China has finally launched a film festival specifically targeting the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, called the Just Film Festival. The group appears to have organized in 2014, holding the first festival in 2015, as near as I can tell. It seems to have gotten them off to a good start, because this year around 200 industry professionals were running 3 tracks, with the most popular session being the projects, promotion, and investment presentation. That started off with around 500 potential films putting in their bids for funding, and by the time the dust settled it was narrowed down to just 3 titles: Immerse, Saving Human, and Planet X. I don’t know which or how many of them got the money to begin production, but over the last decade or two there has been an explosive growth in the Chinese Science Fiction literary scene. Some of those books and stories have won recognition world wide, and some of them are now in bookstores in North America; it is nice to see their SF/F film industry starting to get some momentum and recognition as well.
This week is the Disney live-action remake of Beauty And The Beast, more specifically the live action remake of the 1991 Disney animated version of Beauty and the Beast. Just last year we had the French remake La Belle et la Bête, but of course that one was the remake of the 1946 masterpiece La Belle et la Bête by visionary filmmaker and poet Jean Cocteau. That one was a direct adaptation of the 1757 story of the same name, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and published in an anthology of fairy tales. The other option this week is Atomica from Syfy Films, which seems to be a mid-future thriller with the potential to become a slasher movie, although I do like a couple of the actors involved.
The Irregular at Magic High School anime series has a Feature Film coming out in Japan on June 17th, and it just got its first trailer. The original voice cast is here, but both the director and the anime studio have changed since the original TV series came out in 2014. I have no idea how much those changes might change the dynamic of the story-line, but it was solid as a light novel, solid as a TV series, and I expect it will be solid as a movie. Thanks to the folks at Otaku USA for the heads up on this one.
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Movie PV by pKjd
The Fantasy A Monster Calls has won two awards and been nominated for 51 more before it even went into wide release, and may be the movie of choice this week. Underworld: Blood Wars puts Kate Beckinsale squarely between the Lycans and Vampires as she moves in to end the ages old war. Hidden Figures is the true story of the women who calculated the launches, orbits, and landings for the Mercury and Apollo space programs, and what they had to overcome to do it. It was a double whammy against them in the 19050s and 1960s because besides being female they were African Americans, but they were also some of the finest engineers this country has produced. Finally, Railroad Tigers is the story of a railroad worker in 1941 China who leads a team of freedom fighters against the Japanese to get food to the poor. Since it starts Jackie Chan, there is a chance it may have some comedic moments.
There are several excellent choices this week, starting with Passengers, where two people wake from cold sleep 90 years before their starship arrives at their new colony planet. Starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as the wakees, this may be the best choice for the weekend. We also get Assassin’s Creed, which started life as a game but seems to have translated to the Big Screen just fine. If you prefer something a bit lighter and more inspiring, Sing should be just the animated treat you are looking for.
There are a lot of family friendly choices this time, starting with the live action remake of Pete’s Dragon from Disney. Spielberg’s take on Roald Dahl’s The BFG is also by way of Disney, and also family friendly. The animated adventure comedy The Wild Life has one of the more cleverly done interactive web sites that I have seen, is a world of fun, and again, is family friendly. It is also still another excellent example of the kind of quality animation work coming out of Belgium and France this century. I do have to admit that Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is family friendly for only certain totally twisted and dysfunctional variations of the word Family (or Friendly, for that matter), which should be obvious from its R rating, but it is a total hoot as well. See this one, just don’t let your kids in the room while you are watching it.
In Anime, Death Parade: The Complete Series has a simple premise: When two people die at the same time, they have to fight. The one who wins gets to live again, the one who loses is gone for good. Decim is the arbiter:a judge who determines whether or not a soul is worthy of reincarnation. At least until he until he meets a mysterious young woman whose fate seems impossible to decide, and the real story gets underway. Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine, Complete Collection is season 2 of this series, and includes all 12 episodes plus the movie. This is not the first anime series to explore what it means to be human, or even the first to do so while the characters DNA is being rewritten, but it does have a somewhat unique approach to the question. The first part of one of this years most edge-of-your-seat shows, God Eater 1, also becomes available this week. I will be waiting for them to put all 13 episodes into a single box set myself, but it is good to see they are making it available in however limited a form.