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By midlandsmovies, Aug 6 2017 07:02PM

Dunkirk (2017) Dir. Christopher Nolan

Allied soldiers are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during World War II.

Between May 26th and June 4th in 1940, 400,000 British soldiers found themselves surrounded on the beach of Dunkirk with no ships to take them home. Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill put the call out to the public that their boys needed help, and so help came. They aimed for 30,000 boats, but got 300,000 in a feat that remains just as astonishing today is it did back then.

Straight away I’ll come out and say that Dunkirk is probably the best war film I’ve ever seen. Christopher Nolan has done a fantastic job with this film. I absolutely loved it! I think we have a serious contender for Oscars here with this one, although I am unsure whether any will be for the acting because of the ensemble line-up.

There were so many great performances in this film, and what was so good about it was those making their acting debuts got as much screen time as the more experienced cast members. Fionn Whitehead was excellent. You really got the impression of a young boy way out of his depth with his performance.

Harry Styles is actually capable of some decent acting - who’d have thought it? And then you have the people who we could refer to as the veterans in this particular film. Cillian Murphy gave a very good performance as one of the soldiers who were rescued out at sea. The shock and pain that he was experiencing was something that you felt as well. Mark Rylance played Mr Dawson, one of the civilians closely followed in the film.

I think if any of the cast are to be nominated for any awards and are likely to win, it will be him. I think his was the most complex character of the lot because I think he helped to show the impact the war had back home, yet how much the public were willing to do. Finally, I would just like to kindly point out that Tom Hardy was in this film and I can conclude that he has done more acting with just his eyes during his career than anyone else has done with their whole body. 

While performances were a key part of the film, what set it apart from so many other war films were all the other elements that contribute to the film-making process. The cinema screening I went to was truly immersive, and I didn’t even see it in IMAX, so you can imagine how much more mind-blowing it would’ve been if I had.

The sound was awesome, making you feel as though the bombs were being dropped metres from you. The camera work for all of the scenes with the fighter jets was on another level entirely. When the planes moved, the camera moved with it (maybe not recommended for those with motion sickness, but hey, sometimes you just have to toughen up a little), and as I was watching these scenes unfold, I found myself moving with the picture. It was honestly like being in a flight simulator at times - phenomenal cinematography.

Of course, with this being a Christopher Nolan film, which means it was never going to be a simple, run-of-the-mill beginning, middle and end narrative. This was one thing I had been slightly concerned about because my little head has been unable to wrap itself around some of the plots in his previous films. However, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that even I managed to figure the timeline out here, and also believe it to have greatly enhanced the film as it gave it a real-time, play by play vibe, which added to the feeling that you were right there in the middle of the action.

Overall, Dunkirk is a knock-out. It’s a grown-up film that can be enjoyed by the younger generations, and works to give a three-dimensional view of how events played out during this amazing operation that took place in WWII. It combines terrific performances with a score that ratchets tension perfectly, and visuals that place you right at the heart of the action. Has Nolan excelled himself here? Hell yeah!


Kira Comerford


By midlandsmovies, May 15 2016 12:00PM

Midlands Movies are pleased to have given away lots of movie goodies over the last 18 months and will continue to do so therefore please follow us at https://twitter.com/MidlandsMovies to hear about our latest prizes and competitions

Previous winners include:

2016 competitions to date include:

Aliens BluRay boxset, Big Trouble in Little China PopFunko prize, Bronson BluRay, The History of Marvel Comic book & Summer Night Film Festival tickets.

The Force Awakens competition

In Autumn 2015 we gave away a brand new Storm Trooper action figure from the upcoming new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. The winner was @JackShelbourn

Pulp Fiction framed pic film Competition

Donated by Sali Jones of Ms Moo Makeup: www.msmoomakeup.com Pulp Fiction celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year and came in at number 1 in our 2013 Readers’ Poll of Midlands Movies readers favourite films of all time. The winner was @AmeliaK1987

"The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex" by Mark Kermode + Midlands Movies t-shirt Competition

We pulled one winner at random from the over 300+ entrants and that winner was Twitter user @ChrisBevan89

Chaplin Blu Ray Competition

Jim Peakman @Jimatay won a copy of Oscar nominated film Chaplin by Sir RIchard Attenborough

Pan's Labyrinth Competition

In September 2014 we joined forces with R B Illustrations to give away a beautifully designed Pan's Labyrinth poster drawn by Leicester's very own Ryan Button with the winner being Twitter user @Alex_Doddy

Shadowlands Competition

Partly filmed in the Midlands (at The Great Central Railway in Loughborough) and directed by Leicester legend Sir Richard Attenborough we have pulled one lucky reader out at random who was @JoshuaWilliam35

Transformers Competition

@IainKirtley won an Optimus Prime design courtesy of Leicester artist The Retrodraughtsman when we gave away a framed picture in July

LEGO Competition

To coincide with The Lego Movie's release on DVD we gave away one of the toy sets from the movie in June 2014 which was won by Shaun Jacques @ShaunJacquesUK

Anchorman 2 Competition

Our Anchorman competition ran in April 2014 and we drew out one lucky Midlands Movies reader who won a selection of prizes including a Ron Burgundy book, an Anchorman poster and a big red candle! The winner was Twitter user @boblikethebird

Once Upon A Time in the Midlands

We gave away Shane Meadows' FIlm 4 classic on DVD in February 2014 and the winner was Zoe Heslop @Zoe_Music

Retro Film Posters

We had a set of 8 glossy retro film posters to giveaway as a Christmas thank you to all our followers over a second successful year at Midlands Movies. A winner has been drawn at random on the weekend of the 7th/8th December 2013. Thanks to all who entered and the winner was Twitter user Emily Jasper https://twitter.com/EmilyJas

SuperMan Competition

We had a maxi-poster from Snyder's movie courtesy of Pyramid International (not run by Adrian Veidt!) as well as other assorted Kryptonian goodies. We had tons of entries who retweeted us at @MIdlandsMovies on Twitter and used hashtag #MMcompetition. Once we passed 1000 followers we drew one winner at random who was Rob Jones @Hulksmash1985

The Dark Knight Rises Competition

Midlands Movies Mike dressed as Bane at the recent showing of The Dark Knight Rises at Wollaton Hall where Wayne Manor was set for the movie! We gave you a chance to win 2 tickets courtesy of Derby Quad & the winner was @TommyDraper who was chosen at random for the event on Sept 7th.

800 Followers Competition

WINNER 1 - @deanne2622 (Singing in the Rain & Breakfast at Tiffany’s posters)

WINNER 2 - @Alex_H92 (The Birds & Gone With the Wind posters)

WINNER 3 - @JayIsANerd (The Wizard of Oz & Some Like It Hot posters)

WINNER 4 - @MrMilktray (Casablanca & Goldfinger posters)

500 & 600 Follower Competition

We gave away copies of the Alien Quadrilogy and Welcome to the Punch at our 500 and 600 Twitter followers mark.

By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2015 07:09PM

Aside from the Midlands area, when I go on vacation I love to visit local attractions and nothing gives me more pleasure than going to see places that are featured in famous movies. With my previous holiday blogs covering Madrid, Italy and California I was very excited to be heading back to the good ol’ USA for a trip to New York, Chicago and the surrounding area.

For all the movie photos from the USA please click here

I landed at JFK airport tired but excited on October 29th (the day after our Shaun of the Dead screening) and, still drained from that late night, I put my lack of energy to one side to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Apple. This was my third visit in as many years so I had seen some of the most famous destinations before, but I always get a flush of excitement when I see some of the icons of this big city. On my first full day there I walked around Manhattan for over 6 hours catching all kinds of sights and with the November weather being unusually mild, I even managed to spend some time in my t-shirt as the sun beat down.

I was staying with my good friend at an apartment on Wall Street which immediately linked to my favourite film of 2014, The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo Di Caprio, whilst later as I was walking around I even spotted a Steve Madden shop – the real–life shoe company that DiCaprio’s fraudulent banker floats on the stock exchange. Speaking of which, just 200 yards up the road was the real life stock exchange which Bane (Tom Hardy) terrorises in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Nolan’s Batman franchise was a running theme of the trip as the second half would be spent in The Windy City, Chicago, where much more of those movies were filmed. Rises also contains shots of “Gotham’s” bridges collapsing which have been clearly influenced by the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges of New York city as Bane and his gang attempt to cut the citizens off from the rest of the world.

On my walkabout I also came across the fire station from Ghostbusters (1984) as well the Museum of the Native American which was the location of the painting of Vigo for that film’s sequel. After an accident in the building which resulted in me cutting my head, it seemed that the museum still has some bad vibes. Has anyone checked for a river of slime underneath again?

Up at the other end of the island, Central Park was where the Tavern on the Green was situated (67 Central Park West) which was used when Louis Tully (a demon-dog avoiding Rick Moranis) cried for help in Ghostbusters. Just across from that is Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment building – referred to as “spook central” – where the final battle against Mr. Stay Puft occurs. Still at Central Park is the bridge the protagonists hide under from Cloverfield (2008) whilst nearer Grand Central Terminal is the Chrysler building, both of which appear in the film as well.

Further downtown is the iconic Flat Iron Building (used as the Daily Bugle’s headquarters in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy) whilst the second film also includes the fantastic action sequence where Spider-Man battles Doctor Octopus on an elevated train. In fact, NYC does not have an elevated train track passing through its skyscrapers so the filmmakers used digital footage of Chicago’s “L” train to get the shots they needed.

After my brief stay in the city that never sleeps, I headed east to meet friends nearer Chicago. Quieter and with a more relaxed atmosphere, my friends lived in Aurora which you may know as the home-town of Wayne and Garth from American comedy Wayne’s World (1992) and its sequel. The city of lights provides the backdrop for their rock antics although much of both films were actually shot in and around Los Angeles – which Myers alludes to again in a fourth wall joke from Austin Powers.

From Aurora, I took a trip up to Woodstock, Illinois - Del Preston: “It rained all morning, and then it cleared up in the afternoon. And that's it... I almost remembered something else, but it's gone”. Actually not the location of the infamous 60s musical love festival but this Woodstock was the small town used in Groundhog Day (1993).

The town’s central square double’s as Gobbler’s Knob which hosts the groundhog ceremony before Bill Murray’s grouchy weather man begins to repeat the same day over and over. As his depression sets in, Murray’s worn out character attempts to commit suicide – one death is from the town’s clock tower – but continues to wake up unharmed back in his hotel bedroom each morning.

The bandstand in the square hosts the main festivities but is also the backdrop for the first snowfall dance between Murray and Andie MacDowell. As we walked around the picturesque town we saw the infamous corner where Murray steps in a puddle trying to avoid Ned Ryerson – who has a burger named after him in a local bar (Bing!) – as well as the cinema where he takes a date dressed up as Clint Eastwood.

Woodstock also played host to the film Trains, Planes & Automobiles (1987) where Steve Martin and John Candy are stopped for speeding in a burned-out car and then the pair are picked up by a truck outside the old courthouse (now the Old Courthouse Arts Center) as well as its more famous doubling as the town of ‘Punxsutawney’.

This lovely town proved to be a calm highlight of my trip between two big cities but it wasn’t too long before I was in my room at the Red Roof Inn in downtown Chicago. The city has been on my ‘must-go’ list for an age and I was thrilled to finally be in this cinematic city. As mentioned before the city’s bridges and industrial ambience was perfect for its stand-in as Gotham. From ‘the narrows’ in Batman Begins (2005) to the Tumbler heading under Lower Wacker Drive (the underground road system), the city’s pier also was the location of the Joker’s hostage heist on the two tourist boats.

Moving to The Dark Knight (2008), me and my friends had drinks and food at the iconic Berghoff Bar which is an historical 100-year old watering hole. This was the location of the scene where Jim Gordon and his team arrest Maroni whilst the nearby Chicago Theatre was used when Harvey attempts to see ballet with Rachel, but is unable to do so after Bruce Wayne takes the entire company on a sunny cruise. Lastly, the unfinished (at the time) Trump Tower was where the final battle took place twixt Batman and the Joker at the film’s climax.

Their earlier bust-up in the street with the BatPod and a big-rig truck occurs at South LaSalle Street with the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the background (which was also the HQ of ‘Wayne Enterprises’ in Batman Begins).

That street is also famous for its appearance in The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma) whose fictionalised version of Elliott Ness’s struggles with Al Capone utilised a wide range of Chicago locales. Recreating the Prohibition Era, the movie mostly drops historical accuracy for cops and robbers entertainment. The police HQ is the Rookery Building on South La Salle whilst Costner’s Ness first meets Sean Connery’s “Irish” beat-cop Malone on the pedestrian deck of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Federal Reserve is also on the same street whist mid-town’s Cultural Center is where De Niro’s Capone pleads his innocence to the media.

The film’s most famous sequence is at the end where a shoot out at the city’s Union Station paid homage to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and is also used at the climax of Man of Steel (2013) for the showdown between Superman and General Zod.

Another film which hugely uses Chicago’s many distinct locations is the 80s High School classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The John Hughes teen comedy has the title character skipping school for an educational and fun day out in the Windy City with his girlfriend Sloane and his put-upon pal Cameron.

The film has many unique local settings including when the friends pass the Flamingo, a huge red structure created by noted American artist Alexander Calder. This 53-foot tall stabile is located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building and is not far from the Art Institute of Chicago which hosts the city’s impressive art collection. In the film, the trio are fascinated by some legendary pieces including the Portrait of Balzac by Auguste Rodin, Picasso paintings, Marc Chagall’s America Windows and (most famously) A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – an 1884 pointillism work by Georges Seurat.

The film also includes trips to Wrigley Field (home of the city’s Cubs baseball team) and Ferris crashing the annual Von Steuben Day Parade on a float for a musical sequence. The last place I visited from this film was up at the Sears Tower's skydeck (now the Willis Tower) which gives unparalleled 360 degree views of the city from the 103rd floor. Don’t go up if you have vertigo but if you’re feeling brave then take a seat in one of the all-glass boxes which allow visitors to look through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet (412 m) below!

The final picture in the Art Institute that I recognised was Francis Bacon’s “Figure with Meat” which was the painting Jack Nicholson’s Joker asked Bob the Goon not to destroy in the museum scene in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). Another Batman link!

Outside the Institute is Millennium Park which holds Cloud Gate – a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It is locally nicknamed The Bean because of its shape and weighs 110 short tons and is used in the film The Break Up (2006) but most will have seen the silver/metallic structure in Duncan’s Jones’ Source Code (2011).

So what else do we have? Well, the gritty streets of the city can be viewed in The Fugitive (1993) as Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble goes on the run after being accused of murdering his wife. Ford rides (and fights) on the “L” train whilst he also visits City Hall which doubles as a prison in his second encounter between himself and Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshall.

There were sadly many other movie locations that I didn’t get to experience in my tight schedule. From The Blues Brothers, High Fidelity, Adventures in Babysitting, While You Were Sleeping and Public Enemies Chicago’s grimy streets have been used from genres involving gangsters and superheroes to comedy and drama and will no doubt continue to provide the backdrop for independent and Hollywood films for many years to come. If you get the chance to visit any of these locations then both tourists and die-hard movie fans will absolutely be overjoyed and thrilled by the amazing places (both old and new) that these awesome sites serve up.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 10 2014 12:46PM

Interstellar (2014) Dir. Christopher Nolan

*Mild spoilers* To authenticity and beyond! Wunderkind director Chris Nolan returns with this space odyssey that is confusing, chaotic, challenging and determined to raise cinematic blockbusters above the mediocre but ultimately gets destroyed by its own self aware cleverness. Nolan chooses American everyman Matthew McConaughey to play Cooper, a farmer who once tested NASA spaceships to be our last hope in finding a solution to mankind’s food problems. With huge dust storms, the director combines large scale problems with small scale intimacy and soon sends him to the heavens to fly through a wormhole in the hope of finding a habitable colony. What Nolan gets right is to show us galactic wonders on an epic scale and harvesting Zimmer’s ear-splitting score, cultivates a feeling of awe in the vast emptiness.

McConaughey is joined by Anne Hathaway as Amelia Brand (daughter of Professor Brand played by Nolan stalwart Michael Caine) & David Gyasi & Wes Bentley as the “expendable” crew. As they planet hop and come up against the problems of relativity and time dilation set against mountain-high waves and polar landscapes, the film stutters from one sequence to the next and is juxtaposed with the panic back on our homeworld. One superb scene is played brilliantly by McConaughey, who leaves son & daughter behind, and watches them literally grow up in front of his eyes as time is contracted in videos sent from earth. The astro-antics continue as their options dwindle yet I began to question why Nolan’s wizardry with action resulted in him focusing so much on the (badly written) mawkish character aspects that are clearly not his forte. Ironically Interstellar is so full of corn that it could keep the human species alive for another generation or two.

One review also suggested the film needed to more strictly adhere to science to make it work. I would suggest the exact opposite. The long protracted explanations of everything made me pine for Gravity (2013)-style simplicity and its arse-sleeping 169 minutes felt even longer with a dragging and ridiculous third act. With some pleasant surprises such as TARS (a uniquely designed robot who is a help rather than a HAL-hindrance) and an exhilarating spinning space-lock sequence, you may be able to overlook the time-looping looseness of the story. Howver, despite enjoying the planetary exploration I felt that after his previous highs, the film ultimately disappointed and failed to break out of its sentimental science-fact orbit.

7/10 MM Mike (doing my best to avoid a Matthew McConaughey “Failure to Launch” pun – doh, too late!)

By midlandsmovies, Apr 8 2014 04:38PM

Here’s a fact: I’ve never walked out of a Chris Nolan Batman film fully happy. It’s true. For me, Batman Begins was covering the same ground as Burton and I didn’t “get” the fuss surrounding The Dark Knight. Time appears to have healed my jadedness like a crippled Bruce Wayne as although initially disappointed, I now feel both films (Dark Knight especially) are brilliant, dark and distinct comic-book crime films which I have continued to reassess in my own mind with a certain two-facedness if you will.

So, to the new film itself. Eight years have passed and an isolated Howard Hughes-esque Bruce Wayne (Bale) has left Batman behind in the wake of the Dent Act – the lie Gordon perpetuates that now keeps Gotham safe but like a steroid-induced Oswald Cobblepot, a villain rises from the gloomy sewers in the form of Bane - a man-hulk bent on sending Gotham into a spiral of economic revolution. In the middle of this Nolan throws in the morally (and sexually) ambiguous Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (that particular name is never mentioned, fact fans) who is a sultry thief who plays all sides like the best noir femme fatales of old. And alongside Oldman as Gordon is another Gordon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be precise) who plays a beat cop as morally incorruptible as Batman himself.

And so why my initial reticence this third time? Well, first up, Bane/Hardy is just not the villain The Joker is – not an icon, not fully fleshed but a well-designed thug without the bite and possibly one of Hardy’s least charismatic acting stints since This Means War. Also, the film is very long (obviously epic but definitely plot heavy) and I also began to think, how much did we really see of Batman? Nolan does not want to over egg the omelette, I get that, but I can only remember three full sequences containing Batman. It’s got the least Batman of any Batman film! Some of the chemistry was also sadly a bit lacking between all the characters too, even previously established ones like Fox and Wayne didn’t have the usual spark and I think that Hathaway could have been used more as some of her story threads started and then suddenly stopped.

The good parts? Well, the production values are second to none, Wally Pfister’s moody cinematography is exemplarily (as usual) and the solid story arc takes Gotham to hell and back whilst giving nods to characters and themes (including the League of Shadows) from the previous films. Clearly a great three-quel, Nolan doesn’t disappoint but neither does the film escalate to the heady heights of the last caper. The action is a highlight (although it is as rationed as a Wayne foundation austerity budget) with vicious fight scenes, as brutal as you’ll ever see in a 12A. This compliments the exciting bat-bike chases and the introduction of “the bat” (a new hover-plane vehicle of sorts) where Batman avoids cops by sweeping between city skyscrapers by road and air. Along with the drawn-out end sequence these thrilling set-pieces suddenly make your heart go boom like some sort of exploding stadium and help provide moments of intensity to break up several of the rather lengthy and dreary political exposition scenes.

The standout moments continue with a makeshift “people’s” revolutionary court, some poignant speeches from old voice-of-reason Alfred Pennywhistle (Caine) and a smattering of smart rooftop one-liners between the cat and bat themselves. Too few though were any truly great scenes like the one involving a bridge/building façade and some flaming liquid which was probably my favourite scene in the whole movie and one of the best kept secrets of the film (sorry, no detailed spoilers here).

Ultimately, the gloomy film contains solid but not spectacular acting (Bale is probably best of the bunch here) and I’m trying not to judge too harshly until I get that elusive second viewing in order to further enjoy the multiple meanings contained within. Although it is somewhat ironic that the film with the most “layers” (Nolan’s “Inception”) struck a chord that made me love it first-time around, The Dark Knight Rises however had me back in the familiar old not-sure-I-really-like-it mode. If my own past rises then the inevitable re-watch will have me addressing these issues again in 6 months time and claiming it as a masterpiece but as I walked out the cinema I couldn’t accurately judge whether Nolan had served up a film like a faithful maestro or delivered a disappointing pile of guano.

Midlands Movies Mike 8/10

By midlandsmovies, Apr 6 2014 07:00AM

Transcendence (2014) Dir. Wally Pfister

As a huge fan of Nolan, this first film from his regular cinematographer Wally Pfister was eagerly awaited and even contains some regular faces including Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman (both Batman) and Rebecca Hall (The Prestige) from his previous collaborative films. Transcendence concerns itself with A.I. expert Dr. Will Caster (Depp) who is fatally wounded by an assassin from an extremist group concerned with the growth of computer power so his wife helps him upload his “conscience” to a quantum computer. Fresh from his stint as another powerful A.I. 'Jarvis' (in Marvel’s Avengers/Iron Man) Bettany plays real-life best friend and super-sceptic Max who has doubts about the power Depp now wields.

Like The Net, Hackers and Firewall (the latter also starring Bettany), computers and films have had an uneasy ride together as they are inherently an interactive medium in a one-way art-form and despite the big names and even bigger (£100m) budget Pfister delivers nothing but big disappointment. Scene after scene, the characters spout cod-1990s concerns about “the power of uncontrolled cyberspace” and for a film about the future it feels incredibly dated. Long, slow and unforgivably boring, the film looks the part (at times) but the basic storyline is somehow stretched over 2 agonising and illogical hours. This is one computer you’d happily switch off and not back on again.

5.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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