Friday, 31 October 2014

The Desolation of Smaug - DVD review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The second part of the Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug, directed by Peter Jackson gains a DVD release on Monday 3rd November in an extended edition.

Carrying on from the underwhelming first instalment, An Unexpected Journey, the story continues with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his band of dwarfs (not the Ben Folds Five song) along with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company travels East, encountering along the way skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all–a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself–The Dragon Smaug.

Smaug is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, allowing a reunion of the successful Holmes and Watson partnership, making for dynamic dialogue between the two.  However, the film again suffers from much the same technical and narrative issues as the first part did.

Breaking down one book into three films means the film has long moments of pauses and lapses that stifle the film when momentum is established.  The film is infused with over-long fight scenes dependent on special visual effects belonging to spectacle rather than narrative importance with nothing close to rivalling the Orc battle in The Two Towers nor the climatic fight scene in Return of the King.

All in all, this second part of the trilogy is again justification of the trilogy as setting up for the final part The Battle of the Five Armies which is set for release in the UK on December 12, 2014.

The Extended Edition Features a 25-Minute Longer Cut and more Than Nine Hours of New Special Features. The nine-plus hours of new special features boasts audio commentary with Peter Jackson, the film's director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter, as well as “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. Complete special feature details are provided below.

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Friday, 10 October 2014

Gone Girl - review

 Gone Girl (2014) Poster

When it was put to me by my girlfriend to go see Gone Girl, truth be told I was a bit tentative.  I had not read the huge bestselling novel on which the film is based by Gillian Flynn, who writes the screenplay also.  As much as I am an admirer of David Fincher, the last film of his I saw in the cinema was The Game - his unheralded work starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn - the last film he did before he went stratospheric with Fight Club

Fincher's work is very much about mood and composition and the look, which whilst looks great the imagery can be lost on the big screen scale, this viewer preferring to wait for the Home Entertainment release.  However, something about watching Ben Affleck squirm was nevertheless pleasing to me but I also wanted to see Rosamund Pike succeed in the title role of Amy Dunne, married to Affleck's Nick.

The film like most of Fincher's work carries a bang and a twist that slaps you in the face with a cold hand.  As someone who did not read the book, the twist left me stunned and confused.  I remember seeing an interview with Affleck, where he has heard accusations that the film has been labelled misogynistic. Can a film/novel be such a thing, if authored by a woman?  Do not worry dear reader, I shall not ruin the ending or the twist.

What can be said though, is that Fincher has succeeded in creating a cyncial and satirical swipe at US media and the tabloid witch-hunts that go after fodder to fill up column inches and the constant 24 hour news cycle of hate and fear, as perfectly embodied by Missy Pyle in a cameo. The film is not only cynical of the media but also about that other institution, marriage; mocking it as an act between two players who cannot compromise and yet must do to co-exist.

When Nick and Amy meet, they are cute, the type of couple you want to slap for being so happy and Amy even says, 'I want to punch us, we are so cute'.  Yet following the recession and unemployment, the couple have to leave New York for Nick's hometown of Missouri to tend to his ailing mother.  This relocation leads to a relocation of feelings and emotions for the perfect couple, as arguments become longer and more frequent leading to the abduction of Amy where Nick is prime suspect.

The gloss of the film is very methodical as expected from such a visual director as Fincher, alas there is no coffee pot dolly shot for fanboys to cream over; this is a film where he allows his actors to hold centre stage and grab our attention by their movement and action. Fincher's camera is perhaps the stillest I can recall and yet his panache and flair is still so distinctive.

Whilst Affleck postures and breathes menacingly (in preparation for Batman no doubt), it is Pike who hits the home run of a performance.  A role of so many layers is given life by the beautiful Brit, allowing Amy to be homely yet icy; believable yet leave you guessing, sexy yet innocent.  Able support is forthcoming from Carrie Coon as Nick's twin sister, Margo; Kim Dickens as Detective Boney, who wants to help Nick but must do her job; Neil Patrick Harris playing it straight as an old flame of Amy's and Tyler Perry brings some genuine warmth and mirth to the role of Tanner Bolt, a lawyer who helps defend Nick.

At times gripping and highly intelligent, the film has to succumb to the books conclusion and whilst the twist cranks up the necessary tension, the denouement leaves you a little bit unhappy as it is no conclusion at all.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. Although the use of Affleck's face to bookend the abduction hunt - one a misplaced smile, the other an unhappy frown - is a great use of performance and a swipe at Affleck's matinee looks.

Go and see it before this girl is gone from the cinema screens. I did you a disservice Mr. Fincher and you deserved my cinema going attention. You have it now, its been found.

Memphis Preview


With the first preview shows beginning last night, the countdown is on before the curtain rises on MEMPHIS debuting at the Shaftesbury Theatre on Thursday 23rd October.

Inspired by true events from the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, MEMPHIS follows the fame and forbidden love of a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break.

The West End production is a transfer of the hit Broadway musical of the same name, with a Grammy award winning score by original Bon Jovi member David Bryan and book by Joe DiPietro. Starring multi-award winning recording artist Beverly Knight (in her second West End role after The Bodyguard) as lounge singer Felicia Farrell and Killian Donnelly as DJ Huey Calhoun.

Here is a link to a video preview on YouTube:                         

And here are some images from the gruelling rehearsal schedule for the energetic cast. As the video and these images can attest to, there is a joyfulness and zest to the performers that will have people dancing in the aisles of London.

Opening night is on Thursday 23rd October

Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday & Saturday at 2.30pm
Ticket Prices £20 to £67.50            
Box Office 0207 379 5399                       


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Large in charge, Wide of mark

 Image result for adrian peterson images 

Being a huge sports fan has been a difficult hobby in the last week of so.  I live on the outskirts of London, I am a Tottenham Hotspur fan first, but a football fan in general. I adore the New England Patriots, but I love the NFL mostly.  This does not make me ignore other sports either, I am passionate about English rugby, praise Andy Murray and Mo Farah to the hilt; cannot wait for the Ryder Cup next weekend. And yet on numerous occasions of late, the people in charge of these sports are letting me and other sports fans down.

Starting with the NFL which has had two high profile suspensions of talented individuals due to off the field incidents. Firstly, last Wednesday, TMZ released the footage of Ray Rice punching his then fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel in February.  In response, Rice's team the Baltimore Ravens suspended him and the NFL suspended him indefinitely subject to an appeal. 

The NFL let itself down in this because allegations came to light that the NFL head office, led by Roger Goodell, knew of the footage back in April and did not act upon it; hoping that the video would never surface. In my eyes, this would make Goodell's tenure as questionable at best or at least make him answerable to questions of integrity.

On Friday, another incident hit the NFL fan, when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted by a court in Texas for child abuse on his own son, where his form of discipline - hitting him with a wooden stick - was apparently so brutal, ESPN has chosen not to air the pictures of the child due to the graphic nature of the imagery.

Whispers were that after Peterson gave himself out and was released on bail, that he would play for the Vikings on Sunday at home to the Patriots (a game they lost 31-7); and yet the Vikings took the correct decision to not play him.  He was then reinstated to team practices on Monday, but then the team late on Tuesday evening/early Wednesday morning chose to put Peterson on the exempt list meaning he cannot be involved in any team activity until the 'due process' has been resolved.

Nevermind due process, Peterson's actions warranted a termination of his contract and an indefinite suspension from the sport. In many ways, Peterson's actions are worse because it was against a defenceless individual in this case a minor; whereas Ms. Palmer is an adult who is capable of defending herself, although Rice did not give her the chance with his surprise attack.

This makes Goodell's position as NFL Commissioner untenable, he is not doing a good job if his players are being arrested for domestic violence, child abuse, drunk driving; and these are not big defensive linemen or special team operators, Rice and Peterson are franchise players in high profile positions with huge contracts of guaranteed money.  Peterson is assured of his income by being put on the exempt list, despite being indicted for child abuse, so he can put his feet up and still be paid; another bizarre twist in the story.
The unsavoury incidents leave a bad taste in the mouth, and the NFL needs to shake it up before they lose the trust of those who matter, the fans whose ticket prices and merchandise sales allow these players to have huge contracts and the belief they are above the law.

On this side of the Atlantice, the Rugby Football Union have made an almighty faux pas by inserting on the new England rugby shirt imagery or design of the Victoria Cross into the jersey worn by hookers.  Now, rugby more than any other sport has done the most for such charities as Help for Heroes; yet this misguided attempt at a tribute to our armed forces is wrong, because it sees the RFU profiting from those who have fallen, and it is worn in a competitive respect by those who may never get close to a battlefield.  Make tributes, praise the dead just do not profit from it.

And finally in cricket, you had the incident last week of Yorkshire Cricket captain Andrew Gale being told he could not celebrate with his team-mates as they celebrated clinching the County Championship last Thursday at Trent Bridge as he is serving a two-match suspension.  This narrow sighted edict marks the English Cricket Board (ECB) as stuffy and out of touch; Gale played in a majority of the games and made telling contributions, he is entitled to celebrate with his team.  If that was the case, why was John Terry allowed to celebrate with his Chelsea team in Munich 2012 even when he did not play; UEFA in that instance did the right thing.  And people think cricket is behind the times. 

All in all as a sports fan it has been a hard week, one of reflection and introspection about where does my loyalties lie.  I love the NFL and like most fans it will only diminish once Tom Brady retires and my Patriots are tanking for the No 1 pick in five years time; as a Tottenham fan I hope to visit the new stadium once it ever gets built and I hope to go to our temporary home be it Milton Keynes or Wembley. 

However, too often the men at the top of the tree are too often out of touch with the general consensus and wide of the mark with their attempts at contrition.  They hope to appeal to the everyman when not every man is going to be happy.

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Make Us Dream

This entertaining book is somewhat of a revelation, the type of book that many a fan wishes they could write about their beloved football side. However, what strikes you most about the book is that it is ultimately one about belief and inspiration.

From the foreword by Ben Smith, the book is about how an unheralded Liverpool side came mightily close to winning the Premier League ahead of the eventual champions Manchester City; only succumbing in the last week of a tumultuous season.

Neil Atkinson and John Gibbons, are born and bred Red, and host a successful podcast entitled The Anfield Wrap, which has seen them host shows in Australia, USA and Ireland.  Whilst this reader has never heard that podcast, the wit and humour in the writing makes it one to seek out for a true unbiased view of the club.

The book takes on a chronological slant on the season, so you get a sense of the writing as the season progresses, with the match reports begin filed shortly after the game.  You get a sense of the smell of Anfield and of a city enjoying its return to the limelight.  The best writing comes from the more emphatic victories namely those at home against Everton (4-0) and Arsenal (5-1).

Also the glowing for one Luis Suarez, is telling in that you were witnessing one of the great single seasons in Football league history, and to think he couldn't play for the first 9 games of the season.

You even get a sense of when they cannot be at the game for work commitments such as when one writer is stuck on a plane while Liverpool play; the sense of helplessness at the situation and the frustration when 28 text messages arrive when you turn your phone back on.

It's quite right that a book about this specific Liverpool season should be chronicled, at times they were the best team in the land and much like those entertainers of Newcastle in 1994/95 who came up short for Kevin Keegan, there's is a side that will live longer in the memory than the actual champions. And thanks to this book the memory will never fade. 

Walk on dear reader 

Make Us Dream is published by DeCourbetin Press and is available at their website for £9.99 or from all good online retailers.

Follow the guys for more at the audiobook 
And on twitter @makeusdreambook 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Spurs v Liverpool Observations

In an all too familiar outcome between these two sides, Liverpool ripped Tottenham Hotspur apart at White Hart Lane.  In a battle between two Bielsa inspired coaches, the British overcame the South American as Brendan Rodgers charges out thought the team from North London.
Here are my takeaways from the game:

1. A Sterling performance
Raheem Sterling showcased perhaps his best overall performance of his career today. His pace was lightning but coupled with technical nuance and intelligence.  Sterling provides a touch of flair and pizazz to the team and has an eye for goal to add to his repertoire. It is safe to say that Rodgers is nurturing his talent correctly and if he remains at this level he will become one of the great English players.

2. No Dier call up
A few people were surprised by the exclusion of Eric Dier from the most recent England squad of Roy Hodgson this week, however, on a few occasions Dier's naivety was in evidence against the incisive passing of Liverpool. This lead to him conceding the penalty leading to Liverpool establishing a two-nil lead. His outstretched arm on Joe Allen was rightly penalised but it was more an indication of the training method employed at youth football, where players are taught to pull a shirt to stop forward progress. It might have been a 'soft' penalty but you will be surprised if Dier attempts again.

3. Mario will soon be Super
Mario Balotelli failed to score on his debut and he was quite ring rusty with some headers and a long range shot that he shanked terribly, but there were glimpses of a new emphasis on teamwork for the 24 year old Italian; he tracked back to tackle and do the nitty gritty and his strength was his strength against Younes Kaboul although his lofted pass was counter productive for the run of Sterling. The link up will prosper eventually and Super Mario shall return.

4. Over-manned midfield
Mauricio Pochettino was out manned in his midfield selection. His attempt for continuity in selection by starting the same XI that defeated QPR so convincingly last weekend, played into the hands of the Anfield club who had captain Steven Gerrard, the motor Jordan Henderson and Rodgers lynchpin Joe Allen faced the less than fearful Capoue and Nabil Bentaleb, who were outgunned and overpowered. Whilst he is out of favour the presence of Sandro might have made Liverpool think about a more combative approach. However, even an under par Gerrard did not have much to do as no pressure was forthcoming from a weary Tottenham side.
Perhaps Pochettino needs to focus more on motivation rather than tactical philosophies as Tottenham seem to currently freeze against fellow top 6 sides.

5. Mouth watering versus Madrid
The Champions League draw threw up the tantalising prospect of Real Madrid v Liverpool in back-to-back games at the Bernebeu and Anfield. These two encounters promise to be played at a neck break pace full of speed and passion at two footballing cathedrals, no need to pray, the prayers have been answered.

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Morning Comes

When the morning comes
Will you be there
Lying by my side
Staying near

When the evening comes
Will you hold onto my arm
Holding close
Aware of harm

I will stay with you
All night through
I'll watch your back
Will you watch mine

I feel for you
I really do
Do you feel for me?
Like I do for thee

- it's funny looking back at your work.  I wrote this when I spent a summer in Spain probably 2003. Wow, that's over 10 years ago and you look back at yourself then and think about what happened to that guy you were.  Personally, I don't think I have changed, I'm still me, still a romantic fool. And looking at the relationship I am in now, there is some resonance in the words when I think about the girl I am with now