icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo kickstarter-support

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Jun 16 2018 08:21AM



Songbird (2018)


Directed by Sophie Black


Written by Tommy Draper

Produced by Laura C. Cann.

Triskelle Pictures


Starring Janet Devlin (from ITV’s The X Factor), Songbird is an enchanting new short following a female singer who encounters a wicked stranger set on stealing her talents.


A folktale that jumps swiftly between reality and fantasy Songbird comes from Nottingham filmmaker Sophie Black and her Triskelle Production company who has already seen success with the 2016 film Night Owls.


With a feathery familiarity, here our red-headed heroine is Jennifer (played with a subtle vulnerability by Devlin) who is dropped off near a forest at the film's beginning. But as she holds up a writing board which says “Thanks for the ride”, we get the impression that all is not as it seems in the woods today.


Heading into the countryside, the eerie sounds are well edited as the crunch of leaves by Converse-wearing feet introduces us to the tone of the film which mixes a modern hipster vibe with fairy tale folklore.


Cutting to 3 weeks earlier at an open mic in a local café, a chattering and chirping audience isn’t paying a great deal of attention as Jennifer plays a soft rhyming ballad with her acoustic guitar. A wonderland of poetical lyrics sends us down an aural rabbit hole complimented by Black’s potent cinematography with its dreamy visuals and hazy glow.


As the audience warms to her soaring vocals we cut to a set of crusty finger nails drumming on the bar to reveal an evil dark-eyed woman. Whilst Jennifer is spotted by a local producer, all looks well but she is soon confronted by the ominous lady in an alley outside the venue. As a strange powder is blown over her by the old crone she awakens at home, yet an uncomfortable phone call reveals her inability to speak. Black invites the audience to ask if this is a medical condition, but a visit to the doctor finds nothing wrong and her frustration kicks in with her vocal wings wholly clipped.


However, a handwritten book of spells and rune symbols is discovered and we are migrated back to the film’s opening as Jennifer begins collecting frogs and mushrooms to concoct a potion that perhaps can release her from this spell.


Black alludes to well-known fairy-tale myth from Sleeping Beauty - as Jennifer passes out - to Devlin’s auburn hair which plays to the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood’s adventures in the woods. As well as this, Therese Collins is excellent as a classic villain keeping her victim in a state of bondage with her incantations. She mixes a dash of Helena Bonham Carter witchcraft with fellow vocal-thief Ursula from The Little Mermaid as she incubates her stolen voices in jars amongst the trees.


2018 has had a fair share of similar cinematic encounters with fantasy voices, from the silent creature in Guillermo Del Toro’s aquatic fable The Shape of Water, as well as Duncan Jones’ Mute. Black tackles some parallel themes using well-shot special effects, gothic make-up and a superb choral score at its conclusion to deliver a bittersweet fairy tale.


Like all good fairy tales though, the film could be interpreted with having a number of symbolic undertones including an allegory of stage fright. As a musician myself, the fear of losing one’s voice can be difficult to swallow and here the film showcases a strong female trapped in a cage of insecurities.


Songbird is a tremendous short that shows the importance of voices and how they can truly transform and heal when you are filled with doubts and a lack of confidence. Sophie Black demonstrates a skill for the craft of filmmaking and, others take note, has created an artistic short with a raft of narrative to keep an audience captivated. With a selection of thematic and emotional beats, Songbird therefore takes flight with a magical trip from the mic stand to wonderland.


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Apr 13 2018 07:58AM

Flatpack Film Festival 2018


The 2018 Flatpack Film Festival kicks off on Friday 13th April so get ready to experience over 100 events and screenings across venues across Birmingham.


Running until 22nd April, there are plenty of options for all kinds of cinema fans and we take an overview look at some of the best the festival has to offer over the full 2 weeks of fun.




Colour Box

This is a fabulous film lucky dip with a focus on “doing” as much as on “viewing”. This year’s creative playground includes smartphone projectors, Moomin puppets, VR adventures and a massive zoetrope, while in the screening programme you can find the best new family shorts and features from around the world. Colour Box is suitable for all ages, although even more fun if you’re 11 and under!




Birmingham 68

A landmark year internationally, 1968 was also a turbulent time for Birmingham. This eye-opening, city-straddling programme will take you from Digbeth bikers to Erdington psychedelia, from black masses in Solihull to the lost streets of Balsall Heath. On 13-15 April a host of special guests will join us for a weekend of walks, talks and screenings tapping into a range of subjects that still resonate today. Flatpack welcome a range of guests including writer Dilip Hiro and Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges and there's a very rare chance to see a psychedelic Cilla Black satire set in Ladywood.




Optical Sound

Optical Sound explores the love affair between sound and image through a packed weekend of live events and screenings. Expect AV artistry, music documentaries and ingenious gadgets.




Unpacked

A chance to poke around under the bonnet and explore the creative processes behind some of the work on show at Flatpack. At the heart of Unpacked is a day of talks and demonstrations with a fantastic line up of artists, inventors and filmmakers, while at Film Camp the focus shifts from making to showing. Film Camp is designed to gather together film exhibitors from across the Midlands to share their wealth of experience, and to explore fresh approaches to programming and audience development. The event is open to everyone from multi-screen venues and festivals to community cinema organisers and student film groups.




Special Events

Check out Flatpack’s full complement of theatre, performance, live soundtracks, daft parties and a quiz. Highlights include live animation troupe Paper Cinema and a night at the circus to remember.




Features, Shorts and Documentaries

based at the Electric and the Mockingbird, this year's survey of the best new films from around the world is a fantastic trip. For those who don’t know, Flatpack started life as a film night in a pub and the short films are an end in themselves, overflowing with great ideas and indelible images. In 2018 the competition expands to six programmes and will include a bumper crop of UK premieres. Flatpack’s international documentary selection is by turns playful, provocative and strange.


Short Film Competition Pass

The short film competition is the shining jewel in our crown each year and audiences can pick up a pass wo view Is This Some Kind Of Joke, Little Wonders, Signal To Noise, Artefacts, Memory Lane and Breaking Point for just £32.



To buy tickets and to check out the full programme go to the festival's official website - http://flatpackfestival.org.uk


By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2018 04:19PM



Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) Dir. Matt Schrader


If music be the food of love play on! This fantastic documentary has a who’s who roster of infamous film music composers and the sheer range of the talent on offer is worth a watch even to a passing fan of the medium.


But if you enjoy film then you must certainly be a fan. Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Trent Reznor, Tom Holkenborg, Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat are just some of the stars interviewed in the amazing story of movie music.


Throughout, every aspect of the process is covered, as well as the historical context, and some of the pure joy is simply listening to the interviewees talking about their influences and contemporaries.


From James Cameron explaining a spotting session (where a director and composer get together to decide where music is going to be) to Hans Zimmer talking about the fear of the first meeting (“I think you better phone John Williams, I have no idea how to do this”) the trials of composing and the enjoyment of the challenges comes across in each talking-head segment.


The documentary shows Rachel Portman working on the film RACE with a screen next to her piano which a fantastic insight into her particular process whilst the film discusses motifs (such as those in Close Encounters & Lord of the Rings) and other music theory in simple but passionate terms.


Historically we see Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire revolutionary music as well as John Barry’s swinging big band scores (James Bond). Giving further context, current Bond composer David Arnold adds no spy film would feel like one without similar style which is the same for Morricone’s iconic sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.


From the toy piano in the intro music to the TV show Rugrats to orchestral pieces, no style is left uncovered and there’s fun to be had as the composers run through their strangest instruments in a montage of the weird and wonderful.


We are told “There’s no such thing as the wrong way to do something” as the diversity of music styles and the iconic films they are from are interrogated. Drums of Mad Max: Fury Road give way to segments about the science behind music. One of the most interesting parts describes the physiological response within the brain, followed by Moby’s “air molecules” analogy.


As Randy Newman fawns over Gerry Goldsmith we get the arrival of John Williams and his incredible splash of Star Wars and Jaws in the 70s. His rediscovery of classic orchestral scores (e.g. Superman, Indiana Jones) saw a revival of the medium leading all the way to his Duel of the Fates choir at Abbey Road.


If there was one flaw it would be that we only briefly get a piece of the history/composer before we move on to the next. Many of the explorations of genres, individual composers, music history and instrumentation go by so quickly, it can be a little frustrating. Each one alone could have entire documentaries of their own dedicated to their part but it’s a small gripe in a mostly fascinating piece.


Taking us from the need for music to cover up noisy projectors at the turn of the 20th century to Trent Reznor’s experimentations in his Oscar-winning The Social Network sound design, SCORE is a comprehensive documentary covering all the major players in over 100 years of movie music. Although brief at times, it barely misses a beat and if you’re not reaching for your LPs, CD shelf or Spotify account after watching this then I’m not sure you have any right to call yourself a film fan.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Jul 10 2017 05:44PM


Midlands Movies Mike uncovers an interesting new experimental feature that combines the mysticism of folklore with the modernism of an experimental soundtrack.


Staffordshire set film The Doxey Boggart is a new film from John E Smoke who is a deaf-blind filmmaker, musician and artist. Set within a nature reserve called Doxey Marshes, the film is a semi-documentary which follows a group of people investigating the local legend.


From an experimental sound artist with his guide dog to his fellow esoteric associates, they seek to uncover the truth about a ‘boggart’ (an evil or mischievous spirit) that is associated with the area.


Director John E Smoke is the aforementioned sound artist and has performed in many unusual locations including abandoned buildings and a set at Mermaid Pool in the Staffordshire Moorlands.


During one particular session of his there were claims of a ghostly image being caught on film which went viral online and featured widely in press at the time.


The film mixes a slim ‘plot’ with real-life elements as the musicians perform a set on Doxey Marshes during which a folk poem about a boggart is recited. At first nothing untoward happens but after the disappearance of a mother and child “the team are left wondering if the recital has brought something to life”.


Following their investigations the film includes field recordings and footage and borrows from 'actual' local folklore relating to 'boggarts', 'bugs' and other entities.



One of the key parts of the film is the music which assists in supporting the atmosphere of the historic locations. John E Smoke has pulled together friends in the music scene to compile a soundtrack that includes well-respected members of the experimental noise genre.


Soundtrack artists include 'Tunnels of Ah' (the solo project of the former Head of David vocalist, 'Autoclav 1.1', 'Khost' (featuring former members of Techno Animal, Final, Iroha etc), 'From The Bogs of Aughiska', 'John 3:16', 'Ian Haygreen', 'Whote', 'Satan's Bee Keeper', 'Theresia', 'Raxil4' and 'James Hoehl' alongside field recordings undertaken by John E Smoke.


With a mix of documentary, sound art and a little bit of horror, The Doxey Boggart’s eclectic combination of experimental images and dark ambient music will be released later in 2017 and also includes the release of hand printed DVD and double-CD music packs.


For more info please take a look at the trailer above and also check out further details of this Sonic Entrails production over on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/doxeyboggart






By midlandsmovies, Mar 27 2017 10:18AM

Midlands Spotlight – The beautiful ballad of Songbird from Triskelle Pictures




Midlands Movies Mike hears the sweet sounds of a new production nearing completion in the region from filmmaker Sophie Black. Her company Triskelle Pictures are putting the finishing touches to ‘Songbird’, a new short made in the area. Read on below to find out what the director is currently composing.


Sophie Black describes her new short Songbird as a Fairy Tale. In true fairy tale tradition, the Midlands based filmmaker explains it contains magic, adventure, peril, a villain and a heroine but unlike most fairy tales however, it begins at an open mic night in a 21st century bar.


Beginning life when local award-winning writer Tommy Draper (Stop/Eject, Wasteland) began working with Triskelle Pictures, the film was shot amongst forest locations in Derbyshire and what Sophie explains as other geographical “hidden gems”.


Currently crowd-funding for further support and finances, ‘Songbird’ is hoping this final round of finance raising will help with its festival campaign and promotion.



“We (also) need a little movie magic to enhance footage we are truly delighted with; we will use visual effects and a professional colour grade to make the witch creepier, the woods more ethereal, and Jennifer’s adventure all the more intoxicating”.


The protagonist is Janet Devlin (who rose to fame as a singer/songwriter after appearing on ITV’s The X Factor) and the talented musician has also written two original new songs for the film which are being released to backers as part of the campaign.


She plays Jennifer (the songbird) who takes a journey in the film to regain her voice which has been stolen by an ancient creature known only as The Collector.


The film has recently passed one of their targets £1500 and with that, the production has released the first footage of the film by issuing the first trailer which we have linked to above so please get viewing and sharing.


With everything coming together nicely, Sophie and her team are just months away from the release of this fantastic looking melodic movie and you can find out more about the project and the team behind it over on the official website: www.triskellepictures.co.uk




By midlandsmovies, Dec 14 2016 05:25PM

The Importance of Sound in Film!


Making a short film, or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun. I recently made my most recent short film called HUNGRY. A wicked, humorous, little piece on the greed that is rampant at Christmas. Here is how I came up with and developed the sound and music in the film.


So the way I work is that in the very beginning of preparing to shoot the film, when I am still writing the script actually, I start to listen to music that I like. I listen with the sole purpose of getting a feel for how this particular song will go with the film. I use each song that I like or think might go well and imagine how it will tell my story. Here is an example…in “HUNGRY”, the story takes place at Christmas. So I was constantly listening to holiday songs, wild versions, old-fashioned ones, newer versions. The one I came up with was of a child choir singing Carol Of The Bells.


This song was important in setting up the beginning of the film in 3 ways:


1. It is a beautiful innocent rendition of this song

2. It lulls the audience into the sweetness of the Christmas season

3. It also didn’t telegraph what was coming to the audience


I cannot tell you how important music or sound is in setting up your story or film. If you can do it right, then the whole film just falls into place. Another example of how much music played a part in my film is when the main character walks into the shop, the owner is listening to 1930’s jazz. The story’s background was that this woman has been alive for several hundreds of years, and this is her favorite music. Now you don’t actually see a 500 -year old woman on screen, that was just the back-story. But this music really helped the actress get the feel for what I wanted.


And her performance made the film. Another instance of how important sound was for me, was in editing.


My film is a horror film, and so I had a small creature. But because I was on a small budget, I couldn’t really afford to build a creature that could move in every way I wanted. So movement was limited. What I did tho, was to search a couple of free sound sites for sci-fi sounds, or dinosaur roars. It took me weeks to get it the way I wanted.


In order for the creature to look realistic, I had to use different sounds for each 2-second piece of footage that had the little guy in it. Each different sound conveyed a different want and emotion in the creature. It was incredibly grueling and difficult work. But in the end, the sounds and music are what really helped this film. In my opinion.


And when my main character was being eaten alive, sounds were so vitally important in conveying the horror of what was happening to him. And at the end of the film, when it is clear that the owner is in cahoots with the creature, or the creature is almost her mate, then the music that I put in at the end conveyed the craziness of this situation. So I put in this wild and crazy piece that makes me giggle whenever I hear it.


In conclusion, if you are in preparation for a film shoot, or if you are already in editing, then I cannot stress the importance of taking your time and getting the music and sound right. If you have the right style of music that brings your audience into your film, and the right sound effects if you are shooting a horror film, then this will improve your odds of this being a successful film. If nothing else, it helps your audience into your film, and it help in keeping them there. If you don’t believe me, go and watch the movie Brooklyn. The music in this film will bring you instantly into this world, and it keeps you there. Whether you like the movie or not!


John Montana




About The Author:

John Montana is an actor and filmmaker. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short film - HUNGRY at No Title Production Films


By midlandsmovies, Oct 10 2016 02:14PM

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week (2016) Dir. Ron Howard


Don’t let me down. The Beatles were at the height of their popularity in the mid-60s when they left their touring days behind them despite the fact they were filling out venues worldwide. This new documentary from Ron Howard tries to explain those heady days on the road before their live retirement with songs, gossip and historical footage.


The film begins with the band honing their talents during intensive 12 hour gigs in Hamburg before the recruitment of Ringo Starr and their rise to stardom via The Cavern in Liverpool. Already a tight-knit band by their early 20s, they embarked on endless UK tours as they began their first record releases beginning with Please Please Me in 1962. With manager Brian Epstein keen to keep them in the public’s eye, a single was demanded every few months and live gigs were very much part of the promotional (mystery) tour.


The documentary uses archive tapes along with some longer sequences of full songs to show the talent the band had from the very beginning. Their story continues as they break America on the Ed Sullivan show which turns them into a worldwide phenomenon with shows soon spread all over the globe.


The problem with the film – and this falls squarely on my shoulders as a HUGE Beatles fan – is that the stories and material are so well known to aficionados that there was very little new to learn here. I literally found myself mouthing along not only to the lyrics but to the stories including Harrison’s tale of Lennon’s “To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny” mantra.


Being the biggest band the world has ever seen has meant the tour tales have been told and re-told time again, not least in The Beatles’ very own Anthology – a documentary so in depth that nothing really comes close.


What I hadn’t seen before – and by default was the best part for me – was some of the archive concert footage showing the brilliant live performing skills of the mop-tops. Sounding uncannily like their recordings, their competency and delivery is so good and represents hours of toil on the road and on the stage. The footage also shows how small-time venues led to larger shows in auditoriums before the infamous Shea Stadium gig in New York which was their unknowing and penultimate swan song.


The footage also shows how the live shows became little more than crowd noise and screaming as well as their studio experimentation becoming increasingly difficult to capture on the live circuit.


In conclusion, the documentary is solid with good interviews, stories and structure and it covers an important part of the life of the greatest band there’s ever been. However, avid Beatles fans looking for exclusive tales will be disappointed by the lack of any new information with only the rare concert performances being truly dazzling. I’m really down.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 15 2016 01:50PM

Local Leicester theatre The Curve is showcasing local talent with a new Midlands production of Bugsy Malone. Midlands Movies Mike speaks to The Curve to find out more about the child-focused musical.


Bugsy Malone was written by Alan Parker with music and lyrics by Paul Williams and used a child-only cast to show a time of 1930s prohibition with the rival gangs of Fat Sam and Dandy Dan fighting it out on the streets. Sam’s only hope is washed up boxer Bugsy Malone who also has eyes for wannabe showgirl Blousey Brown. The original 1976 film version was Parker's feature-length directorial debut and introduced young actor Scott Baio and featured a 13-year old Jodie Foster.


At the end of Summer, Leicester’s premier theatre will host an adaptation using over 30 young performers, and a home-grown orchestra will also be present at this year’s Made at Curve Community Production of the quirky musical.


In this version, up-and-coming local talent makes up the show’s crew of gangsters and showgirls including Joel Fossard-Jones as Bugsy Malone, Maeve Woods as Blousey, Harvey Thorpe as Fat Sam, Alfie Bright as Dandy Dan, Muhammed Ibraheem as Roxy Robinson and Benjamin Cowan as Knuckles. Femme-fatale Tallulah, Jodie Foster’s original role, will be played by Jennifer Brown.


Joel Fossard-Jones returns to Curve in the title-role following performances in previous productions including Adrian Mole in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole The Musical, and in other film-spinoffs as The Artful Dodger in Oliver! and Kurt Von Trapp in The Sound of Music.


The Curve itself is a spectacular state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of Leicester’s vibrant Cultural Quarter with an award-winning building designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly.


For this production, and a first for Curve, Bugsy Malone will also feature a community orchestra made entirely of local musicians. Musical director George Dyer will lead the orchestra with many of the participants performing in an on-stage production for the first time.


The annual community productions provide an opportunity for people of all ages to work with Curve’s professional production and technical teams. The shows are central to Curve’s ongoing commitment to nurture, develop and celebrate local talent from across the region. Curve Associate Artist and choreographer for Legally Blonde and Grease, Nick Winston, will direct.


Curve Artistic Director Nikolai Foster explains, “The Curve Community Production is always a season highlight for us, combining the incredibly important work we create with our communities with our work on stage”.


The show runs from Fri 19 Aug – Sun 28 Aug and tickets can be purchased from the Box Office 0116 2423595 or booked online at www.curveonline.co.uk


Twitter: @CurveLeicester

Facebook: CURVEtheatreleicester


RSS Feed twitter