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Rise Of The Footsoldier Part 2

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Surprisingly, seeing the original Rise Of The Footsoldier is not a prerequisite for understanding the sequel, being as it is a standalone story of a man being drowned in the quagmire of his gangster lifestyle. Ricci Harnett returns as hooligan-turned-gangster, Carlton Leach, constantly looking over his shoulder for fear of being taken out by the same men who killed his friends many years ago. As well as returning to star, Harnett takes on roles as both writer and director.

This is one of several films over the last 16 years to take its cues from Terry Winsor’s Essex Boys. Starting off with flashbacks based on the true life Rettendon murders – also known as the Range Rover murders – Rise Of The Footsoldier Part 2 follows Carlton as he fights with his employers, his wife, his mates, his enemies, and literally anyone else who looks at him the wrong way. Occasionally, he pauses to stare out into the middle-distance whilst a voiceover dishes out dialogue like “to survive in this world, you have to fight till your lungs fill with blood.” He’s a man clearly on the fast train to his grave.

There’s a strange hero worship mentality to the proceedings, as if Carlton is a victim of his own anger and vitriol. Admittedly, such accusations can be thrown at films like Bronson and Chopper, but as film characters, they at least felt rounded. Here, Harnett tries to craft a tragic hero from a one-note thug, with a script that uses the f-word as noun, verb, adjective, and punctuation. What the film does have going for it is skillful direction from Harnett. This is his directorial debut, and there’s certainly a lot of promise on display as he shows restraint where his dialogue doesn’t. It’ll be interesting to see what else he has under his belt.

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Deadpool (DVD, Blu-ray Review)

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It’s been just three months since Deadpool was released in cinemas to become the unlikeliest comic book success story since Guardians Of The Galaxy. Point of fact: Deadpool was actually a more lucrative venture than both Guardians Of The Galaxy and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice! So how does the film stack up a quarter of a year later? It’s still a whole lot of fun, despite a pretty generic plot and a tofu-bland villain. A big part of that fun comes from Ryan Reynolds’ career defining performance, and a knowing, clever script. Plus the ultra-violence. Ya gotta have the ultra-violence!

In terms of the digital release, however, it’s all about the extra features, and on that front, Deadpool does not disappoint. Included is the obligatory gag reel, which features a few isolated chuckles, but is hardly unmissable. Then there’s 20 plus minutes of deleted and extended scenes (presented both with and without commentary). There’s solid stuff here, including a great sequence called “Cancer World Tour”, which adds more depth to the relationship between Wade and Vanessa (the heart of the film). Pacing wise, you can see why it was cut, but it’s worth checking out for completists or folks who just want more Morena Baccarin.

Over 80 minutes of short “From Comic To Screen…To Screen” documentaries give an insight into the film’s long and often painful development process and, of course, there’s an audio commentary from Ryan Reynolds and the other principals. Rounding out the package is “Deadpool’s Fun Sack”, which basically collects the movie’s glorious and clever marketing clips, internet videos, and general fourth wall-breaking malarky. Deadpool’s digital and DVD/Blu-ray release won’t convert those who are immune to the appeal of the merc with a mouth, but for those of us who aren’t dead on the inside, it’s a good-sized package that may find a perfect fit inside you.

Deadpool is available on Digital from May 11. Get it here on iTunes. Deadpool is available on Blu-ray and DVD from May 25.

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The Witcher III: Blood And Wine

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The Witcher III: Wild Hunt was easily one of the best games of 2015. A massive, sweeping, spectacular RPG that was jam packed with fascinating quests, hideous monsters, and compelling characters. The first DLC that dropped, The Witcher III: Hearts Of Stone, continued the parade of excellence with a more focused, personal narrative that while slight in terms of size, packed a mighty emotional wallop. The second and final DLC, The Witcher III: Blood And Wine, drops May 31 and FilmInk got the chance to have a three-hour gander at this sprawling new addition.

The appealing thing about The Witcher III: Wild Hunt’s grizzled, white-haired, cat-eyed protagonist, Geralt, is his no-bullshit pragmatism. The world that he inhabits is much more Game Of Thrones than Lord Of The Rings. Where The Witcher III: Blood And Wine seems to pitch itself is: what if the two were to meet. Geralt is summoned to the large and beautiful region of Toussaint, which plays like a fantasy version of France by way of Disney with just a pinch of LSD. The characters that he meets, at least in the first section, are often affected dandies, which juxtaposes beautifully with Geralt’s gruff and grumpy demeanour.

It’s not long into the session that we’re searching for a murderer, teaming up with a beautiful but severe queen, and battling a giant rock monster in a packed arena. We also meet a host of NPCs who trigger side quests and Witcher Contracts – including a mission where a fellow wants to take pictures of monsters, rather than have them killed. There’s also the promise of Geralt finally settling down, with the game giving the player their own vineyard! The drinking game possibilities are endless!

It’s a great feeling being back in the world of The Witcher, and the promise of 20 hours of new content is indeed an exciting one. There is a bittersweet tinge, of course, as this will be the last of Geralt’s adventures for the foreseeable future…but you better believe that FilmInk will be there with a review come May 31.

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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The Uncharted series first appeared in 2007 on the PS3 with Drake’s Fortune and was an instant hit. Naughty Dog, the developers previously responsible for Crash Bandicoot, delivered an experience that combined the treasure hunting, adventuring whimsy of Indiana Jones with the wholesale slaughter of Rambo. Seriously, you kill a lot of people in these games. It also raised the bar for what could be achieved in terms of presentation on console games. The original title was followed by a 2009 sequel, Among Thieves, that surpassed the original in every conceivable way. Not only was it better looking, really pushing the PS3 to its limits, but its cast of ragtag characters felt as vital and alive as any of those in a modern cinematic blockbuster. Nolan North, Richard McGonagle, and Emily Rose provided three of the most memorable characters in video game history with Nathan Drake, Victor Sullivan, and Elena Fisher respectively.

2011’s third outing, Drake’s Deception, continued to be beautiful to behold, with a few standout moments, but that sense of wonder was beginning to run thin. Yes, it’s a strong game with amazing action sequences, but ultimately it felt a bit too familiar to be utterly mind-blowing. One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Naughty Dog were running out of fresh ideas. Then, of course, 2013 saw the release of The Last Of Us (Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece) and everyone just sort of moved on.

The announcement that there was to be a fourth, and final, Uncharted entry, A Thief’s End, seemed a strange one. A step backwards, almost, or at the very least a repetition of something already well-told. It’s pleasing, then, that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an absolute belter of an adventure, and a worthy addition to a series that seemed done and dusted. It’s not that this fourth entry is just bigger and more spectacular than its forebears (it is, of course, taking full advantage of the PS4’s superior processing power), but Uncharted 4 takes storytelling risks and adds more pathos and emotion to the narrative.

Three years after the events of Drake’s Deception, Nathan Drake lives a pleasant but kinda boring life with his wife, Elena Fisher. One day, an unexpected visitor comes a-calling. It’s Sam, Nathan’s brother. This is especially surprising to Nathan, who believes that his brother died 15 years prior. The good news is that Sam’s alive! The bad news is that a scary gangster has given him three months to find a legendary pirate treasure – or it’s a bullet to the brain for Nate’s big bro. So Nathan has to come out of retirement for one last job…

The adventure takes the brothers Drake all around the world, from Scotland, to Madagascar, to a hidden pirate city, Libertatia, in what is easily the series’ strongest story. Sam, the more serious Drake brother, is a welcome addition to the quipping characters, although Sully and Elena have grand moments too (with Elena being MVP in the game’s second half). The action is refined from previous entries, although the gunplay is still a wee bit fiddly and imprecise. There’s light puzzle solving to be undertaken, ruins to be climbed, and mysteries to be uncovered. Oh, and people to be killed. FilmInk had a kill count of just south of 800 in our first play-through of the 15-hour story campaign. Most of them had it coming, mind you, but damn – there’s a lot of blood on Nate’s hands!

Once the story is over, multiplayer makes a strong case for itself, with Team Deathmatch and various other modes offering slick, fast-paced run and gun matches with mystical artifacts and NPC companion buffs adding a lot of variety. Ultimately, though, Uncharted 4 is about the story, and it’s a good one. There are four or so stunning action scenes that, while somewhat familiar to the series, are executed so slickly that you’ll forgive the familiar ground that they tread. There are twists and turns in the story – some predictable, others surprising – and a gratifyingly mature and evocative end to the story, with an epilogue chapter that may have you misting up just a little.

On the downside, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End features a villain who is a wee bit crap, and a final boss fight that underwhelms, but these are forgivable missteps in an overall package that is so frequently dazzling. One suggestion: don’t devour the game in one sitting. Try to eke it out over four or five days; there are so many gorgeous details, hidden treasures, bits of optional dialogue, and atmosphere to be experienced that rushing through would be doing the title a disservice. While perhaps not quite at the level of the haunting masterpiece that is The Last Of Us, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is nonetheless a profoundly exciting, spectacular, and moving journey that everyone with a PS4 and a sense of adventure should experience.

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The House On Pine Street

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Seven months pregnant, Jennifer (Emily Goss) returns to her hometown, along with her husband, after fears that a recent episode of mental disquiet could lead to complications for the baby. The two lines that you can see following Jennifer are the drag marks that she’s made from digging in her heels the entire time. To her, her old town is a reflection of a period in her life best left forgotten. So it’s easy to understand her frustration when her husband, Luke (Taylor Bottles), quickly settles into his new life and even starts getting along with his mother-in-law. So comfortable is he that when Jennifer tells him that she believes the house is haunted, he’s quick to ignore her. After all, this could just be attention seeking.

Making their feature length debut, The Keeling Brothers are happy to play with the audience’s expectations, offering up shadowy figures and creaking doors, but never being explicit as to whether they’re all part of Jennifer’s imagination. Even when someone does back up her claims, it’s an easily susceptible toddler. It’s only when the film pushes over the hour mark that it all becomes clear.

There’s no doubt that The House On Pine Street is a competently made film. Appearing in every scene, Goss carries the narrative through convincingly enough. That said, the film is just too long. Whilst it’s evident that The Keeling Brothers want you in for the long game, there needs to be more of a payoff come the finale, or at the very least enough morsels to nibble on as we make our way to the end. As it is, the film is more time consuming than it is chilling.

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Nina Forever

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Holly (Abigail Hardingham) and Rob (Cian Barry) are a fledgling couple still in the honeymoon period when everything is new and exciting. There’s only one real obstacle in their way: whenever they try to have sex, they’re haunted by the broken and bloodied corpse of Rob’s ex, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), who doesn’t see why a little thing like a horrific car crash should get between her and her beau.

Exes as a literal ghost at the feast was recently explored in Joe Dante’s Burying The Ex, a gaudy, gory neon comedy. But this British horror from first timers, Ben and Chris Blaine, excels way beyond the great Dante due to a well-written script and adept direction. Yes, the symbolism is obvious; Nina’s withering putdowns and decomposition serve as an allegory about the baggage that we all carry around with us. But there’s a surprisingly delicate touch to the proceedings with both Holly and Rob trying their hardest to embrace Nina. Holly even suggests inviting Nina to join in if it means that she’ll eventually go away.

There’s a danger with a project like this that it could turn into something overwrought, as if Jörg Buttgeriet remade Truly Madly Deeply. But the grounded performances, along with the Blaines’ direction, ensure that the film never spirals into camp. An acknowledgement must also be given to David Troughton and Elizabeth Elvin as Nina’s parents. They own every scene that they’re in, with their fragile smiles and cheery demeanour threatening to shatter at any given moment. Nina Forever can be a tough watch. Not just because of the sight of O’Shaughnessy lying twisted and blue on a blood stained bed, but because of the simple truths that it offers about relationships, and the way that we project upon one another in a moment of crisis.

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Tales Of Halloween

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Tales Of Halloween is a grab bag of quick shocks and gruesome delights, comprising ten short films all set in the same sleepy Midwestern town during one rather eventful October 31st. It can appear, like Halloween itself, to be a childish affair, but once children start eating candy from inside their babysitters, it becomes apparent that this is anything but.

The calibre of talent on display will certainly appeal to genre fans, with directors including Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers), Lucky McGee (The Woman), and Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!). Despite the number of films on display, Tales Of Halloween never overstays its welcome, due to a consistent desire to keep everything lean and mean. Don’t like what you’re watching? Give it five minutes and another film is just around the corner. Trick sees a group of child killers coming under attack from a gang of vicious trick or treaters, whilst The Ransom Of Rusty Rex – one of the strongest in the anthology – shows a couple of inept would-be gangsters getting more than they bargained for when they kidnap a rich man’s son.

Not every film hits the right note; a tale about spousal abuse played to the tune of Hansel And Gretel suffers from simply being in the wrong kind of movie, as its serious undertones clash with the gay abandon surrounding it. Considering the number of different talents on board, it’s impressive that Tales Of Halloween maintains any kind of tone; something the likes of ABCs Of Death failed to do. Tales Of Halloween is a fun throwback to Creepshow and the EC comics that in turn inspired that ‘80s classic.

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The Invitation

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Gamechanger Films finances independent films solely directed by women. If their future output can be based on their second feature, The Invitation, then there is certainly a lot to look forward to.

Directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight), The Invitation sees Will (Logan Marshall-Green) attending a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman). Adding to the looming discomfort is the party’s venue: Will’s former home, where Eden tried to commit suicide after the death of their son. Whilst both parents are still clearly mourning, Eden floats through the meal with a rictus grin and tales of her trip to Mexico with David, where they discovered a new belief system. Will, meanwhile, appears to wear his trauma like a coat, refusing to let anyone share his burden. And it’s from here that The Invitation mines its conflict. For David and Eden seem just a little too happy to Will. As they coax their friends into taking drugs, and performing party games, he can’t help but feel that something is amiss. Are the new couple up to something or, more likely, is Will needing to address some deep-rooted guilt? As the guests sit down to their fine-dining, their eating is filtered through Will’s eyes as sloppy, flesh-ripping feasting.

The Invitation never tries to answer your questions outright until it’s too late and all the pieces of the game have been thrown off the table. Set predominantly within the walls of Will’s former home, Kusama racks up the tension until it becomes unbearable. This is a subtle, extremely well-crafted piece that on the surface plays out like a thriller, but within its depths beats a heart that questions our relationship with trauma and paranoia.

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Cut Bank

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The Coen Brothers have become the high mark in modern neo-noir, and most young filmmakers crafting dark crime tales look to them as a tonal touchstone to invigorate their own efforts. Cut Bank locates its characters in the eponymous Montana town that is known as the coldest spot in the United States, and it’s where Dwayne (Liam Hemsworth) and Cassandra (Teresa Palmer), young lovers who dream of leaving their small town for the endless possibilities of the big city, inadvertently catch a murder being committed in the background of a video they are shooting. Sheriff Vogel (John Malkovich) and Cassandra’s father, Big Stan (Billy Bob Thornton), are soon drawn into the investigative proceedings for the first murder ever recorded in the town. Local postman, Georgie Wits (Bruce Dern), figures in the crime, and it’s the half-arsed plan that he’s set in motion that sees local psychotic recluse, Derby Milton (Michael Stuhlbarg, of The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man), crawl out from under his rock to exhaustively (and violently) hunt for the “special” parcel that he was expecting to be delivered. The bodies soon pile up as Postal Service boss, Joe Barrett (Oliver Platt), arrives in town to join the investigation.

Director, Matt Shakman, strives for the unravelling nightmare of a “money bag” caper like A Simple Plan or Fargo, but falls short for several reasons, not least because the local flavour and importance of its eponymous town is never successfully conveyed, and the lead performers end up overwhelmed by the seasoned actors in support. Hemsworth has been good elsewhere, but here he fails to spark, with his character lacking weight and definition; perhaps another actor could’ve brought that, but for Hemsworth, it’s a Sisyphean task. This is due largely to Rodrigo Patino’s problematic script, which is a veritable homage-a-thon, most notably with Stuhlbarg’s terrifically creepy performance as Derby Milton, which feels like a blatant facsimile of No Country For Old Men’s Anton Chigurh. Shakman directed episodes of the Fargo TV series, which while speaking to his worthiness, also flags the influences to which he unsuccessfully aspired.