HAROLD’S GOING STIFF

7.5 out of 10

Release Date: 7th August 2012

Director: Keith Wright

Cast: Stan Rowe, Sarah Spencer, Phil Gascoyne, Andy Pandini, Lee Thompson, Richard Harrison and Richard Atkinson

Writer: Keith Wright

Trailer: Harold’s Gone Stiff

Just when you thought the Zombie film genre had been thoroughly drained of fresh ideas along comes Harold’s Going Stiff.  A Barnsley set take on the shuffling hordes of undead breathes fresh air into what is fast becoming one of the most abused horror genres. Thought Vampires were tired? Well pity the poor re-animated flesh eating corpse who since Shaun Of The Dead and the rage virus 28 Days duo have made video shelves bulge with about three versions from every country on Earth. This has a hundred times the story telling flair of any Resident Evil sequel. Why this didn’t get a decent cinema release is a sad mystery known only to the countries cinema distributors.

As stated, Harold’s Going Stiff offers a completely new slant on the genre.  Men are being struck down with a degenerative condition called Onset Rigours Disease (O.R.D.), that sees sufferers limbs stiffen up, followed up by gradual memory loss, finally resulting in violent, blood craving dementia. Give me Z, give me an O….etc.  The story takes the partial form of a documentary that chronicles the progress of patient zero, Howard (STAN ROWE) and his devoted carer Penny (SARAH SPENCER).  Meanwhile, groups of police assisted vigilantes are patrolling the surrounding countryside putting down any renegade sufferers.

In giving the condition a gradual onset we get to know Harold and Penny, as their bond grows and they become fond of one another.  Harold is a widower and has all but given up on life when the carer shows up and gives him something to live for. Penny is an large girl with a caring heart and also comes across as lonely as a result of her lack of confidence with men and some bad choices in the romance department.  In giving this film a real beating heart and showing more than a passing interest in the origins and symptoms of the condition put this streets ahead of the horde of competitors.  The relationship is really involving and completely convincing.  This enables the film to completely disarm us emotionally when the tale comes to a fairly predictably sad ending.

The horror elements work well too. Tension is drawn particularly in an underground encounter with a renegade zombie. Also the inclusion of a mysterious and violent Iggy Pop look alike creature known as Number 7 (Richard Atkinson) gives the film a contrast to our hero Harold.  The vigilantes are painted as a trio of oafs who represent the pack mentality of the general public (largely unseen).  They were probably unemployed before the onset of the disease and being the countryside protectors has given them a raison d’être.

The script is very moving and at times also very funny. The cast, which were largely found from a local casting call in Barnsley are perfect.  They may have benefitted well from the faux-documentary style but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from the spirited leads.  The production values are non-existent. The filming took 9 days and all things considered I think they’ve pulled off a miracle.

7.5 out of 10 – Hard to believe that at this late stage, along comes a truly original Zombie flick.  It may not frighten you so much as make you cry as you see a very likeable old man succumb to such a dreadful fate. An ace genre flick. Seek it out or I send round Number 7.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

THE CAST ARE ALL FIRST TIMERS.

44 INCH CHEST

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 15th January 2010

Director: Malcolm Melville

Cast: Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Dillane, Joanne Whalley, Melvil Poupaud with Edna Dore and Steven Berkoff

Writer: David Scinto & Louis Mellis

Trailer: 44 INCH CHEST

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Ray Winstone: Point Break (2015), The Legend of Barney Thomson, The Gunman, Noah, AshesThe Hot PotatoThe Sweeney Movie, Snow White & The Huntsman, Elfie Hopkins, Fathers Of Girls, Hugo, London Boulevard, The Devil’s Tomb, Rango (voice),  Tracker, Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll44 Inch Chest, Edge Of Darkness,   Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skulls, Fool’s Gold, Breaking and Entering, The Departed, Cold Mountain, Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe (voice),  The Proposition, King Arthur (2004),  Ripley’s Game, The Martins, Last Orders, Sexy Beast, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, Nil By Mouth, Love Honour and Obey, Fanny and Elvis,  Final Cut,  Martha – Meet Daniel Luke and Laurence, Face, Ladybird Ladybird, Tank Malling, Quadrophenia, Scum, Robin Of Sherwood (TV)
  • Ian McShane: Grimsby, London’s Falling, John Wick, Hercules (2014), Cuban Fury, Jack The Giant Slayer, Snow White & The Huntsman, Pirates Of The Caribbean 4, Case 39, Coraline (voice), Death Race (2008), Kung Fu Panda (voice), The Golden Compass (voice), Hot Rod, Shrek 3 (voice), Deadwood (TV), Scoop, Agent Cody Banks, Sexy Beast, Lovejoy (TV), Dallas (TV)
  • John Hurt: Snowpiercer, Doctor Who – Day of the DoctorTinker Tailor Soldier Spy,  Immortals (2011), Brighton Rock (2011),  Harry Potter 1,7 & 8, Melancholia,  New York I Love You, The Limits Of Control, V For Vendetta, Hellboy 1 & 2, Outlander, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Perfume, The Oxford Murders, The Skeleton Key, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,  The Proposition, Lost Souls, Contact, Night Train, You’re Dead, All The Little Animals, Love and Death On Long Island, WIld Bill (1995), Dead Man, Rob Roy, Second Best, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Monolith, King Ralph, The Field, Scandal, White Mischief, Heaven’s Gate, The Elephant Man, 1984, Watership Down (voice), Midnight Express, Alien, The Naked Civil Servant, 10 Rillington Place, Little Malcolm
  • Tom Wilkinson: Bone In The Throat, Good People, Unfinished Business, Belle, Felony, Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lone Ranger (2013),  Mission Impossible 4, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Burke & Hare, The Green Hornet, The Debt, The Ghost, Duplicity, Valkyrie, Rock-N-Rolla, Michael Clayton, Cassandra’s Dream, The Last Kiss, Seperate Lies, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, Batman Begins, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Girl With a Pearl Earring, Before You Go, The Importance Of Being Earnest (2002),  In The Bedroom, Black Knight, Another Life, Essex Boys, The Patriot, Ride With The Devil,  Shakespeare In Love, Rush Hour, The Governess, Oscar & Lucinda, Wilde, The Full Monty, Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, The Ghost and The Darkness, Sense and Sensibility, Martin Chuzzlewit (TV), Priest (1994),  A Business Affair, Paper Mask
  • Stephen Dillane: Papadopoulos and Sons, Game Of Thrones (TV), Zero Dark Thirty, Twenty8K, Perfect Sense, Goal II, Goal, King Arthur (2004), The Hours, The Truth About Charlie, Spy Game, The Parole Officer, The Darkest Light, Hamlet (1990)
  • Joanne Whalley: The Borgias (TV), Flood, Before You Go, The Man Who Knew Too Little,  Trial By Jury, A Good Man Africa, Mother’s Boy, The Secret Rapture, Storyville, Shattered, The Big Man, Navy Seals, Kill Me Again, Scandal, To Kill a Priest, Willow, The Singing Detective (TV),  No Surrender, Dance With a Stranger
  • Melvil Poupaud: The Broken, le Divorce, A Summer’s Tale
  • Edna Dore: All Or Nothing, Eastenders (TV), Goodnight Charlie Bright, Nil By Mouth, High Hopes
  • Steven Berkoff: London Heist, Rise of the Footsoldier 2, We Still Kill The Old Way, Red 2, GBHStrippers Vs. Werewolves,  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (US), 44 Inch Chest,  The Tourist, Big Fat Gypsy Gangster,  The Big I AmJust For The RecordDead Cert, Steal, Rancid Aluminium, Fair Game (1994), Decadence, The Krays, Beverly Hills Cop, McVicar, Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange

BRIGHTON ROCK (2011)

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 4th February 2011

Director: Rowan Joffe (Before I Go To Sleep)

Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Phil Davis, Sean Harris, Nonso Anozie, Craig Parkinson, Maurice Roeves, Geoff Bell, Steve Evets, Steven Robertson and Andy Serkis

Writer: Graham Greene / Rowan Joffe

Trailer:BRIGHTON ROCK

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

ALL IN GOOD TIME

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 11th May 2012

Director: Nigel Cole: (The Wedding Video / Made In Dagenham / A Lot Like Love / Calendar Girls /  Saving Grace)

Cast: Reece Ritchie, Amara Karan, Harish Patel, Shaheen Khan, Arsher Ali, Neet Mohan and Meera Syal

Writer: Ayub Khan Din

Trailer: ALL IN GOOD TIME

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

SEX & DRUGS & ROCK-N-ROLL

10 out of 10

Release Date: 8th January 2010

Director: Mat Whitecross (Spike Island / Ashes  / The Road To Guantanemo)

Cast: Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Bill Milner, Olivia Williams, Tom Hughes, Toby Jones, Luke Evans, Michael Maloney, Ralph Ineson, Andrew Knott, Ross Boatman, Sam Spruell, Wesley Nelson, Charlotte Beaumont with Noel Clarke,  Mackenzie Crook and Ray Winstone

Writer: Paul Virago

Trailer: SEX & DRUGS & ROCK-N-ROLL

sexanddrugsTO BE PROOFREAD: Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll could contain Andy Serkis‘ best ‘organic’ film performance to date. I use the term organic because Serkis has for a long time now cloaked his image in CGI and advanced motion capture technology performances to new realms, in fact it’s so rare that we see his real face, in fact at my reckoning it was his cameo in Dexter Fletcher’s Wild Bill.  In Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll he portrays music idol Ian Dury, who took the UK charts by storm with his unique brand of tricknology and word wizardry, along with the knack for a good melody. Ian Dury was also a polio survivor and unconvnetional envoy for his fellow ‘raspberry ripples’ – this film is a chronicle of the his life between the break-up of his first band Kilburn and The High Roads to the period where he released the controversial Spasticus Autisticus.

The film’s framing device is a strange live show with Serkis and actors performing cover versions of Blockheads tunes, along with candid anecdotes. These scenes are intercut throughout the movie’s more conventionally mounted stretches to great effect. This effective gimmick allows the story to dip in and out of events and blend seemlessly with recreated pop videos, drug fuelled fantasy sequences and mellow flashbacks. For once the effect isn’t distracting and presenting the movie like a scrapbook suits the films subject as it jumps from topic to mood like an eplictical frog. This works because of it’s believable and hardworking cast. From the performance of a life time given by Serkis to the smallest of cameos from famous faces like Noel Clarke (STAR TREK 2) and Mackenzie Crook (THE OFFICE), everybody scores a goal. The two suffering women in his life, Denise (NAOMIE HARRIS – THE FIRST GRADER) the new life partner and Bet (OLIVIA WILLIAMS – ALTAR) as wife and mother of his children, Baxter (BILL MILNER – SON OF RAMBOW) and Jemima (CHARLOTTE BEAUMONT) aren’t given short shrift as well. We get a window into their pain of living with a force of nature and at time, a very selfish person.  Passages where the film moves back in time to Dury’s childhood are the films heart. These scenes feature Ray Winstone (THE GUNMAN) playing his father as a gentle giant of a man without the means to bring a child up by himself. There’s no mention of a mother – except for in a chat-up line he uses on Denise near the beginning.  Sombre and very sad, they give moments of quiet and reflection in a otherwise chaotic movie.  Bill Milner is great as Dury’s son and under-aged stooge, Baxter Front! He puts in a great performance of bewilderment, boredom and frustration and is more than a match for the towering Serkis.

True it’s an unconventional take on the musical ‘biopic’ but I think the director and the production team have completed a perfect job considering its subject. ian dury was an incredible public figure and a true original.  This film is a great tribute to him, warts and all, delivered by an amazing cast. One of the best Britpics of the 2010s so far. Seek it out!

10 out of 10 – Hit me with your rhythm stick used to drive me mad as a kid. I loved it and used to shout it at the top of my voice whenever they came on TV. Hit MEEE!!!!

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

HEARTLESS

4.5 out of 10

Release Date: 21st May 2010

Director: Phillip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin / The Passion Of Darkly Noon)

Cast: Jim Sturgess, Clemence Poesy, Noel Clarke, Luke Tredaway, Joseph Mawle, Ruth Sheen, Jack Gordon, Nikita Mistry with Eddie Marsan and Timothy Spall

Writer: Phillip Ridley

Trailer: HEARTLESS

heartless_xlgSometimes I watch the dull, endless succession of British films that make up the roster of this site’s unremitting remit, and I wonder at the staleness, the lack of variety, the sheer ennui, the absolute hopelessness of imagination that these films both display and embody. The found-footage horrors, the hooligenre, those deeply incompetent Essex boys. And then I chanced upon a film in which Noel Clarke’s beheaded head gets treated like an apple by the human embodiment of the devil and suddenly I realised there’s life in the British film industry yet. Though that doesn’t mean HEARTLESS is a good film. Actually I’m not sure what it is.

I think it’s meant to be a visionary fable, a powerful drama about grief, acceptance, difference and wrapping male prostitutes in clingfilm. It’s also a mess, a film whose reality is just that little bit too far removed from real reality to make its reality cinematically real (that makes perfect sense in my head) so the supernatural / mythic elements don’t jar as they should. In short, it’s meant to be a film where demonic lizard-people stalking the streets is a disconcerting, terrifying and thoroughly out of kilter thing, but it actually seems perfectly credible. Admittedly, making a film where the devil lives down the road is difficult enough without trying to make that fact unlikely.

I think this might be a bit confusing. So here’s the story and some sarcastic comments instead.

Jim Sturgess plays Jamie, an amateur photographer with a heart-shaped birthmark covering much of his face. He’s a good lad who helps his mum (Ruth Sheen stealing scenes as usual) and his brother with his photographic studio. (Photography is strong in this family.) And then there’s their long-dead dad, played in a couple of flashbacks by Timothy Spall on fine understated form (maybe a bit too sentimentally perhaps – but we’re seeing a memory not reality). And then there’s little Luke Treadaway in an early role playing Jamie’s tearaway nephew. Despite this Mike Leigh-style family (indeed, that’s probably the whole point), Jamie lives in a world of malevolent spirits. Or are they just hoodie-clad teens? No – they actually are physical denizens on holiday from Hell and causing a ruckus in the less salubrious wastes of East London. As if that isn’t bad enough, Noel Clarke (curiously ill at ease) is his Rilke-spouting next-door neighbour.

After the demons murder Jamie’s mum (part of a Satanic plan), our silly hero does a deal with the devil, and somehow ends up adopting a young girl (who only Jamie can see like in Randall and Hopkirk Deceased) who may or may not be the devil’s familiar. As part of the deal Jamie has to commit a murder, details of which are passed on by the Weapons Man, a Pinteresque creation which gives Eddie Marsan a mad cameo which throws the film’s relationship with reality even further out of focus, but no matter because it’s always good to have a mad Marsan cameo. This leads to the film’s oddest scene where Jamie encounters a male prostitute who doesn’t seem too averse to being mummified in clingfilm. I lead a sheltered life; if that’s the sort of thing people get up to (and if we can have a prime minister porking

pork then I suppose anything can happen involving kitchen materials) then who am I to offer incredulity? The problem of course though is that it’s impossible to look anything other than stupidly funny when cocooned in clingfilm, which diminishes a scene which is meant to be at the heart of the story (semi-pun intended seeing as hearts are really important in this film).

The devilish deed done, Jamie loses his birthmark and gains a French starlet girlfriend. But Jamie perhaps doesn’t know the laws of Faustian pacts, and finds himself embroiled in skulduggery, mayhem and the ineluctable yet capricious force of fate.

HEARTLESS was made by Philip Ridley, who I guess is a kind of semi-avant-garde writer/director who seems to have fallen out with the establishment at some point. Being made by a serious artist means we have to accept some ridiculous plot points (especially the twist near the end) and get lots of themes and motifs shoved down our throats so that we know we’re watching a serious film and not some zombie/slasher hokum: hearts, family, religious iconography, long speeches about the necessity of evil, that sort of thing. There are even some songs along the way to jolly things along underline Jamie’s fragile mental state. There is some arresting imagery: the bit where our hero is wreathed in a body suit of his own burnt flesh whilst sipping a cup of tea; the clingfilm; Jamie’s birthmarked face. Unfortunately too often the idea seems to be let down by the realisation (especially when special effects are involved).

As a morality tale it’s a tad harsh, basically saying if you do dodgy deals you’ll be hideously eviscerated and become morally vacuous. And I guess it’s also meant to be an examination on the role of violence in our bitter, fragmented society, but it’s done in such an exaggerated way that Ridley’s points get a bit lost (it’s as if he’s doing a News of the World saying ‘shocking depraved disgustingness! Come and see it!’) But despite some good setting up and some thoughtful discussions and some excellent scenes, the last portion of the film veers off into blowing-things-up territory and the silliness goes unchecked. It redeems itself a little with a beautiful coda, but it’s not enough to undo the feeling that the film has spiralled out of control, ending up as a chaotic adult fairy-tale with uninspiring conclusions

This film is not as clever, powerful, thoughtful, bold and exciting as it thinks it is. And that’s a shame, because had they got it anywhere near right it could have been something astonishing. Instead it’s just a rehash of stuff like The Monkey’s Paw with a decorative layer of urban grime gently sprinkled on top.

Review by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

FOUR LIONS

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 7th May 2010

Director: Chris Morris

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali, Adeel Akhtar, Craig Parkinson, Preeya Kalidas, Alex MacQueen with Julia Davis and Benedict Cumberbatch

Writer: Chris Morris

Trailer: FOUR LIONS

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?