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By midlandsmovies, Aug 28 2019 10:13AM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 4


In this collection of recent reviews we take a look at ANGEL HAS FALLEN, KILLER'S ANONYMOUS, IN FABRIC and THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK.


Read on to hear our thoughts on some of these new 2019 cinema and dvd releases.



Angel Has Fallen (2019) Dir. Ric Roman Waugh

A frankly out-of-shape Gerard Butler returns in this third instalment in the Fallen film series following Olympus Has Fallen (the number 10 entry of our worst films of 2013) and London Has Fallen (the number ONE entry in our worst films of 2016) again playing secret service agent Mike Banning. Suffering from a form of PTSD, he protects US President (Morgan Freeman) from a drone attack but is implicated in the crime itself. Cue a tedious game of cat and mouse between an on-the-run Banning and his previous colleagues. He’s also chased by forces “unknown” (it’s so obvious from the outset who the culprits are) who want to get to Banning to finish the job and execute their conspiracy.


What we have then is an unexciting, monotonous and dreary “action” film whose 2-hour runtime feels like 2 weeks. Jada Pinkett as an FBI agent spouts tedious action-film clichés passing itself off as dialogue and its plot has been done numerous times before as seen in the Bourne franchise, Sentinel (2006) and most of M:I series as an operative is framed for a crime he didn’t commit whilst others attempt to bring them to justice.


Positives? Although I’m struggling to find many, when Banning meets his father (Nick Nolte) in his remote wood cabin, the film is given some much-needed pleasure with a tongue-in-cheek tone and some nifty banter. A mid-credits scene has to be seen to be believed too, so if you manage to make it to the end, stick around for that. I also thought the explosions were pretty spectacular with some stuntmen really taking a battering as they are thrown around. But the woeful quick editing on the fights makes them hard to follow and one brawl in a car at night is frankly unwatchable and shouldn’t be in a movie with this budget. In the end it may just be the best of the series, stay with me on this, as the others were beyond terrible and this is simply mostly bad. Action fans may find something in this that I didn’t get out of it, but for general audiences, the franchise should fall into retirement as soon as possible.


Killers Anonymous (2019) Dir. Martin Owen

This American crime thriller film directed by Martin Owen tells the story of a group of assassins being brought together in a secret hideaway situated in a London church after the assassination of an American Senator on UK soil. Opening with an elongated conversation between Gary Oldman and Jessica Alba – filmed strangely, as characters talk to the camera Peep Show-style – the group finally congregates in a small set of rooms as they share their backgrounds and “days since last killing” stories like an AA meeting. The film wastes its talented cast which includes a delicious Tommy Flanagan as Markus, an excellent Rhyon Nicole Brown as Alice, a subtle performance from MyAnna Buring as Joanna and stalwart Tim McInnerny as Calvin who all did their best with some awful dialogue. It could have worked as a more serious chamber piece like 12 Angry Men (1957) or pushed the envelope and gone further into the knowing horror of the more recent Would You Rather (2012) but in the end it sticks to a bland unsatisfying middle-ground. How Oscar-winner Gary Oldman got involved in this is anyone's guess and it most reminded me of the darkly comic Inside No. 9 both in flat TV look and its eclectic soundtrack. In the end though, what could have worked as a one-off ITV drama is not cinematic enough for the ideas it has. And sadly this more than tiresome movie tries to be a big screen blockbuster but is much more of a lacklustre little screen disappointment.

★★



In Fabric (2019) Dir. Peter Strickland

A horror comedy infused with Italian ‘Giallo’ genre stylings, In Fabric is a new movie featuring, bear with me, a killer dress. A ridiculous conceit, the film in fact uses this far-fetched idea to look at consumerism, desires and hypnotising capitalism. It stars Oscar-nominated Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Sheila, whose awful managers and worse dates increase her feeling of loneliness since her recent divorce. She purchases a crimson dress at the enigmatic Dentley and Soper's store from assistant Miss Luckmoore (an incredibly creepy Fatma Mohamed) who appears part of a ritualistic coven. The cursed dress leaves a strange rash on Sheila as the supernatural piece of clothing causes havoc with a washing machine and attempts to murder Sheila’s son’s girlfriend – played by a welcome but all too brief appearance from Gwendoline Christie. A sharp turn in the narrative though is where the film started to lose its way a little. The dress ends up in possession of washing machine repair man Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) whose story of hypnotism is far less interesting and developed than Sheila’s. In Fabric’s tone however seems not only to be hinting at classic Italian horrors but also by very British influences too. I saw hints of the satirical website Scarfolk Council, who is in itself influenced by the panic-filled sensibilities of 1970/80s government health and safety films and iconography. And In Fabric at times seems to be what Matthew Holness was attempting in Possum (2018) which was a snail-paced disappointment. A beautiful looking film of strong colours and lighting and a terrific cast playing bizarre and peculiar characters, In Fabric suffers most with its plotline switch at the halfway point, dismissing almost all of what came before it. Fans of the cinematic influences will lap it up but for me, it’s a slightly missed, but to be fair with a lot to like, opportunity to bring Suspiria to suburbia.

★★★



The Standoff of Sparrow Creek (2019) Dir. Henry Dunham

Written and directed by Henry Dunham in his feature debut The Standoff at Sparrow Creek tackles current U.S. obsessions with gun ownership, responsibility, media blame and political and social paranoia. Throwing us straight in, James Badge Dale plays ex-cop Gannon who has joined a local militia and ends up investigating his own group after one of them is suspected of a mass shooting at a police funeral. Information comes in sporadically over the police radio meaning a time limit is set, and in their secluded warehouse base one of their machine guns is suspiciously missing. Creating a sense of dread and hidden motives, the film is set almost solely in this location and using the fantastic conceit, the group is faced into confronting this situation with the audience trapped in this mystery along with them. The cinematography mixes dark shadows and spotlights as the questions fly and these help create the best scenes which involve Gannon interrogating members using his previous experience. A small but powerful indie feature, its 88 minutes gives the movie a swift pace with more depth than most small dramas. But it doesn’t let up either with a multitude of talented performances from the excellent cast playing distrustful characters obsessed with protecting their “freedoms”.

★★★★



Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Jan 13 2018 09:13AM



Darkest Hour (2018) Dir. Joe Wright


There are problems at the heart of Darkest Hour, a film about how Winston Churchill navigated his first days as prime minister in 1940, much as there were with man himself. Namely, how to weave a suspenseful tale out of a story where the ending is known; and also how to make a human character from a man that has become a legend. Joe Wright’s film mostly tackles these problems well but it loses its way at the worst possible moment.


The strength of the film is that it never loses sight of the fact that Churchill, and here in particular his political rivals, are flawed people bumping up against each other in close confines — often the miniscule cabinet war room — in a struggle where the stakes could not be higher. This is more political thriller than biopic.


Hitler’s military is sweeping all before it in western Europe, the entire British army is encircled at Dunkirk and Calais, meanwhile, in closer quarters Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, his foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, his parliamentary party and even the king are opposed to his premiership. He only has the job, the film tells us, because he is the only senior Tory who the opposition will accept as a leader.


Hanging over him is the military disaster at Gallipoli in the First World War, and a reputation for an intense self-regard — indeed, an acknowledgement from family and colleagues that he has always prioritised his personal political ambition.


So now that Churchill has his chance — or as he puts it at the start of the film, his rivals have their chance of revenge by putting him in the hot seat — how can he cling on to power among with so little support, and with Chamberlain and Halifax scheming to have this delusional warmonger removed from power altogether.


That this film was made at all, and the review is being written in English, perhaps gives the clearest indication of why Halifax and Chamberlain are the villains of the piece, but one of the film’s triumphs is to have these characters seem as reasonable in their aims as Churchill is steadfast in his.


The film swoops in and pulls away from the tight knit circle around Churchill to show the consequences of all that fighting in the war room and bitter-sweet family moments. In fact, it does this quite literally on a number of occasions as overhead camera shots launch skywards to dwarf either Churchill, a French boy, a stranded English brigadier each during pivotal moments in the story.


But this film is a political thriller at heart, and taught and compelling one at that. And it is the drama at close quarters that captivates the most.


The pressure mounting on Churchill, superbly portrayed by Gary Oldman, increasingly alone as his rivals pressure him to consider a negotiated peace with Hitler, is thrilling. As is his wrestling with an awful decision about how best to save the British Expeditionary Force in France.


Malbrough man


But it is at Churchill’s own darkest hour, as he wrestles with what appears to be a bout of self doubt and his “black dog” of depression, that the film takes a nosedive. The only difference is the film’s own darkest hour seems born of hubris rather than lack of confidence.


From out of nowhere, King George V, previously a wet individual mulling over whether or not to bugger off to Canada and hoping his mate Halifax wins the prime ministership, appears from nowhere to give our hero a pep talk. It isn’t clear why but apparently he discovers his inner kingliness while standing about on the balcony one night at Buckingham Palace. Winnie and Georgie bond, and we can only be thankful the scene with a chest bump and a high five.


And so the toe curling begins in earnest.


A film this may be and it is right that it should not be a slave to historic detail. We are watching characters in a story, not real people. But what happens next is so out of character and so blatantly false that the tension falls slack immediately, like a sprinter pulling up with a dodgy hamstring. Unlike our protagonist, it never recovers and can only limp on.


Earlier in the film, when accepting the premiership from the king, Churchill tells a companion he has never taken a bus. But following the royal heart to heart, he leaves his chauffered car and takes the tube one stop between St. James’s Park and Westminster where he is to address parliament.


It is hard to know what the most unrealistic aspect of this scene is. That Churchill strikes up a conversation with a carriage full of Londoners? Or that it takes an inordinate amount of time for this train to travel a few hundred yards? Or is it that this aristocrat, direct descendent of the Dukes of Malbrough, born in Blenheim Palace in the age of empire is on the District Line at all? And that’s before we tackle into the excruciating dialogue.


Whichever it is, the overall effect is to rip the drama out of the film, all of the tension, and any sense of jeopardy. From here on in the whole thing becomes a victory parade, albeit done, as I said, with a limp. It does the story a disservice. Secure he may have been as leader having seen off Halifax, and with Chamberlain in terminal ill health, but he was still leader of a country all but on its knees in the face of overwhelming odds.


Darkest Hour is for the most part gripping and pacey, but just when it needed to step up a notch it pulls up short, only offering a lame attempt at a fist pump of an ending rather than what in real life must have been a far more intriguing story.


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal,” the film quotes Churchill as saying at the end. Both ideas apply to this film. The disappointing final furlong does not ruin the rest of it.


“… it is the courage to continue that counts,” ends that quotation. Whether audiences have the courage to persist with this film once it loses its way is a matter they will have to decide for themselves.


6/10


Ralph Sinclair



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