Monday, July 30, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.11 (29 July 2012): The Kick, Quick, Roller Town, The Warped Forest, and The Human Race

Sunday was Fun Day at Fantasia. Not that this festival is usually anything less than a good time, but this one lined up a bunch of movies that I had a blast with as opposed to things that left me squirmy and uncomfortable. A day that goes "great action, big dumb action, hilariously silly, joyously insane, coolly intense" is a good day at the movies.

I actually arrived a bit late for The Kick, so that means I'll have to see it again sometime. Bummer!

Scott Vrooman & Andrew Bush, "Roller Town" co-writer/co-star Scott Vrooman and co-writer/director Andrew Bush

Let it not be said that the guys from Roller Town were anything less than thrilled to see a packed house for their film. They clearly had a blast making it and telling funny stories about it as part of the Q&A, as well as encouraging audiences to catch it when they can (I think it hits US VOD sometime in August, Canadian theaters in September, and Canadian VOD sometime after). They should have fun; I dig that they made a very funny movie which was kind of a big production and still seemed kind of impressed at the scale themselves.

Shunichiro Miki, "The Warped Forest" filmmaker Shunichiro Miki and translator

I've taken classes for both French and Japanese but, sadly, was still lost most of the time in during Shunichiro Miki's Q&A for The Warped Forest. That's a shame, because (a) how can you not want to have some questions answered and (b) just the reactions to questions and answers was hilarious.

Hopefully folks will get a chance to see this one, which is twisted and bizarre and ultimately quite optimistic. And, hey, it's got Rinko Kikuchi in it - people loved her in The Brothers Bloom, right?

Mich Davis & Jovanka Vuckovic, Fantasia's Mitch Davis and "The Captured Bird" director Jovanka Vuckovic

The short film before The Human Race was apparently a draw in and of itself, with director Jovanka Vuckovic a friend of the fest and apparently pretty well-known within horror fandom. She put together a heck of a behind-the-scenes team for a ten-minute short, but it all shows up on-screen; "The Caged Bird" looks fantastic.

I'm not sure it does a whole lot more than look fantastic - I suspect its symbolism and mythology may reveal itself after multiple viewings, but at first blush, it seemed to be like a bunch of horror movie pieces stitched together fantastically well, but not quite its own thing. But I'd kind of love to see what Vuckovic and her friends can do if she gets the money for a feature.

Cast & crew of "The Human Race", "The Human Race" stars Paul McCarth-Boyington and Eddie McGee and director Paul Hough

And finally, the stars and director of The Human Race, who had to endure a marathon to get their movie made - it was shot over the course of three years, although only for a day or two at a time as money got scraped together and things could get fit into schedules. One story director Paul Hough told which I don't know whether to curse for how hard making a movie can be or praise for its ingenuity is that two of the characters are deaf so that they could shoot on certain days without a sound engineer - they would communicate with signing and even background noise would be left off the soundtrack to give their perspective.

This is the second movie in the festival where you would say the print was still wet if there was a print involved; it was evidently finalized to the point where it was at the previous Tuesday. In fact, there were still parts where the color-correction wasn't finished and a timecode or two still appeared in the digital file, but I think it can be called complete enough to review when I get to it.

Today's plan: Blood Letter, Love Strikes! (more Rinko Kikuchi!), and Schoolgirl Apocalypse. The first on the basis of 35mm vs. video; I'll try and catch Wrinkles later.

The Kick

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012 Action!, 35mm)

The Kick is frickin' truth in advertising, living up to its title in every way it can. Not only does it feature more or less non-stop martial arts action, but it's a kick - light, pure fun that revels in its simplicity, giving the audience what it wants in fine style, even (and especially) when it's nutty.

There's this ancient Thai ceremonial dagger, the "Kris of Kings", about to go on display in Bangkok, and Seok-du (Lee Kwan-hun) wants it. His first attempt to steal it is thwarted when he accidentally crosses paths with the Moon family - not only does the father (Cho Jae-hyun) run a taekwondo studio, but mother Mija (Ye Ji-won), teenage son Tae-yang (Na Tae-joo) & daughter Tae-mi (Kim Kyung-suk), and younger son Typhoon are skilled as well. His first attempt at revenge has the parents send the kids out to the country with friend & manager Mum (Petchtai Wongkamlao), where they meet his niece Wawa (Jeeja Yanin), who has of course been studying muay thai since she was six. Tae-yang is upset because this could make him miss his final audition for a dance competition (guess what dad thinks about that), but more importantly, Seok-du is a persistent SOB.

So there will be fights. There will be sparring between family members and friends, evenly-matched brawls between the Moons and Seok-du's goons, crazy scenes where one good guy takes on a fair-sized gang, and of course boss battles where Seok-du or his top guard (Kim Yi-roo) take on all comers. You want action? You get it, with enough flying fists and feet in a variety of permutations to give everybody in a large cast a chance to show their stuff.

Full review at EFC.

Kwik (Quick)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012 Action!, DCP)

Quick is, when you get down to it, a pretty stupid action movie that tries to camouflage this fact with raw speed. The filmmakers would likely have no argument with that assessment, quite honestly, inevitably just asking how they did at it. And they actually do all right. No thing that can explode lasts the movie without blowing up, no piece of glass remains unbroken. It knows what its audience wants and panders away.

It does it pretty well, though. The action is pretty well-staged (although I must admit, the outtakes over the end credits which show the cast visiting a stunt driver in the hospital are a bit alarming), and the story handles the ridiculous conspiracy necessary to make this work better than most dumb action movies. A sort-of detour into meta-commentary at the end doesn't work quite so well, but it doesn't leave a bad taste in the audience's mouth.

Roller Town

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

Because any fad that makes anybody some money will attract some movie producer's attention, there was a brief period where Hollywood put out roller disco movies. Because every sub-genre that ever existed will eventually resurface, some guys in 21st century Halifax decided to make their own. And because sometimes we as moviegoers get lucky, comedy collective Picnicface's Roller Town is kind of a riot.

When Leo (Mark Little) was a kid, his father moved to Brookfield, Nova Scotia, and built Roller Town, but was killed by his loan shark. Now (1980-ish), Leo lives in a bedroom above the rink and dreams of attending the nearby Brookfield Conservatory of Roller Skating, even though they only take classically trained roller-skaters. Such as Julia (Kayla Lorette), daughter of disco-hating Mayor Sedgwick (Christopher Shore), who sneaks into Roller Town one night, locks eyes with Leo, and, well. Not all is well, though - Gregs (George William Basil), the man who killed Leo's father, is a silent partner in the rink, and is putting pressure on remaining owner Murray to add new-fangled electronic games to the place.

Spoofing roller disco movies is, to put it generously, shooting fish in a barrel, but at least they are colorful fish that, in this case, are shredded in a bright, cheerful explosion of fish guts. Part of the reason why it works is that beyond the garish colors and disco soundtrack, it's really just spoofing dumb teenager movies. Which, sure, isn't that much harder a target, but is so broad of one that you can hang all sorts of jokes from the premise.

Full review at EFC.

The Warped Forest

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

What. The. Heck?

I say that with love, of course - The Warped Forest is the latest offering from the land of the rising sun that reminds us that nobody does weird quite like Japan. Shunichiro Miki drained his life savings to make what you can't help but call a follow up to Funky Forest (which he co-directed with two others), and the result is pretty impressive: Rather than just being weird or random, The Warped Forest gives its audience a surreal parallel universe that fits together in sweet, charming ways. It's absolutely deranged, but sometimes that's what you want.

The Human Race

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

The Human Race will likely get a fair amount of notice for its star - Eddie McGee is an amputee who only needs the one leg to kick ass - but it's far from a one-trick pony. Paul Hough's movie is a simple, hard-core grindhouse flick that gets the most out of a minuscule budget by taking its simple plot and just not messing around.

Part of what's cool - besides the undeniably charismatic McGee and the combination of perverse glee and genuine horror the mounting body count instills - is that for all it looks rough at some points, it's surprisingly polished in others. The credits, for instance, are the type that get an audience pumped up, and the music is pretty darn good, too. And while Hough grumbled about the sound mix during the Q&A, if that's the one he thinks is crap, I can't wait to hear what the movie sounds like when he's satisfied.

Hopefully The Human Race can sell as a novelty act - indpendent films like this one need all the help they can get - since I suspect the folks who watch it will leave impressed.

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