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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Film Festival Finale

Saw my last two Film Festival movies yesterday, back to back in the same theatre (the Isabel Badur), Steamboy and Breaking News.

Steamboy is the new anime movie by Otomo, by far the biggest thing he's directed since Akira in 1988 (he wrote Metropolis in 2001), and boy is it fantastic. Set in an alternate 1866, a young boy who's father and grandfather are both steam engineers get involved in escalating corporate espionage and open warfare between groups determined to seize the ultimate source of steam power.

It's an amazing adventure film with a hell of an implied body count for something rated "G", and a pretty dark message at the heart of it. The animation is breath-taking, and the final 30 minutes consists primarily of debris (shades of Akira).

A rep from Sony Pictures introduced the film, apologizing that Otomo couldn't be there himself because he's quite shy, and is still recovering from the Venice Film Festival. But he took a picture of the audience waving with his cell phone to send to him. They are looking at an early 2005 general release.

Immediately after Steamboy ended Dave and I had to leave and get right back in line for Breaking News (although Dave had just enough time to run to Tim Horton's for some snacks, the line-up was moving and approaching the door when he got back). This was a Hong Kong actioner by Johnnie To, and while it wasn't the best thing he's done, it was damn good.

A gang of crooks escapes a police shoot-out, and make the cops look incompetent as it was all caught on camera by a passing news crew. Determined to redeem their image, the police manage to locate the gang hiding up in an apartment building, alert the press, and move in with camera on the tactical squads so the whole thing can be televised (suitable edited of course). Meanwhile, a cop and his team involved in the original shoot-out enter the building sans orders to "nail the bastards" (as he keeps saying). Meanwhile meanwhile, a pair of professional hitmen who just happen to be hiding out in the same building get swept up in events. And our original gang start contacting the media with their version of events.

The film was a bit uneven in spots, and there was a delay about a half-hour in when the bulb in the projector blew, but overall I'd say Johnnie To is still in good form.