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By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2019 04:26PM



GLASS (2019) Dir. M Night Shyamalan


A quick story - at the end of Split (2016) I was left slightly disappointed as I was informed there would be a twist and discovered one of the 23 multiple personalities of James McAvoy as Kevin Crumb was actually a true evil power known as the Beast. However, in that film’s very final moments director Shyamalan pans to Bruce Willis (as David Dunn) and was hugely shocked to find the film is revealed to be a sequel to Shyamalan’s down-to-earth superhero flick Unbreakable from 2000. Wow.


One of the better twists from the master of them, Glass is the final part of the trilogy and sees McAvoy, Willis and Samuel L Jackson locked up in a psychiatric ward, where their ‘superpowers’ are to be studied by Sarah Poulson’s Doctor Ellie Staple. We open with David and his son as vigilantes who free a group of kidnapped cheerleaders but in David’s fight with The Beast they are captured by the authorities. Incarcerated with both David and Kevin is Mr. Glass (Jackson) – the evil brains from Unbreakable – who is heavily sedated and all three are told their abilities are simply psychiatric disorders and little more than a fantasy.


The film links the characters and themes from the previous movies using colours, comic book tropes and a self-referential awareness of its own construction. Shyamalan uses every cinematic trick in the book – point of view, spinning cameras, static shots and much more to keep the film visually interesting in what, if you break it down, is a standard thriller tale. All three actors are stupendous though – Willis’ more recent cinematic outings have been dubious at best – but here his pensive, almost uninterested, facial blandness actually works as a man doubting his own experiences.


As Mr. Glass plays clever games within the hospital’s walls – he sets up an escape plan with Kevin whilst the film is full of surprises and shows Shyamalan’s expert use of pace and, more importantly, an unbearable amount of tension. In simple scenes of dialogue we feel every character motivation and the horror techniques he used so well in The Sixth Sense and The Visit are re-visited here to great effect. Shyamalan also provides a number of technical twists – fights are witnessed from the inside of a van, an important escape plan punch-up is shown in the background and with an opening that plays on what can’t be seen – he is an expert of what to show and what not to show. And where possible, to show the audience what they weren’t expecting at every turn.


The film rolls to a climax which is the most disappointing part of the movie. Without giving it away, the film tries to expand the super-human ideas into a worldwide issue, when the films up to this point have been very much about the small and personal acts of good and evil. By using themes of conspiracy and internet technology, the film loses the humanity and character-study work it had delivered so brilliantly beforehand. Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke (from Split) and Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price, Elijah's mother both provide good support roles to flesh out the story.


However, it is to Shyamalan’s credit he not only got to finish a trilogy started 19 years ago but to do so in such a satisfying manner. Ignore the naysayers who have unwisely projected their own expectations onto a film that never could have existed – which is always a hiding to nothing – as Glass surprises by being the kind of dark, tension-filled shattering success that are nowadays shuffled off to Netflix when they should be enjoyed on the big screen as it provides more than satisfying thrills from the beginning until the end.


★★★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:36AM

Midlands Movies Worst Films of 2018


There have been a fair amount of disappointments this year – The Endless probably topping that list – but here are my picks for ten of the worst movies released in the UK this year. From terrible CGI flicks to sloppy slashers, some films may be technically worse than others but it was the all-round underwhelming nature of these poor efforts that saw them join this list of dreadfulness.


With some unintentional laughs to be had in a few – Escape Plan 2’s hilarious awfulness would never see it at number one on this list – the majority failed across the board with bad acting, script, F/X, story and more.


If you would like to read more about each shocking movie then there are links to our full reviews under each entry and I’d highly advise you avoid these stinkers - so go watch them at your own peril!



10. Final Score (2018) Dir. Scott Man

“Squeezing in to the tenth spot just as the year ends is this woefully misjudged action film where Dave Bautista goes to watch a West Ham football game before joining forces with a steward to take down a group terrorists who have infiltrated the stadium. What??? With a tone that mixes Die Hard with UK soap opera Eastenders, you would think that making a film with that premise would be an incredible mistake. And you know what? You’d be absolutely right. A bike chase across the stadium roof is one of many hilariously misjudged action sequences and it’s a shame this won’t be the first time we see Bautista on this list. This stupid soccer film never kicks off and from its awful script to its clichéd narrative, I couldn’t wait for the final whistle to blow”.



9. The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

“More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Here he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly and as quick as you like he’s involved in 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”. Click here for full review




8. Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a successful reputation you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. Here a group of adolescents will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare with supernatural origins. A convoluted set of rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish”. Click here for full review




7. The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff

“Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. The admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions”. Click here for full review




6. Death Wish (2018) Dir. Eli Roth

“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. But Death Wish is a ham-fisted and low-quality attempt to pull ideas together. 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”. Click here for full review



5. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

“Any positives the first film had are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anyway whilst the kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie”. Click here for full review



4. Winchester (2018) Dir. Michael and Peter Spierig

“Helen Mirren stars as heiress Sarah Winchester - the lady of the house who is haunted by spirits in her turn of the century mansion. Along for the (dull) ride is Jason Clarke but don’t expect the slow build up needed for these kind of films. Quiet, quiet, quiet then BOOM, a pale looking ghost appears. If that's your thing then fill your boots but for the rest of us that technique is lifeless and predictable. A lack of true shocks, a boring narrative and scene after scene of dull exposition, not even the talented actors can raise this flop from the dead”. Click here for full review



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

"Sylvester Stallone is back in prison again 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 bad to be back”, Sly says in an action one-liner which means nothing – yet summing up this film to perfection". Click here for full review



2. The Hurricane Heist (2018) Rob Cohen

"From the director of such “classics” as XXX (2002), Stealth (2005) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) comes this inane action romp where a bunch of criminals plan a bank heist around the impending arrival of a Force 5 hurricane. There’s so little to recommend in a film with such a ludicrous premise as this and it’s not only a no-brainer in all senses of the word, the film is unsurprisingly a no-entertainment zone too. So, batten down the hatches and ensure you are safely hidden away until this monstrous disaster has passed you by”. Click here for full review



1. The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black

“Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. The film takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin and with sets seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film has all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub. Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue. Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon”. Click here for full review


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, Dec 19 2017 08:54AM

Top 5 Christmas Movies


Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell gets in the Christmas spirit by choosing his personal top 5 festive films that bring a warm feeling to his winter heart.


Well, it's that time of year again. The season of festivities, goodwill and a large amount of Christmas films showing in either the cinema or through the television at home. From childhood classics to black comedy capers here are my Top Five Christmas films.




1) Home Alone (1990)


An obvious choice but rightly so. Premiering in 1990, over the past 27 years Home Alone has cemented itself as a holiday classic. Starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McAllister, a 10-year-old boy whose parents have accidentally left him home alone in the madness of making a plane to Paris for the festive season. Burglars Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern respectively) are working the McAllister’s street not knowing Kevin is left behind. What ensues is a hilarious, chaotic fight to claim the house.


With a brilliant score by John Williams, family-friendly direction by Chris Columbus and original screenplay by John Hughes, not only is Home Alone a Christmas favourite but a favourite all year around.


Honourable Mention: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Whilst repetitive and overlong, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York recreates some of the same magic the first had one has, adding the festive New York atmosphere into the mix as well as the hilarious addition of Tim Curry as a snobby hotel concierge.



2) The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)


One of the greatest and most heavily adapted stories of all time, A Christmas Carol is brought to life in a unique way in The Muppets Christmas Carol. A live-action musical starring an on-form Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge whilst the supporting cast feature Kermit, Mrs Piggy and the rest of The Muppets. As a comedy film with modern songs and puppets it would have surprised many when this film revealed itself to be one of the most faithful re-enactments of Charles Dickens story. Michael Caine brings the film to life as Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve night, they visit the past, present and future in the hope he can see the error of his ways and redeem himself.


The cold, bleak, Victorian London setting is realised fantastically and compliments the film further as a Christmas classic.


Honourable Mention: Scrooge (1951). Another adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a lot more straightforward than The Muppets take on the subject matter. Alastair Sim portrays the titular character here brilliantly however when first released the film didn’t take off, only finding an audience many years later.



3) Die Hard (1988)


Recently voted “Britain’s favourite Christmas film” by the British public, this action adventure film from John McTiernan splits fans down the middle as to whether or not it can be classed as a “true” Christmas film.


The odds are stacked against off-duty police officer John McClane as he is trapped in a L.A. skyscraper during a Christmas Eve party while terrorists storm the building led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Released during July 1988, it became a smash hit summer blockbuster. With its sunny Los Angeles setting it’s easy to see why some people disregard Die Hard as a Christmas film however the merry soundtrack and seasonal references are peppered throughout bolstering the argument this is one of the greatest Christmas films of all time.


Honourable Mention: Die Hard 2 (1990) Suffering from the same problem Home Alone 2 had, this sequel was accused of being too repetitive when first released as John McClane fights more terrorists on Christmas Eve, this time at an airport. It has become a firm favourite since then too, myself finding it greatly entertaining. It even has snow this time around!



4) The Family Stone (2005)


One film that doesn’t pop up on these lifts very often is The Family Stone, a comedy-drama film that follows the Stone family as they gather at their parent’s home, amongst them is Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) who introduces his family to his new fiancée Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) during the holidays. However, she receives a hostile reception and invites her own sister to stay causing further complications.


The Family Stone is a Christmas film that doesn’t get much air time come the festive season and it’s a shame. A moderate box-office and critical hit, it’s funny enough and has some real dramatic clout. It has a real slice of life feel to the film as there are awkward dinners, family rifts and arguments over spouses whilst balancing the comedy well.


If you’re after a snowy, Christmas setting with a fun premise then I would definitely recommend The Family Stone.


Honourable mention: Christmas Vacation (1989). Everyone’s favourite screwball family The Griswold’s return as they plan a big family Christmas involving both Clark and Ellen’s parents. Similar to The Family Stone in the sense that the family rarely get on for longer than ten minutes however in traditional John Hughes fashion the film doesn’t pass by without a happy, festive finale.



5) Bad Santa (2003)


Produced by the Coen Brothers and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa was always going to be close to the knuckle and it does not disappoint. Alcoholic safe cracker Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and fellow thief Marcus (Tony Cox) hit a mall every year at Christmas whilst posing as the stores Santa and his little helper, complications arise however when Willie befriends a troubled boy.


One of the crudest but funniest Christmas films of all time, Bad Santa will have some opposition for its less than gleeful outlook on the season however its use of advent calendars and store Santa’s more than make up for it.


If you’re a fan of the comedic talents of John Ritter, Bernie Mac and Billy Bob Thornton then check Bad Santa out! Just avoid the 2016 sequel.


Honourable mention: The Night Before (2015). Booze, Drugs and Debauchery come together to produce a Christmas three friends will never forget. The Night Before stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Anthony Mackie as childhood friends who get together every Christmas Eve to support Ethan (Levitt) who lost his family at Christmas. They decide to end their tradition but not without going out with a bang. The Night Before is a welcome addition to the adult Christmas genre providing enough laughs for the viewer to remember why they’re having such a good time.


Guy Russell

https://twitter.com/BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Dec 21 2016 09:34AM



Big budget, little entertainment


When Mike asked me if I would be interested in submitting my top ten list for the year I broke out in a cold sweat, had I seen ten films that were worthy of recommendation? Did these films truly deserve to help up as a sign of exceptional quality or were some of them simply alright in a cinematic year that I felt was mediocre overall.


Then I thought, hang on I have seen a lot of stinkers this year wouldn’t it be easier (and I refute any allegations of laziness on my part) to create a list of my worst films of 2016.


Now many of these films technically speaking are not bad. They are all more than competently made with high levels of technical expertise, decent actors and sometimes big budgets but for whatever reason they lack that certain something (or in some cases several things) that make them enjoyable. I have to admit because of this Grimsby and Sausage Party don’t make my list as although both are bad films they did cause me to snigger much in the same way as Beavis and Butthead do.


So whether it’s because of an unengaging and cohesive script, erratic direction or even just the crew lacking an editor who understands film here are my personal top stinkers of the year.


Zoolander 2


Completely missing the point as set out by the first film - Stiller and Wilson return in another cameo heavy poke at fashion and celebrity. Although this time it appears that not only are the celebrities in on it but their complicity strips the film of any genuine credibility or validity rather becoming an ironic send up of the first. All would (almost) be forgiven had the script been any good but sadly even the most ardent fan of the original would struggle with the lack of humour contained in this one.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Just awful from the get go and a real struggle to sit through the full movie. Arguably it was tonally supposed to be along the lines of Nolan’s darker Batman series but once again Synder just fails to deliver, which a shame as I feel that he had such a strong start to his directorial career.


Furthermore we can all be in no doubt that this film was also supposed to be the one to act almost as a launch pad for the Justice League and this potentially took away from the directors focus. Perhaps next time spend a little more time in the editing room and a little less thinking about future work eh Zack.


Suicide Squad


On the subject of fantasy heroes (or anti-heroes) having been over-marketed for months and months and shoved into our faces every time we set foot in a cinema I suspect the majority of movie goers were over this film by the time it finally landed and it’s easy to see why. With the exception of the now iconic (and sure-fire cosplay staple Harley Quinn) this film just failed to capture the imagination of viewers as it suffers from poor character development, even poorer baddies and a script that feels like it is three TV episodes bundled together to create a whole film.


There was a rumour going around stating that the marketing men had the final say on the edit and while this is almost certainly rubbish I wish it was true as it would at least make sense. The narrative barely flows and many of the sequences appear to be set up for highlight reels and promotional shots rather than for the benefit of the story. Quite frankly very little works in this mess of a film.


Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie


No one asked for it. No one wanted it. So it is amazing that it grossed as much as it did as people desperate to relive those moments from the TV show flocked to this bloated swan song that really did seem to come out of nowhere. That said I am sure die-hard fans enjoyed what could have just been a holiday special.


Precious Cargo


Bruce Willis does it again, another stinker only this time he has pulled Zac from Saved by the Bell (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) down with him in this tale of no honour between thieves that just screams TV movie from the very get go and won’t do his career any favours. One to avoid.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


This was a personal disappointment for me having been a big fan of the book of the same name. I was of the belief that cinematic adaptations of best-selling zombie books could not get any worse but I was certainly mistaken as this ill-judged, teen friendly borefest was released. It’s no surprise at all that to date it hasn’t even made back half of its reported $28 million budget and by chasing the mass audience it alienated those who actually were interested and willing to pay to see the film. A terrible mistake indeed.


Inferno


Now while not a massive fan of The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons there were elements I enjoyed and bits that have, quite surprisingly, made me want to revisit them but Inferno is just a mess. Perhaps that was the intention, for the film to mirror Robert Langdon’s (Tom Hanks) fragmented memory but Ron Howard overshot and despite some beautiful scenery and well-staged set pieces overall the film fails to live up to what it needed to be and as such makes this list of let downs.


Let’s be honest there are plenty of other stinkers such as Now You See Me 2 (but I had very low expectations going into that one anyway) and Hollywood’s attempts at bringing back the biblical or ancient epic (Ben-Hur; Gods of Egypt; Risen – all of which make the film in Hail, Cesear! look genuinely award winning) but on the positive side this is all the more reason to get out and discover new and exciting independent productions in 2017 especially with the midlands being so well served in terms of local independent art house cinemas.


Get involved and let us know your worst film of the year over on Twitter @MidlandsMovies


Midlands Movies Marek


By midlandsmovies, Dec 10 2015 03:20PM

Midlands Movies Worst 12 Films of 2015


I’m not going to waste anymore time explaining why these abominations are bad – if you’ve seen any of them then you will know – but suffice to say, Fantastic Four was a real gem of a mess. The well publicised struggles between the director and the production company 20th Century Fox was a Summer highlight with the daily press narratives well worth following and almost deserving of its own behind-the-scenes documentary.


Aside from that, from dullness and incomprehensibility to hollow CGI and actors who couldn’t care less, these films were not just the worst of their genres but lessons in how to make huge mistakes. It's also worth noting that at least 3 of these made me physically angry (Vice, Gallows and Knock Knock) so brave any viewing of them at your own peril.


Click on the film name to be taken to our full review.


12. Fantastic Four


11. San Andreas


10. Knock Knock


9. Kidnapping Freddy Heineken


8. Survivor


7. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead


6. Jupiter Ascending


5. Exodus: Gods and Kings


4. Inherent Vice


3. The Interview


2. The Gallows


1. Vice


Please note Vice stars Bruce Willis who has now been at number 1 of the worst of the year for 3 out of the last 4 years. Well done Bruce!

By midlandsmovies, Dec 30 2014 11:46PM

Okay, so The Expendables 3 has come out and although it is far better than 2 for me (despite its 12A rating) it is not quite as good as the first one. My dislike for The Expendables franchise is pretty clear and the main reason is the same as why the Transformers franchise also no longer works. For me, each film was best experienced as a one-off oddity that would have worked as a cult film. Audiences my age couldn’t wait to see their childhood memories of Optimus Prime and co come alive on screen whilst The Expendables brought back memories of those great films starring the Hollywood beefcakes of the 80’s in what appeared to be a dream action hero cast.


So what went wrong? Well, Transformers went nowhere and after the initial awe at the photo-realistic CGI, the film had nothing else in its bag of tricks whilst I’ve already stated that The Expendables is neither funny enough to do the Hot Shots-style pastiche or serious enough to be a good action film.


My reason for this list then is that since 2009/10 when the first Expendables was made and released I believe there are better examples of guilty pleasure 80s/90s high concept films that relate far closer to the types of films these guys were actually making. Many will undoubtedly argue I’ve missed the point but I don’t want to see Arnie/Sly/Bruce take the p*ss out of themselves (age, out of shape-ness, catchphrases etc) as to me they never did that in the past. The closest they got at spoof were the duds like Hudson Hawk and Last Action Hero.


If you really want to capture the “essence” of that period, you have to look at a wider range of films. Predator wasn’t a comedy. Terminator wasn’t a comedy. Die Hard wasn’t self referential. They were more over the top actioners with a new twist on an established formula. Sure, they weren’t the most original concepts and the leads were the reason for much of the inevitable success but they have stuck around longer andit's why, for me, The Expendables is not catching that vibe at all. I thought Escape Plan was much more on the money from the geriactioners we have to date.


So – with all that in mind, the rules I’m trying to stick by are that the films are a) made at the same time as the Expendables franchise (which is 2009/10 onwards) and b) do not star the actors from the Expendables themselves and finally c) a (very subjective) decision that they have a 80s/90s vibe about them. My mantra, if you like their films of the period – watch these, you’ll be more satisfied!


80s buddy cop comedy (Lethal Weapon, Red Heat, 48 Hours)

The Other Guys and 22 Jump Street both riff on the clichés of the genre but have good action, clever set ups, some actual plot (although very slight) and are all the better because of it. The cops from opposite sides teaming up (young/old, black white, jock/nerd, USA/Russian) is a conventional set up but with charismatic actors and some more up to date jokes and sequences, both films nail the comedy/action balance perfectly with a genuine sense of friendship, laughs and criminal chasing and shooting throughout.


The cops versus criminals terrorists (Die Hard, Under Siege, True Lies, Air Force One)

Well, you’ve got the cop(s) ready to take on the terrorists in one place (building, boat, plane) which keeps the action contained but also creates tension as we are not distracted by other story strands and allows us a more intimate look at the characters as well as the cat-and-mouse dynamics that help push the plot along. So, for those who prefer flying fists I would recommend the ultra violent crime-fu pic The Raid whilst those into guns and bullets should check out Dredd (a graphic novel franchise Stallone already had a go at once and fluffed up beyond belief) whilst finally, those who want more of the Die Hard wise-cracking vibe of a visiting agent caught up in by accident in an attack then check out White House Down – a film that should have been the 5th Die Hard with a better concept and was far superior than what Willis eventually delivered.


Man and machine (Terminator 2, Universal Soldier)

Michael Bay’s 80s toy reboot Transformers proved that big dumb machines were clearly an audience puller but Del Toro showed him how to do it with his neon-drenched Asian-influenced Pacific Rim which put men (and women) at the heart of the machines but without scrimping on the effects budget one iota. With the Terminator learning more about humans and family bonding in Cameron’s sequel, the relationship between generations and a father-son dynamic was front and centre in Real Steel which used the concept of boxing robots to convey its message. The film is also fun if you’re a fan of Rocky and the classic underdog, broke father figure and comeback narrative which permeated that franchise.


Mind (and body) bending Sci-fi + Aliens attack (Total Recall, Predator)

Well there’s plenty to choose from in this genre with Repo Men depicting a future trading in body parts whilst Neeson in Unknown is essentially a Total Recall remake!


The genre crosses over in the amazing District 9 where aliens and body modification are centre stage in this analogy of South African apartheid whilst a more gung-ho army blast-fest was seen in the 80s style Battle Los Angeles where a group go into the urban jungle a la Predator to destroy human-hunting aliens.


Time related travel (Timecop, The Terminator)

Jumping in a machine and putting right what once went wrong was the cornerstone of many a film and TV series from the 80s/90s and one of the best modern movies to tackle the subject was Duncan Jones’ Source Code which played like an episode of TV classic Quantum Leap. In Time, starring Justin Timberlake was closer to Logan’s Run but it had a number of time-based concepts that did nothing new with the genre but was inoffensive guff in a Saturday night popcorn flick kind of way.


One man army (Desperado, Rambo, Commando)

Definitely one of those “of the time” genres that do not particularly hold up these days but Liam Neeson in Taken 1 & 2 shows that a man on a solo revenge can still be done in this cynical age given the right impetus – in this case, the kidnapping of various family members. If you prefer it in a more comedy style then Robert Rodriguez’s Machete is clearly in the same vein as The Expendables but with a more grimy grindhouse feel. Finally, a serious take was Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan in the criminally underrated Hanna which replaces grizzled machismo with an adaptable young girl.


Historical action film (Indiana Jones)

Harrison Ford has already ruined one beloved franchise and we hope he doesn’t do it again in the Star Wars sequel, however, my first choice for a similar fun jaunt though history chasing after important artefacts would be the Nic Cage starring National Treasures but they don’t count being made before 2010 so I’m going to chose Sherlock Holmes 2 which improved upon Guy Ritchie’s first film and once again had the audience following a fighter and a thinker across the globe.


Prison or on-the-run films (Lock Up, Demolition Man, The Fugitive)

From Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) to Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) the prisoner escape film is a perennial fave (Stallone has at least 4 entries here) but the guiltiest of pleasures is the modern update of Law Abiding Citizen – a complete nonsensical film of one dimensional characters, OTT acting and explosions galore but done with a pace that doesn’t allow too much time to analyse the gaping plot holes. In a similar vein, Elysium showed Matt Damon as a future prisoner trying to free himself and the entire population (a la Demolition Man) from an unequal future we’ve stumbled into.


Transport troubles (Passenger 57, Die Hard 2, Under Siege 2)

Often terrorism related but sometimes just pure accident, the violence on vehicles was seen in many an 80s action film and decent flicks that updated the premise include Non-Stop (with strapping Laim Neeson again) and Denzel Washington in runaway train movie Unstoppable. In an apocalyptic future, Chris Evans and Jamie Bell tackle Orwellian-style tyrants in 2014’s Snowpiercer which sees them battle from carriage to carriage within a train that is circling the globe during a future ice-age. The movie is an all out old-style action flick with a serious tone from Asian director Bong Joon-ho.


Apocalypse Films (Mad Max)

With a remake of Mad Max with Tom Hardy soon to be released, Denzel Washington channels the apocalyptic vibe in the brilliant The Book of Eli with a story twist, great action and the hunt for a book replacing oil whilst Tom Cruise’s Oblivion covers similar territory but with floating iPod style robots and a big conspiracy to uncover.


Sports rivalry (Rocky, Driven)

Finally, it would be easy to go with The Fighter or Warrior as a companion piece to Rocky but these two films are far too serious for the action fest of Sly and his buddies so if you want a fast cutting, high octane sports rivalry film then you better check out the adrenaline fuelled biopic Rush - you’ve done it again Howard!


Midlands Movies Mike



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