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By midlandsmovies, Jun 13 2019 02:50PM



David and Goliath


2019


Produced by Nisaro Karim and directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


Five Pence Productions


“You have to, brother. You’ve been chosen to defeat the giant Goliath”.


Five Pence Productions are a new West Midlands company and David and Goliath is its first ever production and one which recounts the famous Biblical tale from yore.


We open in the woods where a reluctant David (Sam Malley, The Chase) is given a slingshot by his mother and tells him to have faith in a planned fight with Goliath - whilst his younger brother optimistically offers to help him on his quest.


A stirring soundtrack sees David then walk into the distance to begin his journey before meeting a girl (Return of the Ring's Rhi Hardman as Abigail) who chides him for his use of a slingshot to best the “crusher of skulls”. But she too offers to join him and his brother on their expedition.


However, just moments later Goliath (Nisaro Karim from Reversal) arrives at their feet – literally – as he pratfalls down a hill but warns them of an even bigger danger in their midst – a colossal Titan!


Some nifty scripted word-play and a splattering of dead-pan delivery of the dialogue gives the short some pep and liveliness that is certainly refreshing to see in a world of regional shorts that are often dramatic and serious in nature.


And filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz uses a bit of Lord of the Rings-style forced perspective and woodland locations to echo the tropes of cinematic fantasy – albeit on a small budget.


From coy flirting to embarrassing slip-ups, the short undermines mythical legends but does so with enthusiasm and its tongue firmly in its cheek. Visual gags add to the humour and each jokey sequence shows an affection for the classics – but one the production is happy to poke fun at.


It is also great to see the director again jump genres by trying out various filmmaking styles and tones in their body of creative work. And this has clearly helped them develop an excellent grasp of different aspects of cinema – including a bloody and frantic fight between David, Goliath and the “lofty” Titan towards the end of the short.


A pleasing parody, David and Goliath therefore ends up being as an amusing and silly spoof with a lot of warmth generated by the terrific cast - who are effective at delivering both punch-ups and punchlines.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, May 29 2019 02:09PM



Socks and Robbers


Directed and written by David Lilley


2019


“Stitched up and totally stuffed”.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Michael Sales





By midlandsmovies, May 26 2019 03:39PM

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


★★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Apr 8 2019 08:35AM



Midlands Spotlight - A Sort of Burial


A Sort of Burial is a new comedy, currently in pre-production, from Coventry based production company, Korky Films which was written by and will be directed by Midlands filmmaker Lee Charlish.


The film follows Alistair who is late for a funeral which annoys many including Carla who is there to say goodbye to her loyal family friend who is has now passed away. With the Vicar starting the service and Harry 'the fencer' having a job to do, the film is a funny look at a final send off.


Written by Midlands Movies Awards winner Lee Charlish, he again assumes directing and editing duties on this new film and he feels it’s a departure from his recent, more darker offerings.


Carla, the movie’s lead, will be played by Korky Films stalwart Marian ‘Mazzy’ Elizabeth who Lee describes as "solid, dependable and talented and she was the natural choice to assume the grief stricken and highly-agitated Carla".


Alistair, her hapless close friend will be played by Leicester-based actor, Martyn Luke. Lee adds, "Martyn is a well-established voice-actor who has provided voices on a few Korky Films animations previously. However, he is true talent in front of the screen too and is soon to appear in a few other local short films. His comic timing and expressive personality will bring the right level of credence to the often ‘put upon’ Alistair".


In addition, Leamington-based filmmaker Mark Hancock, who recently played The Psychopath in the last Korky Films ‘live-action’ release The Cold Caller, will assume a decidedly different role as Harry the Fencer.


And completing the cast is Stoke-based acting talent, Harrington Day as The Vicar, Gregory. "An accomplished, local actor, Harry is in constant demand by filmmakers for his professionalism and acting brilliance. He will compliment proceedings with a stoic and reverential turn in front of the cameras", says Lee.


As with The Cold Caller, the crew list for A Sort of Burial isdeliberately small as again, the production will be total self-funded. Like a lot of local filmmakers, Lee will use his house and garden, and minimal exterior locations as well, to keep costs deliberately down.


But Lee doesn't want to stop there. "More, larger scale scripts have been written, however, for the short-term, I have concentrated on preparing a slate of smaller-scale films, deliberately written so they can be filmed economically on a shoestring budget".


He adds, "To be clear, everyone gets paid; we fully support the needs of creatives, but we just cannot compete with projects who secure funding. For us, it just isn’t there, despite our output and successes. That said, our small-scale movies are no less ambitious and the level of professionalism we squeeze out of productions is a testament to the team’s talent".


Behind the camera is Damien Trent, another Coventry-based filmmaker (from Doktored Films) and Damien has previously worked as a sound recordist on the Korky Films/Jam-AV production, Scarecrow and operated camera on The Cold Caller. And finally, Ryan Clarke, a new member of the team will provide assistance to Lee as First AD.


Lee is currently looking for local musicians who may be able to assist in crafting a score and/or creating an original song to complement proceedings.


"The movie also requires a sound recordist and we're actively trying to recruit a competent professional before shooting begins on May 5th in Coventry, West Midlands".


For more information follow Korky Films on Twitter and Facebook




By midlandsmovies, Apr 2 2019 03:30PM



Midlands Review - A Helping Hand


Directed & written by Debbie Daniels


2018


Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers present A Helping Hand, a short film about an elderly man who is now sleeping during the day and active throughout the night. This isolated way of living forces him to seek help, with surprising results.


Arf (Arthur Fletcher) due to continued lack of sleep has now resigned himself to operating during the night and falling asleep in the day. The audience can see early on that he isn't happy with this arrangement as he is seen routinely opening his bedroom door, longing for normality, longing for sleep.


Writer and director Debbie Daniels, through a series of shots show the viewer how Arf lives his life. Because he cant sleep at night he is forced to carry out tasks such as shopping, gardening and cleaning in unsociable hours. Mute and glum with depression.


Arf decides to visit Dr Spellman where he reveals he is a widower, and since his wife's passing he has had trouble adjusting to sleeping alone. The good doctor discourages medication and recommends a “co-sleeper”, someone who will physically take the place of his late wife in bed to give Arf the familiar feeling of sleeping next to someone. Arf, taken aback by the unusual prescription agrees to give it a go.


Leah (Fiona Dunn) is introduced shortly after, lifting Arf's spirits immediately. The introduction of this character also elevates the films pace, as I enjoyed watching Arf and Leah's relationship grow in what should have been an awkward encounter. In stark contrast to Arf's conventional way of living, Leah brings with her otherworldly candles, props and music to help lull Arf into a deep slumber. Both characters are written beautifully, Arf's willingness after his initial scepticism warms me to his character whilst Leah's hunger for helping people make her a joy to watch.


“Remember, you can do anything you wan, be anything you want, you've got your whole life ahead of you” Arf says as he waves Leah goodbye after an unsuccessful effort to help him regain a normal sleeping pattern. Dave, another co-sleeper is introduced but to no avail until a third co-sleeper, an elderly lady Ann enters Arf's life. Will Arf be able to succeed in Dr Spellman's counselling and be able to live the life he wants to?


A Helping Hand is a light hearted story regarding a sombre subject which another director might have been heavy handed in their approach however director Debbie Daniels handles the story with a gentle touch surrounding Arf's evident discomfort with humorous moments.


Daniels is also responsible for the inspired choice of casting Arthur Fletcher as Arf as he gives a great performance. Fletcher is the films anchor as he commands attention in every scene and also to have great chemistry with all three of the supporting actors is a serious achievement.


The aspect that stood out for me the most whilst watching this film was friendship and the potential strangers have to be of importance to one another.


Shot on location in Sutton Coldfield, A Helping Hand reminded me of particular type of film that Britain does excellently, the mature comedy-drama. Go check it out.


For more information on Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers please click on this link.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer


By midlandsmovies, Jan 29 2019 02:58PM



The Chase (2018)


Fight Club production in association with Five Pence Productions.


Directed by Nisaro Karim & Sam Malley. Written by Nisaro Karim


A trio of contract criminals are assigned a case whereby they must steal a Christmas present from an empty household, only the job doesn’t turn out to be quite as straightforward as they had anticipated.


Sometimes I see films and I have to admire the potential they showed, even if they don’t quite hit the mark in terms of their execution. What Sam Malley and Nisaro Karim have created with The Chase is something that is a very solid foundation for what could go on to be a well-developed concept should they continue to invest in it.


What piques my interest most here is the premise and the number of questions it raises for the viewer. First and foremost, we have a story that centres around the bad guys, which is never a bad thing in my eyes. Generally speaking, the dodgier the character, the more intriguing the narrative tends to be. The thing with villains is they’re grafters. They always have to work hard, whereas the heroes - no matter how high the odds may be stacked against them - they always seem to come out on top with little or no hardship.


So the fact that I’m straightaway presented with two not-so-good characters as the front runners here tells me that the filmmakers also acknowledge this in some way, and I can appreciate that. What I think would be beneficial is that, going forward, how these people got to be where they are today gets explored.


To be able to get inside the head of a villain is always a fascinating thing, and would absolutely add layers of depth to what is a promising blueprint. Add to this the fact that little notes are added throughout the story with the intention of capturing attention and suddenly you have something that shows a lot of potential indeed. Some of these are a bit on the nose, for example, a package with content that remains a mystery from start to finish. However when you look at the bigger picture, it’s the slightly less obvious details that raise the bigger questions, which is another thing I was a fan of.


There were some moments that felt like they were supposed to be more comedic that didn’t hit the mark for me. For the most part, the downfall occurred in one of two ways. Either the generations involved in making the jokes didn’t fit, such as when there is the opening exchange between Dima and Daisy regarding Daisy’s Netflix viewing habits, or the responses to certain situations weren’t reactive enough, and were just too straight-laced.


Personally, I don’t think comedic elements are really needed here if I’m perfectly honest. I think out-and-out crime drama is the approach I’d prefer, and which I think would work better as getting the balance just right with lighter moments is hard and can carry some weight when it’s even just slightly off.


Overall, I do feel like there is a lot of potential there with The Chase, but it does need more development. Foundations are strong, but I think before any future projects are built upon them some of the writing could be tightened up a little bit, and it needs to have more confidence with whatever direction it is headed in.


There is a good idea here, and I think with the right amount of love it could grow into something great. It’s a work-in-progress, but definitely one where the bigger picture is worth keeping an eye on.


Kira Comerford


Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Jan 17 2019 09:02PM



The Favourite (2019) Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos


Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne in this bawdy black comedy-drama that sees the eccentric and frail head of state avoid her kingdom’s woes as she gets caught up in a tit-for-tat but serious squabble between her confidante Sarah and Sarah’s poorer cousin Abigail.


La La Land’s Emma Stone plays Abigail Hill, a fallen woman who arrives caked in mud and is soon to set to work as a maid amongst the luxurious palace rooms. Despite undertaking menial labour she has her sights set on bigger things and begins a surreptitious plan to move up society’s ladder by usurping Sarah (Rachel Weisz) in the Queen’s affections.


Abigail begins by assisting the Queen with her ailments before planting more sinister seeds to curry favour with the throne. Once it is revealed that Sarah is in fact involved in a lesbian affair with the monarch, Abigail discovers another way into the Queen’s good books – via her bed.


Lanthimos shoots his film with glorious cinematography using wide angle and fisheye lenses to show the vast spaces in the stately house, and the sumptuous chequered floors provide a metaphorical board for the chess pieces to play out their game. The pawns of Weisz and Stone try to checkmate the Queen but their false appearance of power is not quite the same as the actual divine power of royalty.


There’s plenty of humour to be had as well and the three leads are nothing short of phenomenal on screen. Funny when needed, whilst also showing vulnerability and empathy, the trio of amazing actresses fully come into their own with their vicious put downs and deliciously devilsome dialogue.


A (very small) hint of Trading Places occurs as Stone’s lowly serf becomes a lady in waiting whilst Weisz’s influential lover is brought to her knees when she is drugged and almost killed after falling from her horse.


The fine female cast are pushed to the forefront whilst the men in court definitely take second fiddle. And as the women fire guns, slap each other and drink heartily, the males are caked in make-up and wigs and pushed behind in an interesting twist on the period drama formula.


Nicholas Hault as Robert Harley is the best of the background bunch where he gets to act like a total arse throughout and is given some of the best and most profane dialogue, playing his own games in parliament and beyond.


But it really is Colman, Stone and Weisz’s show. The power games, the flip-flopping and the sparring of physical and verbal humour are delivered impeccably by all three and allow the actresses to create fully-rounded characters we can sympathise with. Yet the audience can just as easily hate when the trio’s primal and nasty game-playing comes to prominence. But either way, their conniving deceits provide plenty of juicy drama to enjoy.


Stylistically it couldn’t be further from the director’s previous film The Killing of a Sacred Deer (review here) which appeared in our Top 20 of 2017 which was far slower, slightly meandering (in a good way) and conceptually abstract. Whilst this is far more accessible, similar mythical and classical themes are explored where power, retribution and revenge all come in to play throughout the narrative.


The lighting is natural and adds to the period realism where night time scenes are lit by candle flame echoing a similar technique seen in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon whilst the score utilises the classic music of composers like Handel and Bach.


Whilst its historical accuracy can be hotly debated, like Tarantino’s take on history I don’t see this as some quasi-realistic portrait and it sure has far more in common with a Carry On film than period-precise documentation. That said, with Anne keeping 17 rabbits to represent each of her child-bearing tragedies, Lanthimos doesn’t let the humorous aspects stop him from exploring the morbid issues of motherhood, dominance and sovereignty in all its forms.


However, with its added darkness and the Machiavellian machinations of the three protagonists, the film is full to the brim with incredible performances alongside some eccentricities in its technical aspects, plus we mustn’t forget its terrific quip-filled script. The Favourite therefore is a formidable film from a director who takes weighty themes and provides a theatre for three mighty actresses to deliver some of the best performances of the year and possibly of their career.


★★★★ ½


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Dec 28 2018 02:07PM



‘Lighten Up’ - Classic comedies screening in cathedrals


QUAD (Derby)’s programme of ‘BFI Comedy Genius’ film screenings tours UK cathedrals

QUAD in Derby has a programme of film screenings called ‘Lighten Up’ taking place in cathedrals across the country in January 2019. ‘Lighten Up’ has been programmed as a part of ‘BFI Comedy Genius’, a nationwide season celebrating the best in film and TV comedy, supported by funds from the National Lottery, led by Film Hub Midlands on behalf of the BFI UK Film Audience Network.


‘Lighten Up’ screenings will take place from November 2018 until January 2019, in cathedrals across the country, including at Southwark Cathedral, Portsmouth Cathedral and Coventry Cathedral. Further screenings at additional cathedrals are to be confirmed. The events will feature an extra special twist with live organ accompaniment or projection mapping on the buildings.


In January three films come to Coventry Cathedral Duck Soup, Sister Act and Monty Python's Life Of Brian. In Duck Soup, the small state of Freedonia is in a financial mess, borrowing a huge sum of cash from wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont). She insists on replacing the current president with crazy Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) and mayhem erupts. To make matters worse, the neighbouring state sends inept spies Chicolini (Chico Marx) and Pinky (Harpo Marx) to obtain top secret information, creating even more chaos! Duck Soup (U) screens at Coventry Cathedral on Friday 11th January, doors are open from 6:30pm, film starts 7:15pm. Tickets are £9 or £7 Concessions.


In Sister Act Whoopi Goldberg exchanges the sequins for a habit and the nightclub for the convent when lounge singer Deloris Van Carter witnesses her mobster boyfriend kill-ing someone. The police place her in a witness protection programme in the last place anyone would expect: a convent. Struggling with the change in lifestyle, Deloris is finally ordered to join the choir and turn the timid nuns into a choir of singin’ swingin’ sisters! Sister Act (PG) screens at Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 12th January, doors are open from 4:45pm, film starts 5:15pm. Tickets are £12 or £10 Concessions.


The Life Of Brian is Monty Python's satire which is as funny today as it was in 1979. Brian is a Jew born in a stable in Bethlehem who spends most of his life being mistaken for the Messiah. But as we all know "He's Not The Messiah, He's A Very Naughty Boy!". Arguably the best Python movie, the laughs come thick and fast with countless quotable one liners, routines and memorable characters. Fully endorsed by the People's Front Of Judea. Monty Python's Life Of Brian (15) screens at Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 12th January, doors are open from 7:15pm, film starts 7:45pm. Tickets are £12 or £10 Concessions.


For more information or to book tickets call QUAD on 01332 290606 or see: https://www.derbyquad.co.uk/whats-on/cinema/lighten-up



Full details of Comedy Genius screenings and events happening all over the country can be found at www.bficomedy.co.uk


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