In a Nutshell. Mini reviews of movies old and new. Minimum words. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional trout.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Octagon (1980)

An unsuccessful date's end for most guys means returning home to sleep alone. Be thankful, because a failed date with Seduction-Chuck ends with ninjas and there isn't a tissue big enough to solve that problem.
In addition to cock-blocking stuntmen there's a terrorist group threat and a sly lady throwing spanners in the works. It's a lot for the action star to contend with, but Chuck doesn't have the emotional range to make his character anything other than functional, not that the script gives him much opportunity to even try. At best, it's like a live action Street Fighter II ending scenario.
His inner-voice has a bizarre echo effect, like his head is empty. And what's the deal with the angora vest? Oh, my bad, it's Chuck's manly chest hair.

2 red-tinted flashbacks out of 5

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960)

aka House of Fright / Jekyll's Inferno

A Hammer Studios production based on Robert Louis Stevenson's tale, starring Paul Massie as both the Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde characters.
Some intriguing concepts are discussed prior to the inevitable potion and transformation scene, including thoughts on how shame and morality might connect to notions of personal freedom. The talking sections are used to highlight how two opposing forces struggle for supremacy in each and every one of us, a conflict that gets its manifestation in a surprising way, when compared with cinema's handling of the same in previous years.

2½ locked-door keys out of 5

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Longest Day (1962)

It's somewhat fitting that a film titled The Longest Day should have a long running time. And while its 178 minutes don't exactly fly by, because a great many tiny dramas exist within the larger one (i.e. the World War II D-Day landings at Normandy in June, 1944) it rarely drags its heels.
Also noteworthy is the cast. It's packed with famous faces but many have little more than a cameo role. The closest it has to a leading man is either John Wayne or Robert Mitchum, but even they feature only occasionally because the binding thread is the event itself, not any one person or squad. That means we get scenes not just from the Allied side but the French and German sides, too, and in each case it's in the nation's native tongue, like it ought to be.

4 tough nuts out of 5

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Snapper (1993)

As if six bickering kids of his own weren't enough to cope with, Dessie's limited peace is further shattered when his eldest daughter (Tina Kellegher) gets herself "up the pole" for the first time. The resultant shit-storm over who the father is or isn't (she refuses to tell) is the basic set-up in a smaller-screen follow-up to Roddy Doyle's The Commitments (1991).
He may technically be only a supporting cast member but Colm Meaney as Dessie earns himself the biggest slice of celebratory cake. His working class one-liners are hilarious and even when evoking pained sympathy his outbursts are laced with an acidic and sarcastic Irish wit.

3 wrong wrong words out of 5

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Koma (2004)

A Cantonese language film directed by Law Chi-Leung that has some impressive camerawork in the first half, making it feel like we're inhabiting the same space as the characters do. It's shot like a horror movie a lot of the time but is actually more of a thriller about human relationships that get more complex as it goes along, due in part to the scalpels and illegal kidney removals. It was okay, but the final act was by the numbers.

2½ icy baths out of 5

Monday, 1 January 2018

Shock Treatment (1981)

It's the Brad and Janet characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) moved from that crazy world and placed into an equally crazy one: the cutthroat world of manufactured reality TV fame, years before such a thing became the shit-stain on programming that it's been for the past 20+ years.
ST will probably always exist in the shadow of RHPS, but to lambaste or dismiss it entirely for that reason, like some folks actually do, is unfair. Judged on its own merits it's lively; its commentary on the 'wholesomeness' of US culture and advertising is savagely satirical; the songs are catchy and funny; and Jessica Harper is a great choice for Janet, whose girl-next-door beauty is exploited by manipulative businessmen for their own nefarious ends.

3 crowd-pleasing happy thoughts out of 5

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Yeah Right! (2003)

Directed by Ty Evans and Spike Jonze it's an almost exclusively street-based affair that promotes Girl and Chocolate. It has some high profile skaters (e.g. Carroll; Koston; McCrank) and some even more high profile music (e.g. Bowie; Björk; Joy Division), but it's not just skating: there are skits and they get on my tits. Some even have post-production FX trickery. Digitally removing boards is puerile but admittedly harmless because it's obvious, but digitally removing ramps is an arguably different matter. The 'joke' is introduced early and even evident in the film's title, but it's still technically green-screen trickery. If it could be re-edited to exclude all the nonsense, including the pointless Owen Wilson scene, then it'd be a much more enjoyable work, for me at least.

3 wheels in water out of 5

Thursday, 28 December 2017

A Good Marriage (2014)

aka Stephen King's A Good Marriage

AGM starts ropey and there's little early on to suggest that it won't stay that way. I was on the verge of giving the stop button a firm press, but at the twenty minute mark it piqued my interest enough to stay my sexy finger.
The story is nasty in its own way, causing everyday activities and conversations to take on a sinister tone. There are a few scenes, dialogue-free mostly, in which Joan Allen absolutely nails the feelings of disgust and disbelief that her character struggles with; Joan's the best thing the film has to offer. A rarely-seen secondary character is the most recognisably King-esque creation, but overall the film feels unlike any other adaptation of the author's work that I've seen to date, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

2½ bad pennies out of 5

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Bunny Collection

Is there someone in there....................Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit............I bet with those long ears you can hear the voices....................Be careful, you're handling a VIP, after all...............................I don't have regrets about anythin' anymore...................It'd be bad if Yoko got even stupider............................I know, you can be strong, box......What's the matter, snuggle-bunny, finding out the world isn't all sunshine and rainbows?

Click the red link, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.........

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The Railway Children (1970)

Children's Classics - each generation will find qualifying examples from its own era, but some stories are rediscovered time and again. In Britain The Railway Children, based on Edith Nesbit's 1906 novel, is an enduring classic from yesteryear that never goes away and nor would I want it to.
The story is about a mother and her three privileged "suburban children." They're forced to move from their comfortable townhouse to a county villa in Yorkshire and live a poor life, without a father. It's simple in construction but remains as welcome and warming today as it was all those decades ago.
The lesson that kindness isn't dependent on social status or material riches is perfectly woven into every relevant part. The ending is a little mawkish, but the journey toward it is direct and smooth, like the train tracks that carry the focus of the faithful children's good nature into their collective midst.

4 proper places out of 5

Friday, 22 December 2017

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Based on William Thackeray's novel, The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), an unseen and unknown narrator (Michael Hordern) tells the story of how a penniless 18th Century Irishman named Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neal) acquired the Lyndon name, despite some damn fool decisions along the way.
I've watched BL twice only. Both times I was awed by how beautiful it was but bored by how slow it was. (I've not read the novel, so don't know how faithful it is or isn't to the source.) I agree with the critics who say that Kubrick's decision to shoot much of it with an often shallow depth of field makes the world look like a masterful 18th Century painting brought to quiet life, but the story doesn't grab hold of me in the same manner. The use of music, however, is a highlight; that part of it is rarely anything less than perfect.

3 prudent departures out of 5

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

M*A*S*H (1970)

Its reputation as a "hilarious" comedy may give first time viewers false expectations of what M*A*S*H will deliver. While there are a handful of genuinely funny moments, the humour is more ingrained in the characters as a kind of coping mechanism than something than can be picked out as an example in the script. The japes are as dry as the martinis that army surgeon Hawkeye (Sutherland) enjoys at the end of a shift, after spending hours wrist-deep in the blood of his fellow soldiers in a makeshift Operating Room during the war in Korea. The attitude of the medical staff keeps them sane in an environment that's little more than a collection of tents pitched in perpetual mud. The individual moments within the film have their own discernible merits, of course, but its true value only surfaces when considered as a whole piece.

3½ pains withheld out of 5

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)

CG animated tie-in to the Resident Evil video games, a series that has more entries in its arsenal than you can shake a zombie finger at.
It teams the heroic Leon (iconic jacket - check) and the sympathetic Claire, both of whom are voiced by the same duo as featured in the games. Events from their past are referenced often but the story doesn't waste time reiterating or explaining them, so it's not an ideal start for Resi newcomers.
A couple of interesting developments prevent it from being a waste of time for people who aren't totally invested in the lore, such as I, including an admirable attempt to give weight to the inevitable appearance of an 'end boss' sized creature, but mostly it's content to be a simple fan-pleaser.

2 falling platforms out of 5

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Bad Timing (1980)

Wikipedia classes it as a psychological thriller, which is as good a simplified description as any, I suppose, for what Bad Timing is; i.e. a labyrinthine and occasionally uncomfortable psychological/sexual drama with at least one controversial scene that for many people overshadows director Nic Roeg's astonishing technical achievements elsewhere. The non-linear plot jumps around in time but is assembled in such a way that each fragment is equally important, even though some are more emotionally weighty than others.
The strained relationship of the two mismatched leads (Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell) ranges from intriguing to downright plodding, but neither state prevents the themes that the film explores from rising to the surface.
In both audio and style it pushes established norms in surprising directions.

3½ observers out of 5

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Equalizer 2000 (1987)

aka Defender 2000

I'm not going to waste any more time on Eq 2000 than is necessary. It's a Mad Max (1979) rip-off set a century after a nuclear war, so expect dusty canyons, a chase scene, and cars with a few spikes and rusty pipes attached here and there to make things look more interesting. The bad guys are a fascist group named The Ownership. The hero is played by Richard Norton. The dishevelled but sassy woman is Penthouse model Corinne Alphen. Gasoline is in short supply but fuel for flamethrowers is plentiful, etc. The only major thing they forgot to include was story. It's 90% bad dialogue, explosions and gunfire.

1½ mountain people out of 5