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By midlandsmovies, Apr 17 2018 09:24PM


Directed by Richard Butterworth

Fifty-Nine Films

Shootfighters is a 30min documentary by Richard Butterworth that showcases the Leicester Shootfighters Mixed Martial Arts School circa 2011.

The school trains young men in the art of MMA, which to the uninitiated (i.e. me) looks like two people in a cage smacking the hell out of each other. Through the course of the documentary, it's made clear that there's much much more to the sport than this image.

As someone who has never practised a martial art and has little interest in sport (I know, I know), I wasn't at all sure how to approach this review before watching the film. I'm a big believer in opening your mind and letting in new experiences, though, so I thought it would be interesting to watch - and it certainly is!

Right away, I learned that there are over 50+ MMA clubs in Leicester alone, and that the sport originally had very few rules before it evolved into the form it enjoys today, as exemplified by the UFC. Then we get into the meat of the documentary.

We're introduced to Aiden Hayes (though I admit I was a little confused as the first person we see is actually his brother Andre), a 20 year old fighter who's determined to be the best mixed martial artist.

The documentary touches briefly on his troubled past as his father describes Aidan's struggles in school and how joining Shootfighters gave him focus and purpose. We're told how angry and aggressive he was before discovering the sport, and how he was able to channel this into his training. There's a real sense of the competition that he and his brother feel, the need to compete and dominate and be the best.

It's not easy. MMA is a remarkably technical sport, a melding of several disciplines and styles, and it takes a huge commitment. As one of the doc's talking heads puts it: “these guys are athletes, they're not thugs, not anyone can do this.” I think it may be easy to forget this when caught up in the showmanship of events like UFC matches. These are serious athletes pushing themselves with series training regimes.

Butterworth has a good eye for dynamic shots, mixing it up so that it never feels static no matter how many talking heads we cut to. I did find myself wishing this was a feature length documentary as I would have loved to follow Aiden's journey more closely, showing a more in-depth look at a typical training day perhaps, or seeing him interacting with his brother and exhibiting the competitive relationship we're told about. On the whole, it feels almost like more time is spent on learning about the nature and the psychology of MMA than about Aiden himself, though in fact about equal weight is given to both.

If you're interested in MMA and the mindset of someone who practices it, this documentary would be a good place to start to give you a sense of how important the sport is to the fighters. It's clear that the athletes are as passionate about this as any Olympic athlete is about their own sport. I think this documentary has chipped away at some level of snobbery I didn't even know I had, which is as good a reason as any to check it out!

Some light googling reveals very little information about Aidan Hayes' career after this was filmed. Hopefully he recovered from his injury; there is a video on YouTube that suggests he was fighting as recently as 2014 if the upload date is anything to go by. Leicester Shootfighters is of course still going strong.

I wish you luck, Aidan, I hope you're out there knocking 'em dead. But not literally, because I'm pretty sure that's illegal!

Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend

By midlandsmovies, Apr 3 2018 07:54PM

Art Is Dead (2018)

Directed by Luke Oliver

Gatling Gun Productions / Inky Blue Productions

1 hour 27minutes

Written and directed by local Leicestershire filmmaker Luke Oliver, Art Is Dead is an impressive debut feature about the problems of struggling actors in the media age.

Clearly a subject close to his heart, Luke Oliver also stars as the lead Ant who is an unlucky actor working in kitchens just to make ends meet. Each day his dreams get further away, despite the support from his girlfiend, as he witnesses celebrities being paid millions whilst he is offered “exposure” for his hard work.

Art Is Dead opens with Ant himself taking a hostage in a radio station and then flashbacks to see what drove him to this point. As Ant struggles with finding paid work, we are introduced to his friend Matt played by Steve Mace. He’s equally disappointed by awful auditions and their trio of failing actors is completed by Richard Mason as Dickie.

Alongside all this we have a fantastic portrayal of vacuous celebrity-types by Oliver Hall as the highly paid and beloved Benjamin Cummabund. His white-smiled soundbites are delivered to great effect via the director’s wise choice of splicing in red carpet footage, TV talk shows and paparazzi news segments. These not only give production value to what is obviously a low budget film but help maintain variety and is key on independent features which sometimes often struggle with pacing.

No such qualms here though. In these segments Genevieve Capovilla as the comically-named Franella Toffeefee channels the glossy insincerity of entertainment reporters. And later we get acoustic music performances and dance videos too which were both to the film’s benefit and showed great filmmaking confidence and technique. Elsewhere, This Is England’s George Newton is terrifying as a foul-mouthed burger van owner and also of note, Tiernan Welch delivers a fun performance as a talk-show host.

As the narrative progresses, the three desperate male friends finally go ahead with their plan to kidnap Cummabund with an aim to provide him with a political speech to read out at an upcoming award ceremony. I'll give it a pass even when it throws some shade towards film awards ;)

At the same time, Matt meets media executive Sheridan. He’s played by Darrell Imbert who is superb as a sleazy manager but unfortunately the material he is given to work with in his restaurant scene was marred by a longwinded pace which slowed that part of film to a crawl. Far better though is the sequence between by Mark Peachey’s ostentatious and Simon Cowell-esque “Dick Mann” and Dickie. A plan to capture him ‘in flagrante’ sees plenty of Carry On humour (“Big Dicks don’t wait”) but Peachey’s flashy and tasteless sleazebag was the highlight of the film for me.

Coaxing him to a hotel, Dickie and Mann play out a series of comedy encounters which would have made a great short on its own and had me laughing like a drain with its fine editing and clever scripting.

The film is a bit agenda-heavy and obvious at times with the silliness of characters’ names undermining the more serious points it’s trying to make but it doesn’t shy away from what it wants to say. An over-reliance on swearing had me irritated slightly too when it was clear to me the lines of dialogue were more than fine without them. But the film’s comedy will have most audiences laughing past any minor quibbles.

Finally coming to a head at the awards ceremony, I won’t spoil the film by providing its final act but suffice to say that a lot of people get their comeuppance and the underdogs feel a sense of satisfaction in their goals.

Art Is Dead is therefore certainly an accomplished film and one of the better features from the region with its assortment of nods to film genres, styles and ingenious sequences. These are hugely complimented by likeable characters, all played by terrific actors. In the end, the film delivers enough laughs from its jokes and wears its heart on its sleeve - proving that film art, if nothing else, is certainly not dead here in the Midlands.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 10:09PM

Leicestershire movie Art is Dead launches on Amazon Prime

Filmed entirely around Leicestershire and the East Midlands, Art Is Dead is a new comedy feature which uses talent from the local region and has recently become available via Amazon streaming services.

The film is described as “the ultimate underdog story” and has already gained reviews describing its “outrageous humour” and “gripping” and “thought-provoking” ideas.

Written, directed and produced by Luke Oliver the film also stars Richard Mason (Scott & Sid and Oscar-winning short film Stutterer), George Newton (This Is England, Paddington) and Mark Peachey (Richard III, Hollyoaks). In a small cameo, there’s even room for Alex Reid from Celebrity Big Brother.

Created by InkyBlue and Gatling Guns Productions the film can now be downloaded via Amazon Prime (click here) and writer-director-actor Luke Oliver trained whilst working in a dingy pub kitchen. From a working-class background himself, Luke almost starved whilst funding himself through acting School.

Eventually he had little option but to leave London and once he returned to the Midlands, he started penning a short film script which would soon become the full-length feature film “Art is Dead”.

The story is biographical somewhat in that a working class actor is oppressed within the “plastic fantastic” entertainment industry due to lack of money.

Luke explains, “The comedy takes a gentle poke at the vulgarity of the wealthy in a world where the working class aren’t given a break. It sees the main character Ant, and his fellow actor friend’s kidnap a wealthy actor Benjamin Cummerbund and reek a night of havoc on the industry’s biggest night of the year”.

Following an initial screening at Coalville’s Century Theatre in February the film has been a labour of love for Luke. He formed the company InkyBlue Productions and started working tirelessly towards his first film and commissioned a local Leicestershire company ‘Gatling Gun Productions’ to provide crew and equipment to make Art is Dead become a reality.

Check out the film's trailer above and order now on Amazon for the full feature.

By midlandsmovies, Nov 5 2017 09:23AM

For the fourth year in a row now, Midlands Movies takes a look at Leicester Comedy Festival and give our recommendations for some of the best film and movie-related shows that are occurring during the whole of the festival.

Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the festival takes place place between 7th – 25th February 2018 at various venues around Leicester.

For all info on tickets on the below shows and many many more, please check all the events at the official festival website: http://comedy-festival.co.uk/events/

Joanna Neary

Saturday, 17/Sunday 18 February 2018 Time: 5:50pm (6:50pm) Doors open: 5:30pm

Entry: £5 OR PWYW Venue: Heroes@The Criterion

Joanna Neary / Celia Cardigan in 'Voting And Not Voting.' Middle class housewife Celia investigates 100 years of votes for some women, and asks "what changed and what's next? All Mrs Clack ever says is 'how do you think the horse felt?' “Joanna appeared in the film Suffragette; she has a credit one above Meryl Streep.

Hurt & Anderson: Come What May

Saturday, 24 February 2018 Time: 6:30pm (7:30pm) Doors open: 6:10pm

Entry: £5 OR PWYW Venue: Just the Tonic at BrewDog

Hurt and Anderson are on the edge. Can they make it through their final performance without self-destructing? Will Laura ever stop sabotaging the show? Will Georgia finally admit the awful truth - she's never liked Laura's favourite film Moulin Rouge that much? Come what may, this will be a laugh-out-loud hour of sketch and musical comedy.

An interview with Dave Johns

Saturday, 17 February 2018 Time: 4:30pm (6:00pm) Doors open: 4:10pm

Entry: FREE Venue: PETER Pizzeria - Violin Room

Dave is one of the most respected comedians working in the UK, however, he almost gave up comedy in order to manage donkey rides at Whitley Bay. Come and listen to what happened when he got a call from film Director Ken Loach and went on to star in the critically acclaimed film "I, Daniel Blake" and won the coveted Palme D'Or Award. An interview with Festival Director Geoff Rowe.


Saturday, 17 February 2018 Time: 12:30pm (2:00pm) Doors open: 12:10pm

Entry: FREE Venue: PETER Pizzeria - Violin Room

In 1958 cameras started rolling at Pinewood Studios on a comedy film called Carry On Sergeant. The film would become the third biggest box office success in Britain of that year. Sixty years on the franchise is still going strong. A revealing talk illustrated by rare and hilarious behind-the-scenes footage, from the official Carry On historian Robert Ross.

Heidi Vs Sharks: Work in Progress

Saturday, 17 February 2018 Time: 8:30pm (9:30pm) Doors open: 8:10pm

Entry: £5 OR PWYW Venue: Attenborough Arts Centre - Main Hall

Heidi Regan, winner of BBC New Comedy Award 2017 and So You Think You're Funny 2016, explores our increasingly confusing world and terrible shark films.

Cult Comics

Sunday, 11 February 2018 Time: 2:00pm (3:00pm) Doors open: 1:40pm

Entry: FREE OR PWYW Venue: The Exchange Bar - Downstairs

Two award-losing nerds (Sam Golin & Bisha K Ali) present an hour of geek-culture themed stand-up comedy, fun and games. If you're a gamer, a comic book fan, a sci-fi & fantasy buff or addicted to horror movies, Cult Comics is for you. Join us. Resistance is futile.


Sunday, 25 February 2018 Time: 3:30pm (4:30pm) Doors open: 3:10pm

Entry: £5 OR PWYW Venue: Brood @ Vin Quatre - 2

Clonely is an adventure in existential sci-fi crisis, a blend of bulls*** art house theatre with sci-fi cinema, but on stage and with DIY props. Expect lo-fi aesthetics, an awkward five-minute docking scene and long monologues about how dark and bleak space life is. Are you afraid of dying aclone?

Rob Kemp: The Elvis Dead

Thursday, 08 February 2018 Time: 8:00pm (9:00pm) Doors open: 7:40pm

Entry: £9.50 Venue: The Y - Standing/Seating

This hit show returns to where it all started, Leicester Comedy Festival. Cult classic horror movie Evil Dead 2 reinterpreted through the songs of Elvis*. A tribute concert to the sequel to the ultimate in gruelling terror... and the King of Rock‘n’Roll. Brilliantly executed: winner of Best Show and Best Musical at Leicester Comedy Festival 2017.

Wizard of Oz

Sunday, 11 February 2018 Time: 5:00pm (7:00pm) Doors open: 4:40pm

Entry: £12.50 Venue: The Y - Row Seating

The "irresistibly anarchic" Oddsocks Productions are bringing another classic adventure to life with a hearty dollop of their trademark comedy: new songs, familiar faces and laughs aplenty! In a brand-new adaptation of L Frank Baum's 'The Wizard of Oz', the Oddsocks troupe invite you to meet Dorothy as you've never seen her before. Join the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man as they travel through the weird and wonderful land of Oz.

Happily Never After

Friday, 16 February 2018 Time: 8:00pm (9:00pm) Doors open: 7:40pm

Entry: £10.00 Venue: Just the Tonic at BrewDog

Award-winning improvisers The Maydays present this skin-prickling tale full of black comedy and haunting music, inspired by the warped imaginations of Tim Burton, Lemony Snicket and the Brothers Grimm. Starting with your suggestion, The Maydays take you on a bone-chilling journey, meeting the grotesque and the innocent, weaving a fantastical story that's different every time.

Police Cops In Space

Friday, 23 February 2018 Time: 8:30pm (9:30pm) Doors open: 8:10pm

Entry: £12.00 Venue: Attenborough Arts Centre - Main Hall

Following 3 SELLOUT runs at Soho Theatre with their first production, Police Cops, multi award-winning comedy trio THE PRETEND MEN are back once more with their critically acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe 2017 TOTAL SELL OUT theatrical blockbuster POLICE COPS IN SPACE; an 80's 'low-fi sci-fi' set in the most dangerous place on Earth... Space.

Mission Impossible Ipswich: The Director’s Cut

Saturday, 10/Friday 23 February 2018 Time: 8:00pm (9:00pm) Doors open: 7:40pm

Entry: FREE OR PWYW Venue: Grays@LCB Depot - Lightbox

Tom Cruise is trying to be a bona-fide Hollywood star, but he's lost his mojo and he thinks a provincial East Anglian town in the 1980s and its strange inhabitants can help him. Join us for weirdness. Join us for sexiness. Join us to sing along to some classic tunes from some classic films! This is the director's cut. We've got more baby oil, more gin, more costumes and more dodgy Nicole Kidman accents! Watch the Suffolk craziness unfold!

By midlandsmovies, Jul 24 2017 04:33PM

Midlands Movies speaks to Paula and Michael Webster, two Leicestershire filmmakers who are journeying across the Atlantic for a new documentary to be filmed in South America.

Living and working in the Midlands, Paula Webster grew up with an interest in wildlife and nature conservation. From Leicester’s Lea Meadows Nature reserve to volunteering for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, Paula has spent a lifetime of love supporting their causes.

But soon the couple’s life was turned upside down as they headed to South America to promote the diversity of the continent where their photographic and film-making skills could be fully utilised.

Working as a two person team, Paula is very much the technical worker behind the camera with Michael acting as presenter.

“We work together on the scripts for our films, I do all the editing and Michael’s experience as a still photographer is invaluable”, says Paula.

She adds, “We come back to our home to the Midlands in the Charnwood Forest to do the important work of editing and catching up with friends and family, as well as giving talks on our work to photographic and wildlife groups”.

And despite the global nature of their endeavours, Paula is keen to emphasise her connections to the local filmmaking community back here.

“I have an excellent network of friends in the Midlands who help me with advice on my films. This is so important! Colin Sullivan from Market Harborough Movie Makers is a great help with the technical side of editing on my EDIUS software. Jill Lampert from Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers is a boon for helping develop a good story and Melvyn Rawlinson from Nottingham is a great guy who always gives thoughtful, constructive criticism. I have recently joined the Seven-Five group at the Phoenix in Leicester and hope to work with them in the future”.

Their most recent project is about the struggle to save a rare bird in Patagonia for Aves Argentinas, the sister organisation in Argentina to the RSPB in the UK.

“As you can imagine filming in the wild, windswept expanses of Patagonia was not easy”, explains Paula. “First we had to find the birds. They were spread over high plateaux, miles from the nearest tarmac road. We spent weeks searching for them. We then had to find a camp site sheltered from the wind. This meant a two hour walk laden down with all our gear to get to the lagoon where we had seen the birds. We were lucky! The birds started to display on day 2 of our stay. What an incredible performance”.

One of their main challenges was involving members of the Hooded Grebe Project who were not professional actors and the couple worked carefully to encourage people to speak English as well as try to make them look natural in front of the camera. Although not easy, the Websters had to be very flexible in their filming often leading to a lot of last minute dashes across the volcanic plateaux with new sequences to be written into the film.

With 6 trips already in the bag and more planned for the future, the Websters show that there is a whole world of film opportunities for local filmmakers. Along with their love of wildlife and travel documentaries, they haven’t forgotten their roots with their film “What Does It Mean to You?” including voxpops from their very own hometown of Leicester.

Check out more information about the filmmakers at their official site http://living-wild.net and watch the full film on the Vimeo video below.

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 31 2016 11:32AM

A Real Peach is a noir inspired Midlands short

Midlands Movies showcases new crime-noir film “A Real Peach” which has an unusual origin story that happened more by accident than by design.

The story of the short starts with Raya Films and their film “Do Something, Jake”. In that feature, the protagonist Jake watches old black and white movies so the filmmakers came up with a unique way of avoiding rights issues by filming their own film-within-a-film.

Screenwriter Caroline Spence decided that if they were going to go to the trouble of producing clips reminiscent of the 1940s noir era, they could edit them together to make a short film and subsequently “A Real Peach” was born.

Made in the Quorn/Loughborough area Leicestershire, the film uses the tropes of the genre with covert meetings, a murdered tenant, a dangerous criminal and some thoroughly dashing chaps - all unwittingly linked by 'a real peach' of a plan.

Originally comprised of seven separate vignettes, the extra black and white footage inserted into the feature was influenced by Caroline Spence’s love of the genre.

"I grew up watching a lot of movies from the '30s and ‘40s," explains Caroline, "so it was fun shaping the characters and recreating movie dialogue of the era. Many of the character names are taken from some of my favourite films from Mrs Muir (1947) and The Cat and The Canary (1939) as well as some iconic actors of the day like Vivien (Leigh) and Rex (Harrison)”.

Shot in just in one day at Quorn Village Hall with zero budget, the short benefited greatly from period costumes organised by theatre director Sharon Scott. Add to that lighting and cinematography from Nick Williams, direction from James Smith, and original score by Nikolas Labrinakos, the producers achieved their goal of recreating a classic crime noir look that feels as if it was shot circa 1939.

A Real Peach's teaser trailer can be viewed above and is already out to film festivals whilst Do Something, Jake is scheduled for release Summer 2017.

For further information

Visit the Raya Films website at www.rayafilms.com

MDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5815932

Twitter: @rayafilms @cspenceproducer

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