icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, May 25 2018 08:03AM



Derby Film Festival 2018


Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell takes a look at one of the premiere film festivals in the region as he checks out the best of the fest!


************


Now in its 5th year, Derby Film Festival is showing no signs of slowing down. Last week I had the pleasure of attending the festival again hosted by QUAD, this year it kicked off on the 4th May followed by ten days of screenings, talks, short films and competitions.


Similar to last year’s sub-festival Fantastiq, the first four days of the festival were dedicated to Paracinema, a celebration of films and genres outside the mainstream including new releases and cult classics. Here are a few of new and cult classics screened during the festival:


Attack of the Adult Babies



Amongst the various films shown during the Paracinema arm of the festival was Attack of the Adult Babies, the latest offering from filmmaker Dominic Brunt. Brunt has built up quite the resume in recent years, his great work within the horror genre alone has gained him the reputation as a director you should definitely look out for when any of his projects hit the shelves.


An ordinary family are forced to break into a country manor to steal top secret information, what they find however are powerful, obese, middle aged men dressed in nappies being tendered to and waited upon by overly sexualised nurses in PVC uniforms. This is not your typical horror film!


The humour comes as quick and thick as the gore which will please both horror and comedy fans. Lines such as “We’re gonna need a bigger nappy” and “I’m going to cut you worse than a state pension” prove how much of an aware, modern film Attack of the Adult Babies is.


Shot on location at Broughton Hall in West Yorkshire, Attack of the Adult Babies joins Brunt’s CV of making socially aware Northern genre films, something not many can boast of. Since the release of The Purge series and last year’s Get Out there has been a revived interest in social-political horror films and after having watched this film I’m of the opinion this deserves a place in the conversation too.


Beneath the absurdity and the gore is an expose of how lazy powerful and greedy men can become, their reliance on others to wash, clean and cook for them here is shown by a regression to infancy.


If you’re after a horror-comedy film with gore and gags in equal measure, then check out this bonkers and brilliant effort. Attack of the Adult Babies is destined to be a cult British film, whether it be this decade or the next.


Attack of the Adult Babies is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 11th.


Charismata



Again as part of the Paracinema part of the festival is Charismata, a psychological horror from filmmaking duo Andy Collier and Toor Mian.


Rebecca Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) is a murder detective working on a series of gruesome killings. As she becomes more involved with the investigation she begins to experience haunting visions which lead her to question her own sanity and state of mind.


I normally enter any independent horror production with an open mind, some can be quite hokey whilst others can surprise you with what they can do with so little. Luckily Charismata falls within the latter category, the cinematography by Fernando Ruiz and the score by Chris Roe give the film a polished and carefully constructed vibe, almost as if millions were spent in producing the picture.


Similar to Attack of the Adult Babies, Charismata feels very socially aware, whether intentional or not. Rebecca lives in a very masculine environment and is constantly under siege with sexist comments and a chauvinistic attitude towards her career as she is the only female on her team.


Acting isn’t usually lauded within the genre however Sarah Beck Mather as Rebecca was sensational. An intriguing portrayal, Mather plays Rebecca as quite a cold person however the character feels pretty well balanced considering the enormous pressure she endures throughout the film.


Whilst the “gore” level is by no means ignored, it is the carefully planned build-up of tension that brings the chills to the audience. I’m unsure when this will be screened again or released widely on home media however I urge any horror fan to seek this one out as Charismata was one of the best surprises of this year’s festival.


Escape from New York



Whilst the festival primarily celebrates fresh talent and brilliant new films, there is always space in the schedule to revel in classic films from yesteryear. This year, the one to catch for me was John Carpenter's science-fiction flick Escape from New York, a quintessential 80’s actioner starring Kurt Russell.


1997, Manhattan, New York has been abandoned and transformed into the perfect maximum security prison but unfortunately, whilst routinely flying over, Air Force One crashes onto the island leaving the President of the United States alive albeit in grave danger from unpredictable and dangerous inmates.


A deal is struck between the Warden and convicted bank robber Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), to save the president and he will have earned his right to freedom.


Having only seen this film once before it was great to revisit this on the big screen. On the surface you might mistake this as a simple film but a great escapist movie, however knowing Carpenter's work and his love for using genre movies to explore certain themes you can see why critics are of the opinion that Escape from New York uses its dystopic environment to explore class and race issues.


Last year I caught the screening of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, a film I had never heard of until I watched it. It is now one of my favourite films of its period. I hope this Escape from New York showing had the same effect on someone and long may the festival continue presenting classics.


Overall it has been another successful year for the Derby Film Festival and QUAD as they continue to show a vast range of films across all genres, languages and budgets. I can’t wait to see what the 6th Annual Derby Film Festival holds in 2019. See you there.


Thanks to Peter Munford & Kathy Frain


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


************


Take a read of Guy's thoughts of the 2018 Derby Film Festival's other events including local documentary Spondon: Portrait of a Village and Five Lamps 24 hour Film Challenge



By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 06:58PM



Downsizing (2018) Dir. Alexander Payne


This high-concept sci-fi drama seems to live in the same strange world as Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying. By that, it’s set in a normal world yet with one very odd conceit – in this film it’s the ability to shrink people.


Yes, that's right, just like Honey I Shrunk the Kids! Unfortunately, like Gervais’ “clever” attempt, Downsizing’s tone is all over the place and the director appears to be delivering a sermon on poverty issues when the set-up is pure Ben Stiller territory.


The film was a box office bomb and it’s easy to see why. Story-wise, the earth’s resources are becoming increasingly limited and a scientist discovers a way of shrinking humans in order to make the most of what is left. People who go ahead with the procedure end up increasing the value of their money, so one particular couple, Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, decide to take the plunge. However, she drops out at the last minute and we see Damon reflecting on his ‘big’ decision on his own.


Here we get the first mismatch as the film jumps from sequence to sequence in scenes that are a total tonal mismatch. These range from set-ups that play out like Willy Wonka’s Mike TV to a story that unfolds amongst poverty and health issues. Matt Damon (as always) is the likeable everyman whilst Jason Sudeikis (as always) is the self-centred “friend” and before long we find that the gap between rich and poor still exist as Damon visits impoverished slums.


Hong Chau plays a Vietnamese political prisoner who is shrunk against her will and does well with the awkward tone. Yet she is so wasted in the film in many respects. Damon’s unhappy American is far less interesting than Chau’s activist whose background sounds so much more intriguing.


As the film begins to explore themes of environmentalism through gorgeous shots of Norway, the film’s lightweight tone gives way to headier concepts and is all the worse because of it.


An incredibly strange film, almost nothing in Downsizing works together but individual scenes highlight the story that could/should have been told. Neither funny or satirical enough, it takes itself far too seriously and ends up being an honourable curio at best.


5.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, May 12 2018 08:10AM



Killing Gunther (2017) Dir. Taran Killam


Directed by funny-man Taran Killam, this new “comedy” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger who plays the world’s best hit man and the attempts by a group of assassins to try and get rid of the legendary killer.


The film is shot in a documentary/hand-held style and begins by introducing us to the contract killers explaining their background and relationship to Gunther as they join forces in their plans to kill him.


The documentary makers are there as proof they complete the job – thus also getting around the old question of “who is filming this” of such films. The hand-held nature seems a choice of low budget – no doubt a lot went to afford Arnie himself – but don’t be fooled by his appearance at the centre of the film’s poster. He actually arrives in the final 20 minutes!


The Gunther character DOES appear before then, as a thorn in the group’s side, but he is consistently covered in a trench coat, shown in blurred whip pans or merely talked about off-screen. In fact, it’s a bit of a hood-wink and without the draw of Arnie, the unfunny cast and low production values often fail to deliver anything of interest at all.


As they hunt Gunther, they become stalked themselves yet other than a few well-edited action sequences (clearly CGI enhanced) the movie’s puerile humour and OTT performances have all the charm, and value, of a Saturday Night Live sketch. And one that certainly didn’t need to be beyond the 10 minute length.


The film’s few positives nearly all occur when Arnie arrives as he pantomimes his way through a silly character in a ridiculous performance that is sorely missed from the rest of the film. Don’t be fooled by the marketing, this isn’t Arnie’s film at all, and in the end this awful comedy experiment will make you feel disappointed if not a little cheated.


4.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, May 8 2018 07:50PM



Knots Untie (2018)


Directed by A-jay Hackett


Writer and director Ajay Hackett’s latest short film is something reminiscent of her childhood. Knots Untie is based around her relationship with her dad when she was little, and ultimately the film consists of some really touching moments as a result.


What I liked about the film is that it had the ability to take the viewer back to when they were a little kid.


There was one shot of our young widower David Stallard and his daughter Harriet Ling reading the day’s papers and that reminded me so much of how I used to copy my grandad when I was little. To be able to take a person back to moments like that is a majorly powerful quality for any film to have, but I have noticed that short films such as this one do very well when they include such scenes.


I think it’s because the films need to compensate for not having the freedom to tell a three hour long saga, because generally speaking, without a decent story to get your teeth into, it can sometimes be difficult to get fully into what you’re watching. By adding these personal touches that connect so strongly with viewers, you can avoid the need for a Lord Of The Rings scale story because you’ve reminded them of something that ultimately keeps their attention focused on the film.


I also thought it was nice that straightaway the film blows out of the water all ideas you might have about what exactly the story is going to be about. The title, along with the opening shot of a sympathy card with a photograph in the background points towards something that potentially could be quite a bleak tale.


However, what we actually get to witness is something quite the opposite. Whilst it’s easy to look at this film and think that it’s about the memories a father has of his daughter when she was growing up, it can also be taken that there is some sort of deeper meaning that we should spend more time being thankful for what we have as opposed to dwelling on what we don’t, which is what I found the contrast between the opening shot and the rest of the film to be very symbolic of.


In terms of how the film was put together, I liked the hazy glow that was given to the times being looked back on. When compared to the present day shots, it was clear that those memories were happy ones because of the editing that had taken place there. It’s something that I’ve seen on a few occasions and I think it’s something that always works well when used in the right way, which was very much the case here.


If you’re looking for a film to take you back to when you were younger, remind you of times gone by, then you could do worse than Knots Untie. Hackett’s story here is one that is clearly deeply personal to her, but it’s one that has a lot of touches that have the potential to reach out to anyone who takes the time out of their day to watch it, which is where I believe it’s greatest strengths lie.

Kira Comerford


Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Apr 5 2018 08:51PM


Trapped (2017) Dir. Thomas Longstaff


Finding the laughs amongst the darkness, local writer-director Thomas Longstaff creates a unique comedy take on a trip to the wilderness in his new film Trapped. The film is a 4 ½ minute short opening on a beanie-clad hiker, taking in the deep breaths of fresh air before he begins to embark on a journey into a forest.


But soon the audience has their breath taken away themselves as the jaunty and bright opening leads us almost instantly into a trap. And this trap being a literal historic bear-trap that ensnares our protagonist with a rusty metal grip around his leg.


Screaming in pain and begging for help, the audience feel every sharp twist as the lead winces and whines as the awfulness of his predicament slowly dawns.


Graeme Brooks plays the unlucky captured man and provides a fun performance of overdramatic shrieks. And despite the character’s best efforts he is unable to loosen himself from its tortured grip.


The tension is sliced with comedic cuts as we see our ‘hero’ indulge in some crisp munching before he resigns himself to his fate as night draws in. With the symbolic breaking of a chocolate bar, we quickly realise that the man is going to go full ‘127 Hours’ on us.


Here the filmmakers pull no punches (or should that be kicks). Some gruesome blood effects swiftly move this short from humour to horror. Kudos too should go to sound designer Edward Towers whose bloody squelches and bony crunches are an aural enjoyment. But be prepared if you’re not a fan of wounds and gore.


With a wicked sting in the tale, Trapped is an amusing short that relishes in the tongue-in-cheek (foot-in-trap?) nature of the comedy-horror genre. With great technical aspects and some truly nasty effects, Trapped could have you chuckling or chucking up depending on your disposition.


My advice though?


Go get caught up in Trapped. You won’t walk out. Cos you’ll love it too much, baby.


Midlands Movies Mike


As a bonus, we have the full short for you to watch below:





By midlandsmovies, Apr 3 2018 07:54PM



Art Is Dead (2018)


Directed by Luke Oliver

Gatling Gun Productions / Inky Blue Productions

1 hour 27minutes


Written and directed by local Leicestershire filmmaker Luke Oliver, Art Is Dead is an impressive debut feature about the problems of struggling actors in the media age.


Clearly a subject close to his heart, Luke Oliver also stars as the lead Ant who is an unlucky actor working in kitchens just to make ends meet. Each day his dreams get further away, despite the support from his girlfiend, as he witnesses celebrities being paid millions whilst he is offered “exposure” for his hard work.


Art Is Dead opens with Ant himself taking a hostage in a radio station and then flashbacks to see what drove him to this point. As Ant struggles with finding paid work, we are introduced to his friend Matt played by Steve Mace. He’s equally disappointed by awful auditions and their trio of failing actors is completed by Richard Mason as Dickie.


Alongside all this we have a fantastic portrayal of vacuous celebrity-types by Oliver Hall as the highly paid and beloved Benjamin Cummabund. His white-smiled soundbites are delivered to great effect via the director’s wise choice of splicing in red carpet footage, TV talk shows and paparazzi news segments. These not only give production value to what is obviously a low budget film but help maintain variety and is key on independent features which sometimes often struggle with pacing.


No such qualms here though. In these segments Genevieve Capovilla as the comically-named Franella Toffeefee channels the glossy insincerity of entertainment reporters. And later we get acoustic music performances and dance videos too which were both to the film’s benefit and showed great filmmaking confidence and technique. Elsewhere, This Is England’s George Newton is terrifying as a foul-mouthed burger van owner and also of note, Tiernan Welch delivers a fun performance as a talk-show host.


As the narrative progresses, the three desperate male friends finally go ahead with their plan to kidnap Cummabund with an aim to provide him with a political speech to read out at an upcoming award ceremony. I'll give it a pass even when it throws some shade towards film awards ;)


At the same time, Matt meets media executive Sheridan. He’s played by Darrell Imbert who is superb as a sleazy manager but unfortunately the material he is given to work with in his restaurant scene was marred by a longwinded pace which slowed that part of film to a crawl. Far better though is the sequence between by Mark Peachey’s ostentatious and Simon Cowell-esque “Dick Mann” and Dickie. A plan to capture him ‘in flagrante’ sees plenty of Carry On humour (“Big Dicks don’t wait”) but Peachey’s flashy and tasteless sleazebag was the highlight of the film for me.


Coaxing him to a hotel, Dickie and Mann play out a series of comedy encounters which would have made a great short on its own and had me laughing like a drain with its fine editing and clever scripting.


The film is a bit agenda-heavy and obvious at times with the silliness of characters’ names undermining the more serious points it’s trying to make but it doesn’t shy away from what it wants to say. An over-reliance on swearing had me irritated slightly too when it was clear to me the lines of dialogue were more than fine without them. But the film’s comedy will have most audiences laughing past any minor quibbles.


Finally coming to a head at the awards ceremony, I won’t spoil the film by providing its final act but suffice to say that a lot of people get their comeuppance and the underdogs feel a sense of satisfaction in their goals.


Art Is Dead is therefore certainly an accomplished film and one of the better features from the region with its assortment of nods to film genres, styles and ingenious sequences. These are hugely complimented by likeable characters, all played by terrific actors. In the end, the film delivers enough laughs from its jokes and wears its heart on its sleeve - proving that film art, if nothing else, is certainly not dead here in the Midlands.


Midlands Movies Mike




By midlandsmovies, Apr 2 2018 08:08PM



I Kill Giants (2018) Dir. Anders Walter


Based upon the graphic novel I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly (writer) and Ken Niimura (artist), I Kill Giants was written in 2008 before A Monster Calls but has unfortunately been released as a movie a year after. This results in the tale having some familiarity but, for me, it didn’t harm the film one little bit given the quality on show.


In this film, a fantastic Madison Wolfe plays disturbed young girl Barbara Thorson who is a dungeons and dragons playing loner who escapes the troubles of her life by retreating into a world of fantasy. Sound familiar? Maybe so, but the film explores a great deal about growing up in an intelligent way through the eyes of children. Passionate for fantasy board games with multi-sided dice, Barbara lives with her disinterested video-game obsessed brother. Together they are both looked after by their put-upon sister Karen, in which Imogen Poots plays the stressed older sibling brilliantly.


Barbara is shown to be intelligent and witty but also boisterous and looks down on her family (and teachers) with scorn. This ensures she is friendless and spends most of her time creating homemade spells and potions out of random finds, which are then used to lure huge monsters. Wolfe is so convincing that from great character introductions at the start, I was unsure whether her creative world was in fact real or not. Her feisty Barbara is only ever seen alone with the monsters and although the question is rapidly cleared up, the film explores childhood creativity and frustrations in a way that patronises neither children nor the adults who have relationships with them.


Warnings and markings are scrawled by Barbara at home, on the beach and at school to protect herself and others from (an imagined?) harm but this brings her to the attention to Zoe Saldana’s school counsellor. Finding it hard to break into Barbara’s world, the sassy youngster equally infuriates and intrigues Saldana as she relentlessly keeps her guard up. Back home, Barbara meets an English girl Sophia (Sydney Wade) who is new to the area and slowly they form a bond. Barbara begins to trust her enough to show her a private sanctuary she has created as well as share details of the different types of giant she is aware of.


Far from a fantasy, the depiction of youngsters sharing secrets, having their own protective space and also passing paper messages between each other were entirely relatable aspects of growing up. Barbara creates her own “medicine” from unique items to stop the monsters she feels are going to attack her loved ones but the film ensures the relationships feel less fantastical and more authentic. And her strong smart exterior is used as protection against real bullies, teachers and the “giant” issues she faces.


The film’s tone had an ‘Amblin’ flavour at times which was no bad thing either. The music and bike-riding definitely had the young charm of The Goonies whilst the chirpy piano score felt more than reminiscent of 1980’s Spielberg and JJ Abrams’ Super 8 (2011). And finding out it was produced by Christopher Columbus was therefore of no surprise either. The CGI forest giants and the ominous presence of a Treebeard-esque shadow monster upstairs in Barbara’s home were well-rendered but, like last year’s Colossal, the little explored “women-against-giant-monsters” sub-genre is again much more than meets the eye.


Without spoiling the film, the giants represent far more than can be imagined and although this is explicitly stated, there always seemed to be a mystery until the final third of the movie. It’s a fantastic look at childhood fun, trauma and life-learning from blood oaths to the frustration of P.E. lessons and all this is done with the right balance of fun and seriousness.


A slightly predictable parable – although it gives far less away than the A Monster Calls trailer – I Kill Giants is a brilliant and inspired coming-of-age comedy drama that sits in the same space as that film. A strong cast of performers are led by Madison Wolfe who is front and centre, and deservedly so, from the start. Dealing with difficult issues and seen from the viewpoint of a bright but troubled young girl, the final twist in the tale tackles much heartbreak within its skilful narrative. But, as we are moved on this poignant journey, I Kill Giants becomes one fictional world you won’t want to escape from.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Apr 1 2018 01:41PM

You, Me and Him (2018) Dir. Daisy Aitkens


You, Me and Him is a brand new comedy drama from writer/director Daisy Aitkens and follows the story of lesbian couple Olivia (Lucy Punch from Bad Teacher & Hot Fuzz) and Alex (Faye Marsay from Game of Thrones & Pride) and the trials of their complicated relationship.


They bond over mocking the idiotic hedonism of their recently divorced next-door neighbour John (a bearded David Tennant) but before long, their age-gap leads to the awkward question of pregnancy. Nearing 40, Olivia secretly becomes pregnant via artificial insemination and when Alex finds out, she drowns her sorrows at John’s divorce party and wakes up in his arms. And despite her regrets Alex too becomes pregnant owing to this one-night liaison.


Thus the film sets in motion a clash of situations none particularly planned for. You, Me and Him is set in the Midlands around Stratford-Upon-Avon which gives it a local flavour and with a strong cast of film and TV stars, the movie gets off to a likeable start from the outset. Punch’s Olivia is all hilarious noise and sniffly tears whilst Marsay brings a sensitivity to her more eclectic boho cynic.


Marsay is particularly effective as what could be an annoying hippie stereotype is given much more depth by her compassionate take on the role. Tennant too is having huge fun with his debauched Casanova. His support for a chauvinist “Manimist” help-group later makes way for a sympathetic character who is struggling to deal with expectant-father difficulties.


In support, Sarah Parish as Mrs. Jones throws in an OTT performance which is equal parts prejudice combined with a number of sharp-barbed insults. And Smack the Pony’s Sally Phillips is hilarious as an Australian antenatal class teacher bouncing around on fitness balls.


Although the actors are all top notch, the film slightly lacked a cinematic presence and the performers weren’t flattered by the TV lighting. But this was a minor flaw and disappeared when the well edited jokes were pushed to the forefront.


As the narrative develops, Tennant’s flamboyant father-to-be clashes with Olivia’s emotional (and flatulent) mother-to-be for the attention of Alex whose previous life of drink and drugs is calmed by her newly glowing predicament. The comedy (and the drama) almost solely come from this triumvirate. And their dialogue – some of which seemed brilliantly improvised – is slick, well-written and had me chuckling throughout.


You, Me and Him therefore aims for comedy in the main. With sight gags, cutaways, slapstick and plenty of body and adult humour all thrown in, it was surprising then to find that the film’s highlight is a tonal swing in the third act. A shift from the previous broad comedy to an incredibly sincere sequence is both thoughtful, honest and exceptionally moving. The pratfalls and hilarity make way for heart-breaking moments that are all the more powerful with the removal of dialogue. The trio of main actors will make you weep as their pain, caring and tender embraces emote from the screen without so much as a word.


But there’s hope amongst all this anguish and director Aitkens more than handles the complex balance of Richard Curtis-style droll laughs mixed with poignant compassion. The film is overall lightweight but takes a meaningful look at the serious issues of LGBT love (not a “large sandwich” as the film jokes) and the multifaceted intricacies of modern relationships. With three wonderful showings from Punch, Marsay and Tennant, the film is an enjoyable romp with plenty of laughs without forgetting the affectionate support needed for mothers, fathers and partners.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

RSS Feed twitter