ABC Film Challenge – Romance – O – Once Upon at Time in the Midlands (2002)

Director: Shane Meadows

Writer: Paul Fraser, Shane Meadows (Screenplay)

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Ricky Tomlinson, Kathy Burke, Rhys Ifans, Finn Atkins


Plot: After seeing his ex-girlfriend (Henderson) turn down a nationally televised marriage proposal, a small-time crook (Carlyle) returns to his hometown to try and win back her heart.

Tagline – A tinned spaghetti western

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Nice Little English Rom Com


Story: Once Upon a Time in the Midlands starts when a dysfunctional family Charlie (Tomlinson) and Carol (Burke) appear on a national TV show to try address their problems and are joined by her friend Shirley (Henderson), she gets a surprise when her boyfriend Dek (Ifans) proposes to her on national TV, leading to her saying no.

This appearance grabs the attention of her ex Jimmy (Carlyle) a criminal now living in Scotland to return to try and win her heart again. With Jimmy’s return the street is thrown into chaos with friendships being tested and relationships pushed to the limits.


Thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the Midlands


Characters – Jimmy is a criminal living in Scotland, when his latest job gives him a chance to return to the Midlands to try and win back his ex and his daughter, he has a reputation of being violent, but does he deserve another chance or not, is he a changed man or not. Shirley is the woman caught in the middle of everything, she is living with Dek, she had a child with Jimmy, she loves both men and isn’t sure where she wants her heart to go, even if Jimmy is wrong for her in every way. Dek is the new partner of Shirley who has helped raise her child, he has his own business and is always out to make sure they have everything they need in life, he becomes threatened by Jimmy’s return making him act out of character. Charlie and Carol are both caught in the middle of this knowing they have a past with Jimmy, but see the positives Dek has bought to the family for Shirley.

PerformancesRobert Carlyle as the bad boy criminal is a perfect casting choice, it is a role he made famous in Trainspotting and he does bring a calmer version to us here, which is everything needed for the film. Shirley Henderson is a delight to watch, we believe the hard times she has been through and the difficulties she has been facing in life. Rhys Ifans is funny to watch in his role, where he brings us a more clean cut father figure in Shirley’s life. The supporting cast is great to watch with plenty of laughs coming from them.

StoryThe story here follows an everyday group of friends including couples living in the midlands, whose lives get turned upside down by the return of the disruptive influence that wants to make up for his past mistakes. This does show us how the lives of the people in the working class Midlands is, they support each other, but will stay loyal to loved ones, only for this to put everybody in a difficult decision spot when Jimmy return. We do see how people can seem like they were always trying to do the right thing only for them to not have changed and been selfish. Everything flows nicely for the story to unfold, which does help connect everything together too.

Comedy/RomanceThe comedy mostly comes from the supporting characters, we get plenty on how the people react to everything going on, the romance shows us just how difficult the life of Shirley has become with the man she once loved returning to compete against the man who has loved her and put her life in order.

SettingsThe film is set in the Midlands, this helps us understand how the people involved live and how they are making the most of their everyday lives.

Scene of the Movie –
The knockout punch.

That Moment That Annoyed Me It seems to forget one part of the story.

Final ThoughtsThis is a fun British comedy that has an excellent cast and a realistic look at how relationships can be complicated.


Overall: Funny moments throughout.




Bradley Cooper Weekend – Serena (2014)

Director: Susanne Bier

Writer: Christopher Kyle (Screenplay) Ron Rash (Book)

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris, Ana Ularu


Plot: In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton’s timber empire becomes complicated when he marries Serena.

Tagline – Some loves can never let you go.

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Painfully Slow


Story: Serena starts as we see how George Pemberton (Cooper) and his timber empire is struggling with money, meeting Serena (Lawrence) the two are married and her past in the timber industry helps George make decisions which will increase the profit he is making.

When George’s long term friend and first to turn to Buchanan (Dencik) starts to turn away from his ideas to work with the local Sheriff McDowell (Jones) who wants to stop the timber trade and make a national park, the life of George is turned upside down with only Serena to keep his head on straight.


Thoughts on Serena


Characters – George Pemberton is a timber tycoon, he has built up his empire and the work seems to be going well, though he is in financial hardship, friends turning on him and turning to methods which could bring down his whole empire. Serena is the woman from another world, daughter of a timber tycoon herself who tragically lost her family in a fire, she knows how to get the most out of a profit and stars to help run the business with George. Galloway is a tracker that works to help locate dangers for the crew, on the side job he makes sure that George can hunt the animals he desires. Sheriff McDowell is the man against George, he wants to turn the woodland area into a park which could one day bring tourists to the area.

PerformancesBradley Cooper is known more for his work in comedy, sure he has tackled dramas before and usually done a good job, in this he struggles to make any impact on the film, though he isn’t the only one. Jennifer Lawrence is no where near her best in this film as she struggles to make the impact her character seems to need to be having on the film. Rhys Ifans is the only one that seems to be interesting to watch in this film. I would say most of these comes from the poorly written characters.

StoryThe story here follows a timber tycoon who is about to lose his fortune until he meets Serena who only makes thing even crazier for him. Well that is what I got from the story, I am not going to lie, there isn’t much going on in this film, I don’t know if this is based on a real person who just the depression-era in general or even the time scale of the movie. We do seem to have a storyline about deforestation versus a nature park which for the most part is a back burner while also having a story about love I think. This is one of the weakest stories I have ever seen, it doesn’t capture anything we need to make us enjoy what we are seeing.

RomanceThe romance side of the film is a quickie marriage and learning that love happened before the wife arrived.

SettingsThe film is set in Colorado which was a big part of the timber industry, it works for the film without giving us too much to work with visually.

Scene of the Movie –
George saving the crew member.

That Moment That Annoyed Me Most of it being boring.

Final ThoughtsThis is a movie that drags along way to slowly without any meaningful storyline arcs going on, we have unlikable characters and nothing that captures our attention.


Overall: Dull is being nice.




Movie Reviews 101 Midnight Halloween Horror – Hannibal Rising (2007)

Director: Peter Webber

Writer: Thomas Harris (Screenplay) Thomas Harris (Novel)

Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Rhys Ifans, Li Gong, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd


Plot: After the death of his parents during World War II, young Hannibal Lecter moves in with his beautiful aunt and begins plotting revenge on the barbarians responsible for his sister’s death.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Prequel That Doesn’t Click


Story: Hannibal Rising starts when we meet a young Hannibal, his family live in a castle in Lithuania during World War II. When the war comes to their home they try to ride it out in the cabin in the woods but tragedy strikes and his parents are killed. Left to look after his younger sister Mischa, Hannibal finds himself trapped with evil soldier Vladis Grutas (Ifans) occupying their home and things will only get worse for him.

8 years later we see Hannibal (Ulliel) now a mute living in his castle but it is now an orphanage for the victims of war, tried of how he is being treated he escapes to find his Aunt Lady Murasaki (Gong) who takes him in, giving him a future. Hannibal studies to become a doctor and shines in that field but what he is really up to, is searching for the soldiers that are responsible for his sister’s death, so he can make them pay, which does grab the attention of war criminal inspector Popil (West) who is also wanting to make the evil pay.


Thoughts on Hannibal Rising


Characters/PerformanceHannibal is a character we all know from the Silence of the Lambs, one of the most iconic figures of film history. Now we get to learn why he was like this as we see the horrors of war leave him the lone survivor of his immediate family thanks to war horrors, he goes out to get revenge on the people responsible proving he was emotionless all along. Lady Murasaki is the Aunt that takes Hannibal in, she has lost her family through the war too and the two work together to get the revenge. Vladis Grutas is the evil soldier who used war for his own profit killing anyone who got in his way. Inspector Popil is tracking war criminals across Europe, slightly more legally than Hannibal.

Performance wise, Gaspard Ulliel is good as the emotionless killer, he shows a man with nothing left to live for. Li Gong is good but only in the smaller supporting role. Rhys Ifans always makes for a good villain and this time we get to see him in the lead villain role.

StoryThe story behind one of the great screen characters of all time will always be a test because we will be left wondering do we need to know his origin story? The answer here turns Hannibal into a full blown vigilante which could work for a fresh approach for a film but giving this to Hannibal come off feeling slightly short.

Crime/ThrillerThe crime side of the story is all in the revenge side of film as we see how Hannibal sets out to avenge his sister’s murder. The thriller tries to keep us on edge but fails to achieve this on all levels.

SettingsEach setting shows us the different places war criminals could hide out in, we get to see just how main different places Hannibal must look to find those responsible.

Special EffectsAll the effects come off very well making us truly understand what just happened with the moment of horror.

Final ThoughtsThis is a prequel that just doesn’t seem to click the way you would like it all to, we didn’t need to learn more about Hannibal’s early days, but this could be a fantastic thriller for an original character.


Overall: A film we didn’t need but one that could have worked.