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By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2019 04:15PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 3

Here's another set of our shorter reviews for films we've caught up with in 2019 featuring A Vigiilante, The Curse of La Llorona, Alita: Battle Angel....

Scroll down to see what we thought of each of them...

A Vigilante (2019) Dir. Sarah Dagger-Nickson

A Vigilante is the debut of writer and director Sarah Dagger-Nickson and sees an abused woman (Olivia Wilde as Sadie) assisting other women victims who have had a similar experiences. The film’s explosive opening sees smartly-dressed Wilde enter a home of a woman suffering an injury – hinted to be from her spouse – and when he returns, Sadie inflicts punishment that will sees him reluctantly leaving and handing over half his savings to his wife. Surprisingly, but very powerfully, the director actually minimises the on-screen violence itself (this is definitely not in the realm of action-flicks like Atomic Blonde) but this has the effect of heightening the victim’s plight. With an audience’s projection of what violent acts may have occurred, we therefore imagine the worst – both in the perpetrators acts and the subsequent retribution of justice inflicted back. Great cinematography from Alan McIntyre Smith helps focus the story on a stellar performance from Wilde, who plays both a hard-nosed enactor of violence and, in a flashback explaining her backstory, a sensitive and emotional victim-turned-avenger. As we discover that she too was once a victim, losing a child to her ex-husband (a disgustingly dark turn by the excellent Morgan Spector), the film propels to a unshakeable climatic conclusion that sees her finally track down and face the hideous partner from her past. A Vigilante therefore has a smart and timely premise and is a quality movie tackling the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Olivia Wilde gives a career-best performance too as the woman fighting this head on, and this exciting debut is a successful revenge film that delivers more insight into the topic than similar movies of this kind. ★★★★

The Curse of La Llorona (2019) Dir. Michael Chaves

Produced by James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona is another (dull) entry into The Conjuring universe and is based on Mexican folklore where a supernatural entity attempts to steal children from their families. In echoes of Case 39 (2009), our lead Linda Cardellini is social worker Anna Tate-Garcia who investigates an abusive family situation that spirals out of control. Mixing silly superstitions with godawful jump scares, the film’s woman in a white dress begins hunting down Anna’s own two children. Filled to the brim with obvious 'quiet-then-loud' jump scares, La Lorona is the kind of PG-13 horror that is over-done and has been seen dozens of times before. A car-based stalking sequence was the one standout innovation but this was not developed at all and we’re soon back to the bland back-story involving stock priest and detective characters. I’m also sick of the clichéd dropped-mouthed white-skinned monster bride trope as well, which again, is now far too familiar to shock. But what did general audiences think? Well, with a budget of just $9 million (and boy can you tell), the film took $121.6 million (!) at the box office so prepare yourself for the inevitable slew of sequels or side-quels or whatever future dross they’ll end up knocking out. For the rest of us with higher standards, set your expectation level to “underwhelmed” and then still prepare yourself for a bit of a knock. ★★

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Dir. Robert Rodriguez

The uncanny valley is ‘when humanoid objects appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings and elicit uncanny feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers’. I know friends who can’t even watch Pixar films owing the “rubbery” features of the human-like characters. I’ve never really experienced it myself. Until now. Forever in development hell with James Cameron, he serves as producer here, in an adaption of the 90’s manga series where a female cyborg is recreated by Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) with no memory of her mysterious past. She learns to skate and take part in future-sport Motorball and later engages in brawls and visually ugly and confusing CGI fights which create absolutely zero intrigue. With a stellar support cast including Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Jackie Earle, the weird thing is, it’s not essentially the CGI that sticks out. There’s so much of it that the human characters inserted in the film feel almost unneeded and a distraction in themselves. But it's Alita's facial construction, whose eyes and face are computer-generated beyond all recognition which actually turned me off from the screen regularly. Somehow grossing over $405 million worldwide, with possible sequels now in the works, the film may have been better delivered as an animation as it’s already 90% there. And therefore sadly, as Alita is found amongst a big pile of junk and hastily put together, the film mirrors this in its themes, tone and dull execution. ★★

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jun 23 2015 09:24PM

All Arnold Schwarzenegger Films Ranked from best to worst

Here’s our countdown of Arnie’s best movies since he became an actor all the way back in 1969.

We’re sticking with starring roles so some cameos, bit parts and TV appearances are not included. Sadly that means no Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time (1996) – the movie short directed by James Cameron that appeared during Universal Studios’ Terminator ride at their Florida theme park. It’s still better than Terminator 3 though! I haven’t included Maggie and Terminator: Genisys (both of which are due for release later in 2015). “I’ll be back” with a position for those two films after Summer ;)

29. Batman & Robin 1997 Dr. Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze Warner Bros. Pictures

Well, the least favourite for Arnie is one of my least favourite films of all time too. With ice-related puns coming quick and fast (27 in total!) and an awful design aesthetic for Arnie’s costume and the film as a whole, it’s no wonder it was Empire’s #1 Worst Movies Ever in 2010.

28. Red Sonja 1985 Kalidor MGM / United Artists

A sort-of spin off from Conan, Arnie does not play Conan but a carbon copy warrior (the film could not get the rights to the character) in this awful fantasy. Arnie never slates his films (not even his worst attempts) but went as far as telling his kids that: “If they get on my bad side, they'll be forced to watch Red Sonja ten times in a row”. Punishment indeed.

27. Conan the Destroyer 1984 Conan Universal Pictures

After original director John Milius was unavailable, the film company went with a more family-friendly affair much to Arnie’s protests which subsequently made him only star in contemporary films from then on.

26. Collateral Damage 2002 Gordy Brewer Warner Bros. Pictures

A simply unremarkable film that both haters and lovers of Arnie’s oeuvre cannot often recall in this 2002 movie. Its terrorist subject matter was played down and publicity kept to a minimum in the wake of 9/11 but once it did get a release no one cared anyway.

25. Jingle All the Way 1996 Howard Langston 20th Century Fox

Some have found a commercial/capitalist political undercurrent in this Christmas farce but I think it’s a load of old tosh that not even Turbo Man could save. Festive yet frightfully poor.

24. Hercules in New York 1969 Hercules Trimark Pictures Credited as Arnold Strong

To nab the role in his film debut, Arnold’s agent said he had years of "stage" experience, implying the theatre but Schwarzenegger owned up later to say this was simply bodybuilding stages. The film is awful but can be enjoyed as a cult curiosity given Arnie’s subsequent rise.

23. End of Days 1999 Jericho Cane Universal Pictures (US)

Coming 2 years after Batman, Arnie was struggling to get insured after his heart attack but was eventually back doing his action in this mostly forgettable Satan-based story.

22. The Expendables 2010 Trench Mauser The Expendables 2 2012 The Expendables 3 2014

I’ve lumped these together as they are as much cameos as they are full parts. It was great to see Arnie back on screen after his career in politics came to an end but his age was starting to show and Sly’s films were pale imitations of the awesome 80s action films he was attempting to emulate.

21. Stay Hungry 1976 Joe Santo United Artists

Playing a professional body builder was hardly a stretch for Arnie in this film but his solid stint actually resulted in him winning a Golden Globe Award for "Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture" (even though Hercules was actually his first!)

20. Junior 1994 Dr. Alex Hesse Universal Pictures

Directed by Ivan Reitman who also made Kindergarten Cop and Twins, Junior reunited Arnie with his co-star of the latter film Danny DeVito in a meek comedy about a pregnant man and although it’s made with heart, the result was a misfiring and mostly unfunny comedy

19. Raw Deal 1986 Mark Kaminsky

Originally intended to be called "Let's Make A Deal”, this forgettable action film was part of a contract Arnie negotiated which ended in him making Total Recall many years later. The story of an ex-FBI man going undercover is as old as the hills but Arnie’s career skyrocketed as he began stamping his big presence all over these types of action films.

18. The Last Stand 2013 Sheriff Ray Owens Lionsgate

Modern Schwarzenegger came back after T3 with this tale of an over-the-hill Sheriff in a small town. Johnny Knoxville does his best to ruin the film, but Arnie’s jokes about his old age and some neat action sequences push the film along and whilst hardly a classic, it demonstrated Arnie had not lost his big screen presence.

17. Twins 1988 Julius Benedict Universal Pictures

“I’m your twin brother Julius!” Arnie’s comedy teams him up with DeVito as two long lost brothers in an experiment gone wrong. With a much-mooted sequel called “Triplets” (with Eddie Murphy as the third sibling) never materialising, Arnie was content with making $35 million from his 20% video sales contract - earning more from this than any of his Terminator movies in this amusing mismatched farce.

16. Red Heat 1988 Captain Ivan Danko TriStar Pictures

A cold war buddy-cop movie matching Soviet Schwarzenegger with James Belushi, this culture clash film had solid action and comedy whilst scenes depicting Moscow’s Red Square were actually shot incognito as the crew had failed to get permission to film there.

15. Escape Plan 2013 Emil Rottmayer / Victor Mannheim Summit Entertainment

A long overdue proper team up with fellow 80s action hero Sly Stallone for this second comeback film, Arnie (again) plays on his old action persona but the film had one surprising scene with Arnie speaking in his native Austrian language. I think this was possibly the best acting I had ever seen from the “oak”. Showing that he still has some surprises left in him I would love to see more of this and less of the “jokey” Arnie he often descends into.

14. Eraser 1996 U.S. Marshal John Kruger Warner Bros. Pictures

Erased had a troubled production with Arnie playing mediator between crew members as well as last minute re-writes meaning the film didn’t hold together as well as it should. But with James Caan as an evil villain and some impressive CGI-augmented guns, the action beats were all there for more classic mayhem.

13. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 2003 The Terminator Warner Bros. Pictures

Arnie’s terrible turn as his iconic role still manages to lift this awful film above its station. Killing off Sarah and a bleak ending involving Nick Stahl were two miscalculated decisions but with all the series’ motifs returning, Arnie showed he could still take a battering as a ‘bot. A misfire on so many levels but ‘bad Terminator’ is still better than most sci-fi action films out there.

12. Pumping Iron 1977 Himself

From his humble Austrian beginnings to the bright lights of World Bodybuilding, Arnie’s autobiography compliments this amazing documentary and highlights how much the sport helped him develop and how much it means to him. Helping to focus Arnie’s talents and then taking his big persona across the globe, Schwarzenegger used this as a platform to get him into movies but not before ensuring we had a better understanding of our bodies and health. Whilst some of the stories were embellished (Arnie has admitted that not attending his father’s funeral was an outright lie) the doc shows the rivalries and ripped biceps of the biggest lifters on the planet.

11. The 6th Day 2000 Adam Gibson / Adam Gibson Clone Columbia Pictures

An overlooked gem in my opinion, this sci-fi cloning movie disappeared without much fanfare at the turn of the millennium but its multi-personality themes and chase narrative is a classic Arnie trait through and through. The action is solid and it concerns itself with more serious issues than most but with the usual one-liners and plot beats. With a satiric tone and big ambition it fails to hit the loftiest heights but gives an admirable showing of the action genre that Arnie does with aplomb.

10. Kindergarten Cop 1990 Detective John Kimble Universal Pictures

A silly piece of fluff is probably the best of Schwarzenegger’s family-friendly films as he plays a rough cop going undercover as a teacher at an elementary school. With the kids proving adorable and annoying to our hero in equal measure, its soft edges are the main contrast with Arnie’s mountainous and imposing frame. From funny one-liners (“It’s not a tumour”) to a fine cast of child actors, this was the pinnacle of PG-Arnie. But he didn’t make many thank goodness!

9. Conan the Barbarian 1982 Conan Universal Pictures

Sword training, martial arts and horse-riding made sure Arnie had the skilled components to play the legendary barbarian in this fantasy film. Alongside James Earl Jones and a series of exciting set-pieces, the film shows revenge, orgies and war battles and Arnie’s towering physicality brought to life the comic book anti-hero.

8. Commando1985 Colonel John Matrix 20th Century Fox

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vernon Wells have remained close friends ever since the making of this action movie and a sequel was drafted by Frank Darabont which eventually went on to become Die Hard. However, this was the perfect template of B-movie action fests that became Arnie’s calling card. With all the clichés in the world – retired elite Black Ops Commando? Check. One-man war? Check. South American criminals? Check. Kidnapped daughter? Check. AND an exiled dictator – meant that it has been providing Saturday night thrills ever since.

7. Last Action Hero 1993 Jack Slater / Himself Columbia Pictures

Misunderstood on its release, this quirky pastiche of genre clichés has since received a warmer welcome from critics who now appreciate its post-modern take on the films that made Arnie who he is today. Containing such random touches like a cartoon sidekick, Arnie as Hamlet and endless crossover parodies of characters from real life and fictional, the film tries to do too much AND aim for a broad family audience. Whilst it is a failure from one angle, it’s a subversive (albeit messy) success from another.

6. True Lies 1994 Harry Tasker 20th Century Fox

Along with Sigourney, Cameron found a bit of a sci-fi muse in Schwarzenegger and although this is probably the worst of their collaborations, it still holds up as a fine spy-caper riffing on everything from Mission Impossible to James Bond. From suburban slob to secret spy, Arnie is hardly the most convincing undercover agent you will see but with housewife Jamie Lee Curtis’s stereotypical terrorist, the cast managed to gracefully tango the fine line between genuine thrills and silly escapism. An enjoyable but nonsensical vehicle for Arnie’s trademark guns and violence, truly this was one explosive blockbuster from the mid 90s!

5. The Running Man 1987 Ben Richards TriStar Pictures

Apparently inspiring American Gladiators (just Gladiators here in the UK, awooga!) and loosely based on a story by Stephen King, this film featured Arnie as a man set-up to take part in a violent TV game show where he needs to survive along with fellow captured resistance fighters. Fighting off against such hilariously named “stalkers” like SubZero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo and Captain Freedom (ex wrestler and fellow Predator chaser Jesse Ventura) Arnie takes down host Killian who televises the shady show in the oppressive police state. Fun and frantic, the movie moves at a fast pace and strangely Arnie criticised the director for filming it like a TV show! His character also says “I'm not into politics. I'm into survival”. Quite.

4. Total Recall 1990 Douglas Quaid / Hauser TriStar Pictures

Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers) made this film part of his classic sci-fi oeuvre which stars Schwarzenegger as Doug Quaid, a man bored with his life who has implanted memories put into his mind. When the procedure goes wrong, he uncovers he could be an undercover spy (or is it part of the inception) and goes off on an adventure to free (another) oppressive regime. With one of the first uses of CGI for the X-Ray scanner, another Arnie-on-the-run film was helped by Verhoeven’s satirical take on familiar genre tropes and by adding 3-boobed aliens and Oscar winning special effects made this one fans would recall again and again as near-perfect Arnie.

3. Predator 1987 Major Alan "Dutch" Schaeffer 20th Century Fox

With a script by Shane Black (who also stars) Predator may even beat out Terminator as Arnie’s most quotable film even though the best lines are spread throughout the cast. “Get to the Chopper”, “I ain't got time to bleed” and “Come on... Come on! Do It! Kill me!” will be familiar to all of his fans and the support from Carl Weathers and Bill Duke round out a brilliant ensemble. With a jungle rescue mission going awry, the party are picked off one by one by the alien hunter in this brilliant mix of dialogue and dread in the dark and drizzly rain forest.

2. The Terminator 1984 The Terminator Orion Pictures

Giving him his most iconic role, James Cameron cast the ex-bodybuilder as an almost indestructible cyborg from the future on the prowl to kill the mother of a future resistance leader. Requiring few words, a huge physique and robotic acting range, it has to be said that Arnie was perfectly cast as Cameron takes a b-movie premise and gives it a much needed jolt with wit, great actions scenes, some innovative special effects and a solid cast to create a sci-fi behemoth. Which leads us to...

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 TriStar Pictures

Schwarzenegger was indeed “back” as Cameron delivered a high budget follow up to his “tech-noir’ original. Upping the ante with more action, deeper themes and an equally iconic CGI villain made of liquid metal, the mix of blockbuster action, clever smarts and spot-on casting cemented Arnie as the character we all loved. Becoming the “goodie”, this neat switch meant that audiences had a brand new story rather than a rehash making Cameron the king of sequels with this and Aliens. Being the only sequel to win an Academy Award when the previous movie wasn't even nominated, T2’s legacy is still being felt today with subsequent films trying to capture the unique and iconic magic of this 90s classic.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2013 09:26AM

Can the eagle eye sailors in the crow's nest see the iceberg any easier in this retro-fitted 3D re-release of Cameron's star-crossed lovers from different background CGI epic...Matt finds out in his review of Avatar...wait, no...Titanic!

I’ll get this out of the way right at the very beginning. I like Titanic. I like Titanic a lot. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my top ten favourite films. I love it. If you’ve never seen it – your loss – but allow me to give you a brief synopsis. Rich girl gets on boat. Rich girl meets poor boy. Rich girl and poor boy get it on. Ship sinks. Poor boy dies. The moral of the story being that if you’re rich, you can survive most things, even the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

I must admit though, that as much as I love the film, I was a bit surprised it had been chosen for a 3D re-release. 3D seems to be the realm of action/horror/sci-fi films and not romantic dramas. 3D can certainly add elements to the right kind of films, but to a film like Titanic? I was sceptical. And, as I found out, rightly so. Touching up Titanic with a bit of 3D doesn’t really work. With 3D, there should be dramatic “in your face” moments and Titanic just doesn’t have them.

The famous iceberg which did for the ship doesn’t move out of the screen as it strikes the Titanic, water doesn’t appear to be flooding towards the audience in dramatic 3D fashion. The interior shots do have more depth to them but seeing a dining room in 3D just isn’t the same as seeing alien spaceships flying down a canyon as in Avatar. In a 3D film of over 3 hours, there was only really one 3D “wow” moment when the water floods into the bridge were the Captain meets his maker. In a film this long, you’d expect more.

The problem, however, rests with the film itself. To state the obvious, it’s already been made! There are no new scenes that can really be added in to make the 3D work and there are no existing scenes that 3D can really add anything too. The 3D angle just doesn’t work with a film like Titanic in the same way as it does in Avatar or Toy Story 3.

Once again, I was disappointed with a 3D re-release. I do like 3D as a concept where it can add something to the cinema experience but pointlessly re-releasing films just to add 3D into it seems like a pointless gimmick. That said, the film itself is amazing on the big screen and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it again, even though the 3D was a bit of a damp squib. My advice – go and see Titanic at the cinema while you can, but skip the 3D and go for the cheaper 2D option.

Midlands Movies Matthew

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