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By midlandsmovies, Apr 28 2019 07:29AM



Avengers: Endgame (2019) Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo


What I’ve enjoyed in the MCU (more so than the current rebooted Star Wars) is the actual inclusion of loving relationships. Be it between father-son figures (Guardians, Spider-Man), brothers (Thor) or partners (Iron Man & Pepper Potts, Captain America and Peggy Carter) an aspect so often overlooked is how these “superficial” Hollywood blockbusters – they’re anything but in most cases – deal with human’s love/hate for one another.


So for all their bombast and CGI battles, Avengers: Infinity War was the first part of the end of an EMOTIONAL journey that both the characters, and audiences, have experienced over the last 10 years and it's what underpins Endgame throughout.


So story wise, where are we? Well, after Thanos’ success in gaining the infinitely gauntlet and ‘clicking’ half the universe’s living life away, the surviving members of the Avengers attempt to reverse the loss of their loved ones. Again, the driving factor is love, longing and personal connections and it is why Endgame is ultimately a huge success.


5 years after the event, Scott Lang returns from the quantum realm (seen in Ant-Man and the Wasp) to suggest they can reverse the horrors caused to earth by travelling back in time to snatch the infinity stones before Thanos can collect them himself. Whilst taking pot shots at time-travel paradoxes (Back to the Future is called “bullshit”) the remaining group successfully pull together and, in a nod to Back to the Future 2, head back in time to some of the most important parts of the MCU already.


One group heads to New York (essentially re-inserting themselves into Avengers: Assemble) to get the time stone, mind stone and the space stone. The film brilliantly balances a complex time-jumping narrative with a fun fan-loving re-imagining of the MCU’s greatest hits. It’s like re-discovering your favourite album with the old hits given a fresh new spin.


Rocket Raccoon and Thor travel back in time to Asgard and although their task is to get the reality stone from Jane Foster (referencing Thor: Dark World), the film focuses on Thor’s emotional reunion with his mother whom he knows will soon die.

The film is therefore a superb culmination of the 22-film story but a loving book of remembrance for them as well. Every character is given their moment to shine and as Thanos begins to uncover their plot and re-adjust time himself, the movie builds to a, somewhat inevitable, crescendo of spectacular battles for the fate of the universe.


At three hours, the film IS long. But other than a rather slow first 45 minutes – which to be fair gets the numerous plates-a-spinning and does some much needed reflection and character development – the main story moves at pace and by the end I was itching for more. An extended but poignant ending is Return-of-the-King long but in this case it feels more than totally justified.


Comedy and drama are expertly balanced and the narrative uses time to circularly return us back to the focus on Iron Man and how this blockbuster behemoth began. And like my thoughts on Civil War, I reiterate how Chris Evans is the unsung hero of the MCU. In a world of cynicism, snarks and quips, both in real-life and in their movie universe, his excellent portrayal of pure honesty, innocence and heroism is such a needed antidote that it’s no wonder why his story finale is so satisfying.


The film also focuses on the core ‘original’ Avengers – much to its credit – but the combo of Banner/Hulk was a bit strange and although Hemsworth is now essentially a ‘comedy’ Thor, I would love to see more of his adventures with Rocket. We also return to Scarlett Johansson’s history with Jeremy Renner and they get one of the most affecting scenes in the movie.


Are there any negatives? Well aside from the aforementioned slow start, I unfortunately felt the use of Captain Marvel as an all-powerful being that can change the course of the story on her own a little bit redundant. With only one film under her belt, the character here is a blunt demi-god that feels more part of Marvel’s next stage than someone who has a real history with the (movie) fans.


But speaking of fans, we do get lovely cameos from previous stars Rene Russo as Frigga, John Slattery as Howard Stark, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and most welcoming of all for me, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. Plus many others are included and Stan Lee’s sad posthumous cameo reminds us all where everything started.


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. Endgame works as a great sequel to Infinity War but it’s so much more than that. Their expert construction of so many puzzle pieces, a global shared audience pop-culture experience and, without understatement, a 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.


★★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 28 2018 07:36PM



Spider-Man 2: Another World


Directed by Joey Lever


From its Marvel-esque introductory logo, the love for the comic-book web-slinger is seen from the outset in new fan film Spider-Man 2: Another World from Leicester filmmaker Joey Lever.


The film is the director’s follow up to his first successful outing with Peter Parker called Spider-Man: Lost Cause which has already racked up a phenomenal 36 million (!) views on YouTube (watch here).


Here in his latest we get a film filled with nods to the iconic superhero but one with a very much distinctive local flavour having been unashamedly filmed (and actually set) in my home town of Leicester.


The story sees Peter Parker (writer-director-star Joey Lever) attempt to balance his hectic life once more, whilst his friend Eddie Brock (Jak Beasley) having been sectioned away in the mad-house from the previous flick “Lost Cause”. The film opens with a meteorite hitting earth ensuring that we are firmly in Venom territory as well and the movie also weaves many fan favourites including Mary-Jane and Aunt May into a slightly confusing narrative about revenge and payback.


Different styles are used from comic book panels, news reports and nods to social media whilst the filmmaker has used impressive special effects to create the feeling of swinging through Leicester’s “skyscrapers” (albeit the city’s old hotels and council buildings).


Peter then encounters a mysterious being known as Madam Webb. She is capable of warping time and dimensions and although much is set up in this film, this is only the first part of a 2-part tale and several pieces of the puzzle appear to be left open for continuation.


We end on a glimpse into the multi-verse (a kind of visually equal quantum realm) which talks about the nature of different iterations of Spider-Man from different realities to fictional versions. And it is these knowing nods that make the film very self-referential. It regularly refers back to itself and its influences as a fan film – a nice admission which helps cover the low budget nature and some rough-around-the-edges acting.


The intentional comedy continues with its British flavour with an extraordinate amount of tea being drunk and plenty of hilarious quips, comments and more than a splattering of silly action.


Shots filmed at Leicester’s High Cross shopping centre and the city’s Cathedral maintain the local feel but small items like a canvas of New York City reminds the audience of the classic origins. Also of note are the efforts the filmmakers have gone to in showing Spider-Man’s high-flying antics. Web-crawling is kept mostly to a minimum but where possible there are more than admirable attempts to get up high in the city through drone shots, sequences on roof-tops and some clever framing angles to show Spidey in a city environment.


There are also some very impressive first-person shots that I’m not entirely sure I know how were done!


If there was one area for improvement it would be the story. Narrative threads stop-and-start, and characters appear without fully being introduced leaving newcomers a bit perplexed with the many people being thrown onto the screen one after the other.


But the multiple characters and story strands do actually support the swiftness of the film’s pace. Fast editing and a style that mimics modern blockbusters keep this pace and, more importantly, the interest up. It’s very easy for a low-budget film to drag out a short story into a feature film runtime but Another World is crammed full of sequences that are fun, inventive and make the best of its low-budget but passionate filmmaking techniques.


The CGI and practical special effects are generally good and Joey Lever is very expressive without saying a lot as Peter Parker. I may be biased about the film’s setting in Leicester, but the familiar sites of my city are well filmed, the cinematography excellent and these varied locations again keep scenes visually interesting.


With a short teaser for part 2 at the film’s conclusion, the best of Spider-Man 2: Another World may be yet to come. Despite some low budget limitations, this local fan film is lots of fun and I can recommend it not just for die-hard web-slinger fans, or comic-book aficionados, but for anyone who enjoys exciting entertainment with a blockbuster vibe with plenty of action joy to be found within.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 13 2018 03:28PM



Venom (2018) Dir. Ruben Fleischer


Upgrade (2018) Dir. Leigh Whannell


A two-for-one double review for films that have a two-for-one protagonist as we see Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy-lookalike Logan Marshall-Green both appearing in high-concept action films where they are fused with powers they end up speaking with.


First up, Venom sees Tom Hardy’s roving reporter Eddie Brock get ‘infected’ by an alien symbiote to create a powerful anti-hero who, violently, is trying to do the right thing against Riz Ahmed’s evil scientist. Broad strokes are the name of the game here as we get the superhero origin story with evil genius, concerned ex-girlfriend and transformation scenes so by-the-numbers the plot could have been designed on an abacus. Michelle Williams plays Brock’s girlfriend in a wasted role and the film is astonishing in how it can take three of the best actors working today and give them literally nothing to work with at all.


A selection of so-so action sequences are dotted throughout and the film improves immensely when Venom finally appears as a foul-mouthed monster that argues with his host Brock. But sadly this is far too late in the film and the CGI Venom design is only about 5% better than its 2007 iteration in Spider-Man 3. And, in all honesty, had me wishing I was watching that film at times instead. Sadly the director Fleischer has never been able to recreate that rush of fun and horror from his first film Zombieland, the tone of which is solely needed here in his latest film.


So moving on, earlier this year we also had another action body horror in the form of Upgrade. Logan Marshall-Green, who funnily enough is already in the MCU Spidey-verse with a brief appearance in Spider-Man: Home-Coming, stars as Grey Trace (which sounds a bit like Topher Grace who was Venom in Raimi's three-quel) who after being paralysed in a brutal attack – which also sees his girlfriend killed – is implanted with a bionic chip. This AI called STEM is designed by Elon Musk, no wait, Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) and is surgically inserted into Trace’s body which allows him to regain control of his limbs.


STEM then “speaks” into his mind directly and the two (?) go on a revenge spree to serve justice to those who attacked him. The AI quickly learns vicious fighting techniques and before long, the duo are picking off the assailants. The film however takes its ridiculous premise far too serious at times. In the hands of a sci-fi auteur like Paul Verhoeven Upgrade could have mixed the balance better by giving the whole film a satirical bite. As it is, the fight scenes are fun but sparse and the dramatic sequences dull and bland. With the film spiralling into a confusing high-tech plot, the narrative “discoveries” can be seen from a mile away and frankly any time when the film begins its exploration into society/tech-fears it lost momentum.


So, with Venom’s (frankly unbelievable) $852.7 million box office takings and Upgrade’s innovative but flawed genre goals, somewhere between the two films a good movie may have emerged from the Hardy/Marshall-Green soup. If I was forced to pick I slightly preferred the originality of Upgrade’s idea but with that worldwide gross, I know which flick we’ll be seeing more of in the inevitable sequel which is a shame.


Venom 6/10


Upgrade 6.5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Nov 19 2018 07:37AM

Movie themed events at Leicester Comedy Fest 2019


I swear it comes round quicker every year but it certainly gets bigger and better every year, so here we are once again providing you with some of the highlights of Leicester’s infamous Comedy Festival.


Running from Wednesday 6th February to Sunday 24th February 2019 the festival hosts a whole cavalcade of excellent events across the city in a now amazing 70 (!) venues.


And whilst there are comedy and hilarious shows of all types and genres – with something for everyone – as always we have checked out the festival programme to bring you a list of the best of the festival shows with a movie or cinematic theme for our film buff readers out there.


Without further ado please check out these fantastic looking events and for more shows and to purchase tickets please head to http://www.comedy-festival.co.uk/




The Big Lewbowski: Presented by Edy Hurst and Cinema Para-Discount

Attenborough Arts Centre

9th February

Cinema Para-Discount is a film night like no other, comedians are given the chance to create an interactive screening that enhances a film of their choice. Edy Hurst is an award-winning musical comedian. Armed with a guitar, loop pedal and assortment of DIY props, he'll be providing comic commentary on his favourite film, The Big Lebowski. Watch and help Edy bring the film to life with an alternate sound track and interactive games.




Robin Hood and the Revolting Peasants

The Y Theatre

10th February

With no less than 2 films related to the infamous Midlands legend heading our way in 2018, come join Robin, Little John, Maid Marion and Friar Tuck as they take on some of their hardest challenges to date: A conniving king, a sinister sheriff and a downtrodden village of peasants who's 'get up and go' has got up and gone. Can the merry band teach the baddies a lesson? The villagers to revolt? The world to sing? Find out when Oddsocks rumble in with the adventures of this legendary folk hero in a show for all the family. Suitable for ages 7+




The Just Us League: Improvengers Assemble

Grays @LCB Depot

10th February

IMPROVENGERS ASSEMBLE: The UK's premiere nerd-comedy duo, The Just Us League, bring their brand new show to Leicester Comedy Festival. Improvengers Assemble is the fully improvised Marvel-based comedy show. All the heroes. All the villains. Your story.




Nathan Cassidy: My Shawshank Redemption

The Cookie

14th February

On the film's 25th anniversary, award-winning comedian Cassidy with a stand-up show to the soundtrack of a masterpiece. Love can hold you prisoner. Crawling through sh*t can set you free. Happy Valentine's Day! 'Relentlessly laugh out loud, hilarious.' Edinburgh Eve News 2018 'Stormingly good' Kate Copstick 2018 'Piercingly sarcastic jibes have a touch of Stewart Lee' Chortle 2017




Rik Carranza: Star Trek vs Star Wars

O’Neills

14th February

The hit film-related show of Edfringe 2016, 2017 and 2018 comes to Leicester! Rik Carranza guides two comedians through the ultimate comedy panel show that boldly goes to a galaxy far, far away. Kirk vs Solo, Klingon vs Wookie, Neelix vs Jar Jar Binks? There can only be one winner and you, the audience, decide. 'Exceptionally nerdy and hysterically funny' FringeBiscuit.co.uk 'Fun for geeks and all' **** Voice Mag.




Action Figure Archive with Steve McLean

Grays @LCB Depot

17th February

Steve opens his old toy box and rediscovers your faves from He-Man, Transformers, Star Wars and many more (about three more). Remember when toys were better? Your memory might be playing tricks on you. Action Figure Archive is a hit with audiences and the critics alike - ''A hilarious walk down memory lane'' The Scotland Herald, ''A fun examination of nostalgia and nerdiness'' Wired Magazine. "Geeks and nerds unite in this fun show" Geek-List.




The Extraordinary Time-Travelling Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Attenborough Arts Centre

21st/22nd/23rd February

Amazing tales elegantly told. Made into an 80s cult classic by ex-Python Terry Gilliam, this version of the tale has top award-winning comedians and improvisors telling extravagant stories all based on the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. There will be swords, and duels, and elephants and castles built of cheese, and all of it is completely and irrefutably true. Leicester Comedy Festival "Best Children's Show 2018" Nominee.




Hats off to Laurel & Hardy

The Guildhall

22nd February

With the new Midlands-made and Steve Coogan-starring film from John Baird soon to be released, the award-winning Lucky Dog bring their internationally renowned biopic about the best-loved comedy duo of all-time back to Leicester Guildhall. Widely regarded as being the most accurate show ever written about The Boys, it is the closest thing you can get to seeing the original pair in action. Be prepared to laugh your socks off before having your heart broken.




Comedy Film Show – Some Like it Hot

Harborough Theatre

22nd February

Some Like It Hot (12) (1959) Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon. After witnessing a Mafia murder, slick saxophone player Joe (Tony Curtis) and his long-suffering buddy, Jerry (Jack Lemmon), improvise a quick plan to escape from Chicago with their lives in the comedic cinema classic. Disguising themselves as women, they join an all-female jazz band and hop a train bound for sunny Florida. 116 mins.




Comedy Film Show – Blues Brothers

Harborough Theatre

22nd February

The Blues Brothers (15). After the release of Jake Blues (John Belushi) from prison, he and brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) learn the Archdiocese will stop supporting their former school and will sell the place to the Education Authority. The only way to keep the place open is if the $5000 tax on the property is paid. The Blues Brothers want to help and decide to put their blues band back together and raise the money by staging a big gig. 142mins




David Benson Q & A: My Life with Kenneth Williams

The Angel Hotel

24th February

Join actor/comedian David Benson and Festival Director Geoff Rowe, as they chat about David's admiration of comedy Carry On legend Kenneth Williams. David's semi-autobiographical, award-winning show "Think No Evil Of Us" has become a regular fixture on the UK theatre circuit, and London's West End, and this talk will help reveal how David's unusual childhood led to an extraordinary connection with the Carry On star. Price includes afternoon tea.




The Laurel & Hardy Cabaret

The Guidhall

23rd/24th February

This spin-off cabaret is a bumper package of routines, sketches, songs and dances from The Boys' lengthy career which you won't find in the biopic. Including all their Music Hall scripts from their UK Tours between 1947-1954 and a lot of other rare material, it's the closest you will get to seeing the original pair in action.


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Oct 12 2018 01:10PM

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Dir. Peyton Reed


What I was most surprised with in this new instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was that the film was directed by Peyton Reed. By that I mean as the helmer of the first film, Reed replaced Edgar Wright but in some ways his quick editing style aped Wright’s chaotic cutting.


However, whether Reed has tried to infuse his own design from the beginning to give the film some weight – away from the soap opera scale of the earlier film – the movie loses a lot of charm along the way.


In this sequel, Ant-Man Scott Lang (a likeable Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after the events of Civil War but decides to join Hope van Dyne (a feisty Evangeline Lilly) and her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to try and recover her mother and his wife Janet from the sub-atomic Quantum Realm. But in their quest they cross Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr, a molecular shifting ‘Ghost’ aiming to use their technology to stabilise her body.


The size changing aspect in Ant-Man and the Wasp is pushed to the forefront here. Their laboratory is the major McGuffin that changes hands over and over again when shrunk to the size of a briefcase – and car chases are a fantastic mix of smash-ups as vehicles are shrunk to Micro Machine size. The villain however is a bit of a non-starter and continues Marvel’s interestingly designed but rather dull and forgettable antagonists (see Ronan the Accuser too).


Unfortunately, other than a handful of solid action scenes – Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp is given a much meatier role and has the best scraps in the movie – the dialogue scenes are filmed in an incredibly flat style with even a hint of sepia-colour grading which really fails to help find the amusing tone of the first. Again, Reed takes his film in his own direction but one that sadly doesn’t really work.


Certainly not “bad” in the traditional sense, I have to admit I was expecting some more “fun” in its delivery so when the trio of Lang, Van Dyne and Pym attempt to retrieve Janet (played with class by the always-dependable Michelle Pfeiffer) I began to think that Ant-Man and The Wasp were secondary characters. The film seemed to hint upon a much more interesting plot focusing on Douglas and Pfeiffer’s story. These legends were never going to be the stars of Marvel’s kid-friendly Hollywood blockbuster but their performances give the film heart, gravitas and wit.


Laurence Fishburne moves from DC to Marvel to show up as another antagonist of sorts – again, as part of Hank’s tumultuous history and not Scott’s – and their dynamic and opposing moralities about developing technology were another highlight. Rudd and Lily’s chemistry is solid and I’ve always been an advocate for a bit more ‘love’ in the Marvel Universe. So their platonic AND romantic relationship adds a feisty layer that also gives their crises some heft when danger approaches.


The visual effects are of course top notch. I’d go so far to say that the Michael Douglas de-aging in the first Ant-Man may be one of the best CGI creations of all time. And although high-quality effects are quite standard for Marvel at this point – Black Panther's rubbery characters aside – the size shifting aspects ensure there’s a little bit more creativity when things get dicey for our heroes.


Away from that action though, I could label the film easily forgettable and, at times, certainly a little bland. With there being talk of a film set within Hank’s past, that was the film that this film left me wanting to see. And so this tale felt like a set up to that far more complex story. Therefore it sadly ends up sitting in the trivial middle ground of the MCU alongside Dr. Strange and Thor: The Dark World.


In the end the movie goes for mammoth but throwaway thrills over small-scale drama with a tone that moves away from its predecessor to become another plain entry into the Marvel cannon.


6.5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 3 2018 08:50AM

To celebrate the UK home media release of Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War Midlands Movies held a competition where one lucky winner would take home an Avengers bundle of goodies.


With 100 entrants, we drew one winner out at random on the day of release 3rd September and the winner is...


Twitter user...@nelly0777


CONGRATULATIONS! Please get in touch to claim your prize and thanks to everyone who entered into the draw.


Follow Midlands Movies on Twitter for the next exciting competition draw coming soon!


Midlands Movies



By midlandsmovies, Apr 28 2018 10:06AM



Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Dir. Anthony & Joe Russo


17 films and 10 years later, here we go with the big enchilada coming to town in Disney’s Marvel’s Kevin Feige's The Avengers: Infinity War MCU franchise behemoth. As large as that sounds, the film is even larger and with a huge number of characters that we’ve grown with every step of the way the film had a very difficult balancing act but thankfully, mostly gets it spot on.


So what’s the deal here with this new $350 million gargantuan? As most fans would already know, but as a recap for the uninitiated, there have been hints of the Infinity Gems throughout the Marvel films and in this culmination of their story arc, a giant world-conquering warlord known as Thanos (a CGI Josh Brolin) wants to get his hands on all 6 of them in order to rule the galaxy. It may sound simple but the Russos do a great job in giving Thanos an understandable and subtle backstory, faults and all, and Brolin’s performance comes through much more than the purple Bruce Willis version of the trailer.


The film then follows various groups trying to prevent his life-ending goal throughout the universe – Iron Man and Spider-Man hitch a lift on a ship and jet off into space with Dr. Strange, whilst Thor crosses paths with the Guardians and Captain America and friends seek sanctuary in Wakanda.


The film is overstuffed, and slightly overlong, but that was always going to be an issue with trying to give so many characters some screen time but the Russos fast-paced editing jumps from one place to another making the disparate superhero gangs and their individual goals easy to understand. Tonally, it holds up too although it heavily relies on the serious scene/funny comment schtick that has subsequently got really stale since the first Guardians introduced it.


In the negative column there’s a few absences but I understand the need to trim here and there and audiences are always going to want to see more of their favourites. Hawkeye and Ant-Man are completely jettisoned whilst Black Widow is STILL being underused despite being present since Marvel’s third film. C’mon Feige – give the excellent Johansson her own film for once!


Steve Rogers appears an hour in and his emergence from the shadows was a huge moment of cheer. I have to mention again how Chris Evans’ steely and righteous performances as Cap has turned into one of the defining roles in the whole series (see Civil War review) and anchors the film(s) much more than I think most realise.


Infinity War also dips its toe into everything established before – Thor’s ancestry, Guardians’ 70s music, Wakanda’s glorious savannahs and Stark’s battle with technology and so the film feels a bit like a Greatest Hits album. All the boxes are ticked and at times it feels a little bit too familiar. It certainly didn’t have the wow factor of Wheedon’s inaugural Avengers film when the superheroes met for the first time.


That said, Greatest Hits albums are no bad thing. Classic character after classic character appears on screen and if you’re not too bothered about one particular superhero, its fast pace means another will be along soon. Here the film suffers slightly as I mentioned before, with no-one given that much room to breathe owing to the volume of characters. The one exception strangely is probably Thanos himself. His story is fleshed out in flashback with his daughters Gamora (sci-fi legend Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) in an emotional intensity rarely seen in the MCU.


Speaking of relationships, the Russos have dug deep to give these characters finally some romantic interest – a part of human nature that has been sorely lacking over the years. The films have already established fierce confident and adaptable females (Lady Sif, Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Frigga) but a lack of real personal relations always seemed odd to me.


Here however, the Russos put relationships at the forefront. It’s what connects these characters and what makes us connect to them. Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) get the bulk of these developments whilst Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora additionally are involved in some truly touching scenes. Previous hints between Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff was one of the best parts of the disappointing Age of Ultron but unfortunately, like their Hulk and Black Widow alter-egos, they sadly don’t get the full treatment here in Infinity War.


And it’s not just romance. Friendship, support, family are all strong themes and Tony Stark’s surrogate father figure to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man led to one of the most emotional moments of the entire film. And despite being guilty of a ‘Rogue One’ with some trailer shots blatantly absent from the movie, the film’s action sequences are as large as you expect and aside from some ropey alien hordes, sit more comfortable in real locations than either Ragnarok or Black Panther.


A film in which no one feels safe and a few fan-pleasing cameos from films past, Infinity War is as huge as anyone could have asked for. Personally I don’t feel it hit the heights of that initial buzz from Iron Man – heck, I was 28 when that came out – or the first team-up of The Avengers. Additionally it didn’t feel like the genre game-changers that were the highly praised Winter Soldier or James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy. But, and it’s a huge but, this is explosive summer blockbuster cinema of the highest order without question.


A greatest hits album in all senses of the word, Infinity War is a compilation of scenes containing previously established crowd-pleasers with a high degree of already agreed notability. However, like those albums it is common to include remixes of the popular tropes and the Russos add enough new material, depth and high stakes to lay down the gauntlet to other filmmakers resulting in this absolute gem of a movie.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Apr 13 2018 10:10PM



Black Panther (2018) Dir. Ryan Coogler


Now surpassing Titanic as the third highest-grossing film at the American box office ever, Marvel’s Black Panther has been a cultural and audience phenomenon. It has taught the industry a crucial lesson that superhero films can tackle complicated issues of race, representation and politics and still make huge profits.


The story concerns itself with the continuing tale of Chadwick Boseman’s T'Challa (Black Panther) who inherited the mantle of King of Wakanda after his father died in an attack seen in Marvel’s Civil War. Back in his homeland, Wakanda is an African country mixing traditional imagery of the continent with the possession of futuristic technology, but one they have hidden from the rest of the world. This issue that groups should get involved in the wider community is a running theme that Coogler tackles and permeates throughout. In Wakanda, a number of tribes fight for the right to be King but in America we find Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger making plans to take the crown himself.


Amongst this simple revenge plot, the film tackles family and arms dealing along with female empowerment. Letitia Wright plays Shuri, T’Challa’s sister and designer of Wakandan technology in a great role that echoes Q from the James Bond films. In addition, we have Star Wars’ Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia whilst Danai Gurira as Okoye is the highlight for me by giving a fantastic powerful performance as the head of the female fight-force that protects the Royal family.


So with an amazing cast, important social issues and the Marvel name behind it, the film is a runaway success, right? Well (takes deep breath), not quite.


Sacrilege I hear you say. But as much as I admired Black Panther’s positive messages the film never grasped me with so-so set pieces and on a technical level it reminded me far too much of Avatar in its heavily reliance on CGI. Never once did I feel I was outside the USA – heck not even outside a green screen room – and for a film set in Africa it would have been great to see the production actually film in the beautiful continent.


As with my concerns about Thor Ragnarok, I ask if the MCU is running out of steam – especially with its lazy CGI and technical elements. I was probably the only one but the film, at times, committed the worse crime of all. I found it drifting into dullness.


Coogler’s previous film Creed (2016) also with Michael B. Jordan was one of my top films of that year along with historical sports drama Race. In addition, Jordan Peele’s Get Out also tackled modern race relations and made our 2017 top 20. But Black Panther’s excellent message was lost in some dull council meetings (echoes of Phantom Menace) and the aforementioned poor CGI.


I feel for actors nowadays when they are announced as the next superhero. Previously, the feeling of putting on the suit during casting must have felt amazing but the character is so poorly rendered in CGI that Boseman’s excellent fighting stunts (seen in brilliant and brutal waterfall fights) are completely absent when the suit goes on. Bouncing around with no realism or weight, the computer generated models meant I couldn’t feel that we were actually “there” which was a flaw. I felt myself sighing as the rubber renderings bounced around like a cartoon.


So where does that leave Black Panther? Marvel have finally returned to the director-driven films they begun with. Branagh brought his experience of Shakespearean family feuds, also seen in Black Panther, whilst Joe Johnston’s Captain America used his previous 1940s comic book work on The Rocketeer. And Coogler does the same here – bringing his own class, a soundtrack which excels and the best group cast of 2018 to deliver his message.


Covering a whole range of ideas on race relations, positive black and female role models and questions about appropriation and inclusion, the director’s stamp is all over Black Panther’s central themes. I just wished it was done with some more entertainment and less CGI as, for me, much is swamped by a lack of believability in its standard revenge story.


But, let’s be fair here, whilst I saw it more as “Bland” Panther, the box office has proven any reservations I have about the film were not felt by the wide majority of the audience. And Black Panther’s position as an important film, and rightly so, is cemented in this colourful trip to Wakanda.


6.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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