I always leave my expectations at the door when watching a film – I tend not to read reviews or let other people’s opinions sway me into thinking that a certain film will be either amazing or something that can be scraped from the bottom of my shoe. So, with not really knowing what to expect, I did soon realise that I was soon to become a dribbling mess due to the onset of boredom and total confusion.
Tense and uplifting Race is based on the true life story of track and field sensation Jesse Owens, who at the 1936 Olympics not only found his battles in the stadium but within society as well. To celebrate the release on DVD, Digital Download and VOD from October 10, Cinema Chords is giving you the chance to win a copy of the film!
We live in a time of adaptation, sequels, and reboots in the film industry. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of original films, but a fairly large proportion of the projects that earn wide releases tend to be based on existing stories. And yet, as screenwriters and producers scavenge book collections in search of material ripe for adaptation, there are some stories that seem like obvious picks but wind up being un-adaptable. It can’t necessarily be explained, but certain books, even old classics and popular hits, just don’t seem to be made for cinema.
With Jean-Claude Van Damme hitting the big screen this month in KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE (a “remake of sorts” of his 1989 smash hit) we decided to jump in the ring and find out just who is truly the greatest of the legendary ’80s action heroes. Who kicked hardest, fought longest and has the staying power to be the last man standing?
There’s something about a true story being played out on the big screen that makes a film heightened in some way, as if the audience is experiencing the drama through the real life characters and, if done properly, feel everything that they feel too.
It’s no secret that TV spin-off shows can be a challenge to get right, and there are plenty of examples of failed attempts. That being said, some of the best shows have created equally popular spin-offs, from “Cheers” and “Frasier” to “Dr. Who” and “Torchwood.” To celebrate the DVD and Blu-ray release of the second season of DC’s own epic spin-off “The Flash” out now, here are some of the best and most successful ones, past and present:
Prepare to be submerged in a piping hot telekinetic bloodbath whilst reveling in the weapons-grade firework display as Joe Begos’ violent revenge thriller The Mind’s Eye releases in cinemas and digitally today.
2015 has been another fantastic year for horror but, at the same time, I can’t help but shudder when I see films like THE GALLOWS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION, and KNOCK, KNOCK make it to the big screen. Not only were these the worst horror films that I’ve seen this year but they take away from the hardworking filmmakers out there that are consistently delivering fresh and imaginative horror films throughout the year. These are the films that should be seen on the cinemas and not the latest studio funded found-footage film whose only intention is to make as much money as possible.
This is why I want to share my Top Ten Horror Films of 2015 with you as I hope by doing so that there will be a few titles here that will open your eyes to the better side of horror. Now some you may have already seen in the cinemas, some you may already have picked up on Blu-Ray or DVD, but there will also be some titles that have yet to see a wide release. But before I start to discuss which horror films made my top ten list of 2015 I wanted to start by paying respect to three honorable mentions.
Insidious: Chapter 3 is the final installment of the popular horror franchise. Directed this time by Leigh Whannel, Chapter 3 stars Lin Shaye, Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott and Angus Sampson. A prequel set before the first two films, Chapter 3 tells the story of what made gifted psychic Elise (Shaye) use her ability to fight the supernatural.
I have plenty of respect for James Wan and Leigh Whannell and for what they have done with the Insidious franchise. Although their journey has been somewhat shaky it has still remained an entertaining series of films and Chapter 3 is no exception. Darker, grittier and more dangerous than the first two films, As director Whannell has injected his own visual aesthetic into this film which lies comfortably in the world created by Wan. The pacing of the film is nicely structured, the cinematography is wonderful and Whannell’s talent for misdirection will have you jumping out of your seats with some pretty effective scares.
Since the success of The Sixth Sense and Signs director M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t has had some incredible lows in his career. But I personally give Shyamalan credit at least for his attempt to tell us stories but sadly films like The Village and The Happening have made him somewhat of a joke among horror fans. Thankfully his latest film, The Visit, is actually a very engaging horror film. Telling the story of Becca and her younger brother Tyler as they go to spend a week with their grandparents that they have never met before. Deciding to document the experience with her camera, Becca begins to notice something strange about her grandparents and sets in motion a chain of events leading to the discovery of a very dark secret. Not only is the film suspenseful but it also has a surprising amount of humour that comes with it which only adds to the charm of the film that is unless you are of a nervous disposition as there is one scene in particular which made my stomach turn.
Ted Geoghegan’s homage to all things Fulci, We Are Still Here stars Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig and Larry Fessenden. We Are Still Here follows Paul and Anne who move to an isolated New England farmhouse to start a new life after losing their son. After settling down in their new home, they become the prey of a family of vengeful spirits residing in their new home sparking off a battle between the dead and the living. Throughout the film We Are Still Here sure has its creepy moments and the crimson ending was something of a spectacle. I loved the performances here and it was great to see Fessenden ham it up in his usual way. Overall, I would have preferred a more serious tone to the movie but that didn’t stop me from enjoying what was otherwise a fantastic film.
So which films made my top ten list? Grab a drink, sit back and relax because here they come…
Todd Strauss-Schulson’s comedy horror The Final Girls stars Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman and Adam Devine. A playful love letter to the slasher films of the 80s, this enjoyable slice of cinema tells the story of Max (Farmiga) whom after grieving the loss of her mother finds herself pulled into the world of her mum’s most famous movie. Reunited in full Last Action Hero style, Farmiga and her on-screen mother Nancy (Akerman) are forced to stand together and follow the conventions of the slasher genre to survive the night and find a way home. With stunning direction from Strauss-Schulson and the stellar cinematography by Elie Smolkin, The Final Girls is a laugh riot packed with plenty of blood, guts and plenty of heart.
Deathgasm is the story of metal-thrashing Brodie whom along with his friend Zakk, starts a band. Soon after discovering that one of their metal heroes is hiding out in an abandoned house near their home the pair break in and find pages of an ancient spell that promises ultimate power to anyone that plays it. Sure enough, after the right chords are played their classmates, relatives, and surrounding neighbours are possessed by demonic forces leaving Brodie and Zakk to save the day. Now just because I’m not a metal fan doesn’t mean I didn’t get a kick out of Deathgasm. As Director Jason Lei Howden has crafted a bloody beautiful horror film that is incredibly fun and laugh riot from start to finish. Packed with outstanding special effects, perfectly timed gags and a rocking soundtrack, no one can resist the raw power of this movie.
In what is best described as Power Rangers meets Mad Max, Turbo Kid is a phenomenal film written and directed by the three-headed dragon that is François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell. In the film Munro Chambers plays The Kid, a teenage scavenger whose is kidnapped by the evil Zeus (Michael Ironside) and his sadistic side-kick Skeletron. Not only was this film incredibly entertaining but it took me right back to my childhood. The humour is top notch, the action/fight scenes are fantastic and the soundtrack is equally as amazing! I had so much fun watching this film and I can honestly say hand on heart that Turbo Kid is totally RAD!
There are only a handful of things that scare me and the end of the world is one of them. So knowing that this was the subject at the center of Zak Hilditch’s dramatic apocalyptic thriller it would be a lie if I didn’t tell you that my hands were sweating before I sat down to watch These Final Hours. By focusing on his characters and relationships instead of the impending apocalypse, director Zak Hilditch has delivered an end of the world scenario that feels entirely real. Lacking any over the top blockbuster style effects he employs a much more muted approach to the subgenre which makes a refreshing change. Yes it may appear a little rough around the edges but the main success of this film comes with its emotional impact thanks to some terrific acting from its cast so trust me when I say that this film is amazing!
Hangman is Directed by Adam Mason and starring Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield. A found-footage film that had me on the edge of my seat, Hangman tells the story of the Miller family whom after returning two-week holiday unaware that an intruder has been sleeping in their attic watching their every move on surveillance cameras. Being entirely honest, I was thoroughly unprepared for Hangman. It is one terrifying horror film that built a sense of unease quickly and never let it up. It felt wholly real to the point where I had to remind myself that I was watching a film. As you can imagine this was incredible to witness and it is for this reason that Hangman deserves to be on this list.
Jason Krawczyk’s slow-burning comedy drama He Never Died is a film which is best seen without knowing anything other than the basics. Without spoiling too much, the film sees rock legend Henry Rollins as Jack, a social outcast who is thrust out of his comfort zone when his past comes back to haunt him. Anchored by a terrific performance from Rollins whose deadpan delivery is everything, He Never Died is a very strange yet compelling film which is easy to fall in love with. That’s all I’m going to say about this one so be sure to check it out when you can if you want to know more.
From Karyn Kusama, the director of Jennifer’s Body, comes The Invitation a thriller that will leave your jaw on the ground. Starring Michiel Huisman and Emayatzy Corinealdi, a couple who have been invited to a dinner party in a fancy L.A. home. After sensing something is amiss, David (Huisman) is about to experience a night like no other. A powerfully tense film that shows how people react to pain and loss, The Invitation is a deeply chilling film which becomes credible thanks to some terrific performances and a shocking climax. However, what is really scary about this film is that its events are entirely believable and that fact is enough to cause nightmares.
They Look Like People is directed by Perry Blackshear and stars MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel and Margaret Ying Drake. This ‘psychological bromance’ follows Wyatt (Andrews) who believes the people around him are turning into evil creatures. Bleak, disturbing and utterly unnerving, They Look Like People is a film that I found to be both terrifying and compelling and very different to other films that I have seen before. The pacing of this wonderful yet harrowing slice of independent cinema was spot on. It moves at the right pace and slowly draws the audience into the story without feeling stale. Right up to the devastating and nerve-shredding finale I was fully immersed in the world that is so lovingly put together by Blackshear and as such, adored every single passing minute of it.
Night Fare is a very dark, slick and sexy film from director Julien Seri who channels the visual aesthetics of Nicholas Winding Refn to deliver a brilliantly paced thriller. Accompanied by a gorgeous synth soundtrack from Alex Cortés, Night Fare reminded me of Refn’s Drive and combines heart-racing action and nail-biting tension which at time feels incredibly claustrophobic. The acting was wholly believable, the fight scenes are flawlessly choreographed and the chase scenes oozed adrenaline. I absolutely loved this film, the villain was fantastic and I can’t really wait to see it again.
Hands down, Summer Camp is one of the most entertaining horror films that I’ve seen in a number of years and I have Alberto Marini to thank for that. Summer Camp stars Diego Boneta, Jocelin Donahue and Maiara Walsh and combines elements of [REC] and unleashes a similar virus on an isolated mansion turned English language summer camp with sometimes hilarious consequences. Don’t be mistaken though as Summer Camp remains a horror film first and foremost, having its fair share of tense moments that will have you holding your breath. The cast are equally as good and do a fantastic job walking a tightrope between comedy and horror but it is refreshing to know that each member of the cast nails this every time. There are many stand out moments in this film that stayed with me simply because I’ve never seen them happen on screen before. Not only does this make the film feel incredibly fresh but it made the experience that much more incredible. It is for this reason that I can’t wait to see it again!
So there you have it, my favourite horror films of 2015. I hope you check them out at your earliest convenience. All that is left to say now is thank you for taking the time to read this feature and Happy New Year everyone!
2016 is finally here and with it comes twelve more months of thrills, chills, heartbreak and unrivalled fun. So to welcome in the new year, I thought it would be fun to jump on the bandwagon and present to you my top ten films of 2015.
Looking back, there were some incredible films last year but let’s not forget there were some real turkeys too (Fan4astic for one). But before I go on to discuss which films wowed me the most in 2015 I must ask you to keep in mind that regardless of how ‘technically sound’ a movie may be my choices here have been determined by the amount of fun I had watching them in the cinema. So with that out of the way, I thought the best way to kick off my top ten is to talk about a few honourable mentions first
The first honourable mention is Spectre. Directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista, Spectre is the twenty-fourth Bond film and sees Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Bond as he as he goes up against the global criminal organisation SPECTRE. From it’s action packed opening scene that takes place during the Day of the Dead festival, I was hooked. Although Spectre was a very thrilling Bond movie but it doesn’t quite stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Skyfall but it thankfully trumps the tripe that was Quantum of Solace.
The latest festive horror Krampus is directed by Trick R’ Treat’s Michael Dougherty. It brings together Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner as members of the Engel family who find themselves at the mercy of the evil Christmas demon Krampus. Full of imagination, light-hearted humour and terrifying horror, this film was a real surprise that surpassed my expectations in almost every way. Krampus has all the makings of a great screen villain and his hoards of demonic toys and killer gingerbread men perfectly captures the films’ playful and sadistic sense of fun. I’m looking forward to when it comes out on home release so I can make it a yearly tradition.
My third and last honourable mention is Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Picking up after the events of the first film, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) create Ultron, an AI whose sole intention is to promote peace. In unfortunate fashion, Ultron goes against his programming and uses his powers to enslave mankind. Despite having some pretty nifty action sequences, I was still left wanting more. There was only a smidge of the usual Whedon flare and I loved what he did with Scarlet Witch but that didn’t stop me feeling disappointed by the time the end credits rolled. If you want to know more about my thoughts on this film then you can read my review by clicking here.
So which films made my top ten list? Grab a drink, sit back and relax because here they come…
Henry Hobson’s Maggie sees Arnold Schwarzenegger play Wade Vogel, a father whose teenage daughter Maggie (played by Abigail Breslin) becomes infected by an outbreak of a virus that turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. This hard-hitting drama is fantastic and contains some incredibly strong moments of horror and features Arnie like you’ve never seen him before. Stripped of everything he is known for Arnie gives what I think is one of his strongest performances to date. Emotionally draining yet completely engaging, Maggie is one apocalyptic nightmare that everyone should check out but if you need more encouragement then you can read my review here.
Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston. Crimson Peak is a wonderful slice of gothic horror that is a little too over reliant on jump scares and dodgy CGI. However, this film is superbly directed and features solid performances from its three leads. Now the plot is basic and the ending is easily predictable but there’s something in the way that Del Toro tells his story here that feels incredibly rich. Treating audiences to full of nail-biting suspense, I surprisingly loved this film even if the experience was somewhat marred by a long lull in the middle.
Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River tells the story of Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two living in a rundown neighbourhood of Detroit. Struggling to pay her bills she takes a job at the local horror bar whilst her eldest son Bones (Ian De Caestecker) spends his day salvaging copper from the abandoned houses around town. That is until Bones has a run in with the town bully (Matt Smith) leading hhim into a fight for survival. Criticised for echoing the works of almost every director Gosling has worked with, I really enjoyed Lost River for what it is… a dark and gritty thriller which proves that as an actor, writer and director, Ryan Gosling is a talented filmmaker. Click here to read the full review.
Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina marks a fantastic first step in what is sure to be a very bright career for the London-born filmmaker. Starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Issac, Ex Machina sees Gleeson as Caleb, a young programmer selected by his boss Nathan (Issac) to participate in an experiment involving the evaluation of the human qualities of a female A.I. (Vikander). Through the use of an incredible set design, sound design and solid script combined with natural and wholly realistic performances from everyone, Ex Machina is a thoroughly engaging film that is equal parts art-house drama and sci-fi thriller.
Since its release, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows has continued to divide audiences. It stars Maika Monroe as 19-year old Jay whom after losing her virginity, becomes haunted by someone or something that will stop at nothing until it kills her. Cradled by a stunning soundtrack from Disasterpiece, It Follows has all the makings of an 80s horror film styled for modern audiences. That said, It Follows has the tendency to raise more questions than it answers but On the whole, It Follows is relentlessly unnerving and for that reason deserves pride of place on my list. Click here to read my review.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the summer was Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Vincent D’Onofrio, Jurassic World had mighty big shoes to fill. Thankfully he does so with gusto as the film was 124 minutes of fun-packed splendour whilst a genetically modified dinosaur wrecks havoc. Pratt and Howard had fantastic chemistry on screen, Vincent D’Onofrio plays a great villain but it was the huge set pieces and thrilling action scenes which sent my pulse soaring. So despite it not having the same timeless quality as the Spielberg classic, I still had a roaring good time with this one.
The Overnight had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January of 2015 and was released in cinemas last June. Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman this crazy comedy from director Patrick Brice is a bonafide sleeper hit that will strike a cord with everyone that sees it. The Overnight tells the story of Alex and Emily, a couple desperate to make friends after moving to LA. After meeting the mysterious Kurt and Charlotte during their visit to the park with their son, they are invited to their home for a night that no one will ever forget. Stylish, superbly acted and outrageously hilarious, The Overnight had me in fits of tears from laughing so much and I’m glad to confirm that it stands up to repeated viewings.
Ridley Scott returns to send us into space with The Martian, a sci-fi thriller based on the novel by Andy Weir that sees Matt Damon play Mark Watney, an astronaut abandoned by his team during a mission to Mars. Left for dead Watney (Damon) must use his knowledge, wit and spirit to do whatever he can to get a signal back to Earth to inform others that he is still alive. Surprisingly, The Martian balances its humour and drama elements flawlessly containing lots of heart. This made the more emotional moments that much more effective. Damon delivers a golden performance and is almost unrecognisable in the role. Meanwhile, with additional support from Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain and Kristen Wiig not to mention plenty of others, The Martian is thoroughly entertaining and I can’t wait to own my own copy so I can revisit it again.
Oh what a lovely day… Director George Miller returns for the fourth installment in the world-famous apocalyptic Mad Max saga with Fury Road. Tom Hardy stars as the title role in a film that we all know really belongs to Charlize Theron, whom as Imperator Furiosa steals the show. That said, as director, George Miller has created a true cinematic spectacle as Fury Road was THE film to see in cinemas on the biggest screen impossible. It’s big, it’s loud and it’s action sequences are perfect making it one of the best blockbusters that I’ve seen in quite some time. I proudly own it on blu-ray and so should you!
J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens has made me see the franchise in a new light. It was thrilling, it was fun, it was engaging and it was brilliant. The cast are great… Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Carrie Fisher’s Leia were joined by John Boyega, Oscar Isacc, Domhnall Gleeson and Daisy Ridley, whom as the main protagonist in the film was fantastic. But perhaps the most interesting addition to the film was the introduction of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. As a villain he is just as good as Darth Vader if not better. I won’t go into too much detail here but his character as a villain still in training is a very interesting concept and he brings with it an interesting dynamic. But ultimately the way this film succeeds is by merging the old and new cast together. It pays the ultimate respect to the original and at the same time introduces a whole new set of characters who are equally as fantastic. It made me want to revisit the original trilogy and has me excited for the next chapter which is why Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes the top spot on my top ten list of 2015.
So there you have it, my favourite films of 2015. But before you go, you may already know that I have a penchant for the scary and macabre and saw some cracking films on the festival circuit last year. Sadly, as it currently stands only a handful of titles are given a wide release otherwise this list would be different… it is for this reason that I will soon be sharing Top 10 Horror Films of 2015 with you all very soon. So remember to keep your eyes peeled for all the gory goodness!
Get ready for lots of laughs when Hot Pursuit comes out on Blu-rayTM and DVD November 23rd. Duo Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara star alongside each other in this hilarious comedy as they go on the run. To celebrate the release of the film we take a look at some of the greatest female comedy duos.
Everyone knows how stressful planning a wedding can be, whether it’s you own or someone else’s but these best friends became next level Bridezilla’s when they found out they had accidentally booked the same venue on the same day!
Hilarity ensues when they declare war and attempt to sabotage each other’s weddings. This includes Emma (Hathaway) tampering with Liv’s (Hudson) hair dye so her hair turns a shocking blue colour, and Liv meddling with Emma’s pre-wedding spray tan so that she is a luminous orange colour.
The phrase ‘like mother like daughter’ could not apply more to this duo when they eat fortune cookies that contain a switching spell, and end up in each other’s bodies!
Anna (Lohan) is a typical rebellious teenager who thinks her mum Tess’s (Curtis) only purpose in life is to embarrass her, while Tess thinks Anna’s music band is just noise. When they first realise what has happened it involves a lot of screaming, and they even run full charge in to each other in the hope of switching back – ouch!
Two FBI agents are forced to work with each other in order to complete a job – which they are not happy about! Sarah (Bullock) prefers working alone, and Shannon (McCarthy) is impatient with a hot temper – not a good match!
Their attempt at playing ‘Good Cop Bad Cop’ is hilarious as it doesn’t go to plan. Nonetheless, after a night out of drinking and dancing in front of an on looking pub, the pair soon start to work together.
Here come the girls! With a female cast this great, the film was always going to be hilarious. But it’s Wiig and Rudolph who stand out as they play best friends Anna (Wiig) and Lillian (Rudolph).
Their funniest scene has to be when Annie takes the bridal party to a Brazilian restaurant with a dress fitting lined up afterwards. Everyone gets food poisoning so Lillian ends up going to the toilet in the middle of the street, in a white wedding dress, while Annie looks on in horror. Ew!
Get ready to laugh so much your cheeks hurt, when these two have to go on the run. Rose Cooper (Witherspoon) is a cop who is assigned to protect Daniella (Vergara) and wants to redeem herself to the police department. They end up racing through Texas in order to escape crooked cops and dangerous gunmen, which involves sticky situations and a lot of laughs.
HOT PURSUIT IS OUT ON BLU-RAY AND DVD NOVEMBER 23 and is available here.
When my school friend Mark Murphy and I began writing a screenplay four years ago about my early years as a stand up comic, neither of us could have imagined it would become a £3.5m feature film starring some of the comedians we watched and loved as children (such as Kevin “Weak lemon drink” Eldon and Paul “Dennis Pennis” Kaye). At school Mark and I bonded over our love of movies and British comedy shows. Conan The Barbarian was our favourite. True Romance and Groundhog Day were watched so frequently that it was like, well Groundhog Day. When we left school in 1997 we lost touch but reunited a decade later in a pub in Knightsbridge. He had become a filmmaker, I had become a magazine journalist writing film reviews and doing stand up at night. We wanted to combine our collective interests (I am loathe to call them talents at this point!) and work on a project together. This became the world’s first funny film review show – Movie Kingdom. Months of seven-day weeks and twenty-hour days went into producing this labour of love for very little, if any, money. The show was very low budget and we pumped the pennies we made from it back into it to fulfil our vision. While it looked cheap I am still enormously proud of the show because we did well with what we had and most importantly it was funny. Funny enough that the likes of Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Terry Gilliam and Daniel Craig appeared in it. It also caught the attention of the head of commissioning at Comedy Central, Sarah Farrell. (See highlights of the show below)
She liked what we saw and commissioned us to make a web series for Comedy Central that consisted of me interviewing my favourite comedians which was obviously a dream come true. Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer, Jim Jefferies, Greg Davies and many more all appeared in the show. But Mark always thought it was hilarious that after a day of chatting with Jackie Mason or Judd Apatow about the secrets of stand up that I would jump in my car and drive for three hours to die on stage in front of five people. So he conceived the script idea that became The Comedian’s Guide To Survival about James Mullinger, a magazine journalist who is struggling to balance his day job and his wife and children with his desire to become a successful stand up comedian. An underdog story about following your dreams, over a month ago we finished shooting the movie and it has surpassed our own wildest dreams.
James Buckley signed on to play the lead character after reading the script. He loved it and related somewhat to the character – a man who wants the best for his family but is equally devoted to the art of comedy even though he is obviously already the star of the biggest comedy film in England of all time. Buckley and I didn’t meet until the first day of shooting in Montreal. We shot a scene together (I have a small part in the film as a character named Brad Macey who is a British stand up gone to Hollywood and become a bit of a dick. No it’s not based on Russell Brand. Much.) and then James did a scene with Jimmy Carr who plays himself in the film. Buckley wisely chose not to try and emulate me or any of my mannerisms. At the risk of sounding like Simon Cowell, he has made the character his own. And good thing too because obviously the character needs to be likeable and I don’t think my real life paranoia, insecurities or nervousness would play well on screen.
Watching Buckley work is a joy. Obviously, like most people, I was a fan of “The Inbetweeners” but this character is nothing like Jay. Although I must admit I was a bit like Jay as a teenager. Buckley’s last film before Comedian’s Guide was with Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman and Andy Samberg in Hollywood so his improvisation skills are spectacular right now. I have never laughed so much as when he was shooting scenes of the character interviewing the best comedians in the world – Omid Djalili, Pete Zedlacher, Mike Ward, Brendon Burns, Mike Wilmot, Derek Seguin, Gina Yashere. With their riffing skills honed on the stand up circuit over decades and Buckley’s from film sets with Apatow, these scenes are some of the funniest in the film. This was especially surreal for me because we shot these scenes in the same hotel in Montreal that Mark (the writer and director) and I did the real interviews with these comedians four years ago. So to see an actor I greatly admire sit in the same chair I was in four years ago, ask the same stupid questions I was asking felt like I was in an alternative universe.
After filming in Montreal for a week we shot in England for almost five weeks. I live in Canada now (in real life I followed my dream and gave up the day job and became a full time comedian – as to whether that happens for the character, well, you will have to watch the film) so I flew over to watch this huge production unfold pinching myself every few minutes. The scope and scale of the script was large in that the character goes on a journey across the world to discover the secret to survival in stand up so it was great that Alan Latham of GSP Studios was able to secure such a good budget so that none of the travel or high concept comedic set pieces had to be compromised. It also helped us secure an all-star cast including MyAnna Buring, Paul Kaye (who plays James’ Editor), Mark Heap, Gilbert Gottfried, Tim McInnerny as well as comedians we loved over as kids including Norman Pace and Kevin Eldon and my personal favourite stand comedian on the British circuit right now – Carly Smallman.
Another surreal and beautiful moment was watching a scene about the beloved comedian’s car share. The long drive to and from gigs is when friendships are made and lost. Probably my favourite scene in the film re-enacts a car journey and alongside Buckley are three of my favourite comedians to work with – Luisa Omielan, Maff Brown and Richard Sandling. We all started out around the same time and have bonded over many a long car journey. Seeing them all together in a car bickering, bonding and munching on scotch eggs was magical.
The most bizarre thing for me was watching Buckley perform my stand up. All of his live performances in the film use my real material. Of course it’s hard to watch your own act being used for scenes in which the character dies on stage and gets booed off but that’s the reality of stand up and we wanted this film to be real. Of course it is a movie and is supposed to be fun but we were determined to make it authentic. I want comedians to watch it and recognise what is happening on screen. Too often when films are set in a particular environment, they don’t resemble what it’s really like to work in that profession. I would like to think that – with a bit of artistic licence – for the most part this is the reality of life for a stand up on the bottom rung of the ladder. Worryingly I think he delivers some of the gags better than I do.
All of the awful things that happen to the character at corporate gigs happened to me. Almost word for word. Such as the time I arrived to do a Christmas gig for an insurance company in Burnley and was told that there was no free bar because the boss decided to spend the money on the comedian instead. They quite rightly hated me. I hated me. I was the reason there was no free booze. That is unforgiveable. It was such a horrible night I could barely bear to watch the scene being filmed.
Ultimately it has been the most fulfilling experience of my career. Of course there is a downside and that is that the synopsis for the film that is all over the Internet begins with the words “Failed comic James Mullinger…”. That is going to make it very tricky to get work from now on if people decide to Google my name before booking me. That is the downside of having a biopic made of yourself when you aren’t a household name. The beauty of stand up though is that you get booked on how well you do on stage. It is a very honest profession in that sense. Not much else can harm you if you are delivering the laughs in the clubs. I have been already asked if there could be a sequel. Well, given I left London and moved to a beautifully and comparatively quiet place in Canada called Saint John, New Brunswick (which I adore and will never leave) and against all the odds my career took off there, quite possibly. That could easily be the plot for a second underdog story as the character starts all over again. As my wife often tells me in real life and in the film though; one thing at a time.
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We’ll leave you with a few more shots and videos to give you a taste of what’s in store (click on the images to enlarge):