THORNHILL (Book Review)

Written and illustrated by: Pam Smy

Published in the UK by: David Fickling Books / Publication date: 27th August 2017

Pages: 544


Weighing in at a daunting 544 pages, APU graduate and Cambridge lecturer Pam Smy’s debut solo work (the first she has both written and illustrated) is actually a deceptively quick read, and one which I blasted through in a matter of hours.

… Keep Scuttling!

Death Note (Netflix Review)

15 – 100mins – 2017



“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.

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Atomic Blonde (Cinema Review)

15 – 115mins – 2017



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!

Porco Rosso (DVD Review)

PG – 94mins – 1992



“I don’t fight for honour – I fight for a pay check!”

Italian WWI ex-fighter pilot Marco Rossolini (Michael Keaton) is an anti-fascist now living as a hostage-rescuing freelance bounty hunter, spending his days chasing “air pirates” in his Savoia S.21 above the Adriatic Sea. Written and directed by Studio Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki, Porco Rosso is based on his own 3-part Manga, Hikōtei Jidai, and could easily pass as an ode to history and aviation, were it not for the fact that the lead character is cursed by “divine punishment” into the form of an anthropomorphised pig!

“God was telling you it wasn’t your time yet…”

Despite this single concession to fantasy, Porco Rosso is otherwise fairly geographically and historically accurate, with a surplus of politically-charged dialogue giving it the air of a satire. It’s a pity that a succession of “outsider” quips and tiresome “pig-headed” wordplay diminishes any deeper and more complex subtext by overstating the ‘pigs might fly’ comedy. In my opinion, that’s a single joke stretched waaaay too far.

Elsewhere there are flashes of sensitivity and sympathy (“Maybe I’ve just run out of tears,”), even if Keaton dubs Rocco with suave indifference. Irritatingly, there are also further glimpses of some outmoded sexism (“Don’t you have any males relatives?”; “We’re not baking a cake here,”) – but at least, unlike Ocean Waves, this was set in a less open-minded time period.

As is to be expected from the Japanese anime giants, the film is animated gorgeously, however some overly cartoonified injury detail does diminish the honour of Porco’s climatic dual-cum-bareknuckle-fistfight with love rival Curtis (Cary Saw Elwes). Nevertheless, Porco Rosso’s charm carries it through; this is still more swell than swill – and I’m not bacon that up! Ahem.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Gemma Bovery (DVD Review)

15 – 99 mins – 2014


“A mundane story told by a genius.”

Adapted by author Posy Simmonds from her own 1999 graphic novel, this quaint-yet-quirky French romance is a quasi-meta modernised riff on author Gustave Flaubert’s controversial nineteenth century novel about the archetypal bored wife who becomes entangled in adulterous affairs to escape her provincial life.

“It seems really wacky,” real world English rose Gemma Bovery (Gemma Arterton) comments of the book to her romantic literature-loving new neighbour Martin (Fabrice Luchini), a Normandy baker who acts as omniscient “director” of this parallel tale, while also starring in it.

Moulding the action like he does his dough, Martin guides the audience like a sentient GCSE revision guide by pointing out the similarities between Madame Bovary and the relationship calamities of her expatriate almost-namesake. Martin is a meddler-come-voyeur, often reduced to a wide-eyed, infatuated fug while Gemma’s husband (Jason Flemyng), a local playboy (Niels Schneider) and her ex (Mel Raido) vie for her attention.

I am struggling to ascertain whether I consider this cleverly post-modern, or simply lazy, with plot points from the original novel being lifted wholesale (rat poison, faked love letters) into this present day love triangle. The book’s tragic finale, for instance, when broached sternly in the film’s third act, comes across as wholly contrived and easily avoidable, yet events still transpire as if this is in someway fate – which is just romanticised nonsense, and the way it plays out on screen nothing short of goofy.

“Nothing happens, but at the same time it’s interesting”

Sadly, in assessing Gemma Bovery, I cannot agree with the lead character’s review of Flaubert’s classic. Frustrating, yes, mildly-diverting, certainly, but not interesting. Like its portrayal of manipulator-or-victim Gemma and its continual bilingual flitting between English and French, Anne Coco Before Chanel Fontaine’s film is a muddled mess which can’t quite decide what it is.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars