Opinion: Chris Brown comments symptomatic of mental health stigma

mentalhealth1

The world has come a long way over attempting to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

Where once people were detained under the Mental Health Act and locked away in psychiatric hospitals, individuals are now given counselling, medication and support to overcome depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name but a few.

Internationally-recognised names such as Stephen Fry, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the late Robin Williams have all helped to bring awareness over mental health issues into the mainstream media.

And, even in the past week, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and Prison Break star Wentworth Miller have gone on record to talk about their own battles, particularly with depression.

But the shame about speaking out over these illnesses continues to persists in spite of the good work done thus far.

Comments such as those made by singer Chris Brown demonstrate that much more needs to be done on tackling this issue.

The less-than-popular singer took to Twitter on 29th March to slam fellow R&B star Kehlani for looking for sympathy after an apparent suicide attempt.

At the time of writing, the 26-year-old’s tweet has been retweeted 52,000 times, and has received over 60,000 likes.

Now, of course, a number of those could be ironic likes and retweets from fellow users to publically shame Brown for his insensitive thoughts and attitude towards the 20 year old’s suffering.

But, like it or not, Chris Brown is famous and adored by fans of his music – and his comments can, and most likely will, be taken as gospel by some who read it and those people in turn will close their minds to such plights.

It is remarks of the ilk of Brown’s that show just how much more we need to do to alter the perception over mental health.

Suicide attempts are not “a coward’s way out”; nor should they viewed as “looking for sympathy”.

They are genuine cries for help for a person who sees no other alternative than to take their own life.

That the only option they believe they have left is to commit such an act shows the dark depths that some people are stuck in, and that cause them to act in this manner.

But, thanks to comments like Brown’s, the stigma surrounding mental health will encourage these types of views, opinions and judgments.

We must continue to educate, inform and break down the social barriers and the taboo over mental health.

Only then will we, as a species, be more sympathetic, kind, nurturing and understanding towards anyone struck down by these invisible illnesses.

Advertisements

Review: Daredevil Season Two

daredevil1

It’s been 11 months since Netflix and Marvel brought us their joint collaboration of Daredevil Season One.

And such was the critical acclaim that the debut series received, it was a dead cert that a second season starring The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen would be green-lit.

Fast forward to March 2016, and it’s safe to say that the second installment of Daredevil‘s story not only holds up, but at times it surpasses season one’s impressive credentials.

Taking over from season one showrunner Steven DeKnight, Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez had big shoes to fill – particularly concerning a new primary antagonist.

Note: Spoilers from both seasons can be found from this point on, so leave now unless you want everything spoiled for you!

daredevil21

With Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk finally jailed at the end of the first series, fans and critics were intrigued as to who would step into the role of big bad to take on Matt Murdock’s (Charlie Cox) alter-ego.

In Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle/The Punisher, it appears that such a character is found.

Seeking vengeance after seeing his young family gunned down in cold blood during a gangland shooting, ex-marine Castle stops at nothing to lay waste to all of the criminal gangs that took part in the massacre on that fateful day.

It is this unrelenting slaughter that sees Daredevil lock horns (pun intended) with Castle throughout the early episodes of the season.

No more so is this evident than in episode three (New York’s Finest) where, after being captured by Castle, Murdock and his new apparent foe question each other’s moral code.

daredevil22

It is an early highlight, and is built upon in episode four (Penny and Dime) when Castle displays vulnerability as he recounts the story of returning home from war, to see his family, after he is rescued from the Irish mafia by none other than Daredevil himself.

It’s a heart-wrenching monologue delivered with emotional depth by Bernthal, and lends weight to his own vigilante motives.

Following his arrest at the end of the episode, the season could have begun to unravel as soon as it begun.

But in Elektra Natchios’ (Elodie Yung) arrival, the plot transitions into carefully orchestrated forked paths, as the cast are led down their own relevant mini-story arcs.

daredevil24

For Daredevil/Murdock, the arrival of his ex-girlfriend-cum-assassin sends both his personal life and vigilante persona into disarray, as he struggles to stop the villainous organisation known as The Hand and attempts to prevent his already-fractured relationships with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson (Eldin Henson) from completely falling apart.

It is a role that Cox revels in, as the titular character becomes torn between his duty to “his city” and to the few friends he has in his life.

Yung’s Elektra, meanwhile, sparkles as the aptly-ironic devil in Murdock’s ear, as well as portraying the character’s complexity and tortured past with aplomb.

The twist surrounding her destiny in the penultimate episode leaves more questions than answers before she is given a supposedly heroic send-off, but it does little to detract from the excellent depiction that Yung brings to the table.

And it is not just Murdock and the new supporting cast that see their character’s stories fleshed out.

Page revels in the role of investigator-in-chief as she attempts to uncover the real story behind Castle’s rampage – a side to her that evokes memories of the departed Ben Urich – as her resourcefulness and bravery prove that she is more than a mere damsel in distress, despite her carelessness sometimes throwing her head first into trouble.

daredevil23

Nelson, too, receives much needed character development – his frienship with Murdock, already frayed after finding out Daredevil’s true identity in season one, is torn asunder as the pair clash over the falling apart of the People vs Frank Castle trial midway through the season.

And, like Page, he discovers his own courage during a visit to The Dogs of Hell gang’s turf, and throughout Castle’s trial – a court case he almost single handedly wins before allowing Murdock to completely ruin proceedings during his questioning of the defendant.

Rosario Dawson’s no-nonsense nurse Claire Temple provides a sense of morality and honesty that is sometimes lacking in other characters, Scott Glenn’s Stick, mentor to both Murdock and Elektra, offers up his usual self-rightousness and piety throughout, while Peter McRobbie’s Father Lantom is given a brief-yet-profound monologue in episode three in his only appearance of the series.

The surprise reveal of D’Onofrio’s Fisk in episode eight is a welcome one too – the calculating villain helping to move the story along with typical malice and cunning as he manipulates Castle into taking out a rival in his prison he now seemingly owns.

daredevil25

Action wise, the show builds impressively on the foundations laid by its first season.

An excellently filmed sequence involving Daredevil and the Dogs of Hell gang pays homage to season one’s fight with the Russian mob, as he dispatches a number of underlings with creativity and a whirlwind of force down a staircase.

Castle’s one-man stand during one prison scene is as brutal and barbaric as they come too – a welcome contrast to the acrobatic and ninja-esque style of Daredevil and Elektra themselves.

Brawls with The Hand in later episodes are choregraphed brilliantly as well, and are as ferocious as they are elegant.

The plot takes a turn for the mystical as it reaches its climax, as the gritty realism of Hell’s Kitchen is replaced with the supernatural revelation that The Hand have supposedly uncovered immortality.

It is a move that is somewhat of a let-down, such is the authentic feel of the show up until that point.

Given that the wider Marvel universe, both on the silver screen and in other TV shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, it is perhaps not as superfluous as it is made out to be.

daredevil26

Question marks also remain over some story threads that are not cleared up.

An explanation of the gigantic hole that Daredevil and Elektra uncover is not provided; nor do we see the mysterious figure that Stick chats to at the end of episode seven of the first season.

Doubts remain over what happened to Page’s brother, given the newspaper clipping we see, whilst the fate of Elektra is left up to the imagination – for now.

It is probable that these queries are just set ups for later seasons of Daredevil, and aren’t just glossed over with the introduction of new plot strands and characters come season three.

Overall though, Daredevil season two lives up to its predecessor – shaking up the single villain formula in favour of introducing other complex characters and mulitple ‘bad guys’ opens up the world Marvel has created, and helps to continue the sterling work that the multinational company has produced over the past decade.

Verdict: Bold, emotional, complex and gory, Daredevil Season Two successfully implements a muliple-stranded story arc that succeeds in building upon its debut series. 8.5/10

Review: Valiant Hearts

valianthearts1

Since its inception in March 1986, Ubisoft has had a knack for producing outstanding video games.

Triple A franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Tony Clancy’s Rainbox Six, Far Cry, Rayman and Trials are just a few of the series that the Paris-based corporation has had recent success with.

It is their lesser-known, ‘indie’ titles that have garnered a wealth in interest since 2012, however.

Child of Light was charming, beautifully designed and a throwback to the era of RPGs; Grow Home was also a quaint compute game and showcased an interesting concept, puzzle wise.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War, developed by one of Ubisoft’s subsidiaries, Ubisoft Montpellier, was another game that somewhat flew under the radar upon release in 2014.

So what better time to dive into it, after it was featured as one of Xbox One’s Free Games with Gold titles back in October 2015.

valianthearts2

Set during World War One, Valiant Hearts is a freely-based story telling of four different characters as they navigate the infamous ‘War To End All Wars’.

Players progress through the personally absorbing stories of Frenchman Emile Chaillon, German son-in-law Karl, American solider Freddie and Belgian nurse Anna as they cross paths with each other throughout the four-year long conflict.

The game itself is split into four chapters – each around two hours long – and players are tasked with steering past various obstacles and brain teasers as they progress through the course of the campaign.

Some puzzles are relatively straight forward, while others take a little more time to work out. Fortunately, if you ever do get stuck at a particular problem, the game does provide hints – spaced one to two minutes apart – so you don’t end up getting too frustrated.

Like 99% of all video games these days, Valiant Hearts also hides collectibles in each of its levels and, with over 100 to find, some players may think it a thankless task to locate them all.

Luckily, the vast majority can be found along either the linear route of the game itself (thanks to its 2D sidescrolling design) or just slightly off the beaten track.

Once each level has been completed, players are able to go back and play them in whatever order they choose to locate those elusive optional trinkets if they so wish.

valianthearts3

Another interesting part of the game is its historical facts that players can view, at the beginning of each new section, by pressing the Y button (or triangle button on PS4).

These facts help to educate players about varying aspects or battles throughout The Great War and, though a little invasive and pushy about wanting you to read them, provide a fascinating insight into real life events.

Perhaps the most distinctive design about Valiant Hearts, though, despite its apparent setting, is that you do little in the way of fighting.

Soldiers, aircraft, tanks and cannons attack, shoot, traverse and die around you in both the foreground and background as the player progresses through each section but, save for two short periods of driving a tank while firing off shells and a brief quick-time punch up, there is hardly any combat for the player to partake in.

For a game based around war, it’s an intriguing take on the genre.

Aesthetically, Valiant Hearts is gorgeous – its cartoon-ish style contrasting nicely with the setting of the game and proving that Ubisoft’s art direction is up there with the best.

valianthearts4

The sound direction, too, is superb – the game’s title screen music played on piano providing poignancy to a game set during The Great War, while another moment alongside a French marching band delivers one of a few humorous moments in the game.

Valiant Hearts is by no-means perfect, however.

In keeping with the realism of the setting, taking any damage results in the controlled character dying immediately, and causes the player to pick the game up from the last checkpoint.

It is a refreshing take compared to other games that use health bars or other ways to prevent instantaneous death, but it means one silly mistake can cost the player, particularly if you are engrossed in the unfolding story.

A word too on the boss fights that the game has.

The car chase ‘battles’ at certain points are a tad annoying, whilst another encounter sees you given mere minutes to rescue another character from the hands of a status-obsessed German commander.

Again, it is a welcome change from seeing an enemy’s animation continually fail to bash down a solitary door as you figure out how to stop them, but the time limit can lead to frustration if you need more time to work out just what the strategy, to win, is.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War_20140626183456

The game’s final chapter wraps up the over-arcing story nicely, and throws in a twist that will leave players shocked and, perhaps, slightly emotional.

It’s a move that demonstrates that, despite its cartoon-ish nature, events of this ilk did occur throughout The First World War, and reminds players of the horror of war.

It is this realism that sends out a message of just how traumatising real life events would have been for anyone involved in such a horrific period at the start of the 20th century.

Educating the next generation about past atrocities are of huge importance to prevent events like this happening again.

If Valiant Hearts strikes a chord with anyone and provides that tuition, even through the medium of a video game, then it has done its job.

Verdict: Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a cool eight-hour puzzle-adventure game that acts as a poignant reminder of the events of 1914-1918, and its educational tools add something extra to what could be considered just another 2D sidescrolling title. 8/10

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is available now on Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC, iOS and Android.

The Weekend Reflection: Fortress Goodison? Don’t Make Me Laugh!

Goodison Park used to be a bastion of hope for Evertonians.

It is a stadium filled with rich history that oozes charm and class, especially under the floodlights for an evening kick off.

And, when the opportunity arises, it bears witness to a vociferous, boisterous and unabating home crowd that has roared Everton to countless victories, struck fear into the hearts of opposing sides and bayed for blood when refereeing decisions have gone against the Toffees.

Of late, however, the Grand Old Lady is anything but a fortress.

It is merely a sandcastle, with the tide crashing ever closer, ready to sweep it out to sea.

goodisonpark

It is not the Goodison faithful that is to blame, however – for 78 minutes during yesterday’s infuriating 3-2 home defeat to West Ham United, a crescendo of noise swirled around all four corners of the ground as the Blues, despite disadvantaged by Kevin Mirallas’ first half red card, found themselves 2-0 up over the Hammers.

Instead, it is yet again the fault of a manager who is clearly out of his depth at one of the most successful British clubs in the history of the game.

True, Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge of Everton was a joy to behold.

A record-points haul during a Premier League campaign and European football back at Goodison were reason enough to celebrate.

But a record of 13 wins, three draws and three defeats from 19 home matches was even sweeter.

It seemed Goodison Park would  become one of the toughest grounds for any side to travel to, thanks to a blend of defensive resilience and artistic, free-flowing attacking flair.

And yet, it is anything but.

evertonwestham

Since the start of the 2014/15 season, Goodison has beared witness to just 11 wins from 34 home matches in the Premier League.

Perhaps more striking is that only four of those victories have come this season – even then they were routine triumphs over struggling Sunderland, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and, at the time, Chelsea.

Coupled with four home draws, Everton have amassed a paltry 16 points from 15 home clashes on home turf this campaign.

To make matters even worse, the Blues have been defeated on seven occasions on home soil – five of which have come since December 19th.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City, Stoke City, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United have all left L4 with three points to leave Everton supporters bewildered, angry and forlorn.

It is, frankly, unforgivable that teams will travel to Goodison Park knowing that they can, and will, depart with a victory.

And Martinez is to blame for this slide in home fortunes.

robertomartinez

Too open, too lax at the back, too gung-ho, no game management, conceding from set pieces, conceding from crosses, unable to hold a lead – these have all been levelled at the Spaniard in the past 18 months, and not one problem has been rectified.

It is simply not good enough from a man who has Everton’s best first team squad since the last time the Blues won a league title, back in 1987, at his disposal.

To add further insult to injury, the Toffees have now conceded more goals at home (26) than Aston Villa – a side who currently prop up the league standings and suffered a 6-0 home thrashing at the hands of Merseyside rivals Liverpool just a few weeks ago.

It is a sign of just how abject Everton have become at home, and the sense of apathy and despair that greeted Martinez and his players at full time yesterday was indicative of such facts.

With just four more home league encounters to come, in the shape of Arsenal, Southampton, Bournemouth and Norwich City, the Toffees are on course to register their worst ever points tally at home in a single league campaign.

Even if the Blues win those four remaining matches, they will only be three points better off than their all-time lowest haul of 25 points at home garnered during the 1996/97 season.

There was a time when Goodison Park was the last venue that teams loved to visit – now they lick their lips in anticipation.

Fortress Goodison? Don’t make me laugh.

Review: Daredevil Season One

daredevil1

In 2003, diehard fans of the comic book character Daredevil had been left disappointed and bemused.

A film adaptation of the Marvel character, starring Ben Affleck as the titular hero, had been received poorly – despite taking $179.2m at the box office – with many criticising the plot and direction that the movie had taken.

Even Stan Lee, creator of Dardevil, said that it had “got the whole thing wrong”.

Fast forward 12 years, and that disappointement is no longer etched on the faces of Daredevil fans.

A Netflix original series and produced by Marvel Television, ABC studios and DeKnight productions, the TV adaptation of Daredevil has been lauded by fans, critics and casual viewers alike for its dark, gritty and accurate depiction of the comic book lore.

Created for TV by Drew Goddard, who was in line to write and direct a Sinister Six film for Sony set in their Spiderman universe before it got cancelled, the show draws inspiration from Lee’s and Bill Everett’s long-running series and introduces viewers to a side of New York City, in Hell’s Kitchen, that is overlooked in Marvel’s flagship film franchises.

Beware: Spoilers for the comics and show appear from this point on, so turn back if you do not want anything ruined for you!

Daredevil tells the story of Matt Murdock, a lawyer who was blinded as a child by a radioactive substance that fell from a vehicle after he pushed a man to safety from said truck.

Despite being unable to see, Murdock’s other senses are significantly heightened by the substance and grants him a ‘radar sense’, not unlike Spiderman’s ‘spider sense’.

By day, Murdock works at Nelson & Murdock: Attorneys At Law – a fledgling law firm set up by Murdock and best friend and fellow lawyer, Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson.

By night, though, Murdock stalks the rooftops, streets and buildings as the Man in the Mask, thwarting criminals and saving lives.

And in 33-year-old actor Charlie Cox, both Murdock and his alter-ego are transferred from page to screen effortlessly.

daredevil2

Charming, intelligent and resourceful as Murdock, and gruff, physical and fearless as Daredevil, Cox’s portrayal as The Man Without Fear is superbly carried out.

Cox’s ability to depict Murdock’s blindness, too, is down to a tee – the English actor’s work with blind consultant Joe Strechay paying dividends to give a natural, accurate representation of a blind individual.

And, as with all superheroes, there is a complexity about the character of Murdock and Daredevil that Cox manages to convey throughout a series of stellar performances.

Having taken the oath when becoming a lawyer, Murdock knowingly breaks his own vow every night when acting as a vigilante in Hell’s Kitchen.

Coupled with his devout Catholic beliefs, questions of morality and grey areas come into stark contrast for Murdock – particularly as the season reaches its final few episodes.

Indeed, Murdock’s emotions get the better of him as he seeks revenge for the death of the innocent Elena Cardenas – a resident of an apartment block who stands up main villain Kingpin/Wilson Fisk’s plans to buyout her building, but who is killed off by one of Fisk’s henchmen.

After being seriously injured during a showdown with Nobu, a member of mysterious Japanese organisation The Hand and part of Fisk’s criminal gang, Murdock is almost left for dead when stupidly trying to take on Fisk after despatching of the former.

It is one of a few occasions throughout the series when Murdock’s desire to do the right thing gets the better of him, and allows viewers the opportunity to question his motives.

daredevil5

Murdock’s constant struggle between refusing to take someone’s life, in part to the Catholicism instilled in him and, as he eloquently puts it, battling the ‘devil inside of me’, is a key component of the complexity of the character, and one that proves how intriguing Dardevil as a personality is.

Strikingly, Fisk – who is expertly portrayed by Vincent D’Onofrio – isn’t too dissimilar from our titular hero in wanting to rebuild Hell’s Kitchen.

Fisk’s willingness to kill anyone who stands in his way, however, is the one key difference that keeps the two players at polar opposites of the spectrum.

As a 12-year-old boy, Fisk saves his mother from his cruel bully of a father, after years of abuse, by beating him to death with a hammer – a move that begins to sow the seeds of the man Fisk will eventually become.

And it is this disposition, to remove anyone who stands between him and lording over his city, that leads Fisk into believing his intentions are justifiable, in spite of his criminal activity.

Such actions become more severe as the series presses on, as Fisk takes out fellow partners in the Russian mafia, led by the Ranskahov brothers, and financial distributor Leland Owlsley – the latter of whom conspires with fellow criminal Madame Gow to assassinate Vanessa Marianna, Fisk’s love interest.

His masterplan further unravels following the death of right-hand man James Wesley, who is shot dead by Page after she is kidnapped by Wesley, and sees Fisk become erratic and emotional – a move that eventually proves his undoing.

Both Murdock and Fisk are flawed as individuals, and believe that they must save Hell’s Kitchen from the mediocrity it finds itself in – their ideals over how to do so, though, is what ultimately leads them to butting heads as the season’s climax looms closer.

daredevil3

It is not just Cox and D’Onofrio who stand out as part of an impressive cast either.

Deborah Ann Woll is wonderful as secretary-cum-investigator Karen Page; Elden Henson as ‘Foggy’ Nelson too, who brings humour and heart in equal measure, especially when finding out that Murdock is Daredevil himself.

Rosario Dawson’s performance as Claire Temple, who patches Murdock’s injuries up and acts as a potential love interest, is strong if fleeting, while Vondie Curtis-Hall excels as journalist Ben Urich before his death at the hands of Fisk in the penultimate episode of the season.

There are small nods to Marvel’s other franchises throughout Daredevil too, with small mentions of the events of Avengers Assemble just one such example of how Marvel is tying its cinematic universe into its TV story arcs.

The season finale finally sees the ‘Man in the Mask’ dubbed ‘Daredevil’ in the media – thanks in no small part to the unveiling of Murdock’s new, improved and protective costume – and ties season one’s storythreads together in a fitting manner.

The face-off between Daredevil and Fisk could possibly have been a little longer in length, given the events that had led up to that point, but it was enough to leave viewers wanting more – a duel that will no doubt be revisited when, not if, Fisk escapes from prison.

That fight and other action sequences are well choreographed and fluid throughout too, with various camera angles picking up a variety of stellar shots to exhibit the violence on show.

daredevil4

A couple of slight niggles with editing in one or two episodes show that there is slight room for improvement, in addition to a smattering of ponderous moments, particularly in the earlier chapters of the series, but these faults are minor and can easily be rectified now that the show has a sound footing on which to build.

Season two of Daredevil, due for release on March 18th, will introduce fan favourites such as Frank Castle/The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung), but it will have to make do without season one showrunner Stephen DeKnight – a decision that will hopefully not cause too much concern going forward, such was the acclaim the first series garnered.

If Goddard and co. can produce another successful season that surpasses the first, fans will be in for a treat. It’ll be much deserved after years of being reminded of that 2003 film.

Verdict: A triumph for all concerned, Daredevil is a tactful interpretation of a beloved comic book superhero. Gritty, dark, intriguing and, at times, shocking, solid foundations have been laid for the show moving forward into season two, with much of the same expected for the next chapter in the franchise. 9/10