Monday, August 06, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.18 (5 August 2012): Blood-C, Sorcerer & White Snake, Berserk, Columbarium, Poongsan, etc.

Once again, I can sit here, or I can go see movies, and after arriving at Concordia just in time for the start of Blood-C, I'd like to give myself a little more wiggle room today. So on to the photography!

Not shorts Sunday, and with most of what I saw coming from the far east and Australia, there weren't a lot of guests. Except, naturally, from the one made in Quebec.

Stephanie Trepanier and "Columbarium" director Steve Kerr, Stephanie Trepanier and "Columbarium" director Steve Kerr

If you look closely, you can see that director Steve Kerr is actually wearing a Fantastique Week-End badge, which makes sense; that's the series of screenings of Quebecois short films, although his feature being locally produced and (mostly) in French certainly fits in. It gave me a moment or two of panic, though, as I had visions of the movie starting and being in French and having to really test what I remembered from high school. Not the case, although I did wind up sort of following the room's lead at when to applaud during the Q&A afterward.

Cast and crew of "Columbarium", Maxime Dumontier, Steve Kerr, Stephanie Trepanier, Pierre Collin, and David Boutin

Hey, the "panorama" function on my phone is kind of neat, estpecially when there's a lot of people on the stage. I don't think it was really designed to be used on a group that close to the camera, thus the distortion of things that really should be straight.

I panicked a bit when I looked up and saw that Gilbert Comptois had joined the group while I wasn't looking, sitting to the right of every one else (left to right, the picture shows actor Maxime Dumontier, director Steve Kerr, host Stephanie Trepanier, and actors Pierre Collin & David Boutin). I didn't take another picture, because I figured just getting this one decent was pushing my luck. Sorry.

One last note: The anime screenings are a somewhat different beast from the rest, attracting die-hard fans who are tremendously enthusiastic and know exactly what they're getting into. Manga/anime is one of the oldest fandoms in North America, and it's kind of interesting how, while the folks I meet who love this stuff at the Million Year Picnic tend to have very broad genre intrests, there really is this group that is still very separate and focused, reading manga but not American or European comics and obsessively collecting anime but not much other home video.

OK, right. Today's plans: Sunny, Despite the Gods, Love Fiction, Vulgaria, and Hidden in the Woods

Blood-C: The Last Dark

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012 AXIS, HD)

I wouldn't recommend seeing Blood-C: The Last Dark at all, but above all else, do not go in to see this movie cold. Seriously, don't do it. I am pretty sure that this would be a tiresome excuse for a movie with overly frantic action, a protagonist completely devoid of personality, and a laughable CGI monster at the finale who goes down way too easily even if I had seen Blood: The Last Vampire recently (or at all; I honestly don't remember whether I saw it or not) or had picked up any of the multimedia tie-ins between then and now, but not having the Blood mythology in one's back pocket doesn't help.

What's kind of extra-special lame about it is that there are three character described as "hackers". You know what is exciting cinema about watching hackers working? Nothing. The closest thing they do to being cool is when there's a shot of the youngest working a second keyboard with her toes. Aside from that, their main accomplishment is being tricked into walking the heroine into an obvious trap.

Full review at EFC.

Bai she chuan shuo (The Sorcerer and White Snake, aka It's Love)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

In the opening segment of The Sorcerer and the White Snake (aka It's Love), an ice harpy played by Vivian Hsu throws boulder-sized hailstones at demon-hunting monk Fahai, who is able to dodge and counter-attack three or four times for every one that gets near him. The lesson: CGI can't keep up with Jet Li, even at this stage of his career. It will, however, try its hardest, though as is often the case, it can't make up for an iffy script.

After defeating the harpy and imprisoning it in the Lei Feng Pagoda at the Jin Shan Temple, Fahei (Li) and his disciple Neng Ran (Zhang Wen) have a bat demon to find, but unbeknownst to them, it isn't the only demon at the Lantern Festival. Susu (Huang Sheng-yi) and Qingqing (Charlene Choi), two beautiful and mischievous snake demon sisters, have come to the mortal world because Susu has become smitten with Xu Xian (Raymond Lam), an herbalist whose life she saved earlier. They fall in love, and might live happily ever after, except that Fahei discovers Susu while chasing some other demons - and there can be no intermingling between the mortal and supernatural worlds.

Put that way, Fahai kind of sounds like the villain of the piece, or at least a more complex character than he is generally portrayed as. That the movie doesn't make him examining his prejudices a central part of the story rather than something that gets brief lip service during the finale isn't really a failing as much as a notable missed opportunity and indicative of how the film rushes between extremes. There's the pure doe-eyed love between Susu and Xu Xian one minute, effects-driven action the next, and if something is less than immediately gratifying, it falls by the wayside. Qingqing and Neng Ran disappear for most of the movie, and some non-trivial amount of money was spent to give Susu talking animal friends in one scene that never show up again (well, except for the rat).

Full review at EFC.

Beruseruku: Ougon jidaihen I - Haou no tamago (Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the King)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2012 in Concordia University Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

As you can see from the number of descriptors in that title, the Berserk manga is huge, and this 70-odd-minute movie covers but a fraction of it. As a result, Egg of the King isn't close to a complete story, but it's a pretty good start to one.

Guts (voice of Hiroaki Iwanaga), a mercenary who carries an incredibly large sword, has turned the tide in battle by defeating the monstrous Bazuso, but delines to join the army, instead taking his reward and setting out of new challenges. He's soon recruited into the Band of the Hawk by its leader, the striking Griffith (voice of Takahiro Sakurai), and they are soon close companions - an arrangement that makes warrior woman Casca (voice of Toa Yukinari). Griffith possesses a strange, living amulet, the Crimson Belehit (aka "The Egg of the King"), and though the Band are loyal comrades, Griffith increasingly seems to have his own agenda when he enters into a contract with the Kingdom of Midland and starts romancing the king's daughter Charlotte (voice of Aki Toyosaki).

And that, no kidding, gets the story frighteningly close to its end, at least for this episode. Expecting full closure from a film that both has "part one" in its title and is based upon a serial that has run for nearly 25 years so far is foolish, but this one's climax seems like it would be a turning point in other films, leaving the audience wanting to see how it plays out right away rather than waiting a few months for the next installment. That being said, it's good set-up; the Guts/Griffith/Casca triangle functions more on loyalty than sexuality, but the movie acknowledges that the latter certainly seems to be in the air (Griffith is the sort of very pretty man where the audience might infer it anyway). Folks should find the characters interesting and the cliffhanger compelling not just for what will happen as fallout, but what it reveals about Guts.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Fantastique Week-end, HD)

Nothing fancy, just a good, solid story about what may be a ghost driving a guy nuts as he and his half-brother are alone in an isolated cabin. Solid acting from David boutin and Maxime Dumontier, especially with how they work with writer/director Steve Kerr to hint at what an inherently difficult relationship the characters have before laying it all out there.

Well, there is one "fancy" thing - part of the gimmick is that the aspect ratio narrows as the movie goes on, until by the end it's narrower than something shot on a phone held vertically after starting out as scope. It's a bit showy, and I think part of the french stuff announced to the audience was not to complain about the projection because this stuff was intended, which sort of blunts the impact a bit.

Still, darn good movie, tense and well-acted.

Full review at EFC.

Poong-san-gae (Poongsan)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Camera Lucida, HD)

Another one which gets sort of gimmicky - the title character played by Yoon Kye-sang is not just silent, but almost absurdly uncommunicative in a way that is almost ridiculous - but which manages to be quite incisive when talking about the partition of Korea. It tells the story of a man who is unique in his ability to slip across border and how everything goes to hell when he gets involved with the government.

Well, that and a woman, who provides us with a great look at the tension between the two countries as she is brought across and becomes a pawn in a larger game that she really wants no part of. It's a fascinating film, really, with a pretty marvelously constructed script from Kim Ki-duk that Juhn Jai-hong executes very well indeed. The only thing close to a flaw is that it seems to go on past its natural end-point, but the stuff that happens after is good enough to allow it.

Full review at EFC.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 5 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012, DCP)

I may try catching this again on Wednesday, especially if the thunderstorms in the forecast show up, because while I probably wouldn't have to fake very much in a review, there are a lot of details I'd like a somewhat firmer grasp on if I write it up, and a movie with this film's particular style can be a rough one to stay fully alert through at 10pm after five others.

It's kind of amazing, though, with director Amiel Courtin-Wilson seeming to set up like a fly on the wall of released con Daniel to watch him and girlfriend Leanne try to get their lives back together, only to inevitably backslide and then... Well, wow. The movie goes somewhere I didn't expect at all and is riviting. It's unconventional to the core, documentary-style with the leads playing themselves but a fictional story and with scenes pulled together by Steve Benwell's atonal music, but really worth seeing.

Full review at EFC.

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