Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Whooray!


Doctor Who returns tonight after its mid-season haitus!


We last left the Doctor having discovered that Amy and Rory's baby is going to grow up to be River Song and therefore (probably) the Doctor's future wife. The baby was then kidnapped by the evil Eye-Patch Lady and the Doctor whizzed off to get her back.

And that was that. Three months off.


Not exactly sure how/if tonight's episode will resolve things, considering it involves the Doctor travelling back to Nazi Germany and bantering with Hitler...

But In Moffat We Trust. All that matters is that Who is back. And it's going to be an awesome six episodes. Just look at the episode titles: Let's Kill Hitler, Night Terrors, The Girl Who Waited, The God Complex, Closing Time and The Wedding of River Song!


David Walliams is playing an alien, James Corden is back as Craig Owens and the trailer shows there's going to be clowns, puppets and creepy Victorian dolls. And of course they need to resolve the small little matter of the future Doctor getting killed by the astronaut at the start of the series (although that was blatantly the flesh Doctor which they spent an entire episode introducing)...


It's going to be great. And it starts in five minutes. Geronimo!


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011


Laura and I hit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a few weekends ago. This was our third time and it was the best yet: we're getting pretty good at picking the diamonds in the rough.

For those who don't know, the Edinburgh Fringe festival started in 1947 as a low-budget, amateur alternative to the International Edinburgh Festival. And now, 64 years later, the Fringe has become the largest performing arts festival in the world.

In recent years, the Fringe boasted 2098 shows across 265 venues with a whopping 1,300 performances each day. And this is a completely unjuried festival, which means anything goes: Shakespearian drama, stand-up comedy, exotic cabarets, art installations, physical theatre, stuntmen, dance troupes, celebrity comebacks and even such outrageous highlights such as the Lady Boys of Bangkok and Penis Puppetry... in 3D, no less.

But anyway, here are my reviews (previously seen on my Twitter page) of all 23 shows that we saw...

Penny Dreadfuls Etherdome: stealing their name from the usual Fringe Dreadfuls, this troupe is more sinister & a lot less funny. **

Humphrey Ker: one third of the Penny Dreadfuls, Humphrey goes solo for a Nazi-era, one-man show. A natural storyteller & very funny. ****

Axis of Awesome: the comedy rock trio return in their biggest venue to date. Hits include Birdplane, KFC & the 4-chord song. Pure joy. *****

Tim & Light: original Burton-esque storytelling from the Tucked In team. Inventive use of puppets, props & light. Wonderful for kids. *****

Harold Pinter with Julian Sands: not for everyone but a rare chance to see a worldclass actor reading worldclass poetry. Captivating. ****

Matthew Crosby's Adventureland: an energetic, autobiographical PowerPoint from 1/3 of Pappys. A loose bag of ideas but a likeable host. ***

Free Run: surprisingly slow & (at times) dull. But when the parkour does kick in, you will marvel at these human panthers. ***

Showstoppers!: improvised musicals. A deservedly popular stalwart of the Fringe with an exceptionally charismatic & talented cast. *****

Belt Up's Outland: an interactive fantasy-hopping look at Lewis Carroll's psyche with three versatile actors. Truly immersive theatre. ****

Mirazozo (pictured): an inflatable labyrinth of light & geometry. The perfect chillout sanctuary at the Fringe. Utterly enchanting. A ***** experience.

Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches: five character-based sketches & LOTS of audience participation. Highly-recommended for good reason. *****

Michael Winslow: the sound effects guy from Police Academy (!) recreates Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Star Wars & more. Unmissable. *****

Secret Window: poor Stephen King adaptation with weak performances. Lacked the humour, suspense & drama of the source material. *

The Infant: a couple are interrogated about their child's doodle. Kafta-esque black comedy & a masterclass in suspense. A triumph. *****

Clockheart Boy: a personal 2008 Fringe favourite. An eccentric professor & his colourful inventions find a boy on a beach. Magical. *****

Flawless: as seen on BGT. Truly impressive moves (Matrix dancing!) but they needed microphones to banter with the audience a lot more. ****

Dave Gorman: the comedian delivers new rants targeted at Twitter, his lookalikes, not being Jewish & iPhone marketing. Very funny. *****

Mr Benn: Chefs! The deep sea! A dragon! Singing/dancing fun for the little kids & easy-watching nostalgia for the big kids. Pleasant. ***

Revolting Rhymes: two blokes perform Roald Dahl's poems without props, puppets or wit. Crude, unorganised but (oddly) the kids loved it. *

The Man Who Planted Trees: a true story. Sophisticated children's theatre which never patronises the kids. Superb puppet gags. A treat. *****

Shutterland: dystopian physical theatre from this Lecoq-trained troupe. Not enough story to hold interest but clever & experimental. ***


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

REVIEW: Scre4m

Scre4m - one of my favourites films of 2011 to date - is released on DVD this week. And here is a little review because I love defending my guilty pleasures.

Scre4m reboots the Scream franchise – and the slasher genre in general – for the 21st century.

It tells the story of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returning to Woodsboro for a book-signing a whole decade after the events of the original trilogy. However, shortly after her arrival, two new teens are slaughtered in their home and Sidney’s cousin Jill (Jill Roberts) and her classmates appear to be the targets for a new Ghostface killer.

Scre4m is the scary, witty and funny triumph that you have come to expect from this franchise.

The key to its success is the reunion of director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson. It was their combined efforts as seasoned horror veteran and meta-commentator that resulted in the original Scream and Scream 2, which gave a much-needed shot of adrenaline to the flagging slasher genre in the nineties. And now they have done it again for a whole new generation of cinema-goers.

The eleven-year absence of the Scream franchise has been its greatest strength. The horror genre has moved on and cinemagoers have sat through an entire decade of studio remakes and ‘torture porn’ Saw sequels. As the Scream 4 poster cited, ‘New decade, new rules,’ and Williamson has a lot of fun parodying a new generation of horror motifs with an all-knowing, introverted mirror.

Even the Scream franchise itself is mocked throughout thanks to Stab, the franchise-within-a-franchise, which is basically a series of Scream-style movies within the Scream universe itself. This leads to a great opening gag and lots of commentary between the characters which can be applied to the Craven-Williamson creations themselves. This even goes as far as outlining the formula for the film so the characters can predict where the killer will strike next.

Williamson’s script also acknowledges that the world has moved on. As such, you get the obligatory references to Facebook and Twitter but it does throw up some interesting questions. How do you catch a killer when everybody can download an app to sound like Ghostface? And how would a serial killer utilise modern technology, such as live video blogging?

Despite all of this fresh parody, there is much familiarity. But again, thanks to the long absence, the familiarity feels welcome as opposed to tiresome. It also provides a much-needed anchor to the original trilogy, amidst all of the aforementioned change. The heart of this anchor is the surviving trio of Sidney, Dewey and Gale. Neve Campbell is ever-cementing herself as this generation’s Jamie Lee Curtis, whilst David Arquette and Courtney Cox breathe new life into their larger-than-life characters.

And naturally, the iconic Scream mask returns with the equally-iconic voice of Roger L Jackson.

Overall, this is a refreshing return to form for the slasher genre. Rather than gross us out with flying body parts, Craven amps up the suspense and delivers the shocks like an old-school pro. Meanwhile, Williamson takes the time to offer us watchable, entertaining characters and plenty of witty one-liners. After all, the franchise has always had one overriding USP which leaves other horrors flagging: humour. For every scream, there is a laugh. This balance is delicate but they nail it every time. Let’s just hope other horror aficionados are paying attention.

Bring on 5cream and Scre6m. We need a new thrillogy.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

The 856 Day Stint

Due to my lack of blogging in the aforementioned 856 day stint, I thought it best to provide a quick catch-up of life, the universe and everything.

In no particular order, this is what's been going down:

I appeared on The Weakest Link. I didn't win.
Hollywood became obsessed with 3D.
I quit Notts SU and rejoined Birmingham University as a Masters student.
David Cameron replaced Gordon Brown as Prime Minister.
Matt Smith replaced David Tennant as Doctor Who.
I spent my Masters year writing for Redbrick, ballroom dancing and volunteering with Kids Adventure.
Avatar topped Titanic as the highest-grossing film ever made.
Apple released the iPhone and iPad.
The final episode of Scrubs aired. It rocked.
The final episode of Lost aired. It sucked.
Laura and I moved to Harborne.
Big Brother moved to Channel 5.
Michael Jackson died due to a complication with prescription meds.
Osama Bin Laden died due to a complication with a US military SWAT team.
I joined KPMG. I quit KPMG.
Will and Kate got married.
Laura and I got engaged.
Chris Moyles broadcast his radio show for a record-breaking 52 consecutive hours.
Glastonbury celebrated its 40th birthday. I was there.
A volcano kicked off in Iceland. I wasn't there.
I started working for Coventry University.

And I think we're all caught up.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

856 days...

Yeah, so basically, I haven't touched this blog for 856 days. Mental.

I only really used this blog for two things: inane chatter and film reviews.

Well, I can spout as much nonsensical and egotistical gibberish as I wish on Twitter. More on that here.

And as for film reviews, I satisfied my journalistic urge through the following publications:

Redbrick - the University of Birmingham student newspaper.
Intuition Online - a website created by Bristol students and their extended acquaintances.
Recorded Live - an audio blog conjured by Alex Jacques, former Redbrick film editor.

Check 'em out for two years of Fairbanter filmbanter.

Anyway, I've decided to blow the dust off this old blog and rejoin the blogosphere. This is mostly because I have just returned from the Empire Bigscreen film festival where one editor advised: 'If you don't have an existing online readership, I won't even consider letting you write for Empire magazine.'

It may also be because I missed the sound of my own voice. Who knows?

But whatever. Ready, steady, blog!