Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Fantasia Day Seven (13 juillet 2005)

No pictures from Wednesday; I went back down to the Porte Vielle and mostly just walked around before stopping into the archeology/history museum. Which was kind of neat, and I rather rushed through it toward the end in order to get back in time for Shaolin Temple, but I was okay with that because it got somewhat repetitive. Boy, they unearthed a lot of chamber pots.

Did have one heck of a good burger, though - crispy on the outside while tasting like a really good meatloaf, on a very nice roll. Bartley's-quality, it was. For a city that bills itself as a port town, there's not much seafood (you've got to be on the ocean), but it's got good burger-and-fries cuisine.

As to the movies, we've got a pair of interesting uses of inter-film continuity here: I wasn't aware that the Shaw Brothers movies formed a sort of coherent universe, and I imagine I'd like Shaolin Temple more if I knew more about it (kind of like how much of what DC Comics is putting out right now leaves me sort of cold because I neither know nor have particular interest in the DC Universe of fifteen years ago... but I digress). Ju-on: The Grudge 2, on the other hand, does a nice job of adding to its fantastic predecessor without crawling up its own behind or getting as meta as recent American horror movies can. I hope that Lion's Gate eventually puts out a complete Ju-on box set sometime, with the direct-to-video originals plus the two or three theatricals (if Ju-on: The Grudge 3 reall is in pre-production).

Shaolin Temple (Siu Lam ji)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 July 2005 in Théâtre Hall Concordia (Fantasia)

Some of the shortest reviews I've written are for movies like Shaolin Temple. In part, that's because they didn't really originate as reviews, but as blog entries - "saw Snake Deadly Act; didn't suck" - but part is because there's really not a whole lot to say about them. People learn martial arts. They fight. Some die. Then, they make another movie. In which people learn martial arts, fight, and die.

Or so it appears to the non-fan, like me. There is, apparently, a continuity to the movies Cheh Chang directed for Shaw Brothers, with Shaolin Temple tying threads together and providing background to popular characters. I didn't realize that any of the Shaw Brothers movies had continuity before reading this in the festival program, which means that I perhaps lacked the proper context for enjoying this movie, since I haven't seen one since the Coolidge discontinued the Midnight Ass-Kickings last year. Still, I'm not sure how many notches my estimation of this movie would have gone up even if I was more familiar with the background.

Read the rest at HBS.

Ju-On: The Grudge 2

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 July 2005 in Théâtre Hall Concordia (Fantasia)

When I saw it at the 2003 Boston Fantastic Film Festival, Takashi Shimizu's Ju-on: The Grudge was something of a revelation to me. I can't remember the last really scary horror movie I'd seen before it, and I started taking a greater interest in the horror coming out of Japan. That was, of course, before I knew what a cottage industry Shimizu was making of it. This follow-up to that movie isn't quite in it's class, but it's still good for a couple of jumps and one or two gasps.

As with its predecessor, Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (since there also exists a Ju-on 2 and The Grudge 2 is planned, abbreviation is problematic) is told out of chronological order, using character names as chapter titles and mostly keeping the focus on that character. The sequence of events becomes apparent pretty quickly, though - actress Kyoko Harase (Noriko Sakai), known as the "Queen of Horror", appears on a "Sightings" type of television show, visiting the infamous Saeki house along with host Tomoka Miura (Chiahru Niyama). This is not a wise thing to do, of course, as later that night ghost-child Toshio (Yuya Ozeki) appears in her car, leading to an accident that puts her boyfriend in a coma and ends her first-trimester pregnancy... Or does it? Meanwhile, everyone else on that shoot is also receiving visits from Toshio and his mother Kayako (Takako Fuji), and those seldom end well.

Read the rest at HBS.

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