Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Energetic, cinematically stunning but lacking in narrative

A sequel is always hard to live up to the expectations fans have especially with a heavy fan-base of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 suffers from lack of plot.

Director and writer: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell

Running time: 136mins

Certificate: 12A

Release date: April 28

The next instalment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has long been anticipated since the release of the first movie back in 2014 and it did keep the humour and comedic elements but it struggled with a plot.

The film follows the Guardians as they struggle to keep the ‘family’ together as it tires to unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true parentage in the outer reaches of the galaxy.

And really all the film does is deal with a lot of speaking and lack of worthwhile action. The film is purely a mechanism to develop Quill and to give all the other Guardians somewhat of a back story.

Of course the franchise needs to bring into the matter of his parentage but that’s all it really did.

Pratt and the rest of the cast got back into their respective alien characters and you could clearly see they all enjoyed working alongside each other making the movie.

One of the best parts of the film was the soundtrack, something similar from the first movie, if you like 80s music and cameos from Sylvestor Stallone and David Hasselhoff then definitely go and see it.

Eventually as the film continues you find out a big secret but you have to wait up until the last 45 minutes. The rest of the film is simply talking except for an opening battle scene.

Half way through I began question what actually has happened so far to which my mind was blank.

One of the best developments was the character of Nebula (Karen Gillan) as a sort of archnemesis to the Guardians we see her true bitterness and hatred towards her sister Gamora and father Thanos.

Also the film begs the question whether the new character Mantis will become a pivotal role in the next movies.

With the mentioning of Infinity Stones and Thanos the film was clearly building up to the next Avengers movies which is great but because the studios have released a timeline of the next movies it is a major spoiler.

I didn’t find myself sat on the edge of my seat (cliche intended) because I knew there couldn’t have been any major deaths as they are all set to star in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are known for the use of humour and comedic effects to move the plot along but the sequel had a lot of these elements and it got somewhat tedious watching Baby Groot dance around and not really do much else.

Although Baby Groot was a fan favourite and exceptionally cute, it seemed he was used to fill in five to ten minutes of nothingness and it was slightly irritating.

Despite slating the film in this review, it was perfectly executed and visually stunning and worthy of a watch just for the cinematic elements.

If you don’t know already the film has five post credit scenes. Five? Yes, five. However there is only really one that is relevant to the franchise progression.

Nevetheless the film was good and I did laugh at some of the humour and I am excited to see how the Guardians fit in with the Avengers next year.

 

 

‘We don’t see them as rivals anymore’: Cheat Codes on The Chainsmokers rivalry and Demi Lovato

I was given the opportunity to speak with Cheat Codes about their collaboration with Demi Lovato in their latest single and we also spoke about success at their age and having a friendly rivalry with The Chainsmokers.

You have collaborated with Demi Lovato in your new single. How was it working with her?

It was really awesome. We first came in contact with her at a show in Sao Paulo in Brazil at Z Festival.

At the time it was the biggest show we ever played – there was like 17,000 people there – and she was a headline and we remember seeing her perform and being like ‘Wow she’s such a good vocalist’.

She’s actually the first female vocalist we’ve ever had on a song and we were like ‘It would be great to work with someone like that.’

When we went back that way all of the Brazilian fans on social media were hitting us up. It’s been crazy how it happened. She really just nailed it and knocked it out in a matter of an hour and a half. She really is just a real professional.

Are you going to be working with her on her new album?

It’s just one single for now. I actually don’t know anything about her new album. I haven’t really heard anything about that.

I’m excited now that you’ve brought that up. I’ll make sure that I check that out.

Any other artists you want to work with?

There’s a bunch of them. We kind of have this dream of working with all the quite big artists and bringing them into a dance track.

So Paul McCartney, Sting – those are kind the dream collaborations. We kind of grew up listening to that kind of music.

We started as songwriters, so kind of different to typical DJs. We always start with the song first, so maybe just with an acoustic guitar or a piano and then we kind of add everything else afterwards.

So we’d like to work with quite big songwriters like that where the songs really stood up on their own without all of the bells and whistles like they do today. They’re the dream collaborations.

As far as future collaborations, we’d love to collaborate with there’s a bunch of people we’d love to work with. So now we’re just kind of opening that door of creative collaborations.

Top ten already in iTunes since releasing the single in March, that’s a pretty big achievement. How does it feel?

It feels great. The fans are really crazy and supportive, especially the ones on social media. Going back to Brazil is crazy.

On the very first day, we were number one on iTunes in brazil overall. It’s kind of crazy that that was able to happen so quickly.

Getting the support from radio so early on as well has been amazing, we’re so grateful for that.

You also have a platinum selling single. Must be quite crazy for you?

It’s crazy and surreal. It just kind of happened by accident, one of those super lucky accidents.

Ever since that song we just go with the flow and just go with our gut and because that’s how we figure out what’s good or bad.

We like to just with our intuition and our gut and just whatever feels good because that’s kind of one of our cheat codes so to speak.

It makes us feel good, it makes us feel easy and just go with the flow. We wrote Sex in about an hour and a half – that’s how long it took us to write that song.

We were just really inspired and it just came together in the moment with that song. I think a lot of people, especially music fans, they kind of think that ‘Wow this is crazy, how did they do this?’

I think that sometimes it just comes in a really inspired moment.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

We used to just listen to classic music – The Beatles, Bob Dylan. I still like the classic like rock stuff like AC/DC.

I think just being able to quieten your mind and be in the moment is a really powerful tool that we try to utilise as much as possible and not overthink it.

At the time when we wrote Sex, the whole melody just kind of popped into our head. We actually didn’t even reference the song, we didn’t go back to the original record.

We just wanted to recreate and do it however it felt natural and that would be relevant in today’s music – I think that’s important, to just allow whatever is natural to just happen. The fans will know if it’s forced, it will be awkward.

Ever wanted to go into rock industry? Or always DJing?

That’s kind of how we started. I used to be in a rock band. Trevor used to be in a different project – more of an acoustic singer-songwriter background.

Kevin used to be a rapper. We all come from different backgrounds and that was kind of the idea of this project. We didn’t want to be boxed into one specific genre. We wanted to be able to go in any direction,

If you come to see us live it really puts it all into perspective and everything makes sense because we’re mixing in hip-hop with big EDM mixes and also big pop records that everyone knows and loves.

All with a sense of just loving life and loving music. That’s kind of the whole idea of what we’re trying to do.

You have also been commissioned to do remixes. Is this something you wanted to do and would you do it again?

Definitely working with people in person is always amazing. The remix side is always fun just to put a different spin on songs. We just did this for an artist and it’s just kind of blowng up on Spotify right now. Sometimes with remixes you never really know what’s going to happen –

We just did this for an artist and it’s just kind of blowing up on Spotify right now. Sometimes with remixes you never really know what’s going to happen.

I think that’s also an exciting side to it. But we definitely want to focus on our original music and we have been.

You’ve all had a lot of success at such a young age. Must be great seeing the world?

I’m 26, Kevin is 25 and Trevor is 24. We’re just really grateful that we’re able to do this as a full-time job.

When we first started we were eating ramen noodles, sharing a one bedroom flat, struggling to pay rent and making all of our music from our bedroom.

It wasn’t a struggle though, it was a fun challenge. Like ‘We can live off of this for a month and make it work!’ We love what we’re doing.

Have you seen an impact through streaming and Spotify?

Honestly, without streaming I don’t think we would be where we’re at so quickly.

I think streaming has opened the door for us to really break in and get into the market and it levels the playing field in a sense where the song is the most important thing.

It takes away a lot of the political business stuff that the fans might not realise is going on.

We were in the top ten in Spotify and we didn’t have a major label behind us, we didn’t have a long-term deal.

That was pretty crazy when that was happening with Sex. At one point we had almost three million plays in a single day.

It puts the power in the artist’s hands and it also puts it in the fans hands, they’re getting the music that they care about most, it has nothing to do with the label or CEO’s or the major companies.

It just has to do with what music they want to listen to. When we first started, I remember we never had that much money so we were recording it all by ourselves, writing it all by ourselves, singing it all by ourselves.

I remember we spent about $50 for the entirety of our first song just to be able to put it up on Spotify and iTunes.

For an independent artist that’s a huge tool because there’s no overhead. If you can create music on your own then you’re able to spend like $50 and if you’re able to get a couple million plays on a song then you’ve made all of your money back times a hundred.

I think it’s amazing for an independent artist and it was a huge help for us in the beginning for sure.

You started as an independent group is that still the case?

We signed a deal with 300 Entertainment. They also have Fetty Wap as well as a bunch of other artists. They’ve just allowed us to do all the things that we want to do and release music the way we want it to be released.

When we first started we were releasing a song every single month and that was a radical thing for certain people at the time.

And then The Chainsmokers did it not too long after that. You can release a song every single month and they don’t compete with each other, they actually help each other. It’s kind of like a snowball effect.

Being able to release music whenever we want was a huge priority for us and they’re allowing us to do that at a bigger level. We’re excited about it.

You’ve been on tour with The Chainsmokers. How was it?

That wasn’ actually the first tour we ever did with The Chainsmokers. That was 2015.

That to be the first tour we ever went on was really great to witness and be a part of because that was back when their song Roses was taking off on radio and it was right before they released Don’t Let Me Down.

They used to actually play their song Don’t Let Me Down as their encore song every night so that was cool being back stage and hanging out with them.

Even just hearing them play Don’t Let Me Down, we could just feel that this song was going to be big.

I think that just being around people and seeing their success right in front of your eyes is a really inspiring thing. That was really motivating for us. Just to see that it’s possible.

Do you see The Chainsmokers as a rival?

I think maybe in the beginning a little. But now they’re kind of their own thing with their own sound. Especially with their new album, they’re doing something that dance artists are really doing.

I don’t think it’s healthy to compete with other artists on that level, I think it’s more about the fans and inspiring music lovers. I think when you’re first starting there can be feelings like that because you just want to be successful. Once you start doing it for a while, you realise that it’s not important.

I think when you’re first starting there can be feelings like that because you just want to be successful. Once you start doing it for a while, you realise that it’s not important.

Did you get invited to The Chainsmokers tour?

Early on we became good friends with their manager – he actually flew out to LA to meet with us.

Then they just invited us on their tour. I think we had like two songs out at the time so we were really excited to be able to do that. It was great.

What’s next for you?

We’re doing a world tour for No Promises and we’re hitting a lot of countries that we’ve never played for which is really exciting.

We’ve just come back from Dubai, we’re going to Latvia, Croatia, Norway and a lot of countries that we’ve been dreaming about going to.

So that’s taking up a lot of time. We have a bunch of music that we’re sitting on that we’re ready to release so look out for that.

On Thursday we’re leaving again for a bunch of America tour dates and Canada. It’s going to be good. We’re doing a bunch of American festivals as well as European festivals in summer as well.

Coming to the UK?

We’re going to be playing around Europe. We’re playing this festival called Electric Love in Austria.

A couple of months ago we did UK and Ireland. I’m sure we’ll be back pretty soon – we’re always bouncing back and forth.

Playing in London is one of our favourite shows. We love London.

The Center: Distinctively different to Hollywood movies filled with empowering quotes

Charlie Griak’s The Center will leave you what happens to the character at the end of the film.

Director: Charlie Griak

Writer: Charlie Griak

Starring: Matt Cici, Judd Einan, Amanda Day

Running time: 72mins

Written and directed by Griak, the film follows an aspiring writer Ryan who is looking for a way to change his life.

Coming from what seems to be an unloving home, Ryan puts his own dreams on the side in order to help.

He then becomes entangled in a cult-like organisation that attempts to empower those on the side lines.

Reading the synopsis, there is a clear, linear structure to the film but after watching there is a clear distinction between The Center and other American films.

There was no clear ending to the film but nevertheless it didn’t need it.

It seems that Griak was focused on creating a deep and memorable film filled with empowering quotations including ‘make the best of what you have’.

During the screening, there was a sort of expectation of what could happen. Hollywood has made film viewers around the world expect some dramatic or twisted ending but The Center goes against that.

There is a battle when watching an independent film between Hollywood expectations and the reality of what actually happens and this notion seems to come to the surface in The Center.

There are many scenes where we see Ryan wanting to achieve something but is immediately thrust back into reality and in turn, the viewers are not having the escapism that is automatically given in Hollywood films.

Does it work? I would say so.

The unusual, non-linear narrative is accompanied by eerie and slightly hypnotic music that is constant throughout.

Music is a tool that builds up the tension, gives more narrative to certain characters and audiences gain a sense of genre with the score.

The music in The Center keeps the audience on their toes. The eerie music suggests something dramatic or out of the ordinary will happen as the narrative progresses.

Having the score being played constantly and varying from loud, dramatic music through to the more slow and eerie pieces all added to the fact that there was nothing that gave away the narrative.

Independent films are not for everyone and it is hard for them to keep the attention of their audiences.

The Center does however makes you think about your own life and about things that you should have changed or could change at that moment and it does bring into account the notion of ‘what if….?’

Despite having limited character development, there was still an identifiable aspect to Ryan. On a personal level, I found that I was able to relate to his writing ambitions and other characteristics.

It is rare that I feel I can connect and identify with Hollywood characters because they have been manipulated to suit that film.

Flowing nicely onto the next point, the main theme throughout the film was manipulation. Ryan was manipulated into not pursuing his writing dream by his family and in turn became manipulated by the cult-like organisation.

Cults have been around to centuries and The Center shows how people can be drawn into something and forced to behave in certain ways.

The Center is short but you will feel you have been bombarded with deep and meaningful quotations for a whole hour and a half.

Flash, Bang, Wallop! Half a Sixpence is a toe-tapping success

To say that Cameron Mackintosh’s adaptation of H G Wells’ novel is a light-hearted, toe-tapping and fun show to see would be an understatement.

Director: Rachel Kavanaugh

Writer: Julian Fellowes

Lyrics: George Stiles, Anthony Drewe, David Heneker

Starring: Charlie Stemp, Devon-Elise Johnson, Emma Williams, Vivien Parry, Jane How, Gerard Carey, Ian Bartholomew

Theatre: Noel Coward Theatre, London

Ever since hearing Half a Sixpence would be coming to the West End I have wanted to see it and now I can say it is a fantastic production.

The story follows young Arthur Kipps who, after splitting a sixpence in half and gives one-half to his childhood crush Ann, moves away to become a tailor’s assistant.

Seven years later, Kipps finds out he has a large fortune and then his life takes a dramatic turn when he meets Helen Walshingham and he falls in love with her forgetting about Ann.

However he begins to see the reality of the new rich ‘friends’ and becomes in a love triangle after meeting up with Ann who is a maid in one of the households.

With a film adaptation back in 1967, some of the main songs were familiar with me when watching the show but there is nothing as good as watching people perform in the rarest forms.

After being shown the film as I was growing up the basic premise was known to me but during the show there were some parts and characters I completely forgot.

With an all-round brilliant cast, the highlight was watching Charlie Stemp in the leading role.

His ability to act as the young, naïve millionaire was brilliantly executed. He also managed to dance and sing without, what appears to be, a shed of nerves.

Stemp’s performance alone is a reason to see the production and the whole cast, which was considerably large compared to other West End shows, were perfectly suited to their roles.

Not only were the songs and acting more or less perfect, the set was quite creative using rotation platforms to change the setting or to add something to the scene.

The panels also helped make it look like the characters were walking around different parts of Folkstone – where the play is set.

Knowing Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes adapted H G Wells’ novel is already a reason to see the production.

Despite not winning any awards at the Olivier’s this year, the show definitely deserves much more recognition.

Half a Sixpence will leave you toe-tapping and humming one of the many ‘simple tunes’ long after the show has finished.

I would happily see the production again. Hopefully there will be live stage screening just like Mackintosh did with Miss Saigon – however we can only wait and see.

Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Kyle Richards says the reunion is the hardest part

The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills and aunt to Paris and Nicky Hilton took some time out to have a quick chat with me about the pressures of being a reality star and what people can expect from the next season.

Tell us what people can expect in the next season of Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills

This season there is a really interesting shift in dynamics. There is a new cast member who really shook things up. Stuff happened with my sister and it was so crazy and beyond. It caused me a lot of anxiety. We go to loads of amazing places this season including Greece, Hong Kong and New York.

You said the reunion was ‘so bad, drained physically and emotional’ why? 

For me in this season the most challenging thing was what I had to deal with Kim. My sister was very upset nd that all exploded but for me it was during the reunion. We come back and address all the things that come up again. It is like walking on egg shells. We are all stressed out because of what will happen at the reunion.

How long does it take to complete one season? 

By the time we are finishing shooting with the other women it is about four months. Then we still have interviews for a while. So it is about 5 months altogether. Then we shoot the reunion and press events. We then have a little time off and then time to start again.

Obviously you are not camera-shy having grown up with acting family and a film career yourself but how does this compare to movie filming? 

It is so completely different doing script to TV. Scripted is remembering your lines and acting your best and making sure you make the right choices. Real TV is your personal life. All the problems and fighting stick with you. Many times I have spent nights and weeks crying and stressed out. It’s very anxiety provoking and overwhelming.

You said you feel a lot of pressure and anxiety so why do you continue doing the show?

At the end of the day the good outweighs the bad. What comes out of it is amazing. I have opened my sixth store and producing scripted shows on my own e for TV. Amazing things have come out of it and while there is drama we also have a lot of fun. If I didn’t see the fun in the show I would not do it.

Do you know about the upcoming issues the show will feature each season? 

I knew Kim would be a part of this season but nothing is set up or scripted. When we go to events we know who is going to be there. Everything is great at the beginning. We are all getting along and doing our own thing and then one person says something and then it all explodes.

Your half-nieces are both well-known in the celeb gossip world – do you think they will ever make a guest appearance on the show? 

They have both made appearances on the show before but who knows whether they will do it in the future.

How is Nicky finding motherhood? Is it a natural thing for her? 

She’s a natural mother. Her baby is absolutely beautiful. I spent the day with them and it started crawling and we were like yay it’s crawling. The baby will never make an appearance on the show that I will guarantee.

Will Paris be soon settling down?  

I have not met him yet. I don’t know how serious it is. Paris is such a business woman and travels all over the world. I don’t think she feels the pressure yet but I am not sure about that.

You have children of your own, would you help them get into acting or star in a show like this one?

I would never recommend they do something like this and none have really shown any desire to do so.

Beauty and the Beast: Visual masterpiece but nothing compared to the animation

The hype around the remake of Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast made the film highly anticipated but it lacks the magic of the animation.

Director: Bill Condon

Writer: Stephen Chbosky

Starring: Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson

Running time: 2hrs 9 mins

Certificate: PG

To say the new Beauty and the Beast is not a good film would definitely be a lie but there is something about the film that I simply could not enjoy.

The remake of the film follows adventurous Belle who stumbles upon an enchanted castle where furniture moves and talks and the prince has been turned into a hideous beast.

Following the same plot as the original animation the film did fill in some of the missing narrative plots and even shows the enchantress casting the spell on the castle.

As the film starts, the creators used the same music theme which hailed back to the original which was something that made me excited for the film to begin.

But as it progressed I felt more and more bored with the plot and the characters. With an added 20minutes or so to the film you beg the question did this or that scene really need to be included?

Having grown up watching the animated version I was already sceptical about a remake as most other fans would be as well.

When I original found out they had cast Emma Watson to play Belle I immediately was put off by her – then found out she was singing in it. Another thing to add to the list.

I don’t have anything against Watson at all and believe she is a talented actress but she is probably the epitome of ‘British’ yet she is cast to play a French woman.

Same with the rest of the cast as well. We no longer live in a time where foreign actors are few so it begs the question as to why Disney used Hollywood-famous actors in their respective roles.

Was it simply to draw in the numbers to make a box office hit? Probably. As well casting a Scottish actor to play the French candlestick Lumiere was also a bit of a joke.

Ewan McGregor, who plays Lumiere, is another talented actor but throughout the film he slipped in and out of accents. The original cartoon version used a French actor so why couldn’t this one?

The only relatively suited actors were Sir Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) and Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts).

Both these characters are supposed to be well-spoken British servants and I couldn’t think of two better people to play these roles.

The animation/CGI itself was not that great either. By being a remake that uses the same narrative, same songs and same characters could have used the same design of the characters. No?

This could be because the conglomerate Disney was to sell brand new merchandise with these new character looks. A good idea but bad for film fans like myself.

Speaking of CGI and going to back to the ‘hideous beast’, I couldn’t help but see the beast was not as hideous as he is supposed to be. In fact he is well groomed and relatively handsome in some weird way.

I must admit the three new songs added to the soundtrack are particularly good and memorable which is a good thing.

The narrative also added some new interesting plot devices such as the castle continues to fall and break when the rose petals fall. This is a feature I enjoyed.

The film itself is pretty good and you will find yourself enjoying it despite some worries I had from the offset but I was generally quite disappointed.

Also the title track of the same name is used but I was expected the Angela Lansbury original to be played while the credits role. Maybe I was expecting too much of the film.

Nonetheless it isn’t as bad as I have made out – plus the ‘gay moment’ barely exists and I couldn’t even tell you where it is – and I am sure it will be up for a couple of Oscar nominations.