Fantasia 2018, total films seen: 23
Although the lineup featured some films I was excited to watch, this ended up like last year where nothing really stood out. In fact, I’d say that I felt even more indifferent about most of what I watched compared to last year. The best thing I can say is that I didn’t really hate anything I watched this year but at the same time I only gave two films the recommended label, this is the lowest total and ties it with 2011, the first year that I extensively covered the festival on this blog. However, due to the schedule and my other personal commitments I missed a lot of the South Korean films but I’m not sure that it would’ve affected my overall impression that much. Many of the South Korean films didn’t appeal to me or appeared to be retreads.
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Mini reviews of the rest of the Fantasia films that I watched in 2018.
Being Natural, The Vanished, Buybust, Buffalo Boys, Fireworks, Loi Bao, Ajin, Laughing Under the Clouds, The Brink, Punk Samurai Slash Down
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Penguin Highway / ペンギン・ハイウェイ (2018)
DIRECTOR: Hiroyasu Ishida
WRITER: Makoto Ueda
CAST: Kana Kita, Yû Aoi
Adpated from a book, a 4th grade boy has a crush on an older woman who works at the dentist’s office that he goes to but that’s not the only thing on his mind. When penguins start appearing in his town, he decides to investigate with his best friend.
This film exhibits one of the great things that make animation a special medium. There are simply things you can draw that you couldn’t possibly replicate in real life or even with the aid of photo-realistic computer graphics. That sort of imagination and creativity are on display in this film.
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The Outlaws / 범죄도시 [BumJoedoshi] / Lit: Criminal City (2017)
DIRECTOR: Kang Yun-sung
WRITER: Kang Yun-sung
CAST: Don Lee (Ma Dong-seok), Yoon Kye-sang, Cho Chae-yun, Choi Guy-hwa, Jin Seon-kyu
Ma is a detective who leads a team that keeps the Korean-Chinese gangs under control. But the status quo gets turned upside-down when a trio of gangsters from China come into Seoul and start brutally taking away territory from the current Korean-Chinese gangsters. Inspired by real events (and probably extremely loosely).
This is a pretty solid Korean crime movie with a charismatic lead performance from Don Lee / Ma Dong-seok that’s matched by the villain Jang Chen (Yoon Kye-sang). Although the new Chinese gangsters in town are quite brutal, chopping off limbs with axes, the gore isn’t really put on screen. The movie’s overall tone isn’t dark and has some funny moments.
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DIRECTOR: Shinsuke Sato
WRITER: Hiroshi Hashimoto
CAST: Noritake Kinashi, Takeru Satoh, Kanata Hongo, Fumi Nikaido, Ayaka Miyoshi
A father who gets no respect from his family finds out he has cancer and then he gets hit by something really bright. Instead of death he finds out that he’s become a cyborg with amazing abilities. He decides to help people with his new abilities. However, there is also a high school teenager who became a cyborg with the same amazing abilities but he decides to kill and eventually goes on a murder spree that the police cannot stop.
I’ve read a couple of the early volumes of Inuyashiki so I had some familiarity with it before watching this movie. The older man, Ichiro Inuyashiki (Noritake Kinashi) as the hero against the young high school teen, Hiro Shishigami, (Takeru Satoh) as the villain makes for an interesting contrast from the start. We can see why and how each one decides to do something different with his new cyborg body. Both actors are excellent in their roles. Satoh is very convincing as a dangerous psychopath but he also have a few people he cares a lot about. It’s practically refreshing to have a villain that’s actually fleshed out and feels like a real person (well in the emotional sense).
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DIRECTOR & WRITER: Shinsuke Sato
WRITER: Daisuke Habara
CAST: Sota Fukushi, Hana Sugisaki, Ryo Yoshizawa, Taichi Saotome, Miyavi
Next Screening: Sat July 28, 2018; 11:45 AM
A manga adaptation of the same name, this movie focuses on Ichigo, a high schooler with a high spiritual energy. So high that he can see ghosts whom he helps out. This attracts a soul reaper/shingami, Rukia, who transfers her powers to him. But there’s a cost involved and Ichigo must train in order to face some formidable foes such as Hollows who are souls turned vengeful.
Although I’ve heard of Bleach I had no idea what it was about and I’ve never read the manga or watched the anime. But as someone who is unfamiliar with the source material I could tell that certain details were missing or that at least I was wanting for more details about certain characters or the world of soul reapers and hollows. The film feels lean and efficient in what it decides to include in its story. Luckily, it’s nothing that severely hampers the story. Continue reading “Bleach – film review – Fantasia 2018”
Louder!: Can’t Hear What You’re Singin’ / 音量を上げろタコ！なに歌ってんのか全然わかんねぇんだよ!! [Onryo wo Agero Tako! Nani Utatten noka Zenzen Wakannendayo!!] (2018)
DIRECTOR & WRITER: Satoshi Miki
CAST: Sadao Abe, Riho Yoshioka
Sin is a star singer of a metal band who actually dopes himself to help him sing as loudly as possible. But after blowing his vocal chords he encounters a street musician named, Fuka, who barely sings above a whisper. After hearing her pathetically quiet performance he decides to help her sing loudly without restraint. Events lead them both to being on the run from Sin’s music concert promoters.
The director Satoshi Miki was present at the screening and his advice to not think but feel is one that would be wise to heed while watching this movie. Don’t expect the story to make any sense. There’s a randomness and unpredictability to the plot that would be best not to spoil. This feels much more kinetic than his previous films I’ve seen. The acting is pretty good, being over the top but in an appropriate manner. This is a movie that takes place in a heightened sense of reality with some musical sequences and slapstick comedy.
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The Travelling Cat Chronicles / 旅猫リポート [Tabineko Ripoto] (2018)
DIRECTOR: Koichiro Miki
WRITER: Emiko Hiramatsu
CAST: Sota Fukushi, Yuko Takeuchi, Mitsuki Takahata
AUTHOR: Hiro Arikawa
Adapted from the novel of the same name, a young man can no longer keep his cat and visits a series of friends in order to find a place of his cat to live. The cat is not particularly happy about this and we hear his thoughts during his owner’s travels.
This is a tearjerker and one that does it well even when you see the sadness coming a mile away. It uses various tropes that I won’t reveal but anyone familiar with the genre will probably spot them. As expected the story is fairly episodic as the young man, Satoru (Sota Fukushi) visits each friend and then flashbacks occur showing his past with said friend. His final visit is to his aunt and the crying definitely get dialed up a notch.
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