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By midlandsmovies, Feb 4 2019 04:26PM



Midlands Spotlight - Cosmos


Midlands Movies Mike Sales looks to the stars to find out about new Birmingham-made sci-film Cosmos which is coming soon in 2019.


Cosmos is a new local feature from directing brothers Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver who not only self-produced the project but actually took on all major crew roles throughout production.


With the only exception being the writing of the score, the brothers have made a film that mixes local flavour with a story that looks out to the universe for its inspiration.


Making movies since they were children, the brothers have been concocting and creating shorts films throughout their education including music videos and short documentaries and when they finished school decided to set up an online film school themselves.


"We wanted to share with other young filmmakers some of the tips and tricks we’d already picked up on professional projects and hopefully inspire others to have a go themselves. We managed to establish a small following and continue to enjoy interacting with those who benefit from our content".


But with production on Cosmos now finished, the filmmakers are about to embark on a festival and screening tour for a film which cost less than £5000 to make.


Cosmos itself tells the story of three amateur astronomers who accidentally intercept what they believe is a signal from an alien civilisation. Realising they may have just stumbled across Mankind's greatest discovery, they race to document their finding, prove its authenticity and share it with the world before it is lost forever.


But as the filmmakers say, the truth they uncover is even more incredible than any of them could have imagined. Inspired by Amblin-era adventures and set over just one night against the backdrop of a world-changing discovery, Cosmos is promising to offer spectacle and thrills when its released later in the year.


For more information following the film on Twitter or at the official website: https://ellianderpictures.co.uk/films/cosmos


And you can watch the trailer for the film below:





By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:36AM

Midlands Movies Worst Films of 2018


There have been a fair amount of disappointments this year – The Endless probably topping that list – but here are my picks for ten of the worst movies released in the UK this year. From terrible CGI flicks to sloppy slashers, some films may be technically worse than others but it was the all-round underwhelming nature of these poor efforts that saw them join this list of dreadfulness.


With some unintentional laughs to be had in a few – Escape Plan 2’s hilarious awfulness would never see it at number one on this list – the majority failed across the board with bad acting, script, F/X, story and more.


If you would like to read more about each shocking movie then there are links to our full reviews under each entry and I’d highly advise you avoid these stinkers - so go watch them at your own peril!



10. Final Score (2018) Dir. Scott Man

“Squeezing in to the tenth spot just as the year ends is this woefully misjudged action film where Dave Bautista goes to watch a West Ham football game before joining forces with a steward to take down a group terrorists who have infiltrated the stadium. What??? With a tone that mixes Die Hard with UK soap opera Eastenders, you would think that making a film with that premise would be an incredible mistake. And you know what? You’d be absolutely right. A bike chase across the stadium roof is one of many hilariously misjudged action sequences and it’s a shame this won’t be the first time we see Bautista on this list. This stupid soccer film never kicks off and from its awful script to its clichéd narrative, I couldn’t wait for the final whistle to blow”.



9. The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

“More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Here he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly and as quick as you like he’s involved in a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad”. Click here for full review




8. Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a successful reputation you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. Here a group of adolescents will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare with supernatural origins. A convoluted set of rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish”. Click here for full review




7. The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff

“Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. The admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions”. Click here for full review




6. Death Wish (2018) Dir. Eli Roth

“A remake of the Charles Bronson 1974 revenge flick, Willis plays surgeon Paul Kersey who takes the law into his own hands after a home invasion sees his wife killed and his daughter end up in a coma. But Death Wish is a ham-fisted and low-quality attempt to pull ideas together. A waste of time that is perhaps trying to tap into the Taken crowd, Death Wish has a scene where a man actually gets hit on the head by a bowling ball which is a fine metaphor for this poor film itself”. Click here for full review



5. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

“Any positives the first film had are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anyway whilst the kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie”. Click here for full review



4. Winchester (2018) Dir. Michael and Peter Spierig

“Helen Mirren stars as heiress Sarah Winchester - the lady of the house who is haunted by spirits in her turn of the century mansion. Along for the (dull) ride is Jason Clarke but don’t expect the slow build up needed for these kind of films. Quiet, quiet, quiet then BOOM, a pale looking ghost appears. If that's your thing then fill your boots but for the rest of us that technique is lifeless and predictable. A lack of true shocks, a boring narrative and scene after scene of dull exposition, not even the talented actors can raise this flop from the dead”. Click here for full review



3. Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) Dir. Steven C. Miller

"Sylvester Stallone is back in prison again in an unbelievably bad (and unintentionally hilarious) mish mash of dull action, bad acting and sci-fi! Yes, sci-fi. The plot sees his colleague Shu Ren (Huang Xiaoming) end up in a prison that is more Tron: Legacy and Running Man than it is a modern prison. Neon lights, smoky corridors and laser doors (!) replace any sense of even a semblance of reality and by the mid-way mark I half thought the ending would reveal them to be in space. The sets are small, badly lit and cheap looking and the lighting is abysmal. “It’s bad to be back”, Sly says in an action one-liner which means nothing – yet summing up this film to perfection". Click here for full review



2. The Hurricane Heist (2018) Rob Cohen

"From the director of such “classics” as XXX (2002), Stealth (2005) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) comes this inane action romp where a bunch of criminals plan a bank heist around the impending arrival of a Force 5 hurricane. There’s so little to recommend in a film with such a ludicrous premise as this and it’s not only a no-brainer in all senses of the word, the film is unsurprisingly a no-entertainment zone too. So, batten down the hatches and ensure you are safely hidden away until this monstrous disaster has passed you by”. Click here for full review



1. The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black

“Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. The film takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin and with sets seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film has all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub. Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue. Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon”. Click here for full review


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:12AM



The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black


Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. Why may you ask? Well, I’ve been reviewing films on and off for 10 years now and this movie left me flabbergasted in a way very few have.


The 4th instalment of The Predator series (discounting the AvP films), the film sees one of the original film’s stars and now noted director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys) return to the sci-fi stylings launched by Schwarzenegger and co back in 1987.


One of the flaws of the first Predator film was the late insertion of a Predator spaceship heading to Earth in the opening. Without this scene the glorious alien reveal half way through the movie would have been even more impactful.


So how does The Predator open? Well, much like the rest of the film it takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin with a poorly-rendered CGI spaceship crashing on our planet. Immediately The Predator – whose main skill in the previous films is its infamous cloaking device – is shown on screen in a gun fight with a group of soldiers. No mystery. No intrigue. Poor action. Here we go.


And you know what was missing from the classic 80s action film original? Well, you may not have known it, but what you were really clamouring for was a child star and some scenes of a school chess club.


Tackling autism so inappropriately not even the likeable young actor Jacob Tremblay can do anything with a script and characters that are so clunky, underdeveloped and clichéd. Characters may be too generous a term however and whilst the boy ends up with Predator armour that his military dad (Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna) has mailed to him, the Predator has since been captured ready to be tested on in a lab.


And what a lab! Imagine if you will Dr. Evil’s lair from Austin Powers as brightly lit as the pure-white scenes from THX1138. Yet with the appearance of Jake Busey (a sly nod to his father’s appearance in 2) and a set seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film begins to have all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub.


McKenna’s army “hero” ends up joining forces with a set of inept military captives and Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue.


How could this get any worse? Well, there’s Predator dogs, a larger Predator antagonist (both badly CGI’d as well) and “action” scenes set amongst the corridors of a high school. Alien vs Predator: Requiem was rightly slated for its dark lighting rendering scenes unwatchable but the TV-level cinematography swings the opposite way here. Over-lit and under-cooked, the film’s focus on children, slapstick bro-dude “comedy” and the inane script gives that film some competition in its awfulness.


Even the little things annoy. A weapon prop so badly designed it looks like the SEGA Menacer video game light gun. A rubbery-suited Predator design from a Las Vegas fancy dress shop. A selection of 90s-level VFX sequences that look like outtakes from The Faculty.


Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon.


3/10


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 13 2018 03:28PM



Venom (2018) Dir. Ruben Fleischer


Upgrade (2018) Dir. Leigh Whannell


A two-for-one double review for films that have a two-for-one protagonist as we see Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy-lookalike Logan Marshall-Green both appearing in high-concept action films where they are fused with powers they end up speaking with.


First up, Venom sees Tom Hardy’s roving reporter Eddie Brock get ‘infected’ by an alien symbiote to create a powerful anti-hero who, violently, is trying to do the right thing against Riz Ahmed’s evil scientist. Broad strokes are the name of the game here as we get the superhero origin story with evil genius, concerned ex-girlfriend and transformation scenes so by-the-numbers the plot could have been designed on an abacus. Michelle Williams plays Brock’s girlfriend in a wasted role and the film is astonishing in how it can take three of the best actors working today and give them literally nothing to work with at all.


A selection of so-so action sequences are dotted throughout and the film improves immensely when Venom finally appears as a foul-mouthed monster that argues with his host Brock. But sadly this is far too late in the film and the CGI Venom design is only about 5% better than its 2007 iteration in Spider-Man 3. And, in all honesty, had me wishing I was watching that film at times instead. Sadly the director Fleischer has never been able to recreate that rush of fun and horror from his first film Zombieland, the tone of which is solely needed here in his latest film.


So moving on, earlier this year we also had another action body horror in the form of Upgrade. Logan Marshall-Green, who funnily enough is already in the MCU Spidey-verse with a brief appearance in Spider-Man: Home-Coming, stars as Grey Trace (which sounds a bit like Topher Grace who was Venom in Raimi's three-quel) who after being paralysed in a brutal attack – which also sees his girlfriend killed – is implanted with a bionic chip. This AI called STEM is designed by Elon Musk, no wait, Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) and is surgically inserted into Trace’s body which allows him to regain control of his limbs.


STEM then “speaks” into his mind directly and the two (?) go on a revenge spree to serve justice to those who attacked him. The AI quickly learns vicious fighting techniques and before long, the duo are picking off the assailants. The film however takes its ridiculous premise far too serious at times. In the hands of a sci-fi auteur like Paul Verhoeven Upgrade could have mixed the balance better by giving the whole film a satirical bite. As it is, the fight scenes are fun but sparse and the dramatic sequences dull and bland. With the film spiralling into a confusing high-tech plot, the narrative “discoveries” can be seen from a mile away and frankly any time when the film begins its exploration into society/tech-fears it lost momentum.


So, with Venom’s (frankly unbelievable) $852.7 million box office takings and Upgrade’s innovative but flawed genre goals, somewhere between the two films a good movie may have emerged from the Hardy/Marshall-Green soup. If I was forced to pick I slightly preferred the originality of Upgrade’s idea but with that worldwide gross, I know which flick we’ll be seeing more of in the inevitable sequel which is a shame.


Venom 6/10


Upgrade 6.5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 11 2018 09:21PM



Midlands Review – Starman


Directed by Stuart Connock Wheeldon


2018


MontsegurFilms / NineLadiesFilm


Starman is the new short from Midlands production company NineLadiesFilm and was directed by Stuart Wheeldon. Wheeldon also co-wrote the film with Nick John Whittle and the team have come up with a mysterious story about a homeless man in the woods whose origins may not quite be what those around him expect.


Shot on location in Wirksworth in Derbyshire the filmmakers open the story well with fantastically filmed aerial drone shots giving us a great sense of this remote location. The slow hovering camera reflects a UFO of sorts which is mighty handy when the story unfolds later.


We dissolve to a mysterious man (Nigel Barber as Mark) who seems at peace in his own world and is currently confined to a solitary tent in the woods. Looking up to the sky we soon cut to him attempting to “make contact” with unknown people through an old radio.


Living off the land we get the feeling this individual is at one with their surroundings but his idyllic camp is at odds with local couple Peter and Lisa. Whilst Peter (Elliott Rennie) believes he could be a dangerous ex-con, his partner Lisa (Mia Mills) is more sympathetic to his plight.


Nigel Barber is great as the lonesome man, Mark, portraying him with a blankness that hints upon an “alienated” individual. Mia Mills’ subtle kindness is also used to good effect with her caring personality and friendly demeanour acting as our guide.


However, these good performances are unfortunately undermined with some less-than-adequate sound mixing. Whilst the slightly strange music and staccato strings echo the weirdness of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score – it is placed in such random places that there is often no link between the sound, the score and what’s being shown going on screen.


And although maybe it is an intentional choice to give the project an ‘other-worldly’ vibe, it simply feels like the film hasn’t quite finished its work in the sound department – certainly with regards to syncing it all up. Alongside this, several scenes at night muffle the words of our protagonists when a ‘chirping crickets’ background hum overpowers the dialogue almost to the point of being unlistenable.


Later on Lisa asks “where was home before?” and the film does an admirable job of never explicitly playing its hand as to the man’s origin. I also enjoyed the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to the filmmaker’s previous flick “In Limbo”. The film also earns points for its unique location. Other than the woods and the couple’s home, the film is mostly located a Wirksworth’s StarDisc – a suitably celestial stone sculpture showing constellations.


In the end though, despite positive performances from the cast, they are infuriatingly let down by the short’s sloppy technical issues and frustrating sound design. So whilst the location gives hints to a wonderful map of the stars, Starman is a slightly confused piece overall that could do with another run through in the studio.


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 23 2018 05:40PM



Fahrenheit 451 (2018) Dir. Ramin Bahrani


Based on the classic Ray Bradbury dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451 stars Michael Shannon as officious Fire Captain John Beatty who “protects” society with his clan of authoritarian book-burners.


Michael B. Jordan is idealistic Ministry recruit Guy Montag whose growing doubts question whether destroying art is really for the benefit of its citizens. In a new twist, the book’s ‘Phoenix from the Flames’ allegory is brought to scientific life as bird DNA is actually encoded with the words of elusive texts to preserve them forever.


Sofia Boutella as Clarisse McClellan, Khandi Alexander as Toni Morrison and Lilly Singh as Raven round out a fine cast – and as fine as these heavyweights are, it’s with a sad heart that none of the actors can raise this by-the-numbers (or should that be ‘letters’) adaptation.


Going through the motions with fine sci-fi ideas that fail to truly engage, Fahrenheit 451 could be held as a timely reminder of the growing power of government on art, words (and today’s journalism) and the media.


But rather than a full exploration, we get the York Notes version of a complex novel, watered-down into a brief summary with added 21st Century special effects and a few contemporary anxieties.


5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 15 2018 04:28PM



Midlands Review - The Night They Crashed Here


Directed by Jack Veasey


“It was just another normal day” proclaims a voice at the start of new sci-fi drama The Night They Crashed Here, but this new short from Jack Veasey moves very quickly away from any sense of “normal” to much more sinister themes.


Filmed in early 2018 around Coventry and from the director of Tony, George Wills stars as Paul Jones who introduces himself via a Bogart-like voiceover. However his interviews are the product of his press reporter credentials rather than those of a private detective. The film is entirely shot in black and white and along with the voiceover, the noir influences can be seen from the start including the brick wall motifs and the low-key lighting.


As Jones exits his vehicle after a particularly strong storm, he stands against a cloudy sky and as great tension building noise reaches a crescendo he witnesses strange lightning which bolts to the earth. This eerie phenomenon is excellently realised and the filmmaker’s insistence on holding on the shot an agonisingly long time was just perfect to keep the viewer on edge.


The inventive and creative special effects compliment the very well-lit locations and the film echoes Sin City at times - but here the director has achieved his look without green screen. And the stark contrasting lighting lets the shadows do a lot of the work to create a sense of mystery and intrigue. As Jones arrives at the landing site, he spies a mysterious pod in the rubble and removes a strange device which appears to infect him when the deceased alien arm originally holding it shocks it back into life.


About half way through the music changes to a slightly odd glockenspiel style ditty which although evoked the Raymond Chandler-based flicks of the 40s seemed at odds with the sci-fi direction of the plot. Although no doubt intentional this clash between the old and new became a bit of a concern throughout.


The voice from Jones is sadly a little monotone too and could have used a bit more energy or verve in the delivery of the dialogue. The importance of one line is no different to any other which was unfortunately a little bland. Very soon after, a couple of fellow reporters arrive (Andre Pierre as Smith and Becki Lloyd as Williams) and they discuss the dead body. With the possibility of a high-paying scoop about an extra-terrestrial, they plan to claim the discovery as their own. Which will be to the detriment of Jones who they need out the way.


When Jones is approached from behind by Smith, he lashes out in surprise and we start to get hints that he may be succumbing to an alien infection as his ears bleed and his emotions drain. The tale twists again as another morally ambiguous deal is suggested between Smith and Jones to get rid of Williams. And whilst Smith plays a con on both sides to cover his intentions, Jones is hiding a lot more from them both.


The music changes once more at the film’s end – echoing a melodramatic silent film score of sorts – and the short again hints to its retro influences. Like a good noir, there are double crosses and dark realisations that materialise towards it conclusion. And on a technical level, the film uses noir traits like unbalanced compositions, dramatic shadows and skewed shots as well as, literally, an ‘alienated’ protagonist.


In conclusion, looking back with its music and style but forward with its fantastic effects and sci-fi approach, The Night They Crashed Here is an interesting experiment to mix two unlikely genres. And whilst not always delivering the cohesion needed to blend old and new influences, has enough going for it to make it an inventive hardboiled slice of noir and science fiction.


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 4 2018 08:45PM



Midlands Spotlight - StarMan


Regional film production company Nine Ladies Film return with StarMan, an ambitious short about human frailty and an alien encounter. Midlands Movies Mike Sales uncovers more about this stellar new production.


StarMan is the most recent release by British filmmaker Stuart Connock Wheeldon who explains that the film is not just a tale of financial hardship. In fact, StarMan "seeks to topple the film industry’s under-representation of people of a poor socio-economic rank", says Stuart.


As a timely criticism of the abandonment by the UK Government of ex armed forces personnel, the film tells a journey of homeless ex-paratrooper Mark (Nigel Barber) and his efforts to survive in a world of judgement and misconception.


His chance encounter with the open-minded Lisa (Mia Mills) spurs him onwards to realise his final mission: that of returning to a life beyond the constellations.


The story continues as Mark’s interactions with Lisa urge the viewer to question the modern-day surge of prejudice and spurious charity. Stuart explains that Lisa’s husband (Elliott Rennie) offers "condemnation of her efforts to help Mark; his opinions representing the ever-growing cultures of narrow-mindedness and self-servitude".

As well as looking at current issues regarding army personnel, the film hopes to be an indictment of our plastics epidemic and propensity to waste food as well as our discarding of religion.


Derbyshire writer-director Stuart has been able to assemble a formidable group of actors and crew for the filming in and around Wirksworth in Derbyshire.


The film was written by Stuart himself and Nick John Whittle. Doug Cummings was 1st Assistant Director, Jordan Frater Sound Recordist, Jennifer Whitmore Production Designer and Wheeldon was the film's director.

With a zero budget, the filmmakers have pulled together all their resources and have released the films's first trailer below and be sure to check for updates at the official website http://www.nineladiesfilm.com/starman.html






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