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By midlandsmovies, Jun 21 2017 10:32AM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 2


Each year we miss a film or two in the huge round of releases per week. Here is our second blog of the year where we catch up with some of the good (and bad) films from 2017 that are already out to watch. Enjoy!


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Dir. Chad Stahelski


This sequel to 2014’s intense action thriller has Keanu Reeves returning as the gun-dancing assassin who is now out of retirement to unleash more shooting mayhem. The film delves further into Wick’s back-story which was hinted upon in the original and in many ways it is actually a prequel as well as sequel with so much focus on Wick’s previous life. The narrative shows us more of his past and good support from Ian McShane gives the whole thing more depth and expands the world we are in. Keanu is also at the top of his game – slightly wooden as always but like Neo and Ted, the one-dimensionality of the performance lets the audience project themselves into the character.


The story of Wick owing a blood oath debt is merely window dressing for more pirouetting action which again is suitably violent and bloody. A strong support cast including Common and Reeves’ Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne flesh proceedings out but it is the fighting – amongst the splendour and seediness of Rome and New York locations – that bursts off the screen in its glorious brutality and beauty. Fans of action will lap up the intense scenes of bloody violence and its editing is pitched perfectly in the sweet spot of frantic yet understandable. With a third film set-up it may be too far to say it’s the Godfather Part 2 of action films but I feel it may be better than the first film. It combines the obligatory hard-hitting combat with an expansion on the mysteries of the assassin network and penetrates greater themes of trust, honour and revenge. 8/10



Life (2017) Dir. Daniel Espinosa

In short, Life is essentially an Alien rip off as a space crew find a small extra-terrestrial life-form which they are unable to quarantine which subsequently grows into a larger monster that stalks the astro-occupants. The good points include a realistic set up on the ISS with some Gravity-inspired long shots in the station’s cramped compartments as well as an interestingly designed life-form that starts off its existence looking like a sentient “star fish”. The clichés soon start to overpower these positives as the ‘trained experts’ of the crew (inevitably) break quarantine rules and the carnage begins. [SPOILER] A few interesting deaths including one of the main stars couldn’t save the film as it descends into b-movie territory. As the strange creature becomes a Prometheus-esque squid the film loses its premise to become schlock horror and not even a downbeat ending could salvage this sci-fi wreckage. An internet rumour suggested it could have been a Venom origin story (one of Spider-Man’s arch enemies) yet sadly that fan-theory is far more interesting than the film delivered. 6/10


I Am Not Your Negro (2017) Dir. Raoul Peck

Based on the unfinished manuscript Remember This House by James Baldwin and narrated brilliantly by Samuel L. Jackson this new documentary focuses on American racism and the portrayal of black lives in recent media. Historically important and hugely socially relevant right now, the film uses Baldwin’s powerful words to highlight the roles played by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. It’s sad then that I found it, despite its worthy themes and intriguing structure, a little stale and not even Jackson’s masterful voiceover kept me from thinking it was treading water when it could have been providing more powerful insights. As a huge fan of documentaries (my recommendations so far this year would be the superior Oklahoma, Mommy Dead and Dearest and Beware the Slenderman) I was disappointed with the film as the important and weighty ideas weren’t given justice in its one-trick design. Hugely recommended for those interested in the specific subject matter, less so for those not familiar with the work, the film sometimes feels exactly what I feared it could be – a man reading from a book. Disappointing. 6/10



The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) Dir. Oz Perkins

Appearing on a few Top 10 lists of great horror films of 2017 (so far) is this fright film from Oz “Son of Anthony, Psycho” Perkins and stars Kiernan Shipka (Kat) and Lucy Boynton (Rose) as two pupils at a strict Catholic school. The highly composed shots give a huge undercurrent of tension and unease with slow and deliberate sequences portraying the slight narrative as the two girls fail to be collected by their parents once term-time has ended. Rose is possibly pregnant and Kat often appears to mentally ‘tune out’ which is ironic given that the ‘buzzing’ tones of the amelodic experimental music often sounds like an orchestra tuning up. But this adds to the peculiar atmosphereand together with the snowy weather and cold demeanour of the religious teachers, helps deliver an unsettling feeling. And unsettling it is.


As Kat continues to exhibit strange behaviour around Rose, another story is introduced with a girl called Joan who may have escaped an institution and is picked up in a car by James Remar (The Warriors) who plays an ambiguous father-figure. These flashbacks, multi-perspective sequences and possible parallel tales disorientate the viewer but some may find it confusing and the timelines are certainly not clear cut. It takes a while but eventually a few shocks come in the form of Exorcist-influenced body convulsions, vomiting and swearing and the film’s few disturbing images are all the more effective with a slow build up and in their briefness.


Unfortunately there’s a few Scream-ché (a cliché the film Scream deconstructs like investigating scary noises and “I’ll be right back”) and the ambiguous construction could frustrate some but satisfy others. For me, The Blackcoat’s Daughter had far more going for it than the negatives, whilst I got annoyed at points about the lack of clarity to tie up the individual story strands, the mystery was intriguing, the triumvirate of actresses and their performances were superb and the first-time director provided images of intense terror that, like the malevolent force portrayed, linger deep within you post-viewing. 7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 20 2017 08:19AM

Just Desserts (2017)

Dir. Liam Banks


The latest offering from Superfreak Media is Just Desserts, a slapstick comedy short reminiscent of the silent films of the past.


Directed by Midlands filmmaker Liam Banks, Just Desserts plays out a night in a restaurant which is occupied by a man and his girlfriend, the waiter, a lone woman and a man who just wants his soup.


Watching this short reminded me of Charlie Chaplin’s early work or The Marx Brothers as the characters are exposed to physical comedy as a way to express their situation. The waiter struggles to keep his restaurant calm and serene as his customer’s private lives take centre stage.


The attention to detail and the clear effort gone into making this short is what really sells itself to the viewer. I was glued for the entire five-minute running time, appreciating every aspect of the production as well as enjoying watching a genre that doesn’t get enough exposure in the modern climate.


The cinematography and editing are evocative of those classic silent films, the grainy “old film reel” look of the film is consistent throughout the film and is one of my favourite elements of the film, whilst the editing employs the slightly sped up effect to emulate how early silent films were shown.


Complimenting what is shown visually is the original music by Pav Gekko which is a fantastic piece of music in its own right.


However, I don’t think the film would have been successful if the actors were not game. The cast, Adam Read, Melvyn Rawlinson, Steve Wood, Sarah Wynne Kordas (who also wrote the short) and Karen Best were professional and managed to keep a straight face throughout something I would have struggled to do!


Liam Banks, known mostly for his work in the Horror genre, shows that his talents are vast and can go beyond terrifying his audience, he can also make them laugh.


Guy Russell

By midlandsmovies, Jun 19 2017 01:43PM



Europe's Largest Indian Film Festival returns to Birmingham this month with 11 independent films, 2 music documentaries and a host of talent over 10 days in 3 cinemas.


The Bagri Foundation Birmingham Indian Film Festival (BIFF) returns to the city this summer in partnership with the citywide USTAV celebration of South Asian culture. Sister to the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, (LIFF) it is regarded as Europe’s largest Indian film festival and will run from Friday 23 June until Sunday 2 July 2017.


The festival opens on Friday 23 June at Cineworld Birmingham, Broad Street with a glittering red-carpet Birmingham premiere of the historical epic, The Black Prince by Kavi Raz, a powerful UK-produced film launched at Cannes. It stars Punjabi singer Satinder Sartaaj, who will be guest of honour on the opening night, iconic actress Shabana Azmi (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Fire), Jason Flemyng (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, X-Men:First Class) and Amanda Root (Jane Eyre). The film dramatises the true but little-known story of the last King of Punjab who was abducted by the British Raj to be mentored by Queen Victoria.


Back into the 21st Century for the closing night, on 2 July, mac Birmingham will screen the surreal Malayalam road-movie thriller Sexy Durga directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan. Winner of the prestigious Tiger Award for best film at Rotterdam International Film Festival Sexy Durga set in Kerala tells the tale of a hitch-hiking couple who try to escape a road to hell after accidentally getting into a car of deranged gangsters.



The acclaimed festival features new and exciting cinema featuring cutting edge films that reaffirm the festival’s position as the ‘punk-rock of Indian cinema’ and is an edgy tie-in, to UK-India Year of Culture and complementing the BFI’s India on Film programme,


Further screenings include the regional premieres of Tamil comedy, Ticket - The Movie (Raaghav Ranganthan, 2017), anarchic Bollywood comedy Badman (Soumik Sen, 2017) and N Padmakumar's inspirational Mumbai drama A Billion Colour Story (2016). The festival experiments for the first time with horror with the disturbing Hide and Seek (Vishal Furia, 2016), plus the Regional Premiere of Pakistani gangster thriller, Whirlpool (Harune Massey 2017).


The Bagri Foundation Birmingham Indian Film Festival will also host an exclusive ‘In Conversation With’ including Bollywood Director, Ashutosh Gowariker who directed Bollywood superstar, Aamir Khan in the Oscar nominated Lagaan: Once Upon A Time in India (2001) and the epic historical romance Jodhaa Akbar (2008) starring former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai.


Cary Rajinder Sawhney, LIFF & BIFF Director, says: “We are delighted to bring Birmingham audiences a carefully curated selection of the very best new Indian and South Asian independent cinema; all films are English subtitled, offering a rare window into over a billion South Asian lives. This year's selection includes premieres of new comedies, gripping thrillers, shocking horror and insightful true-life documentaries as well as bringing together UK previews of major award-winning films from the world's greatest film festivals."



New venue partners for this evolving festival continue to help it serve a broader diverse audience and this year the festival is delighted to welcome The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen, based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth. The festival’s long-term venues include Cineworld Birmingham Broad Street and mac Birmingham.


The films screened are in a wide range of South Asian languages to reflect the linguistic diversity of Birmingham’s Indian and South Asian communities and all films are subtitled in English.


Check out the event's official websites to purchase tickets and find out even more information about this exciting Midlands event: www.birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk




By midlandsmovies, Jun 19 2017 01:27PM



Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm? – The Untold Secrets


First Official Screening. Friday August 4th at Stourbridge Town Hall.


Have you heard of the Wych-Elm legend? Nearly 75 years ago, the remains of an unidentified female were discovered in a hollowed-out tree in Hagley, giving birth to a murder mystery which captivated the West Midlands and soon spread much further afield.


Addressing questions left unanswered since 1943, local Director Jayne Harris attempts to solve a mystery that eluded the authorities, unearthing Nazi Espionage, Witchcraft, and the Supernatural along the way.


You can see the trailer here:




With previously classified MI5 and police information uncovered for the first time and local residents breaking their silence, maybe the mystery of "Who put Bella in the Wych-Elm?" can finally be put to rest.


The first official screening takes place at Stourbridge Town Hall: a venue the director chose for its Victorian elegance and its proximity to the site of the Wych-Elm.


Tickets cost £3 and are available here.


http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?agency=DUDLEYMBC&organ_val=21216&perfcode=3ABA02&perfsubcode=2017


Keep your eyes on Midlands Movies for a review soon.


Robb Sheppard


By midlandsmovies, Jun 18 2017 12:36PM

The Baylock Residence (2017)

Dir. Anthony Michael Winson

Mr. Stitch Films


A rainy intro with vintage bombers opens this new horror feature directed by Anthony M. Winson who, and we haven’t seen this too often in the Midlands, has actually taken a second ‘stab’ at a story he’s made once before. With a number of other fright films already under his belt also, Winson again turns his hand to a haunted house, this time in England during 1944.


A great minimal piano score from David Beard whisks us away to war-time Britain and the low-budget feature includes some solid plane special effects as well as a street destroyed in the Blitz.


After tragedy strikes Mrs. Baylock, her sister Patricia Woodhouse inherits her home and the film throws us in to some good character development and acting between Kelly Goudie as the sibling and the ambiguous Annabelle (Sarah Wynne Kordas) who is the housekeeper.


The suitably spooky music compliments the narrative and as the mystery deepens we get some ghostly going-ons including the appearance of a paranormal entity manifested as a darkly suited man in a hat.


The film intersperses a few (too many) dream sequences which threw me off the narrative, which otherwise is very well told. I knew what was going on at all times and the characters are clear and well-defined with some even defying their dark introductions. With clever manipulation, the filmmakers lead the audience into a false sense of security as we are unsure as to everyone’s true motivations and background.


That said, however good the narrative is, it is disappointingly delivered almost entirely by the two characters in dialogue. This could have been done with more variety (flashbacks or voiceovers perhaps) to give information about the past to the audience. In addition, a few more supporting characters would be useful even, as the film is almost entirely a two-character story which although well-focused, did get a bit tiresome.


As the film moves onward, a padlocked attic hints at more sinister themes and the scares come in the form of closing doors, hinted apparitions and tight editing. One particular good sequence has lightning revealing-then-hiding a figure in a room with the protagonist unaware of their presence.


The movie is well-lit but could easily have been a bit darker as the light rooms and corridors of the house, whilst very well recreated by the set designer, are quite bright and work against the morbid themes. Baylock Residence understands its genre well though and uses a number of familiar horror tropes – eerie gramophone, creaky stairwells, flickering lights and graveyards – and the terror increases to its conclusion as mysterious spirits become more malevolent in their actions.


From poltergeist scenes of moving objects to a ghostly ‘slapping’ sequence, the director throws everything he can into the story helping maintain a variety of dramatic sequences. The variety didn’t extend as far as some of the shot choices though. Some more moving camera would have helped as the film is almost entirely locked off static shots. A few different styles would have kept it more visually interesting but I never felt it dragged in a swift but solid 1 hour 20 minute runtime. I’ve found local features all too keen to hit the Hollywood 2-hour mark yet so often have a lack of story and footage to justify that time. No such qualms here.


The film has a feeling of unease as actors are pushed to the edge of the camera frame, although at times I wanted to straighten the shots to focus on the drama, but it did help portray the confusing and haunting visions nicely.


The costume and make-up should also be highlighted as a great asset as they are era-perfect recreations and the wardrobe helped sell the historical setting brilliantly, which must have been hard to do on a low budget.


As Investigations uncover more family truths, we are jolted along to the story’s conclusion and are finally treated to a flashback which involves flapper girls from the past. As they deliver a musical number (!) which mixed up the style, I only wished there were more risks like that taken throughout.


Baylock Residence then is a fine treat for fans of terror and dread and the film’s techniques and delivery have more in common with The Exorcist – a slow build, suburban setting and atmospheric tension – than they do with more modern jump-scare horrors like Insidious and their ilk. And this is massively to the movie’s advantage as it shows a unique 70s style influence. So those willing to stick with Baylock Residence’s old fashioned-inspired delivery will therefore be rewarded by the charms of its classic chills.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jun 16 2017 09:20AM



Rogue (2017)


Dir. Hannah Smith


A man in his underwear angles his telescope upwards as he stands partly-dressed in awe at an unidentified phenomenon in the sky and so opens Rogue, a new 12-minute fantasy film from the Midlands.


The director of this sci-fi short is Hannah Smith and she invites us to look to the heavens as well in order to tell a story of the cosmos and its impact back on earth.


The film cuts to reveal a huge planet in Earth’s atmosphere and we begin to wonder what risks this new body in orbit will pose to the population.


Smith uses impressive and realistic news television reports on screens to show the worldwide impact on a small budget yet officials are swift to issue a statement that it poses no risk and is due to pass without incident.


However, the aforementioned man (an excellent Alexander King as Jonathan Quinn) enters his wooden barn retreat where his newspaper clippings and blueprints suggest he may know more than the authorities themselves.


As he takes his concerns to a government office, they dismiss his “insane” theories, yet to him it is clear that there will be severe repercussions if no action is taken.


The film is well shot and composed and the candle-lit lighting is fantastic in night time barn shots but this contrasts sharply with the somewhat flat and lacklustre office shots. One sound issue during a conversation should have been picked up in editing – although it could be as a result of the YouTube upload I was viewing.


That said, the story continues as Alexander King channels his version of Woody Harrelson’s ‘crack-pot’ conspiracy theorist from Hollywood disaster flick 2012. This is the smaller sibling of that film with its media coverage of an impending large scale disaster.


Smith uses her small budget to create big sequences and I was very impressed by the level of effects to show the planet in the opening few shots.


Without giving the ending away, a freak heat-wave has those in power questioning the after effects of the planet’s passing. Tension increases via an 80s-music inspired montage sequence as Quinn creates an unknown device which may or may not fend off disaster.


And here Lincoln-based Hannah Smith leaves us hanging like the planet’s inhabitants - asking whether the protagonist can stop any impending tragedy.


Far from a catastrophe, Rogue is in fact a stirring and mesmerising locally-centred disaster film that shows huge promise from a first-time director and is impressive in its story telling, special effects and construction.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 15 2017 10:16AM



Summer Nights outdoor film screenings head to the Midlands


Seven years in and the Summer Nights Film Festival is back at thirteen locations across Derbyshire and the UK. Presented by QUAD on an inflatable twelve metre screen, Summer Nights Festival screenings offer the chance to enjoy the great outdoors for a unique cinematic experience.


New venues for 2017 include Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire and additional nights have been added to some Midlands venues, including Wollaton Hall in Nottingham and Baddesley Clinton, in Warwickshire. Derbyshire venues are Kedleston Hall, Calke Abbey and Hardwick Hall.


The full list of Midlands dates, venues and films for the summer are below:


Kedleston Hall, in Derbyshire is showing Bridget Jones’ Baby (15) on Friday 21st July and The Legend Of Tarzan (12A) on Saturday 22nd July.


Baddesley Clinton, in Warwickshire is showing Dirty Dancing (12A) on Thursday 27th July, Fantastic Beasts (12A) on Friday 28th July and Pretty Woman (15) on Saturday 29th July.


Calke Abbey, in Derbyshire is showing Mamma Mia (PG) on Thursday 3rd August, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12A with subtitles) on Friday 4th August and Footloose (12A) on Saturday 5th August.


Clumber Park, in Nottinghamshire is showing Dirty Dancing (12A) on Friday 4th August and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (12A) on Saturday 5th August.


Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire is showing La La Land (12A) on Friday 18th August and Top Gun (12A) on Saturday 19th August.


Wollaton Hall, in Nottingham is showing Moulin Rouge (12A) on Thursday 24th August, Pretty Woman (15) on Friday 25th August, Jurassic Park (PG) on Saturday 26th August, The Dark Knight Rises (12A subtitled) on Sunday 27th August and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12A) on Monday 28th August.


Belton House, in Lincolnshire is showing Pretty Woman (15) on Friday 8th and Top Gun (12A) on Saturday 9th September.


Standard tickets cost £13 for adults or £9 for under 12s, tickets for children aged under five years are free.


For more information on films, venues or to book tickets, please call QUAD Box Office on 01332 290606 or go to www.summernightsfilm.co.uk


Summer Nights Film Festival has also teamed up with award winning artisan food specialist Hackwood Farm, based in Radbourne, Derby, who are offering pre-ordered traditional wicker picnic hampers for two people packed with tasty traditional picnic fare and including a blanket, glasses, plates and cutlery. You can pre-order their hamper when purchasing their Summer Nights tickets. There will also be drinks and desserts available on the night at selected venues from Bobby’s Bar and Flow Catering. Please see the Summer Nights website for full details.


By midlandsmovies, Jun 15 2017 08:06AM


The Lego Batman Movie (2017) Dir. Chris McKay


As a spin-off from The Lego Movie (2014) comes a new computer animated film focusing on everyone’s favourite Dark Knight. Will Arnett voices the caped crusader and he is joined by a talented voice cast of Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), Michael Cera (Robin), Rosario Dawson (Batgirl) and Ralph Fiennes as Alfred.


Focusing on Batman’s solitary world and reluctance to work as a team, the film uses a simple set up to poke friendly fun at the DC Universe whilst at the same time throwing in a dollop of emotion and other pop culture references too. As a personal fan of Nolan’s world and Burton’s ’89 incarnation, I enjoyed how the film references those - but the movie wisely draws upon all versions (including the shark repellent from the 60s show and the more recent Batman V Superman) which is executed with love and reverence to the different styles.


The plot is secondary to the visual spectacle however and as per the previous film, LEGO bricks are created perfectly in CGI and the animation is both bold yet functional to the LEGO aesthetic and its 'blocky' construction style. The film’s references go full circle with Ralph Fiennes’ Alfred fighting LEGO Voldermort (whom he played in Harry Potter) and LEGO Bane having Tom Hardy’s voice from Dark Knight Rises.


The twist with the Joker being frustrated that he is not Batman’s main villain is a good one and he retaliates by entering the Phantom Zone to pull together a team of supervillains including Jaws, King Kong and Gremlins!


Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face is another great nod to the Burton/Schumacher era whilst 21 Jump Street’s Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play Superman and Green Lantern respectively. However, all these references are nicely woven into the fabric of the film and the jokes hit the mark far more times than they miss.


A cool comic comedy, I’d certainly recommend this to anyone who loves Batman and his history over the years, and whilst younger kids may not get all the reference points, the film is enough of a fun family romp to be enjoyed by any audience looking for lots of laughs.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

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