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

Cinema Lists

The Best Films of 2010

As usual these are my favourite films of the year in alphabetical order (just click on each title for more information).


Animal Kingdom (Dir. David Michôd): The outstanding debut feature from director David Michôd is a riveting depiction of a Melbourne crime family headed by a sinister matriarch.

Another Year (Dir. Mike Leigh): A moving, bitter-sweet drama about relationships, filled with great acting, is arguably the peak of Mike Leigh’s career.

Biutiful (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu): Searing exploration of life and death in a modern European city, featuring a tremendous central performance from Javier Bardem.

Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky): Swan Lake is retold with glorious intensity, channelling Polanski and Cronenberg whilst giving Natalie Portman the role of a lifetime.

Carlos (Dir. Olivier Assayas): Scintillating and immersive depiction of a 1970s terrorist with a tremendous performance by Edgar Ramirez.

Enter the Void (Dir. Gaspar Noé): Technically dazzling depiction of a dead drug dealer that also features what is possibly the greatest opening title sequence of all time.

Exit Through The Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy): An ingenious and hilarious hall of mirrors which is brilliantly executed and so much more than a ‘Banksy documentary’.

Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan): The ingenious puzzles of Christopher Nolan’s early films were given the scale of his blockbusters in this hugely ambitious sci-fi actioner.

Inside Job (Dir. Charles Ferguson): Devastating documentary about the financial crisis which plays like a heist movie, only this time it is the banks robbing the people.

Tabloid (Dir. Errol Morris): The media feeding frenzy surrounding a bizarre 1970s sex scandal provided Errol Morris with the raw material for one of the most entertaining documentaries in years.

The Fighter (Dir. David O’Russell): A boxing story which follows a familiar path but remains energetic, inspirational and funny, with Christian Bale on career-best form.

The Kids Are Alright (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko): A perfectly pitched comedy-drama that explores modern family life with genuine heart and humour.

The King’s Speech (Dir. Tom Hooper): Wonderfully crafted period drama with two brilliant lead performances and a moving story filled with hilarious one liners.

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher): The inside story of Facebook is a riveting tale of ambition and betrayal, which sees Fincher, Sorkin and a young cast firing on all cylinders.

Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich): The ground breaking animated series gets a worthy final chapter whilst maintaining Pixar’s impeccable standards of story and animation.


127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle)
Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)
Catfish (Dir. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost)
Four Lions (Dir. Chris Morris)
Let Me In (Dir. Matt Reeves)
Restrepo (Dir. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Somewhere (Dir. Sofia Coppola)
The American (Dir. Anton Corbijn)
The Ghost Writer (Dir. Roman Polanski)
The Illusionist (Dir. Sylvain Chomet)
Winter’s Bone (Dir. Debra Granik)

> Find out more about the films of 2010 at Wikipedia
> End of year lists at Metacritic
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray Releases of 2010

Documentaries Interesting

Charles Ferguson on CBS

Charles Ferguson recently sat down with Katie Couric of CBS to discuss his documentary Inside Job which explores the global financial crisis and the troubling relationship between financial and political elites.

It was one of the most acclaimed films at Cannes earlier this year and paints a devastating picture of the disaster unleashed by Wall Street greed and their connections with Washington.

The full 36-minute interview is here:

If you are in the US, it opens to its widest point this weekend and is arguably one of the most important films to be released this year.

> Follow the film on Facebook
> A full list of the US cinemas showing Inside Job
> Download the press kit for the film
> My LFF review of Inside Job

Documentaries Festivals London Film Festival Reviews

LFF 2010: Inside Job

Charles Ferguson’s documentary explores the global financial crisis with devastating clarity and paints a deeply troubling picture of the relationship between financial and political elites.

Within the space of just two hours, using interviews, graphics, impressive editing and a sober narration from Matt Damon, Inside Job takes us through the causes of the current economic meltdown.

Beginning with a startling prologue examining how Iceland’s economy was essentially ruined by big finance, it sets up in microcosm the 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.

Interviewing a variety of experts and policy makers including Nouriel RoubiniGeorge Soros, Eliot Spitzer, Barney Frank and Christine Lagarde it takes us step-by-step through the deregulation of the financial industry under successive presidents from Regan onwards.

We are presented with a non-partisan examination of how Republicans and Democrats were seduced by financial sector: the Reagan-era deregulation of Wall Street, which led to the Savings and loan crisis; the Clinton administration’s numerous mistakes in repealing key laws designed to minimize risk in the financial sector; the lack of regulation under Bushthe rise in derivatives (increasingly complex and dangerous financial ‘innovations’); and finally the Obama administration, which made the mistake of employing Clinton-era officials who were part of the original problem.

Although a lot of the information presented here has been explored in other books and TV programmes (such as the BBC’s The Love of Money), to see it presented in a single film is both constructive and chilling.

Ferguson himself cross-examines a number of government and private sector officials – though many of the key culprits refused to be interviewed – and his probing questions elicit some revealing requests to stop filming when they appear unexpectedly thrown by certain questions.

One startling aspect of the film is how much academics, supposedly independent from Wall Street banks, are actually paid by them for opinions or even serve on their boards – a clear conflict of interest which several of them appear oblivious to.

Using a sober tone throughout, the narration, interview footage and graphics all collate and explain the financial jargon of CDOs, credit default swaps and the policies which left much of the public scratching their head as they tried to process the full extent of what happened.

But this is more than just an academic primer: featuring widescreen lensing, aerial shots of New York and some appropriate music (the opening credits feature Peter Gabriel’s ‘Big Time’) it is a cinematic experience, which visually reflects the gravity of the subject.

The relentless approach is both appropriate and effective, although it also reveals some ghoulish comedy when exploring the widespread use of cocaine and prostitutes on Wall St and the stuttering angst of interviewees caught out by Ferguson’s well-researched questions.

One of the most damning aspects to arise from Inside Job is the incestuous nature of the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

The revolving door connecting the political and financial worlds, along with figures such as Henry Paulson, Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin, has effectively shielded large banks from any effective regulation.

The result of this has been the largest financial crash in history, which almost brought down the whole banking system in 2008 and resulted in millions of people losing their jobs and homes.

The only thing that prevented a full scale collapse was the bailout of the banks at the taxpayers expense.

But this was essentially socialism for the rich, in which the public paid the price for the irresponsible actions of political and financial elites.

Inside Job might appear to be an incendiary title, but it is wholly appropriate: two years on from the averted meltdown, there appears to be no meaningful financial reform and the governments appear to have little taste for prosecuting those who helped cause the crisis.

Partly this is down to the power and influence of the large banks, whose ex-employees litter government and shape policy, as well as pay for political campaigns.

Could the embattled Obama administration, currently suffering because of the economic collapse, find renewed energy in restoring the financial regulations lost over the last thirty years?

Bringing those responsible for the fraud that triggered trillions of dollars in losses would certainly be a vote winner, even if the Wall Street backlash was severe.

That may or may not happen, but in the mean time this documentary is a worthy call to arms: in examining the root causes of the crisis and emphasising the importance of restoring honesty to the global financial system, it is one of the most important films of the year.

Inside Job screened tonight (Oct 27th) and plays tomorrow (October 28th) at the London Film Festival.

It is currently out in the US in limited release and opens in the UK on February 18th February 2011

> Inside Job at the LFF
> Official site
> Detailed press notes for the film (essential reading)
> Reviews of the film at Cannes from MUBi


Trailer: Inside Job

The new documentary Inside Job opens in the US weekend and it explores the causes and legacy of the current global financial meltdown.

Directed by Charles Ferguson (No End In Sight), it premiered at Cannes back in May to very strong buzz and the US reviews have also been equally effusive.

Narrated by Matt Damon, it features interviews with key politicians, bankers and journalists and arrives as one of the most acclaimed documentaries to come out of this year’s festival circuit.

Ferguson also recently spoke to Variety in Toronto about the film:

Inside Job is showing at selected US cinemas now and opens in the UK on February 18th 2011

> Official site
> Charles Ferguson at the IMDb
> More on the 2007-2010 financial crisis at Wikipedia