Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 11 July 2010: Alien vs Ninja, Technotise: Edit & I, A Frozen Flower, I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

Yep, this is about where I hit the wall trying to (1) see a bunch of movies, (2) write reviews of them to earn my media pass, and (3) put time in at my job which pays me the money necessary to travel to Montreal, sublet an apartment, and grab food between movies. I apologize, and will try and catch up with an all-capsule rundown of Monday; I will, of course, try to catch up after the end of the festival.

The big deal on Sunday was the world premiere of I Spit on Your Grave, 2010 version, which proved to be eventful not only for it being a pretty good movie (I didn't see a bad one all day), but for the the Q&A, which started off with a fan of the original saying the new version was BS, which led to him getting yelled down by many audience members who had stayed for the Q&A, him getting agitated and responding, calls for security to escort him from the room. Kudos on Mitch Davis for waving them off, and Meir Zarchi (director of the original Day of the Woman and producer of the remake) respectfully disagreeing and defusing the situation with a hug.

As much as Fantasia's audience is (justifiably) famous for its enthusiasm, I have to say, the gang-up there wasn't really cool. Yes, it's a bit rude, but the man was passionate about his feelings about the two movies, and one seldom gets an opportunity to get a direct conversation about that. The folks who would later preference their comments with how rude the first person had been to great applause seemed a bit hypocritical to me, jeering one person for giving an honest and negative opinion, but applauding others.

(In a second bit of "irony, what's that?", one of the producers actually said, when asking people to tell their friends to support the movie's October 2010 release, that it's a chance to support something different when Hollywood keeps pumping out adaptations and remakes. I get that this is a risky project, but, uh...)

Alien vs Ninja

* * * (out of four)
Seen 11 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

There are some projects that one would figure cause movie studio lawyers to start twitching as soon as they are announced, but it seems that they have been slow to smite lately. If Fox ever gets around to crushing the likes of Alien vs Ninja, I hope they go easy on the Sushi Typhoon guys. It's not like anything about the movie indicates access to much cash, and the last act, at least, is demented sentai fun, which is more than can be said of the last few official Alien (vs Predator) films.

The title's pretty self-explanatory: An Iga clan raiding party - Yamata (Masanori Mimoto), Jinnai (Shuuji Kashiwabara), and Nezumi (Donpei Tsuchihira) - are returning from a missing when they see a fire in the sky. They're sent to investigate it with another party - including what is apparently the only girl in the clan, Rin (Mika Hijii), and a bunch of guys who mostly aren't going to live long enough to merit names - and find the expected: There is a boy whose entire village has been slaughtered, and a drooling seven-foot armor-plated killing machine. Since Yamata isn't exactly the type to back down from a fight, it's on.

AvN, as they even call it in the opening titles, is an entry in a series of low-budget action/gore movies created in large part for the export market, but even by those standards, it initially looks kind of half-baked. The CGI often crosses the line from "best we could afford" to "mock me, please". The palace Yamata and company are leaving as the film opens appears to be located next to a modern paved road, despite the film taking place in an earlier era. And no matter how many times Nezumi comments about being a senior/veteran/old, it doesn't make me believe Donpei Tsuchihira is anything but a guy in his mid-twenties with an anachronistic blond dye job - couldn't they at least shell out for a real middle-aged guy? All too often, the movie looks like it's nothing more than cheap and unambitious.

Full review at EFC

Technotise: Edit & I (Technotise - Edit i ja)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010: Subversive Serbia)

Early on in Technotise: Edit & I, the Edit of the title offhandedly mentions that one of her pet robots is named "Otomo", a reference that is apt for all that it is obvious: Like the famed Japanese director, Aleksa Gajic has adapted his own science fiction comic series into an animated film, and done so in a way that not only avoids Otomo's worse excesses, but also brings to mind another recent animator out of Japan, Makoto Shinkai, in that he has made a movie that belies its very small crew.

The year is 2074, the place is Belgrade, and student Edit (voice of Sanda Knezevic) is making another stab at passing her final exam in psychology. Though she's not qualified to practice, a research firm takes her on as an intern to baby-sit Abel (voice of Igor Bugarski), a mathematical savant who has been autistic ever since making a breakthrough about the nature of the universe. Things soon get very strange, though - just looking at Abel's work has an unexpectedly strong effect on her, and when she has a black-market chip implanted in her nervous system to help with memory retention, she has strange side effects - hallucinations, erratic behavior, and anemia that leads her to take an unusually high amount of iron supplements. By the time she starts to figure out what's going on with her, the company's head of security, Sergey (voice of Srdjan Miletic) is after her, and her group of friends - mainly boyfriend Bojan (voice of Nikola Djuricko) and best friend Broni (voice of Marija Karan) - may not be up to the challenge of facing down an international biotech company.

Gajic is Serbian, and the bulk of his work has been with French publishers (though the original Technotise story was first published in Serbia), and Technotise: Edit & I absolutely feels like a European sci-fi graphic album come to life: Plenty of detail but also a style that values cartooning over life-like visual realism, grand-scale concepts and action, and a good dollop of sex and comedy in even the most bloody or serious tales. The film lacks a bit of the sometimes quite crowded visual detail found in many bandes dessinées, but the look and tone is right on.

Full review at EFC

Ssang-hwa-jeom (A Frozen Flower)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 11 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

How things change; before King and the Clown, I don't think you ever saw gay characters in Korean cinema, and the casting of Thirst wound up being controversial and leading to relative unknown Kim Ok-bin landing the female lead because more established actresses wouldn't get near the nudity and sex the part demanded. Both of those seem to be relative non-issues for A Frozen Flower, which puts a Goryeo king and one of his guards in the same bed with no doubt what's going on, and has a few eyebrow-raising scenes involving the queen, as well.

It's a pretty good movie, sexy and suspenseful, beautifully realized. My only real issue with it was that it may have been a little too funny at times: The scenes where Hong Lim (Jo In-seong) is trying to impregnate the Queen (Song Ji-hyo) while the King (Ju Jin-mo) is in the next room, with literally paper-thin walls between them, got a lot of laughs, and I'm not quite sure how appropriate a response that was. It could have been played as uncomforable-tense, as opposed to uncomfortable-funny.

One thing that I would like to praise that may get overlooked amidst the sex and the intrique is how great the action in this movie is. Director Yu Ha only has two or three big action moments, but they are explosive - the first from how unexpected it is, and the one at the end for the sheer fury demonstrated, and how each swing of the sword and bit of destruction seems to have meaning. It's an exclamation point on the story, and a fitting one.

Full review at EFC.

I Spit on Your Grave

* * * (out of four)
Seen 11 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

I can't comment on the original version of this movie (Day of the Woman), as I haven't seen it, but if this new version is toned down, as many horror remakes tend to be, I really don't want to see the original. This one is rough and brutal, to the point where Anchor Bay feels that it can't be cut down to an R rating for its planned October theatrical release, and they're probably right about that.

About half of the movie is quite excellenly made, if unpleasant. After some time setting the stage that takes a while to get going, the rape scene is absolutely horrific, as it should be. It's not fun to watch, but it feels right; the sort of monsters who could do this sort of things are probably just like what we see. The cast, as a whole, is excellent.

And then the last act... Well, it's just four or five brutal murders in a row, and while they're well-executed and satisfying on a certain level, I do think that this section could be improved. Sarah Butler is very good as the avenging victim, but especially in the last two instances, especially, the movie becomes a bit of a grotesque cartoon. The most truly unnerving scenes in this section are the ones where Butler's Jenny visits the innocent family of one of her rapists; it's the one that gets us to wonder just what's left of her mind and what she's capable of.

Full review at EFC.


OlmanFeelyus said...

First, I fully agree with your take on the way the whole thing with the irate fan went down. Where the guy was annoying was that he didn't know when to stop. You got the sense he would have stayed for another half-hour sharing his opinion. On the other hand, had the crowd not shouted him down, he might have said his piece and been done with it.

Your piece on I Spit on your Grave once again makes me go back and forth on the plot. On the one hand, I loved the efficiency of the script. On the other, there seemed to be a lot of missed opportunities for character development and really enrichening her arc. For me, I would have liked to seen some of her survival in the woods, not to make it more real, but to see her find the strength needed to exact her revenge. As you say, the scene with the family would also have been a good opportunity to display what has become of her character as well.

Stay frosty! You're doing a great job.

Jason said...

I sort of got the impression that it was a bit of a language issue, too, which often happens here - the guy sounded Francophone, the folks on stage were anglophone, and the crowd reaction made communication difficult. Interestingly, there was a similar situation during the Q&A for Tears for Sale, where a Serbian student took offense to the writer's portrayal of their country and cinema as generally hellish, and the audience once again circled the wagons around the guest. Which was a pity, because the discussion could have been interesting.

I'm not sure I necessarily would have wanted to see much of Jenny's escape - I really liked the combination of edginess and complacency among her attackers, and worry that cutting to her would have upset that. But, man, some moment where we see her stop and think, rather than just springing fully realized deathtraps on the guys...