Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 27 July: Dream Home, The Perfect Host

Someday, I'm going to carve out a day in Montreal to see the Exporail museum. I really thought it was going to be the 27th - everything in the afternoon was either already seen or highly skippable, so I didn't have any commitments before 5:25pm, the last movie of the night on the 26th ended at a fairly reasonable time (11:15pm-ish), so I'd be able to get up in time to catch the train/bus combo necessary and still spend a fair amount of time looking around the yard...

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of grabbing a soda with the food I grabbed on the way home (Monday was one of those days where there's just never enough time between movies to get food), and was apparently still alert enough to have a review of Suck posted at 2am. Needless to say, I didn't wake until past noon, scotching those plans.

So, I ran some errands for the rest of the afternoon: Picking up my pile of screeners for movies that need revisiting or which I couldn't make it to (about six, I think), checking local comic shops to fill the gaps in my collection and subscriptions (didn't find the Judge Dredd Megazine I was looking for, but did get a good deal on the first two volumes of Robo-Hunter, and really wish I'd sprung for the same with Sinister Dexter), and checking out a couple food spots (yearly visit to Mr. Steer wasn't the greatest, although the burger itself was still excellent).

One of the places I went was La Pendularie, which mainly sells Swiss timepieces (from watches to grandfather clocks), but has a counter out in the front where they sell Swiss chocolate. Among the offerings: 40 different varieties of chocolate milkshake. Well, 38, plus vanilla and maple. One of my goals next year is to hit all forty, although that will likely mean two a day. The dark-chocolate (about 68% cacao, I think) and mint was quite good, though - more bitter than I'm used to, but with a great aftertaste.

The movie schedule wound up being decided for me. It was the official closing night, so the two big movies were playing in Hall - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, and because Fantasia is a laudably fan-oriented festival, a media pass alone wasn't good enough to get into those; we would have to request to be put on the list, which wasn't guaranteed. I opted not to for those two; I figure both will have a theatrical release soon enough (admittedly, I'm less certain about Tucker & Dale), and if I was going to see Metropolis, this was my only opportunity for The Perfect Host, while The Last Exorcism blocked my other opportunity to see Boys on the Run.

In hindsight, I wish I'd asked for a ticket to Tucker & Dale; the gap between The Perfect Host and Boys on the Run was unusually long to begin with, and when 10pm came without our being let in, something had to be wrong. Apparently it was technical in nature; what I could pull out of the local franglais was that the projector had broken down and the screening was annullé. If I'd known that Scott Pilgrim had started late because Universal at the last minute decided to pull the same crap with mobile phones and bags that Alliance did on Saturday, I might have crossed the street and tried to get into T&D; instead, I headed back to the apartment, to pack before my last day in Montreal.

Wai dor lei ah yut ho (Dream Home)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

Dream House tries to be a lot of different things, and winds up a bit of a mess as it jumps from one tone to another, playing like a small drama for a long time before taking a brutal detour into some of the nastiest violence you'll see on screen. Of course, some might argue that the gore that got the film Hong Kong's equivalent to an NC-17 rating (even after being cut for theatrical exhibition) is not nearly as frightening as what opens the film - statistics on the cost of buying a home, especially in Hong Kong.

The numbers are mind-boggling, pointing out that since 1997, Hong Kong income has increased 1%, while the cost of housing went up 15% in 2007 alone. Apartments as small as 600 square feet can go for $300,000, more with a harbor view. And that's what Cheng Lai-sheng (Josie Ho) wants; she's been saving for it her entire adult life, working two jobs in order to do so. She's got a very specific target, 1 Victoria Place. As we see in flashbacks, she's got her reasons for wanting to purchase a unit there, but her determination has become an obsession that even her realtor Nelson (Anthony Wong Chau-sang) finds to be a bit excessive. And that's before she gets close enough to her goal that not making it would really send her over the edge.

The desire to own one's own home is an almost universal motivation, and the scenes in Dream Home where we see the seeds being planted in Lai-sheng's head and how it dominates her thoughts in the present day are well-played. It is, at times, a little confusing. The flashbacks often play out in a very disconnected way; if we're told her father (Norman Chu) was in construction before learning that his health problems are possibly related to long-term exposure to asbestos, it's very quickly and in passing, even though that could be a major part of what motivates her. Certain bits, like the collaboration between the government, developers, and triads, probably also play much better for Hong Kong natives than foreigners - and I'm not sure whether the scheme that Lai-sheng and her co-workers are running is an example of a side-plot that's not well-integrated, something Chinese audiences would grasp better than everyone else, or both. There are two notable unfaithful husbands - Lai-Sheng's boyfriend (Eason Chan) and the owner of an apartment in 1 Victoria (Sin Lap-man).

Full review at eFilmCritic

The Perfect Host

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

The appeal of The Perfect Host is plain to see: David Hyde Pierce, in a film that plays to his strengths, both in his character's personality and the stage-like setting and rhythm. The downside takes a little bit more thinking to ferret out; it basically amounts to the snaking suspicion that every moment of something other than two guys trying to outwit each other is the film barking up the wrong tree.

But, before we see Pierce, we meet John Taylor (Clayne Crawford), who has just robbed a bank but been injured in the getaway. With the cops breathing down his neck, he attempts to con his way into various houses in order to rest up and lay low. Warwick Wilson (Pierce) is the one who finally lets him in after John claims to be a friend of a friend, but things could go haywire very quickly, as Warwick is preparing for a dinner party, with guests that include a tough-on-crime D.A. And as John soon discovers, a Warwick Wilson dinner party is a unique experience.

Things are going well in the first act. There's a nice contrast between Crawford and Pierce: Crawford gives John a certain amount of blue-collar outlaw charm, clearly happier to charm his adversaries than to use violence, but kind of aware that he does not have boundless resources with which to outwit someone. He's harried, but always reminds the audience that he's potentially dangerous even without being physically imposing. Pierce, meanwhile, makes Warwick clearly privileged without being snotty about it, excellent at cheerily delivering lines that will tighten the noose around John's neck. For a while, the pair of them are cheerily standing on a teeter-totter, each making little moves that could knock them off to gain advantage.

Full review at eFilmCritic

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