icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo Instagram FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Oct 21 2019 02:23PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 6


This month we check out new releases DOMINO (from Brian De Palma) MEN, IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (from F. Gary Gray) & TOY STORY 4 (from Josh Cooley). Scroll down to read the reviews:




Domino (2019) Dir. Brian De Palma


Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, Carrie and heck, even Snake Eyes and kickstarting the Mission Impossible franchise, Brian De Palma has a pretty impressive film CV. Well, he did once. In the last 12 years he’s made just 2 (terrible) films and it’s sad to say he’s added another here with boring potboiler thriller Domino.


At just 89 minutes this crime thriller feels twice as long and stars Game of Throners Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten who are investigating the death of a Danish police officer. Stopping them is a dodgy CIA agent (Guy Pearce) and Eriq Ebouaney as a double agent acting on behalf of ISIS. Or is he? Well, who cares is the real question.


I don’t want to give away any spoilers about Domino but literally nothing happens. Combined with a troubled production and a star or two dropping out, this ramshackle made-for-TV level movie is lacklustre and dull. Sleepwalking actors deliver clichéd dialogue which is punctuated with the odd blandly-shot action/fight sequence. Flashes of De Palma’s fascination with Hitchcock sometimes comes through in a Vertigo-style roof chase and an ingenious shot here or there hinting upon the stylistic flourishes the director used in his more successful films from the past.


In the end though, it seems the director’s strategy of not caring at all about his utterly useless movie hasn’t paid the handsome dividends he might have hoped for. ★★





Men in Black: International (2019) Dir. F. Gary Gray


In a franchise of less-than-successful sequels, the Men In Black property gets a sort-of reboot in this new blockbuster flick from F. Gary Gray. Chris Hemsworth stars as the arrogant Agent H who is teamed up with new recruit (and his Thor: Ragnarok co-star) Tessa Thompson as Agent M to investigate more intergalactic shenanigans involving the destruction of Earth.


Emma Thompson returns as Head of MiB operations and the film follows the globe-trotting duo taking pot shots at a wide array of eclectic aliens and each other. However, the sad fact is that there’s little more to it than that. Any franchise that loses Will Smith (hello Independence Day) suffers from a loss of his comedy chops and charm – although it has to be said Hemsworth and Thompson do have chemistry which is one of the film’s highlights. Director F. Gary Gray brings none of the fun from his previous guilty pleasure flicks The Negotiator and Law Abiding Citizen or none of the bite/edginess from his Straight Outta Compton. So it ends up being rather bland.


The creatures are excellently designed though – especially “Pawny”, a tiny and loyal alien with a smart mouth – but the world-destruction/infiltrated agency story is instantly forgettable. That said, I don’t think it deserves the critical mauling I’ve also seen published. It’s miles better than the awful second sequel and for me it’s mostly harmless and relatively likeable blockbuster fare for children with two pleasant leads. Add in a handful of action set pieces and MiB: International provides an entertaining if ultimately unremarkable 2 hours of silly escapism. ★★★




Toy Story 4 (2019) Dir. Josh Cooley


After the perfect ending of Toy Story 3 (which has the honour of making me cry twice), the franchise was so brilliantly finished that no more stories of Woody and Buzz were surely needed given the satisfying send-off these animated characters deservedly got.


However, the toys were metaphorically and actually passed on from those who grew up with them and so Pixar have created a 4th film following the gang and their adventures with Bonnie (spoiler) the girl who is gifted them by Andy at the end of 3. Bonnie and her parents go on a road trip and cutting to the chase, the toys end up getting lost/left at a carnival. The group subsequently pull together and attempt to retrieve “Forky”, a quirky toy created by Bonnie herself from a, well, plastic fork and pipe cleaners. The first 30 minutes are pure this-should-have-gone-straight-to-video fodder and although the Pixar quality sheen and photo-realistic animation is all well and present, there’s not quite enough to justify this entry’s existence.


However, just under half-way through the film really hits its stride with excellent set pieces, a break-in at an antiques store and fantastically hilarious cameos from Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peel as Ducky and Bunny. Plus Keanu Reeves as daredevil stunt-biker Duke Kaboom. These new faces slip perfectly into the fold and the film is perhaps the funniest entry to date with some surreal humour added to the usual family-friendly fun. Is it really worth it though? Hmm, ultimately I think not. BUT it does act as a great epilogue and it’s second half is classic Pixar from a voice-cast working at the top of their game. You’ve got away with this Pixar. But please, no more Toy Story. ★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Oct 24 2018 12:52PM



Incredibles 2 (2018) Dir. Brad Bird


The Incredibles is one of my favourite films from Pixar with its balance of warm family feels, amazing retro-style animation and a fantastic cast of characters – one of which, the diminutive designer Edna Mole, is voiced hilariously by the film’s director Brad Bird and returns here for its sequel.


That film demonstrated all the best bits of Pixar and their films with an universal appeal to children and adults alike. However, when it was announced there would be a sequel I had many reservations. Some of which began a Twitter disagreement where I argued that more of a good thing is, well, not always a good thing.


Picking up directly from the first, the Parr family of superheroes are tackling The Underminer (who appeared briefly at the end of the previous movie) but the collateral damage from their city-destroying encounter results in the authorities outlawing superheroes. A bit Watchmen here.


And like Watchmen, the film, at times, is incredibly dark. Although there are fun sequences throughout, the lighting has become even more extreme - bordering on seizure inducing - so be wary before taking your super young ‘uns to the cinema!


The story unfurls as Winston Deavor, the owner of a telecommunications business, suggests a publicity stunt to regain public trust in superheroes with support from his sister Evelyn.


The film flips the first’s conceit as Helen (Holly Hunter as the “stretchy” Elastigirl) is the one chosen to represent their cause and track down new villain Screenslaver. Whilst Mr. Incredible himself – the burly Bob played by Craig T. Nelson – reluctantly becomes a stay at home dad. In a posh new technological advanced house, he helps/hinders his children with their dating-life (Violet), homework (Dash) and uncontrollable superpowers (Jack Jack).


The film’s male/female role-reversal is a good twist on the original’s traditional family dynamic and Elastigirl’s rubber body provides the film’s most exciting action sequences. Whether she’s stopping a runaway train, bouncing through corridors or creating a parachute with her body, Pixar sure know how to do inventive and kinetic action fun like no other.


However something just didn’t quite hit the mark in all this. The opening goes for action over character build-up, then we enter a character development section that verges on the dull. The conversations surrounding family roles are honourably progressive but slow down the narrative to such a pace that the film was aching for some lighthearted comedy skits for the kids. And to be honest, myself too! Many will feel that this is its best selling point but we’re talking an animated sequel here – not Empire Strikes Back. Also, hiding the main villain’s identity aims to create mystery but the anonymous antagonist is a gaping hole usually filled by Pixar’s excellent design team who created Sid, Lotso Bear, Stinky Pete et al.


A welcome reappearance of Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone and more than highly competent voice performances from the cast are wonderful call-backs to the more rounded original. And whilst Pixar movies are always a quality affair – the animation perhaps bordering slightly too close to reality here – in their attempts to add depth they’ve lost a tiny bit of heart along the way. Simply credible.


7/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Jan 20 2018 09:57AM



Coco (2018) Dir. Lee Unkrich


Mariachi music and sumptuous Hispanic design abound in Pixar’s latest story about a young boy with dreams of becoming a famous musician. Based around the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead, the film follows 12-year old Miguel who enters a talent contest despite his family having banned music.


Miguel subsequently becomes cursed after stealing a guitar connected to a long lost family member and can then only be seen by the dead but no longer the living. With his body slowing turning to a skeleton, Miguel must receive a blessing from a (dead) family member in order to return to the real world before sunrise in order to aovid being stuck there for eternity.


Having been transported to the land of the dead, the aspiring musician seeks the help of Héctor, a skeleton who once played guitar, who in returns asks Miguel to take his photo back to the living world before his daughter forgets him and he disappears completely.


The film’s, somewhat convoluted, narrative hits all the regular beats – family, escaping into other worlds, life lessons and cute animals – so isn’t exactly groundbreaking in that department. That said, Pixar do this so well that I warmed to the film despite these minor criticisms.


The animation, although sadly getting closer to uncanny valley at times especially on the elderly Coco (Miguel’s great-grandmother), is in fact still utterly fantastic. As a guitarist myself I was frankly astonished at Miguel's guitar playing shots. Cartoons often use vague movements to create chord shapes giving their complexity but Pixar have produced another marvel here. From Sully’s wintery fur in Monster’s Inc. to Wall*E’s realism, Pixar have prided themselves on their technical expertise and the real strings, fingering and strumming is a fantastic addition to their repertoire.


Another standout design was the brilliant Pepita which is an imposing Alebrije – a brightly coloured mythical creature based on Mexican folk art. Acting as a spiritual guide, I can see this jaguar-eagle-ram beast becoming next Christmas’ must-have stocking filler with its cute face but terrifying wings!


The other worldly design is a celebration with its use of well-known iconography without (too) many stereotypes, although there’ll no doubt be a number of Twitter “hot takes” on its appropriation but Coco is a world away from any offensiveness with its warm celebration of folklore.


The day-glow colours maintain the visual spectacle but shouldn’t overshadow the fine sound design which is a key aspect too. Not just the reverb of the acoustic guitars but audiences will enjoy the clacking of skeleton bones, dog barks and animal screams alongside the smooth Hispanic accents. A great voice cast of Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel, Gael García Bernal as Héctor, Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto and Ana Ofelia Murguía as Mamá "Coco" Rivera are the main standouts and each one brings a unique “spirit” to their parts.


If there was one criticism it would be the narrative itself. Bordering on confusing it portrays various religious rites of passages, superstitions and customs that are slightly under-explained for the uninitiated. If it’s not a blessing or a curse, it’s a complex family tradition and with the huge number of characters the story bones felt unconnected. Although it may not be suitable for the youngest of viewers, the film never loses sight of its important themes however, and it delivers far more often than not.


As someone who lost my mother in 2017 and my musician dad just over a year ago, the film’s conclusion had me in tears with its fantastic song “Remember Me”. Its story crescendo of being remembered, family ties and getting older hit home in a personal way reminding me of the emotional ‘Father and Son’ sequence in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.


Not without its flaws, I cannot honestly say it is a Pixar ‘classic’, the film does however take enough successful chances. A celebration of traditional cultures, amazing production design and a story that combines family with music, Coco will no doubt leave audiences feeling it in their fingers all the way down to their bones.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Aug 2 2016 05:30PM

Finding Dory (2016) Dir. Andrew Stanton


Everybody's favourite forgetful blue tang fish embarks on a journey to find her long lost parents with more than the occasional bump in the road.


One year on after helping Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) out of their spot of difficulty, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) requires the favour returning. Although she forgets most things, one thing she can remember is that she was separated from her parents as a child. With the help of her adoptive family, Dory embarks upon an epic journey to be reunited with her mother and father, which leads them to the Marine Life Institute.


Dory's quest to get inside the institute results in her separation from Marlin and Nemo, but leads her to old and new friends along the way, and ultimately achieves the results that everyone was initially hoping for.


Thirteen years after Finding Nemo, we are presented with Finding Dory, and just as we all feared, it wasn't really worth the wait. Don't get me wrong - it wasn't awful - you could quite contently Sint in the cinema and watch it once through, but it certainly didn't match its predecessor. Not by a long way...


Ellen DeGeneres did a wonderful job of making Dory such a loveable character with her voice acting, however, which is possibly why it wasn't too tasking to sit through one showing of the film. In fact, DeGeneres' characterisation here made it feel as though it was only yesterday that Finding Nemo was being enjoyed for the first time. There is a forever familiar ring to the voice that made the thirteen years between the two films vanish. It was this performance that was single-handedly the biggest highlight of the film.


One part I well and truly fangirled over for all the wrong reasons was the introduction of the two sea lions, Fluke and Rudder, played by Idris Elba and Dominic West respectively. Part of me rejoiced massively at the small reunion of the cast members of The Wire - it was good to see McNulty and Stringer Bell back in action one last time (freak out over).


My fears, along with those of many other I suspect, were met with the plot. It was frighteningly similar to that of Finding Nemo - even small details which I won't mention for those of you yet to see it were very noticeably being used for the second time. I'm all for sticking to what you know, but this took the biscuit slightly for me. Whilst it wasn't too bad, and perhaps marginally comical during the first time viewing, I would say that this lack of originality could get rather tiresome when it comes to seeing Finding Dory for the second or third time. It definitely won't go on to become the timeless piece that its predecessor has.


As over-familiar as the story felt, however, it has to be said that some very heartwarming messages about family were delivered throughout the course of the film. In particular the moment where Dory is reunited with her parents was one moment I personally found very touching, and think it is one that everyone can relate to on some level.


Overall, Finding Dory is yet another Pixar sequel that is very much hit or miss. It lacks all the originality of the first film, and feels as though it really wasn't worth reviving the story more than a decade later for. It just about stays a float, but will surely start to sink with multiple viewings.


6.5/10


Kira Comerford

RSS Feed twitter