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By midlandsmovies, Nov 4 2018 07:46PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 4




Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) J. A. Bayona

The fifth film in the dino-giant Jurassic franchise, and boy does it feel like it. In the world of the soft reboot, what we get here is a re-tread of Spielberg’s disappointing sequel where a group of military personnel return to the infested island. As they try to retrieve precious DNA remnants, the animal's eco-system is disrupted by the impending eruption of a volcano which puts the remaining dinosaurs at risk of a second extinction. Why this is a problem remains a mystery as they can surely clone them all again? That was the first film’s point. Chris Pratt moves further from his great Guardians performance and slides into “Blando Hero-man” alongside Bryce Dallas Howard’s retconned footwear-obsessed power female. The film also takes a sharp 180 degree turn at the halfway point and we are soon in a Scooby-Doo esque haunted mansion where – and this is actually the story – a group of rich billionaires are buying and selling dinos in an underground laboratory. WTF? Reminding me of the human trafficking auction in Taken, the film flies off the rails with only a few hints of the skill Bayona showed in his earlier films The Orphanage and A Monster Calls. Boring and dull, Fallen Kingdom is somewhat unbelievably the 12th highest grossing film of all time which means there will most certainly be another - but count me out of this dead-as-a-dodo theme park attraction. 5.5/10




The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Back in 2015 for my review of Wild Card I said, and I quote, Statham “often plays the same ex-cop/gangster/trained assassin/cage fighter/thief with violent skills who attempts to go straight, but is pulled in by circumstances beyond his control”. And unsurprisingly here, he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly, despite his suspect past and *cough* his attempts to leave his aquatic life behind. As quick as you like he’s back in the saddle, or should that be scuba, and thus begins 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. Director Turteltaub helmed the fun guilty pleasure National Treasure movies yet this is neither family fun nor satisfying grindhouse splatter-fest. The Meg sadly handles its efforts in both genres terribly badly. Some may find a bit of Saturday night excitement in its glossy shark sequences but for me the film was simply mega disappointing. 4/10




Tag (2018) Dir. Jeff Tomsic

During the end credits of Tag there is real-life camcorder footage of the men who inspired this new American comedy from Jeff Tomsic and it’s indicative of the film’s quality that those few minutes are far more interesting than the preceding 2 hours. Based on the real-life story of a group of grown adults who play a game of “tag” (“it” in the UK) for one month of the year, Ed Helms plays Hoagie who stalks his friends Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress and Isla Fisher. He then convinces the old gang to play one final game before ‘retirement’ by tagging their elusive friend Jeremy Renner who has never been tagged despite years of attempts. With Renner on the verge of marriage, the group try to tag him during his wedding planning but his 'Bourne' skills sees Renner using Hawkeye-style reflexes to avoid their juvenile attacks. A few fine jokes and some rip-roaring editing still cannot overcome the fact that, for me, a documentary on the actual participants – who still play to this very day – is where the true entertainment would lie. With Blockers and Game Night both tackling the “adults playing at kids games” theme as well, Tag sadly doesn’t have anything close to the fun found in those. And with its TV-style filming, a strangely maudlin ending and its one-trick-pony idea Tag is definitely not “it”. 4.5/10




The First Purge (2018) Dir. Gerard McMurray

How did The Purge start? Well, this is the film to answer the question that no one was really asking but as with the other films in the series, this 4th franchise instalment tackles some deeper issues than your regular b-movie thriller. In the mid-21st Century, we are told via news footage that the fascist New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are launching an experiment on Staten Island where citizens can commit crime consequence-free for 12 hours. The film follows local drug gangs, a criminal called Skeletor and young anti-purge activists throughout the night as they fight off the expected (and unexpected) participants of The Purge. With a mainly black cast, the film also discusses issues of community, poverty, substance abuse and even has Ku Klux Klan members and black-faced mercenaries. Not just a throwaway action-flick for sure.


In my review of The Purge: Election Year I explained how the “anthology” nature of The Purge series has allowed it to explore more interesting themes than similar low-budget fare, whilst also allowing young up and coming talent to take centre stage amongst its cast. And good turns from Y'lan Noel as Dmitri, Lex Scott Davis as Nya, Joivan Wade as Isaiah, Mugga as Dolores and Christian Robinson as Capital A mean everyone delivers more than fine performances throughout. With “weighty” films like Black Panther, The Post and Black Klansman all tackling lofty themes, it’s great that The Purge gives them all a run for their money with its social commentary alongside b-movie bloodshed. With the authorities trying to stir up hatred with militias, The First Purge (and the others in the series) has used its silly premise to turn a mirror on to the problems currently facing America. And through inventive costume design, handheld camera and a pumping soundtrack, uses its non-mainstream genre to explore the far darker, but no less important, aspects of politics and policymakers. 6.5/10


Michael Sales


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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