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Music and Movies

    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Flatpack Festival is back!

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    There’s not a lot I can do at the moment, as I’ve been struck down with the lurgy, but the good folk at Flatpack Festival have released their line-up and I’ve been having a look through it.

    Returning for a ten-day festival of cinematic invention and audio-visual delights, #flatpack12 has yet another a great line-up this spring.  Running from 13-22 April 2018, Swedish witchcraft, animated sushi, teenage mermaids, silent trapeze and Shakespearean puppets are just a few of the delights.  And if that’s just a few of the selected highlights, then you know there’s going to be so much more creativity in store.

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    Music and Movies

    Pad Man and period poverty

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    Last Sunday I dashed out of my flat to catch Pad Man, a Bollywood film based around the real-life story of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham and his low cost menstrual hygiene machines.  Sadly it didn’t seem to be showing in many cinemas, so you may well have missed it – if it is showing near you, I highly recommend seeing it.

    Played by Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, Lakshmi is a newly-married welder who works in a rural village in India.  Lakshmi discovers his wife uses an unhygienic rag during her period and is banished from the house, forced to sleep outside.  Upon discovering the prohibitive costs of commercial sanitary pads, Lakshmi is determined to find a way to make them cheaper.  After several attempts earn him the ire of the community for discussing a taboo topic, Lakshmi is banished from the village but is determined not to give up.

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    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Stumbling across live music

    StopStop_Birmingham

    I love living in a city for so many reasons, but one of which is the richness of live street art and music that you can stumble across – sometimes it’s part of a festival and sometimes it’s just because.  Last night whilst I was ambling around the city centre, trying to decide what I should do for dinner, I spotted three people setting up equipment for a gig.  It’s not uncommon to see people playing around this area in Birmingham, but usually it’s a soloist with maybe a single amp, mic and possibly a guitar; a drum kit and enough kit for a full gig is quite unusual.  That, and the make up of some of the band, made me want to stick around to find out more.  Plus, I still hadn’t decided what to have for tea.

    Unsurprisingly it turned out they were a rock band, and the man in front of me was right in his assertion they looked like they were going to be worth sticking around for. Once they’d told the group of bemused onlookers who they were, I did a quick online search and turns out StOp,sToP! have quite the following. I stuck around for a few songs, ignoring my rumbling tummy, and thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of Proud Mary in particular.

    Stop Stop Birmingham 2

    In a week when terrible things have happened in our fellow second city, armed police patrol the streets and trains, we’re told trauma centres are on high alert, and the country’s threat level is raised to critical, a rock band plays a free gig in Birmingham city centre. It feels ridiculous and defiant, and as the crowd sung and danced along, it felt like the right.

    Music and Movies

    2015 film round up

    Ever since the 2013 film challenge I seem to have decreased the number of films I’ve seen and 2015 carried this on; although with 34 films at the cinema-ish is still pretty good.

    The year started off typically with a lot of the films that I thought would be Oscar nominated, and I was right.  Personally of the films I saw that were Oscar nominated, Whiplash was by far my favourite for how much it kept me holding my breath and engrossed in the film.  There were also lots of big blockbuster movies; Mad Max, Jurassic World and Ant Man, as well as rom-coms like Pitch Perfect 2, Trainwreck and The Duff and a couple of documentaries like Internet’s Own Boy and Amy.  Actually, looking back it was a more rounded list than I’d realised.

    Anyway, should you be interested, here’s the full list is below (or clickable here).

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    Music and Movies

    2014 film round up

    I never actually intended to set myself any challenges for films in 2014. I certainly thought about it – see all of the films nominated for an Oscar, watch X amount of foreign/indie/British films, finally see the classic film X. But in the end it came down to realising that I’d already proven I could watch over 50 in a year, if I made time to do so, and at times at the expense of other things.  And I didn’t really want to give up another year to excluding things for the sake of a silly challenge that was too similar to one I’d completed.

    Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 00.53.28So for 2014 I decided all challenges were off and to watch whatever I wanted whenever I had time (but still keep a list).  A year of going to the cinema whenever something semi-decent and I sort-of had time put me into a routine of thinking about going more.  Which translated into actually going more.  And is probably how I ended up at 45 films in 2014, without even really trying.  Sure there were still cinema days (three films in one day), but because I realised it was the best way I could recapture old days of binge watching films, something I struggle to do at home now because I get easily distracted by twitter/facebook/instragram/blogs/news/cat videos.  If the phrase didn’t make me shudder I’d suggest that it was much more a sense of being ‘in the moment’ of which what I really mean is absorbed in a good story.

    Much like 2013, the list for 2014 is an eclectic one.  There’s was a lot less watching films in non-cinemas and one month I didn’t see anything on a big screen.  However there were still films apparently aimed at children where the audience was mainly made up of adults (I’m looking at you The Lego Movie), superheros, love stories, thrillers, romcoms, action movies, chick flicks, foreign films and even one set in Birmingham itself (Arjun & Alison – good work Cineworld for showing it).  Some of 2014’s gems, for me, were the aforementioned Lego Movie, Her, Veronica Mars, Boyhood, Calvary – and the two films that made me cry, Pride and the Fault in Our Stars.

    Anyway, should you be interested, here’s the 2014 Film List.

    Music and Movies

    50 films in 2013: How I did

    It’s a new year and time to reflect; in January last year I challenged myself to watching 50 films at the cinema in 2013.  Well the year is over and how did I do? I aimed for 50…I managed 74. 

    So how did I do it?  The short answer is with some good planning, a Cineworld Unlimited card and a ‘why not’ attitude.  Turns out if you have a a cinema pass and spend some time checking running times you can see three films in one day.  A big thanks to the staff at the Birmingham branch of Cineworld for their general amusement at me rocking up and getting three tickets – and even double checking my timings (and a special thanks to Megan who was brilliant when my mum and I saw Gone With the Wind).  I also saw films in the local independent cinema, in the basement of a coffee shop as part of the inaugural Birmingham Architecture Festival, an arts centre, a warehouse as part of the Jameson Cult Film Club and a couple of other cinemas – thanks to them too.

    The most important thing for me was that all the films I saw were films I actually wanted to see; I was determined that I wasn’t going to complete the challenge watching things I’d felt forced into watching.  Sure I saw some trash, I’m not going to apologise for that, but I also saw some great films too.  A couple of the films I enjoyed: The Way, Way Back; Rise of the Guardians; Much Ado About Nothing; Frances Ha; Frozen; Chico & Rita…and a few of the others!

    I’ve uploaded the full list of 74 films here.  This year I’m going to try and keep my ‘why not’ attitude towards cinema going, but I’m not going to set myself a number.

    Music and Movies

    50 Film Challenge #5-8

    January is always a busy month at the cinema as it seems to be when all the Oscar films are out in the UK.  It’s also why I ended up at the cinema eight time this month.  Here are the other bunch of reviews…

    5. Gangster Squad

    With a mob king virtually ruling the streets of LA in the 1940’s, a group of street-hardened cops are tasked with a clandestine operation to clean up the streets, but there’s one rule: no badges.

    This film could’ve been so much more than it was and yet some how that didn’t matter so much.  It was certainly watchable and nice to see Gosling and Stone reunite, but the plot was a bit gangster-lite.  The gloss of the film makes it difficult to take it seriously as the portrayal of the mob, but will hopefully encourage people to see out some grittier films. 3/5

    6. Les Miserables

    Set during the French revolution this epic based-on-a-play-based-on-a-book tells the tale of Jean Valjean, a man searching for redemption whilst being pursued by a ruthless policeman.  A rags-to-riches tale, when Valjean agrees to take care of a young girl his life changes forever.

    Presumably another example of translating from the stage straight to the screen this film attempts to employ the tricks of the theatre and in so misses some interesting plot details (particularly Valjean’s journey from outcast to respected and wealthy factory-owner).  Overly long and lacking in any real narrative plot this certainly has some emotional issues but they feel exploitative.  But Hugh Jackman’s performance is superb however. 3/5

    7.  Wreck It Ralph

    Video-game baddie Ralph is fed up of being the outcast in the game he has played for decades.  Taking matters into his own hands he escapes and goes game-hoping across the arcade in search of a way of being accepted.

    An entertaining film with cameos from retro computer game characters that are sure to keep the adults as interested as children, this is an adorable blend of humour and heart.  Ralph is a great character, labeled as the baddie he just wants to be accepted.  An utterly charming film (as is the short film shown before). 4/5 

    8. Zero Dark Thirty

    Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow turns her attention to the CIA’s decade long hunt for Osama Bin Laden.  CIA agent Maya arrives as the tides are changing, torture as a method of gaining information is on the way out as the agency is forced to resort to conventional tactics which are at times hampered by man power and vast amounts of data.

    Despite being a film where the ending is know, the film works much like a slow-burning thriller that builds to a cool but edging will-they-won’t-they.  At 2hrs 37mins this is another ‘bladder-buster’ of a film but each minute feels worthwhile.  Chastain is a great lead, although the hints of her background (recruited straight out of high-school and almost single-minded in her determination) could’ve been explored a little more.  Despite criticism the film gives a considered look at the use of torture in evidence gathering and a lack of jingoism makes this one film well worth seeing. 4.5/5