Saturday, 29 December 2012

December Film Roundup - Part 2

        Welcome to Part 2 of this month’s Film Roundup – more films that I saw during the month of December. (If you want to check out Part 1, click HERE.)

        First up we have the five men-sitting-in-a-room mystery thriller Sushi Girl. After the release from prison of small-time crook Noah Hathaway (Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story all grown up!), the leader of the gang, Duke (Tony Todd), gathers all the members of the botched heist together for dinner so that they can get to the bottom of where the diamonds actually ended up. Oh, and a naked girl is there on the table the whole time as the ‘plate’, hence the title.
        Despite the impressive sounding cast list of genre names such as Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey and Sonny Chiba – all those guys are only in it for one or two scenes. Of the five main parts only Mark Hamill and Todd are big names, although you may remember James Duval from his small in Donnie Darko.

        The setup is interesting, although the heavy influence of Tarantino can clearly be seen all over it - from the dialogue heavy scenes, acts of casual torture and grandstanding musical choices, the film feels somewhat derivative. Tony Todd seems to be on autopilot for much of the movie, but its Hamill that really stands out as the demented Crow.
        The story pans out pretty much as you would expect it to – just think 'what would Tarantino do?' and the plot will hold no surprises for you – but it's still worth watching if you are a fan of the genre.

        Slightly less predictable is the interesting British thriller A Lonely Place To Die, starring Melissa George, which seemingly starts off an 'against the elements' mountain climbing film but soon turns into a game of cat and mouse that involves kidnapping, frantic chases and shooting. The way the film constantly switches gear actually works in its favour and keeps it engaging; and the violence is suitably lethal and realistic.
        Sean Harris plays a convincingly evil bad guy (when doesn't he?), but there are good performances from all involved; Melissa George being increasingly comfortable in leading roles such as this – I recommend you also watch her in the mind-bending Triangle.
        A particular mention should also be given to the great use of kinetic camerawork, whether it’s spinning dizzily down hills, dangling down cliff faces or chasing characters through the forest. Even slow motion is used to menacing effect. Worth a watch.

        From A Lonely Place… to A Dangerous Method, a film about Karl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a patient that he gets involved with (Kiera Knightley) early in his career as a psychoanalyst. Oh, and Viggo Mortensen plays Freud.
        Unusually restrained for a David Cronenberg film, not much actually happens throughout, so this will probably only be of interest to someone who has an interest in Jung and his career. Other than that it's mostly just Kiera Knightley gurning, sticking her chin out, talking with a thick accent and getting spanked. Which sounds more exciting than it actually is – it is mostly just dull.
        Vincent Cassel appears to inject some interest into the picture, but alas his onscreen presence is far too short. Fassbender and Mortensen in the same film as these great historical figures seems a tantalising proposition – it's a shame they just aren’t given much to do.

        Definitely recommended however, is Ted, a film about a boy whose teddy bear is magically brought to life and how their relationship with each other has to change as it continues on into their adult lives.
        Voiced by Seth McFarlane, the character of Ted works because he is witty, foul mouthed and hilariously inappropriate, which is the antithesis of the usual anthropomorphic toy that features in so many types of children’s entertainment. McFarlane, who also directs, is on fine form, with plenty of adult humour, in-jokes and the cameos that constantly surprise.
        The real triumph of the film however is Mark Wahlberg, who proves himself as a gifted comedic actor (previously only glimpsed in films such as I Heart Huckabees), even more impressive when you take into account he would have been acting against nothing (as Ted is CGI) for a large portion of the film.
        His scenes with Mila Kunis, who plays his long term girlfriend and not just a clichéd love interest, are portrayed in a charming and realistic way – and as a result, gives this film a heartfelt romantic side as well. Go watch Ted – it’s highly recommended!

        Finally, we have Skyline, an alien invasion film that surprisingly exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations. Self financed and directed by The Brothers Strauss, it’s amazing how much CG they managed to cram in considering the lack of a studio-sized budget.
        There are one or two neat ideas but it's mostly tired tropes - much of it confined to a single apartment complex. There is one moment of brilliance toward the end of the film involving an awesome kiss (which they should have ended on) – except the film goes on ten minutes too long after that to another just as open-ended but less effective ending. Oh, and you get to see Turk from Scrubs get killed by aliens. Similar vibe, but more fun than Cloverfield.

        That's it for December’s film roundup! See you in the New Year!

29 Dec 2012

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