Solstice (DVD Review)

15 – 87mins – 2008


 

BURYING THE BAD ENERGY

One of only a handful of films from acclaimed The Blair Witch Project co-director Daniel Myrick since his triumphant breakout hit 18 years ago, Solstice is an unremarkable and cliché-ridden genre effort which limped out straight to DVD in time for Halloween 2008, in spite of the star power of Amanda Seyfried – who had recently hit it big in musical megahit Mamma Mia – in a supporting role.

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Baywatch (Cinema Review)

15 – 116mins – 2017


 

THE ELITE OF THE ELITE

“This all sounds like an entertaining but far-fetched TV show.”

As an 80s-baby growing up in the 90s, I know I used to watch Baywatch. It was prime ITV Saturday night cheese. The Hoff in those red trunks, Pamela Anderson in that red swimsuit, plenty of slow-motion gunning through golden sands and diving into crystal clear Californian oceans while the theme song challenged you not to sing along…. But aside from those iconic cornerstones, I seriously struggle to remember much more about it. Yet, as I sat down last night for what I anticipated to be a full-on nostalgia fest, all I kept thinking throughout this $69million big screen revival was: surely the TV show wasn’t like this?!!

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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.

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Mechanic: Resurrection (DVD Review)

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15 – 95mins – 2016


 

TOOLBOX MURDERS

“It seems reports of your demise have been greatly exaggerated…”

A sequel no-one asked for to a remake everyone bar the biggest Jason Statham fans had forgotten about, Mechanic: Resurrection somehow managed to outgross its 2011 predecessor and more than triple its $40million budget when it landed at the box office last August. The Stath’s endearing mug no doubt managed to persuade both action-mad lads and charmed lasses alike into multiplexes, but this follow-up to Simon West’s Charles Brosnan re-do is surprisingly heavyweight in the casting department.

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The Omen (DVD Review)

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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.

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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.

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Frankenstein (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 89mins – 2015


 

NOVEL INTENTIONS

The sum of husband and wife Viktor (Danny Huston) and Marie Frankenstein’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) unorthodox endeavours to find “the formula for life,” Adam (Xavier Twilight Samuel) is ‘born’ perfect: handsome, healthy and endowed with the strength of ten men. However, his mental state is far behind his physical stature, and a number of “cell replication errors” bring about body deformities which prove to Adam’s creators that he is not the revolutionary breakthrough they first believed him to be.

“Are you a man or are you an animal?!”

Detached and distressed, Adam breaks out of his laboratory isolation following a bloody bone saw tussle with a technician, and he escapes into the big, wild world, where this naïve soul learns of the darker side of humanity…

A potent miscellany of twenty-first century idioms, technologies, social issues and scientific ponderings are infused with the base elements of Mary Shelley’s oft-adapted Victorian horror novel, transplanted to the modern day by Candyman director Bernard Rose. While some of the augmentations work well, others feel incidental and superfluous in this uneven update – sometimes awkwardly stylised as FRANK3N5T31N – which is sold with the slightly misleading USP of being told from the monster’s perspective.

While Adam does narrate his journey of discovery, there is a bizarre (but no doubt purposeful) disassociation between his overly philosophical and often grandly poetic internalised musings, and the childlike ignorance he displays on-screen with his “capacity of a one year old”. Such is his infantile mindset that Adam is frequently the victim of savage abuse, until he is befriended by blind busker Eddie (Tony Todd), who mentors him in how to survive when living rough.

The unbridled brutality (which often feels affected to uncomfortable overkill just to achieve the apex age rating) goes hand-in-hand with a frankly maladroit approach to lighting. As the film opens everything is overlit and gives the picture a rather graceless, unsubtle quality – at one point the saturation is so high a cabbage looks neon!

Echoing the evolution of the monster and the (thankful) variation in lighting direction, Frankenstein’s more nuanced second half is a vast improvement on the one note, in-your-face opening act, bringing shade and sentiment to the sadistic slaughter. Adam’s homecoming goes so far as to add parental poignancy with such painful insights as:

“You made me… you hate me… I am I… I am you… I am… alone.”

It isn’t perfect, but Rose’s gleefully bold and shamelessly grisly update does have a brain beneath its bloodstained body – it just needed time to grow into it.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

The Jungle Book (Cinema Review)

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PG – 108mins – 2016


 

UNCANNY FANGY

With revenge-hungry Bengal tiger Shere Khan (the voice of Idris Elba) vowing to murder him as payback for the disfiguring scars man’s “red flower” (fire) left him with, abandoned man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is forced to flee the pack of his wolfen guardians and return to the human outpost on the jungle’s edge. As he makes his way through the dense Indian vegetation, young Mowgli encounters all manner of furry friends and ferocious foes in this extravagant coming-of-age ‘tail’.

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The Echo (DVD Review)

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15 – 2008 – 92mins


IF WALLS COULD TALK

With DVD cover-art dominated by the names of more popular horror films the crew had the most minimal association with, and peppered with commendable quotes from unheard of online critics (“Unleash the Flying Monkeys”, anyone?), Metrodome’s publicity gurus clearly hoped to elevate The Echo above the forgettable flock of straight-to-DVD genre flicks using every marketing trick in the book – except giving anyone a clear idea of what the film is actually about.

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Poltergeist – Extended Cut (DVD Review)

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15 – 101mins – 2015
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the screenplay by: Steven Spielberg
Directed by: Gil Keenan
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris, Jane Harris, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett


THEY’RE HERE… AGAIN!

My name is CR@B Howard and I am afraid of ghosts.

There, I said it. The idea of the dead floating among us has long creeped me out, so much so that I consciously held off viewing the original Poltergeist (1982) while growing up. I know, I know: I’m a wimp.

With news of an imminent remake first surfacing in 2013, I decided I’d best man-up and catch-up with Tobe Hooper’s infamous eighties frightener. So, two years ago, I did.

And I was sorely disappointed.

Maybe it would have affected me more if I had seen it at a more impressionable age? Who knows. But the tone was far lighter than I anticipated; occasionally verging on family-friendly (particularly noticeable in the kitchen furniture reshuffle). I questioned whether the mythical “curse” of the film had influenced public opinion, but what was blatant to me was writer/producer-extraordinaire Steven Spielberg’s heavy influence (if rumours are to believed, he may have provided more than a helping hand behind the camera, too).

The selection of Gil Keenan to take the remake’s reigns was a surprising-yet-obvious choice. Isn’t that a contradiction, you ask? But, no: Surprising because he is – and I mean no disrespect here – hardly a household name to be entrusted with such a renowned property, but obvious when you look at the family-orientated films in his back catalogue. Monster House (2006) and City of Ember (2008) both cater supernatural and fantastical themes for a more susceptible audience.

So, was producer Sam Raimi’s mandate merely to replicate the original’s Spielbergian tone in Poltergeist (2015)? That would seem a thoroughly pointless endeavour (although some could argue that is true of most remakes). But having now watched the new film – I must be getting braver to reduce my delay from 30years to four months! – I do concede that there is a more menacing tone to the haunted house horrors this time around; the poster-dominating clown and the living tree set-pieces the most notably creepier.

With the exception of some modernised bells n’ whistles (HD TV, internet-streaming, GPS locators, a flying drone), things are otherwise pretty much as they were 33years ago: an unsuspecting family find their “perfect” new suburban home was a bad buy when their youngest daughter (Clements) is kidnapped by vengeful, portal-dwelling spirits whose graveyard was disturbed by the building of the property.

Rockwell and the new cast all do an admirable – if unmemorable – job, however Harris was always doomed to fall short of Zelda Rubinstein’s iconic performance. As television personality and occult specialist Carrigan Burke he typifies a “rum ole’ character”, but is nowhere near as eerily kooky as the original’s spiritual medium Tangina. Perhaps this is why they switched gender and didn’t even attempt to replicate her inimitable voice.

The third act arrival of the jocular Paranormal Research department drew worryingly-close comparisons to the bumbling team of nerds from Insidious, a feeling further cemented by a mid-credits coda which wrapped up Carrigan’s potentially sequel-baiting ‘noble sacrifice’ with… lame humour. Groan.

As Poltergeist’s grandiose dimension-ripping, FX-driven conclusion wrapped up all-too-quickly, I checked the time to determine how near the credits I was. Is that it? Surely we were due another twist?! The identikit plot felt slight when rehashed – particularly given how I was watching what boasted itself as an “Extended Cut”. Tellingly appropriate as a summation of this remake, I didn’t outright hate what I saw, but I could have done with more.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars