Monday, 28 June 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Trailer

The world watched with baited breath, counting down the seconds until the first official trailer for HP DH hit the internet. Refreshing again and again suddenly, at a couple of minutes to midnight UK time a person in the livestream chat I’m in explodes: MSN WENT EARLY!!!

We rush over to verify this and indeed there it is, 2minutes29 seconds of two of the most highly anticipated movies of the decade. Opening with the obligatory shot of that mountain range that we always get, we’re quickly into the action

I should point out: from here on out, things get spoilerific for DH, so if you haven’t read the book, then get the hell out of here. You’ve had 3 years, we can’t be expected to wait any longer before talking about it.

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We open into the sequence we have all imagined for so long, the Forest. Harry’s walk to his own destruction, and I keep waiting for it to cut away but it never does. We go right through to Voldemort raising his wand and shouting the words before we finally blink back to black. This sequence is so dark, so utterly right to how I imagined. I can’t believe they put it in the trailer, but what the heck. Like I’ve said: the books been around 3 years, people know the story.

Cut to a shot of the trio camping, blissfully only one – hopefully that will be a sign of things to come for the movie itself =D

We see Griphook, and Ollivander and the flying bike, and the music crescendos and you really get the feeling that this is something really actually important you’re watching

“THE FINALE OF THE WORLD WIDE PHENOMENON.” The screen reads, and what a finale it looks like being. As we see a huge explosive dome around Hogwarts and the Death Eaters hijacking the Hogwarts express. As if HalfBlood Prince’s Burrow attack wasn’t enough, Hogwarts is now the target (at least thankfully more canonically). Nowhere is safe any more. Not even the magical home we’ve come to know.

“THE MOTION PICTURE EVENT OF A GENERATION” Harry came into our world when I was 7 years old. I read every book as they came out, saw every movie opening weekened, I am a member of the Potter generation. And yes, this truly IS our event. The end of our saga. The 70’s kids had Star Wars, we had Harry.

Gregorovitch in his version of Ollivander’s shop, THE DRAGON, Hermione setting up the encampments as Ron lies battered on the floor, The Death Eaters army looking gleefully at Hogwarts, the shots flash by at lightning pace, so perfectly edited and mixed with this music. By this point I’m struggling to lift my jaw of the floor its dropped so far.

And then we’re back in the fight. Back at Hogwarts. “Why do you live?” Tom Riddle asks. “Because I have something worth living for.” Our hero answers defiantly.

We get a brief glimpse of the snake attack at Godrics Hollow, and of Ron destroying the Locketcrux as we zoom on towards the final shots. 2 sides, the good army and the death eaters, running into battle against eachother, Hogwarts exploding, and then the final fight. Harry and Voldemort locked in battle. Neither can live while the other survives. “Only I can live forever.” Voldemort says confidently. And the darkest most brutal version of Hedwigs Theme we’ve ever heard kicks in as the title appears.

This trailer is so dark its crazy. They’ve really caught the intensity of the final book and fans can only hope this carry’s over from this 3minute glimpse into the whole movie(s)

Is it November yet?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Doctor Who – The Big Bang

The universe is ending, the TARDIS has gone supernova, and only one girl can save the world. The girl with the fairytale name. The girl who waited on a suitcase all night for her raggedy Doctor to return. Little Amelia Pond.

This is the stage that is set as The Big Bang gets under way, leading up to the best pre-titles cliff hanger ever as big Amy appears inside The Pandorica – “Ok Kid, this is where it gets complicated” she says… No kidding!!

With more time and space paradoxes than you can shake a stick at, the Doctor abandons the laws of time and space in hope of saving them, criss-crossing the timelines like never before to get everyone to the museum in Alt-1996, jumping back and forth to Rory to save Amy, and to River aboard the TARDIS. This is the only moment he realises he can do it – the universe is DEFINITELY going to end if he doesn’t meddle, whereas there is only a very strong chance if he doesn’t. So he has to try.

There are moments of supreme romance as Amy and Rory are finally reunited in the museum, the boy and the girl who waited.

There is comedy too though, the most notable being River and Amy’s reaction the fez. We’ve put up with a (entirely un)“cool” bowtie, we’re not putting up with a goddam fez Eleven!!

We had all assumed the title was simply referring to the explosion, but no, it was infact a not-so-subtle clue that the way to reset the universe is to use the explosion as the second Big Bang, The Doctor sacrificing himself and his memory for all of time. You can see the heartbreak in Matt Smith’s face, and its at this very moment that I realise what I’ve always known but never wanted to admit – remaining loyal to David Tennant until I absolutely couldn’t do it any longer – Matt Smith is my Doctor. He is the Doctor. The greatest Doctor. He is willing to sacrifice himself just so that Amy can have a family.

Ever since the episode aired, I’ve seen all over the fanboards about the fact there are 2 Doctors in The Time of Angels, hinted at by the jacket, but I’ve always just assumed it was a continuity error. But no, its Stephen Moffat’s utter mastery of time travel, shutting down every loophole of every paradox, closing the cracks in time once and for all. I'm starting to wonder if he might secretly have a time machine, and he's worked it out by trial and error. “Remember what I told you.” But he hasn’t told her anything. She can’t remember

And then the final trick. The Doctor’s greatest stand. He cannot just sit there and take it, he has to try one last thing, and pray it works. He refuses to just die. He refuses to just never exist. So he plants a memory. A memory which might be a dream in a 7 year old girls head.

“A mad old man who stole a magic box. Did I ever tell you I stole it? Or borrowed it. I always meant to take it back. You will dream about that box your entire life. It’s big and little at the same time. Its brand new and ancient, and the bluest blue in the world” And with that he sacrifices himself.

We flash forward to the wedding of the year, as Amy and Rory finally tie the knot. But as Augustus Gloop. Umm…Augustus Pond (surely a homage right? I cannot be the only one who noticed)… gives his Father of the Bride speech the whole game changes. Amy remembers The Doctor’s words just as he hoped she would. Something old. Something New. Something Borrowed. Something Blue. And The Doctor is saved. "Something remembered can come back."

Rory of course takes Amy's last name. I mean come on, Mrs Amelia Williams?! Thats not fairytale-ish at all! It was always going to be Mr Rory Pond

The Doctor dances, and River leaves one final cryptic message: You will know who I am soon. And we get the usual Christmas set up and off we go.

This was by far the best finale of the five – yes, even past Doomsday.

Not everything was solved sure – the silence is still out there, and River an enigma, but I think its fair to say Moffat is not done with either element, as he exclusively reveals to confidential, telling them that by the end of series 6 we will know all there is to know about River Song, and that the Silence is definitely a question for 6 – I still bet its Omega, but we shall see.

Ones things for sure, and you’ll have to excuse the pun: The Big Bang sure was all it was cracked up to be.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Erase This – CD Review

Lyrics + Bass: Alan Lastufka
Vocals: Luke Conard
Guitar: Jason Munday
Drums: Christian Caldeira
Piano: Ted Hu
Backing Vocals: Jason Munday, Kristina Horner

I posted a video blog about Alan Lastufka’s album Erase This about a day after I got the digital download a month and a half or so back. I’ll save you the hassle of watching it and just sum it up with 2 words I used in the video: “Musical perfection”.

That was the only way I could describe it after one full listen through.

Now, with a play count on my iTunes alone (not including on my iPod, or the CD, or the DVD, all of which combined probably add another 30-40plays each, just my iTunes) of over 20 for every track, I feel its time to come back and break it down properly.

So here it is, track by track:

Making a Scene: What an opening. Sax solos, great lyrics, and great vocals (both from Luke and Jason), this is a lesson in how to open an album.

Shortwave Part 1: My favourite track on the album by a mile and away. I could literally listen to this every minute of every day. A great catchy pop tune, the mix here is just perfect, Luke Conard’s vocals mesh perfectly with the band behind them, all of which play their parts in forming an absolutely symphony behind him. When the static breaks in with Shortwave Part 2, the true concept of this amazing album shines through in a way which is just indescribably good. Alan really triumphs here.

All I Am: This piano led track is very different from the two which come before – much more melodic and reflective. This and Mirror Song which follows are a great interlude between the first few tracks and the body of the album which follows after them.

Mirror Song: Originally placed on Alan’s Taking Leave EP, this song has been COMPLETELY revamped and revitalised to the point of being unrecognisable. When I heard there was going to be a new Mirror Song before the album came out I was shocked – the original having shone for me on Taking Leave, but this version is so much better. It perhaps feels a little bit of a cheat to have this song repeated from TL (as well as Forgiven later on), but it really is so different that it’s acceptable. Maybe it’s because I know Luke and Kristina are together, but you can literally feel the feelings between them as this ballad unfolds, and this is stronger than anything ALL CAPS have shown to date.

Turn Signal: Breaking into the second half of the album the band returns in full force for what is undoubtedly the most rock and roll track on the album. It was an early favourite of mine, and remains in the forefront.

Boxcar Blood: This song is the first official single on the album, although ironically I think it might be the weakest offering. That’s not to say it’s not a great track, which it is, but if I’d been making the decision I would have led with Turn Signal. I’m not sure what it is about Boxcar, it just didn’t pack a punch with me the first time round, it really took me a couple of listens to get into it in the same way.

Winter’s Song: The album as a whole is a dysfunctional love story, and this is the point when the dysfunction is at its highest.

“While you sing, sing, sing your own ending,
I want to start at the beginning.
While you lie, lie, lie there pretending,
My words quietly keep on spinning”

Conard pines. Desperate for a love song he wrote to be recognised as such by the girl who claims to be his greatest fan, he realises he simply cannot get through to her, and the song ends with a particularly dark piano part.

Shortwave Part 2: And we’re back to Shortwave. After Winter’s Song the uplift into this song is tremendous. The protagonists are “….no longer hiding, doubting”, but instead standing together at last, singing together. As a listener you feel you simply have to join in as Conard informs us that it’s time to “sing it out loud, as if we’re all singing along.” Everyone has come on this emotional journey and it’s almost at its climax. Almost.

Forgiven: Another Taking Leave veteran, this is more recognisable than Mirror Song, but again a vast improvement on the original. Killswitch Kevin comes in one last time and spins his final track (although not the albums). This is an anthem. A straight up anthemic masterpiece. You can almost visualise Jason Munday rocking his guitar solo on stage, as Christian, Alan and Luke all shine with their parts of the song. This is a song for stadiums.

Erase This: This was the first song Alan wrote for the album, initially titled “This.” About a guy who, despite being in a relationship which isn’t working, always ends up going back for more. “I knew what you would do before I even knew you” the character says, almost joking at this point that the relationship is so predictable that it’s never going anywhere different. But maybe that’s the point. “Familiar hands and familiar places” are what we think we need.

As a whole: This album is, simply, my favourite album ever. “Now hold on” I hear you say. “That’s a bold claim!” I know it is. And not one I will make lightly. The connection I made with this album from the very moment I first heard it was unique. I just couldn’t describe it even. The album doesn’t have any of my all time top-10 favourite tracks on it, but as an album, as a whole, it’s simply perfect. The concept is superb and amazingly executed, and from the first bars of Making a Scene to the final moments of Erase This, Alan has taken me on a rollercoaster of emotions, leaving off with a sort of cathartic release that many songwriters could only wish for.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Glee Season Finale Review - Journey

I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again: NO show has captured the hearts of the world this year like Glee.

Taking us on a coming-of-age journey from 5 dorks who “really sucked”, Will Schuester’s New Directions have flourished before our eyes, and last night’s season finale was an epic end for the show's rookie season

“I almost quit once” Will reminds us, “But you brought me back with Don’t Stop Believin’. Who cares how we got there, when getting there was so much fun”.

And with those words, the moment we’ve all been waiting for gets underway: Regionals 2010, New Directions Vs Vocal Adrenaline (Vs Oral – Aural? Yeah that seems more likely - Intensity apparently)

Faithfully and the newly revamped Don’t Stop Believin’ stand as a testament to how far New Directions have come, even since Sectionals. Its not just Lea Michele’s Rachel strutting down the aisle now but Finn too, and the rest of the club get’s their chances to shine as the Journey medley continues.

And then Quinn says the 4 words that fans have waited for all season (as indeed has Dianna Agron, desperate to ditch the fat-suit) “My water just broke.”

Vocal Adrenaline’s Bohemian Rhapsody is perfectly mixed in with Quinn’s labour (possibly the shortest in recorded history, given that she ends up back on stage in time to hear the results), but on the night there is simply no way Vocal Adrenaline deserved to win, Rhapsody was good but not good enough – it was a stitch up from the judges that gave them victory. The club then is done for. They couldn’t get 2nd place, and so Figgins’ budget wins.

And from here on out the sob-fest began – yeah, I’m a guy, and I cried at Glee, get over it. Emma fights for the club and despite failing she gets Will to finally confess his love for her – a moment which fell somewhat on deaf ears for me given that I ship Sue/Will, but its ok, there’s more of that to come.

To Sir, With Love was the surprise highlight of the night, as the club sits on their stools and reminds Schu that while he’s there, the club will never truly be over. All this overseen by hero of the night Sue Sylvester, not the callous heartless bitch we saw at the start of the season, but a real person, finally humbled by the events of last week’s Funk. “I don’t like you William, but I admire you” she tells Will, before informing him that she surrendered her leverage over Figgins to get the club one more year – one more shot at beating Vocal Adrenaline.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow, and the emotional climax as we see Shelby adopt little baby Beth are beautiful reminders of why this show is so special.

So I guess there is only one more question to answer: Is it September yet? ‘Coz I need my Glee fix!!!

P.s: I took the liberty of figuring out my order of favourite episodes from the season, which you can see here:

1) Journey
2) Theatricality
3) Sectionals
4) Pilot
5) Home
6) Bad Reputation
7) Showmance
8) Preggers
9) Hairography
10 ) Ballad
11) Dream On
12) Hell-O
13) Laryngitis
14) The Power of Madonna
15) Wheels
16) Mattress
17) Acafellas
18) Vitamin D
19) Funk
20) Rhodes Not Taken
21) Throwdown
22) Mash-up

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Doctor Who - Vincent and the Doctor

Tonight saw a very different Doctor Who episode. Yes there was the monster and the mystery, but on a deeper level this was a story about the beauty and importance of life, and also the inevitability and unavoidable nature of death.

Tony Curran's Van Gogh is a brilliant character study of the tortured and insane Van Gogh. Not afraid to shy away from his depression, and eventual suicide, the family show delved into territory many adult shows wouldn't touch, and handled them with both tact and brilliance. The clever line about he and Amy sharing the same "dutch" accent is a stroke of genius, and it means that we don't have to put up with a horrible forced dutch accent, and can instead just cope with what we get and ignore it.

Richard Curtis, a self-admitted lover of Van Gogh, having studied his paintings and his life story many times, does well to bring out the deeper nuances of the man who never knew he would be famous, and his emotional climax of Vincent in the Musee D'Orsay is one of the best realised scenes in Who. As the camera pans around and you just see the utter joy on Vincent's face as Bill Nighy's Dr Black explains that Van Gogh is not only the greatest artists who ever lived but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Perhaps its just because I like his art, but the references to his paintings in the sets and in the scenery were amazing. The cafe, the bedroom, and the sunflowers were enough to make me squee, but the Starry Night synaesthesia sequence was amazing - its probably my favourite Van Gogh, and the idea that that was just how he saw the world was interesting and unique.

Ironically in this episode it is the Doctor and the series story which take hits this week - the scene with Matt blindly waving a rake about served only to make him look silly, and take the focus of our hero. This episode was very standalone from the series, and except for the brief mention of Rory (probably inserted for exactly this reason) it could have simply been a 45minute biopic about Van Gogh in which Amy and the Doctor just happen to feature.

As a Van Gogh story then, this was simply beautiful, and one I'd probably give 5*. Even as a standalone Doctor Who story it's a 5* work of art. But right now, just moments after losing Rory, and just 3 weeks from the season finale, this episode seemed to sort of go off on a tangent from the series as a whole, and I'm not sure when we look back on this series, the placement of this episode is going to make sense.