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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

By midlandsmovies, Oct 5 2017 11:22PM



Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Dir. Denis Villeneuve


Let’s cut to the chase but I’ve never been a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi noir original – even going so far to include it in my top 10 overrated films of all time back in 2012 – so I approached this film with some trepidation. I come at all films with an open mind however, and with such highlights as Sicario, Prisoners and the lauded Arrival in his catalogue of successes, director Denis Villeneuve certainly has the sci-fi and visual chops to take on the belated sequel.


Ryan Gosling (K) is now the LAPD blade runner who hunts down older artificial humans known as “replicants”. He soon stumbles upon the discovery of a skeleton which appears to be that of a replicant woman who died during childbirth, a situation until then thought impossible. Linking the bones to the missing Deckard, K is ordered to destroy the evidence by his superior Joshi (a superb Robin Wright) but soon a set of clues leads him to question his own “implanted” memories and his reality.


Blade Runner 2049 takes the themes of the first – humanity, memory, one’s purpose in life – and adds the dazzling cinematography of 13-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins who not only recreates the look of the original rain-soaked streets, but expands the digital noir influences ten-fold. Shadows lurk everywhere as Villeneuve and Deakins work together to create phenomenal shots, with some of the best of them composed simply in pure silhouette, keeping the characters (and us) ominously in the dark.


Ana de Armas provides great support as K’s artificial partner Joi – a hologram who ironically infuses Gosling’s character with the only emotional attachment and is a great addition to the Blade Runner mythos. Yet, the lack of emotional connection between the audience and the film is one of its sad flaws. To me the original had a sense of detachment but it is practically nihilistic in tone here – the future is death – to humans, to children, to androids and even to holograms.


In spite of that, Harrison Ford gives a great performance when he eventually returns as Detective Rick Deckard but don’t expect to see him in the first 2 hours. However, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv provides a feisty antagonist, much more so than Jared Leto whose Tyrell replacement Niander Wallace is underused and missing from half the movie.


An amazing first hour which sets up the tone, the vision and the look of the world works brilliantly alongside an amazing synthesiser score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch which is fantastic and truly groundbreaking. This beginning also provides us with a set of interesting characters (at first) and Gosling even throws in a joke – confirming a balance of components that works so well.


But like a malfunctioning android, the film begins to fall apart at times and although its style never falters once, it often fails to cover the cold tone and the incredibly slow pacing. At its best, its perfect visionary sci-fi yet at its worst it harks to Only God Forgives with repeatedly boring shots of a moody Ryan Gosling moping around a neon city at night in a drama-vacuum. The film makes sluggish progress and its script’s heavy-handed links to creation and A.I. are a result of further hackneyed garbage from Michael Green, the scribe of the awful Alien: Covenant.


In many ways it’s the perfect sequel – if you enjoyed the original I guarantee you’ll find the expansion and nods to it more than satisfying and for those who feel the original had flaws then this film clones them to a fault. Blade Runner 2049 therefore ends up being a truly technical tour-de-force but as cold as a glacier and moves about as fast.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 1 2017 10:55PM



The Rockman (2017) Dir. Glenn McAllen-Finney & Tommy Bee


GM Finney Productions


“Like a Dr. Who Christmas Special,” says one character halfway through the Leicester-made sci-fi The Rockman. Yet there’s far worse to be compared to, as this new Midlands film takes all the good hallmarks of the classic BBC show to create its own unique low budget time-travel film series.


The film’s b-movie sensibilities are worn on its sleeve from the start however, with a fake BBFC title card setting up its tongue-in-cheek charm before a CGI asteroid hurtles towards the earth in the opening shots.


The story sees Andrew J.F. Morgan as Duncan Fairbanks, an ‘everyday Joe’ whose dull domestic life is rocked by the arrival of a future visitor (a crazy wide-eyed Sam Winterton channelling Doc Brown into his Dr. Sebastian Kramer) who’s leaped back to the present day from 2050.


From the obligatory “What year is this?” introduction to labelling those in the past as “primitives”, Dr. Kramer shakes up Duncan’s unhappy relationship to explain his journey from the EITS (Eye in the Sky) laboratory to prevent the world being ruled by an alien life-form known as the rockmen.


Colour graded in metallic and steely cold blues the filmmakers are musicians and music video makers by trade and the film is filled with a cool punk/hardcore/ska soundtrack. The movie shines a spotlight on local bands, cobbling together regional artists English Guns, Burnin’, Smokin’ The Profit and Mia and the Moon amongst others, which along with the accents and locations, keeps the production comfortably Midlands made.


And as the film is structured into ‘chapters’ that will eventually be split and released online as a web series, that unique route is actually the perfect platform for its punky sensibilities. This should allow their fans to follow the episodic nature piece by piece whilst adding more dramatic cliffhangers as well. In the busy online world of low budget releases, a change in marketing such as this can certainly help a project push through to a wider audience.


The film’s technical aspects get better as it goes along which shows how the film has been broken down into these “episodes” but the feel and tone are generally consistent. It is great to see an attempt to ADR the dialogue which mostly works as well. Although some more background sound was required to avoid the pitfall of feeling like a studio track from another time. And whilst some of the interior shots are a little under-lit and dark, this does work in its favour at times to hide the home-made special effects and monster costumes.


That said, the film mixes up some interesting explanation of time travel – using the creatures pulsating molecules – and fans of twisty narratives will be pleased as the pacing moves like a rolling stone, swiftly jumping from location to location without ever being confusing. And whilst the acting is broad and OTT, it's the right kind of style for a schlocky sci-fi although I wouldn’t hold your breath for any Oscars just yet!


On a script level, the film is well constructed with dialogue and visual set-ups and pay-offs plus lots of quirky Dutch-angles certainly keeps The Rockman in the b-movie genre. From animated maps to green screen via SFX and drone shots, the filmmakers also don’t shy from away from trying new techniques within each chapter too.


The jokes fly thick and fast with the filmmakers including a big slab of comedy into their story. Two colleagues (Katie Terese and a brilliant Anthony Wright as Jess and Jaime) escape their boring office jobs and their “dick head” manager at Frank Bennett Insurance (FBI) for an escapade into the countryside which makes up the majority of chapter two. Subsequently, the seemingly random chapters one and two eventually crossover in a clever narrative parallel towards the end and chapter three draws the strands of the stories together in a satisfying conclusion.


Overall, there are some very minor technical missteps in The Rockman but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyable hand-made feel of a low budget gem. The chapters are a great way to engage your audience and the filmmakers clearly have a huge passion for the genre. In the end, less like a pebble than a big boulder, The Rockman crash lands into the Midlands with plenty of humour, heart and science fiction monster fun.


Midlands Movies Mike

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


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

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