Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.16 (2 August 2013): Thermae Romae, Curse of Chucky, and Raze

Once again, there past the last minute, so I arrived at the Imperial just as the ad package was finishing up on Thermae Romae, and wound up having to snag a seat near the aisle in the front row rather than the now-familiar second-row center (if I'm late, I'm going to try not to climb over people). That I'm not a part of the regular front-row crew was, in fact, commented upon.

I wound up being there for the duration; even though I had never done a Child's Play movie before, the schedule at de Seve didn't work for a substitution. So I hung around and saw this:

Lloyd Kaufman, selling stuff photo IMAG0439_zpse6038463.jpg

I kind of love this. There's a red carpet behind me, but Lloyd Kaufman has no interest in that. He has business to do. I wouldn't stay for his movie, and I'd guess that Troma doesn't have nearly the great roster of folks who got their start there as Roger Corman's companies do, but you kind of have to admire someone who finds his niche and survives there for a long time, even as the industry changes around him.

Plus, he and a couple guests wound up sitting in the front row for Curse of Chucky rather than having festival staff rope off the best seats.

"Curse of Chucky" Q&A photo IMAG0442_zps7de16e4d.jpg

Left to right, Danielle Bisutti, Don Mancini, Chantal Quesnelle, and Fiona Dourif from Curse of Chucky. There's not a whole lot I can relay of the discussion afterwards, as they made a pretty earnest request that we leave some surprises for the folks who will pick it up on video in a couple of months, so I'm not going to be the one to spill that Chucky's gay now (kidding! maybe! no, OK, really). Suffice it to say that the movie is good enough to have surprises worth not spoiling that mean something to a guy like me who has pretty much no investment in the rest of the series. It's a fun little movie.

It was kind of funny to see everyone talking about Brad Dourif, as I've always seen him as sort of a workhorse actor not ashamed of doing genre work as opposed to a legend. I suspect they were half doing it to get his daughter Fiona blushing.

Also worth mentioning: This is the sort of premiere where I could have seen Universal collecting cell phones a couple years ago, but nothing like that went on.

"Raze" Q&A photo IMAG0446_zpsb15e0cc1.jpg

Zoe Bell and director Josh C. Waller of Raze. I dig Zoe Bell - I remember her turning up at Independent Film Festival Boston for Double Dare and she really does seem to be the same terrific person now as she was then. She much too nice to answer someone's question about how they were able to do all the fights and action in this movie without anybody getting seriously hurt with "becaue we're f---ing professionals".

Today's plan: At the Imperial early for the Berserk double feature, Discopath, Rooftop, HK: Forbidden Superhero, and You're Next. Maybe do DJ XL5 afterward or go with Halley instead of Next. Resurrection of a Bastard is recommended, The Machine even more so.


Thermae Romae

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, HD)

I spent a good number of Saturdays trying to learn Japanese a year or two ago, and one thing I remember about those classes is that when students mentioned they liked manga, the teacher always asked if they read Thermae Romae. None of us had. When I saw a film adaptation listed on the Fantasia schedule, I was tickled, and I'm even more pleased to report that it's an impish, funny little movie.

AD 135 sees Lucius Modestus (Hiroshi Abe), bath house architect, falling out of favor; his conservative style meant to promote relaxation and contemplation is not nearly as popular as the rowdier ones designed but Vertus. One day, while visiting one of these thermae to ponder how he can innovate without creating something crass, he is pulled into an underwater drainage tunnel that sends him to a public bath house in 2012 Japan. He is stunned, but inspired, and when he reawakens back home, he creates something that gets the attention of Emperor Hadrianus (Masachika Ichimura) himself. He makes several trips to the future, not initially noticing that aspiring (but frustrated) manga artist Mami Yamakoshi (Aya Ueto) is nearby each time.

Lucius is a character type that shows up in manga fairly often - the proud man stoically suffering as that pride is continually undermined - that does not necessarily translate to other media very well; the margin notes don't even translate well to Western comics. Fortunately, screenwriter Shogo Muto and director Hideki Takeuchi manage to crack that, both making these moments very funny - in part by contrast with the nakedness that doesn't embarrass him much at all and in part due to great facial expression and voice-over from Hiroshi Abe - and having it be an actual point of characterization. It's an unusually good job of letting the same things be funny and part of the plot.

Full review at EFC.

Curse Of Chucky

* * * (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Speaking as someone who has never seen a Child's Play movie before (believe it or not, I've missed pretty much all the horror franchises), I have to say I liked this. It more or less works as a relatively soft reboot, in that what mythology the viewer needs is related in a relatively painless fashion as it becomes relevant, although there is some fairly dumb horror movie logic in it: I suppose one can justify Chucky not doing that much earlier, but why would a family with a disabled kid have bought this particular house in the first place?

Still, as a back-to-its-roots movie, the thing works: It's got an entertaining but murderable cast of characters led by Fiona Dourif, the design of Chucky proves to be impressively flexible, and writer/director Don Mancini (who has written all six of these movies) shows a pretty impressive hand with old-dark-house material. He's helped by a very nice score by Joseph LoDuca, and while it may have looked a little spiffier if it were planned and budgeted for theatrical release, it looks pretty good for a direct-to-video production.

I'm kind of surprised that's how it's being released, actually, and wonder if Universal might have put it in theaters had they known this year's Paranormal Activity was going to slip. There's a big hole in October that this could have filled pretty well.

Full review at EFC.

Raze

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 2 August 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival: Action!, DCP)

The problem with Raze, ultimately, is that it's boring. This is a movie that lacks one single moment of surprise in its stupid story, and when a movie has already drained all the fun out of its action in the name of realism and non-exploitation, that just leaves violence. And violence, in and of itself, isn't a particularly fun way to spend an hour and a half at the movies.

Now, you can't really fault the work that the cast does; they carry their assignments out as pros, both in the acting and the stuntwork - no-one, according to the director, is doubled. But for all the filmmakers' attempts to create an emotionally-charged situation, the movie never amounts to much more than a rigged game, and those just aren't a lot of fun.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The first CHILD'S PLAY is worth seeing. More than decent horror entry. After that, Chucky became the Fonz and took over the series.