Game Review: Battlefield V

Watch as Liam Mackay reviews Battlefield V and discusses its pre-launch controversies.

Buy Battlefield V here.

Bad Times at the El Royale review

An all-star cast tells a tale of love, murder and money in this late 60’s thriller 

It’s easy to watch the trailer for Bad Times at the El Royale and not really know what the heck is going on, as the latest film from director Drew Goddard (The Martian, Buffy The Vampire Slayer) brings a priest, a singer, a salesman and a fleeing cult member together in a seedy hotel on the California/Nevada borderline. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it makes for a great movie.

Set in 1968, the film brings this group of mismatches together and introduces a backstory for each character in a Tarantino-esque way. We learn of gunfights, murder, drug abuse and violence as each character’s true identity and agenda is revealed one by one.

The volume of death in this film is such that the murders of key characters don’t feel as important as they should

One of the many positive attributes this film carries is the star power, with several established Hollywood names taking a key role, including Mad Men star Jon Hamm and Thor actor Chris HemsworthThe real breakaway performance in this film, however, is reserved for Jeff Bridges. Bridges’ character, who starts out as an ageing priest seeking refuge from an inbound storm, unveiled as a bank robber, recently released from a lengthy prison stretch in which a botched robbery left his brother (portrayed in an almost cameo-like role by Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman) dead and himself behind bars. Returning to the same hotel where his brother met his demise to retrieve the buried money, Bridges’ character Doc O’Kelly is in the preliminary stages of dementia and fails to remember which room the money is hidden in.

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Theatrical Poster – Credits to FOX FILMS

At times leaning a little too heavily on a Pulp Fiction/Tarantino style of cinematography, the story jumps from one character to another, from past to present to present to past. On more than one occasion, the viewer may find himself viewing the same scene again, perhaps from another perspective or simply as the conclusion of a character’s backstory, a factor that may be off-putting to a casual cinema goer.

The film drew a disappointing $2.7 million in its opening weekend, a fraction of its $30 million budget, but fans of this type of retro, art noir type of film should not let this affect their decision to go and watch this wonderfully weird film. The complex past of each character, the unexpected twists and turns and the dark comedic aspects of the release more than make up for the over the top violence and at times predictable storytelling. Bad Times at the El Royale will leave audiences mentally exhausted but overall satisfied, and maybe just a little confused.

Watch the Trailer for Bad Times at the El Royale here

 

Paper Review, Tuesday October 23

Join reporters Joanna Hampson and Olivia Otigbah for a review of today’s papers.

Rip It Up – Inside the Simple Minds of Scotland’s Musical Geniuses

When thinking of popular music in Scotland, what comes to mind? Does one wonder about those extra 500 miles you’d be willing to walk just to be the man who walks a thousand miles to fall down at your door?

Maybe you reminisce about being around loved ones belting out Loch Lomond Hogmonay or the Paulo Nutinis and Simple Minds of the world come to mind. These are all great examples of what makes music in Scotland great, but they are just a few drops in a great ocean of musical magic, and diving beneath the surface reveals a vast magnitude of songs, genres and artists dating back to the dance hall days of the 1930’s. Enter Rip It Up, an exhibition celebrating Caledonian musical creativeness.

Working alongside BBC Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland has put together an exhibition that takes audiences on a journey through popular music history in Scotland. One of the foremost surprises about this exhibit is discovering all of the bands and artists that were born in Caledonia. It may surprise fans of legendary Australian rockers AC/DC  to learn that the iconic Young brothers were born in Cranhill, Glasgow, alongside original singer Bon Scott, who grew up in Ayr.

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AC/DC Guitarist Angus Young, who was born in Glasgow. Photo by Ed Vill.

Walking through the decades, this exhibit features many interactive portals, from jukeboxes to music videos, giving the visitor a chance to learn about the early days of Scottish folk, with key figures such as Hamish Imlach, to Billy Connelly’s short-lived group The Humblebums. 

Scotland is a great ocean of musical magic, and diving beneath the surface reveals a vast magnitude of songs, genres and artists dating back to the dance hall days of the 1930’s.

As the exhibition travels forward in time, the faces and names become more recognisable. Instruments and memorabilia from bands who became successful worldwide are proudly displayed behind thick glass and “no photography allowed” signs, from custom Bay City Rollers guitars to the sunglasses Ultravox singer Midge Ure wore during the iconic Live Aid event. It features striking visuals, from old punk rock posters to stadium gigs projected on walls, and the ever-changing playlist of great Scots artists, from In a Big Country to Many of Horror.

Rip-It-Up curator Stephen Allan explains why it is relevant to start at the very beginning and work towards where we are now in music history: “Between the objects, the AV and the music, people will be able to learn more about their favourite artists and see their treasured objects up close, but also to discover music that is new to them in a whistlestop tour of over six decades of Scottish pop.”  

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Musical Scots legends Simple Minds. photo by Stefan Brending

Many of the artists included in the exhibit were interviewed and feature on various videos played there. A continuous theme that emerges from these interviews is the sense of community and respect bands had for one another. Anyone who has lived in Scotland will be painfully aware of the cold, wet nights that can plague many of our months. Along with boredom, unemployment and creative energy, this seems to have sparked many bands that started in the working man’s clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and went on to perform on the prominent stages all over the world.

Allan explains why this exhibit will relate to a wide audience: “Popular music is a shared experience and a really important one in many people’s lives. We want the exhibition to capture people’s imagination and allow them to reflect on their own experiences of listening to and enjoying music.”

Shirley Manson from the bands Garbage and Goodbye McKenzie applauds the National Museum of Scotland for recognising the depth and influence of Scottish artists: “Scotland has long deserved an examination of its rich musical heritage, the effects of which can be heard all over our globe today. While music is universal, and Garbage is an international band, being Scottish is a large part of who I am and has had a huge bearing on my work and our career.”

Scotland has inspired many bands that started in the working man’s clubs of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and went on to perform on the prominent stages all over the world.

A visit to this exhibit is essential for any young musician looking to turn their talent into a lifelong adventure or for the die-hard music fans who grew up with posters of these musicians hanging on their bedroom walls. Those who came before, and continue to create, are all represented under the banner of creative Caledonia. The exhibit will close on November 25, so be sure to catch it, before they rip it up and start again.

More Information on Rip It Up can be found here

As well as the main exhibition itself, students from our very own Napier University will be performing a night of Scottish songs from artists featured at Rip It Up, on Thursday 25th October. Tickets for the event, held at Summerhall, can be found here

 

Documentary review: Chef’s Table Season 5

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A cinematic consideration of diversity.

The documentary series ‘Chef’s Table’ showcases some of the world’s most renowned chefs and allows each to divulge their profoundly personal experiences and motivations, ultimately realising the unique styles that shape their cuisine.  In its first four seasons, the Netflix original ​series ​became known for its artistic cinematography and creative elevation of what cooking programmes had become. Launched on the September 28th, season five explores a new sense of diversity in both its approach and its subjects.

Unlike the past episodes, which revealed an unwelcome penchant for the male Michelin-starred chefs and fine dining exclusivity, the new season is seemingly a response to the audience critique of its predecessor (the pastry season). It showcases the most diverse and accessible cast so far, with two out of four chefs being women and two of the restaurants exhibiting a dining experience that seems more plausible to its audience: relativity inexpensive and void of bookings stretching a year in advance.

Season five shows deep consideration of how and why food stories should remain compelling even in 2018 when everything – or so we thought – has already been covered. Since its initial release in early 2015, across the 22 episodes that have led to the latest season, all of five female chefs had been featured on the show. It could be argued that discussing why such a lack of diversity is still prevalent in this rapidly modernising era would be worth our time, but why not give these award-winning filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and focus on how Chef’s Table is marking a major discourse of correction.

This distinctly new direction was spearheaded by the compelling story of Philadelphia chef and undocumented immigrant, Cristina Martinez. Fleeing an abusive husband, Martinez left Mexico eight years ago and throughout the episode it becomes clear that the trauma she experienced from this time will never fade. Despite all her efforts to become integrated, she was denied a green card and remains officially undocumented, living a life constantly at risk in Philadelphia.

Dissimilar to many of the series’ chefs, Martinez never sought to over complicate the traditional ingredients she used to create gastronomical elevations. After losing her job at a local restaurant – where her employer refused to write her a recommendation letter in her application for a green card – she and husband Ben Miller began cooking the food of Martinez’ childhood out of their one-bedroom apartment. Now, they are both co-owners of and chefs at their restaurant South Philly Barbacoa. Martinez is celebrated for her traditional Barbacoa cuisine: lamb that is laced with citrus and slow-cooked over an open flame. What started as the simple necessity of living, eventually grew into a platform for a greater understanding of Mexican food.

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In this episode, Martinez’ story explores the challenges of immigrants worldwide. Her constant battle to be accepted in a place so far from home, paired with the sacrificial nature of everything she does, solely to support her daughter and family, whom she hasn’t seen since she began her 15-day trek across the desert. Not only does this first episode shed light on the challenges faced by undocumented workers across the American food industry, it somehow still delivers what viewers clicked on Chef’s Table hoping to see; a beautifully filmed depiction of new world cuisine that fully defends the ability of food to provide comfort when it is most needed.

With nowhere else to go when the doors of acceptance were slammed in her face, Cristina Martinez stood her ground. Fuelled by the love from her family in Mexico, she managed to make a home for herself in South Philadelphia by sharing the food of her ancestors. But it’s not just Martinez who steers the new-found theme of diversity within the season. Episode two travels to Turkey where mentor and chef, Musa Dağdeviren, expresses the loss of knowledge about native cuisines.

“When you define food in ethnic terms, it sets communities against each other, and can create a serious alienation and extinction of our food culture,” Dağdeviren explains as the documentary films him at his restaurant, Çiya, where he aims to converge dishes from regions across Turkey. Producing food traditionally served in homes, that connect the customers to their long forgotten ethnic roots.

In another episode, ‘Chef’s Table’ travels to Thailand to meet Bo Songvisava, who was voted Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2013, and whose authentic Thai cooking draws influence from both the city’s impassioned street food and the rediscovered flavours of home traditions. At her restaurant, Bo.Lan, Songvisava and husband Dylan ‘Lan’ Jones use only organic and locally sourced produce in their commitment to fight the industrialisation of the food industry.

Finally, the collection ends with Albert Adrià of elBarri in Barcelona. Although the chef can be considered a success in his own right, he feels his life is constantly overshadowed by the status of his older brother and fellow Catalonian chef, Ferran Adrià Acosta. With a constant obligation to create new and exciting culinary advancements, Adrià recounts the immense pressure of working in a world-renowned restaurant, its effects made clear to the viewer.

Each account from season five seems to highlight a different modern-day challenge. Whether the main theme is identity, acceptance or a loss of culinary connection, ‘Chef’s Table’ has somewhat explored and conquered a widened scope of subjects. Encouraging the audience to feel at ease in the hands of these new characters, who are undeniably more relatable than those who came before them.

 

 

 

 

Cold War Review – Love, life and music in post-war Europe

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Cold War film poster

A politically charged Polish love story directed by Pawel Pawlikowsi unfolding in the monochromatic shadows of the the soviet union.

As I sat down in one of the comfy red chairs at Filmhouse cinema, I was unaware of the impact the film I was about to watch would have on me. Seated on the second row from the screen, I was physically close to what was happening in front of me – but I also began to feel attached on an emotional level.

Poland, 1949. Dancers and musicians are auditioning for the Mazurek ensemble to put on shows of traditional polish music and dance. One of them being the young Zula (Joanna Kulig). With great confidence, she enters the audition room together with another woman, performing a duet in front of Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza). Wiktor is enraptured by Zula’s charismatic performance. Soon she begins to bloom and perform alongside him, her jazz tunes warm and lively in contrast to the Cold War setting.

The character that Joanna Kulig so brilliantly plays is confident and colourful, even though the film is shot in black and white. Her chemistry with the male lead Wiktor, is easy to notice. It starts as a subtle connection when they first meet, and then continues to grow throughout the film, as they are separated by the power of the Cold War and then reunited by their hearts’ desires.

As the film is set in several locations– Poland, Paris, Yugoslavia and Berlin – and offers a wide range of scenery, it never gets boring. Despite its melancholic theme and time period, there is a lot of humour woven delicately throughout.  So much so that it always seems to somehow stay there in the background – almost fighting back against the dark of the world the couple lives in.

This beautifully created film, directed by the talented Pawel Pawlikowski, really moved me. It also made me laugh at loud numerous times. I would be very happy to watch it again. And perhaps again after that. And perhaps once more.

By Linnea Lind

‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’ – A welcome break from social issue dramas

To open the Oscar season with a comedy about the unsolved murder and rape of a teenage girl in small town America could be seen as risky. But, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga, director Martin McDonagh pieces together a tragedy suited to our generation. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri does not apologise for its train wreck of a protagonist or its foul mouth and is a welcome break from the morality of social issue dramas. 

Seven months after the death of her daughter, Mildred Haynes (Frances McDormand) erects three billboards calling out the police for the lack of arrests becoming a social pariah in the community. To Haynes it doesn’t matter that Chief Willoughby has cancer nor that her son is bearing the brunt of the town’s backlash. All she cares about is her own vengeance. And so begins a twisting chain of events which allows the cast to blossom, however the film lacks a satisfying finale.

While the flow can sometimes be clunky, McDonagh wedges in witty one liners reminiscent of his debut, In Bruge. The comedic delivery prevents the film descending into an unending stream of violence, although their effectiveness begins to fall short towards the end. Most of the characters are a fine balance of chaos and relatability, making for a compelling watch with Frances McDormand especially captivating as the grief turns her ugly and perhaps irredeemable. 

Three Billboards is unflinching in its reflection of humanity making it a must see despite a few flaws. 

“I Can’t Quit” – Review

The Vaccines are back with their fairly anticipated single ‘I Can’t Quit’.

I was slightly nervous about this considering the experimentation of their last album, ‘English Graffiti’ was slightly disappointing. However they have went back to basics with this new single – hopefully a good sign of what’s to come from upcoming album, ‘Combat Sports’.

‘I Can’t Quit’ begins with a simple, but effective,  Brit rock style riff. It seems they’re taking a leaf out of bands like The Kinks and The Undertone’s books. The simple guitar emphasises the edgier vocals. This simplicity creates a decent impact when the chorus kicks in, introducing the bass.

Upcoming album, ‘Combat Sports’ is out 30th March 2018. Credit: iTunes

The chorus is catchy but sounds very familiar to a couple of other songs. The two breaks are efficient as they don’t slow down or break the flow of the song.  The solo is catchy and short to keep the listener anticipating the final chorus.

Overall I’m happy with The Vaccine’s rudimentary return to simple, indie, Brit rock. This single wouldn’t feel out of place on their first album, ‘What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?, their most successful album and my personal favourite.

Hopefully, they’ll become a better competitor to the majority of Britain’s current derivative and imitative smorgasbord of indie trash.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Review

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Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Image property of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

 

“This time, the chick ain’t losing”

Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson & Sam Rockwell

So far from Martin McDonagh we’ve had a hitman’s Christmas holiday, followed by a soul searching road movie with legitimate psychopaths. ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is a huge tonal departure from these eccentricities however, in favour of focusing upon social commentary. A shift which darkens the tone past any of McDonagh’s previous works, moving from black comedy to outright tragedy.

In terms of plot, this is the strongest piece of work from the Irish director yet. His multifaceted narrative gracefully introduces each new player, while tackling difficult topics in a unique way. Watching the A-list cast, led wonderfully by Coen Brothers favourite Frances McDormand, unravel this engrossing tale of retribution is stunning. The emotional nuances of nearly every character lending sympathy to many different figures, exposing internalised flaws in each. For example, Woody Harrelson’s police chief Willoughby, whom we first meet through the titular billboards is painted as a brutal and unsympathetic man. Soon after though, we learn just enough to not completely excuse him but understand his logic and empathise with his reasoning. There are a lot of redemptive arcs throughout ‘Three Billboards,’ and while Willoughby’s and Mildred’s (Frances McDormand) are near perfect, there’s one which is very misjudged. To say which character would be a spoiler, but he’s never shown as anything but abhorrently violent and racist throughout, so the sudden change to hero in the final moments feels very bizarre. The argument McDonagh makes of it being an examination of nature or nurture doesn’t excuse it either.

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Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Image property Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The treatment of certain issues, including police brutality against people of colour, is equally haphazard. Several scenes are played for laughs at the expense of minority figures- including a wasted use of Peter Dinklage, where he appears to serve no purpose but being the butt of several height jokes. The case could be made that this is dark comedy, so risky content is par for the course. This however feels more like lazy writing. McDoangh believes it’s enough to be cruel about a grouping of people, and then claim it’s showing awareness to social issues. The constant torrent of discriminatory slurs doesn’t help either, resulting in several scenes feeling childish instead of uncomfortable or darkly comic.

Overall, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is an infuriating film which could be brilliant. For every moment of great character development or intriguing plot direction, shallow representation or questionable scripting choices get in the way. If you are used to McDonagh’s style, you’ll find a lot to love here. But, it may be a little too on the nose for the uninitiated. It’s interesting to see this film taking so many awards nominations this season, because it is going to be highly controversial upon release.

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ is released Friday 12 January nationwide.

The War on Drugs smash Glasgow sellout shows

The War on Drugs impress at second sell-out night at The Barras.

 

Adam Granduciel spoke candidly of his problems with anxiety attacks in a recent interview. The inevitable shift from small venues to baying festival crowds as his career progressed put the 38-year-old in a downward spiral of panic attacks.

Now, following the release of The War on Drugs’ fourth studio album, A Deeper Understanding, the band’s frontman says he has found solace in the life of a touring musician having come to terms with his demons. Currently on an extensive world tour, the Philadelphia natives wowed fans on the second of two consecutive sold out nights at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom on Friday.

 

After a stellar opening set from The Barr Brothers, the anticipatory burble swirling around The Barras is palpable. Eventually, and without so much as uttering a word, The War on Drugs open up with In Chains from the new record.

 

The lack of chat is a constant theme as the band speed through a host of tracks from the latest album as well as a few numbers from 2014’s seminal Lost In A Dream. The songs are rarely less than six or seven minutes; each spiralling off into a kaleidoscopic dream stuffed full with choice saxophone, glistening guitars with drummer Steven Urgo’s constant pulse pulling the whole thing together.

 

The wide-eyed audience enjoy a largely gentle pace to the show, buoyed by the spectacular lighting. The exception is Under The Pressure which, after an epic build up, gets people jumping on the famously bouncy Barrowland Ballroom floor. After all, it wouldn’t be a show at the Barras without a bit of pogo dancing.

 

As the set wears on, the honesty of Granduciel’s songwriting is tangible. There are no gimmicks, no shock tactics; just passion, big Springsteen-esque choruses, timeless lyrics and unremitting guitar solos which trundle on in the style of Neil Young. One gets the feeling that this is the modern embodiment of stadium rock. The band’s early mission to combine krautrock with big sky Americana seemed impossible if even ill-thought-out; but The War on Drugs prove to be effortlessly original, whilst still finding the time for a tip of the cap to the greats.

 

The War on Drugs continue the UK leg of their tour tonight with a sold out show in London.

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