Author Archives: Matt Simmonds


Graham Woods is a lifelong lover of cinema. Graham’s love of film has inspired him into acting across both stage and film. Graham also works as a graphic designer, creating posters and artwork for musicians, comedians and film-makers.

Film 1 – The film you’ve seen more than any other

I’ve seen Back to the Future more times than I can count. Hundreds. I enjoy it every single time. The whole film is the perfect balance of tension, comedy, romance, adventure..everything.   I was ten when it was released and I thought Marty McFly was the coolest person I’d ever seen. I’m 42 now and I still think that’s true.

back to the future

Film 2 – The Classic you’ve never seen

There are several but the one I feel I should get stuck into is Citizen Kane. I understand its influence is completely pervasive and it’s often cited as the greatest movie ever made, but I’ve never seen it. I’m not really sure why, but it might be my tendency to be deliberately stubborn when I’m told I must do something or I must see something.

Film 3 – The film that will definitely give you a lift

Monster Inc. is one of the few movies in which I find it impossible to find flaw. It’s full of stupid, slapstick humour and amazing chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman. It’s quoted regularly in our house and although my children are 12 years older than when they first saw it, we can still put it on and laugh as loud as we did back then.

Film 4 – The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit

The Godfather bored the life out of me, and I did not see what all the fuss was about.  I think I was too young and impatient when I saw it and back then I don’t think I had the right cinematic vocabulary to process it. I’m a lot older now and feel like it must be worth a second look.


Film 5 – The film you wished you’d made

I was 18 when I first saw Naked (1993) by Mike Leigh. Watching David Thewlis as Johnny completely and angrily unravel on screen made me want to be an actor; well, it made me want to be Johnny. His performance was beyond intense and if I could act to a tenth of the power he brought to screen in Naked, I’d be happy.

Film 6 – The film that had the biggest effect on you

Mike Leigh again, I’m afraid. Despite the title, Life Is Sweet is a pretty tough film about a family and their various relationships. But it’s shot through with love for the characters and their love for each other. I first saw it in my teens and it helped me realise that parents can be flawed but still love you. When I watch it now, as a parent, it makes me realise that no-one gets it 100% right of the time, but your intent is what matters.

Films 7 & 8 – Wild Cards

Upstream Color by Shane Carruth. It was his follow up to the amazing Primer. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and I’m still not sure I understand it. It’s deliberately and beautifully ambiguous. If I took it to a desert island I could watch it daily, for years, and then perhaps I could work out what was happening.


La Grande Belleza (The Great Beauty) by Paolo Sorrentino.  It’s really difficult to put into words what I love about this film. It follows an old, wealthy writer as he enjoys his flamboyant social life in Rome. Every shot is gorgeous and it’s like a love letter to the city. Tony Servillo is brilliant as the main character, Jep; erudite, cool and aloof but also damaged, vulnerable and weary. It would be a perfect desert island film because it completely surrounds you in colour, sound and life.

The rogue disc – The film you wished you’d never seen

Evil Dead 2. I am unable to see a single thing about this film that warrants the rabid praise and cult-like adoration it enjoys. It was neither scary, nor funny so for me, it failed to achieve either of its aims. Within five minutes of it starting I was wishing it would end, but I’d promised someone I’d watch it, so had to commit. I would gladly throw every single copy of it into the sea.

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10. I Am Not Your Negro

9. The Death of Stalin

8. Elle

7. Jackie

6. Dunkirk

5. David Lynch: The Art of Life

4. Mother!

3. Moonlight

2.The Salesman

 1. The Handmaiden

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The oddity of the Christmas film

As traditional as turkey, carols, presents and the John Lewis advert, the end of the year sees the re-watching of many classic (and some not so classic) Christmas films. They end up on hard rotation, churned out more than other films and have become part of a cultural tradition.

Yet there is something of an oddity regarding just about every Christmas film. Think about how many of them actually take place at Christmas. No, really think about it. Be it Home Alone, It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, Love Actually, Die Hard, A Christmas Carol (Muppets or otherwise), Bad Santa, Meet me in St. Louis, Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street, The Nightmare before Christmas or any others you can think of, none of them are set primarily at Christmas time.


Let’s take a step back. If we consider that Christmas is, in its official capacity a twelve day festival that begins on 25th December and then look at the aforementioned films we start to realise that, the ending scenes aside, the vast majority of these take place before the festivities begin. Kevin McAllister wishes his family would disappear, learns to realise he misses them and fights off Harry and Marv by Christmas Eve.

George Bailey meets with Clarence and realises that he has had a wonderful life before the clock strikes midnight to welcome in the festivities. John McClane defends Nakatomi plaza on 24th December. Buddy the Elf goes in search of his father in the early part of the month. Jack Skellington goes looking for Christmas just after Halloween. Scrooge (in the many incarnations) is shown the error of his ways and come morning decides to honour Christmas in his heart and keep it with him all the year. The Grinch, who was sick of the stockings and tags but when he removed them, saw the real meaning of Christmas in the light of Christmas morning. The US government acknowledges that Santa exists on courtesy of the 34th Street miracle. Alonzo Smith tells his family that, as per their wishes, they will be staying in St. Louis, again on Christmas Eve. Willie Stokes actually finds that he maybe isn’t entirely a bad Santa and delivers a down on his luck child his chosen toy on the 24th.


These films all exist in the lead up to Christmas but don’t have much action set during the actual festival itself.

This is a reflection of our culture. Christmas may well start on 25th December but all the festivities take place before that. Carol concerts, Christmas parties, nativity plays, pantomimes, family gatherings, opening advent calendars, Secret Santa, shopping, listening to Christmas music and even the watching of the aforementioned classic titles take place before the big day. Cinema reflects society and this is an example of how much of Christmas is about the apprehension and the excitement of what is to come. Do we watch Christmas films after Christmas day? Does anyone really listen to Christmas music post Boxing Day? And speaking of music, if we listen to the lyrics of many Christmas songs, we see a similar trend – Driving home for Christmas, Santa Clause is coming to town, it was Christmas eve babe and so forth. It’s all about the anticipation that come Christmas morning begins to unravel, much like the presents that were carefully wrapped up the night before.

Yet it is more than just the material side of Christmas that means films set at this time of year conclude around the 24th or 25th of the month. Christmas means different things to different people in our culture – be it a period of change stemming from the pagan origins in yuletide, the Christian belief of the arrival of a baby to show us the way or the more humanist notion of reflecting on ourselves- it’s all tied up in the many reasons for celebrating in December.

Many of the aforementioned characters go on a redemptive journey pre-Christmas, culminating on 25th December, a date which carries with it a magical sense of arrival. Fictional Christmas narratives tend to derive, thematically or otherwise, from the two most oft-repeated seasonal stories of A Christmas Carol and the nativity, both which are set just primarily before Christmas day, culminating on that day with their respective messages.


So many films can live or die by their endings, as it’s the element of any story that we remember the most when the credits roll. Therefore it makes perfect sense for films about us at the most wonderful time of the year to reach their conclusion on Christmas morning – a point of arrival, a moment of change and with a view to the future. Kevin McAllister gets his family back, Scrooge and the Grinch what it’s actually about and become all the better for it, George Bailey realises his life isn’t so meaningless, Alonzo accepts the importance of his family’s happiness ahead of his job in New York, the court decides that maybe, just maybe Kris Kringle is the real Santa.

The subsequent reward for these characters is a change of heart that arrives, not before Christmas when they go on a journey, but on Christmas day when they reach a happy ending and things change for the better.

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Films of 2017 (… far)


Not quite the mid-point of the year but it’s always good to follow this particular trend.  Below we list the five films that have impressed us most. What films have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

5. The Graduation. Dir: Cristian Mungiu

A strong start to the list from a director whose consistency in excellence continues to shine with this taut moral drama. It doesn’t quite reach the compelling intensity of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or Beyond The Hills but is still filmmaking of the highest order. Genuinely riveting and genuinely brilliant.

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Desert Island Flicks – Episode 3: Mike from Midland Movies

midlands movies

Based on the popular Radio Two show, this takes into account film lovers and what they’d need if they ever ended up on an island with only a Beach Ball for company, an ice skate for a tool and an un-opened package they need to deliver.

What eight films would you simply have to play on your waterproof, solar powered blu-ray device?

This week Mike from Midlands Movies shares his Desert Island Flicks.


The film you’ve seen more than any other

back to the future

Great question! At a guess it’s probably Ghostbusters or Weird Science as a friend and I watched them almost daily back in the 80s/90s. I can also add in Back to the Future 2 – which is a film I can quote more than any other – and more recently it’s been The Force Awakens which I saw 5-6 times on the big screen. I have to add that none of these are my favourite films of all time – more probably just fluke the amount they’ve repeated in my life.


The Classic you’ve never seen

I can answer this one very quickly – The Lion King. As I was 14 years old on its release, it wasn’t something I was massively interested in – along with a lot of the 90s Disney films in fact. Over time I’ve sadly never caught up with it.

lion king


The film that will definitely give you a lift


I think I go straight for comedy and one of my favourites is This Is Spinal Tap. As a musician who’s done a bit of touring, it’s so spot on – even after all these years – that it makes me laugh and remind me of my own good times with my band mates ‘on the road’. Whilst I think of it, Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous can be added here too.


The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit

I’ve got quite a few of these but will opt for a very controversial opinion. I’m the biggest sci-fi fan of all time yet I’ve never been huge admirer of Blade Runner. I watch it about once every 2-3 years though and with the sequel out this year I definitely need to give it a re-watch – hopefully on the big screen somewhere.

blade runner


The film you wished you’d made

For entirely selfish (and quite un-cinematic) reasons I’m going to choose Ocean’s Eleven (Soderbergh’s remake) and be an actor on set. A great group of respected actors (and Scott Caan, lol) hanging around in Las Vegas whilst playing pranks, talking film, giving OTT performance as well as getting to work with a great director seems a pretty fun experience.


The film that had the biggest effect on you

I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind resonated with me greatly, not just for echoing a relationship I was in at the time but it showed that film can still be magical, innovative and original. The idea of past relationships and things like memories that you always take with you – a bit like a desert island if you will – is intrinsic to all of us and shapes who we are. Plus it’s funny, clever and has two great performances from actors playing against type.


FILMS  7 & 8

Wild Cards

As I’ve not picked any of my regular favourites yet I would reserve a place for Terminator 2: Judgment Day and JFK. T2 was one of the first really exceptional films I saw and realised I didn’t just like fun movies but movies with great stories and deeper meanings (well, as deep as a 12 year old can fathom at that time). JFK has so many layers and techniques that Stone has created a really remarkable cinematic movie by taking hundreds of story strands to piece together those days in Dallas and the subsequent trial.

terminator 2


The film you wished you’d never seen

I’m going to stick with the theme I’ve been talking about in all my answers and recollect my distant past when I first came to the realisation that not every summer blockbuster was good. Batman and Robin was hired from my local video shop, stopped halfway through and returned the same day. Didn’t even rewind it for them! I became a man that day. LOL.


Thanks to Mike from Midlands Movies for taking part. Check them out at

Fancy sharing your Desert Island Flicks? Leave us a comment below showing your interest and we'll be in touch!

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