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By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2019 04:15PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 3


Here's another set of our shorter reviews for films we've caught up with in 2019 featuring A Vigiilante, The Curse of La Llorona, Alita: Battle Angel....


Scroll down to see what we thought of each of them...




A Vigilante (2019) Dir. Sarah Dagger-Nickson

A Vigilante is the debut of writer and director Sarah Dagger-Nickson and sees an abused woman (Olivia Wilde as Sadie) assisting other women victims who have had a similar experiences. The film’s explosive opening sees smartly-dressed Wilde enter a home of a woman suffering an injury – hinted to be from her spouse – and when he returns, Sadie inflicts punishment that will sees him reluctantly leaving and handing over half his savings to his wife. Surprisingly, but very powerfully, the director actually minimises the on-screen violence itself (this is definitely not in the realm of action-flicks like Atomic Blonde) but this has the effect of heightening the victim’s plight. With an audience’s projection of what violent acts may have occurred, we therefore imagine the worst – both in the perpetrators acts and the subsequent retribution of justice inflicted back. Great cinematography from Alan McIntyre Smith helps focus the story on a stellar performance from Wilde, who plays both a hard-nosed enactor of violence and, in a flashback explaining her backstory, a sensitive and emotional victim-turned-avenger. As we discover that she too was once a victim, losing a child to her ex-husband (a disgustingly dark turn by the excellent Morgan Spector), the film propels to a unshakeable climatic conclusion that sees her finally track down and face the hideous partner from her past. A Vigilante therefore has a smart and timely premise and is a quality movie tackling the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Olivia Wilde gives a career-best performance too as the woman fighting this head on, and this exciting debut is a successful revenge film that delivers more insight into the topic than similar movies of this kind. ★★★★




The Curse of La Llorona (2019) Dir. Michael Chaves

Produced by James Wan, The Curse of La Llorona is another (dull) entry into The Conjuring universe and is based on Mexican folklore where a supernatural entity attempts to steal children from their families. In echoes of Case 39 (2009), our lead Linda Cardellini is social worker Anna Tate-Garcia who investigates an abusive family situation that spirals out of control. Mixing silly superstitions with godawful jump scares, the film’s woman in a white dress begins hunting down Anna’s own two children. Filled to the brim with obvious 'quiet-then-loud' jump scares, La Lorona is the kind of PG-13 horror that is over-done and has been seen dozens of times before. A car-based stalking sequence was the one standout innovation but this was not developed at all and we’re soon back to the bland back-story involving stock priest and detective characters. I’m also sick of the clichéd dropped-mouthed white-skinned monster bride trope as well, which again, is now far too familiar to shock. But what did general audiences think? Well, with a budget of just $9 million (and boy can you tell), the film took $121.6 million (!) at the box office so prepare yourself for the inevitable slew of sequels or side-quels or whatever future dross they’ll end up knocking out. For the rest of us with higher standards, set your expectation level to “underwhelmed” and then still prepare yourself for a bit of a knock. ★★


Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Dir. Robert Rodriguez

The uncanny valley is ‘when humanoid objects appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings and elicit uncanny feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers’. I know friends who can’t even watch Pixar films owing the “rubbery” features of the human-like characters. I’ve never really experienced it myself. Until now. Forever in development hell with James Cameron, he serves as producer here, in an adaption of the 90’s manga series where a female cyborg is recreated by Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) with no memory of her mysterious past. She learns to skate and take part in future-sport Motorball and later engages in brawls and visually ugly and confusing CGI fights which create absolutely zero intrigue. With a stellar support cast including Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Jackie Earle, the weird thing is, it’s not essentially the CGI that sticks out. There’s so much of it that the human characters inserted in the film feel almost unneeded and a distraction in themselves. But it's Alita's facial construction, whose eyes and face are computer-generated beyond all recognition which actually turned me off from the screen regularly. Somehow grossing over $405 million worldwide, with possible sequels now in the works, the film may have been better delivered as an animation as it’s already 90% there. And therefore sadly, as Alita is found amongst a big pile of junk and hastily put together, the film mirrors this in its themes, tone and dull execution. ★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Apr 8 2019 02:09PM



Midlands Review - Ghosts


Directed by Joey Lever


Digital Heart


2019


"Early 2019 The Ghost Catchers were hired to rig 369 Film Studios with state-of-the-art paranormal technology to find spirits that have been haunting the studio for 30 years.


This is the footage recovered”.


And so opens this new paranormal comedy mockumentary from Leicester filmmaker Joey Lever. With the relatively recent explosion of films based around a similar premise – the Paranormal Activity franchise films and 2011’s Grave Encounters - Lever plays Malone, a ghost who is haunting a local film studio but is followed by a film crew too.


In this unique twist we are introduced not just to Malone, but he shares this haunted space with two other spirits – Flynn (Jak Beasley) and his girlfriend (ghost-friend?) Spryte played by Phoebe Hammond.


The trio have quirky personas and spend their days pranking the owner Jeff, played by real-life studio owner David Hardware. As we are reminded that “ghosts can’t die”, we see Flynn hanging from a noose in one of many comedy japes they play. But they are not all as macabre as that. For example, we are shown how Malone spends an extra ordinate amount of time simply moving mugs and newspapers around to annoy Jeff.


The filmmakers have kept the documentary feel by inserting several interviews and talking-heads sections. We are introduced to Harry from the fictional Ghost Catcher TV series and these help give the short some structure as well as provide fun background information about the characters.


From the Martin Freeman-style direct-to-the-camera “stares” to the David Brent embarrassing smiles and shrugs, there’s a fare chunk of The Office in tone included in Ghosts. However, the supernatural element is clearly influenced by the similarly-styled What We Do in The Shadows. That 2014 film followed a group of vampire friends and the filmmakers have taken the genre and added some of their own spooky situations.


The comedy is understated and despite their morbid predicament, the threesome's lives are often framed by petty arguments and silly squabbles. Whilst their horrible deaths bring them together, the film gets laughs from the mundane minutiae of their lives rather than any spiritual revelations.


Later on an exorcist is hired by Jeff to rid the building of its phantoms and once he arrives, he begins to shriek “may the power of Christ compel you” as they look on incredulously. He leaves with the apparent spirits in a ghost catching unit, but this simply results in the three ghosts laughing as they remain where they are.


Leading up to their biggest prank moment – Malone brings along some white sheets and the trio prepare for some scares. As mild as they are and filmed in bright daylight, the ghosts’ final masterplan is as mundane as their previous efforts. However, despite this everyday quality, they may have taken it too far this time. Leaving us to ask whether Jeff will finally discover his tormentors or head to an entirely different place altogether.


A witty and somewhat improvised script helps sell this short and although the ideas are certainly nothing new, the film does manage to find a unique slant on an established formula. With plenty of gags present, Ghosts is an excellent manifestation of a solid idea with a humorous delivery. And whilst zombie-fans often get the majority of comedy-horror, this mockumentary certainly gives the audience an amusing account of the afterlife.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Nov 21 2016 08:37PM

Ghostbusters (2016) Dir. Paul Feig


Well I come to this film months after the online controversies it generated during, before and after its creation in the hope to take a look at it without the crowds of extreme viewpoints clouding my judgement.


Off the bat I think three things.


1. You cannot criticise this for women being involved. It’s just sexist. Plain and simple.

2. You cannot criticise it for “destroying” your childhood. It plainly just doesn’t go back and change that movie one bit.

3. You can criticise it on any other filmic aspect whether you like it or not.


With that in mind I had to go beyond some of the many negative comments that were brought up, fought over and then dismiss all the noise and focus solely on the film itself.


But the new Ghostbusters was better than I expected. I don’t know if it was low expectations or something else. As a kid I made my own proton pack (and a ghost trap out of a cereal box too) so have fond memories of that film but a recent re-watch didn’t make me feel much more than nostalgia. But it’s laced with childhood memories and this new reboot does not take that away.


Anyways, back to this film. It stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the Ghostbusters with Chris Hemsworth as their receptionist and has much in common with Ghostbusters version 1: a group of scientists - some sceptical about the paranormal, some adamant they exist - pull together to start a business in New York to catch ghosts. One initial issue is that they don’t actually capture any more than one. Why? I don’t know.


A few twists are thrown in though. The authorities know there are ghosts but simply cover it up whilst there is a lot more focus on the tools of the trade – with McKinnon delivering some much needed off-the-wall quirkiness the rest of the “safe” parts lacked. Something that the film also did well was the pacing and the build-up and a few fan-service cameos were fine but nothing more.


The negatives? Well I have to say that the pratfalls and physical comedy wasn’t up my street. It never has been. However, most of them are in the trailer which got me thinking that the trailer was actually one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The positivity of these strong women playing scientists was completely ignored for slaps, falls, slime and running yet the rest of the movie is hardly like that at all. I’m no fan of McCarthy either (see here) and for me the film longed for an Amy Schumer-type to give it some real bite.


If I was to compare it to the original just once, the realistic palette of grey/brown New York is jettisoned for awful day-glow colour grading with the ghosts looking like they’d been painted with Stabilo Boss highlighter pens. I definitely preferred the more convincing non-CGI versions and the film really lacks any practical effects at all.


So, should you see it? Well, I definitely think everyone should give it a try. If you’re sexist then you should probably give up viewing films as a whole but for the rest of us you *may* be pleasantly surprised. It’s much more comical than it needed to be and it’s never dark/seedy enough to capture New York or the supernatural but at least don’t take the trailer at face value and view the film itself on its own terms, as although FAR from perfect, it could have been a lot worse.


6/10


Midlands Movie Mike

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