Ready Player One (Cinema Review)

12A – 140mins – 2018 – 3D



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!

X-Men: Apocalypse (Cinema Review)

12A – 144mins – 2016 – 3D



While I don’t tend to pay too much heed to reviews before I’ve watched a new release, my lackadaisical approach to seeing this sixth Marvel/20th Century Fox X-stalment (NINTH if we are to include the 2 Wolverine spin-offs and Deadpool) has meant that before taking my seat in the cinema yesterday evening I was well aware of the glut of two star write-ups Bryan Singer’s Days of Future Past follow-up has received.

Tying directly into the sting at the end of the previous film, X-Men: Apocalypse opens with a colourful-if-chaotic prologue set in Ancient Egypt, establishing the transferable abilities of premiere cyber-mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar “Poe Dameron” Isaac). Beneath my 3D glasses my eyes were struggling to keep up with the tumult of effects and exposition hastily edited together in a headache-induced blur of visual noise.

Not a good start, I thought, and if things stay like this for the following two-hours-and-twenty-minutes I can well understand the backlash… However, once the Stargate-esque opening title sequence concludes and we fast-forward to 1983 (this is the McAvoy rather than the Stewart continuity, in case Wade Wilson was asking), the action settles to a more measured pace, allowing you to appreciate the effort – and expense – put in to the shots.

That’s not to say that the locations settle, for his is still a large-scale, globe-encompassing blockbuster, with Berlin, Poland, Auschwitz, Cairo and New York all featuring in this prequel trilogy closer. Reawakened, Apocalypse – as Sahar Nur now prefers to be known – tours the planet to recruit the deadliest mutants to become his upgrade-enhanced “Four Horseman” and aid the invincible menace in ridding the modern world of the weak and returning Earth to the glory days when he was worshipped.

You could question why an immortal God-like monster with Apocalypse’s immense abilities requires assistants, but by roping in Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Steve Jobs Fassbender) to join his gang, the CG destruction is at least grounded in human drama. The man they used to call Magneto has been in hiding in Poland for the past decade, settling down with a loving wife and daughter in an attempt to put the White House calamity behind him. But when tragedy shatters his domestic bliss, Erik’s rage rises once more.

Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is also haunted by a ghost from his past, with his love for Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, returning from First Class) and his pain at having to wipe her memory still weighing him down. Time-stopper Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is also back in town on personal business, and Apocalypse really hits its stride when drama and spectacle collide. Speaking of spectacle, this film is at its most awe-inspiring when it lets loose with the violence, and I was surprised to see this still achieve a “12A” rating, as some of the bone-crushing and blood-letting is brutally intense.

Although you could argue that the stakes aren’t exactly as universe-definingly fateful as the film would like you to believe (after all, we know Apocalypse doesn’t succeed in wiping out mankind as we’ve seen 3 films set after these events), there is still much to enjoy and invest in here, with a stand out being a zipping set-piece soundtracked by Sweet Dreams Are Made of These perfectly encapsulating the period and timbre. A cameo from a certain adamantium-enabled man-imal (you know Hugh) is also claw-some, and as superfluous as it is, for continuity’s sake it’s nice to finally see how Professor X lost his locks.

Short of using Cerebro, I’m clueless as to why so many critics have given X-Men: Apocalypse such a rough time – while it is long and its bulging ensemble set-up is busy, it’s also fun, rounded and far from shallow. Yes, it takes an unnecessarily petty pot-shot at The Last Stand (“The third films are always the worst”), but Singer’s confident enough that his saga-stitching threequel is not equally as disappointing. Ignore the critics who want you to believe that it is (no doubt all for the sake of “ironically” utilizing the quote) and make this one X you do give another chance.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (Blu-ray Review)

15 – 93mins – 2015



Long after they should have left their childhood troupe to partake in more age-appropriate teenage pursuits, high school sophomores Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) still find themselves regularly donning their striped kerchiefs and short shorts to placate passionate lifer and best bud Augie (Joey Morgan).

But when a loosed lab experiment turns their hometown population into flesh-hungry zombies, the reluctant scout-ateers are thankful for all their accrued survival skills as they battle murderous brain-munchers and fight to live long enough to lose their virginity – and for Augie to gain his Badge of Condor (the highest honour a scout can achieve, don’t you know).

From breaking through the chest of a corpse during a futile attempt at CPR to being attacked by zombified wildlife, the make up, animatronics and prosthetics are effectively gruesome and efficiently realised in director Christopher B. Landon’s colourful zom-com. Likewise, from headshots to raining wine, the methods of defence are gloriously violent, but any film which sets an attack sequence to Dolly Parton is never going to be scary – and Scouts Guide never really attempts to be,  favouring garish and gaudy entertainment over creepy tension.

“I touched them! I touched them! I… don’t think they were real.”

While the splatter may be a cracker, the mindset is somewhat priapic. What starts out as a few eye-rolling, naïvely-vulgar teen-focused T&A gags (“Tongue-pound her salty walrus”) soon cannonballs into a barrage of immature sex jokes which are as insistent and unrelenting as Scout Leader Rogers’ (David Koechner) “Never say die!” attitude.

You have to hand it to this troupe, they are a plucky and spirited bunch, but to echo Ben and Carter’s sentiments: “It was fun when we were kids but we have grow up, man.” Similarly, Scouts Guide starts out as a wicked-fun retro B-movie adventure, but its quirky, blasé appeal diminishes before the campfire has sizzled out and everything that used to seem “cooler than cool” just feels a little forced and try-hard and as unappealing as a half-melted marshmallow.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars