Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review: 2016

The first thing I told myself in 2016 was to document everything I do, which I've done, and you're reading it. That makes looking back and writing this so much easier to do than in previous years.

Music


I wanted to average one gig a month, I managed way more than that with the highlights being Chvrches at the Albert Hall, Underworld at the Roundhouse and Above and Beyond's acoustic set in Hackney. My favourite gig however was Anna Meredith's Scala show which was on another level. As well as the gigs I managed to hit a few festivals, witnessing LCD Soundsystem at Lovebox was something special, Super Furry Animals at By The Sea was entertaining and at BlueDot, which I think will become a regular for me, I preferred the DJs to the live acts with Cheeba, Yoda and Shadow all playing amazing sets.

I continue to see DJ Yoda way too much


Despite my best attempts Yoda continues to be the artist I've seen the most again with 5 shows this year and me giving up on a sixth as I didn't like the crowd or venue and left before he came on. (thanks Clapham Grand). Each show was different as was the crowd size from handful sized crowd at his Superbowl show in Camden, the party sized rooftop party crowd at Brixton, a bar in Hackney or a festival at Bluedot he never fails to deliver. My favourite set of his was the video game inspired AV set on the IMAX at Waterloo; that was so much fun. Unfortunately I didn't make it to his Stranger Things tour but overall I still did alright.


I'm still getting about


On the travelling front I give myself a stretch target of visiting 5 new countries a year. I got nowhere that this year with just Iceland as the new tick, which was amazing. I did however revisit a number of places with Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany and the US (twice) all getting another visit. It was also good to know that they weren't all for rollercoasters as I wind that hobby up (not completely I should add) I found myself travelling for other reasons; shows, UNESCO sites, bucket list and street art mostly. In my US States mission I managed to tick off Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma & New Mexico this year which is really good. I just have 9 to go.

I loves them rolleycoasters still


My favourite holiday was the rollercoaster one, a huge 11-state road trip from Texas to Utah with a wind-down in Vegas (because that's what people do there right?). Along the way we took in around 130 rollercoasters at more than 40 parks and still found plenty of time to sight-see. I'm particularly proud of this trip as it was my turn to plan it for the group and I'd invested almost a year pulling it all together, building the excitement, sorting out the logistics to squeeze in as much as we could and I even produced a little trips book to accompany the journey, which went down well with the group. For it all to work was a huge relief. From a stats perspective I got 95 new coasters this year, less than the 100 threshold but still a bit too high for someone who is trying to give this hobby up :)

Cirque Shows


I managed to see 3 Cirque shows; 2 of which I caught in New York were new. I'm back down to 3 remaining (La Forge, Ovo and Luzia) which always means they'll announce a new show. So it won't be a surprise to know that happened again and I have Volta to also track down when it starts its run next year.

Films


I went to the cinema a lot this year with more than 50 different visits to various screens in and around London, mostly at The Prince Charles though, which may as well be a second home. I got through only 3 all-nighters this year (films of 82, Hunger Games & The Matrix). My favourite films of this year were Your Name, the original Point Break which got a sneaky screening in North London (it's not usually allowed) and Grimsby for making me laugh the most this year for "that" scene. Arrival and Anamolisa were also really good. Hail Caeser was the worst.

In Conclusion



So all in all, a really full year that I'm super-proud of. For other reasons 2016 has been seen to be a terrible year, and I can relate to some of that but when I look back at what I've achieved it hasn't been bad at all. Roll on 2017!




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Film: Bill and Ted's Double Bill (and double Ted)

The Prince Charles Cinema has an excellent Christmas season consisting of Yuletide classics (including Die Hard of course) and some other fun nights to keep the punters visiting during what usually be cinemas' quietest time of year. 

One such night was a back-to-back showing of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journeys. Excellent!

First up was Excellent Adventure which is probably the stronger of the two as our two heroes travel back in time to research their History exam. This is great with an excellent cast, Jane Weidlin playing Joan of Arc being my favourite. 

Second up was Bogus Journey which is still entertaining but not as fun as the first one. This one sees the two heroes being killed and their journey back into the real world. The scenes with Death are great and I still like the fact Turbo from the Breakdance films is one of the robot us's.  This is also the film that features the best erection reference ever put to film "I've got a full-on robot chubby"indeed!

and well done to the cinema for stocking a supply of air guitars for those of us who forgot to bring ours along.

Film: Rogue One


Don't tell the nephews, I'm supposed to be seeing it with them in January.

This year's Star Wars film is a self-contained story that sits between parts 3 and 4 and is based on how the rebels got their hands on the Death Star plans. My review doesn't really matter, you've probably already seen it, so here are my observations instead, which I've tried to keep spoiler-free. 

I'm not sure how two of the cameo appearances are in the scene they're in. It doesn't fit their timeline.

This films serves as a much better intro to part 4 than part 3 does.

It's definitely a self-contained story and works because of that. 

The Akbar look-a-like is sitting in a chair that looks like it was made from B&Q plumbing parts.

If there's a small character, it's probably Warwick Davis playing him. This theory still stands.

IpMan has a great line about being blind.

There's a great scene showing the stormtroopers inability to shoot straight.

The ending is superb!

Some of the CGI is so good you're not going to think they're using it. 

We're familiar with red and yellow group. Star Wars was supposed to have a blue group too but were cut due the colour clashing with the green-screen. We have blue group in this film using the original footage (OK, that's a spoiler but it's a good one)

Forrest Whittaker's character moves weirdly.

When the west is not getting on with the Saudi's it's perhaps not too clever to blow up a city called Jeda in the film. In their defence it probably has something to do with Jedi, so is ok.

The beach battle looks like a nod to the Normandy landings. Some of the guys are even wearing old war helmets.

A lot of the scenes in the trailer don't appear in the final film. How much rework was done in post-production? 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Runaway Trains

Brandon Connell

Charles Barker

Charlie Appleton

Darren Whyatt

James Henry Williams

Jamie Whiting

Jason Hill

Jay Weightman

Michael Gallagher

Michael Mulhearne

Oliver Gilbey

Raymond Richmond

Stanley Whyatt

Go Gators

Alfie Parish

Arthur Smith

Charles Farrell Jr

Darren Matthews

David Brixton

Irvin Leisure

James Danter

Jay Burden

John Barker

John Carey

Joseph Owen

Len Pettigrove

Leonard Derry

Max Cubbins

Steven Hill

Friday, December 16, 2016

Event: Brian and Robin Christmas Compendium


An end of year fund-raising bash compered by Professor Brian Cox and not-a-Professor Robin Ince saw an amazing array of surprise guests keeping a packed venue entertained for 4 hours. A long event but a good one, if you could tolerate the heat; it was very hot in the venue.

Anyway here's a list of the acts.

Jack Liebeck quartet played us in, a nice live classical soothener (is that a word) to get us ready for the show ahead.

Public Service Broadcasting who I've seen three times this year now opened up with a short set of their space-themed music. 

Helen Czerski gave the first science lecture of the evening. I've forgotten what it was about :/

Andrew Steele gave a very entertaining presentation on stats with some alarming insight into how badly we as a race spend our money comparing average spend on weddings vs health research for example.

Festival of the Spoken Nerd mixed music, comedy and science in an fun presentation. 

Steve Backshall gave a talk on sharks

Adam Rutherford took us through why it was not a surprise that Danny Dyer was related to Charlemagne. Statistically most of us are!

Chris Linott talked about gravitational waves. It's science people!

Alice Roberts and Ben Garrod did a little skit about evolution and it's failings such as varicose veins.

James Acaster, who won at Edinburgh did a stand up show mostly about him being able to be the bully in front of an audience of nerds. His best laugh came from his reluctance to leave the stage.

Nitin Sawnhey closed the first half with an excellent cover of Bowie's "Life on Mars". I think the singer was Eva Stone, she was very good.

After the interval (it took us all of the time to get to the bar) we had The Hackney Colliery Band, who I'm sure played with Yoda earlier in the year. They were really good although the main trumpeter seemed insistent on always playing the last note. They were accompanied by the legs of Sophie Ellis Bexter to sing Nothing Compares 2 U, which was of course written by Prince.

Clifford Slapper, who did piano covers of Bowie songs was accompanied by a rather posh-sounding David McAlmont which included a cover of Bowie's "Sweet Thing".

Then there was a brief panel of scientists including Cox (who some tweeters were bemoaning they'd not seen enough of).

Lucy Cooke talked about the bum glands of beavers. Yes, you read that right. You should research where they end up ladies!

Blue Peter's Greg Foot did a bit of myth buster type science by attempting to answer the question "how much fat would you need to be able to stop a bullet". I have some way to go it would seem.

Then Chris Hadfield came out for a brief chat before cleverly segueing into the main act of the night, Duran Duran who played a great set of classics opening with Planet Earth and finishing with Rio. They had a great mashup of the opener into Space Oddity for another nod to Bowie.

and given I knew none of the acts in advance I had a great night. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Event: Bug 53


The final Bug of 2016 had a cold-ridden Adam take us through another selection of entertaining music videos with a great selection and a few that I'd seen in recent weeks that I predicted would be up for inclusion in the show.

"Vowels" by Capital Cities was a good start with a signing dancer taking to the streets of downtown LA. The choreography is great and at the end was cute! The director of this was Remy Cayuela. Two hours after the show this is the one I'm being drawn back to so is probably my pick of the night on that basis.

The second video from the recently reappeared Avalanches is for, what I think is, one of the stronger tracks on the new album "Because I'm Me". The director Greg Brunkalla has done a great job turning the mashed up track into a video about a young lad who's trying to impress a ticket booth attendant with the power of dance. 

The first time Katie Melua has been at Bug and as terrible as her music is the video here for "Perfect World" was lovely with a small story playing out in a world made of sugar. This was directed by Karni & Saul.

Adam sometimes has a section called Netballs featuring amusing videos from the internet. On tonight's show we got to see two completely different clips.

The first was "24" by Not Waving. Directed by Simon Owens this is just dogs wagging their tails in time to the music. No CGI or computer trickery, just a lot of footage filming and selection to find the clips that matched the track. This was surreal but very well done.

The second was a clip that had gone viral in the last few months and shows why you shouldn't eat an entire Carolina Reaper chilli in one go, why you shouldn't try to cool your mouth with water and why it's perhaps not a good idea to do this if you suffer from asthma. This split the crowd with some a little uncomfortable with what they were watching and the other laughing hysterically. I'll let you guess which camp I was in!

Up next we had Simon Landrein's video for Coco Banana's track Earthquaker. This was bizarre, looking like something Roy Lichtenstein would do if he tried animation whilst on drugs. Bizarre! and the track sounded like it had been slowed down too much.

Bonobo's video for Kerala was one I knew would be shown here having seen it a few weeks back. A trippy piece that benefits from multiple viewings and that works incredibly well with the video although it might be too much for some to watch; it's bound to elicit fits in some people. This was directed by BISON.

Following that we had a bizarre but funny video by Bad Bad Not Good for their track Lavender. The Director was the rather silly named Fantavious Fritz and has a group of lads playing Dungeons & Dragons. This was a quite dark and amusing video but went well with the synthy track. There's great use of the Yoda horn at the end too...oh, and the website mentioned is real :D

The guest rapper Kaytranada on the last track also had a video of his own for his track "Lite Spots". I liked this video, simple and a little bit emotional featuring a robot that just wants to dance. This was directed by Martin C. Pariseau and I loved the motion capture work on this.

The next video is one I'm unable to find online. It was called "The Second" and was directed by James Lees. It's a powerful short on guns and why they're not good things! This was great and it's a shame I can't find it...If it ever appears I'll post it up. Instead here's his video for DJ Snake so you can get an idea of his directing style.

A total change of music style as we moved to folky-sounding The Furrow Collective and their track "Wild Hog in the Woods". This features a video by Chris Cornwell and looks like a Dr Seuss production but with a slighter darker story, actually Seuss would probably get away with it.

Up next Blaze and their track "Virile" with a video by Jonathan and Guillaume Alric, so very French then. The track is pretty decent and the video ok despite it's straightforward story featuring two guys getting stoned to the track that one of them is playing on some decks. It's clearly shot on a cheap budget and is probably better for it.

The band for the next video, Francobollo, were in attendance at our show so were able to give some insight to their video Finally which was directed by band member Sam Bailey. It was intended to be a video compilation of the band on tour but they ran out of cash and the will to finish the video so they dicked about and filmed a soap opera which they then spliced in. The Soap Opera part was ridiculous but had the audience in hysterics. They should release more of that!

The final video is the latest by OK Go, who always feature in the show whenever a new video is released. This one is clever (aren't they all) in that the video is 4 seconds of footage slowed down and timed to the music. A great idea, although it has been done before; Adam showed a Beck video from 2003 that had the same idea but lacked the tech available today. A great video to finish with.

So, another great show and we have the 10th birthday celebrations to look forward to in 2017!

Epilogue

This video was mentioned in the crib sheet but wasn't played due to time. It's pretty good, more so if you're an MJ fan (I'm not that big a fan)! It's cool to be able to say I've been to a lot of the locations and good to see Lil Steph at the end! 






Monday, December 05, 2016

Film: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

This is a film that I'd seen advertised but had heard nothing about, then the Prince Charles Cinema started a heavy run of it and trusting their judgement I thought it would be worth seeing, even more so when they announced £1 a ticket for members. Bonus!

The film tells the tale of a delinquent kid who is put into the foster care of a couple who live on the edge of the bush. Circumstances result in them being lost in the bush being hunted by the authorities for reasons I won't spoil here.

The film is well told, and an entertaining film that would appeal to all ages, and I get why the Prince Charles are showing. If you're looking for something other than a Christmas film then give this one a go; they're showing it quite a lot. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Film: Train to Busan

A great Korean take on the zombie genre set on an Express Train. It would make a great Left 4 Dead level as the zombies chase people through the train and through some train stations. Some great effects and a decent body count makes this a fun film.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Graffiti: Camden

Camden has a new Lost Souls piece so I thought I'd go check it out. By the time I'd got there it was very dark hence the poor colour.




This is the Lost Soul's piece. Very festive!







Also in the area was a wall that used to have a Dan Kitchener on it and now it has a new one by the same artist.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Film: Your Name

Your Name is a very successful Japanese film that has made its way over to the UK. It has become the first non-Ghibli animated film to break the 10-billion yen mark so it's a pretty big deal. It's had a fairly subdued launch in the UK, and I'd only realised it was being shown here after catching a poster on the underground.

The tale is of a city boy, Taki and a country girl, Mitsuha who become inexplicably linked through their dreams and they decide to find each other. Without giving too much away the story is a little different to the usual love story, and has a good mix of comedy peppered throughout, in particular from Mitsuha's younger sister Yotsuha.

The animation is stunning and rivals that of the Ghibli camp. The story is clever, and you can probably tell I'm not giving too much away; to do so would spoil things.

Highly recommended. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Event: HyperJapan Christmas Market

Some photos from today's HyperJapan event. It was slightly smaller than previous events but the performances were better.

BANG is a robotic dancer which means there was a lot of dubstep. He also plugged the sales of his towel via an amusing promotional video.

Misaki Iwasa used to be in AKB48. Now she sings Enka, which is traditional Japanese singing. Hayabusa are a male trio that sing 70s style J-Pop.

Expensive wooden masks.

Authentic calligraphy.

Stunning art. Not overly expensive and I might get some.

Kiss meet a J-Pop band.

Puppies

Hamsters

Egg yolks. Gudetama is a creation of Sanrio who gave us Hello Kitty and is apparently popular!

The Hoopers are an eight piece girl band who dress up as boys, which means trousers and short haircuts from what I can tell. The advantage in having a large group is that there's inevitably going to be at least one that'll appeal to someone.

Shhh.... I won't tell you which I one caught my eye.

Some more traditional singing on a second smaller stage

Super Smash Bros.

Alpacas

Retro games.

Swords, lots of swords.

Cartography for fictional worlds: Game of Thrones, The Hobbit etc.

The Tomboys were a great sounding rock outfit but I couldn't help but think some of the smiles weren't genuine and they'd been told to do it all the time.

More egg. Apparently the butt crack is intentional.

Neo Ballad take old Japanese folk songs and put them to heavy trance and techno soundtracks.

The competitors in this year's Cos Parade. It appears I'd been spotted so I left soon after.

Another great day, and whilst I'm not into some of the cultural things (I couldn't name any of the cosplay for example) I still enjoy myself. The only downside is that I leave knowing I need to be going back to Japan. I am actually seriously considering this in 2017.

Film: War for the Planet of the Apes

The latest in the monkey series sees the monkey clan uproot and heading off to the desert, because that's a good climate for monkeys ...