DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD: Inside Job

One of the best documentaries in recent years was Charles Ferguson’s devastating examination of the financial crisis.

In just under two hours, Inside Job takes us on a journey through the full horror of how a deregulated Wall Street, aided and abetted by a compliant political system, wreaked havoc on the world.

Using interviews, graphics, editing and narration from Matt Damon, the film explores the causes of the current economic meltdown and speaks to a variety of experts and policy makers including Nouriel Roubini, George Soros, Eliot Spitzer, Barney Frank and Christine Lagarde.

After premiering at Cannes 2010, it was quickly acclaimed as one of the best reviewed films of the festival and eventually won the Oscar for Best Documentary back in March.

At the ceremony Charles Ferguson gave a pointed critique of Wall Street and the financial industry:


This DVD release will probably be the best opportunity for a wide audience to see the film and it hasn’t lost any of its power since coming out at cinemas.

Perhaps most depressingly, the financial and political systems examined by the film seem to be in denial about the corruption and short-term thinking that led to disaster in 2008.

The highlight of the extras on this disc is probably the audio commentary by Ferguson and his producer Audrey Marrs, which is an informative guide to not only the content of the film but how they put it all together.

There is also a 12-minute featurette called “Behind the Heist: The Making of ‘Inside Job'” that features Ferguson discussing the context of the film in more depth.

The deleted scenes feature outtakes of nine interviews with people featured in the film: Charles Morris (5m), Dominique Strauss-Khan (7m), Eliot Spitzer (8m), Gillian Tett (4m), Jerome Fons (2m), Lee Hsien Loong (1m), Satyajit Das (9m), Simon Johnson (1m) and Yves Smith (3m).

These outtakes could perhaps have delved a bit deeper, but it seems Ferguson’s aim was for the film itself to be clearest explanation of the financial crisis.

If you didn’t see this at cinemas, it is a film I would urge you to see, as it remains the most concise and powerful explanation of a key issue of our time.

Ferguson gave some interesting interviews around the release of the film which included this 35 minute discussion with Katie Couric:


Then there is this 15 minute chat with Charlie Rose:


There is also this hour long discussion Ferguson did with the Commonwealth Club in March:


Inside Job is out now on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

> Buy Inside Job on DVD from Amazon UK
> Listen to my interview with director Charles Ferguson
> Read my full review of Inside Job from LFF 2010
> Official site
> Find out more about the late 2000s financial crisis at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 13th June 2011


Apocalypse Now (Optimum Home Entertainment): Francis Ford Coppola’s classic 1979 drama about a special forces mission during the Vietnam War gets an incredible 3-disc edition, featuring 9 hours of extras, including the making-of documentary Hearts of Darkness. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK] [Read our full review here]

True Grit (Paramount Home Entertainment): The Coen Brothers adaptation of the Charles Portis novel (previously made in 1969 with John Wayne) is the tale of a young girl (Haliee Steinfeld) who recruits a grizzled lawman (Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) to hunt down her father’s killers. [Buy the Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon UK] [Full review]

Ice Cold in Alex (Optimum Home Entertainment): World War II drama about a group of Allied troops who escape the siege of Tobruk and have to escape to Alexandria. Directed by J. Lee Thompson, it stars John Mills, Sylvia Sims, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

The Cruel Sea (Optimum Home Entertainment): Unusually gritty 1953 drama about a naval crew struggling to survive the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II. Directed by Philip Frend, it stars Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden and Denholm Elliot. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Witchfinder General (Odeon Entertainment): Vintage 1968 British horror film about witch hunter Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) and his reign of terror during the English Civil War. Directed by Michael Reeves, it co-stars Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Dwyer. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Inside Job (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A searing and fascinating documentary about the financial crisis from director Charles Ferguson, is a reminder of the social and financial costs wrought on the world by the Wall Street elite. Voiced by Matt Damon, it won Best Documentary at the Oscars earlier this year. [Buy the DVD from Amazon UK] [Listen to our interview with Charles Ferguson]


5 Days of War (Entertainment One) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Age of Heroes (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Hereafter (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Jackass 3.5 (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Le Mans (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Paul (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Psychoville: Series 1 and 2 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sanctum (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sex Pistols: There’ll Always Be an England (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Straightheads (Verve Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Superman: The Ultimate Collection (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (Arrow Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]

> UK Cinema Releases for Friday 10th June 2011
> The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 19th February 2011


Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount): A 3D documentary about the teen pop sensation features footage of performances from his 2010 world tour and includes home videos of Bieber as a young child.

Directed by Jon Chu, it also features Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Jaden Smith. The hordes of young fans (or ‘Beliebers’) are likely to make this a financial success and some surprisingly strong reviews are going to provide some degree of comfort for parents dreading the thought of watching it alongside screaming kids. [Nationwide / U]

Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son (20th Century Fox): Martin Lawrence reprises his role as an FBI agent who disguises himself in drag for a third time.

Directed by John Whitesell and co-starring Brandon T. Jackson, this is going to get scathing reviews but its very existence confirms the appetite for lame slapstick. [Nationwide / PG]

Inside Job (Sony Pictures): One of the most important documentaries in years explores the deeply troubling relationship between financial and political elites which triggered the global economic crisis.

Narrated by Matt Damon, it includes several highly revealing interviews and manages to clearly explain the underlying causes of how Wall Street persuaded successive governments to turn a blind eye to their practices. Nominated for an Oscar, it should do solid arthouse business on the back of great reviews and word of mouth. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / 12A] [Read the full review here and listen to our interview with director Charles Ferguson here]


Confessions (Third Window Films): This startling Japanese drama is the story of a teacher (Takako Matsu) who reveals that her daughter was killed by two pupils in her class and explores the consequences of her revenge as we see the aftermath through a series of first-person narratives.

Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima and co-starring Yoshino Kimura and Masaki Okada it is similar in style and substance to films like Oldboy (2004) although has its own peculiar charms and qualities, which have helped it get nominated for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. A brief arthouse run will probably create some buzz before the DVD and Blu-ray release in April. [ICA, Ritzy, Genesis & Key Cities / 15]

Day for Night (BFI): A re-issue of the Francois Truffaut film about the making of a film, stars Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Léaud. [BFI Southbank, Filmhouse Edinburgh & Key Cities]

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
UK DVD & Blu-ray releases for Monday 14th February 2011, including The Social Network and The Illusionist

Documentaries Interviews Podcast

Interview: Charles Ferguson on Inside Job

This week sees the UK release of Inside Job, a documentary which examines the global financial crisis.

Directed by Charles Ferguson it explores the deeply troubling relationship between financial and political elites which triggered the current recession.

Opening with a startling prologue about how Iceland’s economy was ruined, it sets up in microcosm the wider story of how, over a period of 30 years, successive governments have allowed large financial institutions to inflate an economic system until it eventually burst in the autumn of 2008.

One of the most important documentaries in years, it was the most critically acclaimed film at the Cannes film festival last May and has been nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar.

I spoke with director Charles Ferguson and producer Audrey Marrs at the London Film Festvial last October and we discussed how they made the film and the issues it raises.

You can listen to the interview by clicking here:

Or here:


You can also download our interview podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Inside Job opens in selected UK cinemas from Friday 18th February

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
> Full Inside Job review from the LFF
> Official site
> Detailed press notes for the film (essential reading)
> Reviews of the film at Cannes from MUBi and Metacritic
> Get local cinema listings for the film via Google or FindAnyFilm

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

The Way Back

An epic escape from a Russian gulag during World War II forms the backdrop for Peter Weir’s first film in seven years.

Loosely based on Slavomir Rawicz’s book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” (more of which later), The Way Back begins with an soldier named Janusz (Jim Sturgess) being sent to a remote Siberian prison camp on trumped up charges of spying.

After enlisting the help of inmates to escape, including an ex-pat American (Ed Harris) and a tough gang member (Colin Farrell), the group venture on a massive trek across Asia where they meet an orphan (Saoirse Ronan), struggle to survive and attempt to reach the safety of India.

Weir shoots everything with convincing detail: the prison camp is believably hellish and the landscapes form a frequently stunning backdrop as the prisoners venture across sub-zero Russia, the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas on their way to India.

Visually, the film feels grittier than one might expect, with D.P. Russell Boyd appearing to use a lot of natural light and the splendour of the landscapes are frequently intercut with shots of blisters and the physical cost of the journey.

The performances all round are solid: Sturgess and Harris stand out as the two lynchpins of the group; Farrell is charmingly gruff; Ronan has presence and depth and Mark Strong is believably seductive as a prison camp veteran with his own agenda.

As a narrative experience, the initial tension of the prison break quickly becomes a fight for survival as the group struggle to eat, stay warm and avoid all manner of hardships involving the harsh landscape.

This means that it lacks conventional tension, but there is a certain pleasure in the gruelling sprawl of the story as they keep moving across a bewildering variety of landscapes and adverse weather conditions on their 4,000-mile trek.

Sequences that particularly stand out are the initial prison break in a blizzard, a lake infested with mosquitoes, a harsh desert which drives them to the brink and the latter stages which involve some famous Asian landmarks.

For the most part it is absorbing and features well drawn characters, even though it occasionally suffers from the problem of mixing English and native dialogue, which in the modern era diminishes the overall authenticity of the film.

The film hinges on the central character’s desire to get back home (hence the title) to see his wife, which we see in a recurring vision, and it is hard not to be moved by the climactic depiction of the personal set against the historical.

But although The Way Back is an undeniably powerful experience, there is a problem at the very heart of the adaptation which directly relates to the original book that inspired it.

Although Rawicz’s account was acclaimed for a number of years, in 2006 the BBC discovered records that essentially debunked his version of events, even though there is evidence to suggest that the journey may have been undertaken by other people.

Peter Weir was fully aware of the controversy surrounding the book when he made the film, hence certain key changes, and overall it demonstrates the taste, tact and intelligence that has informed his career.

But given the extraordinary nature of the journey there is something dispiriting about finding out the truth about Rawicz, even if the actual trek may have been done by someone else.

It remains a powerful and handsomely constructed piece of cinema but also suffers from the shady origins of its source material.

> Official site
> The Way Back at the IMDb
> BBC News story on the controversy surrounding the book and its road to the screen