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By midlandsmovies, Sep 23 2018 05:40PM



Fahrenheit 451 (2018) Dir. Ramin Bahrani


Based on the classic Ray Bradbury dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451 stars Michael Shannon as officious Fire Captain John Beatty who “protects” society with his clan of authoritarian book-burners.


Michael B. Jordan is idealistic Ministry recruit Guy Montag whose growing doubts question whether destroying art is really for the benefit of its citizens. In a new twist, the book’s ‘Phoenix from the Flames’ allegory is brought to scientific life as bird DNA is actually encoded with the words of elusive texts to preserve them forever.


Sofia Boutella as Clarisse McClellan, Khandi Alexander as Toni Morrison and Lilly Singh as Raven round out a fine cast – and as fine as these heavyweights are, it’s with a sad heart that none of the actors can raise this by-the-numbers (or should that be ‘letters’) adaptation.


Going through the motions with fine sci-fi ideas that fail to truly engage, Fahrenheit 451 could be held as a timely reminder of the growing power of government on art, words (and today’s journalism) and the media.


But rather than a full exploration, we get the York Notes version of a complex novel, water-downed into a brief summary with added 21st Century special effects and a few contemporary anxieties.


5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 7 2018 03:41PM



Midlands Review - I'll Be Here After the Factory Is Gone


Directed by Luke Radford


Them Pesky Kids


This new film is the latest short from filmmaker Luke Radford which features a soundtrack from Nottingham band The Ruffs but contains far more narrative than you would expect from your average local music video.


The inspiration behind the short is Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, the 1960 British drama film directed by Karel Reisz. That itself is an adaptation of the 1958 novel of the same name by Alan Sillitoe, who also wrote the movie’s screenplay.


And like the book and the film, Radford has featured a young man drinking and partying whilst maintaining affairs and relationships that cause him more than his fair share of trouble.


We open with a young man (Aaron Lodge as Arthur Seaton) who types away at a keyboard in an office that could be any in Britain. However, Radford scores this sequence with the hard clanking of machinery which contradicts the formal office location we see on screen but is a fantastic nod to the Raleigh factory in Nottingham which provided this setting in the 1960 film.


As spreadsheets are discussed, coffee is drunk and staff chat on mobile phones, we are quickly shown the demoralising nature of a desk job that drains your soul. Much like in Fight Club (1999) or Wanted (2008) we get a young male protagonist sick of this grind and itching for the thrills of real life.


Radford speedily edits to upbeat music once Arthur leaves work and the quick cuts capture the excitement of a weekend. As the evening goes on, the rock n roll song is the perfect soundtrack for a night on the beers where pool is played and laughs are had. The inherent machismo is clear to see as Arthur heads to a club and the excellent neon and strobe lighting shows fantastic cinematography skill.


After chatting to a woman, we are then shown the couple waiting for that elusive post-clubbing kebab before cutting to the next morning where she wakes up to find him getting ready to leave. And his problems begin as the lady (Kelly Jaggers as Ruby) has a picture of her family next to the bed. This being a music video, there is no dialogue so Radford expertly creates meaning and plot through small details like this photograph. As Arthur consumes a traditional British breakfast, he returns home to his mum as Ruby’s husband returns to her.


The next sequence shows Arthur again on the town and this time takes a shine to another lady – slightly more his own age – and as the beers flow we see him cosy up to Anne (played by Esmee Matthews) back in another nightclub.



The film pauses briefly here and as the book itself is in two parts (the Saturday night and Sunday morning obviously) this short also establishes its own break as a secondary – more melancholic song – begins.


Arthur spends time with this new girl at an arcade and at a bowling alley (echoes of the amusement ride from the original film here too) but Ruby and her family are also here. The film then pulls no punches as Arthur enters a city underpass and a violent retribution is enacted by her husband and his friends.


There are consequences to his hedonism after all but does he deserve this? Well, the film doesn’t answer this question and like the book it’s inspired by, we see that as time passes his wounds slowly heal yet one final encounter with Ruby suggests he still has mixed feelings of settling down.


Radford’s film is a great adaptation of a classic British kitchen-sink drama and although he brings the story into the 21st century he does not let the core messages and themes get overshadowed by his update. With no dialogue the actors do well to convey their characters and Radford allows the images to direct the audience to the important plot developments. With love, violence, relationships and more all covered in its short 8-minute run time, Radford has admirably condensed a large cinematic tale into a succinct adaptation without losing any of its power.


Mike Sales


I’ll Be Here After the Factory Is Gone is screening before the original film on the 23rd September 2018 at 1pm at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham


More details here: http://www.broadway.org.uk/events/film-saturday-night-and-sunday-morning1




By midlandsmovies, Aug 29 2018 07:32PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 3




The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

I hadn’t seen The Strangers (2008) until this year and for me it certainly wasn’t worth the wait as we get a pretty bog-standard home-invasion thriller starring Liv Tyler. However, the few thrills that film had going for it are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I’m sick of the child mask killer trope it has to be said and some of the character decisions are embarrassing to say the least. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anway (see Scream and its wicked take-down of the genre) whilst any attempt to create new franchise-defining villains with Dollface and her cohorts was heavy-handed and bland. The kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie. 4/10




Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a reputation with a couple of horror successes you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. And away with the quality, as quality this is not. Horror is one of those specific genres where you have to sift through many more films to find the gems – it could be argued those gems are all the more special – but this Final Destination-esque teen scary movie sits firmly in the bargain bin. A group of adolescents realise they will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare and they attempt to do their best to beat the real-life deadly game which originated with a supernatural curse from Mexico. A convoluted set of exposition-heavy rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are sadly given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. And from the “acclaimed” director of the awful Kick Ass 2 and the Kevin James starring True Memoirs of an International Assassin I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish. 4/10




10 x 10 (2018) Dir. Suzi Ewing

Making quite a name for himself in roles as a terroriser of women, Luke Evans (The Girl on the Train) stars as Lewis in this new dark chiller involving kidnap and obsession. More like Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners than the Coens’ Fargo, the kidnapping occurs in an everyday US strip-mall car park as Cathy (Calvary’s Kelly Reilly) heads to her vehicle unaware of the evil about to befall her. An unobtrusive hand-held filming style captures the brutality of the attack before Cathy is smothered, tied and placed in the trunk of Lewis’ car. The beats of the soundtrack merge perfectly with our own imagined beats of pounding fists in futile attempts to escape. She is soon whisked off to Lewis’ home where he has constructed a 10 x 10 padded cell with 4-feet thick concrete walls and a recording system. Diving straight in, the film wastes no time in getting to its set-up and without much information we are, like Cathy, oblivious as to the reasons as to why we are here. And how to possibly escape.


The film is slow and meticulous – Evan’s methodical food-making hinting at an obsessive darkness – but there are flashes of action in Cathy’s escape attempts with bottle smashing and gun shots. The film twists and turns and darker secrets come to light but the script and cinematography are mediocre despite the two fine leads. Melodramatic with lacklustre interest 10 x 10 is simply too leaden to be anything more than a footnote on the stars’ résumés 5.5/10



The Devil’s Doorway (2018) Dir. Aislinn Clarke

With one of the best concepts for a horror in many a year, I was excited to see Aislinn’s Clarke’s The Devil’s Doorway which tells the story of two priests who investigate supernatural events at an Irish home for “fallen women”. Whilst the double-act set up is certainly Exorcist-inspired, the unfortunate character traits meant I couldn’t help but be reminded of classic UK sitcom Father Ted. Father Thomas Riley (a frankly brilliant Lalor Roddy) is the old jaded priest with a crisis of faith whilst Father John Thornton (Ciaran Flynn) is a naïve and inexperienced younger believer. (Ted and Dougal respectively). Set in 1960 and using a handheld 16mm camera style, the sense of time and place was superb and Helena Bereen as Mother Superior is as terrifying and intimidating as you could have wanted. Maybe I’m being too harsh but something just wasn’t working despite these excellent elements. From the clichéd door knocks and paranormal child voices to your average jump scare and foreboding corridors, the film failed to leap into more interesting territory despite its high ecclesiastical aspirations. Which was a big shame. Certainly a filmmaker with some aptitude, I have faith we’ll be seeing more from Clarke but this isn’t quite the film it could or wanted to be. 6/10




Journey’s End (2018) Dir. Saul Dibb

A new adaptation of the play by R. C. Sherriff is the 5th time the World War I drama has moved from stage to screen following Journey's End (1930), The Other Side, Aces High and a 1988 BBC TV film. With a fantastic cast what we get is Asa Butterfield’s young Second Lieutenant Raleigh posted to the front-line where his hopeful fighter soon realises the ravages of war can take its toll even on the most experienced of Captains. The gifted Sam Claflin as Stanhope is the Captain in question whose vicious drunken words and tough exterior cover a more sympathetic and broken man conflicted with torment and the horrors of fighting.


Playing out in the muddy dugout over four days of 1918, the cast is fleshed out with gifted turns from heavyweights Tom Sturridge, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham and Paul Bettany. Bettany channels the stiff-upper-lip of a traditional British soldier but also gives his character empathy and pathos as the inevitability of an over-the-top raid to capture a German soldier dawns on him and his men. Grand and distinguished, the film is an admirable adaptation although I was yearning for some more scenes outside the trenches given the cinematic medium. Understandably, the confines of the trenches play their own entrapped character (akin to Kubrick’s Paths of Glory) and the film enlightens the audience on the multifaceted aspects of war and how the horrific pressures can affect different individuals. Journey’s End is therefore a dignified, if slightly by-the-numbers, tale of struggling tactics and temperaments in the trenches. 6.5/10


Michael Sales







By midlandsmovies, Aug 5 2018 07:00AM



Ready Player One (2018) Dir. Steven Spielberg


Co-written by Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) and the novel’s author Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is a new film struggling hard to condense the pop-culture complexity of the book into a 2-hour action blockbuster from Steven Spielberg.


In 2045, the world’s decimated population is immersed in the OASIS – a virtual reality world where ‘anything goes’ – and whose creator James "Anorak" Halliday (Spielberg stalwart Mark Rylance) runs a contest to challenge players to uncover three hidden keys in the game to win full ownership of the pixelated world. A corporation run by Nolan Sorrento (the perennially evil Ben Mendelsohn) is out to use an army of players to find these treasures whilst teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his online friends try to get there first.


The beginning is everything I feared from the trailer. Figuratively and literally, the film’s opening is like watching a friend play a computer game – full of CGI, uncanny valley avatars and obvious pop culture references. The cool quirkiness of a Zombieland-esque voiceover filling in the backstory helps flesh the story out but the images are akin to the visual hell of Speed Racer (which is also referenced in the film itself). Its backwards in its introduction with a very quick ‘real-world’ segment before the likeable Sheridan has his amiable acting ditched for an elf-like cartoon avatar.


Ben Mendehlson is having some fun as he overacts his way through a very 80s inspired villain and whilst there are echoes of both Tron films, the quirky Mark Rylance as the OASIS’s creator channels South Park’s Matt Stone, Garth from Wayne’s World and (obviously) Steve Jobs in an eclectic performance.


The film sees Sheridan’s virtual character Parzival team up with Lena Waithe’s virtual mechanic Aech, Philip Zhao’s Sho, Win Morisaki’s Daito and Olivia Cooke’s feisty Art3mis as the "High Five", an informal group jumping from the game challenges to a virtual archive. The archive contains video clips reconstructing Halliday's life which provides clues to the game’s construction, history and to the concealed prizes too.


These historical sections are great and the scenes give a more human aspect to a film filled with so much spinning camera which, as a non-video game player, demonstrated how unattuned to this aesthetic I am. The film is so kinetic I struggled to focus on the action as the camera zipped from one millisecond shot to the next.


It’s not all bad however. I did find myself warming up to the (many) Back to the Future nods – from snippets of score, a ‘Zemeckis cube’ and the DeLorean itself. A section where the gang ‘visit’ The Shining is very good. Like Back to the Future 2, the characters actually go back into the movie in a phenomenal sequence that recreates the iconic hotel and visuals from Kubrick’s film flawlessly.


Whilst the tone varies between Wreck It Ralph and his own Minority Report, Spielberg becomes guilty of the teal/orange ending at the film’s finale making it look like every other blockbuster. The Michael Bay-ness of a huge CGI battle which although looks the business, uses stupidly quick editing and a constantly spinning camera that will give all but die-hard video game fans a migraine.


So I really just wished Ready Player One slowed down so I could savour the characters, story and action. It would really benefit from it as a movie but, again, feels like a real-life game delivering a style to satisfy gamers’ short attention spans.


But that leaves us the question as to who is the film for in the end? Whilst the style reflects modern gaming (MMRPGs and Metal Gear Solid aesthetics) the film references are pure 80s so what’s the audience here? At 38, I recognised most allusions to the trivia of the past but some will be aimed at kids who wouldn’t have a clue about Mad Balls, Chucky and Mecha Godzilla.


Fans of the book may find joy in seeing all their childhood pop-culture dreams come to life but the film feels a mish-mash of wildly varying tones and styles. The actors do the best they can with the material but by spending so long in the OASIS, the computer-generated ‘sprites’ left me cold without the human attachment so badly needed. A fun ride at times for sure, Ready Player One is an entertaining and sometimes dazzling blockbuster for the family. But bring your headache pills for the unfortunate messy action and endless trivia nods which are both at the expense of real character arcs.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 06:05PM



On Chesil Beach (2018) Dir. Dominic Cooke


Derby Film Festival audiences were treated to a preview of new release On Chesil Beach, a British film written by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan and our writer Guy Russell takes a look at this new drama.


Set in 1962 Britain, a different nation to what we experience today, newlyweds Edward and Florence are enjoying their honeymoon in Dorset, overlooking Chesil Beach.


McEwan is most popular for writing the novel Atonement which went on to become a successful film in 2007. Here he adapts his own novel for the big screen, having not read this before going into the screening I was happy to discover such great writing.


The dialogue is rich and realistic whilst the characters seem familiar and grounded almost as if you have met these people before. I’m sure we have all met an awkward introvert like Edward (Billy Howle) or a focused academic like Florence (Saoirse Ronan). Both leads are brilliant and each compliment the other whilst they share the screen, and there are also great supporting turns from Anne-Marie Duff as Edward’s unstable mother and Samuel West as Florence’s wealthy, demanding father.


Told throughout a non-linear narrative jumping between various months of 1962, the film chronicles the couple’s timeline from the moment they meet to the moment they depart. We see every feeling and emotion as it enters the relationship, however knowing that the relationship is doomed as societal restrictions hinder both Edward and Florence.


Glimpses of a shift in society echo throughout the film as Florence organises Ban the Bomb rallies whilst her family argue over the Soviet Union at dinner.


Still, the film’s focus and the pivotal scene in which it revisits several times is their honeymoon in the bridal suite. Florence is hesitant and nervous about losing her virginity whilst Edward is awkward but keen, the difference in behaviour leads to a cruel altercation where the truth spills out.


On Chesil Beach is director Dominic Cooke’s debut feature film, I’m excited to see if he directs another adaption or lends his hand to an original screenplay. Helped with McEwan’s screenplay I don’t think I have seen such a courageous yet ambiguous attempt to cover sexual repression. Along with themes of class and the shift from the early 60’s to the infamous swinging 60’s, On Chesil Beach makes for a unique viewing.


8/10


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Dec 6 2017 08:42PM



The Dark Tower (2017 film) Dir. Nikolaj Arcel


From the director of the critical hit Royal Affair (Danish: En kongelig affære) comes this adaptation, of sorts, of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Having only passing knowledge (and interest) in King’s opus, the film acts as a ‘continuation’ of the book’s story which sees gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) on a journey to protect the Dark Tower in a mythical world.


Matthew McConaughey sleepwalks through his performance as the Man in Black antagonist and the film encompasses a number of story threads from the 8-volume series in the hope to set up an ongoing franchise. However, we’ll be lucky to see even a second film in a movie filled with disappointing set pieces and to those unfamiliar with the work, like me, a whole host of fantasy gobbledegook about portals and reality-ending quests.


Much like my experience with Warcraft, the film struggles to explain its themes in a relatively short time (95 agonising minutes) – yet, on the other hand, I can also imagine fans screaming that the film’s length makes the long book far too simplistic at the same time. Therefore, satisfying neither audience it required to develop.


On the positive side, I enjoyed the set-up where a New York boy (Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers) has visions of another reality which subsequently come true, whilst McConaughey seeks a child with unsurpassable power for his evil ends, and their two paths intertwine.


However, I expect this Harry Potter-style discovery of a hidden magical world is hardly the depth the book’s fans needed or wanted. As the film drags towards its conclusion, a series of boring plot points are delivered in what appears to be a screenwriter’s nightmare to make sense of the book’s major scenes and it’s simply not engaging enough to stand on its own two feet.


The Dark Tower ends up being a boring stagnant journey that will struggle to entice new fans and no doubt fails to do justice to a complex novel series.


4/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 16 2016 06:29PM

High-Rise (2016) Dir. Ben Wheatley


This adaptation of J.G. Ballard's High-Rise from Ben “Kill List” Wheatley is every as bit as weird as the original novel in what is a challenging yet rewarding film set in a sci-fi dystopia ripped straight from the 1970s.


Tom Hiddleston plays protagonist Dr. Robert Laing who moves into a 25th floor apartment in a tower block featuring luxurious amenities before the building (and its self-contained and insular society) begins to tear itself apart. Beginning relationships with single-mum Charlotte (a haunting turn from Sienna Miller) and becoming friends with a family on the lower level (Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss as Richard and Helen) Laing moves between and between the opulent penthouses and paltry rooms at the bottom as the differences in wealth become an obvious reality.


With the building’s temperamental water and electricity and with garbage piling up in corridors, the microcosm pits the building’s designer Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) and his decadent friends against the hungry and scavenging gangs near the actual (and metaphorical) bottom as Luke Evans’ Richard Wilder puts it upon himself to assassinate Irons.


Hiddleston plays Laing with indifference and distance as he becomes our eyes, viewing the chaos as a somewhat inevitable outcome of the building’s construction.


In a whirl of hedonistic violence, disgusting torture – both mental and physical – the film shows the depravity of an unequal society with as much relevance today as it did when the book was written. Wheatley has gone for an amazing “future 70s” aesthetic with the costumes, locations having a quasi-retro feel about them more akin to Logan’s Run and A Clockwork Orange than anything modern. The building’s supermarket has a vibe straight out of the iconic Pulp “Common People” video whilst the feelings of isolation – as a whole as the building is cut off from the “real world” and as people walk on by oblivious to the building’s breakdown – are kept very much at the forefront.


Unlike most, I’ve never been a huge fan of Wheatley’s but this film shows a filmmaker with a passion and drive to deliver exactly what he intends. Luke Evans and Jeremy Irons (who’s having a movie renaissance in 2016) provide excellent support and the eclectic shots and soundtrack music (from Clint Mansell) linger long in the memory. From the illustrious images to the dark themes it explores, High-Rise is a film that bubbles up slowly from the bottom until it reaches a gloriously gory finale. Experimental but just the right side of coherent, the film explores wickedness and immorality and if you go along with its wantonness you’ll find many more highs in a slow burner building to a pinnacle of decadence.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 8 2016 11:27AM

The 39 Steps – a funny film farce at The Curve Leicester


Adapted from the novel The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) by John Buchan, this Olivier-Award-winning smash hit comedy originated from London’s West End and arrived in Leicester this week on its 10th anniversary tour.


The story of Richard Hannay, a British everyman who gets embroiled in a mysterious plot where spies attempt to steal military secrets, the show is a unique performance which has just four (!) very brave actors playing 139 (!) roles in a 100-minute stage play.


The show is bookended by Hannay’s character at his (rented) London flat and actor Richard Ede in the central role gives a performance that holds the whole narrative together. From monologues, speeches and comedy escapes, his verbal and physical performance is complimented by Olivia Greene who plays 3 female roles. By far my favourite was Pamela – in which a fair portion of her stage time is spent “tethered” to Hannay in calamitous handcuff scenes.


However, a lot of praise should go to Rob Witcomb & Andrew Hodges as Man 1 and Man 2 who play over 100 parts between them. A dance of costume changes, hat swaps and dual roles in the same scene were an animated delight and the kinetic pace was maintained throughout. Hilarious material was bolstered by entertaining scenes of action where characters pirouetted their bodies around the stage for a slew of horsing around and knowing jokes.


Thus leading to my enjoyment of the play’s subtle (and not so subtle) breaking of the fourth wall. Drawing attention to its own construction, the self-referential gags about the play’s four actors were excellent. From reminding an actor to change their hats after a boisterous scene of character swapping to encouraging phones to ring when they should, the show was as much about its construction as its story.


The entertainment continued as the stars moved props around the stage and drawing attention to this actually happening was a joy to watch. Enough praise cannot be heaped upon the cavorting gymnastics of all four actors. Hannay’s running on the spot failed to get Ede out of breath, Olivia Greene made the most of her reserved characters strange mannerisms and Witcomb & Hodges scrambled and cavorted whilst embodying a range of oddball personalities – even at one time “playing” a stream.


Most famously, The 39 Steps was adapted to film by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 and in 1999 was ranked 4th Best British film of the 20th Century by the BFI. In hindsight, this “man-on-the-run” thriller was a perfect foil for the auteur who used the plot to explore his favourite themes such as a man who is forced to go on the run, the appearance of an archetypical ‘Hitchcock Blonde’ in star Madeleine Carroll and his signature cameo.


The play doesn’t shy from this movie connection and uses dialogue (“I can’t go up there, I have VERTIGO”) and sound (liberal use of the Psycho score) to cement the link whilst another great joke contains a nod to the infamous shower scene.


I thoroughly recommend the show as its exceptional production was enhanced by actors delivering outstanding performances in an inspired take on the renowned show. Moving the thriller to a comedy was a marvellous swap by writer Patrick Barlow, who hails from Leicester, and should be congratulated for an inimitable approach to the material.


The show continues its run at The Curve for a week and the theatre itself is situated in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter and was officially opened by the Queen in 2008 with a curved façade made from 46000m2 of glass. The theatre has an amazing 2016 run of events with many of them having a movie-themed background...


Film-inspired Finding Neverland came to The Curve back in 2012 and later this year Midlanders can see a host of shows including Sister Act, an adaptation of the Whoopi Goldberg comedy and now starring X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke and 9 to 5 – inspired by the cult 1980 movie starring Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda.


In addition, further shows like Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone, Footloose and even The Shawshank Redemption are heading to the city for fans of film and theatre alike.


For more information and tickets please visit the official website here: www.curveonline.co.uk


Midlands Movies Mike

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