Toronto After Dark 2015 – A Preview

 

The 10th edition of the Toronto After Dark film festival kicks off later today and runs for a solid 9 days (Oct. 15-23). The fest seems to have settled into its niche – it doesn’t look to expand beyond its ~20 screenings per year and likely won’t compete for big World premieres, but year after year it puts together an interesting and eclectic lineup of solid genre fare. Granted, there are typically some odd choices and a rather insistent need to pick thematic pairings (I have to assume many people are getting slightly tired of the zombie double-bills every year – or is that just me?), but there’s little doubt that genre fans who don’t make the trip to Fantasia and Fantastic Fest are rabidly happy that TAD rolls in the numerous big genre titles of the year to the big screen here in Toronto. And many of us are also rabidly happy about the late night pub gatherings.

With the shift to the downtown Scotiabank location in recent years, the more anticipated screenings typically sell-out (several have already done that) so the fest has instituted some late night second screenings for the more popular titles. Consult the full lineup on the festival’s schedule page) which should include trailers for the films as well. Here’s a short run down of this year’s titles (with the proviso that I’ve not watched any trailers or read much about any of these films):

 

Thursday October 15th

 

Tales Of Halloween – Though my love for horror anthologies was challenged a few years ago when Trick R’ Treat was screened at After Dark (I seem to be in the minority in not liking that film though), I have higher hopes for this particular effort. The stories are shorter, the directors are more varied & interesting and there has already been some solid reviews of it. All the tales apparently take place on the same spooky evening, so we’ll see if they manage to do any crossover/merging of the stories or if they are all standalone. I’d love it if they could bring some of the feeling of the old Amicus anthologies from the 70s, but I think we’ll be in for a pretty rousing fest opener regardless.

The Hallow – To be honest, all I needed to see was that the film was from Ireland…Of late, there have been numerous really solid atmospheric horror films coming from that isle (or at least funded via their film fund) like Dorothy Mills, Citadel and the recent The Canal. Though there isn’t necessarily anything specifically in common between those films, there is an appreciation of atmosphere and a willingness not to rush to jump scares. Even though The Hallow is getting stuck with the “scariest film at the fest” moniker (which always sets expectations too high), I’m hopeful that it will tackle horror in my favourite way – the one that slowly envelops and squeezes the breath from you.

 

Friday October 16th

Synchronicity – Sci-fi can be a tricky bet at smaller festivals like this (especially when you hear them being compared to much larger budget and classic films like Blade Runner), but TAD has chosen a few good ones the last couple of years and with director Jacob Gentry’s track record of The Signal behind him, there’s at least some solid talent involved. Given the title and the knowledge that there are likely some time travel paradoxes involved, the film promises to be a head-scratcher in a good way. Also, Michael Ironside plays a baddie, so there’s always that.

Lazer Team – I’ll be honest…I have much less confidence that Lazer Team lives up to any of its billing. Goofy comedic sci-fi can be even more difficult to hit right especially when your protagonists are (apparently from the blurb) idiots. I’m not familiar with the filmmaking team’s web series (Rooster Teeth), so this one is a crap shoot.

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TIFF 2014 Review: The World of Kanako

 


The first two minutes of Tetsuya Nakashima’s violent and unrelenting assault on the senses are a litmus test on whether one should proceed. A frenetic orgy of editing non-sequitors, both assaulting and attention grabbing, occurs right before slamming into a stylized split-screen opening credits sequence right out of 1960s Nikkatsu cop movies but painted over with expletives and animated blood spatters. What follows is 120 minutes of uncomfortable, aggressive, and rigourously crafted filmmaking. Even up against the most extreme offerings from Takashi Miike and Sion Sono this film feels like it is pushing the visual envelope to an endgame where this branch of cinema is ready to be pruned from the tree lest it grow any further and kill the organism. I jest, but only a little

The film features the sweatiest and angriest performance from Kôji Yakusho in his prolific career. As disgraced detective Akikazu, he is channelling the same unhinged brutishness as Michael Caine’s Get Carter and Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant. He starts the film off in a ratty white suit with a rats nest of hair and a glaze of perspiration on everything. As the film proceeds at bullet train velocity, a derailment ever 4 minutes or so, the suit gets soaked in blood, his face a punching bag of bruises and tense angry expression.

Divorced from his wife after an she had affair, and he pummelled the other man into the hospital, Akikazu has been cut off from his daughter and left to stew in his own rage for months. The doctors have him on some powerful brain medications which ostensibly are the reason for the temporal obliteration in the editing structure. He is unstuck in time from his state of mind and chemistry such that he barely knows what is happening at any given moment, blinded rage at the universe for his lot in life. He is given purpose when his daughter is kidnapped and his ex-wife pleas with him for help. Tangentially akin to Christopher Nolan’s far more sedate Memento or Erik Van Looy’s underrated The Alzheimer Case, in terms of anti-heroes in no shape for any kind of procedural investigation, this is just the framework for the gonzo editing tapestry which unfolds.

Azikazu’s bull in a china shop investigation of the private life of his daughter, Kanako, reveals her to be as big a monster as her father, only with the whims and desires of a hormonal teenager. She is Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me, raised to the power of Ichi The Killer. Flashbacks of school bullying, suicide, Spring Breakers inspired drug orgies, and other extracurricular prostitutions are as far as possible from the quiet, controlled simmering of Nakashima’s previous school set trauma-drama Confessions.

The quest might be noble, but Azikazu goes about it in the most monstrous fashion. Women are slapped, sexually assaulted, men are stabbed, shot and curb stomped. Did I mention this movie is not for the faint of heart? Where things become irresponsible is that many sequences, even people being run over by vehicles, are playfully whimsical. The score consists foot tapping, classic tunes including House of the Rising Sun and Across 110th Street only with newly written english lyrics substituted in. The tonal shifts on display here boggle the mind. There is some kind of mad genius at work here. The craft is impeccible.

Along with so many other 21st century Japanese films, what the creative set has has to say about the nation’s educational institutions, is that it is they are place of abject, unrelenting terror. Blame is placed as much on the culture and the establishment as it is on distant, neglectful parenting. But the film doesn’t point fingers, it breaks them or chops them off. When reality penetrates Akikazu’s anger and drug fuelled haze to realize his quest is more to kill his daughter with his own hands rather than any quaint notion of saving her from the cruel world. Everyone is drowning in a river of shit (us included) so wide that the embankments are not visible and the current is unyielding. This is not hyperbole, this is what it is.

The filmmakers and actors have no interest in proceeding with caution in The World of Kanako, but my suggestion is that anyone taking this trip to cinematic hell be aware of just how far down the rabbit hole goes.

Friday One Sheet: Tokyo Collage!

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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #a9a883;”] I [/dropcap]f you managed to catch last years festival smash, Why Don’t You Play In Hell, or really, anything that director Sion Sono has done in the past decade or two, you will realize how appropriate collage is to his film-making style. Japanese posters are routinely this cluttered and crazy, it is often true of the past couple decades that the most enjoyable films to come out of that country are also made in this fashion. But this poster for Sono’s latest, Tokyo Tribe with its gold suits, light sabers, vintage cars, huge sound systems and ladies in cocktail dresses, feels satisfying and with purpose and suggests a bit of a taste of Walter Hill’s The Warriors

It sure as hell does the job of making me want to see this fine when it comes out, which apparently the poster needs to specify that it will be happening on a Saturday. For the curious, the teaser trailer can be found over a Twitchfilm.

THE MASSIVE ROWTHREE TIFF13 SUMMARY

Welcome to our sixth annual Toronto International Film Festival Mega-Sized wrap-up post. Getting several Row Three contributors and friends to provide over 100 capsule reviews and a quick identifier tag for [BEST], [LOVED], [LIKED], [DISLIKED], [DISAPPOINTED], [BAFFLED], [WALKED OUT], [HATED] and [WORST]. Collectively we – Kurt Halfyard, Matt Brown, Matt Price, Ryan McNeil, Bob Turnbull, Mike Rot and Ariel Fisher – saw a tonne of stuff and hopefully this list can act as a ‘rough guide’ for films that are coming down the pike, to a cinema near you or perhaps one of the many streaming VOD avenues or even one of those increasingly antiquated shiny discs in the next 12 months.

THE SHORT VERSION:

Personal BEST: UNDER THE SKIN [Kurt], LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON [Mike Rot], WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL [Matt B.], STARRED UP [Bob], THE HUSBAND [Ariel], 12 YEARS A SLAVE [Ryan], and SUNSHINE ON LEITH [Matt P.].

Personal WORST: BLOOD TIES [Kurt], PARKLAND [Mike Rot], MOEBIUS [Matt B.], THE FAKE [Bob], WORDS & PICTURES [Ariel], CINEMANOVELS [Ryan], and REAL [Matt P.].

Consensus Picks: ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, GRAVITY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, R100, iNUMBER NUMBER, JOE, BLUE RUIN and MYSTERY ROAD.

The ‘MASSIVE’ version is tucked under the seat. Grab a cup of tea or coffee.

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My 13 Most Anticipated Films of 2013

Anticipated2013MoodIndigo

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In honour of finally seeing a 2013 movie that I’ve been eager to catch (Chan-wook Park’s Stoker – which was a heaping batch of candy and colour coated fun), I thought I would lay out some of the films I’m most excited to see in 2013. I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch (I’ve heard that Lucretia Martel has a new one coming out this year, but haven’t found any confirmation) and I could make the list even longer (sorry Richard Kelly and Terry Gilliam – you guys just missed the cut), but these 13 stand out as my most anticipated:

 

Mood Indigo – Michel Gondry

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that this became my number one “can’t wait for it” movie of the year the second I heard about it. I’ll always be curious what Gondry does and this looks to have a great sense of wonder to it.

 

Anticipated2013PigeonSatOnABranch

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence – Roy Andersson

This would likely be my number one if I could only be assured it was actually coming out this year…I was over the moon for Andersson’s last film You, The Living from 2007 (not to mention adoring his 2000 film Songs From The Second Floor), so I’ve been waiting somewhat, though only somewhat, patiently for the follow-up…After seeing The Story Of Film at TIFF 2011, I was able to chat very briefly with director Mark Cousins and he said he had seen Andersson’s new film and that it was amazing. And now that this is the third year in a row that predictions are being made about it’s arrival at Cannes, the patience is, ahem, wearing thin. The word “eager” doesn’t even come close to describing my anticipation.

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DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Guilty of Romance

Director: Sion Sono
Screenplay: Sion Sono
Starring: Megumi Kagurazaka, Miki Mizuno, Makoto Togashi
Producers: Yoshinori Chiba & Nobuhiro Iizuka
Country: Japan
Running Time: 144/112 min (112 min version reviewed)
Year: 2011
BBFC Certificate: 18

Sion Sono draws his ‘hate trilogy’ to a close with Guilty of Romance. From what I’ve heard there is little in common between the three films (Love Exposure and Cold Fish are the first two – neither of which I’ve actually seen so I can’t comment), but nonetheless Guilty of Romance is clearly the work of the maverick Japanese director behind oddities such as Suicide Club and Exte. This is more serious in tone than those two films, but retains the dark, twisted and occasionally baffling take on it’s subject matter.

Guilty of Romance opens with a female police detective arriving at the scene of a brutal murder where the body parts of a woman have been attached to those of mannequins to create two creepy human dolls, and neon pink paint has been splashed around the seedy surroundings. Body parts that could be used to identify the victim (head, hands and feet) as well as the sexual organs are missing though so the detective heads off to investigate. This classic murder mystery aspect is pretty much left there other than a few glimpses in the version I saw. The film has two cuts, the original 144 minute Japanese one and a shorter international version. This 112 minute cut pretty much removes the detective story whereas the longer one retains it. Both cuts have been endorsed by Sono, so I can’t see a need to get too worked up at the UK release being shorter. In fact what little we see of the detective story is bland and fairly unnecessary in my eyes anyway so I’m actually pleased I got to see the international version.

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TIFF Review: Himizu

After seeing Sion Sono’s latest film Himizu, my first thought was to write the entirety of its review in UPPER CASE. This would help get across the intensity of just about every single moment of this 2+ hour look at the state of Japanese society a short time after the March 2011 earthquake and devastating tsunami. Not only do the characters YELL and SCREAM a great deal in the film, but every interaction and even every pause for self-reflection is imbued with what seems to be a vast amount of gravitas. This is melodrama to the absolute highest possible degree as the backing repetitive music ebbs and flows and builds to crescendos matched with the characters emotions. Even the backing sound effects get in on the action as screeches, staccato static and particularly rumbling sounds permeate the film. During scenes where the tension has built to an almost explosive point, the deep rumbles feel like an earthquake has just unleashed waves of destruction that will crash to shore very soon.

The destruction of the tsunami is apparent right from the beginning as the camera pans across mounds and mounds of rubble – an amount so large that it is obviously actual wreckage from the disaster. The camera eventually settles on 14-year old Sumida who runs his parents boat rental store. It’s ramshackle, but certainly in far better shape than the huts that have sprung up near the store which are populated by several people who have lost everything in the torrents of water. These people are scarred almost as bad as the landscape, occasionally taking to walking out to the middle of the worst of the rubble and screaming. Back at their shacks they find a bit of solace with each other by drinking and looking out for Sumida. His mother is a whore and his father stops by regularly to beat him up and take whatever money he has. Neither parent cares for him and his father just flat out tells him that things would have been better if he hadn’t been born and that he should really think about killing himself.

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Cinecast Episode 183 – The Jogging Gay Guys

 
Thanks to regular RowThree contributor and all around nice guy, Bob Turnbull for showing up once again on this week’s Cinecast to help us all digest the massive movie extravaganza known as this years edition Toronto International Filmfestival (aka TIFF10). Also, a hearty welcome to the longest Row Three Cinecast episode of all time. Bob and Kurt give some preview and insight into much anticipated films from Werner Herzog, Darren Aronofsky, Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Sion Sono, Errol Morris, John Carpenter, Sylvain Chomet, and the folks behind Not Quite Hollywood looking at the Drive-In cheapies shot in the Philippines. And then there is the really off-beat stuff like a post-apocalyptic-vampire-western-road movie, Stake Land (which is magnificent), a naughty DIY costumed hero flick from James Gun called Super and starring Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon, an Eva Green starring ethereal cloning drama from Hungary, but in English, called Womb, and a film that will make you completely reassess how you feel about Santa Claus and his elf posse when the jolly fat man is portrayed as a 25 meter tall horned demon encased in a block of ice under a Finnish mountain. But before all that, Andrew managed to catch Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, The Town as well as the much talked about I’m Still Here starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by the other Affleck, Casey. Easy A also available to the multiplex crowd has Bob and Kurt heap a fair bit of love onto the film in an effort to get Andrew to give it a chance. Yes, folks, it is that good. A few other movies we watched, DVD picks (we’re all a bit drunk at this point) and the odd tangent keep this podcast unspooling and unspooling.
We hope you enjoy this latest show and as always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 
 

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_183.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_183-alt.mp3

 


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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Review: Hazard

hazard-dvd [While this weeks episode of the Rowthree Cinecast hasn’t quite been published yet, I am kind of kicking myself for overlooking the Canadian DVD release of Sion Sono’s Hazard. Its release was delayed by due weeks in an unfortunate manufacturing error, just another little bump on this films way to the public. It was one of my favourite little films that I caught on the festival circuit in 2007, even then the film was finished in 2005 and was not shown until mid 2007 for one reason or another. However, Sono’s current 4 hour opus “Love Exposure” is not plagued with such woes, as it is currently on a rampage winning audience awards at festivals (and is one of my most anticipated films for 2009). Going into the archives and pulling out my Fantasia Festival review of Hazard (originally published on Twitch) to celebrate the films release – note the DVD is available from Evokative films.]

Drifting aimlessly through a foreign country is a time honoured tradition for college students in many cultures. In North America, the obligatory and much clichéd trip to Europe generally involves booze, museums, hostels and trains. There is a part of nearly everyone that wants an experience beyond the standard where hazard is often the goal of the trip as it is a thing of which to be wary.

Frustrated with college life and feeling simultaneously ‘sleepy and restless’, Shin rockets off campus, literally screaming, for something away from orderly bookshelves and quiet study. The dream is the crime soaked streets of New York City, prompted by a statistic that it is Americas most dangerous city (the film is set in the late 1990s). He pushes off a couple of perky Japanese tourists upon arriving at the Big Apple despite their blatant advances. Shin does not want to be a tourist. He wants the experience of the mean streets. It should be noted that Shin is played by none other than Joe Odagiri, debuting as a leading star here in this 2005 film, Hazard, but has since made a career out of wandering around cities in cinema, including Tokyo (Adrift in Tokyo) and Sao Paulo (Plastic City)

After being mugged and left hungry and lost, Shin drops into the lap of two Japanese-Americans. Lee, played to the hilt by Japanese-Canadian Jai West, is a blustery and unpredictable ball of energy who somehow manages to rob convenience stores, deal drugs, handle the local (racist) thug cop effortlessly while speaking in his own personal patois of Japanese and Gangsta. Takeda is the shy sidekick in love with a white Maître d’ up the street. Wanting to skip relationship and head straight into marriage and babies, his perfect English evaporates whenever he tries to speak to her. The boyish pair like their Carpe Diem mixed with petty larceny, speed laced ice cream and no shortage of firearms. They give Shin his dream of being apart of a full live-in-the-moment-consequences-be-damned existence all the while teaching him English using Walt Whitman verse.

Japanese director Sion Sono’s grunge fantasy of New York is built up from impressions of the city through early Scorsese pictures makes no bones of its wish-fulfillment intent. It is awash in the red and yellow neon glow of the night and the soggy, trash strewn urban ghetto of the day. It is shot in with long hand-held takes and an improvised feel of perpetual motion. The vérité style—using seat of the pants location shooting, non-actors in the supporting roles—is cleverly subverted to full blown fantasy. The consequences of throwing beer into the face of the law and getting into casual gun-fights with shop proprietors? They feed back into the loop of cool that Sono is intent on running for the audience. Lee’s trip to prison amounts to the observation that he looks good in orange. Late Taxi Driver ambitions offer little in the way of substance. But here, that is kind of the point—the films strength and originality if you will.

Think Thomas Vinterberg’s Dear Wendy without the irony and polemic or Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket without the goofy humour. Hazard is determined to be lost in the romance of the foreign crazy-sexy-cool and free of any real depth or truth. So, it sort of ends up being the tourist voyage after all. The infectious performances and the dreamy version of New York captured by Sono still make it worth the trip along with the resolute aim of the film to have fun. The sticky question proposed is whether or not a perceived experience by way of fantasy is a healthy way to make one a better person. Wispy and etherial, Hazard manages to linger despite its own best intentions.