Archive | February 2014

Film Review: The Monuments Men

‘If you destroy an entire generation of people’s culture, it’s as if they never existed. That’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we can’t allow.’


George Clooney’s World War II drama, The Monuments Men, is a much better film than what the critics are suggesting. On the contrary to the ‘slow’, ‘undramatic’ and ‘safe’ words that are being thrown at the film, there’s plenty on offer here to engage audiences and feel the struggles of the men on their hunt for stolen art.

The film sees Lieutenant Frank Stokes, played by Clooney, tasked by the president to gather a team of art and architecture experts in the hunt across Europe for the millions of stolen art taken by the Nazis to fill Hitler’s dream of storing and displaying it all in a proposed ‘Fuhrer Museum’. The ‘Monuments Men’ boasts an impressive line up of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban, as they look to find and restore the art to its rightful place in the final days of the war, with Hitler having decreed to have all stolen art burnt and destroyed should Germany fall.

There’s arguably not enough mention of the artistic backgrounds which fuel the men’s passion to fulfil their quest, although the warm, familiar faces with the energy and humour they bounce off each other with perhaps draws us in and on side.

However, the ‘lack of drama’ argument is one which I cannot fathom. There’s plenty to be drawn in by and narrative strands to keep us entertained. As well as the overarching hunt for the art, there’s Damon’s attempts to get information out of a French spy, played by Cate Blanchett impersonating Deidre Barlow. Goodman and Dujardin are teamed up and on a separate journey, as are Murray and Balaban, with their wit aiding the drama of their hunt for the art, and the various situations it leads them to. There’s also Bonneville’s struggle to maintain Bruges’s Madonna monument, which ultimately becomes the artefact which Clooney needs to recover the most.

The scene in which Bill Murray’s character hears the Christmas message from his family, and the carol being sung is a very poignant moment, particularly with the harsh montage of images of injured soldiers, and the helplessness of some people in the war. Clooney’s calm but angered speech to an injured German officer is also quite moving in one of the more serious moments of the film.

What perhaps is most likeable about this film is the story that needed to be told. Art, culture and history is what brought us all here today, and is celebrated across the world. To bring this true story to our attention is one we all should remember.

Rating: 3/5


10 Things we’ve learnt from the Opening Round of Super League Results

Super league is back! And with 6 fixtures having been played this past week, as well as Huddersfield’s victory over Wigan the previous week, each team has given a glimpse of what we can expect to see from them this year. Whether it’s new signings offering encouragement, or a poor start foreshadowing what is to come this season, here are 10 things we’ve learnt from the opening round.


1) The Red Devils Revolution is on (Maybe)

‘Welcome to Hell’ was the message that greeted Wakefield as they arrived at the Salford City Stadium on Sunday. With a whole starting line up full of debutants, Salford began impressively, racing into a 18-0 lead at half time. However, Wakefield responded with 3 second half tries, but with Paul Sykes missing 2 vital conversions, the points belonged to Salford. It’s too early to tell which end of the table the Red Devils will be challenging at, but if this team gels quickly, they could be a force to be reckoned with.


2) Super Signings have boosted Saints

St Helens’ incredible performance against Warrington on Thursday night proved that they are going to be challenging for honours this season. New signing Luke Walsh was instrumental in their play, and topped off his man of the match performance with a try at the end. Kyle Amor also looked threatening to the Wolves’ defence whenever he had the ball, and with another new forward Mose Masoe still to come into the side, expect big things from the Saints this year.


3) It’s going to be a long year for London

Everyone’s favourites for relegation, the Broncos began their campaign with a crushing 64-10 loss away to Widnes. It’s going to be a long season for London, but the fact they didn’t go under in the off season is a positive, and if a lot of their young players are able to step up, you never know what could happen.


4) Huddersfield could reach the summit again

After winning the League Leaders Shield in 2013, Huddersfield will be looking to do the same again, only this time go one step further than that and make it to Old Trafford. Tipped by most as the favourites to finish top, the Giant’s ran in an impressive 24-8 victory away to last season’s champions Wigan. Expect more of the same this campaign.


5) Warrington miss key absentees

By key absentees I’m mainly referring to Lee Briers, whose creative flair, leadership and kicking game was evidently missed in Warrington’s opening round loss to St Helens. The loss of Brett Hodgson, Adrian Morley and Gareth Carvell shouldn’t be undermined either, and this could be a season of transition for the Wolves.


6) There’s going to be a lot more close encounters

‘Too many boring, unimportant games’ is often a criticism of the competition. Well if that’s the case then the opening round of fixtures proved anything but. A narrow 2 point victory for Hull over Catalan, and a 18-14 win for Salford over Wakefield proved that there are going to be a lot more nail-biting encounters over the season, and with relegation a real threat for some teams, there’s going to be a lot more emphasis on grinding out results.


7) Wigan may struggle to replace the irreplaceable

Similarly to Warrington, last season’s champions Wigan may struggle to replace the skill, leadership and determination of Sam Tomkins. Pat Richards is another huge loss for the Warriors, as they failed to land any conversions in their loss to Huddersfield, and will also miss his try scoring record. Never write Wigan off though, there’s plenty of talent still in the side to see them challenging for the title.


8) This could be the most watched season yet

Continuing with the success of attendances at last year’s world cup, the opening round of fixtures saw an increase in last season’s attendances, with 10,423 people on average at each game, surpassing last year’s 8570, and 2012’s 9564. There was a near full house at Wigan, Warrington and Hull KR, as well as Salford doubling their average attendance from last year. Hopefully, the amount of people going through the turnstiles will increase as the season progresses, to give us the most watched campaign yet.


9) Don’t Write Leeds off

Despite winning the Super League title in 2011 and 2012, Leeds will be disappointed in their regular season finishes in those campaigns, 5th. They showed a slight improvement last year by finishing 3rd, and this year will be looking to finish as high as they can going into the play offs. Despite drawing 6-6 at half time, an inspired 2nd half display from the Rhinos saw them ease to a 34-6 victory, with a hat-trick from new signing Tom Briscoe. It’s going to be too close to call at the top, but don’t write the Rhinos off.


10) The Competition will be too close to call

If the opening round of results proved anything, it’s that this season is going to be the closest yet. More teams than ever will be competing for top spot, and with the threat of relegation, there’s an added incentive to grind out results. Expect twists and turns, close encounters and many shock results. This is super league, anything can happen.

Warrington v St Helens- The Top 5 Encounters

When the first round of this year’s super league fixtures were announced, there was only one match that everyone was talking about. Over the years, rivals Warrington and St Helens have produced some memorable and nail-biting encounters, showcasing the best of rugby league. With the Saints having strengthened in their forward line this year, and with Warrington weakened by the loss of influential playmaker Lee Briers, Thursday night’s game at the Halliwell Jones stadium is arguably too close to call. As part of the build up to the big game, I’ve selected 5 of the most thrilling games between the sides in the super league era, and with 3 games being played between the two this year, who’s to say there won’t be plenty more close encounters.


5) St Helens 18-25 Warrington (25/02/11)

Not one of the most nail-biting games between the two but one of the most memorable for one reason- Warrington had finally beaten their rivals for the first time in 10 years, and only the 2nd in the Super League era. With the game being played at Widnes’s Stobart Stadium, Warrington were impressive from the start and built up a 24-0 lead thanks to tries from Richie Myler, Louis Anderson and two from Lee Briers. The response from St Helens came with late tries from Michael Shenton, Chris Flannery and Lee Gaskell, but a drop goal from Briers ensured the Wolves secured the points. A memorable night for the Wolves who finally put their St Helens hoodoo to rest.

4) St Helens 18-36 Warrington (29/09/12, Playoff Semi-Final)

Built up as one of the biggest play-off semi-finals there has been, the two teams didn’t disappoint as they met at Langtree Park for the right to play at Old Trafford the following week. Having beaten the Wolves 28-6 in the earlier play-off round, Saints started the strongest, and raced into a 14-6 lead thanks to tries from Tommy Makinson, Francis Meli and Jon Wilkin. However, Warrington responded with a try from Grix just before the break, and then kept up the momentum in the second half to run away with the victory. For the Wolves there were celebrations galore as they booked their place at Old Trafford for the first time in their history. For Saints it was misery, as they missed out on the Grand Final for the first time in 6 years.

3) St Helens 31-30 Warrington (29/04/05)

Never write St Helens off. That’s what anyone in Rugby League will tell you and this game proved it, with a sense of de ja vu for what had happened at the Halliwell Jones stadium just a few weeks earlier. A high scoring, neck and neck encounter which could have gone either way. With Paul Wood giving Warrington a 30-28 lead with just a few minutes remaining it looked like he had secured victory for the Wolves. However, Graham Appo missed a simple conversion, and a converted penalty from Sean Long brought the scores level at 30-30. All eyes were now on a winning drop goal, which came with 30 seconds left from Long, with a brilliant 35 metre effort which sailed over to give Saints another memorable win over their rivals.

2) St Helens 17-16 Warrington (09/08/08)

A sense of ‘here we go again’, as St Helens produced another outstanding comeback in the dying minutes of another tight encounter between the teams. In a repeat of the game from 3 years earlier, Warrington had set up a 16-10 lead with just 3 minutes remaining. Surely this time they could hold on to beat the Saints for only the 2nd time in 32 Super League encounters. However, St Helens had other ideas, as Lee Gilmour went over the line to bring Saints level at 16 each. Attention turned to Briers and Long. Who would get the winning drop goal? With history repeating itself, it was Sean Long who sailed over the drop goal almost on the exact spot and with the exact same time remaining as 3 seasons ago. More misery for Warrington over their rivals, and more scenes of jubilation for St Helens.

1) Warrington 16-18 St Helens (04/03/05)

One of the greatest comebacks in sport? For sure. With the Wolves having been on top all game against a strong St Helens side and having built an unassailable 16-4 lead with just 8 minutes to go. With the near impossible task of needing 3 tries to win, St Helens responded. A slick ball from Paul Wellens put Darren Albert in in the corner on 72 minutes. With momentum now swinging Saints way, Micky Higham, then of the Saints, looked to have forced his way over the line, only for the video referee to disallow it. It didn’t matter, however, as two plays later Higham was in again to bring the scoreline to 16-14 in Warrington’s favour. With just a few seconds left, surely not. For Warrington it would have been an incredible result against the top of the table side, and only their second league win over Saints in the super league era. With the hooter having sounded, Jamie Lyon launched a high ball into the corner. Albert fumbled the ball backwards into the arms of Kieran Cunningham who went over for the victory. For Warrington, they had lost the unloseable. For Saints, it was a memorable evening, and one of the greatest comebacks in sport.

Warrington host St Helens at the Halliwell Jones Stadium this Thursday, 8pm kick-off. Tickets are still available, or alternatively watch live on Sky Sports 1

Barclays PingIt Advert

Recently my enterprise group at UCLan had a series of workshops with some of the marketing team at Barclays. They were keen for us to devise some ideas to promote their PingIt app. I had the idea to show a group of friends in a restaurant having a lovely time, but as soon as the bill arrives and they have to split the bill, things go downhill. Luckily the PingIt app, and it’s split the bill feature is there to save the day!
The advert has now been nominated for the Young Enterprise IT/Technology award and if it wins will be taken by Barclays and used as part of their campaign. Very pleased! Fingers crossed!