Paddington 2 (Cinema Review)

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PG – 103mins – 2017


 

PADDINGTON DOES PORRIDGE

With so many childhood favourites from yesteryear being made (and remade in the case of The BFG and Pete’s Dragon) for the big screen, it is easy to look on these twenty-first century interpretations with caution. Be they originally books, films or TV shows, to fans of the beloved originals, a glitzy, modern angle could be deemed… improper. However, 2014’s Paddington – which saw Michael Bond’s marmalade-loving bear cub move from the jungles of Peru into the Brown family’s London residence – proved that new doesn’t always equal inferior.

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Transformers: The Last Knight (Cinema Review)

12A – 149mins – 2017 – 3D


 

PIECE OF SCRAP

I know it’s lazy to deride Michael Bay’s bloated brigade of big ‘bot battle blockbusters, but boy is this fifth Transformers film a rotten piece of shit! I realise that isn’t a very erudite (or polite) way to kickstart a review, but I’m not editing it for two reasons: Firstly, multi-millionaire Bay, producers Paramount and Hasbro Studios won’t care what The CR@Bpendium thinks of their gallizion dollar expanded-universe franchise – people will still turn out in droves. Secondly, given the amount of bad language that litters this light-hearted adapted-from-toys summer sequel, apparently kids are down with the swearz these days, too?! So the shit stays where it is.

… Keep Scuttling!

Wonder Woman (Cinema Review)

12A – 141mins – 2017 – 3D


 

AMAZON PRIME

After being introduced with a supporting role (but no title credit) in last year’s bloated super-smash melee Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which I reviewed HERE), DC Comic’s immortal warrior princess is granted her own solo mission, incorporating her 5000-year-old origin story into a prequel adventure set during World War I.

… Keep Scuttling!

Beauty and the Beast (Cinema Review)

PG – 129mins – 2017 – 3D


A READY-FURNISHED CLASSIC

Disney continue their recent trend of mining past animated hits for future live action gold (as I write it is currently the highest grossing film of 2017) with this fifth conversion – following Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book (which I reviewed HERE) – of one of their greatest ‘toons as old as time into 3 living, breathing, singing and dancing dimensions.

… Keep Scuttling!

Pete’s Dragon (Cinema Review)

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PG – 103mins – 2016 – 3D


 

TALL TALES OF TALL TAILS

I always thought I enjoyed Disney’s original 1977 version of Pete’s Dragon. But despite featuring a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-preceding cartoon title character (courtesy of Don The Land Before Time Bluth), the Mickey Rooney-starring live action musical showcased some frankly cringeworthy song and dance numbers, cheesy overacting and “brazzle dazzle brilliance” aplenty… Trying to watch it again as an adult was an onerous task, and one I did not complete.

… Keep Scuttling!

Warcraft: The Beginning (Cinema Review)

12A – 123mins – 2016 – 3D


 

HORDES AGAINST HUMANITY

Fleeing their devastated homeworld through a portal opened by the dark magic-wielding shaman Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a clan of brutish battle-ready orcs called the Horde invade the human realm of Azeroth with settlement and domination their driving force. But as a human Alliance led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel), wizard Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) and outcast half-orc Garona (Paula Patton) rise up to defend their home, questions are raised from both sides of this epic race war as to whether violence is the best solution…

Moon-maker Duncan Jones does a valiant effort of leading this long-gestating game-to-screen adaptation into cinemas. With such a loyal and well-versed fanbase of the addictively collectible Blizzard Entertainment MMORPG already in place, there was a lot riding on whether this glossy, CG-heavy medieval fantasy action flick could stand up to scrutiny.

I will confess I went in cold, with my closest frames of reference being the all-conquering Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies from Peter Jackson, and the less-successful Dungeons & Dragons filmic conversions, which concluded on DVD. The world of Warcraft: The Beginning is equally as dense and confusing, to the extent that as numerous kingdoms, sorcerers incantations and gibberish monikers are thrown about, you often feel a guidebook or in-universe encyclopedia would help make this vast fictional realm a mite more accessible to real-time strategy game virgins.

Visually, however, the construction is resplendent in scale and wonder, with flawless imagery often breath-taking to behold. With such a disparity in size between the human and orc races, the characters do occasionally suffer from an Avatar-esque feeling of uncanny disassociation – not aided by how confusingly similar some of the hulking, non-human designs are.

Bowie’s son Jones (who is truly venturing outside his comfort zone here) and co-writers Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen have done an admirable job of attributing even the “monstrous beasties” with humanising personalities, lending considerable narrative heft to the grunting conflict and muddied motivations of both armies.

There is potential in this backstory-bloated origin story, and even if you disengage your brain and just go with the eye-popping spectacle you’ll have fun. The fact that some of the actors look like they’ve done the same (Dominic Cooper, in particular, looks like he has simply raided a royal dress-up box) is one reason why Warcraft: The Beginning hasn’t quite hit the ground running, but there is infinite sequel potential to build on this far from orc-ful first roll of the dice.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Blu-ray Review)

PG – 96mins – 1990


 

SEWER SAMURAI

“Where do they come up with this stuff?!”

It’s been a good number of years since I last watched this original Golden Harvest/New Line Cinema live action Turtles treatment, but a US trilogy blu-ray triple-discer was the perfect excuse for a rewatch of this alternative origin story ahead of Out of the Shadows on May 30th.

Amazingly, the physicality of the Jim Henson Creature Shop-designed animatronic shell suits still holds up 26 years later, with ragged rat Splinter (Kevin Clash) arguably looking better here than he does in CG in Platinum Dune’s 2014 reboot. His meditative characterisation is also the perfect counterpart to his teenage student’s goofiness (“Hrrm… kids!!”), and you genuinely sympathise for the furry Yoda-like mentor when he is kidnapped, strung up and tortured by arch-nemesis Shredder (James Saito) and his gang of lost boys-turned soldiers, the Foot Clan.

It is in the film’s portrayal of this real-world street crime undertaken by misguided kids feeling rejected by society that a real dissonance in tone is felt. While the sewer-dwelling siblings are getting teenage kicks from trading 90s pop-culture references (Rocky, Wheel of Fortune, Wayne Gretzky, Grapes of Wrath, Ghostbusters) and frivolous banter (“Give me three!”), the grittiness of the plague of thievery which reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) is investigating lends the film a darker tone akin to punkish urban noir – a million miles from animatronic heads doing James Cagney impersonations!

This uncomfortable alliance is most evident when Raphael’s (Josh Pais) gang attack is juxtaposed with Mikey’s (Robbie Rist) playful symbol clashing – its as if director Steve Billie Jean Barron wanted to retain the “gnarly radicalness” of the popular Fred Wolf Films cartoon series while balancing the kid-friendly yucks with a more visceral and conscientious adult-appealing levity, like Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s edgier original panel-premiering inception.

There’s an astute level of catharsis achieved by a post-second act out of town ‘breather’ sequence, not to mention a nostalgic appeal to the dated vibe, but in attempting to darken such a wacky premise my mind was drawn to an uncomfortable recent parallel: Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. I’ll always look on this memento from my childhood through rose-tinted glasses, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not without its faults, even if the pizza guzzlers’ irresistible charm wins through in the end. Hrrm, kids!

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars