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By midlandsmovies, Jan 10 2020 06:54PM



Midlands Review - Damn Good Pie


Directed by Lewis Clements


2020


Elsy Pictures


Elsy Pictures serves up a dinner from hell with Lewis Clements' short film Damn Good Pie, a horror comedy engrossed in a world where “pie makes everybody happy”.


We are made immediately aware within the first few frames that this is no ordinary family sat at the dinner table. The father is joined by his wife, his son and his daughter but he acts as if he doesn't have this company as he brazenly sniffs his dinner, his pie, licking his lips. “That's good pie” he announces.


As the family say grace it is revealed the pies they are about to eat have been made with great sacrifice, there is a loud thud upstairs when this is said and the mother looks worried as she glances at the ceiling. This must be regular occurrence in this household as no one else appears to be concerned.


Elements of David Lynch's signature surrealism surround Damn Good Pie as we are unpleasantly treated to a gross fifteen seconds of the father consuming his pie. The camera lingers on his lips as he savours every bite, the sound of each bite was almost unbearable, something I think Clements intended and will enjoy knowing he has succeeded.


But not everyone is enjoying their food. The son, Edward, seems uninterested and instead of relentlessly enjoying his meal like his Mother and Father he is patting the pie with his fork, his mind elsewhere. Offended, his Father demands him to stop and reminds him that they do not pat pie in his house.


Hilariously, Edward replies back with a line I'm sure every parent has heard at some point “but Danny at school is allowed”. Now threatened with being sent upstairs with no dinner, Edward shakes in fear begging his Father to reconsider but to no avail.


What exactly waits upstairs is unclear but it is safe to say it is not welcoming, the mood changes and the score by Robson Janser & Daniel Kanenas creates an uneasy atmosphere.


Setting a film or a scene during a family dinner has always been a great opportunity to explore the dynamic within the household as it is something we can all easily relate to. I was reminded of the infamous dinner scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where an outsider also cannot conform to the rest of the family's behaviour as we lay witness to sheer lunacy and outrageous motives.


There is not an ounce of fat in Clement's film, the writing is razor sharp and the direction focused on featuring comedy and horror in abundance. I really enjoyed making the comparison between the pie in the film to religion. The faith that the father has in pie is unprecedented, and when his own child appears unfaithful, his solution is to deliver him upstairs, for someone of a higher position to mete out punishment.


In a statement by the writer and director Lewis Clements, it says he is looking to make a connection between “British society and bizarre horror” which definitely translates on screen here. That steely determination to protect what you love is shown tenfold but in this case what is being cherished and loved are...pies. Undoubtedly Damn Good Pie has delightfully mixed “the mundane with the fantastical” resulting in a deliciously fun, short film.



Guy Russell

Twitter @budguyer


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 3 2019 01:42PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 4


Now deep into the second half of the year, there's more films being released in cinemas, on video-on-demand and home format than we can keep up with but we have three new reviews of some of the latest releases out there. In this review catch-up post we take a look at SKIN, MA & CHILD'S PLAY.




Skin (2019) Dir. Guy Nattiv


Jamie Bell plays real-life ex-white supremacist Bryon "Pitbull" Widner in this new dark drama asking whether a racist can be reformed. At various white-power gatherings, Bell acts as father figure to new recruits but begins to doubt his own convictions when he meets Danielle Macdonald as Julie Price and becomes an actual surrogate dad to her two children. Based on an amazing true story, Bell’s Neo-Nazi is covered in tattoos, including significant ones to his face and so the drama is punctuated with gruesome flash-forwards of tattoo removal scenes as his past is literally burnt away. The film has dashes of Imperium and American History X as it tries to get under the surface of the ugly face of American fascism.


Starting with eerily prescient scenes from 2009, the film mellows slightly in the middle before Bell makes a desperate call to a man who is trying to help people leave behind their Neo-Nazi past. As Bell denounces his previous life, he erases his tribal ink along with it. Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’) delivers a warm turn as the empathetic wife, whilst Bell is great as the former skinhead. With a multifaceted performance, he looks for something (or someone) to blame but then takes control of his own life to make it better. With a timely subject matter, Skin delves into themes we’ve seen before but this almost unbelievably true life story gives hope to a better world by erasing, and learning from, one’s past mistakes. ★★★★



Ma (2019) Dir. Tate Taylor


Director Tate Taylor made 2011’s The Help which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture before his adaptation of The Girl on the Train earnt more than $122 million worldwide but what he is doing with Ma is anyone’s guess. Billed as a psychological horror, the film neither provides any depth to the psychological part and little in the way of horror either. In fact, 45 minutes in and all we have is a group of terribly broad and clichéd teenagers partying at a house owned by “Ma” (Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann "Ma" Ellington) who has lured the group to her basement as a place to consume alcohol under the relative ‘safety’ of her adult supervision. However, a humiliating incident from Ma’s past has built up a psychopathic resentment and her initial concern and protectiveness for the teens’ well-being slowly descends into ludicrous revenge sub-plots. Octavia Spencer, who was so excellent in Hidden Figures, does her best to hold the film’s under-developed aspects together but she cannot overcome the film’s rather large flaws. Unlike suggested in the trailer, the horror is sparse and the first terrible thing Ma does is at 1 hour 10 minutes into the film. Given the credits rolled at 1 hour 32 minutes, it really is a missed opportunity for what looks, on paper, to be an interesting set-up. The sewing of a teen’s mouth shut hints upon the gore and nastiness a film like this really should have had more of, but Ma ends up being a pretty terrible and boring film with a solid idea spoiled by its sub-par execution. ★★



Child's Play (2019) Dir. Lars Klevberg


80s video-nasty Child’s Play gets a technological upgrade in this reboot about a killer doll on a murderous rampage. Unlike earlier films in the franchise, the conceit here is rather than a killer’s soul being magically transferred to a toy doll, the recently released “Buddi” is a misfiring high-tech toy that interacts with other products from the Kaslan Corporation who make it. After a suicidal employee at a Vietnamese toy factory decides to disable the safety protocols of one of the dolls on the assembly line, the corrupt product ends up in 13-year old Andy’s hands. Andy (Gabriel Bateman) is a shy youngster who lives with his single mum Karen (Aubrey Plaza) and names his doll “Chucky" (oh-oh). Before long, the doll has murdered the family’s cat and decapitated his mum’s boyfriend after hearing Andy bad-mouth both of them. The film wisely takes broad aim at consumerist culture but the comedy-horror works well in the style of 80s fare like Gremlins as the characters never nod-and-wink to the audience. This makes the dark comedy all the more funny. From table saws, blood spurts and a horrifying scalping, the required gore is present and the film’s young child actors are pleasantly relatable. Some 80s clichés work themselves in too – the investigator, the adults who don’t believe their kids, a finale in a department store – and these help solidify the tone in which the film aims for. Mark Hamill does great with his Joker-infused tones as the voice of Chucky also. Much better than it has any right to be, Child’s Play digital modernisation respects the origins of that first film and whilst it won’t win any high-brow awards, for this sort of thing it’s surprisingly entertaining. ★★★



Michael Sales

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