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

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Revellers on board the luxury liner Poseidon enjoy their New Year's Eve party oblivious to the giant wave that's thundering toward them... until it hits!
Produced by master of disaster flicks Irwin Allen, Poseidon is a thoroughly enjoyable but admittedly pretty awful journey from the bowels of hell to the light of day for a small and varied collection of individuals who realise that they must band together if they're to have any hope of escape.
With plenty of rationalising and moralising along the way the ensemble cast do their best with the material, and by the end we know exactly why each character was included and what basic emotion they were required to appeal to, a task that most of them do rather well, I'm happy to say. I know that it's basically trash given the big screen treatment, but damn me, I love it.

3½ tables turned (literally) out of 5

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Guru (2007)

The story of Gurukant Desai, a villager with an ambitious dream and the voraciousness to actualise it. To achieve his goal of being the richest man in India Gurukant is willing to take whatever steps he deems necessary.
Abhishek received a wealth of praise for his portrayal. I'm going to add to it. I've never seen him better. Aishwarya, prominent on the cover, spends much of her time in the background, supportive in both character and role.
At times it's reminiscent of Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), and like it is based on the life of a real person (in Guru that's Indian tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani).
It's maybe uncommon to wish that a Bollywood film had an even longer running time than they typically have, but in Guru's case I think that it needed one because the years fly by too fast, leaving little time for important changes to be depicted as anything more than visual.

3 bogus truths out of 5

Monday, 5 December 2016

Dark Water (2002)

Often unfairly placed behind Ringu (1998) and Ju-on (2002) in importance, Hideo Nakata's DW is fully deserving of sharing space with either of them. It has chills, atmosphere in abundance, and some fantastic performances from its two female leads. It uses the horror elements in a more subtle manner, supportive of a structure that's more traditional in nature, while upfront is a story about a single mother who's struggling to keep custody of her daughter. She's a good mom at heart, but in order to afford a home for them both she must sometimes leave the child to fend for herself.
The water motif is everywhere, inescapable, a multifunctional device that holds a number of subtexts (eg. it's cleansing, harmful, isolating, etc).

4½ seeping shivers out of 5

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Achilles and the Tortoise (2008)

The final film in Kitano’s surrealist autobiographical trilogy is my favourite of the three. It's less surreal than the other two, but does get more and more abstract as time goes on. It's split into three distinct phases of struggling artist Machisu's life. Each time period has its own deft focus, but all have identifiable hallmarks of a Kitano experience, with the third being perhaps the weirdest.
Like Achilles in Zeno's Paradox it seems like Machisu is always playing catch up. But the more advice he takes from experts the worse his work becomes. He just can't win, and his output grows less representative of his true self.
The fictional characters are merciless commentary on both the superficiality of the art world and Kitano's own works (he did all the original paintings).
There's tragedy, but it's wickedly funny, underpinned by a peculiar warmth.

4 accomplished Beats out of 5

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Dune Warriors (1991)

In post-apocalyptic New California in the year 2040 AD a stereotypical villain in his de rigueur vehicle wants to rule the wasteland, but he's not in the film long enough to have any real impact. Nevertheless, the Dune Warriors will do their best to stop him and his small band of merry marauders.
David Carradine is the big name, the older, wiser hero, but he phones it in.
It's an odd fish. The film would've worked just as well (or probably even better) as a heroic fantasy flick, the swords are already present. The occasional Western elements and A-Team moments add little to the overall feeling that everything is a poor man's everything else, all of which is at the ass-end of the scale, especially those damn shacks.
Music is by The Score Warriors. I don't know which film they thought they were scoring, but it didn't seem to be this one.

1 hero exit out of 5

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

A successful but straightforward blend of 50s sci-fi movie and creature feature that's almost as familiar as it is fun. Film-lovers versed in the language of such things will even be able predict the timing of zooms and cutaways. What helps distinguish it from a hundred others is that it's set in a small fishing village in Southern Sicily, not in America, and, best of all, the creature FX are amazing! Also to its credit it takes cues from the more sophisticated entries in the genres, which means we're given an opportunity to develop a sympathetic bond with the creature, one that ties in with the obligatory philosophically poignant line of closing dialogue. If the script hadn't been cookie cutter elsewhere the film could've been great for more than just visual reasons.
A colourised version exists if you're allergic to B+W; I've not watched it.

3 frightened sheep out of 5

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Zid (2014)

A jilted newspaper crime reporter named Ronnie (Karanvir Sharma) attempts to escape his daily brooding by moving from his home in the city to a rural area. Whilst there his feelings for his ex-lover are eased when he spies and pervs Maya (Mannara), the landlord's daughter, but it's okay because she gets jollies from it, too. Even so, it doesn't prevent him from getting into quite a pickle.
It was the first proper acting gig for both leads; they did okay, all things considered, but the film is clumsy in many other ways as it attempt to explore themes of guilt, obsession and complicity.
One thing that did stand out was the rain scene; far from being the usual carefree, sensual, romantic aside, it's backdrop to a more sinister situation.

2 repurposed bird cages out of 5

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

When a film's title is that amazing it's a pretty safe bet that we're in giallo territory, and, sure enough, we are. But it's not fully in that camp. It's the story of a writer who abuses his wife and desires his niece, but by incorporating elements of Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat (1843) it attempts a more layered, sophisticated narrative. Unfortunately, with many subtexts fighting for attention it often feels like the component parts don’t merge together as well as they should've. It's a feeling that's somewhat overturned by the last third, although not completely. In spite of that, the performances from the principals are all great, which is something that gialli can't always claim to have.

3 surprise eyes out of 5

Friday, 25 November 2016

BLOOD FATHER [2016]

Director  Jean-François Richet's violent Mel Gibson thriller, Blood Father, plays like a Liam Neeson thriller, if Neeson weren't afraid to roll around in the dust 'n dirt.
Gibson plays a man, in search of some heavy redemption, who's forced to go back to his dastardly ways when his estranged teenage daughter shows up on his doorstep with some nasty sort of fellas hot on her trail.
Right from the get-go you know where this sort of film is heading but it's the clever little nuances that sets it apart from others of it's kind, like father & daughter just as foul-mouthed and dangerous as the other.  There's some pretty silly eye-rolling moments, plotholes galore and awkward dialogue but that's where Mel Gibson's real life unpredictable ferocity gives it that extra amount of savage B-movie tension.

3 topsy-turvy trailers out of 5

DON'T THINK TWICE [2016]

Comedian Mike Birbiglia writes & directs Don't Think Twice, a surprisingly moving bittersweet coming-of-age drama.
It follows a New York City improv comedy troupe, all closing in to age 40, as they reach the fork in road of make it or break it.
It's a painfully honest portrayal of life outside of comedy and the difficult choices one must make once you've realized you're youthful dreams aren't actually materializing.  It hits some predictable notes but it's the incredibly comfortable cast that keeps the delivery fresh and unexpected.  Everybody involved both in front and behind the camera know their place and it all comes together in a neat little package that is hard not to like.

4 games of Jenga out of 5

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

I see Clash of the Titans (1981) frequently cited as being Ray Harryhausen's masterpiece. Titans is a great film, for sure, but for me there's no contest, Argonauts tops it. If I was able to plot on a graph how my love for stop-motion was established then the highest peak would represent Argonauts.
Don Chaffey's film has a lasting appeal that's almost on par with the fabulous Greek myths that make up its plot. Some of those myths got rewritten, but it's okay because the highly versatile quest structure remains ageless and easily relatable. We're with Jason every step of the way, no matter how ill-advised or dangerous his reactions seem at the time. (Seriously, Jason, WTF?)
He's allowed free will but is nevertheless a pawn of the gods, aided by Hera (Honor Blackman) and hindered by Zeus (Niall MacGinnis). The power of prophecy to initiate action and of belief to sustain it is ever-present.

5 divine strategies out of 5

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

El Niño de la Luna (1989)

The story of a twelve-year-old boy named David (Enrique Saldana) and the occult society that appropriates him into their care. David has unusual powers that are used sparingly, not as a quick and lazy plot fix.
It's a slow moving film that casual viewers may struggle with. It'll likely be of most interest to two groups. The first is those who appreciate mysticism and peculiar narratives that don't feel the need to explain their every last detail. The other will be fans of the band Dead Can Dance. DCD provide the score (currently unavailable elsewhere) and band member Lisa Gerrard is one of the primary characters; it's her first acting role and she does great work.
The faults in the story are plain to see, but overall it's an enjoyable journey, and I loved how Dir. Agustí Villaronga chose not to compromise the strangely beautiful aura by hurrying the pace unnecessarily.

4 maternal lights out of 5

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Scene at the Sea (1991)

Garbage collector Shigeru finds a broken surfboard by the side of the road. He takes it home and thereafter a story develops slowly over a short but magical summer in which simplicity is beauty and the mundane is deadpan hilarious.
Both Shigeru (Claude Maki) and his girlfriend Takako (Hiroko Ôshima) are deaf, so there's not a lot of spoken dialogue, but the silence in no way diminishes the relationship or our understanding of it because the 'voice' of the piece is very much Kitano's and he orchestrates it masterfully; the bond between the couple has a rhythm that can be heard over the sound of wind and waves.
It marked the first of many times that the director had composer Joe Hisaishi provide the score. The music and image are so seamlessly matched emotionally that it's as if the pair had been working together for decades.

4 horizon lines out of 5

Monday, 21 November 2016

Barsaat (2005)

aka Barsaat: A Sublime Love Story / A Sublime Love Story: Barsaat

A woeful Bollywood romance that failed to offset its main character's antagonistic traits with enough sympathetic ones, resulting in him not being even marginally interesting. The female lead, the one we're supposed to feel more sorry for, is better represented but still problematic because, even if approached from a different perspective, such as that of a desperate lover, the few things that are relatable are not something to be celebrated. They serve only to diminish the character to the point of ineffectuality.
One good thing that might come from a viewing is recognising that from time to time everyone needs reminding that what they have, if they're lucky enough to have it at all, should never be taken for granted. For many it will be a reminder; for others it may be a first time realisation.

1½ issues resolved out of 5

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Without Warning (1980)

A low budget sci-fi/horror that used half of its entire budget to hire Jack Palance and Martin Landau; neither man phoned it in, but both are unlikely to have placed it high up on their CV. It was also Ralph Meeker's last role.
The plot is thin. It's hunting season at the lake, but the wildlife isn't the only thing being taken out - an alien presence is culling the human population.
The actual alien is embarrassing (when it does eventually appear), but his flying, fleshy, yellow pus-filled pancakes are fantastically bad-good.
The best of the rest of the cast is the young woman playing Sandy, namely Tarah Nutter. A quick trip to IMDB proves that it didn't happen, but Tarah probably deserved to have a decent B-Movie career thereafter.

1½ free lumberjack shirts out of 5