Friday, July 16, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 14 July 2010: Gintama, Heartless, Feast of the Assumption: BTK and the Ortero Family Murders


Of course, I passed up the Zappin Party this year, since it was opposite a documentary that looked promising but whose other screening was at a problematic time... Seeing as Feast of the Assumption made basically zero impression on me, it looks like that was a double fail on my part.

Gekijouban Gintama: Shin'yaku benizakura hen (Gintama)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

Gintama opens and closes on some absolutely hilarious self-parody, the sort that could serve in some ways to warn first-timers away from the movie, pointing out that there are a bunch of characters who may or not be used in the film, or that there's no need to explain what's going on because only the hardcore fans are watching anyway. It's a beautiful job of breaking the fourth wall, self-deprecating but also showing some brilliant comic instincts, and getting me interested enough in the characters' personalities that I may just see what's been translated into English and made available.

After all, it's a fun world - an alternate Japan where aliens invaded during the samurai era and set up house, resulting in a world with twenty-first century technology but the dress and society of a bygone time. Thrown in the middle is a ronin and his assistants, tracking down a missing person and a missing sword. Naturally, these cases connect, leading to a great big showdown.

As much fun as the action is - and it is pretty nice, taking the TV animation up what I presume is a notch or two - the movie is at its best when it is sort of screwing around. I got big laughs from things like a guy pulling out a bazooka in response to a samurai sword, and the cut from two girls trying to get a good loogie to spit at each other (which, yeah, is kind of screwy itself) is one of the funniest I've seen in a while. It almost seems a shame to bury that in plot.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010: Between Death and the Devil)

Midway through Heartless, one may feel that it has lost its considerable edge; that a movie which starts out so grim and despairing has no business becoming quirky and even occasionally light-hearted. But deals with the devil must have some appeal; otherwise, would we believe that the deal would be made?

Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a nice young man, although he tends to hide himself away in his mother's flat due to a number of unsightly birthmarks, including a heart-shaped one that covers half his face. He loves photography - something he inherited from his late father (Timothy Spall) - and works in a studio with his brother Raymond (Justin Salinger). He lives in a bad part of the city, but just as his world is rocked by a horrific act of violence, a mysterious phone call leads him to "Papa B" (Joseph Mawle), who offers him good looks in return for a few small acts of chaos. Jamie accepts, and is soon makes the acquaintance of two new people: Tia (Clémence Poésy), a pretty girl who had come to the studio for glamor shots but is far more comfortable dressed down, and "The Weapons Man" (Eddie Marsan), who will give him the unpleasant truth about just what he's agreed to.

The opening scenes of Heartless are an excellent mix of the tense and matter-of-fact, communicating both the fear generated in living in an area where violence is an all-too-frequent occurrence and the need to live an everyday life. The world seems to get darker and darker, slowly closing in on Jamie and the viewer audience until the outdoors feels more claustrophobic than the inside. Writer/director Philip Ridley wastes little time here: We are quickly able to understand the city's malaise in purely human terms, but a supernatural element is also introduced fairly quickly. It's a nifty combination of cinematography and effects work, too - I spent a few moments admiring how the filmmakers were making something conventional look demonic in the shadows before it jumped out as an actual demon.

Full review at EFC

Feast of the Assumption: BTK and the Otero Family Murders

N/A (out of four)
Seen 14 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010: Documentaries from the Edge)

I'll probably be asking for a screener for this one (and then, as is traditional by now, looking at the looming pile of screeners on my coffee table and never getting around to watching any) because I can't remember anything about it. Well, it's not quite a complete blank, but I've just retained a smattering of facts but very little impressions of it as a movie. Sadly, one of the things I do remember is the subject, Charlie Otero, feeling that there was some sort of significance to his having watched In Cold Blood shortly before his family was murdered, and the film opting to end on the coincidence of the murderer having done so as well.

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