Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Fantasia Daily, 2011.03: The Reef, Superheroes, The Theatre Bizarre, and Yakuza Weapon

Yesterday, staying around too long to get stuff written up (and a bit of carelessness) mean I missed the movie I really wanted to see, The Unjust. Superheroes wasn't a bad substitute, but today I'm mostly going to dump some images and get out of here:

First up, we have the directors of The Theatre Bizarre:

From left to right, that's Karim Hussain, Richard Stanley, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Jeremy Karstens, Tom Savini, and Douglas Buck

Next, the cast and crew in attendance, with some lost to the sides:

Tak Sakaguchi and Arata Yamanaka doing some action demonstration before Yakuza Weapon:

And, once again, Yudai Yamaguchi, Tak Sakaguchi, and Arata Yamanaka answering audience questions at 2am:

The Reef

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

Early on in The Reef, a character looking at a wall full of sharks' jaws is told not to worry, because one is far more likely to die of a bee sting than a shark attack. A part of me would like to see the movie where, in addition to everything else, these characters must deal with a time limit imposed by one being allergic to bees and needing treatment, but the film certainly doesn't suffer much for taking the more conventional route.

The woman getting that advice is Kate (Zoe Naylor); she's on vacation with her brother Matt (Gyton Grantley) and his girlfriend Suzie (Adrienne Pickering). They meet up with Matt's friend (and Kate's sort-of-ex-boyfriend) Luke (Damian Walshe-Howling), planning to spend a few days on the yacht Luke has been hired to sail to its buyer in Asia. Things are going well, generally, at least until the tide goes out and the reef rips the bottom of the boat off. With the boat turned over and taking on water, Luke feels that their best shot is to swim for a nearby island, but first mate Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) fishes those waters, and wants no part of the sharks.

When faced with the combination of complicated personal histories and shark-infested waters, it can sometimes be difficult for filmmakers to prioritize. Andrew Traucki, by and large, generally opts to take the path of "avoiding the nonsense". Certainly, how the characters relate to each other colors how everybody acts when the chips are down, but the audience is spared the spectacle of people self-absorbed enough to think that the middle of the ocean with a hungry shark circling is the time to air their romantic grievances. Of course, this does mean that the movie runs the risk of getting mechanical, and at times the characters do get caught in a landmark-free loop (one sees something, another scans under the surface, pep talks to stop panicking, swim a little, repeat).

Full review at EFC.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2011 in Salle J.A. de Seve (Fantasia 2011: Documentaries from the Edge)

I'm not necessarily saying I wanted to see anybody in Michael Barnett's documentary get hurt - even Orlando's somewhat off-putting Master Legend seems to have a good heart - but there's got to be some kind of storytelling rule about this: You can't have naysayers continually talking about how dangerous this avocation can be and not pay it off somehow, either tragically or through some sort of triumph over adversity. It makes the audience wonder what the point of all that talk was, and leaves us feeling neither guilty nor justified after the "point and laugh" time.

On the other hand, as much as there are some laughs to be had in the time spent mocking the would-be heroes, there is something very noble to be seen toward the end, when the movie backs off from focusing on its subjects as potentially delusional cases of arrested development and starts looking at the good they do in their communities. There's a lot of time spent helping the homeless, which could have been a really interesting contrast with the first guy we meet eventually living out of his van. There's plenty of raw material here, but Barnett doesn't quite seem to have found a story he could fit them into.

The Theatre Bizarre

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

Most anthology films are a bit of a mixed bag, and this one is no exception, and it's probably going to take going through the various segments individually before I can really be sure what I think about it.

My first impression, though, is that horror anthologies wear me out. The first couple of films can be exciting and thrilling, but after that it almost becomes too many different forms of cynicism and grotesquerie within two hours, and even Douglas Buck's laudable attempt to change the pace winds up just not working for me. I think the movie probably peaks early on with Buddy Giovinazzo's "I Love You", a tense and darkly comic look at the end of a relationship, but the gore-fests that followed it up were just not for me.

Gokudo Heiki (Yakuza Weapon)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

This was a lot closer to what I was hoping for from Dead Ball the night before - a near constant stream of action and insanity from Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi that keeps the frenzy up right until the end. It's also got Sakaguchi doing some legitimately iimpressive hand-to-hand fight scenes (action filmmakers should remember that everybody always likes long takes) to mix in with the over-the-top stuff.

Admittedly, this is also exhausting in its own way: Sakaguchi is "up" and screaming for the whole darn movie, and as much as I gather that the original manga was that sort of insanity, I suspect that it wouldn't have hurt to pull back a little and tell a bit of story as well. But the crazy action works here. I still suspect that both Yamaguchi and Sakaguchi can do better, but I wonder if they could have more fun.

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