Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Films of 2015 - The Final Three

Here we go...

My top 3 films of the year. No.3 and No.2 are pretty interchangeable but No.1 was a clear winner by miles.

Previous winners of this accolade include...

2014 - Wolf of Wall Street
2013 - Silver Linings Playbook

Lets put all 8 of you out of your misery.


A Most Violent Year

I had this downloaded for about 3 months and kept putting it off but once I pressed play, I was captivated. It's unlike most crime films I've seen because of the main character played by Oscar Isaac. I've never seen such a moral and foolhardy portrayal like it. The premise of the film is quite simple...Isaacs plays an owner of a gas company in New York City. His company gets pushed around by the larger corporations but a deal poised to put him ahead of the rest starts to get too dangerous for his rather honest principles. Bored yet? I don't blame you. But honest to god believe me, it's a revelation. It's likely to be pushed aside for awards given its release early this year, but Oscar Isaacs, recently seen flying around in Star Wars should get a nomination or two. As with Sicario, the cinematography is immense along with the score. The director made my top 10 last year with All is Lost and the main plot strand of a man trying to overcome the odds set against him to survive is repeated albeit in a city sprawl rather than a deserted ocean.


Inside Out

Probably the film that nearly everyone has seen this year. I haven't met anyone who didn't like it and why should they, it's a masterpiece like many, many other Pixar efforts in the past. Funnily enough, I wasn't sold on the idea when I heard the premise, saw the poster or even when I watched the trailer. I don't feel that I need to explain the film as you have all seen it. Any film that can successfully build a entire landscape like I.O did with the inside of a young girls brain and what's weird is that as proposterous as it looks, I want it to be real and how I actually think. All the fads I give myself, I can imagine a team building my infatuation as I speak only to see it go dark and topple when I find my new fad. It did so well because of the simplicity of the idea and the fact that every single person on the planet can relate to the emotions on show and the memories we hold inside. It's not just a good film or a great one, it's important.


Surely you know by now...


Absolutely no question!

The fact that my last three films of the year came out in January should have quashed any doubt.

Originally a short film that was adapted into the long form we now know. Winner of three Oscars. Winner of my acclaimed film of the year.

A young man's struggle to reach his potential spurred/hindered by a unique and tempestuous music teacher.

I saw this back in January whilst I waited to meet a friend before seeing Birdman and on a different day, maybe Birdman would have resonated with me more than it did. The reason it didn't was because I'd just left Whiplash. This has no car chases or gun fights, births, deaths or marriages. Just raw emotion and determination coupled with a dose of mano a mano action that you'd normally see in a fight but instead set in a class room.

The two players in this drama are Miles Teller (student) and JK Simmons (Teacher). The former, a John Cusack esque actor who has since seen his star power dim quickly with the terrible Fantastic Four, the latter is a character actor most known for the editor of the Daily Bugle in the Tobey Maguire Spidernan flicks. Simmons was also involved in the short film version of Whiplash but the feature length won him every supporting actor nomination going which culminated in the Oscar in March. It's well deserved and his performance is both electric and terrifying.

It's not perfect by any means. There are a couple of typical Hollywood beats which are completely unnecessary given the strength of the core story but they are minor quibbles.

Even without the last 15 minutes, Whiplash would make my list but during the final scene I don't think I exhaled. It's the kind of ending that some people (myself included) would appreciate but would enfuriates others (my missus) and anything that annoys my wife just makes it even better.

Plus it has a fuck load of drums!

Adam Yates 

Films of 2015 Part One!

So here is MY opinion of what were the best films released in 2015. 

First it's worth to know a couple of things. Bear in mind that I work full time with a wife and child. I'm also not a film critic hence I have not seen every film released this year. That means films such as Steve Jobs, Black Mass and even Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 have not had a chance to inflict praise as I haven't seen them yet and maybe never will as I will prioritise 2016 movies over older ones.

Some who read my last post will already know that Mad Max Fury Road just missed out on the top 10, while I'm as surprised as anyone, I simply found the following 10 films more entertaining and/or more captivating, emotional, funny or tense. MMFR is a great film and I've watched it three times to be safe but it remains out of the running. Sorry to my brother from another mother.

Anyway here we go...



Emily Blunt is a solid performer in anything that she does but nothing can be doubted about that fact after seeing Sicario. A character strong willed but ultimately emotionally charged and vulnerable, smart yet stubborn, sassy but also naive. From the director of 2013's brilliant kidnapping drama Prisoners, this could be seen as a natural sequel to Steven Soderburgh's Traffic. The drug trade is as vibrant as ever and as the cartels think of new ways to get the product out to the masses, governments can only slow down the process. The one thing that sets this apart from being a solid 3* film is the cinematography. It is sublime, the best looking film of the year by far! It's almost another character in the movie. Sicario's not perfect, the ending in my opinion makes sure of that, but just like with the real life drug war, an ending is nowhere in sight.

See also : Traffic (2000).



All the following films have a certain calibre and known talent behind them meaning that they had more of a chance to be on this list. Unfriended is not one of those films, it was a complete and utter surprise to me that this made the ten but when I paired it up to the runners up, this won each time. But why?
A cyber thriller told through the constant gaze of a Apple Mac and its various pieces of software (Facebook, Skype etc) we find ourselves in the middle of a online group chat featuring a group of high school friends. Except that a recently deceased classmate is taunting them from beyond the grave. Or could it just be an elaborate prank? High concepts flicks can be disasters (Nick of Time, Pixels) but history shows they can provide a level of entertainment that can supersede any other genre if executed properly (Panic Room, Phone Booth). I watched this on my iPad on my daily commute to work (along with two others on this list) and I couldn't wait until my lunch so I could finish the film off. A hidden gem if ever there was one.

See also: Project Almanac, Catfish.


It Follows

Actress Maika Monro made the list last year with 2014's The Guest and she charts once more here with a sexually charged horror film if ever there was one. The concept is simple, A supernatural entity is following people with the sole purpose to kill them. The only way to stop it? Have sex with someone to pass the curse onto them. Who doesn't wanna watch that!? To make things more tense, the entity in question simply walks towards you, they don't hide, they don't stop, they don't check their email. They are relentless. Catch a train to escape it? They will simply walk the distance to get you even if it takes 2 weeks. That's the terrifying thing about It Follows. The gore in the film is minimal because it doesn't need to be, it also asks certain questions about how you would save yourself even if it means knowingly putting someone else in danger.

See also : Ringu


Cop Car

Last year, Snowpiercer made my top 10 and I said then the film was not yet released in the UK. That is still the case, even the DVD copy you can buy are imported. Cop Car is likely to fall in this category and as such may not appear in many of any top ten lists but it makes mine. Two kids running away from home come across an abandoned cop car and take it on a gentle joyride playing out their adventures for real. Except the car belongs to corrupt beat cop Kevin Bacon who was busy committing the very crimes he sworn to prevent. A sequence of events pits the desperate police officer against two children who are unaware as to what danger they have walked in on. Cop Car is completely understated featuring a bare bones cast (18 entire cast members, 3 of which are dogs). It has the kind of ending that enfuriates the missus but the hard hitting nature of a plot featuring revenge and murder is only more intense when children are involved.

See also : Good Kill



The only documentary you need to see this year. I'm no real fan of Amy Winehouse although I can admit to seeing her as a support act many years ago. But just as I had no vested interest in Aryton Senna, the recent documentary gave me a new insight into the racing legend and this is just as, if not better. Here we see a girl who was partially damaged from a young age whose rise to fame only fanned the flames of her addictive and self destructive personality. Her parents are sculpted to look partly to blame and it's hard not to agree given the facts. Her true friends are cast aside for heroin and alcohol and a dream duet with childhood hero Tony Bennett is painful to watch even when brilliance sneaks through that trademark beehive hairdo. We all know the ending to this tragic life and it even sneaks up on us but it's still captivating and you get the feeling that even if we got in a time machine and warned Amy of her future, things may have turned out exactly the same.

See also : Senna, Cobain : Montage of Heck.


Big Hero 6

The closest Disney have come to making a Pixar quality film. Which is strange seeing as Disney effectively own Pixar. Additionally, Pixar's head honcho Bob Lassiter has been given charge over both animation studios so the recent success with Tangled and that let it go movie isn't much of a surprise. This is a strange one to add to the list morally because it's the one I've seen 46 times. This is 97.7% down to the 3 year old child that has seemingly nested in my house and for a 2 month period wanted nothing else but to watch the cuddly white robot named Baymax. The design of the movie is an interesting choice mixing the location of San Fransisco (another Pixar trait) with Tokyo injected architecture, which isn't hardly explained in the movie itself but is divulged on the greatest of movie geek assets, the IMdB trivia page.
Excuses aside, BH6 is a great film and appeals to the classic Pixar market...children and adults.

See also : The Incredibles, How to Train Your Dragon.


Kingsman : The Secret Service

Matthew Vaughn's latest venture into adapted comic books after (Xmen First Class and Kick Ass) and also his best. The big difference between this and other spy movies of the year (Spectre, Man from Uncle, Spy, Mission Impossible) is the risk of making it an edgier, more violent affair. As much as the 12A certificate has allowed more violence, it's still more about what you think you saw rather than what you actually saw. In Kingsman, you SEE it. The church scene alone is one of the best action sequences in recent years and the finale is outrageously and gloriously OTT along with a very very risqué joke that James Bond would shudder at. But overall, it's just a real joy to watch and fun, which is the whole point. There's only so many dead inside, broken man, nothing to lose spies we can watch where as the only thing this wants to do is save the world and look good doing it.

Next week - The top 3

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Films of 2015 - Honourable Mentions

Below are a handful of Four-Star films that I really enjoyed but didn't blow me away to squeeze into my list. 

The Martian

One of the more regrettable entries simply because it was a fun ride that could have easily been downbeat. Matt Damon exudes a sense of humour alongside the need to survive on Mars after being stranded. The end was a bit generic which is a shame compared to the rest of the ride.

John Wick

Keanu is back...maybe.
One of the surprises of the year was a film about a hitman who goes on a killing spree after his dog is killed. The action choreography is worth a watch alone. A sequel has already been greenlit.

Danny Collins

Honest to God, the best Al Pacino film since Heat. An aging, over the hill crooner is given a chance to find his creativity again when he is given a well overdue letter from John Lennon. I recognise it's a bit light, maybe too light in subject matter but the charm and against type character that Pacino delivers was a refreshing change.

Mad Max: Fury Road

The one I expect to be called a gobshite for. As I've mentioned earlier, this post is for really good films that didn't make the list so I did view this as a solid entertaining film. I just didn't see a life changing one that others did. Kinda just felt like Waterworld with cars. Not that there's anything wrong with Waterworld (yes it's good) but there was 10 better films this year than this. In my humbled opinion. I've seen it twice as well but not going to be drawn by the more universal choice.


Antman benefited, like Iron Man with a blank canvas and the ability to tell its own story without worrying too much about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its plot strands. Any cameos or in jokes were merely a bonus. We will never know how the Edgar Wright version would of turned out but I found it very amusing, inventive and peppered with heart. Avengers : Age of Ultron was good but this trumps it as the Marvel film of 2015.

Next week...
my films of the year - No.10 - No.4

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Films of 2015 - The Worst

These are the 5 films of 2015 that burnt my retinas, burst my eardrums and soiled my mind-grapes. These should be avoided at all costs for risk of death.

In no particular order...

1. Terminator Genesis, Genysys, Gen... Terminator - fuck the future!

In a year where the geek world reminisced about Back to the Future and the way they have managed to keep their legacy untainted, Arnold seems intent on crapping an Austrian Oak all over his once beloved franchise. The last two attempts (Rise of the Machines and Salvation) didn't do the brand any favours but at least the big picture was  still present. Genisys has decided to basically press the reboot button with the end of a cinematic pencil. I could go on but this movie doesn't deserve it. If you loved T1/T2, you probably have already seen Genisys and realised this for yourself but if for any reason you haven't. Don't. Like a gory car crash, you may simply HAVE to watch it but I will save you the trouble. No one dies! 

2. True Story

Beyond dull.
True life story about a child killer and a disgraced journalist. Because both Franco and Hill are playing against type naturally means we're programmed to believe that their performances are amazing. But I was utterly bored out my head. True story.

3. Fantastic Four

What the serious fuck!?
A friend of mine tried to suggest to me that this is a alright film. Believe me, it isn't. I'll accept that adapting this comic book is difficult in itself. We all flock to dark broody comic book movies and fantastic four is generally more jolly and colourful. With that in mind, director Josh Trank opted to follow the dark knight and the man of steel down to their level. The issues are countless but one is that these four characters are meant to be an escape from the darkness of other stories.
The other issues with the film are pretty inexcusable. Bear in mind I have no issue ruining the plot here because the plot is thin as balls. The 'fantastic four' don't become fantastic until the 53rd minute of the film....53rd! The film is around 90mins long. So that leaves 37 minutes to recover, sulk, experiment and finally save the world. Remember that bit from the trailer where they drop The Thing from a plane? You don't see that because ITS NOT IN THE FUCKING MOVIE! I'm done.

4. Get Hard

A lot of critics commented that Get Hard is borderline racist. I disagree with that. It's definitely racist. I have no issue with comedy poking fun at anyone but the film has to be funny to get away with it. This is the usual Farrell in his late 40's just blabbing out random lines as if that's the new level of comedy. All the usual comedy beats are in there, you see the ending a mile away.

5. Tak3n 

The first film was good. It shouldn't have been, but it was. It even invented a genre (Geri-action) recently replicated by Kevin Costner (Three days to Kill) and Sean Penn (The Gunman). Taken 2 had its moments but the signs of greed were there and Taken 3 took the biscuit. The fun of the original was essentially Mills finding loved ones in Europe but the third instalment brought Neeson to L.A and made it just another action noise fest. Do you know when interviewers ask stars "if there's gonna be a sequel" and the star says "The script would have to be good." Then they come on the same show a year later and the interviewer says "what made you come back to...." and the star says "well the script was fantastic." They're lying shits.

Next week - The films that narrowly missed out on my Top Ten of 2015.

Adam Yates

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Don't Slate A Cake And Eat It Too.

"The cake that was ordered and the cake that arrived" - Reddit User OfficialBigHead

Why we SHOULD laugh at the "hot mess" and not be shamed for it.
Facebook news feeds shared it, the Guardian shared it, Cosmo shared it as well as People Magazine, The Daily Mail and even James Burns Consulting (@jburnsconsult) with all of his 913 Twitter followers found it worthy of a mention in between consulting whoever he consults.

In fact, if this is your first encounter with 'the cake' then I'm afraid you're immensely unpopular online and everyone has hidden your profile from their more active social lives.

For those that wish for a unbiased recap, here it is.
A reddit post shared an image showing two contrasting pieces of cake art designed in the form of Frozen's Elsa. It was posted under the reddit sub forum r/funny and in no time at all, the proverbial hell broke loose. The viral story then took a more sombre turn when it was revealed that the bad cake was innocently copied from the good cake by a not-for-profit charity organisation called Icing Smiles who provide delicious treats for kids and families impacted by severe illnesses. Icing Smiles even wrote a heartfelt post defending the cake and the reason for it's existence.
As if by magic, the mood reversed and everyone and their dog was applauding the cake-fail and the reason for its creation. Icing Smiles even got in the action and explained that although the final product was "a hot mess", there were mitigating circumstances behind the final design and that they are proud of it regardless of negative opinion. The change in the majority of people's social posts is my bone of contention here.

Take @sam_Jordan80 for instance. Yesterday this was posted...

Parents order a 'Frozen' Elsa cake and end up with this... https://t.co/a5ofteVtTe
— Samantha Jordan (@Sam_Jordan80) July 6, 2015
followed by this slight alteration 24 hours later...

Turns out that the 'ugly' Elsa cake was made by a children's charity....Awwww...'https://t.co/GkwwjHIeJZ
— Samantha Jordan (@Sam_Jordan80) July 7, 2015
But there are some people who aren't afraid to state the obvious...

I commend that woman for her efforts, obviously, but I refuse to feel bad for laughing at something that's obviously laughable.
— ℓινι(@ohhbee) July 7, 2015
...and what better place to give my opinion. It is "bottom line scary" and it should never have left the darkened transit van that it was transported in. I too applaud the unfortunate creator for admitting that it was a "hot mess" but the change in opinion amongst the majority of the internet community is laughable and is actually quite terrifying in showing the unlimited power it holds in altering perceptions.
Take the @England tweetgate scandal earlier this week as another example. Granted it was amateurish but boil it down and it was an out of context sentence pulled from a longer more in depth article (which was included as a link) which seemed to suggest that the highly talented national women's football team's occupations were simply being mother's, daughter's and sister's. Minutes later and it was #everydaysexism heaven. The offending post was pulled down and I'm sure the moderator was promptly punished but this form of swift net justice must end before we end up apologising for everything. the art of tone is not yet available on smartphones and tablets because if it was, most of the PR disasters we see unfold would be non existent.
Cake-Gate started as all gates start. Someone opened it. If you don't wish to open a gate, one top tip is don't publish a picture online. Has everyone just forgotten that the internet is essentially just a massive night club and that if you do anything remotely strange or rotten in a dark corner of it, at least one other person will spot it and tell the rest of the crowd what you're up to?
So now I'm being told that I'm not allowed to hate the cake and that we must remember that the cake was born out of love and therefore exempt from parody and mockery.
If I made a cake right now, I wouldn't know where to begin. It would look like the Ghostbusters Stay-Puft marshmellow man took a shit and then stepped in it. But I'm not a decorative cake maker  and I don't claim to be. The mother of #ElsaCakeFail is somewhat of a professional and for that she should be mocked. If you ordered a cake resembling a Disney Princess and you received that monstrosity, would you ask for your money back? Damn right you would. I'd ask for money even if I didn't pay for it and I won it in a charity raffle. It's bad and don't you listen to anyone who tells you it's not.

Adam Yates

Monday, 6 July 2015

Movie Review - Spy

In 2011, director Paul Feig changed the landscape for female-centric comedies with the smash hit 'Bridesmaids' and with Spy, he sticks with his muse in Melissa McCarthy and turns his attention to the James Bond trademarked secret agent genre.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a timid desk agent for the CIA who essentially directs her suave field agent Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law, by way of earpiece and Periscope style camera. They both depend on each other with their heightened skills but when Fine is anything but, Cooper steps away from the desk and dons a variety of unflattering disguises to foil a plot across Europe involving a femme fatale and a suitcase nuke.

Spoof spy comedies aren't entirely a new concept in Hollywood with the likes of 'Top Secret' and the 'Austin Powers' franchise not to mention the god awful 'Johnny English' films. Spy's take on the genre does involve counts of slapstick, the pinnacle involving a scooter pursuit into heavy roadworks but for the most part, the action is stylish and rooted in post 'Brosnan Bond' reality. 

Speaking of Bond, the comparisons aren't subtle and don't pretend to be. The credits sequence is bang on the money, the gadget quartermaster full of snarky wit and Jude Law's character is not too far away from what we would have been treated to if he had gotten the role of 007 over Daniel Craig.

The secret weapon in Spy is in the casting. Rose Byrne continues to add to her comedic repertoire as the insulting villain, West Wing alumni Alison Janney assumes the semi serious role of M and there are supporting roles for Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz as best friend and sleazy accomplice respectively. There is however a wildcard that this film decides to play and that card is Jason Statham. He hasn't utilised broad comedy chops this heavily before although earlier roles in 'Snatch' and 'Crank' can attest that the skills were lying under the surface ready to emerge. Those skills are 'cranked' up to 11 and at times you'll only be able to hear his hilarious lines as your eyes will be doused in tears to be able to see them grunted out. A scene where 'the stath' reels off his many heroic accomplishments is arguably the highlight of the entire movie. 

That being said, if you happen to choose to watch Spy, you are essentially saying you are a fan of Melissa McCarthy and if you are, you're unlikely to be disappointed. Her timing in delivery is a science and her charm can only be compared to current box office king Chris Pratt.

On the whole, Spy has its flaws but they don't take too much away from the finished article. At times I found the plot a bit confusing which is incredible for a spy comedy. Essentially I found myself unsure whether an essential character was good or bad. The third act also wasn't on par with the momentum with the rest of the movie. The final minor flaw is one that is becoming increasingly normal in modern movies...running time. All of Feig's directorial efforts run at around 2 hours and for a comedy that can be an extremely long period of time. Judd Apatow has the same disease albeit with much more serious symptoms and it is invariably and simply linked to the fact that because writer-directors are too close to their own material to trim the fat.

In a Nutshell

The mission is a success thanks to a great field team led by McCarthy, Byrne and Statham however logistical issues from Langley result in collateral damage.

Adam Yates

Monday, 29 June 2015

Gerard Returns to Merseyside

Liverpool FC could be forgiven for thinking that they had heard the last of a Gerard playing in Merseyside however last month, neighbours Everton snapped up Barcelona under-21 winger Gerard Deulofeu for a fee of €6m euros. But what does £4.3m in old money buy the Toffees and what can he bring to a team whose tactics were woefully exposed last season?

Everton have done more than research their latest acquisition. Roberto Martinez took Deulofeu on loan back in his freshman season as manager and he proved to be a firm fan favourite during his time at Goodison making 25 appearances and scoring four goals, his first being on his debut against Stevenage in the League Cup second round. Gerard was unfortunately injured during part of the campaign but returned to his homeland on good terms with the club and supporters alike. It was assumed that the winger would migrate into the Barca senior squad seamlessly but he was quickly sent back on loan to Sevilla where his form diminished and the wheels were set in motion for an eventual Everton return which seemed to suit all parties.

In terms of position, Deulofeu's arrival will provide some much needed competition in midfield and players such as Leon Osman, Aiden McGeady and to a lesser extent, Steven Naismith will find their favoured positions under threat. It would be an understatement to point out the lack of goals/assists that the middle-men converted last season but for the statistic voyeurs amongst you, not one midfielder in the squad managed more than 3 assists and only Mirallas scored more than 2 goals. That is a woeful return for a team that strives to be a constant mainstay in the top half of the league.

With a potentially fully fit squad plus Deulofeu to play with as August 8th rolls around, Roberto Martinez is in the envious position of having some difficult decisions to make in terms of formation and squad selection. Nearly everyone has something to prove from a disappointing league campaign last season. The fan favourite formation would be 4-1-3-1 with a holding defensive midfielder. That would give Gerard a chance to shine on the right hand side of the field. The other option would be a standard 4-4-2 where he could also play alongside Lukaku as a makeshift forward although Naismith would understandably lay claim to both of those, with workhorse-esque performances 8 goals last year. In form Seamus Coleman may also feel put out as his usual strategy of tearing down the right side of the pitch and attacking the corner of the penalty area could be hampered by the arrival of Deulofeu and that could play a pivotal part in his upcoming decision whether to follow Fellaini to Old Trafford. This must be avoided at all costs and his playing style must be adhered to avoid losing one of Everton's most prized assets.

Over the last few years, Deulofeu has quickly risen through the ranks of Spain's junior squads and is now on the precipice of the senior national side. But as former Evertonian captain Mikel Arteta can attest to in the past, playing well for your domestic side doesn't necessarily win you a call up, especially if you play for an English side. Of the current national
Spanish squad, only four play in England and Deulofeu may learn that only an astronomical debut season would break that trend. The ultimate downside for Everton is that Barcelona have a sensible buy back/first refusal option in place if Deulofeu proves to be a hit. With that in mind, his ultimate dream of playing for the Catalan giants remains somewhat intact. 

Some experts and pundits have lazily dubbed him 'the new Cristiano Ronaldo' and if by some miracle he lives up to that comparison, don't expect to see him playing against Stevenage in a couple of years time.

Adam Yates 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Everton: A season in review

A perfect and somewhat overused analogy to sum up Everton's sophomore season under Roberto Martinez is 'the difficult second album.' How can you top what was accomplished the first time round when the opposition know what to expect? Fans who may have been expecting a season similar to Nirvana's fantastic 'Nevermind' were instead given Coldplay's more tepid 'A Rush of Blood to the Head.'

You don't have to be Gary Neville to analyse the change in fortunes between the last two Everton campaigns. From the lofty heights of fifth place at the end of the 13/14 season, the last venture has resulted in a disheartening 11th. A devastating -24 swing in terms of goal difference and winning an astonishing nine fewer games.

The obvious answer to pose for this dip in form is also an overused one...

Playing in the Europa League.

Tell that to Tottenham Hotspur who not only played the exact number of games in their european adventure but improved upon their domestic position 12 months prior. Sevilla last week retained the Europa League crown and yet still managed to finish 5th in La Liga. The hot theory amongst pundits concerning teams not wanting to participate in a European run resulting in inconsistent form is irritating and insulting to those who don't reside in the top four year in year out.

Back to the toffees whose season's only highlight ironically WAS their relatively strong European run which was eventually cut short at the last-16 stage with an ridiculously poor outing away to Dynamo Kiev. Despite Everton missing out on the quarter finals and beyond, the tournaments top scorer was a blue. Lukaku's eight goals was enough to secure the crown which is proof of our dominance in the group stages which made the eventual exit all the more painful.

Winding our way back to Summer 2014 and things were in very good shape and the Blue half of Liverpool were enjoying a rare sight of a manager doing his deals early. In came the familiar faces of Lukaku and Gareth Barry who had already proved themselves on loan. One for the future, Muhamed Bešić was signed after his impressive showings at the World Cup with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However by the end of the first month, it was clear where the problems lay. Defence. Everton equalled the worst defensive start over three games letting in 10 goals. Martinez began losing patience in Sylvain Distin, which ultimately led to him being frozen out the team. The English backbone of Baines and Jagielka weren't firing on all cylinders and the fresh faced John Stones was showing raw talent albeit with occasional lapses in decision making under pressure. The defensive errors dropped slightly as the season progressed but the damage was done and this is where strength needs to be added for the upcoming 15/16 season.

Further up the field, things were much brighter. The aforementioned Lukaku finally unpacked his bags at a cost of £28 million and he was shortly followed by Samuel Eto'o on a free transfer. Fans had a reason to believe and with an energetic Mirallas and a resilient Steven Naismith, goals weren't far away. Even Jagielka managed six in all competitions including a season defining equaliser against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.

Meanwhile, the sensible and exciting passing style from Martinez's first season turned into simply sensible. At times, Goodison Park was unusually vocally critical of this methodology especially as it failed to turn into Premier League points. The Goodison faithful witnessed 7 home runs over the course of the season compared to 13 the year prior and they made it clear vocally that they had noticed. 

What was especially frustrating is that the squad could be considered one of the best in recent years however there were some underachievers including a certain future England captain. As well as Aiden McGeady, Ross Barkley never reached his potential at any point during the campaign. The pundits started making their feelings known and fans began to have a go when Ross made runs at the defence and lost possession.

In the latter half of the season, Everton found a certain level of form but the continued success in Europe always played on their minds. Understandably, finishing 11th isn't all that attractive to the squad's star talent and there isn't a day that seems to go by without the words "sources suggest" followed by either Lukaku, Mirallas or James McCarthy's name. 

Graffiti had also begun cropping up on the side of Goodison asking for the sacking of Martinez but those grumbles are in the minority and I, like many others,  believe that this season was a blip, a pretty big blip but one none the less.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Premier League Goes Bare!

The Premier League announced today that England's top division will be sponsorless after its current deal with Barclays concludes next season. From 2016/17, The Premier League will be the official title of the top flight, the first time it has been without a sponsor since its inaugural season back in 1992.

Sources suggest it's a strategic move to create a 'clean brand' in line with most U.S. sporting organisations such as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball however it will still pinch the financial pocket. The last deal made with Barclays resulted in a £120 million windfall for the Premier League and it's uncertain whether this is a permanent move or simply a temporary one until a suitable and respected brand can be negotiated with.

With that in mind, here are five potential sponsors that would jump at the chance at being the masthead to the world's most watched football league.

Sports Direct Premier League

Funded by a £200 million loan paid through Rangers PLC, Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley would take the Premiership to another level. Match day mascots would be replaced by zero hour Sports Direct staff who are available at an hours notice. 

FIFA Premiership

The one thing FIFA needs right now is positive press and getting behind the world's greatest league is a plum move.
Of course there would be some requirements that are non-negotiable.
All newly promoted teams would play their home games in Dubai to expand the worldwide market, all disciplinary hearings would be resolved between 12-18 months and any side that commits a handball must pay £5 million euros to the opposing team to avoid future legal ramifications.

The ITVBe Premmie

The recently launched ITV spinoff channel has not reached the echelons of success since its birth in October 2014. A lucrative sponsorship deal would be a potential goldmine for ITV and also tap into a new market of football fans to its existing and predominantly female audience. Of course the Saturday night highlights programme da' Premmie would be removed from the safe hands of the BBC and placed on the ITVBe channel at the earlier time of 5.15pm presented by Christine Bleakley and Joey Essex. The programme will be followed by the spin off show More of da' Premmie where instead of the actual games, the fly on the wall show focusses on the viewers of the earlier Premmie show and the everyday conflicts that occur. Think Gogglebox but not Gogglebox for legal reasons.

Disney League Soccer

The quickest and boldest revamp in the leagues history sees a major rebranding campaign as the Premier League becomes the DLS, all teams are assigned an official Disney Mascot and nickname. All team specific sponsorship deals involving alcohol are banned as is spitting, one footed tackles, bad or moderate language and chewing gum. However ticket prices are lowered, younger fans are encouraged and the football itself is resized appropriately.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Revealed - Sepp Blatter's Diary

The following may or may not be excerpts from the diary of FIFA kingpin Sepp Blatter in the week that shocked world football.

Tuesday 26th May - Tough day. Putting the finishing touches to our annual Zurich conference. Had a good dinner with Jack and Eugenio where we discussed business and our favourite Swiss bank foyers. Had a glass of wine before heading upstairs where I opened yet another present from my new Qatari friends. I get into my silk jim jams and get a rare early night.

Wednesday 27th May - I've had better wake up calls it must be said. I had planned on having a lie in but I heard an almighty ruckus outside my room. I poked my head outside to see what all the fuss was. I saw several American lawmen handcuffing my boys and throwing linen sheets on their heads. They don't deserve to be treated like that. One of the men walked over to me and asked my name to which I responded "Sir, I am the great French actor Gerald Depardieu, kindly remove your extradition order from my gorgeous face." He puffed his cheeks and walked away. I shut my hotel room door and hid under the bed until 1pm. I recited a statement while I was under there and emailed it to my spokesman, Walter De Gregorio. I told him to tell the truth...that we welcome any investigation and that we are an esteemed and moral organisation that focuses on the passion of football and not our own interests. I then had a shower, purchased Ru Paul's Drag Race Season 5 off the iTunes using my FIFA Platinum credit card. Those strange ladymen don't get abused the way I do. They should spend a day in my shoes but I assume they would prefer heels. Hahaha! I'm going to use that one tomorrow in the press conference.

Thursday 28th May - I was supposed to be attending a medical meeting in the morning but I backed out so they could get on with business. Instead I read the papers and saw that everyone was calling me nasty names. That made me angry so I got dressed and decided that I would make an apprarance. I went in the side entrance as there were too many supporters at the front that wanted to cheer me inside. The conference itself was quite boring, I played Angry Birds through most of it. People still play that don't they?

Friday 29th May - Today's the day of the presidential vote. I make my calls to the various organisations stating why they should believe in me and my principles. A lot of them seemed scared of what I would do to them if they voted for Prince Ali. I told them they are free to vote for whomever they want. I made a note of those scared countries just in case. I make my way to the conference and give a rousing speech. The votes are cast and I win the first round but not by enough to win outright. I speak with Prince Ali and offer him a chance to leave with dignity which he accepts. Ali stands down as a nominee. I WON! I can't believe it! I get applauded on stage by my friends and recite an old speech I gave last time. What a day! I'm so happy.

Saturday 30th May - Massive Hangover. I eventually get up at 3pm for a meeting with some of the participants in this Summer's Women's World Cup. They are very pretty and have nice bottoms. I don't tell them that but I sneak a peek as they sign a football that will get auctioned off for charity.

Sunday 31st May - David Gill rang me today to say that he's resigning as Vice President. These Brits are so dramatic, anything that doesn't go their way, they get their knickers in a twist. He can leave for all I care. He threatens that he will try to get UEFA to boycott any future World Cups but I don't believe him. UEFA is like Diet Coke...it's full of goodness, causes weight loss but ultimately you just wish you had the real thing.

Monday 1st June - The media don't seem to have found anything to talk about apart from the corruption nonsense. It's exhausting. Why can't they all just go away. They seem to be whispering about a $10 million payment that Jérôme Valcke authorised and a potential bribe scandal but I don't see the connection. He simply accepted money in return for a favour. The sponsors of our tournaments are getting upset. I don’t understand why though as they slide envelopes under my hotel room door most days, some of which have money in them which is strange as it’s not my birthday. I keep the money anyway. It’s always handy to have in case I get stopped in the street by one of those guys asking me to help the homeless.

Tuesday 2nd June - Woke up quite tired today. All this extradition mumbo jumbo is rather irritating. I've been the boss of football for over twenty years now and maybe it's time for someone else to realise what a ball ache it is. Besides I can still give my opinions and I'm sure I would be welcome in any future conferences. I've given all my time and energy to this job and now I should concentrate on me. I haven't even seen Mad Max Fury Road yet for Christs sake! Some of my accused colleagues have been assured by the F.B.I that they will show it on the flight to the U.S.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

2002: a cinematic odyssey

The Year...2002
The Film...Star Wars Episode ll Attack of the Clones

I had successfully completed the first step in my master plan to bunk off school and be in the first showing for Attack of the Clones. Back then I was convinced that the midday screening meant a better experience which I now know to be false. My friend and I had snuck down beneath the window as our bus crawled past our school and towards the paradise that was 'the city centre.' As Samwise Gamgee once said... "If I take one more step, it will be the farthest away from home I've ever been." That was how it felt. Our bus travelled down roads and streets I had never seen or at least never felt as alive and filled with other humans, most of whom wouldn't know a Wookie if one came up and pulled their head off. Once inside screen 1 and temporarily safe from the prospect of expulsion, Clones provided me with one of my best cinematic moments ever when Master Yoda pulled out a lightsabre and fought Christopher Lee. 

Looking back, my school could care less about my dalliances with a galaxy far far away and the film itself was wholly average but when you're under 18, every film you see in the cinema is the best you've ever seen, although I had already disproved this theory three years prior when I saw Wild Wild West. We had all left raving about Big Willie and the giant ass mechanical spider and I just said "it was shit." That was the day I knew I loved the movies.

However, would I bunk off work this summer to see the new Ant Man movie or the Fantastic Four reboot? Not a chance. Seeing a film at 11.30am doesn't hold that thrill anymore and I would much rather see it in a sold out theatre filled with people who may or may not have 2 for 1 tickets because they bought car insurance off a over zealous meerkat.

2002 was the year that my mandatory time in education was coming to an end. It was also the year I discovered Texas Hold'em poker, lost £100 on one hand and spent the next 12 hours winning it back. The Wire made its television debut years before it was cool to watch it whereas The X Files ended years AFTER it was cool to watch it. It was the year Virgin Records bought out Mariah Carey's contract for $28 million, essentially paying her to not record any more music.  They should have asked me, I'd be quite happy to not record music for half that! 

But it was in 2002 that I had begun an experiment that would become my lifes' work. I decided to make a note of every film I saw. By year's end I would have seen 312 films which essentially means I saw a new movie every 1.16 days. That pace was never replicated in the 13 years that have followed. For example back in those days, by this point of the year I would have seen around 135 movies. At the time of writing, in 2015, I have seen 26.

For the most part, 2002 was a terrible year for the movies. Where there was a schoolboy named Harry Potter, there was also unfortunately a schoolboy named Van Wilder. For every Eighth Mile there was also an Eight Legged Freak. 

It began in the worst possible way but with it, an understandable reason. Four months prior, the world had seen the events of September 11 burned into their retinas for all time and most Americans simply didn't fancy going to the movies and having a good time while people lay still forever under concrete and steel. Some attempts had failed by releasing their movies regardless of the tragedy. Donnie Darko had a pivotal and unfortunate scene involving a falling airplane engine whilst Zoolander was set in New York and had a plot that under the circumstances just seemed trivial at best. These fine movies eventually although were celebrated and acclaimed on home video and became cult classic due simply perhaps to timing. The first set of rescheduled releases came in the spring of 2002 and were critically mauled.  Collateral Damage starring Arnie featured a bomb attack that struck too close to home but the film was a hot mess however you spun it. A remake of the cult movie Rollerball performed worse than Pete Doherty sober and Britney Spears attempt at acting in Crossroads left us in no doubt which way we wanted to drive in...the opposite direction.

March was the turning point for Hollywood and for me personally. I noticed an advert in Heat magazine (don't judge me) that gave you a chance to go to a preview screening of a film free of charge. It was a way of providing positive word of mouth amongst the youth that cinemas craved. This was a revelation that I utilised several times through the years although on this occasion I had to take a bus and train to get to the selected multiplex. The film was titled Panic Room and the audience, as was I, were absolutely captivated. It remains one of my top 5 movies of 2002 and one that I can't turn off if I come across it channel hopping.

Other movies released may not seem groundbreaking but had lasting effects on what we love today. Even though X-Men was released at the turn of the millennium, Spider-Man captured the spirit and the heart of comic books and the current MCU should thank Tobey Maguire in part for the riches they enjoy today. Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellarcontinued his cinematic training with Insomnia which was distributed with Warner Bros, the studio he has stayed loyal with ever since. We may have laughed at The Rock's attempt to be a legitimate actor in  The Scorpion King but skip ahead 12 years and millions call him by his real name and that name is now a respectable one. The same can be said for Matt Damon. We all believe that he can kick our asses with a rolled up newspaper because of The Bourne Identity and that franchise went from strength to strength. This also holds a special memory as I have seen all four films with my best friend and we have maintained that we will continue to do so for any future instalments. There is no logical reason for this commitment but 2002 was a strange year in general.

What other year could you watch a film and walk out saying "Matthew Lillard was the best thing in that" or "Who knew Jason Statham was a complete and utter badass?" Scooby Doo and The Transporter being the films in question.

Nowadays we are spoiled with a Marvel film every other Tuesday but back in the day, there was one time of the year when Hollywood squeezed in every explosion, chase and weapon known to man...Summer. The aforementioned Spider-Man kicked it off but in my opinion, it's not summer without a Spielberg tentpole and Steven gave us a thrill ride starring the ever energetic Tom Cruise. Minority Report is a chase that never slows down until the credits roll. It's terrifying, imaginative and most importantly for the summer season, fun. 

July continued but I was not where I imagined I'd be. I wasn't just watching Hollywood, I was in it! My family and I had embarked on a ambitious three week driving holiday from Las Vegas to San Francisco. We had reached LA and my parents were exhausted from constant motion. We pulled into a cliche motel and while my family slept, I walked out onto the pavement not to see 000's of handprints and famous names but gas stations and shopping malls. I flipped a coin to determine which direction to head in and began a walk that would define my holiday. I had been walking for ninety minutes in baking hot sunshine with no plan when I came to a large structure with vicious sound emanating from it. I followed a gaggle of tourists up a small hill and couldn't believe my luck. I had reached Universal Studios. 

The extreme high was followed by a more devastating low...I had spent so much time getting there I had to leave to get back. So I had a quick look around and left frustrated as if it was the biggest teaser trailer in history. The next day I knew what I had to do and whilst the family went to Disneyland, I made that same 90 minute walk to Dreamland. I went on a couple of great rides but I spent most of my time in the confines of the cinema. A double bill that with hindsight seems a entire waste of four hours. Men in Black 2 (rubbish) and Reign of Fire (a dragon movie with hardly any dragons) was still an experience I'll never forget which is strange as I could have been any cinema screen in the world. I made my way to the hotel yet again with a spring in my step. I was happy to hear where we were visiting tomorrow...Universal Studios. I was proclaimed the unofficial tour guide due to my two prior visits but this time we did the full monty. We took the full tour, several rides and yes, another double bill of movies. This set was slightly more enjoyable. The first was Austin Powers in Goldmember (respectable) followed by Eight Legged Freaks (b-movie guilty pleasure). I had seen 4 movies in two days...whilst on holiday. My tally was healthy even though my notepad was over 5000 miles away.

Upon my return to this sceptred isle, I took a trip to my local theatre to witness a thinly veiled attempt to rip off James Bond for an American audience. It starred Vin Diesel and its name was XXX. It's laughable looking back, especially a scene where Mr Diesel rides a motorbike (probably powered by Diesel) over a moderate incline with an tremendous explosion racing behind him. It was forced down our throat so much that the actual stunt was shot from approx 37 different angles and it seemed that the bike was in air for the entire second act. 

Triple X failed to kick off a franchise successfully in the style of Bond which is ironic as 007 was about to hit its lowest ebb with Die Another Day. Decisions such as a embarrassing Madonna cameo, wholly outrageous CGI, a relentlessly annoying Halle Berry and an INVISIBLE CAR!? was enough to bury Pierce Brosnan's Bond where he lay dormant until 2006 when Daniel Craig retrieved 007's balls back.

More box office bombs came out of that year, most of whom I have still yet to ever see with my own eyes. Eddie Murphy's The Adventures of Pluto Nash only made 10% of its budget back and further pushed what was once a juggernaut of comedy further into obscurity and have you ever heard of Avenging Angelo.  I'm sure you haven't. It featured Sly Stallone and didn't even make $1 million total.

I began by explaining my efforts to witness the second part of a trilogy and my memories of 2002 ends with one too. Little did we all know that back in 1999, a movie series was being filmed in faraway New Zealand that would change blockbusters forever. It would prove that if you simply add likeable characters, an epic journey and a few hundred pairs of hairy feet you had a hit on your hands. From 2001-2003, Christmas was dominated by The Lord of the Rings and if it was a sandwich, The Two Towers was the delicious meaty filling. I went three times before the year was over which is a challenge as the film is three hours long. It ended up being the most successful movie of the year making nearly $1 BILLION. 

In a world of downloads, torrents and piracy, there's nothing better than 200 people in one room laughing at a joke or gasping for a characters survival.

And so my year of film came to an end. I raise a glass to the graduating movie class of 2002. It wasn't a vintage year for you but for me, it was the best one I could ever have hoped for.

Adam Yates