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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

By midlandsmovies, Apr 9 2014 05:01PM

Trunk doesn’t flunk as comedy thriller is a killer


On a sunny Sunday in February I headed down to the Crumblin’ Cookie on Leicester’s High Street to witness one of two screenings that made up the world premiere of new comedy film “Trunk’d” by US film-maker Jake Hull. In the cafe bar’s intimate downstairs function room, this was to be a new event for Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival in England which was celebrating its 25th anniversary and is known for helping to further the careers of Russell Brand, Jimmy Carr and Harry Hill but today however was to be the first time Nebraskan born and bred Jake Hull would be showing his movie.


Before the film, Jake explained that “we wanted to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and although we are showing it at a theatre back home in March, we came to the comedy festival to be the first to show a film at what is usually a showcase for stand-up comics and groups”.


Only the second feature written by Hull, Trunk’d tells the dark comedic story of a group of young men who take a road trip from Nebraska to Texas to dump the body of a dead prostitute found in the bed of the groom post-bachelor party. The film is a flashback that is framed using a psychiatrist asking the protagonists their views of the events that unfolded and we begin by joining the gang in a hangover haze sans eyebrows with the body of a hooker proving to be a rather large problem to resolve.


The group is made up of the groom Adam (played by Chicago native Kevin Zaideman, from TV series “One Fine Day” and Nazi zombie-horror “A Chance In Hell”) Mike Leamen as his cousin Rob and comedian Austin Anderson as Jesse, whose Weekend at Bernie-esque body-moving comedy introduction soon descends into much darker territory but all done with a wry and sly smile.


The road trip then commences as we follow the troublesome trio cross-country soundtracked by local Irish-punk music reminiscent of The Departed and with the movie filmed in and around their hometown state of Nebraska, the picture’s hometown roots shine through with immaculate photography for an independent film on a budget. Special thanks should therefore go to Director of Photography Rhett McClure who used the RED ONE digital cinema camera to capture the American iconography throughout including the long highways, motels, strip malls and a variety of vehicles during their journey.


As they plan to dump the body, the group cross paths with a variety of strange characters including Shang Forbes (as Joe the Pimp) who brings a wise cracking energy and his “dead hooker business” speech has echoes of Quentin Tarantino’s cameo in Pulp Fiction. Also worthy of note is veteran Eddie Pepitone whose experience on US shows including Weeds and Two Broke Girls ensures his role as Randy the mayor and father of the bride-to-be is a natural highlight that compliments the hijinx of the gross-out comedy of the younger actors.


Finally they pick up Adam’s brother Paul, played by Dan Cummins who uses his brilliant stand up comedy chops to play an introverted live-at-home Jewish convert (yes, really) and is the regular scapegoat to the shenanigans that happen to the gang throughout. Cummins, who has appeared multiple times on “The Tonight Show” and other Comedy Central specials, gets some of the best lines despite playing it deadpan to the more misbehaving antics of the others.


Continuing on their way to Texas, the comedy is dark, sometimes pitch black, but for all the morally dubious action is a sly wickedness that revels in its own absurdity and this seedy and gloomy content contrasts with the natural beauty of the Nebraskan state. The tone and story is reminiscent of other “bad bachelor” films like Very Bad Things (1998) or Stag (1997). The minimalist score also gives the right sense of dread as the comedy pulls back to allow dramatic and tension filled scenes come to the forefront of the plot, before moving closer to horror – especially with a back-water barn sequence – but the funnies don’t stay away for long as lines like “Jews don’t believe in hookers” bring the audience back with a gruesome grin.


The drinking and games played out by the now fearsome foursome direct the group together and it’s Austin Anderson who is the unsung talent with a vibe and vocal styling of an angry young Jason Lee and if we are comparing careers then we all know how Kevin Smith and co started with a low budget buddy comedy and went on to bigger blockbusters.


In summary, Jake and his cast and crew have set the wheels in motion on his own trip and if there’s any justice in the world then Trunk’d will have its own successful journey across the independent movie world with this floozy finding farcical and funny film getting the attention it very much deserves.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Feb 9 2014 10:31AM

• SHORT CINEMA CLUB (quarterly showcases) http://phoenix.org.uk More info from Karen at Leicester's Criterion Public House https://twitter.com/criterionkaz

• WORCESTERSHIRE FILM FESTIVAL www.worcestershirefilmfestival.co.uk 13-16th November 2014 - Contact Lawrence Donello‏ on Twitter @Razorpost

• LEICESTER DOCFILM FEST http://www.citizenseye.org 5th Docfilm Festival 1st-30th Nov 2014 Contact John Coster

• BORDERLINES FEST http://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk UK's largest rural film festival 28th Feb – 16th March 2014 in Herefordshire/Shropshire.

• BANG SHORT FILM FEST http://www.bangshortfilmfestival.com 2014 Dates TBC Contact - https://twitter.com/bangsff

• BIFF FEST (Black International Film Fest) http://www.vtelevision.co.uk/biff/ 1st November 2014 Birmingham

• FILM NORTHANTS http://www.filmnorthants.co.uk 2014 TBC Contact filmnorthants@yahoo.co.uk or info@filmnorthants.co.uk

• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL http://www.shockandgore.co.uk The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, July 2014 Contact david@theelectric.co.uk or https://twitter.com/shockgore

• DEAFFEST http://www.deaffest.co.uk The UK's International Deaf Film & Arts Festival Wolverhampton. Contact info@light-house.co.uk 16th – 18th May 2014

• STOKE YOUR FIRES FILM FESTIVAL http://www.stokeyourfires.co.uk Stoke on Trent 7th – 11th March 2014 Contact http://twitter.com/stokeyourfires

• SHOUT FESTIVAL http://shoutfestival.co.uk Fri 25 - Sun 27 Apr 2014

• ID FEST http://www.idfest.co.uk May 2014 Contact info@derbyquad.co.uk or https://twitter.com/ID_Fest

• FANTASTIQ Fantasy and Horror Fest at Quad in Derby (Part of larger Derby Film Fest Derby Film Festival May 9th – May 18th 2014

• MAYHEM HORROR Film Fest - Halloween. 31 October to 3 November 2014 Contact Broadway cinema in Nottingham http://www.broadway.org.uk/groups/mayhem_film_festival

• FLATPACK FEST - 20-30 March 2014 across Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk


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

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

http://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.co.uk


Older festivals that may/may not run a festival in 2014 below:

http://www.facebook.com/Rootstoshootsfilm

https://twitter.com/flipfestival


By midlandsmovies, Jan 8 2014 04:31PM

After another fantastic year at Midlands Movies I treated myself to a little jaunt across the Atlantic to see some old friends in the city that never sleeps, New York. With its esteemed history of movie locations I wanted to visit some of my favourite movie settings in the city so over 7 days, headed around the city (mainly by foot by sometimes by subway as the 2013/14 “polar vortex” headed in) and if you ever visit on vacation I can highly recommend the below places for any cinema connoisseur.


As mentioned, I often used my Metro card to travel on the city’s subway which criss-crosses all five boroughs and is an easy and safe way to get around. However, the movies have previously portrayed this transit system as a place of gang warfare or crazy loners as seen in 1979’s cult classic The Warriors, 1990’s Ghost (“Get off my traaaaiiin!”) or even in Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video. One of the stops is the city’s main hub at Grand Central Terminal, a huge building and the 6th most visited place in the world (!) which has been seen in Cloverfield (2008) as well as a great scene with disappearing people in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). More recently a large part of the finale of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (2012) is set on the raised part of the road nearby there.


Just a few blocks south is the art deco classic and iconic image of New York, the Empire State Building, which is most famously climbed by King Kong in the 1933 black and white film as well as again in Peter Jackson’s recent remake. Further down past Broadway is another infamous building in the slim-line facade of the Flat Iron Building. This plays the offices of the Daily Bugle in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man movie.


Slightly off the track on the East of Manhattan I wandered down towards the University area where I headed to Washington Square (seen briefly with a monstrous apparition in 80s actionner Ghostbusters) before taking a short walk to a street of shops where I found The Little Lebowski Shop (215 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012 http://www.littlelebowskishop.com) which is the world’s only dedicated “dude” store.


Continuing around the East Village area I stumbled across Tompkins Square – the location where John McLane and Zeus (Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson) have to play a game for the villainous Jeremy Irons “Simon Says” with a couple of water jugs in the third Die hard movie. The park also hosts regular outdoor movie screenings every summer so if you go during the summer months you may be able to catch a film or two!


Slightly further south is Katz’s delicatessen (www.katzsdelicatessen.com) which has been established since 1888 and maintains its tradition of quality food but is beloved for film fans for its “orgasm” booth where Meg Ryan fakes her pleasure across the restaurant table to Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989) – “I’ll have what she’s having”.


Another food related place is Joe’s Pizza where Peter Parker is (briefly) employed in Spider-Man 2 (2004) and although I didn’t pop in, the food smelt and looked great and the queue from the shop to outside seemed to suggest the same. Later on in the vacation, my friend who I was visiting worked at a restaurant uptown and to get there we came out of the 72nd Street subway station which also appeared in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) as the place Simon gives our two protagonists a verbal riddle by phone as well as again appearing in The Warriors (1979).


Although I had been to New York 3 times before and had sampled the main attractions the city had to offer, one place had always eluded me but no more during this visit. I walked a long distance as the temperatures lowered (but that was not going to stop me) to the NYFD Hook and Ladder #8 Fire House. What’s that I hear you ask? Well, it’s from one of my favourite childhood films and may be better known as the Head Quarters to the Ghostbusters as seen in the 1984 film of the same name. The firehouse even has a (slightly faded) Ghostbusters-inspired insignia on the sidewalk outside and was one of those places that “looked just like the movie”.


As I was visiting in Dec/Jan, I was in the city for New Years. Planning to go to a friend’s party at a bar in Brooklyn I got a taste of the chaos in Times Square as I tried in vain to get to her apartment. Over 20 blocks were cordoned off by the police and the detour I had to take was massive as some subway stations were closed as well. The crowds were building and the streets densely packed and it was not even 7pm yet! The neon signs and advertisements of the square itself can be seen (although in a different context) in the deserted/empty scenes in the movies I Am Legend (2007) and Tom Cruise’s dreamy Vanilla Sky (2001). The emptiness of the square in those films contrasted massively to the reality of the tourist packed sidewalks of the holiday season.


I decided to avoid that area for the rest of the trip so over the next few days I went down Fifth Avenue to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral, seen in classic sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) where a genetically engineered flying Gremlin is thrown in wet cement before drying on the Cathedral’s roof as an epic gargoyle.


Also on Fifth is the Rockefeller Building. Beneath the imposing height of the main skyscraper is the infamous ice rink with a statue that I found out when I got back is actually Prometheus! The area’s Christmas tree can be seen in Will Ferrell vehicle Elf (2003) as well as the meeting place in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).


During my first trip to NYC in 2002 I stayed at a hotel on East 57th Street NY 10022 and opposite the hotel was a tall tower which I again saw on this trip and was used for the exterior shots of the Oscorp building in Spider-Man (2002). A few streets away are the Roosevelt Island cable cars which I rode and can also be seen in the same web-slinging movie as Spidey fights off the Green Goblin.


On the Upper East Side later in my trip I hopped off the subway and walked a short distance to the Guggenheim Museum, an iconic and startling looking circular building seen in Will Smith’s first alien encounter in the opening of Men in Black (1997).


Opposite is New York’s huge open green space Central Park which has been seen in everything from Ghostbusters (1984) to Annie Hall (1977) and Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy (1999). A walk through the park from East to West and I ended up at The Museum of Natural History which has the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the back of the building (81st Street, Central Park West) and this unique globe-inside-glass structure was seen in Spider-Man 2 (2004) for the John Jonah Jameson III benefit event.


Post New Year’s Eve and many days into the trip, the city was struck by what the media dubbed “Snowpocalypse” and then was subsequently labelled a “polar vortex” as snow, ice and below freezing temperatures swept the North East of the country. For me it was a cross between the planet Hoth from Star Wars (see a video I filmed here - facebook video) and disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow (2004) where Manhattan gets covered in a thick layer of icy snow such were the shockingly (and shiveringly) low temperatures.


However, on my final few days the snow began to thaw (briefly enough) to get on the Staten Island ferry which takes you out into the water near the Statue of Liberty as seen in Planet of the Apes (1968), Ghostbusters 2 (1989) and Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000). Once back on dry land, a short walk downtown saw me end up on Wall Street which is where Christopher Nolan filmed Bane’s attack on Gotham’s Stock Exchange in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as well as being extensively in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987) and a brief appearance at the end of National Treasure (2004).


On Park Avenue, my last memory of the trip was seeing the famous Met Life Building (formerly Pan Am) which is in Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002) and doubles as the offices of The Daily Planet in Christopher Reeves’ incarnation of Superman (1978).


Not even the cold weather could stop my enjoyment of such a creative, bohemian and cosmopolitan city which is still one of my favourite places on the planet. If you get the chance then I can guarantee you will have a good time seeing iconic buildings and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the busy streets - but if you’re a film fan then there’s even more to marvel and enjoy and you will get an understanding of why New York is so regularly used on the big screen – hopefully you’ll have as much fun as Eddie Murphy does in Coming to America (1988)!


See all my New York pictures in this gallery here - Facebook Gallery


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 21 2013 10:23AM

Midlands Movies regular contributors Gary and JJ list their best/worst films of the year and Midlands Movies Marek adds his faves as well


Midlands Movies Gary Best Cinema releases

1 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

2 Prisoners

3 Riddick

4 World War Z

5 Gravity

6 Fast & Furious 6

7 Parker

8 The Fifth Estate

9 Oblivion

10 Escape Plan


Midlands Movies Gary Worst cinema releases and let downs

1 Movie 43

2 Stoker

3 Welcome To The Punch

4 Now You See Me

5 Side Effects

6 Pacific Rim

7 A Good Day To Die Hard

8 After Earth

9 Elysium

10 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Midlands Movies JJ Best

1 Gravity

2 Alan Partridge: AP

3 Man Of Steel

4 Elysium

5 World War Z

6 Oblivion

7 The Way Way Back

8 Evil Dead

9 Star Trek Into Darkness

10 The last Stand


Midlands Movies JJ Worst

1 Movie 43

2 Sharknado

3 GI Joe: Retaliation

4 Movie 43

5 Hangover 3

6 Hansel & Gretel

7 Movie 43

8 Pain & gain

9 The Purge

10 Movie 43


Midlands Movies Marek Top 10 films of 2013

10. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

9. Gravity

8. Pain & Gain

7. Francis Ha

6. Antiviral

5. Django Unchained

4. We're the Millers

3. Robot and Frank

2. Maniac

1. The Great Beauty


Midlands Movies Matt Top 10 films of 2013

1. Star Trek

2. Gravity

3. Hobbit

4. Rush

5. Gatsby

6. Partridge

7. Django

8. Thor

9. Elysium

10. Zero Dark Thirty

By midlandsmovies, Dec 18 2013 10:18PM

Best of 2013


When choosing top films of any year not only do you look back on those films that stood out at the time but you re-assess those you were unsure about and with the ability to rewatch and saviour new and different aspects of those features for a second time, I feel the following list shows the real mix of films I’ve enjoyed throughout the year. I’ve tried to use UK Cinema release dates for the list (Oscars run from Feb to Feb of course) so some may seem like last year but were definitely released this year. So, with animation, drama, sci-fi, superheroes, comedy, adaptation and biography all getting a look in, it’s been a very diverse year for films indeed.. Without further pause here are my (Mike, Editor of Midlands Movies) favourite 20 films of 2013. Let the arguing commence!


(Update: for info I have not included Zero Dark Thirty and haven’t seen Captain Phillips).


20. The World’s End

19. Elysium

18. Trance

17. The Desolation of Smaug

16. Iron Man 3

15. The Great Gatsby

14. Filth

13. BlackFish

12. Mama

11. Cloud Atlas


10. Stoker

A tense psychological thriller from the director who gave us OldBoy amongst his work and dark family secrets are again explored in his first English-language film written somewhat surprisingly by Wentworth Miller of Prison Break fame. Avoiding any happy ever after clichés, the film has sinister fairy tale imagery from wooded copses, creepy spiders, dreamy landscapes and phallic rocks to heighten the Hitchcockian themes of betrayal, deception and revenge and each of the trio of actors bring their “A” game to the dinner table with strangely winning performances. A social drama with a mythic quality, this film has an impish allure that hypnotized me with its twisting narrative, bold images and multi-layered fetishes that subverted the superficial vampire/Lolita subject matter it drew upon. A far-fetched but fascinating fable.


9. Prisoners

This American thriller features Hugh Jackman, the father of a homely suburban family whose daughter goes missing during a Thanksgiving party. The abduction forces the family into contact with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective who investigates a local oddball with child-like intelligence played brilliantly by a distressed Paul Dano. Along with the father of a second girl, Jackman puts in a tour de force performance as a man who will go to any lengths (and beyond) to find his daughter. If you like dark and disconcerting police procedurals with a slow burning but gripping plot then Prisoners could be the film for you but don’t expect an easy ride from this solemn and spiritual journey of the disturbed.


8. Hitchcock

A great film about a great filmmaker, Hitchcock covers the master of suspense’s making of Psycho played out against the notorious marriage issues with his wife and frequent collaborator Alma Reville (played by a brilliant Helen Mirren, herself married to a director in real life). A biopic that has nods to all of Hitchcock’s output, from his blonde obsessions and voyeurism through to a Hermann-esque score by the composer Danny Elfman, the film is not a warts-and-all portrayal of Hitchcock as director but anyone with even a passing interest in the work of “Hitch” will find delights from start to finish. With great actors roped in as support, this is a fun and enjoyable film that analyses the making of film itself without a shadow of a doubt. 8/10 Midlands Movies Mike


7. Thor The Dark World

The sequel to 2011’s Thor sees Marvel forge deeper into Phase 2 post-Avengers as an imprisoned Loki taunts Thor as the Dark Elf Malekith attempts to regain possession of a mysterious power called the Aether which has the strength to destroy the universe. Tom Hiddleston has created one of the best comic characters of all time, villain or otherwise with his cheeky portrayal of Loki, both as heinous criminal and sarcastic japer and he’s a joy to watch in every scene he stars in. Also, I enjoyed the film being set in London and as one of the most female-orientated of the Marvel films, Jaimie Alexander and Rene Russo get to beef up their roles. The combination of large action sequences with funny demigod dialogue and solid performances make Thor2 another cosmological conquering.


6. Rush

Vrrrrooooommm! Director Ron Howard tackles the true-life 70s sporting rivalry between Englishman James Hunt (a wobbly-accented Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame) and Austrian Nikki Lauda (an outstanding Daniel Brühl probably best known as the sniper in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) who fought each other on and off the Formula One circuit in the battle for the ’76 championship. A slightly Formulaic One but a great F1lm nonetheless, Rush puts the pedal to the floor from the start to the chequered flag.


5. Wreck It Ralph

Reviewed by our Marek on release, I finally got to see this on Blu-Ray at home and what a treat it was. Utilising a retro-computer game aesthetic the film showed us that Disney was back amongst the big animation players and was a kick up the bum for Pixar who appear to be suffering sequel/prequel-itis! From the arcade to the power-lead transport, the film used ingenious storytelling, console graphics and gaming heroes and villains to showcase its central strand of admiring and recognising difference in this original some cyber-based feel-good film.


4. Gravity

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as NASA astronauts within this thriller set in the emptiness of the heavens who are involved in an astro-accident as debris from exploding satellites causes a chain reaction of chaotic crashes leaving them stranded in the void of deep dark space. Amongst the stars, Bullock fights her own personal battle in her pressure suit and her odyssey to get to a safe place allows her to “re-birth” and overcome her inner demons. From lost relatives to relativity, Gravity is set in the vacuum of space yet Cuarón creates a movie full of atmospheric tension that splashes down on a delicate trajectory of action, understatement and ingenious cinematic expertise.


3. Alpha Papa

CASHBACK! A Partridge film has taken a long journey to the big screen but Alan has finally arrived in this hilarious outing from performer Steve Coogan and for a character that is 20 years old Coogan and co breathe fresh life into the Norwich newshound and the jokes come at an Airplane-like speed whether it be clever wordplay, silly slapstick or hilarious one-liners and the small-town setting is the perfect backdrop as the film avoids any “go big” or “fish out of water” clichés that often occur in TV to film transitions. Back of the net!


2. Star Trek Into Darkness

Whilst JJ Abrams “borrows” a number of cinematic beats from Star Trek II; The Wrath of Khan, he infuses them with enough twists and new ideas to convert even the most cynical of viewers and even manages to bring a lump to the throat towards the end. Outstanding set pieces, action-a-plenty but not forgetting to string these around characters you like and believe in, Star Trek 2 is a fantastic piece of summer event cinema that’s nothing short of spectacular and the sort of showmanship and skill not seen for 30 years in a certain other rival space opera.


1. Django Unchained

With a straightforward linear plot, a focus on one sole character, few flashbacks and a more restrained directorial style, Tarantino’s eighth film is almost unrecognisable from the auteur’s previous offerings (especially his latest output) but all the better in my eyes for it. With the amazing soundtrack accentuating the emotional journey, Tarantino has made a brilliant film and in this reviewer’s eyes, the best since Pulp Fiction. Django does Entertain!


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 14 2013 03:01PM

Worst of 2013


Not going to waste any more time on the following 10 abominations and each has been reviewed by myself on our cinema and DVD/BluRay pages so please click hyperlinks for full rants but these were truly bad and I heartily advise all to avoid these pieces of crappy cinema.


10. Olympus Has Fallen

9. Dead Man Down

8. Hansel and Gretel

7. Alex Cross

6. Red Dawn

5. Paranormal Activity 4

4. Broken City

3. Only God Forgives

2. GI Joe 2

1. Die Hard 5


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 13 2013 12:17PM

Jobs (2013) Dir. Joshua Michael Stern


Ashton Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect, That 70s Show) stars as Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers in this biopic about the hippy who wanted to change the world. We follow Jobs from his early days bucking the system (firstly against James Woods representing the educational establishment) before finding himself in India then planting the first seeds of his plans linking technology with the mass public. Kutcher is very watchable as he plays all of Jobs’ core traits from his early days at Atari through to his founding of Apple. Director Stern doesn’t stray too far away from a clichéd formula as we get moody piano refrains and stirring strings in this cheese fest that could be served with crackers.


The film has an amusing scene when Jobs and Wozniak discuss the use of the name Apple (predicting later court cases with The Beatles’ label of the same name) but what tries to be profound has more in common with the large conglomerate Pepsi, a company whose marketing manager switches to Apple, in that these objects (fizzy “soda” and PCs) are essentially a life luxury that they convince populations they need. The film’s closest comparison is with Fincher's Social Network but the inter-boardroom battles between the bare-feet dreamer and the money-men are more akin to a TV movie. Rather than the modern edge of that film, the director goes for the “soft” tone of an Almost Famous with 70s rock soundtracking the soldering of circuit boards and geeks imagined as easy-riders and revolutionists. In an attempt to make it cool, it subsequently fails to be anything but. Dressing up the 70s as a golden and delicious era, the film is as superficial as Apple products – so a pretty accurate representation of their inventions which are often all smooth gloss and no soul.


The tale continues with Jobs germinating his ideas and his girlfriend as he launches the Apple II computer at the West Coast Computer Faire and does his first crowd-pleasing speech which many a passerby would know him from in his later life. Long tracking shots of Jobs from behind suggest we are all literally walking in his footsteps whilst his house is decorated with a portrait of Einstein, who changed our views on science but to me (and in this film) Jobs convinced us he created “new” technology but in fact was more focused on convincing the public we all need more “stuff”. Kutcher explains to his company that Apple should represent “social status/currency” which is the fundamental issue I have with the company. It’s the haves and haves not.


As he continues to argue with his team about fonts (again, image over substance), his metaphorical “baby” goes public on the stock market and the fluctuation of share prices maps Jobs’ own obsessions with the new MacIntosh and his increasing rivalry with everyone around him. Matthew Modine (as the ex-Pepsi marketer) becomes CEO and Jobs gets kicked off the Board of Directors like Norman Osborne in an orchard of tried and tested plot points.


Once fallen from his own tree, Jobs at this point returns home and the film becomes overly cloying and Hallmark-y as he literally plants a new seed in his garden (surely to represent his burgeoning family life and the nurturing of a new company before being asked to rejoin Apple 2.0) whilst all I could think of was how the public went mad for similar plastic rubbish the Cabbage Patch Kids around the same time. Jobs ends with him recording a commercial for Apple which funnily enough the movie ends up feeling like, as the core of the film is really about investors and business yet wants to convince the audience it’s about creativity and breaking the mould. The film ultimately is as bland as the characters that inhabit the world and I’m convinced now at least we won’t get the Bill Gates story as we get no juicy insights or depth in a script that feels like it’s cribbed from Jobs’ Wikipedia entry. Some may see this as a paean to their geeky hero but for me it was confirmation of Apple’s worst excesses of superficiality.


6.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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