Fantasia 2015: The Real Miyagi, Cash Only, Tales of Halloween

“The Real Miyagi” (Kevin Derek, Canada, 2015)

“The Real Miyagi” is a warm, informative and reverential tribute to Fumio Demura, the Japanese karate master who came to personify karate in the U.S., and later, around the world. Able to count Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal among his students, Demura arrived in the U.S. dirt poor as a young man following World War II.  Very early on he realized that Americans were dissatisfied with formal exhibitions showcasing a fighter’s form, so he revolutionized – and popularized – karate in the U.S. via exciting exhibitions of intricately choreographed simulated fighting.

A tireless promoter of marital arts, Demura eventually found himself serving Hollywood on several film sets, including “The Island of Dr. Moreau” with Burt Lancaster, and most famously with Pat Morita, who modeled his “Mr. Miyagi” character after Demura, in “The Karate Kid” film series. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in martial arts or martial arts movies.

“The Real Miyagi” received its Quebec premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 23.

“Cash Only” (Malik Bader, USA/Albania, 2015)

Director Malik Bader and writer/star Nickola Shreli have crafted a tight, economical and ultimately viscous tale of survival in a nearly lawless poor immigrant community.  On the mean Albanian-American streets of Detroit (actually Hamtramck), everyone both owes money and is owed. Elvis Martini is a landlord with a young daughter. Unfortunately, he has not been able to keep up with payments on his property, and – as a result – his building may soon be taken away from him by the city. Yet, his tenants cannot, or will not, pay him their rent when due, partly because he has not been able to afford to make promised repairs to their units, and partly because the tenants also owe money to more ruthless creditors. In short, the man with the sharpest teeth always gets his first.

Desperate to pay off the bank, while also desperate to pay off a loan shark who is at the end of his patience, Martini decides to evict a past due tenant, while also robbing her of a large pile of cash he knows her to have secreted away. Using the cash to satisfy his debts, he quickly learns that the money had been stolen from a man more dangerous than any he’s known. No, not a man…an animal.  And the beast wants that money back – plus a sizable bonus – by the end of the day or there will be absolute hell to pay.

“Cash Only” received its world premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 23.

“Tales of Halloween” (Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Darren Lynn Bousman, John Skipp, Andrew Kasch, Mike Mendez, Ryan Schifrin, Paul Solet, Axelle Carolyn, Dave Parker, Adam Gierasch, USA, 2015)

“Tales of Halloween” consists of 10 short stories each taking place in the same town on the same Halloween night.  Impressively, there are no absolute duds, though naturally, some of the stories are more entertaining than others. Among the best are director Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong” and Mike Mendez’s  “Friday the 31st.” “Ding Dong” is an update of the Hansel & Gretel fairy tale with Hansel cast as the nervous, cuckolded husband of a dangerous and unpredictable Witch who insists – against Hansel’s better instincts – upon greeting all of the neighborhood children who appear at their door seeking Halloween sweets. “Friday the 31st” involves a gorefest battle between a Leatherface/Grandfather hybrid, a sexy Dorothy of Oz and an adorable little Claymation alien with a Tweety Bird voice.

Also of particular note are Darren Lynn Bousman’s malevolent “The Night Billy Raised Hell,” Adam Gierasch’s frightening “Trick,” Neil Marshall’s clever “Bad Seed” and Axelle Carolyn’s chilling “Grim Grinning Ghost.”

“Tales of Halloween” received its world premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 24.

The Fantasia International Film festival runs through August 5. For further information go to