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By midlandsmovies, Jun 3 2019 07:52AM



Midlands Spotlight - Indie Filmmaker Showcase


There's a new festival in town coming to the Midlands later this month called the Indie Filmmaker Showcase arranged by Leicester production company Roasted Media.


The event take place on Saturday 29th June 2019 from 2pm to 6pm at 369 Film Studios in Leicester and will not just be a film screening showcase but also a great opportunity to network and meet likeminded cinema creatives from the region.


The day will Include screenings of over 15 short films, awards presentations, a networking social in the 369 Bar plus a 'Self Funding for Filmmakers' workshop.


Screenings will include both international and local films, along with an awards presentation for the best films screened. The 'Self funding for Filmmakers' workshop will hopefully help inform and help filmmakers make their own films on their own budget.


Finally, there will be a complimentary drink waiting at the bar with every ticket!


Tickets are £7.50 in advance and £10 on the door and can be purchased via Evenbrite here.


The full run-down of the event is:


2:00PM - Mingling, Drinks & Popcorn Served


2:30PM - Movie Screenings Begin


5:15PM - Awards Presentation


5:30PM - 'Self Funding for Filmmakers' Workshop and Networking in the 369 Bar.


Date and Time:


Sat, 29 June 2019

14:00 – 18:00


Location:


369 Film Studios, 7 Woodboy Street , Leicester, LE1 3NJ


By midlandsmovies, May 31 2019 11:03AM



Return of the Garrison Star Wars Event at Leicester Space Centre


At last you can reveal yourself to the Jedi…


On 29 – 30 June 2019 visitors are invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace at the National Space Centre.


The Centre, 501st UK Garrison, Rebel Legion, Galactic Academy and Mandalorian Mercs are joining forces to create a full weekend of immersive experiences from a galaxy far far away.


With costume characters, exhibitions, talks, workshops and the all-important Parade there will be over 100 characters from film, comic, game and animation at the event.


Enjoy a family day out, or full weekend with chances to show off your skills in a Silver Sabres lightsabre masterclass, see amazing full size props thanks to the Isle of Wight Prop Crew, take home limited edition merchandise from the Hyperspace Hypermarket, and get hands on with craft sessions for children to enjoy.


In a weekend packed with activities there’ll also be talks and workshops available throughout, an amazing art exhibition, including limited edition prints and pins.


Costumes are encouraged with the highlight of the weekend, as always, being the costume parade.


There will be the opportunity to meet some very special guests (autograph fees apply).


Warwick Davis - Sunday Only


Warwick Davis played Ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi. He went on to take the title role in Willow, again with George Lucas. He has also played Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook in the Harry Potter films and a fictionalized version of himself in the sitcom Life’s Too Short, written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.


Harriet Walker - Saturday only


Dame Harriet Walter is well known for her stage and Shakespearian roles, as well as her appearances in Sense and Sensibility, Downton Abbey and The Crown. Harriet played Kalonia, a Doctor in the Resistance, in The Force Awakens in 2015, following in the footsteps of her Uncle, Sir Christopher Lee.


Andy Seacombe - Saturday & Sunday


Probably best known for being the voice of Watto in the two Star Wars prequels: The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, he is also an accomplished stage, television and radio actor, with a career spanning four decades.


This event will raise money for charity. Malika Andress, Head of Marketing at the National Space Centre, added: “We are proud to be working with Warwick Davis to support Little People UK through this event.”


“We are extremely grateful that our friends 501st UK Garrison, Rebel Legion, Galactic Academy and Mandalorian Mercs are returning to help us create an unforgettable weekend."


Tickets cost £15 per adult and £12 for children and concessions. Annual Passes are not valid and Jedi mind tricks won’t work. https://spacecentre.co.uk/event/return-of-the-garrison


Little People UK was co-founded in January 2012 by actor Warwick Davis, his wife Samantha and a group of individuals with the same goal; to offer friendship and support to people with dwarfism, their families and friends, and help build a positive future for those individuals.


By midlandsmovies, May 31 2019 07:40AM



Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Directed by Michael Dougherty


OH NO! THERE GOES TOKYO, GO GO GODZILLA!


When the 2014 Godzilla came out, audiences had two big criticisms: firstly, that Godzilla was chunkier than expected, and secondly that he wasn’t on-screen nearly long enough.


With this year’s Godzilla: King of Monsters, director Michael Doherty certainly can’t be accused of holding him back – there’s plenty of the big green guy on show as he smashes his way through buildings and throws down to show the roster of revived kaiju who’s boss. He’s also no less hench this time around, as his neck seems to have disappeared completely. I’m not body-shaming, he looks great!


Set five years after Godzilla duked it out with the MUTOs in San Francisco, the film follows estranged couple Emma (Vera Farmiga) and Mark (Kyle Chandler) along with their daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Emma is a scientist at Monarch, the global organisation introduced in the first film as the people charged with finding and researching Godzilla and the other Titans.


Mark left the organisation and retired after their son died at the hands (or feet) of Godzilla, but when a group of eco-terrorists (led by the always-great Charles Dance) kidnap Emma and Madison and threaten to unleash the Titans upon the world, he’s out of retirement to rescue them faster than you can say ‘that trope is so old it’s got false teeth in’.


Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins reprise their roles from the first film, but are relegated to side-kicks and exposition providers; one of the film’s most awkward moments has Chandler explaining Godzilla’s motives and how to handle him to Watanabe, who’s been established as having been researching and hunting for Godzilla for decades. Having the American man school the Japanese man on Godzilla of all things makes for uncomfortable viewing!


The actors all put in terrific performances, especially Farmiga and Brown, though I could have done with more Charles Dance because I love him very much. The film really hits it stride when all hell breaks loose and the Titans clash as the trailer promised that they would. The plot may have had some structural weaknesses, but it’s clear that this part of the film is what the filmmakers wanted to focus on; big monsters knocking the crap out of each other.


The effects are superb, as you would expect, with Godzilla and Rodan especially characterful. It’s easy to see these creatures as individuals with personalities rather than just dumb beasts with a penchant for stepping on people. I watched this in the IMAX and the film really makes use of that, especially in the battle scenes; make sure you see this on the biggest screen possible. The 3D feels tacked-on and unnecessary, though, as it was barely utilised at all; in fact it often set the actors apart from the action in a way that made me unconsciously aware of how the actors are acting against a green screen.


The film is far from perfect; certain characters deserved better treatment, the plot is hokey an predictable at times and there’s an alarming dynamic of White Heroes and Sidekicks of Colour (all the people of colour in the film are subordinate to the main heroes), but if you disengage your brain and go in expecting a fun spectacle where big monsters smash things up then you won’t leave disappointed. Plus it sets up next year’s Godzilla vs Kong quite neatly.


★★★½


Sam Kurd

Twitter @splend


By midlandsmovies, May 30 2019 01:19PM



Midlands Review - Hope


Directed by Tee Visuals


2019


Hope is a new emotional drama from local director Tee Visuals starring Tenisha White and Andre Pierre as a couple facing sadness and sorrow in their poignant relationship.


Filmed with heavenly sunlight streaming into a bedroom, Hope opens with Jesse (Pierre) waking up his partner Faith (White) before he finds a pregnancy test in the kitchen which she confirms is positive.


Jesse’s happiness is at odds with Faith’s reticence but he suggests the name of ‘Hope’ if the baby is a girl. “We’ve got a long journey ahead of us”, he adds. Very true indeed as we’ll find out later. The director frames and films shots well and the visuals have a high quality sheen to them. The on-set sound is okay but could perhaps do with another pass in the editing suite to balance/boost the consistency of the dialogue volume.


However, the editing is steady and measured and the film has good use of fade-outs and metaphorical white-outs alongside some slow but meaningful scene transitions.


As the couple take their car out into the countryside for a walk in what looks like the Peak District, the tone moves into darker territory with a secret torment apparently under the surface of their relationship. More great shots are filmed here amongst the rolling valleys and hills and the director does well to capture the wide vistas and dramatic lighting of the location.


With a few drone shots as well, the filmmaker really does explore the expansive horizons, perhaps representing an unknown future to come. But here the film flashbacks to 6 weeks prior and we see the couple arguing about the difficulty of conceiving - leading to their potential break-up. 3 days after this, the couple decide to not give up despite the circumstances. But their good intentions may not be enough to see them through.


Hope's use of flashback to uncover plot details is a good but simple device to change and switch focus and create an air of intrigue over the different narrative questions the audience has.


* Some spoilers ahead*


However, as the couple begin to repair their relationship, a slow motion sequence sees Jesse involved in a hit-and-run and even though Faith says ‘yes’ after finding an engagement ring in his pocket, she cannot save him and Jesse passes away.


Sadly, a character as a ghost “twist” is quite overused in the local arena. Even last month with Leaving Home, it used the same conceit and, although I watch more local films than most, it’s a common – albeit powerful – trope that means the short isn’t quite original as it could have been.


That said, there’s enough positives to let it slide as the film has emotional gut punches and scenes that also tug on the heart-strings. And this is down to the performances of the talented White and Pierre. Both convey strong feelings of blame, guilt, sadness and loss and whether it’s a teary glance (White) or a longer passionate speech (Pierre) the two leads really hold the story together.


A bigger but slightly less welcome surprise was Hope’s post-credit scene set 25 years later (!) which featured a note that says “dad’s killer”, police sirens and a young man with a gun. I have to admit that it’s a brave choice but the sequence jolts you into another film entirely and may have been best left off this particular short.


And a melancholy piano-led song adds to the sad tone throughout and a great soundtrack overall from Marco Micucci and music from Punch Records help give the short an angelic vibe.


The (non post-credits) ending of Hope finishes on a positive note with Jesse giving some virtuous advice to instil strength and positivity to Faith to help her deal with the unfortunate situation she is facing, before he leaves her forever.


And as we are shown a drone shot that takes the audience up and away into the celestial heavens, the film’s wholesome and hopeful message very much shines through. With two divine and passionate performances and some heart-breaking scenes, Hope ends up being an impressive short containing a whole host of tender themes provided with conviction and a lot of flair.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, May 29 2019 02:09PM



Socks and Robbers


Directed and written by David Lilley


2019


“Stitched up and totally stuffed”.


Produced over the last couple of years in Nottingham, Socks and Robbers is a new comedy crime short that asks audiences to dip their toes into places I’m sure they’ve never been before.


The film opens as a white van pulls to a screeching halt outside an extravagant bank which is cross-cut with black and white security footage of the tellers and customers going about their business inside. An impressive location, it’s great to see the filmmakers have secured a suitably old fashioned building to give their local production some swanky Hollywood style.


As a gang of smart men enter we get further cinematic nods, this time to the guns and suits of Heat which in turn was an influence on The Dark Knight – but here the clown masks are replaced by sock puppet heads. That’s right, sock puppets. It’s here too we get to enjoy a good sound mix from Alex Stroud – which combines comedy effects with the Hans Zimmer-style score from Matthew S Cooper with its drawn-out droning notes and pulsing bass.


Director David Lilley also gives a nod to another definitive gangster flick, Snatch. As rock music kicks in, we freeze frame on each member to get their name in colourful fonts. The gang are made up of Gout (Pete Bennett), Sniffer (David Chabeaux), Hammer Toe (Andy Batson) and Bunion (A.J. Stevenson) who have four suitably foot-centric nicknames, and whose heads range from a torn teddy look to a classic sock puppet.


There’s no dialogue from the gang – they speak in “squeaky” vocalisations like Sooty – but we do get yellow-font subtitles which seemed to nod to Tarantino. More of whose work will be an inspiration later.


Although 3 of the 4 are actors with woollen masks, one gang member is a visual effect of a real sock-puppet with the actor’s head replaced in post-production which is very impressive for a local project. In fact all the technical elements from sound, vfx, lighting and more are all excellently disciplined and used fittingly.


As terrified staff and customers kneel on floor in fear, Hammer Toe torments a female teller but his cohort attempts to convince him to stop. However, his mask is torn off and then he is knocked out but the butt of a gun. Again, some fantastic, and fantastical special effects are used as his clothes are removed and an ingenious falling scene ends with him dropping through space and sky before landing in a bin – and into his own flashback!


Removing himself from the trash, he arrives at an American diner with a surf-style soundtrack - again echoing Tarantino’s work. And as he sits in a booth and comically looks at prison mug shots of more sock puppets we discover that the man is an undercover cop – evoking Reservoir Dogs’ Mr. Orange.


Regaining consciousness on the bank floor we return to the heist and the unmasked man is revealed to be a cop to the gang itself but soon their plan goes haywire as the bungling group finally expose to each other who they really are. But things go from bad to worse when another final twist puts them into an even more dangerous predicament at the film’s conclusion.


Socks and Robbers ends up being a fabulously bizarre short with tremendous ideas wrapped in a (very) eclectic package. Fun-filled and funny, the short’s 7-minutes are a warm homage to a host of Hollywood heist films. And as it echoes the pulpiest of fictions, Socks and Robbers both wrong-foots you and keeps you on your toes as it entertains from the outset.



Michael Sales





By midlandsmovies, May 27 2019 06:42PM



Today I Daydreamed That I Killed Tom From Work


Directed by Scott Driver

4am Pictures

2019


Originally produced for the FiveLampsFilms 24-hour Challenge 2019 comes a new short from Midlands filmmaker Scott Driver.


Fresh from his earlier work with drama short Restroom, the challenge itself seems simple - produce a 3-minute film in one day – but there is fierce competition from a host of talented local production crews.


This film’s title however pretty much sums up the content here. We open on a phone ringing and a number of people in what looks like an everyday British office. Colleagues laugh at screens before a female voiceover (Holly Turner as the put-upon Emily) is heard commenting how she dislikes people in her office. But none more so than Tom.


Our protagonist stares in equal parts boredom and anger from her desk before Tom arrives next to her workspace in a ‘perky’ mood trying to alleviate her priorities. Next as she stands rigid at the photocopier we see Tom in the distance, whilst she goes further to explain how she hates how everyone in fact loves him.


Whilst it captures the mundane routine of a regular worker drone, at the same time the film also fulfils a fantasy I’m sure even the calmest of people have dreamt about doing to their boss at one time or another.


Shot well with technical proficiency with a group cast filling an office space, the short unfolds with Tom explaining how company targets have been hit and the team will get a bonus. But as her limits are pushed, Emily gets up from her desk and shockingly smashes her bosses face in with a keyboard - in a scene slightly reminiscent of James McAvoy’s similar act in Wanted (2008).


Not sufficed with knocking her manager out, our lead bludgeons him further as stunned colleagues are splattered with blood.


Darkly comic in tone and with a bit of American Psycho (2000) thrown in for good measure – where office work and ‘dreams’ of killing came together in a similar fashion – the film is a short sharp shock of violence in the workplace.


And with such a brief run time (and short production time of course), it’s difficult for the film to go into much depth so the filmmaker and his team have wisely kept it simple.


So in conclusion, Driver’s ‘Today I Daydreamed That I Killed Tom From Work’ is a well executed (!) effort with a fun, but gory, premise. And it also hits all its marks and clocks off with a surprise ending guaranteed to ensure an even harder day of graft at work tomorrow.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, May 26 2019 03:40PM



Vice (2019) Directed by Adam McKay


Christian Bale does his usual shtick by bulking up and becoming unrecognisable as he embodies the girth and the gall of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in 2019’s Vice.


A deserved win for Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the Oscars, the film nevertheless doesn’t entirely get underneath the surface of a man who pulled the puppet strings within the White House in the early 2000s.


The film flashes back and forth across time where Cheney begins as an intern and rises through the ranks of power alongside eventual long-term colleague, Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). With family tensions and political posturing, Cheney suffers from a number of heart attacks as he leapfrogs from position to position as Presidents (Nixon and Ford) are ousted.


With narration, flashbacks, snappy editing and even a faux-ending in the first half of the film, McKay throws a lot of cinematic tricks into his film but they fail to compensate for the disjointed perspectives we see. Power-mad and using George “Dubya” as a proxy president at times, Cheney is hit in the face with random pot-shots from McKay without the movie ever really uncovering much more than most of us would know from the last decade’s media coverage.


Their despicable manoeuvring during the War on Terror sets them up further as the villains and although Bale and the supporting cast are good – the film draws upon broad caricatures rather than any in-depth analysis. Amy Adams as Cheney’s Wife, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell add much needed flavour and I enjoyed the varied film styles but it was often on the edge of falling apart. Scenes jumping forward in time just as drama was developing was its biggest failing.


In conclusion, Vice is very “worthy” and “honourable” and there’s nothing wrong per se, but it’s not much else. Its Wolf of Wall Street self-referential and satirical tone really wasn’t the right angle for me to scrutinise Cheney properly.


All the ingredients are there across the board but its attempts at an all-encompassing biography leave Vice as a slightly insubstantial, maybe even shallow, take on one of politics’ most nasty pieces of work.


★★★ ½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, May 26 2019 03:39PM

Stan & Ollie (2019) Dir. Jon S. Baird


Beginning in 1937, a tremendously long one-take shot pulls us into the Hollywood world of one of comedy’s most iconic duos where Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy move through a studio backlot to a film set during their heyday. However, as Stan is on a different contract to Ollie, a rift is borne which continues to 1953 where the more mature duo embark on a gruelling UK-wide tour as part of a planned comeback.


Composed of Englishman Stan Laurel & American Oliver Hardy, their slapstick comedy was a hit with war-time audiences and they went on to star in over 100 films together. John C. Reilly is covered in prosthetics to play the portly Oliver Hardy, whilst comedian Steve Coogan is a spitting image for the “confused” persona of Stan Laurel. However, despite Stan and Ollie's well-known on-screen traits, the creative partnership begin to struggle with a music hall tour of the UK in the hopes of getting another film made.


Checking-in to rough hotels and playing to a run of empty theatres, Reilly and Coogan give magnetic performances as the two elderly men coming to terms with some of their glamour slipping away. Coogan especially, whose legendary Alan Partridge alter-ego I am a huge fan of, finally (for me) ditches Alan’s mannerisms and this films contains probably Coogan’s best movie screen performance to date.


As the duo begin to fill up more theatres owing to a string of publicity events, their past catches up to them and whilst their wives come to visit from Los Angeles (another fantastic double act from Shirley Henderson as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda as Ida Kitaeva Laurel), the tension boils over into a public spat.


Filmed right here in the Midlands, some scenes were shot in Dudley as well as The Old Rep theatre in Birmingham and also along the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire. We get old-fashioned and charming set-ups in a loving homage to both the duo and their trade. Baird’s direction is unfussy and straightforward, which allows the actors to shine. But it’s delightfulness of tone does sometimes push the film towards being a tad artless and plain.


As their past feelings of reciprocated betrayal are revealed, the film's amiable drama does moves into a slightly more interesting take on resentment, creativity and mutual respect.


When Ollie has a heart-attack, it marks the beginning of a reconciliation and the pleasantness is re-established. And the film shows great fondness and respect for the two great men and reveals a little about their motivations and inspirations.


However, as humble as it is, the film at times slips into mawkishness and some of the curious simplicity results in some underdeveloped sequences. That said, the movie made me want to watch many more of the duo’s finest celluloid moments and the two leads pull off more than just a great imitation. Although at times a bit wishy-washy, Stan and Ollie is a humble and uncomplicated look at two mesmerising legends in a quaint tribute piece.


★★★


Michael Sales

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