The Ritual (Cinema Review)

15 – 94mins – 2017


 

FEAR THE FOREST

While big money genre tentpoles like Blade Runner 2049 and It will always garner the most fanfare, sometimes the real cinematic gems are the smaller features released with only minimum fuss and which, sadly, often leave theatres before word of mouth has had a chance to take full effect. Say hello to The Ritual, which at time of typing is clinging on at my local Cineworld with just one late screening in only its second week. However, if you read this in time I cannot recommend this creepy chiller enough, so please hot-foot it down to your local picture house and take a walk in these woods…

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 91mins – 1984


 

SLEEP DISORDER

“Everybody’s got to dream, young lady.”

Inexcusably falling into the ‘genre classic I’ve somehow never seen’ category, I remedied my unintentional aversion to Wes Craven’s Elm Street franchise by picking up the 5-disc Blu-ray boxset recently, which neatly includes all 7 original entries and only skips on the 2010 remake (which, shamefully, is the only one I had previously seen).

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Incarnate (Film Review)

15 – 91mins – 2016


 

PARASITIC PURGE

Inception meets The Exorcist in this barmy WWE Studios and Blumhouse co-produced paranormal Aaron Eckhart vehicle, which sees the usually trim and hunky London Has Fallen star grizzled-chopped, lank-haired and wheelchair-bound as Dr. Seth Ember, the sole survivor of a road accident which sets him on a mission to track down “Maggie,” the driver of the car which robbed him of the use of his legs, his wife and young son.

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The 9th Life of Louis Drax (DVD Review)

15 – 108mins – 2016


 

LOUIS IN BLUNDERLAND

Typically associated with the horror genre having created such prominent hits as Switchblade Romance, The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha remakes, Mirrors and Horns over the past 14 years, French director Alexandre Aja – still only 38 years old! – branched out from his comfort zone with this surreal adaptation of Liz Jensen’s bizarre 2005 psychological mystery novel.

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When Marnie Was There (DVD Review)

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U – 103mins – 2014


 

FINE ON THE OUTSIDE

Transposing the setting of Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 children’s book from North Norfolk to Sapporo, Japan, Arrietty director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s second feature film is otherwise respectfully dutiful to its classic source material – a book which Studio Ghibli founder Hayau Miyazaki proclaimed one of his top fifty children’s stories of all time.

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A Monster Calls (Cinema Review)

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12A – 108mins – 2017


 

A CONOR CAROL

For a twelve-year-old, Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) has a lot on his plate: his estranged father (Toby Kebbell) lives in America with his new family; his mother (Felicity Rogue One Jones) is terminally ill, leaving Conor to look after her almost as much as she looks after him; his aloofly strict grandmother (Sigourney Finding Dory Weaver) is threatening to take him away to live in her archaic abode. If all of that wasn’t enough, Conor also has to deal with regular beatings from school bully Harry (James Melville).

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Under Milk Wood (DVD Review)

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15 – 83mins – 2015


QUITE EARLY ONE MORNING

Dylan Thomas has described his own classic BBC radio play (later a theatrical production and 1972 Richard Burton-starring film) as “strangely simple and simply strange,” and no finer analysis can I make. Director Kevin Allen hoped his new filmic adaption would help bring this bizarre school-taught masterpiece to a new contemporary audience, but going in fresh I struggled greatly with this surreal and unorthodox kaleidoscope of ‘normal’ Welsh life.

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The BFG (Cinema Review)

PG – 117mins – 2016 – 3D


 

A WHOOPSY-SPLUNKING ADVENTURE

“Human beans is not really believing in giants, is they? Human beans is not thinking we exist.”

A Steven Spielberg blockbuster is usually a safe bet – doubly so when he is re-teamed with ET scribe Melissa Mathison; triply so when working from the source material of the world’s number one storyteller. But my reservations before sitting down to this centenary-marking Roald Dahl adaptation last night came from growing up with repeated rewatches of Brian Cosgrove’s BAFTA-winning 1989 animated interpretation. Voiced by David Jason, it nailed the look and sound of the benevolent twenty-five foot high dreamcatcher in a way I feared a motion-captured Mark Rylance possibly could not.

Additionally, The BFG 2016’s trailers had me worried, as the titular Big Friendly Giant just didn’t quite look right – his neck too long and his eyes too small for his flapping ears… But in all his visual splendour, away from the brief snatches of footage teased in the previews, my fears were allayed by Oscar-winner Rylance’s country bumpkin approach to the towering sandal-wearer. It is a reserved and charming portrayal – even if on paper he is a lonely old man kidnapping a young girl…(!!)

Ruby Barnhill as bespectacled ten year old orphan Sophie occasionally veers into “little madam” territory, but some concessions to fear and anxiety do soften the feisty-but-diminutive redhead, making for an assured performance from the newcomer in her debut big screen performance.

Kiddles (that’s children to you and I) will be positively awestruck by the wondrous realisation of the magical rainbow-lit dream tree and the misty mountains of Giant Country, with John Williams once again expertly orchestrating the necessary emotional undercurrent. The nine “filthsome” 50 foot brutes – with names such as Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) – who plague the reserved “runt” of the litter are just about silly enough not to give little ‘uns “trogglehumpers” (nightmares).

By having the same group of actors portray the CG-enhanced “frightsome” Giants as were early-on reprimanded by insomniac Sophie for causing a drunken scene during the witching hour, I was deceived into expected an additional narrative twist to Dahl’s classic tale (for instance, is it all a “ringbeller” dreamt by Sophie?), but Mathison – in what was to sadly be her last screenwriting credit – sticks to the well-known plot, with the final act visit to “Her Majester” Queen Victoria (Penelope Wilton) propelling the narrative – and cast list! – far beyond the slower and more tranquil pace of the opening half.

Once you have adjusted to the unconventional “gobblefunk” dialogue, human beans of all ages (and heights!) will find something to smile about in this family film, while the target demographic will be howling with delight – particularly when the royal corgis are “whizpopping” around Buckingham Palace after lapping up some “frobscottle”. Add an extra CR@B to The BFG’s Claw Score if you’re below double digits.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars