Free Fire (Cinema Review) with Ben Wheatley Q&A (Event Review)

15 – 91mins – 2017

Cinema City, Norwich – 28th March 2017 – 8:15pm

Official Website with Tour Dates



“Fuck the small talk, let’s buy some guns, eh?”

Essex-born director Ben Wheatley follows up his surrealist and satirical decent into destruction, High-Rise, with a similarly violent but far more narratively-simple crime thriller set entirely in deserted warehouse.

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Toploader (Live Review)


2nd February 2017 – 8pm – The Stables, Wavendon – £18.50

Official Site & Tour Dates



While perusing the sales in Milton Keynes’ vast shopping centre with my girlfriend during a mini-break over New Year, I happened to snatch a glance at a familiar face adorning a magazine cover which was part of a ‘Local Attractions’ leaflet display. The magazine in question was Enfield Presents and the familiar face was that of Mr. Joseph Washbourn.

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Scaresville 2016 (Event Review)


Kentwell Hall – October 5th-November 5th, from 7pm – prices vary Tickets


By day a romantic, moated red-brick Tudor Mansion and picturesque gardens to rival any National Trust property, but for one month every autumn, Kentwell Hall near Long Melford in Suffolk gets a macabre makeover for brave-hearted thrill-seekers looking for a Halloween experience to give you nightmares.

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NOR-CON 6 (Event Review)

NOR-CON 6 Norfolk TV Film and Comic Con

Saturday 8th October 2016, 9:30am-6:00pm – Norfolk Showground – £10.00 standard entry


After taking 2015 off, Norfolk’s premier TV, film and comic convention (or Nor-Con for short) returned to East Anglia earlier today for its sixth (almost-)annual celebration of all things geek and cult.

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London Film & Comic Con 2016 (Event Review)


Sunday 31st July – Olympia, London – £18.00



By Con tradition, Sunday is always the quietest of this annual three day celebration into all things TV, film, print and nerd, but even by that standard attendance at yesterday’s culminating day of London Film & Comic-Con 2016 (LFCC) seemed strangely low.

Whether this was because organising body Showmasters had listened to fan feedback from previous events and laid the floorplans of each of the Olympia’s trio of vast levels out more sparsely, or just because so many people chose the Saturday instead is hard to determine, but having fewer crowds to contend with is no bad thing.

The illustrious venue’s ground level contained the multitude of merchandise vendors, selling everything from vintage SNES games to Thai cinema posters. This is great for a wallet-tempting browse, but with competing stalls selling the same product for different prices, and the awkwardness of walking around all day with a replica Darth Vader helmet, it’s best not to part with your hard-earned cash too swiftly – provided you intend on a second circuit later in the day.


In addition to wall-to-wall stalls, the rear of the ground floor behind CEX’s giant inflatable shark housed a Cosplay paradise, with the grandiose costume-loving pose-aholics even getting their own stage area for a “Blind Date” parody panel and catwalk presentations. Finally, various full-scale incarnations of the Batmobile and the Mutt Cutts wagon from Dumb & Dumber were displayed in more open areas, courtesy of

Up the creaking steel-lined steps (or via the manned lift) and beyond the curiously uncluttered gallery was the trove of autograph stalls and professional photographs, giving fans the chance to interact – for a cost – with their screen idols. All calibres of celebrity were present, from A- (Jeremy “Hawkeye” Renner) to C-listers (Jamie Scream Kennedy), current (Game of Thrones is always well supported) to retro (David Prowse and Kenny Bakers are stalwarts), young (Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown) and old (Sylvester McCoy) from all manner of films, TV and wrestling shows.

Your appreciation of this section will depend upon your familiarity and idolisation of famous faces – but I always enjoy glimpsing stars in the flesh, even if I don’t pay for the chance to greet all that many. While my friend, Thom Downie of the 80s PictureHouse got signatures and photos with a host of stars (see the podcast’s twitter feed for pics!), I was more interested in just two: Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder and Famke GoldenEye Janssen – and what vastly diverse experiences they were!

LFCC3While the moonboot-wearing, Pedro-voting ginger permed outsider (charging a fair £20 for a signature) was a cordial, charming gentleman who was happy to shake hands, chat and pose for an impromptu group photo, I baulked at the steep £45 “Jean Grey” was asking for the same ‘honour’. Keeping my DVD of The Faculty inside my bag, I decided against parting with my money, and am mighty glad I did having since heard some horror stories about her cold and untactile manner. Clearly Ms. Janssen did not want to be there, so why give her business?

Across the balcony expanse was the Comic Zone at one end and the Gaming Zone at the other, granting enthusiasts of each medium the chance to indulge in their passion, with lines of playable consoles (both old and new), arcade machines and VR headsets for the gamers, and personalised caricatures from a raft of high-profile illustrators for comic book aficionados.

The top floor held what could be considered a convention in-and-of itself: the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC), celebrating the recent market boom of the “middle grade” genre for teenagers. With signings, panels, publisher’s stalls, activities, workshops and merchandise, this was an astonishing and exclusive coo, attracting some seriously top talent (Malorie Blackman, Philip Reeve, Frances Hardinge, Darren Shan).

LFCC4After so many years and so many events across the country, Showmasters continue to grow and improve. Juggling so many demands and schedules, there will always be disappointments (Sam Neill and Ron Perlman cancelling), irritations (Judge Reinhold hopped in and out of his chair every ten minutes, while his minders vocally told off photo takers; Rutger Hauer was so busy Thom even missed out of a “virtual queue” ticket!) and anecdotes (John Ashton persevered through the event despite suffering a detached retina!), however the calmer atmosphere and delightful approachability of everyone at YALC made LFCC a con-siderable success!

Having now attended two large conventions in as many weeks, the lesson I have learnt is that lower expectations lead to a happier all-round experience. While I had (clearly unrealistic) hopes of attending multiple panels at Star Wars Celebration Europe, disappointment followed when they ALL sold out. By hoping for less and achieving more (my big purchase, a Jurassic Park baseball jersey, is a thing of beauty!), I came away from the Olympia far happier last night. Here’s just hoping that Sam Neill confirms a swift return to a future event soon!

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 (Event Review)


Sunday 17th July 2016 – ExCeL London Exhibition Centre – £32.00


ExCeL ExPeRiEnCe

A veritable smuggler’s horde of juicy first-looks and jaw-dropping reveals, plus an army of guest panels introducing anyone who’s anyone in The Force Awakens (besides an injured Harrison Ford), and last year’s Anaheim antics totally sold me on the benefits of attending Star Wars Celebration – doubly so as this year’s LucasFilm love-in was held on British shores for the first time in nearly a decade.

With work commitments restricting my availability across this past weekend’s three day fan-fest, I excitedly joined the massing throngs of Jedi, Princesses, Stormtroopers, Ewoks – and one Nute Gunray! – invading London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre for yesterday’s final day of wall-to-wall Wars. If you thought the Mos Eisley Cantina was overcrowded – you couldn’t swing a womp rat in the ExCeL without hitting ecstatic fanboys or cosplayers on Sunday!


With everything from Rogue One costume exhibits to exclusive Art galleries and radio controlled X-Wing dogfight displays, as well as a Bantha herd of interactive activities (The Star Wars Show vlog recordings, Empire magazine podcast recordings, Mandalorian parades, Battefront gaming zones, Build an R2 area), I can’t accuse the organisers of this official shindig of skimping on the celebrations – the atmosphere was positively jubilant!

It ignites my lightsaber (not like THAT!) to see a franchise I have followed so fondly for so long to be so well represented by such a (rebel) alliance of strong supporters. It is truly inspiring to see how George’s galactic vision from nearly 40 years ago has touched and inspired countless scores of artists, designers, tattooists, children and families – and will continue to for generations to come.


But with a great turnout comes almighty queues, and while the crowds moved swiftly for the most part, I was less than impressed at having to join a tailback of human traffic to entre the event’s official Store – especially when so many of the over-priced convention exclusive products were sold out by the time we made it past the high-vis-adorned doorman!

The Autograph corner was also a slight bone of contention for me, with the thrill at being able to see saga stars such as Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, Matthew “General Grievous” Wood and Ray “Darth Maul” Park gamely sign merchandise and chat with starstruck fans somewhat quashed by the two biggest names on the bill – Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill and Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher – hidden within screened-off areas where only those willing to part with a extortionate amount of credits could see them.


I understand how escalating ticket systems and VIP packages at conventions work; I have attended many a similar event over the years, however at an officially arranged event focusing on celebrating one franchise, it seemed a little off to still restrict customers who have “only” purchased standard passes.

On the subject of missing out, as expertly organised as the annual event undoubtably was (schedules, maps, helpful crew, guidebooks, continually updated mobile app), I can’t help but feel like the ‘first come first seated’ wristband system for gaining access to the main event Celebration Stage panels was less-than-convenient for single day attendees – by the time we had queued to receive our entrance ticket lanyard, everything which sold the event to be in 2015 was “wristbanded out”.

Sure, I could catch-up on the live stream, or watch the shows on the giant video screen, but to hear thunderous cheers go up during the hotly-anticipated day-capping “Future Filmmakers” panel and not know why (the introduction of the young Han Solo; surprise guest Jon “Finn” Boyega, it transpires), felt like being so tantalisingly near yet so frustratingly far, far away.

SWC6I don’t want to sound like this is simply a case of sour meilooruns, because a lot of SWC was truly amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but when you miss out on EVERY main stage event you come to realise how many of the multitudinous stalls are simply mountains of readily-available merchandise. Now I enjoy a good peruse as much as the next person, but I really required an additional Force-push to elevate this ultimate fan experience from merely good into hyperspace.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Star Wars Celebration Europe, but for too long I could have been at any large-scale money-making convention, rather than in the same building as such luminous franchise legends as Kathleen Kennedy, Dave Filoni, Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill, Pablo Hidalgo and countless others.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars