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By midlandsmovies, Dec 11 2018 01:04PM



The Night Comes for Us (2018) Dir. Timo Tjahjanto


It would be easy to compare this film to 2011’s The Raid given the two main actors Joe Taslim as and Iko Uwais are major players in both films, yet it’s that film I cannot reference here with its similar mix of Indonesian gangs and corrupt cops fighting for honour and power using the most violent means possible.


And violent it is! Extremely.


When Ito (Taslim) saves a young girl and goes rogue from lethal Triad enforcers the Six Seas, he is immediately hunted down by the gang and thus begins a film that is almost entirely action-orientated throughout. Iko Uwaisis as Arian is called up to kill the traitor and Taslim returns to an old friend’s apartment for refuge.


It’s at this apartment where the best scenes occur. Forced into a tight situation, the character set up is fleshed out before the martial arts kick in and flesh of another kind is strewn around the room. Fantastic brawling action is brilliantly filmed with the character development helping us care about each person’s fate. Arms are blown off, necks are broken and if you don’t like stabbings or gunshots then don’t even think about watching this film. Oceans of blood are spilled and the bone-crunching punches and killings soon leave bodies piling up.


If there was one thing missing, it is that the film quickly ditches its character motivations for more endless fights. As well as they are filmed, the movie needed some space to give the audience the chance to take a breath. It also plays its best hands far too early. The aforementioned early apartment fight is followed by a great battle in a police van but soon repetition kicks in and, like The Raid, once you get down to one-on-one fights, the film all but loses its momentum.


That said, action and martial arts fans will lap up the phenomenal fight choreography and Zack Lee as "White Boy" Bobby is a minor character who steals any scene he is in. Stylish and frenetically chaotic, The Night Comes for Us is not for the queasy but its wild action and furious violence results in an intense experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.


The fight comes to you!


8/10


Mike Sales





By midlandsmovies, Dec 1 2018 06:20PM



Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) Dir. Christopher McQuarrie


Tom Cruise running and running and running. And sometimes falling. Fallout is the 6th entry in the MI franchise that is becoming more Bond-like with each instalment and like Bond, sees no signs of stopping with its huge box office takings.


Maintaining consistency from previous movie Rogue Nation – star, director and support cast members all returning alongside a continuing narrative – the film sees Cruise and his cohorts tackle another world-ending evil plan with gadgets, vehicles and some implausible action.


One problem with the series is that since Cruise goes “rogue” in almost every film that I’m surprised his character Ethan Hunt is still employed. In this film we have another inconsequential story involving nuclear bombs that is hugely secondary to the stunts and frantic story pace.


Henry Cavill is a new and positive addition showing the likeable acting chops sorely missing from his dour Superman and sneaky Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane who helps bridge this film with the last.


The film doesn’t quite balance its realistic elements with frankly ludicrous Olympus Has Fallen-style silliness where a stunning real-life helicopter chase sits in the same film as obviously-rendered CGI cars on the streets of Paris. Also making a reappearance are those horrid latex masks that have always stuck in my craw. Clichés abound – a double-agent, a spy called “White Widow”, a new world order villainous plan – and the middle of the film slightly bores with its constant slew of mistaken identities and compromised missions.


But to be fair, it is still a lot of fun. One of the best sequences is a race across London rooftops mixing stunts, laughs and solid action and contains the infamous Cruise ankle-breaking jump between buildings that halted production for weeks.


However, there were just too many little flaws to make this a truly great actioner. A parachute jump had me rolling my eyes when the leads talk about the need to avoid being hit by lightning only to be zapped a second later like a Warner Bros cartoon. But a brutal and brilliant bone-crunching fight in a nightclub bathroom had me wincing in joy – and again reminded me of Bond in Casino Royale’s opening. Speaking of openings though, the film again undermines its own positives by seemingly showing the whole film you’re about to watch in a sequence so unbelievably misjudged I almost fainted.


One part which seemed to have no flaws though was the excellent score from Lorne Balfe. Zimmer-esque at times, Balfe has found some great uses of the classic TV show’s theme mixing emotional subtlety with bombastic blasts when needed.


Easily in the top MI films so far, is the film the Nolan-classic some critics are lauding it? Not even close in this reviewer’s eyes. That said, it’s one of the better summer blockbusters and, dare I say, Cruise’s franchise behemoth is certainly catching up with Bond especially with that franchise currently languishing in development hell.


Better than Rouge Nation (a film I didn’t massively gel with) but for me not quite having the spectacular sequences of Ghost Protocol, it’s probably the best looking film amongst all six and despite some recent missteps (I’m looking at you, The Mummy) the film cements Cruise as the superstar to watch out for each summer season.


7.5/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 4 2018 07:46PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 4




Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) J. A. Bayona

The fifth film in the dino-giant Jurassic franchise, and boy does it feel like it. In the world of the soft reboot, what we get here is a re-tread of Spielberg’s disappointing sequel where a group of military personnel return to the infested island. As they try to retrieve precious DNA remnants, the animal's eco-system is disrupted by the impending eruption of a volcano which puts the remaining dinosaurs at risk of a second extinction. Why this is a problem remains a mystery as they can surely clone them all again? That was the first film’s point. Chris Pratt moves further from his great Guardians performance and slides into “Blando Hero-man” alongside Bryce Dallas Howard’s retconned footwear-obsessed power female. The film also takes a sharp 180 degree turn at the halfway point and we are soon in a Scooby-Doo esque haunted mansion where – and this is actually the story – a group of rich billionaires are buying and selling dinos in an underground laboratory. WTF? Reminding me of the human trafficking auction in Taken, the film flies off the rails with only a few hints of the skill Bayona showed in his earlier films The Orphanage and A Monster Calls. Boring and dull, Fallen Kingdom is somewhat unbelievably the 12th highest grossing film of all time which means there will most certainly be another - but count me out of this dead-as-a-dodo theme park attraction. 5.5/10




The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Back in 2015 for my review of Wild Card I said, and I quote, Statham “often plays the same ex-cop/gangster/trained assassin/cage fighter/thief with violent skills who attempts to go straight, but is pulled in by circumstances beyond his control”. And unsurprisingly here, he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly, despite his suspect past and *cough* his attempts to leave his aquatic life behind. As quick as you like he’s back in the saddle, or should that be scuba, and thus begins a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad. Director Turteltaub helmed the fun guilty pleasure National Treasure movies yet this is neither family fun nor satisfying grindhouse splatter-fest. The Meg sadly handles its efforts in both genres terribly badly. Some may find a bit of Saturday night excitement in its glossy shark sequences but for me the film was simply mega disappointing. 4/10




Tag (2018) Dir. Jeff Tomsic

During the end credits of Tag there is real-life camcorder footage of the men who inspired this new American comedy from Jeff Tomsic and it’s indicative of the film’s quality that those few minutes are far more interesting than the preceding 2 hours. Based on the real-life story of a group of grown adults who play a game of “tag” (“it” in the UK) for one month of the year, Ed Helms plays Hoagie who stalks his friends Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress and Isla Fisher. He then convinces the old gang to play one final game before ‘retirement’ by tagging their elusive friend Jeremy Renner who has never been tagged despite years of attempts. With Renner on the verge of marriage, the group try to tag him during his wedding planning but his 'Bourne' skills sees Renner using Hawkeye-style reflexes to avoid their juvenile attacks. A few fine jokes and some rip-roaring editing still cannot overcome the fact that, for me, a documentary on the actual participants – who still play to this very day – is where the true entertainment would lie. With Blockers and Game Night both tackling the “adults playing at kids games” theme as well, Tag sadly doesn’t have anything close to the fun found in those. And with its TV-style filming, a strangely maudlin ending and its one-trick-pony idea Tag is definitely not “it”. 4.5/10




The First Purge (2018) Dir. Gerard McMurray

How did The Purge start? Well, this is the film to answer the question that no one was really asking but as with the other films in the series, this 4th franchise instalment tackles some deeper issues than your regular b-movie thriller. In the mid-21st Century, we are told via news footage that the fascist New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are launching an experiment on Staten Island where citizens can commit crime consequence-free for 12 hours. The film follows local drug gangs, a criminal called Skeletor and young anti-purge activists throughout the night as they fight off the expected (and unexpected) participants of The Purge. With a mainly black cast, the film also discusses issues of community, poverty, substance abuse and even has Ku Klux Klan members and black-faced mercenaries. Not just a throwaway action-flick for sure.


In my review of The Purge: Election Year I explained how the “anthology” nature of The Purge series has allowed it to explore more interesting themes than similar low-budget fare, whilst also allowing young up and coming talent to take centre stage amongst its cast. And good turns from Y'lan Noel as Dmitri, Lex Scott Davis as Nya, Joivan Wade as Isaiah, Mugga as Dolores and Christian Robinson as Capital A mean everyone delivers more than fine performances throughout. With “weighty” films like Black Panther, The Post and Black Klansman all tackling lofty themes, it’s great that The Purge gives them all a run for their money with its social commentary alongside b-movie bloodshed. With the authorities trying to stir up hatred with militias, The First Purge (and the others in the series) has used its silly premise to turn a mirror on to the problems currently facing America. And through inventive costume design, handheld camera and a pumping soundtrack, uses its non-mainstream genre to explore the far darker, but no less important, aspects of politics and policymakers. 6.5/10


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 17 2018 08:29AM



Midlands Review - Vigilante Style (2018)


Dir. Edward James Smith


A Pictured Visions Production


Vigilante Style is a new independent feature film written, directed and starring regional filmmaker Edward James Smith. Starting out as a short film all the way back in 2013, the filmmaker developed sequences over many years which eventually became this feature-length production.


The film begins with the “Our Feature Presentation” logo from Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Grindhouse and this ‘Funky Fanfare’ combined with a fast-paced montage a la Guy Ritchie hints where the filmmaker’s influences lie.


It starts by using voiceover as it flashes backwards and forwards in time concerning events from 10 years ago and how they affect the present. Vigilante Gilmer Diamond (Edward James Smith himself) is captured by Alex Steele (Jon Peet) and with revenge on almost everyone’s mind and a wide set of criminal characters, the movie tries to balance multiple story threads in a seedy tale of deception.


However, that is easier said than done. Characters are not fully introduced or fleshed out and the story becomes a mix of confusing tales all explained using expositional dialogue.


And it’s unfortunate as the dialogue is one of the problems here owing to a sound mix that varies so wildly it’s difficult to concentrate on the matters on screen. With amazing HD cameras available, it’s such a shame to see a film with a lot of potential undermine itself with poorly recorded audio. And although the acting verges on being suitably over the top, all the performances are undercut by that poor audio production.


As characters get their comeuppance and gangs cross-paths with each other, we see an increase in violence with fights, shootouts and even a cricket bat making an appearance. Because it was filmed over many years (it was one of our first blogs back in 2014), maybe the filmmaker’s focus changed and so the movie’s broken narrative reflects those altered ambitions.



I enjoyed the Leicester locations of my home town and it was great to see the filmmakers utilise so many varied buildings and streets around the city to keep a variety to the proceedings. Yet filming around the city exacerbates the sound issues with city traffic, background hums and windy alleys all causing their own issues.


Smith throws in a lot of varied techniques in his fast-paced film though. Voice-over, freeze frames and subtitles are added to his guerrilla filmmaking style and the use of chapter titles again show a nod to Tarantino. Yet the good editing is undermined by a lack of cinematography as a huge percentage of the film looks like mobile-phone footage at times.


But in reality it keeps coming back to sound – at times a decent soundtrack is used from artists like Suicide Bees, Blake J. Carpenter and Soul Release – but the dialogue and conversations need much more work. Better mixing and some ADR would go a long way – especially with the voiceover – and improve the viewing experience 10-fold.


Clearly a passion project, it has the vibe and seemingly the budget of a student film and it wears its b-movie credentials proudly on its sleeves. In many respects it seems more like a film that was good fun to make and I admired the passion of a group of friends getting a project together. However, willing friends doing you a lot of favours is one thing, trying to pull it together over a number of years is another.


And so, although it’s all undertaken with a lot of devotion you just have to try and ignore the lack of technical expertise. A number of different quality issues – some sections underlit, others overlit – continue to show a lack of consistency and ultimately it pays the price of its cheap shortcuts.


Maybe it’s a case of running before it can walk. Vigilante Style has flashes of editing and story proficiency but they are drowned out by some sloppiness and that one fatal flaw I keep coming back to – the sound and its design.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even with a low budget a filmmaker needs to know what their budget is, and of course the limitations that brings. It’s a badge of honour to say you’ve made a feature film but sometimes the filmmaker is stretching that little bit too far with the resources at hand.


Expanding what I would imagine was an inventive short into a full feature is no easy task and Vigilante Style shows that good intentions can only go so far with a passionate but slapdash approach. More Neil Breen than David Lean, Smith has stretched a short concept to breaking point and only the most hardcore exploitation fans need apply.


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 29 2018 06:55PM



Outlawed (2018)


Directed by Adam Collins & Luke Radford


Outlaw Productions


“Who do you think you are? Bruce Willis?”


So says one cop in new Nottingham film Outlawed. And by all accounts, co-director, co-writer and main star of the film Adam Collins – also a former Royal Marine Commando – may just be exactly that in his new flick which does a damn good imitation of Die Hard and similar retro actioners.


We open on Nottingham in 1996 as we hover over the city at night before unhinged criminal Harry Archibald (Ian Hitchens) executes the city’s Mayor in an alley in a ruthless power move. But the whole incident is witnessed which sets in motion the story of Outlawed.


A local film of some flair, we are then whisked away to Afghanistan – via a CGI plane – and the first thing to note is the amazing production values of what could have been a homemade affair.


As the titles roll we get a parachute drop, a shoot-out and an impressive award ceremony. Whatever little money the filmmakers have is all up on screen and whilst the accents keep it firmly a Midlands film, the movie has far more Hollywood sheen than I was expecting.


This is partly the result of the fantastic professional look from the five cinematographers. The shadows, the lighting, the silhouettes and even the daytime shooting from the combined efforts of Robert Beck, Troy Edige, Will Price, Nico Turner and Louis Vella all make it incredibly visually interesting. They film Nottingham landmarks such as Trent Bridge, Nottingham City War Memorial and Nottingham Council House with great skill from the start.


Back to the story, we get to find out that commando Jake O’Neill returns from war to be offered a deal with Archibald now in his new position of power. After refusing he struggles to adjust to normal life and when he finds his girlfriend cheating on him, his life begins to spiral out of control.


However, when a girl from his past (Jessica Norris as Jade Roberts) contacts him to investigate her father’s death, he agrees but soon after a failed rescue mission in which a young boy loses his life, Jake completely self-destructs in orgies of drink and drugs. The film’s acting is solid but there are times when clichéd dialogue slips in a bit too often (“I’m not cut out to play happy families”, “welcome to the party” and “there’s no school like the old school”). These are quirky nods to other action films but seemed a bit too familiar in their repetition.


However, it’s the action – also influenced by 80s and 90s classics – that is most impressive here. A deal-gone-wrong at a car yard that ends in a violent shootout with machine guns and explosions and is impressively handled. And as the narrative steamrolls ahead – albeit a bit messily – there’s frankly no time to get bored at all.


A sequence of commandos tackling an armed group of hostage-takers filmed in an abandoned factory has echoes of Robocop and slews of bloodied guts hark back to Verhoeven’s other brutal classic Total Recall. A nice Wilhelm scream is a sly nod to old Hollywood stunt-work yet leads us to the amazing sound mixing. Outlawed has expertly handled the difficult balancing act of complex explosions and gun shots alongside the dialogue and is a joy to the ears as well as the eyes!


From a snow-covered graveyard to an impressive church, the sheer variety of visuals throughout is spectacular for this level of filmmaking. Only an operation room betrays the film’s production values. Yet, as we pick up Jake in his most dire of times, his dismissal means he heads to a casino to gamble. And with his tuxedo and liquor, Adam Collins could easily be considered for the next James Bond. Some racy sex scenes are sprinkled throughout and Collins’ natural charm on screen works well with the confidence shown behind the camera where he has utilised different influences from a genre he’s clearly passionate about.


And whilst the script could do with some polish, the film’s ending is a spectacular revenge action sequence as Jake rescues his loved one from the clutches of the villain. Getting to this point we have seen all the right pieces for a Hollywood actioner – sex, style, seedy goings on as well as guns, bullets and explosions. However, this breath-taking finale will satisfy and then some. The full rampant final sequence includes motorcycle stunts, snipers, fist fights, people on fire as well as grenades and a rocket launcher (!)


Filmmakers who feel the leap from the local to Hollywood is too huge a barrier should study Outlawed. With plenty of inventive filming techniques, the film is the kind of movie that can see filmmakers move from the independent scene to larger studio-helmed projects.


One of the hardest things for me here is to review the film as being at the high end of the low budget local film community OR the low end of the high budget film community. It straddles both which is actually a huge compliment. Fans of Olympus Has Fallen will enjoy this, but the film demonstrates how local filmmakers are no longer showing them to “just their mates” but creating movies vying for position on your shelf or in your Netflix playlist.


Certainly not without some flaws – most of which come from a handful of over-used genre clichés – Outlawed should be seen as a high benchmark for regional filmmakers looking to create feature films that can compete in the big leagues. Tackling a genre – action – that requires a high degree of skill and dexterity on technical aspects like stunts, special effects and fight choreography is also no easy task. The fact that Outlawed delivers plenty of all of these in spades is testament to the startling cinematic talents of all the incredible cast and crew. And action fans will love the high-octane thrills and shattering action all the way through.


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 26 2018 07:36AM



Revenge (2018) Dir. Coralie Fargeat


A rape-revenge action horror, Revenge is certainly not for the faint at heart. Director Coralie Fargeat has created a visceral show of bloody violence and dreamy imaginations as a young girl escapes into the wilderness to hide and stalk her tormentors.


Married man Richard (Kevin Janssens) flies out his secret lover Jen (Matilda Lutz) to a remote house in the desert for a saucy weekend together but are interrupted by the arrival of his hunting pals Stain (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchède). After a night of partying, Stan rapes Jen in a vile act whilst Dimitri stands by. When Richard returns, the situation spirals out of hand and with a promise of paying her off and returning her home, he pushes her from a cliff where she is impaled on a tree.


Leaving her for dead, the film uses incredibly strong imagery throughout. As Jen pulls herself off the tree, her battered, bruised and bloodied body twists and contorts. Audiences will be fixated in the hope she survives but at the same time will struggle to watch as they turn away from the stark and graphic images on screen. And the film never lets up.


Jen’s thoughts turn to survival and with little dialogue Lutz does well with her role bringing depth to what is truly a b-movie concept. She is also both stalked and the stalker. Jen needs to simultaneously avoid the men yet needs the cars and guns they possess to escape from the harsh desert, which acts as its own villain in her survival plans. When her wounds begin to take hold a hallucinatory drug allows her to cauterize the wound but plays havoc with her version of reality.


After acquiring a gun and when Stan’s SUV runs out of petrol, Jen becomes sniper and in an exchange of shooting, the film’s most stomach-turning scene is “merely” a shard of glass through a bare foot. Removing it slowly, the sequence is simply shot and all the more revolting because of it. See similar French drama/realism in the fantastic Martyrs and Raw, both comparative nasty gallic pieces.


The film does play out much as you expect so doesn’t push many boundaries with its action-drama-violence. And although it’s been claimed it’s some sort of feminist revision, it’s no Love Witch for sure. I’d argue that whilst there are sprinkling of those themes throughout, they are a smokescreen for the usual revenge flick clichés and tropes.


But that’s no bad thing. The nasty violence should bring in the splatter fans, whilst the more discerning can enjoy a depth of character and ideas rarely seen in this brand of furious filmmaking. With intense scenes, Revenge is a non-mainstream cinematic coup that explores slightly deeper themes than your average personal payback piece to provide exploitation pleasures and explosive sequences.


8/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Aug 5 2018 07:00AM



Death Wish (2018) Dir. Eli Roth


Bruce Willis has the unenviable position of taking the top spot of our “worst of the year” 3 different times (Die Hard 5, Vice, Expendables 2) and with Eli Roth’s Death Wish, he’s doing a good job for being in contention for this year’s too.


A remake of the Charles Bronson 1974 revenge flick, Willis plays surgeon Paul Kersey who takes the law into his own hands after a home invasion sees his wife killed and his daughter end up in a coma. After getting hold of a gun, he prevents some low-level street crime which is captured on a camera phone.


The recorded video goes viral and he becomes a kind of national hero. Silly scenes of gratuitous violence and uninventive action sequences abound and, as always, Roth thinks he’s saying something about modern life.


Like his film Knock Knock (one of the worst films I’ve ever seen) Roth seems to believe he has the finger on the pulse of “youth” culture and its relationship to an older generation. But along with that film it’s a ham-fisted and low-quality attempt to pull this idea together.


After the 40-minute family drama opening, Death Wish turns 180 degrees to gross out torture porn by its end. And with his hoodie up and blank face, it’s as if Willis’ character David from Unbreakable used his powers for evil and went on a killing spree.


A waste of time that is perhaps trying to tap into the Taken crowd, Death Wish has a scene where a man actually gets hit on the head by a bowling ball which is a fine metaphor for this poor film itself.


4/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jul 21 2018 07:00AM



Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) Dir. Steven C. Miller


Sylvester Stallone’s Escape Plan (2013) was a straight-to-video b-movie where Sly’s ‘prison consultant’ was double-crossed and sent to a facility he needed to, well, escape from. With a cameo from Arnie during his post-Governor period, at best the movie was considered a guilty pleasure for the elderly comeback duo. More of the same here right? A resounding “no” actually.


Whatever that low budget film had going for it is lost here in an unbelievably bad (and unintentionally hilarious) mish mash of dull action, bad acting and sci-fi! Yes, sci-fi. The plot sees his colleague Shu Ren (Huang Xiaoming) end up in a prison that is more Tron: Legacy and Running Man than it is a modern prison.


Neon lights, smoky corridors and laser doors (!) replace any sense of even a semblance of reality and by the mid-way mark I half thought the ending would reveal them to be in space. The sets are small, badly lit and cheap looking and the lighting is abysmal.


It’s strange Stallone can arrange the production of a film as good as Creed and something as dreadful as this movie. The prison’s nickname is “the zoo” – a metaphor of caged animals so simple it’s something a child would come up with – and ex-wrestler Dave Bautista shows up but brings none of his great Guardians or Blade Runner 2049 charm.


Additionally, he and Stallone are barely in it – the two stars are support at best – and the ridiculousness continues with prison guards who look like Daft Punk. With the inclusion of lightning bolts that flow through prisoners like the three storms from Big Trouble in Little China and a robot doctor (seriously??!!) it’s perhaps one of the funniest films of the year. But no one’s laughing WITH it I can assure you.


“It’s bad to be back”, Sly says in an action one-liner which means nothing – yet summing up this film to perfection.


3.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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