Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Fantasia Daily 2014.09: Mr. Go, Yasmine, Goal of the Dead

Up until last year, I don't think I ever had any trouble using my debit card when I traveled, but it would just not work at random places in Paris, and yesterday it got refused at both the King Tut exhibit and at an ATM before I managed to find a bank with an ATM inside and stem any panic that I might have to figure out the rest of my vacation with the single Canadian five dollar bill in my pocket. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary, and I had some poutine with smoked meat after seeing the pretty awesome display of Tut's treasures, located in a run-down-looking warehouse on the waterfront.

To the movies!

These are the glasses used in Théâtre Hall to show Mr. Go (and three other movies in the festival) in 3D, and I like them pretty well. They're a bit heavier than the RealD glasses typically handed out at the multiplex, but not by enough to really be noticeable during a 135-minute movie like Mr. Go. I was able to tilt my head without things going out of alignment, and it let Concordia use a standard screen (I'm not sure what the projection requirements would be).

When asked why she made her first (and her country's first) movie about silat, Yasmine director Siti Kamaluddin (center) said "because it's awesome" and made a ton of new friends in Montreal. It was a fun Q&A for a pretty good movie, with Kamaluddin talking about how even though Brunei didn't really have a film industry of its own - Yasmine is the first commercially-produced feature to come out of the place - it's not a country where it was an impossible undertaking due to poverty or censorship, with American, Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian movies all playing there regularly. There was also a lot of praise and interest in its portrayal of a Muslim country which is nevertheless fairly modern and open, by all appearances.

Today's plans? Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder, Uzumasa Limelight, Heavenly Sword, Puzzle, Let Us Prey, and Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, although I'm open to changes

Mr. Go

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival, Xpand 3D)

I'm not going to sugar-coat this - Mr. Go is not the best possible movie that could be made about a gorilla who plays professional baseball. It's got some real problems. But barring this one doing well enough to bring forth Son of Mr. Go, it's likely the only one we're going to get, and if gorillas playing professional baseball sounds like something you'd like, Mr. Go certainly has its moments.

Plains gorilla Ling Ling doesn't go straight to the Korean Baseball Organization, of course; he starts out in a Chinese circus, although when the ringmaster who trained him died in the Yilin earthquake, it leaves his granddaughter Zhao Weiwei (Jiao Xu) a million dollars in debt to banker Lin Xiaogang (Kim Hee-won). Enter perennial KBO doormat the Doosan Bears and mercenary agent Sung Chung-su (Sung Dong-il), who manage to sign the power-hitting ape as a DH/pinch-hitter for the season's second half, with Weiwei coming to South Korea as his handler. Of course, Sung just sees the KBO as a stepping stone, and Lin means to get his money one way or the other, even if it involves Leiting, the circus's other, less friendly, mountain gorilla.

Mr. Go has a script that falters in a number of ways that seem rather obvious - for instance, the entire Bears team is basically extras rather than characters, and it seems like some material about how the players and coaches react to having a 300kg gorilla and his 15-year-old girl handler in the dugout might make it into the movie, but there's nothing. The last-act machinations around potentially selling Ling Ling's services to a Japanese team may be true to what being a fan of the KBO is like, but it's boring, not about any character in whom the audience has any interest. And when you get right down to it, I'm not sure what it's supposed to be about in terms of theme. That it takes a gorilla for Sung to learn not to treat ballplayers as property? Maybe, but what it's doing with Weiwei is all over the map. Screenwriter/director Kim Yong-hwa will have scenes about how she's still a kid and in over her head, and then reward her immature outburst, or build up how she shouldn't trust Sung and then have the only way forward be to do exactly that. It makes the movie feel like it's pushing against itself needlessly when there's absolutely nothing wrong with a movie for kids about gorillas playing baseball having a simple moral lesson to it rather than complexity or, perish the thought, realism.

Full review at EFC


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival: The Best Years of My Life?, DCP)

A lot of what audiences see in Yasmine will be fairly familiar and predictable, but give the filmmakers a little slack - it's the first movie that the nascent film industry in Brunei Darussalam has produced, and it doesn't hurt to walk before you run. This is a pretty decent teen sports movie, and its high points are pretty good.

It starts with the title character (Liyana Yus) discovering that she won't be going to college with her high school friends because her father Fahri (Resa Rahadian) doesn't make enough as a librarian to secure the needed loan. It's bad enough that her friends start to drift away, and worse when Adi Rahman (Aryl Falak), a boy she likes who is also a rising star in the martial art of silat, starts paying more attention to his teammate Dewi (Mentari De Marelle). The only thing to do is join her school's silat club and do well enough to get Adi to notice her again - not so easy when her only teammates are stuffy Ali (Roy Sungkono) and bulky Nadia (Nadiah Wahid), it's quite possible that the club's adviser doesn't know anything about silat at all and the only other master they find who will teach them, Jamal (Agus Kuncoro), is in a wheelchair. Oh, and Fahri has forbidden Yasmine to have anything to do with silat at all.

Events in the main story don't always happen right on schedule, but they cover the basics - Yasmine starts out fairly irresponsible and full of herself, makes new friends, has success go to her head, and finds out that there's more to her father than she was aware of. For the most part, those bits are comfortable but not rote, especially since the details of how this plays out in Brunei are new to most in the international audience - it's an Islamic country, but one where women appear to have equal rights. The setting is quite beautiful but also a lived-in city. Some bits of the scripts seem to be stretched bit far, such as Yasmine seeking "the dark master", and there will sometimes be what seem like weeks of stuff going on between scenes that are referred to as days apart, but it's fairly well-done overall.

Full review at EFC

Goal of the Dead

* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2014 in Théâtre Hall (Fantasia Festival, DCP)

At first glance, "zombie soccer" sounds like the sort of novelty horror-comedy that really should be about half of Goal of the Dead's two hour and twenty minute length, and I wonder if the filmmakers thought that as well, because it's built to split into two, with a new director and even new opening credits at the midway point. So it's almost shocking that this thing works - it's a chaotic but clever film with more than obvious sports gags up its sleeve.

It starts with Olympique de Paris, a soccer team fairly close to relegation, heading to the provinces for a match with Caplongue's club team with reporter Solène Belanger (Charlie Bruneau) along for the ride. Their amiable, long-time veteran of seventeen years Sam Lorit (Alban Lenoir) is from the town, but they're not exactly eager to welcome him back or particularly thrilled to see rising star Idriss Diago (Ahmed Sylla). Well, most of them aren't; some young women like Béné (Joana Person) and Cléo (Tiphaine Daviot) have their eyes on the Parisian team. But when the Caplongue team's star Jeannot Belvaux (Sebastien Vandenberghe) is injected not with performance-enhancing drugs but something akin to 28 Days Later's rage virus, all hell breaks loose, and where does out-of-control violence spread better than at a hotly contested European soccer game?

The filmmakers don't pull a From Dusk til Dawn-style switch here; the infection is contracted early, even if it does take patient zero a bit of time to actually make it to the stadium. They do give themselves enough time to play much of the first half as a pretty good sports comedy, with all the pieces there for an entertaining movie even if it were virus-free, including some laugh-out-loud bits as Solène tries to interview Idriss on the bus and the Olympique coach is doesn't know what to make of the three Koreans named Park on his team. Director Benjamin Rocher handles that part well before handing the reins over to Thierry Poiraud, who runs with an outbreak in full swing. There are moments when it seems like they are working relatively independently of each other, with both the two directors and the half-dozen writers throwing in elements of their own and then doing the best they can to stitch it together in the editing room so that it mostly makes sense.

Full review at EFC

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