(Image from IMP Awards)
First up, High Fidelity (2000), based on yet another book I haven't read. John Cusack plays Rob Gordon, a music aficionado who ekes out a living running his own little record shop with his friends/employees. The tale starts with Rob being dumped by his girlfriend, after which he proceeds to list the top 5 breakups of his life (top 5 lists being a recurring gag in the film) while struggling to make sense of why his relationships keep ending badly. Cusack's excellent in the role and the film itself is witty and more than a little insightful, making Rob sympathetic while also being up front about his (serious) character flaws. It's partly a rom com for guys with a male perspective on relationships, and partly a look at geekery and fandom (in this case, music geeks). An excellent supporting cast (Jack Black is surprisingly great) and musical choices make it worth seeing.
(Image from Imp Awards)
Arrietty (2010), the latest animated film from Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, lacks the grandeur and depth of some of their previous masterpieces but is still an excellent, if slight film. Based on Mary Norton's children's book 'The Borrowers', it tells the story of a family of tiny people (think Lilliputians) who live in secret within the walls/floorboads of a rural home, surviving by 'borrowing' food and supplies. When Arrietty, the daughter, starts becoming friends with a frail, ill boy who moves into the house, she inadvertently puts her whole family in danger. The animation is gorgeous as always with the trademark Ghibli attention to detail and inventiveness on full display, making full use of the protagonists' ultra-diminutive size in relation to ordinary household objects. Captivating and sometimes moving, the film marks another worthy entry in a long line of excellent Japanese animated films that are worth watching regardless of your age.
(Image from Imp Awards)
It's always tricky explaining this film. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) is a French period drama/action adventure/martial arts/horror/fantasy film, and it's one of my favourites. I suspect it's one of those films you'll either love or hate. Told with somber seriousness, the story (partly based - very loosely - on true events) is fairly preposterous, as is the mish mash of genres. A creature, believed to be a giant wolf of sorts, is terrorising the countryside of the French province of Gévaudan. The King sends his Royal taxidermist Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) to investigate and kill the creature. Accompanied by his Iroquois 'brother' Mani (Mark Dacascos), de Fronsac finds romance, aristocratic snobbery, and potential conspiracy afoot in what at first seemed a straightforward assignment. And there's plenty of martial arts violence to boot! Visually quite sumptuous and let down only by some dodgy effects, the film exudes cool from beginning to end and easily overcomes its inherent silliness. There's a strong supporting cast including the luscious Monica Belucci (who features in one of the film's most memorable scene transitions) and the forever sneering Vincent Cassel. Tremendously good fun, I loved every minute of it!
From one outrageous movie I love to one I merely enjoyed. Drive Angry (2011) is a rare Nicolas Cage movie that I enjoyed watching, and not just because of the pleasing (and trashy) eye candy provided by co-star Amber Heard. Cage plays Milton, a dead man who escapes Hell to avenge the murder of his daughter and save the life of a baby kidnapped by a mad cult led by a ruthless maniac (Billy Burke). Accompanied by the aforementioned Heard whom he picks up early on in the film and pursued by Hell's 'Accountant' (a devilishly good William Fichtner) who is 'hell bent' (sorry!) on returning him to the afterlife penitentiary (Satan is the warden), Milton blazes a trail of sordid destruction as he pursues the cult. It's over the top in a similar way to Shoot 'Em Up was, and unapologetically so - there's a scene where Milton kills baddies in the midst of intercourse! Trashy, forgettable, but entertaining while it lasts, if you're OK with this sort of thing.
Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) is surely up there amongst the list of film's with the longest titles ever. One of Allen's earlier efforts, it's an adaptation of a novel that apparently has very little in common with its source material. The film is divided into several short sketches, each one entitled with a chapter of the book, such as 'What is Sodomy' and 'What Happens During Ejaculation'. As is the nature of sketches, some are far better than others, and this general rule of thumb makes the film a mixed bag in terms of quality. Having said that, none of them are bad, and the good ones are truly hilarious; the one featuring Gene Wilder as a doctor who falls in love with a sheep and the aforementioned 'goings on during ejaculation' tale are side splittingly funny. All of the sketches are related to sex in some way or the other; don't expect to be educated by any of them, but do expect Allen's trademark wit on display as he explores sex and sexual obsession through the prism of bizarre comedy.