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?

FREE FIRE

8 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release date: 31st March 2017

Director: Ben Wheatley (Freakshift / High-Rise / A Field In England / Sightseers / Kill List/ Down Terrace)

Cast: Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Mark Monero with Tom Davis and Patrick Bergin

Writer: Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump

Trailer: FREE FIRE

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

FOOTSOLDIER aka SURVIVAL INSTINCT

1 out of 10

Release Date: 13th June 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Steve Lawson (Hellriser / Essex Heist / The Haunting of Annie Dyer Killer/Saurus / The Silencer)

Cast: Helen Crevel, Anthony Coughlan, Jay Sutherland, Sam Smith with Isabella Nash and Glenn Salvage (voice)

Writer: Steve Lawson

Trailer: FOOTSOLDIER

Footsoldier-Poster-150x200

Oh lord. This is a disaster in every respect. The hardworking but underpowered director Steve Lawson delivers another cheapo for about the same price you’d spend on a can of baked beans. Footsoldier suffers from terrible acting, a very bad script and a very daft plot.

Hunter and ex jailbird, Weaver (ANTHONY COUGHLAN) takes his young son, Rex (SAM SMITH) on a rites of passage trip to the woods to hunt deer. The father tells the son a very basic version of how tribes would send their young out on a solo hunt. After refusing to shoot a doe ‘like the song, son!’, Rex accidentally shoots Helen Crevel’s (Killer/Saurus) potential boyfriend, who happen to have broken down nearby.  Weaver doesn’t want to go to jail so he goes about trying to kill the survivor too.

Moving at the speed of slugs up a ladder, Footsoldier is doomed to bore not thrill. Actions are telegraphed. ‘Hunters track their prey’s scent you know.’… Next minute Weaver is sniffing the air really loudly, as our heroine is spraying the trees with her perfume. Every line is delivered with a sigh and a clunk. Nobody speaks like Steve Lawson‘s characters, not even in films. The cat and mouse template only makes you think ‘come on! just do somthing.’ but the characters just plod along stringing us along, but this film will only fool the most stupid amongst us as it has no brevity, no lightness of touch or wit. It make be technically sound in that its shots seem to have been set up with some thought but the acting is atrocious all around, even Glenn Salvage (he of the ponytail and cool action flick The Silencer) drops a clanger in a dopey voice only cringe-clanger. You will have seen better acting in a primary school nativity play and that’s being kind. Both the leads would easily be outclassed.

Dreadful in every manner. Director Steve Lawson seems to be sliding backwards. Next up is micro-horror The Haunting of Danny Dyer! Sounds great.

1 out of 10Footsoldier is about as thrilling as comparing brands of tampons with a feminist, underwater. This makes his debut The Silencer look like a Kubrick-made masterpiece.

Second review below by Matt Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

THE FORGOTTEN (2016)

9 out of 10

Release Date: 2nd May 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Oliver Frampton

Cast: Shaun Dingwall, Clem Tibber, Elarica Johnson, James Doherty, Jennifer Matter, Paul Marlon and Lyndsey Marshal

Writer: Oliver Frampton & Ian Hall

Trailer:THE FORGOTTEN (2016)

prt_320x212_1408891507

Here’s a potent chiller of the kind that comes along all too rarely. The Forgotten (2016) is a brilliant twist on the ‘things that go bump in the night’ breed of haunted house movie. This excels at building an atmosphere of unease and fear, and thankfully it maintains the fright level right up until it’s ending, which left me distraught.

The less said about the plot the better, and even watching the trailer will reveal some juicy bits. So if like me you went in cold, The Forgotten could become your favourite supernatural film of the decade. Yes, it has that much power.

Tommy (CLEM TIBBER – CHROMOPHOBIA) and his father Mark (SHAUN DINGWALL – HUSH) squat in a derelict high rise flat on a London estate due for demolition. All the flats are boarded up to stop squatters breaking in. So what’s making that ungodly racket in the next flat in the dead of night. What does it all mean?

That’s all I’m giving you, but what I can say is that the film is a success largely due to an excellent young cast – Elrica Johnson (AFTERDEATH) as Tommy’s friend Carmen is particularly good. The location and score are ‘a-class’ as well.

It’s almost perfect but the one element that discounts it is one I can’t discuss without revealing a rather large plot point. All the same watch this, pass it on to your friends and tell them that this is the very best in lower-budget UK cinema at the moment. Something this good at this level comes along once in a blue moon.

9 out of 10 – I urge you to see this sad supernatural drama, boosted by amazing performances from the young leads. Seek it out, before it finds you…

Another review below by Matt ‘The Forgetful’ Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

FALL OF THE KRAYS

3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 28th March 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Zachary Adler (Rise of the Footsoldier 3 / Rise of the Krays)

Cast: Simon Cotton, Kevin Leslie, Phil Dunster, Alexa Morden, Nicola Taggart, James Weber Brown, Dan Parr,  James Hepburn, Rocky Abrahms, Ian Keir Attard, Michael Instone with Josh Myers and Danny Midwinter

Writer: Sebastian Brown & Ken Brown

Trailer: Fall of the Krays

n1vUMeBsRKMVV2JfPmLxywzELrV

So here we are again, the second half of the cash-in to Tom Hardy‘s towering Legend. Combined this film and the first one, Rise of the Krays, fail to deliver in three hours what Legend did in five minutes of it’s 2 hour running time.  Sadly, the cartoon acting is back and the slim and under-researched script are too. There’s little to add to the first review except the only reason a non-reviewer would come back for more would to be to see how they tackle the big events like the death Jack The Hat, Cornell and Frances’ sad suicide. The latter is handled with the same amount of tact you’d expect in a Will Ferrell remake. We’re in foul-mouthed TV movie land and the soapyness of the approach does little to distinguish the director, actor or writers. Zero attention has been paid to period authenticity or even fact.

Simon Cotton seems less bonkers in part 2 but then the world around him seems to match him at last. But he’s still not Reggie Kray. He’d be fine as fictional bad guy but he’s all wrong here. Kevin Leslie as Ronnie, steps out of his shadow here, and thin script aside, he shows that he’d be a competent actor in a TV show. He’s the better of the two actors but he doesn’t look the part either. Danny Midwinter (INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN), Phil Dunster and Alexa Morden all return to provide solid supporting turns but it’s very slim pickings and all the more-so when you compare this watered down paste of a gangster epic. Josh Myers (ANTI-SOCIAL) pops up as Mad Frankie Fraser for a minute so he’s something to look forward to.

On the whole, this is an also-ran.  Pale, unscary, uninformative, historically oblivous to fact, marginally less-crap the first one.

3.5 out of 10 – Few bright spots. Goodfellas this isn’t. Looking forward to the Chuckle Brothers version, ‘From Me To You: An East End Reverie’.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

FATED

1.5 out of 10

Release Date: 26th December 2010 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Nicola Scott

Cast: Michael Angelis, Katrine De Candole, Brendan Mackey, Craig Charles, Lee Boardman, Kelvin, Lady Sian, Keddy Sutton, Nicola Scott and Kate Robbins

Writer: Nicola Scott

Trailer: FATED

MV5BMTg1MzgyNzEwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTA0MDA0NA@@._V1_CR0,25,266,150_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_

Fated? Farted more like. This whiffy piece of whimsy tries in vain to sprinkle some fairy dust onto the city of Liverpool but ends up being an embarrasment to it’s generous stars. Those who miss the likes of Alan Bleasdale or Willy Russell have much to cry about when they are reminded of how good they were when certain ‘characters’ show up during the course of the film. Those writers of yore are long gone and this film confirms that the search is still on for someone to take over said writer’s thrones.

One new years eve, 13 years earlier, an arts professor called Tatty’s (MICHAEL ANGELIS – THE LIVER BIRDS) girlfriend, Amy (KATRINE DE CANDOLE – LOVE’S KITCHEN) breaks up with him and promptly gets killed in oncoming traffic.  He sculpts a statue in her likeness and places it in the derelict church at the top of Bold Street. By the present day he’s become a tramp as his vigil of the statue takes up all his time. One magical new years eve, Katrine comes back to life. To gain immortality she must kiss the first person she lays eyes upon. Unfortunately for Tatty, she spots a young bouncer (BRENDAN MACKEY – TOUCHING THE VOID) hiding out in the church after accidentally burning his brother’s (LEE BOARDMAN – ROME) nightclub down. She only has until dawn to make this happen, so Tatty helps her search for the missing bouncer in the magical and dangerous night. Amongst the ‘crazy’ characters they encounter are a DJ with a love for life called Pedro (CRAIG CHARLES – RED DWARF) and a pair of drag queens (LADY SIAN and KELVIN) who steal what’s worth having in this muddled film.

The appeal is limited to fans of Liverpudlian cinema, which seems to exist in a universe of it’s own, with it’s own stars and approaches to humour. The result is a mash of styles but the script and lack of firm plot beyond the initial primer is too much to bear. Michael Angelis’ lead Tatty is a joke. He’s just awful in a badly written role as a grief stricken tramp in a Jennifer Aniston wig. He looks like he stole it from the cast of Rise of The Foot Soldier (Terry Stone would not be happy!) We’re supposed to find a thinly written waif, Amy, bewitching as she tries to kiss the dopey, bouncer who seems to forget about the fire about 30 mins in (as does the filmmaker).  He tries to impress her with stories of his derring do on the doors of nightclubs by listing the weapons he’s seen and how he tackles difficult punters. It’s not cute, just weird. Craig Charles has fun in a confusing supporting role that kind of acts like the Cheshire Cat in Alice In Wonderland. But he can’t rescue this baggy, undercooked under-wonder.

1.5 out of 10 – A ghost of what we used to expect from a Liverpool based comedy. Remember films like No Surrender or Dancin’ Thru’ The Dark and weap. A soppy, sloppy, dreary, boring and sad attempt to rekindle that flame. And I’m from Liverpool, so I’m qualifed to say this even more.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Michael Angelis: Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends (voice)(TV), The Virgin of Liverpool, Auf Wierdesen Pet (TV), Playing The Field (TV), The Liver Birds (TV), GBH (TV), No Surrender, Boys From The Black Stuff (TV), World’s End (TV), Yellow Submarine (voice)
  • Katrine De Candole: Love’s Kitchen
  • Brendan Mackey: Paintball, Touching The Void
  • Craig Charles: Red Dwarf (TV), Coronation Street (TV), I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (TV), Doctors (TV), Robot Wars (TV), Business As Usual
  • Lee Boardman: The Interceptor (TV), DaVinci’s Demons (TV), Love’s Kitchen, Rome (TV)
  • Kate Robbins: Sex Lives of the Potato Men, Spitting Image (voice) (TV), The Kate Robbins Show (TV), The Kate and Ted Show (TV)

FIRST NIGHT

5 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release Date: 14th October 2011 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Christopher Menaul (Another Mother’s Son / Summer In February / Feast of July)

Cast: Richard E Grant, Sarah Brightman, Mia Maestro, Julian Ovenden, Oliver Dimsdale, Emma Williams, Susannah Fielding, Tessa Peake-Jones, Jack Walker, Laura Power, Hugh Ross with Nigel Lindsay and Stanley Townsend

Writer: Christopher Menaul & Jeremy Sams

Trailer: FIRST NIGHT

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Richard E Grant: Their Finest, X-Men – Wolverine 3, Jackie, Game of Thrones (TV), Downton Abbey (TV), Queen & Country, Dom Hemingway,  About Time, The Iron Lady, Horrid Henry, Love Hurts, CuckooHow To Stop Being a Loser, Penelope, Garfield 2 (voice), Corpse Bride (voice), Wah-Wah (dir), Tooth, Bright Young Things, Gosford Park, The Little Vampire, The Match, Spice World, Food Of Love, Keep The Aspidistra Flying, The Serpent’s Kiss, Twelfth Night (1996), The Portrait of a Lady, Jack & Sarah, Pret-a-Porter, The Age Of Innocence, Dracula (1992), The Player, Hudson Hawk, LA Story, Henry & June, Mountains Of The Moon, Warlock, How To Get Ahead In Advertising, Hidden City, Withnail & I
  • Sarah Brightman: Repo!, Aspect of Love
  • Mia Maestro: Breaking Dawn 2, Savages (2012), Breaking Dawn, Poseidon, The Motorcycle Diaries, Frida, Hotel, Timecode 2000, Tango
  • Julian Ovenden: Colonia, Downton Abbey (TV), Allies, Foyle’s War (TV), The Royal (TV), The Forsyte Saga (TV)
  • Oliver Dimsdale: Good People, The Fold
  • Emma Williams: Bleak House (TV), The Parole Officer
  • Susannah Fielding: The C-Word, Kill Keith, The Knot, 4-3-2-1
  • Tessa Peake-Jones: The Devil Went Down To Islington, Bonobo, Holby City (TV), Doctors (TV), Only Fools and Horses (TV)
  • Laura Power: Mother’s Milk
  • Nigel Lindsay: Access All Areas, Breakfast With Jonny Wilkinson, Alan Partridge – Alpha PapaFour Lions, Rogue Trader, The Armando Ianucci Show (TV)
  • Stanley Townsend: Standby, The Voices, 24 (TV), One Chance, Killing Bono, Cars 2 (voice), Isolation, Happy Go Lucky, The Libertine, Suzie Gold, Wondrous Oblivion