Resurrecting the blog.

At many points throughout my education I’ve been told that I should be blogging.

It helps to be consistently writing they say, it heightens your ‘online presence’ and shows that you are committed and determined enough to follow through with a task.

So I always rush home, set up a blog and excitedly write a couple of posts. Then I of course leave it to collect dust and never go near the thing again.

But THIS time. This time it will be different.

In order to actually stick with the bloody thing I’m going to be writing about football, films, video games, tv etc. All the stuff that I’m genuinely interested in. Because it is of course easier to write about something you actually care about.

No one will read this, and that’s absolutely fine. The idea is that a prospective employer Google’s me and this comes up, rather than any embarrassing Facebook photos or just downright boring tweets.

It also gives me a place to whinge about Manchester City that’s longer than 140 characters.

Stupid Yaya.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

Good TV is back!

After the barren TV landscape that is the summer, the fall sees a return of many already popular shows as well as new pilots that networks hope will be able to captivate audiences.

I’ve watched my fair share of TV recently so thought I’d jot down my thoughts on what I’ve seen so far.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – Season 4
Nucky and co are back for another brutal insight into Prohibition era America. We’ve already had a few episodes of the new season at the time of writing and the show is as consistently good as ever. Steve Buscemi reprises his role as Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson who this season finds himself in a better position than previously. It felt a bit of a cheat from the writers who solved last season’s conflicts in the first five minutes of the first episode with an awkward exchange of cash and a few nervous nods. Despite this the show is never stale, helped by the outstanding performances by its wide-ranging cast. There’s a whole lot less of Kelly MacDonald which is a shame but Stephen Graham steals the show as a young Al Capone who’s just starting to warm up. The show is so successful thanks to the cast, budget but also the excellent source material it can draw from. Looking forward to another exciting year in 1920s America.
8/10 – There’s a lot to catch up on if you’ve never watched Boardwalk Empire but it’s definitely worth it. 

Homeland (Showtime) – Season 3
Oh Claire. I’ve only managed to see the opening episode of season three but it didn’t disappoint. The entire episode takes place minus leading man Damian Lewis but Danes’ excellent portrayal of Carrie Mathison is so good that you don’t mind. We pick up in season three following the devastating attack on the CIA at Langley. Brody has escaped leaving Carrie and Saul to deal with the aftermath of the explosion. Saul’s juggling an internal investigation into the attack with a mission to eliminate those responsible whilst also trying to patch up his failing marriage. Carrie is such a wreck emotionally that she makes compelling viewing. She isn’t coping well without Brody who she’s desperate to find and she’s feeling betrayed and abandoned by Saul all whilst seemingly off the medication that helps her deal with her bipolar disorder. Cue emotional public outbursts, the need for anonymous sex with a Brody lookalike and a lot of tears. A lot of them. The show’s come under criticism for not being able to live up to its own high standards that it set in season one. Although I agree that season one was the best so far, the characters are so brilliantly complex that the show remains must see television. Also Dana’s sad about something but who cares?
9/10 – The show is tense, complex and loves a twist. Claire Danes is fantastic. Must watch TV.

Sleepy Hollow (FOX) – Season 1
One of a few pilots I’ve given a go so far. I’d seen a decent review of the first episode so decided to watch it when it popped up on Sky Anytime this week. It’s shown on Universal in the UK so it was unlikely I’d have come across it if it weren’t for Anytime. There was no football on this weekend so I really felt as though I had no other options at 2 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot. I’ve only seen the pilot but do plan to give the next few episodes a chance. It isn’t the smartest TV show you’ll ever see and I’m not entirely sure how they’ll drag a whole season out of it (wait, TWO seasons, it’s been renewed already after 10 MILLION Americans tuned in to see the pilot, the best for FOX in ages). Quick plot summary: Soldier from the Revolutionary War wakes up in modern day America. Man he thought he’d killed in aforementioned war also wakes up (minus his head) and begins to wreak havoc. Soldier teams up with nice Lieutenant, Mr. Sulu from Star Trek (not George Takei, John Cho) and the black guy for Evolution to defeat said headless man (who rides a horse, see where they’re going with that?), in the town of Sleepy Hollow. Anyway, it’s a rip-roaring first episode with decent special effects and a few cracking camera shots. The writing is pretty good too, guy from the 18th Century wakes up 250 years later and doesn’t get overawed with the things you’d normally expect, electricity, iPods etc. It was nice and spooky, funny but also interesting enough to demand my attention. Would recommend.
7/10 – Promising start for Sleepy Hollow. It’s still on Sky Anytime, give it a watch!

Quick mentions:
Gogglebox – the best thing on British TV at the minute, absolutely hilarious. You just watch people watch TV. Sounds stupid but the people they have on are brilliant. 
Great British Bake Off – watched five straight episodes with Mum a few weeks ago having never watched before and now I’m hooked. The whole thing is just brilliantly therapeutic but also wrought with drama. The combination of Sue and Mel, Mary Berry, brilliant bakers and gastroporn is just great. Beca to win. Kimberly is arrogant and underhand. How do you even come across as underhand on GBBO? I miss Glenn. 
Parks and Recreation – not enough people watch this meaning it’s facing cancellation but it’s absolutely hilarious and is so cleverly written. Amy Poehler is a genius and Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt and Rashida Jones are all excellent. The latest season premiere was so expertly put together I immediately watched it again. 
Family Guy/American Dad/The Simpsons/South Park – some of the best comedic writing comes in these animated shows but as they are animated they aren’t given the same kind of respect as other shows. All four are brilliant but recent American Dad/South Park episodes have been masterpieces. 

Looking forward to the returns of:
Community
Shameless USA
Doctor Who
Sherlock

Finally, shows that should be immediately taken off the air and never spoken about again.
Sexbox – not even slightly interesting and ultimately pointless.
Citizen Khan – who recommissioned this. WHO? and WHY?
The X Factor – I caught two minutes, literally just two, but it was enough to remind me why I don’t watch this abomination.

England edge towards Brazil, but what’s the point?

Here’s the second one. Enjoy!

England have taken a tentative step towards qualification for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. A comfortable win over minnows Moldova and a hard-fought goalless draw away in Ukraine has left England top of Group H, a point ahead of both Montenegro and the Ukrainians whilst Poland are only a further two points back. England’s final two group games pit them against Montenegro and Poland, two wins and qualification is secured, anything other than that and England could potentially be facing another summer sat inside, watching from the window as all the other kids have fun without them.

England were expected to beat Moldova comfortably and didn’t disappoint. Goals from Steven Gerrard and one-man fairytale Rickie Lambert had England cruising by the half-hour mark before a brace by the impressive Danny Welbeck ensured England would go into the game against Ukraine knowing 7 points from 9 would be enough to ensure qualification. Welbeck earned himself a ridiculous booking leaving him suspended for the Ukraine game meaning he would have to watch from the sidelines with injured trio Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Andy Carroll. It was left to Lambert, playing his first ever competitive game outside of the British Isles, to lead the line in Kiev. The game was a dire affair with England eventually pleased to leave with a point. 

But what’s the point in worrying? Even if we qualify there’s no hope in us winning the competition, at least, that’s what FA Chairman Greg Dyke declared this week. The two games were overshadowed by Dyke’s scathing comments on the state of English football. Hardly the best preparation for the players. Dyke’s brash brand of realism was delivered during his first speech as Chairman of the FA. He promptly declared that England fans should put away any thoughts of lifting any silverware until at least 2022, maybe a semi-final in 2020. He went on to criticise the Premier League, which he helped to create, believing that the number of foreign players and managers in England’s elite league should be cut. He does have a point, only 32% of players used in the Premier League last season were English. Whether or not Dyke’s predictions are correct remain to be seen, but what his comments have done, is lead the FA on a collision course with the Premier League, an exciting prospect.

The final two group games are crucial, win them and we can join football’s elite in Brazil next summer, lose them and we’ll have to watch on, wondering what might have been, just as we did in 2008

Star Trek Into Darkness hits shelves amongst furore over retailer exclusives.

A couple of articles I wrote for a paper publication weren’t printed as the whole newspaper didn’t go to print so thought I may as well stick them here.

J.J. Abrams’ dazzling second installment to the rebooted Star Trek franchise is released on DVD and Blu-ray this week. The sequel sees a vengeful James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) lead his crew on a dangerous mission to capture terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). The film rarely pauses for breath, no sooner have Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) calcified an erupting volcano and saved an entire race, than they are leading a manhunt behind enemy lines. 
 
The cast hasn’t changed from the first film, Pine continues to glare at everyone and rebel from authority, whilst Simon Pegg (Scotty) is always on hand to provide sometimes much needed comic relief. The real breakout star is Cumberbatch. Whenever he’s on screen he commands your attention. His performance glosses over his character’s pretty confusing master plan (it’s in the same league as Javier Bardem’s Silva in Skyfall). He is a swashbuckling, one-man army, destroying all in his path, who despite this still manages to question your allegiances at points in the film. One criticism would be that there isn’t enough of him, the film introduces a proper old-school baddie and then hides him away from you. Star Trek Into Darkness benefits from truly spectacular settings, each more stunning than the last. Director Abrams brings lens flare aplenty, it’s blinding, as you would expect, but his favoring of large scale sets over green-screens brings a realism to proceedings. He also has a real talent in allowing fast, subtle changes in mood. A quarrel between lovers takes place practically at gunpoint.
 
The Blu-Ray and DVD release is the 10th of September but will hit shelves surrounded by outrage from some fans. Paramount have introduced retailer exclusives, meaning that depending on where you buy the disc from, you may or may not have certain bonus features on the disc. Download the film from the iTunes store and you receive a unique commentary that features picture-in-picture annotations and behind the scenes footage. Buy the film from a store in the UK and you will not receive 20 minutes of unspecified bonus features that the Blinkbox streaming service is advertising. It’s even worse in America, with different stores and supermarkets all having different versions. One internet site claims that to have every single byte of content you would have to buy twelve different versions from around the world. 
 
The film is an enjoyable, warp-speed adventure through space but hardcore Trekkies looking for the deleted scenes, hidden easter eggs and audio commentaries may have to break the bank to see them.

Making it through the international break.

Hello. International breaks should be banned, agreed?

Having gone an entire summer without Premier League football and coping relatively well, it came as a surprise to me how difficult it was to stomach the international period. Maybe it was the fact that although there was football on offer, it was for the most part utterly dreadful. It’s become a real chore to watch the England football team play, and an even greater one to suffer through ITV’s painful coverage, headed by Adrian Chiles and Roy Keane who have a combined likeability of root canal surgery. 

A demolition of minnows Moldova was followed up by a dire performance away in Kiev. The draw against the Ukrainians leaves England’s fate in their own hands. Two wins at home to rivals Montenegro and Poland and we’ll all have something to look forward to next summer. Anything other than that opens up the door to failure, and the possibility of having to watch from the window as all the other kids play outside without us.

At least the Premier League does burst back into life this weekend with exciting games such as Southampton vs. West Ham, Fulham vs. West Brom and Hull City/Tigers/Hunters vs. Cardiff ‘Bluebirds/Welsh Dragons’ City. Thinking the Fulham game might take the coveted trophy of ‘Last on Match of the Day’ this week but we’ll wait and see.

My own team, Manchester City, travel to the Britannia Stadium this weekend for a good old catch up with Mark Hughes. On a previous meeting Sergio Aguero scored THAT goal and we won the league, I’m fairly certain he’d like to exact some revenge on his former club. We haven’t won at the Britannia in the league for as long as I can remember, players such as Peter Crouch, James Beattie and Kenwyne Jones have always been on hand to ensure we’ve left without all three points. Stoke are a team experiencing a bit of a renaissance if you believe the newspapers, and indeed they have discovered the art of keeping the ball on the floor, something that should benefit City. I’d still only predict us to earn a point.

United will smash Palace, papering over the cracks formed by Moyes’ incompetent transfer dealings.
Mesut Ozil will score, papering over the cracks formed Wenger’s years of incompetent transfer dealings.
Newcastle will win, papering over the cracks formed by Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear’s incompetent transfer dealings.