Jan 022017
 

I spent a lot of this month catching up on a few 2016 releases I had missed, and making sure I caught all the essential theatrical releases in December. The result was surprising: only a few of these viewings left an impression on me. I remember last year seeing The Revenant, The Big Short, Carol and Spotlight in December. This year Jackie, Your Name and The Edge of Seventeen stood out, but I still have a number of the Oscar candidates to see – Moonlight, Manchester By the Sea, Hidden Figures, Silence, Lion and Fences. At this point last year I had seen all eventual Best Picture nominees save for Room. 

The absolute highlight of this month’s viewing was the tremendous Westworld. I was hooked after one episode, and for me this is a demonstration of the rarely-met potentials of TV. Layers upon layers of interconnected story arcs and thought-provoking ideas that utilise the 10+ hours. The intrigue is never relinquished here – the twists are shocking – and the writing, acting and production values are all exceptional.

2017 goals = unknown. With a baby on the way, I have no idea what kind of time I can dedicate to movies, TV, books and games. I expect I’ll still probably see in the vicinity of 200 films throughout the year, but very few will be at the cinema. Most will likely be on VOD catch-up. I have set a reading goal at 20 novels for 2017. This year I hit 40, so I think this is realistic.

After the jump is a listing of everything I watched in December. I needed 36 films to hit 365 films for the year. I wasn’t trying for this number, it just happened. I didn’t make it anyway, ending with 27.

Oh, and if you missed my 25 Favourite Films of 2016, be sure to check it out.

Continue reading »

Dec 142016
 

lead_960

2016 has been a great year for music. I have been lucky enough to churn through many albums on my 40-minute walk commute to and from work, using review sites like Pitchfork as a guide on what albums to give a try. For the most part they have been worthy recommendations.

It was a year of few disappointments – notably, new work from The Avalanches, Bon Iver and Frank Ocean that didn’t do much for me – but of many surprises. Several bands and artists (Swans, White Lung, Death Grips, Danny Brown, Blood Orange) that I have recently become fans of came out with new albums every bit as exciting as their predecessors. Leonard Cohen and David Bowie released incredible swan song albums. A Tribe Called Quest returned with a killer new album, their first in 18 years, while Metallica turned out their best work in 20.

Here are 25 albums that I liked a hell of a lot in 2016 – no honourable mentions this year, just right into it – a mix of styles and emotions that have defined this year for me through music. I hope this selection brings some awareness to these albums and encourages you to give them a spin if you’re looking for something new to listen to.

Continue reading »

Dec 022016
 

sullyheader1

I watched a total of 32 films in November, about what I expected. Most of these were focused on eliminating a number from my end-of-year watchlist. I worked out that if I watch 35 films in December – which is probably a tad out of reach – I will have hit 365 films again. Perhaps for the last time. I haven’t been trying to achieve this goal, it has just happened.

Outside of films, not much has been going on. Reading has dropped off (though I still have two more books to finish to complete my goal of 40 for 2016) and TV will be focused on completing some series. I have one more ep of Black Mirror S3 left, 5 eps of Halt & Catch Fire S3. I’d also like to work through O.J: Made in America and Westworld throughout December. A tall order.

I will be looking to drop my Favourite Albums of 2016 in a couple of weeks, and my Best of 2016 Film list (in a similar layout as last year’s list) at the end of December. The 29th or 30th.

Thoughts on most of what I watched in December (there were a few I didn’t discuss) after the jump:

Continue reading »

Nov 032016
 

a-visual-study-on-steven-spielbergs-ai-artificial-intellegence

This month I decided to focus a lot more on films, in an attempt to check off a bunch on on my still-lengthy watchlist before year’s end. I did a pretty good job of that, but I have about 40 films left to tackle in November and December. A busy month in October – family visits, various life admin and a short break out of town – resulted in only five cinema visits. It was interesting that the two most disappointing viewing experiences this month were at the cinema. It is a problem when you start to dread what sort of public audience you get, and rough crowds are one reason we have waited for the home release a lot more this year.

I watched a total of 30 films. And about 20 eps of TV (well down on last month).

Sam and I have been spending a lot more time playing games – card games and board games (not console) – and this has been a lot of fun. If you’re looking to start a collection of games, these are some I can recommend: Love Letter, The Rivals of Catan, Jaipur, Flux and Tides of Time. In October I read Dave Eggers’ new book ‘Heroes of the Frontier’ and William Goldman’s ‘The Princess Bride’, both of which I enjoyed. I’m also deep into both Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’ and Neal Stephenson’s ‘Seveneves’, both of which are incredible so far.

November – in addition to continuing to deplete my watchlist (Sully, The Infiltrator, The BFG amongst them), we’re looking forward to American Honey, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals and I, Daniel Blake. Thoughts on some of my October viewing after the jump.

Continue reading »

Sep 042016
 

Big-Trouble-in-Little-China-Jack-Burton-Kurt-Russell-Henry-Swanson

August was quite a tough month so I busied myself with work and found comfort in films. I ended up watching 33, another hefty amount, from a whole assortment of different periods and genres. Dark Horizons’ Garth Franklin set me a viewing challenge before the end of the year – ten ’80s/’90s classics shamefully on my blindspot list. Amongst the ones I have checked off so far: Wargames, Big Trouble in Little China and They Live. 

I also caught up on quite a few films I missed in cinemas (The Meddler, Maggie’s Plan, Miles Ahead and Mia Madre included). Incredibly, this month includes not a single episode of TV.

My favourite books this month were Poirot & Me, David Suchet’s fascinating autobiography about portraying Agatha Christie’s iconic Belgian detective on TV for a quarter of a century, and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, soon to be adapted into a TV series. If you haven’t watched the trailer things are looking promising.

Thoughts on some of the films I watched in August after the jump.

Continue reading »

Aug 182016
 

The Shallows Duo

The Shallows is the latest film from Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Non-Stop), who has developed a loyal fan-base with his ability to liven-up the tired tropes of mass-appeal genre films. After a trio of Liam Neeson-led shoot-em-up action entries (including the pretty decent Non-Stop, which was effectively an Agatha-Christie-on-a plane) he returns to horror, where he last worked in 2009 with the underrated Orphan. In what is perhaps his best film to date – on the simplest terms Jaws meets 127 Hours – he tells a gripping and visually arresting survival story of a desperate but determined woman clinging to glimpses of hope, and using her substantial wits and capabilities to fix and manoeuvre her injured body, and navigate the safe havens at her disposal. With a game, intense performance from Lively, and some vicious shark take-downs this is a particularly strong entry in the oft-tried sub-genre.

Continue reading »

Aug 012016
 

the-long-goodbye-21

You may have seen an announcement that Sam and I made a few weeks back. We are significantly trimming back the content on An Online Universe, as a result of various influences that are limiting our time, and affecting our inspiration to write.

I have simply not had the time or the energy to review the films I am seeing, or write much about anything. I did, however, watch quite a lot of movies. Almost entirely home viewing – a mix of DTV titles, 2016 catch-up, and a few recommended ’80s and ’90s classics. I ended up watching 31 films, and 11 episodes of TV (including the entire season of Stranger Things).

I spent many hours gaming this month – completing Witcher 3: Wild Hut and starting and finishing Uncharted 4, two of the greatest games I have ever experienced. I read Dan Brown’s Inferno – average, what you’d expect from Brown but conceptually thinner and less inspired than his earlier best-sellers – Presumed Innocent – an exceptional psychological whodunit that was adapted into a 1990 film starring Harrison Ford – and three Agatha Christie novels: Three Act Tragedy, Nemesis and Curtain. My next challenge is American Gods, in preparation of the upcoming TV series.

Album of the year update: things are getting quite crowded at the top. 2016 is becoming perhaps my favourite year for music since 2010. In order of discovery, here are my current top 10 albums of the year so far:

Malibu – Anderson .Paak

D-J-Kicks – Moodymann

The Life of Pablo – Kanye West

Singing Saw – Kevin Morby

Paradise – White Lung

A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

The Colour in Anything – James Blake

The Glowing Man – Swans

2 – Mudcrutch

Love and Hate – Michael Kiwanuka

After the jump, check out my thoughts on all of my fresh viewing for the month.  Continue reading »