Monday, July 13, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 12 July 2009: Thirst, Power Kids, Lalapipo, Evil Spirit: Viy, and Spare

Not a whole lot to say about yesterday: It was my first real morning-to-late night day of seeing movies here, and as much as folks don't believe it, that takes a bit out of you, engaging the same part of your brain for close to twelve hours straight. I met a nice lady from Anchor Bay Canada, gearing up for the evenings screening of Grace, during Thirst, and actually had a little more time than I expected to wander around looking for food after Lalapipo: Both the Fantasia program and NYAFF had it listed as around two hours, when it's actually right around the ninety-minute mark.

And I lost my program sometime between then and Evil Spirit: Viy, which is annoying as heck. A couple years ago, they actually had piles of programs out for the taking so long as you didn't want the DVD-o-trailers; this year I'm going to have to drop $5 to get another. But, someone will get the gift of a disc full of incomprehensible movie previews, as my copy of that is already sitting back at the apartment.

Bakjwi (Thirst)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

I wish I could take credit for this line, but it was the lady in the next seat over who turned to me after the Fantasia screening of Thirst and said "isn't it cool to see a vampire movie that's not all gothy?"

Believe it or not, it is. It means Park Chan-wook is doing the sort of movie he's good at: The sort where, even when horrible things happen, there may be something funny about it, and not in an ironic, self-conscious way. The sort where things happen in bright light and full color. And the sort where, instead of moping over the tragic ironies of their lives, the characters go out and do stuff - sometimes noble, sometimes horrible, but always interesting.

Friar Hyan Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a good man; he ministers to the ill at a Seoul hospital, and counsels heartbroken nurses against suicide. Wanting to do more, he volunteers to test an experimental vaccine for Emmanuel Virus (EV), a nasty flesh-eating disease. The experiment is a tragic failure, as he's the only one of 500 to survive. But it's not the miracle it appears to be - he was somehow transfused with vampire blood. The vampirism holds the EV in check, along with having the usual side effects. And it's not just his appetite for blood that he's having trouble holding back - he's feeling a strong drive to do things that a Catholic priest, especially, shouldn't be doing.

Enter Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin). The onetime foster sister, now wife, of Sang-hyun's childhood friend Kang-woo (Shin Ha-kyun) is immensely dissatisfied with her life, running around the neighborhood barefoot at night just for a moment's escape. She's immediately attracted to the newly-virile priest, who should beware - an unhappy wife can be just as dangerous as a hungry vampire.

Full review at eFilmCritic.

5 Huajai Hero (Power Kids)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

I can't recommend Power Kids to families, and it's not just because it is an amazing example of how what is apparently considered to be enjoyable family entertainment in one culture (say, Thailand) comes off as mind-bogglingly inappropriate in another (say, the U.S.). It's because, with the exception of the fight choreography, everything about the movie is cloying and amateurish.

The movie gives off its "really, this is for kids?" vibe even before the credits start, with refugees getting machine-gunned in the jungle. The scene still shifts to a more peaceful spot in Bangkok, where muay thai master Lek (Arunya Pawilai) looks after four kids - his niece Catt (Sasisa Jindamanee), nephews Wuth (Nantawooti Boonrapsap) and little Wun, and son of a friend Pong (Paytaai Wongkamlao). Sadly, Wun has a heart condition, and the need for a transplant is pushed up when some bullies chase him away from a remote control car race that their friend Jib (Nawarat Techarathanaprasert) is participating in. The good news: A donor heart has been found! The bad news: It needs to be transplanted within four hours and is currently located in a hospital that has been taken over by terrorists led by a cruel leader (Johnny Nguyen) and an uncertain young girl (Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon).

Yes, you are reading this right - the second half of this movie involves four junior-high-schoolers sneaking into a hospital filled with terrorists holding machine guns to retrieve a donor heart. Sure, they've got some muay thai skills, but this is still kids getting shot at even before you get to behavior you might not want your kids imitating, like smashing fluorescent lights on people and flying through panes of glass face first (and unless they spent a lot more on CGI than I imagine, there's really not much chance Boonrapsap is being doubled for there). Heck, just the "fun" scene meant to show us the kids' skills early on might be a little alarming for parents: I'm not sure I like the idea of kids whose elbows are at groin level learning to do Tony Jaa stuff anyway, let alone giving them the idea of strapping lengths of pipe to their arms and legs!

Full review at eFilmCritic.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Tetsuya Nakashima wrote this, and it's not hard to see his fingerprints on it - Lalapipo has all the jumping around, bright colors, crisscrossing plots and outright absurdity that Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko featured, but director Masayuki Miyano doesn't quite seem to have the magic touch with it that Nakashima himself does. There's charm to his movie, but it's only enough to just get the audience curious about the characters, not fall in love with them like I did with the films Nakashima directed himself.

Also, and it may just be the digital projection used, but the film looks kind of cheap in places. Shots out one character's window at a busy Tokyo intersection just get overpowered by yellow, and while it may be a stylistic choice, it makes the movie hard to look at. A little grottiness is expected given how much of the film revolves around characters in low-rent porn-oriented professions, but even the fantasy sequences look kind of half-hearted.

Evil Spirit: Viy

Seen 12 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Hey, check it out... My first boring movie nap of the festival!

To be fair, I scarfed a bunch of pizza right before the movie started, so there was food-coma action going on too, but this really is the sort of navel-gazing orouborus of a movie that needs to be a lot more clever, or scary, or witty, to really be worth the effort. There are moments when it seems to be doing something neat, especially in the first third, but not enough to really suck me in.

Seu-pe-eo (Spare)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

I kind of wish I could get away from work to hit the second screening of this; I saw the whole thing but was still kind of worn out. It is a ton of fun, though, with comments from the peanut gallery built into the soundtrack, plenty of good fighting, and a laid-back atmosphere about dealing with gamblers and gangsters that wouldn't feel out of place in a Guy Ritchie film.

It's a slight-but-fun buddy movie where the eventual buddies don't speak the same language, and really looks like it gets a lot of action out of a shoestring budget.

Well, this is going up too late to say much about recommendations for the day. I might just give Evil Spirit: Viy another try (7pm, de Seve), since the alternative is Clive Barker and "Book of Blood" is a title that promises a little more than I want in a horror movie, to be honest; those looking for something goofy and fun might dig The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle (10pm, Hall). Tuesday offers another chance to sample the insanity that is Power Kids (3pm, de Seve), and I may have another review for Tuesday up in time.

Today's plan: Legendary Assassin, Book of Blood, Stoic

No comments: