Monday, October 3, 2011

Fantastic Fest 2011: Day Two

In case it's not obvious, I'll be using these posts to wax cinematic about the movies I watch and provide a brief description of each film to give my reviews some context. I plan to write-up the films in the order I watch them and in full disclosure I stole all of the synopses from a number of websites that are not Posterocalypse. By the year 2012 I just might have made it through all eight days. Day two. Go!


SYNOPSIS: Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo) is a cab driver in Yanji City, a Chinese region between North Korea and Russia dominated mostly by Joseonjok, Chinese citizens of Korean ancestry. After going into extreme debt with shady types who smuggle his wife into Korea to work, Gu-nam fears his wife has left him in Yanji for good when he hasn’t heard from her for six months. The opportunity for him to pay off all liabilities comes in the form of an offer from Myung-ga (Kim Yun-seok), a powerful crime boss to whom Gu-nam owes many mahjong gambling losses. Gu-nam accepts but gets far more than he bargained for when his plans go off the rails.

REVIEW: Remember that scene in Oldboy with the hammer? If you've seen the movie then you know exactly what I'm talking about. There's a hammer, a Korean guy named Oh Dae-su, about twenty henchmen and an epic nail-biting (word play!) battle. Well, The Yellow Sea is pretty much that scene multiplied by a hundred. And that my friends is a beautiful, beautiful thing. That's an over simplification of course, there's a really interesting story going on, but I was completely enamored by the intense and relentless action scenes. The director, Hong-jin Na, who also made The Chaser, a brilliant cat-and-mouse revenge thriller, has done it again and created another amazing revenge / chase film. By the way, what gives with Koreans and revenge? They are the masters of that genre!

STATUS: The film is partially funded by Fox International Productions and Fox World Cinema has the US DVD rights.

RATING: 5/5 Stars


SYNOPSIS: An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.

REVIEW: I loved this film! Warning: the following sentences are possibly the vaguest spoilers you'll ever read, but I thought I would still give you a heads up (I know how us Internet people can be). Fantastic Fest is filled with so many bleak and depressing films, it's always a breath of fresh air to see a flick that ends on a happy note, and that's exactly what Headhunters does. This is one of those films that I think would appeal to just about everyone; it's got romance, it's got comedy, it's got drama, it's got action, it's got an impaled dog (it's much funnier than it sounds), and lots of blonde Danish and Norwegian people. What's not to like?! Seriously though, this film is paced to perfection and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. This is another film that I'd recommend catching at any cost!

STATUS: Magnolia Pictures has purchased the North American rights for this film.

RATING: 5/5 Stars


SYNOPSIS: Tyler Crawley and his friends have been the best of buddies for more than a decade, but now they're changing - getting married, getting promoted, going bald, going insane. During a male-bonding weekend, they will discover a spectral corridor through the woods - an impossible hallway where none should be.

REVIEW: I enjoyed this film, unfortunately I don't think the production matched the scope of the film's lofty screenplay. I imagine The Corridor had a pretty tiny budget, so I feel kind of guilty for not giving it a higher rating, but I really struggled getting past some of the hokier CGI, make-up (*cough* bald cap *cough*), and occasional overacting. That's not to say I think the film is a failure. It tries some really interesting things, features some incredible gore, and represents another unique genre film from our neighbors to the North.

STATUS: During the Q&A after the screening, producer Mike Masters said that a US distribution detail was in the works, but that nothing was official yet.

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars


SYNOPSIS: The young Limburg cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman, and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky's past, set in motion a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.

REVIEW: Holy shit! I can't believe this film is a freshman feature. Bullhead moves forward with such confidence and skill I would have sworn this was the product of a director who'd been making films for several decades. In addition to the amazing direction, the lead in Bullhead was easily the strongest performer to be found at this year's Fantastic Fest. I've read comparisons between Matthias Schoenaerts' Jacky and Tom Hardy's Bronson, and I completely concur. Both of these men are always on the edge of exploding and both roles are completely transformative. To put the final nail in this coffin of fantastic-ness, after the screening I was lucky enough to stay for the Q&A and I'm happy to report that director Michael R. Roskam is one of the most well-spoken, sharpest dudes I've ever heard talk about the art of filmmaking; he's definitely going places. If there's any justice, then this film will receive US theatrical distribution and a worthy DVD / Blu-ray release later this year or next year.

STATUS: Bullhead is Belgium's official Oscar candidate for Best Foreign Language Film. Hopefully it'll make it to the big show!

RATING: 5/5 Stars


SYNOPSIS: Rikkert, Barrie, Richard, Robbie and Gerrie have fabulous mullets and manlier-than-manly mustaches. They do not, however, have jobs. All of this – hair, more hair, and unemployment – is largely because they are idiots. And not just idiots, but idiots in the classic late ‘80s style, fueled by big hair, fast cars and loud music. Theirs would be unremarkable lives if not for a fateful decision made after being cut off of welfare. If the government won’t give them free money, they simply won’t pay for anything.

REVIEW: This film doesn't just tickle your funny bone, it smashes it to the ground, and then pretends to help it get back on its feet, but instead kicks in in the ribs repeatedly - and that's not necessarily a good thing in my opinion. I blame myself mostly for this one - I went looking for clever in all the wrong places, instead I got New Kids Turbo - a stupid, rude, and slightly boring comedy. It probably didn't help that it was my fifth film of the day. With that said, there were a lot of funny and brilliantly mean-spirited moments of hilarity, but so many of the bits were recycled over and over again the laughs got stale pretty quickly. If you're going to watch this film, watch it with friends, make sure you're awake and have plenty of liquor on hand.

STATUS: Not sure what's going on with this one.

RATING: 3/5 Stars

PICK(S) OF THE DAY: Headhunters, Bullhead

No comments:

Post a Comment

No Trolling, Please.