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By midlandsmovies, Mar 21 2017 12:02PM

Beware the Slender Man (2017) Dir. Irene Taylor Brodsky

Irene Taylor Brodsky tackles the extremely difficult subject of two young girls who attempted to murder their friend after engaging in an online urban myth known as the Slender Man.

A fictional ‘pied-piper’ tale for the digital age, the Slender Man is an imagined creation that has developed through online media, made-by and consumed by people of all ages using videos, message boards and chat rooms.

Using digital media itself, the documentary cleverly uses Skype calls with some major interviewers to showcase the ‘normality’ of web based communication in our modern lives. What wasn’t normal were two 12-year old girls who had a schism from reality, taking this bogeyman as face-value truth and going further than any parent considered possible.

The parents themselves are interviewed and one mother explains her daughter’s detachment from emotion and empathy in a way that echoed the fictional “We Need to Talk About Kevin” movie. In addition she explains her regret about giving her offspring an iPad where her solitary world was magnified by her consumption of inappropriate online material. The father pleads he “couldn’t have done any more” to monitor his daughter’s online activity and after stealing a knife from the family kitchen, the two girls headed to the woods to appease the Slender Man.

The documentary therefore asks how this could have happened. It investigates meme theory – how images and ideas get replicated across society – and in this instance, the director ropes in Richard Dawkins to explain the term he invented and how it appliesto the online world. Replication of ideas are both created and consumed simultaneously and the home-grown nature of the myth seemed to draw attraction from younger viewers.

The film also cleverly shows YouTube videos from one of the young girl’s history of watched films alongside loving home-videos of the girls playing music and having fun as any child would at that age.

Some have accused the documentary of blaming the online material itself or targeting ‘YouTube’ but if anything it highlights the need for close observation of young people and the media they consume. As the world changes its viewing habits, older parents may have not changed with them and the warning, if any, is that the possible outcomes could be devastating.

CCTV footage of the girls being interviewed by the police could be interpreted as inappropriate but what we are shown are two girls who, post-crime, have little comprehension of the wrongdoing they just committed. As two lives are thrown away, the documentary ultimately illustrates the extreme aftermath posed by the dangers of the internet for young impressionable minds.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 20 2017 05:33PM

If the Oscars have left you in a lull and blockbuster season seems a million miles away, there’s plenty going on in Birmingham to whet your cinematic appetite.

The Cinematic Time Machine

The Cinematic Time Machine at Birmingham’s Electric Cinema always piques the curiosity of any self-respecting film fan. This season showcases the 40’s and 50’s and provides the opportunity to experience those pictures in the way they were intended: on the big screen! Are you a Kubrick completist but have never seen Paths of Glory? Heard of Howard Hawks but have no idea where to start? Then this could be the season for you. Other highlights include Robert Mitchum in The Night Of The Hunter, the 75th Anniversary of Casablanca and Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential Seven Samurai.

The Cinematic Time Machine runs from the 29th of March to the 29th of April. Head to The Electric Cinema for the full programme.

Flatpack Film Festival

The Flatpack Film Festival takes over venues across the city in early April and the only cliché applicable here is that there’s something for everyone. There’s plenty of Lynchian inspired weirdness on offer with a screening of Mulholland Drive and the iconic Eraserhead, which features a reworking of the score by French synth duo Cercuil.

There’s the Colour Box with screenings for younger film fans and the festival also sees a homecoming screening of Christine Franz’s documentary Bunch of Kunst, which focuses on Nottingham Punk Hop duo Sleaford Mods’ foray into the music industry.

Flatpack Film Festival runs from the 4th till the 9th of April. Further details are available here and the launch event will feature on Midlands Movies in the coming weeks.

Is there anything else movie-related going on across the Midlands that you think we should know about? If so, be sure to let us know.

Robb Sheppard

By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2017 02:49PM

Leicester film Ascension by local movie-maker Rajnish Sharma has been selected to be part of the prestigious Lift-Off Festival line up of true independent cinema. 2017's Manchester Lift-Off Film Festival takes place at Texture in the city's Northern Quarter and Mike finds out more about this impressive feat from Rajnish himself.

Rajnish Sharma's Ascension was selected out of 1000+ global entrants, to screen at Manchester Lift-Off Film Festival this Spring. At the event, all films will be judged and then scored by the attending audience, where winners are potentially screened at any of the ten proceeding Lift-Off global events. Their ultimate aim is to give filmmakers like Rajnish the best exposure possible as they embark on their continued artistic journey within the film industry.

Rajnish explains that, "Ascension focuses on a man who has barricaded himself from a broken, fractured world in order to survive. However, he eventually finds himself having to face the consequences of his actions and the people he has hurt".

"The intention of my debut short film was to create a project with minimal resources and money and still make a brilliant looking film with an engaging narrative", adds Rajnish.

Rajnish believes the screening at the Lift-Off Film Festival is important as it shows that a beginner's film can make huge waves, and that someone who is dedicated to the craft of filmmaking can see their work pay off and their give fuel to their passion.

The screening takes place on Wednesday 29th March 2017 at Texture, 67 Lever Street, Northern Quarter, M1 1FL.

In addition, Lift-Off currently has festivals in Manchester, New York, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Paris, Amsterdam, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo, Los Angeles and London.

Ben Polhman Co-Director and Co-Founder of Lift-Off says…

"This years competition was extremely tough. It is clear to see that indie filmmaking in Manchester and the surrounding areas are quickly becoming some of the best in the world. Getting into this programme whether you are a local filmmaker or a filmmaker from elsewhere is a really great achievement. These artists are well on their way to becoming industry players!"

Midlands Movies wishes Rajnish all the best as he expands his screenings beyond the region and readers can find out more information about the film on Facebook here:


By midlandsmovies, Mar 14 2017 12:29PM

Free Fire (2017) Dir. Ben Wheatley

Written by Amy Jump & Ben Wheatley, Free Fire is the new film from the director of Kill List and High-Rise and is a 90 minute comedy-action film that explodes on screen like a machine-gun. The film begins when two gangs of criminals gather in warehouse as Irish Chris (Cillian Murphy) and his pals arrive to purchase weapons from Sharlto Copley’s Vernon and his arms dealer friends.

From choosing the wrong weapons to snarky comments, the two-sides engage in tit-for-tat dialogue during the attempted exchange before it eventually spills over into a full on shoot-out. This simple premise is to the film’s credit as Wheatley infuses his movie with quick dialogue, funny jokes, a cool soundtrack and action galore.

Filmed in the director’s hometown of Brighton rather than the film’s location of Boston, the confined space helps focus attention to the characters and their whereabouts are well established so an audience always knows where each person is. The enclosed room is tonally different from the literary basis of High-Rise but the limitations and themes are similar as characters look to emerge from a metaphorical cell of (somewhat) their own making.

With Free Fire however, Wheatley shows he can easily leapfrog genres at will and this short sharp shot of action is a nice antidote to the heavy themes of his last cinematic turn. Some may find the constant bombardment of pistols and rifles relentless but the witty speeches and funny turns – especially from Copley – are littered throughout the gun battles and fuse dialogue and action to perfection.

Brie Larson is great as Justine who helps to arrange the meeting, keeping up an air of mystery about whose side she is on whilst a bearded Armie Hammer delivers his best role to date as a likeable muscle head. The superb cast is rounded out with Wheatley-regular Michael Smiley whilst Sam Riley and Jack Reynor play the sides’ opposing hot heads who instigate the entire rest of the movie.

Wheatley’s whip pans and fast cuts keep the pace moving quickly whilst the addition of new characters later on helps maintain interest as the injuries mount up. With plenty of blood, the wounds worsen and the damaged individuals resort to crawling around as the casual meeting turns to a fight of life and death.

Free Fire zips along in its basic narrative and the fun of the film is in the humorous script and the entertaining (if broad) characters. Nothing is ever fully explained helping to ensure the viewer is as confused as the participants. Concrete explodes as bleeding injuries stain the walls and the film ultimately distils complex choices down to snake-like clambering around corridors to simply avoid being stabbed.

In the end, cult-filmmaker Wheatley has created a sharp action thrill fest that is dependable by delivering the right amount of “cool” but could be slightly disposable given its basic set up. Yet, with a fantastic cast it aims to be more than a throwaway list of killings. Although it’s a little rough and ready round the edges, the film uses this to its advantages making Free Fire a comical accomplishment that will engage fans of Wheatley’s work but will widen his appeal with something more commercially accessible.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2017 09:30PM

Logan (2017) DIr. James Mangold

As soon as Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ strummed its way into the trailer, I got a sense that man-sized tissues would be needed for Logan. Just in case I got something in my eye. Wolverine’s weariness and Professor X’s aged vulnerability foreshadowed a last stand which would carry more emotional heft and heartbreak than X-Men 3, albeit hopefully for slightly different reasons.

Wolverine’s final fight finds Logan (Jackman) trapped in anonymity: grinding at a chauffeur job to finance Charles Xavier’s treatment for the senility and seizures which have turned his mind into a weapon of mass destruction, whilst Logan’s own body is slowly poisoned by the Adamantium that powers him.

However, the introduction of Laura (Dafne Keen), the escaped experiment formerly known as X-23, puts the kibosh on their exit strategy as she leads her previous owners straight to the self-exiled former X-Men. With Pierce (Holbrook) and the cyborg Reavers in hot pursuit, Logan begrudgingly drags X and X-23 across America in search of the near-mythical Eden, where mutants can supposedly seek sanctuary.

The resulting escape in Logan’s indestructible limousine is edge-of-your-car-seat stuff that injects a sense of frustrating realism and urgency to an audience accustomed to seeing GTA-style car chases. The dismembering of baddies is laugh out loud enjoyable too and X-23 more than proves her metal with her claws well and truly out. Here, the true grit promised by the trailer and the 15 age certificate is in abundance as the Wolverine is truly let loose: limbs leave bodies, henchmen are halved and there’s more grunting than a Tom Hardy Taboo super-cut (roll on Mangold’s rumoured black and white version).

However, whereas Logan’s brutality in 2000’s X-Men was shocking and stood apart, the audience quickly becomes desensitized to the selection of skewered heads on offer here, leaving the more human moments to connect. Almost.

That the seal on the tissues remained unbroken is perhaps more an indication of the fleetingness of superhero cinema. Hugh Jackman’s anti-hero has self-healed from the wounds of reboots, spin-offs and alternate timelines so this being his onscreen swansong resonates more than the demise of the character himself. All the ingredients are there: Logan’s relationship with Patrick Stewart’s infirm Xavier is touching and shows a tenderness previously unseen, whilst his role reversed turn as a father figure to Laura sees him move closer to the feeling of family that he’s been so afraid of.

Affecting, yes, but it just doesn’t deliver the “POW” that the trailer had me hoping for. Call me cynical, but it’s the sense that perhaps this isn’t really the end for Wolverine; the sense that the resurrection has probably already been “writing roomed” that takes away some of the poignancy. While mirror universes and Earth 2’s are a comic book staple, a sated sense of finality they do not create and I wonder how long it will be before we hear of the sound of snikts again.

That aside, this is the finest X-Men outing yet and a near-perfect presentation of a jaded, aging, flawed hero. Let’s hope those behind The Batman are watching.


Robb Sheppard

By midlandsmovies, Mar 12 2017 12:52PM

The 2017 Indie-Lincs Film Festival

INDIE-LINCS runs over the weekend of 16th – 18th March 2017 at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre and is a non-profit organisation that shows inventive and challenging films from drama, documentary and animation.

Championing both local and international filmmakers, Indie-Lincs helps showcase original work that helps to embody a low and micro-budget filmmaking ethic.

Prizes will be presented at the event’s conclusion with Big, Little. Baby and Angry IMP awards up for grabs for features, shorts, student and challenging films. The Lincoln Imp is the emblem for Lincoln City and a statue on the city’s gothic Cathedral resides high on a stone pillar.

The reason for that particular mascot is explained by the organisers who say, “the mischievous Imp is the perfect embodiment of the independent filmmaker's spirit, someone who dares to upset the equilibrium and do things their own way”.

There will be over 40 film screenings over the weekend with question and answer sessions from filmmakers, networking opportunities and the final ceremony itself.

Full Indie-Lincs Programme 2017
Full Indie-Lincs Programme 2017

A FREE opening event takes place at 7pm at the Stephen Langton Theatre before the main event kicks off on Friday and Saturday.

Now in their second year, access to the festival is more than reasonable with day passes available for £6 (£4 concessions) whilst a full weekend pass is £10 (£6 concessions). All tickets are available from the LPAC box office at www.lpac.co.uk

The full programme is available below along with the IMP Award Nominees.

Also check out the official website and social media pages below:



By midlandsmovies, Mar 12 2017 09:37AM

Midlands Movies at the Beeston Film Festival 2017

Midlands Movies headed just up the road from our base in Leicester to take our first ever look at the Beeston Festival which is now in its 3rd year and has become a popular entry into the ever-growing festival scene in the region. Editor Mike Sales jumped on the train for the Saturday session of the 4-day festival to catch up with the talent in the Midlands.

Since its inception in 2015 the Beeston Festival has grown from a small evening event to a multi-day extravaganza that showcases not only features, shorts and animations from the area but has also attracted the attention of national and international filmmakers as well.

Despite this growth, the festival has not lost its grass-roots feel taking place as it does upstairs at the White Lion Bar in the centre of the town. Films fans can catch the variety of skilled artists in the comfortable surroundings of the venue allowing the festival to grow yet still very much intimate and home-grown.

Some of the films screened at this year’s fest are Midlands Movies Awards winners and nominees Hinterland (Jess O’ Brien), Beige (written by Dan Weatherer), Dolls (Keith Allott) and Night Owls (from Sophie Black) and these are of course just a handful of many more being played at the festival. As an attendee I was lucky enough to catch even more great films from the region and beyond and the small relaxed atmosphere makes it easier – if not somewhat compulsory – to chat and network with the film’s makers themselves.

The full 4 day line up consisted of the Three Counties night focusing on local films (Thursday), the festival Horror night (Friday), drama (Saturday) and the final day on Sunday has animation, comedy and the prestigious Beeston Festival Awards.

Festival organiser John Currie made everyone feel welcome and a mix of filmmakers, writers and viewers were in the audience to enjoy both the local and the worldwide gems on offer.

Upstairs in the venue’s function room, a full capacity crowd enjoyed a number of films on Saturday for the drama category that was the focus. ‘The Buzzing of a Bumblebee’ was one of the first films I caught. A half-hour Russian film about a nursing home, the film had gorgeous cinematography whilst British film ‘Butterfly’ hit home with its story of an epileptic swimmer called Jane who has tough decisions to make in her life.

During the break I caught up with Sophie Black of Triskelle pictures (www.triskellepictures.co.uk) who gave an update on the post-production of her new project “Songbird” whilst introducing me to Adam Anwi, one of the many exciting Beeston Festival judges. Neil Oseman was also in attendance as director of photography on Night Owls which was shown earlier this week.

Another judge – who must have had very difficult decisions to select festival winners – was horror aficionado Gino Van Hecke from Zeno films (www.zenopictures.be). Having met festival organiser John Currie at an Indian film festival, the latter invited the former to the region cementing the truly international nature of this intimate festival. After the hustle and bustle of the chaotic Indian festival, Gino was impressed by the smaller but more personal tone of this event.

“The Indian festival we met at had to be moved inside because of weather and went on so long that people ran to the buffet when it was my turn to take to the stage”, he describes whilst laughing. “It was great fun though and I got to meet John and others and that’s how I’ve ended up here”.

Zeno films are a Belgium company who specialise in horror and Gino explained how his company are hoping to work towards producing a ‘Best of Beeston” DVD-anthology together to help give the films and filmmakers involved even more exposure. “I am a fan of horror having released Rubber (horror film about a killer tyre) in Belgium but I’ve enjoyed the whole fest so far and look forward to working with the team in future”.

Midlands Movies hometown of Leicester was also well represented on Saturday with Mike Yeoman from comedy film company FlipYou Productions whose film Parenthood was screened Thursday. www.flipyou.co.uk

Also in attendance was Melvyn Rawlinson, an actor as well as a filmmaker. Melvyn has created documentaries on the history of puppetry – especially Punch and Judy – as well as on the sensitive subject of dementia, an issue that is very personal to me. However, Toton based Melvyn was here in the main to support his appearance in “I am God, And Severely Underqualified” directed by Theo Gee.

As the second round of films began in the afternoon I got to see Just Words – a police investigation from Russia as well as solid dramas Squares and Transmission and others. Again each film demonstrated the high level of quality and it was credit to all of the organisers and volunteers as well as the venue’s staff that things ran smoothly.

Having to leave slightly earlier than planned, I was disappointed not to have been able to stay longer but it gave me a great excuse to return to this fantastic festival in 2018.

With a great sense of community, the Beeston Film Festival is a prize jewel and should be on every filmmaker’s list of events to submit films to each year. But much more than that, the festival has a great centre of attention on the ‘local’ that makes it all the more special for the Midlands.

For further information and much more, please check out the official Beeston Film Festival website at http://festival.beestonfilm.com/

Or follow at Twitter on @BeestonFilm

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 9 2017 03:32PM

Christine (2017) Dir. Antonio Campos

Tackling depression and career progression, Christine is a new biopic about real-life news reporter Christine Chubbock who toils with her demons in the 1970s as she aspires to bring a sense of authenticity to the scoop-driven tabloid TV show she works in.

A powerhouse performance that carries the whole film, Rebecca Hall keeps Antonio Campos’s third movie focused solely on the lead as she gets dispirited in her career fight to raise journalistic standards. As her manager lowers the bar to ever increasing “hack” stories, Chubbock tries to fight back but in doing so creates an unpleasant personality others find abrasive.

As health issues force her to consider the possibility of being unable to bear children, she hopes the station’s owner can see her drive and determination and give her a promotion to prime time in their new Baltimore office.

However, whilst lambasting her colleagues, her moods swing wildly and her mother, whom she shares a house with, is all too aware of her emotional problems from the past. As co-worker George (an intense Michael C. Hall) asks her out, her optimism turns to disillusionment as he whisks her off to a self-help group who advise he on dealing with the problems she faces.

The director lets the drama play out on screen and an almost constant presence of conflict keeps the narrative moving at pace. A solid group of actors help play the various roles but they are ultimately side-lined for the focus on Hall as Chubbock. Hall plays the title role with depth, subtlety and strength yet shows cracks in the hard-nosed Chubbock to reveal an inevitable vulnerability.

As Christine is snubbed for the possible promotion, her world heads towards ever-increasing bouts of volatility and risk before one final act of defiance and peace is achieved.


If you don’t know by now, this real-life story ended with Chubbock committing suicide by firearm live on air as she presented a new bulletin. The video of which has never officially made public since cutting to black after the event. A sad final act for someone who saw no other choice to escape her world.

Acting wise, Tracy Letts as the put-upon station manager Michael Nelson is a delight who tolerates Christine’s erratic behaviour yet seems to understand the clash of driving forces within. With a great soundtrack of 1970s music and simple but effective pacing and editing, Christine is an actor’s dream. Dialogue, body language and narrative come together with a good script that creates discord amongst the characters and allows both emotion and logic to shine through.

In addition, Hall does superb work with a complex character that could have easily been exploitative. It avoids focusing on the terrible incident that made her “famous” and attempts to explain what could have caused such a tragedy. Christine’s career-minded female juggling the demands of work, love and womanhood exposes the mental strain of life yet handles all of these difficult themes with compassion and without judgement.


Midlands Movies Mike

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