The third and final wave for the 24th and virtual edition of the Fantasia Festival is already up and running, and for this, I’m ready to dive into some serious shit this month with some great looking picks.
Here’s a list of ten, including several of which I’ve already reviewed and saved in drafts to publish at a later time. You can expand the gallery images below by tapping the photos, or simply scroll down and read on, and follow this tag for forthcoming reviews on some of these and other titles ahead. Tickets are on sale as well and you can find out more at the official website.
This one makes zero apologies to you and your moviegoing sensibilities. Ryan Kruger makes his feature directing debut which has already garnered festival favor with actor Gary Green formidably playing a Cape Town junkie and deadbeat father whose conciousness gets possessed by a curious alien entity.
The result is a drug and sex-fueled strobe-like adventure into adultered gonzo sci-fi horror set within the darkest and most vulnerable corners of humanity seen from the uncondemning perspective of an extraterrestial with no one the wiser.
FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS:
Directing duo Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen set out to create something dark, brooding, and for all intents and purposes, VICIOUS. Their latest feat does exactly that, offsetting the story of a desperate man driven mad by the rape of his daughter as he coerces her nurse to help him while he interrogates the only suspect he can knowingly tie to the crime: Her landlord.
Lifechanger actress Lori Burke joins Nick Smyth, Colin Paradine and James Fler in a story about unrelenting penance that seethes with intensity in the first half, and throws itself head-first into explosive, bloodletting chaos for the rest. My review is coming soon for this, so stay tuned.
THE LEGEND OF BARON TO’A:
Kiel McNaughton’s new action comedy blew my senses when the trailer arose earlier this year, and so to see it featured in the third wave was a total relief. Uli Latukefu stars in the film as an entrepreneur forced to fight and fend off gangsters in order to retrieve his late father’s pro-wrestling title belt.
The film is billed as a mix between Hunt For The Wilderpeople and Kung Fu Hustle, but the trailer sells itself. It sold me when it aired earlier this year ahead of its February theatrical release in New Zealand, and I know it’ll sell for the Fantasia crowd too. It should. It really should!
Adapting her own stage play, debut director Kana Yamada embarks on a fiercely-envisioned and performed, contemporary update of previous auteurs’ works, exploring the complex and beleagured lives of sex workers living in Tokyo. The Naked Director actress Sairi Ito takes center stage in the incisive portrayal Kano, a jobless woman who decides to move up in the world as underdog employee of an escort service.
Filled with intense, brooding moments of dark comedy, stoic romance and explosive drama, Life: Untitled is slated to release in Japan later this year, but not before bowing for Fantasia’s Camera Lucida section this year following its recent virtual presentation at Japan Cuts, and the reviews making the rounds have been nothing short of stellar.
It feels like the longest time since any of us heard from Universal Soldier: Regeneration/Day Of Reckoning director John Hyams. He also worked on Enemies Closer with father Peter Hyams directing, and at one point was attached to direct a new installment of Maniac Cop.
That didn’t come to pass, but his newest thriller, Alone, did, casting Jules Wilcox and Marc Menchaca in the story of a woman on her way to her hometown, only to be stalked, trapped, injured, and forced to run for her life by a relentless pursuant. It looks as intense as it feels and it reads of all things good about a Hyams flick that makes this film feel so promising.
Five years since directing The Lion’s Path, filmmaker Stéphan Beaudoin emerges onto my radar as a man after my own heart. With action drama Yankee set to take the virtual stage for Fantasia, he brings stunt professional Devon Slack in her feature acting debut as an American hiding illegally in Drummondville with her Quebecois cousin. With no way to make end’s meet, she takes to the underground fighting circuit wherein she finds the tools she needs to make a living, perpetuating a complex and brutal tale that Fantasia programmer Rupert Bottenberg notes will turn into a “dramatic and violent descent into a ruthless universe.”
A dramatic fight thriller with a psych twist? Starring an actress who can perform her own stunts?? By TRADE???
THE PAPER TIGERS:
It’s taken roughly six years to make happen, and coming up from independent filmmaking, director Bao Tran’s journey has seen its fair share of hurdles. That didn’t stop him in 2015, when he set out to complete The Challenger, a blistering martial arts proof-of-concept that served as the basis for pitching his subversive kung fu comedy feature, The Paper Tigers, a project aimed at showcasing a diverse and talented cast on top of top-notch fight action and choreography, and performance caliber from some of today’s best and brightest action actors.
Screening at Fantasia, the film is headlined by Alain Uy, Ron Yuan and Mykel Shannon Jenkins, as well as Matt Page, best known from his online persona as Master Ken, and Unlucky Stars actor Ken Quitugua. Also among the cast are Roger Yuan, Gui DaSilva, Yoshi Sudarso, Peter Sudarso, Mark Poletti, and sibling YouTube kung fu wunderkinds Andy and Brian Le of Martial Club.
I’ve actually covered a little of Justin McConnell’s work prior to this, although his latest documentary is actually the first film I’ve gotten to see that he’s directed. I’ve been writing for almost eight years, and it’s taken me a few to realize the actual work that comes with what being a blogger or a film reporter does, and that often includes the ever constant consumption of market news and trade news from various websites. McConnell’s new movie takes you on an intricate and tedious journey behind those headlines, exploring the unnerving dealmaking and development processes of movies, and the long path they take to pitch, finance, shoot, complete and sell to distributors against swarms of competitors in today’s saturated market.
If you love movies and don’t get to attend markets and travel but want to know more about this whirlwind business, Clapboard Jungle is the lesson you absolutely need.
CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI:
Its taken close to a decade for Tak Sakaguchi’s new film to find its way to completion, having to weave between toxic film politics and bad faith industry professionals until eventually landing in the prospective hands of director Yuji Shimomura and executive producer Ota Takayuki back in 2018.
Crowdfunded thereafter and filmed with brand new footage to complete the project, the evolution of Crazy Samurai Musashi now hands to moviegoers and action fans a bold experiment in jidaigeki cinema, host to one of the longest “oners” ever shot on film. Kento Yamazaki also stars in the film which is currently slated to screen in Japan this month following its Fantasia premiere.
MY PUNCH-DRUNK BOXER:
Um Tae-goo and Lee Hye-ri take the mantle for director Jung Hyuk-ki’s latest movie about a mentally-challenged underdog boxer and former champion who, with the help of an up-and-comer, decides to reverse his fall from grace and reinvent himself through Pansori-method training.
This is a mix that truly sticks out. It’s a quirky Korean underdog drama about boxing with a romantic twist, and a nod to its cultural roots. I’ve had my eye on this film since September, and fans eyeing the festival this year should be more than excited to catch this.