Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Fantasia Daily 2015.15 (28 July 2015): Catch Me Daddy, Robbery, Cop Car, and Fatal Frame

Falling a day behind, because I want to get a review of Cop Car up before its theatrical release, and that's not happening otherwise.

Pretty impressive day, though - things got off to a pretty good start with Catch Me Daddy and Robbery, both of which were moved from de Seve to the larger room across the street, and while I don't know what motivated that, it was pretty cool. There was talk coming out of that one about how the next couple hours had to be attacked strategically for passholders, because if you saw Cub, odds were that when you got out the screening the line for Cop Car would be hopelessly long. Fortunately, I'd already seen that (at Fantastic Fest last fall), so I wandered around, knowing I should eat but not quite hungry, eventually settling for popcorn and a soda before getting back into line, wondering where some of these folks were for the movies where Kevin Bacon wouldn't be on-hand.

Before that, though, there was a short film that featured one of the kids from Cop Car. Not the girl above - Elena Lazorishak plays the other kid in director Rick Spears's pretty likable "Black Eyes" - but seeing the young actors show up to support their movies on a festival that features a lot of blood and guts is kind of weird but fun. How many movies do they wind up seeing with their Cast & Crew passes? Do they come to appear with a movie in which they're covered in fake blood only to have their parents look at the schedule and say "well, okay, I guess we can go see Minuscule tomorrow"?

That is Cop Car director Jon Watts and star Kevin Bacon, who seemed genuinely excited about this kind of weird little indie movie he did in the area where Watts grew up, talking about how it was great fun as an actor because the character was all on the page despite not having many actual lines, which gave him something very solid but with a lot of room to work. One fun anecdote from the Q&A was how Kyra Sedgwick was brought in as the voice of the police dispatcher - Watts phoned Bacon asking if he knew any actresses with the right kind of voice, sweet but authoritative, maybe a bit of a southern accent, knowing full well who he was married to, although Bacon initially thought he was asking totally sincerely.

Thankfully, the questions about other movies were kept more or less to a minimum; Watts basically shrugged when asked what lessons from small independent movies he could take to doing Spider-Man for Marvel ("more kids in peril, I guess"), and Bacon very kindly said that his character from Tremors is the one guy he's played that he'd like to check back in on twenty-five years later, but of course he can't comment on anything that may or may not be in the works at Universal.

And finally, Lee Hyunsoo, who I suspect is at least somewhat North America-based despite his short being listed as from South Korea - not only was the title in English, but it's a heck of a long way to come for a single screening of a 5-minute short otherwise. Then again, I'd be tempted to do so as well if I made a short screening in Seoul.

Kind of feel a bit sorry for him, as his short played before Fatal Frame which, for some reason, seemed to bring out the folks who wanted to respond in real-time, yelling something out during his short for a laugh at a moment that was mostly going for suspense.

Today's plan: Minuscule, La La La at Rock Bottom, dinner, Big Match, and Bite. I may opt for the Zappin' Party instead of the latter, and kind of wish I could fit the German Boy 7 in (though I kind of like having the Danish one be this singular weird experience anyway).

Catch Me Daddy

* * * (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2015 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Catch Me Daddy opens with a poem/folk tale about its Yorkshire setting, fitting enough but a bit surprising, as the story is driven by people and traditions that arrived in the UK from elsewhere. On the other hand, it's a movie where the heroine is at least second-generation and fairly well-assimilated, probably feeling that present location is more important that old customs herself.

One might not necessarily peg Leila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) as being of Pakistani descent right away - she's dyed her hair dirty blonde, dresses the same as the other girls working at the salon, and looks more tan than dark-skinned. She is, though, and her life in this small town with her handsome but unemployed boyfriend Aaron (Connor McCarron) is actually one in hiding. Her father wants his 20-year-old daughter back home and under his thumb, and probably not with a white guy. He's had people looking, and now that they think they know the right town, two teams have been sent. One is middle-eastern and includes seasoned hunter Junaid (Anwar Hussain) and Leila's brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad); the other Caucasian duo Barry (Barry Nunney) and Tony (Gary Lewis).

Filmmakers Daniel & Matthew Wolfe don't spend a whole lot of time explaining about honor killings or other nasty traditions that can maintain roots in an immigrant community. Instead, they tend to present the pursuit of Leila as just an ugly fact of life in that social and economic class, roughly equivalent to Aaron's stubborn unemployment or Tony's drug addiction. For the most part, things are on the move too much for this film to concentrate on day-to-day life in working-class England, but there are bits where they seem intent on blending the life-or-death struggles with the everyday ones. Leila and Aaron seem to have fled before, will again (if they survive this night), and that is their lot.

Full review on EFC.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Robbery is one of several movies in the festival that I didn't expect to be nearly as funny as it wound up being, and unlike He Never Died, this is full-out anything goes material, going for the big laugh at every opportunity and mostly getting them, even if this is a very crude, violent Hong Kong comedy and some bits are in questionable taste. Well, actually, no, not questionable - this film is tacky through and through.

It's also pretty darn slick, though - writer/director "Fire" Lee Ka-wing not only uses the space of the "Exceed" convenience store where most of the action takes place very well, but everything leading Lau Kin-ping (Derek Tsang Kwok-cheung) there is a niftily designed location built to look neat but also box Ping in. He upends situations gleefully, keeping what's going on in a constant state of flux, but despite all the blood flying and people turning on each other, the audience only briefly gets lost, and while there maybe isn't quite a heart of gold underneath, there are plenty of bits that keep the film from being the completely-vicious environment that some of its characters would consider the entire world.

There was a bit of grumbling about the very end - it's a twist that requires the rest of the movie to actually be a lot more carefully planned than the anarchy it seems to be - but I'd be willing to sit through it again to see how it all connects. I laughed pretty hard, and if the film is as clever as it is funny, it would be one of the festival's real stand-outs.

Full review on EFC.

"Black Eyes"

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, digital)

Just out of curiosity, is the Rick Spears who wrote and directed this the same as the comic book writer? The name seemed familiar and this is the sort of thing that might overlap, but who knows?

It's a pretty entertaining little short, regardless. It offers a boy (Hays Wellford) coming upon a girl (Elena Lazorishak) trying to slit her wrists with safety scissors, and when she asks if he's got a razor blade, he says yes but shows an alternate use for it - creating special effects makeup, which lets them pretend to go through death and zombiehood, although that doesn't mean their problems are solved by a long shot.

I liked this little movie; it starts out with a bit of what seems like kids being overly adult but drifts into honestly cute territory, and is able to give the kids a plain-spoken couple of lines to end the movie that work a whole heck of a lot more than one might have expected.

Cop Car

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, DCP)

Cop Car opens by dropping enough swearwords that even parents who missed the R rating might consider pulling their kids out, which is both necessary and a bit of a pity. A family-friendly take on the story could have been fun, although staying true to where writer/director Jon Watts sees the story creates something just as entertaining and probably more thrilling.

The cussing comes from Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford), two kids of about eight or nine sort of running away from home but mostly out exploring; at probably much less than the fifty miles they estimate that they've walked, they find a police car in the middle of nowhere with no-one around, and soon find that the front door is not only unlocked, but the keys fall right into their laps. Figuring they're expert Mario Kart players, they decide to take it for a spin.

How did it get there? The film rewinds a bit and shows Sheriff Mitch Kretzler (Kevin Bacon) pulling a body out of the trunk to dispose of. He lugs it a fair distance, so when he gets back to his parking spot he's got to figure out a way to cover up both his corruption and his screw-up, especially since that trunk wasn't completely empty.

Full review on EFC.

"Torment" (2015)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, HD)

Not a complicated movie - it's a man (John Kim) mourning the very recent loss of his wife (Lee Yuha), only to find out that she's not completely gone, and the bits of her that are still around are pretty angry. The key to it is the visual effects, which never look completely real but create pretty amusing images even as they're intent on murder.

Director Lee Hyunsoo gets in and out rather than lingering, which keeps the perhaps slightly campy execution from wearing out its welcome and keeps things from getting over-complicated. It's a good gag and a fine calling card for someone looking to show he can use effects in service of a story.

Gekij├┤-ban: Zero (Fatal Frame)

* * (out of four)
Seen 28 July 2015 in Theatre Hall Concordia (Fantasia International Film Festival, HD)

The festival program indicates that this film and the game Fatal Frame were based upon the same book, although the credits indicate that the book was based upon the game before being adapted into this film, although those specifics don't really matter. What's important is that screenwriter/director Mari Sato doesn't really make a good film, but does make something that's a little more striking than the usual product getting churned out.

I kind of suspect that a lot of the film's problems could be fixed by ripping about a half hour out to get it down to 75-80 minutes, and you could do it right up front, as there's a merry-go-round where it seems like three girls at a convent school who will never actually be important declare their love for classmate Aya Tsukimori (Ayami Nakajo), kiss her photograph at midnight, and vanish; there are also a pair of psychic invetigators that could go. You wouldn't lose much atmosphere getting things down to Aya and Michi Kazato (Aoi Morikawa) investigating the curse that only affects girls, and fewer might lose patience with the story.

The atmosphere, at least, is good stuff. Asato shoots this movie on 16mm film, giving it a very distinctive look that hearkens back to Italian chillers. It's genuinely spooky at points, and the weird mixture of Catholic imagery, a Hamlet translation turned into a hymn, spirit photography and anything else the writers could think of proves more potent than expected. Heck, just seeing characters in civilian dress after having been in dark, extra-modest school uniforms for the whole film seems a bit off-kilter.

I heard people griping the next day that this apparently has very little to do with the game, and this seemed to draw a fair amount of laughter and derision during the screening. It's not undeserved, but also not entirely fair; there are enough impressive bits to this movie that it doesn't deserve to be dismissed out of hand.

Full review on EFC.

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