Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fantasia 2008, Day Ten: L: Change the World, Wicked Lake, Chanbara Beauty, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and Shamo

Long day yesterday, highlighted by All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and Shamo. I could tell by the end of Shamo that I wasn't going to make it through another movie, so I wound up going back here and to bed instead. The way the schedule has been shuffled means I still have a pretty good chance of catching Tokyo Gore Police should I choose to on closing night, although the guests likely won't be there.

Today's plan is Japan-heavy: Robo Rock!, Chasing World, Be a Man! Samurai School (with Tak Sakaguchi apparently present), Akanbo Shojo, and Trailer Park of Terror. If you're in town, I can recommend A Colt Is My Passport.

L: Change the World

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Kenichi Matsuyama's performance as "L" may not have been the best thing to come out of the Death Note double feature, but it's certainly one of the most memorable. Fans mainly familiar with the original manga may find the idea of a spin-off movie featuring the character unlikely, but the premise does work for the movie series, even if some of the execution is lacking.

(Spoilers for the Death Note movies follow, as you may expect)

Full review at EFC.

Wicked Lake

* ½ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Here's what you need to know about the quality of this film: They were giving away posters at the door, and a number of them were left in the theater, because who wants to have a reminder of this turd hanging around, even if it's free?

Just bad exploitation all around, full of bad acting without an idea in its plastic-looking head. There's got to be better ways to get one's fill of boobs and blood.

Chanbara Beauty (Onechanbara)

* * (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Apparently, no matter what continent they come from, video game movies suck. Not that I've been stuck seeing many, but Chanbara Beauty feels like it would be typical - random zombie attacks, ridiculous costume designs (I don't care how badass someone is as a fighter, when you're living in a world defined by a nasty fluid-borne pathogen and your weapon of choice is a sword, exposed skin is not a good idea), powers that don't hold up to logic, etc., etc.

Even more than expected, Chanbara Beauty is unsatisfying and cheap-looking, although I'll grant that it might be a fun game.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival, Bloody Radical: Unconventional American Horror)

There is a lot of crap in the "slasher" subgenre, enough so that a person can be reasonably forgiven for giving the entire thing a pass because the occasional gem is not worth the vast mountains of poorly made movies that camouflage it. The occasional gem like Mandy Lane argues against that position, so of course it's stayed hidden for two years.

Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) really blossomed the summer before her junior year, and as it starts, really doesn't seem comfortable with all the new attention, and still tends to hang out with her far less popular friend Emmet (Michael Welch). At a pool party, jocky host Dylan (Adam Powell) constantly hits on Mandy and harasses Emmet, and after both have had a little too much to drink, Emmet goads Dylan into something foolish and shocking. Jump forward nine months, and Mandy and Emmet are no longer friends. She's still the good girl among the people she hangs out with - cheerleaders Chloe (Whitney Able) and Marlin (Melissa Price), rich kid Red (Aaron Himelstein), and athletes Bird (Adiwn Hodge) and Jake (Luke Grimes). They're going to spend the weekend at Red's family's ranch, with only hand Garth (Anson Mount) to supervise. Mandy still does tend to attract unwanted attention, though...

It may not seem like writer Jacob Forman has done anything particularly special here at first glance. He seems to have a better handle on how teenagers actually act than many others - the characters aren't self-referential constructs like in the Scream movies or lazy stereotypes - but that's not completely unusual. What he does is to rebuild the genre from the ground up, letting us see the killer's face much earlier than is typical and giving us some idea of his or her motives, although there are still a few complications to make the end more interesting. This doesn't seem like much, but for so long it seems as though there have just been a couple basic paths these movies could go down (bloody whodunit and gimmick killer, or some combination of the two) that playing up the characters rather than the mechanics seems downright revolutionary.

Full review at EFC, along with two others.

Shamo (Gwan Gaai)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

I'm going to guess that Shamo was a fairly long manga series; like a lot of anime based on such series, the movie feels cut to the bone, with jumps in the story made in order to get to all the flashy scenes, and characters there because they were in the book but not given very much to do. It works better than usual in this one, in part because we're supposed to think of the protagonist as at least partly a dangerous maniac who can't be reasoned with; the randomness works in its favor.

Visually, it's also a treat, as director Soi Cheang sets it in a garish hightened reality that gives a certain amount of glitz to it trashy settings. The fight scenes are pretty bone-crunching affairs as well.

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