Biffy Clyro – Opposites | Album Review | Music | This Is Entertainment

Biffy Clyro

Biffy Clyro - OppositesBiffy Clyro are a band which always seem to have been around. Despite rising to power with debut Blackened Sky back in 2002, the band never seem to grab attention in the same way as a charismatic rock outfit like Foo Fighters, which is a shame when you consider the strength of their catalogue to date.

Latest effort Opposites is no exception, and succeeds in grabbing attention from the very beginning with ‘Different People’, in which a slow build of keyboard give way to a perfect sing-along melody.

Title track ‘Opposite’ is as touching a ballad as any of their contemporaries have ever managed and sets the tone for the album as a whole – this isn’t raw and gritty Biffy, but this isn’t them going soft either.

The sound has been distilled, concentrated and rounded off, but without sacrificing the band’s edginess. Their fiddling of offbeat time signatures remains present, as does the occasional Scottish twang from the vocals which never fails to raise a smile. You won’t find anything quite like the early works such as the iconic ’57’ and ’27’ here, but the polish added with time has made the band shine rather than dull, and those familiar with the Only Revolutions era are sure to feel right at home.

The music adds in a few rogue elements to full effect, such as trumpet in the appropriately named ‘Spanish Radio’, and despite having the usual dash of melancholy, Simon Neil’s dark vocals continue to hit home with their vivid imagery, forcing you to engage where other bands may be happy to let you phase out. The tempo swings up and down, often within the same song, making the album arresting to your ears.

In truth, Opposites has all the elements to serve as a very strong entry point to the journey of Biffy Clyro themselves. Still going strong after almost 20 years, this album is a stop which could see a lot of new fans jump on board for the ride, and the train shows no signs of slowing down.

With such a consistently strong album, Biffy deserve to be noticed and recognised for their obvious talents, and a few songs could even sneak into the pop charts if marketed right. It’s unlikely that this is what the band had in mind of course, but to show the world that the British can still make music, bands like this need to step up and take their well-deserved place in the sun.

Rating: 5/5

James Michael Parry

Review | Rear Window | Classic Films | This Is Entertainment

Rear WindowIt’s unlikely Director Alfred Hitchcock appreciated just how right Rear Window’s Stella was back in 1954 when she said we had become a race of Peeping Toms: “What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.”

In the constantly connected culture of 2013, the boundaries of privacy are blurred more than ever before and surveillance is a 24/7 worldwide phenomenon. This makes a trip back to ‘the good old days’ of simple astute observation – with neighbours (allegedly) looking out for and caring about each other – all the more appealing.

James Stewart is fed up. After six weeks of being laid up at home with a broken leg, following an unfortunate incident on a motor racing track, and nothing to do but gaze out of his window at the comings and goings of his neighbours. Quite unexpectedly, the unusual behaviour of one man catches his eye, and so begins one of the finest thrillers the Master of Suspense has to offer.

The lead character is key in a story all about perspective. Immediately you relate with James Stewart’s globe-trotting photographer L. B. Jefferies, a man who lives to be on the move stuck in one place with the same view day in, day out.

Equally interesting is Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont, who steps up to make the role far more than it could have been. At first she dismisses Jefferies’ wild theories about murder and cover-up as paranoid suspicions, and as an audience every time you think you have worked out what is going on, something changes. Fremont’s perspective change is so quick you almost miss it, but the interplay between the two is vital at holding your attention and in building the suspense and intrigue as the story thickens.

Hitchcock’s legendary status is well-founded here, so much so that it gained him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director, and it’s easy to appreciate the talent a honing of a craft built up for decades beforehand with films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Strangers on a Train and even Dial M for Murder the same year.

Largely the film stands up to modern scrutiny expertly well. The occasional technical relic such as the sped-up-footage technique or some laboured panning creeps in, but really it’s hardly noticeable and all reflects the charm of the era.

The plot flows along at an impressive pace for a film set entirely on one set and the romantic sub-plot remains just that, rather than encroaching on the drama itself. The location, the Chelsea borough of New York City, is well-suited to the mood the film wants to get across. To be in the midst of the hustle and bustle but unable to see it save a small slither of roadway just through the gaps in the houses, the audience shares Jefferies’ feeling of entrapment bordering on claustrophobia.

It is a tried-and-tested setup, but it is also a shining example of how to do it right (which is why it is the first film to be awarded This Is Entertainment’s ‘Classic Film’ accolade). There was a TV remake in 1998 featuring former Superman Christopher Reeve as a paralysed shut-in surrounded by technology, and a ‘re-imagining’ in 2007 in Disturbia. In fact the latter was sued for copyright infringement on the original short story on which the 1954 film was based, but was, in the end, absolved.

In all the film delivers on it’s slow-burn build up with all the expertise you would expect from a name like Alfred Hitchcock. Far from pretentious, overly deep or lazy, this film has something for viewers at many different levels, offering a social commentary more appropriate than ever or just a simple, well-composed thriller, which demands your full attention.

In a nutshell: Broken legs, binoculars and brain-scratching in this accomplished thriller. A perfect introduction to the legendary Alfred Hitchcock.

Rating: 5/5

(Here’s a taster, the trailer to the 80’s re-release)

James Michael Parry

13 for 2013: Our most anticipated films, music, gaming, technology and cyberculture | Entertainment | This Is Entertainment

The fun and games of 2012 is behind us, so it’s time to stop doing Gangnam Style, put down your ‘New’ iPad and think about all the exciting things which will clamour for both your attention and your wallet this year. Here are 13 things we are really looking forward to:

  1. Ingress (Available Now)

Screenshot_2013-01-03-07-50-32It might seem strange to start with something which you probably haven’t heard of, but its mysterious nature is what makes it interesting. Currently search giant Google is beta testing an augmented reality app, which calls for users to investigate the world around them using their phone as a scanner.

Using the software from the Google glasses demo released last year, the team have come up with a narrative based around CERN’s Higgs Boson experiment. To request an invite for the beta go to the Ingress website (but expect to wait a few weeks). Expect more on the site in the coming months as we delve deeper into the mystery.

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  1. DmC: Devil May Cry (11 January)

dmcWhile the obvious candidate for the crown of ‘anticipated game of the year’ is Grand Theft Auto V, we decided to avoid tackling Rockstar’s media-teasing monstrosity and talk about some of the smaller hitters, beginning with DmC, a reboot of Devil May Cry.

Danté is back, now with a harcore-fan-outraging new look, and a more user-friendly play and combat style. Developers Ninja Theory haven’t held back in taking the series’ ingredients and throwing them in a blender to make a more dynamic and edgy game, not that it’s tricky to make a demon hunter who is half angel and half devil look edgy. What we’ve seen so far looks impressive, though the team have an uphill struggle to convincingly gain ground in the third person slash-’em-up arena.

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  1. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (21 January)

Wolf's LawAfter a stunning debut album from the Welsh three-piece, they are due to strike back this year with their second album. The band perform amazingly well live, and their songs have that element of originality mixed with a few familiar pop tricks which make them compulsive listening.

Lead vocalist Ritzy’s voice is immediately striking and the synergy in the group is second to none. First single ‘The Ladder is Ours’ picks up where the first album left off and drives the band’s music forward. Expect some well received live performances on the back of this CD later in the year.

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  1. Bad Religion – True North (22 January)

True NorthHardcore punk rockers Bad Religion continue to churn out albums at an alarmingly consistent rate and this latest effort is looking to be no exception. First single, ‘Fuck You’, has all the uncompromising energy and attitude you could expect from a punk band who have been making music for over 30 years.

Title track ‘True North’ reveals more, and gives a sense of the overall tone of the album itself, somewhere between the blisteringly quick songs of early days with albums like Incomplete and the philosophy of The Process of Belief.

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  1. Windows Surface Pro (28 January TBC)

Windows Surface ProWe’ve already waxed lyrical about Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, and what more could you want? Windows 8 in a handy portable package of course. The RT version of the Windows Surface tablet has been out for a few months and has sold “modestly”, but many IT enthusiasts are holding off for the full ‘Pro’ version, which runs standard windows programs as well as Windows‘ own tailor-made apps.

With boosted specs and plenty of positive reviews of the RT version already circulating, this could be the technology purchase of the year (well it’s less likely to be replaced in a few months like a new iPad might in any case).

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  1. New(ish) gaming IPs: Remember Me (May 2013) and South Park: The Stick of Truth (March 2013)

Remember MeDespite the Xbox 360 nearing the end of its life (see point 11), there are still new IPs coming to the console which look promising. South Park: The Stick of Truth, though not entirely new since it is based on the South Park cartoon series, is the first which cartoon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been directly involved with throughout (reportedly because they were sick and tired of bad South Park games). The game riffs on the classic staples of turn-based RPGs and is sure to have plenty of the sort of laughs and cultural references the TV show is known for.

Remember Me is Capcom’s take on manipulating reality by changing people’s memory in the near future. The game features a protagonist called Nilin, a ‘memory hunter’ who has lost her own memory and is on a quest to get back what she’s lost, while forcing people to kill themselves through memory manipulation along the way. The game is being handled by newcomers Dontnod Entertainment, but reception to the game so far has been promising, so hopefully this won’t be a case of all shine and no substance like fellow near-future jaunt Syndicate was last year.

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  1. Star Trek into Darkness (17 May)

Star Trek into DarknessZachary Quinto and Chris Pine reprise their roles as Spock and Kirk as we go Star Trekking once again, this time with the help of Sherlock Holmes, well, Benedict Cumberbatch. Star Fleet is under direct attack this time around, and Cumberbatch, who plays an unknown character who may or may not be linked to classic Trek film The Wrath of Khan‘s Khan.

The first teaser trailer shows all the destruction and drama you have come to expect from J.J. Abrams’ reboot, and with the acting talent in the mix it would be difficult to not make this the cinematic spectacle of the year. At least unless a bunch of superheroes turn up…oh…

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  1. Man Of Steel (14 June)

Man Of SteelZack Snyder directs the latest in a long line of Superman films, but this time, for the first time ever, Superman himself is British. Jersey-born Henry Cavill, who you may have seen in The Tudors TV series or 2007’s Stardust, dons the red boots in a familiar tale, retold.

Not much to get excited about you might think? But with Christopher Nolan on Producer duty, the studio must be keen for some of his success with The Dark Knight Trilogy to rub off on Man Of Steel.

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  1. Comic book films return (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (4 Oct USA), Kick-Ass 2 (19 July), Thor: The Dark World (Nov 8), Iron Man 3 (26 April), The Wolverine (26 July))

Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Kick-Ass 2Superman isn’t the only superhero doing the rounds this year of course, there are a bunch of sequels on the way to astound and delight us all. Of these the most exciting is Kick-Ass 2, which sees Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist all return, with original actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Morentz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, for another round of crude and comic caped action.

This time Red Mist is seeking revenge, as teased at the close of the first film and Jim Carrey also makes an appearance as Colonel Stars and Stripes. With so many dark and ‘mature’ style superhero flicks flying around it’s good to have something like this as an antidote.

(No Kick-Ass 2 trailer just yet I’m afraid, but Iron Man is shaping up nicely too).

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  1. Reading Festival 2013 (23-25 August)

Reading Festival 2012With organisers Festival Republic kicking off the hype train early this year, we already know that Eminem will be one of this year’s Reading Festival headliners. Also in the mix are Alt-J, Deftones and Sub Focus.

The event always pulls in some of the greatest acts in the world for the year and the atmosphere is difficult to beat for a full weekend festival. Plus following the re-jig and re-brand last year things will be running even more smoothly, leaving more time for drinking and moshing than ever before.

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  1. The next Xbox (Q4 TBC)

The next Xbox?The Xbox 360 has now been on shop shelves for seven years, with hardware older than that, and in some places it’s beginning to creak at the seams. The lack of big game release dates after May this year leans heavily towards a hardware reveal at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, after a decidedly by-the-numbers affair last year.

The gaming community are beginning to cry out and despite manufacturer Microsoft’s claims in 2010 that the console was only half way through it’s life cycle, the clock is ticking. The time makes sense for the company too, since they won’t want to risk falling behind rival Sony‘s next release, which is still unannounced.

At present no concrete news has come out about the next Xbox console, despite rumours being rife, but whatever happens it is likely to slot effortlessly into its parent company’s efforts with Windows 8. The question is, will they strike while the iron is hot?

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  1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 December)

The Desolation of SmaugAfter the success which Peter Jackson had with the first instalment of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, we have our fingers firmly crossed he can keep up the momentum for a further two films. The subtitle for this year’s film, The Desolation of Smaug, would suggest this is the chapter in which Smaug is vanquished, but what does that leave for film three?

The multi Oscar-winning director is doing it for the love at this point, so it’s hard to see him making a misstep at this stage, but the real draw for this next film is the returning cast, all of whom shone in part one. How can you say no to more Gandalf?

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  1. The digital entertainment tipping point (TBC?)

The final point in our list is more speculation (speculation you say? On a blog? Outrageous!) around the subject of digital distribution. It might not be something to look forward to if you are keen on polishing the boxes on your CD shelf, but the digital revolution is happening right now. In music in particular the market is struggling to cope, as consumers begin to buy songs online through the likes of iTunes more and more.

The BBC recently reported that in 2012 CD sales fell by 11.2% overall, with sales of physical copies down 20% to 69.4million, compared to a rise or 14.8% for digital, bringing its total up to 30.5million. Surely the day we see digital in the majority isn’t far away?

In gaming and films too things are changing, as more people stream or watch films online, sometimes through games consoles, and various on demand services such as Netflix providing access to thousands of films without the bother of popping down to Blockbuster. Games on demand on Xbox remains uncompetitively priced, but avenues such as Valve’s Steam platform are proving more popular than ever before.

The interconnected nature of technology is making viewing entertainment easier every year and this year could be the time when we start to see the digital future really come into its own.

A Digital FutureJames Michael Parry