This time it’s a bit prettier. I’m still too cheap to shell out for anything more than a custom domain, but at least this one can have a snarky tagline. Hopefully it’s an improvement, and if it’s not it’ll probably get changed again soon.
This blog has not been very regularly updated at all. I simply haven’t been able to write all that much; my only things being rare Twitter contributions and live-tweets of events I particularly like to do that with (namely: Eurovision).
But I bring to you a midyear Spotify playlist in tribute, and hope that it leads to more:
This is not perfect by any means, but does contain a number of the best songs of the year so far (as well as some that just sort of fit). Hope you enjoy.
…Well, since I’m here, I may well contribute some facetious movie awards that will be replicated nowhere else in this season. Behold!
Best Comedy: Assassin’s Creed. It’s a non-stop laugh riot, filled with cliché that goes on forever, Marion Cotillard monologuing, a ponderous tone that feels more like Top Secret! or Airplane! than anything actually serious, completely unbelievable tech, artificially dumb villains, and suddenly convenient plot twists. Unfortunately, everyone involved in making it appears to have taken it completely seriously. Whoops.
It is thus the most entertaining video game movie since Street Fighter, for which we should be thankful. It’s not good, but it was never going to be – and at least, if you take it the right way, it’s not dull.
Actual Best Comedy: Sing Street, which is utterly delightful and everyone should go see. It wasn’t even ruined when I saw it on BA.
Best Superhero Movie: Captain America: Civil War. Just because of that airport fight and Daniel Brühl’s understated and chilling villain. And there is hope for Spider-Man yet.
Most Entertaining Superhero Movie For Certain Values Of Superhero: Deadpool, of course. Tight, doesn’t stay beyond its welcome and properly funny. Honourable mention for Doctor Strange, which has continued a recent Marvel tradition of actually having a better ending than it has a beginning (which was also the case with 2015’s delightful Ant-Man.)
Stupidest Superhero-Related Decision: Warner cramming ten minutes of trailers for potential future DCCU movies into Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, wrecking the film’s flow and any attempt to explain Lex’s motivations (and indeed that Lex is why they’re fighting in the first place). The title is almost up there too, and the question of who on earth is going to watch a Cyborg movie is as yet unanswered.
Best Lift Scene: High-Rise. Which also contains the best use of both Portishead and ABBA of any movie this year.
Best Sequel: Creed, a.k.a. Rocky VII (released in the UK 16th January 2016). And yet it’s vital, brilliant and touching quality film-making, the best Rocky sequel ever and standing up to the original. It is on Netflix; go see.
Honourable runner up goes to Star Trek Beyond. It’s not that well directed, but it’s far better written than Into Darkness (it actually has structure and character) and is a lot of fun.
Least Necessary Sequel: Independence Day: Resurgence. If you weren’t getting Will Smith, then seriously – why bother? Why?
Joint top with Bad Santa 2, which did get Billy Bob Thornton but forgot to actually be funny.
Most Disappointing Sequel: Jason Bourne. It’s the writing that lets it down, nowhere near as good as the three proper Bourne movies. I wasn’t expecting that it would actually be a debate on whether this or Legacy was better, and the title is just lazy…
Most Idiotic Fan Strop: Ghostbusters. It’s not great, but it is better than Ghostbusters 2. If remakes with ladies in are really going to get fandom to that level of enraged and entitled tantrum, we might as well declare it over.
Best Of Last Year’s Oscar Contenders Released In The UK In 2016: Room. If you haven’t seen this, do. You are not going to see that sort of material handled as sensitively and well for a very long time.
Ricky Gervais Award For Being Ricky Gervais: David Brent: Life on the Road. He’s definitely missing Merchant.
It’s Better Than The Prequels: Rogue One.
Wish for 2017: Good films, please. Especially the Oscar contenders, but just in general.
And in honour of one of our bigger losses last year, this Youtube quotes video to finish off:
A happy new year to you all.
This has been one truly terrible year. One of the very few even vaguely redeeming bits has been the music, so therefore there is a final playlist of the year above.
We’ll see how 2017 goes.
And what an absolutely rubbish year this has been so far…
For everything apart from music, of course. And I’ve playlisted some.
Because he didn’t let any of his music go on Spotify, please imagine Prince’s 6-minute album version of 1999 playing directly at the start. (And if you have the album around, play it. Play it loud.)
New Radiohead. “Burn the Witch.”
Come on, open the preorders. They will know where I live.
I was meaning to do one of these every two weeks. That hasn’t really worked out, has it…
- Out the serious Oscar contenders, I will be more than happy if Room wins. Really subtle and well done. Mad Max: Fury Road is of course the best film there, but it’s never going to get Best Picture or Best Director in a million years (even though it had as arduous a shoot as The Revenant did, only less talked about).
- Idris Elba was robbed. So were Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan: Creed is just a Rocky movie really, but it somehow manages to breathe life back into the old carthorse through the traditional means of quality direction, a mastery of screenplay structure, and beautifully realistic, low-key performance.
- Deadpool is far more fun than it had any right to be and absolutely is the best X-Men spinoff by far (it does help that it’s the only one that’s been written with any form of a sense of humour involved). Suicide Squad will have a lot to live up to.
- I liked The Hateful Eight a lot, probably more than a lot of critics did: only Tarantino and Robert Richardson can get away with filming a cramped single-location film in Ultra Panavision 70 and not have it feel entirely like a gimmick. Like always, it improved a lot in his redrafting and, looking at the final draft screenplay the Weinstein Company have published for Oscars season, in the edit too. Wish Entertainment hadn’t fallen out with Cineworld though; but I don’t regret having to pay extra for once. (Note: I saw it on digital, with an intermission, at a Vue.)
- What on earth is going on with Batman v. Superman? The only way they seem to be promoting it in Britain at the moment is with some appalling Turkish Airlines commercials that are on every ad break on Food Network and most ad breaks on every other Freeview channel. I will probably see it, but still…
- Rise of the Tomb Raider can be recommended to anyone who enjoyed 2013 Tomb Raider: it plays the same, but adds better tombs, better side missions, optional NPC quests and fewer quick-time events of doom. A better rounded game.
- Musically, I am enjoying Not to Disappear by Daughter, SVIIB by School of Seven Bells, Adore Life by Savages, and absolutely loving Synthia by the Jezabels. Check all of these out on your streaming service of choice. New Underworld, Pet Shop Boys and PJ Harvey coming imminently too.
- Blackstar is also brilliant, but what did we expect really? David Bowie is the biggest, most devastating loss of the year.
It’s that time of the year where everyone comes together on the Internet to argue about what everyone liked over the year and why they’re wrong. So it’s time for my contribution…
Here is a Spotify playlist I’ve made of some of my favourite stuff this year:
This playlist is actually incomplete: for the sake of track-to-track flow it’s missing anything from Floating Points’ Elaenia, Laura Marling’s Short Movie, Errors’ Lease of Life, Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? and Purity Ring’s Another Eternity, all of which are very much worth your time. Purity Ring provided the best live show I’ve seen this year (at Metropolis in Montréal).
Best comeback of the year is of course New Order (but then I’m biased), and best collaboration of the year is F.F.S. (managing to be better than both the last Franz Ferdinand and Sparks records – there has to be a future for it.)
Addendum 22.12.2015: Forgot to mention or include in the playlist The Race for Space by Public Service Broadcasting, which is a pretty big omission; or No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney.
Best biopic so far this year is the exceptional Love & Mercy. Only just behind that is Straight Outta Compton, which did well to try to get a consistent narrative line into the complicated and multifaceted N.W.A. story with nicely kinetic direction from F. Gary Gray and the year’s best producer credit (Ice Cube p.g.a., because of course he’s in the union.)
It’s actually been quite a good year for spy and spy related stuff. Kingsman is by turns nasty, compelling, outrageous and very, very funny (even if Vaughan and Goldman didn’t quite manage to downplay the bad bits of Millar’s writing as much as they did with Kick-Ass.) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is massively uneven but its 60s atmosphere is spot on and when it sparks, it really works (the scene where Napoleon Solo finds safety while a massive action scene goes on in the background is utterly unique).
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the most consistent narratively since the first one and is brilliantly directed and constructed, even if there’s not a single overall sequence as good as the Dubai sequence in Ghost Protocol. Spectre is the third best Daniel Craig Bond film, but I’d still be happy if Mendes came back on the condition that he brings back Roger Deakins and Stuart Baird and finds some better writers.
Out of the two Marvel films this year, Ant-Man is better (completely in inverse to my expectations): off the wall and willing to try new things, it is also the rare Marvel film that gets better and better as it goes on, although it’s a shame we didn’t get to see Edgar Wright’s version. It’s effectively a low-stakes version of Iron Man and all the better for it. Age of Ultron drags a bit and feels overly breezy and fluffy, although it’s still pretty and Elizabeth Olsen is great in it.
Since I haven’t seen Star Wars yet I can’t quite classify that. The Revenant should be interesting too: the trailers give an utterly unique feel.
Addendum 22.12.2015: The Force Awakens is very much worth watching. I missed The Martian, which was a lot of fun and Ridley Scott’s best film in years. And of course, how could I forget Fury Road, by far the best sequel of the year? (That piece is unblocked and I’m working on it again, by the way.)
I haven’t played that much this year – I have time constraints, I don’t play MMOs and I hate military FPS with the force of a thousand suns, so the only big budget games I’ve played through this year are the hilarious Saints Row IV (finally giving up any pretence of being a serious game and going for all out comedy) and the PC version of Arkham Knight. Because I have a 4790K, 16GB of RAM and a GTX970 I was just about able to run it acceptably, which continues to show that if the PC is not dead as a gaming platform, it’s at least in the resus room.
For the record, it played OK after the first patch and some of what it does is brilliant (and unfortunately its best element is a spoiler), but it is the least of Rocksteady’s Batman games. Still better than Arkham Origins and most other games though, and it still handles its No Man’s Land inspiration better than Dark Knight Rises. So I would recommend giving it a go if you have a machine that it it will work on, or one of the current-gen consoles.
I do not own any of the current consoles, so Rise of the Tomb Raider will be 2016 for me. Let’s hope Crystal don’t screw that port up.
At the point when I am writing this in 2015, the world is heading towards Peak Superhero. Both Marvel and DC, both owned by major media conglomerates, are developing movie universes to match the ones they have built on paper. Both plan to release many comic book films over the next few years; Marvel of course having had a considerable head start. But, considering history and the upcoming slate, is this going to work out for either of them?
(Warning: This piece is quite long, has a few minor spoilers which you probably know anyway, but does contains ranting about The Dark Knight Rises. So read it at your own risk…)