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

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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?

PAPADOPOULOS & SONS

3.5 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release date: 5th April 2013

Director: Marcus Markou

Cast: Stephen Dillane, Georges Corraface, Cosima Shaw, Georgia Groome, Frank Dillane, Thomas Underhill, Selina Cadell, Jimmy Roussounis, George Savvides, Cesare Taurasi, Carl Rice and Ed Stoppard

Writer: Marcus Markou

Trailer: PAPADOPOULOS & SONS

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Stephen Dillane: Mary Shelley, Game of Thrones (TV), Zero Dark Thirty, Twenty8K, Perfect Sense, 44 Inch Chest, Goal II, Goal, King Arthur (2004), The Hours, The Truth About Charlie, Spy Game, The Parole Officer, The Darkest Light, Hamlet (1990)
  • Georges Corraface: Escape From LA, Christopher Columbus, Impromptu, Not Without My Daughter
  • Cosima Shaw: The von Trapp Family, Mars (TV), Narcopolis, Piccadilly Jim
  • Georgia Groome: Taking Stock, The Holding, The Disappeared, Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, London To Brighton
  • Frank Dillane: Fear The Walking Dead (TV), In the Heart of the Sea, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Welcome To Sarajevo
  • Thomas Underhill: Mother’s Milk
  • Selina Cadell: Doc Martin (TV), Hereafter, Wild Child, Confetti, Match Point, Mrs Dalloway, Surgical Spirit (TV), The Madness of King George III, Prick Up Your Ears
  • Jimmy Roussounis: Essex Vendetta
  • George Savvides: The Honorable Rebel, The Fool
  • Cesare Taurasi: The Infiltrator, The Borgias (TV)
  • Carl Rice: Trollied (TV), Coronation Street (TV)
  • Ed Stoppard: Genesis, Cryptic, Youth (2015), Blackwood, Cilla (TV), Upstairs Downstairs (TV), Nanny McPhee 2, Joy Division, Bridehead Revisited (2008), The Pianist, The Little Vampire

SAVING SANTA

3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 29th November 2013

Director: Leon Joosen & Aaron Seelman

Voice Cast: Martin Freeman, Ashley Tisdale, Tim Curry, Pam Ferris, Noel Clarke, Tim Conway, Mark Ivanir and Joan Collins

Writer: Ricky Roxburgh

Trailer: SAVING SANTA

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Saving Santa is a pale remake of another UK seasonal animation feature Arthur Christmas. A sort of British Bollywood equivalent brimming with stolen ideas and an absence of cute or charm, it’s a bit of sad stocking filler rather than a main event. Martin Freeman (THE OFFICE) exposes a  lack of care when it comes to Christmas by starring in any old shit (see also Nativity!)

See below review by one of Santa’s ex-employee’s Matt Usher for plot details – because I fell asleep watching this one too. But Saving Santa generally follows the story of one of the North Pole’s biggest underachievers, Bernard D Elf (voiced by Martin Freeman) who instead of clearing up reindeer sh*t wants to be an inventor. Except all his inventions are rubbish except for the one that’s about to save Santa’s (TIM CONWAY) bacon when Tim Curry (CONGO) and Joan Collins’ (THE STUD) evil corporation send in soldiers to invade and try to privatise the whole Christmas distribution business. With the help of Ashley Tisdale’s (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3) action elf and romantic foil Shiny, his time-travelling bauble could save Christmas for everybody and put him in favour with the meaner, older elves. Still leaves the question, who will sweep up all the poo?

It’s a tough gig being horrible to children’s films and it’s without pleasure that I have to report that this is a non-event, that runs through the motions much like it’s voice lead. It’s dull where it should shine and unfunny where it should be hilarious. It’s a wonder whether there are any parents out there that took their kids to see this on it’s limited cinema run or whether it’s had a second life either on DVD. Any way you turn it, it fails to ignite a sense of wonder about christmas. Which is a great shame. Any cartoon / animation that once included the mighty Craig Fairbrass (ST. GEORGE’S DAY) and Terry Stone (AWAY) as voice artist had to be good but alas they got dubbed over by other people… What’s a mock-gangster to do?

3.5 out of 10 – An unwelcome winter guest. Not the worst christmas film I’ve seen but certainly nowhere near the best. Sad really as I loved this kind of thing once upon a time but I’d probably fell asleep during this one as a kid.

Review by Matt ‘bah humbug’ Usher below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Martin Freeman: Fun House, Captain America 3, Fargo (TV), Sherlock (TV), The Hobbit – There and Back Again, The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, SvengaliThe World’s End, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, The Pirates In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), What’s Your Number?, Swinging With The Finkels,  The Good Night, Wild Target (2010), Nativity!, Nightwatching, Breaking and Entering,  Hot Fuzz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2006), Love Actually, Confetti, The Low Down, Ali G In Da House, The Office (TV)
  • Ashley Tisdale: Sabrina – The Teenage Witch (TV), Phineas and Herbs (TV), Scary Movie 5, High School Musical 3, High School Musical 2
  • Tim Curry: Burke and Hare, Garfield 2 (voice), Valiant (voice), Kinsey, Scary Movie 2, Rugrats In Paris (voice), Charlie’s Angels Film, Sorted, The Rugrats Movie (voice), Muppet Treasure Island, Congo, The Shadow, The Three Musketeers (1993), National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, Home Alone 2, It, Oscar, The Hunt For Red October, Clue, Legend, Blue Money, The Ploughman’s Lunch, Annie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Pam Ferris: Call The Midwife (TV), Nativity 2, The Raven, Luther (TV),  Malice In Wonderland,  Telstar, Nativity!, Children Of Men, Rosemary & Thyme (TV), Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkhaban, Death To Smoochy, Matilda, The Darling Buds of May (TV), Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Meantime
  • Noel Clarke: Brotherhood, The Habit of Beauty, The Anomaly, I Am Soldier,  Star Trek 2 (2013), The KnotStorage 24Fast GirlsHuge,  Screwed (2011)Heartless4-3-2-1,  CenturionSex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll  Doghouse, Adulthood, Kidulthood, Dr Who (TV), Auf Wierdesen Pet (TV)
  • Mark Ivanir: A Late Quartet, 360, Johnny English 2, Undisputed 3, Holy Rollers, The Good Shepherd, Undisputed 2, Schindler’s List
  • Joan Collins: Absolutley Fabulous Movie, Molly Moon, Footballers Wives (TV), The Flintstones 2, The Clandestine Marriage, A Midwinter’s Tale, Decadence, Dynasty (TV), The Bitch, Sunburn, The Stud, The Big Sleep (1978), The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones, Alfie 2, Football Crazy

THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE

3 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 13th December 2013

Director: John Stephenson (Five Children and It)

Cast: Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Sylvester McCoy, Lesley Manville, Barbara Flynn, Susan Boyle, Sam Crane, Victoria Bewick with John Hannah and James Cosmo

Writer: Candace Lee / Max Lucado

Trailer: THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Hans Matheson: 300 – Part 2, Clash of the Titans (2010), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Half Light, Deathwatch, Still Crazy, Mojo, Stella Does Tricks
  • Samantha Barks: Dracula Untold, Les Miserables (2013)
  • Sylvester McCoy: The Hobbit – Battle of the Five Armies, The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, Doctor Who – Day of the Doctor, Highway To Hell (2012), The Devil Rides Out, Dr Who (TV), Jigsaw (TV)
  • Lesley Manville: Mr Turner, Maleficent, Ashes, Romeo and Juliet (2013), Spike IslandCloneAnother Year,  All Or Nothing, Vera Drake, Topsy Turvy, Secrets and Lies,High Hopes, Sammy & Rosie Get Laid
  • Barbara Flynn: Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, Miss Potter, The Forsyte Saga (TV), You’re Dead, Cracker (TV), The Beiderbecke Tapes (TV)
  • Susan Boyle: Britain’s Got Talent (TV)
  • Victoria Bewick: Hummingbird
  • John Hannah: Genesis, Bone In the Throat, Shooting For Socrates, Angel (2015), The Wee Man, The Mummy 3, Before You Go, Rebus (TV), The Mummy 2, Circus, The Hurricane, McCallum (TV), Resurrection Man, Sliding Doors, The Mummy, The James Gang, The Innocent Sleep, Madagascar Skin, Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • James Cosmo: Eliminators, Whiskey Galore (2016), London Heist, Breakdown (2015), Tomorrow (2015), The Legend of Barney Thompson, We Still Kill The Old Way, Citadel, Hammer Of The Gods, Get Lucky, Game Of Thrones (TV), Outcast, Half Light, The Chronicles Of Narnia – The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, Troy, The Four Feathers (2002), Once Upon a Time In The Midlands, The Match, Babe 2 (voice), Emma (1996), Trainspotting, Braveheart, Stormy Monday, Highlander

BREAKFAST WITH JONNY WILKINSON

4 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 22nd November 2013

Director: Simon Sprackling (Funnyman)

Cast: George Mackay, Norman Pace, Nigel Lindsay, Beth Cordingly, Gina Varela, Chris England and Michael Beckley

Writer: Chris England

Trailer: BREAKFAST WITH JONNY WILKINSON

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

AUSTENLAND

3.5 out of 10

UK/USA Co-Production

Release Date: 27th September 2013

Director: Jerusha Hess

Cast: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, Georgia King, Ricky Whittle, Rupert Vansittart with James Callis and Jane Seymour

Writer: Jerusha Hess

Trailer: AUSTENLAND

REVIEW COMING SOON

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Keri Russell: Dawn of the Planet of The Apes, Dark Skies, Extraordinary Measures, Bedtime Stories, August Rush, Waitress, Mission Impossible 3, We Were Soldiers, Mad About Mambo, Dead Man’s Curve, Honey I Blew Up The Kids 2
  • JJ Feild: Not Safe For Work, Captain America,  Third StarCenturion, Telstar, Goal 3, Blood – The Last Vampire
  • Bret McKenzie: The Hobbit- The Battle of the Five Armies, The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey, Diagnosis Death, Flight of the Conchords, Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King
  • Jennifer Coolidge: Alexander and the Terrible…., American Pie 4, Gentlemen Broncos, Soul Men, Epic Movie, For Your Consideration, Click, American Dreamz, Date Movie, Robots (voice), American Pie 3, Legally Blonde 2, A Mighty Wind, Zoolander, American Pie 2, Pootie Tang, Legally Blonde, Down To Earth, American Pie, Best In Show, A Night At The Roxbury
  • Georgia King: Kill Your Friends, Cockneys Vs. Zombies, One Day, Chalet Girl, St Trinians 2, Tormented
  • Ricky Whittle: Hollyoaks (TV)
  • Rupert Vanisttart: Foyle’s War (TV),  Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Remains of the Day
  • James Callis: Narcopolis, Believe, Reuniting The Rubins, Battlestar Galactica 2 (TV), Bridget Jones 2, Bridget Jones, Soldier Soldier (TV)
  • Jane Seymour: Wedding Crashers, Smallville (TV), Dr Quinn- Medicine Woman (TV), Somewhere In Time, Battlestar Galactica (TV), Battlestar Galactica, Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger, James Bond – Live and Let Die, Young Winston

CLOSED CIRCUIT

3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 25th October 2013

Director: John Crowley (Is Anybody There? / Boy A / Intermission)

Cast: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciaran Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Denis Moschitto with Julia Stiles and Jim Broadbent

Writer: Steven Knight

Trailer: CLOSED CIRCUIT

REVIEW COMING SOON

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Eric Bana: Knights of The Roundtable – King Arthur, Deliver Us From Evil, Lone Survivor, Dead Fall, Hanna, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Funny People, Star Trek (2009), The Other Boleyn Girl, Romulus My Father, Lucky You, Munich, Troy, The Hulk, Finding Nemo (voice), The Nugget, Black Hawk Down, Chopper, Full Frontal (TV), The Castle
  • Rebecca Hall: The Gift (2015), Transcendence, Iron Man 3, Parade’s End (TV), Lay The Favourite, The Awakening, Everything Must Go, Please Give, The Town, Dorian Gray, Frost/Nixon, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Prestige, Starter For 10
  • Ciaran Hinds: Hitman – Agent 47 (2015), The Sea, Game Of Thrones (TV), Frozen (voice), John Carter, Ghost Rider 2, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows- part 2, The Woman In Black,  The Rite, The Debt, Race To Witch Mountain (2009), Stop-Loss, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, In Bruges, There Will Be Blood, Margot At The Wedding, Hallam Foe, Rome (TV), Miami Vice, Munich, The Phantom Of The Opera, Calendar Girls, Tomb Raider 2, Veronica Guerin, Road To Perdition, The Sum Of All Fears, The Lost Son, Titanic Town, Oscar and Lucinda, Some Mother’s Son, Mary Reilly, Persuasion, Circle Of Friends, The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover
  • Riz Ahmed: Star Wars – Rogue One, Blackbird, Nightcrawler,  The Reluctant FundamentalistIll Manors, Trishna, Black Gold, CenturionFour Lions, Shifty, The Road To Guantanemo
  • Anne-Marie Duff: Molly Moon, Suffragette, Before I Go To SleepNowhere BoyShameless (TV), The Waiting Room, Is Anybody There?, Notes On a Scandal, Enigma,The Magdalene Sisters
  • Kenneth Cranham: Maleficent, The Legend of Hercules, Flying Blind,  Made In Dagenham, Valkyrie, Hot Fuzz, A Good Year, Rome (TV), The Ballad Of Mangal Pandey, Layer Cake, Trauma, Blackball, Shiner, The Most Fertile Man In Ireland, Born Romantic, Gangster No.1, Kevin & Perry Go Large, The Boxer, Bed Of Roses, Tale Of a Vampire, Under Suspicion, Prospero’s Books, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Hellraiser 2, Shine On Harvey Moon (TV), Reilly: Ace of Spies (TV), Oliver!
  • Julia Stiles: Silver Linings Playbook, Girl Most Likely To, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Omen (2006), The Bourne Supremacy, Mona Lisa Smile, The Bourne Identity, O, The Business of Strangers, Save The Last Dance, State and Main, Hamlet (2000), Down To You, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Devil’s Own
  • Jim Broadbent: War & Peace (TV), The Lady In The Van, Brooklyn, Big Game, Get Santa, Paddington, Postman Pat (voice), The Harry Hill Movie,  Le Week-EndFilth, Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady, Arthur Christmas (voice), Another Year, Harry Potter- part 8, Harry Potter- part 6, The Damned United, Young Victoria, Inkheart, Indiana Jones 4, Hot Fuzz, Chronicles Of Narnia- The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridget Jones 2, Vera Drake, Vanity Fair, Bright Young Things, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Gangs Of New York, Iris, Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones, Little Voice, Topsy Turvy, The Avengers, The Borrowers, Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, The Secret Agent, Rough Magic, Richard III (1995), Princess Caraboo, Bullets Over Broadway, Widow’s Peak, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Life Is Sweet, Erik The Viking, Vroom, Brazil