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By midlandsmovies, Dec 14 2016 05:25PM

The Importance of Sound in Film!


Making a short film, or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun. I recently made my most recent short film called HUNGRY. A wicked, humorous, little piece on the greed that is rampant at Christmas. Here is how I came up with and developed the sound and music in the film.


So the way I work is that in the very beginning of preparing to shoot the film, when I am still writing the script actually, I start to listen to music that I like. I listen with the sole purpose of getting a feel for how this particular song will go with the film. I use each song that I like or think might go well and imagine how it will tell my story. Here is an example…in “HUNGRY”, the story takes place at Christmas. So I was constantly listening to holiday songs, wild versions, old-fashioned ones, newer versions. The one I came up with was of a child choir singing Carol Of The Bells.


This song was important in setting up the beginning of the film in 3 ways:


1. It is a beautiful innocent rendition of this song

2. It lulls the audience into the sweetness of the Christmas season

3. It also didn’t telegraph what was coming to the audience


I cannot tell you how important music or sound is in setting up your story or film. If you can do it right, then the whole film just falls into place. Another example of how much music played a part in my film is when the main character walks into the shop, the owner is listening to 1930’s jazz. The story’s background was that this woman has been alive for several hundreds of years, and this is her favorite music. Now you don’t actually see a 500 -year old woman on screen, that was just the back-story. But this music really helped the actress get the feel for what I wanted.


And her performance made the film. Another instance of how important sound was for me, was in editing.


My film is a horror film, and so I had a small creature. But because I was on a small budget, I couldn’t really afford to build a creature that could move in every way I wanted. So movement was limited. What I did tho, was to search a couple of free sound sites for sci-fi sounds, or dinosaur roars. It took me weeks to get it the way I wanted.


In order for the creature to look realistic, I had to use different sounds for each 2-second piece of footage that had the little guy in it. Each different sound conveyed a different want and emotion in the creature. It was incredibly grueling and difficult work. But in the end, the sounds and music are what really helped this film. In my opinion.


And when my main character was being eaten alive, sounds were so vitally important in conveying the horror of what was happening to him. And at the end of the film, when it is clear that the owner is in cahoots with the creature, or the creature is almost her mate, then the music that I put in at the end conveyed the craziness of this situation. So I put in this wild and crazy piece that makes me giggle whenever I hear it.


In conclusion, if you are in preparation for a film shoot, or if you are already in editing, then I cannot stress the importance of taking your time and getting the music and sound right. If you have the right style of music that brings your audience into your film, and the right sound effects if you are shooting a horror film, then this will improve your odds of this being a successful film. If nothing else, it helps your audience into your film, and it help in keeping them there. If you don’t believe me, go and watch the movie Brooklyn. The music in this film will bring you instantly into this world, and it keeps you there. Whether you like the movie or not!


John Montana




About The Author:

John Montana is an actor and filmmaker. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short film - HUNGRY at No Title Production Films


By midlandsmovies, Aug 9 2016 12:03PM

Mike Sales speaks to Midlands born actor Jonathan Holmes who has found fame with a wealth of voiceover work for TV and cinema before being recently cast as a giant in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s ‘BFG’.


Mike asks the actor about his work to date and how he came to be in such a large Hollywood blockbuster…


Jonathan Holmes grew up in an all boy’s school in the Midlands where he jokes he initially got involved in acting and doing plays as the only way to meet girls. However, since these humble forays into theatre, Jonathan has had a bumpy but never dull journey in his film career so far.


“I spent the first 18 years of my life in and around Shrewsbury. It will always feel like home. I've no film experiences from the region, but lots of happy theatrical memories. And growing up in deepest darkest Shropshire, actually going to the cinema wasn't as easy as it might have been, but I do remember loving (Spielberg’s) Close Encounters. Favourite moment? When Richard Dreyfus tries to wave the UFO past”.




Being Shropshire born and bred suggest Jonathan’s home-grown accent was the perfect match for the quirky Britishness encapsulated in this new CGI world Spielberg created for the film. Yet his casting was somewhat a lucky coincidence for the now Vancouver-based thespian who was originally asked to coach a girl who was up for the part of the film’s protagonist Sophie.


I ask if any roles have come that way to him before.


“In some sense - most of them! There are a whole series of decisions that have to be made before you are cast in any role over which you have no control. So it always feels like a bit of a lottery”.


With extensive CGI in lots of modern literary adaptations (Alice in Wonderland) which portray wild and vivid locations and characters, Jonathan explains that during his the recording of his role as ‘Childchewer’, the inhibiting green-screen process in fact gave him more freedom than most expect.


“We shot using performance capture technology. It takes a little getting used to, but it allows scenes to be shot in the entirety, capturing everything from all conceivable angles simultaneously. So it can actually be liberating. It's as close to theatre in the film world that I've ever encountered”.



Jonathan adds that is was a joy working with actor Martin Freeman who he describes as one of the “funniest and most astute students of the art of acting” he’s ever met and Jonathan has seen previous success as a voice actor in Marvel’s “Hulk Vs” cartoon.


In 2007 the actor worked with Peter Greenaway on ‘Nightwatching’ which he describes as “terrifying” for a different reason than the motion capture concerns. “Peter shoots incredibly beautiful and massively long takes. If you mess up - resetting a shot can take an age. So you don't mess up! But an amazing experience”.


Back to the magical world of Dahl and the BFG, I ask the five-foot-eight Jonathan if he were as tall as the character he plays, what mischief he would get up to.


“I would try out for the NBA. Or possibly be England goalkeeper and bring the glory days back to English football!”


England football glory may be a bigger fairy tale than anything Dahl has written but Jonathan says that his 10 year old daughter loves the author’s books. “Matilda is a big hit in our house,” he says before adding that the appeal of Dahl’s books is that “he can be funny, wicked, tender, intimate and extreme in the space of one paragraph”.


And which one of Dahl’s books would he personally like to see adapted (or re-adapted) for the big screen? “Hmmm...I think an anti-hipster version of The Twits would be fun”.


Now based in Vancouver, Jonathan finds the ‘Hollywood of Canada’ a great place for a working actor. “I've lived in Vancouver for about 15 years, so the majority of my film and TV work has been here. You'd be amazed the amount of work that is shot here, so it doesn't take too long to spot soon familiar landmarks”.


Sadly, Jonathan has also had to overcome unfortunate personal circumstances during his career including dealing with a diagnosis of cancer a few years ago.


“It was very challenging. And around the same time, my step mother sued myself and my 5 year old over my father's will. It was a truly rough time. But you can only appreciate the highs if you embrace the lows. As an actor, life experience can't help but inform performance, and I've had my fair share over the last few years”.


Jonathan is definitely now on the turn-around with his successful role in the BFG and his experiences on that set enriching his outlook on life. And there’s no rest either. Straight from that film he jumps into a new animation series and a video game with the hard-working actor on the rise in a multitude of disciplines.


He also hopes to back in the UK for some theatre also one thing is for sure, Jonathan will be beaming over the fantastic reviews of his and his co-stars performances in one of the most well-received family films of the Summer. Which is surely Jonathan’s biggest and friendliest success of all.


BFG is in cinemas now.


Midlands Movies Mike


Photo of Jonathan courtesy of Kristine Cofsky

By midlandsmovies, Aug 8 2016 05:54PM

Dudley Castle After Dark: The Bride of Frankenstein




The wind carried with it blood-curdling screams, an overwhelming feeling of terror hung heavily and nefarious figures lurked within the shadows; and that was just the walk through Dudley Town Centre.


The introduction to this article, much like the event itself, shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Ever the cynic, I anticipated a barrage of beard-stroking and discussions regarding aspect ratio upon entering Dudley Castle, the site of Flatpack Film Festival’s latest open air screening. Although I’m partial to beard-stroking, I was pleased to see people hiking up the hill to the castle itself, each step building anticipation and without a care about Academy ratio. Instead, I overheard fathers making their children laugh, talking about terrible Frankenstein remakes of the 80’s and for a moment, I thought I had something in my eye.


In any case, open air screenings such as this often have very little in common with their surroundings (Frozen, mid-August in Merry Hill car park, anyone?) but it’s an opportunity that Flatpack took full advantage of here. My opinion of Dudley Castle and Zoo had been shaped by an online comment regarding “deranged monkeys and a bald lion”, but this visit proved to me that, yes, Facebook can, on occasion, get it wrong. Having passed the Common Ravens and the less fear-inducing, more aww-inducing Meerkats, visitors were greeted by the film’s score, echoing in the entrance hall. As show time crept closer and night fell, the peacock calls and projections added to the ominous atmosphere, with ‘KARLOFF’ emblazoned across the ruins and Doctor Pretorius’ image keeping watch over the crowd.


As with any good show, the crowd is as important as the entertainment and initial fears about elitist film fans and the associated snobbery were instantly dispelled. Dudley director James Whale’s film was playing to his home crowd here and the laughter was firmly with fondness. Una O’Connor’s Minnie got the biggest laughs with her ‘cock-er-ney’ delivery and amped-up outrage whilst Karloff necking wine and chomping on a cigar came close to drawing a “cheers” from the crowd. The Bride… has aged remarkably well in its eighty-something years, most notably in the reveal of Doctor Pretorius’ mini-human experiments, a special effect that is truly worthy of the name and shames countless recent CGI efforts from, oh, I don’t know, let’s just say Zack Snyder.


It was when Henry Frankenstein and Doctor Pretorius relocated to the tower laboratory that it was not only The Bride herself that came alive. The panoramic ruins of the castle provided a perfect backdrop to the film’s climax which, thanks to Michael Pigott, Mark Rhodes and David Checkley, felt more immersive than any IMAX. Their innovative approach to individual projections saw bolts of lightning illuminate the screen, only to then repeat around the ruins that surrounded the crowd, signalling the arrival of The Bride.


The atmosphere upon leaving the castle was how the aftermath of every film should feel: brimming with excitement, alive with camaraderie and wondering when you can experience it all again. Perhaps these are out-dated and naïve notions but to put it into context, on the way out, no one even noticed there was a lure module active on the Pokestop.


Flatpack Film Takeover at Sandwell Arts Festival takes place at West Bromich Town Hall on 13th August with further details here: http://flatpackfestival.org.uk/event/flatpack-film-takeover


Robb Sheppard




Main photo is copyright of Katja Ogrin



By midlandsmovies, Aug 3 2016 04:49PM

Midlands Feature - Interview with Tom Loone of Do Something Jake


Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Tom Loone, the 22-year old actor who features in the upcoming Midlands film Do Something Jake, about his background and his involvement in this exciting new local project.




Midlands Movies Mike: Hi Tom. I hope you are well. How are things and can you tell us about yourself and how you heard about Do Something, Jake.

Tom Loone: Hi there. Yes, I’d be happy to. I’m Tom Noone and I'm 22 years old and actually still at university at the moment and going into my final year studying Law of all things. I think that surprises people when I tell them, they all assume I'd be studying drama.


MM: Ha ha. Very true. So you are from the Midlands yourself?

TL: Yes, I am a native of the Midlands. I live in Solihull, which is cool because it's so close to Birmingham city centre - I feel like I'm slap bang in the middle of everywhere, which I like a lot.


MM: So true. The Midlands is definitely in the middle of a lot of exciting things I can attest to that! So, how did you hear about ‘Do Something, Jake’?

TL: I heard about it on Casting Call Pro and the premise sounded crazy. I looked up the 'Raya Films' website and knew it was the real deal, so naturally I applied. I didn't hear back for a while so I kinda assumed nothing would come of it - that happens a lot as an actor. Then Caroline messaged me about an audition and I was over the moon. I remember I called my dad and told him.



MM: And where did it go from there?

TL: When I turned up to the second audition I read with Mia, Simon - Jamie was there too. They were so on the ball, line perfect, had tonnes of ideas, we just clicked, had great chemistry instantly. I guess that's when I realised the kind of calibre of actor that'd be involved with the project. Everyone was incredible, cast and crew. I loved working with Ed [Bergtold] too, a really gifted guy. It was so interesting to work with an American actor. He'd say a line in a certain way or do something that I just never would have thought of - I learnt a lot from him.


MM: And were the crew a similar bunch?

TL: They were outstanding - some of the shots these guys captured will blow people's minds. One tracking shot in particular, no spoilers, but it's breathtaking, next level stuff. Caroline and James deserve a lot of credit too - they were really hands on performance-wise, which I love. Without them, none of this would be a reality - it's all down to them, very talented folks. Everyone was a joy to work with, and in that regard the shoot was easy. As an actor I'd never had a challenge as big as this though. After every filming day I'd email James asking if I'd done okay, I think I drove him crazy!


MM: Sounds like a great set atmosphere. Was it?

TL: The cool thing about filming 'Do Something, Jake' is that there weren't any typical days, anything could happen. I'd wake up super early, like 5am, get ready and head to the location. I could never predict what it'd be like - everyday there'd be something crazy happening, but that excited me. Very often I'd have an idea in my head about how something would play out, but then I'd talk it over with the guys, experiment with the other actors, and it'd turn out ten times better, it was a very fun shoot.


MM: Have you worked in the industry long?

TL: Not long at all actually. I'd say about a year and a half. Last year I made the decision that I wanted to get into it. I was just watching so many great films and felt so inspired - I guess I just thought to myself 'I want to do what they do'. I've acted on and off all my life, mostly doing theatre in school. I'd pretty much decided it wasn't something I wanted to do anymore in my teens and shelved it. I feel like I only started properly acting last year when I got into film.


MM: Was the leap difficult for you?

TL: I think film acting is a whole different ball game. I basically started from scratch and taught myself how to do it. I did a short called 'The Forsaken' with 'MegaPixels Productions', that changed everything for me - that's when I got addicted.

MM: Do you like to specialise in any styles of work?

TL: I love all genres. Any opportunity to act in film is exciting for me, regardless of what type it is. That's something that was so cool about 'Do Something, Jake', it's such a mish-mash of ideas, there's comedy in there, drama, thriller, romance, a bit of everything.


MM: And any particular favourite films?

TL: I tend to gravitate more towards smaller, character based stuff, movies that are original, charismatic. I love the film 'Her', 'Drive', and I can't wait to see 'The Light Between Oceans' later this year and 'Nocturnal Animals'. But I love big popcorn flicks too - all these super hero films are great! I have too many favourite actors to mention, but I guess I have my select few ('The Power Four'): Joaquín Phoenix, Michael Fassbender, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Gosling. If I can be a fraction as talented as they are, I'll be happy - they are my heroes.


MM: Acting can be a tough industry. Are there any hurdles you’ve overcome? Anything you’re particularly proud of?

TL; I think the biggest hurdle I've had is being comfortable with myself, feeling natural, reigning everything in and making things subtle. Film picks up everything. When I first started out I'd watch my short films back and think 'wow, I'm really over the top here, I need to dial it back'. Achievements? That's a tricky one, I like to think the best is yet to come. I guess if I had to pick one thing, it'd be being named 'Actor Of The Week' on Casting Call Pro in May this year - I was really proud of that.


MM: Thanks Tom. What are your next plans?

TL: I can't wait to see 'Do Something, Jake', I really do think we've made something special here - everyone's been so dedicated and hardworking. I know Caroline and James have been slaving away in post-production too, it's really going to catch a lot of people off guard. It's such a fun time. In terms of future projects, I filmed a short film with a team called 'Medusa Digital' earlier in the year called 'Fate'. I'm really proud of it, and it'll be out later this year, and I'm also involved with a new adaptation of 'Wuthering Heights' and a short film called 'Chloe' by Rebecca Harris-Smith. I'm lucky to get to work with such cool people.


MM: Finally, I ask this of everyone - do you have any advice for people looking to start out in the industry (as an actor)?

TL: I'm not sure if I'm qualified to give out advice, but I guess I think If I could offer one tip to actors, it'd be to be yourself. Ironically. Nobody on the planet can do what you do. Embrace that and run with it, then I think only good things can happen.


MM: Thanks Tom. It’s been an absolute blast talking to you and all the best with the film.

TL: Thank you too. It's been a pleasure.


You can find out more about ‘Do Something, Jake” at Raya Films http://www.rayafilms.com


Top and bottom photos courtesy of James Smith. Middle photo by Mike Mafrici




By midlandsmovies, Aug 1 2016 06:16PM

Golden age Hollywood films come to the UK for the first time


Midlands fans of classic movies are in for a treat this month as six films from a bygone era are released from the Universal Pictures/Hollywood Classics stable.


Starring a wealth of screen legends including Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds and Spencer Tracy, the films come to DVD for the very first time in the UK and are due for release on 8th August 2016.





From comedy, drama, action, romance and musicals, each movie is a forgotten gem from the period with a long-lasting legacy which also mix big name celebrities and solid support in overlooked motion pictures.


First up, The Purple Mask (1955) is set in Napoleonic France with Some Like It Hot’s Tony Curtis roped into a kidnap plot in a rollicking tale that also feature’s Britain’s own Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote).


Sign of the Pagan (1954) stars swaggering Jack Palace (of 1991’s City Slickers https://t.co/oPYt6iWsgK ) as Attila the Hun who meets his match in Jeff Chandler who plays a Roman Centurion. Betrayals abound as they fall in love with the same woman in this historical epic – the kind of which influenced 2016’s Hail! Caesar from the Coens.


Next, the young Russian composer Rimsky‐Korsakov is the subject of 1947’s Song of Scheherazade as he falls for an exotic Spanish dancer which inspires his greatest work. Fact and fiction combine in this romantic drama which also stars Hollywood icon Yvonne De Carlo – also seen in The Ten Commandments.


Film legend George Scott stars in the elementary They Might be Giants (1971) as a widowed judge who loses his wife and his grip on reality to believe he is in fact Sherlock Holmes. This romantic mystery is directed by Anthony Harvey (editor on Dr. Strangelove) and stars Joanne Woodward as a psychiatrist who becomes Scott’s very own Dr. Watson.


Screen starlet Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain) stars as a woman juggling the attentions of two men in This Happy Feeling (1958) as her boss and an up-and-coming actor attempt to woo her. John Saxon (seen also in The Godfather) won a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer for his performance as the younger suitor.


And finally, Howard Hughes-produced Sky Devils (1932) is a comedy caper showcasing Spencer Tracy as a workshy airman who, along with his sidekick, attempts to dodge strict sergeants and distracting damsels as they become accidental war heroes.


You can grab these DVDs from http://www.simplyhe.com and Midlands Movies will also be soon offering one lucky reader a chance to win all the films on DVD courtesy of Simply Media.


In a special Hollywood classic competition we will be launching later in the month, the prize winner will get to enjoy each of these timeless movies as a definitive collection of rediscovered masterpieces.


Watch this space!


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jul 28 2016 02:45PM

Judgement Year - A retrospective look at 1991 cinema


25 years. 25 YEARS? How did Terminator 2, one of my favourite films of all time, hit the cinema 25 years ago? Wow. As time goes by, my cinematic knowledge seems to have had an awakening in 1991, the year of its release, and much like Marty McFly and 1955, the year now has a particular significance for me.


The year 1991 involved some important events but oh how we’ve moved on since a war waged in Iraq, the European Market and closer political union were heated public debates, a Star Trek sequel was released and The Simpsons was on TV – wait, what?




Joking aside and back to film, that year gave me 2 of my top 5 movies ever – more on that later – plus a host of blockbusters, dramas and some great comedy and was a superb cinematic period that I haven’t forgotten easily.


So where do we start? Well, 2016 has been accused of being an unimaginative year of franchises, sequels and named-brand features that show the stagnation of the current film industry. The emphasis has been on Hollywood ‘product’ rather than independent originality. But was 1991 that much different?


A quick look shows that there were a glut of sequels in the summer schedule. Problem Child 2, Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze, Terminator 2, F/X 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion (still one of the great sequel titles), Never Ending Story 2, Naked Gun 2 ½, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Child’s Play 3, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West and Star Trek VI. And were these any good? Mostly no. Outside Terminator and Naked Gun they were mostly terrible cash-grabs which peaked with Return to the Blue Lagoon, starring Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause and the much maligned Highlander II: The Quickening. Hardly an original slate for the production companies at the time.


It wasn’t all doom and gloom however and the Academy Awards reflected that. For the first time since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest there was a clean sweep by one film in the “Big 5” categories. 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs received Oscars for Best Film, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Screenplay (Ted Tally).





In the year of real-life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, the film’s combination of frights, horror and drama fed the appetite of the cinema-going public along with a fantastically “hammy” Hopkins who created one of the most iconic characters in movie history. Foster had a great year and went on to release her own film Little Man Tate as well. With a box office of $272 million, it’s hard to imagine nowadays that a non-biopic drama could be so successful and it’s 2016’s loss that such fare gets far less attention nowadays.


More horrors were served up to audiences in ’91 with Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs and Martin Scorsese’s remake (yes, they were doing the same back then too) Cape Fear. De Niro gave a comparable hammy horror turn as Max Cady, the obsessed criminal stalker of Nick Nolte’s family

Remembering back, with my 11 year old self just a few years away from developing a deep love of gangster rap music, a number of significant black voices in cinema made their presence known during this year too. Jungle Fever from Spike Lee showcased Wesley Snipes whilst New Jack City directed by Mario Van Peebles also included Snipes and rapper turned actor Ice T. Sticking with hip-hop, Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton) used Ice Cube and future Oscar winner Cuba “Show Me the Money” Gooding, Jr. Another “Ice” rapper also came to prominence in 1991 as Vanilla Ice starred in his own film Cool As Ice. Which was awful in every way possible. He also did the main theme to Turtles 2 – another pile of steaming sewage.


Comedy wise, it was a great year for funnies. The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear was released by Paramount with Leslie Nielsen reprising his role. It also starred O. J. Simpson. *resists comparison to Buffalo Bill*


Another spoof released was Hot Shots! starring Charlie Sheen (the 9th biggest film of 1991!) and the laughs continued with Rik Mayall’s quirky Drop Dead Fred, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and Michael J. Fox in Doc Hollywood – a film which has the same story as Pixar’s Cars. Seriously, go check it out. Fox also showed up in the comedy The Hard Way to annoy James Woods’ gritty cop whilst another buddy action-thriller The Last Boy Scout also got released. Written by Shane Black, the same formula of witty one-liners in a noir Los Angeles still appears today in his latest release The Nice Guys (2016).


The most successful comedy in terms of numbers was Barry Sonnenfeld’s “reboot” of creepy and kooky TV series The Addams Family. Pulling in big names Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá and Christopher Lloyd and the young scene-stealing Christina Ricci as Wednesday, the film was a huge success. Itself leading to more sequels and spin offs. Not as successful but also one of the most well-known comedies from the year was Western farce City Slickers with Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby and Jack Palance. Palance won a best supporting actor Oscar which was a Sean Connery-style aging-actor sympathy award if there ever was one.


Sappy but loveable Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin got a release as did Martin’s L.A. Story in which he also penned the screenplay for. Sadly a forgotten gem, this tale of love in the city of angels is a little seen quaint movie and well worth seeking out if you haven’t caught it late night on ITV or somesuch. Together, four comedy films brought in almost a billion dollars (you could argue Hook should be included too) and this was in 1991. Quite amazing given the highest grossing films we see in today’s box office list.


Moving away from comedy, action fans had Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break with dirty dancer Patrick Swayze and a post-Bill & Ted Keanu Reeves beginning to show his action chops we’d eventually see more of in The Matrix, Speed and John Wick. The video game Streetfighter 2 also came out in 1991 and it would be a few years before a movie-adaptation would be made but the star of that future film Jean Claude Van Damme appeared in Double Impact. In that film audiences got double the Van-Damage as the first of many outings for JCVD where he fought himself as brother, twin or time-traveller. During the same summer, fellow future action b-lister Steven Seagal starred in his usual low-brow-no-brains schlock Out for Justice.



Was The Rock one of the first wrestlers turned actors? No way! 1991 saw Hulk Hogan starring in Suburban Commando, a film so bad it resulted in only 1993’s Mr. Nanny and not much else for the macho moustachioed man. A weird sub-genre that has also seen Schwarzenegger’s Kindergarten Cop and The Rock’s Tooth Fairy as men taking the unlikely role of children carers but that’s for another article. Feature failure Hudson Hawk (now having a somewhat retro cult status) showed that Planet Hollywood owner Bruce Willis wasn’t infallible either after his two Die Hard successes.


Ron Howard’s Backdraft threw together a group of stars including Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland and Robert De Niro in an action-drama about firefighters – worth checking out for the pre-CGI fire effects alone. And mixing retro-steampunk style with a good old battle against the Nazis, Disney’s The Rocketeer showed how director Joe Johnston could balance 1930s America and a superhero. This led to him taking on directorial duties for Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger many years later.


More serious fare came in the form of Alan Parker’s The Commitments about an Irish band, Palme d'Or Winner at the Cannes Film Festival Barton Fink, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and My Own Private Idaho from Gus Van Sant. Well renowned French film Delicatessen, directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet hit cinemas and David Cronenberg took Peter “Robocop” Weller on a surreal semi-biographical journey in his adaptation of William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch.


Admirable but ultimately forgettable movies from the period include Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer in Frankie and Johnny and post-Home Alone and pre-off-the-rails child star Macaulay Culkin in My Girl. Warren Beatty in Bugsy and Sylvester Stallone in Oscar were so flawed that their comparable archaic gangster stories merge into one equal recollection of two horrible messes. Finally, Thelma & Louise by Ridley Scott showcased a new feminist take on the American dream and Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King won an Oscar for Mercedes Ruehl as Best Supporting Actress. Ruehl all but disappeared from acting sadly making only a handful of films over the next 25 years.


But what of the biggies? The ones I’ve given special place in my soul? Firstly, coming back to the film that kicked this article off, is Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It made half a billion dollars (again, remember this is 1991) as it brought its original stars back for a sequel that twists the original’s formula and adds ground-breaking visuals. This early use of CGI saw Robert Patrick’s shape-shifting liquid terminator fight Arnie in a film that combines a clever sci-fi narrative with Caemron’s aesthetic flair in a film that is widely considered one of the best, if not THE best, sequel of all time. Probably Arnie’s finest hour (only the first Terminator and Predator coming close) and no doubt the best (and certainly the last great) Terminator film before the franchise spun off into a cornucopia of sub-par sequels by filmmakers who didn’t know where to take the idea.



Alongside Terminator 2 as one of my favourite films of all time is Oliver Stone’s JFK. The historical drama is not often cited as a lot of critics’ best films ever lists but its 3-hour run time allows Stone to indulge in every conspiracy theory around the President's assassination whilst poking a wagging finger at the US government.


The courtroom scene making up the final third of the movie allows Costner (never better) to rattle through absurd theories of who could have been involved and Stone’s use of different film stocks, black and white footage and flashbacks upon flashbacks created a whirlwind of ideas that confuse even the most logical of viewers.


Stone’s script is 90% talking in rooms but helping him along with his “essay” is a cast of amazing actors including Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Donald Sutherland, John Candy and Joe Pesci who bring to life the heavy dialogue. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and won two for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing (rightly so) but Oliver Stone was honoured with a Best Director accolade at the Golden Globes.




Unbelievably, Stone had a second film released the same year as Val Kilmer took on Jim Morrison in the music biography feature, The Doors. Containing all the drug references you would expect, The Doors was overshadowed by JFK but the fact Stone had a second film in him was nothing less than remarkable.


And speaking of Costner, he too had another film released in 1991. Financially only beaten by T2, his badly-accented role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was mostly glossed over as fans flocked to the cinema for Alan Rickman’s OTT Sheriff of Nottingham. Along with Die Hard (and later Harry Potter), Rickman has a knack for dark and memorable villains and most will also not be able to forget the maudlin ballad by Bryan Adams that accompanied the film. In the UK the song stayed at number one for 16 weeks (3 months!) consecutively. Rightly so, it eventually got on everyone’s tits but it didn’t take away from the fun family adventure romp the film was.




As we come to the end of this look back, 1991 not only stands out as a great year for films of the past, there’s a strange set of parallels with the current landscape in cinema today too. A Star Trek sequel was released (The Undiscovered Country) whilst 2016 saw Star Trek Beyond hit our screens. Back in ’91, the creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry sadly died aged 70, yet in the same year future Trek helmer JJ Abrams gained a screenwriting credit for Regarding Henry starring Harrison Ford. Abrams himself would then go on to direct Ford in Star Wars: Episode VII of all things.




In winter, Steven Spielberg took on a well-known child’s literary character in Hook which speculated on what a grown-up Peter Pan would be like. 25 years later, the family friendly Spielberg has just released his adaptation of Roald Dahls’ The BFG to a round of (improved) acclaim. Staying with children’s films, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast became one of the most prestigious films of all time when it was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Although it failed to win, it took home two other Oscars home for Best Score and Best Song. Alongside Terminator 2, Disney began to dip into CGI for the ballroom scene, leaving a legacy that spun off into Pixar as well as connecting it to next year’s live action remake of the film starring Emma Watson.




So what a year! For me personally, at age eleven then and thirty-six now, 1991 is one of the quintessential and most important periods in my movie memory. It was an eye opening 12 months of film and was probably the first time I saw movies as a creative art form rather than some sort of child’s entertainment. The legacies spawned from the movies of 1991 have become a tale as old as time and have ingrained themselves into every aspect of my conscious. And I will treasure that forever.


And what if you don’t agree with that?


Oh well, whatever, nevermind.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 28 2016 07:09AM

Guest writer John Montana tackles the difficult subject of writing under pressure


Always Be Writing


Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writers slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great film.


Now…you might get angry with me for saying this, or you will probably vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Of course it can be a dream that this happens, but most likely the story in some form has already been told before. Don’t sweat it!!!


Really, I’m not kidding with you. Don’t let it prevent you from writing. Just write… let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just write! You can worry about judging it after you are finished.


When you are done you can go in and create a story that will inspire you to make a film of it. Think of it this way… A sculptor starts with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film.


So what I am trying say here, as succinctly as I can is don’t be obsessed with telling an original story or have an idea that nobody has thought of before. Because ninety nine times out of one hundred… its been done before.


I make short films. I enjoy shooting them and making them. But I am not under any illusion that these short films will make my career. I have 2 full feature scripts waiting to be done. I am using my shorts films to open doors and to gain experience on the set. Period! Some short films will never make money or be commercial. They are only a means to an end. But don't let that stop you.


A short film could be a “means to an end”… if only to get someone to ask you this: "Do you have any feature scripts that I can read?" To generate interest in you and what you have written. So here is a saying that I have come across many times..."ALWAYS BE WRITING".


Here is another way to look at this: Treat your writing, or other creative work with the same kind of respect you have for your family doctor or dentist. Doctors, dentists... these people have studied hard for years and treated their work with respect and care. So should you.


If you treat your writing with disdain and laziness, or as a lah-dee-dah creative artist that will get to it "when inspiration strikes", then shame on you. Because all you are doing is confirming to society that artists are all flaky and emotionally high-strung...and that we are ultimately disposable as paper in an outhouse. And to quote a line from Bruce Willis in Robert Rodriguez’s “SIN CITY”…” There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong, and then there’s this”.


And I don’t say this to be flippant, its just that artists are treated so badly, I want to stop this the best way I can.


Exercise: For the next three weeks, set your alarm clock early in the morning and spend ONLY 15 minutes each day writing. Something...Anything...Just write! Don't look at it and judge it as being either good or bad. That is not the exercise. The exercise is to try and create a HABIT of writing. Like you go to your job. It is an attempt on your part to train your body and mind for just 15 minutes each day to take your writing seriously and just write. And for those of you with the excuse "I don't have time"... then here is another saying that I really love. TIME IS MADE, NOT FOUND! - You make the time by prioritizing it and writing. Simple as that!


So always be writing...


Guest writer John Montana is an actor living in the US and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.


John can be contacted at johnericmontana@gmail.com

By midlandsmovies, May 16 2016 11:37AM

After a brilliant trip to the Italian cities of Pisa, Venice and Florence in 2013 (click link) I was itching to get back to the land of perfect pizza with a trip to their capital city of Rome.


For a full album of photos to accompany this blog please click here


Leaving on my birthday May 3rd, the city itself has a rich history of cinema – both as a location, a studio system and a place to film a wide variety of movies throughout history. With my walking boots on (a mere 15km was tracked on a running app on just my first day) I was looking forward to exploring the beautiful city streets without too much planning but also not missing the major sights.


It is with these tourist sites that I will begin with. A city of immense faith and religion, the focal point is the Vatican (technically its own separate state) and has appeared in numerous films over the years. It is destroyed in the cataclysmic 2012 and that CGI model was “borrowed” by Ron Howard and the makers of Angels and Demons. Adapted from the Dan Brown novel – it’s a literary prequel but they made it a sequel for the film – Angels and Demons follows symbologist Robert Langdon (a strangely coiffed Tom Hanks) investigating the secret Illuminati sect. Whilst speaking of St. Peter’s Basilica, it shows up in Mission: Impossible III – another “chase” film where the team successfully infiltrates Vatican City to capture a villain.


A pulp piece of nonsense, the novel has its word-play charms for a holiday read but the film wisely ditches The Da Vinci Code’s literal adaptation and puts Hanks in an on-the-run adventure more akin to the National Treasure movies. Criss-crossing Rome, the death of the Pope sees a number of cardinals kidnapped and tortured throughout the city with Hanks and company using codes to track down their mysterious disappearance as a dark-matter bomb ticks down. Yes, that serious. I therefore tried to find at least some of the monuments for the "Path of Illumination," which are marked by statues of angels in locations relevant to the four elements.


The first cardinal (“Earth”) is held at the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo which was part of a lovely piazza in the north east of the city whilst the second location of Saint Peter's Square was truly one of the great views of Europe to behold. This cardinal represented “air” and I found one of the markers on the floor near one of the city’s many obelisks. For “fire”, Langdon ends up at Santa Maria della Vittoria where I found the statue of ‘The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa’which depicts an angel with a burning spear before the final cardinal is saved at Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. The fountain also appears in The Talented Mr. Ripley.


Each church was an amazing building with ancient architecture, art and history and are enjoyable even for the atheist holidaymaker like myself. The Illuminati's lair turns out to Castel Sant'Angelo (a towerin cylindrical building commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and later used by popes as a fortress) and the movie ends in and around the Vatican as the real villain is uncovered.


Rome is a city of wonderful old buildings, streets and many (many) staircases. There’s also lots of fountains of which a tour guide said were all drinkable (I didn’t try) and none is more famous than The Trevi Fountain – seen in Fellini’s iconic La Dolce Vita. There cannot be a film fan alive who doesn’t know Anita Ekberg’s frolics in the fountain and after a recent restoration the huge structure looked great during the day and even better at night.


With only 4 full days, I attempted to get to as many places as I could but I wanted to savour one of the things I’ve been wanting to experience for years. Since I can remember I’ve dreamed of seeing Rome’s Colosseum in the afternoon sun. Maybe a cliché but the ancient building (seen reconstructed in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator) has been of interest since my school days and when I finally saw it I was not disappointed. Its looming presence over Rome’s historic area (the Forum is close by) was a joy both outside and inside. The building’s current state, where the floor has been excavated to show underground cells below, is seen in the 2008 film Jumper. A guilty pleasure of mine, Jumper sees Hayden Christensen (remember him?) using superpowers to teleport around the world and a particular action scene has him fighting alongside Jamie Bell in the ancient ruins.


Also filmed at the Colosseum was Bruce Lee’s The Way of the Dragon, the 1972 Hong Kong martial arts action film where the climax is held at the location in a fight against b-movie legend Chuck Norris.


Parts of Rome are also seen in the truly awful (watched once, never again) Ocean's Twelve and returning to The Talented Mr. Ripley, The ‘Vesuvio’ nightclub, supposedly in Naples is actually the Caffè Latino in Rome. Confusingly, the ‘Rome’ opera house, where Ripley poses as Dickie, is the Teatro San Carlo in Naples!


When Ripley returns after Dickie’s murder he surveys the ruins of the Forum from Capitoline Hill. From here you can view the monumental sculptures of the Capitoline Museum and Piazza del Campidoglio. Ripley then stays in an apartment which was filmed in the 14th century Palazzo Taverna on Via di Monte and the terrace café he meets friends is Cafe Dinelli at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Unfortunately for me the Spanish Steps were closed for refurbishment but this was the only restoration work at the main attractions and gave me a good excuse, if I even needed it, to return again in the future.


Also of note, the most unlikely of films can use Rome for its historic look as well. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure uses the Greek-inspired architecture to create the ‘Athens’ of 410BC which is mostly the white marble Victor Emmanuel II Monument (Il Vittoriano), on Piazza Venetia.


More recently, James Bond visits the city in Spectre (2015) where he is chased by henchman, Mr. Hinx. Their car chase around the narrow alleys of Rome was of particular relevance when I had to constantly move out of the way of vehicles driving down cobbled walkways. What I thought were tiny protected pedestrianized alleys, only just wide enough for a small group of walking tourists, were actually busy thoroughfares. I didn’t just have to I step out of the way for scooters and Smart cars, but large lorries and vans actually made their way through smaller and smaller roads, giving you a beep if you failed to spot them. Bond’s car chase continues down the Tiber River – a beautiful city waterway (“waterway to have a good time”) that snakes through the centre.


Obviously no trip to Rome could not mention the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday. Gregory Peck plays a reporter and Audrey Hepburn a royal princess out to see Rome by herself. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as did the screenplay (written by a then-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo). Shot at the Cinecittà studios and on location around Rome it features the Spanish Steps, the 19th century Palazzo Brancaccio and that infamous ending was filmed in the Sala Grande Galleria in the Palazzo Colonna. One of the film’s most unforgettable locations must be the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verita) which can be found in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Piazza Bocca della Verita.


1966 Spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was a truly international effort with co-production split between companies in Italy, Spain, West Germany, and the United States. The filming began at the Cinecittà studio in Rome including the opening scene between Eastwood and Wallach but the production soon moved on to Spain which doubled for the south-western United States,.


Other films from the city? Strangely, Super Fly T.N.T. (1973), a blaxploitation flick directed, starring, and co-written by Ron O'Neal was shot in Rome whilst “Conan” spin-off Red Sonja (1985) was shot on location in Celano, the Abruzzo region and in the Stabilimenti Cinematografici Pontini studios nearby to Rome. In order to create the mid 19th Century sets that Scorsese envisioned for Gangs of New York, that production was filmed at the large Cinecittà Studio and designer Dante Ferretti recreated over a mile of historic New York buildings.


In Guy Ritchie’s 2015 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. various locations throughout Italy were used including Kuryakin and Teller's first outing as a couple which was shot below the Spanish Steps as well as at the Grand Hotel Plaza, in Via del Corso and in the gardens of ancient Theater of Marcellus.


Finally Chevy Chase’s Griswald family also take a trip to Rome in 80s comedy National Lampoon's European Vacation. Watch their Italian clothes shopping trip here which ends with Rusty Griswald (a euphemism to look up on Urban Dictionary if there ever was one) exiting the store looking like a cross between Shakespeare’s Benvolio and a renaissance version of Rufus from Bill and Ted.


An absolute marvel of a city, there have been hundreds more films, both from Hollywood and Italian productions filmed in the city and nearby locations. From the horror of Argento to the obvious Roman epics the city has an attraction like no other. Despite its romantic inspirations, Rome has lent itself to Westerns, blaxploitation, martial arts, comedy, action and much more in a history steeped in passion and pizzazz. Oh, and pizza.


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