Pride in The Pits

Throughout the 20th century coal mining was at the heart of industry and communities across North Staffordshire.

The new documentary by Newcastle-under Lyme based documentary film-makers Inspired Film and Video will look at the importance of coal mining across the area and look at how it has shaped the communities we live in today. The documentary uses interviews, reminiscence, archive footage, photography, graphics and original music to create a fitting tribute to the collieries and coal miners of North Staffordshire.

The importance of coal-mining across North Staffordshire cannot be underestimated. It provided a livelihood for tens of thousands of people and was essential in the development of other industries across the area. North Staffordshire was rich with coal seams but what was more important than this was the richness of the people and the communities that drove the industry forward.
Pride in the Pits features contributions from historian and Evening Sentinel columnist Fred Hughes, Richard Stone ““ author of “ËœCollieries and Coalminers of Staffordshire’ Paul Deakin ““ underground cave and mine photographer, former North Staffs NUM secretary Joe Wills, The Friends of Chatterley Whitfield, John Irwin ““ lecturer in trade union studies, Mark Fisher MP, Joan Whalley MP, Bill Bratt – former miner and chairman of Port Vale FC, Peter Coates ““ Stoke City chairman and miner’s son, Brenda Procter from the North Staffs Miners’ Wives Action Group and John Lumsdon of the North Staffs Mines Resource Centre.

The film has been produced in association with the Homes and Communities Agency and has enabled 20000 copies of the film to be produced and distributed free of charge with a special mining edition of The Way We Were in March 2010. .

You can follow the Big A Debate live on Pits n Pots on Wednesday night.

DVD Review-: Fast And Furious.

Review by Warren

Staring- Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez.
Director-Justin Lin

A bad film will do two things to you: waste your time and cost you money. Luckily the wife, the motor head of the household got her hard won pennies out for this one and at just over 100 mins it didn’t eat into too much time.

As a rule, if a DVD cover’s got Vin Diesel giving me his best “ËœI’m hard and shifty’ look on it I’ll avoid it like I would a rabid fox, but I hadn’t folded out the cash for this, and had a hour or two on my hands. So, knowing full well that the other three efforts in this, the very worst of movie franchises, left me colder than day old fish, I sat down to view the new car race action movie all the kids are talking about. And good lord, is it bad.

The tag line to the film is ‘New Model, Original Parts’ pointing out that it brings together the cast of the first film made in 2001, that can be seen at least once a week on average on ITV2 or ITV4. That was utter rubbish too, but got a big following in the ‘oily hands brigade’ meriting no less than three follow ups, 2 Fast 2 Furious- the second one you might actualy believe and Tokyo Drift, surprisingly set in Japan, and a complete load of old tripe.

So on to the plot, what there is of it. FBI drugs agent Brian O’Conner (Walker) infiltrates a band of drug-peddling nasty bad guys, by winning a road race in a very strange looking car. It’s not the first time he’s done this, it’s the third. Dom Toretto (Diesel) an old enemy of O’Conner runs him a close second. Their prize for this is a day trip over into Mexico to get the weekly consignment of hard drugs for the city of L.A.

They can’t use the public roads to do this, they might be seen, which would never do. They blast blood big holes in mountain sides that just happen to be full of mine shafts, which have been boarded up; very industrious.

So in go O’Conner and Toretto, though the wood, racing round the mine shafts, out the other side and have a fight with other bad guys. You can tell they are bad guys by the way, because they call everyone “ËœHome’ or “ËœChico’, have got bald heads, lots of tattoos, dirty jeans, off-white t-shirts and Mr T-style jewellery.

They kill a few bad men, nick the drugs and smash more wood. Then they find out that Toretto’s sister and O’Conner’s ex, played by Michelle Rodriguez, who died in the first film has now done a Dirty-Den Watts, isn’t dead…then I fell asleep for a moment.

When I woke up they where back in Mexico with very large guns and even stranger looking cars, they killed more bad guys, blew up an old church and a few cars, nicked even more drugs, smashed more wood and blew up the mine shafts, with the bad guys in pursuit.

So much commotion is caused that, low to behold, the US law is on the other side waiting for them, thank god. O’Conner(being FBI!) goes free, but Toretto is wanted for other stuff, and gets 25 years. But never fear, the last shots of the film show O’Conner, Toretto’s sister and the girl he was having a relationship with in the film planning a bust to get him out.

Well, I can only hope it fails, or it’s gonna be number 5 in two years time.

It’s not good, not good at all, and it’s a PnP rating of 1 out of 5, and that’s only because the lovely Michelle Rodriguez pops up in it, and she’s got a nice bum.

DVD Review- Angels And Demons.

By Warren Lloyd.

Starring- Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard.
Director- Ron Howard.

The second of Dan Brown Robert Langdon novels follows up The Da Vinci Code and sees Tom Hanks again take on the role of Harvard’s symbolist and now it seems part time Indiana Jones. With the single disc being £8 with £30 worth of shopping at Tesco, I picked the single disc one, Every little helps, or so they say, so it just the basic tattie extras, nowt much to write about so I won’t bother.

I liked the first film, and I liked the book more and it’s the same hear, much of what makes Dan Brown books so good seems to fight to get though on film. The fact that the novels have been filmed out of sync, with the events in Angels and Demons persuading them in the De Vinci but filmed as a sequel can not be hid from the books fans, many of witch rate Angels and Demons as a far better read.

Unlike De Vinci the plot plays out in the films early scrip instead of endless un-called for effects,  and is not really that complicated. So you get down to the running around, under, over and thought Rome trying to save the lives of fore Cardinals, kidnapped by the Illuminati,  indeed failing on the most part, nice and fast.

Tom Hanks is OK, as he for most of the time is, Ayelet Zurer adds little as Vittoria Vetre, a young scientist who needs to disarm a time atom about to be used as a bomb, all will become clear if you watch it. Ewan McGregor gets of his bloody motorbike long enough to play Comerlonyo Patrick McKanne, man of god and former chopper pilot, witch comes in handy in the end. Star turn in the film is Stellan Skaarsgard, he of the two Exorcist prequels and King Arther’s Viking  lord, as Swiss Guard head Commander Richter, nice and evil, just the way I like it.

Its not bad at all, the books far better though, and it gets a pnp 3 out of 5, at just over 2 hour it don’t send your bum to sleep, but as I say, read the book, unless your devout Roman Catholic, in witch case, may the Holy Mother of Jesus go with you, and give both a miss!

Film Review -: Inglourious Bastards (18)

By Warren.

Starring- Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Walts.
Director- Quentin Tarantino

I’ll admit it, I’m totally not the right person to review this movie, since I must indeed be Mr. Tarantino’s biggest fan.

Posters of Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill grace the walls of the Den, along with replicas of  Bill’s sword. I know -  sad ain’t I.

I have loved all his films, both as a screen writer, director and actor, and this one tured out to be no different.

Much was made of the film a few weeks ago, that it was his comeback after his first flop, Death Proof. I disagreed, Death Proof was a fine film, that it did not take as much money at the box office is neither here nor there, it kept us fans happy, that’s all that mattered.

With Inglourious Bastards, there seems to be a slight change in how Tarantino sees films.

The pumping soundtrack of well known songs seems to have gone, mind you, being set in World War Two Nazi-occupied France, Al Green, Kool and the Gang, Chuck Berry, The Delfonics, Johnnie Cash, none of them really fit in.

Missing too is the fast flowing interaction of actors seen in other films such as Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction. But it’s not that sort of film, and the stark outrageous black humour of all Tarantino’s work shines along with shovelfuls of violence and more fake blood then that Rugby match between ‘Quins and Leinster last season.

You would think that Brad Pitt would steal the show with his portrayal of tough talking and very potty-mouthed Lieutenant Aldo Raine, but he is forced to share the limelight of the film with new Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. His portrayal of SS Colonel Hans Landa is about as evil as it gets. In fact Waltz gives one of the most un-easing but mesmerising performances of the past 10 years, in one scene as he questions a farmer he believes to be helping Jews on the run. Just go and see it, you’ll know what I mean.

Its another long one at 152 mins and don’t expect it to be historically bang on. I really don’t think the French resistance had the time to go round taking German scalps like the Apache, or indeed being aided in their task by the Jews and the Yanks, but hey, who gives a fig about that!

Aldo says it all when he gets up close and very personal with Landa. He carves a swastika in his forehead.

“I think this might just be a masterpiece”, he says. Do you know what?  I think it is, yet another one to add to the deck. It’s faultless and it gets the first PnP film review 5 out of 5.

DVD Review :- Watchmen

By Warren Lloyd

Staring Billy Croudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson.

Directer :- Zack Snyder.

Based on the DC comics graphic novel, a movie of Watchman had been muted for a good ten years or so.

Just as you thought it was never going to happen, the directer of the 2007 film 300, and massive comic book fan, Zack Snyder took control and what he gave us was something not unlike last years Dark Knight, or indeed any other sci-fi/ super hero film of the last few years.

Most of the main players in the movie echo parts from others, Mr. Manhatten (Crudup) as the look of the Sliver Surfer in the Fantastic 4′s second outing. Rorchach (Haley) acts much like the The Invisible Man from the very much ignored but utterly brilliant League of Extraordinary Gentleman with the voice and valence of Batman. Night Owl (Wilson) is a dead ringer  for Ben Afflecks Daredevil. Silk Spectre (Gugino) is very good eye candy indeed but mirrors Halle Berry in Cat Woman, and look what happened to that. The least said about Ozymandias, the cleverest man in the world, (bar Gary Elsby of-course!) the better.

What you get in the film is set peace after set peace action, all of it seen before, but never in the same film. Night Owls craft even rips off Thunderbird 2. Second hand sets also seem to also be used, one you get a Tomb Raider look, the next Spiderman, even the dreadful Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow gets a look. Its all rather strange from the

Man who gave us the wonderful 300 only two year or so ago.

The story in fact sicks with the comic very much. Set in a strange vision of 1985, and the USA have just re-elected Richard Nixon, will they ever learn. There’s bad feeling in Super hero land as someones knocked off one of there own, The Comedian. He was beaten to a pulp and slung out of a window of a New York skyscraper.

Cue what is a very adult super hero epic, a mix of Batman, Superman, X-Men, lord only knows what other mixed up with just a tad to much violence, hitting, biting and sexual goings on unworthy for children’s eyes. Its an 18, and by god you know it. You don’t need the kids seeing this one, by god now, the sight of a 200 foot Billy Crudup, glowing blue, everything, and I mean everything hanging might have scarred my for life, never alone them.

The story flash’s back and forth, hear and there but at 155 minutes it all comes clear in the end and just like Independent Day, Armageddon, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, Clover-field, War of the Worlds, X Men, you name it, New York get blow to bits, just for old times sake. Now, see what I mean about new movies.

Its entertaining and Silk Spectre’s a fine young woman, and so is her mother to, so I award Watchmen 3 out of 5.

One thing I must add in the films defence is some of the music, by good, there’s good stuff in there , you get Lenard Cohen showing you all how to sing his song, Hallelujah, non of that X factor old shit, and My Chemical Romance rip into Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row like there lives depend on it, by god yes.

Dylan’s The Times They are a changing plays over the nice opening titles, all good stuff.

DVD Review -: Bronson (18)

Review By Warren>

Staring :- Tom Hardy, Matt King, James Lance.
Director :- Nicolas Winding Refn.

Look, when I’m doing DVD review, do you mind if we cut to the chase and review the film first and foremost and not the normal array of Special Features.

You know what I mean, the making of,the how the hell they did that, the deleted junk, them out-takes where someone falls over or forgets there name and starts effing and jeffing, trailers, TV adds, the makes drowning on and on about something, even more so it its Riddly Scott, he can get right on my wick, love most of his films, but he can talk such rot at times. I’ll let you know if there is anything worth bothering about. With this you get a Making of, a few cast and crew interviews, a directors commentary, and Charles Bronson himself ( the UKs most violent inmate, not the dead film star) talking threateningly like over the titles, nowt much so we will move right along to the movie.

You may have worked it out by now, crime interests me, don’t know why, it just holds my attention, not as if a feel the need to go round committing crime, not in the real world anyway, but its my thing. So when Charles Bronson did a book a few years back, I lapped it up, and even though I’m a rather slow reader, it was finished within three days of a holiday. The same thing happened with the second book he put together ‘The Users Guide To Prison.’ So when a film came out of the mans life inside, I wanted it.

It came out on Monday on DVD and HMV online got it to me that day, good for them.

And, what a disappointment, for god sake, Tom Hardy plays Bronson, real name Micheal Peterson, to good effect in a story that, if told in the normal way would indeed be entertaining and engrossing but its not.
Far to much time is wasted with uncalled for shots of Hardy, playing Bronson, playing a clown, just talking rubbish, At a run time of 91 mins, what you want to see in this film, what makes Charles Bronson what he is, is hardly touched upon.

Don’t think the violence is not there, it is, and at times with shocking effect, but the story seems to fight with unwanted intrusions, a sight forward telling of a story would have been far better, what we get is a kind of new off its head Clockwork Orange, that frankly left me a little disappointed, but non the less entertained.

For people who don’t know, Charles Bronson was jailed in 1974 for nicking something silly like £28.37p from his local post office in Luton. Whilst serving his time, his love of prison life and violence took over him and he ended up getting locked up in Broadmoor. Problem was he was getting to much and costly for the justice service to handle, so they said he was sane and let him out.

At a loss at what to do he tracks down an old jailbird chum, a fight promoter called Paul Daniels( who is’nt into magic at all…lol), camped up like Pontins by Matt King, who gives him a few fights. Then Bronson falls in love with a young girl but shes got a boyfriend, so to woo her he goes to a shop and asks if he can nick a £1000 ring for her, when told no, he opens the display case, with the shopkeepers head, and takes the ring anyway.

Film Review-: Public Enemies (15)

Review by Pits’n’Pots’s own Jonathon Woss – Warren.

Staring- Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang.

Director- Michael Mann.

I’ll admit it, it takes a lot to get me into going to the cinema for an evening, I like to view my films at home since the coming of wide screen TV, DVD, surround sound and the like. This is for three reasons, one, you can pick up a decent film now for as cheap as £3, you try getting in the cinema for that much. Two, you can get good coffee at home, and not that muck they dole out for a kings ransom at the local flicks. Three, less chance of get your pockets picked.

Anyway that said once in a while a film comes out that is so me, that I put all this to one side, Public Enemies is one such case. Put together Johnny Depp, Michael Mann, 1930s mod-crime ridden America and the over use of a Thompson’s gun, and I’m not waiting for the DVD, someone’s going to get it me for Xmas, or I’ll get the bugger anyway, and I’m in that picture house like a rat up a drain pipe. So on Saturday evening, I doned my best gangster like hat, just to look the part and off I went to see what turned out one of the few new films I have seen not to disappoint me in some way.

The film tells the story of John Dillinger, played brilliantly by Depp, as he stages his escape from prison to continue his life of a larger then life folk hero, a sort of 1930′s depression Robin Hood, difference being he robbed from the rich, well banks anyway, but instead of giving the cash  to the poor, he just kept it.

Now of-course, the newly formed FBI are a tad miffed at Mr Dillinger and are more then keen to higher there image with the powers that be. So much so they put one of the best investigators, G-men to them in the know, Melvin Purvis on the case, played to a good if not great standard by Batman himself, Christian Bale.

So its cue what Michael Mann is best at, driving a good story, Dillinger lover Bille Frechette is played well by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard. He puts together a stunning set of action sequences that seem to use more ammo then the American civil war, many as good as the ones in his classic, Heat.  Billy Crudup also gives much to the film with on stunning portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover, with out a dress in sight…..

At 140 mins long, Public Enemy still demands that the viewer has a good knowledge of the life of Dillinger and the times he lived in, with much of the time used on them almighty and fun shoot outs (for god sake someone make a video game of them).  The review in the Daily Star complained bitterly about its excessive length, it seem like the reviews of that paper have the IQ and the attention span of its readership, and that’s in single figures.

One slight problem I had with the movie was that, although shot in full HD, the look is stunning, but at times the dialogue is a little low and muffled.

I give the film 4 out of 5, and saying that a mark of 5 says its as good as the God Father or  North by Northwest , that means its very good indeed.  Its cracking entertament and right up there with with Heat, The Untouchables, Donnie Brassco and Millers Crossing.