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By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2019 04:15PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 3


Here's another set of our shorter reviews for films we've caught up with in 2019 featuring A Vigiilante, The Curse of La Llorona, Alita: Battle Angel....


Scroll down to see what we thought of each of them...




A Vigilante (2019) Dir. Sarah Dagger-Nickson

A Vigilante is the debut of writer and director Sarah Dagger-Nickson and sees an abused woman (Olivia Wilde as Sadie) assisting other women victims who have had a similar experiences. The film’s explosive opening sees smartly-dressed Wilde enter a home of a woman suffering an injury – hinted to be from her spouse – and when he returns, Sadie inflicts punishment that will sees him reluctantly leaving and handing over half his savings to his wife. Surprisingly, but very powerfully, the director actually minimises the on-screen violence itself (this is definitely not in the realm of action-flicks like Atomic Blonde) but this has the effect of heightening the victim’s plight. With an audience’s projection of what violent acts may have occurred, we therefore imagine the worst – both in the perpetrators acts and the subsequent retribution of justice inflicted back. Great cinematography from Alan McIntyre Smith helps focus the story on a stellar performance from Wilde, who plays both a hard-nosed enactor of violence and, in a flashback explaining her backstory, a sensitive and emotional victim-turned-avenger. As we discover that she too was once a victim, losing a child to her ex-husband (a disgustingly dark turn by the excellent Morgan Spector), the film propels to a unshakeable climatic conclusion that sees her finally track down and face the hideous partner from her past. A Vigilante therefore has a smart and timely premise and is a quality movie tackling the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Olivia Wilde gives a career-best performance too as the woman fighting this head on, and this exciting debut is a successful revenge film that delivers more insight into the topic than similar movies of this kind. ★★★★




The Curse of La Llorona (2019) Dir. Michael Chaves

Produced by James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona is another (dull) entry into The Conjuring universe and is based on Mexican folklore where a supernatural entity attempts to steal children from their families. In echoes of Case 39 (2009), our lead Linda Cardellini is social worker Anna Tate-Garcia who investigates an abusive family situation that spirals out of control. Mixing silly superstitions with godawful jump scares, the film’s woman in a white dress begins hunting down Anna’s own two children. Filled to the brim with obvious 'quiet-then-loud' jump scares, La Lorona is the kind of PG-13 horror that is over-done and has been seen dozens of times before. A car-based stalking sequence was the one standout innovation but this was not developed at all and we’re soon back to the bland back-story involving stock priest and detective characters. I’m also sick of the clichéd dropped-mouthed white-skinned monster bride trope as well, which again, is now far too familiar to shock. But what did general audiences think? Well, with a budget of just $9 million (and boy can you tell), the film took $121.6 million (!) at the box office so prepare yourself for the inevitable slew of sequels or side-quels or whatever future dross they’ll end up knocking out. For the rest of us with higher standards, set your expectation level to “underwhelmed” and then still prepare yourself for a bit of a knock. ★★


Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Dir. Robert Rodriguez

The uncanny valley is ‘when humanoid objects appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings and elicit uncanny feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers’. I know friends who can’t even watch Pixar films owing the “rubbery” features of the human-like characters. I’ve never really experienced it myself. Until now. Forever in development hell with James Cameron, he serves as producer here, in an adaption of the 90’s manga series where a female cyborg is recreated by Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) with no memory of her mysterious past. She learns to skate and take part in future-sport Motorball and later engages in brawls and visually ugly and confusing CGI fights which create absolutely zero intrigue. With a stellar support cast including Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Jackie Earle, the weird thing is, it’s not essentially the CGI that sticks out. There’s so much of it that the human characters inserted in the film feel almost unneeded and a distraction in themselves. But it's Alita's facial construction, whose eyes and face are computer-generated beyond all recognition which actually turned me off from the screen regularly. Somehow grossing over $405 million worldwide, with possible sequels now in the works, the film may have been better delivered as an animation as it’s already 90% there. And therefore sadly, as Alita is found amongst a big pile of junk and hastily put together, the film mirrors this in its themes, tone and dull execution. ★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Nov 4 2017 05:25PM



War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) Dir. Matt Reeves


In this electrifying conclusion to Reeves’ ‘Apes’ reboot/prequel trilogy, the sci-fi action focuses even further on the drama between the simians led by Caesar and the remaining humans left on earth. Andy Serkis once again returns to play Caesar in a performance that, if not least equals Serkis’ turn as Gollum, comes pretty darn close and maintains his status as the premier motion capture actor working right now.


We pick up a few years later where a rogue paramilitary group (Alpha-Omega) led by Woody Harrelson’s intense Colonel, fight with the ape clan and after Caesar orders the release of some captured soldiers as a peace-offering, its unsurprising it falls on deaf human ears. Returning at night, the Colonel kills Caesar’s wife and eldest child and thus begins a journey of revenge by the elder chimp which conflicts with his call for pacifism shown in the previous movies.


Service apes called "donkeys", which previously followed Koba, are in the hands of Harrelson’s group – further complicating the dynamic – and it is this depth that sets the film far from many of the 2017 summer blockbusters. As Caesar and his advisor Maurice (an orangutan played brilliantly by Karin Konoval), and friends Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and Rocket (Terry Notary) head to the military base, they pick up a mute human girl as well as another chimp named “Bad Ape”, rendered beautifully in a nuanced performance of humour and heart by Steve Zahn.


The ape clan are captured and imprisoned into forced labour to build a wall to stop an approaching army who plan to halt the madness of the Kurtz-like Colonel as Harrelson resorts to killing humans as it is revealed the Simian Flu virus has mutated. Reeves’ masterful control of simple camera set-ups allows the drama to be played out and it is this character building that ensures an audience can empathise with the CGI creations. And what CGI! I would go as far to say this film has some of the best, if not the best, animation of animals ever seen and the close-up shots are phenomenal as we capture every breath, curl of the lip and angered brow on the apes’ faces.


Reeves’ handling of the CGI is perfect and his themes of torture, slavery and eventually sympathy and regret, are all fantastically well-delivered. Personally, I thought it better than its predecessor and with an ending that had me wanting to know more of the clan’s journey in this world, the movie wraps up with a sense of sadness yet hope.


From monkey clowning to tearful tragedy, Reeves’ focus on emotion over spectacle ensures that when the action does arrive you care about those involved – even computer-generated ones. Is it time for the Oscars to reconsider that Best Performance Capture category? On the basis of this dazzling display, I surely hope so.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jul 5 2015 12:23PM

Jurassic World (2015) Dir. Colin Trevorrow


A billion dollar, 65 million years in waiting audition tape for Chris Pratt as Indiana Jones...


22 years later and the Isla Nublar monster park is finally open to the public in this 4th film of dino DNA design being exploited only for it to (inevitably) go very wrong. With the theme park attractions now in full swing from Sea World-style shows to interactive gyrospheres, the plot sees two children (hmmm) head to the park to meet a family member (sound familiar?) on a holiday break. Alongside is a Sam Neill-style rough and ready Velociraptor trainer (Chris Pratt) with big reservations about the power now wielded whilst the park’s new owner (Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani) watches as his newly designed creature – the genetically-modified Indominus rex – strangely doesn’t want to be locked up.


The narrative spins off into the familiar paddock padding as the feisty and uptight business manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) searches for her two nephews as the park breaks down and trades sexy banter with Chris Pratt’s macho man. The film’s best parts are a range of interesting characters that don’t hit the heights on an Ian Malcolm or Dennis Nedry but are better than the one-dimensional and unforgettable folk of JP 2 and 3 and the acting is surprisingly solid for a summer blockbuster. However, the film dismisses any sort of slow build up and within 15 minutes we are watching endless dinosaurs in the park itself. This lack of anticipation and a HUGE reliance on CGI means that the once-awe-inspiring animals are rendered (literally) commonplace and, dare I say it, quite dull.


The first half of the film is therefore quite poor but once the chaotic creatures are out of control the film picks up in the second hour. Excavating a number of familiar ideas with a dashing of new twists, the film’s biggest downfall are the technical aspects. The grading of the film is insane with cartoonish colouring making it look more like a video game than the natural tone of Spielberg’s first hit. In one way it has the awful visual tone of Spielberg’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Funnily enough the film also demonstrates that the grizzled Chris Pratt has nailed his audition for being the next Indiana Jones!


Trevorrow has gone on the record to say the movie’s main creature the Indominous rex is “based on a series of corporate focus groups” but sadly his film is too. One brilliant static shot towards the end showed us raptors running towards the camera in silhouette but other than that, the artistic choices are limited to the usual blockbuster action editing and CGI camera swings. The film’s most tender moment involving the death of some gentle giants demonstrated both an interesting new theme about conservation and animal protection but also showed the benefit of using animatronics over CGI.


By no means a catastrophic failure, the film is more franchise fodder than an amazing work in its own right but by throwing so much at the screen Jurassic World knows that at least some of it will stick. It digs up the bones of the Jurassic Park legacy and adds enough fancy flourishes to impress the summer going movie crowd but never hits the brachiosaurus highs of that first vacation.


7/10 Midlands Movies Mike


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