icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo Instagram


Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Sep 4 2015 10:27AM

Top 10 exciting things to check out for West Midlands film fans

After our Top 10 covering the best of Leicester, Derby and Nottingham film-making talent we shift our focus to the West Midlands to see the best 10 things a film fan can check out in the region…

Tom Lee Rutter – Stranger

Director/writer Tom Lee Rutter bounced into the West Midlands film scene with his upcoming acid-western-horror Stranger. As an independent film-maker he has shot and completed dozens of films both short and feature length along with countless music videos. Born in Wordsley, raised in Rowley Regis and Colley Gate he eventually moved to Kidderminster about 8 years ago and worked with his brother when growing up. The two of them finished their first feature film; a shot on hi-8 “abomination” (his words) called Full Moon Massacre. Tom thinks horror is always the best place for a film-maker to begin as it can feature every other genre and gives the film-maker chance to explore all technical aspects of film in horror (SFX, lighting, camera trickery, etc). Read our full interview with Tom about his latest film here: http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Midlands-Spotlight---Interview-with-Tom-Lee-Rutter/9385416

The Hot Tub Cinema

The award winning Hot Tub Cinema events landed in the Midlands this year with their unique brand of soothing bubbles, frothy suds and film screenings. The “Tub Tropicana Tour” came to Birmingham and this unique cinematic experience has helped make Hot Tub Cinema explode into the social cinema arena by screening films in a variety of exciting spaces across the country. With tubs of up to 6 people provided, relaxation is the focus whilst waiter service provides a brilliant way to get drinks delivered direct to your tub. With a choice of films from the 80s classics of Pretty Woman and Top Gun, the music-based Grease & Rocky Horror Picture Show to the comedic Anchorman and The Hangover movie, this cinema experience is more akin to a club with bar, neon lighting and DJs spinning tunes into the night. Our review of one of their nights in Digbeth here:


Boz Dimond

Since heading to art college back in 1996, Boz Dimond always had an eye for detail and a passion for film. But unlike most conventional filmmakers, Boz never attended university or film school but had always felt an affinity to the industry and at the tender age of 17, penned his first screenplay. After putting his pen to one side to focus on his passion for music, Boz spent the best part of 10 years creating tunes and developing his technical and musical skills but never lost interest in film. Boz, forever a passionate film enthusiast, then found a natural move into filmmaking and his short film Jinxed became an official selection at the Beeston Film Festival whilst his other short, Our Hands Are Tied, is currently in post-production. Boz has also written his first feature called The Target which is currently in development with TestaRossa Productions. This spy thriller genre flick is set to be made in 2015-16 and Boz has many more ideas bubbling at his production company Diamond Flicks. More info on Boz and his future film projects here: http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Midlands-Spotlight---Boz-Dimond/9276869

The Electric Cinema

Established in 1909 The Electric Cinema in Birmingham is actually the oldest working cinema in the UK. It has been through many name changes and was mostly rebuilt in the 1930s. This unique cinema also runs an education programme for students of all ages covering the history of cinema, the current film industry and general film education. It was also Birmingham’s first cinema and predated the introduction of the 1909 Cinematograph Act and back then, the word 'electric' conjured up images of Van der Graaf generators and Tesla Coils. To the vast majority of the population, who were still without electricity in their homes, the mysterious invisible power source was verging on black magic. Much like the word digital is ubiquitous today, 'electric' became a common name for film theatres with Electric Cinemas and Electric Picture Palaces springing up. Back then, the cinema showed silent films with piano backing but now has a state of the art facility set within historical architecture that shows the latest independent and blockbuster films in a glorious and classy location. You can find the cinema at 47–49 Station Street, Birmingham,B5 4DY and more info is on their site here: https://www.theelectric.co.uk

Flatpack Festival

Flatpack is a festival which takes over venues across Birmingham every March and draws people from far and wide with a mixture of films, performances, contraptions and surprises, and has been described as “magnificently eclectic” (Time Out), “joyously inventive” (the Guardian) and “the UK’s most creatively curated film festival” (the Independent). Uniquely, it’s not confined to one time or place as the annual event was spawned from the 7 Inch Cinema and was originally a mixed-media film night at the Rainbow pub in Digbeth. This grew to embrace inflatable cinema-tents, archive detective-work and DVD compilations and ten years on they continue to produce projects and provide guest programming for others throughout the year. Recent collaborators have included Home of Metal, Green Man Festival, First Light, Birmingham International Dance Festival and the Independent Cinema Office. Director Ian Francis has clocked up fifteen years putting on film events in Birmingham and beyond and co-founded Flatpack with partner Pip McKnight in 2006. He also writes for publications including Sight and Sound and Little White Lies. Visit their website for updates here: http://flatpackfestival.org.uk

Checking In

“Checking In” is an award-winning feature from the West Midlands set in a hotel that follows the highs and lows from a number of guests' viewpoints. Filmed over 2 years the film was shot entirely at Baron's Court Hotel in Walsall, just outside of Birmingham and delves into the lives of numerous guests around the establishment over the course of a 24 hour period on a random “average” working day. Told through the eyes of maid Radka (Nici Preston) & Alec the Manager (Roger David Francis), a range of guests will make you laugh and gasp but always making you think. Bringing together a host of amazing actors and crew, the team finally got to see the movie at the Lighthouse Cinema on May 12th with feedback being overwhelmingly positive. Read our review here:


Hayley Davis

Hayley Davis is an up and coming actress from Birmingham who has a wide range of talents on her CV including a portfolio career where performance and writing make up the bulk of what she does having created work for the stage and the small screen. As a member of Equity, Hayley started her journey by gaining a degree in Performance at the University of Bedfordshire before moving to London where she continued to train in her field. Developing her trade she spent time undertaking courses at the Central School of Speech and Drama and the Actors Centre, before completing a year at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Hayley has starred in a recent short film called ‘Get out Clause’ with the production being edited by Fabrice Millet and also starred Laurence Saunders last seen in Eastenders. For more info on Hayley and links to her website please click here:


Jason Brown – Dark Vale

West Midlands filmmaker Jason Brown’s last film A Date With Ghosts was released in the US and he has already started on his next exciting endeavour called Dark Vale. Influenced by the Blair Witch Project Jason cites his successes to date as being prepared to see the benefits of hiring great actors. When Carlton TV ran a competition, he won an award for his film The Monk which gave the filmmaker greater exposure and led to him to an encounter with Shane Meadows. Later, James Cullen Bressack, who is based in Los Angeles helped Jason get distribution for “A Date With Ghosts” in US stores like Best Buy and Target. Jason wanted to be an actor originally and has a diploma in drama but now mainly works behind the camera. Raising over £5000 through investors he’s been lucky to have a mentor who has given him help called Brad Rushing who is an LA-based cinematographer. Influenced by Robert Rodriguez, Jason takes control of many aspects of his films including writing, directing, scoring and editing and hopes to take his latest movie to festivals once he has completed post-production. Read an interview with Jason here: http://www.midlandsmovies.com/blog/4558436876/Midlands-Spotlight---A-Date-with-Jason-M-J-Brown/10085681

Brindley Place Outdoor Film Festival

With another successful event running in 2015 the Brindleyplace Film Festival is situated in the heart of Birmingham city centre. Brindleyplace is a leisure and business complex built upon once derelict land and is an architectural landmark which created around three attractive public squares – Brunswick, Central and Oozells. Alongside this estate you can find The Water’s Edge, The Crescent Theatre, the National SEA LIFE Centre and the open square at the centre of all this hosts a free summer festival showcasing a variety of blockbuster films for all ages. In Summer Frozen, The Great Gatsby and Independence Day were all shown and the schedule was decided following hundreds of votes from the general public. This saw 90’s classic Clueless, staring Alicia Silverstone, achieve more than double the number of votes than any other film. Supported by Heart FM, deckchairs and beanbags were provided to the public whilst delicious free tasters were offered by a number of the restaurants based at Brindleyplace. A great success in 2015, the next one in 2016 hopes to be an even greater achievement.


Film Birmingham

Want to make a film in Birmingham? Well, this is the place to start your search for a whole host of locations in the region. Film Birmingham is Birmingham City Council’s Film Office and as part of its Film Charter, Birmingham City Council is committed to making filming as easy and efficient as possible and provides free services for the industry. This includes being a one-stop shop for filming requests as they liaise with the relevant departments at Birmingham City Council and provide permits to film in the city. In addition, they manage an online database of filming locations throughout Birmingham with a dedicated team providing information and advice about the diverse range of filming locations, production offices and unit bases available. Finally, with a wealth of highly skilled film and television talent and state-of-the art facilities in the region, Film Birmingham can put filmmakers in touch with what’s available via their online crews and facilities database. Check their official website out here: http://www.filmbirmingham.co.uk

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 1 2015 08:38AM

Horror blog Runs in Rivers made plans to make everybody scream in space at Leicester’s National Space Centre with a summer screening of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Midlands Movies Mike (and Marek) headed down to this exclusive showing making sure our priority one was to bring back some great memories. All other priorities rescinded...

On a lovely Summer evening in July, me and my fellow film friends Matt, Tim and Kath headed to the National Space Centre in Leicester for an evening of movie amusement. Picking me up from my base in the city centre – I decided to bring along my recently purchased plush facehugger (a kind of horrific teddy bear of movie memorabilia) – we drove to one of Leicester’s premier tourist attractions to watch the 1979 horror sci-fi Alien.

None of us had seen a film screened in this one-of-a-kind location before but we were very excited owing to Runs in Rivers plans to show it within the planetarium of the venue.

Runs in Rivers themselves are a local horror blog reviewing indie, underground and extreme horror and this special screening was a chance for many local sci-fi fans to catch Ridley Scott's classic on the big screen – some, including myself, for the very first time.

With the unique venue ensuring a suitably cosmic setting, the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium is just one part of the National Space Centre. Opening in 2001 (!) the centre’s odyssey begins with six main galleries of exhibits and visitor activities covering flight, astronomy and cosmology. We however would be enjoying Weaver, Skerritt and co inside the Digistar 3 dome cinema.

We pulled up around seven in the evening at the centre’s main car park and after a quick “vape” we waited by the first attraction that is situated nearby called the “space catapult”.

This launch cradle is designed to hold a satellite inside the cargo bay of a US Space Shuttle eventually “flipping” it out into space spinning like a top to keep it stable in orbit. However, given its name we discussed its use by Wile E. Coyote or Bart Simpson and the unfortunate fact that it simply looked like a bit of space junk! However, this merely begins a brilliant journey inside where visitors can see more exciting fare like the gigantic Blue Streak and PGM-17 Thor space-craft, both housed in their Rocket Tower.

Walking under one of the few Soyuz capsules in Europe, the automatic “cargo” doors of the centre already had us excited for our exploration and Runs In Rivers choice of venue could not have been better.

As we grabbed a couple of space beers (actually just Heinekens) to warm up, the friendly staff and organisers made everyone feel comfortable with their welcoming chats and warm hospitality. In addition, they had provided a full on Alien (see pic) for the evening whose working jaws were a great touch. The Alien often crept up on unsuspecting visitors who were queuing, resulting in big laughs from us all. Nevertheless, I got caught out later by the same thing as I leapt in the air after the Xenomorph lunged over my shoulder. It was at this point I met up with our writer Marek. Unbelievably, since launching Midlands Movies, Marek has contributed an amazing amount of articles, reviews and features for us and bar a brief moment one morning (where neither of us was quite sure of who we were) this was the first time we had met. In three years!!

Along with Marek was fellow film fan Paul Crowson, the self-styled Dr. Action of the awesome movie blog Dr. Action and The Kick Ass Kid Commentaries. Check them out here http://dractionkickass.blogspot.co.uk

After a great chat, it was soon time to enter the auditorium and with a vista of stars covering the planetarium’s dome, the excited whispers turned into enormous approval of the location for this exceptional showing.

We sat down on the cinema’s chairs – which go back to an almost horizontal angle so be careful not to fall asleep – but with the film close to start, the thrilled crowd were unlikely to nap during the scares and jumps aboard the Nostromo.

And what of the film itself? Well, there’s very little to add to what has been said many times before. You know the story. The H. R. Giger-designed extraterrestrial creature stalks a space crew after being picked up via a contaminated John Hurt (a Midlands local from Derby no less). Outer space never looked so vast on the planetarium’s projection though, whose slightly curved screen meant that the view was a true representation of your eyesight, making you turn your head across the wide shots such was the size of the screen.

The Oscar winning effects looked as great as ever and the most startling aspect of a film that was 36 years old was that I commented that it looked like it “had barely aged one bit”. Bar a few dodgy 70s-style shaggy haircuts, the brilliant set design, perfect blend of SFX with the actors and Scott’s foreboding direction gives the film such a timeless quality it could have been made in the last few years.

An iconic movie, it has since been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and appeared in our Top 50 Movies of All Time voted by our readers alongside it’s equally lauded sequel Aliens by director James Cameron.

We said during the vote: “Perfectly directed, the film influenced a slew of imitators and launched a franchise behemoth that he would return to in 2012’s Prometheus. Featuring Alien-rape, the film is a superb blend of scares, screams and spooks in space with excellent special effects and a new heroine in Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley”.

As the credits rolled we discussed what a great night it had been. Scott’s “starbeast“ continues to amaze and astonish even after all this time and a perfect evening was had in a perfect setting and all credit must go to Runs In Rivers for putting on an impressive cosmic celebration.

This is Mike, last survivor of the Space Centre, signing off.

For more info on Runs in Rivers and to book future events please see their website here:


Email runsinriversblog@gmail.com

To visit the National Space Centre in Leicester check them out at this link:


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, May 26 2015 07:07AM


BAFTA winning filmmaker Shane Meadows moved to Nottingham at 20 and started his own film festival to showcase his self-made short films based in the Midlands. Inspired by his own youth, Meadows was first nominated for a BAFTA for Dead Man’s Shoes (his sixth film) and the third to star Paddy Considine who he met at Burton College. His “Once Upon a Time in the Midlands” (2002) starred Robert Carlyle and was set primarily in Nottingham. So, with Shane Meadows being the county’s film hero, we take a look at 10 other up and coming things that film fans in Nottingham should also keep their eyes out for.

Broadway Cinema

Based at 14-18 Broad Street in the city centre, The Broadway building has changed a lot since it opened as a regional film theatre in the 1960s. After the first screening as a cinema on 31st August 1990, it has benefited from over £8 million of redevelopment funding. Later, low-cost office space to artists and filmmakers was rented out and by 2006 the cinema opened screen 3, screen 4 (designed by regular patron Sir Paul Smith) and the Mezz bar and lounge. With a mix of blockbuster, independent and locally made films, Broadway has no online booking fee or any extra charges for 3-D films which make it an even better central hub for film fans across the Midlands.


The Home of Horror

Midlands Movies has covered a wide range of films from the region since we began in 2012 but a high percentage of the horror flicks we cover come from Nottingham. Whether it’s something in the water or a much darker reason, the county has become a focus for all things frightful. Just a few of the highlights from the region include Jason Brown (link) Sick Bunny Pics (link) Hubert’s Ghost (link) Mr Stitch (link) and Superfreak media (link) . If you’re a fan of horror or twisted tales then the good film folk of Nottingham will be right up your scary street!

Television Workshop

From “This Is England” stars Kieran Hardcastle and Vicky McClure the BAFTA award-winning Television Workshop in Nottingham has been nurturing talent in the region for decades now. Star alumni also include Samantha Morton, Toby Kebbell and Jack O'Connell and their work can help propel young actors into children's television, films and beyond. For students they offer a development opportunity through membership of a well established, respected, professionally-oriented group, with direct links to the film and television industry. For the industry, they offer a well-trained casting pool and a development resource. The Workshop’s bursary system ensures that no talented student is excluded with members striving to succeed in sessions that are fun yet professionally demanding.


Wollaton Hall

Wollaton Hall is a stately home originally designed by Robert Smythson and built for Sir Francis Willoughby, being completed following eight years of building work in 1588- the year of the Spanish Armada. The building is in the English Renaissance style and its flamboyant design is considered to be a masterpiece. A programme of restoration at Wollaton Hall (with its gardens and deer park) was completed in April 2007 costing £9million. Now a museum, the building and park’s surrounding area is best known in film for being used as Wayne Manor in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Once a year for the last 2 years (and again in 2015) Wollaton Hall will once again be hosting the fabulous outdoor cinema screenings. On Sunday 30th August you will be able watch to that film at Batman’s home for just £12 per ticket. For more info see the Hall’s official page below:


McGibney Productions

Jordan McGibney is one part of the family-run McGibney Production company who have won many film awards since being founded in the Midlands in 2012. Jordan is currently editing his most recent film Stereotype which is not just a movie but also an anti-knife crime package that will go out to schools. Using film as a positive force Jordan’s slightly odd upbringing was rough but he moved away from that life and made his first film at 15 which was a comedy featuring Darth Vader as a Yorkshireman. Taking on commercial, innovative and creative work Jordan works closely with his father who is also a writer, which allows him to have more of a say in what he chooses. With heroes from his mum and dad to Spielberg and Kubrick, Jordan will be looking to work on a feature and some comedy pilots in the near future and hopes to get Stereotype out to schools and inspire the pupils to make good choices. To find out more please visit the site below:


Make-up artist Jayne Hyman

With a background in Film, Theatre and Live Events dating back to 2004 when she undertook a Media Make-up course at Shepperton Studios, Jayne Hyman has branched out from makeup into prop-making and art department work. Growing up in South Wales, Jayne wanted to be a special effects artist ever since watching horror films as a child but having lived in Nottingham since 2007, Jayne feels the Midlands city has now developed a good creative vibe which is why she has stayed here for as long as she has. Being a special effects artist and given the current trend for low budget filmmaking, Jayne often gets offered a lot of work in horror but has recently had more work in sci-fi and fantasy as well. Citing Robert Englund as one of her idols, since it was the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' films that made her realise FX makeup existed as a job, Jayne also likes the work of Dick Smith for his massive contributions to the world of FX makeup. For more about Jayne Hyman and her work please visit her website:


Beeston Film

The Beeston Film Festival kicked off 2015 with a bang and “Nottingham’s Creative Town” had huge interest for their event at the Beeston Cinema on January 24th/25th. This new festival received submissions from independent film-makers across the globe and was organised by John Currie of Arrondissement Films and James Hall of Creative Beeston, an organisation that aims to help Beeston’s creatives and businesses develop, network and expand. With plans for another early next year, the organisers also invite film fans to their cinema every other week at White Lion Bar & Kitchen, Beeston to catch more movies and events throughout the rest of the year.


Mayhem Festival

The Mayhem Film Festival is a cutting-edge event bringing you the very best in genre cinema and television. Screening the best in horror, sci-fi and cult features and shorts from around the world, the festival often has guest filmmakers in attendance too. From premieres, new releases and previews to cult classics, breakthrough shorts, midnight movies, master classes, live experiments and more - Mayhem offers a unique and exciting viewing experience for audiences across four days. The Mayhem Film Festival returns to the Broadway for all things eerie in Autumn 2015 and this year’s festival will take place on 15th – 18th October with previews, special guests and midnight screenings. Planning is currently underway for Mayhem’s 11th edition with more information and announcements coming soon.


Screen 22

Screen 22 is situated in Hockley, in the Creative Quarter of Nottingham and is an intimate venue hosting a state of the art cinema with just 22 seats. Screen 22 cinema is the ideal place for celebrating an intimate occasion with family and friends or even hosting a unique business conference or work social event. Catering for all sorts of events and occasions, the cinema’s low seating helps create a unique experience and is perfect for showing local films to small but appreciative audiences. Based at 25 Broad Street you can see what regular films are showing as well enquire about hiring the venue on their website details below:


Wellington Films

Wellington Films was founded in 2000 by producers Rachel Robey and Alastair Clark and their BAFTA nominated debut feature, LONDON TO BRIGHTON (Edinburgh International Film Festival 2006, Toronto International Film Festival 2006) earned them the Best Achievement in Production award at the 2006 British Independent Film Awards. They have also produced over 30 short films for festivals and TV, including ROYALTY by Paul Andrew Williams, THE GAS MAN by Matt Palmer for Rankin Films’ Collabor8te and THE DARK by Tom Hemmings starring Toby Jones.


By midlandsmovies, Apr 1 2015 07:33PM

Pixar's amazing Toy Story trilogy is being screened in April, May & June at Leicester's Phoenix Independent Cinema.

The showings are part of their Autism Friendly screenings from April to June 2015.

Autism Friendly screenings are a great way for people on the autistic spectrum to enjoy film in a comfortable and supportive environment.

Alexzandra Jackson from the Phoenix explains, "It's also one of the nicest things about my job when I see someone who might not usually be able to relax and experience film having got to really love what they've seen."

Alexzandra goes on to say that the film will be shown on the following dates:

Toy Story - Sat 11 Apr 2015

Toy Story 2 - Sat 9 May 2015

Toy Story 3 - Sat 13 June 2015

To book and for more information then contact Leicester's premiere Independent Cinema, Art Centre and Café Bar on the details below.

Box Office — 0116 242 2800


By midlandsmovies, Dec 10 2014 07:51PM

Midlands Movies Mike catches up with Owen Morgan who tells him about FLIX – a student run but not student exclusive – community cinema in Leicestershire.

Flix was founded way back in 1946 and is based at Loughborough University in Leicestershire and the history of the society can be traced back to the Loughborough Technical Institute where the College Film Society used the Engineers Dining Hall as a base to show films.

In 2004 a redevelopment of the Union building saw the main auditorium converted into the Room 1 nightclub, forcing the Film Society to move its equipment over to the newly refurbished Cope Auditorium. The venue was specially customised to accommodate a new screen and sound system for Flix - and to this day this is where Flix remains.

However, the history of how it got to that stage is far more compelling. In 1952, after the separation of Loughborough College into several smaller colleges, the Film Society moved into the newly constructed Martin Hall to show films regularly. One Union represented all of the student bodies within the separate colleges, so mobile equipment was used to provide showings within the Engineers Dining Hall and the Art College throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Then, in 1966, Loughborough College of Advanced Technology was given chartered University status. This forced a split within the Students’ Union to accommodate the new University of Technology and the three other colleges. In order to accommodate both Unions, the Film Society split, allowing it to show films in the Edward Herbert Building, Martin Hall and the Art College Great Hall.

During 1975 Loughborough Students’ Union FilmSoc was created from a recombination of the two film societies of the Loughborough University of Technology Cinema and Union of Loughborough Colleges Film Society. After moving into the brand new Students Union building in 1978 the LSU FilmSoc was renamed, becoming Flix.

Bringing us up to date, Flix was proud to install the latest digital cinema equipment in July 2013. With this new equipment Flix has also been able to offer Live National Theatre events brought straight from the top theatres in London.

Flix is also a member of the regional BFI Film Hub (http://www.bfi.org.uk/film-audience-network/about-film-hub-lead-organisations ) and is very keen to take part in both local and national arts events promoting independent film producers all across the country.

Owen goes on to explain that Flix is now focusing on inviting the local community along with the students and staff of the academic institutions of Loughborough to enjoy their film offerings and theatre in 2015. With a top price of just £3.00 entry for non-members then anyone in the region would be a fool not to head down at least once to see what all the fuss is about.

Find out more about Flix at their website here - http://flix.org.uk/

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Nov 18 2014 07:35PM

The dead walk…to the Phoenix!

Saturday 15th November 2014 meant only one thing to many British zombie fans – the annual UK Festival of Zombie Culture, held as ever since its inception at the Phoenix Arts Cinema in Leicester.

Now in its eighth year it has become the longest running Leicester film festival and thankfully, unlike its subject matter, shows no sign of dying soon. Following the now established format this year saw around 12 hours of films, the return of the arcade of the dead, retail stalls, author appearances and the fantastic 3 minute zombie killing challenge amongst much more.

In a departure from the programming choice of last years sell out event, a quick glance at this years film schedule showed a return to a more international flavour, featuring two UK premieres and some of the best films of the last four years, many of which are yet to be released over here.

I arrived at the cinema a bit before midday and was immediately greeted by the sight of the undead coming back to haunt the living but thankfully these creatures were not craving (my) human flesh but the freshest slabs of celluloid featuring their kin.

After collecting my composure and an early pint it was time for the first film, a slot which I usually associate at past festivals with zombie classics, particularly the films of Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters) so it was surprising to see a 2014 film scheduled for this time, although less surprising when I saw that it was a Fulci inspired American zombie flick called ‘Bombshell Bloodbath’. Before the film however we were treated to a reading by Birmingham author David Moody, which added a nice touch to proceedings and helped showcase that this festival celebrates all areas of zombie culture, with it being particularly encouraging that Moody is a Midlands born and bred published and successful writer.

On to the film itself, director Brett Mullen combines the eerie-faux Gothicism of Fulci’s unofficial ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy with a strong grindhouse element via Gordon’s Re-animator combining to make something not quite like any of the other films at the festival. With a script paying homage to the golden age of the Italian zombie cinema but without seeming clichéd and featuring a lead character coming across as a mix of Alice in Resident Evil and the women in Baise Moi it was easy to fall under the spell of this film, which showed there is still plenty to be done with the genre.

Before the next film, it was Wolverhampton based goremonger and author Adam Millard’s turn to treat us to some zombie literature, even if it did heavily contain cowboy masturbation, and was another fine example of talent not only coming from the Midlands but being recognised for their contributions to the genre.

At a festival timing is everything, and sadly for me, both the pace and tone of Exit Humanity fell flat after the action of Bombshell Bloodbath. Despite boasting a stellar cast of genre stalwarts including Bill Moseley (TCM 2, Devils Rejects), Brian Cox (Troy, Manhunter, Trick r’Treat) and Stephen McHattie (300, Watchmen, Pontypool) something just didn’t click and it appeared to be a paycheck and nothing more to these guys.

The film follows Edward Young (Mark Gibson) as he tries to survive in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak during the end of the American Civil War; he joins up with a fellow survivor but soon learns that building a life and keeping ones integrity comes at a heavy price. Although some loved it for me, the film took too long to get going but even more disappointing was that it set itself up as a poignant and character driven film yet lacked the substance to connect on that level and was a clear case of the sum of its parts being greater than the whole.

The third film of the Festival saw its first Indian entry (although not the first south Asian film as previously the Pakistani film ‘Hells Ground’ was shown) with the 2013 zombie comedy ‘Goa Goa Gone’ which followed a group of friends join up with members of the Russian mafia getting stuck on a remote island off the coast of Goa, as they witness a party drug turning ravers into zombies (sounding vaguely similar to the maligned Uwe Boll mess House of the Dead). Unfortunately I missed this film but only heard positive reports regarding it.

Back on track and after a food break was the Australian effort ‘Theatre of the Dead’, also 2013, which saw a dance troupe trapped in their theatre as the zombie apocalypse threatens to get in. Although, as with many zombie films, you need to be just as wary of the living as the dead…especially when events could lead to a bad review.

Perhaps just because of the setting I was immediately put in mind of a zombie take on Soavi’s ‘Stagefright’ and also the many zombie stripper films which are essentially very similar in tone and set up. Theatre of the Dead provided all the right laughs but none of the gore or tension required to pull off this style and essentially left us with a mediocre and derivative siege movie which borrowed liberally from Romero’s films amongst others. However, of special note was the guy who played the director in the film who seemed to have the majority of the best lines and a great presence when he was in screen, channelling Andy Nyman’s asshole character in Brooker’s ‘Dead Set’.

One film that is not average though is Cuba’s ‘Juan of the Dead’, and while almost every zomcom since Shaun of the Dead claims comparison in terms of quality this one genuinely deserves the praise.

In the film, Juan and his down on their luck companions don’t see the destruction caused by the zombie apocalypse, as they already have next to nothing, but the opportunities as they set out to, ironically capitalise on the nations misfortune all while the government claim that the undead are simply dissidents revolting against them and, most likely under U.S. influence.

This film is not only full of fun but, like all the best genre films, also has an underlying message and meaning adding weight to humour and connecting on multiple levels and it is to the credit to Zombie Ed and the festival that they do put on overlooked gems such as this.

The final film was the 2013 film ‘I Survived a Zombie Holocaust’ and considering the countries previous efforts expectations were high for this zombie comedy and it didn’t disappoint which saw a young runner on the set of a zombie film get more than his jobs worth when genuine zombies crash the set.

After over 12 hours of zombie mayhem, the crowd shuffled out back into the night, reverently discussing the movies, costumes and fantastic time that they had at what is undoubtedly the UK’s premier zombie film festival. Same time next year.

To learn more about the festival, visits the Terror4Fun website and add Zombie Ed on Twitter - https://twitter.com/ZombieEdUK

By midlandsmovies, Jul 4 2014 07:34PM

We have joined in partnership to begin recording short audio reviews for local Midlands radio station Cross Counties Radio from Summer 2014.

Our first reviews of X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent have been on air for a few weeks and Midlands Movies Editor Mike Sales will be submitting weekly reviews for the station.

Listeners can tune in to the station at http://www.crosscountiesradio.co.uk

Midlands Movies Mike

Areas covered include:

Hinckley Market Bosworth Desford Leicester Forest East Loughborough Rothley Coalville Ashby-de-la-Zouch Shepshed Measham Bradgate Swithland Barrow-on-Soar Syston Melton Mowbray & The Vale of Belvoir The County of Rutland Oakham Leicester City Highcross Gallowtree Gate Humberstone Gate Wood Gate Stoney Gate Aylestone Fosse Park Westcotes Braunstone New Parks Glenfield Ratby Groby Anstey Beaumount Leys Cropston Swithland Woodhouse Mountsorrel Syston Queniborough Birstall Thurmaston Syston Hamilton Knighton Evington Highfields Rushey Mead Oadby Wigston South Wigston Blaby Fosse Park Whetstone Enderby Houghton Wistow Kilby Countesthorpe Fleckney Kibworth Great Glen Stoughton Houghton Billesdon Burton Overy Wistow Langton Foxton Great Bowden Market Harborough Lubenham Husbands Bosworth East Farndon Great Oxendon

By midlandsmovies, Apr 19 2014 08:08AM

This feature blog is going to look at a collection of films that for better (or worse) ruined a whole genre of films for me for being either too good, too clever or simply are the pinnacle of their genre with very little competition in the subsequent years to make them anything other than the indefinable king of “that-type-of-movie”. The list unsurprisingly features many unique satires that ended up poking fun at the genre/movies that came before but also gave a fresh perspective on how we view them with a whole new take on the ideas and images we’ve grown to expect.

Scream (1996)

Well, my first example is also the best example. In 1996 after a few years in the horror wilderness, Wes Craven came back to the director’s chair with the hit movie Scream, written by Kevin Williamson, a spot on riff that deconstructed (and destroyed) the slasher genre. With Neve Campbell’s teenage Sidney Prescott and pals taunted by the serial killer Ghostface, the film’s opening telephone call scene even references a glut of horror classics and characters talk about movies, music, television and even famous catchphrases (“I’ll be right back”) related to the genre and these horror tropes were a great way of engaging a cynical 90s audience. The problem? Well, any teen/slasher film has to do something very new now in order to avoid all of the situations the film takes apart and the subsequent sequels and Scary movie pastiches (and their sequels!) meant there was very little left in this once popular genre to cover.

Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Along similar lines, by being both scary, funny and tackling concepts from an established field of movies, the Joss Whedon co-penned story went even further with its stereotypes (Jock, stoner, nerd, virgin and cheerleader) from past films and took them to a “meta”-level of interaction with the set up being part of a cleverly constructed plot line. Later the same year I watched the remake of Evil Dead (2012) and could not for the life of me get into the film such was its reminiscent imagery from the former film. Genres are genres for a reason (repeated motifs, images, situations, stock characters etc) but when a film has nailed them so well, as Cabin did, then many a subsequent film have since lost their bite.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

It’s not just horror films (although their many sequels provide a huge problem for genre overkill) but this “mockumentary” of a 80s hair-rock band from Britain cuts to the core and resonates with any musician who has tried to play in a band and take it on the road. From the stage mishaps and faulty equipment to dreadful gigs and drummers’ songs (“Jazz Odyssey”) the spoof so brilliantly sends up the machismo and ego of singers and guitarists that subsequent REAL documentaries are now forever tainted with the Tap-esque label. Case in point is the (unintentionally) hilarious Some Kind of Monster featuring US-metallers Metallica, the awesome underdog focused Story of Anvil or even the true-life inspired but dramatic tale of Almost Famous, all of whom has Tap-related plot points from rotating members, terrible gig venues and guitarists (“with mystique”) who leave. Heavy! Duty! Heavy duty...rock n roll!

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

A great sequel with Charlie Sheen reprising his role as Topper Harley who moves from the Top Gun-inspired first film into a Rambo-action fest of over-the-top violence, shoot outs and terrorist fighting with this movie poking fun at the big-screen outings of Sly/Arnie/Bruce during the decade of excess. Along with the Naked Gun style comedy and silly slapstick the film also referenced its stars’ previous films (“I loved you in Wall Street” exchanges Charlie with his dad Martin as their boats cross), the film is a terrific bout of harebrained nonsense and done with heart and knowledge of the film(s) it parodies. So what’s the point of a film like The Expendables I ask? The first was an inconsequential piece of action fluff reuniting some of the old stars for one final outing but a second (and now a third) film is embarrassing as it parodies the same genre without the budget for great action and without the wit of great comedy. No amount of (lame) Chuck Norris gags could win me over when a better film with more intriguing characters (and better acting I’d argue) already exists. Sorry folks, but the 80s happened, it was parodied, and you are too late to the party.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

We return to horror in this infamous tale of a psychiatrist who helps a lonely child come to terms with his ability to “see dead people” so what’s the problem with this one? Well, the film, which I think is a very good one (although repeated viewings are difficult to stomach once you know its twist ending) began the annoying trend in the 00s to make a film which just had to have a twist ending. So many films were then subsequently made on the back of its success, each with an increasingly ludicrous and unbelievable plot twist to manipulate an ever aware audience – but an audience who soon became sick of the “you thought it was this – but actually it is this” style of misdirection. It became a big “f*** you” by the time these films slowly started disappearing and not until Scorsese’s Shutter Island (to be fair, based on a best-selling book) did the whole argument come to a head once again. There’s nothing wrong with it but enough time needs to pass so that the unreliable narrator truly becomes a shock again. One upside however is that not only did it set the standard for the genre to destroy itself, it effectively destroyed Shyamalan’s career too - whose over-reliance on the technique became his calling card and subsequent downfall! 2 for one!

Gladiator (1999)

Ridley Scott’s Oscar winning epic tale of a commander who’s forced into slavery before rising once again as a hero of the Coliseum and defender of Rome, came out of nowhere for the first sword and sandals classic in a generation with impressive story-telling, direction, CGI and characters that amazed and impressed audiences the world over. And what have we had since? Well, Alexander (ew), Troy (OMG), Prince of Persia (good lord!), Clash of the Titans (so bad), Kingdom of Heaven (pah!) and Immortals (I give up!). Frank Miller’s 300 was a great comic book translation from the “visionary” director Zack Snyder with all the hallmarks of Gladiator itself (muscley bearded man takes rag tag band of underdogs up against evil empire) but aside from that one film which I enjoyed as a blockbusting spectacle, the genre is one mess after another. Even the spin-off of the not bad “The Mummy” had nowhere to go and The Scorpion King is known mainly for its atrocious (and notoriously unfinished) CGI finale. Are you not entertained? No, not really, Russ.

Animal House/American Pie (1999)

Simply put, the college s*x comedy has two standout films which are similar in many ways but appeal directly to their respective generation. Maybe we’re due one now but every time we get a new “teen comedy” it caters for the lowest common denominator, contains a glut of gross out gags and has been replaced with the” twi-harder-games” style teen movie set in distant worlds or with horror-undertones. Jim and the gang were loveable heart warmers rather than idiotic scumbags and subsequent attempts have mainly fallen flat for their lack of wit and soul (only Superbad has come close in recent memory) and so every time a trailer rears its ugly head (soundtracked authentically by some guff like Florence and the Machine) a bit of my heart dies knowing that this era of teens won’t have that quintessential relatable tale of getting your rocks off. The Inbetweeners was good (although taking them on holiday was an idea as old as the hills) but I am still waiting for the definitive movie of the college/uni experience in the UK. Come on Midlands movie-makers – there’s a gap right there! 

Midlands Movies Mike

RSS Feed twitter