February has been a bit of a slow month for me in terms of movie watching, but I have still managed to catch a few more of last year’s films. One of them would likely even make my top 10 list if I were to update it today. Let’s take a look:
Jiro Dreams of Sushi [dir. David Gelb]
Jiro Ono is an 85-year-old sushi chef who is considered by many to be the greatest in the world. His Tokyo restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, only seats ten people, and its patrons have no say in what sushi they receive. Reservations are required months in advance, and a meal costs roughly $300. Jiro’s restaurant also has the distinction of being the smallest to receive the coveted 3-star Michelin review, which it receives year after year.
This documentary details Jiro’s dedication to his craft, and his work ethic is infectious. Even his two sons are sushi chefs, though perhaps not by their own choice. His eldest son is actually his top chef, and he will be taking over the reigns when the inevitable happens. Jiro’s youngest son was pushed out and told to essentially sink or swim with his own sushi business. Spoiler: he’s still working today. It’s a testament to just how persistent Jiro is, and how strong of a leader he remains. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a wonderful, inspirational film that will make you want to work even harder to reach your goals. 8/10
The Kid with a Bike [dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne]
In this latest film from the beloved Dardenne brothers, newcomer Thomas Doret stars as the titular character, a young boy abandoned by his father who now lives in a shelter. A chance encounter with a local hairdresser (the beautiful and extremely talented Cécile De France) leads to her agreeing to adopt him on weekends. The boy is reckless and rebellious, struggling to come to terms that his father wants nothing to do with him. This makes him an easy target for a local teen “gang” leader who rewards him with video games in order to employ him in petty crime. The film and its plot are incredibly simplistic in nature, but there is a rewarding sense of warmth and compassion underneath.
This is a film that feels very real, and anyone who grew up in a broken home can immediately emphathize with Doret’s character. I have heard others complain that he is too whiny, insufferable, etc., but he comes across exactly how I would expect a young boy to act in this situation. Doret’s performance is revelatory, and the warmth provided by De France is felt through the screen, even if her character is perhaps a tad unqualified to raise a child. This is a beautiful little film, and a worthy entry to the Criterion Collection. 8.5/10
Silent House [dir. Chris Kentis, Laura Lau]
This remake of the 2010 Uruguayan horror film, La casa muda, relies heavily on a simple gimmick: to make the film appear to have been shot in one single, continuous take. This isn’t anything new — Alfred Hitchcock crafted a fantastic thriller around the concept with 1948’s Rope — but it seems rather pointless in the context of this film. The plot is standard fare, with Elizabeth Olsen starring as a young woman who is terrorized in a house by persons unknown. The situation quickly grows worse for her once her father and uncle disappear, seemingly due to the strangers.
As is wont with modern horror films, there is a big twist at the end, and it’s so obvious that I’m willing to bet most viewers will know what’s up within the first ten minutes of the movie. Predictable or not, it is an interesting concept; that’s why it’s a shame that it is a dull, monotonous ride to get there. There’s only so much stupid character behavior and shaky camerawork I can take without being rewarded in some fashion. Instead, all we get is a terrible script, amateur acting (aside from Olsen, who makes the best of the poor source material), and a lame payoff. Quite frankly, this may very well be the worst film I have seen from 2012. 2/10
Now let’s hear your thoughts! Have you seen any of these? What do you think of them?