Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fantasia Addenda: Screeners and Godzilla at the Brattle

But wait! Just because I came back home to Boston doesn't mean that the Fantasia fun was over! In a great "hey, I'm a real member of the media" deal, I got my hands on three VHS screeners of movies that would play after I left, so that I could have reviews up on HBS/EFC when they opened. I wish one of them could have been GORA, since I don't think I've ever seen a Turkish film, let alone a Turkish sci-fi comedy, but they only had time to make a copy of it or Some, and as decent as Some was (and I was interested in seeing the other movies by the "guest directors" of Another Public Enemy), I wish I'd sent the email in time. Ah, well.

Also, Matt, Morgan, and I went to see Godzilla: Final Wars at the Brattle Friday, and it wasn't a totally unqualified success. I still loved it, but I apparently like the cheese more than Matt, and I think it's better in a big theater with all the bells and whistles - I love the Brattle, but this movie needed to be louder than they can handle (or that their restaurant neighbors will let them). I think it also becomes more fun if you already dig Kitamura and his style, or recognize bits of trivia like the "Tohoscope" open not having been used in thirty years and that the guy playing the Secretary General was one of the stars of the original Gojira.

Interesting to see the Fantasia opening before the Tohoscope one; I wonder if they just didn't remove it before sending the reels here or whether it's part of a deal worked out with the festival (Fantasia's Mitch Davis is one of the advisors to the Brattle's Boston Fantastic Film Festival).

So, anyway, this closes the book on Montreal. Now, to get back to the Harold Lloyd reviews and then maybe some current American movies.

Ghost House (Gwishini Sanda)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2005 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Screener)

It's easy to bemoan the Hollywood machine when confronted with the foreign and independent films which play boutique houses and festivals. While the multiplex fills with mediocrity piled upon junk, everything we see coming from France, say, or Korea seems to be exciting, daring, or exceptional. Of course, it's a biased sample, and we're generally only getting the most popular and/or lauded works from other countries' national cinemas; for every masterpiece like Memories of Murder in a Seoul multiplex, there's probably two or three movies like Ghost House - entertaining enough screen and time fillers, but well short of greatness or putting Hollywood to shame.

The story opens with Park Pil-gi (Cha Seung-won) buying his first home. It's beautiful and has a great ocean view, so if a construction worker like Pil-gi can afford it, there's got to be something wrong with it, right? But Pil-gi isn't thinking of that; he's just remembering how much he and his father (Yun Moo-sik) moved around when he was a child, mostly because of the elder Park's tendency to get in fights. Owning his own home was a promise Pil-gi made to his dying father, though, and there are tears in his eyes when he hangs his nameplate by the door. The catch, of course, is that he's not alone in the house, even when his girlfriend Soo-kyung (Son Tae-yeong) isn't around - he's got a poltergeist, and it wants him out.

Read the rest at HBS.


* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2005 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Screener)

The characters in Some seem to need an awful lot of help. There's a simple story hidden under its layers of complication, and yet it still takes an extra, unexplained fantasy device to fully move the plot along. I don't want to come out against genre films being challenging, but there's enough misdirection and stuff to keep track of that I found myself occasionally wishing that Some was a book, so that I could easily flip back and make sure I was square on what everybody's place in the story is.

The story starts at midnight, with Seo Yu-jin (Song Ji-hyo) getting her new apartment set up. A man comes to the door, clearly expecting someone else, but accepts Yu-jin's word when she says she'll deliver the package he has for Min Jae-il. He gives it to her, and she sets her alarm for four-thirty before heading to bed. Just as she's waking up to get ready for her job as a radio traffic reporter, Detective Kang Seong-ju (Go Soo) is engaged in a high-speed chase that ends when the crooks he's chasing crash their car. They, apparently, are the ones expected to have the MP3 player now in Yu-jin's possession, so both Kang and a group of toughs converge on her. She, however, thinks it's because she accidentally took a picture of the crooks while photographing a stray cat, and doesn't think to mention the MP3 player. To make things a little more complicated, Yu-jin is having flashes of déjà vu all day, seeing things before they happen. The movie covers a roughly twenty-four hour period, midnight to midnight, in October 2004.

Read the rest at HBS.

Survive Style 5+

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2005 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Screener)

It's a weird, weird world for the characters in Gen Sekiguchi and Taku Tada's Survive Style 5+. Like Robert Altman or P.T. Anderson with the strange turned up a notch, director Sekiguchi and writer Tada spend a half hour introducing five sets of characters before bumping their stories against each other in ways that may not always be unpredictable, but are predominately entertaining.

In story number 1, a man (Tadanobu Asano) has just killed his wife (Reika Hashimoto), but after burying the body, returns home to find her sitting in the kitchen - and not happy. In story number 2, television commercial director Yoko (Kyoko Koizumi) fancies herself a comedic genius, although as her lover (Hiroshi Abe) points out in about the rudest way possible, she's not; she's just strange. In story number 3, the Kobayashi family goes to see a popular hypnotist's show, but get more than they bargained for when the father (Ittoku Kishibe) is stuck thinking he's a bird after the performance is interrupted. In story number 4, a trio of small-time crooks (Kanji Tusda, Yoshiyuki Morishita, and Jai West) hang out together, with one making eyes at the second whenever the third isn't looking. And in story number 5, an English hitman (Vinnie Jones) asks everyone he meets, through his translator (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa), what the purpose of their existence is.

Read the rest at HBS.

1 comment:

Matt S. said...

About "GOdzilla: Final Wars"... I can and did appreciate it for what it was - Godzilla kicking the crap out of the other monsters was fun, but every segment was way too short, and I kept waiting for Godzilla to start going at the city. The human stuff was miserable. If I ever get around to reviewing it (it's in the queue), I'll talk about why.