Fantasia 2017, total films seen: 22
This was an okay year overall. Last year wasn’t necessarily that much better but it had some super memorable screenings while this year there weren’t any films that wowed me or had the audience go super crazy. Granted, I missed some South Korean movies I really wanted to watch like A Taxi Driver and A Day. Only three films were labeled recommended this year. This isn’t the worst year as far as outright disliking films but the number of films that I enjoyed or liked a lot this year was lower than previous years. I am starting to wonder if my interest in East Asian cinema is waning.
The strongest choice of films was in the action genre. This is surprising since I feel like I had long ago become tired of action movies. God of War was the recommend action movie and also surprised me with how engaging and fresh it was for a historical war movie, another genre I had grown tired of. Extraordinary Mission was mostly a typical undercover cop drama but had an insane balls to the wall action finale. Shock Wave also had some tense action but isn’t primarily an action movie. Confidential Assignment was a predictable but still a good buddy cop movie which had good action and comedy. Jailbreak, Cambodia’s first martial arts movie, was quite impressive considering its limited budget and was above average. The Final Master was a movie I saw at a different film festival but it also had a screening at Fantasia. I remember finding the story intriguing if a bit hard to decipher but the final fight sequence against various masters with different weapons in an alley is one of the best martial arts sequences in recent years.
There were few comedies and nothing even came close to the funniest comedies of past Fantasia editions. What a Wonderful Family! 2 was was good and definitely has a few good laugh out loud moments but otherwise skews more to a grounded slice of life drama. Vampire Cleanup Department was enjoyable but I didn’t find it very funny. However, that might be cause I’m not familiar with the genre and its tropes. At every previous Fantasia there was at least one wacky comedy with big laughs that I got to see. Unfortunately, nothing that I was able to see this year made me laugh a lot.
Similarly there weren’t a lot of dramas. The only film that emotionally resonated with me was Made in Hong Kong (recommended) which was made in 1997 but given a recent 4k restoration. Rage was fine and so was Love and Other Cults but neither are must-watch. Split was better than expected but again nothing special. Japanese Girls Never Die was interesting I guess but maybe a bit too obtuse for me. The House of the Disappeared was a good mystery with a bit of horror but it’s a remake that probably isn’t as compelling if you’ve seen the original. Free and Easy was a potentially intriguing crime drama but way too darn slow.
Manga adaptations have become numerous in recent years and this year was no exception. Mumon: Land of Stealth and Blade of the Immortal were both good although I had reservations about both. Tokyo Ghoul was also pretty interesting and it legitimately scared me in the beginning. I would consider watching the sequel.
Have a Nice Day was a very good Chinese crime animated film and got the recommended label. It was a nice surprise and makes me hope for more Chinese animation of similar quality with adult themes & social commentary. I didn’t enjoy the other animated films as much. Junk Head is a stop-motion animated film that had its merits but was too long. The Senior Class wasn’t a film I particular enjoyed watching because of stupid decisions made by the characters but it was a well told adult story from South Korea. Napping Princess was closer to a more traditional family friendly, feel good animated film.
Some unlinked films are found in Mini reviews.
I didn’t see the South Korean films A Taxi Driver, A Day, The Villainess (but really wanted to see them), Fabricated City, The Sheriff in Town. I didn’t see the Japanese films Cocolors, Genocidal Organ, Lu Over the Wall, Almost Coming Almost Dying, The H-Man, Shin Godzilla, Innocent Curve, Gintama, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, Museum, Shinjuku Swan II, Teiichi: Battle of the Supreme High, Kodoku Meatball Machine, Innocent Curse. I also didn’t see Bad Genius, Town in a Lake, Mon mon Monsters!, Bastard Swordsman, Wu Kong