HOLLYWOOD – Movies have been asked to please stop using John Denver as some sort of cultural touchstone.

The world is asking Movies to stop using Coloradoan guitar picker John Denver as some kind of easy way of winning semi-ironic cheese points. When Ben Wheatley referenced Annie’s Song in Free Fire, it felt like a witty throwback, but since then works by John Denver have appeared in Alien: Covenant, Baby Driver and most recently Kingsmen: The Golden Circle.

Speaking EXCLUSIVELY to the Studio Exec, the World had this to say:

At first it was kind of a nostalgic buzz. Take Me Home Country Roads, Annie’s Song and Rocky Mountain Mountain High are all great songs and the innocence of the production bespeaks happier times. But placing them in frequently gruesome or inappropriate contexts is getting old fast. Look, sure I have bigger fish to fry. My emotional weather is messed up and I’m actually melting in some places. But this is kind of getting to be a cliche and I want it to stop. If you really need to counterpoint something in a postmodern way, just pick someone else. I mean, who’s Don McLean? Chopped liver?

Ben Wheatley, Edgar Wright, Matthew Vaughn and Ridley Scott have all refused to comment.


REVIEW – FREE FIRE: It’s like Reservoir Dogs if they hadn’t left the bank.

Some films have great shoot outs. Sergio Leone and Quentin Tarantino, John Woo turns it up to eleven. The Wild Bunch is probably the acme. But Free Fire is basically just the shoot out. When a gun deal goes wrong between a bunch of Irish terrorists and a South African arms dealer, a free for all ensues. The causus belli actually has nothing to do with the deal. Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Michael Smiley, Patrick Bergin and Babou Ceesay are all good. The dialogue by Amy Jump is hilarious and tastes of cement and gun powder.

Ben Wheatley has quietly stacked up quite a resume. From his dark gothic Kill List to the comic verve of Sightseers. Free Fire might not have made the biggest commercial splash on its release, but it is destined to cult classic status. Go see it.

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In our continuing series of 47 films to watch before you are murdered in your dreams, we look at Ben Wheatley’s stunning Kill List.

Sometimes genre doesn’t really suffice. There are films that slip through the nooks and crannies, for example Ben Wheatley’s oeuvre. His career has been full of what might be called horror, but is really more creepy, weird, strange and utterly fascinating. His debut Down Terrace was a gangster epic played out in the stuffy confines of a pokey terrace house in middle England. Sightseers is a black comedy about a serial killing caravan holiday and A Field in England is the play Samuel Beckett would have written if he’d chosen the English civil war as his topic and magic mushrooms as his muse.

Kill List, his sophomore movie, mixes the domestic black humor of Down Terrace and Sightseers with a darker more gruesome horror. This is English Gothic at its grittiest. Hit man Jay (Neil Maskell) is kicking about the house arguing with his wife at a loose end until ex-services pal Gal (Michael Smiley) turns up with the offer of a job, or a series of jobs. But this thin story line leads us into the badlands of weird and with the occasional burst of ultra violence. This is the sort of thing that the rejuvenated Hammer should be doing, rather than Harry Potter’s Woman in Black. The malevolence that lies under the surface of an apparently benign English society is scratched to the surface and revealed with a gleeful nastiness.

Wheatley and partner in crime Amy Jump is moving away from the low budget shocks with his latest: a cinematic adaptation of JG Ballard’s High Rise starring Tom Hiddleston no less. On the evidence of his body of work so far, it could well turn out to be a marriage made in hell/heaven/hell again.

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ENGLANDBen Wheatley makes English films that are better than the English films made by Richard Curtis and John Madden. After the gothic gangsters of Kill List and the serial killing caravaneers of Sightseers, his latest is A Field in England, a kind of ‘Shroom Finder General, written by Amy Jump.  

Reece Shearsmith (of comedy group The League of Gentleman) is the coward, Whitehead, who in fleeing from a battle in the English Civil War finds himself, with two unlucky companions, in a search for treasure in an endless and inescapable field, goaded on by the demonic Irishman, O’Neill (Michael Smiley). The script is witty, the black and white photography stunning and the whole thing is mad – occasionally maddening – but entertainingly hallucinatory and mad dogs and Englishman mad.  It might not be for everybody, but f*ck you, I’m not everybody.