Fantasia 2014, total films seen: 27
I wasn’t very excited about the East Asian lineup of films in this year’s edition but I knew that it would be hard to top last year and the year before, which I enjoyed very much. However, there were some very good films, just way less of them that I liked. A few films were better than I expected but many were disappointments even when I had no expectations. You can tell that I have many more mini reviews this year than in past years.
The animated features were some of the strongest this year in my opinion. Giovanni’s Island mostly met my expectations and was fairly even handed in covering both sides of the war and The Fake was also excellent and felt like a very mature and at times brutal film that could’ve been done with live action. Both were great examples that animation can be used to tell serious stories. Although aesthetically similar to Japanese animated films, The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow was a very bizarre but uniquely funny Korean animated film. Hal had its issues but was a beautiful looking film (minus the characters) with a very moving ending. I did not see Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, Appleseed Alpha.
The Snow White Murder Case was probably the drama I enjoyed the most as its mystery aspect is well done with events being recounted differently by different characters who are not telling the full truth or outright lying. Han Gong-ju and Red Family were interesting dramas despite some of their flaws. I would’ve probably given Han Gong-ju the recommended label if its flashback narrative wasn’t so confusing at times but it definitely had outstanding acting. That film was popular enough that it got an extra third screening. Red Family was mostly confused in tone as it would flip flop between funny and serious in an awkward manner. Uzumasa Limelight was good if easily forgettable drama unless you’re a fan of the old samurai TV shows. Fuku Chan of FukuFuku Flats had its moments but was mostly forgettable. The whole loser guy, pretty girl type of stories are getting a bit played out I think.
There weren’t a lot of comedies and the ones I saw were just okay. Miss Granny was very popular and got a third extra screening but I thought it was just alright and could’ve had a better story with better jokes. Thermae Romae II was funny for me but it was really more of the same as the first movie except with some new pretty environments to look at. The previously mentioned Satellite Girl and Milk Cow was probably the funniest film for me particularly due to its original and weird jokes.
Looking at the crime genre, Cold Eyes was a very good remake with good drama and some good humour although I have never seen the original Hong Kong film, Eye in the Sky. The White Storm was a surprisingly entertaining Hong Kong crime thriller despite or because it indulgences in genre tropes. There were many Korean revenge films, it’s actually a genre I enjoy and yet I was not really wowed by The Suspect, The Five or Days of Wrath. While there isn’t really much action, That Demon Within was an interesting mix of crime and supernatural aspects. Black Butler was a good live action anime adaptation at least for someone who has never seen the anime. I didn’t get to see No Tears For the Dead, Gun Woman, Guardian.
In regards to historical action flicks, Once Upon a Time in Shanghai was disappointing as I expected even though I was hoping to be proven wrong. Kundo: Age of the Rampant was okay but was expecting much better considering the talent behind it. I did see Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno but didn’t review because it’s essentially half of the story with its conclusion coming to Japan later this year, in October I believe.
Puzzle was a very violent film (think achilles tendon being cut and that sort of stuff). Probably the most gory and uncomfortable viewing experience.
Non-hyperlinked movies mentioned above are likely covered in Mini reviews.
Other films I didn’t see were The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji, Crows Explode, Hana-Dama: The Origins, Ju-On: The Beginning of the End, Killers, Live, Monsterz, Nuigulumar Z, Real, Seventh Code, Sweet Poolside, Zombie TV, Hwayi: A Monster Boy, The Huntresses, Mr. Go, The Spy: Undercover Operation.