True Detective

Television has seen many years of all kinds of series – different time formats, running times and genres. And each of them has its own trademark and set of rules and dynamics, but falls into some category or other. It is actually pretty hard to watch something that really sets a new precedent in TV – a real game changer. However, watching the most popular HBO series of recent years (circa 2000 and later), one can see a tendency towards creating real long running series. Sticking to the most important rules of popular television – easy watching, skipping an episode is not a problem, plot twists and cliffhangers, HBO-produced series manage to create something that goes beyond the usual line of entertainment. The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, Game of Thrones – they all conform to the new mode of the big budget series, where great narratives develop over numerous seasons. What’s more – they look and feel more like movies rather than the traditional series.

This brings us to the latest of these series – the “True Detective” mini-series. It is actually a story that develops in 8 episodes of 50 minutes each. No pauses, no ad breaks – a whole 7 hour movie (maybe this is why Netflix is so popular – you can watch it in one 2 day marathon). And it is done with real style. All of the people involved in its production have done a great job – Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson deliver some of the best performances of their lives, forming a stunning screen partnership, directed by Cary Fukunaga and brilliantly written by Nic Pizzolatto.

The story revolves around mysterious ritual murders taking place all over the white trash populated world of Louisiana. Power, insanity and duty play a deadly game of love and hate from the first few minutes until the very end, engulfing the audience in a real Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft experience. It will never scare you, but the series presents a mystery that will keep you glued to the screen just like Twin Peaks did 20 years ago. Yes, this is a definite game changer in the world of both TV and movies, which anybody would find hard to summarize in just a few sentences. True Detective is a real quality experience for viewers that have had enough of reality spin-offs and sitcoms.


The 2006 Mayan epic of the then hit director Mel Gibson is probably one of his best movies, though still lying in the shadow of “The Passion of the Christ”. However, the movie has all the qualities of a good film and in some respects even surpasses the 2004 Bible-centric hit. It also holds many of the characteristic features of Mel Gibson’s movies. It is a 2+ hours movie that goes beyond the Hollywood 90 minute mainstream standard. In most cases this means greater expectations for the movie. And it seems like the critics were not disappointed with Apocalypto nominated for 3 Academy awards and is the last of the Mel Gibson’s movies, so it goes to show that it satisfied his decision to leave a mark in directing.

Apocalypto is really a trademark Mel Gibson movie. Its authenticity reaches almost insane levels. The whole movie was shot on location, in the deep and dark jungles of Latin America, amongst the ancient cities and pyramids. So all sets are on location, which has been done before, but what’s more – the actors themselves are locals, carrying the looks and culture of their Mayan ancestors onto the screen. Almost none of them are professional actors but this is something that almost nobody would notice if they weren’t informed. Their performance is natural and organic and really blends with all the historical details incorporated in the making of the film. Of course, just like the Passion, all of them speak the then-spoken Mayan which helps the viewer to really become submersed in the movie. But don’t overindulge in that, as per Gibson’s tradition, Apocalypto is extremely gory, a completely physical movie that will frighten you and let you feel the pain and joy of the main figures. It is mostly pain, however.

The story involves a young hunter from the free tribes along the borders of the Mayan empire. It is exactly in its last years when the whole state was collapsing in on itself, struggling to survive. This is why the village of young Jaguar Paw is attacked by Mayan warriors, capturing and killing all of its residents. The natives are carried in a slave ship to one of the great cities of the empire. What awaits them there is for the viewer to discover, if they haven’t stopped the movie so far. If you get through the gore and brutality of the film it is worth it.

Superman and Batman Film

Superman-Batman-HD-WallpaperFor fans of superhero movies in general, or fans of DC’s superhero characters, the recent news that a film that will include both Superman and Batman will have been met either with great excitement or cautious trepidation. To be honest it is kind of difficult to see how the writers behind the script will manage to create a storyline to bring the massively contrasting pair together in a feasible plot. So, what do we now about the film at this stage?

The news was first given away by the director Zack Snyder, behind the recently releases Superman film, Man of Steel, whilst speaking at a major comic convention in the southern Californian city of San Diego. Snyder dropped the bombshell to a reeling room of comic super-fans before explaining that the script was still in production. However, Warner Brothers are expected to begin production in 2014 with the film due for release the following year.

Superman will again be played by Henry Cavill, the most recent incumbent of the role in Man of Steel, but the actor who will play Batman has yet to be cast though it is thought that it will definitely not be Christian Bale, who most recently held the role.

Fans immediately started speculating as to just how the writers will manage to combine two such big characters together in one film. One would presume that the script will be something along the lines of an uneasy alliance forged by necessity with plenty on infighting and clashing of egos along the way. No doubt fans will jamming forums with speculation and predications as to the plot over the coming months but with at least two years to go until the film’s release they will have to be patient before there is even so much as a teaser released.

Rival comic house Marvel has long adopted the approach of mixing and matching its superheroes in various combinations both in comic books and in films. However, this will be the first time that DC has gone down a similar route. Time will tell if it proves to be a stroke of genius or ends up looking like a desperate grab for cash when other storylines have run out.

Commercial Review: Carlsberg don’t do flatmates

For me the most successful ever integration of an existing slogan for a brand or product into an advertising campaign is that of Carlsberg’s ‘probably the best beer in the world’. I particularly love the series of ads offering a tongue-in-cheek comparison to the kind of comparative quality Carlsberg would bring to providing other goods and services should the decide to diversify.

My favourite is the first of the series which was prominently featured during the commercial breaks of Champions League games. A young guy looking for an apartment shown up at the door of an apartment he finds advertised in a newspaper and is shown around by a real estate agent. Inside are a bevvy of beautiful female roommates. One is training to become a chef and of course wont let anyone else cook. The other babe hates chick flicks and is a football nut. The apartment is kitted-out with self-cleaning technology, the ‘box room’ is huge and plush with a balcony overlooking a football stadium and the girls read him to sleep with the Biographies of footballers. “Carlsberg don’t do flatmates, but if we did, they’d probably be the best flatmates in the world”, concludes the commercial.

Now, it might be the male chauvinist in me, but I love that ad the most. The others in the series are fun too. “Carlsberg don’t do Christmas crackers…but if they did….”. A Lamborghini naturally falls out at the Christmas dinner table. Those ads definitely have a laddish appeal and are targeted at the male beer drinker. But, let’s face it, men do drink far more beer than women so Carlsberg are probably fairly confident about not suffering terribly by potentially offending a few beer-swilling feminists and losing their custom.

I know marketing theory says that irritating and stupid commercials are effective because they stick in your head and you certainly remember the product. And, to be fair, an annoying ad is probably better than a non-descript inoffensive commercial you forget as soon as you’ve seen it. But an ad that people enjoy watching has to be the best alternative when you want to get your name out there. Well done Carlsberg!



Despicable Me II – Close Enough

despicable_me_2_2013_movie-HD1Despite being in my early thirties, I am not afraid to admit that the first Despicable Me was one of the films I’ve most enjoyed in the last couple of years. So I was childishly excited upon hearing that a sequel was afoot. So, with my six year old nephew cunningly conscripted for cover off we went to the cinema.

The original Despicable Me, though not by any means complex in structure, it is after all an animated film aimed at children, found a way to bring an original charm to a tried and tested formula. Selfish and seemingly mean guy inexplicably finds himself looking after cute children and despite initially keeping them at arms-length, then trying to push them away, has his heart melted and finishes the film as a caring father having eventually admitted he has grown to love them. All fairly run-of-the-mill. Done in such a way however that originality and humour accessible simultaneously to both children and grown-ups was infused in a remarkably successful manner.

So, does the second instalment of the franchise live up to the initial movie? In many ways yes, it is still a very enjoyable, both myself and my nephew liked it, without quite reaching the heady heights set with the original. In many respects that had to be expected. A great film doesn’t come around too often as the right blend of dialogue, visuals and atmosphere seems to be an elusive formula. Still, Despicable Me II is definitely worth watching.

The ‘minions’, who perhaps were even more of a success with the audience first time around the makers had expected or hopeful, are given more of a starring role, their slap-stick comedy routines fully exploited. Gru, as is almost obligatory in such a follow-up, is given a love interest and Margo is again ridiculously cute.

Though the film misses the classically memorable one-liners of the first film, such as ‘you call this literature’ – whilst being forced to read ‘Three Little Kittens’ to the girls, it is still heart-warming and funny throughout. Without giving the intricacies of the plot away, which again is not exactly Tolstoy, it’s definitely one to go and see for anyone with kids or young relatives that you can use as an excuse.

Disney’s Planes


Fans of Disney’s incredibly successful franchise ‘Cars’, starring a cast of, what else, talking cars, are undoubtedly keenly anticipating the release of the quasi spin-off ‘Planes’, to be released this August. On the face of it ‘Planes’ pretty much seems to be like ‘Cars’. Same animation style, presumably the same overall concept, except, well, rather self-explanatorily, the heroes of the day are planes rather than cars.

What we know of the plot so far as that the central character is a plane named Dusty, voiced by Dane Cook of Good Luck Chuck, fame. Dusty wants to compete as a high-flying racer on the famous planes race circuit. But, and only Disney could come up with this one, he is a plane that is, oh how ironically, afraid of heights.

So, what to do? Dusty, despite his unfortunate phobia for heights, is of course an extremely determined and brave little plane. Adamant that he will overcome his fear and realise his dream by not only competing on the race circuit but becoming a champion, Dusty turns to an old-timer plane who is a veteran of the race circuit for help.

Now, that is about as much as has so far been made public. However, if I were to speculate wildly I would have a stab in the dark that there is probably a mean plane, or group of such with an even meaner leader, who will initially make fun of Dusty and then try to sabotage him when he starts to race well. The old-timer plane will most probably turn out to have suffered some form of disappointment and never fully realised his potential as a young racer and will eventually seek to rectify that through helping Dusty to ultimate success having overcome his phobia and the mean planes’ attempts at sabotage. He’ll probably start out being a reluctant and grumpy mentor giving Dusty a seemingly overly harsh hard time, but then we’ll see it was just a façade and he is an old softy really.

I may be underestimating the folks over at Disney. Let’s see next month how much I deserve to be taken on as one of their script writers!



Commercial Review: Betsson – what would you do if you won £1750?

betsonBetsson’s latest TV commercial is shortish, sharpish, simple yet effective. All of 30 seconds it is
perhaps not the most innovative or memorable ad ever created by advertising executive types, but I
think it can be said that it does the job.
The backdrop is a sports stadium, presumably football, that crowds of flag waving fans are
converging on, full of cheer an optimism, decked out in the red and white of their team. A group of
friends, including the obligatory attractive girl, stand nervously waiting as the crowd moves past
them. “But, what are they waiting for,” we wonder? Not too long to wait of course as someone they
appear to know comes running across the street towards them. As he nears the expectant group he
produces and waves a fistful of tickets to great applause. And off they merrily march into the stadium
to the question poised of ‘what would YOU do if you won £1750’?
Well, honestly, I probably wouldn’t blow it on taking a few mates to a football game, unless the
tickets were a tenner each, then I might take two of them, three at a push, and spend the rest on
yours truly. But it does get you thinking what you would do with a little windfall, which is probably
the idea.
So, what’s the best casino or sports betting ad of all time? I like the ProLine one where a tub of
muscle relaxants fall into the pre-match meal of an American football team. A bunch of wasted
footballers doing ridiculous things before the whistle ensues with one lucky punter winning on a bet
that they would lose the ball within a few seconds on an ‘anything can happen’, tag line promoting a
vast array of options to bet on offered by the provider.
I suppose memorable comedy, presenting an image of trust or making the viewer dream about what
they would do with the winnings of a successful punt are the main themes that ads for casinos and
bookmakers look to get across. The betsson commercial certainly achieves the latter so can ultimately be considered a success