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

Monday, 22 May 2017

Streets of Fire (1984)

Walter Hill's self-proclaimed 'Rock and Roll Fable' is like a pulp novel brought to life. It kicks off with a music performance that encapsulates the 1980s perfectly, but outside of the live venue it's like the 1950s never ended and somehow the two things don't ever seem to be at loggerheads.
The antihero is Tom Cody (Michael Paré), a guy who responds to his feelings but refuses to be ruled completely by them. When it comes to conflict, even if he loses he'll win because of his uncompromisingly independent spirit. When his old flame is kidnapped by a gang led by Willem Dafoe in fetish dungarees, Cody and a couple of hangers-on cross town to take her back.
It's a charming flick with a devoted fan base. I enjoy it, but personally feel that Hill's other famous work, The Warriors (1979), is a lot better.

3 screen wipes out of 5

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Tower (1993)

Before Tony (Paul Reiser) has even reached the Intercorp building for his first day of work he's screwed up his microchipped I.D. card. I'm not clear on what his job actually was, because he didn't seem to do anything except be a prick most of the day, but whatever it was he probably cocked it up, too.
It's sci-fi on a TV movie budget. The building is fully automated, overseen by a talking computer, which is movie-speak for 'humans must die' when the temperamental security protocols go into overdrive. If you're a sci-fi regular there's a very good chance you'll have seen it all before, done better.

2 deletions out of 5

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017]

Director James Gunn returns to the MCU for more immensely entertaining nuttiness in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Continuing their galactic misadventures, the Guardians are on the run from a race of powerful aliens  of whom they stole from when they run into Peter Quill's long-lost father with a tempting proposition.
After the surprise of how good the first film actually was, this installment has a lot to live up to and it almost hits the mark.  Gunn has a lot to juggle and it's almost always successful with a few minor quibbles here and there.  It's jam-packed with plenty of humor, extravagant set-pieces, memorable characters you learn to love even more and plenty of emotion to form some serious lumps in your throat.  If you're a fan of the first then this one will deliver the goods with oddball personality and genuine heart.

 trash pandas out of 5

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS [2016]

If one had to come with one word to describe Tom Ford's noir-ish psychological thriller Nocturnal Animals it'd be 'devastating'.
It tells a story within a story, firstly being that of a wealthy but disheartened women receives a copy of a novel from her ex-husband, whom she hadn't talked to in nearly 20 years, which he wrote and dedicated to her.  The other half of the film tells the story within the novel, about a husband who is the only surviving member of his family after a violent attack.
With strong performances all around, particularly Michael Shannon & Aaron-Taylor Johnson, stunningly beautiful Herrmann-esque music from Abel Korzeniowski and gorgeous intoxicating photography it's hard not to become entranced with this cold-hearted, cunningly crafted tale of broken souls, revenge and violent desperation.

4 shocking pieces of art out of 5

COLOSSAL [2017]

Director Nacho Vigalondo comes up with one of the more unique films of the year so far with the hilariously strange sci-fi/drama Colossal.
Anne Hathaway does a fantastic job as an alcoholic who moves back to her home town, where she discovers she somehow controls the actions of a kaiju that simultaneously appeared in South Korea.
The carnage the monster causes takes a subtle back seat to the emotional wreckage caused by the leading character's alcohol addictions and social interactions.  If you're at all familiar with the disease then there's plenty to be found in it's far-fetched yet small-scope intimacy.  Unfortunately some of the plotting is sloppily aimless and that's where it loses the impact of what should have been an instant cult-classic.

3 black-outs out of 5

MA VIE DE COURGETTE [2016]

aka My Life as a Zucchini

Claude Barras' stop-motion animated film Ma vie de Courgette should definitely win the award for most colorful depressing film of the year.
After a young boy accidentally kills his alcoholic mother he's sent to a foster home where he meets all sorts of troubled children who share similar stories.
With many of the children characters sporting stitches and bruises, clearly from domestic violence, it's not your usual cheery animated fare.  It explores some emotional depth and mature themes that tales these vibrant looking don't normally dare to.  It's not often kid-centric films like these are so honest, like you just know some of these kids are never going to fine, but it's essential to tell an authentic story that leaves a lasting impression.  

4 beer cans out of 5

The PTU Collection

The real PTU (Police Tactical Unit) are a special unit within the Hong Kong Police Force that perform a number of roles, such as patrolling streets, providing backup to other divisions when needed, aiding disaster response teams, and participating in riot control, among other things. This PTU do all of that, too, but they're fictionalised. Their methods aren't always legal, but they cover their asses well, looking out for each other by stalling for time and hiding truths, except when there's a personal rivalry taking precedence.
The original film was by Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To (aka To Kei-Fung) in 2003, and remains to this day one of his best works. The five subsequent TV Movies used some of the same actors but as different characters.

The Original Film:
01. PTU: Police Tactical Unit (2003) Dir. Johnnie To

The Tactical Unit TV Movies:
01. Tactical Unit: The Code (2008) Dir. Wing-cheong Law
02. Tactical Unit: No Way Out (2009) Dir. Lawrence Ah Mon
03. Tactical Unit: Human Nature (2009) Dir. Andy Ng
04. Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms (2009) Dir. Wing-cheong Law
05. Tactical Unit: Partners (2009) Dir. Lawrence Ah Mon

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Virus (1980)

aka Day of Resurrection

In 1982 a deadly virus wiped out most of humanity, leaving less than 1000 people alive. The search for a cure by the survivors has no single protagonist to lead it, and therefore no principal actor or actress for us to journey with, but the film still manages to ensure we keep what's important fixedly in mind.
The White House scenes aren't anything special. By contrast many of the street scenes manage to be more realistically horrifying than even horror movies get. It's a bleak, powerful drama with some shocking scenes.
Part Japanese and part English language, the 156 minute version (with subs) is the film as it should be seen. The shorter 108 minute version that's more easily found in western territories reportedly cuts out most of the best Japanese actor's scenes, and through truncation drastically changes the ending.

4 flightless birds out of 5

Friday, 12 May 2017

I DON'T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE [2017]

Indie-actor Macon Blair makes his directorial debut with the neo-noir comedy I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore.
Frustrated and depressed by the useless apathetic world around her, a young woman is robbed and finds the only way to make things right is to take matters into her own hands.  AKA Falling Down for the Trump era.
With it's bursts of uber-violence, twisted humor and a cast of low-life criminals, it's obvious Blair is heavily influenced by the directorial/screenwriting works of his regular collaborator Jeremy Saulnier.  Things tend to get pretty outrageous and unbelievable but it's Melanie Lynskey's nuanced performance that manages to keep everything grounded in a warped sense of reality.  The script could have used a bit more tightening up but thankfully it never ceases to shock and amuse.

3 fucking spoilers out of 5

FENCES [2016]

Actor/director Denzel Washington adapts Fences, the 6th part of August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle plays, for the cinema.
Washington plays a deeply flawed working class black man in the 60's who, with the help of his wife (Viola Davis), raises a family who all face the consequences of his own frustrations.
There's no razzle dazzle here nor is there any attempt to break any new grounds in storytelling or film-making.  However the film stays grounded with solid scriptwriting and strong performances, with Davis stealing the show as she holds the entire film on her shoulders.  I'd go so far as to say Washington and Davis probably hold the honor of having the best onscreen performances of 2016.  Which makes it enough to forgive it's minor weaknesses.

3½ roses for Rose out of 5

RINGS [2017]

Although I wasn't as dismayed as I was with the second installment of the American Ring series director F. Javier Gutiérrez's duller than dishwater third film doesn't fare much better.
Scary videtape girl of death, Samara, has gone viral now and for some reason it doesn't create as much global mayhem as it really should.  In fact, in one of many missed potentials, it just focuses on a bunch of college kids and their teacher that get involved in this woefully unfocused plot.
The first film was filled with dreaded atmosphere, strong performances, beautiful photography & music and genuinely frightening scares but now it's just a bunch of cheap thrills, silly lines of dialogue ("I love your smell"? Feck) and boring characters that never adds up to much of anything.
Vincent D'Onofrio, sit in the corner and think about what you've done.

1½ flies in my weed out of 5

THE GREAT WALL [2016]

Director Zhang Yimou stinks up the screen with the Chinese fantasy war epic The Great Wall.
Placed around the 1000's AD in China, All-American good ol' boy Matt Damon saves The Great Wall from an army of vicious creatures, all while checking every box with the usual clichés familiar to this type of film.
There's plenty of gorgeous visuals and creative battle techniques but none of that matters when every single character are soulless dummies.  In the end, it really feels like a whole movie based around the Helm's Deep battle in The Lord of the Rings only without a single character to give a rat's ass about.  In the past 10 years or so, it seems Yimou has had more stinkers than winners, so perhaps he needs to rethink his approach to film-making or just call it a day.

1 meal on a bungee cord out of 5

Thursday, 11 May 2017

T2 TRAINSPOTTING [2017]

20 years later, director Danny Boyle returns to the Trainspotting world, loosely based off of Irvine Welsh's novel, Porno.
T2 sees the boys crossing paths again as they discovers old wounds don't always heal and there's always a new get-rich scheme to hatch when hard drugs are involved.
Obviously it doesn't come with the same cultural impact as the original film but it's certainly armed with far more emotional weight for those still heavily invested in it's characters.  There's plenty of callbacks to the original (with good reason), a wicked soundtrack and good laughs that all come together to produce a pretty solid sequel proving itself worthy to it's predecessor.  As depressing as it might be with it's "what the fuck have you done with your life" it also manages to be just as uplifting as well.  Time is a real prick-arsed cunt.

4 bathroom stall reunions out of 5

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC [2016]

Silicon Valley's Matt Ross' second directorial feature-length Captain Fantastic proves if actor Viggo Mortensen wants Oscar recognition he needs to do full-frontal nudity.
Mortensen plays a recently widowed father, who believes his secluded family's lifestyle should go against the grain of the modern world and it's political, religious and decadent beliefs.  However all that is put to the test when they're forced to interact with the world, where they find sometimes the best lessons are learned with first-hand experience and not just books.
There's some interesting themes and plot-points thrown around but when it all comes down to it, it's really all about Mortensen's fantastic acting chops.  In fact the entire cast raises the film past it's so-so script and predictable quirkiness.

3 missions out of 5

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017]

Director F. Gary Gray's The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in the F&F franchise, shows no sign of the series wrapping up.
This time around Diesel's Dom has turned to the dark side forcing The Rock & The Stath to put their differences aside and work together to bring him down, while evading the walls of a prison, an army of cars and a nuclear submarine.
The film doesn't resemble anything that original films set out to do but that's alright because it's so god-damned fun.  There's plenty of laughs, both intentional and unintentional, jammed in-between the carnage-fueled action sequences.  Surpassing Jurassic Park and even Star Wars at the box office means there's no end in sight for the series but that's all right because the film's stars still seem to be having just as much as it's long-time fans are.

3½ hakas out of 5