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Film Review: Fisherman’s Friends

“You’ve Got A Unique Sound And We Believe We Can Help You Get It Released By A Major Label…”

Whilst not at all a film about the origins of the infamous menthol lozenges which just happen to share a similar title, Fisherman’s Friends instead brings to the big screen the miraculous rise to fame of the Port Isaac Fisherman’s Friends, the ale-loving, overly traditionalist band of male singers who broke into the UK music charts back in 2010. Directed by British filmmaker, Chris Foggin, in his second big screen release after 2016’s Kids in Love starring Will Poulter, Fisherman’s Friends takes a rather BBC Two approach to a story which airs on the side of cheesy as we see Daniel Mays (The Limehouse Golem) as Danny, an influential and respected music mogul who after venturing on a stag do down to sunny Cornwall with his friends and seedy boss, Troy, as played by Doctor Who legend, Noel Clarke, is asked to sign to his label the local singing group led by the gruff figure of James Purefoy’s (Altered Carbon) Jim. Falling somewhere between the annoying flatness of The Aftermath and the well executed splendour of Colette, Fisherman’s Friends is the type of film which feels nicely planted in the background of an afternoon tea, and whilst films of similar ilk aren’t necessarily entirely bad, they do beg the question why the feel the need to be up on the big screen in the first place.

Shot with the same kind of televisual aesthetic you’d get from an episode of Countryfile, Fisherman’s Friends ticks all the boxes you sort of expect when heading into a movie based on what pretty much is Cornwall’s answer to Led Zeppelin, and with a cheerful, ludicrously mood-inducing soundtrack which wouldn’t seem amiss on a jukebox for the near-dead, Foggin’s movie absolutely reeks of cliche and gag-inducing corniess from the offset. With Mays offering the sort of semi-likeable, leather jacket toting lead performance as he blunders his way through the smell of salt water and seagulls, the real standout of the piece is undoubtedly Purefoy, who superbly radiates a sense of internal conflict as he balances new found fame with the responsibilities of a life both inland and on the fair seas, and with the interactions between the group in general pretty well handled, it’s sort of a shame that all of the top-end jokes were spoiled in the trailers, resulting in a resounding silence as everyone else laughed in the cinema apart from me when they inevitably arrived. Topping up just under two hours, it’s no surprise that the movie does become an absolute drag as it finally arrives at its destination without harming anyone at all in the process, Fisherman’s Friends isn’t exactly bad, it’s just A Star is Born for the Cornish minus all the good parts and a film more than suitable for your bed-ridden aunt. Bring the tea and biscuits.

 Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Churchill

“I Am Choosing Between Trials and Tribulations. Do Stop Adding To Them…”

Sandwiched rather effectively between the likes of Their Finest and Christopher Nolan’s upcoming blockbuster, Dunkirk, Brian Cox takes on the challenge of portraying the iconic image of Winston Churchill this week in yet another 2017 release which focuses on a particular element and point of view regarding the historical and wholly barbaric events of the Second World War. Directed by Australian filmmaker Jonathan Teplitzky, perhaps best known for his work on the Colin Firth starring 2013 war drama, The Railway Man, Churchill attempts to bring to life the infamous story of the United Kingdom’s “greatest Briton”, a title unashamedly handed out upon the film’s pre-release trailer, and with the astute reputation of an actor such as Brian Cox in the leading role, stakes couldn’t be set higher for a cinematic interpretation of one of the most instantly recognisable faces of recent history. Whilst Churchill does feature some stellar acting form many of its leading stars, Teplitzky’s movie is unfortunately let down by a shallow and wholly uninteresting narrative, one which believes shouting and screaming is the best way to evoke a sense of drama, whilst the cinematic scale of such a film is so minimal, it really questions whether such a character exercise belongs on the big screen in the first place.

Taking place in 1944, on the eve of the infamous D-Day operations, Churchill unsurprisingly places Brian Cox’s titular conflicted Prime Minister at the heart of every single scene throughout the course of the movie, and whilst Cox seemingly manages to hit the nail on the head in terms of famous Churchill mannerisms, the dialogue and script too often let him down, with Teplitzky choosing to allow every line to be bellowed and screamed, akin to some awful teenage sitcom which just happens to be focused primarily during wartime. Subsequently, the decision to set most of proceedings within the confines of smokey, alcohol ridden low-key environments results in wondering why on earth Churchill belongs in the cinema in the first place, with it most likely to find success upon the medium of television not only due to its’ low-budge sensibility, but because on the face of it, there are a wide range of TV programmes that offer more reasons to be cinematic than that of Churchill. Although a sliding plot at the heart of it threatens to ruin the film entirely, Brian Cox does manage to pull you in and keep you entertained despite moments of utter silliness in terms of dialogue delivery, and whilst many will find a lack of action incredibly dull, ironically Churchill was a film at least I was never bored whilst watching, it just quite baffled me at times.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: High-Rise

“You Are Definitely The Best Amenity In The Building…”

Everywhere I seem to look at the moment, the grand and overly eye-catching figure of one Tom Hiddleston seems to be there, from gracing the small screen in the BBC’s adaptation of John le Carre’s The Night Manager to being plastered on the front cover of my monthly cinematic refresher in the form of Sight & Sound magazine in which he speaks about his latest venture away from his most recognisable role as Loki in the MCU in Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, the long awaited adaptation of the controversial J.G. Ballard novel released way back in 1975. Being a life-long fan of Wheatley, with Kill List being one of the best cinematic experiences I can recall in the past few years, and featuring a cast including Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons and of course, Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Laing, I ventured into High-Rise with a steeping sense of anticipation, anticipation that was swayed by the fundamental strangeness of Wheatley’s latest with High-Rise being an interesting case of a film that may need to be seen more than once in order to fully understand it.

Beginning with a pitch black sensibility, one that encompasses many of Wheatley’s movies such as Sightseers and Down Terrace, High-Rise welcomes us into the world of Hiddleston’s Dr. Robert Laing, months into his move into the titular high-rise where a certain turn of events have turned the structure into a world of sheer madness, a world where eating a pet dog is the norm and paint pots are the most luxurious item to get hold of amongst the death and destruction that is tearing the world inside the high-rise apart. The film then flicks back three months and paints a picturesque view of the titular high-rise, a rather obvious metaphor for the class war system in society, with the lower classes, formed of nuclear families and the less well-off living at the bottom of the structure whilst the ruling classes enjoy debauchery and excess way up at the top, with Jeremy Irons’ Anthony Royal, the architect of the structure, living life in the penthouse with his estranged wife Ann, played in full-on cabin fever style by Keeley Hawes. An interesting concept indeed, and one that Wheatley fully understands, resulting in a film that breaks boundaries of socialistic ideas and ideals whilst consciously showing a sheer bonkers concept of one outcome of class wars within society.

Where the film does indeed falter is in its’ rather bloated attempt to showcase a dystopian 1970’s world in which our hero Dr. Laing, presides in, both inside the high-rise as a laughing stock of the ruling class but a figure of interest to the lower levels, and outside in his role as a doctor, a role in which Lain eventually leaves behind to the feral nature of the high-rise. Cut perhaps 20 minutes and the film would have been much less of a drag at times, with endless scenes of excess and carnage eventually becoming tiresome towards the latter stages of the film, whilst the inevitable change from normal to mayhem happens way too quickly and without any sense of depth and true reason. That aside, High-Rise is indeed an interesting and captivating black-drama, one that suits Wheatley’s eye for the strange and the jet-black satirical humour. Not Kill List but a real win indeed, High-Rise should be next on your cinematic watch-list.

Overall Score: 8/10