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By midlandsmovies, Jun 24 2019 07:19AM



Brightburn (2019) Dir.David Yarovesky


Written by Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn and produced by cousin James Gunn, Brightburn sure is a family affair. And family and growing up are two of the central themes in this new what-if-Superman-was-evil horror flick.


We begin with full-on Snyder-satire where the images from his disappointing Man of Steel are recreated so closely that I’m surprised DC haven’t filed a copyright claim. We get images of grain silos, barns and mailboxes as we discover a small town (ville?) called Brightburn located in Kansas (where else?).


What we have is mother Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer and David Denman as Kyle Breyer whose son Brandon (a nod to Superman Returns’ Brandon Routh?) was in fact discovered as a baby one night after a glowing spaceship crashed on their land. And so they take him under the wing unknowing that their child will soon develop super-powers.


Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon does well as we see an innocent boy uncovering his powers that make his school and personal life a misery. Parallels with the problems of growing up are echoed in his uncontrollable urges and difficult teen conversations. His mum and dad chalk this up to the perils of puberty but although his body is physically changing, he has an unnatural attraction to the spaceship he arrived in that is now hidden in their barn. And the red entity that lies within has him changing into a “super-brat” his parents struggle to control.


“Who am I?” asks Brandon, oblivious to his past and with his parents revealing the truth to him, his bad behaviour gets worse and the abuse of his powers increases. He breaks the wrist of a girl who doesn’t like him back, and in the most gruesome scene of the year (involving glass and a close-up on an eye) he brings awful revenge to her mother.


The film does well in setting up character, motivations and the plot and we uncover many truths along with the main players, first feeling sympathy and then disgust with Brandon’s strength. As he enacts punishment to seemingly petty situations, the film also explores the notion of maturity and masculity (his father gives him “the talk” and issues of gun ownership come up) whist Banks gives a great performance as the mum longing for, and protecting, a son no matter what flaws he has.


Brandon's blue pyjamas and red bed sheet outfit (!) morphs into a scary red-only costume he has drawn in a notebook and the film hints upon the 2013 Superman: Red Son comic mini-series which asks what would happen if Superman landed in Russia instead of the USA. Would he still do good?


Eventually Brandon flies up, up and away and with super-speed the film turns into a slasher of sorts as the authorities track him down after investigating a mysterious symbol Brandon leaves at the scene of his atrocities - and the movie's genre-homages were a pleasure to watch.


With an interesting idea and a surprising amount of gore and horror, Brightburn is a fantastic what-if fantasy film. With a mother desperate for a child to love, the film gives more depth to what could have been a throwaway fright flick and although firmly in the b-movie genre, I hope it gains enough of a cult following to deliver a sequel to its rather dark finale.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 17 2017 09:36PM

The Belko Experiment (2017) Dir. Greg McLean


From the director of Wolf Creek 1 and 2 comes this horror-drama where a group of office workers in South America are pitted against each other in a social experiment fight to the death.


Each worker has a voluntary tracking device in their head (owing to possible kidnappings) yet when their high rise building is suddenly locked down, a mysterious intercom voice instructs them to kill each other or face having their in-head trackers blown up.


A ridiculous premise for sure, I found the characters boring and not even a broad turn from the likable John C. McGinley (Office Space) could help with the repetitive killing spree.


Uninspiring “deaths” and a lack of tension unfortunately didn’t help proceedings and the film was crying out for the genre-bending and satirical style of similar structural kill-fest ‘Cabin in the Woods’. In a world where realism is often missing from modern movies, it was clear that what The Belko Experiment actually needed was a big pinch of hyper-reality or dark comedy to compensate for the ludicrous set-up.


Despite being written by James Gunn, the film contains little of his wit and clever character arcs (as seen in his ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films) and was ultimately just like a long unfulfilling 9-5 shift at the office.


5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, May 8 2017 09:04AM



Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Dir. James Gunn


After the huge success of the first film, writer-director James Gunn returns to the vibrant day-glow world of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his eclectic gang for this sequel in the never-ending Marvel franchise.


One of its positives is perhaps its lack of connection to the shared Marvel cinematic universe allowing for (aside from few post-credit scenes) a focus on its own story rather than setting up future characters and films with a set of unfulfilling cliff-hangers.


Here the superhero film focuses on the Guardians crew who are now mercenaries for hire of sorts and after defeating a large squid in a superb one-take musical opening, meet with a golden race called the Sovereign. Their reward for their job is Gamora’s sister Nebula (Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan respectively) but they are soon on the run after Rocket Racoon (voiced brilliantly still by Bradley Cooper) steals valuable batteries from them.


After being chased, the group split with Peter, Gamora and Drax ending up on a sentient planet created by Peter’s God-like father Ego (Kurt Russell) whilst Rocket and Vin Diesel’s (baby) Groot cross paths with Michael Rooker’s superb Yondu who is in trouble with his own mutinous clan.


GOTG Vol. 2 is a fresh, superb sequel that delves deeper into these characters established in the original and each distinct personality has their own unique narrative arc. Gunn has done a great job with a multi-character script with a few pop-culture references (TV’s Knightrider is brilliantly given a nod) which do not muddy the deeper themes. Gunn uses serious drama, stories of revenge and love and a father-son dynamic to create conflict in a lesson to all budding scriptwriters. Yet, none of it feels like a surface gesture.


Drax’s “literal” laughter develops into more understanding of his bluntness whilst fun jokes, such as the ones at the expense of the strangely named Taserface, sit perfectly with parental quarrels and inter-team tensions.


The film never once felt slow or dragged out and is edited to within an inch of its life letting the audience know exactly where everyone is and what their motivations are. This is without losing the crucial essence of the characters. Rogue One this isn’t and thank goodness for that.


Given the film’s sensitive subject matter to me after my own recent loss of a parent, the ideas and excellent delivery of them by Gunn hit an emotional core that may be beyond the casual viewer. However, that’s not to say others will not find an emotional resonance with the superbly played out poignancy of the film’s conclusion – where I admit a tear of two was shed.


Dave Bautista as Drax rounds out the first-rate acting on show and I would go as far to say that the film could be even better than the first. Like Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, the film jumps straight into the drama without the need for the “origin story” and delves deeper into each character and their universe akin to classic sci-fi follow up Empire Strikes Back.


With enough new elements added, as well as the obligatory 70s soundtrack which is incorporated well into the story, GOTG Vol. 2 is an exceptional feat. The film could be the best-looking Marvel film to date with its eye-popping colour palette and with outstanding costumes, make-up and special effects scenes will satisfy the action fans. However, for me it showed that if you care about your leads then these are hugely heightened. Yet the film’s best asset is Gunn himself who delivers the whole package needed in a summer blockbuster and it is he who is the Guardian of his own gorgeous galaxy.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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