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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, Dec 12 2019 08:58PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 8


The last catch up review blog of the year covers a whole host of the good, bad and the ugly flicks we've finally caught up with in 2019. Check out our thoughts on:


• Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts)

• Ready or Not (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett)

• Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria)

• Pet Sematary (Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer)

• Long Shot (Jonathan Levine)

• Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (André Øvredal)

• Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer)

• The Highwaymen (John Lee Hancock)

• The Laundromat (Steven Soderbergh)

• Eli (Ciarán Foy)

• Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher)

• One Cut of the Dead (Shin'ichirô Ueda)




Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) Dir. Jon Watts

With anticipated sequels comes much disappointment as the excellent Spider-Man: Homecoming gets a lacklustre Marvel follow up as Spidey and school chums travel Europe fighting new foe Mysterio. The often ace Jake Gyllenhaal cannot bring life to a villain who has nasty vibes of Iron Man 3’s The Mandarin as a duplicitous “faker” of fear. Far From brilliant, it’s entertaining enough but the abundant and plastic CGI undermines the admittedly solid performances from its young cast. ★★★ ½




Ready or Not (2019) Dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Samara Weaving (and spitting image of Margot Robbie) is excellent as a bride who is forced to play a violent game of hide and seek with her upper class in-laws on her wedding night if she is to join her new family. A quirky idea with some satisfyingly bloody set-pieces throughout a mansion, the b-movie thrills are given a leg-up by the cast who provide sleazy delights from the beginning of the game. A large smattering of gore and a thrilling ending makes this one of the most enjoyable guilty pleasures of the year. ★★★★




Hustlers (2019) Dir. Lorene Scafaria

Catch this film for Jennifer Lopez’s fantastic performance as mature exotic dancer Ramona Vega who assists newcomer Destiny (Constance Wu) in the ways of dance before pulling together a crew who scam wealthy businessmen. Solid to the point of blandness my initial reaction was that artistically it’s one of the most overrated drama flicks since the incredibly flavourless Spotlight. Plenty to enjoy along the ride however with a splash of added social commentary but like the drugged Wall Street guys in the movie there’s very little to remember here. ★★★ ½




Pet Sematary (2019) Dir. Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer

With Stephen King adaptations being all the rage again, we get a second take on the story of a haunted burial ground that brings animals, and later children, back to life with haunting consequences. The dry (and always unmemorable) Jason Clarke takes us through a tedious set of ironically lifeless sequences with little tension or horror to be found throughout its duration. It’s not something I’ve said before but put simply – go read the book. ★★



Long Shot (2019) Dir. Jonathan Levine

Man, I really like Charlize Theron. And Seth Rogen is more than likeable in most films too (despite his lack of range). Here, he again plays a schlubby guy who rekindles a relationship with school sweetheart Theron, who is now running as a US Presidential candidate. Straight to the point, but I simply didn’t laugh enough for what is billed as a comedy as each actor plays to their regular stereotype and I just couldn’t get my head around what Theron’s character saw in Rogen (kind of important in a film that’s about love crossing divides). Definitely not the hilarious triumph some critics have labelled it as, it’s an ultimately inconsequential and tiresome lark which tries to mix politics, class, love and ambitions to a hugely varying degree of success. ★★★




Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) Dir. André Øvredal

An inconsistent adaptation, this film has a 15-rating but its mix of tame frights and young protagonists smooths off a much-needed edge as a group of friends tackle a cursed book which writes its own terrifying tales they end up living through. Aiming for the tone of IT or Stranger Things but delivering more of a Goosebumps or Lemony Snicket vibe, a couple of the early stories worked well and although the framing device lends itself to a Creepshow anthology structure, the quality fluctuates too much to be totally satisfying. ★★★




Dolemite is My Name (2019) Dir. Craig Brewer

The last good Eddie Murphy film? Dreamgirls (13 years ago)? Bowfinger (20 years ago)? Well, as a fan of his early 80s hits (Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, Coming to America) it’s gratifying to know he’s way back in form in this real life tale of Rudy Ray Moore – a hero of 70s comedy and Blaxploitation films. Murphy is joined by a talented support cast including Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key and Wesley Snipes, and has a terrific script to work with along with space to improvise. It’s reminiscent of The Disaster Artist where a similar low budget filmmaker creates a passion project with erratic results, but to some accidental success. The film therefore reminds us of how superb Murphy can be with the right material. ★★★ ½




The Highwaymen (2019) Dir. John Lee Hancock

Netflix pulling together two fantastic actors (Woody Harrelson & Kevin Costner) with the director of the stupendous Saving Mr. Banks in a period crime drama focusing on two of America’s most infamous outlaws must be a recipe for success, right? Well, sadly it’s a definite no. Mind-numbing detail, a lack of chemistry between any of the cast and a drama vacuum only serve to remind you of far better films on the same subject. The two leads take their investigating rangers on a wild chase to nowhere in a tedious drama. ★★




The Laundromat (2019) Dir. Steven Soderbergh

What the hell even is this film? With a cast featuring Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman and more, you’d think that alone would deliver a certain level of quality but oh how wrong you will be. With echoes of The Big Short with its focus (and explanations) of money laundering, the style, tone, comedy and drama are hilarious undisciplined as this massive misfire tries to scattergun pot-shots at the morally corrupt players involved in the Panama Papers. With three stories that simply don’t work together as a whole, it’s like Soderbergh attempted to complete a puzzle using pieces from different sets and what a holy mess he’s ended up with. And the final result is an even bigger let-down because of the talent involved. ★★




Eli (2019) Dir. Ciarán Foy

Eli has a rather interesting beginning as we are introduced to a young boy with a rare disease that causes severe allergic reactions to the outdoors. He arrives with his parents to a secluded medical facility (clearly not a good idea) and after some suspect “treatments” begins to see strange things which are chalked up as hallucinations by Lili Taylor’s creepy doctor. The major problem with the film for me was the squandering of a really fascinating idea despite the inclusion of a couple of well-executed ghostly and sacrificial set-pieces. Yet it fails through its technical flaws and poor script which just doesn’t bring alive the premise it sets up of [BIG SPOILER WARNING] a boy not knowing he is in fact a child of the Antichrist. A really wasted opportunity in my opinion. ★★




Rocketman (2019) Dir. Dexter Fletcher

Pack your bags and join a fast-paced musical biopic featuring the classic songs of Elton John in a star-filled romp through campy history and heartfelt melodrama drama. Director Dexter Fletcher (fresh from helping to “finish off” Bohemian Rhapsody) takes a different angle in this flick though, delivering a more conventional musical. For me, it’s not my favourite genre so although I love Elton John’s genius back catalogue of hits, the film was more like Moonwalker with a collection of music videos punctuated by a simple retelling of some of Elton’s important life moments. Taron Egerton (John himself) and Jamie Bell (lyricist Bernia Taupin) are both excellent but I’d rather listen to a Greatest Hits than re-watch this slightly formulaic, but well-intentioned, flamboyant diversion. ★★★ ½




One Cut of the Dead (2019) Dir. Shin'ichirô Ueda

Made on just $25,000 with a cast of unknowns, this surprising Japanese “horror” is an underground bloodbath success which takes familiar zombie tropes and its relationship to the editing and construction of smaller fright flicks. We begin when a group of actors are filming their zombie film at a water plant before a real zombie attacks takes place as the director and camera operator carry on filming. At the halfway point the credits roll (!) and the film backtracks to show a different version of what you have just witnessed. 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. Takayuki Hamatsu as the director takes centre stage but a fantastic, and funny, support cast play their “roles” spectacularly. A genuine indie gem, the film is in love with other rom-zom-coms but its true romance is with the filmmaking process itself. ★★★★



Michael Sales


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