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By midlandsmovies, Nov 16 2019 09:38AM



Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019) Dir. Midge Costin


Making Waves opens with Apocalypse Now sound designer Walter Murch explaining how deep sound is to humans - from the womb to the almost unnoticed and emotional effect it has on us in cinema.


And so begins new documentary Making Waves. And Murch is just one of an amazing array of interviews in this new exploration and within the first minute we have comments from legendary Star Wars sound guru Ben Burtt, directors Chris Nolan, Ryan Coogler, David Lynch, George Lucas and Ang Lee and musician Barbara Streisand. Wow. A list doesn’t get much more impressive than that!


Rightly so, the film’s focus is on the importance of sound in our enjoyment of cinema. The film covers the importance of the “Circle of Talent” to create the modern team-orientated experience audiences expect today. With so many people in the mix, the experts in their field enable impressive sequences like the D-Day landings of Saving Private Ryan to be created.


From the intimacy of an emotional score to studio mixing, the film covers the technical background to music-making – which is conveyed in an easy digestible way for the viewer. It also covers the history of sound when early films were projected with a live orchestra (or even live sound effects) as well dialogue from people behind a screen.


The documentary is fascinating and informative especially to someone with a music background like myself. But it also explains the journey of cinematic sound bringing general audiences along the way too. However, its biggest flaw is the familiar ground covered in another recent documentary Score: A Film Music Documentary from 2016 (our full review here).


Both have comparable talking heads, technical info and the history of sound (slightly more specific on musical score in the 2016 film) but they are VERY similar. And therefore this isn’t a unique illumination on the subject, more of a confirmation of some of the information seen from a different viewpoint. But the explanations are great if you don't know your foley from your sound effects and we also see how the variety of these important aspects are put together in the final mixing stage.


Score and sound design are definitely two different disciplines though - one being part of the other. So if you prefer one area then choose the documentary for you. However, both films together are a fascinating insight into the often overlooked (and hugely important) world of the magic of music and sound in movies.


★★★½


Michael Sales


Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is out on DVD on Monday 25th November 2019

By midlandsmovies, Nov 15 2019 01:51PM



Joker (2019) Dir. Todd Phillips


With DCEU failing to set the world alight with its more than questionable quality issues, Warner Brothers have decided to recast Batman’s infamous nemesis the Joker with Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime.


Set in 1981, the film ditches any connection to the DC shared universe with Warners adopting a one-and-done attitude as an antidote to Marvel’s ‘shared world’ behemoth. Phoenix is Arthur Fleck, a mentally unstable loner who lives with his mother and is employed by a party clown agency. Director Phillips has given him an unusual but unique backstory which now makes his maniacal laugh a medical condition. As Arthur’s life falls apart – he loses his job, his psychiatrist is forced to stop her help and his stand-up “career” fails – his trajectory is reflected in Gotham’s own crime-ridden downward spiral.


The film does have a few flaws. Phoenix’s portrayal is undoubtedly fantastic but the story does take a while to get going. 30 minutes in and cine-aware audiences would already know the typical beats of the downtrodden loser narrative. And the delusional sub-plots involving the under-used Zazie Beetz are quite obvious.


Also, with Robert De Niro as a talk-show host and a range of themes including isolation and mental illness, the film nods to both Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. I say nods but although there is some great cinematography from Lawrence Sher, the film is, at times, a blatant re-shaping of Marty’s back catalogue.


In many ways, without the brief references to Gotham and Wayne Enterprises the film itself could have been an independent film without any of the superhero connections. It explores the mental fragility of a very dark extreme individual whilst barely mentioning its comic book origins.


There has been controversy over the film – as per usual these days. Once upon a time, moral busybodies were defining features of the right but it could be argued that films are being overly attacked when they portray less than savoury ideals. “Because it’s so much fun, Jan”, Quentin Tarantino once said on a TV news cast as he was asked why he fills his films with so much violence. Well, much like Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (and many of Scorsese’s protagonists in fact), here is an abhorrent central character whose downtrodden life is still no excuse for the horrid actions he subsequently commits.


And on a personal note, I don’t (and never have) bought into the “glorifying violence” or could “inspire others” critical analysis myself. From the Hays Code to Mary Whitehouse via the 80s video nasty censors to The Matrix, cinema has always been accused of being a corrupting influence. But audiences are clever enough to see there are characters, even central ones, that shouldn’t be sympathised with. Much like Travis Bickle funnily enough. A disgusting protagonist whose ideals and actions do not align with your own is something I like to give audiences credit for in their ability to distinguish from real life.


And so, throwing in many modern political issues as it does along with a complexity not seen in many graphic novel-inspired films, Joker is definitely not perfect but if you fancy something with a little more depth – think Nolan’s trilogy and then some – then the flick has enough thoughtful ambiguity and an amazing central performance to make it more than worthwhile.


★★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 14 2019 12:35PM



Independent sci-fi Invasion Planet Earth Cast and Crew to appear at MCM Comic Con Birmingham


Originally titled Kaleidoscope Man, much of Invasion Planet Earth was shot in the Birmingham area over the 2000s and now the cast and crew will be leading a panel and a workshop on 17th November at MCM Comic Con Birmingham ahead of the film’s release.


It took two years and seven campaigns for filmmaker Simon Cox and his team to raise a significant amount of money which enabled them to shoot around a third of the movie.


Including some spectacular scenes in central Birmingham where nine hundred extras turned up to be blasted by aliens in an epic, War of the Worlds style battle scene.


Taking place as a special panel on the MCM main stage, the gang will be taking the audience behind the scenes of Invasion Planet Earth. And following this, Simon Cox (director, co-writer, editor, as well as supervisor and producer of the vfx) and Chris Jones (guerilla filmmaker) will be leading a free workshop on Creating Special Effects on a Budget.




Invasion Planet Earth tells the story of Tom Dunn who after the death of his daughter is a broken man. When his wife falls pregnant again, he cannot believe their luck. However, his joy is short lived, as on the very same day, the people of Earth become plagued with terrifying visions of the end of the world.


When a gigantic, all-consuming alien mothership appears in the sky and launches a ruthless attack on Earth’s cities, chaos and destruction follow.


Tom must find the strength and wisdom to save his wife and unborn child. However, first he must confront a shocking truth. A truth which threatens the key to the survival of the human race.


The story of the production of the film is a remarkable one. A true passion project, Invasion Planet Earth has taken twenty years to make from inception to release.


After years of pitching to the UK film industry and private investors, a small amount of money was raised which Simon used to produce a pilot and for concept art to be created. However, it soon became apparent that funding this movie in what was then, the traditional way, was not going to happen. In 2012, Simon took the bold decision to crowdfund the film using social media.




Simon then found some investors who financed the rest of the movie. However, this took time and once the live action scenes were finally shot, the special effects took another two and a half years to complete. In total, the movie was in production for seven years with ten years before that in development. Such was the multitude of generous donors and patrons of this project; the film lists over 100 producers on IMDb.


A theatrical release date of 5th December has been set and the film will be released on Digital Download on 16th December, shortly followed by the DVD release on 30th December.


For more info check out https://www.invasionplanetearth.com


By midlandsmovies, Nov 14 2019 12:02PM



Screen Northants looking for editor and actors and crew


Screen Northants are on the lookout for an editor for their next film, feature length family comedy Fortune Cookies.


Fortune Cookies will be the 3rd feature film to be produced by social enterprise film company Screen Northants. Screen Northants makes features but does so in a non-profit model, supported by BBC Children in Need, where a professional crew also provide workshops and on set experiences for local young disadvantaged people from Northamptonshire to boost their confidence, skills and local pride through Film.


The viewer will not notice the difference in the end result but it allows Screen Northants to make films in a unique way supporting the next generation of talent and allowing unprecedented access to the Film Industry for young people in an area under-represented by Film.


They are supported by the likes of Panavision and Cooke Optics to make our small budgets go a long way.


To apply please go here for further details:

https://screennorthants.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/were-looking-for-an-editor-for-our-next-feature-film/


And as well as that, they are also looking for actors for the same film Fortune Cookies.


Roles include:

SUSAN LEE – female, 19 – British Born Chinese – 25 days

JENNY LEE – female, 17 – British Born Chinese – 23 days

JOAN LEE – female, 45 – Chinese – 22 days

CYRIL LEE – male, 45 – Chinese – 24 days

MR ‘TONY’ CHUNG – male, 45 – Chinese – 6 days


Full details here:

https://screennorthants.wordpress.com/2019/10/29/our-next-feature-film-fortune-cookies-casting-lead-roles/


Plus they're still looking for some volunteer crew - any level of experience can apply – They want to recruit some new volunteers interested in Production (organising things!), Art Dept (props, construction or set design), Costume, Make Up, Script Supervisor, Runners, Sparks, Sound people, everything.


Read more here:

https://screennorthants.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/crew-needed-for-our-next-film



By midlandsmovies, Nov 12 2019 04:34PM



Midlands Review - Tom, Dick and Harry: Christmas Special


Directed by Philippe Ashfield


2019


Instant Entertainment


A new micro short film comes from Midlands director and producer Philippe Ashfield and has the perfect festive theme for the forthcoming winter months where we are thrown into Christmas carols, elves and reindeer games.


Written by Julie Paupe and already nominated for a Birmingham Film Festival award, Tom, Dick and Harry: Christmas Special opens with a rendition of festive favourite "Ding Dong Merrily on High” performed by a trio of church choristers with a bell-jingling elf joining in for good measure.


Three lads (Charlie Wernham, Sam Gittins and Luke Higgins) arrive on a couch and are suspicious of the scenario before they begin to question the motives of the conductor and make clear they are not the Tom, Dick and harry of the title.


However, the star-wearing conductor explains that they are in fact creating a skit to promote the longer film Tom, Dick and Harry. Immediately this meta-moment throws us off and into the surreal comedy world we are about to inhabit. But the boys are still not pleased, especially after hearing this alternative skit will be called “Ding Dong” and they will be replicating the choir members’ singing.


Despite their protests, we cut to find the boys dressed as Santa, an elf and a reindeer as one claims to be a “serious actor”. And quickly they are forced to enact a “sing battle” with the choir.


From a jokey reindeer antler ‘mic-drop’ to a comedic attempt at some falsetto, the film creates laughs as the boys struggle both with the melody and the lyrics of the Chrimbo classic.


Thinking their ramshackle effort “smashed it” over the virtuoso vocals of the harmonic choir, the boys exit as the short wraps up.


The film clearly acts as an advert of sorts for the forthcoming film featuring the same group, but as a witty self-referential mockumentary, it’s a unique idea to tie in with their larger project.


With some festive fun and jolly jokes, the short balances a parody of Christmas clichés and its goal to set up some interest in their follow up. And with zippy dialogue and good-natured sarcasm, the short itself is still a successful stocking filler that teases a bigger present to come.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 9 2019 03:09PM


Step Up


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


Step Up is the new film from producers Five Pence Productions and Gurjant Singh Films and is directed by Nisaro Karim, who may may have taken over fellow West Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz as the Midlands' "Most Prolific Director™".


Described as a gritty urban thriller inspired by Netflix’s Topboy, the film sees a gangster in a car (Sarfraz Mughal) asking if a friend Sam (Jacob Lander) is ready to “step up” and do a dastardly deed. Sam claims he is well prepared and we soon find out that he is being asked to kill a rival - yet is limited to just one bullet.


With no second chances he is handed the gun and pulls his hood over his head and exits to the sound of ominous music. Once out the car, his bravado turns to a more worried facial expression as he enters a mobile phone shop.


The stunned shop owner comes off a video call from a loved one and stares at his possible assailant. And as the tension rises, the man draws his gun and Karim cleverly holds the moment for a beat.


With the shooter and the audience taking in a deep breath, we ask the question whether he’ll go ahead and pull that trigger.


I won’t disclose the ending but Nisaro throws in a nice twist keeping the viewer off-kilter and sets up a possible second instalment after this opening short drama.


Similar to his previous micro-film Peaky Blinders A New Era, the film is more of a trailer than an all encompassing short such is the minimal narrative on show. It could also work as a nice sequence as part of a showreel piece for the two actors.


A nice if slight little short, to be fair to Nisaro Karim he has in fact billed Step Up as part of a series and I’ll be intrigued as to where this goes. Especially as he leaves the audience and his protagonist in a place where they certainly do not know what is coming next.


Michael Sales


Watch the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Nov 9 2019 08:14AM



Review - The Dead Don't Die (2019) Dir. Jim Jarmusch


This American horror “comedy” film is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and follows a small town's police force combating a freak zombie invasion.


Bill Murray plays Chief Cliff Robertson with Adam Driver as his partner Officer Ronald "Ronnie" Peterson and with the sun not setting and the rising of the dead owing to fracking, they tackle an invasion of zombies in their town.


Like zombie-auteur George A. Romero, Jarmusch attempts to insert some social commentary – zombies are obsessed with hipster coffees and search for wi-fi on mobile phones – but these themes come across heavy-handed and half-hearted.


The admittedly great cast can do nothing with a lack of dramatic tension and hollow story and although I am a self-confessed zombie-film sceptic, I’d be surprised if many audiences enjoy this achingly slow-paced slog. It has the same lack of narrative as his vampire flick Only Lovers Left live (our review). It’s disappointing really as the trailer hints at a more fun film and it needed a shot of Coens-style lightness of touch and witty dialogue.


And sadly it all comes back to that shuffling pace which isn’t helped by Jarmusch strangely inserting a range of meta moments. This includes the characters themselves referring to the film’s theme song and script, as well as Adam Driver owning a Star Wars keyring.


Slower and less coordinated than a zombie’s walk, The Dead Don’t Die aims to be a modern take on the zombie genre and maybe fans will get something out of Jarmusch’s eclectic style. However, for me, the film disappoints and drags its rotting carcass to a mind-numbing and pretentious end.


★★ ½


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 7 2019 12:07PM



20th Anniversary Screening of Wild Wild West at National Space Centre in Leicester


On 22 November enjoy a wiki-wiki-wild-wild-west evening at the National Space Centre. Take part in an early evening NERF shoot out in the galleries, followed by a 20th anniversary screening of Wild Wild West in the UK’s largest Planetarium.


Guests are welcome to bring their own non-powered NERF guns to participate!


The evening culminates in some fun on the Wild West Gaming tables, courtesy of the Ministry of Steampunk.


Boosters café/bar will be serving a selection of hot dogs, nachos, sandwiches, snacks, popcorn, soft and hot drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages from 18:30 on the night.


Tickets cost £10 per adult and £8 per child (12+ only due to the film classification).


Clcik here for info, tickets and details https://spacecentre.co.uk/event/wild-wild-west-20th-anniversary-screening/


Wild Wild West (12+)


If you think special government agent James West is fast with a six-shooter, wait'll he lays a quip on you! Will Smith plays West, reuniting with Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld in an effects-loaded, shoot-from-the-lip spectacular.


Kevin Kline plays inventor Artemus Gordon, teamed with West on a daring assignment: stop legless Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) and his diabolical plot for a Disunited States of America. Salma Hayek joins the action as mysterious adventuress Rita Escobar.


And all manner of geared-up 1860s gadgets—from belt-buckle derringers to surprise-packed billiard balls to a walking, eight-story, steam-and-steel tarantula—help make Wild Wild West a Wow!


Steampunks in Space


This event kicks off an alternative weekend dedicated to the “history that never was” as Steampunk fans get out their ray guns, strap on their goggles, and jump in their spaceships and head to the National Space Centre for Steampunks in Space, also including the SOLD OUT night of chap hop, science and cheese: Chap Hop and Cheese.


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