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TV Review: True Detective

True Detective

Saturday 22nd February at 9pm

Sky Atlantic

Target publication: The Guardian

Cohle (McConaughey) and Hart (Harrelson).

HBO doesn’t do bad television. And everything from The Long Bright Dark, the first episode of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective, suggests that won’t change now.

True Detective, an anthology crime drama, stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as Detectives Marty Hart and Rustin Cohle, nicknamed “The Taxman” because of his efficient note-keeping, respectively as they try to catch a serial killer.

The episode starts in the present day as Hart and Cohle give separate interviews about a case in 1995 – the murder of prostitute Dora Lange.

Through the use of flashbacks, the story switches repeatedly between 1995 and the present day and that works tremendously as it shows the differences in the characters and the development of their relationship.

Cohle has aged terribly. He doesn’t look dissimilar to McConaughey’s character in Dallas Buyers Club, an AIDS patient, while Hart only seems to have lost his hair.

They are also not on speaking terms anymore. Hart reveals that their partnership lasted seven years and they haven’t spoke to each other in ten.

Back in 1995, the duo finds the body of Dora Lange and it is clear that this isn’t just an ordinary procedural cop show. She is tied to a tree having been tortured and stabbed to death with a crown of leaves and deer antlers on her head.

Having just been partnered together, Hart doesn’t know a lot about the more mysterious Cohle.

That doesn’t Hart inviting Cohle to his family home for dinner. But when Cohle turns up drunk, it is clear he is an incredibly damaged person and we later learn this dinner took place on the anniversary of his daughter’s death which led to the breakdown of his marriage.

This is McConaughey at his finest. While the damaged, maverick detective might be a TV trope, McConaughey ensures that it’s fresh and interesting while the use of the scenes in the present day shows that everything didn’t work out happily ever after for him.

Back on the job, Cohle and Hart link the Dora Lange murder to the case of Marie Fontenot, a young girl whose disappearance five years earlier wasn’t fully investigated or solved. Cohle had already suspected that the killer of Dora Lange had done it before and he was proved to be right.

The men interviewing Cole and Hart confirm what had already been suspected in the big reveal: they were being interviewed as another girl had been found in a similar position to Dora Lange and since the killer was caught in 1995, who could it have been?

It is also a very well produced show. Pizzolatto’s dialogue is concise and effective, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction is on point and the music by T Bone Burnett, the composer, and the opening theme, Far From Any Road by The Handsome Family, fits the dark south of America theme perfectly.

While not being the most action-packed episode, True Detective has a lot of potential. If they can keep enticing actors like McConaughey and Harrelson to sign on for a season, the show should remain on air for seasons to come.

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Film Review: A New York Winter’s Tale

By Mandy Thomson

winter

A New York Winter’s Tale (12A) 

Director: Akiva Goldsman

Cast: Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Will Smith

A New York Winter’s Tale should have been an emotional love story about two people parted by a heart-breaking illness, but instead was comical and awkward to watch because the far-fetched fantasy overshadowed the storyline. The audience could be heard giggling and seen leaving the cinema throughout, which speaks volumes about what they thought. It’s not a comedy so isn’t supposed to be funny.

Directed and written by Akiva Goldsman, A New York Winter’s Tale tells the story of orphaned thief Peter Lake (Farrell) who falls in love with upper-west-side beauty Beverly Penn (Findlay) who is critically ill. Trapped in a battle between good and evil, Peter Lake survives as a young man for more than 100 years looking for his destiny. Set in a mythic Manhattan, the film was adapted from Mark Helprin’s novel and was portrayed in the trailer as a beautiful classic, which will inspire audiences. This is not the case.

Knowing that I am not a big fantasy fan, I went into the film with an open mind, but that was not enough to convince me it was a worthwhile watch. The story begins in 1886 and spans over a century to the present day, and whilst it is imaginative, it is complicated to follow, and at times hard to take seriously. Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography takes the audience from 18th century to present day New York comparing sepia lit establishing shots with modern day colourful shots of Grand Central Station, Brooklyn and Manhattan’s East Village. A mix of traditional and modern music by Rupert Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer helps the audience identify what time period they are in and whether there will be an essence of fantasy in the scene they are watching.

In the first ten minutes the audiences sees a white horse flying, glass evaporating into thin air and a baby floating unrealistically from the middle of the sea to the island of Manhattan in a tiny boat. After this I knew the plot would have to be very romantic and captivating to grasp my attention, which unfortunately it wasn’t. Costume designer Michael Kaplan put diamond hoop earrings on Will Smith, which made him look so bizarre that it became difficult to take anything his character said seriously. This created an issue as Smith is supposed to be the evil superpower, and the audience were giggling at his presence instead of fearing what he would say.

The awkward sex scene between Peter and Beverly is the most realistic in the film, and portrays a couple deeply in love that know their relationship has limited time to flourish. Farrell’s acting is at its best in this and the following scene, where he displays heartbreak as Beverly dies. The film seems to last forever and despite Peter finally finding his unexpected destiny, the ending isn’t all that exciting.

If you think because it has successful actors in it that A New York Winter’s Tale will be a five star, age-old tale about love and destiny, think again. The disappointment this film brings will teach you not to judge a film by who is in it and what the trailer promises.

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Film Review: Mood Indigo

Mood Indigo Review By Rebecca Root

Release 24/02/14

Michel Gondry

Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy

 

MAKING its debut at the Glasgow 2014 Film Festival, Mood Indigois a french romcom with a few bizarro twists. Starting off as a sweet, albeit slightly quirky, love story, Michel Gondry’s latest mind muddle takes on a dark and unfettering nature leaving the audience in a mood not exactly black but certainly dark, maybe even indigo.

Mood Indigo

Mood Indigo

Based on the bestselling novel by Boris Vian, Mood Indigo follows the story of wealthy inventor Colin, aka a rather dashing Romain Duris, who is on the hunt for love. After being forced by friends upon a charming Chloe (Audrey Tautou), the pair embark on an enchanting love affair that’s immersed in a world of eery nonsensities. Strangely long limbs, talking mice, deathly flowers- you’d expect nothing less from a Gondry masterpiece.

 

With Oscar success under his belt after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gondry’s CV reads like an award inventory. Hailed by critics as a master in quirkiness, his latest film requires an even higher level of concentration. Gondry uses colour and light to convey each character’s emotion in a physical form which leads to a lot of ‘huh?’ moments.

Chloe and Colin’s world is filled with flowers and romance, literally, as they enjoy their happy ever after but it doesn’t last long. Chloe falls ill after inhaling a magical flower and their once cheese and wine world starts to unravel. The friendships surrounding the pair begin to buckle and Colin’s search for a remedy borders desperation.

While the storyline is simple, it has been manipulated with creative camera cuts, a bizarre sense of “new art” and a jazzy soundtrack. This leaves behind an obscure piece along with an audience who want to love it but don’t quite get it.

Duris however, is a pleasant surprise. He has cast aside the swag and charisma seen in his previous romcoms, Populaire and Heartbreaker, and opts for coyness and slapstick as the insecure Colin. It’s an unusual but welcome sight to see Duris swap his hearthrob roles for a character with more complexity.

 

Trusty butler Nicolas, played by Omar Sy, quickly fills the role of the film’s lothario- his wit and charm even rival Duris for leading man, but after his success with The Intouchables we’d expect nothing less.

Accompanying this tragic love story are four of Duke Ellington’s feel good jazz hits. Upbeat with an exotic sense of character, the soundtrack adds yet another dimension to this mad house of a film. Duke Ellington’s single, ‘Mood Indigo,’ was praised back in the 1930s for its obscure, almost upside down, arrangement of jazz which makes it obvious why the film became its namesake. With a movie that’s steep in rare artistic flourish with a seeping of melancholy throughout, the blues hits make for an extremely fitting soundtrack.

Elements of feel good, tragedy, heartbreak and humour all surround this artsy picture and while each attempts to outdo the other, instead a puddle of half hearted laughs and an array of bewildered faces are left in its place.

 

 

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Diana Norris / Top Gear Review / Mail Online / 1

Diana Norris / Top Gear Review / Mail Online / 1

Top Gear

BBC 2

Episode four, series 21.

8pm, Sunday 23rd February.

 

Last night’s Top Gear was jam-packed with variety, more so than usual. The comedic trio admire and abuse cars every week, and episode four of the latest series was no exception.

Of course the episode is kicked off by Jeremy and Hammond taking the piss out of how old James is – a tradition on Top Gear. James tells us about the new Caterham 620 R, and takes it round the circuit, informing us of its pros and cons.

James goes on to compare the car to the Caterham 160, which isn’t much to look at, but still costs £17,000. The two cars are then put up against the Caterham Aeroseven, which resembles a cross between a small spaceship and a football boot.

We then return to the studio where Jeremy and Hammond resume with their piss-taking, and we watch the Stig take two of the Caterhams round the circuit.

Top Gear is now in its 21st series. Each episode has seen the three presenters have banter, arguments and surprises – and this theme is still going strong. The show has always seen its presenters drive abroad too, often amazing us with some beautiful scenery.

Jeremy, Hammond and James then begin ‘The News’ where they discuss a range of topics. These include a disaster at the American Corvette Museum, a humorous motorway sign in Texas and Porsche’s new-found problem with flammability. The News then escalates into a pizza being tied round Hammond’s waist and Jeremy threatening with a blowtorch.

Jeremy also announces that he has been contacted by London’s Madame Tussauds, who wish to make a wax model of him. This just shows how well-thought of Top Gear has become over all this time.

We’re then taken to Italy where Jeremy tries out the new Alfa Romeo Disco Volante. Jeremy compares the car to Michael Jackson, saying it doesn’t feel like botched plastic surgery – it feels solid, and not likely to fall apart.

Back in the studio, comedian Jack Whitehall joins Jeremy for an interview. They discuss Jack’s lack of driving experience, and we’re shown his special driving lesson with the Stig – which involved a lot of guessing for Jack.

The ‘star in our reasonably-priced car’ part of the show has also been a long-standing part of Top Gear over the years, and has seen the likes of celebrities such as Simon Cowell and Jennifer Saunders grace the circuit.

The most exciting part of the episode is Hammond’s stint in Dubai, where he drives the massive six-wheeled Mercedes G-Class. Hammond takes the car to ‘The Empty Quarter’ – the largest desert space in the world – to see what it can do. He takes the car up and down some very steep sand dunes, but the G-Class handles it brilliantly.

The episode is brought to a close with a tablecloth-whipping trick. The Stig tries to tow the tablecloth by a flashy Nissan GTR – only to result in a lot of smashed cutlery on the studio floor.

Next week’s Top Gear will be on at 8pm on BBC 2, on Sunday 2nd March.

 

 

Ends

Words: 515

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The Walking Dead – Mid Seaon Premiere Review

By Daniyall Qazi

 

The Walking Dead (FOX)

4/5 Stars

 

 

ZOMBIE-outbreak thriller The Walking Dead has finally returned on FOX after a long mid-season break, packed with all of the un-dead decapitation and terror we’ve come to expect.

 

The excellent premiere starts in the immediate aftermath of The Governor’s (David Morrissey) assault on Rick and friends’ prison home, wasting no time in reminding us happened there.

 

Like the farm before it, we’re shown a wide shot of the group’s former home overrun and on fire as if the show-runner, Scott Gimple, was simply telling us ‘yep we’re never coming back here’.

 

Rather than catching us up with every member of the group, who have each now splintered off in different directions while trying to get away, the episode focuses mainly on Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) and the toll that losing even more of their friends has taken on them.

 

Michonne circles back to the prison one last time, seemingly hoping to find any sign that someone made it out. Instead she finds the one of their now zombified severed heads lying on the ground outside the gates.

 

Over the course of the episode aptly titled ‘After’, we finally get some insight into what she was like before the outbreak, living in a fancy apartment in the city with her partner and son, and how she came to be the stoic, samurai sword swinging badass we know her as now.

 

We see her fall back into her lone wolf ways as she tries process the loss of yet another family to this world. Rather than simply taking us back in time to tell her story though, we instead see a strange nightmarish dream-sequence that shows us in just a couple of minutes what would take an entire episode of flashbacks would.

 

While Michonne struggles with the idea of either cutting her losses and striking back out on her own or trying to find survivors from the group, we get to see Carl and his father Rick (Andrew Lincoln), who also think they might be the only ones who got away, make their escape from the prison.

 

Rick, half dead and barely able to walk, falls into what seems to be a coma soon after the two find shelter in a house in some long forgotten suburb, eerily absent of any sign of life.

 

This leaves Carl to fend for himself for the majority of ‘After’, desperate to prove that he can get by just fine without his father.

 

“I’d be fine if you died.” He says to his unconscious parent.

 

Carl blames his dad for the loss of their group, berating him for his weakness as he lay there comatose, and for his attempts to shelter his son from the realities of the world they live in.

 

Though it was a risk to put the premiere on the shoulders of a character many fans see as the annoying little kid, Chandler Riggs’ excellent performance makes sure it pays off, and guarantees fans will see him differently this season.

 

All in all this mid-season premiere serves as a strong start to the second half of the fourth series, and with the group being forced from safety and out into the open, there is sure to be no shortage of excitement to follow.

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The Walking Dead review

The Walking Dead, Monday 9pm on Fox (Sky channel 124)

THE Walking Dead has always been a hopeless show. Not hopeless in the sense that it’s lacking in quality but there is literally no hope that the main characters will manage to overcome the zombie apocalypse.

At least Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) group of survivors always had each other though. No matter how grim things became, they kept each other sane and did their best to try and build a community and protect themselves from the walkers.

That was still the case until they were forced to separate after The Governor’s invading forces destroyed their prison base in the episode before the mid-season break and ‘After’ deals with the immediate aftermath of the battle.

As the group has split up, writer Robert Kirkman decided to focus the episode on just a few of the main characters – Rick, his son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) – in order to develop their characters. And it worked.

We see Rick and Carl walking along a country road with a visibly injured Rick struggling to catch up with his son.

Rick soon loses consciousness when they find shelter which leaves much of the episode to Carl. This is a brave decision by Kirkman as Carl has never been one of the more popular characters. He seemed to transform from a bratty child in to a potentially psychotic killing machine in no time at all.

He lashes out at his unconscious Dad screaming that he couldn’t keep anyone safe and he’d be better off if he was dead. It is more than a strop from an ungrateful child. It is a reality – when leaders make mistakes in this world, their loved ones often die.

This time though, Carl’s fury is justified. He has already lost a mother, who died giving birth to his baby sister Judith, and Judith disappeared (believed to be dead) during the battle at the prison with The Governor.

But Carl realises he needs his father even after being told to watch his language by his Dad – normal rules still apply, even in an apocalyptic world.

The episode also focuses on Michonne and it let Danai Gurira show off more range as an actor. There was one dream sequence, although it appeared to be a flashback, that showed Michonne having a normal conversation about films with two men (one was her boyfriend Mike) and then a child jumped into her arms.

Michonne appeared to be a normal, cheery person rather than the ice-cold, nearly mute and ruthless killer she is now. Back in the present day, she was crying uncontrollably saying “that wasn’t you who did it. You were wrong. Because I’m still here. And you could be too. And he could be. I know the answer. I know why”.

Obviously something tragic happened that changed her. The use of the dream sequence was a very effective way of showing how much of a contrast Michonne was to herself.

It was not the most action-packed episode ever but it developed characters that needed developed and it did so in a creative way.

 

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REVIEW: The Big Reunion 2014

Megan McEachern/ Written for www.entertainmentwise.com/ (http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/140898/The-Big-Reunion-2014-Its-Eternal-And-A1s-Time-To-Reminisce)  Published Thursday 13th February

This week’s Big Reunion again delves into the darker undercurrent of the pop industry and takes a trip down R&B girl band, Eternal and poptastic boy band, A1’s respective memory lanes. Both chart topping sensations in the 90’s and early noughties, the groups each had ups, downs, and some pretty horrific hairstyles intertwined with behind the scenes animosity.

Describing one another as catty and “stand-offish”, we learn that Eternal weren’t quite bosom buddies and although their famous curtain style fringes may have looked pretty bouncy and upbeat on the surface, it wasn’t all plain sailing for A1 either as this week’s episode juicily reveals.

Crowning themselves (however deservedly) the “One Direction of the 90s,” it can’t be denied that A1 were one of the biggest selling boy bands of their era. With top charting singles like Aha cover, “Take on Me,” and “Same Old Brand New You,” the band members were the iconic heart throbs of fan girls across the globe, especially wink mongerer and lead singer, Ben Adams. Ben was awarded the Brit Award for “Most Fanciable Male. ”

“I thought I was brilliant,” he says coyly to the camera, reminiscing to his more bouncy haired days and showing that he still kind of does. Nowadays however, Ben is a music producer for a host of chart acts. We also find out that Norway absolutely loves him, coming second in their version of Strictly Come Dancing and now living with his 22 year old former Miss Norway girlfriend – A1 for Ben alright. Joining him in the blonde bombshell girlfriend front and sticking with the Norwegian theme is Christian, the charming Scandinavian who, when he was originally picked for the band, “didn’t know what boy band meant.” Interesting… Mark seems to have come out the worse, now performing for local pensioners and living with his mum and dad in Surrey, but hey, could be worse. Hang on though, what about Paul? The little one who did all the dancing? Thankfully, Ben the winker reveals all: Paul left the band when his vocals were shunted out of a number of tracks, “but if you’re not in the studio at the right time, you won’t be in the track,” he reminded us. Of course. Once Paul left the band, it all went downhill, and along with a tragic accident where four fans were crushed to death in a crowd, it signalled the end of the line for A1 in 2002.

Originally a foursome including who we now know as Louise Redknapp, Eternal seemed like a bit of a disaster waiting to happen. Being joined by Kelly after having been created as a threesome, the band didn’t take too kindly to a new member and let her know it. On the surface however, things seemed fine, and the band began to grow in fame across the globe, but with this came the troubling waves of racism. In the Southern States of America and in South Africa especially the girls remember how it was deemed “not right” for white Louise to be in the same band as three black women and she was often made to sit apart from the other band members.

Soon however, this didn’t matter as Louise was to leave the band for good and although perhaps slightly unnerving at the time, it catapulted the group to greater things. Their first single without her, “Power of a Woman,” went straight to number five in the UK and saw a raunchier, bootylicious, more coherent R&B edge to the previously slightly disjointed teen-bop band.

“Some of our best times were without Louise,” they mused correctly as they won a MOBO award and continued to reach the top of the charts. A tumultuous relationship behind the scenes however meant that things just couldn’t continue. Kelly was “fired by fax” in 1998 and the band certainly didn’t live up to their name, splitting soon after. Now Easther works in a hotel where she claims people frequently recognise her (ahem…), Kelly runs a talent business and Vernie is a stay at home mum. But now with such differing lives, can they really be Eternal and reunite?

With some classic hilarious one liners from Andy Peters, mostly pondering the origins of A1’s name (a large piece of paper or a road) and some pretty naughty moments of nippy recollections, this was a fabulous episode of The Big Reunion with an amazing vintage soundtrack. But now it’s time for them to actually get back together… Brace yourselves.

 

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Horizon: Man on Mars Review

MARS is the new moon. It’s in our sights, but it’s not without its terrifying reality. Over 40 years since Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, is Mars also a dream NASA can deliver?

Alex Hearle’s gripping, though sexistly named Horizon: Man on Mars, somewhat answers the hesitation for the “and Woman” part. The 56m km journey will have wasted our bones and muscles to such a degree we will have to regain the strength to stand, so scientists are using human guinea pigs and injecting them with testosterone.

The testosterone hormone would help reduce the problems with bones and muscles, but it’s not without its side effects. Men would become more men-like – think beards and anger – and women would develop “male characteristics” – think beards and anger.

There needs to be a balance between having enough testosterone to be able to actually function when they reach Mars, but not enough to induce an in-rocket show-down of testosterone-fuelled bearded astronauts.

If the astronauts make it through three years in confinement hurtling through space, recycling their own urine time and time again, surviving the sun’s solar flares and galactic cosmic rays and can work their legs when they arrive, then they may be landing at their permanent new digs.

That’s right, NASA hasn’t worked out a way to get the astronauts home yet, though admit they wouldn’t design a mission unless, in the words of scientist William Paloski, they were “pretty certain” they could get back. Well, that’s not particularly comforting.

In fact, fuel might be so valuable that the astronauts will need to rely on Mars’ gravity to pull them in, comically named the slingshot effect. And I’m guessing there are no petrol stations on Mars just yet.

Psychologist David Dinges claims very specific characteristics are required for this mission. If you’re a lover of skiing, climbing trees, jumping and, well, just about anything active, sorry – you don’t get the job. We’re looking for a crew of stamp collectors, an activity much more suited to confinement.

Doctor Dinges and his team study human behaviours and plan to install on-board cameras to monitor the astronauts’ moods; who are not surprisingly at risk of developing insomnia and depression. A functioning team on a spaceship is a matter of “life or death”.

Three years of an unchanging view makes an office block in Easterhouse sound like a good deal. But it gets worse – those pesky galactic cosmic rays can cause memory loss and the sun’s rays can cause mutations in your DNA. There’s not even any TV or WiFi. Nightmare.

Aside from the human-related problems, the enormity of the rocket would mean the pieces would be blasted into space in at least seven launches and then assembled before leaving Earth’s orbit.

Despite the huge hurdles regarding technology (much of which doesn’t yet exist) psychologists admit “the greatest challenge of all is in the mind”. The enormity of what this documentary tells us is, at first thought, incomprehensible. But it succeeded to outline this mad-as-a-hatter mission in just 60 minutes. And I feel about 60 times more intelligent.

NASA hope to launch the mission in 2033, meaning the astronauts are probably still at school. Whenever this happens, blasting humans outside of Earth’s orbit is probably the most exciting thing to happen. Ever.

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Danny Baker’s Rockin’ Decades – The Eighties BBC 4 Review

By Helen McKenna

Wednesday 12th February – Danny Baker’s Rockin’ Decades (BBC 4)

Danny Baker presents another chat show about how music changed the decade – this time covering the rockin’ ‘80s. Baker introduces his guests accordingly sat in a circle – Pauline Black of ska group The Selector, Radio 6 presenter Adam Buxton and magazine editor and journalist Mark Ellen. All seem comfortable with each other’s company and Baker asks each what they thought of the Walkmen, to which Ellen replies: “An extraordinary breakthrough”.

Baker then introduces a discussion about how the ‘80’s was the start of “something else going on” – duets instead of groups of rock bands such as The Rolling Stones. Buxton speaks of his love for David Bowie, who he considers as “cutting through all the new stuff” being produced on synthesisers and electronic keyboards.

Then comes the discussion about the stereotypes – punk, heavy metal (which Black said “didn’t exist!”) Goths and New Romantics.  Buxton speaks of the social pressure to liking Duran Duran if you were male. Indie rock such as The Smiths were credited as being one of the main acts that established the genre.

Baker and all his guests agreed the ‘80’s was when discoveries were made in northern-English cities like Liverpool (The Christians, Echo and the Bunnymen), Manchester (The Stone Roses, Buzzcocks) and Sheffield (The Human League, Pulp). More prominent was the introduction to the power of telling the story behind the music through MTV, with Baker mentioning British music videos as: “heavy on style, light on substance.”  Images of Culture Club’s Boy George, Wham!, and numerous other performances from Top of the Pops appear, highlighting the fact that British music was visually engaging.

Baker asked his guests who they think were prominent acts. Ellen recalls a conversation with Michael Jackson, who on describing his album “would talk about it as if the album was little soundtracks to films – a visual experience.” Black then comments on new wave band Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ as “rock in a Tory-angst listenable protest against the Falklands War”.

The invention of the CD is mentioned, with people re-buying bands who they saw on television such as Queen and U2 due to Live Aid. Ellen speaks of how he thought the festival era “wouldn’t last, but it did.” Black describes her view of Live Aid as “charity as business.”

Baker finishes the 80’s round-up with memorabilia his guests have brought in. Most interesting are Black’s photo of her and prominent singers Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Viv Albertine (The Slits), Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie & The Banshees) and Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex), and Baker’s own signed script by Elvis Costello which reads: “Don’t blame me,” as Baker mentions that was when he met his second wife.

All in all, the show encapsulated the feel of the eighties being driven into high-gear in terms of technology advanced sound and defined the live musical experience as an over ground phenomena. As Baker nicely said: “Once an underground culture – turned into an industry of boom.”

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TV Review: ITV’s Splash!

By Mandy Thomson

Splash! Saturday 8th February, 7.10pm

Stars: Tom Daley, Vernon Kay, Gabby Logan

splash

 

The Only Way Is Essex star Dan Osborne got the semi-final of ITV’s Splash off to a good start last night as he gave the audience a treat with his flexed torso and tiny speedos taking position for his first dive.

Along with children’s TV presenter Anna Williamson and MBE Paralympic marathon record winner Richard Whitehead, Dan impressed with the most technical and dangerous dives of the second series so far, and made the audience laugh with a few cheeky jokes along the way. Rugby player Austin Healy unfortunately injured himself yesterday and had to drop out of the competition, filmed in the Inspire: Luton Sports Village.

Judges comedienne Jo Brand, Olympic diver Leon Taylor, and Andy Banks, Tom Daley’s diving coach, gave TOWIE’s Dan a score of 22/30 for his forward somersault half-twist dive, Jo saying “his only way is epic” and Andy saying he resembled a “ragdoll”.

Dan’s second dive got Jo cracking the jokes again, saying he did a better job of the arm stand forward somersault pike off the 7.5m board than mentor and team GB bronze medal winner Tom Daley. Giving the audience a peek at the contestant’s rehearsal tapes showing endless shots of belly flops (that were undeniably amusing) kept the show light-hearted and upbeat to watch.

Anna’s nerves shone through as she approached the 7.5m board for her swan dive, wearing a sparkly pink swimming costume perfect for reality TV. I’m sure any fashion loving girls would have been admiring her pretty bikini more than the diving, but maybe some glitzy swimming attire and charming TOWIE contestants are just what the second series of Splash needed, after series one received poor reviews.

Anna was particularly funny when her hands slipped from her legs in the tuck dive, and she jokingly blamed the bad application of her fake tan, saying too much of it ‘makes her skin slippery’. Live conversations like this between the hosts Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan, and the contestants were relatable and kept the show from feeling too scripted.

Watching Richard nervously use his upper body strength to get into position for the arm stand forward dive on the 10m board was both nerve-wracking and impressive. Describing his second dive as “bad ass”, Richard justified his drop to the 7.5m for the arm stand backward dive. Critical judge Leon admitted he found that particular dive “absolutely terrifying”.

After the judges scores and public vote were combined a ‘gobsmacked’ Richard won the first place in the final, leaving Anna and Dan to dive against each other. Dan won the ‘dive off’ with two votes from the judges earning him the last place in next Saturday’s final. It might not be ITV’s most thrilling show but the mix of Anna’s cute nerves, Dan’s pecks and celebrities pushing themselves to the limit more than in any other reality TV show was entertaining enough to stop me running to the pub for this week, hopefully the final will do the same.

 

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TV Review – Benefits Street

Diana Norris / TV Review / Mail Online / 1

Benefits Street (Channel 4)

Review written for publication on 11/02/14

 

THE first series of Benefits Street drew to a close last night. The documentary style

programme has been causing controversy over the last few weeks, and  has created a

whirlwind of mixed opinions from people across the country. The programme follows some

of the residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham, and aims to give us a glimpse into

their wacky lives.

 

Over the past few weeks we’ve gotten to know several of the quirky residents of James

Turner Street, and undoubtedly formed very mixed opinions about them. At the same time,

we’ve read in the papers about the scandals the show has caused – on and off camera.

Channel 4 and Ofcom have received hundreds of complaints since the show first aired, and

some of the residents have even received death threats through social media.

 

But back in January – when six of the residents of James Turner Street were charged after a

drugs raid – the show became even more popular, with the number of viewers reaching 6.48

million. We’re clearly a nation that loves drama.

 

Before watching this programme I had a very strong opinion on these people, and was interested to find out whether my attitude would change after viewing the episode. I regarded most of these people as a waste of space, and expected to see a lot of stereotypical benefits-receiving people – which I did.

 

The series finale of Benefits Street aired last night, where we joined residents such as the

oddly-nicknamed ‘White Dee’ and ‘Fungi’ as well as slightly more normal Ewan for the last

time. One man has missed the deadline to renew his Visa, and so is unable to find work. This

person strikes me as your typical person on benefits – not bothering to take the necessary

actions in order to find work, even though you’re perfectly capable.

 

However Ewan works all day every day. He has lived on the street for 14 years on his own, is

not married and has no children. He likes to keep to himself – in contrast to many of the

others on the street who spend their days hanging around together like a bunch of

teenagers. You develop some sympathy for Ewan during this episode, as his so-called

neighbours chuck rubbish over his fence into his garden on a daily basis.

 

But something took me by surprise – like Ewan, some of these people do work and they

work hard. I developed genuine respect for these people – they’re actually trying to get back

on their feet. One woman is struggling with her aggressive boyfriend, and asks her ex to take

their kids for a while until things calm down. She admits to the camera that she’s never been

without her children, and is very distraught. I did feel some sympathy towards her.

 

So what happens now? We’ve spent five weeks watching this group of neighbours causing all

sorts of mischief, and now we’re leaving them. Love Productions are said to be planning a

second series already – but will probably not be returning to James Turner Street.

 

Ends

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Across The Thin Blue Line

11/02/14

Inspector George Gently (Thurs 6th Feb – BBC1)

Babylon (Sun 9th Feb at 9pm – C4)George Gently2

INSPECTOR Gently and side-kick Bacchus return for the sixth series with slow burning episode Gently Between the Lines. After the dramatic end to last series – which left the pair shot and prostrate on the floor of Durham cathedral – there was ground-work to do before getting back into the swing of pursuing justice and faintly moralising. Specifically, John Bacchus has decided he fancies a career change. But with a little persuasion, stick more than carrot, things get going.

This series, based in 1969, opens with a protest at a slum demolition site in a deprived area of Newcastle. Cue some out-of-work This is England extras and a few donkey jackets for the classic grim up North treatment and it’s good to go. As the anticipated clash ensues between the proles of the North-East and some local coppers; there is a murder.

Although not high-adrenaline viewing, there is something comforting about George Gently and its soft Northern Soul soundtrack. Martin Shaw excels in playing the fatherly, slightly smothering but genuine-good-man-of-honour character. Whereas Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) remains reluctantly unlikeable, adding a bit of spice to proceedings with his philandering, foul-mouthed sulkiness.

Like a good story with a mug of warm milk before bed, it’s the right amount of exciting whilst still allowing for a good night’s sleep. When Gently says he will serve “without favour or affection” you can almost believe that such integrity exists.

Danny Boyle’s new satirical sort-of police drama Babylon, however, is bang up-to-date. The eternally show-stealing James Nesbitt heads up a haphazard London police force of incompetents and idiots in an off-kilter approach to a tired genre.

 The Met are suffering an image problem due to a sadistic and ridiculous gun squad who delight in violence. To fix things, the Commissioner (Nesbitt) hires a touchy-feely American PR hotshot (Brit Marling) who he saw on a TED talk. For those who live offline: a TED talk is a bite-sized pitch about an interesting idea delivered with a heap of corny Americanisms and widely available on YouTube. Her attempts to introduce the doctrines of trust and transparency are set against the stiff upper lip of British bureaucracy with predictable but amusing results.

Boyle succeeds in portraying the lack of communication that underlies the Age of Information in this slightly warped version of reality. But in the wake of the Mark Duggan shooting the representation of a highly racially aware and gung ho police won’t be popular with everyone. Likewise the depiction of institutional misogyny – rife with bravado and banter – is close to the bone in places.

For those who can cope with its crudity it is an entertaining watch. No prior knowledge of the London Met would also be preferable.

Fi Brook

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TV Review: Top Gear (Episode 2) and Panorama: Inside North Korea’s Western-funded university

21 is a number that can mean one of two things: to young people it is a sign that you are ‘over the hill’, whereas in a game of Blackjack the gambler has scraped his way to hit the jackpot.

Top Gear has somehow managed to achieve the latter in series 21. Just when you thought the power trio of Jeremy Clarkson (53), Richard Hammond (44) and James May (51) would have run out of ideas, they pull another rabbit out of a hat. Petrolheads and fans of outrageous Peter Pan antics won’t be disappointed.

Episode 2 is true to form. We are thrown straight into Hammond’s review of an Alpha Romeo, which is spruced up with a race down Lake Como, Italy, against Clarkson on a quad-bike that handily doubles up as a jet ski.

A Bond soundtrack accompanies a very soaked Jeremy who tried to villainously beat Richard, who was trying to scurry his way down the narrow Italian roads and streets in an awkwardly wide Alfa.

May was more regimented with his piece on the British Army’s vehicles in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan – a base larger than the size of Reading.

James reviewed many of the vehicles used on the frontline: the Foxhound, Wart-hog and the Mastiff. Whilst riding in one he struggled to fit – ‘I am not fat!’ –, we heard about how lifesaving these vehicles have been. 1000 soldiers have survived road side bombs compared to 3 for every one of the now out of service Snatch Land Rover vehicles.

It goes to show that there is serious educational content. The road test of the new Hybrid McLaren P1 is a responsible counter to their high octane objectification. Although dubbed ‘a widow maker’ for its speed, the standard of technology and innovation prompts Clarkson to say that this is a ‘game changer’ in car production.

Actor Tom Hiddlestone was the biggest disappointment. More used to darker, shifty surroundings as Loki in Thor, he failed to adapt to the studio chat room atmosphere with his mimicking of all people famous. His impression of Clarkson rather ironically summed it up: ‘I am the greatest arsehole of a donkey in the world!’

In a country that Top Gear hasn’t insulted or been barred from (yet), Panorama’s report on a Western university in North Korea proved to be eye opening.

Chris Bryant was the first BBC and western journalist to be given permission to film 10 days at the most unlikely of institutions.

Founded by a former prisoner of the state, Christian James Chin Kyung Kim and funded and run by Christian charities, students selected from the elites are exposed to an education system and ideas that we take for granted.

Even with the almost military like routine you are admiring this ground-breaking effort to change a nation.

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But this being a strict dictatorship fresh out of Nineteen-Eighty-Four, you always have the feeling of being watched. And sure enough a few minders turn up when they feel someone on camera is about to say too much.

Still, there’s always hope that it takes one idea to take root and change a nation.

Top Gear (Sunday 9.30pm, BBC2) and Panorama (Monday 8.30pm, BBC1)

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TV Review: Mr Selfridge

Mr Selfridge (Jeremy Piven)

WITH even more old school glamour and devilishly good dramatics than season one, it’s no surprise that ITV’s Mr Selfridge is hitting high ratings while BBC ONE rival, The Paradise, is cancelled.

Four episodes into the second season and director Anthony Byrne has viewers knee deep in the wicked antics of a 1913 London town.

Jeremy Piven, formerly the bad boy star of US drama Entourage, continues to shine as American businessman Harry Selfridge.

Using his charm and class, Harry is navigating his way through the store’s dilemmas as he prepares Selfridges for the onset of the Great War.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. After what seems like months of freeze outs and cold shoulders there’s finally hope for Harry and Rose’s lost love. The writers have certainly drawn out their unrelenting marital problems leaving many a-viewer pining for a reconciliation.

Well, you wont be disappointed this week. Harry’s keen to keep impressing Rose and, for once, it seems to be working. He is happy to facilitate her fundraising event for the war effort in the Palm Court- yes apparently selling truffles will keep the war at bay- and goes all out to ensure a great turn out.

Of course, Rose’s new best friend Delphine is on hand to add a sprinkling of enteasement to the event causing Harry to dig deeper than most.

With hips all a-swinging, Polly Walker, The Clash of the Titans actress, has most definitely swapped her toga for a corset. She’s all attitude and independence which seems to infuriate original socialite Lady Mae (aka a transformed Katherine Kelly). Disagreeing on every detail, it seems this is one friendship that may not make it past season two.

Meanwhile, the Agnes-Victor-Henri love saga continues. Although we’ve still yet to see any lips locking, this week holds another round of serious eye contact and meaningful stares-ooh it is getting racy.

Victor makes his feelings for Agnes clear when he announces he’ll be joining the war. Not letting her facade slip she skits over the subject with ample nicities- why change the habit of a two seasons? However, an unexpected turn amongst Victor’s family leaves him wondering if signing up is the right thing to do.

Things between Henri and Agnes start to intensify as he helps her create a new display fitting for the store’s chocolate fundraiser. Writers are still holding back on revealing his back story though, leaving audiences wondering what made him so poor, what trouble he’s in and, for goodness sake, if he’s ever going to kiss Agnes?

It seems romance is most certainly the theme of the week in Selfridges as Miss Mardle also enjoys the attention of the Belgian chocolatier. Perhaps it’s her new found wealth or indeed that rather opulent new wardrobe but she’s certainly adding a bit of cheer to an otherwise dreary episode.

Let’s hope next week’s episode sees a bit more action.

END

Word count: 487

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TV Review: Man on Mars & Top Gear

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Horizon: Man on Mars (BBC1)

Top Gear (BBC1)

 

DO you enjoy hunting, climbing, fishing and other high-octane outdoor pursuits? No? Maybe you’re more comfortable with something a little more mundane like solving jigsaws, reading books or weaving tapestries. If so, then congratulations! You may well be one of the next generation of cosmonauts preparing to go further from the mossy little rock we call Earth than anyone before.

 

So we are led to believe in Horizon’s latest edition, Man on Mars: Mission to the Red Planet. Directed and produced by Alex Hearle, it’s an inspiring exploration of the challenges that humanity faces when tasked with the slightly daunting 3 year, 112 million km return fare.

 

According to Professor David Dinges, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, the astronauts that eventually touch down on Martian soil will likely be more suited to 14-hour Netflix binges than to taming mountain ranges.

 

It won’t be easy though, and it’s not just hostile little green men who provide the biggest challenges for the mission.

 

One of the risks stems from the necessity to inject the astronauts with testosterone to help the body cope with the degeneration of muscle and bone mass. The outcome means that the living quarters

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of the spacecraft could turn into a sort of semi-mythological lord of the flies scenario, with pumped up Alpha males doing battle with bearded women on the way to Mars.

 

It may sound like something dreamt up by Kurt Vonnegut, but these are the outlandish situations that have to be considered by NASA.

 

Slick-haired smooth-talker and Landing Engineer Dr Adam Steltzner is just one of the variety of experts wheeled out for elaboration. The problems Dr Steltzner faces are not just of a scientific nature. He admits with a hint of melancholy that though we know how to get to the red planet, there is still no proven method of providing a return ticket for the astronauts, opening up a debate on the ethical implications of allowing people to leave Earth in the knowledge they may never return.

 

Coming from a generation that is depressingly apathetic towards the notion of scientific endeavour and space exploration, programmes such as this provide the only real nugget of hope that others can and will be stimulated into a more progressive way of thinking. For that, it is invaluable.

 

But wait! Maybe there is hope…

 

 

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“Tonight on Top Gear: Two swans move their heads about, I eat a shoe and James May says he’s not fat.”

 

So proclaims Jeremy Clarkson in the introduction to the increasingly contrived and forever desperate programme. Admittedly, Top Gear is an easy target. But with a seemingly ever-increasing budget and ever-decreasing level of ingenuity, the show has now become something of a caricature of it’s former lo-fi glory.

 

If Top Gear is somehow still running (and no doubt having spent the annual GDP of a small country) when mankind finally makes it to Mars, NASA might not actually find much difficulty persuading people to scoop up a one-way ticket.

 

Ends.

Word Count: 498

 

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Babylon: episode one

Babylon: episode one

Commissioner Richard Miller (James Nesbitt) and PR guru Liz Garvey (Brit Marling)

Commissioner Richard Miller (James Nesbitt) and PR guru Liz Garvey (Brit Marling)

Sunday 9th February, Channel 4, 9pm

The 2012 Olympics director and Peep Show team tackle the world of police spin.

There were big expectations of this show from the very beginning. Written by Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong and directed by Danny Boyle, Babylon couldn’t really afford to fall flat, and luckily for the audience it didn’t.

The drama comedy (dramedy?) centres round the story of the newly drafted director of communications for London’s police force, Liz Garvey (Brit Marling).

It just so happens that on her first day, there is a sniper on the loose across London. So not much time for a tour of the building then.

We first meet Garvey delivering a TED talk as a technology based PR guru whose selling point is honesty, and due to this, has to deal with criticism, wariness and office politic playing from her colleagues. Controlling the perception of a company that lets us share pictures of our food and filter our selfies is a little different to restoring the public’s faith in the police.

For fans of The Thick Of It, Babylon will be a nice way to fill the void – just don’t be disappointed by the lack of the almighty sweary Malcolm Tucker. What we have instead is a media savvy American female in one of the oldest established British institutions…. and what could possibly go wrong there?

The sixteen strong main cast doesn’t really seem to have any wasted characters – James Nesbitt puts in a stellar performance as Commissioner Richard Miller and Adam Deacon shines as the ever troublesome Officer Robbie, who is probably the last person you would want responsible for any kind of weaponry.

Throughout the 95 minute long drama we follow different stories from different segments of the force – from the specialist sniper group to the Territorial Support Group members who are the newest stars of the police publicity films – as well as everything going on at HQ. There’s a sense of uneasiness whilst watching the comic relief of the other groups, as you are sure they will be dragged into the sniper situation at some point.

What was great about Babylon was the contrasting, and very typically Peep Show moments. There is a sniper on the loose in London, and staff are having a debate about the use of the word scrote, or ensuring a protester doesn’t hang a sign on a lamppost. In the final tense scenes where officers have surrounded the snipers house, we cut to the Commissioners Assistant requesting ‘gluten free’ nibbles for him. If there’s anything writers Bain and Armstrong are good at, it’s highlighting the banal and surreal moments in everyday life.

Babylon joins a new group of programmes showcasing a different perspective on cops – with a television market over saturated with ‘serious’ crime series such as Inspector Morse or the cheesy one-liner filled CSI franchises, shows such as Babylon, Charlie Brooker’s A Touch Of Cloth and Golden Globe winning Brooklyn Nine-Nine are putting a wittier spin on the usual gritty dramatics.

Available to watch on 4od.

 

 

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Let’s take a hatchet to a hatchet job

Will Gompertz, the BBC’s ineffectual arts editor, says in a tweet today that Philip Kennicott’s review for the Washington Post of George Clooney’s new film THE MONUMENTS MEN is “the mother, father and grandaddy of a bad review”. It’s certainly a hatchet job. But there are indeed several other ways in which we might agree it is a “bad” review: can you spot them?

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Lone Survivor – Film Review

By Daniyall Qazi

 

Directed: Peter Berg

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster

Rated: 15

Running Time Approx: 121 minutes

 

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ON its surface Lone Survivor seems like yet another Mark Wahlberg action vehicle – just one more in the long line of Contraband’s, 2 Guns’ and Max Payne’s.

 

In this case though we get something a little more memorable than Marky Mark’s typical fare.

 

The film tells the story of US Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his team on their ill-fated mission behind enemy lines in Afghanistan which ends with Wahlberg left as the, you guessed it, Lone Survivor.

 

Even with such a foreboding title though, the movie, directed by Peter Berg, still manages to surprise and shock, if not for its story of the last man standing, but for the graphic display of the realities of what the Special Forces deal with when they go to work.

 

Once the mission inevitably goes south the film essentially turns into an hour and a half long shootout between the SEALs and the Taliban, never letting up for a second under Berg’s superb direction.

 

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There’s no shying away from showing what soldiers have to do when caught in a fight like this. We’re shown exactly what Luttrell and his team see when they fire their gun; we see through the scope of their rifles, crosshairs and all, and then we see the brutal impact of every single kill shot.

 

This realism isn’t just reserved for their enemies though.

 

We see each and every wound the Americans take, and each man does take a staggering amount of damage, up close and personal, seeing blood and flesh flying as the team’s situation becomes more and more dire.

 

The camera is always pulled in tight to the SEALs, heightening the sense of claustrophobia of the situation as the seemingly countless numbers of Taliban soldiers wade through the forest to surround them.

 

It stays in tight even as they themselves start dying, forcing us to acknowledge their gunshot wounds, broken bones and blood soaked faces, and to hear the wheezing of their laboured breathing as their bodies start to give out.

 

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You see, hear and feel every bullet that hits its mark and you never get used to it. It starts out shocking and stays that way.

 

This jarring level of realism is bolstered by the strong performances of the main cast who all play believable Special Forces soldiers.

 

Mark Wahlberg is joined, and outdone, by Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster as the members of the SEAL team, with each actor looking and sounding the part.

 

Given that there isn’t much dialogue once the action gets underway, the group does a tremendous job of conveying the camaraderie and brotherhood between these men with the relatively short time they spend out of the battlefield, making sure that character development isn’t completely lost in the midst of the shootout that forms the crux of the story here.

 

Saying the other main cast members outdid Wahlberg doesn’t mean his performance was bad per se, just that he didn’t do much that we haven’t seen him do before, whereas the other actors provided slightly energy than, stretching themselves more.

 

All in all, Lone Survivor is a very good film. With solid performances and excellent direction, it’s a very worthwhile watch, one that will shock you no matter how many war films you’ve seen and however spoilerific the title is.

 

3.5 Out of 5

 

Ends

Word Count: 550   

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Lone Survivor Review

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Lone Survivor

 Classification: 15

Director: Peter Berg

Lead: Mark Wahlberg

LEAVING the cinema with abs from two hours of tensing, nausea from the relentless sound of tearing flesh and cringing from the overdose of American patriotism, Lone Survivor certainly packs a punch.

Following the journey of a disastrous US navy seal mission in Afghanistan, this movie adaptation of Marcus Luttrell’s real life story is gripping however lacks a personal level. The characters are undeveloped as the scenes preceding the action are short and uninsightful. We vaguely know that one man wants to get a horse for his fiancé while another calls his wife ‘boo’, all acted in the same gruff manner. The small fact that they all look the same with rugged brown hair and grizzly beards makes them almost interchangeable, action man figures. This all in turn, disallows the viewer from worrying about their safety or being moved when they die. Scenes at the army barracks are so devoid of personality and so lacking in creativity that it is almost boring at this point.

Very much an action film, with not a single female character, Lone Survivor has some excellently directed and artfully shot combat scenes. Watching the men struggle on despite multiple shot wounds, even one to the head, you will be held in horrified, rapt attention. Scenes were the men become split up and have to clamber on individually, hone in on the ragged breathing of the men, enhancing the viewer’s empathy with the soldier’s pain. The selfless efforts of the commanding officer are particularly excruciating to watch as he hauls his weary body up to high ground, amid constant fire, to get phone signal. The gore culminates in Mark Wahlberg’s character lifting up his knee skin with a knife as he pulls out a huge piece of shrapnel.

Choosing to focus solely on the heroic American survivor, this film avoids giving attention to the Taliban side, an aspect which would have given much needed levels to the story.  The Afghan locals who we do encounter, are employed merely to bolster the

American image through their seemingly ruthless nature and others in their interest in America. The patriotism is overpowering and does not sit well with a British stomach. Moments such as when one of the seals aims at a Taliban soldier, prepares to fire and says “you may be willing to die for your country, but I will live for mine”, are just too much.

The images of real navy seal training at the opening and closing credits were potentially the most emotive aspect of the movie. These images of the men training themselves to be almost machine like, drowning themselves and training past their pain threshold, are intriguing however disappointingly none of this features in the film. Overall, this has gripping action scenes however lacks depth. I did not come away feeling like I had gained an insight into navy seal practices, nor did I feel emotional about what was ultimately a two hour long bloodbath.

 

ENDS

 

WORDS: 499

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Lone Survivor Review

Directed: Peter Berg.

Starring  Mark WahlbergTaylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster.

Certificate 15

Run Time: 121 minutes

WHAT at first seems to have all the tired signs of a stock-plot patriotic, American armed-forces saga, proceeds to be a thrilling and, at times, uncomfortable to watch, depiction of a bravery and commitment in the face of an ill-fated mission. Some are accusing director Peter Berg of over Hollywood-ising the story of this operation but he, unlike in other films of its kind, illustrates that the Americans don’t always show up in the nick of time to save the day.

Based on the book of the same name by Lieutenant Marcus Luttrell, the film dramatises the US Navy SEAL Mission: Operation Red Wings, which took place in 2005. The action begins in a wood over-looking an Al Qaeda military base, when the quartet of Navy Seals make contact with their enemy.

The slowly set pace in the first few scenes dramatically changes at the fire of a bullet, and from then on the action keeps tight grip on your attention until the last scene.

The only weakness is perhaps Berg’s focus on action over characterisation. Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell in this tale of courage and survival, alongside Taylor Kitsch who plays Michael Murphy; the on-ground leader of the operation. The squad is completed with Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster), and although Berg tries to create the sense of brotherhood and camaraderie between them, we never really get to learn who the heroes really were.

This goes hand in hand with the impression that the script is also overshadowed by the technicalities of the action scenes. Berg no doubt executed the these scenes with incredible impact, but the fact is, there is not much dialogue at all, again preventing us from discovering the individual personalities of the four troops.

Still, it’s important to credit Berg’s direction where it’s due and there is something to be said for talented filmmaking that manages to eclipse script and characterisation issues. The cinematography absorbs you into the scene and penetrates with a sense of both the physical and emotional turmoil present; the cameras are up close to the actors and torn flesh and broken bones are right in your face. Your body tenses as you watch them tumble down cliff-sides, their bodies contorting against trees and rocks. The documentary style shooting draws you in as you watch them scramble for safety, you flinch at the tumult of gun shots, fixated on their graphic injuries wondering how they can be carrying on.

The ending is tender but by no means a gushy conclusion to the story. It is stripped back and has a sense of respect for the truth. Despite the deficiencies in character development, the real-life servicemen’s physical and mental strength, their determination and fortitude, is something that Berg has done justice and gets across to the audience.

 

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