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By midlandsmovies, Oct 21 2019 02:23PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 6


This month we check out new releases DOMINO (from Brian De Palma) MEN, IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (from F. Gary Gray) & TOY STORY 4 (from Josh Cooley). Scroll down to read the reviews:




Domino (2019) Dir. Brian De Palma


Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, Carrie and heck, even Snake Eyes and kickstarting the Mission Impossible franchise, Brian De Palma has a pretty impressive film CV. Well, he did once. In the last 12 years he’s made just 2 (terrible) films and it’s sad to say he’s added another here with boring potboiler thriller Domino.


At just 89 minutes this crime thriller feels twice as long and stars Game of Throners Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten who are investigating the death of a Danish police officer. Stopping them is a dodgy CIA agent (Guy Pearce) and Eriq Ebouaney as a double agent acting on behalf of ISIS. Or is he? Well, who cares is the real question.


I don’t want to give away any spoilers about Domino but literally nothing happens. Combined with a troubled production and a star or two dropping out, this ramshackle made-for-TV level movie is lacklustre and dull. Sleepwalking actors deliver clichéd dialogue which is punctuated with the odd blandly-shot action/fight sequence. Flashes of De Palma’s fascination with Hitchcock sometimes comes through in a Vertigo-style roof chase and an ingenious shot here or there hinting upon the stylistic flourishes the director used in his more successful films from the past.


In the end though, it seems the director’s strategy of not caring at all about his utterly useless movie hasn’t paid the handsome dividends he might have hoped for. ★★





Men in Black: International (2019) Dir. F. Gary Gray


In a franchise of less-than-successful sequels, the Men In Black property gets a sort-of reboot in this new blockbuster flick from F. Gary Gray. Chris Hemsworth stars as the arrogant Agent H who is teamed up with new recruit (and his Thor: Ragnarok co-star) Tessa Thompson as Agent M to investigate more intergalactic shenanigans involving the destruction of Earth.


Emma Thompson returns as Head of MiB operations and the film follows the globe-trotting duo taking pot shots at a wide array of eclectic aliens and each other. However, the sad fact is that there’s little more to it than that. Any franchise that loses Will Smith (hello Independence Day) suffers from a loss of his comedy chops and charm – although it has to be said Hemsworth and Thompson do have chemistry which is one of the film’s highlights. Director F. Gary Gray brings none of the fun from his previous guilty pleasure flicks The Negotiator and Law Abiding Citizen or none of the bite/edginess from his Straight Outta Compton. So it ends up being rather bland.


The creatures are excellently designed though – especially “Pawny”, a tiny and loyal alien with a smart mouth – but the world-destruction/infiltrated agency story is instantly forgettable. That said, I don’t think it deserves the critical mauling I’ve also seen published. It’s miles better than the awful second sequel and for me it’s mostly harmless and relatively likeable blockbuster fare for children with two pleasant leads. Add in a handful of action set pieces and MiB: International provides an entertaining if ultimately unremarkable 2 hours of silly escapism. ★★★




Toy Story 4 (2019) Dir. Josh Cooley


After the perfect ending of Toy Story 3 (which has the honour of making me cry twice), the franchise was so brilliantly finished that no more stories of Woody and Buzz were surely needed given the satisfying send-off these animated characters deservedly got.


However, the toys were metaphorically and actually passed on from those who grew up with them and so Pixar have created a 4th film following the gang and their adventures with Bonnie (spoiler) the girl who is gifted them by Andy at the end of 3. Bonnie and her parents go on a road trip and cutting to the chase, the toys end up getting lost/left at a carnival. The group subsequently pull together and attempt to retrieve “Forky”, a quirky toy created by Bonnie herself from a, well, plastic fork and pipe cleaners. The first 30 minutes are pure this-should-have-gone-straight-to-video fodder and although the Pixar quality sheen and photo-realistic animation is all well and present, there’s not quite enough to justify this entry’s existence.


However, just under half-way through the film really hits its stride with excellent set pieces, a break-in at an antiques store and fantastically hilarious cameos from Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peel as Ducky and Bunny. Plus Keanu Reeves as daredevil stunt-biker Duke Kaboom. These new faces slip perfectly into the fold and the film is perhaps the funniest entry to date with some surreal humour added to the usual family-friendly fun. Is it really worth it though? Hmm, ultimately I think not. BUT it does act as a great epilogue and it’s second half is classic Pixar from a voice-cast working at the top of their game. You’ve got away with this Pixar. But please, no more Toy Story. ★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, May 28 2018 12:59PM

Deadpool 2 (2018) Dir. David Leitch


After losing the first film’s director (Tim Miller) to the Cameron produced Terminator franchise (good luck with that as lord knows it needs some help), the sequel to 2016’s surprisingly knowingly violent superhero flick was left in the hands of David Leitch. As either director or co-director of both John Wick and Atomic Blonde, Leitch has certainly got the action chops and he brings his kinetic aesthetic to another outing from Ryan Reynold’s ‘merc with a mouth’.


[slight spoiler] In this film, Deadpool blames himself for the death of his partner Vanessa and after a suicide attempt he joins with X-Men’s Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to help contain a young orphaned mutant Russell/Firefist (Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople). But after a standoff, both Wade and the vengeful youth get taken to a prison where collars are attached to supress their powers.


At the same time, Cable (Josh Brolin) travels through time to prevent disaster (“that’s just lazy writing”) as we discover the Russell of the future uses his powers to kill others – including Cable’s family. After a breakout from prison sees Wade recruit potential new superheroes to his cause – in a sequence that owes more than a nod to 1999’s Mystery Men – he creates a new team called X-Force. This group includes Domino (a fantastic Zazie Beetz whose power is pure ‘luck’) Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, Bill Skarsgård as Zeitgeist and Rob Delaney as a regular guy called Peter.


Ryan’s ad-libbed dialogue is still present but my gripe with the first film was that the endless snide comments and pop-culture references made it feel particularly smug. This follow up mostly avoids that with a script focusing more on narrative and the inclusion of extra characters takes some of the attention away from Ryan’s endless quips.


A James Bond-style opening with Celine Dion ballad “Ashes” sets up the film with its brand of irreverent humour and its use of varied and inappropriate musical cues. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is pure Iron Man territory but is a stonker of a tune which attempts to pump up the audience for a parachute jump during X-Force’s heist plans.


As well the action and comedy, Josh Brolin brings the same nuances that he brought to his other Marvel villain this summer and I have to admit I was waiting for a Thanos reference throughout and got the requisite nod before the end. Although he’s not given a great deal, Brolin adds more depth than is written and he’s without a doubt infinitely better than the awful unforgettable turn by Ed Skrein from the first.


Brilliant cameos at the X-Mansion and a hilariously excellent meta-nod to the film’s timeline during the end credits – both in this universe and others – are just two of many standout comedy sequences but with the addition of some emotional heft I enjoyed this ride a lot as it zips along at a pace.


For me, the film wasn’t helmed in by the origin story problem and, although not on the same level of quality, it sits alongside Spider-Man 2 and X-Men 2 as far better sequels than their origin films. Dark humour, screwball sequences and a great ensemble cast, Deadpool 2 again plays like the naughty child to the MCU’s high-achieving big brother but if you want less schmaltz and more obscenity, this superhero sequel delivers it in huge dirty doses.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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