RED DWARF XII.5 – “M-Corp” (TV Review)

Dave – 9pm – Thursday 9th November 2017

Available to stream NOW on UKTV Play

Created by: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Written and directed by: Doug Naylor


 

UPDATES INSTALLED

While a few of the jokes in series XII have riffed on over-familiar tropes from Red Dwarf‘s past (Lister’s dodgy guitar skillz, Cat’s less-than-subtle ribs about rid of Rimmer, Kryten’s love of cleaning), plot-wise, this latest batch of six space adventures for the remaining crew of the JMC’s finest has really upped the ante and pushed the ‘Bug out like never before.

… Keep Scuttling!

War for the Planet of the Apes (Cinema Review)

12A – 141mins – 2017 – 3D


 

APE-POCALPYSE NOW

In my time as webmaster of The CR@Bpendium, I have noticed that a guilty tendency of mine is to lavish blockbuster sequels in franchises I adore with 5-star ratings. The Force Awakens and Rogue One, for instance, were always destined to be looked upon kindly by me, a long-time Star Wars fan. Yet more casual movie watchers may recognise issues, however minor, with both films which would impede a perfect score in the eyes of the general public.

… Keep Scuttling!

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Cinema Review)

12A – 133mins – 2017 – 3D


 

TURN OFF THE STARK

After five blockbuster movies taking place over two unrelated movie-verses with two separate casts and crews – all of which were released in the space of just twelve years – Marvel Comic’s friendly neighbourhood web-slinger has finally come home, in his first solo Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure following a triumphant cursory cameo in 2016’s Civil War.

… Keep Scuttling!

The Mummy (Cinema Review)

15 – 110mins – 2017 – 3D


 

ANTIQUITY’S DARKEST SECRET

After Marvel and DC looted the shared universe tomb and ran away with the box office treasure, original pioneers Universal have resurrected their classic Monster movies from the 1930s in a rebooted series known collectively as the Dark Universe, of which bandage-wrapped walking corpse The Mummy – in its third studio incarnation and gallizionth on-screen appearance – is the introductory instalment.

… Keep Scuttling!

Smurfs: The Lost Village (Cinema Review)

U – 90mins – 2017 – 3D


BLUE (WO)MAN GROUP

Following two financially-successful but critically-panned hybrid adventures which combined live action humans with CG Smurfs, Sony Pictures’ third modern big screen roll out for Peyo’s iconic miniature blue community is a scaled-back and unrelated reboot which forgoes the live action element for all-out 3D computer animation with a new (voice) cast.

… Keep Scuttling!

Kong: Skull Island (Cinema Review)

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12A – 118mins – 2017 – 3D


 

FURRYTALE KINGDOM

While a recent preparatory re-watch revealed that some of the more ambitious CG wizardry has not aged as well as the titular giant primate himself, I still get swept up in the rollicking sense of old school adventure Peter Jackson imbues his King Kong adaptation with. This character-introducing reboot – the second entry after Gareth Edwards’ 2014 opener in Legendary’s MonsterVerse – shares none of the same cast or crew with the Lord of the Rings helmer’s 2005 bum-number, but I was still excited to return to Skull Island – a lost world where monsters reign supreme.

… Keep Scuttling!

Star Trek Beyond (Cinema Review)

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12A – 122mins – 2016 – 3D


 

ASSURED LEAVE

With J.J. Abrams consumed with reawakening the Force, his role is reduced to that of producer on this third film in his action-led Trek reboot. Fast & the Furious franchise stalwart Justin Lin steps into the breach to assume the helm in this Into Darkness follow-up which sees Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the renowned crew of the USS Enterprise already almost three years into their five year mission in this alternative reality timeline.

It’s a bit of a jump given how this rejuvenated theatrical series could run and run, but with Star Trek 4 (or XIV if we’re counting Shatner and Stewart’s long-form adventures, too) already confirmed to include an element of time travel (Chris The Huntsman Hemsworth will return as Kirk’s deceased father from the 2009 kickstarter), who’s to say it still couldn’t? There’s no linear structural restraint in science fiction. And if nothing else the gap lends itself to a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek Captain’s log which references the “episodic” feel to life on ship.

With Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung taking over screenwriting duties, Beyond could have been a wholly divergent affair, but despite a lessening of the lens flair and a noticeable darkening to some of the action shots, this is otherwise very in-tune with what came before: likeable, chucklesome, less strict with modern vernacular, and with swooping, swerving camerawork.

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Roused out of shore leave on the wondrous starbase Yorktown by a call for help from the sole survivor of an alien attack (Lydia Wilson), the Enterprise is swarmed by a contingent of deadly drone-like vessels led by the lizard-like warlord, Krall (Idris Elba), who is hellbent on retrieving an alien artefact in the Enterprise’s care.

With the iconic starship near destruction and descending towards an unsurvivable crashlanding on a hostile nearby planet, the crew are forced to evacuate in escape pods and then battle the elements – and Krall’s soldiers – in a bid to find a way off-world.

By separating the Starfleet’s top squad between those that escaped and those held captive by their foes, certain members who were dangerously close to being lost in the mix in 2013’s first sequel – such as Sulu (John Grandma Cho) and Chekov (the tragically late Anton Yelchin, honoured in the credits) – are able to stand out as individual heroes in their own strands. Scotty, meanwhile, more profuse than ever with his chirpy Scottish exclamations, is partnered with the instantly-endearing stranded scavenger Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who looks something like a female albino Darth Maul, fused with Rey’s charm.

While I could bemoan another case of the main villain transpiring not to be who we first believe (which so signified Into Darkness‘ entire campaign), this is another fun, pacey, action-packed joyride of a Star Trek movie; both respectful in its references to Gene Roddenberry’s 50 year legacy (Leonard Nimoy’s passing is both courteously handled and integral to the plot, while a photo very nearly garnered an audible cheer) yet braver than ever in pushing forward into new frontiers (new allies, new foes, new relationship for Sulu).

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Ghostbusters (Cinema Review)

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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.

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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

 

The Legend of Tarzan (Cinema Review)

12A – 108mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE SPIRIT OF THE TREES

Before his imminent return to the wizarding world with November’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, director David Yates looks to older literary inspiration in bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Victorian ape-man back to the big screen for his umpteenth reimagining.

What makes The Legend of Tarzan unique, however, is that rather than again retelling John Clayton III’s (Alexander Skarsgård) oft-told origin story, we instead join up with Lord Greystroke eight years after he has returned to England with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), with crucial flashbacks to his formative years in the jungle integrated into this sort-of sequel.

Christoph Waltz, who I must confess I have never warmed to as an actor, returns to his moustache-twirling devious antagonist comfort zone as Captain Léon Rom, the corrupt envoy for Belgium’s debt-ridden King Leopold II. Rom devises a sinister scheme to lure the renowned Tarzan back to Boma in the Congo jungle, capture him and delivery him to an old enemy for a bounty of diamonds to save his dire government from bankruptcy.

Waltz’s Hateful Eight co-star Samuel L. Jackson plays second fiddle to the titular shirt-shy star as sharp-shooting American envoy George Washington Williams, who accompanies Tarzan and Jane on their overseas expedition, and aids in the rescue of Jane when Rom sees the sinister opportunity to lure his prey out of hiding with some wife-shaped bait.

Sumptuously imagined in a similar CG-heavy approach to Disney’s recent The Jungle Book reboot, this vine-swinging wild ride seems to have been somewhat lost in the wilderness of blockbuster season, receiving a trough of middling reviews where John Favreau’s uncanny Mowgli remake was lauded for its technical wizardry. Sure, the occasional shot is noticeably green screened, but there is far more to make you go “ooo!” than “ergh!” here.

The pacing isn’t perfect, with the grand riverboat finale reached prematurely, despite the action bobbing along nicely up to that point, but the film’s only major misstep is in expecting us to invest in little-seen African tribal leader Chief Mbonga’s (Djimon Air Hounsou) passion for revenge against the film’s hero – despite Tarzan’s earlier murder of his son only being briefly alluded to and never visualised.

Otherwise, I see no reason to lambast screenwriters Adam Cozard and Craig Brewer for their vision, which is as bestial, exotic and adventurous as a Tarzan story can be. Sadly, I fear this Legend going the same way as Disney’s doomed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other shaggy-haired literary property, John Carter, which flopped for no discernible reason in 2012.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Cinema Review)

12A – 112mins – 2016 – 3D


 

… AND INTO THE FIGHT

Surfing high on tides of turtle power thanks to my furious franchise refresh, you may wonder why I went to the effort of rushing out my reviews of the five previous big screen anthropomorphized amphibian adventures quicker than Splinter up a drainpipe only to stall when it came to giving my verdict on the theatrical release of this Platinum Dunes follow-up to their blockbuster 2014 reboot?

The truth is, I was in the cinema on opening day (May 30th), pepperoni pizza in hand (seriously) and mind ready to be blown by the belated big screen bow of “jacked up disco ball” Krang (Brad Garrett) and mutant goofballs Rocksteady (WWE’s Sheamus) and Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams), and… Out of the Shadows left me disappointed.

While the second half of Dave Earth to Echo Green’s Michael Bay-produced sewer sequel improves by focusing on Shredder’s (Brian Tee) attempts to locate the fragmented components of an ancient portal-ripping machine in order to open a dimensional rift and bring the Technodrome through to invade Earth, I was still reeling from the Secret of the Ooze-riffing opening half which felt like a chaotic, hyperactive mess of CG-clowning from far too many characters with too few clear-cut motives.

As well as bringing back the turtle’s defeated arch nemesis, his daughter Karai (Brittany Ishibashi) and the faceless Foot soldiers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 also squeezes eye candy Megan Fox as human confidant April O’Neil and Will Arnett as comic relief everyman Vern Fenwick into the story. While I was initially concerned that “The Falcon” was receiving short shrift, his change of fortune is worked into the plot well.

The toy chest is further raided to bring anxious scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler “Madea” Perry) and hockey-loving vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Arrow Amell) out to play alongside the ninjitsu-trained shellbacks and their furry mentor (Tony Shaloub) in bringing down the “chewed up piece of gum” and the rhino and piggy-shaped hench-mutants. It’s no wonder that next to this veritable menagerie of kooky characters, Laura Linney struggles to stand out as the sole straight player in the thankless role of NYC’s Police Chief.

Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec’s script is also rammed full of fan-servicing callbacks (the manhole-projecting Turtle Van; the cartoon theme song as a car horn; Donnie’s ‘toon chops on April’s data-nabbing watch) and effervescent catchphrase-forcing banter (“My man!”). If you’re prepared, it’s a high-energy blast, but if not it’s nearly two draining hours of insufferable, overblown, try-hard map-cappery with the ugliest alien eyesores this side of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

While Out of the Shadows has had its detractors (The Guardian gifted it just one star, while I overheard a Radio 5 Live discussion which was determined to discourage people from seeing this box office hit), I was downcast at the mondo notion that I was among them. However, a raft of positive film blog reviews reaffirmed my faith in the franchise I will always cherish from my childhood. A return trip to the cinema was planned…

And second time was a charm for this busy-but-nostalgic fun-fest. Maybe because my expectations were lowered, or because my mind was more attuned to the frenzied rate of play (the opening five minutes, in particular, gives the impression that everything from prison breakouts to undercover espionage missions, NBA basketball games, celebrity interviews and Halloween parades all take place on one ‘average’ night in the city), but I legitimately found my opinion raised.

I still accept that it has its flaws (the Brazilian rapids rumble is as indecipherably-choreographed and hard to follow as 2014’s downhill slalom, while Stephen Amell is neither cool or rebellious enough to convince as Casey), but it is a baby-step up from Jonathan Liebesman’s antecedent. Nullify your noggin and Out of the Shadows delivers a tongue-in-cheek, pizza-brained barrage of banter and blockbusting bangs for your buck.

While the current Nickelodeon TV series goes from strength-to-strength on the small screen, I still acknowledge that we are yet to hit gold with a fully consistent TMNT movie. But if things continue to improve film-on-film then maybe the all-but-announced trilogy closer will be a real “Cowabunga” classic? My claws are crossed…

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars