In a Nutshell. Mini reviews of movies old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. And often no sleep.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Saturn 3 (1980)

Not the third part of a trilogy, the film's title refers to an orbiting space station within which the majority of the story takes place; positioned near Saturn's third moon, its role is to provide food research for an overcrowded Earth.
Sitting pretty in the isolation is old man Adam (Kirk Douglas) and his three-decades younger lover Alex (Farrah Fawcett). Adam's dirty old man utopia is threatened when a visitor from Earth (Harvey Keitel) arrives, bringing with him a robotic device that could make the existing duo's role obsolete.
The darkly lit corridors and believable space suits are great, but I won't pretend for a second that it's a good film. It's pretty terrible, especially the acting of all three stars, but for some reason I'm still able to enjoy it. As such, the scoring below is very much on the generous side.

2½ direct inputs out of 5

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Bodyguard (2011)

Salman Khan stars as Lovely Singh, the titular bodyguard hired to protect the daughter (Kareena Kapoor) of a man to whom he owes an enormous debt.
It'll probably surprise no one to learn that romance rears its head, and that it isn't as simple as it should be. Alas, comedy plays a large part, ranging from tongue-in-cheek stupidity to woefully mocking folks that don't fit the 'beautiful people' template Bollywood favours. The farcical bullshit does eventually lessen to a more tolerable level, but the absurd action doesn't.
Barring the ridiculous The Matrix (1999) rip-off scene, what saves the film from itself is primarily the closing half hour, wherein it turns attentively to the kind of bittersweet matters that rouse the human heart.

2½ private numbers out of 5

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Unforgiven (1960)

It's perhaps an unpopular opinion to have, but I don't have the affection for Audrey Hepburn that many, many other folks appear to have. Also, from a non-technical POV, the films of the much-revered John Huston often leave me disappointed. Nothing in The Unforgiven caused me to reevaluate either of those viewpoints. It's a story of racism and family set in the old west that had the potential to be extremely hard-hitting, but the stilted acting too often fails to give the topic adequate support, even when allowing for trends of the era. Burt Lancaster's character starts to fit in more comfortably during the final third, but the saving grace for me was the wonderful Lillian Gish.

2½ night musics out of 5

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Rise of the Footsoldier Part II (2015)

Carlton (Ricci Harnett), looking even more like the bastard offspring of Guy Ritchie and Peggy Mitchell, has changed little from before. The murder of his comrades preys on his mind, compounded by his heavy drug use. Leaving the circles of organised crime behind, he starts to rebuild his reputation with a small group of friends, but the bigger fish are rarely ever far away.
Harnett's default state is moody silence, which is just as well because the script is full of such, but the Carlton character is even more bare-bones than he was previously. The attempts to show that a sliver of sensitivity with regards his family exist behind the patina of hardened violence falls deathly flat. And the recurring slo-mo club scenes are an embarrassing fill in a crass and boorish story, as worthless as tits on a bull.

1½ best interests out of 5

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Vengeance of She (1968)

None of the major stars from the first She film return for the sequel, but given that it's set in a more contemporary era it makes sense that they'd not be included. The plot, however, is almost the same but reversed, so it's now a male ego-maniac waiting for his female companion (i.e. Ayesha) to be reborn and return to the hidden city of Kuma. The unlucky lady in that scenario is Olinka Bérová. There's some guff about the astral plane, magic circles and robed mystics, none of which is much good, but it does at least allow Derek Godfrey (as Magi Men-Hari) to be somewhat Mocata-like; and extra credit to him for keeping a straight face during the ridiculous chanting scenes.

1½ guided steps out of 5

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Mitsuko Delivers (2011)

Single, nine months pregnant and financially broke, Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is running low on options. But she's strong-willed and has a personal philosophy that keeps her afloat when life seems determined to drag her down. To the people she meets, such as the unmotivated, the unlucky, and the hopeless, Mitsuko is an inspiration. When she moves into a rundown tenement, populated with a number of such folks, she has her work cut out for her.
It's a Japanese comedy drama from Dir. Yûya Ishii with just the right amount of heart and quirkiness to make it fun and warming. The flashbacks to fifteen years previous add welcome depth to the oddball characters.

3 fair winds out of 5

Monday, 4 June 2018

Joe Kidd (1972)

Written by author Elmore Leonard, it's the story of ex-bounty hunter Joe Kidd (Eastwood) and his dealings with a (not very) Mexican revolutionary (John Saxon) and the rich landowner (Robert Duvall) who wants the latter man dead. It essentially boils down to a manhunt, but the uneasy working relationship between the titular Joe and his employer gives it an additional tense edge.
Eastwood's cowboy persona is as captivating as many of his more famous versions of the same; he makes it seem effortless. Duvall is also great as the wealthy and pitiless land owner who wants to eradicate his opposition.
It's not the best revisionist western that I've ever seen, but nor do I feel that it's as bad as some critics claim. And there's a Lalo Schifrin score to consider.

3 poor judgements out of 5

Friday, 1 June 2018

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

A sequel to Romancing the Stone (1984) that continues the story of Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas) and romance author Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner).
Joan, suffering from writer's block and bored with travelling the world in Jack's boat, seeks adventure (and inspiration) further afield, but once there discovers that it's not the creative plain sailing she was hoping for.
Danny DeVito also returns as Ralph, the incompetent villain hoping to acquire the titular jewel for his own purposes; i.e. a quick and easy profit.
The location is changed but the blend of bickering lovers and adventuring that characterised the previous film is retained. For a while it seems like it'll tick the same boxes, but it's not quite as much fun the second time around.

2½ umbrella tricks out of 5

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Revenge (1971)

aka Inn of the Frightened People / Terror From Under the House

Publicans Jim (James Booth) and Carol Radford (Joan Collins) are faced with the horrifying prospect that the man accused of killing Jim's young daughter Jenny will walk free. Overcome with emotion, Jim and two others take it upon themselves to get a confession from the suspected murderer.
Revenge's daring script earned it an X Certificate back in the day, but times change and modern audiences may consider much of it rather silly by comparison; what that says about modern movies/audiences as a whole is an interesting thought, but now's not the time or place. It sometimes feels like a British soap opera shot on film, but the tense music (effective, if occasionally too forced) and controversial subject matter give it an edge still.

2½ cellar dwellers out of 5

Monday, 28 May 2018

Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (2007)

An animated Highlander story that has Colin MacLeod (of the clan MacLeod) seeking vengeance on a fellow immortal over many, many years. The two primary eras are Roman Britain (125 AD) and a futuristic America (2187).
The differing goals of each man and how they impact upon their chosen lifestyle is the most interesting aspect of the story, but it takes a long time for the true weight of it to surface. In order to get to that stage we first have to suffer some bland pacing and some equally bland locations - although the latter does at least serve to further highlight the difference in lifestyles. Colin's ultimate goal coincides with someone else's more noble purpose, making him both hero of the people and agent of his own misery.

2½ other times out of 5

NOTE: review is of Dir's Cut (95 mins), not the edited US version (85 mins).

Friday, 25 May 2018

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

aka 1984

Dir. Michael Radford's adaptation of George Orwell's groundbreaking novel of the same name is as much an exploration of state control as it is of one man's struggle to make sense of his role within the totalitarian regime, a leadership that strives to destroy individualism, even going so far as to remove from the language the means to express distrust in the ruling party.
Much of the colour is drained from it, effectively communicating the dreariness of protagonist Winston Smith's existence; the carefully placed scenes of full colour add a contrast that runs deeper than just aesthetics.
The principals (John Hurt, Suzanna Hamilton, Richard Burton) are excellent, keeping what's necessary firmly understated but relevant at all times.

4 dictionary revisions out of 5

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Shady (2012)

Japanese schoolgirls Izumi (Izumi Okamura) and Misa (Mimpi*β) are being bullied by the same aggressive classmate; the former girl because she's perceived as being too pretty, and the latter for being perceived as not pretty enough. Even though they're placed at opposite ends of a (subjective) scale, the common ground is enough for a strong friendship to develop.
At first it resembles a sweet coming-of-age drama and if it had continued on that path it would've been a better than average example of such, but closeness can sometimes have a less desirable side to it – a darker side that an emotionally damaged teenager may find a strange and misplaced kind of solace in. Dir. Watanabe's Shady explores that side of a relationship, too.

4 pressure points out of 5

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Ronin (1998)

The tense opening is arguably the best part of Ronin, with the remainder of the film attempting to match it, but overall it's an enjoyable crime drama with some solid acting from its primary cast members. It's the not very original 'group of men who don't know each other hired to commit a robbery' scenario with the usual stock types (i.e. anonymous employer; loose cannon; overly-cautious planner; the quiet and amiable teammate, etc) but the sense of foreboding is well-implemented and likely strong enough to keep fans of this kind of thing intrigued. But I suspect what a lot of people will remember most is the bitchin' car chases through the tight and narrow roads of Nice.

3 boost multipliers out of 5

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Reign of Assassins (2010)

An impressive Wuxia movie that borrows heavily from Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) but pleasingly tips its hat even more to the successful genre stylings of the 1980-90s. Likewise, alas, that same era's uneven pacing and hurried scripting also feature. The result is a work that's both graceful and frantic, although not always at the same time.
At the centre of the conflict is the mummified corpse of a Buddhist monk, an unusual treasure that a small group of assassins desperately seek. The aggressors' martial arts skills are given a thorough workout. The combat scenes are of a high standard, but the emotional side is no slouch either, with a deep soulful love and an earthy, tender love each playing a part.

3½ secret skills out of 5

Sunday, 13 May 2018

She (1965)

Addressing the maxims that you should never touch an Englishman's hat without permission and that you should be wary of trusting a beautiful lady completely, Dir. Robert Day's version of the H. Rider Haggard novel She: A History of Adventure (1887) moves the setting decades forward to Palestine, 1918. Three Brits, Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins and John Richardson hunt for a fabled lost city wherein the titular high priestess She, a dubbed-over Ursula Andress in her nightie, holds dominion over the entire population.
The arduous traipse across the desert feels too brief, but it leaves more time for events within the exotic locale and the actors keep it mildly interesting.
She's showy royal garb is fantastic, making her look like an ancestor of the Sorceress from He-Man, but the film itself is less memorable.

2½ burning desires out of 5