2011 log (7)

(2 Jul) Milocrorze: A Love Story (2011, Yoshimasa Ishibashi) 70
[ In many ways, “Milocrorze” is a showcase for actor Takayuki Yamada, who plays the three very different yet equally iconic lead characters: youth counsellor Besson Kumagai, who comes off like a cross between Frank T.J. Mackey and Austin Powers; Tamon, a mild-mannered man who turns into a vengeful samurai when the girl he loves is kidnapped; and Ovreneli Vreneligare, a poor sap who had his heart broken by the titular Milocrorze when he was a little boy. “Milocrorze: A Love Story” blends fantasy, romance, comedy, irresistible dance numbers and badass action sequences, climaxing with a show-stopping six-minute combat sequence inspired by traditional Japanese painting and kabuki theatre. ]

(3 Jul) The FP (2011, Trost Bros.) 66
[ While I’ve seen many objectively better films at Fantasia this year, I still have a particular fondness for Jason and Brandon Trost’s ridiculously enjoyable film about the underground war between two gangs for control of Frazier Park, a.k.a. “the FP.” At this point, I should point out that the aforementioned gang members are all dressed in 1980s attire and that when they confront each other, they do so by playing a variation of the Dance Dance Revolution video game called Beat Beat Revelation! In addition to co-writing and co-directing, Jason Trost stars as the eyepatch-wearing JTRO, who’s forced to pick up the mantle and bring his clan to victory after the death of BTRO, their leader. While the plot is beyond silly, it’s mostly played straight, which makes it all the funnier. The film also happens to be pretty damn well crafted, from Brandon Trost’s stylish cinematography to George Holdcroft’s synth-heavy score. Still, it remains close to a Troma-produced B-movie in spirit, with apparent nods to 80s flicks like “The Warriors”, “Escape From New York”, “Commando” and “Rocky IV” (training montages!) thrown in for good measure. ]

(4 Jul) Ninja Kids!!! (2011, Takashi Miike) 64
[ Adapted from manga/anime series “Ninja Rantaro Flunks Again”, this is sorta-kinda what a “Harry Potter” movie would be like if it was directed by Takashi Miike. Telling the story of a boy’s first year at Ninja Academy and subsequent involvement in a conflict between a family of hair stylists and assassins, “Ninja Kids!!!” is colorful, alternately goofy and brutal (although in a cartoonish way), full of ridiculous characters (including a “friendly ninja trivia commentator”!), kind of messy but mostly a lot of fun. ]

(6 Jul) Post Grad (2009, Vicky Jenson) 19
[ Here’s a hopelessly formulaic flick that’s not even sure what formula it’s trying to follow. The title and initial premise suggest that’s it’s about the trials facing college graduates when they enter the job market… But then this seems to be forgotten about until, late in the game, the protagonist (Alexis Bledel playing a slight variation on Rory Gilmore) is handed the job of her dream on a platter – only to quit shortly afterwards. Why? You guessed it, a boy. Because that’s the other thing: “Post Grad” is also a romantic comedy about a girl caught beween a sexy, older Brazilian man (Rodrigo Santoro) and her lifelong BFF (Zach Gilford), who has long been in unrequited love with her… Again, you can guess where this is going. On top of the half-assed graduate story and predictable rom-com, “Post Grad” poorly attempts to be one of those quirky family comedies à la “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Juno”. But even though the supporting cast should be awesome in theory (Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, Carol Burnett, J.K. Simmons, etc.), they’re stuck with one-dimensional roles, lifeless dialogue and hardly any plot to speak of. Instantly forgettable. ]

(10 Jul) Kaboom (2011, Gregg Araki) 5
[ If some film school dipshit had directed this embarassingly bad gay hipster knockoff of “Donnie Darko” about young people fucking, mysterious men in animal masks and visions of the end of the world, it would be one thing. But isn’t Gregg Araki getting a bit long in the tooth to be making such juvenile, self-indulgent schlock? ]

(11 Jul) The Whisperer in Darkness (2011, Sean Branney) 68
[ This adaptation of the 1931 H.P. Lovecraft short story, about a folklorist (Matt Foyer)’s encounter with sanity-defying mystery and horror in the eeriest corners of Vermont, is not only a period piece but also a brilliant pastiche of Golden Age filmmaking. The pulpy storytelling, the film noir-style narration, the ominous orchestral score, the stark b&w cinematography, the old-fashioned acting… It really seems like this a long-lost gem from the ‘30s that’s just been discovered. ]

(12 Jul) Retreat (2011, Carl Tibbetts) 77
[ Starting as a psychological drama about a couple (Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton) whose marriage is on the rocks, “Retreat” then morphs into a truly suspenseful claustrophobic and paranoid thriller. Almost entirely set in a cabin on a secluded island,the film grows increasingly tense after a mysterious young private, played by the scarily intense Jamie Bell, arrives with news of a lethal outbreak and orders the couple to board themselves up -along with him- in the cabin… It almost never lets up until the staggeringly brutal ending. A truly auspicious debut feature from Carl Tibbetts. ]

(14 Jul) Red State (2011, Kevin Smith) 88
[ Inspired by Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church and their bullshit “God Hates Fags” campaign, but also by the Waco siege and the U.S. government’s post-9/11 excesses, Smith has put together a violently nihilistic film that comes off like an unholy cross between “Hostel”, “There Will Be Blood” and “Die Hard”, if that makes any sense. Going back and forth between horror, action and black comedy, all the while blasting away at religion and politics, “Red State” blends genres and juggles tone in ways that call to mind Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers.

This is the Kevin Smith of “Dogma” back with a vengeance, delivering a gritty-as-fuck flick that’s not without its flaws (a bit too much exposition here, a shaky scene there), but that skilfully pushes the audience’s buttons more often than not. For what it’s worth, it certainly played like gangbusters at Fantasia.

Talking about it with various folks after the screening, I did run into a few people who hated it, but even those had nothing but praise for Michael Parks and his riveting portrayal of Pastor Abin Cooper. I personally also got a kick out of Nicholas Braun, Michael Angarano and Kyle Gallner as the hilariously sleazy teenagers who inadvertently put the plot into motion, Melissa Leo as one of the most fanatical members of the Cooper family, and John Goodman as an ATF agent who shows up two thirds of the way through and practically walks away with the movie. ]

(15 Jul) Milocrorze: A Love Story (2011, Yoshimasa Ishibashi) 70
[ See above. ]

(15 Jul) A Lonely Place to Die (2011, Julian Gilbey) 79
[ Amidst the breathtaking scenery of the Scottish Highlands, a group of mountain climbers find themselves hunted down by creepy men with guns after they rescue a Serbian girl they found buried alive. Full of gasp-worthy moments, this mercilessly intense and action-packed thriller is driven by a very physical performance from Melissa George, not unlike the one of Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens”. Not for the faint of heart! ]

(17 Jul) Endhiran (2011, S. Shankar) 72
[ Superstar Rajni portrays both an android and his creator in this typically overstuffed but always entertaining Indian blockbuster. Over the 170-minute length, it swings between science-fiction, slapstick, action, musical and melodrama, as Chitty the robot and Dr. Vaseegaran end up fighting each other for the love of a woman, played by the ever gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. Expect a lot of ridiculous nonsense, but also some genuinely awesome set pieces and fun song-and-dance numbers. ]

(20 Jul) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, Joe Johnston) 82
[ The latest Marvel Studios production is a wonderfully old-fashioned World War II adventure that seems to take its cues from 1930s and 40s serials, just like the “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” flicks did (not-so-incidentally, Joe Johnson worked on both those series back in the day). “Captain America: The First Avenger” takes its time to tell the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans<), a weak but fundamentally decent and brave little man who becomes tall and powerful after taking part in a U.S. army experiment. Many awesome super-heroics follow as Captain America takes on the evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and his HYDRA minions, kicking their asses all across Nazi-occupied Europe. Earnest but not without a sense of humour, Johnston’s beautifully crafted film is great fun from beginning to end. ]

(23 Jul) He’s Just Not That into You (2009, Ken Kwapis) 65
[ For the most part, this ensemble movie is not so much a romantic comedy as an insightful movie about dating and relationships. It juggles around with 8 or 9 characters who are either pathetic, manipulative, naive, cynical, hypocritical… Inevitably uneven, it sometimes falters (the whole Jennifer Connelly/Bradley Cooper thread is lame, though Scarlett Johansson makes for a convincing temptress), but otherwise it kept me involved and entertained enough (the Ginnifer Goodwin/Justin Long stuff, Jennifer Aniston/Ben Affleck, the glorified cameo by Drew Barrymore). Unfortunately, whatever good will it’s earned, it almost entirely spoils when it suddenly decides to go for a series of contrived rom-com happy endings at the end. ]

(24 Jul) Lords of Dogtown (2005, Catherine Hardwicke) meh
[ Caught this on TV and tried to watch it, but phased out here and there… I mean, it recreates the time and place (Santa Monica and Venice, California circa 1975) well enough and it features a cast of capable young actors (Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, Michael Angarano and Heath Ledger) as the Z-Boys, a group of skateboarders who revolutionized the sport… But where’s the story? Okay, so they were great skaters, they got famous, had some falling-outs between them, and that’s about that. Insert endless, repetititve, tiresome scenes of skateboarding and partying. At least, if we cared about the characters, we might care about watching them do whatever they do, but they’re depicted as such morons and assholes! I stand by my ‘meh’. ]

(26 Jul) Sur le rythme (2011, Charles-Olivier Michaud) 41
[ In his first starring role, “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” winner Nico Archambault does his best Swayze, not necessarily proving to be a great actor but displaying ample charisma and screen presence. And boy, can the guy move! If it were just for the numerous dance scenes, which are skilfully choreographed by Archambault and directed by Charles Olivier-Michaud (Slamdance award-winner “Snow & Ashes”) and often set in interestingly grungy locations, this Québécois take on the “Dirty Dancing”/”Step Up” formula would be worth recommending. Alas, the movie also features a lot of clichés and bad melodrama, most of it having to do with the young female protagonist (Mylène Saint-Sauveur) butting heads with her stereotypically disapproving parents (Marina Orsini and Paul Doucet). ]

(28 Jul) The Future (2011, Miranda July) 75
[ You know you’re not watching an ordinary, run-of-the-mill film when it begins with Paw Paw the cat’s inner monologue, and then it only grows quirkier and more surreal as it goes along. Ostensibly about the disintegration of the relationship between a dance teacher (writer-director Miranda July, who also does the voice of Paw Paw) and a tech support guy (Hamish Linklater) who quit his job to volunteer for an environmental organization, “The Future” is more fundamentally concerned with the abstract nature of time and all those weird little moments that make life so fascinating. Not quite as sublime as her previous “Me and You and Everyone We Know”, July’s second feature is still full of elusive beauty, casually poetic dialogue and grace notes. ]

June / August