The virtual Fantasia Festival 2020 is in the full swing of things, with on-demand and live premiere titles becoming available to Canadian audiences. Here are reviews of three films playing the fest, The Oak Room,PVT Chat, and Hunted.
Crazy Samurai Musashi takes about five minutes to establish its exceedingly simple premise: the Yoshioka clan must dispatch their entire army if they hope to vanquish the man they set out to kill, Miyamoto Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi). Then, the film commits to a 77-minute single take action sequence, in which Musashi does away with hundreds of swordsmen.
The Old Guard begins in a relatively familiar place. An elite, covert mercenary group gets hired by an independent party to complete a run-of-the-mill job, only to find that they’ve been set up. It is the standard fare for the genre. To be fair, of course, the opening shot of the film is the leader of this crew, known as Andy (Charlize Theron), apparently lying dead on the ground, her body littered with bullet holes, so it isn’t all generically familiar.
Becky, from directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, is about as barebones as a thriller can get. A group of White Supremacist prison inmates are being transported down a county road when they spring a plan to break out. The mastermind behind the plan, Dominick (Kevin James), leads them to a lake house in search of a mysterious key. But they come up against the obstacle of a family spending the weekend at the house—a father (Joel McHale), his daughter, Becky (Lulu Wilson), his girlfriend (Amanda Brugel) and her son (Isaiah Rockcliffe).
Olivier Megaton’s The Last Days of American Crime is an ugly film. It is ugly in form, it is ugly in story, and it is ugly in spirit. The basic premise, that the government has found a way to crack down on crime by developing a signal that interrupts the brain in the process of a crime, is background noise to a dreary, hollow caper led by ugly, dour characters.
Diamonds in the Rough (DitR, /dɪ’tər/) takes some of the most derided, divisive, controversial, financially catastrophic, and meme-worthy movies and tries to find the silver lining. Bad movies don’t always start as bad ideas, and flops aren’t always flop-worthy. DitR seeks to find the good within the bad, because the world could use some positivity. And when all else fails, making fun of bad movies is oh-so satisfying.
In this installment, we take a look at Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly (2012). [Caution: Spoilers Ahead].
Killing Them Softly
Rotten Tomatoes: 73% (226 critics) | 44% (121,417 user ratings)
Metacritic: 64 (42 critics) | 6.1/10 (290 user ratings)
Contemporary crime films are often compared to the defining antecedents to contemporary crime—critical hits from the 1990s like Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction. Generally, these are sites of contention in which it becomes easy to tear down a new film by being too directly inspired by previous, successful films. There is something to these comparisons, given a film like Pulp Fiction, which helped ring in a golden age of independent films in the 1990s, directly influenced a number of films. But this form of criticism by comparison—I’m guilty of doing it often—can come across as limiting and exclusionary in an unproductive way.
At the start of Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the latest film from DC, Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) is no longer with her beau the Joker. She is heartbroken and alone, and decides to mend wounds by drinking until belligerent. While in this state, she lets slip that she is no longer associated with the “Clown Prince of Crime,” a figure who strikes fear into the hearts of even Gotham’s most unhinged criminals. Without the Joker keeping them at bay, most everyone in the city wants to get even with Harley Quinn.
In 2019, Guy Ritchie’s live action Disney adaptation of Aladdin was released. It is a film with no discernible trace of Ritchie’s authorial stamp. He follows Aladdin up with The Gentlemen, a film that is so readily a return to Ritchie’s crime film origins that it almost appears as a parody.