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By midlandsmovies, Dec 15 2017 08:59AM



The Last Jedi (2017) Dir. Rian Johnson


WARNING: Contains spoilers


After the soft-reboot that was The Force Awakens and the misstep, for me, of the dull prequel Rogue One, with The Last Jedi comes Disney’s third foray into the galaxy far, far away with director Rian Johnson (Looper) stepping into the director’s chair.


We pick up where Force Awakens left us. Luke has banished himself on an island after failing to train Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren who is again played with evil ‘emo’ glee by Adam Driver. A courageous Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on a mission from the Resistance being tasked with coaxing the powerful Jedi back into action against the dastardly First Order. The internet was buzzing over what his (or her) first words would be. Two years in the making and every possible theory pored over and Johnson builds up tension with lingering shots on the two protagonists. And what are they? Well, essentially none. Cool-hand Luke slowly accepts his lightsaber in his robotic palm and then...simply chucks it over his shoulder and walks away.


And this favouring of the unexpected over the predictable is its winning formula and a metaphor for Johnson’s whole film. The moments an audience give assumed importance to are given little significance whilst the smaller details are given prominence throughout. Heck, Johnson provides an entire 10 minute battle sequence even before we return to the island and pick up the story JJ Abrams left us with.


Narrative wise, the film sticks to a basic plot where the resistance have been decimated to a few ships then go on the run tracked by huge star destroyers (now with a super-sized dreadnaught class version). Supreme Leader Snoke, another amazing Andy Serkis creation with pitch-perfect CGI, tasks Domnhall Gleeson’s pantomime Hux and Kylo Ren to continue their search for Rey in a bid to get her to turn to the dark side. The light-hearted family feel is there from the opening, the loveable rogue Poe Dameron, filling Harrison Ford’s shoes (AND clothes at times) delivers an overtly comedic exchange over a radio – again echoing Han in A New Hope. Despite its slightly awkward tone which made me fear “I have a bad feeling about this" it luckily settled down and Johnson balanced the light and dark with vigour.


As the resistance plans to infiltrate the First Order to stop their tracking device, John Boyega’s fantastic Finn gets a chance to shine as he joins feisty newcomer Kelly Marie Tran as Rose on a trip to Canto Bight and its wealthy casino patrons. Gambling on alien-horse races sees Johnson add a throwaway but thrilling CGI chase sequence which along with the city’s building design had the worrying look of the much maligned prequel trilogy. However, for me it felt as though it brought back the links between all trilogies which Johnson had fun in delivering. There’s also seeds sown of a wider universe with farm orphan slaves (“it’s like poetry, it rhymes”) being drawn into the events, perhaps helping to establish Johnson’s recently announced stand-alone trilogy. We’ll have to wait and see.


Rogue One’s fan-service appeared tokenistic but R2-D2’s playback of Star Wars’ original “you’re our only hope” message and a hugely surprising cameo from Yoda as a Force ghost were more than welcome. Context is everything and both served the story and I loved the fact the ghosts had returned for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.


However, at every turn the film swept me off my feet and pulled out something unexpected in each new scene. Expanding the myths of the force we see new powers including a resurrection and transcendence. Mark Hamill as Luke and the late Carrie Fisher as his sister Leia are both mesmerising in career defining performances and their coming together showed that amongst the battles, fights and comedy, the film’s tender emotional beats are what really draw you in.


Away from the nods, we get new creatures – the loveable puffin-like Porgs avoiding Jar Jar Binks levels of annoyance in the main – as well as new characters. Benicio Del Toro’s stuttering code-breaker and Laura Dern’s focused Vice Admiral are welcome additions with the latter’s sacrifice by flying a ship at lightspeed into another craft is one of the film’s visual highlights. With bombastic sounds being replaced with an eerie silence, the image is lingering and powerful. Alongside that, Snoke’s blood red throne room and a Kylo-Luke showdown showed the film’s cinematic ambitions were far more than space banter and franchise references.


In the end, this is epic blockbuster cinema at its very best. It would have been easy to follow the established pattern but the film sets up a precedent that anyone could be expendable which kept tension high. It also highlights how The Force Awakens, a film I hugely enjoyed, really didn’t tackle many new things yet this one twisted my expectations from the start.


With an expansion of its themes and both the classic and new characters finding their place The Last Jedi will hopefully satisfy super Star Wars nerds and general film audiences too. With such great filmmaking from Johnson, it’s a huge task to tackle the lore and the fan expectations of the infamous space opera, but the director more than comes through. Yet the main thing is the film is a lot of fun. Lots of unadulterated fun. And like the best cinema has to offer The Last Jedi leaves you both with a smile on your face and a lump in your throat.


10/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 12 2017 04:09PM



The Exchange (2017) Dir. Richard Miller


Directed by Richard Miller and Grant Archer, The Exchange is a mysterious three-minute short film made as part of the MyRodeReel Challenge, an online filmmaking challenge where the film’s running time must not exceed three minutes.


The Exchange starts off with the introduction of two men. One rings the doorbell as the other answers the door. Both of these men appear to be flamboyant, outgoing, friendly. As they accompany each other into the hallway we see the windows and panes are covered with old newspaper, the owner cranes his neck around the door to see no neighbours have seen his guest arrive as he triple locks the door behind him.


Regardless of the uneasy atmosphere, the film is surprisingly darkly comic at times. An eerie score by Stephen Theofanous compliments the perfectly timed direction by Miller and Archer. The actors Richard Shields and Robert Laird bounce off of each other fantastically and juggle comedy with fear really well, with one playing a confident well-spoken middle class Englishman whilst the other displays a more quiet, homely persona, forcing the audience to think what could possibly connect these two and what do they have to exchange.


I enjoy short films where the conclusion completely takes you by surprise, as so many short films are made, the successful ones are those with finales you don’t forget. This is fortunately the case with The Exchange, another successful project by Richard Miller who continues to impress with every new entry.


Having seen his previous directorial work in Ballpoint Hero and Life Flashes it’s no surprise why he is one of the finest filmmakers currently working in the Midlands.


I highly recommend The Exchange, a fantastic way to spend three minutes and a brilliant finalist for the 2017 MyRodeReel Challenge.


Guy Russell

https://twitter.com/budguyer


By midlandsmovies, Dec 12 2017 04:03PM



When Voices Unite (2017) Dir. Lewis Coates


Written and directed by Lewis Coates, When Voices Unite is an uneasy study on the powers of the internet and social media as we follow a protestor film a live video feed whilst investigating a suspicious building.


The film opens with our protagonist Jess (Lara Goodson) in her car preparing herself to enter a dilapidated building she believes is active and carrying unknown secrets the public need to know. She is talking to her followers via a live video feed, updating them of the current situation and explaining why she sees this exercise as a worthy cause.


“Global monitoring” and “Government access to our lives online” are the reasons behind Jess’s interest in exposing confidential government secrets. And it is this current issue that not only interests me but scores of others as we continually live in a growing online world. It’s exciting to see a local short film like When Voices Unite focus on important themes such as these, even more so because Coates isn’t heavy handed in his approach and makes sure the story of Jess reaching the building remains at the forefront.


When watching this short I was reminded of a similar independent film, The Blair Witch Project, as both films have a strong, tough and passionate female at the core of them. Here though, the Jess and Heather characters are risking their lives to get the perfect shot for their documentaries.


As the lone character Jess, Lara Goodson who portrays her, carries the film in great stride, never putting a foot wrong. She is accompanied only by a chat log seen at the bottom of the screen, the viewers of her feed giving her support and direction. An interesting effect by Coates to have the viewer one step ahead of the films protagonist as they can see all around her, knowing what’s coming before Jess does.


Supported using public money from Arts Council England, this is a good example of what should be funded. Lewis Coates has made a thrilling, topical short film with something important to say.


Guy Russell

https://twitter.com/budguyer



By midlandsmovies, Dec 8 2017 08:48AM

With the release of The Last Jedi in December 2017 Midlands Movies ran a competition for our lovely readers for a chance to win a Star Wars bundle.


WIth over 500 entrants in each we had a great response but there can sadly be only one winner which we drew at random on 8th December.


So, the one winner of the Star Wars bundle is Twitter user....


@Horrorsmith


Thanks to all the entrants and a big congratulations to the winner!


Follow Midlands Movies on Twitter at @midlandsmovies for more prizes and giveaways in future.


Join our previous winners below:




By midlandsmovies, Dec 6 2017 09:59PM



Midlands Spotlight – Lapwing


Midlands Movies Mike finds out about upcoming film Lapwing from Urban Apache Films which is being made in the region with a planned release in 2018.


Urban Apache Films are an award winning UK based independent film production company founded in 2009. The core team features director Philip Stevens whose work has been selected for festivals around the world and has won numerous international awards, including a Royal Television Society award for best short drama.


Joining Philip is producer Tom Walsh, another award winning producer/director. His work includes music videos, short films and documentary for online and TV and his short film, The Wraith, featuring Bernard Hill (Titanic, Lord Of The Rings) won the Best FreeFall category at the 2012 Limelight Awards.


Together they are tackling Lapwing which adds to their expanding portfolio of films as they endeavour to keep numerous projects in production at any given time.


Lapwing’s exciting location is the local salt-marshes of Lincolnshire. Set in 1555, the film follows an isolated group of salt famers who are arranging illegal passage to Europe for an Egyptian family in hiding. However, a love affair between Patience, a mute English girl, and Rumi the son of the Egyptian family, threatens to destroy both communities.


The cast includes Emmett J Scanlan (David), Sebastian De Souza (Rumi), Hannah Douglas (Patience) and Javed Khan (Arif) and will be produced by Urban Apache Films themselves alongside Red Dog Film and World Serpent Productions,


Urban Apache describe Lapwing as “an immersive, visceral, yet tonal window into the life of a young woman who is forced to the fringes of Tudor society”.


“Living within an isolated community on the Lincolnshire salt marshes, Patience embarks on a journey of self discovery beyond the ominous shadow of the community's violent patriarchal leader”.


“Part psychological thriller, part love story, the film sets the contemporary and modern themes of immigration, otherness and the female voice and gaze, in a dangerous world where violence, superstition and vengeance reign”.


The film has been written by Laura Turner who has written more than twenty original plays and adaptations of classic novels for the theatre, with productions of her work touring all over the world and a number published by Josef Weinberger Books. Her film The Empty Throne won a LOSA award in April 2016 at the BFI and Laura's new work The Buried Moon opened in May at the Rose Theatre in London.


After a successful IndieGoGo campaign, the film has now wrapped and the filmmakers are very proud of their local connections. “We are almost entirely local professionals who believe in the wealth of exceptional talent in the East Midlands where we are based. But above all, we want to make the most beautiful and entertaining film that we can”.


You can follow updates on the film at their social media Twitter page here: https://twitter.com/lapwingmovie or at their official website www.urbanapachefilms.com


Midlands Movies Mike



Hannah Douglas and fellow cast and crew on set of Lapwing
Hannah Douglas and fellow cast and crew on set of Lapwing


By midlandsmovies, Dec 6 2017 08:42PM



The Dark Tower (2017 film) Dir. Nikolaj Arcel


From the director of the critical hit Royal Affair (Danish: En kongelig affære) comes this adaptation, of sorts, of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Having only passing knowledge (and interest) in King’s opus, the film acts as a ‘continuation’ of the book’s story which sees gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) on a journey to protect the Dark Tower in a mythical world.


Matthew McConaughey sleepwalks through his performance as the Man in Black antagonist and the film encompasses a number of story threads from the 8-volume series in the hope to set up an ongoing franchise. However, we’ll be lucky to see even a second film in a movie filled with disappointing set pieces and to those unfamiliar with the work, like me, a whole host of fantasy gobbledegook about portals and reality-ending quests.


Much like my experience with Warcraft, the film struggles to explain its themes in a relatively short time (95 agonising minutes) – yet, on the other hand, I can also imagine fans screaming that the film’s length makes the long book far too simplistic at the same time. Therefore, satisfying neither audience it required to develop.


On the positive side, I enjoyed the set-up where a New York boy (Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers) has visions of another reality which subsequently come true, whilst McConaughey seeks a child with unsurpassable power for his evil ends, and their two paths intertwine.


However, I expect this Harry Potter-style discovery of a hidden magical world is hardly the depth the book’s fans needed or wanted. As the film drags towards its conclusion, a series of boring plot points are delivered in what appears to be a screenwriter’s nightmare to make sense of the book’s major scenes and it’s simply not engaging enough to stand on its own two feet.


The Dark Tower ends up being a boring stagnant journey that will struggle to entice new fans and no doubt fails to do justice to a complex novel series.


4/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2017 08:17PM



Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos


From the director of The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos follows up that fantastical film with an allegorical journey plumbed from the depths of a Greek tragedy. A seemingly perfect American family (played by Irish, Australian & British actors and beginning the film’s unsettling traits) is headed by Colin Farrell’s surgeon whose life is interrupted regularly by an odd young boy called Martin, played by a fantastically freaky Barry Keoghan.


The boy hangs around the hospital and a local cafe where his presence haunts the surgeon on a near daily basis. Their unexplained relationship keeps the film’s strangeness at the forefront and with a stupendous set of orchestral songs from J.S Bach, Franz Schubert and Gyorgy Ligeti, there is a sense of classical Kubrick unease throughout. Slow tracking shots through long corridors and God-like aerial sequences capture the mythological tragedy and the presence of the “hands of the heavens” whilst again harking back to Kubrick-style mannerisms in tone.


The actors’ dialogue is in a stilted but poetic style which may grate on some audiences but here it felt perfect to focus on the discomforting feeling that haunts every moment. The director wrong-foots us time and again as characters are awkwardly, but purposely, filmed from low angles and sometimes placed at the far reaches of the frame. The story unfolds with the young boy’s presence causing a string of mysterious ailments to Farrell’s family. Is the boy possessed? A devil? A harbinger of doom? Fate itself? The film goes nowhere near answering this conundrum but focuses on the various natures of revenge, punishment and retribution.


With one of the best casts of the year, it is rounded out with Nicole Kidman who plays the idiosyncratic mother she’s so adept at (The Others and Stoker), Raffey Cassidy as the blossoming daughter and Sunny Suljic as the couple’s youngest and most innocent son. Maybe not for a passing cinema-goer, the film will find its fans in those willing to go to the darkest and most gruesome places and uses an antiquated literary device to help provide its metaphorical narrative.


Unlike Aronofsky’s mother! this film feels that it exists beyond its ancient allegory and with perfect performances, the movie will hopefully gain interest for its artistry alone but in fact leaves an audience with so much more to contemplate.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2017 06:12PM



Random Acts and Rural Media - Part 3


In our third and final part we cover 4 more filmmakers who are part of the region’s Random Acts and Rural Media partnership. From all across the Midlands, please read below to find out more of the young talent the area has to offer.


For the previous blogs - Part 1 please click here and for Part 2 please click here.


Body Language (Nottinghamshire)

Michael Mante’s film shows a krump dancer performing amidst the ills, filth and degradation of his urban environment in a surreal art exploration of gentrification, classism and racism. Michael is an aspiring filmmaker, both directing films and writing screenplays with his creative ambition to use film to speak to audiences, ask them questions, and encourage viewers to ask themselves questions. Michael adds, “Visual literacy is the world's most poignant language and I try to use that to communicate the things I see in everyday life.”





Everyday Choreography (Shropshire)

Everyday Choreography is a charming short dance film by Caldonia Walton following Gerrard, an overworked 45-year old man on his way home from a tiring day at the office. He puts his headphones in to forget about his worries and finds himself amongst amusing interactions with two people who alter his outlook on life. Caldonia is a 23-year old dance performer and choreographer from Shropshire who creates dance work that links with theatre, text and film, using clear narratives about the world we live in realised through physical movement and a touch of comedy.




Yellow Wallpaper (Warwickshire)

Inspired by the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Gilman(1892), this short film from Hayley Egan uses dance to portray the claustrophobic and cruel consequences of how ‘rest cure’ kept 19th century women compliant, which resulted in an increase in mental health problems and feelings of confinement and frustration. Through dance movement, our female protagonist will find solace in the yellow wallpaper, yet is driven to exhaustion by her frustrating predicament. Hayley Egan is young filmmaker/producer from Coventry now working in London.




Taking Up Space (Staffordshire)

Emily Mulenga’s animation covers the notion that time and space in the art world and academia are not often dedicated regularly to people of colour, most notably women. Emily grows to Godzilla proportions and takes over the city in this thoughtful short from this young talented visual artist from the West Midlands.









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