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By midlandsmovies, Apr 2 2018 08:08PM



I Kill Giants (2018) Dir. Anders Walter


Based upon the graphic novel I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly (writer) and Ken Niimura (artist), I Kill Giants was written in 2008 before A Monster Calls but has unfortunately been released as a movie a year after. This results in the tale having some familiarity but, for me, it didn’t harm the film one little bit given the quality on show.


In this film, a fantastic Madison Wolfe plays disturbed young girl Barbara Thorson who is a dungeons and dragons playing loner who escapes the troubles of her life by retreating into a world of fantasy. Sound familiar? Maybe so, but the film explores a great deal about growing up in an intelligent way through the eyes of children. Passionate for fantasy board games with multi-sided dice, Barbara lives with her disinterested video-game obsessed brother. Together they are both looked after by their put-upon sister Karen, in which Imogen Poots plays the stressed older sibling brilliantly.


Barbara is shown to be intelligent and witty but also boisterous and looks down on her family (and teachers) with scorn. This ensures she is friendless and spends most of her time creating homemade spells and potions out of random finds, which are then used to lure huge monsters. Wolfe is so convincing that from great character introductions at the start, I was unsure whether her creative world was in fact real or not. Her feisty Barbara is only ever seen alone with the monsters and although the question is rapidly cleared up, the film explores childhood creativity and frustrations in a way that patronises neither children nor the adults who have relationships with them.


Warnings and markings are scrawled by Barbara at home, on the beach and at school to protect herself and others from (an imagined?) harm but this brings her to the attention to Zoe Saldana’s school counsellor. Finding it hard to break into Barbara’s world, the sassy youngster equally infuriates and intrigues Saldana as she relentlessly keeps her guard up. Back home, Barbara meets an English girl Sophia (Sydney Wade) who is new to the area and slowly they form a bond. Barbara begins to trust her enough to show her a private sanctuary she has created as well as share details of the different types of giant she is aware of.


Far from a fantasy, the depiction of youngsters sharing secrets, having their own protective space and also passing paper messages between each other were entirely relatable aspects of growing up. Barbara creates her own “medicine” from unique items to stop the monsters she feels are going to attack her loved ones but the film ensures the relationships feel less fantastical and more authentic. And her strong smart exterior is used as protection against real bullies, teachers and the “giant” issues she faces.


The film’s tone had an ‘Amblin’ flavour at times which was no bad thing either. The music and bike-riding definitely had the young charm of The Goonies whilst the chirpy piano score felt more than reminiscent of 1980’s Spielberg and JJ Abrams’ Super 8 (2011). And finding out it was produced by Christopher Columbus was therefore of no surprise either. The CGI forest giants and the ominous presence of a Treebeard-esque shadow monster upstairs in Barbara’s home were well-rendered but, like last year’s Colossal, the little explored “women-against-giant-monsters” sub-genre is again much more than meets the eye.


Without spoiling the film, the giants represent far more than can be imagined and although this is explicitly stated, there always seemed to be a mystery until the final third of the movie. It’s a fantastic look at childhood fun, trauma and life-learning from blood oaths to the frustration of P.E. lessons and all this is done with the right balance of fun and seriousness.


A slightly predictable parable – although it gives far less away than the A Monster Calls trailer – I Kill Giants is a brilliant and inspired coming-of-age comedy drama that sits in the same space as that film. A strong cast of performers are led by Madison Wolfe who is front and centre, and deservedly so, from the start. Dealing with difficult issues and seen from the viewpoint of a bright but troubled young girl, the final twist in the tale tackles much heartbreak within its skilful narrative. But, as we are moved on this poignant journey, I Kill Giants becomes one fictional world you won’t want to escape from.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, May 8 2017 09:04AM



Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Dir. James Gunn


After the huge success of the first film, writer-director James Gunn returns to the vibrant day-glow world of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his eclectic gang for this sequel in the never-ending Marvel franchise.


One of its positives is perhaps its lack of connection to the shared Marvel cinematic universe allowing for (aside from few post-credit scenes) a focus on its own story rather than setting up future characters and films with a set of unfulfilling cliff-hangers.


Here the superhero film focuses on the Guardians crew who are now mercenaries for hire of sorts and after defeating a large squid in a superb one-take musical opening, meet with a golden race called the Sovereign. Their reward for their job is Gamora’s sister Nebula (Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan respectively) but they are soon on the run after Rocket Racoon (voiced brilliantly still by Bradley Cooper) steals valuable batteries from them.


After being chased, the group split with Peter, Gamora and Drax ending up on a sentient planet created by Peter’s God-like father Ego (Kurt Russell) whilst Rocket and Vin Diesel’s (baby) Groot cross paths with Michael Rooker’s superb Yondu who is in trouble with his own mutinous clan.


GOTG Vol. 2 is a fresh, superb sequel that delves deeper into these characters established in the original and each distinct personality has their own unique narrative arc. Gunn has done a great job with a multi-character script with a few pop-culture references (TV’s Knightrider is brilliantly given a nod) which do not muddy the deeper themes. Gunn uses serious drama, stories of revenge and love and a father-son dynamic to create conflict in a lesson to all budding scriptwriters. Yet, none of it feels like a surface gesture.


Drax’s “literal” laughter develops into more understanding of his bluntness whilst fun jokes, such as the ones at the expense of the strangely named Taserface, sit perfectly with parental quarrels and inter-team tensions.


The film never once felt slow or dragged out and is edited to within an inch of its life letting the audience know exactly where everyone is and what their motivations are. This is without losing the crucial essence of the characters. Rogue One this isn’t and thank goodness for that.


Given the film’s sensitive subject matter to me after my own recent loss of a parent, the ideas and excellent delivery of them by Gunn hit an emotional core that may be beyond the casual viewer. However, that’s not to say others will not find an emotional resonance with the superbly played out poignancy of the film’s conclusion – where I admit a tear of two was shed.


Dave Bautista as Drax rounds out the first-rate acting on show and I would go as far to say that the film could be even better than the first. Like Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, the film jumps straight into the drama without the need for the “origin story” and delves deeper into each character and their universe akin to classic sci-fi follow up Empire Strikes Back.


With enough new elements added, as well as the obligatory 70s soundtrack which is incorporated well into the story, GOTG Vol. 2 is an exceptional feat. The film could be the best-looking Marvel film to date with its eye-popping colour palette and with outstanding costumes, make-up and special effects scenes will satisfy the action fans. However, for me it showed that if you care about your leads then these are hugely heightened. Yet the film’s best asset is Gunn himself who delivers the whole package needed in a summer blockbuster and it is he who is the Guardian of his own gorgeous galaxy.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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