Here at The Nerds Templar, we get a lot of movies sent our way to watch. Some are new, some are older. We get Blu-rays, DVDs, online screeners and everything in between. Sometimes we just don’t have time to write a 1000 words about every movie. Sometimes the movie doesn’t deserve a 1000 words. We do like to discuss the movie though and in those situations we do articles like this, Review Round-up.
This time around we have some new releases along with older ones because a family emergency threw me off schedule. We’ll start with the newer films. Harmonium is first and is a film out of Japan. It’s an odd movie that shifts tonally a few times. It starts out one way, then changes when a character is hurt. It begins with a family taking in an old friend who was recently released from prison. The husband/father character feels indebted to the man for reasons his family doesn’t know about. Things go wrong and a family member is badly hurt. Time goes by and the family is dealing with the family member when a young stranger comes around. His life and the family’s lives get tangled as well as his past comes out. There’s a dramatic ending that I won’t hint at. It’s a well made and well acted film, but something just didn’t connect 100% with me. I overall liked it, but felt like it was missing just something to push it over the edge. I’m not familiar with the director’s other work so maybe I’m missing something in his style/storytelling. But again, overall it’s a quality film with strong acting from the leads. If you are familiar with Koji Fukada’s work, check it out.
Next is Gun Runners, a documentary on Kenyan gun runners turned marathoners. As someone who lives in the Greater Boston area, I know how big Kenyans are in the marathon scene. They are the best of the best. I did not know that in Kenya they have a program where you can trade in your illegal gun for a pair of running shoes. This documentary focuses on two men, Julius and Robert who once stole livestock and used their guns in bad ways. They turn their lives around with running. The film shows their lives in Kenya and coming to the US. It’s a pretty straight forward documentary filmmaking wise, but it also shows a group of people we don’t always get to see. The men go from wanted men to marathon runners competing against the world. And I like that the film doesn’t necessarily go where you expect and doesn’t shy away from their past.
Third is another documentary, The War Show. This is about the atrocities that happened in Syria over the past ten years or so. The documentary shows a group of people who leave their normal lives to protest what’s happening in their country. They record the protests and events happening around them. The film isn’t shy about showing the horror and death. In fact, many of the people you get to know are no longer with us. Just like with Gun Runners, you are seeing a people/story that doesn’t make worldwide news. I knew there was civil unrest in Syria, but this shows how badly the regime has treated its people.
Out on Blu-ray this week is Animal Factory, a prison movie from 2000 with a pretty big cast. I actually wasn’t familiar with the movie which is based on a novel that I’m assuming was a true story. It’s directed by Steve Buscemi and stars Edward Furlong, Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke, Tom Arnold, Mark Boone Junior and many more. Furlong plays a young man sent to prison for selling weed. He quickly gets involved with other inmates in order to be protected and to fit in. I’ve seen a lot of prison movies and this feels like a lot of them. Other than the ending. The ending was a nice surprise. It’s well acted, but at this point in time we’ve seen this story a lot. I’m sure there are people out there who know and love the film and this release is pretty solid and looks great. If you like the film, this is the version to own.
Sticking with prison themed films, Apprentice is next. The film hit DVD earlier in the year, but is part of Film Movement’s Film Club Mailing. It highlights the films you can expect once you join the film club. It’s another pretty solid film that doesn’t go where I was expecting and I like that. I was expecting a revenge film and it doesn’t end up that way. This film from Singapore is about a former soldier that starts working at a prison. His father had been hung and the former soldier wants more information on his father and the executioner who killed his father. I totally expected him to want revenge on the executioner because he thought his father was innocent. Instead he starts to apprentice under the hangman. The lead actor is very good and major props for the film not being what you think it will be. It’s very well made and acted. If you are looking for something different than the typical Hollywood flick, give this one a chance.
Theeb is also part of Film Movement’s Film Club. It was a 2016 Foreign Language Oscar nominee. I thought it was beautiful, but very slow. It takes place in the Ottoman Empire in 1916 and a young local (Theeb) finds his life shaken when a white British soldier shows up in the small area. The soldier needs help getting to where he is going and Theeb ends up with him. The backdrop and setting are shot beautifully, but not much happens. At least not much more than you expect. You figure people will get in their way and that Theeb will probably end up on his own at some point. Even though I didn’t love the story, the film looks beautiful and the cinematography is great.
Last we have Attack of the Killer Donuts. I wanted to do a full write up for this, but didn’t have time and the film just isn’t as good as I was hoping. It’s a B-movie all the way, I just wanted to laugh more than I did. The film’s director did all the VFX for the Sharknado films and I wanted the goofiness of those films plus more. I mean it is about donuts come to life and killing people! I expected more over the top-ness with lots of deaths, but only got a couple. The leads are fine, a goofy guy with a girlfriend who treats him bad. There’s his female co-worker/friend that should really be his girlfriend. There’s his sidekick friend and the regulars at the donut shop and bad boss. There are only a couple of people you want to see get killed and in a movie like this, there should be more people you root against and more people getting slaughtered for no reason. The donut effects are pretty good, it’s just few and far between. If you like SyFy movies and B-movies in general, I still recommend seeing it I just wanted a cult classic for the generations.