Thor: Ragnarok (Cinema Review)

12A – 130mins – 2017 – 3D


 

GLADIA-THOR, READY? REVENGERS, READY?

In recent years, Disney and Marvel have become notorious for the short leashes on which they keep their directors. Even if your name is Edgar Baby Driver Wright, if your Ant Man passion project doesn’t toe the corporate line, you’re out. Likewise, Lord and Miller were recently ousted from the Han Solo Star Wars spin-off because their take on the Kasdan’s script was too irreverent. The body double twist which capped off Iron Man 3 was derided for making a mockery of Marvel lore, while Joss Whedon has openly held his hands up to the difficult production on 2015’s Age of Ultron, a sequel which too often went for a gag.

… Keep Scuttling!

Doctor Strange (Cinema Review)

Image result for doctor strange 2016

12A – 115mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

“Leave behind everything you thought you knew…”

A career-ending car accident sees astonishing-but-arrogant New York neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Black Mass Cumberbatch) traverse the globe in search of revolutionary and non-traditional healing techniques to cure his damaged hands. In Kathmandu, Nepal he is introduced to The Ancient One (Tilda Trainwreck Swinton), a master of the mystic arts who harnesses the desperate doctor’s spiritual powers to unleash his full potential.

… Keep Scuttling!

Zoolander No. 2 (DVD Review)

12 – 98mins – 2016 


 

TWO STEEL

Quote-heavy and gif-friendly in its all-round over-exuberance, 2001’s first Zoolander is considered a modern classic of the Brat Pack comedy era – much like Will “Mugatu” Ferrell’s Anchorman. I can never proclaim to being that enamoured with either if I’m being honest, although both have remained so prescient in the public consciousness that sequels – whether necessary or not – were guaranteed money-makers.

It took co-writer, star and director Ben Stiller some 15 years to resurrect his chique-but-stupid fashion model Derek Zoolander, who has been in icy exile (like a “hermit crab”) since the collapse of his Centre For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, death of his wife (Christine Taylor) and some seriously poor spaghetti-based parenting skills saw Child Protection services take his son, Derek Jr (Cyrus Arnold), into care.

But now a mystery assassin is gunning down the world’s most famous pop stars, all of whom take a “Blue Steel” selfie before they pop their beautiful clogs. Chances are only the creator of the trademark look and his former fashion rival-cum-BFF-cum-rival-again Hansel (Owen Wilson) hold the key to cracking this deadly plot – but can they be trusted to work full-stop, much less undercover and together?! And how will they fit in to a much-changed, androgyny-embracing industry?

Bringing back every successful element from the first film and adding a walk-in wardrobe’s worth more, Zoolander No. 2 is a messy maelstrom of outrageous outfits, flashy visuals, dumb expressions, stupid jokes and more celebrity cameos than your mind can reasonably comprehend. At least the similarly overcrowded Absolutely Fabulous never got to the point where they needed to write the names of the famous people on screen to tip off the audience!

It’s not high art – in fact most of it is as eye-rollingly embarrassing as Kristin Ghostbusters Wiig’s near incomprehensible foreign accent – but the game cast and even-gamer cameoists (Justin Bieber, Kiefer Sutherland and Benedict Cumberbatch in particular don’t mind putting their pride to one side) just about save this from being a stinky No. 2 of a catwalk catastrophe – it’s just a shame so much of it is recycled from last season and should have been left on the hanger.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

Black Mass (DVD Review)

15 – 118mins – 2015


 

UNHOLY ALLIANCE

Based upon the 2001 non-fiction chronicle by former newspaper reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, a stellar ensemble cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson and Kevin Bacon all play second fiddle to a balding Johnny Depp in this often grim dramatization of the 1975-1995 criminal career of South Boston’s Irish mob leader, James “Whitey” Bulger.

Not since Public Enemies in 2009 has Depp had the opportunity to shift from wacky wally to wryly wretched, but Black Mass is just that solemn showcase. Portraying the feared and felonious Whitey, head of the Winter Hill Gang – and brother to Massachusetts State Senate President, Billy Bulger (Cumberbatch) – makes for a stark (and welcome) change of direction for the Hollywood heartthrob, who has made quite the name for himself playing camp and colourful extroverts.

Entering into a problematic devil’s deal with childhood pal and FBI agent John Connelly (Joel Edgerton) to act as a “criminal informer”, Whitey believes that by getting the Feds to fight his battles for him and bring down the Italian mob, he will receive free reign to do whatever he likes. But the tragic deaths of his young son (Luke Ryan) and elderly mother (Mary Klug) pushes the infamous crime lord – and his ‘business associates’ – further down a dark path from which there is no immunity.

“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it.”

Ostensibly comparable to last year’s Tom Hardy double-hander Krays biopic Legend (in theme if not in period detail), director Scott Crazy Heart Cooper instead avoids any whiff of grisly black humour here, playing this violent thriller deadly straight. There are attempts to endue Bulger’s wrongdoing with a maudlin rationale, but the steely-eyed and stony-faced gangster is too depraved to evoke compassion.

On the run for eleven years and only arrested in 2011, Black Mass’s persistently sombre and severe tone achieves the desired effect of painting the life of a “strictly criminal” felon as a despairingly lonely one.

CR@B Verdict: 4 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