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By midlandsmovies, Apr 30 2019 09:17AM



Replicas (2019) Dir. Jeffrey Nachmanoff


What is up with Keanu Reeves career making decisions? For every critical and commercial success he then opts to star in something so awful it beggars belief. As far back as Speed (followed by the woeful Johnny Mnemonic), all the way to The Matrix (followed by the unwatchable The Watcher), Keanu has moved from stone cold classics to utter drivel within months. So with John Wick being followed by the awful Knock Knock (see our review) he now moves from the excellent John Wick: Chapter 2 to new sci-fi film Replicas. And guess what? A $30 million dollar failure, the film sees Reeves as William Foster, a scientist who breaks the law to clone his family members after they perish in a vehicle accident. Sadly the film contains every plot cliché you can imagine and, whether it’s the script (likely) or the direction, Alice Eve as his wife gives a simply atrocious performance. Film fans will notice all the scenes hawked out of previous, and better, sci-fi movies including an I-Robot car crash (and Sonny-looking droid), an obsessed scientist and some Minority Report interfaces. And despite its attempts to tackle deeper issues of loss, humanity and family, the film is mostly reminiscent of the bold boringness of Transcendence. Avoid. ★★




The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019) Dir. Alex Gibney


This new documentary film tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her technology company Theranos, a now defunct business which was claiming to have revolutionised blood testing in the United States. Using just a small amount of blood from a finger prick, the company was testing machines that could return results of certain conditions in minutes. With their stupendous, and world-changing claims, Forbes named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America. However, just one year later her value was reassessed at zero dollars. What happened? Well Gibney’s documentary builds upon investigations at the time that uncovered there were significant problems with the company’s medical claims despite the endorsement of some high-flying business leaders. As a fan of Gibney’s past work – Zero Days being one of our top films of 2016 – it’s a shame to see such a lacklustre delivery of what is clearly an interesting subject. Unsure if it wants to be a study of manipulative characters like the delusional Holmes, or a take-down of Silicon Valley’s empty capitalism, the documentary sits in a sort of no man’s land of so-so interviews, archive footage and analysis. With a few tweaks and a tighter edit (it runs at 2 hours) this could have been a fantastic look at a modern-day conspiracy but despite Gibney making the complex subject matter understandable, it’s ultimately a dry recounting of the facts at hand. ★★★



The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (2019) Dir. Robert D. Krzykowski


Directed, produced and written by Robert D. Krzykowski, the film’s title has “solo passion project” written all over it in this new adventure drama starring Sam Elliott. The story sees old man Elliott as Calvin Barr who is shacked up in his home reminiscing about his past. On a covert operation to kill Hitler, Barr does the deed but his actions are swept under the carpet by seedy government forces and the public never find out. Later on in the present and after getting in fights around town, two new government agents explain that the world is at risk of destruction owing to a virus caused by, you’ve guessed it, Bigfoot. Aidan Turner plays the young Barr whilst Mark Steger has the enviable IMDB listing as “Bigfoot” himself. All this sounds lots of b-movie fun, right? Well, sadly, categorically no. Despite having the ridiculous title of a grindhouse film, the cinematography and pacing is that of an earnest character study. Sadly this results in an inherent dull-ness and it massively fails to live up to its ludicrous premise. In hindsight that could (and should) have been a semi-serious romp in the vain of another recent historical horror, Overlord – which combined similar genres far more effectively. A wasted opportunity. ★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jan 14 2019 11:31AM



SYNT: A Night in the Death of Jenny Taylor


Directed by Dave Inglis


2018


SYNT is the debut film from Dave Inglis, a writer-director from Birmingham who previously starred in West Midlands short Eviction and has now turned his hand to filmmaking in this horror comedy.


With a cast and crew from Birmingham and Solihull, SYNT is a kind of faux-documentary about Keith Fairbanks (Dave Inglis himself) who is a part-time journalist and online bingo-caller.


But things go strange very quick in this story as Keith arranges an ‘interview with a vampire’ after an online audition and heads to meet Jenny Taylor, an octogenarian bloodsucker AND a prostitute to boot. Sucker indeed.


Giving its documentary feel, the film has been wisely made in a very hand-held style. The camera movements and slice-of-life discussions are like a dark re-imagining of BBC’s The Office and everyday mundane activities are shown in a comically matter of fact delivery.


The script has lots of odd-ball and surreal jokes and dialogue often seems improvised which keeps with the documentary vibe as Dave and his cameraman – Ignatious Orlando Fyke – have funny off-the-cuff chats on their journey around town at night.


Long takes again maintain realism and whole scenes are played out without cuts which is testament to the actors’ skills. In addition, the film is punctuated with inserts, text, pauses and more which creates some visually interesting editing. However, SYNT could have definitely done with more of this though, as the long takes can begin to feel drawn-out and it just about avoids the pitfall of looking too much like an un-edited home-movie.


I am aware however of a shorter director’s cut that the filmmaker has made for festivals and I think this would work better as although the film throws lots of jokes at the audience, the murky lighting and juddering camera verges may push audience's to their 'wobbly' limit.


Brent-like Keith continues his investigations on the streets with Vlad and others, and seems somewhat unaware of his bumbling interview technique as he not only portrays events but almost gets involved in them himself. From take-aways to kerb-crawlers, the film finds lots of morbid fun in seedy night time shenanigans and its new suburban spin on the classic vampire hunter.


Obviously, the film is most reminiscent of Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows with its mix of vampire lore, comedy and documentary stylings but with the director freely admitting to some personal troubles outside of filmmaking, SYNT feels a cathartic exercise. Dave approaches the production as a form of therapy, involving friends and family and focusing on a complex project yet with a humorous tone which is more than an honourable exercise.


In conclusion, at over an hour in length some viewers’ patience may feel as stretched as a vampire’s life span but SYNT has more positives than negatives overall despite its drawn-out feel. If you loved Waititi’s 2014 film then I’d highly recommend this similar local Midlands flick with its fun parody mix involving crypts and quips.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Jan 1 2019 11:44AM



ROSE


Directed by Edwin Miles


This new documentary comes from Edwin Miles, a local filmmaker from Bewdley in Worcestershire. Having recently completed his MA Dissertation project at the University of Bristol, Rose is a slice-of-life film that focuses on an important family member and her recently passed birthday.


The lady in question is the filmmaker’s own Grandma, Rose, who has just celebrated her 93rd birthday and we are introduced to various aspects of her regular life.


The film explores issues of age and ageing and in its 15-minute runtime the director uses an unobtrusive style which hovers around Rose as she goes about her daily business as another annual milestone is reached.


From speaking to the postman to changing the sheets on a bed, Rose is photographed with a fly-on-the-wall camera aesthetic. Stoic and yet vulnerable owing to her advancing years, Rose’s quiet dignity comes across in every frame and general everyday conversations are interspersed with some polaroid still photographs as well as home-movie footage.


An interesting observation of one person’s personal life, the film would have benefited from some interviews, intertitles or voiceover to give some context. Who is Rose? Who are these relationships and family members? These questions are not answered, which may be intentional, but has the unfortunate result of feeling like watching someone’s un-edited home movie footage - which subsequently came across a little flat.


More of a mood piece than a full-on documentary, the film feels unfinished at times and could do with more editing and structure. However, having said that, “Rose” gives a unique glimpse into a suburban life well-lived, shows Rose being supported by family members and ends up being both a respectful and realistic portrait of a loving lady.


Michael Sales


Find out more information about ROSE at IMDB here.



By midlandsmovies, Dec 7 2018 12:36PM



Three Identical Strangers (2018) Dir. Tim Wardle


[Spoilers – please be aware this review reveals the film's main story]


This excellent new 96-minute documentary comes from Tim Wardle who re-discovers one of the more bizarre stories from the early 80s and re-positions it as a far more complex and dark tale than initially thought.


An outstanding opening tells the story of a young man, Robert Shaffran, who heads to college only to be mistaken by random strangers as their friend Edward Galland. After establishing that Robert isn’t Edward – who dropped out of the same college the previous year – fellow student Michael Domnitz encourages Robert to contact Edward and they drive cross-country to go meet him the very same day.


Amazingly, the tale unfolds to reveal that the two mistaken men are in fact twins, separated at birth through adoption yet who grew up in the same area.


The documentary uses talking head interviews to explain their incredibly wild story in simple terms which makes the tale all the more fascinating when the coincidences occur. And what coincidences!


As only a short time later – with the brothers’ story and photos making national newspapers – they are contacted by another man, David Kellman, who questions why he is looking at a picture of two of himself.


And so, the three men come to realise that far from twins, they are in fact a set of triplets who were raised in different households by loving families, unaware of each others existence.


Splicing in footage from the time across interviews, panel shows and question and answer TV appearances, the trio come across as likeable, fun and eerily similar siblings who make the most of their new found fame and fortune.


However, in a search for some answers to their adoptive pasts the families uncover a sinister reason for their separation involving a science experiment by psychiatrists Viola W. Bernard and Peter B. Neubauer. Without care or diligence, the two set a terrible scheme in motion to try and answer the age-old question of what has the most influence in our lives – nature or nuture?


The “scientific” study is given ominous context and with the full results sealed in a locked vault at Harvard University the brothers struggle to come to terms with their predicament. Grappling with their world, and their inner demons, one of them eventually commits suicide and the painful reality of their topsy-turvy lives is underscored in this honest yet fascinating documentary.


As with many of the best documentaries, it is the story itself that is the real enticement for audiences but the filmmaker’s change of tact to delve into the murky past and shady machinations is to its benefit and depth, with the film contrasting the happy reunion with the fatal outcomes.


Chilling, thrilling and fulfilling the documentary serves up a triple whammy of satisfying characteristics and combined with the revealing and candid interviews with the put-upon and exploited participants, it ends up being one of the best documentaries of 2018.


8.5/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2018 07:58AM



Midlands Spotlight – Irene’s Ghost


Midlands Movies Mike Sales finds out about new local film Irene’s Ghost made by filmmaker Iain Cunningham which covers a personal story about the search for a family member using animation and filmed footage.


Irene’s Ghost is a documentary which follows a son’s search to find out about the mother he never knew. The birth of his own child inspires the filmmaker to go on a journey to discover the truth about Irene, who passed away when he was just a child. Piecing together fragments of the past to make sense of the present he uncovers a long-held secret.


Directed by Iain Cunningham, the film is set around Nuneaton in Warwickshire and recently had a premiere at BFI London Film Festival. With plans to screen in cinemas next year and a local event in April 2019, Iain take centre stage doing the detective work to uncover his own mother’s story.


“I think that wanting to make this film is probably the reason I went into filmmaking in the first place”, says Ian. “The need to find out about Irene was always entwined with the desire to create something about her, to give her life a bit of poetry and give her a voice that she was in some ways denied in life”.


Irene died before Iain was old enough to form memories of her and after difficult decades where he was unable to broach the topic with his father, Iain encounters long-lost relatives and Irene’s best friend Lynn and gets to know his mother through the stories they tell.


From life in Nuneaton in the 1970s, factory work and living for nights at the Co-op Hall and holidays, the documentary pieces the puzzle of her life together, and slowly Irene’s personality comes to life.


Iain runs production company Forward Features and focuses on intimate and personal work. He decided to incorporate bursts of animation to illuminate memory and fantasy as he explores mental illness, grief and female friendship.


For more information on Irene’s Ghost check out the film’s official website and watch the trailer for the film below


www.irenesghost.com






By midlandsmovies, Nov 13 2018 10:39AM



Midlands Spotlight - Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers


Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers are a lively group of filmmakers and enthusiasts who meet twice a month in the West Midlands to create projects and inspire new and experienced filmmakers alike. Midlands Movies Mike Sales catches up with Jill Lampert to find out more.


Jill Lampert is the Membership Secretary of Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers, a grass-roots organisation that meets at 7.45pm every second and fourth Thursday of the month.


Their get-togethers take place between September and June at Wylde Green Community Hall, Emscote Drivein Sutton Coldfield and they are a community of like-minded cinephiles who enjoy developing film-making skills and supporting their members with their projects.


Although members of Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers include people with many years of experience working in mainstream television, Jill says that the club is an ideal place for beginner filmmakers to take their first steps into filmmaking.


"There is always a warm welcome given to visitors and new members and the first visit is free!"


Many members are currently working on different projects - from a murder story, an excerpt from Shakespeare and a short comedy with special effects. There are also a number of work in progress documentaries underway too and the range of subjects vary from beauty spots in Derbyshire to a boy with a passion for cricket as well as a film on hedgehogs and also another about homes for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people in France.


With such a wide range of experience and diversity of projects, SCMM has already created and completed a number of award-winning short films and their most recent work has included:


The Race to Death’s Door

Julian Austwick wrote and directed this ambitious short comedy film with many locations and a large cast.





Short Cut

Jack Reid wrote a short script which interested experienced filmmakers Ann and Arthur Fletcher. They developed the script and helped Jack to make this film featuring a shy birdwatcher.




A Helping Hand

Filmmaker Debbie Daniels’ first short film is about an elderly man who couldn’t sleep at night. He turned night into day but found this was isolating and lonely, so he turned to Dr Spellman for help. The doctor’s remedy was surprising.




The Attic

Members of Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers rented holiday cottages in Wales which doubled up as locations for this spooky short film by Andy Wills.




Behind the Signs

Three groups of members each put together a very short film explaining (in imaginative ways) the story behind a different pub sign. These three films were bound together by another story put together by a fourth group. Altogether some 27 club members were involved in making this film.


One special feature of this film was that members who had no experience in some aspect of filmmaking were invited to have a go. So the crew largely consisted of members who were trying out a new role e.g. directing for the first time, or doing the lighting for the first time.


For more information and to become a member check out the group's official page at


www.suttoncoldfieldmoviemakers.org.uk



By midlandsmovies, Nov 4 2018 08:44AM



Midlands Spotlight - Nottingham International Film Festival


The Nottingham International Film Festival is taking place at the Cineworld and Nottingham Arts Theatre from the 11th-15th November and is showing a great selection of independent film from around the world.


After two successful years the festival is expanding in length and will be spread across two venues with Nottingham’s city centre cinema Cineworld and stalwart of Nottingham’s arts scene The Nottingham Arts Theatre hosting a mix of feature and documentary films, short films, experimental, music videos and animations.


The opening night documentary, The Ballad of a Righteous Merchant, is about Werner Herzog and the making of his film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.


The film is playing at Cineworld on 11th November at 4PM and the director will be doing a Q&A after the screening. Check out http://www.nottiff.com/ballad-of-righteous-merchant for all the information and to buy tickets.



Screenings at the Arts Theatre are great value for money as they include both a Short Film Showcase and a feature presentation for the price of one ticket. Viewers can also grab a selection of passes for the Cineworld screenings, including all six films for £24 (£20 for students).


A 60-Minute Short Film Showcase and feature film double bill at The Nottingham Arts Theatre can be purchased for just £7.50


For all ticket options and offer click here: http://www.nottiff.com/tickets-and-passes/

For more details please visit http://www.nottiff.com


Full Line-Up below:


Ballad of a Righteous Merchant

HERBERT GOLDER / UNITED STATES / 63 MINUTES / ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Starring: Werner Herzog, Michael Shannon, Chloë Sevigny, Willem Dafoe

Playing at 4pm on Sunday 11th November at Cineworld Nottingham


Opening Night Shorts

A selection of short films from around the world with stars Billy Bob Thornton, Stephen Graham and Alfred Molina in the linuep.

Playing at 6:30PM on 11TH November, Cineworld


Octav

SERGE IOAN CELEBIDACHI / ROMANIA / 100 MINUTES / ROMANIAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES

Starring: Marcel Iures, Victor Rebengiuc, Lia Bugnar

Playing at 6pm on Monday 12th November at Cineworld Nottingham


My Year with Helen

GAYLENE PRESTON / NEW ZEALAND / 93 MINUTES / ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Starring: Helen Clark

Playing at 8:30pm on Monday 12th November at Cineworld Nottingham


Behind the Mirror

DIETMAR GAMPER, LINDA ROEHL / ITALY / 73 MINUTES / GERMAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES

Starring: Hanna Weithaler, Veronika Pircher, Walter Tribus

Includes Tuesday Night Short Film Showcase

Playing at 7PM on Tuesday 13th November at the Nottingham Arts Theatre


Phantompain

ANDREAS OLENBERG / GERMANY / 98 MINUTES / GERMAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES

Starring: Daniel Littau, Sven Martinek, Jessica Boehrs

Includes Wednesday Night Short Film Showcase

Playing at 7PM on Wednesday 14th November 7PM at the Nottingham Arts Theatre


You Can’t Say No

PAUL KRAMER / UNITED STATES / 91 MINUTES / ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Starring: Marguerite Moreau, Annie Monroe, Peter Fonda

Playing at 6pm on Thursday 15th November at Cineworld Nottingham


When The Storm Fades

SEAN DEVLIN / CANADA / 81 MINUTES / ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Starring: Kayla Lorette, Ryan Beil

Includes Thursday Night Short Film Showcase

Playing at 7PM on Thursday 15th November at the Nottingham Arts Theatre


Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies

AMANDA LADD-JONES / UNITED STATES / 84 MINUTES / ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Starring: Alan Ladd Jnr, Morgan Freeman, Ridley Scott, Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver

Playing at 8:30pm on Thursday 15th November at Cineworld Nottingham

By midlandsmovies, Sep 24 2018 11:23AM



“OCD: Can You Hear It Too?”


Directed by Laura Ray


A new short documentary surrounding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) comes from Birmingham-born director Laura Ray in “OCD: Can You Hear It Too?” which aims to spread the awareness of this mental illness in the hope to help others across the UK who are suffering in silence.


Laura Ray began directing plays and writing scripts from a very young age, until finally making it her ambition to make a full time career in the future as an aspiring screenwriter. But for nearly 4 years, she has also been trying to educate herself during her own battle with OCD.


Contemplating why she thought the way she did and why she acted in particular ways, Laura approached her film by trying to find other sufferers willing to speak about their experiences.


“I wasn’t there to be in control of it”, explains one sufferer as the film breaks down the various ways OCD can take hold of a person’s life. The film uses interviews to explore the multiple facets of people’s daily lives and even how the beginnings of OCD can start at a young age.


Another person, quoted only as Jess and silhouetted in the dark, shows how sufferers even want to hide what they perceive as a sometimes shameful issue, despite films like Laura’s which attempt to highlight that they need not suffer in silence.


The film also draws attention to the “completely insane” actions (as one person describes it) but the utter awful inability to be able to stop.


Panic. Poison. 24/7. Therapy. False memories. The complexity of OCD is explained by those experiencing the condition and Laura Ray simply lets those in the talking heads sections speak for themselves. With little intervention from the filmmaker, this makes their plight all the more relatable.


The film also depicts how managing to live with the day to day consequences is sometimes the best sufferers can expect. And despite therapy sessions, and even medication, those with OCD take small steps to alleviate their frustrations.


Going further, Laura Ray doesn’t plan for this to be her last OCD documentary either. By next year she aims to create an even deeper, honest account of OCD but this time through the eyes of the people surrounding the person suffering.


But by showing the options for support – friends, doctors, online forums – we see the strength of her current documentary. It provides a tangible plan of action and suggests that by joining a group to share experiences can be incredibly useful.


“Even at your lowest point. It does get easier”. A tender and sympathetic portrayal, Can You Hear It Too doesn’t break any documentary genre tropes but its simple delivery helps make the complex and sensitive issues understandable for any audience.


Mike Sales



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