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By midlandsmovies, Nov 20 2019 03:46PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 7


This month we check out new releases YESTERDAY (from Danny Boyle), THE KING (from David Michôd), HAIL SATAN? (from Penny Lane) and BOOKSMART (from Olivia Wilde).


Scroll down to read the reviews:





Yesterday (2019) Dir. Danny Boyle


Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik in this musical fantasy where a guitar-playing shelf-stacker becomes the only person in the world to remember that The Beatles existed after he survives a bike-crash during a global blackout. The screenplay by Richard Curtis is suitably nimble and light-hearted and after discovering his predicament, Jack decides to take credit for the infamous songs of the Fab-Four’s back catalogue. The more than likeable Lily James plays Jack’s friend and possible love interest Ellie, and she helps him cut a demo of their greatest hits. With audiences going wild for the classic tracks, Jack’s career rushes to worldwide stardom with Ed Sheeran appearing as himself and a ruthless Kate McKinnon as Hollywood music manager Debra Hammer. Probably biased (and certainly a film for fans) my love for The Beatles definitely helped my enjoyment, as the film plays with the song titles, famous stories, the background of the band's music and we even get to visit their hometown of Liverpool. The support cast are also good, especially Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal as Jack’s parents who barely listen as he plays “his" new song "Let It Be" in the family front room. With over half of the budget reportedly going on the rights to The Beatles’ songs, every penny has been well spent with the tracks, and a score incorporating their various melodies, bringing joy and sadness in equal measure. With fun and jokey performances, heartfelt (and maybe schmaltzy at times) storytelling as well as the obligatory but still legendary music, everything comes together in this captivating comedy.


★★★★



The King (2019) Dir. David Michôd


Back at University I did a course called Shakespeare on Screen and ever since I have been somewhat obsessed by how the Bard’s work has been adapted for movies. And so hopes were high for medieval drama The King which is inspired by Henry IV: Part 1, Henry IV: Part 2 and Henry V. With gorgeous cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, this Netflix period piece had all the fascinating elements of a deep dive into royal politics and war. However, despite a great start whereby the playboy Henry, Prince of Wales (Timothée Chalamet) reluctantly but successfully succeeds his war-mongering father, the film quickly veers into mind-numbingly dull drama and tediousness. The support is great, Joel Edgerton as Falstaff brings a lot of charm, Robert Pattinson as The Dauphin of France is a sleazy delight and Sean Harris is solid as the duplicitous William Gascoigne. However, the carbuncle-growing pace and lacklustre dialogue slows down every dramatic development of the plot to a complete standstill. As Henry eventually succumbs to the war merchants who desire the King to show his strength, the film STILL doesn’t draw your attention - wasting as it does every possibly interesting plot point. Stick with Olivier and Branagh for the definitive Henry V takes and avoid this wearisome run-though of Willy’s work.


★★



Hail Satan? (2019) Dir. Penny Lane


A documentary about The Satanic Temple seems ripe for a warts-and-all exposé on the demonic practices of its debauched members but prepare yourself to be very surprised with new film Hail Satan?. The film opens with the background to the temple’s inception and the subsequent negative media coverage. From the 70s, the “satanic panic” labelled members outcasts at best – and murderers and abusers at worst. However, the film’s politics are much more centred on its tolerance and fight for religious freedoms. After a Ten Commandments monument is set up on State grounds in Arkansas, the group, led by Lucien Greaves (not his real name, and also his “real” name is not his real name), take steps to advocate the separation of church and state. This is done in the main by suggesting their statue of Baphomet (a goat-headed, angel-winged demon) should also be placed on the grounds to maintain impartiality. And more revealing, the film shows that far from the religious extremists that is suggested by its name, the group are dripping in self-conscious irony, media-awareness and tolerance of alternative lifestyles. Although the film shows some internal rifts within the temple's leadership, from after school clubs to the cleaning of beaches, the diverse members in fact commit themselves to well-thought out political and eco causes. At 95 minutes, Hail Satan? doesn’t overstay its welcome and disputes the spurious claims heaped upon the temple whilst exposing the hypocrisy of certain elements of far-right Christianity.


★★★★



Booksmart (2019) Dir. Olivia Wilde

What a year it’s been for Olivia Wilde who starred in the fantastic A Vigilante earlier in 2019 (our review) and now in her directorial debut has delivered a more than pleasurable film about the anxieties of growing up. Beanie Feldstein is amusing as the studious Molly whilst her best friend is Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). After overhearing some gossip in the school bathroom, Molly comes to the conclusion they haven’t had enough fun before they go off to college. Convincing Amy they should attend a party the night before graduation, the two head off on an evening of adventure. With a sensitive, yet hilarious, journey into teen angst, sexuality, popularity and school chaos, Booksmart balances some coarseness with an emotional heft that is incredibly satisfying. At times, the film hits the beats of the similarly structured Superbad (2007) with the protagonists criss-crossing the city in search of a party whilst getting caught up with the cops, strangers and illicit substances. However, the two leads are simply wonderful and some off-the-wall sequences on a boat, at a murder mystery party and as toy dolls are a giddy joy. A poignant and affecting conclusion and some believable drama throughout, the balance of laughs and moving scenes were affecting and even the support cast bring real entertainment to their (sometimes exaggerated) roles. An impressive film, Feldstein and Dever bring real empathy and believability to their characters - whilst being hilarious at the same time - and Booksmart comes highly recommended as a fun night out for all.


★★★★½


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 16 2019 09:38AM



Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019) Dir. Midge Costin


Making Waves opens with Apocalypse Now sound designer Walter Murch explaining how deep sound is to humans - from the womb to the almost unnoticed and emotional effect it has on us in cinema.


And so begins new documentary Making Waves. And Murch is just one of an amazing array of interviews in this new exploration and within the first minute we have comments from legendary Star Wars sound guru Ben Burtt, directors Chris Nolan, Ryan Coogler, David Lynch, George Lucas and Ang Lee and musician Barbara Streisand. Wow. A list doesn’t get much more impressive than that!


Rightly so, the film’s focus is on the importance of sound in our enjoyment of cinema. The film covers the importance of the “Circle of Talent” to create the modern team-orientated experience audiences expect today. With so many people in the mix, the experts in their field enable impressive sequences like the D-Day landings of Saving Private Ryan to be created.


From the intimacy of an emotional score to studio mixing, the film covers the technical background to music-making – which is conveyed in an easy digestible way for the viewer. It also covers the history of sound when early films were projected with a live orchestra (or even live sound effects) as well dialogue from people behind a screen.


The documentary is fascinating and informative especially to someone with a music background like myself. But it also explains the journey of cinematic sound bringing general audiences along the way too. However, its biggest flaw is the familiar ground covered in another recent documentary Score: A Film Music Documentary from 2016 (our full review here).


Both have comparable talking heads, technical info and the history of sound (slightly more specific on musical score in the 2016 film) but they are VERY similar. And therefore this isn’t a unique illumination on the subject, more of a confirmation of some of the information seen from a different viewpoint. But the explanations are great if you don't know your foley from your sound effects and we also see how the variety of these important aspects are put together in the final mixing stage.


Score and sound design are definitely two different disciplines though - one being part of the other. So if you prefer one area then choose the documentary for you. However, both films together are a fascinating insight into the often overlooked (and hugely important) world of the magic of music and sound in movies.


★★★½


Michael Sales


Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is out on DVD on Monday 25th November 2019

By midlandsmovies, Oct 28 2019 09:58AM



Outside the City


Directed by Nick Hamer


2019


Intrepid Media


A tough watch from the beginning, Outside the City starts with a very elderly and frail man in bed who talks about the power, or not, of prayer. As bells begin tolling, we are introduced to the monks of Mount St Bernard Abbey.


The Abbey’s location near the M1 and within spitting distance of the power station is a nice contrast between the modern world and the archaic life lived by these spiritual men. The film mixes old photos, talking head interviews and measured shots of the Abbey itself in its rural Leicestershire location.


With the lack of “new recruits”, the current number of monks have dwindled through the years, sadly by death mostly. A self-described “contemplative monastic community of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance” their life of “radical discipleship” means early rising, endless prayer and their reflection of life.


Ironically, I found out about this information on their very informative website and from mobility scooters to business planning, the monks decide to take the Abbey’s continuation into their own hands by planning for what lies ahead in the 21st century.


Fighting against an ever-changing contemporary world, they decide to secure a better future by changing their farmland from dairy produce to a Trappist beer brewery. Which turns into a great success – even with fantastic YouTube reviews.


A heart-breaking final few days, and subsequent death, of one of the monks is an extremely difficult watch and as you hear stories from these men, you are enlightened to a life so different to your very own.


However, my own personal partisanship on the importance (or otherwise) of religion did hamper my enjoyment of the film somewhat. Seeing each man – we’re all aware of the side-lining of women in these institutions – throw away months and years was partly soul-destroying if I’m being brutally honest.


Recently I watched “Hail Satan?” – a documentary about the Church of Satan who, rather than the name suggests, work within the community and accept a range of other alternative-leaning free-thinking men, women and transgender people. And their involvement in improving, rather than ostracization, of society was far more aligned to my own outlook it must be said.


I certainly don’t think a film in any way has to align to the views of the reviewer – quite the contrary – yet although this film successfully challenged my own beliefs, the interesting and quirky beer-brewery narrative was essentially side-lined for a bit of an eye-rolling sermon about the continuation of their old boys’ club.


However, it is certainly not my place to tell anyone how to live their own life. That’s down to each and everyone’s own “calling” and I support individualism and independent decision-making which these devout monks had in holy spades.


Despite some fundamental differences on the topic, it has to be said that the film is as much about age as it is religion. It also does address some of the conflicts they face with modern views similar to my own, which was a positive acknowledgement of their current struggles.


Outside the City therefore ends as a very respectful look at devoted men and the ever-changing world they, and we, inhabit. It is also a well put-together film contrasting the past, present and future and gives a challenging glimpse into a bygone world which certainly got a strong emotional response from this reviewer. And although maybe not the same feelings will be had, I think its poignant themes and affecting questions will resonate with most audiences too with its thought-provoking comments on religious lifestyles.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 27 2019 10:22AM



And that’s another fine documentary you’ve gotten me into


A new documentary film is now in production from Leicester based production company Spoon Jar Films called On the Trail of Stan & Ollie which will showcase the historical journey of the famous film duo.


Established by experienced producer Wayne Kelly and Director/Cameraman Matt Holt, they make compelling films about fascinating people, issues that matter and quirky stories that surprise and entertain.


Wayne and Matt are currently filming the production which comes hot on the heels of documentaries “No Fare” and “In a Landfill Far, Far Away”.


And as well as the creative talents on Spoon Jar, the duo run commercial business MGL Media.


“We’ve been making high quality video for a wide range of businesses across the UK for over 13 years. Our portfolio covers a wide range of corporate clients, local governments, broadcasters and small businesses and organisations”, they say.


However, their new affectionate documentary will tell the story of comedy legends, Laurel and Hardy and follow hot on the heels of the recent BAFTA nominated film, ‘Stan and Ollie’. “We’re but really pleased at how many famous faces we’ve got on board so far”, they told Midlands Movies.


Wayne and Matt are also delighted to be producing this brand new documentary in collaboration with notable Laurel and Hardy aficionado, Ross Owen, of The Ross Owen Show.


And well-known actors will talk the viewer through their favourite scenes and show how Stan and Ollie continue to influence their own work and wider popular culture.


Laurel and Hardy historians and fans from around the world will also share their fascinating stories, some of which have never been heard before.


“We also follow the personal journey of Stan Laurel’s great granddaughter, Cassidy Cook, as she goes in search of her grandfather’s theatrical roots at the world’s oldest music hall - The Panopticon in Glasgow, Scotland”.


Shot on location in LA and Glasgow and full of anecdotes from those who knew Stan and Ollie best, this documentary brings ‘The Boys’ and their genius to a new generation of fans.


Having already produced films for the BBC and eOne, including content for international DVD & BluRay releases, the company also continue to seek new production and distribution partners.


“We always have multiple projects in production, so take a look at our website to see what we have on the slate, and how you can get involved”.


For further info check out their official website and social media pages below and check the full trailer out too:


http://www.mglmedia.tv/

https://twitter.com/SpoonJarFilms

http://www.spoonjarfilms.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/spoonjarfilms





By midlandsmovies, Aug 26 2019 09:00AM



Memory – The Origins of Alien


2019


Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe


Opening in Greece with shots of bugs & ancient hieroglyphs, a group of witches chant incantations in a strange beginning for a documentary about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic Alien.


However, what the film attempts to convey is how the historical symbolism and metaphorical signifiers of the film are actually curated from an underlying “global set of myths”.


Focusing “mostly” on the film’s writer Dan O’ Bannon, the documentary explores his rural upbringing, obsession with sci-fi and monsters and his many influences. One such is “Seeds of Jupiter” – a comic book about a man whose alien infection eventually escapes his body and scuttles off his military location. Sound familiar?


A competent artist in his own right, his early version of Alien (the awfully-titled “Star Beast”) was injected with a new lease of life when Swiss artist H R Giger became involved.


His sexual, mechanical and biological amalgamations were the perfect aesthetic for Bannon’s alien. Giger went to Egypt as a child and was obsessed by black bones and in early storyboards, the derelict spaceship was actually a Pyramid. Unbelievably Fox fired the artist but when original director Walter Hill exited the project, it was Ridley Scott who brought him back on board.


The documentary has the usual talking heads and I must admit that the fact Alien is one of my favourite films of all time helped maintain my interest even when the film didn’t quite work. It argues that the alien has its roots in Renaissance demons and medieval dragons and that it resonates with the human race’s deeper fears.


For me, this only partially rings true. Maybe its longevity can be traced to these themes but I’m not convinced the script of “Star Beast” had such illusions explicitly added. I would argue many of the “theories” are more Room 237 than they are intentional. It puts forward the notion that the 70s economic downturn, terrorism and corruption are represented, which is an interesting if less believable proposition. And the documentary loses some focus elsewhere too BUT I’d caveat that too many theories are probably better than too few.


That said, the combination of the dark psyches of O’Bannon, Scott and Giger together certainly helped bring deeper meaning to the film. Their obsessions of exploration of the ancient past and creation – a theme Scott would come back to in Blade Runner as well as Prometheus – give Alien much more depth than other monster movies.


Like Alien itself, the documentary builds to the iconic chest scene and an in-depth breakdown. With its male pregnancy fetishism, the quote of the film comes from actress Veronica Cartwright who describes the chest burster thus: “It frankly looked like a penis… with teeth”.


From paintings by Francis Bacon to a nice eulogy about Dan O’Bannon from his wife Dianne, The Origins of Alien casts its net very wide. Yet it‘s festering with curious but interesting philosophies and gives birth to a number of thought-provoking ideas about one of the greatest films ever made.


Michael Sales


MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN in cinemas 30 August, on VOD and DVD 2 September



By midlandsmovies, Jul 30 2019 04:05PM



Framing John DeLorean (2019) Dir. Don Argott & Sheena M. Joyce


As a huge fan of Back to the Future, I’ve always dreamed of driving the time machine car with its gull-winged doors and silver UFO-appearance – which fan hasn’t I guess? With my limited knowledge of its designer John DeLorean, the documentary actually avoids too much focus on its iconic place in the timeless 80s cinema classic and instead wisely focuses on the mysterious engineer of the auto industry behind the vehicle.


Funnily enough though, Back to the Future’s writer Bob Gale is one of the first people interviewed. And he questions why Hollywood hasn’t used DeLorean’s story for a biopic given his life full of women, cars, business and later on, criminal goings-on. The documentary follows DeLorean’s story from his huge success at General Motors in the 60s and 70s using standard talking head interviews, archive footage and contemporary opinions from DeLorean’s children.


However, and rather strangely, the film also has dramatic recreations of a number of important moments in his life starring Alec Baldwin as the auto expert. Again, it’s a little bizarre as we see are also shown the behind-the-scenes preparations for these sequences. Baldwin imparts his thoughts on the man as he sits in the make-up chair having massive fake eyebrows attached to look more like DeLorean.


The intention I guess seems to be an attempt to delve into DeLorean’s motivations and what “made him tick”. Although not entirely successful, or needed at all, it does add a creative flavour to the standard documentary format which was refreshing.


DeLorean doesn’t make his dream easy as he sets up a factory in Northern Ireland (during the violent Troubles no less) but his goal to be an independent car manufacturer is welcomed in a country torn apart by bombs and guns. Offering a chance of employment, the Catholic/Protestant production line workers find a place of safety and solidarity and are visibly upset when the it closes.


Unfortunately, his lack of genuine manufacturing experience and the dearth of funding takes its toll. And DeLorean is suddenly involved in two court cases - one involving a drug deal and another a case of embezzlement. But this is an excellent documentary with a unique, if a bit confused, splash of drama edited into it, with the film exploring the multifaceted aspects of his extraordinary life.


And it ends with his disappointed children acknowledging that if Back to the Future had been released just months earlier, the subsequent interest in the car may have saved the company. But like the mistakes he made himself you can’t go back in time, not even in a DeLorean.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jun 29 2019 03:43PM



Apollo 11 (2019) Dir. Todd Douglas Miller


Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famous 1969 moon landings, Apollo 11 is a new documentary that revisits the familiar space-race story but with some very unfamiliar footage. Made up entirely of archive film, the documentary includes high quality 70mm sequences that have never been released publicly, which is a huge shame given their significance.


But thankfully, here they are now. With no narration and minimal dialogue dubbed over the NASA images, the film reminded me of the documentary 3 Shots The Changed America about JFK’s assassination. There, as with here, historical home-movie style sequences from the era gave an eerie realism little seen in more formally structured docs.


And coming from the President who promised the US public a man on the moon in the first place, both films use 60s film stock and snippets of conversational sounds to create a natural feel that thrusts you straight into their respective periods.


The amazing footage isn’t just used for the inevitable launch and landing however. Much of the joy comes from the mundane. If you feel overfamiliar with the subject then the exclusive backroom admin work, telephone calls and crowds waiting in anticipation give the audience an experience that they would not have seen before – short of being at Cape Kennedy on the day itself.


Swathes of thrilled Americans are edited alongside rare CCTV of a van transporting the astronauts to the launch site. This grainy intimate black and white footage is as fascinating as the glorious 70mm film as we get to view many little-seen aspects from the day that all lead to the countdown. The huge tracks of the Missile Crawler Transporter slowly moving the Saturn V rockets to the pad are shot in such high quality you’ll swear they were filmed last week.


The Southern accents certainly make it an all-American affair, whilst a leaking valve shows the reality of the situation and its risky difficulties. The sensational images continue with the launch itself and the excitement of that day comes across in every frame. But again, the matter-of-fact procedures show how “normal” much of this seems. And these also remind us of the hundreds of humans behind the momentous occasion.


And as I type this on a laptop that has 1,500 times more processing power than the lunar module, the reality is that this was a dangerous mission as Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are strapped into a claustrophobic metal box stuck to the world’s biggest firework.


Covering both the scientific detail and the strong patriotic emotions, Apollo 11 is a must-see for space enthusiasts and for the rest, you can bask in the jaw-dropping and immaculate footage which brings the electrifying lunar landing to life.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jun 13 2019 08:50PM

Quite simply, here is our ongoing and updated list of Film Festivals in the Midlands (2019 edition):


• THE SHORT CINEMA http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk info@theshortcinema.co.uk Phoenix, Leicester - August 20 – 24, 2019


* NOTTINGHAM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL http://www.nottiff.com/ 14th - 17th November 2019


• INDIE-LINCS - Feb 13th - 15th 2020 Based at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, and run in partnership with The School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln http://www.indie-lincs.com


• BRINDLEY PLACE OUTDOOR FEST - http://www.brindleyplace.com/event/brindleyplace-film-festival-2018/ July 15th - 21st 2019


• BORDERLINES FEST http://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk UK's largest rural film festival. Herefordshire/Shropshire - 28th February to 15th March 2020


• BIRMINGHAM FILM FEST - 1st - 10th November 2019 https://filmfreeway.com/festival/Birminghamfilmfestival


• BIFF FEST (Birmingham Black International Film Fest) https://www.biffestival.co.uk 26th October 2019


• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL Electric Cinema in Birmingham https://twitter.com/shockgore July 2019


• DEAFFEST http://www.deaffest.co.uk The UK's International Deaf Film & Arts Festival Wolverhampton. Contact info@light-house.co.uk 2020 date TBC


* BIRMINGHAM INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL http://birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk 21st June - 1 July 2019


• THE UK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LEICESTER - http://tonguesonfire.com/ 2020 dates TBC


• SHOUT FESTIVAL http://shoutfestival.co.uk Birmingham Dates TBC for 2020


• DERBY FILM FESTIVAL http://www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk 14 - 17 November 2019


• FANTASTIQ FEST http://fantastiq.co.uk Fantasy/Horror Fest at Quad in Derby (part of Derby Film Fest)


• MAYHEM HORROR Film Fest - Halloween. Contact Broadway cinema in Nottingham http://www.broadway.org.uk/mayhem 10th October - 13th October 2019


• FLATPACK FEST - Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk 11th-16th May 2020


• BEESTON FILM FESTIVAL - https://twitter.com/BeestonFilm 25th-29th March 2020


• SHROPSHIRE RAINBOW FILM FESTIVAL http://www.rainbowfilmfestival.org.uk/midlands-zone on hiatus for 2019 - TBC 2020 dates


• GRINDHOUSE PLANET - www.grindhouseplanet.com November 2019 TBC


* BOTTLESMOKE FILM FESTIVAL - https://www.facebook.com/BottleSmokeStoke Stoke on Trent - September 8th 2019


* WIRKSWORTH 3-MINUTE FILM FEST https://wirksworth3minfilmfest.co.uk Derbyshire15th Sept 2019


* HEART OF ENGLAND FILM FEST - https://www.heartofenglandfilmfest.com Coventry 2020 Dates TBC


* THE BLACK BIRD FILM FEST Wolverhampton https://ajayhackett2113.wixsite.com/bbff Wolverhampton 2020 Dates TBC


* HIGH PEAK INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL Derbyshire https://www.highpeakindie.com 12th to 16th June 2019. #HPIFF18


* NEXUS FILM FESTIVAL https://twitter.com/NexusEastMids Nottingham 2020 Dates TBC


* NOTTZ FILM FESTIVAL Hothouse Theatre Nottingham https://twitter.com/NottmFilmFest Sat 6th July 2019


* THE SHORT STACK FILM FESTIVAL Nottingham Bi-monthly screening night at Broadway Cinema https://www.facebook.com/groups/841340665914084 (Various dates)


* 5 LAMPS FILMS - Bi-monthly short-film screenings at Derby Quad (various dates) + annual 24hr film challenge https://twitter.com/fivelampsfilms 2020 Date TBC


* PARACINEMA - Derby https://twitter.com/ParacinemaDerby May 1st -3rd 2020


* THE BLACK COUNTRY HORROR SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL - Stourbridge https://www.weepingbankproductions.co.uk/horror-film-festival Saturday 25th January 2020


Other useful Film Festival information can be find at these links:

http://www.festivalfocus.org/festival

http://film.britishcouncil.org/festivals-directory/festivals-map

http://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.co.uk

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