Film Rave: Father’s Day, High School, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Treasure Buddies, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Father’s Day

Plot: Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock) is a serial killer with a niche; he rapes fathers. Ahab (Adam Brooks) and Chelsea (Amy Groening) are victims of this since childhood and, as he returns to Tromaville, are ready to exact revenge. Father O’Flynn (Kevin Anderson) and Twink (Conor Sweeney), whose father was recently murdered and raped, team up with them while Detective Stegel (Brent Neale) spies on them.

Review: It seems kind of pointless to review “Father’s Day”. It’s only going to reach a certain demographic, one in which doesn’t need a review to know whether or not they’ll watch it. The same could be said for most of Troma’s filmography, but this one a little more so. A serial killer who rapes fathers will never get over with the general public.

The only reason to review a film such as this is to report if it was bad. Thankfully, I don’t have to report such news! “Father’s Day” is a cleverly written and directed film by a group known as Astron 6 (which includes Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matt Kennedy, Steven Kostanski and Conor Sweeney). They all act in the film as well, with Brooks, Sweeney and Anderson taking the three male leads. Though not the most gifted actors in the world, they all hold their own and deliver their lines with zest. They also have tremendous chemistry together, which is probably thanks to their friendship!

The group isn’t afraid to hold back on the gore, which will please many. I should warn you that this film gets pretty graphic in spots. Even the toughest of gorehounds will find themselves cringing. If you can handle watching Fuchman chew a man’s penis off and later inject his own penis with a serum without flinching, you earn my respect. For the rest of you, you can wince in terror like me. You’ll also find solace in the gargantuan amount of female nudity, especially from the gorgeous Amy Groening (niece of “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening).

The only roadblock Astron 6 faced was in the film’s length. I’d argue it goes on for about ten to fifteen minutes too long and the pacing suffers from time to time. Especially before the hellacious finale. They include many clever quips (my favorite being Father O’Flynn mistaking Ahab waxing on about his maple syrup as an allegory on their current situation) to counterbalance the occasional lulls, which help a bit. As does a wonderful cameo by Lloyd Kaufman!

So there you have it. If you were interested in “Father’s Day” and were worried if it would be a letdown, you can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m here to report that it’s a wickedly entertaining film with tremendous passion behind it! It suffers from pacing issues from time to time and is a bit too graphic for it’s own good, but picks itself back up. For those who don’t find the idea of a serial killer raping fathers, simply move along.

Final Rating: B

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Plot: David Gelb documents the life of Jiro Ono, the world’s most famous sushi chef. At the age of eighty-five, he’s still operating his own sushi restaurant and working long days. We learn of his every day habits, his accolades, his past and hear interviews from his friends, family, critics and, most importantly, his two sons (one who owns his own restaurant and the other who works with him and will eventually take over).

Review: It’s a blessing that Jiro Ono is such a gentle and warm person. If he weren’t, this documentary wouldn’t as engrossing. He may be intense and even intimidating when focusing on his work, but he’s a kind soul loves what he does. Many could look at his busy schedule and feel sympathy for him. There’s no reason to. He loves what he does and is happy he’s carved a repetitive routine. He hates taking days off because all he wants to do is work. The only way he’ll retire is if he’s forced to (which a heart attack almost caused).

Eighty minutes on Jiro’s career as a sushi chef is a bit limited, so Gelb sprinkles in interviews and the occasional history lesson. The only interviews that hold much sustenance in the long run are those involving his sons. They offer the most insight and are easily the most engaging. I enjoyed the food critic who adores Jiro and his competitors, but they tend to feel like padding. The real meat and potatoes (wrong food group for this review, I know) are the Ono family, as well as the apprentices they train.

As mentioned earlier, Jiro’s wonderful personality is the glue that holds this film together. What helps even more are his life lessons. You may not always agree with his outlook on life, but he certainly has a case for why he feels he’s right. For instance, when his youngest son decided to open his restaurant, he never gave him the “You can always come back” speech. He told him he couldn’t fail. He said this because he knew his son was ready for this hefty task. That and he feels giving him the option to come back opens the door for failure. It’s easy to understand why he feels this way, given the fact that he was practically abandoned by his parents at the age of nine. You may not agree, but respect his view and understand he’s not being mean. It’s clear he’s a caring individual; one who believes in tough love.

The only thing holding “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” back is it’s limited content. There’s only so much you can extract from the workings of a successful sushi chef for an eighty minute feature. Gelb balances it out a bit with Jiro’s backstory (which could have been delved into a bit more), but there are still lulls. Still, the film is exceptional and the sushi making scenes (which are accompanied by elegant music) are mouthwatering! One could argue this doesn’t just work as a documentary, but as a commercial for his restaurant as well.

Final Rating: B

High School

Plot: Henry Burke (Matt Bush) is the valedictorian of his high school and is prepared to head to MIT. When he smokes marijuana with his childhood friend, Travis Breaux (Sean Marquette), his life goes to shambles. It turns out that a fellow student got expelled for drug possession and the principal, Dr. Leslie Gordon (Michael Chiklis, almost unrecognizable) is doing a drug test the next day. Henry and Travis cook up a scheme to get the entire school high on pot brownies, giving the school board no choice but to throw out the results. They do so by stealing from Psycho Ed (Adrien Brody, playing against type), the local drug dealer who hunts them down.

Review: “High School” almost works as one big parody of the after school specials played in schools about marijuana. John Stalberg pokes fun at these from time to time, including showing a mock version during detention (which includes one of the films few funny gags; that being that terrorism is caused by marijuana). The idea that taking one hit can ruin your life is played heavily throughout, as Henry’s first hit does get him into hot water. While that idea is present, he squanders this to push forward the tired message that marijuana isn’t as hazardous as some make it out to be.

The message isn’t the problem with the film. I may not entirely agree with it, but I respect the viewpoint and feel it’s been done effectively in other films. The problem with “High School” is that it’s not that funny. There are amusing moments here and there, but not enough to salvage the experience. Stoner comedies can be uproarious. Off the top of my head, films such as the “Cheech & Chong” catalogue, “Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”, “Harold and Kumar”, “Friday”, “Pineapple Express”, “Half Baked” and “The Big Lebowski” are hysterical and cleverly written! This film just goes through the motions.

The only person to consistently gain laughs is Adrien Brody. He’s seemingly having a blast going against type by playing a tough as nails drug dealer who was once a child prodigy. It’s even funnier if you’ve seen his other film set in high school from earlier this year, “Detachment”. There he plays a serious role as a teacher dealing with students and today’s crippling society. Here, he’s dealing dope and amusing threats.

I’ll give the rest of the cast credit. Matt Bush is stuck with the thankless role of whiny protagonist, which he tries his best to make work. Sean Marquette exudes charisma and garners a chuckle here and there as the resident pot smoker and childhood friend of Henry. Michael Chiklis is fine as a parody of the crotchety principal, though I feel Stephen Root would have been a better fit. Colin Hanks is his usual likable self as Brandon Ellis, the vice principal.

It’s a shame such a game cast wasn’t handled better material. All that’s present in the script (written by John Stalberg, Erik Linthorst and Stephen Susco) are recycled gags and plot conveniences. Some of these hit, but a lot of them fail to register. Even those under the influence probably won’t find much to laugh at here. You’d be better suited rewatching “Reefer Madness” for your comedy needs.

Final Rating: C+

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Plot: Commissar Naci (Yilmaz Erdogan), Prosecutor Nusret (Taner Birsel), Doctor Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) and other officers go in search for a dead body in the Anatolian steppes. They bring along the suspect, Kenan (Firat Tanis), who sends them on a wild goose chase.

Review: Nuri Bilge Ceylan isn’t concerned in giving the audience all of the answers. In real life, police investigations don’t always unearth all of the answers. He wants his film to mimic real life as closely as possible, hence why many clues remain hidden. He’s also more concerned in dissecting the emotions of the people involved in the scenario. This includes those investigating the murder and those closely affected by it.

For those investigating (which is who we spend the most time with), the long hours begin to drain their energy. They spend all night searching for this body, with Kenan seemingly lying to them at every turn. Naci, who is the lead on the case, is growing increasingly frustrated and begins taking up smoking again. Add in the stress at home with his boy (who’s on medicine subscribed by Cemal) and his stress level is at an all-time high. Speaking of Cemal, we slowly learn that he divorced two years ago and is still reeling from it. This is why he sinks his soul into his work. As for Nusret, he seems perfectly normal until a story revolving a woman predicting her death begins to unveil more about him.

The only glimpse we get into those personally affected by the death is near the end. We see the deceased’s wife and child and how the news tears them apart. The wife breaks into tears and the son becomes distant. The only anger he exudes is when he throws a rock at Kenan’s face. Even the murderer isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be. Ceylan hints at the possibility that he’s covering for someone, but never fully divulges in the information. This may enrage certain viewers, but it had me enchanted.

“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” clocks in at two hours and thirty seven minutes. The reason the film is so long, despite a rather thin story, is to show the affects of such an arduous case. In one aspect, the film feels it’s length. The viewer becomes involved in the story and he/she too begins to grow tired. They don’t become tired with the story, but along with the characters. With this being said, I felt the running time flew by surprisingly quickly. I may have felt it’s length, but didn’t feel as if I had actually been watching the film for nearly three hours. That takes incredible talent!

Ceylan takes a risk in focusing more on the characters and not revealing much information in the case. In the hands of any other director, this film could have flopped. Ceylan has a tight grip on the story and characters and draws the viewer in. Add in the gorgeous cinematography of Gökhan Tiryaki (which makes some of the slower scenes easier to swallow) and you get one of the most engrossing films of the year!

Final Rating: A+

Treasure Buddies

Plot: The Buddies travel to Egypt to prevent an evil cat from capturing Cleocatra’s magical gem that will give the owner power to have cats rule the world. They follow their respective owner, Pete (Mason Cook), who is traveling with his famous archeologist grandfather, Thomas Howard (Richard Riehle), to find the same artifact.

Review: For those expecting me to trash this film, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Like “Spooky Buddies” (the other “Buddies” film I’ve seen), “Treasure Buddies” is a cute and harmless family film! It has loads of talking animals (ranging from the titular buddies to monkeys, camels and even a snake voiced by Ryan Stiles), which will appeal to kids, and jokes that will cater to adults (such as movie references and cracks about money). Add in an exotic location (this time being Egypt, though I’m convinced a lot of it was set in the desert in the states) and you’ve got yourself a nice little package.

That’s not to say “Treasure Buddies” is perfect. Some of the humor can be on the grating side. There are quite a few flatulence jokes (such as one of the buddies eating dynamite, then farting out noxious fumes) that may have viewers rolling their eyes. The buddies themselves, though cute, can tend to outwear their welcome. The main one, Mudbud, is fine, but B-Dawg and Rosebud (the female of the group) can get on one’s nerves, what with their thug persona and internet lingo.

One could even state that Robert Vince (who directed and co-wrote with Anna McRoberts) is asking their audience to suspend disbelief a bit too much. The buddies travel to Egypt after sneaking into a box full of dynamite (which seemingly doesn’t have air holes) and survive the entire trip without food, water or using the bathroom. The way they sneakily avoid Pete and his grandfather, as well as apparently causing no worries at home, is also hard to believe. With a film like this, you should do your best to leave your logic at the door and enjoy yourself. This may be hard for some, which is understandable, but I didn’t have much of an issue.

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for talking animals. I’m also a huge dog lover. Have a film with talking dogs and I’m sold. This doesn’t mean I’ll automatically like the film. There are dozens of talking animal pictures that I find putrid. “Treasure Buddies” is not one of them. It’s a swiftly paced and jolly film that will entertain the kids and keep the adults occupied. It may even suck them in with it’s charm. It did for me.

Final Rating: B