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By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2018 07:58AM



Midlands Spotlight – Irene’s Ghost


Midlands Movies Mike Sales finds out about new local film Irene’s Ghost made by filmmaker Iain Cunningham which covers a personal story about the search for a family member using animation and filmed footage.


Irene’s Ghost is a documentary which follows a son’s search to find out about the mother he never knew. The birth of his own child inspires the filmmaker to go on a journey to discover the truth about Irene, who passed away when he was just a child. Piecing together fragments of the past to make sense of the present he uncovers a long-held secret.


Directed by Iain Cunningham, the film is set around Nuneaton in Warwickshire and recently had a premiere at BFI London Film Festival. With plans to screen in cinemas next year and a local event in April 2019, Iain take centre stage doing the detective work to uncover his own mother’s story.


“I think that wanting to make this film is probably the reason I went into filmmaking in the first place”, says Ian. “The need to find out about Irene was always entwined with the desire to create something about her, to give her life a bit of poetry and give her a voice that she was in some ways denied in life”.


Irene died before Iain was old enough to form memories of her and after difficult decades where he was unable to broach the topic with his father, Iain encounters long-lost relatives and Irene’s best friend Lynn and gets to know his mother through the stories they tell.


From life in Nuneaton in the 1970s, factory work and living for nights at the Co-op Hall and holidays, the documentary pieces the puzzle of her life together, and slowly Irene’s personality comes to life.


Iain runs production company Forward Features and focuses on intimate and personal work. He decided to incorporate bursts of animation to illuminate memory and fantasy as he explores mental illness, grief and female friendship.


For more information on Irene’s Ghost check out the film’s official website and watch the trailer for the film below


www.irenesghost.com






By midlandsmovies, Nov 12 2018 07:12PM

MIdlands Feature - Cinematic Crusade - The Best Robin Hood movies


With Robin Hood, not since Sherlock Holmes has an iconic British legend been turned into so many movie adaptations over the years.


A report from the NME earlier this year says there are 7 Robin Hood films in the works. However, having just reviewed Robin Hood: The Rebellion I think they’ve missed at least one. Well, 7 or 8 is still a huge number for the same brand recognition but one thing is for sure – it’s a legend ripe for the reimagining!


With so many iterations over the years – from 1908’s "Robin Hood and his Merry Men" which marks the first appearance of the outlaw on screen to porn parody “Virgins of Sherwood Forest” – there hasn’t been a genre that the Robin mythos hasn’t been adapted into. But which of the many versions are the best? Well, with ours and Robin’s Midlands origins we attempt to look at 10 of the best Robin Hood films from cinematic folklore. Please read on...





10. Robin Hood (1991) Directed by John Irvin

The first of two 1991 Robin Hood films on our list – take a wild guess at the other – sees Patrick Bergin embody the outlaw whilst an up-and-coming actress by the name of Uma Thurman stars as Maid Marian. Directed by John “Raw Deal” Irvin and produced by John “Die Hard” McTiernan, sadly don’t expect too much in the way of solid action but owing to Kevin Costner’s huge film later in the year, this film has been regularly overlooked and certainly underappreciated. Fighting nobility, the plot uses the same set up as the 1938 film where a war between Normans and Saxons gets things moving but the movie sadly, and unwisely, jettisons the Sheriff of Nottingham (why?) for some new villains. Filmed on location at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire – a non-Nottingham theme we’ll be seeing more of later – the 19-year age gap between Begin and Thurman is a bit icky but it’s well worth checking out as a bit of a curio in the history of Hood on film.


Hood Fact: The use of "Your Majesty" wasn’t used until almost 200 years later, the word “thugs” derives from the Thuggee which Brits wouldn’t encounter for another five centuries, the bloodhound was not a favoured dog breed until the 1500s and when Friar Tuck says he can afford swan's breast in Madeira, the country wasn't actually discovered until 1419 so he would have had difficulty! To be fair, many of the other films on this list commit worse crimes than these nit-picks.



9. Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960) Directed by Terence Fisher

Tagline: “The NEW and Greatest Adventures of Robin Hood... The World's Most Renowned Swordsman!" Sword? Surely bow and arrow? Anyways, a little-seen version, Sword of Sherwood Forest is a Hammer Film Production (them of ‘horror’ fame) and stars Richard Greene – who reprises the role he played in The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series from 1955 to 1959. Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing takes on the part of the Sheriff of Nottingham who has nefarious plans to confiscate a rich estate and, as always, is thwarted by Hood acting on the side of good. Several clumsy sword fights can be forgiven owing to a genuine love for the material and acting heavyweight Oliver Reed appears, but is re-dubbed, as Lord Melton. Unlike a few hammy Hammer sets, the film looks glorious filmed as it was on location in County Wicklow, Ireland – but again not in Nottingham sadly.


Hood Fact: From 1954 to 1967 Hammer Film Productions released three different movies starring the famous outlaw – as well as this there was The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954) and A Challenge for Robin Hood (1967).



8. Robin Hood (2010) Directed by Ridley Scott

Well, it’s not perfect. And then some. Seminal director Ridley Scott – a man known for his visual prowess and epic scale – takes the legend and sadly removes any fun despite a film filled with great actors and impressive locations. Here, Australian Russell Crowe is cast as Robin and is not the first, and no doubt won’t be the last, person to struggle with an English accent. His infamous BBC radio interview had him hopping mad – then walking out – when its authenticity was questioned (click here). Alongside Crowe is one of the best casts in the business, which includes Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, and Max von Sydow. Yet it was the stodgy story and dour delivery that had people turning their noses up. Where’s Robin’s sense of mischief? Where is the adventure? Where is the film’s joy? For all its flaws though, you can still appreciate the fantastic Scott set pieces. Although, when seeing this film for the first time at the cinema I can still remember laughing out loud at the slow-motion sequence of Crowe popping out the sea (sea? In the legendary land-locked Nottingham?) in a shot of such ludicrous “epic-ness” there’s a perverse enjoyment of a film that takes a jaunty tale so seriously. You have been warned.


Hood Fact: The film's budget ballooned from $155 million to $200 million. Scott robbing from the rich film companies to deliver a poor film.



7. Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) Directed by Gordon Douglas

A 60s musical set in Chicago during the Prohibition where two rival gangs compete for control of the city's rackets seems an unlikely interpretation but with so many films of Robin Hood appearing over the years, it’s these new takes that can standout amongst such a busy marketplace. Written by David R. Schwartz and produced by (and starring) Frank Sinatra, the film sees new mob boss Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk) ordering other gangsters in town to pay him protection whilst “Robbo” (Sinatra) gets together a band of merry men including pool hustler Little John (Dean Martin) and Will (Sammy Davis Jr.). Before long, the gangster ends up robbing from the rich and giving to a poor city orphanage. In a twist however, Barbara Rush as Marian Stevens (Maid Marian) is as duplicitous as they come, playing off both sides and looking out only for herself and stealing tainted money. Mostly a spoof, the film features the rat-pack stars belting out a variety of slick speakeasy hits including "My Kind of Town" which is the centrepiece number and was nominated for the 1964 Academy Award for Best Original Song. A quirky oddity, there’s enough swinging style to give Robin an updated unravelling by jumping into the seedy gangster genre.


Hood Fact: For a legend often containing imprisonments, ransoms and money exchanges, a scene depicting a kidnapping was filmed for Robin and the 7 Hoods but was quickly cut when star Frank Sinatra's son was kidnapped in real life. The 19-year old was released soon after after Sinatra paid the $240,000 demanded.



6. Robin and Marian (1976) Directed by Richard Lester

Before tackling his own American icon in Superman II, director Richard Lester went back to the past heroes of the UK with this period romantic adventure starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Strangely including comedian Ronnie Barker as Friar Tuck, the film was mostly shot in sunny old Eng—actually in Zamora, Artajona and Orgi in Spain – standing in for France rather than the Midlands at times too. With this suspect geographical anomaly (a Robin Hood film tradition you will see as we continue to go through the list), the movie had big names, a score composed by John “007” Barry and came off the back of Lester’s take on another classic swashbuckler The Three Musketeers (1973). It moves away from the traditional narrative where we get an aging Robin Hood fighting abroad before his return to Nottingham but [SHOCK HORROR SPOILER WARNING] he actually dies at the end. An interesting look at age, legends, love and wisdom, Robin and Marian may be one of the most complex, and interesting, versions of the nostalgic tale to date.


Hood Fact: Connery seems inexplicably linked to the Hood fable from his appearance here to his cameo as King Richard the Lionheart in Prince of Thieves (1991). He also appeared in Time Bandits (1981) which featured John Cleese’s comical Robin Hood. And it doesn’t stop there as his own son Jason Connery would later play Robin Hood in Robin of Sherwood (1984)!



5. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) Directed by Mel Brooks

Parodying the Robin Hood myth – but more specifically the 1938 and 1991 film versions – Mel Brooks undoes some of the legend’s classicism and replaces it with the pratfalls, visual jokes and verbal gags seen in Brook’s previous comedies. Cary Ewes plays a solid Robin holding together the chaotic narrative stemming from the eclectic support cast and bit-players which includes Dave Chappelle (in his first film role and clearly inspired by Morgan Freeman’s Moor), Isaac Hayes, Tracey Ullman, Patrick Stewart and even Dom DeLuise. A point-of-view shot following an arrow’s impossible journey around a forest (in the trailer only no less) is another direct reference to Prince of Thieves and whilst it pokes fun, it respects the story’s heart and never feels like a direct dig at the tale. Favourite line? “Unlike other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent”. With this and some actors interacting with the crew on screen, Men in Tights takes a swipe at a number of past performances whilst warmly acknowledging the history of Hood on film into the bargain.


Hood Fact: As mentioned several times already, the geography of Great Britain is again suspect here – maybe intentionally so given the film’s parodic nature – but at the end of the movie when the camera is zooming out the castle is shown to be around Milton Keynes. Tut Tut.



4. Robin Hood (1973) Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

Can humanoid cartoon animals portray historical characters better than Russell Crowe? You bet your ass they can! Disney’s box office success found fans owing to its excellent voice cast, fun animation and catchy tunes and although it may have aged a little worse than its initial box office suggested, the movie’s biggest draw is its entertaining and light-hearted take on the hero. Languishing in development hell since the mouse house’s Snow White (1937) the tale is inspired by Reynard the Fox – a medieval fable featuring a trickster red fox character. This version’s Little John shares eerie similarities with Baloo from The Jungle Book (1967) who was also a bear that had been voiced by Phil Harris and classic sequences are incorporated from the traditional Robin Hood narrative. One such take is the cordial tree-crossing in which Robin Hood and Little John wander over a fallen tree which bridges a river – this twists their usual legendary fight at the same location.


Hood Fact: The famous gap on Terry-Thomas' teeth was incorporated into the design of the character he voices, Sir Hiss (a snake) – and it makes a handy opening for his forked tongue to dart out from.



3. Robin Hood (1922) Directed by Allan Dwan

As the first film ever to have a Hollywood premiere, held at the now legendary Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, Robin Hood was also one of the most expensive films of the 20s with a one-million-dollar budget. Douglas Fairbanks stars in this black and white silent movie as Earl of Huntingdon/Robin Hood and with sword fights, castles, horse chases and a feather in his hat, this much-lauded classic help set up many of the tropes we know from the films today. A massive film for its time, its use of over 1200 extras can be seen in spectacular battle scenes in huge Hollywood scale with some of its impressive sets being designed by architect Lloyd “Hollywood Bowl” Wright.


Hood Fact: Alan Hale, Sr. made such an impression as Little John in this film that he reprised the role sixteen years later in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) opposite Errol Flynn. Then he played the character again in Rogues of Sherwood Forest in 1950, 28 years after his initial performance in this original.



2. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Directed by Michael Curtiz

Considered by many to be the definitive Robin Hood interpretation, the film is most known for Errol Flynn’s magnetic performance of Robin but director Curtiz (of Casablanca and Mildred Pierce fame no less) should be equally lauded for helming this legendary production. As well as Flynn, superstar Olivia de Havilland stars as Lady Marian Fitzwalter (Maid Marian) whilst Basil Rathbone takes the role of Guy of Gisbourne. Melville Cooper’s take on the High Sheriff of Nottingham is underrated and once again a film company (this time Warner Bros.) made their most expensive film ever with its budget being a richly $2 million. With its adventure spirit, a host of dramatic yet charismatic performances and fantastic fights, this film is rightly held as the pinnacle of chivalric swashbuckling on film and won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Editing and Original Score from celebrated composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.


Hood Fact: James Cagney (of Curtiz’s earlier film Angels with Dirty Faces) was originally cast as Robin but walked out on his Warner Bros. contract and the filming was postponed three years, as a result – but paved the way for the role to go to Flynn.



1. Prince of Thieves (1991) Directed by Kevin Reynolds

As I have mentioned before on this site 1991 was a brilliant year for film which saw Terminator 2, Silence of the Lambs and JFK having huge critical and commercial success but it was Bryan Adams’ soundtrack song to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that takes me back to that infamous year. Spending what felt like 16 years atop the charts at number one (it was in fact a record-breaking 16 long WEEKS) the song’s cheesy love lyrics also earnt it an Academy Award but was the perfect accompaniment to a film that was (and still is to me) one of the guiltiest pleasures of the nineties. Costner’s intense and dodgy-accented New Orleans attorney in JFK from the same year was left behind for the dodgy-accented outlaw in a film which balanced both folk tale fun alongside serious issues of history, honour and guilt. Stealing the show of course is Alan Rickman’s BAFTA winning turn as the Sheriff which cemented his career playing legendary villains. It was also Rickman who brought in friend Ruby Wax to improve the Sheriff’s scripted dialogue. Also in on the act is a superb support cast including Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio who all give a bit of a depth to the characters we’ve seen dozens of times before. The brilliant rousing music score was composed by Michael Kamen and was subsequently used on Walt Disney trailers and gives me chills each and every time I hear it. The movie contains a split arrow sequence that nods to Flynn’s 1938 archery contest scene, a Sean Connery cameo as King John (who else, huh?) and lots of laughs and action that entertains to this day. Having kept the VHS of this film – I think it was the first one I ever bought – I’ve always had a soft spot for it and although it’s so cheesy it should be served with crackers, the film’s tone is the perfect adventure mix of silly and serious.


Hood Fact: Everyone always dismisses the film’s geography – land in Dover, get to Hadrian’s Wall then enter Nottingham by nightfall on foot but…..if the cliff is just a cliff and the wall just a wall then you can land in Grimsby at 5am in Summer and get to Loxley near Sheffield in 62 miles which is just kinda possible. And that’s what I’m sticking to.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Oct 24 2018 12:52PM



Incredibles 2 (2018) Dir. Brad Bird


The Incredibles is one of my favourite films from Pixar with its balance of warm family feels, amazing retro-style animation and a fantastic cast of characters – one of which, the diminutive designer Edna Mole, is voiced hilariously by the film’s director Brad Bird and returns here for its sequel.


That film demonstrated all the best bits of Pixar and their films with an universal appeal to children and adults alike. However, when it was announced there would be a sequel I had many reservations. Some of which began a Twitter disagreement where I argued that more of a good thing is, well, not always a good thing.


Picking up directly from the first, the Parr family of superheroes are tackling The Underminer (who appeared briefly at the end of the previous movie) but the collateral damage from their city-destroying encounter results in the authorities outlawing superheroes. A bit Watchmen here.


And like Watchmen, the film, at times, is incredibly dark. Although there are fun sequences throughout, the lighting has become even more extreme - bordering on seizure inducing - so be wary before taking your super young ‘uns to the cinema!


The story unfurls as Winston Deavor, the owner of a telecommunications business, suggests a publicity stunt to regain public trust in superheroes with support from his sister Evelyn.


The film flips the first’s conceit as Helen (Holly Hunter as the “stretchy” Elastigirl) is the one chosen to represent their cause and track down new villain Screenslaver. Whilst Mr. Incredible himself – the burly Bob played by Craig T. Nelson – reluctantly becomes a stay at home dad. In a posh new technological advanced house, he helps/hinders his children with their dating-life (Violet), homework (Dash) and uncontrollable superpowers (Jack Jack).


The film’s male/female role-reversal is a good twist on the original’s traditional family dynamic and Elastigirl’s rubber body provides the film’s most exciting action sequences. Whether she’s stopping a runaway train, bouncing through corridors or creating a parachute with her body, Pixar sure know how to do inventive and kinetic action fun like no other.


However something just didn’t quite hit the mark in all this. The opening goes for action over character build-up, then we enter a character development section that verges on the dull. The conversations surrounding family roles are honourably progressive but slow down the narrative to such a pace that the film was aching for some lighthearted comedy skits for the kids. And to be honest, myself too! Many will feel that this is its best selling point but we’re talking an animated sequel here – not Empire Strikes Back. Also, hiding the main villain’s identity aims to create mystery but the anonymous antagonist is a gaping hole usually filled by Pixar’s excellent design team who created Sid, Lotso Bear, Stinky Pete et al.


A welcome reappearance of Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone and more than highly competent voice performances from the cast are wonderful call-backs to the more rounded original. And whilst Pixar movies are always a quality affair – the animation perhaps bordering slightly too close to reality here – in their attempts to add depth they’ve lost a tiny bit of heart along the way. Simply credible.


7/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Sep 28 2018 02:33PM



Leicester animators involved in National Animation Competition AniJam UK


The public can now vote for their favourite animation created as part of AniJam UK, the first ever nationwide 48-hour animation challenge, which includes two groups from Leicester.


This summer, teams across the UK took up the challenge to create a short animation in a weekend, based on the theme ‘Together’. More than 100 animators took part, and now the shortlisted teams are battling it out to claim exclusive prizes and special trophies.


The competition is brought to you by Anim18 and WONKY Films. Anim18 is a UK-wide celebration of British animation led by Film Hub Wales and Chapter (Cardiff), with the BFI Film Audience Network and a wealth of project partners.


The series of AniJams takes inspiration from previous events delivered in the South West of England since 2012 by WONKY and Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival. This year they are extending nationally and the challenge will culminate in a prize-giving event at Manchester Animation Festival.


Each of the seven regions approached it from a different angle and were created over the summer in Belfast (with Nerve Centre), Bristol (with Encounters), Cardiff (with CHAPTER), Glasgow (with Glasgow Short Film Festival/World of Film Festival), Leicester (with Phoenix), London (with Rich Mix & Young Fan), Manchester (with Manchester Animation Festival) and York (with Aesthetica Short Film Festival).


You can help to decide the winner of the Public Choice award with voting closing on the 31st October 2018 by clicking here http://anijam.co.uk/latest-jam


Animators aged 18+ competed for free in teams of up to 5 people, creating an original film based on a theme that was kept secret until the challenge kicked off. The short films are in a range of animation styles, from 15 to 90 seconds in length.


As well as the Public Choice Award, there will be a Grand Prix selected by a panel of industry experts, including representatives from key UK film and animation festivals, studios and organisations such as BAFTA Cymru and the BFI. Prizes include bespoke trophies created by Animation Toolkit, delegate tickets to key UK festivals, and distribution by ShortsTV – ‘the global home of short movies’.


AniJam UK aims to inspire and showcase new work from emerging and established talent and the regional heats took place in cities around the UK hosted in the Midlands by partners including Derby QUAD and Leicester Phoenix.


Hana Lewis of Film Hub Wales says, “We are thrilled that an eclectic range of UK exhibitors, from venues to film festivals, are coming together to develop new animations during Anim18, merging film watching, making and understanding as part of one celebratory programme.”


Two of the local films can be seen below:


‘Together’ by Kino Bino, Leicester was made by Mair Bain, Oz Durose, Steff Lee and Jack Ross






Together’ by Tender Morsels, Leicester was created by Tim Greengrass, Claire Larkin, Alex Morgan, Mark Spokes and Steve Umanee






By midlandsmovies, Aug 5 2018 07:00AM



Isle of Dogs (2018) Dir. Wes Anderson


Pretentious. Hipster. Smug. You name it, I’ve said it about Wes Anderson films. His pop-up book aesthetic and cardboard characters have never done it for me sadly. Where there have been successes – my favourites being 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums and 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – the bold colourful stylistic choices from the director found fans from across the spectrum, but for me the hollow “model railway” compositions have often been a side-show nuisance. And with a similar look to all his output I’ve consistently struggled to discover much development beyond his first few movies.


But – and it is a real big but – his latest film Isle of Dogs is nothing short of a triumph. And I’m as surprised as anyone. This stop-motion animation has all the director’s usual norms, yet here they are in the service of a shaggy dog tale that works on many levels.


Loosely inspired by seeing a road sign for the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets (England), Anderson has set his film in a near-future Japan, where a canine-flu outbreak sees dogs banished to Trash Island by Mayor Kenji Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura). 6 months later, the Mayor’s young nephew Atari then crash lands on the island as he searches for his exiled dog called Spots.


Saving Atari from a less-than-pleasant rescue team is a pack of hounds comprising Bryan Cranston as Chief, Edward Norton as Rex, Bob Balaban as King, Bill Murray as Boss and Jeff Goldblum as Duke. The group agree to help Atari in his search as a journey begins across the bizarre island.


Anderson’s “flat” shooting style works perfectly here and is reminiscent of Asian shadow puppetry seen using Kageboushi (silhouette). This ancient form of storytelling and entertainment uses back-lit cut out figures and although Anderson’s brilliantly animated scruffy dogs have more shape to them, his 2-D worlds sit nicely within this cultural look.


As a prelude to cinematography with use of slides, music and voice, Anderson’s film uses this influence to make his film simplistic but also cinematic. The voice work of established Anderson veterans is superb – with a world weariness coming across in each of their husky tones. Their gruff smarminess is complimented with real emotion and pathos whilst Anderson doesn’t scrimp on the silly comedy at times too.


A stylistic choice to avoid English subtitles on the Japanese speakers further emphasises the shared cultural understanding and far from appropriation, I saw the film’s focus on Asian ancestry as a love-letter to its many respected charms, beliefs and customs. The animation and design are also top-notch. Each dog has its own persona whilst their tribulations through garbage factories and fights with other packs are excellently conveyed in sequences filled with Anderson’s dry wit.


Another fine detail is the multi-faceted nature of the movie. One could read it as a cultural discussion, an auteur animation, a fight against power, a look at family units or just simply a tall children’s tale and all would be valid. Like the best of Pixar – Isle of Dogs takes universal ideas and delivers them back to a young and a mature audience to interpret without flagrantly pandering to either.


For someone who was incredibly indifferent about this director’s previous work, it has been more than a pleasant experience to find a film that satisfies me like most of them satisfy his fans. Cameos from Greta Gerwig, Tilda Swinton and even Yoko Ono round out the eclectic cast and provide some unique depth to the more basic story. So, the Isle of Dogs comes highly recommended from me and I found this surprising litter of canine characters and prevailing pedigree pups an absolute joy throughout their adventures on Trash Island.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jan 20 2018 09:57AM



Coco (2018) Dir. Lee Unkrich


Mariachi music and sumptuous Hispanic design abound in Pixar’s latest story about a young boy with dreams of becoming a famous musician. Based around the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead, the film follows 12-year old Miguel who enters a talent contest despite his family having banned music.


Miguel subsequently becomes cursed after stealing a guitar connected to a long lost family member and can then only be seen by the dead but no longer the living. With his body slowing turning to a skeleton, Miguel must receive a blessing from a (dead) family member in order to return to the real world before sunrise in order to aovid being stuck there for eternity.


Having been transported to the land of the dead, the aspiring musician seeks the help of Héctor, a skeleton who once played guitar, who in returns asks Miguel to take his photo back to the living world before his daughter forgets him and he disappears completely.


The film’s, somewhat convoluted, narrative hits all the regular beats – family, escaping into other worlds, life lessons and cute animals – so isn’t exactly groundbreaking in that department. That said, Pixar do this so well that I warmed to the film despite these minor criticisms.


The animation, although sadly getting closer to uncanny valley at times especially on the elderly Coco (Miguel’s great-grandmother), is in fact still utterly fantastic. As a guitarist myself I was frankly astonished at Miguel's guitar playing shots. Cartoons often use vague movements to create chord shapes giving their complexity but Pixar have produced another marvel here. From Sully’s wintery fur in Monster’s Inc. to Wall*E’s realism, Pixar have prided themselves on their technical expertise and the real strings, fingering and strumming is a fantastic addition to their repertoire.


Another standout design was the brilliant Pepita which is an imposing Alebrije – a brightly coloured mythical creature based on Mexican folk art. Acting as a spiritual guide, I can see this jaguar-eagle-ram beast becoming next Christmas’ must-have stocking filler with its cute face but terrifying wings!


The other worldly design is a celebration with its use of well-known iconography without (too) many stereotypes, although there’ll no doubt be a number of Twitter “hot takes” on its appropriation but Coco is a world away from any offensiveness with its warm celebration of folklore.


The day-glow colours maintain the visual spectacle but shouldn’t overshadow the fine sound design which is a key aspect too. Not just the reverb of the acoustic guitars but audiences will enjoy the clacking of skeleton bones, dog barks and animal screams alongside the smooth Hispanic accents. A great voice cast of Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel, Gael García Bernal as Héctor, Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto and Ana Ofelia Murguía as Mamá "Coco" Rivera are the main standouts and each one brings a unique “spirit” to their parts.


If there was one criticism it would be the narrative itself. Bordering on confusing it portrays various religious rites of passages, superstitions and customs that are slightly under-explained for the uninitiated. If it’s not a blessing or a curse, it’s a complex family tradition and with the huge number of characters the story bones felt unconnected. Although it may not be suitable for the youngest of viewers, the film never loses sight of its important themes however, and it delivers far more often than not.


As someone who lost my mother in 2017 and my musician dad just over a year ago, the film’s conclusion had me in tears with its fantastic song “Remember Me”. Its story crescendo of being remembered, family ties and getting older hit home in a personal way reminding me of the emotional ‘Father and Son’ sequence in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.


Not without its flaws, I cannot honestly say it is a Pixar ‘classic’, the film does however take enough successful chances. A celebration of traditional cultures, amazing production design and a story that combines family with music, Coco will no doubt leave audiences feeling it in their fingers all the way down to their bones.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2017 06:12PM



Random Acts and Rural Media - Part 3


In our third and final part we cover 4 more filmmakers who are part of the region’s Random Acts and Rural Media partnership. From all across the Midlands, please read below to find out more of the young talent the area has to offer.


For the previous blogs - Part 1 please click here and for Part 2 please click here.


Body Language (Nottinghamshire)

Michael Mante’s film shows a krump dancer performing amidst the ills, filth and degradation of his urban environment in a surreal art exploration of gentrification, classism and racism. Michael is an aspiring filmmaker, both directing films and writing screenplays with his creative ambition to use film to speak to audiences, ask them questions, and encourage viewers to ask themselves questions. Michael adds, “Visual literacy is the world's most poignant language and I try to use that to communicate the things I see in everyday life.”





Everyday Choreography (Shropshire)

Everyday Choreography is a charming short dance film by Caldonia Walton following Gerrard, an overworked 45-year old man on his way home from a tiring day at the office. He puts his headphones in to forget about his worries and finds himself amongst amusing interactions with two people who alter his outlook on life. Caldonia is a 23-year old dance performer and choreographer from Shropshire who creates dance work that links with theatre, text and film, using clear narratives about the world we live in realised through physical movement and a touch of comedy.




Yellow Wallpaper (Warwickshire)

Inspired by the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Gilman(1892), this short film from Hayley Egan uses dance to portray the claustrophobic and cruel consequences of how ‘rest cure’ kept 19th century women compliant, which resulted in an increase in mental health problems and feelings of confinement and frustration. Through dance movement, our female protagonist will find solace in the yellow wallpaper, yet is driven to exhaustion by her frustrating predicament. Hayley Egan is young filmmaker/producer from Coventry now working in London.




Taking Up Space (Staffordshire)

Emily Mulenga’s animation covers the notion that time and space in the art world and academia are not often dedicated regularly to people of colour, most notably women. Emily grows to Godzilla proportions and takes over the city in this thoughtful short from this young talented visual artist from the West Midlands.









By midlandsmovies, Dec 2 2017 09:46AM



Random Acts and Rural Media - Part 2


We take another look at a selection of young filmmakers from across the East and West Midlands who have been involved in the Random Acts/Rural Media programme in the region. Please check out the talented filmmakers and their films below.


To read more about other filmmakers from the programme please check out Part 1 of our showcase here.





The Legend of Rawry (Herefordshire)

A fantasy drawing animation based on the Michael Bailon’s own drawings, this short focuses on dragons and more. Introduced by Michael himself who has autism, the filmmaker is a young artist who is from the ASD community. AT just 17 years old Michael’s inspiration includes Pixar, Manga, Marvel and of course himself.





Dancer of the Future (Herefordshire)

Made by Anna Campbell her film focuses on pole-dancing which only recently has become a fitness phenomenon which celebrates the aspects of women which have historically been repressed: strength and sexuality. Anna says that “Pole represents a shift in how women view their bodies: from the aesthetic to the functional. The extent to which women will cripple themselves in order to exaggerate feminine beauty can be seen in footwear. Pole dancers now are barefoot, as utility becomes more important than image; pole is about what the body can do, not how it looks”. Anna Campbell is a creative writing student with a passion for filmmaking and pole-dancing.



Impact (Worcestershire)

"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is most commonly associated with veterans of war, however, many diagnosed with PTSD are affected through other traumas. This short drama by Eleanor Smart explores the stigma surrounding PTSD. Elle is a graduate from University of Worcester and has a degree in Digital Film Production & Screen Writing.



Super Citrus Force (Leicestershire)

Filmmaker Laurence Maybury creates a crime-fighting duo who have to stop an evil villain from objectifying women... LITERALLY! The film is a combination of British surrealist comedy and Japanese special effects from the 24 year-old filmmaker who has a degree in media production and has been making short films since he was just 16.



Oblivion (Lincolnshire)

This animation from Sarah Worcester is a first person POV film that allows the viewer to feel like they are inside the trapped world of someone who is suffering with a mental illness. The young animator from Lincolnshire is influenced by Florence & the Machine and has found her Random Acts experience “artistically exciting and challenging”.












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