep the audience glued an in suspense as to what will happen next.

2.5 -- JUMBORG ACE AND GIANT, Chen Hun-Ming
This ‘really bad’ film shows that no matter how much lacking in 'artistic quality’ any film can be noteworthy and become a classic gem in its own way (ex “Plan 9 from Outer Space”). Since its origins as a Japanese TV series, this film has gone through many modifications, dubbings and renaming. Every country that bought the rights for distribution applied its own culture to the mix and much of it really bad. Basically it is an Ultra-man copy of a giant robot designed to defend the Earth against alien invaders and their invented monsters, who are increasingly ridiculous. The version presented at Fantasia is a rare 35mm copy of the film dubbed into French, where the resulting dialogue contained no reference to original script and is utterly ridiculous (one of aliens pleading says ‘Don’t kill me I am a Martian with 12 children’). A noteworthy film, due to the fact that it has survived for its pure enjoyment.

1.8 -- EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES, Yorgos Noussias
Greece’s contribution to the Zombie genre. Athens has been devastated by an epidemic that has transformed its inhabitants into blood-thirsty monsters (is this a vague reference to Greece’s current woes?). A group of blood-soaked survivors defending themselves against infection look to antiquity that suggests evil never really dies and must resurface. Outlandish performances, failed gags and shoddy editing made me wish for the final credits.

3.0 -- GALLANTS, Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng
Martial arts comedy about a once glorious kung-fu school trying to regain its former glory while defending itself against unscrupulous developers. A wonderful mix of fight scenes with the right touch of comedy and human drama combine to provide a touching and heartfelt film. Credible performances by veterans Bruce Leung, Teddy Robin and Chen Kuan Tai.

2.5 -- RAISE THE CASTLE, Yo Kohatsu
The village of Sanage is divided as to how to revive its sagging economy. The Mayor wants to build a factory to generate jobs whereas the top academic wants to bring in tourists by rebuilding a historic castle. Matters take a fantastic twist when three locals: an itinerant, an architect and a bumbling civil servant (nick-named Tofu-Head) fall into a well shaft on the site. When they are rescued their bodies have been taken over by the spirits of ancient Samurai. Their mission is to rebuild the castle in three days out of cardboard. What results is a zany hilarious comedy with a twist of fantasy, spiced with Kabuki theatre.

3.0 -- KURONEKO, Kaneto Shindo
A Japanese gem of a film from 1968. The plot centers on two vengeful spirits, a mother and daughter, who were brutally raped and murdered by a group of marauding Samurai. They have vowed to seduce and suck the blood of every Samurai in Japan. When husband and son, now an honoured Samurai hero, returns this becomes a classic tale of ‘Will love conquer these vengeful spirits?’ Truly a sensory and hallucinogenic cinematic experience that is unfortunately glossed over by today’s average (jaded) film-goer.

2.5 -- THE CLASH, Le Thanh Son
This action thriller is a runaway hit in its country of origin, smashing box office records and revolutionizing its film industry. Little wonder there is plenty of action; it depicts a modern Vietnam that is corrupt and violent. Out of the loop are the simple peasant farmers that sustained Vietnam before the war. "The Clash" stars internationally known Johnny Nguyen and Veronica Ngo in the lead roles. In order to pay off her debt and get her daughter back, Trinh becomes a pawn in a deadly chess game run by the cold blooded gangster known as Black Dragon. Every mission he gives her is supposed to be her last.

2.0 -- MANDRILL, Ernesto Dias Espinozza
Chilean action thriller similar in plot to the slightly superior Dominican Republic film “La Soga.” As a child, hit-man ‘Mandrill’ witnessed the murder of his parents. Now he seeks revenge against the perpetrator, a feared mob leader known as Cyclops. With forced martial arts and fight scenes and a dialogue so bad that the result is hilarious, this is an entertaining diversion for insomniacs.

2.6 -- HIGANJIMA, Kim Tae-gyun
A teen-oriented horror centered on a remote uncharted Japanese island inhabited by an army of vicious and hungry vampires. Akira`s brother and wife have been missing for two years. After a bizarre encounter with Rae, she convinces Akira that his brother is on the island. So Akira and his friends go with Rae to the island to help his brother fight the vampires. Little do they know the bloody hell that awaits them? The screen quickly becomes soaked with blood. The film`s colour was a bit off.

2.8 -- THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE , Jon Tautletaub
Walt Disney Studios’ latest brings to life an ancient struggle between good (Merlin) and evil (Morgana). Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) was one of Merlin’s apprentices. Since the murder of Merlin by Morgana, he has been searching for the one who has inherited Merlin’s powers -- the Prime Merliner. In Dave Stuttler (Jay Baruchel) he sees the potential. But he must hurry in training Dave the ins and outs of sorcery, as Horvath (Balthazar’s archenemy) wants to release Morgana into the modern world. The film is homage to the celebrated animated sequence in the classic Disney film “Fantasia.” A fine blend of fantasy, comedy and romance, with excellent performances throughout, resulting in a well rounded family film.

For 2008 Fantasia Film Festival Ratings, click HERE.

For 2009 Fantasia Film Festival Ratings, click HERE.
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