Day two began with the Chinese kung fu comedy “Gallants.”
Gallants – Minor Rock Fist Up
“Gallants” is a charming Hong Kong comedy that combines elements of films such as “Goodbye Lenin,” and “The Karate Kid,” among others. A timid young man is sent to a small town to resolve a real estate dispute. Involved in the dispute is a restaurant run by two over the hill students of a Kung Fu master who has been in a coma for thirty years. Once he wakes up, unaware that any time has passed, he mistakes the timid young man as both his students and decides to enter him into a kung fu tournament.
What’s most interesting about “Gallants” is just how sweet and good-natured it is. It’s very much the equivalent of crowd-pleasing mainstream American movies, which could be good or bad depending on your mood. It features some great fights and it boasts an all-star cast of veterans of classic kung fu movies, a few of which were seen in the similarly warm “Kung Fu Hustle.” The plot may be inconsequential, but the jokes work and “Gallants” is definitely a very endearing film worth checking out.
Every year Fantastic Fest has four or five secret screenings. They can be anything, big movie our small movie, domestic or foreign. About half have surprise guests, too.
The first Secret Screening of Fantastic Fest 2010 was the Korean film “I Saw the Devil,” from Ji-woon Kim, the director of 2008 favorite “The Good, the Bad, the Weird.”
I Saw The Devil - Solid Rock Fist Up
While a beautiful woman sits in a car waiting for a tow truck, having a sweet conversation with her fiance (Lee Byung-Hyun who played “the bad” in “The Good, the Bad, the Weird”). A man in a school van stops to offer help. She politely declines, however, he doesn’t leave. Soon she finds herself the latest victim of a serial killer (Choi Min-sik from “Oldboy”). The woman’s father, a retired chief of police, and her fiance, a “secret agent,” both grieve and blame themselves for being unable to protect her. At her funeral, her fiance promises to make her killer experience her pain.
As her fiancee begins the hunt for the killer, I thought I knew what kind of movie “I Saw the Devil” would be. I figured it would be a long, painful search for her killer filled with near-misses, along the lines of “The Vanishing.” It isn’t. The killer is found within fifteen minutes of looking for him. But he doesn’t want the killer dead, at least not right away. First he wants to toy with him–to deny him the feeling of ultimate power right when he’s closest to attaining it. Their rivalry propels the rest of the film as the killer and his tormenter hunt each other.
While South Korean movies about vengeance are almost cliche, “I Saw the Devil” is still unique. It’s a masterfully made, thrilling, bloody, funny, and tragic film that will stick with you for a long time.
Machete Maidens Unleashed – solid rock fist up
The history of exploitation cinema is fascinating, and out of all the low-budget or B movies that played the drive-ins and the grindhouses in the late 60s through the early 80s, the most outrageous, ridiculous, or irresponsible were filmed on the cheap in the Philippines.
Much like Mark Hartley‘s previous documentary “Not Quite Hollywood,” “Machete Maidens Unleashed” is an energetic mix of some amazing film clips and some great interviews with the likes of Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Allan Arkush, Pam Grier, Sid Haig, and many, many others.
“Machete Maidens Unleashed” is hilarious throughout, and its only fault it feels a little uneven or unfinished. It’s still 80 percent totally awesome, which is about 100% more awesome than a lot of documentaries. It is essential viewing for anyone who ever watched a B movie, and most other people too.
After the film and a short Q&A with Hartley, Tim League brought out Roger and Julie Corman. Roger Corman is featured prominently in “Machete Maidens Unleashed,” and he answered a few questions about the era, while League’s childlike enthusiasm for sharing the stage with some of his heros led to a very sincere expression of gratitude for the Cormans.
Roger called to the stage the filmmakers responsible for his latest production, the SyFy original movie “Skarktopus.” They were clearly enthusiastic and appreciative of the size of the audience and the venue. About this time, League mentioned that film critic Elvis Mitchell was also backstage and he had something special to bring out. He walked on stage carrying a sword, which Fantastic Fest gives out as their lifetime achievement awards instead of boring old plaques or trophies. Mitchell began a speech mentioning how he and Corman both grew up in Detroit and how Corman actually had a lot in common with Motown founder Barry Gordy. He also went into detail about Julie Corman’s contribution to the industry as well.
On bended knee, he then presented the award to the Cormans.
Sharktopus - swiss fist
No where in the history of space and time will there ever be another opportunity for this movie to play theatrically, especially not at a venue the size of the Paramount. So that alone was bizarre enough to justify me sticking around and giving the movie a shot.
And “Sharktopus” delivers exactly what I expected. It’s cheaply made, with laughable CGI, a paper-thin plot, and performances that so effortless they’re not phoned in but texted in. And yet it’s also weirdly satisfying. Its gags are mostly predictable and repetitive, but there are at least a couple that don’t happen quite the way you think they will.
This movie was made to be laughed at as well as laughed with. And if you go in no expectations you can enjoy it. Or at least enjoy making fun of it.
That was it for day two. Day three featured five films, including my favorite and least favorite of the fest so far.