If you weren’t at this year’s Montreal Comic-con, which was held from the 12th until the 14th of September at the Palais des Congres, then did you ever miss out. Although the Montreal convention isn’t normally known for its selection of guests, this year the con managed to not just pull in a few stars, but a few living legends too.
Gracing the city with his iconic presence was legendary film writer and director, George A. Romero. The man who invented zombies with his film Night Of The Living Dead (1968) not only came to Montreal, not only had his own Q&A panel with Ken Foree (known best for his work in Dawn Of The Dead, 1978), but had a booth where fans of his work could meet him one on one and speak with him. He was down to earth, quick as a whip, and a genuinely nice guy as his fans lined up to ask him the questions that have been on their mind since seeing his films.
Hey Montreal! The RHPS Halloween Ball is back at the Impérial!
Halloween is here again and for thousands of Montrealers this means another chance to experience the inimitable Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball. This year they will be back at the Impérial Cinéma situated right in the Quartier des Spectacles, 1430 Bleury Street (Place des arts metro).
To accommodate the large numbers of participants, there will be no less than six presentations over three nights;
Friday October 26th at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Saturday October 27th at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Wednesday October 31st at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM
PLASTIK PATRIK is back to host the six uninhibited shows. Patrick will be there to coordinate the costume contest and get the audience aroused for all the on-screen and off-screen action.
The student night is back by popular demand! For the Wednesday October 31st shows only, students with a valid student ID card will get 5$ off the ticket price; this offer is valid in advance and at the door. There will be a limit of two tickets per student.
Tickets for this once-a-year event cost a very reasonable $17.95 in advance or $19.95 at the door (plus taxes and service). Tickets are available in advance at:
Cruella (63 Mont-Royal E.)
Quizz (Plaza Alexis Nihon – Atwater metro)
EM Café (5718 Parc Avenue - Corner Bernard W.)
Le Septième (3606 Ontario E. - Hochelaga)
Visit the official website.
Throughout the entire screening of the cult movie, a cast of forty live actors will perform in sync with the film playing on the big screen just above them. At various key moments rice, water, toilet paper, toast and newspapers will be thrown about. Audience members will also be yelling lines back at the characters on screen. Lines like; “SLUT!” or “ASSHOLE!” Although most of the entertainment will come from the screen and stage, much of it comes from sex-crazed audience high on the hysteria that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball. Regardless of their claims, no other event even comes close to this unique and extremely popular annual ritual. Torn stockings optional.
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Fantasia 2012: It’s all fun and games in ‘Game of Werewolves’
Game of Werewolves
Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno
Written by Juan Martinez Moreno
Ah, the classic werewolf creature. It is one of the vintage, most fondly remembered beasts made famous by Universal Studios back in the earlier days when cinema was but in its infancy. The first classic actor to portray the role? Lon Chaney Jr., whose performance, both with and without makeup, has remained etched in the memories of monster movie fans old and young. Since then, the werewolf’s cinematic record is spotty at best. For every The Wolf Man is a Wolfman (2010, Joe Johnston). For every American Werewolf in London, there is an American Werewolf in Paris. Is the creature that limiting as a storytelling device? Perhaps, but blessed be the filmmakers who come along and create what proves to be one of the successes, among them Spaniard Juan Martinez Moreno with his latest, Game of Werewolves.
Tomàs Marino (Gorka Otxoa) considers himself a celebrity, although he would have a world of difficulty convincing many other people. An author, he is struggling to come up with ideas for his second novel, the first having quickly been forgotten in the minds of the public, at least among the few who actually read it as his grandmother (Mabel Rivera) reminds him over the phone at the start of the picture. Tomàs is on his way back to the small village where he grew up, Arga, far outside any of Spain’s metropolis, Madrid. The plan is to take refuge in the family’s old estate, be quiet for a few weeks or months and start writing again. Much to his surprise, his old buddy Calisto (Carlos Areces) awaits him for a warm welcome. Among other surprises is the arrival of his publisher, Mario (Secun de la Rosa), a wily, spirited man who seems just as desperate to make a buck with what he hopes will be Tomàs’ next book, as well as a re-acquaintance with his uncle, the village priest. The latter invites Tomàs for a special ceremony involving the bringing in of a new mayor, but that, in truth, hides yet another unexpected twist. On the day of the celebration, both Tomàs and Mario, because the latter is a witness, are knocked out cold and brought to a decrepit old church where the townsfolk, as Tomàs’s uncle explains, are to finally rid themselves of the curse of the werewolf which has plagued Arga for 100 years to the day. If the beast eats the flesh of a Marino, then Arga is freed of the monster’s reign of terror. Not exactly the creative thinking process the author had in mind…
Fantasia 2012: ‘Excision’ extremely unsettling, often amusing
Directed by Richard Bates Jr.
Screenplay by Richard Bates Jr.
Writer-director Richard Bates. Jr. draws on years of movie-watching for his audacious feature debut Excision. The most obvious influences for Excision is possibly Brian DePalma’s Carrie, Todd Solondz’s Welcome To The Dollhouse and Michael Lehmann’s Heathers. Toss in equal parts Gregg Araki, Dario Argento, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and John Hughes and an ending reminiscent of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers - and Excision might just be the best “adolescent misfit” movie in a very long time.
Richard Bates Jr.’s dark domestic offbeat black comedy (a passion project converted from his 2008 short with the same name), is greased up with enough cultural references, sarcasm, graphic sex and bloody violence to turn John Waters into a preacher man. Yet despite the controversy stirred up earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, it is important to note that Excision avoids falling victim to the usual trappings of the average independent horror film. Every violent and grotesque twist serves a purpose outside of shock value, helping to move the story forward and flesh out the complexity of the main character.
Fantasia 2012: ‘The Kick’ Makes Martial Arts a Family Affair
Written by Jong-suk Lee, based on a story by Prachya Pinkaew
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
Traditionally, films that pit one country’s martial arts against the martial arts from other countries are blood-soaked chauvinistic affairs like One Armed Boxer and its sequel Master of the Flying Guillotine. Both great films, they up the ante on the Kung Fu bragging rights by having the hero Tien Lung (Jimmy Wang Yu) beat the champions of Japan, Korea, Thailand, India and Tibet with literally one arm tied behind his back – or chopped off, depending on how you look at it.
The Kick is a much more gentle film, turning the battle between Korea’s Tae Kwan Do and Thailand’s Muay Thai into a family comedy and adding Thai star Jeeja Yanin to the winning Korean side to salve any hurt Thai feelings. (Almost deliberately, halfway through the film Jeeja wins a friendly match against the main male Korean lead, Ji-won Ye, and ties against the main female Korean lead.)
Fantasia 2012: ‘Cold Blooded’ is one of the year’s best thrillers
Directed by Jason Lapeyre
Written by Jason Lapeyre
When it comes to leading parts for female actors in cop and action films, the landscape is relatively barren. Even when such parts exist, rare as it is to begin with, all too often the roles are sexed up to the point where the believability factor is wiped out. Indeed, there appears to be no place for women in films where the grit and the grime are prominent, films that get really down and dirty and require the protagonist to go through hell before reaching the finish line. If things are to change, some filmmaker and some actress will have to rise to the challenge and prove audiences that such a film can be made and be credible. Enter director-writer Jason Lapeyre and star Zoie Palmer, who collaborated on Cold Blooded, shot in Toronto (making it one of the few Canadian films to earn screen time at this year’s Fantasia film festival), one of the real surprises to emerge out of the Canadian film industry this year.
Officer Frances Jane (Zoie Palme) is requested to take the night shift at a local downtown hospital and guard a patient in one of the establishments more secluded wings. This is not any ordinary patient. Cordero (Ryan Robbins) is a jewel thief who was part of a sizable operation earlier that very day with his colleagues. Despite his best efforts, Cordero was caught and his partner found dead beside him. Now the criminal is not only facing charges related to theft, but murder as well. While making small talk, Cordero tries to convince Frances that he never dared killed anybody, least of all his own partner. Frances will have none of it, preferring to keep to her own, get through the night shift and head back home afterwards. Unfortunately for her and Cordero, the latter’s boss, one Louis Holland (William MacDonald) has arrived at the hospital with some cohorts and plans to retrieve the diamonds and liquidate Cordero if need be to prevent him from testifying against the gang. Louis, however, is not someone to be messed around with, and before they know it, Frances and Cordero have to form an uneasy alliance if they are to make it out of this desolate hospital wing alive.
Fantasia 2012: ‘Doomsday Book’ does not fully come to together
Directed by Kim Jee-woon and Yim Pil-sung
Written by Kim Jee-woon and Yim Pil-sung
South Korea, 2012
How often do anthology films fully come together, with each part perfectly complimenting one another? The answer, despite however many times filmmakers attempt to construct them, is rarely. In fairness, the degree of difficult involved is high, with the creative teams having to come up with not one but multiple storylines, the themes and plot of which, as a requirement, must come together to form a whole, single cohesive project. Directors and screenwriters Kim Jee-woon and Yim Pil-sung make their challenge even taller by adopting as the overarching theme of their collaboration, Doomsday Book, the end of the world. Admirable as the challenge may be, it is the results which matter most. So how did they fair?
Doomsday Book is sliced into three separate chapters, the first and third directed by Yim Pil-sung (who was kind enough to make the trip to the festival for the screening), with his compatriot Kim taking charge of the middle story. It opens with A Brave New World in which a young hopeful scientist (Ryu Seung-beom) house sits while his family is away. Little does he realize while taking out the garbage that the apple he tosses into the bag with all the other waste is startlingly unhealthy looking. The apple travels to the waste disposal plant, is tossed around here and there, and before anyone knows it, an infection begins to spread, turning people into flesh eating zombies, including the protagonist and the cute girl he takes on a date (Go Joon-hee).
Fantasia 2012: ‘Carré Blanc’ – a solid directorial debut even if its dystopic themes feel borrowed
Directed by Jean-Baptiste Leonetti
Written by Jean-Baptiste Leonetti
Jean-Baptiste Leonetti’s Carre Blanc marks the arrival of someone who promises to be an emerging new talent in genre filmmaking in France. With that said, his directorial debut comes off as a somewhat jejune undergraduate rhetoric about consumerism and corporate supremacy. Leonetti shows confidence in his direction, a marriage of French cuisine with a Russian setting, but the film adds nothing new to the genre. Influences appear to range from Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Orwell, Kafka and most clearly Tarkovsky, but when asked what his major inspiration was, Leonetti cites George Lucas’s THX-1138 as his prime source of guidance. Ask him about the politics and Leonetti will reply, “this is not a political film, I have no solutions, no answer, this is simply a love story.”
Carre Blanc is a mild success, based solely on his distinctive aesthetic. Leonetti crafts his film with precision, creating an unsettling atmosphere amidst some of the most beautiful architecture and locations from several major cities across the globe. Cinematographer David Nissen sets the action amid the desolate modernist exteriors, captured in Kubrickian wide shots, dollys and zooms. One has to admire the excellent compositions, little if any special effects, beautifully rendered pale colour palette and the sinister sound design by Edgar Vidal. But despite the stylish production values, the film lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.
Fantasia 2012: Follow the freaky, bleak ‘Toad Road’
Directed by Jason Banker
Written by Jason Banker
‘Go to hell.’ ‘My life is a living hell.’ ‘What the hell just happened?’ These are but some of the countless examples of how flippantly the term ‘hell’ is utilized in everyday idiom. The word offers a flexibility unparalleled with almost any other. Considering how malleable the word is, just what is society’s conception of hell exactly? It is real, imagined, a thing to be thought about, a thing to be ignored out of fear? Toad Road, from first time writer-director Jason Banker, had its world premier at Fantasia this year and provides one of the many interpretations of the underworld, although no one leaving this film will confuse hell with anything flippant.
The story is set in an undisclosed countryside in the northern United States. A group of friends, among them one of the movie’s protagonists, James (newcomer James Davidson), have endless fun amongst themselves with the dependable help of drugs and alcohol, both of which never fail to send the friends on their way to completely mindless misadventures. There is a new addition to the group, Sara (Sara Anne Jones), an initially sweet girl from the big city who takes a liking to James and him to her. Slowly but surely Sara, via her attraction to James, is drawn into his world of drug induced nighttime gatherings and tomfoolery. It is not long before Sara, once quite innocent, grows all to comfortable with this behavioural pattern, and yet she is seeking something more. Her increased drug and alcohol usage satisfies her for only so long until she wants to try something more intense, something that will grant her an even greater effect. The potential for such a find arrives when, one night while cooking with James, the latter tells her the urban legend of Toad Road, which is apparently not too far from where they live. The road in question is more of a eerily discernible path in the woods upon which are laid seven wooden gates, each one leading a passerby closer and closer to hell itself. What awaits them there, only they themselves can know…
Fantasia 2012: Takashi Miike’s For Love’s Sake
For Love’s Sake
Directed by Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike’s new film, a violent musical romantic drama remains at once within and removed from his previous efforts. The only thing dependable about Miike’s cinematic oeuvre is that he is unpredictable, and just looking at his output from 2011: 13 Assassins, Harakiri and Ninja Kids, we get a small glimpse at his eclecticism as one of the most prolific working filmmakers. For Love’s Sake is a tonally off-beat adolescent romance set to the backdrop of gang-wars and bourgeois privilege.
The tone of the film’s first half is deliriously ironic and Ai’s obsessive pursuit for bad-boy Makota’s affection is treated as pure slapstick wonderment. Though in a prologue to the film, we get a sense as to why Ai pursues her “love” without abandon, this is lost quickly (and quite obviously, purposefully) as she discards all logic, desire for self-preservation and self-respect in order to secure Makota for herself. In the meantime, a similarly obsessive classmate pursues her, often mirroring her extremes with the same fanatical verve. The film is a not so much a love triangle as it is a strange line graph of obsessive desire. All these mishaps are expressed through song, and the film maintains a sort of meta style as characters not participating in a chosen musical sequence seem all-too aware that the character has spontaneously broken into song, and are often unnerved by this peculiarity.
For Love’s Sake shifts in its second half, and there are a lot less musical sequences. The tone grows darker, as more romantic interests enter the fray – the majority of them from a rough and tumble trade school where Makota is sent after being expelled from a preppy high school. Both parts of the film build off the same themes, but explore them from different POVs. This tension between their different atmosphere and tones might turn off some audiences, as they can at times feel like entirely different films. This seems to be exactly what Miike was searching for though, as he presents extreme versions of class and gender issues.
Fantasia 2012: Benson and Moorhead Give Us ‘Resolution’ to Tired Horror Tropes
Written by Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead
Directed by Justin Benson
It would be easy to compare Resolution to The Cabin in the Woods, both films tackle the horror tropes surrounding the titular isolated cabin in the woods, digging into the meta-narrative that informs the trope, but they come at the text from completely opposite directions. The comparison that felt more apt to me, while I was watching one of the best films at Fantasia this year, is linking Resolution to the H. P. Lovecraft film adaptation The Whisperer in Darkness. Lovingly recreated by fans, The Whisperer in Darkness tries to faithfully adapt Lovecraft’s work by using the media, tropes and especially film style that was dominant, when Lovercraft penned the original short story. In the case of Resolution, Benson and Moorhead tell a Lovecraftian tale, but instead of focusing on one media and style, they use any and all media at their disposal from YouTube to cave paintings and everything in between.
But Resolution is not a Lovecraft tale… except that it could be… only it isn’t.
Confused? I am not certain that seeing the film would make it any clearer. Benson and Moorhead are like movie theatre ninjas, sneaking behind your row, unscrewing the bolts that lock down your skull, flipping your lid and injecting 10 CCs of pure cinematic mind-fuck directly into your cerebral cortex.
The set-up of the film is that father-to-be Michael Danube (Peter Cilella) receives a disturbing online video of his best friend Chris Daniels (Vinny Curran) stoned out of his mind, shooting up the woods. Abandoning his pregnant wife, Michael uses the location tag on the video to track down Chris to a run-down cabin in Northern California, outside a small town so isolated that the only way to get a cell signal is to drive out the highway off-ramp. After surviving the reunion, during which the paranoid Chris keeps trying to shoot the birds who have been “spying” on him, Michael succeeds in handcuffing Chris to the interior wall of the cabin. Michael’s plan is simple, albeit insane: keep Chris restrained for a week until he dries up completely and then check him into rehab.
That’s when the weird shit starts to happen.
Fantasia 2012/Shaw Bros. Sat.: ‘Fists of the White Lotus’ demonstrates that it’s cool to fight like a girl
Fists of the White Lotus (aka: Clan of the White Lotus)
Directed by Lo Lieh
Written by Tien Huang
Hong Kong, 1980
*This week’s film was viewed at the 2012 Fantasia International film festival on a 35mm print, hence its inclusion in both the Shaw Brothers Saturdays and Fantasia 2012 columns.
The old, evil martial arts master who can still pack a thunderous punch, often demolishing anyone who stands in his path with precise, near-effortless movements. He dresses in white, laughs a powerful laugh and frequently strokes his white beard when in thought. The image is fond one among many a martial arts movie fan. For many, their first ever exposure to the character was in Quentin Tarantino’s 2004 feature, Kill Bill: Vol. 2. the truth of the matter is that the old kung fu master has made numerous appearances in much older action films. In fact, not so long ago in this very column, Executioners of Shaolin was reviewed and it featured the iconic figure. Now, time for the sequel, directed and co-starring legend Lo Lieh. Prepare to face the Fists of the White Lotus.
As is so often the case with these movies, the story opens up with terrific action sequence, with the audience thrust into the midst of a furious hand to hand battle between a familiar foe, the elderly martial artist with the long white beard, and two younger allies. The contest requires both sides to exercise all their might and skills as fighters to defeat the other. It is the sort of battle which provides the audience with a snippet of things to come later on, with plenty of fights expressing the technical mastery of the performers and the desire of the filmmakers to inject a little bit of the fantastic into the action scenes. First, however, some set-up. Two long time friends and pupils of the same shaolin temple, Piao (Ching Chu) and Wei Ting (Gordon Liu) meet after a prolonged absence, this being after the defeat of the chief antagonist in Executioners of Shaolin. The White Lotus gang is still working hard in obliterating the Shaolin students who survived the destruction of their previous temple, this despite that the central governing body recently decreed that the establishment shall rise again. Piao and Wei Ting have little time to rest with their loved ones when the White Lotus attacks them, killing off many of their brothers and sisters, leaving only a few alive. Wei Ting, discovering that his current skills are no match against the White Lotus priest (Lo Lieh), but rely on the teachings of his ‘sister’ Mei Ha (Kara Hui), for only a more graceful, feminine touch will ever stand a chance at finally vanquishing their mortal enemy.
Fantasia 2012: Michael Biehn Refuses to be ‘The Victim’ of Hollywood
Written by Michael Biehn, based on a story by Reed Lackey
Directed by Michael Biehn
For years, Michael Biehn has been of the most interesting and versatile actors in genre cinema, while paradoxically one of the most misused. Capable of playing the hero, anti-hero or stone cold villain, Biehn has the charism and acting chops of a character actor with the chiseled good lucks of a star. Why this hasn’t translated into Biehn being one of the biggest action heroes of all time is an enduring mystery.
“I’m a working actor, and I’m always working, but there is a difference between a part and a great part. Mickey in The Divide was a great part. Johnny Ringo in Tombstone was a great part, but there is almost a twenty year gap there.”
It is almost a relief to see that Michael Biehn is taking the initiative to create great parts for himself, producing, writing, directing and starring in The Victim, a fun grindhouse flick that was shot in 12 days.
“I spent more time on the set of Tombstone practicing Johnny Ringo’s gun stunts than the entire shooting schedule for The Victim.”
Made for less than a day’s worth of craft services on a bloated epic like Battleship, The Victim puts the focus squarely on character and story.
“I negotiated to have – within my budget – full authority to hire who I want, cast who I want, shoot where and how I want, and cut the film the way I want. I get to decide when to release the film, when to sell it and for how much. I have the James Cameron contract on the Roger Corman budget.”