Sir David Attenborough
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Dear readers, Welcome to The Edge’s Christmas special. Happy Christmas, if that’s what you’re into. For all our readers ready to abandon their studies to fill their faces with turkey, chocolate and alcohol, we offer our thoughts on this year’s selection box of potential Christmas number ones and a look back at the festive favourite Polar Express. For those of you sick to death of the onslaught of red and white propaganda, head over to the features section, which includes a piece on festive pet hates. Humbug.
Editor - Joe Hawkes Deputy Editor - Meowea Hezwani Live Editor - Chris Brooks Features Editor - David Martin Records Editor - Melissa Clarke Film Editor - Barnaby Walter Culture Editor - Nick Mould Online Editor - André Pusey Head of Relations - Rob Leane Editor-in-Chief - Joseph McLoughlin
Because all decent musicians are either too drunk or homesick to play gigs over Christmas, you’ll notice that the gig guide in this issue begins a couple days after Spring term starts, so you can keep up to date until our next issue comes out, in February. In the meantime, remember to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to start writing for us. Merry Christmas, The Edge
Featuring contributions from: Chris Brooks, James Wignall, Rob Leane, Alexander Green, Meowea Hezwani, David Martin, Daniel Flynn, Joe Hawkes, Simon Boyce, Melissa Clarke, Alice Porter, Jan Vini Kobal, Joe Moor, Barnaby Walter, Dean Kay-Barry, Nick Mould, André Pusey 2
Contents Frank Turner live at the 02
The Vaccines live at the guildhall
Christmas Number One - why all the fuss?
Christmas Pet Hates This Year’s Christmas Number One Contenders
20 AP C S
– hristmas Gift For You hil
Richard Herring’s Objective
My Week With Marilyn
David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet
@ Bournemouth O2 Academy 22/11/12
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Adorned in their uniform swanky white shirts, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls recently breezed us by, hitting up the Bournemouth O2 Academy as part of their extensive world tour. I’ve been hooked on Frank since a friend introduced me to him a few years back at a half filled dingy venue, where despite an overwhelming smell of eggs, he had a pungent aroma of success about him. His subsequent rise to glory has been both well deserved and phenomenal. Opening with his customary ‘Eulogy’, it was clear from the off that in the great tradition of Frank Turner gigs, the crowd had come to sing along. A well-balanced selection of songs followed, spanning the entirety of his back catalogue, with the odd unrecorded new piece thrown in for good measure. As one might expect, this incorporated all the big shout alongs, including ‘The Road’, ‘Long Live the Queen’ and ‘I Still Believe’. Looking around, the raucous eclectic Frankophiles at the Bournemouth O2 provided an insight into the secret of his rapid success though. The uncontrived honesty of his verse doesn’t just appeal to a single typified niche. Instead, his impassioned wails during ‘Sons of Liberty’ and ‘One Foot Before The Other’ strike chords with everyone in the crowd, from the diehard old punks at the front to the young hipsters lurking at the back trying to pretend they’re not loving it. As much as I adore his vastly underrated backing band The Sleeping Souls, the highlight of the gig for me came when they retired backstage, allowing Frank to have an intimate sing along moment with his audience. This came with a treat, ‘A Decent Cup of Tea’, the rarely played but beautiful ballad from his first album Sleep Is for the Weak. How he manages to maintain such intimacy despite the soaring crowd sizes he tends to play these days is beyond me. I’ll be looking forward to seeing if he manages it at his upcoming Wembly Arena date in April. When questioned by NME about playing the 12,500 capacity venue, he reported “I’m shitting my pants”. Closing the set with a rip-roaring confetti strewn cover of Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ that would have made Freddy smile, I think he’ll take it in his stride. 9/10
By Chris Brooks December 2011
Live 15/11/11 Guildhall
To say that Motörhead is a loud band is a bit like describing Stephen Hawking as ‘clever’ or Bill Gates as ‘well off’ - it’s something of an understatement. These titans of metal take the stage seemingly on a mission to inflict tinnitus on their aging fans: the fact that Lemmy - the frontman - can still hear his own music surely makes him some sort of wonder to medical science. Despite reaching pension age, Lemmy still displays great onstage charisma, channelling testosterone into the crowd, which (full of middle aged men with shaved heads) seems more like a mass of football fans, albeit with an unfortunate penchant for leather. And beards. Preceding the arrival of the band, the lights dim, exciting the audience, and impatient chants of “Motor-head!” ensue, accompanied by the thunder of stamping feet. Hailing their first song, ‘Bomber,’ the sound of an air-raid siren is blasted from the stage, as if to warn of the impending aural onslaught. Sure enough, Lemmy and company explode onstage, performing with the confidence of a band that has done this for three decades. Between songs, Lemmy notices some of the crowd throwing bottles towards the stage and responds in a typically brash fashion, “if you like throwing, why don’t you come up here, throw a punch at me and I’ll kick your teeth in!” The tone is set. The majority of Motörhead’s set consists of a selection of their biggest hits, such as ‘I Know How To Die’ and ‘Killed By Death’; as well as thematic similarities, it is hard to ignore how similar much of their material sounds, to the point where one song seems to blur into the next. Lemmy’s trademark whiskeyinduced growl certainly doesn’t have a lot of range, but this suits the bluesy metal style, in the same vein as Brian Johnson’s raspy vocal work for AC/DC. Motörhead are not about deep, contemplative lyrics and soulful vocals 6
Live characteristic of bands such as Radiohead or City and Colour: this is heavy f*****g metal in its rawest form – gambling, whisky, women, and all things debaucherous. It may be 2011 but there’s no telling these guys: at around midway through the set Mikkey Dee - who resembles some forgotten member of Mötley Crüe circa 1985 - launches into a very impressive five minute drum solo, his kit lit up spectacularly and greatly elevated for all to enjoy the show. For a surprising encore, the aforementioned drummer dons an acoustic guitar to play ‘Whorehouse Blues,’ providing a very welcome change of mood and displaying some degree of versatility. Of course, it wouldn’t be Motörhead without that juggernaut of a gambler’s anthem, ‘Ace of Spades,’ which is performed with the same vigour they might have exhibited back in the late ‘70s. Closing with the absurdly similar ‘Overkill,’ Motörhead sign off in cacophonic blaze of guitar solos and excessive drum fills. Over-the-top and fantastically hedonistic, while their music hardly reinvents the heavy metal rulebook, it doesn’t need to – they wrote it after all. 8/10
By James Wignall
The last time I saw The Vaccines in Southampton they were playing in a tiny room upstairs at Unit, a small alternative nightclub on the Joiners side of town. Two NME covers, a ridiculous festival season and a stadium tour with Arctic Monkeys later, The Vaccines arrived back in Southampton at the Guildhall. Moving from probably the smallest venue in town to by far the largest in the space of the year, The Vaccines had something to prove. Whereas many new bands keen to play bigger gigs may turn to flashy light shows and confetti cannons to make up for empty time, The Vaccines banked on new and lesser-known material to provide a show worthy of the ticket price. The setlist was carefully crafted. Making sure to keep momentum, The Vaccines punctuated key points of the night with their small collection of big hitters: ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ was on second, ‘If You Wanna’ was aired second-to-last in the main set, and ‘Norgaard’ was saved to conclude the encore. The main set began and ended with slower numbers (‘Blow It Up’ and ‘Family Friend’, 8
@ The Guildhall 28/11/11
respectively), ensuring that proceedings never seemed rushed. As expected for a band that has been on tour for the majority of a year, The Vaccines were tighter than the skinny jeans dominating the audience; with non-stop guitar riffs and a lengthy drum solo to end the set, the band showcased a great musical ability. You couldn’t tell at all that singer Justin Young’s throat has been under the knife three times this year; he shouted and crooned his way through his back-catalogue just as convincingly as he did at Unit a year ago. In the modern musical climate, bands with work ethics like The Vaccines are hard to come by. The Vaccines seem to work by the motto ‘play as many shows as you can, in as short a space of time as possible’, and it’s a testament to their abilities that they continue to play lengthy, upbeat, entertaining shows despite an unrelenting touring schedule. As The Vaccines continue this string of live dates well into December, it’s advisable to catch them while you can before they retreat to the studio to construct their ‘difficult’ second album.
By Rob Leane
Features The Christmas Number One Alexander Green asks a simple question: What’s All The Fuss? Mr. Blobby, the Spice Girls & Cliff Richard; not three people you would normally find in the same sentence. Collectively though, all have played a major part in UK pop culture by having had a Christmas number one. Every year, a baffling variety of acts and songs - the traditional christmas track, the children’s cartoon novelty tune, the classic pop ballad - battle it out for this most coveted of chart positions. Indeed, this year fits the bill perfectly with a fight between the annual X Factor winner, christmas songs from Mariah Carey and The Wombles, Nirvana’s anthem ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ - with The Only Way Is Essex crew also getting into the mix. Let it be known that the position for number one is only a really British phenomenon with little importance anywhere else. The question is why? Why is the Christmas number one so prestigious to the UK music industry? Maybe the answer lies in Christmas itself; an attempt by artists to create a
song that will receive airplay each year alongside those other christmas classics of ‘Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer’ and ‘All I Want For Christmas’. The fact is though, Christmas songs are rarely number ones; the last original Christmas number was Cliff Richard’s ‘Saviour’s Day’ in 1990. Its true that that 2004 also saw a Christmas song top the charts with Band Aid 20’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” re-release, but this was hardly an original song as it was the 3rd release of the single since the first Band Aid in 1984. In fact, Band Aid have taken up 3 of the last 6 Christmas-based - and then 2 more are by Cliff Richard. Maybe its just that no one writes good songs anymore. In reality, its just new Christmas songs don’t matter anymore it seems; we are fine continuing with the classics. Is success the answer then? Does having a Christmas Number one guarantee you a successful career? Well, scrolling through the Christmas singles charts, you might assume so; Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Queen and The Beatles to name just a few. Yet, the fact is most of the acts were established artists before their number one. Its true, the Spice Girls were up-and-coming when they had their first, but the amount of success they had shows they were a pretty one-off type of phenomenon.
Features Here’s a pick of some previous number ones. 1984 - Band Aid - “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” 1994 - East 17 - “Stay Another Day” 2003 - Michael Andrews and Gary Jules - “Mad World” One hit wonders and novelty songs also appear often; Rolf Harris is up there and who can forget Mr. Blobby’s dance/fart-backed chorus “Blobby, I’m Mr Blobby”, along with Bob The Builder asking “Can We Fix It?”. These are hardly classic songs that we still listen to it. Why then do acts bother with the Christmas number one? Dominated by established acts and novelty, the battle for Christmas number one is often extremely futile race with many competitors and only one winner. This has been especially true in recent years where it has been dominated by winners of ITV talent shows - indeed, in some years, bookies only took bets on the Christmas number 2. The writing has been on the wall recently with 5 out of the last 6 Christmas numbers ones going to the inaugural X Factor winner. Even them, it hasn’t been an indicator of their success; Leona Lewis went onto sell millions, but who remembers Leon Jackson? The 2009 Rage Against the Machine phenomenon has even got predictable. An act of defiance against the corporate monopoly of X factor; last year, another Facebook campaign began for Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many of Horror’ and this year its for Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on the 20th anniversary of the classic grunge release. Maybe then, the Christmas number one is nothing more than just a self-fulfilling prophecy; an accolade to gain just to go down in history as ‘that Christmas song’. Or, more pessimistically, a time to cash in when people are spending more freely. December 2011
A Blast From The Past
Meowea Hezwani turns back time to look at The Edge’s very first publication, 16 years ago.
It is coming up to the end of 2011 and I have been lucky enough to get my hands on quite a rare thing; the first ever issue of “The Edge,” circa October 1995. Gone is the monochromatic newspaper format, these days we are now in full colour! But don’t think that we have lost contact with our roots; we are still doing what we aimed to do all those years ago; “to boldly review where no-one has reviewed before,” and “bring you all the happenin’ names in music.” You may be asking yourselves “are there film and culture sections?” the answer there is “hell no,” a good evolutionary move by the magazine if you ask me. 12
The Levellers today. Older, experienced and more mature. Much like ourselves? Plastered across the front cover was a picture of a band that I have never heard of before, The Levellers, and it was an exclusive interview… I was hooked! What the heck did they have to say? After Charmaine O’Reilly (ex-editor and founder of The Edge) spent weeks pestering the people in The Levellers offices, she finally managed to get herself an interDecember 2011
Features view with Simon Friend, the band’s singer songwriter since 1990, only weeks after the release of their ‘Zeitgeist’ album. Like any good student I went to Wikipedia for a bit of background about the band. There was obvious uncertainty about where the band got their name, the ‘highly reputable’ website claiming a possible link with the democratic faction of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. Luckily Charmaine O’Reilly (C. O’R) asked “what are the origins behind the name, The Levellers?” Simon: “It was actually just a case of Mark (referring to Chadwick the bands’ vocalist and lead guitarist), looking in a dictionary. The definition being ‘to make all things equal’, and that seemed pretty cool really. People began to link us to up with the English Civil War and an accident sect known as The Levellers. We don’t mind this a bit because they were things that we had a natural affinity with anyway. The more we found out about that period in history and characters like John Lilburn, the more we accepted all the cogitations to the name. It is nothing to do with ‘the level’ in Brighton”, he laughed. Take that Wikipedia. Simon was also nice enough to try and pin down exactly what their style is “Well it’s a blend of; ethnic techno, folk, funk with a punk rock sort of black Sabbath feel to it.” And I do agree with C. O’R that that did not narrow down their style at all. The most surprising feature of the article and this could be more to do with my own ignorance - was the attitude of the establishment against festivals and festival goers. The modern view of festivals has any self respecting music fans flocking to a field December 2011
in the middle of nowhere to camp out in the mud and rain to see their favourite artists and more. However, Simon did explain that the band was seeded by “very strong feelings about the way the authorities were handing the whole thing,” in regards to the day in 1985’s when riot police waged war on a field of festival goers. Simon’s view of pop music was reminiscent of our previous issue when current editor Joe Hawkes asked Gary Numan a similar question and their responses at least began in the same way, Gary’s stated that “[I]never have been [interested]. Even when I was in it I wasn’t keen on the rest of it! It tends to be very middle-of-the road; there’s not anything very challenging.” Simon bluntly stated that “Brit pop, I wish it would bugger off; I’m getting bored shitless of it really.” Good to see that even some things never change in 16 years. Where are The Levellers now you ask? They are still active; however they are no longer signed to their old label ‘China’; they are now making music under ‘On the Fiddle Recordings.’ They are still performing at festivals and made another appearance at Glastonbury in 2010 with a new album recorded in November. Ironically, even though they feverishly deny being a folk band they were awarded they Roots Award by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards this year. So they like The Edge they have gotten bigger and better, but hopefully unlike the band I hope that we did not peak in popularity in 1998.
Christmas is a mad time for everyone. David Martin rants about what drives him mad throughout the festive period. Don’t get me wrong; I do enjoy Christmas. It is always a fun time to meet friends and family and indulge yourself more than you normally would - or indeed should. However, nothing is perfect and here is a collection of personal irritations about the time to be jolly – or not as the case may be here.
Christmas Adverts I really can't stand being blasted with every consumer project ever made. I'm glad I don't own a TV sometimes, because every time I return home I remember how much of the day is wasted listening to considerably unsubtle attempts to sell things left, right and centre. Normally everyone is hopelessly confused about what to get even their nearest and dearest anyway, and most of the stuff I seem to get the pleasure of being exposed to is either a £50 robot that can possibly recite the alphabet backwards for the adventuring child, or a £200 camera I could not hope to afford anyway. They simply aren’t relevant, and are tiresome once you’ve sat through three in a row.
The X Factor By now, the programme has more than outstayed its welcome by late December and somehow this pop abomination that is manufactured so much that the Soviets would have been proud of it, has the backing of the people which lets the newest ‘star’ try and record a number one single. It’s often a waste of a perfectly good number one, because it’s likely they’ll disappear as quickly as the Quality Street 14
does during the festive period and we’ll all be going ‘Who?’ come the New Year . But at least it provides a few laughs to those who are prepared to watch it in a more sarcastic manner.
Wrapping Paper Is it just me who sees the futility of this? It might look pretty and sparkly, but no normal, hyper-active young relative is going to care that you've spent time to tidy up all the corners or picked wrapping paper with complementary colours. Even among the more mature, it's a means to an end, with the remnants forgotten about and thrown in the bin anyway. For such a short life, it’s not exactly the cheapest item going either, once again adding to its uselessness.
Christmas Crackers They start off as great fun; I do love beating my siblings and family members and proving my ‘strength’. But then you look inside them, and then you realise – and probably remember – that it’s the weirdest collection of paraphernalia you’ve ever seen. Yes, if you’re quite fancy you will be getting a collection of quite useful miniscrewdrivers, until you quickly appreciate this is the third set you’ve got in successive years. Almost everything else is instantly unremarkable and if you do find a gem that may actually be useful in day to day life, you can count yourself as one of a lucky few. There’s four pet hates for you to moan, argue, complain and generally have a rant about. But do not forget to actually enjoy the many more positives of Christmas too!
SINGLES CHRISTMAS NO. 1
Justin Bieber - Mistletoe Released 19 December In this disgustingly sugary festive number that mixes references to everyone’s favourite day with focus-group level ‘gangster’ language (see "SHAWTEE WITH YOUUUU") the little spawn of Satan proves that he can even ruin Christmas. The formulaic and catchy nature of the chorus will guarantee that the beliebers will keep beliebing, but for the rest of us it’s a wonder how such an ungrateful brat who admits ‘I should be chillin’ with my folks I know, but I’mma be under the mistletoe’, can be loved by so many. It’s hard to not hate this obvious attempt to generate unbeliebable amounts of cash by blending two obvious cash cows – Christmas and arrogant little teen idols.
1 By Daniel Flynn 16
Joe McElderry - Last Chrismas Released 19 December With Joe McElderry's little face, like a human Simba, it's difficult not to want the guy to succeed. Chucked out on his arse by Syco records and in the post-X Factor wilderness, McElderry has fared better than most, with his album going Gold. However, this cover of Wham's classic couldn't sound any cheaper, amounting to little more than a karaoke version. In addition to this, the cheesy accompanying video just make this whole thing seem like a joke - but is it a joke on us or McElderry?
3 By Joe Hawkes December 2011
The Wombles - Wombling Merry Christmas Released 11 December Oh yes, those fictional furry rodent-like creatures from Wimbledon are re-releasing their 1974 hit 'Wombling Merry Christmas', after their 'successful' reunion at Glastonbury this year. A joyful guitar-riffed song complete with saxophone solo and christmas bells, with the The Wombles telling us that ‘all day, we will wombling in the snow’. The problem is The Wombles aren’t exactly part of modern pop culture as they are a legacy of 70s culture. It doesn't have a fantastic hook and while the message is christmas-y, the melody isn’t, particularly. However, lets not take this too seriously. It's men in costumes and the song is upbeat, good fun. Yes it's cheesy, but thats Christmas for you.
By Alexander Green December 2011
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit Released 10 September 1991
From its explosive introduction to its Generation X-aping refrain of "Here we are now/Entertain us", the stage is set for Seattle grunge trio Nirvana to have a huge hit this Christmas. Despite some hardcore fans of the band accusing Nirvana of selling out by releasing such a commercial tune, bookies now pitch 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' at second-favourite for Christmas number 1. The song deals with what singer Kurt Cobain has put on his Christmas list, namely "A mulatto/An albino/A mosquito/ My libido/Yeah". Put on your Santa hats, lift your lighter and shake your bells - this is what Christmas is supposed to sound like.
By Joe Hawkes
CHRISTMAS NO. 1 CONTENDERS
Lady Gaga-White Christmas Released 24 November
X Factor Winner’s Single Released 12 December
We normally associate Lady Gaga with thumping beats, a bit of synth and meat dresses. It makes you forget sometimes that she actually has an incredible voice. However, on her take of the Christmas classic 'White Christmas', she allows her voice to take control, sounding raw and natural. There is no autotune here. Backed by trumpets and piano, this recording of a live performance has a Jazz edge to it, with her voice not sounding unlike Amy Winehouse at her most brilliant. Gaga even adds in her own verse, believing the song to be too short for its beauty -and its works. Indeed, it would appear as a good choice for Christmas Number one except an extended monologue justifying this extra verse. It is brave taking this song on - with Bing Crosby's version as the best-selling single of all time - but Gaga does it with great success.
Of course how could we not forget the X Factor’s winner single. At the time of The Edge going to print, the winner had yet to be announced but thee winner’s single will most likely follow the same formula as all previous 7 winners songs It will start of rather drearily, building up to a big key change so at that exact point in the video we can watch the winning moment, and there will most likely feature some sort of choir. Fingers crossed X Factor won’t be trying to cover another indie classic after previous attempts at ruining both Biffy Clyro and Jeff Buckley tracks. At the time of going to press, rumour has it that the track will be a cover of Damien Rice’s ‘Cannonball’ The winners single is bookies favourite and most obvious contender for Christmas No. 1 with no real, large scale anti-X Factor campaign this year, it looks like Simon Cowell has
8 By Simon Boyce 18
won the Christmas No. 1 battle yet again.
By Melissa Clarke December 2011
Rammstein-Mein Land Released 6 December
As an accompanying single to Rammstein’s upcoming ‘Best-of’ album, Made In Germany 1995-2011, Mein Land does a good job to sum up their musical power and oomph. Rammstein fail to offer anything new here; they depend on the catchiness of their stomping beats and repetitive guitar riffs and lyrics, without challenging their well-worn formula. It doesn’t stand out very well against their impressive backcatalogue on Made in Germany, being a predictable filtration of some far better work. That said, perhaps they realised that it would take a considerable effort to beat such intense classics as ‘Du Hast’, ‘Sonne’ or ‘Mein Teil’, and settled for a safe crowd-pleaser instead. The single works for that reason, and though it may leave a slight yearning for more originality, Rammstein have still managed to deliver a fantastically catchy, thumping song that reminds you of their unique and incredible talent; exactly what will be on the album.
By Alice Porter
The Rapture-Sail Away Released 12 December There have been many great acts to straddle House music in the modern age, Hercules and Love Affair, Justice, and to a more punk extent, LCD Soundsystem. The reason many can't be named though is because if an effective niche isn't found within the genre it'll more likely hinder your efforts rather than solidify them. In the case of The Raptures' 'Sail Away' I can't help but find the overly simplistic progression and one repeating hook to grate on me. The song gives evidence of the bands' Echoes heyday but without a change of direction or sharper focus on the Dance-Punk genre they so readily embrace they're not headed any place interesting soon. By Jan Vini Kobal
A Christmas Gift For You
Released November 1963 You may well not know this album by name, and you may well not know any of these tracks by name, but I can almost guarantee you'll recognise at least a few of these tunes, so ubiquitous have they have become during the holiday period. Featuring an A-list cast of 60's girl groups and masterminded by legitimate rock'n'roll nutjob Phil Spector, it manages to both define a whole era of music and continue to influence our idea of christmas songs. Originally released as the slightly less wholesome sounding A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records it had the misfortune of being released on the day of John F. Kennedy's assassination, and initially tanked despite its all-star cast and cutting edge 'Wall of Sound' production. It's a shame, as it appears to have been a true labour of love from
‘‘defines a whole era of music and influence our idea of christmas songs’’ producer Phil Spector who leaves a spoken thank-you note on the last track. It's also significant that virtually every song on here seems intended to be a hit, when one considers it comes from the man who once declared albums as 'two hits and ten pieces of junk'. The most well known tracks include 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' by Darlene Love, later to be covered by super-serious rock bands such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and a brilliantly sassy version 'Santa Clause Is Coming To Town' by The Crystals. Darlene Love also kicks the album off with an impeccable cover of Irving Berlin's classic 'White Christmas' 20
while Bob B. Soxx is spirited in his version of 'Here Comes Santa Clause'. The fact that Spector brought out so much talent (virtually all of the regular artists signed to his label) is what makes this album so special, in that it is not only the definitive christmas album but the definitive 60's girl group album as well, at a time when that music was at its peak. It's also a bit hard to not feel a bit of a longing for a time when bubblegum pop music like this could still seem fresh, when an a project like this could seem more than just a cheap gimmicky cash grab. The only thing more improbable than Simon Cowell recording a track thanking the listener and wishing them a merry christmas would be actually believing in the sincerity of such a track these days. The music business has become a more cynical place for the consumer since the 60's, and it's now more impalpable than ever for a 'proper' artist to do a christmas song nowadays (Rage Against The Machine doesn't count), which seems to be tantamount to admitting all the christmas songs have now been written.
By Joe Moor December 2011
A joyful, sparkling treat By Barnaby Walter. Adapted from Colin Clark’s memoir The Prince, the Showgirl and Me, this wonderful film tells the true story of Colin’s brief relationship with Marilyn Monroe while she was in England shooting at Pinewood. The production of the film, The Prince and the Showgirl, was not smooth, and saw clashes between director Lawrence Olivier and Ms Monroe. Colin, a 23-year-old film fanatic, worked as the third assistant director on the picture and quickly became Marilyn’s friend and confidante. Eddie Redmayne, a very talented and goodlooking actor, is completely believable in the role of Colin Clark, perfectly crafting his character out of a mixture of warm enthusiasm and youthful naivety. Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe is astonishing, and will hopefully earn her another Oscar nomination next year. Although doubts were raised when she was cast, Williams doesn’t disappoint. She is Marilyn through and through, and succeeds in making her both flawed and intensely likable. The third great performance 22
in the film is Kenneth Branagh as a frustrated, though frequently hilarious, Lawrence Olivier. His portrayal of a filmmaker struggling to come to terms with his age, while working with an unpredictable co-star, demonstrates what a truly exceptional actor he is. I hope he isn’t overlooked when it comes to awards season. Notable supporting players include Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Zoe Wannamaker as Marilyn’s controlling acting coach, and Philip Jackson as the bodyguard hired to protect the most famous woman alive from her obsessive fans. The film also features a sweet small turn from Emma Watson as a wardrobe assistant Colin is rather fond of before Marilyn steals away his attentions. Director Simon Curtis’s previous efforts have been for television, and include David Copperfield, Cranford, A Short Stay in Switzerland and Five Days. I have been a fan of his work for a long time, and am overjoyed to see him make such a masterful big screen debut. >> December 2011
Cinematographer Ben Smithen’s output has also been mostly televisual, but the look he gives this film has its roots in cinema. Gushingly colourful, beautifully filmed scenes perfectly evoke the emerging glamour of the time. The film also contains some of the most gorgeous shots of the British countryside I have ever seen on the big screen. Hardcore Marilyn fans may wish for a picture that probes deeper into her troubles and achievements, but it is important to remember this is Colin’s story, and the narrative stays dutifully focused on him.
A co-production between the BBC and The Weinstein Company, My Week with Marilyn is a perfect example of the benefits of UK and American co-productions. It has a very British feel to it, superb production values, and a brilliant cast. I hope audiences will take to it as they did to The King’s Speech, another recent Weinstein-UK collaboration. It is perfect feel-good escapist entertainment for lovers of cinema and those who need a break from the stresses of work or Christmas shopping. Dir. Simon Curtis. Entertainment Film Distributors. Certificate 15.
Trespass By Dean Kay-Barry. Director Joel Schumacher returns to the big screen with what can only be described as an below-par popcorn flick. It follows a clichéd rich family as they are taken hostage in their own home after a group of dim-witted bad guys break in, pursuing the apparent riches lying within their safe. The film lacks any solid signs of intensity or suspense, ending up with a poorly executed Panic December 2011
Room parody. The house invaders come across as unrealistic and lack any sense of menace or real threat. Even with two star leads, (Nicole Kidman and Nicholas Cage) the film lacks any real drive or character progression. It’s a forgettable film, awkward in parts, with predictable and improbable twists, often leaving the story confused as to which direction it wants to go. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Lionsgate. Cert 15.
How did this nonsense get made? By Barnaby Walter. I’m not surprised that this film had a troubled time in production, nor am I shocked that its director or cast weren’t impressed with the final cut of it. What does surprise me is that Daniel Craig, Rachael Weisz and Naomi Watts ever agreed to star in it in the first place. It’s one of those horror movies that features a knockout twist half way through. The trouble with the knockout twist in Dream House is that anyone who has seen the trailer knows what it is. This means the first half of the film contains virtually no suspense. But even if we didn’t know the secret of Craig and Weisz’s new dream home, and why the neighbours act strangely towards the house, it’s so clumsily played out that I doubt we would care anyway. Daniel Craig struggles with a script that sounds as if it was written using screenplaywriting software. Rachael Weisz doesn’t get to do much except walk around the house looking content with life, then, when freaky things start occurring to her children, walk 24
around the house looking vaguely concerned. Naomi Watts is sidelined, and fails to add any spark of life or emotion to her one-dimensional supporting character. As a horror film, it’s dire. There’s some predictable and ineffectual jump moments, and a rather grisly scene where we get some bullet-wound close-ups on the bodies of murdered children. But any objectionable and distasteful content is mitigated by the awfulness of the whole thing. The final revelation, which attempts to explain what’s been going on, how, and why, is utterly preposterous. Many of the plot developments leading up to the tension-free final showdown are nonsensical and ridiculous, and the big ‘whodunit’ reveal is laughably absurd. This is risible, bafflingly bad mainstream trash. I hope it sinks without a trace. Dir. Jim Sheridan. Warner Bros. Certificate 15.
Film Also Showing Camp Hell
Dir. George VanBuskirk. Metrodome. 15.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 By Barnaby Walter. This penultimate installment sees human Bella and sexy vampire Edward get married. Then they have sex. Oh, and Bella gets pregnant with a vampire child. Nice. In case you’re not aware, Edward isn’t the only one who loves grumpy Bella. Hot wolf-boy Jacob loves her too. He does a lot of important stuff in this film, and only a small amount of it makes sense. The rules and mythology of vampire/human/wolf relations are rewritten from one scene to the next.In terms of the sex, there is barely any. It’s done ultratastefully so as not to upset the American ratings board. But although the film is shy when it comes to bonking, it’s rather graphic when it comes to the birth scene. The series has now become a camp parody of itself. There are far too many kitsch dream sequences, and the oh-so-intense love story at the centre of the film has become very boring. This is a strong contender for worst film of the year. It’s vacuous, ridiculous and a complete waste of time. And I’m sure 14-year-old girls across the country are already addressing their hate mail to me for saying this. Bring it on, Twihards. Dir. Bill Condon. E1. Cert 12A. December 2011
This strange and badly made horror movie is getting more attention than it deserves because of a small cameo from Jesse Eisenberg. He’s his usual odd self, but the rest of the film lacks any real scares or involving characterisation to make it worth seeing. BW.
Dir. Andrew Haigh. Peccadillo. 18. Andrew Haigh’s excellent romantic drama is becoming a word-of-mouth hit. It follows the relationship of two men over a few days, observing how they quickly fall in love. Funny, moving and powerful, it’s a piece of British independent filmmaking that’s worth seeking out. BW.
On Blu-ray & DVD:
Barnaby Walter takes a look at the new releases. The Killing: Series 2 The best crime series on television. Cowboys & Aliens Generally fine fantasy fun. The Skin I Live In Interesting horror from Almodovar. 3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy Offensive and ridiculous erotic drama Arriety Charming take on The Borrowers The Debt Involving period spy drama
More BD & DVD Reviews online! www.theedgesusu.co.uk
Film ARCHIVE The Polar Express
An enchanting Christmas classic When I first saw The Polar Express back in 2004, I was well aware of its faults. The storyline isn’t very strong. It is, afterall, based on a short picture-book by Chris van Allsberg, which tells the story of a boy travelling to the North Pole to meet Santa on Christmas Eve to regain his belief in the great man. But whatever its flaws, watching The Polar Express is part of my Christmas tradition. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film uses motion-capture technology to use physical performances by actors within an animated framework. This is why, when we see Tom Hanks as the train’s Conductor, it looks a little like him. This production method has its downsides. The technology was still very new back in 2004, and it could be said that some of the children’s faces look a little creepy. This style of animation was more sophisticated when used in Zemeckis’s 2009 26
version of A Christmas Carol. However, the delights outweigh the negatives. The colour scheme, mixing cold blues with the classic gold, red and green Christmas colour scheme, makes the film look sumptuous, especially when you see the film in high definition (although nothing beats the picture quality of good cinema projection). The music score, composed by veteran Alan Silvestri, beautifully weaves in some subtle references to classic Christmas carols whilst still delivering a fantastically hummable theme tune. It’s not perfect, but there’s something very sweet and enchanting about the film. And at Christmas, a bit of light, well-meant joy is never a bad thing. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Warner Bros. Available on Blu-ray and DVD. Certificate U.
Radio Four: Culture Richard Herring’s Objective It is ironic that prior to the BBC iPlayer recording of the ‘Wheelchair’ episode of the second series of Radio 4’s Richard Herring’s Objective runs an advert for Life’s Too Short. For Richard Herring manages to actually achieve what Ricky Gervais claims to do, create wellcrafted intelligent comedy from attitudes towards disability, rather than through contrived awkwardness. Also notable is that comedienne Francesca Martinez, whose cerebral palsy was the condition causing awkwardness in one episode of Extras, a role which she had to rewrite in order to make it passable, makes an appearance in which she’s cast in an antagonistic position, as opposed to just being a figure of ridicule. It is perhaps telling that such comedy is broadcast through radio and not on television, indeed Martinez claims that TV producers are cautious of booking her on panel shows.
Richard Herring (above) and Emma Kennedy (below left) The less famous of the original 90s Lee-Herring partnership of shows such as Fist of Fun (recently released on DVD), Richard Herring’s approach to comedy is more cheery and charismatic than Stewart Lee’s, but no less considered and clever. The second series of Objective sees the man attempt to reclaim offensive or constroversial items, with the aid of silly voices from TV’s Emma Kennedy. As well as people’s preconceptions of disability he also examine the dark side of Enid Blython’s Noddy books with their villianous ‘Golliwog’ characters, whether Page 3 is harmless fun or a national embarassment for perputating stereotypes of women, and the public school tie’s relationship with class and priviledge, featuring a guest appearance from Alexei Sayle. It’s a enjoyable slice of radio comedy with an unfortunately short run, but manages to be more substantial than many of it’s TV counterparts. By Nick Mould December 2011
The ratio of 99:1 can be applied not only to the disenfranchised masses in comparison to the wealthy elite, but also to amount of garbage that there is on television compared to the worthwhile gems that occasionally show up on the screen. Unlike the finance world, the one percent of quality television doesn’t need reforming, as the excellent work of the BBC Natural History Unit has continued to prove with their run of fascinating and gorgeously filmed wildlife programmes, with narration supplied by the ever husky voice of David Attenborough. It’s a winning formula that’s been seen before in Planet Earth and other series, but no changes are necessary when it’s this good.
Frozen Four years in the making and costing around £16 million to produce, Frozen Planet sees the documentary crew visit the most hostile and unexplored ends of the Earth: the Arctic and Antarctica. The climates in both poles are the harshest conditions for human life to survive, with month long winters at freezing temperatures peaking at below -50°C. Despite this, they remain areas of natural beauty, though only a privileged few have witnessed their sights. Fortunately the technology of photography allows these experiences to be shared, as well as being able to capture images from perspectives impossible to a human’s naked eye or at speeds faster than the brain can process. Throughout the series, we are shown HD pictures of the Polar Regions from space, time lapse footage of forming ice sculptures, extreme close ups of snowflakes, aerial pictures of vast ice covered deserts and orcas emerging from the sea filmed at 1,000s of frames per second. Accumulatively, all of this wondrous imagery both entrances and fascinates. Highlights of the series so far have included a pack of wolves hunting down a herd of bison, bloody fights between mating male polar bears and sea lions and the collapse of an ice formation the size of Jamaica. The most amusing scenes involve various species of penguins, with one memorable moment occuring when one attempts to thieve stones from a nearby nest. Each episode’s ten minute ‘behind the scenes’ Freeze Frame segment, is wel-
lcome as it gives the crew members involved their due. It is just as fascinating to see the process behind filming in difficult conditions as are the subjects of their cameras. Furthermore we see them make trips to less known areas like Antarctica’s only continually active volcano Mt. Erebus. George Fenton‘s music has been criticised for being intrusive and distracting, and others have commented that the the programme is too heavily focussed on entertainment, not education. It is easy, however, to dismiss both criticisms. Fenton’s music exists to heighten the experience of the programme and is carefully composed rather than just being an afterthought. While the programme isn’t particually factual, the spectacle of all the creatures and landscapes is a lesson on its own. As alien a world the frozen tundra might seem, no one could possibly forget that this is Earth. In a sense, this is what makes Frozen Planet a timely documentary. It highlights the wonders of a fragile ecosystem not generally considered by most of the world’s population, although their actions affect the region just like anywhere else. Its final episode, entitled On Thin Ice, and as of writing yet to be aired, is to deal directly with the consequences of CO2 emissions on the Arctic, primarily concerning the possibility of there being no summer ice and the gradual starvation of polar bears. Scripted by Attenborough, the episode has been excluded from the six episode package distributed to global TV networks, though it remains available December 2011
as an additional ‘companion’ episode. It is not being aired in the USA and nine other countries. While there is a difference in style in the series final, it seems irresponsible to not want to highlight the issue that it addresses, particularly in countries where climate change scepticism is widely held. After the audience has become aware of the spectacle of the Polar Regions, shouldn’t they also see how the very same region is endangered? With David Attenborough anchoring the series down with his presence and charming narration, Frozen Planet is another offering of eye candy from the BBC that single handily justifies the existence of the license fee. While I don’t pay it myself, I am pleased that the money is being used to fund this and not just more Strictly Come Dancing. Essential television. By Nick Mould
Listings Albums Date
...what to buy if you get a tenner from your gran Culture
12/12 – Planet Of The Apes: Evolution Collection 12/12 – The Inbetweeners Movie 16/12 – Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (U, 20th Century Fox) 16/12 – Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (12A, Warner Brothers) 26/12 – The Puppini Sisters – Hollywood 26/12 – Cowboys & Aliens 26/12 – Final Destination 5 26/12 – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – If I Had A Gun… 26/12 – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (TBC, Sony) 26/12 – Rizzle Kicks - Mama Do The Hump 26/12 – Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (TBC, Paramount) 29/12 – Mitch Benn @ Village Community Centre, Milford-on-Sea 01/01 – Bombay Bicycle Club - Leave It 01/01 – JLS - Do You Feel What I Feel 02/01 – Taio Cruz – Ty.O 02/01 – Noah and the Whale - Give It All Back 02/01 – Rihanna - You Da One 06/01 – The Iron Lady (12A, Fox/Pathé) 09/01 – The Maccabees – Given To The Wild 09/01 – Boardwalk Empire - Season One 12/01 – Isy Suttie @ The Railway Inn, Winchester 16/01 – Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood Of Colour 16/01 – Tribes – Baby 16/01 – The Big Pink – Future This 23/01 – Pulled Apart By Horses – Tough Love 30/01 – Lana Del Rey – Born 2 Die 30/01 – Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas 30/01 – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 30/01 – Drive 31/01 – Maverick Sabre – Lonely Are The Brave 03/02 – Jimmy Carr @ Theatre Royal, Winchester 06/02 – Emeli Sandé – Our Version Of Events 06/02 – Calvin Harris – TBC 06/02 – All The Young – All The Young 06/02 – Modestep – Evolution Theory 06/02 – Speech Debelle – Freedom Of Speech 06/02 – Friends With Benefits 30 30
November/December 2011 December 2011
Wiley @ Brighton Concorde 2
Lawson @ The Haunt, Brighton
Four Year Strong @ Portsmouth Pyramid Centre
Canterbury 31 @ Joiners
Gwar @ Portsmouth Highlight
The Xcerts @ The Haunt, Brighton
Panic! At The Disco @ Guildhall
Howler @ Joiners
All Time Low @ Guildhall
Reel Big Fish @ Portsmouth Pyramid Centre
Tubelord @ The Haunt, Brighton
Thin Lizzy @ Brighton Dome
Mr. Scruff @ 02 Academy Bournemouth
Revoker @ Joiners
Lower Than Atlantis @ Joiners
James Morrison @ Guildhall
Alfie Boe @ Bournemouth International Centre
Black Dahlia Murderer @ Talking Heads
Asking Alexandria @ Portsmouth Pyramid Centre
Wolf People @ The Haunt, Brighton