Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Moved!

Hi All,

This blog has now moved to vindaloofortheeyes.com where, it's hoped, things will get bigger and better!

Thanks for reading.

filmblogger12

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Imposter - Review


In the summer of 1556, Arnaud du Tilh strolled into a village in Artigat, France, and loudly proclaimed to be Martin Guerre, one of the town’s citizens who’d disappeared eight years previously. Unbelievably, they believed him, and Arnaud was accepted into society for three years by the whole of Guerre’s family, including his wife. Eventually, however, someone spotted that all was not right with the town’s new resident and the French imposter was tried and executed. A remarkable story and, some might say, one that’s unique to its era. Then it happened again. In 1997 the Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin walked into a Spanish Children’s Hospice and successfully convinced the whole world, including the victim’s family, that he was Nicholas Barclay, a Texan child that had gone missing three years earlier.

Tellingly, filmmakers have been unable to leave the two stories alone. In 1982 Daniel Vigne dramatized the 16th century oddity and the result is a superb exploration of how slippery identity can be. Here, though, the differences start to mount up. Vigne had to tell a story about something that happened over 400 years ago, a documentary that included talking-head interviews and video recordings of Martin wasn’t really on the cards; it had to be dramatized so there’s only so far he could’ve taken the discussion. British director Bart Layton has no such problems with his debut feature. The year was 1997; almost everyone is still alive and willing to speak. Layton even has video footage of the family meeting the fake Nicholas – in case you’re interested, it’s awkward.

Still, bringing Nicholas’ (or is that Frédéric Bourdin’s?) story to film can have been no easy task and in lesser hands this could have been a disaster destined to populate late night TV channels. What's worrying is that more stories are as difficult as this to represent than many factual filmmakers would care to admit. Most documenters simply lack the, dare we say it, honesty that Layton shows in concluding that he simply doesn't know who to believe. That's not to say his style isn't bold and comprehensive; he presents interviews with all the major players and bravely decides to re-create key scenes, normally a technique that would be cause for concern given that this is a rumination on the nature of the truth, but the details are kept fuzzy and confused. This is not Crime Watch and Layton does well to use his re-creations to show off the air of disorientation that surrounds the case.        

Like the Guerre story, The Imposter is a lesson on the impossibility of trying to define the word ‘fact’. You see, there are always two sides to every story and everyone interviewed has a clear reason to argue their case. Unfortunately for those seeking a neat resolution, all involved rise to the occasion; from the obsessed Private Eye who first notices that Nicholas has different ears, to the distanced, on-edge mother of the real missing boy, they’re all compelling. With the help of some careful editing from Andrew Hulme, Layton offers up all the details; conclusions are to be drawn for homework.

The real star of the show, if it’s appropriate to describe him as such, is the imposter himself Frédéric Bourdin. The man’s an engaging, charismatic chameleon, who invites sympathy and, at times, gains it despite the nature of his crimes. Arnaud du Tilh would be proud and also, I suspect, a tiny bit jealous.

A gripping, thought provoking, oddly open-minded documentary that twists like an episode of CSI and yet still concludes like an academic study on the nature of the truth. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Straight on Till Morning (1972) - Review


Released way back in 1972, this litte-known Hammer came at a time when the famed studio were, shall we say, struggling to compete with the game-changing nature of America horror. It follows a young, withdrawn and weird Carrie-looking woman called Brenda when she moves south from London to Liverpool in order to try and find a "prince" to have a baby with (really). The bloke she chooses, however, might be a serial killer.

The end result is a mixed bag. Both leads do well, Rita Tushingham as the Northern fish out of water in 'Swinging London' is convincingly hopeless, if not occasionally irritating, and Shane Briant is a vacant yet chilling killer. Their relationship, which hinges on his distaste of beauty, is interesting to watch develop. Moment of choice is the horrifying end sequence - the various murders are spliced together and the sounds of the screams drown everything and everyone.

Obviously, this is a Hammer film (and a cheap one at that), so they get things wrong. The song, "Straight on Till Morning", that accompanies the film and gives it its title, features singing that wouldn't even befit a children's nativity let alone a movie from a studio well-know for producing fantastic original scores. It also features moments of sexual exploitation that had became more and more prevalent at Hamer as the money started to run out. Here the camera seems to stare at Katya Wyeth, who plays Brenda's friend Caroline, a little too often.

Ignores those grips, though, and Straight On Till Morning proves itself to be a film that, nearly 40 years on, still feels creepy enough to make one feel uncomfortable.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Expendables 2 - Review


Sylvester Stallone has once again assembled a crack team of ageing action icons for this second outing of The Expendables. This time Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris are the big names joining Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li (for a minute), Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and others for another round of fighting. After being forced on a compromised new mission by Mr Church (Willis), Barney (Stallone) and his team lose one of their men, so resolve to seek vengeance against the villainous Jean Vilain (Van Damme).
As with the previous iteration, the plot is really just there to contrive different situations where all the superstars can spend time together, a feat it accomplishes with a staggering lack of subtlety. Not that this is a surprise and, in all honesty, the times when they are all bashed together need to be cherished. Chuck Norris’ introduction is a knowing and hilarious highlight, but the tone adopted for his far too brief section – which is also effectively utilised to accommodate Schwarzenegger and Willis – should have been more widespread. Instead, Stallone and director Simon West take matters far too seriously.
A movie featuring almost every action-god on the planet shouldn’t waste time getting Stallone to deliver pants speeches about the cruelty of death. At the most, you want to see Norris talk more about cobras, but other than that speaking ought to be kept to a minimum. You can’t to go for sincerity and then make Arnie compare a Smart Car to his shoe size.
Also disappointing is the lack of imagination. Whenever a group are put together in this way it’s vital that believable obstacles are presented. Avengers Assemble (2012) struggled with this same issue in its final third and, let’s face it, these guys are pretty much superheroes too – beating Schwarzengger, Willis and Norris is going to take more than a few machine guns. But greater firepower isn’t forthcoming and viewers will have to settle for a few choice moments. Sadly, this is a theme that, due to misjudgements in tone, reverberates across the whole film.
Originally posted at: www.newempressmagazine.com

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Warlords of Atlantis - Review


Warlords of Atlantis (1978) was the 4th in a series of fantasy films by Amicus director Kevin Connor, but despite an original screenplay by Brian Hayles [it was the first film from Connor not based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs book] the plot contains many elements that anyone watching for the first time will already be familiar with. A group of people go searching for something in the ocean, but some of the party know more than they’re letting on. Before they know it they’re transported to an unknown land, in this case the lost city of Atlantis, which is run by an ancient race of people called The Warlords.
Early on, Connor’s film seems to have a lot going for it. There’s a good scare in the beginning involving a monster inside a diving bell that’s timed perfectly. Actually, the creature designs are strong throughout which may have something to do with the fact that they were designed by Roger Dickens, who a year later went onto work in the special effects department of a little-known film called Alien (1979). The sets, for the most part, also do their job of giving the lost city a sense of otherness that provides much of the film’s adventurous tone.
Which is why it’s such a shame that the direction isn’t up to scratch. Connor makes some mistakes that just aren’t acceptable in any time period, such as allowing his audience to literally see the strings behind it all. Also a pity is the poor dialogue and lack of surprises in the script. If you’ve seen any film with this structure before or since 1978 then Warlords of Atlantis isn’t going to offer any shocks.
So, although those feeling nostalgic will find some solace in the creature designs, Hayles’ dated script and Connor’s over-revealing direction leave a stale aftertaste.

Originally Posted at: www.newempressmagazine.com

Thursday, 9 August 2012

360 - Review


Circular, multi-saga dramas are a tricky business. The story count, characters and sense of meaning all have to be perfect or the whole film collapses in on itself. Sadly, 360 doesn’t get any of these elements right. The film, written by Peter Morgan (The Queen and The Last King of Scotland, both 2006) and directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, 2002), wanders aimlessly through the lives of an enormous array of people in search of profundity but, taking into account the length of time it spends trying to deliver a message, the end result isn’t particularly sophisticated.
Aside from the tedious reminder that we are all connected, the only statement being made is that when we reach important decisions in our lives we’d be best to just pick an option and go for it. Saying that, a couple of storylines seem to either reach no conclusion or end up jarring with the others. The Muslim dentist wrestling with a religious-belief threatening dilemma is a case in point. Even the tales that hang together – Anthony Hopkins searching for his daughter, the intelligent sister of a prostitute running off with a criminal’s driver, Jude Law and Rachel Weisz’s struggling marriage – say little about love, loss and adultery that hasn’t been said before.
There are just too many different stories, or forks to borrow the film’s road-related metaphor and the result is that many feel under-developed. There’s nothing worse than watching an interconnected drama and wishing you could have seen more of some characters and less of others; 360 falls head-first into this trap and fails to clamber out. Star power galore can’t save it either, though Hopkins comes closest, with his 15 minutes carrying the clearest of emotion and meaning.
Meirelles succeeds in making the transitions between the characters pretty seamless so that 360, on surface level, appears to be telling one story. A closer look, however, reveals it to be at best confused and at worst clichéd.
Originally posted at: www.newempressmagazine.com

Monday, 6 August 2012

i Against i - Review


I Against I features a clear homage to Michael Mann’s well-respected thriller Heat (1995): two of the main characters pull over at the same time on the road and enter a cafe, this is the first time they will meet and it’s a crucial moment. But whereas Mann’s film had built up and fleshed out its central characters to the point where the tension was huge – although it admittedly didn’t hurt that this would be the first time that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro would meet on screen – in i Against i there’s nothing of the sort.
Despite this failure, the premise can not be found at fault. Two men, Ian (Kenny Doughty) and Isaac (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson), are hired to kill each other by Joseph Carmichael (Mark Womack) after his father is found dead and both men are caught leaving the scene. Trouble is, things get a lot more complicated than that and the film seems to buckle under the pressure. For instance there’s a third party, comprised of two drug dealers, that enters proceedings randomly and then exits ten minutes later, confusing everything and everyone – audience included.
Directing and writing team Mark Cripps, David Ellison and James Marquand needed to take a breather here so we could spend some time with Ian and Isaac. Yes, brief attempts are made for us to get to know them, Isaac has pills he must take, but ultimately these threads go nowhere.
They ought to be commended, however, for their success in making London seem like such an icy, atmospheric place. Their city feels dark, literally and metaphorically seeing as everything is filmed at night, and unforgiving. In the end i Against i succeeds at creating a sense of place like its forbears Heat (1995) and The French Connection (1971), but its story lacks the weight of those titans and so falls short of its lofty aims.
Originally uploaded at : Newempressmagazine.com

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Undefeated - Review


Just in case you haven’t had quite enough sport this summer, there is a new documentary from debuting directorial team Dan Lindsay and T.J Martin concerning American Football; a sport that is, to put it mildly, not traditionally the UK’s favourite. But this underdog story arrives fresh from winning this year’s Academy Award for best documentary and deserves your attention.
The subject is Manassas High School’s much maligned football team, The Tigers, as they try to turn their terrible sporting record around. We arrive when the team is well into recovery mode, with key coach Bill Courtney having arrived in 2004, at the start of the crucial 2009 season and now it’s time for key players O.C, Montrail and Chavis to overcome their demons. Lindsay and Martin followed the team throughout the season and their film is an attempt to document an amazing story.
Remarkably they succeed because, although Undefeated retreads a lot of the clichés that come with sports movies, it manages to retain a good pace while building up to that one final moment. It’s chock full of metaphors but Lindsay and Martin show everything with such honesty that it’s hard to think of a documentary that better represents what sport means to the participants. At the centre of all that’s good is Courtney. He’s an engaging and inspiring figure; providing surprising moments of humour to what are otherwise very serious proceedings. Though even he is given extra depth beyond the usual inspirational coach caricature as it gradually becomes clear he’s devoted too much of his life to teaching these young athletes.
Undefeated does struggle, like all underdog sports documentaries do, from the problems that come with trying to tell a story about a team through individuals and trips up in the last ten minutes by diving into unnecessary weepiness. But the journey to these moments is so powerful that it doesn’t matter. “Football reveals character” says Courtney early on, setting the tone for what’s to come. Well, Undefeated does the same and in doing so it soars above the average sports movie
Originally posted at: www.newempressmagazine.com

Friday, 27 July 2012

Hybrid - Review


Ready yourself for one of the most ridiculous movie premises you’ve ever heard. An evil, shape-shifting, man-eating car deliberately crashes itself on an American highway and is delivered to the local police car compound. Once there, it begins to hunt and kill a mismatched group of mechanics. But what sounds like good fun (admit it, it does) quickly turns into a dull waste of time and money.
Now, evil car movies are nothing new and they’ve previously ranged from the good (Spielberg’s Duel) to the – putting it mildly – not so good (Maximum Overdrive). This outing is parked firmly in the latter section because it’s lacking the laughs required for a Friday night get-together, the scares for horror aficionados and the gore for, well, both of the previous.
In all fairness, there’s never been a killer car movie where the vehicle was actually an evil morphing squid, so some marks for originality should be awarded. Those same marks, however, could be removed swiftly on the basis that the above comment ought to be a spoiler, but it’s not and this is the biggest mistake of them all. Director Eric Valette foolishly chooses to reveal what’s under the hood in the first act and the results are underwhelming. Had he chosen to stick with the opening technique of filming the car/squid at an atmospheric distance, the end reveal would have meant something.
Still, the cast do their best with this flawed material. Shannon Beckner convinces as an action heroine, even with the questionable dialogue frequently thrown her way. Together with Oded Fehr, as the selfish boss, they work hard within their archetypes to make sure you don’t actively want these characters to be given the most gruesome deaths possible, a common problem with monster movies.
The final nail in the coffin, however, is the last-ditch attempt to play it straight, thereby dispelling any hopeful notions that the filmmakers were aiming for the ‘so bad it’s good’ angle.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - Review


The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Morgan Spurlock, best known for 2004’s controversial Super Size Me, is back with another documentary that rests heavily on one concept: the processes and wrangling behind movie product placement. Spurlock chooses to highlight these processes by funding his movie purely through sponsorships. And so the documentary follows him as he tries to gain these sponsors, with the circular aim of making the audience aware of, and complicit with, the advertising all the way through.
If anything though, these early attempts to gain sponsorships are where Spurlock stumbles because a little too much time is spent in business meetings that are neither funny nor enlightening. Consequently, a lot of time is wasted that could’ve been spent on focusing down to his conclusion that, in the end, lacks the punch of some of his previous work.
But there’s still plenty to like and some of the things he reveals are eye-opening. Anyone not familiar with American television will be astounded at the placement within popular shows and the extent to which TV spots mislead. Equally compelling is Spurlock’s visit to Sao Paulo, where the local authorities have banned any advertising in public places because they see it as “visual pollution”.
This is all aided by Spurlock’s engaging presence; he’s always restless with energy and in pursuit of a laugh as well as your interest. He’s also wisely opted for the interview route and so The Greatest Movie Ever Sold features, albeit briefly, interviews with directorial royalty such as J. J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino. More interesting, however, are the conversations with those inside the industry. The demonstrations of neuromarketing for trailers, a process whereby the advertisers link people up to MRI machines to better understand what makes them tick, is a fascinating pointer to where the world is heading.
Spurlock does well here to inspire thought about the threat advertising can have on the narrative of cinema, but you can’t help but think that his initial lack of focus resigns The Greatest Movie Ever Sold to a much less devastating impact than he would’ve originally hoped for.

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress


The kitchen at El Bulli

The recently closed El Bulli restaurant in Barcelona was widely considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the world, earning 3 Michelin stars and topping Restaurant Magazine’s yearly poll five times throughout its lifetime. But the renowned restaurant and its equally lauded chef, Ferran Adrià, have an unusual method of menu design: each year, El Bulli would close for 6 months so that Adrià and his head chefs could design and test an entirely new menu.
This documentary follows Adrià through that process and the results prove fascinating, with the strangest dishes imaginable being concocted. The film opens, for example, with Adrià eating a glow in your mouth, fish-flavoured lollipop. On top of this, each dish is beautifully shot in close-up while its being tested in a way that allows the viewer to follow several designs over the course of a year.
Of course, there’s more going on than just showcasing fancy food. Director Gereon Wetzel manages to tease out some broader conclusions about both the nature of cooking and the importance of creativity. Adrià lives by a code that insists on the importance of gaining a reaction to a dish; whether his Rabbit Brain recipe tastes good or bad is not the prime concern, the fundamental point is that his patrons experience bewilderment.
Any problems the documentary has are actually a result of Wetzel’s preference for the fly-on-the-wall approach. On the one hand, this method gives us a real sense that these cooks – or, it could be argued, artists – are completely single-minded in dedication to their craft. But at the same time it can feel slightly cold, particularly in the later stages, because there are no personal interviews with key players, not even Adrià himself. The exception is one brief scene where two of the head chefs sit outside the restaurant, drinking beer and watching the moon. This moment is a sobering reminder of how a documentary always needs a human side.
Nevertheless, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress’ exploration of cooking as an artistic process is informative enough to ensure that when Adrià reopens El Bulli, as he promises to do in 2014, there will be even more people waiting at the door.

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Sunday, 22 July 2012

Zombie 108

From writer-director Joe Chien comes the self-proclaimed first Taiwanese zombie movie, Zombie 108. The plot is familiar to anyone who has any experience in this genre and is niftily explained via a credits sequence. A virus breaks out in the wake of a Tsunami and infects Ximending, a city district in Taiwan, with the rambling violent undead.
The film then sets up two storylines. The first involves the local gang lord (Morris Jung) and his cronies, a swat team and an American parkour specialist as they try to escape the outbreak. This side of affairs has its moments. The zombie costuming and sounds effects get the job done and ensure that there will be something of value here for dedicated fans of the genre. Performances are also strong enough for this kind of low budget horror; especially considering this is many of the cast’s first time.
The problem, however, is that there are two storylines. The second is actually how the film opens. We follow Linda (Yvonne Yao) as she wakes up on the day of the apocalypse desperately trying to find her daughter Chloe. Once she finds her, the monsters are closing in for the kill when a pervert, who has used the chaos to kidnap and torture women, steps in and saves them. Here Zombie 108 takes a sour turn that only die-hard horror fans will be able to forgive because what follows are some troublesome, and really quite graphic, scenes of sexual abuse.
First and foremost, Chien’s camera seems to be both ogling the tortured women for sexual titillation and playing certain moments for laughs. Secondly, the scenes are out of place in the narrative and when the two storylines coalesce in the closing stages it’s due to a weak instance of coincidence. Add to this a strand of suggested paedophilia and the result makes for a deeply uncomfortable experience.
So while there’s something commendable about the production values, Zombie 108’s torture scenes move it away from a promising genre piece towards a chaotic, exploitative example of cinema’s darker side
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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Burma Conspiracy - Review


The Burma Conspiracy is the second in the comic book-based film series that follows the exploits of the young billionaire business heir Largo Winch. After the death of his father, Winch prepares to offload his enormous fortune for charity when he is suddenly accused of crimes against humanity, a charge he denies. The rest of the movie sees Largo travel all over the world trying to unravel the various plots against him and clear his name. But for all its tourist sights, The Burma Conspiracy is one troubled action film.
Not everything goes wrong; director-writer Jèrôme Salle is adept at shooting action sequences and excels at making all the old staples exciting; from exploding buildings to car chases. The standout scene is a fantastically ridiculous skydiving fight sequence that would make Jason Statham’s Crank (2006) proud. Unfortunately there’s just not enough of this kind of action.
Instead the plot turns into a complicated mess, one that runs for nearly two hours, and becomes almost impossible to follow. It constantly flashes forward three years, sometimes twice without going back. The one card it holds close to its chest is the identity of the true villain, yet this is the one thing that’s painfully obvious from the very start. Suffice to say it’s not the Bond-esque caricature played by Dmitri Nazarov, more’s the pity because he’s the one amusing character in the piece.
The performances are an even bigger issue. Tomer Sisley, as the lead, seems unsure of whether he’s in a wannabe James Bond or a hard-hitting drama. Sharon Stone, the big name, fluffs her 15 minutes, although she is given the lion’s share of dud lines and keeps crossing her legs in an increasingly irritating nod to Basic Instinct.
Frankly, The Burma Conspiracy would’ve been greatly improved if it had spent just a little more time deciding what exactly it was trying to do instead of choosing its next exotic locale; this lack of attention resulting in a befuddled, uninteresting mess. Skydiving aside, of course

Originally published at: http://newempressmagazine.com/

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

In Your Hands - Review


This French-produced feature looks as though it’s going to be just another generic thriller when middle-aged surgeon Anna Cooper (Kristin Scott Thomas) is seen leaving a house looking disorientated and very frightened.
Once home, she heads back out to the police station where we discover that she’s spent the past week imprisoned by Yann (Pio Marmaï), a man who’s out for revenge for something Anna has done. Cue a 40-minute flashback as In Your Hands eschews its thriller premise and, surprisingly, turns into a study of Stockholm syndrome.
Some of the early abduction scenes prove a delight, especially when it becomes clear who’s really in control. But oddly enough, it’s this middle section, when Anna and Yann start to form a close emotional bond, that’s the most rushed. Surely an extra 10-15 minutes running time could have been used here to ensure that this sensitive section of the film was dealt with properly (it runs for a brief 85 minutes). As it is, the dialogue seems clunky, rendering Anna’s middle act transformation a little too unbelievable to have any serious emotional impact. This is a shame, as Kristin Scott Thomas does well with very little, her sense of despair and desperation coming across perfectly and the chemistry between the two leads help to gloss over the lack of sparkle at the close.
One or two scenes aside, director-writer Lola Doillon (daughter of Jacques) also deserves credit for her direction because she makes a couple of very astute choices. She constantly fills the screen with both of her character’s faces and bodies, always emphasising the claustrophobia they both feel. Doillon also explores loneliness to an unsettling effect, showing the hold it can have over people’s actions. Unfortunately, although the film is striving to be about more than just loneliness, the other themes of loss and victimhood get a less than thorough exploration.
In the end, you come away with the feeling that, given a quick rewrite of certain scenes and an extra fifteen minutes, this could have been a taut, emotional thriller. As it is, In Your Hands is a disappointing waste of considerable acting and directorial talent.
Originally published at: http://newempressmagazine.com/

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Sunday, 15 July 2012

Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971) - Review


As the horror genre was becoming ever-more contemporary Hammer was desperately - and, in the end, incorrectly - trying to set its pictures in the present day. Blood from the Mummy's Tomb represents just such an attempt. The Mummy franchise had for so long, and so effectively, utilized a historical setting to tell its story, so by pretty much eschewing history Hammer and director Seth Holt took a huge risk.

A risk that, sadly, doesn't come off. The issue here is with Valerie Leon, it's a flat performance. Acted with sincerity, but without charm, her Margaret holds back the final results seeing as it's the main role. See, she plays Margaret Fuchs who, on her birthday, is given a ring by her father Professor Julian Fuchs (Andrew Keir) that incites an ancient Mummy that was brought back from one of Julian's archeological expeditions. Once Queen Terra (the Mummy) gets going she starts to take control of Margaret, forcing her to kill. One member of said Archeological expedition, the villainous Corbeck, is dead set on exploiting this evil. Corbeck, played by James Villiers, is as subpar as Leon as he seems to be trying to emulate Peter Cushing's Van Helsing but has none of his icy coldness.
 
In fairness to both, however, the script isn't eye-opening and for significant periods there seems to be very little said at all. One triumphant sequence, in which an inmate is driven to insanity by a model snake (bear with me), sees Holt tilt the camera left and then right down the hospitals corridors until we find ourselves trapped within a close up of the patient. All the while Tristram Cary's melodic - but still frightening - score grows louder.

While fast editing adds to the sensation that these people are being watched by some over-bearing, all knowing presence. Trouble is, we don't ever really see this presence and in the few cases when we do, it's underwhelming. Also, for all Holt's visual flourishes, the narrative is murky, it's unclear what's going on half the time.

Overall, it's not the worst of the later-day Hammer's, but it's certainly not the best. Instead it's a salutary reminder that Seth Holt's early death was a real blow to British cinema.
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Saturday, 7 July 2012

A Horrible Way to DIe (2010)


It's a strange thing, watching two people that are utterly miserable trying to live their lives; its always so compelling even though it should, technically speaking, be a dull affair. And this is what A Horrible Way to Die does for half of its running time. The other half, however, is the tale of a serial killer.

It effectively sets up two story lines. On the one hand, there is Sarah (Amy Seimetz) a recovering alcoholic who starts to date fellow A.A. attendee Kevin (Joe Swanberg). However, Sarah has a dark secret: she used to date a mass murderer. That serial killer (named Garrick Turrell and played by the ever-excellent A J Bown) has managed to escape and is in the process of tracking her down.

Now, camera-work has gotta be the bread and butter of any film. When it fails, the rest of the piece is left hanging by a thread and, for the first half an hour, A Horrible Way to Die dangles. Its filmed in shaky-cam to disorientate but this seems to serve no real purpose. It's more irritating than uncomfortable.

And then there is one moment, as the killer is using a young woman to make his way across a bridge, when the camera goes steady on his face. And its terrifying, an instance of total stillness produces the uncomfortable feeling that the previous 40 minutes had tried so hard to shake you into. 

From this point on, things improve. Not enormously but enough to ensure that by the closing stages you'll be looking through your fingers. The music adds to this greatly, and is at times so hell-bent on oppressing that you shrink a little in your seat. All in all, then, it's worth seeing, especially if you remember to have patience with the first half an hour. 

But for many, the unintentional irony of having a film about two recovering alcoholics shot by someone that is clearly inebriated will simply be too much.

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Friday, 6 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man - Review


It does seem like a such a short time since even the first of the last series of Spider-Man movies was released and so, naturally, this reboot has had doubters doubting. Well, they need worry no more because this incarnation of the iconic superhero is a success despite the fact that nothing drastically new is attempted.

That being said, let's start with the flaws. In terms of story it retreads a lot of old Tobey Maguire ground, boy is bitten by a spider and then suddenly has superpowers. This time, he has to learn to live with his new abilities, all the while trying to investigate creepy scientist Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). All the old Spider-Man origin touchstones are there; the speech-wielding uncle, geeky Peter Parker getting beaten up, he even gets his costume ideas from a boxing ring.

There is also a villain problem here; an issue, it must be said, that's nothing new and so is even more troublesome. The third Raimi movie struggled because Spidey had three under-developed nemesis's . This time, he struggles because there isn't even one of them. Sure, the Lizard's passable, scary in one or two places and their high-school located brawl is both exciting and funny courtesy of an elderly librarian. But Rhys Ifans' mad scientist has been done to death and nothing new is attempted here. Lizard feels wildly underdeveloped, although there is an effort to weave him into Peter Parker's father-gone-missing storyline but it never really goes anywhere and is dropped by the final third.

Lizard is, however, immaculately recreated special-effects wise. An achievement that runs through the whole movie with nary a blip. Watching Spider-Man swoop through Manhattan is one of the reasons cinema was invented, I'm certain of it, and this time they've nailed it. The POV web slinging scenes are stunning and bring an interesting way of filming a superhero. Who knows, maybe they'll include POV shots when The Hulk gets his inevitable Avengers' spin-off.

Emma Stone features as Peter's love interest and it's really this that holds the movie together. Like so many of Stone's choices, The Amazing Spider-Man is rooted in relationships: watching herself and Andrew Garfield stand awkwardly and chat is perfectly played, while Webb makes a couple of cracking decisions when Parker's identity is finally revealed. Indeed, Webb recently said he was inspired by the touching romances of movies like Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin.

Of course, this brings us to Garfield. He's a revelation. The responsibility and pressure that an enormous role like this presents is enough to ruin any actor's output, let alone a 28 year old from Surrey, but he owns that costume and the role. No one will ever match him.

So, although it may be going over the same stuff, The Amazing Spider-Man is superior to the previous movies because the performances are better, the special effects are better and, amazingly, its romantically engaging.
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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Trouble With Harry (1955) - Review

Cropped screenshot of Jerry Mathers from the t...

Next on my list of Hitchcock to watch was The Trouble With Harry, first released in 1955; here are my thoughts.

Strange. Very strange. This seems to be a film unlike anything Hitch has ever done. Like so many of his movies, it pivots around a murder except that this time it has already taken place. The Trouble With Harry opens to a beautiful New England setting where we watch four people find a dead body, Harry, and each think that they are responsible. The four are: Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe), Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), Jennifer Rodgers (Shirley MacLaine) and Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick). And so the trouble with Harry is that no one actually knows the truth about him.

This, however, is not what makes TTWH strange. Instead its the lightness of the tone. It reminded me very much of - and this may sound strange as it came long after but, you know, I'm young - the 1980s TV series Murder She Wrote. Same location, same breezy feel to it. Time passes and yet night takes ages to come, while the colour palette remains autumn rich throughout. There is a certain timelessness to it, you get the feeling that we are capturing these people at a very specific time in all of their lives. 

Hitchcock's direction is also more static than in many of his other movies, perhaps due to the fact that the deed has already been done and we need only watch as things take their natural course, but it still feels very different to the manipulative style he adopts later on in Psycho. Of course, Hitch being Hitch, there's still plenty of room for perversity (he develops a penchant here for focusing on feet as they become an important plot point later on). 

Now, I've read plenty of reviews that suggest this film contains themes of resurrection and faith. For me, I didn't pick up on any of those meanings first time around and so will simply suggest what I got out of it. It seemed to me that The Trouble With Harry was about the uncomfortable silences and foolish things we say when we finally meet the people we love. This, from Hitchcock, seemed strange.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Rope (1948) - Review


Having just received an Alfred Hitchcock collection as a gift, the first film I choose to watch was Rope. And here are some thoughts on it.....

The central thing with Rope is whether or not Hitchcock's decision to present it as one long take comes off. My feeling is that Hitch struggles in the early stages to generate the tension that fills the film's better, later moments. In these early moments we see (homosexual?) roommates Brandon and Phillip murder their close friend David. The reason for the murder, it is explained, is that Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) believe killing to be an artform. Part of the crime, then, is also the presentation and so to add paniche to their evil deed, the two men stage a party and invite the dead man's parents, lover and former teacher (James Stewart). Now, the danger with long, masterful takes is that it can feel like the actors are merely reading their lines and, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Rope buckles under the weight of having to give an enormous amount of exposition with very little on-screen action. It feels like a play. 

But as the party gets going, so does the movie. The arrival James Stewart signals an improvement in fortunes, as the inquisitive, suspicious and highly intelligent teacher suspects that something is amiss. It's here that the single-shot technique comes into its own, allowing Hitch to rest upon Stewart's marvelous performance. The stand out moment is surely when, after being angered by a chicken throttling anecdote, Phillip briefly loses his cool and the camera rests on the teacher's face; we can practically see the cogs whirring.

Long takes aside, the movie's premise encourages perhaps one of the greatest displays of dramatic irony - all secondary school english students should take notes - that you'll ever see. And its use of the one location really adds to the claustrophobic, insulated nature of the two men's relationship. So although Rope does feel like an experiment, its strong hypothesis that the 8 minute takes would generate intensity ensures that it still deserves to be seen. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Scars of Dracula Review

Next on my list of Hammer films to get through was the 1970 Scars of Dracula, here are some thoughts....

Early on in this re-hash from Hammer we are treated to an attack on Dracula's castle by the villagers of the small town he is terrorising and the result is, for a 1970 production, fairly spectacular. Fire is used to good effect and their is a palpable sense of tension. Sadly, this early set piece proves to be the highlight as what follows never lives up to its beginning. 

After the villagers fail in this early attack, we are introduced to wild child Paul Carlson (Christopher Matthews) as he is being chased down for his promiscuous behaviour. Soon he finds himself lost in the woods and then ends up on Dracula's doorstep. The film's trouble begins with these important moments of exposition because they are hamstrung by the clunky script, which needed far more work from veteran screenwriter Anthony Hinds. And things only get worse when Paul, after meeting Dracula, disappears and the rest of the film is spent with his brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his fiance Sarah (Jenny Hanley). The dialogue between these two lovers is just woeful. In fact, the performances throughout range drastically from the sublime (Lee, obviously) to the truly dire (Hanley).

Also, did you only hear the famous count's name in relation to the other characters here? That's because the plot, like so many Dracula adaptions, seems unsure what to do with its titular villain and instead just relies on excessive sex and violence to pull through. Which is surprising because director Roy Ward Baker has previous pedigree with Hammer (Quartermass and the Pitt is on his CV) but sadly, he can't rescue this one. That's not to say there are no merits, Dracula's hand pulling back a red curtain to advance upon the film's primary maiden is extremely effective. While the sets are as beautifully designed as ever.

The school play-like prop bat that revives Dracula at the start rather sums up the fortunes of this poor Hammer Horror film. Cheap, lazy and, unfortunately, nothing new.
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Monday, 25 June 2012

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) - Review


I'm currently working my way through a boxset of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's movies. Today, I looked at A Matter of Life and Death, a film that many consider to be their finest piece of work, and here are my thoughts....

It's little wonder, after the enormous carnage of the Second World War, that Powell and Pressburger's next project would focus on what becomes of us after death. But this is not the film's only focus, A Matter of Life and Death's secondary motive (or perhaps its first, it's hard to tell) is to encourage Americans and Brits to reconcile their differences and disregard historical prejudices. The result achieves more than these two aims, however, because what you get is a story about love that will be re-shown to generations.

In an opening that, in retrospect, seems to have influenced J.J Abrams' Star Trek, we are introduced to British aviator Peter Carter (David Niven) and American war volunteer June (Kim Hunter) conversing over the phone as Peter is plummeting to his doom. The two form a connection over phone-line and quickly fall in love but Peter, due to his subsequent crash, is on his way to death. However, he avoids it due to the angels missing him on the way down. The angels are not too happy with this and promptly try to explain to him that he needs to come with them to make up the time. Needless to say he refuses and so Peter & co. proceed to play a game of chess with the forces of the universe. He's helped along the way by Doctor Reeves (Roger Livesey) and the peace-brokering dead Frenchman named Conductor 71 (Marius Goring). And so the film sets up two worlds, the first one is our planet as we know it, the second is a version of the afterlife.

Full of fantastical elements, this is bold stuff from the filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. And, like all of their work, A Matter of Life and Death is full of the odd little touches, such as a a point of view shot of Peter's eye closing comes to mind, that really suit this kind of film. Indeed, the climatic act features a courtroom drama over nationalistic ties that remains truly unique. Direction, as always, is superb; with the Archers choosing to shoot the earth scenes in glorious technicolour and the death scenes in black and white, perhaps to show the unhappy nature of this afterlife, or maybe to just remind us that it might actually all be in our aviator's mind.


Friday, 22 June 2012

Ratatouille - Review




Pixar are the best, they're at the top of the animation world, there's no doubt about it. Yet, they are not looking down on the likes of Shrek because of their animation skills, although, these are also sublime; no, the reason Pixar have dominated for nearly 20 years now is because storytelling is always at the heart of each piece of work that bears that little lamp's glow. For more evidence of this, check out Andrew Stantons recent, excellent TED Talk.

Ratatouille is an example of Pixar storytelling at its finest. At face value, the story seems to take quirky to levels too high for adults. Rural rat Remy (That's right, I said rat, the vermin) has a deep passion for cooking that is being stifled by his father. But, when Remy's colony is forced to flee into the sewers, he is separated and suddenly finds himself in Paris.The big city, for Remy, is a liberating experience, it expands his possibilities. It is here he meets the hapless Linguini, a struggling garbage boy in the swanky kitchen of the great Gusteau and the two end up forming a strange partnership. Remy can cook but doesn't have the opportunity, Linguini can't cook but has the opportunity. So, in a narrative device that teeters dangerously towards the unbelievable, the film makes Linguini Remy's puppet through the use of his hair.
All this in the first 45 minutes. Good job the direction is zippy, especially in manufacturing action sequences out of very little. This, in fact, continues throughout as Bird makes excellent use of his Parisian location. Sure, it's very much a tourist's view of Paris, the eiffel tower is on show as often as possible, but this isn't what makes the movie's use of the city effective; instead it's the detail. A chase along the river Seine later in the day exposes the level of research the animators went into here. If you wanted to go all subtext, you could also argue that Paris is a beauty that is only attainable when we are brave enough to follow our dreams; but it's also there to look pretty too!
Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with Linguini's subsequent elevation into cooking stardom and the remainder of the film is a sort of mix of suspense thriller with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. But, turning away from the narrative for a moment, this movie is about so much more than cooking. It's about ego, jealousy and staying true to yourself.

Quick word on the voice work: outstanding, as always. Patton Oswalt and Lou Romano are likeable enough as Remy and Linguini respectively. But the star that really shines, however, is Peter O' Toole's sneering critic Anton Ego (pictured left). You see, Ratatouille is also a smart critique of criticism itself, a dispelling of snobbery everywhere. Let me tell you, the famous starring system doesn't come out of proceedings too well. And O' Toole's character suggests that critics need to put down their pens and enjoy things a bit more. It also, more importantly, makes the point that a critic should always be looking to champion the new and the different, instead of constantly ostracising the successful.

"I'm not talking about cooking, I'm talking abouts guts" Remy's father says to him towards the film's joyous climax.

Well, Pixar had guts, lots of them. And boy, did it pay off.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) - Review


I hate films that are too long, it's the greatest sin a movie can commit. And nowadays movies, generally, are far too lengthy for their own good. I saw a Cameron Diaz movie the other month that went on for 2 hours, inexplicable. You can imagine my dismay, then, when I discovered that a film I had been anxious to watch for quite some time, Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, stretched to 2 hours 36 minutes. I needn't have worried because within half an hour I was lost in the story.


The movie tracks British soldier Clive Candy (Roger Livesey) across a lifetime of service between 1902-1943. We see him take part in three major conflicts; The Boer War, The First World War and The Second World War. Each period is immaculately recreated, especially considering the date of the film's production.  The 1902 german bar, for instance, is sumptuous. Through his service Candy meets many people that make an impact on him, none more so than the German soldier he is forced to duel in 1902, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook). And though propaganda may be the movie's body, its heart and soul is the strength of the cross-country friendship between these two men. So much so that Winston Churchill despised it and wanted it banned. This is all helped along by the performances, which are first rate. Livesey anchors everything, and manages to portray Candy's swaggering youth, in 1902, and his reluctant recognition the ageing process in 1943. Of course, this was a British funded second world war movie and so a strong pro-anglo stance on the conflict is taken; really hammering home the fact that this war, due to the uniquely evil threat Nazism poses, is very different from all previous encounters and so requires a suspension of English gentility. However, when compared with, say, the Archer's A Canterbury Tale, Colonel Blimp's propaganda element never gets in the way of the narrative. 

On the film's wikipedia page, the great Stephen Fry says that what interests him about the movie is its addressing of the question "What does it mean to be British?". I would like to hijack this comment, for Mr.QI has hit the nail on the head, what makes this film special is that it captures a sense of what being a member of the British nation means. And it celebrates it. I wrote a review of the footballing documentary One Night in Turin last week and concluded that it would be a perfect injection of patriotism ready for Euro 2012. True though that statement was, Colonel Blimp is a more thoughtful, reasoned reflection on British character and so, consequently, it shows itself to be a more patriotic watch.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) - Review


I'm currently working my way through the 1950s-1960s output of British studio Hammer. The most recent Hammer DVD I've seen is Frankenstein Created Woman and, like most of the movies produced by this fabulous studio, I was rather impressed. Here's why.....


Frankenstein Created Woman is the third in the series of Hammer adaptions (using the word pretty fast and loose, I know) of Mary Shelley's famous 1818 novel. In this one, the chief premise of the film is asking what the relationship is between the body and the soul when, after Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is revived back to life by his assistant Doctor Hertz (Thorley Walters), he becomes obsessed with "defeating death". And the major feat achieved by the film is that, amongst all this heavy meta physical exploration, the story keeps its feet firmly on solid narrative soil. The plot contrives in astonishing ways - in the form of a middle act court room scene - to provide a wonderfully twisted, Frankenstein-themed rendition of Romeo and Juliet. As our two star crossed lovers, Hans (Robert Morris) and disabled Christina (Susan Denberg), fall foul of fate in their attempts to be together.


There are extras, of course, in the form of the three aristocratic bullies who populate the film's more violent scenes. The three men - looking, and sounding, remarkably like the Droogs of A Clockwork Orange (FCW predates Kubricks classic by four years) - are the main villans of the piece, thereby allowing Fisher to explore the darker, more intriguing desires of Baron Frankenstein. Cushing is as on form as ever, playing the same cold, calculating Baron that has populated so many beloved Hammer pictures.


Fisher, despite his always subtle direction style, conjures up some striking images and keeps things moving fairly briskly for a Hammer production. While Bernard Hamman's score has a growing presence, becoming far more menacing as proceedings darken into what would, in modern day terms, be described as a slasher movie.


Of course, the script is also exploring class conflict and the nature of sexuality. But let's leave that to the academics and just enjoy Susan Denberg, in her one, notable screen role, advance on some poor chap, meat-cleaver in hand.
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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Manhattan - Review



I've written before on here about how I want to try and see more of certain directors' work. Woody Allen is one such director and so, the other night, I settled down to watch Manhattan; here are some thoughts......

To me, and it can't be stated strong enough how much of a newcomer I am to Allen's work, he just seems to have a way of creating characters that are believable. Yet, at the same time, they are perfect for populating the gorgeous cinematic landscapes he creates. Manhattan is an excellent example of this. In the film Allen plays Isaac, an iteration of the same scrawny, neurotic, insecure intellectual that populates his other recognised masterpiece, Annie Hall. The movie follows Isaac through a period of his life living in - yep, you guessed it - Manhattan. Isaac is always picking out things about the city that irritate him so as to avoid addressing the real issues in his life. We witness him go on about how the tap water is brown, while his love interest is demanding answers from him. And, despite the amusing nature of these idiocracies, what drives the story is the love interests. Isaac is drifting through his life, dating a 17 year old girl (Mariel Hemingway), when he falls for his best friend's mistress (Diane Keaton).

Visually, the film's depiction of the ensuing drama is just beautiful. It's hard to think of adjectives that can effectively summarise it. The best thing is to do is to look at the image above, and then just trust me that Manhattan is chock-a-block filled with these kinds of moments. The remarkable thing is that this film is totally dialogue driven and yet the composition of each shot is taken with such care. Allen also wisely shoots in black and white, allowing him to light the faces of his characters more effectively while at the same time emphasising the difficulties of urban life. An uneasy cinema scene is the film's best example of this and also the stand-out moment for this reviewer; each character's face is impeccably lit by the glow of the cinema screen, a modern, urbane technology, and each face squirms with the awkwardness of the situation.

At its heart, however, Manhattan is a movie about moral dilemas. Early on, Allen's character Isaac says as much "if you saw a guy drowning in the freezing water, what would you do?". Its not preachy, as Isaac tries to avoid in his novel during the opening narration, but is instead endearing. Allen's wit and elegance infuses his direction, to the extent that it carries Manhattan through these big themes.

Worth every second.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Prometheus - Review


Like many millions of people, this week I saw Ridley Scott's hugely anticipated Prometheus. Now, my knee-jerk reaction to the film as the lights were coming up was "Need to see that again". Having already been charged a fortune, however, that was not a possibility so here are my thoughts on the first viewing....

Two words: Fantastic experience. Honestly, that's how Prometheus can be summed up, but we'll return to that in a minute. Better explain the plot, don't fret if you have not had chance to catch the film yet, this review will contain no spoilers. It's the year 2089 and a team of explorers are searching for the origins of mankind on a distant planet, but what they find is not particularly nice. There, that's all the plot summary you need because the best way to go into Prometheus is exactly the same way those explorers arrived on that planet; excited, nervous and, above all, oblivious to what's ahead.

First things first, Michael Fassbender. He is proving himself to be the finest actor of his generation. His David - a robot, by the way - is a cold, calculating creation who is obsessed by the David Lean film Lawrence of Arabia. That movie's protagonist is fixated by that most difficult of questions "Who am I?". And Fassbender prooves very effective at conveying this same struggle within David over what he is; his end of the day conversations with Shaw are especially chilling "Doesn't everyone want to murder their parents?".

Scott has always been an impressive world builder and Prometheus is no exception to this rule. The original designs by H. R Giger have been used, of course, but Scott has shaped an entire planet around them. And the enormous sets on display ensure you believe in the world completely, although the 3D hinders this slightly. Its too dim by far, especially considering the darkness of Giger's designs.

When you consider how much of recent science fiction output has been action orientated - I'm looking at you, Lockout - it becomes apparent that Ridley's latest is a breath of fresh air. Prometheus dreams big, really big. Its querying who made us and why. Not an original question, I know, but the results it conjures from asking this question are thought provoking and awe-inspiring. This is what sci-fi - good sci-fi, anyway - needs to be doing.

There are, however, more issues than just poor 3D. The script seems hammy in places and some scenes are just baffling. One moment involving Charlize Theron and a squeezebox playing Idris Elba bears no relation to either character or plot. And, aside from David and Shaw, the crew are hard to really get behind. Elba and Theron seem underused and why in god's name did they cast Guy Pearce as a man who's ancient? He just looks absurd under what appears to be an entire bucket of make up.

But, despite feeling uneven, Prometheus remains a big, fat, spectacular science fiction experience. Who, with any justice, could have asked for more than that?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman - Review


Today, by lucky chance, I managed to see the latest addition to the Snow White canon in the form of Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman. Here are some thoughts....

This iteration of the Snow White fairytale is, interestingly, the second of the year after the much maligned Mirror Mirror (presumably someone, somewhere, has made a big mistake). Yet SWH is decidedly different from the above Julia Robert's vehicle, this ones an all-together darker beast. Its also an all-together good one.

The Huntsmen (Chris Hemsworth - Bizarrely Scottish in this?), after having been ordered to execute Snow White (Kristen Stewart), has a change of heart and suddenly becomes her protector against the forces of darkness marshalled by the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). This twist of the legend means that the film turns into a Star-Wars style, must fight against the evil emperor, fantasy romp. And that's just fine.

Rupert Sanders is on direction duties and, no doubt due to his advertising background, his prowess at creating stark imagery elevates the whole show. Early on our villain bathes in some sort of milky substance in order to enhance her skin? Her powers? We are never sure, but the image is striking. As is the darkness of the script, the relationship between Ravenna and her brother (Sam Spruell) has incestuous undercurrents that will sail over youngsters heads but, for the adults, makes their relationship   beyond creepy.

It doesn't all work, Stewart leaves a lot to be desired - she can't play Bella forever. And the dwarfs (played by an amalgam of top British actors, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone among them) are just plain jarring and unnecessary. Also, let's be honest, it has a middle act that's saggier than the evil Queen's face. But its still enjoyable because you totally believe in the world that Sanders and his team have created and, in terms of fairy tale movies, that's the fairest factor of them all.   



One Night in Turin - Review


Euro 2012 is en route and so to pump up the patriotism I thought now would be the best time to watch a documentary that has long been sitting on my shelf, One Night in Turin. Here are some thoughts...

The documentary tells the story (and it is very much a story) of the England football team's 1990 Italian World Cup. And, well, its just excellent. Yes, the reconstructions leave a lot to be desired - theres only so many times you can watch staged boots kick grass - but this documentary's heart is firmly in the right place. It works hard to highlight the way social and political issues can surround the game of football; the way that a discursive atmosphere is set up around tournaments by the media. We see the effect of the Poll Tax riots, the blundering nature of politicians in sport and, most importantly of all, hooliganism.   The real aim, however, is to show that on the pitch none of this really matters and, as a result, this footie-doc hits all the right notes.

Gary Oldman's narration is spot-on, soberly reading Erksine's perfectly poised script; England's backline is "creaking, buckling" apparently. Erksine's showing of Waddle's last, tragic spot kick wisely never leaves the player and is shown as one, long take during which it becomes clear that footballers are heroic. In this current climate of sexual scandal and enormous salaries, One Night in Turin is, or at least should be, a wake up call. One scene, if thats the right word, is utterly heartbreaking. The lip-reading of Bobby Robson's consolations to Paul Gascoigne during the preparations for penaltys will make you weep like 'Gazza' himself.

Some reviewers at the time bemoaned the documentary for lack of original insights. My sense is that if you are a die-hard football fan who spent the tournament glued to the screen this may ring true. But if, like this reviewer, you weren't alive in 1990 and so never witnessed this amazing story, One Night in Turin is an excellent way to prepare for Euro 2012.