James Richardson: from cult football presenter to YouTube movie critic
James Richardson

Broadcaster and journalist James Richardson is best-known for his work in the world of football, formerly as the frontman of cult Channel 4 show Football Italia, and now as a presenter on BT Sport and The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast. 

So why has he now decided to become an online movie critic?

He spoke to Mark Butler about his fledgling YouTube review channel, the differences between commentating on sport and cinema, and the supreme art of the pun. 

As one of the most distinctive voices in the world of football, it comes as something of a surprise to see James Richardson swapping the turf and touchline for the realm of the movie theatre.

Now he’s aiming his trademark puns at the genius of Quentin Tarantino rather than the skills of Lionel Messi, and pouring scornful wit on the woeful Zoolander 2, instead of a leaky back four.

But here we are. The man who was once the face of our lazy Football Italia weekend mornings with gazetta in one hand and cappuccino in the other now has a good shout to be one of the best new film critics on YouTube.

Since starting his ‘JimboVision’ channel six months ago, Richardson has proven he’s as comfortable picking apart dodgy cinematography and screenwriting as he is a poor team line-up.

So just why did he start moonlighting as a movie reviewer? We found out.

A good way of getting to the cinema

Richardson currently views his cinematic exploits as something of an enjoyable hobby; a good excuse to vent his thoughts about a medium he’s fascinated by, and to get himself along to the movies in the first place.

“I like the sound of my own voice. I think I’ve always got something to say about film. And the best thing is, it makes me go to the cinema two to three times a week, which I’d really stopped doing before because I was too busy. Now that I’ve invented this job watching films, I have to go.

“It’s very addictive. It’s a lot of work but it’s a totally different thing to the football so it sort of cleans the palette. I don’t get paid for it but I DO get people violently disagreeing with me on the internet, and you can’t buy pleasure like that.”

The joy of YouTube

Google’s gigantic online video platform may have become synonymous with unknown bedroom-based ‘personalities’ making it big from the comfort of their own home. But it seems seasoned broadcasters can also embrace its possibilities.

“It’s interesting, because it becomes a personal project. You get quite invested in it. The freedom you have is really nice. You’re your own boss.

“It’s become possible through YouTube to do pretty much anything you want. With the kind of footage you can shoot on DSLR, and editing you can do on your laptop at home, it’s possible to make something really professional without too much money or effort.”

Football vs movies

It’s tempting to wonder whether Richardson sees any similarities between the worlds of football and film.

“Other than the fact I try to get lots of stupid puns in about both of them, there aren’t many similarities with football. Which is kind of the point. It’s good to get a break.

“In a way they’re alike because they’re both 90 minute or 2 hour entertainments that people enjoy mostly at the weekends, but cinema is so much more dependable than a football game. You know more or less how things are going to go.

“Football can be very frustrating when the build-up and promos are followed by some goalless thing. If they had more accurate trailers for matches, that would be a good start.”

The art of the pun

It’s something Richardson has been renowned for since his Football Italia days. When it comes to ingenious word-play, there’s few better.

So are there any recent film-related ones he’s happy with?

“Well, that’s a difficult question. There were a bunch in the Star Wars review. How about for 99 Homes; ’99 problems and eviction’s one’? Or for the cannibal cowboy film Bone Tomahawk, there was a line about Kurt Russell getting his posse eaten. You had to be there maybe.

“Or the Steve Jobs film: ‘Mac, sack and back.'”

Football Italia

Let’s be honest, his days on the treasured Channel 4 show looked like the best job ever.

Sitting in Italian cafes with coffee, pastries and newspapers, talking about football. Was it really that good?

“I’ve got fond memories. The food, the weather. Meeting the likes of Baggio and Vialli when you could still do things one to one without agents.

“I didn’t realise how good a life it was till after. The job was tougher than it looked though.

“I was living over in Italy so I really didn’t know much about the impact here until later. When I started I was remember thinking I’d be lucky if I lasted more than a few weeks. I’d never presented before.”

Some interesting tidbits

The biggest movie buff among his footballing colleagues is…

“Michael Owen. Boy does he love cinema. Film, film film that’s all he talks about. Google Michael Owen’s favourite film to see what I mean.”

His favourite football film is…

Mean Machine (the original) or Friday Night Lights. And I Believe In Miracles, natch. The worst….? L’allenatore nel Pallone.”

On whether he might also turn his many retro music references in the podcast into a similar music show…

“I actually wanted to be a DJ more than anything when I was a toddler. A DJ!”

On whether Leicester will manage to take the Premier League title…

“With Claudio in charge? Definitely!”

You can check out all of James Richardson’s video reviews at JimboVision, and follow him on Twitter.

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