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By midlandsmovies, Jul 3 2019 08:49AM



PET SOUNDS


Directed by Bob Hartshorn


2019


Rest In Pieces Productions


A new short horror from Leicester comes from the appropriately titled Rest In Pieces Productions and has Laura Wilding as “El”, a dog-walker searching for her missing mutt.


Wandering alone in a park then further into the woods, the film opens with a literal pile of doggy “doos” – which subsequently gets stepped in by our protagonist as she calls aloud her hound without any luck. With a soundtrack of quacking ducks we hear the owner repeatedly calling for “Pieces” (yes, that is the name of her dog!)


The film is shot on location in Knighton Park in Leicester which gives a suitable dense forest vibe. We peer through branches and bushes along with the lead, the viewer also unable to see her dog as spectator to the proceedings.


But soon she spots a broken collar sitting on the leaf-covered floor and, more strangely, comes across a blood-red chair and desk surrounded by half-buried records in the middle of a clearing. Further eeriness ensues when it is revealed a turntable is playing a vinyl record of what sounds like a cockerel – ‘pet sounds’ indeed.


As the lead investigates a collage of dog photos on the desk, an old-timey rotary phone rings and we are jolted out of our quiet intrigue by a screaming voice on the line.


Without wanting to reveal the short’s mysteries here in this review, our first splash of blood interrupts the well-structured tension built to this point and it veers further into the more gruesome aspects of the horror genre in a skull-cracking finale.


As a dog owner myself, there was a natural realism to the proceedings and the film develops its ideas with another owner (Carolyn English) in a similar predicament with her lost dog.


A fun little (dog) treat of a horror, the short is well written to build up an air of anxiety from the beginning. And this feeling is one which many pet owners will no doubt relate to as we ramble through this frightful forest film.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Jun 23 2019 02:19PM




Kobe


2019


Directed by A R Ugas


Kobe is a short crime thriller from West Midlands writer/director/producer AR Ugas, who you may remember from last year’s Return of the Ring.


Lead character Kobe (played by Mathias Andre) is a disillusioned and hungry young man. About to graduate University and pushed hard by a father he sees as overbearing, he’s seen what happens to those who fail to live up to society’s expectations afterwards. In his own words, he wants to work smart and get rich now, not work hard and get rich at 50 – or never.


So when childhood friend Mouse (Dominic Thompson) is released from prison, Kobe jumps at the chance to join him in a life of crime, as they’re hired by a mysterious man (Tee Morris) to knock off a warehouse full of cocaine. But when the address changes, the stakes shoot up and Kobe finds some very hard choices ahead indeed...


The film gives us some wonderful dilemmas, which I won’t go into in too much detail for fear of spoilers. There are two lines that, to me, embody the best parts of this story. “Lions don’t walk with hyenas,” Kobe’s dad says threateningly to Mouse. And later, not long afterwards, when Mouse cautions Kobe to “go to sleep and don’t wake up as the same person you went to sleep as”. Kobe sees himself as a class warrior, defying his father’s middle-class attitudes in favour of running with Mouse and taking on a life of violent crime.


But Mouse knows the truth of it, and is warning him that Kobe the 3rd-year student might not have what it takes to pull this crime off. Kobe the faceless masked criminal might.


Ugas brings his camera in close and handheld, eschewing glossy shots to bring a gritty low-tech feel to this gritty low-tech story. It’s a realistic story told in a no-frills way, which mostly works extremely well.


Some of the scenes felt a little flat and could have used more dynamic editing or movement (Mouse’s argument with his now-ex comes to mind), but once the story gets going there’s no stopping the flow. The only technical area that could use more attention is the sound; sound design is often the first casualty of a low budget, but it’s arguably one of the areas that needs the most attention. Clear, audible dialogue and effective use of soundtrack and sound effects are essential in grabbing and holding an audience’s attention and helping them stay immersed. Some of the dialogue towards the beginning is mumbly, and some of the silent scenes would benefit from music to help evoke emotion.


The cast is superb – Andre shines in moments of conflict where he wrestles with his conscience, and Thompson balances cocky chav with wounded victim of the life he leads. He’s trapped in his life, a bit more explicitly so as we see towards the end, but Kobe chooses to walk his path. No wonder Mouse seems almost frightened by Kobe’s willingness. Tee Morris is another standout, bringing the intensity he had in Climbing Trees and channelling it into the brief but memorable role of a man twisted by anger and hatred.


This is only AR Ugas’ second film, with a third in development (with a title like “We Have the President’s Daughter” it promises to be a slicker and faster-paced affair). It’s clear he has the talent and aptitude to take a tiny budget and deliver an entertaining and moving story. I suspect this is only the beginning of a career to keep an eye on!


Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend


By midlandsmovies, Jun 13 2019 02:50PM



David and Goliath


2019


Produced by Nisaro Karim and directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


Five Pence Productions


“You have to, brother. You’ve been chosen to defeat the giant Goliath”.


Five Pence Productions are a new West Midlands company and David and Goliath is its first ever production and one which recounts the famous Biblical tale from yore.


We open in the woods where a reluctant David (Sam Malley, The Chase) is given a slingshot by his mother and tells him to have faith in a planned fight with Goliath - whilst his younger brother optimistically offers to help him on his quest.


A stirring soundtrack sees David then walk into the distance to begin his journey before meeting a girl (Return of the Ring's Rhi Hardman as Abigail) who chides him for his use of a slingshot to best the “crusher of skulls”. But she too offers to join him and his brother on their expedition.


However, just moments later Goliath (Nisaro Karim from Reversal) arrives at their feet – literally – as he pratfalls down a hill but warns them of an even bigger danger in their midst – a colossal Titan!


Some nifty scripted word-play and a splattering of dead-pan delivery of the dialogue gives the short some pep and liveliness that is certainly refreshing to see in a world of regional shorts that are often dramatic and serious in nature.


And filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz uses a bit of Lord of the Rings-style forced perspective and woodland locations to echo the tropes of cinematic fantasy – albeit on a small budget.


From coy flirting to embarrassing slip-ups, the short undermines mythical legends but does so with enthusiasm and its tongue firmly in its cheek. Visual gags add to the humour and each jokey sequence shows an affection for the classics – but one the production is happy to poke fun at.


It is also great to see the director again jump genres by trying out various filmmaking styles and tones in their body of creative work. And this has clearly helped them develop an excellent grasp of different aspects of cinema – including a bloody and frantic fight between David, Goliath and the “lofty” Titan towards the end of the short.


A pleasing parody, David and Goliath therefore ends up being as an amusing and silly spoof with a lot of warmth generated by the terrific cast - who are effective at delivering both punch-ups and punchlines.


Michael Sales


Watche the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, May 30 2019 01:19PM



Midlands Review - Hope


Directed by Tee Visuals


2019


Hope is a new emotional drama from local director Tee Visuals starring Tenisha White and Andre Pierre as a couple facing sadness and sorrow in their poignant relationship.


Filmed with heavenly sunlight streaming into a bedroom, Hope opens with Jesse (Pierre) waking up his partner Faith (White) before he finds a pregnancy test in the kitchen which she confirms is positive.


Jesse’s happiness is at odds with Faith’s reticence but he suggests the name of ‘Hope’ if the baby is a girl. “We’ve got a long journey ahead of us”, he adds. Very true indeed as we’ll find out later. The director frames and films shots well and the visuals have a high quality sheen to them. The on-set sound is okay but could perhaps do with another pass in the editing suite to balance/boost the consistency of the dialogue volume.


However, the editing is steady and measured and the film has good use of fade-outs and metaphorical white-outs alongside some slow but meaningful scene transitions.


As the couple take their car out into the countryside for a walk in what looks like the Peak District, the tone moves into darker territory with a secret torment apparently under the surface of their relationship. More great shots are filmed here amongst the rolling valleys and hills and the director does well to capture the wide vistas and dramatic lighting of the location.


With a few drone shots as well, the filmmaker really does explore the expansive horizons, perhaps representing an unknown future to come. But here the film flashbacks to 6 weeks prior and we see the couple arguing about the difficulty of conceiving - leading to their potential break-up. 3 days after this, the couple decide to not give up despite the circumstances. But their good intentions may not be enough to see them through.


Hope's use of flashback to uncover plot details is a good but simple device to change and switch focus and create an air of intrigue over the different narrative questions the audience has.


* Some spoilers ahead*


However, as the couple begin to repair their relationship, a slow motion sequence sees Jesse involved in a hit-and-run and even though Faith says ‘yes’ after finding an engagement ring in his pocket, she cannot save him and Jesse passes away.


Sadly, a character as a ghost “twist” is quite overused in the local arena. Even last month with Leaving Home, it used the same conceit and, although I watch more local films than most, it’s a common – albeit powerful – trope that means the short isn’t quite original as it could have been.


That said, there’s enough positives to let it slide as the film has emotional gut punches and scenes that also tug on the heart-strings. And this is down to the performances of the talented White and Pierre. Both convey strong feelings of blame, guilt, sadness and loss and whether it’s a teary glance (White) or a longer passionate speech (Pierre) the two leads really hold the story together.


A bigger but slightly less welcome surprise was Hope’s post-credit scene set 25 years later (!) which featured a note that says “dad’s killer”, police sirens and a young man with a gun. I have to admit that it’s a brave choice but the sequence jolts you into another film entirely and may have been best left off this particular short.


And a melancholy piano-led song adds to the sad tone throughout and a great soundtrack overall from Marco Micucci and music from Punch Records help give the short an angelic vibe.


The (non post-credits) ending of Hope finishes on a positive note with Jesse giving some virtuous advice to instil strength and positivity to Faith to help her deal with the unfortunate situation she is facing, before he leaves her forever.


And as we are shown a drone shot that takes the audience up and away into the celestial heavens, the film’s wholesome and hopeful message very much shines through. With two divine and passionate performances and some heart-breaking scenes, Hope ends up being an impressive short containing a whole host of tender themes provided with conviction and a lot of flair.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, May 29 2019 02:09PM



Socks and Robbers


Directed and written by David Lilley


2019


“Stitched up and totally stuffed”.


Produced over the last couple of years in Nottingham, Socks and Robbers is a new comedy crime short that asks audiences to dip their toes into places I’m sure they’ve never been before.


The film opens as a white van pulls to a screeching halt outside an extravagant bank which is cross-cut with black and white security footage of the tellers and customers going about their business inside. An impressive location, it’s great to see the filmmakers have secured a suitably old fashioned building to give their local production some swanky Hollywood style.


As a gang of smart men enter we get further cinematic nods, this time to the guns and suits of Heat which in turn was an influence on The Dark Knight – but here the clown masks are replaced by sock puppet heads. That’s right, sock puppets. It’s here too we get to enjoy a good sound mix from Alex Stroud – which combines comedy effects with the Hans Zimmer-style score from Matthew S Cooper with its drawn-out droning notes and pulsing bass.


Director David Lilley also gives a nod to another definitive gangster flick, Snatch. As rock music kicks in, we freeze frame on each member to get their name in colourful fonts. The gang are made up of Gout (Pete Bennett), Sniffer (David Chabeaux), Hammer Toe (Andy Batson) and Bunion (A.J. Stevenson) who have four suitably foot-centric nicknames, and whose heads range from a torn teddy look to a classic sock puppet.


There’s no dialogue from the gang – they speak in “squeaky” vocalisations like Sooty – but we do get yellow-font subtitles which seemed to nod to Tarantino. More of whose work will be an inspiration later.


Although 3 of the 4 are actors with woollen masks, one gang member is a visual effect of a real sock-puppet with the actor’s head replaced in post-production which is very impressive for a local project. In fact all the technical elements from sound, vfx, lighting and more are all excellently disciplined and used fittingly.


As terrified staff and customers kneel on floor in fear, Hammer Toe torments a female teller but his cohort attempts to convince him to stop. However, his mask is torn off and then he is knocked out but the butt of a gun. Again, some fantastic, and fantastical special effects are used as his clothes are removed and an ingenious falling scene ends with him dropping through space and sky before landing in a bin – and into his own flashback!


Removing himself from the trash, he arrives at an American diner with a surf-style soundtrack - again echoing Tarantino’s work. And as he sits in a booth and comically looks at prison mug shots of more sock puppets we discover that the man is an undercover cop – evoking Reservoir Dogs’ Mr. Orange.


Regaining consciousness on the bank floor we return to the heist and the unmasked man is revealed to be a cop to the gang itself but soon their plan goes haywire as the bungling group finally expose to each other who they really are. But things go from bad to worse when another final twist puts them into an even more dangerous predicament at the film’s conclusion.


Socks and Robbers ends up being a fabulously bizarre short with tremendous ideas wrapped in a (very) eclectic package. Fun-filled and funny, the short’s 7-minutes are a warm homage to a host of Hollywood heist films. And as it echoes the pulpiest of fictions, Socks and Robbers both wrong-foots you and keeps you on your toes as it entertains from the outset.



Michael Sales





By midlandsmovies, May 27 2019 06:42PM



Today I Daydreamed That I Killed Tom From Work


Directed by Scott Driver

4am Pictures

2019


Originally produced for the FiveLampsFilms 24-hour Challenge 2019 comes a new short from Midlands filmmaker Scott Driver.


Fresh from his earlier work with drama short Restroom, the challenge itself seems simple - produce a 3-minute film in one day – but there is fierce competition from a host of talented local production crews.


This film’s title however pretty much sums up the content here. We open on a phone ringing and a number of people in what looks like an everyday British office. Colleagues laugh at screens before a female voiceover (Holly Turner as the put-upon Emily) is heard commenting how she dislikes people in her office. But none more so than Tom.


Our protagonist stares in equal parts boredom and anger from her desk before Tom arrives next to her workspace in a ‘perky’ mood trying to alleviate her priorities. Next as she stands rigid at the photocopier we see Tom in the distance, whilst she goes further to explain how she hates how everyone in fact loves him.


Whilst it captures the mundane routine of a regular worker drone, at the same time the film also fulfils a fantasy I’m sure even the calmest of people have dreamt about doing to their boss at one time or another.


Shot well with technical proficiency with a group cast filling an office space, the short unfolds with Tom explaining how company targets have been hit and the team will get a bonus. But as her limits are pushed, Emily gets up from her desk and shockingly smashes her bosses face in with a keyboard - in a scene slightly reminiscent of James McAvoy’s similar act in Wanted (2008).


Not sufficed with knocking her manager out, our lead bludgeons him further as stunned colleagues are splattered with blood.


Darkly comic in tone and with a bit of American Psycho (2000) thrown in for good measure – where office work and ‘dreams’ of killing came together in a similar fashion – the film is a short sharp shock of violence in the workplace.


And with such a brief run time (and short production time of course), it’s difficult for the film to go into much depth so the filmmaker and his team have wisely kept it simple.


So in conclusion, Driver’s ‘Today I Daydreamed That I Killed Tom From Work’ is a well executed (!) effort with a fun, but gory, premise. And it also hits all its marks and clocks off with a surprise ending guaranteed to ensure an even harder day of graft at work tomorrow.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, May 21 2019 06:42PM



Depicted Illusion


Directed and written by Jordan-Kane Lewis


2019


Depicted Illusion is a new dramatic character study from young student filmmaker Jordan-Kane Lewis which explores the mind of a serial killer whose victims also become his “art”.


Opening with a Blade Runner-style electronica score, the short begins with a dead body and what looks like a crime-scene photographer taking pictures of a slain woman.


However, this is actually Johnathon, the killer himself who is also a photographer and who uses his gruesome scenarios as the backdrop in his regular job.


The film also uses a voiceover (ironically like Blade Runner’s original cut too) and attempts to blend the disturbing night-time incidents with some more mundane day-time conversations.


The mix of dark lighting and digital sounds echoes some of Nicholas Winding Refn’s work – which seems an influence – and the filmmaker has high aspirations mixing heady religious themes into the protagonist’s murderous intentions.


The filmmaker acknowledges their low budget and short time to plan and unfortunately this is noticeable in a few specific areas. Especially the sound which could do with another pass in the editing studio.


Using mainly on-set audio recording there is sadly a noticeable hum in an unbalanced mix and the voiceover also gets lost in a soundtrack that is at times too loud and also too sloppy.


Some consistency would help in the lighting too but the filmmaker does make a lot of interesting shot choices. Keeping the audience visually engaged, the director – clearly cinematically influenced – adds in “God” shots, drone shots, slow zooms and sequences filmed from a car to tell their story which is to the film’s credit.


As the serial killer drags more bodies around, the voiceover moves into a sermon of the killer’s manifesto of sorts and whilst the acting is a little under-par, parts of it reminded me at times of the blank expressions within Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.


The killer uses photos of his victims in his art – a bit of Lords of Chaos here crossed with Velvet Buzzsaw - and the ending sees a group of white-masked cult members (fans?) coaxing Johnathon to a local pub.


Dressed like the party-goers from Eyes Wide Shut, but filmed in what looks like a Wetherspoons, another location would have added more atmosphere but the film’s strange ambience continues with a macabre and non-explanatory conclusion.


The filmmaker is not short of cinematic inspiration and throws a lot of meaningful ideas into the 15-minute short but it’s slightly undone by the – albeit acknowledged – confines that go with a student film.


However, whilst not entirely successful on the technical side, Depicted Illusion delves deep into the mind of a disturbed individual with some resourceful flourishes despite its low budget limitations.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, May 6 2019 04:01PM



No Guesses Found


Directed by Georgie Cubin & Jane Leggat


2019


No Guesses Found is a new short from Leicester that hopes to question the expected representations of dyslexia by confronting some mainstream, and perhaps commonly misunderstood, expectations of the condition.


Made by Georgie Cubin and Jane Leggat, dyslexia is a somewhat common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. And this short experimental documentary opens with the clatter of pens being clicked and computers keys being whacked in a hurriedly-paced flourish of alphabetical confusion.


Mixing personal and performative elements, the documentary is self-referential in its style with its own cinematic language. It chaotically at times processes the narrative with lots of quick edits, stuttering cuts and descriptive images crossed with a host of interesting visual signifiers.


Although one “over-arching” condition, the film clarifies that the nature of the disorder can affect people in many different ways. And the filmmaker uses allegorical symbols to highlight its nature within the medium of the film. For example, a split-screen technique used often suggests the film is at least recognising some of the neurological aspects of dyslexia.


In addition, various voiceovers describe their real-life experiences. And a percussive soundtrack gives certain sequences a music-video feel – or a clock-countdown, perhaps inferring the pressures people feel they are under. With dyslexia sometimes being expressed as the “difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds)”, the film again uses the symptoms to play with the structure of the short.


This unique combination is the documentary’s greatest achievement. It is a terrific creative conceit that draws you in to the (sometimes) confusing arena of words that sufferers face. Shots that have been sped up – but with our protagonist standing rigid – represent how those with dyslexia may feel the world is passing them by. Whilst the title itself refers to one of the voiceovers struggling to complete sentences when word processing programmes cannot autocorrect.


A successful documentary not just in style but in content, I have to admit I’m not always the greatest fan of what is labelled as an ‘experimental piece’. However, the filmmakers here have more than successfully used a whole host of cinematic techniques to deliver something special about a condition that could do with having its profile raised.


Reflecting the nature of dyslexia in the film’s style is therefore an inspired creative choice. “Having a better image of dyslexia in mainstream media and film would be fantastic”, says one sufferer. Well, No Guesses Found is the first in hopefully a long line of many to come and it’s bloody brilliant.


Michael Sales


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