Fantasia 2020 review: ‘The Paper Tigers’ is a funny, action packed crowd-pleaser.

Synopsis

Action/Dramedy
Three childhood Kung Fu prodigies have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men – now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties, and overcome old grudges to avenge his death.

Making its world premiere at Fantasia 2020, The Paper Tigers is endlessly funny with amazing fight choreography. Any time a moment gets serious, a hilarious joke is cracked. It keeps the pace alive and well. Writer-director Writer-director Bao Tran has given audiences a real treat. When I told my husband about the plot, he lovingly jested “I liked it better when it was called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” And yes, it has a fantastic nostalgia that the series also possessed, and you cannot avoid comparisons to The Karate Kid. These are all genuine compliments. This film is sheer perfection for my generation because it feels like a love letter to martial arts films but has that extra something unique. As someone who is also currently binging Cobra Kai, The Paper Tigers arrives at the right moment.

The plot is unexpected. We get to delve into friendship, loyalty, parenting, and the reality of aging all through a mystery. There is nothing I didn’t enjoy about the film. The fight sequences are super engrossing and again, any moment that veers into the weighty territory is carefully cut with humor. The editing reveals more backstory information little by little with flashbacks all caught on camcorder footage. It’s a great touch. The Paper Tigers is an awesome introduction to anyone who hasn’t seen a martial arts film before. It will ease you into the genre all while capturing your heart… and make you laugh out loud. What more can you ask for?

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘The Mortuary Collection’ is dark, twisted, and fun as hell.

On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he’s encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story – is his own.

With a gorgeous opening sequence reminiscent of Creepshow and Spielberg‘s Amazing Stories, ( plus a blink and you’ll miss it homage to director Ryan Spindell as an easter egg) The Mortuary Collection was already going to be one of my favorites at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival 2020. Honestly, you had me at Clancy Brown, a man who haunted my youth in Pet Semetary 2. The visual textures are nothing short of delicious. This film oozes eerie but in a strangely friendly way. Brown’s overall aesthetic lies somewhere between Lurch and Phantasm‘s Tall Man. It’s beautiful for a genre fan.

This horror anthology is told in chronological era order. Each one stylized to high heaven in all it’s glory. The specificity and care in which the sequences are dressed, the minute details like a nautical wallpaper, or the name of a frat house is not to be ignored. But the homages did not end with the titles. Evil Dead, Corpse Bride, Beetlejuice, The Shining, are only a few films that feel referenced. The performances are outstanding from every single cast member. But I’ll focus on Clancy Brown and Caitlin Custer, specifically. Brown in all his towering presence and booming voice glory is a mere half of this spectacular. His wise, seen it all manner of spookiness is nothing short of perfection. Custer’s smart-alecky persona is an excellent foil here. Her nonchalance both puts you at ease and tips you off to something darker. They are both undeniably incredible.

The Mortuary Collection presents us with morality tales wrapped in scary, unexpected delight. In no way whatsoever does it appear to have been made on an indie budget. It’s simply stunning to behold from every single angle. The practical fx are gross and gorgeous. The storytelling is both tongue-in-cheek and terror-filled. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from Spindell except perhaps an entire franchise.

 

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Minor Premise’ is a major feat.

Attempting to surpass his father’s legacy, a reclusive neuroscientist becomes entangled in his own experiment, pitting ten fragments of his consciousness against each other.

What if you could improve yourself? What if you could erase bad memories and make yourself smarter? Would you risk your very sanity? Minor Premise is a complex and intelligent film filled with surprise after surprise. Ethan Kochar’s experiment is an attempt to heal. His attempts to outdo his father’s legacy could cost him everything. His willingness to risk any remaining relationships he holds dear is boundless. Becoming the subject of his own experiment tunes him into the darkest parts of his subconscious. Director Eric Schultz has crafted an intricately edited thinkpiece that will twist your mind. Just before the 34-minute mark, Minor Premise both explains its plot and has one of the most clever single shots of the entire Fantasia 2020 Film Festival. Intentional or not, it feels like a nod to Peter Pan and time.

The storyboarding for Minor Premise must have been a major feat. Trying to keep the audience engaged during a myriad of jumps and emotional states feels like an impossibility, but Eric Schultz, and fellow writers Thomas Torrey, and Justin Moretto manage to use the chaos to drive the plot forward. It is where the film thrives. And yes, while it is about science, deep down it’s about embracing emotional truth. Minor Premise hinges entirely on Sathya Sridharan‘s interpretation of the science-based script. It is, at times, manic. Other times measured. Even hitting an even-keeled determination we are desperate for him to be for us. He represents the viewer. The desire to understand, the want for success, and the need to get to whatever conclusion is imminent. His scene to scene, moment to moment emotional highs and lows are altogether captivating. Minor Premise takes you on a ride in which you will check your own morals along the way.

Find out more about Minor Premise and Fantasia 2020

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘Yummy’ is a gory treat.

The young woman wants a breast reduction. … Wandering through an abandoned ward the boyfriend stumbles upon a young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table; she is the result of an experimental rejuvenation treatment.

All guts, all glory in this splatterfest zombie comedy. Fantasia 2020’s audiences will know what kind of film they’re in for by the tagline alone: “Facelifts, Boobjobs… and Zombies”. Yummy is a hilarious look at vanity through the zombie lense. I especially liked the when the female doctor traverses across a plank in what might be referred to as “f*ck me” heels. I’d love to know how many gallons of fake blood they had on set. I’m a sucker for great practical FX, so the added element of blood hitting the camera clutch. If 3D was still a popular fad, Yummy would be a perfect choice. The rest of the gag-inducing makeup will not be missed. My best guess would be Kensington Gore recipe… because, not poisonous and all. There are scenes that will make you wince because they are that gross. But that’s what we show up for.

Performances are all incredible. Everyone has the perfect balance of whatever personality trait needs to be pushed just a touch too far. While it does feel about 15 minutes too long, the kills keep coming and they’re entertaining as hell. Writers Lars Damoiseaux (who also directs) and Eveline Hagenbeek give us a ton to hold onto. Like many zombie films, it highlights ingenuity. But there is a lot more going on. Yummy dives into misogyny and the patriarchy, by both men and women. But I will say that when the worst offending characters get what’s coming to them your smirk will widen. Not only do we have that aspect, but we also have a genuine love story. On that note, major props for choices made in ending this film. Perhaps the ultimate moral of the story, you’re beautiful just the way you are? But it’s a zombie movie so who needs a moral, anyhow.

Find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how you can watch Yummy

Fantasia 2020 review: ‘SLEEP’ is a waking nightmare.

Marlene, a woman plagued by horrific dreams, suffers a breakdown in a remote village. As her daughter Mona follows, she comes upon a well-kept family secret and an old curse that ultimately threatens her life – a never-ending nightmare.

I can finally relax my entire body after watching Fantasia 2020’s Sleep. The mystery that unfolds has such a tight grip that I was tense from head to toe with anxiety, much in the same physical manner as our matriarch Marlene. Two brilliant women inhabit the roles of mother-daughter team, Marlene and Mona. Sandra Hüller, from what should have been 2017 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, TONI ERDMANN) and Gro Swantje Kohlhof, ( Nothing Bad Can Happen –  one of the most unsettling films I’ve ever seen and written about) make for an intriguing balance on screen. For what little interaction they actually have from scene to scene, you genuinely believe they are connected.

The scares are intensely scored and intriguingly edited. The script by Thomas Friedrich is weird from the beginning. The performances have this unnerving, larger than life essence to them. You can feel something is very off about everything and everyone. Overly excited, excessively nice and informative, to unusually angry for no apparent reason. Sleep is like a living, breathing panic attack. The cinematic dynamics are stunning. The plot feels a little like a twisted hereditary version of Nightmare on Elm Street. But then you have a bloodline double entendre thrown in. It’s quite complex but extremely entertaining. As someone who has had reoccurring dreams her entire life, Michael Venus ‘ direction of SLEEP disturbed me to no end. And if you’re anything like me, you will continue to question what is real long after the credits roll.

To find out more about Fantasia 2020 and how to watch SLEEP click here

Fantasia 2020 review: Short film’ You Wouldn’t Understand’ is aptly named.

YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND

An idyllic picnic of one is upended after the arrival of a stranger.

9 minutes of sci-fi absurdity is what I Iive for during Fantasia International Film Festival. You Wouldn’t Understand no matter how hard you try. Impeccably shot and hilariously acted, the only thing wrong with it is that it ends! And that is entirely the point. This is one of the best treatments for an entire series I’ve ever seen, even if that was never the intention. I would watch the hundreds of other iterations of the same story with absolute giddiness. I knew it owned me when I exclaimed, “What the hell?” halfway through. I was as completely weirded out as I was confused… but also had a stupid grin on my face that wasn’t going anywhere even after the credits rolled. Then I watched it again. I cannot stop talking about this film which is also ironic seeing as how I don’t want to give too much away to an audience. Because YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND.

The film is a true collaboration. Director Trish Harnetiaux, also co-wrote the script with actor Jacob A. Ware, while co-star Anthony Arkin edited the short. No surprise the three formed the production company Steel Drum In Space. Which is a hilarious moniker of its own… for obvious scientific reasons. If Monty Python gets your goat, if great writing is your jam, if superb cinematography gets your engine revved, then You Wouldn’t Understand will make complete sense as a viewing experience.

WORLD PREMIERES AT
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YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND

Color
English Language
9 minutes
Not Rated

For more information on the film and to find out about Fantasia 2020 click HERE

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 is here!!!

If you did not sing the title of this article, then shame, shame, I know your name. It is no secret that Fantasia International Film Festival is my favorite of the entire year. While this year the fest is strictly virtual (because that’s the responsible thing to do), there are a plethora of amazing films to check out from the comfort of your own couch. Fantasia is always a sure bet for the films that will be talked about nonstop all year. Since we’re all stuck inside we might as well escape the scary reality with some scary unreality. Throw in the weird and wonderful and you’ve got yourself an annual good time.

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Here are just a few titles that should pique your interest, people.

MORGANA

How does one woman go from lonely housewife to Feminist pornstar? Morgana is an extraordinary documentary about sex positivity, self-worth, mental illness, and new beginnings. Stunningly visual and creatively edited, Morgana will knock your socks off… and maybe more. *Wink, wink. You can find our coverage of the film here.

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MINOR PREMISE

Attempting to surpass his father’s legacy, a reclusive neuroscientist becomes entangled in his own experiment, pitting ten fragments of his consciousness against each other.

 

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THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND

Something terrifying is happening off the coast of Block Island. A strange force is thriving, influencing residents and wildlife alike. Birds are dropping out of the sky. Some people have been dropping too, into inexplicable emotional collapse. Harry Lynch (Chris Sheffield, THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT) has always been a bit of an outsider in town. Now, he watches in dread as his father (Neville Archambault, 13 CAMERAS) grows increasingly forgetful and confused. And angry. Very, very angry. His sister Audry (Michaela McManus, THE VILLAGE), whose work in marine biology will soon prove invaluable, returns to town with her daughter and immediately sees what Harry sees. Her explorations into the increasingly grisly wildlife phenomena intersect with the triggers of her father’s actions, leading them all towards chilling revelations that no one is prepared for. Revelations that will affect her family in unimaginable ways.

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BLEED WITH ME

With BLEED WITH ME, her feature debut, director Amelia Moses invites us on an intimate cabin trip where boundaries and relationships collapse. Rowan (Lee Marshall), a shy and awkward young woman, struggles to integrate herself on a weekend getaway with her best friend, Emily (Lauren Beatty) and her unfriendly boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros). Feeling like a third wheel, she drinks to calm her nerves, pushing her body and mind deep into a hazy trance, where she begins to witness nightmarish late-night visions that make her feel increasingly unwelcome, unsure and unstable. A slow-burn thriller with arresting visuals, BLEED WITH ME, captures a vulnerability and discomfort as it explores issues related to self-harm and social isolation. Set against a wintry backdrop, BLEED WITH ME uses the limits of a small budget to its full potential.

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YUMMY

The young woman wants a breast reduction. … Wandering through an abandoned ward the boyfriend stumbles upon a young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table; she is the result of an experimental rejuvenation treatment.

 

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THE MORTUARY COLLECTION

A kid is being interviewed for a job at the local mortician’s office and is asked to tell his scariest stories. What results is a collection of 4 of the scariest stories ever told spanning into 4 decades starting from the 50s to the 80s.

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LUCKY

Luck doesn’t seem to be with self-help author May Ryer (Brea Grant) lately. Her books aren’t selling like they used to, and one night, a masked intruder breaks into the house she shares with her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh). To make matters worse, Ted seems strangely unconcerned about the incident, talking about it in matter-of-fact terms as if it’s just something to be accepted, and an investigating cop actually says they’re lucky things didn’t go worse. Then things do become worse as the attacker appears again… and again… and again, continuing to terrorize May no matter how valiantly she fights back. He seems to have supernatural properties, and when May seeks help, she’s met with indifference and condescension. One of her books is called Problem Solving for Staying Alive, and now she’s faced with a dilemma that seems to have no solution, and that may indeed claim her life.

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Shorts Programs

Do not miss out on the amazing short film programs. I am always partial to the Born Of Woman section, myself.

 

Fantasia 2020 officially opened last night.
You can purchase tickets and check out the amazing lineup of films and events at https://fantasiafestival.com/en/

 

 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 review: ‘Morgana’ opens with a bang.

‘Morgana’ is an artistic character portrait of a 50-year-old housewife, who re-invents herself as a sex-positive feminist porn star.

After 20 years as a dutiful housewife stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage, Morgana has had enough of her dreary life. Desperately lonely and starved of intimacy, she books a male escort for
one last hurrah before ending it all.

Her final night takes an unexpected turn when her relationship with the escort opens up a new world of personal and sexual freedom. After hearing about a competition for first time erotic filmmakers, Morgana directs and stars in a film about her own story, ‘Duty-Bound’. Unexpectedly her film wins, catapulting her into the international Feminist Porn community.

Life merges with art as Morgana uses erotic filmmaking as a tool for creative catharsis while struggling with demons from her past.

This year’s Fantasia International Film Festival brings feminist porn to audiences that may not even know it exists. Morgana Muses is not simply breaking all the gender norms, she is blowing them to pieces in the sexiest, most honest way, ever. This doc beautifully tackles depression and the lasting effects words can have on the human psyche. Touch is a human need. Lack thereof can mean the death of the body and soul. We are privileged to be witness to Morgana finding herself, in a sense giving us full permission to say, “Fuck it, this is what I like.”  Directors Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard have presented us with an in-your-face, fearless look, at a woman to be respected, loved, and held as an example of the ever-changing times. The mixture of sit down interviews, stunning still photography, exquisite miniatures,  and scenes from Morgana’s own films paint a vivid picture. In 70 minutes, Morgana will enlighten you, entice you, and turn you on.

A Feature Length Documentary Film: TRT 71 mins in English
Official Selection Fantasia Film Festival 2020
Screening Digitally August 20 – Sept 2
Directed by Isabel Peppard + Josie Hess
Produced by Karina Astrup