Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.16 (3 August 2012): Isn't Anybody Alive, Carré Blanc, Lobos de Arga, New Kids Turbo, etc.

Horrible photography? Sure! Both come from the Game of Werewolves screening.

"The Local's Bite" director Scott Upshur, "The Local's Bite" director Scott Upshur at Fantasia 2012

First up - "The Local's Bite" director Scott Upshur, who made a nifty litte short based on a unique setting - the lifts that locals use to get up and down the mountain in Telluride, CO. Pretty well shot (although the compression here didn't do its dark scenes many favors), although I think it kind of has one big problem - it SPOILERS! works on the basis of a potential victim turning the tables on her attacker, but blows right past misdirection to having that character act in a way that's blatantly contrary to her eventual actions. !SRELIOPS Nice try.

There were a couple other shots. I didn't arrive at Carré Blanc in time to get shots of the guys made "Elko", which is just as well. I didn't really like it; it struck me as all darkness with no real point to it - or, at least, being too preoccupied with the darkness to really build on its idea of how the victim is rediscovering joy in life as the bad fate she signed up for approaches. A little too much for me, perhaps, especially as it left practically zero time to unwind between Isn't Anybody Alive? and Carré Blanc.

Dead Bite, meanwhile, was preceded by "Petit Mort", and let me tell you, if you've never seen a mime going through the motions of buying a porno magazine and reading it, man, you should hunt Louise Archambault's short down.

"Game of Werewolves" director Juan Martinez Moreno, Mitch Davis leads Q&A of "Game of Werewolves" director Juan Martinez Moreno

Gotta love Juan Martinez Moreno here; he made a good movie in a genre he loves, and his enthusiasm was very clear, especially when talking to Mitch about the Spanish werewolf movies that were his movie's forefathers. I also love that he hates his film's English-language title (hopefully whoever picks it up will change it or just stick with the Spanish "Lobos de Arga"), and that while he loves dogs, working with the one who played Vito in this movie was a pain in the neck. Lots of stories about how if the dog did his thing in a shot, the actors better hope they got it right, and how after about a week or shooting, the dog learned the word "Action!" and would run away when he heard it, necessitating a new code word to start every day of filming. Apparently the dog was smart about being trouble.

Okay, quick shower and then downtown for brunch, Space Battleship Yamamoto, Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, Grabbers, and then maybe Revenge: A Love Story if I don't call it an early night because I don't want to see Excision again.

Ikiterumono wa inainoka (Isn't Anybody Alive?)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Camera Lucida, HD)

It is, I suppose, unfair to judge Isn't Anybody Alive? for not being conventional enough; it's meant to be unusual and relatively plot-free. The question is, if you strip the basic building blocks away, what's left? Isn't Anybody Alive? becomes an end-of-the-world movie whose detachment isn't shocking or philosophical or even that interesting.

But it could have been something beautiful and tragic. It does a really spectacular job of building characters worth following in the opening acts, getting a large young cast to give everybody distinctive personalities and relationships, so that when the first death happens out of nowhere, it's shocking and horrifying. By the end, though, it's become a perfunctory joke that doesn't work. It's just more, with the actors having to work much harder to get the same reaction. Maybe that's the conceptual point, I guess - showing how audiences can go from empathy to disinterest, but it gets tiresome.

And it kind of undermines all the good work done throughout the movie. The cast is, in large part, terrific, there's a crisp look to Yoshiyuki Matsumoto's cinematography, and what director Gakuryu Ishii and writer Shiro Maeda do is frequently strong. The music is unusual and good in all the right ways. It just feels empty, and while maybe that's the point, why do that?

Full review at EFC.

Carré Blanc

* * * (out of four)
Seen 3 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

So you've created a dystopic future based on existing brutalist architecture and creative cruelty. Now what? That's a question that one can easily spend a lot of time asking during Carré Blanc before it ultimately offers an answer. It's a good-enough answer, although many viewers may want more.

Sometime in the future, the human race is dwindling, with one of the sad statistics being Philippe's mother (Fejria Deliba), whose suicide sends him to a corporate orphanage of sorts. Though his making it to adulthood is in some ways a near thing, he (Sami Bouajila) winds up working for the company that raised him. In many ways, he's become just as heartless as the rest of the world around him, in marked contrast to his wife Marie (Julie Gayet), who is just about ready to leave him.

There are hints of a world interesting both for being satiric and speculative scattered throughout the movie, mostly in the form of radio snippets that suggest the world population is dropping precipitously and that croquet is the most popular form of entertainment. Humanity seems to be consuming itself, quite literally, faster than it can reproduce, with an increasing callousness and dehumanization of what should be one-to-one interactions.

Full review at EFC.

Lobos de Arga (Game of Werewolves)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 3 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

First, forget that stupid title. Juan Martínez Moreno hates it, there's no game involved, etc. Instead, focus on what a really great horror-comedy this is - so good that including the "comedy" after the hyphen really seems to discount how well Moreno recaptures the feel of classic monster movies, with tons of atmosphere, horrible curses, and practical effects that may not always be seamless, but certainly get the point across.

It is funny - it's got an early nominee for "best supporting canine" and friendly banter that gives way to twisted comedy. It does a charmingly good job of playing against genre tropes and cultural prejudices. And it's particularly cool that the heroes, for all their goofiness, want to do the right thing as opposed to just go through the motions. Add that to some pretty darn good action, and you've got yourself a heck of a werewolf movie.

Full review at EFC.

New Kids Turbo

* * (out of four)
Seen 3 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012 Action!, DCP)

New Kids Turbo is a movie about not just one boorish asshole, but five, and I won't lie - those are sort of hard for me to get behind as protagonists. Part of it's snobbery - I have met too many people who wouldn't fully get the joke and see something appealing about these characters - but isn't snobbery sort of what their creators are appealing to, that the audience will laugh at these morons?

And, don't get me wrong, I surely did laugh on occasion - throw 200 jokes out there in an 84-minute movie, and some are going to work - and it's hard not to admire the sheer energy these comedians and filmmakers bring to the table. But there's laziness, too - the film's supporters seem to talk a good game about this movie's social commentary, but it's all broad swipes at low-hanging fruit that only seems clever in comparison to idiots calling people they don't like "homo".

Full review at EFC.

Gancore Gud (Dead Bite)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 3 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, HD)

There's actually a pretty fun movie inside Dead Bite doing all it can to get out, and it could be just as happily trashy as the one we got. After all, it's got a charismatic-enough lead in Thai rapper JoeyBoy, a potentially fun ensemble in his group Gancore Club, and all the other ingredients for B-movie fun: Pretty/busty girls, gleefully bloody mayhem, and fun monsters. The beautiful Thailand scenery doesn't hurt at all.

But, wow, does it get away from him. There's bloodbaths that happen too fast to process broken up by long stretches of people sitting in the woods, doing not very much, not even bickering in a way that increases tension. There's savages and sea-zombies and mermaids and more and they don't really fit together. New characters and plotlines are introduced midway through because they killed too many off early, and there's a framing sequence that is returned to an awful lot for one final gag.

Dead Bite is a fun midnight movie, no question. It's probably just a little too much writer/director/producer/star JoeyBoy pouring the disorganized images of "stuff that would make a cool movie" onto film in raw form.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

Scott Upshur said...

Hey Jay,

I'm Scott Upshur, writer/director of "The Local's Bite", a short film that was on your Fantasia review a few days ago.

First, I want to thank you for coming to the film and giving the film your full attention. I think you criticism is valid and touches on a common issue some people have had with the project. I do, however, think there is an explanation for the main character's actions which justifies the plot. (Although, maybe not strong enough for some people — for which as the writer/director, I must take some responsibility.)

The main character's initial actions, I understand, might be seen as contradictory to their actions when the tables turn. But I think the intended reading still holds true — being: the main character has a great power that needs to be controlled. The threat the antagonist creates, puts the main character in a position where they must use their power after they have done everything they could to avoid it; and they must do this in order to live within the peaceful social structure of the small town. However, human nature does not dictate that when we have done everything to avoid conflict and are forced to use our "powers" on those who relentlessly antagonize us, that we can't enjoy the moment — at least a little bit.

In making the film, we knew there was a fine line in avoiding the statement that the main character was "luring a victim". These hints might become more obvious the second time around, which I hope you have a chance to see at some point.

Agree or not, I appreciate your time and honesty about the film. This is my first and hopefully not my last project, and criticism like yours presents an important opportunity for me to improve on the next project. With help from you and others with strong opinions like yours, we can hope audiences and filmmakers alike can improve their appreciation for each other and the love for the medium we both share.

Thanks again!
-Scott Upshur