Monday, July 30, 2007

Mostly Autumn at Murrayfield

Mostly Autumn at the end of their support slot for Bryan Adams at Murrayfield, Edinburgh on Saturday 21st July 2007. Can you see me in the crowd? (photo shamelessly swiped from their official web page)

Its wet, its dinner time, the queue for the burger van is about a quarter of a mile long, you're waiting to see Bryan Adams, in the rain, and a band you have never heard of walks on stage and plays moody, proggy music with flutes in. You're not impressed.

This, I suspect, was the feeling of most of the crowd watching Mostly Autumn playing support to Bryan Adams last weekend. It was a bad introduction.

Which is a shame, because the music was great, the sound quality was good for an open air event and the band played well. But rain does put a damper on proceedings like these. Actually, more like a soaked-through-er than a damper.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The oldies wanna rock...

Bryan Adams may still sing the song 'Kids Wanna Rock' but from my observations at his concert at Murrayfield (Edinburgh) on Saturday night, the kids were fairly ambivalent - having mostly been dragged along by their parents - it was the oldies who wanted to rock.

All ages were represented at the gig, the youngest I saw was about 2, the oldest was probably approaching 70. But the vast majority were (late) 30- and 40-somethings who can remember Bryan's heyday from the mid 80s to the mid 90s.

In keeping with the rest of this summer's outdoor gigs and festivals, it was raining on Saturday night - a light, but constant, drizzle accompanied the gig. We stayed back in the (covered) stand for the support act (more in a mo) and most of the main set, but (my nephew) Mark and I went down beside the 'b-stage' towards the end of the main set and stayed there for the encores. The second encore was played from the b-stage, so we were glad we did.

I believe Bryan has a new album out. I haven't heard it. In fact, I suspect that even though I saw him in concert, I still haven't heard more than maybe one song from it - I knew almost all of the songs he played. It was more-or-less a 'greatest hits' set. This was kind of expected and, of course, well received.

So, it rocked. Obviously, as expected, it slumped into mush in the middle of the main set with 'Have you ever really loved a woman' and 'Everything I do I do it for you' but picked up again after that with a stonking version of 'Summer of 69'.

For 'Baby when you're gone' he pulled an enthusiastic (and soaked through) girl from the crowd to duet with. It turned out that she was 'Helga' from South Africa (which got a grumble of boos from the Scottish crowd) and despite claiming to be able to sing, wasn't very good. At least she did know the words, but she didn't even attempt to sing the Mel C echo parts in the chorus - she just sang all the same parts as Bryan. Hey ho.

He also pulled several girls out of the audience to dance with him during 'She's only happy when she's dancing' in the final encore. Which was quite entertaining. Sadly, he ended the show with two solo acoustic songs including 'All for love' which is guff. But apart from that it was good show with Bryan and band on good form and playing a set which went past the two hour mark (if only by about 10 minutes).

I'll comment on the support band in a bit... please check back...

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Sin City

Life is cheap. This is the message of Sin City. I suppose the clue is in the title, but watching this film kind of eats away at your soul, steals away a little bit of your humanity. Everyone in this film is corrupt, amoral, depraved and a killer. There isn't even 'honour among thieves'.

Yes, its stylish. Yes, its visually glorious. Its even well directed, produced, etc., etc. But it places such a low value on human life and reduces everything to the basest level, so it cannot be a good film. You do want to watch, to try and work out what's going on, but there isn't even a good resolution to the movie - it ends with Sin City being just as depraved and corrupt as it was at the start. Lots of people have died; violently and pointlessly.

I feel slightly tarnished myself. I'm going to bed now. Good night.

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Terry Pratchett: Wintersmith

Just finished reading Terry Pratchett's latest 'for younger readers' Discworld book. It was OK.

In general, given the quality of some of TP's books for 'grown ups', I have found the kids' books disappointing. But this is probably the best of the bunch so far. For some reason, TP seems to think that if you're doing a kids' book it needs to have a much smaller story than adult books - so some of his grown up books have had plots involving wars, governments, countries, etc., but the kids books all happen on a local level. And contain more 'knob gags' and swearing references (though often implicit).

I'm stuck halfway between liking and being offended by the stereotypically Scottish (blue skinned, orange haired, kilt wearing, drinking, swearing, stupid) Feegles - half the time its funny but it veers dangerously close to racism at times. You couldn't have a comedy race of stereotypically Jewish or Indian or Chinese characters in a book like this, cos there would be outrage - even Welsh would probably not be received well - but Scottish is OK? Hmmm.

So what of the plot? Well, the nearly-thirteen year old main character Tiffany Aching inadvertently does something silly early on in the story, which changes the seasons, and spends the rest of the book trying to restore things back to the way they should be. Along the way she has to, basically, be more grown up than the grown ups in the story and deal with the unwanted romantic advances of the Wintersmith. And there's a storyline involving her male friend Roland which ultimately seems pointless. I think TP just wanted to keep him in the story somehow.

The main problem I have with this book is that TP chose to start it with a chapter which, chronologically, comes near the end of the book. This ends with a 'but all this hasn't happened yet' type line and we jump back 6 months or so. By choosing to do this, the author is more or less saying 'the start of my story is not very interesting' and has to give the reader a tantalising glimpse of something exciting coming up to keep them reading through the dull bits. Books that start like this are never great.

Its a shame. We used to get two 'grown up' Pratchett books a year, now we get less than one as his writing seems to have slowed down a bit and he's now doing these kids' books. Still, the next 'grown up' book can't be too far away, so here's hoping.

But, of course, the next book on my 'to read' list is another kids' book - out at midnight tonight...

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Fantastic Four - great review quote.

I haven't seen the new Fantastic Four movie yet. ("Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" as Mark Kermode is strangely keen to emphasise).

But I thought this review comment was worth repeating:
"...Throw in a regenerated Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), intent on stealing the Surfer's limitless powers, and you have ample excuse for repeatedly blowing stuff up.

Thankfully, this film excels at blowing stuff up..." (Tae Mawson on the Film 2007 website)

Tee hee hee. I like that.

By the way, cinema chains seem to have decided that people like me - i.e. grown ups with proper jobs - don't need to see the Fantastic Four movie. There are no evening or weekend showings of this film in the Edinburgh area only a couple of weeks after going on release. Therefore the only way I can get to see this movie in the cinema would be to sneak off in the middle of a working day. I might...

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows...?

Only a few days left before the final Harry Potter book is unleashed. What will happen? How will JK resolve the story? Here are some of my predictions, guesses and fears:
  1. I really hope that Dumbledore remains dead. If he comes back to life he's just a Gandalf clone. If he advises from beyond the grave he's just an Obi Wan rip-off. Please let him remain dead. However, I give it 50:50 either way.
  2. Sirius Black is resurrected. I'm expecting this. Maybe the death of Dumbledore was a ruse concocted by Dumbledore and Snape so that Dumbledore could somehow bring Sirius back? Of course, if Sirius comes back from death there's no reason why Harry's parents can't come back too.
  3. One out of Harry, Ron & Hermione dies part way through the book. Personally I'd like it to be Harry, but I'm not sure. I don't think Harry will end up living happily ever after, but Ron & Hermione might. Unless his parents come back to life, dying is the only way Harry can be reunited with them.
  4. Ginny dies. Surely?
  5. Snape is a good guy after all. I'm still expecting this. Even though he killed Dumbledore in book 6, this was because he was either (a) constrained by the unbreakable oath or (b) doing exactly what Dumbledore wanted or (c) both. Snape ends up being head of Hogwarts? Oh, go on.
  6. Draco Malfoy rebels against his father and becomes a good guy. Draco couldn't kill Dumbledore, he's not all evil. Time for a bit of redemption.
  7. Voldemort doesn't die. He is stripped of his powers and forced to live as a pure muggle. He (of course) then commits a crime and is put in muggle prison...
Or I could be way off here. We'll see next week.

Please comment on these thoughts. If you want to comment after reading the book, please start your comments with a very obvious spoiler warning. I will add comments below after I have read the book - I will also include spoiler warnings. Cheers.

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Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords

Season 1 of 'NuHu' (as true 'Whovians' seem to be calling it these days) ended with a climactic battle and a regeneration. Season 2 ended with a climactic battle and the writing out of the companion. And now season 3 comes to an end.

Climactic battle? Averted.
Writing out of companion? Could be.
Regeneration? No. Whew.

But the classic sci-fi homages still came on thick and fast: Last week we noted that we had an indestructible captain & a cloudbase (Captain Scarlet) and spherical flying robot things (Terrahawks, the torture droid in Star Wars or possibly 'Colin' from Mostly Harmless), this week we got loads of them: Flash Gordon (Ming's ring), Return of the Jedi (Vader's pyre), Lord of the Rings ("my preciousss") and Superman the Movie (earth spinning backwards). Probably others I missed too.

However, this was not a great episode. Exciting things happened in parts, but quite dull things happened in other bits. I know they felt they had to have a totally impossible situation for the Doctor to overcome, but I wasn't convinced by the way it was resolved.

And Captain Jack was just there to be shot at. He wasn't actually required for the story in any way. Nice twist with him at the end though.

But the writers forgot something. When we first met this regenerated Doctor in 'The Christmas Invasion', we found out what kind of person he was. He was a 'no second chances' kind of person. He gave the Sycorax leader one chance to live, but when the Sycorax tried to fight a second time he (the Doctor) let him fall to his death with no regrets.

Two series on and he seems to have changed. Here he's prepared to give the Master as many chances as he wants, it seems.

So the best season of 'NuHu' so far comes to a close with a slight disappointment. The finale was interesting without being gripping, not as emotional as it was trying to be and a bit slap-dash in the way it tied up all the characters' storylines.

But, I'm looking forward to Torchwood in October, the Christmas special (featuring Kylie - yay!) and the next series in 2008. Even if the new companion is to be Donna as played by Catherine Tate (hmmmm?).

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