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By midlandsmovies, Oct 11 2015 06:57PM

Comic Con Leicester

Full set of photos from the event courtesy of Jimo Jones are at this link - click here

On Sunday 11the October Midlands Movies Mike headed down to Comic Con Leicester at the city’s cultural quarter where a full day of comic creators, video gaming, movie memorabilia and cosplay costumes descended on the city. Held at the art-deco Athena venue, Midlands Movies joined the (large) crowds to see what fantastical fun could be had...

Entering through Leicester’s Orton Square early in the morning, I was aware that Comic Con Leicester had already sold out such is the explosion in all things that were once considered firmly in the realm of “geek”. Now popular with the mainstream, my local Comic Con already had a snaking queue around the large building and at the entrance was a gull-winged DeLorean from Back to the Future for photo opportunities. So far so good. And the day just got better.

Once inside, the Athena venue covers multiple floors and was once a cinema so has many tiers and balconies. After attending a number of other comic cons that are so often in large and flat arena-style settings, it was hugely refreshing to see the stalls set up across all the levels which meant that even if you were at the back of the auditorium, you were so high up you could still see the stage and lots of people dressed up.

With very welcoming staff and assistants, I wandered through the stalls, gaming zones and zombie make-up artists and was impressed by the range and quality of everyone showcasing their work and skills.

Obviously, Leicester was well represented with illustrator Rachael Smith whose comic The Rabbit has recently be nominated for best book at The British Comic Awards www.rachaelsmith.org At the next stall, Ryan Button who donated a Pan’s Labyrinth print for one of our early competitions showcased his brilliant drawing skills with amazing prints featuring Transformers, Skeletor and Stormtroopers as well as his dabbles as a storyboard artist of local films www.rbillustration.com

Also previously on our site and promoting his latest comedy webisodes was Thomas Crook and his two cartoons www.cheesemen.co.uk & www.afrogoblinandchums.co.uk Another Leicester favourite was “Zombie Ed” from Terror 4 Fun who runs the longest running film festival in the area and was suitably done up in undead make-up scaring the patrons where he could www.terror4fun.com

I was hugely impressed with the film-related poster art of John Pearson who also creates comics and his movie-inspired work can be seen at his website here www.johnjpearson.co.uk I found a musical connection with artist David Millgate whose Iron Maiden t-shirt complimented my own and his 2000AD and Predator artwork showcased the Leicester artist’s talents with paint and brush https://twitter.com/davidmillgate

Also already featured on Midlands Movies, it was great to see Lincolnshire film “The Drift” by Backyard Productions showcasing their successful sci-fi feature. Filmmaker Darren Scales brought along a scale model of one of the spacecraft which showed the passion he and his crew put into creating large ideas on a small budget. Follow the film on Twitter - @bypuk @thedriftmovie

Comic artists were extensively showcased (obvs) and some of the talent included German artist Anja Uhren (http://anja-uhren.blogspot.co.uk) whose art is influenced by her own travels whilst Vanessa J Hill http://vanessajhill.tumblr.com is informed by military, sci-fi, fantasy and more. Keith Chan graduated from the University of Wolverhampton in the Midlands and specialises in cartooning in various mediums and genres (www.keith-chan.co.uk) and artist Verity Hall had a fairy tale aesthetic in her teenage coming of age comics http://www.comicsy.co.uk/midnightmilk

Hoshi-Kou https://www.facebook.com/HKillustrations is inspired by Manga and Japanese woodcut art as well as tattoo design and another artist with Asian influences was Lauren Rowley in her comic Bubblegum girl http://www.laurenrowley.co.uk

More locally, Leicester illustrator Rebecca Mansfield also creates animation which can be seen via Vimeo at http://rebeccamansfieldart.tumblr.com whilst fellow Leicester-based Drew Askew works on storyboards, comic books, children's books and commissioned work. www.inkandbooze.com. Based in Birmingham, Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics has been publishing one-shots and graphic novels from historical horror to mind-bending science-fiction since 2007. http://www.timebombcomics.com

Russell Hillman of Freaktown Comics headed down early from Yorkshire with their Deadly Burlesque comic https://www.facebook.com/FreaktownComics and also travelling from further afield were Dead All Over who produce Limited Edition Pop Culture prints from sugar skull designs to zombie-movie crossovers of Darth Maul, Iron Man and Kick Ass. http://www.deadallover.co.uk Artist Richard Rudge from Birmingham showcased his own comics including "Eat Your Heart Out" and "Galactic Scrap Collector" http://richardrudge.daportfolio.com and the unique “The Ever Winter Series” by Tara Behan & Matthew Hill was a children’s adventure story set in a magical kingdom https://theeverwinterseries.wordpress.com

The talent continued with Kayla Gill of Lunaci whose expertise is in bespoke digital illustration and hand-drawn art work www.lunaci.co.uk and Patrick Scattergood of Dark Pond Creations was promoting his Neil Gaiman inspired Flesh Tones and The Meek graphic novels https://www.facebook.com/DarkPondCreations

These (and many more who I didn’t get around to talk to) was just the tip of a huge array of regional and national talents which demonstrated the high level of talent from independent artists, filmmakers and comic creators. And please check out the above links to find out about many of the people and their most recent projects and creations. With hours of entertainment, the full day was tiring but hugely successful and a big thank you should go to the organisers Gavin & Richard who should be very proud of the hard work put in to an entertaining event for all ages.

Midlands Movies Mike


More photos coming soon courtesy of Midlands Movies and Jim Jones

By midlandsmovies, Sep 17 2015 04:09PM

Lab Rats (2015)

Written and Directed by David 'dwyz' Wayman

Produced by Lauren Parker

Team Chameleon

This new short horror film from Nottingham is directed by David Wayman and follows a group of friends who go to an animal testing facility in a van to check on the shady goings on at a sinister laboratory. “Remember, don’t get caught”, they are told by their driver as he leaves the eco-warriors to investigate the building at night thus setting the stage for this rag-tag band of do-gooders to break in.

A suitably spooky soundtrack works well with some interesting shot choices as the group creep around the building, through corridors and stairwells before peering into eerie lab rooms containing scientific equipment of all descriptions. The acting is solid with the diverse cast playing eclectic characters and without any apparent alarms the group jimmy-open the doors to continue their adventure in the dark.

The first person to be picked off is grabbed by an infected hand from a bin and the mixture of horror and comedy is pretty standard as these things routinely go. The effects however are very good and it’s also edited at a brisk pace which keeps the tension up as the group stumble upon grotesque horrors that are shown with a disgusting but hugely entertaining amount of pus, blood and gore.

The filming style is also great with even a JJ Abrams lens flare or two thrown in and the short film even has time to cut to phone footage, news reports and security cams to keep the visuals interesting for the viewer.

I am not quite sure why there was so much swearing from one character which grated on me after a while – but I guess we had to think he was obnoxious. This can’t be held too much against the film as meaning and character(s) and their motivation has to come across quicker in a short than say in a lengthy feature.

Later on we see a woman melting which is genuinely disgusting and although there are a few jumps I thought for one strange moment that there were not enough screams. Maybe they just needed to be raised in the sound mix.

As the film comes to its sticky end, the story rotates full circle after the reveal of a shadowy cigarette-chomping businessman who arrives with some Hazmat-suit wearing security.

This twist shocks the audience again and whilst some choices keep with the genre clichés, in reality this leaves the story open enough for development of a longer full-length film.

Having seen, and been a big fan of, the filmmaker’s previous short “6 Shooter” which is now being developed into a feature itself, the film showcases a wide range of talent.

From a simple but efficient narrative, it is the effects especially that keep the movie at the forefront of Nottingham’s finest and I recommend you go see this gloomy and gory horror hit when it shows at the regions' festivals.

7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2015 07:23PM

Penny For The Guy (2015)

Big Frog Films

Directed by Kaush Patel & Nigel Buckley

Frank is a bitter homeless man spending his day as he does every other with the hope of passers by lending a hand, or even the occasional contents of their pockets. Accepting the life he’s forced to live, a visit from a friendly face soon turns into a chilling one when Frank learns of an evil in the world he never knew existed.

Nigel Buckley plays down on his luck Frank whilst Carla Buckley plays the warming social worker Imelda, who is keen to learn of how this homeless man ended up the way he is. The entire short is shot in an underpass, that whilst may seem a simple and easy location is displayed from various choice angles that make a lasting effect, particularly when Frank’s unfortunate scenario becomes even more so.

Credit must also be cast on the impressive make-up provided by Alex Bourne, when the unwelcome visitor makes their apperance and things go south for Frank. All adding to daring effort for a film that was shot in a mere four nights.


Guest reviewer Nick Staniforth

By midlandsmovies, Jul 27 2015 07:17PM

Stereotypes (2015)

Directed by Jordan & Rebecca McGibney

When a tragic death links two men walking very different paths, decisions must be made and life-changing actions must be taken if they are to ever recover from it. Stereotypes comes from directors Jordan and Rebecca McGibney, with a script penned by Luke McGibney who also stars in the short that gives an honest depiction of two opposing cultures, in one heartwrenching story.

These pair of tormented souls come in the form of Jordan Smith as the young Leroy Williams and Luke McGibney as Judas Blakely. Both do a wonderful job of battling their own personal demons and facing the consequences that come from it.

McGibney plays the corrupted Blakely, a father-to-be whose world is close to collapsing, which acts as a great constrast to Smith’s Leroy, whose world already has. Extra special mention must also go to Noor Lawson as Judas’ girlfriend, and Leroy’s brother Dez who both have a hand in trying to reallign our leads moral compasses.

Brilliantly displaying the bleak worlds the two characters inhabit, there are some effective scenes in Stereotypes that highlight the pressing matters it’s so keen to focus on. The build up to its final moments are pieced together impressively, all working to send a message that good or bad, everyone has a choice to make - watching this would be a good one.


Guest reviewer Nick Staniforth

By midlandsmovies, Jul 20 2015 06:52PM

The Diary (2015) Dir. Ash Connaughton

First up, a confession: I don’t get zombies. I don’t get pop culture’s current collective hard-on for a monster which even a heavy smoker like me could escape by keeping up a stiff walk for five minutes, and whose scariest feature is something a good dermatologist could sort out with a 2-week course of cyclosporin.

So it was with a certain amount of “Oh Christ, not again…” that I approached The Diary, a zombie short weighing in at a hefty 11 minutes (plus blooper reel). Would this be a slavish homage to Romero and The Walking Dead, or more along the lines of an arch wink towards the genre a la Zombieland, Shaun of The Dead or (pretty please?) iZombie?

Yep, it was The Walking Dead thing.

It opens with a gunshot, a man running, and two chav zombies (chombies?) who, in spite of travelling at approximately a third of the man’s speed, catch up with him pretty sharpish as he stops to look at a wound on his arm. He does this for a surprisingly long time, considering the chombies are STANDING RIGHT BEHIND HIM. But they continue to very obligingly stand there wobbling until he’s finished looking at his arm, whereupon he turns round in his own sweet time and shoots them in the head. Doesn’t even bother to double-tap; bad form.

So far, so zombie.

This is followed by three minutes of him coughing, an occasional vomit, and intermittent falling down. Because he’s been bitten, y’see, presumably by one of the chombies, and the zombification process apparently requires a lot of coughing, some puking, and a bit of falling over for full gestation to take place.

The rest of the movie is just as formulaic: a couple of zombie hunters out on patrol decide it would be a brilliant idea to split up and search some buildings; Zombie Hunter #1 encounters the now fully zombied-up guy from earlier; his gun jams; he’s saved by Zombie Hunter #2 appearing in the nick of time; there’s a repeat of the close-up of a gun barrel pointing slightly to the right of the camera, smashcut to black, OC gunshot (but still no double-tap).

There’s then a bit of exposition (the newly-dead zombie caused the zombie outbreak in the first place, but he may have found a cure; our two zombie hunters are members of a bigger zombie hunter gang which they don’t much like being in, but what’cha gonna do?), and the film ends. The two young actors who play the zombie hunters try to imbue their characters with a bit of personality, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the script for them to fully develop this during their limited time on screen.

Overall, it’s a solid enough piece of amateur genre film-making, hitting all the beats that it needs to hit, even if it does so a little predictably. As a whole the piece would be improved by a bit of judicious editing to make it sharper and punchier, but that’s the sort of thing that’ll come with experience. The director’s a young man, so he has plenty of time yet to find his own voice.

tl;dr version – If you like zombie films, you’ll like this.


Review by J. Sirin

By midlandsmovies, Jul 20 2015 06:30PM

Life in a Box (2015) Dir: Lucy Young

"Freddie. You might not know me now but by the time you've seen this, you'd wish you didn't".

From Derbyshire writer/director Lucy Young, Life in a Box is a short film that follows the emotionally lost Freddie, who after losing a loved one seeks refuge in television only for his fragile state to begin confusing the two.

Narrated by Freddie himself through an internal monologue we witness not only the physical but emotional effect that grief has on him as the "box" starts to seep into his subconscious leading to scenes that might not be too out of place in Cronenberg's Videodrome and like that Canadian writer/director, this one also has something to say as it builds to its emotionally powerful climax.

This short film will not be for everyone as despite the relatively structured narrative it incorporates elements of surrealism which are needed to convey the psychological drama that is unfolding. However for fans of film that has slightly more going on beneath the surface this 15 minute short is worth checking out.

A strong film from a growing talent, it will be interesting to see what Lucy Young does next.


Midlands Movies Marek

By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2015 06:46PM

Midlands Movies Spotlight - Crying Wolf

Derby based company MonoStereo Productions tell Midlands Movies about their new film “Crying Wolf” which is set to begin principle photography in late March.

Starting their first major short film, MonoStereo (based in Derby) will soon be shooting in locations across the Midlands with a local crew of 15. A large cast of 11, many of whom made it through several rounds of applications and auditions, will work with director Jason Rivers who is “looking forward to working with such a diverse and talented group of Midlands based actors”.

Cry Wolf’s story follows an 18-year-old girl called Alex who refuses help from her peers and is reluctant to let people into her life, especially men. As a youth basketball player, her coach is concerned about her missing friend Charlie but Alex is distracted by the attractive assistant coach James. However, she soon begins to worry and ends up working through clues around her friend's disappearance, becoming an amateur detective in the process. She uncovers some hidden truths but by finally letting people in she undoes her own chances of survival by putting herself in ever-increasing danger.

With a cast including Eleanor Kingsley as Alex, Richard Buck as James, Mik Horvath as Chris and Amethyst Gostlow-Crossley as Charlie amongst many others, this upcoming project is MonoStereo’s first major production with their previous work being mainly micro-shorts. This has helped the team’s working practices by finalizing the crew’s techniques and group dynamics.

Shooting is planned for 4 days between 29th March and 1st April with postproduction to follow and a targeted release date for the film is set for July.

Even with some team members being university-based, the company are clear that they are not a student production team as the work is planned for a wider release and not just for a module or course.

“We make films because we want to tell those stories and see what we and the film can do and lead to for all involved”, continues Jason.

Formed in April 2014 to develop some basic documentary interviews, the team is made up of likeminded individuals who donate their time, equipment and expertise to collaborate and work on creative film projects.

For further information about the production of the film and its release check out their Facebook page below or email MonoStereo Productions on monostereofilms@gmail.com


Twitter @monostereofilms

By midlandsmovies, Mar 9 2015 08:22PM

Feature Review - Beverley (2015)

Directed & Written by Alex Thomas.

Urban Edge Films

“Look, I’ve got a half-caste doll”.

And with the above words so opens new Midlands short film Beverley, the latest project from director Alex Thomas which is set in 1980 around the city of Leicester. With the rumbling bass music and a simple black and white font straight from the Two Tone music genre, the film revels in the traditional Ska music revival from the early part of that decade. It also sets the background to a highly charged and emotional short movie concerning race-relations and family and friend relationships.

We open in the home of Beverley (played by Laya Lewis from E4’s Skins) who is a mixed-race girl living with her white mother (This Is England’s Vicky McClure) and black father (Winston Ellis) as she struggles to identify with the conflicting cultures she’s thrust into. With a group of loud skinheads antagonising the streets with their barrel-chested rendition of “Rule Britannia”, the family move from an impoverished neighbourhood into a new home amongst the coiffed flower beds of white suburbia.

As the curtains twitch, Beverley supports her older brother and younger sister but soon finds the opportunities are little different than the deprived area she grew up in. A familiar cast of skinheads hang around locally and amuse themselves with BB guns and racist language on nearby waste ground. However, as the obvious tensions rise, it is Beverley who uses her cunning to find a common ground in the escapism of drugs but more importantly, a shared love of Ska music. Overcoming thorny odds, her attentions begin to fall upon one of the gang members Wilson, played brilliantly by Kieran Hardcastle (another actor who found fame in the ensemble cast of This Is England).

And so the short certainly doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and themes. After finding her brother being chased by the gang she has since become aligned with, we see Laya Lewis’ great skill in showing Beverley’s bravado in the face of tough circumstances. From wry smiles to emotional outbursts, the actress pours her heart (and soul) into the role with a passionate performance.

Difficult decisions are thrust upon Beverley as the narrative plunges into a Two Tone gig at a local venue that quickly descends into a violent encounter led by Dean, one of the gang with ties to the National Front.

The film’s sense of time and place is second to none from Bev’s chopper bike to the poster of The Specials adorning her wall whilst the adherence to the real-life locations of Leicester – including The Shed and references to Highfields and Market Square – make the realism pop. The fantastic soundtrack combined with the exceptional costume design thrust the audience into the era and the story, although not the most complex, contains multiple levels of meaning, forcing the viewer to confront the tricky choices along with the characters.

Although the film does not shirk from the seriousness of the struggles the character’s face (from the “Paki” cat-calls to the chants of “No black in the Union Jack”) the film’s lingering memory is one of great positivity. This unique optimism continues as the differences (and defences) disappear – especially poignant in an almost throwaway scene where Bev’s young sister is shown gardening with her previously antagonistic neighbour. This is definitely a film of hope. And a film about finding common ground. Whilst respecting these differences, the film creates drama through the blurring of the conventional conflicts and treats us to a distinct perspective. This reflects the true conditions of the film’s inspiration – Beverley Thompson, who also produces – whose life events encouraged the filmmakers on their long journey to the screen.

In summary then, I felt that combined with the superb naturalist acting, the film is a shining example of the talent from the Midlands area with both disturbing and poignant scenes being played so well they are like a generous gift to the audience. Director Alex Thomas, who hopes to expand the film into a feature, leaves us on a cliff-hanger with certain roles reversed and audiences expectations turned inside out. The combination of a strong story twist but a lack of a neat conclusion was a positive decision to further help cement the film’s themes of ambiguity and blurred lines.

With its thoughtful and moving ending, Beverley is a huge triumph in local filmmaking with a story that shows nothing in life is simply black or white.


Midlands Movies Mike

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