Sunday, 30 December 2012

My Top 5 Films Of 2012

2012 was a bumper year for movie-nuts with there being a little of something for everyone; bombastic superhero blockbuster, high tension Cold War dramas, zany coming-of-age tales all feature in my personal Top 5 Films of 2012.

5) Skyfall 


Daniel Craig as 007
James Bond was back in a big way this year; kicking off celebrating 50 years of films by making a surprise cameo at the Olympics, Bond's 23rd screen outing in Skyfall blew everyone away by being, let's face it, pretty damn good.

After a mission in Turkey goes pear-shaped for Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve (Naomi Harris), Bond is faced with getting himself back in the game and stopping the villianous Silva (Javier Bardem) from killing M (Judi Dench) and destroying MI6.

Skyfall shook away the lingering doubts that surrounded Craig's second outing as Bond (2008's Quantum of Solace) and put himself right back on track with heaps of exciting action, sultry sirens and sleek sports cars.

You can read my original review of Skyfall by clicking on this link: Film Review: Skyfall


4) The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a charming and honest look at the sometimes horrible experiences of being an adolescent in high school.

Charlie (Lerman) is a shy and introverted highschool freshman who is taken under the wing of two seniors; Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller).

Together the trio come to terms with growing up, leaving behind loved ones and moving onto college. Between them, the three leads develop a brilliant on-screen chemistry that makes their friendship look, feel and sound real. A killer soundtrack also enriches the high school and house party atmosphere.

It is however, the raw and tender moments between Charlie and Sam (as well as those that explore Charlie's troubled and damaged past) that sets this otherwise unassuming coming-of-age drama aside from the rest.


3) Looper


Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in
Looper
Put the pyrotechnics down people, Looper is here to show you how science-fiction should be done. Proving that all you need to put together some killer science-fiction is an intelligent script, a clever concept and a stellar cast, 2012 was the year that director Rian Johnson blew us all away with Looper.

Set in 2042, Looper centres on the simple premise of time-travel orientated assassination; a 'looper' is someone who kills targets that are sent from the future to their present, dumping the bodies and eradicating said target entirely.

With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt all putting in some great performances, Looper impressed on every level; it was well written, it was well-acted and it had some striking visuals when the action ramped up in the final third.

Cast aside your Battleships' and your John Carter's; Looper is how proper science-fiction should be done. Don't miss out.

You can read my original review of Looper by clicking on this link: Film Review: Looper


2) The Avengers


"Take away the suit of armour and what are you?"
Putting together the ultimate super-hero film was no mean feat for Joss Whedon, but somehow he pulled it off; bringing together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) into the one film for the first time could have ended in disaster.

Instead, the Avengers was a rip-roaring success, the combined forces of Marvel's greatest hitting the bullseye in terms of what we have come to expect from the characters. Interweaving numerous franchises and their subsequent back stories, Whedon gave each member of the team their due.

The real winner here however was the script; The Avengers is not just a contender for biggest action film of the year (the final third of the film tears New York a new one) but also the funniest. The verbal banter between Earth's Mightiest Hero's had me in stitches, the zinging one-liners racing across the screen with ferocious speed. Not just that, but Whedon spent the time focusing on the protagonist's mortality and humanity, not making them seem invincible or unbeatable.

You can read my original review of The Avengers by clicking on this link: Film Review: The Avengers


1) Argo


Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in Argo
Set in a Revolutionary 1970's Iran, Argo tells the story of six American's fleeing from certain death at the hands of an Iranian public baying for their blood. Cut off from the outside world, their only hope of escape comes in the form of Ben Affleck's CIA agent and 'Argo'; a zany scheme that sees the CIA team up with Hollywood producers to forge the ultimate cover story. Under the pretence of filming a B-grade science fiction movie in the deserts of Iran, Mendez (Affleck) must outmanoeuvre the police and stay one step ahead if he is going to get the Americans' out of Iran alive. 

Based on a true story, Argo was gripping from start to finish. It managed to maintain finger-nail biting tension throughout, the final third of the film keeping the audience practically gnawing at their knuckles. Each and every member of the film's cast acts their part down to a tee, from Alan Arkin's grouchy movie producer to Bryan Cranston's stressed CIA executive, the cast doesn't miss a beat.

The absurdity and implausibility of such a plan being pulled off however also sees the film veer into some side-splitting introspective satire that sends up the inner-workings of Hollywood, something that perfectly counterbalances the drama with levity.

You can read my original review of Argo by clicking on this link: Film Review: Argo


Honorary Mentions

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, The Woman in Black, Brave, The Amazing Spider-man, Rise of the Guardians.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Film Review: The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey

"I'm going on an adventure"

This review may contain mild spoilers.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo
Peter Jackson returns to Middle-Earth with the first third of his highly anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel, The Hobbit. Maintaining complete continuity from his earlier works on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson's first Hobbit movie is one that is different in tone but not different in quality.

So put down your pitchforks and your torches. It's okay, just calm down. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is good. Very good in fact, certainly not deserving of many of the mixed reviews circulating around currently.

Monday, 24 December 2012

My Top Albums of 2012

5) - Jack White - Blunderbuss


Jack White's first solo outing post-White Stripes simultaneously took him back to his roots of being a straight-up, rock n' roll/country artist as well as succeeding in being an album that traversed many different sounds without alienating any of his fans. 

From the gentle tinkling opening to 'Missing Pieces', to the hip-swaying and catchy groove of 'Freedom At 21'  ("Cut the bottoms off my feet, make me walk on salt, take me down to the police, charge me with assault"), White struck out on his own with confidence and vigour.

His over-arching story was one of unquenchable heartbreak however, a theme that made for some truly brilliant ballads like 'Love Interruption', 'Hypocritical Kiss' and 'Take Me With You When You Go'.


4) - The Rubens - The Rubens


A brilliant d├ębut record from one of Melbourne's newest indie rock outfits, The Rubens' burst onto the scene in 2012. With some serious rotation on triple J, the Rubens' won me over seriously fast with assured and soulful tracks such as 'Never Be The Same', 'My Gun' and 'I'll Surely Die'. 

Always fantastic to see great promise bursting forth (especially when said promise is so brilliantly laden with catchy and unshakeable melodies), The Rubens' have no doubt got their eyes set squarely on the target of becoming one Australia's biggest indie rock bands alongside The Temper Trap and Tame Impala. 


3) The Vaccines - Come of Age


Another round of the Vaccines doing what the Vaccines do best; solid, catchy, fun, brash and unashamedly simplistic indie pop songs that knock the socks off of anyone listening along. Try listening to 'Teenage Icon' without a the energy and fun causing your feet to tap and head to bob, I dare you. 

However, like I mentioned in my review earlier in the year, the frantic minute-and-a-half ode's to Danish models are absent on record No. 2, instead a host of mid-tempo ballads that introduce some darker and gloomier sounds to the pallet; 'Ghost Town' and 'Weirdo' best show off this slightly new direction for the English quartet. 



2) Richard Hawley - Standing At The Sky's Edge


Richard Hawley's seventh studio album was my first taster of any of his work and I must admit, Standing At The Sky's Edge made a great first impression.

The reverb-laden guitar and vocals on brilliantly psychedelic tracks such as 'She Brings The Sun' and 'Down In The Woods' set this record apart from a lot else that I listened to this year; they stretch on and on, recalling images of a sun-drenched summer's day. In fact, the 50 minute run time is amazingly split across a mere 9 songs, only one track dipping below the 4-minute mark. 

Hawley's latest record also has its quieter moments, 'Seek It' and 'Don't Stare At The Sun' dropping the tempo down to the pace of a gentle swaying hammock.


1) The Maccabees - Given To The Wild


Some albums come along and not only take you by surprise, but fully knock you for six. Given To The Wild is one of these albums.

The Maccabees changed tac entirely here, their third record swapping the trademark sound of indie guitar plucking and jitteryness found on 2007's Colour It In and 2009's Wall of Arms for a new-found sense of serene and calm.

'Feel To Follow' stands out as a particularly strong track, as do the pulsating and shifting 'Go' and 'Unknow'.

From the opening instrumental that feeds into the soaring 'Child' to the closing track 'Grew Up At Midnight', this record is quality from wall to wall and fails to have any one track that stands out as a misstep. Simply, it effortlessly flows from each track to the next, the soaring highs and choir-like vocals punctuated by hushed pauses and deathly stills, some beautifully restrained moments of calm.

For me then, The Maccabees third record is my musical highlight of the year. For more on my year in music, make sure you check out my Ultimate 2012 Spotify Playlist. Thanks for reading and let me know what you thought in the comments section below!


Honourable Mentions

Bloc Party - Four, Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon, The xx - Coexist, Grimes - Visions, Maximo Park - The National Health, Passion Pit - Gossamer, Tame Impala - Lonerism, Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg, Howler - America Give Up, Lana Del Rey - Born To Die, Lucy Rose - Like I Used To

Monday, 17 December 2012

5 Films for the End of the World

With the Mayan Apocalypse just around the corner (Friday the 21st of December 2012 to be precise), we're taking a look at some of the biggest and best End Of The World Movies. 

With Hollywood having covered everything from alien obliteration, viral holocaust and earth-shattering cataclysm, there certainty isn't any shortage of destruction on offer with this oddball mixture of despair and (sometimes) laughs. I've listed below five of my favourites; give them a read and let me know what you think in the comments section below!


Friday, 14 December 2012

Voice of Reason #7: Bonkers Baby Names

"Oh hey, my name's Google"

Jumping on a celebrity bandwagon and imitating something big from Hollywood is nothing new; a big name celebrity gets a new haircut and BAM! overnight, everyone is sporting a Beatle Bowl-cut, a Rachael from Friends do or a ridiculous Skrillex side-shave.

Unfortunately for those of us with any sense, the latest celebrity bandwagon that people appear to leaping onto in droves is that of bonkers baby names. Following in the footsteps of A-listers like the Beckham's, Brangelina and the Geldof's, people are racing to give their newborns the wackiest, the kookiest and the most 'original' name in the playground.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's troupe of tots includes
Knox, Maddox and Zahara. 
There's Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin who have little Apple, Sylvester Stallone who has Sage Moonblood and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have Sunday Roast. Oh, oops, I mean Sunday Rose. My bad.

Forget traditional or 'boring' names like James, Henry or Jack! Their so stupid and boring it's a wonder they caught on in the first place! Remember everyone, your kids will totally love you forever when christen your them Xenon, Zaniel or Exodus. I mean, I was just telling my best mate's Genesis and Boron the other day, who wouldn't want to meet someone named after a book in the Bible or an element on the periodic table?

Remember, the wackier the better! Don't be afraid to get inventive and experimental. Don't think of it as risky; you never know, you might be something of a pioneer in 20 years time when you can claim to have been the first to call your kid Pepsi, Nutella or Twitter.

The inspiration I got for this little rant came from reading a news story on news.com.au that reported a compiled list of the most unusual baby names to have been registered in 2012, each name having been registered at least twice to show that it isn't some kind of anomaly.

Looking down the list, the names only get more and more bonkers. Things start out pretty tame; things like California (for a girl) and Cobain (for a boy) seem pretty decent, nothing out of the ordinary when you consider names like Brooklyn, Paris or Britney.

Upon closer inspection however, the list reveals some real shockers. I mean, who on earth thought that names like Kix, Rysk, Shimon and Jeevika were a good idea? I'm pretty certain some of those are actually some Klingon characters in the new Star Trek movie.

The same can be said for mad monikers such as Burger, Google, Cello and Mango; seriously, those are not names, they are THINGS. Please people, try and recognise the distinction between the two.

This silliness needs to stop; these poor children have to live with being called something barmy for their entire lives; imagine the sheer amount of mockery poor little Mango and Xenon will endure throughout their long, long school careers.

People need to realise that naming your child Google is not clever, funny or poetic. It's not symbolic, deep or meaningful or trendy, edgy or daring. It's just plain stupid and you both end up looking like a bit of a tit. Give me a Sarah, a Christopher or a David over a Tron , Juju or Thunder any day.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

My 2012 Spotify Playlist

Lists are great. Straight forward, to the point, no messing. Pretty simple this one, just a straight up list of songs that make up my Ultimate 2012 playlist. Any song that I feel made up my soundtrack to 2012 has been added for your listening pleasure. It's a pretty eclectic list, everything from Bloc Party to Mumford and Sons, Jack White, Passion Pit and The xx. You can find the link to the Spotify Playlist by clicking on this link: Ultimate 2012 Playlist 

Make sure to leave me a comment below on what you think! Thanks everyone.

Tracklisting


  1. Feel to Follow - The Maccabees
  2. Angels - The xx
  3. Fiction - The xx
  4. Never Be The Same - The Rubens
  5. Oblivion - Grimes
  6. Truth - Bloc Party
  7. Teenage Icon - The Vaccines
  8. First Of My Kind - Miles Kane
  9. Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Rey
  10. Lost - Frank Ocean
  11. Freedom at 21 - Jack White
  12. I'm Shakin - Jack White
  13. Hips and Lips - Maximo Park
  14. Elephant - Tame Impala
  15. Flaws - Hunting Grounds
  16. Down in The Woods - Richard Hawley
  17. Burgh Island - Ben Howard
  18. Unknow - The Maccabees
  19. Panic Station - Muse
  20. I Will Wait - Mumford and Sons
  21. Holland Road - Mumford and Sons
  22. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men
  23. Varuo - Sigur Ros
  24. I'll Be Alright - Passion Pit
  25. Miss Atomic Bomb - The Killers
  26. Day Four - Bloc Party
  27. Knee Length Socks - Urthboy
  28. San Pedro - Mogwai
  29. Moth Wings - Pond
  30. Told You Once - Howler
  31. Next Year - Two Door Cinema Club
  32. Sleep Alone - Two Door Cinema Club
  33. No Hope - The Vaccines
  34. R U Mine? - Arctic Monkeys
  35. Two Fingers - Jake Bugg
  36. Trembling Hands - The Temper Trap
  37. This Fire - Birds of Tokyo
  38. Six Months In A Cast - The Trouble With Templeton 
  39. Drums - Oh Mercy
  40. Hush - Calexico
  41. Not Giving In - Rudimental 
  42. Come On, Be a No-One - The Cribs
  43. Default - Django Django
  44. Wrath of God - Crystal Castles
  45. Someone Purer - Mystery Jets
  46. Longevity - Yeasayer
  47. Gasoline - Alpine
  48. Jamaica - Van She
  49. Wild Things - San Cisco
  50. All I Know - Matrix & Futurebound  

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