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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, 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, May 28 2018 12:59PM

Deadpool 2 (2018) Dir. David Leitch


After losing the first film’s director (Tim Miller) to the Cameron produced Terminator franchise (good luck with that as lord knows it needs some help), the sequel to 2016’s surprisingly knowingly violent superhero flick was left in the hands of David Leitch. As either director or co-director of both John Wick and Atomic Blonde, Leitch has certainly got the action chops and he brings his kinetic aesthetic to another outing from Ryan Reynold’s ‘merc with a mouth’.


[slight spoiler] In this film, Deadpool blames himself for the death of his partner Vanessa and after a suicide attempt he joins with X-Men’s Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to help contain a young orphaned mutant Russell/Firefist (Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople). But after a standoff, both Wade and the vengeful youth get taken to a prison where collars are attached to supress their powers.


At the same time, Cable (Josh Brolin) travels through time to prevent disaster (“that’s just lazy writing”) as we discover the Russell of the future uses his powers to kill others – including Cable’s family. After a breakout from prison sees Wade recruit potential new superheroes to his cause – in a sequence that owes more than a nod to 1999’s Mystery Men – he creates a new team called X-Force. This group includes Domino (a fantastic Zazie Beetz whose power is pure ‘luck’) Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, Bill Skarsgård as Zeitgeist and Rob Delaney as a regular guy called Peter.


Ryan’s ad-libbed dialogue is still present but my gripe with the first film was that the endless snide comments and pop-culture references made it feel particularly smug. This follow up mostly avoids that with a script focusing more on narrative and the inclusion of extra characters takes some of the attention away from Ryan’s endless quips.


A James Bond-style opening with Celine Dion ballad “Ashes” sets up the film with its brand of irreverent humour and its use of varied and inappropriate musical cues. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is pure Iron Man territory but is a stonker of a tune which attempts to pump up the audience for a parachute jump during X-Force’s heist plans.


As well the action and comedy, Josh Brolin brings the same nuances that he brought to his other Marvel villain this summer and I have to admit I was waiting for a Thanos reference throughout and got the requisite nod before the end. Although he’s not given a great deal, Brolin adds more depth than is written and he’s without a doubt infinitely better than the awful unforgettable turn by Ed Skrein from the first.


Brilliant cameos at the X-Mansion and a hilariously excellent meta-nod to the film’s timeline during the end credits – both in this universe and others – are just two of many standout comedy sequences but with the addition of some emotional heft I enjoyed this ride a lot as it zips along at a pace.


For me, the film wasn’t helmed in by the origin story problem and, although not on the same level of quality, it sits alongside Spider-Man 2 and X-Men 2 as far better sequels than their origin films. Dark humour, screwball sequences and a great ensemble cast, Deadpool 2 again plays like the naughty child to the MCU’s high-achieving big brother but if you want less schmaltz and more obscenity, this superhero sequel delivers it in huge dirty doses.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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, Dec 30 2017 10:12AM

The Hot List - Midlands Films to Look Out For in 2018


With 2017 nearly at an end Midlands Movies spotlights a number of local projects due for completion in 2018 which have us excited for the region’s filmmaking as we head into the new year. Please check out each of these individual films using the links provided as we highlight 7 of the most anticipated films coming up from the region in the following 12 months.




Songbird by Sophie Black

Described as a ‘modern fantasy for music lovers’ this new film from talented Nottingham director Sophie Black is an exciting new short starring musician Janet Devlin. Songbird comes from multi-award-winning screenwriter Tommy Draper (Stop/Eject, Wasteland) and tells the story of a shy open-mic-night singer called Jennifer, who has her voice stolen by a an ancient creature called The Collector. Also a film for music fans the short is set in the world of the underground music scene and features brand new songs by Janet Devlin herself. As a group of experienced, passionate, award-winning and slightly eccentric filmmakers based in the East Midlands, Songbird will be coming next year with high expectations from filmmakers who have consistently delivered. Catch their latest news at https://twitter.com/sophieblackfilm



The Return of the Ring by Abdulrahman Ugas

This unique take on the world of Tolkien is set right here in the Midlands as new fan-film ‘The Return of the Ring’ is a movie based on Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’. In a unique twist on the genre, the story has moved its fantasy world to modern day Britain where it will follow a resilient Elf who finds out the Ring has returned and sets out to re-claim its ownership. With the film planned to be released in early 2018, Abdulrahman hopes his exciting new project can bring the tales of Tolkien back to their roots in the West Midlands. Follow here for updates https://twitter.com/AbdulrahmanUgas




Patient Zero by Pathogen Films

After meeting up at a Business networking event, the 4 members of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Pathogen films have combined their talents to begin producing their own film web series. Their forthcoming set of zombie shorts follow a group of survivors who become involved in a deadly game of betrayal in an attempt to stop a maniacal group bent on turning what's left of humanity into mindless mutations. With their first film Patient Zero: Dead at the Gates premiering in Autumn 2017, the crew are now deep into production on the follow up titled “Semper Protegens”. Follow their updates and future crowd-funding campaigns at https://twitter.com/Pathogen_Films





UK Superhero by Rotunda Films

Rotunda Films is an experienced and creative film and video production company who have over fifteen years experience in production and who are now tackling an original superhero series in the region. The Birmingham filmmakers feel the UK deserves its own superheroes as they launch a new project to create a series of films featuring a unique range of characters. With a new selection of local superheroes in their own shared universe, they are starting this ambitious project with their film Mystic Highway, where they will be creating the first characters in this exciting new world. Follow the production here: https://twitter.com/rotundafilms




Brumville by Grant Murphy

Described as a film full of local people and local locations, Birmingham’s Grant Murphy hopes to utilise the West Midlands and Back Country’s pool of talent for his upcoming film Brumville. With filming recently concluded, Grant is not only writer director and producer on the film but will be playing the lead role of Connor as well. With a passion to give local actors more opportunities, the film will show just how bad it can be when friends are mixed up in drugs. The shooting of Brumville began in March 2017 after self-funding and crowd-funding campaigns and you can keep informed of their progress and release plans at https://twitter.com/brumville




The Law of Noir by Duaine Roberts

The Law of Noir started production in September and we cannot wait to see what's in store for this upcoming law-drama story. After the success of Graycon (review here) which saw Duaine Roberts branching out into sci-fi, the Birmingham filmmaker is getting back to basics with his this new drama short. Telling the story of a young law intern who is tasked with defending a client accused of human trafficking, the filmmaker is another trailblazer who is passionate in promoting Birmingham’s acting and production talent. Follow updates at https://twitter.com/CarmaFilmUK




Dead Quiet by Alex Withers

This forthcoming horror drama is another survival film where the last person on earth struggles to stay alive and attempts to hold onto his humanity. Produced in Nottingham the film is written by Dan McGrath who will explore the “importance of the sounds we create and experience as humans in order to connect with each other and the world around us”. Director Alex Withers and a team of talented filmmakers are bringing this unique world to the life on the big screen and wrapped production in August of 2017. Both a “disturbing horror and a bittersweet drama” follow the film here to get updates on its impending release https://www.facebook.com/DeadQuietFilm


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Nov 20 2017 02:00PM

Justice League (2017) Dir. Zack Snyder

With 4 films now under their belt, DC is still a studio confused as to what it wants to achieve from its flagship franchise characters as we get to a film that sees their previously covered legends Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman join the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg to take on a planet destroying threat. After director Zack Snyder dropped out owing to a family tragedy, in stepped comic fan-boy Joss Whedon who has clearly added his own lightweight banter to a series steeped in muted colours and moody awfulness.


The plot is simple as Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne attempts to persuade other meta-humans to join his team in order to stop evil monster Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons. And that’s it. Batman vs. Superman’s awkward complexity is jettisoned for a simple story and a sub-2 hour runtime but even so, many scenes and characters make little sense – even the ones that have already had an entire film devoted to them.


As a huge fan of Snyder, Whedon and DC characters (see my 2013 favourite superhero films of all time blog), where a reported $300 million was spent is anyone’s guess? The bland CGI Steppenwolf is a boring Scorpion-King nothing and although it’s slightly more coherent than say Suicide Squad, I’ve never had the inclination to see Batman in Lord of the Rings as he battles hordes of fantasy-like winged orcs in Playstation-quality video game visuals.


The League (read Avengers) are formed to stop the coming together of 3 ‘power boxes’ (read Infinity Stones) as other-worldly civilisations like the Atlantians and Amazonians (read Asgardians) fight a CGI fantasy bad-guy (read Thanos) and his parademon army (read Chitauri). Unoriginal and desperate, the film uses Danny Elfman and John Williams’ classic scores in a poor attempt to add class to a very unclassy product.


It not only reminds you of other films, Flash’s slow-motion escapades echo Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it also reminds you of how good those other films are in comparison. The added Whedon reshoots don’t stand out because nothing relates to any other scene at all anyway, so who would notice. And the obligatory orange and teal colour palette one hour in (a horrid design aesthetic seen in BvS and Wonder Woman already) appears with orange flames and cold blue characters, but one improvement is that they’ve avoided Snyder’s dull colour grading to let some bright images jump from the screen.


The actors are actually quite likeable but they’re not just fighting Steppenwolf, they’re fighting an uphill battle against an awful plot and dialogue. New characters like Cyborg have underdeveloped relationships and back-stories that are brushed over in single sentences of exposition like reading a summary on Wikipedia.


*SPOILER* As the gang attempt to harness the powers of Superman to help their cause, the film delves into one of its best aspects as a particular scene (still heavily drenched in CGI) shows the team battling with the Man of Steel who is confused as to his resurrection. It’s a fun, exciting and totally understandable scene with a clear goal and antagonist. It’s also one that could (should?) have been used as the basis of an entirely different film in an alternative DC timeline full of interesting themes and well established motivations.


Sadly, the film fails to build upon that single scene and the worst thing is that this is DC’s 5th film and in my opinion still worse than their first attempt. Snyder ultimately ends by replacing Joel Schumacher’s legendary bad Batman and Robin’s fake sets and outfits with legendary bad fake CGI and design. As the film fumbles its way into the end-zone final battle, it genuinely looks like everyone has given up. The actors, the computer generated visuals, the recycled scores and the dull boring action sequences simply summarise where their universe is at. If there was any justice in this world, DC would wipe the slate clean and chalk these films up as an admirable failure and resurrect their own franchise with the “hope” this film attempts to leave us with.


5.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Sep 14 2017 11:14AM



Flickerama - A film festival, that's an actual festival!


Flickerama is taking film festivals to a whole new level, bringing the vibe of a summer outdoor festival and making it all about movies. Think a mini-Glastonbury that's all about film. 


Regional film fans will be able to enjoy films on a large outdoor Arena Screen or in the comfort of a specially designed indoor marquee with three fantastic film events taking place over one weekend.


Over 15th, 16th & 17th September you can head to Umberslade Farm Park, just 30 minutes from Birmingham and be "transported to a film paradise".


With three unique events over the three days, there are indoor and outdoor screenings (with rain protection!), 16 classic films, two Labyrinth Masquerade Balls, Harry Potter After Party with Alex Baker (Magic Radio/Kerrang), a Quidditch Tournament and more!


There will also be the Ghostbusters car, a Kids Make & Take Craft Tent, Kids & Adult Cosplay (win a private cinema screening!), a Back To The Future Exhibition, Film Poster Sale, Conjurer's Kitchen, Kids outdoor games.


And that's not all! Other attractions are the Big Grey circus performer, Film themed Mini-Golf, Forza 6 Hotlap Tournament, Minecraft Creative competition. Phew!

 

The organiser's claim there is "something for everyone" and boy are they right!


For further info please click here http://flickerama.co.uk and check the film screening listings below:


FLICKERAMA - LABYRINTH MASQUERADE BALL:

15th September - DOORS OPEN 7PM

7.30pm Themed cocktail reception

8.30pm Labyrinth (U)

10.30pm Labyrinth Masquerade Ball


FLICKERAMA - CULT AND COMIC DAY:

Saturday 16th September - DOORS OPEN 11.30AM

OUTDOOR SCREEN

12.15pm Guardians Of The Galaxy(12A)

2.45pm Edward Scissorhands (12A) 100 mins

5.15pm Ghostbusters (12A) 103 mins

8pm Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone (PG) 150 mins


INDOOR SCREEN

12.30 Adam West Tribute - Batman: The Movie 1966 (U) 103 mins

3pm Amaryllis (15) TBC mins

5:30pm Deadpool (15) 104 mins

7:15pm Adult cosplay competition

8:30pm The Room (18) 99 mins


FLICKERAMA - FAMILY FILM DAY:

Sunday 17th September - DOORS OPEN 11.30AM

OUTDOOR SCREEN

12.30pm Safety Last (U) 76 mins

2pm Frozen singalong (PG) 108 mins

4.15pm Kids cosplay competition

4.45pm The Goonies (12A) 113 mins

7pm Back to the Future (PG) 115 mins


INDOOR SCREEN

12.45pm The Lego Batman Movie (1h 45m)

3pm Matilda (PG) 94 mins

5pm Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (U) 96 mins

7.30pm Labyrinth (U) 98 mins

By midlandsmovies, Jul 14 2017 07:46AM



Wonder Woman (2017) Dir. Patty Jenkins

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Dir. Jon Watts


Huge superhero franchises are just a thing now. They can be as exciting as a rollercoaster. Or like bad breath, an immediate turn-off. However, in many cases, they sit comfortably like a nice warm cuppa in the summer blockbuster season. Neither a die-hard Marvel or DC fan – like most I just simply enjoy a good film – the two behemoths of the comic (now film) world have released key movies in their complicated production schedule.


After the solid Man of Steel, the abysmal Batman Vs Superman and the misstep of Suicide Squad, DC really needed a hit in order to regain some of the credibility lost from those less-than-satisfying tent-poles. So they’ve taken a chance (which should be hugely applauded) and given Gal Godot the long overdue central role of the infamous female superhero. After 14 films, Marvel STILL haven’t given any woman in their universe a film. Although Brie Larson as Captain Marvel is due soon, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is notably absent from Marvel’s solo film roster.


In short, the narrative shows Wonder Woman (Diana Price) jumping from Themyscira, the island home of an Amazon race of warrior women, to 1918 Europe during the height of the Great War. On her way she saves Chris Pine’s soldier Steve Trevor on her journey to destroy Ares, the god of war, who she believes is the cause of the conflict.


A fresh fish-out-of-water story, the film contains so much of what was missing from DC films so far – humanity, sensitivity, comedy and some characters with motivations you can get behind. Going for simplicity hugely helps the story and director Jenkins (her first film since Monster 14 years ago!) should be massively applauded for ditching the dourness and injecting some overdue fun. At the half way point, as ludicrous as Wonder Woman wearing her full costume in No Man’s Land is, the film already has its tone clearly defined and the audience swept along in its entertainment.


If there was a fault it would be two – albeit small. Firstly, the film suffers from the fact Marvel’s Captain America did the ‘hero in war’ film already so similarities are sadly inevitable. The second is the final battle which has flames (orange) and energy beams (teale) in the obligatory let’s smash everything up mess. Scarily reminiscent of BvS, my eyes rolled at the familiar imagery, which is confusingly edited, and contains the usual over-use of CGI where nothing has much weight. However, more on this later.


Moving on, yet still speaking of the familiar, Marvel has released its new version of the infamous web-slinger. One of the hottest properties out there – maybe only second to Batman and Superman as the most famous superhero (?) – they have done a deal with franchise-owning Sony to finally add Peter Parker to the ever-expanding MCU. His brief appearance in Civil War was a great introduction but with 3 cinematic iterations of the character in just 10 years, can something fresh be brought to the screen?


Well, in the majority, it’s a massive yes! Tom Holland is a hugely likeable Peter Parker and Marvel wisely ditches an origin story (the fact he was bitten by a spider is briefly mentioned once) and focuses on the teenager’s school problems alongside his goals to become an Avenger. Under the tutelage of Tony Stark he’s given the responsibility of a super suit which he struggles to contain in his eagerness to progress. Peter’s ambition jumps from defending the neighbourhood to attempting to stop Michael Keaton’s ‘Vulture’, who is selling alien weaponary he has stolen from previous Avengers’ encounters.


Tying nicely into the MCU but setting out its own individual story, Homecoming (surprisingly) brings enough to the plate to set it aside from the Garfield and Maguire versions. The teen angst is superbly handled, an action sequence atop the Washington Monument was phenomenal (go see this in 3-D and really feel the vertigo) and its jokes come so thick and fast the film veers from superhero action flick to outright pure comedy.


Keaton, who I’ve loved since Batman ’89 (my personal favourite superhero film) is so watchable here he’s already jumped to a close second, behind just Loki, as one of the best MCU villains to date – an area Marvel has been under-achieving at best.


Strangely, its biggest flaw is almost the same as Wonder Woman’s. A final battle sees the Vulture – with flames in the background (orange) – take on Spidey using his damaged mechanical wings (both teale) and here we are again. In a film taking lots of chances, it was a sequence that could have done with a shot of more unique web-slinging action and originality.


That aside, Spider-Man’s first full film in the Marvel world was certainly a surprising success. Was it better than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2? Personally, I think not. Raimi’s unique directorial style and more interesting villain still holds firm but Marvel went VERY close to reassessing its pole position.


Both films then prove to be hugely satisfying and have course-corrected their respective franchises as needed. Both are surprising in all the best ways – Wonder Woman’s feminine focus and more subtle story shows DC can get audiences emotionally involved and Spider-Man proves that Marvel can bring something new and fresh to an over-exposed character. Super!


7.5/10 Wonder Woman


8/10 Spider-Man: Homecoming


Midlands Movies Mike

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