(Update - Yesterday's post now links to a full review of A Lonely Place to Die)
Not my greatest day at Fantasia - wrote too late to get to my first screening, lazed around the apartment for a while later, dithered when it came to finding a place to eat. Then went to Hall for a couple of highly-touted films that really didn't deliver, but for different reasons.
Both had directors in attendance. Here's Retreat director Carl Tibbetts (on the right):
... and Love's director William Eubank, producer Nate Kolbeck, star Gunner Wright, and producer Mark Eaton:
Apparently Love is made in large part as a collaboration with the band Angels & Airwaves, who are apparently a big deal. Big enough for some very enthusiastic college kids to apparently come up just for this one movie, at least, setting up in the front row while the regulars were apparently across the street watching Die.
As to why both were disappointing, well...
* * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)
It's tough for me to really say what I think about Retreat without spending a lot of time on the ending, which is the sort that I suspect sees itself as uncompromising but winds up making me feel rather at loose ends. It's also a symptom of the film's main problem: Carl Tibbetts loses track of what he wants the film to be about. It starts off firmly focused on Kate (Thandie Newton) and Martin (Cillian Murphy), a married couple returning to a favorite isolated island retreat to work on the issues in their crumbling marriage, only to have the tension increase when Jack (Jamie Bell) washes up on shore, saying that Europe has been devastated by an airborne plague and they've got to seal themselves in.
Now, aside from the frequent lapses in logic - and even if the characters don't have time to consider how something doesn't sound right, the audience does - the really big problem with Retreat is that, while it starts out as Martin and Kate's movie, Jack winds up taking it over so thoroughly that by the end, the couple's issues have more or less been swept aside. The final coup de grace is a symbol of that, and it's a real shame, because the three main cast members are each darn impressive at playing their individual characters.
* * (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011: Camera Lucida)
Love, meanwhile, is a classic example of the "beautiful-but-boring" sci-fi film. It's hard not to be impressed by the fantastic amount of work that writer/director William Eubank has put into the production, building both an impressive-looking space station set and a recreation of an American Civil War battle that borders on the obsessive. It's a meticulously detailed picture, which Eubank shot beautifully.
Still, it doesn't take very long before the "do something resembling anything" blues kick in. Astronaut Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) just basically sits on the space station for a long time after contact with the Earth is lost, reading the journal of a Civil War soldier (Bradley Horne) that has mysteriously appeared there. And that's it, for some time. The movie makes frequent detours to various interviews and side stories to fill time and push the movie's themes of how humanity needs connection to survive, but it's a rough slog for a while.
And then there's the final act, which basically shouts "yes, I have seen 2001!" The mysterious hotel room imagery is too similar to be missed, but Eubank's ideas never seem as grand or unnerving as Clarke's & Kubrick's. He wants to say something (or many things) big and universal, but winds up just pulling random nifty images together and hoping that they are as meaningful to the audience as they are to him.