Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Fantastic Fest 2022 Reviews: Shin Ultraman & A Life On The Farm

Shin Ultraman
Directed by Shinji Higuchi
Did someone call for a Japanese superhero? Then be glad Ultraman is here to save not only Japan, but the entire solar system. If you're into the recent truckload of super hero films, this sure isn't for you. Shin Ultraman is a hard sell to anyone who doesn't watch anime or knows the series or a little be about Japanese TV or movies. This is for the many people who love those strange WTF movies of Japan or long time fans. So for people like me, let's watch a super weird Japanese super hero beat up monsters.
Here's a good example of where the Japanese are with super heroes and sci-fi. Kamen Rider Geats just started in Japan. Think, one-man Power Rangers. In this newest incarnation of the show, different people are vowing in trials/games to earn and become Kamen Rider. The winners basically gets a wish for anything. In a recent episode, a father died in these games wanting to earn a cure for his son's debilitating disease. This is a show made for elementary school kids and younger. The topics are way, way out of where they should be for children and yes, it seems like they took from the popularity of Squid Games to make it. That's the fun of WTF Japanese entertainment. That and CGI and special effects that are questionable.
Back to Shin Ultraman, the story is about weekly giant monsters wreaking havoc in Japan and an alien superhero who can grow just as big as them, beating them up. We have a team of scientists who have come together to come up with ideas to defeat these monsters that he sort of works with. So, that's our core story. Japan has a monster crisis and things are only get worse unless Ultraman saves the day.
What happens over the course of the movie is the same thing seen time and time again in Japanese sci-fi about how humanity needing to be better, corrupt governments, politics, working together as a team, friendship, identity...when you've died and been bonded to an alien. Believe it or not, a re-occurring theme in Japanese stories.
There's no earn suspension of disbelief here, you're either in or out just accept aliens wear trench coats and funny hats when they meet humans.

It remains a hard sell out of Japan. I completely understand why someone here in the US wouldn't vibe with it. The exposition dialogue you get in Japanese JRPGS that American films expunge because it feels out of place is a huge chunck in Shin Ultraman. There are literal scenes of two characters just chatting about the world and everyone  in it dying in a lovely forest near one's own corpse. Or just another lovely conversation in a cool background dimension about scarfifice. I mean, hat's off, it's bonkers and why I enjoy it, but it'll never be American version heroics.

There's a giant woman in this film and it looks like the blocked the panty shots online. That did grab my attention as did a number of battles of weird, ridiculous monsters. Shin Ultraman fights always had me entertained. For those who've seen other Ultraman films or just know, OKAY, YEAH THIS IS GONNA BE ONE OF THOSE JAPANESE WTF films it's gonna entertain. I'm gonna see a least one scene I want show my friends when this hits YouTube.

Oddly, enough it's written by Hideaki Anno of Evangelion and Shin Godzilla fame, but not directed, that goes to Shinji Higuchi. It damn well looks like Hideaki Anno's style though, especially with the strange camera shots and angles on the ends of a remote or peeking through the office everyone works at.

If you're a newcomer, this is a hard sell. For those who want to see some weird, afternoon Power Rangers fights with way too much in the idea department and a lead meant to be cold an alien... Wait, wait, with way too much tacked on philosophy and some utterly funny to watch character/relationships...And, a nice scene with a 20-story tall lady, this is the movie for you.

A Life On The Farm
Directed by Oscar Harding

There's a really weird, strange video you should see about this guy on his farm, but let me just tell you about it. Ughhh. This documentary about a man who made a strange video of his life on his farm isn't made to entertain, it's to hear about other people talk about it.

Let's watch some live horse birth and then slowly, slowly go over how we got the video and what other people think about the video. That's the doc, A Life On The Farm.
I hate boring you with this, because it bored me when the movie did it, but essentially there was a farmer in England who made a freaky video, involving dead animals and dead relatives and live births that seems to have astonished or entertain people who enjoy found footage tapes. It just sounds more interesting than it actually is or at least is shown in this film.

What you get, are those scenes, over-hyped, by a boring group of talking heads. I mean they have interesting careers and I know them from online fame, but in this, they're just tiresome to hear from.

It made me just want to watch the original film without them. Sure, the actual tape is weird and a bit unsettling, but there's other stuff out there. I'm guessing the only reason this was made is the director of this had the tape and must have released it.

Oddly, enough, a future review I'm writing from this film festival, Chop & Steele will feature two of the boring talking heads from this. I think it goes to show that having a better director can make something more interesting. Because, the two dudes from the Found Footage Festival sure aren't charismatic, but their story was a least a fun watch.

Forget this farm.

Films provided for review online via Fantastic Fest