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By midlandsmovies, Nov 12 2018 07:12PM

MIdlands Feature - Cinematic Crusade - The Best Robin Hood movies


With Robin Hood, not since Sherlock Holmes has an iconic British legend been turned into so many movie adaptations over the years.


A report from the NME earlier this year says there are 7 Robin Hood films in the works. However, having just reviewed Robin Hood: The Rebellion I think they’ve missed at least one. Well, 7 or 8 is still a huge number for the same brand recognition but one thing is for sure – it’s a legend ripe for the reimagining!


With so many iterations over the years – from 1908’s "Robin Hood and his Merry Men" which marks the first appearance of the outlaw on screen to porn parody “Virgins of Sherwood Forest” – there hasn’t been a genre that the Robin mythos hasn’t been adapted into. But which of the many versions are the best? Well, with ours and Robin’s Midlands origins we attempt to look at 10 of the best Robin Hood films from cinematic folklore. Please read on...





10. Robin Hood (1991) Directed by John Irvin

The first of two 1991 Robin Hood films on our list – take a wild guess at the other – sees Patrick Bergin embody the outlaw whilst an up-and-coming actress by the name of Uma Thurman stars as Maid Marian. Directed by John “Raw Deal” Irvin and produced by John “Die Hard” McTiernan, sadly don’t expect too much in the way of solid action but owing to Kevin Costner’s huge film later in the year, this film has been regularly overlooked and certainly underappreciated. Fighting nobility, the plot uses the same set up as the 1938 film where a war between Normans and Saxons gets things moving but the movie sadly, and unwisely, jettisons the Sheriff of Nottingham (why?) for some new villains. Filmed on location at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire – a non-Nottingham theme we’ll be seeing more of later – the 19-year age gap between Begin and Thurman is a bit icky but it’s well worth checking out as a bit of a curio in the history of Hood on film.


Hood Fact: The use of "Your Majesty" wasn’t used until almost 200 years later, the word “thugs” derives from the Thuggee which Brits wouldn’t encounter for another five centuries, the bloodhound was not a favoured dog breed until the 1500s and when Friar Tuck says he can afford swan's breast in Madeira, the country wasn't actually discovered until 1419 so he would have had difficulty! To be fair, many of the other films on this list commit worse crimes than these nit-picks.



9. Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) Directed by Terence Fisher

Tagline: “The NEW and Greatest Adventures of Robin Hood... The World's Most Renowned Swordsman!" Sword? Surely bow and arrow? Anyways, a little-seen version, Sword of Sherwood Forest is a Hammer Film Production (them of ‘horror’ fame) and stars Richard Greene – who reprises the role he played in The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series from 1955 to 1959. Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing takes on the part of the Sheriff of Nottingham who has nefarious plans to confiscate a rich estate and, as always, is thwarted by Hood acting on the side of good. Several clumsy sword fights can be forgiven owing to a genuine love for the material and acting heavyweight Oliver Reed appears, but is re-dubbed, as Lord Melton. Unlike a few hammy Hammer sets, the film looks glorious filmed as it was on location in County Wicklow, Ireland – but again not in Nottingham sadly.


Hood Fact: From 1954 to 1967 Hammer Film Productions released three different movies starring the famous outlaw – as well as this there was The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) and A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967).



8. Robin Hood (2010) Directed by Ridley Scott

Well, it’s not perfect. And then some. Seminal director Ridley Scott – a man known for his visual prowess and epic scale – takes the legend and sadly removes any fun despite a film filled with great actors and impressive locations. Here, Australian Russell Crowe is cast as Robin and is not the first, and no doubt won’t be the last, person to struggle with an English accent. His infamous BBC radio interview had him hopping mad – then walking out – when its authenticity was questioned (click here). Alongside Crowe is one of the best casts in the business, which includes Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, and Max von Sydow. Yet it was the stodgy story and dour delivery that had people turning their noses up. Where’s Robin’s sense of mischief? Where is the adventure? Where is the film’s joy? For all its flaws though, you can still appreciate the fantastic Scott set pieces. Although, when seeing this film for the first time at the cinema I can still remember laughing out loud at the slow-motion sequence of Crowe popping out the sea (sea? In the legendary land-locked Nottingham?) in a shot of such ludicrous “epic-ness” there’s a perverse enjoyment of a film that takes a jaunty tale so seriously. You have been warned.


Hood Fact: The film's budget ballooned from $155 million to $200 million. Scott robbing from the rich film companies to deliver a poor film.



7. Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) Directed by Gordon Douglas

A 60s musical set in Chicago during the Prohibition where two rival gangs compete for control of the city's rackets seems an unlikely interpretation but with so many films of Robin Hood appearing over the years, it’s these new takes that can standout amongst such a busy marketplace. Written by David R. Schwartz and produced by (and starring) Frank Sinatra, the film sees new mob boss Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) ordering other gangsters in town to pay him protection whilst “Robbo” (Sinatra) gets together a band of merry men including pool hustler Little John (Dean Martin) and Will (Sammy Davis Jr.). Before long, the gangster ends up robbing from the rich and giving to a poor city orphanage. In a twist however, Barbara Rush as Marian Stevens (Maid Marian) is as duplicitous as they come, playing off both sides and looking out only for herself and stealing tainted money. Mostly a spoof, the film features the rat-pack stars belting out a variety of slick speakeasy hits including "My Kind of Town" which is the centrepiece number and was nominated for the 1964 Academy Award for Best Original Song. A quirky oddity, there’s enough swinging style to give Robin an updated unravelling by jumping into the seedy gangster genre.


Hood Fact: For a legend often containing imprisonments, ransoms and money exchanges, a scene depicting a kidnapping was filmed for Robin and the 7 Hoods but was quickly cut when star Frank Sinatra's son was kidnapped in real life. The 19-year old was released soon after after Sinatra paid the $240,000 demanded.



6. Robin and Marian (1976) Directed by Richard Lester

Before tackling his own American icon in Superman II, director Richard Lester went back to the past heroes of the UK with this period romantic adventure starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Strangely including comedian Ronnie Barker as Friar Tuck, the film was mostly shot in sunny old Eng—actually in Zamora, Artajona and Orgi in Spain – standing in for France rather than the Midlands at times too. With this suspect geographical anomaly (a Robin Hood film tradition you will see as we continue to go through the list), the movie had big names, a score composed by John “007” Barry and came off the back of Lester’s take on another classic swashbuckler The Three Musketeers (1973). It moves away from the traditional narrative where we get an aging Robin Hood fighting abroad before his return to Nottingham but [SHOCK HORROR SPOILER WARNING] he actually dies at the end. An interesting look at age, legends, love and wisdom, Robin and Marian may be one of the most complex, and interesting, versions of the nostalgic tale to date.


Hood Fact: Connery seems inexplicably linked to the Hood fable from his appearance here to his cameo as King Richard the Lionheart in Prince of Thieves (1991). He also appeared in Time Bandits (1981) which featured John Cleese’s comical Robin Hood. And it doesn’t stop there as his own son Jason Connery would later play Robin Hood in Robin of Sherwood (1984)!



5. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) Directed by Mel Brooks

Parodying the Robin Hood myth – but more specifically the 1938 and 1991 film versions – Mel Brooks undoes some of the legend’s classicism and replaces it with the pratfalls, visual jokes and verbal gags seen in Brook’s previous comedies. Cary Ewes plays a solid Robin holding together the chaotic narrative stemming from the eclectic support cast and bit-players which includes Dave Chappelle (in his first film role and clearly inspired by Morgan Freeman’s Moor), Isaac Hayes, Tracey Ullman, Patrick Stewart and even Dom DeLuise. A point-of-view shot following an arrow’s impossible journey around a forest (in the trailer only no less) is another direct reference to Prince of Thieves and whilst it pokes fun, it respects the story’s heart and never feels like a direct dig at the tale. Favourite line? “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent”. With this and some actors interacting with the crew on screen, Men in Tights takes a swipe at a number of past performances whilst warmly acknowledging the history of Hood on film into the bargain.


Hood Fact: As mentioned several times already, the geography of Great Britain is again suspect here – maybe intentionally so given the film’s parodic nature – but at the end of the movie when the camera is zooming out the castle is shown to be around Milton Keynes. Tut Tut.



4. Robin Hood (1973) Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

Can humanoid cartoon animals portray historical characters better than Russell Crowe? You bet your ass they can! Disney’s box office success found fans owing to its excellent voice cast, fun animation and catchy tunes and although it may have aged a little worse than its initial box office suggested, the movie’s biggest draw is its entertaining and light-hearted take on the hero. Languishing in development hell since the mouse house’s Snow White (1937) the tale is inspired by Reynard the Fox – a medieval fable featuring a trickster red fox character. This version’s Little John shares eerie similarities with Baloo from The Jungle Book (1967) who was also a bear that had been voiced by Phil Harris and classic sequences are incorporated from the traditional Robin Hood narrative. One such take is the cordial tree-crossing in which Robin Hood and Little John wander over a fallen tree which bridges a river – this twists their usual legendary fight at the same location.


Hood Fact: The famous gap on Terry-Thomas' teeth was incorporated into the design of the character he voices, Sir Hiss (a snake) – and it makes a handy opening for his forked tongue to dart out from.



3. Robin Hood (1922) Directed by Allan Dwan

As the first film ever to have a Hollywood premiere, held at the now legendary Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, Robin Hood was also one of the most expensive films of the 20s with a one-million-dollar budget. Douglas Fairbanks stars in this black and white silent movie as Earl of Huntingdon/Robin Hood and with sword fights, castles, horse chases and a feather in his hat, this much-lauded classic help set up many of the tropes we know from the films today. A massive film for its time, its use of over 1200 extras can be seen in spectacular battle scenes in huge Hollywood scale with some of its impressive sets being designed by architect Lloyd “Hollywood Bowl” Wright.


Hood Fact: Alan Hale, Sr. made such an impression as Little John in this film that he reprised the role sixteen years later in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) opposite Errol Flynn. Then he played the character again in Rogues of Sherwood Forest in 1950, 28 years after his initial performance in this original.



2. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Directed by Michael Curtiz

Considered by many to be the definitive Robin Hood interpretation, the film is most known for Errol Flynn’s magnetic performance of Robin but director Curtiz (of Casablanca and Mildred Pierce fame no less) should be equally lauded for helming this legendary production. As well as Flynn, superstar Olivia de Havilland stars as Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Maid Marian) whilst Basil Rathbone takes the role of Guy of Gisbourne. Melville Cooper’s take on the High Sheriff of Nottingham is underrated and once again a film company (this time Warner Bros.) made their most expensive film ever with its budget being a richly $2 million. With its adventure spirit, a host of dramatic yet charismatic performances and fantastic fights, this film is rightly held as the pinnacle of chivalric swashbuckling on film and won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Editing and Original Score from celebrated composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.


Hood Fact: James Cagney (of Curtiz’s earlier film Angels with Dirty Faces) was originally cast as Robin but walked out on his Warner Bros. contract and the filming was postponed three years, as a result – but paved the way for the role to go to Flynn.



1. Prince of Thieves (1991) Directed by Kevin Reynolds

As I have mentioned before on this site 1991 was a brilliant year for film which saw Terminator 2, Silence of the Lambs and JFK having huge critical and commercial success but it was Bryan Adams’ soundtrack song to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that takes me back to that infamous year. Spending what felt like 16 years atop the charts at number one (it was in fact a record-breaking 16 long WEEKS) the song’s cheesy love lyrics also earnt it an Academy Award but was the perfect accompaniment to a film that was (and still is to me) one of the guiltiest pleasures of the nineties. Costner’s intense and dodgy-accented New Orleans attorney in JFK from the same year was left behind for the dodgy-accented outlaw in a film which balanced both folk tale fun alongside serious issues of history, honour and guilt. Stealing the show of course is Alan Rickman’s BAFTA winning turn as the Sheriff which cemented his career playing legendary villains. It was also Rickman who brought in friend Ruby Wax to improve the Sheriff’s scripted dialogue. Also in on the act is a superb support cast including Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio who all give a bit of a depth to the characters we’ve seen dozens of times before. The brilliant rousing music score was composed by Michael Kamen and was subsequently used on Walt Disney trailers and gives me chills each and every time I hear it. The movie contains a split arrow sequence that nods to Flynn’s 1938 archery contest scene, a Sean Connery cameo as King John (who else, huh?) and lots of laughs and action that entertains to this day. Having kept the VHS of this film – I think it was the first one I ever bought – I’ve always had a soft spot for it and although it’s so cheesy it should be served with crackers, the film’s tone is the perfect adventure mix of silly and serious.


Hood Fact: Everyone always dismisses the film’s geography – land in Dover, get to Hadrian’s Wall then enter Nottingham by nightfall on foot but…..if the cliff is just a cliff and the wall just a wall then you can land in Grimsby at 5am in Summer and get to Loxley near Sheffield in 62 miles which is just kinda possible. And that’s what I’m sticking to.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Feb 23 2018 11:24PM



All The Money in The World (2018) Dir. Ridley Scott


Ridley Scott’s latest feature film All the Money in The World had a difficult birth. Mere months before its premiere, Kevin Spacey one of the film’s stars, had all his scenes cut and his part quickly recast in response to recent sexual assault allegations.


Scott found a replacement in Christopher Plummer who at 88 years old did not need the extensive make up to portray his character Jean Paul Getty. Reshoots were expensive and infamously urgent however due to the experience and professionalism of both Scott and Plummer the film benefits from such events.


All the Money in The World centres on the abduction of billionaire Jean Paul Getty’s Grandson, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer). Scott focuses the story on Getty III’s Mother Gail (Michelle Williams) as she desperately tries to locate her kidnapped son, travelling across the world, doing whatever she can to get him back.


The ransom is simple, pay his abductors $17 million dollars and Jean Paul III will be released unharmed. Failure to do so will result in his torture and eventual death.


In 1973 Jean Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) was not only the richest man on the planet, he was the richest man who ever lived. Regardless of Gail’s status as a former Daughter-in-Law, Getty III is still a biological grandson, and a cherished one at that. However, she is surprised when Getty peacefully announces he would not be paying a single dollar towards the ransom as he has “no money to spare” or that it would set a dangerous precedent for chancers to adduct his other grandchildren. He does however enlist the help of former CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to retrieve his grandson safely, without any cost.


For a film to depict an infamous story it has to have a level of mystery or intrigue still intact so as to keep the audience interested. Scott fortunately exercises this by showing the audience how far Getty would go to save every penny, even installing a payphone inside his mansion so guests cannot make use of a free telephone call. Whilst the film does have thrilling moments, it is the expose on Jean Paul Getty’s frugal personality that takes centre stage for me.


At 80 years old, Ridley Scott is still proving he is one of the best directors of all time. With a manic reshooting schedule most filmmakers would crumble at the slightest hint, he not only completed the film on time but he also managed to conjure one of my favourite acting performances of all time in Plummer’s portrayal of Getty. Plummer being 88 years old himself and managing to prepare the character in time and excelling at it is nothing short of extraordinary. Michelle Williams is also on fine form as she disappears into her character however Mark Wahlberg’s performance is overshadowed and his character forgotten quickly in comparison.


In contrast to his previous work All the Money in The World can seem like a tame effort from Scott. The story is nothing particularly ground-breaking and whilst entertaining it does carry the same tropes and clichés most kidnapper/hostage films possess. Ultimately I enjoyed All the Money in The World, through stellar directing by Ridley Scott and acting from Christopher Plummer, this film had me shaking my head in disbelief at how wealthy yet morally bankrupt people can be.


8/10


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Oct 5 2017 11:22PM



Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Dir. Denis Villeneuve


Let’s cut to the chase but I’ve never been a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi noir original – even going so far to include it in my top 10 overrated films of all time back in 2012 – so I approached this film with some trepidation. I come at all films with an open mind however, and with such highlights as Sicario, Prisoners and the lauded Arrival in his catalogue of successes, director Denis Villeneuve certainly has the sci-fi and visual chops to take on the belated sequel.


Ryan Gosling (K) is now the LAPD blade runner who hunts down older artificial humans known as “replicants”. He soon stumbles upon the discovery of a skeleton which appears to be that of a replicant woman who died during childbirth, a situation until then thought impossible. Linking the bones to the missing Deckard, K is ordered to destroy the evidence by his superior Joshi (a superb Robin Wright) but soon a set of clues leads him to question his own “implanted” memories and his reality.


Blade Runner 2049 takes the themes of the first – humanity, memory, one’s purpose in life – and adds the dazzling cinematography of 13-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins who not only recreates the look of the original rain-soaked streets, but expands the digital noir influences ten-fold. Shadows lurk everywhere as Villeneuve and Deakins work together to create phenomenal shots, with some of the best of them composed simply in pure silhouette, keeping the characters (and us) ominously in the dark.


Ana de Armas provides great support as K’s artificial partner Joi – a hologram who ironically infuses Gosling’s character with the only emotional attachment and is a great addition to the Blade Runner mythos. Yet, the lack of emotional connection between the audience and the film is one of its sad flaws. To me the original had a sense of detachment but it is practically nihilistic in tone here – the future is death – to humans, to children, to androids and even to holograms.


In spite of that, Harrison Ford gives a great performance when he eventually returns as Detective Rick Deckard but don’t expect to see him in the first 2 hours. However, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv provides a feisty antagonist, much more so than Jared Leto whose Tyrell replacement Niander Wallace is underused and missing from half the movie.


An amazing first hour which sets up the tone, the vision and the look of the world works brilliantly alongside an amazing synthesiser score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch which is fantastic and truly groundbreaking. This beginning also provides us with a set of interesting characters (at first) and Gosling even throws in a joke – confirming a balance of components that works so well.


But like a malfunctioning android, the film begins to fall apart at times and although its style never falters once, it often fails to cover the cold tone and the incredibly slow pacing. At its best, its perfect visionary sci-fi yet at its worst it harks to Only God Forgives with repeatedly boring shots of a moody Ryan Gosling moping around a neon city at night in a drama-vacuum. The film makes sluggish progress and its script’s heavy-handed links to creation and A.I. are a result of further hackneyed garbage from Michael Green, the scribe of the awful Alien: Covenant.


In many ways it’s the perfect sequel – if you enjoyed the original I guarantee you’ll find the expansion and nods to it more than satisfying and for those who feel the original had flaws then this film clones them to a fault. Blade Runner 2049 therefore ends up being a truly technical tour-de-force but as cold as a glacier and moves about as fast.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, May 18 2017 08:15AM



In May 2017 with the release of Ridley Scott's latest entry into his sci-fi franchise, Alien: Covenant, Midlands Movies held a brand new competition for our readers.


To celebrate the release, we offered one lucky reader the chance to win a BluRay box set of 5 of the Alien films including Scott's original and its prequel Prometheus.


We had over 400 entrants and we have randomly picked one lucky person out of the "egg" and the winner is....


Twitter user >>>> https://twitter.com/_mia_mills_


Congratulations! Please get in touch via direct message to claim your prize.


Thanks for everyone who took part and please keep following on Twitter for more great giveaways


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, May 16 2017 09:00AM



Alien: Covenant (2017) Dir. Ridley Scott


After offering some universe building themes in the much maligned Prometheus – a film I coincidently enjoyed against the tide of criticism – Ridley Scott returns to his Alien ‘franchise’ in this new sci-fi horror exploration. Whilst not mine, the general consensus was that Prometheus’ lofty subject matter of creators and deities overshadowed the crowd-pleasing terror of the earlier Alien films. Well, Covenant has sadly gone even further with his quasi-religious side-stories rather than rein them in and even I am losing patience with Scott’s obsessions.


In an absolute carbon copy beginning, and one that removes any sense of tension, we are introduced to a set of poorly-fleshed out stock characters as the crew of a colonist ship follows a signal to a mysterious planet. They send a party down to a mountain-filled landscape only to discover an extraterrestrial ship which they enter. Sound familiar at all?


Well, this dullness last for almost 40 long minutes and plays out EXACTLY as Prometheus did which was, and even I have to concede this, not the most interesting original opening in the first place. Rather than drama and dread, the film is as dull as dishwater then delivers the inevitable alien infection/quarantine scene – again, a duplication of things we’ve seen so often before.


And so we come to a point where it finally follows up on Prometheus as we find that film’s android, Michael Fassbender’s ‘David’, sneaking around the planet. Wearing Skywalker-esque robes he goes on to explain some fishy goings-on about the alien goo from the first film. He seems to know the score, both physically and metaphorically. By this, I do mean the actual musical score. The film jumps the shark as he teaches the crew’s own synthetic life form (Fassbender again as ‘Walter’) to play Prometheus’ orchestral main theme on a flute. Scott’s presenting a character playing the film’s theme tune?! That’s like Indiana Jones humming John Williams in the middle of an adventure!


With two robots now introduced, Scott spends an extraordinary amount of time on them and their ‘profound’ (think The Matrix’s ‘Architect’) discussions and interactions. Yet neither one contains the humanity needed to care about their actions. And when they begin fighting, I cared even less.


That aside, the film has further niggles with over-use of poor CGI to recreate the Xenomorph, and its genetic spin-off animals, and much of the film plays out in harsh daylight. Some JCB product placement made me question if the film is now set in “our” future. Which would be like an Apple logo suddenly appearing on a lightsaber. These flaws add up and by the second act, had me gritting my teeth in frustration.


[SPOILER PARAGRAPH] The film also pulls an ‘Alien 3’ by killing off the main character we engaged with from the previous movie. Noomi Rapace’s feisty Elizabeth Shaw is shown only as a corpse experimented on yet she is strangely replaced by a carbon-copy character played by Katherine Waterston. She is now the female in the tight crop top yet the film is consistently unsure who the main character should be anyways. And the mildly-interesting space-jockey engineers? Oh, they’re wiped off the face of the planet in a sequence lasting just seconds. [END OF SPOILERS]


The disappointment of the summer so far, Alien: Covenant is an absolute mess. I would go as far to say that Scott’s 1979 original is one of my top 10 films of all time. Cameron’s superb war action film not far behind too. Yet Scott is intent on focusing this new set of films on a bottomless pit of exposition and thesis based around an android’s god-like goals and dreams. And without Alien’s terror and Aliens’ excitement, Covenant falls into the worst place possible – it’s simply dull and elicits very little emotion at all and is as underwhelming as any film I’ve seen recently. Scott must do better if he’s to continue otherwise he may blow this franchise out of the airlock forever.


5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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.


Midlands Movies

By midlandsmovies, Dec 16 2015 09:08AM

The Martian (2015) Dir. Ridley Scott


Returning to his sci-fi roots, director Ridley Scott adapts Andy Weir’s novel with this marooned-man-on-Mars science drama. I say science because it covers everything from communication to botany but not once does Drew Goddard’s ingenious script move too fast (or too slow) for an audience to keep up with the details of the scientific methods it contains.


After a cosmic storm on the surface of the red planet Matt Damon is presumed dead and his fellow astronauts – led by their Mission Commander played by Jessica Chastain – blast off the rock leaving him with limited rations, transport and communication. Damon as Mark Watney begins by assessing his situation and tackles his food, oxygen and life support problems one by one in ingenious scenes of survival. As those on earth discover he is alive, a number of plans are devised by his team back at NASA.


The great support cast of Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean & Chiwetel Ejiofor then discuss their options for the various attempts to retrieve him. The balance of plot, action, turmoil and Damon’s inner monologues captured on the ship’s cameras are well handled and Scott wastes no time in his efficient story-telling style. The film begins with a bang and never lets up pace even though the protagonist is essentially waiting for things to happen to him at times.


The script also infuses the situation with touches of comedy. Sean Bean’s presence at a discussion about the rescue – which they label “Project Elrond” after the Lord of the Rings was a surreal funny moment and Damon is the perfect actor to carry the likeable everyman stuck in an awful predicament. In addition, he also tries to alleviate his boredom and loneliness with witty quips and comments which were a great touch.


With Chastain and Damon starring, their presence echoes their joint roles in Nolan’s Interstellar – Damon even playing a stranded man again – but the two films are worlds apart. For me, Interstellar got bogged down in its science and dragged until the impressive space scenes where The Martian throws us immediately into the problems of the story and is all the better for it. It’s also great to see Scott back doing what he does best and for me, the less of his historical forays (Robin Hood, Kingdom of Heaven, Exodus) the better.


A brilliant Hollywood blockbuster without the usual overabundance on silly CGI, The Martian is good old fashioned fun and audiences will get behind its super story of saving a stranded spaceman.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Aug 1 2015 08:38AM

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


https://www.facebook.com/runsinrivers

Email runsinriversblog@gmail.com


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

http://www.spacecentre.co.uk


Midlands Movies Mike

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