Live music review – Elton John at Leicestershire County Cricket Club, 11th June 2016

Setlist:
Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
The Bitch Is Back
Bennie and the Jets
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
Daniel
Looking Up
A Good Heart
Philadelphia Freedom
Piano Improv
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Tiny Dancer
Levon
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Have Mercy on the Criminal
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Your Song
Burn Down the Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
All the Girls Love Alice
I’m Still Standing
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:
Candle in the Wind
Crocodile Rock


Elton John returned to Leicester for the first time in 40 years to play to a packed crowd of eager middle-aged middle-class concert goers. The day was geared towards his fanbase – all tickets were seated and it the whole thing was wrapped up well before 10pm. The main flaw was a vast underestimation of how popular fish and chips would be with a crowd who arrived before 5pm.

Elton didn’t waste any time getting stuck into his biggest hits, blasting into an epic take on Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding, before picking up the pace with The Bitch Is Back.

These concerts can always run the risk of such a well-established artist like Elton John just going through the motions. His touring band has been together for a while and have been playing these songs for decades, but it didn’t show. The important thing was that they all looked thrilled to be there, a sentiment that transferred directly to the audience. It wasn’t until he got into the slow-paced A Good Heart from his latest album Wonderful Crazy Night that the crowd died down and took a breather.

The mood was only soured when Elton launched a tirade towards some over-zealous security guards at the front of the stage, who appeared to be forcing the crowd to stay seated. Elton refused to continue until they sat down themselves, and this confrontation caused a slight break in the fun.

It must be difficult to stay in a bad mood, however, when your songs are being sung word-for-word by 1000s of adoring fans, and as the drinks flowed and the night drew in, the crowd fell in love with the superstar all over again. With songs this good, it’s easy to see why.

UK Festival of Zombie Culture (Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 14/11/2015) – Review

I had an excellent day at the UK Festival of Zombie Culture in Leicester. It was packed and the films we saw all had their own charm, though the overriding feeling was that of community. There’s nothing quite comparable to a cinema packed with zombie film fans cheering as a woman has her eye poked out in the most gruesome of fashions.

As is a common theme at this event (this isn’t my first time here), plenty of time was spent on The Typing of the Dead, an amazing game that is basically The House of the Dead 2 but instead of guns you have a keyboard. The goal is to type words as fast as they pop up on the screen, in particular faster than your partner. It’s well worth playing if you get the chance and really does test your typing speed and accuracy.

 

Just a type-ical shooter

 

There was also a charity challenge to raise money for Help For Heroes, which involved killing zombies on Dead Rising for three minutes. The photo below shows a powerful play by my good wife to kill zombies using patio furniture. Well played. Well played.

 

Pati-OOOOHHHH!!!

The best-received film of the day was Me and My Mates vs The Zombie Apocalypse, an Australian horror comedy set largely inside a telephone communications compound as a group of friends try to figure out how to survive and escape the oncoming zombies. A review will no doubt follow shortly, but it was a truly hilarious film and a huge win for the festival as it was the UK premiere.

I can’t recommend this festival enough to fans of the zombie genre of films. With the added bonus of authors on hand to sell and sign books to you, there’s definitely something for everyone. Even if it’s just to confirm that you’re not a complete loner lunatic, make sure you join in next year.

Review of Maggie
Review of Nightmare City

Nightmare City (Umberto Lenzi, 1980)

Nightmare City falls under the category of “so bad it’s good”. Umberto Lenzi manages to pull off some ridiculous scenes but gets away with it through consistency and dedication.

First off, if you’re new to Italian horror, you need to know that it can be quite off-putting watching a film in Italian with English subtitles, especially when it’s obviously been dubbed from English into Italian. If you’re quick you can read the sentence then lip-read the actors and realise they’re actually saying what is written. It can take getting used to but once you’re past that you’ll quickly realise that the acting is about as bad as you initially thought it was.

The plot doesn’t stray far from the norm for a zombie horror film. A group of humans have been subject to nuclear contamination, leaving them with superhuman strength. They are running riot in an unnamed city and television news reporter Dean (played by Hugo Stiglitz) is trying to survive as the city falls apart. As each person is killed, of course, the victim joins their cause, meaning their strength is ever-growing.

This film contains a number of hilarious shots and it worked exceptionally well in a packed and jovial cinema. A frequent feature is the appearance of young women’s breasts. You never quite know when the next pair is going to appear. The frequency of it was a source of great amusement. I’m not sure if this was common at the time but it definitely seemed out of place.

 

She certainly had an eye for detail.

 
Equally, barring the main characters, everyone was completely stupid. Getting attacked by zombies? Let’s just run from left to right panicking, then run from right to left doing the same thing until we get attacked. Brilliant.

Our hero, Dean, wasn’t very supportable and lacked the charisma required to get away with the things he was doing. He regularly screws over fellow survivors, at one point he punches his girlfriend in the face, he leaves a group of people trapped in an elevator. It made it hard to get behind him, even when it seemed he was the only one set to survive and we were forced to follow his story alone.

SPOILER ALERT!! The ending was the kind that all ten-year-olds go for when they run out of time and ideas in a story-writing class. Yes that’s right, it was all just a dream. It was disappointing and was rightly met with groans across the crowd. Nobody’s story was tied up. They just must have ran out of money.

It’s a bit of lighthearted old-fashioned gory horror that will no doubt entertain you, but probably won’t change your life. The ending is so disappointing it unravels any of the successes it has managed to pull off.

Nightmare City is available on Arrow Video Blu-ray now.

Maggie (Henry Hobson, 2015)

Post-apocalpyptic zombie horror film Maggie was screened as the opening film of the UK Festival of Zombie Horror Culture at Phoenix Cinema in Leicester in November 2015. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade, a man whose daughter Maggie, played by Abigail Breslin (best known for her performance in Little Miss Sunshine), has been infected by a zombie virus. Having been bit, she has fled home to protect the rest of her family. The film opens with Wade finding his daughter, who has been missing for two weeks, and taking her home to his wife. It then follows her slow transformation towards “the turn”, and the affect that has on her and her mother and father.

Drop Undead

Drop Undead

One thing we’ve come to expect when watching an Arnie film is an over-the-top performance with lots of one-liners and a handful of big set pieces. These are not present here. Instead, we get Arnie in an extremely restrained mood, and the result is perhaps the most convincing performance of his career. As one of the first films announced after his return to film from his political career, this was a perfect choice and is a great advert for more roles in a similar vain as he moves into the next phase of his career.

Breslin also shines in a complicated role where a girl is facing certain death. Having attempted to go through this on her own, she is desperately in need of her father. This complexity isn’t easy to pull off but she does it well, showing an increasing amount of fear as she gets further infected.

Where the film falls down is its slow pacing. It draws us in at first, but a slow pace clearly designed to explore the emotional side of the key characters paves the way for a few too many “switch off” moments. Admittedly, there is no room for a big stand-off and that kind of thing would have been out of place, but montages of time passing are easy to put together and allow the viewer to disingage for a couple of minutes.

Overall, well worth watching for the chance to see Arnie’s acting credentials and as an interesting angle on the genre.

Maggie is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.

UK Festival of Zombie Culture (Phoenix Cinema, Leicester, 14/11/2015)

I’m off to the UK Festival of Zombie Culture, an annual event held at Phoenix CInema and Cafebar in Leicester.

There are six films on offer today:

Maggie
Nightmare City
Darkest Day
Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse
Cooties
A Mystery Sixth Film

There’s also a ton of special guests, book signings, talks and The Arcade of the Dead to check out. It’s going to be a great day. I’ll report back later with how it went.