Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The thirteenth Doctor is a woman!

So the next Doctor is going to be female!

I must admit, I was initially cautious about the idea a while back after I'd heard rumours, but actually it makes a whole lot of sense. Of course, there has been a backlash from idiots decrying 'political correctness' etc but what they fail to realise is that the Doctor is a) an alien b) doesn't adhere to human gender norms c) is a bl**dy fictional character!!!

I'd be sympathetic to anyone who didn't like the idea of, say, James Bond being re-cast as a woman. That would seem a bit odd (and forced), but making the Doctor a female is totally what the show – and the character – needs.

Not only had Steven Moffat and co been carefully sowing the seeds for some time now (dropping lots of hints along the way), but really and truly the show is ready for a decent injection of 'new'.

I've never been a die-hard fan of Who, just a casual watcher, but the recent series have seemed tired and lacking a certain something. I've felt all of the actors who took on the role to be very good at bringing their respective interpretation to life, but the scripts were always hit and miss for me.

For a fifty-year-old show that's not surprising. I think there's really only so much you can do with a TV series - Who has it's revolving formulas that are wheeled out regularly: monster of the week, trapped on a spacestation, it-was-all-a-dream etc. so you need to do things to keep it fresh.

I was thinking that the best thing for Who was for it to just give up already. Time for something else ... but, Jodie Whittaker is a brilliantly talented actress and I reckon she's got what it takes to breathe new life into the (very) old timelord.

I am genuinely excited to see what comes of the Doctor in the Christmas special, so roll on December!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Coldplay - A Head full of Dreams Tour (Cardiff, 10th July 2017)

I've been following Coldplay since their Parachutes album came out almost two decades ago. They have steadily grown from plucky indie band to global phenomenon - currently touring the world with a vibrant, impressive stage show equal to other big bands. I know it's not 'cool' to like Coldplay, which is always the way with successful bands. No doubt the hipsters look upon them with great disdain, but I actually do like their music (there, I said it!) and I've liked the way their sound has evolved over the years.

I must admit I wasn't overly excited about seeing them, though. I was looking forward to it, don't get me wrong, just not in the way an obsessive fan might have been. I saw it as a 'fun night out' rather than an 'experience' to tell my grandchildren.

Once things got going, however, I was really glad I came (despite the horrible rain and the lengthy queues). We were up in the gods, literally the last row in the back at the top. A good vantage to see the whole spectacle, but a bit far away to see any detail (plus the giant scoreboard blocked some of the view - see picture). At least we could stand without upsetting anyone and had somewhere to put our stuff behind our seats.

Chris Martin and co. played their most well-known hits, from the first single that catapulted them into the limelight (Yellow) to their most recent ode to positivity and hopefulness (Up and Up).

Whilst the stage and lighting were fairly typical for your big act stadium gig (although very good of course), the standout element was the light-up wrist bands worn by the audience. Alas, we were too late to have one ourselves because they'd all gone by the time we'd arrived. Even so, the effect was striking, bathing the entire arena in whatever colour or colours had been commanded by the production team (e.g. the colour yellow for 'Yellow' obviously).

I didn't know that Coldplay's guitarist Jonny Buckland grew up in North Wales (he was born in London) so it was nice to learn on the night that they had a Welsh connection (even though they haven't played here for seventeen years), which was milked quite a lot. Chris Martin apologised for taking so long to come back to play here and he even performed a little ditty about Jonny and Wales (I can't remember the lyrics exactly). Not only that, they signed off with a rendition of the Welsh national anthem (Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau), accompanied by a couple of choir singers. Turns out Rob Brydon did the honours the day after at their second Cardiff performance. A bit random, but fun all the same.

Having not been to a big concert for a few years (the last one was U2 at the then-called Millennium Stadium in 2009), the presence of smartphones in the audience was really noticeable. A lot of people (myself included) were filming the show, which is admittedly kind of odd. 

I guess it's a natural reaction these days, to capture something you are enjoying, but I think if you're filming something instead of actually experiencing it then you're kind of wasting your money. I did resist the urge to film everything. I just wanted to capture clips (because I knew the experience would be fleeting and wanted to capture at least something of what I'd seen), but made sure I wasn't watching the whole thing through my screen.

At some point during the show, Chris did plead with everyone to put their phones down and just enjoy the moment. He said we could film anything we wanted after, so he wasn't too concerned about people stealing his music.

I've seen a lot of people sharing their videos on Facebook and Coldplay are posting videos from the tour all the time on their page (filmed via smartphone or something similar), so I guess they don't really care about copyright, which is the other issue I was curious about now that smartphones are ubiquitous.

It's something that's impossible to control, given that almost eveyone has a portable TV studio in their pocket these days (ain't that right, Doc Brown?), so I guess the record labels rely on the fact that playing it back on a smartphone will never be the same as experiencing it in person or watching the concert recorded and edited by a professional production crew. If anything, allowing people to record and share their concert videos is just another marketing tool to promote the band.

So, well done and thank you Coldplay for a memorable show. I hope you come back to Wales again - just don't wait seventeen years next time!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bye bye beardy

After having a short beard for the last few months, I decided it was time to shave it off.

This was mainly prompted by the recent heatwave which made my face a bit more uncomfortable with the additional growth. I also found the beard thing slightly irritating due to itchiness and the ever-present paranoia of having chunks of food lodged it in whenever I ate.

On the plus side, I felt a bit more statesmanlike and grown up with my tufts of grey. Plus my beard offered my face a certain level of wind shielding in the colder months.

I might grow it back in the autumn, although I think I will have to invest in a decent facial trimmer to keep it under control and in a decent state of grooming.

Who knows, I just light might opt for a full Charlton Heston....?

Before and After

Friday, June 30, 2017

Films I've seen of late (June)

#29 Selma (2016)
David Oyelwoyo gives a stunning performance in this biopic about Martin Luther King Jnr. Focusing on the civil rights marches to secure the right to vote for blacks, the acts of brutality by the authorities are barbaric and shocking. Whilst things have clearly moved on since the 60s in terms of racial equality, current events show that sadly more work needs to be done. Hugely thought-provoking.

#30 Sing (2014)
The team behind Despicable Me achieve a winning formula in this anthropomorphic-singing-contest family comedy. Nailing the genre perfectly while employing a fresh twist to the finale, Sing is fun and satisfying.

#31 Ice Age: Collision Course (2015)
Yawn. Yet another example of spinning-out a franchise for as long as possible. The first movie was an interesting kids movie with a novel premise. Everything else has been pretty dire and forgettable.

#32 Half of a Yellow Sun (2013)
The story of a family caught up in the events of the Nigerian Civil War, Half of a Yellow Sun contemplates issues of race, tribalism, colonialism and African politics. The messy consequences of British rule and Nigerian independence are laid bare in this thoughtful drama.

#33 Strangerland
A dark and moody family drama set in a small town out in the Australian outback. Tensions rise up when two children go missing, one of whom is a promiscuous 15-year old girl with a troubled past. Leaves many questions unanswered but has strong and moving performances throughout.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

While I've been away

The last month or so has been crazy busy for me. Alongside my usual stuff I've been working on editing a low-budget feature film and planning a couple of short films.

On the domestic front I've spent a week in France with the family (which I intend to write up about sometime - it was an awesome holiday), looking after ever-growing gigantic insects (more on that soon as well hopefully), shaving off my beard (because it got ridiculously hot) and catching up on the latest TV.

Once I come out of this work fug, normal service will be resumed (probably).

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Today's the day we determine our future

So if you want the NHS privatised, lower wages, fewer police on the streets, foxes routinely killed in some weird aristocratic pageant, increased class sizes in schools, dementia sufferers punished for their illness, even more families in poverty, oppressive mass surveillance, scrapping of human rights laws, tax breaks for the rich, higher taxes for ordinary people and a crippling hard Brexit ... then go ahead, vote Tory.

It's your right after all and I would wholeheartedly defend that right.
If, however, you think we can do better as a nation then maybe vote for someone else.
I dunno ... I may be wrong but I don't want to have to say 'I told you so' in five years.

United Kingdom General Election 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Films I've seen of late 2017 (May)

#26 Jason Bourne (2016)

Matt Damon returns as the rogue super spy in this so-so sequel. Full of the usual espionage action, it goes over old ground in an attempt to revitalise the series but fails to really connect in any kind of emotional way. Paul Greengrass' nauseous shaky cam doesn't help either. Time for Bourne to take early retirement methinks.


#27 Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Derided as one of the worst Trek films in the series, it's not that bad. Picard and the gang get embroiled in a Federation plot to remove the inhabitants of a planet that gives out mysterious 'regenerative' radiation, all for some nefarious and selfish motive. Playing out like an extended episode, as opposed to a full-blown movie, Insurrection fails to live up to its title. I expected the Enterprise crew to go totally rogue against their masters, but in the end they just kick up a mild fuss. Watchable, but forgettable.

#28 Sully: Miracle on the Hudson (2016)

Factual drama about Capt Chesley Sullenberger who crash landed his passenger jet into the Hudson River after a debilitating bird strike. Concentrates on Sully's controversial decision, which ultimately proves to be the right one, but the long drawn out trial seems a bit forced. The main drama seems to be more about what could have happened rather than what actually did (which was, as the title suggests, miraculous). Even so, it's done really well and aims to be true to the events as much as possible.