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

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Hercules in New York (1970)

Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting début has the hulking Austrian playing a bored Hercules, who leaves the safety of Olympus to flaff around on Earth, specifically NY. Billed as Arnold Strong, you'd never guess while watching that he'd go on to be one of the world's biggest action stars. But it's not just Arnie's emotionless delivery that ruins the production, the direction is flat as hell and the comedy, besides a few clever miscommunication puns, misfire's often.
It seems there's two different versions, one in which Arnie is dubbed by another actor and one in which he isn't. The version I watched definitely had the original voice, except for a short scene at the end. (88 min, PAL DVD.)

1 tipped chariot out of 5

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Hell's Kitchen (1998)

The survivors of a bungled burglary are affected in different ways by what happened; e.g. Gloria (Angelina Jolie) wants revenge, while Johnny (Mekhi Phifer) wants to move away from violence. The emotional clash of interests gives the film a solid foundation upon which to build an effective drama, but it's too piecemeal and some scenes, while admirably lengthy and well-acted, often feel staged and, therefore, don't ring true. Likewise, while the rap music used is reflective of the street culture, it intrudes rather than complements.
The Johnny and Lou (William Forsythe) story could've been a worthy tale of redemption, but the film's lack of focus makes it too messy to recommend.

2½ stupid life choices out of 5

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Prehistoric Women (1967)

aka Slave Girls (a heavily cut UK vers.)

Rather than let the sets and costumes from their successful One Million Years B.C. (1966) film go to waste, HAMMER hastily made a follow-up. It has a campy kind of cave-girl charm, but the only truly memorable aspects are leading lady Martine Beswick and, better still, the eldest of the male slaves.
The male protagonist (Michael Latimer) would've earned my sympathies if he hadn't been introduced as a man who aids shit-bag big game hunters.
The story is even more ridiculous when written down than it seems onscreen, so I'll say only that it's about a tribe of dark-haired women who make slaves out of fair-haired women, all of whom are living under the shadow of a white rhino legend, and unlike OMY BC it has English language dialogue.

2½ unworthy eyes out of 5

Thursday, 16 May 2019

King Kong Escapes (1967)

aka King Kong's Counterattack

Because King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) did well, Toho wanted more ape. The result is a joint production with Rankin/Bass that's part US monster movie and part Japanese kaijū movie, with an American lead and a Japanese evil-doer.
The plot is bonkers: a rich madame (Mie Hama) wants a rare element mined from the earth, so needs the help of Dr Who (not that one), a crazy James Bond-esque scientist (Hideyo Amamoto), who builds a mecha version of Kong to do the dangerous work. Shit happens (radiation, naturally) and Mecha ends up battling the real King Kong, while dashing US submarine commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason) stays dashing, especially during close-ups.

2 white-gloved subordinates out of 5

Monday, 13 May 2019

Sci-fighters (1996)

A very determined escapee from a lunar penal colony in the futuristic year 2009 (really) sets about spreading an alien infection on a freezing Earth that seems to exist in perpetual night, seeing as how the sunlight is blocked by an encompassing dust cloud. Detective Grayson (Roddy Piper) picks up the trail of the villain, with reasons beyond mere duty as his driving force.
Put simply, it's like Blade Runner (1982) mixed with Alien (1979), in more than just script. But quite often it manages to make what appears onscreen seem like it cost more to produce than it probably did, the story has a decent level of atmosphere, and Billy Drago's earnest performance is memorable.

2½ sushi dates out of 5

Friday, 10 May 2019

A Silent Voice: The Movie (2016)

Being deaf, Shōko communicates her dialogue to others via a notebook and pen. It's a form of interaction that her sixth grade elementary school class-mates deal with in different ways. Most notably is Shōya, the class jerk, who does his best to make her feel as alienated as possible; in doing so he exposes his own insecurities. Years later he attempts to set things right.
The story expertly explains (but crucially doesn't justify) the boy's actions, while simultaneously exploring Shōko's inner-feelings. Unusually, at times the characters' faces aren't onscreen, or are hidden from view, but that too has an important role to play. As one, it makes for an emotionally captivating story.

4 concentric circles out of 5

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Dick Francis Mysteries: Twice Shy (1989)

The last of three TV Movies starring Ian McShane to be based on Dick Francis novels has the star investigating the death of a family friend, an experienced climber who hit rock bottom (literally) while climbing in Ireland. In addition to climbing, the victim was a systems analyst, which also plays into the plot.
It's yet more of the same, McShane's character collects useful information, takes some risks, and finds time for a passing romance. Patrick Macnee is back, too, but has even less to do than he did in the first film. It's all serviceable stuff, certainly not as dreadful as its immediate predecessor. However, the villains' forced civilised shtick does get a little irritating from time to time.

2½ meal times out of 5

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Dick Francis Mysteries: In the Frame (1989)

The second of three TV Movies starring Ian McShane that are based on Dick Francis novels, all of which are works that I haven't read. Wiki mentions that McShane's character, David Cleveland, a consultant with the British Jockey club, wasn't a part of the original story, so clearly things were changed for the adaptation. I hope for Mr Francis' sake that the clichéd and dull dialogue is one such thing, becuase if the bulk of the film's screenplay is an indication of what to expect in the original author's works, I'll never want to read them.
The mystery this time revolves around rich twats with expensive tastes, wine and paintings. Cleveland hops from Canada to Germany in pursuit of the truth.

2 painted mares out of 5

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Dick Francis Mysteries: Blood Sport (1989)

The first of three TV Movies starring Ian McShane that are based on Dick Francis novels, which I haven't read. My interest was McShane, who plays a skilled racetrack security man named David Cleveland, in Kent, England.
It co-stars Patrick Macnee as Cleveland's employer, at whose behest the star attempts to solve the mystery of a stolen racehorse worth six million dollars.
It's standard Sunday evening TV Movie stuff that, besides one instance of miraculous VHS tech, is a case that involves old-fashioned leg work, which, in contrast to the modern era's tech-obsessed detectives, is a simple joy.

2½ sardines out of 5

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Jack the Giant Killer (1962)

It's not as polished as Columbia's renowned Sinbad films, but JtGK will likely appeal to fans of the sailor, regardless. The works not only share a common aesthetic, but the hero and villain of The 7th Voyage... (1958) is the hero and villain here, too, and director Nathan Juran shot both films.
Set (initially) in Cornwall, it's a fantasy film in which farmer Jack (Kerwin Mathews) aids a Princess (Judi Meredith) who's targeted by a butt-hurt evil sorcerer (Torin Thatcher), a man who controls a host of fantastical creatures, some of which are stop-motion animated. The cheapo Hallowe'en masks and costumes will be off-putting to some, but for fans of this type of thing I doubt that even Jack's unmistakably plastic sword will dampen the enjoyment.

3 glowing witches out of 5

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Returner (2002)

In a desperate attempt to save humanity from an invading alien force, a young woman named Milly (Anne Suzuki) jumps back in time from the year 2084 to 2002, hoping to prevent the aliens from gaining ground before their war has a chance to even begin. Meanwhile, in 2002 a man named Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro) stages a personal war against a wicked Triad leader (Goro Kishitani). The two agendas are initially unconnected, but soon overlap.
The film is a combination of many different genres; although primarily science fiction, it has gun play, romance, action, comedy, and a few surprises thrown in for good measure. It has the feel of a multi-episode anime that's been condensed into a Toku-inspired movie. Not quite a jack of all trades, but not deserving of the second half of that phrase either, it's an entertaining fusion.

3 speed bursts out of 5

Monday, 22 April 2019

Straight on Till Morning (1972)

Brenda (Rita Tushingham), a working-class girl from Liverpool, breaks her mother's heart by moving to London to find a man to father her baby. She's naïve. out of her depth and eager to please; in a contemporary city setting that's a combination that's easy for socialites and psychopaths to exploit.
Rita is perfectly believable as a sheltered woman wholly unprepared for the dangers that await her - one of which is blonde-haired Peter (Shane Briant), a charming loner with a lot of free time and some emotional issues.
Artistically it has Nicolas Roeg-esque levels of cross-cutting, both visual and audio, that serve to disorientate, with an occasional sinister edge.

3½ fairy stories out of 5

Friday, 19 April 2019

Swamp Thing (1982)

Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) gets helicoptered into a swamp to meet with a research team whose secretive studies involving animal and plant life take a turn for the worst. Naturally, Alice ends up in the middle of it all. Although, mostly that amounts to her running around while the anguished Swamp Thing in a veiny green rubber onesie hollers and throws guys around.
It's a cheap and cheesy 80s B-Movie with campy moments, but good fun if you're in the correct frame of mind. There are a few memorable scenes in which the creature elevates itself with some brief but eloquent sensitivity; more of those would've made it a better film overall.
NOTE: the US version is shorter than the International Cut. It's by only a few minutes, but fans of Adrienne will probably want to see the longer one.

3 natural ways out of 5

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

A CGI movie set in the world of Square Enix's Final Fantasy XV (2016) video game. It supposedly runs parallel with game events, but it's designed to also be a self-contained story, so game knowledge shouldn't be a requirement. That's good, because I’ve not played it, nor have any desire to. Although, even if I had I'm confident that my response would be much the same.
It's the usual blend of magic and technology that we (FF fans) now take for granted as being the norm. So too is the cast of bland characters doing heroic things while a tedious political story tries but fails to be interesting.
The most surprising thing about it all is a non-story creative decision by the makers: the lip-syncing is for the English language version.

2½ ring fingers out of 5

Saturday, 13 April 2019

The Halas and Batchelor Short Film Collection (2015)

Best known for their adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm (1954), the husband and wife team of John Halas and Joy Batchelor created a huge number of animations in their lifetime. Inspired by a wide range of artistic sources, including poetry and music, their works were made primarily in traditional 2D animation, but also 3D stop motion, and more.
The pictured collection has eighteen such works, ranging from 3 to 12 mins (both approx.). There's a startling amount of variety on display, but what they each have in common is a staggering level of creativity; and you can feel the love invested in the work in every pen and brush stroke. If you're a fan of animation and haven't heard of the duo, then you're in for a treat.
My personal favourite is the video for Kraftwerk's masterpiece, Autobahn.

4 future cars out of 5