Tag: film festival

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Love (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

My most highly-anticipated film for Toronto After Dark was definitely Love. At first I only knew it as “that Angels & Airwaves movie” (the band both scored and produced the film) but after seeing the trailer my interest was more than piqued. Beginning with a bloody Civil War battle and then jumping ahead to 2039, Love primarily focuses on the experiences of Captain Lee Miller, an astronaut stranded alone on a small space station as an unknown apocalyptic event seemingly destroys mankind on Earth.

With a set composed mostly from found items and parts bought at Home Depot (constructed in the filmmaker’s parents’ backyard) and a production time spanning four years, Love comes off like a mini-miracle. It manages to be both intensely personal in subject and all-encompassing in scope, with a somewhat minimalist script and enough outer space shenanigans to pack a visual punch. Gunner Wright effectively carries the film, giving a sympathetic, tragic, and at times quite funny performance as he slowly loses his mind in a confined space. His total isolation and disconnect from the outside world is palpable, aided by the evocative electronic score and writer/director William Eubank’s thoughtful direction.

Having primarily worked as a cinematographer before Love, Eubank’s vision is ambitious, imaginative, and mostly successful. The opening Civil War scenes are breathtaking, and the surreal ending plays tricks on the eye in an unexpected way. Unfortunately some of the spacey stuff doesn’t work, with a few sort of cheesy effects towards the end.

There is a turning point in Love that will probably leave most viewers pondering the film’s exact meaning, and is likely to turn some people off completely. I think it’s a nice blending of far-reaching science-fiction and introspective exploration of the human condition, managing to get in its titular message without being too sappy. I am left with questions though and am still sorting through my feelings about the film as a whole- especially the ending- so I’ll need a re-watch or two to determine my final thoughts.

4/5 (for now)

Pair This Movie With: Definitely Moon. Or if you want to go more old school, try Silent Running.

William Eubank official site
Love trailer

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Father’s Day (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

A one-eyed vigilante, a topless stripper with a chainsaw, a nearsighted cannibal rapist, incest, demonic possession, trips to both heaven and hell, a non sequitur commercial for low-budget sci-fi STAR RAIDERS, hallucinogenic berries; Father’s Day– Canadian collective Astron-6’s newest feature- seems to be an exercise in “Just how much fuckery can we pack into one movie?” When a string of ritualistic murder-dismemberments of fathers pop up around the city, young priest Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) tracks down maple syrup-obsessed hermit Ahab (Adam Brooks), a trained assassin who seeks vengeance against the known father-killer Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock). They team up with Ahab’s sister Chelsea (Amy Groening) and her paranoid friend Twink (Conor Sweeney) to take the Fuchman down, only to uncover a demonic conspiracy that’s been around for centuries.

This is a pretty weird fucking movie, which I guess is why I was bound to like it. It starts off as a gross-out grindhouse throwback with sickening effects (and real pig intestines!) and a recognizable parody structure. But then it just takes this turn into wackiness, pretty much forgets the whole father-serial-killer-thing, and becomes all the better for it. The script is inventive and farcical, the dialogue is downright ridiculous, and the main cast looks like they’re having a blast just hanging out being silly together. It looks pretty good too, with a grungy exploitation palette and some nice stop-motion towards the end. Best of all it has one of my favorite things- a gun-toting religious figure! I love it when priests/nuns are lured into sex and violence!

My biggest issue with Father’s Day is that it tries to do too much, and as a result the tone is wildly uneven. Admittedly I’m really squeamish so this is a personal thing, but all the dad-rape cannibalism stuff in the beginning was just way too gross to be funny or interesting, and it doesn’t fit with the rest of the film’s more lighthearted and ludicrous atmosphere. They don’t need shock value or gross-out scares for this movie to be entertaining, and I liked the other parts of it so much that I wish that aspect had been left out. On the whole it’s very enjoyable and certainly memorable, but I can’t all-out love a movie with so many moments during which I have to look away from the screen.

4/5

PS Dude, Lloyd Kaufman, keep the Star Raiders spot in the movie! It’s hilarious!

PPS I have a longer and better written review of this movie at 366 Weird Movies! Hurray!

Pair This Movie With: This movie reminded me a little bit of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, but it’s much better. It’d go well with Rodriguez grindhouse throwbacks Planet Terror or Machete too.

Astron-6
Father’s Day official site
Father’s Day trailer

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Monster Brawl (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

Toronto After Dark kicked off its week-long genre festival with a punch as Canadian filmmaker Jesse Cook’s Monster Brawl took opening night. Set in a haunted graveyard near Lake Michigan, the film plays as a Wrestlemania-esque tv special that pairs up eight of horror culture’s monsters for a series of deadly matches. Witch Bitch fights the Cyclops, Lady Vampire fights the Mummy, and the Werewolf, Zombie Man, Swamp Gut, and Frankenstein (…’s monster) fight it off for the Heavyweight Championship. Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley) and Sasquatch Sid Tucker (Art Hindle) commentate from a nearby shanty, and various flashbacks are shown to round out the fighters’ circumstances.

With a bare-bones premise and limited resources, Monster Brawl does manage to do a lot with a little. It’s essentially a versus video game stretched out to a feature-length film, and it works to an extent due to the attention to parodic detail, the funny script, and the enthusiastic cast. Of course I loved Dave Foley as the miserable commentator Buzz, who gets drunker and drunker as the fights progress, and Kelly Couture as Lady Vampire was a fucking animal in the ring. Jimmy Hart has a silly time as himself, an excitable announcer who gets to hang out with two bikini-clad ladies. The backstories are mostly pretty funny and clever, especially Swamp Gut’s environmental documentary-style origin.

The effects are strong, with some imaginative make-up and prosthetics, and the fights are well choreographed, but really the concept just cannot work for a full-length movie. It’s a fun idea and certainly one that many adolescent nerds will latch on to, but the long series of fights with very little narrative thread doesn’t hold together for a runtime longer than 45 minutes. The film is executed well and it looks like everyone had a fun time working on it- the filmmaker and several castmembers were in attendance and we even got to see a little smack talking action- so I appreciated it as an easy to digest, crowd-pleasing start to the festival.

Also I was happy the monsters I rooted for won their battles!

3/5

Pair This Movie With: It’d be pretty silly to team it with a classic example of the monster genre, like the 1931 Frankenstein or something. Or for more funny commentators and fake sports you can’t go wrong with BASEketball.

Monster Brawl official site
Monster Brawl trailer

IFF BOSTON: The Catechism Cataclysm at 366 Weird Movies

I have a new review up over at 366 Weird Movies and I think it’s an interesting one. The Catechism Cataclysm was one of the two midnight movies at IFF Boston this year, and it really is a doozy! There’s a drunk priest and a metal soundtrack and urban legends and Mark Twain references and terrifying Japanese tourists. It’s not quite on the same weirdness level as last year’s midnight surprise, Machotaildrop, but it’s probably a better movie overall.

Anyway go on over and give it a read!

IFF BOSTON: Jûsan-nin no shikaku (13 Assassins) (2010)

This was my last IFF Boston movie, and a follow-up to a long but exciting day at Boston Comic Con that afternoon. In 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike presents a surprisingly straightforward tale taking place in the late Edo Period. Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki), the sadistic brother to the shogun is traipsing about Japan raping, torturing, and slaughtering innocents while preparing to take a post in the capital as an influential (and untouchable) governmental advisor. The shogun’s right-hand man enlists a well-known samurai (Kôji Yakusho) to assassinate Naritsugu while he and his gigantic entourage are en route to the capital, so he enlists 12 others to help him. There’s a lot of walking and haranguing and kneeling and then finally like half an hour of complete badassery.

Known for his weird, cringe-inducing horror/gore like Audition and Ichi the Killer, Miike is a filmmaker I have to avoid at times. I enjoy his lighter, more stylized fare like The Happiness of the Katakuris and Sukiyaki Western Django. 13 Assassins sits somewhere else entirely, a deliberately-paced, lushly filmed rumination on classic samurai tales. Though pegged an action movie, most of the running time is dedicated to formal dialogue and exposition, with a wealth of characters interacting as politely as possible. There is a lot of gathering in groups to discuss serious matters, followed by a lot of walking through forests, and usually set against shots of Lord Naritsugu being a total entitled dick to everyone around him. There are a few acts of seppuku for good measure.

The cast is stalwart, the sets and costumes are detailed and lavish, the script moves slowly but surely. There are several interesting characters, from the utterly hardcore ronin Hirayama (Tsuyoshi Ihara) to the raffish lovesick peasant Koyata (Yusuke Iseya). But what really, really just makes this movie is the final act, because damn it is awesome. The assassins set up a total DEATH TOWN to ensnare their target and his 200 men, unleashing all manner of traps, mechanisms, and attacks to cut down their numbers. There are moving gates made of sharpened tree trunks. There’s a field of swords. Of swords! It’s so fucking cool, seriously. There’s just fighting and blood and dismemberment all over the place, but it’s never too gory or indulgent, which I found impressive for Miike.

The ending will leave you with an ecstatic adrenaline rush, but the beginning takes a little too much time. Still, 13 Assassins is an excellent samurai film, and from what I’ve heard it’s more fun than the original, though I haven’t seen it.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Well, Miike definitely draws a bit from Seven Samurai (then again, what movie ever made doesn’t?), but I hesitate to ever recommend that as a double feature movie because it’s just so long! Still, it’d be a good pairing if you have a whole day to kill.