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On DVD/Blu-ray/Netflix streaming: GRABBERS (2013) and DEALIN' WITH IDIOTS (2013)

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GRABBERS
(Ireland/UK - 2012; 2013 US release)

The Irish import GRABBERS is a throwback to the kind of fun, crowd-pleasing monster movies that you don't see much of these days.  The pace lags at times and it doesn't balance the humor and horror as deftly as say, an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg film, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable B-movie that's made for fans, by fans.  After a strange object crashes into the sea off the coast of the small and distant Erin Island, three fisherman are killed by tentacled creatures who attack from the water.  Meanwhile, the local Garda chief is going on vacation for two weeks, leaving the island's only other cop, depressed alcoholic O'Shea (Richard Coyle, from the recent PUSHER remake) in charge, with temporary fill-in Lisa (Ruth Bradley) on loan from the mainland.  As the tentacled creatures--and their hatching eggs--are working their way to the island, drunk local fisherman Paddy (Lalor Roddy) manages to capture one of them after it starts to attack him but stops as if falling suddenly ill.  When the same captured creature--dubbed a "grabber" by Paddy--attacks a drunk-on-duty O'Shea and again becomes violently ill, scientist Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) deduces that the Grabbers are allergic to alcohol.  With the waters too infested for help to come from the mainland, and with the Grabbers rapidly making their way to Erin Island to chow down on the locals, O'Shea comes up with the only way at his disposal to immediately take them on:  have everyone on the island meet at the local pub and get completely shitfaced.


From the close proximity of the term "grabber" to "graboid," 1990's sleeper hit TREMORS is probably the foremost influence on GRABBERS.  But there's also a lot of James Gunn's underappreciated 2006 gem SLITHER in there as well, plus JAWS and even some GREMLINS once the baby Grabbers hatch.  There's also a hilarious ALIENS riff as a forklift-driving Lisa confronts a giant Grabber ("Get away from him, ya cunt!").  As if those weren't enough, the score by Christian Henson is equal parts John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Akira Ikufube.  Coyle is a likable hero and he and Bradley make a good team--of course his O'Shea will grow up and her uptight Lisa will loosen up as the movie goes on.  The CGI work on the Grabbers is surprisingly well-done and the overall feeling of GRABBERS is one of an old-school monster movie--the kind that would've been really popular in the late '80s.  The gore is very minimal, and if you take away the F-and-C-bombs, it could easily be a PG-13 hit in 1988 from the Spielberg camp or from a director like a Joe Dante, a Robert Zemeckis, or maybe a Fred Dekker.  Director Jon Wright and screenwriter Kevin Lehane demonstrate a strong affinity for this type of film and is shows from start to finish, even when the midsection drags a little more than it should.  Suspenseful and with engaging characters and actors, and an occasionally sick sense of humor (I love the bit where a smarter-than-you'd-think Grabber uses a human as a puppet-on-a-string bait to lure a hapless islander out of his house), GRABBERS hits a lot more than it misses and fans will find it well worth their time.  (Unrated, 94 mins)


DEALIN' WITH IDIOTS
(US - 2013)

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM's Jeff Garlin co-wrote, directed, and stars in this self-indulgent home movie that serves no real purpose other than allowing him to hang out with some of his comedy friends.  There's a sharp satire to be made about aggressively over-involved parents sucking all the fun out of Little League baseball, but the dull and pointless DEALIN' WITH IDIOTS isn't it.  Essentially playing himself, Garlin is Max, a comedian who can't believe the boorish behavior of some of the parents at his son's baseball games.  So he decides to interview them individually to see if he can mine some material for a possible movie project.  The rest of the film--other than a climactic meltdown that's easily the most painfully unfunny moment of Garlin's career--is Max meeting up with the parents and the coaches as Garlin steps aside and lets the various actors riff and improv.  Imagine a Christopher Guest mockumentary where nearly every joke landed with a thud and you'll get some idea of what an endless slog this feels like.  Some of the cast members provide fleeting moments of mild amusement:  Richard Kind makes the line "Take a ride in my brand new Camry" sound funny, Fred Willard--whose presence just reminds you that Guest could've worked wonders with such a premise--really sells the term "charity romp," and Jami Gertz, wearing a shirt that reads "Team Mom," viciously nails the high-strung, helicopter-parenting, control-freak supermom who's just way too into it.   But you know everyone's having an off-day when guys like J.B. Smoove and Bob Odenkirk just babble on without getting any laughs.  Also with Gina Gershon and Kerri Kenney-Silver as lesbian parents, Nia Vardalos as Max's wife, Vardalos' husband Ian Gomez as the Little League commissioner Gordon, which gives Garlin a chance to make Batman references so forced and awkward that you can practically hear crickets chirping, and Timothy Olyphant as the ghost of Max's dad.  Don't ask.  Better yet, don't watch.  Garlin's a funny guy and a great straight man, and his MARTY-inspired 2007 film I WANT SOMEONE TO EAT CHEESE WITH is a funny and heartfelt little sleeper, but DEALIN' WITH IDIOTS is just a DOA dud from the start.  (Unrated, 87 mins)




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