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By midlandsmovies, Apr 14 2019 08:47AM



Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers and local college announce new film The Wand


Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers and Sutton Coldfield College are collaborating to make a new fiction film at the College located on the Lichfield Road, Sutton Coldfield. The initiative to make the film was taken by Emma Buet, lecturer, to give her students work experience.


Filming has just wrapped on “The Wand”, a short fantasy film based on a script written by Julian Austwick who is a member of Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers.


And work is now being done on editing and post production with the finished planned for screening at the British International Amateur Film Festival in Birmingham on 25th April 2019. Further afield, the team hope to enter the Birmingham Film Festival in November as well.


The locations for filming were all on site at Sutton Coldfield College and included using a studio with a blue screen for special effects. Students on the design course made props and costumes and students on the drama course were the cast. The props included a giant toadstool and a wand, whilst make-up and prosthetics included a witch, a lion’s head, a horse’s head, a dreadful rash and webbed hands.


The film crew was drawn from Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers: Julian Austwick, Jill Lampert, Gordon Hunt and Debbie Daniels.


And for the students it was a chance to get valuable experience working for an outside project as well as useful work to add to CVs and personal statements in applications for university.


For Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers this was a great opportunity to engage with enthusiastic and talented young actors, and to have access to the wonderful creations the design team produced.


Debbie Daniels (Member of Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers) added, “For us at Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers, it’s been a joy to have the students’ expertise and creativity, giving us an opportunity to experiment and play, to make a really unique film. It’s one of the most stimulating things we’ve done!”


Student Tilly went on to explain: “I just enjoyed doing the hair and stage make-up because it was very fun and a new experience for me to do make-up for a movie”.


“Plus, I felt really welcomed and felt like my work was really appreciated. I also feel very proud to be part of The Wand because it has helped me socialise more and perfect my prosthetic making skills.”


Finally, lecturer Emma Buet added, “I have been delighted by my students’ engagement with the collaboration and enjoyed seeing their work develop and personal confidence grow. I really hope we can continue to work with Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers on a regular basis and look forward to seeing the finished film.”


Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers meets at Wylde Green Community Centre, Emscote Drive, B73 5NE on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 7.45pm for an 8pm start. It is a lively, friendly club for people who enjoy making films for fun. Visitors and new members are always welcome.


For more information check their website at www.suttoncoldfieldmoviemakers.org.uk





By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2019 04:41PM



Border (2019) Dir. Ali Abbasi


Iranian-Swedish director Ali Abbasi directs this new dark drama based on the short story of the same name by Ajvide Lindqvist. The film was nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 91st Academy Awards and stars Eva Melander as Tina who has a Neanderthal appearance and works in customs where she has the ability to smell guilt.


Melander gives an amazingly sensitive performance of a lady with severe facial disfigurement who lives in a secluded house with her partner Roland.


As she catches people with contraband at the border, one man is caught with child pornography which leads to a police investigation where Tina’s abilities may be able to assist. Alongside this, a man with a similar facial disfigurement (Eero Milonoff as Vore) comes through customs and Tina is intrigued into his past and strange demeanour.


The film builds slowly, allowing us to invest our time with Tina and her sorry life. Shot in a very realistic manner which makes Tina’s strange abilities seem entirely believable, Border sets up a series of mysteries – Tina’s skills, the awful detected crime, Vore’s backstory – which maintains the film’s forward momentum throughout.


As Vore is caught incubating, and then eating, maggots the mixture of nature and fairy tale imagery adds huge doses of surrealism to the documentary-like cinematography. Vore and Tina frolic naked in a lake and in the woods, and as their relationship develops Tina's reserved character is slowly revealed. And much more besides.


There are many, many revelations in the film which I really don’t want to spoil here however. The less you know the more you will get from this film as it twists and turns and even jumps genres to amazing effect. A shocking liaison in the the forest alongside some haunting imagery linking the various narrative threads were some of the most striking sequences I’ve seen in cinema in a long time.


Abassi uses themes of family and genetics to tackle the problems of being an outsider as he injects realism and history into his tall tale. And whilst Tina’s deformity sets her apart from those around her, the film explores not just her place in our society, but in other societies too, which creates a clash of identities.


A cracking drama with added fantasy elements, Border is both compassionate and shocking and comes hugely recommended as it combines amazing performances that go beyond the prosthetics with a host of disturbing images you simply won't forget.


★★★★½


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2019 06:55PM



Midlands Review - Shining Tor


Directed by Andrew David Barker


When you Google Shining Tor, there are numerous things that pop up. Shining Tor is a hill in the Peak District; it’s also the name of Andrew David Barker’s short film. With its synopsis stated simply as “two hikers discover a doorway to another world”; even I was intrigued and tempted in by these 8 little words.


Set in the Peak District, with the elements of vast land, open air and rolling hills to set the scene, it was a perfectly remote location for two parallel storylines to mix.


A couple are hiking, with Amber, played by Laura Rollins, trying to take in the fresh countryside air and Dylan, played by Ashley Rice, the compliant but fed up boyfriend. You can tell there’s tension and both aren’t really enjoying the brisk hill climbing for different reasons. Dylan didn’t realise how much he had to walk and got himself a blister. Amber accuses Dylan of not listening and wants a change from the rut in her life – all relatable might I add.


The chemistry between the actors is natural from the very start and therefore their characters are highly believable. Laura Rollins and Ashley Rice both act on the daytime TV drama Doctors, where director Andrew David Barker is a researcher for the show. Knowing the cast very well had certainly paid off and the talent on and off screen is apparent in every aspect of Shining Tor.


As the story continues, Amber walks off after a heated discussion with Dylan and comes across something out of place. Their curiosity gets them digging a little deeper to unveil a window into another dimension. A third interesting character is revealed to be a bloodied up Barbarian.


This scene is what won Mick Walker, the creative director of Shining Tor the Midlands Movie Award for best visual effects. Without giving away too much, what were used to create the window were card, a blue cloth, a green cloth and a light stand. My one and only suggestion would have been to add bruises and scrapes to the Barbarian to add that extra ingredient of realism that blended so well within each reality. He was a little too clean for a murderous wild man.


Mick and Andrew have known each other for years and they were the only crew on set when they made Two Old Boys. It is a delightful film about two gentlemen talking of the days gone by. Shot in a single day at a pub in Derbyshire, these lads require minuscule components to produce that spark they’re so good at showing through their work.


Mick Walker owns a production company; Boxset Media based in Nottingham. Specialising in corporate films, their reputation and expertise in filmmaking is phenomenal.


In Andrew David Barker’s other short films, he uses few actors but boosts the story to its full potential; this is a huge strength of Andrew’s and common throughout his work. It’s the simplicity that I love, there is no overreaching the mark on the special effects of Shining Tor, they knew what worked and completely played with it. I’m a sucker for these types of effects - using very little to create the absolute maximum.


So far, the story has drama, action and fantasy. It’s no surprise really that Shining Tor had won the Best Fantasy Short at the Independent Short Awards in LA last year too. Andrew said he had the urge to shoot bigger with a fantasy element in his next story, especially after making Two Old Boys with Mick got him back in the filmmaking game, and so became Shining Tor.


I hope that it continues to get as much recognition as it deserves and maintains a huge following, and that Andrew keeps surprising us with his incredible stories.


Sammy S

Twitter @IsoElegant



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



By midlandsmovies, Dec 3 2018 10:22AM



Midlands Spotlight - Off Grid release new trailer to coincide with crowdfunding campaign


Off Grid is the upcoming production from Dark Matter Films and Bewdley-based Director Carl Timms who shot the short film on location in Worcestershire earlier this summer with a completion date pencilled in for early 2019.


The crowdfunding campaign will raise money for the film’s special effects and final post-production for this post-apocalyptic, supernatural thriller which boasts a stellar cast including James Cosmo, MBE (Game of Thrones, Braveheart, The Outlaw King) as force of nature John Tanner; Alison Steadman (Pride and Prejudice, Gavin & Stacey) as his frail wife, Grace and Marc Baylis (Redcon-1, Coronation Street) as the enigmatic Stranger


Rising British horror actress Kate Davies-Speak (Horizon, Dead Air) as Cailtin Rourke is also involved and the trailer, which can be viewed above, offers a glimpse of the other-worldly threat, ‘The Shining Ones’, who are plaguing humanity.



Off Grid is directed by Carl Timms (click here to read our review of his earlier Midlands film STILL) and written by Mark Brendan through their production company Dark Matter Films and was shot over the summer of 2018. It tells the story of elderly couple, John and Grace Tanner, who have fled deep into the forest following an apocalyptic event. There John fights to protect his frail wife, and his own sanity, from a supernatural threat. The arrival of another survivor forces John to assess if he is an ally or a threat, leading to revelations that could shatter the sanctuary he has built for them.


Bewdley-based director Carl Timms says, "We are delighted with how the filming turned out. We feel honoured to have worked with such a talented cast who brought these characters to life exactly as we hoped. Off Grid is a hard-hitting, intense drama that tells an ambitious, character-driven story in just 20min. To make it work we needed actors with real gravitas and they delivered beyond our hopes. But credit must also go to our amazing crew who all worked so hard to make this the best it could be".




The Indiegogo campaign with a target of £5,000 for Off Grid launched 25th November and can be found by clicking here. All funds raised are being put into post-production of the film, including CGI effects work, grading, sound design and final mastering.


The ‘perks’ on offer include an Associate / Executive Producer credit including tickets to a premiere screening, sponsorship opportunities for local businesses, digital and DVD copies of the finished film, limited edition artwork and behind the scenes photography, and a thank you in the credits for making the film happen. If the campaign is a success, Dark Matter Films are planning an early 2019 completion date and high-end festival run.


Keep up to date at https://www.darkmatterfilms.co.uk


Photos courtesy of Gary Moore, strongarmphotography


By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2018 07:24AM



The Return of the Ring (2018)


Directed and written by AR Ugas


“Enough teaching about our history. It’s time to fight for our future”.


High fantasy and enduring myth reach the Midlands in a brand new 22-minute short from AR Ugas who brings Tolkien’s tales and epic themes into a contemporary setting with his new film The Return of the Ring.


Described as a fan-film with a title that could elicit groans, don’t let that fool you as the short shouldn’t be dismissed as an amateur production but one which condenses the novel’s rich themes and ideas into a uniquely local idea.


The story follows a young female Elf (Rhi Hardman as Illyandra) who sets out to reclaim the ring after it is told that it was never originally destroyed. This was followed by The Race of Man eradicating Middle-earth which ensured any trace of its history was to become a fairy tale.


Opening with a foot chase involving a mysterious hooded-man in black, the film wears its love of not just the novel but of Peter Jackson’s infamous trilogy on its sleeve. Illyandra escapes from this Nazgûl – the immortal beings bound to the power of the One Ring – and director Ugas, who also writes, scatters some archaic Tolkien language to his script too.


The ring ends up with a barman (Sam Malley as John) and Illyandra makes contact with him at a nightclub. And despite using “orc magic” to get her hand on the powerful item, the Ring Wraith is soon back on their tail. The film balances its extreme fantasy ideas with a suburban realism and the use of potions and pointy ears is subtly ingrained in the film’s modern narrative.



Technically the short suitably aims for the epic with drone shots over the city giving a cinematic feel to the proceedings. Director of photography James Alexander Barnett excellently mixes lens flare with well-chosen locations that give a sly wink to the source material. A conversation in a park against a tree harks to fantasy forests whilst a neon lit water feature in a nightclub echoes a mythic waterfall of sorts.


Sadly, the apartment location– acting as the characters’ main sanctuary – feels a little ‘flat’ but its cramped space seems to represent their confinement – hiding from their enemy in a metaphorical dungeon. But again, its low-budget roots don’t affect the great creativity at work. A clever panning shot, some suitably intense music and well composed colour grading gives the ‘other-worldly’ illusion of the ring-bearer’s scary visions.


Dominic Thompson portrays Alatar the Young (also credited as “The Wizard”) and unfortunately I felt the actor went a bit too far with a slightly pantomime performance. However, his well-delivered monologue to fill in backstory was effectively utilised and the actor nicely incorporated hints of Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue from Jackson’s movie.




Woven into the film was also some excellent, but subtle, updating of ancient costumes. The leather jacket clad Nazgûl, a hooded advisor and the earthy tones of a wood Elf were fantastic and heck, even a white t-shirt embodied John’s naïve innocence to the events unfolding.


Nisaro Karim as Amdir arrives towards the end and the film moves swiftly between locations and characters and flashes of humour keep it light-hearted at times as well. With the power of the ring continuing to corrupt the heart of men, the film shows expert dexterity in technique and cinema skill with its innovative spin of the traditions of Middle-earth whilst still making it accessible and understandable to a modern Midlands audience.


A perfect ending that has a literary nod to Tolkien was a brilliant surprise that will leave you wanting more and the story’s present-day setting blends tones well. With great craftmanship, AR Ugas’ film therefore ends up being not just token Tolkien, but a fully-fledged and ambitious homage that throws in its own satisfying twist on legends with amazing precision. There are some good films in this world and shorts like The Return of the Ring are worth fighting for.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short here:






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, Feb 13 2018 03:52PM



The Shape of Water (2018) Dir. Guillermo del Toro


Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a mute janitor at a secret government facility who begins to bond with a strange water-based creature in The Shape of Water – a new fantasy romance from creative force Guillermo del Toro.


Like the much lauded Pan's Labyrinth, Del Toro’s new film crosses the historical with the unbelievable and the director also mixes cold-war fears with a timeless love in a tale like no other. The story begins in 1962 when American Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon adding another fantastic villain to his career) brings a human-like water creature to the facility and cruelly tortures it in an attempt to discover any secrets this animal may have in their battle against the Russians.


Del Toro’s simple camera moves and basic structure give a pureness to the film allowing the subtle layers and themes of isolation, technology and communication to come to the forefront. Like all his films, this simplicity also harks back to his love of fairy tale myths. In this movie he punctuates the screen with colours of green and images of eggs – a symbol as much of creation and fertility as it is the cracked nature of Humpty Dumpty.


Hawkins’ Elisa secretly communicates via sign language which helps her bond with the creature – and whose familiarity to Abe Sapien from del Toro’s Hellboy films does not go unnoticed – and the swamp-man responds to her affections in the face of Shannon’s awful villain.


The great and deep characterisation continues as Elisa is quiet, but not lonely as such, with her being acknowledged at work and having a variety of friends including Richard Jenkins as Giles and Octavia Spencer as her fellow janitor, and sometimes interpreter, Zelda.


The symbolism continues as even her surname (Esposito) has etymological links to being an orphan as well as deriving from the Latin exponere ("to place outside"). It’s even claimed she was found by the river in an obvious parallel. During the blossoming connection we see Elisa masturbating in her bath and the great nuanced screenplay doesn’t shy away from covering themes of masculinity and femininity. Shannon’s excellent turn as the antagonist is pure male villainy yet his physical prowess take a hammering as he loses a phallic finger in an attack from the creature.


As well as sex, there are underlying nods to race and integration that echo the changing nature of society at the time - with the repressive 50s making way for equal-rights, sexual freedom and the burgeoning technology of the 60s. People begin to challenge the fact they are spoken to like second-class citizens whilst Giles loses his advertising design job in the face of photography. More obvious themes come in the form of the space-race and the rivalry between USA and Russia. This is personified by the fantastic Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, a caring scientist whose allegiances are less than clear cut.


With the inclusion of some poetic violence and exciting chase sequences there are arguments that it is unnecessary violent at times but like the best fairy tale stories it has a contrast between light and dark. The expressive dainty and subtle harp music may feel quaint at times but gives the film an ethereal quality and is broken up by loud gunshots and bloody encounters.


We mustn’t forget Doug Jones in all this as the ‘Amphibian Man’ as well. He mimes his way through heavy prosthetics to give the character plenty of feeling and empathy but it’s Sally Hawkins who really is the main draw here. Without verbal language at her disposal, her body movement, eyes and the physicality she gives to the role is key to the film’s winning charm.


Del Toro’s always had a flair for the colourful and enjoys the mix of reality and dream worlds. Yet after a few throwaway gems like Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim, he has hooked all the prize pieces together in this film. A fishy fable like no other, the stupendous Shape of Water is as simple as a child’s story yet at the same time goes to depths only a master filmmaker of del Toro’s skill can reach.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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