All is Bright (Phil Morrison, 2013) – The concept, cast, and talent behind the now very quietly being released to home entertainment comedy All is Bright caught my eye almost the second it was announced. Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd were tapped to play a pair of ex-con Quebecers trying to sell Christmas trees in New York City. It was also set to be directed by Phil Morrison, due to make his first feature since directing Amy Adams to her first Oscar nomination in 2005’s Junebug and after showing serious comedic chops by directing numerous Upright Citizens Brigade episodes in the late 90s and early 2000s. How was I not going to at least be curious to see a film with such a logline when I first heard about it over a year ago, and more importantly, even if it wasn’t that great it had to be a little bit charming, right?
Wrong. Completely wrong. There are plenty of reasons why this wannabe holiday flick is being dumped unceremoniously following a very tiny and cursory theatrical release in the states. It’s a complete and utter mess that’s unsure if it wants to be silly or serious where the leads seem awkward rather than assured. I’m sure the tone of All is Bright isn’t supposed to be laugh out loud funny all the time, but I’m downright positive it wasn’t supposed to be this boring and miserable to sit through.
The plot as outlined in the intro is largely all you need to know, since the pair does literally nothing aside from bickering in unconvincing fashion while selling a bunch of trees. Giamatti plays Dennis, a recently released thief who makes his way home to find out his ex-wife (Amy Landecker) has told their child he died a year ago. With no home and no jobs to be found, Dennis meets up with Rene (Rudd), a former partner in crime, the man his ex-wife is currently dating, and who has a lucrative and legitimate business bringing trees down from Quebec to Brooklyn every holiday season. Demanding restitution for a life the affable Rene ruined in more ways than one, he tags along illegally across the border to try and make some money to win back his former family before Rene can marry the woman Dennis still loves.
All is Bright is the definition of “plodding.” It has no reason to move as slowly as it does, and absolutely no reason to clock in at a unfathomably long 107 minutes. Morrison takes 30 minutes to set up an incredibly threadbare premise from writer Melissa James Gibson, padding it all out with ugly looking and poorly shot montages (fully of loopy zooms and bad edits) that mean positively nothing, and then continues with the same lack of style to cover his lack of substance for the entire film. There isn’t even enough interesting material here to hang a short film from, let alone a feature. Neither character is particularly interesting, likeable, or even really worthy of being hated. They are just there, selling Christmas trees and occasionally complaining about how crappy their lives are. It all builds to a conclusion so ludicrous, idiotic, and flat out unbelievable because it decides out of left field that it wants to stop being a half-assed character piece and become an even more half-assed crowd pleaser. It’s a film so totally inconsistent and incompetently assembled that no two lackadaisically strung together scenes feel like they are from the same movie.
One would hope that the usually great Rudd and Giamatti could at least work some magic, but while they have decent enough chemistry, this material is so weak that it’s obvious mere moments into the film that there’s no way they can salvage even the slightest bit of good will for the film. Giamatti (who shockingly also executive produced, with his wife as a producer, as well) can’t do anything here other than look perpetually sad and occasionally shocked in what really might be his weakest performance. Ditto Rudd, who almost seems to be trying a bit too hard to inject some kind of improvised humour into the film with a few out of place tossed off lines that seem to be there because he might have just been getting bored having so little to do. Neither of them can even be bothered to come up with a Canadian accent, and there’s absolutely no way you can convince me that the jokes that made it into the final cut of this film would have been the best these two talents could come up with under better conditions.
But speaking of accents, one of the worst elements in an already bad film comes from a shockingly awful turn from poor Sally Hawkins, once so good in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky. Here she’s reduced to playing a stereotypical Russian housekeeper that befriends Dennis, and it’s a character so flat out offensive that she could have been replaced by a Putin impersonator walking around dressed as a bottle of Smirnoff. And yet, she might still be the most interesting thing worth talking about in this dreadfully dull mess.
Unsurprisingly, the Blu-Ray comes with no special features at all. Let’s hope this one gets put behind everyone involved very quickly. It’s the kind of film so awful that I almost wish someone could really answer for what happened. But then again, it’s also so bad that I really just don’t want to know. (Andrew Parker)
The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983) – Sometimes classic movies disappear from the public consciousness without good reason. It’s not because they’re bad or have aged poorly. Sometimes it just happens because they never picked up a cult, fit into a cable TV timeslot comfortably, or offered nostalgic merchandising opportunities. It’s important that these flicks don’t just disappear though, so when the opportunity comes up to champion an unjustly forgotten classic, like, say, when the 30th anniversary Blu-Ray gets released. And so it’s time to praise Philip Kaufman’s unjustly forgotten space-race masterpiece The Right Stuff. The three hour, unconventionally structured, ensemble semi-comedy about the first astronauts wasn’t even a hit when it came out and isn’t exactly a sexy sell to the kiddies these days. However, it was one of the great American movies of the 1980s by one of the most underrated American filmmakers of his generation. Kaufman may have helped create Indiana Jones and delivered the greatest of all Invasion of the Body Snatchers pictures, but his finest achievement just might be The Right Stuff. So, it’s about time that you went ahead and discovered it already.
Based on Tom Wolfe historical account of the original US Mercury 7 astronauts, the film is structured more around the historical events than any sort of conventional narrative arc. We start with a study of the insane breed of test pilots who created the mold for the astronauts, in particular following Sam Shepard’s cowboy portrayal of Carl Yeager, the greatest of them all (and despite his ample screen time, not someone who was ever considered to be an astronaut). Then the space race begins and two comedic government suits (Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer, who probably could have been a full-time duo team if they felt so inclined) rounding up potential astronauts. After a long, painful, and highly publicized training process, a group is settled upon that includes the likes of Ed Harris, Denis Quaid, Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, and Lance Henriksen.
Kaufman takes time to explore each character’s motivations for going to space, the considerable skill set that lands them the job, and the toil it takes on their respective family lives. After that, each one of their death-defying and groundbreaking journeys above the big blue ball is predicted and the film comes to a close before that whole moon-landing thing. It’s more of an episodic collection of character sketches than anything else, but that’s the point. In the end, Kaufman wasn’t making a film about space travel as much as he was making a movie about the time of old fashioned American masculine ideal that each of those men had to represent for the government to shoot them into space. You know, guys with “the right stuff,” hence the title.
There are so many ways in which the film shouldn’t have worked (too long, too many characters, too inside-baseball, no obvious climax, no clear heart-warming coda, etc.). Yet somehow Kaufman nimbly tap dances around every potential pratfall. His film is consistently hilarious, surprisingly insightful, painstakingly researched, breathtakingly exciting, and filled with remarkable spectacle. The special effects work alone is astounding, mixing experimental film techniques, actual footage from NASA, and good old fashioned model effects work. It all delivers smile-inducing glee and Kaufman even managed to find ways to incorporate his actors into historical stock footage seamlessly years before digital effects were even possible. It also didn’t hurt that Kaufman had an astounding cast at the top of their game. Shepard hits a note halfway between legend and mortal man, Harris brings his trademark intensity to professional nice guy John Glenn, Ward/Quaid feel like a natural buddy comedy pair, Scott Glenn adds the required grit, and Goldblum/Shearer turn walking jokes into breathing characters. The Right Stuff is one of those special movies where everything seemed to go right and every member of the creative team seemed to deliver their best work at once. It’s a remarkable cinematic experience, the kind that delivers everything viewers want from a night starring up at the big screen. What a shame no one really talks about it much anymore. Guess that’s where this Blu-ray comes in.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Right Stuff, Warner Brothers delivers one of their hardbound book special edition Blu-Rays. The book looks nice on the shelf, but as per usual the content on the pages is dull and brief. However, a nice letter from Philip Kaufman was included as an introduction to new viewers for the 30th anniversary, and it’s better than anything in the book itself. The film has never looked better than on this disc. WB clearly went the extra mile on the restoration process and delivered a glowing representation of Caleb Deschanel’s glorious cinematography as well as a sound mix that will make you feel like you’re standing next to an Apollo rocket launch. Since the movie is so long, it’s always been condensed down to unspectacular digital transfers in the past, but this one is simply glorious and one of the finest classic releases the studio has managed to date.
Sadly, even though Warner clearly coughed up a lot of dough to make The Right Stuff look pretty in HD, they didn’t pay for any new special features. Thankfully, all of the features from the old DVD were included and are already pretty great. There’s a 45-minute documentary about the film broken up into three parts (one on production, one on reception, and one on the actual events) that features ever major collaborator delivering proud and thoughtful insights about the film. Backing that up are a further 50 minutes of “selected audio commentary” from all of the documentary participants that are probably just audio outtakes from the doc, but are no less fascinating. There are also ten minutes of deleted scenes and a full length PBS documentary about John Glenn (which is admittedly pretty boring, but still a nice inclusion). Would it have been nice for WB to include a new feature (like say a commentary by the always talkative Philip Kaufman)? Of course! But at least there was a wealth of old material ported over unscathed. Simply put, if you like space exploration, American history, Philip Kaufman, or just movies in general, you’ll probably love The Right Stuff. Thirty years on, the film still feels fresh and enthralling. I suppose that means it’s timeless. (Phil Brown)
Body Bags (John Carpenter, 1993) – Though forgotten today by all but the most hardcore of 90s horror fans, it’s easy to forget that Tales From The Crypt (along with The Larry Sanders Show), helped transform HBO into a network of boundary pushing, uncensored original programming. Even less well known is Showtime’s somewhat failed attempt to launch their own horror anthology series, Body Bags. The project failed simply because it never became a series. However, the pilot was released as a TV movie, and is one of the most underrated efforts in John Carpenter’s iconic career. It’s essentially a knock off of Tales From The Crypt, with Carpenter himself standing in as The Cryptkeeper. It’s a hysterical and disgusting exercise of pure horror entertainment, filled with more memorable genre movie cameos in 90 minutes than Crypt could cram into an entire season. In other words, it’s a shot of pure bliss for horror fans, unexpectedly given the Blu-Ray treatment from Shout Factory.
The movie is essentially fluff, comprised of three decent and gory-as-hell morality horror shorts connected by some allegedly comedic wrap around material. John Carpenter isn’t actor and he’s certainly no Cryptkeeper, so the pun-heavy interstitials are pretty rough. However, the weirdo novelty of watching Carpenter deliver hack jokes gives the sequences enough loose charm to squeak by. The first short is a pretty typical murderer-on-the-loose/lonely girl in distress tale. It’s nothing particularly special, but still quite a bit of fun thanks to Carpenter’s showy direction, goopy gore, and hysterical performances from Robert Carradine and Wes Craven (yes, THAT Wes Craven).
Body Bags really kicks into high gear with the second chapter, starring Stacy Keach as a balding man trying out a supernatural solution. The ending is a bit batty, but the short is absolutely hilarious thanks to Keach’s surprising comedic commitment, some vintage stop motion effects, and delightful supporting turns from David Warner and Blondie (yes, THAT Blondie).
Finally, Carpenter hands directing duties to Tobe Hooper in the last, and probably best, chapter. It’s one of those haunted-eye-transplant yarns, but a particularly nasty, intense, and necrophilia-flavored rendition starring Mark Hamill (yes, THAT Mark Hamill) who delivers one hell of an over-the-top performance. The goofy fun all but disappears for this harsh finale, but it’s one that has to be seen to be believed.
Chances are that if Body Bags had been picked up as a series, it would have been as spotty and inconsistent as Tales from the Crypt or Tales from the Dark Side. However, as a TV movie and cult oddity, it’s a horror fan’s delight. It might not be groundbreaking, but it’s ridiculously entertaining and features more references and nods for horror fans than the last three Scream sequels combined.
No one ever could have predicted Body Bags getting a fancy Blu-Ray special edition, but the good folks at Shout made it happen and delivered a rather impressive disc. The film appears fully uncut and in widescreen for the first time in any format. The transfer is crisp and clean, but the low budget TV origins of the project prevent it from shining like Shout’s finest efforts. Still, Body Bags has never looked or sounded so good and it’s unlikely that’ll ever happen again.
On the special features front comes a 20-minute documentary filled with amusing memories (a failed TV series made by friends is an anecdote generator if nothing else), along with an audio commentary featuring John Carpenter as well as appearances from Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach chatting up their respective segments. Carpenter is clearly not only quite fond of the film, but isn’t burned out on discussing it like most of his more widely known efforts. So he hosts one of his liveliest commentary chats along with a pair of game collaborators. That’s all that’s included, but it’s more than enough. Part of what makes all the special features so enjoyable is the fact that no one involved can believe they are still discussing this flick at all and that’s the charm of this disc as a whole. Really, there shouldn’t be a special edition Body Bags Blu-ray, but thanks to Shout Factory it somehow happened. As long as you go in with reasonable expectations, it’s impossible that you won’t have a good time with the disc. It might be cheesy and cheap, but it was made with a lot of love by folks who adore horror. The original film and the new disc are a gift to horror fans. Do yourself a favor and accept it. No thank you card required. (Phil Brown)
The Uninvited (1944, Lewis Allen) – Every year the good folks from Criterion like to do classic horror movie fans a favor and release a forgotten flick from Hollywood’s past with a glorious, squeaky clean new transfer. This year, Criterion’s unearthed genre gem is Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited. The film has the historical distinction of being the first Hollywood film to feature ghosts that remained supernatural entities to the very end, rather than being revealed as a ruse in some sort of Scooby Doo styled twist. It’s a very old fashioned movie with some moments that even the most hardcore of old Hollywood fans will find a bit silly. However, that’s part of the film’s charm, and the combination of genuine chills with old timey cheese makes the movie a wonderful little spooky charmer for those who like their horror flicks in vintage black and white.
The film stars Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey as a brother-sister pair who enjoy cavorting and living together in a way only possible in 1940s fiction. During a vacation in Cornwall, the duo stumbles upon a beautiful old beach mansion and decide to make an impromptu purchase (ridiculous, I know. But again, it’s a movie of another time). Milland makes lowball offer assuming he’ll never get the house, yet the owner (Donald Crisp) surprisingly accepts. Milland and Hussey are suspicious, but figure they got the deal of the century and take the house. Once they move in, Crisp’s granddaughter Gail Russell shows up, heartbroken that the house has been sold. Milland instantly falls in love with the 20-year-old and decides to let her visit at any time so that he can work his seduction skills. Pretty sweet deal, except that every time Russell is in the house, she acts oddly. Over time she admits that her mother killed herself in the house, following drama involving her father and his mistress. All three of those relations died in and around the house, so unsurprisingly Milland and Hussey start having unexpected haunted guests. At first it’s just the sound of a woman sobbing, but Russell’s presence gets those ghosts kicking. She becomes possessed and tries to fling herself off the cliff where her mother died one afternoon and soon Milland and Hussey start exploring this whole haunting thing to ensure their fantasy home is no longer a horror out of Amityville.
The Uninvited is a very traditional ghost story, featuring scenes and sequences echoed in countless subsequent movies including everything from The Haunting to Drag Me to Hell. But Allen got there first, and thankfully his first crack at Hollywood’s classic haunted house tropes hold up well. It’s a film all about atmosphere. Allen slowly builds up a sense of dread, starting in a light comedy world before turning into something more sinister. He’s aided immeasurably by cinematographer Charles Lang Jr. who gradually transforms the photography from flat comedy into deep focus, dark shadow terror. The film has a peculiar power that sneaks up on viewers, getting the biggest chills out of quiet unexpected moments. But there are a few big set pieces, including a much-imitated possession/séance and a pretty spectacular floating spirit. The special effects are remarkable for the time and the less flashy suspense techniques that Allen employs are even more powerful. It’s aided immeasurably by some remarkable performances from Ray Milland and tragic Hollywood heroine Gail Russell. It’s also quite dated, feeling somewhat small and stagey and beset by irritating bouts of unsuccessful humor. It won’t play for anyone who doesn’t enjoy old Hollywood clichés and magic, but for those with a sweet tooth for the classics who have never seen the movie, The Uninvited is an unjustly forgotten classic ripe for rediscovery.
The good news is that Criterion has provided a strong disc designed to make that rediscovery possible. The transfer is another of the company’s beautiful black and white restorations that are leaps and bounds above their competitors. The crisply shot, Oscar nominated cinematography is a key component in The Uninvited’s distinct creep out power, and as a result it’s not even worth considering watching the film in any other format now that this Blu-Ray exists. The special feature section is comparatively light, but given the age and obscurity of the film, there was only so much that Criterion could do. They’ve included a 30-minute visual essay on the film by filmmaker Michael Almereyada that delves into the themes, production, and actors lives with intelligence and insight. After that, there’s an amusingly grandiose trailer and two rather fun radio adaptations featuring stars from the film. That’s it sadly, but at least everything included in fascinating. The reason to by this disc is the film and as an important slice of Hollywood history and a severely underrated haunted house yarn, it’s definitely one to pick up. It’s actually quite surprising the film doesn’t have a better reputation these days, but I suppose now that a gorgeous Criterion Blu-Ray of The Uninvited exists, that’s about to change. (Phil Brown)
The Attack (Ziad Doueiri, 2013) – There’s something a bit off about Ziad Doueiri’s drama The Attack. It’s a parable about the never ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict that steadfastly refuses to take a stance, and while that’s a novel and admirable approach, the rest of the film around it is just far too inert to really generate much drama given the intense feelings that should be involved. It’s about a man caught in situation that angers him because he can’t understand it and no one really wants to help him, and yet because of the film’s desire to remain neutral it all amounts to a null set revenge drama.
Happily married for 15 years, Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) has been working successfully as a trauma surgeon in Tel Aviv despite his Arab heritage. He isn’t a practicing Muslim, nor is his wife (Reymond Amsalem). He’s easily accepted among his peers as an equal. That all changes following a suicide bombing that kills 17 people with all evidence pointing towards his wife – who Amin thought was out of town visiting family – was the culprit. Now not generally trusted among most of his friends save for a sympathetic co-worker and a cop, Amin begins a mission to look into the potential that his wife had a secret past.
Based on a novel by Yasmina Khadra, the balance between the Jewish and Muslim perspectives is admirably handled by Doueiri, but to a complete fault. Just when the film seems like it’s going to slightly tip towards taking a stand on anything or even remotely giving any answers, it pulls back completely. It starts and ends with completely shrug worthy affirmations that the dispute can never be resolved or answered, and that would be just fine for a movie that has a bigger reach than this one.
Amin’s suffering is a very emotional and somewhat intellectual one to be sure, but the heart of the movie is still a very standard “searching for answers,” pseudo-revenge based narrative. Doueiri barely even allows his cast to raise their voices in anger because doing anything obviously righteous might constitute saying something, when really the film doesn’t want to say anything at all on the subject and instead wants to be a personal journey. That numbness of tone nearly kills the excitement of watching Suliman (who does a fine job) try to figure out how to play the material without sympathizing with anyone around him.
To make matters even worse, the actual strands of the plot are incredibly obvious and the answers that he sought could have been gleaned from making one phone call to the one person he should have been talking to in the first place. It’s a really awkward moment that comes towards the end that should have been the first thing that happened. Then again, the ending is so misguided and bland that it probably wouldn’t have mattered. The Attack isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch, but it is incredibly inert.
The Blu-Ray comes with a photo gallery and an interview with Doueiri. (Andrew Parker)
Grabbers (Jon Wright, 2012) – Sometimes you’ve just got to keep it simple, and Grabbers is a good old fashioned creature feature that boils the formula down the bare essentials that’s a hell of a lot of fun.
On Erin Island, an idyllic fishing village off the coast of Ireland, a charming but somewhat work-shy cop Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle) is tasked with greeting Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), a straight-laced young officer fresh from the mainland. Not that there is much for them to do, aside from dealing with the occasional drunk, and that’s usually O’Shea himself. However, strange doings are afoot because the crew of a fishing boat disappears, whales start appearing dead on the shore, and a local lobsterman catches a strange tentacled creature in his trap which he names “Grabbers”. Soon the creature grows, and it becomes clear to O’Shea and Nolan that this thing is on a feeding rampage. They quickly discover that it’s allergic to alcohol and doesn’t want to eat anyone who’s drunk. So it’s time to rally the villagers, arm the troops…and head to the pub and get right pissed in order to save their town and maybe even the world.
It’s rare for a creature feature to have this much unironic charm, but with a classic Irish sensibility to it all, Grabbers is a rollicking, drive-in style romp that wants you to just kick up your feet to and revel in the mayhem. With his second feature, director Jon Wright unfurls it all at a healthy pace, balancing some jump scares, some gore and quite a few laughs to keep the audience off base and the entertainment level high. Kevin Lehane’s script leans heavily on some of the creature feature tropes of the 1950’s, but it’s wry and brisk humor keeps the one-liners coming just as fast as the pints. It also boasts some first rate creature effects.
The leads are positively loveable. Coyle (who may best be known from his turn on the show Coupling as the endearingly sex craved Jeff Murdoch) carries the film astonishingly well as the emotionally damaged Ciaran O’Shea, with a natural smile, sense of humor and everyman charm. It would have been nice if this film had been able to muster a little more character development but it still works, and Coyle has great chemistry with Bradley.
The only special feature on the DVD is a brief behind the scenes featurette. (Dave Voigt)
Ambushed (Giorgio Serafini, 2013) – As far as straight-to-video tough guy movies starring action movie B-squad all stars in supporting roles go, there are far worse than the moderately passable and wholly forgettable Ambushed.
Frank (Daniel Bonjour) is an LA cocaine runner keen on carving out a Scarface like version of the American dream for himself. Sick of selling shitty product for shitty proft, he kills his suppliers, takes the coke, and goes into business for himself without the middleman and with the help of his Scotish sidekick Eddie (Gianni Capaldi). The missing dope draws the ire of its real supplier and local kingpin (Vinnie Jones), as well as the watchful eye of a straight-arrow DEA agent (Dolph Lundgren) and the crooked local substance abusing cop (Randy Couture) who wanted in on the deal that initially went south.
There are double crosses, plenty of tough guy posturing, and one ill advised scene where Couture’s character pays a visit to Frank’s main squeeze that’s cut together with Eddie trying to explain the plot of a Yosemite Sam cartoon, seemingly apropos of nothing. It zips along, though, never dragging, and giving everyone just enough to do, except for Jones who gets shortchanged more than anyone here. Bonjour and Capaldi are the leades here, and they assert themselves well into characters that are charismatic without being sympathetic are likable. And although he still has a way to go as an actor, it’s nice to see Couture playing a heavy for a change, and he seems to have a knack for it. As for Lundgren, he certainly looks comfortable for a DEA agent (always wearing a hoodie and jeans), but he can still kick some ass and deliver an off the cuff remark with a smile and a wink to the audience.
Ambushed (which actually doesn’t even have an ambush in it and had its title changed from the equally indecipherable Hard Rush) feels ever bit like a movie people did because it was something that was there and they could get a paycheque from it. It’s doubtful anyone took the screenplay from the singularly named writer Augustin seriously, but everyone gives enough of an effort to make sure it’s at least entertaining at times. It’s a bunch of drug trade clichés, but for this kind of film, it’s fine.
The Blu-Ray comes with one special feature: a 15 minute making-of documentary. (Andrew Parker)
Junkie (Adam Mason, 2013) – “Incredibly fucked up” doesn’t really even begin to cover this deliriously misanthropic black comedy about a drug addict trying to go straight on the absolute worst possible day. Adam Mason’s depraved, explicit freak out certainly isn’t for everyone, but for the adventurous viewer in the mood for something purposefully nasty, this is the perfect fix.
Love sick and sick of feeling shitty all the time, Danny (Daniel Louis Rivas) wants to kick horse, but his tatted-up, constantly high strung, and loutish brother Nicky (Robert LaSardo) has other plans. Together, they embark on a nightmarish day long, drug induced haze that starts with drinking the blood of a drug dealer just to get a fix, and then growing exponentially more messed up from there, involving zombies, Danny’s father, flashbacks, and a special guest appearance from one of history’s greatest monsters.
While most films of this nature would try to go the Trainspotting route to be as garish and flashy as possible, Mason embraces his film’s ridiculousness by grounding this head trip in a more realistic style that brings the story’s very obvious humour to the surface. It even builds to a surprisingly poignant conclusion that feels earned rather than earnest. Between the gross outs and gag inducing gags, Rivas and LaSardo delivering great performances, especially the latter who ends up going the full Elias Koteas for another memorable performance in the character actor’s already stacked career. It’s a trip, but one ultimately worth taking.
The Blu-Ray comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette, screen test, and a commentary track from Mason, Rivas, co-writer Simon Boyes, and producer Charisse Sanzo. (Andrew Parker)