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By midlandsmovies, May 25 2018 08:03AM



Derby Film Festival 2018


Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell takes a look at one of the premiere film festivals in the region as he checks out the best of the fest!


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Now in its 5th year, Derby Film Festival is showing no signs of slowing down. Last week I had the pleasure of attending the festival again hosted by QUAD, this year it kicked off on the 4th May followed by ten days of screenings, talks, short films and competitions.


Similar to last year’s sub-festival Fantastiq, the first four days of the festival were dedicated to Paracinema, a celebration of films and genres outside the mainstream including new releases and cult classics. Here are a few of new and cult classics screened during the festival:


Attack of the Adult Babies



Amongst the various films shown during the Paracinema arm of the festival was Attack of the Adult Babies, the latest offering from filmmaker Dominic Brunt. Brunt has built up quite the resume in recent years, his great work within the horror genre alone has gained him the reputation as a director you should definitely look out for when any of his projects hit the shelves.


An ordinary family are forced to break into a country manor to steal top secret information, what they find however are powerful, obese, middle aged men dressed in nappies being tendered to and waited upon by overly sexualised nurses in PVC uniforms. This is not your typical horror film!


The humour comes as quick and thick as the gore which will please both horror and comedy fans. Lines such as “We’re gonna need a bigger nappy” and “I’m going to cut you worse than a state pension” prove how much of an aware, modern film Attack of the Adult Babies is.


Shot on location at Broughton Hall in West Yorkshire, Attack of the Adult Babies joins Brunt’s CV of making socially aware Northern genre films, something not many can boast of. Since the release of The Purge series and last year’s Get Out there has been a revived interest in social-political horror films and after having watched this film I’m of the opinion this deserves a place in the conversation too.


Beneath the absurdity and the gore is an expose of how lazy powerful and greedy men can become, their reliance on others to wash, clean and cook for them here is shown by a regression to infancy.


If you’re after a horror-comedy film with gore and gags in equal measure, then check out this bonkers and brilliant effort. Attack of the Adult Babies is destined to be a cult British film, whether it be this decade or the next.


Attack of the Adult Babies is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 11th.


Charismata



Again as part of the Paracinema part of the festival is Charismata, a psychological horror from filmmaking duo Andy Collier and Toor Mian.


Rebecca Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) is a murder detective working on a series of gruesome killings. As she becomes more involved with the investigation she begins to experience haunting visions which lead her to question her own sanity and state of mind.


I normally enter any independent horror production with an open mind, some can be quite hokey whilst others can surprise you with what they can do with so little. Luckily Charismata falls within the latter category, the cinematography by Fernando Ruiz and the score by Chris Roe give the film a polished and carefully constructed vibe, almost as if millions were spent in producing the picture.


Similar to Attack of the Adult Babies, Charismata feels very socially aware, whether intentional or not. Rebecca lives in a very masculine environment and is constantly under siege with sexist comments and a chauvinistic attitude towards her career as she is the only female on her team.


Acting isn’t usually lauded within the genre however Sarah Beck Mather as Rebecca was sensational. An intriguing portrayal, Mather plays Rebecca as quite a cold person however the character feels pretty well balanced considering the enormous pressure she endures throughout the film.


Whilst the “gore” level is by no means ignored, it is the carefully planned build-up of tension that brings the chills to the audience. I’m unsure when this will be screened again or released widely on home media however I urge any horror fan to seek this one out as Charismata was one of the best surprises of this year’s festival.


Escape from New York



Whilst the festival primarily celebrates fresh talent and brilliant new films, there is always space in the schedule to revel in classic films from yesteryear. This year, the one to catch for me was John Carpenter's science-fiction flick Escape from New York, a quintessential 80’s actioner starring Kurt Russell.


1997, Manhattan, New York has been abandoned and transformed into the perfect maximum security prison but unfortunately, whilst routinely flying over, Air Force One crashes onto the island leaving the President of the United States alive albeit in grave danger from unpredictable and dangerous inmates.


A deal is struck between the Warden and convicted bank robber Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), to save the president and he will have earned his right to freedom.


Having only seen this film once before it was great to revisit this on the big screen. On the surface you might mistake this as a simple film but a great escapist movie, however knowing Carpenter's work and his love for using genre movies to explore certain themes you can see why critics are of the opinion that Escape from New York uses its dystopic environment to explore class and race issues.


Last year I caught the screening of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, a film I had never heard of until I watched it. It is now one of my favourite films of its period. I hope this Escape from New York showing had the same effect on someone and long may the festival continue presenting classics.


Overall it has been another successful year for the Derby Film Festival and QUAD as they continue to show a vast range of films across all genres, languages and budgets. I can’t wait to see what the 6th Annual Derby Film Festival holds in 2019. See you there.


Thanks to Peter Munford & Kathy Frain


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


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Take a read of Guy's thoughts of the 2018 Derby Film Festival's other events including local documentary Spondon: Portrait of a Village and Five Lamps 24 hour Film Challenge



By midlandsmovies, May 17 2018 07:02AM



Midlands Review – Rough


Directed by Chris Stone


Stoke on Trent based director Chris Stone has a history of creating great showreels for actors from the Midlands and beyond. But he is never afraid to tackle his own short dramas and delivers a high concept sci-fi short in his new film Rough.


Making films since he was a young boy, Chris has a background in scriptwriting, casting and editing which all come to play in this new short.


Set in a forest location, Rough has a cast of two - “mother" and Dawn - who seem equally confused and investigative amongst the dense trees. Electronic and motorised sound effects are used well to infer Dawn is a robot and the actor delivers her lines in a monotone effect to create the feel of her cyborg.


Unsure of how to describe the detail of the broken bark on a tree (“rough”) we are informed she comes from a factory and her digital memory can recollect timescales down to the nearest minute yet there is one past event that she cannot (or will not) recall.


Reminded by “mother” that she has been “owned” Dawn for far longer than the android realises we are told the revelation that Dawn is also the last person to have seen her missing child, Jamie.


Dawn’s strange behaviour (“would you like to hear a song?”) hints at a more eerie presence whilst she freezes to a standstill as she follows instructions to “stay” showing her current subservient nature.


Dawn refers to her companion as “mother” yet she is chastised for doing so and told she will never be her child as the frustration with the droid boils over into emotional anger.


Unable to compute we are shown her “corrupted memories” with a soft-focus flashback to the missing Jamie who is shown being strangled and buried by Dawn in a bout of mysterious fury.


With a host of fantastic flourishes if there was one problem with Rough, it was actually the lack of credits which would have given the stupendous actors their due. An online search could provide no answers and it’s a shame that filmmakers omit such a key part of promoting their film.


Whatever your level of filmmaking and despite a successful pedigree, creatives could gain more exposure with a certain amount of online presence over on IMDB or on their social media pages. If nothing else, it shows respect to the cast and crew who were involved.


That aside, clocking in at just 2 and a half minutes, Stone proves his showreel-making skill with a to-the-point short that demonstrates a wide range of talent from the actors, the sound, the music and a punchy little narrative with a technological twist in its tale.


Midlands Movies Mike


You can watch the full short on Vimeo here:




By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:15AM



Annihilation (2018) Dir. Alex Garland


With a whole load of hoo-ha about this film being solely released on Netflix UK instead of garnering a full cinema release, I decided to stick two fingers up at that ridiculous decision by getting out my projector and sound bar and closing the curtains to create my own cinema experience in my front room.


Although I’ve been a defender of Netflix’s output in the past, and it’s honourable how it allows smaller filmmakers to take chances, the fact is that this is a large production with Oscar-winning stars and it’s a shame to see it’s not getting a cinema release at all in the UK (unlike the rest of the world). That said, here we are in my home cinema and what we get is a sci-fi fiction horror adapted from the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer.


Opening with a meteorite crashing into a lighthouse we are soon introduced to Natalie Portman as Lena, a former soldier and scientist who is recalling her adventure inside an environmental entity called The Shimmer. She explains to a hazmat-wearing Benedict Wong about this ethereal alien mix of colour and DNA-adapted plants and animals. We flashback to her home life with her husband Kane (Ex_Machina’s Oscar Issac) who has gone missing inside the same anomaly but returns heavily scarred by his experience and Lena is asked to enter The Shimmer to find some answers.


The back and forth of timescales – as well as a female scientist who is dealing with a loved-one’s illness uncovering alien mysteries with a bunch of fellow academics – harks to Villeneuve’s Arrival, but Portman brings her own vulnerability that we’ve seen to great effect in Black Swan and last year’s underrated Jackie.


Teaming up with expedition leader Jennifer Jason Leigh, the team is rounded out by paramedic Gina Rodriguez as Anya Thorensen, Tessa Thompson’s physicist and Tuva Novotny as a surveyor and geologist. But it’s Portman’s experience in cell division (the circle motif also reminiscent of Arrival) that seems to offer some explanation as to what is going on.


Garland uses some heavy-handed symbolism as the shimmering landscape is reflected in plastic wrap protecting her and Isaac’s home furniture, whilst later we are shown the glossy transparent vinyl surrounding his quarantined bed. This idea of protection and safe and dangerous zones is present throughout and Garland impressively gives us a colourful floral jungle full of Pandora-esque life – yet one that is full of unexpected tension. Despite the lightness and brightness, we are only given us much information as the explorers so their journey into the unknown is also ours.


As they begin to experience shared memory loss and hallucinations, the feisty females stumble across the remnants of previous failed endeavours. Garland doesn’t shy away from the shocking scenes as camcorder footage reveals gruesome internal body horror the likes of which has not been seen since Prometheus. An intriguing plot slowly discloses more disgusting fleshy revelations and a fantastic scene involving the group turning on itself whilst a creature stalks their tied up bodies created a level of dread only the awful Alien: Covenant could dream of.


Yet, as well as the horrific, Garland provides a beauty contrary to the abominations they come across. As it is discovered that much of the environment is the result of cross-DNA development, vivid images of ice-trees and people-shaped plants dot the landscape and are as intriguing as the obvious terrors lurking in the unknown darkness.


The superbly designed overalls and backpacks and a brilliant female cast that audiences will get behind reminded me of how Ghostbusters got the same investigative para-scientific conceit so wrong. We are with this group of powerful female scientists every step, involving ourselves in their personal, scientific and emotional lives throughout their excursion.


Annihilation then ends up being an engaging piece of excellent sci-fi tropes and characters that have clear motivations and are well acted by the cast. An amazing score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow builds to a crescendo in the film’s final Giger-inspired sequence and although the film has ideas and themes seen elsewhere, Garland adds enough new to the mix to create a successful slice of intelligent story-telling.


I can’t help but feel however that, like the protagonists, our own journey into the unknown world of how Netflix will work in the future is a disordered fusion. The mutated mix of a home release and cinema experience is a conjoined mess that simply doesn’t work right now.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Feb 5 2018 09:21PM



The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) Dir.Julius Onah


The third film spawned from the sci-fi world created in the JJ Abrams-produced Cloverfield series is here and arrived on Netflix on 5th February 2018 without so much as a trailer in what I described on Twitter a week earlier as one of the more interesting promotional campaigns currently out there.


What the Cloverfield ‘project-helmers’ are doing (it’s difficult to call them filmmakers or a studio given its fractured nature) appears to be twisting the cinematic-universe idea in a far more interesting direction than the Disney behemoths. As a lesser-known and less financially risky franchise name, Cloverfield can take more chances and is all the better for doing so. In this latest film, Nigerian-American filmmaker Julius Onah takes on his first big project and mostly delivers a slice of silly b-movie fun as someone new to Hollywood.


After a rather mundane opening car conversation between Ava Hamilton played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Miss. Sloane) and her husband Michael (played by Roger Davies), the film sees her leaving him and Earth behind as she joins a crew aboard an orbiting space station. With the planet on the brink of war as they face a disastrous energy crisis, the international crew (who stereotypically represent the most powerful nations on earth) are working on a particle accelerator experiment to create endless energy and thus save the world.


As expected, this fails to go to plan as their accelerator malfunctions and they are warned of a “Cloverfield Paradox" – a by-product of messing around with space-time which could lead to the opening of other dimensions and whatever lies within. Before they know it they have “lost” Earth and strange events begin to occur from gravitational anomalies to the appearance of a mysterious woman who is revealed ‘embedded’ within power cables in a gruesome mash-up akin to Seth Brundle at the end of The Fly.


The film doesn’t take itself super seriously with (hopefully knowingly) creaky dialogue and a smattering of broad humour (mainly from the IT Crowd’s Chris O’ Dowd) whilst the tensions on the ship come from the rest of the crew who can’t fully understand their predicament which includes David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Aksel Hennie and Zhang Ziyi.


Speaking of those films, this one follows Michael’s side-story back on Earth where he eventually gets involved with the exploits of the monster attack in New York from the first film. This again tries to avoid avoids the problems of Marvel’s continuity complexities by simply alluding to familiar sequences and the permeating themes of their established world.


As I’ve said previously it’s great to see Netflix pump money into supporting these mid-budget films as only a few years ago films like this (Event Horizon, The Sphere and Sunshine etc) would have been given cinema releases.


It’s far from original, nabbing bits and bobs from a variety of seen-it-before sci-fi films, but it also reminded me of the excellent The Mist in a few ways. This was especially noticeable where monsters come through a portal into our world through a science experiment gone awry – which ironically ‘demystifies’ some of the unknowing tension the previous Cloverfield films had which was a shame.


Along with this, the usual mix of space explosions, air-locks and fixing internal systems are present but the characters (although one dimensional) are likeable and the grisly deaths spice up the visuals when needed.


With a splatter of PG-friendly body horror and a couple of interesting sequences, it’s a film more along the lines of 2017’s uninspired LIFE than it is Alien. And although the second movie is probably the best "film", the other two are sillier but perhaps more enjoyably so. With that said, from the interesting use of space tech including nano-bot Polyfilla (yes, really!) and a set of unchallenging b-movie thrills, the movie serves as an adequate Saturday night slice of ‘armless sci-fi.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 15 2017 08:59AM



The Last Jedi (2017) Dir. Rian Johnson


WARNING: Contains spoilers


After the soft-reboot that was The Force Awakens and the misstep, for me, of the dull prequel Rogue One, with The Last Jedi comes Disney’s third foray into the galaxy far, far away with director Rian Johnson (Looper) stepping into the director’s chair.


We pick up where Force Awakens left us. Luke has banished himself on an island after failing to train Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren who is again played with evil ‘emo’ glee by Adam Driver. A courageous Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on a mission from the Resistance being tasked with coaxing the powerful Jedi back into action against the dastardly First Order. The internet was buzzing over what his (or her) first words would be. Two years in the making and every possible theory pored over and Johnson builds up tension with lingering shots on the two protagonists. And what are they? Well, essentially none. Cool-hand Luke slowly accepts his lightsaber in his robotic palm and then...simply chucks it over his shoulder and walks away.


And this favouring of the unexpected over the predictable is its winning formula and a metaphor for Johnson’s whole film. The moments an audience give assumed importance to are given little significance whilst the smaller details are given prominence throughout. Heck, Johnson provides an entire 10 minute battle sequence even before we return to the island and pick up the story JJ Abrams left us with.


Narrative wise, the film sticks to a basic plot where the resistance have been decimated to a few ships then go on the run tracked by huge star destroyers (now with a super-sized dreadnaught class version). Supreme Leader Snoke, another amazing Andy Serkis creation with pitch-perfect CGI, tasks Domnhall Gleeson’s pantomime Hux and Kylo Ren to continue their search for Rey in a bid to get her to turn to the dark side. The light-hearted family feel is there from the opening, the loveable rogue Poe Dameron, filling Harrison Ford’s shoes (AND clothes at times) delivers an overtly comedic exchange over a radio – again echoing Han in A New Hope. Despite its slightly awkward tone which made me fear “I have a bad feeling about this" it luckily settled down and Johnson balanced the light and dark with vigour.


As the resistance plans to infiltrate the First Order to stop their tracking device, John Boyega’s fantastic Finn gets a chance to shine as he joins feisty newcomer Kelly Marie Tran as Rose on a trip to Canto Bight and its wealthy casino patrons. Gambling on alien-horse races sees Johnson add a throwaway but thrilling CGI chase sequence which along with the city’s building design had the worrying look of the much maligned prequel trilogy. However, for me it felt as though it brought back the links between all trilogies which Johnson had fun in delivering. There’s also seeds sown of a wider universe with farm orphan slaves (“it’s like poetry, it rhymes”) being drawn into the events, perhaps helping to establish Johnson’s recently announced stand-alone trilogy. We’ll have to wait and see.


Rogue One’s fan-service appeared tokenistic but R2-D2’s playback of Star Wars’ original “you’re our only hope” message and a hugely surprising cameo from Yoda as a Force ghost were more than welcome. Context is everything and both served the story and I loved the fact the ghosts had returned for the first time since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.


However, at every turn the film swept me off my feet and pulled out something unexpected in each new scene. Expanding the myths of the force we see new powers including a resurrection and transcendence. Mark Hamill as Luke and the late Carrie Fisher as his sister Leia are both mesmerising in career defining performances and their coming together showed that amongst the battles, fights and comedy, the film’s tender emotional beats are what really draw you in.


Away from the nods, we get new creatures – the loveable puffin-like Porgs avoiding Jar Jar Binks levels of annoyance in the main – as well as new characters. Benicio Del Toro’s stuttering code-breaker and Laura Dern’s focused Vice Admiral are welcome additions with the latter’s sacrifice by flying a ship at lightspeed into another craft is one of the film’s visual highlights. With bombastic sounds being replaced with an eerie silence, the image is lingering and powerful. Alongside that, Snoke’s blood red throne room and a Kylo-Luke showdown showed the film’s cinematic ambitions were far more than space banter and franchise references.


In the end, this is epic blockbuster cinema at its very best. It would have been easy to follow the established pattern but the film sets up a precedent that anyone could be expendable which kept tension high. It also highlights how The Force Awakens, a film I hugely enjoyed, really didn’t tackle many new things yet this one twisted my expectations from the start.


With an expansion of its themes and both the classic and new characters finding their place The Last Jedi will hopefully satisfy super Star Wars nerds and general film audiences too. With such great filmmaking from Johnson, it’s a huge task to tackle the lore and the fan expectations of the infamous space opera, but the director more than comes through. Yet the main thing is the film is a lot of fun. Lots of unadulterated fun. And like the best cinema has to offer The Last Jedi leaves you both with a smile on your face and a lump in your throat.


10/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Nov 27 2017 09:31AM



Clone (2017)


Lightbeam Productions


Director: David Hastings

Director of Photography: Joshua LA Baggott

1st AD: Suki Sandhar

2nd Camera: Kaushy Patel


From director David Hastings (The House of Screaming Death) comes Clone; in which a Professor working alone late at night in his home is visited by a mysterious stranger who causes the Professor to doubt his lifetime's work.


It is tricky to provide a detailed review of this film without giving away at least one spoiler, albeit one that is revealed quite early however it is fair to say that writer and lead actor Charles O’Neil (The House of Screaming Death) is the focal point of this movie which prioritises discussion and philosophical ethical musing over any visual action.


Paradoxically it is this focus that is both the film's strength, at times the discussion channels the composition of some philosophical writings of antiquity, for example Dionysius, and also its weakness as O’Neil’s writing (this is his second credited piece) borders at times on the mundane and the inconsequential - which in a film where the dialogue is paramount in holding the viewers attention is crucial to how it will be received.


I have no doubt that Clone will find an audience out there but for me it appeared to be a piece still in progress.


The camerawork and shot framing need a little improving, even as a secondary aspect this was noticeable, while the main crux of the film, the discussion, was slightly vague in its concepts despite its obvious importance. And as a result it was sadly hard to believe, or necessarily care at times, in the critical implications of the decision.


Perhaps the problem I faced was that the concept was definitely strong, echoes of Logan’s Run amongst several other sci-films can be found, but the execution was not quite there on this occasion but I would still look out for the writer's next project given their emphasis on a host of interesting themes.


Marek Zacharkiw

@CosiPerversa


By midlandsmovies, Nov 21 2017 05:52PM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 5


As we steam full ahead towards 2018, here are a few reviews of films we’ve seen during the past year in the fifth catch-up blog of 2017.




The Discovery (2017) Dir. Charlie McDowell

Released through Netflix this drama has a fantastic cast of Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, Robert Redford and Jesse Plemons and we begin with scientist Thomas Harbor (Redford) who has proved the existence of life after death. With the world population plummeting as the public commit suicide to experience this other world the film has a very interesting premise yet sadly little else. As Redford’s weird sect at a mansion attempt to record what these dead folk are seeing in their afterlife, the boring drama spoils its ideas in scenes of unbelievable dullness and a slow moving pace. It’s great to see Netflix as the spearhead of well-budgeted independent films that tackle subjects that no longer seem to get cinema releases but this has to be noted as a well-meaning failure. An investigation into the strange images captured lead to the film’s most interesting themes and a final reveal about what they are viewing is disappointing and unfulfilling with no light at the end of a very dark and depressing drama tunnel. 4/10




Catfight (2017) Dir. Onur Tukel

Directed and written by Turkish-American Onur Tukel, Catfight is a dark comedy drama starring Sandra Oh and Anne Heche as two women who begin a feud that ends up lasting decades. Wealthy socialite Oh embarrasses her old friend Heche who is a struggling artist at a party and thus starts a violent drunken fist fight. The action is brutal, yet contains over-the-top comedy punch sounds straight from Indiana Jones and ends with Oh falling into a coma and waking years later. After finding her son died in military service and broke owing to medical bills, the previously rich Oh deals with a role-reversal as Heche’s artist has become a narcissistic and successful artist. Great support comes from the little-seen Alicia Silverstone as Heche’s put-upon and broody girlfriend and a second vengeful fight ensues before Heche herself falls into a coma and also loses her money in the same circumstances. This is a film with hints of Trading Places but has a surreal story to tackle more serious themes of war (both in relationships and a background narrative about military intervention) and loss – of memories, possessions and family. An interesting if slight film, Catfight has two fantastic female leads and sticks to a strange and unique concept yet also has the guts to follow through with a ‘Being John Malkovich’ heightened reality. A punch-drunk oddity. 5.5/10



Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Dir. Luc Besson

Based on the comic series Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and budgeted at an enormous €197 million, Besson returns to his eye-gouging visual sci-fi aesthetic first seen in the 1997 film The Fifth Element. In the 28th century, the movie follows Major Valerian (a rogue-ish Dane DeHaan) and his partner Sergeant Laureline (a feisty Cara Delevingne) who investigate a mysterious anomaly at the centre of Alpha which is an enormous space station populated by aliens from across the universe.


The film is great at portraying other-worldly environments and mystical beings in colourful CGI and whilst it’s clearly a green-screen mess, it’s such a glorious and inventive mess that most of the artifice is forgiven. An extra-dimensional bazaar called Big Market is an ingenious use of different worlds and Besson actually gives his audience credit for working out how this strange parallel phenomenon works. The film is filled with exciting action scenes which are perfunctory but again, and most importantly, fun. And whilst it’s no Star Wars, it certainly creates an understandable world that feels lived in and inhabited by wildly designed creatures. A commercial failure, the film is far from awful in comparison to similar recent science fiction universes such as the dull Jupiter Ascending. Away from the Pratt and Lawrence of Passengers from earlier this year, some critics didn’t like the strange and cold dynamic between DeHaan and Delevingne but I thought their quirkiness and less-than-Hollywood take on the characters was far more interesting.


Delivering the same fun yet inconsequential science fiction as his previous foray into the future, Besson has no way created anything close to a masterpiece but if you leave your brain at the door, the movie gives audiences thousands of better ideas than other summer hits like the trashy Transformers. 7/10




Casting JonBenet (2017) Dir. Kitty Green

This unique documentary about the death of child pageant superstar JonBenét Ramsey covers the theories and evidence surrounding the mysterious tragedy that caught the attention of an entire nation in 1996. Taking a very distinct approach, rather than the usual vox pops and archive footage, Kitty Green employs a more visceral technique where she runs a casting process for a fictional film. Amateur actors from the Colorado area where the death occurred are interviewed and assessed in their attempts to gain a part as one of the real people involved in the case. As they run through dialogue and dramatic recreations, this in itself is illuminating but the interspersed interviews allow these part-time actors to revel in their own theories surrounding the tragedy. Whilst they are auditioning for the roles of John and Patsy Ramsey, Burke Ramsey, John Mark Karr and various Boulder police officials that are “up for grabs”, they speculate on the motivations and emotions of the case. Being from the community, they give their insights from a local perspective as they impart their raw feelings and uncensored thoughts. Although I’d prefer a little more context to the case – the uninitiated are given a bare minimum of objective context – the film is intentionally provocative and emotional, reflecting the upsetting sentiments that echoed throughout the USA at the time. Upsetting yet extremely fascinating, Casting JonBenet takes a risk away from a traditional documentary format to deliver a fascinating portrait that is successful in all the ways I found I Am Not Your Negro wasn’t. 7/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Oct 30 2017 04:48PM


Graycon (2017) Dir. Duaine Carma Roberts


A young couple who attempt to care for their virus infected daughter opens this brand new sci-fi drama from West Midlands filmmaker Duaine Carma Roberts.


After the young girl’s bloody cough turns worse, not even a pill administered by her father Joe (Andre Pierre) can save the poor child’s life, despite being convinced he has found a possible cure. The couple subsequently play the blame game before the background of the pill becomes a point of contention and although the mother attempts to move on with life, the father still questions why the cure failed.


In a parallel story, we are then introduced to the murky background of the virus and medication and are told that Joe’s friend Jordan (April Nerissa Hudson) is also attempting to save someone she loves. However, Jordan has betrayed murky businessman Ryan (James Edge) in her attempts to save her infected brother and the consequences of her decisions could be fatal to all involved.


As the antagonist Ryan, James Edge channels Tom Hiddleston-levels of evilness in an OTT performance that’s a joy to watch as he threatens more repercussions on the two scientists. Dressed in a trench-coat wardrobe, he delivers a fun role of ticks, stares and menacing hand gestures that balances the more serious dramatic turns from the talented Pierre and Hudson.


Soon a steam-punk time travel “device” called Graycon is introduced that Joe hopes can save his daughter in the past but both he and Jordan are increasingly troubled with the issues in the present. As Ryan tries to track them down he not only wants to get his hands on the device but to halt further development and make himself a rich man from any cure.


On the technical side, a simple piano score is effective and compliments the drama whilst also allowing a suitable level of tension to rise with its repeated musical motifs. If there was just one criticism it would be that the sound mix had a few volume “jumps” and the fighting, although well choreographed, could have utilised some stronger ‘punch’ noise-effects to go along with the brutal visuals – but both these are minor points in a top notch short.


The handheld camerawork maintained a sense of unease and moved in for close-ups when the drama’s intensity exploded into raised voices and fist fights yet it is the strong performances that are the film’s main draw throughout.


Both leads are first rate with Andre Pierre’s intensity as a father searching to correct past mistakes helping to centre the film and April Nerissa Hudson is given emotional scenes as a vulnerable sister trying to do right by her brother. Her poignant style is sensitive and strong and outstanding support also comes in the form of Adaya Henry, Romayah McCalla, Ackeem Gibbs and Nisaro Karim.


Overall, Roberts has provided a tight script with lashings of drama and action to help create an effective time-travel journey. The obligatory bouts of exposition – as are the norm in such sci-fi fare – are kept to a minimum but when they are required, Roberts uses exciting scenes, excellent performances and quirky dialogue delivery to keep things moving when information is being passed on.


A suitable open-to-interpretation ending is the perfect note to conclude the short with, and Graycon confirms that the best stories are ones where an audience can identify with well-rounded characters. And it hugely helps that Roberts has secured such high-quality actors to inhabit these roles. So with all the right elements in place, Graycon is a solid success which consistently delivers a satisfying drama and captures the imagination one moment at a time.


Midlands Movies Mike

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