Erik the Conqueror (Blu-ray Review)

Erik the Conqueror Blu

VIKINGS VIA ITALY

My third review for entertainment podcast website 60 Minutes With went live yesterday, so this is just a heads up and polite nudge to follow THIS DIRECT LINK to read my take on Arrow Video‘s new 2K restoration – and sumptuous double-disc, dual-format release – of Mario Bava’s 1961 swashbuckler Erik the Conqueror.

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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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Voice from the Stone (Film Review)

15 – 94mins – 2017


 

TUSCAN RAIDER

Mute since his sickly mother passed away, young Jakob’s (Edward Dring) despairing father, Klaus (Marton Csokas), hopes English nurse Verena (Emilia Me Before You Clarke) will succeed where a string of other live-in caregivers have failed and get his mourning heir talking again.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Omen (DVD Review)

Image result for the omen 2006

15 – 105mins – 2006


 

DÉJÀ BOO

“Did I scare you, Mummy?”

The marketing department at 20th Century Fox must have been roundly patting themselves on the back when they saw the golden opportunity to release this remake of the seminal 70s supernatural horror on 6/6/06. It was perhaps overkill for them to take this nod to the biblical Number of the Beast one step further and start the first screenings at 6:06:06, but sometimes you’ve got to run with an idea when it presents itself.

… Keep Scuttling!

Inferno (Cinema Review)

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12A – 121mins – 2016


SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND

A decade after he first strapped on Robert Langdon’s cherished Mickey Mouse wristwatch in the much anticipated conversion of The Da Vinci Code from page-turner to must-see movie, screen legend Tom Hanks is back for a third global race against the clock as author Dan Brown’s sensationally-popular Harvard professor, cryptographer and Indiana Jones for the 21st century.

… Keep Scuttling!

Branagh Theatre Live: ROMEO & JULIET (Live Review)

Image result for kenneth branagh romeo and juliet

12A – 210mins – 2016 – B&W


 

THE RO MUST GO ON

The performance last night was preceded by a clearly impromptu card-prompted introduction from Kenneth Branagh which explained Romeo (Richard Madden) had sustained an ankle injury just 48hours prior to this nationwide cinema simulcast (“the perils of live theatre!”). Nevertheless, the Game of Thrones actor was determined to power through this performance, which was part of the Cinderella director’s yearlong Plays at the Garrick season.

Branagh noted a few changes to the staging to better accommodate the lead’s mobility issues, but the show still flowed flawlessly and at no time did it appear the young Montague was in any sort of agony (other than of the heart) – quite remarkable given how he was still gamely dancing and fighting across the stage throughout.

Romeo & Juliet’s tone was set by the monochrome black and white palette, which empathised Branagh’s 1950’s Italian influence on Christopher Oram’s costume and set design. The camera direction on the night by Benjamin Caron was wonderfully dynamic and cinematic in its execution, with crucial scenes even incorporating focus blurs!

Image result for kenneth branagh romeo and juliet

In fact, so polished was the entire production that I almost needed reminding that this wasn’t tirelessly edited together from hours of unusable rehearsal footage; this was happening live, albeit an hour down the road from where I watched it in my local Cineworld. There were no dropped props, fluffed monologues or even winces from the delicate Romeo.

From Lily James’ hopeful and gushing Juliet to Meera Syal’s dryly humorous Nurse, the entire cast were superb – with special mention due to Derek Jacobi’s aged take on Mercutio. In a vox pop screened in the build up to the broadcast Branagh explained his “Wilde” inspiration behind this potentially divisive casting decision, and Jacobi delivered it with spunk and assured nonchalance.

Perhaps it was the lack of Mercutio’s unerring, larger-than-life presence, or the downward spiral of the fleetingly-promising love story, but the second half (following a twenty minute interval in which the camera lingered on a bird’s eye view of the milling Garrick attendees) was far more intense and far less fun than the spirited first. Juliet’s father (Michael Rouse) in particular delivering a shockingly brutal disavowal of his daughter’s protest against an arranged suitor.

Image result for kenneth branagh romeo and julietWhile the delivery of the awkwardly tongue-twisting Shakespearean verse made it impossible not to give the screen your full attention if you intended to stand any chance of following the ups and downs of this tragic tale, your concentration was rewarded with an impressive and immersive theatre experience. Purists may scoff at some of Branagh’s bolder revisions (a club song during the party scene, for instance), but this still retained the heartbreaking soul of the timeless original.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

All Roads Lead to Rome (DVD Review)

12 – 88mins – 2015


 

CHASING SUMMER

“A woman takes what she wants, when she wants it.”

Concerned single mother Maggie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her one-time Italian beau, Luca (Raoul Bova), take to the terraces of Tuscany to track down her rebellious teenage daughter, Summer (Rosie Day), and his stubborn elderly mother, Carmen (Claudia Cardinale), who each have their own independent motivations for escaping their over-protective guardians. Which they achieve – in Luca’s classic car.

Ella Lemhagen directs with a disposition for radiant and picturesque shots of the titular tourist trap, making All Roads… pleasantly easy viewing. But despite establishing a need for speed – Summer is desperate to return to her bail-making boyfriend in New York, while Carmen plans to secretly wed her one true love against her son’s wishes – neither hunters nor prey seem in a particular hurry, with countless road-side stop offs engineered to expedite bonding between both couples.

An accident and an arrest ramp up the drama towards the summit, but everyone is all sunshine and smiles come the post-epiphany epilogue. There’s nothing revolutionary in Cindy Myers and Josh Appignanesi’s script, but it’s as watchable and fluffy as a liberated rabbit. So I guess you could say that’s an Italian job well done.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars