Death Note (Netflix Review)

15 – 100mins – 2017


 

LIGHT-MARE SCENARIO

“I have a Death God.”

Following his Hollywood breakthrough with 2011’s superb horror hit You’re Next, young auteur Adam Wingard established himself as a compelling new voice of the grisly genre. His credentials were further strengthened as a proponent of anthology pieces such as V/H/S (although he had no hand in the god-awful threequel, reviewed HERE) and The ABCs of Death, while 2014’s The Guest showed there was more to his talent than merely scarlet sauce, shrieks and scares.

Continue reading

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Cinema Review)

12A – 137mins – 2017 – 3D


 

TEMPORAL SPACE AGENT

Based on Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ pulp comic book series Valérian and Laureline which lasted a monumental 44 years from 1966-2010, it is clear that acclaimed director Luc Besson sees this epic science fiction adaptation as his grandiose Avatar moment. Intricately designed and packed full of more CGI than all three Star Wars prequels combined, sadly this is less a return to his The Fifth Element success and more a John Carter-sized flop.

… Keep Scuttling!

Wonder Woman (Cinema Review)

12A – 141mins – 2017 – 3D


 

AMAZON PRIME

After being introduced with a supporting role (but no title credit) in last year’s bloated super-smash melee Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which I reviewed HERE), DC Comic’s immortal warrior princess is granted her own solo mission, incorporating her 5000-year-old origin story into a prequel adventure set during World War I.

… Keep Scuttling!

IRON FIST, 1.1 – “Snow Gives Way” (Netflix Review)

Netflix – Season One streaming from 17th March 2017

Based on characters created by: Roy Thomas and Gil Kane

Created and Written by: Scott Buck

Directed by: John Dahl


 

CIRQUE DU PSYCHOPATH

Ant-Man aside, I have invariably been on the ball with watching all of Marvel Studio’s blockbuster comic book adaptations during their cinematic runs. Inversely, the television spin-offs have somehow evaded by attention. I’m not against seeing them, but I don’t consider them essential to the MCU. Plus, once I fell behind on Daredevil, I felt inclined to hold off on Jessica Jones and Luke Cage until I could watch them in production order.

… Keep Scuttling!

The LEGO Batman Movie (Cinema Review)

Image result for the lego batman movie

U – 104mins – 2017 – 3D


 

BUILDING UP THE BRAND

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller constructed franchise brick-starting gold in 2014 with the riotously hilarious Lego Movie, ably balancing razor-sharp humour, resonating heart, zippy action and a rainbow colour palette to make one of the funniest and most heat-warming cinema experiences I have had in a long time.

… Keep Scuttling!

MARVEL Iron Man: The Gauntlet (Book Review)

Written by: Eoin Colfer

Published in the UK by: Egmont, 27th October 2016

Pages: 273


AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE

From page to screen and back to page again, award-winning Artemis Fowl author – and Ireland’s laureate for children’s literature – Eoin Colfer brings Marvel’s smart aleck comic book superhero to the North shores of his home country in this slick and snappy YA adventure which substitutes the colourful panel art we normally associate with the Iron Man property for zinging dialogue, explosive descriptions and profuse Irish stereotypes (“top of the morning,” leprechauns, Guinness, Riverdancing, “…, so” and U2 are all brought up – seriously).

… 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!

Suicide Squad (Cinema Review)

15 – 123mins – 2016 – 3D 


 

INJUSTICE LEAGUE

Following the far from unanimous critical response to DC’s universe-kickstarter Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March, the Marvel comic book rivals were arrogantly confident that this anti-hero team-up would return favour to their flimsy filmic franchise. The promotion was typically bombastic and all the signs were promising, and then – on August 1st – the film was finally released…

*cue evil cackle*

Much like Suicide Squad’s psychopathic power couple, The Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot The Legend of Tarzan Robbie), David Training Day Ayer’s big screen adaptation is deluded into thinking that star names, good looks, colourful clothing and an iPod-shuffle mixtape is enough to get you through. But too much ghoulish make-up, too many tattoos and too many frightful fashion faux pas and you soon realise that these beautiful bad guys, much like this big budget blockbuster, is a schizophrenic, ugly mess.

Following the shocking conclusion to BvS (too spoilerific to reveal), a secret government agency led by intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) believes it has the answer: recruit incarcerated supervillains to undertake black ops missions in exchange for leaner prison sentences – just in time to take down supernatural terrorist The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), her resurrected brother, Incubus (Alain Chanoine), and a horde of monstrous minions. Surely nothing can go wrong…

With a raft of new characters – hitman Deadshot (Will Independence Day Smith), special forces officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), mercenary Slipknot (Adam Beach), martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara) – all requiring origin story-esque introductions, the opening half of Suicide Squad is a flitting, flighty, mis-edited jumble of all-too-swift on-screen character bios, out-of-sequence Batffleck -cameoing flashbacks and random jukebox compilations.

Foregoing any “middle” to the single sentence plot, following the unsettling formation of this anti-Justice League, the film piles straight into an extended end sequence, with the unreliable rebels crossing the besieged Midway City to tackle the supernaturally-empowered witch-goddess – who has possessed the body of Flag’s girlfriend, Dr. June Moone.

There are promising aspects trapped beneath the quagmire (Will Smith is always engaging, while Harley gets the lion’s share of quirky quips), but there is simply too much going on for any of it to be given enough room to breathe. The much-hyped Joker is little more than a bit-part player intent on releasing his missus from her noble responsibilities, Killer Croc perhaps utters all of three gruff lines, while El Diablo lingers in the background for the first two action set-pieces – and these are main characters!

It’s been much-speculated that the film received an eleventh hour re-edit, so it’s hard to ascertain whether this staccato remix of Suicide Squad is David Ayer’s ultimate vision or a too-many-chefs conglomerate of audience-pandering turned sour. Either way, it’s the version we have to judge, and I’m afraid to say that on this evidence I’d be sending this reprobate back to the slammer and throwing away the key. A DC disaster which only makes me appreciate the less-than-perfect BvS more.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

Creepshow 2 (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 89mins – 1987


 

CREEPY COMIC CONCOCTIONS

Half a decade after their first Tales of the Crypt-esque horror anthology hit number 1 at the US box office, genre legends – and good friends – George A. Romero and Stephen King collaborated once again for this second gleefully ghoulish morbid masterpiece, directed by promoted cinematographer Michael Gornick. Make-up supremo Tom Savini again returns as the sinister giggling Creep, finely animated in a vintage hand-drawn wraparound story.

Sadly, whereas 1982’s Creepshow showcased five comic strip-homaging horror vignettes, budget restraints lead to this follow-up only incorporating three – even though screenwriter Romero confirms in an interview on 88 Films’ recent features-packed blu-ray re-release that he did pen five, based upon King’s story outlines.

While there are still enough stomach-churning effects on show to ensure an ‘18’ certificate and keep fans who are “loyal to the gore” entertained, the slowness of the trio of shorts does imply they are being stretched to flesh out the sub-90minute runtime.

Rather than opening with a bang, OLD CHIEF WOOD’N HEAD is the most guilty of such padding, with its establishing of its Western ghost-town locale bordering on the quaint:

“Dead River is finally living up to its name.”

It takes 24 minutes for anything remotely horrific to transpire, with a gang of cocky store-looters savagely brought to rights for their murderous misdeeds by the eponymous awakened tribal statue. The scalping of the vain leader would have been even more grotesque had it not happened off screen, while I did question whether the vengeful statue wasn’t too late in carving out justice? After all, the innocent store owners had already been slaughtered by the time he sticks his wooden boot in.

THE RAFT sees a group of stereotypical pot-smoking springbreakers trapped on a tiny floating structure in the middle of a prohibited lake being hunted by an ominous “oil slick.”

“Mucho ecological!”

The bright summer’s day does not invoke fear, nor does the rather pathetic amorphous villain, which looks more like a giant drifting bin bag. As the teens are picked off, the shy guy immorally takes advantage of the situation by feeling up his dead mate’s sleeping girlfriend – so you don’t feel any sympathy when he is engulfed by a black wave as the tale crashes to an end.

Romero saved the best for last with THE HITCHHIKER, wherein a cheating wife is haunted by the ever-more-bloodied zombified corpse of the man she killed in a hit and run. Its set at night, has a genuine sense of tension and peril due to the impossible persistence of the deceased stalker, and utilises some hideously gory effects as the poor victim is reduced to a mangled, unidentified mess of blood and bones.

“Thanks for the ride, lady!”

The admonishing, cautionary theme is extended into the cartoon wraparound, with avid Creepshow reader Billy eventually getting one-up on the bullies who steal his comic and smash his parcel. However, I can’t imagine many kids being desperate to purchase a comic book adaptation of these meandering morality tales – with superfluous waffle killing the pace and diluting the scares. I can see what they were attempting here, but a page-turner this ain’t.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Blu-ray Review)

PG – 88mins – 1991


 

OOZE THE DADDY?

“What did you expect, that they’d come out quoting Macbeth?!”

Arguably, Golden Harvest/New Line Cinema’s fast-tracked return to the sewers finds a better balance between bandits and buffoonery than its schizophrenic predecessor of the year before, ramping up the silliness of the obviously preposterous scenario while toning down the ass kickin’ and dulling the pitiful relatability of the real world elements. The recouped and recovering Foot Clan, for instance, are this time portrayed more in a Power Rangers-esque Putty Patrol mould of faceless drones.

From endless pop culture references (“Wax on, wax off!”) to an intrinsic role for the mutagen-containing contaminated cannisters which brought life to the subterranean slice scoffers, all of the most popular and instantly associated elements of the franchise are back for The Secret of the Ooze. Even arch nemesis Shredder (François Chau) manages to dig himself out of the junk yard following his diving “death” during Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rooftop climax!

But there is also much that has changed since the first film, with Paige Turco replacing Judith Hoag as April O’Neil – who now works for Channel 3 rather than 6 – while love/hate romantic counterpart Casey Jones is not even mentioned! Donatello is sounding a lot less like Corey Feldman, too – while the improved animatronic turtle heads courtesy of Jimt Henson’s Creature Shop are more malleable to such an extent that they are almost too expressive. On a sidenote: this film is dedicated to the legendary Muppets puppeteer, who sadly passed away in May 1990.

It’s a huge shame that the opportunity to bring brainless brutes Bebop and Rocksteady to the big screen was scuppered by a difficulty with legal clearances, with wolf Rahzar and snapping turtle Tokka (both voice by Frank Welker) instead being the mutagen-modified monsters a vengeful Shredder forces scientist Jordan Perry (David Warner) to create to fight his enemies in a “freak versus freak” revenge plot.

“Didn’t we see these guys on Wrestlemania?!”

As much as I initially favoured the injection of more comic frivolity, come the climatic showdown I did start to crave a dose of the dramatic. Instances where Shredder contently looks on while his infant-minded creatures are fed poisonous donuts during a fight scene strains credulity. The in-universe incorporation of Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” theme song into proceedings when the battle spills over into a dance club in which the star is performing is acceptable as a camera-winking cameo, but the scene stretches on waaaay too long – and when Shredder steps onto the stage only to be defeated by loud music, you do start to question whether you’re watching Bill & Ted!

“Go ninja, go ninja, go!”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze starts strongly but this bodacious demand-dictated big screen re-tread ultimately falls foul of sequel-itis: more of the same, but BIGGER – which we literally get when Shredder gets a muscle-bulging, armour-enhancing dose of mutagen. As voice-of-reason Splinter (Kevin Clash) remarks with a (realistic) roll of his eyes: “Oy!

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars