Movie Review ~ Nobody 

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Hutch Mansell, a suburban dad, overlooked husband, nothing neighbor — a “nobody.” When two thieves break into his home one night, Hutch’s unknown long-simmering rage is ignited and propels him on a brutal path that will uncover dark secrets he fought to leave behind.

Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksey Serebryakov, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, RZA, Billy MacLellan, Araya Mengesha, Gage Munroe

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Rated: R

Running Length: 92 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: It’s coming.  The time for theaters to re-open and welcome movie-goers back in larger numbers is getting close and even now you can see there are more films premiering only in cinemas and not available via streaming or On Demand.  On the one hand, I get it.  Studios want to stay in the good graces of theater chains while also preserving the overall experience for their audiences.  On the other, even though the country continues to be vaccinated at a good rate there is still a long way to go before people (including myself) would feel comfortable sitting for an extended period in an enclosed space with others we aren’t acquainted with.  Until then, I’ll feel lucky that I can see a theatrical-only release like Nobody (from Universal Pictures) in the comfort of my own home so I’m able to let you know if it’s worth the risk to venture out to your local multiplex.

Though I’m still always going to advocate that you avoid unnecessary social interaction outside of your own home and hold out until a movie you want to see is available to rent or buy via streaming, I suppose if you were looking for a comfort-food casserole sort of action movie to sate your thirst for mindless fun, Nobody would be a full flavor meal to dine out on.  It has a bruised-knee charm that makes it a decent watch and a leading performance from an unexpected star which keeps it always surprising and surpassing your expectations.  It’s pulpy and loud but isn’t insignificant in the way it wins you over on sheer chutzpah.  Plain and simple — it’s worth putting some real pants on for.

The most notable thing about middle-aged Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk, Nebraska) is that he keeps to his routine. His suburban life with his pretty wife (Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman 1984, Sea Fever) and two children isn’t boring, it’s just standard.  He’s not complaining he’s just…settled.  Working a number pushing job at a factory seems to get him through the day and although he aspires to one day own the factory, his mild-mannered attitude might be drowned out by a more emphatic employee who the boss (Michael Ironside, Scanners) takes more notice of.  It’s a beige life for a beige guy.  At least that’s what it looks like on the surface.  A late-night home break-in is the catalyst that begins to pull back the curtain on Hutch’s life before the wife, kids, and 9-5 job entered the picture.  It awakens a side of him that few have seen…and lived to talk about.

Over the next several days, Hutch will run afoul of a karaoke-singing Russian crime boss (Aleksey Serebryakov, in a performance of golden gusto) who quickly sets his sights on eliminating this unexpected thorn in his side.  They’ll also be car chases, knockdown brawls leading to broken bones and worse, and a booby-trapped finale that will remind you of a certain Christmas classic.  It’s all eager to please and screenwriter Derek Kolstad (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) doesn’t miss an opportunity to find a clever way to clean house.  It’s also up to director Ilya Naishuller to not let us get too far ahead in Kolstad’s script – though Hutch’s shadowy past might seem obvious at first, the full truth is more fun.

Even though it’s ultimately just a less flashy version of the John Wick films (no shocker, Kolstad wrote all three) set to a soundtrack filled with so many on the nose up-tempo tunes I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a wedding DJ watching that uses it exclusively at their next gig, Nobody whizzes through 92 minutes without pausing much to let us catch our breath or think through how silly it all is.  A lot of that has to do with Naishuller’s breakneck pace and caffeine-hyped editing but don’t forget to give Odenkirk much of the credit for making Hutch such a standout character.  Sure, he’s playing a seemingly dull guy that’s just harboring a lot of well-kept talents, but there’s more to him than his bag of tricks.  I’ve yet to truly take much notice of the actor until now but he’s an astonishingly credible action star, an everyman that takes a licking and keeps on ticking, absorbing the blows but finding creative ways to dole out punishment as revenge.  It’s all Odenkirk’s film so even strong supporting work from Nielsen (sadly underused considering the butt kicking we’ve seen her do recently in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and more) and a neat appearance from Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s irascible father.

With its short length, Nobody would be a good option if you are thinking of dipping your toe back into the theater-going experience because it’s a breeze to sit through.  If anything, make time for it when you do see it pop into your at home options in several weeks because this side of Odenkirk was exciting to see.  With his popularity at a peak nowadays with TV’s Better Call Saul continuing to earn him strong notices, Nobody is something to behold indeed.

31 Days to Scare ~ Scanners

The Facts:

Synopsis: A scientist sends a man with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him.

Stars: Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Michael Ironside, Robert A. Silverman

Director: David Cronenberg

Rated: R

Running Length: 103 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: Around the same time Canada was hopping on the American bandwagon and producing a bunch of teenager slasher films, they also were nurturing a strange vision of another type of horror.  Beginning in 1975 with the landmark Shivers, director David Cronenberg has been a pioneer in crafting a particular type of scare fest that goes beyond an outside force acting hacking away at an unsuspecting innocent.  He’s clearly been more intrigued with persona and the “body horror” subgenre in films like Rabid (a woman becomes a zombie after having plastic surgery), The Brood (psychotherapy produces demonic entities), and Videodrome (the original attack on mass media’s negative influence) and, of course, Scanners.

Released in 1981 and probably best remembered today as the movie where that guy’s head explodes, it’s so much more than that.  While it doesn’t feature any revolutionary technique in filmmaking or the kind of memorable (okay, good) performances that stand up against similar movies released in that era, its themes are sophisticated and more often than not well ahead of its time.  Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method) obviously had deeper themes about the rising of the next generation of leaders and wanted to say something about the dangers in handing over the keys to a fragile kingdom so fearlessly.

There’s a new weapon on display courtesy of a company called ConSec and they are called “scanners”.  With the ability to control the minds of others, these psychics are initially meant to be a way to infiltrate enemies consciousness and anticipate their next move or prevent them from taking action.  However, as with any weapon designed for good there are those who want to use it for evil and that’s where scanner Daryl Revok comes in.  After making a rather messy demonstration of a scanner with lesser strength, Revok (Michael Ironside, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II) goes on the run and exposes he has formed his own group of aggressive scanners that oppose the more docile troupe employed by ConSec.  Revok’s more take charge minions want to be calling the shots and not rely on the passive ConSec scanners to lead the way.

The man behind the the ConSec operation is Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan, Braveheart) who reluctantly calls in troubled scanner Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack, Dead Ringers) to help track down Revok before he goes too far with his plans.  Vale has suffered terribly with his dark gift, winding up on the street and not always being able to control his powers.  With the aid of a new drug  meant to quiet some of his unstable rumblings, Vale agrees to help Dr. Ruth (save your jokes) because he’s the only one that’s any kind of match for Revok. Picking up another individual with special skills along the way (Jennifer O’Neill, The Psychic), the trio are in a race against time to figure out where Revok will strike next.  There’s an added layer of mystery involving a link between Vale and Revok that, convenient as it may be, helps keep the film coloring inside the lines until its rushed ending.

I’d say Scanners is about ten minutes longer than it needed to be with a few too many dips in the action.  While I applaud Cronenberg building out some character backstory with Vale and even more so by giving Revok a decent amount of motivation beyond being a simple megalomaniac, it does weigh down the film when it should be picking up steam.  Credit also to Lack and Ironside (and all the scanners, actually) for developing their own facial twists and tics in conveying their powers – it could be laughable to some but it’s highly effective when paired with Howard Shore’s pulsating score.  The effects are a bit hokey but somehow it all works as part of the grand design of Cronenberg’s master plan.

There’s a reason why Scanners has gone on to become a cult classic and spawn several lesser-than sequels (but oddly no remake) and it’s not because of that aforementioned head-exploding scene, which I must say is divine.  It’s because it’s a smart, well-constructed film that delivers the goods when necessary.  I’m not sure it has a high yearly re-watchability factor but it’s absolutely something you could revisit every five years or so with satisfaction.

In Praise of Teasers ~ Total Recall (1990)

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I have a serious problem with movie trailers lately.  It seems like nearly every preview that’s released is about 2:30 minutes long and gives away almost every aspect of the movie, acting more like a Cliff Notes version of the movie being advertised rather than something to entice an audience into coming back and seeing the full product.

In this day and age where all aspects of a movie are fairly well known before an inch of footage is seen the subtlety of a well crafted “teaser” trailer is totally gone…and I miss it…I miss it a lot. So I decided to go back to some of the teaser trailers I fondly remember and, in a way, reintroduce them. Whether the actual movie was good or bad is neither here nor there…but pay attention to how each of these teasers work in their own special way to grab the attention of movie-goers.

Total Recall (1990)

Arriving right at the true peak of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (The Last Stand) popularity, Total Recall was a sci-fi action pic through and through that would up being a highly profitable snazzy summer blockbuster.   It’s also the movie that really introduced Sharon Stone (Lovelace) to audiences as well as cementing director Paul Verhoeven as someone to keep your eye on (Stone and Verhoeven would team up again 2 years later for the controversial hit Basic Instinct).  A remake was released in 2012 but it couldn’t hold a candle to the original which had a style and star that couldn’t be replaced.  This teaser trailer featuring a red-tinged Schwarzenegger ominously staring at the camera was a perfect way to let everyone know that a trip to Mars was in their future.

Missed my previous teaser reviews? Check out my look at Alien, Misery, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Showgirls, Jurassic Park, Jaws 3D/Jaws: The Revenge