The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Cinema Review)

15 – 118mins – 2017


TRIGGER SCRAPPY

“It’s my job to keep you out of harm’s way.”

“Shit, motherfucker, I am harm’s way!”

Hollywood heavyweights Ryan Deadpool Reynolds and Kong: Skull Island‘s Samuel L. Jackson bring buddy cop bantz to this darkly violent contemporary action comedy which feels like a very blatant attempt to channel the iconic tone of 18-rated 80s classic Lethal Weapon. But excessive injury detail and profuse bad language do not a successful film for adult audiences makes.

… 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!

xXx: Return of Xander Cage (Cinema Review)

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12A – 107mins – 2017 – 3D


 

CAGE FIGHTER

After Mr Cube’s substitute adventure put the franchise on, erm, ice for a decade, Vin Diesel’s renewed bankability following the resurgence of The Fast & The Furious series saw a reinvigorated interest in a return for the true xXx – and his ‘iconic’ fur coat!

… Keep Scuttling!

xXx: The Next Level (DVD Review)

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12 – 97mins – 2005


 

COMEBACK TOUR

When their hi-tech underground Headquarters in Virginia is infiltrated and decimated by deadly assailants, escaping NSA Agent Augustus Gibbons (Cell‘s Samuel L. Jackson) sets about repopulating a new unit of deep-cover operatives armed with an arsenal of specialist skills.

… Keep Scuttling!

Cell (DVD Review)

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15 – 87mins – 2016


PHONE PHREAKS

They’re acting like a flock of birds!”

Meshing damning social commentary with bloodthirsty horror like a particularly gruesome instalment of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror (minus the witty satire), this recently released Stephen Creepshow King adaptation (which the horror maestro co-scribed the screenplay for) shows intermittent flashes of promise but ultimately falls flat due to bland execution.

… Keep Scuttling!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Cinema Review)

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12A – 127mins – 2016 – 3D


IN THE LOOP

Ballerina, Storks, Trolls, Sing, and Moana. Four colourful, predominantly tuneful CG ‘toons which the marketing bods at Cineworld thought were perfectly suited to trail ahead of Tim Burton’s latest dark surrealist fantasy. Now, I appreciate that Miss Peregrine’s features children – even in its curiosity-piquing but less-than-punchy title – but this does not automatically a children’s film make!

… Keep Scuttling!

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

The Hateful Eight (Cinema Review)

18 – 2015 – 167mins


L0V3 1T 0R H8 IT?

I will openly confess that, although I have watched all of his films, I’m not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan. I also actively dislike the “Western” genre. Controversial opinions, no doubt, but honest ones. So it’s fair to say that I was less than concerned when it transpired that due to a contractual breakdown, Cineworld (for which I own an Unlimited Card) would not be showing bum-numbing epic The Hateful Eight at any of their cinemas.

Nevertheless, a weekend visit to Norwich prompted a cinema trip, and my friend was – bizarrely – less than keen on a repeat viewing of The Force Awakens (madness!!), so I warily obliged to give QT’s latest a go at his local Odeon.

That’s right, I was paying to see a film I legitimately expected I would hate… Maybe I was glutton for punishment? In truth, I was just hoping to be proved wrong and have my eyes opened. Meanwhile, my mate – who watched a total of THREE Westerns that day! – was excited and optimistic for what he hoped would be another classic adult thrill-ride of witty dialogue and stylish direction from an auteur who never shies away from pulling punches.

A contracted three hours of lengthy character natter, tense exchanges at gun point, misogynistic behaviour and profuse racism (I’m not doing a very good job of selling this, am I?!), we exited the screen and exchanged verdicts… Surprisingly, my friend was less than impressed, caring little for the unlikeable ensemble of “hateful” personalities and cringing at their less-than-moral traits. He openly condemned it as his least favourite of Tarantino’s eight film cannon.

As for me, the QT-ambivalent, Western-avoider? I had an absolute blast!

*Stunned silence*

Yes, I will confess that the film is way too long. Some of the character-defining filler could easily have been given the chop and in no way effected the simple mystery plot, which sees eight less-than-noble strangers holed up in a roadside inn as a blizzard rages around them, their agendas and identities slowly revealed as time ticks by and the body count rises. But the snowstorm-savaged mountainous Wyoming locale and superb Ennio Morricone score (which has rightfully just won a Golden Globe) lent even the drawn out opening titles pitch-perfect ambience.

But what really sold the film to me was the performances. Yes, these are horrible people who do unforgivable things to each other – Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in particular, is treated like a ragdoll by John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), which is made only slightly less distasteful owing to the fact she is a murderer on her way to the noose – and to be trapped in confined surroundings with such lowlifes would be utter hell, but the top-notch cast embody these OTT renegades with unrestrained zeal.

Samuel L. Jackson clearly has a hoot as bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren, his every line delivered with sparky, unrestrained confidence, while Tim Roth steals the show as bubbly English oddball Oswaldo Mobray (what a name!), who radiates eccentricity and had me finding it hard not to grin every time he opened his mouth.

I appreciate The Hateful Eight will not be to everyone’s taste. Owing to its setting just after the American Civil War, the “N” word is thrown about worryingly casually, while in spite of loooong periods of talky inactive, there are flashes of grotesque violence and profuse splashes of claret which will make even the toughest constitutions quiver. I can fully appreciate why this has not been as universally accepted as some of Tarantino’s most beloved films, but for a three hour Western to win me over, it must be doing SOMETHING right!!

So thank you to my mate, who I’m glad persuaded me to give this film a chance, because if he hadn’t, I would never have bothered to see it on the big screen, and I’m not sure if the cinematography or score would have looked or sounded anywhere near as majestic on DVD. I’m just sorry he didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars