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That was 2012

iIj9HI3bpK1kSo new year has passed and all hail 2013 as we hurdle into its third week. Im pretty glad 2012 is over. Not that it was a terrible year, really it was a bit meh. Movies this year have been pretty good but I honestly only remember coming out of 2 or 3 thinking  “I would really like to see that again”. Fern Cotton also deemed this a glorious year for music on Christmas day Top of the Pops. Total pish. Music this year has been pretty poor. The Killers and Muse had new albums which failed to reach the bands past heights and as far as new music goes there was not much to write home about. Thankfully, due largely to Netflix  this year has been ace for TV shows. I have been able to catch up on shows I had never seen for one thing. Like about 80% of the people I know with Netflixs I started watching Breaking Bad for the first time and Dexter. This year also saw new sitcoms “New Girl” and “Don’t trust the Bitch in Apartment 23” which were excellent and the not to excellent but “It has its moments” How to be a Gentleman (staring Johnny  Drama/Kevin Dillon).

Ok, so now I will give my _____ of 2012. These might not have been made in 2012 but hey, this is my blog and these made my year!

Film of 2012

This was a really easy one in the end but I will quickly go through notes of intrest. Way back in January
The Gray came out. A film where basically Liam Neeson kicks the crap out of wolves (See here). Really enjoyed this film and thought it one of the better this year. There were alot of disappointing films at the start of the year to compensate. “Haywire” was a utterly underwhelming offering, “This Means War” was just terrible and the “220px-Dredd2012PosterDictator” did nothing for Sacha Baron Cohen’s reputation.On the upside there was “The Muppets” and “21 Jump Street” to keep things ticking along until SUPERHERO SUMMER where my number one sits. So it was a time for heroes and we got them in abundance, The Avengers Movie was nothing short of amazing. Great story, Great action, an all round amazing film but not my #1. “So its Batman?” you say. Nope. Another brilliant film but I had my issues with it (especially the ending) so is not top of the pile. “John Carter? The Expendables? Surely Ted doesn’t count?” Your right it does not, My number one film of 2012 is……. Dredd.

I loved everything about Dredd. It looked cool, its plot was really simple, the pacing of the dialogue to action was perfect. Essentially Judge Dredd and partner are lock in at the bottom of a massive tower block and need to get to the top to get out. Only problem is that everyone in the building wants them dead. There is more to it than that but not much more. Another plus point is that it is one of the only 3D films I have seen that was made better by the technology. My #1 hands down.

TV show of 2012

thickofit460There have been alot of great shows this year. As said above I have watched a host of excellent dramas but this year has been brilliant for sitcoms. I was losing faith in sitcoms, with the wealth of British offerings drying up due to the “give over rated comedian his own show” sponge. But this year i have see some great comedy. It has helped as old favourites  such as “30 Rock” and “Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia” have been bang on form and the new arrivals mentioned in the intro have added something fresh. Even hidden gems like “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” and the unmissable “The League”  have brought a smile to my face. This year also marked the end of Limmys Show. It is a poor decision by the BBC to keep giving Russell Howard so much money than he knows what to do with it and pulls Limmys brand of off the wall comedy. Anyway to my #1 for TV is another series which has ended this year. Armando Iannucci stunning “The Thick off It”. I can only assume you have all watched this and if you haven’t, come on, sort it out. The satire is brilliantly clever and is perfectly mirrored by the eloquent strings of profanity from Malcolm Tucker. I personally love Armando’s work and if you haven’t see “The Armando Iannucci Shows” or “Time Trumpet” then give them a try.

Music of 2012 

Ah. Well. This could be tricky. Music this year has been disappointing to say the least. If its not Dub step or songs about Equestrian Eventing (I assume from the actions?) then theres not been alot of noise made about anything. Music has been quiet this year. That said The Hives were on Jools Holland at new year so at least it ended well! I suppose my album of the year was actually relased late 2011 but I never got hold of till last year. It is Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness. Great album, will add a track below and for more on them head here.

Oh and I suppose my Song of the Year is this below from Bloc Party.

Internet Thing of 2012

Butterfield. Last year you stole my heart. www.peterserafinowicz.com/brian-butterfield/

Well that will do. Like 2012 this is not the best, maybe slightly rushed but hey! Lets get on with 2013.

Till next time

Fall

Gig Review – Los Campesinos!

Liquid Rooms Edinburgh, 28/03/12. Support – Tall Ships

So my very social week was rounded off by heading to my first gig since seeing Modest Mouse about a year ago. Sad as it is but most of the bands I like don’t head to Edinburgh that often. This paired with the fact that as I become older and more of a recluse I am less inclined to travel to see a band. So I was delighted when buying tickets for next months Graham Coxon gig to see that Los Campesinos! were playing. Ten bucks (well 12.63 or what ever the “Booking fee” for buying a ticket over a shop counter is) to see one of my favourite bands looked like a dam good deal.

Another reason I fancied this gig was that I have never seen them play coupled with the shocking fact that I have yet to listen to their new album which came out late last year. I decided not to listen to any of the new songs once I bought the ticket and wait to catch them live. I thought it would be an odd experience to know every word of 2/3’s of the songs and have no clue about the other 1/3. Think about how often this kind of opportunity occurs? So on Wednesday evening I left for the Liquid Rooms with a feeling of anticipation as well as the usual pre gig feelings of excitement and a dread of disappointment since it was my first time seeing them (Sometimes bands disappoint, it happens).

I have been to the Liquid Rooms once before when I went to see The Hot Hot Heat about 7 years ago. I remembered the balconied and bar at the back but I remembered the venue being much larger. This has happened to me before with the Garage in Glasgow. I went when I was 15 to see CKY, a gig I can remember really clearly. Yet when I returned early last year to see the Wildhearts the place seemed to be about a quarter of the size I expected. Must be a visual spacial defect of getting older!

Anyway, onto the gig itself.

I got there about ten minutes before the support band. Pretty chuffed with my timing I looked around and found a nice wee space next to a pillar.I then settled in to watch Tall Ships. Tall Ships are a three piece band where both the bassist and guitarist use keyboards and effects to beef up their sound to build up their songs into epic crescendos of noise before breaking down to start the process again. The guitarist used a loop peddle more than any one else I have seen using one. Rather than using it as a gimmick or a bit of fun, it was used in every song. This obviously gives the songs layered complexity but it did mean that during the build up each layer needed to be recorded before everything really kicks off. This can take a while but is all held together with some excellent technical drumming which without over complicating things kept these long build ups from becoming stale. I enjoyed what they did, they played a nice varied set and are comfortably up there with the best supports I have seen in the last few years. (http://www.myspace.com/tallshipsfromfalmouth)

So after a fair bit of set up it was time for the main event. It was time for the 7 piece “Los Campesinos!” to get the capacity crowed moving. Having never seen the band I was surprise by the amount of kit they had on stage. Other than your standard guitars, bass and drums there were two synths, a xylophone and a second drum rig, as well as a selection of odd bits a bobs scattered around. I’m not going to go into detail about every song and how they made me feel or even into great depth about what their music is like. I mean its easy enough to listen to yourselves and form your own opinions. You all ready know that I’m a fan and was not disappointed by their live performance, in fact I thought they were brilliant.  All I will say is that their music ranges from all out bouncy-dance-along numbers to deeper almost poetic songs ( I would recommend  listening the album “Romance Is Boring” to get a feel of this). What I will say is for a band with so many “moving” parts they kept everything really tight while not taking themselves too seriously on stage. They genuinely looked like they were having a great time and isn’t that why any band go out to tour? (I suppose it doesn’t seem that way all the time these days) to find out more head to –  http://www.facebook.com/loscampesinos

Overall I thought this was a great gig. It is always a bit of a victory when the band play your favourite song near the end when you think they had maybe omitted it. (In this case a song called “The sea is a good place to think about the future) Also when a band are a good laugh between songs thats a bit of a bonus as well. So, if you had never heard of Los Campesinos then give them a try, and if you have then maybe give Tall Ships a go.

Anyway,

Till next time,

Fall

Review – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Can Old Saint Nick (Cage) get back to his best? 

So. I was going to write a review of the Muppets, which I went to see last night but something happened. A friend of mine asked if I would like to go to the cinema today. I said “Sure, not up to anything. What is on that you have not see?”. Now my friend frequents the cinema a lot and the only real option was “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. First thought was “Ok. Nick Cage. Good in Kick Ass but was also in The Wickerman making a fool of himself” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6i2WRreARo) So I went in with an open mind, as you need to if you are going to write about a film. Especially a Nick Cage film.

So whats it about? Well if like me you missed the first film this is how it was explained by my mate. Johnny Blaze (worst name ever for comic book character) makes a deal with the devil to keep his dad alive. The devil doesn’t keep the deal but still puts the spirit of some kind of evil vengeance angle into him. Every now and then Blaze’s head…well…. turns to a blazing skull and he then kills all evil people around him with his really hot chains. Ok. You got that? Cool. Also in the last film he quests to get rid of his split personality but when he is told he can ditch his fiery head he chooses to keep it. This is also the main theme of this film. He is the Ghost Rider. The son of the devil shows up and he needs to save him past the day of the “ritual” because he fancies the kids mum. He also thinks there is a good angel stuck in the bad angel that is stuck in him. Not complicated at all.

So let’s get this out of the way right now. Its getting to be a bit of an elephant in the room. You want to know what I thought? Well….. it was terrible. Not in a movie snob way but in the way that it was so boring even during the action sequences. Also Nick Cage is trying act his way to a contender for his performance in the Wickerman. He over acts everything, his one liners are delivered with the timing of a whale in tap shoes and he has one sequence where he intimidates a “bad guy” he is squawking and moving his head so much it looks like the Family Guy impressions of Bill Cosby. In fairness this scene was hilarious but i feel was never intended to be.

Talking of Family Guy jokes, one of the bad guys had the power of decay (despite decaying anything he touches ( i.e. swords or monks) he can still drive a car?). So he tries to eat food from a lunch box in a bit of light hearted “bad guy” comedy. He has an apple but lo and behold it rots as he raises it to his mouth. The same happens to the sandwich he has a go at.  But then he picks up a Twinkie and (lol) it doesn’t decay. “HAHAHAHAHA, U KNOW LIKE IN FAMILY GUY!!! ROFLCOPTER!!!”. This is also the only joke in the whole film. The rest is terribly dull action sequences and shocking one liners. The main problem is the film can not work out what I wants to be so tries everything. Its a bit of a mess really.

I don’t really what to continue with this review. It is to easy to pick apart and I am trying so hard to find a positive. Maybe if you have nothing better to do you can go and have a laugh. The only upside I can see is this film will allow you to appreciated better films more having seen this dross. So technically this film is doing a lot of good by lowering expectations so that average films will now be  seen as “quite good”. That a positive I suppose!

Nick Cage needs to take a long look at himself, then he will look at all the cash he has and not feel so bad I suppose.

Coming soon my Muppets review.

Till next time

Fall

Review – The Artist

Was this quiet film better than the “talkies”?

So about 6 weeks after its gerneral relese and countless nominations for awards I finally took an afternoon trip to my local cinema to see the Artist. The critics love it, my friends all love it and to be honest I have not heard a bad thing about it. But here’s the thing. I never fancied it. I like to think of myself as a open minded cinema goer and especially love works that have come from France (such as this film) but the idea felt like flying the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon instead of taking concord. Fun for a bit but is there any point in going backwards. So I went in thinking “why bring back a form of film which has been dead for such a long time and in these times of rehashing anything, why has this not been done before”. But that is no way to head into a film so I cleared my mind and sat down to watch this critically acclaimed jont around 30’s Hollywoodland.

Basically the story itself is one you have seen a thousand times before not only in films but in TV shows every week. Its essentially the story of the main character George Valentin’s fall from mega star of silent film to his talents becoming obsolete due to the introduction of talking films and his reluctance to change to the new media. Subsequently he tries to fund his own silent film, losses all his money and has a full on break down. At the same time Peppy Miller, a nobody at the start of the film, works her way up to be the biggest star of the “talkies”. The slight twist being that her fake mole was first suggested by George at the start of her career (think of the whole creating your down fall irony type of thing). The film charts the years where silent film dies and Peppy grows to stardom while George plummets as their lives collide from time to time. Also John Goodman plays the studio boss throughout the flick and is a nice familiar face in a cast of new meat to me.

Ok same deal as usual. I am now going to look at some of the themes and my opinions of the film so there maybe a few spoilers beyond this point. Although im pretty sure I am the only person on the planet that hadent seen the film before today.

First off I want to look at the theme of the death of silent film that runs throughout and sees Georges fall from grace. Obviously it is one of the quirks of the film that it looks at the history of the transition between silent movies and talking film but as The Artist is a silent film so you hear non of this new media. I makes the film feel as if it is being told from the perspective of the silent film or someone who is stuck in their ways and will not accept the new technology. Which fits well with Georges character and gives the film a feel of him being nostalgic and down on his luck rather than a loser or foolish . But this is as good as the depth to characters gets for me.

This is where I start to find small faults in the film. The main one for me was character development. The fact that this was a film without dialogue made it really hard to get to know the characters. I felt removed from them, and as this was a film about emotions, I personally found it hard to feel for the characters. Don’t miss quote me in saying that the acting was poor. Far from it, I though it was outstanding, but even with these great performances I could not connect with either George or Peppy. Also there is a lot of reliance on George dog to show what was going on.  It is easier to show threat if there is a dog barking (even silently) or even Georges embarrassment if the dog is mimicking him. I one way I see this as clever to make it easier for the audience but with a film which is taking so many awards, I would have wanted the characters to be deeper than I felt they were.

All in all I feel this is maybe not a great film but a great cinema experience. I do not think that I will want to see The Artist again but I am happy I went to see it. It is different and it works but I feel the film would have been much better with dialogue to develop the characters since the story was so predictable. I feel with dialogue the romance would have been deeper between the two main characters and history of silent film, which was the umbrella of the film, could have played a bigger role, which it probably deserved as that has not been in mainstream cinema for a long time. Its a film worth seeing but I think it could have been improved by the inclusion of dialogue. Funny that the lack of this is the one thing that makes the film more famous that anything else.

I know this will not be a popular review so add a comment if you agree or disagree with anything.

Till next time

Fall

Review – The Grey

Liam Nesson. Being a Bad Ass. In the Snow. Or is it?

So the latest film that I have been to see is The Grey starring Liam Nesson. This film is an adaptation of the a short story called “Ghost Walker” by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers. I went along expecting to see Mr Nesson crash a plane, run through the snow home while round house kicking wolves in the face as he went. Much the bad assery seen in the other Nesson action film of late (things like Taken and Unknown). BUT, I was pleasantly surprised that this was more of a straight film about a man, who has little to start with, leading a group of men from a plane wreck through the wilderness. This would be bad enough but this group of oil workers are being hunted by a pack of wolves. As is explained by Nessons character ” John Ottway”, whose job it was to kill wolves on the oil fields,  if they were within 30 miles of the Den the wolves will attack.

So these men are in a plane crash. They end up in the middle of nowhere where everything is a bit grey. It is always snowing and even when there is no blizzard it is still well below freezing. “So its a film about a group of men working together to survive?”, well yes and no. At its bones i suppose it is but the real theme of the story is about these men coming to terms with surviving a horrific event such as a plane crash and being even more pearl afterwards. The men are coming to terms with the fact this could be the end of their lives.

Ok. From here there maybe spoilers so you have been warned!

The film looks at some great themes. My favourite is the “out of the frying pan, into the fire” aspect mentioned above. The fact that these men had nothing to begin is key. It is outlined that the men who work in this area in the desolate north of America, only go there because they have nothing else. This seems to be the case with each of the characters who survive the crash. They have survived a plane crash, they want to live but if they get back, what is there for them when they get back? More of the same which they hate? So as they come to terms with being saved, the group start to get attacked by wolves as they are in the wolves territory. After a few of the team are attacked at the crash site it sinks in that they are in even bigger trouble. Nessons character seeing this basically gives the group a task. They need to get the wallets of the dead home for the families. I don’t think this was as much to do with respect for the dead but to give the men something to strive towards on their treck to survive while being chased by the wolves.

Another theme liked was the similarities between the wolf pack and the group of men. The main instance of this is when the group find themselves penned in at the bottom of a slop and the pack are at the top but the fires the group make deter the pack. At this point there is an all mighty howl from the wolves and a confrontation. Ottway then explains it was the alpha male putting down a challenge from another male in the pack. A little later the character John Diaz (who is the “he’s a bit of a dick” character) challenges Ottway who puts down the challenge with embers from the fire. This works on two levels. The obvious parallels above but also the use of fire which is the main weapon against the pack throughout the film is used to kill a pack like threat from Diaz.

The John Diaz character also has the best scene in the film. This is where he gives up. He has had too much and realises that where he is at that point, after surviving a plane crash, days of chase and lack of food, at that place he sat, with the most breath taking view he as ever seen, was where he wanted to die. He is happy and if he continues and survives he will go back to having nothing. No real achievement. At that point, a man who was defiant about living to the extent he produced a blade on his own team, sat and finally accepted death and was happy in letting it come over him after his achievements on the treck.

The film also has a nice little twist concerning the Ottway character. Throughout the film Ottway has flash backs to his ex-wife. He writes a note to her as a tries to commit suicide before the doomed flight but changes his mind when he hears a wolf howl (I know that’s a bit naff). As the film go on I was lead to believe that she left him for another man but at the end you see the dip attached to her arm and you realise the real story. I personally never seen it coming but my girlfriend twigged it in the first 15 minutes of the film. So if you were dim witted like me its a nice twist!

The film however has its problems. The wolves in some places are a bit, well… crap. The close up mauling are all over the place and the wolves seemed to run at about 5 times faster that I would have imagined in deep snow. Also there are a lot of wolf references such as the suicide howl which were not as subtle as the ones mentioned earlier.

I personally really enjoyed the film although my girlfriend was a bit unsure. Maybe its a guy film. I don’t really know about that one. Overall it is a dark film but it explores some great issues and if you haven’t seen it, stay till the end of the credits. I will not spoil that one even past the spoiler warning!

So I enjoyed Liam Neeson’s newest offering despite the fact he didn’t really beat the crap out of any wolves. I look forward to Taken 2 and the continuing action career of Mr Neeson. (A shout for the expendables 3?)

Till next time

Fall

Social, Reference and Community

A Review of Community Season 1.

So what happens when its your midweek day off and you are recovering from being ill? Your not going to goto the gym or even think about venturing outside. You get up, read for a hour

and then do all the wee niggley things that need to be done. Right, time to start watching something. I think I fancy a hour comedy. Only problem is I am up to date with all the usual suspects (Big Bang Theory, Always Sunny) so what to watch. Well last week my mate told me about this show Community. Right off not to sure what its going to be about. Being Scotland based we don’t have these Community collages, well we kinda do but they are not call that.

So the basic premiss of the show is about a group of “Misfits” that all go to a really crap Community collage called Greendale. Now a community collage lies somewhere between collage and high school here. Basically anyone can go who can pay the tuition fees. So the show based around the life of Jeff Winger. As his surname suggests he is looking for an easy ride to get a law degree after it was discovered that his previous degree was fake. He then starts a study group to try and get Britta (the female lead) to sleep with him. He is then shocked to find four other classmates from his
Spanish class turning up to his study group. From there the group get into situations and help each other out as you would expect in a sitcom. I will not go into to detail as it will spoil watching.

So what am I going to tell you about. Well, I feel that this show has one of the best tools for inserting cultural reference I have witness recently. Now I love a bit of cultural reference. I grew up watching and loving shows like Spaced which use your knowledge of other shows and films to further the story. I has also been done to death in shows like Family Guy where they even did the who of the original Star Wars trilogy. But the way it has been done recently is getting lazy or maybe just repetitive. but in Community they channel almost all cultural reference through the character of Abed. He is a film studies student that is on the Autistic spectrum and uses references from TV and film to make sense of the social developments in the group. The creators of the show are really cleaver to almost mock the use of this and will even have episodes which mimic genres of films.  Favourites being the Superhero day of the dead episode, the Godfather inspired storyline in the fried Chicken episode and the action story line in the paint ball episode which again the characters themselves comment on how much the story is developing like a film. Each of the storyline are presented as if being seen through the eyes of Abed and not really what’s happening but this is never confirmed in this season.

Also I would like to mention the character of Senior Chang who is one of the best anti heros I have seen in a sitcom for years. He is the groups Spanish teacher but his teaching style is frantic to say the least. As it is said they can not fire him as he is the whole Spanish department. He of all the characters is the one which I kept flip flopping between whether I liked him or not. What I did not realise was that I was that this is one of the main arcs of the whole season which is not expected.

So basically this is my first review in a while and im a bit rusty. They will get better. As for the show it on paper looks like another american sitcom but it has something more. It elevates it up with the likes of Always Sunny in Philadelphia in my estimations (although is a different kind of show!).I hammered through 25 episodes in 12 days.  So if you have never heard of it or you waiting for time to watching it, there is no time like the present.

Enjoy

Fall

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