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

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Daybreakers (2009)

A decade after the majority of the world's population is turned to vampirism their food stock (i.e. fresh human blood) is in short supply. If an alternative isn't found the society that until now has continued to function just fine will begin to die out, but not before the thirsty citizens turn on themselves.
Ethan Hawke stars as a haematologist searching for a viable solution. He's in the belly of the beast, but is there for the right reasons.
It's certainly an interesting spin on the vampire myth, with an always pertinent social message as undercurrent, but the film rarely manages to break out of its own muted atmosphere. Perhaps it was never meant to and I'm wrong to assume otherwise? Either way, in my mind its sombre mood successfully elucidates its message but also prevents it from being more memorable.

3 light modifications out of 5

Thursday, 16 February 2017

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER [2016]

Director Nicolas Pesce's directorial debut The Eyes of My Mother isn't necessarily a horror film but it's certainly one of the most horrific of 2016.
Filmed in a cold black & white, it follows a young woman, who suffered a tragic loss in her early years that haunted her well into adulthood which leads the viewer down some disturbing passageways.
I went completely blind into this film and it was for all the better as it even seemed like the lead character, played by the oddly terrifying and alluring Kika Magalhaes, wanted you to view the film in such a state (you'll see what I mean).  It interestingly never shows too much violence or graphic content on screen and instead allows your imagination to run wild making it all the more grotesque.  Which is funny, considering the amount of complaints the film has received for being overly graphic.  It's a beautifully crafted immensely upsetting nightmare that shouldn't go unnoticed by fans of the weird and bizarre.

4 lenses out of 5

An Education (2009)

I knew after just two minutes of hitting the play button that I was going to enjoy An Education, and that even if it didn't wound my heart completely it would at least leave a lasting footprint or two in my sand.
It's a coming of age drama set in London, 1961. Schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) has a bright future, but love gets in the way, as it often does at that age. The focus of her affections is the older and more worldly David (Peter Sarsgaard), a well-dressed cad who deems it appropriate to date schoolgirls.
Carey Mulligan is phenomenal as the youth who makes adult decisions based on feelings and intuition. She reminded me of a young Jenny Agutter in many ways, channelling the same kind of captivating sincerity and believability. To experience her performance is reason enough to watch it, but there's the added draw that it was scripted by author Nick Hornby.

4 French phrases out of 5

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

THE FOUNDER [2016]

You ever care how fast-food empire McDonald's got it start?
Me neither.  However director John Lee Hancock's The Founder does help make it somewhat interesting.
It follows businessman Ray Kroc as he takes the McDonalds brother's idea of fast-food and turns it into a towering franchise.
Micheal Keaton's dominating portrayal of Kroc is what makes the film, as the rest is a little lacking in intrigue.  Sadly the rest of the cast of characters are shamefully underwritten but thankfully actors like John Carroll Lynch, Nick Offerman & B.J. Novak have just enough acting chops to give their characters a bit of flavor.  It's not a great film, a little TV-movie-ish in fact but it's got enough going for it to at least give it a chance.

3 milkshakes without the milk out of 5

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE [2016]

Considering a morgue is probably one of the creepiest places around it's surprising more horror films don't make use of it's setting.
Thankfully Trollhunter director André Øvredal remedies that with his English language debut The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
A father & son, working as coroners, receive a mysterious woman's body with an urgent need for cause of death, however things starting getting weird and uber-creepsome once they start slicing.
The single-location film knows it's claustrophobic setting is the star here and, boy, is it ever effective.  However riveting the first half of the film is it sadly begins going downhill near the end as the mystery gets lost in an over abundance of silliness.  Still with it's brisk pace it never feels like you're wasting your time with this well-performed little midnight creeper.

3 cats in the vents out of 5

Monday, 13 February 2017

I Don't Want to Be Born (1975)

aka The Devil Within Her / The Monster

A bizarre but lousy entry in the 'Oh no, evil infant!' sub-genre that Polanski's Rosemary’s Baby (1968) popularised. Ex-stripper Joan Collins births a bruiser of a tot that she believes is possessed by evil. Her husband Gino (Ralph Bates) flaffs about like a third wheel, occasionally offering support in a spurious Italian accent. Hysterical Joan overacts, rich Ralph underwhelms, and the mini pugilist baby looks bored, accompanied by music that's anything but scary.
I don't know who to feel the most sorry for, the baby, the actors (who obviously needed a pay-cheque), the editors who had to cut all the tacky shit together, or myself for sitting through every bad minute of it.

1½ nursery crimes out of 5

Friday, 10 February 2017

MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN [2014]

Originally produced in 2014, director Sophie Robinson & Lotje Sodderland's documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain finally got proper distribution in 2016 thanks to Netflix & executive producer David Lynch.
It documents Sodderland's uphill battle with her own brain, after she suffers a hemorrhagic stroke that makes it next to impossible to speak, read or write, while also suffering from hallucinogenic moments of nightmarish confusion.
Told mostly through Sodderland's cellphone camera, the film is deeply personal as the subject herself is instantly relatable even if she doesn't know her ownself in several moments.  Visually the film is quite captivating, as it alters the imagery quite often to reflect the hallucinations Sodderland experienced.  It manages to balance the moving human story with the medical explanations of what's going on to create an emotional journey is both fascinating and heart-breaking.

3½ frightening moments in the Red Room out of 5

Pit Stop (1969)

aka The Winner

Given almost complete free rein by Roger Corman to make a "stock car" movie, Jack Hill delivered a film that's littered with rough edges, but like most of the director's early works it has enough keen-eyed style to sate his fans.
Rick (Richard Davalos) is a street racer, a kind of poor-man's James Dean who's stubbornly independent and filled with a self-destructive drive. When given the chance by an uncaring sponsor (Brian Donlevy) to prove himself on a deadly Figure 8 racetrack, Rick indulges his hungry ego.
A rival in the form of Hill regular Sid Haig playing an arrogant prick keeps things interesting, but the most memorable part for me was Ellen Burstyn.

3 big wheels out of 5

Thursday, 9 February 2017

LIFE, ANIMATED [2016]

God Loves Uganda director Roger Ross Williams brings us the warmly welcomed documentary Life, Animated.
The film documents the early life a young man struggling with autism who learned how to communicate with and understand the world around him through his love of Disney films.
Without being emotionally manipulative, the film delivers a sincere tale into a world we might not be familiar with and offers some inspirational reflections on our own daily struggles.  The film leads right up to Owen beginning his own life as an independent adult where he faces real adult struggles not covered in Disney films (sex, break-ups, jobs, bills) and it frustratingly never shows how he deals with it, when the credits begin rolling.  It might be cut off a little short but it's still a touching tale about love and the closeness of family.

3 protectors of side-kicks out of 5

LA TORTUE ROUGE [2016]

aka The Red Turtle

At the request of Studio Ghibli, Dutch director Michaël Dudok de Wit takes on the beautifully told fantasy La Tortue rouge.
Void of any dialogue, the film follows a man who's washed-up on a desert island that constantly tries to make his escape only to be mysteriously pulled back in, leading him to a life he never thought possible.
It's told with the type of logic that can only be found in myths and fables but is keen on teaching us lessons about our own hearts and actions.  Not overly concerned with facial expressions, the animation is more about the landscapes and expressive actions of the characters, thereby dwarfing the isolated protagonists against the vastness of the ocean that surrounds them.  There's nothing in this fairytale that will bother the children but the themes explored are purely adult.

4 more rafts out of 5

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

LOVING [2016]

Jeff Nichols' second feature film of 2016, Loving, is subtle, poignant and most of all an important retelling of American history.
It follows the story of interracial married couple, Mildred & Richard Loving, who battled the state of Virginia in the late '60s to keep their marriage together in a time that prohibited it.
Normally movies like this are proud, overly powerful, filled with "a-ha!" whipper-snapper lawyer moments, lengthy monologues, swelling music and that Oscar-winning performance clip.  However instead of easily following that path, Nichols stays true to his quiet style of film-making and it's all the more better for it.  It could have been that film that uses disturbing violence, overly weighty-moments and melodrama to get it's point across, but instead it only uses solid human drama and love to make the mightiest of statements.  It might not be instantly captivating but it's certainly is one of the most worthwhile dramas of it's kind.

4 snap-shots out of 5

13TH [2016]

13th is director Ava DuVernay's look into the U.S. prison system and how it is still very much relevant to the country's long history of racial inequality.
It's an articulately crafted documentary, using lawyers, academics and legislators to explain the history of American racism, the Civil Rights Movement and what each president, starting with Nixon leading right up to Trump, has done wrong to stop this problem (Obama excluded).  It's an interesting and angering watch but seems to forget to speak to that actual prisoners and victims themselves.  Yes, many are uneducated, quite often violent and unreasonable but there's many reason behind that and it needs to shown.  They're human beings that need their stories told through their own mouths and not from behind nice office desks and studio meeting rooms.  It's a well-meaning quality documentary that's sure to start some good conversations but's it's afraid to go those involved first-hand.

3½ disturbing reflections of yesterday out of 5

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

HACKSAW RIDGE [2016]

Mel Gibson makes a triumphant return to the director's chair with the horrifically violent war drama Hacksaw Ridge.
Based upon a true story, the film follows WWII army medic Desmond Doss, who famously refused to carry weapon and believed he was going to war to help rather than destroy, during the Battle of Okinawa.
Andrew Garfield delivers his best performance to date, proving he's going to be around for quite some time.  There's a certain amount of heroic beauty and heart found within the intense violence that will leave you emotionally drained.  There's been some magnificent battle scenes captured to film and Hacksaw Ridge should go down as some of the best.  A unique hero in a war film about peace.  They don't come around often enough.

5 pacifists out of 5

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA [2016]

If there was an award for dreariest film of the year, then writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea would be the front-runner for such an accolade.
After his brother dies, a troubled man is forced to return to his hometown to take care of his mourning nephew, where his tragic past creeps up with no remorse.
The film's biggest strengths are it's acting talent, with Casey Affleck & Lucas Hedges taking center stage with what I feel is the best onscreen chemistry of 2016.  The actors are only as good as their material and there's plenty of mesmerizing scenes and dialogue to keep the audience captivated.  It is a bit slow in moments but no matter what you can't help but keep drawn into the films devastation.

4 bar fights out of 5

PATRIOTS DAY [2016]

Director Peter Berg's second 2016 film based on real-life tragic events is the surprisingly good Patriots Day.
Centering the events around the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings might be a little too fresh in everyone's mind but Berg & co. never fully exploit the facts for the sake of popcorn action.
Rather than focus too much on the terrorist plot details the film is more interested in honoring the heroes involved and how they went about their time during the 100-hour manhunt.  There's some amazingly acted & written scenes worthy of great praise, however they find themselves in the middle of some lesser scenes that feel more boringly standard to the terrorist thriller genre.  It sits on a very fragile line of exploitation and honorable tribute and that's what deter most folks from seeing the film.

3½ bad knees out of 5