T2 Trainspotting - Cinema Review

'Whilst Boyle has managed to get the band back together, you can't shake the nagging feeling that you'd rather be revisiting them going hell for leather at their greatest hits from twenty-odd years ago'.

The soundtrack of T2 Trainspotting includes a remix by The Prodigy of Iggy Pop's 'Lust For Life', the 1977 track given a whole new lease of life nearly two decades later when Danny Boyle used it during the opening sequence of Trainspotting. A musical outfit at their most popular at the same time as the original film's release, The Prodigy's more recent output, whilst still entertaining, struggles to recapture their past glories. Their remix of 'Lust For Life' is a prime example: perfectly enjoyable but nothing special - a sentiment which can equally be applied to Boyle's belated sequel to a film which transcended cinema in 1996 to become a defining cultural moment.

In fact, in many ways T2 might be more accurately regarded as a remix of Trainspotting than a straightforward sequel. All the key elements are here - the characters, the settings, the Edinburgh-accented expletives regularly turning the air Saltire blue. But whilst Boyle has managed to get the band back together, you can't shake the nagging feeling that you'd rather be revisiting them going hell for leather at their greatest hits from twenty-odd years ago.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's not the film's many nods back to the original film that create this effect. Trainspotting is referenced explicitly through sounds, settings and flashbacks incorporating footage taken from the older film. It's a bold move by Boyle, as if he's actively offering up T2 for comparison to its forebear now held in mythic reverence by many; whilst the nostalgic overtones work more often than not, they also frequently remind you that what you're watching rarely lives up to the original.

Whilst it meandered through the various figures within his life, Trainspotting was ultimately the story of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), the juxtaposition of his eloquent narration and deplorable actions for much of the story positioning him as the ultimate '90s antihero. It's a focal point T2 lacks to its detriment; but, whilst I couldn't tell whose story is being told here, I certainly know whose I wish it had been. Ewen Bremner's return to the role of Spud makes the character's journey through the film consistently affecting, amusing and authentic, but too often he's pushed into the background.

The spotlight is instead given to Mark's enjoyable but less interesting rekindled bromance with Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and, more frustratingly, Begbie's (Robert Carlyle) relentless pursuit of Mark following his actions at the end of the first film. For me, Trainspotting's weakest section is its final act where Begbie moves from being an occasional extreme presence in Mark's life to a key player, and his increased prominence in T2 has a similar effect. Whilst Carlyle's performance in the role is excellent once again, the film would be stronger with less of Begbie's cartoon villainy and more of Spud's subtle and satisfying character journey in its place. 




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

Tokyo! - DVD Review

'Gondry's offering draws on his usual magical realism to paint a fable which is both sweet, too drawn out and occasionally at least possessive of a shiver or two.'

Tokyo! is an exciting project to consider, even now, though the result perhaps does not evidence all of the promise of the conceit. Broadly speaking a three-pronged 'love letter to Tokyo', the anthology film contains three different stories, by three different directors, all shot in the city: Interior Design by Michel Gondry, Merde by Léos Carax and Shaking Tokyo by Bong Joon-ho.

Perhaps the least successful part of the project is in the 'love letter' description. Setting alone is probably enough of a creative brief and including love as well feels a step too far for Gondry and Carax's tales in particular. Interior Design deals on the face of things with the limitations of big city living and perhaps subtextually with the anxieties of the same. Merde depicts what at times appears to be a terrorist attack on the city, before abandoning recognisable Tokyo entirely for a courtroom.

Shaking Tokyo, on the other hand, probably does fulfil that description with its tale of a shut-in (Teruyuki Kagawa), who learns to let go of his apartment during an earthquake. The message of 'know thy neighbour' is perhaps the most obvious of the triptych, but it also appears to be the warmest towards the setting and its inhabitants.

The main interest for me in the film was in the first appearance of the character Merde in Carax's segment of the same name. Merde reappears in Carax's 2012 masterpiece Holy Motors as one of the many guises of the main character played by Denis Lavant, who also plays him here. Merde is an odd goblin-like character, who begins the segment much the same was as in Holy Motors; causing general low level carnage on the street as he pushes past people, pausing to occasionally lick things. In Holy Motors his escapades escalate to slapping his massive erection around, whilst here he starts to throw grenades into crowds and is eventually hunted out by the military. This ends all movement in Carax's segment, as a trial commences and interest in Merde ends. The initial chaos is uproariously joyous and the immediate aftermath casts Merde as some sort of Godzilla-like creation, but the trial is dull and adds little.

Gondry's offering draws on his usual magical realism to paint a fable which is both sweet, too drawn out and occasionally at least possessive of a shiver or two. Ayako Fujitani is great as Hiroko, a new Tokyo resident struggling to find her feet in the city thanks to an unsupportive 'creative' boyfriend (who has made a terrible film) and a friend who needs them to move out of her tiny studio apartment. As the anxieties of her new home close in around her, Hiroko begins to change in surprising ways. The finale suggests multiple things, depending on how you read it, some of them deeply troubling indeed.

It's probably the strongest of the segments, though Shaking Tokyo is also effective. The three though don't always make comfortable bedfellows and Carax's film in particular screams out as an odd fit under this one single banner.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Classic Intel: The Name Of The Rose - DVD Review

'Annaud's primary offering is to emphasise the perceived distasteful appearance of some of the abbey inhabitants, producing here a microcosm of grotesques.'

The most frustrating non-event in cinematic history for me relates to the time Umberto Eco decided he was unwilling to let Stanley Kubrick adapt his 1988 masterpiece, Foucault's Pendulum. Reportedly desirous to have control over the screenplay, Eco's decision was based on his reported dissatisfaction with Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of his 1986 novel, The Name Of The Rose. Foucault's Pendulum, if you are not familiar with it, is a haze of mysticism, symbols and subtexts; intercut with deep tracks of theology and philosophy. Kubrick would have had a field day and the feeling that we have been robbed of an all time great lingers still.

Despite that, it is easy to see why Eco was disappointed with this. The Name Of The Rose, though serviceable, takes liberties with Eco's text that do not work as well as what was originally there. Though this novel is inferior to that which followed, The Name Of The Rose is still a vivid History, a powerful treatise on sin, a sometime evisceration of the early church and much more besides that I'm sure passed over my head. Only some of that makes it to the screen adaptation and it is a much poorer piece for it.

The core plot, I suppose, remains. William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) arrives at a remote abbey with his young companion Adso of Melk (Christian Slater) to find the abbot in fear after an apparent murder, ahead of a visit by two separate factions of the church. As William puts his powers of inquisition to the test, the mystery deepens and more threat emerges. What exactly is going on the abbey? Are the inhabitants cursed? Have they lost their faith? Or is something much more earthly at work?

You suspect that Annaud did not miss some of the deeper subtexts of Eco's novel and yet the film only seems to focus on some of the surface level offerings. The fact that the seven day structure of the book appears to be dropped can be seen as a rejection of Eco's craft though, actually, you wonder if the author would have approved of this one. During the novel he does rather slyly point out that almost any number can be taken to have biblical connotations.

Annaud's primary offering is to emphasise the perceived distasteful appearance of some of the abbey inhabitants, producing here a microcosm of grotesques. Think though Terry Gilliam when his visions do not work. The grotesques do unsettle, yes, as they reveal themselves and shuffle about the abbey, but the impact of the 'real' characters of Eco's book is lost and Annaud feels as though he spends as long on appearance as he does on character. It's not quite The Island of Dr. Moreau, but it does feel as though we could have sailed there on a short boat ride.

It is anchored though by a non-grotesque performance from Connery, who flashes charisma and pearly whites with abandon and sees the whole thing through. On film though The Name Of The Rose becomes much less than Eco imagined it. You could never describe the novel as 'just about a good Mystery'.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and why the Star Wars franchise needs to focus on looking forwards not backwards

SPOILER WARNING: The below article contains significant spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We therefore recommend reading this post only if you have already seen the film.


Central amongst the many, many well-documented problems within George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy was the writer and director's treatment of Anakin Skywalker as he progressed towards becoming one of the most iconic cinematic villains of all time. Simply put, it was difficult at any point to actually imagine that either Jake Lloyd's pint-sized pod racer or Hayden Christensen's juvenile Jedi-in-training would actually grow up to be the ruthless Sith Lord seen in the original films. It wasn't just a question of dodgy casting either: even if you were on board that Anakin's journey to the dark side was a story which needed to be told, it's fairly likely that the version of that story related through Episodes I to III wouldn't be the one you'd choose.

In choosing to fill in the blanks in Darth Vader's origins, however, Lucas manacled the Star Wars franchise to a restrictive and unsatisfying approach from which J. J. Abrams successfully managed to break it free in Episode VII. Whilst The Force Awakens was undoubtedly nostalgic about the series' past in many ways, that nostalgia was never the driving force behind the narrative. The focus was on new characters continuing the story, with the familiar faces largely there to help them do that rather than steal the limelight.

All of which leaves Rogue One: A Star Wars Story awkwardly caught between Lucas' prequels and Abrams' continuation. The first in what Lucasfilm is describing as the Star Wars Anthology series, Rogue One is by definition a prequel, but as it sits outside the Skywalker saga you might think that it would escape the constraints Lucas brought upon himself during Episodes I to III. In practice, that's frustratingly not the case. This might not be an 'Episode', but it is a lengthy direct prelude to the events of Episode IV, the final scenes of Rogue One taking place literally seconds before the opening moments of A New Hope.

Whilst director Gareth Edwards does his best to create a story which can stand apart from this status, he's ultimately fighting a losing battle. The appearances by key characters from A New Hope vary wildly in their success. Ironically, the scenes involving Darth Vader (voiced once again by James Earl Jones) are not only the best nostalgic moments but also two of the best sequences in the whole film. Princess Leia's brief digitally recreated appearance at the end of Rogue One only works because it's so fleeting - any longer on screen and the illusion would most likely have fallen apart.

Which leads to the technological resurrection of the late Peter Cushing for the role of Grand Moff Tarkin, a decision that sits far less comfortably. Questions of taste and dignity aside, from a purely aesthetic point of view it simply doesn't work. Tarkin's CGI appearance is so distracting that it jolts you out of the film experience every time he appears, to the point where you'll start to question why Guy Henry (who provides the motion capture performance) wasn't simply allowed to play the part on screen: if he looks and sounds enough like Cushing to be digitally transformed into him, surely a better, more natural job could have been done with prosthetics? The only other option would have been to find some way of artificially writing Tarkin out of the story, or perhaps alluding to his presence without putting him on screen; but, as Rogue One's plot revolves around the construction of the Death Star, it's likely that his absence would have felt just as jarring as his presence in the finished film.

However, the characters who aren't in A New Hope end up casting a far greater shadow over Rogue One than those who are, as it's here that the film's prequel status comes back to bite it most significantly. By definition, none of the new faces can make it to Episode IV, which leads to an awful lot of death in the final act. That in itself wouldn't necessarily be a problem if Edwards managed to make his characters' demises feel warranted. Instead, the majority Rogue One's cast meets their end because logic dictates that they have to, rather than because it fits the arc they've followed, leaving the high body count amongst the film's key players seriously lacking the emotional weight that it should undoubtedly carry.

Rogue One is never a bad film; in fact, it's regularly quite an enjoyable one. But unlike The Force Awakens, which managed to both echo and build upon the characters and stories that precede it, Rogue One is undoubtedly a film continually held back by its inescapable obligation to the legacy of the Star Wars franchise. If those in charge at Lucasfilm wants the iconic sci-fi series to avoid the embarrassing and frustrating lows of Lucas' prequel trilogy as it continues, they need to ensure that both they and the films look forwards far more often than they look back.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a contributing editor at Film Intel. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. When he's not writing about films here, Ben is usually writing about films - mostly Shakespeare adaptations - for his MA by Research. He's also on and Twitter.

Trolls - DVD Review

'As poorly-linked pop number after poorly-linked pop number flies onto the screen, the quality descends from tribute band to karaoke melange.'

If the last on-screen mention of trolls you can remember was when Otto Jespersen bellowed his iconic declaration in 2010's Troll Hunter then you may be in for a shock. Whilst that film was grey, this film is... rainbow. Based on the disturbingly long-lived children's toys, Trolls tells the story of a plucky band of the titular miniature heroes as they battle against the borish Bergens and their taste for troll.

As a day-glow children's film based on a toy, Trolls was always going to have to go some to achieve a level of acclaim anywhere above the squeals of five year-olds. It tries, bless its purple, gold and green socks, but there's scant here to really help parents along. A couple of in-jokes and knowing nods aren't really enough these days to mark your film out as anything other than an 'also ran' in the quest for parental attention.

Abandoning us to an afternoon of general internal chuntering then, the film's approach to securing younger sign-off is to throw colour and sound at the screen with a regularity designed to combat even the shortest attention span. You wonder if it might have the opposite effect. As poorly-linked pop number after poorly-linked pop number flies onto the screen, the quality descends from tribute band to karaoke melange. Youngsters can still comprehend when not a whole lot is really happening and the veneer of musical numbers is transparent at its very worst moments.

The plot too, such that it is, increasingly heads towards some very familiar movements as Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) learns people can accept her just the way she is and Branch (Justin Timberlake) learns friends and joy can help him overcome past ills. Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is the stalwart anchor throughout and Kendrick does manage to create a strong central character kids will remember.

Whether there's anything else here to tickle the grey matter into action however is debatable. The villain (Christine Baranski) gets a couple of cackling moments but is largely forgettable and the whole thing lacks a sidekick (Cloud Guy (Walt Dohrn) is suggested as possible and then abandoned) to cut through some of the sugar-frosted brightness. There's a bit of a lack of self-awareness here and pairing such a commercial offering with highly commercial pop showtunes is often a little much for the stomach to take.





Trolls is available on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 13th February 2017.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Desierto - DVD Review

'You wonder if, upon showing this to a Trump supporter, they would sympathise with murderous psychopath Sam, or wants-to-look-after-his-family Moises. Unfortunately, I suspect we know the answer.'

The argument that all film is political can be discussed at length for a long time. The argument around whether Desierto is political is cut and dried. This is a film about the treatment of immigrants into the United States, which takes the reaction of the political right and extends it further, crafting in the process an occasionally chilling Thriller. The film certainly succeeds in emphasising the coldness and inhumanity of looking at one's fellow man in need and deciding that it would be better to send them to their doom.

It's a shame that with such politics of substance, it's also not very good. Directed by Jonás Cuarón and presented as 'from the visionary filmmakers that brought you Gravity', Desierto is without tension for far too long. That fact is mainly accrued by the ultra-patient opening, something which lasts far too long for a film which lasts only eighty-eight minutes. It should be tight and sparse, but instead it often feels languid and empty.

The plot consists of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's racist Arizonian chasing a band of Mexican immigrants around the desert, with Gael García Bernal the most prominent of the Mexican characters. Supplementary information is thin but can be found. Morgan's character, for example, keeps up the values of the right to a 't'. Despite a perceived desire for enforcement and order he is visibly sceptical of a police office he encounters, presumably personifying the security and establishment the right does such a good of convincing people it despises. Sam (Morgan) decides to take matters into his own hands in a scene that jumps the film into action. It should be shocking, but it's directed flaccidly and the action starts with rather a whimper.

Desierto then proceeds to fall into several obvious genre traps, as it winds its way to an uninspiring close. A teddy bear which makes noise is shown very early doors, signifying immediately that at some point it will make noise inappropriately. How that made it past the first draft in a film by 'visionary filmmakers' is something to ponder on. The finale calls to mind a Naked Gun scene during which Frank Drebin shoots at a suspect and vice versa whilst both are behind boxes within arms reach of each other. It's not a good look, unless you happen to be Leslie Nielsen.

The interest in the film therefore is limited only to wondering about the reactions in America. You wonder if, upon showing this to a Trump supporter, they would sympathise with murderous psychopath Sam, or wants-to-look-after-his-family Moises (Bernal). Unfortunately, I suspect we know the answer.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Allegiant - Online Review

'Within the setup period two recognisable characters from the previous two films are dispatched. I can certainly remember what one of them did.'

Quite who is crying out for the films which make up the Divergent series at this stage is anyone's guess. Certainly, during Allegiant, few of the cast seem interested. The box office returns do not warrant the studio to be ultra interested. And, frankly, having pressed 'play' on Amazon's player, within five minutes I was struggling to be interested.

Within the setup period two recognisable characters from the previous two films are dispatched. I can certainly remember what one of them did.

For the rest of the film we're concerned again with Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), who still seem unable to decide which side of a wall they wish to be on.

Having succeeded in getting back inside it in the previous film, now outside seems to be the location of choice. It's fitting that the plot has all the sophistication of the hokey cokey. Like the type of travellers who keep far flung hostels in business because they are trying to 'find themselves', Tris, Four and clan wander around generally without purpose, finding themselves within the hospitality of Jeff Daniels' city, before deciding rather inevitably that they don't like it much there either. Being back inside the wall might have been a better choice after all. Shake it all about.

Meanwhile Miles Teller's annoying depiction of his annoying character continues, despite being a prime candidate for the off from very early in the first film. Not only is he an irritant to everyone involved (mainly the viewer), he also breaks the film's own rules, proving largely adept at moving between all of the film's personality traits. He's not the only one that forgot that was 'a thing' however and the main problem here is really that Allegiant has no raison d'être. It's central conceit was shambolic to begin with and now its referred to almost as you would an embarrassing anecdote from a past event you'd rather forget.

In searching for redeeming features it is telling that James is one of the only ones you can land upon. I've long decried the death of the Tom Cruise-style leading man and whilst James is certainly not the answer he is at least a more competent watch than many of his contemporaries. He, at least, does appear to be committed.

That James is a sole interesting feature though is rather telling of how far this franchise has fallen. In a big budget Science Fiction film, the least you should be able to say is that the effects are good and there's a certain level of sheen. It's a struggle to even say that here. A scene involving the stars floating alongside a spaceship is laughable and the production design in general calls to mind things like Buck Rogers. It is, by any measure, not a good look.




Allegiant was playing on Amazon Instant Video.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.