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

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Kick (2011)

It's recognisably Pinkaew. A priceless item is stolen (a Kris), there's a rubbish car chase (mercifully brief), and the martial arts are astonishing.
But there are differences, too. There's more than one protagonist. It's a family of five, and they're South Korean practitioners of Taekwondo, not Muay Thai. The family unit adds something new to the formula. They squabble like a real family do, and even though they often fight solo there's an undercurrent of interdependence from time to time. Factor in a plot thread that carries a small but important message about following your heart and, even though it's a long way from perfect, it gets points for trying.
On the flip side, the villains are still blank, their primary function, outside of the aforementioned theft, being to give the hero(es) something to overcome.

3 cloth ears out of 5

Sunday, 28 August 2016

PASSION PLAY [2010]

Screenwriter Mitch Glazer (screenwriter of Scrooged, Rock the Kasbah, A Very Murray Christmas...you sensing a pattern here?) makes his directorial debut by shitting the bed something fierce with the romantic fantasy Passion Play.
Mickey Rourke clumsily stumbles through the film as a loser straggler that finds himself tangled up in a dangerous relationship with a beautiful circus sideshow girl with wings.
It wants to be a deep, meaningful journey into a quirky world that is both dark and romanticized but instead it's a laughable pile of cornball slop that I heard best described as "Hallmark noir".  It's one of those films I kept asking "how and why is this movie happening?"
There's so awful you have to see it, then there's this clusterfuck which is just so awful even YouTube doesn't want a "worst bits clips" video.

 ½ desert ninja savior out of 5

Race Against Time (2000)

James Gabriel needs money if he's to pay his son's medical bills. If he doesn't find the cash promptly then the boy will die. It's the future, so there are ways, but there are also consequences – the big business type!
Without changing a single thing in the screenplay, if RAT had been made by someone like Cameron or Scott and starred whoever flavour of the month is at Hollywood Towers then it would've made millions at the summer box office; not because those guys are considered better directors than Geoff Murphy, but because it would've received more hype and more distribution. The script has everything in it that a typical, cleverer than usual, summer science fiction blockbuster has – even an amped-up action movie ending that sullies most of what came before it. As it exists, by TV standards, which is where it found a home, it's a better than average flick.

3 resource bracelets out of 5

Saturday, 27 August 2016

THE CONJURING 2 [2016]

After a successful turn with The Fast & the Furious franchise, director James Wan returns to the frightening world of The Conjuring.
Suffering from a particularly distressing case at the infamous Amityville house, real-life paranormal investigators Lorraine & Ed Warren are reluctant to take on another case until they are summoned to help out a broken family in London, England.
While it might not be nearly as pants-shittingly scary as the first film, it holds up with some heartily told human stories supported by a strong cast.  Wan maintains his knack for inventive visual frights, supremely creepy atmosphere and a cleverly paced build-up that explodes with scary grace that never seems quite as long as it actually is.

3 crooked men out of 5

Toei Hero Next: We're the Bounty Hunter Troupe (2014)

Spoofs with genuine stories hidden beneath the laughs are magical things. Just look at Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. On the surface, this is a gigantic bag of Super Sentai cameos and fanservice. When the references aren’t call-backs, they’re knowing switcheroos. The core six Kyoryugers are a group of actors, who are also bounty hunters, that entangle themselves in a case involving Go-On Silver. Trading one female Sixth for another. I like that~ The conclusion is Ace Attorney-worthy and they even work in a nod to the value of toku as a whole. Still, I unfortunately can’t really recommend it to anyone who isn’t at least familiar with Kyoryuger.

All of the cameos are listed below the cut.

4 Western Shippers’ Wet-dreams Come To Life out of 5

Nutted by NEG.

Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

The seventeenth film is a direct sequel to the previous one, The Return of Godzilla (1984). It begins with a group scouring the wreckage of the city for a plot device, which is promptly put to use in more than one way.
It has the same dark tone but holds the attention in a different manner.
I can't go into detail here, but it's fascinating to me that Godzilla exists because we split the atom, whereas, in contrast, Biolante exists because two things are fused. There's more to the relationship than that. To Biolante, too; the creature is one of the most bizarre the series has ever birthed. It's also one of the most memorable. The final fight between the two giants is quite possibly the best action scene in any of the films so far! It's outstanding.
Oh, and tentacles without CGI? You betcha! That's how it should be done.

3½ alarms triggered out of 5

Friday, 26 August 2016

FRIDAY THE 13TH [2009]

Shitty remake director Marcus Nispel creates a mish-mash of the first four Friday the 13th films which results in what I suppose is an accurate definition of a shit-mix.
There's these kids, they go to Crystal Lake to do drugs, have sex and get killed by the deranged killer Jason Voorhees.
Nispel washes the over-saturated film with a grungy vibe that is nice to look at first but grows tired very quickly as you realize it doesn't hide the complete lack of creativity or ambition to give the audience anything tasty to chew on.  However for those actively seeking out shallow, unimaginative schlock-fests with some all right kills then this might actually do the trick.
Just be warned, even producer Michael Bay said he walked out of this film.

1 fine time for a fap out of 5

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 [2016]

Crap director Jon M. Chu takes over directing duties for the sequel to the 2013 surprise hit Now You See Me.  Fortunately screenwriter Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Bill & Ted's)  is still on board to guarantee dumb mindless fun.
This time around The Four Horsemen step back into the spotlight only to find themselves forced by a wannabe James Bond-esque villain to pull off a near impossible heist.
It doesn't do much to improve upon any of the glaring problems of the first film but nor does it really take a step down in quality either.  It more or less just sits exactly in the same position and hopes for the best.  Based on whether or not you enjoyed the first film will depend on how much you get out of the this retread joyride.

3 hats out of a bunny out of 5

Dead Heat (1988)

Part buddy cop film, part zombie horror flick, the best way to describe Dead Heat is a combination of Beverly Hills Cop and Re-Animator. Unfortunately the studio hacked it to pieces in order to tone down the blood, violence and gore. You know, the good stuff. What's left is a cheesy 80's cop film filled with just enough dumb fun to be watchable. There's really only one scene worth viewing. Treat Williams does a decent job despite having to partner with the abysmal Joe Piscopo, who has no screen presence whatsoever. With better casting and some studio support, this could have been classic rather than forgettable. 

2½ zombified deli meats out of 5

Long Dream (2000)

What if mankind could possess immortality? That is what one doctor ponders in the Japanese made-for-tv film Long Dream. Based off a short manga story by Junji Ito, the H.P. Lovecraft vibe is strong. As the author is a self-professed fan, it's not difficult to see his influence. Director Higuchinsky is painstakingly true to the source material's imagery, almost to his detriment. From the spot-on casting to the horrific character transformations. The budget is obviously low, but the makeup effects are high-quality. They are mirror images from the manga, but they're almost cartoon-like, lacking a sense of logic and reality. It's refreshing to see an adaptation follow the original story so closely. It only extrapolates in the third act, and I believe it aids in strengthening motivations while creating emotional fodder for the characters. Unfortunately Higuchinsky fails in fashioning a successfully cohesive conclusion. He seems to have the same issue with 2000's Uzumaki as well.

2½ bulging eyeballs out of 5

Thursday, 25 August 2016

THE 'BURBS [1989]

Director Joe Dante does his darndest to create zany mayhem in the Tom Hanks led comedy The 'Burbs.  
A group of nosy neighbors believe the strange new folks in the neighborhood are murderers and go out of their way to come up with some bloody evidence.
The movie tries to be deranged but it isn't.  It also attempts to be witty but it simply isn't.  There's a few minor chuckles here and there but it mostly falls flat in predictability and too many out of place moments that never quite adds up to anything meaningful.

2 satanic pâtés out of 5

Captain America (1990)

It doesn't take long for lame Steve Rogers to be transformed into the all-American hero. By about fifteen minutes into the film he's kicking Nazi butt in some of the worst edited action scenes outside of a Michael Bay movie.
The Red Skull is the Captain's enemy through the ages. But he's rubbish in comparison to the one thing that the story manages to do reasonably okay: Steve's feeling that the world has moved on without him. It's achieved best in a scene that has the fly-boy running down the middle of a road.
Overall, he doesn't do very much actual heroics. It feels like a TV movie that had to compromise all too often. His plastic shield was embarrassing, but at least it and the suit design are faithful to the source.

1½ superhero sickies out of 5

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Trilogies Collection

Who doesn't love a threesome? When it comes to film, there's something oddly satisfying about a trilogy. If the first one is lucky enough to be a success then a sequel can build upon it or tie up any threads that were left hanging. A third film can serve as a timely farewell. Or sequels can be a waste of space on a shelf, add little or nothing to the original, and may in fact exist solely to milk cash from completists.

Because what's below the cut is alphabetical, to make life simpler for myself I'm not including the titles of the individual films. Instead, I'll put the title by which they're known collectively, followed by links that'll take you to the relevant post (opens in new window each time). It's a BIG list.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Return of Godzilla (1984)

The sixteenth film (and first in the Heisei era) was a deliberate attempt to return the series to its origins. It successfully made Godzilla scary again. No longer something to be mocked, Godzilla is total fucking destruction.
The first proper reveal of the rejuvenated kaijū is impressive, with newly added facial animatronics enabling it to have nuances like never before.
An intimate human story exists alongside and outweighs a larger political one. Foreign powers get involved, forcing Japan to take a stand on two fronts.
The last act feels like it could've been tightened up in comparison to what came before. As it stands, it resembles a disaster movie, but I see no reason why it can't be perceived as such. Godzilla is a force of a particular nature, after all, a personification of a monstrous event.

4 calling birds out of 5

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Dawn of the Dead: Director's Cut (1978)

Four uninfected survivors struggle not just to avoid being eaten but also to escape an encroaching fatalism in the face of overwhelming odds.
It's a small but diverse group, one half of which is military trained. The pairing of officers trained to kill and civilians is an interesting one; quite often even the ones who embody the most controlling aspect are written to serve the situations, whereas it would arguably have been more dramatically satisfying to have them presented in the opposite manner.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) is more indelible than Dawn of the Dead, but the sequel is just as capable of supporting subtextual theories. The focus got broader, pushing the undead threat into the light of day - or rather the unnatural light of a shopping mall. It's colourful, thought-provoking, gory and has more hit and miss humour than you might expect. B-Movie bumps and continuity errors aside, it's a worthy continuation of a genre-defining work.

4 insides on the wrong side out of 5

NOTE: Review is for Dir. Cut (139 mins) only. Theatrical (127 mins) and Argento (118 mins) cuts are paced differently and may score differently, too.