Monday, 19 September 2011

Che: Part One – A Visual History Lesson

Throughout my ten or so years of doing history at school the name Che Guevara has only cropped up once or twice, and even then only as a fleeting mention. That is a contrast to my life as a whole, in which I have seen that iconic Che image printed on t-shirts, spray-painted on walls and in all sorts of other places. But I still knew very little about the man and why he is so iconic across the planet. So one of the things I was looking for from Steven Soderbergh’s Che: Part One, when I watched it for the first time yesterday evening, was to finally find out about the man behind the face.

Che: Part One is essentially a visual history lesson (it’s not like a documentary, in which you would be told all about Che by some talking heads thoroughly analysing his life, and it doesn’t look deep enough to be classed as a proper biopic). But Che: Part One is incredibly shallow for something that seems to be a visual history. Even though by the end I knew a lot more about the man, and his beliefs, it still felt as though the film had only scratched the surface. I never felt as if I had been shown the inner-workings of Che Guevara, just what was visible on the surface. The whole film felt very distant, as if you were just watching all these events unfold in front of you, rather than being a part of them. Also, the film never went into much detail about the background of the events, for example why the Batista regime was so bad or why Che felt so passionately about his cause.

It’s certainly not a film for the masses; the sporadic guerrilla warfare scenes were never what you would call exciting, and there’s a whole lot of talking. And to be honest it can’t really be called entertainment, it’s far more focused on telling you what happened, as truthfully as possible, and it never does something just for entertainment value, which I suppose, in the current film climate, should be applauded.

The film also follows a strange chronology, hopping back and forth between the revolution and a trip Che made to the US in the early sixties. The film is often worse off for it, due to some seemingly strange cut-off points and the fact that it sometimes feels like a series of events rather than a proper story.

It must be said though that Benicio Del Toro is fantastic playing such an icon with the restraint and control that he does, and he certainly looked the part. I also found the film consistently interesting and certainly learned a lot more about the Cuban Revolution, but you must concentrate through all the subtitles etc. to really take as much from the film as possible. The cinematography and locations must also be praised because the film looked fantastic, the beautiful greens of the forests and the dazzling yellows of some of the crops. Sorderbergh also used archive footage from Che’s trip to America and mixed it in with faux-archive footage shot in black and white, complete with TV-esque shots and shaky-cam, which was stylish, but added yet more to the visual history lesson angle.

So Che: Part One is a bare-bones visual history, lacking in any Hollywood thrills, but it is interesting if you put the effort in. Believable performances and beautiful cinematography also add a lot to the film.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011


A couple of nights ago I was scouring my Twitter feed (as you do) and I came across a re-tweet by one of the IGN UK guys. It was a deal for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. 'Game' was selling it for £24.99, even though it’s only been out a couple of weeks. Now came the tricky part, it was obviously a better deal than anywhere else in the UK for a game I was looking forward to checking out, but I could just wait a little while and buy it when I have a bit more spare cash.

I spent a little while umming and arring about whether to order it, then it occurred to me. It was delivery only! That would mean I would have a parcel to open when I get home from school in a few days time! And funnily enough, it was having a parcel to open that finally swung me far enough into the metaphorical ‘buy area’ to click ‘add to basket’.

Now this may just be me, but I think humans just love receiving things, whether it’s something that you’ve ordered or a surprise birthday present etc. It’s an occurrence that I’m going to call ‘UNRAP’ (or the Unknown Need to Receive Anything, especially Presents).

We all have a little bit of ‘UNRAP’ inside us and mine escapes far too regularly, often costing me £25. I must try harder to control it, but there’s just something magical about ripping open packaging to reveal something that's brand new, and yours.

For all the benefits of buying a game in a shop, like being able to take it home, then and there, and be playing within mere minutes of purchase, there’s just somethingabout ordering stuff on line. I don’t know whether it’s the wait, cranking up the expectation level, which makes it a more magical experience. Or coming home and seeing a parcel on the table and taking it upstairs and ripping open the packaging to reveal a shiny new game, or Blu-ray or whatever else, and then opening it up and taking a good sniff to catch all the ‘new-game’ goodness before it fades away.

But whatever it is . . . I like it!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Here's Jammy!

Hey guys,

I actually made my first proper post earlier today. Woo hoo!

Anyway I hope you enjoyed it. I would be very grateful for any feedback, as it's my first proper review/feature that I've ever written. I would be especially grateful for feedback about the technical side of the piece, because I wrote it without putting much consideration into its structure.

If feedback is positive I hope to start posting more regularly about films, both reviews and features.

Thank you again,
Jammy Sponges

The Inbetweeners Movie – My First Time

I realised half way through writing this piece that I had written getting on for 500 words without really starting the review. So if all you are interested in is the review you can skip the first section and just start where I have written ‘REVIEW STARTS HERE’. The first section is just some background information about the series and the film. But, whether you just read the review or the whole thing, enjoy!

In its first five days of release ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’ made a staggering £13.2 million in the UK alone. That is enough to make it the second highest opening in the UK so far this year, the highest of course being Harry Potter. It has now been announced that it has made £27.72 million in 13-days, making it the UK’s fastest–grossing live action comedy of all time.

Now, that is quite a feat for a show that started out in 2008 playing late on e4 every week. But in these past three years in has turned into something of a cultural phenomenon.

Viewing figures grew and grew throughout the three series, and by the third series pretty much every teenager was tuning in. I would go into school the day after an episode and it would always be the hot-topic. Its influence even started traveling up the age groups, with some of the younger teachers quoting it.

It just seemed to resonate with so many young people who were either the same age as the characters or who would soon be, or even those who had been that age in recent memory. The series captured perfectly the journey through the last couple of years of secondary school of a group of lads who were neither cool kids nor geeks, they were in-between (hence the name).

The first series was something fresh and new and, even though it took an episode or two to find its feet, provided consistent humour. That of course lead to series two which continued the trend, and in my point of view was the best the show has been.

Then series three, which was announced to be the last we would see from the Inbetweeners. It was series that really hit the big-time, but something was wrong. I don’t know whether it was the lack of new material or the bigger audience or the higher expectations, but something wasn’t quite right. The show seemed to be going out with a whimper rather than a bang.

And this may well have been the reason for the idea of them making a movie, to try and make the Inbetweeners go out with the bang that they so rightfully deserved. But whatever the reason, the writers put on their thinking hats and got to work.

A script was ready, now for the cast (who were now aged from 24 through to 27). But Simon Bird, who plays Will, asked for more money than the other three main characters. He claimed that he was the star (he provides the voice-over for the show) so he should get paid the most. The guys with the money said no, and actively started to search for a replacement. However, it never came to that, and Simon Bird was back in.

And here we are now, the films been out for a couple of weeks and I finally got round to seeing it yesterday. Here are my thoughts . . .


The end of series three saw the four stars - Will, Simon, Neil and Jay - finish sixth form. So, for the movie, the writers decided on it being about a ‘lad’s holiday’ that they go on after school’s finished.

So the whole film revolves around what the boys get up to during their trip. In true Inbetweeners style, this leads to parts that are as much cringe-worthy as they are hilarious. Now I must warn you, this film is not, I repeat NOT, for those with a sensitive disposition. It features many a penis and some of the crudest dialogue you will ever hear on the big screen. It’s certainly not something to take your grandma to.

Something that you will realise early on is that this is still very much the Inbetweeners, and that the film is not trying to be something it isn’t. I personally think this is a good thing, but at the same time, the production values aren’t much higher than the series and it certainly feels like an extended episode rather than a big summer movie.

The film did sometimes lose its way during scenes that tried to make it more than the TV show. Many of the emotional scenes were hard to believe because of what you are used to watching the participating characters doing.

The setting worked to an extent and provided the writers with plenty of material, but naturally a lad’s holiday in the Mediterranean is not as easy to relate to as the last few years of school, and having 95% of the film being set away from the UK didn’t quite feel the same.

The film did suffer from not really having much of a plot and being more like a series of events. This works in a half-hour episode, but the film lacked a driving force throughout the 90-odd minutes

So in summary, if you enjoyed the TV series then you will enjoy this, but it certainly won’t convert anyone who didn’t. It has regular laughs and everything else you would expect from an Inbetweeners episode, but nothing more that really works. Not quite the epic finale that it set out to be, but a solid, thoroughly enjoyable comedy for teenagers and young adults.