Top Gear Series 25 Episode 1 review: The future finally looks bright

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris in Top Gear

Top Gear is revving its engines as it looks to accelerate full-speed ahead into a new era after its stalled start in 2016. But if the first series without Clarkson, May and Hammond was a *cough* car crash – Chris Evans’ iteration was a disappointment with critics and audiences alike – and last year’s series was an attempt at rebuilding, then the new run looks ready to put the pedal to the metal and maybe even guide it back to its glory days.

It’s down to Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid to find their own identity while winning back long-time fans of Top Gear – and on the evidence of the first episode of series 25, they look very close to striking a winning formula that stays true to the show without becoming a cheap imitation of its past.

LeBlanc appeared comfortable at the helm in the first episode of the new season, although if truth be told, with his presenting team of Chris Harris and Rory Reid, it feels like the three petrolheads are on an equal footing, enjoying their time together.

The banter between the trio is fantastic – and it was an inspired choice to kick the series off with an episode almost entirely dedicated to a road trip across Nevada in tribute to the V8 engine.

Their cheeky humour shines through, especially with a number of impromptu tasks, including a Wild West “duel in the dirt”. After which, the loser is faced with a nail-biting challenge – the watch-between-your-fingers ‘Chain Car Figure of 8’ which really has to be seen to be believed.

It’s not all long open roads and inventive tasks, though – at one point, the trio face a race against Officer Block as they run a crate of moonshine to the state line. And we’ve also got the return of the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car segment, which is a very welcome move.

BBC's Top Gear season 25 - The Stig

This week, it’s comedian Rob Brydon in the hot seat – and it’s worth watching for his commentary on his run alone. Charming, hilarious and knowledgeable, he’s a great guest to kick off the series, even if Matt and Rory can’t resist tearing into some of his choices in cars.

He set himself a goal of beating Tinie Tempah’s time of 1:50.04 – you’ll have to check the episode this weekend to see if he was able to – but the excuses came in early as the track was absolutely drenched.

Battling the elements, Rob struggled with the gears but got enough control to put in a very good effort. Commentating on his run, he teased from the studio: “The classic Roman profile gripping the wheel with assuredness and a strange sensuality.”

Naturally, it’s not perfect – some lines and segments come across as a little awkward and too scripted, with the three stars still finding their feet and getting used to each other. Reid admitted last year that chemistry doesn’t come overnight, and while that’s definitely true, they’ve still taken great strides and now come across as much more likeable.

There was a slight disappointment that the trio couldn’t complete a challenge at Bonneville – the US’ fastest race track – because freak rain left it waterlogged, but they seem just as gutted as us. Harris admitted: “I suppose I’ve now got one of the worst Bonneville stories out of anyone I know.”

All in all, the biggest take away from the first episode is just how easy it is to watch without comparing it to what has come before, and enjoy it for what it is. Sure, The Grand Tour has Top Gear’s successful and beloved trio at the helm, but LeBlanc, Harris and Reid are in the driving seat of a new era and the road ahead looks clear. Hit the gas, boys.

[“Source-digitalspy”]

Kaalakaandi Box Office Collection Day 1: Saif Ali Khan’s Film Gets A ‘Slow Start,’ Collects…

Kaalakaandi Box Office Collection Day 1: Saif Ali Khan's Film Gets A 'Slow Start,' Collects...

Box Office: Kaalakaandi: Saif Ali Khan in the film. (Image courtesy: Kaalakaandi Film)

NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Kaalakaandi features Saif Ali Khan in the lead role
  2. The film grosses Rs. One crore
  3. The film also stars Deepak Dobriyal

Saif Ali Khan’s latest release Kaalakaandi, which opened to positive reviews on Friday, has ‘grossed one crore net’ at the box office on Day 1, Box Office India reported. The film stars Saif Ali Khan as the protagonist, who has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Saif’s character does not have much time in hand and he realises that he should make the most of the remaining days. Box Office India also reports that because the film is set in the backdrop of Mumbai, it has performed a little better in Mumbai and Pune as compared to other cities. Earlier, of Kaalakaandi, film distributor Akshaye Rathi told Indian Express that the film will perhaps manage a score of Rs.1.5 crores on opening day and that the first weekend collections will be limited to single figures.

Kaalakaandi released at the box office with Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz and Zareen Khan’s 1921.

1921 was the best out of the three films with collections set to be in the 1.50 crore net range, reported Box Office India while Mukkabaaz had the lowest number with around 75  lakhs net.

In his review for NDTV, film critic Saibal Chatterjee gave Saif’s film 3 stars out of 5. “For cinema trivia geeks, Kaalakaandi is strewn with interesting takeaways. The principal protagonist (Saif Ali Khan), who like the conscientious but dull bureaucrat Watanabe in the Akira Kurosawa classic Ikiru, is diagnosed with stomach cancer and given only a few months to live. The multiple tales unfold in parallel arcs. It is only in the penultimate scenes and a zany final shot that the plot connects a few of the characters but only in a tenuous manner. Kaalakaandi takes a while to warm up but when it does it sets a lively pace, especially in the second half,” he wrote.

Apart from Saif Ali Khan, Kaalakaandi also stars actors like Deepak Dobriyal, Vijay Raaz and Kunaal Roy Kapur.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Mark Walhberg Was Paid 1,500 Times More Than Michelle Williams To Reshoot Film

Williams earned $1,000 in total, much less than the $1.5 million that Wahlberg earned.

Michelle Williams at the Golden Globes 2018 (Image Credit: AFP)

Hollywood is voicing its outrage over reports that Mark Wahlberg was paid 1,500 times more than Michelle Williams to reshoot scenes for kidnap drama “All the Money in the World.”

Ridley Scott partially re-shot his latest movie after Kevin Spacey was fired due to sexual misconduct allegations, with both Wahlberg and Williams called back to act opposite Spacey’s replacement, Christopher Plummer.

But Williams, according to USA Today, earned a daily allowance of $80 for her work — amounting to under $1,000 in total and less than 0.07 percent of the $1.5 million that Wahlberg earned.

“Please go see Michelle’s performance in ‘All the Money in the World.’ She’s a brilliant Oscar-nominated Golden Globe-winning actress,” raged an indignant Jessica Chastain on Twitter.

“She has been in the industry for 20 years. She deserves more than one percent of her male co-star’s salary.”

Actress and activist Amber Tamblyn described the reported pay gap as “totally unacceptable” while veteran producer Judd Apatow said it was “so messed up that it is almost hard to believe.”

Golden Globe-winning actress Mia Farrow said the disparity was “outrageously unfair,” adding that she was “never, ever paid even a quarter of what the male lead received.”

Williams previously told USA Today she appreciated efforts to reshoot the film, which recounts the kidnapping of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s grandson, adding that “they could have my salary.”

Scott said the actors, including Williams and Wahlberg, turned up “for nothing” for the 10-day November re-shoot but USA Today reported that Wahlberg’s agency later renegotiated his “hefty fee.”

At Sunday’s Golden Globes — where “All the Money in the World” came home empty-handed despite three nominations — male and female actors wore black to highlight sexual misconduct and also to promote gender parity.

The protest was organized in part by the newly-launched Time’s Up campaign led by female stars including Williams to address gender discrimination in Hollywood and other industries.

As her date, Williams brought civil rights activist Tarana Burke, the creator in 2006 of the “Me Too” movement to raise awareness of the ubiquity of sexual abuse. The phrase was co-opted by actress Alyssa Milano last year for the #MeToo social media campaign against sexual misconduct in Hollywood.

Representatives for Wahlberg and Williams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1 ‘USS Callister’ Shows How Technology Enables Creeps

Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1 'USS Callister' Shows How Technology Enables Creeps

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Black Mirror season 4 is available on Netflix
  • “USS Callister” is the first episode of new season
  • Charlie Brooker co-wrote, stars Jesse Plemons

Spoilers ahead for Black Mirror season four episode one, “USS Callister”. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn away and come back later.

At its surface, “USS Callister” – the first episode of anthology sci-fi series Black Mirror’s fourth season, out since Friday on Netflix worldwide – seems like a parody of Star Trek. It’s how the poster, stills, trailer, and the title have been set up, but that’s merely because marketing any episode of Black Mirror is a challenge, given its reliance on twists. (It’s also why Netflix prohibited us critics from revealing much about it.) The one in “USS Callister” appears less than 10 minutes into the episode, when it’s revealed that it’s all just a locally-stored Trek-themed fork of a popular virtual reality game.

From that moment on, the Trek inspiration turns merely into elaborate dressing, from the clothes to the sets, which hews as closely as possible to Gene Roddenberry’s vision with the 60s original series, without getting the CBS lawyers off their cushy seats. The real target of the episode are the power fantasies of human beings, and how can they can go very quickly from harmless to beyond creepy with advances in technology. Black Mirror has always been fascinated with digital consciousness – first with “White Christmas”, then “San Junipero”and now this – though it gets a much heavier focus on “USS Callister”.

Out in the real world, Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) is the brains behind the online multiplayer VR creation, but he’s always been the ignored nice guy. He doesn’t get the credit unlike the public-facing Walton (Jimmi Simpson) – the CEO calls himself the “shiny front-end”, and refers to Daly as the back-end – he’s laughed at by his colleagues at the company, and he doesn’t get the reception he expects from the receptionist. Black Mirror makes it easy to sympathise with him, and view him as someone who can’t catch a break, but then turns that image on its head over the next hour.

black mirror season 4 uss callister nanette Black Mirror season 4 USS Callister

Annoyed and incensed by how he’s treated, Daly has created a modded version of the game, and he’s slowly introduced digital clones of his co-workers by stealing their DNA from the office, and using high-end tech to recreate them in the virtual reality. New employee Nanette (Cristin Miloti), who admires Daly professionally, is pulled in after he overhears her dismissing the idea of liking him in personal capacity. There, he expects her to be nice to him and forces her to comply when she refuses, like he’s already done with everyone else. In short, he’s the God.

But unlike, say, in a game of The Sims, his actions are far from harmless. The digital clones can think and feel pain like their counterparts outside, so when Daly demands a kiss from every female crew member at the end of each playthrough, or torments someone by creating a clone of their son and killing him in front of them repeatedly, that carries a lot more weight than starving a Sims baby to death. Black Mirror has always tried to warn us about the unanticipated dangers of new technology, and “USS Callister” posits how it can enable harmless creeps – Daly doesn’t seem bold enough to be a criminal – from acting out their fantasies.

That doesn’t make his actions any less criminal, though whether the laws in “USS Callister” have caught up to the available technologies is entirely unknown. Is Daly as bad as someone who would torture people in real life? Since the in-game versions of his co-workers have consciousness too, should Daly pay the same price as a criminal would in our world? And should a citizen be allowed to own a device that can help you digitally clone someone in the first place? Those are all questions raised by the episode, which has been directed by Toby Haynes (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

But Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror and co-writer on “USS Callister”, is more interested in creating an empowering story. Nanette is the true protagonist here, as it becomes clear, but the episode hides that by introducing us to the world from Daly’s eyes. We’ve all experienced situations where we’ve wanted to have control over someone, and that makes seeing Daly go through with that all the more harrowing, because there’s a bit of him in all of us.

black mirror season 4 uss callister deck Black Mirror season 4 USS Callister

“USS Callister” also ends up being accidentally timely, what with a woman having to escape from the clutches of a man who views her as an object serving as an allegory for the ongoing #MeToo social movement that erupted across the globe in the wake of sexual assault allegations levelled against major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the episode, the video game versions of Callister employees are stuck in a universe where Weinstein is the only movie producer, so they have to work within those restrictions or face retribution.

While her other co-workers have chosen to give in, Nanette comes up with a strategy to free themselves from Daly’s control, which involves blackmailing her own self out in the real world. By doing so, she actually makes the original version of her self commit a crime – breaking and entering – who remains completely oblivious to how she’s helping a few digital souls escape their tormentor. We aren’t told how this impacts real-Nanette when Daly is inevitably found dead, but clone-Nanette ends up in a procedurally-generated world with infinite possibilities.

Black Mirror also gets in a dig about online gaming, with the first encounter for the digital clones being a conceited gamer – cheekily voiced by Aaron Paul’s distinctive voice – who threatens to blow them up for not serving his purpose. As an exasperated Nanette instructs her crew to warp away, he proclaims himself as ‘the king of space’, the words sounding hollow as you look at the vast virtual emptiness. The world will never be perfect, “USS Callister” argues, but you’ve always got to fight to make it better.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]