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By midlandsmovies, Apr 20 2017 07:39AM

White Lily (2017)

Directed by Tristan Ofield

White lilies have a historical symbolic connection with chastity and virtue and are often considered a mark of purity. Yet, they are also associated with funerals. They can symbolize that the soul of the departed has received a restored innocence after death.

And with this important side note in mind, we come to a new sci-fi short from Nottingham called White Lily. Written by Adrian Reynolds and directed by Tristan Ofield, the sound of birdsong introduces us to a spaceship where a man and a woman are discussing their memories of the past.

This pilot and co-pilot have trouble with their ship as it heads towards the investigation of a passing comet. Their troublesome relationship reflects the current malfunction issues with the ship yet the film concerns itself more with memory and the past despite its futuristic setting.

With a claustrophobic Industrial sci-fi location, the film has a look of Red Dwarf series 8, but with a far more serious tone, which is ironic as we find out the holographic nature of the pair’s cohabitation.

As the pilot crawls through ducts, with tunnels illuminated by a torch light, we get echoes of Alien whilst thematically, there are similarities to Spike Jonze’s Her and the interaction and relationships between humans and technology.

But the focus is firmly fixed on the soul and human nature. “Remember the things and the places you love the most”, says Isobel as the small talk of lunch crosses with their chat of a sadder journey involving bygone memories. I read that director Ofield included hints to the nature of Alzheimer’s disease in this short, and we see this with Isobel (who is revealed as a flickering hologram) being subject to a “reboot”. This re-setting of her ‘operating system’ sees her memory wiped yet she ultimately looks the same as before.

As someone whose mother is currently terminally ill with a similar form of dementia, the themes very much hit home for me. The similarity between an individual struck down with such a terrible illness – where the memory loses clarity – and an artificial being’s historical data “wiped out” is a heartbreaking parallel. But it’s been done subtlety and handled well by the filmmaker with an ambiguity that isn’t intrusive.

Technical wise, a soaring score of urgent strings help create tenseness in deep space and brings urgency as the spaceship tangles with the comet’s crevices. In addition, some Minority Report- style floating screens are well created and the CGI spaceship is effective, especially on a low budget and it’s great to see such ambition for a local short.

In conclusion, White Lily has much more going on under the (comet) surface with interesting thematic ideas that combine the emotional and the mechanical. A superb sci-fi short with exciting performances, the film displays a brilliant array of multi-textured layers. And with all those positive attributes and more, White Lily ends up blossoming into a sci-fi gift that rewards its viewers with both emotion and flair.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Apr 20 2017 07:39AM

Stratton (2017) Dir. Simon West

With 1997’s Con Air, Simon West has a bona fide action classic under his belt yet it is a shame that his follow up films which include Tomb Raider and Jason Statham vehicles The Mechanic, The Expendables 2 and Wild Card were mostly middling.

The prolific director has two more to come in 2017 – Salty (an action comedy with Antonio Banderas) and fantasy flick War Wolf but is he spreading himself too thin? The evidence in Stratton would sadly suggest so.

This British thriller is based on the books by Duncan Falconer with the lead character John Stratton played by Dominic Cooper as a kind of budget Bond. As part of the SBS (the UK equivalent of Navy Seals) the film opens with a suitably pumping 80s electro soundtrack before a ridiculous over-the-top John Barry-esque string score kicks in.

With a team of operatives spouting nonsense techno-babble about various targets alongside “banter” between agents, the movie begins with an exciting(-ish) extended mission sequence in “Iran”, although the location doesn’t look Middle Eastern in the slightest.

This beginning front-loads the movie with its best feature – some solid action sequences. Gun fights, helicopters, swimming, infiltration, a truck chase and a beach rescue throw the audience in at the deep end but little time is spent on character relationships or motivations. Point of view heads-up-display shots gave the film a video game aesthetic which was an instant personal turn off for me, whilst the MI5 headquarters is so clearly a regular office block it made me laugh.

The film then goes all over the place with a ‘house-boat’ Derek Jacobi reciting drunken limericks before setting up a second half located in Rome which improves things a lot. The scenes have echoes of Spectre but it’s a great city to see and the streets are perfect for a night-time car chase sequence.

Everything seems to be delivered with a bit too upper-class-England inflection which is compounded with some abysmal overacting although I can give this a bit of a pass as the dialogue is so hackneyed. Gemma Chan comes off the best, as a technical operative called Aggy, Cooper is solid if a bit bland and Connie Nielsen (from Gladiator and The Devil’s Advocate) can’t save the obvious exposition monologues she has to deliver whilst meandering through the city.

A boat chase on the Thames and an explosive finale involving a London Routemaster bus continue the good action but it’s more like the TV show Spooks than spectacular. Stratton ends up being an honourable attempt at a Bourne-style special ops thriller but it’s worth noting that just five days before filming began, Henry Cavil (Superman) exited the film over ‘creative differences’.

The action just about saves it from being awful but short of a few dynamic sequences, there’s not a great deal here to recommend and admiration can only go to Cavil for spotting a duffer before it was too late.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Apr 16 2017 09:59AM

Midlands Movies Mike finds out about new sci-fi film ‘White Lily’ which has been made in Nottingham and been selected to screen at the prestigious Sci-Fi London Film Festival.

With a budget of just £4000, this new Midland short has recently won five awards at the 2016 Summer Focus International Film Festival including the coveted Best Short Film.

White Lily's director is Tristan Ofield, who was also nominated in the Best Director category and feels his new sci-fi film does what the best sci-fi genre movies do by being focused on character.

“The situations are fantastical but the aim is often to tell human stories, of courage, betrayal and love”, says Tristan. He adds, “White Lily is kind of a weird breakup movie in space.”

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the film is described as an exploration of the relationship between a spaceship captain and his co-pilot as they investigate a comet. And a subsequent technical fault cuts to the core of their relationship problem.

Beginning life in 2014 when a dedicated Nottingham team filmed the short, WHite Lily had a very long post-production time and it was the following two year journey of working on special effects which resulted in wins in Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Design awards.

Producer Sophia Ramcharan said, “I felt that it was a fantastic achievement for the whole team and great recognition of Tristan's vision as a director. We shot the film nearly two years ago and it's been in postproduction ever since, which is a relatively long time - but necessary due to the SFX and animation.”

White Lily premiered at the Mayhem Film Festival at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham and Ramcharan adds, “Although I've watched the film in various stages during post-production, it’s only when we see it on a big screen with a big audience at Mayhem that you realise how stunning the craftsmanship is”.

The final 2 wins were for Actors David McCaffrey and Siddhii Lagrutta who had their performances recognised by succeeding in the Best Actor and Best Suporting Actress respectively. With the director’s focus on sci-fi characters, Tristan was especially pleased. “David and Siddhii both delivered beautifully subtle performances that really brought the characters to life".

"Often bad science-fiction films get bogged down in focussing only on the special effects, and the characters can easily get forgotten. White Lily is a character film at its heart, and the actors embodied those characters perfectly”.

Following on from the success achieved at the FIFF, White Lily continues its festival run at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival this April/May. Sophia Ramcharan sums up its current success by adding, “I would like as many audiences to see this film as possible through the festival circuit - and ultimately be picked up by a distribution company. A few more awards would be lovely!”

Watch the film's trailer above for a preview of this local sci-fi short as well as find out more about the Sc-Fi London Film Festival here https://sci-fi-london.com

By midlandsmovies, Apr 14 2017 10:07AM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog - Part 1

Passengers (2017) Dir. Morten Tyldum

This new science fiction film not only tackles space but focuses on questionable moral decisions as a star ship heads to a new planet before a malfunction sees Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) wake from hypersleep 90 years too early. Despite his efforts, the isolated engineer is unable to fix his pod and with his only company being Michael Sheen’s android bartender, he decides to wake up another passenger for company.

Claiming her pod malfunctioned too, he revives Jennifer Lawrence’s Aurora who accepts her inevitable fate eventually as well. The film’s interesting premise then turns to rom-com territory as they work together and go on dates even though he’s the instigator of her inevitable death sentence. A Best Production Design nomination at the Oscars is more than deserved as the mix of Apple-esque design along with a great swimming pool sequence keeps the deep space visuals suitably awe-inspiring.

[Spoiler]. Eventually the film returns to its darker roots as Aurora finds out the truth and their relationship becomes as doomed as the failing ship yet it’s too little too late. Having to work together to save both their lives they eventually fall back in love. And here’s where the problem lies. Indiana Jones-alike Pratt has forced a death sentence on another human yet the film feels the need to have a soppy wrap up that sees our heartthrob heroes fall back in love. It’s honourable to see an original script getting the green light in Hollywood whilst getting 2 of the biggest stars on the planet (natch) doesn’t hurt your chances. However, with complex themes and multiple thought-provoking ideas ditched in favour of blockbuster action and an amorous narrative, I found myself wishing for something a bit deeper than the glossy end product. A fine but frustrating trip. 6/10

Death Race 2050 (2017) Dir. G. J. Echternkamp

A satiric sequel to the 1975 original, Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050 attempts to recreate the black humour of the former but using his name alone is enough for most film-fans to know where this feature will be heading. The level of quality audiences can expect is obvious from such a combination and it is clear what will be delivered. And deliver on that level it certainly does. The first 20 minutes or so a TV presenter introduces each driver and their background which is reminiscent of wrestling characters and, if you didn’t already know, these contestants are awarded points for killing people with their racing vehicles. Tagging on a political angle that the cars are in fact a kind of population control, this idea is almost entirely ditched for awfully filmed and constructed “action” sequences and terrible green-screen car conversations.

The dialogue is abysmal and embarrassingly delivered but I suspect all these choices are completely intentional. Films such as this and the Sharknado series sadly miss the point of hilarious bad films – which are all the more funny when being earnest. These deliberate and ironic attempts to create an appalling film miss that point entirely. If I had to choose one highlight it would be Burt Grinstead’s Jed Perfectus, an antagonist so over the top that I couldn’t help but warm to his shallowness and campiness straight from depths of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

As an aside, the Wikipedia entry for the plot runs to 650 words but boils down to ‘cars killing people for entertainment’. If that sort of thing done on a zero budget with sub-pantomime performances is your thing then you’ll probably enjoy Death Race 2050. For the rest of us it’s simply a case of judging how much alcohol and how many friends needed at your home in an attempt to even get through this movie. Deathly boring 4/10

The Void (2017) Dir. Steven Kostanski & Jeremy Gillespie

With a background in producing low-budget, 80s-style horror-comedies, the directors ditch (some) of the more comedic elements from their previous outings to bring us The Void. This tale of terror follows a group of disparate characters holed up in a hospital after being surrounded by a KKK-alike clan of hooded menaces. The characters are a mix of criminals, vigilantes, cops, hospital workers and patients. These differences allow for a neat mix of conflicted drama as their separate personal journeys end up being tied together in their shared predicament.

With a focus on real-life special effects, the filmmakers wear their influences very much on their sleeve (obviously John Carpenter for a number of reasons) but their reliance on animatronic gore rather than CGI should be highly commended. This choice is not just for the retro-fans but modern audiences will hopefully get behind the real-life monsters rather than cartoony digital effects. Tentacles and facial disfigurements maintain the level of grotesqueness but as the film spiralled towards a more fantastical element, I began to lose interest. The acting is so-so and the story becomes too convoluted when I thought it could do with a dose of From Dusk Til Dawn straightforwardness.

Definitely aiming at the b-movie Carpenter crowd, the film should be praised for its originality as a new idea despite its HEAVY influences from the past. It’s also good to see its non-reliance on an existing franchise or named property. That said though, with so much harking back to the past, I felt the film’s ideas had been done better elsewhere and the conclusion’s mystical finale was a step-too far into the void for me. The Void ultimately becomes an honourable attempt that sadly fails to live up to the predecessors it borrows from. 5/10

Live by Night (2017) Dir. Ben Affleck

Based on the 2012 book by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island), writer/director Ben Affleck tackles bootlegging in Florida as Irish gangster Joe Coughlin who walks a tightrope between warring factions in the 1930s. Coughlin throws himself in at the deep end as he falls in love with Emma (Sienna Miller) who is the mistress of a Boston gang boss played by a nasty Robert Glenister. When he is blackmailed by the mafia about their liaison, he ends up committing a bank heist before Miller sets him up for a beating. After a spell in prison and with few options left he joins the mafia’s bootlegging business in Tampa which is still fighting the Boston faction over turf. Keeping up?

Well, the movie actually does a good job of setting this up but in half an hour, things move very swiftly. In fact, sometimes this is far too swiftly as characters enact a series of narrative set pieces rather than developing naturally. As Affleck settles into Florida, we settle into the movie and I found the film hit solid ground once it simplified the story as he brings gambling and booze to the south. Crossing paths with the KKK, his problems never end and a rather strange side plot of redemption involving a Sheriff’s daughter (a suitably brilliant turn from Elle Fanning) barely affects the story in any meaningful way.

The film’s final shoot out is exciting and after 2 hours I was surprised to find how much I was on Affleck’s side after all his silly decision making. If anything, the audience may just want something positive to happen to his down-at-luck doofy dunce. More Gangster Squad than Goodfellas, Live by Night is a fine Friday night distraction but is ultimately unmemorable in most departments. It captures the sleaze and some morbid inevitability of the gangster genre and there are some gruesome sequences which may keep the more macabre fan in their seat. Overall though, with this, The Accountant and his so-far disappointing Batman-related movies, I couldn’t help but yearn for the simplicity and unfussiness of Affleck’s masterful Oscar-winning Argo. 6.5/10

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Apr 12 2017 07:42AM


Tom Lee Rutter, Director/Writer/Producer

Carnie Features

From the deepest darkest Black Country comes a new Midlands movie from local filmmaker Tom Lee Rutter. Described as a “pseudo-doc horror mystery” it concerns the urban legend of the locally famous Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm story.

Hagley 1943 is our location and time, and a voice-over introduces the film and sets the scene. The 30-minute short has been edited in post-production to look similar to old films with added scratches, the flickering lighting of an aged projection and is also shot in stark monochrome. Inserts of static pictures of the Birmingham Star further cement its use of styles from way back in the past, as well as its regional connections.

Taking a whole year to complete, it celebrates the dark heart of the Midlands as a group of young boys in a forest uncover a human skull buried deep within a dirty tree. Originating from a little-known (outside the area it seems) folk tale, the legend has continued with strange graffiti which has appeared on the Hagley Obelisk near to where a body was found.

The boys mention their discovery to no one and the film veers from the historical version events – it is based on a real investigation – and suggests there was a more mysterious element to the whole affair. This is just one of many theories on how the skull came to be there, including the possibility of the natural AND supernatural.

In real-life the victim, whose murder was estimated to have occurred in 1941, remains unidentified but Rutter takes a very interesting premise and turns it into much more than the tale itself.

Some special effects include a mix of simple makeup and spooky transitions which were fine but what worked far better was the old-style “juddery” model effects which, again, was a superb nod to past movie-making techniques. This is further buoyed up by the liberal use of photos and etchings from the bygone era.

One area of improvement could be the sound. In an attempt to recreate the aural styling of an old vinyl record the filmmaker has added suitable after-effects but the quality did not quite work for me and could do with some EQ-ing and further post-production.

An eerie string score is far better however and much of the film is dialogue free – again, harking back to the silent shorts of the era. I would also have preferred a shorter run time as the story is slight and could be tightened up in editing.

That said, you can clearly tell Rutter has a keen interest in this fable and the film is a mix of fact, fiction and theory about the local story itself. A passion project in all senses, the short is a unique look at an esoteric and obscure slice of history and is as much documentary in parts as it is an imaginary tale.

Rutter has tried to use multiple effects to recreate archaic techniques with a different look to most mainstream Midlands films. Yet despite its length, the director has infused the film with imagination, artistry and resourceful skill to tell a tall tale of murkiness and intrigue. A dark delight.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Apr 12 2017 06:40AM

Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell takes a look at some shorts that have recently caught his eye from a whole host of MIdlands filmmakers. Check out his mini-reviews below of these fantastic local shorts from Richard Miller and BlackBeetle Films.

Ballpoint Hero

Body in the Box Porductions

Directed by Richard Miller

Ballpoint Hero is directed and edited by Richard Miller and written by him and Robert Laird and Sam Foster and originally this short was shot for the MyRodeReel Challenge.

The film stars Robert Laird, Sam Foster, Alex Lochrie, Craig Spencer, Laura Stringer, Jake Williams and Kimberleigh Thurlow and has a host of special effects done by Miller as well!

Short but sweet, Ballpoint Hero is able to cram horror, science-fiction, humour, noir and action all in a few minutes and Miller does it exceptionally well. The funny script by Miller, Robert Laird and Sam Foster and a great use of sound by Tim Dalton make this short film worth a watch!

Life Flashes

Directed by Richard Miller & Grant Archer

Shot for the Philip Bloom/Zacuto Gratical Eye Film Competition, Life Flashes takes the unusual approach of having the entirety of the film shot through POV, for example much like the TV programme Peep Show. I really enjoyed that aspect of the film as the cinematography aids the notion that the person the point of view is from could be any one of us as we share most of the experiences the character goes through.

Birth, childhood, adulthood, responsibility, children, death, this film is aptly called Life Flashes as it flashes through each experience with the assumption that this is what happens when we’re moments away from passing away.

Directed by Richard Miller and Grant Archer, the short gives the viewer something to think about long after the film is finished.

Every Waking Breath

BlackBeetle Films

“I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to kill someone.” The opening line in Every Waking Breath immediately grabs the audience’s attention as they watch lonely Abigail (Jane Walsh) lead a strange life living out of hotel rooms, attending Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A) meetings, and stalking a public road worker.

Without giving much away Abigail is a woman with a plan, a purpose, she has a goal she needs to complete so she can move on with her life.

The local A.A leader is Mark (Robert Clement-Evans) who is a former alcoholic who seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Pain is constantly etched across his face, seemingly from his past and one of my favourite aspects of this film was the subtle, grounded performance by Robert Clement-Evans.

Directed by Scott Driver, Every Waking Breath impresses on a lot of levels. Themes like revenge, regret and consequence are layered throughout the film by Driver who also paces the film like a veteran, leaving the viewer surprised even in its final moments.

Guy Russell

By midlandsmovies, Apr 11 2017 06:10PM

Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Northampton based actress Kate Fenwick about her life in the industry so far.

Midlands Movies: Hi Kate, how are you and could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Kate Fenwick: I’m good thanks. Well, I am 22 years old and I am currently based in Northampton. I graduated from Northampton University with a BA in Acting which I received in 2015. On a personal level I rent an apartment with my friends and have a wonderful boyfriend who is also an actor.

MM: Thanks Kate. So you’re from the Midlands area then?

KF: Yep! But born and bred in Lincolnshire, out east! I was brought up in a cute little village called Middle Rasen.

MM: So after moving around the region how did you get where you are now?

KF: I’ve been performing since the age of 11 at various theatre companies in Lincoln. However, I was 14 when I was signed to my first agent.

MM: That’s very impressive!

KF: Well, it’s still very early on in my career so I wouldn’t say I am in a position to choose my own projects just yet - but my ultimate goal is to be working in film and television. If I could choose, being in a Netflix Original would be pretty amazing, or maybe a BBC 3 Drama.

MM: And what have you learnt upon the way?

KF: You have to understand your self-worth as an actor! I have agreed in the past to take part in projects where the money situation was pretty poor. I found it hard to say anything as I didn’t think I had a voice compared to other people working within the project.

MM: Is speaking up a hard thing to do for actors?

KF: It is something that I am still working on, but in this day and age, I do think actors should be more assertive so that we are valued just as much as everyone else involved in that certain project. Also, I want to be as consistent as possible, and in this industry, that isn’t something I can really control.

MM: You’ve recently appeared on the BBC show Doctors. Can you tell our readers about that experience?

KF: On set, everyone was so lovely and I was well looked after! I would arrive on set and then head straight to costume and then hair and make-up. After that, it would be a rehearsal and then filming.

MM: Sounds a great time. Has anyone helped you along the way? Any heroes for example?

KF: I think my drama teachers at school definitely had a part to play in my decision to become a professional actor. Their guidance and passion was contagious and they made me feel confident enough to fully commit. I would say my heroes are more personal based. My family are amazing and I wouldn’t be an actor if it wasn’t for my dad!

MM: Sounds like you’ve got a lot of great support around you. What are the hurdles you’ve had to overcome?

KF: I remember the night before going to University pretty clearly as my mindset of whether to go or not was constantly changing because I am very family orientated. I also wasn’t sure If I could do it. I kept saying to myself “I’ll make a final decision next week” and then “next week” and so on, but sure enough, it became the best three years of my life. Acting all day everyday with your best friends is priceless and I will always recommend going to Uni.

MM: That’s great to hear. And with regards to film, what are your favourite movies and what have they helped you with?

KF: Awakenings is probably my favourite film. I don’t think you can much go wrong really when a film is so closely based on a true story. I care for the characters much more and the performances in that film are stunning!

MM: And so thinking of the future, what does that hold in store for you?

KF: I would love to stay in the Midlands and earn enough as an actor to buy my own place here. The problem is though that an actor needs to follow the work, so I won’t have a lot of choice. Northampton is great because it is situated in the centre of the country with central routes. I do like to support local projects though and hope to continue doing this!

MM: Any final thoughts that could help others in a similar position?

KF: Well, people instantly think of London when you talk about sustaining yourself as an actor. But you are a small fish in the sea and I think it is so important to connect in other places for sure. I do believe that due to less competition in the Midlands, actors can be seen for longer and there is loads of stuff going on too.

MM: We couldn’t agree more! Thanks for your time Kate and all the best for the future.

KF: Cheers. It’s been a pleasure.

To get in touch and to find out more information about Kate contact her via Spotlight on the details here:

Pin: 1890-1202-7283 https://www.spotlight.com/interactive/cv/1890-1202-7283

By midlandsmovies, Apr 10 2017 11:00AM

Birmingham production company Rotunda Films feels the UK deserves its own superheroes as it launches a new crowd-funding campaign to create a series of films featuring a unique range of characters.

A group of West Midlands creatives are coming together to launch a new selection of local superheroes in their own shared universe.

Taking the Marvel and DC template, the filmmakers are specifically looking to focus their efforts on the UK, taking on the American-centric shows on Netflix. And with the team they have put together they feel British superhero fans are long overdue and simply “deserve to have their own heroes”.

They are starting this ambitious project with their film Mystic Highway, where they will be creating the first characters in this exciting new world.

Along the way audiences will be eventually introduced to a variety of characters as well. These heroes include ‘Spitfire’ (who is a symbol of the British resolve to stand against the odds) and ‘Vesta’ who does not consider herself a hero but does what any loving parent would do to protect those she loves.

Also in their plans are the female Code-X, a former military-trained special forces operative with few words and The Father, who oversees the missions, guiding the heroes in the right direction. There is rogue element Blu Silver and finally there is Myst, the demon hunter.

As the project gets underway, contributors will receive first access to the films VOD services and there’s scope for backers to be part of this world and appear in one of the adventures and even get a chance t be made into their very own action figure!

As with all low budget films, the creators are raising funds for general costs as well as special effects and props for their production.

With a 10 day shoot scheduled for later in 2017, Rotunda Films say that, “this is merely the beginning and we are hoping to use the first film as a proof on concept for the rest of the project”.

Follow their project at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/uksuperhero as well as watching the video above for more information

Rotunda Films official sites:



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