Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year in Review: 2014

So Farewell, then, 2014, and don't let the door hit you on the way out. There seems to be a general consensus that its been a bad year in many, many ways, especially if you spend any sort of time in online communities, which have felt like a magnifying glass for all the horrors of the world at times, albeit one that occasionally shows you cute baby animals too. Its also been a year when this negativity seems to have spilled out into everything - there is hardly anything that has been popular that has not been subjected to careful scrutiny for negative messages, secretive agendas or bias of any kind, from all corners of the political spectrum. Not that this sort of thing is an invalid process - I'd argue its a necessary process, in fact - but at times, to quote one of my favorite films this year, it just wanted to suck the fun out of everything. 

Personally, I just want to like stuff, to applaud what is done right. So here, in no particular order, are my "top three" entertainments of the year by largely arbitrary categories. Other Opinions are available! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I must admit that I am one of the people for whom a little bit of me died when they announced that Peter Jacksons adaptation of The Hobbit would become a new epic trilogy. Two films, I could see, but three, with a load of extra stuff added to make it a "true" prequel? I'm not sure I signed up to that, in my heart. But you know what? I enjoyed An Unexpected Journey, when many didn't, for all it was overlong and meandering. I liked the smaller scale, the bumbling, un-epic nature of it's Company. And then The Desolation of Smaug fixed a lot of those problems anyway, with more pace and focus and maintaining a sense of fun and intimacy that made it easy to ignore the more earnest stuff over in Dol Guldur. Going to the cinema just after Xmas to see a Hobbit film has become a tradition too, so we were always going to go see The Battle of the Five Armies, and to be honest I was looking forward to it. It's a shame then, by my review can be summed by a long, disappointing sigh. 


Monday, December 22, 2014

DVD of the Week: Muppets Most Wanted

The Muppets, as a franchise, seem to suffer from a huge "rubber band" effect when it comes to expectation for their output. Both their TV shows and movies run through cycles of anticipation, enjoyment, wildly varying quality, and even general direction, ranging to rag-tag caper films, historical adaptations, and god knows what else, rising and falling in popularity as it goes. I'm of that generation that grew up with them on the TV and in my Record Player, so they're somewhat ingrained on my conciousness, but they've managed to transcend generations, which is no mean feat. And then a couple of years back they made The Muppets, which was rooted in a deep love for what they represented, and managed to be about more than just it's "getting the band back together narrative" and be something really touching. Inevitably, as they sing in the opening number, there is a sequel. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: Foxglove Summer

Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series was one my big literary discoveries of last year, something that had slipped under my radar until I was lent the first three, which I devoured in quick succession. I guess they're best described as "Modern Urban Fantasy", mixing contemporary London with a hidden world of magic and assorted supernatural entities, and a healthy dash of Police Procedural. There's a lot of fun world-building, some interesting new twists, and above all a great sense of character right in the front and centre, making them books that are a pleasure to read and spent time in. Foxglove Summer is the fifth in the series, and it's largest departure to date. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DVD of the Week: About Time

It feels like ages since we managed to sit down on a Saturday night and watch a movie, something borne as much from the Autumn rush of new TV as anything else. We've managed to keep up with four - four! - new seasons of superhero telly, plus Doctor Who and my own obsession with Strictly Come Dancing, but this week we finally managed to settle in with the latest DVD we've had from lovefilm, which been gathering dust from October. This turned our to be About Time, the lastest offering from Richard Curtis, promising to be an extremely middle-class rom-com with a smattering of Time Travel Shenanigans. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Comics Review: Fatale and Gunnerkrigg Court

And so we come back to the sporadic round-up of things we bought at Thoughtbubble, but seem to be taking forever to read through. Indeed, a month on, there are still two or three things left to read, sat up on the sideboard with my 2000AD backlog, which is at least a sign that I got good value for money in terms of buying "stuff" this year. Part of the joys of cons is discovering new things - ongoing series you know you want you can pickup any time, really, but usually when at a con I try and focus on small press stuff, which doesn't get the exposure it often deserves, or more off-beat stuff a natural conservatism would pass over in, say, an actual shop. These two however were things we went intending to buy, so I guess count in neither of those categories. Hmmm. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review Roundup: History!

I realised with some pleasure recently that I've hit my target of reading 20 books this year, which may not seem that many to some of you, but feels like an achievement to fit around everything else. It's been an eclectic year and mixed in is a bunch of factual books I've not mentioned here, yet. I'm not quite sure why - many reviews I read of history books tend to double as critiques of the history, as much as the book itself, especially for periods that feel contemporarily relevant, something you'll see a lot this year with all the World War One stuff. Personally I feel that if you're interested in a period you should read around from multiple sources anyway. So with that in mind, here is a round-up, along with a quick summary of why you should read them! 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Comics Review: Grandville Noel

It's been a couple of weeks since Thoughtbubble, and I'm still slowly but steadily reading through my loot pile, held up thanks to visitors, house decoration and the usual distractions of parenthood. Also, it's a fairly big pile containing a lot of stuff, so I've been reading them through in order of excitement, or in some cases, mood. First off the pile was unquestionably Bryan Talbot's Grandville Noel, which wasn't actually out, officially at Thoughtbubble, and sadly Bryan wasn't there to sign it either, but a couple of stalls had advance copies and I snapped one up as my first purchase. I am an unashamed Bryan Talbot fanboy, and Grandville in particular has always been exceptionally good value to me.