2016 a look back


Regular visitors to this blog will already know what my major highlight of 2016 was … hey, I still can’t stop talking about it.  Yes it was going to watch my favourite band Garbage perform at the Troxy theatre in London and to actually meet them.  Wow, I still pinch myself that it actually happened but it did and I feel so proud of myself for achieving a true dream of mine.  Their latest studio album ‘Strange Little Birds’ also impressed.

garbage troxy

Other than that event, I think 2016 has been a decent year for quality movies, something that will be reflected in my end of year Top Ten coming on New Years Eve (make sure you check back here then!).  But it hasn’t all been great.  There’s also been a number of disappointments and rubbish I’ve had to sit through just to bring my opinion to you, my readers.  Particular disappointments include the rather poor Legend, a new movie about the British gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and despite the casting of Tom Hardy in both roles, this was a borderline insulting Hollywood-isation of a violent and gritty true story that was done so much better when the Kemp brothers from Spandau Ballet did it in the early nineties.  I really didn’t get much out of The Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar! either, which should have been a fun, fascinating snapshot of old Hollywood, but had a limp script and a confusing plot that just felt like a slog despite good production values.  Also along the way I felt underwhelmed by Deadpool … probably the most hyped and acclaimed comic book movie of the year that left me a little ‘meh’ despite finding it funny, it just seemed a bit of a one note show.  The summer also brought with it some further disappointments … let’s all agree that Batman V Superman could have been better, and well, wasn’t Suicide Squad a let down, promising so much and delivered so little?  I wasn’t that impressed with Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! either – a deflating spiritual follow up to his classic Dazed & Confused.

deadpool

It was also the year that I tried to branch out, listen to more music (not just the aforementioned band) and discovered new artists like Kristin Kontrol, PVRIS and Against The Current … yeah, thankyou Apple Music.  So broadening my horizons has been fun, even if in the music industry it has been sad to see the passing of legends such as David Bowie and Prince this year.  With that said, the music industry continues to irritate me however and I find myself left cold by much of today’s most popular music (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and to an extent Gwen Stefani all delivered rather ‘average’ albums despite plenty of publicity and hype).  Yet I find solace in those artists existing outside of the heavily publicised, record label controlled mainstream and well, there’s some really good stuff to find if you’re willing to look beyond what you’re told to listen to.

game of thrones

On the TV route highlights of the year for me have definitely been the last season of Game of Thrones, arguably the best yet and some of the best TV I’ve witnessed all year.  I also got a lot of enjoyment out of House of Cards (I’m still behind…currently on season 3).  Daredevil was also good, despite a slow start.  However the big surprise this year has been just how good West World turned out to be, of which I’m due to watch the final episode any day now.    Orange Is The New Black was underwhelming this year though and despite some shocks towards the end, really needs to step up it’s writing and characterisation for the next season or I can see myself switching off.

titanfall 2

Oh and hasn’t it been a packed year for videogames?  I enjoyed and completed the following:  Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Titan Fall 2 … but have played many other titles, some of which have been too huge to finish (yet) or have caused me to lose interest.  One such game like that has been The Division, which managed to lose it’s appeal after a while and I haven’t gone back to it in ages … something I can’t say for the similar Destiny which with it’s expansions and still-intriguing concept keeps on pulling me back even two years since release.  The news of updated versions of current systems wasn’t so good however, having spent a great deal of money on owning the PS4 and Xbox One only to have the advent of PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio to eventually replace them.  But for now I’m still happy with what I’ve got and will continue to be until games stop getting released for these machines.

I wanted with this post to touch on the various things that have interested me and stood out for good or bad this year and with that I’ll sign off for now.  There’s some more reviews on the horizon and of course my end of year Top Ten.  So watch this space for much more soon.

Craig.

Not a music blog


13346426_1176376935716579_4775983290790319072_nI have never considered this blog turning into a ‘music blog’, and I’ve never been into music enough to start up a blog solely dedicated to music.  However this is also a place for me to share my thoughts on what sort of things I am currently into and following my continued interest in the band Garbage, having motivated myself enough to actually see them live twice in less than twelve months … music has become something I feel I need to explore more of.  Which isn’t easy in this rather over-hyped and narrow-minded music landscape we live in.  What we’re told to like or buy isn’t the entire story and there are many artists that go unnoticed and un-talked about that deserve more exposure.  My favourite band are certainly in that category and despite enjoying big success in the 90s have been often ignored or dismissed since they returned in 2012 following a long hiatus.  You see the media and magazines don’t really want to promote an artist on their own independent record label as there isn’t the money being thrown around to get them that headline article or that TV interview or that music video exposure like you’d see from the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber or Adele.  There’s not any real money in it for the media so why promote them?  Actual quality of product doesn’t compared to cold hard cash it seems and reviews you’ll see across the board for many high profile stars will be massively exaggerated and marked up compared to their smaller, independent counterparts, regardless of the content.  Sadly the general music buying (or streaming) public are like sheep and they’ll blindly follow whoever they’re told to follow.

radiohead

But perhaps more as an experiment than entirely conforming to such media brainwashing, I chose recently to dip my toe in the pool of the hyped and celebrated to see if such attention can possibly equal quality … and purchased the latest albums from Beyoncé and Radiohead, two artists I’ve at least liked in the past but haven’t explored in a long while.  Out of the two Radiohead’s acclaimed ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is instantly engrossing with it’s almost meditatory, lucid feel and Thom York’s dreamy, emotional delivery.  It sounds like them, it feels like them and has all the musical imagination, weirdness and brooding self-loathing I would expect.  I’ve only given it a couple of listens so far but have found myself very much swept away.  On the other hand, Beyoncé’s heavily hyped and almost universally praised ‘Lemonade’ has been a bit harder to beyonce-Lemonadeappreciate.  It’s themes of betrayal, infidelity, loss and jealousy are commendable and some of the songs on work very well, but it’s been a grower and initial impression was: they call this music these days?  But tracks such as ‘6 Inch’ and ‘Daddy Lessons’ really kick in after a couple of plays and I’m enjoying it overall.  The included (on the CD set) DVD that covers many of the tracks in video form is decent with several stand out, very artistic moments and only proves how photogenic and iconic Beyoncé has always been.  As a package it impresses in places but feels a bit ‘meh’ in others unless you’re entirely wrapped up in Beyoncé and her private life, which I’ve never been.

I plan to continue exploring more artists and seeking out a few lesser known (or less publicised) bands or singers just to discover someone that hasn’t been rammed down our throats.  I tend to resent such aggressive publicity and it’s the reason why I usually don’t have a good word for Adele.  Nothing against her music (she’s actually a very good singer and songwriter) but the attention is ridiculous and diminishes such obvious talent.   So I wouldn’t mind getting the debut album from The Purple Harts for example, who supported Garbage during their European tour recently and they rocked.  I also hear good things about the singer Ladyhawke as well as bands like Churches.

But don’t worry regular or first time readers.  This is not turning into a music blog, but may have the odd deviation from movie reviews and videogame discussion to talk about a really great album I’ve been listening to recently.  It’s also not turning into a Garbage blog, as much as that’d be really cool to me … you guys wouldn’t want that either.  So normal service will resume shortly.

Craig.

Obsessed


Viewed – 30 Jan 2010  Blu-ray

Beyonce Knowles, whilst being one of the more talented singers currently around, has only briefly flirted with acting, with appearances in Austin Powers: Goldmember and Dreamgirls.  Yet this entry in her CV has her in a psychological thriller, playing the happy, stay at home mom to her career husband (Idris Elba), who catches the eye of a rather unhinged blonde hottie in the office.  Ali Larter (from Heroes amongst other credits) is the predatory newby at the company who sets her sights on married man Derrick, determined to seduce him regardless of whether he wants it or not.

Now I know, this is a premise that has been done to death, most famously with Michael Douglas / Glen Close classic Fatal Attraction, and although this offers nothing new (and lacks much of the depth of that movie), makes for entertaining viewing despite its obvious predictability, mainly because of a feisty Ali Larter who plays the nut job stalker to perfection, and without wanting to spoil things, an otherwise under-used Beyonce gets to show not only her acting skill but also her physical ability in a wonderfully over the top bitch fight.  So as a vehicle for Beyonce it remains mildly successful, as anything particularly imaginative, it doesn’t even try – but this still does the formula well, no matter how many times you may have seen it in other movies.

Verdict:  3 /5