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

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INTERLUDE IN PRAGUE

3 out of 10

REVIEW COMING SOON

Release date: 25th May 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: John Stephenson (The Christmas Candle / 5 Children and It)

Cast: Aneurin Barnard, Morfydd Clark, James Purefoy, Samantha Barks, Edmund Kingsley, Ruby Bentall, Klara Issova, Voitech Sedivy, Ian Bonar, Nickolas Grace, Anna Rust, Jiri Made with Dervla Kirwan and Adrian Edmondson

Writer: Brian Ashby

Trailer: INTERLUDE IN PRAGUE

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LONDON HEIST

3.5 out of 10

Release date: 17th July 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: Mark McQueen (Devil’s Playground)

Cast: Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, Nathalie Cox, Mem Ferda, Roland Manookian, Tony Denham, Eddie Webber, George Russo, Katie Clarkson-Hill, Frankie Fairbrass, Eileen Nicholas, with Nick Moran and Steven Berkoff

Writer: Craig Fairbrass and Chris Regan

Trailer: LONDON HEIST

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Most films like London Heist follow a fairly uniform plot outline – the heist, the double-cross, the kidnapped loved one, the rescue, the revenge.  Craig Fairbrass’ (BULA QUO!) latest doesn’t deviate one iota from this template which is a shame because the director, Mark McQueen has vastly improved as a director since his debut Devil’s Playground, a movie where zombies could do parkour. What compounds the plot unoriginality is the lack of imagination when it came to casting it. James Cosmo (TRAINSPOTTING) plays his third devious mobster in a row,  a virtually identical role to his hood in The Eliminators, and not much of a stretch from Breakdown (which London Heist strongly resembles too). It also features Tony Denham (THE FOOTBALL FACTORY), Eddie Webber (THE FIRM) and Mem Ferda (THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE) in roles they’ve all played 15 times before. How many times can we watch the same grizzled character actors play cops and robbers? Even Steven Berkoff (DECADENCE) turns up as the doomed gangster relative he did a minute ago in We Still Kill The Old Way. Except it looks like his scenes here have been cobbled together from out-takes as they are pretty incoherent within the rote story framework. Nice to see Roland Manookian (GOODBYE CHARLIE BRIGHT) after his long vacation though, in a boring supporting role. So what happens?

Criag Fairbrass plays bank robber supreme, Jack Creegan who’s just pulled off the last job with his gang. But sadly his Dad gets murdered and his money gets nicked by persons unknown. The trail leads Creegan to Marbella (why isn’t this called London Heist when most of it is set in Spain?). He meets up with his father’s old partner in crime. Etc, etc. It’s as if Craig Fairbrass who also co-wrote realised that the plot wasn’t complicated enough, so he throws in an Essex gangster homage to The Empire Strikes Back near the ending. Somehow, Fairbrass’ last film Breakdown seemed to work and gave him a bit of real acting to do and it was a nice change to see him shine in a role with a dose of sincerity. He strives for the same results here but the story and script this time trip him up. However, on the plus side, after all the mad cap running around and stupidity, the ending is well-shot, nicely scored and seems to be from a much better film. Meanwhile, we learn that lear jets can fly from Essex to the South of Spain faster than James Cosmo can search a two-storey villa. We also learn that lithe, fit young women can’t outrun really overweight gangsters as well, and security guards in Spain take ages to walk through a doorway into the next room.  So funny editing and timescales aside, this deserved to be better. It wasn’t a rush job as it seemed to take two years to make, and the cinematography, score, action, stunts and fight choreography are all spot on and competent. It’s just feels so unloved and robbed of a single shred of originality.

3.5 out 10 – Competent if boring botched bank heist thriller that experiments with altering time-space-dimension through bad editing. Boring cast playing the same game with watered down results.

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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)

DANGEROUS GAME

2 out of 10

Release date: 26th June 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: Richard Colton

Cast: Calum Best, Amar Adatia, Jess Impiazzi, Darren Day, Gary Webster, Jessica-Jane Stafford, Ricky Rayment, Benjamin Griffin, Lucy Pinder, Marlia Arkian, Stefan Boehm, Lee Stafford, Tony Fadil, Andrew Harrison aka Tiny Iron, Luke White, Brandy Brewers with Shizzio and Alex ‘Reidinator’ Reid

Writer: Amar Adatia

Trailer: DANGEROUS GAME

Dangerous-Game

Wow, where to start? This is Calum Best’s (REQUIEM) (son of the late footballing god George Best) first lead film role to my knowledge. He’s forged quite a career as a reality TV star in braodcast offal like Famously Single and Celebrity Big Brother, so it was only a matter of time before the low-budget film brigade came look for him to star. It seems to be a growing trend that the stars of shows like The Only Way Is Essex etc. are now beginning to get recruited by the acting world. In rare cases those selected can act. Unfortunately, Calum Best may have been blessed with text book good looks, he looks like a tatooed Will Young, but he really, really cannot act. He’s also left stranded by a really shitty script by his co-star/produced Amar Adatia (GANGSTERS GAMBLERS & GEEZERS).  In an effort to forge a double-act that could extend into future comedians, wanna-be comedian Adatia also grapples with the challenges of film performance. As demonstrated in his debut, Gangsters Gamblers & Geezers, its hard work and he makes heavy work of the simplest of scenes. He’s got no comic timing and frankly, he’s hard to watch.

The plot sees newly signed premier league footballer Rose (CALUM BEST) is on the rise. His best friend, Adam Chopra (AMAR ADATIA) is his best friend who owes lots of money for gambling debts. His latest debt has been bought by Russian mobsters, led by one time TV presenter, Darren Day (THIS MORNING) putting in the film’s best performance (not hard). Guess who has the money to get him out of the hole – only the mobsters want more than money, they want a ca$h cow to throw big games for them. It’s a dangerous game that you have to play to survive. The soppy duo, embark on a crime spree followed by cheeky chappy cop, Graham Crawford (GARY WEBSTER – MINDER) and Det. Saunders (RICKY RAYMENT – THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX). Meanwhile, Rose begins dating a club girl, Ashlee (JESSICA IMPIAZZI – EX ON THE BEACH) to complicate things, as he has to hide his new hobby as a bank robber.

The film is only 90 minutes but it plods about with lead in its boots, as our cast of TV stalwarts and reality TV non-actors work their way through an over simplistic plot. There’s a hitman in the mix, that turns up too late to make a real difference but at least there’s an ending to clap. And its not one that’s been earned by the cast or story, you just clap because it means this tribute to bad cinema is over. It’s a slight improvement on Amar Adatia’s first production, as he’s not directed this one. Richard Colton, the director, shows some signs of technical ability, and there’s some competent sound work, cinematography and soundtracks. So this can only improve, as it is definitely on the road to looking like a proper TV programme. Alas, it’s plotted and acted like a bad spin-off from Hollyoaks or Brookside.

The young producer Amar Adatia is the newest in a line of new filmmakers that show some promise. He’s got to check his ego and stay behind the camera or spend some money on acting lessons rather than the hire of a Rolls Royce for his next film.

2 out of 10 – Unenjoyable caper movie ruined by terrible actors and a very stinky script and plot. Dim signs of improvement on offer but there’s so little to recommend here.

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THE RIZEN

7.5 out of 10

Release date: 19th June 2017 (DVD premiere)

Director: Matt Mitchell (Rizen 2)
Cast: Laura Swift, Patrick Knowles, Christopher Tajah, Tom Goodman-Hill, Laurence Kennedy and Lee Latchford-Evans with Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sally Phillips, Stephen Marcus, with Bruce Payne and Adrian Edmondson

Writer: Matt Mitchell

Trailer: THE RIZEN

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Catch this wonderful horror on the wrong day, in the wrong mood it could be the worst film you’ve ever seen. Catch it right and it’s a sublime, all knowing pastiche / homage to the BBC sci-fi props department, Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Quatermass and the Pit, and HP Lovecraft. The acting from the three leads is purposely stilted to evoke the ‘boy’s own’ adventures of the 50s and 60s. The Famous Five and Just William spring to mind, when the game trio begin to puzzle out the riddle they find themselves stranded in.

We’re dropped into the mystery with just a few words, “Quarantine breached. The failsafe has been deployed…”  Cook, Frances (LAURA SWIFT – RIZEN 2), Dr Baughman (CHRISTOPHER TAJAH chanelling Simon Callow to good effect) and Pvt BRIGGS (PATRICK KNOWLES) are found trapped in a subterreanean maze being stalked by demonic, humanoid monsters. Piecing together memories the three must realise their purpose if they are to survive the nightmare.

To back up the main three performers are a band of better known actors and comedians, who pop in repetitive flashback to reveal the answers. There’s not really much to say about the story or the central mystery. What makes this fun to watch is are the strange performances and the very peculiar atmosphere, which puts you on edge in two ways. Are we really watching a bad horror film, or is this an arthouse movie in the style of a bad horror movie. It’s not very scary in a traditional way but its disorientating in the same way David Lynch’s Eraserhead is. The plot is fairly rigid and does little to confuse.

It’s a pleasure to see the likes of Bruce Payne (PASSENGER 57) hamming it up in a very strange role simply referred to as Admin. Elsewhere Sally Phillips (RIZEN 2) excels in a tiny scene as a mystery government official who may hold the key to what’s going on. Adrian Edmondson (THE YOUNG ONES) is also wonderful as the Psycho Evaluator.  Look out for a member of Steps in the mix too!

Fans of Dr Who will love that The Rizen has been torn straight out of it’s 70s era. The monsters have that nightmarish blankness only ever achieved in the very best classic episodes. Also sci-fi horror nerds mayb ein hog heaven spotting other similarities to other shows. It carries it’s own originality too though, so it’s not a slavish duplicate.  A sequel was filmed at the same time as the original so that it could retain some of its in demand cast on location to expand on their tiny cameoes in this installment. Here’s hoping it has enough of it’s own ideas.

7.5 out of 10 – A nicely, presented low-budget sci-fi that will delight fans of old school horror and sci-fi. Get past it’s unusually mannered central performances and this is a great z-movie. Roll on Rizen 2.

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EAT LOCAL

2.5 out of 10

Release date: TBC (UK)

Director: Jason Flemyng

Cast: Billy Cook, Eve Myles, Charlie Cox, Mackenzie Crook, Tony Curran, Freema Agyeman, Robert Portal, Annette Crosbie, Ruth Jones, Johnny Palmiero, Lukaz Leong, Jordan Long, Alistair Petrie, Nicholas Rowe, Nick Moran with Dexter Fletcher and Vincent Regan

Writer: Danny King

Trailer: EAT LOCAL

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Whilst this isn’t the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels reunion you’d hoped for – two leads behind, and two leads in front of the camera, Eat Local still has a knockabout sense of fun. However, little of the juice translates to the finished product, with virtually all of the decent gags spunking off in the trailer. Actor-turned-have-a-go-director Jason Flemyng (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON) turns in this remix of Dog Soldiers (werewolves vs squaddies is swapped for squaddies vs vampires), only he’s ended up with a remake of Lesbian Vampire Killers, the Un-DOA horror-comedy vehicle for James Corden and Matthew Vaughn.

A coven of vampires meet for an AGM in a serial-killer’s cottage (DEXTER FLETCHER –  CARAVAGGIO), only to find out that they are being watched very closely by the British Army led by Robert Portal (STIFF UPPER LIPS) and Mackenzie Crook (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN). Throw into the mix a pure-breed cockney gangster/gypsy who, unbenownst to him, is being lined up as a new vampire lord. He is about to get turned when the army burst in and the bullets, and stakes begin to fly.

I wish I could say there’s fun to be had for the viewer, but Billy Cook is no Danny Dyer, so casting your mind back to the similar Doghouse, and the  horror Severance, the former just doesn’t cut it in the comedy stakes. Laugh out loud moments are very rare, especially if you’ve seen the trailer, and there are no memorable scenes to make this stand out in any way. Stalwarts like Vincent Regan (LOCK OUT) and Annette Crosbie (MONARCH OF THE GLEN) look like they are having a good time, but like the rest of the variable cast they are wasted.

Eat Local plays like a squandered opportunity.  Competently made, it still gets by on a wing and prayer. Of the four leads from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, for some the quintessential Brit-gangster caper comedy, Dexter Fletcher is the most visible, in a supporting role as a murderous farmer, Jason Flemyng directs, Nick Moran (LONDON HEIST) is one of the soldiers (for a walk-on) and Jason Statham remains off-screen but did the fight choreography for the one martial arts scene – which is fairly good to be charitable. Oh and fifth cast member Nicholas Rowe (YOUNG SHERLOCK) was also in Lock Stock too. It’s a small bit of trivia thats unlikely to impress that many people.

Eat Local does very little to distinguish itself, except that Flemyng has drew in a super cast, full of British film and TV faves. The trouble is that all that good will has come to nothing and its really sad to have felt my interest in the film on the wain really early on. It’s a good idea and a tight scenario, it’s just a shame that the writers forgot to write any good jokes as this is as funny as Zero Dark Thirty and the Hurt Locker put together.

It’s also part produced by the gruesome twosome of Jonathan Sothcott and Neil Jones – the former is an inconsistent force in low-budget filmmaking in the UK, with a hit rate of 1.5 movies in 5. Neil Jones is a sloppy film director who would be better off directing traffic.  As for Flemyng as director, you’d have thought his BFF, Dexter Fletcher (who also directs), would have given him some tips on how to make a great film.

2.5 out of 10 – A flat movie experience, which was probably a hoot to make. Flemyng has a lot of friends in high places and draws and awesome cast but then forgets to return the favour by gifting them worthwhile roles. Fangs a lot, Jase.

 

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