Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 12 July 2010: Crows Zero 2, At World's End, The Revenant

Full disclosure: I felt a little off yesterday. The late night after the I Spit on Your Grave Q&A, generally less-than-excellent fast food one eats when dedicated to seeing as much of a film festival as possible, et al, got to me, making it hard to work for money or for film, and perhaps fittingly for Fantasia, I was a bit of a zombie. A decent meal and switching from Pepsi to Pepsi Max had me in decent shape from 7pm or so, but I was pretty worn down for Crows Zero 2.

There were a pair of fairly entertaining Q&As later in the evening, as the directors of At World's End and The Revenant came to town. Tomas Villum Jensen's session was in some ways less question-and-answer than monologue, as he could hold forth on subjects and go on great digressions. For instance, much of At World's End was shot in Australia, so he had stories both of hiring stunt people and other behind-the-scenes folk who worked on Star Wars and The Matrix (so even though At World's End is a big project for Denmark...) and how it is not a good place to be if, like Jensen, you do not like non-domesticated animals.

Crows Zero 2 (Kurozu Zero II)

N/A (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

I was tired and full of food during this one, so I drifted in and out, which is a bummer, as it was the only screening of the only Takashi Miike film playing during the festival. The man is slowing down, huh?

What I saw was well-done, although I was already a bit behind in not having seen any of the other Crows stories; the Crows Zero series is evidently a prequel to the stories of these characters as adults, detailing their high-school years. Which, apparently, were more or less non-stop fighting, a constant contest between rival gangs/schools. Some threads in the movie seemed to clearly be more connective tissue than anything, picking up on plots from the first Crows Zero and perhaps setting up for the original Crows manga and film, where I presume these characters are yakuza of some sort.

So, on the one hand, a whole lot of tough-guy posturing, which isn't really my thing, but Miike and his talented young cast do very well by it. There's a lot of characters to keep track of, but they've got personalities rather than just quirks or fighting styles. And Miike handles the fight scenes with enormous skill, whether it's individuals or huge mobs.

For me, though, this mostly came across as a brawl film, though I'm certain it's actually more.

(Also - is one of the characters supposed to look like Michael Jackson, or is it just me?)

Ved Verdens Ende (At World's End)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

At World's End is a lot of things - comedy, action/adventure, fantasy - but underneath all that, there's an unlikely romance going on that keeps the movie grounded and basically upbeat, no matter how crazy on one hand and mean on the other it gets.

A bit of a surprise, maybe, considering that its description tells the audience about a flower in the middle of the jungle that may confer eternal life, according to its 129-year-old guardian. And it does work as an adventure movie, a Danish version of Romancing the Stone. The action is effective, the comedy is occasionally dark but almost always effective, and together they do a fine job of drawing the characters from one mad situation to another.

The cast is also really fantastic. Fans of short-lived TV series will probably be amused to see Niklaj Coster-Waldau playing another long-lived character (for the record, I always liked it when his accent came through a little on New Amsterdam). Niklaj Lie Kaas is a hilariously unlikely hero, playing Adrian as fussy and odd, but also a hilarious victim of circumstance. The real standout is Brigitte Hjort as Beate, the secretary who comes across as an unusually capable and likable ditz - she tromps through the jungle in a ridiculous dress, says overly-truthful and shallow things, but is also pointedly not stupid. She's a tremendous joy to watch, and with the accent-free English she displays at a few points, her native country is going to have a hard time holding on to her.

Full review at EFC.

The Revenant

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 12 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

The Revenant is nearly two hours, long for a splatter-comedy, and if I could come up with a good suggestion for trimming it, I would probably offer it. The trouble is, the scenes which could probably survive a little tightening-up - the ones that are mostly David Anders and Chris Wylde talking - actually have a really nice rhythm to them. If the movie was mostly that, it would be a real low-budget delight.

The trouble I found was that writer/director Kerry Prior seems to have had a bunch of ideas, and was determined to use them all, whether or not they drew the film out too long, gave it an uneven tone, or ultimately just didn't make sense. It also loses something as the number of characters contracts, and the violence becomes out-of-character slapstick. It doesn't quite feel like flailing around, but does feel like the movie was an aggregation of little bits that worked individually, and fit together from piece to piece, eventually wandering far from its main strengths.

Also worth noting: I may wind up not coming back to give this a full review, since I think it's bad form to do that with works in progress, and while the movie seemed pretty locked, Prior made the occasional comment in his Q&A about how certain cut scenes may wind up back in. I wonder if this might be part of negotiations with distributors.

Full review at EFC.


Unknown said...

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Matt Seaver said...

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