Movie Reviews

Published on February 18th, 2015 | by Ed Sum


The 2015 Victoria Film Festival in Recap

The 2015 Victoria Film Festival (Feb 6-15th) celebrated the best of independent cinema. In what was presented was a perfect selection that will have even the pop culture fan enjoying at least one film. In what’s presented here is a best of what I saw, and heartily recommend going to see. Most of these films and documentaries can be found touring the festival market or will soon be available on DVD/VOD.


Big in Japan
Big In Japan Movie Poster

The “Big in Japan” brand according to the Tennis Pro band is not easy to define. What they hope to attain is to gain enough recognition so that they can come home to Seattle feeling proud. To watch them attempting to get gigs and sometimes broadsided in Tokyo, Japan is what this rockumentary is about. This semi-fictional account of their rise to stardom is not like other superstar stories where trophies are earned.

In what this film represents is a genuine attempt by three individuals — guitarist David Drewery, drummer Sean Lowery and bassist Philip Pearson — to simply have followers, people who genuinely love their music. They certainly succeed and at the same time, become self-aware about who they are as individuals. They make new friends who appreciate them for who they are and what they represent.

When part of the story takes place in the oddest parts of Tokyo, just how they acclimate makes for some great hilarious moments. Adam Powers is wonderful as a free spirit that Pearson meets and this actor is also the sound mixer for this movie.

The music is very catchy and the style is a mix of a handful of genres. Although primarily a rock ‘n roll band, there’s a bit of that alternative sound that is distinctly Seattle. Shades of punk and surf can be also be heard. Sometimes they even get classical or bluesy in solo moments of the film and that’s when these musicians shine.

Director John Jeffcoat does an excellent job of creating a chaotic world that cumulates to order. When international travellers flee Tokyo because of an earthquake and Tennis Pro stays behind, there’s a humanity to be found in these individuals. They help with bringing the peace and even though they don’t quite get to fulfilling their dreams, they do show that they will look out for each other thick and thin. That alone makes this film worth watching. And when they are performing next in your hometown, take a listen. They just want you to have a really good time and feel alive. Although the world is not quite their oyster quite yet, what they do now is fantastic. The real life band is touring and they are never going to stop giving up on their dreams.

3½ Stars out of 5



Song of the Sea, A Review

Song of the Sea Movie Poster


The artwork is beautiful in Carton Saloon’s Song of the Sea, and for the cartoon enthusiast, this movie must not be missed! I loved every frame of this film because of the careful attention of detail instilled upon this product. The artists pay homage to the rich mythic heritage that’s unique to Ireland. To have a tale based on the legend of the Selkie, magical seals who can transform into humans and back, will no doubt have some people looking for more unique stories from this land. To note, writers Tom Moore and Will Collins did more than pay respect to the lore, but also improve upon it by giving it a Disney-like construction.

That includes having a prerequisite faithful companion. Ben (David Rawle) is the primary hero in this story, and his pet dog, Cú, goes everywhere with him. Heartfelt awws can be felt, and I was rooting for this canine when he jumped into the sea, only to go chasing after his master. Both he and his sister, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell), were taken away from their home away from home. Granny does not believe they can lead a good life at a lighthouse. Their father, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), does not protest because without a mother, he feels he cannot raise them properly.

To see how these characters feel can really be noticed in the animation. Ben, who bears a striking resemblance to Link in some of the Legend of Zelda DS games, often looks challenged. In Saoirse, her innocence never falters. Even the animals featured evoke an emotional response. The seals pop their heads out from the sea to look on curiously at what’s going on in the mortal world and the owls that comes to attack the humans are more often fierce than sedated.

The skill in animating those emotions is exceptional. Kudos goes to the entire voice cast for putting their talent in 100%. This movie is in par with many a Studio Ghibli and PIXAR film. To be specific, there are elements from Spirited Away and Mononoke Hime that can be recognized. The animators have improved upon it; for example, the white orbs that help guide Ben along hidden trails have detail to them. They are tiny circular patterns to them and each of them is unique! These may be fairies like in what Merida from Brave encounters.

This movie made its premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, and it has been playing in select film festivals since. It will soon show in its home country of Ireland. A video release is planned for March 17, 2015, and for this author, the release could not come any sooner. But the best way to experience this movie is theatrically, on the big screen, so every detail can be appreciated.

4½ Stars out of 5



Infinite Man, A Movie Review

Infinite Man Poster


Big budgets are not always needed to make a mixed-genre film successful. When Infinite Man searches for love across time, just what results is hilarious! This movie offers the best in what science fiction can look like using outdated 70’s technology, how romance crafted Aussie-style can become universal and where comedy can go with only three performers carrying the film.

To keep track of which version of Dean (Josh McConville) is whom is not all that difficult because this actor manages to nuance every iteration of himself with subtle differences to show the wisdom gained as he tries to figure out how to escape the mother of all Groundhog Day. Phil Connor never had it that difficult.

Thankfully Marty McFly never had this kind of adventure in Back to the Future 2. All he had to do was to avoid interacting with his past and future self when time could have changed permanently during The Enchantment Under The Sea dance. The time-travel paradox can be explained, but the headache — and heartache — is not with whether or not Dean and Lana (Hannah Marshall) will get hitched. The issue is when they will resolve their differences in understanding what being in a relationship is about. That kind of heart in this screenplay shows that there’s more to this film than meets the eye on such a day like Valentine’s.

Even geeks can get lots of love. Even though Lana thinks her nerdy boyfriend is a control freak, she has affection for him, and the chemistry Marshall and McConville shows. Although Dean just wants the perfect anniversary of their first time meeting, the idea of recreating exactly what happened just will not work. He forgets spontaneity is important.

Little does he know that messing with time and space can be a messy affair. With the story-taking place at an abandoned hotel, thankfully the only persons affected are just him, Lana and Terry (Alex Dimitriades). This third person is an ex of Lana’s who never got over her. Just like Dean, they still have affection even though the story hints at her wanting to ditch both of them. Or in this film’s case, many of them?

Just to see Dean run into his past selves is downright hilarious. Kudos have to go to film editor, writer and director Hugh Sullivan for constructing a well thought out screenplay that spotlights McConville’s talents. He has the makings to be the next Simon Pegg.

The transitions between scenes are seamless and it helps add to the illusion that there are many Deans running around the hotel. Apparently, no stand-ins were used. Continuity experts might even be challenged to figure out which Dean is whom by measure of the stubble on his face and the way his hair looks. Plenty of careful attention to detail helps keep people knowing which version is indeed the real one.

When this movie constructs the fact that Dean is living in his own world, his own bubble, the ultimate question is when will it be popped? With time-travel, hopefully what’s unraveled will eventually show that no matter what kind of paradox is being used to move this tale, ultimately it is love that reveals itself as timeless.

4 Stars out of 5



It Follows, A Movie Review

It Follows Poster


Fans of minimalist horror will love what’s created in a simple tale of terror, It Follows and to find where it will screen next requires carefully paying attention to film festival or this movie’s own Facebook page for where it will play next.

Students of the occult will want to figure out what the entity is and to figure out what the monster represents can be studied in film analysis class but is any of the above really needed at all? Most likely not, but in a film that certainly delves into themes about sexual awakening, this tribute to 80’s sentimentality certainly delivers the thrills in an effective manner that even John Carpenter would approve of.

Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell‘s second feature film certainly highlights what life is like around Detroit, Michigan. The desolation and humdrum of suburbia is ripe for secret horrors to lurk. When the life of Jay (Maika Monroe) gets turned upside down after a seemingly innocent sexual tryst with her boyfriend, just what happens next is the stuff of nightmares. There’s a terror that will eventually arrive. It takes on the forms of people Jay may not necessarily know. There’s observations known about what the horror is and they are told to her. But if she only thought about remembering them and is willing to pass the curse on, would she be able to escape?

In true classic tradition, no hero or heroine ever does.

The soundtrack is what really carries this film. It’s unrelenting beats when the horror comes underscores what many a horror film from back in the days can do. It evokes a sense of unease and to see this movie carefully and sparingly use this music to create the terror really works to make this film terrific. To use any other contemporary score would have only diminished this movie’s impact. Long time horror fans will recall the use of sonics in fond classics like Sidney J. Furie’s The Entity (more on this later) or Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The band Goblin is well known for using the Devil’s Tritone in many a composition. In this film, Rich Vreeland created the score. He’s better known as Disasterpeace and this soundtrack is destined for greatness.

4 Stars out of 5


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