By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)
Welcome to Wind up Geek’s predicted best of for October, 2015. You may notice my selection of films is a bit lop sided for this month. After sorting through trailers from many countries Japan appears to come out on top. It doesn’t mean that other films can’t compete it just means Japan has some very cool films for the month of October. And if you live in one of the major Japanese cities, I urge you to check them out. If you don’t live anywhere in or near Japan, you’ll just have to purchase the films when they are comercially available (as I do).
I’ve added a new section called trailer trash which will showcase films that may not be bad but the trailers certainly are of questionable viewing. It doesn’t matter if the film is a low budget indie or a highly budgeted Hollywood film, if the trailer is garbage, you may see it here.
Next month my list will expand and I hope what I have planned will please you.
A Christmas Horror Story
(October 2nd / USA)
Directors: Grant Harvey, Steve Hoban, Brett Sullivan / Writer(s): Jason Filatrault, James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier
Cast: George Buza, William Shatner, Oluniké Adeliyi, Jeff Clarke, Adrian Holmes, Percy Hynes White, Jessica Clement, Ken Hall, Debra McCabe
In the English tradition, Canada brings you a Christmas horror story to get you ready for the holidays. There’s plenty of merriment and cheer, but why does Christmas arrive early for this Canadian film? I wonder if Star Wars Episode 7 has anything to do with the release date shuffle. Although that will be the ultimate Christmas gift this year, A Christmas Horror Story still has its merits. If there is one thing Canada can claim, is that we have produced a fair number of memorable scary tales for both adults (Black Christmas) and children (Are You Afraid of the Dark?). In this one, you better be prepared for some scary fun that involves evil children, infected elves and the anti-claus the Krampus. George Buza (A Little Bit Zombie) plays the role of Santa while William Shatner ($#*! My Dad Says) takes on the role of Bailey Down’s radio host, DJ Dan. With the movie divided into different short stories, hopefully the producers of this film were wise enough to have Shatner introduce each tragic tale (ala Tales from The Crypt) in ways that only a larger than life personality such as Shatner can.
(October 2nd / United Kingdom)
Director: Keri Collins / Writer(s): Simon Fantauzzo
Cast: Ray Panthaki, Vicky McClure, Adeel Akhtar, Craig Russell, Tony Way, Anthony Head, Verne Troyer
Think of Convenience as Clerks — only this time, the clerks have guns and they’re trying to rob the store rather than work it while being paid minimum wage. Convenience may be low-budget fair but one look at its trailer tells me it may outshine many of the big name Hollywood projects this month. Like Clerks, Reservoir Dogs and the Hurt Locker before it, box office may catch up to this one in the form of a home release.
(October 9th / Canada)
Director: Paul Gross / Writer(s): Paul Gross
Cast: Rossif Sutherland, Paul Gross, Christine Horne, Clark Johnson, Allan Hawco, Neamat Arghandabi
Actor, writer and director Paul Gross is very busy these days on the film festival circuit. Not only was he at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) for his appearance in the drama Beeba Boys but he was there to present Hyena Road, a story of the Middle Eastern conflict where lines drawn in the sand are not always clear. I love Paul’s earlier success in Paschendaele (2008). His end of movie scene was beautifully played out. In Hyena Road, we may see an action-oriented story without compromising its dramatical impact. In short, a blockbuster in every true sense of the word.
Sensei to mayoi neko (Teacher and Stray Cat)
(October 10th / Japan)
Director: Yoshihiro Fukagawa / Writer(s): Chiaki Kizuki (original story), Hirotoshi Kobayashi (screenplay)
Cast: Issey Ogata, Shota Sometani, Kie Kitano, Pierre Taki, Masako Motai, Kayoko Kishimoto
They say dogs are a man’s best friend but in this touching Japanese film, it is the cat who heals the soul and steals the show. Based on the 2009 novel “Maigo no Mi chan – Chiiki Neko to Shotengai Saisei no Monogatari” by Chiaki Kizuki, the film is handled subtley by director Yoshihiro Fukagawa (Patisserie Coin de rue (2011) & Twilight: Saya in Sasara (2014) and the protagonist is aptly played by Issey Ogata (Napoleon’s Village).
(October 14th / Jamaica)
Director: Rob Letterman / Writer(s): Darren Lemke (screenplay), Scott Alexander (story), Larry Karaszewski (story), R.L. Stine (based on books)
Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell
Jack Black is back in the film based off the works of author R.L. Stine — who brought you Goosebumps the series and The Haunting Hour. With his over-the-top screen presence there can be such a thing as too much Jack Black (Gulliver’s Travels). But in this outing Black shares screen time with young actors Dylan Minnette (Zach), Odeya Rush (Hannah), and Ryan Lee (Champ) which makes for a lesser chance of the audience wanting to strangle his character (Lemuel Gulliver).
But until Kung Fu Panda 3 releases next year, I’m going to enjoy Black in what may become the Halloween box office hit of 2015.
Beasts of No Nation
(October 16th / United Kingdom, USA)
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga / Writer(s): Cary Joji Fukunaga (screenplay), Uzodinma Iweala (based on novel)
Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Ama K. Abebrese
The first fully produced film by Netflix should have received a theatre distribution. Idris Elba is one of the hottest actors right now to come out of the UK (next to Benedict Cumberbatch) and he deserves to be seen by the masses. In this film, Elba plays the role of Commandant, the leader of a group of soldiers embroiled in the civil war of an unnamed African country. His performance here looks more alluring then much of his previous work. Did Netflix make a mistake with their limited distribution? Only time will tell.
Tankentai no Eiko
(October 16th / Japan)
Director: Toru Yamamoto / Writer(s): Gen Araki (novel), Tatsuya Kanazawa (screenplay)
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Yusuke Santamaria, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Yoji Tanaka, Yosuke Kawamura, Hinako Sano
This looks like a fun adventure comedy with perhaps our faux hero (Tatsuya Fujiwara) becoming a real hero. The cast looks as though they’ve been mostly handpicked from this year’s Japanese TV (JTV) drama series. With titles like Death Note, Detective Versus Detective ST MPD Scientific Investigation Squad can this be a bad thing? Only one way to find out and that is to see the movie for yourselves.
Mr. Max Man
(October 17th – Japan)
Director: Akihide Masuda / Writer(s): Takuro Fukuda
Cast: Yudai Chiba, Mizuki Yamamoto, Anju Suzuki, Jun Kaname, Seiichi Tanabe, Ryo Tamura, Takeshi Nadagi
It’s time for a new superhero and his name is Masayoshi Tanaguchi (Yudai Chiba), a nerd and a clutz. But don’t worry, Tanaguchi has a pure heart and has feelings for his co-worker Yujo Tsujimura (Mizuki Yamamoto).
If Chiba somehow looks the part of the hero then it is most likely to his previous experience as Gosei Red in the sentai series Tensou Sentai Goseiger (2010). In fact many of the cast will be recognized from many of the tokusatsu series such as Kamen Rider Agito, Kamen Rider Wizard, Kamen Rider Gaim, Kamen Rider Drive and even Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger. That’s alot of heros packed into one movie.
Rock the Casbah
(October 23rd – USA)
Director: Barry Levinson / Writer(s): Mitch Glazer (screenplay)
Cast: Bill Murray, Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Danny McBride, Fahim Fazli, Taylor Kinney
Whether he is improving or it’s scripted, Bill Murray is the epitome of funny. In Rock the Kasbah, he plays Richie Lanz, a talent manager who is willing to do whatever it takes (mostly at the expense of his clients) to make a buck. Roles of the loveable loser are nothing new to Murray and the audience he performs to (Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day) can’t help but be drawn in every time.
Kate Hudson plays an Afghan woman who’s golden voice could change Lanz’s fortunes for the better. But with Hudson’s role I can’t help feeling the producers had the chance to cast a woman of full Middle Eastern descent. And for the obvious reasons it’s just easier to make a statement in the quietest way that Hollywood knows how.
Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!)
(October 31st / Japan)
Director: Hayato Kawai / Writer(s): Kazune Kawahara (manga), Aruko (manga), Akiko Nogi
Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Mei Nagano, Kentaro Sakaguchi, Yasufumi Terawaki, Sawa Suzuki
Casting Ryohei Suzuki as the oversized high schooler Takeo Goda in the film based off the manga (and anime) by Kazune Kawahara was a stroke of genius.
You can cast any other actor as love interest Rinko Yamato or as Goda’s handsome rival Makoto Sakaguchi and it wouldn’t have disturb the flow of this film. But Suzuki himself is integral to this movie. Not only does Suzuki look the part, he beautifully balances his performance between comedy and pathos. There are times I wish I live in Japan to enjoy what their movie industry has to offer.
Sorting through the garbage of theatrical trailers for your entertainment.
(October 2nd / Canada)
Director: Ian Agard / Writer(s): Ian Agard, Todd McGinnis (story)
Cast: Lauren Mandel, Rostik Prokhorov, Zachary Hendler, Matt Mcleod, Paul James Saunders
It’s hard to call a film a romantic teen comedy when you really don’t expect teens to be filling theatre seats for this film. They go to see movies like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Maze Runner and Divergent. I believe that they’re less likely to see a “romantic teen comedy” when the lead actress (Lauren Mandel) isn’t a teen idol on the scale of Hilary Duff or Miley Cyrus (pre-twerk).
But that is the least of this film’s worries. The plot doesn’t build enough confidence to make me want to see it,
Here, Zena must rebel against her grandpa’s wishes, and take a cross-country road trip with her rock band in order to get a record deal. The plot feels more like a drama than a comedy, and the mention of the grandfather’s former occupation is irrevelent. Why mention he’s a former detective at all?
But there is some truth to be found in what is written, the fact that Zena isn’t rebelling to find her voice on the road (which would have made things more interesting) is a letdown. Zena’s out to get that big fat record deal potentially worth millions. That pretty much sums up the mentality of youth mesmerized by today’s Idol television shows.