The Handmaid’s Tale (DVD Review)

15 – 90mins – 1990


 

FUNDAMENTALIST FUTURE

27 years before Hulu remade it into a highly-acclaimed and much-discussed, must-see television series, Margaret Atwood’s eye-opening 1985 dystopian novel was adapted to film, courtesy of a Harold Pinter screenplay. Critically commended though it was, an eleventh hour change of director led to rewrites Pinter was “too tired” to work on, so he suggested incoming helmer Volker Schlöndorff return to the author for any “tinkering,” leading the Nobel-Prize winning playwright to all-but disown credit for such a “hodgepodge.”

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American Pastoral (DVD Review)

15 – 108mins – 2016


 

RIOT REVOLUTION

“Doesn’t anyone care? Doesn’t anyone have a conscience?”

Adapted from Philip Roth’s 1997 novel, juggling star and director Ewan McGregor’s first feature behind the lens is a competent-if-flairless debut which leaves it late to make an impact. The life story of high school athlete-turned-factory owner and family man, Seymour “Swede” Levov (McGregor), and structured with modern-day bench-ends, the politically volatile backdrop of 1960s New Jersey  (black rights movement, the Vietnam War, Newark riots) feels clumsily enforced upon us with inserted news reels and radio transmissions.

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Get Out (Cinema Review)

15 – 104mins – 2017


 

DECEPTIVE INVITATION

Despite making a name for himself as a comedy actor with a penchant for parody (MadTV, Key & Peele, Keanu), in his directorial debut, Jordan Peele has found instantaneous critical acclaim as a filmmaker in a widely disparate genre: horror. Get Out consummately merges a creepy mystery with stinging and provocative social commentary to create a racially-motivated thriller with a strong nod to The Stepford Wives.

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Willie Dynamite (Blu-ray Review)

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15 – 102mins – 1974


DIG IT?

“Seven women in the palm of his hand…”

I open-handedly own up to the fact that I laughed when the check disc for Arrow Video’s recent high-definition restoration of this forgotten Blaxploitation classic turned up in the post unannounced. I’d never heard of amoral pimp Willie D, so my expectations were low for a film to rival Shaft, Super Fly or Sweet Sweetback.

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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.

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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

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