Fantasia: July 31

Today’s edition of Fantasia coverage is a young people’s special, with ailing students, collegiate robots and, um, pedophiles.




Ron Morales has crafted a surprisingly tight little thriller in his second outing as director. Until recently an electrician on dozens of popular Hollywood movies, Morales is clearly no longer content to sit on the sidelines, as pointless pablum continuously churns out of the gutters of mainstream studios. His latest film, Graceland, may be low-budget, but it’s also incredibly smart and stylish and doesn’t pull any punches. It’s a lean, mean 84-minute descent into the seedier side of humanity. You’re going to need a wash after you watch this one.

Marlon (Arnold Reyes) is the chauffeur to a wealthy pedophile (Menggie Cobarrubias.) He bites his tongue while covering up his employer’s crimes, and collects envelopes full of cash that he uses to keep his wife alive as she lies suffering in a hospital bed. When his little girl is kidnapped and his employer’s daughter murdered, Marlon is suddenly forced to juggle the police investigation with the kidnapper’s demands as he struggles to rescue his daughter and save his wife.

Graceland doesn’t offer any answers to the questions it poses and it makes clear that nothing is ever easy, or quite what it seems on the surface. With powerhouse performances, a visually impressive though low-budget HD production style, and an unlikely look at the sleazier side of the Philippines, you won’t want to miss Graceland on the big screen. (BF) 3:25 p.m., J.A. De Sève Theatre (1400 de Maisonneuve W.)



Oh my god, Robo-G is ridiculous! Fantasia audiences are no doubt used to screening Japanese films with extremely outlandish premises, so a movie about an old man posing as a robot wouldn’t tend to shock — but the execution, in this case, is so well-handled-yet-over-the-top that it becomes a real standout of this year’s festival. Honestly, I haven’t witnessed this kind of egregious mugging by a group of leading actors in a long, long time. Robo-G is the latest film from director/screenwriter Shinobu Yaguchi (Swing Girls) and it’s more fun than you can throw a Roomba at!

Three bumbling engineers at a household appliance company have been tasked to create a working robot. More accustomed to building and repairing refrigerators and vacuum cleaners than R2-D2 and C-3PO, their best effort goes haywire and takes a nosedive out the window of their office mere days before showing at a robot expo. Enter Suzuki (Shinjiro Igarashi), an eccentric old codger whose attention-seeking has driven his family away but whose big break is about to come in the shape of a busted-up robot costume. Comedy ensues as a litany of expected old-man-in-robot suit gags play out to great effect. If Robo-G accomplishes nothing more than elevating the classic robot-at-a-urinal gag to new heights, it will have been a raging success.

There’s nothing really sci-fi about the film. It’s got more in common with Mrs. Doubtfire than I, Robot which, in this case, is actually a good thing. It’s a pretty great laugh, with a well-crafted script from Yaguchi and strong comedic performances all around. It’s not really spoiling anything to tell you that the film closes with a brilliant cover of a very famous Styx song performed by Igarashi, aka Mickey Curtis, who’s not only the lead actor in the film but a former rock star in his native Japan. Stick around as the credits roll! (BF) 7:40 p.m., Hall Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.)


Isn’t Anyone Alive?

A university campus is strewn with dead bodies. Chaos reigns as students try to make sense of the deaths of their classmates at the hands of an unknown assailant. This isn’t the work of a school shooter, however; it’s a strange illness, imperceptible and perhaps highly contagious, spreading around campus. Gakuryu Ishii’s Isn’t Anyone Alive? weaves satire out of the most modern of all tragedies, finding at least one joke where Gus van Sant found interminable slow-motion sequences. It’s a school shooting movie pointedly not about school shootings.

Isn’t Anyone Alive? is based on a play, the seams of which show rather blatantly through its structure of talky, static scenes of characters having rudderless conversations about nothing in particular. The film basically has a one-joke premise: despite the overwhelming, inexplicable tragedy at hand, the characters are seemingly incapable of not wasting time having asinine conversations, arguing about petty nonsense and talking for the sake of talking. Characters argue with others about dance choreographies while they trash about having seizures; others discuss the relevance of staying around with someone as they die if you’ve only just met them. Imagine if the first hour of Contagion was Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow talking about fish.

It’s a clever and often funny joke, but it can’t really be carried by the film’s two-hour running time and otherwise heavy subject matter. Stagy and somewhat repetitive, Isn’t Anyone Alive? would’ve greatly benefited from a half hour trim; as it stands, it’s an intriguing but tedious curiosity. (AR) Tonight, 9:45 p.m. and Friday, Aug. 3, 3:20 p.m., J.A. De Sève Theatre

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