The Circle (Netflix Review)

12 – 110mins – 2017


 

FULLY TRANSPARENT

In light of a paltry US box office haul and surfeit negative reviews, this speculative techo-thriller was ignobly dumped onto UK Netflix on Sunday, little over two months after it crashed out of Stateside cinemas. It’s a shame, really, as The Circle’s tackling of human rights issues in our ever-more digitized, online age is resonantly timely, while the stellar cast (including John The Force Awakens Boyega and recently departed Bill Paxton) are all exuberant.

… Keep Scuttling!

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

Image result for red dwarf xi episode 4

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!

Jason and the Argonauts (DVD Review)

U – 101mins – 1963


 

ZEUS-TROPOLIS

Presented in dazzling technicolour so rich even the shadows are blue, this mythological stop-motion extravaganza is a feast for the eyes and the imagination, even if Ray Harryhausen’s once ground-breaking claymation effects work has dated somewhat in the intervening 53 years.

… Keep Scuttling!

Independence Day: Resurgence (Cinema Review)

12A – 120mins – 2016 – 3D


 

CORE BLIMEY!

Two decades after the “War of ‘96” as depicted in high-concept multi-billion blockbuster Independence Day, Master of the disaster epic Roland Emmerich’s long-stewing, highly-anticipated sequel, Resurgence, leant heavily on the nostalgia factor in its largely-returning ensemble cast and iconic poster-riffing marketing campaign.

For those reasons, I was fully expecting a template-adhering rinse-and-repeat viewing experience this time around, with mankind once again forced to unify and fight back against the landmark-flattening, national holiday-interrupting, seemingly-invincible alien invaders. While that does happen (of course), I was pleasantly surprised to find Resurgence not resting on its laurels by offering up a surprisingly progressive status quo for humanity, post-first contact. Our close encounter has lead to a technologically-advanced society which has implemented dedicated Earth Space Defence programs both on our planet and the Moon.

While a lot of familiar faces – or at least names, in the case of now-matured offspring, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) – are back for more alien ass kicking, it was admirable to see that the intervening 20 years hadn’t been an easy ride of whooping and back-patting for the heroes of the resistance. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has noticeably deteriorated into a confused, frail state, while Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) has been preserved in a coma ever since being used as an alien ventriloquist puppet. Will Smith’s unfortunate absence is explained away as a test flight tragedy, upholding Captain Hiller’s legacy.

Considering ID4’s optimistic sunshine tone, such doom and gloom is a refreshing change of gear, adding character-enhancing levity to the smashing CG-spectacle. Even headstrong new boy, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) hasn’t had it easy: orphaned, frustrated and fearful of being reacquainted with best mate, Dylan, following an air force training mishap nearly killed Hiller Junior.

This is not to say there isn’t still spades of the original film’s memorably amiable banter and chucklesome asides, with motor-mouths Charlie Ritter (Travis Tope) and Floyd Rosenberg (Nicolas Wright) providing their fair share of giggles by bouncing off their straight-men supporting cast. Plus Jeff Goldblum’s assured return and wry delivery never fails to raise a smile every time computer expert David Levinson is on screen.

Sure, you could argue that Judd Hirsch’s school bus-stealing subplot is strictly superfluous, while Vivia A. Fox is given desperately short shrift. Plus not every gag lands, but you cannot write Resurgence off as unentertaining – especially not when it is so willing to jovially tip its cap to its own history with its tongue firmly in check (“You’re even saving the dog?!”).

Since its release last Thursday, I have read a fair few less than complimentary reviews attacking Resurgence’s shallow and repetitive nature and I really couldn’t disagree more! I’m sure even Emmerich and his story writers will concede that the science jargon is bunkum, but this is not lazy or unintelligent filmmaking by any means, with an advanced aesthetic (often evoking Prometheus), resource-stealing motivation for the antagonists and an additional enemy-of-my-enemy tributary teasing a tantalising intergalactic threequel.

It’s busy, bombastic, stakes-raising, speaker-shattering, large-scale eye candy, but if you had a blast cheering on Will Smith and co. through mouthfuls of popcorn and fizzy pop in 1996, I guarantee you’ll still find plenty to love here in this steady and spectacular sequel. Don’t listen to the naysayers who are determined to convince themselves this is a wipe-out: I hereby declare Independence Day: Resurgence a triumph!

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Friend Request (Cinema Review)

Friend Request

15 – 92mins – 2016


 

THE SATANIC NETWORK

Failing to learn from the fates which befell the screen-obsessed teens in Unfriended and Ratter, here’s yet another – albeit superior – slice of e-horror which taps into the zeitgeist’s paranoia of online privacy.

Beautiful and popular Psychology student Laura (Fear The Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey – who continually reminded me of a young Vera Farmiga) rues the day she ever accepted the Facebook anonymous social media poking of lonely newcomer Marina (Liesel Ahlers), who morphs from profile stalker to vengeful techno-phantom when she takes Laura’s less-than-fervent reciprocation to heart and commits suicide after her sole follower clicks ‘unfriend’.

Beginning in a lecture on “Internet Addiction Disorder” and decking the pale, make up-less shy girl out in a drab grey hoodie and gifting her with a macabre love of posting gothic, nightmarish giffs, it could be argued that German director Simon Verhoeven’s topical horror is a little on-the-nose (or should that be ‘button’?), but Friend Request is more than proficient in delivering a rising sense of fear amongst Laura and her dwindling group of followers, successfully balancing narrative creepiness with some decent jump-scares.

As Marina’s ritualistic suicide video is mysteriously spread through Laura’s horrified network and her (physical) friends struggle to crack the code and work out exactly who the mysterious outcast was and why – or how – she is continuing to haunt them from beyond the grave, the body count begins to rise in spectacularly grisly fashion. It seems the waspish witch is determined to show Laura exactly what it means to be lonely…

“Unfriend that dead bitch!”

Impressively linking Marina’s creative – if creepy – cyber-animations into her sad and spooky cult-related backstory, Friend Request continued to impress the horror hound in me with some grotesque visuals and sympathising characterisation, sadly it is one CR@B follower shy of a four star film due to an unsatisfactorily cursor-y climax which sent the exponential narrative build-up to the Recycle Bin in favour of a final, lazy staccato shock.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars