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Archive for October, 2009

HBO

Is Home Box office the greatest television programmer of all time? You know what? It quite possibly is. Not only does HBO broadcast top boxing events, but also some cracking comedy shows, including Curb your Enthusiasm and Flight of the Conchords, but it’s also given us some of the best drama series of the past decade. Here I’ve compiled my top five HBO tv shows, let’s see what you think…

No 5:

Deadwood

deadwoodFirst premiering in 2004, Deadwood only ran for three series before cancellation and although the second and third series probably weren’t as strong as the opening season, it would still blow away half of tv programmes now. Created by David Milch, Deadwood tells the story of the Western settlement of the same name. By combining real- life characters of the old west with a good dollop of artistic licence we were given a well shot, well scripted story of Business, Law and Politics in the 19th century.

Deadwood had a large ensemble with the two main characters, Seth Bullock & Al Swearengen played by Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane respectively giving some real depth to an already superb line up. Who would have known than McShane could go from crap Birt series Lovejoy to playing tough as nails Swearengen? And as for Olyphant, the role was absolutely made for him. He reminds me of a young Clint Eastwood, playing the broody almost anti- hero fantastically. I’ve long thought that he is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood and this series really gave him a oppurtunity to shine.

If you only watch one episode of Deadwood, watch:

The Season 1 Finale, “Sold Under Sin” –

The tension built up over the previous 11 episodes erupts and sets up season two perfectly. If for nothing else it’s worth watching to see Seth Bullock go ‘Hulk’ towards the end of the episode and realise his calling in Deadwood.

No 4:

Oz

OzOz ran for 6 seasons from 1997 to 2003. Harsh, Uncompromising and Brutal, Tom Fontana’s show never did shy away from what it was trying to achieve – Showing us the savage way of life inside Maximum- Security penitentiary of Oz.

The show revolved around the constant power struggle inside Oz, and the tension that builds up when different race related gangs are locked up together. Issues tackled were drugs, rape, religion and murder (didn’t I say it was uncompromising). I suppose Oz isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve got the stomach for the subject matter you’ll be blown away by the level of acting and the quality of the writing.

Such was the quality of Oz that it catapulted the careers of many of the shows regulars, with actors going on to star in The Wire, Lost, Dexter, Homicide and even the Matrix sequels.

If you only watch one episode of Oz, watch:

Season 1 Episode 1 “The Routine” –

Not for the faint hearted, it sets the scene perfectly for the series and shows the Induction of fresh inmates to the Emerald City.

No 3:

Band of Brothers

Band of BrothersThe Tom Hanks Directed World War II drama first premiered in 2001 and ran for ten episodes. Whilst packed full of action that showed the tragedy of war, Band of Brothers also brought to life a group of characters that you genuinely cared for. It begins with members of parachute regiment “Easy company” whilst training in the US and over the course of ten episodes follows them landing in Normandy on D-Day and onwards through France and Germany.

Not since Saving Private Ryan had war been displayed like this. The characters are actually based on members of the real ‘E’ company and each one suffered the same fate as their real life counterpart. Each episode began with the veterans of Easy Company retelling the actual events about to be portrayed on-screen.

The Series was the most expensive HBO had ever produced and as you can imagine, production levels are sky-high and it was no surprise when Band of Brothers was nominated for 19 Emmy Awards. Each member of the cast plays their part wonderfully but special mentions go to Damien Lewis and Donnie Wahlberg who give class performances throughout.

If you only watch one episode of Band of Brothers, watch:

Episode 7 “The Breaking Point”

I think everyone should watch the whole series once in their life but if I had to pick one episode it would be this one. It truly shows the horror and absolute hopelessness of war.

No 2:

The Wire

The WirePreceded by The Corner, another great HBO drama written by David Simon, The Wire premiered in 2002 and ran for five seasons. Consistently praised as one of the best television series of all time, The Wire gave us an insight to the Baltimore Police Department’s war on drugs.

With a cast of totally believable characters the line of right and wrong was at times blurred in its 60 show run, at times as a viewer you felt sympathy for the kids dealing drugs purely because they knew nothing else. Each season of the Wire focused on a different cultural part of Baltimore, the first season involved street drug dealing, the second series dealt with union corruption within blue collared jobs, with each season leading further up the political ladder or Baltimore.

The Wire is a great example of a series that has the casting absolutely spot on, from enforcer Omar Little, drug boss Avon Barksdale to wise mouth detective Jimmy McNulty, all actors bring their own style to each character. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to single out a bad performance by any member of the cast during its 5 year run, such was the level of acting. Combine this with great writing and even a great score and you have a recipe for something very special.

If you only watch one episode of The Wire, watch:

Season 3 Episode 4 “Hamsterdam”

Worth it alone for comedy value, Hamsterdam shows us the desperate measures Police in Baltimore will go to in order to get drug dealers off the streets.

No 1:

The Sopranos

SopranosIn essence, The Sopranos is six series’ worth of Goodfellas, Casino and the Godfather all rolled into one. With production values as good as any feature film, the series introduced us to Mob boss Tony Soprano and his crew of ‘made men’. The first two seasons focused on Tony’s life as head of a Mafia family, and his constant struggle with his own family back home, particularly with his Uncle Jr and Mother, with later season moving toward the larger story as a whole.

With writing and acting as good as anything before or since, The Sopranos won twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes and was consistently nominated every year for many more. A feat even more amazing when you think that when the show began, most of the actors were largely unknown.

If you’ve ever seen The Sopranos then you’ll know, but to those that haven’t please give it a try. Believe the hype because it really is that good.

If you only watch one episode of The Sopranos, watch:

Season 3 Episode 11 “Pine Barrens”

Successfully combining drama with humour is no easy task, especially when working with the subject matter of the Sopranos. Over the course of the 86 episodes there are some fantastic laughs, none more so than in this episode. Directed by Steve Buscemi, who was also a major character in season five, Pine Barrens is the story of a simple collection gone very wrong.

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ThorThe upcoming big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Thor has finally got a lead role. After months of speculation about who would be cast as the Norse Thunder God, 26 year old Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has been picked for the 2011 Movie.

You may know Hemsworth from his years spent playing Kim in Aussie soap Home & Away or more recently, his role as Captain Kirks’ father in JJ Abrams’ fantastic Star Trek re-boot last year. This comes after a long line of actors such as Brad Pit and Daniel Craig were linked with the film.

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind Hemsworth for the five minutes he was on the screen at the beginning of Star Trek but Thor?!? For those of you who don’t know, in the Marvel Universe Thor is one of the most powerful superheroes around, second only to Hulk in terms of strength. Personally, i’d rather see the Rock play Thor than a young whippet. Unless Hemsworth beefs up considerably (which I can’t see him doing in the next couple of months prior to shooting commencing in Jan ’10), the main character could turn out to be a joke.

Comics rarely make the transition to the big screen very well and the only comic book adaptations that I can think of that have been done well are  Jon Farveu’s superb Iron Man film and the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie. I can’t even rate the Spiderman films, pure garbage and total kids film cop-outs. The key to a good film is casting, and that applies even more so to comic book films. Edward Norton did a great job capturing the angst of Bruce Banner and Bob Downey JR is totally believable as Tony Stark but Toby Maguire as Spiderman? Kirsten Dish-Face Dunst? No thanks. The fantastic four films aren’t even worth a mention, the first film had me cheering on for Doctor Doom and they even managed to fuck Galactus up with the second effort.

I just don’t think this will be any good. It’s going to be directed by floppy-haired Mum’s favourite Kenneth Branagh(!) who has no experience whatsoever in directing an action flick and it also follows the weaker of the two Thor backstories. Rather than the Ultimate Thor story in which Thor is either a God or a madman, the film will go with the Earth 616 story that Thor is a disabled doctor who finds the strength within himself to become a God. Yawn.

I genuinely do hope that it’s a good movie, but only time will tell. Now all we need to do is sort out who will play Captain America….

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john and edwardIn an extraordinary turn of events yesterday, the Police had to be called to the X-Factor house after an invasion of teenage girls trying to get a glimpse of their favourite contestants John & Edward.

The girls were allegedly flashing at the double take brothers who promptly answered with a bout of crotch grabbing. Police were called to move on the crowds and local residents are furious after the residential street was left trashed by gatherers. I reckon if the Irish twits have got the teenybopper vote, we may have to endure them for a good few weeks to come…

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MissFrankLast night Miss Frank followed in the footsteps of Kandy Rain and Rikki Loney by being voted off X-Factor. In a dramatic turn of events Miss Frank found themselves in the bottom two alongside Danyl Johnson, who had arguably performed one of the strongest vocals of Saturday. This means that unbelievably, the twins John & Edward are actually still in the running for the ITV ‘talent’ contest.

The theme for Saturdays show was Big Band and the standard of singing was just as good as last weeks Diva theme. Olly Murs gave another fantastic performance and although not as strong as last week, Stacey Solomon did more than enough to secure her place in next weeks show. Jamie Archer went from hero to zero this week. It was always going to be a struggle for him to top last Saturdays A1 vocal but he fell short by an absolute mile and I’m actually starting to think that he’s out of his depth. Cowell kept Archer in the competition at the expense of both Treyc Cohen and Daniel Pearce who were both stronger than the Afro man. It makes me wonder whether Cowell picked an act that would fill a gap in the pop market and not the strongest vocalist.

Lloyd Daniels and Joe McElderry gave sickly cute performances and I think that Cheryl should start being worried now about their future. Rachel Adedeji gave another average performance but top marks go to her eyebrows, they didn’t stop moving once during her two minutes on stage. Lucie Jones gave another really good vocal but took a good beating from Cowell during the judges comments. John & Edward did their thing to ‘She Bangs’, every week looking like more like Louis Walshes’ bumboys. Miss Frank went back to their roots and sang that’s life, a great performance but they really don’t look comfortable up on stage as a group. They definitely haven’t bonded well together, but that’s understandable seeing as they’ve only had a few months to get to know each other. After their exit this week, maybe we’ll see an older and wiser Miss Frank during next years auditions.

That leaves us with Danyl Johnson, who absolutely Nailed ‘With a little help from my friends’. Great vocal, great performance and the one thing that can be said of Johnson and no other contestant is that he makes every song he sings his own. So what happened? Well, there are two possible causes of him ending up in the bottom two this week. Firstly, he may be that good that Joe public didn’t feel the need to vote for him assuming he would sail through to next week. Or (as I suspect), people can’t connect with him because he hasn’t got the likeability factor. It’s all good and well nailing songs left right and Chelsea but if you’re not liked, prepare for a few more bottom slots (pardon the pun Danyl). He runs the risk of doing a Jamie Archer if he carries on to sing songs in a similar fashion. Maybe a slow song with less shouty vocals would do him wonders.

Big boo’s from the group sing last night – again, another week of lip-syncing from the contestants! This is a really poor effort and if the show wants to retain any of the little credibility it has left, the singers should be made to perform live during the Sunday group sings. Mickey Bubble was the guest this weekend and although he’s not my cup of tea, I have to admit he’s got a damn good voice – but he really should work on his pronunciation whilst singing, I found it very off-putting to say the least.

So that’s week three done and dusted. My tip for next weekend? John & Edward and Rachel bottom two, Rachel to go after the publics votes are counted.

theoriginaljj

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The Above video shows the shocking assault of 24 year old ex- soldier Mark Aspinall at the hands of the three Lancashire Police officers. The attack happened in July 2008 whilst Aspinall was out drinking in Wigan. The Police had been called out to a disturbance and wrongly assumed the Iraq & Afghanistan veteran was the culprit.

CP17625166War hero Mark AspAspinall

The video pretty much speaks for itself, what it shows is a totally defenceless man being beaten by three supposed officers of the law. Aspinall was repeatedly punched in the back of his head and even had his face rubbed against the concrete. The physical damage the war hero took that night paled into significance when he found himself up in front of a Wigan Magistrate in September 2008 who promptly charged him with two counts of police assault and a public order offence, this was despite the judge watching the CCTV footage for himself! I must have missed the part where Aspinall assaulted the police officers in question, I imagine it’s pretty difficult to do much when you have a knee in your back and you’re getting punched in head whilst having your hand ragged into handcuffs.

The magistrates found Mark guilty and sentenced him to a suspended prison sentence, community service and fined £250. Now if that’s not the most fucked up idea of justice I don’t know what is. Fortunately, Mark appealed and on review at Liverpool Crown, Court Judge Phipps dismissed the case and noted he was “shocked and appalled by the level of police violence” shown in the CCTV footage. He even went as far as saying he believed the police statements contained ‘untruths’.

Well that’s fine and dandy, but what about compensation for Aspinall? How about the three officers stand trial? No such luck I’m afraid, the independent police complaints commission are investigation so read into that ‘coppers investigating coppers’, I question the ‘independence’ of the commission and I’m sure Lancashire Constabulary are doing their absolute utmost to  sweep the affair under the carpet.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1090655/Arrest–assault-Judges-disgust-soldier-held-hit-times-POLICE.html#ixzz0UkTfyNUx

theoriginaljj

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0903105953-JordanYep thats right, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – Katie Price has been nominated for the Celebrity Mum of the year. Although she’s already won the award once if she wins this year she can take pride in her name being forever immortalised with other fantastic mothers such as Kerry Catona who has won the award twice in the past and Ulrika Jonsson who is also a previous winner as well as being the mother to four kids who have four different fathers.

It’s a bit of a contradiction really ‘celebrity mum of the year’, surely by the very nature of being celebrities it means they spend less time with their children than your average mother. Jordans trip to Ibiza after her split from Peter Andre showed just how good a Mum she is, it was well documented by her ITV2 programme and showed her pretty much just getting wasted the whole time she was there. She’s also done nothing by all accounts to reign in her transvestite lover Alex Reid who reportedly wouldn’t let Peter Andre speak to his children over the phone earlier this week.

Reid has allegedly thrown down the gauntlet to Andre and offered him a dust up ‘to settle things’, all I can hope for is that Andre takes him up on the offer and kicks the shit out of the bloke. I’m absolutely sick of hearing about Reid and his muppet missus. Peter Andre has taken his split on the chin and has acted with nothing but the utmost dignity these past few months. He’s constantly being encouraged to spill the beans on Jordan and every time he politely refuses.

Jordan on the other hand, has taken every opportunity to take shots at Andre and even now public favour for her has not faltered. I can’t see why people insist on championing her. Just look at her eldest son, Harvey. The poor lad is blind, autistic and suffers from a disease called septo-optic dysplasia. The only time when we hear anything about Harvey is when Jordan wants in on the latest run of glossy magazines. As soon as it’s been a few months without making the news, Jordan will parade the poor lad around for all to see, usually accompanied by headlines such as ‘Harvey’s latest hell’. That is simply not what a good mother should be doing.

Females herald her as a self made businesswoman/ author/ fashion guru etc etc. In my eyes I just see someone who got her tits out for magazines at a young age, spent the next few years on the London club scene sleeping with second rate footballers then appeared on I’m a celebrity before getting knocked up and married by Peter Andre. Every couple of years she bangs out yet another Autobiography and Bobs your uncle if we believe what we read in the newspapers, we have the female version of Donald Trump – businesswoman extraordinaire.

That obviously isn’t the case but the chances are that she’ll end up winning the award, probably due to her triumph in the face of adversary – i.e. getting ditched by Andre and still finding time to pay her Nanny to look after her three children.

theoriginaljj

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CalzagheSaturday evening saw Joe Calzaghe become the fifth casualty of war in this years Strictly Come Dancing. All I can say is thank God he didn’t go in week 1. I don’t know why on earth he decided to participate, surely he wasn’t that strapped for cash that he needed the reported £25K (!) for appearing? Maybe he was trying to emulate Floyd Mayweather Jr. who took part in the 2007 U.S. equivalent, Dancing with the Stars but whatever reason, it was a poor choice for the former undefeated Super-Middleweight champion of the world.

I’ve idolised Joe for many years now and it’s tragic that throughout his career boxing he was never given the recognition he deserved. In fact, even now I don’t think the British public realise how much of a big deal he was. He will go down in history as the greatest British boxer who ever lived but I believe it will take a very long time before his achievements will be appreciated.

mikkel-kessler16I think the key to his appreciation will be ‘The Viking Warrior’, Mikkel Kessler. I was fortunate enough to have a ringside seat in 2007 at the millenium stadium to witness the demolition job that Joe did to Kessler. Already an exceptional World champ, Kessler was made to look like a mere Journeyman by Calzaghe – and that is no disrespect to Kessler, it’s just that on that night at the Millenium Stadium, Calzaghe would have put anyone away.

Fast forward two years and Kessler has mopped up the WBA title in Calzaghe’s absence and is part of the Super Six Boxing Classic. I’m under no illusion that by the end of the tournament Kessler will have unified the WBA and WBC titles and who knows, in another two years times he may have completely unified the Super-Middleweight division (as Calzaghe did after the 2007 bout). Maybe then people will look back on Calzaghe and realise just how good he really was.

In the UK, we’re not actually used to being good at anything. If we win a major sporting event it always seems like a bit of a fluke. We actually celebrate mediocrity, David Beckham is never far away from the British press but Calzaghe was rarely heard of. It seemed strange to have a sportsman who was not only good at his art, but truly fantastic. To think that Joe was at the top of his game for 10 years is good enough but the fact that his last fights were his most spectacular is even more of a reason to applaud him.

I just hope that in years to come he will be remembered for his performance in the ring, rather than the performance on the dancefloor. On a positive note, at least he managed to go one round longer than Mayweather, who was knocked out in week four of 2007

theoriginaljj

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