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By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2018 08:40PM

Shoulder to the Plough


Directed by Nick Archer

A cacophony of strings and a blood red lava liquid opens this interpretive and non-conventional new short film from local director Nick Archer.

The shocking titles give way to a woman (Becki Lloyd as Vanessa) situated in an enclosed barn with red blood on her hands before she stalks the brick-walled corridors and reaches her palm into the sky – or is it into water?

Cutting abruptly between the stark images, director Archer has provided a number of metaphorical themes in a very ambiguous short. However, there are teases of subjects and ideas which are given more context by the Friedrich Nietzsche quote on nihilism at the film’s conclusion

Before we get there though, there’s a nod or two to Nicolas Winding Refn’s work with the bold colours, an atonal score and crimson coloured digits. Screams of a baby are edited alongside our protagonist in a pool of water giving the feeling of a metaphorical birth – or perhaps the loss of a baby? Again, left open to interpretation.

Later, walking silently within a field, Vanessa at times looks into the camera challenging the audience to bring their own meaning to each of the film’s inquisitive charms.

In one sequence a blood covered hammer sits in a disused cot covered and despite its sober and unsettling themes, there’s something of a fairy tale about the images shown. When a voice asks her what she is doing, the question comes from a man (Richard Buck) who is revealed to be spread out on an allegorical picnic blanket. An awkward kiss from her prince charming and a discussion on dream moments again wrap the film in an aura of multiple readings and asks us to question these dream spaces - or are they repressed memories?

Much like Aronofsky’s “mother!” the film wallows in its ambiguity as Vanessa recounts a dream of drowning in thick mud and as she does so, the man’s hand drifts towards her mid-drift and later towards the hem of her skirt mixing up parental paranoia with sexual sensuality.

But like that film, the woman’s dreams are interrupted with a flash of visceral violence before the return of the blood red liquid from the film’s intro.

Although quoting Nietzsche suggests the filmmaker is questioning structure (both in terms of narrative and the protagonist’s life), the short’s title could hark to Luke 9:62 where Jesus declared, "“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Suggesting the only way is forward and not being distracted by the things left behind, I suspect the film’s ambiguity is there to prick the audience rather than provide any internal decoding itself. But that quote could be construed as an allusion to a past act that one prefers not to recall. And with such a sinful act, one would not enter heaven.

On a technical level, the film is well shot and the images composed to within an inch of its life. Tom Rackham’s score has echoes of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s eerie and mysterious Arrival score and throughout this film, the music soundtracks the disturbing images beautifully.

In summary though, Shoulder to the Plough is a short that intends to avoid simple representation and although one reading could be a possible insight into post-natal depression, another could simply be a literal translation of nihilism’s impulses to destroy.

Whatever audiences bring themselves to the short, they will leave with a vivid portrayal of some unspeakable act delivered using an ambiguous tone that permeates throughout the film.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 16 2018 10:19AM

Dark Days

Directed by Daryl Grizzle

A Grizzle and Steele Film

We open on a regular street as a lady leaves her suburban house to stretch before going for a run but there’s nothing regular about this new film from West Midlands director Daryl Grizzle.

As we track her in the park jogging, seemingly enjoying a pastime passion, the film uses narration to explain to the audience how difficult life is living with a mental illness.

Having previously created short film Bless You, which we saw at Leicester’s Short Cinema festival in 2017, the director here provides a portrait of a dark personal journey. With sequences of narration delivered direct to camera in small interview-style segments the film doesn’t sugar-coat the awful aftermaths of actions like self-harm and explores the difficulties of living with depression and its stigma in today’s society.

The film stars Jade Samuels as the protagonist who, as is explained in a coda at the film’s end, is actually performing a recreation of a real interview conducted in 2017. An interesting concept for sure but for me I would have preferred for this context to be given at the start of the film in order for the real truths to hit home from the beginning.

Our protagonist’s testimony continues as the tragic consequences of deep cuts that require stitches, and sometimes even surgery, are explained and delivered by Samuels in an honest portrayal throughout.

A bit more creative flair would set the film apart from the crowd as although the technical elements were first class - especially the park-based tracking shots, the serious themes were slightly undermined with a standard mix of handheld camera work in her house and some VERY long shots which pushed away from the much-needed intimacy.

However, the few minor flaws don’t distract from the story as a whole and we are told how she joins an athletics club before acts of divorcing parents and changing schools became a trigger during a difficult period.

Add to this peer pressure, bullying and name calling and we discover she gives up her hobby which is recounted as the thing that made her most happy. With some solitary bathroom shots there was also a small echo of recent local film HIM (click here) which covers similar subject matter and is worth seeking out as well.

The film is good at leaving some threads open to interpretation however and questions how these childhood events shape and sometimes control us.

And with the disease of depression becoming more fully understood by society as a whole, it is admirable that this film shines a light on a real victim and the very truthful troubles they have been through.

More of a monologue than a full exploration, Dark Days does hold on to the thought that although a positive outlook will not cure the struggles faced by sufferers, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Leaving the audience then with a message that sufferer’s journeys will be a marathon and not a sprint, it successfully focuses on how understanding and awareness will help guide people’s efforts in the right direction.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 15 2018 06:29PM

Gringo (2018) Dir. Nash Edgerton

After businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) phones his head office bosses (Joel Edgerton as the obnoxious Richard and Charlize Theron as the unpleasant but seductive Elaine) to explain he has been kidnapped, Gringo kicks off an international farce of blue-collar crime, gangsters and hostage taking in this film from debut director Nash Edgerton.

With Harold’s lack of money, a wife seeking love elsewhere and his boss’ secret plans to let him go owing to a very shady company merger, he takes it upon himself to use a meeting in Mexico to collect a ransom on himself. When a drug cartel gets involved, the tables are spun and as Harold gets unwittingly involved in a case of mistaken identity, a mercenary played by a theatrical Sharlto Copley (doing what he does best) is dispatched to clear up the mess.

The film’s criss-crossing narrative is at first its triumph but then sadly its downfall however. What starts as a fun farce of down-at-luck mockery and silly, but passable, characters soon descends into a complicated commotion where misunderstanding is replaced with daft coincidences and broad caricatures.

I could however watch Theron’s callous and ruthless Elaine until the end of time with her dry wit and appalling yet hilarious behaviour. But the one-note idea of a put-upon office worker getting his own back on his bosses becomes increasingly muddled with so-so dialogue, too few belly laughs and a story that spirals into slapstick mayhem.

With a better script, some cinematic flair and subtler approach I could see the outline of the plot making a very good Coen brothers film (The Big Lebowski/Hail Caesar aren’t a million miles away anyways) but Gringo has more in common with a very average 1980s comedy flick.

Kudos goes to everyone giving it their all but aside from one or two clever jokes and Edgerton and Theron wallowing in their impressive ‘horrible bosses’ roles, the film is run-of-the-mill entertainment at best.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 15 2018 08:06AM

Movie makers shine bright at Leicester charity film gala

Saturday 14th July saw a fantastic evening of films, fun and fundraising as Rajnish Sharma Films and Whatsername Productions presented a collection of some of the newest short films and local filmmakers at the Leicester Short Film Gala.

With red carpet glamour, all proceeds from the night would be donated to Leicester’s YMCA charity. The gala was hosted at their Y theatre which is the oldest and only surviving Victorian theatre in the city and the evening began with a reminder of the great work they do to help with homelessness in the area.

As well as the money raised tonight, they are currently running a Challenge 135 campaign where they are asking 135 local businesses to donate £135 in honour of their 135 year-old anniversary. (Find out more about this great cause on their site by clicking here).

However, the full film showcase quickly began and was hosted by Dean Presto. He stirringly introduced a night of five separate films which was followed by question and answer sessions after the screenings to discuss the productions with each of the films’ directors.

First up was Fabletown that was a black and white drama with a hint of fairy tale lore about it. With a Sin City-esque monochrome palette populated by flashes of bright colour, it mixed a dark film noir aesthetic with fantasy influences. With hints to the big bad wolf and Little Red Riding Hood via Dorothy’s adventures in Oz, the mix of light and dark was a great tonal choice and set the mood for the rest of the night.

Up next was Rajnish Sharma’s Ascension which we have covered on Midlands Movies in the past. This post-apocalyptic thriller shows a barricaded man who is haunted by past demons as he tries to save himself from a dangerous world outside.

Covering themes of selfishness, regret and survival the director explained the difficulties of filming with a low budget during his interview segment. But he also highly praised the hard work and passion of local film crews to get such fantastic projects finished at all.

Following this was comedy sketch Parenthood from Flip You Productions. We had also come across Parenthood before at The Short Cinema screening in 2016.

This story about the joys of taking your child to the park twisted a simple tale into something much darker and the audience responded to its short 2-minute runtime with howls of laughter. With a great atmosphere and appreciative crowd we headed into the interval on an entertaining high with people anxious for the final two films coming up.

At the break, the filmmakers and fans were encouraged to network and fellow organisers Kelly McCormack and Charlotte Roper showed no signs of nervousness given the strong audience reactions to the show’s first half.

Midlands Movies Mike, Charlotte Roper and Rajnish Sharma
Midlands Movies Mike, Charlotte Roper and Rajnish Sharma

After buying tickets to the event’s charity raffle and wetting our whistles, we returned to the auditorium and took our seats ready for the second half which started with dramatic mood-piece Thursday.

The longest of the evening, Thursday is from Leicester’s GM Finney Productions who won Best Special Effects for their film The Rockman at this year’s Midlands Movies Awards. Switching from their sci-fi success to a more sombre drama, the film told the story of a young woman who, after suffering a personal loss, finds herself in a life or death situation in order to keep her family legacy alive.

With an orchestral score, flashes of violence and some terrific performances, Thursday’s director Glenn McAllen-Finney described how the shooting was surprisingly easy. This was despite the frustrations of difficult weather and the ‘less-than-regular’ route to gain a suitable location for the film’s hostage sequences.

Last but certainly not least was Eve from Rajnish Sharma Films, a dark psychological horror showing a young woman getting ready for a night out to meet friends. Starring the talented Leicester actress Eve Harding, her character finds herself excitedly preparing for her evening, only to be caught in a metaphorical loop that is frustrating and frightening in equal measure.

With huge rounds of applause the screenings ended with all the filmmakers given credit for their hard work and the night properly concluded with the draw of the charity raffle. With exciting prizes to be won including tickets to Leicester’s well known The Short Cinema event coming up in August – and our very own Midlands Movies Mystery Box (!) – the night was a fantastic success for all those involved.

An evening of laughs and thought-provoking shorts, the night showcased not only some tremendously creative films but proudly demonstrated the strong film community prevalent in my home town. With strong support from cast and crews across all the productions, Leicester’s low-budget filmmakers showed a great level of cooperation and it was encouraging to witness an audience with an appetite for independent shorts.

Finally, with a good cause at its heart and a whole host of shared enthusiasm between the organisers and attendees, the adoring film fans meant that the Short Film Gala was a huge success from start to finish.

Midlands Movies Mike

Please check out more about the films on the links in the article

Midlands Movies Mike and Kelly McCormack
Midlands Movies Mike and Kelly McCormack

By midlandsmovies, Jul 13 2018 07:15AM

Sleepless (2018)

Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz

From Catharsis Films comes Sleepless, the latest short film from local filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz.

What lengths would you go to if surreal nightmares had kept you up for over six days? In Sleepless one man must deal with such a scenario.

The film opens on the troubled man (Sam Malley) resting on his sofa, desperately trying to keep his eyes open. The camera pans down to reveal an electronic ankle bracelet which buzzes soon after shocking him. Who would put such a device on themselves? Who wants to stay awake this badly?

His housemate (Nisaro Karim) sitting opposite from him chirps up, “Why don’t you take that bloody thing off” with a tone of concern for his friend. However, there is an air of tension between the two which is one of the key elements for the story and one of my favourite dynamics of the film alongside a good, moody score by Yunis Khan.

Both men exchange insults as their backstory is revealed, both actors give great performances but Karim’s is especially impressive as he could of easily of played this role as a cartoonish, maniacal figure instead however he downplays his intentions and keeps the audience guessing as to what his character is about.

It is later revealed that there was a mugging that had gone awry some days before. What started off as an opportunity to steal a man’s wallet, ends with an unnecessary death. Whilst I’m sure this wasn’t made with the recent national crime wave in mind, it is still effective in the way Shahnawaz displays how the culprit deals with the consequences.

Whilst this isn’t a horror film, the premise of a character wanting to stay awake at any cost as they are terrified of their own nightmares, takes me back to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, a film that deals with guilt, regret and consequence, something Sheikh Shahnawaz, on a shoestring budget does in spades.

Making a short film every month is no easy task, however accompanied with good actors and a talented composer, Shahnawaz manages to create a dark thriller that is expertly paced throughout its seven-minute runtime. Film fans and fellow filmmakers would definitely benefit from checking out his channel for more local short films and advice.

Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer

Watch the full short below and check out Sheikh's YouTube channel here:


By midlandsmovies, Jul 11 2018 02:00AM

Quite simply, here is our ongoing and updated list of Film Festivals in the Midlands (2018 edition):

• THE SHORT CINEMA http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk info@theshortcinema.co.uk Phoenix, Leicester - August 20 – 25, 2018

• NOTTINGHAM MICRO FILM FESTIVAL Twitter @FilmNottingham http://www.nimfestival.com/ 8-10 March 2018

• INDIE-LINCS - March 15-18 2018 Based at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, and run in partnership with The School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln http://www.indie-lincs.com

• BRINDLEY PLACE OUTDOOR FEST - http://www.brindleyplace.com/event/brindleyplace-film-festival-2018/ July 16 -22 2018

• LEICESTER DOCFILM FEST https://twitter.com/docfilmfestival Contact John Coster November 2018

• BORDERLINES FEST http://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk UK's largest rural film festival. Herefordshire/Shropshire - 23rd February - 11th March 2018

• BIRMINGHAM FILM FEST - November 22 – 25 2018 https://filmfreeway.com/festival/Birminghamfilmfestival

• BIFF FEST (Black International Film Fest) https://www.biffestival.co.uk 2018 dates TBC

• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL http://www.shockandgore.co.uk The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, July. Contact david@theelectric.co.uk or https://twitter.com/shockgore July 27 to Aug 5 2018

• DEAFFEST http://www.deaffest.co.uk The UK's International Deaf Film & Arts Festival Wolverhampton. Contact info@light-house.co.uk Friday 17th to Sunday 19th May 2019

• THE UK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LEICESTER - http://tonguesonfire.com/ 15 March - 31 March 2018

• SHOUT FESTIVAL http://shoutfestival.co.uk Birmingham Dates TBC for 2018

• DERBY FILM FESTIVAL http://www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk 4th - 13th MAY 2018

• FANTASTIQ FEST http://fantastiq.co.uk Fantasy/Horror Fest at Quad in Derby (part of Derby Film Fest)

• MAYHEM HORROR Film Fest - Halloween. Contact Broadway cinema in Nottingham http://www.broadway.org.uk/mayhem 11 October - 14 October 2018

• FLATPACK FEST - Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk 13 - 22 April 2018

• EAST ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL http://www.eastwindsfilmfest.com May 2018

• BEESTON FILM FESTIVAL - https://twitter.com/BeestonFilm 8th - 11th March 2018

• SHROPSHIRE RAINBOW FILM FESTIVAL http://www.rainbowfilmfestival.org.uk/midlands-zone 5th - 7th October 2018

• GRINDHOUSE PLANET - www.grindhouseplanet.com November 2018 TBC

* BOTTLESMOKE FILM FESTIVAL - https://www.facebook.com/BottleSmokeStoke Stoke on Trent, 8th - 9th September 2018

* POCKET FILM FESTIVAL (Unseen cinema) http://www.unseencinema.co.uk/pocket-film-festival-2018/ Stafford 12-17 March 2018

* BIRMINGHAM HORROR GROUP - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birmingham-horror-group-mini-movie-marathon-25-march-2018-tickets-41683231668 Mini-Movie Marathon Mini-Movie 25 March 2018

* SHROPSHIRE'S FIRST WORLD WAR FILM FESTIVAL https://twitter.com/wilfredowen100 Oct/Nov TBC 2018

* THE BRAVE BLACK BIRD FILM FEST Wolverhampton https://ajayhackett2113.wixsite.com/bbff Wolverhampton 25th Feb 2019 (submissions until July 2018)

* HIGH PEAK INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL Derbyshire https://www.highpeakindie.com 12th to 16th June 2019. #HPIFF18

* NOTTINGHAM FILM FESTIVAL Hothouse Theatre Nottingham https://twitter.com/NottmFilmFest 8th July 2018

* THE VENUE LINCOLN FILM FESTIVAL Lincolnshire https://www.thevenuelincoln.co.uk 6th - 8th July 2018

* THE SHORT STACK FILM FESTIVAL Nottingham Bi-monthly screening night at Broadway Cinema https://www.facebook.com/groups/841340665914084 (Various dates)

Other useful Film Festival information can be find at these links:




By midlandsmovies, Jul 10 2018 01:57PM

Tomb Raider (2018) Dir. Roar Uthaug

Pardon my absolute exasperation but it’s simply another day and here we are again with another franchise reboot as pixel legend Lara Croft gets another outing with this new film based upon the 2013 version of the adventure video game.

What we have here is Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander as the English explorer who inherits her father’s estate along with secret clues to an unsolved mystery, which he was researching before his unfortunate disappearance. Despite her father’s pleas warning her to destroy the evidence, she ignores his from-beyond-the grave video and plans to find the tomb of Himiko, the mythical Queen of Yamatai.

After packing her bags, blagging a spot on a boat and ending up stranded on an island she runs afoul of a shady expedition led by Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) who aims to weaponize Himiko's ancient power. If all of this sounds ludicrous that’s because it is. Not even the talented Vikander could get me to say this was a worthwhile watch as she embarks on a perilous, yet somehow extremely tedious, journey across the globe.

The film starts strong with Vikander proving her muscle with a kick boxing match before she is involved in an exciting bike hunt on the streets of London. There is also another thrilling chase across boats in Hong Kong and it says a lot about the film that well filmed bicycle and foot chase scenes surpass any of the overblown computer-generated showcases later on. We get a Peter Jackson King Kong/Skull Island inspired boat journey and, speaking of skulls, as soon as they land we get the obligatory CGI jungle and waterfall shots similarly seen in the awful Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

A river rapid ride that looks as real as the barrel sequence in the Hobbit continues the nonsense and if I have to mention bad CGI in one more film I’m going to scream. It’s now the biggest downfall of so many blockbuster films I’m more surprised when I don’t have to mention it.

The film would have done better to stick with a compact National Treasure style rush across the globe whereas they went down the huge set piece route which ended being a huge detriment.

Containing a hackneyed plot for a Hackney bike courier, the film dies at the 25-minute mark when Croft arrives at the island. Maybe suitable for kids I’d recommend Harrison Ford and Nic Cage’s explorer romps over this disappointing and unnecessary cash-in of a tired brand.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 9 2018 09:30AM

The Second City Provides Instant Entertainment

Birmingham-based talent company Instant Entertainment has recently announced the signing of Bruce MacDonald of Boomtown Films. If you recognise MacDonald’s name, it’s no doubt down to his direction of The Perfect Wave, the 2017 true-life drama which gave Scott (Son of Clint) Eastwood his big break in Hollywood.

Also on MacDonald’s horizon is the September 2018 release of Samson, the religious/historical epic tale of lost love and vengeance, starring Jackson Rathbone (The Twilight Saga), Rutgar Hauer and Billy Zane.

As CEO Phillipe Ashfield told us, high on Instant Entertainment’s schedule is the focus on #Womeninfilm, where projects are being prioritised to promote equal pay and opportunities across the industry. The next such project is the Julie Paupe-penned Exordium a Peplum-esque film, which focuses on the parents of the foretold heroes of the Trojan War.

Altogether, this is yet more exciting news for Birmingham. The region has recently seen the #WMGeneration movement showcase the creative talent in the West Midlands, tempting Channel 4 to consider moving their production offices to Birmingham and Coventry in the process.

This is alongside the strides that Film Birmingham have been making in developing FilmApp, which has allowed high profile filming requests for the Second City to be fast-tracked. This, of course, follows in the footsteps of Spielberg’s Ready Player One using Digbeth as a dystopian location and internationally acclaimed series The Game doubling Brum for London.

You can keep up with Instant Entertainment’s developments via their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/instantEntertainment

via Red Bezzle https://twitter.com/redbezzle

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