Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 22 July: Neverlost, [REC] 2, Doghouse, Woochi, Symbol

I felt a little bad about bolting on the Neverlost Q&A to get to [REC] 2, but the movie ran longer than expected and almost everything in de Seve seems to be starting a few minutes late this year. That meant I wound up of in a corner, which wasn't really so bad, although I would be back in the center section, fourth-seat-from-the-left in the fifth row for the rest of the day.

Also: First Cocktail Hawaii breakfast of the trip, despite it marking the start of my third and final week in Montreal. This vacation has just flown by.


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

I can't give this a genuine review, as we were told after the film that it was a work in progress, and it wouldn't be right. In particular, the director mentioned that they were trying to decide on an ending, although both the one in the film and the one they mentioned as an alternate seemed to be about the same tone - down, and not in a way that seems particularly tragic, at least not in a grand way.

Otherwise, okay movie. Your standard "in one world when awake, in another when dreaming (at least when I've taken some screwy drugs)" story, although dressed up a little at the start with some direct addressing of the camera and medical babble. Decent cast, with an especially nice performance by Ryan Barrett as the man bouncing between two worlds.

[REC] 2

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

First-person horror has prove tricky to make sequels to, which surely must drive the studios nuts. The found-footage nature generally means all the characters are dead, which means the main element to carry over is the camera gimmick, and every original way to apply that went into the first film. Well, unless you are Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, who prove to have a trick or two up their sleeves.

[REC] 2 picks up exactly where the first left off (you know, the final scene that wound up in the trailer of the American remake), as a team of Barcelona SWAT police - Chief (Oscar Zafra), Larra (Ariel Casas), Martos (Alejandro Casaseca), and camera tech Rosso (Pablo Rosso) prepare to escort Ministry of Health agent Dr. Owen (Jonathan Mellor) into the hot zone. Soon, though, it's clear that Owen knows much more about what's in that building than he should, including the contents of the room from which the plague spread. Meanwhile, the quarantine isn't proving as effective as one might hope - a firefighter (Juli Fàbregas), the father of one of the residents trapped inside (Pep Molina), and three teenagers (Andrea Ros, Alex Batllori, and Pau Poch), with a camera of their own, have snuck in.

[REC] actually set itself up for a continuation a lot better than most horror movies. It spent its last act establishing a clever rationale for its zombie-like creatures, which [REC] 2 picks up on without skipping a beat. It's a much more interesting backstory than is the norm for the genre, giving the characters motivation other than just survival. Admittedly, the segment with the kids does seem a little disposable, there to jack up the body count and separate a few events, but it does do those things, keeping the movie on the right rhythm.

Full review at eFilmCritic


* * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

Horror movies often get a bad reputation, but they bear watching because, among other reasons, every once in a while one comes along that uses the violence and grotesquery in the service of some clever satire. Doghouse is not one of those movies. It is, if anything, anti-clever, playing to ugly stereotypes and hoping that the superficial pleasures of gore and broad comedy can make up for its ugliness.

Vince (Stephen Graham) is just getting divorced, and is down in the dumps about it. Fortunately, his best mates are there for him! Womanizer Neil (Danny Dyer), gay Graham (Emil Marwa), glib Mikey (Noel Clarke), henpecked Patrick (Keith-Lee Castle), geeky Matt (Lee Ingleby) and chronically late Banksy (Neil Maskell) are taking him on a road trip to Moodly, a tiny village nestled in the woods where women outnumber men four to one. It's oddly deserted when they get there, though, and they soon find why - some sort of bioweapon has been released, turning all the village's women into raving cannibals. Aside from Sgt. Gavin Wright (Terry Stone), the army man they run into, the guys are the only meal in town - and their tour bus driver Ruth (Christina Cole) has just contracted the bug.

The film name-checks Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films several times early on, in scenes located in Matt's comics shop (whether that's the doing of writer Dan Schaffer or director Jake West, I don't know), and on a pure "splatstick" level, Doghouse actually does okay. The make-up for the zombie ladies is very well-done. Though the vast majority of the characters are jerks of one sort or another, they are often funny jerks, with impeccable comic timing on their banter. The broad physical comedy is gross, naturally, but also often fairly funny in its cartoonish way. There are plenty of laughs to be had, and not all are of the gross-out variety.

Full review at eFilmCritic


* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

At first, it seems hard to take an action/adventure story where one of the villains is a giant bunny rabbit seriously, even when you're talking about a movie as whimsical as Woochi. Sure, the giant rat goblin, that's one thing, but the rabbit?

Fortunately, you're not supposed to take Woochi that seriously; it's a zippy fantasy adventure movie that throws monsters, men out of time, magicians, and all manner of other things together, and I'm not sure the writer/director was really sure how it all worked. Just what was In-kyeong's deal in the end, anyway? Reincarnation? Amnesia? Possession? It's also an odd split between the present and the past, with a flashback to 500 years ago that runs long enough to make the audience forget that much of the action is going to happen in the present.

It's fun, though, never slowing down enough to test the audience's patience despite being a jumbo-sized movie and always having an amusing bit to toss off.

Shinboru (Symbol)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

It's been a while since I've seen a movie from Japan that is as thoroughly demented as Symbol, which means it's been a long itme since I've seen any movie as crazy and trippy as this. Writer/director/star Hitoshi Matsumoto also did Big Man Japan, but from what I've read that's positively conventional compared to Symbol.

I mean, the thread about luchador "Escargot Man" preparing for his big tag-team match is kind of wacky, but half of the time is spent with Matsumoto in a blank white room filled with little switches that cause various things to appear. It's thoroughly surreal comedy, but also hilarious, and often such high-energy slapstick that the audience will cheer as he works out the solution to his problem of getting out of the room.

A crazy, but very funny movie. Only in Japan.

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