MIDNIGHT MADNESS D: Phornchai Hongrattanaphorn w/ Krisada Sukoson, Nuntaka Worravanitchanun. Thailand. 95 min. Saturday, September 17, 6 PM ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM.
Non-stop lunatic comedy sets a young mop-topped drummer on the run from a murder charge just when he has to enter the once-every-decade drum battle of good vs evil. Sight and other gags and absurdities abound: a man blows a smoke ring that for no good reason turns into a doughnut, chickens get the flu. Gaudy colours, a frantic pace and lots of light Thai rock make this resemble one of those silly skits the Monkees used to do. But it's funny and very, very creative.
SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE
SPECIAL PRESENTATION D: Park Chan-wook w/ Kim Shi-hu, Choi Min-sik. South Korea. 112 min. Thursday, September 15, 9 PM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Saturday, September 17, noon PARAMOUNT 2. Rating: NNN
In the third film of Park's vengeance trilogy (after Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and Old Boy), centring on a young woman who seeks retribution after serving 13 years for kidnapping and killing a little boy, Park has become a more assured director. Despite his play with very composed shots and small surrealist touches, he remains focused on emotions and society, here examining religion through his protagonist's search for justice. Though it's a bit less violent and has a more upbeat ending than the other films in the trilogy, it's still a harrowing journey into darkness.
THE GREAT YOKAI WAR
MIDNIGHT MADNESS D: Takashi Miike w/ Ryunosuke Kamiki, Hiroyuki Miyasako. Japan. 122 min. Thursday, September 15, 11:59 PM RYERSON, Saturday, September 17 1:45 PM PARAMOUNT 3. Rating: NNN
This lively, fun and richly imaginative supernatural fantasy features a slew of imaginative creatures brought to life by costume, makeup, stop-motion animation, good CGI and a bit of puppetry so cheesy it's got to be deliberate. Named champion at a village festival, a timid 10-year-old boy gets hijacked into a war with a demon who's harnessing the accumulated rage of things humanity has used and thrown away. It's not quite so berserk as Miike's 1999 Dead Or Alive and softened a little, presumably for children, but pace and invention never flag. The scene with the stretch-necked Yokai lady stands out for its eerie eroticism.
GALA D: Richard Shepard w/ Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear. U.S. 97 min. Thursday, September 15, 6:30 PM ROY THOMSON HALL, Friday, September 16 12:45 PM RYERSON. Rating: NN
Playing against type is one way to resuscitate a sagging career, and here actor/co-producer Brosnan, a former Mr. Bond, acts his bony ass off trying to exchange his debonair, classy persona for that of a grizzled, hard-drinking baddie. He plays Julian, a globe-trotting assassin who bumps into Denver businessman Danny (Kinnear) in a Mexican bar. Julian has no friends, and Danny, still mourning a dead child and trying to close a deal, is attracted to his unconventional lifestyle, especially after the two attend a bloody and terribly symbolic bullfight. You've got to be a moron not to see where the script's heading, and Shepard isn't nearly as good as the artists he's cribbing from. His confusing direction - loud and bold one minute, bathetic the next - only points up the script's flaws. Kinnear plays yet another aw-shucks character with ease, but Brosnan, all blustery and obnoxious bravado, remains unconvincing. "Look at me, I'm a wreck, I'm a parody," he shouts at one point. Too true.
day-by-day critics' picks
Thursday, September 15
TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY (Michael Winterbottom) A radical retelling of Laurence Sterne's novel follows the making of a film adaptation of the book. A hilarious jab at the world of filmmaking. (9:30 am, Paramount 1)
U-CARMEN EKHAYELITSHA (Mark Dornford-May) Bizet's Carmen, transplanted to a Cape Town township, anchored by an awesome performance by Pauline Malefane. (3 pm, Elgin)
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (Noah Baumbach) Catch Jesse Eisenberg, the best thing to happen to teen acting in years, in this fresh and intelligent story of a marriage gone sour. Jeff Daniels, as the dad, is as good as he's ever been. (4 pm, Paramount 4)
Friday, September 16
WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT (Nick Park, Steve Box) Thanks to the boys who gave us Chicken Run, these characters finally get their feature film due. Terrific claymation. (6:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall)
SIX FIGURES (David Christensen) An impressive debut from a director to watch about a man (JR Bourne) who becomes the main suspect in a violent crime against his wife. Terrific performance by Bourne. (noon, Cumberland 1)
Saturday, September 17
DEAR WENDY (Thomas Vinterberg) Another Dogme-tinged drama about America, this time about a teen gun cult. Full of ideas and wholly provocative. (10 am, Paramount 3)
L'ENFANT (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) The Dardenne Bros' Palme d'Or winner about a young man's baby boy is - hands down - one of the best of the fest. (2:45 pm, Ryerson)
PICK UP THE MIC (Alex Hinton) There's more queer hiphop happening than you'd think, according to this fascinating documentary featuring the best in the game. (9 pm, ROM)