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By midlandsmovies, Dec 19 2019 06:20PM



Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Dir. JJ Abrams


Retcon or narrative development? Do you want story risks and surprises or a reprise of the best of SW? Well, The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams returns with a bit of both to helm a sequel to both his first film of the new trilogy plus also Rian Johnson’s controversial (but far superior) second instalment.


Does JJ manage to bridge the gap or jump the shark? In fact, it’s mostly a success – a bit disorderly throughout but filled with a great (force) spirit of adventure with only a few missteps along the way.


The film begins by wasting no time with the narrative and rather than a slow reveal, it’s shown within the first 5 minutes that the Emperor is resurrected. On a secret planet called Exegol he now hopes to create a new Galactic Empire with an armada of Star Destroyers using Kylo as a pawn to rule the galaxy.


Rey still trains as a Jedi and in order to confront Emperor Palpatine, she rejoins the resistance efforts and with Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, BB-8, and C-3PO attempts to search for Sith artefacts that will lead them to the big bad.


The film throws action constantly at the screen, sometimes at the detriment of characters' development and boy are there a lot of them. The group cross with Lando Calrissian (a rather effective cameo from old-timer Billy Dee Williams) but there’s also a host of alien and humans welcomed to the fold, some more interesting than others. Keri Russell is underused as a space criminal yet new droid-mechanic Babu Frik could easily have been annoying but is mostly a fun addition.


As they continue their travels, Rey’s parentage is revealed during a Force-bond fight (projections can now interact with each other – and so much more later) and Abrams simply cannot resist curtailing to some fan’s need for Rey’s lineage being somehow tied into the saga.


It’s the need for a do-over that are the worst parts of this final episode of the nine-part "Skywalker saga". Adapting unused Carrie Fisher footage is hugely impactful though and her story has an amazing emotional resonance. And whilst C3PO is very funny, his goodbye to his “friends” as his memory is wiped hits the heart strings hard and references the audiences’ own goodbye to familiar faces.


Therefore, whilst Johnson’s film was about throwing away the past, JJ’s film is definitely more about goodbyes but there is a lack of finality at times and the death “fake-outs” are an overused trope that undermine the film’s weighty ambitions.


The resurrection of previous threads and the nods to the two previous sagas were somewhat expected but again, more than satisfying in the main. Rey and Kylo’s overblown lightsabre battle on a water-logged Death Star is the aquatic equivalent of the fiery battle between Obi-Wan and Annakin on the volcanic lava trails of Mustafar. And huge chunks of Return of the Jedi (visually and musically) are echoed on a visit to the rubble of the Death Star.


Other standouts include Richard E Grant who is so fantastic as a First Order general that I almost wished for him to have been in this trilogy from the start. But the focus on Kylo and Rey has always been the best part of this series and wisely, the film works best when focused on them. From heated battles and horrific visions to quieter more tender moments, the trilogy has consistently been watchable anytime stars Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are on screen. Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe are window dressing at times but them taking a back-seat to let the conflicting couple slice and dice wasn’t unwelcome at all.


A bit overstuffed with characters – old, current and new ones get mere minutes at times – The Rise of Skywalker ends with an appropriate space battle alongside a darker duel of differing fates for Kylo, Rey and the Emperor. It’s not the stunning success surprise that was The Last Jedi nor the easy re-tread of a New Hope that was The Force Awakens yet it works as a glorious and worthy, albeit messy, send-off to the saga.


We’ll no doubt get all the YouTube hate reactions, ‘10 things wrong with’ and “fan” criticism over on Reddit in the coming days but with so many people to please, JJ has stuck safely to familiar beats. And although too familiar at times, The Rise of Skywalker is a fitting tribute to this trilogy and may just bring a bit of hope, and certainly a tear to your eye, knowing we’ve finally left this galaxy far, far behind.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Oct 30 2019 08:34PM

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Dir. Tim Miller


‘Produced by James Cameron’ screams the marketing but the legendary director’s visionary visuals and interesting ideas are nowhere to be seen in this 6th out outing for Arnie and his sci-fi chums.


Another plodding franchise filler, Dark Fate has killing machine Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) going back in time to terminate Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). But she is protected by fellow time-traveller and enhanced super-soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis). Along the dreary journey she picks up a mature Linda Hamilton who returns as original hero Sarah Connor. She has doubts but then joins forces with a family-orientated (!?) T-800 and Schwarzenegger appears with his head the size of a ham.


An interesting opening leads to bland action-beats and it’s generally cheap looking (it’s budgeted at a phenomenal $185m but looks half that) with video-game cinematography and new robot overlord “LEGION” is an attempt to steer focus from previous sequels but is just a cheap-ass SKYNET.


I could say it’s another T2 rip-off but we’ve already had two of those so this is essentially a Genisys rehash. I know some of the ideas are staples of the franchise but the film is so boringly familiar, it's a wonder why they've bothered at all.


From a liquid metal Terminator 'creeping' through a windscreen, a big yellow vehicle smashing into cars and a protagonist stepping out from a vehicle pulling up to a side-on halt, Dark Fate fails at any sense of originality. Hasn’t Miller seen Fury Road? Or MI: Fallout? Or The Raid? Or Blade Runner 2049? These should be the influences but it’s more run-of-the-mill action splattered with yawn-inducing CGI and haphazard editing.


With a final smackdown at an industrial factory and a shot of Arnie sliding down a dam, the film is another misstep thinking a Terminator in a superhero pose is “cooler” than Arnie speaking to a police station receptionist. And in many ways, I could have simply copied and pasted my Genisys review as all the same flaws apply here.


Hamilton is the one saving grace yet is hugely underused and its over an hour before she meets with Arnie. And to be brutal, it was at that point I thought this is where the film should have BEGUN. Ditch the previous hour as it’s so forgettable.


I therefore left the Terminator Dark Fate screening with a huge sigh. It’s not comically bad but it’s nowhere near the shot in the arm this franchise needed. And in the end, it’s simply unforgiveable that all the mistakes from the last few sequels have not been rectified in the slightest, but in fact they have been duplicated like this film’s badly designed villain.


★★


Michael 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, Aug 5 2018 07:00AM



Ready Player One (2018) Dir. Steven Spielberg


Co-written by Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) and the novel’s author Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is a new film struggling hard to condense the pop-culture complexity of the book into a 2-hour action blockbuster from Steven Spielberg.


In 2045, the world’s decimated population is immersed in the OASIS – a virtual reality world where ‘anything goes’ – and whose creator James "Anorak" Halliday (Spielberg stalwart Mark Rylance) runs a contest to challenge players to uncover three hidden keys in the game to win full ownership of the pixelated world. A corporation run by Nolan Sorrento (the perennially evil Ben Mendelsohn) is out to use an army of players to find these treasures whilst teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his online friends try to get there first.


The beginning is everything I feared from the trailer. Figuratively and literally, the film’s opening is like watching a friend play a computer game – full of CGI, uncanny valley avatars and obvious pop culture references. The cool quirkiness of a Zombieland-esque voiceover filling in the backstory helps flesh the story out but the images are akin to the visual hell of Speed Racer (which is also referenced in the film itself). Its backwards in its introduction with a very quick ‘real-world’ segment before the likeable Sheridan has his amiable acting ditched for an elf-like cartoon avatar.


Ben Mendehlson is having some fun as he overacts his way through a very 80s inspired villain and whilst there are echoes of both Tron films, the quirky Mark Rylance as the OASIS’s creator channels South Park’s Matt Stone, Garth from Wayne’s World and (obviously) Steve Jobs in an eclectic performance.


The film sees Sheridan’s virtual character Parzival team up with Lena Waithe’s virtual mechanic Aech, Philip Zhao’s Sho, Win Morisaki’s Daito and Olivia Cooke’s feisty Art3mis as the "High Five", an informal group jumping from the game challenges to a virtual archive. The archive contains video clips reconstructing Halliday's life which provides clues to the game’s construction, history and to the concealed prizes too.


These historical sections are great and the scenes give a more human aspect to a film filled with so much spinning camera which, as a non-video game player, demonstrated how unattuned to this aesthetic I am. The film is so kinetic I struggled to focus on the action as the camera zipped from one millisecond shot to the next.


It’s not all bad however. I did find myself warming up to the (many) Back to the Future nods – from snippets of score, a ‘Zemeckis cube’ and the DeLorean itself. A section where the gang ‘visit’ The Shining is very good. Like Back to the Future 2, the characters actually go back into the movie in a phenomenal sequence that recreates the iconic hotel and visuals from Kubrick’s film flawlessly.


Whilst the tone varies between Wreck It Ralph and his own Minority Report, Spielberg becomes guilty of the teal/orange ending at the film’s finale making it look like every other blockbuster. The Michael Bay-ness of a huge CGI battle which although looks the business, uses stupidly quick editing and a constantly spinning camera that will give all but die-hard video game fans a migraine.


So I really just wished Ready Player One slowed down so I could savour the characters, story and action. It would really benefit from it as a movie but, again, feels like a real-life game delivering a style to satisfy gamers’ short attention spans.


But that leaves us the question as to who is the film for in the end? Whilst the style reflects modern gaming (MMRPGs and Metal Gear Solid aesthetics) the film references are pure 80s so what’s the audience here? At 38, I recognised most allusions to the trivia of the past but some will be aimed at kids who wouldn’t have a clue about Mad Balls, Chucky and Mecha Godzilla.


Fans of the book may find joy in seeing all their childhood pop-culture dreams come to life but the film feels a mish-mash of wildly varying tones and styles. The actors do the best they can with the material but by spending so long in the OASIS, the computer-generated ‘sprites’ left me cold without the human attachment so badly needed. A fun ride at times for sure, Ready Player One is an entertaining and sometimes dazzling blockbuster for the family. But bring your headache pills for the unfortunate messy action and endless trivia nods which are both at the expense of real character arcs.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jul 14 2017 07:46AM



Wonder Woman (2017) Dir. Patty Jenkins

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Dir. Jon Watts


Huge superhero franchises are just a thing now. They can be as exciting as a rollercoaster. Or like bad breath, an immediate turn-off. However, in many cases, they sit comfortably like a nice warm cuppa in the summer blockbuster season. Neither a die-hard Marvel or DC fan – like most I just simply enjoy a good film – the two behemoths of the comic (now film) world have released key movies in their complicated production schedule.


After the solid Man of Steel, the abysmal Batman Vs Superman and the misstep of Suicide Squad, DC really needed a hit in order to regain some of the credibility lost from those less-than-satisfying tent-poles. So they’ve taken a chance (which should be hugely applauded) and given Gal Godot the long overdue central role of the infamous female superhero. After 14 films, Marvel STILL haven’t given any woman in their universe a film. Although Brie Larson as Captain Marvel is due soon, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is notably absent from Marvel’s solo film roster.


In short, the narrative shows Wonder Woman (Diana Price) jumping from Themyscira, the island home of an Amazon race of warrior women, to 1918 Europe during the height of the Great War. On her way she saves Chris Pine’s soldier Steve Trevor on her journey to destroy Ares, the god of war, who she believes is the cause of the conflict.


A fresh fish-out-of-water story, the film contains so much of what was missing from DC films so far – humanity, sensitivity, comedy and some characters with motivations you can get behind. Going for simplicity hugely helps the story and director Jenkins (her first film since Monster 14 years ago!) should be massively applauded for ditching the dourness and injecting some overdue fun. At the half way point, as ludicrous as Wonder Woman wearing her full costume in No Man’s Land is, the film already has its tone clearly defined and the audience swept along in its entertainment.


If there was a fault it would be two – albeit small. Firstly, the film suffers from the fact Marvel’s Captain America did the ‘hero in war’ film already so similarities are sadly inevitable. The second is the final battle which has flames (orange) and energy beams (teale) in the obligatory let’s smash everything up mess. Scarily reminiscent of BvS, my eyes rolled at the familiar imagery, which is confusingly edited, and contains the usual over-use of CGI where nothing has much weight. However, more on this later.


Moving on, yet still speaking of the familiar, Marvel has released its new version of the infamous web-slinger. One of the hottest properties out there – maybe only second to Batman and Superman as the most famous superhero (?) – they have done a deal with franchise-owning Sony to finally add Peter Parker to the ever-expanding MCU. His brief appearance in Civil War was a great introduction but with 3 cinematic iterations of the character in just 10 years, can something fresh be brought to the screen?


Well, in the majority, it’s a massive yes! Tom Holland is a hugely likeable Peter Parker and Marvel wisely ditches an origin story (the fact he was bitten by a spider is briefly mentioned once) and focuses on the teenager’s school problems alongside his goals to become an Avenger. Under the tutelage of Tony Stark he’s given the responsibility of a super suit which he struggles to contain in his eagerness to progress. Peter’s ambition jumps from defending the neighbourhood to attempting to stop Michael Keaton’s ‘Vulture’, who is selling alien weaponary he has stolen from previous Avengers’ encounters.


Tying nicely into the MCU but setting out its own individual story, Homecoming (surprisingly) brings enough to the plate to set it aside from the Garfield and Maguire versions. The teen angst is superbly handled, an action sequence atop the Washington Monument was phenomenal (go see this in 3-D and really feel the vertigo) and its jokes come so thick and fast the film veers from superhero action flick to outright pure comedy.


Keaton, who I’ve loved since Batman ’89 (my personal favourite superhero film) is so watchable here he’s already jumped to a close second, behind just Loki, as one of the best MCU villains to date – an area Marvel has been under-achieving at best.


Strangely, its biggest flaw is almost the same as Wonder Woman’s. A final battle sees the Vulture – with flames in the background (orange) – take on Spidey using his damaged mechanical wings (both teale) and here we are again. In a film taking lots of chances, it was a sequence that could have done with a shot of more unique web-slinging action and originality.


That aside, Spider-Man’s first full film in the Marvel world was certainly a surprising success. Was it better than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2? Personally, I think not. Raimi’s unique directorial style and more interesting villain still holds firm but Marvel went VERY close to reassessing its pole position.


Both films then prove to be hugely satisfying and have course-corrected their respective franchises as needed. Both are surprising in all the best ways – Wonder Woman’s feminine focus and more subtle story shows DC can get audiences emotionally involved and Spider-Man proves that Marvel can bring something new and fresh to an over-exposed character. Super!


7.5/10 Wonder Woman


8/10 Spider-Man: Homecoming


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2017 09:15AM



The Mummy (2017) Dir. Alex Kurtzman


Oh Tom Cruise what have ye done?


Tom Cruise is one of those actors who fully deserves the title “icon”, “film star”. He has tackled every genre and worked with the greats. I mean who can boast working with Scorsese, Spielberg, Kubrick, Coppola, Stone, De Palma, Mann, Woo, Ridley and Tony Scott to name a few? He’s managed to stay on top of his game through four decades, reinventing himself time and time again.


But is this the end? If The Mummy is a taste of what we can expect from now on, then this could be the first nail in Cruise’s coffin?


Firstly, clear you mind. Clear your mind of any previous assumption this will film will be similar to the old 30’s Mummy film’s or Brendan Fraser’s Mummy trilogy of 99-08. Doing so will give you a better chance of enjoying this picture…maybe. I went expecting a fresh take on an old story, and that is on offer here, it’s just a shame the film is so poorly made narratively speaking.


The story begins with during the Middle Ages, as English crusaders capture a large stone from Egypt and entomb it within the coffin of a departed crusader knight. The rare stone coupled with a special dagger can grant whoever wields it the power to transfer spirits into an animated form.


In another flashback, in Ancient Egypt, Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) has just been informed that her new born baby brother will be the new heir to the throne as he is male. Scorned by this she sells her soul to the Egyptian god of Evil, Set, who presents her with a dagger to kill her family which can also be used to transfer his spirit into human form.


Ahmanet fails however and is buried alive deep underground inside a sarcophagus. Unknowingly U.S soldier and treasure hunter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) stumbles upon her tomb. Freeing the sarcophagus for financial gain Nick and his military superiors place her in transport to London.

Free from the steel chains and mercury imprisoning her, Princess Ahmanet takes over the plane transporting her, crashing and killing nearly everyone on board. Nick awakes from the crash, confused and disorientated, he is told Ahmanet has chosen him as a vessel for Set and is now cursed for eternity. Roaming around free in present day London, Princess Ahmanet regains human form, chasing the stone and dagger she needs to resurrect Set.


It’s difficult to understand how director Alex Kurtzman has managed to make a story which could be so simple into such a convoluted mess. The Mummy throughout its 110-minute run time has no patience, it never seems to slow down enough for characters to develop or for the viewer to catch up with the unnecessarily complex narrative. This is the films biggest problem, what should have been a brisk, enjoyable adventure film has been worn down to a gloomy, careless, mess.


Leaving the film, I realised I didn’t know anything about Nick nor cared what happened to him, he’s a character that moves the plot from A to B. Nick’s love interest Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) the viewer cares even less about, she is given no development and comes across as bland and unforgettable.


With War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) just on the horizon we know that good CGI is attainable for modern Hollywood blockbusters which frustrates me when you see the awful effects on show here. This is genuinely one of the worst examples of bad CGI I’ve seen in recent years.


Releasing The Mummy, Universal Studios are trying to capitalise on the current trend for films to share

a universe instead of standing alone, in this case the universe being the Dark Universe, which will consist of films based on the classic monster movies of the 1930s. Whilst I’m no expert or super fan of Marvel they have done a stellar job in achieving this, working hard over the last decade ensuring the films that make up for universe are solid feature films that can be watched as a singular film and still be enjoyable. Universal seem to be desperate to replicate their success but not willing to spend the time ensuring the movies they’re producing under the Dark Universe banner to be well made.


Overall The Mummy surprises me. Tom Cruise is known to have such a powerful creative input during production that his films are made to an extremely high standard which isn’t the case here. A bigger shame is that the opening half hour impressed me, the scenes in Iraq are creepy and exhilarating; the fire-fight on the rooftop being a good action set piece. Also the cinematography by Ben Seresin, known for his work on World War Z, is fantastic but wasted in parts by the rushed editing.


Tom Cruise is back in cinemas this September with American Made (2017) which sees him team with up Edge of Tomorrow (2014) director Doug Liman so here’s hoping Cruise can get back to his best!


4/10


Guy Russell

https://twitter.com/BudGuyer

By midlandsmovies, Jul 5 2016 06:57AM

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Dir. Roland Emmerich


20 years after defending the earth from a first wave invasion, ID4: 2 (which only I am labelling it) picks up with humans utilising the aliens’ technology to create a defense system in the hope of preventing further extraterrestrial attacks. As you would expect, this idea is pretty useless and a second wave that has superior firepower descends upon the planet to wreak further havoc on landmarks across the world.


The “plot” mainly focuses on the government’s plan to destroy a new mothership – and to be fair – there really is not much else. No character arcs come from the mish-mash of sub-par stories interwoven with each other, as Emmerich always does, and nothing has any weight or much consequence.


That said, this flimsy premise does have some positives going for it. It is funnier than some comedies – sometimes with it, often at it, but mostly this was in a dumb-fun cheese-fest way. The real serious problem comes from a lack of “a” Will Smith but not necessarily Will Smith per se. He was dumped after ludicrous pay demands but Resurgence is in desperate need for someone to centre the film. The triumvirate of Smith (pilot), Goldblum (scientist) and Pullman (President) kept things on track in the original but no such dynamic exists here. There’s new characters like Warlord Dikembe Umbutu (a first-draft stereotypical African name you’d expect to be jettisoned before shooting) whilst Tesco-value Hemsworth (Liam) is Joe ‘Hot Shot’ Average. Jeff Goldblum is back as David Levinson, and sleepwalks through a facsimile of his previous scientist roles and Judd Hirsch returns as his Jewish stereotype, and given the most ridiculous scene in a series of ridiculous scenes as his small tugboat outruns a giant wave.


Brent Spiner is resurrected and simply awakes from a coma and his “death” in the previous film never once mentioned. In many ways, I enjoyed this bold-faced ret-con – i.e. the film is already so preposterous one more stupid idea won’t hurt. Finally, what William Fichtner and Charlotte Gainsbourg are doing in this nonsense is anyone’s guess and everyone else is so unmemorable they barely deserve a mention.


All this is a side-show for the CGI battles however. I saw this film in the X-Plus (and 3-D) format with a fantastically projected big screen and even bigger sound and I have to admit I was impressed. The CGI was convincing – so easy to get wrong these days – and so often a particular bug bear of mine. Seeing this film on the largest screen possible is the only way to see it in my opinion, as the size and scope of the alien craft/battles are eye-hurtingly good and battles have a theme-park ride quality to them.


The main driver of the film is a “kill the Queen, the rest will fall" trope – which again is a cliché seen so often it’s almost never used these days but the film got me back on its side with an amusing scene which sees the Alien Queen galloping across the desert. The stuff of brainless blockbusters, the well-designed monster with multiple protruding appendages was entertaining as were the additional sequences involving more alien interaction than the film’s predecessor.


[BIG SPOILER]. A few days earlier, I had watched the first ID4 as a catch up and from only seeing the trailer to Resurgence I proposed that the bearded President Whitmore would play a Randy Quaid role – that of slightly mad man whose previous alien encounter is key to the story. My guess was this would eventually lead to the ultimate sacrifice. And as if by uninspired magic, this played out exactly as prescribed.


If you enjoy uber-destruction scenes, then the great CGI and immense sound could help overcome the (many) flaws the film has. Silly to the point of enjoyment, if you jettison any requirement for narrative and accept the characters are the broadest of clichés then you’ll leave the cinema with a sci-fi smile. It’s a forgettable film as you’ll ever see yet I found myself warming to its daft antics. The most expensive b-movie ever created, I enjoyed it a lot more than Emmerich’s 2012 and the recent San Andreas so if you want hare-brained action, laughable characters and startling CGI battles then the film will definitely provide some Saturday night thrills. For the rest of you, the obvious and uninspired clowning around is probably best avoided.


6.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, May 12 2016 07:44PM

Captain America: Civil War (2016) Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo


With the underwhelming, disappointing and chaotic Age of Ultron and the fun but ultimately inconsequential Ant-Man comes the next instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the third Captain America outing attempts to make up for a few missteps. And boy does it.


Let’s get this off the bat. At this point in the MCU, if you haven’t seen the other films (and for this one especially Iron Man, Captain America and at least one Avengers) then this movie will not make a great deal of sense for the uninitiated. That negative aside (and true of most sequels, although this is now the thirteenth entry for Marvel) Captain America: Civil War continues the darker and more realistic tone of the directors’ previous sequel from 2014.


The plot is far simpler than the messy ‘Age of Ultron’ with world governments wanting to put the reins on the Avengers who they see as an unaccountable vigilante group answerable to no one. Threatening their freedom to right wrongs they are asked to sign an accord to stop another global catastrophe (good luck with that) similar to their exploits in New York (Avengers), Sokovia (Age of Ultron) and Washington DC (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).


Whilst Tony Stark thinks this is a fair request – he feels guilt for the civilian casualties of previous battles – Steve Rogers disagrees and so begins a split in their previously rock-solid team. With Bucky Barnes (the winter soldier) being searched for after a series of terrorist atrocities, the group is torn apart and Captain protects his old friend whilst becoming a fugitive himself for his cause.


The film has a nice twist in the fact that the all-American good guy is cast as the anti-hero whilst the film goes to some dark places as his previous pal/new nemesis Tony Stark (Iron Man) is shown to struggle in his attempts to control his obsessions. With shadowy links to everyone’s past, Daniel Bruhl (from Inglorious B*sterds & Rush) is excellent as Zemo, who pulls the strings in a much more believable way than Ultron. The film should be commended for its reluctance to use a CGI/heavy-prosthetic covered villain/robot/alien and is all the better for it as the last few Marvel films have had less of a human story at their core.


Here there is a better balance of characters and their screen-time and I feel sorry for Joss Whedon who was given a tough task of following his astounding Avengers. Far too much of his sequel was used to build a world for this film. However, Whedon’s loss is our gain.


Great action sequences and moving scenes again help ground the film but an airport scrap between the two warring factions is simply “amazing” in all “senses” of the word. One of the main reasons is the first appearance of Spider-Man in this universe and my scepticism of seeing this classic character rebooted again was washed away with a great fun-filled performance from British actor Tom Holland. He brings the light-hearted joy back to the character, sitting in a zone that’s more Tobey Maguire than Andrew Garfield which was a huge plus for me.


The film also has an ‘Avengers’ vibe – the well-known characters meet for the first time and “suit up” – and the familiar faces of Black Widow and Hawkeye are joined by new-comers Ant-Man (a fun Paul Rudd) and Vision (a serious Paul Bettany) ensuring there’s still light and dark throughout.


With an ending that’s as gripping as it is meaningful, the last but not least important aspect is Chris Evans as Captain himself. Originally somewhat of a clichéd damp squib of a character – the 40s hero is a war-time stereotype – Marvel have created an absolute pivotal role for the superhero and a huge part of that is due to Evans. His honest delivery and honourable persona holds the whole piece together and whilst the action and excitement are ever-present, Evans’ superb approach creates a (narrative) freedom that Cap’ himself would be proud of.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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