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By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2018 07:58PM



Midlands Review - Breakdown


Directed by Michael Ellis


“You just spent last night in a police station”.


And so says one of two male characters in a car as they drive through the countryside and come across a stranded woman attempting to get a phone signal as she stands next to a broken-down vehicle.


This is the set up of new Midlands film Breakdown from Michael Ellis and from the outset we get the impression that something very dark could be on the horizon involving this naughty duo.


Despite these shady themes the film is shot in stark daylight – throwing a bit of oddness into what could have been a potentially clichéd picking up a stranger on the road dynamic – but the quirky performances help to sell the unpleasant awkwardness as it plays out.


As the men stop to "help", they explain how their phones cannot be used to call for assistance (battery’s dead, left at home) and how they also know nothing of how to fix cars. This sets a tone of jet black comedy amongst what started as a seedy set up to the film.


Whilst the man who spent the night in the cells (Paul Findlay as “Passenger”) spins a yarn about his kindly offer of a lift, the second man’s worried brow (Dominic Thompson) is shown in close-up – hinting upon a repulsive inevitability he may have seen before. Offering to take her to a nearby garage, she reluctantly agrees to get into their car and the men and their new passenger drive off down the road together as we await their fate.


But director Ellis jumps 6 minutes before the story starts in an ingenious flashback which turns the tale upon its head. Without spoiling too much, the lady in distress (admirably played by Tenisha White) may not be as unaware as the first half of the short makes her out to be. We also get to see her character become less victim and more intimidator with an hilarious delivery of “piss off” which had me laughing despite the more pressing serious matters.


A fantastic short that handles its different tones with expertise, the twist in narrative during the middle section completely changes the direction of the story. As we are given new information we are suddenly thrust into a more complex dilemma which is surprising yet satisfying. Paul Findlay in particular as a man with obnoxious intentions gives a believable yet frightening turn, with his staring eyes and superb deadpan delivery of the lies his character spins.


With the right balance of story and plot twists and a trio of great acting turns in the film's brief 7-minutes, Michael Ellis has delivered a great short film that I hope not only does well on the festival circuit but brings more attention to this exciting filmmaker.


Mike Sales


Follow Michael and find out more about his film projects at his Twitter page: https://twitter.com/MEFilmsUK



By midlandsmovies, Oct 18 2018 06:49PM



Midlands Review - Assassins


Written and directed by Liane Moonraven


Assassins is a new micro-short from filmmaker Liane Moonraven and is the first film the American director has completed since arriving in England. And she opens her film in the most English of settings – the good ol’ boozer – and it is here in the pub where her short crime story unfurls.


Liane also stars in the short herself and enters the pub with Midlands Movies favourite Nisaro Karim, star of many shorts from the region. As Nisaro’s unknown man lights a cigarette, the barman brings over some stiff drinks before Liane’s character expresses a stern “We’re expecting a call” to give the short a little mystery from the outset.


As the locals drink, laugh and text, the buzz of the pub is interrupted by the expectant call as the barman hands over a Post-It to the double act at their table.


Downing their drinks they reveal their target is in the car park and with the short’s title of Assassin, the audience may expect a brutal slaying from the pair.


The assassins exit the bar through a back corridor and the woman takes out her gun ready to engage in their next mission. However, a sting in the tale reverses the audience’s expectations and provides a explosive bullet to the narrative.


A micro-short can be difficult to review given the extremely condensed time frame but Liane Moonraven gets over a lot of information in a few shots and with minimal dialogue. With a solid foundation, the film creates a dash of tension yet I hope to see a few more artistic choices in the shots for her next film.


A good grounding, Assassins is the sort of film that a filmmaker can build upon as they develop, where the right balance of character, editing and narrative is delivered simply and with little fuss. Check out the short on the YouTube video embedded below and expect bigger and better things off the back of this level-headed debut.


Mike Sales





By midlandsmovies, Oct 13 2018 02:26PM



The Initiation (2018) Dir. Sheikh Shahnawaz


Local independent filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz is back with The Initiation, a short film about two childhood friends who have their relationship put to the test when they meet a local crime boss they are interested in working for.


The Initiation starts off in an underground multi-storey car park, quiet with no one around but Aaron and Neil (Sam Malley and Dominic Thompson) as they wait nervously. Their long friendship is clear as they fist bump and agree to stand by each other no matter what, ‘since day one’ Neil says with an anxious Aaron agreeing.


As a dark car creeps up to them it’s clear this is their ride. A window rolls down to reveal a mysterious figure smoking. “Get in” he calmly demands. Neil makes the mistake of getting into the front passenger seat which is quickly met with another demand from the man to get in the back.


As the car drives out of the underground and into the streets it is clear this is one of Sheikh Shahnawaz’s most ambitious films yet as he films in external locations and makes it look effortless.


As the three men pull up on a quiet industrial estate they enter a dilapidated building with just a chair and a small table next to it. It is revealed that the strange man is Vinnie (Nisaro Karim) a local crime boss and a man to be respected and feared within the area. He takes the only seat and sits before Aaron and Neil as he quizzes them over a vacant position in his crew.


Vinnie makes sure to mention however that with the sought after lifestyle he can provide, the money, cars, respect, the job also brings with it responsibilities, one of which is making “difficult decisions whilst in difficult situations”. The initiation has begun.


I really enjoyed The Initiation, the premise being one of the main reasons. It is an interesting dynamic to have two loyal friends have the opportunity to make something of themselves albeit illegally but have them be prepared to do something drastic to achieve this.


Another factor of this short film I really enjoyed was the menacing performance by Catharsis Films regular Nisaro Karim, he seemingly towers over the other two men physically and mentally. Karim brings that authenticity to the role and brings Vinnie to life.


I would have liked to have seen more of a build up as it gears towards the finale as their friendship is ultimately tested it feels a tad rushed. However, this doesn’t detract from the fact this is a strong, short film. It is great to see well-made, entertaining genre films being made in this region by what seems to be the busiest and most determined filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz.


What’s next Catharsis films? I can’t wait.


Guy Russell


Twitter @BudGuyer


Watch the full short below:




By midlandsmovies, Oct 4 2018 09:02AM



Student filmmaker tackles dark drama in new short film Terminal


Ben Evans is a student filmmaker studying in Derby who has created a new short film project called ’Terminal’ which he has written and also directed in 2018.


Starring Sophie Bloor from BBC One's 'In the Dark', the film is a short drama about the mental health of a young character towards the end of her life.


A tough uncompromising look at illness, ‘Terminal’ tells the story of Ellie (Sophie Bloor) who is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis at the age of eight. With her father soon walking out on her, the story is picked up eleven years later. And he returns to find Ellie on her deathbed hoping to be part of her life again.


Joining Sophie will be Alix Ashurst as Helen, David Castleford as Mark, Tom Hendryk as the doctor and actress Ellie Jackson as a young Ellie.


Crew wise Ben is excited to have Jon Altham from SoundWave Studios on board to compose music on 'Terminal' and has just released the official poster for the film to the public (see above).


And with the filmmaker currently deep in post-production, Ben has high hopes for his short and is already looking at entering the film onto the festival circuit later in 2019.


Check out the full information about the film over on IMDB here:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8570308/?ref_=rvi_tt


And for regular updates follow the film’s social media at Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Terminal-Short-Film-1513325858777724





By midlandsmovies, Sep 6 2018 11:59AM



Heather (2018)


Directed by Scott Driver


A scream of ecstasy or agony opens new 3-minute short Heather, the latest from Midlands filmmaker Scott Driver


Previously directing other impactful shorts such as HIM and Restroom, it is quickly made clear by the director that these cries are not from pleasure. Or are they? We cut from legs writhing on a bed to a bespectacled woman raining hammer blows on a body in the bedroom who seems more than happy as to what she is doing.


Scrubbing the resulting blood from her face in the mirror, our assailant is then seen dragging a heavy black bin bag outside.


“What’s in the bag?” asks a delivery man who is passing by, leaving us with a palpable tension in the air as she struggles to come up with a suitable reply. And whilst leaving a package he runs off disturbed with what he has witnessed.


A nearby DIY shop comes to the rescue as our unidentified lead purchases a shovel and the audience may guess where this could lead. And yes, a we’re soon off to a wooded area for the body to be disposed.


Director Driver has an eye for showing not telling an audience the main points of his plot and keeps the dialogue at a minimum. The confines of a short run time can force directors into making snappier edits and trims which I’d love to see continue into their longer local feature films.


Created as part of the regional High Peak Independent Film Festival, the short was entered into their 10 hour film challenge. That’s right. Make a movie in just 10 hours – from start to finish. This goes some way to explaining the lack of dialogue but the short is all the better for its visual, rather than expositional, story-telling.


An ending involving a make-shift wooden headstone and a heavy suggestion this may not have been the first killing the perpetrator has committed draws the film to a close. Will she get caught? It’s not looking likely. Lucky Heather indeed.


Driver’s speedy construction of plot, script and narrative combined with the more than fine high production values and shot choices sees a superb short created in super-fast time that also contains a hard impact and an assured confidence from a talented group of local filmmakers.


Mike Sales





By midlandsmovies, Aug 24 2018 07:23AM

Thursday (2018)


Directed by Glenn McAllen-Finney


GM Finney Productions


Opening with a tied up and handcuffed female covered in blood, Thursday, the new film from Glenn McAllen-Finney, throws the audience straight into scenes of scary violence and life or death terror in this new Midlands crime drama.


With the use of a handheld camera technique and washed out colour palette, a mysterious man torments his captive with a monologue of evil intentions. And given her situation, it’s not long before fists are flying as she defies his demands not to scream in an attempt to escape. But how did these people get here and what are the enigmatic numbers he is demanding from his hostage?


Not shying from brutal scenes, Thursday concerns itself with Jade (played by Kelly McCormack) who is interrogated about an unknown set of secret numbers believed to be received from her deceased father. We are told these are needed in order to open a case with important company documents. Recalling the Tom Berenger/Cillian Murphy scene from Inception (movie-geek here knows them as 528491) this film may also be harking back to that movie with its use of an expressive orchestral score.


Although this is a nice change of musical tone for a local film and attempts to give the short some gravitas, it unfortunately sometimes moves scenes into melodrama. At more than one point, it overpowers the interesting conflicts which also may be down to a slightly muddled sound mix, and drowns out the all-important dialogue.


The tormentor however is played with spiteful malice by Sam Winterton who delivers a great, if slightly sometime over-the-top, Bond-villain style performance that captures a nasty menace punctuated with loud verbal outbursts.


More Nolan influences are seen in the film’s narrative structure. Whilst opening on the cell-based conversation, the film flashes forward and backward in time. When it does, the film’s colour palette changes to a much more natural colour – twisting the traditional black-and-white style and throwing the audience out of any cinematic familiarity.


Back in the past, we see a vibrant house party which begins to explain some of the events leading to the current predicament. With the surprising return of her father to the party, he demands she takes responsibility for her life and then exits quickly leaving us intrigued as to his intentions.


Containing a very different tone and style to the director’s previous film The Rockman, McFinney-Allen has moved from cheaper b-movie sci-fi thrills with this more mature drama. And done with some flair too. Whilst the film relies a bit too heavily of dialogue exposition – story beats are unashamedly spelled out for you – the filmmaker however uses his skills to avoid low budget pitfalls to get a lot of information over in the short 20-minute runtime. And as we shuffle back to the cell, some hidden truths are uncovered before the revelation of the numbers become clear in a satisfying conclusion.


With influences from Tarantino – McCormack is literally stuck in the middle with you throughout and we see the arrival of authorities towards the film’s conclusion – as well as Christopher Nolan, the filmmaker has tried to sprinkle some style from Hollywood genre flicks into a local film. A table-turning ending leaves the short with the audience wanting more and the film certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome.


With a bevy of strong performances, a mix of genre influences from the highbrow to the sleazy, Thursday ends up being an ambitious short which, whilst not always hitting its mark, is a first-rate film from a filmmaker developing his talents into much more complex and interesting territory.


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Aug 20 2018 07:24AM



Midlands Spotlight - The Short Cinema 2018


Kicking off even earlier in the summer holidays this year is Leicester’s The Short Cinema film festival. So early in fact, that we were away on holiday when the amazing festival, which started in a local pub many moons ago, began its full summer programme!


As regular attendees, the festival has been a hotbed of local talent in 2017, 2016 and even further back but this 12th edition is bigger than ever before.


Running from Wednesday 15th to Saturday 25th August the festival has expanded beyond its early “local shorts” remit to include the finest short films from across the globe as well as features and specific evenings based around varied topics.


With the launch incorporating an evening screening of Pin Cushion with Q & A from the film’s director – we also spoke to Deborah Haywood here – the festival is off to a positive start and highlights of the week’s events are listed below:


Film / The Short Cinema: International Programme Mon 20 Aug, 7pm – Tickets £4

See some of the best short films from across the globe in our international programme. This year, our International Programme will bring with it another fascinating selection of world cinema.


Film / The Short Cinema: Iris Prize LGBTQ+ Shorts Tue 21 Aug, 7pm – Tickets £4

The international renowned festival, held in Cardiff each October, has become known as the most prestigious LGBTQ+ specialised film event in the world.


Film / The Short Cinema: Lives in Sign Language Tue 21 Aug, 6.30pm | Tickets £4

In partnership with London Short Film Festival we present a selection of thought provoking archive and contemporary short films which bring stories about D/deaf culture and experience to the big screen.


Free Event / The Short Cinema: BFI NETWORK Talent Mixer Wed 22 Aug – Free Event

BFI NETWORK brings together the UK's film agencies to discover, develop and fund new and emerging writers, directors and producers. Join us for drinks and networking.


Film / The Short Cinema: BFI Network Shorts Wed 22 Aug, 8pm – Free

BFI Network brings together the UK's film agencies to discover, develop and fund new and emerging writers, directors and producers. Check out the competition by attending this free screening of BFI NETWORK funded shorts.



Film / The Short Cinema: Intersectional Feminism + Panel Thu 23 Aug, 6.30pm – Tickets £4

In a time when #metoo and #timesup are so heavily in the public conscious, we explore the concept of intersectional feminism through the medium of short film. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion including curators, creatives and filmmakers.


Film / The Short Cinema: British Shorts Fri 24 Aug, 7pm – Tickets £6

What does it mean to be British in 2018? Comedy, drama and horror come together to showcase individuals, communities and stories from our nation.


Film / The Short Cinema: Family Shorts - There's No Place Like Home Sat 25 Aug, 10.30am – Free

A collection of stories about kinship and belonging, curated by Flatpack Festival. Suitable for ages 4 and above, the programme showcases the best of international animation.


Closing Gala / The Short Cinema: Midlands Showcase Sat 25 Aug, 7pm – Tickets £6

The big kahuna, bringing you the best in shorts from the Midlands and celebrating the talent who made them. We’ll announce the 2018 award winners before our annual “wrap party”.


For full information on each night and to buy tickets for this fantastic selection of local film delights, please go to the festival website here: https://www.phoenix.org.uk/event/the-short-cinema/





By midlandsmovies, Jul 30 2018 08:56AM



Gamer


2018 - Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


Filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz returns with a new short that presents one man’s dependency on a virtual life that has some serious repercussions back in the real world.


Sheikh has become a bit of a machine on the Midlands movie scene himself. With 4 shorts already released in 2018 (reviews of his films Duality, Sleepless, Blackmail and Witness can be found here), the director has previously stated his prolific production stance to try his hand at a variety of film styles with little budget and crew.


And here he tackles some well edited special effects in this thoughtful short concerning the side-effects of spending too much time online.


The film begins with a bit of background about a small of squad of players involved in the online game Fortnite. For those unfamiliar with the game (myself included), Fortnite is a mass online brawl with 100 players dropped on an island who fight until only one remains – akin to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.


We are introduced to a cyborg (Nazgore), a sniper (Thorax) and a steampunk dancer (GetRekd69) who are an “unstoppable” force within the game. However, this powerful squad contrasts with the lonely man we see playing as Nazgore as we cut to Noah (Gurjeet Singh) in a dark room staring at his computer screen. His solitary figure is only drawn out of his game by the sound of his 6am alarm as he says goodbye to his online teammates before going to work.


At work, his boss (Nisaro Karim) wants to insert some last minute information into a big presentation but Noah is distracted as he sees his avatar from the game come to life in the office. The film uses good special effects to insert the pixelated characters into the film and as he returns to his house, the other characters appear throughout different rooms.


“We’ve been waiting for you” says one of the avatars as he runs upstairs to escape. Tormented by these manifestations and physically and emotionally drained, Noah exits his game. But before long, after a takeaway for one and avoiding the task of completing the boss’ request on his laptop, he is compelled back for another game.


A tiny few wardrobe issues aside – a professional suit rather than a cardigan would be a better fit for a boss pressuring his employee, whilst a wedding ring on Noah’s had undercuts his lonely demeanour – the film gets straight to the point regarding the themes of gaming addiction.


Like 2018’s Ready Player One from Steven Spielberg, the complex interaction between our real life and online personas are explored here. The music by SavFK is also a good electronic pulsing soundtrack that becomes more ominous as the protagonist begins losing his grip on reality.


In March 2018, the Guardian newspaper suggested the game’s elements are combined into a free downloadable package which makes it easy to join and stick with. And the concept of “video game addiction is contentious within the medical community”. However, the film’s ideas suggest a blurring of lines between reality and fantasy that could have an effect on vulnerable individuals.


Gamer therefore traverses an intricate set of ideas about compulsion, cravings and enslavement to technology. Whilst Sheikh has certainly provided the Midlands with a quantity of short films, the director doesn’t shy from quality productions across genres that provide food for thought. And that’s one habit I’d happily return to time and again.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short below:




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