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By midlandsmovies, Feb 7 2019 09:02PM



Midlands Review - Suicide Blonde


(2018)


Directed by David L Knight


Suicide Blonde is a short story that follows a young woman who pieces together the events of the night before. The opening scene is actually audio of a sexual act. The first visual scene is her laying on the ground of a park next to her lover, pushing the story on quite quickly.


We're captivated by the woman, played by Kerrie Sirrell, with her strong performance of a self destructive individual. The flashbacks to the evening are well executed and play perfectly alongside the current aftermath. The stark contrast of a colourful and lively nightclub to the cold reality of the morning after is a reminder of how things can get out of control. This scene also deals with the fact that both parties were just as irresponsible as each other.


Suicide Blonde tackles issues that are very real and very relevant to today's society. This short film could almost pass as an educational advert if it were shorter, and maybe a series of stories if it were longer. The target audience is slightly unclear, but the point is there.


90% of the film is pure build up, and the last moments are what really hit the hardest. What would have resonated more is real statistics. The colour tones, pragmatic scenes and gritty feel was all there, but seeing as the messages of hard drug use and sexually transmitted diseases is significant and still socially relevant - some recent data would've reinforced the final point.


The supporting roles from everyone else was complimentary against Sirrell's dramatic performance, which further enhanced her character's destructive personality.


As for the style of the film, I believe it was meant to look as real as possible. David L. Knight's previous films contain hints and traces of homages to the more influential directors of the 20th Century. With Suicide Blonde, everything had a much milder feel. With regards to the music, it was there when needed and the various voice overs filled the rest of the scenes nicely.


From the director, to the actors and editors, plus everyone else involved in the making of this movie, they all displayed skill and dedication to perfect all aspects. This was a strong team making a bold film. I would personally like to see more of these short stories with a stronger sense of reality. This could have a much bigger impact on such important and relevant subjects in today's society.


Sammy S


By midlandsmovies, Feb 5 2019 03:57PM



Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Dir. Dan Gilroy


In a world of instant gratification and the need to be the first with any news and information about a movie, it’s a shame that new film Velvet Buzzsaw comes with such huge baggage. Humour me if you will, but it used to be the case that to find out the spoiler details of a film you had to dig-deep in some super-fan film forum. Later on you could find a lot of info just by scrolling through social media.


But in the case of drama-horror Velvet Buzzsaw, the film company – Netflix in this instance – has taken those out of the equation to spoil the entirety of the film with their own trailer.


Ironically, given director Dan Gilroy’s previous film Nightcrawler which had a news-hunting sociopath (Jake Gyllenhaal) attempting to be the first with breaking stories he had a hand in, the unbelievable misstep of the film’s promo campaign has unfortunately bled into the movie itself.


Anyways, back to the film. Gilroy’s movie again sees him team up with Jake Gyllenhaal who stars as bisexual art critic Morf Vandewalt - who can make or break an artist’s career with just a few sentences.


Rene Russo plays hard-hitting gallery owner Rhodora Haze, but when her employee Josephina (Zawe Ashton) steals a number of paintings made by a deceased man from her apartment block, the two see an opportunity to profit from the works. But all is not as it seems as the artist’s dark past is infused into the chaotic canvases.


And later on we discover that the works have far more sinister entities captured within them, moving the film beyond its opening (and slightly campy) drama into a more overt horror genre. The film attempts and mostly succeeds in trying to balance some very black humour amongst the frightening set-pieces as the cursed paintings leave a trail of death in their wake.


The cast is largely excellent too – the main trio of Gyllenhaal, Russo and Ashton give quirky turns and are supported by a slightly-underused John Malkovich and a brief appearance by Toni Collette as Gretchen.


And speaking of her brief appearance. A trailer, for me, teases the audience with excitement to come. There’s always been the problem of trailers simply shortening the story, showing the film’s best bits or simply revealing too much. But oh boy, Velvet Buzzsaw's trailer shockingly delivers all three.


[SPOILERS] Maybe I have myself to blame. I chose to watch the trailer after all. That said, how anyone could get enjoyment from the film given the secrets the trailer gives away is a mystery to me. It shows the film’s main secret (the paintings are possessed and can move) and provides the film’s entire story in linear fashion. It also gives away some of the best scenes – paint literally “stalking” one of the protagonists – and finally, and by far the worst of all – it shows a death of one of the main characters.


I was hoping that the film's spoilerific trailer footage would be cleverly repositioned for the movie itself. Nope. Seen the trailer, seen the film. Absolute tension killer. Shame.


Gilroy is an excellent filmmaker and Velvet Buzzsaw has great set pieces and can be seen as an on-the-nose satire of the art world, contrasting elements of superficiality with deep destructive passions of art creators. But ultimately my recommendation has to be that audiences should DEFINITELY go into this one cold and avoid the trailer at all costs. If you don’t you’ll find what’s left behind is an absolute buzzkill.


★★★½


Mike Sales




By midlandsmovies, Jan 29 2019 02:58PM



The Chase (2018)


Fight Club production in association with Five Pence Productions.


Directed by Nisaro Karim & Sam Malley. Written by Nisaro Karim


A trio of contract criminals are assigned a case whereby they must steal a Christmas present from an empty household, only the job doesn’t turn out to be quite as straightforward as they had anticipated.


Sometimes I see films and I have to admire the potential they showed, even if they don’t quite hit the mark in terms of their execution. What Sam Malley and Nisaro Karim have created with The Chase is something that is a very solid foundation for what could go on to be a well-developed concept should they continue to invest in it.


What piques my interest most here is the premise and the number of questions it raises for the viewer. First and foremost, we have a story that centres around the bad guys, which is never a bad thing in my eyes. Generally speaking, the dodgier the character, the more intriguing the narrative tends to be. The thing with villains is they’re grafters. They always have to work hard, whereas the heroes - no matter how high the odds may be stacked against them - they always seem to come out on top with little or no hardship.


So the fact that I’m straightaway presented with two not-so-good characters as the front runners here tells me that the filmmakers also acknowledge this in some way, and I can appreciate that. What I think would be beneficial is that, going forward, how these people got to be where they are today gets explored.


To be able to get inside the head of a villain is always a fascinating thing, and would absolutely add layers of depth to what is a promising blueprint. Add to this the fact that little notes are added throughout the story with the intention of capturing attention and suddenly you have something that shows a lot of potential indeed. Some of these are a bit on the nose, for example, a package with content that remains a mystery from start to finish. However when you look at the bigger picture, it’s the slightly less obvious details that raise the bigger questions, which is another thing I was a fan of.


There were some moments that felt like they were supposed to be more comedic that didn’t hit the mark for me. For the most part, the downfall occurred in one of two ways. Either the generations involved in making the jokes didn’t fit, such as when there is the opening exchange between Dima and Daisy regarding Daisy’s Netflix viewing habits, or the responses to certain situations weren’t reactive enough, and were just too straight-laced.


Personally, I don’t think comedic elements are really needed here if I’m perfectly honest. I think out-and-out crime drama is the approach I’d prefer, and which I think would work better as getting the balance just right with lighter moments is hard and can carry some weight when it’s even just slightly off.


Overall, I do feel like there is a lot of potential there with The Chase, but it does need more development. Foundations are strong, but I think before any future projects are built upon them some of the writing could be tightened up a little bit, and it needs to have more confidence with whatever direction it is headed in.


There is a good idea here, and I think with the right amount of love it could grow into something great. It’s a work-in-progress, but definitely one where the bigger picture is worth keeping an eye on.


Kira Comerford


Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Jan 27 2019 09:19AM



Back in My Day


(2018)


Directed by James Foster


A gentle old man opens the door to a policeman who states he is under arrest in a riveting start to new film Back in My Day from local filmmaker James Foster.


In his first non-student directorial debut, James Foster introduces us to our lead – a Father Christmas-bearded senior citizen who does nothing more than hang out his washing to dry and talk about his bridge club games.


However, an ominous plaster on the gentleman’s head hints upon a recent accident in the man’s life and the film lets the audience uncover the details of the mystery in a reverse narrative technique.


Edited akin to Nolan’s Memento (2000), the film plays out in reverse chronological order with each scene being set slightly before the previous one, forcing us to act as investigator to put the pieces of this mysterious puzzle together ourselves.


A time stamp in the bottom left corner of each sequence keeps the viewer informed of the progress of things which also helps clarify the twisting story.


As our elderly protagonist asks if mobile phones can be tracked we are somewhat lulled into a sympathetic position where it is assumed the man may be returning the lost item. However, there is a much more sinister truth to the short as we start to see the scenes unravel.


[SPOILER] What is revealed is that the man is part of a cult who has kidnapped a teen. And whose robes echo the group from Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz in fact. Unlike that cloaked cult, this short isn’t played for laughs however. A final (technically first) shot of the old man leading astray his young victim after dropping bread rolls from his shopping – Hansel & Gretel anyone? – is a dark finale to an intriguing short.


The cast and crew of the film are based mostly in and around Lincoln, and the film itself was shot in Lincolnshire in the director’s home town of Scunthorpe keeping it suitably local. The 6-minute short tries to breathe new life into familiar themes, making our sympathies switch from pensioners being terrorised by your typical young hoodie-wearing tearaway to another horrific situation altogether.


Here the hoods are very much worn by the elderly group and the darkness is often just hinted upon in the short – but is an effective way of making your brain fill in the gaps.


An interesting dark puzzle of a film, Back in My Day plays on our notion of elderly victims and young perpetrators. And along with its different structure, delivers an effective story that inverts not just the narrative – but challenges our presumptions of certain groups to fantastic effect.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jan 24 2019 11:30AM



Filmmakers homage to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning for 60th Anniversary


Local filmmakers Them Pesky Kids and director Luke Radford are releasing a homage to Alan Sillitoe’s "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" to celebrate the original film’s approaching 60th anniversary at Rough Trade on the 1st of February.


On February 1st of January, Nottingham Director Luke Radford and Them Pesky Kids are hosting a launch night at Rough Trade Nottingham to mark the online release of their homage to Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.


Aptly titled, “I’ll be Here After the Factory is Gone” tells a modern day reimagining of Arthur Seaton’s story expressing just how relevant the book and film still is today 60 years later.


Having already screened at Nottingham Contemporary in July, and Broadway Cinema in September as part of their Working Class Heroes season preceding the original film, the Rough Trade screening will mark the third and final public screening of the film before releasing its online release.


With free entry and featuring musical performances from The Ruffs and DJs throughout the night, the event will be taking donations to raise money for the St Anns Advice Centre and Food Bank, a charity dedicated to helping inhabitants in some of the most in need areas of Nottingham.


A modern day homage to Alan Sillitoe’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”. Arthur is a young man stuck in the 9 to 5 office grind, finding his salvation in booze, parties, and women; until a new love brings clarity to his world. Directed by Luke Radford, Starring Aaron Lodge, Kelly Jaggers, and Esmeé Matthews. Set to music of Nottingham band The Ruffs. You can read our full Midlands Movies review by clicking this link.



Director Luke Radford adds, "I saw Saturday Night and Sunday Morning a few years ago and immediately read the book it's based on. It’s over 60 years since it was first released and the environment, themes and characters still resonate".


"I took themes and key elements of the original narrative and placed them in a contemporary setting with Arthur Seaton now working in telesales rather than the Raleigh factory.".


The film will be released online via Them Pesky Kids’ Vimeo and social media pages on the 1st of February at 7.30pm. Them Pesky Kids is a production company based in Nottingham who produce films and provide video content and solutions to a range of companies, www.thempeskykids.co.uk


Luke Radford recently had the limited theatrical release of his debut feature film Outlawed, which is also currently available in the USA on DVD/VOD. The UK release is set for mid 2019. Luke also teaches Film Production at Confetti ICT as he works towards his next project.



By midlandsmovies, Jan 7 2019 01:47PM



Farside


Directed by Ash Morris


2018


Farside is the new film from Stoke-On-Trent director Ash Morris who has taken his Midlands crew to Welsh seaside town Rhyl to film his latest movie.


Presented in a very real-to-life hand held camera style, we follow refugee Sayeed (BAFTA shortlister Amir El-Masry) who heads to a caravan park to be trained as an on-site security guard.


As well as this with get glimpses into others’ lives from the park including Annabel (Sacha Parkinson who recently starred as the lead in feature film Apostasy) and her angry drunken father Jez (Shane Attwool from Clio Bernard’s Dark River).


As Sayeed kneels in Muslim prayer, we hear anti-immigrant sentiment on a radio phone-in and see Annabel going about her business on the sea front. But not before she suffers an epileptic seizure in her caravan home which foreshadows further physical and mental themes later in the film.


As Sayeed heads to the beach he has recollections of the sounds of war and the director cleverly shows the horrors of the past without giving too much away too early in the story.


Soon, Annabel joins him and they have fun together at the seaside arcade games but on her return we find her dad has lost his job which he blames on Polish workers. With drunken violent outbursts and attributing his current predicament on others, he seethes in boiling rage as we, the audience, feel a sense of tension about to explode.


With a crew made up locally from Staffordshire University students, a change of national location and its international themes, Farside successfully mixes small town sensibilities with wider worldwide issues. And it’s to its credit, that the film handles each of these ideas well – never forgetting the past and future whilst tackling the theme of conflict, both small and large.


As the two friends grow closer, Sayed still has nightmares from his previous life in the Middle East but is about to face new nightmares in his adopted home from those around him.


Hard-hitting and heart breaking, Ash Morris has tackled a difficult subject with gusto but also with sensitivity. Small details like Union Jack flags and background sound effects show the contrasting lives of the main players and the production doesn’t flinch from the complex matters at hand.


Escaping from violence in war-torn Syria into further violence in the supposedly peaceful UK, Morris parallels the loss of loved ones in a poignant yet stark short.


With fantastic performances from the three main leads, Farside ends up being a powerful reminder of the world we live in and explores the demonization of people escaping tragic circumstances and war-torn fighting, but only to find more battles in their new home.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Jan 2 2019 02:11PM



Trick


(2019)


Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


With an amazing short film production run in 2018, Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz ends the year with another hard-hitting drama with his new film Trick.


As a young man pours drugs onto a weighing machine, another older man sits nearby and discusses pets and how kindness can be seen as a weakness that can be exploited.


And “hey presto”, immediately we are thrown into one of the director’s familiar gangster scenarios where a boss is giving his underling some much needed advice. But before the conversation can continue however, they are interrupted by two men – one of whom (Jimmy) sheepishly asks for more time to repay some money.


Crime and violence are a recurring theme in Shahnawaz’s work - from Tarantino-influenced kidnapping in Witness to a Nolan-esque time-twisting attack in his last film Reversal. And here, the film sets up more of the same with a brutal world of hoodlums and terror. One of the hired hands (Shahnawaz regular Nisaro Karim) forces the man to sit down at the boss’ table.


The boss (a menacing James Jaysen Bryhan in a fantastic performance) proceeds to perform a magic “trick” involving a blood-red handkerchief. Darkly comic, he sarcastically provides his own magician’s musical accompaniment to his silly – but scary – performance.


Raising tension, the director does well by mixing the light-hearted trick with the darker themes already shown – thus creating a rising atmosphere of dread. And what will he make disappear using his fists? Well, you’ll have to watch the full film (see below) but suffice to say Sheikh has added one of his trademark twists to the tale to surprise the audience like pulling a bunny out of a hat.


With the director’s plans to tackle less shorts and bigger projects, it seems just the right time for Shahnawaz to tackle a larger and more thorough film. As although the shorts have all been dark delights, they now seem like teasers to a talent that requires flexing in a bigger arena.


Trick therefore ends up with Shahnawaz conjuring up another forceful short that alludes to the next step on his magical filmmaking journey.


Michael Sales



Watch the full film below:




Find out more about Sheikh's projects on Twitter and Facebook:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cinesheikh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinesheikh


By midlandsmovies, Jan 1 2019 12:18PM

Aurora (2018)


Directed by Louis Brough & Natalie Martins


Scarlett Light Media


This new Midlands short uses the region to re-imagine Sleeping Beauty in the Woods taking elements of both fantasy and drama in its new take on the established fairy tale.


We open on an ominous spinning wheel before waking up, funnily enough, with our lead Rose (Amelia Gabbard) heading downstairs on her birthday to a fate unknown.


In a kitchen we see an older lady, Aunt Fleur discuss a family secret with her own sister but unbeknownst to them both, Rose is within ear shot to this shocking truth. Here we find that Rose was taken from her parents who are both still alive and before they know it, they see Rose run off into the forest.


The directors use well-tailored fantasy costumes to evoke a world of wickedly wonder whilst the forest and woods are filmed in glorious green hues given the film an air of animation with their vivid and contrasting colours.


As Rose gathers her thoughts near a small brook, a stranger (David Wayman) arrives on a white horse. Again, the filmmaker takes us from the Midlands to a fantasy land complimented by a great sound mix and a fantastical string score.


The stranger expresses his fondness for her singing before the two embark on a walk around the woods and lakes. Gorgeous cinematography helps sells this wonderland and the acting is solid if a little melodramatic at times. Good location work is helped with the use of an historic building that could be almost gingerbread with its chocolate brown beams and flowery sweet garden.


One of her aunts eventually catches up with Rose to explain that Rose’s parents live in a nearby castle but she was hidden as a young child to avoid “something evil”. And then shares some of her own magical secrets with a wand literally up her sleeve.


The two directors have maintained and delivered on a special vision that takes a very different tact to many of the films from the region. It’s great to see this, and the Lord of the Rings influenced The Return of the Ring, focus on the fantasy genre. Especially when Tolkien’s real Middle-Earth was better known as the West Midlands.


In conclusion, the film is a well-executed and fun slice of folklore with its own spin. A magical tale with a real visual flair, you should check out Aurora for all its enchanting delights.


Mike Sales


Find out more about Aurora at the film’s official Facebook page here



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