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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


By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2016 01:59PM

Train to Busan (2016) Dir. Yeon Sang-ho


This Korean thriller/horror film sees an absent father attempting to please his disappointed daughter by taking her to Busan via the high speed train only for an infected passenger to cause carnage as a zombie virus begins to spread throughout the carriages.


With echoes of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer – where the confines of a moving train provides similar claustrophobic action – the passengers’ immediate dangers contrast with the wider implications of the infection spreading to cities throughout the country.


The zombies’ crooked shuffles are a particular highlight so huge recognition should go to the choreographer who has injected (pardon the pun) that particular trope with some added zombie zing with twitching and spasming bodies. Arms dangle at awkward angles in a contortion of limbs and appendages. As the film progresses, the passengers work together as a group and fight against the hordes in well edited action scenes with true-to-life risks. An extended bloody punch up with flying baseball bats and swinging fists will be adored by fans of these films.


However, despite the above, the film has the usual zombie tropes which I sadly find so similar to any other zombie film and therefore I can’t really recommend it to anyone other than afficiandos of the genre. I really struggle with the same concept over and over without anything being added to the formula. As although the positives include the film being incredibly well shot with empty stations and crowd chaos along with some fine acting, the family drama dynamics are really no different to a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Selfish father learns to put others first? Wow, what a revelation.


Trains provide an interesting location for some great films and sequences (see our love for loco films in our video blog here) but the zombie sub-genre of horror has never really infected with me with any real sense of appreciation. Fans won’t be disappointed at all but there wasn’t enough new additions to really give the genre a shot in the arm. Zo-zo.

7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 20 2015 06:52PM

The Diary (2015) Dir. Ash Connaughton


First up, a confession: I don’t get zombies. I don’t get pop culture’s current collective hard-on for a monster which even a heavy smoker like me could escape by keeping up a stiff walk for five minutes, and whose scariest feature is something a good dermatologist could sort out with a 2-week course of cyclosporin.


So it was with a certain amount of “Oh Christ, not again…” that I approached The Diary, a zombie short weighing in at a hefty 11 minutes (plus blooper reel). Would this be a slavish homage to Romero and The Walking Dead, or more along the lines of an arch wink towards the genre a la Zombieland, Shaun of The Dead or (pretty please?) iZombie?


Yep, it was The Walking Dead thing.


It opens with a gunshot, a man running, and two chav zombies (chombies?) who, in spite of travelling at approximately a third of the man’s speed, catch up with him pretty sharpish as he stops to look at a wound on his arm. He does this for a surprisingly long time, considering the chombies are STANDING RIGHT BEHIND HIM. But they continue to very obligingly stand there wobbling until he’s finished looking at his arm, whereupon he turns round in his own sweet time and shoots them in the head. Doesn’t even bother to double-tap; bad form.


So far, so zombie.


This is followed by three minutes of him coughing, an occasional vomit, and intermittent falling down. Because he’s been bitten, y’see, presumably by one of the chombies, and the zombification process apparently requires a lot of coughing, some puking, and a bit of falling over for full gestation to take place.


The rest of the movie is just as formulaic: a couple of zombie hunters out on patrol decide it would be a brilliant idea to split up and search some buildings; Zombie Hunter #1 encounters the now fully zombied-up guy from earlier; his gun jams; he’s saved by Zombie Hunter #2 appearing in the nick of time; there’s a repeat of the close-up of a gun barrel pointing slightly to the right of the camera, smashcut to black, OC gunshot (but still no double-tap).


There’s then a bit of exposition (the newly-dead zombie caused the zombie outbreak in the first place, but he may have found a cure; our two zombie hunters are members of a bigger zombie hunter gang which they don’t much like being in, but what’cha gonna do?), and the film ends. The two young actors who play the zombie hunters try to imbue their characters with a bit of personality, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the script for them to fully develop this during their limited time on screen.


Overall, it’s a solid enough piece of amateur genre film-making, hitting all the beats that it needs to hit, even if it does so a little predictably. As a whole the piece would be improved by a bit of judicious editing to make it sharper and punchier, but that’s the sort of thing that’ll come with experience. The director’s a young man, so he has plenty of time yet to find his own voice.


tl;dr version – If you like zombie films, you’ll like this.


5.5/10


Review by J. Sirin

By midlandsmovies, May 16 2015 08:19AM

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015) Dir. Kiah Roache-Turner

Rated 18 – released by Studio Canal on May 8th 2015


A dusty post-apocalyptic road movie set in Australian outback? No, not Mad Max: Fury Road but you can see why the film is being released around the same time here in the UK. Like Cannon Films in the 1980s where successful films were copied on a much lower budget, the current trend is to infuse your idea with a self awareness of how bad your film actually is and revelling in that awfulness. Wyrmwood isn’t aiming for a “meta” take on the zombie genre though, and in fact begins with a much more serious tone than the rom-com-zom films of late and attempts to find new angles in an already saturated horror market.


In flashback we hear the story of Barry and his family who attempt to escape from a zombie attack but after jumping in their car, his wife and daughter become infected and he has to consider the unthinkable. Meanwhile his sister is kidnapped by a sadistic agency conducting experiments and Barry meets up with an aboriginal survivor called Benny and they begin a journey in the outback to tackle the growing horde. The use of masks looks great visually (again though, this has echoes of the new Mad Max) and it is infused with some unique ideas such as zombie blood being used as petrol. Also, with a low budget and shot at weekends, the film mainly sticks to gruesome prosthetics and make-up effects with a splattering of CGI blood for head shots.


You probably won’t get a bloodier film for $160,000 these days but please take note that the no-budget thrills are for serious aficionados of the genre only. With me never being a fan of zombie flicks and the infinite sub-genres it spawned, I failed to find the fun in this action-filled film and it certainly won’t convince anyone other than serious horror fans to give it a watch. Dialogue not fit for a home movie and me having literally no idea who the characters were are just a few of its many flaws but you’ve got to admire its stab at a few new ideas in the world of the undead. Also, a few dark jokes help entertain the Friday-night fright crowd it’s obviously attempting to reach out to.


The petrol-searching road warriors have got the luck to be piggy-backing on Mad Max’s higher profile release this month despite Wyrmwood being originally released in 2014. A tired film in a tired genre, this is ultimately a pale zombie imitation of life. Or should that be death.


4.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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