Saturday, 28 August 2010

The CR@B Who Is Slightly Obsessed

15 – 129mins – 2009
Screenplay by: Jonas Frykberg
Based on the bestselling novel by: Stieg Larsson
Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Annika Hallin, Per Oscarsson, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Jacob Ericksson, Sofia Ledarp, Yasmine Garbi, Johan Kylen, Tanja Lorentzon, Paulo Roberto

[MAJOR SPOILERS] I will openly admit that I am thoroughly hooked by the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Despite the considerable length of each volume – not to mention the deluge of Swedish names, places and idiosyncrasies which threaten to alienate foreign readers – I have never come across such an absorbing and powerful crime series; and I’ve still got Book III to look forward to!

It’s an overused cliché, but I literally couldn’t put either The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or follow up The Girl Who Played With Fire down, such is the remarkably effortless (if dense) style of Larsson’s well-researched and passionate prose. His characterisation is so comprehensive that you actually feel like punk heroine Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist are real – if tormented – flesh and blood people.

The process of adapting the pages onto celluloid cannot have been an easy process, and yet, last year’s Dragon Tattoo was an atmospheric and gripping experience on its own merits (in fact, I actually watched the film before reading the novel), with Noomi Rapace delivering a definitive and star-making performance as eccentric hacker and social pariah Salander.

However, this quick-fire sequel (the entire trilogy has already been released in its native Sweden) saw a change of personnel behind the camera, with a new scribe and director taking over the reigns. This is always a slight concern mid-trilogy, especially given the overwhelming success of the original, and early reviews suggested that Played With Fire was a far more flat and conventional adaptation, lacking the suspense and style which glamorised its predecessor.

Personally, I did not note a dramatic downgrade in cinematic quality – this sequel is just as bleak, grisly and strictly-for-adults as the misogyny and corruption-crammed novel implies. There is a change of tone, true, and an injection of ass-kicking, taser-zapping, car-chasing action, but then this is a different story, evolving from Tattoo's 40 year old murder mystery to a present day race against time.

For those who are unaware (and definately missing out), Played With Fire's premise in a nutshell: crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) sets out to prove Lisbeth’s innocence as she is hunted by the police and framed for the murder of journalist Dag Svensson (Hans Christian Thulin) and his criminologist girlfriend Mia, on the eve of Millennium magazine's publication of Dag’s shocking expose of Sweden’s illegal sex trade.

Even at over two hours, writer Frykberg and director Alfredson (brother of Let The Right One In director Thomas) struggle to pack Larsson’s ever-expanding story into their trimmed down narrative. Entire sequences (such as the early Caribbean tornado) are cut out, important players (Dragan Armanskij) reduced to cameo's and sprawling subplots (the Motorcycle club) slimmed to single scenes.

At times the filmic edits and narrative reductions are slickly implemented (I liked the way Lisbeth’s prints ended up on the murder weapon), while elsewhere you are left stumped by how the plot jumped wildly from A to x². No doubt the 50 minutes of excised footage which was re-edited into the Swedish television serialisation will pad out the omissions and ease any newcomers into the blistering plot.

Rapace is undeniably still the star of the show, allowing the audience to sympathise with such a cold but plucky character, and as Lisbeth’s personal investigation into the gruesome murders links in with her disturbingly troubled back-story, you find yourself becoming utterly transfixed by her plight; never under any illusion that she is guilty.

The film’s suspenseful climax, pitting tiny-but-resourceful Lisbeth against the shadowy mastermind “Zala” (Georgi Staykov) and his giant henchman Niedermann (Micke Spreitz, in a role originally offered to Dolph Lundgren) is a truly tense – and genuinely creepy – temporary conclusion which leaves the audience on a real cliffhanger prior to November’s release of Hornet’s Nest.

CR@B Verdict: My heart shouts “5*s!” but my head disagrees: Played With Fire culminates into a heart-pounding and riveting drama, but the cuts to the novel leave your head in a spin early on. Fingers crossed the TV version will smooth over the jumps in this otherwise enthralling edit.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Love Hurts (and then you Replay)

12A – 112mins – 2010
Written by: Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright
Based on the Oni Press graphic novel series by: Bryan Lee O’Malley
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Johnny Simmons, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman


Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book adventures of geeky everyman Scott Pilgrim definitely only appeal to a niche audience. Prior to Edgar Hot Fuzz Wright announcing this big screen adaptation, I would guesstimate that even 90% of X-Men aficionados would have drawn a blank at the luckless adventures of the 20-something “Sex Bob-Omb” guitarist.

But then production of this “epic film of epic epicness” has hardly been a closely-guarded secret, and as hype reached fever pitch, so did the anticipation from an ever-growing fanbase. In the weeks leading up to release, it was near-impossible to surf the net without happening upon an exclusive titbit of info, a new poster, interview or a pop-up streaming the trailer. The marketing machine really can’t be faulted: Scott Pilgrim is now a household name. The problem is that anybody who has seen the trailer already knows precisely what to expect on the big screen.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World essentially is a feature-length extension of the microcosmic teaser; 112 minutes of flashy, hyper-stylised anime and video game in-jokes as weedy and unremarkable Scott (Michael Cera; perfectly cast) has to defeat the league of seven evil exes to win the heart of the crazy-haired, rollerblading girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead; indie cute).

That is it as far as plot goes – it isn’t even totally clear exactly why Scott has to fight his way to victory in a series of Street Fighter style beat ‘em ups – and you’ll know as soon as you see the 8-bit, midi-tone downgrade of the opening Universal logo whether the film is going to hit your buttons or not. Much like the comic, SPvTW is very much a niche film.

It’s funky and fun – at least for the first 45 minutes – but the stage-by-stage structuring means you are consciously aware of how far through the film you are, and if I’m totally honest, things started to drag a smidge after the fourth “level” kung-fu duel. There are only so many opponents exploding into coins and Final Fantasy-riffing dragon battles you can take before ‘novel’ becomes… samey.

Sure, the CGI is faultless and the humour spunky, but every shot is so busy (every onomatopoeic sound effect is visualised, there’s a pee-bar which depletes when Scott urinates, etcetera) that you soon realise that the film works better in its quieter moments of character interaction. When Brandon Routh’s utterly hideous psychic vegan shows up and starts hitting girls (‘cos he’s a rocker!!!), you start to crave a bit of restraint.

This again highlights another issue which will jar with some (more grounded) viewers: Scott Pilgrim is not set in our world, but its own tweaked hyper-reality where barely anybody raises an eyebrow at a film star (Chris Evans; delightfully cocky) catapulting a kid into a castle wall, or a punk (Satya Bhabha; kooky) dancing in the air with a bevy of demon hipster chicks. This deviance of logic takes the whimsical eccentricities from out of Scott’s mindframe and alters your perception of what is sincere and what matters: even when Scott “dies” you know he’s got another “life” so you barely register any emotion.

Even when Shaun was smacking zombies with a cricket bat you were still 100% behind the lovable loser, but in rising up to the next level in filmmaking (Hollywood), Edgar Wright has gone all out to impress: he’s clearly an idiosyncratic auteur bursting with audacious ideas of which he is passionate, but if he isn’t careful he’ll bury the heart which made us back Shaun beneath an abundance of gimmicky quirks and pixels. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is by no means a failure (hell, I was sniggering along with the best of them) but it’s clear why this contemporary geek-out hasn’t clicked with audiences the way the money-men expected.

CR@B Verdict: Destined to find its place as a cult hit, Scott Pilgrim is an extreme n’ relentless “ka-pow!” to the senses. A 5* film for the Gameboy generation, but everyone over 35 will be left in need of a power-up and an aspirin.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Drunken Donation

12A – 101mins – 2010
Written by: Allan Loeb
Based on the short story “Baster” by: Jeffrey Eugenidas
Directed by: Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis, Jeff Goldblum, Thomas Robinson


Not usually the kind of film I would dash to see on the big screen, but a friend of mine bagged two tickets to a preview screening of The Switch last weekend, and with Total Film and Empire both yet to publish their reviews, I couldn't pass up a CR@B Shack exclusive (or a free VIP cinema ticket).

From the producers of Juno and Little Miss Sunshine and the directing duo behind Blades of Glory, it's no surprise that the promoters took the indie route when hyping up this comedy-drama on artificial insemination (working title The Baster). But fear not all ye prudes, this is no crude, sex-juice-centric, low brow gag-athon, but a more mature and gently charming “dramedy” on the values of friendship and grabbing life with both hands. Pardon the pun.

Jennifer Aniston plays 40-something New York singleton Kassie Larson, who makes the rather modern decision that she doesn't need a man to have a child – just a turkey baster full of sperm from a willing donor. Girl Power! However, her neurotic and risk-adverse former flame turned “BFF” – yes, they actually use that term in the film – Wally Mars (Jason Bateman) is less impressed with her self-sufficient decision, and drunkenly decides to swap the donor's white stuff for his own. As you do.

Seven repressed years later, and following a spell in Minnesota, single mother Kassie moves back to the Big Apple with the apple of her eye, son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), who quickly strikes up a report with Wally, forcing the responsibility shy adult to face up to the truth of his ill advised secret donation – but how can he break the life-changing news to Kassie?

The outcome is painfully obvious from the very beginning, but it is the performances which elevate The Switch above rom-com mundanity. Aniston plays Aniston, while Jason Bateman is as likeable as ever as erratic, sweater-wearing Wally, who makes the biggest emotional journey. Juliette Lewis and Jeff “Ian Malcolm!!” Goldblum both sparkle as the respective lead's peppy friends, while Patrick Wilson plays supposed donor Roland as smug, without being stereotypically deplorable.

The real star of the show, however, is little Thomas Robinson. Frail yet eccentrically independent (he collects picture frames but prefers to leave the stock photo on display), parents everywhere will find it hard to resist Sebastian's wide-eyed cuteness and delicate nature.

CR@B Verdict: A predictably routine rom-com plot is fertilized with a trendy 21st century concept(ion) and some charming performances. The Switch is hardly a cinematic breakthrough, but it's not a total baste of time.

Invasion of the Dream Extractors

Cine Review: INCEPTION
12A – 148mins – 2010
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas

Christopher Nolan certainly likes to have fun bewildering his audience. Whether it's playing with the laws of time (as he did by playing Memento's narrative backwards) or science (real magicians magic-up a parade of clones in The Prestige), you know that every film the Batman Begins director has crafted is an intrinsically constructed labyrinth which requires your full and unwavering attention to journey from the opening titles to the exit sign of the end credits.

His latest mind-bending cinematic experience is no different. Inception delves into the subconscious and makes the indefinite dreamscape its multi-layered, physically unconfined play pen. Streets stretch upwards, stairs are never-ending, trains smash across roads and buildings bend in on themselves in some truly awe-inspiring sequences soundtracked by Han Zimmer's epic synth orchestration – but Inception's substance is equally as impressive as its out-of-this-world style, and nothing is ever included just because it looks cool.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a skilled “extractor” – a spy who can infiltrate other people's dreams to steal their ideas – whose repressed guilt over his tragic past has seen him sacrifice his old life and still threatens to sabotage every new mission he accepts. The 'shade' of his dead wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard), haunts Cobb's mind with vicious intent – can he ever overcome his grief and dream in peace?

Cobb and fellow extractor Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are charged with their most difficult case to date: to implant rather than extract an idea into banking heir Robert Fischer's (Cillian Murphy) dreams; an idea which will see their mark dissolve his deceased father's (Pete Postlethwaite) company. In exchange for this act of corporate espionage, their client (Ken Watanabe) offers Cobb carte blanche; he will legally be able to return home and be with his children once more.

Cobb and Arthur reassemble their team of specialists – including sedative chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and form-changing 'Forger' Eames (Tom Hardy) – whilst simultaneously training student-come-dreamscape 'Architect' Ariadne (Ellen Page). The newcomer's ignorance allows the audience an introduction to the mind-boggling, scientifically bonkers internal logic which holds the film together. It's lazy – but essential – exposition; Ariadne asks all the questions we're silently screaming at the screen, and we completely identify with her initial resistance, but Nolan's creation is just too alluring to resist.

Intercepting Fischer on a ten hour flight, the Extractors connect themselves up to the sedative-administering device and dive straight in to his rain-drenched dreamworld. From herein, Inception becomes a sci-fi heist movie (even the climax is set within an illusory bank vault), with the secondary players (specifically quick-witted Eames) providing light relief from the seriousness of the morally-corrupt mission. Truth be told, beyond assisting in plot formalities and reacting to Cobb's troubled moods as he battles his personal demons, there is little else for the team to do besides banter, but they do it well: granting personalities to these two-dimensional characters.

Although bound to its mechanical constraints, Inception is a technically accomplished epic blockbuster which covers all corners: intelligent, action-packed, visually gorgeous and original. Furthermore, the acting is first rate: Hardy provides a spirited turn bouncing off of Gordon-Levitt with glee, and Page is as plucky as ever, while DiCaprio impressed me just as much as he did in Shutter Island – another film where his intense burdens threaten to defeat him.

Sure, there are some flaws to the logic-disregarding diegesis: people are entering other people's dreams for gawd's sake (and I'm not entirely satisfied with the sudden "oh yeah, you'll be sent to limbo" contrivance, considering for the first hour of the film we were told that to wake from a dream you simply had to be 'killed'. Perhaps a second watch will quell my concerns?), but Inception is such a brave, immaculately constructed, boundary-crumbling vision that you're totally engaged and inspired nonetheless. And besides, when do dreams ever make complete sense?

CR@B Verdict: A refreshingly original imaginarium, Inception requires your full attention as it layers on the internal logic and decorates it with stunningly mindboggling landscapes and exhilarating set-pieces. You may find yourself lost in the dreamworld – but you certainly won't fall asleep. Three cheers for 'Architect' Nolan.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Love, Flux and Magic

PG – 148mins – 2010
Story by: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Matt Lopez
Screenplay by: Matt Lopez, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard
Directed by: John Turteltaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Omar Benson Miller, Monica Bellucci, Alice Krige


In an industry seemingly bereft of original ideas, where ninety percent of the big-money output is either an adaptation, remake, sequel, prequel or reimagining (Inception the exception which proves the rule), here we have a film inspired by a cartoon, adapted from a lyric, which started life as a poem. Phew.

For the unacquainted, The Sorcerer's Apprentice was originally penned by German poet Goethe waaaaaay back in 1797, before Paul Dukas put it to music a century later and Walt Disney animated it (with a few, ahem, stylistic flourishes) as that mop-dancing sequence in 1940's trippy musical Fantastia.

Misty-eyed over his childhood love of the epic Mickey Mouse opera, it was Hollywood big shot Nicolas Cage's idea to once again bring the source material to the big screen. And here we are today, with an A-list starring, CGI-filled 21st century summer blockbuster from the powerhouse National Treasure trinity of star Cage, director John Turteltaub and über producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

As is the custom with these mythology-steeped extravaganzas, we aren't just thrown head-first into the action but are eased in by means of a vivid, voice-over-guided montage. We are introduced to an ensemble of outlandishly monikered, age-resilient wizards (Balthazar Blake, Maxim Horvath, Morgana Le Fay), a myriad of vital keywords ("Prime Merlinian" – a sorcerer in Merlin's bloodline) and a magical MacGuffin ("Grimhold" – a Russian Doll which traps the spirits of evil magicians). Set in the year 740AD, it's a dizzying prologue which really suffers from exposition overload.

Shoot forward to the present day and destiny has caught up with Balthazar (Cage). Merlin's trusted apprentice is still on his century's long quest for a sorcerer powerful enough to wear a dragon ring and defeat the evil Morgana (Alice Krige) – imprisoned at the centre of the Grimhold – before rogue traitor Horvath (Alfred Molina) can unleash her and bring hell to New York City. Enter timid university psychics geek Dave (Jay Baruchel), whose extreme knowledge of all things molecular and high-voltage means he is the right man for the rubber-soled shoes; the Prime Merlinean.

The remainder of the film's mammoth 148 minute runtime whizzes past in splendidly overt and engaging fashion: Balthazar teaches his nervous new apprentice how to control the elements, while Dave is more interested in controlling the heart of a girl (Teresa Palmer) he embarrassed himself in front of 10 years previous. Meanwhile, Horvath finds himself a vainglorous modern-day TV magic man (Toby Kebbell) to dispence of young Dave and reclaim the Grimhold (you'll get used to hearing that word soon enough).

If you mull things over for too long you'll become bogged down in the overly multifaceted plot, which is further hindered by a deluge of outrageous idioms and the fact that half of the characters are constantly referred to yet remain off-screen until the cosmic final showdown. For instance: Balthazar's love, Veronica (Monica Bellucci), is also trapped inside the Grimhold, having swallowed Morgana's soul in 740AD.

Despite these flaws, The Sorcerer's Apprentice does successfully manage to deliver a fun fantasy experience brimming with some exemplary special effects (a giant steel eagle and a Chinatown parade dragon becoming flesh are two highlights) which don't drown out either the film's humour or heart. It's a winning balance.

I have never been a fan of Nicolas Cage's monotone acting style – he just never seems interested in anything – but I can't really knock his performance here. Perhaps his interest in the source material spurred a more spirited turn from the Face/Off star? Despite remaining off my radar for far too long, imposing Brit actor Alfred Molina is slowly piquing my interest with every sly, underhanded character he plays, while Jay Baruchel simply is a scrawny, nerdy stutterer – though he doesn't hold a magic mop to Mickey.

CR@B Verdict: A loud n' frivolous summer Bruck-buster which will keep all ages amused, if not always clued in to the unnecessarily complex story. Apprentice will struggle to be as iconic as the adaptations which inspired it, but it'll definitely keep you entertained.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Teenage Licks

DVD Review: MARTIN (1977)
18 – 91mins – 2010
Written and directed by: George A. Romero
Starring: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elayne Nadeau, Tom Savini

[SPOILERS] Independent horror maestro George A. Romero swaps living dead flesh-eaters for undead blood-suckers in this terrifically kooky slice of 70s horror spliced with teenage drama, which has recently been restored, remastered and re-released on a stunning 2-disc “Immortal Edition” by the committed cult horror aficionados at Arrow Video.

“Vamps and angst,” I hear you cry, “again?!” But before you form any unfair premature opinions, let me reassure you that Martin is a totally different beast to both Twilight (2008) and Let The Right One In (2009). What makes this little known underdog stand out from the pack is its clever subversion of Hollywood conventions, keeping the audience questioning and guessing as to its ambiguous intentions throughout.

The youthful protagonist (John Amplas; eerily effective) is a torridly shy, awkward and alienated lad who just so happens to have a lust for murdering girls and drinking their plasmic juices. But whether you believe Martin really is an 84 year old Nosferatu in need of a soul cleansing exorcism – as his hostile and superstitious uncle, Tada Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) obsessively believes – or just a severely tormented and mentally disturbed teen crying out for attention, is up to you to decide.

Romero's deliriously inconclusive script, coupled with a disorientating editing style, leaves judgement open for multifaceted critiques: Garlic, sunlight and crucifixes have no effect on this fangless monster. Martin is very much a realist tale devoid of hocus pocus and typically overblown vampiric lore: “There is no magic,” as the lead points out. He even requires a needle full of drugs to knock his victims out before stripping them naked and raping them of their blood in two unpleasantly sensual murder scenes. Can anyone say sexually repressed?

Yet conversely, the present day narrative is disrupted by overly theatrical black and white cutaways to Martin in gothic, candlelit scenarios which could easily have been lifted straight out of a 1950s Monster Movie. Romero is eschewing clichéd filmic conventions while drawing attention to his indie production's strangeness – but to what end? Are they stylistic flashbacks to the vampire's earlier existence, or merely the deluded fantasies of a tormented kid obsessed with B-movies and subjected to the appalling, twisted hokum of his ludicrously crazy family?

Simultaneously unsettling, subdued and tragic, Martin is George A. Romero on top film-making form – and there isn't a zombie in sight. A stunning and radical beast which will confound as many viewers as it enthrals; I guarantee you will be thinking about this curio long after the shockingly abrupt ending. Much like Romero's catalogue of masterpieces, Martin has a disturbing, dualistic quality which invites repeat viewings.

CR@B Verdict: Harrowing, horrific, yet still intrinsically human, Martin is an enthralling psychological portrait of a troubled teen. In typical Romero fashion, populist expectations are subverted into an unorthodox and provoking indie gem.

Animated Afterlife

PG – 4hours 55mins (total) – 1986/2009
Story Editor: J. Michael Straczynski
Based on the characters created by: Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Director: Richard Raynis
Starring the voices of: Arsenio Hall, Maurice La Marche, Lorenzo Music, Laura Summer, Frank Welker


Finally released on Region 2 DVD last year to coincide with the live action film's 25th Anniversary (and the multi-platform video game), this double disc collection of all 13 episodes from The Real Ghostbusters's debut season is a real trip down memory lane for any child of the eighties who used to roam their house in a makeshift proton-pack, zapping all the phantoms in the furniture. Oh – just me then...?

Instantly elevated to the precipice of greatness by the use of that classic theme song by Ray Parker Jnr. (“Who You Gonna Call?” NOT 118!), these further animated adventures of the phantom-blasting foursome (and cheeky glutton Slimer) manage to stay tonally true to the horror/comedy original: a pop-tastic soundtrack (unexpected in a cartoon, but effectively employed) and a heavy helping of humour help to recreate the wit and banter of the cult classic film.

Fan favourite Peter Venkman (Lorenzo Music) – in true Bill Murray style – is the deliverer of bucket-loads of dry sarcasm, but the entire team have their fair share of witticisms, and Slimer is on hand to keep the kids chuckling with a heavy dose of food-related slapstick, much to Peter's constant irritation.

Each episode runs for under 23 minutes, but the well-constructed scripts do manage to pack a surprising amount of ghostly activity, human interest and laughs into their runtime, and there is very little repetition in the paranormal storylines, even if the writers – among them the man who would go on to create Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski – are occasionally guilty of falling back on a high-concept plot devise to save the day. Prepare yourself for plenty of high-tech equipment rigging to reverse the polarity of the containment unit's flow and close the interdimensional vortex to another dimensional realm – it's all utter gubbins, but pleasant enough fun.

Despite a rights issue meaning the animators were not able to recreate the exact likenesses of the film's main stars, The Real Ghostbusters still does a superb job of falling in step with the established universe. “Citizen Ghost” successfully retro-fits the continuity following the Buster's filmic battle with Gozer to explain the shedding of their beige uniforms for multicoloured replacements, the rebuilding of their fire house HQ and quite how former foe Slimer escaped the containment unit yet still hung around to wind up the team.

“Take Two” is a giant wink to the audience as the team head to Hollywood to okay a film script about their adventures. Ramis, Aykroyd and Murray – but, interestingly, not Hudson – all get a reference, while Peter openly acknowledges “He looks nothing like me!!” The episode closes on the guys watching actual footage from the 1984 film (albeit with the voices dubbed) at the film's premiere.

In these areas the cartoon is surprisingly well suited to older audiences who will appreciate the nuances and in-jokes – secretary Janine (Laura Summers) still fancies Egon (Maurice Futurama La Marche) and even the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man gets a cameo in “Sandman, Dream Me A Dream” – however, it is a shame that at times the supernatural creations are so blatantly targeted at the toy market; their brightly coloured, infantile and hyperbolic styles sit awkwardly alongside the more realistic human characters. But then, this is a cartoon about ghosts, so I understand the decision to highlight the wacky over the scary, for the sake of young children.

CR@B Verdict: Despite often pandering to its target demographic, fans of the 80's live action films will find plenty to smile about in these above average animated adventures. The UK release is no match for Region 1's stupendous The Complete Collection, but at under a fiver it sure beats waiting around for the long muted second sequel.