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By midlandsmovies, Mar 24 2020 01:27PM



Living in Crime Alley


Directed by Rob Ayling


2020


A frustrated father contemplating an eviction notice opens this new Batman fan-film from Midlands writer-director Rob Ayling who takes the dark knight in new directions in his 9-minute short.


Played by Vincent Jerome, the father puts on a brave face in front of his daughter (Bella Champagnie) who is dressed up in a fancy-dress Batman costume. Explaining that he needs to leave, his support for his offspring’s playtime is undercut as he pockets a pistol and heads out onto the streets.


The film has its actors use (very convincing) American accents and the well-shot streets are suitably dark and oppressive as seen in other classic incarnations of the caped crusader. The intense score also helps sell the big-screen aspirations of the film, covering up its Midlands roots but also keeping us firmly in the seedy world of Gotham City.


A Batman and DC fan-film may be quite a rare proposition for local filmmakers but not so much for the Midlands it seems. Living in Crime Alley is the second such film which sits alongside Sophie Black’s Growing Shadows (review here) which took a different angle on Batman lore focusing as it does on Poison Ivy.


Appearing to have no other option, our father dons a balaclava to hold up a convenience store. This sequence is cleverly cut with the daughter who is playing and throwing batarangs back home, still dressed as her favourite hero.


From strong shadows, intense lighting and some city special effects, the film does a fantastic job of taking us into the world of Batman and associated iconography. When Batman does finally show, an excellent (and expensive looking) costume harks back to the classic Tim Burton outfit worn by Michael Keaton.


With a strong vision, Living in Crime Alley is a superb short with the director’s love for the world showing on screen every step of the way. And as well as the usual crime-based aspects of the DC world, Ayling adds in some emotional heft using the father-daughter relationship and giving a more rounded portrayal of a man forced into crime – and the effects on his daughter.


For most, it’s a great portrayal of a classic superhero but for fans, I recommend you certainly tune in at the same Bat-time and on Rob Ayling’s YouTube Bat-channel and check out this exciting tale featuring Bat-fans’ favourite watchful protector.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Feb 14 2020 08:42AM

Birds of Prey (2020) Dir. Cathy Yan


DC’s eighth instalment in their ever expanding ‘Extended Universe’ is released this week. Birds of Prey, or to give it it’s full mouthful of a title, Birds of Prey (and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn), is helmed by director Cathy Yan and stars Margot Robbie in her second outing as the titular character.


After Harley’s split from the Joker leaves her vulnerable to the wrath of all of Gotham’s criminal underworld, she crosses paths with 3 other “dames looking for emancipation” in order to take down the most nefarious villain of them all, Roman Sionis (Ewan Mcgregor). Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and cliché cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) team up alongside Harley when pre-teen Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) has a contract placed on her head after pick pocketing Sionis’ prized diamond.


We are told the story in an almost Tarantino-esque non-linear fashion. The chronology of the story imitates Harley’s hyperactive mind, with her unreliable narration taking us back in time to understand the events unfolding on screen. From the get go this film just oozes fun. The colourful sets and costumes really create an atmosphere you want to be a part of, unlike the dingy, suppressed nature of Harley Quinn’s first introduction to us in Suicide Squad.


In terms of performances Margot Robbie and Ewan Mcgregor are the obvious standouts. Robbie embodies the role as if she was born to play it. Again, in comparison with Suicide Squad she has a lot more opportunity within this film to bring a more emotional depth to the character allowing the audience to gain a larger understanding of her as a person. Therefore, cementing herself as one of the most beloved anti-heroes in this generation of superhero franchises.


Ewan Mcgregor seems a world away from the last time audiences saw him in last years Doctor Sleep. Both performances brilliant but in polar opposite ways. In Doctor Sleep Mcgregor a much more serious, reserved and endearing character. Whereas in this film he grabs the over the top villain role with both hands. Sionis teeters on the edge of madness, going from 0 to 100, flamboyant to terrifying in mere seconds.


An honourable mention is deserved for Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, Sionis’ right hand man. A character in love with violence, constantly provoking his superior to allow him to feed his desperation for it. His mannerisms and even the way he looks at other people sends chills down your spine.


Unfortunately, in terms of acting, for me, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ella Jay Basco were the clear weak links. I was surprised by Winstead, I do enjoy her performances in Scott Pilgrim Versus the World and 10 Cloverfield Lane, they prove she can hold her own alongside highly respected actors. Whether it was the script or just how she played it, her appearance as Huntress felt misjudged. The character’s dialogue always seemed forced. Continuous reference is made to the fact her character has not become akin to the tough guy persona just yet which led to quite a bit of overacting and cringe inducing lines.


Similarly with Ella Jay Basco, despite her fantastic physical acting in scenes of her pickpocketing unsuspecting people on the street, her delivery of lines just didn’t feel up to the mark. I understand that she is a young child actor but her performance lacked the spark or magic that others possessed.


Getting back to the positives of the film, the influence of John Wick director Chad Stahelski on some of the action scenes in the film was clear. An excellent choice by Birds of Prey producers to gain the help of the director of this era’s staple action franchise. Wide shots, perfect use of slow motion and practical stunts immerse the audience in each and every action sequence. Each significant character’s unique fighting style is showcased in spectacular fashion. Whether it Harley Quinn’s acrobatic flair or Huntress’ sharpshooter technique, these scenes were the most fun I had whilst watching this film.


DC seem to have finally found their rhythm in their longstanding fight against Marvel and with Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar win for his performance in Joker and the quality of this film, they may even be one step ahead right now.


★★★★


Jake Evans


Twitter @Jake_Evans1609

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

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