A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 97mins – 1987


 

INTO THE FIRE

“Welcome to the snake pit!”

Both ANOES creator Wes Craven and breakout star Heather Langenkamp return to Elm Street after sitting out subtext-heavy, quick-fire follow-up Freddy’s Revenge (reviewed HERE). Like its immediate predecessor, Dream Warriors hits the ground running with a wealth of fiendishly fresh ideas and retrofitted backstory, contributing emphatically to dream-stalking child-killer Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Lake Placid vs Anaconda Englund) grizzly mythology.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Passengers (Cinema Review)

Image result for passengers (2016 film)

12A – 116mins – 2016 – 3D


 

IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM MURDER

Three decades into the starship Avalon’s hibernation-assisted 120-year journey transporting colonists from Earth to the planet Homestead II, mechanic Jim Preston’s (Chris Jurassic World Pratt) hibernation pod malfunctions, ejecting him early.

… Keep Scuttling!

TMNT (Blu-ray Review)

PG – 87mins – 2007


 

DISBAND OF BROTHERS

14 years (and numerous TV incarnations) after their time travel adventure in Feudal Japan (Turtles in Time reviewed HERE), the lean, green, turtle teens returned to the silver screen with a space-saving, text-friendly, lousy noughties buzzword of an acronym – and a sharply-rendered CG makeover, courtesy of Imagi Animated Studios.

But while the half-shell heroes might look and sound different, a sneak peak at Master Splinter’s (Mako Iwamatsu) trophy cabinet confirms they are still the same pizza loving, freedom fighting foursome from the live action early 90s trilogy who defeated Shredder, rapped with Vanilla Ice and fought in a 17th century Samurai civil war – even if the years have not been kind to them.

“This place used to be fun…”

As we return to the action, leader Leo (James Arnold Taylor) is on a skill-sharpening sojourn in South America, leaving Donnie (Mitchell Whitfield) and Mikey (Mikey Kelley) to get personality-appropriate day jobs in I.T. Customer Care and Party Entertainment, respectively. Rebel Raph (Nolan North), meanwhile, is angrier at the world than ever before, taking out his frustrations on NYC’s scum as the metal-suited vigilante Nightwatcher.

Reporter and eyes on the street, April O’Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), meanwhile, is now shacked up with Casey Jones (Chris “Captain America” Evans) and out of the News field. Her new cargo delivery company provides the catalyst for this wild ancient-statues-brought-to-life plot which in scope and scale is the most outrageous and fantastical quest yet.

In my review of Platinum Dunes’ 2014 reboot (reviewed HERE) I dismissed TMNT as a “dud” because the first and only time I had previously seen it – in the cinema NINE years ago – I had felt thoroughly fazed and frustrated by this uncharacteristic misstep. However, given a second chance on blu-ray during my pre-Out of the Shadows franchise refresh, I found far more to love than to fret over.

I still insist that Max Winters’ (Patrick Stewart) immortal warrior king aspect is messy as shell and unnecessarily convoluted in sci-fi mumbo-jumbo (“Stars of Kikan”, “Legend of Yaotl”?!!), however the disparate characterisation is still remarkably solid and the quip-heavy banter still popping (even if the pop-culture references have been toned down – save for Splinter’s Gilmore Girls adoration), while the slick animation allows for livelier and more dynamic action than ever before.

The impassioned character drama is moodier and more nourish than it has been since 1990’s theatrical bow (reviewed HERE), while the fan-servicing inclusion of Karai (Zhang Ziyi) and the remnants of Shredder’s Foot Clan (even if it is as little more than masked bodyguards) are welcome nods to the golden days. It’s just a shame the sheen is scuffed by an epic fail of a fantasy conceit which requires far too much expositional explanation (courtesy of Laurence Fishburne’s narration) to make a jot of sense.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Cinema Review)

12A – 151mins – 2016


CRASH OF THE TITANS

As a reviewer of films, I have long learned to drown out critical consensus and judge a film for myself. However, I would be lying if the sheer tumult of negativity – from fans, friends and critics alike – being flung at Zack Snyder’s long-heralded Man of Steel follow-up hadn’t permeated by defences and plagued my perception like a, well, phantom menace.

The bigger they come the harder they fall, and $250 million blockbuster behemoths don’t come much bigger than the first ever box office battle between DC Comics’ two most iconic superheroes. With Marvel in ascendency and Civil War about to break out between their much-loved properties, there was a lot riding on BvS to even up the score and help set up an Avenger’s-style universe for the Justice League.

While critics have not been kind, all the studio (Warner Bros. Pictures) really cares about is the takings, and they have been extraordinarily healthy – and in some cases record-breaking – so Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) need fear not; BvS is no franchise derailing disaster like 1997’s Batman & Robin. Day will follow this Dawn

So, away from the pesky background noise of pessimistic public perception, did I despise this epic showdown between Gotham’s Caped Crusader and the Survivor of Krypton? No, of course not. It is by no means perfect and I can fully understand why fanboys would find a batcave’s worth of flaws to pick to shreds, but there is also much to like about this grandiose two-and-a-half-hour superbrawl.

Primarily, I was delighted that this was a true sequel to Man of Steel. With Superman (Henry Cavill) having to share the title with Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight – and even demoted behind him in the billing – plus the none-too-subtle subtitle tease of more superheroes joining the party, I feared that any relationship to Snyder’s serviceable 2013 Superman reboot would be lost in the hectic hustle.

While the volume of players does occasionally threaten to swamp the screenplay (even dead characters return for little narrative impact), and even with “Batfleck” (as the internet has christened him) granted opening monologue duty (replete with yet another adaptation of the Bruce Wayne origin story!), BvS very quickly establishes itself within Man of Steel’s continuity and presents Superman very much as the lead character.

Not that he’s necessarily having a grand time of it. Following the climactic battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) which destroyed half the city, Superman has somewhat fallen out of favour with the people of Metropolis – branded a “false idol” by some and a destructive alien threat to humanity by others – to the point where he is put on trial and threatens to leave Earth for good if Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch deems it so.

Early on, the moral questioning of justice was definitely to the film’s credit – raising this implausible situation beyond the fantastic to a more mature and humane level than the superficial CGI beat-em-up it is advertised as. Sadly, this strand this brought to a swift and fiery end by unhinged corporate coot Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), whose tactics for ridding the world of Superman are more destructive than a courtroom war of words.

Manipulating Batman to turn against Smallville’s adopted son, Eisenberg’s twitchy, erratic portrayal of the not-yet-bald billionaire is unlike any I’ve seen before – and he’s a revelation. Smarmy and snide, yet also deadly in the scope of his world-dominating schemes, Luthor more than makes up for his lack of physical prowess with his deceitful cunning, unleashing an opponent on Superman so powerful that even nuclear weapons cannot contain it.

Like the rest of the competent cast, Batfleck is by no means a bad Batman – I even accept that a man lacking superpowers would require a far bulkier and more heavy-duty suit than some of the skimpy costumes of previous incarnations. But it is exactly the fact that there are so many previous incarnations that makes this one seem so superficial and inauthentic… Just four years since Christian Bale hung up the cape, I couldn’t immediately accept someone else as Batman, more an actor playing at dress up. The same is true of Jeremy Iron’s Alfred and Amy Adam’s Lois Lane – for me they will never be the optimum versions of these characters.

Superficial is a word which will haunt this overblown production, so too the oft-overused phrase style over substance. Snyder’s chocolate box sequel is overlong, over-crowded, over-complicated and over-flashy, to the extent that during some of the battles sequences I found myself disconnecting from the action and switching off, returning my attention minutes later and having to question what was going on and who was fighting who and why.

But it’s never terrible, no matter what the critics tell you. It’s as glossy and entertaining as a busy and brainless blockbuster can be, with an ending that will leave you dumbfounded and with a tease of more focused solo missions to come. However, in the comic book movie stakes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a lightweight underdog when standing cowl-to-cowl with even Marvel’s weakest competitor.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars