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By midlandsmovies, Jul 29 2019 06:00PM


Poster courtesy of Adam Blakemore of Strelka Design
Poster courtesy of Adam Blakemore of Strelka Design


Growing Shadows


Directed by Sophie Black


Triskelle Pictures


2019


With her debut in 1966, Poison Ivy is one of Batman’s most enduring enemies yet has also been portrayed as a love interest of Bruce Wayne as well as a key part of Gotham’s rogues gallery.


Often depicted as a morally-ambiguous villain – who does wrong things for the right reasons – she is the central character in a new fan-film short from Derby filmmaker Sophie Black.


Black has become somewhat of an auteur in the region with her flowery gothic fantasy visions seen in both Songbird (our review) and Night Owls (review here). And her recurring themes of make-believe and creation sit nicely within this world where natural surroundings are corrupted by criminal goings-on.


We open at Arkham Asylum, the famous psychiatric ward in Batman’s Gotham City and we see Poison Ivy herself in a cramped cell. A suitably Danny Elfman-style score harking back to Tim Burton’s two Batman films is a nice touch, as well as setting the dark tone of the short.


Whilst Poison Ivy was played by Uma Thurman in the campy (and horrendous) Batman and Robin in 1997, the filmmaker’s nod to Burton is the first of many welcome nods to the caped crusader’s gothic origins.


The prison is lit with green light on Ivy’s green skin but her blood-red hair is a flash of stark crimson hinting upon her deadly deeds.


Poison Ivy is played excellently by Aislinn De’ath who delivers well-written cryptic dialogue in a perfect American accent and Black has done a great job of hiding the film’s Midlands “roots” to create a convincing American style scenario.


We discover that someone is using Ivy’s murderous methods to infect people who could destroy the environment. And she discusses her situation with a man who arrives at her cell to whom she later refers to as Bruce. Of course, Mr. Bruce Wayne (played by Robert Dukes).


As they spar back and forth through the bars of the cell, Bruce asks “Do you think this is a joke?” (well I know one character from Gotham who might) and we find Bruce is infected himself. Part of a larger scheme set in motion by Ivy perhaps? Well, you’ll have to watch for yourself to find out.


The production design has always been fantastic in Black’s films and the same goes here as well. Although for me a wider variety of camera angles would have been a bit more creative to keep it visually interesting given the limited locations in the short’s 10 minutes.


With talk of environmental disaster, Ivy’s frustration builds and we hear a ‘growing’ cacophony as she holds her head in her hands and, wait, was that a cackling laugh I heard in the sound mix? Possibly.


As the short concludes we get a flowering mind, body and spirit (more of Black’s familiar themes) and the film admirably explores a little-seen character of the Batman mythology. An interesting concept, Growing Shadows is another fan-film from the region that uses the superhero genre as their backdrop.


Joey Lever’s Spider-Man 2 - Another World is a very different feature-length playground but with so many Marvel and DC films released in the last 5 years, it’s great to see filmmakers deliver their own local versions of pre-established fan favourites.


And in the end, by stepping up to that challenge, Sophie Black has reinterpreted this classic DC villainess whilst also exploring her own dark obsessions in this greenhouse of horrors.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, May 26 2019 03:37PM



A Private War (2018) Dir. Matthew Heineman

This new biographical drama comes from Matthew Heineman and is his first dramatic movie after his success with 2017’s documentary City of Ghosts about anonymous activists in Syria as it was taken over by ISIS. Staying with similar subject matter, A Private War follows the real and recent war story of American journalist Marie Colvin. Colvin is played brilliantly and with depth by Rosamund Pike, who captures Colvin’s determination to uncover stories in the most dangerous of war zones. Losing an eye in Sri Lanka whilst documenting the country’s civil war, Pike wears an eye-patch but her ability to see, and uncover, a story is not diminished. Her mental stability is diminished however as post-traumatic stress, alcoholism and broken relationships begin to take their toll. Her anguish doesn’t stop her continuing her desire to expose the evils of the world as she crosses the globe.


Jamie Dornan is solid as her photographer Paul Conroy, whom she recruits to document the stories, whilst she consistently antagonises her boss Sean Ryan (a rather sympathetic Tom Hollander as The Sunday Times' foreign editor) in her search for tortuous truths. The film uses a countdown technique as we are shown various war zones from 2001 to the more recent battle of Homs. Some subtly impressive recreations of war zones, realistic shooting locations and the dramatic back-and-forths back in London all add to the realism. But it’s the central performance of a woman torn between the truth and the terror that is the real praiseworthy aspect. Pike gives her best performance since Gone Girl and brings to life the tragic story of Colvin and her demons. An impressive debut feature, Heineman delivers a whole host of remarkable technical aspects and Pike’s exciting central performance makes A Private War a dramatic and satisfying movie covering global conflicts and personal battles. ★★★★





Arctic (2019) Dir. Joe Penna

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Overgård, a stranded man who is trying to stay alive after his plane crashed in the snowy tundra of the arctic wasteland. As he fishes for food to stay alive, he carves out S.O.S in the snow whilst trying to map his bleak and (almost) inhospitable surroundings. Filmed in Iceland, the great cinematography from Tómas Örn Tómasson captures frozen vistas, landscapes and the snow-peaked mountains and it’s this beauty that contrasts with Mikkelsen’s desperation to survive. As a rescue helicopter spots him, it gets caught in a storm and crash lands itself with only a young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) surviving but severely injured. The wreckage contains a map and Overgård discovers a lodge that is 2-days away so decides to secure the woman to a sledge and head out into the wilderness. Filmed almost entirely without dialogue, Mikkelsen is excellent portraying a man in a precarious and pressured situation but understanding that a clear head and logical thinking is the only way to survive. Fighting the elements and himself, and overcome with emotion at times, “mute” Mads has done a similar non-speaking turn in Valhalla Rising but this is far the superior film. With elements of Alive and The Martian as Mads faces risky dangers, Arctic ends up being a well-crafted 90-minute survival flick that is simple yet emotional, and life-affirming without being overly fussy. ★★★½



Shazam! (2019) Dir. David F. Sandberg

From the director who brought sub-par horrors Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation to the big screen, it’s incredibly surprising – in a good way – to see the fright fan tackle a child-friendly family blockbuster in the much-maligned DC Extended Universe. How this fits in with the tone of Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad is anybody’s guess - heads up, it doesn’t - but that’s a huge bonus for a film with low expectations to fulfil. In short, what we get is a tearaway, Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) who gets placed in foster care but is given a magical power by a wizard (!) that can transform him into an adult superhero. As the man-version, Zachary Levi does a great job a la Tom Hanks in Big (and to a lesser extent Judge Reinhold in Vice Versa). Mark Strong as the villain simply dusts off his Kick Ass persona and although as bland as they come, has an interesting power that sees the “7 Sins” demons emanating from his body to attack. Some cornball family themes are expectedly delivered but mostly inoffensive, yet as Billy learns to use his super speed and strength – and how to take responsibility for his powers – the film gets by with a lot of heart and plenty of laughs. And for the first time (since Wonder Woman I guess), a DC comic book movie is finally fun, has a great tongue-in-cheek tone and some actually likeable and relatable characters. Shazam is a super success! ★★★ ½



Greta (2019) Dir. Neil Jordan

What happened between 1991-1992 that filmmakers seemed to make every thriller about stalking? Cape Fear (1991), Single White Female (1992), The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992), Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Basic Instinct (1992) and Unlawful Entry (1992) are amongst a host of dramas where obsessed individuals terrorise their victims in a variety of dark and unique ways. And with Greta, we’re thrust back into that world with Neil Jordan’s latest psychological drama. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Frances, a waitress in New York who returns a lost purse to its owner (Isabelle Huppert as Greta Hideg) and becomes close with the lonely piano-playing widow. However, before you can say “bunny boiler”, Huppert’s Greta is calling, texting and eventually stalking Frances and her flat mate. Moving from a nuisance to full-on disturbingly obsessed, Huppert is having a lot of fun as the lurker and she gives gravitas to a pantomime role – similar to SIr Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, itself a 1991 release! It nails the knowing (and at times silly) tone of those 90s thrillers and at 98 minutes it doesn’t stay around too long for audiences to question all its holes, nonsensical narrative strands and ludicrousness. However, for those who are missing the glory days of crime, betrayal and emotional nut-bags – and no, it doesn’t treat psychological disorders with anything close to seriousness – then Greta is a guilty, if slight, return to the clichéd, outrageous, preposterous - but often highly entertaining - suspense genre from 30 years ago. ★★★ ½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, May 24 2019 01:11PM

10 of the Best Midlands films to look out for in 2019


We take a look at some of our hot picks of shorts, thrillers, documentaries, dramas and more from the talented folk of the Midlands region that are due to hit our screens later in 2019. Please do check out all these projects and head to their respective websites for full information on their forthcoming release dates.




Kobe directed by AR Ugas

Kobe is an upcoming short crime thriller film from West Midlands director AR Ugas about a university student who, after his childhood friend is released from prison, decides to enter into a life of crime which culminates in a robbery that goes wrong. Made in Birmingham, the film was shot, produced, directed and edited by Ugas, who had great success with his Tolkien-inspired first film 'The Return of the Ring' (our review here). With a gritty and dynamic aesthetic, the director hopes it's also a lot more personal film than he’s ever made before and working on the project are acting leads Mathias Andre and Dominic Thompson. Joining them are Tee Morris, Alexandria Carr, Bola Latunji and many more. With a plan to release the film in the next few months, you can find out more about the film and filmmaker here https://www.facebook.com/ARUGASUK or on Twitter




Red t'Blue directed by Jay Martin

This new 15-minute documentary-short from Sharp Edge Productions will focus on how, and why, the ex-mining town constituency of Mansfield swung from the Labour party, which had held it for a consecutive 94-years, to the Conservative party in the 2017 snap-election. A party which had not claimed the seat since its creation in 1885. Directed and written by Jay Martin (who made his directorial debut with Catharsis - our review), the Nottingham-based filmmaker studied at the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies in September and will interview a wide variety of local representatives including former Labour MP For Mansfield Alan Meale who served as the MP for Mansfield for a consecutive 31 years. Find out more on Facebook and Twitter




Abatement directed by Gary Rogers & Sharni Tapako Brown

Described as a thriller based around trust, lies and life changing events, this West Midlands production comes from Sharni Tapako Brown and Gary Rogers, an award winning cinematographer that has worked on a multitude of projects that include dozens of short films, TV Commercials and music videos. Since starting Country Star Productions with Sharni, one their recent short films 'The Beauty of It' received a nomination for best cinematography at the Midlands Movie Awards. This film tells the story of a group of friends who, whilst out in the woods, encounter a life changing sequence of events that brings into question their trust in each other and themselves. Co-directing and writing is the talented writer, actress and model Sharni Tapako Brown. More info at Facebook and Twitter








Apocalyptic 2077 directed by Marc Hamill

As an independent motion picture production team from Leicester, Roasted Studios specialise in original New-wave British Grindhouse cinema and if you like post-apocalyptic movies such as Mad Max, Book of Eli, Escape From New York and Turbo Kid, then you are sure to get behind Apocalyptic 2077. With heroes & villains, ice pirates, cyberpunks, marauders, skin Traders and zombie nuns(!), the filmmaking team behind The Wrong Floor have promised a mayhem filled thrill ride in the tradition of 80s action classics. Starring Rudolph Barrow and Ryan Flamson, the film already had a successful preview premiere on Sunday 28th April at the Century Cinema in Leicestershire.


More info on Facebook



Poison Ivy directed by Sophie Black

Midlands-based Triskelle Pictures was created back in 2008 as founder Sophie Black (interview here) was completing her degree at the University for the Creative Arts, but after a whole raft of award-winning shorts are about to embark on potentially their most popular and explosive one so far. With a love for the DC Batman villain Poison Ivy, the filmmaker feels as though she has long been underrepresented in film so are producing a fan film that brings the character front and centre. This film is not endorsed by DC in any way - it's simply a passion project by people who adore the subject matter and stars Aislinn De'Ath & Robert Dukes in the lead roles. With successes already gained for their drama Night Owls and fantasy short Songbird, starring The X Factor's Janet Devlin, the film comes later in summer after a passionate post-production period.


Find out more on their official website and their Facebook page





The Nursery Man directed by Anthony Michael Tracy-Winson

Mr. Stitch Films is an independent movie production company founded by Anthony M. Tracy-Winson which specialises in making horror movies and their latest undertaking is The Nursery Man. Beginning production back in February 2018, the film stars Sarah Ellis who plays Marion Kelly, a former paranormal specialist for Dartmoor University who sets out to help tormented mother, Florence Taylor, played by Sarah Wynne Kordas who children have disappeared. With the production now ongoing for many months, filming has taken place around the region by the team who made The Baylock Residence (review here). But despite the long journey, with retakes and re-shoots undertaken, the crew want to make this film the best that Mr. Stitch Films has ever produced. Find out more on Facebook and their official website






Sustain directed by Dave Hastings

Written By Brett Dewsbury and David Hastings, crime thriller/drama Sustain is the new film from Midlands Director David Hastings & Producers Troy Dennison and Keiran Bowers (see our The House of Screaming Death review). Brett Dewsbury himself plays Kieran, a mild-mannered young man whose life is shattered by the death of his close younger step-brother Toby (Joshua Sewell), the victim of a vicious race attack. Confronted with the shocking reality of recent fatal events, Kieran must come to terms with what has happened, carrying on without Toby, the gloating thugs who have walked free from his brother’s death. With the film in deep post-production, editor Sam Woodhall has been working closely with Hastings on fine-tuning the now locked visual cut of the film with the picture edging ever closer to its completion for audiences. Check the latest production updates on Facebook





Off Grid directed by Carl Timms

Off Grid is the upcoming production from Dark Matter Films and Bewdley-based Director Carl Timms who shot the short film on location in Worcestershire earlier this summer with a completion date pencilled in for early 2019. This post-apocalyptic, supernatural thriller boasts a stellar cast including James Cosmo, MBE (Game of Thrones, Braveheart, The Outlaw King) as force of nature John Tanner; Alison Steadman (Pride and Prejudice, Gavin & Stacey) as his frail wife, Grace and Marc Baylis (Coronation Street) as the enigmatic ‘Stranger’. Bewdley-based director Carl Timms says, "We are delighted with how the filming turned out. We feel honoured to have worked with such a talented cast who brought these characters to life exactly as we hoped”. Check out their new teaser for the film which will be released soon. Check out their website at www.darkmatterfilms.co.uk





MacBeth directed by Daryl Chase

The Screen Northants group have secured funding from BBC’s Children In Need to produce films working with disadvantaged young people across Northampton and their new version of classic Macbeth sees them working with professional crew to produce the film, which is being shot over 5 weeks in the school summer holidays. Becky Adams, Director of Screen Northants, says, “We are over the moon that BBC Children in Need are supporting us again. And we are looking forward to making a tangible difference to young people’s life chances”. Various sites across Northampton are being used to create the setting for this gritty, urban retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Screen Northants are taking the story from ancient Scotland to a contemporary dystopian estate on the fringes of society, pitting estate against estate. Macbeth and the love of his life, Lady Macbeth, make moves to escape the rut they find themselves in. Find out more at www.screennorthants.co.uk






Angel City directed by Duaine Roberts

Written, directed & Produced by Duaine Carma Roberts of Carma Film, Angel City tells the story of sisters whose loyalty is tested when one is accused of attempted murder, which causes past truths to come to light. Since founding CarmaFilm Motion Pictures in 2015, Duaine Carma Roberts has had a vision to change the way film is perceived in both Birmingham and the rest of the UK. With stories focusing on every day struggles and challenges, our short and feature films have garnered attention across the country and success showing in various film festivals. The film stars Adaya Henry, Tamaira Hesson, Georgia Neath, Liam Millard, Chereis Sewell, Ackeem Gibbs and Andre Pierre and comes on the back of Robert’s previously successful shorts Dear Josephine (our review) and Graycon (our review). Find out more on Twitter and the Carma Film website





By midlandsmovies, Mar 23 2018 09:18AM



To celebrate the UK release of Justice League on DVD/BluRay we asked our Twitter followers to retweet a competition tweet for a chance to win one of two DCEU prizes.


One was a Superman t-shirt featuring the iconic "S" logo whilst the other is the infamous bat-symbol on another tee.


On 23rd March we picked out one winner for each t-shirt at random from all entrants and those winners are....


Twitter user @wytchinghour (won the Batman t-shirt)


and


Twitter user Alex_Doddy (won the Superman t-shirt)


CONGRATULATIONS!


Please get in touch to claim your prize and a big thank you from Midlands Movies to everyone who entered.


Stay in touch for more movie related competitions in the future!


Midlands Movies Mike




By midlandsmovies, Feb 16 2018 04:52PM



Local filmmakers fundraising for Poison Ivy fan film


Since her introduction in 1966, Poison Ivy remains one of the most popular Batman villains of all time yet has been strangely underrepresented in modern cinema. With her only notable big screen appearance being in Batman and Robin (played by Uma Thurman), her portrayal was less than pleasing for many fans and critics alike.


Well, local fans and filmmakers want to set that record straight by giving Ivy her own starring role in an upcoming fan film. Sophie Black, Aislinn De'Ath and Robert Dukes want to be faithful to the source material from the comics yet still palatable for modern audiences.


The screenplay was written by De'Ath and is inspired by Ivy's graphic novel appearances and an award-winning cast and crew are already attached to the project and ready to begin filming.



First though the group are launching a crowd-funding campaign where fans can make pledges to be involved - from executive producer to donations towards the materials to make Ivy’s costume. Monies raised will also be put towards production design, location and marketing costs. With a goal of £2,800 to be raised, the film shoot will take place in February 2018.




Aislinn De’ath will be playing Poison Ivy and has appeared in numerous short films, including The Dress in 2015, which won her the Best Actress award at Festigious Film Festival whilst Robert Dukes joins the case as Bruce Wayne. Robert has played a charming yet dangerous antagonist in Surveilled and a soldier in World War 2 drama The Code.


The film is being helmed by Nottingham director Sophie Black who is also working on here next release which will be the ambitious fantasy short Songbird, starring The X Factor's Janet Devlin. Joining Sophie is Sarah-Jane Lyon (make-up), Charlotte Ball (production designer)


For more information please check out their official campaign page here - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-poison-ivy-fan-film-fantasy


Poster design is by Adam Blakemore of Strelka design, with concept art by Sophie Black


By midlandsmovies, Nov 20 2017 02:00PM

Justice League (2017) Dir. Zack Snyder

With 4 films now under their belt, DC is still a studio confused as to what it wants to achieve from its flagship franchise characters as we get to a film that sees their previously covered legends Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman join the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg to take on a planet destroying threat. After director Zack Snyder dropped out owing to a family tragedy, in stepped comic fan-boy Joss Whedon who has clearly added his own lightweight banter to a series steeped in muted colours and moody awfulness.


The plot is simple as Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne attempts to persuade other meta-humans to join his team in order to stop evil monster Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons. And that’s it. Batman vs. Superman’s awkward complexity is jettisoned for a simple story and a sub-2 hour runtime but even so, many scenes and characters make little sense – even the ones that have already had an entire film devoted to them.


As a huge fan of Snyder, Whedon and DC characters (see my 2013 favourite superhero films of all time blog), where a reported $300 million was spent is anyone’s guess? The bland CGI Steppenwolf is a boring Scorpion-King nothing and although it’s slightly more coherent than say Suicide Squad, I’ve never had the inclination to see Batman in Lord of the Rings as he battles hordes of fantasy-like winged orcs in Playstation-quality video game visuals.


The League (read Avengers) are formed to stop the coming together of 3 ‘power boxes’ (read Infinity Stones) as other-worldly civilisations like the Atlantians and Amazonians (read Asgardians) fight a CGI fantasy bad-guy (read Thanos) and his parademon army (read Chitauri). Unoriginal and desperate, the film uses Danny Elfman and John Williams’ classic scores in a poor attempt to add class to a very unclassy product.


It not only reminds you of other films, Flash’s slow-motion escapades echo Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it also reminds you of how good those other films are in comparison. The added Whedon reshoots don’t stand out because nothing relates to any other scene at all anyway, so who would notice. And the obligatory orange and teal colour palette one hour in (a horrid design aesthetic seen in BvS and Wonder Woman already) appears with orange flames and cold blue characters, but one improvement is that they’ve avoided Snyder’s dull colour grading to let some bright images jump from the screen.


The actors are actually quite likeable but they’re not just fighting Steppenwolf, they’re fighting an uphill battle against an awful plot and dialogue. New characters like Cyborg have underdeveloped relationships and back-stories that are brushed over in single sentences of exposition like reading a summary on Wikipedia.


*SPOILER* As the gang attempt to harness the powers of Superman to help their cause, the film delves into one of its best aspects as a particular scene (still heavily drenched in CGI) shows the team battling with the Man of Steel who is confused as to his resurrection. It’s a fun, exciting and totally understandable scene with a clear goal and antagonist. It’s also one that could (should?) have been used as the basis of an entirely different film in an alternative DC timeline full of interesting themes and well established motivations.


Sadly, the film fails to build upon that single scene and the worst thing is that this is DC’s 5th film and in my opinion still worse than their first attempt. Snyder ultimately ends by replacing Joel Schumacher’s legendary bad Batman and Robin’s fake sets and outfits with legendary bad fake CGI and design. As the film fumbles its way into the end-zone final battle, it genuinely looks like everyone has given up. The actors, the computer generated visuals, the recycled scores and the dull boring action sequences simply summarise where their universe is at. If there was any justice in this world, DC would wipe the slate clean and chalk these films up as an admirable failure and resurrect their own franchise with the “hope” this film attempts to leave us with.


5.5/10


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, Jun 15 2017 08:06AM


The Lego Batman Movie (2017) Dir. Chris McKay


As a spin-off from The Lego Movie (2014) comes a new computer animated film focusing on everyone’s favourite Dark Knight. Will Arnett voices the caped crusader and he is joined by a talented voice cast of Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), Michael Cera (Robin), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl) and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred.


Focusing on Batman’s solitary world and reluctance to work as a team, the film uses a simple set up to poke friendly fun at the DC Universe whilst at the same time throwing in a dollop of emotion and other pop culture references too. As a personal fan of Nolan’s world and Burton’s ’89 incarnation, I enjoyed how the film references those - but the movie wisely draws upon all versions (including the shark repellent from the 60s show and the more recent Batman V Superman) which is executed with love and reverence to the different styles.


The plot is secondary to the visual spectacle however and as per the previous film, LEGO bricks are created perfectly in CGI and the animation is both bold yet functional to the LEGO aesthetic and its 'blocky' construction style. The film’s references go full circle with Ralph Fiennes’ Alfred fighting LEGO Voldermort (whom he played in Harry Potter) and LEGO Bane having Tom Hardy’s voice from Dark Knight Rises.


The twist with the Joker being frustrated that he is not Batman’s main villain is a good one and he retaliates by entering the Phantom Zone to pull together a team of supervillains including Jaws, King Kong and Gremlins!


Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face is another great nod to the Burton/Schumacher era whilst 21 Jump Street’s Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play Superman and Green Lantern respectively. However, all these references are nicely woven into the fabric of the film and the jokes hit the mark far more times than they miss.


A cool comic comedy, I’d certainly recommend this to anyone who loves Batman and his history over the years, and whilst younger kids may not get all the reference points, the film is enough of a fun family romp to be enjoyed by any audience looking for lots of laughs.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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