Tag Archives: Entertainment

West End Girls: ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ Review

By Tony Allen

 

In last week’s heat, all most of us wanted to do was relax outside with an ice cold bottle of lemon flavoured Hooch. Alas, the mercury spike didn’t halt the rampage of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour onto the West End, following successful runs in the USA, Australia, the National Theatre and at the Edinburgh Festival.

The basic premise of the musical play, based on Alan Warner’s cult novel The Sopranos and adapted for the stage by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, is that we’re transported back to the ‘90s in Scotland, where six Catholic schoolgirls travel from their quiet port town of Oban to Edinburgh to represent their school in a choir competition. But they are determined to lose, in favour of an alcohol-soaked, wild day out and the chance to get back to the port in time for the last dances (and maybe more) at their one grotty nightclub, the Mantrap. (Think, the Waterfront with a proper tiled dancefloor, a bit more Hooch and the occasional group of spunky sailors).

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The Mountain Goats’ ‘Goths’ Builds on Under-Explored Elements of Their Musical and Personal Pasts.

By David Winlo

Search for ‘The Mountain Goats’ on the internet and you’ll find all the images and information you’d expect to find about the well-balanced, mountain-dwelling animals, but you’ll also discover a band, still surprisingly unknown after more than 20 years of music-making, who have just released their sixteenth studio album, entitled ‘Goths’.

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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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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.

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

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

By Beth Papworth

This magical spin off of Harry Potter is well worth a watch, it captures the hearts and minds of fans that are enchanted by the wizarding world. Directed by the esteemed David Yates, who does not fail to impress, we are introduced to wild and fantastical beasts like the Niffler and Occamy. The film follows  busy body Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), who protects his magical creatures in his suitcase and helps fend off dark magic.

Soon we are transported to 1926, where Scamander arrives at Ellis Island with a bottomless suitcase full of illegal “livestock”, ranging from a naughty Niffler (a mole that loves shiny objects and money) to a giant storm-causing Thunderbird. You can’t help but love the adorable Newt with his particular idiosyncrasies and adoration for magic. It is his encounter with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a factory worker who unleashes a dozen magical creatures onto the streets, that we witness a budding friendship.

Eddie Redmayne is the perfect casting for the lead role. He’s kind, awkward and quintessentially British. The chemistry that unfolds between him and Katherine Waterson, who plays auror Tina, keeps the audience hooked. Jacob is the comedic legend of the film, who is utterly besotted with flapper Queenie (Alison Sudol).

It’s a real rollercoaster ride through New York City in the jazz age. Entertainment fills the screen with wild beasts on the loose and heroic Newt bravely on the hunt to catch the escaped creatures. Visually, the film is impressive with its tall buildings, squalid city streets, and realistic looking beasts. Audiences will warm to the Niffler, in spite of its mischievous antics and crazy escapades around the city. A creative, charming and enchanting film that would be a shame to miss if you’re a fan of all things magical.

Image: “Eddie Redmayne” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A Street Cat Named Bob Review

By Luke Farnish

As a lover of small budget, feel-good, indie films, I leapt at the ‘chance to see a street cat named Bob’. The film, closely based on the book of the same name, itself a written account of the life of the main character, centres on James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a London busker and recovering heroin addict. He’s given a lucky break when his support worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt, Anna Bates in Downton Abbey) finds him emergency housing. A short time later, James’ life is changed when he has a break in, only to find the trespasser is no thief, but a ginger cat who a neighbour (Ruta Gedmintas) names Bob (played by several cats, but most notably himself). The film then shows how James’ life slowly improves by having Bob around, through highs and lows until ending on the high of publishing the book that the film is based on, with some special guests in the final scenes.

As mentioned, this is my kind of film. The budget was estimated to be around $8,000,000 (or about 1/30th the cost of Star Wars VII) but the relatively low budget does not show. Although, while watching it’s hard to ignore the fact that the cast is small and the use of locations limited, as well as James’ flat being hardly full of expensive props, you can’t help but feel that this sort of film plays to the strengths of the indie genre and avoids having to pay for expensive CGI and other effects.

The casting choices are interesting as, excluding Joanne Froggatt and Anthony Head (who plays James’ father), the major actors are relatively unknown. Despite this, the performances by all involved were compelling and emotive, with Treadaway’s performance being of particular note as all of the songs shown while busking are performed by him. However, all the actors are overshadowed by one debut performance, that of Bob himself. Bob comes across as by far the most deeply thought about and complex character of the film. His curious and loving nature making even the most stone-hearted viewer warm to him. While several cats portray Bob and his antics, the real Bob is among them too – something rarely done with such a film. It’s rare for a film that is ‘based on a true story’ to feel so much like it really is. It’s hard to find any element of the film that does not seem believable even if some parts are obviously slightly edited to improve flow.

There are, as with any film, issues. Pacing is certainly one. The film moves at a relatively even pace which is not very typical for a genre that enjoys taking the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster and that pace is perhaps a little slower than a modern audience might be expecting.

Overall, though, this film ticks all the right boxes for an evening of movie delight. An easy four stars for a film about nine lives.

Image “That London” by Bryan Ledgard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Books vs Films: The Hobbit

By Charles Armitage

The Lord of the Rings is, in my opinion, the best trilogy to have ever been made. Peter Jackson created an (albeit being very long) masterpiece in visual effects, action and storyline adapted from J.R.R Tolkien’s novels. So why then could he not do the same thing for The Hobbit? Set in the same universe and by the same author, Jackson produced a trilogy of films so disappointing that it made me seriously doubt my love of Tolkien’s novels.

It is unfair to say the entire trilogy of The Hobbit is bad, however, as there is some real excitement on screen in the movies. For instance, Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins is possibly the greatest casting choice ever. His comedic value and likeable personality makes audiences connect with the protagonist and hope he succeeds in the quest – even though we know he does as he appears in The Lord of the Rings. The dragon Smaug is also excellently portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch as his voice creates a sense of fear whilst simultaneously having the typical “Britishness” of a villain with his softly spoken dialogue and very good manners towards Bilbo. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Gollum in the first movie and is, as always, brilliant to watch in his performance. It is also pleasing to see, from someone who absolutely loved the novel, that some scenes imagined in my head became a reality on the screen. The barrel river scene, although rather ridiculously portrayed, did make me nostalgic as it reminded me of reading the scene in the book and thinking how this would look on film.

This, however, leads me on to my criticisms of the Jackson adaptation. Let’s start with the elephant in the room – the fact it is a trilogy. The 1937 novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien was a singular book, around 300 pages long. So why feel the need to split a short book into three 3 hour movies filled with cringeworthy action, slapstick humour only a child would find funny and over the top references to the original Lord of the Rings? The answer is simple: money. Hollywood can make the most of paying customers by forcing them to pay a rather pricey fee to hear a character put fruit in his top to simulate breasts and hear him say: “Abandon the cripples!” (an actual quote from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies). Whoever wrote the script for these movies, although credit is due for using direct quotes from the book, needs to be fired as Middle Earth language would not stoop to 21st Century dialect.

Overall, the book is a lot better than the movies. My favourite of The Hobbit trilogy is the first movie (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) as it is the only one that reminds us of why we loved The Lord of the Rings. Maybe I am being too harsh on Jackson as The Hobbit was never going to be as good as The Lord of the Rings, so I may just be comparing the two, rather than looking at The Hobbit on its own merits. But when compared with the book, the film does not live up to the excitement as the added in characters and storylines by Jackson show little desire from him to truly show Tolkien’s creation on the screen and instead just make a trilogy that will make money. I could go on and on about how the book is a lot better than the film – the introduction of Legolas, the terrible finale movie, flimsy portrayal of action and ‘danger’ – but I only have a finite amount of paper. So, I’ll just finish with this: read the book because it is awesome but only watch An Unexpected Journey and parts of The Desolation of Smaug for comparison. Don’t bother with the third one, it’ll spare you the pain.

Image “The Hobbit Character Poster” by Jakarta Fail licensed under CC BY 2.0

Louis Theroux “My Scientology Movie”

By Sophie Lurcuck

If asked whether you could name a journalist or documentary maker, presumably many young people will come up stumped. Except from the likes of David Attenborough, the name most students are interested in is Louis Theroux. Whether that is due to the streaming mogul, Netflix, exposing a new generation to his infamous past of rapping on an episode of Weird Weekends, or growing up with his charm and ability to gain answers, he definitely has a way of captivating his audience.

His latest documentary entitled, ‘My Scientology Movie’ was no different being a truly funny, informative and even tense in places, insight into the enigmatic religion that is Scientology. Since being created by Sci-Fi author, L. Ron Hubbard, the religion has grown, with its base in Los Angeles where the documentary is set. Unfortunately, Louis was denied access into Scientology to make his film, which inevitably raised the question for both Louis and the audience of how can he make a documentary about a subject that he cannot be witness to or investigate fully?

His vision, shared by director John Dower, of reconstructing some of the most extreme events that allegedly took place within the church became the key basis of the film. The main source behind these reconstructions was former Scientologist, Marty Rathbun, who was the Attorney General for the church. He was accused of carrying out some of the most violent incidents although not even Louis with his trademark long pauses could elicit further details on the matter. In a gripping scene Marty demonstrated, using a team of actors, the practices scientologists undergo in order to achieve a believed divine goal. This included bizarre activities such as screaming at an object placed on an adjacent chair.

Although the documentary was not the overt expose into Scientology I was expecting, it still provided coverage of the fundamentals of Scientology, such as current leader David Miscavige’s belief that he is going to save the entire universe. After being denied interviews, Louis improvised by using actors to play the role of Miscavige to recreate the alleged explosive incidents that the church has always denied. One such recreation was very distressing and emotionally effective in conveying the fear reported by ex-members to the audience. The film successfully depicted the immense power one man has within this religion, and explored his relationship with celebrities such as Tom Cruise, who recently praised Scientology on the red carpet.

However, Marty is scorned by the Scientologists as a traitor and accused of being bitter by the church and therefore is not a very reliable source for the majority of the film to depend on. Arguably the documentary itself was biased, by exploring the negative sides of Scientology predominantly through talking to people who have left the religion, also known as defectors. The only interview with a current member was an exposé of the consumerist side of Scientology, demonstrating how people are ‘manipulated’ into spending thousands of dollars on books, to achieve higher status within the church.

However, with credit to Louis, he did approach the Church for access to their side of the story, and when faced with impromptu encounters with members of Scientology he did attempt to hear their views, but they were reluctant to participate. The validity of his intentions are questionable, but Marty did provide an interesting glimpse into how tough life was after leaving scientology, through the capture of incidents of harassment he has had with ‘Squirrel busters’, an organisation I was previously unaware existed.

Overall the documentary is an insightful depiction of the life of a Scientologist, in which you learn some of the stages you have to complete in order to reach this perceived idealism. The entertaining portrayal of the secretiveness of the church itself left me just as fascinated with Scientology’s impenetrable exterior as Louis himself.

Image “Tom Cruise” by Gage Skidmore licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

By Jodie Bailey

It seems like we have YA book adaptations popping up here, there and everywhere these days, and with such an over-saturation of the YA genre you would be forgiven for holding out little faith that original stories could be told. And fine, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a quirky mash-up of X-Men and Harry Potter so it’s not entirely original, but thanks to Tim Burton’s masterful ability to add a Gothic twist to anything he creates, Miss Peregrine manages to stand out from an otherwise formulaic genre.

Our story focuses on Jake (Asa Butterfield), a Harry Potter-type who actually has parents and a grandfather, whose bedtime stories aren’t the works of fiction Jake believed them to be. After a family tragedy Jake is haunted by monstrous dreams, so he goes to Wales to put his fears to rest, only to find that the monsters in his dreams are all too real. At the titular home, he meets several children with an array of ‘peculiarities’ and of course Miss Peregrine herself (portrayed by Eva Green, who sadly doesn’t get enough screen time). Asa Butterfield takes on an archetypal hero role and holds his own in a great cast including Chris O’Dowd and Samuel L. Jackson, who begins to grate on you only ever so slightly towards the end of the film.

Whilst the film strays away from the original plot of the book, the movie has enough peculiarities to keep it fresh and engaging. The special effects are great, but not in an overly Tim Burton fashion, so those who aren’t huge fans of his work shouldn’t be put off. After watching the movie your usual YA series will no longer suffice, so go on, embrace the peculiar!

Image from 20th Century Fox