Series Review: Russian Doll

 

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Natasha Lyonne has to live the same day over and over in Netflix’s Russian Doll (Credit: imdb.com)

The Groundhog Day theme has been done way too many times in film and television right? Wrong. Netflix’s new binge-worthy series, Russian Doll, provides audiences with a brand new take on the concept.

Created and produced by Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, Orange Is the New Black), Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation) and Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), Russian Doll introduces us to Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) as she tries to escape from a 36th birthday party thrown for her by her friends in New York City.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t get very far. After running into the road to try to catch her missing cat, Oatmeal, Nadia is hit and killed by a taxi before finding herself back in the bathroom at her birthday party where she was at the beginning of the episode.

Throughout the following episodes, we see Nadia die in a variety of ways including falling down the stairs (multiple times), drowning and getting caught up in an elevator accident. Each time she returns to the same bathroom and the same song (you will either love or hate Gotta Get Up by Harry Nilsson by the end of the series) to repeat the same day over and over again.

As the show progresses, we see Nadia try to navigate her way through the situation and Natasha Lyonne is a joy to watch. Her character is quirky, she speaks her mind and she is incredibly funny. Even during her worst meltdowns, she manages to come out with some memorable one-liners. This makes her actions and interactions with other characters interesting yet Nadia is still level-headed enough that the audience can relate to her and care about her as she goes through this journey.

Although Natasha Lyonee’s performance as Nadia is engaging enough on its own to keep you interested, the show’s storyline takes an unexpected twist several episodes in, which totally changes the way you believe things might go, in fact, it changes the whole structure of the show. It becomes much more complex than someone just repeating the same day over and over and I guarantee you won’t be able to stop watching at this point.

Yes, Natasha Lyonne is fantastic and the twists and turns in the narrative do well at keeping the audience enagaged, but the best thing about Russian Doll is that the show doesn’t just focus on the groundhog day element, it explores the traumas haunting the main character and how she deals with this throughout the whole experience. The looping of each death could be a symbol of the fact that Nadia must learn that she has to face her demons, or she will keep facing the same issues over and over again, just like she keeps having to face the same day.

Natasha Lyonne has described the show as a “bizarre version of an autobiography” as the series touches on some issues she has faced throughout her life. This makes sense as her performance and the lines she delivers are entirely believable. You can tell this is a series that means something to her and that she and the other creators have tried hard to ensure the show has heart and will draw people in.

There are so many layers to Russian Doll and it’s a pleasure to watch as they are peeled back as the show progresses. Each episode is only 24 to 30 minutes long, which you wouldn’t think was long enough to become so engaged with characters in a show. But the perfect combination of clever writing and sharp, interesting dialogue, as well as the unique interactions between the characters, makes it possible.

You can watch the trailer for Russian Doll below.

WARNING: This trailer contains bad language which may be unsuitable for younger viewers.

 

 

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant. (Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

As the snow falls heavily on the skyscrapers and streets of New York City, writer Lee Israel suddenly finds herself without any financial security when she is fired from her job. Israel has talent but finds it impossible to make money from it, which pushes her towards the criminal activity of fabricating celebrity letters. The film is based on Israel’s 2008 memoir with the same name, in which she explained more about her path towards literary forgery.

Israel’s arrogance is palpable from the very start of the film, something actress Melissa McCarthy portrays genuinely. She doesn’t like anyone except her cat, who she seems to have great affection for. The love of her life. Although she appears in almost every scene of the film, it never gets boring. Her character is fascinating, even more so as it is based on a real writer. Israel doesn’t care about what others think of her, not in the slightest. She is fully herself. As she meets her extravagant drinking partner Jack Hock, played by Richard E. Grant, they explore the world of fabrication together. Grant is very convincing and entertaining and I specifically like their growing friendship that seems to make Israel find a little bit of joy in a world that she normally despises.

The director, Marielle Heller, managed to demonstrate Israel’s journey well – from the moment the downward spiral began with her money issues, all the way to her criminal career’s downfall. Despite its sadness, the film has many humorous moments. I found myself laughing out loud together with other viewers at the cinema at several parts. It was a very enjoyable watch and made me interested in reading the book. I think I will.

Watch the trailer below.

‘The sun will come up’: words of wisdom from Nina Nesbitt.

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Singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt. (Credit: Justin Higuchi)

Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is back with her new album The sun will come up, the seasons will change. And it’s exactly what some of us need to hear right now. 

As well as being talented in the love and heartbreak department, Nina Nesbitt’s new album has a few other golden threads running through it. Post-adolescent confusion, disappointments and a mighty dose of girl power also lie within the lyrics of many of her songs. At her acoustic set in Edinburgh this week, the 24-year-old met with fans and spoke of the personal struggles that influenced her album.

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Track number four on the album Chloe is about the hard realisation that childhood friendships inevitably begin to change. Many of us have the felt the pang of sadness when we realise our closest friends will not be five minutes down the road forever. At age 22 one of her friends fell pregnant, a moment she still remembers today. Nina told the audience:

“And I realised that we were moving on from being kids and becoming adults, which was terrifying. It’s a song about that sort of transition and as women all going down different paths and that being okay.”

These are the moments I’m missing is another poignant one, highlighting the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia. Knowing that childhood is something that passes us by like the flick of a switch, and that we should have spent more time relishing the freedoms childhood brings. Instead many of us spend this time in our lives wishing we could grow up.

“These are the moments I never took in when, I was just standing there wishing, that I could grow up and my life would be different.”

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The best you had, perhaps one of the most moving tracks on the album, tells the story of a love that has moved on quickly and the hurt that follows. It’s about hanging onto the memories of a love that once was and that it’s ok that someone has moved on, because you both know that what you both once had was special.

Loyal to me – May the meetings of a female’s pack of FBI agents commence. Independent woman is written all over this track. When a man’s reluctance to let the rest of the world know you exist begins to show, there is only one thing to do.

“If you start to question is he loyal to me? Well then he’s probably not and you should probably leave.”

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“The sun will come up, the seasons will change.”

When uncertainty comes our way, or tempestuous emotions get the better of us know that “The sun will come up, the seasons will change.” It can be a lesson we are not even aware that we are learning, the title track talks about a subtle realisation that at the end of any dark day, the sun will rise the next. No matter the disappointments, the changes we’re not ready for or the heartbreak we endure, the world spins continuously on. It’s the last song on the album, tying all the other lyrics we have heard into a perfect bow.

You can buy tickets for Nina’s upcoming tour here.

Netflix’s Sex Education bares all

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Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn and Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effoing in Sex Education. (Photo credit: Sam Taylor/Netflix)

Netflix’s latest original series Sex Education has been praised for its unapologetic diversity and honest portrayal of teenage life.

The show, set in Wales, follows the sixth form students at Moordale Secondary School, specifically the awkward and eternally embarrassed Otis Milburn, who’s mother happens to be a sex therapist.

On the surface, as the title suggests, the show is about the sexual relationships of Moordale’s students, as accidental sex expert Otis teams up with bad-girl Maeve Wiley to set up their own underground sex clinic in the schools asbestos ridden bathrooms.

But Sex Education tackles so much more than that, exploring all aspects of growing up as the students learn more about each other’s personal lives through their involvement in the clinic and end up standing up for each other in many instances.

The charm of the show is how honest it is, managing to be funny, awkward, unpolished and real all at once.

The best thing about the show is that every single character is explained, from star athlete Jackson Marchetti, to troubled bully Adam Groff, to popular girl Aimee Gibbs, every character has been carefully crafted to prove a wider point, that everyone has their own things going on no matter who they appear to be.

It also showcases a huge variety of relationships, from Otis and best friend Eric’s touching childhood friendship, to popular Aimee’s unlikely comradery with Maeve and Adam’s fractured relationship with his headteacher father.

Sex Education is incredibly heartwarming, as difficult issues surrounding sexuality, abortion and family circumstances are handled with such care. Unlike most teen dramas, Sex Education is careful not to sensationalise these difficult aspects of life or simply use them as a plot device. The difficult parts of the programme are explained, considered and make you care for the young characters who are trying to find their way.

The show has also been praised for being so diverse, with strong female characters, positive male friendships, racially diverse characters, LGBT+ characters and a focus on LGBT+ sexual relationships.

Sex Education strikes the perfect balance between being humorous, educational and incredibly thought provoking and touching. It will break your heart then patch it right back up again with this warm fuzzy feeling in just a matter of minutes.

It is the funny, warm breath of fresh air the world needed going into the new year and, judging by the ending of this series, we might be seeing more of the Moordale students in the near future.

Film Review: Vice

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Christian Bale was completely transformed for his role as Dick Cheney (Photo credit: TheStranger.com)

Going to the cinema to see Vice? Prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride of anger, confusion, laughter and pure brilliance, as you dive into the world of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The brainchild of Adam McKay, known by most for directing comedies including the Anchorman movies and Step-Brothers, Vice is an informative yet bizarre alternative take on the events that took place leading up to and during Dick Cheney’s time in the White House as George W. Bush’s Vice President. Bush’s presidency has been analysed and speculated over time and time again, but Vice provides viewers with a completely different take on the matter.

We see a transformed Christian Bale as Dick Cheney and Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne Cheney, as they try to work their way up the political ladder. Although at the beginning of the film the audience sees Cheney at a low point in his life, working a low paid job and caught driving while drunk, he manages to make his way into positions of power, before Bush (Sam Rockwell) eventually approaches him and asks him to run as his Vice President.

The film is unapologetically anti-right wing and you can feel the anger from the filmmakers seeping through throughout. It is clear Adam McKay wants the audience to view Cheney as evil and thankfully Christian Bale does a fantastic job of communicating this, even though he is playing a character who on the surface is quiet and subdued. Through his physical language and delivery of the script, Bale manages to portray a character who is calculating and power-hungry.

The film has a non-linear structure with scenes frequently cutting away to flashbacks and original footage, which perfectly accompany specific plot points to give what is happening in the story more meaning. This extra information and the narration by Jesse Plemons, is also helpful for those of us who aren’t experts in American politics.

Vice is also full of cleverly executed symbolism. An excellent example of this is while Cheney is trying to persuade Bush to agree to certain terms before Cheney agrees to be his vice president. We see shots of a fishing rod spliced in, eventually reeling in a large fish, just like Cheney reels in Bush. Not only is this a wonderful example of creative editing and cinematography, the thoughtful symbolism throughout the film helps viewers to understand what is going on inside Cheney’s head as he manipulates other characters.

Despite the creative and captivating filmmaking techniques and fantastic performances from the cast, in some ways Vice is an uncomfortable movie watching experience. Seeing how the selfish actions of politicians has destroyed lives and continues to cause chaos worldwide is not pleasant. The film is also entirely one-sided and some may argue that it’s not an accurate representation of events. However, the comic relief throughout the film helps distinguish these potential drawbacks. Vice is not a documentary and it’s not a history lesson, but it does make you think.

You can check out the trailer for Vice here.

Zoe Graham at Celtic Connections (supported by John Edge & The Kings of Nowhere)

Zoe Graham played at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut’s intimate venue space in front of an adoring crowd on January 24. Its stage has hosted many massive acts, like Snow Patrol and Radiohead, but Zoe has lived up to the pedigree.

The concert was part of the Celtic Connections festival, Scotland’s wintertime festival which celebrates Scottish music & musicians.

Spread across Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, it invites musicians from around the globe and attracts thousands of visitors which pack the city’s most spectacular venues, attending concerts, ceilidhs, art exhibitions and much more.

It can occasionally tend towards the old-fashioned, but Thursday night’s show was evidence that Celtic Connections is very much moving with the times.

John Edge & The Kings Of Nowhere opened for Zoe Graham and their genre-defying melodies are a perfect example of Celtic Connection’s modernisation.

The band self-describes its music as “folk musings” but that doesn’t really scratch the surface. The Scottish highlands musicians manage to be multi-layered yet superbly smooth, bringing to life their Celtic roots.

John Edge as a band could be compared to Scottish synthpop band Prides, except they’ve torn out all the keyboard and autotune and fired about three acoustic guitars in its place — that’s John Edge’s sound.

However, at times they over-relied on this sound. It’s good, but they may have gotten in the habit of repeating themselves, and end up sounding a little repetitive on occasion.

The music somehow manages to roll over the crowd like a physical thing — this is maybe where the patriotic vibe comes from, with their tunes emulating the landscape.

But that’s a deeply pretentious description of a deeply unpretentious band. The five musicians on stage have obviously known each other a while, and if not, they get on well enough that they enjoy the mere act of playing alongside each other. The jokes between songs, the natural smiles and banter, all point to the bond these five artists share — something which is invaluable to smaller artists trying to make their reputation. John Edge & the Kings of Nowhere have the advantage being a five-piece band. When you are a solo artist, however you have to work a little harder to create a atmosphere around you.

Zoe Graham does this with ease.

Zoe — a fairly short 21-year-old Weegie gal with a great big guitar — shows appearances are deceiving and easily fills the rooms with her presence.

As well as a great big guitar, she brought with her a great big voice: clear, slightly accented, somewhat ethereal. It’s a voice that makes her recorded singles sound personal and emotional (they’re available on Spotify in case you don’t believe me) but her live performances change the nature of her music, becoming a bit less emotional and even more powerful. It’s definitely music that makes you will make you sit up and listen.

I’ve reviewed Zoe before, when she was performing solo. It’s all very slow, very moving, and a little melancholic. This time, backed by several musicians, the difference is startling. Personally, I’d call it an improvement.

The emotion that disappears from the softer songs changes them into these big powerful room-filling anthems — Industrial Strength, which on record is a quirky little tune, got completely turned on its head. The core of the songs remains the same though — Zoe’s songs all have a synthy soul, all very indie.

She returned to her solo portfolio for a few last songs — and for an artist of her size, getting called on for an encore is pretty nuts — for which she played Anniesland Lights. This last moment reflected the girl’s range — her last song, a track called Know By Now, had this big rock-on drum-solo finish. But for the encore, she returned to break hearts with her soft little ballad.

I have big hopes for Zoe Graham. Her music, her lyrics, her chat on-stage are all so refined and full of personality. If nothing else, she’s a unique character. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

John Edge & The Kings of Nowhere have plenty songs on their Youtube and a few on Spotify, and you can keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram (@johnedge_thekings) for news of their forthcoming album. You can find a link Zoe Graham’s Spotify in the article, her Youtube is here, and check out her Facebook and Instagram (@iamzoegraham) to keep up with her gigs and future releases.

 

Mac Finds His Pride: An unexpectedly emotional and progressive season finale

Mac Finds His Pride

Rob McElhenney and professional dancer Kylie Shea in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Image: FXX

The latest season of the hit US show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (IASIP) was added to Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Now that everyone has had time to watch the season, I think it’s time we talk about that episode.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for season 13 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. 

Now, that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it follows ‘The Gang,’ the narcissistic, self-centred, politically incorrect owners of a Philadelphia dive bar. I can imagine that for some, IASIP is a show that is quite hard to get into. The humour is extremely dark, often offensive, and the main characters are the worst people imaginable. There is a reason the show was originally meant to be titled ‘Jerks.’

The final episode of series 13, titled ‘Mac Finds His Pride’ starts off as a typical IASIP episode: the gang are trying to use Mac (series creator Rob McElhenney) as their token ‘gay’ to dance on the top of their gay pride float. This episode is the culmination of Mac’s thirteen series-long journey to ‘coming out.’ Unlike what you may imagine, the joke isn’t that Mac is in the closet (as bad as the gang are, they’re totally fine with Mac being gay and have been trying to get him to ‘come out’ since the beginning), it’s Mac’s homophobia.

Mac was raised Catholic by his criminal dad, Luther, who takes pleasure in belittling him (he called Mac Ronald McDonald as a joke), and his mother who never seems to care about him. All Mac wants to do is get his dad to love and respect him, and this is one of the themes in this episode. Due to Mac being raised so religious, he doesn’t want to accept that he’s gay and uses homophobia to mask it. The long-running joke of Mac’s homosexuality isn’t that he is gay, it’s a critique of bigotry and what sexual repression can do to a person.

Mac does come to accept the fact that he is gay, but as he states in this episode, he doesn’t feel very proud. Frank (Danny DeVito) has been tasked with convincing Mac to take part in the gay pride parade, and as an out of touch old man, Frank doesn’t “get it.” Frank tries to help Mac find his place as a gay man by bringing him to a BDSM club, and then a drag bar. Mac doesn’t judge the people he visits but shuns them because that’s not the gay man that he is. I’ll admit that these scenes just rehashed the joke that Frank is an out of touch old man — it wasn’t anything revolutionary.

Mac tries to explain how he feels through an analogy that he is dancing in a storm with god who is a “hot chick,” and Frank retorts that “the Catholics really f****d you up.”

Mac decides that to truly reflect who he is, he must come out to his father (who is in prison). When Mac tries to tell his dad, Luther assumes that Mac is announcing that he got a woman pregnant and is delighted at the idea of being a grandfather, while also belittling Mac at the same time. Mac cowers into his former repressed self, going along with his father’s assumption and then tries to really get a woman pregnant.

Up to this point, the episode has been fine, nothing special.  From this point on, however, the Sunny format was flipped on its head.

After some encouragement from Frank, because Mac can’t find the words to describe how he feels, he decides he needs to show how he feels. He goes to the prison to ‘come out’ to his dad through dance. I really didn’t know what to expect at this point, and when the dance started, I was confused.

McEhlhenney performs an extremely well-choreographed dance with professional dancer Kylie Shea, which depicts Mac keep trying to love the woman but can’t and has to keep pushing her away. The dance, and episode, culminates with Mac crying in her lap and her telling him it’s okay. Frank, the homophobic old man, is in tears and says ‘I get it.’

The best part of this scene for me is that while Mac is dancing, his father walks away, but Mac keeps on dancing. This is a huge moment for Mac’s character – he finally doesn’t care what his father thinks. It was such a beautiful moment to see Mac finally accept who he is after 15 years of denial and shame. There was no joke, no punchline, just raw emotion and pride. IASIP normally handles these themes through dark humour and satire, but here it just showed it as it is, and it couldn’t have worked any better. It was emotional, progressive, and tugged my heartstrings in a way I never would have expected IASIP to do.

This episode also really rooted out the fans of the show that didn’t understand that you’re meant to laugh at the gang’s ignorance, not agree with them. I have seen many comments on Twitter that said that IASIP pandered to the ‘gay agenda,’ or bowed down to ‘social justice warriors.’ If you believe that, then you really haven’t understood It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at all.

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How literature tackles big social issues

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Cover of Picoult’s new book

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”

The words of Jodi Picoult in her latest novel, A Spark of Light, ring true. Deep down all of us have a wealth of opinions, regardless of topic, circumstances and person, even if we don’t always want to share them.

Each of us goes through our own version of reality, moulded by our mistakes, beliefs and past experiences. Some people instinctively follow their own beliefs, some people falter if they hear a compelling argument, and others still might even border on hypocrisy. Whichever category you fall into, A Spark of Light is a deeply influential piece of literature. On the book’s subject, the debate surrounding abortion, it will most definitely make you question where you stand.

Before you prepare to defend your stance on abortion, just know, that that’s not really what this book is about. Rather, what one should take from the book is that there are always multiple points of view in every argument. Regardless of what side you find yourself on, this story will expose you to both.

By presenting multiple sides of the argument, what Picoult cleverly manages to do is show that we, as a society, will never agree on the issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from a place of unshakeable belief. But she acknowledges that the first step is talking to each other and, more importantly, to listen to each other. We may not all see eye to eye but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. And perhaps, in those honest conversations, instead of demonising each other, we might see each other as what we are: imperfect human beings simply doing our best. The truth is that no matter what side of the argument we’re on, where we draw the line shifts – not just between those who are pro-life and pro-choice, but in each individual woman, depending on her current circumstances.

This piece of work is thought-provoking and feels incredibly important; even more so given our current political climate where this topic is involved in a heavily political debate.

Over the past few years, many writers have given us books that open a narrative to some big, social issues. One novel that was released last year, and hit the cinemas this summer, was Angie Thomas’ bestseller The Hate U Give. The story focuses on race issues in the US, as a young black school girl, Starr Carter, witnesses a white police officer shoot her unarmed friend Khalil dead at point-blank range.

The Hate U Give is fictional, but only just. Starr’s emotions explode onto the page, and we feel what she’s feeling – or at the very least, we sympathise with her. The story is based on real events and the Black Lives Matter movement is very real. At the end of the book, Starr lists names of those who have had the same fate as Khalil; lives that have been shortened by law enforcement which should have been avoided: Freddie Gray, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland…

The Hate U Give is just one example of how we are starting to see the social issues of today reflected in literature, and it has been a publishing phenomenon.

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Cover of Angie Thomas’ new book

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed does this in a similar way. This novel, published in January this year, focuses on a young Indian-American Muslim teen called Maya Aziz as she confronts Islamophobia. Hundreds of miles away, a horrific crime takes place that makes those who Maya has known the longest look at her differently and her whole world shifts. People are consumed with fear, bigotry and hatred, and Maya has it thrown her way, for no reason other than her heritage.

Another novel about social issues from this year is Tommy Orange’s There There. This debut novel confronts the painful Native American history, and has an air of profound spirituality about it. It looks at addiction of all kinds, the hardships of abuse and the reality of suicide. Orange writes about what he calls ‘Indian’ and its incredible, messed up complexity. There is a fair amount of compassion in the story, but not so much with the first character, Tony Loneman. He is intent to rob at gun point, but we can see his ending becoming a violent one as his story reflects how exchanging bullets has continued to be a part of American life.

These are just a small handful of popular novels this year that open a narrative on current topics and issues. These novels give us other points of view, a glimpse into other realities and a chance to get rid of our prejudices on hard hitting, topical issues that surround ideals, society, race, religion and class. They’re not there to change our minds, but rather to open ourselves up to the notion that there are more sides to the story than the side we’re standing on.

Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

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Bohemian Rhapsody’s popularity has kept it in cinemas since October.

Actor Rami Malek brings the confident and charismatic Freddie Mercury back to life.

A solitary man moves confidently towards the stage at Wembley Stadium in London, wearing a white tank top and tight dark jeans. The viewer can only see the back of the singer, and once he’s up on the stage it almost feels like you are there with him. It is the 13th of July, 1985, and about 72,000 people have gathered at the Live Aid concert to be a part of Queen’s performance.

Viewers of this film are transported into the most fascinating and defining parts of Mercury’s life,  and get a look at the heart of timeless British rock band Queen. Despite the film having lots of music (well, duh?) and humorous bits, there is a palpable sadness and melancholy all the way through it. The director, Bryan Singer, has managed quite well to demonstrate the low points of Freddy’s life as well as the highs. Mercury often struggled with loneliness, love and identity as he entered the world of fame and it is noticeable.

Malek, the 37-year-old lead, looks very much like the real Freddie Mercury, but it’s his deft imitations of Mercury’s personality traits and characteristic movements that really elevate the performance. The other band members are portrayed impressively as well: Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon.

When I was young, I went to music school for six years and we used to sing Queen songs in the choir. So for me, the movie was strangely personal. I feel like many other viewers will share this feeling.

One of these song was the iconic six minute long anthem that the film was named after, written by Mercury for their album “A Night at the Opera”. As I sang their tunes at an early age, I made an emotional connection to the band – and I must say that the Queen cinema experience was a pleasant nostalgic journey.

Click here to see the trailer.

Film Review: Ralph Breaks The Internet

While not an instant classic, this sequel to Wreck It Ralph defies expectations simply by being “surprisingly not terrible”.

Ralph Breaks The Internet

Ralph Breaks The Internet

It’s a strange thing, being a grown man and going to watch a kid’s movie on your own. Still, I’ve managed to apply a critical eye and not simply lurk around the theatre, looking creepy.

The plot of Ralph Breaks The Internet follows essentially what the title says. Our hero Ralph, a lovable 80s arcade game villain, journeys to the internet with his feisty young accomplice Vanellope to save the latter’s arcade cabinet (which is in need of spare parts). They find what they need on eBay, there’s some shenanigans, they get the thing, there’s yet more shenanigans, and then some minor peril ensues as Ralph’s best intentions go awry. However, everything ends well and leaves you with a nice fuzzy feeling inside. If that’s a spoiler for you, there’s a few Disney classics you’ll need a peek at before you read the rest of this.

The film mostly takes place inside a fictionalised version of the internet, so the humour centres around internet culture, memes and social media. This is an incredibly difficult kind of joke, as it needs to be incredibly up-to-date. More so than any movie that has spent two years in production has any right to be. Yet, they actually manage it. There’s still a few bits of banter that really would’ve been funnier six years ago when the first one came out, but for the most part the in-jokes and references are pretty on the ball. One particularly notable scene from the trailers involving all the various Disney princesses is actually a great laugh.

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Promotional movie poster

I think the way they manage to not entirely miss the punchline with all the internet humour is by not delving too deep into online culture. They do cover a lot of interesting points – the viciousness of comment sections, viral videos, even the highly illegal “Dark Web” – but there’s always more references you can make when you’re talking about the internet. Doing that, however, would just create some horrifying remake of The Emoji Movie. Instead, the writers have shone the light back onto the characters themselves for most of the jokes, and made a lot of self-referential jabs about Disney movies. Looking back is a good theme, I suppose, for what is Walt Disney Studios’ first theatrical sequel since 2011 – the one you’re thinking of when you see that fact and go “Really?” is either a Pixar movie or was straight-to-DVD.

While I seem positive here, I am being very generous with the term “entertaining”. It’s a great movie to watch with gullible, easily distracted children, or to put on for a couple hours while you play with your phone. You can (and should!) tilt your head up every so often to enjoy the odd sequence but the film doesn’t overly grab you. It’s also pretty long: nearly two hours, and this is supposed to be a kids movie. My attention span isn’t even that long, let alone that of the standard pre-pubescent cinema goer. There’s laughs, but it seems like it mostly just appeals to the hard-core Wreck It Ralph fan –  if that’s even a thing.

See movie times for Ralph Breaks The Internet here. 

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