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LATEST REVIEWS
BACURAU
"Off-kilter in a way that represents the times we live in."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "For a film set in the near future where government is apparently on the verge of collapse, allowing a group of sadists to terrorize the less fortunate, "Bacurau" is relatively light on violence over the course of its 131 minutes (though what's there is intense) and doesn't particularly go in for complex world-building. What it's got is a strangely reassuring blend of properly directed anger and recognition that anger alone isn't enough. It's a movie that suggests that civilization isn't necessarily doomed just because things are going to hell." (more)
WHISTLERS, THE
"Police, adverseries."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "For all that some rightly complain about filmmakers being pigeonholed, there are times when filmmakers seem to do it to themselves. Take "The Whistlers", which has a clever premise for a heist, a nice cast, and an intriguingly twisted network of surveillance and corruption - and a writer/director in Corneliu Porumboiu who seemingly can't be satisfied to just make an entertaining genre movie. He acknowledges their appeal, references them, and otherwise sets up bits of meta-commentary, but doesn't capture the actual excitement of such movies." (more)
FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA
"Weird, highly specific, and often hilarious."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: This may not be the most shojo movie possible, assuming I'm not being my manga categories mixed up, but even if I am, it's right up there in terms of just being absurdly, specifically Japanese, and regionally so at that. It shouldn't travel at all, even to a festival audience of people who love Japanese pop culture, and yet it got the biggest laughs of any film there, because for all that the jokes are specific, the spirit is not, and the way they're told is something anyone can laugh at." (more)
FANTASTIC FUNGI
"The fungi are at the very least fascinating."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Fantastic Fungi" is put together so well that it may take some sort of interruption while watching it to notice that it has seemingly gone from "nifty science documentary" to "cult recruitment video" without causing whiplash. It's impressive editing, actually, when a film can make you sit up and wonder just how you got somewhere seemingly so far from where you started, and then look at it in whole and say, actually, that's not so big a trip after all." (more)
ODE TO NOTHING
"Better than the usual story of someone talking to the deceased."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Films like "Ode to Nothing" aren't quite a genre unto themselves, but after a while one can be a bit jaded: It's sad, with a fanciful but eccentrically morbid premise, the sort of thing that's a bit transgressive and daring, but which is clearly meant to be taken seriously. They get made on a regular basis because there's something to it, and when someone has as keen an eye for where she's going with the idea as Dwein Baltazar does with this one." (more)
DANCE WITH ME
"A fun, silly musical about musicals being silly and fun."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Movie and stage musicals are grandly and gloriously unreal in a way that little else in popular culture manages to be, and people can't handle it; almost every one made these days builds in some excuse for the songs rather than giving the audience credit for understanding that they are not what's literally happening. "Dance With Me" is no exception, but it does that well enough to make one want to see what filmmaker Shinobu Yaguchi and star Ayaka Miyohsi could do without making excuses, since they've clearly got the right screwball instincts and the film is ultimately about loving this sort of material whether it's realistic or not." (more)
PURITY OF VENGEANCE (JOURNAL 64), THE
"Getting past where a lot of series snap."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Department Q" has, as a film series, reached the point where it not only has to deal with characters staying in the same place rather than having some sort of shift in their job or life, but where a character is compelled to mention that they really didn't have this many perverse cold cases before Carl Mørck was assigned to them. It's not quite a breaking point, but it's a spot where I suspect everyone involved is thinking about how to avoid inertia while not changing the series's basic appeal." (more)
CENCOROLL CONNECT
"Slackers and their giant monsters."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's a shift in the animation style somewhere in the middle of this film, but that's natural; there's ten years between the releases of "Cencoroll" and "Cencoroll 2", and you can't help but see the spot where they are fused into a short feature. The thing is, it becomes a bit of a different sort of anime at that point, introducing more characters who have clear purpose and sense of urgency, piling more action on, losing a bit of what made the opening feel unique even if it isn't necessarily anything completely new." (more)
8
"Features the sort of horror villain who's too good to be described as one."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The demon, of sorts, at the center of "8" is a sad, guilty one, something which makes for a different sort of thriller than the fairly traditional opening implies; it's as much the story of someone bound to something supernatural as those facing it, which means that filmmaker Harold Holscher doesn't have save the sense of tragedy that goes with these stories entirely for after he's done stringing the audience along." (more)
INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WKND, THE
"Time flies..."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The big question after this screening was "when did you see it", referring to the compositional trick going on through the film, which maybe speaks to how it's more of a visual gimmick than something that enhances the film's themes without overstating them. Which is a shame, because as much as that particular element may or may not work for a viewer, it does play into what filmmaker Jon Mikel Caballero is going for, helping to focus a genre often played for laughs into something a little more thoughtful." (more)

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