A DARK SONG

8 out of 10

UK/Eire co-production

Release date: 7th August 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: Liam Gavin

Cast: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker, Susan Loughnane and Mark Huberman

Writer: Liam Gavin

Trailer: A DARK SONG

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

A STREET CAT NAMED BOB

7.5 out of 10

Release date: 3rd November 2016

Director: Roger Spottiswoode (The 6th Day / James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies / Mesmer / And The Band Played On / Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot / Air America / Turner & Hooch / Shoot To Kill / The Best of Times / Under Fire / Terror Train)

Cast: Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head, Darren Evans, Beth Goddard, Lorraine Ashbourne, Nina Wadia, Tony Jayawardena, John Henshaw, Akbar Kurtha, Ivana Basic with Ruth Sheen and Caroline Goodall

Writer: Tim John & Maria Nation / James Bowen & Garry Jenkins

Trailer:

A_Street_Cat_Named_Bob_(film)

Solid, piece of family entertainment with a bit of an edge, this true story of a recovering drug addict, who becomes an overnight sensation because of his devoted cat, Bob, could have been yet another piss-weak TV-movie. That A Street Cat Named Bob actually has something going for it is a pleasant surprise.

This real-life aspirational story is the very modern kind that it may not have caught the nation’s imagination if it wasn’t for viral social media. James, (LUKE TREADAWAY – FORTITUDE) a Big Issue vendor and busker, gets given a second chance when his case worker Val (JOANNE FROGGATT – DOWNTON ABBEY) and finds him a flat. He is soon befriended by a stray cat, who he calls Bob. Bob is devoted to him and follows him everywhere, even when he goes busking or on his errands. Sitting atop of his shoulders. Life isn’t all rosy for James, as he’s still a few steps from finishing his methodone programme. The temptations to take heroin are all around him, not least when he lives in a very run down area, where dealers lurk on every street, and an old friend from the streets, Baz (DARREN EVANS – HUNKY DORY) shows up expecting help. His father has a new family who really hate him, and he’s an embarrassment to them all, so his support network is social services, Bob, and the most groomed crusty in the history of movies, neighbouring dog walker, Betty (RUDA GEDMINTAS – THE INCIDENT). Eventually he’s happened upon by a local journalist after becoming a YouTube sensation and this leads ot having his life story written and published in a series of books (leading to this film).

Thankfully, we’re not quite in the realms of Richard Curtis’ London but there is still a disconnect with real life with the lack of true-grit, dirt and shit of being a drug addict. It’s still a fairly cheery film that only touches base with many of the issues at its core. One character talks about The Big Issue being a gateway job, you know, like marijuana is a gateway drug. Well, if this thought-piece masquerading as light entertainment gets people staying away from drugs then all is well. As a gritty film in the style of Nil By Mouth is niche with a limited audience. And it’s probably preaching to people in the know already – a film about a man with the cat, could act as a trojan horse and actually raise awareness of very real issues to people of the right age – young adults, as well as grannies, mums and dads.

So a big well done to the makers, and of course to the real life James and Bob for giving the ‘disinterested’ something a bit spiky to chew on.  Luke Treadaway is superb and well-cast. He doesn’t take the easy route and go for cute, he is convincing in every way and it’s a big deal that he wins hearts and minds whilst being upstaged by a cheeky cat. Predictable but never smug, this is the kind of commercial film the British Film Industry should get behind and produce a few more of. True life stories that genuinely inspire.

7.5 out of 10 – A trojan horse of a movie, that smuggles some difficult facts and plot lines into a fcute animal film for families. One of the best mainstream British movies for years.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

 

ANOTHER MOTHER’S SON

3 out of 10

Release date: 24th March 2017

Director: Christopher Menaul (Summer In February / First Night / Feast of July)

cast: Jenny Seagrove, Julian Kostov, John Hannah, Ronan Keating, Amanda Abbington, Felicite Du Jeu, Susan Hampshire, Brenock O’Connor, Joanna David, Gwen Taylor, Izzy Meikle-Small, Andy Gathergood, Sophie Skelton with Peter Wight and Nicholas Farrell

Writer: Jenny Lecoat

Trailer: ANOTHER MOTHER’S SON

hqdefault

This Bill Kenwright production of the story of one of WW2’s many unsung heroes, Louisa Gould pays perfunctory lip-service to her. This brave woman and a network of trusted friends and family risked their lives and freedom to give shelter to an escaped Russian POW in occupied Jersey, Channel Islands.  The CI was the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by the Germans in the WW2, and was used as a POW camp in part. Russian workgangs were common place and escapes regular.

Louisa Gould (JENNY SEAGROVE – THE GUARDIAN) takes in escapee Fyodor (who she called Bill)(JULIAN KOSTOV – LEATHERFACE) and her network of friends help to hide him from detection for abotu 2 years from the Germans. It’s a shame then that this tale doesn’t get a film to match the material. What we get is an episode of The Royal or Heartbeat with extra Germans. Every line is a tired cliche, every character a cipher, and it doesn’t land a single punch until the very final shot. It’s cosy Sunday afternoon programming for people who like their films undemanding, even the ones with a harrowing subject matter.  This plays to the lowest common denominator and as a story is predictable, sentimental and as hackneyed as they come. Even the performances are largely broad from an over experienced cast. It’s interesting to see veteran, beauty Jenny Seagrove in a rare film lead, and singer Ronan Keating (POSTMAN PAT). The former struggles to inject, but still suceeds in delivering a good, solid performance, yet the script does her no favours and she’s left to look like a phoney actor. Ronan Keating similarly embodies a cardboard cut-out of a role, but he’s purely there as a stunt-casting anomaly. He fails at blending in, and struggles with an accent that’s all over the map.

The production values are good, and the period well-evoked, so it scores some kudos from Britpic Posse for looking the part, its a shame it runs like a lazy made-for-TV special. With a bit more grit, a better script and more naturalistic acting styles this is a sotry worth the telling. Maybe, it will get revisited one day – because Louisa Gould deserved a more fitting memorial than this film.

3 out of 10 – This true story of extraordinary bravery needed a better film than this over-simplified, watered down drama.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE

A THOUSAND KISSES DEEP

3 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release date: 15th June 2012 (DVD premiere)

Director: Dana Lustig

Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Dougray Scott, Emilia Fox, David Warner, Eloise Barnes, Charlotte Lucas, Julian Rivett, Stuart Martin, with Allan Corduner and Jonathan Slinger

Writer: Alex Kustanovich & Vadim Moldovan

Trailer:

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Jodie Whittaker: Dr Who (TV), Journeyman, Adult Life Skills, Broadchurch (TV), Get Santa, Hello Carter, Black Sea, Ashes, Spike IslandGood Vibrations, Attack The Block, One Day, The Kid (2010), St. Trinians, Venus
  • Dougray Scott: London Town, The Rezort, Snatch (TV), Fear The Walking Dead (TV), Taken 3, Tiger House, The Last Passenger, Dr Who (TV), Death Race 3, My Week With Marilyn, Love’s Kitchen, United, New Town Killers, Hitman, Desperate Housewives
  • Emilia Fox: Mum’s List, The Carer, Silent Witness (TV), Trap For Cinderella, Suspension of Disbelief, Merlin (TV), Dorian Gray, Flashbacks of a Fool, Cashback, Keeping Mum, Life and Death of Peter Sellers, The Pianist, Randall & Hopkirk Deceased (TV), Pride and Prejudice (TV)
  • David Warner: Mary Poppins Returns, Ripper Street (TV), Wallander (TV), Penny Dreadful, Black Death, Dr Who (TV), The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, Ladies In Lavender, Planet Of The Apes (2001), Scream 2, Titanic, Money Talks, The Leading Man, In The Mouth Of Madness, Star Trek 6 – The Undiscovered Country, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Twin Peaks (TV), Star Trek 5 – The Final Frontier, Tron, The Omen (1976), Time Bandits, Little Malcolm, Straw Dogs (1971)
  • Charlotte Lucas: Broadchurch (TV), Bad Girls (TV), Eastenders (TV)
  • Julian Rivett: Outpost
  • Stuart Martin: Jamestown (TV), Slow West, Babylon (TV)
  • Allan Corduner: Florence Foster Jenkins, Homeland (TV), Woman In Gold, The Sweeney, Burke and Hare, We’ll Take Manhattan, The Waiting Room, Defiance, Me Without You, The Imposters, Topsy Turvy
  • Jonathan Slinger: Bait (2015), Still

ANTI-MATTER

7 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release date: 10th July 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: Keir Burrows

Cast: Yaiza Figueroa, Tom Duffy-Barber, Philippa Carson, Noah Maxwell-Clarke, James Farrar and Yolanda Vazquez

Writer: Keir Burrows

Trailer: ANTI-MATTER

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THIS ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Noah Maxwell-Clarke: Eastenders (TV), Top Boy (TV)
  • James Farrar: Hollyoaks (TV)
  • Yolanda Vasquez: The Children of Men, Peak Practice (TV), The Air Up There, One By One (TV)

A FIELD IN ENGLAND

10 out of 10

Release Date: 7th July 2013

Director: Ben Wheatley (Freak Shift / Free Fire / High-Rise / Sightseers / Kill List / Down Terrace)

Cast: Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley, Peter Ferdinando, Ryan Pope, Richard Glover and Julian Barratt

Writer: Amy Jump

Trailer: A Field In England

field_in_england_xlg.jpg

Ben Wheatley‘s fourth feature film is heavy.  After the relatively light Sightseers, I’m pleased to report that this is both Wheatley’s best so far and the best British film of 2013 (so far).  Set during the English Civil War, three deserters; one a scholar, Whitesmith (REECE SHEARSMITH – LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN), the other two, soldiers Friend and Jacob (RICHARD GLOVER – SIGHTSEERS and PETER FERDINANDO – TURNOUT) are led to a field by a mysterious wanderer, Cutler (RYAN POPE – LOOKING FOR ERIC).  Bribed with visions of a nearby ale house and plied with wild (magic) mushroom soup they soon find themselves trapped within a fairy ring by a deadly alchemist, O’Neil (MICHAEL SMILEY – KILL LIST) who happens to be  searching for buried treasure.

That’s how much I think I know. This is because so much is offered but nothing is confirmed. Much like the dim soldiers we are taken in by the intially light jovial tone of the story.  Even a thwarted rescue attempt (to free someone from the fairy ring with a rope) is played for disorientating laughs.  It’s only around the halfway mark when the tone turns black and the comedy upsetting you find that there’s no way out.  A disturbing (off-screen) torture scene results in one of the most haunting visual depictions of posession (or is it?) that I’ve ever seen.  For the first time since Down Terrace, Wheatley has chosen to use music to bolster the scenes emotions.  At times reminiscent of Michael Nyman‘s score for The Draughtsman’s Contract, there are also sections of powerful ambience (one of which enhances said possession) and a folk ditty of the time which recurs at distant intervals.

The scenes are often punctuated with unusual tableaux and frequent ‘fade to blacks’.  The use of black and white also serves to unease. It takes perhaps an instant longer to decipher the frame in chrome. The acting is excellent all round. Reece Shearsmith takes the honours for most accomplished lead by a comic actor in a long, long time.  He’s amply backed up by the rest of the cast, namely Richard Glover‘s tragic Friend, who easily could have have come across as cheap comic relief. SPOILER: His death speech is one of the finest since Rutger Hauer’s at the end of Bladerunner. Seriously. But what of the plot? Well, an understanding of the negrado stage (despair) of the four stages of alchemy would be a good place to start although it does mix mythology with completely unheard of / original elements.  An ill planet maybe about to collide with the earth, a man pukes up a collection of gold runes, a poltis for an angry man’s ballbag gives him sense and grace, all these occur and serve to baffle and confuse. The overall effect is one of awe though. You’ll never see another film like it and besides some superficial comparisons to Winstanley, The Wicker Man and Jabberwocky, you’ll never have seen anything quite like it before, either.

10 out of 10 – A truly original whirl of invention and horror that will stay on your mind for days and haunt your dreams.  You can probably tell from the length of this review that it defies written description, and isn’t that proof enough, that if it can shut an amateur film critic like me up, it’s got to be fucking awesome. (Awesome in the true sense, not California Man sense).

Brilliant and learned review from Joe Pesci II aka Matt Mushroom

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

ABDUCT

0.5 out of 10

Release date: 1st May 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: Ilyas Kaduji (Anamorphosis)

Cast: Mark Arnold, Mhairi Calvey, William B Davis, Petra Bryant, Andrei Claude,  Franco Flammia, Buffy Davis and Art Bell with Jack O’Halloran and Sienna Guillory

Writer: Philip Daay & Ilya Kaduji

Trailer: ABDUCT

MV5BNzAzNjkyMDAwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTEzNDc0ODE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

Quite easily one of the most amateurish, worst and unfinished cheapos I’ve ever seen. This gives king of z-grade trash movies, Steve M Smith a run for his money and lessons in how to make absolutely terrible sci-fis. How the filmmakers (I use that word tentatively) rounded up this number of professional actors and Petra Bryant (THE LAST SCOUT) is a true mystery.  This barely coherent leaking bag of toxic and runny dog shit involves a girl (MHAIRI CALVEY) who has been on the run from aliens and the government all her life? She stumbles into the lives of conspiracy theorist and radio station shock jock, Ridley (MARK ARNOLD – TRANCERS 4) and his farm landlord (WILLIAM B DAVIS – THE X-FILES). They come under siege when the aliens led by Superman veteran Jack O’Halloran as a Man in Black called Alistair turns up and doesn’t do a lot. He does try to lure her out of the kitchen with a funny voice though… Hmmm. Sienna Guillory (DON’T HANG UP) shows up in a weird cameo as if she’s playing dress up in her child’s panto. Everybody is just awful, the fake American accents are some of the worst you’ll ever hear and the special effects are z-grade. You’ll never have seen CGI this soupy in the history of cinema, even if you go back to the 1970s… Ed Wood jr has competition for Plan 9 From Outer Space. There’s nothing to recommend here, even the actors look embarrassed to be caught on film. Witness William B Davis’ in-joke about X-Files and cringe. Witness Petra Bryant succumbing to Russian brain reprogramming ala the Manchurian Candidate. Witness people get shot and recover instantly (and they aren’t the aliens – just victims of bad storytelling). This gives Invasion Earth by Steven M Smith a really good rival in a race to bottom of worst low-budget horror films ever made.

0.5 out of 10 – Avoid at all costs. The cast may draw you in with curiosity but for the most part it’s littered with ludicrous cameos, badly directed scenes, non-acting, over-acting, nonsensical plots. Alien’s really are here. They made this film.

A further review (this one humorous) by Matt ‘U F Off’ Usher below…

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Mark Arnold: Anamorphosis, Trancers 5, Trancers 4, Threesome, Teen Wolf, The Edge of Night (TV)
  • William B Davis: The X-Files (TV), The Tall Man, Passengers (2008), Smallville (TV), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The X Files Movie, Unforgettable (1996), Beyond The Stars
  • Petra Bryant: Nightmare on 34th Street,  The Last Scout, The Disappearance of Lenka Wood, Meet The Firm – White Collar Hooligan 3
  • Buffy Davis: The Night Manager (TV), The Archers (radio), Doc Martin (TV), Until Death, The Machinist
  • Jack O’Halloran: The Flintstones, Dragnet, Superman II, Superman, King Kong (1976)
  • Sienna Guillory: Don’t Hang Up, Fortitude (TV), Lucky Man (TV), High-RiseThe Goob, Luther (TV), Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 4, Inkheart, Eragon, Resident Evil 3, Love Actually, The Principles of Lust, The Time Machine (2002), Late Night Shopping, Sorted