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By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2018 04:19PM

Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) Dir. Matt Schrader

If music be the food of love play on! This fantastic documentary has a who’s who roster of infamous film music composers and the sheer range of the talent on offer is worth a watch even to a passing fan of the medium.

But if you enjoy film then you must certainly be a fan. Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Trent Reznor, Tom Holkenborg, Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat are just some of the stars interviewed in the amazing story of movie music.

Throughout, every aspect of the process is covered, as well as the historical context, and some of the pure joy is simply listening to the interviewees talking about their influences and contemporaries.

From James Cameron explaining a spotting session (where a director and composer get together to decide where music is going to be) to Hans Zimmer talking about the fear of the first meeting (“I think you better phone John Williams, I have no idea how to do this”) the trials of composing and the enjoyment of the challenges comes across in each talking-head segment.

The documentary shows Rachel Portman working on the film RACE with a screen next to her piano which a fantastic insight into her particular process whilst the film discusses motifs (such as those in Close Encounters & Lord of the Rings) and other music theory in simple but passionate terms.

Historically we see Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire revolutionary music as well as John Barry’s swinging big band scores (James Bond). Giving further context, current Bond composer David Arnold adds no spy film would feel like one without similar style which is the same for Morricone’s iconic sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.

From the toy piano in the intro music to the TV show Rugrats to orchestral pieces, no style is left uncovered and there’s fun to be had as the composers run through their strangest instruments in a montage of the weird and wonderful.

We are told “There’s no such thing as the wrong way to do something” as the diversity of music styles and the iconic films they are from are interrogated. Drums of Mad Max: Fury Road give way to segments about the science behind music. One of the most interesting parts describes the physiological response within the brain, followed by Moby’s “air molecules” analogy.

As Randy Newman fawns over Gerry Goldsmith we get the arrival of John Williams and his incredible splash of Star Wars and Jaws in the 70s. His rediscovery of classic orchestral scores (e.g. Superman, Indiana Jones) saw a revival of the medium leading all the way to his Duel of the Fates choir at Abbey Road.

If there was one flaw it would be that we only briefly get a piece of the history/composer before we move on to the next. Many of the explorations of genres, individual composers, music history and instrumentation go by so quickly, it can be a little frustrating. Each one alone could have entire documentaries of their own dedicated to their part but it’s a small gripe in a mostly fascinating piece.

Taking us from the need for music to cover up noisy projectors at the turn of the 20th century to Trent Reznor’s experimentations in his Oscar-winning The Social Network sound design, SCORE is a comprehensive documentary covering all the major players in over 100 years of movie music. Although brief at times, it barely misses a beat and if you’re not reaching for your LPs, CD shelf or Spotify account after watching this then I’m not sure you have any right to call yourself a film fan.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 10:09PM

Leicestershire movie Art is Dead launches on Amazon Prime

Filmed entirely around Leicestershire and the East Midlands, Art Is Dead is a new comedy feature which uses talent from the local region and has recently become available via Amazon streaming services.

The film is described as “the ultimate underdog story” and has already gained reviews describing its “outrageous humour” and “gripping” and “thought-provoking” ideas.

Written, directed and produced by Luke Oliver the film also stars Richard Mason (Scott & Sid and Oscar-winning short film Stutterer), George Newton (This Is England, Paddington) and Mark Peachey (Richard III, Hollyoaks). In a small cameo, there’s even room for Alex Reid from Celebrity Big Brother.

Created by InkyBlue and Gatling Guns Productions the film can now be downloaded via Amazon Prime (click here) and writer-director-actor Luke Oliver trained whilst working in a dingy pub kitchen. From a working-class background himself, Luke almost starved whilst funding himself through acting School.

Eventually he had little option but to leave London and once he returned to the Midlands, he started penning a short film script which would soon become the full-length feature film “Art is Dead”.

The story is biographical somewhat in that a working class actor is oppressed within the “plastic fantastic” entertainment industry due to lack of money.

Luke explains, “The comedy takes a gentle poke at the vulgarity of the wealthy in a world where the working class aren’t given a break. It sees the main character Ant, and his fellow actor friend’s kidnap a wealthy actor Benjamin Cummerbund and reek a night of havoc on the industry’s biggest night of the year”.

Following an initial screening at Coalville’s Century Theatre in February the film has been a labour of love for Luke. He formed the company InkyBlue Productions and started working tirelessly towards his first film and commissioned a local Leicestershire company ‘Gatling Gun Productions’ to provide crew and equipment to make Art is Dead become a reality.

Check out the film's trailer above and order now on Amazon for the full feature.

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:29PM

Mom and Dad (2018) Dir.Brian Taylor

About two-thirds of the way in to Mom and Dad I thought to myself, “Hey, this is on a level of ridiculousness I haven’t seen in a long time...probably since Crank”. Imagine my surprise that Mom and Dad writer/director Brian Taylor is one half of the directing duo who brought us not only Crank 1 and 2 but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Bringing back Nic Cage from the latter, this film twists the traditional zombie narrative by showing the traditional family as a unit of killers and victims. In this case, static on the radio and television is turning parents into killers of their own kids. The director's visceral visuals pop from the screen from the outset with a strange 70s-style grindhouse intro sequence and the weirdly kinetic stylistic choices continue throughout.

The film begins as a soap opera with the usual family dynamics about school and disapproving parents upset about boyfriend choices and homework. However what begins as a set of mundane routines soon moves into unsettling sequences as the static “infects” parents who attempt to maim and murder their young ones.

Cage mixes his “family man” persona with his legendary “full-on Cage” mode and the fact an audience can tell he is in on the joke makes his OTT performance twisted yet funny. An impressive Selma Blair does more with her mother character who moves subtly from caring guardian to an evil-doer who even attempts to harm a newborn in a hospital.

I’ve mentioned many times I’m not the biggest zombie film fan which is its biggest hurdle it has to overcome. However, there’s slightly more going on here as the parents talk to each other thus giving us their viewpoint – although Cage mostly just shouts uncontrollably. Morbid humour can be found as the parents bond over how best to kill their children and an impressively constructed scene sees Cage and Blair attempt to gas their children (Anne Winters as Carly Ryan & Zackary Arthur as Josh Ryan) out of a locked basement. But their wily offspring have an explosive surprise in a sequence that is thrilling and comical.

The music is clearly an intended choice to connect with a young (and knowing) audience as we get Bill $aber’s I Know that You Pussies Don’t Want It alongside punk band Reagan Youth and a twisted use of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love.

Mom and Dad gleefully says “this is me, I’m here, and this is what I want to do” and does so with reckless abandon although one’s enjoyment is related to what extent you go along with its ideas and ignore its many structural flaws and lack of depth. From Nic Cage barking like a dog and hollering like a coyote to a fun cameo from Lance Henrikson, the film is ultimately nonsense. And it fails the most when it attempts to go beyond its b-movie roots with a somewhat superficial commentary on parenting, children and the stress of family life.

In the end, not without its chilling charms, whatever message Mom and Dad is trying to say, it gets overshadowed and lost against its style and silly theatrics. Beyond its Friday-night frills, it is a muddled mess that may prove too berserk for most audiences.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 06:44PM

Ground-breaking new Midlands project 'Crushed Wings' being developed to tackle FGM

Based on true life events, the English-spoken drama film ‘Crushed Wings’ boldly challenges dangerously prevalent and out-dated ideas surrounding FGM (female genital mutilation), forced marriage and honour killing.

The story tells of brave Ria, an FGM-survivor who tries to find the strength through the impossible and is one of the first movies ever to be made on this subject.

“The shocking fact we wanted to show in our film is that this is not only happening in Africa and Europe – including the UK – but also in Asia and even in Russia. And many people are not aware of this”, says Amrita Tewari, the Managing Director of production company Cam Buddha Films who are behind the film.

FGM is officially classified as child abuse and the filmmakers have filmed both abroad and more locally in Birmingham to get their story across.

The film's director Lalit Bhusal explains, “We have huge aims - to release a powerful piece of film making and to push the pressure movement for a ban on FGM. By joining the Crushed Wings family you’ll be part of more than just a film; you'll be bringing us one step closer to a world free of FGM”.

The filmmakers have recently launched a crowd-funding campaign to assist in the production of their project and more info on can be found at Indiegogo here https://igg.me/at/crushed-wings

View the film’s first trailer below.

For more information on the film please visit the official site here: www.crushedwings.org

And follow on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Cam_buddha

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:15AM

Annihilation (2018) Dir. Alex Garland

With a whole load of hoo-ha about this film being solely released on Netflix UK instead of garnering a full cinema release, I decided to stick two fingers up at that ridiculous decision by getting out my projector and sound bar and closing the curtains to create my own cinema experience in my front room.

Although I’ve been a defender of Netflix’s output in the past, and it’s honourable how it allows smaller filmmakers to take chances, the fact is that this is a large production with Oscar-winning stars and it’s a shame to see it’s not getting a cinema release at all in the UK (unlike the rest of the world). That said, here we are in my home cinema and what we get is a sci-fi fiction horror adapted from the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer.

Opening with a meteorite crashing into a lighthouse we are soon introduced to Natalie Portman as Lena, a former soldier and scientist who is recalling her adventure inside an environmental entity called The Shimmer. She explains to a hazmat-wearing Benedict Wong about this ethereal alien mix of colour and DNA-adapted plants and animals. We flashback to her home life with her husband Kane (Ex_Machina’s Oscar Issac) who has gone missing inside the same anomaly but returns heavily scarred by his experience and Lena is asked to enter The Shimmer to find some answers.

The back and forth of timescales – as well as a female scientist who is dealing with a loved-one’s illness uncovering alien mysteries with a bunch of fellow academics – harks to Villeneuve’s Arrival, but Portman brings her own vulnerability that we’ve seen to great effect in Black Swan and last year’s underrated Jackie.

Teaming up with expedition leader Jennifer Jason Leigh, the team is rounded out by paramedic Gina Rodriguez as Anya Thorensen, Tessa Thompson’s physicist and Tuva Novotny as a surveyor and geologist. But it’s Portman’s experience in cell division (the circle motif also reminiscent of Arrival) that seems to offer some explanation as to what is going on.

Garland uses some heavy-handed symbolism as the shimmering landscape is reflected in plastic wrap protecting her and Isaac’s home furniture, whilst later we are shown the glossy transparent vinyl surrounding his quarantined bed. This idea of protection and safe and dangerous zones is present throughout and Garland impressively gives us a colourful floral jungle full of Pandora-esque life – yet one that is full of unexpected tension. Despite the lightness and brightness, we are only given us much information as the explorers so their journey into the unknown is also ours.

As they begin to experience shared memory loss and hallucinations, the feisty females stumble across the remnants of previous failed endeavours. Garland doesn’t shy away from the shocking scenes as camcorder footage reveals gruesome internal body horror the likes of which has not been seen since Prometheus. An intriguing plot slowly discloses more disgusting fleshy revelations and a fantastic scene involving the group turning on itself whilst a creature stalks their tied up bodies created a level of dread only the awful Alien: Covenant could dream of.

Yet, as well as the horrific, Garland provides a beauty contrary to the abominations they come across. As it is discovered that much of the environment is the result of cross-DNA development, vivid images of ice-trees and people-shaped plants dot the landscape and are as intriguing as the obvious terrors lurking in the unknown darkness.

The superbly designed overalls and backpacks and a brilliant female cast that audiences will get behind reminded me of how Ghostbusters got the same investigative para-scientific conceit so wrong. We are with this group of powerful female scientists every step, involving ourselves in their personal, scientific and emotional lives throughout their excursion.

Annihilation then ends up being an engaging piece of excellent sci-fi tropes and characters that have clear motivations and are well acted by the cast. An amazing score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow builds to a crescendo in the film’s final Giger-inspired sequence and although the film has ideas and themes seen elsewhere, Garland adds enough new to the mix to create a successful slice of intelligent story-telling.

I can’t help but feel however that, like the protagonists, our own journey into the unknown world of how Netflix will work in the future is a disordered fusion. The mutated mix of a home release and cinema experience is a conjoined mess that simply doesn’t work right now.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2018 08:09PM


New female film group Cinesisters is launching its new branch covering the Midlands area along with a

showreel showcasing the work of women film directors. The group aims to highlight highlighting the breadth of female talent available whilst addressing the industry gap in knowledge of the work of female directors.

Cinesisters is a collective of directors dedicated to supporting the creation of more films by and about women. The group currently has more than 100 members who meet in London once a month to offer each other hands-on advice and share relevant experience.

Due to many members struggling to get to London, but wanting to be part of this group a Midlands branch has now been started by Cinesister and award-winning director Rebekah Fortune.

Cinesisters was formed in response to the barriers female directors face in the film and TV industry. According to ‘Cut Out of the Picture’, the report commissioned by Directors UK in 2016 to look at female participation in the industry, just 13.6% of working film directors in the past decade were women.

Cinesisters confronts this fact. The collective supports and promotes members work and offers a place to share practical problems and successes. Members include BAFTA winners, Screen Stars of Tomorrow, Broadcast Hotshots, Breakthrough Brits and Emmy nominees.

Its members have also worked with big-hitters including BBC Films, Film4, Pathe, Canal Plus, Channel 5, Film London, Netflix and Sky.

The launch of the Cinesisters showreel is intended to showcase this incredibly talented group of women. The Cinesisters website also offers a database of members’ work as a direct response to an industry switching onto the previously untapped talent of female directors.

Any Female Director of Film, TV or Animation who is interested in doing this wonderful collective should contact wearecinesistersmidlands@gmail.com

Co-founder Claire Oakley says, “Directors don’t often meet each other but we all have a wealth of experience, it seemed crazy not to share it. Through the group we can learn from each other and support each other to get our films funded, made and released.”

The unique set up of the group is a key factor in it’s success as co-founder Nicola Mills points out. "I’ve found nothing as inspiring as this kind of peer to peer mentoring and support - the sheer amount of information and energy you can access through the Cinesisters network never fails to make me grin. Change is definitely now.”

Cinesisters members work and showreels can be seen at www.cinesisters.com

By midlandsmovies, Mar 5 2018 08:35PM

The Greatest Snow Movies

For a huge majority of people, namely adults who’ve tired of freezing to death while building an inadequate snowman, snow is a massive inconvenience. Filmmakers on the other hand love the stuff. Since the earliest days of celluloid, when it was an obvious way to give visual distinction to black-and-white landscape shots, snow has been a far more persistent phenomenon in the movies than meteorological reality.

In no particular order…


Goof and gore were the sideshow to a main event of snappy dialogue and Oscar-worthy acting. Frances McDormand is phenomenal as the tenacious, heavily pregnant sheriff who has to investigate three murders when a kidnapping goes very, very wrong. Was the claim that it was a true story fictitious? Oh, you betcha, yah.

Fact - Filming took place in the winter of 1995, when the region was experiencing its second-warmest winter in 100 years. Filming of outdoor scenes had to be moved all over Minnesota, North Dakota, and Canada, and a lot of the snow was artificial.


Yes we’re all sick & tired of the songs, and lots of women worldwide who could make money by putting on a blonde wig, green dress & sing in an American accent, have long since stopped earning money on the side at birthday parties. But for a film where the snow is such an indelible element in the story, it’s hard to beat.

Fact - Much of the U.S. had a colder than average winter in 2013, prompting many jokes about the powers of Elsa and Disney's marketing department.

The Thing

The Thing is a masterpiece of relentless suspense, gore soaked and outright, nihilistic terror, placing 12 men at an Antarctic station while an alien shapeshifter takes them over one by one. The snow only heightens the feeling of paranoia & hopelessness. There's not even a happy ending. In fact there's no conventional ending at all, just two men, alone in the icy dark one, or both, of whom may not be all they appear.

Fact - To give the illusion of icy Antarctic conditions, interior sets on the Los Angeles sound stages were refrigerated down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while it was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

The Grey

Liam Neeson leads an unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks when their plane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Not only must they battle the deadly elements, they must also combat a pack of rouge wolves. What could've been gung-ho, B-Movie schlock is given serious gravitas by director Joe Carnahan's script, and Neeson's stoic performance.

Fact - According to Liam Neeson, the temperatures were as low as -40 degrees Celsius in Smithers, British Columbia, where the film was shot. The snow storms/scenes were actual prevailing weather conditions, and not a cinematic illusion produced with CGI. The cast wore thermals under their costumes for additional protection.

A Simple Plan

The late, great Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton play polar (get it!) opposite brothers who’s lives unravel when they, decide to cover up the discovery of $4 million in a crashed plane. Sam Raimi reins in usual bag of tricks to deliver a taught, low-key thriller.

Fact - Sam Raimi learned some techniques about shooting in the heavy snow from the Coen brothers, friends of his who had been responsible for Fargo (1996), which Billy Bob Thornton appears in the TV spin-off of.

Groundhog Day

Cantankarous TV weatherman Bill Murray has to endure 2nd February in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, and over, and over again, and over, and over again, and over, and over again in the greatest metaphysical, philosophical, romantic comedy of all time.

Fact - The ice sculptures featured in the movie (called Winged Victory) were carved by Randy Rupert, a.k.a. The Chainsaw Wizard. Randy is actually a Punxsutawney resident, and has a shop downtown. He can be found in the city park every Groundhog Day carving and selling his wooden sculptures

The Shining

Jack Nicholson, has never been more Jack Nicholson-y than in Stanley Kubrick's horror classic. Technically, there is no better film in the genre. Its chills are less direct (until Nicholson's character Torrance finally throws off the shackles of sanity that is), rather something that creeps under the skin to unsettle and disturb. Ambiguous to a fault, the story is open to many interpretations; in fact the excellent documentary Room 237 exploring several of them is almost as good as the film itself.

Fact - The "snowy" maze near the conclusion of the movie consisted of nine hundred tons of salt and crushed Styrofoam.

Die Hard 2

Of cause it’s not as good as the original (what is?), and it’s not as fun as the one that followed, but Die Harder is still a great action movie. At the time, Renny Harlin’s film was the most expensive ever made at $120m, but all the money is right up there on screen.

Fact - The confrontation between John McClane and William Sadler on the airplane's wing took several nights to shoot. Huge fans were used to blow in the fake snow in the background because of lack of real snow.


Another Renny Harlin joint sees Sly Stallone’s mountain rescue ace take, on Euro villains trying to escape the Rockies with $100 million. A superb pre-credit sequence kicks off the solid action template: from explosive, vertigo-inducing set-pieces, to a script chock full of obvious one liners, burning a pile of the stolen money Sly mumbles "It costs a fortune to heat this place".

Fact - Sylvester Stallone played Rambo, in the film franchise of the same name. In the novelization of this film, Stallone's character is referred to as "Rambo on ice".


Long time Spielberg collaborator Frank Marshall's second film tells the story of a young rugby team taking desperate measures to survive after being involved in an air crash that leaves them stranded in the Andes for ten weeks. Despite the survivors of the crash resorting to cannibalism to survive, this isn't a gory shlock-fest, but a triumphant tale of heroism in the face of unaccountable odds. It helps that the story is peppered with some incredible action scenes; with the initial air crash ranking as one of the most realistic and terrifying ever filmed.

Fact - The film's main location was the ski town of Panorama in the Canadian Rockies. To get all 150 cast and crew members to the location every morning took a fleet of five helicopters.

Jake Stevenson

By midlandsmovies, Mar 4 2018 10:43AM

The official Midlands Movies Awards results:

Best Costume, Make-up & Hairstyling

Thomas Hodge, Neal Harvey & Matthew K. Onderka-Lang & Toran Tanner for Teddy Bears Picnic

Best Editing

Leonard Garner for I am God, And Severely Underqualified

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Lipton for Kon-Tiki

Best Music (score or song)

Pav Gekko for Just Desserts

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Maude Hirst for The Knock

Best Cinematography

Christopher Hood for Kon-Tiki

Best Documentary

Oliver Cowton for Portrait

Best Feature

David Hastings, Rebecca Harris-Smith, Alex Bourne, Troy Dennison & Kaush Patel for The House of Screaming Death

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Louise Salter for Butterfly

Best Animated Film

Lee Charlish for ninetofive

Best Director

Lee Page for The 7th Day

Best Sound (editing or mixing)

Alex Stroud for Clockworks

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Fransua Jamil Samuel for Anoesis

Best Visual Effects

Raghav Anil Kumar, Sahil Haider, Steven Mitchell & Glenn McAllen-Finney for The Rockman

Best Writing (original or adapted screenplay)

Tommy Draper for The Last Drop

Best Short

Theo Gelernter for I am God, And Severely Underqualified

The Joan Crellen Journey Award

Time, And Again by Kel Webster & Steve Lawson

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