My Cousin Rachel (Cinema Review)

12A – 106mins – 2017


 

YOU BEFORE ME

Orphaned as a child and raised by his older cousin, Philip Ashley (Sam Me Before You Claflin) remains in written communication with his guardian when sickness calls for Ambrose (also Claflin) to sojourn to warmer climes in the winter. Ambrose informs Philip that while in Italy he has met and swiftly fallen in love with Rachel (Rachel Youth Weisz), a cousin to them both, whom he marries. But worrying insinuations and a despairing tone to Ambrose’s letters perturbs Philip, who journeys out to Florence expecting to find his frail caregiver at the behest of a beastly gold-digger.

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Toploader “SEEING STARS” (Album Review)

Toploader Seeing Stars

Released digitally on: 12th May 2017

Purchase link


 

IT’S A KNOCKOUT AGAIN

20 years after they first formed, 17 years after “Dancing in the Moonlight” gained them nationwide attention and 8 years since they reformed after an extended hiatus, Eastbourne alternative rockers Toploader have released their fourth long player, Seeing Stars, fan-funded via a successful PledgeMusic campaign (see HERE).

… Keep Scuttling!

The Legend of Tarzan (Cinema Review)

12A – 108mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE SPIRIT OF THE TREES

Before his imminent return to the wizarding world with November’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, director David Yates looks to older literary inspiration in bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Victorian ape-man back to the big screen for his umpteenth reimagining.

What makes The Legend of Tarzan unique, however, is that rather than again retelling John Clayton III’s (Alexander Skarsgård) oft-told origin story, we instead join up with Lord Greystroke eight years after he has returned to England with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), with crucial flashbacks to his formative years in the jungle integrated into this sort-of sequel.

Christoph Waltz, who I must confess I have never warmed to as an actor, returns to his moustache-twirling devious antagonist comfort zone as Captain Léon Rom, the corrupt envoy for Belgium’s debt-ridden King Leopold II. Rom devises a sinister scheme to lure the renowned Tarzan back to Boma in the Congo jungle, capture him and delivery him to an old enemy for a bounty of diamonds to save his dire government from bankruptcy.

Waltz’s Hateful Eight co-star Samuel L. Jackson plays second fiddle to the titular shirt-shy star as sharp-shooting American envoy George Washington Williams, who accompanies Tarzan and Jane on their overseas expedition, and aids in the rescue of Jane when Rom sees the sinister opportunity to lure his prey out of hiding with some wife-shaped bait.

Sumptuously imagined in a similar CG-heavy approach to Disney’s recent The Jungle Book reboot, this vine-swinging wild ride seems to have been somewhat lost in the wilderness of blockbuster season, receiving a trough of middling reviews where John Favreau’s uncanny Mowgli remake was lauded for its technical wizardry. Sure, the occasional shot is noticeably green screened, but there is far more to make you go “ooo!” than “ergh!” here.

The pacing isn’t perfect, with the grand riverboat finale reached prematurely, despite the action bobbing along nicely up to that point, but the film’s only major misstep is in expecting us to invest in little-seen African tribal leader Chief Mbonga’s (Djimon Air Hounsou) passion for revenge against the film’s hero – despite Tarzan’s earlier murder of his son only being briefly alluded to and never visualised.

Otherwise, I see no reason to lambast screenwriters Adam Cozard and Craig Brewer for their vision, which is as bestial, exotic and adventurous as a Tarzan story can be. Sadly, I fear this Legend going the same way as Disney’s doomed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other shaggy-haired literary property, John Carter, which flopped for no discernible reason in 2012.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

The Conjuring 2 (Cinema Review)

15 – 134mins – 2016


 

PHENOMENAL PHENOMENA

Fast & Furious 7 director James Wan forwent the opportunity to climb back behind the wheel of the eighth big money Vin Diesel-lead car/heist ensemble in favour of returning to his beloved horror genre and reopening the case files of real life spiritualists Ed and Lorraine Warren.

With 2013’s retro-spooker The Conjuring earning big box office, high praise and a spin-off in demented doll origin story Anabelle (2014), and with the opportunity open for multiple ghost-hunting adventures, Wan reteamed Vera Farmiga (Special Correspondents) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious) as the husband and wife ‘busters and dived into their large backlog of chilling investigations.

Opening by touching on their most famous case (1974’s Amityville murders), this polished and effective sequel then jumps across the pond to a council house in Enfield, England in 1977 where a pesky poltergeist is giving harangued single mum Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children sleepless nights with many an unexplained phenomena – none more chilling than possessing the vocal cords of toothy middle child Janet (a standout performance from Madison Wolfe).

Wan’s attention to detail with the period dress is spot on, so too the overcast greys of lower-middle class Britain. He handles the notorious and well-documented case with aplomb, creating a near omni-tense aura of fear and getting effective scares out of toy fire trucks rolling across the floor and TVs channel hopping all by themselves – usually hackneyed genre tropes.

While the actual ‘haunting’ has been questioned and debunked by sceptics over the years (the sisters have admitted to exaggerating “2%” of the activity, while they were caught on camera faking one para-attack), Wan does a fine job of orchestrating the scares so that the Hodgson’s claims are open to opposition from the outside world. There’s no doubt in the director’s mind, however, that an inhuman presence is terrifying this poor family.

By tying the case so closely to demonic nun visions Ed and Lorraine are having while at home in Connecticut (convenient), the film’s veracity does start to wobble – especially when the activity is ramped up to shark-jumping levels thanks to some obvious CG ghouls, and the Warren’s are painted as the demon-defeating heroes in a story they were really only bit-part players in.

Nevertheless, The Conjuring 2 is still a superior spook-fest which had me properly jumping out of my cinema seat TWICE. True, the long runtime could be snipped to make for a more succinct narrative (the Amityville intro and scenes with the Warren’s underused daughter could easily be excised), but when a horror film is this good, I won’t denounce a bit of superfluous scene-setting – or Patrick Wilson crooning out an Elvis number.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars