Saturday, August 07, 2010

This Week Month In Tickets: 5 July 2010 to 1 August 2010

Below, you'll see the calendar pages for pretty much the entire month of July - four weeks, each at least partially consumed by the three-week orgy of film that has become too eclectic to easily define that is the Fantasia Festival in Montreal. Clicking on the listings for any of the first 19 days will bring you to the "Fantasia Daily" entry for that day; hopefully the last two will be up and linked over the next few days (both are relatively short, with just two films a day to consider. That won't be the end of it; I've got a half-dozen screeners to go through (including two films that I decided needed a second look) in addition to about twenty that I just didn't have time to cover during the festival. Good lord, that's imposing.

As much as I at times grumbled about how the festival was overwhelming - not quite to the extent that SXSW was last year, where I honestly did almost nothing but walk to and from the hotel, watch movies, write reviews, and repeat (how I would have survived if my schedule didn't have at least a couple screenings in an Alamo Drafthouse every day, I don't know - there really wasn't time to eat), but still - I had a great time. It's still a beautiful city, I got to see some of the places I love visiting every time I go, and there are a ridiculous number of good burgers to eat. As the festival went on, I was pondering mixing what I did for vacation up a little - instead of three weeks in Montreal, maybe visit a new city for one, Fantasia for one, and Fantastic Fest for one, but at the end, I realized I'd have a hard time missing any of this.

Part of that is because Fantasia really took things to a new level this year. I've joked in previous years that Fantasia is what you get if you took Fantastic Fest, took out all the studio films that you'd be able to see at the multiplex within a few weeks, stretched it out so that folks who were there for the duration could see more movies, and placed it in a cooler city. Well, they had a few of those big studio movies this year, and that was just one example of how much bigger the festival has gotten. The Metropolis screening, for instance, was insane - 3,000 people filled an auditorium and a 13-piece orchestra played. Around 45% of the screenings sold out, and though I didn't get shut out of any screenings like I did in previous years, I have no doubt that it happened. There were a lot of movies that only screened once (or only had one scheduled screening), and at many times there were some scheduling decisions that were somewhat inconvenient. The last weekend especially was tough like that - Sunday started with two animated films scheduled opposite each other (Summer Wars and What is Not Romance?), followed by two light Japanese dramas (Rinco's Restaurant and Sawako Decides). I suspect, as Sawako would say, that it can't be helped, but I know I only got to see as much of what I wanted to as I did because I'd seen seven at other festivals.

The solution, I suspect, is to make the festival bigger. The festival has had two main screens for as long as I've been there, although a couple of years ago they started using a third, sort of - the D.B. Clarke Theatre in the Hall Building was used as a third screen on weekends a couple years ago; this year the Imperial Theater hosted the Quebec shorts program. It looks like there needs to be a full-time third screen, although I suspect it shouldn't be one set venue for the whole festival. I kind of hope that next year's selections will include some films where they need to borrow a screen from the local multiplex (and seeing that Scene was a primary sponsor this year...). Both the Alliance films screened had a Piranha 3-D trailer attached, and as much as I've heard it's crap, I'd like to see the 3-D film Takashi Shimizu did a year or two ago. Or Joe Dante's Hole. I also gather that Russian filmmakers are going for 3-D in a big way, and IMAX is starting to do some work in China. These are things that, as fantastic as the main screen in Hall are, can't be shown on any of the existing screens.

Not that I want Fantasia to become all about the big movies; I like that there are long stretches where you'd better like quirky films from around the world. But two years from now, I want to see that Donnie Yen Monkey King movie in 3-D IMAX, and where the heck else is that going to happen?

In the meantime, though, I can't recommend the experience enough to fans of genre and (especially) Asian cinema in North America. Even before they added the unique events this year - Metropolis, the Edgar Allen Poe play with Stuart Gordon & Jeffrey Combs, a ton of outdoor screenings - it has been, but they've done a really impressive job of keeping the feel of the festival local, clubby (in that there really does seem to be a camaraderie between the organizers and the die-hards) and fun even as it has grown to really be a big deal.

This Week In Tickets!

This Week In Tickets!

This Week In Tickets!

This Week In Tickets!


* * * (out of four)
Seen 6 July 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run)

OK, it's been a while on this one, and for all I know, it's probably not far from being on DVD now. Neil Jordan's newest is pretty darn charming for most of its run, with Colin Farrell quite charming as a fisherman who finds a girl (Alicja Bachleda) in his nets. His daughter (a spirited if wheelchair-bound Alison Barry) immediately pegs Ondine as being a Selkie, eventually finding enough evidence to start convincing her father that that's the case.

For most of the movie, Ondine is a fun romance with light fantasy elements, and it works quite well that way. Jordan does a nice job of splitting the movie between fairy-tale elements and the more realistic parts, really allowing them to bolster each other. There's a bit of a stumble at the end, as Jordan opts to go for a tense finale. He'd been planting the seeds in the story all along, and it's not a total break in terms of feel, but it's something of an odd ending for something that had been kind of floating along pleasantly up to that point.

Worth noting: Stephen Rea in what amounts to a guest-starring role as the village priest, whom Farrell's Syracuse treats as a one-person AA meeting. Those are some fun throwaway scenes.

Valhalla Rising

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Special Engagements)

Hmm... Clearly, I'm going to have to look up the Pusher trilogy sometime, as I've like both of Nicolas Winding Refn's recent English-language movies, and some of his other work is just unusual - like the Miss Marple thing. It's not surprising to see a guy who has had some success in small European films be hired to direct something for British TV, but he wrote that, too. And his next project will take him to Thailand.

But, anyway, about Valhalla Rising: The general read on it is that it's an art-house Viking picture, which is a fair enough description. As it started, I had uncomfortable flashbacks to Severed Ways; it had the same minimal cast and looked to be shot on location without any attempt to make the environment seem particularly Viking-oriented. The difference, of course, is that Refn shoot his movie absolutely beautifully (and doesn't feel the need to show himself defecating), and Mads Mikkelsen is really a pretty terrific actor; his character is mute but endlessly intriguing.

As much as there is a sort of reverie surrounding Mikkelsen's "One Eye", the movie is actually pretty straightforward, as opposed to being totally abstract and arty. The action plays rough, and the story, though simple, is effective.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 1 August 2010 at AMC Boston Common #7 (first-run)

Yeah, I know... All of the movies waiting for me at the multiplexes when I get home, and this is the one I see? But, hey, I was still in the mood for some Fantasia, and this was the opening night film, which I didn't catch there because of bank/bus shenanigans on the one hand and press having to RSVP on the other (if I had made it in time, I likely would have seen Mandrill and then Evangelion 2.0 on Saturday).

The movie itself isn't bad; it actually has a pretty neat take on magic for a twenty-first century audience and some clever applications, although I would have liked to see them go farther with those: Why aren't the nesting dolls being opened one-by-one to give the heroes new villains to fight as the movie goes on, for instance? It constantly sets up "neat" but doesn't really make the jump to where it's really clever.

Still, Nicolas Cage is co-starring, and whatever other faults the man has, he doesn't do things halfway. It's a funny, quirky performance, but not quite to the "that's just weird" levels he'll occasionally hit . Jay Baruchel could stand to dial it down a notch, while Teresa Palmer as his girlfriend could stand to dial it up one (not that she was written with any personality). The final action sequence also doesn't seem as big as it could, considering this is a Bruckheimer film; it winds up being just a few folks in an empty park posing at each other (always a risk with magic-oriented movies).

OndineThursday, 8 JulyFriday, 9 JulySaturday, 10 JulySunday, 11 July

Monday, 12 JulyTuesday, 13 JulyWednesday, 14 JulyThursday, 15 JulyFriday, 16 JulySaturday, 17 JulySunday, 18 July

Monday, 19 JulyTuesday, 20 July (afternoon)Tuesday, 20 July (evening)Wednesday, 21 JulyThursday, 22 JulyFriday, 23 JulySaturday, 24 July (matinee)Saturday, 24 July (afternoon)Sunday, 25 JulyPointe-à-Callière

Monday, 26 JulyTuesday, 27 JulyWednesday, 28 JulyMetropolisValhalla Rising71 - Into the FireThe Sorcerer's Apprentice

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