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By midlandsmovies, Jan 25 2020 12:17PM

Midlands Review - Powerless


Directed by Nicole Pott


2020


Sonder Films


Powerless is the latest short film from Sonder Films, written and directed by Nicole Pott who previously brought us 'Charlie' and 'Kaleidoscope' and is the organiser of the High Peak Film Festival.


It's the story of Clara (Katie-Marie Carter), a young boxer who's preparing for a big fight while trying to keep her brother Dan (Ellis Hollins) out of trouble. Their mother died two years ago and as the older sibling Clara is trying to look after Dan as best she can – but it's not easy as he's a boisterous lad and he runs with a rough crowd. She's not best pleased when he calls up late to dinner on the anniversary of their mother's death, but when the police turn up things take a turn for the tragic.


This is an extremely moving and powerful story. It's a testament to Pott's skills as a filmmaker that no scene is wasted, and the film does so much with little fanfare or melodramatics. It's a quiet, personal story that reaches out and prods you right in the heart.


Carter and Hollins are excellent together, with easy chemistry that makes the brother-sister dynamic clear and believable right from the start. Carter is the standout as her role carries more emotional weight, and she does a brilliant job as a weary young woman who has to juggle the demands of her own dream with those of looking after a wayward teen boy.


Her sorrow and rage are entirely believable, and I'd wager it's impossible to watch the performance without choking up a little.


The sad piano soundtrack towards the end is a little on-the-nose, and a couple of the secondary performances are a bit on the flat side, but overall this is a superb film that handles the powerlessness of grief extremely well.


There are so many things that are beyond our control, and nothing reminds us of this more than the death of loved ones. It spins you out of orbit and sends you reeling into the unknown. But it is possible to claw your way back, to regain control step by step, as Clara does with her cathartic boxing. You can rebuild and move on.


Nicole Pott has a few more shorts in development at the moment, and I for one can't wait to see what comes next.


Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend

By midlandsmovies, Jan 24 2020 12:46PM



Midlands Spotlight on lighting camera operator Dan Hunt


This week on our Spotlight we check out Midlands-based lighting camera operator and cinematographer Dan Hunt.


With over 10 years' industry experience, Dan specialises in corporate work, commercials and branded content.


His previous projects include shooting international advertising campaigns, music videos and gigs for Top 40 artists, broadcast TV, award-winning shorts and a cinema-released feature film.


Dan’s career started way back with a first class BSc (Hons) in Film Production Technology, This was closely followed by the formation of Warped Noise, a production company specialising in music videos and live events.



From this Dan says, “I learned valuable business skills, which enabled me to refocus my efforts into becoming a successful freelancer working for companies across the UK and Europe”.


Always on the lookout for more opportunities with Midlands filmmakers and beyond Dan has plenty of camera experience. “I have my own kits but am equally comfortable shooting on a wide range of cameras including Arri, RED and Black Magic Systems. I'm also a highly skilled Movi and Camera Crane operator”, says Dan.




With travel being one of Dan’s biggest passions he says he’s been lucky enough to combine this with filming assignments in India and Tanzania. Afterwards, Dan undertook a three-month tour of European film festivals for a documentary project.


When he’s not filming Dan takes time out to indulge his hobbies including snowboarding, photography and (of course) movie buff!


With a CV full of interesting and exciting projects you can find out more about Dan’s work via a number of pieces that he either shot or was heavily involved in at his website. Check out just one of them in the video below.


For more information please head to Dan’s official website at https://danhuntcamera.com/





By midlandsmovies, Jan 22 2020 09:10PM



Midlands Review - Smoking Kills


Directed by Jacob Gates Orgill


2020


Wicket Films


Shot in artistic monochrome, Smoking Kills is a new 5-minute short from Derby-based director Jacob Gates Orgill.


With coffee brewing and the hub-bub of customers, we start the short in a small café as a man frets over an unfinished newspaper crossword.


As another drink is passed to him by a waitress, he continues with his word puzzle but pauses to change a nicotine patch under the sleeve of his shirt.


The stark black and white visuals are a nice touch in Smoking Kills. When money is limited and colour grading a luxury on some local films, a bit of creative thinking can help turn lower budget affairs into a classier production. And this works well here.


The story continues as the man later breaks open some nicotine gum as we see his stress levels go upwards. Is it his cravings? Or the frustration of a particular difficult clue in the newspaper?


Nearby, a group of men chat nonchalantly but one well-coiffed gent with a cigarette tucked behind his ear attracts our protagonist’s eyes. The director here slows down the visuals when the gent heads outside to smoke and the absence of sound focuses the lead’s attention (and our own) on this obsessive act.


And as his friends join him outside for a “toke”, the man back inside at his table begins to sweat and the music swells to heighten the tension as we become fixated on the tiny details of the café: A slowly dripping tap. A bead of sweat. The fun and laughter of the men enjoying their snouts.


One thing to note at this point is that the shots in Smoking Kills are well composed and the filmmaker uses a lot of varied camera angles to keep the small location interesting. Without colour, the excellent use of shot depth definitely helps keep the short visually arresting.


But as the man becomes fixated on these small things, we begin to ask ourselves "will he finally snap"?


Well, you’ll have to watch to find out but Smoking Kills is a terrific film about infatuation and addiction with an added dash of dark humour. Although the subject matter isn’t wholly unique, the excellent use of colour (or lack of), clever film editing and some effective cinematic flourishes all help light up the screen in this very satisfying short.


Michael Sales





By midlandsmovies, Jan 21 2020 12:39PM



The Woman in Black at Curve Leicester


The Woman in Black is a 1983 horror novel by Susan Hill, written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel and made into a 2012 supernatural horror film starring Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe with great support from Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer and Liz White.


Yet although it was a commercial success, the original book was adapted into a more famous stage play by Stephen Mallatratt that is now the second longest-running play in the West End.


The plot of all adaptations follows a young lawyer who travels to a remote village where he discovers that the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorising the locals.


And Curve Leicester now has a further adaptation directed by Robin Herford. It again seeks to tell the story of solicitor Arthur Kipps who attends the funeral of a client and subsequently discovers the dreaded secret of the Woman in Black.


In contrast to the film and book however, this stage version adds a layer of interesting complexity as it delivers a play within a play.


Kipps is first embodied by Robert Goodale, as an old man hoping to turn his story into a stage play for friends and family. He is assisted by a professional actor (Daniel Easton as “The Actor”) who wants to help shape and deliver a successful story.


Both actors do well and before long, and after reading excerpts from Kipps’ diaries, The Actor ends up playing the younger incarnation of Kipps and the whole production takes a more conventional form.


The sparse stage layout first evokes a small theatre but as it moves into the recreation of the "real" story then it becomes more elaborate. We see dusty sheets on old furniture and spy mysterious shapes through the haze of a semi-translucent curtain.


This opens up the play to a larger location and larger themes about loneliness and remembrance. It does dip back into the fact that the story is being recollected and acted out from the pages of the diary. However, although this is somewhat clever this also hinders the audience as it “snaps” you out of the dark atmosphere of the narrative itself.


Both actors do well intertwining their different roles as needed and playing off a surprising amount of comedy. This is thrown in the script and performed well by the double-act from the very start. The suspension of disbelief is an allegorical and on-stage physical trait of the play, especially when they play multiple roles throughout.


The scares come from what isn’t seen – a bang on a door here, a creaking rocking chair there – but after hearing anecdotes from others about the horrific nature of the play I can’t but express some disappointment. At no point was I genuinely frightened and as the play ratcheted up tension, it was a shame that scenes came to a rather abrupt end quite often.


All the audience tension in a near-silent auditorium was lost as we jumped back to the “play” rehearsals or a pinch of comedy was thrown in which undercut the well set-up horror.


In the end, the construction of the play was its most intriguing aspect and the second half’s stage lighting, furniture and props were scene-setting delights. However, if you happen to have a strong disposition, don’t go into The Woman in Black ready to be spooked as the less-than-average scares are too few and far between.


Mike Sales


The Woman in Black at Curve


Tue 21 Jan — Sat 25 Jan


Age Recommendation: 12+


Running time: 2 hour 5 minutes including a 15 minute interval


Please note this performance contains loud noises and smoke.


Tickets

£35 – £10

DISCOUNTS*

£15 Under 16s

£15 Under 18s school groups

£18 16 – 26 yrs (with a FREE 16 – 26 Membership)

£4 off for Groups 10+

15% off for Members or 241 tickets on Mon 20 Jan


*Discounts are subject to terms and conditions, availability and are only valid on certain performances.




By midlandsmovies, Jan 16 2020 07:16PM



Midlands Review - The Haunting of Alcatraz


Directed by Steve Lawson


2020


High Flier Films/Creativ Studios



Can you make a film set on Alcatraz Island but film it around the Midlands? Well, Leicester-based horror director Steve Lawson attempts to give that a go in his new film The Haunting of Alcatraz.


With many legends set within the infamous walls over the years, we open up with a bloody bang of a beginning. An inmate manages to trick a guard who ends up giving him a blade (from a pencil sharpener no less) and a swift suicide leads to more mysterious deaths as the film progresses.


With Aura, Hellriser and Time, And Again under his belt Lawson again aims big with this film. He introduces us to Charlie Schmidt (Tom Hendryk) who comes straight out of college in 1937 to get a job as a prison guard. With the jailhouse routines explained by The Warden (Mark Topping excellently channelling some of the pious and cruel barbs of Shawshank’s Samuel Norton), he begins his shift.


But it isn’t long until Charlie’s bright young mind starts to investigate the strange deaths at the prison, yet despite warnings from a fellow guard (a very creepy Chris Lines) he continues to explore the bleak cellblocks.


Filmed at the disused Gloucester prison no less, Lawson does a more than admirable job convincing us this local made film is actually set in the bay of San Francisco. The British cast also do very well with American accents. So much so that I had to look up Chris Lines who is in fact from Stoke and not the US Deep South. And with good use of stock footage, it’s sometimes only the overcast UK weather that hints that we’re not in sunny California.


The film takes time to build its plot and Charlie eventually crosses paths with Helen Crevell’s nurse Sherry and together they begin an awkward bond of friendship, and perhaps more, which alleviates some of the more morbid aspects of the story.


Their relationship sadly leads into the middle third of the film which needed a few more scare scenes to keep the horror aspect at the forefront. And as it slows you start to notice the slightly functional camerawork – more variety in the shots could have helped visually – and some of the more cliched dialogue. Plus for a large prison, there seems to be very few inmates incarcerated. Almost none to be exact and a couple more tense scenes in this middle section sure wouldn’t have gone amiss.


However, the flashing lights and spooky sounds combined with a screeching soundtrack do just enough to keep you guessing at the film’s cryptic narrative and what could be lurking in the secretive “Cell 13”.


As Charlie uncovers further corruption, as well as possibly some supernatural goings-on, the movie definitely, and wisely, picks up the pace towards its conclusion. And later on Charlie’s enquiries into visions and voices leads to him unfortunately finding himself stuck in a cage (although not with The Rock alumni Nic Cage).


With traces of Shawshank and the Green Mile mixed with horror elements, The Haunting of Alcatraz’s does extremely well to create a convincing setting to hang its story around. Despite the obvious budget limitations, the film’s mix of penal punishment and cagey corruption drags it over the line before the illusion breaks.


And so, although you’re advised to stay well away from creepy “Cell 13”, it’s recommended you definitely head towards this disturbingly dark tale set at the infamous and sinister prison known as ‘the rock’.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jan 16 2020 07:29AM



3 from Hell (2019) Dir. Rob Zombie


3 from hell is the third instalment in the blood soaked Firefly trilogy written and directed by Rob Zombie. The film follows on from 2005’s cult spectacle ‘The Devils Rejects’ following Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Winslow ‘Foxy’ Coltrane (Richard Brake).


After the unfortunate passing of Sid Haig (Captain Spalding) the film underwent re-writes that saw the character replaced by Richard Brakes character. The film centres around these three fiendish nihilists as they embark on a journey from incarceration to the freedom of anarchy.


Firstly the question needs to be asked… Did we need this film? NO…


The film had the same budget as the final 45 minutes of The Devils Rejects said Rob Zombie on ‘The Joe Rogan Experience.’


This film felt like a rush to the finish line for me. Zombie has gifts; he really does. And I'd rather see him using them with fresh material than repeating himself, which is what he did to some extent in 2016's 31 and also here. This film lacked that dirty, nasty, gross taste we expect with a Rob Zombie film and instead replaces it with silly humour and Hollywood production.


The film gradually feels more Hollywood, with the standard tropes, as we approach the third act which unsurprisingly presents itself like one big reshot third act, almost completely separating us from themes and character arcs presented in the first half of the film.


You have all the pieces of a great Rob Zombie picture here: hilarious comic book dialogue, gruesome violence, and charismatic anti-heroes. And 3 From Hell is as extreme as it is whimsical, and as gratuitous as it is provocative. And the Western elements are omnipresent in this one, building upon the style of The Devil's Rejects.


But unfortunately we don’t get that, we get a patchy, corny, and at times, a face-palming ordeal.



Ben Warrington

Twitter @ben_warro


By midlandsmovies, Jan 14 2020 09:21PM



CineQ LGBTQ+ film festival back in Birmingham for second year


After a fantastic first year in 2019, CineQ LGBTQ+ film festival is returning to Birmingham for a second year on 26th-29th March 2020. CineQ2020 is set to run across several venues across Birmingham.


And once again CineQ aims to create a fun and safe space in Birmingham for the LGBTQ+ community to gather, discuss important topics and enjoy a range of diverse queer cinema. CineQ has a unique focus on often-overlooked QTIPOC (Queer Trans and Intersex People of Colour) stories and perspectives, bringing new stories to screen and inviting a range of voices to speak on its panels and events.


The 2020 iteration of the festival hopes to build on the success of last year, which was lauded as “a properly inclusive festival of queer film… a jewel in the crown for Birmingham”, by offering a range of great films and events.


CineQ 2020 opens with a screening of Portrait of Jason, one of the most underrated gems of Black queer cinema, and one of the earliest examples of black openly gay men on screen. Josh Rivers will be attending and will be recording a special edition of his podcast Busy Being Black as part of the post-screening discussion.


Other films announced include critically acclaimed 2019 film Monsoon and the recently restored The Watermelon Woman - one of the classic greats of black queer representation – and the apt and timeless Closing Night film End of the Century. More films are to be announced soon via social media and at www.cineqbirmingham.co.uk




The festival is also set to include a Filmmaker Matchmaker event by CineQ x BFI NETWORK, networking event aimed at getting Birmingham creatives together for an evening of welcome drinks and creativity before the opening night film.


As part of its mission to create inclusive and welcoming queer spaces, CineQ 2020 will be continuing its dedication to CineQ Watch Parties - an experimental digital event that takes place during the 10 days previous to the main festival and aims to connect those who are otherwise isolated in society. A selection of curated short films and submissions will be screened on the CineQ Facebook page to encourage collective viewing and discussion with other queer cinephiles.


The CineQ film festival is funded by BFI FAN Film Hub Midlands and is supported by Film Hub Midlands, Grand Union, Birmingham Open Media, Mockingbird and Midlands Arts Centre. CineQ was previously operating as a community cinema supported by Flatpack Projects.


They’ve screened many titles such as The Wound, Closet Monster, and Check It as well as short film programmes at Centrala Art Gallery and Cafe, Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen, and Flatpack Film Festival. CineQ has also worked with Cinemas outside of Birmingham such as Phoenix Cinema in Leicester and has been awarded recognition by Cinema for All, Britain’s leading authority for community cinemas and film societies.


For more info check their official social media pages:

Twitter - https://twitter.com/cineqbrum

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/cineqbrum

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/cineqbrum




By midlandsmovies, Jan 13 2020 11:34PM



Midlands Spotlight - Film shows coming to Curve in 2020


With the announcement in January 2020 that this year will see new adaptations of both Roman Holiday and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof coming to Curve in Leicester, it joins a whole host of film-related shows already scheduled.


From drama to comedy via musicals both past and present, Curve has an amazing 2020 planned with details of the above soon to be published alongside a season of fantastic film and fan favourites.


Check out the current season details below:



The Woman in Black - Mon 20 Jan — Sat 25 Jan

A lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the spectre of a Woman in Black engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story. Continuing its record-breaking run in London’s West End, The Woman in Black embarks on a major UK Tour Susan Hill’s acclaimed ghost story comes dramatically alive in Stephen Mallatratt’s ingenious stage adaptation. In 2012 a film adaptation was released starring Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Arthur Kipps and directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake) and develops a storyline quite different from that of the source material.




The Phantom of The Opera - Sat 22 Feb — Sat 21 Mar

The brilliant original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s The Phantom of the Opera is embarking on a major UK and Ireland tour. Now in its 34th year in the West End, The Phantom of the Opera is widely considered one of the most beautiful and spectacular productions in history. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group Ltd, The Phantom of the Opera will open at Curve this February. The romantic, haunting and soaring score includes Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Masquerade and the iconic title song. Adapted for film many times, one of the most recent was the 2004 British–American musical drama adaptation directed by Joel Schumacher starring Gerard Butler in the title role, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver and Jennifer Ellison.




Cry Baby – Thu 26 Mar — Sat 28 Mar

With songs by David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger, this new play is based on the Universal Pictures film written and directed by John Waters. Adapted for the stage by the same team behind Hairspray, CYC Musicals 16+ bring Cry Baby to the stage as part of the CYC Season. Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker is the coolest kid in town, a bad boy with a good heart. When he falls for the good girl who wants to be bad, their two worlds collide as the king of the delinquents and queen of the squares fight, flirt and dance their way through 1950s rock ‘n’ roll America. Originally Cry-Baby was a 1990 American musical from Waters and was the only film of Waters' over which studios were in a bidding war, coming off the heels of Hairspray. The film stars Johnny Depp as 1950s teen rebel "Cry-Baby" Wade Walker and also features a large ensemble cast that includes Amy Locane, Polly Bergen, Susan Tyrrell, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake and Traci Lords.




Sister Act - Tue 21 Apr — Sat 2 May

The Broadway and UK smash-hit musical Sister Act is coming to Curve immediately prior to its record-breaking London run, reimagined for the 21st century and starring Brenda Edwards (Hairspray, Chicago, Loose Women) in the specially rewritten role of Deloris Van Cartier. Now set in 2020, this sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music tells the hilarious story of the disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. It features original music by Tony® and 8-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken (Disney’s Aladdin, Enchanted) and songs inspired by Motown, soul and disco. The 1992 American musical comedy film version was directed by Emile Ardolino and written by Joseph Howard, and originally starred Whoopi Goldberg as a lounge singer forced to join a convent after being placed in a witness protection program.


Sing-a-long-a The Greatest Showman - Sun 3 May 2:15pm

Cheer on Hugh Jackman, lust after Zac Efron and hiss at Rebecca Ferguson (…or maybe not) as you experience The Greatest Showman in the greatest way possible – with lyrics on the screen so you can join in as loud and proud as you want.


Sing-a-long-a Bohemian Rhapsody - Sun 3 May 7.00pm

Celebrate Queen, their music, and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Sit back and sing along with the on-screen lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, Under Pressure and Somebody to Love not forgetting YOU the audience becoming part of their famous Live Aid concert.



Dial M for Murder - Mon 4 May - Sat 9 May

Made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s world-renowned 1950 film, the iconic Dial M for Murder is coming to Curve in 2020. Tony Wendice is a jaded ex-professional tennis player who has given it all up for his wife Margot. But Tony’s mind soon turns to revenge as he discovers his wife has been unfaithful. Aiming to commit ‘the perfect crime’ Tony becomes tangled in the web of his own making. TV and stage favourite Tom Chambers (Top Hat and Strictly Come Dancing) stars in this spine-chilling drama. The 1954 American crime mystery film starred Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, and John Williams and both the screenplay and the successful stage play on which it was based were written by English playwright Frederick Knott.




A Monster Calls - Tue 26 May — Sat 30 May

Patrick Ness’s piercing novel A Monster Calls is brought vividly to life in the Olivier award winning production by visionary director Sally Cookson. Thirteen-year-old Conor and his mum have managed just fine since his dad moved away. But now his mum is sick and not getting any better. His grandmother won’t stop interfering and the kids at school won’t look him in the eye. Then, one night, Conor is woken by something at his window. A monster has come walking. A Monster Calls was made into a 2016 dark fantasy film directed by J. A. Bayona and stars Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell and Liam Neeson.




Once - Mon 15 Jun — Sat 20 Jun

Once may not be enough for you to see this multi award-winning Broadway and West End hit musical. Based on the critically acclaimed and much-loved film, you will meet (and never forget) two lost souls – a Dublin street busker and a Czech musician – who find each other unexpectedly and fall in love. You will fall in love, too, with this brilliant and beautiful musical, filled with live music, from lush ballads to barnstorming reels. The 2007 Irish romantic musical drama film was written and directed by John Carney and starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Once spent years in development with the Irish Film Board and was made for a budget of €112,000. It was a commercial success, earning substantial per-screen box office averages in the United States. It received awards including the 2007 Independent Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film. Hansard and Irglová's song "Falling Slowly" won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and the soundtrack received a Grammy Award nomination.


All shows, tickets, dates, times and details over at Curve official website https://www.curveonline.co.uk


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