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Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual coverage



Clockwise from L: Fantasia poster art; Special Actors; The Columnist: Chasing Dream; Climate Of The Hunter; The Mortuary Collection

Clockwise from L: Fantasia poster art; Special Actors; The Columnist: Chasing Dream; Climate Of The Hunter; The Mortuary Collection
Image: Fantasia Film Festival

In a year without much to look forward to, watching movies is about the only way to escape your day-to-day existence and see something new—from the confines of your living room, of course. And that promise can come with caveats: In the case of the Fantasia Film Festival, one of the handful of virtual film festivals that have launched since March, the majority of the program is geo-locked so only Canadians can watch the selections. That’s excluding the festival’s special events, which include tributes to John Carpenter (that one takes place today, at 4 p.m. Eastern) and the late Stuart Gordon, as well as workshops hosted by Doctor Sleep’s Mike Flanagan and You’re Nexts Simon Barrett. Those are all free worldwide on Zoom.

The reasons behind this geographical exclusion are complex, and involve the kind of labyrinthine agreements of territory rights and exclusions that even critics tend not to understand very well. As best as we can figure it, if a film screens online for the entire world to see, that basically torpedoes its chances of getting a distribution deal in the future. (Remember the future?) Viewers, the logic goes, won’t come out to the theater to see a movie, or even rent it on VOD, if they’ve already seen it at home. And independently funded features—the lifeblood of any film festival—depend on distribution deals to make their budgets back.

For a one-time-only rollout to be worth it, a film festival would have to pay the filmmakers a screening fee equal to that of what they’d get from a distributor for a national or international release. And even Amazon doesn’t have that kind of money, as demonstrated by the tepid response to the company’s SXSW initiative (which did stream participating films worldwide on Prime). And so The A.V. Club’s Fantasia coverage this year isn’t all that different in terms of its function: to put films on readers’ radar for them to check out later. That is, except for Canadians, who can buy tickets for on-demand titles and scheduled livestream screenings here. This time around, the nice guys of North America are finishing first.

To be honest, covering Fantasia virtually isn’t all that different for us, either; typically, we spend a weekend in Montréal, then accomplish the remainder of our reviews with the help of online screeners. That’s because Fantasia is normally a monthlong affair, and as much as we’d love to spend 30 days eating amazing bagels and taking a survey of the state of genre filmmaking around the world, our bosses aren’t as open to the idea. (We can’t imagine why.) And so it is with whatever sad bagels we can scrounge up in the Midwest that we bring you a selection of films from this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, with two more dispatches coming up on Saturday, August 29, and Wednesday, September 2. Bon cinema—à la maison!

The buzzy Sundance title Promising Young Woman is now floating in indefinite release limbo thanks to COVID-19, but Fantasia and the Netherlands have come through with a satirical buffet of homicidal femininity to tide viewers over in the form of The Columnist (Grade: B). Westworld’s Katja Herbers stars as Femke Boot, a newspaper columnist whose success hasn’t cured her of the impulse to obsessively check social media and see what the trolls are saying about her. Given that she’s a woman who dares to have an opinion on the internet, much of what they say about Femke is hurtful—and sometimes even scary, as when an anonymous poster tweets at her, “I know where you live.” An appearance on a TV talk show where Femke asks, “Why can’t we just have different opinions and be nice about it?” just makes things worse, until she’s driven to the edge of sanity by a Qanon-esque online campaign smearing her with unfounded accusations of pedophilia.

That’s all (ahem) relatable enough, but what Femke does next, best described as the closing scene of Shrill season one by way of American Psycho, complicates the situation in violent, darkly funny ways. Director Ivo van Aart plays up the outsized reactions to Femke’s work (one column, “I Don’t Like Soup,” prompts death threats), placing it parallel to the hypocrisy of her moralistic chiding for others to “be nice” while she has a box of human fingers in her freezer. The addition of Femke’s new boyfriend Steven Dood (Bram van der Kelen), a horror writer whose gruesome stories facilitate thematic exposition in the dialogue scenes, threatens to take that commentary into overly heavy-handed territory. But overall, this is a sophisticated take on over-the-top material, arch but not quite Serial Mom-style campy.

Buy tickets to watch The Columnist on demand in Canada here.

Just as satirical, but a lot less bloody, is Special Actors (Grade: C+), the latest from Japanese director Shinichiro Ueda. Ueda’s last film, One Cut Of The Dead, caused a sensation in Japan and at festivals around the world by upending audience expectations of both zombie movies and storytelling in general. And Special Actors takes a similar, impish joy in celebrating the sleight-of-hand underlying all art, here concentrated specifically on acting. The first half of the film recalls the late ’90s and early ’00s output of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry in the best way possible, setting up a surreal premise—an agency of “Special Actors” who specialize in inserting themselves in real-world situations, from laughing at terrible movies to fake crying at funerals—before handing out a (literal) script for convoluting that idea past the point of absurdity.

The complicating factor here is a client who asks the Special Actors to infiltrate the cult that’s brainwashed her sister, adding another layer of satire as Ueda works in tongue-in-cheek New Age-isms alongside the meta humor. Unfortunately, however, Special Actors gets caught in its own web as the story continues to weave threads and then unravel them, losing major momentum in its second half. At 110 minutes, it’s too long to be truly madcap, and the flat visual style doesn’t help in terms of keeping viewers engrossed in the story. The first 45 minutes or so are brilliant, though.

Special Actors screened on Thursday, August 20 as part of the Fantasia Film Festival.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing tongue-in-cheek about Chasing Dream (Grade: C), an odd footnote in the directing career of Hong Kong filmmaking legend Johnnie To. To by no means only directs gangster epics—recent credits include the rom-com sequel Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 (2014) and the musical comedy Office (2015)—but his tough-guy films are the ones that tend to get distribution in North America. So foreign fans may find Chasing Dream a bit puzzling, as it combines romance, comedy, melodrama, and MMA beatdowns in an A Star Is Born/Rocky hybrid about an MMA fighter (Jacky Heung) and an aspiring songwriter (Keru Wang) who bond over their shared commitment to achieving their dreams.

The comedy is broad and the romance unconvincing, and the overstuffed, uninspired storyline makes it pretty obvious that this is a work-for-hire job for To (who, rumor has it, owed the lead actor’s father, producer Charles Heung, a favor). But even when he’s simply collecting a check, To can direct the hell out of action, and the MMA scenes are visceral and kinetic, with a through line that translates the choreography clearly on screen. He can also direct the hell out of a musical number, and this film has many, thanks to a plot line involving an American Idol-style TV singing competition called Perfect Diva. This is a more colorful film than To’s iconic triad movies, more La La Land than Election. It’s for completists only, though those who’ve solely dabbled in To’s crime movies may want to see what he does with the musical.

Buy tickets to watch Chasing Dream on demand in Canada here.

For colorful production values without the musical numbers, turn to the beautifully photographed, appealingly morbid The Mortuary Collection (Grade: B-), a horror anthology that re-creates its influences with an impressively lush visual sensibility, considering its modest beginnings as a short film. The wraparound story blends old-fashioned Gothic horror with contemporary meta snark, as decrepit mortician Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown, buried under layers of creepy prosthetics) tells macabre tales to sarcastic teenager Sam (Caitlin Custer), who applies for a job at his funeral home.

Each story is tied to a body in Dark’s morgue, and each of them carries a moral lesson in the tradition of EC Comics and its offspring, the Tales From The Crypt series and Creepshow. Director Ryan Spindell wears his love for the genre on his sleeve, and The Mortuary Collection recalls everything from Hammer Horror to Sam Raimi at various points throughout the film. It’s less successful at actually transcending those influences, although Spindell’s devotion is endearing.

Buy tickets to watch The Mortuary Collection on demand in Canada here.

On the other hand, saying Climate Of The Hunter (Grade: B) is a play on European vampire movies of the ’70s is like saying that a pineapple pizza is a play on pepperoni pizza—they’re technically building on the same basic ingredients, but the flavor is completely different. That’s thanks in large part to the singular vision of the film’s director, Mickey Reece, a DIY auteur based in Oklahoma City who’s completed dozens of homemade feature films over the past 12 years.

The film is a three-hander, revolving around two sisters (Mary Buss and Ginger Gilmartin) holed up in a remote cottage who fall under the spell of a gentleman vampire (Ben Hall). But the plot is secondary: Everything from the casting to the pacing to the dialogue and cinematography contributes to the film’s strange, somnambulant tone, which manages to re-create the knife’s-edge sexiness of a good giallo while still obviously being shot at someone’s lake house. The atmosphere is so dense and hypnotic, you just want to take a big whiff and get high on the psychosexual fumes.

Buy tickets to watch Climate Of The Hunter on demand in Canada here.

The 2020 edition of the Fantasia Film Festival is taking place online from August 20-September 2, 2020.


How Las Vegas became the world’s casino capital





These days, it’s impossible to think of Las Vegas without the image of the lights on the strip and glamorous casinos coming to mind. But the Vegas we know of 2020 wasn’t always that way; and it took a long, long time to get its reputation for being the world’s casino capital. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and get to the root of how Las Vegas became the city that never sleeps.

A historical journey

It’s hard to believe these days, but the Las Vegas region was once an abundant marshland stock full of rich vegetation. That is, until the marsh receded, and the waters disappeared, transforming the landscape into a desert, with the trapped water underground sprouting life and forming an oasis.

It was during the 19th century that the explorer Antonio Armijo from Mexico foraged the way from New Mexico to California on the first commercial caravan. It was a member of the group, Rafael Rivera who rode west to find water and venture through the desert, setting his eyes upon Las Vegas Springs. Las Vegas was therefore named ‘the meadows’ after the grasses found growing there.

Years went on and both Mormon and Mexican settlers began to filter through. In 1890 it was decided by railroad developers that Las Vegas would serve as a spot along the San Pedro, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles railroad route as well as connecting to major cities along the Pacific Coast. From there on, Vegas boomed with stores, boarding houses and saloons popping up around the area. This was the beginning of the Las Vegas as we know it — with railroad workers and ranchers enjoying the gambling and drinking through illegal speakeasies and bootleg casinos operating despite the ban on gambling in Nevada in 1910.

In 1931 gambling once again became legal in the state, with new casinos and showgirl venues opening up along Fremont Street to entertain the thousands of workers who flocked the city during the construction of the Hoover Dam. The first hotel, El Rancho Vegas, opened up in 1941 along Highway 91. Its success inspired others to open up their own hotels along the highway which would one day become the strip. Tourists began to flock to the city over the next few decades to enjoy the casino scene and see incredible artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra perform.

The birth of the mega resort

It was in 1966 the businessman Howard Hughes purchased the Desert Inn hotel; this was followed by over a dozen more hotel purchases, pushing out the mobster-owned hotels that had previously dominated Las Vegas. The concept of the mega hotel came about in 1989 when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage as the first hotel resort in the city. By 1994, Las Vegas was the home of more than 86,000 hotel and motel rooms with 13 of the 20 largest mega resort hotels in the world. It was during this era that the Strip became populated with more hotels and casinos, with developments inspired by the iconic cities and countries of the globe including Egypt, Paris, New York and Rome.

Las Vegas in the 21st century

The Las Vegas of today is well and truly established as a home for entertainment and casinos — which remain the biggest source of income for the city. However, there’s no doubt that Vegas faces more competition than ever before from the virtual world, with more people than ever before opting to play at an online casino, rather than play in the old fashioned way, but Vegas will always have the advantage. For many, it’s a once in a lifetime trip that an online casino can’t replicate, but do the online equivalents help to increase interest in Vegas?

The bright lights of Vegas is attracting billions of dollars in investment as many try and get a slice of the revenue that the sector has to offer. During 2019 over 42.52 million people came to visit Las Vegas from all around the world. Domestically, it was shown to be the second most popular destination for U.S. traveller’s dream spots after New York.

These days, Las Vegas continues to thrive and be a source of entertainment for millions of visitors from around the world looking to experience what the city has to offer. With new generations becoming interested in casino games — and some incredible musical residencies continuing to be announced — Las Vegas surely will continue to be one best places to go for a unforgettable dream destination for many.

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Land-Based Casinos




What can people find at some of the biggest land-based casinos in Canada? From Niagara Falls to Toronto, there is something for everyone at casinos in Canada, including table games, slots, roulette, blackjack, and other games. There are also many poker and blackjack tournaments held throughout the year and it is easy to find jackpots or slots with free spins at the casinos. Many casinos also have hotels, bars, and numerous restaurants which are perfect for players seeking some comfort. A relaxing casino experience for all ages can be found in many different places in Canada. Choose one from below.

Choosing a casino depends on your tastes and location within Canada. Do you want to experience the grandeur and splendour of nature while placing a bet? Then head to Niagara Falls. Do you want to see a show? Choose a casino with a show that will be perfect for you. If you are looking for pure relaxation, then check out some of the casinos with spas and world-class dining. Entertainment is also a large part of the casino experience in Canada. Musicians, bands, comedians, and other types of entertainment continue to be found at all of the biggest casinos.

Some Big Casinos Near Nature

Casino Niagara is located in one of the most beautiful places in Canada and the world. People from all around the globe come to experience the best of both worlds at Casino Niagara. Players have access to beauty and scenery while spending time at one of the biggest casinos in Canada. The casino has two floors with over 1200 slot machines, poker, and other table games. There are also many different restaurants and even a comedy club. The sports bar and casino was refurbished back in 2017, meaning that it has not lost any of its charm and shine.

ST Eugene Golf Resort: Casino of the Rockies is a golf and nature lovers’ paradise. The location could not be any more splendid. People can find the casino between the Rockies and Purcell Mountains. Furthermore, the casino has an interesting history after it was converted from an Indian Residential School. It was then opened in the early 2000s. St Eugene has table games, electronic roulette, baccarat, and blackjack. There is also a golf course, restaurant, bar, spa, and hotel that is highly rated in Canada. Overall games are limited so most people come for golfing and betting fun.

Caesars Windsor is famously located on the riverbank in Windsor, Ontario. Visitors from both Canada and the States frequent the casino and hotel. Players can see the Detroit and Michigan skyline from the area. There are two floors of slots, table games, and plenty of poker tables. Blackjack, baccarat, and roulette are also available at the casino. It has beautiful restaurants, a gym, bars, slots, and live sports. Check out the Titan 360™, a 10-foot tall slot machine with 5800 pounds of wins at the click of a button. It’s the largest slot machine in the world and great fun.

  • Enjoy the size of Casino de Montreal and Hard Rock Casino
  • Enjoy the big and beautiful Casino Niagara or ST Eugene Golf Resort
  • Enjoy High Culture at Elements Casino Brantford

River Rock Casino Resort – In Transit

Are you passing through Vancouver Airport and have a long transit? Hire a cab and spend some time enjoying slot machines at River Rock Casino Resort. There are slots galore and the different themes make it an enjoyable visit for all. There is even a Dungeons and Dragons slot for gamers. A fourteen-table game room can be found at the casino and international poker tournaments are held regularly. Other features include a VIP area, spa, live music, 24-hour food and drink, as well as other entertainment. Richmond is also worth a quick visit, especially for some delicious seafood.

Casino de Montreal – The Big Gun

Casino de Montreal is 526,488 square feet of casino excitement. The casino has around 20 thousand visitors each day and is one of the biggest casinos on the globe. If you are still unconvinced about the size of the place, then imagine five floors of slots and table games. 3,000 machines and 111 table games make the casino seem even more mammoth. Casino de Montreal games can be played in a smoke-free environment and many players comment on the user-friendly games and helpful staff. Complimentary drinks and top-rated gourmet food is all part of the experience at Casino de Montreal.

Hard Rock Casino – Another Big One

Hard Rock Casino is another large casino located in Vancouver, British Columbia. The casino is over 80,000 square feet, making it a big one in Canada. Hard Rock has gaming tables, slots, baccarat and a poker room. The casino includes 70 casino tables and 1,000 slots. Private rooms and high roller areas are also available. However, the Hard Rock name is known for excellent food and this is what people love about this casino. Many players comment on the quality of the food here. It even has a 1,000 seat theatre, making it great for dining and a show.

Elements Casino Brantford – Enjoy High Culture

Elements Casino Brantford is a historical gem for culture in Ontario. It is a charity casino that was established last century. It includes the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, which is a high society entertainment venue in Ontario. The centre is well known to performing arts enthusiasts in Ontario and Canada. Players come to see a show, enjoy some gourmet food and a game. The casino also has plenty of slots, table games, blackjack, baccarat, sic bo, three card poker, roulette, and other games. There is also a 14-table Texas Hold ‘Em poker room. Enjoy all the excitement.

River Cree Resort and Casino – Sports Lovers

River Cree Resort and Casino is a sport and gaming venue located in Edmonton that should not be overlooked. It has 39 tables of various money limits and over 1,000 slots. There are also a few different places to dine while enjoying a bet and other things to experience. There is a fitness centre, spa and a 200 room resort. However, the most interesting feature of this casino is the two hockey rinks, which are often used by the Edmonton Oilers for practice. It is possible to watch the team practice and go for a meal and some gaming fun.

For the ones who fancy playing online we recomend visiting!

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Top 8 Online Games That Kids Can Play Without Much Parental Supervision




The gaming industry has been quite widespread since its inception. With the advent of globalisation and technology, this industry is reaching new heights. Kids these days are more inclined to the internet than they are to books. 

The internet has more information about everything than anywhere else and is very easily accessible. This further makes some parental control necessary. Most parents are worried about their kids playing violent video games that can further affect their mental health. 

Nevertheless, you cannot stop a kid from finding ways to log in to the internet, nor can you keep them away from playing video games. You can always supervise them on their media consumption. But that also gets tiresome after a point. This is when it gets necessary for you to introduce them to games that are not only kid-friendly but are also of their liking. 

If you are in a similar situation, looking for a way out, this article will surely help. Further mentioned are a few games that you can let your kid play while you concentrate on your work and well-being.  

1. Gummy Drop

Finding games that you can let your kids play without supervision is quite a task. With games like Gummy Drop, you do not have to worry one bit. With beautiful graphics and interesting gameplay, it does not take long for your kid to get hooked to the game. 

With new cities and interesting content being added almost every day, this 3 puzzle game is a good choice for your kids to play. It also connects to your Facebook account, letting you play with your other friends. It is also a nice way for your kids to improve their general knowledge and problem-solving skills. 

2. Skribbl

If you were a fan of Pictionary when you were growing up, you should definitely introduce your kids to this game. While the rules of Pictionary remain the same, this game improves on the visual aspect. With all of their friends in the same server, your kid can easily get hooked to this game. 

Easy and fun to play – once the server is set up, each player will get a word that they have to draw on the screen. The motive of the game is to help the other players guess your word. Each round chooses players at random. While it is advised that you use a tablet and a stylus to play this, you can always sketch with your finger. 

3. Ludo Supreme

A classic in every sense of the word, online ludo needs no introduction. There are some new features that are added in the game version of this app. It lets you connect to your Paytm account and earn real money while playing the game. 

Along with such amazing features, you can also play it for fun with your family or friends. It has other versions as well that come in different languages, especially in India, given the diverse nature of the country. You can download the LUDO for your android phones

4. Houseparty

There is no doubt that Houseparty has been one of the most popular downloads this pandemic. This is a networking app that lets you add as many as seven friends and play different games face-to-face via video calls. 

The novel approach of phone gaming made this a very widely chosen app. While playing games with your friends is always fun, this app lets you see and talk to them as well. Some of the most played games in this app include Heads Up!, Chips and Guac, Trivia and Quick Draw. With such amazing features and games, this is a worthwhile download for your kid. 

5. Monopoly

Monopoly is a very interesting game, which you can get your kids. Along with being fun, it can be played by any age group and is always stimulating your brain. This board game is an all-time classic that is now available on mobile platforms. 

The good thing about it being on the phone is that now your kids can play it with their friends as well, and all from the convenience of your home. 

6. Rocket League

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to play soccer but with cars, this game is exactly that. You get to pick a car at the beginning of the game in an oversized field with an oversized ball. Then start the five-minute matches where you have to score goals against them. 

To make it even more fun, this game allows the player to add up to three friends on the same server. It also has options where you can choose between casual play and ranked online play. Nevertheless, in both gameplays, you can earn new cosmetic looks for the car and get a chance to score more goals. 

7. UNO

Another all-time classic, UNO has been a very celebrated game all these years. The original company of UNO came out with the online version that is available on both iOS and Android devices. Since they are the copyright holders, you already know, the gameplay cannot get any better than this. 

Nevertheless, since it is a multiplayer game, you can play it both against your friends or strangers. It’s fun aesthetics, and new rules make it more interesting. It now has different modes of play and tournaments as well. You can also partner up and play 2v2 to win together. With servers available all around the world, you can connect to anyone you know. 

8. Guess The Word

Very obvious from the name itself, this game is known to be one of the most popular downloads in this list. It not only helps your kids spend some unsupervised time with themselves but also ensures that they learn new things in the process. 

The game contains different levels which get harder as your kid progresses, further making it more interesting and attractive. If you have some free time on your hands, you can also jump in and play with your kids.

Final Thoughts

So, these are the 8 games that kids of all ages can play without any tension. Above all, parents don’t have to panic or keep an eye on them all the time. 

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