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By midlandsmovies, May 26 2018 09:40AM



Martin Sharpe Is Sorry


Directed by Lee Tomes & Daley Francis


Bang Average Films (2018)


“Two Academy Award Nominations. Too many allegations...”


This new 3-minute short comes from Midlands filmmakers Bang Average Films who previously impressed us with their comedy film Careering earlier this year.


They take a sharp turn here with a far more multi-layered drama about sexual harassment in the media which marks a stark contrast between their previous light-hearted effort and the serious subject matter we see here.


The short begins with a man (Dean Kilbey as actor Martin Sharpe) inside a hotel room staring blankly as he hears news reports about a famous man accused of sexual misconduct.


We are quickly to assume that this coverage is about him and this is confirmed as his PR agent starts to discuss with him the various options to mitigate the issues. With the #MeToo movement raising awareness in real life, the film approaches this difficult topic head on but throws in some controversial perspectives as well.


The strangely brown colour palette mutes some of the harsher themes at play and the film takes further risks with a rather comedic performance from Helen Lewis as Jane. This was an interesting direction to take and didn’t entirely work for me but at around the half way point there is a particular shift into more a more sombre and dark tone.


As she proposes the different options to the star including a non-confirming announcement that his judgment was impaired, Martin asks, “when did everything change?” Of another time, the film asks the audience to question how modern values have shifted from more previous “acceptable” times of the past. Combined with his protestations of innocence one could even suggest the film creates a tiny amount of sympathy.


However, this is dashed immediately as it contrasts with Martin’s statement, “I used to do anything I wanted” further complicating the issue and setting the audience in opposition to his big-headed arrogance.


As they work through which PR route to take – interviews, charity donations – the aforementioned tonal change occurs when Jane raises the subject of “aggressive allegations”. Jane’s previously jovial demeanour rotates 180 degrees with her acute question, capturing Martin off guard.


Martin’s “tart’s pants” comment continues to play with the audience’s mind whereby his adamant denial conflicts with his dismissive sexism and chauvinism.


Is it defending an innocent man’s accusations with a comment on witch-hunting and principles from another time? Or is it taking a moral standpoint that with clever media and PR you can spin these genuine victim claims into gossip and hearsay?


Well, the film leaves the audience to decide somewhat and a final shot of Martin entering a lift is juxtaposed with a raft of voices spinning through his mind with more (and multiple) accusations.


Tackling difficult themes, Martin Sharpe Is Sorry is not entirely successful with an uneven tone but its script and performances will make audiences contemplate the problematic subject matter in a world of spin and soundbites. But make no mistake, you’ll be thinking about the issues it raises far beyond the confines of its short runtime.


Midlands Movies Mike


Watch the full short below:






By midlandsmovies, May 25 2018 08:03AM



Derby Film Festival 2018


Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell takes a look at one of the premiere film festivals in the region as he checks out the best of the fest!


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Now in its 5th year, Derby Film Festival is showing no signs of slowing down. Last week I had the pleasure of attending the festival again hosted by QUAD, this year it kicked off on the 4th May followed by ten days of screenings, talks, short films and competitions.


Similar to last year’s sub-festival Fantastiq, the first four days of the festival were dedicated to Paracinema, a celebration of films and genres outside the mainstream including new releases and cult classics. Here are a few of new and cult classics screened during the festival:


Attack of the Adult Babies



Amongst the various films shown during the Paracinema arm of the festival was Attack of the Adult Babies, the latest offering from filmmaker Dominic Brunt. Brunt has built up quite the resume in recent years, his great work within the horror genre alone has gained him the reputation as a director you should definitely look out for when any of his projects hit the shelves.


An ordinary family are forced to break into a country manor to steal top secret information, what they find however are powerful, obese, middle aged men dressed in nappies being tendered to and waited upon by overly sexualised nurses in PVC uniforms. This is not your typical horror film!


The humour comes as quick and thick as the gore which will please both horror and comedy fans. Lines such as “We’re gonna need a bigger nappy” and “I’m going to cut you worse than a state pension” prove how much of an aware, modern film Attack of the Adult Babies is.


Shot on location at Broughton Hall in West Yorkshire, Attack of the Adult Babies joins Brunt’s CV of making socially aware Northern genre films, something not many can boast of. Since the release of The Purge series and last year’s Get Out there has been a revived interest in social-political horror films and after having watched this film I’m of the opinion this deserves a place in the conversation too.


Beneath the absurdity and the gore is an expose of how lazy powerful and greedy men can become, their reliance on others to wash, clean and cook for them here is shown by a regression to infancy.


If you’re after a horror-comedy film with gore and gags in equal measure, then check out this bonkers and brilliant effort. Attack of the Adult Babies is destined to be a cult British film, whether it be this decade or the next.


Attack of the Adult Babies is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 11th.


Charismata



Again as part of the Paracinema part of the festival is Charismata, a psychological horror from filmmaking duo Andy Collier and Toor Mian.


Rebecca Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) is a murder detective working on a series of gruesome killings. As she becomes more involved with the investigation she begins to experience haunting visions which lead her to question her own sanity and state of mind.


I normally enter any independent horror production with an open mind, some can be quite hokey whilst others can surprise you with what they can do with so little. Luckily Charismata falls within the latter category, the cinematography by Fernando Ruiz and the score by Chris Roe give the film a polished and carefully constructed vibe, almost as if millions were spent in producing the picture.


Similar to Attack of the Adult Babies, Charismata feels very socially aware, whether intentional or not. Rebecca lives in a very masculine environment and is constantly under siege with sexist comments and a chauvinistic attitude towards her career as she is the only female on her team.


Acting isn’t usually lauded within the genre however Sarah Beck Mather as Rebecca was sensational. An intriguing portrayal, Mather plays Rebecca as quite a cold person however the character feels pretty well balanced considering the enormous pressure she endures throughout the film.


Whilst the “gore” level is by no means ignored, it is the carefully planned build-up of tension that brings the chills to the audience. I’m unsure when this will be screened again or released widely on home media however I urge any horror fan to seek this one out as Charismata was one of the best surprises of this year’s festival.


Escape from New York



Whilst the festival primarily celebrates fresh talent and brilliant new films, there is always space in the schedule to revel in classic films from yesteryear. This year, the one to catch for me was John Carpenter's science-fiction flick Escape from New York, a quintessential 80’s actioner starring Kurt Russell.


1997, Manhattan, New York has been abandoned and transformed into the perfect maximum security prison but unfortunately, whilst routinely flying over, Air Force One crashes onto the island leaving the President of the United States alive albeit in grave danger from unpredictable and dangerous inmates.


A deal is struck between the Warden and convicted bank robber Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), to save the president and he will have earned his right to freedom.


Having only seen this film once before it was great to revisit this on the big screen. On the surface you might mistake this as a simple film but a great escapist movie, however knowing Carpenter's work and his love for using genre movies to explore certain themes you can see why critics are of the opinion that Escape from New York uses its dystopic environment to explore class and race issues.


Last year I caught the screening of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, a film I had never heard of until I watched it. It is now one of my favourite films of its period. I hope this Escape from New York showing had the same effect on someone and long may the festival continue presenting classics.


Overall it has been another successful year for the Derby Film Festival and QUAD as they continue to show a vast range of films across all genres, languages and budgets. I can’t wait to see what the 6th Annual Derby Film Festival holds in 2019. See you there.


Thanks to Peter Munford & Kathy Frain


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


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Take a read of Guy's thoughts of the 2018 Derby Film Festival's other events including local documentary Spondon: Portrait of a Village and Five Lamps 24 hour Film Challenge



By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 06:58PM



Downsizing (2018) Dir. Alexander Payne


This high-concept sci-fi drama seems to live in the same strange world as Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying. By that, it’s set in a normal world yet with one very odd conceit – in this film it’s the ability to shrink people.


Yes, that's right, just like Honey I Shrunk the Kids! Unfortunately, like Gervais’ “clever” attempt, Downsizing’s tone is all over the place and the director appears to be delivering a sermon on poverty issues when the set-up is pure Ben Stiller territory.


The film was a box office bomb and it’s easy to see why. Story-wise, the earth’s resources are becoming increasingly limited and a scientist discovers a way of shrinking humans in order to make the most of what is left. People who go ahead with the procedure end up increasing the value of their money, so one particular couple, Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, decide to take the plunge. However, she drops out at the last minute and we see Damon reflecting on his ‘big’ decision on his own.


Here we get the first mismatch as the film jumps from sequence to sequence in scenes that are a total tonal mismatch. These range from set-ups that play out like Willy Wonka’s Mike TV to a story that unfolds amongst poverty and health issues. Matt Damon (as always) is the likeable everyman whilst Jason Sudeikis (as always) is the self-centred “friend” and before long we find that the gap between rich and poor still exist as Damon visits impoverished slums.


Hong Chau plays a Vietnamese political prisoner who is shrunk against her will and does well with the awkward tone. Yet she is so wasted in the film in many respects. Damon’s unhappy American is far less interesting than Chau’s activist whose background sounds so much more intriguing.


As the film begins to explore themes of environmentalism through gorgeous shots of Norway, the film’s lightweight tone gives way to headier concepts and is all the worse because of it.


An incredibly strange film, almost nothing in Downsizing works together but individual scenes highlight the story that could/should have been told. Neither funny or satirical enough, it takes itself far too seriously and ends up being an honourable curio at best.


5.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 06:05PM



On Chesil Beach (2018) Dir. Dominic Cooke


Derby Film Festival audiences were treated to a preview of new release On Chesil Beach, a British film written by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan and our writer Guy Russell takes a look at this new drama.


Set in 1962 Britain, a different nation to what we experience today, newlyweds Edward and Florence are enjoying their honeymoon in Dorset, overlooking Chesil Beach.


McEwan is most popular for writing the novel Atonement which went on to become a successful film in 2007. Here he adapts his own novel for the big screen, having not read this before going into the screening I was happy to discover such great writing.


The dialogue is rich and realistic whilst the characters seem familiar and grounded almost as if you have met these people before. I’m sure we have all met an awkward introvert like Edward (Billy Howle) or a focused academic like Florence (Saoirse Ronan). Both leads are brilliant and each compliment the other whilst they share the screen, and there are also great supporting turns from Anne-Marie Duff as Edward’s unstable mother and Samuel West as Florence’s wealthy, demanding father.


Told throughout a non-linear narrative jumping between various months of 1962, the film chronicles the couple’s timeline from the moment they meet to the moment they depart. We see every feeling and emotion as it enters the relationship, however knowing that the relationship is doomed as societal restrictions hinder both Edward and Florence.


Glimpses of a shift in society echo throughout the film as Florence organises Ban the Bomb rallies whilst her family argue over the Soviet Union at dinner.


Still, the film’s focus and the pivotal scene in which it revisits several times is their honeymoon in the bridal suite. Florence is hesitant and nervous about losing her virginity whilst Edward is awkward but keen, the difference in behaviour leads to a cruel altercation where the truth spills out.


On Chesil Beach is director Dominic Cooke’s debut feature film, I’m excited to see if he directs another adaption or lends his hand to an original screenplay. Helped with McEwan’s screenplay I don’t think I have seen such a courageous yet ambiguous attempt to cover sexual repression. Along with themes of class and the shift from the early 60’s to the infamous swinging 60’s, On Chesil Beach makes for a unique viewing.


8/10


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 03:12PM



Midlands Review - Spondon: Portrait of a Village


Directed by Mark Rivers


I didn’t know what to expect walking into the documentary Spondon: Portrait of a Village. I was anticipating a love letter to Spondon, that much I knew, but what could possibly be said about a village in Derby in 120 minutes of running time.


My experience and knowledge of Spondon is limited to the local ASDA and a visit to The Malt Shovel once for a poker tournament. What I didn’t know was that Spondon is a small village and a tight knit community built up of small businesses and passionate local residents who are keen to keep the village alive.


Screened to a sold out audience on a sunny Saturday afternoon, director Mark Rivers presents a warm portrait of Spondon making certain to include residents from all walks of life, ensuring every voice from every corner is heard.


Local business owners, natives old and young, parents, the unemployed and the retired all have something to say about the current condition Spondon is in, whether it be positive or negative. A fair portion of the film is spent examining the community’s participation and reaction to the referendum to leave the European Union which proves to be interesting viewing.


As I mentioned earlier, I was anticipating Spondon: Portrait of a Village to be a love letter of sorts, with nothing too vast and deep within the narrative. However, River’s takes the smooth with the rough, the blissful outlook on village life is combined with the worrying awareness that the village is constantly at risk of declining as big corporate chains and cultural shifts threaten their way of life.


A local butcher is losing business to the supermarkets, British Celanese has all but shut down due to the sourcing of its materials overseas. River’s shows us what we would be losing if we don’t support local business - a way of life. Professionally shot and edited, it was a pleasure to spend what didn’t feel like two hours at all due to the pacing of the film.


Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought this as the film received a rapture of an applause at the end of the screening, to my surprise from the very people who featured in the documentary.


I hope further screenings of Spondon: Portrait of a Village are planned so as to give more people the opportunity to watch this treasure of a documentary.


Guy Russell


Twitter @budguyer


By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 02:33PM



Five Lamps Films 24hr Film Challenge


Like previous years, closing the Derby Film Festival is the brilliant Five Lamps Films 24hr Film Challenge which sees participants of any experience produce a short film of three minutes over the course of 24 hours.


The following weekend all of the efforts which qualified are screened for the entrants and the public to enjoy, with awards given to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. This year saw the introduction of the Spirit Award which was awarded to the team who most embodied the spirit of the challenge.


Before the films that were shown, short film Bella in the Wych Elm by Andrew Rutter was screened as it had won the Paracinema award for Best Short Film at this year’s festival. Shot and based in the West Midlands, this unnerving horror is based on a true story and worth checking out if you are a fan of conspiracy theories or ghost stories in general.


Again Five Lamps Films Sam Jordan and Carl Bryan were on hand to oversee the night, bringing in the laughs early on with their introduction to the competition. This was a taste of what was to come as comedies seemed to be the most popular genre this year.


Congratulations to all who have taken part in this year’s challenge, here are some of note from the evening's gala:


Siskamedia – The Right Swipe

This took third place on the night was a riot from start to finish. A funny, modern look at the world of dating and a satirical look at how technology now plays a huge part in the dating experience. Having taken first place last year with Clockworks, I look forward to see what Siskamedia do next.


Scarlett Light Media – Stranger in the Firelight

One of the more ambitious shorts of the night. A western complete with costumes, horses and pistols. A great premise with a great finale. I think this story has potential to expand into a bigger short film or even a feature.


Adam Morgan – E22

Interestingly Adam created this short by himself, taking on every role with confidence. When a man receives a phone call from another “Earth” he doesn’t quite believe it, the person on the other end resides on “Earth 22”, a desolate place where the nature we take for granted here on “Earth 1” is seen as paradise.


Tape Worms – Spoonful

A slow burning short on what is wrong with society...and with a very surprising ending! This is well worth checking out.


SuperFreakMedia – Alone

A post-apocalyptic short which wouldn’t have looked out of place premiering through Paracinema. Beautifully shot and designed realistically, the sound also plays a major role in ramping up the tension. Very John Carpenter-Esque. Follow Percy as he tried to decipher why he is alone in the now desolate world. Deservingly awarded first place.


Trash Arts – The Right Person

A darkly comic look at impressing your interviewer. The company the lady is interviewing for is a type of data analyst firm. Given the timely debate in regards to our data being shared online, this feels very socially aware. Unlucky to not get anything on the night as this had something important to say.


Body in the Box – Korma Karma

A great title and also a great short. If this was made into a longer short it would probably fall into the erotic thriller category. A man and a woman enjoy a first blind date, however the smouldering atmosphere soon turns to tension as it appears both are holding something back in regards to their true selves. Rightly awarded second place.


YFB Productions – Undercover Sex Cop

With another great title comes another great short which is a parody of 70’s action films and TV shows. Very funny and had the audience in tears and this won the Spirit Award for embodying what the challenge is all about.


Other comedies worth mentioning are Birdshite, Gavin and The Tinfoil Knights and the Quest for the Golden Spoon. All bonkers shorts that made everyone laugh.


Congratulations again to everyone who participated, like festival director Adam Marsh said in his opening speech. It’s important to always end the festival with a local event, and what better event to close the Derby Film Festival than the Five Lamps Film’s 24 Hour Film Challenge.


You can check out most of these films and other films from Five Lamps Films archives here.

http://fivelampsfilms.co.uk


Guy Russell


Twitter @Budguyer





By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 02:01PM



Midlands Review - Blackmail


Directed by Shahnawaz


Blackmail is a short thriller by Birmingham-based filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz, who you may remember from our review of his other recent short 'Witness'.


In this tightly-paced short, Nisaro Karim plays a teacher who finds himself blackmailed by a mysterious stranger who has taken pictures of him with his 15 year old lover. At the mercy of his blackmailer, he has no choice but to comply with their demands… or does he?


Karim gives a fantastic performance, really selling his character's distress at being stuck in this situation. Make no mistake, his character is reprehensible and you don't root for him to get off scot-free, but this isn't one of those stories that needs a likeable protagonist. It's a gritty backstreet brawl of a story and you know that no one in this will come out smelling of roses.


The film looks very slick and you can tell Shahnawaz has great talent and a good eye for the technical side of directing. He keeps the pace up and the tension taut throughout, which is no mean feat with such a small story as this. His shots are simple, smooth and uncomplicated, exactly what this film needs to remain grounded and do justice to the intimate nature of the story.


I'm afraid I did see the twist coming, but I think that's probably more my fault than the film's as there was nothing to give it away and I have a bad habit of expecting and guessing twists beforehand (I blame Mr. Shyamalan). The dialogue is a little on the clichéd side, but it serves the story well and is pretty much what you would expect in this situation.


In all, Blackmail is an excellent way to spend 10 minutes and is further proof that both Shahnawaz and Karim are rising stars to watch closely.


Sam Kurd


Twitter @Splend




By midlandsmovies, May 18 2018 07:40AM



Cappuccino


Directed by Luke Collins


“All the world’s a stage” – William Shakespeare.


Never has the Bard’s words rang so true in Cappuccino which features a man with a stammer who faces the challenge of a lifetime in a new film from Coventry filmmaker Luke Collins.


Shot in the area with a Midlands cast and crew, Luke is a media production graduate making short films and music videos while teaching filmmaking at Coventry University.


This film focuses on a man, Mike, with a speech impediment who we see in the backroom of a theatre. A variety of mirrors on the wall usher the audience towards the reflective nature of the condition and how sufferers could feel they project themselves to others as well as the frustration within.


The protagonist repeats a mantra to himself, “breathe and be confident”, as a stage manager enters saying the theatre is a full-house. His direct and disparaging comments pile the pressure on, ending with an appalling “don’t embarrass yourself” final sentence.


As we move to the wings of the theatre, a confident woman exits the stage but it’s her furtive and judgemental glance towards Mike as she walks past that speaks volumes.


Juxtaposing the intimate backstage with a theatre performance is a great metaphor for the private and public pressures stammerers face and the film builds to a crescendo as Mike finally hits the stage.


Technical wise the short is well filmed although a shot of the characters on stage with a stark black background could have been better lit to heighten the pressure and add realism. Understandably on a low-budget film, resources are limited but the filmmakers choice of great actors is the main, and more important, focus here. Ross Samuel as the lead Mike delivers a heartfelt and earnest performance that is sure to hit very emotionally with viewers.


As Mike struggles to say his first word, the coughs and mutters of an impatient audience begin to reverberate in the auditorium.


The obvious parallel here is The King’s Speech but stammering has been in a variety of films over the years from both a clinical standpoint but also as a passing character trait. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Brad Dourif is one of the best performances showing the frustration and everyday hinderances stutterers face.


However, this film’s best aspect is a final twist where we get to see the true pressures on Mike. A revelation shows all is not what it seems and lays bare the real daily difficulties of the condition.


As part of Channel 4’s Random Acts, the film is an expressive look of a condition that has huge ramifications in sufferer’s lives. Cappuccino delivers its metaphorical message with understanding and sympathy and its simple but clever premise is what short films should ultimately strive to be. A joy from start to finish.


Midlands Movies Mike


Watch the full short on YouTube below:




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