Part of the excitement that comes from any film festival lead-up, is attempting to make a first list of the films you want to see. It’s an arduous and ridiculous task. One that you will regret as things get closer. Constantly revising and editing, as more information comes to light. Then as the festival gets underway, you get suggestions of films you need to put on your radar. So with Fantasia International Film Festival beginning on August 20th, we wanted to highlight a bevy of titles you should write down.
The Paper Tigers
Dir. Bao Tran
What Fantasia Says: “Three childhood Kung Fu prodigies have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs and dad duties to overcome old grudges and avenge his death.”
Why We’re Excited: Martial arts films at film festivals are always cause for excitement. That’s usually because there’s something extra that helps them stand out. Wether it’s the quality of the combat onscreen, a level of unexpected heart or the rise of a new talent worth taking note of. All of which appear that they’ll be highlighted in Bao Tran’s film.
Dir. Shinichiro Ueda
What Fantasia Says: “Kazuto is not your typical amateur thespian. His dreams have been spoiled by a special nervous condition that makes him faint at the slightest sign of stress! One day, upon his brother’s serendipitous invitation, he joins a most peculiar agency, employing everyday actors to stage real-life situations! Being a stand-in at a wedding or a funeral is one thing… but soon enough, Kazuto must infiltrate a cult… and all hell breaks loose! Shinichiro Ueda (ONE CUT OF THE DEAD) is back with his highly anticipated sophomore film SPECIAL ACTORS! A delirious meta-comedy, doubling down on the performative antics of his previous making-of/zom-com hybrid, Ueda now turns the entire world into a stage – to our utmost delight!”
Why We’re Excited: After the smashing success of One Cut of the Dead, you have to be curious of Shinichiro Ueda’s followup. The premise is wild enough to hook us too, so this is a win-win scenario. If you don’t think expectations are high here, you should just check the sites coverage of One Cut here, here, here and here.
Class Action Park
Dir. Chris Charles Scott III & Seth Porges
What Fantasia Says: “During its 1980s and 1990s heyday, New Jersey’s Action Park was known as the world’s most dangerous amusement park. It was a lawless land, ruled by drunk teenage employees, with rides that ignored basic notions of physics, common sense, and safety. Stranger (and crazier) than fiction, CLASS ACTION PARK is the first-ever feature documentary to explore a place that has long since entered the realm of myth. Directed by Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III, the film peels away the trappings of nostalgia to reveal the shocking truth behind the park and its brilliant-but-mad founder – including a criminal conspiracy and cover-up that allowed a death trap to survive and thrive, even as its body count grew.”
Why We’re Excited: Action Park has a weird and wild spot in the annals of American amusement park history. Known just as much for the wild rides, as it was grievous bodily harm. Everyone who lived in the region has a story about the park. Johnny Knoxville started in a film loosely based on the park. So, getting to see a documentary about the place, is at the top of our list.
Dir. David Perrault
What Fantasia Says: “A family of French settlers must abandon their Missouri home and flee back to Paris when the American Civil War breaks out in David Perrault’s potent feminist Western, SAVAGE STATE (L’état sauvage), an official selection at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam. A stylish co-production between France, Canada, and Belgium, the film stars Alice Isaaz (ELLE), Déborah François (POPULAIRE), Kevin Janssens (REVENGE), Constance Dollé (LES REVENANTS), and Kate Moran (KNIFE+HEART). ”
Why We’re Excited: A trend with a lot of these answers is merely a few words. That’s because when you see a synopsis that mashes a few ideas or genres together and it just clicks in your brain, you’re sold. Feminist Western? Yes, please. The western is already and underrepresented genre these days. More often than not, indie genre films pick up the slack and do a bang up job of it. So the more indie westerns there are, the better.
Dir. Elza Kelphart
What Fantasia Says: “A possessed pair of jeans comes to life and terrorizes the staff of a trendy, vapid clothing boutique in SLAXX, the third feature from Montreal filmmaker Elza Kephart (GRAVEYARD ALIVE, GO IN THE UNIVERSE). Shipped to the company’s flagship store, Slaxx proceeds to wreak havoc on the staff, locked in overnight to set up the new collection.”
Why We Are Excited: You read killer jeans, right? What more do you need?
Crazy Samurai Musashi
Dir. Yuji Shimomura
What Fantasia Says: “Martial artist Tak Sakaguchi (VERSUS, WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL, YAKUZA WEAPON) is back in the spotlight with CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI – a long-in-the-making, unique take on swordsman Musashi Miyamoto’s most fabled battle, shot here as a single 77-minute action sequence by director Yûji Shimomura (DEATH TRANCE, RE:BORN). It’s Tak, 588 foes, and no room for error! “
Why We’re Excited: A couple years back director Shimomura and actor Tak teamed up for the wild and bloody action flick Re:Born. It basically brought a new cqc fighting technique to the screen. Now, they’re joining up for a film that’s supposedly a “1-take” chambray film. In less than 80 minutes. With hundreds of bodies sliced up along the way. That’s art. And the Musashi himself? He’s been the subject of numerous films, specially the Samurai Trilogy, where he was immortalized by the incomparable Toshiro Mifune. A lot to live up to, but we think it can pass the mark.
Dir. Johnnie To
What Fantasia Says: “When Tiger (Jacky Heung, of PUSH and FEARLESS) and Cuckoo (Keru Wang, YOUTH) meet, it’s a match made in heaven. Both involved with moneylenders, one is an over-enthusiastic rising star in the MMA world; the other a resourceful, aspiring singer on-the-run who will stop at nothing for a spot on ‘Perfect Diva’! Following THREE (Fantasia 2016), master filmmaker Johnnie To is back with CHASING DREAM: an unexpected blend of mixed-martial-arts drama and high-stakes musical comedy, taking the viewers back to the madcap energy of his mid-2000s collaborations with Wai Ka-Fai and the themes of his sports-and-destiny masterpiece THROW DOWN.”
Why We’re Excited: MMA madness and the trappings of a musical-comedy? That sounds too insane to miss. When Johnnie To throws himself into a film, the results are something special. Even when they don’t necessarily fully gel. Very few filmmakers are willing to continually challenge and change-up the style of film they’re working on next, more than To. Just Google “Running On Karma‘.
12 Hour Shift/Lucky
Dir. Brea Grant / Dir. Natasha Kermani
What Fantasia Says: …
Why We’re Excited: No, we didn’t forget to paste something up above. Simply, it doesn’t matter. We’re highlighting these two films because of the great Brea Grant. Most generations there comes along a genre actor who appears in numerous films and instantly ups their pedigree. Barbara Crampton is one of those and Brea Grant definitely fits that bill currently. What separates these two, is her level of involvement. Lucky sees Grant acting and scripting a tale of a self help author taking on a masked assailant. Meanwhile, Grant steps into the director’s chair (and also did the script) for 12 Hour Shift, which sees a junkie nurse, and side organ harvester, attempting to survive a long night in 1999.
Dir. Neill Marshall
What Fantasia Says: “A poignant and horrific period thriller set in 1665 against the backdrop of the Great Plague and the subsequent witch hunts in England, THE RECKONING stars Charlotte Kirk (OCEAN’S 8, NO PANIC WITH A HINT OF HYSTERIA), Sean Pertwee (DOG SOLDIERS, DOOMSDAY), Joe Anderson (THE GREY, THE CRAZIES), Steven Waddington (THE IMITATION GAME, LAST OF THE MOHICANS), and Emma Campbell-Jones (DOCTOR WHO). A vivid, compelling and confrontational film whose themes are frighteningly pertinent to today’s concerns, it will knock the wind out of you.”
Why We’re Excited: It’s Neil Marshall! There doesn’t need to be more said. When the person behind The Descent, Dog Soldiers, Doomsday and multiple Game of Thrones episodes, you see it. Setting the film with a weird period back drop, is an unexpected but nice touch, too. It’s also a bit wise never to bet against an opening night film. At least, as far as anticipation goes.
The Dark And The Wicked
Dir. Bryan Bertino
What Fantasia Says: “Writer/director Bryan Bertino (THE STRANGERS) takes rural terror up another notch in this incredibly scary shocker, previously slated to launch at the Tribeca Film Festival. On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the household. “
Why We’re Excited: You look at most lists for the scariest movies since 2000 and The Strangers is sure to be on there. That’s due to largely to Bryan Bertino’s laser sharp focus. His follow-up The Monster divided people, but still provided solid thrills, while working in a creature feature element. Now he returns back to a secluded area and brings all manner of new frights. This was set to have irs premiere at Tribeca, before it postponed. So now it’s a thrill that it’s still getting to hit the festival circuit this year.
Monster Seafood Wars
Dir. Minoru Kawasaki
What Fantasia Says: “When a disgraced scientist who now works at his dad’s sushi shop gets into a minor bicycle accident, he ends up creating a huge-but-delicious problem that can only be described as MONSTER SEAFOOD WARS! Before you can say “colossal calamari”, a squid, an octopus, and a crab – each as big as buildings – are wreaking massive kaiju havoc all over Tokyo!”
Why We’re Excited: Call it tapping into nostalgia or just being fans of director Kawasakie (Executive Koala), but this one hits a sweet spot. A “men in rubber suits” kaiju film feels like exactly what the world needs right now.
Remember that this is only a small sample of what Fantasia International Film Festival has on offer. With films and events taking place between Aug. 20 and Sept 2, there is a bunch going on. Keep your eyes tuned here, as we’ll be unleashing a bunch of reviews on the site, in the coming days.