Monday, July 22, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.03 (20 July 2013): Evangelion 3.0, Rurouni Kenshin, Confession of Murder, It's Me, It's Me & Frankenstein's Army

Sorry for the lateness. A combination of falling asleep, well, before I'd even left my last movie, but certainly as soon as I got back to the apartment; a relatively early start on Sunday, and my laptop's network connection starting to become extremely unreliable led to no time to post then. I think I've figured out a way to get the most of the mess the situation is in, but it's going to slow things down a bit.

Not a particularly great day, I guess; I think Rurouni Kenshin is the movie out of the five I saw that I can most readily recommend, but most of the rest were at least interesting. Yeah, even Evangelion 3.0, even though I'll probably see the fourth more to say I made it through the series as any real enthusiasm

Satoshi Miki & company

Satoshi Miki (the snappy dresser in the center) was there to introduce and face interrogation for It's Me, It's Me, and I wish I could say I liked his movie a bit more. It's got a clever idea but I don't think it's particularly deep; rather, it's the sort of movie where you can see the potential for a great metaphor and wind up rushing to fill it in beyond what's actually presented, while the filmmaker sees the metaphor and thinks it can substitute for the actual clockwork needed to make a story run. A shame, because I really liked Adrift in Tokyo (I'll probably pick it up at the concession stand where they're selling off what is likely the last of Evokative Films's stock), and wanted him to hit it out of the park.

Miki's an outgoing, excitable guy on stage, at least, and in some ways, I was kind of glad during the Q&A that my Japanese and French are as bad as they are: I am reasonably sure that he stated that he wanted his next project to be about Gamera either attacking or hatching from Montreal's Stade Olympique, and am not sure that knowing the details would make it more enjoyable.

After It's Me, It's Me, I opted to get some food rather than see V/H/S/2 again, and while it was a good idea on the "I'm hungry" front, it gave me a long wait for Frankenstein's Army at midnight, and I didn't get through that very well at all; the combination of being full of food and having time to shut down was deadly. On the other hand, I did see that Mr. Steer has been spiffed up a bit. It's still basically a diner, but it seems a bit nicer. Most importantly, they may still have Montreal's best basic burger. There are lots of spots with fancier toppings, but the actual ground beef there is the best.

Evangerion shin gekijôban: Kyu (Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo)

* * (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival AXIS, DCP)

Neon Genesis Evangelion has been a manga. It's been a TV series. And now, three quarters of the way through the "Rebuild of Evangelion" film series, I can't help but wonder: When are the folks involved going to create a version that lives up to their impressive ambition by telling the story clearly and well?

It's been fourteen years since the events of Evangelion 2.0, although Shinji Ikari (voice of Megumi Ogata) has missed them, orbiting the Earth in a sort of stasis. His former teammate, Asuka Shikinami (voice of Yuko Miyamura), retrieves him, but things have changed - Asuka and Misato Katsuragi (voice of Kotono MItsuishi) are now part of "Wille", a convoy of survivors running from NERV in the hopes of finding what they need to fight back. Things are different at Ikari's father Gendo's organization, too - the friend Shinji risked his life to rescue, Rei Ayanami (voice of Megumi Hayashibara) is replaced by a hollow, soulless clone, and Gendo (voice of Fumihiko Tachiki) means for his son and new EVA pilot Kaworu Nagisa (voice of Akira Ishida) to retrieve two massive spears of incredible power for reasons that are, as always, mystical and mysterious.

Well, maybe not mysterious to the longtime fans that this series is, in large part, made for (although the storyline is supposedly departing from the source material here). While it's coming into a bit more focus for the rest of us, there is still a lot of reliance on Capitalization Without Explanation in the subtitles (even not knowing Japanese, one can hear these vague concepts as proper nouns in the dialog). To be completely fair to You Can (Not) Redo, one can get the basic gist without the mythology - teen hero wakes up in [even more] dystopian future, finds friends in opposition to each other, is convinced to use his special skills on import mission. One's eyes may glaze in between, but the idea is simple enough and the post-apocalyptic setting reduces the number of weird tonal shifts drastically - no comic-relief penguins or secret identities, and the tight jumpsuits aren't quite the fanservice that was jarring in a property that wants itself to be taken so very seriously.

Full review at EFC.

Rurouni Kenshin

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival Action!, 35mm)

Rurouni Kenshin is a comic-book movie, not just in the sense that it's adapted from a popular manga, but in how it both aims to introduce a lot of favorite elements and tell the story that best reflects the core of the character. Don't knock this - it's made some crowd-pleasing movies in the last few years, and Rurouni Kenshin does all right even for those not at all familiar with the source (sometimes known as "Samurai X" in North America).

In 1868, as the time of the samurai was coming to its end, one of the class's most lethal young assassins, "Battosai", threw down his sword, tired of killing. Ten years later, he wanders the land under the name Kenshin Himura (Takeru Sato), carrying a backward-bladed sword. As he arrives in Tokyo, Kanryu Takeda (Teruyuki Kagawa) is consolidating his hold both in legitimate shipping and opium - including a highly poetent variety developed by Megumi Takani (Yu Aoi). Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei) and her family's dojo are the ones standing most directly in Takeda's path, and even a legendary swordsman might not be enough to stand against Takeda's men and weapons.

There's also good-natured street fighter Sanosuke Sagara (Munetaka Aoki) and orphan Tahiko Myojin (Taketo Tanaka), all the better to form a surrogate family with. That's the go-to storyline for any story featuring a wandering hero, and while Rurouni Kenshin will occasionally give this a bit of emphasis, it's more overtly about Kenshin's desire to put his past as a killer behind him and his belief that it's impossible, making him unsuitable for anyone. And since the villains worship him for his prowess as a killer and many of Takeda's crew is highly Westernized, there's a fair amount of the franchise's appeal being touched upon, and while the net sometimes seems to be cast a bit wide, what it's catching is solid material.

Full review at EFC.

Naega Salinbeomida (Confession of Murder)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

If movies were graded on a strict plus-minus system, Confession of Murder would grade out as average; it's packed full of silly and unbelievable plotting and twists along with a feeling of missed opportunities with its media satire, and a few good action scenes don't necessarily make up for that. What that doesn't necessarily take into account is that this movie is most fun when it's at its most insane.

The first insane part, perhaps, is that South Korea has a statute of limitations on murder. Why would you have that? It serves the purposes of the movie well, though, so that a serial killer's memoir published after fifteen years have passed can cause all manner of hell to break loose, with Choi, the obsessed cop who investigated the original crime, trying to find some way to make him pay even as the handsome Lee Du-sook becomes a celebrity. The media satire doesn't quite work - if you're going to do that sort of parody, starting with "five years ago" seems a misstep - but it does get things to the families of the murdered girls.

And they're nuts. There's pitch-black comedy in their attempts to get revenge - many of them involving snakes and crossbows - including a great big involving car chase with Choi, a stolen ambulance, and Lee's personal security. Every time this movie threatens to be become a serious critique of crime or the media, there's some over-the-top bit of action or comedy or plot twist that makes things one laugh In a way, I found myself rolling my eyes throughout the movie, but it was in a good way during those bits, pushing things toward the positive side of the ledger.

Full review at EFC.

Ore, Ore (It's Me, It's Me)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival Camera Lucida, HD)

There's clear intent to make a clever movie in It's Me, It's Me, from the opening shots of identical buildings, insistent posters about a rat infestation, and other bits that tie into the high concept of a young man multiplying across the city which seem to have started with some form of identity theft.

The thing is, I'm not sure it's much more than a clever idea. What is director Satoshi Miki really saying about swarms of people becoming effectively interchangeable? That it's a thing that leads to cutthroat competition, perhaps, but that doesn't seem terribly revelatory. The mechanism for the change is too mysterious, and the evolution into a sort of thriller in the second half as the population of duplicates gets out of control has similar issues. It doesn't seem to be about themes or plot machinations, but just an idea that Miki and the original novelist played with until they couldn't find anywhere else to go.

That shouldn't overlook the impressive work by Kazuya Kamenashi, a pop singer playing the lead role(s) with style - just enough similarity and difference between the various versions of Hitoshi to make the situation interesting regardless of the story's weaknesses. Miki and company have a good time sewing the effects together, as well - the interactions between the Hitoshis is occasionally more showy than seamless, but it's at least enjoyable

Full review at EFC.

Frankenstein's Army

N/A (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

I have to admit - I was in and out of this one from close to the start, just not ready for midnights yet. And while it's sometimes possible to get the gist of a movie even when missing a few minutes here and there, the found-footage nature of this one made it feel like it was jumping around even more. I completely missed the introduction of this movie's Frankenstein descendant, and the second half just seemed like random monster encounters.

Though, to be fair, those were some great old-school monsters, industrial looking and nasty. I'll almost certainly give this another look if it plays the Brattle or Coolidge on its way to video/VOD... I just hope it's at 9:30 or so instead of midnight!

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