Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge
One of the things people don’t tell you about getting older is that the more books you read and movies you see, the more likely you are to see those stories echoed in other stories. The new books and movies you come across remind to you of the older books and movies you already know. Sometimes there’s good reason for that, as artists try to engage in a dialogue with their forebears. Sometimes you’re just seeing things.
Saturday, July 25, was an interesting series of riddles for me at the Fantasia Festival. I saw three movies that day. Teana: 10000 Years Later is a high science-fantasy 3D CGI animated film from China. Crimson Whale is a traditionally-animated post-apocalypse fable from South Korea. And Denmark’s The Shamer’s Daughter is a live-action adaptation of the first volume of a Danish YA high fantasy. I enjoyed all of them, and saw what seemed to be nods to familiar works within each — though in some cases that might be my imagination running away with me.
Let’s start with Teana (AKA 10000 Years Later, originally Yi wan nian yi hou), which screened at the large Hall Theatre. It’s one of the most visually spectacular movies I’ve seen at Fantasia. Bursting with colour and invention, it moves quickly, introduces a ton of characters, creates a world, and tells an epic story with some very pointed social commentary. I’ve seen some mention online that it’s based on a Tibetan fable, but can find no more specific information than that. Personally, I found myself strongly reminded of The Lord of the Rings, as the film seemed to refer to Tolkien while also inverting certain aspects of his story.
When you watch a film synched up to RiffTrax, do you still picture the silhouettes of wisecracking ‘bots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot in the little Satellite-of-Love screening room of your mind?
And if not a smidgen of that question made sense to you, this post probably is one you can skip (unless you’re a completist, and have thus far read every Black Gate post to date. In which case, we should probably know who you are. Has anyone read every single BG blog all the way back to day one?).
This report goes out to fellow Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) fans out there in the blogosphere. On July 9 of this year, on special assignment from BG’s Midwestern outpost in Minnesota, I attended a live screening of the RiffTrax presentation of Sharknado 2: The Next One. Two fan-buddies who share my adoration of Michael J. Nelson and his crew accompanied me on this outing (readers here will be familiar with one of those friends: none other than sometime BG scribe Gabe Dybing). In a bona fide movie theater we would share with other diehard fans an experience usually relegated to our laptops and living room televisions.
After having gotten not quite enough sleep the night before, I was at my fifth movie of the day. Even more than usual, each film had been wildly at odds with the one before it. I’d started at 12:45 with the Austrian period comedy Therapy for a Vampire, in which one of the undead seeks psychological help from Sigmund Freud. I followed that with Bridgend, a dark teen drama with some horror overtones, based on true events. Both of those had been at the small De Sève Theatre, and after a bite to eat, I went to the big Hall Theatre at 7:40 to watch the Japanese comedy Assassination Classroom, in which prep school students try to kill their alien professor before he blows up the Earth. After that, I ran back across the street to catch the world première of the transgressive Indian horror film Ludo. And then stuck around to watch the presentation of Who Killed Captain Alex?: Uganda’s First Action Movie. Which also involved the destruction of Montréal.
But let me go through these things in full, starting with Therapy for a Vampire. In fact, I’ll start a bit before that, with a short film that was screened before the main feature: The Mill at Calder’s End. Directed by Kevin McTurk from his own story, with a script by Ryan Murphy, it’s a gothic horror film set in the late Victorian or Edwardian era. And it’s done with puppets. They’re highly detailed — the IMDB tells me “36 inch tall bunraku rod puppets” — and convey the atmosphere wonderfully. The story follows a young man who’s inherited the family lands, along with the curse accompanying said lands. He investigates, and faces the same horror his ancestors faced before him.
What if there were no life hack to divert the apocalypse?
What if the Inquisition were right?!!?
Obviously he’s onto something. It is all pretty horrifying and creates a wonderful double bind; we readers simultaneously want the protagonist to satisfy our curiosity, and at the same time want them to flee the horrid fate that will result.
However, I think there’s more than Horror at work.
Before I go on to explain why, go and watch his short Lovecraftian film HOWTO Demon Summoning so we have a common reference point (and because it’s funny and horrific, and makes surprising use of CGI given Hugh is an indy filmmaker).
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken
I’m not a cranky old man, but I generally consider most stuff shown on network TV after my 15th birthday to be not worth the effort to press the buttons on the remote… or worth the effort to get cable.
But I had a lot of really good experiences with TV before I turned 15. The choices were pretty limited, but the more I talk to my 10 year old, the more I realize there were oases of TV magic in my youth.
Battlestar Galactica in 1978. Buck Rogers in 1980. M.A.S.H. for my entire youth. Knight Rider. Starblazers. Battle of the Planets. Most Saturday morning cartoons. Manimal… hahaha. Just kidding. That was cancelled for good reason.
Wanting my son to have some magic oases too, I found myself unqualified to offer him anything other than what I had when I was young. And recently I was musing about our Friday nights, and what I might have been doing 30 years earlier, and I realized that for a good five years, I’d watched The Dukes of Hazzard every Friday at my grandmother’s house. I decided to try to relive some of my childhood while offering something new to my son’s.
Sunday, July 19th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge
In the days leading up to the Fantasia Festival I’d look at the schedule and see a dilemma looming on the second day, last Wednesday. The first of many similar dilemmas ahead: which of two movies playing directly opposite each other do I watch? In this case a French suspense film, Un homme idéal (in English A Perfect Man), was up against a Donnie Yen martial-arts movie, Kung Fu Killer. The next day would be simpler, as my girlfriend and I had agreed to see the Japanese teen drama Wonderful World End together. But Wednesday offered two very different things. Which to watch?
By the magic of movie festivals, both. I’d catch one in the screening room, and one in the theatre. Which I’d watch where would depend on what was available in the screening room. I decided Kung Fu Killer would gain a certain amount from the big screen, and likely from the crowd response. It was also more of a known quantity — I thought I had a pretty fair sense of what it was and how good it was likely to be. Un homme idéal was more of a wild card. So if I had my choice, that’d be the one I’d watch in the screening room.
On Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before Miss Hokusai opened the festival, I picked up my accreditation badge and wandered over to the screening room. It turned out to have both films. So I sat down with Un homme idéal, which was in a sense my first movie of the festival this year. The screening room copy was on DVD (so in standard definition) and had a prominent watermark; probably best to factor that into the discussion that follows.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never really been much of a fan of Terry Brooks’ Shannarabooks. So when The Shannara Chronicles, a new scripted series filmed for MTV, was announced, I didn’t really pay much attention.
But the first trailer, released last week at Comic-Con, has managed to pique my interest. The show has a unique look, and the production values are top notch. And the assembled talent — including writing team Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (Spider-Man 2, Smallville), producer Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Avengers), and cast John Rhys-Davies, Ivana Baquero and Manu Bennett — looks fantastic. Check out the 3-minute trailer above.
The Shannara Chronicles will begin broadcasting in January 2016 on MTV, and be available for binge watching on DVD and Blu-ray later in the year.
Friday, July 17th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan
I love sword-fights. By which I mean I love them in movies and on TV. Not so much in books. Mostly in books they take too long, and illustrate more how much research the writer has done and not so much the moving ahead of the story. And that’s how swords and sword fighting came to mind when I started thinking about what real life things do and don’t happen in fiction, or in movies or TV. If you’d like to see what I’ve already said about this, look here, and here.
So, in the spirit of what does and doesn’t happen in real life vs TV or movies – or even books – just what happens with people’s swords when they aren’t using them to kill someone? And what about other weapons? As I’ve suggested before, this type of thing is fairly easily handled in books. More easily than, say, why characters never (ie. hardly ever) go to the bathroom. In books, when they’re not using them, characters simply sheath their swords, or hang them from their harnesses, or hang them up by the belt on a hook. Or put them down on a table. As the reader, your eyes are directed elsewhere, and you rarely give it another thought.
Sure, sometimes a writer will have a character clean their sword, or other weapons. But there are reasons for this. One, it gives the characters something to do with their hands while dialogue is taking place. Two, how the cleaning gets done tells the reader something about the character’s personality.
Thursday, July 16th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist
If only this place really existed, I would never again suffer a Black Gate company road trip, trapped in a zeppelin with a load of less-than-hygienic fan boys, but instead would be enjoying my suite in the goth girl’s equivalent of the Four Seasons.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, my all-time favorite animated film Hotel Transylvania will be coming to the small screen, courtesy of Canadian company Nelvana Enterprises.
Debuting in early 2017 (venue pending), the series will focus on Mavis, the daughter of Dracula, expanding on her teenage years and her friends at the world-famous monster five-star resort.
Thursday, July 16th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge
The Fantasia International Film Festival opened in Montreal on Tuesday night, and this year, like last year, I’ll be covering it for Black Gate. This will be the 19th edition of Fantasia, one of the world’s largest genre-oriented film festivals, and I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of movies. As I did last time, I’m planning to keep a diary-style record discussing the films I see and also recapping some of the special events around them — a lot of screenings are accompanied by presentations, or by discussions with the creators, and I’ll pass along my notes on those.
There are over 135 feature films being presented at Fantasia this year, and looking over the schedule it feels like I want to see almost all of them. The nature of scheduling makes that impossible, but I’ll be striving to look at as many as I can. I’ll be trying to catch films I miss in the festival’s screening room, where I’ll be able to watch them on a computer monitor. That’s a different experience than seeing a movie on the big screen with a crowd, but it’s better than nothing.
Two theatres at Concordia University’s downtown campus serve as the main venues for the festival this year, and on Tuesday I saw two films in the big Hall Theatre. Both movies were warmly received by the crowd, and both seemed to me to be great successes in very different ways. Both, as it happened, were adaptations from comics. The first was an anime called Miss Hokusai from Japanese director Keiichi Hara, an adaptation of Hinako Sugiura’s Sarusuberi, about the daughter of the famed 19th-century artist Hokusai and her relationship with her father. The second was Marvel’s Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed. I’ll have more to say about that further below (short version: it’s much better than I’d have imagined an Ant-Man movie could be, and instantly became one of my favourites of the Marvel movies). First, a look at Miss Hokusai, and Fantasia’s opening ceremonies.