The Mimic

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Benportrait1Our Wednesday nights have recently seen the return of Channel 4’s comedy show, ‘The Mimic’. Contrary to many other impression shows, ‘The Mimic’ is written in the style of a sitcom, and it follows the life of former internet sensation, Martin Hurdle, who is now out of work due to a stage fright incident.

I think the first series of ‘The Mimic’ was decent. I didn’t hate it, and it easily passed half an hour of the day, providing me with a few smiles. But not laughs, which is quite telling. I think The Mimic’s unique selling point is, in reality, a disadvantage. Other impressionists are able to dress up as the character they are impersonating, whereas Terry Mynott (the writer and impressionist playing the main character, Martin Hurdle) has to rely solely on his voice. In series 1 this worked as Mynott used a small number of well-rehearsed and well used voices, except for his Terry Wogan which was shocking.

However the first episode saw a number of new voices wheeled out, and I left writing the review until after the second episode as I hoped the show would improve. It didn’t. Many of the new impersonations baffled me until a name was dropped, and what is the point in doing an impersonation if you have to name drop in order for people to understand it? I felt the voices were rushed to make sure he could use them for series 2, and as a result many were unrecognizable and poorly executed.

The lackluster impressions have left me disappointed with the new series. I’d much prefer it if Mynott added one very good voice to his repertoire, rather than adding a range of poor ones that wouldn’t be out of place at a school talent contest taking place in a school that has only just learnt English as a second language. 

In conclusion, I feel that ‘The Mimic’ should have been successfully shelved after series 1. Series 2 has seen a range of new, poorly preformed impressions, and has taken the downbeat nature of series 1 and alienated it, making series 2 more disappointing and depressing than anything else.  The best advice I can give is to watch series 1 and then stop. No matter how tempting it is, do not watch series 2. You will be eternally disappointed. 

-Ben

The Best Laid Plans of Apes and Men

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self portraitI’ve been pretty bored this summer, and there’s only so much South Park a guy can watch in a day, so last weekend I decided to get a couple of mates together and go to see ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. Now, I’d been looking forward to this film for a long time, ever since I saw ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ in 2011. I was really excited because Hollywood had finally managed to make a really good reboot of the franchise (Something I’d lost all hope for after Tim Burton’s pretty awful attempt). And I’m glad to say that ‘Dawn’ didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it exceeded all my expectations.

I first fell in love with the ‘The Planet of the Apes’ franchise when I saw the 1968 original at a fairly young age; I think I was six or seven… Let’s say seven. Anyway, it was like nothing I’d seen before. It was creepy, exciting, intelligent, and the script was brilliantly written, with some great, memorable lines. Obviously not all of this occurred to me when I was about 7 years old, but I was still fascinated by this upside down world where ape ruled over man. The fact that I have always loved sci-fi might have helped with my interest. I don’t know why, but it’s always been my favourite genre, even if it used to scare the crap out of me, and to be honest some of it still does. Just not in the hide-behind-the-sofa kind of way.

Anyway, now the context’s out of the way, to the review! Like I said, the film exceeded all my expectations. The story was really well crafted and it was very believable, which isn’t an easy task to accomplish in a Sci-Fi movie.  Now, I’m not saying that it didn’t have its flaws. I personally thought that some of the plot points were a little clichéd, and since I’ve seen them used in quite a lot of other storylines, I could easily guess what was about to happen at times. That being said, there were more than enough twists and pieces of brilliant dialogue to cancel the cheesiness out. And to be honest, I was glad that they kept the plot relatively straightforward, since these days a lot of writers seem to think that you need a complicated story in order to make a great novel or movie. That’s simply not true. This film managed to keep its story straightforward and still deliver the characterisation and emotional impact needed. And due to this, I think it’s one of the best ‘new’ films I’ve seen for a very long time. You may be wondering why I decided to call this review “The best laid plans of Apes and Men”, well in the film there are so many times where the apes and humans come within reach of living peacefully together in this world, but just as it seems to be going well, violence and prejudice rear their ugly heads. This is made even more tragic by the fact that you know it can’t work out, the victory of the apes is written in the concept’s history. (So much so that I don’t class that as a spoiler)

A recent, common theme of films and TV programmes is to make them dark and gritty. And while some people may get sick of this often grim, realistic viewing, I can’t get enough of it. I love the grittiness. ‘Dawn’ certainly didn’t let up on the darkness, and for good reasons. The world that the humans and the apes once knew is gone, and they both have to adapt to this new life. When the film begins, the apes are enjoying their time without humans (who they see as nothing but a threat) and you spend the first twenty minutes or so in their company. This means that our first glimpse of this new world is through their eyes, and I think this immediate connection with the apes is one of the reasons why I liked them so much more than the humans in the film. You see, in ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’ the apes aren’t the antagonists, and I’d go so far as to say that most of the time they are the heroes of the story, whereas in the old films (Especially the first two), they were portrayed as the villains. The new films muddle this black and white morality into a whole bunch of different shades of grey (Not quite fifty though, sorry). There are mixtures of good, evil and misguided characters on both sides of this conflict, and none of them can be labelled as one or the other as even the most villainous characters, like Toby Kebbell’s Koba or Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus, have their reasons.

“There’s good and evil on both sides of every war ever fought”Jorah Mormont, Game of Thrones.

Speaking of my attachment to the apes, it definitely would not have been so heartfelt if wasn’t for the superb acting of Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell and the other motion-capture actors. They were simply incredible, as was the work of the animation artists who transformed them into their Simian characters. As I’ve mentioned, I felt far more sympathetic towards the apes, especially in one particular battle scene, which was as horrific and heart-breaking as the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.

Whenever I watch a film, the soundtrack always plays a big part for me. If I love a film, it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll love the soundtrack too. And I have to say, I was very impressed by the music in the film. I’ve narrowed down the reasons why I loved it so much to three main points. One, the ominous, droning music in the beginning scenes was almost certainly inspired by the music used with the apes in ‘2001: A space odyssey’, it’s a primal, disconcerting sound, and it fits these scenes perfectly. Two, the tension the music builds in this film is phenomenal, but it doesn’t overpower the images, it enhances them. And finally, there are some really cool musical references to the Jerry Goldsmith original ‘Planet of the Apes’. Which, as a big fan of the franchise, I absolutely loved, and If you’ve seen the original before you see this film, you’ll get what I mean.

Speaking of references to the old films, the film had some pretty sweet Easter eggs here and there, which they also did in the previous film. However in this one, they’re not as blatant or as tongue in cheek. Instead, I think they’re more nostalgic. Here’s a quick bullet point list of some I noticed.

  • Caesar was the name of the Ape in the fourth film ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ and the fifth film ‘Battle of the Planet of the Apes’. Which are very similar in their premises to ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’ respectively, but for some reason these recent ones aren’t labelled as remakes…
  • There was a glimpse of one of the “Scarecrow” markers from the original, which mark out the “forbidden zones”.
  • Also, the apes ride horses to get around.

That’s just about all I can give you without the risk of spoilers, but you can see what I mean by the neat little references.

And for my last point, the CGI was absolutely incredible. It was seriously some of the best artwork I’ve ever seen in a film, at most points I completely forgot that the apes weren’t really there. They were so lifelike, which really allowed you to get attached to the characters. I know it’s probably quite a strange thing to pick as the stand out piece of CGI, but the fur on those apes was so detailed that at points I thought they’d used animatronics instead of computer animation. As well as the fur, motion capture has come such a long way in terms of facial expressions and movement, it really was amazing. Massive thumbs up to the artists!

Anyway, whoever you are, you need to see this film. It’s visually stunning, the dialogue is great, the story is extremely entertaining, and at points it can be pretty poignant. It’s definitely the film of the summer, if not the year, and I’m almost certainly going to see it again.

-Lewis

 

Fresher’s Week

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Benportrait1Without a doubt, one of the things that most soon-to-be University Students look forward to is Fresher’s Week. The advertised excessive boozing and clubbing appeals to most people, and even I, a self-confessed pub man, was waiting with anticipation for fresher’s week this time last year. Freshers had always been advertised to me as the week where you will primarily get drunk, which did happen to be fair, but also where you would meet loads of new people. Don’t get me wrong, you do meet loads of people, but other than the people you live with, I can guarantee that you will remain in contact with none of them.

The days during freshers don’t half drag as well. I would honestly recommend you save a series of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad specifically for freshers week to help pass the time. Or, alternatively, you can get absolutely hammered every night so you sleep through the days (if you can survive 3 days in a row of properly ‘getting on it’ as a fresher, you have my respect). And yes, they are that dull.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try. My bedroom door was always open. Some of my flat would pop in for a chat but you are just getting to know each other, so it can be a bit awkward at first. The more social members of the flat quickly present themselves. Although from my experience, some of my flat tended to stay in their bedroom. One of my flatmates went home for a week and the rest of didn’t even realise she had gone until she came back. You do get people like that, so try and make an effort with them, but I wouldn’t waste your time stressing over them.

As well as the nightlife, there are events put on during the day. The Fresher’s fair is a good one to go to, even if it’s just for the free pens. The sign up day for all the societies (in Southampton known as ‘The Bun Fight’) is worth a visit. Make sure that you at least go to the first session of whatever you sign up for, even if you only have a slight interest in it. Do not use ‘Freshers Flu’ as an excuse. Unless you physically cannot get yourself out of bed, you haven’t got ‘Freshers Flu’ bad enough to prevent you doing things. I didn’t go to some and, to be honest, I do regret it now. Other than that there really isn’t that much to do. Netflix’s free one month trial is definitely worth utilising.

There are induction sessions you have to go to, but they really don’t matter. The lecturers will not care if you turn up battered; they expect it during Fresher’s. Just don’t do what I did and waste a night playing cards with a flat mate. We both regretted it the next day following the pointless talks we sat through.

Well, this is the end of my cynical look at freshers. I hope that, if you read it, you have learnt something from my mistakes. I also hope this has lowered your expectations slightly and as a result you might enjoy Fresher’s more. See, I care really. Stay safe and enjoy yourselves, you crazy kids.

– Ben

A British BBQ

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self portraitI don’t think there’s anything in the world that’s as hopeless or as naively optimistic as a British BBQ. It’s looks like a sad affair most of the time. Rain is almost guaranteed, people will annoy you, and the food takes too long and is usually undercooked in the end. In short, it’s disma. Or at least that’s what it looks like to a person unfamiliar with the event, like an Australian for instance, with all their sunshine and barbecued shrimp and fosters and stuff. But as someone who’s  grown up with these sad events, I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what if it rains? Just put a parasol up above the BBQ (which works perfectly fine until one of your friends pours half a bottle of lighter fluid into the flames, almost burning down your garage as well as the parasol… He’s not allowed near the grill any more). And so what if the food takes too long? That’s just more time to chat with mates and take the piss out of the cook (even if it’s you). And as for people annoying you? Well a few alcoholic drinks of your choice will ease that pain (I personally start on whisky and coke, finishing on whatever’s left). I think most British people will agree with me when I say that a BBQ will definitely have its flaws, but it’ll be a great evening for everybody… Except for the always busy and stressed host, but fuck ’em, right?

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this little piece is that I’ll be doing my annual summer BBQ soon. It’s now been going on for two proud years, and the guest list has remained fairly consistent. Some people haven’t made the cut, and I just don’t talk to some people anymore, but who needs them? They’re missing out on a great night filled with meat, alcohol, and a little bit of salad on the side. And since I’m preparing for my own event, I thought I’d give you some pointers in case you want to throw your own mediocre BBQ extravaganza.

  1. Get everyone to bring some booze and food; otherwise it gets pretty damn expensive.
  2. Always buy more fuel than necessary; it’s a disaster if you run out halfway through.
  3. Don’t leave your mates to look after the BBQ, it doesn’t end well.
  4. Make sure you have an umbrella or parasol ready; it’s almost guaranteed to rain.
  5. If your friends tell you to hurry up with the food, go even slower.
  6. Don’t let your friends (Not naming any names, Martha) invite their sixteen year old cousin when you’ve invited a guy who has a history of younger girlfriends. It ends up with you and your friends throwing apples at them while they make out at the bottom of the garden. And no one wants that except for the creepy guy.
  7. Unless you live in a city, make sure you stock up on food and alcohol; it’s hard to find a 24 hour off licence in a small town.
  8. Don’t get too stressed about being the host, as long as you’ve done a decent job you’ll be fine. It’s your friends’ responsibility to have fun.
  9. As for lighting the BBQ, take suggestions from people on how to do it. But deny that they had anything to do with the success.

That’s all I can think of at the moment, and I hope it’s going to help you in one way or another. I personally doubt that there’s anything useful here, but you never know…

– Lewis

‘Senna’

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Benportrait1I am now well into my first summer holiday since starting University and the closet thing I have to a job is walking my Nan’s dog in the morning. As a result I find myself browsing through late night TV, searching for something to help pass the mind numbingly boring daytime hours. Last Friday, whilst browsing the TV guide, I came across ‘Senna’, thefilm-documentaryabout the Brazilian Racing driver. I had heard about the documentary, but not being the biggest Formula 1 fan (I’ll happily sit and watch a race, but I am not the type of person that needs to watch every second of a grand prix weekend) I didn’t seek it out. But it was there, and it couldn’t be worse than the endless reruns of ‘Come dine with me’ so I hit the record button.

I had heard of Ayrton Senna and knew small bits about his life and, spoiler alert, his death at Imola. But other than that, I knew very little about the Brazilian. So I sat down following the morning Dog walk to watch. I thought it was going to be a series of Formula 1 racing sequences and very little else. How wrong I was. Yes there were plenty of racing sequences but there was a lot more to this documentary than the telling of how Senna won his three World Championships. The film focuses on a number of issues including the safety and bureaucracy of Formula 1.

The documentary made use of family interviews, to tell the back story behind everything that happened to Senna, as well as racing commentary of the day and the thoughts of some of the people who knew Senna best, including the then McLaren chief Ron Dennis. The documentary follows Senna from the start of his Formula 1 racing career as he initially joins the Toleman racing team. It then moves on to his rise through the ranks, joining Lotus and then McLaren, where he won his three championships. It then finishes on his last season at Williams, his death and the aftermath.

As you would expect the documentary focuses on Senna.However, during the McLaren period, the film’s dedicated focus on Senna removes some of the piece’s integrity, as you only hear snippets from Senna’s team mate, greatest rival, and the documentary’s villain, Alain Prost.  The documentary continues to tell the story of Prost and Senna’s rivalry while also heavily emphasising on the bureaucracy and biased nature of Formula 1’s governing body and in particular the FIA French president Jean-Marie Balestre’s attitude towards Prost.

The film makes Alain Prost the definite bad guy with his all too willing side kick Balestre. However Senna was no angel, and again I feel the film is weak at discussing the controversial incidents undoubtedly caused by Senna, such as the crash at Suzuka in ’91, while being all too willing to vilify Prost and Balestre.

Following the McLaren years, Senna moved to the Williams racing team. The documentary covers the season building up to the fateful race at Imola. Focusing mainly on the technical difficulties Williams faced and the immense pressure that Senna was put under. From the first mention of Imola to the end of the film, a good 25 minutes, I had goosebumps. Asif Kapadia, the director, focuses on the three major crashes that occur in order to highlight the lack of safety in Formula 1 at this time, mentioninga very young Rubens Barrichello, along with the fatal Roland Ratzenberger crash. I have goosebumps just writing about it. The Ratzenberger is covered in an indescribable way. And finally, the film focuses on the onboard coverage of Senna’s fatal final lap. The legacy of the two fatal crashes can still be seen today, as since the two deaths not one driver has died due to a racing incident. This is mainly due to the work of Professor Sid Watkins.

The documentary shines a light on the fantastic human character Senna was. It looks not only at his racing career, but also at his work for a Brazil that wasn’t proud to be Brazilian at the time, as well as an in depth look at Senna the man. And so, if you have the slightest interest in Formula 1 and Ayrton Senna, go and watch this film. It is fast paced, entertaining(which are hard things to achieve in a documentary), insightful, fascinating and saddening. I definitely recommend this film.

Ben

 

Hello!

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Hi there, and welcome to our new blog-thingy, ‘The Minimum Effort’. We’ve decided to start this up as a way to prevent the boredom of a student’s summer (This is our first one and it’s already soul-destroying), and also to have some fun at the same time. My name’s Lewis and my friends/co-writers are Ben and Martha. We’ll be the team for now, although we might have some other people joining us if they can be bothered. The problem is that they actually have a life.

Anyway, on this blog we’ll be reviewing films, books, TV shows, and just writing articles about anything that we want to really. It’s more a creative outlet than anything else, but if you like (or dislike) anything we say or do, let us know. We respond well to negative criticism, and nothing motivates us more than being told we’re a bunch of idiots. So have fun!

Well, that’s the introduction out-of-the-way, so for now I’ll say goodbye and I’ll see you when I actually finish a piece of writing.