Monday, July 27, 2009

Fantasia Daily for 26 July 2009: Fireball, The Eclipse, and Breathless

It's official; I've seen less of Montreal during this festival than I did of Austin in March. Fortunately, I've got the apartment through August so I'll have a chance to come back and hit the spots I usually manage but missed this year. In particular, I want to see the pirate exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History Pointe-à-Callière, as they curate fascinating exhibits and poking around the excavation is always amazing, no matter how many times I do it.

Even dragging this morning out with writing and packing, though, I've still got some time to see the city, so I believe I shall do so.


* * (out of four)
Seen 26 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

Before seeing this movie, I had a whole list of ideas for the review's introduction in my head, involving tournament brackets, sports injuries, athletes who get involved in crime, gambling scandals, and things that really should draw a referree's whistle. My heart's just not in it, though. The concept of martial arts basketball may not be foolproof, but it should be significantly harder to screw up than this movie does.

"Fireball", we are told, is a variation on basketball where the first team to sink a basket wins. Some may find such relatively low-scoring affairs less than exciting, but the lack of scoring is compensated for by the fact that there are no refs to call fouls, and teams are made up of skilled street fighters and martial artists. No holds are barred, which is why Tan has spent the last year in a coma. His twin brother Tai (Preeti Barameeanat), just released from jail, doesn't know about fireball until he's mistaken for Tan and recruited for junior mob boss Den's (Phutharit Prombandal) team (fireball is, understandably, an underground activity). He joins team captain Zing (9 Million Sam), young hotshot Iq (Kannut Samerjai), powerhouse Muk (Kumpanat Oungsoongnern), and K (Anuwat Saejao), who was accused of throwing a game the year before. The finals will be against Ton (Arucha Tosawat), the man who put Tan in the hospital, but winning involves just surviving long enough to get there.

Fireball is a deeply stupid movie, but let's face it - this is the sort of movie where any logic that gets in the way of the premise should be quickly and mercilessly dispensed with. Side plots that are riddled with clichés in flagrant attempts to pull at the heart strings? Bring them on. Sure, the storylines we're given are trite as they come, but they do add to the stakes of the games, and they do give us all the reason we need to root for Tai and his team.

Full review at EFC.

The Eclipse

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

If I hadn't seen the line in The Eclipse's credits about it being based on a set of short stories, I'd wonder why certain moments were in it at all. They seem so out of place, and are a few jump moments potentially inserted into a preview really going to entice horror movie fans into seeing what is, the rest of the time, a very quiet movie about middle-aged people at a literary festival?

The festival is in Cobh, a modest-sized town in Ireland's County Cork. Michael Farr (Ciaran Hinds) is a volunteer, and his job includes shuttling visiting authors around town, whether from the train station to the hotel or from a cottage to the lecture hall. Two in particular, who have a history, though they couldn't be more different, stand out: Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), a best-selling author whose book regularly get adapted into movies, and Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), a writer of literary ghost stories. Even if Lena weren't lovely and charming, Michael might want to pick her brain on the subject of ghosts, anyway. He's seeing something, but it's not his dead wife, but her father Malachi (Jim Norton) - who is still alive, albeit in a home.

To call the scenes where Michael sees apparitions incongruous might be severely understating the matter - even though they form a basis for Michael connecting with Lena, they are spaced far enough apart that the audience can forget that they are a part of the film until the next one appears. Though the first sighting is relatively low-key and eerie because of it, later ones are loud and jarring, with things popping up out of nowhere with attendant black goop. These scenes aren't completely forgotten later, but they do tend to seem out of place - The Eclipse never becomes a horror movie, or truly about the ghosts plaguing Michael.

Full review at EFC.

Ddongpari (Breathless)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 July 2009 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

The Fantasia audience gets lots of well-deserved love during the festival, but there are times when it seems like it needs a little time to find its feet. Such was the case during the screening of Breathless, where an audience that had been fed a steady diet of quirky or over-the-top gangster movies might not have recognized early on that the violence Yank Ik-joon's Sang-hoon releases isn't supposed to be funny, but a man with so much rage that he cannot control himself. It's not quite like the audience that completely missed that Adam Sandler was subverting his usual characters in Punch-Drunk Love, but it's not far off.

Eventually, though, the audience and the movie meet about halfway. Sang-hoon gains enough humanity to moderate his outbursts, and the audience sees that this film is about his gaining said humanity. Yang gives the movie plenty of space to breathe that way although it never becomes dull. It's a very impressive effort for a first-time filmmaker.

Today is my last day in town, and a short one - having seen the afternoon shows, I'll go with Fine, Totally Fine and Antique. Most of those shows are recommended - The Divine Weapon, My Dear Enemy, and Best Worst Movie especially. Dead Snow isn't bad, but four screenings? Really?

(If I were around Tuesday, I'd be doing Eureka Seven, Left Bank, and Neighbor; I recommend Cyborg She and The Eclipse, can't get behind Fireball, and still don't know what to make of The Possibility of An Island)

No comments: