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By midlandsmovies, Jan 7 2020 05:35PM

Quite simply, here is our ongoing and updated list of Film Festivals in the Midlands (2020 edition):


• THE SHORT CINEMA http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk info@theshortcinema.co.uk Phoenix, Leicester - August 2020 (TBC)


*CINE-EXCESS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - Birmingham School of Media Birmingham City 4th - 7th November 2020


• NOTTINGHAM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL http://www.nottiff.com/ 13th - 15th November 2020


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


• BRINDLEY PLACE OUTDOOR FEST - http://www.brindleyplace.com/event/brindleyplace-film-festival-2018/ DATES TBC


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


• BIRMINGHAM FILM FEST - 13th - 22nd November 2020 https://filmfreeway.com/festival/Birminghamfilmfestival


• BIFF FEST (Birmingham Black International Film Fest) https://www.biffestival.co.uk 2020 TBC


• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL Electric Cinema in Birmingham https://twitter.com/shockgore 2020 TBC


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


* BIRMINGHAM INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL http://birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk 2020 dates TBC


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


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


• DERBY FILM FESTIVAL http://www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk 19th - 23rd November 2020


• 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 15th - 18th October 2020


• FLATPACK FEST - Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk 5th - 10th May 2020


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


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


• GRINDHOUSE PLANET - www.grindhouseplanet.com 2020 dates TBC


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


* WIRKSWORTH FILM FEST https://wirksworth3minfilmfest.co.uk Derbyshire 2th - 31st July 2020


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


* HIGH PEAK INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL Derbyshire https://www.highpeakindie.com 6th - 9th August 2020


* NEXUS FILM FESTIVAL https://twitter.com/NexusEastMids Nottingham 17th - 21st May 2020


* NOTTZ FILM FESTIVAL Hothouse Theatre Nottingham https://twitter.com/NottmFilmFest 2020 Dates TBC


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


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


* PARACINEMA - Derby https://twitter.com/ParacinemaDerby 7th - 10th May 2020


* THE BLACK COUNTRY HORROR SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL - Stourbridge https://www.weepingbankproductions.co.uk/horror-film-festival Saturday 27th February 2020


* CINEQ - Birmingham Queer Film Festival - https://www.cineqbirmingham.co.uk 26th - 29th March 2020


* LEAMINGTON FILM FESTIVAL - Temperance Bar, Leamington Spa http://www.temperance.bar/film-festival.html 10th - 12th January 2020


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

http://www.festivalfocus.org/festival

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

http://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Dec 20 2019 10:05PM

Midlands Movies Top 20 Films of 2019





20. A Vigilante Dir. Sarah Dagger-Nickson

What we said: “Great cinematography helps focus the story on a stellar performance from Wilde, who plays both a hard-nosed enactor of violence and, in flashback, a sensitive and emotional victim-turned-avenger. It has a smart and timely premise and is a quality movie tackling the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Olivia Wilde gives a career-best performance as the woman fighting this head on, and this exciting debut is a successful revenge film that delivers more insight into the topic than similar movies”

Click here for full review





19. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Dir. JJ Abrams

What we said: "with so many people to please, JJ has stuck safely to familiar beats. And although too familiar at times, The Rise of Skywalker is a fitting tribute to this trilogy and may just bring a bit of hope, and certainly a tear to your eye, knowing we’ve finally left this galaxy far, far behind".

Click here for full review





18. One Cut of the Dead Dir. Shin'ichirô Ueda

What we said: "Made on just $25,000 with a cast of unknowns, this surprising Japanese “horror” is an underground bloodbath success. Clever and knowing with plenty of comedy, One Cut of the Dead is as much about low budget zombie filmmaking as it is a low budget zombie film. A genuine indie gem, the film is in love with other rom-zom-coms but its true romance is with the filmmaking process itself".

Click here for full review








17. Us Dir. Jordan Peele

What we said: “The cast excel in their physical portrayal of their ‘other’ selves. Mixing slasher and home-invasion tropes with a Twilight Zone episode, Us is another frightful look at the current politics and issues facing the United States/U.S./‘Us’. And Peele’s masterful handling of a wide range of deeper meanings, along with a love for horror staples, sees Us continuing his spectacular cinema successes”.

Click here for full review





16. Fighting with My Family Dir. Stephen Merchant

What we said: “The film gets by on so much heart and has funny (and when needed, dramatic) scenes that mean audiences will empathise with the lovable characters from the outset. With crowd-pleasing humour, a tender heart and some affected drama, the film is brought to life with a simple and engaging directorial style from Merchant but the excellently delivered performance from the whole cast is the real contest winner here”.

Click here for full review





15. Brightburn Dir.David Yarovesky

What we said: “The movie's superhero genre-homages are a pleasure to watch as Brightburn has an interesting idea and a surprising amount of gore and horror making it a fantastic what-if fantasy film. With a mother desperate for a child to love, the film gives more depth to what could have been a throwaway fright flick and although firmly in the b-movie genre, I hope it gains enough of a cult following to deliver a sequel to its rather dark finale”.

Click here for full review





14. Can You Ever Forgive Me? Dir. Marielle Heller

What we said: “This career-defining role showcases McCarthy’s dramatic ‘chops’ and Richard E Grant channels some Withnail but is more likeable here – especially when pleading with McCarthy about being her only friend. Unobtrusive directing helps focus on the characters and it really is the McCarthy and Grant show here so can I ever forgive her for those awful comedies? Well, based on this performance, I’d be a fool not to”.

Click here for full review





13. Glass Dir. M Night Shyamalan

What we said: “It is to Shyamalan’s credit he not only got to finish a trilogy started 19 years ago but to do so in such a satisfying manner. Glass surprises by being the kind of dark, tension-filled shattering success that are nowadays shuffled off to Netflix when they should be enjoyed on the big screen as it provides more than satisfying thrills from the beginning until the end”.

Click here for full review





12. Lords of Chaos Dir. Jonas Åkerlund

What we said: “Whilst band members dispute the historical accuracy of some of the events in the film, it is then somewhat ironic the film concerns itself with character dualism, surface personality and the clashing viewpoints of each member. And Lords of Chaos dramatizes a bleak story with a great combination of multi-layered performances and grave scenes of violence. Ghastly but gratifying”.

Click here for full review





11. The Irishman Dir. Martin Scorsese

What we said: “A loving goodbye, age has mellowed them all and the film’s measured pace brought me into a satisfying world of sleaze, bribery and immorality. The Irishman is first-rate as an extraordinary drama of historical importance and covers contemporary themes of authoritarian corruption and violence. But it is also a more than pleasurable and honest love letter to the group’s past creative endeavours together”.

Click here for full review





10. Joker Dir. Todd Phillips

What we said: “And so, throwing in many modern political issues as it does along with a complexity not seen in many graphic novel-inspired films, Joker is not perfect but if you fancy something with a little more depth – think Nolan’s trilogy and then some – then the flick has enough thoughtful ambiguity and an amazing central performance to make it more than worthwhile”.

Click here for full review





9. Her Smell Dir. Alex Ross Perry

What we said: “Moss’ terrific central performance allows us to be drawn into her shocking exploits without condoning what she is doing to those around her. As she poisons herself one event at a time, the interesting dynamics are slowly teased out and revealed as the narrative progresses. From the excellent performances to the grotesque but engaging breakdowns, Her Smell is an intense and satisfying tour down a boulevard of broken dreams”.

Click here for full review





8. Destroyer Dir. Karyn Kusama

What we said: “With a tremendous cast throughout and first-rate scenes exploring the consequences of violence, Destroyer is an exceptional thriller from start to finish. But more importantly, it will destroy all preconceptions you had of Kidman as she delivers a superbly astonishing turn in the type of heroically repellent role I’d love to see more of”.

Click here for full review





7. Apollo 11 Dir. Todd Douglas Miller

What we said: “And as I type this on a laptop that has 1,500 times more processing power than the lunar module, the reality is that this was a dangerous mission with men strapped into a claustrophobic metal box stuck to the world’s biggest firework. Covering both science and patriotic emotions, Apollo 11 is a must-see for space enthusiasts and for the rest, you can bask in the jaw-dropping and immaculate footage which brings the electrifying lunar landing to life”.

Click here for full review





6. Booksmart Dir. Olivia Wilde

What we said: “The movie balances coarseness with an emotional heft that is incredibly satisfying. The two leads, Feldstein and Dever, are simply wonderful and some off-the-wall sequences on a boat, at a murder mystery party and as toy dolls are a giddy joy. A poignant conclusion and some believable drama throughout, the balance of laughs and moving scenes were affecting in this impressive film. Booksmart therefore comes highly recommended as a fun night out for all”.

Click here for full review





5. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood Dir. Quentin Tarantino

What we said: “The film demonstrates that Tarantino truly is in a class of his own in a period where franchise building has mostly replaced the draw of the big-named actor. But this incredibly satisfying love letter to these fictional pulp princes and real-life silver screen starlets provides a brilliant fantasy romance steeped in the glow of an era long gone. Helter Skelter in a summer swelter indeed”.

Click here for full review





4. Border Dir. Ali Abbasi

What we said: “Abassi uses themes of family and genetics to tackle the problems of being an outsider as he injects realism and history into his tall tale. A cracking drama with added fantasy elements, Border is both compassionate and shocking and comes hugely recommended as it combines amazing performances that go beyond the prosthetics with a host of disturbing images you simply won't forget”.

Click here for full review





3. Thunder Road Dir. Jim Cummings

What we said: “With a startling low micro-budget, Cummings has created a true masterpiece – with his talented self, rightly so, at the centre. Is it a dark comedy drama? Is it a reflection of contemporary American talking-points? Well, it’s all that and more but without doubt it comes hugely recommended as not just one of the best debut films of the year, but one of the best films period”.

Click here for full review





2. Avengers: Endgame Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo

What we said: “At the conclusion, the Russos have delivered exactly what was needed by assembling a perfect narrative, cast and, more difficultly, a rewarding ending to the most epic of stories. With their cinema-changing franchise, everything in Endgame is not just perfect comic-book fare, but the pure pinnacle of movie entertainment and was a gargantuan and gratifying game I never wanted to end”.

Click here for full review





1. The Favourite Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

What we said: “With its added darkness and the Machiavellian machinations of the three protagonists, the film is full to the brim with incredible performances alongside some eccentricities in its technical aspects, plus we mustn’t forget its terrific quip-filled script. It’s a formidable film from a director who takes weighty themes and provides a theatre for three mighty actresses to deliver some of the best performances of the year and possibly of their career”.

Click here for full review



By midlandsmovies, Dec 11 2019 09:52PM

Midlands Movies Worst 10 Films of 2019





10) Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Dir. Robert Rodriguez

What we said: “There’s so much CGI that the human characters inserted in the film feel almost unneeded and a distraction in themselves. But it's Alita's facial construction, whose eyes and face are computer-generated beyond all recognition which actually turned me off from the screen regularly. Sadly, as the Alita android is found amongst a big pile of junk and hastily put together, the film mirrors this in its themes, tone and dull execution”.

Click here for full review



9) Godzilla: King of the Monsters

What we said: “Fans said they wanted more Godzilla in their Godzilla film, but unfortunately this was added at the expense of everything else. With an offensive colour palette making every shot look like cloudy vomit, it seems that at the end of the day if you make a film that looks terrible then people are going to assume it is one. It’s like walking into work wearing clown shoes. That CGI artist team talk in full – “whatever you do guys and gals, don’t put in more than 70% effort”. A monster mess”.




8) Killers Anonymous (2019) Dir. Martin Owen

What we said: “It could have worked as a more serious chamber piece but in the end it sticks to a bland unsatisfying middle-ground. How Oscar-winner Gary Oldman got involved in this is anyone's guess. In the end, what could have worked as a one-off ITV drama is not cinematic enough for the ideas it has. And sadly, this more than tiresome movie tries to be a big screen blockbuster but is much more of a lacklustre little screen disappointment”.

Click here for full review




7) The Curse of La Llorona (2019) Dir. Michael Chaves

What we said: “It’s another dull entry into The Conjuring universe and is based on Mexican folklore where a supernatural entity attempts to steal children from their families. Mixing silly superstitions with godawful jump scares, the film’s filled to the brim with obvious 'quiet-then-loud' sequences and is the kind of PG-13 horror that is over-done and has been seen dozens of times before. Set your expectation level to “underwhelmed” and then still prepare yourself for a bit of a knock”.

Click here for full review




6) Domino (2019) Dir. Brian De Palma

What we said: “At just 89 minutes this crime thriller feels twice as long and stars Game of Throners Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten who are investigating the death of a Danish police officer. I don’t want to give away any spoilers about Domino but literally nothing happens. Combined with a troubled production and a star or two dropping out, this ramshackle made-for-TV level movie is lacklustre and dull. It seems the director’s strategy of not caring at all about his utterly useless movie hasn’t paid the handsome dividends he might have hoped for”.

Click here for full review




5) Triple Threat

What we said: “Wasting the talents of the excellent Iko Uwais (The Raid), Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) and Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi) for starters, the film is an incomprehensible and extremely boring set of action beats seen a billion times before. Choppy editing, absent characterisation and story and really naff fight sequences, this would be an embarrassment without the action legends present. With their involvement, the film is a far far worse crime".





4) Replicas (2019) Dir. Jeffrey Nachmanoff

What we said: “What is up with Keanu Reeves career making decisions? For every critical and commercial success he then opts to star in something so awful it beggars belief. A $30 million dollar failure, this film sees Reeves as William Foster, a scientist who breaks the law to clone his family members after they perish in a vehicle accident. Sadly the film contains every plot cliché you can imagine and, whether it’s the script (likely) or the direction, Alice Eve as his wife gives a simply atrocious performance. And despite its attempts to tackle deeper issues of loss, humanity and family, the film is mostly reminiscent of the bold boringness of Transcendence. Avoid”.

Click here for full review




3) Under the Silver Lake (2019) Dir. David Robert Mitchell

What we said: “The plot, if you can decipher it, involves Andrew Garfield investigating the sudden disappearance of his neighbour Riley Keough, but during his escapades uncovers a large and complicated conspiracy. Although it’s never really boring, it’s always awful. The only reason I watched right to the end of the credits was because I was hoping to get a fucking apology. I didn't”.

Click here for full review




2) Angel Has Fallen (2019) Dir. Ric Roman Waugh

What we said: “A frankly out-of-shape Gerard Butler returns in this third instalment in the Fallen film series following Olympus Has Fallen (the number 10 entry of our worst films of 2013) and London Has Fallen (the number ONE entry in our worst films of 2016) again playing secret service agent Mike Banning. What we have then is an unexciting, monotonous and dreary “action” film whose 2-hour runtime feels like 2 weeks. Fans may find something in this that I didn’t get out of it, but for general audiences, the franchise should fall into retirement as soon as possible”.

Click here for full review




1) Backtrace (2018) Dir. Brian A. Miller

What we said: “How does Stallone even get involved in films this bad? Sure, Nic Cage has made a ton of straight-to-VOD pish but at least they look like films. So, a January film already laying claim to the worst of 2019? Well, one positive is that maybe Stallone can better himself by improving on his third place position for Escape Plan 2 on our least favourite films of 2018 list and claim the top spot this year instead. Good luck. But, with 12 months to go, this film is so bad that Stallone is in with a VERY good chance of being the best of the worst”. Editor - And he was!

Click here for full review



Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, May 24 2019 01:11PM

10 of the Best Midlands films to look out for in 2019


We take a look at some of our hot picks of shorts, thrillers, documentaries, dramas and more from the talented folk of the Midlands region that are due to hit our screens later in 2019. Please do check out all these projects and head to their respective websites for full information on their forthcoming release dates.




Kobe directed by AR Ugas

Kobe is an upcoming short crime thriller film from West Midlands director AR Ugas about a university student who, after his childhood friend is released from prison, decides to enter into a life of crime which culminates in a robbery that goes wrong. Made in Birmingham, the film was shot, produced, directed and edited by Ugas, who had great success with his Tolkien-inspired first film 'The Return of the Ring' (our review here). With a gritty and dynamic aesthetic, the director hopes it's also a lot more personal film than he’s ever made before and working on the project are acting leads Mathias Andre and Dominic Thompson. Joining them are Tee Morris, Alexandria Carr, Bola Latunji and many more. With a plan to release the film in the next few months, you can find out more about the film and filmmaker here https://www.facebook.com/ARUGASUK or on Twitter




Red t'Blue directed by Jay Martin

This new 15-minute documentary-short from Sharp Edge Productions will focus on how, and why, the ex-mining town constituency of Mansfield swung from the Labour party, which had held it for a consecutive 94-years, to the Conservative party in the 2017 snap-election. A party which had not claimed the seat since its creation in 1885. Directed and written by Jay Martin (who made his directorial debut with Catharsis - our review), the Nottingham-based filmmaker studied at the Confetti Institute of Creative Technologies in September and will interview a wide variety of local representatives including former Labour MP For Mansfield Alan Meale who served as the MP for Mansfield for a consecutive 31 years. Find out more on Facebook and Twitter




Abatement directed by Gary Rogers & Sharni Tapako Brown

Described as a thriller based around trust, lies and life changing events, this West Midlands production comes from Sharni Tapako Brown and Gary Rogers, an award winning cinematographer that has worked on a multitude of projects that include dozens of short films, TV Commercials and music videos. Since starting Country Star Productions with Sharni, one their recent short films 'The Beauty of It' received a nomination for best cinematography at the Midlands Movie Awards. This film tells the story of a group of friends who, whilst out in the woods, encounter a life changing sequence of events that brings into question their trust in each other and themselves. Co-directing and writing is the talented writer, actress and model Sharni Tapako Brown. More info at Facebook and Twitter








Apocalyptic 2077 directed by Marc Hamill

As an independent motion picture production team from Leicester, Roasted Studios specialise in original New-wave British Grindhouse cinema and if you like post-apocalyptic movies such as Mad Max, Book of Eli, Escape From New York and Turbo Kid, then you are sure to get behind Apocalyptic 2077. With heroes & villains, ice pirates, cyberpunks, marauders, skin Traders and zombie nuns(!), the filmmaking team behind The Wrong Floor have promised a mayhem filled thrill ride in the tradition of 80s action classics. Starring Rudolph Barrow and Ryan Flamson, the film already had a successful preview premiere on Sunday 28th April at the Century Cinema in Leicestershire.


More info on Facebook



Poison Ivy directed by Sophie Black

Midlands-based Triskelle Pictures was created back in 2008 as founder Sophie Black (interview here) was completing her degree at the University for the Creative Arts, but after a whole raft of award-winning shorts are about to embark on potentially their most popular and explosive one so far. With a love for the DC Batman villain Poison Ivy, the filmmaker feels as though she has long been underrepresented in film so are producing a fan film that brings the character front and centre. This film is not endorsed by DC in any way - it's simply a passion project by people who adore the subject matter and stars Aislinn De'Ath & Robert Dukes in the lead roles. With successes already gained for their drama Night Owls and fantasy short Songbird, starring The X Factor's Janet Devlin, the film comes later in summer after a passionate post-production period.


Find out more on their official website and their Facebook page





The Nursery Man directed by Anthony Michael Tracy-Winson

Mr. Stitch Films is an independent movie production company founded by Anthony M. Tracy-Winson which specialises in making horror movies and their latest undertaking is The Nursery Man. Beginning production back in February 2018, the film stars Sarah Ellis who plays Marion Kelly, a former paranormal specialist for Dartmoor University who sets out to help tormented mother, Florence Taylor, played by Sarah Wynne Kordas who children have disappeared. With the production now ongoing for many months, filming has taken place around the region by the team who made The Baylock Residence (review here). But despite the long journey, with retakes and re-shoots undertaken, the crew want to make this film the best that Mr. Stitch Films has ever produced. Find out more on Facebook and their official website






Sustain directed by Dave Hastings

Written By Brett Dewsbury and David Hastings, crime thriller/drama Sustain is the new film from Midlands Director David Hastings & Producers Troy Dennison and Keiran Bowers (see our The House of Screaming Death review). Brett Dewsbury himself plays Kieran, a mild-mannered young man whose life is shattered by the death of his close younger step-brother Toby (Joshua Sewell), the victim of a vicious race attack. Confronted with the shocking reality of recent fatal events, Kieran must come to terms with what has happened, carrying on without Toby, the gloating thugs who have walked free from his brother’s death. With the film in deep post-production, editor Sam Woodhall has been working closely with Hastings on fine-tuning the now locked visual cut of the film with the picture edging ever closer to its completion for audiences. Check the latest production updates on Facebook





Off Grid directed by Carl Timms

Off Grid is the upcoming production from Dark Matter Films and Bewdley-based Director Carl Timms who shot the short film on location in Worcestershire earlier this summer with a completion date pencilled in for early 2019. This post-apocalyptic, supernatural thriller boasts a stellar cast including James Cosmo, MBE (Game of Thrones, Braveheart, The Outlaw King) as force of nature John Tanner; Alison Steadman (Pride and Prejudice, Gavin & Stacey) as his frail wife, Grace and Marc Baylis (Coronation Street) as the enigmatic ‘Stranger’. Bewdley-based director Carl Timms says, "We are delighted with how the filming turned out. We feel honoured to have worked with such a talented cast who brought these characters to life exactly as we hoped”. Check out their new teaser for the film which will be released soon. Check out their website at www.darkmatterfilms.co.uk





MacBeth directed by Daryl Chase

The Screen Northants group have secured funding from BBC’s Children In Need to produce films working with disadvantaged young people across Northampton and their new version of classic Macbeth sees them working with professional crew to produce the film, which is being shot over 5 weeks in the school summer holidays. Becky Adams, Director of Screen Northants, says, “We are over the moon that BBC Children in Need are supporting us again. And we are looking forward to making a tangible difference to young people’s life chances”. Various sites across Northampton are being used to create the setting for this gritty, urban retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Screen Northants are taking the story from ancient Scotland to a contemporary dystopian estate on the fringes of society, pitting estate against estate. Macbeth and the love of his life, Lady Macbeth, make moves to escape the rut they find themselves in. Find out more at www.screennorthants.co.uk






Angel City directed by Duaine Roberts

Written, directed & Produced by Duaine Carma Roberts of Carma Film, Angel City tells the story of sisters whose loyalty is tested when one is accused of attempted murder, which causes past truths to come to light. Since founding CarmaFilm Motion Pictures in 2015, Duaine Carma Roberts has had a vision to change the way film is perceived in both Birmingham and the rest of the UK. With stories focusing on every day struggles and challenges, our short and feature films have garnered attention across the country and success showing in various film festivals. The film stars Adaya Henry, Tamaira Hesson, Georgia Neath, Liam Millard, Chereis Sewell, Ackeem Gibbs and Andre Pierre and comes on the back of Robert’s previously successful shorts Dear Josephine (our review) and Graycon (our review). Find out more on Twitter and the Carma Film website





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, 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


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