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

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

31 [2016]

Schlock-star Rob Zombie directs 31, a generic survival thriller that continues his love for obscure trashy violent 1970's horror films.
Here we follow a pack of low-life traveling carnival workers who are forced to play a game where they must survive for 12 hours while being stalked by a pack of psychotics dressed as clowns.
To quickly sum it up, it's pretty much The Running Man set in the carnival from Hell and is really nothing more than that.  What sets this apart from Zombie's last few films is it isn't as dark or serious and we're in for a twisted disturbing but oddly fun ride.  The dude still doesn't understand the art of film-making but given the cheap subject matter it's obvious that's not his intent.  So if you're not looking for substance or quality then this might be all right for you.

2 Nazi-midget bunnies out of 5


Writer/director Lee Kirk directs Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong in his first leading role in the genre-confused Ordinary World.
Armstrong portrays a musician turned husband & father who's lost in life as he's about to turn 40, which leads him to make some midlife crisis inspired choices that don't bode well for him.
Armstrong's performance goes back and forth between horribly forced to some touching moments that feel genuinely organic.  However it's Kirk's writing and directing that let the whole film sink.  He's not sure if he's got a crazy out-of-control party movie, a coming-of-age story or a warm 'n fuzzy family film on his hands and only proves Judd Apatow actually knows what he's doing when he seamlessly mixes all those elements together.  It's a mess of a film that barely holds together with it's generally likable cast of characters and predictable but warm good-heartedness.

2½ dogs in the hallways out of 5


After several years of begging, director Joe Dante finally returned to the world of Gremlins with an even more chaotic sequel, The New Batch.
This time around we follow Billy & Kate into the Big Apple where they're reunited with the annoyingly cute Gizmo and chaos ensues as a new batch of gremlins are born into a Trump-like tower of the future.
After the black comedy and genuinely frightening violence of the first film was heavily criticized by many for being too dark for a "kid's movie", Dante & co. opted for a more cartoonish sense of humor and very minimal actual on-screen deaths.  Many will consider it a terrible turn to take and many will enjoy how much it doesn't take itself seriously at all.  It embraces the silliness of the whole concept with no apologies and that's why I feel it's a worthy tongue-in-cheek sequel to the original.

3½ Looney Tunes out of 5

Starcrash (1978)

It's not unfair to say that Luigi Cozzi made a career out of ripping-off other people's works, but with Starcrash he didn't even try to hide it. The Star part is obvious enough (think Lucas), but the crash part is equally as apt because it does, frequently. Of course, that's what makes it interesting; that it resembles Barbarella (1968) at times also helps in the kitschy-cool department. And it even has elements of Columbia's Sinbad films (Talos with tits?).
What's perhaps the most heinous sin committed is that someone decided to dub all of Caroline Munro's dialogue (although, to be fair, it's reasonably well done) but none of David Hasselhoff's. That just ain't right, Cozzi.

2 sword-wielding robots out of 5

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Gotti (1996)

Spanning almost two decades (1973-92), the story of real iife mobster John Gotti is a familiar but engaging one. Gotti is a valued decision maker within the NY mafia doing things that don't always please the new Don. His loyalty to those that deserve it is a formidable tool in his arsenal, but not everyone in the family deserves his loyalty; and when that's accounted for, the dangerous jokes around the meeting table take on new meaning.
It's no Goodfellas (1990), but then Goodfellas wasn't a TV movie, Gotti is. Nevertheless, Dir. Robert Harmon delivers a delicious slow burn within which Asante absolutely owns the screen. The transition into the second half is powerful stuff. Fans of Mafia flicks should definitely give it their attention.

4 two thousand dollar suits out of 5

Saturday, 22 October 2016


Director Ti West, known mostly for horror movies, takes a dedicated shot at the Western genre with the gritty revenge tale of In a Valley of Violence.
A moody stranger, and his awesome dog, saunter into a penniless town and get into a scuffle with the wrong folks: the Marshal's dim-witted hot-headed son and his gang of equally brain-dead hooligans.
There's no re-invention of the wheel here but we are spoiled with solid storytelling, acting and an yet another excellent film score from Jeff Grace.  James Ransone, Karen Gillan, Burn Gorman and Jumpy the Dog all offer tongue-in-cheek performances that you know they're all having a great ol' time, while Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga and Travolta all play it straight which suits the tale just fine.  West's faithful traditional Western won't fill seats in the cinema but it will certainly please fans of genre looking for a good time.

4 wooden legs out of 5


Some French guy who only goes by Pilof shamefully directs Catwoman, the notoriously stupid box-office bomb that most have tried to forget.
Patience Phillips is a mousy pushover who gains fancy superpowers and a sassy new attitude after she is killed and brought back to life from the smelly fish-breath of an invincible pussycat.
This movie isn't funny, clever, exciting or even remotely entertaining.
I buried it in my cat's litter box and the next morning, after Captain Whiskers urinated on it, a piece of moist cat-shit had appeared in it's place.
I prefer watching the moist cat-shit.

½ a furball out of 5


Director Tobe Hooper has a great ol' time with Toolbox Murders, a slasher remake of the 1978 cult classic thriller of the same name.  
A young couple moves into a run down old apartment building filled with all sorts of colorful characters...and one of them likes slaughtering folks with objects found in his hardware store goody-bag.
There's a number of gruesome kills but thankfully that's not Hooper's only concern and the viewer is treated to a wonderfully creepy atmosphere filling the walls of the old building.  Angela Bettis gives it her all and it elevates the so-so story into something better than it would be without her.  All in all, the film goes to some creepy horrific places but everyone involved is in it for a great time and it shows in the roller coaster end product.  

3 teeth in the wall out of 5

Friday, 21 October 2016

Muriel's Wedding (1994)

Low on self-esteem and high on dreams, Muriel Heslop is the heavily-flawed bumpkin you can't help rooting for in this quirky Australian tale. The film is superb in humanizing the white trash stereotype, but certain supporting roles are a tad overboard. The humor comes oozing from the rest of the cast's performances. Bill Hunter is especially vibrant. Toni Collette gained 40lbs to play Muriel and her dedication to the character is key. Even in her most profoundly pathetic moments we see a damaged young woman on the brink of maturity. Never allowing a lull in the story, writer/director P.J. Hogan packs the film with dramatic highs and lows. Owing to Muriel's expertly rendered character arc, we are left with a supremely satisfying and uplifting film. 

4 Porpoise Spits out of 5

Satanic (2016)

In his first feature, extensive episodic television director Jeffrey G. Hunt presents a script from Anthony Jaswinski (The Shallows) where four friends go on a tour of satanic haunts around Los Angeles and end up meeting the wrong free spirit. Failing to bring any creepy vibes to the table, the film is just one bad decision after another. In probably the only draw this movie has, Modern Family's wholesome Sarah Hyland gives us a shrieking yet tepid performance. I've always believed the most substantial problem that can arise in a film (especially a horror film) is boredom, and this one has it in droves. 

1 Ouija BJ out of 5

Gunsmoke (1953)

Gun for hire Reb Kittredge (Audie Murphy) receives a mostly cold reception when he arrives in town; it's a reaction that turns out to be somewhat warranted when we find out why he's actually there. But Reb is used to such responses. His no nonsense approach to life extends in all directions. Never faltering, he remains calm even in heated situations. The script gives him ample opportunity to prove it, both with bullets and with loaded dialogues.
A lot of 1950s westerns were formulaic, repeating what worked before because it was easy and accepted. Gunsmoke shares a lot of the same ingredients as that type, but it keeps pace with the pack leaders.
The short running time means everything has to move at a hurried pace, including the characterisation, but it's well-played, with even the most overly-used stock types feeling purposeful during their brief appearances.

4 non-welchings out of 5

Thursday, 20 October 2016


"How is this happening?" I found myself constantly wondering throughout writer/director Jim Hosking's vile demented comedy The Greasy Strangler.
A loathsome father & son go head to head for the love of a new woman in their life, while one of them develops a peculiar taste for smothering their naked body in layers of fatty grease and murdering people with his bare hands.
It's probably best described as Robert Crumb's Napoleon Dynamite in an Eraserhead-esque world.  Imagine that weird guy on the bus who reeks of sour milk and maple syrup that disturbingly stares at girls with a twisted grin on his face and you get an idea of how this film plays out.  It's about a half-hour too long which is a shame, because with a bit of tightening up and less repetition it might have made the perfect short film.
Not everybody is going to like this film, and with good reason, it's really fucking weird and unconditionally revolting.

3½ Salty Fun Blobs out of 5


Director Raul Garcia, known mostly for his animation work on Disney's The Lion King & Aladdin, brings us Extraordinary Tales, a gorgeously animated anthology of five Edgar Allan Poe stories.
Stitched together by a ho-hum original framing story of Poe, in the form of a crow (shouldn't it be a raven?), in a deep conversation with Death about his destiny or whatever it maybe.  Apart from some interesting looking visuals, which wears out pretty fast, the framing story is pretty lifeless and very unnecessary.  Thankfully the five animated shorts are all gorgeous to look at, wonderfully narrated by horror heavy-weights like Christopher Lee and Guillermo del Toro and beautifully brought to creepy life by Sergio de la Puente's magnificent score.  The adaptations aren't always faithful, and occasionally threaten to derail but the stylish visuals and very evident enthusiasm make up for it's mildly frustrating shortcomings.

3½ filmy vulture eyes out of 5


Laika Studios makes a remarkable return with their forth jaw-dropping stop-motion animated film, Kubo and the Two Strings.
Kubo, with the aid of a snow-monkey & a giant beetle-man, searches through Japan for a magical suit of armor to defeat some nasty spirit folk from his past.
With it's themes of loss, grief and loneliness, Kubo isn't always the fast-paced adventure the kiddies will be used to so it's obviously not meant for the real young ones.  However for the older crowd you get a rich, timeless story filled with awe-inspiring visuals and one the best scores of the year from composer Dario Marianelli.  Perhaps it's weakest link is the core voice cast that don't seem to conjure up a whole lot of chemistry together and hurt some of the more dramatic moments.  However, it's a wholly original film, which is a rarity in this day and age, so it's no wonder not many people took the risk and actually saw this masterful work of imagination.

4 paper lanterns out of 5

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

War of the Arrows (2011)

A dramatic South Korean action film set during the 17th Century, telling the story of brother and sister Nam-yi and Ja-in (Park Hae-il and Moon Chae-won, respectively), both of whom are handy with a bow and arrow. When their peace is broken by an aggressive Prince the siblings are pushed to their absolute limits, doing everything they can to ensure the other's safety.
Action scenes are filmed in a manner that I really dislike and are often hard to follow, but battles are medium-sized affairs, there's none of that 'epic' nonsense that's good for little other than boring spectacle. It has characters with feelings that are wholly believable, played by actors who understand their role, and when you have that you have something worthy. Plus, there's considerably less CGI weaponry than I feared there would be!

3½ neck holes out of 5