The Greatest Showman (Cinema Review)

PG – 105mins – 2017


 

THE PRINCE OF HUMBUG

Eight years in the making, this original musical ring-mastered by Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman and directed by first-timer Michael Gracey is a spectacular if haphazard showpiece which often struggles to marry song and story with a true feeling of authenticity. Ironically for a film about a purveyor of hoaxes, The Greatest Showman has been criticised for taking giant liberties with its biographing of circus founder P.T. Barnum (Jackman) and his unconventional star attractions.

… Keep Scuttling!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Cinema Review)

Image result for planes trains and automobiles

15 – 92mins – 1987


 

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY

As part of a season celebrating the beloved films of John Hughes, last month Cinema City in Norwich screened this classic seasonal comedy – now 30 years old – from the iconic, late American filmmaker. While many make this Thanksgiving-set heart-warmer an annual tradition, this was only my second-ever viewing, and to see it on the big screen with a room of fans who laughed along uproariously to every gag like they were seeing it anew really enchanted me. My second viewing will NOT be my last.

… Keep Scuttling!

Willie Dynamite (Blu-ray Review)

Image result for willie dynamite

15 – 102mins – 1974


DIG IT?

“Seven women in the palm of his hand…”

I open-handedly own up to the fact that I laughed when the check disc for Arrow Video’s recent high-definition restoration of this forgotten Blaxploitation classic turned up in the post unannounced. I’d never heard of amoral pimp Willie D, so my expectations were low for a film to rival Shaft, Super Fly or Sweet Sweetback.

… Keep Scuttling!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Cinema Review)

Related image

12A – 133mins – 2016 – 3D


 

TEXTBOOK WIZARDING

Just a handful of years after Daniel Radcliffe folded away his full moon specs, JK Rowling dips her toe back into her ever-popular Wizarding World with this prequel saga kickstarter, purportedly the first of five big screen adventures. With a screenplay penned by herself and with Potter #5-#8 alumni David Yates back in the director’s chair, Potterites had much to be optimistic about.

… Keep Scuttling!

ELF: Buddy’s Musical Christmas (TV Review)

Doctor Strange (Cinema Review)

Image result for doctor strange 2016

12A – 115mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

“Leave behind everything you thought you knew…”

A career-ending car accident sees astonishing-but-arrogant New York neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Black Mass Cumberbatch) traverse the globe in search of revolutionary and non-traditional healing techniques to cure his damaged hands. In Kathmandu, Nepal he is introduced to The Ancient One (Tilda Trainwreck Swinton), a master of the mystic arts who harnesses the desperate doctor’s spiritual powers to unleash his full potential.

… Keep Scuttling!

Florence Foster Jenkins (DVD Review)

Image result for florence foster jenkins 2016

PG – 101mins – 2016


 

SONGS IN THE KEY OF SHITE

“It’s very droll, I do declare.”

Boasting formidably prestigious star power (Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant), a consistently-assured director (Stephen Philomena Frears) and garnering near-universal critical acclaim for its “hilarious” and “poignant” portrayal of the human spirit (so says The Observer), I thought I was in safe hands with this biopic of the “inspirational” woman dubbed the worst opera singer of all time.

… Keep Scuttling!

Norm of the North (DVD Review)

Image result for norm of the north

U – 87mins – 2016 


 

ARCTIC SHAKE

Conservation meets animation in this mirrored-Madagascar tale of a talking animal leaving their natural habitat to journey to the Big Apple. With the unique ability to speak to humans, hulking hunting novice Norm (Rob Schneider) takes it upon himself to leave his icy home and stowaway on a ship to New York in order to stop the greedy real estate mogul Mr. Greene (Ken Jeong) from turning the North Pole into a luxury condo development.

The toon’s CG style is blocky but bold enough not to be cumbersome, and kids will lap up Norm of the North’s frenetic pace and slapstick humour (in particular the trio of sidekick lemmings). Sadly, other than an admirable eco-friendly message, adults will struggle to find much to latch onto here – save for picking out the wealth of star voices (Bill Nighy, James Corden, Heather Graham).

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

Ghostbusters II (Blu-ray Review)

Image result for ghostbusters 2

PG – 108mins – 1989


 

NEW YORK, SLIME SQUARE

“Sometimes shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who you gonna call?”

Five years later and Reitman, Aykroyd, Ramis, Murray, Hudson, Weaver, Potts, Moranis and Slimer are all back for a second love letter to their beloved Big Apple. Since we last saw the spook-zapping saviours of the city they’ve been sued, left broke, dismissed as phoneys and largely forgotten. “I thought you were going to be He-Man” one disappointed birthday boy informs his ‘special’ guests.

Following a brief romance, walking sarcasm machine Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) pushed Dana Barrett (Weaver) away, but now she’s back in New York as a single mother following the break-up of her subsequent marriage. When some spectral shenanigans nearly see her baby son wheeled into traffic, Dana calls upon her old friends to recharge their dusty proton packs.

Can the re-suited and booted Ghostbusters save young Oscar from Dana’s pesky, Renfield-esque boss, Janosz (Peter MacNicol), who is possessed into stealing the child as a sacrificial vessel for the tyrannical spirit of portrait-bound 17th century conqueror Vigo the Carpathian (Willhelm von Homburg; dubbed by The Exorcist‘s Max von Sydow)?

Image result for ghostbusters 2

With a river of pink slime flowing beneath the streets and feeding off of irate New Yorker’s negative emotions, pliable puppet Janosz’s spooky stint as a red-eyed phantom nanny, the docking of the Titanic and Peter back to his dry best (“You’re not going to get a Green Card with that attitude, pal!”), there are plenty of quotable lines and memorable scenes in this second supernatural adventure. The camaraderie amongst the chummy cast is still strong.

Alas, there is also a niggling feeling that this is simply more of the same, with the Scalari Brother’s courtroom breakout highly reminiscent of Slimer’s ballroom destruction in the iconic original, and Lady Liberty’s climatic march of hope another attempt at a large scale finale, akin to Stay Puft’s city stomp.

You’ll still laugh (“Do…” “Re…” “Egon!”) and the characters are still adorably endearing (“One time I turned into a dog and they helped me!”), but there are a couple of moments when the humour veers a little too close to overegged (that Judge seriously needs to keep his bile in check). The plot, too, plays it a little safe, making Ghostbusters II an entertaining if unevolved beast. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Am I right, Ziggy?” “Yo!”

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Ghostbusters (Cinema Review)

Image result for ghostbusters 2016

12A – 116mins – 2016 – 3D


 

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS

When director and co-writer Paul Bridesmaids Feig is sick of the spurious shit over-opinionated anonymous keyboard trolls sling his way on social media, he writes a biting retort into his controversial screenplay (“Ain’t no bitches be bustin’ ghosts!”). But basement-dwelling bell boy Rowan (Neil Casey) deals with his lowly lot in life in a far less passive-aggressive way: he opens a vortex between our world and the afterlife, allowing ghosts to inhabit New York City.

“If you see something, say something.”

So who you gonna call? The Masters of the Metaphy— or Ghostbusters, as they are more popularly known. But not as we have known them since 1984, as this highly-divisive 21 century reboot reimagines Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’ apparition-zappers as theory-chasing paranormal investigators and publishers of “Ghosts From Our Past” Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). These two temporarily-estranged BFFs are joined by nuclear engineer and equipment creator Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and subway employee Patty (Leslie Jones), whose sat-nav-like knowledge of the city – and uncle’s hearse – come in mighty handy to the city-saving operation.

Written off before a single frame was filmed, GB ’16 is not the abomination the brigade of misogynistic, childhood-cherishing ‘fanboy’ naysayers feared – there are nods to the three decade franchise (from a bust of the late Ramis to an iconic 100ft parade balloon), winking cameos and respectful parallels aplenty (the firehouse; graffiti-inspired logo; Erin banging on the window of a restaurant a la Louis Tully). The new origin story and characters are, by-and-large, likable. Patty, in particular, is endearingly bullish and integrates well despite being the only non-scientist, while I have legitimately never like a Melissa McCarthy character as much as the charming and non-gregarious Abby.

Image result for ghostbusters 2016

So, all good, then? Weeeell, sadly not. Granted this might well be a personal gripe given how I hated Feig’s crude and swear-stuffed spoof Spy (2015), and could happily take or leave The Heat (2013), but the humour in GB ’16 did not tally to my tastes at all. Often played far too broad, forced and occasionally veering close to embarrassing (Ozzy Osbourne and a particular joyriding spook, in particular). Feig and co-writer Katie MADtv Dippold managed to raise a smirk on my face less than a handful of times in nearly two hours…

Chris In the Heart of the Sea Hemsworth 8plays the flip-reversed role of (gasp!) male receptionist Kevin far too dippy – he’s so inexcusably dumb he’s almost offensive, while Kate McKinnon’s disingenuously quirky character traits left me stony-faced throughout. So, too, the influx of cheesy celebratory dance scenes. Yeah, it was vaguely comical once, but they are employed too often and for too long – and completely dominate the Easter Egg-stuffed closing credits.

The much-anticipated cameos from the stars of the iconic original films were somewhat hampered by a horrible tendency for all – bar Ernie “Winston” Hudson and Annie “Janine” Potts – to ham it up something chronic. Paul Feig clearly wanted this to be BIGGER, BOLDER and FUNNIER than ever before, which might explain why his spooks are neon-tinged. The CG special effects here to get a pass, however, as the bright style works with the movie’s zany exuberance.

Image result for ghostbusters uk posterHaving had to give another of my 80s favourites, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows a second chance following a week break, I may have to readjust/downgrade my expectations and re-watch Ghostbusters again next week. But my first impression from opening day is a disappointingly dispirited one, when I really hoped I’d come out feeling spirited away.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars