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By midlandsmovies, Dec 20 2018 03:12PM

Midlands Movies Top 20 Films of 2018


Well, 2018 has been a mixed bag – for me the Summer blockbuster season was as bad as there’s ever been – yet at the start of the year were some fantastic Oscar-winning and nominated films that were difficult to beat later on as the year drew to a close. Amongst some of these well-known heavy hitters, streaming service Netflix once again featured strong with its investment in smaller productions allowing filmmakers to take more risks than ever before.


You can check out our Worst of 2018 list here – which showcases more than its fair share of duffers – but what was more shocking, for me anyways, was my disappointment with some of the critics’ big favourites. For example, Paul Shrader’s First Reformed with its fantastic central performance from the ever-reliable Ethan Hawke had a tough first half essay to get through. Mandy too had an almost unwatchable first half before hugely picking up in its second and third act but not enough to forget that painful start. And the slow beginnings were even more prevalent in the beautiful to look at, but impenetrable to me, Roma from Alfonso Cuarón. Roma? More like coma, am I right? Arf arf.


But in all seriousness, I had the same reaction to Roma as I did with Boyhood (review here) – the dull meandering and almost non-existent narrative and lack of characterisation gave me little to connect with. It wasn’t just the art-house head-scratchers though. Mission Impossible: Fallout had reviewers frothing with praise but I found the film a superb genre action film with great stunts but nowhere near the game-changer some were claiming (review here). Ditto for the thematically strong but rather bland Black Panther.


With all that in mind, it has been still very difficult to choose just 20 films. My Top 10 has remained quite consistent but trying to fit in just 20 meant that a few favourites were close but failed to scrape through in the end. So more than honourable mentions must then go to:


* Blockers - the best feel-good American comedy in a long time

* Cargo – Netflix’s emotional and excellent zombie drama with Martin Freeman

* Hereditary – if for nothing else than Toni Collette’s mesmerising performance

* Calibre – the best of British in a fantastic dark thriller

* Score: A Film Music Documentary – essential viewing for the film connoisseur

* Deadpool 2 – for me, surpassing the first with its better villains and support cast

* Coco – Pixar’s Mexican flavoured music animation plucked hard on the heart strings

* Molly’s Game – bets its solid hand on Sorkin’s writing and two glorious performances from Chastain & Elba



20. The Night Comes For Us. Directed by Timo Tjahjanto

“Similar to The Raid with its mix of Indonesian gangs and corrupt cops fighting for honour and power using the most violent means possible. The Night Comes For Us has oceans of spilled blood and the bone-crunching punches and killings soon leave bodies piling up and martial arts fans will lap up the phenomenal fight choreography. Stylish and frenetically chaotic, the film is not for the queasy but its wild action and furious violence results in an intense experience that you won’t forget in a hurry”. Click here for full review



19. Phantom Thread (2018) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
19. Phantom Thread (2018) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

“Acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis plays dress-designer Reynolds Woodcock who creates fabulous clothes for a series of high class clients before meeting seemingly innocent waitress Alma played brilliantly by Vicky Krieps who is soon pressing Woodcock’s buttons with her bold observations. Phantom Thread explores the idea that true inspiration and creativity develops when recognising our own mortality and by only pushing oneself to the extremes do we come close to perfecting our passions”. Click here for full review



18. Sicario 2: Soldado. Directed by Stefano Sollima

“Whilst a little rough around the edges, a strong script, a cast of dedicated performances and a moody score from Hildur Guðnadóttir, Sicario 2 shoves its problematic politics right in the audience’s face. Simply telling them to deal with it. The ruthless scenes are a stark reminder that audiences should be challenged to get them thinking whilst the film does this alongside some unforgiving excitement and entertainment”. Click here for full review




17. Bohemian Rhapsody. Directed by Bryan Singer

“Rami Malek is without doubt stunning as Freddie Mercury. A shed-load of hits from Queen’s back catalogue are obviously interspersed throughout and Broken into three parts – the film shows Freddie’s killing of his past persona growing up, then the campy frolics and hedonism of operatic orgies and a final head-banging ending with pulsating riffs and joyous rock – if only there was a Queen song that encapsulated all this. A glossy but unfussy musical biopic”. Click here for full review




16. I Kill Giants. Directed by Anders Walter

“Based upon the graphic novel by Joe Kelly (writer) and Ken Niimura (artist), I Kill Giants has a fantastic Madison Wolfe playing a disturbed young girl Barbara Thorson who is a dungeons and dragons playing loner who escapes the troubles of her life by retreating into a world of fantasy. A strong cast of performers are led by Wolfe who is front and centre, and deservedly so, from the start. Dealing with difficult issues and seen from the viewpoint of a bright but troubled young girl, the final twist in the tale tackles much heartbreak within its skilful narrative. But, as we are moved on this poignant journey, I Kill Giants becomes one fictional world you won’t want to escape from”. Click here for full review




15. BlacKkKlansman. Directed by Spike Lee

“With a tight screenplay by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman is adapted from the 2014 book of the same name by Ron Stallworth – a real-life detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. Powerful and political, the film succeeds owing to the amazing delivery from all its cast but it’s the commanding performances of Washington, Driver and Harrier who make this a formidable criticism on the continued structural racism plaguing the USA”. Click here for full review




14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Directed by The Coen Brothers

“A 6-part anthology film with each story having its own charms, the Coens have managed to weave varying amazing stories into a cohesive and thematic whole. Where Hail Caesar tackled Roman epics (and musical numbers) amongst its Hollywood setting, the Coens' influence here come from their love of American frontier films - another classic genre linking their modern takes within established cinematic history. Not diverging greatly from their usual style, the death-obsessed duo deliver another historical romp with a great cast and amazing outdoor locations”. Click here for full review



13.Three Identical Strangers. Directed by Tim Wardle

“This excellent documentary comes from Tim Wardle who re-discovers one of the more bizarre stories from the early 80s and re-positions it as a far more complex and dark tale than initially thought. Chilling, thrilling and fulfilling the documentary serves up a triple whammy of satisfying characteristics and combined with the revealing and candid interviews with the put-upon and exploited participants, it ends up being one of the best documentaries of 2018". Click here for full review




12. Isle of Dogs. Directed by Wes Anderson

“You could read Isle of Dogs as a cultural discussion, an auteur animation, a fight against power, a look at family units or just simply a tall children’s tale and all would be valid. Like the best of Pixar – Isle of Dogs takes universal ideas and delivers them back to a young and a mature audience to interpret without flagrantly pandering to either. Highly recommended, this surprising litter of canine characters and prevailing pedigree pups is an absolute joy throughout their adventures on Trash Island”. Click here for full review



11. Revenge. Directed by Coralie Fargeat

“A rape-revenge action horror, the film is certainly not for the faint at heart as Fargeat has created a visceral show of bloody violence and dreamy imaginations as a young girl escapes into the wilderness to hide and stalk her tormentors. The nasty action should bring in the splatter fans, whilst the more discerning can enjoy a depth of character and ideas rarely seen in this brand of furious filmmaking. With intense scenes, Revenge is a non-mainstream cinematic coup that explores slightly deeper themes than your average personal payback piece to provide exploitation pleasures and explosive sequences”. Click here for full review




10. I, Tonya. Directed by Craig Gillespie

“With the spotlight firmly on Margot Robbie’s portrayal of flawed figure skater Tonya Harding, she gives depth to a demonised woman where those around her seem far worse than herself. Whilst also being the first woman to successfully land a triple axel in competition, Harding will sadly now be remembered as a modern villainess yet the film, with Robbie’s tremendous efforts, attempts to give a more nuanced reassessment of one of the most infamous scandals in sport”. Click here for full review




9. Thoroughbreds. Directed by Cory Finley

“Olivia Cooke joins fellow horror stalwart Anya Taylor-Joy as friends who begin a dark alliance together and Thoroughbreds is another fantastic addition to their careers. With Cooke’s sociopathic Amanda matching Taylor-Joy’s prim ‘princess’ every step along the way and Yelchin showing why he is a talent so sorely missed, the film delivers a wonderful atmospheric mix of morbid themes. Thoroughbreds is an accomplished exploration of both egotistical and conflicted morals with an exceptional cast working at the top of their game”. Click here for full review




8. Annihilation. Directed by Alex Garland

“The film has a group of powerful female scientists investigating a para-scientific phenomenon as we follow their every step, involving ourselves in their personal, scientific and emotional lives throughout their excursion. Annihilation ends up being an engaging piece of excellent sci-fi tropes and characters that have clear motivations and are well acted by the cast – and Garland adds enough new ideas to the mix to create a successful slice of intelligent story-telling”. Click here for full review




7. The Shape of Water. Directed by Guillermo del Toro

“Del Toro’s always had a flair for the colourful and enjoys the mix of reality and dream worlds. Yet after a few throwaway gems like Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim, he has hooked all the prize pieces together in this film about fantasy love. A fishy fable like no other, the stupendous Shape of Water is as simple as a child’s story yet at the same time goes to depths only a master filmmaker of del Toro’s skill can reach”. Click here for full review




6. First Man. Directed by Damien Chazelle

“First Man is a fantastic voyage of both a mythical yet somewhat conventional man. Ever the reluctant hero and considering he completed one of the most, if not the most, infamous achievements in human history, moon-lander Neil Armstrong’s commitment to science, family and getting the job done comes across strong in Chazelle’s portrayal. First Man is a first-rate biography mixing an amazing directorial confidence in cinematic techniques to explore what drives us all to unimaginable personal and public feats of endeavour”. Click here for full review




5. American Animals. Directed by Bart Layton

“As the heist narrative evolves, American Animals’ unreliable narrators continue with the film even stopping and rewinding like Haneke’s Funny Games. Yet the boys involved truly find out that life is not like the movies. With the real-life protagonists expressing deep remorse for their actions – whilst still disagreeing on many of the details of the incidents years later – the film shows its obsessions with diverging stories from days gone by. And like the characters, the film itself grows up and delivers a beautiful, fun and at times deadly serious look at the theft of maturity”. Click here for full review




4. Apostle. Directed by Gareth Evans

“An ensemble cast delivers gripping drama throughout Apostle as Dan Stevens visits an emerging cult-like community at the turn of the century. Cinematic in style, production and themes, the movie is a dark and disturbing parable that is anchored by great performances with the actors, and director Evans, helping to raise Apostle by infusing it with flavour, believability and a thematic depth rarely seen in your standard cult genre movie. A divine statement on spirituality and the supernatural”. Click here for full review




3. Avengers: Infinity War. Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo

“A film in which no one feels safe and a few fan-pleasing cameos from films past, Infinity War is as huge as anyone could have asked for… and this is explosive summer blockbuster cinema of the highest order without question. A greatest hits album in all senses of the word, Infinity War is a compilation of scenes containing previously established crowd-pleasers and remixes of the popular tropes. Yet the Russos add enough new material, depth and high stakes to lay down the gauntlet to other filmmakers resulting in this absolute gem of a movie”. Click here for full review




2. A Quiet Place. Directed by John Krasinski

“Mostly avoiding jump scares, the real silent success is Krasinski himself who has taken an original idea and created a script and debut film with hugely entertaining results. Throwing in scenes of real anxiety, unease and boldness, Krasinski’s virtuoso film uses each of these elements to create a satisfying horror blend that delights, but has more than its share of frights”. Click here for full review




1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Directed by Martin McDonagh

“Showing complex struggles from start to finish (including the police, ex-husband, strangers and even the dentist) “Three Billboards” fans the flames of passions and is a brilliant advertisement for the continued talent of McDonagh’s own dark interests. Delivered impeccably by a fantastic cast, the film provides no clear answers but continues the ideas set down within In Bruges. Like that movie, the idea that carrying the pain of past misdemeanours can not only be a detriment to others but mostly to one’s own soul”. Click here for full review


Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Dec 20 2018 09:11AM

Top 5 Worst Christmas Movies


Midlands Movies contributor Guy Russell chooses his 5 worst Christmas movies that give him the bah humbugs each festiva season. WIth a couple of controversial choices do you agree with our Guy? Read on to find out more...




1. Black Christmas (2006)


This unoriginal remake was screaming out for an injection of humour throughout its 90 minute runtime. With a talented cast, this should have been a lot better however the film makes no effort to improve on the original 70s slasher instead Black Christmas lazily goes through the motions until it reaches the finish line.




2. Deck the Halls (2006)


Matthew and Broderick and Danny DeVito star in the uninspiring Deck the Halls as two neighbours who battle it out to become their small towns most festive household. Every character is either downright obnoxious or obscenely uptight, watch the dark but brilliant Bad Santa if you like awful people doing awful things. 2006 was clearly a bad year for festive films!




3. Scrooged (1988)


I personally found this film to be monumentally annoying and unpleasant. Scrooged will be a surprise entry for some as it has achieved “classic” status over the last few years however apart from Murray doing what he does best there is little to like in this unfunny take on A Christmas Carol.




4. The Grinch (2000)


Despite a spirited and energetic performance by Jim Carrey, The Grinch is a film that is unpleasant to look at, filled with a lacklustre direction and a confused message. Just stick with the original, animated short film.




5. Home Alone 4 (2002)


Not only is Home Alone 4 completely unfaithful to its predecessors, it is poorly made in every aspect. An absolute chore to sit through even at 88 minutes long. Give this one a miss at every cost.


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer



By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:36AM

Midlands Movies Worst Films of 2018


There have been a fair amount of disappointments this year – The Endless probably topping that list – but here are my picks for ten of the worst movies released in the UK this year. From terrible CGI flicks to sloppy slashers, some films may be technically worse than others but it was the all-round underwhelming nature of these poor efforts that saw them join this list of dreadfulness.


With some unintentional laughs to be had in a few – Escape Plan 2’s hilarious awfulness would never see it at number one on this list – the majority failed across the board with bad acting, script, F/X, story and more.


If you would like to read more about each shocking movie then there are links to our full reviews under each entry and I’d highly advise you avoid these stinkers - so go watch them at your own peril!



10. Final Score (2018) Dir. Scott Man

“Squeezing in to the tenth spot just as the year ends is this woefully misjudged action film where Dave Bautista goes to watch a West Ham football game before joining forces with a steward to take down a group terrorists who have infiltrated the stadium. What??? With a tone that mixes Die Hard with UK soap opera Eastenders, you would think that making a film with that premise would be an incredible mistake. And you know what? You’d be absolutely right. A bike chase across the stadium roof is one of many hilariously misjudged action sequences and it’s a shame this won’t be the first time we see Bautista on this list. This stupid soccer film never kicks off and from its awful script to its clichéd narrative, I couldn’t wait for the final whistle to blow”.



9. The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

“More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Here he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly and as quick as you like he’s involved in a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad”. Click here for full review




8. Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a successful reputation you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. Here a group of adolescents will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare with supernatural origins. A convoluted set of rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish”. Click here for full review




7. The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff

“Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. The admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions”. Click here for full review




6. Death Wish (2018) Dir. Eli Roth

“A remake of the Charles Bronson 1974 revenge flick, Willis plays surgeon Paul Kersey who takes the law into his own hands after a home invasion sees his wife killed and his daughter end up in a coma. But Death Wish is a ham-fisted and low-quality attempt to pull ideas together. A waste of time that is perhaps trying to tap into the Taken crowd, Death Wish has a scene where a man actually gets hit on the head by a bowling ball which is a fine metaphor for this poor film itself”. Click here for full review



5. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

“Any positives the first film had are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anyway whilst the kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie”. Click here for full review



4. Winchester (2018) Dir. Michael and Peter Spierig

“Helen Mirren stars as heiress Sarah Winchester - the lady of the house who is haunted by spirits in her turn of the century mansion. Along for the (dull) ride is Jason Clarke but don’t expect the slow build up needed for these kind of films. Quiet, quiet, quiet then BOOM, a pale looking ghost appears. If that's your thing then fill your boots but for the rest of us that technique is lifeless and predictable. A lack of true shocks, a boring narrative and scene after scene of dull exposition, not even the talented actors can raise this flop from the dead”. Click here for full review



3. Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) Dir. Steven C. Miller

"Sylvester Stallone is back in prison again in an unbelievably bad (and unintentionally hilarious) mish mash of dull action, bad acting and sci-fi! Yes, sci-fi. The plot sees his colleague Shu Ren (Huang Xiaoming) end up in a prison that is more Tron: Legacy and Running Man than it is a modern prison. Neon lights, smoky corridors and laser doors (!) replace any sense of even a semblance of reality and by the mid-way mark I half thought the ending would reveal them to be in space. The sets are small, badly lit and cheap looking and the lighting is abysmal. “It’s bad to be back”, Sly says in an action one-liner which means nothing – yet summing up this film to perfection". Click here for full review



2. The Hurricane Heist (2018) Rob Cohen

"From the director of such “classics” as XXX (2002), Stealth (2005) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) comes this inane action romp where a bunch of criminals plan a bank heist around the impending arrival of a Force 5 hurricane. There’s so little to recommend in a film with such a ludicrous premise as this and it’s not only a no-brainer in all senses of the word, the film is unsurprisingly a no-entertainment zone too. So, batten down the hatches and ensure you are safely hidden away until this monstrous disaster has passed you by”. Click here for full review



1. The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black

“Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. The film takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin and with sets seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film has all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub. Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue. Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon”. Click here for full review


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jul 11 2018 02:00AM

Quite simply, here is our ongoing and updated list of Film Festivals in the Midlands (2018 edition):


• THE SHORT CINEMA http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk info@theshortcinema.co.uk Phoenix, Leicester - August 20 – 25, 2018


• NOTTINGHAM MICRO FILM FESTIVAL Twitter @FilmNottingham http://www.nimfestival.com/ 8-10 March 2018


• INDIE-LINCS - March 15-18 2018 Based at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, and run in partnership with The School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln http://www.indie-lincs.com


• BRINDLEY PLACE OUTDOOR FEST - http://www.brindleyplace.com/event/brindleyplace-film-festival-2018/ July 16 -22 2018


• LEICESTER DOCFILM FEST https://twitter.com/docfilmfestival Contact John Coster November 2018


• BORDERLINES FEST http://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk UK's largest rural film festival. Herefordshire/Shropshire - 23rd February - 11th March 2018


• BIRMINGHAM FILM FEST - November 22 – 25 2018 https://filmfreeway.com/festival/Birminghamfilmfestival


• BIFF FEST (Black International Film Fest) https://www.biffestival.co.uk 2018 dates TBC


• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL http://www.shockandgore.co.uk The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, July. Contact david@theelectric.co.uk or https://twitter.com/shockgore July 27 to Aug 5 2018


• DEAFFEST http://www.deaffest.co.uk The UK's International Deaf Film & Arts Festival Wolverhampton. Contact info@light-house.co.uk Friday 17th to Sunday 19th May 2019


• THE UK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LEICESTER - http://tonguesonfire.com/ 15 March - 31 March 2018


• SHOUT FESTIVAL http://shoutfestival.co.uk Birmingham Dates TBC for 2018


• DERBY FILM FESTIVAL http://www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk 4th - 13th MAY 2018


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


• MAYHEM HORROR Film Fest - Halloween. Contact Broadway cinema in Nottingham http://www.broadway.org.uk/mayhem 11 October - 14 October 2018


• FLATPACK FEST - Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk 13 - 22 April 2018


• EAST ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL http://www.eastwindsfilmfest.com May 2018


• BEESTON FILM FESTIVAL - https://twitter.com/BeestonFilm 8th - 11th March 2018


• SHROPSHIRE RAINBOW FILM FESTIVAL http://www.rainbowfilmfestival.org.uk/midlands-zone 5th - 7th October 2018


• GRINDHOUSE PLANET - www.grindhouseplanet.com November 2018 TBC


* BOTTLESMOKE FILM FESTIVAL - https://www.facebook.com/BottleSmokeStoke Stoke on Trent, 8th - 9th September 2018


* POCKET FILM FESTIVAL (Unseen cinema) http://www.unseencinema.co.uk/pocket-film-festival-2018/ Stafford 12-17 March 2018


* BIRMINGHAM HORROR GROUP - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birmingham-horror-group-mini-movie-marathon-25-march-2018-tickets-41683231668 Mini-Movie Marathon Mini-Movie 25 March 2018


* SHROPSHIRE'S FIRST WORLD WAR FILM FESTIVAL https://twitter.com/wilfredowen100 8th October to 23rd November 2018


* THE BRAVE BLACK BIRD FILM FEST Wolverhampton https://ajayhackett2113.wixsite.com/bbff Wolverhampton 25th Feb 2019 (submissions until July 2018)


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


* NOTTINGHAM FILM FESTIVAL Hothouse Theatre Nottingham https://twitter.com/NottmFilmFest 8th July 2018


* THE VENUE LINCOLN FILM FESTIVAL Lincolnshire https://www.thevenuelincoln.co.uk 6th - 8th July 2018


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


* THE TELFORD FILM FESTIVAL Telford & Wrekin - various venues across Telford as part of the twon's 50th anniversary http://www.telford50.co.uk/filmfestival 14th September to 31st October 2018


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

http://www.festivalfocus.org/festival

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

http://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Jun 10 2018 08:51AM

12 Underrated films that may have passed you by since 2010


Despite your huge collection of DVDs, BluRays, boxsets, collector’s editions and streaming services, have you ever found yourself staring into space struggling to find a film to watch? With so many options available at just a touch of a button, the choice can be overwhelming. However, we’re going to provide a friendly list for your viewing pleasure as we showcase a dozen great films from the last few years that may have slipped under your radar.


Whether it be quirky documentaries, underground sci-fi or a splash of comedy, we have something for you. Take a read of the list below of our highly recommended, but often little-seen, movies – especially if you’re in the mood for something different to the usual multiplex blockbusters or critics’ darlings. And hit us up on Twitter @midlandsmovies with some of your own suggestions!




Coherence (2014) Dir. James Ward Byrkit

Written and directed by James Ward Byrkit this is an 89 minute thrilling sci-fi mystery set at a suburban USA dinner party that pulls at the audience’s emotions and brainstems equally. The film sets up a dinner meal and after discussion of a passing comet, the electricity goes off and the group explore their neighbourhood which leads to a mysterious occurance.. To say too much would be to spoil the surprise but with a similar tone to the low budget film Primer (2004) as well as the confusing and twisting narrative of Triangle (2009) the handheld realism leads to a brilliantly constructed film that demands a second viewing in order to fully appreciate the looping plot.



Stoker (2013) Dir. Park Chan-wook

A tense psychological thriller from the director who gave us OldBoy, Stoker again covers dark family secrets and was written surprisingly by Wentworth Miller of Prison Break. Avoiding any happy ever after clichés, the film has sinister fairy tale imagery from wooded copses, creepy spiders and phallic rocks to heighten the Hitchcockian themes of betrayal, deception and revenge. A trio of Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, bring strangely winning performances in a social drama with a mythic quality. A far-fetched but fascinating fable.




Tim’s Vermeer (2014) Dir. Teller

Directed by stage magician Teller, this documentary gives us a portrait of Tim Jenison, a man who spends 5 years testing his theory which proposes how Renaissance Dutchman Johannes Vermeer possibly used optical instruments to help create such realistic paintings. A friend of Teller’s magician partner Penn Jillette, Tim comes across as a barmy garage-style bonkers scientist who has worked with computer graphics but has no formal artistic training. In his quest to be authentic, Tim also learns to use traditional methods to render not just the painting he admires but the entire room. The doc constructs a brilliant study of one man’s drive and his crazy courage to complete his personal canvas.




Frank (2014) Dir. Lenny Abrahamson

Based on the idiosyncratic UK comedic stylings of Frank Sidebottom, this movie is a fictionalised account of an eccentric musician trying to find his calling in life. The musical journey is seen through the eyes of Jon (a brilliantly naive Domhnall Gleeson) who leaves his humdrum life to work on an album of bizarre instrumentations and unusual compositions. The lead singer Frank (Michael Fassbender) persistently wears an over-sized homemade head and the film follows the erratic interactions and odd relationships between band members. Fassbender delivers a virtuoso performance as the comical yet infectious front man trying to connect with world he’s closed himself off to in a screwball study of creativity and mental hindrances.




White Bird in a Blizzard (2015) Dir. Gregg Araki

Set in a well-designed 80s of big hair, big phones and bigger boom boxes, the film follows the disappearance of unhappy mother Eve Connor (Eva Green) with flashbacks punctuating the modern day narrative strands to show her daughter Kat (Shailene Woodley) as she explains her drunken mother’s loveless marriage. The film may seem like Gone Girl-lite but its mysterious take on small-town life has echoes of American Beauty with its voiceovers, repressed fathers and dinner table silences. The comparisons continue with a sexless marriage and blossoming sexualised teenagers. The movie bounces easily between cold relationships to seduction secrets to create a winning formula of nosey next-door neighbours and night time naughtiness.




Snowpiercer (2014) Dir. Bong Joon-ho

All aboard for this South Korean/USA action film which tells the story of Curtis, a rebel on a fascist train that encircles the globe now that mankind has caused an accidental ice age. The snow train is a prison with the poor and destitute forced to live in squalor at the tail end whilst the rich live like royalty near the locomotive’s front. Curtis (a bearded Chris Evans) teams up with Edgar (Jamie Bell) and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) to overthrow the guards and with Tilda Swinton as a norther- accented minister with a nasty sadistic side, the movie is an original take on a tested formula. Joon-ho delivers the appropriate amount of fist fights and combines this with his artistic Eastern outlook with some inventive Hollywood-style smack downs. Although the premise is absurd, the audience will be pulled along for the wintery ride enjoying the emotional tracks the director lays out for us.




Joe (2014) Dir. David Gordon Green

After a glut of awful b-movie films, Nic Cage gets to tackle headier material by playing a violent loner in the Deep South where he stars as father figure to Tye Sheridan. We get a sizzling slice of Southern life played out amongst rural blue collar workers who turn to violence whilst trying to maintain their dysfunctional family dynamics. Alongside Cage’s muted dramatic chops and the rusty trucks, the two play out a tragic and cruel drama. The director elicits a cornucopia of emotions as we witness passionate kindred bonding and drunken falling. Cage is perfectly suited to the grizzled everyman and shows why he is still a watchable performer given the right material.




Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) Dir. Mark Hartley

Following Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who in the 1980s bought low-budget scripts to make even lower budget films, this documentary explores the ups and downs of the schlock movie business. Remembered for low budget action “classics” such as the Death Wish franchise as well as Delta Force, the film actually exposes some of the creative risks (but with little money) the cousins took as they tried to reflect, and sometimes create, the trends and fashions of the day. They made entertaining, amusing yet ultimately quite dreadful films but despite the low-low budgets, their productions focus on a sense of fun and the film provides a comedic look on how not to run a studio.




Love & Mercy (2015) Dir. Bill Pohlad

This biographical drama follows the life of Brian Wilson during the height of the Beach Boys’ fame in the 60s and his turbulent later years in the 80s where a confused Wilson deals with controlling advisors. The swinging section has a brilliant Paul Dano focusing on his song-writing whilst in the 80s, Cusack plays a more vulnerable Wilson who gets around with his new wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) and Paul Giamatti’s creepy psychotherapist. The Beach Boys’ music punctuates the film as Dano discovers his genius pop-hits and Cusack’s understatement is the flipside of Wilson’s fractured subconscious. Experimental in narrative, the film focuses on the brilliant brain of Brian through 2 different actors in a perfect portrayal of the mastermind musician.




Grand Piano (2014) Dir. Eugenio Mira

In the vein of Buried and Phone Booth Grand Piano is a taught ‘one-location’ thriller where a returning pianist protégé Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) is threatened with murder during his comeback concert. An assassin promises to shoot him if he gets just one note wrong in his performance and the tension rises as a sniper’s laser sight passes over his sheet music. The pianist comes to terms that both he and his wife in the audience are at the hands of this man as he desperately tries to figure a way out using coded messages to escape with his life. A fast rhythm ratchets up the stakes using creative editing, along with a fantastic score coming from Frodo’s fingers himself. Any low-budget limitations are set aside as Grand Piano plays to its strengths like a fine composer.




As Above So Below (2014) Dir. John Erick Dowdle

Academic Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) delves into the catacombs under Paris in a found footage horror as she and her cohorts look for the philosopher’s stone, a powerful but possibly cursed historical relic. The jumps, scares and the Descent-style claustrophobia come across in every frame with the cast filming in the real caves and stone corridors under the City of Light. With a shadowy sense of foreboding around every corridor twist and turn, the concept is as old as the hills but the ancient caves contain enough no-frills shocks for a Saturday night scare-fest.




Life Itself (2014) Dir. Steve James

From the director of the Oscar nominated documentary Hoop Dreams comes this film based upon legendary film critic Roger Ebert's 2011 memoir of the same name. From his humble beginnings as a film critic through to the co-writing of the cult film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the film covers the major points of his life using interviews and archive footage as well as excerpts from his infamous show with Gene Siskel. A powerful but humorous writer, Ebert not only scored a Pulitzer for his work, he also helped elevate film criticism and established himself as the foremost authority on the subject. The doc later moves to Ebert’s hard fought struggle with illness but show how great his outlook was, not just through his career around the movies, but as a mantra for life itself.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Mar 5 2018 08:35PM

The Greatest Snow Movies


For a huge majority of people, namely adults who’ve tired of freezing to death while building an inadequate snowman, snow is a massive inconvenience. Filmmakers on the other hand love the stuff. Since the earliest days of celluloid, when it was an obvious way to give visual distinction to black-and-white landscape shots, snow has been a far more persistent phenomenon in the movies than meteorological reality.


In no particular order…




Fargo


Goof and gore were the sideshow to a main event of snappy dialogue and Oscar-worthy acting. Frances McDormand is phenomenal as the tenacious, heavily pregnant sheriff who has to investigate three murders when a kidnapping goes very, very wrong. Was the claim that it was a true story fictitious? Oh, you betcha, yah.


Fact - Filming took place in the winter of 1995, when the region was experiencing its second-warmest winter in 100 years. Filming of outdoor scenes had to be moved all over Minnesota, North Dakota, and Canada, and a lot of the snow was artificial.




Frozen


Yes we’re all sick & tired of the songs, and lots of women worldwide who could make money by putting on a blonde wig, green dress & sing in an American accent, have long since stopped earning money on the side at birthday parties. But for a film where the snow is such an indelible element in the story, it’s hard to beat.


Fact - Much of the U.S. had a colder than average winter in 2013, prompting many jokes about the powers of Elsa and Disney's marketing department.




The Thing


The Thing is a masterpiece of relentless suspense, gore soaked and outright, nihilistic terror, placing 12 men at an Antarctic station while an alien shapeshifter takes them over one by one. The snow only heightens the feeling of paranoia & hopelessness. There's not even a happy ending. In fact there's no conventional ending at all, just two men, alone in the icy dark one, or both, of whom may not be all they appear.


Fact - To give the illusion of icy Antarctic conditions, interior sets on the Los Angeles sound stages were refrigerated down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, while it was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.




The Grey


Liam Neeson leads an unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks when their plane crashes into the remote Alaskan wilderness. Not only must they battle the deadly elements, they must also combat a pack of rouge wolves. What could've been gung-ho, B-Movie schlock is given serious gravitas by director Joe Carnahan's script, and Neeson's stoic performance.


Fact - According to Liam Neeson, the temperatures were as low as -40 degrees Celsius in Smithers, British Columbia, where the film was shot. The snow storms/scenes were actual prevailing weather conditions, and not a cinematic illusion produced with CGI. The cast wore thermals under their costumes for additional protection.




A Simple Plan


The late, great Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton play polar (get it!) opposite brothers who’s lives unravel when they, decide to cover up the discovery of $4 million in a crashed plane. Sam Raimi reins in usual bag of tricks to deliver a taught, low-key thriller.


Fact - Sam Raimi learned some techniques about shooting in the heavy snow from the Coen brothers, friends of his who had been responsible for Fargo (1996), which Billy Bob Thornton appears in the TV spin-off of.



Groundhog Day


Cantankarous TV weatherman Bill Murray has to endure 2nd February in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania over, and over, and over, and over, and over again, and over, and over again, and over, and over again, and over, and over again in the greatest metaphysical, philosophical, romantic comedy of all time.


Fact - The ice sculptures featured in the movie (called Winged Victory) were carved by Randy Rupert, a.k.a. The Chainsaw Wizard. Randy is actually a Punxsutawney resident, and has a shop downtown. He can be found in the city park every Groundhog Day carving and selling his wooden sculptures




The Shining


Jack Nicholson, has never been more Jack Nicholson-y than in Stanley Kubrick's horror classic. Technically, there is no better film in the genre. Its chills are less direct (until Nicholson's character Torrance finally throws off the shackles of sanity that is), rather something that creeps under the skin to unsettle and disturb. Ambiguous to a fault, the story is open to many interpretations; in fact the excellent documentary Room 237 exploring several of them is almost as good as the film itself.


Fact - The "snowy" maze near the conclusion of the movie consisted of nine hundred tons of salt and crushed Styrofoam.




Die Hard 2


Of cause it’s not as good as the original (what is?), and it’s not as fun as the one that followed, but Die Harder is still a great action movie. At the time, Renny Harlin’s film was the most expensive ever made at $120m, but all the money is right up there on screen.


Fact - The confrontation between John McClane and William Sadler on the airplane's wing took several nights to shoot. Huge fans were used to blow in the fake snow in the background because of lack of real snow.




Cliffhanger


Another Renny Harlin joint sees Sly Stallone’s mountain rescue ace take, on Euro villains trying to escape the Rockies with $100 million. A superb pre-credit sequence kicks off the solid action template: from explosive, vertigo-inducing set-pieces, to a script chock full of obvious one liners, burning a pile of the stolen money Sly mumbles "It costs a fortune to heat this place".


Fact - Sylvester Stallone played Rambo, in the film franchise of the same name. In the novelization of this film, Stallone's character is referred to as "Rambo on ice".




Alive


Long time Spielberg collaborator Frank Marshall's second film tells the story of a young rugby team taking desperate measures to survive after being involved in an air crash that leaves them stranded in the Andes for ten weeks. Despite the survivors of the crash resorting to cannibalism to survive, this isn't a gory shlock-fest, but a triumphant tale of heroism in the face of unaccountable odds. It helps that the story is peppered with some incredible action scenes; with the initial air crash ranking as one of the most realistic and terrifying ever filmed.


Fact - The film's main location was the ski town of Panorama in the Canadian Rockies. To get all 150 cast and crew members to the location every morning took a fleet of five helicopters.


Jake Stevenson

By midlandsmovies, Jan 3 2018 09:13AM

Midlands Movies Writers Top Films of 2017


There's been so many good films out in 2017 that it was difficult for me (Midlands Movies Mike) to choose just 20 for a list of my favourite films of the last 12 months.


Well, we've also got some of our writers' favourite films who had an equally difficult choice to make.


First up is Robb Sheppard who said "it was tough" but amazingly got it down to just 5 excellent films


Robb's Top Films 2017


5. Thor: Ragnarok

4. Get Out

3. Personal Shopper

2. Logan

1. Blade Runner 2049





Check out and follow Robb's further film updates at https://twitter.com/RedBezzle


Up next is Kira Comerford who had honourable mentions to Gerald’s Game, To The Bone and Hidden Figures but slimmed down her choices to the 10 fantastic movies below.


Kira's Top Films 2017


10. Moonlight

9. Jackie

8. Mother!

7. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

6. Wonder Woman

5. Manchester By The Sea

4. The Disaster Artist

3. It

2. Baby Driver

1. Dunkirk




Follow Kira at https://twitter.com/FilmAndTV101


Finally , Guy Russell chooses his best from 2017....


9. The Greatest Showman

I can’t remember the last time I saw a musical so feel-good in the cinemas. Hugh Jackman was born to sing, act and dance. A true story if a little manipulated, The Greatest Showman tells the story of P.T Barnum, a hopeless visionary whose dream to entertain and create gave birth to what we now know as the circus. A brilliant and catchy soundtrack, along with the old Hollywood sets, costumes makes this my guilty pleasure of 2017.


8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

The Guardians return in the craziest series within the Marvel universe. Whilst I’m not the biggest superhero fan, there is something unique about these two films that gets me to revisit them again and again. This time The Guardians help their leader Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) uncover the truth behind his biological father. Just like the first entry, James Gunn writes and directs a crazy and witty blockbuster that sets itself apart from the other Marvel entries.


7. Hacksaw Ridge

Another war film but this time from director Mel Gibson who tells the story of soldier Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) a conscientious objector who served during WW2 in Japan. Refusing to kill the opposition he faces adversity from his peers and fellow soldiers, even more so when the troop find themselves in midst of war whilst on Hacksaw Ridge. A visceral war film by Gibson however he focuses on faith, courage and patriotism like many of his other films. This one will stand the test of time.


6. It

A band of mistreated kids group together when the mysterious Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgard) begins hunting the towns children. Not having seen the original 80s miniseries I went into this film with fresh eyes, not knowing what to expect, I came out with a firm belief that the horror genre is alive and well thanks to director Andy Muschietti who blends comedy with the macabre excellently. If you like Stranger Things or Stand by Me then this film is a must.


5. Dunkirk

Not my favourite Christopher Nolan film by a long shot, however Dunkirk is still an impressive bit of filmmaking. A dramatic account of the evacuation of Dunkirk during WW2, Nolan concentrates on three aspects of the evacuation, land, sea and air. Expertly giving equal time to each service, showing exactly how frantic and grave the situation was. Dunkirk doesn’t spend time on character development or background into the war, aspects I wasn’t a fan of when first viewed however I think a second viewing will prepare me better.


4. War for the Planet of the Apes

You could be forgiven for thinking this instalment of the Apes franchise was a WW2 film. Gun wielding maniacs on horses. However this is the third and supposedly final instalment of the Apes trilogy directed by Matt Reeves. This film honours the films before it as well as rounding up the trilogy in a satisfying manner. Another knock out performance by Andy Serkis as Caesar, the leader who leads a team of apes to retrieve his son from The Colonel (Woody Harrelson).


3. Get Out

Directed by comedy maestro Jordan Peele, his first feature film Get Out impressed critics and audiences alike. Chris is invited by his girlfriend Rose to spend the weekend at her parents’ house, introducing him to them for the first time. Embarrassingly the family make Chris’s skin colour an issue albeit a well-meaning though ludicrous issue. Peele’s debut spoke volumes to the masses in the midst of a vocal topic in America. Race. This is a popular movie that mattered.


2. Manchester by the Sea

An apartment handyman (Casey Affleck) becomes the legal guardian of his nephew when his brother passes away suddenly. I have never seen grief depicted in such an unflinching way before on film, director and writer Kenneth Lonergan handles the subject matter with a gentle hand allowing the audience to connect with the characters instead of just pitying them.


1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Loved by critics, hated by (a lot) of fans. I was one of the few fans of the Star Wars saga who was glued to their seat for the entirety of the films run time. Excellent action sequences, a complex villain, brilliant score and fantastic vision by Rian Johnson make Last Jedi the best cinema experience of 2017.



By midlandsmovies, Dec 19 2017 08:54AM

Top 5 Christmas Movies


Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell gets in the Christmas spirit by choosing his personal top 5 festive films that bring a warm feeling to his winter heart.


Well, it's that time of year again. The season of festivities, goodwill and a large amount of Christmas films showing in either the cinema or through the television at home. From childhood classics to black comedy capers here are my Top Five Christmas films.




1) Home Alone (1990)


An obvious choice but rightly so. Premiering in 1990, over the past 27 years Home Alone has cemented itself as a holiday classic. Starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McAllister, a 10-year-old boy whose parents have accidentally left him home alone in the madness of making a plane to Paris for the festive season. Burglars Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern respectively) are working the McAllister’s street not knowing Kevin is left behind. What ensues is a hilarious, chaotic fight to claim the house.


With a brilliant score by John Williams, family-friendly direction by Chris Columbus and original screenplay by John Hughes, not only is Home Alone a Christmas favourite but a favourite all year around.


Honourable Mention: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Whilst repetitive and overlong, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York recreates some of the same magic the first had one has, adding the festive New York atmosphere into the mix as well as the hilarious addition of Tim Curry as a snobby hotel concierge.



2) The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)


One of the greatest and most heavily adapted stories of all time, A Christmas Carol is brought to life in a unique way in The Muppets Christmas Carol. A live-action musical starring an on-form Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge whilst the supporting cast feature Kermit, Mrs Piggy and the rest of The Muppets. As a comedy film with modern songs and puppets it would have surprised many when this film revealed itself to be one of the most faithful re-enactments of Charles Dickens story. Michael Caine brings the film to life as Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve night, they visit the past, present and future in the hope he can see the error of his ways and redeem himself.


The cold, bleak, Victorian London setting is realised fantastically and compliments the film further as a Christmas classic.


Honourable Mention: Scrooge (1951). Another adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a lot more straightforward than The Muppets take on the subject matter. Alastair Sim portrays the titular character here brilliantly however when first released the film didn’t take off, only finding an audience many years later.



3) Die Hard (1988)


Recently voted “Britain’s favourite Christmas film” by the British public, this action adventure film from John McTiernan splits fans down the middle as to whether or not it can be classed as a “true” Christmas film.


The odds are stacked against off-duty police officer John McClane as he is trapped in a L.A. skyscraper during a Christmas Eve party while terrorists storm the building led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Released during July 1988, it became a smash hit summer blockbuster. With its sunny Los Angeles setting it’s easy to see why some people disregard Die Hard as a Christmas film however the merry soundtrack and seasonal references are peppered throughout bolstering the argument this is one of the greatest Christmas films of all time.


Honourable Mention: Die Hard 2 (1990) Suffering from the same problem Home Alone 2 had, this sequel was accused of being too repetitive when first released as John McClane fights more terrorists on Christmas Eve, this time at an airport. It has become a firm favourite since then too, myself finding it greatly entertaining. It even has snow this time around!



4) The Family Stone (2005)


One film that doesn’t pop up on these lifts very often is The Family Stone, a comedy-drama film that follows the Stone family as they gather at their parent’s home, amongst them is Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) who introduces his family to his new fiancée Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) during the holidays. However, she receives a hostile reception and invites her own sister to stay causing further complications.


The Family Stone is a Christmas film that doesn’t get much air time come the festive season and it’s a shame. A moderate box-office and critical hit, it’s funny enough and has some real dramatic clout. It has a real slice of life feel to the film as there are awkward dinners, family rifts and arguments over spouses whilst balancing the comedy well.


If you’re after a snowy, Christmas setting with a fun premise then I would definitely recommend The Family Stone.


Honourable mention: Christmas Vacation (1989). Everyone’s favourite screwball family The Griswold’s return as they plan a big family Christmas involving both Clark and Ellen’s parents. Similar to The Family Stone in the sense that the family rarely get on for longer than ten minutes however in traditional John Hughes fashion the film doesn’t pass by without a happy, festive finale.



5) Bad Santa (2003)


Produced by the Coen Brothers and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa was always going to be close to the knuckle and it does not disappoint. Alcoholic safe cracker Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and fellow thief Marcus (Tony Cox) hit a mall every year at Christmas whilst posing as the stores Santa and his little helper, complications arise however when Willie befriends a troubled boy.


One of the crudest but funniest Christmas films of all time, Bad Santa will have some opposition for its less than gleeful outlook on the season however its use of advent calendars and store Santa’s more than make up for it.


If you’re a fan of the comedic talents of John Ritter, Bernie Mac and Billy Bob Thornton then check Bad Santa out! Just avoid the 2016 sequel.


Honourable mention: The Night Before (2015). Booze, Drugs and Debauchery come together to produce a Christmas three friends will never forget. The Night Before stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Anthony Mackie as childhood friends who get together every Christmas Eve to support Ethan (Levitt) who lost his family at Christmas. They decide to end their tradition but not without going out with a bang. The Night Before is a welcome addition to the adult Christmas genre providing enough laughs for the viewer to remember why they’re having such a good time.


Guy Russell

https://twitter.com/BudGuyer


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