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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 the 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

By midlandsmovies, Mar 21 2018 02:14PM



David Tennant walks the red carpet with other stars for Birmingham Easter charity premiere - You, Me & Him


David Tennant will be joined on the red carpet by cast including Faye Marsay, Georgia E Tennant, Sally Phillips and Director Daisy Aitkens on Saturday 31st March at Cineworld, Broad Street Birmingham, for the charity premiere of You, Me and Him. David Tennant, Faye Marsay and Daisy Aitkens will also introduce the film before the screening.


You, Me & Him is a comedy-drama about a lesbian couple at different points in their lives - high-powered lawyer Olivia (Lucy Punch) is nearly 40 and wants to start a family but her free-wheeling younger partner Alex (Faye Marsay) doesn't share her urgency. What happens next involves recently-divorced neighbour John (David Tennant) and creates a tangled web of consequences and pregnancies.


There are a limited number of tickets available for this special screening at £36 each for the event at Cineworld Broad Street, Birmingham 31st March 2018 6.30pm.


Baby Lifeline is the official charity partner of the film You, Me & Him and it is hosting the Birmingham red carpet premiere which will be attended by the cast and many other well-known names. The film was shot on location in the Midlands.


Other well-known celebrities from the music, television and radio world also confirmed are, Peter Davison, Tessie Orange-Turner, Christian Brassington, Jack Savoretti, Nick Owen, Jack Cork, the cast of BBC's Doctors, Ainsley Harriot and Heart West Midlands Breakfast presenters Ed James and Gemma Hill… more to be announced!


David Tennant and Sally Phillips are both Ambassadors for the charity Baby Lifeline’s £5 million Monitoring for Mums appeal to provide maternity and neonatal equipment for maternity services nationally, and the premiere will raise funds for this appeal.


Tickets are available from http://babylifelinetraining.org.uk/home/product/birmingham-film-premiere/


Watch the film's trailer below:






By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 10:09PM



Leicestershire movie Art is Dead launches on Amazon Prime


Filmed entirely around Leicestershire and the East Midlands, Art Is Dead is a new comedy feature which uses talent from the local region and has recently become available via Amazon streaming services.


The film is described as “the ultimate underdog story” and has already gained reviews describing its “outrageous humour” and “gripping” and “thought-provoking” ideas.


Written, directed and produced by Luke Oliver the film also stars Richard Mason (Scott & Sid and Oscar-winning short film Stutterer), George Newton (This Is England, Paddington) and Mark Peachey (Richard III, Hollyoaks). In a small cameo, there’s even room for Alex Reid from Celebrity Big Brother.


Created by InkyBlue and Gatling Guns Productions the film can now be downloaded via Amazon Prime (click here) and writer-director-actor Luke Oliver trained whilst working in a dingy pub kitchen. From a working-class background himself, Luke almost starved whilst funding himself through acting School.


Eventually he had little option but to leave London and once he returned to the Midlands, he started penning a short film script which would soon become the full-length feature film “Art is Dead”.


The story is biographical somewhat in that a working class actor is oppressed within the “plastic fantastic” entertainment industry due to lack of money.


Luke explains, “The comedy takes a gentle poke at the vulgarity of the wealthy in a world where the working class aren’t given a break. It sees the main character Ant, and his fellow actor friend’s kidnap a wealthy actor Benjamin Cummerbund and reek a night of havoc on the industry’s biggest night of the year”.


Following an initial screening at Coalville’s Century Theatre in February the film has been a labour of love for Luke. He formed the company InkyBlue Productions and started working tirelessly towards his first film and commissioned a local Leicestershire company ‘Gatling Gun Productions’ to provide crew and equipment to make Art is Dead become a reality.


Check out the film's trailer above and order now on Amazon for the full feature.


By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:29PM



Mom and Dad (2018) Dir.Brian Taylor


About two-thirds of the way in to Mom and Dad I thought to myself, “Hey, this is on a level of ridiculousness I haven’t seen in a long time...probably since Crank”. Imagine my surprise that Mom and Dad writer/director Brian Taylor is one half of the directing duo who brought us not only Crank 1 and 2 but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.


Bringing back Nic Cage from the latter, this film twists the traditional zombie narrative by showing the traditional family as a unit of killers and victims. In this case, static on the radio and television is turning parents into killers of their own kids. The director's visceral visuals pop from the screen from the outset with a strange 70s-style grindhouse intro sequence and the weirdly kinetic stylistic choices continue throughout.


The film begins as a soap opera with the usual family dynamics about school and disapproving parents upset about boyfriend choices and homework. However what begins as a set of mundane routines soon moves into unsettling sequences as the static “infects” parents who attempt to maim and murder their young ones.


Cage mixes his “family man” persona with his legendary “full-on Cage” mode and the fact an audience can tell he is in on the joke makes his OTT performance twisted yet funny. An impressive Selma Blair does more with her mother character who moves subtly from caring guardian to an evil-doer who even attempts to harm a newborn in a hospital.


I’ve mentioned many times I’m not the biggest zombie film fan which is its biggest hurdle it has to overcome. However, there’s slightly more going on here as the parents talk to each other thus giving us their viewpoint – although Cage mostly just shouts uncontrollably. Morbid humour can be found as the parents bond over how best to kill their children and an impressively constructed scene sees Cage and Blair attempt to gas their children (Anne Winters as Carly Ryan & Zackary Arthur as Josh Ryan) out of a locked basement. But their wily offspring have an explosive surprise in a sequence that is thrilling and comical.


The music is clearly an intended choice to connect with a young (and knowing) audience as we get Bill $aber’s I Know that You Pussies Don’t Want It alongside punk band Reagan Youth and a twisted use of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love.


Mom and Dad gleefully says “this is me, I’m here, and this is what I want to do” and does so with reckless abandon although one’s enjoyment is related to what extent you go along with its ideas and ignore its many structural flaws and lack of depth. From Nic Cage barking like a dog and hollering like a coyote to a fun cameo from Lance Henrikson, the film is ultimately nonsense. And it fails the most when it attempts to go beyond its b-movie roots with a somewhat superficial commentary on parenting, children and the stress of family life.


In the end, not without its chilling charms, whatever message Mom and Dad is trying to say, it gets overshadowed and lost against its style and silly theatrics. Beyond its Friday-night frills, it is a muddled mess that may prove too berserk for most audiences.


6/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Feb 24 2018 03:11PM



The Death of Stalin (2017) Dir. Armando Iannucci


Banned in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan (jagshemash!) British comedian, director and satirist Armando Iannucci jumps into dangerous territory with this new dark comedy about a dictator’s passing and the chaos that subsequently ensues.


The film’s story highlights the brutal regime and power struggles in USSR during Stalin’s death in 1953. Armando Iannucci has pulled together an eclectic cast including comedy heavyweights like Michael Palin (as Vyacheslav Molotov) but has also wisely placed them alongside dramatic actors such as Steve Buscemi and Jason Isaacs to provide the gravitas to make the comedy spikes even funnier.


Stalin himself is hilariously voiced by Adrian McLoughlin with a Guy Ritchie-style cockney gangster vibe not seen so broad since Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges. Whilst strong English accents failed spectacularly in Valkyrie (I couldn’t get past the posh tones of Branagh, Nighy and Stamp for WW2 Nazis) it works well here as a comedy choice.


It begins with Stalin requesting a copy of a live orchestral performance which needs re-staging as no recording was made, ensuring we are introduced to the despot’s brutal rules from the start. We see the unforgiving nature of the regime as citizens do their best to avoid being on Government “enemy” lists which means a certain death.


After becoming incapacitated via a brain haemorrhage, two factions within the Central Committee appear as they attempt to gain control in the absence of power. Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria shuts down Moscow and replaces “enemy” lists with his own, whilst Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov undertakes his own ambitions.


Stalin’s daughter Svetlana is played brilliantly by Andrea Riseborough ensuring the “boy’s club” cast has a large dose of understated drollness. The film also screams Britishness in its tone and jokes. Lines like “where’s the big fella?” and “better watch your steps, son” (both delivered hilariously by The Fast Show’s Paul Whitehouse who gets a huge share of the best lines) are in clear contrast to the Soviet era costumes and soundtrack.


One critic of the film is Samuel Goff who states that “Beria was an odious sadist, but, as a friend put it to me, you wouldn’t make a film of the George W. Bush years that had Donald Rumsfeld personally waterboarding Guantanamo detainees”. To me that imaginary parallel is actually the perfect undermining of the awful oppressive structures in politics. It shows how those in positions of power actually do have blood on their hands through the decisions they’ve made even if not directly responsible for the act personally.


Ignore Goff’s sad “this isn’t historically accurate” and “I don’t find it funny” arguments, as the drama and comedy come together – as unrealistic as it needs to – in order to exaggerate and highlight the absurdities inherent in the horrific reality. Although it’s no way in the same league, it’s thematic siblings include the take-downs of suicide bombers in Chris Morris’ “Four Lions” and the religious conflicts in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”.


As the situation spirals out of control, the committee point fingers of treason and attempt to pin blame on each other as their paranoia spirals. The film's light-heartedness breaks into more overt drama as each member’s true intentions and murderous ambitions are revealed but the director still throws in humorous lines even during the darkest scenes.


Whilst approaching a difficult subject matter, the film’s censorship from public view in certain countries ironically reinforce the claims the film is making about authoritarian and tyrannical governments. And like the best satire, the film approaches the appalling events from a position of farce, from lifting Stalin’s body to the verbal bickering via the ludicrous actions during his funeral. And with an excellent ensemble cast of elderly gents, they deliver a thoughtful dark comedy that works more as Dad’s Army than Red Army.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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