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By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2019 10:25AM

Carriages (2018)


Directed by Adam Palmer


Carriages is a new 10-minute drama short from regional writer and director Adam Palmer covering awkward encounters on the train tracks around the region.


Jonathon David Dudley stars as the unlucky in love lead who sees a stranger on a platform (Alishia Southall) but through embarrassment and shyness doesn’t say anything despite the obvious attraction.


On his daily commute he seems to be struck by this girl of his dreams but his quiet demeanour and timid countenance is not making it easy for him to strike up a conversation.


Joining Jonathan is Midlands Movies Award nominee Michael Cotton who comedically plays an office colleague joking that she has probably got an “awful personality” which is less than helpful to the lovestruck young man. A brilliant support turn, Cotton delivers as a suitably dismissive friend as he tries to take his mate’s mind off “train girl”


Close ups of the worrisome face of our lead bring the audience into his humble world but from a stranger on a train (Lawrence Walker) to a ringing phone, he is constantly derailed from starting an introductory chat.


Excellently shot on real locomotives and platforms, the well-thought out locations add classy production value to the film. And an 8-mm film-style cutaway gag on what our lead could have done differently was both a verbal and visual delight as he is accosted by the love-rival stranger for being in his seat.


As we are shunted from one scene to the next, the rickety jolts of the carriages themselves seem to represent the unstable state of each encounter. The editing back and forth between the unspoken train sequences to the office-based re-caps are well constructed and help lead the audience down the right tracks.


As we come to the film’s conclusion, we get a steadier situation on the platform which calms our lead before he finally gains the confidence to stand up for what he wants.


With its heart in the right place, Carriages takes a wry, and slightly old-fashioned, look at embarrassment on the ‘express’ but its innocence is one of its many plus points. A great cast steams ahead with dedicated but delicate performances to create a wonderful soft tone which will help audiences get on board with this terrific tale on a train.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2019 09:40AM

Scarecrow (2018)


Directed by Lee Charlish


Korky Films and Jam-AV Productions


Coventry filmmaker Lee Charlish of Korky films takes a leap from his dark animation films into a terrifying drama of a lost couple on the road in new chiller Scarecrow.


A nagging couple (Adrian Annis as Thomas and Georgina Mellor as Natalie) find themselves stranded after running out of petrol in a country lane.


As they argue over where they are and what to do, they blame each other as to the reason why the car has broken down but soon decide to go and search for help. However, in the wooded backroads, they have little luck in finding any assistance.


They soon stumble upon a clearing where an ominous looking Scarecrow is placed with a sign warning them – DO NOT TOUCH. As Natalie is entranced by its seemingly strange power, the film starts to dip a toe into more supernatural fare.


The bickering between the couple is one of the short’s highlights. The two leads trade barbs in well-written dialogue as well as unspoken looks and menacing stares between each other.


The quirky tweed suit and horn-rimmed glasses of Thomas, as well as Natlaie’s tree-green dress add class to the film’s costume design and it’s little touches like these that truly add flavour to local shorts looking to stand out.


A few touches of humour give it the dark comedy vibe of The League of Gentlemen and the hot sunny day contrasts nicely with the eerie horror score – again, making it rise above more traditional takes and clichés.


Director Charlish has taken a few horror tropes but wisely twists them to provide something new and the excellent production design, score and certainly the two leads help this film rise above the familiar genre beats.


Creepy and inventive and with plenty of 50’s infused jazz style, Scarecrow is as good as they come in the local film arena and with excellent work from all involved, it is a fashionably cool and suave horror that stands out in the crowd. Or should that be field. A stupendous short.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Mar 5 2019 09:18AM



The Girl on the Train hits the buffers


Adapted from the 2016 film of the same name, which in turn was based on Paula Hawkin’s 2015 debut novel, Curve Leicester presents a new stage production of mystery thriller The Girl on the Train.


Replacing Emily Blunt from the movie version is a fantastic Samantha Womack (Game On, Eastenders) as Rachel Watson, an alcoholic whose life is torn apart by her bouts of frequent memory loss owing to her drinking disorder. As she travels to the city on a train, she envies a local woman she sees each day but when that girl goes missing, she becomes embroiled in a mysterious whodunnit.


Lonely and isolated and with her ex-husband now with a new family, the investigation turns to Rachel as she tries to fill in the blanks of the case, and her own memory.


The play opens on a small apartment and the production tries to instil a sense of seclusion as Rachel’s small flat is strewn with empty alcohol bottles that sees her ostracised from her previous life owing to her wayward behaviour.


Her ex-husband Tom (Adam Jackson-Smith) and his new wife Anna (Lowenna Melrose) employed an au pair (Kirsty Oswald as Megan) and it is she who goes missing. Possible blame points at the girl’s ex-partner Scott (Coronation Street’s Oliver Farnworth) or her therapist but we follow Rachel’s own rambling inquiries into the woman she envied from afar.


The film was a fast-paced thriller (see our review here) but something has sadly got lost in translation here. The excellent lighting - denoting which day of the week it was and a brilliant “black hole” metaphor – was unfortunately undercut by slow pacing and stilted and protracted conversations.


Womack holds her own though by appearing in every single scene of the play but the unreliable narrator, dream sequences and flashbacks from both the novel and the film were hard to translate. The show did its best with windows, balconies, smoke and mirrors to convey these different time periods but unfortunately if you didn’t know the work already you would struggle to follow the convoluted story threads.


Maybe some films (and books) are simply constructed too differently to work on stage. My previous review of The Shawshank Redemption (a book-turned-film then turned-theatre production as this was) had similar concerns about adaptation problems.


A strange sprinkling of dark humour helped lighten the mood at times but it sometimes grated against the more serious themes and undercut the tension as accusations were flying from all sides, including the police.


Womack however kept the whole thing from falling apart but the overall show felt like a missed opportunity. The final violent and intense scene showcased a brilliant three-way interplay between the main leads and demonstrated a spark and passion that seemed missing from the previous hour.


Alas, it was a little too late. With strong performances The Girl on the Train certainly didn’t lack a committed cast giving it their all but with everything else coming in as just “average”, this show was an admirable thriller but with far too few thrills.


★★1/2


Michael Sales


Catch The Girl on the Train at Curve Leicester from Monday 4th March to Saturday 9th March


Box Office 0116 242 3595


£32.50 – £10

DISCOUNTS*

£15 Under 16s

£18 16 – 26 yrs (with a free

16-26 Membership)

£15 Under 18 school groups

£2.50 off for over 60s and registered unemployed

15% off for Members

£4 off for Groups 10+




By midlandsmovies, Mar 3 2019 09:57AM



Midlands Movies Awards 2019 Full Winners


Best Costume, Make-up & Hairstyling

Chris Morris, Laura Viale Durand, Ben Fallaize, Monica Montalvo & Katarina Horvatic for Make Do or Mend


Best Editing

Ed Radford and Joshua King for Little Boxes


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Chris Butler for The Front Door


Best Music (score or song)

Janet Devlin for Songbird


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Olivia Noyce for Headphones


Best Cinematography

David Andrew Smith for Trentside


Best Documentary

Alex Lockwood for 73 Cows


Best Feature

James Smith for Do Something Jake


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Vivienne Bell for Troubled Waters


Best Animated Film

Lee Charlish for Return from the Moon


Best Director

Gemma Norton for Troubled Waters


Best Sound (editing or mixing)

Luke Galloway for Bang Bang


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Nisaro Karim for Duality


Best Visual Effects

Mick Walker for Shining Tor


Best Writing (original or adapted screenplay)

Adam Palmer for Answer


Best Short

Alex Lockwood for 73 Cows



By midlandsmovies, Feb 28 2019 06:33PM



Virtual Brutality (2019)


Directed by James Heaney


From Goldbox productions and director James Heaney comes Virtual Brutality, a short film combining exciting action with dark humour.


The film starts off with a delivery driver making his way to a customer's flat with a large package that needs to be signed for. As an audience we’re not sure what is inside at this point, however the animated music alongside the prolonged trip to the customers door indicate it is possibly something that will be awe-inspiring.


Our protagonist answers the door, looks down and beams with delight as he sees that his order has finally arrived at his home. He shuts the door and starts to unravel the packaging only for two opportunistic intruders to use the door left ajar from the courier driver to let themselves in.


Director James Heaney employs a voiceover to introduce the audience to the package, a virtual reality headset, which is used here to escape the trappings of the modern world. It also lets you be who you want to be. Personally, I loved the addition of the voiceover and the way it is used to exemplify the contemporary hunger to separate one’s self from reality and explore other worlds through “virtual reality”.


As the intruders break into our protagonist's property, they see he is otherwise occupied with his new purchase. The virtual reality mode is fully on as we see him kicking and punching the air in glee. The calamitous burglars soon end up on the wrong side of our main character as he unknowingly grapples both - thinking they are part of his “virtual” world.


Dean Williams, the stunt co-ordinator, has done a great job of choreographing the fight scenes to give them whip crack intensity, something not ordinarily found in low budget short films. Because of this the action flowed well helping keep the pace of the film to a good standard.


Virtual Brutality is a fun, zany look at a young man using a virtual reality headset for the first time - described as “a product that will keep you in denial for hours on end”. The violent tone aside, I thought Virtual Brutality reminded me of the vibe and the quality of a Pixar short film, and although brief, it is a ton of fun! Brutal.


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Feb 21 2019 01:37PM

Overlord (2018) Dir. Julius Avery


Son of a Gun director Julies Avery returns with a mid-budget horror-tale where a platoon of soldiers are dropped into Nazi-occupied World War 2 France to destroy a radio tower to help the D-Day landings.


Opening with a character-building scene on an American bomber plane, the movie allows a little space to build up some empathy in Predator-style conversations using solider ‘bantz’ and some broody dialogue.


Here we are introduced to paratrooper Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) who was underperforming during training and whose fellow soldiers sure let him know it throughout. As the plane is shot down in an exciting and explosive sequence, only 5 soldiers survive the parachute drop including Wyatt Russell as Corporal Ford who only has the mission on his mind.


The small group seek refuge in the home of a French woman (Mathilde Ollivier as Chloe) as Nazi patrols roam the village. The group barely survives in the attic but there are hints throughout of disfigured villagers, and when an SS Officer (a fantastically brutal and evil Pilou Asbæk) attempts to rape their host, the American soldiers are forced to reveal themselves.


Dealing with the complications arising from their decision to save the locals or complete their mission, Boyce ends up in a secret laboratory where the Nazis are conducting sinister body-altering experiments. As a slice of b-movie action, the film excels with enough character development, some simple linear story-telling, a nasty villain and some tongue-in-cheek gore. A severed head pleading for help is a particular nasty but thoroughly effective visual spine-chiller.


Using such a dramatic historical situation, the film takes itself seriously enough for you to care, but allows the film to develop into a more monster-driven experience in its second half. But it has certainly earnt that right.


The body-horror is suitably nasty, the character choices are well established and the gun fights and violence will keep most action and fright audiences entertained. As the men discuss their mission, the film delivers a great sense of urgency to keep up a fast pace and overall, Overlord entertains with a delicious mix of dark horror and depraved history.


★★★★


Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Feb 18 2019 09:43PM


We have two unique takes on The House that Jack Built with Mike Sales and Marek Turner going head to head on Lars Von Trier's latest. Do they agree? Read on to find out...


The House that Jack Built (2018) Dir. Lars von Trier


The latest film from Danish director Lars von Trier (Dogville; Antichrist; Nymphomaniac) was never going to be one for the masses but once again through the casting of well known mainstream names, in this case Matt Dillon - in his best performance for over a decade - and Uma Thurman amongst others, he ensures a a healthy amount of interest and cinematic distribution.


Laughed at and lauded in equal measure when it debuted at Cannes in 2018 the film follows the seemingly hapless Jack as he descends not only into madness but also hell over a period of twelve years and multiple homicides.


Now although this sounds relatively straight forward, due to having such a duration to cover the film is split into non linear segments taken throughout the years, each representing a pivotal moment in Jack’s life and which is narrated over by the figure of Virgil (Bruno Ganz), in a nod to Dante’s Inferno to which this film is heavily indebted in terms or concept. Through these segments we delve deeper into the mind of Jack and his alter-ego, both of which manifest themselves through the films varying tone and visual appearance.


Arguably playing as a dark comedy for the majority of its time, with a touch of social criticism, it is in these tonal shifts that the audience will either be won over or lost but for those that go along for the ride they will discover a lot more under the surface in this tale of violence, satisfaction and repentance. With that final point being taken by some as a form of atonement by the frequently ostracised director and through the use of his own back catalogue and past behaviour it is certainly easy to see why.


Harking back to a period where every artistic decision, depiction or mise en scène was symbolic von Trier knows his craft well enough to show us the material to interpret the meaning ourselves. Undoubtably The House That Jack Built is self-indulgent and arguably pretentious sometimes but it is also well-written, entertaining and with layered deeper meaning. Dare we even say it is sophisticated. but here it is up to us to interpret in the main.


Working on several levels this film is one for those who like to spend the time digging a little deeper but whether it is ultimately worth it only you will know.


★★★★


Marek Turner


And another! Midlands Movies Mike Sales writes...


Polarising director Lars von Trier returns with another controversial film that follows a serial murderer’s 12-year killing spree with all the subtlety the filmmaker is known for.


It begins with middle-aged Jack killing a woman whose car has broken down and taking her body to be hidden in a freezer. He later pretends to be an insurance salesman in a leafy suburb to enter another woman’s home whom he awkwardly strangles. This time Jack is unable to flee the scene owing to his obsessive cleaning but soon manages to escape. More incidents pile up with the murder of a family on a hunting expedition, a woman whom he confesses to and lining up a group of kidnapped victims to kill them with one bullet.


Jack is played excellently by a dark, and sometimes darkly comic, Matt Dillon and the expected pretentiousness begins with auteur chapter headings – yawn. However, at times the film is far more conventional for large portions of its runtime, although this being von Trier, he intersperses the splatter gore with his own essay on the nature of man and violence.


Provocative von Trier doesn’t hold back with scenes of child murders, female mutilation and ruthless attacks yet he “justifies” these sickening incidents with a voiceover throughout (Bruno Ganz as ‘Verge’).


This "conscience" pontificates on a number of quasi-religious themes and primal fears in essay form. Does this literary motif bring von Trier’s work up to the status of art? Not really. The gruesome deaths could be from any b-movie horror but for me it was Dillon’s mesmerising performance that sees this one through.


As the film conclusion rolls around, von Trier dives off the deep end as we enter a literal Dante’s Inferno. Far too long and with a kind of hollow-seriousness, the mixture of dark subject matter, visceral filmmaking and attempts to say something about human nature are all typical fare for the director.


That said, there’s enough here to maintain interest (just) but clear a bit of time - it's 155 minutes long - as well as headspace, for all the horrific ideas von Trier throws at the wall. Although ugly, these will mostly stick in your mind as the director delivers his trademark nihilistic world view using grotesque visuals.


★★★


Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Feb 18 2019 09:32PM



Possum (2018) Dir. Matthew Holness


As a huge fan of the director’s comedy alter-ego Garth Marenghi, an inspired riff on Stephen King mixed with Alan Partridge of sorts, the humorous Holness has moved away from horror laughs into darker territory with his debut film Possum.


Expanded from his own short story published in horror anthology The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease (which sounds hugely like a Garth Marenghi compendium novel itself), Holness delivers a dark tale of psychological trauma. Sean Harris plays a puppeteer who returns to the home he grew up in and is forced to confront repressed memories from his childhood.


The film’s visual style was apparently inspired by British public information films and the opening is a spot-on homage to the matter-of-fact grimness of those short adverts – which scared children and adults alike. As the story starts with the man facing his stepfather and their unsaid secrets, Harris’ character Phillip is haunted by a spider-like marionette called Possum and his mental stability is tested throughout as he deals with its constant presence.


Early on it’s easy to guess what the puppet represents, and the arrival of Alun Armstrong’s disgustingly good stepfather will almost certainly confirm these suspicions for most audiences. Holness however has also said he was influenced by the tone of silent horrors, but with the film’s snail-pace , it could really do with a big shot of dialogue.


Despite the over-reliance of mood over speech, the score is fantastic though, with an experimental soundtrack provided by The Radiophonic Workshop. It’s most effective during a sequence in a disused building where the eight-legged entity stalks our protagonist, yet the film was crying out for more scenes like this one.


Having played with horror clichés and genre tropes/structure with his Marenghi character, Holness ditches them all in Possum but unfortunately this has the effect of creating somewhat of a form-less mess. So serious and surreal as to be unengaging this is one for fans of unconventional horror but would be too sparse for many audiences.


It’s weird how a film with great actors (Harris & Armstrong are superb but almost the only characters), superbly unsettling score, a horrific monster and a great design aesthetic are all undone with an incredibly slow, and ultimately unfulfilling pace. Possum has all the right ingredients but simply undercooks the whole thing. It’s like putting eggs, flour and milk in a bowl and shoving them in the toaster for 6 hours hoping to get a tasty cake.


Holness himself has said the film should “force the audience to reflect upon the experience afterward” but the experience here is such an arduous and mostly unenjoyable one you’ll probably won’t want to recall much of it again at all. Bring on Skipper the Eye-Child 2 please.


★★


Mike Sales


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