Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Young Doctor’s Notebook- TV Review

The Young Doctor is a Sky Arts PlayHouse Presents dark comedy based on the works of Mikhail Bulgakov.

The TV series stars Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe

The TV series stars Jon Hamm (left) and Daniel Radcliffe

As a massive fan of Mad Men I was intrigued when I cam across Don Draper in a doctors coat standing with Daniel Radcliffe when browsing through Sky’s Now TV. I had wanted to watch the show since I first heard of it, but I only recently got round to watching it. This is a review of the first series of the show and will probably be followed by the more recent series very soon (once I’ve watched it).


Danielle Radcliffe stars as Dr Bolmgard, a young Russian doctor who, after passing his medical exams with record high grades, is sent to a remote Russian village to be the doctor of the hospital. In the series Jon Hamm stars as an older Dr Bolmgard looking back at his time in the Russian village. He interacts with his younger self trying to prevent a crippling morphine addiction from taking place. The show is set in 1917 and pans forward occasionally to 16 years later when the older Bolmgard is in trouble for writing fake morphine prescriptions to feed his own addiction.

This programme is, for me, an utterly unique TV experience. I have never watched anything like it and I mean this in the most positive sense. It’s refreshing to watch a show with a completely different tone to it. The show is a black comedy, filled with blood and guts and a tremendous amount of clever British humour.  The laughs seem to come from out of nowhere, one minute you’ll be watching a foot cut off with a saw and the next you’ll be laughing (I won’t give away why). It is out of the young doctors despair that the laughs come. He is a young man at the top of his young profession, taken from the bright lights of Moscow (where he studied) and thrust in this isolated and frozen landscape. He just doesn’t know what to do and when the older doctor appears, he does little to help out the young doctor. The on screen chemistry between Hamm and Radcliffe is excellent, conveying the fact that the doctor used to admire who he was and despises what he has become. They argue, they fight, but you always feel like the older doctor has the younger doctors welfare, even if they don’t get along. It all makes for an interesting relationship, which is engrossing to watch. The other supporting characters are also fantastically portrayed by a stellar cast.

Hamm and Radcliffes chemistry is fantastic

Hamm and Radcliffes chemistry is fantastic

The shows Russian setting is also a startlingly unique experience on our TV sets. When you see Russians in the modern media, they are usually ill thought out villains in big budget action films. But here the rich Russian cultural history is explored and it makes the universe come alive.The Russian soundtrack is also excellent, helping to immerse you in the atmosphere even deeper.

It’s important to say that if you don’t like blood and gore, this show is not for you. It shows very graphic surgical scenes, which, using medical equipment used in 1917, is not pretty. An amputation and a tooth removal bring particularly horrific moments. But within this horror, there are some light-hearted moments, which nod to the viewer, ‘we know this is a bit horrific’. But then again this added to the immersion, surgery in 1917 was rather messy and so it is portrayed and overall I am thankful for that.

If you are squeamish, look elsewhere

If you are squeamish, look elsewhere

A Young Doctors Notebook is a fantastic TV show and with only 4 episodes it will leave you wanting more. But this is a show that needs to be cherished, it is fantastically written, acted and scored by a cast of fantastic individuals. This is what modern TV should offer, thought provoking yet funny, utterly unique experiences. I would give this show 9 out of 10, as I think it is brilliant and quite frankly I can’t wait to watch series 2.

Leave a comment

Filed under TV Reviews

The Great Messi Golden Ball Farce


Messi was positively jubilant after taking Fifa’s Golden Ball trophy


Last night Germany won the Fifa World Cup for the fourth time in their history, but before they could walk up some stairs to receive the trophy, Argentina’s Lionel Messi had to walk up the aforementioned steps to collect a golden football on a stick. Now this wasn’t just any golden football on a stick, but it was in fact the fabled Fifa Golden Ball trophy, which is presented to the best player of the tournament according to footballs world governing body.

What annoys me about this is that everyone knows that Messi wasn’t the best player at the tournament. After he shone in the group stages he was average at best and a shadow of his usual self. It seems as if Fifa gave it to him out of sympathy, because beyond that, there is very little logical argument which results in Messi deserving the accolade.  Below are some players who deserved the golden ball more and why;

Javier Mascherano; he had a far greater influence over Argentina after the group stages, personifying their fantastic defensive displays which got them to the final. Whilst Messi was shrugging his shoulders doing very little in the World Cup final, Mascherano was running around all over the place trying to stop the Germans any way he could. In this way he was far more deserving of the golden ball and was Argentina’s player of the tournament if not the best at the whole tournament.

Thomas Muller; named man of the match in two of Germany’s wins, the gangly forward scored an impressive 5 goals in 7 matches. Against Argentina he was less effective than in all of the previous games, where he ran riot, especially against hosts Brazil. Throughout the tournament his unpredictability caused problems and he didn’t have a bad game.

James Rodriguez; the tournaments top goalscorer lit up the tournament with 6 goals in the 5 matches, one of which being the goal of the tournament. Playing for a lesser known nation he catapulted Columbia into the quarter finals, where he was kicked out of the game by the cynical Brazilians. He truly was deserving of the golden ball trophy even if his side didn’t progress past the quarter finals, if they would’ve, he would have been a shoe-in for the trophy.

All of the above players deserved the award far more than Messi did, after what surely he himself would admit, was an average tournament. Notable mentions of players who also could have won it ahead of Messi go to Robben, Hummels, Neuer, Sanchez and Benzema. 

And with this my final World Cup post has been published and now we all have to live with the World Cup blues. It has been an incredible tournament with some outstanding games and a deserved winner in a genuine team, Germany. Now all that’s left to say is, see you in four years!


Leave a comment

Filed under World Cup

Hanns and Rudolf- Book Review


UK hanns and rudolf paperback final high res small

Hanns and Rudolf tells the tale of Rudolf Hoss, Kommandent of Aushwitz and Hanns Alexander, a German Jew turned Nazi hunter who eventually caught Hoss. The narrative takes the form of an interweaving biography of the two figures. This is done by separating each of their stories into different chapters. The book is written by Thomas Harding, who is Hanns’ great nephew. The family tie that the author has helps to give the book a purpose as after all, this is a period of history written about constantly.

Firstly I would like to point out that this book was not what I thought it would be. I thought that it would tell the lengthy story of Hanns trying to catch Rudolf, when in fact the vast majority of this book is about their completely separate lives and their journeys pre war as much as their actions during and postwar. The link between the two is that they are both involved in WWII, not that Hanns was the man to catch Rudolf. Whilst the book does include this, it didn’t feel like the main part of the book as you would expect from reading the front cover, which says”The German Jew and the hunt for the Kommandent of Auschwitz”. I therefore found this slightly misleading, so if you are to read this book, don’t expect a lengthy detective novel as this is not what the book offers the reader.


The book tells the tale of Hanns Alexander (right) and Rudolf Hoss (left) 

Hanns and Rudolf is very well researched, with great detail given about both the characters childhoods. However a lot of the information about Rudolfs early life seems regurgitated from other sources. The Hanns sections stand out because he is a new character to amateur historians and the authors family ties help to personalise him to the reader.  This book is all about portraying the two characters as people, rather than symbols of their armies or  nations. It is a human story of how one German Jew ended up hating his country and how Rudolf became a mass murderer . This personalised take on the characters is typified by the fact that throughout the book they are referred to in first person (because of this, I have decided to do the same).

One of the books most interesting facets  is how Rudolf Hoss did what he did, was he simply following orders, or was he not sane? It certainly is intriguing reading about Rudolf and the extent of his crimes against humanity. It’s compelling reading when Harding writes about Hoss’ constant struggle to keep up his family life normal whilst being Kammondent of Aushwitz. Equally absorbing is Hanns’ journey out of Nazi Germany and his decision to fight against them in the war and him becoming one of the very first Nazi hunters after the wars end. On top of this there is the story of Hanns’ twin brother Paul and how they constantly seem to keep bumping into each other during the war. Both Hanns and Rudolf are very interesting characters and the format of having their stories told in interlinking chapters works very well for the narrative. This book is extremely readable because of this.

The book is a well written account of the two characters. It’s engaging you and wills you to read on to the end. Overall I would give this book an 8 out of 10. It is not as insightful or as original as a book like Monuments Men and is not as well written as a Bryson, but it is an interesting and personal story of two contrasting characters in WWII. I was personally disappointed with the shortness of Hoss’ capture, which should of been the crux of the book, but was relegated to a couple of pages.





Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Valiant Hearts: The Great War- Game Review

Valient Hearts

Valiant Hearts: The Great War


Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a side scrolling puzzle game available on the Playstation Store.

First and foremost Valiant Hearts is a stunning game. The reason I decided to buy it was purely for the unique artistic direction. The visuals are something of a cartoon, but they manage to convey such emotion. The character design is simple, none of the characters have eyes, or even movable mouths, but they still seem like coherent characters with different personalities. The simplicity of the characters is what makes them. You as the gamer convey all of your emotions onto them. The backgrounds and the environments are equally beautiful. They are very similar to what you see in the recent Rayman games, from the same developer, but with a much more sombre atmosphere.


Just one of the many beautiful scenes in the game

The game is an adventure puzzle game. Most of your time will be spent working out numerous different puzzles. These range from trying to get objects to finding your way around objects blocking the trenches as well as a few adventure sequences. Each of these are satisfying to complete, but it must be said that this is not a challenging game. This didn’t put me off particularly, due to the fact that I wanted to progress through the story, but if you are looking for challenging puzzles look elsewhere.


The puzzles in the game are charming rather than challenging

The story follows the 4 protagonists journey and experiences throughout WWI. The characters stories interlink at numerous points, with them sharing the overriding joint goal of taking out a German commander. You will play as each of the four characters; Emile, an ageing French farmer, Karl, German born, living in France, is forced into the German army (he is also the son in law of Emile), Freddie, an American soldier bent on revenge for his fallen wife and Ana, a Belgian nurse. You also order around a dog, who helps you to complete the puzzles. Each of the characters play the same, apart from their special abilities, such as Emile being able to dig. The characters are simply designed, but due to cut scenes they all have meaningful back-stories which give them unique personalities. Playing the game, you definitely feel empathy for each characters position as well as the war itself. Needless to say this game is a melancholy affair, due to the subject matter. But there are uplifting moments, like saving the lives of opposition soldiers and riding a taxi out of Paris whilst avoiding objects. The game is a human story, it tries not to portray any politics, simply that it was an awful time to be a human in Europe. However it must be said that the villain, the German commander, is a somewhat negative stereotype that doesn’t fit the atmosphere of the game as a whole. He is a lazily created and by far the worst in the game.

The audio of the game is fantastic. The whole game has piano driven and orchestral pieces which really ramp up the emotion. They help to convey a sense of melancholy which is needed in a game about the great war. However there are some more upbeat sounds as well, such as a band playing in the train station before Emile enters the war. It is one of the stand out features of the game and it combines with the visuals perfectly to provide a coherent overall atmosphere.

One of the criticisms I have read elsewhere  is of the historical notes that appear during the game. Throughout, as you reach new levels, notes are available, detailing the actual history of WWI. I find this criticism completely unfounded. The notes appear in the corner of the screen  and you have to press a button for them to pop up. They don’t appear on the screen by themselves. If you don’t want to read the historical notes provided, there is no reason for you to do so, you can easily play the game without reading them. But for me, as a bit of a history nut, it was great to read the true stories behind the environments and the narrative. The game places you in areas of real significance to WWI such as the Somme. This was an added bonus for me, but even if you don’t like the history, it’s not a negative that they accommodate for those interested, which is why I find the criticism unfounded.

At just £11.99 this game is fantastic value for money. It gives you a unique experience in a period of history which is not often portrayed. If your looking for a simple game with high emotion and fantastic artistic direction, give this a try. In fact if there is anyone reading this who is looking for a unique experience, just try it, this game is full of character and is suitable for people without much gaming experience. There is no denying that this game isn’t perfect but it is very good indeed. I would rate this game as 8.5 out of 10. Valiant Hearts: The Great War puts to shame the amount of games being priced at around £50 and is well worth the money for an interesting and emotive gaming experience.


Leave a comment

Filed under Game Reviews

Long Walk to Freedom- Film Review




Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is the film adaptation of the late Nelson Mandelas autobiography. The film stars Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomi Harris as Winnie Mandela (Nelsons wife).

Unfortunately, this film is  plagued by its source material. The book, which I have read, is excellent, the film is less so. I was truly willing this film to be better. Elba is one of my favourite actors, due to his performance as the title character in Luther and at the time of filming he was my favourite to receive an Oscar for this performance, but unfortunately it was below that calibre. That is not to say that his performance was anything short of excellent, simply that there were better performances in the movie year. The book is so unbelievably thorough, it delves into the dark times Mandela spent in prison as well as his time in hiding. The film simply fails to translate these moments. This is due to the fact that the book is so large, it is absolutely impossible to get across everything that happens. By picking the so called best moments of the book, it fails to show the extraordinary life which Mandela led in any truly meaningful or deep way.

One of the main issues with the film is the bizarre way that Nelson and Winnies relationship is portrayed, it’s highly confusing for the audience. Throughout the film they have almost separate, yet parallel character journeys. Both have to suffer for their beliefs, but both react to this suffering in different ways which ultimately pulls them apart. However the impact of their ever distanced relationship appears very minor to both the characters. No anguish is portrayed about their relationship and Winnie seems to not care that her husband is in prison for twenty years. There is no emotional impact, which I found surprising.

The film always feels like it has a big moment, an emotional speech or an act of rebellion, waiting to happen, but I was left waiting for something that never came. There are several emotive speeches in the film, but only one was really moving. There lacked a sense of realism to the speeches, to the reactions of the crowd. Maybe the overly emotive soundtrack distracted from what could of been more sincere moments. It’s difficult to put your finger on, but there is simply no real ‘goose-bump’ moments in the film. I expected these moments based on the source material.

I feel that due to the fact that its source material is so thorough the film would have done better to portray a short period in Mandelas life rather than the whole thing. This would have resulted in a far more complete film. But the director bit off more than he could chew, which resulted in a film that lacked any fresh insights into Mandelas extraordinary life. What makes the book absorbing is the way that everything is described. It is very difficult for a film to portray 27 years in prison in the space of 10 minutes. This is exactly what ruins the film. I don’t know whether this makes the director overly ambitious or simply naive.

It must also be said that this film is not awful. It has its moments. The acting is strong, but then what’s entertaining about the film is the subject matter and not the portrayal. The film does nothing cleverly or nuanced or anything other than what you expect. It is therefore a thoroughly average film. I’m sure people will enjoy it, I didn’t hate it myself, but its just not the film it had the potential to be.

I would give this film a rating of 5 out of 10, as it is an average film which could have been so much more. If you felt differently about the film I would love to know your perspective so feel free to comment.

1 Comment

Filed under Film Reviews