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By midlandsmovies, Mar 31 2020 04:04PM



I Want For Nothing


Directed by Keir Black


2020


An eclectic and fantastical comedy drama called I Want For Nothing comes from regional director Keir Black and follows the anxieties and connection between two young women and how they explore life.


Daisy is a very shy girl and after a musical introduction we see her in a grassy meadow watching intently towards a sociable group of friends from afar. Day-dreaming she is part of the group, she imagines herself having a laugh with the gang before putting her foot in it and being glared at for her misstep.


The film uses these sequences to suggest an outward anxiety. Daisy longs from afar to join in but her imagination creates a series of awkward encounters that prevent her from doing so. Returning to reality, a look of disappointment crosses her face as the friends continue their fun outdoor afternoon.


Next up is Jill who appears to have a fixation on her weight and eating. She crosses path with Daisy and the two start up a strange afternoon speaking as they do through a series of cones and sweets.


The heightened reality in the short attempts to bring up a number of interesting issues including embarrassment, anxiety and a fear of what others think. But is also covers positivity in unusual communication methods and finding friendship amongst personal idiosyncrasies.


The sound, with a focus on the music, is one arena that could have worked better. As eclectic as the visuals, the musical choices are suitably strange to create an unnerving atmosphere, but they aren’t particularly mixed well with tunes coming in at random at different volumes. Often too loud it has to be said.


The film’s weirdness is part of its charm though, and it always keeps you on your toes. From road cones to garden tools, a strange set of props help create a surreal atmosphere. And the director uses everything from POV, fruit montages and subtitles to create an energy that means you never know quite what is coming next. And before the end we also get some fantastic animation. It's not short on variety that's for sure!


However, the film could do with some additional tweaks in cinematography (or a colour grade) as it has a slightly amateur feel – but in many ways this makes it a more personal take given its quirky themes.


In the end I Want For Nothing meanders all over the place for me. One minute a take on dark issues, it then leaps to comedy and then scenes that wouldn’t look out of place in a Reeves & Mortimore sketch. So give this one a chance if you want to experience something a little weirder than the norm.


And although not to everyone’s taste, if the unusual and odd are particular curiosities you seek, then you may find them in the bizarre journey this film takes you on.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Mar 21 2020 11:57AM



Dead Air


Directed by Jordan Dean


2020


Fishbulb Films


“It’s 3:58am, here is some Coldplay”, which is a suitably dark announcement that opens new black comedy Dead Air from Leicester based filmmakers Fishbulb Films.


The film starts with local presenter Lester who hosts a night-time radio slot, which he subsequently fills with pre-recorded phone calls during his mundane show.


Like Groundhog Day, this mind-numbing cycle is repeated daily and we see Lester returning home each night, alone and looking incredibly depressed about his current predicament. Lester is played brilliantly by real-life presenter Simon Parkin (of Children’s BBC broom cupboard fame) and he brings a suitably experienced tone to his voice that is perfect for the role.


Lester’s show however is punctuated with short news snippets about a contagious virus. These somewhat echo Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast and get more apocalyptic and perilous as the film progresses. They also create a nice air of intrigue about what is happening outside of the studio confines.


Lester is also ignored by fellow presenter Ben (Ed Spence) whose successful arrogance contrasts nicely with Simon’s increasingly dreary show on the airwaves. But one night, Lester receives a call from a distressed caller asking for help as the 999 emergency services number is out of service.


The well-written and acted comedy comes from Lester’s unawareness of the chaos around him. As each emergency phone-call from “outside” comes in, Lester sticks with the banal song-requesting lingo of a clichéd local radio DJ.


As dash of Alan Partridge’s obliviousness is nicely delivered in Parkin’s performance and the little touches really add to the experience as well. From the well-designed fictional radio station logo to the correct broadcast console equipment, those small pieces really bring you into this world.


The sound is excellent as you may have expected. The light-hearted music by Peter Flint keeps everything in the comedic space until it needs to turn darker towards the short’s conclusion. The overall sound recording by Jason Nightall which mixes phone-calls, jingles and dialogue is also of a very high standard.


The film dials up the danger as we head to a final crisis involving colleague Ben, with Lester as possibly the last man standing. And we wonder whether our host really will have the last laugh.


Dead Air therefore ends up being an exceptional short film. The quality of filmmaking and the technical aspects are first-rate. However, it’s the comedy that is strong and Parkin’s performance as the pivotal person in a pandemic is perfect. Without a doubt then, Dead Air will hopefully receive a great reception on the festival circuit and I recommend you tune in to this fantastic Midlands short as soon as you can.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Mar 12 2020 10:08AM

Midlands Review of Bodybuilders and Rule Book from Five Pence Productions





Bodybuilders


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2020


Five Pence Productions’ latest short film is directed by and starring Midlands Movies Awards 2019 best supporting actor Nisaro Karim. Alongside Karim is Joe Egan, a respected ex-boxer who’s acting experience includes parts in both of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes adaptations.


Bodybuilders follows Karim’s character and his intimidating yet encouraging personal trainer, Big Jon (Joe Egan), on their journey to the gym. Big Jon controls the conversation with Karim only mumbling one word responses. It becomes clear why this is later in the short.


Many of the laughs in this short come from Karim’s character’s minimal dialogue, replaced with his amusing visual acting and Big Jon’s obliviousness to the fact that his trainee doesn’t even speak English. The vulgar woman in the classic old lady crossing the road slowly sequence is also a humorous highlight.


I would have appreciated a slightly more distinguished narrative as the short does seem to rely on Joe Egan’s dependable, but typical, tough guy persona, rather than the barely there story. There is unfortunately not enough that actually happens in the film to impress me. However, it is comical to see such a larger than life personality in such a confined and restricting space.


Despite this Bodybuilders is an easy to watch, reasonably entertaining short film. It’s respectable acting and amusing jokes make it a worthy addition to Five Pence Productions and Nisaro Karim’s ever reliable filmography



Rule Book


Directed by Gurjant Singh


2020


Rule Book is directed by Gurjant Singh and is headed by West Midlands based production company Five Pence Productions.


The simple yet effective plot focuses around Nisaro Karim’s character’s inner battle between his culture and his heart. The conflict lies in his finding of what he deems love with a woman older than him, who has a child of her own. His relationship with her would unfortunately be looked down upon by many in his culture.


Karim’s pained monologue to his friend (Debora Rodrigues) comes across as very heartfelt and convincing, inviting you to resonate with his anguish. He speaks about his relationship with this woman, how they match each other perfectly, yet his fear of his families opinion has restricted him from exploring this to any deeper level. She has shown him vulnerability yet he feels he can’t yet reciprocate this.


The intertwining shots of the conversation between friends and of his blossoming relationship are beautifully framed and seamlessly edited. Despite its short runtime, the film does a commendable job of conveying the potential for these two characters to find love with each other. The narrative and characters engrossed me so much that I was left disappointed by the unresolved ending.

Rule Book is a notable and earnest story of forbidden love.


It feels like a very personable story and touches on a conflict that I’m sure many have experienced. The tagline “Not everyone loves in the traditional way” provides a just sentiment that hopefully audiences will carry with them after seeing this thoughtful short film.


Jake Evans

Twitter @Jake_Evans1609



By midlandsmovies, Jan 11 2020 09:06AM



Get On With It


Directed by Richard Steele


2020


The fanfare and lights of the classic 20th Century Fox logo is one of my first memories ever of cinema – in front of Star Wars: A New Hope of course. From there, more and more production company logos – the mountain of Paramount, the globe of Universal, the badge of Warner Brothers – flooded into my memory and became a staple of the movie-going experience.


Richard Steele’s new short Get On With It starts with the premise that by the 21st century, the less than clever foxes at Hollywood began adding more and more logos before a film began.


In reality, the old monopolies of the past were actually making way for co-funded productions so every company involved – especially those fronting the money – got their individual logos (now animated too) plonked at the beginning of a screening.


But how many are too many? Well, this Midlands micro-short tackles some of these themes in increasing funny and frustrating ways.


From space to futuristic design, the short even nods to the fact that some are so like film now that they could be confused with the movie actually starting. The logos also echo a Bond-style liquid, giving a shout out to a franchise famous for its opening sequences.


A few barbs thrown in the direction of the absurd nature of these logos also appeared. And ridiculous names and the repetition of the logos in the credits also come in for ridicule.


The short is a wry take on one of some cinema audiences’ bugbear of endless logos but it did very much remind me of a similar joke from Family Guy. It’s one note theme and short run time makes it feel a little like a comedy show skit rather than a fully formed short however. The end when the film starts, or does it, gave me a naughty chuckle though.


In the end (or beginning?) the short is obviously a personal pet peeve from the filmmaker and sends up a subject we can all relate to in a slightly cynical but humorous way.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Jan 10 2020 06:54PM



Midlands Review - Damn Good Pie


Directed by Lewis Clements


2020


Elsy Pictures


Elsy Pictures serves up a dinner from hell with Lewis Clements' short film Damn Good Pie, a horror comedy engrossed in a world where “pie makes everybody happy”.


We are made immediately aware within the first few frames that this is no ordinary family sat at the dinner table. The father is joined by his wife, his son and his daughter but he acts as if he doesn't have this company as he brazenly sniffs his dinner, his pie, licking his lips. “That's good pie” he announces.


As the family say grace it is revealed the pies they are about to eat have been made with great sacrifice, there is a loud thud upstairs when this is said and the mother looks worried as she glances at the ceiling. This must be regular occurrence in this household as no one else appears to be concerned.


Elements of David Lynch's signature surrealism surround Damn Good Pie as we are unpleasantly treated to a gross fifteen seconds of the father consuming his pie. The camera lingers on his lips as he savours every bite, the sound of each bite was almost unbearable, something I think Clements intended and will enjoy knowing he has succeeded.


But not everyone is enjoying their food. The son, Edward, seems uninterested and instead of relentlessly enjoying his meal like his Mother and Father he is patting the pie with his fork, his mind elsewhere. Offended, his Father demands him to stop and reminds him that they do not pat pie in his house.


Hilariously, Edward replies back with a line I'm sure every parent has heard at some point “but Danny at school is allowed”. Now threatened with being sent upstairs with no dinner, Edward shakes in fear begging his Father to reconsider but to no avail.


What exactly waits upstairs is unclear but it is safe to say it is not welcoming, the mood changes and the score by Robson Janser & Daniel Kanenas creates an uneasy atmosphere.


Setting a film or a scene during a family dinner has always been a great opportunity to explore the dynamic within the household as it is something we can all easily relate to. I was reminded of the infamous dinner scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where an outsider also cannot conform to the rest of the family's behaviour as we lay witness to sheer lunacy and outrageous motives.


There is not an ounce of fat in Clement's film, the writing is razor sharp and the direction focused on featuring comedy and horror in abundance. I really enjoyed making the comparison between the pie in the film to religion. The faith that the father has in pie is unprecedented, and when his own child appears unfaithful, his solution is to deliver him upstairs, for someone of a higher position to mete out punishment.


In a statement by the writer and director Lewis Clements, it says he is looking to make a connection between “British society and bizarre horror” which definitely translates on screen here. That steely determination to protect what you love is shown tenfold but in this case what is being cherished and loved are...pies. Undoubtedly Damn Good Pie has delightfully mixed “the mundane with the fantastical” resulting in a deliciously fun, short film.



Guy Russell

Twitter @budguyer


By midlandsmovies, Jan 7 2020 09:36PM



Midlands Spotlight - Movie-related shows at Leicester Comedy Festival 2020


We take a wry look and recommend some of the best film-related shows at the annual and hilarious Leicester Comedy Festival taking place in February 2020 at venues all across the city.


For these and all other shows check out the full programme at the official website https://comedy-festival.co.uk/


Nathan D’Arcy Roberts: Is My Dad Denzel Washington?

Saturday, 08 February 2020 Time: 4:30pm (5:30pm) Doors open: 4:10pm Entry: £5 OR PWYW

Venue: Just the Tonic at The Shed - Vault

Nathan D'Arcy Roberts (BBC Introducing Radio 4 Comedy Award nominee) is bringing his exciting new show to the Leicester Comedy Festival. Raised having never met his father Nathan embarks on a journey to confirm his belief that the identity of his estranged papa is none other than the Oscar-winning actor.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/nathan-darcy-roberts-is-my-dad-denzel-washington


Jokes On Us present MADDIE CAMPION: MAD MONEY WORK IN PROGRESS

Wednesday, 12 February 2020 Time: 7:45pm (8:45pm)Doors open: 7:25pm Entry: FREE

Venue: Manhattan 34 - Downstairs bar

In 2008 Katie Holmes didn't reprise her role as Rachel Dawes in the acclaimed Batman Begins follow up, The Dark Knight. Instead she chose to make the movie "Mad Money", which was both a critical and commercial flop. In this stand-up show Maddie Campion argues that Katie Holmes made the right decision.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/maddie-campion-mad-money-work-in-progress/


COMEDY FILM NIGHT: TRADING PLACES

Friday, 14 February 2020 Time: 8:00pm (9:55pm)Doors open: 7:40pm Entry: £7.00

Venue: Harborough Theatre - Theatre

Upper-crust executive Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and down-and-out hustler Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) are the subjects of a bet by brokers Mortimer and Randolph Duke. An employee of the Dukes, Winthorpe is framed by the brothers for a crime he didn't commit, with the siblings then installing the street-smart Valentine in his position. When Winthorpe and Valentine uncover the scheme, they set out to turn the tables on the Dukes.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/comedy-film-night-trading-places/


COMEDY FILM NIGHT: FOUR LIONS

Friday, 14 February 2020 Time: 6:00pm (7:35pm)Doors open: 5:40pm Entry: £7.00

Venue: Harborough Theatre - Theatre

Four Lions tells the story of a group of British jihadists who push their abstract dreams of glory to the breaking point. As the wheels fly off, and their competing ideologies clash, what emerges is an emotionally engaging (and entirely plausible) farce. In a storm of razor-sharp verbal jousting and large-scale set pieces, Four Lions is a comic tour de force; it shows that while terrorism is about ideology, it can also be about idiots.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/comedy-film-night-four-lions/


MCUSICAL: THE UNOFFICIAL MARVEL PARODY MUSICAL WORK IN PROGRESS

Sunday, 16 February 2020 Time: 2:30pm (3:30pm) Doors open: 2:10pm Entry: FREE OR PWYW

Venue: Grays@LCB Depot - Lightbox

MCUsical: The Unofficial Parody Musical retells the last 10 years of your favourite superhero cinematic films through an hour of your favourite Broadway songs! You'll love it 3000! (Please note that this show is a Work-in-Progress showing)

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/mcusical-the-unofficial-marvel-parody-musical-work-in-progress/


Dad’s Army Radio Show

Monday, 17 February 2020 Time: 7:30pm (9:30pm) Doors open: 7:10pm Entry: £12.00 - £15.00

Venue: Harborough Market Hall

Watch as your favourite, classic BBC sitcom (and film!) comes to life with just two actors, two microphones and plenty of sound effects! Be transported back to Walmington as David Benson and Jack Lane work from original radio scripts, vintage music and all of Perry and Croft's beloved characters and catch phrases.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/dads-army-radio-show-harborough-market-hall/


Hats Off To Laurel and Hardy

Saturday, 22 February 2020 Time: 8:00pm (10:00pm) Doors open: 7:40pm Entry: £10.00

Venue: The Guildhall - The Great Hall

The award-winning Lucky Dog bring their internationally renowned biopic about the best-loved comedy duo of all-time back to Leicester Guildhall. Widely regarded as being the most accurate show ever written about The Boys, it is the closest thing you can get to seeing the original pair in action.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/hats-off-to-laurel-and-hardy/


Notflix: The Improvised Musical

Saturday, 22 February 2020 Time: 8:00pm (9:00pm) Doors open: 7:40pm Entry: £12.00

Venue: Curve - Studio - Curve - Studio

Five-star, total sell out show Edinburgh Fringe 2016-2018 and Vaults Festival 2017-2019. Did we mention the cast are making it up as they go along? Did we mention it's a musical? Featuring a live band and original, improvised songs.

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/notflix-the-improvised-musical/



By midlandsmovies, Jan 4 2020 08:56AM



Jojo Rabbit (2020) Dir. Taika Waititi


Based on Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, Taika Waititi follows up family-friendly Thor: Ragnarok with the decidedly un-family friendly Jojo Rabbit. Set during World War II, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a small boy who is part of the Hitler youth and is given the nickname ‘Jojo Rabbit’ after failing to kill a bunny as part of the group’s activities.


Later, his discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has hidden a Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. Alongside them are the well-established funny folk Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson as Nazi officers buffooning their way through their authoritarian roles.


Yet director Taika Waititi saves the worst for himself though. He plays a “comically” inept take on Hitler himself, as a projection by young Jojo. But it’s an infantile performance plucked from a pantomime – no doubt intentional as the boy's conscious – but resulting in zero laughs. I seriously mean, not one.


And the script sadly doesn't quite nail the balance between the satire, pratfalls and serious scenes. Shocking scenes of Jews hanging from the gallows in a town square should sit cleverly and uncomfortably with the lighthearted moments but seem wildly out of place given the failing humour here.


It’s not that its offensive either. Hell, from my favourite Four Lions (suicide bombers) to Team America (US imperialism) via Life of Brian (religion) and the most relevant of all, Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, incredibly serious subject matter can be made funny and thoughtful given the appropriate angle.


And Jewish comedians Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, The Dictator) and Mel Brooks – whose 1967 satire The Producers is this film’s most obvious parallel with this film – have taken so much more successful stabs at similar social criticism and the historical abuses of our shared past.


In addition, the excellent Scarlett Johansson delivers a rather fantastic dramatic performance that has been sadly dropped in from another movie altogether. And Stephen Merchant's Gestapo cameo is pure Herr Otto Flick from British TV sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!


Style wise, there’s elements of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom with a parallel between the young scouts and the Hitler youth as well as that director’s dry editing and primary colour palette.


The black comedy opening mixing The Beatles’ German-language and upbeat hit “Komm gib mir deine Hand” with actual archive footage of screaming young Nazis at rallies, is a small diamond in the rough. The Seig Heil hand gesture not going amiss here either but it’s all downhill from this beginning. So rather than continuing clever sideswipes like this, the clown-ish, and again, juvenile take on the Nazis and specifically the Führer himself is truly a joke vacuum.


The film does attempt to build a relationship between the young Jojo and Elsa as he questions the Jewish stereotypes he’s been told on the way to an enlightenment. These young actors do very well with the more tactful ideas here but once more, the tone of individual scenes don’t coalesce into a more successful whole. And I don't buy the argument that every poorly-drawn character is "seen through the eyes of a child". It's a sad excuse for fair criticism.


It’s a shame then that this possibly deep and meaningful film loses its nuance because the black comedy laughs were simply not there for me. Polarising film critics already, I throw my lot in with the commendable but flawed bunch. Ultimately comedy is one of the most subjective genres there is, but for me Jojo Rabbit is an unsuccessful satire absent of enough laughs to make it anything more than an admirable misfire.


★★


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Dec 22 2019 11:04PM



Midlands Review - On in 15


Directed by Joseph Archer


2019


On in 15 is a new short from filmmaker Joseph Archer and is set backstage at a gig during the hedonistic days of 1990s Cool Britannia.


After a band frontman (Ryland played by Sky Cheeba) falls into a drug-induced blackout 15 minutes before show time, band member Simon (Tobias Cornwell) tries to keep everyone calm whilst manager Martin (Christopher Mulvin) screams his concerns to anyone within earshot about the impending show.


With the background noise of a waiting crowd heard from afar which sets the scene, the true technical achievement is that the entire short is filmed in one take. No digital edits or clever cutting here, the filmmaker keeps the characters in one space but follows them as each one enters into the pre-show problems.


One take shots have been a staple of cinema over the years and can be seen in a variety of genres including Ray Liotta’s entrance to the club in Goodfellas, Park Chan-Wook’s corridor fight in Oldboy and Children of Men, Roma AND Gravity from Alfonso Cuarón.


Although working with a lower budget here, much like those movies this sequence requires a huge degree of planning and complexity which is done more than successfully in this short.


The technique is used to its best when switching between the characters and although the location is just one place – and a rather sparse set – the clever movement of the camera in On in 15 is certainly impressive.


With all the cast given just the one chance to get it right, the “oner” technique is fascinating as the short plays out a bit like a small act of theatre. Although the performances are a little over-the-top at times, given the nature of the piece some exaggerated drama has been creatively used to take the place of camera cuts and edits.


With stage manager Jasmine (Maya Moes) and fellow band-mates Charlie (Ed Newman) and Miche (Phoebe Farrington) joining the melee, the lack of a lead singer starts to raise the stakes as no-one wants to take on the role. But the decision is made to try and get him to vomit up the drugs although that proves problematic, and messy, too.


I have to admit I was slightly confused as to the band’s career level as the crowd overdub sounds more like a stadium but the members have day-jobs and there’s talk of playing weddings. As someone who learnt guitar during the Britpop era and played in bands in the 00s, a bit sharper detail would add to the realism. However, the battle and conflict between a day job and a creative passion is something many people face and is a relevant story arc within the main narrative.


That said, that pet peeve doesn’t impact the short as it is more comedic than a documentary and the quick fire dialogue is blasted back and forth to maintain the film’s pace. Again, this helps to keep interest up in the absence of other shots.


As more shocking revelations occur the short works better as it goes along as the camera moves between the groups of people and their mini-dramas, and the writing stays sharp and witty. The technical aspects are a joy of course and the detailed planning of such a device is impressively delivered. However, that shouldn’t take away from the tight script either.


In the end then, On in 15 is an excellent slice of music fun and just this one shot contains more characters and story beats than many other more conventionally made comedy-dramas.


Michael Sales


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