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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.


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

By midlandsmovies, Oct 20 2015 05:28PM

Macbeth (2015) Dir. Justin Kurzel

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Elizabeth Debicki.

113 mins.

Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth is notoriously known for its bloodthirsty power, and as for Justin Kurzel’s new 2015 adaptation, bloodthirsty attitude is certainly still pertinent in this adapted tale. This is a story about a power seeking warrior, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), and his deceitful journey in becoming King. A rather poignant scene of a child’s funeral is our first glimpse into Macbeth’s wretched world. It is within this scene that we realise that the child is in fact Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s (Marion Cotillard) deceased son. This is the beginning of the decline of Macbeth.

One could argue that we already have our fair share of Macbeth film adaptations, most famously those of Roman Polanski, Akira Kurosawa and Orson Welles. But move over and make way for Justin Kurzel as this new version opens up and expands this Shakespearian tragedy in the most monumental of ways. The expansive landscapes of the Scottish highlands are the backdrop for the tale. You would expect to see such scenery in films such as Lord of the Rings, not for a play originally confined to a Shakespearian stage set. This makes for some of the most astonishing and inconceivable visuals. Another reoccurring pictorial throughout the film is the battlefield glow of orange fire, which ironically is a warming tone. This glow seems to signify the burning thoughts and deaths that cause the downfall of Macbeth’s life, as this hue seems to follow Macbeth. Also, Kurzel’s use of slow motion prolongs the absolute brutal happenings in the reality of Macbeth’s world and produces us with a terrifying sense of chaos.

Director Justin Kurzel’s debut film ‘Snowtown’ was also an adaptation. It was only released in 2011, making Kurzel a relatively new director to the scene, but he brought with him an ability to deal with rather controversial and chilling subjects. Snowtown deals with many of the main topics that also appear in Macbeth, such as murder, deception and grief, which may have set Kurzel up for Macbeth; a story with such an evil main character. Although Snowtown wasn’t the greatest of successes, it set Kurzel up for bigger and better endeavours and this is unquestionably shown in Macbeth. Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.

Michael Fassbender is an outright natural when it comes to playing the infamous and evil protagonist of Macbeth (with the help of a little war paint, of course). He describes the anger, sadness and mental deterioration of Macbeth with such precision that you feel as though you are sharing his emotions throughout the film; the confusion, the hatred and the sorrow. The same can also be said for Marion Cotillard’s mystifying representation of Lady Macbeth. Her beautiful prowess is almost hypnotic, a feeling also shared by Macbeth himself. Her deceptive ways almost become understandable as we are drawn into her illusory life. Her monologue to that of her departed child is hauntingly harrowing.

Overall, with scenery fit for a King and enough bloody battles to satisfy the mind of even the most corrupt and ferocious warriors something wicked this way comes to a cinema near you. Dedicated Shakespeare fans may unlike the way Kurzel has cut certain famous quotes and characters from the new adaptation, but as a film with enough rigour to satisfy many tastes, it strives. Love it or hate it, but what’s done is done.

U.K release date: October, 2nd 2015.

7.5/10 Zoe Heslop

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