Glastonbury 2017 Day Four: Thundercat, Corbyn, Foo Fighters, The National

A cracking headline slot and a politically-empowering speech from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defined Saturday at Glastonbury Festival 2017.

The order of the day was love, which is apparently all you really need. The Bootleg Beatles opened the Pyramid with a Sgt. Peppers-era set that featured a the likes of ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘A Day in the Life’, though I was personally disappointed they didn’t add the extra twenty verses recently written by Peter Serafinowicz.

I was able to dash across the site to catch the entire Whitney set, which was an uplifting surprise despite the weather. The fresh-faced American band, led by drummer/vocalist Julien Ehrlich, wooed the crowd with their hazy Americana tunes and sarcastic banter. It’s rare for me to get so entranced by a band after just 45 minutes of listening but I’m keen to hear more now.

The Thundercat set on the West Holts Stage was a showcase of musicianship masterclasses, though it was married with a penchant for memorable and soulful delivery by frontman Stephen Bruner.

One defining moment of the day came from an empowering speech from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He spoke for around ten minutes to a packed crowd in the Pyramid and it felt like everyone in attendance took a step to the left, no matter where they started from. Admittedly, he was inevitably going to be popular here, but he’s quickly becoming the voice of a generation that seemed for so long to have nobody fighting their corner. The next five years will be the most interesting politically Britain has seen for decades.

From the stirring to the boring, The Kaiser Chiefs blandly went through he motions of their set to an indifferent crowd clearly waiting for Liam Gallagher to appear. This kind of band brings out the worst in middle-aged people clearly harbouring dormant lad culture personas inside their older bodies. Out come the Kangol hats, Oasis t-shirts and angry alter-egos and, some eight pints later, everyone can have a fight. Wonderful. Liam put in a solid performance, mind you, with a mixture of tracks from his upcoming ‘As You Were’ album and Oasis hits (up to and including 1997 but no later).

The National underlined the 10+ recommendations I’ve had from friends who clearly have better music taste than me. They were brilliant and had the crowds singing along. I’ve no idea how they’ve slipped through the net thus far but they’ll be unslipping very shortly.

The absolute hands-down 100% best set of the day came from Foo Fighters. They performed for well over two hours, providing hit after hit from their eight studio albums and their upcoming ninth album Concrete and Gold, due for release later this year. Starting with ‘Times Like These’, which was sweetly dedicated to Florence Welch, they blasted through a set that included ‘This Is A Call’, ‘All My Life’, new single ‘Run’, ‘My Hero’ and ended on fan favourite ‘Everlong’. The crowd didn’t want them to stop, so just carried on the chanting from ‘Best of You’ as they dispersed. Special mention to Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl for duetting on ‘Under Pressure’, doing their best impressions of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. A classic moment.

If only I could get those songs out of my head I’d be able to sleep better!

Film review – Sing (Garth Jennings, 2017)

Good, harmless fun is how I’d describe the latest release from Illumination Entertainment. We don’t learn much about ourselves and we don’t get any kind of social commentary. The characters don’t stand out in terms of being inspirational, nor do they have the look of characters that will become favourites in years to come. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film and it doesn’t mean that the children it is aimed at won’t have a great couple of hours at the cinema if they see it.

The story follows Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a koala who owns a theatre that is running out of money. As a last ditch effort, he plots to hold a singing competition, but his assistant accidentally advertises a $100,000 prize fund instead of $1,000. This sparks the interest of a range of hopefuls that make up our lead cast: shady mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane) who specialises in Sinatra-style crooning; shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly) who suffers from stage-fright and nerves; porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a goth-teen who is hampered by the fact she is performing in the shadow of her self-centred boyfriend and needs to shine herself; cockney gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), stuck in a family of mobster gorillas but wanting to follow his own dreams; and pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a housewife who is so busy looking after 25 children and a hardworking husband that she has no time to pursue her dream of singing on stage. There’s also a group of cute, small Japanese dogs who evoke the worst of J-Pop culture to hilarious effect.

 

The universe these characters live in is a world of animals that looks like Zootropolis’s lazy and less charismatic younger brother. It’s a shame because if this had been released three years ago, the plethora of ideas would have brought the opening scenes to life, but in the wake of Disney’s triumphant film that is now almost a year old, it just doesn’t quite feel like it’s hitting the mark. It begs the question of which was storyboarded first and was there anyone involved in both projects that might have leaked information one way or the other.

One of the biggest flaws is the casting of McConaughey in the lead role. The character calls for a certain tone of charisma that simply isn’t delivered. This is surprising, because he has developed into a fantastic actor over the last decade, but it does highlight that voice-over acting isn’t something you can simply turn up and expect to be good at.

 

There are some hilarious moments in the film, which is what we’re looking for. One highlight comes from mouse Mike, who at one point sings Sinatra’s My Way – brilliantly – whilst a helicopter circles above, causing him to lift off the ground and then circle over the audience in a supremely stylish landing. It’s great setpiece, even if the build up is a tad protracted.

But that is what the film is about – big set pieces that will be fondly remembered, even if the overarching plot doesn’t deliver any great payoffs. A solid and enjoyable effort that is quickly slipping from my memory.

Spy (Paul Feig, 2015)

Earlier today, my wife and I found ourselves walking on the red carpet, alongside Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz, for the UK premiere of new film Spy. It was at the ODEON on Leicester Square. Here’s a photo of me on the red carpet.

I’ve been on the red carpet a couple of times before and it’s always a lovely experience. Of course, nobody cares who we are, though that doesn’t mean we didn’t ham it up a little. [1]

There’s been quite bit of interest for the film over the last few weeks and the anticipation was well justified. We laughed so much our faces hurt.

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McCarthy and Law are hilarious throughout.

Spy is an action comedy about office-based CIA data analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy), who is forced to go out onto the field when her partner Bradley Fine (Law) disappears and the identities of other top field agents – including Rick Ford (Statham) – are compromised. Going undercover to attempt to infiltrate arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) with the help of her office friend (Hart), the story is the perfect platform for some caper-based hilarity.

I was a little apprehensive going into it as the premise is quite familiar and hasn’t been done well for a long time. I was immediately pleasantly surprised, with an opening scene that sets the story up well, falsely draws us in to a serious film, then slaps us in the face with a huge laugh.

Jason Statham has never been so likeable. His character can best be described as Jay from the Inbetweeners if he somehow became a CIA agent. You can see he’s flexing his comedy muscles and really trying hard to make his co-stars laugh whilst holding back himself. His character is a highlight.

The real star, of course, is Melissa McCarthy. Her comic timing is impeccable and it’s easy to see this film becoming a critical and commercial success with her out front. She has had several opportunities to show us what she’s got, but she has fallen slightly short on several occasions (see Identity Thief). This is a comic actor at the top of her game.

The rest of the cast are excellent, especially Serafinowicz, and you can see they’re enjoying such a fun script. I can’t recommend it enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the start of a franchise.

[1] About a month ago I speculatively tweeted a review of Furious 7 as an entry to a competition run by Stella Artois and Film4. Actually, it was a review of the trailer. I’ve not seen the film, nor have i seen the trailer. Indeed, of all the films in the series I’ve only seen Tokyo Drift. I didn’t think much of it. Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I’ve included the review here, in case you’re interested.