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’09 in Review

1 Jan

I usually do a very structured review of the year, with a best blog/film/record of the year etc. This year however I have decided against picking a categorised best of the year. I’m just going to vent and see what happens…

Cinema

Quite a few critics have lamented the movies of 2009. It’s true that there has been asome rubbish – Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, being one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It’s an absolute travesty that Transformers 2 has made almost $900m, meaning that another life-draining sequel is inevitable. But there have also been a handful of decent pictures too.

Pixar followed up the seminal Wall-E with another good movie. While Up lost its way towards the end, it remains a moving and at times breathtakingly beautiful piece of work. Pixar, along with the Cohen brothers, are consistently leading from the front.

As raucous buddy-movies go, I really enjoyed The Hangover. It’s over-the-top, but it’s seriously funny in places. Nice to see The Hangover is also one of the highest grossing films of the year – pulling in almost 500m clams.

Harry Potter was fine. Watchmen was an epic letdown. Wolverine was rubbish but I enjoyed it. I haven’t seen Avatar, In The Loop or Zombieland yet. And 2012 can go F itself.

As for Sci-Fi, I thought both District 9 and Star Trek were great.

Music

I don’t really buy much music anymore. I love a few bands like The Killers, Radiohead, Muse and The Arctic Monkeys, but in the main I listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

Anyway mainstream music is now the preserve of one man: Simon Cowell, who seems to manipulate the nation like a huge braindead marionette. Now richer than Scrooge McDuck, Cowell – sporting his trademark Botox-swollen face and G.I. Joe haircut – seems to be behind everything. It’s only a matter of time before Cowell builds a fortress in the clouds and we’re all forced to crawl on all-fours like bugs dong his evil bidding.

At the centre of Cowell’s insidious empire are the twin-behemoths, X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. X-Factor, which allows bedroom-bound popstar wannabes to to ruin your Saturday night, provides a desperately bored nation with a never-ending production line of wet crooners – many of whom seem to have severe personality disorders.

Britain’s Got Talent, on the other hand, takes hideous curiosities and turns them into national treasures. More Britons would recognise the Hairy Angel, Susan Boyle, than they would The Angel of The North – one of the few genuine cultural highlights of recent times.

The recent Rage Against the Machines Christmas Number One was of course an impressive display of guerrilla grassroots marketing, but really the whole story just highlights the predictability of British Music.

The X-Factor track was absolute rubbish, but it still got the number two spot. What sort of bottom-feeders bought that shit? The mass lobotomising of the British people is the great unreported story of the last decade, and it’s time Simon Cowell was brought to justice.

Politics

Watching the slow and painful premiership of Gordon Brown is now unbearable. While the backend of 2009 has offered a flicker of hope for Labour ranks, it’s inevitable that Labour will get an almighty hosing at the general election.

The electoral map is heavily stacked against the Tories, but it hard to imagine that David Cameron will be denied victory – even it that means being the dominant faction in a coalition.

I don’t believe for a minute that a Conservative government will be much good. That’s why it’s hilarious reading the Tory blogs. They’re selling a great sack of fail. David Cameron is not nearly good enough to run a corner shop, never mind the nation. He’s going to become the next PM because Labour is such a crock.

If the Liberal Democrats had any ideas, gumption or class, they’d be crucifying the Tories. Instead they are, as always, paralysed by opportunity and terrified of success.

Of course the Lib Dems don’t actually want to win the election. Having to give up their sniffy-aloofness would be too high a price to pay. No, the Lib Dems are perfectly happy with the status quo, which allows them ample time to sit about telling each other how fragrant their farts are.

Videogames

After last-years stellar year for gaming, 2009 was always going to be a bit of a letdown. That said; there have been really good games released this year.

The year’s monster hit has been Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which is brilliant. While none the individual levels quite match up to its predecessor’s highlights (the All Ghillied Up sniper level and the majestic opening few minutes of Charlie Don’t Surf), the overall campaign is better. My favourite part being the heart-pounding unarmed race across the Favella rooftops.

My criticisms of MW2 are that the multiplayer maps don’t offer the same varied experience of the first Modern Warfare game. Nothing quite betters the thrill of dominating on Ambush or Backlot. I like the Favella level and Invasion, but I’d love to be able to get a COD4 map-pack and bring my old favourites over to the new game.

The third MW2 game-type, Special-Ops, is really good and offers loads of re-play value. All together an outstanding, if not faultless, game.

One of my most played games of the year is the brilliant Xbox Arcade offering Trials HD, which is a beautifully realised game with a nod to the open-source motorbike classic Moto-X. You only control the trial-bike’s gas and the rider’s weight, but the experience is thrilling, addictive and taxing. My brother-in-law is completely besotted by the game.

I felt a bit let down by Halo ODST. Yeah it was moody and atmospheric, but it was also incredibly boring in places and the Halo 3 engine is incredibly dated now. Good to have all the multiplayer maps on one disk though.

Not being a PS3 owner I haven’t played Uncharted 2, but it’s the one game on the platform I’m desperate to play.

I’ve only played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2, which looks like more of the same – which is no bad thing! I hope to rattle through it over the next few days. I also got last year’s Fallout 3: Game of the Year edition for Christmas, so that’ll keep my busy.

Tech

Technology wise it’s been the year of the netbook. I love my Samsung NC10 (running Jolicloud OS) and often use it around the house instead of my MacBook Pro. I’m looking forward to the Chrome OS too.

I’ve become very attached to my new iPod Shuffle, which is used far more than my Touch. I just wish I could control the order my podcasts are played like I could on the old 2nd Gen Shuffle – maybe I just don’t know how to do it. They always play alphabetically.

Browser wise, Chrome has become my browser of choice on all my machines except the Macs. I need the Xmarks extension to sync bookmarks across my computers. On the Mac I use WebKit, but if the Chromium dev-build of Chrome was more robust, WebKit’s use would dwindle.

Phone-wise I’m still a BlackBerry man, that’s will change this year. Now the iPhone can gone multi-network expect sales to go crazy. I’m unsu
re between an Android phone and the iPhone, but I will get a touch-screen phone with a good browser.

TV

I don’t watch much TV, but the recent series of The Thick of It, and MadMen have both blown me away. I still like the I.T. Crowd and Peep Show is another favourite. Other than those two… Meh.

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So yeah, I finally watched Transformers 2

31 Dec

I’ll put my cards on the table. I enjoyed the first Transformers movie.

I know many critics didn’t much like TF1, but I enjoyed the special effects on show and thought that Shia LaBeouf’s motor mouth cockiness was pretty funny – especially his interaction with the slimy Sector 7 suit. Even the origin story nonsense I enjoyed and it held together okay.

Last night I watched Tranformers 2 and now I want 150 minutes of my life back.

When TF2 was announced I intended to catch it at the cinema. But after the critical mauling, I decided not to bother. Yesterday I decided it was probably worth a rental, just to see giant robots beat the shit out of one another. What could possibly go wrong?

I’ll tell you what went wrong. Everything.

Why the hell was that film two and a half hours long? It was a visual effects demo held together by the most convoluted and sigh-inducing story I have ever suffered.

So Sam Whitwhatsit goes off to Uni. It’s his first day at college, but somehow his fellow freshman roommates have – presumably in the few hours before Whitwhatsit got there – become dear friends, created a popular conspiracy website and set-up an internet business selling kitty calendars. Bullshit.

So anyway, story-line-wise (such as it is): inevitably the Decepticons are back and start appearing all over the place, slicing humans to bits and generally being nasty fucks.

We also see more of Megan Fox. In the first movie I agree Megan Fox was quite the hottie. Obviously she can’t act for shit, but she does what it says on the tin: pouts a lot and looks good in a tight vest. Let’s be honest. Fox is provided as eye-candy for the boys turning up to see two sports cars turn into robots and start wrestling.

In TF2 however, Fox spends the entire film looking like a carnival clown trying to make it as a hooker. You can literally see the pantomime makeup caked on her face. Yeah terrific rack, but it would be like making out with one of the female Splicers from the videogame BioShock. Urgh.

So back to Whitwhatsit. The jokes from the first movie are long gone. Think Shia LaBeouf’s god-awful turn in the recent, and very much regrettable, Indiana Jones movie. This time Whitwhatsit is supposed to be this seasoned hero trying to assimilate back into a normal life. He comes across as an annoying ass-knuckle, who you be quite happy to see slip and hit his temple on the side of a coffee table.

When Sam’s life is in peril towards the end of the movie, I genuinely wanted the wet fuck to croak. I couldn’t care less about any of the characters.

And what was with the two bickering twin Autobots? Are we, in these post Jar Jar Binks times, expected to put up with ridiculously clichéd (and possibly racist) characters in very blockbuster fantasy? Fuck, dudes.

And so even my son, who’s otherwise obsessed with anything remotely to do with superheroes and robots, got up halfway through the movie and mooched upstairs. Presumably he went to lie in bed and repeatedly punch himself in the face, in the pathetic hope he could wipe the experience from his fragile little mind.

Around the two-hour mark I too was becoming borderline suicidal. I started praying for the torture to end. Believe it or not, I’d actually had enough of gigantic robots rolling around on the floor and smashing each other in the face. I know. Incredible isn’t it?

I know the Transformers back-story is famously convoluted, with differing origin-stories from various incarnations, but the pseudo-religious Prime nonsense of the movie’s last hour was so painful I almost tore the skin from my face.

This film is so bad; everyone involved ought to be forced to drag the limp carcass of an expired Optimus Prime across the Sahara desert as punishment. Michael Bay, the film’s director, should be condemned to a life making adverts for sanitary products, and never be allowed near a movie set again. What a hateful cum-pot of a movie.

My wife’s conclusion summed it up perfectly as the credits rolled: “Well the first one was pretty good”. And that, I guess, is the kindest thing you can say about Transformers 2.

Cloverfield

3 Jun

Rather late to the party, I watched Cloverfield last night.*

*follow link to my other site

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Best of 2008

16 Dec

Lists, lists, lists. Everyone doing ’em, so why not me? The 2007 list is here.

Best Record
Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
Well I can’t say I’ve been blown away by any one record this year, but Kings of Leon are making very good music. I actually think – shock, horror! – that there are some good pop records in the charts at the moment, too.

Best Film
The Dark Knight
Well it was the year of the comic book movie. We had Iron Man, Hulk, Hell Boy II and Wanted (and those are just the ones off the top of my head). I’d say that Dark Knight wins out with Iron Man a close second. I also enjoyed Burn After Reading.

Best TV Show
The Wire – Series 5
The Wire is simply the best television programme ever made. Period.

Best Book
N/A
I’ve read no new fiction this year. I spent most of my time reading old John le Carré books and Graham Greene. I’ll have to remedy this in ’09.

Best Podcast
This American Life
This is probably the choice that has caused me to ponder most, as I listen to oodles of podcasts. But This American Life has provided the most memorable and beautiful moments. Subscribe, if you haven’t already. Worthy mentions to The Collings and Herrin Podcast [sic], Sarcastic Gamer and Football Weekly.

Best Radio Show
Adam & Joe
Funny and creative. Brilliant, basically.

Best Video Game
Gears of War 2
It’s been another cracking year for gaming. GTA4 was outstanding, Far Cry 2 was a surprisingly deep game, and Left 4 Dead (which I get for XMAS) looks great. Nothing quite topped GOW2 though. It’s awesome. The art style is incredible. The level design spectacular. And the weapons rock. Epic.

Best Gadget
iPhone
I haven’t got one. I can’t quite give up my BlackBerry (or switch to O2). However the app-store has made the iPhone a serious proposition. The utility of the device – theoretical and realised – is astonishing. I will get one, eventually.

Best App
Fluid
I have adored this app all year. I have run GMail and Google Reader constantly using Fluid and it has made life much easier. I’ve also been mega-impressed with Skitch.

Best Political Blog
Chicken Yoghurt
Justin has simply rocked this year. One of the best writers in the medium. Sadie’s Tavern would be a worthy mention too.

Best Non-political Blog
Limmy
This blog has made me – figuratively – piss myself all year.

Best Politician
Barack Obama
Obviously.

Best Newspaper
The Guardian
It better watch its back. The Guardian has lost its way a little this year. It’s still the best paper, though.

Best sportsperson
MS Dhoni
Finally, someone’s made a team out of the Indians. They’ve always had the talent (although the current team is pretty darn hot).

28 weeks later

30 Jun

Just watched the movie 28-Weeks later.

Now, I’m a bit of a veteren of horror films. My father is an old master – I’ve never seen the guy flinch. Ever. We saw everything when we were growing up. All the old classics, the stuff from the ’70s and ’80s, and everything that came out. I decided that horrors wern’t for me about 10-years ago, but my sister is still a big fan. I decided, on the strength of the first film, to give 28-weeks later a viewing.

It was too much for me. I crapped it.

I never want to see that film again. Period.

is hillary really just tracey flick?

24 Feb

BTW. the movie is Alexander Payne’s brilliant Election. Definitely worth picking up (along with Payne’s other greats: Sideways and About Schmidt).

winner, and new hd video format of choice is…

7 Jan

…Blu-Ray.

Is this the final battle in the DVD wars? With Warner jumping ship, surely it’s game over for the Toshiba-backed HD-DVD format?

Tosh are featuring at CES, and are naturally playing down the news.

In the end this will be good news for the industry. Punters can rest assured they’re not backing a Betamax and invest in a player suitable for their shiny new HDTV. This will in turn drive down prices as marginal costs fall. Expect to see Apple add Blu-Ray to their range too (if not at the MacWorld Expo, then later in ’08). Another question will be if Microsoft will realise rumours of an “Ultimate” XBOX 360 with integrated HD-DVD? Surely they’ll not give SONY’S Blu-Ray a boost by incorporating it in an XBOX, but then they can’t keep flogging a dead horse either…

Interesting. I expect to see a SONY Blu-Ray machine for around the £150 mark by Christmas ’08. Just in time for Santa…

UPDATE 8/1/08: Could Paramount be next overboard?