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

Friday, 22 September 2017

Princess Raccoon (2005)

Dir. Seijun Suzuki's final film is a vibrant and bonkers spin on a well-known Japanese folktale about a human male and a beautiful shape-shifting tanuki princess. The human (Joe Odagiri) is the son of a Lord, banished from his home on account of being more handsome than his jealous father.
Like the titular princess (Zhang Ziyi) the film isn't fixed in any one particular form. It's varied, a traditional film one minute, a kabuki-esque production the next, or even something resembling a picture book brought to life with the unreality of chroma key occasionally working in its favour! A number of differing musical styles add further strangeness and character.
The trailer should be enough to either intrigue or repel you, so it's perhaps a good idea to check it out before diving into Suzuki's madness feet first.

3½ jewelled tears out of 5

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Hannie Caulder (1971)

Raquel Welch plays the titular Hannie, a woman on a mission to exact revenge upon a trio of men who stormed into her life and left it in ruins.
There's a scene early in the film that's harrowing to watch, given additional wallop by a powerful musical accompaniment. It's the reason the story goes in the direction it does, but a subsequent turn of events weakens the set-up. It's as if the makers feared they'd gone too far and attempted to alleviate the criticism they might receive. I feel that was a mistake, and is likely the reason the film is remembered more for its beginning than for its entirety.
Welch's character works best when silent. Thankfully, Robert Culp is on hand to pick up the slack there, doubling as tutor and mentor in both practicalities and the more meaningful soul-searching aspects of the story.

3 cold nights out of 5

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Bat (1959)

A murder mystery author rents a mansion for the summer, an event that's nothing to write home about in itself, but around the same time a very large sum is embezzled from the local bank and the mansion's owner disappears. Thereafter the mansion gets a lot busier and more dangerous.
It's a standard Sunday afternoon whodunit that gets a little silly at times, but the inclusion of Agnes Moorehead as the author and Vincent Price as a somewhat secretive doctor is too good to pass up. There are some real bats, but the title refers to a 'faceless' killer with the moniker of 'The Bat'.

3 clawed-fingers out of 5

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Luckily for Charlton 'Thou Shall Not Wear False Beards' wasn't one of God's laws, because the actor's face fur wouldn't fool a goat, much less a deity. But trappings aside, DeMille's epic is memorable for other reasons. Its scope is such that it feels like an event, a thing to behold as much as to enjoy.
It's a lavish production in which Heston dominates even when he's attempting to be humble; Brynner oozes a venomous charm as Moses' ambitiously jealous sibling; while the ladies captivate whether they be decked in finery or rags.
It rarely feels like it isn't staged every step of the way, even the on location scenes feel overly-managed, but it makes up for that with the large amount of sheer drama that it brings to the table. Only the last half hour lets the side down, wherein it rushes to deliver its concluding message.

4½ binding ties out of 5

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Kakera: A Piece of Our Life (2010)

Many of the scenes in Kakera are pure perfection, especially in the first half. I wanted it all to be that way, but it reflects life and life is never that way, so the film had to follow suit. In truth, such contrasts are important to our understanding and appreciation of each particular feeling, which is a topic that the film itself explores. It's the story of two women, one a college undergraduate with an unfaithful partner who uses her mostly for sex, and the other a prosthetist who sculpts lifelike body parts for people who require them to feel whole again. In a sense, one is an unfulfilled student, while the other is an artist who gives a sense of peace to those in need and like every true artist she understands the salient beauty of imperfection.

3½ X chromosomes out of 5

Thursday, 7 September 2017

A Most Violent Year (2014)

Set in a wintry New York in 1981, it has the look and feel of an older gangster film, but the main protagonist, an ambitious businessman by the name of Abel (Oscar Isaac), is doing his best to avoid that particular lifestyle or even to be beholden to anyone who's already a part of it. His primary focus is on his heating-oil business, a profitable venture that's been targeted by an unknown rival force, leaving Abel in a dire straits situation.
It's a well-made film with a solid foundation and actors that are mostly believable in their roles. The few action scenes that add colour are dramatic and equally well-shot. To be fair, the script isn't bad either, but it wasn't as captivating as it needed to be in order to be more than the sum of its parts.

3 hijacked rigs out of 5

Monday, 4 September 2017

Wyatt Earp (1994)

If you love a good Western, like I do, then you might want to leave Wyatt Earp on the shelf and consider picking something else to watch tonight. Costner attempts to give the lawman a sensitive, pained characteristic but fails becuase he has all the charisma of a wet flannel. Quaid is slightly better as Doc Holliday but still thoroughly awful. By comparison, Hackman is excellent, a solid rock in a dead ocean of wastefulness, but he's hardly in the film.
The motivations of some cast members are in place but they're buried in blandness. The score takes no chances; it's mostly generic, rarely breaking free from the chains of romanticised melodrama that its tethered to. The most memorable thing about the film is the cinematography during daylight hours.

2½ cups of coffee (needed to endure the damn thing) out of 5

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Game to Movie Collection: Part Two

Adapting a video game to animation should be an easier process than adapting one to live action. The transition is smoothed by not having to realise the game's visual style in real world terms; it can be recreated exactly. But, like before, the fact that games are plotted so very differently to other mediums proves to be a hurdle. I've a lot of sympathy for writers that at least try their best. There are even a significant number of success stories, some of which you'll find linked below. Like Part One it's a list that'll likely be added to in the future. Click the coloured text below to see the full collection:

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Game to Movie Collection: Part One

Forever on the lookout for an existing market to exploit (because originality is hard), and despite multiple past failures, the Hollywood predators often stray into the gaming world. I’d give them credit for repeatedly trying if it was for noble reasons, but mostly it isn't. They hope that an IP with an established fan base can be turned into a profitable venture with minimal effort.
It's a lengthy list (sorted alphabetically) that will no doubt increase in the future, so I've put it after the cut. Click it to see the full collection:

Monday, 28 August 2017

AntiTRUST (2001)

I remember being disappointed with this upon my initial viewing, years ago. It’s because I was foolishly expecting it to be a Rachael movie, through and through. With my expectations now properly adjusted, I have to admit that I quite like it for what it is. It’s ambitious, but not too ambitious. It seems to know exactly where it wants to aim and the morals that get it there are ones that I can get behind. The only far-reaching weakness is Claire Forlani’s acting. In my experience, she’s always been sub-Tara level. She occupies space and looks at ya funny. Eh, at least she makes Rachael sparkle in comparison.

3 Appropriate Nods to George Orwell out of 5

Nutted by NEG.

Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha (2004)

A Bollywood remake of Return to Me (2000), an English language film starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver that I've no intention of ever watching.
In the Hindi version Rishabh and Parineeta (Khan and Zinta) are in love, the contrived, too perfect kind that makes an onlooker sick with revulsion.
It's a callous thing to say but I was glad when the inevitable tragedy screwed them; the reason being that what followed at least had the potential to be less mediocre. Alas, the potential was equally watered down. The basic idea remained entirely basic, challenging nothing but an endurance for blandness.
A viewer who's less critical and more sentimental than I am may be able to derive something they consider worthwhile from the film, but they'll need also to be more forgiving of plodding narratives and shoddy editing.

2 pretty Preity pictures out of 5

Friday, 25 August 2017

Only Yesterday (1991)

A twenty-seven-year-old Tokyo resident named Taeko takes a summer trip to the countryside. It's a holiday away from city life, but Taeko plans to work whilst there, helping with the annual safflower harvest. What she hadn't planned was that her ten-year-old self would choose to accompany her.
It's the same person but in two different eras. The adult Taeko replays and relives her memories of fifth-grade, reflecting on the trials of youth, the hopes and dreams she had and how they stack up to where she is now in her life. When combined they make one complete story – one lengthy journey toward an unwritten future. The deliberate undefined edges that some scenes employ suggests that feelings and situations we thought were complete at the time might actually have lines that aren't filled in until years later, provided we're wise and daring enough to make the connections.

3½ apple pieces out of 5

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Brewster's Millions (1985)

It's the only version of the story that I've personally seen, to date, but Wiki states that the 1985 version of Brewster's is the seventh film to be based on the same text, a 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon.
The titular character is a Minor League baseball pitcher who inherits a large sum of cash. The rub is that in order to claim ownership of the loot he must first meet the unusual criteria set by his dead relative: Brewster must spend $30 million in just 30 days and by the end have no assets to show for it.
A money problem approached from the opposite perspective than usual is a fun idea, but in reality it's reliant on Richard Pryor's onscreen personality from beginning to end. Without his comedic talent it would still be a fun idea, but most likely also a more forgettable film than it honestly already is.

2½ flagrant misuses out of 5

Monday, 21 August 2017

47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin is a very lean film. There's nothing present here beyond what is absolutely necessary. However, it isn't hollow or sparse like many current efforts. I will still joyfully admit that I brought a lot into it myself, and that it is very much OF myself. I cannot begin to guarantee that Keanu will wring emotion out of you the way he does for me. However, if you can recognize the appropriateness of the spartan execution, given the subject matter, and are willing to look into yourself as experiencing it, you may find similar fulfillment.

It certainly doesn't hurt that it links who I consider to be the greatest in the East and the West via the impeccable Deai Masayuki.

4 Minus Three Degrees of Yayoi out of 5

Nutted by NEG.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Friday Foster (1975)

Miss Foster is a magazine fashion photographer who's sent to cover something other than 70s fashions. Whilst there she witnesses a violent assassination attempt on an influential man. Afterwards, aided by a suavely-dressed Yaphet Kotto, she hunts the killer while being similarly hunted by him.
It's certainly not Pam's best work; not quite amateur hour but not far removed either. On the plus side the two leads definitely work well together, Weathers makes a believable villain, Scatman is his usual great self, and the music is memorable. I'd like to have seen more of the police lieutenant (Ed Cambridge) because he was fun. In conclusion, it has the feel of a TV Movie and if not for occasional nudity it'd probably be suitable for Sunday afternoon viewing.

2½ seduction brandies out of 5