Dracula Untold (DVD Review)

15 – 92mins – 2014


 

SON OF THE DRAGON

In my post-cinema analysis of last summer’s Tom Cruise-headlined reboot of The Mummy (read my review HERE), I openly acknowledged my enjoyment of the film in spite of its skew away from horror and more towards a supernatural action-adventure. However, it seems audiences (or a lack thereof) were more critical; just one entry in and Universal’s newly-rebranded Dark Universe is already in trouble. But The Mummy wasn’t always to be the opening chapter of this Monster Movie Expanded Universe…

… Keep Scuttling!

Annabelle (DVD Review)

15 – 95mins – 2014


 

DEVIL’S WELCOME

“It cannot truly ever be destroyed…”

Set before but filmed after James Wan’s 2013 horror hit The Conjuring (the sequel of which I reviewed HERE), Annabelle is the creepy doll-centric spin-off which has recently been given a Creation story, now in cinemas nationwide, which itself is set before but filmed after Wish Upon director John R. Leonetti’s period frightener.

… Keep Scuttling!

Madame Bovary (DVD Review)

15 – 113mins – 2017


 

FEVER OF DESPAIR

Announced in March 2012, cast over the next year and a half and filmed in Normandy from September 2013, French-American director Sophie Barthes’ period adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s ‘obscene’ nineteenth century masterpiece was granted a premiere at the Telluride Film Festival the following August and then it just… disappeared.

… Keep Scuttling!

A Good Marriage (DVD Review)

15 – 102mins – 2014


 

ONE BAD PENNY

As beloved and masterful as Stephen King’s horror stories may be, it’s fair to say that the majority work far better on page than on screen. Sure, there are some truly classic adaptations (Carrie, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist), but they are outnumbered by some – to be blunt – risible guff (Cell, Maximum Overdrive, Dreamcatcher, Thinner, Secret Window).

… Keep Scuttling!

Zombeavers (DVD Review)

15 – 78mins – 2014


 

BEAVER FEVER

Much like schlocky Syfy fare such as Sharknado, Lavalantula and Megashark vs Crocosaurus, the title of co-writer/director Jordan Rubin’s film debut leaves you in no doubt as to the preposterous nonsense in store for horror-comedy fans who lodge Zombeavers in their DVD players. Sadly, even alert to the absurdities that awaited me and open to taking nothing seriously, I was still enormously dissatisfied with the moronic mutant madness which played out over a mercifully meagre runtime.

… Keep Scuttling!

Gold (DVD Review)

15 – 84mins – 2014


 

BACK ON TRACK

Not the recent Matthew McConaughey Oscar-bait about prospecting for the precious metal in Indonesia, this is a smaller, earlier, quainter Irish production about the perils of living up to elevated expectations, and the chaos of family life.

… Keep Scuttling!

ELF: Buddy’s Musical Christmas (TV Review)

Breaking the Bank (DVD Review)

12 – 101mins – 2014


 

PLUMMETING PORTFOLIO

Forever known for playing erudite talk show shrink Dr. Frasier Crane over the course of twenty years and two hugely popular US sitcoms, Kelsey Grammer crosses the Atlantic to surround himself with a smattering of UK sitcom stars as brainless, out-of-touch banking titan Charles Bunbury in this straight-to-DVD fiscal farce from director Vadim Jean, best known for his three glossy Terry Pratchett adaptations for Sky1.

“Run a bank? You couldn’t run a bath!”

Affecting a snooty, upper class disdain and throwing in phrases like “chap” and “old bean” is not enough to convince me that Bunbury is a Brit. Likewise, growing a beard, trading loafers for dirty trainers and looking a bit glum is not enough to convince me that Bunbury is suicidal, following his naïve trust in shady shark Matthew Gavin & Stacey Horne’s bogus insider trading tips.

The problem resides in the bubbly, carefree tone, which never confers enough gravitas on “Charlie Chuckaway’s” life-destroying dilemma; from Pitch Perfect’s John Michael Higgins’ smarmy “yank” takeover tease to Tamsin Episodes Greig’s frustrated-but-floundering wife, there’s not a cent of integrity in any of the cavalier, OTT performances – and ultimately, this makes Breaking the Bank subprime stock which is impossible to invest in.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (DVD Review)

12 – 97mins – 2014 


 

DIGI-SHELL HEROES

Two years before Paul Feig powered up his proton pack for this summer’s unduly controversial girl-powered Ghostbusters reimagining, four more of my childhood action heroes received a big money, blockbuster makeover, courtesy of new rights holders Nickelodeon Movies and Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company. Cowabunga, dudes!

While Wrath of the Titans director Jonathan Liebesman’s half shell overhaul never received quite the same ferocity of fanboy fury as Feig’s fright-fighting femmes, there were still some contentious changes to the longstanding continuity which irked franchise purists (Sensai Splinter, for instance, was never a human fighting champion but a lab rat who learnt his ninja skills in the sewer), while the so-called aesthetic ‘realism’ of the mo-capped CG amphibians was rightfully lambasted as flat-out ugly.

“I’m a snapping turtle, fool!”

From humble comic book beginnings to animatronic live action movie stars (via countless small screen ventures), the sheer volume of conflicting incarnations the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have endured over their 35 year history has perhaps softened any shellshock I may feel towards any minor mutation to their origin story. However, I must confess to being impressed by the cohesion to the character’s backstory in Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daugherty’s script, with News Reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) made personally responsible for saving Leo, Donnie, Raph and Mikey from a lab fire at her father’s facility back in 1999.

This efficient streamlining extends to the villains of the piece, too, with human antagonist and billionaire CEO Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) established as April’s deceased pa’s former scientific colleague working towards “Project Renaissance”, with grill-chopped lead villain Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) their power-hungry, mutagen-mad boss. Now there is a driving force behind the degeneracy, rather than simply ‘because they’re bad guys.’ Sadly, Shredder’s overarching portrayal is reduced to mere faceless weapon, with his iconic caped-costumed excessively pimped out to make him look like a “Robot Samurai” in Transformers cosplay.

Elsewhere, the characterisation is strong, with the pizza lovin’, pop culture obsessed teenage bro’s distinctive personalities solidified early on (leader, brainbox, rebel, comic), leading to some sparkling banter. Megan Fox was certainly a curious casting choice for the usually ginger, yellow jumpsuit-wearing reporter, but she manages to keep the justice-chasing go-getter grounded and deliver more than just “a little froth,” while Channel 6 cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) is charmingly fleshed out as a nervous, hopeless flirt crushing on his leading lady.

Upon leaving the multiplex back in 2014 my response was one of apathy, but with a sequel surfing into cinemas at the end of the month I decided to take another trip to the sewers of NYC, and I liked hanging out with these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a shell of a lot more than I remembered.

“Tiramisu for everybody!”

I concede that it has a rather messy, hyperactive tone (“MC Mikey” can’t even ride in a lift without making some noise, while a camera-swooping cliff-drop set piece is constantly narrated by wisecracks) and its ‘gritty’ desire to detail large-scale devastation is elevated to Man of Steel proportions, but I was far more invested in these “fairytale vigilantes” second time around and found far more favourable factors than frustrating faults. I plan to revisit all of the motion picture outings in the lead-up to Out of the Shadows’ May 30th release, including 2007 CGI dud TMNT – wish me luck, compadres.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Step Up: All In (Archive Cinema Review)

PG – 112mins – 2014 – 3D


 

STILL TROUPING

100First, let me preface this milestone performance with some limb-loosening stretches: I am a 32-year-old man and I realise I am not the dance-flick genre’s target demographic. However, I have a real soft spot for the Step Up franchise (Step Up 2: The Streets in particular), so please do not assume that due to my age and gender that All In will automatically receive a dismissive or negative review.

With that metaphoric warm-up out of the way, sadly this fourth sequel – promoted as the ultimate reunion instalment – definitely feels like a step down in quality – and not just because the title is a fallacy. While it is nice to see franchise alumni Briana Evignan and fan-favourite Adam “Moose” Sevani return, big-hitters Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan and Sharni Vinson (to name but three previous stars) are not present. Maybe Some In would have been a more accurate, albeit less tantalising, subtitle?

Following on from Ryan Guzman’s success story in Step Up 4: Miami Heat (2012), All In charts the hugely coincidental rivalry between three dance crews battling it out in L.A. for a VH1 competition called “The Vortex”. A satirical stab at T.O.W.I.E.-style scripted reality shows aside, this is frustratingly predictable fare which goes overboard on cheesy humour, thereby diminishing the human drama behind the tireless troupe.

The usually first-rate choreography also failed to garner the WOW factor on the confined TV-taping stage. Maybe it’s just franchise fatigue, but even some impressive in-your-face utilisation of the cinematic third dimension couldn’t win me over this time around, and a major shake-up of this tired routine will be needed to tempt me back onto the dancefloor for the inevitable sixth Step. Maybe that will be my 200th CR@Blog?

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars