It was with only a small amount of trepidation that I went to see the latest Judd Apatow-produced film. The last film of his I went to see was Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and the less I remember about that film the better..

I was worried that I’d reached my ‘peak Apatow’. Were the films that I’d laughed myself to tears during my teenage years – ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, ‘Superbad’, and ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, only funny because I was young?

As much as my male lizard brain likes fart jokes, and watching grown men blunder in an eternal adolescence, I’ve started to seek out more when it comes to comedy. This is not to say that I haven’t gotten that from Apatow in the past. My favourite film of his was ‘Knocked Up’, which to me was such a heartfelt, bittersweet send up of one of the proverbial man-children coming to terms with what it means to take responsibility.

I say ‘was’ my favourite, as ‘Trainwreck’ has taken its crown. I barely stopped laughing from start to finish, and that was mainly due to the blisteringly funny acting of it’s leading actor, and writer – Amy Schumer. I’m a bit late to the Schumer hype train, which I’ve noticed rumbling on around me over the past year. I’m now truly on board, and over the next few days I plan to binge-watch everything I can find of her on YouTube.

In Trainwreck, Schumer’s character, conveniently named Amy, seems to be an extension of her stand-up routine. A brash, I don’t give a shit feminist who confronts existing standards of how women are supposed to be in real life, and portrayed on screen. Amy drinks, smokes, has a whole load of sex, and works at an FHM-like magazine whose headlines go something like ’30 Ugly Celebrity Babies Under Six’.

What feels very refreshing is that you never feel that Amy is being shamed for the lifestyle that she lives. How she lives isn’t ideal, and introduction of sports doctor Aaron (played by Bill Hader) into her life is certainly a positive thing, he isn’t presented as the stereotypical white knight. He helps Amy discover that she is more than how she sees herself.

It is because that Schumer wrote her character as being more than just the butt of a joke this film works so well for me. Amy is a character that many of us can empathise with. She is potentially every other person on the street, doing ok in life, working at an OK job, she has a good family and good friends around, yet you get the feeling that there is something missing, even if she doesn’t quite admit it to herself. How many of us often feel ourselves in that exact situation.

Just like Amy, the film is not without its flaws. Some of the celebrity cameos seem just a little too shoehorned in, even though Hader’s character is a surgeon to the stars. If you’re nit-picking, is Schumer’s character THAT much of a trainwreck anyway?

This film is a thoroughly enjoyable, and refreshing take on girl-meets-boy romantic comedy. It’s testament to Schumer’s sharp writing that film manages to carry it off so well. It’s full of heart and with some truly hilarious supporting roles, it leaves me thankful that Apatow’s  films may be maturing along with me.

4/5. Go see it now! If anything, for the surprisingly brilliant comic turns from NBA star LeBron James, and WWE wrestler John Cena. Seriously, I was surprised as anyone!

A Swingin’ Friday Night

This past Friday, I was lucky enough to spend an evening at The Proms watching the wonderful John Wilson Orchestra pay tribute to Frank Sinatra, a celebration of 100 years since his birth.

If you’re not familiar with The Proms, it is an 8 week long music festival held at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in London, and over the past several years has expanded to other locations outside the capital. It celebrates many different styles of music, from classical, to light music of the 1950s, to the present day. The organisers of The Proms should be credited with the wonderful job they do of bringing together so many varied types of music under one roof. I was lucky enough to hear swing music at its finest, whilst the previous week, there was a performance dedicated to the iconic music of Ibiza. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world that would cater to the fans of Mozart, Sinatra and Pete Tong.

John Wilson is someone who I have followed and admired for some time, so an opportunity to see him was something that I jumped at. As well as the local pride stemming from his Geordie roots, he has brought back to life some of the music from my childhood that I cherish the most. As well as being raised during the Disney Renaissance, (think Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King), I also remember watching the classic MGM films of the 1930s and 40s: Singin’ In The Rain, Show Boat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, to name but a few.

If that wasn’t enough to excite me, John Wilson brought back a singer he has collaborated with several times before to sing in the place of Sinatra – a man none other than Seth MacFarlane. Yep, that Seth MacFarlane.

So, the stage was set for what was sure to be an electrifying evening. Sure enough, I was not disappointed. The sheer scale of the venue, the Royal Albert Hall blows you away. Th huge vaulted ceiling defies the level of intimacy you feel listening to the performers and orchestra. Starting with ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’, a wonderful interpretation of a classic Iriving Berlin song, we were treated to other classics throughout the evening such as ‘Cheek to Cheek’, ‘Come Fly With Me’ and ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’.

MacFarlane was not the only vocal talent on show, vocalist Jamie Parker split the singing duties admirably during the evening, and jazz singer Claire Martin was there to duet.

If there is one thing that I could find fault with, it was that the show was so short! It flew by in an hour and a half, not including the five encores taken by John Wilson and the performers! I can assure you that my hands were stinging once they finally departed for good.

I hope that you have a chance to listen to some of the songs I’ll link to this piece, perhaps watch some of the videos of The John Wilson Orchestra performing, or even try and watch the entire performance. It’s available on the BBC iPlayer, so give it a watch, and enjoy an hour and a half of truly spellbinding music!

The End of Empathy?

Anyone who is remotely aware of the world around them will have noticed that London is simultaneous experiencing Tube disruption due to workers exercising their democratic right to withdraw their labour, or, IT IS BEING HELD TO RANSOM BY GREEDY, BUTTON-PUSHING TUBE DRIVERS. It all depends on where you stand on the political spectrum I suppose.

Now being the spawn of North-East mining stock, it will not surprise anyone to know whose side I’m on. (Psst, it’s not TFL). I have my reasons for thinking this, and could no doubt argue all day with someone holding the opposite opinion.

This is not the point of this article however, my question is why have so many people become collectively so un-empathetic when it comes to the situation of others? Whether it is desperate migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean or Channel Tunnel, the jobless, or workers fighting for rights they hold, it now seems a requirement to have a vitriolic backlash via social media.

When I talk about these comments, I don’t mean the ones left by EDL, or Britain First sympathisers. These comments are from your friends on Facebook, colleagues, acquaintances that under normal circumstances you’d most likely view as perfectly good people. The narrative I know see has becoming particularly adversarial. We are living through incredibly difficult times, and yet rather than trying to understand the misfortune and concerns of others, instead, we seek out who is to blame.

This most recent Tube strike is not about wages, but about ensuring that workers are insured against being forced to work an unlimited number of unsociable hours. When a 24 hour tube service is about to come into service, this hardly seems like too great a thing to ask. The people who work on the line have a huge responsibility to the public in order to keep trains running safely, and on time. Without assurances to have a ceiling for numbers of night shifts work during the week, what is stopping a driver to become sleep deprived? How is that not an accident waiting to happen? To ensure the safety of the public, again, I would ask is this such a great thing to ask for?

Safety aside, when discussing the tube strike, there seems to be no perspective in regards to the personal lives of the staff involved. Many will have families, children and the huge range of commitments that entails. Just because someone drives a tube, works on the platform or signal box, do they have less of a right to see their families during the day time?

Seeing comments that tell London’s transport workers to ‘man up’ and to just ‘get on with their jobs’ dishearten me greatly. Have we truly lost touch with empathy so much, that we now shout and scream at ordinary people, who are just like us want to live an ordinary life, that is not dictated by the job they do?

I can only hope that somewhere down the line, collectively we can try to learn how to be empathetic once more. Rather than instantly judging others from our own perspective, we can take five or ten minutes to at least try to understand that other person’s situation. Even if for the briefest of moments, at least it would be progress.