Sunday, 30 December 2012

My Top 5 Films Of 2012

2012 was a bumper year for movie-nuts with there being a little of something for everyone; bombastic superhero blockbuster, high tension Cold War dramas, zany coming-of-age tales all feature in my personal Top 5 Films of 2012.

5) Skyfall 


Daniel Craig as 007
James Bond was back in a big way this year; kicking off celebrating 50 years of films by making a surprise cameo at the Olympics, Bond's 23rd screen outing in Skyfall blew everyone away by being, let's face it, pretty damn good.

After a mission in Turkey goes pear-shaped for Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve (Naomi Harris), Bond is faced with getting himself back in the game and stopping the villianous Silva (Javier Bardem) from killing M (Judi Dench) and destroying MI6.

Skyfall shook away the lingering doubts that surrounded Craig's second outing as Bond (2008's Quantum of Solace) and put himself right back on track with heaps of exciting action, sultry sirens and sleek sports cars.

You can read my original review of Skyfall by clicking on this link: Film Review: Skyfall


4) The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a charming and honest look at the sometimes horrible experiences of being an adolescent in high school.

Charlie (Lerman) is a shy and introverted highschool freshman who is taken under the wing of two seniors; Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller).

Together the trio come to terms with growing up, leaving behind loved ones and moving onto college. Between them, the three leads develop a brilliant on-screen chemistry that makes their friendship look, feel and sound real. A killer soundtrack also enriches the high school and house party atmosphere.

It is however, the raw and tender moments between Charlie and Sam (as well as those that explore Charlie's troubled and damaged past) that sets this otherwise unassuming coming-of-age drama aside from the rest.


3) Looper


Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in
Looper
Put the pyrotechnics down people, Looper is here to show you how science-fiction should be done. Proving that all you need to put together some killer science-fiction is an intelligent script, a clever concept and a stellar cast, 2012 was the year that director Rian Johnson blew us all away with Looper.

Set in 2042, Looper centres on the simple premise of time-travel orientated assassination; a 'looper' is someone who kills targets that are sent from the future to their present, dumping the bodies and eradicating said target entirely.

With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt all putting in some great performances, Looper impressed on every level; it was well written, it was well-acted and it had some striking visuals when the action ramped up in the final third.

Cast aside your Battleships' and your John Carter's; Looper is how proper science-fiction should be done. Don't miss out.

You can read my original review of Looper by clicking on this link: Film Review: Looper


2) The Avengers


"Take away the suit of armour and what are you?"
Putting together the ultimate super-hero film was no mean feat for Joss Whedon, but somehow he pulled it off; bringing together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) into the one film for the first time could have ended in disaster.

Instead, the Avengers was a rip-roaring success, the combined forces of Marvel's greatest hitting the bullseye in terms of what we have come to expect from the characters. Interweaving numerous franchises and their subsequent back stories, Whedon gave each member of the team their due.

The real winner here however was the script; The Avengers is not just a contender for biggest action film of the year (the final third of the film tears New York a new one) but also the funniest. The verbal banter between Earth's Mightiest Hero's had me in stitches, the zinging one-liners racing across the screen with ferocious speed. Not just that, but Whedon spent the time focusing on the protagonist's mortality and humanity, not making them seem invincible or unbeatable.

You can read my original review of The Avengers by clicking on this link: Film Review: The Avengers


1) Argo


Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in Argo
Set in a Revolutionary 1970's Iran, Argo tells the story of six American's fleeing from certain death at the hands of an Iranian public baying for their blood. Cut off from the outside world, their only hope of escape comes in the form of Ben Affleck's CIA agent and 'Argo'; a zany scheme that sees the CIA team up with Hollywood producers to forge the ultimate cover story. Under the pretence of filming a B-grade science fiction movie in the deserts of Iran, Mendez (Affleck) must outmanoeuvre the police and stay one step ahead if he is going to get the Americans' out of Iran alive. 

Based on a true story, Argo was gripping from start to finish. It managed to maintain finger-nail biting tension throughout, the final third of the film keeping the audience practically gnawing at their knuckles. Each and every member of the film's cast acts their part down to a tee, from Alan Arkin's grouchy movie producer to Bryan Cranston's stressed CIA executive, the cast doesn't miss a beat.

The absurdity and implausibility of such a plan being pulled off however also sees the film veer into some side-splitting introspective satire that sends up the inner-workings of Hollywood, something that perfectly counterbalances the drama with levity.

You can read my original review of Argo by clicking on this link: Film Review: Argo


Honorary Mentions

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, The Woman in Black, Brave, The Amazing Spider-man, Rise of the Guardians.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Film Review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey

"I'm going on an adventure"

This review may contain mild spoilers.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo
Peter Jackson returns to Middle-Earth with the first third of his highly anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel, The Hobbit. Maintaining complete continuity from his earlier works on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson's first Hobbit movie is one that is different in tone but not different in quality.

So put down your pitchforks and your torches. It's okay, just calm down. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is good. Very good in fact, certainly not deserving of many of the mixed reviews circulating around currently.

Monday, 24 December 2012

My Top Albums of 2012

5) - Jack White - Blunderbuss


Jack White's first solo outing post-White Stripes simultaneously took him back to his roots of being a straight-up, rock n' roll/country artist as well as succeeding in being an album that traversed many different sounds without alienating any of his fans. 

From the gentle tinkling opening to 'Missing Pieces', to the hip-swaying and catchy groove of 'Freedom At 21'  ("Cut the bottoms off my feet, make me walk on salt, take me down to the police, charge me with assault"), White struck out on his own with confidence and vigour.

His over-arching story was one of unquenchable heartbreak however, a theme that made for some truly brilliant ballads like 'Love Interruption', 'Hypocritical Kiss' and 'Take Me With You When You Go'.


4) - The Rubens - The Rubens


A brilliant début record from one of Melbourne's newest indie rock outfits, The Rubens' burst onto the scene in 2012. With some serious rotation on triple J, the Rubens' won me over seriously fast with assured and soulful tracks such as 'Never Be The Same', 'My Gun' and 'I'll Surely Die'. 

Always fantastic to see great promise bursting forth (especially when said promise is so brilliantly laden with catchy and unshakeable melodies), The Rubens' have no doubt got their eyes set squarely on the target of becoming one Australia's biggest indie rock bands alongside The Temper Trap and Tame Impala. 


3) The Vaccines - Come of Age


Another round of the Vaccines doing what the Vaccines do best; solid, catchy, fun, brash and unashamedly simplistic indie pop songs that knock the socks off of anyone listening along. Try listening to 'Teenage Icon' without a the energy and fun causing your feet to tap and head to bob, I dare you. 

However, like I mentioned in my review earlier in the year, the frantic minute-and-a-half ode's to Danish models are absent on record No. 2, instead a host of mid-tempo ballads that introduce some darker and gloomier sounds to the pallet; 'Ghost Town' and 'Weirdo' best show off this slightly new direction for the English quartet. 



2) Richard Hawley - Standing At The Sky's Edge


Richard Hawley's seventh studio album was my first taster of any of his work and I must admit, Standing At The Sky's Edge made a great first impression.

The reverb-laden guitar and vocals on brilliantly psychedelic tracks such as 'She Brings The Sun' and 'Down In The Woods' set this record apart from a lot else that I listened to this year; they stretch on and on, recalling images of a sun-drenched summer's day. In fact, the 50 minute run time is amazingly split across a mere 9 songs, only one track dipping below the 4-minute mark. 

Hawley's latest record also has its quieter moments, 'Seek It' and 'Don't Stare At The Sun' dropping the tempo down to the pace of a gentle swaying hammock.


1) The Maccabees - Given To The Wild


Some albums come along and not only take you by surprise, but fully knock you for six. Given To The Wild is one of these albums.

The Maccabees changed tac entirely here, their third record swapping the trademark sound of indie guitar plucking and jitteryness found on 2007's Colour It In and 2009's Wall of Arms for a new-found sense of serene and calm.

'Feel To Follow' stands out as a particularly strong track, as do the pulsating and shifting 'Go' and 'Unknow'.

From the opening instrumental that feeds into the soaring 'Child' to the closing track 'Grew Up At Midnight', this record is quality from wall to wall and fails to have any one track that stands out as a misstep. Simply, it effortlessly flows from each track to the next, the soaring highs and choir-like vocals punctuated by hushed pauses and deathly stills, some beautifully restrained moments of calm.

For me then, The Maccabees third record is my musical highlight of the year. For more on my year in music, make sure you check out my Ultimate 2012 Spotify Playlist. Thanks for reading and let me know what you thought in the comments section below!


Honourable Mentions

Bloc Party - Four, Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon, The xx - Coexist, Grimes - Visions, Maximo Park - The National Health, Passion Pit - Gossamer, Tame Impala - Lonerism, Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg, Howler - America Give Up, Lana Del Rey - Born To Die, Lucy Rose - Like I Used To

Monday, 17 December 2012

5 Films for the End of the World

With the Mayan Apocalypse just around the corner (Friday the 21st of December 2012 to be precise), we're taking a look at some of the biggest and best End Of The World Movies. 

With Hollywood having covered everything from alien obliteration, viral holocaust and earth-shattering cataclysm, there certainty isn't any shortage of destruction on offer with this oddball mixture of despair and (sometimes) laughs. I've listed below five of my favourites; give them a read and let me know what you think in the comments section below!


Friday, 14 December 2012

Voice of Reason #7: Bonkers Baby Names

"Oh hey, my name's Google"

Jumping on a celebrity bandwagon and imitating something big from Hollywood is nothing new; a big name celebrity gets a new haircut and BAM! overnight, everyone is sporting a Beatle Bowl-cut, a Rachael from Friends do or a ridiculous Skrillex side-shave.

Unfortunately for those of us with any sense, the latest celebrity bandwagon that people appear to leaping onto in droves is that of bonkers baby names. Following in the footsteps of A-listers like the Beckham's, Brangelina and the Geldof's, people are racing to give their newborns the wackiest, the kookiest and the most 'original' name in the playground.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's troupe of tots includes
Knox, Maddox and Zahara. 
There's Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin who have little Apple, Sylvester Stallone who has Sage Moonblood and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have Sunday Roast. Oh, oops, I mean Sunday Rose. My bad.

Forget traditional or 'boring' names like James, Henry or Jack! Their so stupid and boring it's a wonder they caught on in the first place! Remember everyone, your kids will totally love you forever when christen your them Xenon, Zaniel or Exodus. I mean, I was just telling my best mate's Genesis and Boron the other day, who wouldn't want to meet someone named after a book in the Bible or an element on the periodic table?

Remember, the wackier the better! Don't be afraid to get inventive and experimental. Don't think of it as risky; you never know, you might be something of a pioneer in 20 years time when you can claim to have been the first to call your kid Pepsi, Nutella or Twitter.

The inspiration I got for this little rant came from reading a news story on news.com.au that reported a compiled list of the most unusual baby names to have been registered in 2012, each name having been registered at least twice to show that it isn't some kind of anomaly.

Looking down the list, the names only get more and more bonkers. Things start out pretty tame; things like California (for a girl) and Cobain (for a boy) seem pretty decent, nothing out of the ordinary when you consider names like Brooklyn, Paris or Britney.

Upon closer inspection however, the list reveals some real shockers. I mean, who on earth thought that names like Kix, Rysk, Shimon and Jeevika were a good idea? I'm pretty certain some of those are actually some Klingon characters in the new Star Trek movie.

The same can be said for mad monikers such as Burger, Google, Cello and Mango; seriously, those are not names, they are THINGS. Please people, try and recognise the distinction between the two.

This silliness needs to stop; these poor children have to live with being called something barmy for their entire lives; imagine the sheer amount of mockery poor little Mango and Xenon will endure throughout their long, long school careers.

People need to realise that naming your child Google is not clever, funny or poetic. It's not symbolic, deep or meaningful or trendy, edgy or daring. It's just plain stupid and you both end up looking like a bit of a tit. Give me a Sarah, a Christopher or a David over a Tron , Juju or Thunder any day.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

My 2012 Spotify Playlist

Lists are great. Straight forward, to the point, no messing. Pretty simple this one, just a straight up list of songs that make up my Ultimate 2012 playlist. Any song that I feel made up my soundtrack to 2012 has been added for your listening pleasure. It's a pretty eclectic list, everything from Bloc Party to Mumford and Sons, Jack White, Passion Pit and The xx. You can find the link to the Spotify Playlist by clicking on this link: Ultimate 2012 Playlist 

Make sure to leave me a comment below on what you think! Thanks everyone.

Tracklisting


  1. Feel to Follow - The Maccabees
  2. Angels - The xx
  3. Fiction - The xx
  4. Never Be The Same - The Rubens
  5. Oblivion - Grimes
  6. Truth - Bloc Party
  7. Teenage Icon - The Vaccines
  8. First Of My Kind - Miles Kane
  9. Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Rey
  10. Lost - Frank Ocean
  11. Freedom at 21 - Jack White
  12. I'm Shakin - Jack White
  13. Hips and Lips - Maximo Park
  14. Elephant - Tame Impala
  15. Flaws - Hunting Grounds
  16. Down in The Woods - Richard Hawley
  17. Burgh Island - Ben Howard
  18. Unknow - The Maccabees
  19. Panic Station - Muse
  20. I Will Wait - Mumford and Sons
  21. Holland Road - Mumford and Sons
  22. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men
  23. Varuo - Sigur Ros
  24. I'll Be Alright - Passion Pit
  25. Miss Atomic Bomb - The Killers
  26. Day Four - Bloc Party
  27. Knee Length Socks - Urthboy
  28. San Pedro - Mogwai
  29. Moth Wings - Pond
  30. Told You Once - Howler
  31. Next Year - Two Door Cinema Club
  32. Sleep Alone - Two Door Cinema Club
  33. No Hope - The Vaccines
  34. R U Mine? - Arctic Monkeys
  35. Two Fingers - Jake Bugg
  36. Trembling Hands - The Temper Trap
  37. This Fire - Birds of Tokyo
  38. Six Months In A Cast - The Trouble With Templeton 
  39. Drums - Oh Mercy
  40. Hush - Calexico
  41. Not Giving In - Rudimental 
  42. Come On, Be a No-One - The Cribs
  43. Default - Django Django
  44. Wrath of God - Crystal Castles
  45. Someone Purer - Mystery Jets
  46. Longevity - Yeasayer
  47. Gasoline - Alpine
  48. Jamaica - Van She
  49. Wild Things - San Cisco
  50. All I Know - Matrix & Futurebound  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Film Review: Skyfall

Bond visits sunny Scotland
"Everyone needs a hobby...". 
"So what's yours?" 
"Resurrection"

Proving that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks, Skyfall resurrects everyone's favourite MI6 agent for another round of classic Bond action, with what could possibly be the best entry into the series since Goldeneye.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Rank The Films: Harry Potter



Lists, as I may have mentioned once or twice on this here blog are pretty nifty; straight-up, simple and so on. I like list. As because of this, lists form the basis for a new feature here on feeling fuzzier where I attempt to pull apart the pros and cons of a series of films and such. First off, the mega, the magical, the childhood defining (for me anyway) Harry Potter franchise.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Film Review: Argo


Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in Argo


Ben Affleck's third directorial effort hits the nail on the head yet again; Argo is a well-acted, genuinely gripping and impressive film that lacks any real flaws or misgivings. Contender for Best Picture? Quite possibly.


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Voice of Reason #6: Hokey Halloween Costumes

This is what Halloween should be about


Sexy Finding Nemo. I shit you not.
Just putting it out there, I don't dislike Halloween. I don't know why or how the day came into being, and why it demands we celebrate everything downright spooky and kooky, but I certainly don't cross my arms, turn my back and huff "what a load of rubbish". But I do have one tick that I have to get off my chest and that's to do with a growing trend in fancy dress.

On the whole, Halloween is great. The colours, the candy and of course, the costumes all make Halloween a fun evening that is essentially harmless and overtly silly. My problem is not with the concept of fancy dress on the whole. Of course not, it's all good fun, it's silly and is great for breaking the ice at parties. You don't even have to have made the effort to be particularly scary or creepy; better to have variety that two dozen witches and vampires.

What the actual fuck is sexy about
Kermit the Frog?
All I'm saying is; please don't come to a Halloween party dressed as "sexy" SpongeBob Squarepants. There is nothing remotely Halloween-y about dressing up as a skanky version of a kid's TV or movie character.  There are some seriously horrendous costumes out there; I mean, "sexy Nemo" - Really? How is dressing up as a really slutty pre-pubescent fish got anything to do with Halloween?

The list doesn't end there; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shrek, Avatar, the Lion King and, get this, the Care Bears are all genuine things that you can buy a "sexy" Halloween costume of.

I mean really, what is sexy about Kermit the Frog? Who was it who decided that dressing up as a version of Snow White that moonlights as a prostitute was a good thing? Whatever happened to Halloween being scary?

Which is why I'm calling for this trend in 'sexing up' Halloween to stop. Seriously girls, put down the knee length socks, the short skirts and the ridiculous cleavage; that ain't Halloween.

Pick up some rubber fangs, some fake blood and face paint. Grab some scissors and don a bedsheet with cut out eye-holes. Anything, so long as it doesn't resemble a Disney character that has been spliced with Fifty Shades of Grey.

If this Halloween your invited to a party, go as a vampire, a zombie or a witch. In the name of all that is good and holy, please do not go as 'sexy' Edward Scissorhands. So long as it ain't remotely sexy, it still counts as Halloween and not as S&M.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Film Review: Taken 2


Liam Neeson adds to his repertoire of bad-ass action films by serving up another slice of gruff Irish grit in Taken 2

2008's Taken was something of a surprise hit for all involved; Neeson and co. expected the cheap Euro-thriller to head straight to DVD. Instead, the film raked in over $200 million worldwide, by which point a sequel would of been nigh on certainty.

Fast-forward to 2012 then and here we have it: Taken 2. Slightly confusing title and initial scepticism aside ("what?! how can she be taken AGAIN?"), Taken 2 follows on in the same vein as it's predecessor, mixing together a variety of action set pieces and more tender family scenes. It's simple, brutal and honest, something of a guilty pleasure.

After the events of the first film, screenwriters Luc Beeson and Robert Kamen have worked with the premise of dealing with consequences for ex-CIA operative Brian Mills' (Neeson) second-outing. Making Mills witness first-hand why killing a group of Albanian sex-traffickers doesn't go without repercussions is a clever enough plot-device to navigate the often difficulty of getting a sequel right.

What Taken 2 gets right is it's simplicity; it doesn't try to get overly clever. There is enough difference plot-wise to the first film to set it apart whilst enough similarity to remain familiar. Yes, someone is 'taken' in a dangerous, foreign country and yes, it is up to Brian to save the day, but it isn't simply treading water. Taken 2 strives to mix it up and show Mills when he is on the back foot and playing catch-up.

Moving the setting from the dodgy underbelly of Paris to the even dodgier underbelly of Istanbul, Taken 2 does slip up a little. Director Olivier Megaton seems hell bent on cramming in as many soundbites of prayer, and as many shots of mosques and crescent moons as possible, ramming home the point that anywhere other than good ol' apple-pie loving America is dangerous, seedy and rife with gun-toting Arabs. This might sound overly harsh, but when the main antagonist isn't even Arabic, it does seem as little out of place.

Add to this some questionable science involving hand-grenades and wind-direction, and it begins to feel like there were some clutching at straws going on during script-writing. The films' antagonists are also relatively forgettable, the same fate that befell their counterparts from the first film. Also, Taken 2's action sequences are ramped up on scale, detracting the gritty edge and plausibility the first film had in places.

Overall then Taken 2 isn't a bad film. It's simple, straightforward and sometimes silly. It's acted well by Neeson, Janssen and Grace and it also delivers enough action set pieces to keep the blood pumping. It might feel a little strained in places but on the whole, it's an enjoyable action-flick that gives Brian Mills' story a worthy second, and hopefully concluding, chapter. I mean, someone he knows can't possibly be taken a third time. Or could they?

I give Taken 2: 4/10


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Verdict: Doctor Who Series 7 Part 1

Doctorin' the TARDIS: Rory, The Doctor and Amy


Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill return for a third trip aboard the TARDIS as The Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams in the five episodes kicking off Series 7, before the latter two bid farewell to the show. With the series once again split down into two (unequal) halves, I took time out after the first 5 episodes to weigh up on the show's 2012 return.


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Film Review: Looper

Gordon-Levitt and Willis get down to business

The sci-fiction genre has taken something of a battering in recent times; whilst films like Source Code, Inception and Moon have injected some degree of success and acclaim, others have lowered expectations and standards; think Battle: Los Angeles, Transformers and Battleship

Along then, comes Looper, a new science-fiction film from director Rian Johnson, looking to reboot the genre with a winning combination of intelligence, action and thought. And boy, does it deliver.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

5 Films Still To Come In 2012

Now that big blockbuster season has wrapped up for another year, you may be thinking to yourself, what else is there to look forward to? Well, fear not people, there is still a quality line-up of Hollywood's finest on its way, ready to garner your attention at the box office. Here's my pick of the biggest films still to come in 2012. Let me know in the comments below what your most excited for! 

Looper - Out Now

Looper is the hotly anticipated time-bending sci-fi action-thriller from director Rian Johnson, starring the 'so-hot-right-now' Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as the same person. Yep, both Gordon-Levitt and Willis play present and future versions of the same character, caught in a battle of wits after the latter is sent back from the future to be killed by the former, thus being eradicated from the future in the past. Sound confusing? Possibly. Sound awesome? Definitely.

Looper has already garnered glowing reviews from Empire, Total Film and a whole host of others so my expectations are pretty high for this one. Check back for my review some time in the next week!


Lawless - October 11th

Set in Depression-era America, grisly gangster drama Lawless stars big stars like Shia La Beouf, Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy. 

Much like Looper, Lawless has been getting some good reviews for its acting talent (notably Hardy) and looks to breathe new life into the gangster genre.

Expect tommy-guns, Model T's and moonshine aplenty. But definitely  not any kids with custard-guns; Bugsy Malone this ain't.



Frankenweenie - October 25th

Hot off the heels of Dark Shadows, Tim Burton is back with another gloomy and gothic story, Frankenweenie. 

Based on a short Burton originally made back in the 80's, Frankenweenie tells the story of Victor, a young scientist who brings his dog Sparky back to life Franken-style.

With regulars Christopher Lee and Danny Elfman on board, expect nothing but Burton at his kooky best.


Skyfall - November 22nd

Daniel Craig returns to the infamous role of 007 in the hotly anticipated Skyfall.

Celebrating 50 years since the franchise's début with Dr No., Skyfall is expected to be a hark back to the golden era of Bond films with many classic staples included; Aston Martins, Q, Martinis, sultry Bond girls and exotic locales.

In this instalment, Bond's loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. Bring it on.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - December 26th

Peter Jackson returns to the far off realm of Middle Earth in the first of the a trilogy adapting J.R.R Tolkein's classic novel. A prequel to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, expect Jackson's films to be intricately scripted, carefully sculpted and beautifully shot. 

Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins, a role he was born to fill in my mind. Add to this a troupe of rag-tag dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Amritage) and a whole host of returnees such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Hugo Weaving as Elrond and Andy Serkis as Gollum and we're all in for a magical treat this Boxing Day. All together now, "one ring to rule them all..."

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The xx - Coexist

The Mercury award winning trio return with the sophomore album, Coexist, retaining their distinctive blend of chilled synths, low-key beats and hushed vocals. 

The xx's debut album (entitled 'xx') landed in 2009 to almost universal acclaim; the understated and dulcet tones of Romy Madley-Croft winning the band plaudits from magazines like the NME and eventually winning the Mercury Music Prize.

Following in the footsteps of other big name British artists like Primal Scream, Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, The xx have had pretty high expectations going to into their second record. So whilst Coexist doesn't surpass it's predecessor, it certainly doesn't fail to match it.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Voice of Reason #5: Forming the Justice League

Would a Justice League film ever match the might of the Avengers?

Let's face it; the success of The Avengers took us all by surprise. We all knew it was going to be big; maybe 600, maybe 700 million dollars big, but not 1.5 billion dollars big. Not only did The Avengers topple the previous comic-book movie milestone that is The Dark Knight but the combined weight of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye defeated Autobots, wizards, Hobbits, Pirates and Jedis - it is now the third highest grossing film of all time behind Titanic and Avatar.

Needless to say, this caught the attention of some big-wigs over at DC Comics; since the Avengers premièred in cinemas in April, there has been increasing speculation that DC will follow suit and put together a silver-screen mish-mash of their premier superheroes by Summer 2015, right alongside the planned release date for The Avengers 2. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon! The thing is there are a multitude of reasons why DC wouldn't be able to pull this off. Firstly, they need foresight.

One of the best things about the Avengers was the way in which Marvel had planned it out over as long as they had; laying the foundations back in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, Marvel played the long game. A side-reference here, a Tony Stark/Nick Fury cameo there, the universe in which Marvel's Avengers resided was interconnected and steadily built upon, layer upon layer.

After Iron Man, Marvel took the time to give Thor and Captain America their introductions. It didn't feel rushed or messy. On the other hand, a Justice League movie would be the complete opposite of this. 2015 is less than 3 years away and DC have little to no framework around which to build a Justice League film. Since The Dark Knight trilogy literally just wrapped up, DC haven't had time to give Christopher Nolan's Batman any no inter-linking nature with either Ryan Reynold's piss-poor Green Lantern outing nor Zac Snyder's upcoming Man of Steel reboot. There is no inter-weaving narrative, no acknowledgement of a wider universe.

2011's Green Lantern movie
For a successful Justice League movie, DC would need to get all of their character's on the same page as Marvel did with the Avengers.Not only would this mean formulating successful origin stories for Wonder Woman and The Flash but also rebooting Batman and Green Lantern.

And with Batman literally having just hung up the cape and cowl, it is hard to imagine anyone relishing the prospect of a entirely new reboot for the World's Greatest Detective. No-one wants to see "Batman Begins Again" (working title), especially after Nolan, Bale and co. knocked it out of the park. Seriously people, let the poor guy take a break - he broke his back making that last movie!

Likewise, it'd be hard to find many people chomping at the bit for a re-boot of Green Lantern so soon. Superhero movie saturation is becoming a serious issue and too many reboots makes the genre a borderline joke.

Another thing DC would need to work on before a Justice League movie would be introducing Wonder Woman and The Flash with their own respective films. The former in particular has been a title touted for a while. Could DC make these two work? Maybe. Maybe not. Wonder Woman would face the task of trying to become cinema's first successful female superhero - Catwoman and Elektra really failing to hit the mark. Meanwhile, The Flash (as a concept) would be a really hard character to ground in reality given his ability of running really really really fast. Whilst Batman has the possibility to be grounded in reality (as The Dark Knight trilogy showed us), I can't see audiences siding with a high-concept character such as The Flash.

So whilst the idea of a Justice League movie has been the talk of the town in recent months, I don't buy into it. If DC didn't have the foresight to get all their ideas on the same page then that's too bad for them. Unfortunately for them, Marvel have already got their towel on the "superhero ensemble movie" sun-lounger.

What do you think? Would you watch a Justice League movie?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Voice of Reason #4: Brits Do It Better

E4's The Inbetweeners

America. Land of the free, home of liberty, justice and apple pie. All that stuff. Oh, and the home of crappy British television remakes. It's no secret that American networks have developed a tendency to adapt hit British TV shows for American audiences with less than brilliant results. It's almost become something of a running joke.

Now, up until now, I've been relatively okay with this. It's kind of understandable that the niche comedy found in certain British shows wouldn't translate so well with American audiences. It might sound a little clichéd, but the differences in humour between the Brits and the Yanks isn't a figment of our imaginations. Added to this, not all American adaptations have been as disastrous and horrific as the Hindenburg. The most obvious example is by far The Office.

The American Office
A definitive British comedy from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the initial scepticism that shadowed the American adaptation in 2005 has been outshone since. The American Office has run 12 times as many episodes as its predecessor and has grown into a classic comedy show in its own right. It is arguably better in some aspects as well; whilst The British Office was centred on solely David, Gareth, Tim and Dawn, the American Office has a much stronger and memorable supporting cast.

That is pretty much however where the positives end. The list of horrific, awkward, disastrous and toe-curlingly bad adaptations sadly out weigh the good ones by a long way. Life On Mars, Being Human, Shameless and Skins are just a few to get us started. All interesting, successful and popular British drama shows that have been lost (sporadically) in translation. When reworking for the American market, the daring, edgy and controversial E4 show Skins failed to make a splash and instead sank faster than a dead scuba diver.

Add to this the horror that was Little Britain USA as well as the little known about IT Crowd remake pilot episode. Such was the lack of originality, the episode was a shot for shot, word for word rehash of the originals first episode, going as far as casting Richard Ayoade in the role of Moss, a role originally played by Richard Ayoade. There is a reason why this is spoken little of.

But worst of all is the most recent of all. MTV is currently airing a remake of E4's The Inbetweeners. And they've butchered it. One of the most endearing things about the original is its crassness and its genuineness. Will, Simon, Neil and Jay aren't over-played or over-acted; they act like teenage guys, right down to the biting banter and the endless mutual torment. The fact that it is also endlessly quotable ("Bumder", "Oooh fwriend", "bus wankers") doesn't hamper the show.

The American remake on the other hand is devoid of all that made the original funny. It's taken classic scenes  and features from the original and not reworked them at all; Simon spray painting Carly's name onto her driveway, his pathetic yellow Fiat and so on. It makes me wonder why they even bother making the show in the first place if all they are going to do is copy everything from the original. If American audiences want to see that kind of show, they should just cut out the middle man and watch the original! If the scenes are identical (sometimes word for word) then surely it makes no difference whether the show is set in America or Britain. It's completely and utterly needless.  Seriously, America, just give up remaking British TV, save some money and watch the originals.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Vaccines - Come of Age

In what feels like hardly any time at all, The Vaccines are back with a new album, their highly anticipated sophomore record "Come of Age". 

The group clearly want to spell it out to the world; they mean business. Whilst album No. 1 was a slightly sarcastic nod by asking "well, what did you expect?", Come of Age is all about announcing their arrival as something serious.

Gone are the minute and a half long ode's to Danish models, the tongue-in-cheek references to "seamen". In their place are mid-tempo ballads with crisp, cleaner vocals (I Always Knew, Aftershave Ocean) and moodier, darker sounds that lurch and sway (Weirdo, Ghost Town) replacing the frantic bursts of energy that we saw on the first album.

Lead single "No Hope" kicks things off in true-Vaccines style; the line "When your young and bored and 24 and don't know who you are no more there's no hope" mirroring similar themes of growing up and reaching adulthood found on their first album. But whereas What Did You Expect was more sentimental and misty-eyed, Come of Age leaves this behind, instead, striving to live up to its title.

That's not to say this second record is completely devoid of those hip-shaking guitar riffs and pop-fuelled choruses; one my personal stand-out tracks "Bad Mood" is brilliant in its simplicity, whilst the third track "Teenage Icon" might just be my favourite track of the bands: it's almost frustratingly catchy and never lets up for the entire three minutes.

On Come of Age then, The Vaccines have managed to record an album that lives up to its name; It successfully manages to cover new ground whilst also retaining that distinctive sound popular with fans. But then again, what did we expect?

The Vaccines - Come of Age: 7.5/10

So what does everybody think? Like the new album or not? Leave me a comment below and check back again soon! In the meantime, check out the Vaccines performing "Teenage Icon" at Reading Festival last week.





Thursday, 16 August 2012

Feature: Best Movie Trilogies


Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy

Watching the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (see my review here) got me thinking; could this be the greatest movie trilogy ever? How many other trilogy's can attest to being as consistently brilliant as The Dark Knight Trilogy? 


Friday, 20 July 2012

Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

"When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die"

This review may contain some minor spoilers.

Eight years on from the events of The Dark Knight, Batman (Christian Bale) returns to the city that branded him a criminal to save them from a new enemy, terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy). 

Christopher Nolan's first two Batman films are seen as something of a benchmark as superhero films go; 2005's Batman Begins reintroduced The World's Greatest Detective to cinema-goers in dark and gothic fashion, followed by 2008's even darker The Dark Knight. Not one to disappoint, Nolan has done it again, with The Dark Knight Rises perfectly ending the trilogy in heart-poundingly tense and dramatic fashion.

The stakes, and the scale, are higher than they have ever been before, with the isolated Gotham City in a state of civil war and on the brink of annihilation. When the action kicks off in the film's final third, it's bigger than we have ever seen in a Batman film. It is also the most emotional Batman ever, with plenty of scenes that'll bring a genuine lump to your throat. The Avengers this ain't.

"I'm not afraid, I'm angry"
Going in, it felt as though one of the film's biggest drawbacks would have been it's long running time; at over 2 hours and 45 minutes it is something of a marathon event. This however turned out to be not the case at all; if anything, the time flies past so that it barely feels like 2 hours. The film is paced impeccably and never feels like it drags, even in the plot-laden first hour. This fairly plot-heavy opening hour is probably the film's only minor downside. As Nolan attempts to weave together all the necessary strands for the film, such as introducing a plethora of new characters (Bane, Miranda Tate, John Blake, Selina Kyle, Daggett), as well as recap the fallout from Harvey Dent's death, it can feel quite complex. For people new to the franchise, and therefore unfamiliar with the existing core characters, it would be hard to follow at the best of times.

Not that you can expect many people you haven't seen Batman Begins or The Dark Knight to be in the audience anyway; as a concluding chapter in a trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises completes one entire story that started eight years ago. Not only does it begin with a memorial to TwoFace/Harvey Dent and see Bruce Wayne continuing to ignore the cape and cowl as a result of his death, but it sees the return of some old foes from the first chapter.

Anne Hathaway was purrrrfect as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
(sorry)
On the whole, The Dark Knight Rises has more in common with Batman Begins than The Dark Knight, which I really liked. As a story, it focused more on Bruce, not Batman. Also, it  gave less focus to the villain. Something The Dark Knight did well was really hone in on the relationship between Joker and Batman but it meant that the focus wasn't solely on the titular Knight. Not so in this one; this story is all about Bruce/Batman and not about Bane. Sure, Bane is the main antagonist, but he merely serves the purpose of giving Bruce the motivation to return as Batman and little more than that. It is good however that Bane is a physical opponent that tested Batman's strength, something that Scarecrow and Joker could never have done previously. The films centre-piece, a tense face-off between Bats and Bane is brutal and crushing, a stand-out scene. Fans of comic book series' like Knightfall won't be left disappointed...and I'll leave it at that. It is a little hard to make out some of Bane's dialogue at times and, with the mask covering most of his face, Tom Hardy's performance is a little inscrutable. He did well to come across as brutal and uncompromising, as well as intelligent and calculating but at the same time, wasn't a patch on the late Heath Ledger's cackling, psychopath Joker.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake
Christian Bale was brilliant as Bruce Wayne/Batman and probably gives his best performance of the trilogy here. He brings the necessary emotional gravitas as Wayne (especially in the film's pain-stricken middle third), as well as the imposing strength and weight as Batman nearer the end. Other returning actors such as Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman, as Alfred, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox respectively, were also excellent, the first's anguish and pain at a watching a dedicated Bruce Wayne force himself back into action is especially poignant. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is also solid as hot-headed detective John Blake.

The real star of the show however was Anne Hathaway; Her husky and breathy voice, jet-black hair and slinky frame have made her absolutely purrfect for the role as morally ambiguous cat-burglar Selina Kyle. It was always going to interesting to see how she fitted into Nolan's hyper-realist universe but everything about her character fits in well with the surroundings; her masquerade mask, utility belt, lycra catsuit and cat-like vision goggles are a far-cry from the stitched-leather suit paraded around by Michelle Pfiffer in Batman Returns. It's a shame her character has only been introduced in this final chapter; the banter between her and Batman is very funny and allows for the mood to be lightened ever so much.

Technically, The Dark Knight Rises is also a marvel; it is shot beautifully, with snow-covered, war-torn Gotham evoking images of the 9/11 attacks. Nolan's ability to tug at heart strings is shown best here; a destroyed football stadium, an American flag in ruins all resemble all too familiar images of our own world. In addition to the fantastic cinematography, Hans Zimmer's rousing score perfectly complements the ideas of revolution and uprising that Bane insights.

The big question is however, is it better than The Dark Knight? Well, Part 2 of the trilogy does have stronger villains in Joker and Two-Face but then Part 3 has the necessary pay-off and closure, as well as additional allies for Batman in Kyle and Blake. In my opinion, the two stand on-par with one another as both are breath-taking and emotional films that convert real-world themes like the War on Terror and the GFC into mass cinema-friendly characters, settings and plots.

Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is sublime and heart-pounding. It is an epic conclusion to the trilogy in almost every way and fully-deserving of all and any acclaim it receives. It is one of those films you walk out of the cinema already wanting to see again. I give it 9/10. 





Monday, 16 July 2012

Verdict: Life's Too Short

Life's Too Short features stars like Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. 

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant; the comedic geniuses behind landmark television shows like The Office and Extras, An Idiot Abroad, The Ricky Gervais Show, a plethora of podcasts and stand-up tours. Now, they're back with a third slap of comedy in Life's Too Short; but how does it stack up alongside it's predecessors?

Initially it might seem that Life's Too Short is treading over old ideas. Similar in concept and approach to both The Office and Extras through it's 'documentary' style and twisted versions of familiar faces, Life's Too Short doesn't appear to be doing anything that Gervais and Merchant haven't tackled before. It's themes of discovering the harsh realities of fame and fortune can be seem reflected in the chronicles of previous character's David Brent and Andy Millman.
Protagonist Warwick Davis, famous for appearing in the Star Wars and Harry Potter films, exhibits all of the same traits one would associate the Messrs' Brent and Millman; ignorance, obnoxiousness and being generally offensive. He is however, on the whole, a more likeable and endearing character than his predecessors'.

There is no doubting that the special guest appearances are works of genius. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter's short skit's were genuinely funny. Depp's dedication to his new film (it's directed by Tim Burton y'know), leads him to studying Warwick, and the more excited and intense Depp becomes the funnier it is. Likewise, Bonham Carter's inability to work alongside Warwick because he's a dwarf is the equal amounts cringe-worthy and funny.

Also, the scenes where Ricky and Steve play dead-pan and "holier than thou" versions of themselves are gold; fans of Extras will delight at the addition of Shaun "Barry from Eastenders" Williamson as the duos errand boy.

The show however, like both of Gervais' and Merchant's previous works tries to do a lot more than just flex it's muscles and show off its star power. There is heart and soul in Warwick's mistakes that show that Life's Too Short has a story and a message to tell. Yes, the jokes are skin-crawlingly awkward and make you want to throttle the star, but this all adds to the charm and appeal of the show. You do feel that come the end of the story arc, Warwick will have learnt from these mistakes and changed his ways in the same way Andy in Extras did.

This being said, the similarities to Extras and The Office are in my mind a little too obvious; the format, the character roles, the settings, the general feel. All of these factors add up to give a overbearing sense of deja vu. For example, Rosamund Hanson's role as Cheryl is really just a re-imagining Ashley Jensen's Maggie in Extras. She may be genuinely funny but it is easy to see where the idea for the "ditzy girl" character came from. Also, once the novelty of going "ooh look it's Johnny Depp/Liam Neeson/Steve Carrell" has worn off, the show reduces itself to laughing at midget ten-pin bowling and Warwick climbing a bookcase three times his size to reach a trophy.

So even though its more of the same witty and clever stuff from Gervais and Merchant, Life's Too Short seems to fall a little, well, short to be honest. It might have genuine character development and a moral at it's heart, but it is also not as revolutionary as The Office and not as outrageous as Extras were, and is seriously lacking in Karl Pilkington.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-man

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-man

How soon is too soon for a re-boot? Five, ten years? When Sony Pictures announced back in 2010 that a reboot of their lucrative Spider-man franchise was on its way, many people reacted with despair, proclaiming it too soon for Spidey to given the a rework since Spider-man 3 had only been in cinemas 3 years previously. Now, two years later, The Amazing Spider-man swings into cinemas a mere decade after the Sam Raimi original.  But does it live up to its namesake?


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Film Review: Snow White And The Huntsman

Fairest of them all? - Kristen Stewart
It all starts with once upon a time, weaves it's way through familiarities like an apple, an evil queen with a black heart and a heroic huntsman, but Snow White and The Huntsman gives fresh life to an old fairytale, albeit not completely convincingly. 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Film Review: Brave



Pixar lands yet another arrow directly in the bullseye with Brave, a magical and dazzling movie that introduces the studio's first female protagonist, Merida.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Film Review: Prometheus

Ridley Scott's Prometheus

This review contains spoilers. Don't say you weren't warned!

Part prequel, part stand-alone feature, Prometheus is part triumphant return and part missed opportunity by director, Ridley Scott. With an impressive cast, a multitude of iconic images and a genuinely scary host of squelchy extra-terrestrials, Prometheus is a solid and impressive film.


Monday, 4 June 2012

Film Review: Men In Black 3



Hitting screens back in 1997, the original Men in Black was big hit for Will Smith after the previous year's Independence Day. 15 years on, Men in Black 3 is a fun addition to a franchise that now has a whole new generation of children and families to entertain.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Verdict: Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy


Noel Fielding is handed the reins to his own sketch show, Luxury Comedy, and the result is a canvas that nurtures the comedian's wildly expansive imagination. Luxury Comedy however is an ambitious title and one that is maybe, a little too ambitious for Fielding to pull off.


Monday, 14 May 2012

Film Review: Dark Shadows


The latest in a long line of adaptations, Tim Burton's Dark Shadows is quintessentially his own; all the ingredients are thrown in that make up a "Burton" film, and yet, like Alice in Wonderland before it, Dark Shadow's fails to make optimum use of these ingredients to make a delicacy.


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