Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Fantasia Daily 2014.03: The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, Cold Eyes, Late Phases, Han Gong-Ju, Suburban Gothic, Zombie TV

Up and down day. I made my first stop into the Swiss place with the forty varieties of chocolate milkshake, and had one with 61% cacao dark chocolate and coconut along with a European hot dog, which was pretty good. Probably the biggest "down" is that sometime during Late Phases, my tablet fell out of my pocket and now there's an almost invisible crack on it. I've seen people using phones and tablets that are much more banged up, but even though mine works just fine in every other way - screen lights up, data comes off when I connect it to the computer - it's not taking touch input at all. I'm not looking forward to what it's going to cost to repair.

Speaking of weird technical things, there was a crazy sound problem in the Clarke theater during Han Gong-ju, loud shrieking static on the soundtrack during a pivotal scene. The projectionists were able to stop the movie and restart the DCP from a few minutes earlier, but it actually seemed to be painful for some of those in attendance. Didn't hurt my appreciation of the movie in any way, but weird.

It delayed things long enough that me and a few others were late getting into line for the sold-out Suburban Gothic, leading to one of those times when they wind up letting passholders in one by one, and those of us who didn't give up (Red Family had already gone in anyway) wound up watching as they kept finding seats for two or three at a time. It looked like the last three of us were going to get shut out, but eventually we wound up waaaay up top, next to where the DJs sit in Theatre Hall. Hence the horribleness of this photography:


That's star Matthew Gray Gubler in the foreground, giving away door prizes to people who came dressed as ghosts. Way down on the stage, you can see director Richard Bates Jr. and the wonderful Ray Wise apparently checking their phones. It was a fun Q&A, though, with Gubler's and Bates's mothers telling jokes, and Wise sharing a great anecdote about his own supernatural experience. The movie's pretty good, too.

Not sure what I'm supposed to do with this bottle of "ectogasm" they gave us, though.

Plans for today: Looks like I'm going to be late for Jellyfish Eyes, so I'll probably hit Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, try to get into Zero Theorem, fail, wind up in Red Family, and then do the planned In the Land of the Head Hunters, The Reconstruction of William Zero, The Suspect evening.

Wuribyeol Ilhowa Eollukso (The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival: AXIS, HD)

You can do absolutely anything with animation, so why not do a story about a satellite that falls to Earth, turns into a girl, and falls in love with a boy turned into a Holstein milk cow by a broken heart? And then, once you've established the premise, things can get really strange.

Yes, the title is pretty literal, and it doesn't even take into account how KITSAT-1 takes human form after crashing into The Incinerator, a massive walking furnace that ways transformed people, or that a bounty hunter is trying to find the transformees so that he can harvest their livers to sell to others in the same fix. Or that the dairy cow, a musician named Kyung-chun, is protected by Merlin, a wizard who is now a walking, talking roll of toilet paper for reasons he'd rather not explain. Things are weird.

A lot of the time, things seem to be weird for no reason other than director Chang Hyung-yun thought it would be funny if one thing looked and acted like another thing, and then he kept fishing with those ideas and wasn't too terribly concerned with how they came together or whether or not they did. It's not completely haphazard, where someone watching it would be thinking that it was the other way three scenes ago, but he's absolutely not going to spend as lot of time explaining something that the audience doesn't really care about while letting some plot threads dangle or skipping things that connect certain pieces of the story. It might be nice of he added a little heft to the constant metamorphosis or how Hyung-kun is frequently a man turned into a cow disguised as a man, but most of the time, he's content just to be eccentric for its own sake.

Full review at EFC

Gamsijadeul (Cold Eyes)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

It's been a while since I've seen Eye in the Sky, long enough that when I looked up my original review, I was surprised how lukewarm I was toward it at the time. Maybe the folks who were talking about this South Korean remake being better than the original had something.

It's still built on a nifty idea for a cop movie or series, following a squad whose specialty is maintaining surveillance by means both high and low tech. The villains, of course, include a mastermind who watches his own crew's crimes play out his own all-seeing vantage point, making for a potentially fantastic game of cat-and-mouse. As with the Hong Kong version, there's a sense that this might work better as the pilot to a TV series - there's even a shadowy group of villains who may be gangs or North Korean spies for all audience knows to serve as recurring threats - but the movie is fairly self-contained with some scale to it, including a couple of fantastically co-ordinated getaways.

It's got a few things going for it, too - Han Hyo-ju stands out as the new recruit to the team, doing all the nervous tics and memory-searching bits that you might expect, but also never making her into the half-autistic case one might expect. Directors Jo Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo also have the tailing scenes work at a snappy pace, although they also amp up nicely for bigger action. There is a bit of a sense that the action peaks a bit before the movie ends, but then they come back with a bit that fans of the original movie will appreciate.

Full review on EFC

Late Phases

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2014 in Salle J.A. de Sève (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

As soon as he or she sees Nick Damici in this movie, blind but still a gruff former soldier, about to be placed in a retirement community, the jaded moviegoer may smile a bit. It's not the usual hero or setting for this type of film, but horror movies about old folks are often kind of great; old guys know stuff but are often shoved aside to be forgotten. Make the protagonist blind, and the challenges are even greater.

Make him Nick Damici, and you're in even better shape. A horror mainstay thanks to his collaborations with Jim Mickle, Damici makes Ambrose McKinley kind of a jerk, but one whose stubborn self-reliance and occasional hints of having a decent heart underneath make the sarcasm much easier to take, especially as it's delivered in such perfectly clipped, efficient fashion. The script by Eric Stolze and direction by Adrian Garcia Bogliano is enjoyably efficient in another way, spacing its two werewolf sequences out close to the start and the and of the movie, and then having Ambrose methodically figure out how he's going to deal with the situation in between. Lots of movies would insert a lot of extra peaks and valleys and dilute the action, but this one works in large part because it skips over that and lets us get to know Ambrose, understanding why he opts to take this particular path to deal with the threat to a new community that he doesn't much like.

Full review on EFC

Han Gong-ju

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2014 in Salle D.B. Clarke (Fantasia Festival: The Best Years of My Life?, DCP)

One of the most quietly devastating teen-focused movies you'll see, Hang Gong-ju does an incredible job of doling out information on just what happened to the title character to make her change schools at exactly the rate to keep the audience wondering (and dreading finding out), even as it examines the fallout as this girl who is getting the rawest of deals tries to just get by the precision filmmaking by writer/director Lee Su-jin is impeccable.

As is Chun Woo-hee has the title character. There's not a moment where she's not just right, a perfect combination of a kid still somehow determined to plow through despite her unearned shame and crippling rejection. Gong-ju is a heroine that the audience can get behind for her persistence even if she does have her own crippling doubts, and it's kind of amazing how individual she feels even as she's very deliberately not leaving the center path.

SPOILERS! It makes me want to take the most optimistic view of the final scene, a gut-punch by its very nature. I think, though, that this is why Gong-ju put so much importance in the swimming lessons - she knew that, at some point, things would get low enough that she would throw herself off a bridge, and she aimed to make sure that, when she came to her senses moments later, she would be able to get through it. !SRELIOPS

Full review on EFC

Suburban Gothic

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Aha, Kat Dennings! I knew I recognized her from somewhere!

Apparently, after Excision, writer/director Richard Bates Jr. couldn't get any work, in part because that thing was just ridiculously dark. So for his next one he bounced back with something still kind of freaky and gross but also aggressively light. Suburban Gothic is about a guy who can see ghosts and who must help one find her final rest Or Else, but there's barely a moment without something enjoyable goofy going on.

The script by Bates and Mark Bruner is a rapid-fire piece, but the cast keeps up with it, with star Matthew Gray Gubler a manic, irrepressible force driving the movie forward, bouncing off everyone else in the movie with fine wit and the sort of cheerful sarcasm that keeps the audience on his side, rather than thinking he's a whining, entitled prick. Dennings is a fine foil, and every movie should have Ray Wise in it, because he makes the racist jerk of a father that the main character moves back in with an utter delight to watch.

It's a goofy thing that, despite being very funny, kind of wore me out even at a mere ninety mminues. But I enjoyed most of it, even if the supernatural plot that held it together was the least interesting thing about it.

Full review on EFC

Zombie TV

* (out of four)
Seen 19 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

Yoshihiro Nishimura, Japanese makeup/special effects artist extrordinaire (and decent director as schlock goes), loves himself some zombies, and got a couple of other directors to go in with him making this riff on the things, 78 minutes of sketches purportedly coming from a network dedicated to zombie-oriented programming. Troubles are, that's a thin concept for a sketch movie, and the whole thing looks cheap. And the folks involved are not really that funny, with just a few rare exceptions.

Full review on EFC

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