HOW TO STOP BEING A LOSER

5 out of 10

Release Date: 19th November 2011 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Dominic Burns (Allies / UFO (2013) /Airborne (2012) / Cut)

Cast: Simon Phillips, Craig Conway, Gemma Atkinson, Stephanie Leonidas, Colin Salmon, Chris Grezo, Martin Compston, Dominic Burns, Sheridan Smith, Larissa Houghton, Rita Ramnani, Peter Barrett  with Martin Kemp, Neil Maskell, Adele Silva, Billy Murray and Richard E. Grant

Writer: Chris Grezo & Rupert Knowles

Trailer: HOW TO STOP BEING A LOSER

To Proof & Edit: Here’s a down market coarser version of the Will Smith vehicle Hitch.  You know the plot. Dork seeks to be accepted by women and goes about employing a love guru, attains the girl of his dreams, leaves his friends behind, dream girl is a bitch, falls for ignored best friend, the end.  Was that a spoiler?  Not really, because if you like these kinds of movies you’ve already seen twenty just like it. How To Stop Being a Loser also features the staple last minute dash to the airport! Arghhh!  So what’s left to distinguish this is the embellishments in it’s margins.  Most of what’s on offer consists of spunk and fart jokes, but it still manages to have a modicum of originality and energy.  For the most part though How To… overstays it’s welcome by abandoning it’s stupidity and becoming straight jacketed by a very tired format.

What How To.. has in it’s favour though is a very large and game cast.  Yes, it’s stuffed with all the usual suspects that hang around the independent movie scene like the plague but at least most of them look like they’re having a good time.  Colin Salmon (STALKER) actually achieves a career best in my opinion as the psychiatrist our hapless hero, James (SIMON PHILLIPS – FALL OF THE ESSEX BOYS) and titular loser tells his story to.  His incredulous and unprofessional shrink would have stolen the movie if were not for the army of familiar faces via for attention in a parade of weird walk-on roles.  Chief of whom is Richard E Grant (WITHNAIL & I) who is as fab as ever in a fleeting role as fellow loser, Ian.  Neil Maskell (KILL LIST) also shows up as a sensitive gangster with a sideline in palm reading<?>  Billy Murray (THE BILL) runs around with a garden ornament in the shape of Paddington Bear under his arm for most of his screen time and lastly Martin Kemp (JACK FALLS) has fun as king of the love guru’s Zeus!

The leads are competent enough. Simon Phillips shows his flair for comedy. He should concentrate his energies here. The quality of his contributions to indie drama are still in question.  His James is convincing and he looks the part. Maybe Simon Phillips is a nerd in real life and that’s why James is a snug fit for him.  Joe Pesci II’s (the other contributor to Britpic) favourite Craig Conway (AIRBORNE) takes the Will Smith role and he’s pretty awful to tell you the truth.  If someone like his Ampersand could pull a modern woman with ease… Actually, this doesn’t take place in any kind of reality I recognise so I’ll drop that line of enquiry.  He rushes about like a cross between The Mask and Drop Dead Fred to zero comic effect and he’s a huge reason beyond the film’s formulaic approach that How To… is the clunker it is.

The women are better than they normally are in indies. Gemma Atkinson (HOLLYOAKS) is suitably sexy and evil as the unattainable crush at the centre of James’ predicament and the underemployed Stephanie Leonidas – wonderful in Mirrormask – is fiery as the neglected best friend, Patch.  They are well-sketched and you actually find yourself boo-ing (mildly) Atkinson and cheering on the mousey yet beautiful Leonidas.  Dominic Burns the director went on to improve with Airborne but then got aspirations as a screenwriter and then directed the butt asteroid that was UFO.  His efforts fall between the two here because there is enjoyment to be had. It all depends how forgiving you are.

5 out of 10 – Utterly derivative of better rom-coms but it does have a weird life of its own once you look behind the endless spunk jokes and delve into the rogues gallery of cameos supplied by a bunch of game name actors who wanted a bit of light fun.  Also ex-Luton boy Colin Salmon accidentally submits the best performance of his weird career and of the whole film.  Someone in the know, get Phillips to do more comedy!

SEE  JOE PESCI’S II WILLY BELOW plus a review

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

360

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 10th August 2012

Director: Fernando Meirelles: (Rio, eu te amo / Blindness / The Constant Gardener / City Of God)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster, Maria Flor, Luca Siposova, Gabriela Marcinkova, Johannes Krisch, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Julianno Cazarre,  Mark Ivanir, Moritz Bleibtreu with Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Jamel Debbouze

Writer: Peter Morgan

Trailer: 360

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

  • Anthony Hopkins:  Go With Me, Autobahn, Solace, Westworld (TV), Kidnapping Freddy Heineken, Noah, Thor 2, Red 2, Hitchcock, Thor, The Rite, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, The Wolfman, Fracture, Slipstream, Bobby, The World’s Fastest Indian, Alexander, The Human Stain, Red Dragon, Bad Company, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (voice), Hannibal, Mission Impossible II, Titus, Instinct, Meet Joe Black, The Mask Of Zorro, Amistad, The Edge (1997), Surviving Picasso, August, Nixon, Legends Of The Fall,  The Road To Wellville, Shadowlands, The Remains Of The Day, The Innocent (1993), The Trial (1993), Chaplin, Dracula (1992), Spotswood, Howard’s End, Freejack, Silence Of The Lambs, Desperate Hours, A Chorus Of Disapproval, 84 Charing Cross Road, The Bounty, The Elephant Man, Magic, A Bridge Too Far, International Velvet, Juggernaut, Young Winston (1972), The Looking Glass War, Hamlet (1969)
  • Jude Law: Spy (2015), Black Sea, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Dom Hemingway, Side Effects, Rise Of The Guardians (voice), Anna Karenina (2012), Hugo, Contagion, Sherlock Holmes 2 (2011), The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Repo Men, My Blueberry Nights, Sleuth, The Holiday (2006), Breaking & Entering, Aviator, Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events (voice), Closer, Alfie, Sky Captain and The World Of Tomorrow, I Heart Huckabees, Cold Mountain, The Road To Perdition, Enemy At The Gates, Love Honour and Obey, A.I., The Talented Mr Ripley, Existenz, Wisdom Of Crocodiles, Final Cut, Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil, Gattaca, Wilde, Shopping
  • Rachel Weisz: The Lobster, Oz The Great and Powerful, The Bourne Legacy, Dream House, The Deep Blue Sea (2011), The Lovely Bones, The Brothers Bloom, My Blueberry Nights, Eragon (voice), The Fountain, The Constant Gardner, Constantine, Runaway Jury, the Shape Of Things, About a Boy, The Mummy 1 & 2, Enemy At The Gates, Beautiful Creatures, I Want You, Land Girls, Bent, Chain Reaction, Stealing Beauty, Death Machine
  • Ben Foster: The Program, Gotti, Kill Your Darlings, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints?, Contraband, Rampart, The Mechanic (2011), Pandorum, The Messenger, 30 Days Of Night, 3.10 To Yuma, X Men 3, Alpha Dog, Hostage (2005), The Punisher (2004), Northfork, Phone Booth, Get Over It, Liberty Heights
  • Vladimir Vdovichenkov: Leviathan (2014)
  • Mark Ivanir: Saving Santa (voice), A Late Quartet, Johnny English 2, Undisputed 3, Holy Rollers, The Good Shepherd, Undisputed 2, Schindler’s List
  • Moritz Bleibtreu: Kill Your Friends, Woman In Gold, The Fifth Estate
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste: The Edge of Tomorrow, Robocop (2014), Takers, Without a Trace (TV), City Of Ember, Spy Game, The Cell, 28 Days, Secrets and Lies
  • Jamel Debbouze: Days Of Glory, Angel-A, She Hate Me, Amelie

FATHERS OF GIRLS

2.5 out of 10

Release Date: 19th November 2010

Director: Karl Howman & Ethem Cetintas

Cast: Ray Winstone, Chloe Howman, Luke Kempner, James Hillier, Roger Kitter with Glen Murphy and Lois Winstone

Writer: Karl Howman & Ethem Cetintas

Trailer: FATHERS OF GIRLS

posterFathers Of Girls seems to set its store out along the same street as Liam Neeson‘s Taken or a similar Nicolas Cage-style revenge flick. Then it goes on to ignore the cliches and stereotypes.  Anyone hoping for such carnage on the streets of Salisbury in Wiltshire will be in for a sore disappointment.   Frank (RAY WINSTONE – 44 INCH CHEST) is a solicitor devastated when his daughter (LOIS WINSTONE – BASEMENT) shows up dead after a drug overdose at her student digs.  Under the misapprehension that his daughter was an angel, he goes down to Salisbury to get to find out who sold the deadly drugs to her.

Now I’ve  lived in Salisbury (I was living there when this was being filmed) and was socially active for nearly three years down there.  I am shocked to find out there are organised crime rings down there, so that baffled me a little bit (there probably is though – I’m a pub man though). The film made up for this weirdness in a very small way because I gleaned feint enjoyment from the fact that I recognising the cafes, libraries, colleges, parks and squares that our hero trudges through in the name of unearthing the truth.  Long takes, muddy sound and natural lighting contribute to the fatigue brought on by willing Frank into action.  For someone conducting an investigation, he’s very slow on the uptake and quite backward at coming forwards.  He stumbles upon a very real lead and leaves a second meeting to gather more information down to chance.  The ‘big bad’ is established almost immediately and yet he’s seemingly let off the hook because he has an identical relationship with his own daughter, Emma (CHLOE HOWMAN – HOLBY BLUE).  Ray Winstone does put in a thoughtful performance and he alone carries the film on his back. The rest of the project is amateurish, badly scripted and plotted.  It’s subject matter is interesting in taking the father’s reaction to his child’s death but there’s no life in the finish.  A clunky and redundant voice over by Frank makes the whole exercise hard to identify with and unfortunately, at other times makes it hilarious.  Karl Howman (of  TV’s Brush Strokes fame is Winstone’s brother-in-law) and co-director Ethem Cetintas bring nothing but drudgery to the proceedings.  It’s probably been viewed as an ‘gift’ to one of our acting national treasures but sadly its a misguided and considerably duff one.  It flunks on every level as a drama, a psych study, an actor’s showcase or a thriller. It’s like a car with no wheels or engines. It just sits there looking hopeless.  Some of the takes are inordinately long, there’s one in particular where Ray Winstone makes a cup of tea including boiling the kettle in real time. This is followed or intercut with a scene where Emma empties one of the daughter’s suitcases examining each dress in turn slowly.  Even a bizarre visit to a gay psychic (ROGER KITTER – ALLO ALLO) along with goofy inner monologue fail to lighten the film up. Maybe Karl Howman and co. are aiming to be the UK version of Tarkovsky.  This was more like Emmerdale Farm on ketamine. And there’s no excuse for it’s very strange non-ending.  I thought I’d missed a very large point but I hadn’t.

I think I read that Ray Winstone did this for film for free, as part of a family effort.  This is one home movie that should have stayed that way.  It being a thriller set in Salisbury says it all.  It’s true that this is the kind of adventure Salisbury would throw up in real life but there was really no need to make a film about it. Fathers of Girls is only worth a look for a good but wasted performance from Ray Winstone, who truly looks like he believes in this project. Otherwise avoid like a night on the tiles around Wiltshire’s night clubs. At a running time of under 1Hour and 10 minutes (including credits) this is one unusually short dog fart of an expensive home movie.  Sometimes blaming your less famous family isn’t enough of an excuse. Ray needs to exercise some caution in his choices.  He also showed up in another indie as a favour to a family member last year; see the marginally worse Elfie Hopkins.

2.5 out of 1o – This gets all of it’s points and good will because of Ray Winstone‘s committed performance.  Otherwise this is a dead fish of a film. An intriguing idea that is as botched as you possibly get.  Pretty awful especially for its experimentation with long takes and static camera work. The ending is an unforgivable cop-out too, I don’t care if it’s realistic, it’s certainly can’t stand up as an ending to a story. Hard to stay alive let alone awake during this short drip drip drip of a mystery.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Ray Winstone: Point Break (2015), The Legend of Barney Thomson, The Gunman, Noah, Lords of London, Ashes, The Hot PotatoThe Sweeney, Snow White & The Huntsman, Elfie Hopkins, Hugo, London Boulevard, The Devil’s Tomb, Rango (voice), TrackerSex & 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)
  • Chloe Howman: Holby Blue (TV)
  • James Hillier: Holby Blue (TV), Long Time Dead
  • Roger Kitter: Suzie Gold, ‘Allo ‘Allo (TV)
  • Glen Murphy: Lords of London, The Hooligan Wars, Shoreditch, London’s Burning (TV), Tank Malling, Shine On Harvey Moon (TV)
  • Lois Winstone: Traveller,  The Hot Potato, Basement, Beyond The Rave (TV)

MALICE IN WONDERLAND

REVIEW FROM JOE PESCI II below!

Release Date: 5th February 2010

Director: Simons Fellows: (Until Death / 7 Seconds / Second In Command)

Cast: Maggie Grace, Danny Dyer, Matt King, Bronagh Gallagher, Paul Kaye, Fiona O’Shaughnassey, Amanda Boxer, Anthony Higgins, Gary Beadle with Pam Ferris and Nathaniel Parker

Writer: Jayson Rothwell

Trailer: MALICE IN WONDERLAND

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

GANGSTERS, GUNS AND ZOMBIES

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 14th January 2013 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Matt Mitchell (It Never Sleeps)

Cast: Huggy Leaver, Vincent Jerome, Cassandra Orhan, Frank Rizzo, Charlie Rawes, Simon Mathews with Jennie Lathan and Fabrizio Santino

Writer: Matt Mitchell & Taliesyn Mitchell

Trailer: GANGSTERS GUNS AND ZOMBIES

REVIEW BELOW BY JOE PESCI II

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Huggy Leaver: Fast and Furious 6, Freebird, Somers Town, Eastenders (TV), Going Off Big Time, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • Cassandra Orhan: It Never Sleeps
  • Charlie Rawes: It Never Sleeps
  • Simon Mathews: It Never Sleeps, The Dead Inside (2013)
  • Fabrizio Santino: It Never Sleeps, Hollyoaks (TV), Turnout

ALBATROSS

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 14th October 2011

Director: Niall MacCormick

Cast: Jessica Brown Findlay, Felicity Jones, Sebastian Koch, Julia Ormond, Peter Vaughn with Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Harry Treadaway

Writer: Tamzin Rafn

Trailer: ALBATROSS

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Jessica Brown Findlay: Victor Frankenstein, The Riot Club, A Winter’s Tale, Downton Abbey (TV)
  • Felicity Jones: Star Wars: Rogue One, Collide, True Story (2015), The Theory of Everything, Amazing Spider Man 2, The Invisible Woman, Breathe In, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding,Hysteria, Like Crazy, Soulboy, The Tempest (2010), Chalet GirlCemetery Junction, Cheri
  • Sebastian Koch: Take Down, The Danish Girl, Bridge of Spies, Die Hard 5, Unknown (2011), Black Book, The Lives Of Others, Flirt
  • Julia Ormond: The East, My Week With Marilyn, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Che- part 1, Surveillance, Inland Empire, Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, Sabrina (1995), First Knight, Legends Of The Fall, Captives, Nostradamus (1994), The Baby Of Macon, Traffik (TV)
  • Peter Vaughan: Game Of Thrones (TV), Is Anybody There?, Death at a Funeral (2007), The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, The Mother, An Ideal Husband, The Legend of 1900, Les Miserables (1998), Face, The Crucible (1996), The Secret Agent, The Remains Of The Day, Mountains Of The Moon, Brazil, The French Lieutenant’s Women,  Time Bandits, Straw Dogs (1971)
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster: Maze Runner 2, Wolf Hall (TV), Thunderbirds (voice) (TV), Maze Runner, Nowhere Boy, Nanny McPhee, Love Actually
  • Harry Treadaway: Penny Dreadful (TV), Honeymoon, The Lone Ranger (2013), Cockneys Vs. Zombies, The Disappeared, Fish Tank, City Of Ember, Control, Brothers Of The Head

KICKS

7.5 out of 10

Release Date:4th June 2010

Director: Lindy Heymann

Cast: Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley and Jamie Doyle

Writer: Leigh Campbell

Trailer: KICKS

kicks_-poster

For anyone wondering where all the ‘good’ Liverpool based writers of the 80s and early 90s have gone, here’s a reminder of the those works of yore.  When Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and Jimmy McGovern based their tales in Liverpool, they created a collection great dramas.   So it’s heartening to see a genuine  return with Kicks. It benefits from featuring very real identifiable Liverpudlians in an unusual tale set against a backdrop of recognisable city landmarks.  Kicks is really evocative of the city’s people and places, the attitudes and the past-times.  Nicole (KERRIE HAYES – TRAVELLER) is a teenage Liverpool Football Club fan. She has an unrealistic but harmless obsession with current striker and golden boy Lee Cassidy (JAMIE DOYLE).  Waiting below his apartment block window and peeking through cracks in the wall at the practice grounds, her one-sided love affair seems likely that  it will go unrewarded.  At a city game, whilst waiting for the players to leave the ground, she  befriends Jasmine (NICHOLA BURLEY – STREETDANCE), who desires to become attached to Lee, or any footballer in fact, romantically.  Jasmine takes Nicole around some of the city clubs where footballers are likely to show up in the VIP rooms.  In turn, Nicole invites her into her secret and solitary world.  A former hideout of a long deployed Military brother becomes their HQ where they hatch fantasies about their favourite footballer.  On hearing the news that Lee is to transfer to Spain at the end of the season they endeavour to get him to change his mind, but how?

Kicks wins because of a pair of winning performances from Hayes and Burley.  Hayes is new to me and she is thoroughly convincing as the sensitive yet tough Nicole.  Burley’s Jasmine is more fun but shows steel beneath her goofy exterior.  Their hideout is a holiday caravan inexplicably perched at the edge of a dock on the Mersey. The empty river always in shot.  It serves as an escape from the drudgery of daily life.  Responsible adults are in short supply, with Nicole’s mother represented by post-it notes or a discarded Nurse’s uniform.  The considerably richer Jasmine’s nouveau-riche family are in crises too with a sex tramp of a father and brassy mother.  Their encounter with Lee comes late in the game.  He’s sketched into the story deftly through snatched glimpses through a hole in the wall or a radio announcement.  When it’s announced that he will be transferring to a Spanish football team next season the girls are genuinely upset, so when they do finally get to meet him they don’t quite know what to do with him.

This is where the plot gets interesting. Although, Lee’s character is predictably drawn and he turns out to be all we’ve been led to expect from premier league footballers in the tabloids, it’s the plot that surprises.  The girls keep us on our toes and situation which sees Lee return to the girl’s HQ could go anywhere.  The slim running time doesn’t let the grass grow under their feet and the outcome is satisfying.  Their may be some grumbles from those that expect operatics but in the end at least two of the protagonists will walk away from the events wiser and perhaps a lot smarter.  Being played by older actresses, you have to remind yourself that Hayes and Burley are playing 15 year olds. That’s the only criticism I can angle at the film but it’s a light one.  But this does not detract from the fact that Kicks is one of the best films to come out of Liverpool since Terence Davies’ introspective documentary about the city Of Time And The City in 2005.

7.5 out of 10 – Kicks is very small-scale but at the same time realistic and captivating.  Two excellent performances from the two leads and a great sense of time and place make it a worthwhile watch. At face value it sells a predictable plot but the outcome is unexpected so without turning genre cliches on their heads, the film proves to a be an important coming-of-age tale for modern teenagers.  It’s a good crack at a football fan movie too that shies away from the usual tropes of hooliganism and violence. Recommended (if you can find the DVD!)

** Read a second review by seasoned ‘wooly back’ Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II BELOW

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?