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By midlandsmovies, Nov 9 2019 08:14AM



Review - The Dead Don't Die (2019) Dir. Jim Jarmusch


This American horror “comedy” film is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and follows a small town's police force combating a freak zombie invasion.


Bill Murray plays Chief Cliff Robertson with Adam Driver as his partner Officer Ronald "Ronnie" Peterson and with the sun not setting and the rising of the dead owing to fracking, they tackle an invasion of zombies in their town.


Like zombie-auteur George A. Romero, Jarmusch attempts to insert some social commentary – zombies are obsessed with hipster coffees and search for wi-fi on mobile phones – but these themes come across heavy-handed and half-hearted.


The admittedly great cast can do nothing with a lack of dramatic tension and hollow story and although I am a self-confessed zombie-film sceptic, I’d be surprised if many audiences enjoy this achingly slow-paced slog. It has the same lack of narrative as his vampire flick Only Lovers Left live (our review). It’s disappointing really as the trailer hints at a more fun film and it needed a shot of Coens-style lightness of touch and witty dialogue.


And sadly it all comes back to that shuffling pace which isn’t helped by Jarmusch strangely inserting a range of meta moments. This includes the characters themselves referring to the film’s theme song and script, as well as Adam Driver owning a Star Wars keyring.


Slower and less coordinated than a zombie’s walk, The Dead Don’t Die aims to be a modern take on the zombie genre and maybe fans will get something out of Jarmusch’s eclectic style. However, for me, the film disappoints and drags its rotting carcass to a mind-numbing and pretentious end.


★★ ½


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Oct 4 2019 10:25AM



The Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies are hosting an upcoming film and discussion event series called The Talkies.


The Talkies first event is a discussion around Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and is running in collaboration with various academic research projects throughout the University.


The movie stars Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Douglas Booth (The Dirt) and Matt Smith (Dr Who) and the University will be showing during the Halloween season.


It’s a free screening followed by a discussion panel with Zombie expert Ed Thurlow (organiser of the world's longest running zombie festival), and leading academics in the Austen World, Dr. Gillian Dow (University of Southampton), and Dr. Julian North (University of Leicester).


They will set-the-scene for engaging discussion revolving around society's most thought-provoking issues. This event is hosted by key researcher in Culture and Victorianism, Emma Probett. The initiative is to bring together a diverse audience with a film screening and discussion with a panel of academics and special guests.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tells the story of a zombie outbreak which has stirred Austen's classic tale into a contemporary narrative of martial arts, zombie killers and a blood-soaked battlefield of the undead.


This action-packed plot throws Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) into a modern realisation of seemingly unkillable social anxieties surrounding class, contagion and migration.


The Leicester Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS) is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence.


Dedicated to creating a collaborative and inspiring environment, it brings together researchers from across all disciplines to deliver ambitious, transformative, and impactful research.


And for those attending there will be a selection of Halloween-themed refreshments provided and takes place at The University of Leicester Main Campus, Attenborough Tower, Attenborough Theatre, Leicester, LE1 7RD on Tuesday 29th October 2019.


The full timings are:


15:45 Doors open, refreshments offered

16:00 Welcome special guest panellists

16:30-18:20 Screening

18:20-19:00 Panel discussion and audience Q&A



Register here for FREE



By midlandsmovies, Feb 21 2019 01:37PM

Overlord (2018) Dir. Julius Avery


Son of a Gun director Julies Avery returns with a mid-budget horror-tale where a platoon of soldiers are dropped into Nazi-occupied World War 2 France to destroy a radio tower to help the D-Day landings.


Opening with a character-building scene on an American bomber plane, the movie allows a little space to build up some empathy in Predator-style conversations using solider ‘bantz’ and some broody dialogue.


Here we are introduced to paratrooper Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) who was underperforming during training and whose fellow soldiers sure let him know it throughout. As the plane is shot down in an exciting and explosive sequence, only 5 soldiers survive the parachute drop including Wyatt Russell as Corporal Ford who only has the mission on his mind.


The small group seek refuge in the home of a French woman (Mathilde Ollivier as Chloe) as Nazi patrols roam the village. The group barely survives in the attic but there are hints throughout of disfigured villagers, and when an SS Officer (a fantastically brutal and evil Pilou Asbæk) attempts to rape their host, the American soldiers are forced to reveal themselves.


Dealing with the complications arising from their decision to save the locals or complete their mission, Boyce ends up in a secret laboratory where the Nazis are conducting sinister body-altering experiments. As a slice of b-movie action, the film excels with enough character development, some simple linear story-telling, a nasty villain and some tongue-in-cheek gore. A severed head pleading for help is a particular nasty but thoroughly effective visual spine-chiller.


Using such a dramatic historical situation, the film takes itself seriously enough for you to care, but allows the film to develop into a more monster-driven experience in its second half. But it has certainly earnt that right.


The body-horror is suitably nasty, the character choices are well established and the gun fights and violence will keep most action and fright audiences entertained. As the men discuss their mission, the film delivers a great sense of urgency to keep up a fast pace and overall, Overlord entertains with a delicious mix of dark horror and depraved history.


★★★★


Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jun 24 2018 03:51PM

Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 1


As with every year, we're playing a bit of a game with the amount of films on release in the UK. Below is some of the films that came out over 2018 that we've now caught after passing us by on their main release:




The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff


Released via Netflix in the UK, Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as he plays Rick Janssen – a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. As he is pushed past extreme conditions he’s soon swimming underwater for 40 minutes but there are evil plans afoot as some of the volunteers begin to exhibit strange behaviour and body convulsing horrors.


His wife Abigail (Taylor Schilling) starts to fear for her husband’s increasing strange development as he loses his hair and skin as his body evolves. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. And Tom Wilkinson as a shady government professor brings little to this film experiment. With a slow build up, the admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions. 4/10




Verónica (2018) Dir. Paco Plaza


Based on the “true” 1991 story where Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro died mysteriously after using a Ouija board, Verónica is a new film from REC 1 and 2 writer/director Paco Plaza. A side-comment on REC is that it is one of my favourite horror films of all time. I know hand-held horror is not to everyone’s taste but what it does is fantastically creepy and the sequel is one of the best horror follow-ups of all time in my book. So, with some lofty expectations it was disappointing to see Verónica being far too tame across the board.


15 year-old Verónica looks after her younger siblings Lucia, Irene and Antoñito but during a solar eclipse at their school, she sneaks away from the playground to a basement to try out a Ouija board. In one of the best scenes of the movie the director elicits a genuine foreboding atmosphere out of a scene we’ve seen hundreds of time before in cinema. As expected, supernatural occurrences happen around Verónica including ghostly apparitions and poltergeists as well as strange noises, bite marks and so on. And it’s these expected sequences that really harm Verónica as it fails to build upon its early good work.


A blind nun from the school called “Sister Death” is a tremendous character however. Her chain-smoking appearance is creepy and if this was a Blumhouse production, she’d get her own spin off. Alas, aside from the nun and although Sandra Escacena as Verónica is fantastic, the film heads towards inevitable conclusions and although it’s better than most Hollywood horrors, it fails to bring anything truly exciting or new to the genre. 6.5/10



Cargo (2018) Dir. Ben Howling and Yoland Ramke

This Australian post-apocalyptic thriller film is based on an original short from the directors and stars The Office’s Martin Freeman as a father trying to protect his child in a world overtaken by a zombie-like virus.


Andy (Freeman) lives with his wife (Susie Porter as Kay) and his one-year-old daughter Rosie on a houseboat in rural Australia. But as food rations run out, they visit an abandoned boat and something deadly bites Kay. They continue forward despite knowing that in just 48 hours Kay will inevitably fall victim to her infected wound. After a road accident knocks out Andy he awakes to find Kay transformed. Despite his anguish, Kay is put out of her misery by a forlorn Freeman – but not before he too is bitten and realises he needs to get his baby to a safe-haven.


With glorious vistas and aerial footage of the desolated Australian outback, the real locations are thoroughly well filmed and although the movie tackles dark themes it avoids the blood and guts of most zombie flicks. Replacing them is a more subtle and nuanced look at family, sacrifice and survival in a world filled with little compassion.


Andy’s inevitable, and time-limited, decline gives Cargo a sense of impending purpose and he crosses paths with Thoomi (Simone Landers), an adolescent girl who keeps her infected father as a sad contaminated pet. Their interactions provide the audience with thoughtful issues whilst highlighting the harsh realities facing those of different ages, backgrounds and cultures and how each adapts to the same threat. Not wanting to lose loved ones and Andy’s certain outcome plays on their minds and Cargo delves into these issues as they journey on.


The introspective dialogue is delivered well by Freeman and the support cast, whilst Anthony Hayes as Vic Carter shows an opposing view where selfishness reigns as Vic uses humans, specifically the indigenous Aborigines, imprisoned in cages as bait to attract and kill zombies.


A satisfying ending and hugely empathetic performance from Martin Freeman means Cargo is a great addition to the sometimes overstuffed (and of sometimes questionable quality) zombie genre which is hugely to its credit. Looking at issues of race and colonialism, Cargo will probably not deliver the requisite horrors for a jump-scare zombie film fan. But for those who tend to avoid this sort of film like the plague, at 105 minutes Cargo doesn’t overstay its welcome as a satisfying domestic drama rather than a fright flick. 7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Apr 27 2018 09:54PM




Midlands Review - The 7th Day


2017


Directed by Lee Page


The 7th Day is a 40 minute short film directed by Lee Page and shot in & around Birmingham. It follows a group of four travellers who come together in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse as they pick their way through the West Midlands to a safehouse where all is not quite as it seems. You may have heard of it because it took home the Best Director prize at the recent 2018 Midland Movies Awards.


Some folks think it's easy to make a short zombie film, because all you need are extras and some decent makeup. Having made a couple of them myself, I can tell you that's certainly not the case. You need either a strong story or excellent characters in order to stand out and with the huge proliferation of zombie flicks out there you need to make sure your zombies look good. 'Good' is a word which is used here to mean 'gory and quite creepy'.


I'm happy to say that The 7th Day stands above the crowd in this respect. The actors do a fine job for the most part, especially Brad Rollason and Ethan Brady with their cheeky interplay. I don't think I've ever heard someone say something was 'lit af' out loud before, but if anyone would speak like that it's these two. Jason also was gave a good performance, particularly in the middle third where he's almost acting as a surrogate big brother figure to the two others.


The story wasn't hugely original, but that's ok in this instance because it was enjoyable to see the characters on their journey. I got a 28 Days Later vibe from the safe house; survivors thinking they've found safety when actually their saviours are more like captors. I don't know about you, but I definitely wouldn't stay if all there was to eat was a thin blob of porridge on a paper plate. I'd be writing a bad Yelp review there, you can count on it.


The action scenes and visual effects for the most part are very good. The zombies (sorry, 'feeders'!) were very convincingly rotted, there's enough blood splashing around to keep a gorehound like me interested and the extras were clearly having a whale of a time.


There's a moment with two little girl zombies that's well choreographed and very funny. In fact, the humour is where the film's greatest strengths lay. Ethan takes one look at the girls and nopes out of there – it's funny because it's the everyman reaction. And I don't know if the wagon wheels were meant to be an homage to Zombieland's twinkies, but it definitely made me chuckle.


The only criticisms I have are just gripes, really. When the camera moved around swiftly there were a few focus issues that were minor at first but became very distracting later, actually making it difficult to watch the screen. A couple of the supporting performances were a little flat.


On the whole, the short is excellent and well worth a watch. It serves a pilot of sorts, and was originally shot as a webseries comprising 3 episodes. There's currently an open fundraiser to crowdfund for Series 2, and I thoroughly recommend doing so. If they've done this well with the budget they have so far, they deserve to have at least double the finance to see how much better they can get.


Sam Kurd

Twitter @splend


By midlandsmovies, Mar 13 2018 09:29PM



Mom and Dad (2018) Dir.Brian Taylor


About two-thirds of the way in to Mom and Dad I thought to myself, “Hey, this is on a level of ridiculousness I haven’t seen in a long time...probably since Crank”. Imagine my surprise that Mom and Dad writer/director Brian Taylor is one half of the directing duo who brought us not only Crank 1 and 2 but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.


Bringing back Nic Cage from the latter, this film twists the traditional zombie narrative by showing the traditional family as a unit of killers and victims. In this case, static on the radio and television is turning parents into killers of their own kids. The director's visceral visuals pop from the screen from the outset with a strange 70s-style grindhouse intro sequence and the weirdly kinetic stylistic choices continue throughout.


The film begins as a soap opera with the usual family dynamics about school and disapproving parents upset about boyfriend choices and homework. However what begins as a set of mundane routines soon moves into unsettling sequences as the static “infects” parents who attempt to maim and murder their young ones.


Cage mixes his “family man” persona with his legendary “full-on Cage” mode and the fact an audience can tell he is in on the joke makes his OTT performance twisted yet funny. An impressive Selma Blair does more with her mother character who moves subtly from caring guardian to an evil-doer who even attempts to harm a newborn in a hospital.


I’ve mentioned many times I’m not the biggest zombie film fan which is its biggest hurdle it has to overcome. However, there’s slightly more going on here as the parents talk to each other thus giving us their viewpoint – although Cage mostly just shouts uncontrollably. Morbid humour can be found as the parents bond over how best to kill their children and an impressively constructed scene sees Cage and Blair attempt to gas their children (Anne Winters as Carly Ryan & Zackary Arthur as Josh Ryan) out of a locked basement. But their wily offspring have an explosive surprise in a sequence that is thrilling and comical.


The music is clearly an intended choice to connect with a young (and knowing) audience as we get Bill $aber’s I Know that You Pussies Don’t Want It alongside punk band Reagan Youth and a twisted use of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love.


Mom and Dad gleefully says “this is me, I’m here, and this is what I want to do” and does so with reckless abandon although one’s enjoyment is related to what extent you go along with its ideas and ignore its many structural flaws and lack of depth. From Nic Cage barking like a dog and hollering like a coyote to a fun cameo from Lance Henrikson, the film is ultimately nonsense. And it fails the most when it attempts to go beyond its b-movie roots with a somewhat superficial commentary on parenting, children and the stress of family life.


In the end, not without its chilling charms, whatever message Mom and Dad is trying to say, it gets overshadowed and lost against its style and silly theatrics. Beyond its Friday-night frills, it is a muddled mess that may prove too berserk for most audiences.


6/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Dec 30 2017 10:12AM

The Hot List - Midlands Films to Look Out For in 2018


With 2017 nearly at an end Midlands Movies spotlights a number of local projects due for completion in 2018 which have us excited for the region’s filmmaking as we head into the new year. Please check out each of these individual films using the links provided as we highlight 7 of the most anticipated films coming up from the region in the following 12 months.




Songbird by Sophie Black

Described as a ‘modern fantasy for music lovers’ this new film from talented Nottingham director Sophie Black is an exciting new short starring musician Janet Devlin. Songbird comes from multi-award-winning screenwriter Tommy Draper (Stop/Eject, Wasteland) and tells the story of a shy open-mic-night singer called Jennifer, who has her voice stolen by a an ancient creature called The Collector. Also a film for music fans the short is set in the world of the underground music scene and features brand new songs by Janet Devlin herself. As a group of experienced, passionate, award-winning and slightly eccentric filmmakers based in the East Midlands, Songbird will be coming next year with high expectations from filmmakers who have consistently delivered. Catch their latest news at https://twitter.com/sophieblackfilm



The Return of the Ring by Abdulrahman Ugas

This unique take on the world of Tolkien is set right here in the Midlands as new fan-film ‘The Return of the Ring’ is a movie based on Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film trilogy ‘The Lord of the Rings’. In a unique twist on the genre, the story has moved its fantasy world to modern day Britain where it will follow a resilient Elf who finds out the Ring has returned and sets out to re-claim its ownership. With the film planned to be released in early 2018, Abdulrahman hopes his exciting new project can bring the tales of Tolkien back to their roots in the West Midlands. Follow here for updates https://twitter.com/AbdulrahmanUgas




Patient Zero by Pathogen Films

After meeting up at a Business networking event, the 4 members of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Pathogen films have combined their talents to begin producing their own film web series. Their forthcoming set of zombie shorts follow a group of survivors who become involved in a deadly game of betrayal in an attempt to stop a maniacal group bent on turning what's left of humanity into mindless mutations. With their first film Patient Zero: Dead at the Gates premiering in Autumn 2017, the crew are now deep into production on the follow up titled “Semper Protegens”. Follow their updates and future crowd-funding campaigns at https://twitter.com/Pathogen_Films





UK Superhero by Rotunda Films

Rotunda Films is an experienced and creative film and video production company who have over fifteen years experience in production and who are now tackling an original superhero series in the region. The Birmingham filmmakers feel the UK deserves its own superheroes as they launch a new project to create a series of films featuring a unique range of characters. With a new selection of local superheroes in their own shared universe, they are starting this ambitious project with their film Mystic Highway, where they will be creating the first characters in this exciting new world. Follow the production here: https://twitter.com/rotundafilms




Brumville by Grant Murphy

Described as a film full of local people and local locations, Birmingham’s Grant Murphy hopes to utilise the West Midlands and Back Country’s pool of talent for his upcoming film Brumville. With filming recently concluded, Grant is not only writer director and producer on the film but will be playing the lead role of Connor as well. With a passion to give local actors more opportunities, the film will show just how bad it can be when friends are mixed up in drugs. The shooting of Brumville began in March 2017 after self-funding and crowd-funding campaigns and you can keep informed of their progress and release plans at https://twitter.com/brumville




The Law of Noir by Duaine Roberts

The Law of Noir started production in September and we cannot wait to see what's in store for this upcoming law-drama story. After the success of Graycon (review here) which saw Duaine Roberts branching out into sci-fi, the Birmingham filmmaker is getting back to basics with his this new drama short. Telling the story of a young law intern who is tasked with defending a client accused of human trafficking, the filmmaker is another trailblazer who is passionate in promoting Birmingham’s acting and production talent. Follow updates at https://twitter.com/CarmaFilmUK




Dead Quiet by Alex Withers

This forthcoming horror drama is another survival film where the last person on earth struggles to stay alive and attempts to hold onto his humanity. Produced in Nottingham the film is written by Dan McGrath who will explore the “importance of the sounds we create and experience as humans in order to connect with each other and the world around us”. Director Alex Withers and a team of talented filmmakers are bringing this unique world to the life on the big screen and wrapped production in August of 2017. Both a “disturbing horror and a bittersweet drama” follow the film here to get updates on its impending release https://www.facebook.com/DeadQuietFilm


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, May 17 2017 01:21PM



STILL

Directed by. Carl Timms

Dark Matter Films


“What the fuck made me do this for a living?”


Written, produced and directed by Midlander Carl Timms, his debut short entitled STILL is a zombie-infused story filmed entirely in Birmingham and comes with a unique premise that tackles the often ‘chase-based’ nature of this horror genre.


Starting with a voiceover questioning the main character’s motivation for wanting to perform in the first place, the film begins with a human statue standing in a town centre. Panning around we see the chaos and disaster caused by a horde of zombies who are shown attacking the public in the background.


The human statue conceit may be a nod to Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (and ergo Shaun of the Dead) but it is a uniquely good idea as it focuses on a protagonist frozen in time when his instincts are to run. Especially since the camera rotates around the static man (painted head to toe in gold no less) and it is revealed he is face-to-face with an infected blood-lusting zombie.


As cramp, heavy breathing and nose itching start to become a concern, the short uses this inactivity to create high tension as the minutiae of human feeling is brought to the forefront as he stares down the closely positioned zombie.


A great score comes from Matthew Steed who uses an alarm-based synthesiser composition to highlight the emergency nature of what is going on, whilst the excellent special make up effects by Stuart Conran (head make-up effects artist on Shaun of the Dead and The Descent) are gleefully gruesome.


The short combines horror and comedy with the living statue soon craving a toilet break at the same time as entrails litter his shoulder and blood and gore splatter his gilded suit.


Still takes time to perfect each beat and as the tension rises, the statue asks who else has possibly survived and we head into another superb sequence. The audience is shown the aftermath of what has happened to a street artist whilst the similar act-copying “wheelbarrow man” is exposed to his own dangers.


The film uses close-ups to great effect as the actor Joe Capella uses all his talents to show his concerned face. This great performance has to display anger, determination and being petrified with very little movement and he delivers a first-rate act.


As a decision is made to leave, an injury is sustained and we get a comedic limping/zombie shuffling chase – possibly the slowest seen since Will Ferrell’s ice-skates-on-land chase in Blades of Glory. Again, another great idea in a film already full to the brim with them.


But is the celebratory escape short lived? Well, you’ll just have to watch it as we’re not giving up any spoilers here.


An outstanding concept, fully realised and delivered with a great cast, huge laughs and some superbly shocking terror, STILL is a great entry into zombie folk-lore, despite the fact the genre has a tendency to easily become stilted. You’ll find no such slowness here in the most fast (and fantastic) short about a statue you’ll ever see.


Midlands Movies Mike


Follow the film at https://twitter.com/zomshortstill & view at www.vimeo.com/ondemand/zomshortstill


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