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By midlandsmovies, Nov 4 2018 07:46PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 4

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) J. A. Bayona

The fifth film in the dino-giant Jurassic franchise, and boy does it feel like it. In the world of the soft reboot, what we get here is a re-tread of Spielberg’s disappointing sequel where a group of military personnel return to the infested island. As they try to retrieve precious DNA remnants, the animal's eco-system is disrupted by the impending eruption of a volcano which puts the remaining dinosaurs at risk of a second extinction. Why this is a problem remains a mystery as they can surely clone them all again? That was the first film’s point. Chris Pratt moves further from his great Guardians performance and slides into “Blando Hero-man” alongside Bryce Dallas Howard’s retconned footwear-obsessed power female. The film also takes a sharp 180 degree turn at the halfway point and we are soon in a Scooby-Doo esque haunted mansion where – and this is actually the story – a group of rich billionaires are buying and selling dinos in an underground laboratory. WTF? Reminding me of the human trafficking auction in Taken, the film flies off the rails with only a few hints of the skill Bayona showed in his earlier films The Orphanage and A Monster Calls. Boring and dull, Fallen Kingdom is somewhat unbelievably the 12th highest grossing film of all time which means there will most certainly be another - but count me out of this dead-as-a-dodo theme park attraction. 5.5/10

The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Back in 2015 for my review of Wild Card I said, and I quote, Statham “often plays the same ex-cop/gangster/trained assassin/cage fighter/thief with violent skills who attempts to go straight, but is pulled in by circumstances beyond his control”. And unsurprisingly here, he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly, despite his suspect past and *cough* his attempts to leave his aquatic life behind. As quick as you like he’s back in the saddle, or should that be scuba, and thus begins a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad. Director Turteltaub helmed the fun guilty pleasure National Treasure movies yet this is neither family fun nor satisfying grindhouse splatter-fest. The Meg sadly handles its efforts in both genres terribly badly. Some may find a bit of Saturday night excitement in its glossy shark sequences but for me the film was simply mega disappointing. 4/10

Tag (2018) Dir. Jeff Tomsic

During the end credits of Tag there is real-life camcorder footage of the men who inspired this new American comedy from Jeff Tomsic and it’s indicative of the film’s quality that those few minutes are far more interesting than the preceding 2 hours. Based on the real-life story of a group of grown adults who play a game of “tag” (“it” in the UK) for one month of the year, Ed Helms plays Hoagie who stalks his friends Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress and Isla Fisher. He then convinces the old gang to play one final game before ‘retirement’ by tagging their elusive friend Jeremy Renner who has never been tagged despite years of attempts. With Renner on the verge of marriage, the group try to tag him during his wedding planning but his 'Bourne' skills sees Renner using Hawkeye-style reflexes to avoid their juvenile attacks. A few fine jokes and some rip-roaring editing still cannot overcome the fact that, for me, a documentary on the actual participants – who still play to this very day – is where the true entertainment would lie. With Blockers and Game Night both tackling the “adults playing at kids games” theme as well, Tag sadly doesn’t have anything close to the fun found in those. And with its TV-style filming, a strangely maudlin ending and its one-trick-pony idea Tag is definitely not “it”. 4.5/10

The First Purge (2018) Dir. Gerard McMurray

How did The Purge start? Well, this is the film to answer the question that no one was really asking but as with the other films in the series, this 4th franchise instalment tackles some deeper issues than your regular b-movie thriller. In the mid-21st Century, we are told via news footage that the fascist New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are launching an experiment on Staten Island where citizens can commit crime consequence-free for 12 hours. The film follows local drug gangs, a criminal called Skeletor and young anti-purge activists throughout the night as they fight off the expected (and unexpected) participants of The Purge. With a mainly black cast, the film also discusses issues of community, poverty, substance abuse and even has Ku Klux Klan members and black-faced mercenaries. Not just a throwaway action-flick for sure.

In my review of The Purge: Election Year I explained how the “anthology” nature of The Purge series has allowed it to explore more interesting themes than similar low-budget fare, whilst also allowing young up and coming talent to take centre stage amongst its cast. And good turns from Y'lan Noel as Dmitri, Lex Scott Davis as Nya, Joivan Wade as Isaiah, Mugga as Dolores and Christian Robinson as Capital A mean everyone delivers more than fine performances throughout. With “weighty” films like Black Panther, The Post and Black Klansman all tackling lofty themes, it’s great that The Purge gives them all a run for their money with its social commentary alongside b-movie bloodshed. With the authorities trying to stir up hatred with militias, The First Purge (and the others in the series) has used its silly premise to turn a mirror on to the problems currently facing America. And through inventive costume design, handheld camera and a pumping soundtrack, uses its non-mainstream genre to explore the far darker, but no less important, aspects of politics and policymakers. 6.5/10

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Aug 7 2016 08:13PM

The Purge: Election Year (2016) Dir. James DeMonaco

The Purge films (now a trilogy) about a near-future where for one day of the year all crime including murder is LEGAL for 12 hours, began its life with a low budget house invasion movie with Ethan Hawke in 2013. This was followed up by Purge: Anarchy that continued to carve out a b-movie niche as it flipped the original’s one-location premise to encompass a city-wide night escape (similar to Judgement Night or The Warriors).

Now on its third film, the Purge series ups the ante by setting the story against the politicians who introduced the concept, who covertly arrange an attack on a potential Presidential candidate who is in opposition to it.

What I like about the films is two-fold. Firstly, although not attempting to be high art they have a simple and solid idea at their core. A what-if scenario? What would society be like without rules? What is it like to be let off the chain, even just for a few hours? The film series has played on this set up from different characters’ point of views and is not necessarily bound by following an “arc”. The first sequel ditched the suburban family from the original as we followed a loner LA copy in the city who is drawn from seeking vengeance into protecting others which was a great switch by the writer-director, DeMonaco.

The second is the balance between the good idea and its low-budget schlock limitations. This concept allows the films to explore a number of serious ideas whilst still being a lot of fun with brutal violence, fighting and plenty of action. The director knows his limits however, yet makes the very most of them. Not contained by huge studio demands, DeMonaco has fun with costume designs, a cast of unknowns (who can be killed without fear of losing a “star”) and themes that typical “franchise” films wouldn’t dare take a risk with.

This film follows both of those notions as the same LA cop (Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes again) is now in charge of protecting a Senator who opposes the purge. Taking into account a wide range of society – we follow folks from shopkeepers, tactical SWAT teams, a Crips gang and some “founding fathers” – the diverse array of citizens again hint on bigger ideas whilst essentially not losing a fast paced group-on-the-run narrative.

Silly, preposterous and certainly not smart, the Purge is a superb low-budget success story and although I loathe to use box office figures in reviews (in fact never having done it before) it is great to see the series profit to the tune of 10xtimes its budget (!) in stark contrast to the billion dollar break-even points of bigger blockbusters.

If you failed to enjoy the other films, then you’ll find nothing more to satisfy you here, just more of the same nasty throwaway Saturday night thrills that are enjoyable if you take the frivolous fun at face value.


Midlands Movies Mike

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