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By midlandsmovies, Mar 24 2019 08:08AM



Midlands Review - Deeds Not Words


Directed by Coralie Hudson


2018


Well... It looks like the Midlands has produced yet another solid little film.


This time, it comes in the form of Deeds Not Words, a short that takes a look at the Suffragette movement on a more local scale than perhaps most of us learnt about at school. The film is divided into three parts, focusing in on three different women who all got involved in the movement at some point.


I really love the thought that has gone into the structure of the film before we even get into any of the nitty gritty stuff. The chapter headings for each part of the film are colour-coded to match the Suffragette flag, and the themes of each part represent the values that the movement held as it fought for women to gain the right to vote.


I thought this attention to detail by director Coralie Kate Hudson was wonderful, and displayed a true passion and dedication to the story that she was telling through the film. When filmmakers feel this way about anything they decide to make the subject of a project, it truly works wonders in elevating a film to another level entirely.


The first third of the film centres around the theme of dignity, and I thought this to be the best of the three acts. The speech that we see being rehearsed is well written and tremendously delivered by Lisa Blissitt, who played Sarah E. Woodward in the film. I think it perfectly encapsulated this first theme, and was definitely my favourite part.


A lot of planning seems to have gone into the presentation of this film. Obviously as this is a period piece, I was expecting to see costumes, hair and make-up to fit the time period, although one always fears - or at least, I do - that really a big budget is a necessity in order to create a look that is convincing enough to transport viewers back to the time in which a story is set. It would seem, however, that those fears were entirely unfounded because the costumes put together here were fantastic, and when paired with some of the locations where the film was shot, absolutely smacked of the early 1900s.


The final touches that just added an extra little something to this film came during the post-production stages, and more specifically, the colour grading process. The faded film look that was added gives a sense of times gone by, but there’s a touch of warmth that reminds us that this movement was one of the better things to have happened throughout history. Again, it’s a little attention to small details that has added masses to the final product.


Overall, I think Deeds Not Words is a splendid short film that deserves to be seen by many. So much work has gone into making sure this could turn out as well as it has for it to be missed. It’s a true reflection of how every element and stage of the filmmaking process can come together to produce magnificent results regardless of budget, and that is the only reason anyone should need to watch it.


Kira Comerford

Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Mar 22 2019 01:04PM



Midlands Review - Return from the Moon


Directed by Lee Charlish


Korky Films (2018)


One of the biggest mistakes a film-goer can make is mistaking Animation for a genre. There’s nothing worse than sitting your tiny child down in front of something bright and colourful only to discover it’s Akira and the last third puts them in therapy for life. Awkward. Animation is a medium, not a genre, one that gives filmmakers the freedom to express all sorts of thoughts, no matter how dark.


‘Dark’ is the key word for this particular film, as anyone familiar with other offerings from Korky Films such as ‘Scarecrow’ and ‘The Cold Caller’ can reasonably expect. With ‘Return to the Moon’, Lee Charlish has crafted a twisted Lynchian nightmare that very much highlights how animation is not always for kids. Not for nothing did it win Best Animated Film at this year’s Midlands Movies awards!


An astronaut plummets to Earth following a visit to the dark side of the moon, but while his body is trapped in his capsule, his mind (his soul?) is elsewhere, still on that remote chunk of rock far far away. His visions are troubling, even existentially terrifying, and he’s forced to take drastic measures to free himself.


I’ve seen this short several times now, and it’s very hard to pin down in words exactly how effective it is. It was interesting watching with an audience at the Beeston Film Festival, as nervous laughter broke out at the first surreal image (a humanoid rabbit is a pretty funny sight, in fairness) but the laughter quickly died down and became an uneasy silence. It went down well, the audience liked it, but it touches you on a deeper level.


This is a film worth watching at least twice to soak up the aesthetic and to embrace how uncomfortable it makes you feel. It’s not gory or nasty or anything like that, but it’s very unsettling. And that’s exactly how it should feel – this is a consciousness in peril, a psyche warring with itself or with a higher power.


That’s up for debate and personal interpretation, of course, as all the best art is. The animation itself is fluid and has an extremely distinctive style, a little reminiscent of mid-2000s era internet animation but with a much more careful eye for detail and flow.


If you’re interested in films that leave you with an itchy id, make sure you check this one out.


Sam Kurd


Twitter @Splend


By midlandsmovies, Mar 11 2019 06:55PM



Midlands Review - Shining Tor


Directed by Andrew David Barker


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Sammy S

Twitter @IsoElegant



By midlandsmovies, Mar 10 2019 10:47AM



Midlands Review - Headphones


Directed by Thomas Line


2018


This new 7-minute short comes from Northampton director Thomas Line and tells the story of an introverted young girl who retreats from the world into the music blaring from her headphones.


We open in a bedroom where the girl Sarah (a fantastic Arabella Smith-James) is reading and listening to music as she blocks out the sound of what we assume are arguing parents.


Increasing the volume to drown out their war of words we then jump from night to day on a college campus where two girls hand out flyers for a local gig.


Sarah takes a flyer before pausing to exchange glances with one of the girls (actress Olivia Noyce in a small but important support role as Naomi), however as she heads into an underpass she crosses paths with a group of males who snatch the headphones from her head.


The small but meaningful glances are testament to good performance from the actresses as director Line uses music throughout. And its constant presence places the audience in a similar place to our protagonist. The absence of reams of dialogue also demonstrates a good handling of pacing and visuals to get the story across too, which compliments the subtle expressions on the faces of the girls.


As Sarah tries to retrieve her headphones from the one of the bullies (a menacing Joseph T. Callaghan) they are smashed on the ground and she returns home to the ever-constant presence of her family shouting.


With her soul crying out for a replacement, Sarah spots the flyer and decides to head to the live show. At the gig she spies the girl from before, and as the band take the stage she builds up the confidence to join the dancefloor, swaying in time to the music. The boy from the underpass is also there but Sarah rejects his advances before Noyce’s character Naomi steals his drink and invites Sarah outside on to a rooftop.


The cast are effective in a short that covers a lot of emotions with very few words. Placing an emphasis on a good soundtrack, the excellent sound editing and mixing is one of the film’s many technical achievements.


As the film draws to its conclusion, the short focuses on female friendship – or perhaps more – as Sarah comes out - both of her shell and more literally outside of the bar - for an intimate final moment of “headphone sharing” with her new acquaintance.


The fact the film treats this relationship as something for the audience to decide upon is a fine creative choice as the two look out across a sunset over the city and whether love or friendship, simply shows a sensitive connection between two people.


With brilliant performances from the three main cast members and the director’s focus on private and public moments, the film is a first-rate look at young female relationships. Exceptional music editing reflecting the feelings of those involved also emphasises its focus on aural experiences. And the excellent sound arrangement alongside the visuals helps create the narrative beats too.


As it wraps up though, Headphones emphasises the heart much more so than the head, and ends up being a tremendous local short that expresses a melodic harmony between two tender souls.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Mar 10 2019 09:53AM



Enemies


Directed by Oliver Griffiths


2018


We open on Bluestone Lake, West Virginia in 1864 where a deserted soldier sits staring out at the water in new Midlands film Enemies from local director Oliver Griffiths.


With a voiceover hinting at a distressing incident from the past the man pauses at a torn Confederate flag representing his doubts about fighting on their side during the American Civil War.


Stranded in the wilderness the distressed soldier (Jonathan Butler as Joseph Barrow) crosses sides (literally traversing a symbolic river) and uses the flowing water to wash his face – and perhaps the sins from his past.


The reason for this is explained as we flashback to the man in a military tent being accosted by a superior (Jonny Parlett) after apparently showing mercy to slaves. It is revealed this man is not only his fellow soldier but his brother Robert Barrow.


After refusing to lie about the army’s horrendous treatment of slaves we return to the present, but the man is haunted by dreams of he and his brother not only punishing slaves but killing them.


Voiceovers help fill in the story and the film does well with its editing which flips from the past to the present without ever confusing the audience.


Director Griffiths began making films at the age of 13 and studied at the University of Derby where he directed multiple short films. His aim to make Enemies “unlike any film I had directed previously” shows in the finished product which aims high in the Hollywood sense.


Whilst some filmmakers are happy to shoot on the local streets, Griffiths and his team do a fantastic job of bringing 19th century America alive right here in the Midlands. The wilderness is faithfully captured and the two leads do well with the appropriate Southern accents.


Parlett as the evil brother justifying his actions through the horrors of war is the standout and his small but intense performance helps keep the drama high. As his character catches up with his wandering brother, the two fight and pistols are draw heightening the film’s tension.


Enemies biggest draw is a good recreation of a turbulent period of history. It’s great to see local filmmakers demonstrate the breadth of filming locations in the area – which can stand in from castles to cities. But here the woods of the region become a gateway into another country altogether.


As the film builds to a violent confrontation of fists and fighting, Enemies shows how some excellent editing, cleverly chosen set ups and two admirable actors committing to their performances can take you away from the region into a different world and time. Griffiths also adds depth to a solid script and captures a host of difficult issues in this dramatic and well-filmed picture about the past.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2019 10:25AM

Carriages (2018)


Directed by Adam Palmer


Carriages is a new 10-minute drama short from regional writer and director Adam Palmer covering awkward encounters on the train tracks around the region.


Jonathon David Dudley stars as the unlucky in love lead who sees a stranger on a platform (Alishia Southall) but through embarrassment and shyness doesn’t say anything despite the obvious attraction.


On his daily commute he seems to be struck by this girl of his dreams but his quiet demeanour and timid countenance is not making it easy for him to strike up a conversation.


Joining Jonathan is Midlands Movies Award nominee Michael Cotton who comedically plays an office colleague joking that she has probably got an “awful personality” which is less than helpful to the lovestruck young man. A brilliant support turn, Cotton delivers as a suitably dismissive friend as he tries to take his mate’s mind off “train girl”


Close ups of the worrisome face of our lead bring the audience into his humble world but from a stranger on a train (Lawrence Walker) to a ringing phone, he is constantly derailed from starting an introductory chat.


Excellently shot on real locomotives and platforms, the well-thought out locations add classy production value to the film. And an 8-mm film-style cutaway gag on what our lead could have done differently was both a verbal and visual delight as he is accosted by the love-rival stranger for being in his seat.


As we are shunted from one scene to the next, the rickety jolts of the carriages themselves seem to represent the unstable state of each encounter. The editing back and forth between the unspoken train sequences to the office-based re-caps are well constructed and help lead the audience down the right tracks.


As we come to the film’s conclusion, we get a steadier situation on the platform which calms our lead before he finally gains the confidence to stand up for what he wants.


With its heart in the right place, Carriages takes a wry, and slightly old-fashioned, look at embarrassment on the ‘express’ but its innocence is one of its many plus points. A great cast steams ahead with dedicated but delicate performances to create a wonderful soft tone which will help audiences get on board with this terrific tale on a train.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Mar 6 2019 09:40AM

Scarecrow (2018)


Directed by Lee Charlish


Korky Films and Jam-AV Productions


Coventry filmmaker Lee Charlish of Korky films takes a leap from his dark animation films into a terrifying drama of a lost couple on the road in new chiller Scarecrow.


A nagging couple (Adrian Annis as Thomas and Georgina Mellor as Natalie) find themselves stranded after running out of petrol in a country lane.


As they argue over where they are and what to do, they blame each other as to the reason why the car has broken down but soon decide to go and search for help. However, in the wooded backroads, they have little luck in finding any assistance.


They soon stumble upon a clearing where an ominous looking Scarecrow is placed with a sign warning them – DO NOT TOUCH. As Natalie is entranced by its seemingly strange power, the film starts to dip a toe into more supernatural fare.


The bickering between the couple is one of the short’s highlights. The two leads trade barbs in well-written dialogue as well as unspoken looks and menacing stares between each other.


The quirky tweed suit and horn-rimmed glasses of Thomas, as well as Natlaie’s tree-green dress add class to the film’s costume design and it’s little touches like these that truly add flavour to local shorts looking to stand out.


A few touches of humour give it the dark comedy vibe of The League of Gentlemen and the hot sunny day contrasts nicely with the eerie horror score – again, making it rise above more traditional takes and clichés.


Director Charlish has taken a few horror tropes but wisely twists them to provide something new and the excellent production design, score and certainly the two leads help this film rise above the familiar genre beats.


Creepy and inventive and with plenty of 50’s infused jazz style, Scarecrow is as good as they come in the local film arena and with excellent work from all involved, it is a fashionably cool and suave horror that stands out in the crowd. Or should that be field. A stupendous short.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Feb 28 2019 06:33PM



Virtual Brutality (2019)


Directed by James Heaney


From Goldbox productions and director James Heaney comes Virtual Brutality, a short film combining exciting action with dark humour.


The film starts off with a delivery driver making his way to a customer's flat with a large package that needs to be signed for. As an audience we’re not sure what is inside at this point, however the animated music alongside the prolonged trip to the customers door indicate it is possibly something that will be awe-inspiring.


Our protagonist answers the door, looks down and beams with delight as he sees that his order has finally arrived at his home. He shuts the door and starts to unravel the packaging only for two opportunistic intruders to use the door left ajar from the courier driver to let themselves in.


Director James Heaney employs a voiceover to introduce the audience to the package, a virtual reality headset, which is used here to escape the trappings of the modern world. It also lets you be who you want to be. Personally, I loved the addition of the voiceover and the way it is used to exemplify the contemporary hunger to separate one’s self from reality and explore other worlds through “virtual reality”.


As the intruders break into our protagonist's property, they see he is otherwise occupied with his new purchase. The virtual reality mode is fully on as we see him kicking and punching the air in glee. The calamitous burglars soon end up on the wrong side of our main character as he unknowingly grapples both - thinking they are part of his “virtual” world.


Dean Williams, the stunt co-ordinator, has done a great job of choreographing the fight scenes to give them whip crack intensity, something not ordinarily found in low budget short films. Because of this the action flowed well helping keep the pace of the film to a good standard.


Virtual Brutality is a fun, zany look at a young man using a virtual reality headset for the first time - described as “a product that will keep you in denial for hours on end”. The violent tone aside, I thought Virtual Brutality reminded me of the vibe and the quality of a Pixar short film, and although brief, it is a ton of fun! Brutal.


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


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