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By midlandsmovies, Dec 20 2019 10:05PM

Midlands Movies Top 20 Films of 2019





20. A Vigilante Dir. Sarah Dagger-Nickson

What we said: “Great cinematography helps focus the story on a stellar performance from Wilde, who plays both a hard-nosed enactor of violence and, in flashback, a sensitive and emotional victim-turned-avenger. It has a smart and timely premise and is a quality movie tackling the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Olivia Wilde gives a career-best performance 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”

Click here for full review





19. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Dir. JJ Abrams

What we said: "with so many people to please, JJ has stuck safely to familiar beats. And although too familiar at times, The Rise of Skywalker is a fitting tribute to this trilogy and may just bring a bit of hope, and certainly a tear to your eye, knowing we’ve finally left this galaxy far, far behind".

Click here for full review





18. One Cut of the Dead Dir. Shin'ichirô Ueda

What we said: "Made on just $25,000 with a cast of unknowns, this surprising Japanese “horror” is an underground bloodbath success. Clever and knowing with plenty of comedy, One Cut of the Dead is as much about low budget zombie filmmaking as it is a low budget zombie film. A genuine indie gem, the film is in love with other rom-zom-coms but its true romance is with the filmmaking process itself".

Click here for full review








17. Us Dir. Jordan Peele

What we said: “The cast excel in their physical portrayal of their ‘other’ selves. Mixing slasher and home-invasion tropes with a Twilight Zone episode, Us is another frightful look at the current politics and issues facing the United States/U.S./‘Us’. And Peele’s masterful handling of a wide range of deeper meanings, along with a love for horror staples, sees Us continuing his spectacular cinema successes”.

Click here for full review





16. Fighting with My Family Dir. Stephen Merchant

What we said: “The film gets by on so much heart and has funny (and when needed, dramatic) scenes that mean audiences will empathise with the lovable characters from the outset. With crowd-pleasing humour, a tender heart and some affected drama, the film is brought to life with a simple and engaging directorial style from Merchant but the excellently delivered performance from the whole cast is the real contest winner here”.

Click here for full review





15. Brightburn Dir.David Yarovesky

What we said: “The movie's superhero genre-homages are a pleasure to watch as Brightburn has an interesting idea and a surprising amount of gore and horror making it 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”.

Click here for full review





14. Can You Ever Forgive Me? Dir. Marielle Heller

What we said: “This career-defining role showcases McCarthy’s dramatic ‘chops’ and Richard E Grant channels some Withnail but is more likeable here – especially when pleading with McCarthy about being her only friend. Unobtrusive directing helps focus on the characters and it really is the McCarthy and Grant show here so can I ever forgive her for those awful comedies? Well, based on this performance, I’d be a fool not to”.

Click here for full review





13. Glass Dir. M Night Shyamalan

What we said: “It is to Shyamalan’s credit he not only got to finish a trilogy started 19 years ago but to do so in such a satisfying manner. Glass surprises by being the kind of dark, tension-filled shattering success that are nowadays shuffled off to Netflix when they should be enjoyed on the big screen as it provides more than satisfying thrills from the beginning until the end”.

Click here for full review





12. Lords of Chaos Dir. Jonas Åkerlund

What we said: “Whilst band members dispute the historical accuracy of some of the events in the film, it is then somewhat ironic the film concerns itself with character dualism, surface personality and the clashing viewpoints of each member. And Lords of Chaos dramatizes a bleak story with a great combination of multi-layered performances and grave scenes of violence. Ghastly but gratifying”.

Click here for full review





11. The Irishman Dir. Martin Scorsese

What we said: “A loving goodbye, age has mellowed them all and the film’s measured pace brought me into a satisfying world of sleaze, bribery and immorality. The Irishman is first-rate as an extraordinary drama of historical importance and covers contemporary themes of authoritarian corruption and violence. But it is also a more than pleasurable and honest love letter to the group’s past creative endeavours together”.

Click here for full review





10. Joker Dir. Todd Phillips

What we said: “And so, throwing in many modern political issues as it does along with a complexity not seen in many graphic novel-inspired films, Joker is not perfect but if you fancy something with a little more depth – think Nolan’s trilogy and then some – then the flick has enough thoughtful ambiguity and an amazing central performance to make it more than worthwhile”.

Click here for full review





9. Her Smell Dir. Alex Ross Perry

What we said: “Moss’ terrific central performance allows us to be drawn into her shocking exploits without condoning what she is doing to those around her. As she poisons herself one event at a time, the interesting dynamics are slowly teased out and revealed as the narrative progresses. From the excellent performances to the grotesque but engaging breakdowns, Her Smell is an intense and satisfying tour down a boulevard of broken dreams”.

Click here for full review





8. Destroyer Dir. Karyn Kusama

What we said: “With a tremendous cast throughout and first-rate scenes exploring the consequences of violence, Destroyer is an exceptional thriller from start to finish. But more importantly, it will destroy all preconceptions you had of Kidman as she delivers a superbly astonishing turn in the type of heroically repellent role I’d love to see more of”.

Click here for full review





7. Apollo 11 Dir. Todd Douglas Miller

What we said: “And as I type this on a laptop that has 1,500 times more processing power than the lunar module, the reality is that this was a dangerous mission with men strapped into a claustrophobic metal box stuck to the world’s biggest firework. Covering both science and patriotic emotions, Apollo 11 is a must-see for space enthusiasts and for the rest, you can bask in the jaw-dropping and immaculate footage which brings the electrifying lunar landing to life”.

Click here for full review





6. Booksmart Dir. Olivia Wilde

What we said: “The movie balances coarseness with an emotional heft that is incredibly satisfying. The two leads, Feldstein and Dever, are simply wonderful and some off-the-wall sequences on a boat, at a murder mystery party and as toy dolls are a giddy joy. A poignant conclusion and some believable drama throughout, the balance of laughs and moving scenes were affecting in this impressive film. Booksmart therefore comes highly recommended as a fun night out for all”.

Click here for full review





5. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood Dir. Quentin Tarantino

What we said: “The film demonstrates that Tarantino truly is in a class of his own in a period where franchise building has mostly replaced the draw of the big-named actor. But this incredibly satisfying love letter to these fictional pulp princes and real-life silver screen starlets provides a brilliant fantasy romance steeped in the glow of an era long gone. Helter Skelter in a summer swelter indeed”.

Click here for full review





4. Border Dir. Ali Abbasi

What we said: “Abassi uses themes of family and genetics to tackle the problems of being an outsider as he injects realism and history into his tall tale. A cracking drama with added fantasy elements, Border is both compassionate and shocking and comes hugely recommended as it combines amazing performances that go beyond the prosthetics with a host of disturbing images you simply won't forget”.

Click here for full review





3. Thunder Road Dir. Jim Cummings

What we said: “With a startling low micro-budget, Cummings has created a true masterpiece – with his talented self, rightly so, at the centre. Is it a dark comedy drama? Is it a reflection of contemporary American talking-points? Well, it’s all that and more but without doubt it comes hugely recommended as not just one of the best debut films of the year, but one of the best films period”.

Click here for full review





2. Avengers: Endgame Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo

What we said: “At the conclusion, the Russos have delivered exactly what was needed by assembling a perfect narrative, cast and, more difficultly, a rewarding ending to the most epic of stories. With their cinema-changing franchise, everything in Endgame is not just perfect comic-book fare, but the pure pinnacle of movie entertainment and was a gargantuan and gratifying game I never wanted to end”.

Click here for full review





1. The Favourite Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

What we said: “With its added darkness and the Machiavellian machinations of the three protagonists, the film is full to the brim with incredible performances alongside some eccentricities in its technical aspects, plus we mustn’t forget its terrific quip-filled script. It’s a formidable film from a director who takes weighty themes and provides a theatre for three mighty actresses to deliver some of the best performances of the year and possibly of their career”.

Click here for full review



By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2019 01:51PM



Joker (2019) Dir. Todd Phillips


With DCEU failing to set the world alight with its more than questionable quality issues, Warner Brothers have decided to recast Batman’s infamous nemesis the Joker with Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime.


Set in 1981, the film ditches any connection to the DC shared universe with Warners adopting a one-and-done attitude as an antidote to Marvel’s ‘shared world’ behemoth. Phoenix is Arthur Fleck, a mentally unstable loner who lives with his mother and is employed by a party clown agency. Director Phillips has given him an unusual but unique backstory which now makes his maniacal laugh a medical condition. As Arthur’s life falls apart – he loses his job, his psychiatrist is forced to stop her help and his stand-up “career” fails – his trajectory is reflected in Gotham’s own crime-ridden downward spiral.


The film does have a few flaws. Phoenix’s portrayal is undoubtedly fantastic but the story does take a while to get going. 30 minutes in and cine-aware audiences would already know the typical beats of the downtrodden loser narrative. And the delusional sub-plots involving the under-used Zazie Beetz are quite obvious.


Also, with Robert De Niro as a talk-show host and a range of themes including isolation and mental illness, the film nods to both Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. I say nods but although there is some great cinematography from Lawrence Sher, the film is, at times, a blatant re-shaping of Marty’s back catalogue.


In many ways, without the brief references to Gotham and Wayne Enterprises the film itself could have been an independent film without any of the superhero connections. It explores the mental fragility of a very dark extreme individual whilst barely mentioning its comic book origins.


There has been controversy over the film – as per usual these days. Once upon a time, moral busybodies were defining features of the right but it could be argued that films are being overly attacked when they portray less than savoury ideals. “Because it’s so much fun, Jan”, Quentin Tarantino once said on a TV news cast as he was asked why he fills his films with so much violence. Well, much like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (and many of Scorsese’s protagonists in fact), here is an abhorrent central character whose downtrodden life is still no excuse for the horrid actions he subsequently commits.


And on a personal note, I don’t (and never have) bought into the “glorifying violence” or could “inspire others” critical analysis myself. From the Hays Code to Mary Whitehouse via the 80s video nasty censors to The Matrix, cinema has always been accused of being a corrupting influence. But audiences are clever enough to see there are characters, even central ones, that shouldn’t be sympathised with. Much like Travis Bickle funnily enough. A disgusting protagonist whose ideals and actions do not align with your own is something I like to give audiences credit for in their ability to distinguish from real life.


And so, throwing in many modern political issues as it does along with a complexity not seen in many graphic novel-inspired films, Joker is definitely not perfect but if you fancy something with a little more depth – think Nolan’s trilogy and then some – then the flick has enough thoughtful ambiguity and an amazing central performance to make it more than worthwhile.


★★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Aug 14 2016 11:59AM

Suicide Squad (2016) Dir. David Ayer


A group of imprisoned super villains are recruited by a secret government agency to complete a black ops mission in exchange for reduced sentences, leading to inevitable chaos.


When a mysterious supernatural entity threatens the world, a secret government agency led by high-ranking official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits a selection of the most dangerous villains for combat. If anything goes wrong, the government will not be liable, and the criminals will be destroyed. Each member of the aptly named 'Suicide Squad' has a bomb implanted into their neck before the mission which will be detonated if they fail or do anything that goes against protocol. It will be up to them to rise above the apparently impossible events that will take place before them, in what many would to be a suicide mission.


The highly anticipated Suicide Squad - tipped to be the hottest film of summer 2016 - has taken a lot of flack since its release. After seeing it, I can't say that I agree with the panning it has received. Prior to the trip to the cinema, after eating many mixed reviews, I wasn't too optimistic about the film, but it was quite a bit better than I had thought it was going to be.that being said, however, it was not perfect...


I couldn't really fault the performances. Will Smith had some very quick-witted one-liners as Deadshot (people have argued about whether this should have been the case, but I thought they were necessary to keep the film moving along).Margot Robbie was insanely good as Harley Quinn and was equally as entertaining. I feel like the other members of the Suicide Squad were purely to fill it out, but they generally did this quite well. Jai Courtney provided some good laughs as Boomerang, while Jay Hernandes balanced this out as Diablo, who had found himself some sort of a conscience whilst incarcerated. Cara Delevigne was the only one who I didn't think met the same standards as the others, but her character, Enchantress/June Moone, wasn't on-screen all that long so I can live with that.


Jared Leto's turn as The Joker was pretty short lived, and this is probably what disappointed me the most. I feel like Suicide Squad was quite heavily sold on his name, and for him to only feature for roughly twenty minutes was a slight let-down.


I would say I will now discuss the storyline, but there wasn't really that much of a storyline to pass comment on. What bit of narrative that did exist was quite rushed. It would have been far better, I think at least, if the villains had been introduced to us in their won respective films before this one so that we weren't all going into Suicide Squad cold. The thing to keep the film afloat was the action. The film survived on gunshots and explosions, and if it hadn't have been for this, the three of us who went to see this film may very well have fallen asleep in the cinema.


All I can really say about Suicide Squad is that it is a fun comic-book adaptation that is what it is. It's a film that is guaranteed to make money no matter what, so can afford to be flawed as people will still queue to see it. It was never meant to be taken too seriously! They might be the worst heroes ever, but it's certainly not the worst film ever. However, nor is it the best.


7/10


Kira Comerford

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