Friday, July 17, 2015

The Fantasia Daily 2015.03 (16 July 2015): "L'Etrange Province: Le Sasquatch", Torrente: Mission Eurovegas, and Office.

No guests/horrible photography today, and an early start needed on Friday, so we'll keep this very brief.

As in, just today's plan: Therapy for a Vampire, Bridgend, and Cruel in de Seve; Assassination Classroom and Cooties in Hall; and then back across the street for the Ugandan madness.

"L'Étrange Province: Le Sasquatch"

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, HD)

I haven't yet checked to see if the webseries "L'Étrange Province" is generally available with English subtitles or not. I'll be a bit upset if it's not, because this "Sasquatch" episode made me laugh pretty hard at several points, and I would certainly like to see more.

The gag is that Carl & Frank (Mathieu Handfield & Simon Lacroix) are investigating the weird and unusual, and though both tend to be believers to a point, Frank is more likely to call BS on cryptozoology than aliens, ghosts, etc., and do it rather cheerfully. Confronted with a guy in Coaticook who claims to have been abducted by a pair of the creatures, he's sarcastically undercutting everything his partner does.

It's a fun dynamic, and probably even more fun for native Quebeckers who likely get a lot more of the regional humor (and regional legends). The energy to it is fun regardless, and though we were clearly coming into the middle of a TV season, it feels like something that woul be really easy to pick up.

Torrente V: Misión Eurovegas (Torrente: Mission Eurovegas)

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

The fifth entry in a Spanish action-comedy series is an odd place for a well-known American actor like Alec Baldwin who has apparently not burned that many bridges back home to show up, and his character spends much of the movie grumbling questions about why he's working with these dolts. And, honestly, it's a question that folks who aren't fans of the franchise are going to be asking in a more meta sense, even if there's a bit of Ugly American-ism in wondering why he would bother with this movie which was, actually, a massive hit in Spain.

For those of us coming in late, José Luis Torrente (writer/director/star Santiago Segura) is a former cop of the racist-sexist-moron variety, and he has just spent several years in jail for whatever the heck happened in Torrente 4. Now it's 2018, Spain has been kicked out of the European Union and Catalan has declared its independence, and Torrente has decided he will become an outlaw. Fortunately, the contacts he made in prison include John Marshall (Baldwin), an American security consultant who knows Madrid's "EuroVegas" casino inside out, and has Torrente recruit a team to take it down during the final of the World Cup. Unfortunately, the people Torrente knows are, by and large, idiots.

Truth be told, I don't get much of a kick out of characters like Torrente where the audience is supposed to laugh at not just his bumbling but also his political incorrectness; the story always has them drifting toward being protagonists rather than just objects of ridicule. Comedy doesn't require someone to root for, but it's a natural thing to seek in a narrative, and Mission Eurovegas has too much plot to just point an laugh for its entire length unless the satire is a lot sharper.

Full review on EFC.

O piseu (Office)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 16 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

I don't know if Office ever really gets back around to the question that kicks it off in a definitive way, or if where it winds up going instead is really as fascinating as the filmmakers would have us think. Its corporate pressure-cooker environment certainly does a nice job of building into a potentially cutthroat situation.

That initial hook has Kim Byung-guk (Bae Sung-woo), a manager at the Cheil Company in Seoul, getting a drink after work, heading home, passing a completely normal evening with his family, and then viciously killing them with a hammer. The next day, intern Lee Mirae (Ko A-Sung) arrives at the same office to find a detective (Park Sung-woong) managing the case and her bosses telling her that the police don't need to know anything that might just embarrass the company. On top of this, a new intern (Son Soo-hyun) is being brought in, and the police have found surveillance footage that suggests Byung-guk returned to the office building after the murders and hasn't been seen to leave yet.

Cheil won't soon be found on any "great places to work" lists; it's cliquy and Director Kim Sang-gyu (Kim Eui-sung) seems to be the type that considers bullying and leadership to be one and the same. It's the sort of office where workplace stress leading to serial murder - and the culture valuing company loyalty and difficulty of landing a new job means that having a murderer lurking in the shadows may not quite be enough to finally quit. While writer Choi Yun-jin sets that up, director Hong Won-chan and crew make sure that the corporate chill appears on-screen, with a tight cube farm that tucks everybody away until they need to show up but does't actually afford any privacy, complemented by an eerie silence that gets drowned out when there's a storm outside. It's corporate hell, with Mirae not just exploited as the young girl desperate to move up from her humble origins, but not even able to look away from the people doing so.

Full review on EFC.

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