FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Sator [2019]

He will make you pure. Writer/director (and pretty much every other behind the scenes position a feature-length film demands) Jordan Graham‘s grandmother used to hear voices and write the words being spoken down as though they were messages she needed to both understand and follow. She called the orator Sator, “his” name scrawled upon the pieces of paper that ultimately gave these trances permanence through physical form. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for Graham to experience the phenomenon—especially considering June Peterson wasn’t the only one in his…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 白蛇:緣起 [Baishe: Yuanqi] [White Snake] [2019]

Do you ever have to do what you don’t want to do? Filmmakers Amp Wong, Ji Zhao (directors), and Damao (screenwriter) have taken the Chinese fable Legend of the White Snake and reformatted it into a prequel/remake with sequel possibilities (if a mid-credits sequence is any indication). The concept of reincarnation keeps the characters the same despite letting them meet five hundred years in the past. That’s how long snake spirit Blanca (Zhang Zhe‘s Xiao Bai) has practiced Taoist magic while waiting to achieve Immortal status alongside her sister Verta…

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REVIEW: The Farewell [2019]

It’s a good lie. Billi (Awkwafina) heads to her parents’ home to clean laundry after discovering she’s now two months behind on her rent only to hear her father (Tzi Ma‘s Haiyan) is “asleep” … at 6pm. Her mother (Diana Lin‘s Jian) dismisses the time as a byproduct of them being very busy, but she goes to his room to see for herself anyway. Haiyan sits despondent on the bedside, something obviously wrong. When neither can bear her questions anymore (“Did you have a fight? Were you drinking again?”), Jian…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Homewrecker [2019]

I love drama. Leaving your home always risks an encounter with someone too pleasant and boundary-averse to rebuke. You want to point to the headphones in your ears that aren’t actually playing anything as a means to avoid conversation, but they don’t get the hint because you’ve unwittingly enamored them. Or maybe you accidentally engaged them first in some desperate need for a favor—turning an anonymous acquaintance into a potential friendship you simply don’t have time to foster. What then are your choices when he/she seizes upon that brief window…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: 우상 [Woo-sang] [Idol] [2019]

You take the fault. Two fathers and two sons are embroiled in the aftermath of a cover-up wherein one boy winds up dead and the other imprisoned. Su-jin Lee could have spun his tale with little else since the perpetrator’s (Jo Byeong-gyu‘s Yo-han was behind the wheel, drunk and speeding down a quiet service street) father (Han Suk-kyu‘s Koo Myung-hui) is a political messiah running for governor while the victim’s dad (Sol Kyung-gu‘s Yoo Joong-sik) possesses just enough desperation and desire for retribution to go to court and make certain…

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REVIEW: Mutual Appreciation [2006]

I’m not looking to be happy. Everything surrounding Andrew Bujalski‘s Mutual Appreciation makes it seem as though the film centers upon singer-songwriter Alan (Justin Rice of Bishop Allen). This isn’t necessarily true. His arrival in New York City after his band The Bumblebees fell apart in Boston is the catalyst for what’s to come, but his friends Lawrence (Bujalski) and Ellie (Rachel Clift) are just as crucial to the whole. The title itself relies on the trio because their interest in each other runs the risk of crossing romantic boundaries…

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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood [2019]

Give me sexy, evil Hamlet. It was around midnight between August 8th and 9th, 1969 that Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles on a mission from their cult leader Charles Manson. They were told to go to that house (a former renter named Terry Melcher once rebuked Manson) and kill everyone inside as gruesomely as possible. By morning five people were dead including a pregnant Sharon Tate (whose husband, director Roman Polanski, was in Europe working on a new film) with…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Black Magic for White Boys [2019]

It won’t be like last time. In a world where white Americans start feeling unjustly marginalized as the stranglehold of power they’ve possessed in this country since its inception begins to show cracks in a bid for true equality that they continue fighting tooth and nail against, they’ll steal whatever advantage they can to retain the status quo. They must since their success arrives from exploitation of labor from the lower class. They accrue a nest egg of profit, keep employees under thumb with the threat of firing them, and…

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FANTASIA19 REVIEW: Knives and Skin [2019]

I actually don’t want to see what’s about to happen. When Laura Palmer is found dead and wrapped in plastic, her tragic end ripples throughout David Lynch‘s “Twin Peaks” to devastating effect. An outsider in Agent Cooper enters the town to decipher the circumstances surrounding her demise with a cheery disposition that never fades—a direct contrast to the idyllic scene of nature and diner pies soon torn down as though a curtain clenched by the former homecoming queen’s hands, her final wish being the exposure of what lies beneath. It’s…

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REVIEW: Murder! [1930]

You can’t run the world on sentiment. A lot needs to go wrong for Alfred Hitchcock‘s Murder! to go right. I say this because Diana Baring (Norah Baring) would never have been arrested in a perfect world. Why? For all the reasons Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) lays out about two-thirds of the way through. No one asked her what she thought happened. No one demanded she give the name of the man she and the deceased (Edna Druce, a performer in Diana’s acting troupe with which she had a…

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REVIEW: A Score to Settle [2019]

Today is your day to try again. It’s been nineteen years since Frank “Frankie Fingers” Carver (Nicolas Cage) has been a free man. He’s made the best of prison despite being there for a crime his mob boss Max (Dave Kenneth MacKinnon) committed. What other choice did he have? With his wife dead, his son (hopefully) a reformed junkie, and his money buried behind a home he no longer owns, there wasn’t much else to do but try and enjoy what little control he had over what was left. And…

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