Music: Reading Festival 2011 – 10 Things You Should Have Seen

With weather reports dominating the festival coverage this week, it’s easy to think it’s always the same old story. This Is Entertainment will be bringing you a proper breakdown of the weekend in the next few days (hopefully) but in the meantime for those of you who were there, and are now nursing hangovers or on your third shower of the day, see if you spotted these Top Ten “Did you see…?” Moments:

1) Back in time

Guest appearances at festivals might not be the oldest trick in the book but they are sure to get people talking. This year saw both Queen’s Brian May and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones take to the main stage with My Chemical Romance and Seasick Steve respectively.

2) Exit to the city

Upon leaving the arena this year you may have noticed it had a more ‘people traffic’ vibe than usual, that’s thanks to some fancy LED screens which show which side of the entrance/exit is the side to head for. It meant the general crowd-crush factor was reduced this year.

3) I predict a riot

When something as significant as the riots happens, everyone is talking about it, and the rock ‘n’ roll kings of the age were keen to have their say too. Preachy speeches were rife all weekend, but Rise Against win the prize for tying it in best, following their talk with a cover of ‘White Riot’ by original punk-rockers The Clash.

4) Keep it like a secret

Speaking of Rise Against, the hardcore rock group sneaked onto the BBC introducing stage on Friday to spring a surprise set on the crowd. The weekend’s usual double play went to Frank Turner, who played the Main and Lock Up Stages on Sunday.

5) Speed of sound

With the weather working against vocal harmony all weekend, it’s no surprise the Main Stage suffered. Friday was worst affected, with vocals severely lacking for several bands throughout the say, and often guitars being somewhat muted as well, even when close to the front. Luckily, things were sorted out by the following day.

6) Animals

The sights and sounds of Reading Festival, the campsite in particular, are always a strange thing to behold, but this year there was an epidemic…of tigers. Wherever you looked there was people dressed up in all-in-one suits of various animals, but tigers proved the most popular. Unfortunately they weren’t as much fun as a group dressed as The Smurfs who started a technicolour Fight Club on Saturday night while waiting for Jarvis Cocker and co to take to the stage.

7) Caught in the mosh

The ‘celebrity’ sightings weren’t confined to the crowds though, at one point one individual dressed as Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, could be seen thrashing around in the mosh pit. Not content with wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume, he also had multicoloured long platted hair – talk about attention seeking! The crowd went wild though, leading to chants of “Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” by the end of the set.

8 ) Devil on my shoulder

Crowd participation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but many bands this year didn’t give onlookers much choice. Aside from Jared Lehto (of 30 Seconds to Mars) insisting people jump (JUMP!) every other song, there were calls by at least four bands – probably more – to see as many people on other people’s shoulders as possible. Perhaps rock-stardom gives you selective vision so you can’t pick out anyone from the masses unless they are slightly elevated to the height you are on stage…

9) Out of space

Visitors to the Radio 1 Stage this year were in for a surprise, not only has it gained an extra screen, bringing it up to the Main Stage’s total of three , but also almost doubled in size. In a move designed to baffle serial Reading-goers (or those out of it on various substances), the tent has had an extra portion sewn through the middle of it, opening out the rectangular structure of old into a fan shape.

10) Operation Ground pound

BBC Three visited the festival this year, and spent some time with Huw Stevens on the Main Stage. Though seemingly completely random, there was some a scientific basis for their visit. Apparently someone decided Reading Festival was significant enough to be classified on the earthquake Richter Scale. In order to complete the mission, the audience had to all jump simultaneously, and then boffins across the river a short distance away would read the earthquake produced. Despite everyone jumping, Reading Festival only measures 0.7 on the Richter Scale, hardly earth-shattering…but nonetheless you have to condone scientific use of rock and roll.

 

So there you have it, a full and in-depth review of everything about Reading Festival will be coming to This Is Entertainment in the next few days. For now have fun working out the bands behind all the song references used as titles in this article, each point from 1 to 10 has been released as a song name…enjoy

 

James Michael Parry

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TV: This is Entertainment’s Top 5 under-rated US shows

Television shows travel worldwide now more so than ever before. Series are sold and re-made in different countries on a regular basis, and with the internet age thriving, content is available from anywhere across the globe instantly, often long before it makes its debut airing in the UK.

With this in mind allow me to present This Is Entertainment‘s favourites from across the pond. All of these American TV shows can be found in your local DVD shop, or, for those so inclined, can be viewed online up to the minute that they are being broadcast on US TV.

 

1) Futurama

This is the future!The need to know: Poor Futurama has had a rough time since its first airing over 10 years ago, back in 1999. On the verge of the new millenium, the show threw audiences into a world 1000 years in the future, following simple-minded delivery boy Philip J. Fry. From the outset the show distanced itself from the family friendly image of The Simpsons, creator Matt Groening’s most popular work, and for a long time the show has struggled to get out of Homer and the gang’s shadow. The show ran until 2003 when it was cancelled, and then was revived in 2007 for four feature films before being cancelled again. The future of Futurama looked bleak but then its saviour arrived in the form of Comedy Central, who picked up the show for new episodes in 2010.

The reason to watch: From the wise-cracking, self-proclaimed “lovable rascal” Bender, who is a humanoid robot, to the relentless positive attitude from down-trodden lobster Doctor John Zoidberg, the cast are all as insane and loveable as you could come up with on any series.

Over the years there have been musical numbers, surrealist trips and bizarre alien creations – in fact I think they’ve had that all in one episode – and the latest episodes stand up as some of the best of the show, producing consistent quality far beyond that of it’s temperamental yellow ancestor. Countless sci-fi and pop culture references mean amusements for geeks and normal human beings alike, and not an immature fart joke in sight.

The latest: The current series of the show is just episodes away from finishing in the US, and it has just been picked up for another full series on Comedy Central, meaning there is a solid future for the first time in years. You’ll have to be patient though, with the next new episodes set to air half in 2012 and half in 2013.

 

2) Dexter

Cross him at your perilThe need to know: Imagine you are a serial killer. Imagine you HAD to kill someone. Imagine you also worked for the Miami police department. What better way to find nasty people who deserve a bit of your own brand of ‘special attention’…

Being in the mind of the ‘bad guy’ makes this show a world away from the crime dramas of CSI or NCIS, to the extent that Dexter is confined to pay-per-view channel Showtime in the US because of its potential to “empathise” with its main character, running only majorly edited versions on other networks. To date there have been five seasons, with a sixth well on the way.

The reason to watch: The believability of Michael C. Hall as the titular knife-wielder is very compelling television, with you routing for Dexter to escape the police whenever they pick up his trail through the series. There is generally one over-arcing ‘bad guy’ in each series which Dexter spars against and drives the story forward as well as the individual cases he handles in his day job as a blood spatter analyst. The supporting cast, particularly Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter’s sister Debra Morgan, are fantastic and the villains in particular are often as rich and complex as the main characters.

The latest: The new series will air from October 2 in the US, meaning it could make its way to the UK next year, sharpen your killing tools now.

3) Supernatural

"You talkin' to us?"The need to know: The things that go bump in the night are real, and these are the boys that bump back – with shotguns. Supernatural takes monster-hunting and adds a dash of cool, a slither of violence and a handful of comedy to create one of the most instantly watchable fantasy shows around.

Launched in 2005 the show has grown in popularity steadily as its universe has become increasingly complex, far from just ‘monster of the week’, this show can see characters recurring across several series, sometimes in different bodies than first time around.

The reason to watch: Like all good TV shows, this is a character-driven tale, rather than just a swathe of explosions and special effects (though they have their fair share). First and foremost it’s a story about two brothers who don’t always get along, one a jock and one a nerd, and how their journey together changes them.

Plus there’s all manner of exciting creatures to contend with, in particular demons, which range from the sarcastic to the meglomaniacal, and episodes can have a tone just as varied. There’s time travel, possession, explosions and death – lots of death. The main characters alone die countless time, but in Supernatural, there’s always a deal which can be done.

The latest: The show has aired six seasons generally split in half by a Christmas break, which are now almost all available on DVD in the UK, but the latest season will première on US network The CW on 23 September.

 

4) American Dad!

That's what the terrorists want!The need to know: With Family Guy returning to the animated comedy scene back in 2005, you wouldn’t have thought a new show in a similar style would go the distance, but here we are 6 seasons later and American Dad! is still going strong. Centred around CIA Agent Stan Smith, who has patriotism which borders on the xenophobic, and his family, the show differs from Family Guy by not using “I remember the time when…” style gags, and instead developing more traditional, but still distinctly wacky, comedy situations.

The reason to watch: After a slightly OTT beginning in season 1 (Stan turns his garden into a terrorist holding camp at one point…), the show finds its feed and delivers a balance of political satire and mockery of the show’s home nation. The characters are far less one-note than the caricatures found in Family Guy, and the inclusion of Roger the alien as comic relief is a masterstroke.

Random bursting into song in this show fits neatly rather than being a “oh not again” moment, meaning that American Dad! Not only seems better by comparison, but generally has more amusing stories in its own right. Patrick Stewart and CIA Director Avery Bullock is constantly hilarious, with you having to stop and remind yourself that this is indeed the accomplished Thespian who brought us Professor Charles Xavier.

The latest: The show’s sixth season will soon be released on DVD in the UK, and the announcement of the start date in the US for season seven is imminent. In the meantime, various episodes can be found on BBC Three now and again.

 

5) Leverage

The con is...KABOOM!The need to know: The least well-known show in our selection is two-parts Ocean’s 11 to one-part Hustle, as Oscar-winner Timothy Hutton leads a band of crooks to reset the balance in an unfair society in this modern Robin Hood tale. The show began in 2008 and so far has managed three series.

The reason to watch: Hustle may have the template set out for this kind of show, but Leverage delievers a ‘cool’ factor which you just can’t get from a UK production, you only need to look at the current all-guns-blazing iteration of Torchwood to see the difference between US and UK productions. Storylines are complex, twisting and turning tales of deceit and subterfuge, with the team putting the world to rights one crooked businessman at a time.

The crew in Leverage are more of a motley crew than Hustle‘s, and from a cast which starts off as fairly one-note characters (one crazy thief, one geeky black sterotype, one lethal thug…), very quickly fleshes out into a rich and varied group. Plus there’s a token Brit in there in the form of Gina Bellman from Coupling, and, later, Mark Sheppard, of Doctor Who (and fellow top-fiver show Supernatural) fame. It’s Hutton who remains the star though, with his plethora of different characters-within-characters as mastermind Nathan Ford puts on an act to fool the marks, with comedic results.

The latest: The fourth season is currently in full swing over in the US, finishing its 10 episode initial run on 28 August. The first two series are already available on DVD and the third is due for release soon, having just been released over in the US.

 

James Michael Parry

 

Film: Review – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I am the Apeman“Get your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!” Not just the most quotable line of its originator, but also the one thing which links Rise of the Planet of the Apes to the 1968 original – aside from the primates themselves, of course.

The voice which speaks that line is an unlikely one though, none other than Tom Felton, known the Muggle world over as ‘evil’ wizard Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter, and unnervingly it’s accompanied by an American twang.

Felton plays Dodge Landon, a bully not entirely unlike Malfoy, who works at his father’s ape house, where the film’s monkey-like hero eventually finds himself.

The strands of the plot in the film are completely straight, suffice to say Director Rupert Wyatt’s dictionary is missing the entry on the word ‘unexpected’, and yet still re-loading the concept enough to make it totally disconnected to its predecessors.

In many ways this is its biggest downfall, since if they had changed the name and just affectionately referred to the ‘franchise’ – if it merits the term…- then it wouldn’t have been limited by expectations and could have been something so much more.

The story focuses on the scientific exploits of Will Rodman (James Franco), who is testing a new drug therapy, designed to cure Alzheimers, on the apes.

After an incident, Rodman winds up with a baby ape, which he names Caeser, to take care of at home and he raises it as a son, teaching it sign language and converting the attic into a playground-like room, but he soon realises this animal is less than ordinary thanks to Caeser’s mother being given the drug.

Using this knowledge Rodman tests the drug on his father, played spectacularly by former Trinity Killer (in Dexter) John Lithgow, who regains his mind from the clutches of the heart-breaking disease.

The ape evolution in Caeser (a motion capture of former Gollum Andy Serkis) quickly turns to revolution as his animal instincts kick in and the magic compound spreads.

The actiony climax of the film should be the most significant moment, but instead, strangely it’s where glass house cracks. In previous films, the apes would talk as casually as their human co-stars, talking down to them as intellectual superiors, but this film decided to take the realism aspect very seriously. So seriously in fact that the creatures are animated using Avatar‘s space-age technology, creating the most photo-real computer generated mammals seen on celluloid.

But the suspension of disbelief is suddenly shattered as soon as Caeser utters a single word, somehow, it seems, this is a step too far.

Character takes a back seat in the final act as it becomes an action-based chase through the city, and Franco’s usually impressive skills are lost as he haplessly follows the path of destruction.

Still, supporting players such as Lithgow and Brian Cox, who plays Dodge’s ape house-owning dad, act as the voice of reason amid the mounting chaos.

Also there’s a long-overdue return to screen for former Spooks actor David Oyelowo, who is the stereotypical money-hungry suit bankrolling Rodman’s research, and succeeds in playing it right down to the ground, making the audience almost feel sorry for him for his naivety to the situation as it unfolds.

By the end you will be entertained but not enthralled, attentive but not captivated, and this is a shame when a bit of imagination earlier on in the film’s life could really have allowed the cast to shine.

Rating: 3/5

 

James Michael Parry