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My Fantasia Festival, Day Three (Part One): The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, Demon of the Lute, and Patch Town

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Satellite Girl and Milk CowSaturday was my first really big day at Fantasia. On weekdays, the festival usually starts its screenings at 5 or 6, with the occasional matinée at 3. Weekend days kick off around noon, meaning many more movies are on offer. Which also incidentally increases the risk of losing track of the need for a meal. I ended up seeing five movies last Saturday, with a dinner break after the first three. So this post will cover those first three films and I’ll have another up shortly looking at the next two. (In general it seems like I’m going to have more Fantasia posts than I’d thought, as I try to keep up with the films I’ve watched.)

I started at the Hall Theatre at 11:40 with an animated film from Korea called The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow. As soon as that ended, I ran across the street to the smallest of the three main Fantasia theatres, the J.A. De Sève, where I watched the wild Shaw Brothers kung-fu film Demon of the Lute. After which I stayed with the De Sève to watch the Canadian feature Patch Town, which turned out to be a charming, surreal fantasy. It was a good, if somewhat lunatic, afternoon.

(Incidentally, the reason why I mention the theatres in which the movies are playing is because after a few days, it seems like each one has developed its own personality. Big broad-appeal films play at the Hall — bearing in mind that ‘broad appeal’ at Fantasia can mean something like Zombeavers as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. The D.B. Clarke seems to host a lot of thoughtful films with fairly high production values. And the De Sève has featured a number of experimental films and documentaries, as well as screenings of older films and the occasional thriller or horror movie.)

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Headed For a Watery Grave: The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Chapter Ten: Doom Ship

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Captain Marvel Chapter Ten BettyI’m glad to see that you’ve gotten here early — as we near the end of our saga, seats are going to be at a premium, and you’re fast running out of opportunities to see Frank Coughlan Jr. and Tom Tyler perform their mystic switcheroo. I mean, once this silly thing is out of the theater, it’ll be forever relegated to the realm of nostalgic memory — it’s not like anyone will be able to watch it at home sixty years from now! That would be magic…

And so, while we still have the chance, let’s join the ragged remains of the Malcolm Scientific Expedition in their struggle against the malific machinations of the sinister Scorpion in this week’s chapter of The Adventures of Captain Marvel, “Doom Ship.” Shazam! (Cough, cough…)

Pay close attention to this week’s title cards, recapping Chapter Nine; there will be a quiz after the main feature. “The Scorpion — Forces Doctor Lang to reveal the hiding place of his lens.” “Doctor Lang — Gives Betty the combination to his safe.” “Captain Marvel — Tries to warn Betty of a death trap at Lang’s home.” “Billy Batson — And Betty decide to get the lens.” Now to pick up where we left off…

Last week, we left Billy and Betty standing in front of the late Doctor Lang’s safe, unaware that two tommy guns were aimed at their backs, primed to fire as soon as the safe is opened. (They’re also unaware that Barnett and two other Scorpion men are watching them from hiding.) Just as Billy turns the safe’s dial to the last number, but before he can open the door, Barnett and his boys emerge from behind the drapes.

One of them shoves Betty out of the way. She slams against the wall and is knocked out (by the serial’s end, this woman will have suffered more concussions than Brett Favre) and then he slugs Billy on the head with a gun, laying the intrepid broadcaster out cold.

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My Fantasia Festival, Day 2: Kite and Open Windows

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

KiteOn Friday night, the cats came out at Fantasia.

They may have been around on Thursday, too, but this was the first I’d heard them this year. It’s one of the traditions that’ve sprung up at Fantasia: some years ago a series of short films called Simon’s Cat fostered an outbreak of meows among the audience (or, for the francophones, miaous). Somehow it spread to the rest of the festival. And then returned the next year. So, now, when the lights go down for a film — but before anything starts playing on the screen — you’ll hear the audience calling out meows. And the occasional ‘woof’ or ‘baa,’ just for variety.

Friday night, I saw two films welcomed by meows. Kite, a bloody near-future sf film, played at 6:35 in the big Hall Theatre, preceded by a short comedy, Raging Balls of Steel Justice. Then I headed downstairs to the D.B. Clarke Theatre to catch a twisty thriller called Open Windows. I don’t think either feature was entirely successful, but both qualified as ‘interesting,’ the latter rather more than the former.

Let’s begin with the short. Steel Justice is a violent, raunchy parody of 80s action movies, done in claymation. A Sledge Hammer!-style supercop and his horny robot sidekick have to save a prominent banker who’s been kidnapped by a barn full of escaped convicts. Much carnage ensues. It’s quick, fluidly animated, and extremely gross. As the saying goes: people who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like. The humour wasn’t quite to my taste, and it did feel quite a lot like the aforementioned Sledge Hammer! without network content guidelines. For some, that’ll be enough to make it different; as it happens, not for me. At any rate, what it does, it does competently.

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Adventure On Film: Time After Time

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

Movie fans will forever remember Malcolm McDowell for his simpering, ultra-violent turn in Aimages Clockwork Orange (1971), but actors aren’t the sort to rest on their laurels, and by 1979, McDowell felt ready to embody a genuine historical figure, H.G. Wells.

The film was Time After Time, not to be confused with the Cyndi Lauper song (or the infinitely better cover by songbird Eva Cassidy), and if there’s a more definitive origin point for the Steampunk movement, I’d like to know what it is.

At the helm is first-time director Nicholas Meyer, who must have a soft spot for science fiction. Only a few years later, and armed with a much heftier budget, he was tapped to captain Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982).

As for Time After Time, it’s far from perfect –– the script contains several gargantuan plot holes, and we viewers (if I may be forgiven the mixed metaphor) must swallow hard to keep up –– but it does work in fits and starts, thanks especially to the looming presence of David Warner as a time-skipping and dangerously prescient Jack the Ripper.

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Han Solo Breaks a Leg

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Han-Solo-Harrison-Ford-Star-Wars-7As with most “BIG EVENT” movies, from the first day the new Star Wars film was announced, fans, critics, and Hollywood pundits have been speculating about what the storyline will be. The rumor mill is in full gear and so it will go until the first previews are actually screened late next year. The studio and filmmakers have been playing their part by keeping everything mum, hush-hush, top-secret –  confidential scripts and non-disclosure clauses in actors’ contracts (on threat of being tossed into a rancor pit). The usual.

So when Harrison Ford broke his leg on the set a few weeks back (as I’m sure most of you have heard), the Hollywood gossip machine was already fired up and spitting out rumors on cue.

First, though, if somehow you missed it, this is what happened: Apparently, a door on the Millennium Falcon fell on him. And pause for a moment here to let that sink in. Could you have imagined, ten years ago, that in 2014 you’d be reading about Han Solo breaking his leg on the Millennium Falcon? The Falcon is undoubtedly a bit more dangerous to navigate when you’re 72 years old — but who would have thought that old space smuggler would be back on the big screen? Ford has vehemently insisted for the past THIRTY years that he would never again reprise the role that made him famous. The prequels came and went, and the clock kept ticking, and George Lucas said he wasn’t going to make any more films, and most people just naturally assumed that Ford was probably correct. But — surprise — Han Solo is back!

And then he breaks his leg.

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Afrofuturism and Empowerment

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

DETCON1This weekend, I have the pleasure of attending the DETCON1 in Detroit, the North American Science Fiction Convention. I have never been to a NASFIC, but it rose on my list of cons after seeing how sincere the organizers were in having a diverse body of panels and panelists. Not just from a standpoint of age and background, but the mediums that are represented too. I will be doing four panels, two of them on Afrofuturism.

Pretty cool. Still, I feel trepidation. When you go on a vacation (and that’s what con-going is), the real world does not stop. And in the real world, the host city Detroit is in dire straits. With property so cheap, gentrification is at an extreme level. Corporations are buying up whole blocks. Citizens who can’t pay their water bills are getting the utility shut off.

It is nice that the city can attract events like NASFIC or the recent Allied Media Conference. But I hope that we aren’t so busy celebrating spec-fic to at least acknowledge that we’re in a city where the poorest people don’t have water.

I don’t know why anybody reads The Hunger Games. You want dystopia, just read Reuters.

But that’s the irony of dystopia. Writers make novels about the types of issues that marginalized communities face every day, and pass it off as something that could only happen in the future.

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Geek Tyrant on “10 Great 1950s Sci-Fi Movies You May Never Have Heard Of”

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Flight to Mars 1951-smallWhen I was growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there was a theater that had a science fiction and monster-movie double feature every Saturday. After we finished our paper route, my brother Mike and I would walk downtown and plunk down our hard-earned money for three and a half hours of monster movie bliss.

The theater was always packed with screaming kids. There Mike and I saw films that are still burned into my brain today — like the terrifying Planet of the Vampires (1965), giant-monster classic Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), and the greatest film of all time, Destroy all Monsters (1968).

Needless to say, I still have a weakness for classic monster movies, and especially the great science fiction films of the 50s and 60s. Also, the not-so-great science fiction films of the 50s and 60s.

You can’t walk downtown with 50 cents and watch a monster-movie double feature these days. Fortunately, you don’t have to — virtually every science fiction film of the 20th Century is available on DVD, Blu-ray, or download, for your home-viewing enjoyment. The real question these days isn’t how to see these great old films, but which ones are worth your time?

The answer, of course, lies on the Internet. There’s a ton of info out there, if you’ve got the energy to look for it (and sort out the relevant stuff). Or you could just rely on us — that’s what we’re here for.

One of the most useful articles I’ve stumbled on recently is Joey Paur’s Geek Tyrant piece ”10 Great 1950s Sci-Fi Movies You May Never Have Heard Of,” which covers many terrific SF films I really enjoyed, such as When Worlds Collide (1951),  and more than a few I’ve never seen, such as Flight to Mars (1951) and 4-D Man (1959). Lots here to keep you entertained in the late hours — check it out here.

Thanks to SF Signal for the tip!


Too Grand a Vision: A Review of Jodorowsky’s Dune

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by James McGlothlin

Jodorowsky Dune poster-smallFrank Herbert’s groundbreaking 1965 novel Dune is still rightly considered one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever. This majestic novel justly won the 1966 Hugo award and the first ever Nebula in 1965. As fans of Dune know, it’s a book (and a series) dealing with a host of interesting and complex philosophical and religious concepts.

If you haven’t read Herbert’s original novel, then perhaps you’re familiar with David Lynch’s infamous 1984 movie version of Dune. (Oh James, please don’t go there!) This was an early letdown — something that us genre fans are unfortunately far too familiar with by now — and was quite a bomb. (Personally, I think there are some elements of that movie that are quite good.)

One of the most interesting things about the theatrical version of Dune is its “development hell” history. For example, were you aware that after the Hollywood execs edited the movie the way they wanted, David Lynch refused to have his name attached to the movie and early cuts claim to be directed by Alan Smithee?

But even before any of that, you also may not know that Dune had been vigorously pursued as a possible movie by a Chilean surrealist filmmaker named Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Never heard of Jodorowsky? Few have. I personally was familiar with his name from behind-the-scene footage and documentary interviews on DVD extras. Jodorowsky’s name often comes up in discussions about the making of Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien or his 1982 Blade Runner.

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My Fantasia Festival, Day 1: Ghost in the Shell

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Fantasia 2014Last night’s opening film at the seventeenth Fantasia International Film Festival was a 6:30 showing of Jacky au royaume des filles [Jacky in the Kingdom of Women], a French comedy about an oppressive matriarchal country. I decided to give it a pass, opting instead for a 7:45 showing of Mamoru Oshii’s classic anime Ghost in the Shell. Oshii was going to be present, one of two recipients this year of Fantasia’s Lifetime Achievement Award along with Tobe Hooper, whose The Texas Chainsaw Massacre screens on July 30.

Oshii and Hooper are an odd pairing, but the festival thrives on eclecticism. For 18 years — it skipped a year just after the turn of the century — Fantasia’s been bringing Montrealers the best of genre cinema. This year it’ll be showing more than 160 feature films and 300 shorts over three weeks, including a number of Canadian, North American, and world premieres. I’ll be covering it for Black Gate. I’m planning to post two or three times a week, keeping a running diary of the films I see and adding an occasional longer piece when I see a particularly interesting movie.

Called “The most important and prestigious genre film festival on this continent” by Quentin Tarantino, Fantasia’s become a Montreal institution. I haven’t gone to every installment of the festival, but I was there for the showing of its very first film, My Father Is a Hero, in 1996. It seems to have grown steadily over the years, from wuxia and kaiju and giallo branching out to include films of all sorts from around the world: crime films, horror films, children’s movies, experimental cinema. A look at this year’s selections show the range of offerings, from art-house cinema to a special screening of a Hollywood superhero science-fiction blockbuster. It looks like genre film worldwide is in a healthy state. (Feel free to let me know in comments what films look interesting to you!)

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Goth Chick News: Movie Release Hell; The Suspense is Killing Me

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image002Is it possible to wait for something for a very long time and still find it lives up to your expectations? If you’re like me, you probably have some pretty profound examples on both sides of the argument, especially where movies or books are concerned.

This week, there are (finally) updates on two movies that I have personally been anticipating for over a year, with news on one being somewhat of a disappointment.

To start, in January, 2013 I reported Disney had tapped Guillermo del Toro to reboot the Haunted Mansion. In case you haven’t been keeping track, there had been a 2003 attempt to bring the backstory of the popular theme park attraction to the big screen starring Eddie Murphy.

But if you don’t remember it, consider yourself lucky.

Needless to say, the idea that the man behind Mama and Pan’s Labyrinth was taking what could potentially be an R-rated swing at Haunted Mansion gave me chills (in a good way).

However, del Toro had and continues to have quite a lot of irons in the fire, including Pacific Rim 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and a creepy, animated version of Pinocchio, among others. All this makes me ever-so-slightly worried that del Toro is spread too thin to give Haunted Mansion the attention it deserves.

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