icons-03 icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo

blog

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

By midlandsmovies, Jan 12 2018 12:28PM



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2018) Dir. Martin McDonagh


Is highlighting retribution as important as getting it yourself? Well, deep themes and jet-black comedy abound in this new low-key rural American drama from the British/Irish writer-director of In Bruges Martin McDonagh. Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a put-upon mother who has lost a daughter in a violent rape and murder and, after the investigation stalls, rents three blood-red billboards on the outskirts of town. Not since Fargo has McDormand commanded a screen so fully but her foul-mouthed and impulsive renegade couldn’t be further from Marge Gunderson – although both have an intensity to see justice served.


With the billboards asking why local Sheriff Chief Willoughby (a fantastic supporting turn from Woody Harrelson) hasn’t made any arrests, not even his terminal illness breaks Mildred’s resolve to move her case forward. In addition, Sam Rockwell as Officer Jason Dixon – an actor that against all popular opinion I’ve never particularly warmed to – gives the performance of a lifetime as a drunk, racist policeman trying to maintain some sort of order. Gaining her plenty of attention in the process, Mildred is a driving force in the narrative as she seeks retribution for the depraved death of her daughter whilst she continues to deal with flashes of extreme violence from her ex-husband (John Hawkes as Charlie Hayes) whose own response to the crisis is to date a 19-year old.


The humour comes from both McDormand’s quick and vulgar responses but also through more subtle and loving comedy in her relationship with her son (Lucas Hedges as Robbie Hayes). Extremely protective of him but also reflecting her own sass, the lighter dramatic moments are relief from the themes of passion and unthinking revenge which permeate the film.


[SPOILERS] When Sheriff Willoughby takes his own life owing to cancer, he communicates from beyond the grave in a very personal suicide letter both to his family and to Mildred about her case. In a film where characters seem stereotypical in their introductions, the nuanced screenplay and interesting threads and dramatic turns see characters developing across arcs that audiences will respond to. Sam Rockwell’s hot-headed and inexperienced police officer – who lives with his mum and was held back a year at police academy – takes his temper out on the locals before finding his own enlightenment through forgiveness and correcting mistakes of the past.


As Mildred goes to war with the whole town, her billboards create chaos but stir up strong emotions about redemption. Can we hold onto revenge or is there an inherent destructive force in our search for what’s right? When she attempts to stop her billboards burning – an arson attack sees Mildred battle huge flames with a tiny extinguisher – her small one-woman passions are at odds with the larger forces at work. Yet in both cases, despite the emotional drain, this does not stop her efforts and if anything stokes her fires further.


And it’s McDormand’s complete commitment to the role in every aspect – the tough-talking, the tear-jerking and the solemn reflecting – that centre the film and gives it a star attraction. Her struggles ensure the plot moves briskly and whilst the film’s conclusion feels like an audience can finally take a breather, the reality is simply a temporary calm rather than a newly established equilibrium.


Showing complex struggles from start to finish (including the police, ex-husband, strangers and even the dentist) “Three Billboards” fans the flames of passions and is a brilliant advertisement for the continued talent of McDonagh’s own dark interests. Delivered impeccably by a fantastic cast, the film provides no clear answers but continues the ideas set down within In Bruges. Like that movie, the idea that carrying the pain of past misdemeanours can not only be a detriment to others but mostly to one’s own soul.


9/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jan 11 2018 12:02PM



The Disaster Artist (2017) Dir. James Franco


As an inexperienced filmmaker, actor, writer and director with over-reaching talent and delusions of grandeur in their attempts to be a master of all trades, James Franco is easily the perfect person to play fellow “visionary” Tommy Wiseau.


If you don’t already know, Tommy Wiseau is the writer/director/actor whose 2003 film The Room is regularly considered one of the worst films of all time. Based upon the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, the film is partly an Ed Wood misunderstood portrait of genius and part poking fun at the notorious flop with Tommy’s eccentricity taking centre stage.


For anyone who has seen The Room, the horrid acting, paper-thin sets, nonsensical plotting and endlessly quotable lines are part of its charm which soon saw it become a Rocky Horror Picture Show of sorts for a new generation. Midnight shows saw the film evolve into another interactive cult classic as crowds repeated its lines and brought in props to interact with during screenings.


Focusing on Tommy (James Franco) via a story framed from the viewpoint of the book’s author and fellow actor Greg Sistero (Dave Franco), the film is a slight look at the two’s fractured and strange relationship in their goal to become successful actors. James Franco tackles Wiseau’s oddball with enough ticks and hair-shaking as Tommy himself without being a pure impression yet strangely even Franco’s facial features have a genuinely uncanny resemblance to Wiseau.


Set in 1998’s San Francisco, Sestero meets Wiseau in acting classes and whilst the conventional teachers and students pour scorn on Wiseau’s peculiar take on the texts, a friendship is born and the two head to LA to pursue their acting dreams. As their efforts prove fruitless, Tommy decides to write and film his own screenplay and Greg reluctantly agrees to star.


From the outset the long script combined with a lack of business nous sees the dim duo buy the wrong equipment, build unneeded sets and audition (then sack) countless actors and crew. For “fans” of The Room (I admit I’ve seen it twice but both times with commentary - from Jaboody Dubs and Red Letter Media) the recreations of the locations, actors and scenes are spot on but if a film was made about Rocky Horror, you may simply wonder why you’re not watching the more fun original.


The Disaster Artist has flashes of genius but the story of the film’s making is simply on screen in the original. This film doesn’t enlighten you to the secrets of The Room as the bad decisions made and the sincerity of the film is already portrayed in The Room itself with its sheer god awfulness.


That said, the scenes are a suitable mix of multiple takes as Tommy forgets his lines as well as ridiculous overacting. And Seth Rogan as the director stares in awe at the garbage that’s playing out in front of him. Yet Rogen gets more laughs as a low-budget director in his similar role in “Zack & Miri”. As Wiseau’s “vision” slowly comes together the toils take their toll on the two friend’s bond and they stumble over the finish line before arranging a premier in Hollywood.


The reception and subsequent reassessment of the film is pure dramatic ‘retcon-ing’ with Tommy stating he intended to make people laugh, which I am sure is not the case in the slightest. But that’s part of Wiseau’s charm. Always looking for an angle to break into the “big time” he finally gets a real-life movie to do justice to his efforts and to also, hopefully, encourage more folk to watch his dreadful original.


In the end, James Franco is admittedly great as Wiseau but overall this film is “safe” to the point of humdrum as there’s neither a great in depth analysis of Tommy himself (his background is still unknown today) or a specific directorial style. Franco has stated The Disaster Artist was "a combination of Boogie Nights and The Master” which is pure Wiseau – overblown, hugely ambitious, an outlandish claim and utterly utterly not true.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2017 04:35PM



Brigsby Bear (2017) Dir. Dave McCary


Whatever your bug bears – Trump, Brexit, you name it – 2017 has already had its fair share of cynicism and with endless hostility in real life and on the internet, it’s easy to become pessimistic and bitter with the things around us. Which is why Brigsby Bear’s humanity is like a soothing tonic after wading through this year’s miseries!


Kyle Mooney plays James Pope, a man obsessed with a children’s show called Brigsby Bear which is akin to Barney the Dinosaur or Seasame Street. This one imaginative TV series is his sole focus before he is taken by the police from his bunker-like “home”. He is subsequently informed by the authorities that he was snatched as a baby, Ted and April Mitchum are not actually his real parents and that the Brigsby show was in fact creation by his ‘false-father’ Ted (a great support role from Mark Hamill).


As he is returned to live with his birth mum and dad, as well as his sister Aubrey, the awkward man-boy James struggles to integrate back into regular society. With a lifetime of obsession over the fictional Brigsby still bearing down on him, he fails to mix with the young partying adults around him but Mooney adds a great sympathy to what could be a cringe worthy character.


However, a newly formed friendship with Aubrey’s friend Spencer leads to a plan to complete the unfinished series using props from Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear) who confiscated them during the arrest.


The film is full of life, passion and creativity and you can’t help but warm to James’ pure ambitions. Striving to overcome his social embarrassment, we root for the tongue-tied and self-conscious James as his untainted view on the world and love for the simpler things pull together those around him.


Some may find the film too saccharine or sentimental to truly achieve lofty cinematic heights but it is the simplicity of the tale, the characters and James’ aspiration that are its winning traits. As the fictional film they’re making spirals out of control, the low budget nature of their endeavours clearly reflect the filmmakers’ own passions and every positive ounce of that is on screen.


Good-natured without being drippy, Brigsby Bear invokes the best parts of child-like innocence and exalts the benefits of simplicity in order to find the simple joys in an ever confusing world. Brilliant.


8.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Dec 12 2017 04:09PM



The Exchange (2017) Dir. Richard Miller


Directed by Richard Miller and Grant Archer, The Exchange is a mysterious three-minute short film made as part of the MyRodeReel Challenge, an online filmmaking challenge where the film’s running time must not exceed three minutes.


The Exchange starts off with the introduction of two men. One rings the doorbell as the other answers the door. Both of these men appear to be flamboyant, outgoing, friendly. As they accompany each other into the hallway we see the windows and panes are covered with old newspaper, the owner cranes his neck around the door to see no neighbours have seen his guest arrive as he triple locks the door behind him.


Regardless of the uneasy atmosphere, the film is surprisingly darkly comic at times. An eerie score by Stephen Theofanous compliments the perfectly timed direction by Miller and Archer. The actors Richard Shields and Robert Laird bounce off of each other fantastically and juggle comedy with fear really well, with one playing a confident well-spoken middle class Englishman whilst the other displays a more quiet, homely persona, forcing the audience to think what could possibly connect these two and what do they have to exchange.


I enjoy short films where the conclusion completely takes you by surprise, as so many short films are made, the successful ones are those with finales you don’t forget. This is fortunately the case with The Exchange, another successful project by Richard Miller who continues to impress with every new entry.


Having seen his previous directorial work in Ballpoint Hero and Life Flashes it’s no surprise why he is one of the finest filmmakers currently working in the Midlands.


I highly recommend The Exchange, a fantastic way to spend three minutes and a brilliant finalist for the 2017 MyRodeReel Challenge.


Guy Russell

https://twitter.com/budguyer


By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2017 06:12PM



Random Acts and Rural Media - Part 3


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


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


Body Language (Nottinghamshire)

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





Everyday Choreography (Shropshire)

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




Yellow Wallpaper (Warwickshire)

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




Taking Up Space (Staffordshire)

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









By midlandsmovies, Dec 2 2017 09:46AM



Random Acts and Rural Media - Part 2


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


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





The Legend of Rawry (Herefordshire)

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





Dancer of the Future (Herefordshire)

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



Impact (Worcestershire)

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



Super Citrus Force (Leicestershire)

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



Oblivion (Lincolnshire)

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












By midlandsmovies, Nov 27 2017 08:23PM



RANDOM ACTS & RURAL MEDIA (PART 1)


In a new 3-part series Midlands Movies will be showcasing a selection of films and filmmakers from the region who have been involved in the national Random Acts programme.


Random Acts is a collaboration between Arts Council England and Channel 4. The short films (from just 90 seconds to 3 minutes long) have been described as ‘bold expressions of creativity’ with each one being individually engaging, experimental and quirky.


For the last 3 years, local organisation Rural Media (click here) has been working with young artists and filmmakers right across the Midlands to create ‘First Acts’. And Midlands Movies will be focusing on a selection of these fantastic films created by local artists right here on the site.


This Movement is Silent (Birmingham)

This spoken word film is from Paul Stringer who has made a film covering the journey of an open mic performer from chair to stage through a crowded, passionate and engaged poetry audience. This is edited alongside a journey throughout Birmingham, past its great landmarks in a bid to show that the local poetry scene is not only the people performing the poetry, but the whole collective community as a whole. Watch his film below:





Re-Code (Birmingham)

Made by Sipho Dube, Re-Code is a dance film exploring themes of dyslexia and empowerment. Sipho is a spoken word artist and dancer and as someone who has both dyslexia and with a profound stutter, Sipho has overcome issues through the use of spoken word. Watch this thought-provoking film below:



One Rogue Santa (Kidderminster)

Another spoken word film, Steven Williams’ short is an account of a troubled home life that led to various stints in and out prison. Through stylised silhouetted sequences, Steve’s story explores the complexities of growing up without a support network and having to deal with the choices we make. Now aged 24, Steven has been homeless from the age of 18 and has been in out of prison 4 times. Yet now with two children he’s looking to become a better role model and is working towards becoming a social worker to help other young people avoid making the same mistakes. Watch Steven’s video here:



Meet Cute (Northamptonshire)

Chris Cosentino has created an animation/live-action crossover comedy where a conspiracy nut shares a "meet cute" with a nice girl but discovers he's actually a fictional character in a short film. View the short here:



Dirty Re-Birth (Derbyshire)

Joey Mottershead explores the part of the human condition where we are required to perpetually reinvent ourselves, to grow and evolve to new forms. “The reality is these moments happen in the darkest of places, where directions have no meaning and internal struggles amount to the psyche being ripped apart”. Joey is a live interdisciplinary performance artist based by in the East Midlands whose work explores gender politics, the human condition and the empowerment of the self. “I take inspiration from the beautiful aspects of the grotesque”, says Joey, “finding light in the shadows and portraying the particular strain of glory only found within sadness”. Watch the film here:









By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2017 09:16PM



Grindhouse Planet Film Festival 2017


Still a young pretender on the Midlands circuit, the Grindhouse Planet Film Festival may have started small but has grown into a successful alternative to the mainstream regional showcases with its focus on the bloody and gruesome. Midlands Movies Mike heads to the home of horror for the second time for another dose of sleazy celluloid.


Now in its second year, the festival ran on 26th November with over 50 films being chosen to screen at Leicester city’s The Shed venue. With a cosy and friendly atmosphere the films comprised shorts and features from the local to the international whilst all the while maintaining its grass roots grime.


With a 48-hour film challenge and a question and answer session from filmmaker Steve Lawson, the event had a varying array of talented filmmakers and fans eager to see the nasty gems on offer.




The festival was spread over 10 hours and included such fan favourites as West Midlands zombie comedy Still, web-series sci-fi shocker The Rockman and dark drama All Bad Things.


Blood, guts, nudity, violence and laughs were all covered across the films and although Quentin Tarantino drew attention to the genre with his 2007 homage to the 70s double-features of his youth, it was great to see local filmmakers show their love for the exploitation movie tropes of the past as well.




Around the halfway mark, The Shed held host to a Q & A with Leicester filmmaker Steve Lawson of Creativ Studios. Having recently completed Hellriser (our coverage here) and a co-directing stint on short Time, and Again (review) the writer-director was happy to share his current experience with the passionate audience.


“Jumping from making my first film to working with distribution companies I realised very quickly you have to compromise a lot and change a lot of things but you cannot make films without producers”, explained Steve.


“After doing the low-budget Essex Heist which wasn’t a mega-seller but was distributed into Asda and other major retailers, other companies began taking my calls,” he joked. He went on to say: “My new film though is for Hereford Films (We Still Kill the Old Way) who are based in London. It’s a serious horror slightly away from the grindhouse style”.


Steve is a firm believer in filming efficiently which he says zero-budget filmmakers should have an understanding of - as whether you are making a £10,000 film or a £10 million film, filmmakers should prioritise the important business side of things. And with his career in full swing Steve gave some exclusive nuggets about his upcoming film.


“This new movie stars Shane Taylor from Band of Brothers as the lead and support comes from Rula Lenska who hasn’t made a film since Queen Kong. Actually I don’t know what I’m doing here as I start tomorrow at 9am and should be prepping!”




As well as Steve, we heard from Kelly McCormack who is heavily involved in the film-making scene in Leicester and beyond, and was down at The Shed supporting The Rockman (as associate producer) as well as Christmas based short The N0ughty List as a make-up artist.


“How did I jump from one to the other?” asks Kelly. “Well, they needed someone to put lots of fake blood on Santa and I had lots of fake blood”. Encapsulating the grindhouse spirit and community, Kelly feels the support from fans and filmmakers often help get these zero-budget films off the ground.


“I’ve been here most of the day and loved Charismata but the 48 hour film challenge was so good to watch to see what local people can do in a short time. Once you get a team that’s fully on board you know that it’s going to go mostly right with these mini-projects. Regarding the festival itself I was here last year but The Shed has had a refurbishment and the filmmaking community has had an even better atmosphere over the last 12 months so it’s made this year even more special”.


She adds that the spirit of genre film fans helps inspire others too. “There’s also a lot of networking going on and this is the type of festival where you can see people achieve whatever they set out to do. And we shouldn’t forget that big thanks should go to the organiser Marc Hamill as it’s been a really great day".


Another attendee was actor, filmmaker and grindhouse fan Ryan Flamson who starred as the main character for one of the entrants in the 48 hour film challenge.


“Well I starred as Coke-head the Clown [laughs] and it was a lot of fun and the short got a great crowd reaction. The turnout has been really good and the local talent is far better than people realise”.


Ryan adds, “People don’t always get the opportunity to showcase these types of films but Grindhouse Planet helps this and the quality of production is getting better and better. Especially with the budget limitations we all have”.


“Another thing is that people can come here to learn", says Ryan. "Steve Lawson gave a great Q & A about distribution and you can hear lots of feedback and get involved in networking too. I really loved The Killer Must Kill At Christmas from the 48-hour film challenge so recommend people go check that out”.


Check Ryan's recommendation below




With another successful year completed, the fans of saws, gore and more once again demonstrated their appreciation of all the talent on show and were buzzing to hear more about a third festival in 2018. Lets hope Marc and the team can grind out another successful full house of fright flicks next year. I'm almost certain he will.


Check out the official website here: http://www.grindhouseplanet.com


Check out The N0ughty List which is being shown before our own Batman Returns Christmas screening at Firebug in Leicester https://www.facebook.com/events/349772655487985/



RSS Feed twitter