Top 5 Reasons To Check Out Reel Asian Film Fest 2012 (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

November 6-11 Toronto

November 16-17th Richmond Hill, Ontario

Toronto’s largest and oldest all Asian film festival, Reel Asian, will play out on screens across Toronto and Richmond Hill over the next week and a half. One of Toronto’s bigger and most recognizable festivals, the 16th edition of Reel Asian brings us over 60 films, feature length and short form, from over 13 countries. Without delving too extensively into the myriad of options available, we will simply highlight the five most intriguing reasons to attend based on what we have seen on the schedule.

Seeking Asian Female

#5 – Seeking Asian Female

One of the most intriguing documentaries playing at this year’s fest, Seeking Asian Female is about a man named Steven, a man in his 60’s with “yellow fever” who is desperate to meet a nice subservient Chinese woman to become his bride, much to the chagrin of Chinese documentarian Debbie Lum. After meeting a 30 year old named Sandy online and marrying her, Steven soon discovers she is not the docile mate he had expected and we follow the aftermath of his decision.

A Fish

#4 – A Fish

A rarity for Reel Asian, A Fish is a 3D film about a man’s search for his lost wife. He hires a private detective who informs him that his wife is living the life of a shaman and communicating with spirits on tiny Jindo Island. Jeon Hyuk goes off in search of his wife and we see all of the fantastical elements of the island in stunning 3D. A Fish will likely be the most visually stimulating film of the fest.

Valley of Saints

#3 – Valley of Saints

After winning multiple awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Valley of Saints makes its Toronto Premiere. Set in the Dal Lake region of Kashmir, Valley of Saints is the story of Gulzar, a young man in search of his future. Working as a boatman, Gulzar becomes involved in the work of scientist Asifa, who is collecting water samples to test. When shocking results come back from the samples, Gulzar must decide what he will do in the wake of the news.

Wolf Children

#2 – Animated Goodies – Tatsumi and Wolf Children

Each film screening separately at the fest, Tatsumi is a documentary on one of the most revered anime creators of all time, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tatsumi was one of the first manga masters to start bringing dark adult themes and tones to the medium, transforming it from simply the majority of child aimed and based material that dominated it before. Sure to contain brilliant visual demonstrations of his talent, the film has already screened in Cannes and Rotterdam.

Wolf Children is the new anime from the director of Summer Wars and The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Mamoru Hosoda. The visuals displayed from the film during the Reel Asian press conference were enough to get me on board as this film looks to have the charm of a Princess Mononoke. This coming of age story could be one of the hits of the fest.

Cold Steel

#1 – TAD Co-Presentations – Graceland and Cold Steel

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival will be co-presenting two films this year, also screening separately, at Reel Asian aimed straight at genre fans. Graceland is a taut noir film set in the streets of Manila. Marlon is a family man taking care of his daughter Elvie and frequently visiting his bed-ridden wife in the hospital. But Marlon’s life takes a drastic twist when his daughter is mistaken for that of a local gangster’s and is kidnapped. Marlon must now decide just how far he is willing to go to get her back.

And last but not least is Cold Steel from the long-time editor for John Woo and sometimes action director, David Wu. Being hailed as a Chinese war epic, and using a lot of bone crunching action packed choreographed fight sequences, Cold Steel is the story of a hunter turned sniper torn between the woman he is growing to love and his mentor. In the hands of a true action master like Wu, Cold Steel looks to live up to the hype and not disappoint.

For more information on the fest check out the Festival Website, complete with schedule and detailed info on all the films.

Movie Junkie TO

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Wrong Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Wrong (2012)

Starring Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, William Fichtner, Steve Little and Regan Burns

Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux

The infamous Quentin Dupieux, aka musician Mr Oizo, the director of the movie about a car tire on a killing spree ‘Rubber’, is back with his newest absurdist comedy ‘Wrong’. With Rubber being an extremely divisive film, and Dupieux’s penchant for the bizarre, I knew this would not just be simply a story of a man trying to find his lost dog. I also knew that this was likely to be the most loved and most hated film of this year’s Toronto After Dark lineup.

Dolph Springer (Plotnick) wakes up one morning to realize he has lost the love of his life, his dog, Paul. During his quest to get Paul (and his life) back, Dolph encounters a myriad of bizarre phenomena and people. Firemen apathetically ignore a fire, an alarm clock reads 7:60 AM, a pine-tree becomes a palm-tree, a pizza restaurant nymphomaniac, a jogging-addict neighbor in search of completeness, an opportunistic French-Mexican gardener, and an off-kilter pet detective. And with all this, if Dolph Springer has any chance of getting his dog back he has to listen and follow the lead of a guru of canine psychosis, Master Chang (Fichtner), who sports a mysteriously scarred face and even more mysterious intentions.

To say that Wrong is a sack full of fighting kittens crazy is an understatement. As expected, we pretty much get everything AND the kitchen sink thrown in here. Plotnick does some good work here, essentially playing the straight man for the majority of the film, as his hapless Dolph actually comes off loveable. His deconstruction of the absurdity of a fast food mascot is hilarious. Fichtner is, as always, a fascinating watch as he deftly maneuvers through the intricacies of his character and delivers a smart and engaging performance. Steve Little’s detective also ranks as a highlight. The plot and script are meandering at best, one thing you cannot accuse the film of is being predictable. The film’s plot makes so many twists and turns it is frankly sometimes hard to keep up. The surrealist manner of execution added to the unconventional script and mode of storytelling just adds more intrigue to the proceedings. Wrong is also a decidedly better shot, edited and looking film than Rubber was, showing that Dupieux is growing as a technical filmmaker more with each project.

Definitely not the type of film that will play equally for everyone, it will challenge the best of viewers and will turn off a lot of them, but the film will reward the people that stay with it and give it a chance. Despite its absurdity Wrong has a charm and charisma that are undeniable, and for that Wrong is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Toronto After Dark 2012 Awards Announced

Toronto After Dark 2012 has come and gone. If you weren’t able to attend, then you missed out on tentacled aliens, creepy found footage, flesh starved zombies, neurotic writers, angry werewolves, suspicious crime scene photographers, a chainsaw at a wedding, killer sushi, and plenty other examples of the weird, scary, hilarious, and fantastical. Every year TAD tallies the votes from the ticketholders and passholders, coming up with an in depth list of awards. This year the results were a little surprising considering the closeness of the festival to Halloween – fans seemed to be locked into the comedies. Nevertheless, it’s tough to argue with the results if you were in the crowd as many films this year enthralled the audience with humour. Below is a brief list of some of the awards. For a more detailed list please visit the Toronto After Dark website.

Cockneys vs Zombies









Hotline Miami


See you next year – after dark of course.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Game of Werewolves Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Game of Werewolves (2012)

Starring Gorka Otxoa, Carlos Areces, Secun de la Rose and Luis Zahera

Written and Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno

The closing night film from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival was the Spanish horror comedy ‘Lobos de Arga’. The translation literally meaning Wolves of Arga (pronounced r-e-ah) but retitled Game of Werewolves for the international market. Game is throwback film. Wearing its influences like a badge on its chest, Game is clearly inspired by the Universal Monster films of old and more modern masterpieces like An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. The only question remaining is does it belong in the company of these classic films?

In the remote countryside of Galicia, Spain, the townspeople of Arga have suffered under a gypsy curse for 100 years. A treacherous woman’s unborn son was cursed to become a werewolf every full moon and ravage the town. Now the curse might finally be lifted when local boy Tomas (Otxoa), returns to the village looking for inspiration to write his new novel. Tomas, unbeknownst to him, is the last of the lineage to the cursed woman and if bitten will lift the curse. So instead of peace and serenity, Tomas ends up running from the locals and accidentally releasing the dreaded beast. While the villagers try to kill the monster, Tomas and his friends attempt to end the curse on their own, with hilarious and dire consequences.

Game of Werewolves is one hell of a fun film. The script is smart and concise with little wasted action. We start realizing right away that there is something else going on here and that Tomas has returned under false pretense. The performances from our lead trio are great. The comedic timing between the three is sharp. The location in the Spanish countryside is gorgeous and the buildings and set design help lend a classic feel to the proceedings, the film almost looks like it was literally ripped out of classic Universal monster pic. Almost all the effects work here in a glorious example of why practical effects work better for werewolves than most of these CG creatures we get today. Clearly inspired by Rick Baker’s work from Werewolf in London, the transformation sequences feature the protruding and changing body mass along with the creaking and crunching of bone that Baker’s work in London is famous for. Director Moreno shows a steady and adept hand behind the camera, crafting a theme park amusement ride of a film that is fun from beginning to end.

A crowd-pleaser until the very end, Game of Werewolves is the type of film that seems destined to become a cult classic and a yearly traditional watch come October. Best seen with a full house of people laughing along with you, Game of Werewolves is a definite recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Sushi Girl Review (Robert Harding)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Sushi Girl (2012)

Starring Tony Todd, James Duval, Noah Hathaway, Andy Mackenzie, and Mark Hamill

Directed by Kern Saxton

People have been paying tribute to their favourite films for decades. Films have been sequelled, rebooted, and remade. When a film is remade under a completely different guise without giving tribute to its source it usually falls under two categories. When it is well received it is considered an homage to the original, considered smart and given accolades. Films that aren’t well received are considered rip-offs, unoriginal and often forgotten.  Sushi Girl is not a reboot, sequel or remake but it’s similarities to other films are without dispute.

After serving six years in prison, keeping his mouth shut following a jewel theft that went horribly wrong, Fish (Noah Hathaway) meets up with his fellow thieves for a sushi dinner. Unfortunately for Fish, this crew isn’t about to leave until they get what’s theirs and only he knows where their diamonds ended up…or so they think.

Sushi Girl is getting very mixed reviews.  Many are calling it nothing new and a blatant rip-off of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (which itself was a “rip-off” of Ringo Lam’s City on Fire).  Others are stating that it is a fantastic homage to great heist movies. There’s no denying the similarities between Sushi Girl and Reservoir Dogs and City on Fire, but just like Reservoir Dogs has subtle differences from City on Fire, Sushi Girl has its own differences.

Much like Reservoir Dogs, Sushi Girl works well mainly because of its cast. With Noah Hathaway, Tony Todd, Mark Hamill, James Duvall and Andy Mackenzie making up the main cast of jewel thieves you might think the film was filled with second rate actors but that is not the case. Mark Hamill stands out as a sadistic psychopath (clearly influenced by his Joker character), Andy Mackenzie could easily be an actual crazy enforcer in any biker gang and Tony Todd commands the screen whenever he opens his mouth.  In fact, Tony Todd needs to get more similar roles as he emanates  a “don’t fuck with me vibe.” The cast is rounded out with cameos from such names as Michael Biehn, Sonny Chiba, Danny Trejo and finally Cortney Palm who looks absolutely gorgeous as the title character.

Through fantastic characters and plenty of sushi this film managed to beat its way into my good books. I wouldn’t call this an homage or a rip-off but simply a new telling of a familiar and entertaining story.  I truly enjoyed the performances from Mark Hamill and Tony Todd and loved all the great cameos. If you are at all a fan of Reservoir Dogs or City on Fire I suggest giving Sushi Girl a chance, but keep an open mind.

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