Friday, July 24, 2015

The Fantasia Daily 2015.10 (23 July 2015): The Real Miyagi, Cash Only, and Ant-Man

Not quite the day I'd planned on yesterday. The idea was to see the press screening of Turbo Kid at Cinema de Parc, and I was almost in good shape to make it, but second-guessed myself into a mess, getting off at the wrong subway stop and then not reading the maps right to realize that Bleury turned into Parc at an intersection, so going too far in the wrong direction and eventually missing it. I wound up using the morning to have S'Mores French Toast at Eggspectation and then catch Ant-Man (how the heck does a weekday 11:30am movie, even on a larger screen in 3D, cost $18, Montreal? That's nuts!). After that, I had time to head to the Old Port and check out the video game exposition at the Science Center.

Guys, they have an Atari Jaguar with Tempest 2000 running on it there. I may have spent an hour on that, and I certainly need to get my Jaguar working once I get back home because that game is awesome and playing it without the sound just increases my craving for the full experience.

I lost my last life just as the exhibition halls were closing and got back to the festival just as The Real Miyagi was starting. Nice little movie, although seeing the crowdfunding credits at the end, I found myself imagining a future where we're all kind of judged on what sort of labor-of-love documentary is made about us in our twilight years. I don't know if anybody could raise the money for a short for me.

I had a free slot after that - I'd seen Goodnight Mommy and wasn't getting into Turbo Kid. A bummer, that, but there's no need to try and cram me into a sold out screening or another just because I'll blog about it and couldn't remember directions earlier. It gave me a chance to have a second actual sit-down meal in a single festival day (weird, I know), heading over to Mr. Steer. They've gotten a little fancier in the past few years, still basically a diner at heart, but I was able to order a half-pound "giant" burger which apparently had Rochefort kneaded directly into the beef. Really good, as usual - Mr. Steer has some of the best burgers in the area, especially once you strip away the fancy toppings and just judge the grilled meat.

After that, I made myself proud by skipping Ju-On: The Last One, Really and watching Cash Only. I ran into some friends there - some like Paul who'd been there all along and wanted to talk about how Goodnight Mommy didn't fake them out properly and others like Kurt who just got here - and settled in for what was likely a much better movie than the sequel to the remake I didn't like anyway.

A good showing of filmmakers: Director Malik Bader, writer/lead Nickola Shreli, executive producer Ele Bardha, cinematographer Christos Moisides, and editor Matt Diezel. A really fun group, especially since they were happy to talk about how sometimes things came together because they were aware of what they might not be able to pull off, like casting the "Dino" character very differently from the original inspiration, a decision which also gave the film a little added verisimilitude as it allowed them to imply Serbian-Albanian tension on top of what's already going on.

Today's plan: At de Seve for On the White Planet and then Hall for Full Strike, Tales of Halloween, and The Ninja War of Torakage. Possessed is also a fun midnight.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2015 in Scotia Bank Cinemas Montreal #7 (first-run, AVX DCP w/Real 3D)

It was just yesterday I was talking about how good heist movies move like such a well-oiled machine that there's not much to talk about, which makes Ant-Man especially interesting because it was very publicly not a well-oiled machine for a while, with the man who had been developing it for years walking off the project and Marvel scrambling to find a replacement and not have anyone else who might have signed up to work with Edgar Wright bail as well. Thankfully, they found good people in Adam McKay and Peyton Reed rather than doubling down on the studio flacks who might have otherwise been put in charge, and the result is a whole lot of fun.

That Marvel is doing a comedic heist movie between their big event movies is kind of great, and it does not hurt at all that Paul Rudd fits the part of Scott Lang like a glove and is surrounded by other good people, including Michael Douglas, who maybe isn't playing the Hank Pym of the comics but certainly feels like what he may have become if those characters were allowed to age in real-time. Corey Stoll takes "comic book villain" and bites into it hard, and Peyton Reed helps give the movie a really zippy sort of life. He's the exact sort of guy that people would have been thrilled with Marvel hiring in the first place if we hadn't had years of expecting Edgar Wright.

That said, you can see some of the reasons why Wright walked off - the Avengers tie-ins to what he planned as something outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe are intrusive, and for as fun as Stoll makes his character, he doesn't feel like the sort of thing a detail-obsessed filmmaker like Wright would make. Still, they did inherit a lot of his action planning, which makes for good fun without going too big, an occasional superhero movie sticking point. On top of that, the thing could have been PG if they'd maybe toned some language down a bit, even down to the alternates they used in the preview ("I want you to break into a place and steal a thing" is funnier than "...and steal some shit", anyway).

It's kind of amazing - nobody would have been surprised if Ant-Man collapsed as a disaster, but Marvel recovered really nicely to make one of the most purely entertaining movies in the franchise. Their success record is really enviable.

The Real Miyagi

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2015 in the J.A. de Sève Cinema (Fantasia International Film Festival: Documentaries from the Edge, HD)

There have always been a fair number of documentaries like The Real Miyagi, but I wonder if there are a lot more in the future. Equipment to shoot/record fairly well in 2K is readily available, if not quite cheap, it's a lot easier to track down archival material than it was, and if you get the right subject, the path to getting certain parts crowd-funded is clear. Furio Demura is the right kind of subject - reasonably interesting, willing to be involved, and able to inspire folks to go to participate. Fortunately, the things that can get this sort of movie made also tend to make it interesting.

Demura was an impressive karate fighter in early-1960s Yokohama, but when organizational politics started pushing him back in favor of new faces, he opted to come to California with one suitcase, $300, and just about no English. He faced a great deal of prejudice early on, but not only founded a dojo in 1965 but through his personal charisma, drive, and great skill with nunchaku, he was a key figure in popularizing karate in America, including serving as an inspiration (and double) for Mister Miyagi in The Karate Kid.

Director Kevin Derek doesn't quite lead with that, since Demura suffered a cerebral edema and fell into a coma that doctors gave him a roughly five percent chance of coming out of when the film was about a year into production (17 March 2011, to be precise). Aside from being a rough thing to deal with when the filmmaker clearly has a great deal of personal fondness for his subject, it's something that is clearly going to hang over the film as a whole and almost requires explanation: Depending on when various interviews about the same parts of Demura's life were shot, there will be some sharply different tones right next to each other.

Full review on EFC.

Cash Only

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 23 July 2015 in the J.A. de Sève Cinema (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

There are a lot of actors where following the usual advice to "write what you know" will not get them the noteworthy part they crave; former Detroit landlord Nickola Shreli is not one of them. He has probably never been in the sort of binds that his character has, but he and director Malik Bader have built a tense little film about an underseen environment, so it was at least a good starting place.

The movie itself doesn't start in a great place, as Elvis Martini (Shreli) sets a fire in a building he owns for the insurance, only to realize with horror that his wife is inside. Two years later, he's raising his daughter alone and quite broke: The bank is threatening to foreclose on his other building, being a fellow Albanian-American will only get him so far with the loan shark he owes ten grand, his daughter Lena is out of school because he can't pay the tuition, and one of the only two of his tenants that will pay the rent on time is using the basement to grow weed. When he evicts Rolexa (Maia Noni), a call girl who hasn't paid her rent in three months, he finds a bag of cash that won't completely get him out from under, but will go a long way. Except, of course, that this would be the first time in movie history that taking a bag of money that's just laying around would keep things from getting much, much worse.

The filmmakers take their time getting there, though that's not something to complain about. Neighborhoods that are at least partly ethnic enclaves like the Hamtramck area of Detroit have personalities and rhythms that the audience needs to get used to, and getting to know the world that "Visi" lives in and his place in it is an important part of the movie. It also gives the filmmakers time to plant that Elvis isn't really taking things seriously enough in the viewer's head, letting both a fondness for the character and the possibility that things will go very wrong build simultaneously.

Full review on EFC.

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