The Playlist

Fantasia Film Festival Reviews: 'Sweetwater,' 'The Battery' & 'Ritual: A Psychomagic Story'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 27, 2013 9:01 PM
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Logan Miller’s “Sweetwater” (titled “Sweet Vengeance” in the credits, though it carries the first title at Fantasia) is an idiosyncratic western with a decidedly contemporary sensibility, merging a stoic approach to violence with an off-kilter, nearly Monty Python sensibility. It’s an unusual fit, but an intriguing one, and despite the silence of the film’s leisurely-paced scenes of dialogue, there’s never truly a dull moment. Miller has a fantastic cast to thank for that luxury.

Fantasia Film Festival Reviews: 'Return To Nuke 'Em High Vol. 1,' 'Antisocial' & 'Discopath'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 20, 2013 8:05 PM
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“Return To Nuke ‘Em High Vol.1” begins with narration that establishes the latest Troma effort as a sequel as well as a remake, showcasing the madcap lunacy of the unhinged first picture while tipping a cap to its sequels. The explanation now, which sort of renders the title irrelevant, revolves around a high school contaminated not by nuclear power, but by over-processed junk food, showing that Troma’s transgressive-but-progressive spirit still lives in the twenty first century. This is all covered by narration provided by Stan Lee, who has no involvement in the production or the story, and whom introduces the film with glowing-green radioactive eyes. If you can get past the arbitrariness of such a gesture, then you’re probably not a Troma rookie.

Fantasia Film Festival Review: Unflinching & Impressive 'Metro Manila'

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • August 8, 2013 7:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
If you're not into niche genre stuff like indie slasher films, Asian action flicks and ridiculously over-the-top monster movies then it's likely that you haven't even heard of the Fantasia Film Festival. For close to three full weeks this international festival descends upon the city of Montreal like a tidal wave of cinematic weirdness. The titles alone speak a thousand words: "Big Ass Spider!," "Zombie Hunter," "Curse of Chucky," "Drug War" etc. So when a movie like Sean Ellis' "Metro Manila" parachutes its way into the program, it almost feels like taking the first breaths of oxygen after a plastic bag's been lifted. Maybe it's the festival widening its range to include the sub-genres of drama, or it could be that they've succumbed to the temptation of premiering the 2013 Sundance Audience Award winner in Canada. Whatever the reason is, bless them for it.

Fantasia Film Festival Review: 'Go Down Death' A Unique, Strange & Unforgettable Directorial Debut

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • August 5, 2013 10:00 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Jonathan Mallory Sinus is credited as the “folklorist” responsible for the vignettes that follow at the beginning of “Go Down Death,” the closing film at the Fantasia Film Festival. What follows is a beautiful woman applying makeup and a man on guitar. Some of the world’s greatest filmmakers would argue that these are the only elements one needs to make a great film. The picture continues through its opening credits, introducing us to a doctor that overshares to a kind-eyed boy, and a double-amputee emphasizing liberation from his own legs as if his body were originally a vessel for a lie. Director Aaron Schimberg’s credit appears over the screams of a woman trapped inside a car, fighting for her life. This is a filmmaker with a very specific sensibility in regards to mortality.

Fantasia '12 Reviews: 'We Are Legion,' 'Alter Egos' & 'Nameless Gangster'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 31, 2012 11:02 AM
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"We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktavists" (dir. Brian Knappenberger, 2011) One of the greatest changes to activism in recent memory is the power of social media and the internet to mobilize, disseminate and even enact protest actions on a massive scale, all with the click of a mouse. As we have seen in events from the Arab Spring, Twitter and Facebook played huge roles for the citizens of those countries to both communicate with the outside world and organize their efforts. And while that might be the most high-profile example of the power of the online world to make massive change, moving much more below the radar are the loose knit, leaderless group of activists explored in "We Are Legion: The Story Of Hacktavists," a compelling, if wholly one-sided look at the rise of internet protest.

Fantasia '12 Review: 'Toad Road' A Captivating Micro-Budget Horror Film

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • July 27, 2012 11:03 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Screwing with genre in a similar way that micro-budget relative Aaron Katz does, Jason Banker's "Toad Road" is an off-putting horror tale that abstains from the easy routes its kin generally take. We're first introduced to James (James Davidson) as he awakens in a niveous woodland, isolated and curiously disheveled. It's a crafty opening, establishing a certain uneasiness with an enduring take shot from afar. He manages to hail down a ride, but despite the stranger's prodding at why the man was out in the middle of nowhere alone, the protagonist keeps a lid on it.

Review: Too Meta 'Human Centipede Part 2' Almost Reaches The All-Time Gross-Out Pantheon

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • September 24, 2011 1:35 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Is Tom Six a filmmaker? Is Tom Six a storyteller? No, at this point, you’ll have to conclude he is neither of these things. What he is represents something maybe more honest, more pure: he’s a provocateur. In making “The Human Centipede: First Sequence,” Six took a memorably deranged subject of medical dubiousness and turned it into a taut, often surprisingly funny shock fest, notable for its actual restraint considering the risible content. Lambasted for being a one-joke (one-gag?) premise, Six took advantage of a memorably deranged turn by Dieter Laser to produce a sterile, cold minor classic within the horror genre.

Fantasia '11 Review: 'Kidnapped' Starts Smart, But Ends As A Sleazy & Cheap Exploitation Flick

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 3, 2011 10:02 AM
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The single setting thriller is a tough trick to overcome as a director, as it constrains nearly every aspect of a production making it all the more difficult to elevate the film from its static surroundings. Last year saw a spate of single-setting flicks hit theaters, and while Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" and J Blakeson's underrated "The Disappearance Of Alice Creed" showed what inventive filmmaking and a smart screenplay can do in opening up the narrative in compelling ways, the Ryan Reynolds-led "Buried" was an example of what happens with a director can't get past the basic conceit of the picture. Which brings us to "Kidnapped," the first film in eight years from director Miguel Ángel Vivas and one that came to Montreal riding some decent buzz including Best Horror and Director prizes at last year's Fantastic Fest. We don't get the hype.

Fantasia '11 Review: 'Bangkok Knockout' Delivers Awesome Action In An Otherwise Incompetent Film

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 2, 2011 1:57 AM
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In many ways "Bangkok Knockout" is the perfect film for Fantasia (or any other similarly themed genre fest), but let's be clear: the latest from "Ong Bak 2" and "Ong Bak 3" director Panna Rittikrai is terrible in almost every conceivable technical, narrative and aesthetic category. It's atrociously acted, with a derivative, absurd story shot with no real skill except in making sure that when two characters are speaking to each other, they are both in the frame. However, when it's time for the fights -- which are frequent, exciting and amazingly staged, Rittikrai is firmly in his element and the audience is in his hand. "Bangkok Knockout" is precisely the kind of film that needs to be watched with a vocal, appreciative Fantasia crowd cheering along with every astounding punch, flip and kick, if only to share the joy of the sequences and have somebody to ride out the tedium of everything else in between.

Fantasia '11 Review: 'Blackthorn' Catches Up With A Retirement Ready Butch Cassidy

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • August 1, 2011 4:01 AM
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For the most part -- aside from a few forgettable/unknown titles -- no one has really taken on the legend of Butch Cassidy since Robert Redford and Paul Newman went out guns blazing in George Roy Hill's 1969 instant classic. Though "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" lives on as a cinematic touchstone and cultural reference point, the legend has largely been kept off the big screens as the boots of Redford and Newman are large to fill indeed. So you have admire the stones of writer Miguel Barros, director Mateo Gil and actor Sam Shepard for breaking the forty year taboo and making what is essentially a sequel (though more like a continuation) to the story of the classic outlaws -- but with a twist. Well, everyone knows Butch and Sundance died in a shootout with Bolivian officials, but what this movie presupposes is...maybe they didn't?

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