Fantasia Festival 2017: Friendly Beast (2017)

Friendly Beast (2017)

Friendly Beast

Director and writer: Gabriela Amaral Almeida

Cast: Luciana Paes, Murilo Benicio, Irandhir Santos, Camila Morgado, Humberto Carrao, Ariclenes Barroso

 For the small audience that got to see the World Premiere of Portuguese thriller Friendly Beast, this was as the director calls it “another animal”. Friendly Beast takes place in a small restaurant as it nears closing and last minute customers are there along with the owner, a waitress and a chef. As tension within the restaurant staff with the owner and even its customers build, two armed robbers burst in. This sets the stage as the owner now peels off his friendly smiling face and counteracts in his own way. On the surface, Friendly Beast is an intense thriller that sees two key characters find who they are, both oppressed of what they truly want whether they know it or not. Under this is many tones about control in general to man and woman’s power in relationships, different races and social class clashes. Gabriela Amaral Almeida, presented this debut piece and told the audience that this script was stemmed from anger and frustration from the director and writer of Friendly Beast as Brazil’s political changes stunted her progress with another project. While she explains that the film has undertones of highlighting the Brazilian culture and politics, for those unfamiliar with Brazil politics, there are still many other themes to explore.

Friendly Beast is an intriguing piece to talk about. Mostly because there is so much care and detail at how the entire script is staged. Yes, this movie is carefully staged so that each room creates a different tone and atmosphere. This becomes an important element to understanding the character development. Friendly Beast is a one setting movie and yet because of how the rooms are used, it feels like there is much more space and meaning. For example, the dining room is where everything is put on a facade. It is falsely pretty but as the space becomes more disordered throughout the movie, the characters have also changed to be more outwardly on being themselves while in contrast, the washroom is a private closed space and its where the most real feelings are released in hiding.

There is no doubt that Friendly Beast is about its characters in all their motions and quietness and words. Every move is rehearsed and calculated to fully express what that scene wants to show its audience. In fact, the two main characters here are familiar faces. Murilo Benicio, who plays restaurant owner Inacio, is a renowned actor in the Brazil film industry. Luciana Paes, who plays Sara the waitress, was recently in Netflix Original series 3%. Both of them deliver incredibly engaging roles that even in their most quiet moments create tension. It makes the audience experience various phases and we soon realize that the performances reflect a great script put together to give each moment in this 90+ minutes importance. Some scenes will challenge you and others will literally make you feel uneasy and that also has to do with the sound design and the soundtrack.

There are times when directors talk about what they are trying to portray in their piece and it is a far-fetched idea that doesn’t get executed well. Gabriela Amaral Almeida and Friendly Beast is definitely not the case. If you see this movie (which you should), take the time to see between those lines and see the story she is trying to tell. Take a close look at what she has staged and let the building quiet tension grab you. And when Friendly Beast ends, it may very well sit on your mind afterwards.

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Fantasia Festival 2017: Napping Princess (2017)

Going to Fantasia and not checking out at least one anime or other animated films would be a pity. While some great choices slipped through because of scheduling like Senior Class, I wasn’t going to let this one go.

Napping Princess (2017)

Napping Princess

Director and writer: Kenji Kamiyama

Cast: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tomoya Maeno

In the car-clogged Eastopolis, capital of the kingdom of Heartland, Princess Ancien is confined to gilded cage of sorts. Gifted with remarkable powers, she can bring the inanimate to life using a magical digital device. But she also draws to the city the Terrible Colossus, placing her father’s realm at risk. Back in the real world, it’s three days before the Tokyo Olympics of 2020, and sleepyhead Kokone awakes again from her dreams of Heartland to the realities of life in small-town Okayama. All is not well, though, as her struggling widower father has become tangled up in some sort of corporate intrigue. Soon, the divide between her reveries and the real world will begin to crumble… – Fantasia Festival

Napping Princess, also called Ancien and the Magic Tablet, is a fun and magical adventure animated feature. Straddling between reality and the dream world, a different but linked story with all the same characters come to life in an endearing and a lot of times, humorous way. Cute characters and fantastic environments and the magical kingdom being so pretty, truly makes it something of an eye candy. Napping Princess however does seem to get lost in its length a little and the final act meshes together in a way that makes it hard to follow.

The concept of Napping Princess is outstanding and this anime takes its audience for a ride both literally and figuratively. Our main character is college bound Kokone who has an awkward but close relationship with his widower father who ends up being arrested by the police because he is accused of stealing something. This takes Kokone and her school friend, Morio on a journey as they tumble and roll through one scene after the next, funnily getting through it despite the danger. Napping Princess is definitely a family friendly feature and in many ways, remains innocent. Not only is Kokone and Morio colorful but even the more subtle characters also are. Between the reality and dream sequences, many characters are portrayed differently however also a joy to watch. Even the enemy may have a secret agenda that we soon learn about by the end, however he and his goons are comedic goofballs. What makes it funnier is the fact that the audience is the smarter person here and it becomes obvious that the scenes were written as in our seats we react accordingly with disbelief of the innocent acts of revealing where Kokone is for example in a situation where she may be too trusting.

Napping Princess is an anime that aims to keep its audience on its toes as Kokone escapes and learns about her parents. While the audience gets to see a bigger picture as we can see the villain’s schemes as well as the father’s interrogation, the journey is primarily with Kokone and her friends. While the kingdom of Heartland is a steampunk world filled with mesmerizing designs and a war that is incredible to watch. The real world is in a much more personal journey. Princess Ancien may know much more about her powers and her capabilities but on the contrary, Kokone is only learning about her background as she heads off on this escape and its an adventure that takes everyone quite the turn. Plus, everyone likes an adventure with a magical bear. In this case, he’s called Joy and an adorable little thing that is Princess Ancien’s companion in the kingdom of Heartland.

While Napping Princess is a rather long anime, it does create two fun worlds: the kingdom of Heartland and the future reality of Japan in 2020. In a world of corporate schemes and a dream world of impending war from giant creatures attracted by magic, both are in danger and its all on Kokone or Princess Ancien to hatch a plan that will fix it. Its fun, entertaining and filled with lots of laughter. Its never too serious or even too dangerous even if there is a little bit of violence. With cute and colorful characters, Napping Princess is a family friendly animated feature that is altogether a fun time.

Fantasia Festival is Here!

Fantasia International Film Festival is in town (aka Montreal)!

Fantasia Festival started today in the evening, opening with Korean film, The Villainess. It runs for the next three weeks! It runs from July 13 to August 2.

Luckily, I’ll be covering it this year, like past years! This year, I did think ahead and tried to get myself media accreditation and it happened! That is awesome and I’m really excited. I’ve generally gotten my calendar set on what movies to fit in and I’m being a little pickier with times and what movies I see. The first review goes up tomorrow afternoon as I ponder over a documentary and how to word it properly in a review, as you all know that I don’t review documentaries a lot.

No double features on this one. Fantasia Festival will be getting all full reviews and I’ll hop back to double features after the festival is over.

With that said, I’ll try to keep variety here, however, excuse me if the festival gets on and I don’t have as much time or energy to think in advance for it. Between balancing actual work, Fantasia Festival and Game Warp, its going to be a intense scheduling and efficiency practice on my part. And no, this festival has jumped back to its roots a little more and dives into a lot of foreign films as well as straying a little more away from horror this year. Its a nice change although I do potentially have some in my schedule. I won’t bore you with the technicalities of having the press pass, because honestly, I’m feeling incredibly grateful to even have it so I’ll be working extra hard.

With that said, every year I talk about hte movies that I’ll be going to see. I feel like I can’t promise anything this year as it can change anytime so instead, I’ll talk about the movies I plan on seeing and the movies that are in my maybes and has me intrigued:

  • Abu: Father (2017)
  • Tilt (2017)
  • A Ghost Story (2017)
  • Vampire Clean-Up Department (2017)
  • Savage Dog (2017)
  • Replace (2017)
  • Radius (2017)
  • Origami (2017)
  • Most Beautiful Island (2017)
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (2017)
  • Friendly Beast (2016)
  • Better Watch Out (2016)
  • Overdrive (2017)
  • Fashionista (2016)
  • Bushwick (2017)

Movies I considered but can’t seem to fit into the schedule (or trying to):

  • Shockwave (2017)
  • Mohawk (2017)
  • Senior Class (2016)
  • Bad Genius (2017)
  • Rage (2016)
  • 68 Kill (2017)
  • Napping Princess
  • Bitch (2017)
  • Boyka: Undisputed (2016)
  • Dead Shack (2017)

Looking at the listings, there are over 200 films, both shorts and full lengths and an awesome lists of guests that will be hosting their films from directors to writers to cast members and even crew members. Looking at the calendar and blog archives, I’ve been covering Fantasia unofficially for the last 3 years (maybe 4 but first year, I only saw 2 movies), and the Festival has grown so much over these years and the movie choices have been incredible. Its always a positive experience going and if you are in Montreal, I urge you to go check it out!

If you do, give me a shout! Maybe we can hang out and talk movies! It’ll be fun…if time matches up, of course 🙂

Have you heard or seen any of these movies?
The full list of films can be found HERE
What movies peaked your interest?

Fantasia Festival 2016 Rundown!

Remember on the Montreal Comiccon post that I said I couldn’t make it to the rest of the weekend. Well, Sunday had other plans but Saturday ended up being cancelled for me because Fantasia Festival tickets went on sale!

Fantasia Festival

As some of you know, I’ve been going to Fantasia for the last three consecutive years.  The last two years have seen the festival grow so much as it acquires these really great movies, mostly indie films but a lot of difference from the mainstream since I tend to avoid those. Its opened up my knowledge to so much.  Every year, Fantasia Festival is where I feel like I grow a lot as a movie reviewer. Every year there are surprises and I just have so much fun anticipating the schedule going up then looking at the selections and putting together the schedule and still freaking out before the tickets are open whether I’d get them before they all get snatched up.

I think maybe I skipped putting up this post last year but somehow, I felt like doing it again this year since the choices are pretty spectacular and I had one of the hardest times choosing what I wanted to see while keeping a sensible schedule. Thing is, these three weeks will see a lot of fluctuation despite having a tentative schedule set and trying to prepare for it in this coming week before it starts with the first movie I have scheduled. Its a three week event that includes a lot of late nights and fatigue and sometimes, I might skip a day or two of reviews (or posts) to recuperate or to think about what I’m going to write.

Point is, things might fall out of place here and there but I think I have a rather decent schedule that should help with everything. I have a lot of stuff backlogged and half written but will all be hopefully done by the time we hit the super high season in my schedule.

You know what? Enough rambling! You are all here to see my selections, right? Let’s check it out!!

Rupture [World Premiere] 

Hosted by director Steven Shainberg

The Unseen [World Premiere]

Hosted by director Geoff Redknap

http://video-cdn.indiewire.com/players/JMnCBzmT-PbCxl3wn.html

Lights Out [Special Screening]

We Go On

Hosted by screenwriter/co-director Andy Mitton and actor Jay Dunn

Kidnap Capital

Hosted by director Felipe Rodriguez

Train to Busan [North American Premiere]

Before I Wake [Special Screening]

Hosted by director Mike Flanagan

Bed of the Dead [World Premiere]

Hosted by director Jeff Maher and members of cast and crew

I Am Not a Serial Killer

Hosted by actor Christopher Lloyd

Don’t Breathe

There was a lot of choices that I had to give up and I think the hardest ones that were on my list initially was: Trash Fire, Abbatoir and Therapy.

While Fantasia had a lot of variety this year from a lot of Westerns to even more foreign movie variety to dramas and comedies and the likes, this festival (at least to me) is still rooted in horror and fantasy sort of movies. I always try to support a few Canadian productions because they usually are underrated and hidden gems buried in there.  Its why Black Fawn Films (Bite, The Drownsman) is one I always check out even if it means I need to shift my schedule around. This year, they are here with Bed of the Dead and I’m pretty excited. The Canadian selection is The Unseen which only has that one exclusive trailer but the plot looks so great.

Also, I love choosing world premieres and to go to hosted movies because it offers an insight on the movie and helps me determine whether the message was delivered or whether I interpreted it as they had intended (or not, if it was meant to be abstract). This year, the hosts are incredible from Christopher Lloyd and Mike Flanagan from my own list to Richard Bates Jr and AnnaLynne McCord to Takashi Miike and also Guillermo Del Toro with his masters class after a documentary. On top of that, Special screenings for Lights Out and Before I Wake have got me super hyped. Between you and me, I’ve been spooked by the Lights Out trailers for a few days. And well, the really cool premise of Don’t Breathe, especially after watching Hush.

That’s it for me! I’m just excited! Next year, I really should work on trying to get that Press accreditation.

 Are you going to Fantasia Festival? What movies have caught your eye? Any film festivals near you?