icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

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

By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2019 04:26PM



GLASS (2019) Dir. M Night Shyamalan


A quick story - at the end of Split (2016) I was left slightly disappointed as I was informed there would be a twist and discovered one of the 23 multiple personalities of James McAvoy as Kevin Crumb was actually a true evil power known as the Beast. However, in that film’s very final moments director Shyamalan pans to Bruce Willis (as David Dunn) and was hugely shocked to find the film is revealed to be a sequel to Shyamalan’s down-to-earth superhero flick Unbreakable from 2000. Wow.


One of the better twists from the master of them, Glass is the final part of the trilogy and sees McAvoy, Willis and Samuel L Jackson locked up in a psychiatric ward, where their ‘superpowers’ are to be studied by Sarah Poulson’s Doctor Ellie Staple. We open with David and his son as vigilantes who free a group of kidnapped cheerleaders but in David’s fight with The Beast they are captured by the authorities. Incarcerated with both David and Kevin is Mr. Glass (Jackson) – the evil brains from Unbreakable – who is heavily sedated and all three are told their abilities are simply psychiatric disorders and little more than a fantasy.


The film links the characters and themes from the previous movies using colours, comic book tropes and a self-referential awareness of its own construction. Shyamalan uses every cinematic trick in the book – point of view, spinning cameras, static shots and much more to keep the film visually interesting in what, if you break it down, is a standard thriller tale. All three actors are stupendous though – Willis’ more recent cinematic outings have been dubious at best – but here his pensive, almost uninterested, facial blandness actually works as a man doubting his own experiences.


As Mr. Glass plays clever games within the hospital’s walls – he sets up an escape plan with Kevin whilst the film is full of surprises and shows Shyamalan’s expert use of pace and, more importantly, an unbearable amount of tension. In simple scenes of dialogue we feel every character motivation and the horror techniques he used so well in The Sixth Sense and The Visit are re-visited here to great effect. Shyamalan also provides a number of technical twists – fights are witnessed from the inside of a van, an important escape plan punch-up is shown in the background and with an opening that plays on what can’t be seen – he is an expert of what to show and what not to show. And where possible, to show the audience what they weren’t expecting at every turn.


The film rolls to a climax which is the most disappointing part of the movie. Without giving it away, the film tries to expand the super-human ideas into a worldwide issue, when the films up to this point have been very much about the small and personal acts of good and evil. By using themes of conspiracy and internet technology, the film loses the humanity and character-study work it had delivered so brilliantly beforehand. Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke (from Split) and Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price, Elijah's mother both provide good support roles to flesh out the story.


However, 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. Ignore the naysayers who have unwisely projected their own expectations onto a film that never could have existed – which is always a hiding to nothing – as 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.


★★★★


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, Aug 29 2017 08:57AM



The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) Dir. Patrick Hughes


The very vocal Ryan “quips and quirks” Reynolds and Samuel “mother*cker” L. Jackson star in this action film, which tells the story of a disgraced bodyguard making amends by bringing a witness to a war crimes trial. Gary Oldman hams it up as the Russian gangster the authorities are attempting to bring to justice and the film mixes an 80s buddy-comedy tone with the old-school explosions of a Die Hard or Con Air.


It’s nowhere near as good as those influences however, as both actors deliver dialogue in their usual fast-paced style but ideally you need a straight man rather than two similar personalities. One huge flaw is the amount of unnecessary and endless swearing though. I’m not offended by it, quite the opposite given my love for Scorsese and Tarantino’s back catalogue, but it seems so lazy here. At times it feels as much as 50% of sentences!


In addition, the jump from the seriousness of the trial and the film's themes of loss are tonally mis-matched and the music is truly awful moving from Mr. Bean comedy jingles to cheesy rock via Goldeneye-era Bond strings. Clamouring out for the nods and winks of The Nice Guys or even The Other Guys, the film does get better as it goes along with two fantastically filmed vehicle chase sequences as they head around the tight streets of Amsterdam. Cars, bikes, boats and trams combine with real-life action stunts to provide a few much-needed thrills in the picturesque city. Sadly the boring antics around the UK countryside and lazy-ass CGI backgrounds of the conversation car sequences are again another disappointment.


It also has echoes of R.I.P.D. which saw Reynolds team up with Jeff Bridges – another award-winning older actor – and although it’s nowhere near as bad as that truly awful film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard similarly cannot use these actors’ great charisma to overcome the poor material. Salma Hayek gives a refreshing and funny turn as Jackson’s incarcerated girlfriend but who is sadly burdened, like the leads, with a huge amount of expletives in place of clever dialogue.


Overall, it’s a peculiar mix with some superb action highs and some very strange expletive-laden lows. The film could have used Gary Oldman’s penchant for over-the-top bad-guy performances as a more traditional baddie and avoided the war crimes aspect of his character. If you’ve got Oldman at least give him some scenery to chew. Shaving 20 minutes off the run-time wouldn’t have gone amiss either but the final impression is that this is a film which despite its interesting parts, gets the balance just wrong enough to turn an entertaining romp into a disappointing slog. If you're still interested then I'd advise you watch with friends and a LOT of beer.


6/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 21 2017 10:32AM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 2


Each year we miss a film or two in the huge round of releases per week. Here is our second blog of the year where we catch up with some of the good (and bad) films from 2017 that are already out to watch. Enjoy!


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Dir. Chad Stahelski


This sequel to 2014’s intense action thriller has Keanu Reeves returning as the gun-dancing assassin who is now out of retirement to unleash more shooting mayhem. The film delves further into Wick’s back-story which was hinted upon in the original and in many ways it is actually a prequel as well as sequel with so much focus on Wick’s previous life. The narrative shows us more of his past and good support from Ian McShane gives the whole thing more depth and expands the world we are in. Keanu is also at the top of his game – slightly wooden as always but like Neo and Ted, the one-dimensionality of the performance lets the audience project themselves into the character.


The story of Wick owing a blood oath debt is merely window dressing for more pirouetting action which again is suitably violent and bloody. A strong support cast including Common and Reeves’ Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne flesh proceedings out but it is the fighting – amongst the splendour and seediness of Rome and New York locations – that bursts off the screen in its glorious brutality and beauty. Fans of action will lap up the intense scenes of bloody violence and its editing is pitched perfectly in the sweet spot of frantic yet understandable. With a third film set-up it may be too far to say it’s the Godfather Part 2 of action films but I feel it may be better than the first film. It combines the obligatory hard-hitting combat with an expansion on the mysteries of the assassin network and penetrates greater themes of trust, honour and revenge. 8/10



Life (2017) Dir. Daniel Espinosa

In short, Life is essentially an Alien rip off as a space crew find a small extra-terrestrial life-form which they are unable to quarantine which subsequently grows into a larger monster that stalks the astro-occupants. The good points include a realistic set up on the ISS with some Gravity-inspired long shots in the station’s cramped compartments as well as an interestingly designed life-form that starts off its existence looking like a sentient “star fish”. The clichés soon start to overpower these positives as the ‘trained experts’ of the crew (inevitably) break quarantine rules and the carnage begins. [SPOILER] A few interesting deaths including one of the main stars couldn’t save the film as it descends into b-movie territory. As the strange creature becomes a Prometheus-esque squid the film loses its premise to become schlock horror and not even a downbeat ending could salvage this sci-fi wreckage. An internet rumour suggested it could have been a Venom origin story (one of Spider-Man’s arch enemies) yet sadly that fan-theory is far more interesting than the film delivered. 6/10


I Am Not Your Negro (2017) Dir. Raoul Peck

Based on the unfinished manuscript Remember This House by James Baldwin and narrated brilliantly by Samuel L. Jackson this new documentary focuses on American racism and the portrayal of black lives in recent media. Historically important and hugely socially relevant right now, the film uses Baldwin’s powerful words to highlight the roles played by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. It’s sad then that I found it, despite its worthy themes and intriguing structure, a little stale and not even Jackson’s masterful voiceover kept me from thinking it was treading water when it could have been providing more powerful insights. As a huge fan of documentaries (my recommendations so far this year would be the superior Oklahoma, Mommy Dead and Dearest and Beware the Slenderman) I was disappointed with the film as the important and weighty ideas weren’t given justice in its one-trick design. Hugely recommended for those interested in the specific subject matter, less so for those not familiar with the work, the film sometimes feels exactly what I feared it could be – a man reading from a book. Disappointing. 6/10



The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) Dir. Oz Perkins

Appearing on a few Top 10 lists of great horror films of 2017 (so far) is this fright film from Oz “Son of Anthony, Psycho” Perkins and stars Kiernan Shipka (Kat) and Lucy Boynton (Rose) as two pupils at a strict Catholic school. The highly composed shots give a huge undercurrent of tension and unease with slow and deliberate sequences portraying the slight narrative as the two girls fail to be collected by their parents once term-time has ended. Rose is possibly pregnant and Kat often appears to mentally ‘tune out’ which is ironic given that the ‘buzzing’ tones of the amelodic experimental music often sounds like an orchestra tuning up. But this adds to the peculiar atmosphereand together with the snowy weather and cold demeanour of the religious teachers, helps deliver an unsettling feeling. And unsettling it is.


As Kat continues to exhibit strange behaviour around Rose, another story is introduced with a girl called Joan who may have escaped an institution and is picked up in a car by James Remar (The Warriors) who plays an ambiguous father-figure. These flashbacks, multi-perspective sequences and possible parallel tales disorientate the viewer but some may find it confusing and the timelines are certainly not clear cut. It takes a while but eventually a few shocks come in the form of Exorcist-influenced body convulsions, vomiting and swearing and the film’s few disturbing images are all the more effective with a slow build up and in their briefness.


Unfortunately there’s a few Scream-ché (a cliché the film Scream deconstructs like investigating scary noises and “I’ll be right back”) and the ambiguous construction could frustrate some but satisfy others. For me, The Blackcoat’s Daughter had far more going for it than the negatives, whilst I got annoyed at points about the lack of clarity to tie up the individual story strands, the mystery was intriguing, the triumvirate of actresses and their performances were superb and the first-time director provided images of intense terror that, like the malevolent force portrayed, linger deep within you post-viewing. 7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

RSS Feed twitter