The Man Who Knew Infinity (DVD Review)

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PG – 108mins – 2016


GOOD WILL COUNTING

“Change, gentlemen, it’s a wonderful thing. Embrace it.”

Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel headlines this austere adaptation of Robert Kangiel’s 1991 biography of mathematical prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose pioneering self taught prime number theories see him admitted into Cambridge University’s Trinity College after growing up underprivileged in Madras, India.

… 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

Dark Places (DVD Review)


15 – 108mins – 2015


KAN OF WORMS

Charlize Theron heads up a thoroughly sullen cast who all play world weary compassion-vacuums in this competently plotted but grim miscarriage of justice thriller – which left any thrills behind on the page. Adapted from Gillian Gone Girl Flynn’s bestselling 2009 novel, it is telling that this lesser film was shot before but quietly slipped out after David Fincher’s superior conversion lit up the silver screen two years ago.

Having witnessed – and been the sole survivor of – a home invasion which saw her mother and sisters brutally murdered in 1985, Kansas City dweller Libby Day (Theron) has grown into a jittery and jaded mess of an adult. It was her questionable testimony at just 8 years old which saw her older brother (Corey Stoll) imprisoned for the crime, but now a group of true-crime enthusiasts are dredging up the past in an attempt to overturn what they consider a wrongful verdict, causing Libby to re-evaluate her memories of that tragic night.

Flitting between then and now as light is shone upon the infamous case by Nicholas Hoult’s investigative nosey parkers “The Kill Club”, it is instantly obvious that Libby’s brother is not the murderer – not that the responsively-ambiguous teenage rebel (played by Tye Sheridan in flashbacks) does much to help clear his name (or garner sympathy) as some truly disturbing charges are levelled at him.

This lack of energy is common throughout the cast, as Christina Hendricks barely registers any of the horrors that surround her as the Day’s floundering matriarch. Theron, meanwhile, plays haunted Libby as a solemn cow quick to snap. You understand why she is how she is, but it is hard to like someone who refuses to let anyone get within five paces.

As the title suggests, Dark Places is pitch black in both subject matter and tone. Slaughter, criminal injustice, teenage pregnancy, broken families, child abuse, drug addicts and Satanism are not the cheeriest of subjects in their own right, but when compounded into a slow-reveal mystery narrative, the bleakness and lack of pace do not do each other any favours. As the not-substantial runtime ticked by, I found myself all the more often checking the time and begging for a ray of light to brighten this uncomfortable and morbid affair.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars