Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fantastic Fest 2017 - Day 4


Watching this back-to-back with the first WORLD OF TOMORROW had a weird effect on me. When I watched the original in 2015, I remember thinking that it was good, but not as great as I was expecting. It was hyped up by a lot of critics as the best thing ever, so there was no way for the short film to match up to my expectations. But watching it again two years removed, I fell in love with it. Maybe now I'm a little wiser, more experienced, and more in touch with my emotions. Whatever it is, the film's message about the human condition got to me. So watching the sequel immediately following the original short, I was on board. EPISODE TWO, as you can infer from the subtitle, focuses more on people's thoughts and memories. It's funnier than the original, but I also think it overstays its welcome by a tiny bit. I thought it meandered a bit in the middle before getting to its poignant conclusion. It's probably due to watching it right after episode one, though. People who liked the first one will definitely be into the sequel. I'll probably give it another watch in a few years, it may impact me even more then.

BAD GENIUS (grade: 4/5)

What starts out as a typical high school dramedy about a smart girl and her friend quickly takes a sharp turn during the second act into a thriller about... cheating on exams? It sounds ridiculous, but it's also based on true events! Asians are hardcore about their grades, knamean? And when I say thriller, I mean it. The climactic sequence is as tense as anything else I've seen all year.

JAILBREAK (grade: 3/5)

Let's start with the good. The fight scenes are solid. It was my first time seeing bokator, the martial arts style from Cambodia, which seems pretty similar to muay thai with lots of elbows and knee strikes. The fights were reminiscent of ONG BAK and THE RAID, minus all the brutality and gore. The problem is when the fights stop. Everything else was kinda terrible, sometimes in a cute, dorky way and sometimes not. The acting, the writing, and the production level were all sub-par. There's potential here for everyone involved, though. Who knows, maybe this could be their MERANTAU before they wow us in a few years with their THE RAID.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fantastic Fest 2017 - Day 3


CITY OF GOD mixed with PAN'S LABYRINTH. It's not an instant-classic like those films, but this little gem from Mexico is worth seeing for the heartbreaking tale of a young girl joining a group of orphaned boys when her mother goes missing, who may have been kidnapped by the rough gangsters rampaging through her town. There are supernatural elements throughout the story, but the most effective parts are just about the group of kids adjusting to the newcomer and struggling to survive on their own, all while still doing what kids do -- play, argue, laugh, cry, and tell each other bedtime stories. And that ending packs a punch.

BODIED (grade: 4/5)

"I don't know what the fuck just happened, but I love what the fuck just happened." Couldn't have said it better myself. I will watch anything Joseph Kahn makes. I even watch his music videos for Taylor Swift, and I can't stand her. So when I say anything, I mean it. Fortunately, this lived up to the massive hype coming out of TIFF. But it still doesn't have studio distribution. Come on, Hollywood!

SEE YOU UP THERE (grade: 4/5)

A quirky post-WWI drama about a soldier taking care of his war buddy that saved his life, but paid for it by getting disfigured in the process. Clearly influenced by Jeunet. Both heartwarming and tragic.

Fantastic Fest 2017 - Day 2

3 FT BALL AND SOULS (grade: 3/5)

It's an uplifting dramedy about a group of people re-living over and over again through the same time period of them committing suicide together. Naturally it's from Japan. The setup is intriguing, and the characters are interesting for the most part. But I'm not that into the melodramatic acting that a lot of Asian actors (especially Japanese and Korean) exhibit, and there's plenty of that here. The story is predictable if you have seen any movies with a similar premise like GROUNDHOG DAY, and the ending is schmaltzy as fuck, but I dug it.

THE MERCILESS (grade: 4/5)

Crime drama from Korea? That's a no-brainer. Just put me in the seats because I'm sold. Koreans have become the kings of this genre now that Hollywood has stopped making these types of movies. Sad for the fans, but at least you're getting them from somewhere. This is a way more entertaining version of DONNIE BRASCO. And the way the story is told through constant flashbacks and jumps through character perspectives kept the audience on their toes. Each revelation and twist made sense and was consistent for all characters involved. Great acting, dialogue, and editing. Oh, and the slap-fights. Awesome slap-fights. I wanted more slap-fights. GIMME MORE SLAP-FIGHTS, KOREA.

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (grade: 4/5)

Holy shit, Vince Vaughn. I didn't know you had this in you. I mean season 2 of TRUE DETECTIVE showed a glimmer of his viciousness and cold brutality, but this is on another level. I didn't know until now how much I needed to see Vince Vaughn going HAM on gangsters, prisoners, and prison guards. And Don Johnson as a sadistic prison warden? Fucking cherry on top.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fantastic Fest 2017 - Day 1

I'm baaaaaack. It's been too long. (For Austin and Fantastic Fest, not for the blog. I gave up on this a long time ago.) It's been 3 years. It feels great, but also bittersweet because I'm here alone. Wife Cho has her hands full at home taking care our soon-to-be-2-year-old princess/diva/drama-queen, and I didn't invite any friends because I don't really have any these days. But enough with the woe-is-me bullshit. I'm on vacation and enjoying amazing films from all around the world with like-minded people. Things could be worse. Let's run through the reason I'm here, the movies.


Christmas high school musical with zombies, set in Scotland. That's not a random word-salad, it's what this movie is. I have no idea when this will be released stateside, but I need this at Christmastime. It encapsulates everything great about the holidays -- cheery songs, uplifting message, and watching your loved ones get eaten alive by a horde of undead. Seriously though, the songs are great.

THE DEATH OF STALIN (grade: 3/5)

Secret screenings can be hit or miss due to their nature. No one knows what we'll be watching, which prompts all sorts of rumors and talks of this movie or that, and sets unrealistic expectations. There were murmurings of THE SHAPE OF WATER, DEATH WISH, JIGSAW, MUTE, and even the new BLADE RUNNER. So of course it turns out to be none of those. Instead, we get a period comedy about Stalin's death and its aftermath? Not sure how this fits into the whole "genre film" territory that Fantastic Fest is known for. Anyway, the movie itself is fine. It's basically IN THE LOOP set in USSR, which makes sense because it was written and directed by Armando Iannucci. It has funny moments and dialogue, but all the characters are assholes, which is probably the point but I don't need a comedy like this right now when our nation is a joke to the rest of the world because of the orange imbecile at the top.

LET THE CORPSES TAN (grade: 2/5)

Goddammit. Movies like this are maddening because I can see that the directors are clearly talented and skilled on the visual side, but they either don't care about the narrative side or just need to focus and improve on it a whole lot more. Take the cheap shot and call it the Zack Snyder syndrome. There are beautiful shots and cool editing splattered through the movie (sometimes literally), but just what is the point of it all? What's the story about? Who are these characters? Do I need to be on mushrooms to understand?

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