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By midlandsmovies, Oct 10 2017 09:26AM



Loving Vincent (2017) Dir. Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman


My own love for Vincent stemmed from a project on The Netherlands in primary school all the way to imitating his artwork (and others in the post-impressionist movement) for my A-Levels so I was excited to hear about the development of this unique film.


If you have yet to hear, Loving Vincent is a hybrid animation/real-life film in a similar vein to Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. Like those films drawings were placed on top of acted out and pre-recorded scenes – its inherent strange rotoscoping perfect for the latter’s Philip K. Dick source material. Here however each frame of the film (around 65,000 of them) is an oil painting. 100 plus artists used Van Gogh-style painting techniques to capture the feel and style of his varied body of work.


The film’s story is a mystery concerning the investigations of Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), a distant friend of the Van Gogh’s whose father, Chris O'Dowd as Postman Roulin, sets him on a trail to deliver one of Van Gogh’s last letters. Arriving in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, he speaks to a number of people who interacted with the infamous painter who each describe their relationship with the artist during the last few weeks of his life.


The film flashes back from the colourful brushstrokes of his later portraits and rural landscapes to a more realistic black and white palette during the recollections of past events which is a brilliant nod to his developing styles from one stage of his life to another.


From an introduction at The Night Café (1888) and Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin (1841–1903) the film deliberately introduces locations and characters as exact replicas of their painted canvases, before moving to the drama of the scene itself. For Van Gogh lovers it’s very much a case of Spot-the-Painting but doesn’t detract from the artistry or drama for those less familiar.


The drama itself is mostly subtle and understated as the delivery of the letter turns into a noir detective narrative as Roulin begins to uncover some ambiguities regarding Vincent’s alleged suicide. With the few outbursts done in a swirling application of paint it was a delight to see both intimate conversations and volatile fist fights animated in oils. The music by Clint Mansell echoes some of his previous work and the string quartet ratchets up tension when needed and like the visuals, mixes a nice balance of intensity and gentleness across scenes.



Robert Gulaczyk as Vincent van Gogh is really a fleeting player in the story as other characters describe his past, but he does a lot with his body and face rather than a string of dialogue scenes. This keeps the emphasis on his enigmatic legacy and how he was a quiet, yet completely ‘visual’ personality.


Great support comes in the form of Jerome Flynn as Dr. Gachet, Saoirse Ronan as his daughter Marguerite Gachet, Helen McCrory as the feisty Louise Chevalier and John Sessions as Père Tanguy – each one bringing depth and nuance to their roles and further fleshing out this historic world.


It’s great to see the detective story secure a strong driving narrative to what could be seen as simply a gimmick, however the visuals really are the big-top draw here. Unlike anything I’ve seen before, when the drama slows, the cinema felt like your favourite museum with the audience simply ruminating on the almost-static images. Yet when they moved, the glory of the brushwork and talented painters who recreated Van Gogh’s style is clear to see – and a joy to behold.


It’s all too easy to allude to this as a masterpiece but a masterpiece it is nonetheless. In the end, Loving Vincent provides a portrait of a conflicting and unknowable sequence of past events that maintains the celebrated artist’s place in the art world. The story, music, acting and, of course, the unique painted design combine perfectly to create a dazzling canvas to be studied over, and most of all enjoyed, like Vincent’s best works already are.


10/10


Midlands Movies Mike




By midlandsmovies, Oct 9 2017 08:16AM



Midlands Movies gets an exclusive first look at the new film from Abdulrahman Ugas who has a unique take on the world of Tolkien set right here in the region.


Abdulrahman Ugas has 'gone epic' in his new fan-film ‘The Return of the Ring’, a regional movie based on Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’.


In a unique twist on the genre, the story has moved from its fantasy world of horses and swords to modern day Britain where it will follow a resilient Elf who finds out the Ring has returned and sets out to re-claim its ownership.


With the film planned to be released in Autumn 2017, Abdulrahman explains the story of his distinctive film concept.


“After the events in “The Return of the King” in which the Ring was destroyed and Sauron’s empire collapsed, we know that peace was spread throughout Middle Earth. But this peace was not destined to last long”.


He adds, “We’ve proposed that incursions and raids by wild bands of Orcs and opportunistic land grabbing by the Dwarfs sends Middle Earth into a spiral of violence. A worn-out Aragorn decides to take drastic measures to cleanse Middle Earth of anything non-human. Destroying any sign of their civilizations so thousands of years later there are no more traces to be found”.


“And that’s when our story starts!”



Abdulrahman goes on to say that their protagonist is a young Elf called Illyandra who discovers that the Ring has made an unexpected return. Setting out to find it, we discover The Ring was sent to John, a young man who will have to make a choice that will decide their fate.


As both the director and writer of the film, Abdulrahman Ugas already has a feature script optioned with Julian Holmes (Strike Back, MI-5, Law & Order) attached to direct. Elaine Granger from Clash of the Titans, London Has Fallen and The Autopsy of Jane Doe is attached to cast for it.


He decided to make the leap into directing and will launch his career behind the camera with this short.




Amongst the multitude of support is Director of Photography James Alexander who is a talented West Midlands cinematographer. Having worked on music videos, corporate videos and commercials Abdulrahman says his eye to detail is impeccable.


With a cast featuring Rhianne Elizabeth as Illyandra, Sam Malley as John Frisby, Dominic Thompson as Alatar the Young, Theo Johnson as Frank Simms, Nisaro Karim as Amdir and Thomas Compton as Nazgul, this exciting new project is close to completion and promises to bring the tales of Tolkien back to their roots in the West Midlands.




To stay up-to-date with the project follow the film and director here:


www.instagram.com/AbdulrahmanUgas


www.twitter.com/AbdulrahmanUgas


https://www.facebook.com/AbdulrahmanUgasFilm



By midlandsmovies, Oct 7 2017 03:00PM



BLOOD MYTH


Directed by Sean Brown & Luke Gosling

Bearing 305 Productions. In association with Dark Rift films


After sci-fi short Athena, Leicester’s Bearing 305 Productions return with a full feature as filmmakers Sean Brown and Luke Gosling turn their gaze to the horror genre in their brand new release Blood Myth.


With the film now accepted into the Sacramento Horror Film Festival and the Spooky Empire Film Festival in Orlando, the two filmmakers made their movie for under £10,000 whilst it also features a voice cameo from actor Toby Kebbell (Kong Skull Island, Dead Man's Shoes).


The film begins with a night time point-of-view journey into the darkness as a dog barks and we stumble across a man covered in blood. With this spooky set up we cut to the main story where a journalist (Jonathan McClean as James Lincoln) investigates the urban legends of missing people and the emergence of stories about the occult.


As James interviews a number of people, we soon cut to his home life and pregnant girlfriend (Anna Dawson as Harriet Jones) whom he is planning to get away with for their anniversary. A voiceover fills in some background information and the filmmakers begin with a great selection of varied local locations from a car park roof to a barbershop which subsequently becomes important later. Other regional low-budget filmmakers take note – this can hugely assist with production values as the film (mostly) avoids suburban interiors that are often all-too-common in local productions and which helps set this film apart from the crowd.


The film hints upon a clandestine workplace affair from the past which causes friction and it should be noted that the technical side of the film certainly has a professional sheen. From the superb lighting (it moves from brightly lit locales to the ominous darkness of the countryside) to the sound mix, the filmmakers have no trouble handling a multitude of disciplines.


Also, the film appears to give nods to similar horror fare with some Psycho-esque animal taxidermy shots, a “creepy Victorian doll” and red lighting denoting upcoming bloodshed which ensures it wears its influences on its sleeves. When Harriet goes missing one night, her disappearance then leads to the police being called in but any astute viewer would suspect all is not what it seems.


One area of improvement however would be the slightly awkward script. Whether it was an intentional decision by the filmmakers or a nod to the gothic horrors of the past, the dialogue often comes across as if the actors are reading from a novel. Lines such as “until I find evidence of nefarious deeds”, “I suspect foul play” and “I think the findings justify my actions” come across as if the actors are reciting old prose. And unfortunately at times, their performances suffer as a result. It’s going to be difficult to deliver archaic words in what is set up as a realistic modern day setting and so it ends up sounding unnatural.



Nevertheless, as the story progresses into the exploration of the mysterious phenomenon, James’ room gets trashed and he is led to Hannah Chalmers as Alexandra Priest who explains more about the dark rumours circulating as he finds photos of himself on a digital camera.


The filmmakers mix up the pacing throughout which is great but a few trims could have been used in the ‘search’ scenes. An extended sequence where James slowly walks around farm buildings didn’t seem the narrative answer to the disappearance set up. Expecting the protagonist to rush around with a concern for the loss of his loved one, the film instead has him leisurely wandering in a drawn-out set of shots. This subsequently lowers the tension and without any immediacy there is less intrigue and concern for his (and her) plight.


Although a long time coming, as we enter the final scenes we are provided some nasty answers and the film surprises the viewer with some shocking revelations.


With unsettling vibes that hark to rural chillers like The Wicker Man and Kill List, Blood Myth mixes the urban and countryside settings successfully, and adds a splattering of blood and nastiness in its conclusion too. The addition of a few more dramatic scenes during the search would have lifted the slightly saggy middle section but when all is said and done, Blood Myth tackles the familiar but chilling idea of an eerie vanishing. As an intriguing mystery, the film takes a level-headed approach to familiar horror tropes and mixes in its own themes on the inherent unreliability of rumour, gossip and language.


Find out more about Blood Myth at the official site here: www.bloodmyth.com


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 6 2017 02:43PM



Dave Made A Maze (2017) Dir. Bill Waterson


I quickly came to the conclusion with only 20 minutes gone that Dave Made a Maze was the “most hipster film I’ve ever seen” which may (or may not) fill you with dread regarding this new high-concept comedy film. The story shows how after a weekend left alone Dave (Nick Thune) builds a cardboard fort/maze in his living room and when his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns, she invites some friends around to help him escape after he gets “lost”.


Strangely, once they’re inside, the maze is in fact a huge fantasy interior with paper-based monsters and the explorers attempt a rescue yet are surprised at each corner they turn. A wacky and zany “Paperchase” of a movie, there are nods to Indiana Jones and The Goonies (booby traps) whilst origami cranes and tissue paper ‘blood’ continue its surreal elements. However, the film’s humour swung from low brow dick punches to self congratulatory smugness – neither which pushed my buttons.


An early musical sequence inside a keyboard room made me think that the film would in fact make a good 3-4 minute music video – which is why the trailer is great – but it’s an awfully long slog for a confused metaphor about creativity, struggling with life and feeling “lost”.


Back to the story, a film-making crew also attempts to document the journey which reflects the artificial nature of the expedition as they invade personal moments and create their own narrative journey. Whether you feel it could be a metaphor for filmmaking itself – its home-made nature, the dead-ends faced when trying to finish a goal and so forth – the film takes away any ambiguity by simply telling that to you. Via an interview, the film is far too on the nose with a cardboard structure used for both its location and its story.


However, one of the few genuine laughs came as the gang were turned into paper-mache marionettes and the film finally pokes fun at itself with the sarcastic dialogue exclaiming “This was only a matter of time”. But despite that and a chat about beards it’s still mostly blissfully unaware of its hipster clichés, confirmed with the inclusion of suitably quirky animations bookending the film.


A few positives include the unique mix of absurd and ludicrous situations with a tremendous design aesthetic. Optical illusions combine with gorgeous cardboard creations whilst the allusions to ancient tales – historical mazes, mythology and a Minotaur – added some much needed depth. At times it also harks to Tarsem Singh’s The Cell (2000) where we physically explore “the mind” and come across random and strange subconscious personified.


In the hands of a Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze, the wacky idea of Dave Made a Maze could have worked but there’s little humanity in this film and it’s less the mind-maze of Eternal Sunshine than it is The Crystal Maze in terms of quality and execution.


6/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 6 2017 02:35PM



Amityville: The Awakening (2017) Dir. Franck Khalfoun


Filmed in 2014 let me give you the real reason why this movie took so long to come out in this comprehensive cliché list:


✓Teenage goth

✓Young blonde girl

✓New house

✓Sick sibling

✓Single Mum

✓Alarms

✓Dog barking

✓Windows open

✓Shadows

✓Creaky staircase

✓Crucifix

✓Medical professional

✓Lightning

✓Jump scare

✓Bloody bed sheets

✓Waking from nightmare

✓Pigs head

✓Teenage angst

✓Power cut

✓Flashlights

✓Basement

✓Urban legend

✓Shotgun

✓Hallucinations

✓Insect swarm

✓Possession

✓Bible passage

✓Lakeside pier

✓ "This house is evil"

✓Crawling albino

✓Unstable mother

✓Bones cracking

✓More dreams

✓Violin screeches

✓Yadda yadda yadda


All the ingredients for one of the worst films of the year which has all the charm of a passing fart and includes the un-ironic dialogue "remakes totally blow". The one thing we can agree on.


2/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 6 2017 10:06AM



Lee Charlish is a filmmaker producing shorts under the Korky Films banner in Coventry and Midlands Movies uncovers more about his local take on all things animation.


From spending many a Saturday afternoon watching old VHS tapes of ‘video nasties’, Lee Charlish says that long forgotten B-Movies were his baptism into movies but got into animation because he became disillusioned with ‘live’ action filmmaking in the early noughties.


“I’d say I’m a bit of a frustrated director who just saw animation as more accessible way to produce the ‘vision’ I had for some projects”, explains Lee. “Animation appealed to me because I didn’t need to rely on anybody else. I was forever being let down on projects, which obviously happens when you’re creating films with no to low-budget and any wild and wonderful locations I required suddenly became possible by simply drawing it”.


Having such a wild imagination, Lee came to the conclusion his ideas couldn’t be fully realised with the limitations of budget and available resources and locations, so animation was the route he took to get his ideas onto the screen. However, despite his initial plans Lee says he was a bit naïve in his original thoughts. “It isn’t easier at all! It provides a whole different set of frustrations and headaches, but it’s strangely enjoyable and I’m still obsessed with filmmaking. If I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it and I love watching films, of all genres, from all over the world. I think I live by the Charles Bukowski quote, ‘Find something you love and let it kill you’”.


After switching from ‘live’ filmmaking in 2004, Lee returned to it in 2014 by producing the satirical animation Snow which won the inaugural Macoproject Online Film festival accolade of Best Animation.




Lee goes on to say, “I’ve had no formal animation training and, to be honest, it probably shows; I’m not a purist by any stretch and the rudimentary animation is hopefully saved by strong stories and style. I take a lot of time manipulating photographic elements in Photoshop, compositing in After Effects and working in various animation software packages”.


“I think it’s a steep learning curve and is quite literally visible with my latest offerings, such as Trigger Happy Birthday which has just been completed and is currently being touted to festivals and Mother which is in the final stages of production”.



Lee’s film Pig Dream did very well and was picked up by festivals as well as being awarded the British Special Mention Award at the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival in Bristol in 2016. And Lee feels it was a good springboard and is still very proud of his work.


However, ninetofive is Lee’s latest and is a 17-minute animation so fraught with problems that he nearly gave up on several times. “Thankfully, the hard work has paid off and I learnt so much during the production. My advice to any animator and/or filmmaker is to persevere and to ensure you improve and learn from mistakes and criticism. Most negatives can usually be turned into a positive if your approach and attitude is right. The film is now enjoying worldwide screenings and it had a great local premiere and Q and A in Leicester as part of The Short Cinema film festival".




"I doubt I’ll make another animation that long though. It’s also harder to programme at festivals because of the length too, so again, it’s reassuring to see it shown at so many when the curators could easily have shown two or three other films instead”.


Whilst training as an actor at drama college, Lee says a firm piece of advice he follows was ‘If it can happen, it will,’ which he says was dispensed more as a cautionary observation to live by, rather than some positive, motivational mantra. “I use it to ensure that all possible things which can go wrong are sorted or signposted before production starts, so the workflow is as seamless as possible”


“The plus side is that the ‘magic happens’ during any production, kind of organically and I think the advice is keep all the technical things tethered and tight, so the creativity can wield its wonderful tentacles and go anywhere it pleases”.


Lee says he’s influenced by music and as a child he enjoyed traditional cartoons like Scooby Doo, He-Man and Warner Bros stuff. Whilst being less interested in 3D he cites Spielberg, Lynch, Polanski, Wes Anderson and horror favourites like John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper as his film influences.


And with such a busy slate, past and present, Lee explains there’s much more to come from Korky Films. Lee plans to produce a ‘Making of’ for Mother so people can see the processes he goes through go and he hopes for the same with Return from the Moon - another high-concept piece.


“I am never short of ideas and often, while I’m working on a project I’ll get another idea and I’ll be making feverish notes and honing scripts or outlines. It’s not uncommon for me to work on more than one film at a time. I have just finished Trigger Happy Birthday, which was inspired from a Facebook meme I saw and I’m finishing Mother, which has a story which was devised and conceived in little more than an hour one Friday evening”


Check out further information from Lee Charlish and Korky Films on the official site below:


http://www.korkyfilms.com/







By midlandsmovies, Oct 5 2017 11:22PM



Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Dir. Denis Villeneuve


Let’s cut to the chase but I’ve never been a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi noir original – even going so far to include it in my top 10 overrated films of all time back in 2012 – so I approached this film with some trepidation. I come at all films with an open mind however, and with such highlights as Sicario, Prisoners and the lauded Arrival in his catalogue of successes, director Denis Villeneuve certainly has the sci-fi and visual chops to take on the belated sequel.


Ryan Gosling (K) is now the LAPD blade runner who hunts down older artificial humans known as “replicants”. He soon stumbles upon the discovery of a skeleton which appears to be that of a replicant woman who died during childbirth, a situation until then thought impossible. Linking the bones to the missing Deckard, K is ordered to destroy the evidence by his superior Joshi (a superb Robin Wright) but soon a set of clues leads him to question his own “implanted” memories and his reality.


Blade Runner 2049 takes the themes of the first – humanity, memory, one’s purpose in life – and adds the dazzling cinematography of 13-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins who not only recreates the look of the original rain-soaked streets, but expands the digital noir influences ten-fold. Shadows lurk everywhere as Villeneuve and Deakins work together to create phenomenal shots, with some of the best of them composed simply in pure silhouette, keeping the characters (and us) ominously in the dark.


Ana de Armas provides great support as K’s artificial partner Joi – a hologram who ironically infuses Gosling’s character with the only emotional attachment and is a great addition to the Blade Runner mythos. Yet, the lack of emotional connection between the audience and the film is one of its sad flaws. To me the original had a sense of detachment but it is practically nihilistic in tone here – the future is death – to humans, to children, to androids and even to holograms.


In spite of that, Harrison Ford gives a great performance when he eventually returns as Detective Rick Deckard but don’t expect to see him in the first 2 hours. However, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv provides a feisty antagonist, much more so than Jared Leto whose Tyrell replacement Niander Wallace is underused and missing from half the movie.


An amazing first hour which sets up the tone, the vision and the look of the world works brilliantly alongside an amazing synthesiser score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch which is fantastic and truly groundbreaking. This beginning also provides us with a set of interesting characters (at first) and Gosling even throws in a joke – confirming a balance of components that works so well.


But like a malfunctioning android, the film begins to fall apart at times and although its style never falters once, it often fails to cover the cold tone and the incredibly slow pacing. At its best, its perfect visionary sci-fi yet at its worst it harks to Only God Forgives with repeatedly boring shots of a moody Ryan Gosling moping around a neon city at night in a drama-vacuum. The film makes sluggish progress and its script’s heavy-handed links to creation and A.I. are a result of further hackneyed garbage from Michael Green, the scribe of the awful Alien: Covenant.


In many ways it’s the perfect sequel – if you enjoyed the original I guarantee you’ll find the expansion and nods to it more than satisfying and for those who feel the original had flaws then this film clones them to a fault. Blade Runner 2049 therefore ends up being a truly technical tour-de-force but as cold as a glacier and moves about as fast.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 1 2017 10:55PM



The Rockman (2017) Dir. Glenn McAllen-Finney & Tommy Bee


GM Finney Productions


“Like a Dr. Who Christmas Special,” says one character halfway through the Leicester-made sci-fi The Rockman. Yet there’s far worse to be compared to, as this new Midlands film takes all the good hallmarks of the classic BBC show to create its own unique low budget time-travel film series.


The film’s b-movie sensibilities are worn on its sleeve from the start however, with a fake BBFC title card setting up its tongue-in-cheek charm before a CGI asteroid hurtles towards the earth in the opening shots.


The story sees Andrew J.F. Morgan as Duncan Fairbanks, an ‘everyday Joe’ whose dull domestic life is rocked by the arrival of a future visitor (a crazy wide-eyed Sam Winterton channelling Doc Brown into his Dr. Sebastian Kramer) who’s leaped back to the present day from 2050.


From the obligatory “What year is this?” introduction to labelling those in the past as “primitives”, Dr. Kramer shakes up Duncan’s unhappy relationship to explain his journey from the EITS (Eye in the Sky) laboratory to prevent the world being ruled by an alien life-form known as the rockmen.


Colour graded in metallic and steely cold blues the filmmakers are musicians and music video makers by trade and the film is filled with a cool punk/hardcore/ska soundtrack. The movie shines a spotlight on local bands, cobbling together regional artists English Guns, Burnin’, Smokin’ The Profit and Mia and the Moon amongst others, which along with the accents and locations, keeps the production comfortably Midlands made.


And as the film is structured into ‘chapters’ that will eventually be split and released online as a web series, that unique route is actually the perfect platform for its punky sensibilities. This should allow their fans to follow the episodic nature piece by piece whilst adding more dramatic cliffhangers as well. In the busy online world of low budget releases, a change in marketing such as this can certainly help a project push through to a wider audience.


The film’s technical aspects get better as it goes along which shows how the film has been broken down into these “episodes” but the feel and tone are generally consistent. It is great to see an attempt to ADR the dialogue which mostly works as well. Although some more background sound was required to avoid the pitfall of feeling like a studio track from another time. And whilst some of the interior shots are a little under-lit and dark, this does work in its favour at times to hide the home-made special effects and monster costumes.


That said, the film mixes up some interesting explanation of time travel – using the creatures pulsating molecules – and fans of twisty narratives will be pleased as the pacing moves like a rolling stone, swiftly jumping from location to location without ever being confusing. And whilst the acting is broad and OTT, it's the right kind of style for a schlocky sci-fi although I wouldn’t hold your breath for any Oscars just yet!


On a script level, the film is well constructed with dialogue and visual set-ups and pay-offs plus lots of quirky Dutch-angles certainly keeps The Rockman in the b-movie genre. From animated maps to green screen via SFX and drone shots, the filmmakers also don’t shy from away from trying new techniques within each chapter too.


The jokes fly thick and fast with the filmmakers including a big slab of comedy into their story. Two colleagues (Katie Terese and a brilliant Anthony Wright as Jess and Jaime) escape their boring office jobs and their “dick head” manager at Frank Bennett Insurance (FBI) for an escapade into the countryside which makes up the majority of chapter two. Subsequently, the seemingly random chapters one and two eventually crossover in a clever narrative parallel towards the end and chapter three draws the strands of the stories together in a satisfying conclusion.


Overall, there are some very minor technical missteps in The Rockman but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyable hand-made feel of a low budget gem. The chapters are a great way to engage your audience and the filmmakers clearly have a huge passion for the genre. In the end, less like a pebble than a big boulder, The Rockman crash lands into the Midlands with plenty of humour, heart and science fiction monster fun.


Midlands Movies Mike

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