The Frozen Ground
Old-school thriller in which Nicolas Cage and John Cusack do their best work in years. The film itself, directed by Scott Walker, is unambitious, breaking no new ground, though it is good to see High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens putting in a solid performance. In Frozen Ground, Cage plays veteran cop Jack Holcombe, who is on the path of a serial killer (Cusack), but can find no real evidence until he meets up with Cyndy Paulsen (Hudgens), the one victim who managed to escape. But her trauma has turned her into a junkie with trust issues, and Cage must find a way of working with her. And all the time the killer is still on the loose. There is plenty of adrenaline, but never much of a spark to make this competent thriller anything more than adequate DVD fare.
Song for Marion
Also released under the title Unfinished Song, this is another UK production that draws its main appeal from its aging, though hugely talented, cast. The concept is unmistakably that which drove the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. In Song for Marion, grumpy pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) honors his recently deceased wife’s passion for performing by joining an unconventional local choir. He makes new friends and in the process builds bridges with his estranged son, James (Christopher Eccleston). Pacing is a little on the slow side, but Stamp offers a powerful and moving performance, putting the icing on the cake on this touching and often amusing geriatric dramedy.
Brian De Palma is a master of the sexually charged, violent thriller and with Passion he lets us revisit his heyday of films such as Carrie and Dressed to Kill. In Passion, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace play Christine Stanford and Isabelle James, a manipulative boss of an advertising agency and her talented protegee, respectively, whose rivalry escalates from the usual corporate one-upmanship to murder. McAdams and Rapace are beautiful pawns in De Palma’s own manipulative exercise in which he toys with the audience’s expectations, making uncertainty feel deliciously exciting. Complex, sometimes even a little confusing, De Palma always keeps things under control in this gorgeously orchestrated symphony of jealousy, betrayal and violence.
Black and white film that follows a young man through a disastrous day in his home city of Berlin. For Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling), even the most mundane events seem to go wrong, but the comedy of his mishaps links up with that central trope of modernist European literature: the existential distress of a young person living on the edge of society. There are hints of Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground and even Joyce’s Ulysses, but the film, by Jan Ole Gerster, manages to keep the tone light and does not get too literary on his audience. Fine acting, a subtle managing sensibility and a willingness to let the city of Berlin play a major role, echoing its own violent history in its streets and buildings. Long after the laughs at Niko’s misfortunes have fade away, there is still plenty to think about Oh Boy.
Almost Perfect (30拉緊抱)
The second feature film from director Bertha Bay-Sa Pan (潘貝思 ) focuses on dysfunction in an Asian-American home. Vanessa (Kelly Hu, 胡凱麗) is the able daughter who serves as the main emotional and often practical support for her family. They always expect her to be there for them. She hasn’t time for a relationship, but then up pops Dwayne (Ivan Shaw), who seems just too much of a Mr Right to be ignored. The movie starts out as a comedy, but as the demands of her family pile up, it gradually transitions into more serious drama, as the family’s refusal to allow Vanessa the chance to lead her own life becomes less and less amusing. Pan manages the tone well, never allowing it to get too heavy, and keeping a thoughtful and insightful vein that runs through the whole movie.