REVIEW: Iron Sky: The coming race

If like me you loved the cheesy original Iron Sky from 2012, don’t hold your breath for a repeat.

Back in 2012, director Timo Vuorensola unleashed Iron Sky, this year, he lets his sequel loose on the cinema-going public.

Sadly, everything that made the original such a great movie is missing from this. Where you had believable good and bad guys, this time you have the wonderful Julia Dietze reprising her role as Renate Richter, but left as a side character with very little screen time.

Where the original took a really daft premise and gave you some great but even dafter characters and storylines, this sorry excuse for a sequel fails to give you any sort of believability, no matter how far fetched.

Where the original had parody, (Stephanie Paul as a Sarah Palin type US president anyone?) this just has hidden historical leaders who were in fact aliens, so we see Hitler, Thatcher, Steve Jobs and others not even parodied that well.

The premise is that the earth is hollow, and there is an alien power source that will save the last of humanity which has been living on the former nazi moon base for 30 plus years, trying to integrate with the last of the nazis.

The daughter of our two heroes from the first film, (Dietze & Christopher Kirby) takes a ship back to the abandoned earth to look for the said power source. She also takes a host of religious types who worship Steve Jobs.

In one scene, our heroine parodies that Apple 1984 advert as she smashes down the temple doors, but that is about it for decent parody.

To be fair to Lara Rossi, she does what she can with a lacklustre script that telegraphs every twist and turn.

This is as lame a film as you will watch this year, and if you have ANY love for the original, you will avoid this trash.

1*/5

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REVIEW: Unbreakable, Kings Arms, Salford.

Has Danny Clifford done it again? Andrew Riley went to Salford to find out.

When Danny Clifford burst as a writer into the Fringe scene with his first play about the Salford Pals, From Heaven to Hell, it quite rightly garnered him praise, not only for its writing, but it’s direction by Sue Jenkins.

In his new piece, Danny has managed to take a very personal look at the descent into drug addiction, gathered a cast who are simply spellbinding, but is sadly let down in my opinion by a director who simply didn’t share the vision the writer had for his work.

Yes, they were limited by time constraints because of how busy the Kings Arms is over the Fringe, but the direction appeared lazy and at times non existent. Karl Koo had the germ of a fantastic piece, and either rushed, or didn’t bother with direction.

The scenes appeared too rushed, and the simple dimming of the lights to announce a scene change lacks any imagination. There is no denying this is a tough business to be in, especially with a fringe production, but come on! Would it have killed to give the actors a little more than three chairs to work with and a bit of background music to cover scene changes?

The stand out actor in the cast is Eve Gordon, whose trip from happy fiancé to pregnant crack whore is very believable, but not one of those on stage gave less than everything. Special mentions must go to Dru Jones as Dave and David Ambler as Frank, but as I say, the whole cast shone.

Overall, this would be better served as a more expanded work, perhaps running to two acts, and to give the cast more to work with than some chairs. The solitary use of the projection screen was a waste of a tool.

I dearly hope Danny Clifford begins to look for tougher roles for himself. You cannot seriously tell me that you can complete the RADA Shakespeare course and not want to push yourself as an actor?

If this is expanded and given a set and a better direction, then I seriously think it could be a big hit.

This short run is a good place to start. Mr Clifford is a hell of a writer, I just wish in this instance his director had shared his vision.

4*/5

Veterans left to die

Yes, I am a veteran. I have quite a number of veterans and serving members of HM Forces on my Facebook friends list.

What worries me more than anything is the number of posts telling each other its OK to not be OK and offering helplines for suicide prevention.

This Government and those before it are in my opinion criminally negligent in the aftercare offered to service personnel of all arms.

We have too many of our veterans living on the streets. Far too many are suffering when returning to civilian life that they turn to drugs or drink, and eventually they end up in prison, on the streets or contemplating self-harm.

Meanwhile, we have charities that were set up to help injured soldiers that are sitting on millions of pounds of donations.

Why? What good is it in a bank, when we have personnel sleeping rough and in need of help?

At the head of it all, we have a government who are content to accept yet another pay increase and whose much-lauded Armed Forces covenant is largely a box ticking exercise.

I visit the USA and the way they treat their veterans is not just streets ahead of the UK, but decades.

You walk into an airport and they have their own lounges to use, they get boarded ahead of others and are generally treat with the respect they deserve.

We get a badge.

And later this year, a card…

When I told my GP practice I was a veteran, it was scrawled on a scrap of paper and I was told they’d update my file, but 5 months later, this wasn’t the case. So much for the covenant…

If those entrusted with my day to day health don’t care, then why should I expect those who hold elected office to be bothered?

Suicide last week took one of the most respected NCO’s in the Royal Engineers.

Robert ‘Rab’ McAvoy had served his country with pride and distinction when and wherever he was asked to.

Aged only 39, and leaving behind a family, how can we allow our Armed Forces personnel to suffer like this?

We have a soldier facing prosecution for doing his job in Northern Ireland while those terrorists he was shot at by are free to walk the streets with a piece of paper thanks to Tony Blair.

How on earth can any serving member of the forces have any faith in those who are in power when they are repeatedly stabbed in the back and let down?

Recruitment across all the arms is at an all time low. Some say this is a fault in the recruitment process and its use of civilian firms in the process, but when you see just how badly the forces are treat, would you join up to serve?

This is a failure from top to bottom. From the Prime Minister of today, and going back to when I served, the Government has let service men and women down repeatedly.

Sadly, Rab was just the latest in a long line of soldiers who suffered to the point where they felt unable to carry on.

Why is the mental health of our servicemen and women so important?

Because it is they who do the jobs around the world when asked to by politicians that others cannot or will not do.

They put their lives on the line to keep you, and others safe without thought of harm to themselves.

It’s impossible to verify how many former service men and women DO commit suicide as these statistics are not collected, which is VERY convenient for the Government and the MOD.

They are not just Armed Forces, they are British Armed Forces and they deserve better from those who are supposed to support them.

2019 and the start of (another) new era

I do love a great game of rugby.

Note, I didn’t clarify that statement with either a “league” or “union” caveat. I like watching both codes. I was brought up in Hull by a father who had played union as a Marine, but when he moved to Hull in the late ’60s, his mates took him to Craven Park and he began to watch league, and Hull KR in particular.

Growing up, he happily took me to Craven Park and also sat me down to watch union on TV whenever possible, hence my growing up with an appreciation for both codes.

It’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve followed league in a semi-professional capacity as a journalist and have also covered a smaller amount of union in that time, the differences in the game have become more apparent off the field than on it.

League has always been the lesser of the two in the eyes of both the public and mainstream media. Just look at the amount of broadcast time given to the Autumn internationals on both terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

From what I can gather, Sky has no interest in showing international league at all.

The BBC were practically given the rights to England v New Zealand and only showed England games from the 2017 World Cup, meaning that Wales and Scotland’s fans had to shell out an additional £9.99 for Premier Sports if they wanted to follow games live.

Broadcasters are falling over themselves to cover union. BT Sport has been showing three games on a Saturday covering the European cup alongside Channel 4, Channel 5 shows the Gallagher Premiership and the BBC will be showing the 6 nations alongside ITV until 2021.

All of Wales’ home matches will be shown live on the BBC, along with France and Scotland home matches. ITV will screen England, Ireland and Italy home games.

I think Sky have done a great job of standing still where broadcast of league is concerned. Yes, they trialled 3D league, but only gave it 6 or maybe 7 games. To be fair, Sky has all but binned 3D as a broadcast medium for live anything, so to even have had that small amount was something, but there is no longer a “Boots n All” show, and I’ve yet to see an advert for the new season on there.

The problem lies with the game still thinking its small, which, compared to union, it is.

I’m really hopeful that the new structure brought in by Robert Elstone and his team will mean that Super League undergoes a period of controlled growth, with clubs in the Championship and below having the chance to grow organically and that promotion and relegation in the old-fashioned new way of one up and one down.

I’m hopeful that Mr Elstone will at least put the new broadcast rights out to a much wider process than we are led to believe the previous one was.

League is in desperate need of a great season in 2019. We are (again) at the beginning of (another) brave new restructure.

What is needed is a competition where the playoff spots are changing all the way until the final day, as is the relegation spot. A competition where players become superstars outside of their home town, but who can (like Jonathon Davies 30 years ago) make headlines on the front pages for the right reasons in National papers.

Until league can compete with union on the screens of the UK, it will always be second best.

I don’t believe league will ever be as big as union currently is, there is too much of a gap to close in that respect, but I do believe that with the right management in place, and the right people making the off-field deals, we can at least compete when it comes to getting the product on screens in front of viewers and then we can start to get people into stadiums.

If people can’t see what’s on offer, how will they know where to watch?

This season, I should be providing coverage of Rochdale Hornets for Roch Valley Radio

I hope if you can’t be at the ground, you will join me online using the link above

REVIEW: First Man (2018)

Charting the story of Neil Armstrong, Andrew Riley looks at the upcoming release of First Man.

This film could, in the hands of a less capable director, been a saccharine and sanitised affair, as it is, Damien Chazelle gives us a riveting look at the life of the man who will forever be known as the first human being to walk on another celestial body.

At nearly 2 hours 30 minutes, Its worth every second.

Known for his Oscar-winning hit “La La Land” and “Whiplash” Chazelle moves away from his usual musical fare and into territory that most of us would like to think we know about, that of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

This though is much more than the telling of Armstrong. It documents the loss of his daughter, Karen, in 1961 all the way through his selection to the Gemini program, the loss of his friends in the tragedy of Apollo 1 and through to his steps on the moon with Buzz Aldrin.

The script by Josh Singer, and based on the book by James R. Hansen is kept sparse, and the film is all the more compelling a watch for it.

Ryan Gosling plays the titular First Man and Stockport born Claire Foy his wife Janet, with both having to come to terms with the strains that the space race placed on their marriage and family.

The scene when Mission Control shut down the contact between Janet and Gemini 8, and she rushes over to demand they put it back on is an exceptional piece, in which Foy manages to display the entire range of emotion you would expect of a wife whose husband is spinning in space, not knowing if he’ll ever get to see home again.

This plays nicely to the Apollo 11 mission itself when she admonishes him for spending all his time packing and not talking to their sons about the mission and what might happen…

The whole movie shows how close failure was at almost every turn for NASA and its crews.

Chazelle directs this with a deftness that was so needed. A less competent director may well have focused on Apollo and left the family as an aside, but he manages to keep the story moving without resorting to base emotion. By showing how the job affected not only Armstrongs family, but also showing how everyone was affected by losses elsewhere, we get to see the real astronauts and how they looked at each other.

This is so much more than a biopic. Its a look at how the Americans were desperate to catch and overtake the USSR in the early years of the space race, one which although they ultimately won, it’s telling that no one has walked on the surface of the moon since Gene Cernan in 1972.

Overall, this is one hell of a good movie, and it’s worth setting aside the time to watch.