September 13

Slept in today to be awake for a 2hr 30min midnight madness screening. Typing this at 3am, should get some sleep for tomorrow. Had a few star sightings today, including the William H. Macy haging around the Hyatt. A bunch of people are stranded in Toronto, some less happy than others. Hush hush, but from confirmed sources, David Schwimmer had a fit when he got a cell call informing him he wouldn't be getting back to the States on his flight (he's really tall, by the way, more so than you'd think...) Planes could still have as much as a week delay. Pretty wacky.

On that whole wacky front, I kept running into the cast of Versus - yes, they're still here! They've been diligently going to the Midnight Madness screenings, so I've been seeing them leave the Uptown nightly. Tonight, I saw them leaving the press screening of Ichi the Killer (sounds awesome, can't wait 'till tomorrow night!). After that, I decided to grab something quick at the local Taco Bell. Who should walk in but... the cast from Versus! Yes, those crazy Versus kids, trying to decide between soft and hard tacos. I'd think that movie stars would go to better restaurants, but, hey, these are Midnight Screenings. Bless em'.

Chicken Rice War
Directed by: CheeK

"A family town apart by hate and anger are brought together by hate and anger."

This quote, uttered by a news reporter within the film, serves to sum up concisely the narrative of Chicken Rice War. This is an offbeat retooling of Romeo and Juliet, complete with reference to the Luhrman version.

The Montegues and Capulets are replaced by the Wong's and Chan's, as an age-old rivalry between two Chicken Rice sellers has dragged on for generations. The story only uses Shakespeare as a start, allowing for some fun detours along the way. While the Juliet character is stunning (a famous model, from what I understand), she is a little too "shrewish" to totally believe in her taming.

The language switches from English to Chinese to a sort of local patois, making for some fun word play. To further emphasize the setting Singapore, there's even a chewing gum joke. This is a fun, stylized version of the play, using crazy characters, over-the-top dialogue and fun captions. The play itself serves an important role, as the leads get together to be both theatrical and actual star crossed lovers.

Grade: A-

Harmful Insect
Directed by: Akihiko Shiota

I'd love to know what the hell the title refers to, but, frankly, I'm not sure I care that much.

This is a long, boring film about a tragic adolescent who spends the movie having one bad thing happen to her after another. Many cursory elements harken Lilly Cho-Chou, with short-skirted Japanese school girls being fetishised, piano playing from the quiet girl, random deaths, etc. This film lacks both the subtlety and beauty of Lilly, turning the angst into exploitation.

Grade: D

100 Days
Directed by: Nick Hughes

A beautifully shot drama set during the genocide of Rwanda. The powerful story is twinned with a tragic love tale to give the film both a focus and accessibility for a wide audience.

The scope of the Rwanda conflict has been reduced to one village, specifically, one church in one village. There is a very fine line drawn in this simplification. There lies a real danger in looking for "good guys" and "bad guys" in stories of this nature. However, to extend the scope and give so-called "equal time" to both sides would certainly confuse the point of the film. It is a movie that shows bitter hatred without explicitly providing a context for those watching. A title card or two may have helped clarify for viewers unfamiliar with the history of the conflict some needed context. The church, for example, comes across extremely poorly, as if every member of the church, black or white, was a "bad guy." This, it must be said, is certainly not the intent, but I fear some audiences may be taken aback by the cut-and-dry nature of some of the more sinister characters.

These criticisms notwithstanding, the film provides a harrowing look at a conflict many in the West wish to forget - or, perhaps more accurately, never bothered to care about in the first place. For that alone, 100 Days presents a important political voice in an extremely powerful way without seeming didactic or pedantic. The story of the production itself is quite remarkable. as it is the first films (or among the first) that has Rwandan's telling their own story. The director wrote, produced, shot the film, did steadicam, and taught the assistants how to handle the equipment. He has left a legacy, training an inexperienced crew how to make a film to tell their tale.

The film is good enough to stand on its own, but it may be most interesting to see the effect is has on a group of people who have now seen how a film is made. They may just go off and continue to tell their own stories utilizing this medium, a further powerful and palpable effect of this challenging and accomplished movie.

Grade: A

Le Pactes des Loups
Directed by: Christophe Gans

Another Midnight Madness first, a period French martial-arts movie that puts the "where?" in wolf films.

The film is an amusing amalgamation of a number of other movies, from a dead-on land-based Jaws sequence, to a lovely Darth Maul impersonation with fighting staves. The sound design must be mentioned, as the booming, crunching and squishy sounds really pounded the midnight crowd at the Uptown.

The film has a great look, and some really strong performances. It's certainly a refreshing way to be introduced to French period drama. In the end, it's a very fun, clever action flick.

Grade: A/A-