Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.20 (6 August 2013): The World's End, Halley, and Plus One

The cool thing about 10am press screenings? They get you out of the house fairly early, so you can't easily while away a perfectly nice day in front of your computer writing because you constantly underestimate how long it will take. Nope, you're at Ex Centris at 10am, liking the inside of that place a lot (theaters are named as well as numbered, and everything is shiny and solid-looking), and then out at noon, just in time to actually sit down for a meal. It's been a while since I visited Les 3 Brasseurs and had a flamm.

Then, having seen banners for it every time I walked down the street or took the Metro for the past three weeks, I decided to head up to the Botanical Gardens and look at the Mosaiculture exhibit. Because, let's face it, after seeing often brutal horror/sci-fi/action movies all day every day for the better part of a month, art made out of vegetation makes a really nice break.

Besides, that one ("The Man Who Planted Trees") is objectively awesome, and there's more where that came from (I'll do a Facebook dump later). The exhibition is only running through the end of September, and I'd recommend it.

A lot of walking, though, so I needed some caffeine to get through my two movies. It was fun, though - got to hang out with Paul at the first one and Gabriela at the second. Remind me to follow them on Twitter or friend them on Facebook or something so it's not 11 months of not seeing or hearing from them at all after today.

Today's plan: Bad Milo and Bad Film. If last night was the "closing night", these are like the encore.

The World's End

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2013 in Ex Centris Cinema #3/Cassavetes (Fantasia Festival Press Screening, DCP)

As excited as I naturally was about the Wright/Pegg/Frost team adding a sci-fi comedy to their excellent body of work, the pub-crawl theme had me rolling my eyes: Watching people get drunk is never actually as much fun as it sounds. Fortunately, it's not all that long before they get to the good stuff, and one that happens, The World's End hits its stride and reminds even the skeptics in the audience of just why they might have been looking forward to this combination in the first place.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) figures he had the best night of his life twenty-three years ago when he and four friends attempted an epic pub crawl in their home town (including having sex with one's sister midway through). Now they've all left, and he's looking to get the gang - family man Peter (Eddie Marsan), successful entrepreneur Steven (Paddy Considine), estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), and lawyer Andrew (Nick Frost) - back together to try it again. Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) even shows up again midway through. But so will something else...

Funny thing about Simon Pegg: Even though he's played a number of characters who have been on the selfish and clueless side, his very public enthusiasm for sci-fi, fantasy, and the like - well beyond the bland talking points other entertainers will trot out when doing interviews for a genre project - him being the one that gets set up as not a likable everyman but the idiot who drags the rest of his friends down still seems to be a bit of a surprise. He dives into it, for better or worse, and initially both at once; the beginning of the movie is almost all Gary being a jerk, and while that one note hits more than a few times, it does get a bit tiring. Still, the way he dives onto gags with enthusiasm, getting more out of them than many other actors playing this part would, camouflages how, while Gary may not be any more complex at the end than he was at the start, he's certainly become a guy for whom the audience feels some interest and affection. It's a broadly funny but sneakily impressive performance.

Full review on EFC.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival: Camera Lucida, DCP)

Halley will be classified a horror movie by many, what with it centering on a representative of the living dead, but in some ways its hold on that genre is just a couple of fingertips at the end of an outstretched arm. Filmmaker Sebastian Hofmann aims more toward tragedy than suspense, and to call this movie uneventful may overstate its excitement level by a fair amount. And yet, there's something hypnotic and engrossing about it.

Beto (Alberto Trujillo) works as a security guard in a Mexico City gym, but he tells his boss Silvia (Lourdes Trueba) that he's quitting due to health problems. She asks him to stay on another week, although maybe if she got a look at him when he was alone at home, she might have reconsidered: Beto's body is in an advanced state of decay, and he doesn't eat, instead feeding himself something via an IV. His shuffling walk is painful to watch - zombie-like, in fact.

All indications, in fact, are that Beto is a member of the living dead, but Hofmann isn't sharing the backstory about how he got that way, or whether there are others, or any of the mythology about how this works. There's a fair amount of time spent on how he gets through his day, but not in the sort of detail that explains things, and the bulk of his interactions with others are muted. There's little to know violence, and what suspense there is likely comes more from the audience's expectations of the genre than anything that is actually hinted at on-screen (everyone around Beto is eating, and he's a zombie... gotta be foreshadowing, right?).

Full review on EFC.

Plus One

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2013 in Salle de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

One of the first things one might notice about Plus One, if one is inclined to read the credits, is that among the list of finance and production entities are two visual effects companies, suggesting that the tail may be wagging the dog a little here. And while I think Dennis Iliadis has enough else on his mind that he's not just helping defray a demo reel by attaching a story that can earn it some video-on-demand money, it does wind up being a very mixed bag.

David (Rhys Wakefield) didn't go to college after high school, and when visiting girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) for her fencing tournament, he does something dumb enough that she breaks up with him on the spot. A few weeks later, when all his high school friends are back in town for the summer, he and his friend Teddy (Logan Miller) are getting ready to head to a huge party put on by local rich kid Angad (Rohan Kymal), and he's hoping Jill's there. She is, but wants no part of him, shredding his apology. But! A meteor crashed to earth nearby, and it's having some strange effects - while much of the party has moved to the backyard, an exact duplicate of everyone at the party from a half hour earlier appears in the house, where only David, Teddy, their shy friend Allison (Suzanne Dengel), and Melanie (Natalie Hall) - the super-hot girl Teddy is trying to make time with - have stayed behind.

What Iliadis (who directed and came up with the story Bill Gullo scripted) seems to have in mind is actually quite clever - he's grafted a high-concept fantasy that plays with ideas of second chances and how slight changes can change a person that could play as overly-philosophical and grafts it onto a raunchy and crass just-past-teen comedy. Any stuffiness present is well-disguised, while the fantasy meant to illustrate the story's larger points also makes for some funny, sexy situations. Some of the uses of the idea are a bit obvious, but occasionally play nicely against the stereotypical way this story runs.

Full review on EFC.

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