Ready Player One (Cinema Review)

12A – 140mins – 2018 – 3D


 

V.R. TROOPERS

Cineworld were in full alert last night with bouncers at the doors of their latest Unlimited Preview Screening to physically watch you switch off your mobile phones before you entered for an exclusive viewing of young adult sci-fi action adventure adaptation Ready Player One. This didn’t, however, stop the projectionists from messing up and starting the film too early, so we got to watch the opening five minutes twice in the space of a quarter of an hour.

… 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

Ice Age: Collision Course (Cinema Review)

U – 91mins – 2016 – 3D


 

EXTINCTION IMMINENT?

In his never-ending quest to secure his elusive acorn, single-focused sabre-toothed squirrel Scrat (Chris Wedge) scampers where no prehistoric rodent has scampered before, inadvertently setting in motion a cosmic calamity which means this might well be the final frontier for our furry frost-dwelling friends…

14 years, 5 feature films, 2 TV specials (including this Easter’s Great Egg-spcade), countless supplementary shorts and even a skating spectacular live show and through it all it’s still true to claim that Sid (John Sisters Leguizamo), Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and their “fro bros” have consistently remained true to themselves – even when the sequels’ storylines starting to strain credulity (Dawn of the Dinosaurs, I’m looking at you).

Despite this latest and most extreme  case of universe-building (or should that be flattening?) being the “dumb”-est (their words) and closest to shark-jumping yet, my previous statement still remains true for large stretches of Ice Age: Collision Course. Once again the screenwriters have perfectly balanced slapstick silliness with witty banter only adults will appreciate (“I’m bored of hashtags now!”).

It’s a shame, then, that a third act reveal that a community of new – and frankly rather goofy – meteor-squatting, eternally-youthful colourful critters threatens to thaw out my immense goodwill for this fast and furry-ous four-quel. Writer Michael J. Wilson’s penchant for wackiness, surplus of surreal “far out” spiritualism and stubborn insistence that rapid kineticism equals humour (it doesn’t) is as disappointingly tiresome as rubber-limbed let-down Chester V from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Mercifully, elsewhere a far more harmonious balance is struck between plot, character progression and pleasing pay-offs, with the ever-ballooning herd following one-eyed action weasel Buck (Simon Kill Me Three Times Pegg) on a seemingly impossible mission to divert a deadly meteor from wiping out all life as they know it. There’s a strong sway towards coupling up (must be an age thing), with even kid-of-the-group Peaches (Keke Palmer) engaged to clumsy cutesy Julian (Adam DeVine).

Retaining its heart with a touching family-affirming finale, Collision Course pulls itself back from the brim and confirms that character cut-backs, simplified storylines and less high-concept catalysts are the way forward for the extinction-evading Ice Age-rs. Long may they continue to roam the arctic plains.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

Kill Me Three Times (DVD Review)


15 – 97mins – 2014


THREE IS A TRAGIC NUMBER

Made two years ago but only now being released straight-to-DVD, this is a tricksy thriller with a blackly comedic streak. Simon Pegg (Star Trek into Darkness) leads an ensemble cast of lesser-known actors, playing the smarmy, moustachioed and wholly-unlikable hired gun Charlie Wolfe. He also acts as an omniscient narrator, recalling this tale of a bungled assignation as he lays bleeding to death.

The gimmick here, from which the title is derived, is that this is one murder attempt retold three times. Additional information, clues and buffoonery are leaked out with each retelling as more inept clowns are added into the mix, trying their luck for their own nefarious reasons at knocking off poor Alice Braga.

It all ends in a bloody mess on this tropical surfing paradise, bringing to mind the wry tone of Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths (2012), with incompetent individuals treating life and death far too blithely. Profuse on blood and bad language, this murder farce from rising directorial hotshot Kriv Red Dog Stenders has a cocky assuredness to its style, it’s just a pity it’s neither as clever or complex as the narrative concept wants you to believe.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars