The Conjuring 3/4
Opening the Fantasia fest this year was The Conjuring, a film that scared the bejesus out of critics and audiences this summer and became a sleeper hit. Did the film deserve all the buzz it got? You bet it did. Director James Wan, working with cinematographer John Leonetti, crafts a movie that leaves the gore out of the window in favor of psychological thrills. Wise decision. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play real-life paranormal investigators that get entangled in a case that is more than meets the eye. The last third of the movie sets the stage for an exorcism unlike any you've seen before and director Wan works on the experience he built with past films (Insidious, Saw) to construct his most mature work to date. Job well done.
Magic, Magic 3/4
Director Sebastian Silva's Magic Magic has a fascinating topic to deal with. What if some people just get on your nerves so much that you end up having a complete mental breakdown out of it. That's what happens to Juno Temple's Alicia who must deal with her best friend's family in a country retreat off the coast of Spain. She's stuck, wants out but home is far away. Things get worse when Alicia's best friend has to go out of town for an abortion and leaves Juno alone with her neurotic Cousin Brink (a never better Michael Cera) and her boyfriend Agustin. What ensues is the mental breakdown of all epic mental breakdowns. A transformation that leaves the audience in a state of shock. All credit must go to Juno Temple in what is a remarkably emotional and fearless performance. Her Alicia ends up haunting your dreams.
The Last Tycoon 1/4
I went into The Last Tycoon with the hopes of encountering another great film starring Chow Yun Fat. Instead director Jing Wong's film deals with every known cliche in the gangster epic manual. In telling the story of a man's rise to gangsterdom, from teenage years all the way to a prominent role in the chinese mob 40 years later, Wong brings a confusing and disjointed narrative structure that never lifts off its promising premise. I never once believed a single thing that I was seeing and the love story that comes with the violence only makes the film more unwatchable. This was a rare miss at a fest that had an excellent selection this year.
Mistaken For Strangers 3/4
Here's a documentary that might seem out of place at a film fest that prides itself in gore and graphic violence. However, Tom Berninger's documentary about indie rock band The National's first big tour in Europe and the States has a feeling of uneasiness to it. Director Berninger -an avid horror movie fan- is brother to National lead singer Matt Berninger and a total fuckup. Matt decides to invite his brother to work backstage for what is a very important tour. Big mistake. Tom ends up filming most of the time, that is if he isn't already drunk or high off something. The tension keeps getting upped as the documentary moves along and Tom doesn't realize how irresponsible his behavior is. The footage Tom catches in the process ends up making a solid documentary about life on the road, dysfunctional families and friendship. As an extra plus we get great concert footage of a band that is up there with Arcade Fire in terms of Indie Rock greatness.
Across the River 1/4
Across The River would have made a great short movie. instead what we get is an average 2 hour film about ghostly presences in the woods and a man that is stuck with them. There isn't much to say about Lorenzo Bianchini's slight film, everyone tries their best to make a mediocre -almost dialogue-free- screenplay work but it just doesn't burst out of its promising seams. What we get is a movie with a killer setup and a disappointing execution. I couldn't wait for it to end. Better luck next time.
We all know director Hideo Nakata as the Japanese horror master that had two of his movies (The Ring and Dark Water) remade as Hollywood films. Don't bet on The Complex to be the third one. It is too original and mind bending for a studio to tackle and features a head scratching finale that will leave much to discuss about afterwards. The plot starts off in a very familiar way as Asaka - a young 18 year old girl- moves into an apartment with her parents and starts to notice strange occurrences happening with the next door neighbor. Just when you think this will be a run of the mill horror flick the neighbor is found dead within a few days and we start to have doubts about what is real in the Asaka's life and what is not. Asaka is a deeply disturbed girl that should not be trusted and who's life is in a state of breakdown. Nakata messes with your head until it is all just too much but there's some fun in trying to solve his mystery riddled tale.