Thursday, 22 July 2010

Film Review: Toy Story 3 - The Perfect Goodbye

From the way people had been talking about the long awaited third and final Toy Story movie, I was expecting something pretty epic. Perhaps a high speed chase and daring escape with a dastardly villain and a hero that saves the day. Well, that’s exactly what you get in the opening sequence that lets us delve into toy owner Andy’s imagination. It also serves as a brilliant way to reintroduce the main characters who, for someone who grew up believing that toys really did come to life when the bedroom door was closed, now feel like old friends. And what follows truly is an emotional rollercoaster that will have you genuinely laughing, crying and, at times, gripping the edge of your seat.

Now you may think that an animated film featuring toys would be for primary school kids - the sort of film that parents and older siblings are dragged along against their will. However - much like other recent Pixar smash hit Up – people of all ages are likely to draw something from Toy Story 3. The film deals with a now grown up Andy moving away to college, something that the fans of the original film that are now all grown up themselves will recognise. And during the emotional moment when Andy’s mother walks into her son’s now empty bedroom, many parents of adolescents will find it hard to hold back the tears. In fact, the film sometimes feels like it was made solely for the older generations. I find it hard to believe that young children will be able to keep up with subtitles during Buzz’s Spanish episode and the new dodgy eyed baby doll character is sure to pop up in many a nightmare.

But for us die-hard fans, the story of Woody and the gang is kept fresh and alive with a whole toy box of new characters as well as the use of modern technology – those oh-so-21st century toys make use of a mobile phone and, it seems, Google Maps now. New toy on the block ‘Ken’ is very much the jester of the film and an unexpected romance serves as a brilliant plot twist.

There is no doubt that Pixar had a tough job coming up with a fitting ending to the much loved series that saw children all over the world opening their bedroom door’s extra quick in an attempt to catch their toys having a ‘team meeting’. But thankfully, they couldn’t have done it any better. I won’t give it away but I will say that I recommend seeing this film in 3D, simply for the fact that the glasses will mask the unavoidable floods of tears.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Party Like It's 1997

1997 was the year that Tony Blair became the Prime Minister and the year that Princess Diana died. But I didn’t care. I was 7 years old. I was more interested in the formation of S Club 7 and the release of Spice World. Ahhh the good ol’ days. So when I got invited to the 7th birthday party of my little cousin I’m not ashamed to say I was a little bit excited.

It was like I’d hit 88mph in a DeLorean. The same echoy sports hall, the same nutritious party buffet of crisps and sausage rolls. Everything but the music was the same, as I was disappointed to discover Justin Beiber and Ke$ha have replaced 5ive and the Vengaboys. ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ is simply no match for ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’.

Upon arriving at the hall, the guests were all sitting in a circle with a large piece of multicoloured fabric, known as a ‘parachute’, in the middle. Something I fondly recall from several birthday parties of my youth. How this turned into kid’s entertainment, I do not know, maybe Elmo likes to jump out of planes in his spare time. But the kids were more than happy to lift it up and run underneath it. Again, the fun value of this is questionable but I suppose that’s what happens when your biggest worry is what Hannah Montana is up to that week.

I also noticed that the segregation of the sexes is still in place. It was always tradition for the boys and girls to remain completely separate at that age, mainly to prevent the spread of germs or ‘cooties’ as our Yank cousins call it. So as the girls dance in the centre of hall, the boys stand at the edge comparing light up trainers and ‘battle scars’. The dancing is also something pretty special. I sure do miss the days when spinning round in a circle and waving your hands in the air was considered dancing. In fact, I personally think this is what is lacking from Diversity’s choreography.

However, there was one difference from my childhood that I did notice. As all the kids got up to showcase their dancing talent, one little boy walked into the centre of the hall, ribbon in hand, and began to ballet dance. I use this term loosely as I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing him in a production of Swan Lake anytime soon, but it was ballet dancing none the less. As I was watching him leap around like a baby gazelle I’m ashamed to say that I pictured him being sat in the corner on his own for the rest of the afternoon. But when he finished dancing, he bounded over to the rest of the boys and joined in the great Spiderman vs Batman debate.

From what I remember of 1997, very few boys danced. And the ones that did would only spin around on their heads or ‘break dance’ as they called it. Any boy brave enough to branch out with his dancing style would end up as more of a Billy-no-mates than a Billy Elliot. So I welcome this shift in behaviour, even if it is likely to be a result of shiny faced poser Zac Efron’s prancing about in High School Musical. Apart from that, I hope that the new ‘Twilight generation’ continue to find party bags as exciting as I did in ‘97.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Live Review: Birthdays and bubbly for Imperial Leisure @ Blissfields Festival

Ska punk fever hits Hampshire when Imperial Leisure crash the party…

In a remote field deep in the Hampshire countryside it is impossible to miss a black and white sticker wherever you turn. Plastered on fences, sign posts and human limbs it pops up everywhere and anywhere. The field is home to this year’s Blissfields Festival and the sticker in question depicts the logo of ska punk band Imperial Leisure. And it’s these skankalicious Londoners that truly get the festival party started.

Blissfields is one of the smallest yet most diverse music festivals in the UK showcasing everything from dub step to metal and, of course, ska. The crowd mostly consists of the middle aged and middle class sipping Pimms and sitting on picnic blankets but it is the cider chugging, post-exam celebrating masses that have gathered for Imperial Leisure’s set.

Bouncing on stage in no shirt but plenty of festival paint, lead man and birthday boy Denis Smith introduces some brand new material from the band’s eagerly awaited second album. And the reaction is enthusiastic to say the least. The new tracks sound heavier than the band’s previous output but still full of energy and fun that spills out over the barrier and into the crowd.

But it’s the summer time classics from debut release The Art Of Saying Nothing - and the champagne that Denis showers Formula 1 winner stylie over the crowd - that gets the party in full swing. The band who are known for their guerrilla gigs, truly come to life in an outdoor festival setting and soon it’s not just the youngsters skanking in the sunshine, with people of all ages getting in on the fun.

The dedicated fans rap along to the fast paced verses as well as chanting the huge choruses and their enthusiasm is repayed in yet more of the bubbly stuff. Imperial Leisure’s appreciation of their fans helps them stand out from their peers, as the band end the set by inviting a fan on stage to celebrate his 18th birthday in style. There is no doubt that he and all of the other people present had a blissful time.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Top 5 Websites: Driving You To Distraction

3000 words to go on that important assignment? An entire textbook to read for a crucial exam? Don’t worry about it, the internet is way more interesting.

The internet is an amazing thing. It makes selling and buying over priced rubbish easier. It enables us to contact people who we have forgotten why we stopped talking to in the first place. And it puts a whole host of incorrect information right at your fingertips. But the internet also comes in handy for providing a welcome distraction from ‘important work’. Here is a selection of the best time wasting sites…


Think your life sucks? Well log on to to be proved completely wrong. An abbreviation of ‘F*** My Life’, the blog allows anyone to post anecdotes about their unfortunate experiences for the whole world to read. Each post starts with ‘Today,..’ and ends in ‘FML’. Whatever is in between can range from misfortunes that we can all recognise to the down-right absurd, laugh out loud cases of bad luck. How true they all are we cannot know, but they certainly make for an entertaining read.

2. Fail Blog

Similar to, Fail Blog also displays examples of hilarious misfortune, but this time in picture or video form. However, it’s not just failures that this site showcases. The occasional ‘Win’ slips through the net too. Fail Blog and its several sister sites have become hugely popular is recent years with many TV shows stealing their content for comedy material. So if you want to see unbelievable signs or inappropriate illustrations then you know what to do. For those of you who want something even more delightfully immature, I also recommend you check this out. *snigger*

3. 27bslash6

Who knew emails could be so amusing? Well, it seems David Thorne did. The Australian’s website features hilarious anecdotes from his life, but is most known for the email exchanges between himself and various acquaintances that show his extraordinary talent for sarcasm. Thorne’s work first became popular after the infamous spider drawing email that was once featured on Have I Got News For You and now has a massive following.

4. PostSecret

Everyone is at least a little bit nosey. And now there is a website for us to indulge our curiosity. PostSecret is an art project which enables people to unload their deepest secrets onto a postcard and send them in anonymously. The best ones are then posted onto the website for the whole world to see. The popularity of the site has grown and grown and American rock band All-American Rejects famously used some of the postcards in their music video for ‘Dirty Little Secret’. The ultimate confession.

5. =3

And finally, since 2005 YouTube has been making sure we never get bored on the internet. But we can’t possibly be expected to trawl through all of the videos of skateboarding dogs and old people falling over to find those hilarious gems. Well luckily there is someone who has kindly done all the leg - or mouse - work for us. Video blogger Ray William Johnson reviews the funniest videos on the net and packages them all in a little programme called =3. Viewers also have the chance to get involved via the ‘Comment Question of the Day’. Get ready for LOLs aplenty.