Film reviewers: Half-price tickets

Always have a startlingly passionate opinion on film? Could you give Mark Kermode a run for his money?

We’re enthusiastic about audience feedback, your opinions on film – what you love and what gets you riled! So send us your film reviews, short or long and we’ll get them posted up here on our blog.

Reviewer half price icon 250

Getting your review to us and your half-price ticket couldn’t be easier. Wherever you see this logo we’re looking for your thoughts.

1. Call up Box Office on 01432 340555 and let them know you’re booking a reviewer’s half-price ticket for one of the films below.

2. Come along and enjoy your film – the first screening of the selected film is the only applicable one for this offer.

3. Write your quick-fire review and email it to us within 18 hours of the film to subject titled with the name of the film.

Films in the offer this season:


Robot and Frank |  Sat 4 May 6pm

Compliance | Sat 18 May 5.30pm

Caesar Must Die | Tue 21 May 6pm

Jack The Giant Slayer | Tue 28 May 2.30pm

Much Ado About Nothing | Mon 24 June 6pm

The Reluctant Fundamentalist | Sat 29 June 2.30pm

The Courtyard reserves the write to publish or not publish reviews. Any questions send us an email or tweet us @CourtyardArts


Dave’s Fave: Fire in the Blood (film screening and discussion)

Our programmer David Gillam gives a bit of thought to this eye-opening documentary. Hear his thoughts:

And come along to the screening this Friday and join in the short discussion afterward with Concern Universal:
Fire in the Blood, 22 March, The Courtyard

Guest Blog: Borderlines 2013

Written by Neil Oseman

Borderlines Film Festival draws to a close this weekend. The UK’s largest rural film festival, centred around The Courtyard here in Hereford, is an event I have a long-standing association with. At the inaugural festival in 2003 I had a little stall selling VHS copies of The Beacon and displaying a few pieces of early concept art for an ambitious fantasy action movie called Soul Searcher. Two years later Soul Searcher premiered at Borderlines with great success. (Read my blog entry in which I total up the Ego Puff Points I acquired that weekend.)

Kes (1969. dir. Ken Loach) - photographed by Chris Menges

Kes (1969. dir. Ken Loach) – photographed by Chris Menges

Aside from a screening of Stop/Eject’s trailer, my involvement in this year’s festival was purely spectatorial. And although I normally avoid reviewing films on this site, I’m going to make an exception and say a few words about each of the events and screenings I’ve seen at Borderlines 2013. I should point out that Borderlines isn’t a film festival in the normal sense of the term; rather than inviting submissions of unreleased work, the organisers choose the best films released in the last twelve months along with some classics.

Chris Menges in Conversation

Chris is the Herefordshire-born director of photography behind Kes, The Reader, Notes on a Scandal, The Killing Fields and many others. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen a single one of his films, but I was still keen to attend to further my understanding of the art of cinematography. In this respect I was slightly disappointed, as time constraints and a quite understandable desire not to bore what was largely a lay audience meant that there was little opportunity for Chris to get into the nitty-gritty of his approach to lighting. That being said, there were one or two useful gems and I came away with a general impression of an extremely modest man with a profound respect for the fragility of natural light and a gentle touch in moulding it.


Sightseers (2012, dir. Ben Wheatley)

Sightseers (2012, dir. Ben Wheatley)

Directed by Ben Wheatley (The Kill List) and starring Alice Lowe (Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place), Sightseers is a black comedy about a woman who escapes her overbearing mother to go on a caravanning holiday with her closet pscyhopath of a boyfriend (Steve Oram). The boyfriend promptly begins murdering people at the slightest provocation (e.g. littering) and Lowe soon joins in in an attempt to impress him. While not the kind of film I’d normally choose to see, I’d heard good things about it and, sure enough, it was great fun. Lowe and Oram, who also wrote the script, give brilliantly judged comic performances in a film which soundly lampoons the stereotypical British holiday (rain, crap caravans, even crapper tourist attractions). Heartily recommended.

Silver Linings Playbook

Winning Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence at the Academy Awards and Best Adapted Screenplay for David O. Russell (who also directs) at the Baftas, Silver Linings Playbook has certainly been much talked about in recent weeks.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012, dir. David O. Russell)

Silver Linings Playbook (2012, dir. David O. Russell)

I was surprised to find the film is really just a formulaic romantic comedy, albeit one that starts off in darker territory than most. Bradley Cooper plays a manic depressive just out of a psychiatric hospital who strikes up a relationship with Lawrence’s recently widowed character after she tells him she can get a letter to his estranged wife. In return, Cooper must learn to dance so he can partner with Lawrence in an upcoming contest. Silver Linings Playbook is solidly acted by both the leads and the great supporting cast, which includes Chris Tucker and Robert de Niro. It’s also consistently funny throughout, but like many romcoms it sheds its unique elements as it enter its third act – forgetting the mental health issues of its lead characters – in order to play out the same old clichés. This is particularly disappointing from such a lauded film, but depsite this flaw I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.


Although not a particular fan of Hitchcock, I was keen to see Blackmail – one of the portly auteur’s silent films – because it was a unique opportunity to see a movie with live musical accompaniment. This came courtesy of Stephen Horne, a master of the art – so much so that he somehow played the flute and the piano simultaneously at a couple of points. What staggered me was the revelation that there was no score; the music was entirely improvised.

Blackmail (1929, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Blackmail (1929, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

As for the film itself, it had been digitally remastered to such a high quality that I sometimes forgot that I was watching a movie over 80 years old – often only the captioned dialogue, under-cranked gaits and occasional clunky pacing gave it away. The cinematography was beautiful, with some typically inventive camera moves from Hitchcock and a lot of charming humour which held the attention despite a very slight plot (detective’s girlfriend commits murder in self-defence and tries to escape the law). All in all, this screening was an enriching experience and it was very gratifying to see the accompanist’s amazing art kept alive and kicking.

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

A Liar's Autobiography (2012, dir. Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson & Ben Timlett)

A Liar’s Autobiography (2012, dir. Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson & Ben Timlett)

Best known as the dead one from Monty Python, Graham Chapman succumbed to cancer in 1989, but not before writing his autobiography and recording it as an audiobook. That recording forms the spine of this film, as Chapman narrates his (alleged) life story from beyond the grave while fourteen different animation houses provide the visuals. While not a Monty Python film, there are many common traits – surreality, silliness, rudeness and the vocal talents of messrs. Jones, Gilliam, Palin and Cleese (but not Idle). In a non sequitur worthy of Monty Python, Cameron Diaz cameos as the voice of Sigmund Freud. And like much of the Pythons’ work, A Liar’s Autobiography is never quite as funny as you hoped it would be. This fact, coupled with a highly episodic narrative, meant the film was just starting to outstay its welcome when it wrapped up and ended. Nevertheless, it’s a delightfully creative film and one which seems a fitting tribute to a man who was not the messiah, but was definitely a very naughty boy.

Herefordshire Media Network

The network presented five pieces by its members: four short films and the trailer for Stop/Eject. The first short was Injured Birds, a gentle tale of an 11-year-old boy’s search for adventures in a rural town during the summer holidays.

Men Can't Make Beds (dir. David Jones)

Men Can’t Make Beds (dir. David Jones)

This was the second time I’d seen it, and I again enjoyed its charm, warmth and humour. Two short films directed by Rachel Lambert for The Rural Media Company were screened, both made on a participatory basis with people living in sheltered housing. Getting Close was a low-key drama highlighting some of the issues faced by the participants, while A Letter Every Day took the form of an oral history in which an elderly lady recounted her brief marriage to a man who was tragically killed in the second world war. This latter was an engaging story and cleverly illustrated with tableaux of miniature figurines found by the camera amongst the ornaments of the lady’s living room. But the highlight of the evening for me was Men Can’t Make Beds, a live action slapstick comedy in the vein of Tex Avery cartoons. Directed by David Jones of Wind-up World Films, the film made great use of a delightfully rubber-faced lead actor (Lawrence Russell) and exaggerated music and sound design to produce five minutes of wonderful silliness.

Side by Side

Side by Side (dir. Christopher Kenneally)

Side by Side (dir. Christopher Kenneally)

Keanu Reeves produces and interviews for this documentary about the transition from photochemical to digital technology, not just in capturing motion picture images but in editing them, manipulating them for visual effects, exhibiting them and archiving them. Views are canvassed from some of the biggest names in the business: George Lucas, who drove much of the change, James Cameron, a staunch supporter of digital 3D filmmaking, Christopher Nolan, one of the few directors still shooting on film and physically cutting his negative, and many others. Sadly, the film doesn’t let any of these filmmakers go into great depth, instead giving a history of the last twenty years’ technical upheavals, with which most viewers (if they’re interested enough to see Side by Side in the first place) will already be familiar. So while containing a few telling nuggets (such as several DPs bemoaning the lack of mystique and power they now wield when everyone can see the images they’re capturing immediately on set), this documentary overall has the feel of a slightly overlong DVD bonus feature.

Thanks to the team at Borderlines for a great festival.

Great Borderlines billing: Reviewers, get your notepads out

Some great reviewing opportunities for budding writers at Borderlines

Some great reviewing opportunities for budding writers at Borderlines

Find out how you can win a subscription to film mag Little White Lies, with our young person’s reviewer offer and The Courtyard Card (14-25)

Budding writers: Courtyard Card film review competition

Do you love film? And always have an opinion? Well, as part of The Courtyard’s initiative to get students into film, we’re offering our Courtyard Card Review Deal to any aspiring writers with a way with words and a keen eye for quality cinema.

It’s simple…

1.Sign up for the free Courtyard Card and you can currently get two free tickets per film guide (every 2 months) and then reduced film and live event tickets for selected shows from thereon in. The deal is due to change quite soon, so get in quick while you can still get your free tickets (subject to availability).
Here’s the info:
And you can sign up by calling the Box Office: 01432 340555

The Courtyard Card

2. Book in to a first screening of one of our selected films, go along and soak up the escapism with your critical head on, then send us your review within 18 hours to to be entered into a competition to win a year’s subscription to cult film mag, Little White Lies. Jam-packed with brilliant and insightful studies on film and always with a pin-up worthy front cover, Little White Lies is a must-read for the modern critic.

This offer is applicable to selected screenings from The Courtyard’s own film programme and Borderlines Film Festival screenings at The Courtyard. If you have used up your free Courtyard Card film tickets you can still get into screenings at the reduced rate of £3 – don’t forget to book in advance.

Applicable First Film Screenings:
Wed 20 Feb, 18.00 – Pitch Perfect
Fri 1 Mar, 18.00 – Sightseers
Sun 3 Mar, 20.45 – Holy Motors
Mon 4 Mar, 18.00 – My Brother The Devil
Mon 4 Mar, 15.00 – Seven Psychopaths
Mon 8 Mar, 16.15 – What Richard Did
Sun 10 Mar, 20.45 – Love Is The Devil
Mon 11 Mar, 15.45 – Bullhead
Tue 12 Mar, 18.00 – Byzantium
Fri 22 Mar, 18.00 – Reality
Fri 22 Mar, 20.00 – Fire in the Blood (includes discussion)
Fri 29 Mar, 11.00 – Oz, The Great & Powerful
Fri 12 Apr, 18.00 – The House (Czech Film Tour)
Wed 17 Apr, 18.00 – Alois Nebel (Czech Film Tour)
Sat 13 Apr, 20.30 – Lore
Fri 26 Apr, 20.30 – In The House

The winner will be announced at the end of April. The more reviews you send, the better your chances!

Find out what else is in The Courtyard Film programme here:
And at Borderlines here:

Arts & Older People’s Project News

Upcoming Networking Event

On Tuesday 19 February, 10am, Alice Saunders is organising a networking event for those who are interested in the delivery of arts with older people. The Networking Event will be an invaluable opportunity to make contact with other service providers and practitioners in Herefordshire, an informal morning of conversation and the sharing of experiences between those who aim to enrich the lives of older people. We hope it will ignite new partnerships and collaborations in elderly care and arts delivery across Herefordshire.

Human stories on film

We are pleased to announce that our guest speaker for the morning will be Alex Casey, the co-director of Suffolk Artlink. Suffolk Artlink has a long history of delivering arts projects with older people and this talk will explore the way they have developed their programme of work. It will look at how the work is responsive to different community’s needs and the importance of developing cross sector partnerships.

For more information on the programme or to book onto this event please contact Alice Saunders. EMAIL:  TEL: 01432 346514

Freelance Filmmaker Opportunity

Alice is also seeking a freelance filmmaker with a keen eye to produce a documentary and other short promo videos. The person appointed will be working with elderly people who are currently taking part in participatory arts projects. Could this be you?

Person Specification:

  •         A high level of experience in filmmaking
  •         Experience of, or interest in, working with older people
  •         Experience or interest in working with a variety of community groups
  •         Flexible, friendly, reliable and willing to learn
  •         Committed to equal opportunities

To find out more and read the full project brief take a look on The Courtyard website.

Closing Date: 31st January 2013

Jen’s Lens ~ Take 2: BBC Midlands Today come and film panto!

A mid week morning during panto season here at The Courtyard was a rather special one this week.  Not only did the building have a sell out pantomime performance for schools but we were also paid a visit from BBC Midlands Today.

Dick Whittington cast giving it!

Dick Whittington cast giving it!

After filming some segments of the Panto, BBC presenter Satnam Rana then interviewed some children from Hereford’s Canon Pyon Primary School during the shows interval.  The children talked about why they liked the pantomime and why they enjoy coming with school to see it.  For many of the children it is in fact their first experience of panto and seeing a live performance.  As such, it means we here take huge pride in our Christmas offering being all about storytelling, so the kids can engage with real face-to-face performing arts, and enjoy stories from an alternate audio-visual platform.

After speaking to the primary school children, the TV crew then went backstage to interview our Learning, Participation and Programming Manager, Grant Brisland.  This meant they could also have a sneak preview of our impressive set and a look at what goes on behind-the-scenes during the show interval whilst talking to Grant about what panto means to us.

The piece goes out next week on BBC Midlands Today, and talks to many arts centres across the region about the tradition of Christmas pantomime.  I’ll be in touch with more details about the programme airing soon.