Stuart’s Week in Entertainment March 19-25 (Britain’s Got Talent, Prison Break, English Football and Stick Stunt Racer)

March 27, 2012

TV

First up this week is the return of one of those shows that people like to ‘Status Boost Moan’ about. You know what I mean – the sort of show that will instantly get people up-in-arms and starting threads on internet forums to say how much they hate it, yet they probably secretly watch it anyway.

That show is of course Britain’s Got Talent.

BGT is apparently ‘television for idiots’, although I’ve never understood why and I’m still waiting for the people who say that to qualify the remark. Yes, it’s as mainstream as mainstream gets and it’s fronted by the ‘nasty’ Simon Cowell, but I enjoy this show from start to finish.

This year has started off very well, with two acts that are probably better than anyone who made the finals last year – The Welsh Vocal Choir and Hurley from Lost & his bustypal. Both acts boast incredibly strong singers but unfortunately

Hurley - tearing it up on Britain's Got Talent

for us viewers, both also have sob stories. The Welsh boys sing because if they don’t they’ll end up in the workhouses or something like that, and Hurley is Paul Potts & Susan Boyle rolled into one.

What I did like though was that he immediately quashed any plans the judges may have had to remove his mate from the equation. Good on him.

BGT’s sister show, More Talent, also had some decent acts, but only from the comical standpoint. If you can track it down, try to find the video of the Frank Butcher-esque Rapper – it’ll raise a smile.

Having had quite a busy week, the only other show I’ve had any time to watch is Prison Break, which I’ve started watching again with my brother.

The greatness of Prison Break is in direct contrast to the quality of the lead actors. While the show entertains, part of that entertainment comes from how bad an actor Wentworth Miller is. He just stares at people and speaks in a monotone voice. Is that acting? I don’t think so. Dominic Purcell looks like a Derek Jacobi in comparison, and that’s saying something, because Purcell is also shit.

At the moment I’m only a little bit into the first season, but having watched it all before, I know I’m going to be entertained. That entertainment will take a momentary holiday when we get to Season Three though.

Football

A bit of a different approach to the Football section this week as I was down in England for a work summit for Sports Interactive, makers of the Award Winning Football Manager series of games (as some of you will know, I’m the Head Researcher for Scotland for the game).

What was interesting what that I took in a couple of English football matches. As we’re all told often enough, English football is amazing compared to Scottish football, so I was interested to see the difference in standard in the flesh.

The first game was Reading vs Blackpool – a top of the table clash in the English Championship. Overall it was a decent game including a great individual goal by Blackpool striker Lomana Lualua, but to say that this game involved a higher standard of player to a decent SPL side would be folly, especially considering so many of those players have played in the SPL before.

The next game was the Final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy between Chesterfield and Swindon Town. Words cannot describe how poor this game was. I’m a strong believer that you can have a great match at any level of football in the world, but this game seemed determined to want to disprove my theory.

I think the problem was that the players were trying to do things – be it was tricks, killer passes or bicycle kicks – that were beyond their level of ability, and so the match was a bona fide dud.

Once again Scottish Football fans, let’s think slightly higher of our own game in terms of the quality of entertainment on offer; because things are not necessarily that much better down south.

Games

Not much time for gaming this week what with being away for much of it, but one game I did end up playing a lot on my travels was Stick Stunt Racer on the Android (one would assume it will be on iOS too).

Think of this game like Trails HD in the graphical style of N+ and you’ve got a good idea what this one is all about. Easily controlled with one thumb for acceleration and the other thumb for the brakes, this is a simple and yet absorbing game – available in both a free Lite version and a deeper paid one – that will keep you busy on the go.

Next Week

It’s Wrestlemania this Sunday. So far the build up has been a bit shaky. Will the show live up to the hype? Come back next week to find out.


Stuart’s Week In Entertainment March 12-18 (More Friday Night Lights, Celtic vs Kilmarnock, Fifa Street and United vs Rangers)

March 19, 2012

TV

As you might have guessed, I finished off Friday Night Lights last week. What a show.

Anyone who follows me on twitter (@sgmilne by the way) will have seen that I commented that the show came to a ‘well put together and satisfying conclusion’,and I stick by that, though having reflected on it a bit I have a few issues

which I have written in white text below, so as to avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen the series end.

Highlight to read…

My issues with how the season ended were that they just seemed to drop a few of the storylines along the way, including  the one with Epic and the also the one with the ginger haired slut. Yes, these formed part of the whole Tami Taylor getting a new job thread, but still, both characters just ended up being dropped without a satisfying conclusion to their story arcs

I also understand that when shows come to an end, the writers like to bring characters back in for the finish, but I didn’t like the way they used Tyra Collette in the last couple of episodes. Why was she all of a sudden back in love with Tim Riggins and vice versa? For two and half seasons they pushed her complicated relationship with Landry yet in the final episode she announces that she’s been in love with Tim since she was 5. It didn’t really wash with me.

And speaking of Landry, while his appearances in the final season were realistic – the first episode has him leaving town and the last episode shows him back for Christmas – his appearance in that last episode seemed very much like an afterthought.

Those are minor issues though. It’s still a brilliant show and it finished on a high with that wonderful final montage.

As I say, even if you’re not into sports, it’s a show worth watching.

Abed & Troy strive to be 'Normal People' in last week's episode of Community.

Other than that, it’s time to get out the party poppers because Community is back! Huzzah!

This week saw a tremendous return for the show. Having recently gone back and watched some of the episodes leading up to it being put on hiatus, they maybe didn’t live up to the high standard set in Season 2 (specifically the episode where they make a new commercial for the College, which started well but ended poorly). The return episode, with Troy & Abed trying to be ‘normal’ for Shirley’s wedding was top quality, laugh out loud stuff.

I don’t know how many episodes will air between now and the end of the season but let’s hope it’s a full run.

I also watched Drive this week, and you can find my review of that here

Football

With all the hoo-ha surrounding Rangers and their troubles off the park, everyone has had their say on how Scottish football would survive. This is something I feel strongly about and will probably write about more in the coming days, but one thing I want to mention here and now is that people often say that one of the bad things about an SPL without Rangers would be that it would feel less special. I heard Tam Cowan say on the radio that there’s no better feeling than beating one of the Old Firm.

Up until recently I would have agreed on that. Both Rangers & Celtic are a scalp to defeat. When United knocked Rangers out of the cup a mere month or so ago, it was exhilarating for all United fans. But on Saturday I wasn’t remotely fussed about the victory in the game between Dundee United & Rangers. Rangers are currently a shell of the team they once were, and that’s with them retaining most of their staff. Yes, a victory is always nice, but playing against that Rangers team, I expected a win and my expectations were not let down. Dundee United won that dreary game without even playing well, which is not something you can usually say about a victory over the Glasgow giants.

With their young team -and incidentally, their team isn’t that young compared to Dundee United, it’s just that the younger players never get a chance at Ibroxand so they have no experience playing regular first team football – Rangers

Well done to Kilmarnock on their victory in the Scottish League Cup Final

are no longer a scalp, and so victory against them is currently no more or less special than a victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle in my opinion.

Contrast that with yesterday’s League Cup Final between Celtic & Kilmarnock.

I’m not even a Kilmarnock fan but as a fully paid up member of The Alliance of Diddy Team Fans, I was thrilled for them when they beat Celtic. And they deserved their victory too. Yes, there was the penalty decision that went against Celtic, and I’m sure if the roles were reversed I would probably be screaming for a United penalty, but as a football fan I reserve the right to be a hypocrite. There is no evidence that the player was touched and if the ref didn’t see contact then he can’t give it.

Naturally, what followed on from there was Neil Lennon reverting to his ‘The Decisions Are Against Us’ patter. Lennon is fine when his team are doing well, but a more ungracious man in defeat you are unlikely to ever meet.

“I wouldn’t say they deserved it” is what he said in his post match victory

I’m sorry Mr Lennon, but they scored and you didn’t. They won and you lost. In his analysis after the game, Craig Levein said that the superb defending on the part of Kilmarnock is a sign of good play from them more than it was bad play from Celtic. Many football fans fail to see that.

Sadly, the game ended on a sombre note with the news that the father of one of the Kilmarnock players had a heart attack just after the final whistle and passed away as a result. I can’t imagine how Liam Kelly must feel and like everyone else would offer my sincerest condolences.

As a final comment on football, people in Scotland often criticise the quality of the product on display, but the last ten minutes of that game were as exciting as football gets. But that’s the point – you can see exciting football anywhere, regardless of the supposed standard of the participants. I’ve watched plenty of ‘big’ matches in England and Europe that have been dreadful, but people don’t really dwell on that. Up here in Scotland we piss on our own chips, telling ourselves that our game is of a poor standard and lauding a product down south that regularly presents football that is dreary in the extreme.

Next week I’ll be at Reading vs Blackpool so I’ll endeavour to make comparisons in the next edition of W.I.E.

Games

My love of Friday Night Lights has seen me press on with Madden NFL 11 on the 360. Sadly, watching Smash Williams terrorising opposition defences has ill prepared me for this game. My attempts at running plays usually end within two seconds. I was mainly playing against a friend of mine, but I imagine if I played against someone who knew what they were doing, I’d be pummelled.

The other game I’ve been playing (as I haven’t got back to Mass Effect 3 yet) is FIFA Street for the 360. It adapts the normal FIFA match engine to work with a variety of Indoor and ‘Street’ football formats. While there is a certain amount of reliance on tricks, and is therefore quite different from any game of five-a-side football I’ve ever played in, it’s a fun and easy game to pick up. My brother is not a football fan in the slightest and is regularly beaten when he tries to play FIFA 12 because he doesn’t appreciate where and when to make passes or how to defend situations. FIFA Street eliminates that and offers a competitive and easy to understand version of the sport for anyone to play.

If only there was a street version of Madden available in the UK!

 


Film Review: Drive (or ‘A Masterpiece or A Case of Style over Substance?’)

March 17, 2012

“Hope you like it. I love that movie. So many silences in the script, yet so much said in them. George Lucas would hate this movie.”Whyzippyisorange

“It’s Shite’Toby Puller

When I tweeted last night that I was at long last going to watch Drive– the film that ‘got away’ from me last year, so to speak – these were a couple of the responses I got. As you can see, the two chaps sit on opposite sides of the fence on this one.

The font used in the word 'Drive' in this poster and in the credits of the film suggest something made in the 1980s. That becomes quite confusing...

While I loosely knew what it was about, the way it manages to divide opinion intrigued me, and those tweets only emphasised that intrigue.

What side of the fence would I land on?

Thoughts

I’m dispensing with the ‘What’s This Film About’ bit, because the thing about Drive that struck me was that the plot of this film wasn’t really the issue.

Yes, the story is about a Hollywood stunt driver who ends messing with the wrong people after a heist he was involved in went wrong, but what the film is really about is the directorial style.

In the quote above, Whyzippyisorange talks about the silences in the script. That’s the most notable film here. Nicolas Winding Refn (a name only slightly less ridiculous that Whyzippyisorange) seems to have set out to make as many of his scenes ‘silent’ as possible. Not in the same way as ‘The Artist’ or any other actual silent movie, but rather in a more ‘organic’ way. There are certain situations where people don’t talk. I’m sitting here typing this and I’m not talking, but should anyone be watching me they would know what I’m doing. It’s that sort of thing.

So for example there are scenes where Ryan Gosling’s character is driving, and the director sets out to show that journey.  Or there is a scene in a lift where he realises a guy has been sent to kill him and he has to attack that guy first. These sorts of scenes don’t need dialogue, so it works well within the context of the film.

The problem though is that it happens too often and the result is you have a film that is reasonably short anyway at around 100 minutes long, but with only enough plot for maybe a 45 minute one. So in that sense it’s like the plot is an afterthought to the style the director wanted to take, and so I would ask if this is a Chicken or Egg situation. Did he film it like this because the script wasn’t exactly full-bodied. or did he want to make a film with so many silences and then had to find a scenario where that would work?

Whatever the case may be, I think it’s a problem when the directorial style is more noteworthy than the plot and indeed the acting of that plot. A guy like Hitchcock had his gimmicks; look at Rope – a film that he made specifically because he wanted to do a film that worked like a play. But the style of Rope is not why I like it – the performance of the actors and the razor-sharp script is.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Drive, because I did. It took me a while to get into it, but once the film started to piece together it became quite enjoyable. Having said that, it’s by no means as great a film as I’ve heard people say it is. But then not everyone likes the same sorts of things, and that brings me back to the quotes at the top of the article.

Should You Watch Drive?

Whether or not you should watch Drive depends upon your opinion on style versus substance.

If you believe that cinema is a form of art and the key to it is the expressionism of the director, then I suspect you’ll love Drive. If you are looking for a weighty script where the value of the film lies within the dialogue, then you might not. And if your idea of the best film is a big budget action adventure then you should probably avoid it.

And that’s not me being critical of the latter subsection of viewers at all. I’m not being all ‘film snob’ here because my opinion of this film is that while I enjoyed it and felt like the director certainly got it right in terms of the use of music, I felt it lacked depth and tried to hard to be ‘Cinematic Art’.

I can understand why the guys I’m quoting from have the opinions that they do, and so I’m going to do what I hate…

As far as Drive goes, I’m sitting firmly on the fence.

But Wait…

As much as I’d love to have ended the review on that note, I need to ask this question of people who have seen it and maybe know a bit more about this film that I do…

Why is the film initially suggested to be set in the 1980s?

Some of the skyline shots, music and definitely the font style used in the opening credits scream 1980s. And yet it’s set in the modern day? What’s that about?

Answers on a postcard…


Stuart’s Week in Entertainment March 5th – 11th (Friday Night Lights, Dundee United and Mass Effect 3)

March 12, 2012

TV

My week has been dominated by one thing – Friday Night Lights.

When I wrote the last edition of Stuart’s Week in Entertainment, I was just starting Season 2, but only a week later and I’m into the fourth one. In fairness, Seasons 2 was only 15 episodes long and the subsequent ones only run for 13, but still…that’s a lot of Friday Night Lights in a week.

I’m loving it though; I read one critic say that it is the best sports related TV Drama of all time and I’m not going to argue with that. I can’t even think of what could compare with it. Well rounded characters, realistic and engaging plots, and funny at times without even trying to be

Great Show

a comedy – it’s a tremendous show. There aren’t any characters that I dislike or find annoying. When the show started I thought I’d get tired of Tim Riggins, but his ever-progressing story arc has turned him into a very likeable guy, and he’s well-played by Taylor Kitsch. But he’s only one of a large number of quality actors in the show, from Kyle Chandler & Connie Britton to Zach Gilford & Jesse Plemons.

I know some people will look at the show and think ‘I don’t want to watch a show about American Football’ but there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s really a show about the goings on in a small Texas town.

I’m not going to spoil any plot-lines for anyone, but one thing I noticed was how abrupt the shift was between Season 2 and 3. Season 2 was interrupted by the Writers Strike, like so many other shows were back in 2007/8, but I know of no other show that dealt with that the way the writers of Friday Night Lights did.

The season ran to 15 episodes of what probably should have been a 22-24 episode season, and it didn’t really end on any sort of cliffhanger. What happened was that Episode 15 ended as it would have had there been no writers strike and was part of a continuing season, while Season 3 started as if Season Two had run to it’s full length. Many of the threads of Season 2 were dropped, while some characters simply never returned and others had the reset switch pressed on them.

Really, it was as if Episodes 16-22 of Season Two had been made, but were like missing episodes of Doctor Who.

And you know what? It worked. As a viewer I just accepted that time had passed while the show had been off the air and that some things had changed. It was refreshingly realistic.

Football

The only other thing I’ve watched this week has been football.

Yesterday Dundee United faced Celtic in the Scottish Cup Quarter Final. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a massive United fan, so I’m understandably disappointed today. The game started off very promisingly and we were the better team for most of the first half until one of our players got sent off for a stupid and reckless challenge against one of the Celtic players.

Robbie Neilson was on a booking as it was and needed to be careful. Sadly for United fans he wasn’t and it cost us the game.

Massive credit to the rest of the players though because they tried their best, but once Celtic went 2-0 up it was game over.

There was a game earlier in the week as well as United played Inverness. Because of work I decided to not attend and instead watch the game on a 45 minute TV delay. At half time I pressed fast forward and annoyingly heard the final score of the game coming from the other room where other people were watching it live. Let me tell you; watching the second half of a game of football having already heard the final score is a boring and depressing experience.

It completely ruined the game for me.

Games

As for games, in the limited time I’ve had to play them this week I’ve been playing Mass Effect 3. Not much of it I have to admit, but a little bit. It looks like it’s going to be a top game, but the lack of obvious saving opportunities at the start of the game began to annoy me 90 minutes in.

Hopefully the game will live up to the hype and be as good as the second one was. I’ve heard people are ‘disappointed’ with the ending, but I don’t really pay attention to that.

While I’ll try and play more of it, I think some of this week will be taken up playing the soon to be released FIFA Street. Early reports suggest the game is top quality, and I can’t wait to get it.

If you have any thoughts or feedback on this or any of my other posts, feel free to let me know. Also, if you enjoy what you’ve been reading, why not share any articles with your friends on Twitter & Facebook?


Stuart’s Week in Entertainment Feb 27th – Mar 4th

March 5, 2012

As a new addition for the blog, I thought I’d do a summary of the shows I watch and games I play on a week-by-week basis. It’ll be for my benefit but some of you might find it interesting.

TV

Having got the boxed set just after Christmas, I finally finished off Dad’s Army this week. The show featured in my article on Under-Appreciated TV shows that you can find here. Sadly, the final series would have qualified for my article on shows that should have known when to call it a day.

By the Ninth Series, many of the lead actors were either failing in their health or simply becoming too old to play their roles. John Le Mesurier had been ill in the year and a bit since the previous series ended and looked like a frail

Poor old John Le Mesurier - he looks like he's been exhumed

ghost, while Arnold Ridley’s Godfrey appeared sporadically at best, and when he did speak he was largely unintelligible. I know that sounds harsh but it’s true. And the episodes themselves weren’t up to much either. The first episode was alright, but the next 4 were dreadful – barely a laugh in them as they descended into slapstick farce.

Still, the writers pulled it together and the show went out on a high. The final episode – Never Too Old – had plenty of laughs, good characterisation and a poignant conclusion. What came immediately before it may have sullied the Dad’s Army name, but the last episode was a fitting end to one of the best British Comedies of all time.

Other than that, I’ve been keeping up with Parks & Recreation and a relatively new comedy discovery, Happy Endings.

I’ve written about the former before, and it continues to impress with the Leslie Knoppe Running For Office storyline, but I’ve really been enjoying Happy Endings. With a strong cast bolstered by a well-known actress like Elisha Cuthbert, it’s nicely performed and crucially, well written too.

But what’s been taking up most of my TV time this week is Friday Night Lights. An American drama about a Sports Team and the lives of the people in it – what’s not to love? Think One Tree Hill when it was about basketball rather than the sickening story of the wonderful lives of the most talented group of friends in the world.

I’ve just started on Season 2 having polished off the first in reasonably short order. It’s been great so far, and as a fan of Scottish Football, I have to say I think the American Sports system works so much better. The idea of a whole town rooting for the one team appears to have far more going for it than the disjointed and fragmented support base for clubs you see in every town and city in the UK.

It also stars the guy who was the lead actor in Early Edition. Does anyone remember that? The show where the cat brings the guy tomorrow’s newspaper? I’ll have to track down the DVD boxed set.

In other news, my brother has tried to get me to watch some of Season 6 of Lost with him. Aye right. Never did a show fall so far as that one. I still resent the crappy payoff…

Games

As for games; well my watching of FNL has urged me to try to play more of Madden NFL for the 360. I want to be able to understand American Football, and that show has done that to an extent, but the problem is that I don’t actually know anything about the real NFL teams, so stuff like Franchise Mode is as lost on me as the Career Mode on FIFA 12 probably is to an American. I need to persuade a friend of mine to get Madden himself so we can get some

A score of over 201,000,000 on this Pinball FX table has seen me mount a vast lead over my gaming rival, Kevin Corstorphine. Get it up you Kevin!

online games on the go.

Speaking of FIFA 12, the new roster update is out with the January Transfer Window updates and my team – Dundee United – seems to have been weakened slightly. While Gary Mackay Steven has been given a boost, others like Johnny Russell don’t seem quite as good. If you’re looking for a team to play as online though, try Belgium.

Beyond that, I’ve been playing some racing games. I’ve dabbled with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, which is alright, but a little bit samey, and I’ve also picked up the critically acclaimed and super-cheap Xbox Live Indie Game, Little Racers – Street, which is a game like the old Micro Machines franchise, has online Multiplayer and is available for around £1. Well worth a purchase.

To finish, I also managed to get a score of around 200 million on the Ms ‘Splosion Man table on Pinball FX 2.

Take that, Kevin Corstorphine!