Fantasia : Repo : The Genetic Opera, Sasori, Hunting Grounds and Going by the Book

This year's final movie block averages the lowest of all the movie blocks I've seen this year. In fact, before sitting through one of these films, I could have proclaimed "Best Fantasia Ever", in the sense that I had seen absolutely no dud. Oh well, here's the rundown.

Repo is very interesting film, with an awesome rock/opera soundtrack. Although musically strong, the writing was only average. The universe is very imaginative and interesting, the visuals are artsy and sharp. The cast is great. Overall a good film.

I have no doubt that porting a manga series to the big screen is a very difficult task. Some succeed, and then there's Sasori. Disconnected, trying desperately to fit too much material in the time it has, suffering from intense pacing problems, Sasori is an unfortunate example of how not to adapt a manga to the big screen. It's unfortunate though, because many of the fight scenes are spectacular and very well done. Many characters are interesting, and I would have liked to see their story better told. Sometimes '70s sexploitation, sometimes intense action flick, Sasori keeps looking for itself and just doesn't succeed.

After enduring through last year's Recon 2022, I was apprehensive of Hunting Grounds, the DIY Quebec-Science-Fiction-Post-Apocalyptic-Zombie movie. But it was just too hard to resist. Hunting Grounds is one of those DIY movie that you can be proud of for many reasons. First : the special effects including green screen effects are well executed. Second : This is a movie that doesn't pretend to be American or doesn't take the "so generic a setting that it could be american" like many indie films try to do (to maximize profits, no doubt). This one openly takes place in Quebec city and the Saguenay region, the characters are part french, part english (with reverse subtitles, a nice touch). So that's a pretty good approach. Unfortunately, it suffers from two of the greatest plagues that often strike DIY movies : Bad sound and less-than-adequate acting. Despite those flaws, the movie is still competent in direction and editing to warrant kudos.

Going by the Book, this year's last movie (for me) is one of those gems that just makes you laugh all the way through, although it has a few creepy moments. It has stylish direction, excellent casting and acting throughout. With enough clever shots to have you wonder if it will remain a comedy throughout, or if you will face a darker ending. Going by the Book has a couple of inconsistencies, but is overall hilrarious and an excellent movie. I highly recommend.


Fantasia : L Change the World, Chanbara Beauty, Roborock and Be a Man! Samurai School.

Not a single bad choice this year it would seem.

L : Change the World wasn't as good as either of the Death Note movies, but Ken'ichi Matsuyama once again so brilliantly portrays the misfit genius L that he makes it all worthwhile. Fans of the anime will also see a broader use of the universe of Death Note, namely the Wammy's House and its members. It's good, but not great.

Chanbara Beauty is what you would expect. Attractive women kicking ass against the zombie hordes. What's not to like? The darkness in which the movie often takes place originally led me to believe there was something wrong with the projector, but it wasn't the case. Fortunately, a big chunk of the movie takes place during the day, which helps the audience appreciate the visuals. The final battle has a very anime-esque side to it which I haven't seen that much before.

Roborock is extremely cool and stylish. It suffers from a few pacing issue, abusive use of flashbacks and a slight lack of focus, or at least misplaced focus. Still, it's overall one of the better Fantasia movies I've seen this year.

Tak Sakaguchi was on hand, as cool as ever, to show us Be a Man! Samurai School. Tak is well known (Death Trance, Battlefield Baseball, Shinobi, many others) and he was really beyond cool, showing up in costume and performing planned action choregraphies on stage. The movie itself was machist, hilarious and full of pretty solid action. Though the first half, where the students are at school, was definately better than the second half, in which they have to fight for survival.


Fantasia : Disciplines of the 36th Chamber, Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge and Sukiyaki Western Django

Wow! I notice my last blog post is almost a year old and about Fantasia. It's as though there isn't much else to report! Truth is, I'm extremely busy with Tales of the USCA, and keep that blog well-fed.

This year's fantasia won't get detailed reviews on this blog. Just quick notes, and here are the reports for week 1:

Disciplines of the 36th chamber : This year's Shaw Brothers movie. One of the better ones, but certainly not as good as Heroes of the East.

Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge : My own personal favorite so far, and probably my favorite romantic comedy of all times, with Shaun of the Dead. But the coming-of-age aspect of it makes it a bit better I think. I loved it.

Sukiyaki Western Django : My main gripe with the movie is with the decision to shoot it in english. It's always weird to listen to people who don't appear to know what the hell they're talking about. But that was required in order to stick in all the classic spaghetti western quotes in there. Overall a pretty decent film with interesting characters. Takashi Miike is awesome.

There you have it folks. Week two coming soon...