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By midlandsmovies, Aug 19 2018 03:05PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 2


Another selection of films from 2018 that we've caught up with later in the year!




Blockers (2018) Dir. Kay Cannon

A 90s style sex comedy which harks back to its closest cousin American Pie (1999) Blockers tells the story of three girls who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. With their protective parents discovering their saucy plans, they endeavour to prevent their offspring’s goals in a series of (“cock”) blocking moves. A directorial debut of some comedic flair, Blockers takes what could be a seedy premise and gives it a dash of heart which American comedies so much need to avoid the full-on gross-out humour and improv-style that has plagued the genre in the 2010s.


Starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena – the ex-wrestler is surprisingly becoming one of my favourite American comedians and a far better actor than The Rock in my opinion – they are the trio of parents who try to stop their children Julie (Kathryn Newton), Sam (Gideon Adlon) and Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) from doing the dirty.


As well as the solid gags and situations, a splattering of deeper themes are sprinkled throughout including overprotective parents, blossoming sexuality and parental neglect during difficult teenage years. And whilst a couple of scenes seemed unnecessary – a rectum beer bong (!) is probably the worst offender – all 6 lead actors do well with the material as they give their characters heart and empathy. Blockers’ best aspect are the honest performances and tender moments however. Hardly breaking new ground, the film is a fun romp (pardon the pun) that takes its ideas seriously but with a winning formula of hilarity and honesty. 7/10



The Endless (2018) Dir. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

With a draw dropping trailer, The Endless promised a dark drama with fantastic visuals as a strange, possibly apocalyptic, entity descends on a cult in the wilderness. Directors Benson and Moorhead also star as two brothers who return to a mysterious group of zealots they escaped from in their past. Struggling to move forward in their lives, the brothers have differing views of the cult and whilst their friends seem the same as many years ago, eerie events lead them to suspect there are still many unanswered questions.


The film sadly doesn’t live up to the trailer promise and opens poorly with an attempt to instil mystery falling flat with bland talking head interviews and a convoluted explanation of the events so far. Once the brothers arrive at the compound the film steps up a gear but spectacularly fails to provide any drama to keep the narrative pushing forward. With trees falling, a baseball apparently “floating” and a stranger repeatedly running there’s plenty of mysteries set up to explore but the Endless struggles to engage with rather dull characters and a narrative that, somewhat ironically, never gets going. As it proceeds I found my interest waning and with so little conflict or explanation, the worst state of all kicked in and I started not to care.


[Spoiler] The film’s one interesting concept is a reveal that this movie actually cross-overs with the directors’ previous film Resolution. If you are to watch the Endless then I highly recommend you catch that first. Aside from the surprise sequel concept (it’s no Split I assure you) there are some obvious circular comparisons in the visuals (a cup here, a ring fireplace there) which showed the inexperience of the directors with such weak parallels.


Whilst there were attempts to explore the truths behind the inexplicable events, I had sadly already lost interest by the final act. Comparisons to the TV show Lost were inevitable when rabbit hole story threads go down other rabbit holes, which, after a while, simply made no sense. In the end though, a great set of ideas and some admirable rich themes are completely undercut by a stale and moribund narrative and bland characters. A real missed opportunity that endlessly disappoints. 6/10



Ghost Stories (2018) Dir. Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson

A horror anthology with echoes of Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost Story also has a splattering of dark comedy by co-writer and co-director Jeremy Dyson from the legendary League of Gentlemen. Fellow writer-director Andy Nyman also stars as the film’s lead as a presenter who debunks psychics, but is then sent to investigate three mysterious tales by the famous 1970s supernatural sceptic who inspired him. First up is a ghostly fable involving a night watchman haunted by his daughter’s spirit, then a teenager spooked by a malevolent being in the woods and we end with a poltergeist encounter with a new-born.


The tales work well as short shockers but the film couldn’t quite work the balance of humour and horror. The appearance of comedic talents Martin Freeman and the Fast Show’s Paul Whitehouse meant the tales weren’t as terrifying as they needed to be. With a conclusion that felt more cop-out than revelatory, the whole production is well meaning but a bit meandering. Ghost Stories may supply a few charms for fans of retro UK Hammer horror but for me it would have suited TV far more than the cinema. A story of missed opportunities. 6/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Jun 24 2018 03:51PM

Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 1


As with every year, we're playing a bit of a game with the amount of films on release in the UK. Below is some of the films that came out over 2018 that we've now caught after passing us by on their main release:




The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff


Released via Netflix in the UK, Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as he plays Rick Janssen – a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. As he is pushed past extreme conditions he’s soon swimming underwater for 40 minutes but there are evil plans afoot as some of the volunteers begin to exhibit strange behaviour and body convulsing horrors.


His wife Abigail (Taylor Schilling) starts to fear for her husband’s increasing strange development as he loses his hair and skin as his body evolves. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. And Tom Wilkinson as a shady government professor brings little to this film experiment. With a slow build up, the admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions. 4/10




Verónica (2018) Dir. Paco Plaza


Based on the “true” 1991 story where Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro died mysteriously after using a Ouija board, Verónica is a new film from REC 1 and 2 writer/director Paco Plaza. A side-comment on REC is that it is one of my favourite horror films of all time. I know hand-held horror is not to everyone’s taste but what it does is fantastically creepy and the sequel is one of the best horror follow-ups of all time in my book. So, with some lofty expectations it was disappointing to see Verónica being far too tame across the board.


15 year-old Verónica looks after her younger siblings Lucia, Irene and Antoñito but during a solar eclipse at their school, she sneaks away from the playground to a basement to try out a Ouija board. In one of the best scenes of the movie the director elicits a genuine foreboding atmosphere out of a scene we’ve seen hundreds of time before in cinema. As expected, supernatural occurrences happen around Verónica including ghostly apparitions and poltergeists as well as strange noises, bite marks and so on. And it’s these expected sequences that really harm Verónica as it fails to build upon its early good work.


A blind nun from the school called “Sister Death” is a tremendous character however. Her chain-smoking appearance is creepy and if this was a Blumhouse production, she’d get her own spin off. Alas, aside from the nun and although Sandra Escacena as Verónica is fantastic, the film heads towards inevitable conclusions and although it’s better than most Hollywood horrors, it fails to bring anything truly exciting or new to the genre. 6.5/10



Cargo (2018) Dir. Ben Howling and Yoland Ramke

This Australian post-apocalyptic thriller film is based on an original short from the directors and stars The Office’s Martin Freeman as a father trying to protect his child in a world overtaken by a zombie-like virus.


Andy (Freeman) lives with his wife (Susie Porter as Kay) and his one-year-old daughter Rosie on a houseboat in rural Australia. But as food rations run out, they visit an abandoned boat and something deadly bites Kay. They continue forward despite knowing that in just 48 hours Kay will inevitably fall victim to her infected wound. After a road accident knocks out Andy he awakes to find Kay transformed. Despite his anguish, Kay is put out of her misery by a forlorn Freeman – but not before he too is bitten and realises he needs to get his baby to a safe-haven.


With glorious vistas and aerial footage of the desolated Australian outback, the real locations are thoroughly well filmed and although the movie tackles dark themes it avoids the blood and guts of most zombie flicks. Replacing them is a more subtle and nuanced look at family, sacrifice and survival in a world filled with little compassion.


Andy’s inevitable, and time-limited, decline gives Cargo a sense of impending purpose and he crosses paths with Thoomi (Simone Landers), an adolescent girl who keeps her infected father as a sad contaminated pet. Their interactions provide the audience with thoughtful issues whilst highlighting the harsh realities facing those of different ages, backgrounds and cultures and how each adapts to the same threat. Not wanting to lose loved ones and Andy’s certain outcome plays on their minds and Cargo delves into these issues as they journey on.


The introspective dialogue is delivered well by Freeman and the support cast, whilst Anthony Hayes as Vic Carter shows an opposing view where selfishness reigns as Vic uses humans, specifically the indigenous Aborigines, imprisoned in cages as bait to attract and kill zombies.


A satisfying ending and hugely empathetic performance from Martin Freeman means Cargo is a great addition to the sometimes overstuffed (and of sometimes questionable quality) zombie genre which is hugely to its credit. Looking at issues of race and colonialism, Cargo will probably not deliver the requisite horrors for a jump-scare zombie film fan. But for those who tend to avoid this sort of film like the plague, at 105 minutes Cargo doesn’t overstay its welcome as a satisfying domestic drama rather than a fright flick. 7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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