Category Archives: 2010

Top 5 Albums of 2010 – Year in Review: Part 3

So we come to music, always a tricky one since people’s tastes vary so much, but think of this list as the Top 5 ‘Alternative’ albums of the year (again in no particular order), so if you’re expecting the Hollywood special edition of Crazy Love to come up you’ll be left wanting…

Jimmy Eat World – Invented

Jimmy Eat WorldA band whose rise to fame catalysed the ’emo’ movement return with another classic album. Despite the album’s title, the band haven’t done anything out of the ordinary with this latest release – the sound is similar to 2007’s Chase This Light – but it is consistent, something very important in an increasingly changeable industry.

This is a band who deserve to be UK chart-toppers, but the foolish mentality of the single-buying public denies them, instead the enlightened can be reassured that albums like this continue to get made to provide a perfect mix of relaxing melodies and punk-charged pop classics.

Stand-out Tracks: My Best Theory, Coffee and Cigarettes, Littlething.

The Audition – Great Danger

The Audition - Great DangerAnother year, another great album. The Chicago four-piece have released an album every year since 2008’s Champion and though it might not have the disco feel of that release or the pop/punk glory of the Self-Titled follow-up, Great Danger has pace. Apart from the customary slow song – a sublime track about teenage heartbreak – the album thumps along with every song a killer.

The speed of the album makes it a great driving CD, or something to kick up the tempo at the crucial transition stage at a house party, but at its heart Great Danger just makes good, uncomplicated and addictive listening.

Stand-out Tracks: You Ruined This, Ms. Crumby, Run Away

Bad Religion – The Dissent of Man

Bad Religion - The Dissent of ManThe kings of punk rock return in fabulous style with their fifteenth studio album. If you’ve heard of Bad Religion and are a fan already then this is musical genius. Nay-sayers would have you believe all their songs sound the same and they are over the hill but in fact this release has more energy than any album since The Process of Belief. A whopping 15 tracks filled with oozin-ahhs, political satire and guitar hooks you can’t ignore, Dissent of Man is the apex of the band’s talent, with only their own live shows surpassing it.

As ever the tracks are as strong alone as they are in thundering unison and the dual vocal and recording talents of Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz are on full display as the band celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Stand-out Tracks: The Day That The Earth Stalled, The Resist Stance, The Devil in Stitches.

Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life

Motion City Soundtrack - My Dinosaur LifeA band competing with Weezer and NOFX to put the fun back into music, Motion City Soundtrack have all the swagger of both those bands combined, and it shows with this latest release. It takes something special to pull off swearing in music without sounding crass or unnecessary, but Motion City manage it superbly throughout My Dinosaur Life, culminating in the frankly titled @!#?@!.

Blink 182 bassist Mark Hoppus produced the album, which may explain some of its cheekiness, but it’s leading man and vocalist Justin Pierre who really puts the passion across with a selection of pop punk with pleasantly varying levels of teenage angst.

Stand-out Tracks: A Life Less Ordinary (Need a Little Help), Her Words Destroyed My Planet, Skin and Bones.

Story of the Year – The Constant

Story of the Year - The ConstantA much underrated band reach a new peak with a release that lives up to its name. From the chilling beginnings as a children’s chorus ushers in the opening track to the final suitably distorted chord. The band manage a great balance between melody and hardcore to challenge even genre heavyweights Rise Against for their title. The strength of the album is anthemic choruses backed up with memorable guitar rifts and tight musicianship throughout.

The songs share a downbeat theme but the energy keeps things from becoming drab and depressing, the emotion invested in the songs show and help give the album a more personal touch.

Advertisements

Top 5 Films of 2010 – Year in Review: Part 2

It was a good year for film, so I’ve picked out the best five films released in the past 12 months. They are in no particular order, think of them as five experiences you should have in your life.

Toy Story 3

Starring: Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton. Released: 19 July

Premise: Rootin-tootin cowboy Woody, reserved space ranger Buzz Lightyear and the other lovable brightly-coloured toys from Andy’s room are on the verge of being forgotten forever as Andy leaves for college and leaves them to the Sunnyside day care centre. How will they escape?

In-a-nutshell: Laughs for all ages return in a way only Pixar can deliver. New recruit Ken (Michael Keaton) is a particular highlight, as is the films nemesis Lotso Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty). With plenty of action and fun the film is a suitable, and moving, end to the series.

Rating: 4/5 (Read Full Review)

 

The Social Network

Starring: Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Arnie Hammer Released: 15 October

Premise: Semi-truthful account of how Harvard computer wiz-kid Mark Zuckerberg created the Facebook Social networking site, and all the drama along the way.

In-a-nutshell: Eisenberg is fantastic and convincing as the sarcastic and obsessive Zuckerberg and Director David Fincher plays out the story in a mix of real time, flashbacks and flashforwards to keep things interesting. The best docu-film of the decade.

Rating: 4/5 (Read Full Review)

 

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans Released: 25 August

Premise: Geeky bassist Scott Pilgrim is between jobs living in Toronto going nowhere until he meets the girl of his dreams – literally…in a dream. Unfortunately and non-sensically he must fight her seven evil exs to be worthy of going out with her.

In-a-nutshell: Despite being so fantastical it could mostly be going on in the mind of leading man Scott Pilgrim (Cera). Luckily tremendous effort from Director Edgar Wright ensures top-notch quality in cast (Superman AND The Human Torch?!), fights and music. On top of that the style in honed to perfection, from the 8-bit intro to the happily-ever-after finale.

Rating: 5/5 (Read Full Review)

 

Tron Legacy

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde Released: 17 December

Premise: Beginning years after the first movie left off, Sam Flynn (Hedlund) goes looking for his lost father Kevin (Bridges), only to find him locked inside a computer mainframe controlled by Clu, a digital younger version of himself.

In-a-nutshell: The biggest visual spectacle of the year, enhanced further by 3D (which, surely, this film was made for) as light cycles and identification discs wizz around. The father-son relationship which drives the film is believable, even if absolutely nothing else is, and that’s what keeps things grounded and makes you care about what’s going on. Very much a two-tier film, like any good Disney effort, and a perfect and infectious soundtrack.

Rating: 4/5

Inception

Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy Released: 16 July

Premise: Dreams within dreams, planting ideas in someone’s head – concepts don’t get much wackier than this. A band of dream extraction experts plan to make the son of a business man break up his father’s empire, but not before multiple-layered action.

In-a-nutshell: Action, confusion and sublime story-telling in equal measure here from accomplished Director Christopher Nolan. The cast is perfect, the style is fantastic and the final seconds of uncertainty provide the talking point of the decade.

Rating: 5/5 (Read Full Review)

So that takes care of films, stay tuned for music and Xbox 360 titles.

James Michael Parry

2010 in review Part 1 – This Is Entertainment

Since we have a shiny new year upon us I thought I’d share some exciting information from WordPress about how my blog has done this year, slightly self-indulgent but interesting. Keep an eye out for some more posts about my top 5 Films, Albums and Xbox 360 games of 2010 in the next few days.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 9,800 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 32 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 89 posts. There were 33 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 27mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was July 20th with 3,823 views. The most popular post that day was Film: Review – Inception.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were wordpress.com, facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, digg.com, and cardonation.sex991.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for mark meer, commander shepard, inception token, reading festival 2010, and inception.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Film: Review – Inception July 2010
132 comments and 57 Likes on WordPress.com

2

Gaming: Exclusive Interview with Mark Meer, Commander Shepard from Mass Effect July 2010
1 comment

3

About May 2010

4

Music: Reading Festival 2010 Review September 2010

5

Exclusive: iPad world premier of spy thriller Nikita September 2010

Film Review: Tron Legacy

Light CyclesTechnology is the driving force of the 21st century. Who knew back in 1982, when Disney put out the original Tron, that the cheesy effects and garish visual style would stick in audience’s minds to be brought back decades later.

Die-hards like the YouTube sensation ‘Tron guy’ will be delighted to hear the light cycles, neon suits and battling with glowing Frisbees have all returned in glorious digital 3D.

Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn from the first film, but for those unfamiliar with the Tron universe, Legacy eases the viewer in through the eyes of Flynn’s son Sam (Garrett Hadlund).

Sam wants to find out the reason for his dad abandoning him when he was eight years old, and so pays a visit to Flynn’s disused arcade – following a mysterious page his father’s old colleague Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) from the arcade’s back office.

As it turns out, there is a secret door hidden behind the Tron arcade game, which Flynn designed based on his experiences in the first film, and Sam discovers the server which contains ‘The Grid’.

Suddenly, though not unexpectedly, Sam is sucked into ‘The Grid’ through a digitising laser and the visual style shines as a the mostly 2D world suddenly gives way to a 3D digital universe.

The digital world echoes the roads and walkways of the real world, but with a honed precision and slick design which creates the contrast between the levels of perfection in the two worlds, driving the plot.

As Sam is led through this strange new world, the audience has just as little idea what is going on as he does, making the narrative unfold quite naturally.

Despite being a Disney film, the story doesn’t seem contrived or forced, and it’s easy to suspend disbelief as you find yourself thinking, “Of course it could happen, anything’s possible in a computer game.”

It’s the relationship between Kevin and Sam which sells the concept rather than falling into the easy trap of relying on the mind-boggling effects, which is easy to do for even the most mundane modern film – let alone one where motorbikes are appearing out of thin air.

Chances are even if you don’t have a clue what Tron is all about you might have stumbled across light cycles, the brightly coloured motorbike-esque transport on the gaming grid, which have popped up in the likes of Family Guy and South Park, and the original film is reportedly a life-long influence of French disco-pop duo Daft Punk, who score Legacy.

The pounding electronic beats of ‘The Punk’ complete the digitising sensation with the combination of an 85 piece orchestra and the duo’s signature synth pop melodies.

The background characters include a few familiar faces such as Olivia Wilde, of House MD fame, as Quorra, who serves as the love interest for the film – though it being Disney things don’t get particularly far, which is a relief since it keeps the focus on the action, the film’s strength.

In all the film surpasses expectation as a fun, action-packed thrill ride through cyberspace. Routing things with the characters is always Disney’s strength and they don’t disappoint here, director Joseph Kosinski delivers a slick, dynamic and up to date version of the 1982 cult classic.

Gaming: Spike Video Game Awards Top Picks

Finish the fight...?For those in the know the news is out: Eldar Scrolls V and Mass Effect 3 teaser trailers have both been unleashed on the gaming world, but for everyone else thinking “What on Earth are the Spike VGAs?” and “Why didn’t anyone tell me something was going on?” Here’s a micro-explanation.

The Spike VGAs have been going on for a few years now, they tend to attract a lot of big Hollywood names and the associated glamour, with some previews for upcoming titles thrown in just to keep the gaming part of the name happy.

In the past the Awards have seen  a few unveilings and announcements such as  The Force Unleashed II and Arkham Asylum 2 – Arkham City last year (but more on that later).

There’s plenty of criticism for the awards since they have a lot of live music acts and celebrities and really play into the big franchises borrowed from other genres, but they do occasionally bring some exciting news-bites…which is what we were graced with this year.

On the Sci-fi side of the argument lies a little game called Mass Effect 3:

Earth finally comes into play, not as a dot to orbit around but a battlefield, and things look serious. There’s debate at present whether BioWare will opt for a continuation of Mass Effect 2’s more upbeat action style, slide back towards a more diverse RPG game or progress to something new entirely, since there has been much talk of a spin-off game.

The trailer shows the Reapers decimating Earth, clearly something has to be done but how will the game work? Will you be traversing continents now instead of galaxies? Being Earth-bound might be hard to swallow for some players, though the game has been screaming out for some perspective since it’s inception.

Next up is the return of the Caped Crusader:

 

So the Joker is nowhere to be seen in this trailer, though we know he’s around from the teaser a while ago, but instead we are greeted by Doctor Hugo Strange, who is keeping an eye on the inmates for new Mayor Quincy Sharp – who has taken credit for all your efforts in stopping the Joker in the first game.

The visuals are particularly impressive, though obviously it isn’t in-game footage, and the same brutality as before along with a host of new gadgets and bits and bobs should make this a tremendous game.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the big news for fantasy RPG fans. Take a look at the teaser trailer:

So there isn’t much to go on as of yet, but clearly the game continues the story on after Oblivion and involves dragons. Any fans of Bathesda or previous Elder Scrolls outings will most likely be salavating even though the release is almost a year away, on 11 Novermber next year.

Finally Portal 2 made an appearance:

A real ‘tease’ with this one, Valve are bound to produce a great game, particularly the co-op aspect, but this footage doesn’t really tell us anything about the same, except that it has Valve’s usual sense of humour. Definitely one to watch.

 

James Michael Parry

Gaming: Do we need to get Kinect-ed?


Four years ago the Nintendo Wii broadened gamers’ horizons, getting them up off the sofa and waving their arms around to interact with games with its revolutionary motion-sensitive controls.

Last month Microsoft took the gaming experience a step further with the release of Kinect, an add-on to the incredibly successful Xbox 360 which lets players jump into games in a way they never have before. With a combination of an conventional RGB camera and two motion-tracking sensors, Kinect scans you into the game so every move you make is reflected on screen by your character.

The system, which is compatible with all existing Xbox 360s, was released on 10 November and sold a million units worldwide in the first 10 days after launch. Microsoft is confident to have it in five million homes worldwide by the end of the year. But with so much technology already hanging around widescreen TVs across the land, do people need another device?

There’s plenty of shiny futuristic features to the technology: voice control, hand control of the menus, as well as ‘scanning’, which means that the sensor can be shown a colour, analyse it and then use it in the game, such as the colour of your car in happy-go-lucky racer Kinect Joyride (which is obviously not a copy of any Kart-based franchise on Nintendo’s consoles…).

The camera also works as a normal webcam, allowing video chats via Xbox LIVE, but with webcams as standard for most laptops and Skype facilitating video chatting it’s hardly a unique selling point.

What Microsoft have failed to realise is that it’s the strength of the games which will sell Kinect to the masses, especially their current fanbase, and unfortunately it’s a fairly mixed bag. If things had gone according to plan we might have seen Kinect-enabled Fable III as well as Gears of War 3 but alas it was not to be. Perhaps Microsoft should invest in coming up with an IP which really lends itself to showcasing the technology…?

On top of it all it’s not cheap either – despite claims originally that it would retail around the price of a standard game – Kinect currently RRPs at £129.99 on its own, though it does come with the physically challenging Kinect Adventures, or you can pay £249.99 for a bundle with the new slim Xbox 360 console included as well.

The smart thing to do though is to wait for an established franchise to take the plunge and embrace the technology to show the world what Kinect can really achieve. In the meantime relax, gaming is supposed to be recreation after all. If you want a work out though, there is a certain console from Japan which you can flail your arms at to your hearts content, if you need a clue its name rhymes with ‘money’.

Review : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
All growed up: Daniel Radcliffe as the titular boy-man-wizard
Six years have passed since Harry Potter was sitting alone under the stairs without a care in the world. Now the world has changed, darkness has fallen and Harry and co must leave home and go on a quest to find a way to defeat the mighty dark lord.
Voldemort now controls the magical world and the only way for our dynamic trio to defeat him is to destroy the remaining shards of his soul, known as Horcruxes.
At one point our teenage heroes wear one of the Horcruxes as a locket around their neck, which makes them slowly become overcome with anger and rage, not entirely unlike a certain ring, and you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just put it in their pocket instead.
If you’re thinking it all sounds a bit familiar, then cast your mind back to 2001; a group of heroes travelling in search of a way to destroy an item of jewellery to defeat an evil overseer? Hmmm…
Throughout the Deathly Hallows there’s a distinct Fellowship of the Rings feel. This isn’t automatically a bad thing of course, as director David Yates embracing the picturesque landscapes and dynamic camera work which gave the films such an epic sense of scale, but the sense of foreboding and ever-increasing darkness soon takes its toll.
The film itself begins the climax to the boy-wizard’s story solemnly, with Harry, Ron and Hermione all leaving home for what they know will be the final time. Particularly heart-breaking is the moment where Hermione wipes her parents memories of her, to protect them, and her face fades from the picture frames across her muggle – that’s non-magic – home.
The universe which author J.K Rowling might not be exactly the same as the one which we’ve got to know on screen, but fans will notice plenty of familiar touches crammed in between the lines, and the absence of Alnwick Castle (or Hogwarts to those in the know) mixes up the hum-drum school year formula and turns the film into a non-stop chase movie.
As ever, those who’ve read the books will understand far more of what is going on (Snatchers?), but the usual tension between the main characters and ample amounts of Polyjuice potion hurry things along. With Obi Wan/Gandalf/Dumbledore gone and Sirius long since departed, Harry has noone to guide him.
There’s a real sense of the group really not knowing what to do for the first time, which adds to the sense of helplessness and world-ending which Yates is keen to push.
The supporting cast are the usual high standard, with new addition Bill Nighy sublimely asserting his authority as new Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour, and the return of Dobby the house elf is sure to be a hit with younger fans.
It’s Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson that we’ve all grown up with though and they all continue to be as effective as ever, though Radcliffe still lags behind the rest, but Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) really stands out from the ‘evil minions’ crowd, even over Ralph Fiennes’ chilling tones.
With the story only being half over it’s hard to build to a climax, though Yates succeeds in creating a impressive and lasting closing image, but the two parts demand watching together to give a real sense of finale. The film is an effective beginning to the end, but not exceptional, the closing chapter will either prove its worth or see the series fall short of the mark.
Rating: 3/5
James Michael Parry