Friday Five – Mr C’s Top Five Films from 2012

Mr C’s back for his second roundup of the 2012 year. Last week it was all about music, this week it’s all about the visual arts. To recap the rules, initially we wanted this to be a “top five 2012 films seen in 2012″ but the problem is we run about six months behind thanks to windowing and all that nonsense. Instead, the rules are relaxed a little to include the 2011 films that we didn’t catch in time last year, plus the 2012 films we have managed to see so far.

Enough from me, let’s see which five Mr C has gone with in what has been another painful pruning exercise:

  1. Moneyball. “Without doubt my favourite sports movie in the history of all movie-making, and all sports movies that I’ve ever seen ever. Plus, I need a Pete in my life – someone following me around with an Excel spreadsheet telling me which decisions to make and why.” [Film Watch link]
  2. Avengers Assemble. “What a cast! What a film! What a riot! I can’t say enough good things about this film, the only thing it didn’t have was a Pete.” [Film Watch link]
  3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. “The first time I’ve ever got vertigo sitting on my couch. A dizzying rollercoaster of action. Light years ahead of the rest of the franchise.” [Film Watch link]
  4. 21 Jump Street. “Surprise of the year. Didn’t think it would be as good as it was from watching the trailer, hadn’t heard anyone raving about it. Low expectations going in but loved it from beginning to end.” [Film Watch link]
  5. Ted. “A walking, talking chainsmoking bear. What more do you want? Totally ruined Hootie and the Blowfish’s entire back catalogue for me in one brief scene. Patrick Stewart = best.narrator.ever.” [Film Watch link]

Honourable mentions: Contagion – “like Moneyball, not your typical Hollywood movie but another masterpiece.” The Hunger Games – “didn’t know anything about this going in, enjoyed it muchly, still no intention of reading the books.” The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists – “possibly the only film I’ve ever seen back-to-back four times.”

Friday Five – Mr C’s Top Five Songs from 2012

New Year usually means quite a lot of reviews of the previous twelve months, and things are no different round these parts. At the end of each year, Mr C gets a chance to have his say on both music and films, and today it’s time to recap his top five songs from 2012.

We’ve previously listed his songs from 2010 and from 2011, but this time it’s all about the music and melodies that were unleashed upon the unsuspecting public last year. What gems did Mr C manage to find?

  1. Try – P!nk. “A latecomer to the year’s music. I was sold entirely on this by her live iTunes performance, as iTunes live in London dominated my entire musical influences for the year. Easily my favourite song she’s ever recorded and a fantastic video to accompany it.”
  2. She’s So Mean – Matchbox Twenty. “What a comeback album. As much as I like Rob Thomas’ solo work, I missed them as a band. The opening single off their new album is an instant classic. Much like P!nk, love the video and their iTunes Festival performance too.”
  3. I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz. “When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe he was releasing this as a single. It didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities as a single but it got inside my head and turned out to be a brilliant choice. A truly fantastic recording.”
  4. Hall of Fame – The Script. “Thanks to Danny’s appearance on the UK’s edition of The Voice, Great Britain finally woke up to The Script. Having heard these mostly on American radio until this album was released, it’s great to hear them on national stations. Additionally, the first decent thing Will.i.am’s been involved in for ages.”
  5. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye. “It was overplayed upon its release. Interestingly, I know nothing about the band from a live perspective, it’s solely from endless rotation on TV and radio that the song stuck in my head. It has echoes of 80s influences which make it stand out from the crowd this year.”

Honourable mentions include Katy Perry, who for the second year in a row released a bunch of songs Mr C really liked but were not good enough to make the final cut. Also, “Scissor Sisters released a cracking tune (Only the Horses) which was accompanied by what can only be described as the worst album released this year, which tainted the original song.”

I must say, I was shocked to see that Taylor Swift was missing from this list, because that song gets played a lot round this house… it’s, like, exhausting. However, we did get a sneak peek at the shortlist Mr C was working from, and whaddayaknow…

mr-c-top-songs

Friday Five – Web discoveries from my dad

My dad often sends me links and things that he discovers on his travels around the internet, and sometimes I think I need to share that with others – but never quite get round to writing a post about it. Instead, here’s a compilation of five recent links and bits that I found quite interesting.

  1. A List of Books. I’m working through my own select list of reading material, but I like the idea of this list – compiling together several other top book lists into one giant compendium. It’s also quite fun to look down and see just how many of these I’ve read thanks to my reading adventures!
  2. Britain. I’m not sure where this has come from, but it’s apparently the information that was given to GI’s coming over to Britain during World War II – giving them a quick start guide about how odd us Brits are. I particularly like this bit: “If Britons sit in trains or buses without striking up conversation with you, it doesn’t mean they are being haughty and unfriendly.  Probably they are paying more attention to you than you think.  But they don’t speak to you because they don’t want to appear intrusive or rude.”
  3. Best Animal Pictures of 2012. There will no doubt be a heap of “best of” compilations emerging soon, a couple even on this site. But I love the first picture in this group, where an errant sloth tries to get in on the photo action. Cute.
  4. Paint Sample Calendar. This isn’t the exact info my dad sent over, but it’s the same idea. And a genius one! A dry wipe calendar made out of the free paint swatches from your local DIY store. I’m very tempted to try this.
  5. Smart toaster. This one was sent a while back, a toaster that tells you the weather. Of course, weather forecasts aren’t always top notch, so why not just eat them?

It’s always fun when other people curate the internet for you – that’s why I follow blogs like Kottke. Finding cool things without too much effort!

Friday Five – Bunker related bits and pieces

There have been quite a few bunker items in the news and wider media recently, none of which I have managed to write about. So here, instead, is a summary of five of the most recent.

  1. This was pointed out to me by Mr C who saw it on Twitter from someone else (crediting is hard when you have terrible memories like us), but as the end of the world is rapidly approaching… again… people are starting to notice that burrowing underground or under the sea could be useful. The Daily Mail have gathered together some of the so-called best bunkers. The hotel in the Maldives that has rooms underwater is really quite freaky and also very cool!
  2. Meanwhile, this Doomsday Preppers thing is catching on. Apparently there is a program on the National Geographic channel following some, er, dedicated types as they prepare for the worst. There’s also a game based on the concept too. Both of these things I have not seen/tried but will have to check out soon.
  3. A while back, I was pointed in the direction of a marvellous underground home that was built in the remains of an old reservoir. It looks stunning, if a little like the Teletubbies hillock, but my main concern is if it is in a former reservoir, will it not fill up with water when it rains.
  4. The always excellent In Focus photo site has a recent post about polygamists living in the rock in Utah. Let’s ignore the religious/political aspects of this, living in the rock seems very caveman and very cool! Except the part where you have to blow massive holes in the rock in the first place with explosives. That sounds less cool and more dangerous.
  5. Finally, I found some photos of old bunkers that were created under the streets of Moscow, when there was concern about the threat of nuclear war. Now they have been turned into a museum/bar/restaurant/strip club. As you do. It looks very odd, kind of like a space ship, but hey, making use of crumbling bunkers is always fine by me.

Annoyingly, I also know that there was a recent episode of Grand Designs where they looked at yet another underground establishment. Mr C and I made a point of watching the celebratory 100th episode of the show, and the underground one was the very next week… but we missed it. D’oh!

Friday Five – Recent Life List additions

I recently spruced up my Life List page, adding some handy links to the yearly reviews at the top, and then splitting the to-do items into tenuous categories – things to do, things to see, that kind of thing. It’s suprising to me to realise that I’m heading rapidly towards the end of a third year of life-listing, but then again, I’ve tried all sorts of crazy things in that time, so it’s certainly doing its job!

As I was dusting the page down, a few new items came to mind, so here are five of the most recent additions to my life list:

  1. Go to the BBC Good Food show. What with my new obsession with baking and the possibility that Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry might show up, this has suddenly become a must-visit event!
  2. Enter something in a country show. I’ve been to a few country events this year, and one thing I really like is the craft tent. People submit to their category and you can peruse the different entries – compare and contrast and judge accordingly. There’s always crazy things like “four mini eggs cut into a flower shape” or “a photo of a dog dressed as a sunflower”. The trouble is, I don’t grow vegetables, I don’t knit very well, and I don’t bake to that kind of standard (yet), so I’m not sure what I could get away with. Something to ponder. Then again, my task is simply to enter something, not necessarily win!
  3. Take an open-top sightseeing tour. I have specifically mentioned London on the life list page but I’m not sure it would have to be the capital city. For some reason, I just really like the idea of getting a decent tour of a city. I think I must have been on a sightseeing tour or two in my time, but none that I really remember (or have documented!)
  4. Complete a puzzle book. A recent visit to my parents saw us complete a cryptic crossword puzzle together. I usually shy away from even the normal crosswords because I don’t have much in the way of general knowledge smarts, so throw in some crazy cryptic clues and I was baffled. But after some perseverence we started to get somewhere and it opened my eyes to a new world of puzzles. Usually, if I got my hands on a puzzle book I’d head straight for the easy ones, the ones where you fit ready made words into the spaces, or the logic puzzles. I’d like to get a book and be determined to finish it, trying all the puzzles – even if it takes forever.
  5. Go kayaking. After watching the Olympics and reading Paddle – a book in which the author describes his journey kayaking around Ireland – I got it into my head that I wanted to have a go in a kayak. The mere idea freaks me out a bit, and I am having second thoughts after watching a worrying documentary. But still, it’s worth having on the list in case the mood takes me in the future.

The thing I love about my life list is that it chops and changes. Things I thought were a good idea at the time but now seem completely unappealing get removed, but there is always something to take their place.

I can’t emphasise enough how if you have the slightest inkling to make a list of your own, you should do it. Even if you start with just five easy things, it really gives you a sense of motivation, and once you delve into the world and start looking at other people’s achievements, it’s really a wonderful positive place to get inspired.

Friday Five – Thoughts on iTunes Festival 2012

The month of September was filled with a nightly music extravaganza courtesy of the iTunes Festival 2012. Each evening, one or more warm-up acts introduced a bigger name, and it was all streamed live on the internet, available as a catchup replay afterwards as well. Mr C watched all of them, I saw some of the main ones, and these are some of my findings.

1) There were a variety of different genres throughout the 30 days, and most musical tastes were covered in some capacity. My personal favourite of the lot was Pink. She hadn’t performed for two or three years, and was rusty – forgetting some words here and there. That made the show a little bit more personal. She was chatty, cared about the fans (particularly one who fainted), and did lots of songs that I had forgotten I like and own. Many plus points for Pink. I was also suitably impressed with Alicia Keys, who I thought was going to be a great performer but a bit aloof with the audience. She warmed to it, I think.

2) Now, I’ve always taken a bit of a shine to Noel Gallagher, particularly when compared to his brother, but I’ve not really had any reason one way or the other. I’ve heard him in a few interviews and he’s funny and articulate. However, in his set, he was just a joy to watch. He must have incredible hearing because he was holding conversations with people in the front row, to the exclusion of everyone else. It was weird to see just one side of a conversation but also completely compelling. There was also the Liam-Liam chanting moment, that I quite enjoyed, wherein he bemoaned his own one-syllable name being hard to chant, and a certain sibling’s name being slightly better.

3) On the flip side, I had expected to like Ed Sheeran’s set a lot more than I did. He expected far too much of the crowd, and told lengthy stories that didn’t seem to have much to do with anything. He also went on far too long with “you need me but I don’t need you” to the point where I thought I was being brainwashed. The duet with Gary Snow Patrol was awesome, though. Jessie J was another one who I thought would be better. I’m not her biggest fan, but I like a couple of the songs and she belts them out. Unfortunately, she changed her shoes to big red clumpy things so that she looked like a clown, talked endlessly about how grateful she was, and broke the momentum of the gig to sit down and read an extract from her book. I don’t go to (m)any gigs but this seemed odd, and I gave up watching halfway through.

4) I was epically disappointed that The Killers gig wasn’t available to replay. What happened and who pulled it? Every single other show was available in some form – although I noticed that Muse’s setlist featured Time is Running Out (my favourite) and the iTunes replay did not. Mr C was gutted when he missed The Killers, and the replay did not appear. It made him determined to watch everything else live so as not to miss out, until some kind soul started putting stuff on YouTube. In the end, it was just The Killers that were missing, and I am curious to know why.

5) There were two artists I sat through where I didn’t know much of the music. The aforementioned Muse took twenty minutes to get to a song I recognised, although once they got going, I felt on more familiar territory. Matchbox Twenty were another where I’m not even sure I recognised any. They are one of those bands with the unique ability to have few standout songs, it all sounds mostly the same, but equally it doesn’t get boring. The Calling are another example of this. The support act for Matchbox Twenty were One Republic, who I really, really liked as well. That was a good iTunes day.

(This video also shows off, to an epic degree, my complaints about how sweaty all the artists were getting. Sort it out, Roundhouse!)

Overall, it was a musical education. I don’t think it was as spectacular as I had imagined – the Sheeran/Snow Patrol duet was really the only big moment, whereas I thought there might be more artists playing about and inviting others on. Nevertheless, there were plenty of gems, I learnt an awful lot, I’ve discovered some new music, and it was all for free. What’s not to like?

Friday Five – Mr C’s Top Five Songs from 2011

We’ve had a look at Mr C’s top five films of the 2011 year gone by, and now it’s time to put those 12 months firmly to bed with his top five songs released in 2011. It was not such a great year for music in our household, with very little grabbing our attention. In fact, Mr C’s shortlist was only seven in the first place. However, we’ve pulled out the top five and these are his:

  1. Shake it Out – Florence + the Machine. “I must have been the last person in the world to hear this song, and since hearing it, it’s been played on every TV montage ever. It’s 2011’s jónsi, every anthemic montage will feature it. But still my favourite tune of the year.”
  2. Price Tag – Jessie J. “Musical moment of 2011 was when the young fan at Glastonbury was brought on stage to do the ultimate duet and created a definable moment in pop history. Handled perfectly, with a strapped up Jessie J,  despite not being able to move she managed to reach everyone at the biggest festival in the country.”
  3. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall – Coldplay. “Back on form and the very definition of British summer. I remember Radio 1 having a huge build up, most of the morning I was driving as they were going to unleash the premiere of this song. I thought they’d overdone it and gone too far, it could never live up to the hyperbole but it surpassed it. I turned the radio up as loud as it could possibly go.”
  4. Jet Lag – Simple Plan (feat. Natasha Bedingfield). “Vastly underplayed in the UK, especially as it features in Natasha. Proper air drumming track of the year. I defy you to sit still while listening to it.”
  5. Iridescent – Linkin Park. “Surprise of the year, Linkin Park go so mainstream, they’re entering Coldplay’s territory with this anthemic close to a mediocre movie.”

Honourable mentions (ie. the two that were also on the list but not in the top five) go to Adele with Someone Like You and Katy Perry with Firework. Both are great songs but massively overplayed on both English and American radio.

It’s worth pointing out that this time last year, Mr C granted Taylor Swift his fifth place song, and said: “This is as country as I’ll ever go.” That’s right before we watched Country Strong and he bought a couple of soundtracks. Eh-hem.

Can’t wait to check back in next year and laugh at him all over again!

Friday Five – Mr C’s Top Five Films from 2011

The end of the year is always a bit review heavy, but you’re bound to have room for just a couple more. It’s time for Mr C’s annual look at his favourite films and music of the year. You know what I think about all the films we watch because I blog them incessantly, but Mr C lives through most of them as well, so it’s only fair that he gets a word in edgeways.

These are the top five films that were released in 2011, that we watched in 2011, according to Mr C:

  1. Source Code. “Genuinely the most original storyline to come from an industry obsessed with sequels. A good take, liked that it was different, couldn’t see the ending coming.” (Film Watch link)
  2. Horrible Bosses. “I don’t remember the last time I watched a film twice back to back.” (Film Watch link)
  3. The Adjustment Bureau. “2011’s Inception. Really liked the premise, and the execution. The ending was a bit weak, otherwise it could easily have been my favourite film of the year.” (Film Watch link)
  4. Limitless. “Again, a brilliantly original storyline, and also I wasn’t expecting Bradley Cooper to be as good as he was. Even better in that than he was in the Hangover. Great use of post-production effects to support the story.” (Film Watch link)
  5. Super 8. “The greatest train crash ever filmed. I liked the idea of a film within a film, it was like Dawson’s Creek goes to the movies. The only downside was that the Super 8 camera was underplayed.” (Film Watch link)

Honourable mentions should go to some films we watched this year that could have featured in the 2010 list but we didn’t watch them in time:

  • Easy A. “Most surprising because I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. I loved the parents, I want her parents as my parents because they were ace.” (Film Watch link)
  • Unstoppable. “Despite being over-dramatised and contrived for the sake of cinema, it’s a movie I could easily watch again. The two main characters were brilliant and complemented each other perfectly.” (Film Watch link)
  • Despicable Me. “Out-Pixaring Pixar.” (Film Watch link)

Do let us know what your top films of 2011 were!

Friday Five – Things I miss about my HTC

I’ve had my iPhone for almost two weeks now, and I love it. All those hideous and disgusting phrases like “it just works” and “it makes me want to do more with it” are all true. I’ve got posts in the pipeline (by that I mean in my mind) regarding the highs and lows of life with Siri and what a revelation the camera is, but a quick summary is… it’s great.

Rather than gushing about the iPhone, though, I thought it would be worth taking a moment to remember some things about the Android that I miss.

  1. The notification light. This is quite a big deal for me, actually, and the fact the iPhone has no good way of knowing if something has happened is irritating. You can get the notifications and alerts, but they only happen the moment something comes in, whereas the flashing LED on my Desire would remain there until you checked out what it was trying to tell you.
  2. It hadn’t really occurred to me until I got the new phone but I am missing out on the incredible and free turn by turn via Google Navigate.
  3. Browsing the Kindle Store in the app itself was always fun. Course it’s not exactly hard to go to the Amazon mobile site in Safari but silly Apple for taking away the option in the app.
  4. Having the single touch to get a menu of all apps on the phone was cool. Also, the way the screens were laid out, you had the home screen then one to the left and one to the right. So you could be within one swipe of a dozen of your favourite apps. The iPhone has search to the left so that you only have one page always to the right.
  5. Finally, and I am reaching a little bit here, but it is important – the Runkeeper voice talks slower now than it does on Android. I don’t know why or how that happens, but after a year with the old one, it’s weird getting used to the new one.

Friday Five – Updates on being a Villa fan

Back in August, I wrote about my new enthusiasm for being a football fan, after my first visit to a match earlier in the year. At the end of summer, I was all excited about following along at home – checking in with the app, catching up with Match of the Day, and trying to keep up with the scores. I figured now was as good a time as any to update how it’s going being an Aston Villa fan.

  1. I have finally learned how to pronounce Agbonlahor’s name. It has only taken four months. That’s not too bad. He and Darren Bent appear to be some kind of dream team. I like it. Haven’t seen much from that new N’Zogbia chap though.
  2. The Aston Villa Twitter feed is pretty invaluable. I’m not very good at being in the right place at the right time – for instance, we have occasionally put the TV on mute and just watched the Final Score updates via the BBC. But sometimes I forget to do that, and even worse, sometimes I forget there is even a game on. I am more likely to check Twitter, though, and the AVFC feed has 15 minute updates, punctuated by extra tweets if there are goals. Mr C and I have great fun trying to figure out what the descriptions of the goals actually mean. If we remember to watch Match of the Day, it’s good to see if we pictured it in our heads right.
  3. The goalkeeper is fabulous. Mr C said as much when I told him they’d first signed him. He knew of him from Ireland type teams, but so far he’s one of the best goalkeepers I’ve seen. That’s not saying much, of course, because I only know of about three.
  4. I very much enjoyed it when they had an unbeaten streak. They had either won or drawn and not lost a game for ages. Then they lost, and it all got very controversial and the streak was gone. Not doing too badly in terms of the Premier League table though. Somewhere about eighth or ninth, middling.
  5. After seeing my first game in January, I was pretty confident I wouldn’t want to see another. It had been fun but I certainly wasn’t addicted to it. Now I’m starting to think I could do with seeing them in action again. I’m pondering if there are any away games I could visit because I don’t really want to battle my way back to Villa Park again.

So, I can’t really be trusted when I say I’ve done something once and never want to do it again. I also can’t be trusted to be a fanatical fan for too long – as it only lasted a couple of weeks. I was keeping up with who Villa were playing, how it was going, watching the score updates, noting down the results, staying up to see Match of the Day. Now it’s more like remembering at about 4pm that they were playing someone, and then deciding to sacrifice MotD so we can fit in a film instead.

I will try and do better.