Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.13 (31 July 2012): A Fantastic Fear of Eveything, Robo-G, and Killer Joe

Not a whole lot to say - worked, spent too much time on Twitter hoping the Red Sox didn't do anything stupid at the trade deadline, and got a pizza before sitting down for movies. Just one guest yesterday:


The very nice co-writer/producer of "Mathilda", which played before Killer Joe. She and director Matthew Chuong made a nifty little short film that set the table for the main feature nicely.

Speaking of which, you know how Kevin Smith's got this bugaboo about how critics get to see his movies for free? I'm ninety percent sure that he got it via watching the way passholders act at festivals. This movie was sold out and had a large number of folks with badges wanting to get in (it amuses the heck out of me that press always turns out in such large numbers for things they'll get to see at regular press screenings anyway), and while 90% of them were well-behaved and gracious, you remember the ones who walk to the front of the line, insistent on being let in, and acting like it's ridiculous that a festival prioritized paying customers ahead of absolutely every person with a badge.

Anyway, if I run now,I can make it to the 1pm screening of The Tall Man, which I intend to follow with Mondomanila, White: The Melody of the Curse, Asura, and Black's Game. Yes, I'm seeing "White" and "Black" today, surely a bigger coincidence than the day when the first two movies of the afternoon featured cakes filled with hair.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

For a while, I had the feeling that A Fantastic Fear of Everything had run short and been padded out with Simon Pegg doing a bunch of slapstick. Not a bad way to get a movie up to feature length, if so, but it turns out to be a good deal more planned than that and a great deal odder.

Though Jack (Pegg) has had success as a children's writer, he is currently working on a book about Victorian serial killers. This may not be the greatest match of man and material, as he's already a writer with "a sensitive nature", and the project seems to be sending him over the edge into full-blown paranoia. Though currently reduced to a shaggy-haired mess working in his underpants and a bathrobe, he's still anxious to get into the movies, so when his agent Clair (Clare Higgins) tells him that she's arranged a meeting with a Hollywood producer, it means he will have to confront his most intense phobia: The laundromat.

There's a story to Fantastic Fear, but it takes a while to develop; the female lead doesn't appear until the movie is halfway over. The first half also has to work a few tricks: There's a great deal of narration to cover the fact that Pegg is spending a lot of time on-screen alone, while a phone call with his friend Dr. Friedkin (Paul Freeman) is much more elaborately filmed than usual to keep things from feeling completely static. When Jack finally does get to the launderette, it's for a series of gags that aren't nearly as funny as their careful set-up indicates they should be.

Full review at EFC.

Robo Ji (Robo-G)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

Robo-G has a plot hole that you could drive a rather large vehicle through - if the robot designers we see for most of the movie are so incapable of actually building robots, how are they even able to get to the film's starting point? The proper answer, of course is "hey, look, something shiny over there!", because both the opening gag and the later contradictory jokes are too good to lose.

It makes for a cute little comedy - paper-thin, with the same few jokes repeated a number of times before a plot that we'd more or less tacitly agreed to ignore appears to get the movie to an end-point. It's got a nice cast, though - ShinjirĂ´ Igarashi (who was a rock star in Japan under the name "Mickey Curtis" in his younger years) is especially good as the old man who dons the robot suit and decides he likes the attention, and Yuriko Yoshitaka is all sorts of adorable as the robotics-loving student who becomes a big fan. Gaku Hamada, Chan Kawai, and Junya Kawashima are a funny trio as the robot designers perpetrating the fraud that they've got a working robot to save their jobs.

It would be nice if there were a little more to this movie - while it does touch on the desire of the elderly to feel useful and needed, there's a bit of an opportunity missed later on to touch on how Suzuki-san feels when he discovers he will be replaced by a real machine and face retirement again. But then, this movie is about the jokes. and most of those are quality stuff.

Full review at EFC.

Killer Joe

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 July 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

It happens to nearly every writer, musician, or film director who doesn't die young: Because they never really retire, they'll eventualy have an unimpressive period that runs longer than even a long run of success. Take William Friedkin, for instance - he made some great movies from the early 1970s to mid-1980s, but it's been a long time since, long enough for people to be a little surprised that he's still alive and working. But he is, and his recent collaborations with playwright Tracy Letts have shown he still has something in the tank, with Killer Joe a deliciously twisted black comedy that is great without context.

Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) is deep in debt to a local drug dealer, but thinks he has a solution - have his good-for-nothing mother killed. A $50,000 life insurance policy will go to his younger sister Dottie (Juno Temple); even after paying off "Killer Joe" Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a Dallas police detective who moonlights as a hitman, and splitting the money three ways with Dottie and their father Ansel (Thomas Haden Church), there should be more than enough to pay off his debt. There are a few hitches, though: Ansel's second wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) wants in, and most importantly, Joe wants to be paid up front. After meeting Dottie (whose name is a generous assessment of her mental state), though, he may be willing to take a different sort of retainer.

Killer Joe opens on a casually sleazy note and settles into that tone pretty comfortably, seldom going for the mocking bit of shock value once things have been established but still having a great deal of fun at its redneck characters' expense while presenting the attitudes as occasionally on the creepy side. It's a carefully measured wallow, with Letts and Friedkin toeing an especially fine line in regard to how her family members treat Dottie.

Full review at EFC.

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