Critters (Amazon Prime Review)

15 – 85mins – 1986


 

FURRY FANGED FOOTBALLS

The Brown family’s rural Kansas farmhouse is about to become the chomping ground of a horde of hungry, malevolent alien vermin in this quintessentially 80s sci-fi/horror comedy, which plays out like Gremlins meets Ghoulies – with a multitude of iconic pop culture references thrown in for good measure!

… Keep Scuttling!

Transformers: The Last Knight (Cinema Review)

12A – 149mins – 2017 – 3D


 

PIECE OF SCRAP

I know it’s lazy to deride Michael Bay’s bloated brigade of big ‘bot battle blockbusters, but boy is this fifth Transformers film a rotten piece of shit! I realise that isn’t a very erudite (or polite) way to kickstart a review, but I’m not editing it for two reasons: Firstly, multi-millionaire Bay, producers Paramount and Hasbro Studios won’t care what The CR@Bpendium thinks of their gallizion dollar expanded-universe franchise – people will still turn out in droves. Secondly, given the amount of bad language that litters this light-hearted adapted-from-toys summer sequel, apparently kids are down with the swearz these days, too?! So the shit stays where it is.

… Keep Scuttling!

DOCTOR WHO, 10.9 – “Empress of Mars” (TV Review)

BBC One – 7:35pm – Saturday 10th June 2017

Written by: Mark Gatiss

Directed by: Wayne Yip


 

THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR

“Sod this for a game of soldiers!”

My overdue run of current series Doctor Who reviews rattles on with this historical military altercation – set in the caverns beneath the surface of the Red Planet! “Empress of Mars” is the first episode in a month not to feature the audience-dividing alien Monks (my opinions on which can be read by clicking 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8), and it sees a sharp step backwards in assimilating gormless assistant Nardole (Matt Lucas) into the main body of the story.

… Keep Scuttling!

DOCTOR WHO, 10.8 – “The Lie of the Land” (TV Review)

BBC One – 7:35pm – Saturday 3rd June 2017

Written by: Toby Whithouse

Directed by: Wayne Yip


 

FAKE NEWS CENTRAL

“Humanity is doomed to never learn from its mistakes.”

One downfall of being tardy to the party with watching a programme as popular and hotly-debated as Doctor Who is that unless I avoid twitter for the weekend, I will invariably end up with a rough consensus of the public’s opinion of each episode, a week before I see it. Combining the cool general response to “The Lie of the Land” with my own inauspicious reaction to “The Pyramid at the End of the World” (10.7), it’s fair to say my excitement for this finale to the Monk’s trilogy was somewhat subdued.

… Keep Scuttling!

DOCTOR WHO, 10.7 – “The Pyramid at the End of the World” (TV Review)

BBC One – 7:25pm – Saturday 27th May 2017

Written by: Peter Harness and Steven Moffat

Directed by: Daniel Nettheim


 

BRINGING IT

The Doctor may have rumbled the planet-wide VR simulation used by the desiccated coven of alien Monks to prepare their invasion of Earth last week (see my review of 10.6 “Extremis” HERE), but he didn’t vanquish them. And now they are back, bringing with them a 5,000-year-old pyramid which suddenly appears in the desert of Turmezistan – their invasion has begun and the countdown clock to global catastrophe is closing in on midnight!

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DOCTOR WHO, 10.6 – “Extremis” (TV Review)

BBC One – 7:25pm – Saturday 20th May 2017

Written by: Steven Moffat

Directed by: Daniel Nettheim


 

WHAT LIES BENEATH

Well I certainly wasn’t expecting that. After setting up what was presumed to be a season-long mystery in “The Pilot” and teasing it in each subsequent episode, we were casually made privy to who was inside the vault the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has sworn to guard at this innocuous mid-series point. I’m a week late in getting my “Extremis” review posted, but I will still warn those even tardier than I that SPOILERS FOLLOW, so continue at your own risk…

… Keep Scuttling!

Midnight Special (DVD Review)

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12 – 111mins – 2016


 

CULT ENCOUNTERS OF THE ABSURD KIND

Sometimes critically commended films can disappoint you on a personal level. Sometimes even films which, on paper, sound exactly like something you typically adore, can leave you cold. Sadly, rising director Jeff Nichol’s sullen sci-fi drama (and his breakout studio hit following the indie success of 2012’s Matthew McConaughey-led Mud) manages the dubious honour of a double-whammy for me.

… Keep Scuttling!

Arrival (Cinema Review)

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12A – 116mins – 2016


 

STORY OF YOUR LIFE

Measured in tone and tempered in pace, this intelligent first contact science fiction drama – adapted from Ted Chiang’s short story by screenwriter Eric The Conjuring 2 Heisserer and directed by Denis Sicario Villeneuve – is definitely more Interstellar than Independence Day in its elegant and awe-inspiring execution. Released this coming Friday in the UK, I was granted an Unlimited Card exclusive early screening last night courtesy of Cineworld.

… Keep Scuttling!

Independence Day: Resurgence (Cinema Review)

12A – 120mins – 2016 – 3D


 

CORE BLIMEY!

Two decades after the “War of ‘96” as depicted in high-concept multi-billion blockbuster Independence Day, Master of the disaster epic Roland Emmerich’s long-stewing, highly-anticipated sequel, Resurgence, leant heavily on the nostalgia factor in its largely-returning ensemble cast and iconic poster-riffing marketing campaign.

For those reasons, I was fully expecting a template-adhering rinse-and-repeat viewing experience this time around, with mankind once again forced to unify and fight back against the landmark-flattening, national holiday-interrupting, seemingly-invincible alien invaders. While that does happen (of course), I was pleasantly surprised to find Resurgence not resting on its laurels by offering up a surprisingly progressive status quo for humanity, post-first contact. Our close encounter has lead to a technologically-advanced society which has implemented dedicated Earth Space Defence programs both on our planet and the Moon.

While a lot of familiar faces – or at least names, in the case of now-matured offspring, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) – are back for more alien ass kicking, it was admirable to see that the intervening 20 years hadn’t been an easy ride of whooping and back-patting for the heroes of the resistance. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has noticeably deteriorated into a confused, frail state, while Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) has been preserved in a coma ever since being used as an alien ventriloquist puppet. Will Smith’s unfortunate absence is explained away as a test flight tragedy, upholding Captain Hiller’s legacy.

Considering ID4’s optimistic sunshine tone, such doom and gloom is a refreshing change of gear, adding character-enhancing levity to the smashing CG-spectacle. Even headstrong new boy, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) hasn’t had it easy: orphaned, frustrated and fearful of being reacquainted with best mate, Dylan, following an air force training mishap nearly killed Hiller Junior.

This is not to say there isn’t still spades of the original film’s memorably amiable banter and chucklesome asides, with motor-mouths Charlie Ritter (Travis Tope) and Floyd Rosenberg (Nicolas Wright) providing their fair share of giggles by bouncing off their straight-men supporting cast. Plus Jeff Goldblum’s assured return and wry delivery never fails to raise a smile every time computer expert David Levinson is on screen.

Sure, you could argue that Judd Hirsch’s school bus-stealing subplot is strictly superfluous, while Vivia A. Fox is given desperately short shrift. Plus not every gag lands, but you cannot write Resurgence off as unentertaining – especially not when it is so willing to jovially tip its cap to its own history with its tongue firmly in check (“You’re even saving the dog?!”).

Since its release last Thursday, I have read a fair few less than complimentary reviews attacking Resurgence’s shallow and repetitive nature and I really couldn’t disagree more! I’m sure even Emmerich and his story writers will concede that the science jargon is bunkum, but this is not lazy or unintelligent filmmaking by any means, with an advanced aesthetic (often evoking Prometheus), resource-stealing motivation for the antagonists and an additional enemy-of-my-enemy tributary teasing a tantalising intergalactic threequel.

It’s busy, bombastic, stakes-raising, speaker-shattering, large-scale eye candy, but if you had a blast cheering on Will Smith and co. through mouthfuls of popcorn and fizzy pop in 1996, I guarantee you’ll still find plenty to love here in this steady and spectacular sequel. Don’t listen to the naysayers who are determined to convince themselves this is a wipe-out: I hereby declare Independence Day: Resurgence a triumph!

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

They Live (Amazon Prime Review)

18 – 94mins – 1988


 

OBEY… OBEY… OBEY…

“Brother, life’s a bitch and she’s back in heat.”

While the social media meltdown continues apace and I attempt to get my head around the ramifications of last night’s EU Referendum here in the UK, some might consider it hugely ironic that I sat down yesterday for my first ever viewing of John Carpenter’s cult sci-fi/horror adaptation of Ray Nelson’s short story Eight O’Clock in the Morning.

If Cameron and the “Remain” camp thought they were having a bad day, just spare a thought for homeless drifter John Nada (late WWF wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper). He is shot at, thrown from a first floor window and beaten to a swollen pulp by his best mate, Frank (Keith David), in a bare-knuckle brawl which lasts longer than Peter Griffin vs the Giant Chicken – all on the same mind-melting day he stumbles upon a yuppie alien takeover bid which only materialises whenever Nada puts on a pair of sunglasses! If that wasn’t enough, to top it all off: he’s all out of chewing gum, too!

While the satirical social commentary implied by humanity’s greed-motivated subservience to an extraterrestrial “power alliance” hidden in plain sight is as strong and as stinging as a George A. Romero subtext, I found They Live’s narrative and its genre elements to be sadly lacking. The skeletal “formaldehyde faces” of the alien’s true eye-bulging form are laughably ropey, calling to mind a 50s B-movie (perhaps intentionally?), while the drifting plot was high in meandering and low in narrative finesse.

Product DetailsNada’s journey from bum to hero is achieved by wandering in an inviolate haze through first a police raid at a homeless camp, then through the alien-infested streets of LA. When he does eventually coerce Frank into believing the conspiracy, the pair have no set plan and simply bumble along cluelessly until they happen upon a band of freedom fighters and the plot is finally focused on shutting down the signal which is hypnotising the human race to the subliminal propaganda.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars