The Sweeney - The Complete Series (DVD)
***The SP on the Sweeney*** I can always count on my son to surprise me with his choice of presents and last Mother's Day was no exception. Knowing that I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from having exhausted my supply of Monarch of the Glen, he came to the rescue with another addictive series. To be honest, as I ... unwrapped the package to reveal a box set of the Complete Sweeney, I had to muster all my acting skills to feign delight. I always liked the grumpy charm of the iconic John Thaw but I was never much of a Sweeney fan; I think that my husband must have mentioned it as being a cult programme. In the absence of anything else to watch, The Sweeney rudely battered down our door, made itself at home in the living room and roughed us up a bit.
For those who are not familiar with The Sweeney, other than the film remake starring Ray Winston, let me give you the SP. It was indeed a cult series about the London Metropolitan Police Force's serious crime unit known as the Flying Squad, or in Cockney rhyming slang terms, Sweeney Todd, thus, The Sweeney. It ran from 1975 to 1978 and was daubed onto a desolate urban landscape of disused warehouses, boarded up tower blocks and vandalised telephone boxes. The chief protagonists are the hard drinking, hard hitting Detective Inspector Jack Reagan played by Thaw, his Sergeant (Carter), the chirpy, cheeky chappy played by, the easy to like, Dennis Waterman and the rather classy and multi-dimensional Chief Inspector Haskins, played with considerable poise and urbanity by Garfield Morgan. However, Haskins' restraint is not mirrored by the ruthless villains that the trio come up against or by his dirty fighting subordinates, for this is a series that broke all the rules of cops and robbers TV shows.
***Breaking all the Rules***
What had gone before was Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and the slightly racier, Softly, Softly which all displayed a certain honour amongst thieves, who'd been out stealing bicycles and had a fatherly reprimand from a steady and wise Bert Lynch - fast forward to The Sweeney; we go straight into the action - a car chase as a Jag Mk2 spins around a car park soon to be joined by the omnipresent Transit van, four beefy guys in clown masks pile out of the van with baseball bats, three Sweeney cars arrive at the scene and an almighty ruck ensues. Invariably, Carter gets a bloody nose but Reagan always gives his captive one extra punch for good measure, even after he's arrested him, after all, he's nursing a wicked hangover. Then the programme formally opens to the fantastic punch you in the face, pounding guitar and brass of Harry South's theme tune played against fast cut still images of police cars through a cold blue filter; it sets your heart racing with anticipation.
The action is brutal but the programme has much more to offer than violence. The line between the goodies and baddies is at best blurred and at worse, the ultra cynical and callous Reagan steps well over the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and fair play using any means necessary to obtain a confession. Moreover, the police don't always win against the criminals and they certainly come out losers in their private lives. Unable to form or maintain personal relationships, Reagan and Carter seek solace in their own banter laced with brain teasing Cockney rhyming slang, chain smoking and round the clock drinking. John Thaw occasionally lets slip his native, Mancunian accent, which along with his snazzy leather bomber jacket and snarling attitude gives him the appearance of Liam Gallagher's dad. The chemistry between the two characters is wonderful and their giggling kept Denis Norden's outtake show, 'It'll be Alright on the Night,' in material for years.
***Insight into the Seventies***
Apart from being a highly credible and groundbreaking drama, the series is fascinating to watch as a social document. For lovers of old cars, it's a treat with Ford Granadas, Austin Maxis and Rover 2000s all making regular appearances. Almost everybody smokes and they think nothing of lighting up in somebody's home or office. We see some lurid pubs, the worst of seventies' fashion and some funky interior design. It's before the term PC had been invented - Reagan and Carter are always interested in 'birds' but highly suspicious of 'poofs' and 'spades.' Whether this is just the characters talking or the accepted vocabulary of the time is debatable but without a doubt, mid -70s London looks to be a bleak, depressing and dangerous place. Those who know London will take delight in identifying the filming locations ranging from Heathrow and Brunel University in the west to the more central Kilburn, Peckham and Battersea. So is that somewhere that you'd want to spend 53 episodes in? You bet!
Despite its natural feel, filmed in the video camera Cinéma vérité style, The Sweeney is very formulaic in design; each programme starting with a two or three minute spoiler which is often a bank job or similar, we then cut to the theme tune and the rest of the programme is broken into three equal parts of around fourteen minutes. Every episode features a guest actor, who usually plays a gangster. The roll call is a who's who of actors of the period and we see the likes of Alfie Bass, Ian Hendry, Roy Kinear, Michael Elphick, T.P McKenna, Bill Maynard, Warren Mitchell, Prunella Gee, Leslie-Anne Down, Ronald Fraser and Maureen Lipman.
***The Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous***
The episodes are written by a number of different writers such as Trevor Preston, Roger Marshall, Ranald Graham, Tony Hoare and Ted Charles which brings us to the first criticism of the series which is a lack of consistency. Some of the episodes are very intense and leave you feeling drained and thoughtful whilst the episode that follows may border on light comedy; this undermines the credibility of the programme. Furthermore, in one episode, Reagan seems to have a regular partner who thereafter disappears without trace; this lack of continuity also occurs regarding other police officers that they work with. As the series progress, Haskin's presence become more intermittent and a number of other Chief Inspectors appear on the scene, all shallow and tedious compared to Haskins. That said, there are some powerful episodes such as 'Abduction' in which Reagan's daughter is kidnapped, 'Contact Breaker', a classic heist, 'Taste of Fear', about two psychopathic army deserters from Northern Ireland and the very poignant 'Victims', in which it becomes clear that the villains, their families and the police are all victims of the sordid, morally corrupt world they inhabit and perpetuate.
The quality of these is insulted by three particularly reprehensible episodes starting with 'Golden Fleece', featuring Patrick Mower and George Layton as two devil-may-care Australian crooks. Their Aussie accents have to be the worst screen accents since Dick Van-Dyke in Mary Poppins. The script tries to be comic but is just tragic. As if we hadn't suffered enough, the dynamic duo reappear later in 'Trojan Bus', in a story even more absurd than the previous but the prize turkey award goes to episode 51, called 'Latin Lady' featuring, would you believe it? Yes, Morecambe and Wise who, by driving a delivery van at speed, manage to evade chasing Arabs and MI5 and stop them from obtaining a secret formula for Beta blockers. Perhaps by this stage, The Sweeney had become a cool show in which to make a cameo appearance, perhaps the writers felt the need to expand the programme's range or Thames TV were just using it as a platform to plug other artists stolen from the BBC Whichever it was, it was best that it was put out of its misery before Cilla Black and Bruce Forsyth turned up; 'Nice to see you, to see you nice!' I don't think so.
***Still a Diamond Steal***
Despite, its flaws, watching The Sweeney Complete Series 14 Disc Set is still a memorable and worthwhile experience; silly episodes aside, the characters are real and imperfect, tarnished by the grime of the their underworld of informers, prostitutes, small time losers and ruthless gang leaders. The series is a time piece of London in the 70s and will go down in history as an important record of the period and a great body of work from the writers, directors and actors.
The sound and picture quality are not of the standard that you would get today but the series is in no way dated. It has a 15 Certificate which is about right; you see some occasional boobs and bums, a fair amount of violence and occasional swearing - the 'B' word but not the 'F' word. The packaging is very basic and the absence of an information booklet or any extras is disappointing. Despite this, at £49.99, it's a steal, working out at less than £1 per episode. 'Alright Guv? You get the beers, I'll put the telly on and we'll settle down to watch a nice bit of The Sweeney - You're Nicked!'
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Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Blu-ray)
Twin Peaks wasn't for everyone I think it is fair to say. When David Lynch's show hit the airwaves it divided opinion, it was either a masterpiece or a nonsensical waste of time. I fall into the former category, I loved it. In the days before internet downloads, information overload and spoilers everywhere you look, I remember the wait ... between the end of season 1 and the beginning of season 2 was a nightmare as it left it on such a cliffhanger. (Season 2 never lived up to that great first season, but that's a story for another review)
By the time Twin Peaks had ended, it had built up quite the cult following. Plenty of fan fiction, fan clubs etc all begging David Lynch for more Twin Peaks. He duly obliged, releasing a film, 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me' in 1992 that was, if possible, even more offbeat than the show. David Lynch being the unconventional man he is, rather than wrap up the cliffhanger of sorts from the end of season 2, he made a prequel, which was actually adapted from the 'The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer' novel, itself an authorised spin-off from the show. The film was beset by various problems from its inception, including several of the series cast refusing to return, Kyle McLachlan agreeing to return in a very limited role (requiring a complete re-write as he was to have been the star), and co-creator Mark Frost, having fallen out with Lynch, declining to get involved. The omens weren't good...
Sheryl Lee - Laura Palmer
Ray Wise - Leland Palmer
Mädchen Amick - Shelly Johnson
Dana Ashbrook - Bobby Briggs
Phoebe Augustine - Ronette Pulaski
David Bowie - Phillip Jeffries
Eric Da Re - Leo Johnson
Miguel Ferrer - Albert Rosenfield
Pamela Gidley - Teresa Banks
Heather Graham - Annie Blackburn
Chris Isaak - Special Agent Chester Desmond
Frances Bay - Mrs. Tremond
Moira Kelly - Donna Hayward
Peggy Lipton - Norma Jennings
David Lynch - Gordon Cole
James Marshall - James Hurley
Jürgen Prochnow - Woodsman
Harry Dean Stanton - Carl Rodd
Kiefer Sutherland - Agent Sam Stanley
Lenny Von Dohlen - Harold Smith
Grace Zabriskie - Sarah Palmer
Kyle MacLachlan - Special Agent Dale Cooper
The eagle-eyed among you would have noticed it was a very eclectic cast, with some decent actors in there, plus people like Chris Isaak and David Bowie!
PLOT (such as it is)
You may to have to bear with me here, as this is a very difficult film to summarise, even for fans like me. The film essentially tells the story of the last 7 days of Laura Palmer, leading up to her murder, which is where the tv show Twin Peaks starts; however, running parallel to that is the investigation of the murder of a girl who is killed in a very similar way to how we know Laura Palmer will later be killed. Once the character of Laura Palmer is introduced, the film takes on the blackest of tones, and knowing what we do of how things turned out on the show, deals with some very uncomfortable subjects such as incest (albeit engineered by her father being possessed by the demon 'Bob') and torture and several other uncomfortable scenes.
The films delves deep into Laura Palmer's psyche, which we can see is deeply disturbed (who wouldn't be) and very much on the edge of sanity. Sheryl Lee's performance as Palmer is incredibly good, as we see the sad breakdown of someone who wants to destroy her own innocence before 'Bob' can fully take it. The fact we know her ultimate fate makes it all the more poignant. What else happens? A lot of pretty random stuff. David Bowie's character pops in from another dimension spouting various nonsense then disappears, familiar faces from the show pop in and out with no real reason given, frequent references are made to events in the show that then go nowhere.
As a fan of the show, even I don't know what to make of the film. It makes little sense to fans, and no sense at all to people unfamiliar with the show. It feels at times like someone has stitched together a lot of scenes on the cutting room floor, and tried to make a narrative from them. I suppose Lynch would say the film is a reflection of Palmer, all messed up, dreamy, nightmarish, strange...but fans wanted more than an arty film student project. What is the film? is it horror? psychological drama? As a fan of a lot of horror films, I am happy enough to watch most things, but the film does push right to the limits of acceptability with the treatment of Laura towards the end, I felt very uncomfortable watching; maybe that was the point.
There are good points. The film is shot fantastically well, and is very visual in its storytelling, and it is nice to revisit the characters, strange as the story they find themselves in is. Lynch does throw a lot of 'easter eggs' in, that fans of the show will see and understand, and the cast are an interesting bunch to watch, that's for sure. (I enjoyed Keifer Sutherland's performance especially). The soundtrack is also excellent, really capturing the surrealism and strangeness of the film.
Why did I buy the blu-ray, if my review seems as negative as it seems? I love the show and, having the collector mentality I do, have to have this to complement it. Silly I know, but that's me...
The blu-ray doesn't really add much to previous releases. Lynch refuses to do commentaries on any of his films so you know you are not getting that, but we do get a decent widescreen transfer, upgraded sound quality, a short 'making of' feature shot at the time (1992), and an excellent booklet full of discussion and facts about the film. Apparently Lynch wanted to make a directors cut (what the heck would THAT look like?!) but the French studio that financed the film will not release any of the footage. It was a commercial and critical flop, I'm guessing they bear a grudge....
As I said earlier, very tough film to review. It is very unlike anything else you will probably see, and for that alone may be worth watching, but it is very dark and disturbing, albeit done very creatively.
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This Is England '86 (DVD)
This is England 86 ---- I am currently watching a lot of British made films to do with Football violence, racism, the eighties and the British gangster scene. There are some great little gems hidden away amongst the dross and Shaun Meadows film 'This is England' was one of them. It garnered so much praise that ... Meadows felt he owed it to fans to say what happened next or to put it another way, see how the characters developed and where their lives where headed three years on from the original story.
As usual I will talk about the director, the actors and my thoughts after I have given you a short run-down of the plot.
People mock the British film industry but it still holds true that when we get it right we make some of the grittiest dramas in the world and one thing for sure is that more often than not there are some damn good actors strewn throughout them who sometimes don't get the credit they deserve. This is England 86 proves that point and then some. We know these characters from the film and because we care about them we want to follow the story and see what happens to them. This is a powerful tool for any director to hold in his grasp and Meadows does not waste the opportunity in the slightest.
Flashback - This Is England
Shaun is a twelve year old lad who has lost his father in the Falklands war and lives with his recently widowed mother in the north of England, somewhere in the region of Blackpool. He is being bullied at school for the flared trousers he is wearing. The year is nineteen eighty-three and Thatcher is in power and the Falklands conflict is still all over the news. After a fight at school, which was brought on after a comment about his father, Shaun is feeling down-trodden and persecuted. On his way home he bumps into a local gang of skinheads who are led by an enigmatic young man named 'Woody'. Woody takes pity on Shaun and invites him to join the gang. Shaun shaves his head and gets kitted out in skinhead clothes. He feels part of something and sees the gang as his friends, which they are. They are a peaceful bunch who just enjoy each other's company and they are no racist undertones (one of the gang is black) or fascist outlooks on life. Woody promotes the correct way of behaving and instils it into the group. They let off steam by demolishing a derelict house, which harms or matters to no one.
The whole dynamic of the group and the movie changes when 'Combo' returns from a three year stint in jail. Combo tells his stories of prison and his racist views and nationalist insights cause the group to split. Woody and a few others leave but young Shaun is coaxed into staying by the convincing Combo.
Shaun is taken to an English Nationalist meeting or the polite term for the National Front extremist group and things start to take a turn for the worse. Will Shaun realise his mistake in trusting combo before it is too late? Or have the seeds that have been sewn already taken root on an impressionable young mind?
This Is England 86
The story has moved on three years and Shaun has moved on too. He is taking his final exams or not as the case may be and is about to leave school. His mother is on to him to find a job. He has patched up his differences with the local Asian shopkeeper and is offered a job working in his shop and looking after a new venture in video rentals.
Woody and Lol are about to get married but can Woody go through with it? Milky, gadget and the gang are all in tow at the local community centre, which isn't exactly Lols idea of the perfect venue.
Relationships are stretched and old feelings begin to surface between Lol and another man. Lol's estranged Father is also back on the scene to devastating effect and his inner demons are about to explode in a way that will affect everyone in the story.
Shaun gets back with the gang and is reunited with Smell and just when things are looking rosy for all concerned a person no one expected to see again is back on the scene with a bang.
A key member of the gang is raped and a confrontation at the end of the series is paramount to the next series being made. An unexpected hero saves the day for one of the characters in an absolutely harrowing end scene.
Lives will be changed forever.
Vicky McClure as Lol
I had to put Vicky McClure at the top of the actors list for this review because her character Lol becomes the central character in the series. This will be even more prevalent in the next instalment 'This Is England 88'. She was in the movie as Woody's girlfriend but was never really focused on. McClure's performance in this series is absolutely outstanding and she really grows as an actress just has her character grows on screen.
Some of the scenes in This Is England 86 will have been really difficult to play and she managed with a skill that seems effortless at times. She has a maturity about her that is defined in her solid acting skills and she comes across as a very capable, especially in some of the more difficult scenes. I think she will go on to be a fine actress and has many excellent years ahead of her. Massive thumbs up for her performance.
Thomas Turgoose as Shaun Field
Thomas is one of those gems that we often overlook in the acting world and he plays the part of Shaun brilliantly. At fourteen years of age he played the central character in the movie with a maturity that belies his limited experience. I say maturity by way of the realism he gave to the role. The character he plays is only twelve years old so in effect is rather immature role to play, even for a fourteen year old. It would've been easy to blag the role and just play a kid, but he manages to portray the angst and hurt of a child that is alone in the world after losing his father with aplomb. Turgoose continues where he left off in the series and puts in another great performance in all four episodes. He has this natural ability of saying a whole lot without actually saying anything and I am a big fan of his in this series.
Stephen Graham as Andrew 'Combo' Gascoigne
Stephen is five years younger than me and turned forty this year (nine days ago in fact), so I have basically grew up with him on the TV in programmes like 'The Bill', 'Where the Heart is' and 'Coronation Street'. He is probably best known for his role in Guy Ritchie's movie 'Snatch' and for his role as Al Capone in 'Boardwalk Empire' for which he has won numerous awards. You either love him or hate him and hate is usually the case for most of his characters; Combo in the movie is no different in that respect. One thing you can say about him is that the guy can act. I think he is one of the most underrated actors to come out of Britain in the last decade and I for one like him.
What he brings to the movie is that excruciating reminder that people like combo actually still exist in the world today let alone in nineteen eighty three. He is a scary character, with a lot of issues and pent up anger at society and his country. Some of the more racist elements of the movie must have been very difficult to play indeed and it must have taken a while to wind down after some of the more brutal scenes and indeed would've taken a lot of guile to build up for.
It is true that Stephen plays a thug well but let's not look past the fact that this is a very intelligent man who can really act and become the part he has taken on. He brings an experience to the cast and must have been invaluable to the likes of Turgoose when needing advice. He gets massive thumbs up from me.
In This Is England 86 he doesn't really figure much but when he does it happens to be one of the most poignant and telling parts of the story. The end scene is brilliant and he once again shows what a fantastic actor he is. There is also a scene where he has to visit his sick mother and he plays it to a tee. He is a much changed character from the film and it is good to follow him on his journey. What his character does at the end of this series will change a lot of people's opinion of him.
Joseph Gilgan as Richard 'Woody' Woodford
Most of you will recognise Joseph Gilgan from his role in ITV's 'Emmerdale' as Eli Dingle and he also played Rudy Wade in 'Misfits'. As with the rest of the cast in the movie he also reprised the role of Woody for this spin-off TV series. Woody is one of those characters that prove we should never pre-judge anyone or any given situation. Given the fact that he and his gang are skinheads in the movie , one would be forgiven for piling on the trait assumptions and viewing them as a stereotypical gang that go around being destructive and racist all the time. What Woody is in essence is an uncomplicated young man that wants to live life as simply as he can and Gilgan plays him really well and in the same uncomplicated matter. This is where most reviews of this movie fall down as they talk about Shaun joining a gang of violent racists, when he actually does nothing of the sort. That only happens when the violent and racist Combo turns up in the movie.
In This Is England 86 Woody is more of a central character and he is one of the highlights of the show. The scenes with his manager at work are brilliant and he brings a humour to the grittiness that gives us a little respite from how difficult it is to watch at times. I love Woody as a character and Gilgan is brilliant in the role.
Andrew Shim as Milky
Andrew Shim has appeared in many of Meadow's films and shorts. He was the lead role in 'A Room For Romeo Brass' and this is what he is probably best known for. He also starred in 'Once Upon A Time In the Midlands', 'Dead Man's Shoes' and This is England. He even starred in a forty-second short by Meadows called 'The Stairwell 'which won some small awards. Milky was a tough role to play as he was the only black guy in a white group and also the victim of a severe racist beating. He has a lazy look about him in this movie and plays it with ease but this doesn't defer from the fact that the lad can act.
In the series he comes into the central plot more and is key to one of the central plot lines, which I won't mention, like the others, as I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it.
Johnny Harris as Mick
Johnny Harris is a relatively little known British actor and I hope he would forgive me for saying so. He is best known for his role of the horrible pimp, Derek in 'London to Brighton' and has appeared in the movies 'Rock n Rolla', 'Leaving' and 'The Cottage'. He plays the role of Lol's father in This Is England 86 and boy does he play it well. His performance is slimy, creepy and cringe-worthy in all the right ways. He literally does make your skin crawl. One of his scenes is one of the most sickening scenes in British film over the last decade and is really strong stuff. It is harrowing to watch and he is also involved in the last major scene of the series, which is also powerful stuff. He plays the role really well. The character has a darkness about him and a pent up rage that eventually comes to the fore. He also has the emptiness of a man with no soul and Harris must have had to go to some very dark places to play him. An Excellent performance.
The rest of the cast is back and also joined by Michael Socha, who plays 'Harvey' and has some really funny scenes with Gadget, played by Andrew Ellis. Some of Harvey's one-liners are priceless and made me laugh out loud. I have also got to give a mention to Danielle Watson who plays 'Trev' (a girl). She was also in the movie but features a lot more in the series and had to film one of the most harrowing scenes any actress will ever have to play. Much kudos should go out to her for that and she also acts the character quite well. Ellis as Gadget is the same lovable and daft character as the movie but I would say a little more likeable than the film. His affair with an older woman is one of the more light-hearted parts of the series and is extremely funny at times. Joseph Demsie of Skins fame (he plays Chris Miles in Skins) also appears as 'Higgie'.
Vicky McClure as Lol
Joe Gilgun as Woody
Andrew Shim as Milky
Thomas Turgoose as Shaun
Rosamund Hanson as Smell
Chanel Cresswell as Kelly
Danielle Watson as Trev
Andrew Ellis as Gadget
Michael Socha as Harvey
Perry Benson as Meggy
George Newton as Banjo
Johnny Harris as Mick
Hannah Walters as Trudy
Stephen Graham as Combo
Jo Hartley as Cynthia
Kriss Dosanjh as Mr. Sandhu
Olivia Morgan as Bub
Jamie Taylor as Buloosweet
Joseph Dempsie as Higgy
Georgia May Foote as Gemma
Steve Brody as Richard
Rebecca Manley as Babs
Perry Fitzpatrick as Flip
Katherine Dow Blyton as Chrissy
This Is England won the Alexander Korda Best British Film at the 2007 British Academy Film Awards and earned director Shane Meadows critical acclaim and much kudos within the industry and across the water. Known for his drama film interpretations of Britain, such as 'Once Upon A Time in the Midlands' and 'A Room For Romeo Brass'. This is England is a great portrayal of Britain in the early eighties and something I can totally relate to as a teenage growing up in that decade. The film is well directed and Meadows has a way of following the chaos in an organised manner without taking away any of the raw edge.
Meadows hails from Uttoxeter in Staffordshire not far from where I come from in Hednesford and also the birth place of my family dog that I grew up with. When he was younger his father found the body of a murder victim and was treated as a suspect before being cleared. Meadows was bullied at school due to this and left school without any qualifications. After being involved in petty crime he finally got himself together and studied film and then went onto making his own movies.
There are many sneak shots and references in his movies about his beloved Notts County football club who he supports. Most of his movies are shot in and around the Midlands and his work is very reminiscent of some of Mike Leigh's earlier stuff in the fact that they are mostly dialogue based and touch on real life situations and characters.
This Is England is very well filmed and there is some good photography used throughout the film.
The series is filmed in the same way although the two of the four episodes (the first two) were directed by Tom Harper who directed the series 'Skins'. I found that the first two episodes, although still brilliant, were too influenced by the Skins director and it felt like Skins was making an appearance in This Is England at times. Meadows was back at the helm for the third and fourth episodes and you can tell; the last two episodes are closer to the film than the first two and surely this can be no coincidence.
The third episode contained the harrowing rape scene and the episode broadcast a helpline at the start of the end credits. The scene provoked a lot of talk on the internet with many saying it was too graphic to watch. It was graphic in a sense of the action taking place, I will say that but it was also a necessary part of the story and was filmed in a shocking way to provoke a response.
Meadows has alluded to the fact that the character of Shaun is an autobiographical character based on his own childhood experiences. I think he brings the whole thing together perfectly and he should feel very proud of what he has achieved with this film and series.
DVD and Extras
The series was shot in Sheffield and Sheffield's 'Warp Films' produced the DVD.
This Is England 86 is an eighteen certificate due to violence, bad language and scenes of a sexual nature. Under no circumstances should a young child be allowed to watch this.
Audio Commentaries (episode one with Tom Harper, Jack Thorne and Thomas
Turgoose / episode three with Mark Herbert and Shane Meadows).
Behind the scenes footage.
I enjoyed the movie and thought it was a great take on the year it was set in. let's not forget that it was filmed in 2006 but is set in nineteen eighty-three. The movie manages to pull this off with some success and it looks like it is the eighties during the movie.
This Is England 86 is no different and again we are treated to a montage at the beginning alluding to all things eighties. The main theme running throughout the movie is obviously the World Cup in eighty-six and culminates in the now infamous 'Hand of God' with Diego Maradona. I have a different view on this to most people. OK, yes he cheated but what no one ever seems to mention is the fact that he also scored, possibly, the greatest goal ever scored in the same game, so the handball, although wrong, is a bit of a moot point. Of course all this was even more poignant back then as the Falklands war was still fresh in everyone's memory.
I could relate to all this as I left school in eighty-four and bore witness to all these things and the many others that are referenced throughout the movie. So it was all very prevalent to me during the movie and at the time itself and brought back some very vivid memories. I was nineteen and watched most of the games in a pub with mates; although I seem to remember watching the Argentina game at home with my Dad.
The film itself is really in two parts. It begins with a nice bunch of people who are ridiculed for their clothes and their short hair in reality. In the film we see them as decent enough with at least some boundaries and morals. It is only when the vicious 'Combo' comes onto the scene that the movie takes a different angle on the skinhead and some of the more unsavoury thought processes that some of them followed. The series moves us back to the people themselves and the changes to their lives; Woody is no longer a skinhead for instance.
The whole series is back-dropped by SKA music and a few New Romantic and New wave tracks and features bands such as The Specials, The Jam, Madness, The UK Subs, The Style Council, Billy Bragg, Dr Feelgood, Dexys Midnight Runners, Soft Cell and UB40. The soundtrack is something that I might look up and give a listen.
There are a lot of racist elements to the movie and some very hard hitting scenes. The Falklands War is also talked about a lot and people's feelings about that and towards Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government of the time. The series picks up on the aftermath of the war and a country in denial and trying to lift itself up again.
The acting in general is very good and the lead actors are superb. The editing is tidy and the whole series comes together really well. Even with Harper directing the first two episodes of This Is England 86 it still bore Meadows characters and ideals and didn't deter too much from its intentions. I am not surprised at all that Channel Four agreed to make a series based on the film. In 2010 'This is England 86' hit the TV screens and carried on the story of the characters from the film two and a half years on. It ran for four episodes. In December 2011 'This is England 88' was released and included three episodes. 2012 was to be the release year for 'This is England 90' but filming has been put back due to Meadows completing the filming on a Stone Roses documentary. The actors are all still waiting for the call to start filming.
I am definitely going to watch the next instalment to the series; I can't wait in fact and I am looking forward to it. I'm a big fan of 'Shameless' and can see the Made in England series being in the same vein but in an era I grew up in, which makes it even more appealing to me.
I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates British film work and gritty dramas full of good down to earth actors who bear no heirs and graces and who are not paid a king's ransom to do what comes naturally to them.
Five out of five stars from me. British drama at its best.
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T TV Series
Language: English / TV Series / Subtitles: English / Dubbed: Spanish / Number of discs: 3 / Studio: Showtime Ent. / DVD Release Date: 18 Oct 2011 / Run Time: 504 minutes
Format: PAL / TV Series / Number of discs: 1 / Classification: 15 / Studio: 2 Entertain Video / DVD Release Date: 21 Jan 2002 / Run Time: 80 minutes
Genre: Television / TV Series / Suitable for 15 years and over / Actors: Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Garrett Morris ... / DVD released 2012-10-22 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Suitable for 15 years and over / Actors: Amy Huberman, Stephen Wight, Emun Elliott ... / DVD released 2012-11-12 at 2entertain / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: John Pereira, Mark McQueen / Actors: Joan Collins, Denise Van Outen, Samantha Faiers, James Argent, Jessica Wright ... / DVD released 2012-10-08 at Channel 4 DVD / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Universal, suitable for all / Actors: Neil Patrick Harris, Debbie Reynolds ... / DVD released 2012-11-05 at Odyssey / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Suitable for 12 years and over / Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Richard Ruccolo, Traylor Howard, Nathan Fillion, Suzanne Cryer ... / DVD released 2012-11-05 at Revelation / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Suitable for 12 years and over / DVD released 2011-05-09 at Acorn Media UK / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Universal, suitable for all / Director: David Scanlon, Liz Whitaker / DVD released 2011-10-17 at 2entertain / Features of the DVD: PAL
Genre: Television / TV Series / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Michael Winterbottom / Actors: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon ... / DVD released 2010-12-13 at 2entertain / Features of the DVD: PAL
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