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Film Review: Hinterland (2015)

Harry MacQueen and Lori Campbell star in Hinterland

Filmed in 13 days in 2013 in London and Cornwall, with an estimated cost of £8,000 and set over one weekend in February, Hinterland is the directorial debut from Harry Macqueen.  It stars Macqueen as Harvey and musician Lori Campbell as his childhood friend Lola. When Lola is forced to return to London after several years abroad, Harvey arranges to take her on a road trip to the seaside cottage where they spent many a summer growing up. Out of season and with a million years since their last visit, Harvey and Lola embark on a journey of self-discovery where they contemplate everything that has changed and everything that still connects them.

It is easy to see why Hinterland caught the eyes of the judges at the Raindance Film Festival where the film was nominated for Best UK feature in 2014. It is a visually stunning film featuring bleak coastal seascapes and inclement February weather contrasted with cosy scenes of mutual affection in pubs, around a campfire and in the guest house. The metaphor is clear, the warmth of Harvey and Lola’s relationship will transcend the bleak climate in which they find themselves.

Sweeping coastal cinematography in Hinterland

The film begins with political commentary about the predicament of young graduates and the burden of student debt. We glimpse a provocative statement on Harvey’s bedroom wall stating that “we are the children of Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher”. We are promised a scathing attack on the current socio-political climate but ultimately, Hinterland doesn’t quite deliver that.

The difficulty with Hinterland is that is it realistic to a fault. The truth is that everyone goes through a crisis in their mid-twenties where they don’t know what they are doing and wait in a limbo between studying at university and not quite pursuing the career of their dreams. The difference is that most people don’t warrant having a film being made about them and in this instance, it is possible that neither did Harvey and Lola.

It’s hard to take two privileged middle class twenty-somethings seriously when they’re road tripping across England in a Volvo and they have the option of returning home when things don’t quite work out as planned.

Harry MacQueen and Lori Campbell in Hinterland

Nevertheless, Harry Macqueen and Lori Campbell give a tender portrayal of two idealistic if not naive young adults who are on the verge of beginning their adult lives. Under Harry Macqueen’s direction, cinematographer Ben Hecking captured the mood of the film perfectly and I predict that this will not be the last we see of both of these talented young filmmakers. Likewise, Lori Campbell is clearly talented as a singer-songwriter but I do hope that we will see more of her on film. A highlight of the film was her performance of her track “September”.

Hinterland poster

I would recommend Hinterland to lovers of British independent film and give the film three out of five stars.

3 Stars

Hinterland will be released in UK cinemas and On Demand from 27th February 2015. The film will open at Curzon Cinemas and will be simultaneously available on Curzon Home Cinema from 27th February through Soda Pictures, before touring UK cinemas.

Book Review: Normal by Graeme Cameron

Normal book review - Graeme Cameron

Normal, unremarkable, invisible. There is a killer on the loose in England but you won't see him coming because you won't even notice he is there at all. That is until he falls in love with a checkout girl and begins making fatal errors, of course.

Normal is the debut novel by Graeme Cameron and is due for release on the Mira Books imprint on 31 March 2015. It is a small town England version of Dexter or Silence of the Lambs, told in the first person narrative of a nameless killer.

This is where the book falls into difficulty. Without the cold, objective glare of a profiler, we're given very little insight into the killer's motives beyond what he tells us and he isn’t the most forthright of narrators.

What actually happens is that the reader is subjected to the misogynistic inner dialogue of a killer as he lures unsuspecting women into his van and murders them immediately,  or abducts them, holds them captive and terrorises them before he releases them into the woods only to hunt them down and kill them.

There is no pattern, nothing links his victims, we’re told little about his motivations beyond that his father wasn’t particularly nice and his mother abandoned him as a child.  It could be that this lack of structure to the serial killers actions belies a lack of research on the part of the author but it might be simply an opinion that not all sociopaths follow a set pattern.

What did seem unlikely to me were the actions of the police and the manner in which they accumulated evidence about the murders and disappearances. Firstly, there are CCTV cameras along just about every stretch of canal in England as was evidenced in the disappearance of Alice Gross and Chris Brahney. It is possible but unlikely that the entire events taking place in the book alongside the canal would not have been captured, at least in part, on CCTV.

Normal book cover - Graeme CameronThe police become hellbent on pinning the crimes on the killer in Normal but at no point whatsoever do they present a shred of evidence beyond our narrator owning a white van combined with a healthy dose of the great old police stereotype: gut feeling. Again, that might work in a novel set in any other country but roads in England are teeming with CCTV and average speed cameras and it is highly likely that the police would have had a significant amount of evidence at their disposal including the exact number plates of the van they were looking for.

The final nail in the coffin for me was how unlikely the characters’ actions were in Normal. The narrator paints his hostage Erica as morally bereft and quite insane by the end of the book but no amount of Stockholm syndrome would even come close to explaining her actions. Likewise, the detective Fairy would never have colluded with him, in a manner real or apparent. He was losing out to tokenism, he would have dug his heals in and solved the damn case. And finally, Green would never have switched back and forth between mothering him and essentially letting him get away with murder.

A last word on character development. We’re lead to believe that all of this mayhem ensues when the killer falls in love with a checkout girl but ultimately, she falls in love with him. Nothing about his actions suggests anything further than distraction and he certainly doesn’t grow as much the author would like you to believe.

It's always disturbing when a book has a string of positive reviews to find that you are the sole dissenting voice. On the one hand, I commend the author for writing such a vile, hateful character but on the other, I'll probably stick to Twitter next time I want to browse the innermost thoughts of a sociopathic misogynist.

It occurs to me that Normal is probably a spoof and I probably just didn’t get it but from the cover commendation by Lee Child, all appearances were that this was a serious attempt at crime fiction. Besides, there are far better researched, more intelligent ways to write comedy.

I did laugh out loud on more than one occasion while reading the book and for this reason I give Normal a disappointing two out of five stars.

2 Stars.

I wouldn't completely avoid it but I wouldn't recommend it either.

if you must, Normal is available to purchase at Amazon.co.uk. Honestly, I'd rather recommend you read Darkly Dreaming Dexter instead. At least Dexter was likeable.


An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided to me for the purposes of this review and all opinions contain herein are my own. This review contains affiliate links.

Win: HBO's Looking - the Complete First Season on DVD

Looking giveaway

I promised you a year full of competitions in 2015 and the first giveaway begins now! Looking is the hit HBO series featuring Jonathan Groff and Britain's own Russell Tovey. Released on Blu-ray and DVD this week, I gave Looking a well deserved five star review and the good news is that I have three copies of the complete first season of Looking to give away.

To win, simply enter using the widget below.

Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez in Looking

 

Competition Rules

This competition is open to residents of the United Kingdom only.
Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

There are seven different ways to enter and completing each task will give you up to 25 entries into the competition.
Remember to tweet about the giveaway each day to gain an extra entry
This competition runs from 17 January to 17 February 2015

 

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Blu-ray Review: HBO - Looking Season One

Looking is the new critically acclaimed HBO series from Michael Lannan (creator of Nurse Jackie) and starring Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett and Russell Tovey. It aired in January 2014 to rave reviews and the complete first season is now being released on DVD and Blu-ray just in time for the airing of the second season.

Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett and Jonathan Groff in Looking

Set in the iconic city of San Francisco, Looking provides an unfiltered look into the lives of three friends and their romantic escapades as they navigate the city’s gay scene and come to terms with successful ex-boyfriends, commitment, attraction and vulnerability.

The three friends are Patrick (Jonathan Groff, Glee), Dom (Murray Bartlett, White Collar) and Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez, Smash). The charm of this series lies in its support cast and viewers will love appearances from Russell Tovey (Being Human), Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) and O.T. Fagbenle (Material Girl).

Jonathan Groff and Raul Castillo in Looking

Patrick is a 29-year-old video game designer who is reeling from the upcoming nuptials of his ex-boyfriend. He’s not certain if it is a hook up or relationship that he is looking for but over the course of the season, we see him grow from a somewhat naive character to one who ultimately stands up for himself. That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of catastrophic mistakes though and Patrick’s choices in the last episode will mean a lot of trouble for next season.

His main love interest is Richie (played by Raúl Castillo) and their difficult, volatile relationship takes up a good chunk of the storyline in season one. Jonathan Groff is fantastic in his role as Patrick and has the most expressive, seductive face. I’m not surprised Richie fell for him!

Murray Bartlett, Jonathan Groff and Frankie J. Alvarez in Looking

Dom (pictured above on the left) is my favourite character. We meet him just before his 40th birthday and it is safe to say he feels old. Dom is what you’d call a career waiter who once had big dreams of owning his own restaurant. Early on in the season we see him come face-to-face with his ex-boyfriend, a former meth junkie who happily accepted the gift of Dom’s life savings before disappearing out of his life. Soon Dom meets businessman Lynn (played by the ever lovely Scott Bakula) who teaches him that he is not as old as he feels and still has a lot to learn.

Frankie J. Alvarez in Looking

Agustín was one character I didn’t really get. He was selfish and chaotic and it is safe to say I sided with his partner Frank (O.T. Fagbenle) in everything that ultimately transpired in the season. Agustín is an aspiring artist who hasn’t exactly made a success of his life. Something about moving in with Frank in the first episode causes him to push his boundaries until ultimate, he pushes too far. I can’t wait to see him picking up the pieces in the next season.

One of the stars of the show is definitely Russell Tovey in his role as Patrick’s boss Kevin Matheson (although not in the way you might be expecting). Unlike his perfectly lovely, slightly vulnerable roles in Being Human and Sherlock, Kevin is a nasty, manipulative piece of work. There is going to be a lot of drama in the second season of Looking and Kevin is going to be right in the middle of all of it.

I watched this show on Blu-ray and was reminded once again of why Blu-ray is so much more worth it than regular DVD. The video quality allows beautiful vistas of the San Francisco Bay Area and city while the DTS 5.1 audio really brings the funky soundtrack to life.

Looking is funny, addictive, heartbreaking and uplifting all in one and I cannot wait until the second season. I give it an HBO Looking unequivocal five out of five stars. Definitely catch the first season and definitely look out for season 2 which starts on HBO on 11 January 2015.

5 Stars

Own the complete first season of HBO’s Looking on Blu-ray and DVD at the HBO store on Amazon.co.uk or at Amazon.com. Looking will be released on 12 January 2015 in the UK and 6 January 2015 in the US.


An advance copy of this Blu-ray was provided to me for the purposes of this review and all opinions contain herein are my own. This review contains affiliate links.

Buy or Design: Is it worth buying an app template?

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to create your own Android app? I'd always assumed it requires a ridiculous amount of genius programming skills to create an app or mobile game but apparently that's not quite true. 

Just like blog layouts can follow a general, customisable template, so too can apps and there are sites out there that create ready made app templates. You can choose the template that best suits your needs and then customise it and reskin according to your brand. Sites like Chupamobile go even one step further and run a customising service where they will design your app according to your requirements and you don't need any coding or design skills. 

The questions remains as to whether it is a good idea to buy an app off the shelf, so to speak. The life cycle of an app is quite short so you're going to want to minimise your time from development to market so that you can start making money and recover your investment. In terms of this, buying an app template and customising it yourself or paying someone to do that would be a good idea. 

Just like with any good business investment, it is always a good idea to know what you're doing and you're definitely going to need to know how to fix the app if it breaks or customise it further as your brand evolves. There are readily available online courses that will teach you the basics of app development. 

The key is to do your research and look at other apps to see what works about them. An excellent example is the Ubrain app which blows its competition out the water. 

So do you think you're ready to design your own app? Super. Just remember to plan carefully and while you're at it, consult this excellent Mashable article on 10 tips to avoid if you're designing your own mobile app. 

Film Review: The Face of Love

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How far would you go to bargain in the face of grief? The Face of Love is a romance with quite a dramatic twist and stars Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams. It is directed by Arie Posen (The Chumscrubber) who wrote the script along with writer Matthew McDuffie.

Nikki Lostrum (Annette Bening) sits alone in the dark remembering the loss of her husband five years earlier. He was the love of her life, a talented architect who designed and built their beautiful home with the infinity pool. Now the house feels like a prison, the four walls closing in as she rattles about in the house alone.

LOL d25 _126.NEF

Just as Nikki begins to pick up the pieces of her life, she meets Tom Young (Ed Harris), a dead ringer for her husband Garret. Unable to stop herself, Nikki is drawn to Tom and pursues a relationship with him, despite knowing in every fibre of her body that it is wrong.

Meanwhile, unaware of lies that Nikki is telling him, Tom becomes ever more invested in the relationship but what secret is he hiding in turn?

LOL d11 _80.NEF

The Face of Love presents a moral paradox that is wrong on so many levels. There is no credible scenario in which what Nikki does is acceptable, or is there? Anyone who has ever suffered grief will understand the need to bargain in the face of such loss. How far would you go to reverse your fortune?

Annette Bening gives a powerful performance as Nikki, at once drawing the audience in with her display of selfless love while repelling them with her pathology. She shares an on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris that is so simple and believable that you almost forget for a moment how pathological the relationship is.

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Ed Harris gives an understated performance, holding his great secret up his sleeve until the very end. There is just something about Ed Harris - he is like an older version of Michael Fassbender (or should that be there other way round?)

The best performance of the film is undoubtedly Jess Weixler in her role as Nikki's daughter Summer. The scene where Summer meets Tom is simply superb and absolutely believable. Robin Williams and Amy Brenneman star as Nikki's neighbour and Tom's ex-wife respectively. This superb supporting role from Robin Williams was sadly one of his last.

LOL d20 _12.NEF

The Face of Love is an intelligent film that remains in your thoughts for a long time afterwards as you ponder the moral ambiguities and paradoxes therein. While other films might have relied on an explosive climax, The Face of Love delivers a simple yet elegant finale which ties together the threads of the film beautifully.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Face of Love and am reminded why I like Annette Bening and Ed Harris so much. This is a clever romantic drama with a twist and I'd give it a healthy four out of five stars.

4 Stars

Released by Signature Entertainment, The Face of Love is cinemas nationwide and on digital platforms from December 12, 2014.

Check out this exclusive clip from the film below.


An screener of this film was provided to me for the purposes of this review and all opinions contain herein are my own.

SeaRISE Blog Tour: Commander Hadron Speaks

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Timeshift anyone? Commander Hadron sells us his vision of the C-Bean

A guest post by Sarah Holding

Welcome to 2014. My name is Commander Hadron. As exclusive and valued members of our revolutionary TS100 programme, you will shortly undergo a comprehensive induction session with one of Hadron Services’ agents. You have been assigned agent AFOS21XV. The following are provided as back-up notes and will be circulated as a digital handout at the end of your induction.

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May we congratulate you - you have made an excellent decision and we value your custom. Timeshifting is not the right option for everyone, but for those who choose to make the leap through time, a bright and promising future awaits you, in the past.

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The twenty-second century presents a unique set of challenges to humankind following the cataclysms of the twenty-first. Many people find these challenges are best overcome with a move to an earlier time, while some move off planet, and others venture forth into the unknown and select the our newest TSplus100 Programme, although participants must sign a disclaimer as there are no guarantees that life in 2214 is any better.

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As a participant in our TSminus100 Programme you have elected to be shipped back 100 years in time to 2014, together with the barest essentials you will need to integrate with everyday life in your chosen century: a passport, a month’s worth of local currency, plus clothes and personal items appropriate to this era. Please note that oxygen is plentiful in 2014, and your Bioports will not be needed.

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Your agent, AFOS21XV will act as your local guide and chaperone for the first 48 hours. Arrival is provided in an urban location in a temperate latitude.

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Having successfully completed our Language Optimisation Training Programme, (LOTP) you will also be equipped to speak the local dialect of the people living in the city of arrival. For additional support, we provide you with a Voicoder App.

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Any unusual medical problems should be reported to your Agent, and if necessary he will order antidotes. Your base station is the C-Bean itself, which will remain in the vicinity for 72 hours after your arrival, disguised itself as something that will enable it to blend naturally with its surroundings.

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You will each be provided with a Mailboat to facilitate telepathic communication with your loved ones in 2114. We recommend however that you only use this once a day to avoid Consciousness Leakage from being detected by the local law enforcement. There have been cases of alien arrests on suspicion of possession of telepathic equipment. You are also reminded to be alert to any vigilante telepathic activity by your Alter Human. They will have undertaken the switch to your Birthtime at the same moment in another C-Bean, but sometimes participants have experienced intense headaches and other symptoms as a result of their Alter Human trying to make contact during transit. It is not advised that you respond if this happens.

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Please remember there can be no refunds or reversals. 72 hours after you arrive in your TSminus100 location, your contract with Hadron Services is terminated and you have no further recourse to us for technical support or customer relations.

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We at Hadron Services pride ourselves in offering a unique service to the luxury end of the market, and we recommend that you take out Hadron Insurance to protect your investment. If you have selected the Remote Viewing add-on, this insurance protection is mandatory.

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You might also wish to pledge a few extra Bars to our Bio-Offset Project, whereby for every human we relocate to the past who pledges 50 Bars or more, we can bring 50 mammals, 100 birds, 1000 insects or 10,000 seeds to the future.

The final book in Sarah Holding’s SeaBEAN Trilogy, SeaRISE which features the character of Commander Hadron, is now out. (Medina) available here.

About the Author:

Sarah HoldingSarah is a full-time children’s author, juggling writing with looking after a family of three children. They live in Surrey in a funny old house with a leaning tower. When she’s not writing she’s singing, and when she’s not singing she’s playing sax in her jazz band. She says she knew there would always come a time when the abandoned island of St Kilda would feature somewhere in her life, little thinking it would be the setting for her first children’s book.


This guest post was the penultimate post in the SeaRISE blog tour spotlighting the third and final novel in Sarah Holding's SeaBEAN trilogy. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to visit the other blogs in the tour.

1st December – Sci-Fi-London
2nd December – Sci-Fi Bulletin
3rd December – Fiction Fascination
4th December – Feeling Fictional
5th December – Cherry Mischievous
6th December – The Overflowing Library
7th December – Book Passion for Life
8th December – Bookaholics Book Club
9th December – The Secret Writer
10th December – Addicted to Media
11th December – SeaBEAN Trilogy Official Website

Win: Sarah Holding's #SeaRISE Goody Bag and Books

SeaRISE bookcover

I have excellent news! If you’ve been dying to get your hands on a copy of the third and final instalment of Sarah Holding’s SeaBEAN trilogy then you’re in luck because this month I’m running a huge SeaRISE giveaway!

SeaRISE is out now and continues Alice’s adventures in time travel as she is transported to a fantastical future land devastated by climate change, inhabited by cyborg parrots and 3D printed trees and insects, and unable to support life as we know it.

In SeaRISE, Alice awakens in 2118 in a place she doesn’t recognise. She doesn’t remember who she is or how she got there but she begins to remember being interrogated by Colonel Hadron. Who is this terrifying man and what does he want with her? Worse yet, will Alice and her friends survive this ordeal and will they ever get home?

This month on Addicted to Media I’ve teamed up with MidasPR to give away a SeaRISE goody bag filled with signed copies of the entire SeaBEAN trilogy as well as a SeaRISE  t-shirt and arm-band. There are also additional prizes for runners up with TWO copies of SeaRISE to give away.

The giveaway is open to UK residents only. I’m giving you a whopping EIGHT chances to win using the Rafflecopter widget below. Remember to click on the widget to confirm which options you’re going with so that you can be entered into the random draw. You can earn extra entries each day by tweeting about the competition.

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SeaRISE blog tour

I’m also thrilled to announce that I’m taking part in the Official SeaRISE Blog Tour. Make sure you come back on Wednesday 10 December for an exclusive guest post by Colonel Hadron where he will try to sell us his vision of the C-Bean.

Brand New: James Bond: Spectre - One Sheet

Gosh, it seems like only 3 minutes ago that the 24th James Bond film Spectre was announced yet my inbox is already full of emails about it. Principal photography begins on Monday but I'm sure we'll all be thoroughly bored about it by the time the film is released on 6 November 2015.

This will be Daniel Craig's fourth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 and he will be joined again by Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott.  Speaking yesterday in London, Spectre director Sam Mendes also revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, which was created exclusively for the film.

Paul Potts to perform exclusively on Ideal World TV

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Christmas will come early this year with an exclusive performance from Paul Potts on Monday 22 December on Ideal World TV. The Britain’s Got Talent star is to be the first ever high-profiling singer star to appear on the channel, making this performance a real first for viewers.

At 8pm on the 22nd Paul will be performing three songs, including an exclusive track from his new album, ‘Home’, and will also be interviewed live on air! Paul’s performance will have a direct influence on his chart sales, as a number of limited edition signed copies of his new album will be available to purchase after the performance, selling at £9.99 (including Postage and packaging.)

Paul said, ‘I am so excited to be the first live act to perform on Ideal World TV. Singing on a shopping channel is such a modern way to showcase my music to fans, and I hope everyone enjoys the show!’

The singer first shot to fame in 2007 with success on the ITV talent show, Britain’s Got Talent. Performing classic and pop-opera music, his winning performance of Nessum Dorma, and debut album ‘One Chance’ were a huge success in nine countries.

clip_image002Andrew Gabriel, Managing Director of Ideal World TV, said: “We are delighted to be hosting this performance. Paul is such an inspirational story and is loved the world over. He really is a great talent and we hope viewers enjoy this early Christmas treat!”

Currently, Paul is involved in a world-tour for the promotion of his new album ‘Home’, which looks to be a huge success.

The performance on the 22nd can be viewed on Sky channel 654, Freeview 22, Virgin 747 and Freesat 812.

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