icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo Instagram FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Nov 9 2019 03:09PM


Step Up


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


Step Up is the new film from producers Five Pence Productions and Gurjant Singh Films and is directed by Nisaro Karim, who may may have taken over fellow West Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz as the Midlands' "Most Prolific Director™".


Described as a gritty urban thriller inspired by Netflix’s Topboy, the film sees a gangster in a car (Sarfraz Mughal) asking if a friend Sam (Jacob Lander) is ready to “step up” and do a dastardly deed. Sam claims he is well prepared and we soon find out that he is being asked to kill a rival - yet is limited to just one bullet.


With no second chances he is handed the gun and pulls his hood over his head and exits to the sound of ominous music. Once out the car, his bravado turns to a more worried facial expression as he enters a mobile phone shop.


The stunned shop owner comes off a video call from a loved one and stares at his possible assailant. And as the tension rises, the man draws his gun and Karim cleverly holds the moment for a beat.


With the shooter and the audience taking in a deep breath, we ask the question whether he’ll go ahead and pull that trigger.


I won’t disclose the ending but Nisaro throws in a nice twist keeping the viewer off-kilter and sets up a possible second instalment after this opening short drama.


Similar to his previous micro-film Peaky Blinders A New Era, the film is more of a trailer than an all encompassing short such is the minimal narrative on show. It could also work as a nice sequence as part of a showreel piece for the two actors.


A nice if slight little short, to be fair to Nisaro Karim he has in fact billed Step Up as part of a series and I’ll be intrigued as to where this goes. Especially as he leaves the audience and his protagonist in a place where they certainly do not know what is coming next.


Michael Sales


Watch the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Oct 31 2019 01:00PM



Midlands Review - The Despondent


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


The Despondent is the latest film from Five Pence Productions, the prolific Birmingham-based company who brought us Jed, The Chase, Peaky Blinders: A New Era and more. Primarily known for crime tales, this film is something of an ambitious departure for them as it sees them take on the horror genre.


Jazzmin Letitia stars as Keira, a troubled young woman who lives at home with her mother Jenny, played by Lisa Blissitt. At night she's tormented by visions of an evil demon in her room, one that seems bent on harming her, one that it seems there can be no escape from.


Horror has a rich history of externalising our internal demons, and that's pretty much what's happening here. Keira is depressed and the demon is her depression, pushing her towards suicide. It's all taking place in her head, the battleground where many of us (myself included) struggle and fight daily. It's a good analogy, but rather on-the-nose here.


The film is far from subtle, making it absolutely clear what's going on from Keira's conversation with her mum about her self-harm and medication. It would have perhaps been more interesting to see the two dance around the subject, never raising it head on but dealing entirely in subtext, so that when the tragic ending comes it hits harder. Having Keira stay in her pyjamas over the course of the two days is a very good touch, though, as that's absolutely consistent with some people who suffer from depression.


The story is quite slim and would benefit from having a little more to it, making the film a bit longer. It would have been good to have had more of a sense of Keira's struggles in the daytime sequences, and how they relate to her night terrors, so that we can relate to her more as a character. The scene with her mother establishes their rocky relationship in one quick punch, but at only 6 minutes long there's plenty of scope to let the relationship breathe a little more and help us understand Keira more intimately. As it is, she comes across more as moody than depressed.


This isn't to say that it's a bad performance; Letitia shines in the hallucinatory sequences where she's beset by the demon, coming across as believably vulnerable and disoriented. The standout performance by far though is the demon; it's not clear from the credits who played the part (perhaps split between Imran Uddin and Zohair Raza?), but it's a great piece of creepy body-performance, with stilted and almost contortionist-style movements. I definitely wouldn't want to wake to find him in my bedroom!


The film shines best in these disorienting sequences. The hand-held, shaky camerawork does a great job of confusing and distressing the viewer, and the unnatural framing and lighting work together to create unsettling scenes. There's a misconception that its easy to do horror on a low budget; it has to be planned and carried out carefully to make the most of what you have. Keeping the shots tight and moving fast keeps the audience uncomfortable and on their toes in the nightmare sequences, worrying that anything could happen. The film makes great use of noise in these sequences too, arguably the most important part of any horror film.


Ultimately, The Despondents falls just short of its ambition but it's still a great first step into horror. Nisaro Karim clearly has an instinct for how to unsettle the audience, it's just the slimness of the story itself that holds the film back. Definitely worth a watch, and here's hoping there's more horror to come from Karim and Five Pence!


Sam Kurd

Twitter @Splend


By midlandsmovies, Oct 16 2019 09:23AM



JED


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


Jed is the new film from actor-turned director Nisaro Karim and tells the story of a disturbed individual and their obsessions.


We open with a man walking his dog before stumbling across a body in the woods. We cut to a TV news report which explains that this is one of a number of recent victims and that witnesses tell of a tall bearded Asian man running away from the scene.


We cut to Nisaro Karim as Jed – a tall bearded Asian man – who has what appears to be a mental impairment and is weeping as he listens to the telly. Living with his mother, she asks how he got a hand injury and is suspicious of his vague and unlikely explanation


Jed has a good set-up from the start. A mystery is discovered in the first 30 seconds, a number of characters and their mysterious motivations are clearly explained and away we go. It was satisfying how the film quickly sets up its world and leads us down a dark path, whilst some swift editing and interesting shot choices keep the story moving as we continue on.


The story moves to a gym where we encounter two girls chatting. One of the women, Amy Roberts (played by Juliana Ratcliffe) strikes up a conversation with Jed before he returns home where he searches for Amy through her social media accounts.


A bit on the nose at times – the socially awkward character living at home with mum for example – the film is helped by an intense atonal score of held notes that gets more prominent as the film progresses raising the tension throughout.


Some point-of-view shots of a stalking in progress show the increasing danger to Amy and as she leaves the gym, Jed jumps in his car and follows Amy and her friend along the road. Some clever (and foreshadowing) wardrobe choices were a nice touch too and each scene has a purpose and leads nicely to the next.


Interesting locations around the Birmingham area and the almost-mute Jed allows the filmmaker to do lots of showing-not-telling with the film’s story beats which was also a positive.


Whilst I personally saw the ending coming a mile off, the 26-minute length made it feel like a solid episode of television and the film had surprisingly similar production values. Just an added bit of colour-grading and some tweaks on the lighting would see it indistinguishable from modern broadcast crime dramas.


Jed therefore ends up being a quality film which could do with a few more original takes on the stalker genre, but aside from that tiny flaw, it is a level-headed drama that’s easy to watch and contains themes of heroism and misplaced passions.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 9 2019 07:19AM

Midlands Review - Jallianwalla Bagh 1919 and Peaky Blinders A New Era



This week we take a look at a double-release of films from new West Midlands film production companies Gurjant Singh Films and Five Pence Productions, which delve into two very distinct historical stories from the past.




First up is Jallianwalla Bagh 1919 directed by Gurjant Singh which is a 1-minute micro short which pays tribute to those massacred by the East India Trading Company in 1919. Given its short length it’s a welcome surprise to see the film mostly shot in slow motion. This extends the visual experience as we see gentle flowing clothes in the wind giving off an air of peace and tranquillity. This is juxtaposed with a screaming military sergeant (Richard Teasdale) and a cut to a primed rifle barrel. A voiceover from the protagonist (Nisaro Karim) provides some context given the film’s extremely brief runtime which was a good use of technique to give the audience background information. The pull of a trigger and the splattering of blood also gives us a brief glimpse of violence. The focus on just one person rather than a group (nearly 2,000 were shot in the struggle for independence) brings home the personal nature of this story to the filmmaker.




The second film is Peaky Blinders: A New Era. Most Midlanders will no doubt by familiar with the BBC TV series crime drama which is primarily set in Birmingham. It follows the exploits of the Shelby family after World War I and the fictional group is loosely based on the real 19th century urban gang who were active in the city from the 1890s.To honour the release of Season 5 in Sept 2019, this fan-film was shot in just 4 hours and set closer to the present in 1950.


This time period allows the short to (briefly) open up a conversation about a time where immigration was a cause for concern for locals leading to tensions running high. The short opens with Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child infamous guitar riff which although is an impactful sound, is simply the wrong song given that it’s associated with the end of the 60s rather than the period aimed for.


The film’s visuals work much better though as we see a gang of suitably attired “peaky blinders” in a pub drinking before they leave and come across an Indian man (Nisrao Karim again) squaring up for a fight before it cuts to a bloody outcome and a promise of more revenge.


In summary, both shorts are technically proficient and tease insights into very different worlds of the past. Their short run-time though merely acts as brief advertisements for longer narratives. Definitely with an air of professionalism throughout, despite my pet-peeve of music choice, they both act as intriguing calling cards for stories I’d like to see more of.


Michael Sales




By midlandsmovies, Jul 23 2019 08:26PM



Midlands Review - Date Night


Directed by Nisaro Karim


2019


Five Pence Productions


From Five Pence Productions comes Date Night, a short film about an awkward blind date that ends in unexpected disaster. What's the worst that could happen?


Date Night focuses on Serena and Reginald, two single adults who have organised a date through matching on Tinder, however when Reginald arrives both his and Serena's expectations of a successful match plummet.


From the off their personalities clash, not helped by the fact that neither are impressed with the others actual appearance. We can see Reginald has used older pictures of himself where he used to boast thick, brown hair whilst Serena has been accused of resembling nothing like her dating profile pictures which she and other patrons disagree with.


Their awkward exchange is the films highlight as they go back and forth trading off insults, exasperated with the result of the hook-up. The director, Nisaro Karim, does a great job at capturing Reginald's obnoxious behaviour as he eats with his mouth open, is rude to fellow customers and confesses how working out is similar to an orgasm. It comes as no surprise to the viewer when Serena finally throws in the towel then throws on her shawl to leave the building, ending the date.


What does surprise the view however is the three armed robbers that rush through the restaurants doors before Serena can exit, telling everyone to put their hands up and be silent. Serena and Reginald's date just got worse, much worse.


As I was watching for the first time I was surprised by the change in tone as the masked raiders enter the scene, initially I was expecting them to join as more comic relief as that was the mood that had been set early on.


As police sirens echo closer and closer so do the nerves of the assailants as they ponder their next move, this final act is reminiscent of films like Collateral or Heat, Michael Mann crime films with a very American feel to them.


Whilst I could see the effort of ambitiously creating such a huge sub-plot this ultimately hindered the film as the gulf in tone from what the film started with was too much, it felt like two different films spliced together.


Written and directed by Nisaro Karim, a known talent amongst the Midlands independent film scene, Date Night serves as his first time behind the camera which is evident as his excitement and ambition spills onto the screen. He is helped by his director of photography Tomek Zontek who helps capture the vibrant Birmingham city as well as shooting the main action inside local restaurant The Gateway to India.


As the credits roll you are left with an undeniable impression Karim has more stories to tell and will not be far behind with his second short film.


Guy Russell

Twitter @BudGuyer


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, Jan 29 2019 02:58PM



The Chase (2018)


Fight Club production in association with Five Pence Productions.


Directed by Nisaro Karim & Sam Malley. Written by Nisaro Karim


A trio of contract criminals are assigned a case whereby they must steal a Christmas present from an empty household, only the job doesn’t turn out to be quite as straightforward as they had anticipated.


Sometimes I see films and I have to admire the potential they showed, even if they don’t quite hit the mark in terms of their execution. What Sam Malley and Nisaro Karim have created with The Chase is something that is a very solid foundation for what could go on to be a well-developed concept should they continue to invest in it.


What piques my interest most here is the premise and the number of questions it raises for the viewer. First and foremost, we have a story that centres around the bad guys, which is never a bad thing in my eyes. Generally speaking, the dodgier the character, the more intriguing the narrative tends to be. The thing with villains is they’re grafters. They always have to work hard, whereas the heroes - no matter how high the odds may be stacked against them - they always seem to come out on top with little or no hardship.


So the fact that I’m straightaway presented with two not-so-good characters as the front runners here tells me that the filmmakers also acknowledge this in some way, and I can appreciate that. What I think would be beneficial is that, going forward, how these people got to be where they are today gets explored.


To be able to get inside the head of a villain is always a fascinating thing, and would absolutely add layers of depth to what is a promising blueprint. Add to this the fact that little notes are added throughout the story with the intention of capturing attention and suddenly you have something that shows a lot of potential indeed. Some of these are a bit on the nose, for example, a package with content that remains a mystery from start to finish. However when you look at the bigger picture, it’s the slightly less obvious details that raise the bigger questions, which is another thing I was a fan of.


There were some moments that felt like they were supposed to be more comedic that didn’t hit the mark for me. For the most part, the downfall occurred in one of two ways. Either the generations involved in making the jokes didn’t fit, such as when there is the opening exchange between Dima and Daisy regarding Daisy’s Netflix viewing habits, or the responses to certain situations weren’t reactive enough, and were just too straight-laced.


Personally, I don’t think comedic elements are really needed here if I’m perfectly honest. I think out-and-out crime drama is the approach I’d prefer, and which I think would work better as getting the balance just right with lighter moments is hard and can carry some weight when it’s even just slightly off.


Overall, I do feel like there is a lot of potential there with The Chase, but it does need more development. Foundations are strong, but I think before any future projects are built upon them some of the writing could be tightened up a little bit, and it needs to have more confidence with whatever direction it is headed in.


There is a good idea here, and I think with the right amount of love it could grow into something great. It’s a work-in-progress, but definitely one where the bigger picture is worth keeping an eye on.


Kira Comerford


Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Jan 2 2019 02:11PM



Trick


(2019)


Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


With an amazing short film production run in 2018, Midlands filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz ends the year with another hard-hitting drama with his new film Trick.


As a young man pours drugs onto a weighing machine, another older man sits nearby and discusses pets and how kindness can be seen as a weakness that can be exploited.


And “hey presto”, immediately we are thrown into one of the director’s familiar gangster scenarios where a boss is giving his underling some much needed advice. But before the conversation can continue however, they are interrupted by two men – one of whom (Jimmy) sheepishly asks for more time to repay some money.


Crime and violence are a recurring theme in Shahnawaz’s work - from Tarantino-influenced kidnapping in Witness to a Nolan-esque time-twisting attack in his last film Reversal. And here, the film sets up more of the same with a brutal world of hoodlums and terror. One of the hired hands (Shahnawaz regular Nisaro Karim) forces the man to sit down at the boss’ table.


The boss (a menacing James Jaysen Bryhan in a fantastic performance) proceeds to perform a magic “trick” involving a blood-red handkerchief. Darkly comic, he sarcastically provides his own magician’s musical accompaniment to his silly – but scary – performance.


Raising tension, the director does well by mixing the light-hearted trick with the darker themes already shown – thus creating a rising atmosphere of dread. And what will he make disappear using his fists? Well, you’ll have to watch the full film (see below) but suffice to say Sheikh has added one of his trademark twists to the tale to surprise the audience like pulling a bunny out of a hat.


With the director’s plans to tackle less shorts and bigger projects, it seems just the right time for Shahnawaz to tackle a larger and more thorough film. As although the shorts have all been dark delights, they now seem like teasers to a talent that requires flexing in a bigger arena.


Trick therefore ends up with Shahnawaz conjuring up another forceful short that alludes to the next step on his magical filmmaking journey.


Michael Sales



Watch the full film below:




Find out more about Sheikh's projects on Twitter and Facebook:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cinesheikh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinesheikh


RSS Feed twitter