WHAT RICHARD DID

9 out of 10

THIS IS AN IRISH FILM

Release Date: 11th January 2013

Director: Lenny Abrahamson (Frank / Adam & Paul)

Cast: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Gavin Drea, Fionn Walton, Patrick Gibson with Lorraine Pilkington and Lars Mikkelsen

Writer: Malcolm Campbell

Trailer: WHAT RICHARD DID

In our jobs as amateur film critics for Britpic its not very often, actually it’s barely ever, that are worth shouting about. Here we have an Irish movie that may just about be the best ‘conventional’ drama to come along in very long time. Jack Reynor (TRANSFORMERS 4) plays the eighteen year-old alpha male, Super Rich. As popular with the parents and teachers as he is with his peers at school, his world comes tumbling down around his ears one night.  Disgusted by his druknen actions at an end of term party, he begins to see the lengths the people around him will go to maintain “his” good reputation and standing in the community.

Director Lenny Abrahamson gave us the thoughtful re-think of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot with his wonderful Dublin-set tragicomedy Adam and Paul, here he evolves into a serious contender for Ireland’s best living film director.  The story is precision-perfect, taking a character that is uniformly dismissed as shallow and oppressive in other movies and questions the burden of their expectations. Rich is surrounded with girls that want to sleep with him, guys that want to be like him, he is king amongst school kids. On the cusp of adulthood he is thrust head long into a terrible situation. What Richard Did deals expertly with guilt and when he does eventually share his burden he isn’t set free, he finds himself trapped further by those as complicit as he is. Why let one incident ruin a whole life? But the incident itself is so despicable, Rich cannot live with it.  It’s a heartbreaking movie and it puts the viewer in a strange position because we are also privy to Rich’s crime, so how do we feel about him getting away with it, or not?

As stated the performances are amazing across the board, from the leads down to the featured extras. This character study is bound to stay with viewers for a long time after the final credits roll as easy answers and ways of escape are ignored. It’s a very human film, one emboldened by a soothing yet sad score, immaculate production design, a dominant pale green and green colour scheme and crystal clear unfussy cinematography.  It’s a journey that handles the subjects of guilt, expectation, community and the burden of complicity deftly. This film affirms the buzz that Jack Reynor will become an actor to watch, already cast opposite Mark Wahlberg in Transformers 4, let’s hope he turns up in a few more like What Richard Did?

9 out of 10 – Thoroughly engrossing character study of a golden boy’s life coming tumbling down one boulder at a time. Possibly the best Irish film I’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

THE SHOUTING MEN

5 out of 10

Release Date: 5th March 2010 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Steve Kelly (City Rats)

Cast: Warren Llambias, Dudley Sutton, Matt Daniel-Baker, Malcolm Freeman, Vyelle Croom, Kelly Johnston, Tom Gilling, John Barnes, Tony Denham, Ben Shockley, Tom Bonington with Neil Maskell and Craig Fairbrass

Writer: Warren Llambias and Matt Daniel-Baker

Trailer: THE SHOUTING MEN

shouting_menHere we go again. Up and Under, The Full Monty, The Match and The Magnificent Eleven all have a lot to answer for. Only one of the four mentioned actually tapped into the zeitgeist of male camaraderie, and yet here we have another gozzy attempt at cracking the code to the ‘matey-sports’ football sub-genre.  (OK, OK,  delete the word ‘foot’ and there’s still balls involved in each of them). In this case The Shouting Men tells the predictable story of a bunch of blokes determined to see their favourite team Gillingham FC play at an important match vs. Newcastle Utd.  Written and starring two of the leading actors (WARREN LLAMBIAS and MATT DANIEL BAKER) this is one of the more successful vanity projects that litter the Britpic library. Looks like the film finished them off too as there are no more up-to-date credits on IMDB. At least they achieved their ‘dream’ if that’s what this mildly amusing part-time nun’s fart of a film this is.

Writer, Warren Llambias casts himself as the sad sack leader of this band of merry idiots. His co-writer, Matt Daniel Baker takes the plum role of the leg-less wheel chair bound hooligan that cons the group into transporting him to the game in a bus hired from ‘mental health care in the community‘ bus.  Baker gets a lot of the funny lines and situations.  Yes, I’m amazed to report that inspite of The Shouting Men‘s very very lazy plotting a lot of the comedy dialogue and situations are very funny. Making up the numbers of the shouting men are veteran character actor Dudley Sutton (ORLANDO) as the wise old funny one who is nursing a medical secret (bet you didn’t see that one coming), Vyelle Croom’s Jamaican closet gay, Tom Gilling as a virginal fast food addict and there’s also a string of cameos ranging from the sublime (CRAIG FAIRBRASS – DERANGED) to the embarrassing (JOHN BARNES – BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM). So their journey takes them from pillar to post, encountering prostitutes, lost tickets, bad food, hospital trips, ghosts that can score goals, gay sex cottaging and a license to laugh at the disabled and mentally ill (which is OK cos I love un-PC comedy).  The first time actors seamlessly blend with the professionals and the acting is generally fine and the comedy timing spot on. It’s way better than the starrier and very similar (in tone and story) to The Magnificent Eleven, which is faint praise but praise nonetheless. However, The Shouting Men is utterly crap whenever it swaps the laughs for the more serious beats, in fact its cringeworthy. Llambias and Croom‘s face off about hiding the latter’s homosexuality is really badly handled and makes the writers look like a bunch of bigots from a 100 years ago. The token girl is just that and is only there to fall in love with one of the characters, maybe the lead?  Anyway, with a starrier cast this may have been worthy of a cinema release but like Gillingham FC themselves this is distinctly minor league, salvaged by a funny script and great comic timing from its largely unknown cast of amateurs.

5 out of 10 – Lame but funny comedy that utterly fails to convince when it tries its hand at drama.  Funny cast, great cameos. But still distinctly lower league when it tries to give any gravitas to the comedy. Leave the drama to the professionals, love.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

THE HIKE

3 out of 10

Release Date: 24th October 2011 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Rupert Bryan

Cast: Zara Phythian, Barbara Nedeljakova, Lisa Marie Long, Stephanie Siadaten, Jemma Bolt, Ben Loyd-Holmes, Daniel Caren, Dominic Le Moignan with Tamer Hassan and Shauna Macdonald

Writer: Rupert Bryan

Trailer: THE HIKE

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There’s not a lot going on here. Five babes; one disposable sensible  blonde (JEMMA BOLT), one jilted and flirty Eastern European (BARBARA NEDELJAKOVA – PIMP), one disposable Brunette (LISA MARIE LONG), one disposable black, blonde girl (a multi-tasking STEPHANIE SIADATEN) and one disposable traumatised soldier back in from the world (ZARA PHYTHIAN – UNDERGROUND) go for a bonding holiday in the woods. There’s one main problem, three of them have only ever walked on pavements before, so a lot of bickering ensues. Also the jilted one is being followed by her thick gangster boyfriend, enter Tamer Hassan (EASTERN PROMISES) who actually thinks they’re going to a sex orgy instead. What all six of them encounter on the walk is a different type of orgy all together, one of blood and death.

A decent set-up to establish the characters would have been nice except the cliches run fast and thick from the very first introductions. What could have been a nice inversion of The Descent has all the thrills and spills as an episode of Hi-De-Hi, with baddies less scary than Su Pollard‘s Peggy!  The only character who gets a bit of background shading is the soldier, played in true wooden fashion by Lara Croft look-a-like Zara Phythian, who it would seem is being groomed to be the UK’s female answer to Jason Statham on the indie scene. But she’s a shit actress based on the evidence here, so there’s very little to hold her back considering the acting skills of her American contemporaries like Cynthia Rothrock or Gina Carano.  Her character gets to relate an episode that killed her lover in Iraq whilst on a tour.  Still quite traumatised she quite rightly embarks on a tough and stressful holiday with her four best mates.  Luckily they meet three hunky male hikers (Ben Loyd-Holmes, Daniel Caren, Dominic Le Moignan) who may just make their time in the woods pass that bit more pleasantly.  Unfortunately, for all concerned there are quite a few red herrings deep in the woods. So when the bodies begin to pile up who is doing the killing?

The ‘who-dunnit’ element of the film is perhaps the only good thing about it as the story completely wrong foots you. It was like that episode in Eastenders when they were keeping the identity of Michelle Fowler‘s baby’s father a secret. We see her on the phone speaking to the unknown father, agreeing that they’ll come and meet them. Cue about five major male characters all making excuses to leave where they are in a hurry. We have something similar here in The Hike. We have in the woods Tamer Hassan dopey thug, a Polish threesome which consists of a suspicious and angry man and two subservient women and a soldier with post traumatic stress disorder. So for once we are spoilt with the number of  suspects that are stacked up. Once the killer(s) is revealed at a relatively early stage the film goes down hill again. In turn, it becomes a plod as the cardboard boys and girls meet their demises in non-memorable ways.  Shauna MacDonald from The Descent shows up along the way to remind us that films like this can be good, but she’s pretty much wasted in a cameo role that is little more than an afterthought and seems to be stitched in from a different film altogether. Only her and Tamer Hassan do anything close to real acting.

And so it goes, we have an early lame vehicle for Zara Phythian who has about eight starring vehicles lined up on IMDB. As a calling card for her, its limp.  The plot is predictable (apart from the killer’s identity), the acting and script are universally terrible and the action scenes are below par but not noticeably bad.  As a time-passer you could do worse, but there was way too much room for improvement needed to make The Hike fly. Should have been called The Trudge.

3 out of 1o – I did not LIKE the HIKE.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

SPIKE ISLAND

6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 21st June 2013

Director: Mat Whitecross (Ashes / Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll / The Road To Guantanemo)

Cast:  Elliott Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro, Jordan Murphy, Adam Long, Oliver Heald, Emilia Clarke and Matthew McNulty with Chris Coghill, Steve Evets, Nick Blood, Rob-James Collier, Michael Socha, Antonia Thomas, Andrew Knott, Danny Cunningham, Paul Popplewell with Jodie Whitaker, Phillip Jackson and Lesley Manville

Writer: Chris Coghill

Trailer: SPIKE ISLAND

Spike Island is a worthy companion piece to Shane Meadow‘s recent documentary about The Stone Roses (Made Of Stone) being that the central story line also revolves around the same band.  This follows the pursuits of five teenagers who want to get their hands on tickets to the legendary Stone Roses gig at Spike Island on Merseyside back in 1990.  Now this is my era, I grew up when hip hop was fading out of the mainstream and the Manchester scene was taking over. I remember the fashions, the sayings, the sounds and Spike Island does a very good job at displaying all of these. So a big round of applause for the production team for whom this was clearly a labour of love.

The central coming of age tale itself is predictable but still a lot of fun. The exuberant and talented young cast do a good job and make a little go a long way, two or three of the main five are scribbles rather than real characters.  The lead, Elliott Tittensor (SHAMELESS) plays Tits has his own band to rival any other local band trying to break out but the only band member who really cares about succeeding is Dodge (NICO MIRALLEGRO – HOLLYOAKS), the other three consist of a weird man-child who is bullied by his mentally ill father, a wank obsessed fart arse and a moody and cynical detractor.  Filling the film to the brim with funny characters like Keith Teeth (DANNY CUNNINGHAM – 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE), Uncle Hairy (CHRIS COGHILL – 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE), Voodoo Ray (ANDREW KNOTT – BLACK BEAUTY) and some very funny Liverpudlian security guards, gives the familiar story extra spin. The encounters between the Mancs and the Scousers are priceless and made me hanker for  lost screenwriters like Alan Bleasdale and Willy Russell (where are you? British film needs you back!)  Whilst there’s a lot of laughs to be had and a lot of nostalgia to be soaked in, Spike Island quietly wins good will with the serious plots as well. Tit’s Dad is dying in hospital, Steve Evets (ANNA KARENINA) puts in a nice subtle performance, and could pass away any day, so there’s a dilemna to be had as to whether he should even go to the gig. His errant brother Ibiza Steve (MATHEW MCNULTY – THE KNOT) has arranged for guest passes for the whole crew but won’t visit his parents because of his Dad’s illness. This angle has a lot of traction. There’s also room for a love interest in the form of Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke. That’s all pretty standard and a lot of Spike Island is to tell you the truth. It’s just fortunate that the film is just so likeable, historically accurate, fun to watch and it’s also well made. Great sounds, funny characters and good memories push the film past being plain average, but it is what it is. A straightforward fun movie. No qualms.

6.5 out of 10 – No surprises plot wise but it’s the funny script and great acting that push this one ahead of similarly plotted Britpics. Recommended for an easy and fun watch.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

MINDFLESH

7 out of 10

Release Date: 24th October 2008

Director: Robert Pratten

Cast: Peter Bramhill, Lucy Liemann, Carole Derrien, Roy Borrett, Steven Burrell, Cordelia Bugeja, Clare Routh and Christopher Fairbank

Writer: Robert Pratten

Trailer: MINDFLESH

Mindflesh is a true original. It’s original in that it’s an ingenius blend of the unchartered and the amateurish.  A bad script and a few wooden actors do little to distract from the wonderful conviction the makers have to this weird and disturbing journey into the human psyche and out the other side.  What’s going on? Well when it’s spelt out the central conceit will no longer be as potent. But the it’s the journey that counts here. Just what is going on?

London cab driver, Chris (PETER BRAMHILL) is haunted daily by apparitions of women. To begin with he thinks he’s going mad, but with the break up of a long term girlfriend (LUCY LIEMANN – REGGIE PERRIN) clouding his sanity, he beings to indulge in the fantasies and nightmares he finds himself amongst. Discovery of a phenomenon via a professor played by an over the top Christopher Fairbank (ALIEN 3)  could hold the key to his addictive state. Why for instance does he begin to grow an extra two sets of nipple (that look red raw and painful) and who are the tentacled creatures and what do they want with him.  His relationship with his mother could be the answer, as we glimpse a childhood incident and are also led to ponder the contents of a decaying suitcase in Chris’ flat.  The naked model (CAROLE DERRIEN) who dominates him in increasing bizarre ways begins to manifest herself in ways beyond Chris’ living dream. Is Chris going to hell and can his equally troubled friends help him as his delusional state becomes more and more contagious and toxic.

Mindflesh is a very successful example of the body horror genre pioneered by the likes of David Cronenburg and Anthony Hickox in the 1980s and early 1990s.  It also benefits from a music soundtrack that is full of disorientating fizziness. The atmosphere is palpable and it’s a bloody creepy watch.  Not knowing what is happening also helps the film in many ways. The few negative points are largely down to the lack of budget to fully realise the maker’s vision but this does give the film a look of its own. A need not to reveal all is probably as much the accountant’s descision as the director’s.  A script editor could have been used as the majority of the script is awful. Whilst the story and the lead performance by Peter Bramhill manage to carry the film a long way unsure performances from the rest of the cast also threaten to tilt the movie into the bin, but for once, as the dialogue is put to a minimum the film succeeds inspite of the crap acting.  Even an old pro like Christopher Fairbank fails to impress, with his reading of a mad professor cum recluse way off reservation and completely wrong for this type of movie (a career low!) Otherwise Mindflesh is quite a brilliant debut and I hope to see Robert Pratten return with another ‘out-there’ idea and approach, next time perhaps with a bigger budget, better actors and a judicious script editor. This sounds like a negative review but it really isn’t. Mindflesh is a real treat for those that miss originality and a deft approach to horror. It’s not perfect but that’s why it’s so good (if that makes sense).

7 out of 10 – The maddest body horror you’re likely to see in some time.  It’s like an episode of Dr Who crossed with Videodrome with great gloopy and painful looking SFX. Here’s to more films from this director / writer!

Second review by the hairy dungeon dweller Matt “Behind-Flesh” Usher aka Joe Pesci II – see below…underneath…in the hairy recesses of this site, if you dare!!!

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Lucy Liemann: Rev (TV), Huge, Reggie Perrin (TV), Moving Wallpaper (TV)
  • Steven Burrell: Family Affairs (TV)
  • Cordelia Bugeja: The Crew
  • Christopher Fairbank: Guardians of the Galaxy, Jack The Giant Slayer, Pirates Of The Caribbean 4, Goal 3, Goal, Below, The Bunker, The Fifth Element, Alien 3, Batman (1989), Auf Wierdesen Pet! (TV)

BORSTAL BOY

3.5 out of 10

UK / Irish co-production

Release Date: 1st March 2002

Director: Peter Sheridan

Cast: Shawn Hatosy, Danny Dyer, Eve Birthistle, Lee Ingleby, Robin Laing with Ian McElhinney and Michael York

Writer: Brendan Behan / Peter Sheridan

Trailer: BORSTAL BOY

This is the one where Danny Dyer (RUN FOR YOUR WIFE) plays a homosexual sailor. Set in the 1940s this is a loose re-telling of Irish poet and activist, Brendah Behan (SHAWN HATOSY – BAD LIEUTENANT 2) time in a British borstal in the 1940s.  The DVD cover tries to tell a different story with a big picture of Mr Dyer looking all hard in modern dress smoking a cigarette. Well, Danny Dyer playing a gay man is quite a hard sell but despite the overall quality of the film, it’s still one of his best performances to date. Now we’ve got the stunt casting out of the way, lets take a look at the rest of the film.

Brendan Behan was an IRA activist who grew a love of poetry whilst held in a UK borstal for trying to smuggle explosives into the country. In the process he falls in love with two people, Danny Dyer‘s Charlie Milwall and Eva Birthistle’s (WAKE WOOD) Liz Joyce, the daughter of the warden (MICHAEL YORK – LOGAN’S RUN).  He attempts several escape attempts, writes lots, plays rugby, puts on a play just so that his mate, Danny Dyer can wear a dress and learns to love the English.  It’s all pretty inoffensive stuff. Even the borstal bad breed, Lee Ingleby (DOGHOUSE) is a cartoon cut out. Actually, Borstal Boy is so insipid and gentle it reminded me of 1970s comedies like It Ain’t Half Hot Mum or Dad’s Army.  Even the controversial nature of a homosexual affair back in the 1940s is glossed over and has the hue of a Mills and Boon story. The American Shawn Hatosy does a fine Irish accent and he puts in a good performance but there’s a way too much Irish twee and blarney on display, with whimsical pan pipes floating in over the soundtrack anytime he looks off whistfully into the distance. Danny Dyer takes an early risk by playing his only outwardly gay character and he again proves that given the right material to engage with he excels. This was filmed back in 2000, and is only being included because I bought a DVD that was published in 2010. I was watching it thinking how young Mr. Dyer looked. Haha.

All in all, Borstal Boy is nothing like the films it’s sellers / distributors are trying to offload. It’s not If, and it’s not Scum, it’s not Offender, or even Ghosted. It’s a made-for-TV strength dilly-dally in the park where nothing to raw, grim, brutal or borstal-like will ever happen. It’s all a bit fey. Good performances alone don’t get this out of trouble and it’s a shame to report that Borstal Boy could be the fluffiest jail movie ever made.

3.5 out of 10 – Inoffensive, tame and safe, Borstal Boy is only notable for a strong early performance by Danny Dyer.  I never thought I’d see a softer prison movie than The Shawshank Redemption, but here it is and it makes the said Tim Robbins flick look like Romper Stomper.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Shawn Hatosy: Bad Lieutenant 2, Public Enemies, Factory Girl, Alpha Dog, The Cooler, A Guy Thing, John Q, Down To You, Simpatico, The Faculty, The Postman, In & Out, Inventing The Abbots
  • Danny Dyer: Eastenders (TV), Assassin (2014), Vendetta, Lemon La Vida Loca (TV), Plebs (TV), Run For Your WifeDeviationFreerunner,  The Age Of Heroes,  7Lives,  Basement, Pimp, Malice In Wonderland,  Just For The RecordDead Man RunningDead CertThe Devil’s Playground, Jack SaidCity RatsDoghouse, Adulthood,  Straightheads, Outlaw (2007), Severance, The Other Half, Borstal Boy, The Business, The Football Factory, Wasp (short), Mean Machine, High Heels and Low Lifes, Goodbye Charlie Bright, Greenfingers, The Trench, Human Traffic
  • Eve Birthistle: Hinterland, Day of the FlowersWake Wood, Waking The Dead (TV), The Children, Imagine Me & You, Breakfast On Pluto, Ae Fond Kiss
  • Lee Ingleby: Best Laid Plans (2012),  Inspector George Gently (TV), Doghouse
  • Robin Laing: Band Of Brothers (TV), The Lakes (TV)
  • Ian McElhinney: Game Of Thrones (TV), Titanic (TV), Divorcing Jack, The Boxer, This Is The Sea, Hamlet (1996), The Boy From Mercury, Small Faces, The Playboys, Anne Devlin
  • Michael York: Transformers 3 (voice), Austin Powers 3, Austin Powers 2, 54, Austin Powers, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Return Of The Musketeers, Knots Landing (TV), The Island Of Dr. Moreau (1977), Logan’s Run, Murder On The Orient Express, The Four Musketeers, The Three Musketeers (1974), Cabaret, Zepellin, Romeo & Juliet (1968), The Taming Shrew (1967)

SUMMER IN FEBRUARY

Review by Joe Pesci II found below..>!

Release Date: 14th June 2013

Director: Christopher Menaul (First Night / Feast Of July)

Cast: Emily Browning, Dominic Cooper, Dan Stevens, Hattie Morahan, Shaun Dingwall, Max Deacon, Mia Austen with Michael Maloney and Nicholas Farrell

Writer: Jonathan Smith

Trailer: SUMMER IN FEBRUARY

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Emily Browning: Legend (2015), God Help The Girl, Pompeii, The Host (2013), Sleeping Beauty (2011), Sucker Punch, The Uninvited, Lemony Snicket’s- A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Darkness Falls, Ghost Ship, Blue Heelers (TV), The Man Who Sued God
  • Dominic Cooper: Warcraft, Miss You Already, The Lady In The Van, Agents of SHIELD (TV), Dracula Untold, Captain America 2, Need For Speed, Reasonable Doubt, Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Slayer, My Week With Marilyn, The Devil’s Double,  Captain America, Tamara Drewe, An Education, The Duchess, Mamma Mia!, The Escapist, The History Boys, Starter For 10
  • Dan Stevens: Beauty & The Beast (2016), Night At The Museum 3, A Walk Amongst The Tombstones, The Guest, The Fifth Estate, Downton Abbey (TV)
  • Hattie Morahan: Beauty & The Beast (2015), Mr Holmes
  • Shaun Dingwall: The Forgotten (2016)Scar Tissue, Above Suspicion 2 (TV), Above Suspicion, Hush, Someone Else, Soldier Soldier (TV)
  • Max Deacon: Take Down, The Call Up, Into The Storm, I Anna
  • Michael Maloney: Luna, The C-Word, Born of War, Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll, The Young Victoria, Notes On a Scandal, Babel, In The Bleak Midwinter, Hamlet (1996), Othello (1995), Truly Madly Deeply, Hamlet (1990), Henry V (1989)
  • Nicholas Farrell: Legend (2015), Mortdecai, Grace of Monaco,  The Iron Lady, Driving Lessons, Charlotte Gray, Beautiful People, Hamlet (1996), Twelfth Night (1996), Othello (1995), In The Bleak Midwinter, Greystoke – The Legend Of Tarzan, Chariots Of Fire