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By midlandsmovies, Sep 9 2017 07:48AM

BIRMINGHAM ON FILM II

9 - 17 SEPTEMBER 2017

 


Birmingham on Film returns this week with a celebration of the city’s waterways.

 

Last year Flatpack: Assemble launched a month-long season of Birmingham-related archive film, screening the best (and worst) films made in and about the city. Birmingham on Film II takes place from 9-17 September, with a focus on Birmingham’s 35 miles of canals.

 

Expect retro kids TV, Cliff Richard, Midlands alien sightings and everyone’s favourite disc jockey Alan Partridge….




STARMAN

Saturday 9 September, 7.45-10.00pm, Stirchley Baths, FREE

The John Carpenter classic, Starman (cert: PG) stars Jeff Bridges as an alien visitor to Earth who is knocked off course and must take an interstate road trip to rendezvous with a mothership from his home planet. 

 



DIY DRIVE IN CINEMA

Saturday 16 September, 2.00-4.30pm, Rum Runner Yard, Regency Wharf, £3

The chance to build your own mini-car out of scrap material and then park up for some Birmingham-based kids TV including Brum and Tiswas.

 

TAKE ME HIGH

Saturday 16 September, 6.00-7.30pm, Gas Street Basin, £10

Take Me High stars Cliff Richard as a self-absorbed banker who moves to Birmingham, buys himself a narrowboat and invents the Brumburger. This neglected musical oddity aboard a canal boat and a Brumburger is included in the ticket price. 

 

WATERWAY TO HAVE A GOOD TIME

Saturday 16 September, 4.30-5.30pm, Rum Runner Yard, Regency Wharf, FREE

Sunday 17 September, 2.00-3.00pm, Rum Runner Yard, Regency Wharf, FREE

A selection of canal related archive shorts curated by the Media Archive for Central England followed by a special screening of I’m Alan Partridge.



MADE IN BRUM

Sunday 17 September, 12.00-5.00pm, Gas Street Basin, FREE

Hop aboard the floating cinema and catch a wonderful selection of family-friendly shorts made in Brum.

 

COLOUR BOX SHORTS: NATURE’S TALES

Sunday 17 September, 12.00-2.00pm, Rum Runner Yard, Regency Wharf, FREE

An assortment of Flatpack family favourites from our Colour Box short film programme.

 

THE BARGEE

Sunday 17 September, 3.30-5.00pm, Rum Runner Yard, Regency Wharf, FREE

Harry H Corbett – better known as Steptoe the younger – is a bargee who ferries boats and goods up and down the Grand Union canal, wooing various women while his mate Ronnie Barker keeps an eye on the tiller.


Birmingham on Film II is part of Birmingham Heritage Week, which runs from 7-17 September.


For ticket information go to http://flatpackfestival.org.uk/2017/08/birmingham-on-film-2/


By midlandsmovies, Aug 27 2017 01:12PM



The Short Cinema 2017 - Part 1


It comes around so quickly! Last night was another hugely successful showcase of regional talent as the final Main Competition night was held for The Short Cinema 2017. A full screening room at Leicester's Phoenix Square Independent Cinema were hugely receptive to a whole host of shorts, dramas, comedies and more from the best filmmakers in the area. With the largest programme of films I've seen yet, this show was spread over two screening sessions so I headed down to catch the judge's best films chosen from this year's Short Cinema entrants.


(Click here for part 2)




Multi Story by Kieran Chauhan

Given the big task of opening the evening, Kieran Chauhan had a huge job on his hands being the first film of the night but the bar was set high with his dark drama Multi Story. Set mostly in an eerie car park, the phrase “What Brings You Here?” is echoed throughout as the audience are encouraged to ask the same question of the protagonist. A car-park purgatory of sorts, a man investigates his wife's death but with surreal twists and turns. Its imagery echoes everything from the elevator from Inception to the visions of Jacob’s Ladder and the short is great at unsettling the audience. Adrian Bouchet is superb as the haunted detective whilst Izabella Malewska is feisty and mysterious in an excellent support role with director Chauhan demonstrating his outstanding eye for troubling images and peculiar sequences.

Find out more here: http://kieranchauhan.com/sample-page/shortfilms



Headspace by Stuart Peters

With influences from Spike Jonze’s sweeping camerawork in his “Weapon of Choice” and “Kenzo World” dance-music videos, this short showcases the dance talents of Danni Spooner. Contrasting the sunny tap dancing around Leicester’s Castle Park with a Gene Kelly-esque tit-for-tat dance off with her own spotlighted shadow, the short encapsulates the dreamy world of the dancer and accents all the right beats in its attempts to ‘click’ with the audience.

Watch the short here: https://vimeo.com/groups/459498/videos/213422967




The Last Barman on Earth by Brian McDowell

Brian McDowell’s film of two heavily armed survivors of a post-apocalyptic earth who head into a bar was certainly a highlight from the evening. Mixing great special effects with a tongue-in-cheek steampunk tone, the two leads’ banter contrasts with the appearance of straight-talking android barman. Channelling Martin Sheen in Passengers and a huge dose of Michael Fassbender’s ‘David’ in Prometheus, the star is Kieron Attwood whose electronic movements are a perfect physical manifestation of a machine. The monotone automaton has aims as dark as Ash in Alien and the film concludes with a suitably twisted ending. A satisfying sci-fi success.

Watch the short here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBV6VENAQpQ



The Past Whispers by Jane Hearst

A short which tackles the sensitive subject of sexual abuse and bullying was not the last of the night but this film highlighted the struggles of an abuse survivor as well as the dark memories that continue to haunt victims. The film used a great concept of “blacking out” the perpetrator as a way of trying to forget past trauma but the use of personal photos were clear that the acts were committed by a close family member. The female lead has her memories collated in what initially looks like a fun scrapbook but the shadow of her tormentor burdens her thoughts throughout. An intriguing and delicate story, the film was created through the “First Acts” short programme in partnership with Rural Media – a grouping which again would appear more on the night.

Find out more here: http://randomacts.channel4.com/post/162079637751/the-past-whispers-by-jane-hearst-a-survivor-of



Hands by Michael Lane

An experimental film in which 4 hands are shown against a black backdrop is an arty conceptualisation of a number of themes which are open to interpretation in Michael Lane’s “Hands”. The fleshy appendages are shown in stark contrast to the dark background and the movement of digits hinted upon everything from communication, birth, blooming flowers and togetherness. With great music from Vladimir Konstantinov, Hands is not for everyone as the film’s abstractness may turn off some viewers but its collaborative creation encapsulates the minimalist words seen on screen at the end: A Dance. A Meditation. Hope.


Recovery by Daniel Purse

One of the first straight ahead (or so it seems) dramas of the night, Daniel Purse’s “Recovery” sets itself up as a tale of drunk driving and regret. However a literal left-turn (or was it right?) gives the short much more depth than at first glance. As a mysterious figure watches a grave, the film is superb at setting up a well-known narrative only to switch focus towards its conclusion. With the ringing of a red phone box and a symbolic red book, all signs point towards a bloody ending but a hint of time-travel (believe it or not) help turn a seen-it-before story into something much more intriguing.

Find out more about Recover at http://danielpurse.com/recovery/




Si by Steve George, Ryan Sibanda

A film by Steve George, Ryan Sibanda, Joshua Baggott and LJ Greenwood from the University of Wolverhampton, “Si” was nominated for the Undergraduate Short Feature award at the RTS Student Television Awards 2017. The short is an amazing comedic sketch from one of the strangest points-of-view this reviewer has ever seen. Telling the story in voiceover, the “star” of the film is a ‘Caution: Wet Floor” sign, nicknamed “Si”. Yes, that’s correct. This high-concept idea is delivered with huge laughs and an understated voiceover reminiscent of Ralph Brown’s Del Preston from Wayne’s World 2 (or Danny in Withnail & I if you prefer). Witnessing office romances, terrible toilet incidents and more, the sign hilariously comments on the various events and the short won the audience over from the outset. Si is a winning demonstration of how a great concept, executed well, can result in an even greater success for any short filmmaker.

Watch the short here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpbjApLefgI




FAG by Danni Spooner

An abstract concept of a film, FAG is described as a “rebellious reflection on the cis-gendered society we exist in”. With three individuals shown at the start from the feet up, FAG plays around with stereotypes, expectations and political correctness. The high heels mixed with masculine “marching” mixes gender concepts and as the short progresses, there are tasteful shots of stubble, breasts and smoking – again, combining aspects of what the audience may expect from male or female bodies. With an inherent playfulness, the film brings up important issues but does so in a fun, (partially) explicit yet no-nonsense way that is accessible for all.

Watch the short here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REpNwEOYUys




The Gift by John Quarrell

Husband Michael arrives at the posh residence of a call girl with embarrassment and trepidation in this dramatic film from John Quarrell. Yet, initial thoughts of a cheating spouse are put aside when it’s revealed this is part of a ‘gift’ provided by Michael’s wife, who is debilitated by Multiple Sclerosis. Gregory Finnegan delivers a great performance as he weighs the moral quandary he’s facing whilst Natasha Pring as his disabled wife shows the daily struggles she faces. All red-dress and sly glances, Alex Childs is amazing as she delivers a sultry performance as the call girl who gives depth to what could have been a straight forward supporting role in the film. With 3 strong actors delivering minimalist but thoroughly satisfying dialogue, The Gift gave its audience a superb present of extraordinary pleasures.

Find out more about The Gift here: https://www.johnquarrell.com/




My Jedi Powers by Rhys Davies

A modest little short from Leicester filmmaker Rhys Davies, My Jedi Powers continues with the themes from the filmmaker’s previous efforts embracing family connections between young and old generations. In this Star-Wars influenced film, a boy (in a Stormtrooper outfit) and his grandmother (brilliantly attired Audrey Ardington as Darth Vader) are attempting to get to the cinema but are beset by unforeseen ‘forces’ including a broken-down car. What a piece of junk! The two connect over talk of “Rebels” and, with the help of an old man, continue their adventure and cross rural rivers to get to the bus stop. With their new hope ultimately dashed as the bus fails to arrive, the short ends on a high with their journey itself being celebrated as a success. And again, My Jedi Powers shows how director Davies uses his masterful skill to tackle the quaint and peculiar hobbies that bring families together.

Find out more here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6225146/




Barfly by Mike Yeoman

“Mike Yeoman walks into a bar”. Barfly is a short but sweet sketch from Mike Yeoman and his FlipYou comedy collective and takes the age-old “bar joke” format and twists it with a swift punch-line. Less than a minute long, it continues Yeoman’s quick and funny Fast Show-paced skits that cut out the fat for big dollops of sharp laughs. Mixing the amusing with the absurd, the film left the audience in high spirits as the break approached and showed the group’s talent for well-observed, yet intelligently silly, humour.

Follow updates from Flip You comedy here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD8Slh-Kc2LHWcjC0h8-fuA


Click here for Part 2...


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 25 2017 11:02AM



What Happened to Monday (aka Seven Sisters) (2017) Dir. Tommy Wirkola


Also known as the more blatant, and ridiculous in my opinion, ‘Seven Sisters’ in the UK, comes a new sci-fi from Tommy Wirkola, the Norwegian director of Dead Snow and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.


In a montage opening we find that in 2037 the future has led to a world on the brink of collapse as overpopulation and the resulting starvation has forced global governments to introduce a one-child policy. This Child Allocation Act forces any siblings to be put into a 'sleep stasis' until the crisis has passed. However, one father (a strong as always Willem Defoe) hides the birth of his septuplet children after the death of his wife and brings them up to 'play' (and act) as one individual in the oppressive outside city.


Named after the days of the week the children learn to adapt to the one persona and the film picks up with seven Noomi Rapaces playing each of the older siblings in a technical tour de force. The second ‘star-of-Prometheus’ cloning films of the year (Alien: Covenant saw Fassbender play “just” 2 versions of himself) Rapace infuses each sister with their own personality with differing styles and costume. Far from the early Back to the Future 2 and Nutty Professor effects where actors also played multiple roles in locked-off camera shots, Rapace (and the CGI geniuses) completely immerse us in a world where the special effects and performances are seamless and the camera can wander as much as it likes.


The plot revolves around the disappearance of Monday who fails to return after a day out, with the sisters soon attempting to uncover her whereabouts. Yet before too long the illegal siblings are subsequently hunted by the authorities themselves. With elements of dark humour and a smattering of explicit violence and heavy themes, the film is held together with some twisting of sci-fi tropes but the sole praise is Rapace’s alone. With her solid performance in the truly awful Rupture, the actress had a huge amount of redeeming to do after that misstep from earlier this year.


But she does so in spades here. In addition, the film’s chases, fire-fights, explosions and shoot-outs will satisfy fans of action. Its well-constructed editing alongside fast-paced narrative and character development, help these exciting action sequences have an emotional weight that's so often missing - and also allows an audience to side with the siblings’ plight.


Again, Netflix has shown that it can (along with Okja and others) invest in original ideas that are a much needed balm from the over abundance of multiplex franchises. That said, with its themes of cloning, birth and re-birth, plus machine gun shootouts, the film has echoes of an Alien film that never was. Rapace was sorely missing from Ridley Scott’s latest and his film fails to have half the imagination shown in this lower budget film.


Not without its flaws – a slightly too long 2-hour runtime drags in the middle - the film uses its support cast well but Glenn Close as Nicolette Cayman head of the C.A.B. is menacing but somewhat underused.


However, for a fun but not throwaway thrill, you could do a lot worse than What Happened to Monday. A career high for the director and Rapace returns on a high from her earlier cinematic stinker. The film sits alongside Snowpiercer and Predestination as a trio of fantastic under-valued science fiction films that have been released under the radar in the last 5 years and one that provides an emotional resonance in a future not so distant.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Aug 3 2017 08:23AM



Ghost in the Shell (2017) Dir. Rupert Sanders


This live action port of the Japanese manga stars Scarlett Johansson as Major Mira Killian, a cyborg soldier uncovering her mysterious past in a cyber-punk world where humans already incorporate robotics into their flesh. (Sounds like an Alan Partridge show spec. "Scrap that, Lynne").


The anime adaptation uses sci-fi themes cribbed from a number of sources but none more so than its parallels with the Waschowski’s Matrix films. Despite the 1995 animation preceding The Matrix, that film’s live-action Asian influences got to the screen years before this version which makes Ghost in the Shell seem very dated. This despite the fact it originated the ideas in the first place.


Johansson plays a bionic weapon in what looks like a “nude suit” (merely flesh-coloured for all you teenagers out there) in a future Blade Runner-looking city, tackling criminals as part of her assigned role. Again, many comparisons with other films are on show – from Ridley’s seminal classic to Michael Bay’s The Island and even I, Robot. So once again it makes the film less original and sadly the comparisons (with much better films) inevitable.


One saving grace is the design of the movie which uses spectacular Asian-inspired technology, cityscape locations and fashion. It also has a beautiful colour palette on screen, far removed from the dour, drab and washed-out DC films. However, whilst Johansson can do alienated city loners well (Her, Under the Skin, Lost in Translation) this film reminds me of the awful, and awfully boring, Lucy in which her character also gets “special powers” to the benefit of nothing.


A lack of audience empathy has often been the case when dealing with major characters you know are androids or cyborgs. Here, the film understandably misses out a Robocop-style introduction for plot purposes but viewers may find themselves at a distance – and like me, not caring – owing to the lack of humanity in the protagonist.


A confusing, but overly-explained, narrative in the second half together with seen-it-all-before imagery unfortunately leaves the film lacking in so many departments that there is not much to recommend it. Seek out the anime original to immerse yourself in a more unique and mature experience but this bland movie sits alongside the Total Recall remake as being as forgettable as they come.


5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 18 2017 05:52PM



Arrivals - Prologue and Episode 1 - Rachel

Dir. John McCourt

April Just Gone Films


Local company April Just Gone Films took a brave step in releasing a 127 second prologue episode for their new sci-fi series Arrivals. The reason it is brave is because of the time they have allowed to set the tone and objectively speaking it is a mixed bag.


In this short time we, as a viewer, understand the basic idea that will underpin the series thanks to a series of opening interrogations wherein we meet our characters and the strangeness of their date of birth and from this viewpoint the episode no doubt meets its purpose.


However the episode is a little unappealing, not a fault of the film makers per se, who do the best through editing and camera angles to keep it visually stimulating but there is very little you can do with multiple character introductions.


To add to this - within meeting a couple of these persons of interest we quickly understand the point, meaning that the remaining introductions are somewhat superfluous, at least until the final one, Lilith. How many of these characters will be important going forwards I am unsure but each is given so little time that no connections can be made. It feels simply like your first day at work meeting everyone, a little overwhelming without the opportunity to build any real attachment.


Thankfully there is a superb short within the series that has also been completed called 'Rachel', which at just over ten minutes long does allow for not only more elaboration but also more narrative, one which focuses on just one of these 'arrivals' that we met in the earlier episode.


Incorporating just three actors, two interrogating male agents and the eponymous Rachel, the acting is of a good standard for this level of production but a special mention has to go to Lois Cowley for her portrayal of the mysterious woman.


Although the credit really belongs to the writer (and producer and director) John McCourt who displays genuine talent and his work on this later episode is to be commended. Especially as writing a ten minute three way conversation is no easy feat even for the most seasoned of writing professionals.


McCourt manages to lead us through the interrogative dance with ease working in moments of obtuse humour, literary reference and spy intrigue. As a result the ten minutes of this episode seem to fly by especially in comparison to the much shorter prologue.


Arrivals is clearly an intriguing concept, although one that seems familiar, with a potentially strong overriding story arc but its success will depend on the film makers ability to handle the pacing of what is certainly going to be a dialogue heavy but visually restricted journey.


Although the prologue didn't quite work for me it did get the key messages across leading into the second episode and I have no doubt was part of a wider story. So give Arrivals a watch once a couple more episodes are available as it has got me intrigued and I am sure you will be too.


McCourt shows that you do not need a big budget or fancy visuals to grab a viewers attention and I certainly hope he can maintain it.


Midlands Movies Marek


twitter.com/CosiPerversa


Find out more about Arrivals here www.facebook.com/ArrivalsWebSeries

By midlandsmovies, Jun 21 2017 10:32AM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 2


Each year we miss a film or two in the huge round of releases per week. Here is our second blog of the year where we catch up with some of the good (and bad) films from 2017 that are already out to watch. Enjoy!


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Dir. Chad Stahelski


This sequel to 2014’s intense action thriller has Keanu Reeves returning as the gun-dancing assassin who is now out of retirement to unleash more shooting mayhem. The film delves further into Wick’s back-story which was hinted upon in the original and in many ways it is actually a prequel as well as sequel with so much focus on Wick’s previous life. The narrative shows us more of his past and good support from Ian McShane gives the whole thing more depth and expands the world we are in. Keanu is also at the top of his game – slightly wooden as always but like Neo and Ted, the one-dimensionality of the performance lets the audience project themselves into the character.


The story of Wick owing a blood oath debt is merely window dressing for more pirouetting action which again is suitably violent and bloody. A strong support cast including Common and Reeves’ Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne flesh proceedings out but it is the fighting – amongst the splendour and seediness of Rome and New York locations – that bursts off the screen in its glorious brutality and beauty. Fans of action will lap up the intense scenes of bloody violence and its editing is pitched perfectly in the sweet spot of frantic yet understandable. With a third film set-up it may be too far to say it’s the Godfather Part 2 of action films but I feel it may be better than the first film. It combines the obligatory hard-hitting combat with an expansion on the mysteries of the assassin network and penetrates greater themes of trust, honour and revenge. 8/10



Life (2017) Dir. Daniel Espinosa

In short, Life is essentially an Alien rip off as a space crew find a small extra-terrestrial life-form which they are unable to quarantine which subsequently grows into a larger monster that stalks the astro-occupants. The good points include a realistic set up on the ISS with some Gravity-inspired long shots in the station’s cramped compartments as well as an interestingly designed life-form that starts off its existence looking like a sentient “star fish”. The clichés soon start to overpower these positives as the ‘trained experts’ of the crew (inevitably) break quarantine rules and the carnage begins. [SPOILER] A few interesting deaths including one of the main stars couldn’t save the film as it descends into b-movie territory. As the strange creature becomes a Prometheus-esque squid the film loses its premise to become schlock horror and not even a downbeat ending could salvage this sci-fi wreckage. An internet rumour suggested it could have been a Venom origin story (one of Spider-Man’s arch enemies) yet sadly that fan-theory is far more interesting than the film delivered. 6/10


I Am Not Your Negro (2017) Dir. Raoul Peck

Based on the unfinished manuscript Remember This House by James Baldwin and narrated brilliantly by Samuel L. Jackson this new documentary focuses on American racism and the portrayal of black lives in recent media. Historically important and hugely socially relevant right now, the film uses Baldwin’s powerful words to highlight the roles played by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. It’s sad then that I found it, despite its worthy themes and intriguing structure, a little stale and not even Jackson’s masterful voiceover kept me from thinking it was treading water when it could have been providing more powerful insights. As a huge fan of documentaries (my recommendations so far this year would be the superior Oklahoma, Mommy Dead and Dearest and Beware the Slenderman) I was disappointed with the film as the important and weighty ideas weren’t given justice in its one-trick design. Hugely recommended for those interested in the specific subject matter, less so for those not familiar with the work, the film sometimes feels exactly what I feared it could be – a man reading from a book. Disappointing. 6/10



The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) Dir. Oz Perkins

Appearing on a few Top 10 lists of great horror films of 2017 (so far) is this fright film from Oz “Son of Anthony, Psycho” Perkins and stars Kiernan Shipka (Kat) and Lucy Boynton (Rose) as two pupils at a strict Catholic school. The highly composed shots give a huge undercurrent of tension and unease with slow and deliberate sequences portraying the slight narrative as the two girls fail to be collected by their parents once term-time has ended. Rose is possibly pregnant and Kat often appears to mentally ‘tune out’ which is ironic given that the ‘buzzing’ tones of the amelodic experimental music often sounds like an orchestra tuning up. But this adds to the peculiar atmosphereand together with the snowy weather and cold demeanour of the religious teachers, helps deliver an unsettling feeling. And unsettling it is.


As Kat continues to exhibit strange behaviour around Rose, another story is introduced with a girl called Joan who may have escaped an institution and is picked up in a car by James Remar (The Warriors) who plays an ambiguous father-figure. These flashbacks, multi-perspective sequences and possible parallel tales disorientate the viewer but some may find it confusing and the timelines are certainly not clear cut. It takes a while but eventually a few shocks come in the form of Exorcist-influenced body convulsions, vomiting and swearing and the film’s few disturbing images are all the more effective with a slow build up and in their briefness.


Unfortunately there’s a few Scream-ché (a cliché the film Scream deconstructs like investigating scary noises and “I’ll be right back”) and the ambiguous construction could frustrate some but satisfy others. For me, The Blackcoat’s Daughter had far more going for it than the negatives, whilst I got annoyed at points about the lack of clarity to tie up the individual story strands, the mystery was intriguing, the triumvirate of actresses and their performances were superb and the first-time director provided images of intense terror that, like the malevolent force portrayed, linger deep within you post-viewing. 7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 16 2017 09:20AM



Rogue (2017)


Dir. Hannah Smith


A man in his underwear angles his telescope upwards as he stands partly-dressed in awe at an unidentified phenomenon in the sky and so opens Rogue, a new 12-minute fantasy film from the Midlands.


The director of this sci-fi short is Hannah Smith and she invites us to look to the heavens as well in order to tell a story of the cosmos and its impact back on earth.


The film cuts to reveal a huge planet in Earth’s atmosphere and we begin to wonder what risks this new body in orbit will pose to the population.


Smith uses impressive and realistic news television reports on screens to show the worldwide impact on a small budget yet officials are swift to issue a statement that it poses no risk and is due to pass without incident.


However, the aforementioned man (an excellent Alexander King as Jonathan Quinn) enters his wooden barn retreat where his newspaper clippings and blueprints suggest he may know more than the authorities themselves.


As he takes his concerns to a government office, they dismiss his “insane” theories, yet to him it is clear that there will be severe repercussions if no action is taken.


The film is well shot and composed and the candle-lit lighting is fantastic in night time barn shots but this contrasts sharply with the somewhat flat and lacklustre office shots. One sound issue during a conversation should have been picked up in editing – although it could be as a result of the YouTube upload I was viewing.


That said, the story continues as Alexander King channels his version of Woody Harrelson’s ‘crack-pot’ conspiracy theorist from Hollywood disaster flick 2012. This is the smaller sibling of that film with its media coverage of an impending large scale disaster.


Smith uses her small budget to create big sequences and I was very impressed by the level of effects to show the planet in the opening few shots.


Without giving the ending away, a freak heat-wave has those in power questioning the after effects of the planet’s passing. Tension increases via an 80s-music inspired montage sequence as Quinn creates an unknown device which may or may not fend off disaster.


And here Lincoln-based Hannah Smith leaves us hanging like the planet’s inhabitants - asking whether the protagonist can stop any impending tragedy.


Far from a catastrophe, Rogue is in fact a stirring and mesmerising locally-centred disaster film that shows huge promise from a first-time director and is impressive in its story telling, special effects and construction.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, May 16 2017 09:00AM



Alien: Covenant (2017) Dir. Ridley Scott


After offering some universe building themes in the much maligned Prometheus – a film I coincidently enjoyed against the tide of criticism – Ridley Scott returns to his Alien ‘franchise’ in this new sci-fi horror exploration. Whilst not mine, the general consensus was that Prometheus’ lofty subject matter of creators and deities overshadowed the crowd-pleasing terror of the earlier Alien films. Well, Covenant has sadly gone even further with his quasi-religious side-stories rather than rein them in and even I am losing patience with Scott’s obsessions.


In an absolute carbon copy beginning, and one that removes any sense of tension, we are introduced to a set of poorly-fleshed out stock characters as the crew of a colonist ship follows a signal to a mysterious planet. They send a party down to a mountain-filled landscape only to discover an extraterrestrial ship which they enter. Sound familiar at all?


Well, this dullness last for almost 40 long minutes and plays out EXACTLY as Prometheus did which was, and even I have to concede this, not the most interesting original opening in the first place. Rather than drama and dread, the film is as dull as dishwater then delivers the inevitable alien infection/quarantine scene – again, a duplication of things we’ve seen so often before.


And so we come to a point where it finally follows up on Prometheus as we find that film’s android, Michael Fassbender’s ‘David’, sneaking around the planet. Wearing Skywalker-esque robes he goes on to explain some fishy goings-on about the alien goo from the first film. He seems to know the score, both physically and metaphorically. By this, I do mean the actual musical score. The film jumps the shark as he teaches the crew’s own synthetic life form (Fassbender again as ‘Walter’) to play Prometheus’ orchestral main theme on a flute. Scott’s presenting a character playing the film’s theme tune?! That’s like Indiana Jones humming John Williams in the middle of an adventure!


With two robots now introduced, Scott spends an extraordinary amount of time on them and their ‘profound’ (think The Matrix’s ‘Architect’) discussions and interactions. Yet neither one contains the humanity needed to care about their actions. And when they begin fighting, I cared even less.


That aside, the film has further niggles with over-use of poor CGI to recreate the Xenomorph, and its genetic spin-off animals, and much of the film plays out in harsh daylight. Some JCB product placement made me question if the film is now set in “our” future. Which would be like an Apple logo suddenly appearing on a lightsaber. These flaws add up and by the second act, had me gritting my teeth in frustration.


[SPOILER PARAGRAPH] The film also pulls an ‘Alien 3’ by killing off the main character we engaged with from the previous movie. Noomi Rapace’s feisty Elizabeth Shaw is shown only as a corpse experimented on yet she is strangely replaced by a carbon-copy character played by Katherine Waterston. She is now the female in the tight crop top yet the film is consistently unsure who the main character should be anyways. And the mildly-interesting space-jockey engineers? Oh, they’re wiped off the face of the planet in a sequence lasting just seconds. [END OF SPOILERS]


The disappointment of the summer so far, Alien: Covenant is an absolute mess. I would go as far to say that Scott’s 1979 original is one of my top 10 films of all time. Cameron’s superb war action film not far behind too. Yet Scott is intent on focusing this new set of films on a bottomless pit of exposition and thesis based around an android’s god-like goals and dreams. And without Alien’s terror and Aliens’ excitement, Covenant falls into the worst place possible – it’s simply dull and elicits very little emotion at all and is as underwhelming as any film I’ve seen recently. Scott must do better if he’s to continue otherwise he may blow this franchise out of the airlock forever.


5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



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