It is that time of year again. Mid-to-late July means two things if one is a film fan either living or visiting the city of Montréal. The blockbuster season is in full swing, although that can be applied to just about any city in the universe, and the Fantasia film festival is mere days away. Ryan, Justine, Ricky and myself are counting down the hours and counting down our most anticipated films as well. There may be some overlap in our lists, but it feels safe to say that said lists also speak to our individual tastes as film fans. In also speaks to the diversity of the Fantasia film festival, just in case there were still a few people believing it was a mere freak show of the weirdest films ever conceived. There will be some freak shows, that much is certain, but Fantasia also offers a little bit for everybody. On a more personal note, the festival is also the only excuse I ever have to visit Concordia University. Being a McGill alumni, it is my duty to look down on Concordia with bountiful snobishness, but then again, we never had the guts to host an amazing film festival, so I guess that’s one point for them!
10-Game of Werewolves (Spain, 2012, Juan Martinez Moreno)
The classic Universal Studios monsters have always held a special place in my heart, as have their multiple reincarnations throughout the decades, however poorly made they have been at times. Hence, anticipating a werewolf film is not much a stretch for me, especially one from another country than the United States, just another hint that what is coming could be different from what has been seen before. It promises scares, gore and some good laughs too! Winner of the audience award at the Semana de terror de San Sebastian festival, Game of Werewolves plays on August 3, 7:15PM at Concordia Hall Theatre.
9-Beast (Denmark, 2011, Christoffer Boe)
Denmark is a country whose film industry has demonstrated some startling creativity in the past few year, both with simpler stories about human drama and some of the more fantastical inventions. Beast is apparently going to be a little bit of both, which suits this film goer just fine, so long as it plays its cards right. The story of a scarred marriage which drives the husband to some disturbing behaviours and symptoms if it means keeping his wife. Ooh, how I love love stories! The early pics make the film look uniquely interesting. Beast plays July 29, at 8PM at J.A. De Sève theatre (Concordia University).
8-Nameless Gangster (South Korea, 2012, Yun Jong-bin)
Anybody who follows the weekly Friday Noir column knows that part of my film interests are stories which involve dirty, nasty gangsters. For about a decade now, South Korea has made arguably the biggest splash of all the major movie nations, although a lot of the big hits of been revenge films of some sort. Nameless Gangster, which co-stars the ever popular Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame, looks to be more grounded than something like Oldboy, but no less compelling. Regardless, when was the last time a major South Korean film which came to North American disappointed, especially one with Choi in the lead? I rest my case. Nameless Gangster plays July 28, at 6:10Pm at Concordia Hall Theatre.
7-Hidden in the Woods (Chile, 2012, Patrico Valladares)
Not to be confused with another, incredibly popular Woods film released earlier this year (Cabin in the Woods), Hidden is a little bit difficult to describe. The premise has signs of Dogtooth, but involves a drugs and a wild chase after two sisters who have escaped their father’s home after years and years of confinement. The siblings apparently know where an important stash of drugs are, but so does their ruthless uncle, who is fully intent on pulverizing the information out of them if need be. There is also the presence of a retarded, physically deformed brother, whatever that means. Sold! Hidden in the Woods plays August 6, at 10:05PM at J.A. De Sève Theatre (Concordia University).
6-The Sorcerer and the White Snake (Hong Kong/China, 2011, Ching Siu-tung)
Based on a much revered Chinese fable, Sorcerer looks to bring the world of martial arts and fantasy together in ways only the Chinese seem to know how. A magical mountain inhabited by snake people, a curious mortal who gets too close for comfort, an unexpected and improbable love blossoming between two people from rival factions…and the inevitable conflict that ensues. Have we heard and read such a plot synopsis before? Of course, but so long as they keep making movies that look good and pay off (hopefully this one will too), I doubt many will complain. The Sorcerer and the White Snake plays on August 5 at 12:50PM and August 7 at 4PM, at Concordia Hall Theatre on both occasions.
5-The Sword Identity (China, 2011, Xu Haofeng)
Set during the Ming Dynasty, a lone warrior arrives at a coastal town where various martial arts schools are set up. The problem is that he possesses a weapon very Japanese in style, a big no-no to the people of the town. What does this individual want and where has he come from? The answer is provided in the official plot synopsis at the Fantasia web site, but I’d prefer to leave it a secret. This looks like a good, old school wuxia movie that should kick a lot of butt. The Sword Identity plays July 23, 5PM at Concordia Hall Theatre.
4-The Victim (U.S.A., 2012, Michael Biehn)
That’s right, the one and only Michael Biehn brings his directorial debut to Fantasia in person. Biehn, most known for his parts in The Terminator and Aliens (although he has a fun little part in Planet Terror as well), Biehn’s film is of the same spirit as many wild and wacky B-films which get pay at Fantasia, The Victim should be some gory, action packed fun involving a bizarre hermit (Biehn) living in the woods who comes to the aid of a fleeing beauty (Jennifer Blanc-Biehn), trying to escape some offbeat officers of the law. The Victim plays July 23, at 10PM at the J.A. De Sève Theatre (Concordia University).
3-Black’s Game (Denmark, 2012, Óskar Thór Axelsson)
Further proof that Denmark is really bringing their A-game to the festival this year, Black’s Game follows a desperate young fellow, already thrust deep into the Danish underworld, who requires legal aid. A friend and gangster with important connections promises just that, in return for a favour of course. You scratch my back and I scratch yours, only in this case the back scratching resembles more an odyssey into the mysterious world of mobsters. If gangster films are not your cup of tea, then maybe knowledge that Nicolas Winding Refn produced the film will encourage you to check it out. Black’s Game plays August 1, at 9:45PM at Concordia Hall Theatre.
2-Dragon (Hong Kong/China, 2011, Peter Chan)
Look, I’m the chap who writes those Shaw Brothers articles here at Sound on Sight. This is a new martial arts film starring Donnie Yen, so…what more do you want from me? As a bonus, it played at the 2011 Cannes film Festival and the very important New York Asian Film Festival this year where Donnie Yen made an appearance! He won’t be present for the Fantasia screening, alas, but that should not stop martial arts fans from checking this one out. Dragon plays on opening night, July 19, at 9:45PM at Concordia Hall Theatre and again on July 27, at 4:30PM at the Concordia Hall Theatre.
1-The Human Race (U.S.A., 2012, Paul Hough
This film could be the very best at the festival in 2012, or an utter train wreck, who knows. Director Paul Hough and actor Eddie McGee have concocted a strange movie about people, all handicapped in some way or another, competing in a race where each mistake means their unpreventable demise. Eddie McGee is the lead, but the catch is that he has only one leg! Not just in the film, but in real life. That does not prevent him from showing acrobatic skills in fight scenes. What makes the anticipation for this film all the stranger is that the trailer was not even ready for last week’s press conference. We did get a video recorded by McGee himself in which he hopes to thrill audiences with the world premiere at the fest. If Quentin Tarantino can show off a film for the first time ever at Fantasia (in 2009 with Inglorious Bastards), that has to mean it is a pretty cool event! Will the film be cool? Find out on July 29, at 9:50PM at Concordia Hall Theatre (meaning I’ll be running out of Beast at J.A. De Sève to make it on time).
You at at the festival!