Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with a Live Orchestra – Echo Arena Liverpool – 1st December 2017

As we all know The Chamber of Secrets is the 2nd film in the Harry Potter series and is the 2nd (and last) time I’ve paid what I find to be an extortionate amount of money for this live Orchestra experience.

I bought tickets the first time at £50 (money my friend still owes me nearly a year on) because it seemed like a novel idea. I’m not a Harry Potter fanatic like a lot of the people who paid even more for the floor seats, but they’re enjoyable films, John Williams is a legendary composer, and I like listening to Orchestras. Also the Echo Arena sells Crabbies Fruits in those plastic bottles that make them taste better and that’s always an added bonus. This might actually have been the deciding factor in going to see the 2nd one I’m not really sure. Anyway there was something not quite right about the first film and I thought possibly it was just where I was sat. It was still good, just not quite as good as I expected. So the second one comes around and obviously having been to the first one I thought I might as well go and see this one but have more central seating, and as much as they were still £50 (extortionate) I went ahead and bought them.

This isn’t like one of my usual film reviews anyway I’m not going to explain the plot of Harry Potter to you, if you don’t know it by now you probably don’t want to. I’m reviewing it as a show as opposed to a film. It’s a big arena, the tickets are pricey, it’s supposed to be spectacular, it’s supposed to blow your mind, but it just doesn’t. It’s underwhelming and disappointing, and as much as I had better seats, I went with my girlfriend instead of my friend and we had a lovely evening, the show is just so average. I’ve seen the film before, I’d probably go so far as to say I watch it annually, but it never costs me £50, there’s never any distractions, and the soundtrack is just as prominent watching it at home as it is with this set-up. That sadly is where this ‘experience’ massively lacks.

It’s supposed to be a show with a live Orchestra, yet the Orchestra are so in the background that they’re forgettable. There were only 3 parts of the film I actually felt like I was listening to live music; the start, the quidditch match, and the end. Even then the end was the most infuriating part of the entire thing. 

In the event’s defense this part is not their fault, but arguably, the best part of the film musically is the end credits. There’s no dialogue interference and it’s a great piece of music, yet what happens in this city with one of the greatest and most iconic musical histories in the World, half the arena leaves. I was all excited for the end, the clapping for the end of the film had finished and the Orchestra were ready. Or where they? I couldn’t see them, because a horde of fucking morons were walking in front of me to leave. But maybe it wouldn’t be too awful because I’d still be able to hear them. Oh yeah I couldn’t, because the horde of fucking morons sounded like chatty elephants with clogs on. It topped off the event for me and made me sure that I definitely won’t be going to see the 3rd installment which I’m sure will be coming around to steal money from everyone next year.

In all seriousness about the cost, I’ve exaggerated the annoyance of it and I understand how much it costs for an entire Orchestra to be travelling around the country, but I went to see Hans Zimmer with his Orchestra in the same arena for only £5 more, and so I have to compare it to that. People left Hans Zimmer in tears because his music and his show was that powerful and that emotional. John Williams’ music can do the same thing, okay maybe people shouldn’t be crying at Harry Potter but that’s not the point, the Orchestra here added nothing, they were irrelevant, and that’s what was so disappointing about this because you leave feeling like it could have been so much better.


John Wick: Chapter 2 – 2017

I’m back to watching films and I’ve got a lot of back log from as far back as late 2014 so the next few posts will probably be a bit all over the place, but let’s get straight to one of my favourites, John Wick.

After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life”

The first installment of John Wick was one, if not the best action film of the last decade, only really rivalled by the Taken franchise for me. Although I did also have a soft spot for The Equalizer which came out at a similar time to John Wick. There’s also been a few decent low budget ones but they all seem to be the same thing, either corrupt police with one good guy left, or taking down a drug cartel. Also as much as the entire Taken franchise is good, I think we can all agree that the first one was by far the best and in comparison the 2nd and 3rd were minorly disappointing. So I went into seeing this film with high hopes but also with doubts.

First of all the synopsis that I’ve quoted from IMDb doesn’t summarise or even really give you any idea of what the story is but if you’ve seen the first one, which I assume you have if you’re reading this, then you’ll know what it’s all about anyway. Secondly, the few people I’ve spoken to about this film showed the same disappointment in it that I did at Taken 2. Nobody seemed particularly over enthused about it and said it was nowhere near as good as the first one. I think part of the problem was that it was overhyped; there were endless trailers for weeks before this film actually came out that the first one simply didn’t have and as much as it might have made it more money at the cinema, it did have a negative impact on the viewing of the film. It also didn’t have the surprise factor that the first film had. We knew his story now, we knew there was going to be endless action, we knew there was going to be betrayal, we were praying there wasn’t going to be another dog death (thankfully there wasn’t), but everything that happened in this film you knew was going to happen.

For me however none of that actually took away from how good it was. Alright it’s not exactly an Oscar-worthy piece of cinematic brilliance, but it’s fun, graphic, intense, has an excellent protagonist and the perfect actor playing him, and is an all-round good watch. There’s not really much else to say about it, I can’t go into the story in much detail because the story doesn’t have much detail. It’s a classic action storyline but with modernised action scenes and high quality graphics and camerawork that wasn’t available when this type of film was really popular.

One thing I can say and it’s a minor spoiler I suppose but it’s hardly going to ruin the film of you haven’t seen it, is that it does set it up for there to be a third and probably final film that should be the most action packed yet, and that I am very excited about.

Game Of Thrones – Season 6 Review

*Spoiler Alert*

Another season of Game of Thrones seems to have swiftly come and gone and left us with lots to look forward to in 8 months time. Seasons 4 and 5 for me really disappointed so my expectations for this season weren’t particularly high and I don’t look forward to it as much anymore. Those low expectations though might have been what made this season seem so good. There were a few episodes in the middle of the season that as expected were a bit boring, but obviously storylines need to be set up and big events need to have anticipation. It’s all good writing really and that shows in the massive ratings that this show gets.

I always compare it to The Walking Dead because they’re the two biggest fantasy/action shows in the World right now and although very different I think that it’s fair to compare the two. Their target audience is somewhat similar, they’re both based on a different piece of fiction, and they both get massive ratings on a Sunday night in numerous countries. A few things that TWD has going for it is that the comic books are still being written, so it could be a seemingly endless program. That could prove a problem because it will be a struggle to keep it interesting for so long. TWD also has a lot more episodes per season, so the boring episodes in the middle that both programs have seem a lot less noticeable. GoT is a rare program with only the 10 episodes per season and per year. For a lot of people that adds to the anticipation and the excitement of the show and that’s understandable but at the same time out of those 10 episodes per season I feel like only 5 are really good and that’s not enough for me. There may also be 5 boring episodes per season of TWD but that’s 5 out of 20+.

Another comparison that can be made between the two are the vast amount of different storylines within the program. With the more episodes, TWD can get away with having a lot of different plots and can dedicate different episodes to one specific plot at a time. GoT has really struggled with that in the past and did so again at times this season. Towards the end of the season though a lot of the different storylines started to converge and we finally have a narrative we can actually follow without a lot of confusion. At the beginning of the season we had several different main characters in several different parts of the World with several minutes of the episode each and it was stupidly hard to follow.

The season did get progressively better though, with episode 9, ‘The battle of the Bastards’ being the best episode in the entire 6 series so far. With Ramsay Bolton dead though there needed to be a new villain we could truly hate and it seems like Cersei Lannister is yet again going to take up that mantle. She has been the main villain on more than one occasion but it certainly does not get boring. Lena Headey has been exceptionally since the first season and with The Mountain by her side she sits upon The Iron Throne once again. The ending saw a united Winterfell, led by Jon Snow with the backing of other armies and leaders of the North. Littlefinger is waiting in the shadows though, plotting something devious no doubt that involves his infatuation and obsession with Sansa. I’m not 100% sure if the next challenge Jon Snow and Winterfell face is from a different army, the Whitewalkers, or a threat from the inside.

Arya Stark is another one on a journey back to where she began. Her storyline since she was forced to flee has been very strange and all a bit pointless. It’s just really been a long-winded way of training her to be a clever killed and keeping her out of the way of the main characters so there can be a uniting of all the surviving Starks later on. I like Arya and I like Maisie Williams but I’d gotten really quite bored of her for about 3 seasons and I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Obviously the biggest convergence in the storylines next season will be the appearance of Daenerys Targaryen and her massive army, along with Tyrion, and Theon and Yara Greyjoy. Lord Varys is also there with the woman and her daughters and that army. I keep forgetting about them so I have no recollection of any of their names. Let’s face it the only part they’ve played in anything remotely interesting is when Bronn and Jaime were there. I think I’m the only person who thinks this but other than Tyrion Lannister being by her side, the entire Daenerys storyline bores me. There’s sometimes good action in it and everybody likes a good dragon but I just don’t see the appeal in her. Most of that part of the story is all in subtitles that I can’t be bothered reading and it’s been pretty repetitive for the best part of the last 3 seasons. Sure she ends a few episodes in spectacular fashion but Tyrion has made it relevant and entertaining again.

A few other plots and characters that I don’t really know where are going or really where they ended this season there was so much to keep up with. Firstly and I think most importantly is Bran Stark, who’s now the three-eyed Raven. He has the ability now to manipulate the past and the future it seems but he completely disappeared in season 5 along with my interest level for him. Nobody seems to like his character but it seems he will have an important part to play in the next season or two. Secondly is Brienne: I don’t remember where she ended or what she’s doing next but I do like her. Thirdly The Hound, a very loveable character in my opinion. His return proved that unless you see the severed head of a character you think is dead, the chances are they’re not. He’s a brutal character that I can’t wait to see in the middle of a big battle again and I hope we do get to see that again next season. I have a sneaking feeling he’ll end up being killed (again) by The Mountain at some point. Although I’ve already mentioned her I’m not 100% sure where the Arya story is going next, she has plenty of people on her little list to kill but I’m sure she’ll run in to some more trouble on the way. Samwell Tarley is off to become a Maester in his own storyline and I assume at some point will end up back with Jon. Jorah has also disappeared on his own storyline but I’m not even sure he’ll return anywhere to be honest.

I think that covers about everyone. Again there’s so many to keep up with that it’s hard to know really. Overall I thought this season was much improved from the previous 2 or 3. It slowed down in the middle again but nowhere near as much as it has done previously, but the opening 2 episodes and the final 2 episodes were all amazing and it sets it up perfectly for season 7. The last 2 years haven’t left much to be desired or much anticipation for me personally but I’m definitely looking forward to the next season now. As much as this season has improved though it’s still definitely behind The Walking Dead for me. It just lacks in every department compared to that. It’s still better than TWD spin-off show Fear The Walking Dead but it has dropped down to my third favourite action-based fantasy show behind Netflix’s Daredevil which has been phenomenal for both its seasons now.

New Girl – Season 5

Another hilarious season of New Girl has gone by but has sadly ended with the same ‘cliffhanger’ (if you can call it that at this point) of ‘what’s going to happen between Nick and Jess?’ I think every season has ended with this question lingering now and it’s getting tiresome.

I love New Girl, after The Big Bang Theory it is my 2nd favourite sitcom that is still ongoing, but that same question has been looming forever and when you finally start to think it’s gone for good it just comes back in serious finale. Fortunately that was only the last episode (possibly the last two I don’t remember) and there hasn’t been any focus on it at all this season up to that point. Instead we’ve had Cece and Schmidt getting engaged and married, Winston becoming a cop and falling in love with his partner Aly, and a really well done romance between Nick and Reagan, despite her mainly being an off-screen character after her initial short stint whilst Jess was on Jury Duty/Zooey Deschanel was having a baby.

The level of comedy in this program is perfect for me. It’s a mix between intelligent comedy and very easy childish comedy and is seen in the dialogue, silly little scenes when there’s a prank or something goes wrong, and the characters personalities. Elizabeth Meriweather’s comedy writing is second to none and is very reminiscent of Friends but with an obvious 21st century modernised twist. Being forced to write Zooey Deschanel out of the program for a few episodes completely changed the rest of the series with a new character, 2 new plots, and a change of love interest for Nick. Zooey’s temporary replacement was Megan Fox and as much as I didn’t think much of her as an actress because of Transformers and other things she’s actually really good in this and was a shrewd casting choice. Refreshing as it was to have a new actress join the cast, all of the cast in this program are amazing. I feel like Zooey Deschanel plays the same quirky cute character in pretty much everything and from the interviews I’ve seen with her it seems that she’s just playing herself. None of the other actors are particularly famous and I think it’s the writing of the characters that makes them look good but that’s taking nothing away from any of them. They bring the characters to life and do the writing justice and that’s what makes a good actor.

Overall I don’t think this program is getting better or worse really, it’s steadily staying as funny as it has always been. Following the trend of 20-25 episodes per season suits New Girl perfectly. It keeps the audience interested for the entire season with a nice amount of different plots and changes taking place and leaves enough time to keep us in anticipation for several months before the next season starts. Let’s just hope we get an end to all the Nick and Jess nonsense and they either get together and stay together or never get together at all.

Captain America: Civil War – 2016

For the first time in about 18 months I actually went out with another human being to the cinema and paid a ridiculous amount of money to watch a film that cost a ridiculous amount of money to make.

I watch these Superhero films to be part of the mindless herd of sheep that Marvel gobble up money from because obviously you’re just not cool unless you’ve seen The Avengers, which despite its name, this film basically is; the only characters it’s missing are Thor, The Hulk, and the people from SHIELD; and rather than just make a film with a few less characters in they’ve decided to over-compensate and add an additional abundance of characters with Ant-Man, Spiderman, Black Panther, Falcon, War Machine, and The Winter Soldier. There is a slight focus on Captain America and Iron-Man but there’s so many sub-plots going on surrounding the two main plots that it’s hard to keep track or really care about keeping track for that matter.
The acting is excellent as you would expect from the amount of high calibre and high profile actors and actresses in the film although I’m not sure how I feel about the new Spiderman (tangential story to come later). At this point in the franchise I feel like most of the actors are just playing themselves as they imagine they would be with superpowers. Their characters are all famous, rich, get noticed in any busy street in the world, and divide opinion. The only differences are the costumes and abilities and most of that is done with stuntmen and CG anyway.

The storyline itself (despite how many there are) is actually rather good. Very different from the usual formula of thousands of bad guys led by one really bad guy against a small band of superheroes who don’t really get on. The second part of the films title isn’t at all misleading as there is indeed a ‘Civil War’ between ‘Team Captain America’ and ‘Team Iron-Man’ because of disagreements to do with the governments of the World regulating The Avengers and because of The Winter Soldier. New guy Black Panther and Iron-Man both want to kill The Winter Soldier for different reasons and Captain America wants to protect him and let him help because he believes he’s been framed and knows he isn’t always in control of his own mind. All the other superheroes are back and forth on whose team to join, fighting and then not fighting again until there are two perfectly balanced teams for the culminating battle in the airport of all places. Suffice to say aeroplanes are used as weapons in this 15 minute action-packed scene that really delivered when it mattered because you do rely on these films for a mass amount of action and explosions. The thing I liked about this action scene and this does go for The Avengers films as well, they spread out the focus on each superhero really well, giving them all a little cameo appearance in the spotlight. I think that’s what allows people to choose a favourite more freely. It’s a good marketing ploy on the part of Marvel more than anything. The more they spread the favouritism, the more adaptations they can make and different merchandise they can sell. The only problem I have with this final battle is that I’m not sure it’s close enough to the end of the film and because of that the actual ending becomes unimportant and disappointingly forgettable. It’s not the most predictable end but it’s certainly not an exciting end either. There’s also another little post-credits segment just in case we didn’t already know they’re going to keep milking these Marvel films until they’re costing more than they’re making, and as they hit $1 Billion worldwide yesterday that could be a very long time.

All in all this is a solid film, a lot better than the previous Captain America films and actually probably better than The Avengers films as well, certainly not as action packed but a much more thought out story. Only really two small problems, the name, because it should just be called The Avengers, and the non-eventful ending. I have no idea what film of this Avenger based series is coming out next but I’m pretty sure I’ll watch it. X-Men is definitely the next superhero film on my watch list though, who knows I may even pay to see that too.

Tangential story about Tom Holland (Spiderman):
I’m not sure if any of this was filmed in Liverpool or some other film he was doing was but for some reason or other he was on a night out in Liverpool and tried to get into the club that I work in on a Monday night (The Blue Angel/The Raz). Monday night is a rather busy night for us, mostly due to students from The University of Liverpool so we often have a few hundred people queuing up outside. Tom Holland being the ‘celebrity’ that he thinks he is decided that because he was Spiderman, he would tell everyone and that meant he could jump the queue. He was however unceremoniously removed from the queue by our 6’8 bouncer who apparently told him that he has a Spiderman onesie so is Spiderman on the weekends too. In Tom Holland’s defence he didn’t leave kicking and screaming as a lot of people do, but he still seems like a bit of a dick.

Daredevil – Season 2

*Major Spoiler Alert*

The first season of Daredevil was excellent and I barely had a bad word to say about it. The second season was better in some ways and worse in some ways. Where the first season had a solid structure and Fisk was the one and only nemesis if you will of Daredevil, this season was a bit all over the place, a lot of bad guys, and then bad guys turning good and then turning bad again and it all got a bit confusing. Having said that I did binge watch all 13 episodes in 2 days so that might have contributed to scrambling my brain a little bit. The mass amount of bad guys in this season makes it both a good thing and a bad thing though.

Firstly we have Frank Castle/The Punisher played by Jon Bernthal, a seasoned actor now but best known by me as Shane from The Walking Dead  in a not too dissimilar role really. In The Walking Dead he is a sort of anti-hero because he is part of the main group of survivors but at the same time he’s trying to sleep with the main characters wife again. In this he plays the anti-hero who is trying to rid Hell’s Kitchen of crime by brutally murdering members of The Cartel, The Irish, and The Dogs of Hell biker gang. We find out later why he specifically targeted those groups but before we find that out he is the first and best bad guy of the season. He is an intriguing character throughout and Jon Bernthal does an excellent job of portraying him both as the typical murderous villain, and as the war veteran anti-hero.

The next new main character that we are introduced to is Elektra. I’m really conflicted about both the character and Elodie Yung, the actress that plays her. They obviously had to introduce her at some point because she goes hand in hand with Daredevil, they couldn’t really make a Daredevil series without Elektra. Firstly and most annoyingly is her accent. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, it seems to switch between a sort of posh British accent and a Latin American accent but Elodie Yung is of Cambodian and French descent and was born in Paris so I have no idea what her natural accent would actually be. The character is really annoying quite honestly and so was that part of the storyline in the earlier episodes she was in. I did enjoy the cameo’s from Stick because I find him quite amusingly blunt but generally the Elektra storyline let the middle of the season down a bit.

Fortunately that part of the storyline came together towards the end of the season when we find out about the ancient Ninja clan, The Hand, fronted by Nobu, a ninja assassin from the first season who has seemingly been immortalised. They are seeking what they call Black Sky, which we find out is Elektra and that is why they are seeking her out. There are parts of this season that at the time I thought were awful but in the final 2 episodes then made sense so a lot of the Elektra/The Hand storyline does seem messy but comes together really well in the end.

Then we move on to the occurring characters, there hasn’t been a lot of change in any of the main three characters. Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is still quite an elusive character on a personal level, he still isn’t involved in a massive amount of dialogue as himself and the the dialogue he is in as Daredevil he tends to deflect talking about himself to talk about the other person or to find something out. Foggy (Elden Henson) is still as witty as ever but has a much more aggressive side to him this season, standing up to Matt a lot more than he did in the previous season. I absolutely love his character and Elden Henson does an amazing job with it. I don’t remember what I said about Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) in my review of the first season but I really don’t like her. I don’t know if it’s the actress or the character but she just really annoys me, getting in everyone’s way, her on/off feelings for Matt, her weird feelings for Frank, it’s all just a bit pointless.

I’m a bit mixed on where it leaves the next season. Obviously Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) makes a couple of appearances in this season, albeit from prison and has now made enemies of both Daredevil and The Punisher so I assume he is going to be released from prison at some point during the next season and become the main enemy again. He makes an excellent nemesis and crime lord but hopefully there is more to the third season than just him. Bullseye will obviously have to make an appearance at some point, whether that will be in the next season I don’t know. I’ve also been told there is another Netflix season in production which sees Daredevil and a few other Marvel characters that Netflix are bringing to life again like they have with Jessica Jones. The other part of the story, the Matt Murdock part as opposed to the Daredevil part I have no idea what they’re going to do with. Murdock and Nelson has been disbanded so there is no longer a daytime job for him to go and do. They’ve already integrated Karen Page into another job as a journalist but I don’t know what they’re going to do with Foggy, but I won’t be happy if he’s not in the next season.

It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes but sadly there’s a long time to go before that. I’ll be eagerly anticipating the next season and any other Marvel series that Netflix has in store for us but for now I’m happy to say that this is up there with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones as one of the best programs on TV right now.

Ant-Man – 2015

“Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.”

This is going to be one of my rare all-positive reviews of a film because I absolutely loved it. Not a typical superhero film and I was afraid it was going to be similar to The Green Hornet which I think everyone can agree was just dreadful but this was just perfect. I have to compare it to that because Paul Rudd, like Seth Rogen, is typically seen in comedic roles and this is a massive change. I think the problem Seth Rogen had is that his comedy is usually a lot more vulgar and that change was a bit too drastic for him, whereas Paul Rudd just acted like a typical Paul Rudd character but in a superhero film. I’m not sure it should have worked but it definitely did.

It wasn’t just Paul Rudd though I thought the whole casting was pretty good. Michael Douglas is obviously good in everything, Evangeline Lilly isn’t exactly a household name but she was pretty good too, and Corey Stoll, again not somebody I particularly recognised but he was good. The whole concept of the film and Ant-Man as a superhero is ridiculously stupid but because of the casting choice it somehow works.

I can’t actually think of anything specific I liked about it though. I tend not to like recent superhero films because they’re over-hyped with a massive budget but this didn’t have either of those. The budget wasn’t small but it wasn’t like The Avengers, and other than die-hard superhero film fans nobody really cared about this film. I’ve never been one to love Oscar nominated films, I much prefer films that just go under the radar all year and that’s what this did, especially with all the other superhero films around these days.

I’m not sure how I feel about Ant-Man being in the new Captain America film coming out this year but that might just be because I don’t really like Captain America, but I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to this as much as it’s a long way away and I’m always looking forward to seeing Paul Rudd in any upcoming comedy films he’s in. I would definitely recommend Ant-Man to anyone though and for anyone who didn’t enjoy it first time, I would say give it another go.