Diana (DVD Review)

12 – 108mins – 2013


 

QUEEN OF HEARTS

A few years ago, before I had watched The Queen, Stephen Frears’ Academy Award-winning film about the monarchy’s reaction to the death of Princess Diana, I tried to blag my way through a discussion about it with an acquaintance who I knew had a high-brow taste in films. “It’s a serviceable drama,” I blagged, “but it plays like a TV movie.” This fabricated nugget came from my vague memory of hearing a critic make a similar derogatory comment. Plus, I knew the Peter Morgan-scripted piece of speculative fiction was produced by Granada (A.K.A. ITV). “And what’s so wrong with a TV movie?” my acquaintance shot back. I was stumped; ruse unravelled.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Blu-ray Review)

15 – 97mins – 2013


 

HECTIC DANGER DAY

From accidentally shooting a guest on his BBC chat show to pulping thousands of unsold copies of his ironically titled self-published autobiography, Bouncing Back, it is fair to say that Norwich’s very own Alan Gordon Partridge (Steve Coogan) has had a tumultuous career. But where many lesser regional TV personalities would long ago have thrown in the towel (probably around the time he became “clinically fed up” on a Toblerone-fuelled trip to Dundee), this chap of steel carries on regardless, determined to have the last laugh.

… Keep Scuttling!

A Perfect Man (DVD Review)

Image result for a perfect man 2013

15 – 91mins – 2013


PHONING IT IN

Headlined by recognised Hollywood names yet set in his native Amsterdam, Danish director Kees Van Oostrum’s debut feature is – a few eye rolls aside – a watchable enough presentation of modern strife. Sadly, it is also somewhat inconsistent, with the tone straddled indecisively between a dour and cynical relationship drama and a light and springy rom-com.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Green Inferno – The Director’s Cut (Blu-ray Review)


18 – 100mins – 2013


CANNIBAL ZEROX

Lost in the wilderness for a couple of years owing to “financial difficulties” with production company Worldview Entertainment, Eli Roth’s gloriously gratuitous homage to 70s/80s Italian savage slasher flicks (the title is cribbed from the film-within-a-film in Cannibal Holocaust) is finally released into civilised society in the form of a home video release.

Attempting to ground the relentless barbarism in socio-political relevance, the introductory 35minutes is a thoroughly uncaptivating ordeal as a group of New York University student activists induct freshman Justine (Knock Knock‘s Lorenza Izzo) and rally her to join their cause on a non-violent protest in the Peruvian Amazon to protect the indigenous tribe whose homeland is being destroyed by corporate bulldozers.

The lush beauty of the exotic South American rainforest looks jawdroppingly crisp in HD, but the scenery is not enough to distract from the often appalling acting on display. Was this a purposeful nod to the often-derisible performances in other such genre ‘classics’, or was Roth simply aiming for a more naturalistic experience, to the detriment of polished delivery?

However, following the crash landing of the group’s aircraft and their subsequent imprisonment by the very tribe they were there to protect (oh, the cruel irony!), dialogue delivery is of next-to-no import, as ninety percent of the script is comprised of hollers, screams and wimpers.

Viewers with a bloodlust will relish Roth’s gleeful abandon in portraying some sickeningly sadistic torture sequences (eyes, limbs, genitals – nothing is safe from these flesh-craving natives!), and while the murderous methods are creatively varied (impaling! Gouging! Death by fire ant infestation!), you do soon start hitting your tolerance for blood-soaked brutality, and hoping for more substance. Alas, The Green Inferno does not cater to such highbrow tastes.

As the dwindling student’s thoughts turn to escape, Justine’s moral compass takes a shocking dive due south as she callously condemns group leader Alejandro (Ariel Levy) to certain death. Sure, he was a crude and contemptible arsehole, but as the heroine of the piece, I expected more compassion for human life from her; while the mid-credit sting this twist leads to is laughable in its contrived absurdity.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

Star Trek into Darkness (Blu-ray Review)

12 – 132mins – 2013
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzland, Damon Lindelof
Based on the series created by: Gene Roddenberry
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve


REMEMBER THE PRIME

Before engaging hyperspace and departing for a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams returned to the other behemoth sci-fi franchise with “Star” in the title. No, not Stargate, you know… the one he successfully rebooted with 2009’s continuity-dodging reinvention of the USS Enterprise’s original crew.

And this terribly-titled follow-up (they were adverse to using a colon) is once again a bright, fun and action-packed adventure for the youthful Kirk (Pine), Spock (Quinto) and gang. A gorgeous looking popcorn film, then, but Gene Roddenberry’s expansive future-verse comes with a rich history and an enormous level of responsibility. It is in keeping up with this that Star Trek into Darkness falls short.

For a sequel perfectly primed to forge its own path in an alternative timeline, STID feels remarkably samey and all-too-often constricted by countless shoehorned fan-servicing references. Did Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy, RIP) need to return? Did the horrendously-redesigned Klingons need to make a cameo? It’s almost as if J.J. saw what worked well last time around and stalled on reinvention.

A number of scenes – particularly those involving rebel Kirk in bed with aliens, losing command of the Enterprise and receiving a pep-talk from father-figure Admiral Pike (Greenwood) in a bar – could easily have been lifted straight from the 2009 film, while the plot concerning Benedict Cumberbatch’s fugitive “John Harrison” is an unashamed rehash of the series’ most popular movie.

Cumberbatch is deliciously cold, ruthless and steely-eyed as the genetically-engineered superman raging a one-man war on Starfleet, but so much else feels contrived, overly-convenient and deliberate to the point it feels unnatural; you can almost hear the well-orchestrated cogs turning and the scrape of JJ’s pencil on his script ticking off a checklist of required plot points:

Find an excuse to get Scotty (Pegg) off the Enterprise? Tick. Find an excuse to put a Tribble in the medibay? Tick. Find an excuse to put Spock in peril so he can utter an iconic quote? Tick. Find an excuse to see Carole Marcus (Eve) in a bra? Tick.

That last point raises another bone of contention: the sexualisation and grittiness of this parallel universe – blood, violence, flesh and swearing – may be “modern” but just does not feel like classic Trek. When Shatner’s Kirk uttered “bastard” at his son’s killer in The Search for Spock (1984) it was so unexpected his hatred was palpable. Here, “shit” is flung around like it’s a prime directive!!

I may sound resoundingly negative, but Star Trek into Darkness isn’t a complete pile of —- (quite); the effects are superb, the dialogue punchy and the action bubbles along wonderfully to reach a dramatic – tragic – conclusion. But it doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings; a real problem with a fanbase as passionate and detail-savvy as Trekkies. Let’s just hope that Justin Lin injects fresh-blood in the director’s chair to put next year’s …Beyond back on course as the Enterprise finally embarks on its famous five year mission.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars