Category Archives: film review

The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson (2015)

wilko filmIn 2013 Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson is a peak behind the curtain to find out what went through his head and how he dealt with it.

The legendary former Doctor Feelgood guitarist tells of how, after getting the diagnosis, he became ecstatic, suddenly acutely aware of the surroundings that he will not be able to experience for much longer.

We then get philosophical musings on the meaning of life and death, whilst he sits on the jetty on Canvey Island, playing chess with the grim reaper. There’s a mixture of clips from old movies, animation, home movies and photographs to illustrate what is going through his head.

Mixing philosophy and recollections from his childhood we are able to slowly put together the jigsaw of the mind of Wilko. Whilst insightful, it does wander about a bit and it occasionally goes over old ground from the Dr Feelgood movie, ‘Oil City Confidential’.

Aside from the philosophy, we get bits and pieces of how he lived life after the bad news. Touring Japan, recording an album with Roger Daltry, and hitting the road one last time.

The biggest criticism would have to be that the balance is out a little. Too much philosophy and not enough documentation of being in the studio and so on – but it’s not really clear at what point they decided to make the movie, so it is quite possible that none of that stuff is actually available.

We think we can get away with revealing there is a happy ending. As we type it is fairly well known that Wilko is still alive, so we can reveal that he has a few years left in him without spoiling the movie. However we will avoid revealing the twist of fate that led to someone drawing the conclusion that maybe the inoperable diagnosis was not correct. That was probably this reviewer’s highlight of the film.

It is a remarkable story that led to a sell out farewell tour (we all thought he would be gone), a hit album and a book. A marketing mans wet dream if we are cynical, but clearly this was no made up story, the man suffered and still suffers.

Towards the end of the film Wilko shows us his scars, clearly relived to be alive, but commenting that he is almost pleased to have gone through it all. Almost.

Poignantly, he also comments, “Save the NHS, it saved me”.

If you are expecting a story with lots of music, you will be disappointed, but it is an incredible insight into mortality and the workings of the mind of a man who relishes everything life throws at him. Very few would have taken the glass half full approach he did to his believed last ten months on earth.

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (Madman Entertainment 2008)

not quite hollywood

If you thought ‘Mad Max’, ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ were the only films ever to come out of Australia you would be wrong. There is a whole genre out there, ‘Ozploitation’, whichwhich has passed most of the world by. Not Quite Hollywod tells you what you have been missing.

It will come as no surprise that, as with much of Australian culture, subtlety is in short supply and excess is the word.

Fast cars, naked women, a bus full of nuns on fire, fast cars, lesbian cannibals, stuntmen being killed, fast cars, live mice dressed up as kangaroo foetuses, former Bond Star George Lazenby getting burned, naked women, real life punch ups with Hells Angels, gallons of fake blood, several pints of real blood, vomit and fast cars. It’s all here in this rip roaring tale of chaos, madness and celluloid anarchy. Continue reading NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (Madman Entertainment 2008)

DON’T TAKE ME HOME (2017)

dont take me homeIn 2016, Wales qualified for the finals of a major football tournament for the first time in fifty eight years. Needless to say the whole thing became a bit special. Don’t Take Me Home is the story of that balmy, barmy summer in France.

For a few short weeks, the welsh conquered France, in more ways than one. For the followers of more successful teams, this sort of trip is a regular fixture in the calendar. But with this trip being almost six decades in the making, this was a pilgrimage welsh fans had been waiting a lifetime for.

france 2016 (2)

Tens of thousands of ‘Chrissy Coleman’s Barmy Army’ headed to France, utilising planes, trains and automobiles. Some headed out for the duration, some travelled back and fore for each game. Some flew out in luxury, whilst others spent dozens of tortuous hours in busses and cars. Some travelled direct, whilst others took diversions via Spain and Belgium to save money. Some stayed in tents, whilst others lived it up in hotels. Continue reading DON’T TAKE ME HOME (2017)

I Daniel Blake (2016)

i-daniel-blake-3Ken Loach has a knack for making extraordinary films about otherwise ordinary subjects. And yet again, he has hit the mark.

Daniel Blake is a lifelong carpenter who has had to give up work due to a heart attack. He is then thrown into the mincer and has to deal with a benefits system that, contrary to the opinion of his GP and his Consultant, tells him he is fit to work.

It is fair to say that the film depicts someone going through a ‘worst case scenario’. But the fact is, what he goes through is not uncommon. There are lots of people that have to go through this humiliating process – having to appeal on line, even though they don’t know how to switch a computer on; having to claim Job Seekers Allowance, even though they are not fit enough to seek a job and wading through the bureaucratic treacle that moves at a glacial speed. Continue reading I Daniel Blake (2016)

HYPERNORMALISATION – Do not adjust your set

hypernormalisationWe are living in strange and chaotic times. Brexit, loonies on the verge of becoming president of the USA, the Middle East in chaos. But how did we get here? Hypernormalisation is Adam Curtis’ attempt at explaining all in one bite sized (166 minute) chunk.

This is not his first bite of the cherry. In recent years he has made a string of documentaries that take moments from history that would otherwise just be random dots on the pages of the past and joining them up for it all to make sense. Taken as individual works his films present thought provoking works that push the viewer into questioning everything they have been told and to rethink how the world works.

Events that most people would not connect are presented as pieces of a jigsaw that create a new picture of the world when laid next to each other. Continue reading HYPERNORMALISATION – Do not adjust your set

McCULLIN (2012)

McCullin (2012)
mccullin
If a picture can paint a thousand words, Don McCullin must be one of the most verbose photographers of the 20th Century. His images from the front line captured some of the worst moments of conflict in the latter half of the century and will have moved anyone with an ounce of decency that saw them.

Initially working for the Observer, then the Sunday Times, he captured images that brought conflicts such as Vietnam, the Lebanon, Biafra and Belfast to the breakfast tables of millions. In this documentary we see the human being behind the camera that was at once professional enough to take photographs in situations where most of us would be recycling our lunches, but human enough to know when to put his camera down and help people to get medical attention.

Whilst ostensibly a documentary about photography, this film also documents mans capacity for inhumanity to man and delves into the psychology of war reporting.

McCullin did not set out to be a war reporter and is horrified when he realises that he has become one, but openly admits that he had become addicted to wars and sought them out where ever he could.

His reportage documented the worst side of man and on several occasions he made some dangerous enemies for exposing the brutality of war. He describes the death threats from extremists in the Lebanon as a badge of honour because it showed that he was cut from a different cloth to them. But he is shocked when he finds that he was banned from going to the Falklands because the British establishment did not want him to present any images which could show the British forces in a bad light.

To compensate for missing out on the Falklands he make a journey back out to Beirut, despite death threats, to capture the tragedy as it was unfolding. Another thing that strikes home in this film is the fact that there is never a shortage of wars in the world to report on.

Whilst working for the Times he was given total freedom to travel the world and trusted to come back with the goods. That all changed when Rupert Murdoch took over and Andrew Neil became the editor. Pictures of dead children do not sell luxury goods apparently, and the advertisers have the final say in the world of News International.

With the advent of digital cameras and the internet, there is no shortage of quality photography covering the trouble spots around the world. But the days of magazines such as the Sunday Times Supplement printing images that may put us off our muesli (and hopefully putting us off going to war) are gone. We may not see the likes of Don McCullin again.

TRAILER

FULL MOVIE

LEE SCRATCH PERRY: Visions of paradise (2016)

LEE SCRATCH PERRY: Visions of Paradise (2016)
lee-perry-Poster

Whilst Lee Scratch Perry is hardly a household name, there can be few people on the planet that have not been touched by his work or the ripples in the musical pond that have been caused by the sonic stones he has dropped in it.

This film is the culmination of footage collected by the makers over fifteen years. If you are not familiar with the man, don’t expect to a chronological documentary detailing his life and his work. This is more a collage mixing animation, interviews with people he has influenced and conversations with the man himself. The result is an insight into the workings of the mind of a man who straddles the border between genius and madman. Continue reading LEE SCRATCH PERRY: Visions of paradise (2016)

BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS

BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS (2016)

Which is the greatest attraction, the hills or the man?
Which is the greatest attraction, the hills or the man?

After getting rumbled trying to steal a JCB in Cardiff, two sisters, Clare and Lisa, do a runner in the middle of the night and find themselves lost in the Black Mountains of South Wales. When they run out of petrol they steal a car from two other sisters, ‘The Wilding Sisters’ who are on their way to a poets’ retreat in the mountains. They then take on the identity of the Wilding Sisters at the retreat and pretend to be the much revered poets.

As part of the retreat, the participants go camping in the mountains for inspiration, but the whole trip seems to centre around which of the female poet wannabees will win the affections of Richard, the shy, handsome hunk poet on the retreat. Continue reading BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS

Spike Island

SPIKE ISLAND (2012)

Spike Island Movie Poster
Spike Island Movie Poster

Run of the mill tale of young love, hopes and dreams, elevated by being based around what was billed as a cultural milestone – The Stone Roses live on Spike Island in 1990.

The plot is quite basic. Young lads from Manchester caught up the Madchester scene looking to carve their own groove with their band Shadowcaster. The film documents the sixty hours leading up to the gig of the generation on Spike Island with the Stone Roses, their plots to blag their way in and their hope of getting their demo tape into the hands of the Stone Roses. Continue reading Spike Island

SOUND IT OUT

SOUND IT OUT (2011)

Sound It Out Records, Stockton on tees.
Sound It Out Records, Stockton on tees.

Independent record shops are a dying breed. Sound It Out is the self proclaimed ‘last surviving vinyl record shop in Teeside’ (they don’t recognise chains like HMV as being record shops up that way). This documentary is about that shop.

It is not so much the story of the shop; you don’t get the shop’s history or stories of its survival in the battle with the big chains and you don’t get celebrities popping in to tell of how they bought their first seven inch single there. It’s more a snap shot of the shop, its staff and its customers, at the time of filming (circa 2011 we think). A postcard from the world of record nerds, if you like.

Record collecting has always been a predominantly blokey pastime, but this shop seems to take it to extremes. It is like the comic store on the Big Bang Theory, where women rarely ever set foot and the shop is just full of geeky blokes completing their collections. Continue reading SOUND IT OUT

WHIPLASH (2014)

Whiplash is a film about ambition, perfectionism and drive, disguised as a film about jazz drumming.

whiplash.34229Andrew Neiman (is a student that dreams of being the best jazz drummer in the world. Terence Fletcher (Miles Teller) is a teacher from the Gunny Heartman school of educators – Full Metal Jacket with drums.

Neiman is prepared to sacrifice his all to be the next Buddy Rich, including his girlfriend and the affection of his family. At one point he even risks his life to make sure he is on stage with the band. Continue reading WHIPLASH (2014)

1,2,3,4

1,2,3,4 (2011)

1234
1234

1234 is a tale of young love disguised as a film about a young indie band dreaming of making it big – but it might possibly be the other way around. Bespectacled guitarist Stevie (Ian Bonar) together with his mate Neil (Matthew Baynton) attempt to break out of the hum drum existence of working in a call centre by forming a band. First they recruit the slightly older and more experienced Billy (Kieran Bew) and slightly scatty bassist Emily (Lyndsey Marshal) – who moonlights as an artist, making sculptures out of hair and creating maps based on a day following strangers around.

The band rehearse in what appears to be a church hall, play gigs in pubs, lay down a demo and send it off to every record company they can think of – then build up a collection of rejection letters from said record companies. Continue reading 1,2,3,4

A BIT OF TOM JONES

A BIT OF TOM JONES (2009)

a bit of tom jones
a bit of tom jones

The basic plot of A Bit Of Tom Jones is based around the flims idea of a guy buying Tom Jones cock in a pub and spending the rest of the film trying to sell it to rich perverts that collect celebrity body parts. (Which is, of course, not unusual). It is a cross between Twin Town, Satellite City and a Carry On movie. On times the plot is – well – just plain silly, but there are a considerable number of scenes that produce all out belly laughs. Porn cinemas, brothels run by grannys in the middle of a valley terrace, police stations, helicopters and dumper trucks all some how fit into the story.

Featuring everyone’s favourite dirty granny, Margaret John (Gavin and Stacy, High Hopes), Denise Welch (Waterloo Road, Coronation Street), Johnny Owen (Shameless and a fans view of the Cardiff City in the FA Cup) and the legendary Geno Washington, it is a reminder of how much talent is about in Wales at the moment. Continue reading A BIT OF TOM JONES

BEWARE OF MR BAKER

BEWARE OF MR BAKER (2012)

beware of mr baker
beware of mr baker

Ginger Baker is often cited as the best rock drummer in history. This a description that sends Mr Baker into fits of rage; he considers rock legends like John Bonnham and Keith Moon with contempt – not fit to lace his shoes – because he is not a rock drummer, he is a jazz drummer.

Beware of Mr Baker is a well constructed documentary tells the story of the rollercoaster ride that Baker has ridden for the last seventy plus years. Warts and all. And boy are there some warts. Continue reading BEWARE OF MR BAKER

BLACK POWER MIX TAPE 1967-1975

BLACK POWER MIX TAPE 1967-1975 (2011)

clack power mix tape
clack power mix tape

Compiled from 16mm footage that had been lying undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for 30 years, this film documents the US Black Power movement from 67 to 75. Broken neatly into a chapter for each year, it tells us chronologically of the struggle for civil rights in a society that claimed to be all for equality and freedom, but clearly was not.

We get footage of Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, and Angela Davis, speaking from platforms, giving interviews and just hanging around; together with ‘ordinary’ black people discussing the struggle to just get by in  ‘the land of freedom of opportunity’. Continue reading BLACK POWER MIX TAPE 1967-1975

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

EXIT THROUGH THE GiFT SHOP: AKA The Banksy Movie (2010)

banksy movie
banksy movie

“Banksy is a sell out”. So reads the graffiti scrawled across the wall. Is this true? Well, he has certainly progressed from being an unknown street artist to an internationally renowned (all be it still anonymous) street artist that can put on sell out exhibitions, shift books by the shed load and – now – make his own films.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is, on the face of it, a documentary made by Banksy about a guy that tried to make a film about Banksy but messed it up so Banksy made a film about him. There is no point getting too bogged down in the plot because to be honest, it is difficult to tell if it is a genuine documentary or if it is another one of Banksy’s magnificent pranks. Continue reading EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX

THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX (2013)

the great hip hop hoaxwers
the great hip hop hoaxwers

This is the true story of two Scottish rappers, Silibil ‘n’ Brains, tired of the music industry not taking them seriously, who move to London, put on fake American accent, pretend to be from California and dupe the entire music industry into taking them on. On the face of it an amusing, if not entirely original story. But it soon develops into something very deep and thought provoking.

We start with the boys gigging around their home town of Dundee and trying to get signed. No label was interested. Then, for a laugh, they made some phone calls with an American accent and told people they were from California. Quicker than you can say “apple pie” they are signed to Sony records, playing gigs at Brixton Academy and blowing the massive advance they had been given on booze and women. Continue reading THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX

OTWAY: THE MOVIE

OTWAY THE MOVIE: ROCK AND ROLL’S GREATEST FAILURE (2013)

otway the movie premier
otway the movie premier

Those not familiar with John Otway – which let’s face it, is most of the population – could be forgiven for thinking this is a spoof documentary in the vein of Spinal Tap. Such is the nature of the crazy, wacky, bonkers, over the top, rock and roll extravagance that bounces around inside the head of one of rock’s greatest treasures.

But it is not a spoof, this is the story of a uniquely British eccentric rock and roll legend that has spent the last forty years reaching for the stars, not being put off by what anyone else thinks and, most importantly, not being put off by failure. Continue reading OTWAY: THE MOVIE