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22 Mar 2014 | Leave a Comment

One of the main panels at Comic Con Birmingham this weekend was with the ladies of Sleepy Hollow! They included Nicole Beharie, who plays Lt. Abbie Mills, the police partner of Tom Mison’s Ichabod Crane. Katia Winter who plays Katrina,  Ichabod’s wife, and Lyndie Greenwood who plays Jenny Mills, Abbie’s kick-ass sister.

If you have yet to catch the show, it’s from Star Trek writers and JJ Abrams alumni Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci, and is a modern retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. In this version, Ichabod is part of the War of Independence, seeming slain but not before removing the head of a Hessian soldier… It’s somewhat to his surprise then, when he wakes up in a cave in the 21st century! After befriending police Lt. Abbie Mills, the pair discover they’re ‘the 2 witnesses’ see the ‘end of days’…

17 Feb 2014 | Leave a Comment

Game of Thrones Season 3 comes out today, the 17th of February 2014, on DVD and Blu-Ray. To celebrate, HBO put together a load of fun events, and we went along to take a look.

The first was a Red Wedding themed evening at the Soho Hotel last Tuesday. Upon arrival, we were given a glass of wine and led into the Crimson Bar, where we found the most amazing cake:

Photo by Benedetta Crescioli

It was commissioned especially for the screening and was created by the cake artists at Choccywoccydoodah, who sculpted the outside from chocolate (and Stark blood, apparently), and filled the inside with rum (lots of rum!) and raisin.

We then entered the screening room, where we were treated to a preview of the hour-long documentary about the making of the Red Wedding episode, which is included in the DVD set. It’s definitely worth watching – seeing how the CGI effects are layered onto the scenes was especially interesting.

Maisie Williams also graced us with her presence, and was questioned about previous GoT episodes and the upcoming season. When asked to comment on the Red Wedding episode at the end of season three, Maisie replied: “You know you’ve done a great job when the audience are crying”, which is possibly my favourite GoT quote of all time.

Apparently in season 4 we can expect even more bloodshed and lots more action – rather than building to a peak, this one will just be a peak all the way through – and Arya’s relationship with the Hound grows and deepens.

Not content to just give us an excellent screening, HBO have now set up an installation in Spitalfields market, where they have collaborated with street artists Joe and Max to create a huge piece of 3D art depicting the Wall. You can go and pose as a wildling, or as Jon Snow, or just as a confused human wandering the gap between the worlds, near Liverpool Street station today:

3D artwork of The Wall from Game of Thrones as unveiled today in London's Bishops Square to celebrate the Season Three Blu-ray and DVD release - 17 Feb 2014

3D artwork of The Wall from Game of Thrones as unveiled today in London’s Bishops Square to celebrate the Season Three Blu-ray and DVD release – 17 Feb 2014

Season 3 is out on DVD & Blu-ray now, and Game of Thrones Season 4 premieres on HBO on April 6th 2014 and 7th of April at 9pm on Sky Atlantic in the UK. Here’s a teaser if you can’t quite wait that long:

Game of Thrones – Season 3 Limited Edition Dragon Packaging (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]

Game of Thrones – Season 3 (Includes Bonus Disc ‘Creating The World With Visual Effects’ – Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [Blu-ray] [Region Free]

Game of Thrones – Season 3 [DVD] [2014]

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10 Jan 2014 | Leave a Comment

Uncle is a new BBC3 half hour comedy starring singer-songwriter/comedian Nick Helm (Live at the Electric, 8 Out of 10 Cats) as Andy – a suicidally depressed, failed musician, who receives an urgent phone call from his sister asking him to watch his neurotic 12 yo nephew, Errol… just at the point Andy was about to kill himself… It’s fair to say, the show has a rather dark edge!

The first episode involves Andy and Errol (Elliot Speller-Gillott) having to spend some enforced ‘quality time’ together as he drives his nephew to football practice and is forced to make small talk, which results in one of the most disturbing, but laugh out loud funny descriptions of ‘love’ come tumbling from Andy’s mouth. There is an air of About a Boy in this first episode, although Nick’s character is about as far away from Hugh Grant as you can get. As the day rolls on, Andy (after bribing Errol to leave practice early), decides makes a stop off at his estranged girlfriend workplace (a male strip club) to beg her to take him back. He nearly wins her over by pretending Errol is his son… before the lad blows his story, resulting in the club’s owner (Gwen’s father, who’s somewhat of a cross between Alice Cooper and Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham), throws them out, after threatening the remove a certain part of Andy with a spoon…

Helm’s musical background also comes to fore as the story progresses as Andy’s mind wanders off into some excellent music video style dream sequences, reminiscence of shows like Flight of the Conchords. This continues in the opening of the 2nd episode with a dark song about love being like a plane crash – Andy… not a fan of love. ;)

This show is a buddy comedy, albeit a very dark one. The relationship between the boy and his Uncle works wonderfully, and is perfectly cast. Speller-Gillott is great as the neurosis laden 12 year old, who you get the impression is equally as devious as his layabout uncle, but just manages to hide it better. Helm is a superb comedian and a great screen presence, with the exchanges between the mismatched pair providing some of the funniest lines in the show.

Uncle is a great ride, and although it’s most definitely a hilarious comedy, it’s not without it’s touching moments as the relationship develops between this oddest of odd couples. Andy maybe trying to teach Errol about the world, but it’s clear the boy isn’t the only one who needs to learn about growing up…

Uncle airs on the 13th January on BBC3 at 10pm, and is well worth checking out!

9/10 – A dark and hilarious buddy comedy
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8 Oct 2013 | Leave a Comment

With memories of seeing Star Wars in 1977 aged 6 there is always a sceptical air around my watching anything new from the Lucas stable. However having seen the episodes, The Phantom Clone and Menace of the Sith twice, once with my children and once on my own, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed them!

Episode I: The Phantom Clone is an action-packed adventure where Darth Sidious unveils his plan to create an enhanced Sith clone named ‘Jek-14′ to help him defeat that pesky Republic! That means it’s up to Jedi Master Yoda and his young Padawan students to work together and save the galaxy!

Episode II: Menace of the Sith, centres around Count Dooku using his new and improved ‘Clone-a-Matic’ to create an army of Jek clones, but the original Jek-14 wants no part of the sinister scheme… Now, with the help of some old friends (and two familiar Droids), substitute teacher Anakin Skywalker must lead Yoda’s Padawan class to victory…

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars Lego for years and this take on the adventure works on several levels. The kids love the action and adventure of it all (as do I), however, I could also appreciated the under current of classic film references, with lines such as ‘Heeeere’s Anni!’ when Annakin breaks through the side of an enemy ship. :D

The stories are punchy and engaging with plenty of action and comedy all the way. The animation was really well done, and a lot of the sound effects and music mirrored the original movies. The stand out scene for me was when a young Lando Calrissian (complete with afro) arrived with his father in a pimped disco Millennium Falcon with Saturday Night Fever style illuminated access ramp!

Just the right mix of geeky references and tongue-in-cheek fun to keep the kids and me happy for hours!

Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles is available on DVD now!

 

9/10 – Great mix of Star Wars fun and humour for the whole family!
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7 Oct 2013 | Leave a Comment

Recently I was over in LA, and I got the chance to catch the USA’s brand new take on the legend of Sleepy Hollow. As the show is about to land in the UK (coming 9pm Weds 9th Oct on Universal Channel), I though it would be a good time for a quick review.

This take on Sleepy Hollow is a little different to what you may have seen before. Although it starts in the 1700′s, Ichabod Crane (English theatre actor Tom Mison) is not a school teacher as in the original tale, but a soldier in the Revolutionary War… except he’s English, but fighting for the Americans… On the battlefield, Crane comes face to face with a brutal masked solider whom he manages to decapitate, but also appears to receive a mortal wound himself in the process. Skip forward a few hundred years to the village of Sleepy Hollow where Crane awakes in a cave, to find the local Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie - The Good Wife) who assumes he’s crazy when he starts babbling on about being in the revolutionary war and has him institutionalized… That is until a headless horseman in a revolutionary uniform makes an appearance, when she realises he might not be so crazy after all…

The show is written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the 2 main writers behind the very successful revival of Hawaii Five-O, and the outstandingly bonkers Fringe. Sleepy Hollow is a great fit for them. Part cop drama, part other-worldly weirdness. Although it’s somewhat gruesome in places (hey, it’s dealing with a headless horseman!), it’s still got their trademark witty banter between the cast. It’s also not afraid to shoot off in a direction you might not necessarily expect, with a number of cast members not making it all the way through the first episode.

The show makes a strong start which rips along a great pace, and Mison and Beharie spark off each other well. Also, for those of you worried about getting into a series only for it to be cancelled, fear not, it’s only 3 episodes in on the other side of the pond, and Fox have already given it a 2nd season. If you’re a fan of Kurtzman & Orci’s other work, this is definitely a show for you.

Sleepy Hollow airs 9pm Weds 9th Oct on Universal Channel in the UK.

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27 Sep 2013 | Leave a Comment

A Farewell to Breaking Bad

A Farewell to Breaking Bad

WARNING, THIS ARTICLE DOES CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS.

With TV’s hottest show this year promising to end on the high side of drama (if there ever was an understatement!) this Sunday in the US, and airing on UK Netflix on Monday (30th Sept), fans have gone into overdrive trying to figure out exactly what is in store for Walt & Co. Indeed, the series build-up and the penultimate episode do point to complete destruction – the karmic kickback we knew was just around the corner, that last crippling blow – out of the many our man’s faced so far and overcome with bad-ass genius and resourcefulness. For all those rooting for the meth king-pin here, well, empiric evidence would suggest he ought to get away with it, because, hey- this is Walt White we are talking about, the ‘smartest man we know’, and he will find a way out – whether we want it or not, after all the monstrous things he’s done to the people around him. The producers are tight-lipped about the ending of course, the teaser only teases us with glimpses, and only one thing is clear – it will be a definitive end.

Walter White

Walter White

It’s interesting how Breaking Bad has steadily picked up such a huge fan-following – especially for a show which started on slow-burn mode and took its own sweet time (three seasons!) to simmer up to a real pot-boiler. It’s not just about the faith of die-hard fans, or a simple desire to see the underdog get his dues (the way one does while morphing from powerless, rather bullied high-school teacher to ruthless, much-feared drug-lord, ahem), or even Netflix. Maybe it’s the way Walt decides to do an FTW and get his own back from the doorway to death – hesitantly at first, for the highly ‘justified’ cause of providing for his family after his cancer leaves them penniless, and filled with doubts and dilemmas. It has us all rooting for him – even toward the highly questionable role of a crafty and compunctions-less criminal. We don’t realize when the admiration turns to horror. For a lot of fans though, it is still about how the awesome Heisenberg totally turns the tables on his writ fate. After all, it is quite a powerful and disturbingly comforting thought – how a helpless guy can survive with his craft and craftiness, should he just have the balls to let go of all the morality, and should he want it badly enough. And then again, we have this tale of the dark alter ego that takes over and corrupts the good guy completely- that vulnerable family-guy we grow to champion – and turns him into a megalomaniac monster, who no longer has any priority to his original objective (which he uses to lie to himself to validate all his actions) and who actually enjoys all the violence. In a quiet creepy scene early into his metamorphosis, we are shown how he literally gets off on the power-trip, as if the only thing that makes him come alive in his otherwise miserable existence is his parallel and secret life of lies, betrayals and substantial blood-shed. He shows no remorse for any of it, and goes about his work with chilling mechanical precision – a genius the world rejected and who’s now broken uncontrollably bad. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of The Anti-hero, worthy of the ranks of Darth Vader, the Joker, Tony Soprano and Dexter. We loved them, and we love Heisenberg, the not-so-reluctant monster who does not care about the lines (or lives) he crosses – simply because that is the hand he’s dealt and that is how he chooses to deal with it.

Walt & Jessie

Walt & Jessie

He is bullied at every step, he has Skyler for a wife (‘nuff said!), and he’s dying for heaven’s sake! – yes, if ever there was a man deserving of our moral reprieve, it would have to be Walter White. And just when we get comfortable with the idea of watching Walt grow into a powerful drug-lord, overcoming sticky situations and inexplicably caring more for his inept but very humanly messed-up accomplice (and one-time student and all-time junkie) Jesse Pinkman – we also get to witness the attrition of his soul over the accumulation of his empire of crime. It is a fascinating, riveting watch – all unfolding with the slow, compelling and believable drama of reality TV (but so much more real, and intelligent!). The inability and unwillingness to judge the right from the wrong, the uncertainty of situations and human emotions, the voyeuristic pleasure of watching someone else’s nasty, dysfunctional family get what it deserves (Oh Skyler, Marie and Hank, you are all such unpleasant characters!) – these are the themes writers of the show have played on, and with great success. Walt, ostensibly, is quite possibly the only character deserving of our sympathy. His steady rise to crime, from cooking meth in a humble trailer (where he symbolically loses his pants to the desert), is perhaps one we cheer on. It is scandalously delicious how he lives a double life and quietly emerges as the anonymous power whose name gives him such profound gratification – the real man of the family no matter what Skyler and the rest of the ignorant world thinks. Perhaps, a part in us wants to see Heisenberg rise, in the hope that his fall would be just as devastating, and that the name he’s so fond of making people repeat and fear (“Say my Name”), is the only legacy and writing on the wall he gets to keep.

There’s no doubt about this one thing though – BrBa’s an insanely well-crafted saga, with all the elements of a gripping crime-drama – it’s unpredictable with unthinkable twists, has flawed characters you loathe (but always take you back to the revision table with some clever character development), and sudden somethings that hit you in the face with their blinding brilliance and black humour. BrBa is not the first show that gets its ingredients right, but it’s the way it’s cooked that makes all the difference. 99.9% pure addiction. Ah, Walt would know.

Obsession, Inc. – “Breaking Bad is a show that rewards close attention”                 

Hank

Hank

Remember all the fact-finding, soul-searching, number-nuancing, symbolism-spotting efforts that other show Lost inspired? Well, BrBa is that dope today. Though, unlike Lost, these cues and clues are not pivotal to the BrBa plot – they are just ‘out there’ to be appreciated by the most ardent, observant and discerning fanboys/girls. Creator Vince Gilligan admits to putting in the signs, colour codes, flashbacks, layers and other symbolisms – most of which serve as what fans are calling ‘foreshadows’ indicative of what’s going to happen to characters in the future. This is currently another favourite pass-time of BrBa fans in between episodes – spotting the Easter eggs and trying to figure out hidden messages. Indeed, as the show moves on to its finale, there’s widespread speculation and conspiracy theories being floated around as to how it would end, and how things shown in previous episodes could be momentous – be they weapons, actions and words. It’s quite mad actually, considering people have worked out colour codes used by characters for all five seasons AND their symbolisms. But, yeah, there are some pretty great conversations going on amongst fans who seem quite excited with the bonus cues – kudos to Gilligan and team for that!

Lost fanboy in the writing team?

Shortly after the Buried episode (Season 5, Episode 10), Lost co-producer Carlton Cuse tweeted : I’m loving Breaking Bad — they’ve got flash forwards, lottery numbers and people yelling, “Walt!!”. Fans of both shows probably know what he’s talking about. In Season 5, Walt hides his cash-stash in the desert, and buys a lottery ticket with the GPS coordinates of the location – which he sticks on the refrigerator door. Walt’s lottery number combination 034-059-020-106-036-052 is now as (if not more) famous as Hurley’s winning numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 (Lost, Season 6). Some BrBa fans cum Lottery lovers will, in all probability, try their luck out with Walt’s treasure-trove numbers – after all, in a strange twist of fate, the Lost numbers did translate to decent winnings of $150 apiece for a whole bunch of Lost fans in 2011 who got 4 out of 6 numbers correct on a US Tuesday Night Mega Millions lottery – apparently, there were no less than 41763 winners for those 4 numbers! A bit of a stretch for similarities, perhaps, but one that does give numbers-and-signs obsessed Lost (+ BrBa) fans something to smile at.

What’s next!

Farewell Breaking Bad

Farewell Breaking Bad

With the Ozymandias episode (Sep 15) already sending shock-waves across the BrBa fan community, what with Hank getting shot down and King Heisenberg’s legacy seemingly in ruins, the internet has been abuzz with showdown scenarios, based on some serious deconstruction of visual and narrative cues and foreshadows, and, well, just wishful thinking. Will Jesse escape from his tormentors, don a Hamletesque revenge-helm and be the one to end it all in his characteristic loose-cannon way? Or will Walt manage to get away, though much like Ozymandias, with nothing at all – no power, no money and no family? And what of Skyler and family? Is there a cataclysmic confrontation or two in the offing? Oh, wait, Gilligan’s tossed us a red herring (again) in the penultimate episode Granite State (Sep 22), and we are quite confused. What was that even meant to be – emotional reprieve post the meltdown that was Ozymandias, or a dangerous calm before the gathering storm? We can only keep our fingers crossed on that one.

BrBa has been building up to an explosive finale all right, and fans will just have to keep guessing and obsessing over all the indicators. In the run-up to D-day from Sep 25 onward, the show’s broadcaster AMC will have a special 5-day marathon re-running of all previous episodes of BrBa in the US. AMC’s tie-up with Netflix for the entire Season 5 also meant UK fans could catch it hot on the heels of the show’s US screening. We also have more of MethMan Madness lined up for the final two episodes, 15 more minutes to be precise – as if the normal hour-long Breaking Bad turbulence wasn’t, well, bad enough! Oh, and the finale’s called ‘Felina’. (Go figure, is that a code for blood-meth-tears, you know, Fe=Iron=Blood, Li=Lithium=Meth, Na=Sodium=Tears? Or are we reading way too much into it, and it would just turn out to be an anagram for Finale – ah, now is there a hint in that as well…)

Loads of people will need to deal with BrBa withdrawal symptoms come October. Until the Better Call Saul spin-off makes it to our TV-sets – which ought to be pretty good by the sounds we hear. And, there’s some good news: Bryan ‘Walt’ Cranston is doing more films and fleshier roles (the man deserved his fourth Emmy, c’mon!) – in fact, he does a Breaking Bad reversal in his recently released low-budget indie Cold Comes the Night – this time portraying a gangster who becomes a family man, it might be pretty cathartic to catch it while the show’s still on and imagine all the deceit, mayhem and chaos getting stripped off – layer by bloody layer. And well, if nothing else, you could always give Walt’s ‘lucky’ numbers a shot on the next big Euromillions lottery draw and see if they are any good!

All 5 seasons of Breaking Bad are on Netflix in the UK, and the final episode will be available from Mon 30th September 2013.