Attack of the Killer Donuts, Bakery, Barbara Kent, Before the Flood, Carole Lombard, CHIPS, Climate change, Comedy, Crime, Dax Shepard, Documentary, Dough, Drama, Fisher Stevens, Grief Street, High Voltage, Horror, Howard Higgin, Jerome Holder, John Goldschmidt, John Holland, Jonathan Pryce, Justin Ray, Kay Linaker, Kayla Compton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Peña, Murder, Mystery, Ralph Morgan, Raymond Cannon, Reviews, Richard Thorpe, Scott Wheeler, The Outer Gate, Thriller, William Boyd
Attack of the Killer Donuts (2016) / D: Scott Wheeler / 85m
Cast: Justin Ray, Kayla Compton, Ben Heyman, Michael Swan, C. Thomas Howell, Fredrick Burns, Kassandra Voyagis, Chris De Christopher, Lauren Compton, Alison England, Michael Rene Walton
Rating: 3/10 – Johnny (Ray) works in a donut shop, while his mad scientist uncle (Swan) works in his basement lab cooking up a formula that – surprise! – will eventually turn donuts into flesh-hungry, bloodthirsty… donuts; bottom of the barrel stuff that aims for kitschy fun but misses by a mile, Attack of the Killer Donuts wears its sugar-coated heart on its sleeve, but is too awful in its execution to make up for its many, many, many faults, or the fact that it’s run out of steam before the first victim is put out of their misery (unlike the audience).
Before the Flood (2016) / D: Fisher Stevens / 96m
With: Leonardo DiCaprio, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Al Gore, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, John Kerry
Rating: 8/10 – actor and UN Messenger of Peace on Climate Change, Leonardo DiCaprio explores the ways in which the world is still refusing to acknowledge the effects of greenhouse gases and the need to switch to renewable energy; DiCaprio is a passionate environmental activist who has access to many of the “big players”, and his targeted globe-trotting highlights the natural disasters that are occurring all around us, all of which makes Before the Flood a worthy successor to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006), and an important, and sadly necessary, acknowledgment that we’re still not doing enough to turn things around and ensure our collective futures.
Dough (2015) / D: John Goldschmidt / 95m
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Jerome Holder, Phil Davis, Ian Hart, Pauline Collins, Andrew Ellis, Malachi Kirby, Natasha Gordon, Melanie Freeman, Daniel Caltagirone, Andy de la Tour
Rating: 7/10 – an aging Jewish baker (Pryce) takes on an apprentice (Holder) whose second job as a drug dealer leads to the bakery’s sales going through the roof when an unexpected ingredient finds its way into the dough mix; a genial, inoffensive movie that features winning performances from Pryce and Holder, Davis as the kind of smarmy business developer who belongs in a pantomime, and a pleasant sense of its own shortcomings, Dough is a cross-cultural comedy drama that is amusing for the most part but which lacks the substance needed to make it more engaging.
Grief Street (1931) / D: Richard Thorpe / 64m
Cast: Barbara Kent, John Holland, Dorothy Christy, Crauford Kent, Lillian Rich, James P. Burtis, Larry Steers, Lloyd Whitlock
Rating: 5/10 – there are plenty of suspects, but just who did kill less than popular stage actor Alvin Merle (Kent), and why?; a locked room murder mystery where everyone with a motive is assembled Agatha Christie-style at the end to reveal the murderer, Grief Street is a brash, enjoyable whodunnit whose villain will be obvious to anyone who’s seen more than a handful of similarly plotted movies, but the movie more than makes up for this thanks to spirited performances from its cast, and Thorpe’s relaxed directing style.
The Outer Gate (1937) / D: Raymond Cannon / 63m
Cast: Ralph Morgan, Kay Linaker, Ben Alexander, Eddie Acuff, Charles Brokaw
Rating: 5/10 – when an up-and-coming employee (Alexander) is sent to prison for embezzlement, his employer (Morgan) is the first to believe in his guilt, but when the truth is revealed and he’s released from jail, the employee sets about getting his revenge; directed by Cannon in a crude, rudimentary way, The Outer Gate is nevertheless a movie that plays to the strengths of its gosh-you-won’t-believe-it screenplay, Morgan’s low-key, passive performance, and a surprisingly grim fatalism, all of which make it more intriguing than it appears to be on the face of things.
High Voltage (1929) / D: Howard Higgin / 63m
Cast: William Boyd, Carole Lombard, Owen Moore, Phillips Smalley, Billy Bevan, Diane Ellis
Rating: 4/10 – when a bus load of passengers is stranded thanks to heavy snow, they take refuge in an abandoned church, only to find they’re not alone; a dialogue heavy drama made in the early days of the Talkies, High Voltage is a well acted if dreary experience that tries hard to make itself interesting but falls short thanks to its focus on (already) stereotypical characters and the period’s need for a neat, everything-wrapped-up-satisfactorily ending.
CHIPS (2017) / D: Dax Shepard / 101m
Cast: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Jessica McNamee, Adam Brody, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Kristen Bell, Justin Chatwin
Rating: 4/10 – rookie motorcycle cop Jon Baker (Shepard) is teamed up with newly transferred Frank Poncharello (Peña) in the California Highway Patrol, and soon finds himself tracking down a bunch of dirty cops led by veteran Ray Kurtz (D’Onofrio); forty years on from its origin as a TV series, CHIPS is given a big screen reboot thanks to fanboy Shepard, but is only moderately successful in its efforts to drag the show kicking and screaming into the 21st century, leaving it completely dependent on how you feel about Shepherd and Peña as a comedy duo, and its less than inspired script.