Alien³ – Theatrical Cut (Blu-ray Review)

18 – 114mins – 1992


 

AIN’T NO FURY LIKE A RIPLEY SCORNED

I had planned to watch all five of the legitimate Alien films (as in, skipping over Alien v. Predator and its turgid sequel) prior to Alien: Covenant’s theatrical bow on 12th May, however I failed spectacularly, only getting as far as immediate predecessor (and chronological starting point) Prometheus and Ridley Scott’s 1979 original. As it turns out, they were all I technically needed to get the most out of Covenant (which, as my REVIEW details, I enjoyed immensely), however I tardily sustained my franchise re-watch undeterred.

… Keep Scuttling!

A Monster Calls (Cinema Review)

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12A – 108mins – 2017


 

A CONOR CAROL

For a twelve-year-old, Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) has a lot on his plate: his estranged father (Toby Kebbell) lives in America with his new family; his mother (Felicity Rogue One Jones) is terminally ill, leaving Conor to look after her almost as much as she looks after him; his aloofly strict grandmother (Sigourney Finding Dory Weaver) is threatening to take him away to live in her archaic abode. If all of that wasn’t enough, Conor also has to deal with regular beatings from school bully Harry (James Melville).

… Keep Scuttling!

Finding Dory (Cinema Review)

U – 103mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE JEWEL OF MORRO BAY

Seven years after a Pixar-less sequel was planned by Disney/Circle 7 and scuppered before production began, original Finding Nemo writer and director, Andrew Stanton and co-scribe Victoria Strouse started work on an official sea-quel to his beloved Oscar winning search and rescue adventure in 2013.

… Keep Scuttling!

Ghostbusters II (Blu-ray Review)

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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)?

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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)

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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

 

Ghostbusters (Blu-ray Review)

12 – 105mins – 1984


 

‘BUSTING MAKES ME FEEL GOOD

“We’re ready to believe you!”

Much like the paranormal-investigating pest controllers themselves, Ivan Reitman’s mid-80s supernatural comedy perfectly straddles the divide. Okay, not between life and thereafter, but between yucks and shocks. Ghostbusters is never terrifying enough to scare away the kids, or cheesy enough to turn off their parents. It teases at the edges, sure, but it’s universal in its playfulness, delivering (for the first hour in particular) a relentless rattle-bang compendium of phenomenon-securing cinematic gold.

“Type something, will ya? We’re paying you for this stuff!”

From Elmer Bernstein’s teasingly chilling theramin-tinged opening orchestration to the introduction of gluttonous “ugly little spud” Slimer, via the shock of the library phantom’s sudden mood-swing, it is infectiously entertaining, iconic and endlessly quotable – even down to Ray Stantz’s (Dan Aykroyd) bizarrely incongruous mid-montage ethereal blow job!

“You don’t act much like a scientist… more like a gameshow host.”

Saturday Night Live alumni Aykroyd and co-writer/co-star Harold Ramis bring bountiful personality to their science-fiction screenplay. Their university-evicted spiritual scientists are down to earth and identifiable to such an extent that the belated addiction of advert-answering new recruit Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) is somewhat superfluous. Through Ray’s wide-eyed excitability (“You gotta try the pole!”), nerdy Egon’s (Ramis) inability to flirt with secretary Janine (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman’s (fellow SNL-er Bill Murray) facetious louche sarcasm (“back off man, I’m a scientist!”), we already have ample access to this high-concept Zuul-niverse.

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“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”

As the proton-packed foursome find themselves rocketed to overnight success and lend their bumbling, fumbling ‘expertise’ to musician Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) egg-popping, fridge-possessing doggy dilemma, their is a twenty minute period prior to the high-stakes roof-top finale which does switch down a gear. The plot becomes so invested in the coming together of the Gatekeeper and Keymaster and the possession of lovable loser Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) that smarmy antagonist Walter Peck (William Atherton) is almost lost in the mix – until the overzealous EPA agent makes a costly error of judgment which puts the whole city at risk…

“Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!”

But once our heroes are ‘busted out of jail by New York’s panic-stricken Mayor (David Marguiles), the red-hot quotes start tumbling again (“It’s true: this man has no dick”) as the action intensifies and the colourful effects fly into overdrive. The Claymation work on the statuesque demon dogs is a little obvious, while flat-topped femme demi-god Gozer is a tad underwhelming in human form (Slavitza Jovan), but all of this is forgiven when a 100foot marshmallow is summoned to stomp across the city, following a couple of subtle visual references teeing up Stay Puft’s appearance earlier in the film.

“Mother puss-bucket!”

Even 32 years on, Ghostbusters still lends itself to endless repeat viewings – its spunky attitude and endearing characterisation overcoming any dated FX work and narrative lulls. I can’t imagine Paul Feig’s incoming reboot will quite manage to capture the imagination of its generation in quite the same all-conquering fashion, but provided GB ’16 can mine the spirit of Reitman’s original then it’s half way to success – provided it doesn’t cross the streams! I guess we’ll find out on Monday…

CR@B’s Claw Score: 5 stars

Cedar Rapids (DVD Review)

15 – 86mins – 2011


RAPID DECLINE

Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but I was expecting far more from indie comedy Cedar Rapids . From the director of Jennifer Aniston’s The Good Girl and produced by Alexander Sideways Payne, I knew to expect drama, character friction and insecurity along with the laughs, but I found myself more frustrated than enamoured by the highly-strung characters.

The Hangover’s Ed Helms plays sheltered and naïve straight-living insurance salesman Tim Lippe, a man who had a big future ahead of him before he squandered it away in the sleepy little town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. His sad, stalled existence going nowhere, Tim reluctantly accepts a chance at the “big time”: to represent BrownStar Insurance at an annual insurance conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and hopefully bring home the company’s third Two Diamond Award in a row.

The small, clueless fish in a big modern pond template has been used before, but I struggled to engage with frigid Tim. Nice and polite though he may be, everything about him screamed “square” and I failed to accept that unconventional conference veterans like vulgar loudmouth poacher Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) or innuendo-slinger Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) could so instantly befriend such a dull, pitiful man.

Although it’s slightly more believable that hotel hooker Bree (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) – desperate to escape her less-than-favourable occupation as she is – may gravitate towards Tim’s more grounded and sterile nature, the fact that he was so easily persuaded to attend a nefarious house party, smoke weed and get high on crystal meth seemed completely out of character. Would it not have been nobler of Tim to stand by his morals and refuse the drugs rather than find fun and freedom through illegal means? What sort of skewed message is that?!

Maybe I’m looking too deeply into all this, but Tim also far-too readily jumps into bed with lonely-but-married serial-shagger Joan, despite being beyond-obsessed with his “pre-engaged” partner back in Wisconsin (astutely played by no-nonsense Sigourney Weaver). One night he walks off offended because Joan dares to jokingly slap his arse, the next he tells her how milky her skin is while skinny dipping in the hotel pool before going back to her place to make love. Sure, he was drunk, and yes, he regrets it the next morning, but it felt like his character didn’t stay true to himself for the good of plot progression.

By the end credits, Tim comes good by plucking up the confidence to publicly “out” the bribe-taking “honourable” conference chairman Orin Helgesson (Smith), before taking steps to stand on his own two feet for once in the big, wide world, but whereas Sideways and other hero-to-zero comedies like Napoleon Dynamite had me in stitches, Cedar Rapids’ corruption of a vulnerable soul just left me embarrassed to the point of depressed – and surely that wasn’t its intention?

In a CR@B Shell: A pathetic loser has his eyes opened to twenty-first century living by having an affair, bribing his way to success and getting into a fight while off his ass on hard drugs at a house party with a prostitute – and we’re meant to laugh/be charmed?! Sorry, but for all its critical praise, Cedar Rapids completely failed to win be over.
2 stars