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!

RED DWARF XI.4 – “Officer Rimmer” (TV Review)

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Dave – 13th October 2016 – 9pm

Created by: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Written and Directed by: Doug Naylor


THE RIMM FROM ANOTHER RANK

“Things are about to get a whole lot more Rimmer-y…”

Fans of Chris Barrie’s jumbo-nostriled chicken soup machine repairman rejoice: this week you get FIFTY times more Arnold Judas Rimmer for your dollar-pounds! Doug Naylor goes uber-topical in “Officer Rimmer”, delivering a stingingly satirical warning to those who abuse their power… and technological advances.

… Keep Scuttling!

Porco Rosso (DVD Review)

PG – 94mins – 1992


 

THE CRIMSON PIG

“I don’t fight for honour – I fight for a pay check!”

Italian WWI ex-fighter pilot Marco Rossolini (Michael Keaton) is an anti-fascist now living as a hostage-rescuing freelance bounty hunter, spending his days chasing “air pirates” in his Savoia S.21 above the Adriatic Sea. Written and directed by Studio Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki, Porco Rosso is based on his own 3-part Manga, Hikōtei Jidai, and could easily pass as an ode to history and aviation, were it not for the fact that the lead character is cursed by “divine punishment” into the form of an anthropomorphised pig!

“God was telling you it wasn’t your time yet…”

Despite this single concession to fantasy, Porco Rosso is otherwise fairly geographically and historically accurate, with a surplus of politically-charged dialogue giving it the air of a satire. It’s a pity that a succession of “outsider” quips and tiresome “pig-headed” wordplay diminishes any deeper and more complex subtext by overstating the ‘pigs might fly’ comedy. In my opinion, that’s a single joke stretched waaaay too far.

Elsewhere there are flashes of sensitivity and sympathy (“Maybe I’ve just run out of tears,”), even if Keaton dubs Rocco with suave indifference. Irritatingly, there are also further glimpses of some outmoded sexism (“Don’t you have any males relatives?”; “We’re not baking a cake here,”) – but at least, unlike Ocean Waves, this was set in a less open-minded time period.

As is to be expected from the Japanese anime giants, the film is animated gorgeously, however some overly cartoonified injury detail does diminish the honour of Porco’s climatic dual-cum-bareknuckle-fistfight with love rival Curtis (Cary Saw Elwes). Nevertheless, Porco Rosso’s charm carries it through; this is still more swell than swill – and I’m not bacon that up! Ahem.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

High-Rise (DVD Review)

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15 – 114mins – 2016


A TOWER BLOCK IN ENGLAND

“Looks like an unconscious diagram of some sort of psychic event.”

A duel between the social classes living on their respective floors of Jeremy Irons’ architecturally quirky self-controlled tower block descends from a surreal and anachronistic fever dream into an all-out dystopian orgy of decadent mayhem.

“It was a huge children’s party that had got out of hand.”

Navigated by Tom Crimson Peak Hiddleston’s calmly stable and doctorly new tenant, an invitingly intriguing first half of cleverly multi-layered satire is let down somewhat by an ugly and nigh-unwatchable chaotic conclusion comprising a cavalcade of callousness and cruelty as the community living outside of state control decays into primal darkness (“What of the horse?” “We’ll eat it”).

“It takes a certain determinism to row against the current.”

Those of a weak constitution be warned, but for all of its sinister edges and violent intensity, visionary director Ben Kill List Wheatley’s bold adaptation of author J.G. Ballard’s acclaimed social commentary must be applauded for its bravery.

Darkly humorous and skilfully edited into a nightmarish concoction, for all its unbearableness, High-Rise is uncompromising filmmaking which begs for and rewards return visits – if you dare.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Kill Your Friends (DVD Review)

Image result for kill your friends film18 – 99mins – 2015


 

THE DEATH OF THE RECORD INDUSTRY

“Loaded dice and poisoned chalice all over the fucking shop.”

Taking the alias of his furry X-Men character to heart, Nicholas Hoult is chillingly bestial as ambitious A&R man Steven Stelfox in this dark-as-night hyperbolic evisceration of the greed, hedonism and backstabbing which fuelled the profit-over-sincerity mentality of the Britpop-barmy 90s music business.

“None of us have a fucking clue what we’re doing!”

Spouting satirical, fourth wall-breaking soliloquys to the screen, steely-eyed talent scout Stelfox spends the majority of the film “off his tits” on all manner of substances, disconnected from the callous circus which circles and consumes him. He’s a monstrous figure, but screenwriter John Niven – working from his own novel – does an admirable job of making this “smart, ambitious… lost” soul into an investible anti-hero, even if he’s not likeable enough to be charming. He is a murderer, after all.

“A sense of unravelling…”

As Stelfox’s clumsy control on his perilous situation spirals into a black hole of grave dancing, blackmail, framing and extortion, Kill Your Friends perhaps dips the satire to such distasteful and disbelieving depths that its hard to even classify this as a black comedy, but its a ballsy and compromisingly “haaaardcore” warning to those who would do anything to live the dream. And I’m pretty sure I know what its middle finger-brandishing reaction to anyone who found it ghastly and amoral would be: “Get fucked!”

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

They Live (Amazon Prime Review)

18 – 94mins – 1988


 

OBEY… OBEY… OBEY…

“Brother, life’s a bitch and she’s back in heat.”

While the social media meltdown continues apace and I attempt to get my head around the ramifications of last night’s EU Referendum here in the UK, some might consider it hugely ironic that I sat down yesterday for my first ever viewing of John Carpenter’s cult sci-fi/horror adaptation of Ray Nelson’s short story Eight O’Clock in the Morning.

If Cameron and the “Remain” camp thought they were having a bad day, just spare a thought for homeless drifter John Nada (late WWF wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper). He is shot at, thrown from a first floor window and beaten to a swollen pulp by his best mate, Frank (Keith David), in a bare-knuckle brawl which lasts longer than Peter Griffin vs the Giant Chicken – all on the same mind-melting day he stumbles upon a yuppie alien takeover bid which only materialises whenever Nada puts on a pair of sunglasses! If that wasn’t enough, to top it all off: he’s all out of chewing gum, too!

While the satirical social commentary implied by humanity’s greed-motivated subservience to an extraterrestrial “power alliance” hidden in plain sight is as strong and as stinging as a George A. Romero subtext, I found They Live’s narrative and its genre elements to be sadly lacking. The skeletal “formaldehyde faces” of the alien’s true eye-bulging form are laughably ropey, calling to mind a 50s B-movie (perhaps intentionally?), while the drifting plot was high in meandering and low in narrative finesse.

Product DetailsNada’s journey from bum to hero is achieved by wandering in an inviolate haze through first a police raid at a homeless camp, then through the alien-infested streets of LA. When he does eventually coerce Frank into believing the conspiracy, the pair have no set plan and simply bumble along cluelessly until they happen upon a band of freedom fighters and the plot is finally focused on shutting down the signal which is hypnotising the human race to the subliminal propaganda.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

Aaaaaaaah! (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 79mins – 2014


 

MONKEYING AROUND

With a title which handily doubles up as a review of the film, Aaaaaaaah! is the uncompromising brainchild of Sightseers star Steve Oram, who writes, directs and stars in this lo-fi quasi-horror satire on what would happen if man’s innate nature rose to the fore. The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, as well as a glut of other familiar faces, all pop up along the way to shed their dignity and go bananas in publicity-boosting roles.

Filmed in 2014 but only seeing release via the “Frightfest Presents” banner this past January, it’s not difficult to see why this brave/experimental cult status-destined statement on society struggled to find a distributor: even at a brisk 79 minutes it is a trying and perplexing watch.

Set in a surreal alternative universe (or it could be a post-apocalypse dystopia, this is never established) where humans have devolved to tree-humping, shit-slinging, ape-like savages, yet still wear clothes, drive cars, watch TV and live in houses, the film doesn’t take long to boggle your perception of reality, with alpha-male Smith (Oram) pissing on a wedding photo of his wife, before his beta, Keith (Fielding’s frequent collaborator Tom Meeten), obediently wipes his dick.

With dialogue completely replaced by primal grunts, we are forced to gawp in bewilderment at the often disgusting behaviour of these recognised faces, with Toyah Wilcox (seriously!) gamely dry-humping a cabinet, sticking her head in a microwave and being unceremoniously pelted with the dinner she has just made for her animalistic beau (Green Wing’s Julian Rhind-Tutt).

Violent, vulgar and often explicitly sexual (monkey’s masturbate a lot, see), this isn’t for the squeamish, easily offended or swiftly bored. Society is debased through acts of uncouth depravity (thieving, infidelity, abuse, gang war), but for all its perceived immorality, it’s all thoughtless and done without malice, simply to scoff, sleep, sex and survive – there are no ape expectations here.

With this outlandish scenario expanded beyond the everyday family dynamic to showcase examples of this society’s idea of sitcoms, cartoons, cookery shows (if you thought Nigella flaunted her cleavage, you ain’t seen nothing yet!) and video games, Aaaaaaaah! is a complete vision, but distractingly inconsistent. So mankind has evolved enough to make toilets and cutlery, yet people still shit on the kitchen floor and eat like savages? Likewise, how is it that cocaine exists as a recreational drug if people don’t know how to use it?

Props to Steve Oram for seeing his surreal concept through, it’s certainly a unique and unpredictable experience – not to mention a frightful prospect – and it marks him out as a filmmaker to look out for. However, as a piece of entertainment, his divisive debut feature is just too frustratingly uncanny to be devoured in one sitting – or maybe I’m just too much of a Neanderthal to appreciate it?

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars