Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Very Potter Sequel

In 2009 a group of unknown actors going by the name of Team Starkid exploded onto the scene with the simply genius "A Very Potter Musical". Taking everyone's favourite boy wizard, throwing in some catchy show tunes and heaps of comedy, the show garnered millions of views when it was posted on Youtube, and even managed to get Darren Criss (Harry) a role on TV in the short-lived series Eastwick.

Well now, they're back to do it all over again, as the whole cast returns for A Very Potter Sequel.

The premise: Voldemort has just been defeated, and the handful of remaining Death Eaters are on the run from The Wizard Police. In a desperate attempt to change history, the campest Lucius Malfoy you'll ever see steals a time turner and sets off into the past to try and kill HP before he can kill the Dark Lord.

It seems hard to believe but this is actually funnier than their first outing. Maybe it's the injokes, maybe it's that we're already attached to the characters, but it just seems to flow so well straight away.

Everyone's favourite characters are back - Lauren Lopez's brilliant Draco, and the simply remarkable Joey Richter as Ron Weasley (Dear TV/film companies of the world: please sign Joey up for a starring role in right now, kthx) - but there are new additions too, among them Firenze the centaur - who is basically a guy who looks like he has a pony shoved head first up his ass - and Dolores Umbridge (Joe Walker, last years Voldie) who will have you literally splitting your sides from laughing so hard by the time it's over.

If you are a fan of the boy wizard, or even if you just want a good laugh I really suggest you head to right now, and watch both AVPM and AVPS if you haven't already seen them (or even if you have, you should go watch them again).

Sunday, 18 July 2010


One week ago from the time of writing, I was in Los Angeles California, in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, having just had the best weekend of my entire life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. To tell this story we have to head back to last Thursday.


I’d spent a few days in Boulder Colorado with my friend Laura, and we both flew into LA on Thursday morning. At the baggage claim a couple of other girls came up to us, having recognised my ALL CAPS t-shirt and wondering if we were on our way to Vidcon too (which obviously we were). We all hopped on the shuttle and headed out into Century City – formerly the Fox Studio lot but long since redeveloped, and now the home of among other things, MGM world headquarters (which is basically adjoined to the hotel’s back wall).

After a quick bite to eat at the huuuuuge mall across the street, it was downstairs to the Vidcon office where I met Hank and John again, as well as meeting Karen Kavett who is as funny and awesome IRL as she is in her vlog. So began the mass bag-packing, preparing for the arrival of the 1400 guests who all needed to register for the conference in just a few hours. For those of you interested, see these photos: - first few - then a few more - then 100’s upon 100’s.

Then registration finally opened, and, WOW, credit to our volunteers on Thursday night. We needed them so much, and they pulled through in every way imaginable. I wish I’d got to know each and every one of you, because I know I would have found only awesome – I know I made some genuine friends for life


After the longest night ever, and only 2hours of sleep, Friday began, and John and Hank took to the stage in the Los Angeles Ballroom and the conference was under way.

Michael Buckley, of the What the Buck Show, and Ze Frank both gave marvellous talks as the day went by – Ze’s keynote address indeed was a spectacular exploration of online video and how the world of online media is continually evolving.

That evening we all filed into the ballroom to find it transformed into a dancefloor, and some of youtube’s premier musicians – from Alex Day and Hank Green to Rhett and Link and ALL CAPS took to the stage for a huge DFTBA Records concert. The highlights of the night included Hank and Alex joining to sing Rest in Peace from the Buffy musical, and about 50 of the biggest youtube stars all joining ALL CAPS on stage for the final song of their headline set: Don’t Unplug Me.

Not ready for bed despite the clear sleep deprivation we were all struggling under, we hung around a little longer as the crowd continued to dance into the night, the hall erupting as Michael Buckley appeared in our midst in the middle of Gaga’s Just Dance and the Black Eyed Peas.

And finally time to go to bed.


On Saturday it was my job to ferry the speakers from the stage to the official post-event interviews, which generally meant hanging out backstage all day, with the most amazing people in the universe – some of whom I’ll admit I didn’t know of on Youtube before that day, and yet who I connected with almost instantly. From stage side I could see everything that was going on AND hang out with everyone too – an absolute win-win if you ask me. David Choi might be the best guitarist I’ve ever met, and Rootberry are simply amazing at getting a crowd going with their sword juggling and swallowing routines. I also got to go on stage and give Mystery Guitar Man his guitar. I tried very hard not to fanboy all of these people to their face, but you know, in my head I was kind of like: woooah.

Then came Saturday night, which, I’ll admit, I did not spend at the concert for the most part. Adam, a random conference attendee, and a few other people, had taken control of the Karaoke room and had instigated an impromptu karaoke contest, so me and all the leaky people ended up in there dancing the night away and singing. Me and a few of the people I’d met through the volunteering – Jess and Lidewij got to know eachother a lot better, and we all continued to party until we were finally forced out of the room (although even then we squeezed in another few songs – sshhh don’t tell anyone =D )


After breakfast on Sunday 100’s of nerdfighters filed into the Pavillion to all watch the World Cup Final with John Green and Tom Milsom providing expert analysis at Half time/full time etc. Given that one of my new best conference friends (Lidewij) was dutch, I knew who I was supporting going in, and I must say, despite the disappointing result, Lidewij’s stalwart approach to the rest of the day was beyond commendable.

Me, Jess, Lidewij, and Chaya went and helped Tom Milsom record a video for the HPA which would eventually help them win $250,000, and then (minus Chaya, plus Cait) headed to Pink Taco’s, possibly the best Mexican restaurant in the world, and definitely the most double rainbow place in Los Angeles*

And then we head back to the hotel lobby where our story began. Just sitting, talking for hours on end. We’re joined at various times by Tom Stohlman (the original Nerdfighter Secret Brother), and William Redd, but generally it’s just me, jess and lidewij. We might only be talking, but honestly: its perfect. And this is after all what conferences like this are all about. People from different corners of the globe all meeting and getting to know one another. A Brit, a Canadian and a Dutch girl, all meeting in Los Angeles and having a great time. This was the awesome that was Vidcon. I would not change anything about it. I cannot wait to see Lidewij again when she’s over in August, and I know in Jessica I met probably the funniest person in the world. She is genuinely genuinely lovely.

Now: JUST GO START SAVING FOR VIDCON2011 AND LEAKYCON2011, which trust me, will be the most awesome 2 weekends any group of people will ever share. And I want to share them with every last one of you.

*Double Rainbow, it should be explained, is a phrase which means: INTENSE AWESOME. It stems from a viral video of a guy who is far too interested in something wonderful in nature which was then parodied by The Gregory Brothers of AutotuneTheNews into the funniest song ever, a live version of which was performed at Vidcon just hours after it was originally posted. If you haven’t seen the video, go youtube search Double Rainbow RIGHT NOW.

Toy Story 3

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

When last we saw Woody the Cowboy and Buzz Lightyear, Woody told us that he would stick with Andy until the end, and that “when it all ends, at least [he’ll] have ol’ Buzz Lightyear to keep [him] company”. Andy was 10 when Woody uttered those words. Now he's 17 and heading to college, and that day has finally come.

It’s been years since the toys were played with, and in the opening scenes we learn that we have lost many of our friends along the way as Andy has grown up and discarded them – there’s no Etch, and tragically no Bo Peep.

After a bag meant for the attic actually ends up in the trash on the kerb the toys reconcile to donate themselves to the local day care and get played with. They get played with yes, but ultimately what they find is an almost Abu Ghraib like prison, run by the dominating and hateful Lotso (a Lots O’ Hugging Bear who’s cute and cuddly appearance hides his true dark intentions) and his henchmen Ken (who is NOT a girls toy!!) and Big Baby.

Cue The Great Escape, as the toys all realise that their true friend is the owner they thought had abandoned them, and one last time they must return to him.

So often, animated movies blitz out the rubbishy cheap gags to keep the kids happy and just leave it at that. But Pixar has never really done that. And they aren’t going to start now. This is a tale of loyalty, moralty and redemption, and it’s a truly cathartic experience. You will cry with the characters, you will fear for their very lives, and you will leave utterly drained.

Having grown up with this series, we were the kids playing with toys the first two times out, and now are in university ourselves, and this is possibly why this film works so well. We have all discarded our toys thoughtlessly, with so little regard for them, and its as if this film is here to teach us the error of our ways.

There will be no Toy Story 4. This movie has an utterly perfect end, and this is where the trilogy must conclude. When Inception was released on Friday I said it had the potential to be the movie of the year. Well, just two days later it’s been beaten by the best of the Toy Story Trilogy. The best film Pixar has ever made. The best film of 2010.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 17 July 2010


Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Have you ever had a dream so good that you really hated when you woke up just because it meant it was all over? Well in my case that dream is Inception. Christopher Nolan has created in this cinematic masterpiece one of the most complex and intelligent movies of recent years, and literally, I defy anyone to see it and not leave with a positive reaction to it.

The story centres on Mr Cobb (Dicaprio), a highly skilled thief who can literally enter your dreams and extract thoughts and ideas from you – the ultimate espionage. But while extraction is difficult, there is a greater skill he possesses, a skill thought by many to be impossible – the skill of Inception. The art of inserting an idea into the complexities of the human mind and making the mind in question believe it was self-generated.

The mind we learn has ways of recognising foreign elements and the well trained mind can put up security against them – projections of people the dreamer knows in real life, who can step in and try and stop the infiltrator before it’s too late. Fischer – the man who Cobb and his team must infiltrate is this well trained.

If you have seen the trailer for this film you will have seen the mindbending gravity defying visuals, which somehow seem out of place in the trailer, and yet every single one makes sense in the movie because they take place on various levels of this dream world, and the events in one are all intertwined with those of the others and so on. Nolan has admitted he rewrote the script numerous times, and I can imagine that every time he made a slight alteration somewhere half the script needed a rewrite – everything is so completely and irrevocably linked together.

The supporting cast of Page, Levitt, Michael Caine are all used to great effect – especially Page, in what will undoubtedly surpass Juno as her definitive role to date – and Marion Cotillard’s performance as Cobb’s late wife is both tragic and insane.

This is a movie which had such hype that I simply could not believe it would live up to the expectations. I was right, it didn’t. It surpassed every single one.

Rating: 5/5 – Definitive Movie of the Year Potential.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Back like a rainy day to spoil our summer’s entertainment, the latest in the seemingly never ending Twilight Saga has just hit cinemas. I should preface this review by saying: I have nothing against the Twilight book Saga as a whole (I dislike Breaking Dawn vehemently but on that more later), but the movies have rubbed me up the wrong way from the start with their mixture of bad script and terrible acting.

Making household names of stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, this latest instalment picks up where the last left off – Edward proposing to Bella, her turning him down, Jacob off in a huff, and Victoria trying to kill everyone. It’s like they just took the end of the last movie and turned it into a full 2hours when it came to making this one.

That being said: it is better than the two which come before. Far far better This is chiefly because of the demonic newborn vampire Riley Biers (Xavier Samuel), a vampire with superhuman strength due to his newborn status, and Victoria’s new right hand man. He gives a superb performance as the villain, and his scenes controlling the other newborns are the standouts from the movie as a whole.

Billy Burke’s Charlie also has a great film – the comic relief in what is otherwise a much darker and more brooding affair than has come before in the saga.

At the centre of the story though it really is just same old same old. The fangirls in the screening will giggle and gasp whenever Lautner has his shirt off (and yes, Edward does have a great line regarding this which I don’t think was in the book – its been a while since I last read it, but if not, credit to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg), and Stewart’s Bella will go back and forth between Jacob and Edward for 90minutes and eventually make the inevitable wrong choice.

The end of the movie is not the same as the end of the book by a long shot – indeed my favourite scene from the whole series of books is missing from the movie, but it’s fine. The ending they engineer works naturally, and it’s the best that can be done.

Now just the 2 films which will destroy the series remain. The Breaking Dawn book remains to this day the worst thing I have ever put my hands on. What little plot there is centres around several scenes which – to do justice – would need to be 18 rated: they are disgusting and frankly vomit worthy - and which will undoubtedly be cut entirely or edited in such a way they literally won’t work anyway.

My advice to Summit: you’ve just made a perfectly good movie, which, but for the fact it doesn’t end PROPERLY (it is clearly leading into BD), has an almost acceptable ending for the series. Please just stop. Please?

Rating: 2.5/5