15 – 93mins – 2017
“Knock once to raise her from her bed, twice to raise her from the dead…”
Former Battlestar Galactia bombshell Katee Sackhoff headlines this Welsh indie chiller which splices urban legends with tangible domestic disquiet to conjure a relatable, thought-provoking and eerie atmosphere. Sackhoff plays Jess, a successful sculptor but a less-than-successful mother to her care-raised teenage daughter, Chloe (Lucy Boynton). When Chloe inadvertently awakens a witch while performing a prank on a long-avoided local residence, she returns to her mother’s custardy in the hope a change of scenery will stymie the supernatural curse.
… Keep Scuttling!
15 – 95mins – 2016
STATE OF ALERT
“Vengeance must always be profound and absolute.”
Following the sudden death of the Prime Minister, all the world leaders of the West descend upon the British capital for the state funeral. United States President, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), brings with him a contingent of his most trusted aides, headed up by Secret Service protection supremo Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), who went above and beyond to keep his boss safe three years ago in Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen.
Good job he’s still on the payroll, too, as terror consumes London in a rat-a-tat plethora of fiery attacks on its biggest political guests and most iconic landmarks. With death and destruction surrounding them, Banning and POTUS are driven underground to hatch a desperate against-all-odds survival plan and bring down the insurgent terrorists alongside a formidable band of MI-6 agents.
With Fuqua detained on a trio of high profile gigs (The Equaliser, Southpaw and the upcoming Magnificent Seven remake) and first choice replacement, Fredrik Charlie Countryman Bond departing before a single frame was shot, Swedish/Iranian director Babak Najafi stepped behind the lens of his first ever American production just a month before filming began on this explosive follow-up.
London Has Fallen is serviceable stuff: a loud, dumb, chase-heavy and explosion-packed A-list-headed hour and a half (trimmed down from the original’s bulkier runtime). Alas, most of the dialogue is crudely colloquial. Considering the calibre of characters, “fuck”, “shit” and “dickhead” are said far more frequently than I imagine they would – but when your safety is compromised, who’s pausing to refine their language?
“We live in a dangerous world,” returning scribes Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt acknowledge, and herein lies the rub: in our depressing modern climate, when does a piece of entertainment cross the line into insensitive? Watching my capital reduced to an “urban battlefield,” I may have to agree with Variety magazine that London… falls foul of “terrorsploitation” in a way that other more clearly high-concept blockbusters such as Independence Day: Resurgence avoid. This is scarily plausible, and even the sight of a Hollywood beefcake kicking enemy arse can’t blunt that unsavoury edge.
CR@B’s Claw Score:
PG – 117mins – 2016 – 3D
A WHOOPSY-SPLUNKING ADVENTURE
“Human beans is not really believing in giants, is they? Human beans is not thinking we exist.”
A Steven Spielberg blockbuster is usually a safe bet – doubly so when he is re-teamed with ET scribe Melissa Mathison; triply so when working from the source material of the world’s number one storyteller. But my reservations before sitting down to this centenary-marking Roald Dahl adaptation last night came from growing up with repeated rewatches of Brian Cosgrove’s BAFTA-winning 1989 animated interpretation. Voiced by David Jason, it nailed the look and sound of the benevolent twenty-five foot high dreamcatcher in a way I feared a motion-captured Mark Rylance possibly could not.
Additionally, The BFG 2016’s trailers had me worried, as the titular Big Friendly Giant just didn’t quite look right – his neck too long and his eyes too small for his flapping ears… But in all his visual splendour, away from the brief snatches of footage teased in the previews, my fears were allayed by Oscar-winner Rylance’s country bumpkin approach to the towering sandal-wearer. It is a reserved and charming portrayal – even if on paper he is a lonely old man kidnapping a young girl…(!!)
Ruby Barnhill as bespectacled ten year old orphan Sophie occasionally veers into “little madam” territory, but some concessions to fear and anxiety do soften the feisty-but-diminutive redhead, making for an assured performance from the newcomer in her debut big screen performance.
Kiddles (that’s children to you and I) will be positively awestruck by the wondrous realisation of the magical rainbow-lit dream tree and the misty mountains of Giant Country, with John Williams once again expertly orchestrating the necessary emotional undercurrent. The nine “filthsome” 50 foot brutes – with names such as Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) – who plague the reserved “runt” of the litter are just about silly enough not to give little ‘uns “trogglehumpers” (nightmares).
By having the same group of actors portray the CG-enhanced “frightsome” Giants as were early-on reprimanded by insomniac Sophie for causing a drunken scene during the witching hour, I was deceived into expected an additional narrative twist to Dahl’s classic tale (for instance, is it all a “ringbeller” dreamt by Sophie?), but Mathison – in what was to sadly be her last screenwriting credit – sticks to the well-known plot, with the final act visit to “Her Majester” Queen Victoria (Penelope Wilton) propelling the narrative – and cast list! – far beyond the slower and more tranquil pace of the opening half.
Once you have adjusted to the unconventional “gobblefunk” dialogue, human beans of all ages (and heights!) will find something to smile about in this family film, while the target demographic will be howling with delight – particularly when the royal corgis are “whizpopping” around Buckingham Palace after lapping up some “frobscottle”. Add an extra CR@B to The BFG’s Claw Score if you’re below double digits.
CR@B’s Claw Score: