Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Fantasia Daily 2015.09 (22 July 2015): 100 Yen Love, The Royal Tailor, Momentum, and The Master Plan

One of those days when I head out of the apartment with the actual names of movies less in my head than "de Seve, Hall, Hall, de Seve". For 100 Yen Love especially, I kind of needed to remind myself what I was seeing beforehand. Sometimes the day starts like that when you've got the one movie at de Seve that looks good but isn't necessarily a huge draw for you.

The night's guest was Momentum director Stephen S. Campanelli (l, with Action! programmer Éric S. Boisvert):

He had two claims to fame going into the screening of his directorial debut: First, that he has been Clint Eastwood's primary camera operator for twenty-odd years; second, that he actually went to Concordia University (Fantasia's primary home for the past decade-plus) and screened his student film at the Hall Theatre. As such, he had a lot of friends and people otherwise rooting for him in the audience.

He talked a lot about working with Eastwood, who often comes across as having a very light hand, trusting his crew to do their jobs and make decisions rather than micro-managing. It's a reminder that there are a lot of highly skilled people on a film set, and that even folks like the camera operators, whom audiences not in film production may think of as mainly technicians, are creative people working their way up and interacting with the people audience do know more than you might expect. In Campanelli's case, that meant he was able to make contacts with Olga Kurylenko and Morgan Freeman, adding a bit of juice to this small South African-shot movie.

Short reviews today, because a 10am press screening is the only way I'm seeing Turbo Kid at the festival. Then it's a day of either being a tourist or seeing Ant-Man (maybe a little of both) before catching The Real Miyagi and then likely going for Ju-on: The Final Curse over Cash Only, although I may come to my senses at the time. Anguish and Goodnight Mommy are both recommended.

Hyakuen no koi (100 Yen Love)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2015 in the J.A. de Sève Cinema (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Sakura Ando wears some baggy clothes toward the start of 100 Yen Love, because she's actually fairly attractive but this is a character who needs to burn off her frustrating slacker exterior, and that's how it's going to come across visually. It's the kind of thing that's fairly obvious when you know that this is going to be a boxing movie going in, although maybe less so otherwise.

Which you might not, since this movie can take some pretty random turns, with Ichiko Saito (Ando) putting up surprisingly little fight when asked to leave the family home where she's been living since dropping out of college roughly ten years earlier, seeming a lot more responsible and kind than one might expect as she starts her new job, and deciding to learn to box almost on a whim despite the fact that it comes right on the tail of her being attacked. Ichiko is so resistant to explaining herself that this obvious connection is hard to make - she's a weird mess of conflicting motivations that making a conventionally triumphant sports or romance about her seems pretty difficult.

That kind of makes it hard to embrace the film's ending - we're not far removed from "f--- that guy" where Yuji is concerned, even if he really does seem like the only other character who might understand what Ichiko needs at that point. Coming at the end of an uncomfortable but kind of unsurprising finale, it's a weird way to end the movie, although in some ways that's only appropriate - Ichiko just isn't going to follow a conventional arc, no matter how one might want her to.

Full review on EFC.

Sanguiwon (The Royal Tailor)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

I've been looking to make a "costume drama" joke about this film ever since I first heard of it, but for most of the running time, that doesn't seem quite appropriate, because for the first half or so, this is mainly a very funny, good-natured movie, even if the filmmakers are laying the foundations for the heavier material that will come later. In that regard, the script is fairly clever, although perhaps the last act requires the audience to be more tuned into this particular king's capriciousness than maybe I was.

Still, there's a really powerful set of character relationships making the movie very watchable from moment to moment. It's easy to expect the relationship between conservative Royal Tailor Dol-suk (Han Suk-kyu) and upstart Kong-jin (Ko Soo) to be much more contentious, but watching them quickly warm to each other is one of the film's great pleasures, The relationship between the King and Queen is easily understood but not easily untangled, while there's a chemistry between Kong-jin and the Queen that teeters on the edge of forbidden romance.

And, man, just look at the clothes. I think the light early tone of The Royal Tailor helps a lot, because it allows the filmmakers to introduce traditional Korean clothing with comedy about its impracticality that allows the characters to talk about fashion and design in a way that engages more than the audience that is typically enthusiastic about such things, keeping us engaged as they actually become much more central to the plot. By the end, wardrobe is life and death and it not only doesn't seem absurd, it's fascinating even to those who would never, ever have any part of the recent spate of fashion-oriented movies that have played the boutique houses in America.

The wrap-up may seem a bit tidy, but it's perhaps necessary to "hide" this story in the actual history. It takes a bit of the air out of a delightful movie that otherwise transitions nicely to intrigue, but not that much.

Full review on EFC.


* ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival: Action!, DCP)

I've got two really frustrated notes on the pad that I usually just use to note character names for Momentum, one about how a car chase was terribly choppy and another frustrated at one character dropping another's backstory that we neither need nor, at the point, particularly care about into the middle of a torture scene that was already just overlong and pointless. Who cares? Why work so hard to give a reason for the heroine not being a monster when "I'm not a complete sociopath" will do?

As you might guess from that, Momentum is one of those (likely) VOD-bound action movies that focuses on entirely the wrong things. At their scale and in their market, there's much more word of mouth to be gained from clarity and great staging than anything else, so make those car chases something where you can see relative positions in a shot, pull back a step and hire people who can fight hand-to-hand without extreme close-ups and cuts, and maybe don't be sadistic when killing people without good reason. Weak and obligatory one-lines amid rote banter aren't going to get you noticed, nor is a big Macguffin that you're not actually going to play out.

What's Momentum offer other than bulk to a cable-box menu and a paycheck for a couple of B-list actors? I honestly can't think of anything, and as there are things I don't demand from 90-minute units of action, I do want inventiveness, and Momentum lacks that to a frustrating extent.

Full review on EFC.

Jönssonligan - Den perfekta stöten (The Master Plan)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 July 2015 in the J.A. de Sève Cinema (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

More of this, please.

I've got no idea whether this reboot of Sweden's "Jönssonligan" franchise was popular enough to spawn sequels, but I want it to be. It's a neat, tight little caper movie that introduces its characters quickly, has them play out a set of linked heists with style and panache, and never forgets, even if it was a loved one's murder that kicks things off, that these adventures are supposed to be fun.

I like the cast as well. Simon J. Berger marries an Alan Rickman voice to a methodical character but does so with surprising charm and warmth. Alexander Karim makes the con artist of the group a cut-up, Torkel Petersson makes a depressed demolitions expert funny without (I think) being offensive, and Susanne Thorson has an impish but professional charm as the safecracker. I believe "Rocky" was a man in the earlier iterations of the series (and Karim's Ragnar Vanheden was white), so it's a bit of an updated and diversified cast, but one that works well together. The villains are fun and threatening, but thankfully secondary.

In some ways, I have less to say about this one than others I liked less; it's a modestly-sized caper that amuses and doesn't stumble, rare enough to be worth praising even though that's kid of what these movies are expected to do.

Full review on EFC.

No comments: