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Banged Up Abroad (2007)
Let's give Five some credit
Five may not be the UK's most-watched terrestrial TV channel, but personally I think their programming is often far superior to either BBC1 or any of the ITV channels. They're particularly good at commissioning documentaries (which are a lot cheaper than drama, I guess), and have screened lively and informative docs covering everything from art, military history, engineering, medical issues to...well, you name it.
"Banged Up Abroad", produced by Raw TV, is a case in point. The reconstructions using actors are not cheesy (BBC, take note), the camera-work is not intrusive with faux-verite shakiness (everyone else, take note), it's well directed with the minimum of voice-over, and manages to extract heartfelt, and often very moving, narratives from the actual protagonists.
It also skillfully avoids falling into a trap of implicit racism concerning the foreign countries where people find themselves imprisoned. Very often conditions are shocking, and the prison system in question is failing miserably on inmates' rights, but the programme never lazily and simplistically portrays foreign nations as inherently corrupt and beyond-the-pale.
I've found every episode both gripping and illuminating from beginning to end. One can only imagine how hammy BBC1 would make it, with someone like Michael Burke doing the voice-over.
It's a shame that this series, currently airing, consists of only four episodes. This week they told the story of two American girls imprisoned in Peru, so perhaps they will continue to spread their net to relate the stories of other non-Brits. It would also be interesting to hear the stories of those not imprisoned for drug offences - how about the testimony of someone held at Guantanamo Bay?
Let's hope that this excellent programme has a third series.
I'm mystified by the high praise this gets
People seem to love this film. Reviews talk about its ingenious twists and turns. Well, maybe if I'd never seen "House Of Games" or even "The Usual Suspects" I might have been a bit more surprised. But as it was, I figured out who was pulling the wool over whose eyes pretty much from the word go. Perhaps I've just watched too many double-(or triple-)cross thrillers.
This is basically apprentice work. Nolan wrote a film he could shoot for peanuts. In that respect, there's no denying he's done a great job. Despite the fact you can hear the camera running in most shots, he's put together a well directed film that manages to rise above its zero budget. But the script needs so much more work - it really could've done with a couple of more drafts. It falls into some very basic traps, like characters constantly "explaining" the plot to other characters for the benefit of the audience. The acting is okay, though funnily enough the best performance comes from someone who never had any intention of becoming a professional actor (he's now an architect).
I thought all the twists and turns a bit tiresome. Very much hand-me-down Mamet. The actual idea of "following" complete strangers is quite intriguing. Too bad the movie doesn't bother to pursue it after the first few minutes.
Still, Nolan designed this as a calling card movie. Like an eye-catching student movie, it got him noticed, and he's now working in Hollywood. And I wish him well. In fact, his Director's Commentary on the DVD of "Following" is much more interesting than the film itself.
Watch it if you're a bit curious. But, really, it's no great shakes.
Prepare to have your preconceptions overturned
Richard Gere in a cheesy remake of a '60s French nouvelle vague classic? Sounds like it should really suck, right?
Wrong. Turns out that Jim McBride's "Breathless" one of the best American films of the '80s. Electric performances, superb use of music, and direction with great zip and flair. The fact that this still gets so many negative reviews proves that, even now, most people simply don't get it. The main thing is Gere's performance - you'll either love his preening, irrepressible arrested adolescent, or find him grating. I think it's the performance of his career. This is one of Tarantino's favourite movies, and although it's not really anything like a QT movie, you can see why it appeals to him. I was all set to hate it, but by the end I loved it. Check it out, and decide for yourself.
Oh, and not even LA in the height of summer is anything like as hot as Valerie Kaprisky.