Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.09 (27 July 2012): Sons of Norway, A Night of Nightmares, Doomsday Book, and Hard Romanticker

The short film in front of the first feature of the day is your friend when running late at a festival. As nice a place as I've been in this year, I'm going to want to be closer to Concordia in 2013 (although, if you look at last year, you'll see me just as likely to be late for that first film, despite being able to see the venue out my rented window).

Can't say I was hugely fond of "Videoboy", the short before Sons of Norway, but I kind of liked its coming-of-age story ideas. It just took a relativley long time (30+ minutes) to get through them, and the payoff made more sense thematically than literally.

Nobody there, but the next couple had guests:

Buddy Giovinazzo & Company, Buddy Giovinazzo & company doing Q&A for "A Night of Nightmares"

As you might expect from the nickname, Buddy Giovinazzo (l) is actually a really friendly guy despite the dark pictures he makes. He seems quite happy to answer as many questions from the audience as he could, stopped to chat with a German filmmaker who was familiar with his TV work there, and seemed sincerely apolagetic when there was a projection problem midway through the film (which would annoy the heck out of me, because it was at a point where you'd really like the momentum to carry the audience through).

I think he may need to update the IMDB page for his movie, though; the lady in the center composed the music and did the vocals that we hear on a record player at various points in the movie, but I'm pretty sure the name by which he introduced her (and which appeared in the credits) is not the one you can find online.

As to the movie itself, I liked it, but...


... the ending kind of failed for me on a couple of levels. First, I tend to hate horror movies ending on a last-minute gotcha; it's not shocking any more and it's generally less exciting than the climax it's undercutting. That's especially true here; the main strength of the film has been its characters, and now they're suddenly other people that we don't really know enough for the change to be unsettling.

Plus, how does this work? I actually like where the story ended up, but does the collection of random freaky things actually lead to it thematically or is it just random freaky things? With a supernatural horror movie, you can do okay even if they're just symbols, but they've kind of got to mean something.


Yim Pil-Sung & company, Yim Pil-Sung & company doing Q&A for "Doomsday Book"

Very cool to have Im Pil-seong (whose name I have seen spelled a half-dozen ways, it seems) on-hand to introduce the movie and do Q&A afterwards. Originally, Kim Jee-woon was supposed to be there too, but he's hung up in Hollywood doing post-production on The Last Stand. From the video message he sent, it seemed to be stressing him out, which is too bad - Kim getting to do big Hollywood action with Arnold Schwarzeneggar is something I am really looking forward to.

Im was great, though, apologizing for not being able to answer for Kim but happily talking about his own two thirds. He also sat down to sign DVDs and posters afterwards, so I finally got a copy of Hansel & Gretel (I'd meant to buy one at the concession stand a few years ago, but they were out, and never came across one "in the wild" since). Hopefully this is an indication that Stéphanie Trépanier's Evokative Films is still an active thing, as opposed to this just being her clearing out her garage.

Today's plan: A Letter to Momo, Mon Ami, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, Graceland and Zombie 108. Already missed one (Arjun), and I got no responses to the "choose Jay's afternoon", so I'll go with the one that likely look nicest on the big screen. Maybe I'll break my "no screeners" pledge and as for one for Young Gun in the Time, because as much as I had issues with Invasion of Alien Bikini, I do want to see what its makers are up to next.

Sønner av Norge (Sons of Norway)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Spotlight: Denmark/Norway, DCP)

Sons of Norway does as good a job as any movie at presenting the perspective of a kid for whom the world doesn't make sense, and where every attempt at understanding misses the point. It's got a light touch - maybe a bit too much so - but manages to be funny and a bit wise at mostly the right points.

Rykkin, Norway, Christmas 1978. A family is having a somewhat unconventional Christmas, but that itself is kind of par for the course for them; though living in an apartment block he designed in the suburbs, father Magnus (Sven Nordlin) is still a hippy at heart, with mother Lone (Sonja Richter) a bit of a stabilizing influence on him and their two sons. When she's torn away in a freak accident, Magnus despairs, and while younger brother Peter goes to live with his aunt and uncle for a while, older brother Nikolaj (Åsmund Høeg) stays. He's recently discovered punk, and while this is the perfect time for a boy his age to rebel, that's hard to do with a father as open-minded and supportive as Magnus.

It can be frustratingly difficult, in fact, and that's demonstrated early, during the otherwise serene Christmas scenes. The basic need for Nikolaj to establish his own identity, or maybe Magnus to finish growing up himself - or a little of both - is at the core of the story, and when the movie is at its best, that idea is presented beautifully, with awkward reactions and discomfort at points where relief might naturally be expected.

Full review at EFC.

A Night of Nightmares

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, HD)

Should horror films necessarily have a consistent mythology that makes its villain's methods and goals (twistedly) logical, or does such a thing work against it actually being horrifying? A Night of Nightmares has a lot of elements that make for a fun little movie, enough to be tremendously fun in the present tense. Just don't ask how it all works.

This one starts with Mark Lighthouse (Marc Senter), a young man with a music blog into which he pours the bulk of his time. His latest discovery is a singer who goes by the singular name of "Ginger"; when he asks for an interview, she accepts, suggesting they do it at her place, a rather isolated farmhouse - you know, the type with no mobile phone reception. It actually goes pretty well, at least until Phil (Jason London), a figure from her past, shows up, but a stalker is the least of their problems.

Writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo is best known in the United States for gritty, intense urban stories like Combat Shock and Life is Hot in Cracktown (mostly paying the bills by making police procedurals for German television), to the point where a horror movie is actually a sort of light-hearted break for him. Heck, it's fun by most standards, with light banter between the leads, gleeful jump scenes and occasionally nasty bits of humor. Heck, he even plays with the form a little, starting things off with a flash-forward that tells the audience just how the bulk of the movie will play out.

Full review at EFC.

Doomsday Book

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

Go figure - the middle segment of Doomsday Book, the one directed by action maestro Kim Jee-woon, is for the most part quiet and philosophical, while Im Pil-seong contributes two entertaining, absurd, funny end-of-the-world scenarios. It's an odd and intriguing mix, a little uneven at times (especially the first segment), but with a darn good cast and entertaining throughout.

And, to be totally honest, I think I would watch a movie that was just the last news broadcast from the third segment; it's funnier than most things that are sold as straight comedies.

Full review at EFC.

Hâdo romanchikkâ (Hard Romanticker)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 27 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

I liked this one a lot more than expected, and not just because I was vacillating over what to do at this point in the night, not really hugely enthusaed for either option. But this turned out to be a fast-paced, entertaining movie, with plenty of funny moments, a nifty score, and a mostly-enjoyable lead performance by Shota Matsuda.

I do have to admit, though, that it left me cold at certain points, too. The story is not the strongest and the gangsters (and those on the fringes) don't really distinguish themselves individually.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: