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.
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Mini reviews of Free and Easy, The House of the Disappeared, Shock Wave, The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue, Napping Princess, Love and Other Cults, Rage, Extraordinary Mission, Night is Short Walk On Girl.
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Blade of the Immortal / 無限の住人 / Mugen no jūnin (2017)
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Written by: Tetsuya Oishi
Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hanna Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi, Ebizo Ichikawa, Erika Toda
Review: This jidaigeki film was a last minute addition to the festival but what an addition it was being the director’s 100th film. As a result the theater was packed with his enthusiastic fans. It’s an adaptation of the hugely popular manga of the same name. Manji (Takuya Kimura, ex-leader of the recently disbanded boy band SMAP) is a samurai cursed with immortality after killing a hundred men. Fifty years later a young girl named Rin (Hann Sugisaki) seeks out Manji. She wants to hire him to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of Anotsu Kagehisa (Sota Fukushi) and his fellow master fighters.
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Mumon: The Land of Stealth / 忍びの国 / Shinobi no Kuni (2017)
Directed by: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Written by: Ryo Wada
Cast: Satoshi Ohno, Satomi Ishihara, Yuri Chinen, Yûsuke Iseya, Jun Kunimura
Review: I’ve liked a lot of the films by this director as he’s often managed to successfully combine serious moments with comedy. This movie is mainly a historical action comedy that falls in the Jidaigeki genre. Mumon is the best ninja in a region called Iga where ninja clans reside. Mumon (Satoshi Ohno, leader of super popular boy band Arashi) like many of his fellow ninjas only fights if the price is right. In one battle, Mumon kills a ninja of a rival clan for a reward. The dead ninja’s brother, Heibi (Ryohei Suzuki), is deeply saddened and seeks revenge only to be met with indifference by his clan’s leader and the rest of the clan. This leads to a chain of events that culminate in a battle between the ninjas of Iga and the armies of Nobukatsu Oda (Yuri Chinen), the second son of Nobunaga Oda.
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Split / 스플릿 (2016)
Directed by: Choi Kook-hee
Written by: Choi Kook-hee
Cast: Yoo Ji-tae, David Lee, Lee Jung-hyun
Review: Chul-Jong (Yoo Ji-tae) A former bowling champion after injuring his leg is reduced to using his skills to hustle money to survive and also help his broker Hee-Jin (Lee Jung-Hyun) get back her bowling alley. He discovers an autistic young man Young-Hoon (David Lee) who is able to bowl strikes extremely consistently by employing an unorthodox technique. They become a team and eventually become involved in a high stakes better game of underground bowling.
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Junk Head (2017)
Directed by: Takahide Hori
Written by: Takahide Hori
Review: This is a dystopian stop-motion animated film from Japan. There is a short by the same name that was finished in 2013 and took the creator 4 years to make in his spare time. I haven’t watched the short but I believe this is a full length extended version of it. Humans have achieved longevity at the price of losing their ability to reproduce. Clones were created to solve this problem but they rebelled and now live in the depths of what appears to be an underground industrial facility while the humans live above. A human decides to travel to the lower levels for reasons that are revealed later in the movie. The human (whose name we don’t know) actually loses his memory upon arriving in the lower levels and is found by a resident who reassembles him with “junk” robotic parts. The characters speak in an imaginary language that is subtitled in the movie.
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God of War (2017)
Directed by: Gordon Chan
Written by: Xiong Zhaozheng, Maria Wong, Frankie Tam, Wu Mengzhang
Cast: Vincent Zhao, Sammo Hung, Wan Qian, Wu Yue, Yasuaki Kurata
Review: Considering the generic sounding title, I hadn’t done much research on this movie and didn’t have any expectations. I wouldn’t even have seen if it weren’t for the fact it was between two movies I had planned to see. The film is a historical war movie that takes place during the Ming dynasty. It centers on a general named Qi Jiguang (Vincent Zhao) who’s tasked to defeat Japanese pirates after his predecessor commander Yu (Sammo Hung) fails to do so for months.
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Directed by: Jimmy Henderson
Written by: Jimmy Henderson, Michael Hodgson
Cast: Jean-Paul Ly, Dara Our, Tharoth Sam, Céline Tran
Review: This is Cambodia’s first martial arts action movie. A man named Playboy is arrested and the police are tasked with transporting him to prison. Playboy’s boss has put a hit on him by promising to pay one of the most ruthless prisoners. The police after placing Playboy in his cell end up being trapped as the prisoners are let loose. They have to fight to survive while also recapturing Playboy.
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