Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 14 July 2009: Yatterman, Tokyo Onlypic 2008, and The Clone Returns Home

Another day running late, but I would just like to point out: The rain only came down on the 14th during the time when I was neither in the office nor seeing a movie.

Yattaman (Yatterman)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Years ago, when it first came out, and before everyone I knew who would even consider watching a foreign film knew what it was, I would tell people that Takashi Miike's Audition was a sweet romantic comedy, which, well, it is not (although you could make an enjoyable one if you started from the same premise). I bring this up mainly so that you understand what I mean when I saw that Miike's Yatterman is nothing but wholesome family entertainment - maybe a little on the bland side for adults.

Yatterman 1 & 2 are toymaker Gan Takada (Sho Sakurai) and his girlfriend, electronics whiz Ai Kaminari. As the film opens, they ("ably" assisted by their robots Botty and Yatterwoof) are fighting off the weekly attack of Lady Doronjo (Kyoko Fukada) and her henchmen Tanzra (Kendo Kobayashi) and Boyacky (Katsuhisa Namase), intent as ever on getting the four segments of the Skull Stone for their "God of Thieves", Skullobey. In the midst of the rubble from the battle, that Yatter-crew finds Shoko Kaieda (Anri Okamoto), daughter of the archaeologist (Sadao Abe) who knows where the other skull fragments are to be found. Gan thinks she's kind of cute.

At first, I thought that the opening scene's bright Day-Glo color scheme, mangled language, and over-the top action was just going to be the hook, and then things might quiet back down to something close to normal, but no... The entire movie, minus one oddly conventional daydream sequence, is like that, as thoroughly dedicated to its cartoon aesthetic as the live-action Speed Racer. Indeed, even never having seen an episode of the original 1970s series, I can probably tell you some of its quirks, just from the stuff that gets repeated - the rickety bicycle built for three, for instance - or the way the movie's structure could essentially be two or three episodes grafted together.

Full review at EFC.

Tokyo OnlyPic 2008

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

Anthology films like Tokyo OnlyPic should probably not be graded on how good they are as a whole, but more on how good the best segments are, and how man segments should be in that group. On those grounds, Tokyo OnlyPic 2008 is an unqualified hit - the opening ceremony alone had my crying from laughter, and there are a number of other bits nearly as funny. Some don't work quite as well, but you'll get your money's worth from the good ones.

The premise is simple - the Tokyo OnlyPic ("Only Pictures") games are going on at roughly the same time as the Beijing Olympics, although these games contain some rather more esoteric events - like the "Hellmaraton", "Samurai Call", and "1000-character SMS". Many of them are presented as animation of various styles, some as live action, others as a mix, and in between, studio hosts Junichi Mogi and Shoko Nakagawa (genuine D-list celebrities!) introduce and analyze events from the studio.

Even the live-action segments are cartoons at heart, filled with painful slapstick, national stereotypes, and outlandish, silly events. Which isn't a bad thing - these are often excellent little cartoons. Main director Riichiro Mashima's opening ceremonies look like a video game into which some real people have occasionally been inserted for close-ups, but contains more laughs per second than anything else I've seen in a long, long time. It starts with the introduction of pigeons as the mascots for the games, continues with a final relay of the OnlyPic flame that will make the participants glad that there's a pool in the middle of the arena, and continues with a magnificent giant Buddha statue that for some reason shoots death rays from its eyes, and an introduction of the various teams that plays on their national reputations along with good slapstick. It's a mini-masterpiece of steady but escalating chaos, pushing each gag just a little further until it's a complete and utter madhouse.

Full review at EFC.

Kuron wa Kokyo wo Mezasu (The Clone Returns Home)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

I don't think this was a "boring movie nap", although I'll probably request a screener just to make sure. It is, however, a pretty boring movie, one that takes its science-fiction concept and then does very little of interest with it. It touches on the ethics of cloning and memory transfer without really digging into them, ponders a metaphysical question or two without coming to many interesting conclusions. It's been compared to Tartakovsky, which is fitting, but not necessarily complimentary.

It is, however, beautiful - cinematographer Hideho Urata shoots it marvelously. Mitsuhiro Oikawa gives a fine performance as the astronaut who is cloned after dying in an accident in orbit. I can see where the praise comes from, but I tend to prefer a more active story to this sort of meditation.

My plan for today is Go Go 70s, Mutants, and either "DJ XL5's Razzle Dazzle Zappin' Party" or Slam-Bang. Thursday's plan is likely Slam-Bang (if I don't see it tonight), The Warlords or Gushing Prayer, and Hells

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