The Book of Henry (Cinema Review)

12A – 105mins – 2017



After his 2014 indie sleeper hit won him critical acclaim, debuting director Colin Trevorrow was catapulted direct to the major league by being granted the keys to Steven Spielberg’s resurrected dino-franchise. Jurassic World proved such a monster smash (becoming the fourth highest grossing film OF ALL TIME) that Lucasfilm trusted him to close out their Star Wars sequel trilogy.

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DOCTOR WHO, 10.4 – “Knock, Knock” (TV Review)

BBC One – 7:20pm – Saturday 6th May 2017

Written by: Mike Bartlett

Directed by: Bill Anderson


“No living puddles, weird robots or big fish. Just a new house. Nothing scary.”

New student Bill (Pearl Mackie) finds trying to get back to normal life after three weeks of travelling with the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is more difficult than it sounds. A rattle-bang opening montage shows her and five uni pals struggling to find suitable off campus accommodation to move into, until a suspiciously generous Landlord (David Peter Pan Goes Wrong Suchet) offers them his antiquated manor – replete with out-of-bounds tower – for a hard-to-resist price.

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INSIDE NO. 9, 3.5 – “Diddle Diddle Dumpling” (TV Review)

BBC Two – Tuesday 14th March 2017 – 10pm

Created and written by: Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton

Directed by: Guillem Morales



“A pair of shoes deserve to be together… have to be… they belong.”

Jogging around the cul-de-sac one Spring morning, husband and father David (Shearsmith) comes across a single black leather shoe, a seemingly random find which turns his and his family’s world upside down. Over the course of the next year, David becomes first distracted then consumed by the mystery of his “odd” procurement: who did it belong to, why was it lost in such a precise location and how can he return it to its other half?

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The Disappointments Room (Film Review)

Image result for the disappointments room15 – 86mins – 2016


In 2013 Prison Break star Wentworth Miller established himself as a talent behind the camera as well as in front of it when he penned acclaimed cult indie drama Stoker. A year later he co-scribed this promisingly premised supernatural horror with xXx: Return of Xander Cage director D.J. Caruso.

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A Monster Calls (Cinema Review)

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12A – 108mins – 2017



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).

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The Woman In Black (Live Review)

Two men in hats, sitting facing each other

Cambridge Arts Theatre – 29th September 2016 – 7.45pm
Based on the novel by: Susan Hill
Adapted by: Stephen Mallatratt
Directed by: Robin Herford   Tour tickets



I have read Susan Hill’s scant-but-spooky ghost story, I have jumped more often than is respectable at Hammer’s 2012 filmic adaptation and I have even watched with utmost curiosity the ITV Christmas drama still unreleased on region 2 DVD. On Thursday night I experienced a fourth incarnation of The Woman In Black in the form of Stephen Mallatratt’s stage show. For 27 years a staple of London’s West End, it is now on tour and playing a week-long residency at Cambridge Arts Theatre.

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Branagh Theatre Live: ROMEO & JULIET (Live Review)

Image result for kenneth branagh romeo and juliet

12A – 210mins – 2016 – B&W



The performance last night was preceded by a clearly impromptu card-prompted introduction from Kenneth Branagh which explained Romeo (Richard Madden) had sustained an ankle injury just 48hours prior to this nationwide cinema simulcast (“the perils of live theatre!”). Nevertheless, the Game of Thrones actor was determined to power through this performance, which was part of the Cinderella director’s yearlong Plays at the Garrick season.

Branagh noted a few changes to the staging to better accommodate the lead’s mobility issues, but the show still flowed flawlessly and at no time did it appear the young Montague was in any sort of agony (other than of the heart) – quite remarkable given how he was still gamely dancing and fighting across the stage throughout.

Romeo & Juliet’s tone was set by the monochrome black and white palette, which empathised Branagh’s 1950’s Italian influence on Christopher Oram’s costume and set design. The camera direction on the night by Benjamin Caron was wonderfully dynamic and cinematic in its execution, with crucial scenes even incorporating focus blurs!

Image result for kenneth branagh romeo and juliet

In fact, so polished was the entire production that I almost needed reminding that this wasn’t tirelessly edited together from hours of unusable rehearsal footage; this was happening live, albeit an hour down the road from where I watched it in my local Cineworld. There were no dropped props, fluffed monologues or even winces from the delicate Romeo.

From Lily James’ hopeful and gushing Juliet to Meera Syal’s dryly humorous Nurse, the entire cast were superb – with special mention due to Derek Jacobi’s aged take on Mercutio. In a vox pop screened in the build up to the broadcast Branagh explained his “Wilde” inspiration behind this potentially divisive casting decision, and Jacobi delivered it with spunk and assured nonchalance.

Perhaps it was the lack of Mercutio’s unerring, larger-than-life presence, or the downward spiral of the fleetingly-promising love story, but the second half (following a twenty minute interval in which the camera lingered on a bird’s eye view of the milling Garrick attendees) was far more intense and far less fun than the spirited first. Juliet’s father (Michael Rouse) in particular delivering a shockingly brutal disavowal of his daughter’s protest against an arranged suitor.

Image result for kenneth branagh romeo and julietWhile the delivery of the awkwardly tongue-twisting Shakespearean verse made it impossible not to give the screen your full attention if you intended to stand any chance of following the ups and downs of this tragic tale, your concentration was rewarded with an impressive and immersive theatre experience. Purists may scoff at some of Branagh’s bolder revisions (a club song during the party scene, for instance), but this still retained the heartbreaking soul of the timeless original.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Maggie (Blu-ray Review)

15 – 95mins – 2015 



When a viral pandemic transforms humans across the globe into flesh-chomping zombies, concerned father Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) takes his recently bitten teenage daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), home to their backwater farmhouse in Midwest America to make her comfortable for her impending tragic turn.

“You shouldn’t have brought me back…”

If the prospect of The Terminator taking down cannibalistic hordes of the undead appeals to your inner gore hound then prepare to go hungry as this washed-out post-apocalyptic thriller is more sobering everyman drama than blood-soaked action/horror fight-fest.

That is in no way a disparaging assessment of former credits-designer and debuting Brit director Henry Hobson’s low budget indie film, however, provided you are prepared for a slow and sombre reflection on such debatable issues as parental protection, euthanasia, suicide and the pain of living for the terminally ill. In fact, were you to excise the Z-word from first-time scribe John Scott 3’s screenplay then you would be left with a potent mixture which settles somewhere between grey-scaled wasteland trotter The Road (2009) and weepy true story Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) in tone and (brain) matter.

“Ain’t nobody fighting that.”

With a climax which rings maximum tension out of a daughter descending a staircase and kissing her snoozing father, this is far from a conventional vehicle for the iconic Hollywood muscle man, who also produces this black-listed flick. Taut, touching and troubling, Maggie makes for a sympathetic and shuffling think-piece which is contagious in how it digs under your skin and tears your heart to shreds – but it’s only scary in its relatable allegorical undercurrent.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

Macbeth (DVD Review)

15 – 113mins – 2015



“Fair is foul and foul is fair”-ly off-putting in this latest big-screen adaptation of the Scottish play. Despite receiving a slew of award nominations and critical praise aplenty, director Justin Kurzel – currently filming the Assassin’s Creed movie with his Macbeth leading man – has arthouse aspirations for Shakespearian theatre which simply put me in mind of the overblown disaster that was Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic Noah (2014).

Haunting orchestral music strong with strings soundtracks artistically choreographed, slow-mo heavy battle scenes in near-silhouette, with much of the action played out on what look to be soundstages backed with beautifully picturesque landscapes.

Steve Jobs’ versatile Michael Fassbender does an admirable job as the troubled Thane of Cawdor with murder on his mind, but this lofty retelling just feels far too obviously staged and unnatural, leaving me cold to the verbose human drama and “supernatural soliciting” which follows the grimy, mist-shrouded battlefields.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

Gemma Bovery (DVD Review)

15 – 99 mins – 2014


“A mundane story told by a genius.”

Adapted by author Posy Simmonds from her own 1999 graphic novel, this quaint-yet-quirky French romance is a quasi-meta modernised riff on author Gustave Flaubert’s controversial nineteenth century novel about the archetypal bored wife who becomes entangled in adulterous affairs to escape her provincial life.

“It seems really wacky,” real world English rose Gemma Bovery (Gemma Arterton) comments of the book to her romantic literature-loving new neighbour Martin (Fabrice Luchini), a Normandy baker who acts as omniscient “director” of this parallel tale, while also starring in it.

Moulding the action like he does his dough, Martin guides the audience like a sentient GCSE revision guide by pointing out the similarities between Madame Bovary and the relationship calamities of her expatriate almost-namesake. Martin is a meddler-come-voyeur, often reduced to a wide-eyed, infatuated fug while Gemma’s husband (Jason Flemyng), a local playboy (Niels Schneider) and her ex (Mel Raido) vie for her attention.

I am struggling to ascertain whether I consider this cleverly post-modern, or simply lazy, with plot points from the original novel being lifted wholesale (rat poison, faked love letters) into this present day love triangle. The book’s tragic finale, for instance, when broached sternly in the film’s third act, comes across as wholly contrived and easily avoidable, yet events still transpire as if this is in someway fate – which is just romanticised nonsense, and the way it plays out on screen nothing short of goofy.

“Nothing happens, but at the same time it’s interesting”

Sadly, in assessing Gemma Bovery, I cannot agree with the lead character’s review of Flaubert’s classic. Frustrating, yes, mildly-diverting, certainly, but not interesting. Like its portrayal of manipulator-or-victim Gemma and its continual bilingual flitting between English and French, Anne Coco Before Chanel Fontaine’s film is a muddled mess which can’t quite decide what it is.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars