Archive | March, 2013

New Somersby Cider advert parodies Apple Stores

27 Mar

Apple (the Computer Company) are well-known for the extent they will go to protect their brand so I wonder what they will make of this advert that debuted yesterday on TV.

It is a hilarious spoof (in a geeky kind of way) of the almost religious hysteria that accompanies the launch of a new Apple product and the devotees that storm Apple Stores world-wide to be the first to get their hands on a new i-Something.

Rather than the latest techno-gizmo though the advert is for an ice cold glass of Cider. Littered with lots of reference to techno jargon – “in to face”, “64 pip vs 32 pip”, “docking station”, “one click” and “works perfectly in direct sunlight”, for anyone who’s wondered why people queue for days outside Regents Street for the latest iProduct you will find this amusing.

 

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway…”Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble”

23 Mar

They say Nostalgia is always better the first time around. Sometimes it isn’t. I remember 1994 and I certainly remember PJ and Duncan and their hit single Lets’ Get Ready To Rhumble. It is safe to say my CD Rack feeble as it was back then was never remotely threatened by its addition.

Roll forward nineteen years. PJ and Duncan have become Ant and Dec. The Geordie lads from Byker Grove have become a pair of, not yet middle aged but certainly get closer, Saturday night Entertainers far removed from their suburban “Hip-Pop” roots.

As they evolved they carefully managed the change of their brand leaving behind all the vestiges of what they once were, that is until tonight.

In a nod to a recent reality TV series on ITV2 that saw 5ive, Blue and Atomic Kitten reforming, these bands were invited to perform on the Saturday Night Takeway tonight and the surprise was for one night only Ant and Dec were going to perform their hit single alongside the other bands.

The song might have been cheesy, pop-pish and very Vanilla but the performance Ant and Dec gave tells you everything you need to know about why they are Mr & Mr Saturday night TV. It was stupendously fantastic, especially when you consider that they were busting these same extremely energetic moves close to twenty years ago.

I shouldn’t have liked it but I loved it.

 

 

p.s. I you don’t remember the original, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, now I do

Secret Millions [Secret Millionaire Rebooted]…Channel 4

19 Mar

So let’s say I work in a Charity, social housing or some other part of the voluntary sector. Let’s say also my job is located in a former mining or industrial town somewhere up north that has seen better times. If one day a stranger appears out of nowhere with a camera crew in tow and tells me he or she is looking for some work experience and the crew are filming a documentary. Am I going to think “Secret Millionaire“? You’re damn right I would.

Secret millionaire has probably exhausted every ruse going and you even get the feeling in some of the later episodes that the people they met where pretty much going through the motions till the cheque turned up.

So how do you reboot a franchise that relies on that sort of deception. Well there is always Celebrity Secret Millionaire or Secret Millions as channel 4 now calls it. The twist is the celebrity is not pretending to be someone else, but instead needs to get people involved in a project to an extent that will convince the Big Lottery Fund to give them further funding.

This weeks episode feature TV architect George Clarke aka The Restoration Man and project was to get a bunch of London youths involved in a building apprentice scheme that would see them restore one of London’s thousands of abandoned properties back to a livable condition.

The youth were an assortment of young offenders and troubled teenagers. Including one chap, who had never left London before and never seen a cow either. His delight when he saw one was heart warming. It was somewhat more worrying when he couldn’t tell a cow and horse apart, and probably explains some of the problem’s in the meat industry.

The youngsters were a bit reluctant as the project kicked off but certainly the ones they featured really seemed to get into the whole thing and their sense of pride when the building was completed renovated was a clear to see.  Along the way we saw some real bonds develop between the youths and their mentors, the sort of bonds they clearly missed in parts of the earlier life. We saw the youths realise that there were opportunities for them through apprenticeship schemes in the building industry with support like that demonstrated in the programme.

So how do you do a big reveal in a situation like this? Typically on the old school secret millionaire, the millionaire went back revealed who he was and started doling out cheques, that obviously would not work in the case as everyone knows who the celebrity is.

That’s where the Lottery steps in.  George Clarke took the whole team to a swanky conference centre supposedly for a lecture on London architecture but it was a ruse for an opportunity for the The Big Lottery Fund’s spokesman to step in and announce funding of £1.7 million.

George Clark who had been very emotional through out the the programme was pretty much a blubbering wreck by this point.

The programme sent out a strong positive message about tackling youth unemployment and training opportunities, but there are serious challenges even for a laudable project like this. The construction industry is in recession, and British workers face fierce competition from experienced and cheaper skilled labour from Eastern Europe. Let’s hope are youthful apprentices are given the support needed to get through these challenges.

Movies on TV…Salt…Slightly over seasoned, completely unhinged (CH4)

18 Mar

I struggle to think of the last film I saw with Angelina Jolie where she wasn’t some sort of femme fatale rampaging through enemy territory guns blazing and fists flailing. From the Tomb Raider franchise, Mr and Mrs Smith, Wanted and even more recently The Tourist Ms Jolie is all action.

Did she take a break in Salt? You wish.

The essence of the plot had Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) as a sleeper agent planted as a child in the United States by an agency of the then Soviet Union and she ends up working for the CIA.

Fast forward quite a few years and a Russian defector Orlov, turns up out of the blue to Salt’s office and is brought in for interrogation led by Salt. He tells a story of children trained by the Soviets as sleeper agents, how they are swapped with the real children of Americans and embedded as sleeper agents. He tells of one child swapped when her supposed parent die on a trip to Russia. The child has been trained as an assassin and  is to be triggered to kill the Russian President, a reformer, who is on a visit to the USA. He reveals the sleeper agent’s name – Evelyn Salt.

Her colleague Ted Winter and CIA counterintelligence officer Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) were observing and a decision is made to detain Salt, and from that point on the film doesn’t not take a breather weaving at breakneck speed through one unexplained and implausible situation after another.

Why did Salt resist being questioned about Orlov’s allegations? Why did Orlov’s visit trigger Salt’s flight? How did she escape form so many well trained agents? Why did she go back to her apartment after fleeing? Why did the CIA not think to send people to her apartment straight after she escaped? Why was her friend and close colleague Winter allowed to join in the hunt?

Escaping from the CIA office Salt then seemingly kicked into her sleeper role mission to kill the the Russian President who was attending the funeral of his friend the Vice President of the USA. Despite the security cordon by the NYPD, FBI, CIA and the US secret service. Salt got into church, blew up the floor beneath the lectern where the Russian President was giving a Eulogy and as he dropped through the floor to where she was, she shot him.

More questions? Why did she go on this mission? How come she was so well prepared? Had she planned for the mission? and the inevitable question how come she outwitted and out fought her way through what were insurmountable odds.

After wrecking carnage at Funeral Salt meets up with Orlov in a hideout he has with the other sleepers who kidnapped and later kill Salt’s husband to test if she is still loyal. He reveals the next part of the plot to Salt, breaking into America’s nuclear bunker, kidnapping the President and starting a nuclear war with Russia. He sets up a rendezvous with a new sleeper agent who will get Salt into the White House. Salt however is not in a forgiving mood and kills Orlov and all the other sleepers in revenge for her husband’s murder.

Why were all the sleepers in one place, had they all been activated at once?  If they were all as highly trained as Salt how come she got rid of them so easily?

In the finale act she meets up with another sleeper who gets her into the White House. This sleeper attempts to assassinate the President by blowing himself up, but ends up triggering emergency procedures that takes the President into a safe room deep in the bowels of the White house. In there it turns out Winter, Salts colleague, is also sleeper. He kills all the agents and with the President all alone tries to force him to launch a nuclear war. Salt who had been trying to breaks into the bunker, finally does so and prevents Winter from launching the missiles.

More questions Was this part of the master plan? Why was Winter allowed to be part of the President’s security detail? What triggered his mission?

After nuclear was is averted. Salt is arrested but before they can take her away in a kerfuffle she engineers  she uses her handcuffs to choke Winter to death.

Why did she kill him? What purpose did that serve? If she hadn’t changed sides he was an ally she could use. If she hadn’t he might have valuable information on the rest of the sleeper network.

She is finally whisked away in a military helicopter, where even more implausibly after all the havoc she’s wrecked she persuades Peabody to release her and she escapes.

Why did he let go ?

I think the film should really have been called Saltyyyyyyy cause it left me with so many Whys?

p.s  The action scenes were great.

 

Movies on TV…Good Morning Vietnam (Film4)

16 Mar

If you were to ask me to name my ten best films ever, maybe even my five best films ever there will be a spot reserved for Good Morning Vietnam. I can’t say how many times I have watched it but too many times is not  one of the answers I would give.

The film is a tour de force by Robin Williams  who plays Armed Forces DJ Adrian Cronauer. Ably supported by a phenomenal cast which includes Forest Whitaker (Edward Garlick), Bruno Kirby (Lt Hauk), J T Walsh (Sgt Dickerson) and not to forget  Cu Ba Nguyen as the irrepressible Vietnamese  bar owner Jimmy amongst others.

On the surface Good Morning Vietnam is probably deemed to be comedy, a vehicle for Robin Williams to perform his trademark rapid fire humour, but that would be doing it a massive disservice.

The film is much more than that. It is political film touching on the lies, untruths and duplicity that shrouded America’s involvement in Vietnam.

It is a love story with the unrequited love Robin Williams has for his Vietnamese student Trinh.

It is a buddy movie and you can take pick of buddy relationships, Adrian Cronauer and Edward Garlick, Adrian Cronauer and Tuan  (Tung Thanh Tran)  who turns out to be Viet Cong, or even the ‘axis of Evil’ Lt Hauk and Sgt Dickerson.

It is a journey through some of the popular rock and roll, soul and pop  anthems of the 60′s James Brown, Wilson Pickett, The Rivieras,  Perry Como, The Beach Boys and much more.

It is about power and it use and abuse. The power to send thousand of young men into war fought over reason that were at best nebulous. The power to censor to censor the truth and ultimately that the power of the state trunphs the power of an individual.

The film follows Adrian Cronauer’s valiant and ultimately doomed attempt to breath life in to a Military Radio station. There are so many greats moments in the film but this always stands out for me for its poignancy and humour.

 

Gogglebox…Who’s watching who?

14 Mar

Sometimes you go to a hairdressers and they have mirrors on both sides of the wall and you look into one mirror and you see a reflection of your refection from the other mirror effectively a DIY infinity mirror.

Channel 4′s GoggleBox reminds me of that. We are watching people on TV watching programmes on TV, if one of the programmes they are watching ends up being GoggleBox there is a real and imminent danger we will all then become locked into a infinite never ending episode of the programme, so watch GoggleBox with caution.

Like all programmes about TV GoggleBox is a bit narcissistic, but nonetheless it has its entertaining moments. It is kind of like a less funny, but real version of the Royale Family. We see Britain’s diverse domestic units gathered around TV, families with kids, families without kids, friends, lovers and more.

All are entranced by what’s on TV which has been the centre of our domestic life for decades. Often the insights programmes like this give us are not just what we know, that everyone has an opinion on what is on TV, but the changing way we watch TV.

Increasingly we compliment what we are watching of TV with active or casual surfing, checking what the internet, social media, wikipedia and such have to say on a topic we are watching. On Gogglebox we saw Ipads and phones used by the by our TV watchers to check the amount of money winning crufts gets you, and when Pistorius last twitted amongst others. Fact Checking, as Americans referred to it, is now the order of the day. So TV programme makers beware!

EPISODE 1.

 

EPISODE 2.

 

EPISODE 3.

 

Interesting side observation. why did one of the Guys from the Siddiqui family always watch TV in a suit? He clearly takes it a bit seriously.

ITV’s Ant and Dec’s Saturday Takeaway…My kids are in Paris????

10 Mar

Ant and Dec are British TVs most wholesome double act, so wholesome that they probably count as one of your five a day and ITV’s Saturday night line up is not complete without the dynamic Geordie duo turning up in some guise or the other.

The latest offering is a new series of their successful Saturday Takeaway a mix of prize giveaways,  celebrity appearances, competitions and surprises for the audience.  Nothing controversial and as I said all very wholesome. Sometime even the most wholesome show hits a “this is a bit awkward” moment.

A young lady was picked out of the audience and Ant and Dec explained how the Mothers Day spa trip her two daughters organised for her was far from ordinary.  In disguise were quite a few of her favourite celebrities.  Clips from the visit revealed to her that the receptionist at the spa was Olympic medallist Louise Smith, her chef was Dancing On Ice Judge Jason Gardner and the  swimming pool attendant was TOWIE‘s Mark Wright.

Each clip bringing lots of audience laughter and humorous surprise from the mum.

All fine and normal, it then moved onto her chance to win a prize – ” A trip to Paris”. The camera cut to her daughters who we were told were in Chesterfield as they read out three clues for their mum  ”Where do they say bonjour?”, “Where is the Eiffel Tower?” and “Where do they wear berets?”. Mum answered the questions and won the prize and then the real surprise she was  told she was off to Paris “to join her kids”.

Then her expression changed she was no longer amused more bemused. You did not have to be a mind reading to see the thoughts racing through her head. What the  h@#! were her  7 and 4-year-old daughters doing in Paris? How did they get there? Who was with them?

She was literally frozen to the spot with incredulity and not of the happy kind, and had to be subtly ushered off the stage. I suspect there are going to be many questions asked back stage.

It deem seem a bit gung ho,  I not sure if there was another parent present but there had been no suggestion on the show that there was, so I can imagine the mum being less than happy. I think Ant and Dec may have dropped a tiny notch on the wholesomeness scale.

Movies on TV…Skyline (Channel 4)

10 Mar

I think I get Skyline. Whenever there is a movie about  a massive alien invasion of earth you expect two things. Firstly you expect the aliens to arrive with overwhelming force battering mankind to the point where they are just one hero, or one stroke of good luck, away from defeat (Independence Day, War of the Worlds,  or even Mars Attacks)

Invariably the plot gets to a point where just when it seems all is lost the tide turns, mankind triumphs and we are reminded of the human ability to survive adversities of all kinds as misty eyed survivors gather and celebrate the indomitable human spirit.

Skyline does not buy into this, well they buy into the first part about aliens battering mankind close to submission, but not the part of  turning the tide. In Skyline when the aliens go on a rampage, they really go on a rampage.  Earth is totally beaten.

In some ways Skyline is arguably a dose of realism, well as real as you can get when you are talking about  aliens and flying saucers.

We as human race have pretty much scanned the all the planets close by and quite a few not so close and not found any signs of life. If aliens do invade they would be in all likelihood be coming from some seriously far-flung star system and would be equipped with technology far in advance of anything we have.

The chances are that the battles would be one-sided and that was what we get in Skyline.  An alien race with the ability to hover vast number of humans into their space ships to satisfy their taste for human brains and equipped with an unstoppable war machine to do this. In the process they defied the best the US Army and Airforce could throw at them including nuclear bombs.

The plot centered around 6 main characters Terry  played by Daniel Faison (Turk for Scrubs aficionados), Jarrod (Eric Balfour), Elaine (Scottie Thompson), Candice (Brittany Daniels), Denise (Crystal Reed) and Oliver (David Zayas).

Terry is a wealthy LA entrepreneur who is living the LA dream with  Candice his girlfriend. Terry invites old school buddy Jarrod over to LA from New York for hedonistic weekend to celebrate his birthday, but also plans to ask him to join his business. Jarrod comes along with his pregnant girlfriend Elaine. Joining the couples for a weekend of fun is Terry’s assistant Denise with whom he is having an affair. Added to the mix later on is David the building manager of the penthouse where Terry lives.

After Terry and his guests indulge in some serious pool and penthouse partying their well-earned late morning lie-in is interrupted by strange goings-on. The aliens have landed and from their we are pulled into a claustrophobic thriller as the party goers later joined by Oliver the building manager struggle to evade the alien brain snatchers.

For a film that depicts a world-wide invasion of earth the concentration on the such a limited number of characters and staging the bulk of the plot  in a single building may have been great for the budget, but was pretty poor for creating a sense of scale. It was like Attack on Precinct 13 but with slimy aliens as the bad guys.

I also never worked out why it took the US Airforce a whole day to respond to the wholesale alien invasion of Los Angeles. When they did respond we were treated to a some very good air battles cumulating in the detonation of the mother ship with a thermo nuclear device in Los Angeles.

I am not an expert  on nuclear war, but I would assume the White House in authorising that attack had pretty much had accepted that the casualties from the radiation fallout were justified in attempt to save earth.  The attack was unsuccessful in stopping the aliens because the mother ship seemed to have some ability to self-heal, but the radiation fallout so close to ground zero of the explosion seemed to have no effect on our cast of 6.

The nuclear bomb and radiation fallout might not have done them in but one by one they were picked up by the Aliens till were left with Jarrod and Elaine and this was with a couple of minutes left in the movie and then it clicked. Isn’t there going to be a twist, will the aliens suddenly realise they are vulnerable to the common cold, will a brave pilot fly into the middle of the mother ship on Kamikaze style and bring it down or will we find that country music played on loud speakers is there kryptonite.

The answer was none of the above, Jarrods brain was sucked out and Elaine was swept away into slimy, grimy alien incubator for pregnant women. Aliens 1 Mankind 0.

 

Dave…If you’re not watching Suits on Dave I want to know why?

7 Mar

If all TV programmes were like Suits I think I would probably never leave my house. Suits started off brilliantly on Dave last year but has only got better. It is like a fine wine from an award wining vineyard and as time goes by matures into a from just being great to exquisite.

Over the top praise? I don’t think so. A lot of  high concept episodic dramas come to our screen with a single underlying narrative. Recently for instance we had Homeland  with a underlying theme as to whether a prisoner of war had been turned into a terrorist. The challenge for these dramas is sustaining and developing the narrative particularly after a very successful first season.

This is something that Suits has done spectacularly well, the character and plot development has been phenomenal. We have seen the characters develop in believable and engaging ways.  Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) has gone from a infallible legal demigod strutting across the floors of his firm Pearson Hardman to a more humane and somewhat vulnerable man reduced in stature by a change in his fortune as his past coming back to haunt him.

Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams)  the young smart know it all, still smart and still a bit of a know it all but he’s has gradually come to realise  that life isn’t just about what you know but your relationships.

There is Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) smart, sexy and blossoming and she gains higher regard in the firm.  Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) Harvey’s loyal right hand woman finding  that when reputations and careers are at stake there is always collateral damage. Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) so used to be being the top dog at her beloved firm now finding herself in a war of attrition in which losing may mean losing everything she has fought for.

It all seems to be coming to a head. In tonight’s episode we see Harvey narrowly escape a law suit that could have left him disbarred and the firm mortally wounded. The price to be paid though is higher than he might have wanted his friendship with Donna seemingly dead, his reputation as a ruthless focus legal rotweiller torn to shreds. and Jessica in a perilous position as her nemesis Daniel Hardman (David Costabile) attempts a coup d’etat

So the question remains if you aren’t watching  why aren’t you watching? If you missed it you can catch up with Season 1 on DVD. Thank me later

America’s Poor Kids…BBC2

6 Mar

Often when you think of poor children you often think of the grinding poverty you see in the third world or of images from the great depression. Poverty so visual it is difficult to be anything but that, but in thinking that way may mean you could easily miss the extent to which poverty still exists in the first world.

America’s Poor kids on BBC2 attempted to strip back the veneer of first world prosperity and to reveal a different world, a world of need, deprivation and depression through the eyes of the children trapped in situation not of their making

There was Kaylie in Iowa bouncing from a house her family could not afford to a motel, and back again to  another house they could barely afford. Jonny stuck with his family in a Salvation Army shelter with ever constant threat of write-up’s  constantly hanging over them. Write-ups given for infractions for any one of the myriad of shelter’s rules, go across a certain number and you’re evicted. Then there is little Sera stuck in a shelter in Tenderloin San Francisco, Tenderloin it turns out is anything but tender.

The story’s were all told by kids who were all remarkably articulate. They came across as  coping as best as they can in a situation not of their making but in their interviews you could see some traces of resentment in what they perceive as their parents failure, certainly in the case of Kaylie and Sera. Both were in single parent household and touched upon their Moms not having made the right choices.

The real emotionally gripping aspect was when the children talked about the future, they still had dreams but the experience and the reality of the life they had lived had begun to encroach into those dreams.

They talked about breaking the cycle of poverty they find themselves in, of getting an education and getting jobs but they also talked about what happens to people who don’t escape poverty. It was in that you got the feeling they could see one possible and arguably an increasingly probable vision of their own future, a future slowly being shaped by their being  trapped in a vortex of dwindling choices on education, housing and healthcare that poverty in America brings.