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By midlandsmovies, Aug 24 2019 07:00AM



The Wind (2019) Dir. Emma Tammi


Emma Tammi’s directorial debut is a western horror and although the title sounds like a sub-Blumhouse video on demand chiller (or an unwanted Shyamalan The Happening spin-off) the sombre tome makes this a scary trip to the West worth checking out.


Horror westerns are a small sub-genre – from direct-to-video sequels From Dusk Til Dawn 3 and Tremors 4 all the way to S. Craig Zahler’s excellent Bone Tomahawk via the slightly less-excellent Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966). John Carpenter’s Vampires also mixed the genres but here though, the film ditches any b-movie stylings and feels more in tune with the Coens’ Buster Scruggs.


The film stars Caitlin Gerard as Lizzy, a resourceful woman in a remote cabin on the American plains. She lives with just her husband, Ashley Zukerman as Isaac before being joined by Julia Goldani Telles as Emma Harper and Dylan McTee as Gideon Harper. With just 4 people, the women toil the crops as the men leave them for long stretches hunting and gathering.


Opening on a horrific scene of a pregnancy gone wrong, we know we’re not going to be in for an easy ride. The structure of the film flashes back and forth from the present, where Lizzy is surviving on her own, to the 4 people trying to settle in this harsh environment back in the past. The two intertwining narratives was a fantastic device to create mystery and leave questions unanswered. For some though, the lack of clarity between where we are in time could infuriate. And I have to admit myself, there were times of head-scratching to work out where we were in the story.


As Emma Harper gets pregnant, she begins to have visions and feelings of another presence in the area. Initially dismissive herself, Lizzy takes little notice of these until later when the wind – and whatever forces it is hiding – comes to her own door.


The dialogue is minimal but effective from scriptwriter Teresa Sutherland and Caitlin Gerard is great as the lonely woman battling supernatural entities and possibly her own sanity. The film is also beautifully shot and slowly allows the story to build before we get a shock scare or two.


With intrigue and violence, the film is ambitious yet doesn’t always hit its mark. The slow editing makes its 90 minutes seem longer, but in many ways the film is too short and the ending is a little rushed and offers little in the way of explanation. Although I suspect that was the point.


In conclusion, The Wind is an impressive and sporadically frightening first film which takes the large scale and uncharted American wild West and places its foreign nature into the cabin - and the mind - of a female pioneer. With heady themes of religion, redemption and the unfamiliar, you will be rewarded as you roam into this undiscovered and menacing windy wilderness.


★★★ ½


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Aug 23 2019 10:18AM



A Day in the Life of Midlands Actor Tim Watson


Midlands Movies has a brand new 'Day in the Life' feature series compiled by guest contributor and Leicester film producer Kelly McCormack. Each week we'll be looking at a different local person and their daily role within the Midlands film community.


With a host of productions regularly taking place at any one time, we hope to give you an insight into the world of local filmmaking - and the more often than not long days on set - to help raise understanding of a specific role during the production process.


First up is Birmingham actor Tim Watson who explains below his processes on a typical - and sometimes not so typical - day on set:


06:30. I wake up, get dressed, ensure that I get a good solid breakfast. After eating, I make sure that I have packed everything I need for the day ahead. I’ve been asked to bring a selection of different clothes for potential costume, so I make sure I’ve packed it ready.


07:15. I head to the gym for a quick 30 minute workout. I like to use this time to clear my mind, and to work out any stress I have before the shoot. After this, I have a quick shower, get dressed, and walk to the train station.


08:55. I arrive at the venue, about 35 minutes before the call time. I like to make sure that I’ve got to the location early, in case of any trouble on route. I use this time to grab a sandwich to eat later, fill up my water bottle, and about 20 minutes before my call time, I arrive on location.


09:15. I go and speak to the director and producer, discussing the schedule for the day. I’m told that there are no issues so far, and am shown to the room we’re going to use as a dressing room. We agree with the costume director on which pieces I would be wearing, and I change into my costume.


09:25. I sit with the make-up director, and get a moment to relax and run through the scene we will be shooting in my head. There is not much make up to be done for today, mainly on my hands and a small amount on my face, so I take this as a good chance to relax and do a few vocal warm ups.


09:30 The other actor arrives in the dressing room, and we have a brief conversation while we get ready for the shoot. Once we’re both ready, we begin to run line together while we wait to be called onto set. We also both do a couple of quick character building exercises, to get ourselves into the roles for the shoot.


09:50. We’re called onto set, and have a meeting with the director and producer. We’re told the shoot is running to schedule, and are given approximate times for breaks. We have a quick discussion with the director about his vision for the scenes we’re going to shoot today, and get ready to be on set. We’re then fitted with our microphones, and do a quick test shot to make sure they’re working correctly.


10:15-13:15. The shoot begins. I’m on set for most of the scenes being shot, so have to constantly be on my game. Even if I’m not in the shot, I try to make sure my delivery is the same as when I am, to give the other actor as good a performance as they are giving. After each shot, the director will discuss the performance and share their thoughts with us. I also have a couple of ideas on the shoot, and I discuss these with the director and we try these out as we film. When we’re not shooting, or I’m not in shot, I make sure that I have plenty to drink, and express any needs/concerns to the team, and work with them to ensure that I don’t delay the schedule. I also take the chance to watch the other actors working on their own scenes, using their performances to help build my characters and reactions to the scenes.


13:20. We break for lunch, having 40 minutes until we’re needed back on set. I sit down with the actor and the crew members, eat my sandwich, and discuss other work we’ve done. I use this time to build connections and help to understand more about their different roles and experiences. I find this really useful, and a great chance to improve my work in the future.


13:50. I quickly nip back to the dressing room, to check my make-up and costume before returning to the set. I also re-fil my water bottle, and run a quick vocal warm-up before the shoot restarts.


14:00-15:20. We get back to shooting. We’re running a little behind schedule, but have a plan to make up time in the later scenes, cutting a couple of angles on the next shots. Once again, I try to make sure that I give my best performance at all times, whether I’m visible to the camera or not.

15:20. There’s a quick scene change needed, and I need to have my make-up re-done for this scene. The other actor is finished for the day, but asks if he’s alright to stay and watch the rest of the shoot. We talk briefly, until I’m called back by the director.


15:45-17:00. We shoot the final scenes for the day. This time I am in every shot, so make sure that I am ready to give the best performance of my scenes. As before, after each shot the director discusses the shoot with me, and we work to get the scenes exactly right. This involves repeating the same actions many times, to be captured from different angles, so I am focused on performing my actions with the same precision and consistency each time.


17:00. Filming is finished for the day. I head back to the dressing room, to change out of my costume and get out of my make-up. I then go and have a chat with the crew, especially the director, to discuss the day’s work and note anything else which needs to be done in the future. I say goodbye to everyone, taking some contact details for potential future work, and head off to catch my train home.


Kelly McCormack


By midlandsmovies, Aug 22 2019 11:06PM



Under the Silver Lake (2019) Dir. David Robert Mitchell


In 2001 indie chiller Donnie Darko became an underground runaway success and director Richard Kelly followed up that intelligent dark drama with a film so bad, indulgent and incomprehensible (2006’s Southland Tales) it pretty much killed his career. Well, in true Groundhog Day style, this L.A.-set neo-noir mystery film is a gigantic misfire on almost all counts, which is a shame as fans of David Robert Mitchell’s 80s-infused horror It Follows were no doubt anticipating something exciting for his second movie.


The plot, if you can decipher it, involves Andrew Garfield investigating the sudden disappearance of his neighbour Riley Keough, but during his escapades uncovers a large and complicated conspiracy. A great score clearly influenced by Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock is about the only positive to recommend the film, as low-brow discussions on masturbation and nudity crossed with comics and animated sequences fill a ridiculous incoherent narrative involving songwriters, a dog killer and some underground Pharaoh bunkers.


Influences range from Mulholland Drive, Raymond Chandler and Chinatown as we get dream sequences, the seedy underbelly of the city and some classic detective tropes but although it’s never really boring, it’s always awful.


There’s a scene midway through that so sums up this gigantic misfire that you must think that the director is trolling the audience into disliking his own film. “Do you like the movie?” asks one character to Sam (Garfield) as he stands in a cemetery next to a HITCHCOCK grave watching a film before 3 girls get into a limousine with a fancy-dressed pirate. What? How VERY clever of you.


The music is stupidly on the nose such as it is, including the “Behind movie scenes” line from Cornershop’s Brimful of Asha to REM’s What’s the Frequency, Kenneth. Ambitious, weird and bizarre but consistently terrible, Under the Silver Lake is what 2 stoner mates may think was a good idea at 4am but the film is baffling in construction and makes a terrible attempt to satire the movie industry and provides a lame and superficial commentary on female representation.


The only reason I watched right to the end of the credits was because I was hoping to get a fucking apology. I didn't.


★ ½


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Aug 20 2019 07:48PM



Midlands Review - Can’t Hide It


Directed by Richard Miller & Grant Archer


2019


Body in the Box Productions


From Body in the Box Productions comes Can’t Hide It, the latest short film offering from the mind of Richard Miller.


The film starts with a woman sat at her dressing table, music playing heavily below, she stares at the mirror directly in front and deeply into her eyes. She seems distressed but we don’t know why. She lowers a festive Christmas jumper over herself, fixes her hair and proceeds to join the rest of the party.


The woman is revealed to be Kim (Esther McAuley) who is in the middle of hosting a Christmas party with her partner (Gavin Fowler). As the guests weave in and out, smiles plastered across their faces we see Kim at ease but with an uncomfortable vibe surrounding her.


We as the audience can detect something is not right, especially as Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion and not a tense, strained one.


Over the next few shots we see the couple making their way to a hospital, and as they arrive they gather their thoughts before they head to their appointment. It is apparent now one of them is ill, which is revealed to be Kim.


A nurse prepares her for chemotherapy and places a “cold cap” onto her scalp, this is designed to hopefully diminish the chances of hair loss during the procedure. She doesn’t want to lose one shred of herself to this disease. This is all shot on-location at the hospital in Burton, which adds extra credence to the picture.


Kim calls her parents to inform them of the news, something she hasn’t done until her first session of chemotherapy is over. An understandably emotionally charged Kim struggles as she explains what she will be going through over the next few months. It is tough viewing as we see a determined, strong woman enduring such a tough time.


Directors Richard Miller & Grant Archer successfully manage to portray a “real” relationship between the couple and their reaction to living with this disease. Kim’s partner remains positive and optimistic to support her, as well as throwing in the odd inappropriate joke about the disease to make her laugh. His role in the film is an important one, and the directors make sure to highlight how helpless the other half can feel whilst their loved one is in pain which is a refreshing take to see.


Can’t Hide It benefits from an absolutely powerhouse of a performance by Esther McAuley who deserves heaps of praise for her heart-breaking portrayal of Kim. Her chemistry with Gavin Fowler is also notable, and without this I doubt the film would have resonated as much as it did with this viewer.


I was familiar with Miller and Archer’s previous works such as the brilliant, darkly comic short film The Exchange that they directed a few years ago. However, Can’t Hide It is their best work I have seen so far. It is sometimes hard to look at the screen as it is that moving but only gentle hands could effortlessly move from scene to scene with precision like pace without sacrificing authenticity of the situation.


As the credits rolled I found myself wishfully hoping Kim had beaten it or was at least on the path to, these fictional characters are written with such care by Richard Miller that they could be any one of us or any one we know, it is something a lot of us have experienced first hand or second hand but a film that demands to be seen regardless.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer

By midlandsmovies, Aug 16 2019 02:39PM



Review - Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019) Dir. Quentin Tarantino


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a new film fable from Quentin Tarantino which harks back to a Hollywood cinema golden age yet mixes the loss of 50s innocence with 60s counter culture in the pulp-way only he knows how to.


Tarantino launches us into his screen obsessions (and in this film in particular, his love for the small screen) with a 4:3 black and white interview of TV Western star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his friend/stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).


Jumping forward to 1969 L.A. Dalton is concerned about his less-than-stellar career as the up and coming actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) moves in next door to him with her director partner Roman Polanski. Whilst the paranoid Dalton meets with agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) who encourages him to get into Italian Westerns, the laid-back Booth reminisces about a time he fought Bruce Lee whilst also meandering around town as a handyman seemingly without a care.


The Bruce Lee fight is one of the many comedic scenes and Tarantino’s fingerprints are all over the film which acts like a highlight reel of all his usual obsessions – Westerns (Django), martial arts (Kill Bill) and hippies and stunt-men (Death Proof) to mention just a few. But at 161 minutes oh boy is it long again, but at least it doesn’t take place in just one room like the disappointing chamber piece that was The Hateful Eight (our review).


As Rick Dalton tries his best to stake a claim in the movie world in Italy, Booth is enamoured by a hitchhiking hippie who takes him to the Spahn Ranch – the real-life desert commune location of the Manson Family cult. Radicalized by leader Charles Manson's teachings and unconventional lifestyle, Tarantino has brawly Brad searching for the ranch’s owner in one of the film’s best scenes. With tension and fear the director surprises the audience with the scene’s reveal whilst he returns with a violent ending typical of the director.


Tarantino also expertly plays with the medium of cinema too. We begin by watching the making-of a movie, but it literally becomes the movie in the absence of the film-crew and behind-the-scenes tech guys. But they are soon brought back in by Tarantino as he moves his camera back into place for a second take. And archive footage is mixed in with his usual eclectic soundtrack which feature classic hits from the era whilst almost 2 hours in, he decides to throw in a voiceover for good measure. Why not!


Perhaps the only director today to get away with such arrogant shifts in style, the film is so well made you can’t stop from watching – whether it be a slow-paced scene of Dalton reading a book, an elongated scene of Pitt making dinner for his narratively-important dog or the visually stunning shots of classic cars in the sun-drenched valleys.


And of course it is "about" the movies and history too. As Sharon Tate heads to a theatre to watch her own feature film, Margot Robbie is given few lines of dialogue but this gives power to her happy demeanour and innocent goldilocks which contrast with the audience expectations of the real-life tragedy that befalls her.


But as the film comes to its conclusion – Dalton has some mild success in Italy and returns with a new wife and Booth is let go as his odd-job man – four of the Manson Family members head to the Hollywood Hills preparing to murder these rich “piggies” of the motion pictures.


Tarantino plays upon the audience’s knowledge of the Sharon Tate case and yet like the best fairy tales of yore, he delivers a dream-like ending where the damsel in distress and wicked wolves (not Mr. Wolf) clichés are turned on their head.


The director throws everything into the flick where our focus on the real-life cursed heroine is actually sidelined by the enchanting performances of the fictional characters played by Pitt and DiCaprio.


Where fact and fiction blur, the film uses a terrific cameo by Damian Lewis as an uncanny Steve McQueen at the Playboy Mansion to continue with the real-life people in fictional set-ups. Excellent support also comes from Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern and the late Luke Perry as well as Tarantino regulars Kurt Russell and Zoë Bell (as stunt coordinators, what else) and Michael Madsen.


But does anyone live happily ever after? Well although there are no glass slippers, there are LOTS of shots of feet, Tarantino’s favourite fetish. But the film’s resolution is the really satisfying surprise here. Known for his love of violence it’s strange that although there is a very uncompromising finale, it may just be his most uplifting ending yet – providing a little bit of lost Hollywood hope.


Far better than his last film, yet not quite hitting the heights of a Django Unchained or Jackie Brown, the film demonstrates that Tarantino truly is in a class of his own in a period where franchise building has mostly replaced the draw of the big-named actor. But this incredibly satisfying love letter to these fictional pulp princes and real-life silver screen starlets provides a brilliant fantasy romance steeped in the glow of an era long gone.


Helter Skelter in a summer swelter indeed.


★★★★ ½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 16 2019 10:36AM



Midlands Spotlight - Hokum


Hokum is a new movie from Lee Charlish that is currently in pre-production and scheduled for a late 2019 release.


An ambitious project which is being entirely self-funded by Lee himself (who will also produce and direct his original screenplay), Hokum follows his previous projects where a great emphasis placed on creating ‘a world in which things seem out of place; awkward or decidedly unfamiliar’.


Leading to a distinctly unsettling feel, the movie’s subject matter involves the spiritual world, mysticism, tarot and demons - both real and imaginary.


Despite the confines of a non-existent budget, Lee says, “It has steadily evolved into something even bigger than the original premise which was larger than life already”.


“Thankfully, despite having no discernible budget or funding, it has been written with an appreciation of what’s realistically achievable without compromising its unique style and premise”.


With the possibility of the film being developed into a feature, the filmmaker still thinks the short packs a sufficient punch in its anticipated 18-minute run time.


Hokum itself tells the tale of Ash, who is tormented by demons and tries to obtain redemption from an angered spirit world. Donnie, his violent and thuggish accomplice, is desperate to lay his hands on illicit cash and will stop at nothing to obtain it, even if he must sell his own soul.


Described as a ‘fantasy chiller with elements of the real, the ethereal and surreal’, Lee adds, “It’s a big project with lots to go at and there’s plenty which could go wrong. However, there’s been a real buzz and lots of engagement with local, exciting talent who have volunteered their services since seeing early promotional material or have answered casting calls”.


Attached early on were Korky Films stalwarts Adrian Annis and Jim Low, who are described by Lee as the “superlative dream team”. “These guys are immense and really carry a scene. What’s important is that they completely get my style and the vibe I try to create and immerse themselves wholeheartedly into the mouth of madness! They are also both great fun without ego, which is important”.


Adrian Annis has an impressive CV in feature films and shorts and will play Shepherd, the Shaman and Jim Low has been cast as the movie’s important ‘baddie’ - Donnie. And recruited via Facebook casting calls are Elaine Ward, from Birmingham but now residing in Warwickshire, who will assume the role of The Clairvoyant and Peter James from Leicester who will take the role of the ‘troubled’ Ash. Elaine has also been in her own short film, Tea for Two which premiered at the Birmingham Film Festival in 2018.


Completing the cast are Alex Kapila from Stratford-Upon-Avon as Fortune, the drug-addled acolyte of Shepherd and Hannah Hargraves from Leamington Spa, as The Hostage.


To fulfil the movie’s ambitions, Lee’s vision will incorporate extensive production design elements and wardrobe to adorn the unique characters contained within the story.


And he finishes by saying, “Whether we can successfully pull it off is yet to be seen, but I’m excited and confident with all attached so far. There will be a powerhouse effort to get his made and in a way which does the story and script justice.”


Check out the poster above and more news on the official Hokum movie website here - https://leecharlish.wixsite.com/hokum



By midlandsmovies, Aug 16 2019 06:59AM



Midlands Review - The Cold Caller


Directed by Lee Charlish


2019


Korky Films


Made for under £500, The Cold Caller is a new horror short from prolific local filmmaker Lee Charlish of Korky Films


The director says it pays homage to 70s and 80s schlock which can be seen in the opening sequence where we find a with a woman tied to a chair in what looks like a killer’s scary basement.


Bound by the wrists and legs, the eerie location is filled with battered dolls, candlesticks and other paraphernalia that look straight out of Buffalo Bill’s home.


The blonde victim awakes to her predicament and spies a silhouetted person with a cleaver behind some plastic sheeting - the kind you see in an abattoir. The man is also masked in a homemade head covering which nods to similar fare seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre crossed with more recent horror Apostle.


The extensive production design has been clearly well-made and each item in the basement seems to nod to a movie in the genre. The director however appears to want to focus on this and so the shots seem a little gratuitous in displaying the hard production work rather than serve the story too much, certainly at the beginning.


However, with a clear love for slashers of the past some later shots certainly hint upon a nasty history in this place – a map with photos of girls pinned on the wall, a disgusting tea set on the table and jars of “who knows what” on a shelf.


Charlish does do a great job with the show-don’t-tell rule though. Tension builds from our own recollection of what these objects could signify from their place in horror cinema. And other than the cleaver on the chopping board and some heavy breathing as the girl begins to realise her plight, a freaky string-infused score is almost the sole sound of the short.


That is before the masked captor is shown creating some food whilst listening to an old-timey record as he possibly prepares a “last meal” for the kidnapped girl.


The film then turns on its head with a big dose of comedy but then quickly turns to a surprising grisly conclusion. The double-hander of the last two revelations are placed so closely in opposition to each other that it could jolt the viewer too quickly from one emotion to another - sadly not allowing either one to hit fully. I suspect that is the intention though and it’s better to be astonished by too much than indifferent with too little.


The Cold Caller then lovingly (can you call it that?) acknowledges the slashers of the past with a sympathetic young adult tortured by a deranged predator. The twist helps give the 3-minute short a bombshell ending and its mixing of tones recognises the roots of classic horror-comedies. So check out the short if you can, as you may just get a satisfying buzz from the tropes which will keep you on the hook from the start.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Aug 14 2019 06:48AM



Beware the Moon with The Blair Witch Project at Dudley Castle


On the evening of Saturday 3rd August, in between the sporadic heat waves of this summer, I got to experience an outdoor screening of The Blair Witch Project. It was shown in the grounds of Dudley Castle, and what a perfect venue for such an unsettling film.


The area was plentiful yet enclosed, and most brought their own blankets and chairs. The turnout was fantastic; there were couples, big groups of friends and just people by themselves who wanted to enjoy a classic movie with atmospheric value.


The company behind this event is the Flatpack Festival who run all sorts of creative events mixing art forms and transforming spaces. For the fourth year running, they have partnered up with Beware The Moon to host annual outdoor screenings within the grounds of Dudley Castle. For the Blair Witch Project, they amped up the dramatics with subtle projections of the Witch symbols and slow moving forests on the walls, as well as glowing orange backlights from within the castle. It was fair to say they definitely used its uniqueness to their advantage.


It’s also worth noting that the area had all the conveniences within reach, from hot food and a bar to bathroom facilities along the side so that the audience was rarely disturbed. I often find that open-air cinemas have the bare minimum of facilities, so this was great to see.



Dudley Castle also accommodates a zoo, and to get to the screening area, you get to pass some of the animals along the way. This quirky little adventure through the zoo at night, when it was its most quiet, was exciting, new and playful; much like the naive characters we were about to watch on screen. It was just an afterthought, but it did feel like we were all being lured into an unknown area with a seemingly cheerful and curious intent.


For anyone who hasn’t seen The Blair Witch Project, it’s about 3 filmmakers who venture out into the woods and document an urban legend. Things start to go a bit south when they can’t make their way out of the woods. The found footage is what the audience sees, and it is one of the first of its kind, inspiring many other handheld camera footage movies since 1999.


Admittedly I hadn’t seen it since its release date and there hasn’t really been an excuse to re-watch it again until the opportunity of watching a predominantly outdoorsy type of film in an open-air cinema cropped up. The settings for viewing it on a cool August night were perfect.


The sun set at the right time and as the movie progressed and the characters got lost further into the woods, the darker the sky became and the deeper the film got; the synchronisation was sublime. You felt quite involved as the projections onto the castle walls added a sense of unsteadiness to help emphasise with the characters, and when the wind blew and you felt a sudden chill on your neck, it was like you were there in the woods with them. It made the whole experience all the more realistic.


Beware The Moon have previously shown Bride of Frankenstein, An American Werewolf in London, Night of the Living Dead, Lost Boys and 2019’s double bill of Beetlejuice and The Blair Witch Project. As you can see, with this being the 4th year running, it is highly popular and to go to Dudley Castle – one of the most haunted locations in Britain, and absorb in the atmosphere, as well as indulge in cinema’s most frightful pieces of work, was one of the most exceptional experiences for me.


I would highly recommend this, and as well as keeping your eyes peeled for next year’s event, you can also help suggest what you’d like to see on the screen. Tweet @Flatpack and hashtag #BewareTheMoon and your voice will be heard!


Sam Fransico

https://twitter.com/IsoElegant



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