THE FORCE AWAKENS

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Ben: Do you want to do a short joint-post about the new Star Wars trailer?

Lewis: Hell to the yeah I do.

Ben: Ok cool, shall I start?

Lewis: Go for it.

Ben: I didn’t see what all the hype was about; to me it just looks like they are reusing old ideas. 30/40 years have supposedly passed, so why are they still using X-Wings and Tie Fighters? I wanted to see new cool stuff. I mean, let Han keep the Falcon and Luke his X-Wing, but surely there should have been some development? To me it seems like they are clinging to the older films in order to appease fans… bit of a rant, but I want new stuff.

Lewis: I do get where you’re coming from, and there was a little bit of new stuff (that spherical droid for instance), but what I got from it was that the galaxy had gone to shit during the civil war, and so they really didn’t have the resources or ability to create new technology. It looks like the war is still going on 40 years later?

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Ben: Yeah, I suppose you’re right there, I got that impression with the Stormtroopers popping back up again. To be fair it was only 88 seconds long, so we can’t really get a full idea of the film until the next one is released. One thing I’m not too keen on is the title though.

Lewis: Yeah the title is a little… cheesy for me (although, to be fair, the old ones were just as bad). And I totally agree, 88 seconds is definitely not long enough to get a good idea of a movie. It’s better than the 16 seconds that Jurassic World got though!

Ben: Going off topic, but did you see the full trailer they released?

Lewis: I did see it yeah, it looks fairly good.

Ben: We’ll have to do a piece on that. What did you think of the Sith lightsaber we saw? I quite liked the design.

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Lewis: I’m not too sure about that lightsaber, and I know there’s a lot of bitching and moaning going on around the internet about the cross-guard, but I agree with the moaners, it looks way too dangerous to be useful.

Ben: I quite like it, I can imagine it may be fairly risky to use, but it depends on how the fights are choreographed…

Lewis: Very true! I like the way it looked all unstable too, like it’s a really crudely made one (Which would play into the galaxy-gone-to-shit idea). Although, someone hypothesised that it could be an old Sith Lord reawakened, which would explain the “There has been an awakening” quote.

Simon: At the end of the of the voiceover there’s a mention of the light-side being awoken too, which could mean that something new is going to happen on the light-side of the force, as well as the Sith returning on the dark-side. I also liked the new lightsaber design too.

Lewis: … That’s a good point; I wondered why they made the light-side seem like a new development… Ben, who was that?

Ben: Sorry, that was my dad.

Lewis: Well that was unexpected, but thanks for the contribution, Simon!

Ben: Well, the new Falcon they showed was really cool, but I wasn’t keen on the TIE Fighters. I don’t know why, I just got really excited seeing the Falcon and then irritated when the TIE Fighters show up…

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Lewis: That was a really cool shot! I went full fan-boy when it cut to it. I also loved the X-Wing clip; they’re definitely one of my favourite parts of the Star Wars universe. I just hope the dogfights are as good as the original trilogy’s scenes, if not better.

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Ben: All in all it looks to be a pretty promising film.

Lewis: Ben, if it doesn’t have Jar-Jar in it, it could very well be the best movie ever made.

So those are our initial thoughts, let us know if you have something to add or a name to call us. And keep a look out for our thoughts on the trailer for ‘Jurassic World’.

-Ben and Lewis

Call these celebrities? Get them outta here!

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As the smell of mince pies wafts throughout the house and tinsel starts to emerge from dusty cardboard boxes, everyone’s thoughts turn to that jolly old-time of year, Christmas. Everyone that is, except ITV producers. For as Santa urges his elves to quit Middle Earth and return to the wilderness of the North Pole, so too do the powers-that-be urge TV watchers to lose their dignity and return, once more… to ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’

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Every year since 2002, ‘I’m A Celeb’ has been infiltrating into UK households up and down the breadth of the country and this year sees the fourteenth series being aired. Yep that’s right. Fourteen series. Fourteen series of utter, utter rubbish (disclaimer: I actually like Ant and Dec, they are exempt from what you are about to read). The expression, ‘shit hits the fan’ is wrong. When ‘I’m A Celeb’ is on, my shit misses the fan and lands directly on the TV screen. Straight onto the loathsome face of yet another class X ‘celeb’ who is attempting to revive their plummeting career path. My primary concern with the programme is simple. Who are these people? Now I am fully aware that my cultural appreciation of certain arts is lacking. For example I wouldn’t be able to identify anyone from ‘Geordie Shore’ in a firing squad (actually this may be a good place to meet them) nor can I tell you who the presenter of MTV was in 2003, but realistically I know a celebrity when I see them. Which immediately begs the question? Who are the celebrities on series fourteen? Well let’s take a look.

There’s the obligatory model/playboy bunny Kendra Wilson, who has the voice of a fourteen year old (hope you identified that subtle joke), the rapper who belongs in the crapper, TinchyStryder, ex motor racer Karl Foggerty and a few ladies called Nadia Forde, Vicki Michelle and Melanie Sykes. Throw in old hat reporter Michael Buerke, Red Dwarf actor Craig Charles, TOWIE ‘star’ Gemma Collins and injury hit footballer Jimmy Bullard and as you can see, in celebrity spiciness this barely register a korma (although ironically I don’t mind a korma as regulars to Spoons in Chelmsford will know).

Fact: these are not celebrities. Another fact: these are people trying to revive a career or get noticed. Anyone remember Craig Charles winning a BAFTA or Bullard winning an England cap? If I were a lawyer I’m sure I could sue the makers of the programme for false representation in the show’s title. These are, at best C list celebrities. Now I’m not naïve, I know Tom Cruise, Becks and Robbie would never enter the jungle. But there’s my point, they would never need too because as proper celebrities they have more talent in their little figure then the whole bunch put together!

After establishing that these are not famous people we must now turn to the contents of the show itself, and here, once more, my blood begins to reach boiling levels. The premise of the show as everyone knows is for these individuals to, over a three week period; endure tough challenges and living conditions, with the winner being crowned King or Queen of the jungle (jungle being a highly secure filming set). For the public this is a chance to watch some intellectually stimulating TV, with voting taking place on who should undertake challenges and who should leave the process. These challenges or to give them their proper title, ‘Bushtucker Trials’ include, the Bush Bunker, Tunnel of Terror, Chamber of Horrors and Terror Tavern (even in the first three shows the writers have used up their extensive adjectives). Thus far (from my exasperated viewing) we have seen ‘lad’ Jimmy swearing in eel and snake infested water, ‘rhyming’ Tinchy getting minchy with a lizardchy and ‘father’ Craig calming ‘daughter’ Nadia in finding stars in the dark bunker.

How is this watchable television? This, my friends, is what those in the Tower of London would call torture. Being placed in confined spaces, hearing loud noises and coming face to face with gruesome creatures is the stuff of nightmares. In light of this I find myself worried and distressed at our obsession with seeing people placed in these positions. Viewing figures for series 13 were 10.66 million. It seems we, as a public have an innate love of gruesome, cruel things; a case of not wanting to do it ourselves, but enjoying the torment of others. Bizarrely we have created our own ‘survival of the fittest’ without nature interfering. We see this in X Factor, Big Brother and Britain’s Got Talent too, only in these programmes the ordeal is not a repulsive battle with cockroaches and equally horrific creepy crawly insects (Wait, I’ve forgotten about Simon Cowell… ).

So we have non celeb’s taking part in disgusting challenges. And you know what? They deserve it. Subconsciously this program has become a punishment for individuals who think they are celebrities. To prove this we have the recent case of Gemma Collins who has (spoiler alert) left the program after being unable to cope. Gemma it appears was simply not cut out for a lifestyle which saw her being one with nature, which is surprising considering she hails from Essex. But the streets of Basildon are still a different kettle of fish to the terrors of the jungle. For one thing you can probably buy a kettle worth of battered fish down Basildon high street. Instead poor Gemma moaned and groaned, at one point claiming ‘I’ve got malaria.’ Whilst this is obviously a rather gigantic exaggeration on her behalf it contrasts greatly with other celebrities who have released a single raising millions of pounds for charity; the original of course raising millions to help cope with, oh what is it called again Gemma? Malaria. The night before she slunk out of camp she claimed ‘I just don’t want to put myself through extreme measures,’ well what did you think this program was Gemma? A visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? If I can maybe accept these ‘celebs’ trying to gain fame by entering this competition, what I cannot accept is this whining, when they know exactly what to expect!

You’ll have gathered by now that I have an issue with ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’ Putting non-existent celebrities in a jungle and making them do horrible things is appalling TV. Yet that is its brilliance. When I’m need of a laugh by watching others suffer, you know what I’ll turn to? I’m A Celeb.

For in the words of TinchyStryder ‘When it was just a fling before now, you’re the one.’

-Alex

“The Strings Bend and Slide as the Hours Glide By”

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self portraitIt’s taken me a little while to work out how I feel about this album, and it’s taken me even longer to find the words to express those positive and negative feelings. However, despite sort of working out what I want to say, this review may be a bit waffle-y, so bear with me, and we’ll get through this together.

In 1993, Pink Floyd (minus Roger Waters, the bassist and main lyricist) released their album ‘The Division Bell’. An album that many believed to be the last the band would release under the Pink Floyd name. However this year, over 20 years later, they have released their fifteenth studio album, and I think it’s fair to say that this is most definitely their final effort. This swan song of an album is titled ‘The Endless River’.

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Now, Pink Floyd have been my favourite band for years, ever since I first listened to their ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album, but when I heard they were releasing this I was a little worried. I was worried that it would end up being a disappointing end to such a larger-than-life career. And it kills me to say it, but I think I might have right. However, then I think about it again, and I listen to the album again, and I just keep changing my mind about it.

Being an almost fully instrumental album, it of course lacks the biting and emotive lyrics of their other works (as did ‘The Division Bell’, since Waters was not involved in it). Those poetic lyrics were one of the main reasons Pink Floyd had such a huge influence on the genre of rock and the music industry as a whole. While you can’t say that Gilmour, Mason and Wright are lacking in their respective musical areas (as they are all musical geniuses), the lack of lyrics/the quality of the lyrics present, means that this album just doesn’t compete with their other efforts. If you look past this, however, and listen to the music created by these three men, it’s very easy to become confused in your opinion. They truly are incredible musicians. And it’s not like Pink Floyd are strangers to instrumental pieces, almost all of their albums feature at least one lyric-less song, and some of these songs are among the best they’ve ever created. E.g. “The Great Gig in the Sky”.

While this album may not be the best that Pink Floyd have ever created, there are a few select pieces within it that really are great examples of the band’s talent. Gilmour’s guitar work is on form as always, with its emotive screaming and crying, Mason is there with his reliable beats and fills (apart from “Skins”, where he really shows his talent), and the late Richard Wright’s piano pieces are as understated and beautiful as they’ve always been. “Sum” is probably my favourite piece on the album; its style is reminiscent of their ‘Animals’ and ‘Meddle’ albums. With heavy, distorted guitars and pounding synthesisers, it’s most definitely the stand out track for me, along with its immediate successor, “Skins”, which musically references their chaotic, instrumental song “A Saucerful of Secrets” with its extravagant drums and squealing guitars. As for a lot of the other songs on the album, they generally fade into one as it moves on. Admittedly, the more you listen to it the more differences you notice, but first impressions go a long way, and this album gave a bit of a lacklustre one. But like I said, it’s definitely improved the more I’ve listened to it.

The one thing I’m the most disappointed about is the final song, “Louder than Words”. It’s the only song on the album to feature lyrics by the band (more specifically David Gilmour and his wife), and it’s honestly just not that great. It’s a good song, I’m certainly not saying it’s bad, but it just doesn’t have the grip or focus of the other pieces. It’s just a bit too bland in its performance and lyrics than a Pink Floyd song should be, and there’s actually very little emotion put into it, considering that it’s essentially their farewell song. I don’t know… maybe with time I’ll appreciate it more. I will applaud it on its title though. “Louder Than Words” could easily be seen as a dig at Waters’ lack of contribution to the album and the critics of the lack of lyrics (me included), but I think it’s also putting an emphasis on the fact that while Gilmour, Mason and Wright aren’t strong lyricists, it’s the feeling and power they put into their music that counts. It’s louder than words.

So I guess that’s my rambling view on ‘The Endless River’. It’s pretty clear to see that my feeling about the album are pretty conflicted, but I hope you can get a sense of what the album is like through this piece. Before I say goodbye, I wanna add just one last thing.

I love that every song features a style or motif used in one of their old albums or songs. From the eerie and chaotic ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ to the political and angry ‘Animals’, or the philosophical, all-encompassing ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ to the despairing and brutal ‘The Wall’. Every album features somewhere in ‘The Endless River’, even if it’s just a clip of church bells ringing or a particular tone of electric guitar. So, if you think about it, this album is an attempt to encompass almost 50 years of musical history into one farewell. I guess if you look at it that way, they didn’t do a bad job. In fact, I think I can say that it’s a pretty good effort.

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Shine on, Pink Floyd.

-Lewis

Detectorists

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Benportrait1It has been a while since I have done one of these. I have wanted to review a lot of things that have been on tele recently, but with lab write ups, presentations to produce and other University nonsense, I have struggled for time.

Anyway, one evening I was casually browsing BBC iPlayer when I stumbled across a comedy on BBC 4 called ‘Detectorists’. It is about metal detectorists (not detectorers) from Gods own county, Essex. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, it doesn’t sound very entertaining does it? I thought the same, but in my boredom I decided to put it on anyway, and I am very pleased that I did.

It may seem a contradiction when I say that ‘Dectetorists’ is a heart-warming yet down beat comedy, and I don’t want to give too much away so I think if you watch it you will get what I mean. To be honest, it reminds me a lot of series 1 of‘The Mimic’ (minus the voices).  The two are very similar in following social outcasts as they find themselves in various situations. However, I think ‘The Detectorists’ is funnier than ‘The Mimic’.

The story is clever and the downbeat tone works very well, performed brilliantly by a top cast. There are some hysterical moments, which is something ‘The Mimic’ always lacked (I do feel a bit bad about comparing the two, but they are quite similar). The script also has its more reflective moments which enables brilliant character development and makes the show better episode by episode.

The standout performances come from the two leads, Toby Jones, (a man going through his own version of a “McConaissance”) who was in the recent BBC film ‘Marvellous’, (another thing I wanted to review but never got the chance to, but if you get the chance definitely watch it.) is absolutely fantastic as the best friend ‘Lance’. He manages to make a character who could become loathsome very quickly, very likable. Mackenzie Crook (the one-eyed pirate from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’) is also very good as the wannabe archaeologist ‘Andy’. Crook, who wrote, directed and stared in this comedy, should be very proud of his creation, as it fully deserves its rating of 8.5 on IMBD.

The theme tune (for want of a better word) is also brilliant performed by Johnny Flynn (if you have seen ‘Scrotal Recall’ he is the blonde guy in that). Following the use of the app ‘Shazam’, I am currently listening to Flynn’s back catalogue on Spotify, something I can highly recommend if you like folk rock, and even if you don’t, give it a listen.

As I browsed the iPlayer again last night, I also found another BBC 4 comedy called ‘Puppy Love’, which also looks very good. Credit has to be given to BBC 4, as the channel appears to be branching out from its documentary roots. And when new shows like ‘Detectorists’ get air time it can only be a good thing for British television. Watch this space.

So I think that is it for now. It’s quite a short one this time round, but to sum it all up, watch ‘Detectoist’, and if you like the theme tune, listen to Johnny Flynn on Spotify.

Cheers, feel free to comment below.

 -Ben

Wed ‘ins’ not ‘outs’

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I’d like to announce that we have a new contributor to The Minimum Effort. He goes by the name Alex, and as you can tell from this piece, he’ll be taking a slightly more cheesy route with his articles. So try to enjoy, and if you have an opinion, don’t be afraid to leave a comment and tell him how stupid he is.

Call me old fashioned, call me romantic, call me anything you want to baby, but I love a good old marriage. From the ceremony itself, to grandparents (rather haphazardly) boogying to classics such as Fresh Prince of Bel- Air and Black Eyed Peas, to the drunken antics of the bride and her maids, everybody it would appear loves a wedding. Why shouldn’t they? After all, according to the Oxford Dictionary, marriage is ‘The legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.’ In layman’s terms; to marry the individual you love for the rest of your life. Or for those in Essex; an excuse to get royally pissed and attempt to pull a bridesmaid or three (not that I’m condoning this you understand).

This union of two people who love each other and want to spend a lifetime together should be celebrated, for it is a truly wonderful sacrament and commitment. Yet there are those in this twenty first century who turn their noses up at this ceremony, with the general conclusion that, ‘Marriage, pah, it’s an expensive pain in the backside,’ or else ‘What an old fashioned, uppity, silly thing to do.’ Rather ironically, upon returning from the marriage of my fireman cousin and his policewoman bride (okay she may just be a teacher) I happened to overhear a lady attest to that very first statement. Cost she claimed is too great an obstacle for love. I’m sorry, but what? I have two main problems with this wish washy argument. Firstly, there is such a thing as a savings account, allowing a couple to ‘save’ money over a number of years, all the while gaining an (admittedly small) rate of interest. It may take a few years, but costs can be conquered and if all else fails then a loan/ parents pocket is the next best step. Furthermore, weddings are generally planned occasions, meaning that there is a significant time gap between the proposal and wedding day. Thus, money can be saved over the time frame. Hollywood would have us believe a wedding can be organised in a number of weeks, yet it takes planning the likes of which has only been seen in the preparations for D-Day to achieve.

Yes, the venue has to be found, meals sorted, colour schemes checked, entertainment provided, cakes made, speeches written and the dreaded seating plan decided but at the end of the day, that warm fuzzy feeling (not just in the head) and the countless array of gifts make it so so worth the money.

Secondly, marriage is not, in my humble opinion, outdated. There is a reason that the physical ceremony itself has been around for thousands of years and that is because it works. Historically of course marriages were prearranged and love was not considered, yet does this not prove how developed and changed the occasion has become? It is a rare sight in the UK for a marriage to be forced upon the individuals. Times they are a changin’ and so I question the validity of such an argument. Others will point to the seemingly new found phenomena of couples living together and not legally tying a bound. In our country, law decrees that couples cohabiting may draw up a contract outlining the rights and obligations of each partner towards the other. Coupled with this, people living together would claim they are essentially married. Therefore you may cry, with this and a high divorce rate, what is the point in marriage?

The point is this. If you truly love somebody and want to spend your life sharing each and every moment of every day with them, then marriage is the ultimate bond. Symbols such as the ring, show a unity which can never be broken, vows uttered steadfastly commit man and woman and the taking of your husband’s name, shows a willingness to enter into his family. Without marriage none of these miraculous things can occur. And after all, when you look into your lover’s eyes and say the two words that mean so much, only then, can you truly claim, baby I’m your man.

-Alex

Dark Water

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Hello, and welcome to our review of the first part of the Doctor Who finale. It’s actually not late this time, and we’re bringing it out just before the second half airs. So please give it a read and leave a comment about your predictions or opinions if you can be bothered. See you soon.

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Ben: Have you watched Doctor Who yet?

Lewis: Yes, I watched it on Saturday, what did you think of it?

Ben: I wasn’t keen on the ending to be honest; I thought it was a bit of a copout making her a female Regeneration of the Master.

Lewis: I wasn’t a huge fan of that revelation either, but I’m hopeful about it, because since John Simm’s incredible portrayal of the Master I’ve really liked the character. I just hope she lives up to it. Until she made the Doctor feel her heartbeats I had no idea she was gonna turn out to be him/her.

Ben: I don’t think she will be able to live up to Simm, I thought he was brilliant in that role. To be honest I thought that she would be the Doctor’s daughter from that episode with David Tennant, and I think it could have made a better episode if they had managed to make that daughter thing believable.

Lewis: Oh yeah! That was years ago, I’d completely forgotten about her… where the hell did she go off to?
I do see your point, but I can guarantee that a lot of people have completely forgotten about her (like I had), so it’d be a strange one to bring back. I’m very happy the Master/Mistress is back though, even if he/she is now a crazy, horny lady.

Ben: I just feel it would have made a better story, and my feelings about this new incarnation all depend on how they explain the way he came back. The first part seemed ok, if a bit predictable.

Lewis: I hope Moffat actually bothers to explain it rather than doing his usual “it doesn’t matter hand flapping thing”. I’m also a bit disappointed about the Cybermen, they’re always a good baddie, but on this one they’re just being glazed over, as if they’re just there to provide an extra threat.

Ben: In the old episodes the Master would use the Cybermen for his plans, so it’s going down that route again. But yeah, they just appear from the x-ray water (nice idea) and not much is done from there. The next episode is 75 minutes long so hopefully there will be a fair amount of good explanation

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Lewis: I really like how they revealed them with the water, that was a cool concept, but then it’s just not really a big deal afterwards… then again it only happened right at the end, so I’ll forgive Moffat. For now…
Oh wow, I didn’t know it was 75 minutes; there’d better be some good explanations since they have the time for them. Also, do you think Danny will die for real?

Ben: I used Wikipedia (that ever reliable source) for that little fact about the Master and Cybermen. As for Danny, I’m not sure. They can’t kill him otherwise Space Commander Pink will never happen.

Lewis: Oh yeah, I forgot about him… I’m really not on form for this conversation.
As for Wikipedia, if you don’t know something it’s always better to research it than to run your mouth about it, so I think you’re in the clear. My tentative prediction is that Clara will be killed by the Cyberman in the room and end up in the Sphere with Danny. Then it’s up to the Dr to get them out.

Ben: I thought that too, but I think it is more likely that she gets away and they manage to get him out. I can’t see them killing her…

Lewis: It would be a fairly dark turn in the story, but I do like it when a companion is killed off. It livens things up a bit. Like when Adric dies in ‘Earthshock’, it’s a pretty sad scene, but it makes that story-arc that much better. Besides, since they already killed Danny I don’t think another death would be out of the question. (But maybe I’m just a bit sadistic in my tastes of storylines)
All in all, I think it was a fairly strong start to the finale, but there are points that definitely need explaining in the next one.

Ben: I agree, and I don’t really think we can properly review it until we see part 2.

Lewis: No, it’s tough to get a full impression from a multiple-part episode, so we’ll withhold our complete judgement until the finale is completely finished.