Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ukraine At #Eurovision: The Highlights

In Ukraine's 13 years of Eurovision history they have now won twice (and that includes that didn't even compete last year!). But that isn't even the whole story of their success as they've been in the top 10 an amazing 9 times!!! Ukraine IS Eurovision as far as I'm concerned.

I've got to admit I've had a soft spot for Ukraine since Ruslana won back in Turkey in 2004. Here's her epic "Wild Dances".



My commutes to my job in Vauxhall in 2006 (and onwards!) were done to the soundtrack of Tina Karol's Show Me Your Love, getting only a 7th place finish (ROBBED!)



Verka Serduchka represents everything that is delightful about the Eurovision Song Contest. She's funny, she's talented and by jove doesn't she know how to dress?! I'm still in shock that she came runner-up to Serbia in 2007 with this now CLASSIC Dancing Lasha Tumbai.



What's this? A third year in a row with an awesome tune? Yeap. 2008 Ukraine brought their top game to the table with Shady Lady by Ani Lorak. This has remained a staple MP3 on every device I've owned since!



No. It can't possibly be true. Ukraine didn't go for a fourth year of fantastic music, did they? Well I suppose this one is debatable but not if you ask me. Be My Valentine by Svetlana Loboda in 2009 was brilliantly staged, had sexy men and a fabulous singer. And what a tune it was!!!



2010 allowed Ukraine to show they could do heartfelt songs without glitzy staging and crazy gimmicks. Something they'd show again with 2016's winner! Alyosha and "Sweet People"



2011's Angel and 2012's Be My Guest are great songs too and 2013's Gravity scored massively but it was 2014's return to form that really got me back on the Ukraine bandwagon. Tick-Tock by Mariya Yaremchuk came with a man in a hamster spinning wheel...



And then, after an understandable absence in 2015, another winner. Well done Ukraine, you are epic!!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Geeky Movies To Get Excited About In 2016!

Geeks have inherited the Earth... It is a veritable geekgasm at the cinema this year. I'm looking forward to quite a bit indeed... 

The 5th Wave

It's an early release in January but it is definitely my wildcard choice. I've heard very little about it but I'm interested to see how good this ends up being.

Deadpool


X-Men movies from Fox are slippery beasts often hitting quality highs minutes before scrapping the bottom of the cliche barrel. But Deadpool is a character I've come to really know only over the last few years thanks mainly to his stint in Uncanny X-Force. He is HILARIOUS. I'm tentatively excited for this one!

Star Trek Beyond 


The first trailer for the next Star Trek movie has been met with a less than favourable response. I'm a life-long Star Trek fan (spending most of my paper round money on Star Trek Fact Files and video Deep Space Nine VHSs) so I'm not yet ready to give up on this. I'm not a "Abrams-verse" hater, though I'm desperate for a continuation of the original universe, and I enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness (somewhat anyway). I'm prepared to make this my first "excitement milestone" for 2016. Not long to go!! 





X-Men is another life-long franchise love of mine. I've enjoyed the last couple of movies more than I was expecting and I'm liking the approach Singer is taking. And Apocalypse is one of those villains from the 80s one just has to love. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing him and the X-Men get busy with the "snikt"-ing. 



TOO. EXCITED. TO. TYPE. 



Star Wars. That is all. 

Also coming up... 

Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist
Warcraft 
Suicide Squad 
Gambit
Doctor Strange

Expected Disappointments... 

Jumanji - TOO SOON.


Saturday, 19 December 2015

My First Thoughts On #StarWarsTheForceAwakens. #HereBeSpoilers

First off: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW!!! 


So... just before midnight on Thursday my other half and I arrived at the Vue Cinema at Westwood Cross to find a crowd of Stormtropper onesie wearers and untrained lightsaber wielders. It was great to see such an enthusiastic crowd of over a 1000 fans in little old east Kent. 

As the Lucasfilm logo came up and the opening scroll began, I have to admit that not only did a little thrill of excitement run through my body but a small tear formed in my eye. We were finally here... a new Star Wars movie. 


My overall impression is positive. It was well-written, the acting was a major improvement over the prequels and there was plenty of action. I left the cinema feeling pleased that I'd seen a good movie. 

Despite seeing a lot of complaints about Rey's characterisation, I really liked Daisy Ridley's performance, and thought Rey was a really strong character. Sure her sudden mastery of force abilities seems a little much but this is space fantasy. When it comes to the fun stuff I'm willing to let a lot go. Loved her interactions with BB-8 early on and really loved the Jedi mind trick scene with Daniel Craig's Stormtrooper

Finn was not as annoying as I thought he'd be. He was actually quite a good addition to the series. 

BB-8 was just as excellent as we'd been led to expect. LOVED him/it. 

Han and Chewie. LOVED. 

So yeah, all good right? 

Well... no. This was not a perfect movie. It was not disappointing like Jurassic World was. But still... could do better. 

My major, major issue is how meaningless Han's death was. The Starkiller base was destroyed. The threat over. There should've been more mourning. The biggest thing for me is when the Falcon returns to the Resistance base and Chewie and Rey disembark. Chewie walks straight past Leia, and Leia only has eyes for Rey who she hugs. 

I'm sorry but... Chewie has just lost his best friend and Leia has just lost the love of her life. If Leia and Han were married then Leia and Chewie are basically family. Even if it has just been a quick embrace, I really cannot imagine Chewie or Leia NOT acknowledging each other at such a crucial moment. 

I know. I know. Such a fanboy nitpick but... I love Chewie and he needs some loving! 

R2-D2's coma was... meh. 

The whole plot was such a rehash of A New Hope that it was a little dull. 

Captain Phasma was the big disappointment in the movie for me. I wanted so much more. I hope we see her again and with a better story. 

But these are nitpicks. Overall it was an excellent movie, I look forward to seeing it again. And again. And again. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Lost Stars - This Is The Star Wars Book You've Been Looking For

A forbidden romance. No lightsaber battles. Nice Imperial officers. "What is this rubbish?" is possibly something a Star Wars fan might be forgiven for exclaiming.



But this young adult book is one of the best Star Wars books I've ever read. Focussing on a boy (Thane) and a girl (Ciena) from a backwater Outer Rim planet, this book tells the story of their friendship, their time in the Imperial Academy on Coruscant and their parting of the ways as they begin to see the Empire in different ways.

I won't spoil who stays with the Empire and who leaves. And I won't spoil some of the plot points as we follow Thane and Ciena on their separate journeys. But their paths cross not just with each other but with many important parts of the original trilogy... the opening scenes of A New Hope, the destruction of Alderaan and then Yavin, Hoth, Bespin and Endor.

That is part of the magic of the book. It will refresh your next original trilogy marathon. Now there are two stories... the one you see on screen and the one happening just off camera. This isn't the first time that this has been done for certain scenes but this threads its way through all three movies.

And the other part of the magic is just how believable the relationship between Thane and Ciena is. Perfectly formed and just plain brilliant. It could school the likes of Twilight and the Hunger Games (though I did enjoy the Hunger Games I must admit) on romance in a fantasy setting.

Pick it up today and indulge in the best new Star Wars canon book since the Expanded Universe was washed away.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Rebels: This Is The Cartoon Series We've Been Looking For

I just never got into The Clone Wars. I tried, I really did. But the dialogue was so kitschy and the performances stilted and wooden that I couldn't keep on with it whenever I tried to start watching the series.

So I've been poorly the last couple of days and, being stuck in the middle of a Star Wars obsession, I decided to give Star Wars: Rebels a go. I'd watched "Spark of Rebellion" a while ago and I liked it but wasn't blown away.

However having watched the entire first season and the second series opener "The Siege of Lothal". It is nearly perfect. The performances were spot on, the writing smart and witty and the characters interesting.

Ezra is just the right side of "bratty teenage boy". Kanan is just the right side of guilt-ridden reluctant Jedi Master. Hera and Sabine are pretty bad-ass. Zeb is perhaps in need of more fleshing out (he's too "comic-relief" heavy) and Chopper is a loyal, mischievous droid (who has a creepy tendency to seek to harm other droids...).

The Inquisitor was a surprisingly scary villain. His cool and calm evil demeanour was a great tonic to the mood-swings of Sith Lords.

The design nods to Ralph McQuarrie's original work are lovely and it is soooo good having our heroes go up against stormtroopers and Imperial officers.

Overall this is a really solid and entertaining series that adds a lot to the new Star Wars universe.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Jongens

Jongens is a Dutch coming of age movie featuring Gijs Blom and Ko Zandvliet. Blom plays Sieger, a teenager living with his Dad and brother and on the running team with Zandvliet's character Marc.


Marc is gay and Sieger... well he's "questioning". They slowly fall in love. It is the usual sweet story with the usual bumps in the road. It is shot really well with a great soundtrack and some really good acting which moves it up above the vast crowd of such movies out there.



It isn't perfect however. Some of the actions of the characters don't come over very realistically (Sieger's father picks up Sieger's brother from the police station for joy-riding and by the end of the day has given him a brand new motorbike, for example!). And Sieger's character makes some odd decisions (like arranging a date with Marc, ditching it then fighting with Marc when they cross paths later that evening). But overall it is a really lovely little movie with a good portrayal of those exciting post-pubescent years.

Of course Blom being drop-dead gorgeous helped somewhat too.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Are We Approaching Star Wars Overkill?


Star Wars Land is coming to a Galaxy Not So Far Away. This announcement at the D23 Expo is just the latest of many since Disney bought Lucasfilm and got on with fixing the Star Wars universe.

Disney shook up the canon to prepare the way for a terrifying quantity of new media. We've got Star Wars Rebels, the new trilogy that starts with The Force Awakens, some amazing new games, new books and several new comic lines. Star Wars has landed in Disney stores and has an increased presence in Disney parks. And that is on top of all the usual marketing and tie-ins that usually pre-empt a Star Wars movie release.

The pieces have always been there (the books especially!) but Disney has brought such a laser-sharp focus that it has caused my other half to ask me last night "Isn't there a danger they'll kill this franchise via overload?"

Is there a risk of that? I'm of an age that I've seen the Shadows of the Empire, Special Edition cinematic release and Prequel hypes come and go. Star Wars books have been published at an ever faster pace over that period. The list of game and comic releases during this period is just huge. Star Wars is, I would say, even more "mainstream" than it was before the Prequels. And so I think the appetite for Star Wars content is just that much higher than it has been before.

I think Disney have, for the time being, a license to print money. Jurassic World (a movie whose story was basic at best) has flourished at the cinema based on a strong franchise and lots of fans reliving their childhood (and making their kids live through their mid-life crisis). Well Star Wars (thanks to being released over 25 years) gets even more of that nostalgic benefit on top of having one of the strongest media brands in history.

Which leads me on to my most important point... MORE STAR WARS STUFF NEEDED!!!! TAKE MY MONEY DISNEY!!!