Category Archives: Entertainment

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review: Does it Live Up to the First?

By Natalie Froome

The second instalment of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy has been long awaited, but it was worth it. In ‘Vol.2’ The band of unlikely heroes are back again, saving the galaxy from a threat that’s much closer to home.

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Against All Odds ‘Tipped’ for Success

By Tony Allen 

A mere four songs into new Norwich rock outfit Against All Odds’ slot, supporting The High Points at Bedfords Crypt, singer Georgi Ball stops. She looks out onto the packed room, thanking everyone for coming and pointing out that the appearance is in aid of the band’s first EP release.

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Art forms, Storytelling and Video Games

By Ewa Giera 

As we all know, storytelling has been around for a pretty long time. Over the years, it’s moved on from oral tradition, early forms of written, phonetic English, Shakespeare, over to the modern novel and short stories, and as some seem to believe, ending at film. However, the public is largely split over whether film is the endgame for artistic storytelling or whether there’s something more waiting for us to get noticed.

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Taking Back Sunday Concert Review

By Jessica Foulger

Taking Back Sunday continue to impress the world with their music, and Norwich is no exception, as they conquer the UEA’s LCR.

Despite the show not selling out, Taking Back Sunday perform with the same youthful angst and zest that made them so infectious and lovable back in the early 2000s. It is safe to say I have revisited my teenage, ‘I hate the world’ self, whilst finding my older, more reflective self, deeply appreciating Taking Back Sunday’s recent, more mature artistry.

The five-piece from Long Island, New York are touring the UK and Europe in support of the 2016 release ‘Tidal Wave’ which sees them continue a more Rock/Pop sound with occasional heavy hooks whilst retaining melodic guitar riffs. It is a more mature, refined sound, with honest lyrics. The set opens with the fiery opening track ‘Deathwolf’, off their latest release. A perfect opening track with punchy guitar riffs that excite an eager audience, as lead singer Adam Lazarra screams the lyric ‘had a little bit and we want some more.’ Yes, Adam, we certainly want some more! It is clear TBS have so much more to offer in the world of rock music, with Adam’s lyrics as painfully honest in nature as they once were at the commercial peak of their career a decade ago but also possessing a contemplative and nostalgic quality. This is a band that aren’t ready to hang up the mic just yet.

Their set is a balanced mix of old and new and a couple songs in, the band get the crowd moshing and headbanging with ‘A decade under the Influence’ with the crowd screaming ‘anyone will do tonight’ right back at Lazarra and co. The nostalgia of the older tracks electrifies the LCR as fans revel in the pop-punk stage in Taking Back Sunday’s career. The band return to the new tunes with ‘All Excess’, a bouncy track with a damn catchy chorus, as of course the main purpose of this tour is to promote 2016’s ‘Tidal Wave.’

Lazarra takes a breather mid-set to explain the story behind the ‘Call Came Running’ music video. An anecdote about how his father came to the house to find blood all over Lazarra’s hands, bowing his head saying “Adam what have you done now.’ Lazarra concedes that the joke was funnier the last time he told it, but to be honest, I think the audience just wanted more belters to mosh and dance to. It is an awesome video, though, check it out!

I am thrilled that the band performed my personal favourite track off their 2014 release ‘Happiness Is’ entitled ‘Better Homes and Better Gardens.’ Lazarra becomes reflective about the meaning of the song admitting that it is emotional and hard-going to perform live. It is about his divorce during the writing of the record which becomes more real and hard-hitting, with the opening line of the track, ‘when you took that ring off.’ Despite the deeply personal and emotional nature of the song, it shows how mature Lazarra’s song-writing has become. This isn’t the same teenage pop-punk band that sung merely about girls, sex and friendship, but a wiser and older band that have experienced life and the turbulence of adulthood and fatherhood. The lyrics are beautiful; the guitars are raw.

As the set draws to a close, the band perform possibly the two most recognised and nostalgic Taking Band Sunday songs. Of course, the crowd pleasers are essential, but one tipsy bloke bellows throughout the whole set ‘MIAMI…MIAMI’, to a point where I feel like saying, mate, I’ve googled the setlist and there’s no Miami, I’m sorry. Anyway, when the opening riff to ‘Cute without the E’ kicks in, I can’t help but delve into the mosh pit. This song brings back so many memories for me and the nostalgia I feel is overwhelming as I and hundreds of others scream ‘And will you tell all your friends you’ve got your gun to my head.’ The set closes with ‘Makedamnsure’, the quintessential emo pop-punk hit as Lazarra yelps the sassy ‘I just wanna bring you down so badly’, executing his trademark microphone twist to perfection.

Well, boys, you’ve certainly brought down the LCR.

Image: “Adam Lazzara” by Dan is licensed under the CC BY-ND 2.0.

Fifty Shades Darker Review

By Gabriela Williams

Although this might not be everyone’s most anticipated film of the year, Fifty Shades Darker is a hit with its predominantly female fan base.

The infamous Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan, is portrayed as walking away from a world of “Kinky Fuckery” to devote himself to Ana. Ana, played by Dakota Johnson (who is the daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), is hesitant to take Christian back.  She is warned by Mrs. Robinson (Elena Lincoln, played by Kim Basinger) that Christian cannot give up the life of BDSM which she introduced to him. Ana ignores this advice, and when Elena shows up again on Christian’s birthday she throws a drink in her face. At this point the screams of ‘Yes!’ within the audience were audible. Other parts of the film that also made me giggle included some very sassy lines from Ana when she gives Christian lessons in how to have a conversation. In addition to this, other mundane life events become oddly comical such as Ana taking Christian grocery shopping. Although their intimate fun with some vanilla ice cream bought there did not make it into the film.

The performance delivered by such a talented cast was extraordinary, Jamie Dornan’s only better role has been in the BBC TV series The Fall. The direction, by James Foley, was impeccable. The only fault is with the dialogue. Jamie Dornan’s lines were, at some points, laughable and there seemed to be hints of his Irish accent coming through in places. The writer, E. L. James seems to have had her way this time round, after numerous arguments with Sam Taylor Johnson, the director of the first instalment in the trilogy. The storyline is as close to the book’s plot as is possible for a 2 hour film. There is suspense created from the stalking of the lovers by Leila Williams (an ex-girlfriend of Christian) and a very startled audience when she attempts to shoot Ana. The other element of danger in this film comes from the slimy boss, Jack Hyde, who sexually assaults Ana at work.

The main reason for many to see this film might be the incredibly steaming sex scenes, of which there are plenty. These scenes are well supported by the soundtrack, which includes a collaboration from Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift and a cover of ‘The Scientist’ by Corinne Bailey Rae, which is played at the beginning of the film. But the truly romantic moments can be found as the Malik and Swift song is played over Ana and Christian sailing in his boat, as well as the ending of the film which features the couple under a canopy of roses with fireworks above.

Ultimately, this film might not be everyone’s cup of tea, however it is set to beat the first film’s profits and, for fans, is the perfect second instalment, which further explores and develops Ana and Christian’s romance.

Image by Mike Mozart from Flickr

Netflix Originals Reviews: A Series of Unfortunate Events

 

By Gabriela Williams

Following its massive success with Stranger Things, Netflix is adding to its collection of originals with a new TV adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events with a set of eight, hour long episodes ready to watch now.

The plot of each episode stays closely to the original plot of the books, unlike the film adaptation released in 2004. The episodes are all split into two parts and are titled The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window and The Miserable Mill. In splitting the episodes into these equal parts Netflix has made it very easy to addictively binge watch the whole series in one go. This is perfect for a weekend Netflix binge. The theme tune of the TV series was originally scored by James Newton Howard, famous for the score of The Hunger Games and many others. It does get a bit repetitive and you may well want to skip it before you start singing along.

Neil Patrick Harris plays the villainous Count Olaf, who plots to gain the Baudelaire fortune throughout each episode.  In the process, he disguises himself, sometimes humorously as a scientific assistant, a Captain and a secretary. I thoroughly enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf and certainly preferred him to Jim Carrey. If I have a favourite character in the series, it’s Count Olaf.

In the final episodes, Dr Orwell is introduced and is closely linked to George Orwell’s novel 1984 and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I enjoyed the allusions to these books and was haunted by the timing of the references to 1984 and the similarities in modern society. The other episodes have quirky references to literature as well as many unanswered questions about strands of the plot. This in turn gets quite frustrating as you passionately watch every episode, with the hope of finding answers. Much like the hope for the Baudelaire’s future, you soon realise that this is not a fairy tale with a happy ending or any of the answers you may want.

I thought that this series was absolutely worth a watch, especially as you can tell that the writers and the directors have tried to appeal to the fans of the original book series. I thought that the series length was just about perfect and that the plots of each episode weren’t too complicated to follow. There’s no gaps in the TV series, so those who haven’t read the books will still be able to follow as well.

Overall, this series on Netflix has the potential to be as popular as Stranger Things but might appeal to the fans of the original books more than anyone else. This was a very entertaining series and I would highly recommend that you invest in the characters, but keep in mind the inevitable sad and gloomy ending. Its overly negative storyline might be too disheartening for some and its miserable theme may open a window into a pessimistic outlook on life, like it did when I watched it.

Image: “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

2017: Films To Look Forward To

By Warren Tutt

2016 is now well and truly behind us, so it’s finally time to look forward to 2017 and the films that will have us grabbing our popcorn and heading to the flicks.

It’s hard to ignore the publicity placed on nominees for this year’s awards season. However, looking beyond La La Land, Lion and Moonlight, there’s a whole heap of promising and exciting films headed our way! 

Ridley Scott’s latest Alien franchise offering, Alien: Covenantarrives on the 19th of May. To counter the disappointment met by fans after 2012’s Prometheus, we are set to see more of what we loved from the original films in this new prequel-sequel. Namely body bursting aliens and dark corridors amongst silent and spooky spaceships.

Following the science fiction and Ridley Scott trend leads us to Blade Runner 2049 (October 6th), a sequel to the iconic Blade Runner (1982), based on Phillip K. Dick’s book ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’. Set 30 years after the original it will see Harrison Ford’s character, Rick Deckard, hunted by Ryan Gosling, the new blade runner on the block. 

2017 then seems to be the year of the sequels. With the new Star Wars title revealed as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, speculation has already begun as to whether this will be the end for the beloved Luke Skywalker. Sadly you’ll have to wait until December 15th to find out. 

Anyone remember Cloverfield (2008), the found footage monster-horror film that saw an alien invasion wipe out New York? Well, after the tentative tie-in of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) expanded the universe, we will see J.J Abrams produce the third film in the franchise with God Particle (October 27th). Rumoured to be set in space following the aftermath of the alien invasion, it just might be the thread that stitches this rather ambiguous world together. 

The use of hand-held footage in film was made infamous by The Blair Witch Project (1999). This year sees Adam Winged, the director of its 2016 sequel Blair Witch, return with Death Note (TBC). Based on the manga series, its lead possesses the power to kill anyone simply by writing their name in a notebook. With a big following, the film is expected to possibly launch a new franchise that could follow in the footsteps of horror legacies The Ring (2002) and Insidious (2010). 

Perhaps on a slightly lighter note, the much anticipated Beauty and the Beast (March 16th) will see the original 1991 animation brought to life, with Emma Watson playing the lead role of Belle. Much speculation has arisen after pressure on Disney to make their princess a stronger role models for girls. Rumours have spread from production that this Belle is the most independent Disney female lead to date.

 Any action fans will be glad to see Liam Neeson return to our screens in The Commuter (July 21st). Poor old Liam can’t seem to catch a break as his daily commute to work is interrupted by criminal activities…
I’m sure he’ll be only too happy to help!

 Lastly then, let’s focus on some British talent, in the form of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan. They are bringing their popular television series The Trip onto the big screen, with The Trip to Spain (TBC). Promising to offer up the usual road trip banter and impersonation battles, it looks like we’re for another fun filled trip ahead.

 Image by Tanjila Ahmed from Flickr

 

Netflix Originals Reviews: How to solve a problem like Luke Cage

By Warren Tutt

 The super strong, steel skinned ‘hero for hire’ of Harlem. This is Netflix’s title character for their newest offering for their Marvel serial slate, Luke Cage. However, after more than a century of super humans and demigods triumphing over alien attacks and evil scientists, do we really need another thirteen hours of it? Yes, as it would turn out.

 By focusing on the limitations of his powers rather the concrete smashing, bulletproof nature of Luke Cage’s abilities, creator Cheo Hodari Coker finally captures a believable hero. Ditching Cage’s traditional yellow shirt and golden ‘tiara’ allow him to blend into a modern Harlem, balancing protecting the vulnerable from criminals whilst still having to pay rent. Reality constantly being re-established by Luke’s annoyance at having to buy new clothes every time someone thinks shooting him will have any impact on him.

 With great effect a whole ensemble of supporting characters are given the time and imagination to develop as individuals. A family of corrupt business owners and politicians lead the onslaught to keep Harlem under a tight grip whilst detective Misty Knights deals with the consequences of an exploited police force. Perhaps learning a lesson from predecessor Jessica Jones, female characters in the drama are given more screen time than any Marvel product before. If there’s one think bullet-proof skin can’t protect you from, its the colliding of strong, un-alterable female characters who will do anything for what they believe in.

 After the success of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage is another step before the next instalment Iron Fist, released early this year, sets the franchise up for The Defenders. Hoping to match the popularity of The Avengers, Netflix and Marvel will combine all the heroes of New York to form another super hero team up. Here’s hoping Cage keeps his individual flavour and style and isn’t wrestled into comic book spandex!

Image: “Luke Cage” by Miguel Angel Aranda is licensed under the Public Domain.

Books vs Movies: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

By Tony Allen

“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.”

The famous couplet from Michael Rosen’s classic children’s picture book is ingrained in the memories of scores of people, young and old. Unfortunately, the recent festive cartoon adaptation leaves much to be desired in comparison to the book, mainly because it tries to deal with far too much and fails at its fundamental purpose of providing entertainment.

If you didn’t watch it then I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has been tragically desecrated and I was shocked by what I saw.

If you’re going to make a children’s story ‘adult’, you have to do it properly and this adaptation, animated not dissimilarly to The Snowman and shown at primetime on Christmas Eve, is therefore never going to fulfil this task. Of course, any picture book would need padding out to fill twenty-odd minutes of screen time. But the TV version just doesn’t seem to know who its target audience is.

The whole first part of the adaptation is new, in which the parents of the family leave, and it is truly woeful. It feels as if everything added to this adaptation is a metaphor. The new hero of the story, the second eldest sibling in a large nuclear family, is let down by every independent male she encounters. Her parents desert her to deal with the mechanical ineptitude of the grandmother, even when their own children need their help the most.

Later, our protagonist’s ham-fisted elder brother fails to listen to her sensitive pleas to stay with her new bear friend and forces her away from the bear. Her brother’s unwelcome intervention leaves both girl and bear perpetually miserable; isolated and lonely with precious little hope of change.

She is also let down by her grandmother who more or less tells her that she is destined to be unhappy, as passive misery is part and parcel of life. This is despite the fact that it is her grandmother who is culpable for the root of the problems by calling away the girl’s parents and leaving her in her brother’s less than capable hands.

The animated characters are so stereotypical they may as well have come from an age or gender studies textbook. Old woman can’t manage with car. Adult children come running to help. Eldest brother takes charge. Girl just sits back and follows. Aren’t these concepts becoming a bit worn out now? The story has been changed, but it hasn’t been modernised.

You can’t help but wonder if the bear is used as an elaborate animalistic metaphor for EU economic migrants in the wake of Brexit. We are the comfortable, middle class family, and we’re happy to go and visit them in their own habitat, but as soon as they pass through the threshold of ‘our’ territory, they somehow turn into a threat that must be kept out at all costs.

While using different mediums to highlight and call out the twin scourges of the patriarchy and our dog-eat-dog, selfish, capitalist society would normally be a positive move, in a seasonal adaptation meant for children, this is somewhat excessive.

The long and the short of it is that an albeit cautionary tale of a fun family adventure is turned into one of neglect, pure and simple. Let’s not even talk about the borderline criminal treatment of the poor baby.

Of course, the original story was no bed of roses. But, crucially, the bear is never personified, and is certainly never explicitly called “friendly”- it is an unarguable adversary, not a character offered up to us as a potential ‘goodie’, that is then cruelly whipped away.

Granted, perhaps the themes I have discussed are present for those who want to find them, but in nowhere near as obvious a way. I can enjoy the book, as a form of escapism, as much now as when I was a child. I’m not so sure that would have been the case with the animated version – a thought borne out by the reactions of some bemused parents on social media.

Along with its good animation, the score, which includes George Ezra’s theme song Me & You, is one of the redeeming features of this badly planned adaptation. But Channel 4 even spectacularly dropped the ball here, overlaying their continuity announcer above Ezra’s song on the closing credits and rendering it unlistenable, consequently depriving many of the sole aspect they tuned in and sat through the soul-destroying narrative for.

The genius of the book lies in its simplicity. The repetition, the onomatopoeia, the simple yet vivid adjectival descriptions mean that it is more about the reader than the characters. Therefore, it serves its purpose as a children’s story with an intended audience of those influenced more by the Teletubbies than Karl Marx or Simone de Beauvoir. If I was Rosen, I would be ashamed to have sullied the reputation of my masterpiece twenty-seven years later by volunteering to narrate this shambles. The animation is completely devoid of joy and for this reason I would far rather any children I knew stuck firmly to the book.

All in all, the increased complexity of the screen version ruins the story. There is not even a hint of a resolution or a happy ending, either for the story or for the little girl’s future in a world where she seems fated to be controlled, cheated and denied autonomy forever. This programme left a bitter taste in my mouth, because it is a con and not what we want to see on our screens at this time of year.

But, hey, maybe I’m just overthinking things. My New Year’s resolution is to get out more…

Image from Flickr