Archive | November, 2013

6 Ways Dexter’s Final Season Ruined The Series

30 Nov

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A show about a forensic analyst for the Miami Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer started with such promise. What began as scintillating, pulsating must-see TV eventually puttered out into a melodramatic, overblown soap opera that asks its audience to take too big of a leap off the cliffs of logic which resulted in a convoluted conclusive season that took too long to take its final bow.

It is time to expose the “dark passenger” of Dexter to the light by opening the shades to showcase the six biggest plot holes of the series’ final season that stretched the fabric of reason to the point of explosive breakage.

6. Product – Placed Final Season

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This may be more obvious to the increasingly common binge-watcher, but it cannot be unsaid. The first seven seasons of Dexter notoriously featured some pretty obviously generic pieces of what would be normally branded technology. Bland search web pages, laptops, text messages and cell phones all seemed to exist in a world that never heard of Steve Jobs or Larry Page.

But, suddenly came season eight, and with it, a plethora of Apple gadgets and real-world search engines that plopped out of the sky and gave the series a certain corporately-sponsored aesthetic that is so often missing in today’s media.

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Avengers: Endless Wartime Review

30 Nov

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We all know Marvel rule the superhero box office at the moment – this year Iron Man 3 did really well and Thor 2 looks like it’ll be another hit for the studio, while their TV series, Agents of SHIELD, had a huge number of viewers tuning in when the pilot episode aired recently. And while Marvel are also the biggest comics publisher in the world, the difference between Marvel comics readers and Marvel movie/TV viewers is sizeable to say the least. So how to nab some of the fans of the movies and get them into their printed product, who don’t want to mess around with the monthly single issues? Marvel Original Graphic Novels seem to be the answer – self-contained, book-length stories that are written for this format rather than monthly issues, that don’t require an extensive knowledge of comics continuity and star the familiar movie characters.

The first of these is Avengers: Endless Wartime which blends in all of the characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow – as well as Wolverine, who’s currently the movie property of Fox, and the new Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, who has yet to feature in any screen adaptation. The setting is the fictional European country of Slorenia where two soldiers shoot down what appears to be a dragon wearing a tech suit(!). This news prompts a memory from Captain America’s time in World War 2 where he led a covert mission to another fictional location, the Norwegian island of Skrekklandet, to fight Nazi scientists developing tech that could turn the course of the war. After another flashback sequence, this time with Thor, we see where the dragons came from and guess at how the dragons and the tech fused, re-emerging, this time under the control of SHIELD no less.

As it’s supposed to be, the book is easily accessible for people not au fait with the current comics Marvel Universe, and the characterisations of Cap, Thor, Iron Man, are in sync with the movies: Cap is the man out of time, uncomfortable in the future and more alive in the past than the present, while Tony Stark is a roguish figure reconciling his past as an arms dealer and even has the reactor in his chest which he doesn’t have in other comics (and of course not in the movies either now). The story stands by itself with any high concepts like Yggdrasil the World Tree explained in full, and even follows a similar pattern to the Avengers movie where the characters have scenes where they sit around bantering with one another with Whedon-esque dialogue and Hulk appears in the big finale to do his thing.

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Warren Ellis brings some interesting ideas to the book about modern warfare and drone attacks, as well as including some distinctly Ellis story elements like archaeology, artefacts from the past affecting the present (best seen in other books like Planetary and Ultimate Galactus, both of which I recommend), and his usual sarcastic quips. The problem is that these ideas are delivered through some painfully dull exposition scenes that you have to wade through, which is unusual for Ellis who usually excels at electric character dialogue. And while the plot does contain ideas, it feels constrained by its done-in-one format, having to cram in all of the info into this one book and comes off quite convoluted.

Mike McKone’s art isn’t bad but I wasn’t too impressed with it. The book is done in the usual traditional, flat wide panel approach with little style or inspiration to the presentation and the characters seem to possess a single bland expression most of the time. The designs for the dragons with tech suits are particularly bad as they’re barely distinguishable as dragons and look more like amorphous purple things covered with what look like light bulb buttons. There’s also no sense of perspective when looking at the giant dragon at the end which looks like an ordinary dragon on close up in the panel.

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The best art, and the best scene, in the book is in Cap’s WW2 flashback where he takes out a German plane attacking them, leaping from his plane with his shield and a piece of rope, blasting a hole in the windshield and throwing in a belt of grenades before swinging back to his plane – it’s an awesomely cinematic sequence. That said, while the book contains a number of action sequences, as you’d expect, this one is perhaps the only successful scene that captures any energy and excitement. Even the scene at the end when Hulk shows up is barely interesting – I don’t chalk that up to McKone entirely, but is indicative of the book as a whole being rather uninspired and uninteresting.

Maybe non-regular comics readers or first-time comics readers will find this book to be enjoyable but as someone who reads the monthly comics and has been reading Marvel comics and Warren Ellis comics for years, I found Avengers: Endless Wartime to be a very dull and disappointing read from a writer who usually produces far superior work than what’s on offer here.

Published by Marvel Comics, Avengers: Endless Wartime by Warren Ellis and Mike McKone is out now

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Breaking Bad 5.16, Felina Review

29 Nov

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

With all the hype surrounding Breaking Bad, the final episode had to be one of the most hotly anticipated series finales of all-time. It’s a great episode, although perhaps not in the highest tier for Breaking Bad standards. Anyone tuning in tonight just to see what all the fuss was about might not even have thought too much of it at all, but Felina isn’t for them. For all the fans who have stuck with the show since the beginning and withstood its heartbreaking emotional unpredictability, Felina is a welcome, satisfying conclusion.

At the end of the episode, a title card even thanks the fans for helping make the show what it was. The show’s been good since long before it had a big fan base, but in later seasons especially it really did grow into a juggernaut partly due to the eager recommendations of its fans. Picking on Breaking Bad fans for their enthusiasm even became a popular internet trope. We’re like Ron Paul supporters; we just have to proselytize. I, for one, feel entitled to that.

Sincere and welcome bits of fan service pepper the episode. Prior to Felina’s airing, I joked to my friends it’d be a clip show a la Seinfeld’s finale. Obviously that doesn’t happen, but we do get a number of well-placed, emotional flashbacks. There are subtle nods to past moments, even totally inconspicuous ones like Walt tapping the meter on a tank in the meth lab. Not only are most of the loose ends tied up neatly, but fan favorite characters I didn’t expect to see again show up and we even revisit Hank in a flashback to the very first time Walt’s eyes opened up to the possibility of making money cooking meth.

Actually, undoubtedly the weakest aspect of Felina is its predictability. I’ll try to save most of the spoilers for later, but basically, if you predicted an ending based on the most obvious clues you were probably pretty much right. For a show driven by twists and changes in direction, it’s slightly disappointing. Yet it’s hard to seriously hold that against it. This is the finale; there’s nothing left to drive towards. Vince Gilligan carefully crafted an episode of Breaking Bad that, for once, met audience expectations. It makes for an extremely satisfying finish.

But it isn’t immediately obvious things will turn out that way. Granite State carried just enough ambiguity in its ending to make it unclear whether we’d be seeing redemptive Walt or a full-blown villain Heisenberg in the finale. While I didn’t imagine Walt harming Gretchen and Elliott, the scene at their house makes you wonder. There’s a Clockwork Orange vibe, with sociopath Walt casually strolling around in their home as classical music dances through the hallways. I don’t know who it is that’s playing, but if it’s Beethoven then the allusion must be intentional. But I applaud this use of Gretchen and Elliott; they provide the perfect, plot-sensible vehicle for Walt to see to it that his money gets to his kids.

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When the two red dots appear on the Schwartz’s chests, it’s the jumpiest moment of the episode. It also makes Walt’s seemingly casual observation that their house faces east that much more chilling. For a moment it does seem like Walt is in full-blown villain mode. That sense of Heisenberg as a fully arrived super villain quickly vanishes, though, when his snipers turn out to be Badger and Skinny Pete using laser pointers. Right down to the very end the show maintains its dark sense of humor, with Skinny Pete wondering if what they’re doing isn’t “kinda shady, like, morality-wise.” $100,000 makes him feel OK with it. His and Badger’s inclusion in the episode is a fantastic tribute to the fans, but it’s a little hard to believe story-wise. For one thing, the characters have not been typically painted as especially competent, so hitting their laser pointers right on the mark from such a distance is a bit of a stretch. So, too, is it tough to imagine how Walt found and recruited them in the first place. It’d make for a funny deleted scene. But it’s easy to be forgiving of that imagination stretch for the sake of seeing favorite characters one last time.

Walt also gets the chance to give his family a more proper farewell. One of the most revealing parts of his visit to Skyler’s house is that the voicemail is no longer her chipper greeting but the machine’s built-in recording. Also tellingly, Marie is no longer wearing purple – she’s certainly been changed by the introduction of Heisenberg into her life. But her continuing communication with Skyler is a promising sign that what’s left of Walt’s family is going to stick together. Walt even gives Skyler the location of Hank and Gomez’s bodies and finally lets her know what happened at To’hajiilee, allowing for some painful closure (although those bodies, being buried in the desert for months, have got to be pretty gross by now). It’s also nice that Walt gets to see Junior one last time, from a distance, but it’s a little puzzling why Junior is riding the bus. Perhaps the sensible assumption is that he got rid of his car knowing it was bought with drug money.

But it’s Walt’s conversation with Skyler that is the real emotional core of the episode. The camera is positioned during much of their conversation so that the pillar that obscured Walt at the beginning of the scene divides them. It’s obvious that it’s too late for Walt to make amends; he doesn’t even try. He begins what sounds at first like yet another, “I did everything for my family” speech. As Skyler cuts him off he surprises her by instead saying, “I did it for me.” That first couple hundred grand may have been for the family, but the more Walt insisted on being seen as a provider the thinner the excuse became. He admits that he enjoyed being Heisenberg. He liked that he was good at it and he felt alive doing it. That simple admission is probably the best summation there can be of the completeness of the character’s arc. It destroys any division that existed between Walter White and Heisenberg; he tells Skyler this with just about the same casual, half-guilty inflection he used when he admitted to smoking marijuana and liking it in the first season.

A flashback in the episode shows Jesse daydreaming, or perhaps hallucinating, about the box he made for his mother in high school that he ended up trading for drugs. Fans wanted to see some of Jesse in high school and although he isn't in Mr. White's class, it's a touching reminder that Walt's isn't the only tragic journey the show has chronicled.

A flashback in the episode shows Jesse daydreaming, or perhaps hallucinating, about the box he made for his mother in high school that he ended up trading for drugs. Fans wanted to see some of Jesse in high school and although he isn’t in Mr. White’s class, it’s a touching reminder that Walt’s isn’t the only tragic journey the show has chronicled.

With his family business handled, Walt prepares to meet his destiny. The way Walt dispatches with the neo-Nazis ranks right up there with setting off the mercury fulminate at Tuco’s and blowing half of Gus’s face off. Leading up to this episode I had my doubts that Walt planned to use the M60 on the neo-Nazis because he’d still be hopelessly outgunned. When we see Walt tinkering with a robot in the desert, we know what he’ll get his assist from. It ends up being science that saves the day after all – and a robot, just like Jesse wanted way back in the second season to get them out of the desert.

While it’s plenty macho, there’s a little bit of sloppiness to the final scene. For one thing, if the neo-Nazis are going to bother inspecting both Walt and his car so thoroughly, why on earth would they skip over the trunk? Walt must have known Jesse and Jack were not true partners even if he knew Jesse was behind the cook because Jesse would never team up with such sadistic villains, but nowhere do we see that thought process carried out. It seems Walt truly believes they’re partners, but the way he needles Jack about it – and he needs to needle Jack to buy himself the opening he needs to grab the remote for his gun – says otherwise. And the fact that out of a roomful of people, the four main characters are the only ones still breathing when the gun stops firing is great for the plot, but not for believability.

Nonetheless, it’s still pretty damn well-executed and fun to watch. Seeing Jesse take out Todd is utterly gratifying, a pure catharsis. Another brilliant piece of writing is Walt putting the last bullet in Jack’s head before Jack can spit out the location of the remainder of Walt’s money. Walt not only doesn’t need it, he doesn’t want it. And, like many fans predicted, Walt poisons Lydia by putting ricin “in that Stevia crap” she’s always putting in her tea. Every one of these deaths and the subsequent final standoff between Jesse and Walt not only works in the context of the show, it provides the right character his right redemption in a way that is totally pleasing to fan expectations. Sadly, whether an oversight or an omission due to lack of time, Brock’s status is not addressed. I suppose most people will imagine that Jesse, who drives away from the neo-Nazi compound with the thrill of life filling him once more, will see that he’s taken care of somehow.

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The closing song is a little jarring. Aside from the opening lyric, it doesn’t really make a heck of a lot of sense. The song in the teaser is better, and also contains an apt lyric: “Maybe tomorrow a bullet may find me.” It’s fitting to see Walt, dying or dead from a bullet he took out of his own M60, lying on the floor of a meth laboratory as the series closes. Whether he dies in this scene or not, the story of the great Heisenberg is certainly come to a definitive close. His family is safe from prosecution and all his work as Heisenberg was not for nothing. Still, I wish we knew for sure whether Walt survives that gunshot wound or not. It may be classy to end such a powerful artistic statement as Breaking Bad with a question mark, but with everything else pretty neatly wrapped up I wish they didn’t dangle Walt’s fate.

While it may not have been as unpredictable and wild an episode as some others in the series, Felina didn’t need to be. The bad guys get their comeuppance and no one else who’s innocent suffers. I’m thankful the show didn’t try to do anything outrageous or unpredictable with this last episode. It doesn’t really give us anything we didn’t see coming (although the M60 contraption is sure to be a series milestone), but it’s as close to a happy ending as the series had any chance of having.

It’s bittersweet to see the show go. It already feels nostalgic. There’s no doubt every participant knew they were part of something special. You can see it in the blooper reels. No matter how severe the scene, they are having fun. Every actor will be defined by what they did in this show forever, and although Aaron Paul will probably get tired of people yelling “Bitch!” at him on the street, he and everyone else deserve tremendous praise for their work on the show. Breaking Bad brought characters to life, made an audience feel for them, jolted and surprised and amused us for years.

So is Breaking Bad the greatest show ever? Such a distinction is probably impossible to make, but people will be arguing very persuasively in its favor for a long time to come. Felina is a perfectly satisfying wrap to a perfectly satisfying series, a closing chapter that makes Breaking Bad one of the most complete and rich stories ever told in the medium of television.

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Is A NFL UK Franchise On The Horizon?

29 Nov

Nfl Uk Franchise

Sunday’s match-up at Wembley placed the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Minnesota Vikings, and talk of the possibilities for the NFL in this country are endless.

The growth of American Football in the United Kingdom has been extraordinary ever since the first International Series game took place at the national stadium back in 2007.

In fact there was a significant fan base prior to the first regular season game outside of North America six years ago. Exhibition games took place at the ‘old’ Wembley from 1986 to the early 1990s, and Channel 4 was showing games during the 1980s as well.

However, it has gone from strength to strength. Saturday’s NFL Block Party in Regent Street attracted half a million visitors who were treated to performances from the Vikings cheerleaders and appearances of the coaches and players from the respective teams, all the while tucking into some traditional American food.

The first of two International Series matches on Sunday will play host to a full house in which every NFL team’s jersey will be represented.

This is not just about the two teams taking part. It is a celebration of American Football on this side of the pond.

Next month the San Francisco 49ers who lost last season’s Super Bowl will play the Jacksonville Jaguars, marking a second game in the same season to be held in this country for the first time.

The Jaguars themselves will come over annually for one game over the next four years through 2016 which firmly signals the intent of league bosses. This could be happening.

Unsurprisingly, the demand and interest in the NFL is sky high and has led some to ask the question about the viability of a franchise in the future.

A few years ago this seemed a long shot but commissioner Roger Goodell has his sights firmly fixed on this side of the Atlantic, leaving many to believe that we will see a team playing home games at Wembley sooner rather than later.

Talks are reportedly already ongoing regarding the possibility of increasing the number of games next year to 3, particularly as tickets for these two games sold out exceptionally fast, inside two weeks of being released in fact. League executives have gone from seeing the possibility of a British franchise as an “if” to a “when” something that could happen within the next decade.

Logistically there are problems. The most obvious of those is the distance that teams of travelling on the road, not to mention the adjustment in time difference they would have to go through. Moreover, would players of the existing franchise (most likely the Jaguars of possibly Rams due to Stan Kroenke’s connection to Arsenal) be willing to relocate to another country, and leave behind their way of life?

Then you have the time difference. Would the NFL give London games prime time billing? Would they feature on the flagship slots such as Thursday Night Football or the late Sunday game (8pm ET in the US)? I am not so sure.

I am a huge advocate for American Football in this country. However the vast majority of UK or European (yes there are a lot of German fans in particular) supporters follow an existing team in the NFL. Would they be willing to lend support to this new team?

Opponents to relocation to London talk of these issues above. It has one thing going for it though. The overseas market is largely untapped and it is not hard to see why NFL executives have become so transfixed on its numerous possibilities, not just from a marketing standpoint.

Yet, relocating a team leaves an existing fan base in the cold. It happened when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis. It happened when Art Modell took the original Cleveland Browns to Baltimore to form today’s Ravens.

London makes more sense than Jacksonville. It is a hive of activity, its big for business and its recognisable. A franchise is the next phase of international growth for the game. Goodell has made it clear they are looking into this possibility.

Perhaps we might see an NFL franchise return to Los Angeles before one moves to London, but it can hardly be dismissed anymore. Expansion of the league from 32 teams may also happen.

In the long term, is a franchise sustainable? This is why they are keen to see if the support is there for 3, 4 possibly 5 or more games in the future. This is not a decision they are going to make overnight.

My biggest criticism of a possible franchise in this country is that realistically American Football is never going to be more popular than Football is it? Even Cricket, Tennis, Golf and Rugby are well supported. American Football ranks around 6th or 7th on this list in terms of popularity.

Additionally, the spectacle of the International Series in October (or in this case September!) of every year is a major event on the league calendar. It is something that every British NFL fan looks forward to. The event itself is phenomenal and many have likened it as having a mini Super Bowl feel to it. It is like nothing I have ever experienced before.

In many ways this uniqueness could be lost if we suddenly had a permanent team on these shores.

Steelers Safety Ryan Clark echoed a real issue this week by stating he would retire before playing for a London NFL team. Do not get me wrong, this was said a little tongue in cheek, and you only have to listen to some of the interviews with players and coaches who are amazed by the welcome and support they have during their time in the UK. Bengals Tackle Andrew Whitworth and Vikings Defensive End Jared Allen – one of the stars on show on Sunday – have both dismissed the idea as well.

Its a growing list in truth.

There are problems with the idea of a team over here. There really are. Many critics have argued the NFL should export to Canada before it considers Britain.

Then you have the stumbling block in which 24 of the 32 owners would have to agree to the move before it could happen. The NFL wants this, that is clear. It might not be allowed to happen though, despite support last year from Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft.

I believe we will at the very least see more games in the future, games that will not necessarily be played at Wembley Stadium. That is a real positive for a fan base which continues to grow in the UK, particularly from a participation level where there are now over 6,500 members of the British American Football Association, and a 50% increase for University teams.

This support must first prove itself before eight games a season and a franchise are evenly remotely possible. The strength of the support has not been questioned, but the desire for a franchise has. You only have to visit the NFL UK forum to know there are some fans who openly are against the idea.

Wembley hosting a Super Bowl in the future has been touted as a possibility too. There was also a major step forward in that the International Series will be broadcast on freeview (Channel 4) for the first time ever this year, one again highlighting the increasing demand for gridiron action over here.

On one hand an UK franchise would be a brilliant thing. On the other, will it ever grow to dominate popularity in this country to rival traditional Football?

Gone are the days when people laughed at the possibility of a team permanently basing itself outside of America. The NFL is committed to the UK and it is showing that with the inevitable announcement of more games next year, and the year after and so on.

Ultimately this decision is in the hands of the NFL and the league’s commissioner Goodell. Franchise or no franchise, the International Series continues to serve as a reminder that the NFL may be here to stay for longer than most could have imagined. Whether we have a team to accompany this is anyone’s guess, but this is a decision they are not taking likely.

These are genuine discussions, and issues aside, the UK and Europe continue to give the league food for thought.

London Jaguars? It does have a ring to it!

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The Hoosiers – Live Review

28 Nov

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A once loved band but unfortunately forgotten about, The Hoosiers are back to show the world that they mean business.

It’s been a rough but prosperous few years for The Hoosiers. Concerning their departure from Sony Records in 2011 due to a dispute over the release of their second album ‘The Illusion of Safety’ in 2010 (re-released as ‘Bumpy Ride’ in 2011), caused the album to have a hit and miss reaction. Although the single ‘Choices’ reached #11 in the UK Singles chart in 2010, the rest of the album struggled to make sales. I’d personally like to think their albums success reflects on the answer to the question, ‘name a Hoosier song’, where still most responses would still be ‘Goodbye Mr A’ or ‘Cops and Robbers’, ultimately due to those songs being from their #1 album. From seeing them perform first hand earlier this week at Oxford Street’s The 100 Club, I would definitely say this is about to change. Although slightly different from what we know as The Hoosiers, their latest album ‘The News From Nowhere’ is definitely a game changer for them.

For those who have not experienced The 100 Club as a venue, it is definitely a recommended establishment for any band or viewer to come and check out when in London. Not thinking about the much larger arenas or festivals like Wembley or the recently iTunes festival, The 100 Club is exactly what you want from a night of music. Affordability, sound quality and intimacy. Although saying that, maybe it was just The Hoosiers putting on such a great show.

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Creating an initial awe from the moment that they stepped on stage, I feel that I speak for everyone when I say they performed almost flawlessly. I should mention as well, I have never seen such a well dressed band. An odd comment? But illustrative to this article nonetheless. Playing everyones favourites, ‘Worried about Ray’, ‘Cops and Robbers’, ‘Choices’, and even new material, The Hoosiers seemed to make an easy (and sweaty) job of keeping the audience on their toes. As intimate as the gig went with possibly 100 people at most (whey!), they seemed to thrive off the fact they could engage more with a substantially smaller audience from what their probably used to.

Debuting their new single, ‘Somewhere in the Distance’ gave serious insight into their new album to be released March 2014. Potentially one of my favourite songs so far and I guess theirs too as I think they played it twice? Good thing I enjoyed it. It may sound like a rather stereotypical ‘gig-goer’ thing to say, but it definitely sounded better live. This may be down to listening to a demo version of the track (which is linked below) or this may be the final product. Either way Irwin has such heart warming vocals, I just wish they were more powerful and evident in the studio version like they were the other night. That aside, it is still my favourite track of 2013 which says a lot. May be even 2014 too with the album release.

All in all? I expect any future shows or the upcoming album to re-ignite everyones’ love for The Hoosiers. They deserve recognition for where they have got to from such humble beginnings and while still keeping their seniority, I foresee big things. A very anticipated album release coming soon so keep an eye out for this band as you will soon hear even bigger things.

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5 Best Festival Headliners Of 2013

28 Nov

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As the festival season draws to a close and everyone packs away their camping gear until next year – if any of it was salvaged after a weekend of cavorting – the post festival blues begin to set in. Yet it’s better to look back fondly than to rue the fact the world’s finest music acts won’t be rendezvousing in fields up and down the UK again until next summer.

But it’s not a bad summer of festivals to look back on by any stretch of the imagination. Many line ups didn’t live up to expectations – that’s a certainty. That’s not to say those scoring headline slots disappointed. That would be living under a false pretense.

Veteran headliners placed themselves on a whole new pedestal and new bands stepped up in yet another great summer of performances.

Here’s 5 of the best…

5. Foals – Latitude

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The Oxford boys finally got their big break to headline this year and the nod came from the organizers of Latitude festival. despite being seasoned live performers, Foals were daunted by the prospect of headlining on the run up to the show. Frontman Yannis Philippakis said that it was “surreal” to see their name above certain bands on the bill and that he needed someone to “pinch” him.

The nerves were quickly shaken off though. Exclaiming that it was “good to be back”, Foals embarked on a career spanning set that included material from their 2013 record “Holy Fire”. All the anxiety that was talked about prior had evaporated. During the crescendo of “Providence” Yannis even had the audacity to hurl himself into the crowd.

Foals may not have seemed conventional headliners ahead of their performance but they proved they’re more than up to the task.

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Steaua Bucharest vs Chelsea – Team News, Match Preview & Likely Line-Ups

27 Nov

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Date: Tuesday, October 1 Venue: Arena Nationala Kick-Off: 19:45

Chelsea take on Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League tonight knowing another defeat could lead to a second group stage elimination in two years.

Team News

Steaua Bucharest manager Laurentiu Reghecampf is sweating over the fitness of Mihail Pintili and Cristian Tanase as he prepares to welcome Chelsea to the Arena Nationala in Tuesday night’s Group E Champions League clash.

Both will face late fitness tests ahead of kick off.

Chelsea will be without Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, while Marco Van Ginkel is out for the rest of the season.

Michael Essien has also not travelled, though Fernando Torres is eligible as his domestic ban following his red card against Tottenham at the weekend does not carry over into European competition.

(Sky Sports)

Key Stats

This will be the first competitive meeting between the two sides.

No Romanian club has ever scored more than one goal against English opposition in the Champions League (eight games).

Chelsea have won only two of their last 10 Champions League games away from home (three draws, five defeats).

Jos Mourinho has failed to win his last three Champions Leage games with Chelsea (one draw, two defeats).

Likely Line-Ups

Steaua Bucharest
Tatarusanu, Georgievski, Szukala, Gardos, Latovlevici, Pintilii, Bourceanu, Popa, Stanciu, Tanase, Kapetanos

Chelsea
Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Ramires, Oscar, Schurrle, Torres

Match Preview

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Media Image Ltd

Almost one year ago, Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League, becoming the first defending champions to exit in the group stage of the famous club competition.

That resulted in the sacking of boss Roberto Di Matteo and returning manager Jose Mourinho must therefore be feeling a little hot under the collar, with the Blues slumping to a 2-1 defeat to Basel two weeks ago.

Chelsea are sitting bottom of Group E alongside tonight’s opponents and both are without a win after Bucharest lost to Schalke in matchday one of the tournament.

Both therefore will be going all out to secure those vital three points tonight.

This is the first ever encounter between the two sides, but Chelsea have a few statistical advantages in that no Romanian side has ever scored more than one goal against English opposition in the Champions League.

That being said, Mourinho has failed to win his last three games in the Champions League with Chelsea, drawing once and losing twice.

If these two sides are to avoid being cut adrift in Group E, one of those statistics probably has to end tonight.

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