By: Henry J. Fromage –
This week features even more of the Fantasia Fest bounty, and some more great July theatrical releases.
171. The Senior Class
This Korean adult animation tells the story of a besotted art student and his classmate he has a thing for, who so happens to be earning some money on the side as some level of a call girl. The vehicle is intriguing, but the story is pretty boilerplate dramatics, which either has a sly edge lampooning the “nice guys” image of themselves as pure romantics who the ladies just don’t realize they should be with, or is a movie made by one of those “nice guys”/”complete entitled douchebags”. Unfortunately, as the film comes to a close with overwrought voiceover, I suspect it’s the latter.
Wow. Some questioned that PG-13 rating, but what Christopher Nolan accomplishes with sound design here will dissuade even the most action film-desensitized youth far better than any amount of blood, guts, and cursing. His stated goal was to immerse you in the action as much as humanly possible, and as bombs burst in your ears and your breath catches as the water rises to your throat you’ll know he achieved it. Simply one of the most technically fascinating war films ever made, which, sure, doesn’t have a story to match (although I did like the intercut time structure better than some), but which accomplishes what it sets out to do like no other war film before it. See it on as big of a screen as you can, and maybe bring a stress ball.
173. Spider-Man: Homecoming
This was another directorial gauntlet, as Jon Watts stated he wanted to make a Spider-Man film unlike any of its predecessors, citing John Hughes of all people as an influence. While the actual John Hughes references in the film are unnecessarily underlined, Watts did capture the spirit he was going for. This is a far funnier, far more relatable version of Spider-Man than you’ve seen before, which still brings the Marvel-approved action and universe tie-ins we’ve come to know and expect. I’m actually more excited to see Peter Parker navigate high school in the future than I am to see him fighting supervillains, and that’s a unexpected pleasure for sure. Probably my favorite Spider-Man iteration, and yes, I’m including the Raimi films.
174. A Day
This dramatic, Korean version of Groundhog Day, in which a surgeon relives the same day over and over to try and save his young daughter from dying in a car crash, is full of surprises and captivating ideas that will keep you riveted as you try to unpack this mystery and find a way out along with him. Where it all ends up will have a varying effect on folks (it’s on the saccharine side), but for me, I enjoyed just about every minute of this.
175. Confidential Assignment
This is another Korean film (I’m on a roll), and this time the ‘South’ isn’t entirely implied, as it’s a buddy cop film bringing together a North Korean badass and a South Korean career cop to track down some North Korean ex-special forces who’ve stolen valuable counterfeiting plates and killed the former’s wife in the process. It doesn’t track as comedic as I would have hoped, and follows the standard buddy cop template pretty much to a T, but the leads have good chemistry and it’s a novel enough transposition of that template that I quite enjoyed it.