Atomic Blonde (Cinema Review)

15 – 115mins – 2017


 

DECEIVE THE DECEIVER

Michael Jackson’s golden era, the Star Wars sequels, Red Dwarf‘s early years, Tetris… and me. The 1980s produced some of my all-time favourite things. Yet new spy thriller Atomic Blonde is proof that even the most nostalgic can have too much of a good thing.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Fast & Furious 8 (Cinema Review)

Image result for the fate of the furious

12A – 136mins – 2017


 

ROGUE DOM: A CAR WARS STORY

Not trusting British audiences with an iota of common sense, the nut-jobs at Universal Pictures reverted the title of this seventh (Vin) Diesel-fuelled, car-loving action sequel back to the boring, uninspired, numerically denominated handle you read above, missing out on the witty promotion opportunity open to overseas markets where the blockbuster retains its original and superior appellation: The Fate of the Furious. F8, geddit?!

… Keep Scuttling!

Kubo and the Two Strings (Cinema Review)

Image result for kubo and the two strings

PG – 102mins – 2016 – 3D


 

MODEL WARRIOR

“If you must blink, do it now…”

Since making my jaw drop with their surreal first (stop-)motion picture, 2009’s expansive Neil Gaiman adaptation Coraline, animation supremos Laika have yet to give me a reason to close it. I will confess that their last release, The Boxtrolls, was heavier in grotesque humour than heart, but it was artful and entertaining.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Cinema Review)

12A – 117mins – 2016


 

MIRROR EARTH

Tolkien meets Frozen in this gritty, teen-targeted, action-heavy Kristen Stewart-less swearytale spin-off from 2012’s Snow White & the Huntsman. Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the visual effects supervisor on the first film, makes his directorial debut, promoted after Rupert Sanders’ well publicised extramarital scandal with K-Stew.

Initially planned as a prequel to avoid explaining Snow White’s absence, Winter’s War is actually both an origin story for Chris Thor Hemsworth’s axe-handy Eric and a sequel, with the action skipping seven years and enveloping the previous films’ events.

Welcomely narrated by Liam Neeson’s assuring tones, we are re-introduced to a pre-death sorceress Ravenna (the returning Charlize Theron) and her fairer sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), who is involved in an illicit liaison with Merlin’s Colin Morgan. When Freya discovers Morgan’s Duke has murdered their child, grief brings her long-suppressed magical powers to the fore, and the Ice Queen is born.

Setting up her own kingdom in the North, Freya begins recruiting children to form a hardened army of cold-hearted huntsmen. When her two best warriors, Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain), fall in love, Freya furiously forces Eric to watch as Sara is slain behind a wall of ice, before Eric’s unconscious body is thrown into the water…

Seven years (and a box office hit) later and a still-grieving Eric is recruited by Snow White’s husband, King William (Sam Claflin, who all-but cameos) to locate the shiny menace that is the Magic Mirror, which was stolen while being transported to “Sanctuary”, after it made the bed-bound Queen ill (handy, that).

Plucky dwarf Nion (Nick Frost) returns, accompanied by his humorously mouthy kin, Gryff (Rob Brydon), to aid Eric in his quest, which sees the unlikely trio reunited with a not-dead Sara (shocker!), battle goblins, team up with she-dwarfs (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach), survive countless ambushes and confront Freya in a climatic battle in her Ice Palace to ensure the sort-after MacGuffin doesn’t fall into the wrong hands all over again.

With a mission which sees our motley band of heroes cross kingdoms, we are treated to a plethora of sumptuous fantasy landscapes and creatures both fair and foul, granting Winter’s War an expansive, large scale feel. Similarly, the expanding cast are all worthy additions to this Grimm world, ranging from empowering (Chastain), to domineering (Blunt) and cheeky (Brydon), and yet, they all fail to distract from the Kristen Stewart-shaped elephant missing from the throne room…

This is a follow up motivated by money and sadly defined by the loss of its star, with Snow White frequently referenced but never seen (aside from one clip, shot from behind, which was clearly an extra), with the biggest offence coming when Freya asks the Magic Mirror that most fateful question. As a golden figure is summoned forth and gradually forms before our eyes, the camera purposefully avoids showing Ravenna’s resurrected face until the last possible moment, playing with the audience’s expectations of who the fairest of them all really is, before shattering the illusion into a thousand anti-climatic shards.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Dark Places (DVD Review)


15 – 108mins – 2015


KAN OF WORMS

Charlize Theron heads up a thoroughly sullen cast who all play world weary compassion-vacuums in this competently plotted but grim miscarriage of justice thriller – which left any thrills behind on the page. Adapted from Gillian Gone Girl Flynn’s bestselling 2009 novel, it is telling that this lesser film was shot before but quietly slipped out after David Fincher’s superior conversion lit up the silver screen two years ago.

Having witnessed – and been the sole survivor of – a home invasion which saw her mother and sisters brutally murdered in 1985, Kansas City dweller Libby Day (Theron) has grown into a jittery and jaded mess of an adult. It was her questionable testimony at just 8 years old which saw her older brother (Corey Stoll) imprisoned for the crime, but now a group of true-crime enthusiasts are dredging up the past in an attempt to overturn what they consider a wrongful verdict, causing Libby to re-evaluate her memories of that tragic night.

Flitting between then and now as light is shone upon the infamous case by Nicholas Hoult’s investigative nosey parkers “The Kill Club”, it is instantly obvious that Libby’s brother is not the murderer – not that the responsively-ambiguous teenage rebel (played by Tye Sheridan in flashbacks) does much to help clear his name (or garner sympathy) as some truly disturbing charges are levelled at him.

This lack of energy is common throughout the cast, as Christina Hendricks barely registers any of the horrors that surround her as the Day’s floundering matriarch. Theron, meanwhile, plays haunted Libby as a solemn cow quick to snap. You understand why she is how she is, but it is hard to like someone who refuses to let anyone get within five paces.

As the title suggests, Dark Places is pitch black in both subject matter and tone. Slaughter, criminal injustice, teenage pregnancy, broken families, child abuse, drug addicts and Satanism are not the cheeriest of subjects in their own right, but when compounded into a slow-reveal mystery narrative, the bleakness and lack of pace do not do each other any favours. As the not-substantial runtime ticked by, I found myself all the more often checking the time and begging for a ray of light to brighten this uncomfortable and morbid affair.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars