Month: August 2016

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    Suicide Squad was a lot of fun

    I keep seeing negative reviews of the Suicide Squad, but you know what? I had fun, dammit. Suicide Squad was a lot of fun – there, I said it.

    Don’t go into this film expecting much more than it is – an action-packed, romping, stomping arcade of cinema fun. Because that is what it is. I did however end up caring for most of the characters. I mean, the witch was pushing it a bit, her gyrating to a huge smoke of destruction of some machine or another was a slight downer, but I accepted it as the catalyst for a fun ride.

    In regards to the world of the Suicide Squad, I went into the film having no prior knowledge to most of the characters. I knew Harley Quinn’s background with the Joker but that was about it. So I didn’t have that comic book baggage that I’ve seen people complaining about – about how Harley Quinn and The Joker’s abusive relationship has been down-played.

    There’s a bit of ass going on

    If you’re going to be offended by a lady bending over in hot pants then don’t watch this film. I’m not going to pretend the film’s not flaunting Harley Quinn’s ass quite a bit, it is. However it was good to see her character coming across as more than just a wiggling bum. She had a vulnerability that she masked with the fact that she is just plain mental. Plus I’ve been a fan of Margot Robbie since she played the not-quite-as-mental Donna Friedman in Neighbours.

    Jared Leto was a surprise Joker for me. I actually really liked him as the Clown Prince of Darkness. His portrayal was fresh, as Heath Ledger’s was before him. Not only that but he gave a decent edge of darkness to the character. His darkness came out when dealing with the relationship between him and Harley Quinn. Their relationship is destructive and somehow beautiful at times.

    My favourite scene with them was probably The Joker holding Harley Quinn up in a vat of chemicals, during an origin scene, with paint twisting around them.

    Pacing and Climax

    I found myself interested all the way through the film. There was never a point at which I got bored. There were moments of annoyance as characters made stupid decisions, but I’m finding myself being less critical of a film’s short-comings nowadays. I try to enjoy the ride instead of moaning about one particular turn.

    As climaxes go this film’s was okay. I mean, I wasn’t particularly bothered about the possibility of the end of the world, or the main baddies themselves, but I was bothered about the main characters. I wanted Deadshot to get home to his daughter; for Diablo to find his peace; and of course for Harley Quinn to find her Puddin’.

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    Stranger Things Series One – A Write Up

    Think of The Goonies crossed with The X-Files, with a dash of Silent Hill. This is the best one line intro I could think of for Stranger Things that I hadn’t heard before.

    It is the story of a small group of friends who are investigating the disappearance of their friend, Will. Will is seen in the opening scenes, being taken by something from out of the darkness – a sort of slenderman-like figure. As the story unravels, new and interesting characters weave through as this small town’s conspiracy slowly unfolds.

    Stranger Things Series One

    I spent my pre-teenage years enjoying films like The Goonies; Ghostbusters and Halloween. And yes – Halloween scared the undying crap out of me growing up. But so did Steven King’s IT and I lost count of how many times I saw that.

    These films for me evoked a feeling that I haven’t felt since those younger days. The youthful feeling of wonder; of being lost in a world that wasn’t my own, where anything was possible. Last week I discovered a world where that feeling was re-kindled in me. That world being the small town of Hawkins, Indiana – the setting of Stranger Things.

    The gang from Stranger Things

    Stranger Things, as you will no doubt read everywhere, is like a glorious combination of so many eighties film and television. I even saw it being described as “Dark Amblin” – Amblin being Steven Speilberg’s company, which is a highly-accurate description in my opinion.

    Much more than just an eighties homage

    All of the reviews of Stranger Things always seem to focus on it’s proven abilities to pay homage to the eighties. To early Speilberg films; John Carpenter asthetics and soundtracks; Steven King themes. It does do this, and in spades, but Stranger Things is so much more than that.

    The first thing I wanted to mention was the cast – the acting in this series is superb. The main protagonists, the four kids playing dungeons and dragons at the start, have a great rapour together. They have that kind of charisma that I remember from The Goonies, IT and Stand By Me.

    Natalia Dyer plays Nancy in Stranger Things

    Natalia Dyer, who plays Nancy, had such a great range in her character. Starting with her almost-naive innocence through to her portrayal as a weapon-weilding bad-ass. For me she was one of the most diverse, stand-out performances of the series. Along with of course Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven. Millie played her character so well that she was even on par with the veteran actress of the show, Winona Ryder.

    The growing relationship between Mike and Eleven was really well done too. So much is built up between the two of them during those eight episodes, which I guess is down to great writing and great acting.

    Even stranger things ahead?

    At the time of writing it has been heavily suggested that a second, and possibly even more, series have been green-lit, which is awesome news. To be fair the ending was done well in that I feel it could be left there, in the same way that Twin Peaks “ended”. In some ways there are open threads, but the core of the story was told, and told really well.

    Nevertheless going by how much I enjoyed Stranger Things series one, I am already eagerly awaiting the series two.

    Update: Stranger Things series 2 is due for release on Netflix on Friday 27th October 2017; just in time for Halloween.

    What did you think about Stranger Things?

    Have you seen Stranger Things? I’d love to hear what you thought.

    What are your theories on the next series?

    Let me know in the comments section below.

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    An Interview with Hannah Grace

    One of my favourite E.Ps to come out so far has been Hannah Grace’s Mustang. Such great music – and with a good variety in its four songs. I am really looking forward to a full length album by her in the near future.

    I have been lucky enough to be able to interview Hannah about herself, her origins and her influences. You can read the answers to some questions I asked her just below.

    Interview with Hannah Grace

    Please tell us about yourself in as many or as little words as you like.
    My name is Hannah Grace, I am 23 years old and from Wales! I love singing and writing songs and I also love cats…
    Growing up, who were your heroes in music?
    My first hero was definitely Eva Cassidy, from as early as I can remember I just couldn’t stop listening to her. Her voice just connected with me and I have always looked up to her. She is definitely one of the main reasons I started to sing.
    Growing up, who were your heroes outside of music?
    My parents. I’m so lucky to have such a great parents, they introduced me to so much amazing music over the years, from Fleetwood Mac, to Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Ella Fitzgerald. All of their encouragement and support has been crucial to my confidence and development as a musician.
    What was the first album you remember buying?
    Oh dear. Well I’m pretty sure it was Britney Spears or something. But the first CD I owned was a present and that was Eva Cassidy’s “Songbird”.
    Was there any defining moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to write, record and perform music?
    I always knew I wanted to sing, as it is something that i’ve just always done. But I felt like I really really wanted to write, record and perform my own material when I started listening to songs that I’d wish I’d written. Songs like “A case of you” by Joni, or “Songbird” by Christine McVie – I definitely had a moment of “maybe I could do that” and I’ve found as a singer when you perform your own songs with your own words it can be much more rewarding somehow.
    Who is your biggest influence in how you approach what you do today?
    There are so many people that influence me today. I’m still inspired by my first loves, like Eva, Joni and Ella. But I’m also influenced by artists like Hozier, Paulo Nutini and Florence and the Machine. I feel like their music is exciting and new but also real, it isn’t too contrived. I am also influenced by friends I have that also do music such as Gabrielle Aplin and Hudson Taylor. We’ve all been friends for a long time, and I admire their music and their attitude and commitment inspires me all the time.
    What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
    So far I would say releasing my most recent EP ‘Mustang’ has been my proudest. I’m so pleased with how it turned out and I really think that it honestly shows where I am as an artist, both as a songwriter and a singer.
    What is your favourite Book?
    It’s a very sad story but I love “A Thousand Splendid Suns” – it is such a powerful story – especially for women in the world we live in today. Its a story that crossed my mind a lot and helps me appreciate my own life.
    What is your favourite Album?
    I have so many! At the moment I am still loving Paulo Nutini’s “Caustic Love” – I love the songs and the production, it’s just amazing. I actually got the opportunity to meet Paolo recently and he was lovely!
    What is your favourite Film?
    Again, I have so many! I watched Notting Hill recently, and it always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy – and the soundtrack is really great too!
    What is your favourite TV Show?
    It has to definitely be Friends. I have seen every episode 100 times.
    Do you have a favourite film/tv/musical soundtrack?
    I don’t know whether I have a favourite – lots of British films often have good soundtracks, like Notting hill and Love actually. There’s a French film called The Untouchables and the entire soundtrack was written by Ludovico Einaudi which was beautiful.

    Thank you Hannah

    A big thank you to Hannah for taking the time out to answer those quesitons and to give us an insight into herself and where she has gained her musical roots and inspirations. Like I said before I am really looking forward to her debut album, and I’m sure anybody else who listens to “Mustang” will be to.

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    My Second Day In Firewatch – A Write Up

    I woke that morning feeling uneasy from the previous night’s events. This was followed by Delilah giving me the task of investigating the knocked-out communications that had been reported.

    Once I was dressed and awake, I set off towards the cave entrance I found during the previous day. From here I continued north until I found the cables overhead. Following the cables up a mountain incline at Beartooth Point, past some discarded beer cans, I came to the top of the hill – and to where the communication wire had been cut clean.

    I was sure that it was these bloody girls from yesterday who were responsible for cutting the wire. On continuing my investigation, I found their previous campsite abandoned. That is if you ignore the discarded beer cans about the floor. Continuing forward I came across a lone rucksack hanging from a tree, inside which I found a disposable camera and enough rope to last me a while.

    I moved forward down the only trail I hadn’t yet investigated and came across a chain-linked fence, warning people to keep out. I wonder what could be on the other side? Onward I travelled on through a beautiful area known as Five Mile Creek. I followed the trail to the south west till I found the girls’ new campsite. This new site was also abandoned, only this time in a way that seems to have been violent in nature. The tent and discarded clothes had been torn and spread about the ground; the area was a state.

    Just where could these girls have now got to?

    In Conclusion

    During my second day in Firewatch I managed to uncover more of my surrounding countryside. Some side areas may have been missed but I will go back and find them shortly. I am loving the sound design of this game – how the trees rustling in the breeze seem to be treated as part of the score. I love how the music is using sparingly and to great effect when it is. The isolation is a comfortable one at the moment, but I am expecting things to get darker pretty soon.

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    My First Day in Firewatch – A Write Up

    Earlier on today I bought Firewatch for P.C. after hearing great reviews about it. Those reviews so far seem to be spot on.

    My first day in Firewatch was an interesting one. The opening intersects a multiple-choice backstory for the main character with his trekking to his new place of work. The telling of this backstory was perfectly melancholic, piling on the loneliness and atmosphere of the great big empty wilderness.

    The game is split into days, from what I’ve seen – having completed “Day One” so far. This seems like a really interesting way to approach this narrative. I can imagine the isolation of the game really kicking in once I get through the many days to come.

    Day one consisted of my meeting a lady coworker – albeit on the radio. We exchanged witty banty, which was followed with my being given my first task – investigate nearby fireworks.

    My First Day in Firewatch

    I was told to head down to a nearby lake to investigate the nearby fireworks, which I found after negotiating the winding descent from my new place of work. On arrival I was greeted by discarded clothes, some rucksacks and the near-distant sound of music.

    Following the sound into the woods I came to a clearing where I found the stereo next to me, and two girls – the culprits – over in the middle of the lake skinny-dipping. After I threw the stereo into the water they soon ran off, shouting obscenities, leaving me to negotiate my way back to home base.

    The typewriter was lying at the foot of the watchtower’s steps on my return. The inside of the watchtower had been vandalised and the window had been smashed. I had my second feeling of fear in the game at this point. The first time came earlier but I don’t want to spoil that for anybody.

    I assumed it was vandalised by the girls from before, but I doubt they could get back to their clothes, dress, and get back to the tower to trash it before I retured.

    I guess time will reveal what happened.

    First Impressions

    My first day in Firewatch was very engrossing – it drew me into its wonderful isolation with ease and the occasional mild fright. The atmosphere is just the right side of isolation. It has a creepiness to it and I’m not actually sure yet if this is a horror game or not. I really hope not, ’cause it’ll be scaring the hell out of me soon if it is.

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    My taste in music and how it’s grown over the years

    In the beginning

    Growing up with great parents, I took a lot of my early tastes in music from them – my Dad specifically. But through growing up and exploring new styles, my taste in music has grown significantly.

    I started by hearing bands like Fleetwood Mac; Supertramp; Meat Loaf; Whitesnake; to name a few, and I still have a place for them. In fact just this week I have been listening to Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell 2 again.

    Jim Steinman is a composer mostly known for his work with Meat Loaf
    Jim Steinman is a composer mostly known for his work with Meat Loaf

    One of my favourite songwriters of all time is Jim Steinman – the composer behind Meat Loaf’s early music as well as many other theatre shows, films and varying other bands.

    On leaving school and going to work in London I was about 18 years old and was getting into heavy metal and gothic rock. Bands like Marilyn Manson; Korn; Slipknot; Linkin Park often did the rounds on my little CD player – much to the annoyance of my co-workers.

    Later on at college I would find myself being introduced to more rock bands – this time older bands like Iron Maiden; Judas Priest; Ozzy Osbourne.

    Leaving Home

    When I moved out of my parents’ house I moved in with a friend and her then-boyfriend, who was a DJ and producer. I would often hear him playing dance music and, although it never grew on me that much, still found it interesting to hear this new style. Alhtough saying that I did once go with him and some other friends to hear James Zabiela live, which was fucking insane. Also I did get introduced to Aphex Twin through him. He did also play older, more indie types of music too – like The Stone Roses and The Smiths which then turned me on to that style.

    Aphex Twin is an experimental electronic musician
    Aphex Twin is an experimental electronic musician

    When I first moved out of my parents was also when I started teaching myself to play guitar. Because of this I inevitably started listening to more guitar orientated music. My taste in music grew to include Joe Satriani; Steve Vai; Paul Gilbert; and Buckethead big time. In fact I was pretty obsessed with these guys. I would also learn finger-picking folk music too. Artists like Joan Baez; Janis Ian; and Lindsey Buckingham were very inspiring to my learning.

    Recent Years

    Ladyhawke is an Australian multi-instrumentalist.
    Ladyhawke is an Australian multi-instrumentalist.

    When I was first learning the guitar and was looking for inspiring artists I became a bit of a music snob. If someone had suggested Taylor Swift back then I’d have laughed in their face. But things do change. I have since gotten into lots of female-led artists/bands. One of my all-time favourite artists now is Lana Del Rey. I also love people like Ladyhawke; Grimes; and yes, even Taylor Swift.

    Also in recent years, in fact in the past 12 months or so, I have gotten really into Grime music – rap music mainly out of London, although it can be performed anywhere. Artists like JME; Big Narstie; Kano; Giggs. All these guys I love listening to. And often enjoy watching the BBC Radio One Fire In The Booth and the 60 Minute Takeovers.

    The Future

    As I go forwards I’ll continue to try and widen my taste in music. I probably wont like it all, but you don’t know until you explore. What I can say is that this past week I have been getting heavily into this whole Retro New Wave genre I’m hearing. I re-emergence of 80’s-inspired music. But the good, synth-led music; none of that bloody Culture Club stuff.