About Craig Busek

Craig Busek is originally from Taunton, Somerset and moved to London in 2010 to begin his studies in script writing. As of yet Craig has had a few online articles published and of his completed short-scripts, three have become completed projects, one of which was shortlisted for an award at Sundance London Film Festival. Craig has no particular genre of film or music that interests him the most and overall he tries to give a fairly objective opinion about all of the work that he does and the arts that he reviews. Craig’s biggest interest, besides writing, is rugby, and from that he has developed a keen interest in writing sports reviews.

Film Review: The Paperboy

the-paperboyAfter its recent slating at the Cannes Film Festival, with audiences mooing (yes, mooing!) after seeing the initial screening, I went in to The Paperboy with a lot of trepidation. Indeed, with a cast that includes Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, and the consistently terrible Matthew McConaughey, there was nothing more than the appeal of seeing a slummed-down John Cusack that drew me in. It seemed a worthy cause to offer this film a chance, but one that, within the first five minutes was instantly regrettable.

We are sent into the world of the American Deep South during the 1970’s, where skinning alligators and casual racism are the locals’ pastimes, and the sweltering heat causes everyone to become scantily clad. When hotshot reporter Ward Jansen (McConaughey) comes back to town, trying to free the potentially innocent Hayley Van Wetter (John Cusack) from death-row, we begin to see the dangerous corruption the encompasses a criminal charge of this nature. Ward enlists the help of his younger brother Jack (Efron), the sexually-charged Charlotte Bless (Kidman), who Jack immediately falls in love with, and his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) a black Londoner, in order to crack the case open. However, no sooner have they started their work than do things start to turn sour, as friends begin double-crossing one another, love interests cloud motivations, and scrupulous locals try to hinder any progression with the case.

The Paperboy had every potential to become a nice mix of A Time To Kill and To Kill A Mockingbird, with the race and class undertones that were there to access, and it could have had as much a punch as In The Heat Of The Night with its subject matter. However, all of the action, conflict and drama of the overriding prison sentence gets lost, as instead we focus on the strange twisted relationship that develops between Jack and Charlotte. And therein lies the problem that writer-director Lee Daniels (Precious) has created for himself – the tone of the film is far too confusing. It isn’t quite about race, the law, or even the newspaper industry, and therefore loses its poignancy, and the ensuing relationship is so farfetched that it completely loses its realism. The story is pointless, the ending is absurd, and halfway through you just want the barrage of absurdity to end.

At the end of the day, this film will only be remembered simply for its shock factor. With scenes including some post-jellyfish-sting-urination, non-contact orgasms, and an extremely surreal case gay bashing, there are several key talking points, all of which would make you feel very dirty for watching them. However, they are included for all of the wrong reasons, and therefore become cheap tricks to bring in curious audiences.

Overall, The Paperboy had a lot of potential. It could have been an emotional, tense journey for all those involved. Instead, it is an over-long piece of drivel where, for once, McConaughey puts out the best acting performance. If you have any sense, you will stay very far away.

Image reproduced from apnatimepass.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / LionsgateFilmsUK

Six Nations Review – 2013


March 2013 saw the exciting climax of the Northern Hemisphere’s most prolific rugby event – RBS Six Nations Rugby. Albeit the final table shows a vast range in class between certain teams, for example Wales’s four wins to France’s one, it cannot be said that the quality of rugby in the 2013 tournament has not been of the highest standard for each of the participating nations.

The biggest turnaround team of the year has to be Italy. Ask anybody with half a mind for rugby, and they would immediately tell you that the wooden spoon contenders are either the Italians, or the Scots. Perhaps the Italians’ final position was not as good as the Scottish contingent, who themselves recorded two consecutive wins for the first time, but the heart and character they put into every match was equal to any of their peers. They perhaps should have been more clinical against a lacklustre English side, and they could have done better when playing at Murrayfield, but the Italians’ overall results show just how far they have come in a decade of competitive international rugby.

The biggest flop of the tournament, now matter how you look at it, is surely Les Bleus. The French team, who only one and a half years ago came runners-up in the world cup, were constantly lacking composure, making poor decisions, and getting riled-up unnecessarily when they should have been staying calm and seeing off their opposition. Yes, there were some moments of beauty from the likes of Fofana and Picamoles, but these flourishes are not enough to make anybody a world-class side. Some may say that the Irish were more deserving of the foot of the table, but comparing their countless injuries to the fresh legs of the French, it is only fair to declare that French rugby has hit a new low.

And now, to the moment that will be talked about for years to come: Wales’s annihilation of England. It was, for the English, eighty minutes of pain, anguish and heartbreak. For the majority of viewers, it was a marvellous match where, unquestionably, the best team won. England seemed to be shaken at the prospect of a grand slam title, whereas the Welsh, playing on home turf, did not look for a second like they were going to falter. They may have had a bad run of results in the summer, but now, under just one manager, they are a side that will contend any team for a winning result.

Overall, the 2013 Six Nations had a lot to offer. There may have been less tries, and less one-sided events, but that goes to show how far each team has come in their rugby development. If, in the years to come, other developing rugby sides such as Spain or Holland were to be included in the tournament, it would only act as a benefit to world rugby as a whole.

Image reproduced from wsc.co.uk

Film Review – Gangster Squad


Sean Penn making his mark as 2013's first big baddie.

Sean Penn making his mark as 2013’s first big baddie.

Gangster Squad, 2013’s first big-cast all-action picture, was released to cinemas last week; and for anticipatory fans such as myself, it came not a moment too soon. With a four-month extension of its release date, this is a film that has garnered a lot of attention in its pre-release, and in doing so it has given itself a lot to live up to. The story follows a special troop of Los Angeles police officers, put together to bring down the city’s major crime boss, Mickey Cohen. Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and starring consistently reliable actors, such as Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, and Giovanni Ribisi, this could have been one of the better gangster films to grace our screens for a long time. Unfortunately, it did fall somewhat short of the mark on a lot of levels.

Watching the trailer, it gives off a sense of The Untouchables, for its inescapably similar plotline, as well as Dick Tracy, for its comical product design, over-animated backgrounds, and over-the-top prosthetics. However, when viewing the film, it comes off more as a surrealist comedy than a gritty crime drama. The opening scene sets the tone for the movie, with a man getting ripped by two attached cars. Although plausible, and quite possibly something that happened in Cohen’s reign, it seems logical, medically, that the man would rip apart at the joints rather than the midriff. And that seems to be the case throughout the remainder of the movie – going for standout cinematic surrealism, as opposed to the hardcore authenticity, a concept that its predecessors, The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential, seemed to do so well.

At times, the actions of, supposedly, seasoned police officers, some of which have military experience behind them, seemed farcical and completely nonsensical. Why would they raid a casino, without double-checking who was inside first? How can someone be a single-bullet, head hitting, crack-shot with a Tommy gun from thirty yards? Why would you call for another ammo clip, when you have a spare gun in your holster? Too many times there seemed to be moments of action added in, in order to build suspense, but which ended up distracting from the overall believability of a “true” story. Although that last part cannot be believed for a second.

The final gripe of this movie is with the characters. They were not badly acted, in fact Anthony Mackie was the standout star of the whole film, it was just that they all seemed far too two-dimensional: a cop with honour, a lothario, an old man, a smart-guy, a rookie with something to prove, and a knife-thrower (there’s always a knife-thrower in these films!), were all far too cliché, and with nothing to make them unique from any other ensemble piece. If the writers had taken more time to delve into characters’ backgrounds, and their underlying motives, making them less like a pastiche of been-done replicas, then the entire movie would have had a substance that it so readily needed.

That being said there are a lot of elements, which make up for a lack of realism, and do, overall, make this an entertaining piece.

As with all of Fleischer’s movies, this one uses slow motion to a tee, making the action sequences a lot more aesthetically pleasing than overused quick-cut method that audiences are now so frequently subjected to.  Furthermore, despite one or two questionable lines of dialogue, the acting was on the money. Each performer oozed suave, sophisticated mannerisms that have become a token of the gangster era, and made their character instantly likeable as an on-screen presence – even the villains.

The biggest asset that Gangster Squad had going, was the Tarantino-style references peppered throughout, which paid homage to a lot of its influences and predecessors. Elements such as the inclusion of Nick Nolte, star of the similarly themed Mulholland Falls, or the unmistakable Untouchables reference, with the attack on the house, was subtle yet attributive, giving it an element of class that movie-lovers will no doubt relish.

Overall, this is not a film for auteur-loving movie fanatics with a desire for a realistic portrayal of the crackdown on Mickey Cohen. Instead, what Gangster Squad portrays is a glitzy, glamorous portrayal of an over-exaggerated world, where everyone looks good smoking, and where carrying a gun is a way of life. For two hours of entertainment, this is definitely worth viewing. However, it will never be regarded as one of the all-time great gangster movies.

Overall – 3/5

Image reproduced from pastemagazine.com

Film Review – The Hobbit

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins

It has been nine years since the final instalment of one of cinema’s finest movie trilogies. Nine years of DVD and Blu-Ray releases, box sets, director’s cuts, and extended editions. In that time, The Lord of the Rings has become one of the most-loved, most appreciated series of films for men and women of all ages, and, along with the Harry Potter series, has helped to rekindle a love of literature that, at one point, seemed to dissipate for an entire generation. So now, after nearly a decade of pre-production hell, which included director changes, production company bankruptcy, schedule changes to incorporate the right actor, and an array of other nightmares to deal with, Peter Jackson’s latest journey into Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has got a lot to live up to.

Before there is any delving into the plotline, whether the 3D version is better than standard 2D, or whether the choice of filming in 48fps (frames per second) was beneficial or not, there must be a look at the original masterpiece in its original form. A fantastic children’s book, exploring one (half)man’s journey from mundanity to adventure, proving that any man, no matter their size, can make all the difference in the world. Inspirational, innovative, and incredibly entertaining, regardless of what your age is when you choose to read it. But at just under three hundred pages, or just over, depending on the edition, it is hard to understand how it is going to be made into three (yes, three) three-hour films.

Originally, or so legend says, Peter Jackson wanted to make two films, working very closely to the formula of the original book. However there was one point, which most likely happened during the aforementioned pre-production misery, where the trilogy was decided upon, filling all filmgoers, those who have read and fell in love with the book, with trepidation about how one-hundred pages of book are going to remain entertaining over three hours, and not stray too far from the original plot. For most, it did not seem possible.

But now, almost a month after The Hobbit’s release into the UK, it can be said that it has, in fact, been done incredibly well. For any naysayers that are still out there, do not doubt any longer. The start of this trilogy is not one to be frowned upon anymore.

The film starts, quite nicely, with an elderly Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), the same Bilbo Baggins we meet in The Fellowship of the Ring, beginning his detailed account of when he ventured on a battle to fight the deadly dragon Smaug in his younger years. Is this different from the book? Yes. A letdown? Not in the slightest.

Without giving too much away – for those who are still not in-tune with author J.R.R. Tolkien’s original plotting – what the film then supplies is a younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) journeying with dwarves, battling with goblins, being subject to a battle between stone giants, and meeting a very menacing Gollum, all whilst on his journey to help his new friends claim back their stolen home from a dragon.

Unsurprisingly, this film is going to be forever compared to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, and there is not much that can be done to change that. However, the most finite piece of advice that can be given to anybody about to view this film is: forget everything that you know about the original epics. This is nowhere near the same level of intensity that they incorporated. Much like the book, this is a film, primarily, for children. It is whimsical, there is a lot more buffoonery, the fight scenes have a jovial nature, and there are not the intense elements of fear and danger that consistently appeared through its predecessors. It is a fun film, and there is not a lot more than can be said about that.

There are elements of the film that could, potentially, be improved. Whereas in the book, the band of dwarves had clear personalities and moments, which made them all stand out from the others, here they all mesh into one, with only one or two having unique moments. Furthermore, including characters such as Saruman The White (Christopher Lee), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Radagast The Brown (Sylvester McCoy) could have been culled. Albeit they are good to make subtle nods to The Hobbit’s predecessors, their overall purpose seemed only to be to convince die-hard fans that the film is not a perfect representation of the book they adore.

Overall, this film should get a lot more praise than it has had. For three-hours, it does well as a very entertaining piece of cinema. There are, as with a lot of modern films, times when the pace could be picked up, and areas where the CGI could be improved. Nonetheless, this does stand as a very enjoyable film. Will its two sequels be as entertaining? In two years time, we are sure to find out.

Should We Expect Less This Christmas?

There was a recent report done about the number of chocolates that you would be getting in a tin of Rosesâ„¢ chocolates for Christmas this year, which showed that on average, there would be two less chocolates per tin in the year of 2011. Of course, the price has not dropped and consumers are suggesting that corporations, which are trying to make themselves more money, are ripping them out of more money. However, with the current health problems our country is in, with an incredulous amount of overweight children, teens and adults across the board, is it not sensible for the levels of chocolaty, sugary goods to be reduced at the time of year where we consume the most?

Of course, two chocolates per box is not a fantastic start. If there were ten chocolates less, then perhaps it would make a real difference to a weight-gain situation over the Christmas period. However, that would lead to a greater uproar than has already been received. Therefore two seems like a reasonable start.

There is always that moment, which I believe most people have had, whereupon they reach for the last chocolate because they “don’t want to see it go to waste”. Imagine now, that that last chocolate was two, three, four chocolates prior. Admittedly it is not a gargantuan change, however it is a start. Now take in to consideration that people overbuy for Christmas, for those just-in-case moments. Just in case there is too heavy a snowfall to leave the house. Just in case all of the family decide to come over last-minute. Just in case the shop runs out the next time we come. There is always going to be an overhaul at Christmas, which needs to be eaten. It seems fair enough to take just two chocolates per tin out of the equation.

But then why should it stop there? Why not rear turkeys that are a few pounds lighter? Why not make Christmas cakes that are a few centimetres thinner? Why not have five mince pies per pack instead of six? And why even stop at Christmas. We could, potentially, make Easter Eggs lighter. Ration Halloween sweet-giving. Limit Valentine’s splendour. Throughout the year we could see our weight-gain intake reduce dramatically by stopping one treat earlier than we usually have.

I am not suggesting that people should be getting swindled out of a few extra pennies this Christmas, by all means the prices should be reduced if we are to get less for our money. However, I am of the firm opinion that our country, as it stands, is in a bad way. There are too many cases of overweight, leading on to obese, people – of all ages – throughout our country. And if we want to make a start at changing ourselves, a concept that usually plays its part with people after the New Year celebrations, would it not make good sense to lighten the load we need to remove, before we even make a start?

Image reproduced from thegrocer.co.uk

Film Review: Friends With Kids

Incorporating four of the five main actors from the 2010 smash-hit, Bridesmaids, new comedy blockbuster Friends With Kids holds a lot of promise with its cast’s reputatio. It seems logical to think now, after shooting up through the ranks, that anything with Kristen Wiig’s face on it is going to be golden. However, sadly, this is not the case. Taking out Wiig’s ten (maximum) lines, you are left with one hundred and six minutes of so-so humour.

Centring around the Nora Ephron concept of “men and women can never be friends”, the film seems to put three couples, all of different levels and states of happiness, together, and attempts to gain humour from the different scenarios they find themselves in after having children. Whether the couple start off incredibly oversexed, completely in sync with one another’s feelings, or completely dependable, each relationship seems to take a turn for the worse after a baby is thrown in the mix. This is, admittedly, not the best image to be thrown out there. Nor original. Nor better than any of its predecessors that have dished out the same concept. Furthermore, it doesn’t fully centre on six characters. There are only two protagonists that we fully see dealing with parenthood, as they are the two that aren’t together.

In all honesty, there is a lot more negatives to be said about this film, than there are positives. Written, produced, directed and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, who plays one of the film’s protagonists, of which there are only two – don’t get fooled by the poster – the film seemed a little too self-indulgent. It seemed, perhaps understandably, that Jennifer feels undercut at being known only as John Hamm’s partner. Maybe, in an attempt to gain a little bit more respect and not be the underdog to Kristen Wiig, and in many respects Maya Rudolph, she has decided to take the bull by the horns and make success, rather than take it. However, by simply looking at the film’s poster, you can see that Kristen is still getting the limelight, after she gets given central-point by the marketing team.

In many ways, this film could have been successful. There was nothing particularly bad about the story, just as there was nothing particularly bad about the acting. However, it just didn’t have any original merit that made other romantic-comedy greats, such as When Harry Met Sally, or Love Actually, stand out from the crowd. There was no great niche element that separated it from things that haven’t been done before – even the element of trying to date, when you should be looking after a baby, has been covered by the writers of Friends.

Perhaps if there were a greater risk factor for the protagonists, if they didn’t raise the baby correctly, this would have been funnier. Perhaps if it had a fresh-eyed director, it would have been better. However, this film really missed the mark at incorporating real-life issues and comedic elements. Therefore, as it stands, this film will go in to a long list of ho-hum comedies that will have greater merit in providing answers to a film-connection-quiz, that it will at entertaining the masses.

Image reproduced from iceposter.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / LionsgateFilmsUK

Film Review – American Pie: Reunion

With the latest release of the Marvel franchise, Avengers Assemble, hitting our screens last month, it is little surprise that one of the year’s hotly anticipated sequels, American Pie: Reunion, somewhat slipped under the wire. The fourth of the original series, the eight of the overall franchise, this instalment saw all of the class of ’99 return for a cameo-filled romp of middle-aged men, trying to recapture adolescence, rekindling their lost friendships. As a fine blend of sentimentality, humour and awkward situations, American Reunion is a great watch for anybody in search of a good laugh, whether an avid fan of the originals or not.

The biggest drawing point that the film seemed to have was that, unlike American Pie: The Wedding, the entire cast were back, including the much missed Chris “Oz” Ostreicher. However, unlike the film’s trailer suggests, his was the only return that carried much calibre. Token minute-long appearances from great characters, such as Sherman, Jessica and Nadia were rather unnecessary to plot development and very far from the trailer’s original set-up. On first viewing, this was a bit of a disappointment, as the nostalgia that the film encompasses was not all there.

However, after a second viewing, this film really comes in to its element. Less a story about five men in mid-life crises, searching for true love or life’s meaning, the final instalment is more a tale of friendship than any of its predecessors. After settling down, making their names, establishing themselves in routines, the four men realise that it is their friendship with one another that are missing from everything they have.

For those who immediately dismiss sequels, abhorring their attempts to outclass their predecessor, do not be put off by this film. Admittedly, the first film is the champion of the series – not one of the sequels has come close to the magic that that bought to our screen. However, the battle for second place is now hotly contested with this and American Pie 2. Both have their flaws, yet both are wonderfully funny. The final scenes featuring Jim’s Dad, the MILF guys and, this time, Finch’s mum, are hilarious, unprecedented and still reminiscent of the original films.

The biggest negative that came from this film was the constant references to modern times. Where some films use subtle reference to Facebook, or other social networking sites, one of the key elements to this film is the lack of communication between Sean William-Scott’s Stifler and his neglectful friends. It seemed too tacked on, as a way of showing that the characters have definitely progressed from the nineties – something that is not at all obvious from their seemingly unchanged appearances.

This film does a very good job in rounding off the series. Fans who were disappointed with American Pie: The Wedding, and the questionable spin-offs, can rest easy in knowing that their favourite characters can still all get together and produce some of the greatest laughs that will hit our screens this year. This is a recommended must-see film of 2012.

Image reproduced from blueprintreview.co.uk
Video reproduced from YouTube / trailers

Film Review – Shame

Shame is available to rent on 7 May 2012 on DVD & Blu-Ray exclusively from Blockbuster and will be available to buy or rent elsewhere on 14 May 2012. To celebrate the release of the DVD, we take another look at Craig Busek’s review of this fearless, frank and compelling movie which was on the big screen earlier this year…

Described by critics as “one of the most provocative films of the year”, Steve McQueen’s Shame gained a lot of anticipated hype in its build up. The film follows the story of sex-addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender) whose life gets turned on its head at the arrival of his younger sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan). Set in New York’s Manhattan district, the film spans all over, taking the audience from high-end nightclubs and luxurious apartments, to seedy bars and gloomy whorehouses. However, throughout almost every scene there is an element of beauty captured by McQueen, juxtaposing the unwholesome subject matter at hand.

Albeit Shame has been branded as a story about sex-addiction, this is not a fair representation of the film. McQueen seems to have done extensive research in to a sex-addict’s life, in order to create a seemingly honest representation of their actions and behaviours, developing the film in to a character-study. Indeed the more gratuitous sex scenes portray the psychological elements, as opposed to the erotic – Brandon’s inability to sleep with a woman he is attracted to emotionally – and this in itself creates an empathy for the character that would not be there otherwise.

Michael Fassbender

Furthermore, the character development between Brandon and Sissy is very thorough. Perhaps not all of the details are exposed, but what is missing in dialogue is made up for in explosive, somewhat uncomfortable scenes. As Brandon loses control, after Sissy has walked in on his masturbation, there is a noticeable sexual tension between the two characters, as they fight and struggle together.

Where the film succeeds the most, is creating a profusion of emotions for the audience to react against. There are large elements of humour, such as when Brandon throws away ALL of his pornographic items. We are hit with a barrage of imagery that would shock even the most enlightened viewer. Collocating this, there are elements of deep distress and exasperated suffering. Intense close-up depictions of self-harm, mixed with explosive outbursts of anger, reveal inner sufferings of characters in a tormented world.

Carey Mulligan

Where the film seemed to lose its way was with the extravagant use of long-winded, one-take shots. The intention seemed to be to create an extraordinary feeling of beauty and intimacy between the characters and the audience, creating a lifelike presence that goes so often unseen. However, as soon as that moment of appreciation has arrived, immediately it has gone. From then on there remains an awkward ambience that seems to drag down on the overall story that, by all accounts, disengages from the pre-created closeness.

Overall, Shame is a thoroughly engaging film and enjoyable throughout. McQueen has done well in creating a tangible depiction of sex-addiction whilst also, through the use of detailed characters in challenging situations, creating a level of empathy and understanding for the audience to relate to. Shame may not be the best film to be released this year, however it should forever remain one of the more talked about films of 2012… and not just for the shots of Fassbender’s penis.

Images reproduced from filmdates.co.uk, content.foxsearchlight.com and emotionsblog.history.qmul.ac.uk
Video reproduced from YouTube / ClevverMovies

Film Review: The Descendants

After taking a more supporting role in this year’s The Ides of March, which was his fifth stint in the director’s chair, George Clooney has shown, once again, that he is not quite done being the leading man, after starring in this year’s The Descendants. This is a bittersweet film is about a Hawaiian landowner, Matt King, who, after his wife’s coma-inducing accident, attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughters, whilst also negotiating a stressful million-dollar land-deal. Teaming up with Alexander Payne, writer and director of About Schmidt, The Descendants always looked to be an interesting, quirky look at a man’s life, as he nears the edge of a breakdown.

From the offset, the film’s ambivalent nature is put forward. Audience expectations of Hawaiian Islands with their tropical, sandy beaches and scorching hot sun are disposed of and replaced with overcast skies and frequent storms. The opening speech itself claims that King has not done any surfing for fifteen years, adding a depressive sense of unfulfilled desires that would be more suited to an urban inner-city. It is this odd, juxtaposing nature that remains constant throughout the film, through the characters, their situations and how they react to how their lives are changing. And it is this concept that gives the film a re-watchable charm.

The acting in the film is really the biggest asset the film has to offer. Clooney is, as always, endearing, as the troubled protagonist, but it is the supporting acts surrounding him that make this film truly wonderful. Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller play King’s two troubled daughters, and play them well. Robert Forster as King’s angry father-in-law adds elements of comedy, as well as fear for all those around him. But it is the King’s tag-along friend, Sid, played by Nick Krause, who should be remembered the most. His bumbling idiocy adds an awkward humour to depressing and upsetting situations, in one instance leading to him receiving a punch to the face.  The development of all of these characters, seen as the story progresses, adds an insight and reasoning to their actions and behaviours that makes the film an incredibly interesting watch, as the audience receives a much grander understanding of the characters that they are watching.

Without too much of the story being given away, it seems fair to say that all is not plain sailing for the King’s on their journey. Unexpected plot twists are inserted, which keep the film from being predictable, whilst also giving off a very realistic, somewhat humorous, approach to an otherwise dreary situation. Furthermore, the characterisation in the film is very well executed, much the same as with Payne’s previous outing, Sideways, adding a depth and realism that could have so easily have been missed.

Overall, there is not a lot bad to be said about the film. With a fantastic script, which rightfully received an Academy Award, and superb acting, it is a shame that it will never go down as one of the world’s greats. However, for anybody who has two hours to spare, The Descendants is a must-see, wonderfully written film that will keep you entertained as much as it will make you emotional.

Image reproduced from rolhirst.blogspot.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / trailerobsessed

Review: The Six Nations 2012

With The Olympics and the UEFA European Championships just around the corner, there is a lot to be said for 2012’s sporting calendar. However, whilst the anticipation of the summer’s events rises, the first sporting major event of the year came to an end this weekend – the thirteenth year of rugby’s Six Nations.  Pulling in an average of 4.6 million viewers, the showcasing of talent was an event that enthralled and excited, aggravated and frustrated several different players, fans and nations alike, as, once again, for the eighth time in thirteen years since its amalgamation, it was a British team that took the spoils.

But, whilst Warren Gatland’s Wales reigned supreme, taking third Grand Slam victory in eight years, there were a lot of positives for every country to take from the seven-week event, producing players that lit-up the tournament, whenever they had a chance.


As the firm underdogs of the tournament up until Italy’s inclusion in 2000, the Scottish team were unlucky not to win a game this year. Albeit their play is usually quite stinted, with short passes never equating to much ground made, they are always a team that will scrap their way to victory. Something they proved this year after narrow defeats to France and England – two games where the result could have gone either way.

With the British Lions on tour next year it is the Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg that would be most disappointed if he were to miss out on a call-up. Adding an amount of flair and panache that usually lacks in the Scottish team, Hogg’s formidable gift for running rugby is one that should, soon enough, end Scotland’s long-running losing-streak.

Stuart Hogg slices through the defence


Italy have developed in leaps and bounds over the past thirteen years. Most notably seen by their unfortunate defeat at the hands of England, after they went in at half time leading by twelve points to six, it seems that inexperience is not longer a problem.  Finishing off the tournament with a (scrappy) win over Scotland, it seems only a matter of time before they start scratching more W’s on to their results board.

If it weren’t for the replacement of ever-reliable kicker Kristopher Burton, the Italians would have embarrassed England in the opening weeks of the tournament, as his absence between the posts lost them the game. A face, and foot, to look out for in the future, as Italy continue look to stamp their dominance on the game.

Kristopher Burton keeps it cool


As always, the French produced some beautiful rugby. Fine lines of running, well placed kicks and monstrous tackling were all on the menu whenever Les Bleus took to the field. However, after a crippling draw with the Irish, the French team began to act accordingly, losing their tempers and, subsequently, the following two matches.

Once again the French showed that they do running-rugby better than most, most poignantly proved by their new centre, Wesley Fofana. Finishing the tournament with five caps and four tries, Fofana is definitely a name that will be revered in the future, as experience will only add to his plethora of skills and talents.

Wesley Fofana makes it four from four against England


Ending as the tournaments top try scorers, Ireland were, once again, unfortunate not to finish higher up the table. Their dominance in the pack, despite a hiccup against England, was a constant threat, with their backs constantly tearing up opposition defences at breakneck speeds. Yes, their heyday of talent may be coming to an end, with many of the Grand Slam victors of 2009 nearing retirement, but the new wave of talent is developing in abundance, promising to be a danger to any team that comes up against them.

This year, Ireland’s lucky star was shining in Tommy Bowe. Despite a questionable decision taking away a tournament-record for the winger, denying him his sixth of the year, he was always a constant threat for the opposition. With blistering pace, a fantastic chip-and-chase and marvellous covering tackles, Bowe has several years left in him to reach that try-scoring goal.

Tommy Bowe bags another


Coming off the back of a disgraceful World Cup, England saw a complete turnaround in personnel. Several uncapped players graced the field in the opening game against Scotland, as England produced one of their more questionable victories. However, the weeks went by, and the nation’s wariness of the team seemed to disperse. England’s new blood fought hard against the French and the Irish, securing victories that would dismiss any uncertainty that lay there before the tournament.

Yes, new boy Owen Farrell was a great asset to the team, scoring an impressive 63 points in 5 games, however it was Stuart Lancaster’s inclusion to the squad that made all of the difference. The question of who should be next England manager has surely been answered after three away wins in the tournament – a record held by no other man to take the reigns of England’s team.

Stuart Lancaster has the players' support


Another scintillating tournament from the Welsh side saw the team take their Grand Slam, after a final victory in Paris. Perhaps a bit of poetic justice following on from their dismissal at the hands of Les Bleus from the World Cup last year, however a marvellous all-round performance nonetheless. Several players have marked their desire to feature in the Lions’ tour next summer and, with Welsh coach Warren Gatland set to take the helm there, too, it would be astonishing if a lot of the Welsh players did not feature.

With a powerful line-up, their backs averaging an astonishing weight of 1.92m and weighing in at 112.9kg, it was one of the smaller Welsh players that packed the most punch. 5ft 10 fullback Leigh Halfpenny is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to running, tackling and, as he proved in the dying minutes against France, kicking. Pegged as a new JPR Williams, Halfpenny was definitely one of the best things to emerge from this tournament, with his astounding talents helping the Welsh to victory in almost every aspect of their game.

Leigh Halfpenny puts the boot in to France

The tournament itself may have had some negative points; games were not as enthralling as they have been in the past, scores were not as high. But what is certain is that the progression of talent and skill is clear from all nations, proving that the annual event should not be frowned upon, but welcomed by every team looking to develop their reputation in the rugby world.

Images reproduced from belfasttelegraph.co.uk, connector.tv, smh.com, universityobserver.ie, telegraph.co.uk and rbs6nations.com

Film Review – A Dangerous Method

When going in to watch a David Cronenberg film, there should always be a certain level of trepidation with regards to the subject matter. Daring, as well as thought provoking, the seasoned director has always sought to shock, as well as entertain an audience with controversial subject matters. With his most recent venture, A Dangerous Method, nothing much has changed.

A period piece that documents the birth of psychosexual evaluation, the film’s main plot follows famous psychologist, Carl Jung, and his sadomasochistic relationship with fellow doctor Sabina Spielrein. With Michael Fassbender (Jung) as the main protagonist, Keira Knightley (Spielrein) as the unstable lover and, Cronenberg favourite, Viggo Mortensen in the role of Sigmund Freud, the film set itself out to be a thrilling journey, into dark depths of psychology that are so easily left untouched.

"Viggo Mortensen", "Keira Knightley", "Michael Fassbender", "Vincent Cassel"

However, the story itself was quite divergent from it’s set-up. Perhaps a subtle nod to the psychology know-it-alls of the audience, several supposedly big plot-points were proposed, discussed and then immediately disregarded. For example, Freud and Jung’s journey to America served a lot of hype, with Freud’s implication of the two men “bringing the plague”. However, their travels after arrival were never talked about. The “plague” was never seen. It is the interplay between the two, on the journey and throughout, that is the real power behind the film. Instead of the focus being on sadomasochism and sordid relationships, the real point behind the film is, unsurprisingly, the psychological games played by the characters.

From the offset, the games begin. Where other films might have included shameless character exposition through speech, screenwriter Christopher Hampton sees to it that only the scene’s controlling character avoids any revelation, through dialogue, of past life experiences or character history. An interesting approach that remains constant throughout, leading to subtle power plays and delicate attempts between characters to gain the upper hand through analysing their counterparts. This is seen immediately; in the opening scenes, we hear nothing of Jung’s past existence, focusing solely on Spielrein. Again, this seemed to take away from the proposed plotline that the film’s trailer puts forward, opening up a door that was unforeseen and quite pleasant.

The acting throughout the film is difficult to analyse. As Jung, Spielrein and Freud are all real people, to question their portrayed mannerisms and habits may seem pointless, as it would be questioning real life. That said, Knightley’s performance, as the deranged, psychotic Russian is quite brilliant. Her pain and suffering seems, unlike her supposed accent, brutally real and, to begin with, quite uncomfortable to watch. Wrenching her jaw and struggling to get her words out, the character’s anguish, even if untrue to real life, was quite astonishing to watch.

From Fassbender we received another good performance. Long gazes into the distance, although sometimes overused, showed an inner torment that reflected his character perfectly. Mortensen gave a believable performance as Freud and his subtle nuances seemed, again, believable. However, the most enticing character in the film was anarchic polygamist, Otto Gross. Played in a cameo-like way by Vincent Cassel, the character added a roguish freshness to the stiff-upper-lip society that is set forward by Freud, Jung and Spielrein; his free-love attitude being the catalyst on Jung’s emotions.

Where Cronenberg failed in creating a high level of shock value for the audience to take away from, he has definitely succeeded in creating an engaging piece that has many, many layers to it. Behind all of the dark, sexual scenes, amidst all of the psychological mind games, there is a very dark yet humorous story, circling around two unrequited lovers that will, most certainly, stay in the audience’s thoughts. This is definitely a film to watch with an open mind, with the expectation of gaining a lot more entertainment from the second viewing.

Image reproduced from filmdates.co.uk and iceposter.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / trailers

Does Media Have a Negative Influence on Education?

“Sittin’ in the classroom, thinking it’s a drag”. A poignant line from Motley Crue’s anti-school song, Smoking in the Boys Room, that rings true the feelings of many students. Hilary Wilce, a specialist in education, quotes: “the best learning often happens outside the classroom”. There could be several reasons for this. Perhaps classrooms are too dull and people need the vibrancy of the outside world to stimulate them. Perhaps fresh air is what is needed to arouse the mind. Or perhaps there is a subliminal influence that has been affecting people since the day they first watched a TV show.  It is this possibility that makes a lot of sense; the possibility that media is having a negative influence on our learning.

For several years, different media have been influencing and affecting public opinion. Nazis made propaganda films to make people believe that Jews were bad people. Governments use media to influence voting polls, as “the candidatesthat can pay for more TV and media exposure have more influence on public opinion and thus can receive more votes”. And now, according to results in The Independent, with GCSE pass rates falling to their lowest for a decade, it seems that what we are learning from media is in fact undermining our learning as a whole.

What we are being presented with are situations where “heroes are portrayed as physically attractive and the villains as ugly characters”. Generally, people idolize the heroes, the beautiful characters, and in several popular examples, see that the people we follow could lead us down negative paths. Examples from a young age such as: Bart Simpson, a character constantly getting detentions and bad grades, but having fun with the situations that he creates; Dennis the Menace, the tough kid who hates school contrasting the school-loving ‘softies’, and examples for an older generation, including characters from films, such as The Breakfast Club or Dead Poets Society, are all characters that are, in their own way, anarchic in the actions. The influence that these characters have on us are damning our passion for education, as why would we not want to act like the glamorous protagonists that we aspire to imitate?

Film and TV are not the only media that influence people’s attitudes. With the press and newspapers becoming a cornerstone of public opinion, their influence over us is becoming evermore prevalent. Stories that there are twenty-seven thousand teachers without QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) will either suggest to students that going to school is pointless, as the person teaching you is unqualified.

There are several studies to show that music will influence our choices and behaviours, most notably the work by North, Hargreaves and McKendrick that showed how in-store music could influence our product choice. Undoubtedly the same will go for music, influencing our actions. A person listening to classical music would be more calm and collected than those listening to heavy rock or thrash metal, and those listening to punk rock will possibly be more influenced to anarchy than those listening to reggae or jazz music.

Harry Bisham quotes “Music helps children to learn maths” and music enhances social skills. Therefore, if a child is weaned on the lyrics of The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Ramones or any other anti-government or anti-education lyrics, their influence will be to obey the music. More popular choices are: the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School with the lyrical choice of “I hate the teachers and the principal”; Alice Cooper with “no more pencils, no more looks, no more teachers’ dirty looks”; or Bruce Springstein’s “We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school.” Following a press report, stating that “dirty song lyrics can prompt early teen sex” then it is possible that those who are forever listening to music inspiring a revolt, revolution or a riot, then the effect will be exactly that. Following this idea, the Green Day lyric: “I don’t need your authority” could influence someone to be negative against the authoritarians in their life: the teachers and the educators.

The other predominant reason that causes a negative influence towards education is uniforms. Several films, television programs and newspaper pictures depict prisoners in a bleak uniform, removing all degrees of freedom, individuality and flair. The school uniform does exactly that. Studies conducted by Zimbardo et al. in 1971 showed what happened when different groups of individuals were put in to a prison-emulated environment. Those people dressed as guards took the “guard” stereotype to an extreme, where those dressed as prisoners conformed to the prisoner stereotype. Their actions were those of repressed people, under the control of those in a freer dress code. This coincides with the rules of school. Students are forced to wear the same uniform with little freedom or imagination, the same trousers, jumpers and shirts, whereas the teachers, although under their own, similar rules, are allowed the freedom to choose which shirt colour they want to wear that day, which tie goes best with the colour of shoe they are wearing and whether they want to wear that specific necklace today. So, as the media has evolved the prisoner stereotype of people all looking the same, wearing the same clothes and doing the same routine day in, day out, uniforms are then seen as a representation of prison life. Somewhere where we never, ever want to be.

In all, what different media has done is created several situations where people, especially those of a more influential age, will want to become the role models that aren’t necessarily good to become in the real world. Be it a rock star, an idolized socialite or a fun TV or film character. The success that they have potential to achieve in with their learning is damned by the drive to obtain the “success” that is represented by figures in the media.

Image reproduced from roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

In the peak of summer, where would you most likely spend your holidays? For a lot of people, skiing in the Alps or sunning on a beach in the Caribbean has a lot of appeal. However for over 20,000 people, it is the capital of Scotland has the biggest drawing point.

Edinburgh. A city of history, a city of culture and for twenty-four days a year, a city of eclectic artistic talent, as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes to town. Filled with varying music, dance and comedy acts, the festival lives up to it’s reputation as the largest arts festival in the world.

Growing in size each year and averaging an intake of just under £300,000 the festival is the place to be for a breakthrough act. Predecessors including Eddie Izzard (comedy), Gabriel Byrne (writing) and UK beatbox champion Beardyman (music) have all had their say at the festival and in doing so, have left big shoes to be filled. Now it is the turn of new acts and fresh faces to leave their mark on their respective artistic world.

The festival gives plenty of support for any act trying to make their name. From debutants, such as the Mugging Chickens comedy troop, to seasoned professionals such as Dizzee Rascal headlining the festival’s musical strand, everyone has a place in the line-ups.

With the festival, boasting 259 venues last year, made way for an astounding 2,453 shows, 1,206 of which were world debuts. And it could be this festival that makes or breaks an act. The multitude of festival awards, prestigious in their nature, can give you that extra credit needed to become a more recognized talent.

If you are looking to attend the festival, fear not, as it will not cost you an arm and a leg to have a good time. Ticket prices will set you back an average of ten pounds for a better known act, the guarantee being that they hopefully know what they are doing.  However there are many fantastic performers which have free, live shows (558 in 2010) and in a lot of these cases, it is the intimacy of these acts makes them all the more enjoyable.

Absolutely Legless - Irish Dancers

This year, remember to look out for some groundbreaking acts: Paco Erhard, the world’s funniest German; Abandoman, a Radio 1 smash-hit hip-hop act; or Irish music, song and dance extravaganza Absolutely Legless. Several acts, debutants and returners alike, have a potential to not only shine but to progress on to greater, vaster plains.

Now in to its 65th year, the festival has a lot to live up to. But with acts travelling from as far as Japan, New Zealand and the United States to try and expand their fan-base, this year’s festival looks set to be bigger, better and bolder than ever before. So don’t miss out, book your tickets early and make your way to Edinburgh for August 5th, for a month’s worth of diverse artistic events you will be sure to never forget.

Image reproduced from sixtblog.co.uk and absolutelylegless.co.uk

What Has Happened to Sports Stars?

There was a time when sports stars were respected; revered throughout our nation. The likes of Sir Bobby Charlton or JPR Williams gave out a professional, gentlemanly conduct that was seen and loved throughout the country. Now, however, there is little to suggest that our sporting personalities do anything to be respected. The conduct shown both on and off their respective fields of play has lead to constant bombardment from media outlets, and rightly so. So due to this negativity, there is the overwhelming question – what has happened to sports stars?

With the obscene amount of money they earn combined with the fact that they are in the public eye 99% of the time, you would think that athletes would show a better demeanour, especially knowing that people will jump on any story and turn it in to a negative assault.

The prime, and most current, example of this is the England rugby squad. Travelling over to New Zealand, they were briefed on how they should behave, a briefing that did not include non-misogynous dancing, chauvinistic behaviour or even ferry jumping. So what image does this give our youth, our rising rugby talent on how to behave? Of course they may see the negative headlines and understand that they need to act differently, however they likelihood is, is that they are seeing their idols act, for lack of a better word, unfavourably.

It is not just rugby that gets a bad rap. Every year Andy Murray gets berated for his lacklustre performance in Wimbledon. Dwayne Chambers’ drug use was given a two-page spread in one newspaper. And of course, the antics of footballers such as John Terry, Wayne Rooney or Joey Barton, to name a few, leave a lot to be desired.

A point that has been made before; but it seems that sports stars deem themselves above the law. Ever since George Best’s first demand of a pay rise, it has become apparent that athletes can attempt to go and do as they please, without facing too many of the consequences. And is that our fault? Have we, as a media-based nation, given these people, and they are just people, the right to abuse the stature they hold? Of course we furrow a brow when there is misconduct. We tut our way to work, complaining about the money people make for doing something we’ve seen done ten times better for ten times less, and we make our opinions heard to the unlucky soul closest to us.  However, the next week, that animosity will have changed, as we applaud their conduct in doing something we desire.

Perhaps it is the case with any public figure. Politics has shown in the past that it can hold the same rollercoaster of opinions, based on decisions made. However, the difference being that with politics, business or even most other media front-runners, the consequences will be a lot more dire for them, if they were to do something half as bad as someone in the athetic world.

Image reproduced from forgirlswhocantdofootball.blogspot.com