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By midlandsmovies, Dec 5 2019 05:20PM



Rachel


Directed by David L Knight


2019


“This won’t bring her back”.


Rachel is a new film from Midlands filmmaker David L Knight and throws us straight in to a world of drugs, violence and former wrongdoings.


Opening with a dishevelled man in a hoodie playing with a lighter, the voice of a female tells him that his pain must be “unbearable”, before we are shown her standing nearby in an angelic white dress.


However, the junkie quickly turns his aching addiction into an abduction as he drags a well-dressed woman off the street and into the alley. But here, we are shocked as a hard cut to black then takes us to a warehouse with the man now tied to chair in a brutal opening twist.


With tape over his mouth gagging his cries for help, the ghostly woman reappears laughing before two strangers arrive. “Rachel” builds up its world quickly and efficiently and with just a few lines of dialogue the short sets up a number of intriguing mysteries that help push the narrative along.


Owing to the setting and situation, the filmmaker also delivers a locally-infused Reservoir Dogs aesthetic with the tied victim attempting to speak, but also suspecting the worst. He’s definitely stuck in the middle with them!


“There’ll be plenty of time for noise later”, says one of the captors as they toy with their victim and the short builds up some good tension as we are thrown into this dark standoff.


As per the three-act structure, at about two-thirds of the way in the film finally reveals that one of the tormentors has lost his daughter and is seeking some rough justice. But although our victim claims to have no knowledge of the man’s 17 year-old, a photo thrust under his nose proves otherwise.


The presence of a person as a metaphor for a haunted past is a little over-used in films but Knight uses the apparition sparingly enough, especially as she is often glimpsed over the captor’s shoulder – haunting both the dad and his bloodied victim.


As we draw to the film’s conclusion, the verbal torture ends and physical torture begins in a brief flash of violence straight out of Taken. Rachel slowly builds a sense of concern AND revulsion for both of the main characters as we are shown the two sides of a moral quandary.


However, as the mysteries unravel so do the captors and the short ends on a cliffhanger of horror. A cautionary and mostly successful tale of drug abuse and revenge, and despite a cliché here or there, Rachel ends up a satisfyingly tense 9 minutes of drama where past mistakes haunt the present.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Sep 3 2019 05:04PM


Photo credit: Sam Irons
Photo credit: Sam Irons

Midlands Interview - Katie Redford


Katie Redford is an actress and writer from Nottingham in the East Midlands and we spoke to her about her latest film Ghosted, a mockumentary about the spiritual and unknown that was part-funded by the BFI.


Midlands Movies editor Mike Sales got the low down on Katie's regional connections, her admiration for Ricky Gervais and the trials and tribulations of getting her new film off the ground using crowd-funding and a grant from the BFI.


Hi Katie. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into your current position in the industry?

Yes, of course. I'm from Nottingham. I was born in Stapleford but grew up mostly in Long Eaton. I went to London to train as an actress but one of my first jobs in the industry was working as a floor runner in TV. It was a brilliant job when it came to learning the different roles behind the scenes and witnessing just how much goes into a production, but I couldn't do it for long as I got too jealous of the actors!


And where did you go from there?

After a few years of juggling part time, I won the BBC Norman Beaton Fellowship which is a scheme BBC Radio Drama run for actors who haven't trained at an accredited drama school and I had 6 months working with the BBC Radio Drama Rep. From that point, I started working full time professionally as an actress in both TV and radio and started writing on the side for various local scratch nights. I was then accepted into BBC Comedy Writersroom so started writing more from that point.


Sounds great. Can you also tell us a bit about GHOSTED? How did you come up with the idea?

Ghosted is a comedy about a woman who loses her husband and as a result, turns to the world of the paranormal. We were both interested in different aspects of the paranormal and we just merged them together. My inspiration for the idea came from a paranormal investigation company that my friend runs. They meet at various old venues in Nottingham and Derbyshire with the aim to witness paranormal activity. The whole idea of the paranormal fascinates me but I also was intrigued as to know why people feel the need to find out / explore this bizarre phenomenon.



Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson
Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson

And how did the cast come on board?

Anna Wilson Jones, a brilliant actress who's also in the film, came on board to co-produce the project with us and suggested we send Alison Steadman the script. They'd worked together a few years before and thought it was worth a shot, which it most certainly was! We then approached the actors we really wanted and luckily, they all said yes!


What were the influences on your film?

There were a few, but I'd say mostly Spinal Tap, What We Do In The Shadows (Jermaine Clement's version), The Office & This Country. Duncan and I are huge fans of all of them and were inspired by mainly their tone and humour.


And what were the challenges you faced as local independent filmmaker?

There's lots of challenges - before pre shoot, during shoot and post shoot! In terms of pre shoot challenges, I think when you're an "unknown filmmaker, it's always going to be slightly trickier. It's a bigger risk when it comes to people investing in you and your project because they don't quite know what they're signing up for. For me, it was the first project I'd ever produced so there were lots of challenges for that reason alone.



Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson
Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson

And funding?

Funding is always going to be some what of a challenge but we decided to do things slightly differently and only apply for funding once we'd shot Ghosted. I was getting frustrated with the amount of hoops I was having to jump through to get a script read, let alone made, so we didn't want anything holding us up - we got a team together and shot it. It was afterwards that we launched a Kickstarter campaign and we managed to raise just over £6k, which really helped us in post.


How did the BFI involvement come about?

Again, it was something we looked into once we'd shot the film. I saw online that BFI NETWORK offered various grants and there was a Midlands branch so due to my connection, I sent an email along with our Kickstarter video. We recently found out that our Kickstarter video hugely influenced the decision to award us with the grant, so it really is vital getting that on point!


Was the process a smooth one?

Ghosted was one of the first short films to be produced by BFI Network in the Midlands so for us, the trickiest thing was simply waiting, as I think everyone was still finding their feet with the process of it all. But we were fortunate enough to have Alexzandra Jackson from BFI Network, who came on board as Exec Producer. Whenever there was a hold up or there was an issue, we'd just contact her and she'd reassure us with where everything was at.



Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson
Photo credit: Toby Laurence & Jemma Benson

And what has been the most difficult hurdle you have had to overcome yourself?

Firstly, to have patience - to accept that just because things don't happen instantly, it doesn't mean they won't happen at all. And secondly, if there's something I don't understand, to just ask. Because it was the first project I'd produced, there were certain things I wasn't sure about. For instance, when it came to paying our cast and crew (thanks to BFI Network funding!) I had no idea about issuing contracts and various clauses. As an actress, I'm used to my agent dealing with that side of things. But I just asked a few friends of mine who had produced and that really helped. The best piece of advice that was given to me from another producer was: "Everyone's blagging it. It's just about having the confidence, communicating and asking for help when you need it."


Moving onto your own personal tastes, do you have any heroes in the industry or favourite films you love?

I don't have a firm favourite - it's a bit all over the shop to be honest. I love Christmas films. And horror films. Paranormal Activity/ The Exorcist in particular. I also love Four Weddings and a Funeral. So, there's not exactly a pattern emerging. I have a few heroes in comedy; Ricky Gervais, Caroline Aherne, Ruth Jones & Peter Kay. They're all comedy legends who have carved the way for their own work.


And what has been your greatest achievement or success?

Having Alison Steadman as the lead in my first short film is pretty much up there at the minute!


So finally, what are your future plans for Ghosted?

It's currently doing the film festival circuit at the minute. It's doing well internationally having been selected for festivals in the US and Australia and we're looking forward to seeing it at Underwire and Aesthetica. We discussed plans for a TV series and have had a few meetings but they're just ideas at the minute.


And any advice to give to other Midlands filmmakers?

Get a good team around you. If in doubt, just ask. Don't let things hold you up - momentum is key! And remember, 'everyone's blagging it' - so just do it!


Thanks Katie!


Find out more about Ghosted at the official websuite: https://www.ghostedfilm.co.uk


The trailer for the film is below:




By midlandsmovies, Apr 8 2019 02:09PM



Midlands Review - Ghosts


Directed by Joey Lever


Digital Heart


2019


"Early 2019 The Ghost Catchers were hired to rig 369 Film Studios with state-of-the-art paranormal technology to find spirits that have been haunting the studio for 30 years.


This is the footage recovered”.


And so opens this new paranormal comedy mockumentary from Leicester filmmaker Joey Lever. With the relatively recent explosion of films based around a similar premise – the Paranormal Activity franchise films and 2011’s Grave Encounters - Lever plays Malone, a ghost who is haunting a local film studio but is followed by a film crew too.


In this unique twist we are introduced not just to Malone, but he shares this haunted space with two other spirits – Flynn (Jak Beasley) and his girlfriend (ghost-friend?) Spryte played by Phoebe Hammond.


The trio have quirky personas and spend their days pranking the owner Jeff, played by real-life studio owner David Hardware. As we are reminded that “ghosts can’t die”, we see Flynn hanging from a noose in one of many comedy japes they play. But they are not all as macabre as that. For example, we are shown how Malone spends an extra ordinate amount of time simply moving mugs and newspapers around to annoy Jeff.


The filmmakers have kept the documentary feel by inserting several interviews and talking-heads sections. We are introduced to Harry from the fictional Ghost Catcher TV series and these help give the short some structure as well as provide fun background information about the characters.


From the Martin Freeman-style direct-to-the-camera “stares” to the David Brent embarrassing smiles and shrugs, there’s a fare chunk of The Office in tone included in Ghosts. However, the supernatural element is clearly influenced by the similarly-styled What We Do in The Shadows. That 2014 film followed a group of vampire friends and the filmmakers have taken the genre and added some of their own spooky situations.


The comedy is understated and despite their morbid predicament, the threesome's lives are often framed by petty arguments and silly squabbles. Whilst their horrible deaths bring them together, the film gets laughs from the mundane minutiae of their lives rather than any spiritual revelations.


Later on an exorcist is hired by Jeff to rid the building of its phantoms and once he arrives, he begins to shriek “may the power of Christ compel you” as they look on incredulously. He leaves with the apparent spirits in a ghost catching unit, but this simply results in the three ghosts laughing as they remain where they are.


Leading up to their biggest prank moment – Malone brings along some white sheets and the trio prepare for some scares. As mild as they are and filmed in bright daylight, the ghosts’ final masterplan is as mundane as their previous efforts. However, despite this everyday quality, they may have taken it too far this time. Leaving us to ask whether Jeff will finally discover his tormentors or head to an entirely different place altogether.


A witty and somewhat improvised script helps sell this short and although the ideas are certainly nothing new, the film does manage to find a unique slant on an established formula. With plenty of gags present, Ghosts is an excellent manifestation of a solid idea with a humorous delivery. And whilst zombie-fans often get the majority of comedy-horror, this mockumentary certainly gives the audience an amusing account of the afterlife.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jan 30 2019 08:22PM



Ghost the Musical at Curve Leicester


Based upon the 1990 American romantic fantasy thriller film Ghost, this new musical version of the massive box office success heads to Curve Leicester as it starts a UK-wide run.


Taking its cue from the movie’s plot, this stage adaptation again centres on a young woman, Molly, who ends up in peril after her partner, Sam, is killed in a supposed mugging gone wrong.


As Sam’s ghost gets stuck between worlds he contacts a psychic who reluctantly agrees to help him to discover the dark secrets surrounding his death and to protect Molly from the dangers she’s facing.


Molly is played by Rebekah Lowlings and Sam by Niall Sheehy, and whilst they are no Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, their voices more than make up for a little lack of chemistry at times. Note perfect renditions of big stage tunes, group harmonies and sad solos were certainly delivered impeccably.


The film is stolen by Whoopi Goldberg’s Oscar-winning turn as Oda Mae Brown and the same happens here as Jacqui Dubois channels a similar performance but gives it her own twist as the oddball psychic. However, although Goldberg didn’t provide any singing Dubois’ fantastic Aretha Franklin style soul vocals added amazing flavour to the proceedings.


In fact, the show suffers slightly from showtune fatigue where the earnest but slightly bland moody melodies between the lonely protagonists, whilst pitch-perfect, were shown up by the edgier songs interspersed throughout.


In order to help Molly, Sam meets a ghost on a subway train and Lovonne Richards tribal drum rapping was a welcome addition as was Oda Mae’s gospel infused “Are You A Believer?” with excellent support from Jochebel Ohene MacCarthy and Sadie-Jean Shirley.


Also of note was the jazzy “You Gotta Let Go Now” from James Earl Adair and of course, we can’t not mention the legendary tune Unchained Melody. Aspects of the song are littered throughout – from the background score to an impromptu jaunty acoustic version – but the leads did themselves proud late on in the show when they delivered the full rendition.


And at that point the coughing began. A touch of flu in the crowd perhaps? Definitely not. The lumps in the throat were clearly growing and by the show’s poignant goodbye conclusion, there were certainly some sobs from the crowd.


A great rendition of a classic movie, the film’s main beats are recreated using good choreography and Mark Bailey’s superb stage design along with solid performances across the board. Although a few tracks fell flat, stick around to enjoy the quirkier songs and plenty of funny moments during a show which delivers plenty of spirit.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 19 2018 03:05PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 2


Another selection of films from 2018 that we've caught up with later in the year!




Blockers (2018) Dir. Kay Cannon

A 90s style sex comedy which harks back to its closest cousin American Pie (1999) Blockers tells the story of three girls who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. With their protective parents discovering their saucy plans, they endeavour to prevent their offspring’s goals in a series of (“cock”) blocking moves. A directorial debut of some comedic flair, Blockers takes what could be a seedy premise and gives it a dash of heart which American comedies so much need to avoid the full-on gross-out humour and improv-style that has plagued the genre in the 2010s.


Starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena – the ex-wrestler is surprisingly becoming one of my favourite American comedians and a far better actor than The Rock in my opinion – they are the trio of parents who try to stop their children Julie (Kathryn Newton), Sam (Gideon Adlon) and Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) from doing the dirty.


As well as the solid gags and situations, a splattering of deeper themes are sprinkled throughout including overprotective parents, blossoming sexuality and parental neglect during difficult teenage years. And whilst a couple of scenes seemed unnecessary – a rectum beer bong (!) is probably the worst offender – all 6 lead actors do well with the material as they give their characters heart and empathy. Blockers’ best aspect are the honest performances and tender moments however. Hardly breaking new ground, the film is a fun romp (pardon the pun) that takes its ideas seriously but with a winning formula of hilarity and honesty. 7/10



The Endless (2018) Dir. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

With a draw dropping trailer, The Endless promised a dark drama with fantastic visuals as a strange, possibly apocalyptic, entity descends on a cult in the wilderness. Directors Benson and Moorhead also star as two brothers who return to a mysterious group of zealots they escaped from in their past. Struggling to move forward in their lives, the brothers have differing views of the cult and whilst their friends seem the same as many years ago, eerie events lead them to suspect there are still many unanswered questions.


The film sadly doesn’t live up to the trailer promise and opens poorly with an attempt to instil mystery falling flat with bland talking head interviews and a convoluted explanation of the events so far. Once the brothers arrive at the compound the film steps up a gear but spectacularly fails to provide any drama to keep the narrative pushing forward. With trees falling, a baseball apparently “floating” and a stranger repeatedly running there’s plenty of mysteries set up to explore but the Endless struggles to engage with rather dull characters and a narrative that, somewhat ironically, never gets going. As it proceeds I found my interest waning and with so little conflict or explanation, the worst state of all kicked in and I started not to care.


[Spoiler] The film’s one interesting concept is a reveal that this movie actually cross-overs with the directors’ previous film Resolution. If you are to watch the Endless then I highly recommend you catch that first. Aside from the surprise sequel concept (it’s no Split I assure you) there are some obvious circular comparisons in the visuals (a cup here, a ring fireplace there) which showed the inexperience of the directors with such weak parallels.


Whilst there were attempts to explore the truths behind the inexplicable events, I had sadly already lost interest by the final act. Comparisons to the TV show Lost were inevitable when rabbit hole story threads go down other rabbit holes, which, after a while, simply made no sense. In the end though, a great set of ideas and some admirable rich themes are completely undercut by a stale and moribund narrative and bland characters. A real missed opportunity that endlessly disappoints. 6/10



Ghost Stories (2018) Dir. Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson

A horror anthology with echoes of Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost Story also has a splattering of dark comedy by co-writer and co-director Jeremy Dyson from the legendary League of Gentlemen. Fellow writer-director Andy Nyman also stars as the film’s lead as a presenter who debunks psychics, but is then sent to investigate three mysterious tales by the famous 1970s supernatural sceptic who inspired him. First up is a ghostly fable involving a night watchman haunted by his daughter’s spirit, then a teenager spooked by a malevolent being in the woods and we end with a poltergeist encounter with a new-born.


The tales work well as short shockers but the film couldn’t quite work the balance of humour and horror. The appearance of comedic talents Martin Freeman and the Fast Show’s Paul Whitehouse meant the tales weren’t as terrifying as they needed to be. With a conclusion that felt more cop-out than revelatory, the whole production is well meaning but a bit meandering. Ghost Stories may supply a few charms for fans of retro UK Hammer horror but for me it would have suited TV far more than the cinema. A story of missed opportunities. 6/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Mar 2 2016 04:07PM

The Forest (2016) Dir: Jason Zada


The spirit of J-Horror returns in the feature length directorial debut of Jason Zada, starring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, Rush) as Sara Price - a woman who travels from the US to Japan searching for her twin sister Jess who was last seen entering an infamous suicide forest.


Based on a real life suicide hotspot, the idea that the forest harbours malevolent spirits is a strong one but sadly underworked although the elements lifted from real life such as the winding of string to allow people to find their way out if they change their mind does add a certain level of believability and substance to the plot allowing the viewer to buy into the story.


However it is the fictional aspects of the writing that lets this film down. Using her supposed twin powers Sara knows that her sister is still alive with this unwavering belief being the key driver behind the film but although a sibling bond is strong it is over played to the point of annoyance and soon into it you start to lose sympathy or rather interest in her struggle.


Hitting the majority of the tropes of the sub-genre The Forest fails to make much of an impact simply because not only does it lack any real scares but more importantly it fails to build any real bond between the viewer and Sara who simply isn't likable and this doesn't change as the story develops although to be fair this is perhaps due to the poor writing than Dormer's performance.


Channelling the ghosts of J-Horror, The Forest is a weak effort all round with little to recommend it to fans of the genre and is best left hidden amongst the trees.


5/10


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