Toronto After Dark 2012 Awards Announced

Toronto After Dark 2012 has come and gone. If you weren’t able to attend, then you missed out on tentacled aliens, creepy found footage, flesh starved zombies, neurotic writers, angry werewolves, suspicious crime scene photographers, a chainsaw at a wedding, killer sushi, and plenty other examples of the weird, scary, hilarious, and fantastical. Every year TAD tallies the votes from the ticketholders and passholders, coming up with an in depth list of awards. This year the results were a little surprising considering the closeness of the festival to Halloween – fans seemed to be locked into the comedies. Nevertheless, it’s tough to argue with the results if you were in the crowd as many films this year enthralled the audience with humour. Below is a brief list of some of the awards. For a more detailed list please visit the Toronto After Dark website.

Cockneys vs Zombies

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARDS, BEST FEATURE FILM

1. GOLD: COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES
2. SILVER: DEAD SUSHI
3. BRONZE: A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING

Bio-Cop

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARDS, BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM

1. GOLD: BIO-COP
2. SILVER: A PRETTY FUNNY STORY
3. BRONZE: FROST

Henri

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARDS, BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM

1. GOLD:  HENRI
2. SILVER: VICKI
3. BRONZE: NUMBERS

Hotline Miami

AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARDS, BEST INDEPENDENT VIDEO GAME
1. GOLD: HOTLINE MIAMI
2. SILVER: TALES FROM SPACE: MUTANT BLOB ATTACKS
3. BRONZE: McPIXEL

See you next year – after dark of course.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Sushi Girl Review (Robert Harding)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Sushi Girl (2012)

Starring Tony Todd, James Duval, Noah Hathaway, Andy Mackenzie, and Mark Hamill

Directed by Kern Saxton

People have been paying tribute to their favourite films for decades. Films have been sequelled, rebooted, and remade. When a film is remade under a completely different guise without giving tribute to its source it usually falls under two categories. When it is well received it is considered an homage to the original, considered smart and given accolades. Films that aren’t well received are considered rip-offs, unoriginal and often forgotten.  Sushi Girl is not a reboot, sequel or remake but it’s similarities to other films are without dispute.

After serving six years in prison, keeping his mouth shut following a jewel theft that went horribly wrong, Fish (Noah Hathaway) meets up with his fellow thieves for a sushi dinner. Unfortunately for Fish, this crew isn’t about to leave until they get what’s theirs and only he knows where their diamonds ended up…or so they think.

Sushi Girl is getting very mixed reviews.  Many are calling it nothing new and a blatant rip-off of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (which itself was a “rip-off” of Ringo Lam’s City on Fire).  Others are stating that it is a fantastic homage to great heist movies. There’s no denying the similarities between Sushi Girl and Reservoir Dogs and City on Fire, but just like Reservoir Dogs has subtle differences from City on Fire, Sushi Girl has its own differences.

Much like Reservoir Dogs, Sushi Girl works well mainly because of its cast. With Noah Hathaway, Tony Todd, Mark Hamill, James Duvall and Andy Mackenzie making up the main cast of jewel thieves you might think the film was filled with second rate actors but that is not the case. Mark Hamill stands out as a sadistic psychopath (clearly influenced by his Joker character), Andy Mackenzie could easily be an actual crazy enforcer in any biker gang and Tony Todd commands the screen whenever he opens his mouth.  In fact, Tony Todd needs to get more similar roles as he emanates  a “don’t fuck with me vibe.” The cast is rounded out with cameos from such names as Michael Biehn, Sonny Chiba, Danny Trejo and finally Cortney Palm who looks absolutely gorgeous as the title character.

Through fantastic characters and plenty of sushi this film managed to beat its way into my good books. I wouldn’t call this an homage or a rip-off but simply a new telling of a familiar and entertaining story.  I truly enjoyed the performances from Mark Hamill and Tony Todd and loved all the great cameos. If you are at all a fan of Reservoir Dogs or City on Fire I suggest giving Sushi Girl a chance, but keep an open mind.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Dead Sushi Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Dead Sushi (2012)

Starring Rina Takeda, Shigeru Matsuzaki and Kentarô Shimazu

Written by Noboru Iguchi, Makiko Iguchi and Jun Tsugita

Continuing a long tradition of Japanese splatter films at Toronto After Dark – past years have also brought us Tokyo Gore Police, RoboGeisha and Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl – we were treated to Noboru Iguchi’s Dead Sushi for the 2012 edition of the festival. One of Iguchi’s first films outside of the Sushi Typhoon label since that company launched, Dead Sushi has been hailed as a fun romp that returns Iguchi back to the form of Machine Girl, the film that helped launch Typhoon in the first place.

Kieko (Takeda) is the daughter of a prestigious sushi chef, whom after being unable to cope with her father’s rigorous and frequently painful instruction, runs away from home. She finds work at a resort as a hostess/waitress only to find herself accidentally embroiled in a delirious revenge plot against a gaggle of corrupt corporate cronies. The corporate retreat you see has been invaded by the transformation of multitudes of Sushi into undead teeth-baring, murderous, man-eating monsters. Hysterically, amidst all the bloody mayhem that ensues, the film is genuinely educational about the preparation, presentation and etiquette of sushi.

Surprisingly Dead Sushi is a step back for Iguchi, a much smaller and contained film than some of his previous efforts. This actually benefits the film greatly, keeping the action from going completely off the rails like his splatter film compatriot Yoshihiro Nishimura’s films so often do. The fact that Sushi Typhoon is not associated with the project results in less budgetary dollars for the film and prompted more creative and economical decisions.

The cast is very funny here, Rina Takeda delivers a very watchable performance as Kieko and Shigeru Matsuzaki as the gardener Sawada steals pretty much every scene he is in. The killer sushi itself is almost all done with practical effects work, with some cheesy CG in parts that only serves to add to the overall goofiness of the film. One scene in particular, a character transformation scene is pretty hilarious. Iguchi even plays off his own past when a character onscreen at one point screams ‘things have reached the point where they literally make no sense’. The homage to Gremlins with a bullied and dejected Gizmo like piece of Egg Sushi is entertaining throughout. The film is set and takes place mainly in the one great looking location of the resort and a few rooms within, which I assume cut down production costs as well, and the settings look very authentic here.

Iguchi’s creativity has been enhanced here by having to stick within budgetary constraints. The film is definitely something that plays better with a lively Toronto After Dark crowd, but is inventive enough that it should hold up on repeat viewings as well. Dead Sushi is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: In Their Skin Review (Robert Harding)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

In Their Skin (2012)

Starring Selma Blair, Joshua Close and James D’Arcy

Directed by Jeremy Power Regimbal

Home invasion is never an easy subject. The thought of someone entering your house and stealing stuff is bad enough but thinking it could happen when you’re home is truly frightening.  Thoughts of being tied up, property stolen and the house being damaged are just the beginning as you never know the full intentions of the invaders.

After the accidental death of their young daughter, Mark (Josh Close) and Mary (Selma Blair), along with their young son, decide to drive to their family’s very large isolated vacation home in order to spend some quality family time together and help cope with their loss. Not long after their arrival they meet up with what appear to be overly friendly neighbours only to find out that Bobby (James D’Arcy), Jane (Rachl Miner) and their son Jared Sykorski are not entirely who they seem to be.

First time Director Jeremy Power Regimbal has managed to put together an amazing first feature. The audience at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival made their thoughts known during the screening of the film as they winced, cringed and gasped in unison during multiple moments in the film.

Getting this great cast together was possibly the best thing to happen to this film. Everyone involved does a fantastic job of conveying their various psychoses and neuroses. Without these marvelous performances In Their Skin could have come across as a campy low budget horror flick rather than the convincing thriller it is. As suspense movies go, In Their Skin does a very good job of controlling tension through pacing and the hard to master skill of foreshadowing.

Despite all that is good about In Their Skin, I still had a few problems with it. I didn’t quite connect with the attitude of Mark and Mary at the beginning of the film. I realize they are supposed to be affected by the death of their daughter but I wasn’t sure exactly what emotions they were feeling. Were they supposed to hate each other? Were they simply distant? It was never really clear. The end result is that the viewer is never truly able to connect with them as the victims. The other problem I had came from the way the film ended.  The film spends so much time building tension and suspense but when it came to the conclusion, things seemed to end rather quickly and without much thought or creativity.  While the ending wasn’t as dark as I would have enjoyed, I would have been just as happy with an ending that felt fresh and showed a little more development.

There is a lot of talent coming out of Canada lately when it comes to genre filmmakers and I’d put Jeremy Power Regimbal among them. He has a good grasp of pacing, camera angles and story concept and while he hasn’t created a masterpiece with In Their Skin, he has managed to put together a film that gets under your skin, even if only for a short period of time.

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Toronto After Dark 2012: Resolution Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

Resolution (2012)

Starring Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon

Written by Justin Benson

Directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Resolution, the hit film from the Tribeca and Fantasia festivals made its Toronto debut at Toronto After Dark 2012. Another cabin in the woods style thriller in a year that has also given us ‘Cabin in the Woods’, Resolution is a smaller more compact story that strives to tell an equally intense and original story. But the question is can they succeed?

Mike (Cilella) receives a deranged video via email from his junkie friend Chris (Curran). This prompts Mike to track down Chris in a cabin by the woods with a desperate plan to attempt to rehabilitate him. As the two bicker and squabble in the dilapidated abode, they soon find themselves accosted by increasingly sinister neighboring forces. Mike also stumbles upon a series of interconnected media (from diaries to VHS tapes) that begin to embroil them in a possibly supernatural plot that pervades both the cabin and its surroundings.

Resolution is not a movie that cannot be easily described or dissected, hence the shortness of the synopsis. The elements are all there, the result just needs time to sit and be contemplated. This review did not come together until a few days after the screening.  The leads Vinny Curran and Peter Cilella are both fantastic. Their natural chemistry – all of the filmmakers are incredibly close offscreen – just oozes off the screen and Vinny’s comedic timing is impeccable. Despite the natural tendency to dislike a character that is in Chris’ situation, a stubborn crack addict that doesn’t care who he hurts, Curran manages to make him a loveable lout. Peter gets hit with the straight man role this time out and responds admirably.

The script contains some of the best dialogue of any film screened at Toronto After Dark this year and makes the audience work to discover what is really happening around them. Spooling out at a methodical pace and building paranoia as more evidence is discovered, the script remains smart and edgy throughout. The ending is challenging and will be divisive as it does not explain the goings on but leaves the audience with their own thoughts and theories. Directors Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson deliver a tightly shot film with CG work that is so flawless it is bound to fool even other effects programmers. Using all actual locations, including the cabin, and as much natural lighting as they can, the directors manage to get amazing results.

Resolution is a film that cannot easily be categorized, but despite this it is a film that is highly entertaining and worth the effort to track down. Resolution is a solid recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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