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!

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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!

Dunkirk (Cinema Review)

12A – 109mins – 2017


 

ALLIED COURAGE

May, 1940. Allied troops are trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. They require air, ground and sea cover from British and French forces – both naval and civilian – to see them safely evacuated as Germany advances into France.

… Keep Scuttling!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Cinema Review)

12A – 126mins – 2017 – 3D


 

THE MAN FROM C.A.M.E.L.O.T.

The sword in the stone, the Lady in the Lake, the Knights of the Round Table… You think you know the legend, but certainly not told like this. Lock Stock and Snatch director Guy Ritchie brings his own, erm, ineffable and idiosyncratic style to the oft-told story of the medieval British leader whose historical biography has long been entwined with mythical embellishments, magic and Merlin.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Great Wall (Cinema Review)

Image result for The Great Wall 2016 film

12A – 103mins – 2017 – 3D


 

FIGHT OR FLIGHT?

Aside from the location (China), time period (medieval) and headline actor (Matt Damon) – all discernible from the poster – I went into this mega-budgeted adventure from House of the Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou blind, unsure whether to expect a dour drama akin to The Last Samurai or an action-packed choreography-fest like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What I categorically was not expecting was The Mummy Returns… again!

… 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!

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, 1.1 (TV Review)

ITV – 3rd January – 60mins
Written by: James Dormer
Directed by: Jon East

POETIC LICENCE

Having studied Seamus Heaney’s Whitbread award-winning translation at University, and having recently rewatched Robert Zemeckis’ uncanny performance-captured 2007 feature film adaptation, I felt relatively well-versed going in to the first episode of ITV’s epic 13-part re-imagining of the classic Anglo Saxon poem.

But what quickly became apparent as I tuned in this past Sunday evening was how just as well prepared for Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands I would have been had I just binge-watched old episodes of Game of Thrones – for James Dormer, Tim Primeval Haines and Katie Newman’s fantasy adventure is just as indebted to the hit HBO show as it is to its source material! Did anyone else think they had sat on the remote and flicked over to Sky Atlantic when the copyright-skirtingly comparable opening credits began?

But as much as Beowulf strives to emulate GoT’s lavish production design, vast landscapes and silver screen-sheen (all of which it achieved, up to a point), this was still very much Sunday evening fare. We saw no more than the before and after of any sexual relations and the sword fighting was choppily edited so to imply more than it showed. The continuity announcer did issue a “scary scenes” warning pre-broadcast, but this was no doubt more to avoid another Jekyll & Hyde-style scheduling controversy rather than because the CGI “mudborns” – which looked like a cross between Caesar the ape and Gollum – were all that nightmare-inducing.

Indeed, the most controversial aspect of this series premiere was the liberties co-creator Dormer’s script took with the Old English legend. The basic premise is familiar – our returning warrior (Kieran Bew) takes up arms to save his home from the threat of the monstrous Grendel – but the specifics of the location have been blurred from Scandinavia to the titular “Shieldlands”, while a deeper relationship between the banished Beowulf and the family of deceased King Hrothgar (William Hurt) was established so to embellish the human drama and justify a lengthier series run.

On the performance front, Bew will make for an interesting lead, given his less-than-dashing coarseness, while the inclusion of a sarcastic sidekick in Abrican (Elliot Cowan) may not have been such an unnecessary embellishment were it not for the actor’s uncharismatic delivery. Eragon star Ed Speleers, meanwhile, does perhaps overegg his sneering snideness as the Queen’s jealous son. He also looks a little young to be of similar same to Beowulf, as a multitude of flashbacks substantiated.

Return to the Shieldlands may never be as glossy or epic as the classics it is vying to compete with, but it has established itself as a plucky and trying underdog. The action sequences were decent – in particular an opening beach chase which ended with a beastie taking an axe to the head (the sole graphic concession) – and the Northumberland locales felt believably luscious and “lived in” – even when aided by CGI. Mist-shrouded woodland was an especially atmospheric choice for a third act showdown, while the deserted land of the giants was magnificently rendered and brought to mind the Mines of Moria from The Lord of the Rings.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars