Northern Soul

Review: Northern Soul

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The Pitch: Seriously, what are you not getting from that title? #Ronseal

The Review: In a way, I’m glad that I was born in 1974. To say I’ve got two left feet would be an insult to left feet, and most of the dancing I’ve gotten away with – barely – in nightclubs over the years has been of the variety where you plant your feet as close together as possible and wave your hands about a bit while trying not to move your shoulders too much. I had a ceilidh at my wedding, cunningly ensuring that someone would be shouting instructions during my first dance and the thought of having to actually, properly dance – to anything – fills me with fear and dread. Thankfully I missed the age of proper dancing, waltzes and foxtrots, but I’d have also been the embarrassing one had I ended up in one of the great Northern soul venues of the Seventies: Catacombs, the Golden Torch or Wigan Casino, to name but a few.

But the stars of Elaine Constantine’s new film show no fear when it comes to the dance floor. Elliot James Langridge is John, a troubled teen whose only connection is with his grandfather and who hates everything else, spraying graffiti on the walls of his town to show his contempt for it. He’s looking to rebel, and he finds an outlet in the Northern soul music he hears at a local disco. Hooking up with Matt (Joshua Whitehouse), the pair drop out and become entranced by the counter-culture thrills of the new music and dancing. While aspiring to top the likes of soul DJ Ray Henderson (James Lance), the pair also get caught up in the seedier underbelly of the soul nights, and bad language on the mikes becomes the least of their worries.

There’s two things you have to get right if you’re going to make a Northern soul movie, and that’s the music and the dancing. Langridge and Whitehouse, along with the rest of the young cast, throw themselves in with gusto and the film’s soundtrack is a fantastic testament to the kind of rare, up tempo American soul records that DJs were hunting down and playing to large crowds for over a decade (and still, in many cases to this day). Northern Soul the film practically throbs with energy, and first time director Constantine keeps the pace constantly moving, even if she doesn’t have massive amounts of plot at her disposal (working from her own script). What it doesn’t do is skimp on the detail, both of what made the scene so compelling and also what might have made it slightly less than attractive; it’s a warts and all picture that’s a vote for gritty realism but rather less of a poster campaign for all night dancing.

If you’ve seen the trailer and are thinking of watching the film for the celebrity names, then I think it’s fair to warn you now that the likes of Steve Coogan, John Thomson and Ricky Tomlinson are simply on board for various lengths of cameo, but no matter. Langridge and Whitehouse carry the story along effectively enough, but it’s really just a vehicle for Constantine to relive some of the more satisfying thrills of her youth. The bigger dance nights are well staged, and for good measure there’s a reasonable car chase in the last act as well. If you can forgive the overfamiliarity of John’s initial rebellion then Northern Soul does a decent job of encapsulating the appeal of listening to unfamiliar American soul music while performing powerful, almost aggressive dance moves. I might have been too young to appreciate Northern soul the first time round, but maybe I could still be tempted into throwing a few spins and karate kicks at a Northern dance night. (As long as you’re not watching.)

Why see it in the cinema: If you’re a fan of Northern soul or think you could be (for example, did you like The Commitments but think it was a bit safe), then the best place to hear the soundtrack will be via the speakers of your local flea pit. (I would suggest finding a decent cinema rather than an actual flee pit, although I have been to a few over the years that seem to have been in a time capsule since the Seventies.)

What about the rating? Rated 15 for strong language, drug use and sex. Or a Saturday night as they call it up north.

The Score: 7/10 (you can add one if you’re a Northern soul fan already)

Thanks to Jess at Sundae Communications for supplying the screener which enabled me to review this.

The Half Dozen: 6 Most Interesting Trailers For October 2014

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It’s been a long summer, full of mutants, monkeys, giant fighty robots, some additional giant fighty monsters and Jon Favreau cooking, but now the nights are drawing in and there’s no better time to be in the cinema. Admittedly I can’t think of a bad time to be in the cinema, but I was never the best role model. Having had a busy summer, followed by a month-long binge on two of the country’s foremost film festivals, this feature has had a rest for the past couple of months but now it’s back, better than ever largely the same as ever, bringing you the six most tantalising two minute compilations of films released in UK cinemas this calendar month.

If you’re a long time reader, you’ll remember that the first rule of The Half Dozen is that you don’t talk about… no wait, that’s Fight Club. The first – and indeed – only rule of The Half Dozen was that these were trailers for films I hadn’t seen. This was a fairly flexible rule, to the point where one month it was only films that I’d seen. I’ve also not stuck rigidly to six on occasions. So if we’re going to do this again, then there are no rules. Who needs rules anyway! Apart from these being films which will at some point in October be shown in a  UK cinema, having not previously been shown in UK cinemas outside of festivals. So there’s a kind of rule. Whatever.

I can offer one improvement on this post over previous efforts – I’ve added release date details on each film! Don’t say I never get you anything. Anyway, on with this month’s not particularly anarchic selection of promos.

Gone Girl

Speaking of rules, there used to be a rule that all even-numbered Star Trek films were great and odd-numbered not quite so great. That rule has fallen apart over the years, what with ten and twelve being complete bobbins and three actually not that bad, then eleven was one of the best of the series. A rule you can put much more faith in is that David Fincher saves his best work for his even numbered films: while Alien³, The Game, Panic Room, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo have been various shades of interesting, the films sandwiched in between – Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network and now Gone Girl – are all likely to become established as classic films with a bit of distance. I hope to have a review of Gone Girl up this weekend to explain my reasoning behind that in more detail, but for now rejoice in this surprisingly non-spoilery trailer.

Gone Girl has been on nationwide release since 3rd October, and it’s been rated 18.


I have to confess that most of what occurred in Northern Ireland while I was a child mystified me – TV news had a lot of assumed knowledge, and coming to it as a young child all I knew is that the IRA from time to time blew up either places where the families of people I knew worked or occasionally train stations that I was about to pass through. So it will be interesting to see how this film manages to keep the balance between the action movie it’s clearly trying to be, and the backdrop of the conflict in which it’s set. Casting Jack O’ Connell, so great in the likes of Eden Lake and Starred Up, is a good first step in whatever you’re trying to achieve.

’71 has been on release since 10th October, and is still playing at a reasonable selection of cinemas. It’s a certificate 15.

Northern Soul

Having been running this blog for nigh on five years, I get a whole load of e-mails offering me film related opportunities. In five years, barely any of them have actually been worth taking up, but when I was offered a screener for this film I jumped at the chance. The one thing the trailer skips on is the language – this is a proper, rough, Northern with a capital N film (and I’m half Northern by birth, so I can say that, even though my normal speaking voice is Queen’s English with a hint of estuary) but it’s also got one of the best soundtracks of the year.

Northern Soul is out today (17th October), and is on limited release, also rated 15. It is also available to book via OurScreen, an initiative to allow you, the viewer, to decide what ends up in cinemas. You just need to ensure a certain amount of tickets get sold for the cinema to actually show the film. Genius. You’ll see a whole host of Northern Soul screenings on the website if you head over there now. It’s also out on DVD and Blu-ray to buy on Monday.

The Babadook

I saw this at FrightFest, it’s the best film I saw at FrightFest and one of my favourites of the year (currently residing at 11th on my provisional top 40), people were actually screaming, people were even freaked out by the trailer, if you even vaguely like horror movies or just decent films then go see. Put some of that on the poster, but be a good editor. (“People were actually screaming”? “The 11th best film of the year”? Maybe just “Go see”.)

The Babadook is on wide release from next Friday, 24th October, and is also rated 15.

Mr. Turner

Over the years I’ve taken great pleasure in ticking off some of the names of our finest directors and seeing films of theirs in the cinema for the first time. Since my cinema going reached epic levels after moving to Cambridgeshire, I’ve seen both Happy-Go-Lucky and Another Year, and both were great, so my anticipation levels for Mr. Turner should be described as high. At some point I do need to go back and revisit the rest of Mike Leigh’s forty year career, but I consider that a mere technicality at present.

Mr. Turner is out on October 31st, painting up a storm in art house cinemas near you, and is rated 12A.


Just think, there was a time when none of us knew how to pronounce Gyllenhall. Actually, that’s probably still now, isn’t it?

Nightcrawler is also out on October 31st, and is also rated 15. Seriously, are there no kids’ films out this month?