Review of the Year

It’s been nearly a year since I did my first blog post which was a review of 2012. Well now that 2013 has gone by it’s time for me to do my review of it. I’m going to do this by looking at my favourite films/tv shows/albums/games/sporting moments ect. So here it is, my review of 2013, the year just gone.

 

Films:

1) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. As said in my review I am a massive Tolkein fan, and I think that Peter Jackson has done is brilliant, and this latest addition really does live up to it. The character arcs of Bilbo and Thorin are brilliant and they are brilliantly played by Freeman and Armitage. The action set pieces are brilliant, in particular the barrel sequence, and the confrontation between Bilbo and Smaug is simply a quite brilliant cinema moment. Overall this would probably have been my favourite film of the year even if it had been a lot worse that this, but it was so good that I never even considered anything else.

2) Thor: The Dark World. Personally I felt that the first Thor film was a large disappointment, but boy did they step it up this time. The Dark World had a great story that was really well executed and a couple of very popular villains in Maliketh and Kurse. The performances are all great, chief among which was Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and anyone whose seen either Thor or the Avengers won’t be surprised. A particular highlight is the witty banter between Thor and Loki which, as well as some great laughs, also provided a great insight into their characters. With some brilliant moments, a couple of great twists and a mid-credit scene that had comic book fans all over the world purring with excitement, Thor 2 had to be high on the list.

3) Elysium. Elysium was a fairly conventional sci-fi action film, apart from the fact that it had a very important moral and social message at it’s core. Following in his work from District 9, which this doesn’t quite live up to, Neil Blomkamp clearly has a lot to say about society, but as well as that he also knows how to make a great action film. Sharlto Copley, the hero of District 9, now gets to show his chops as bad guy Kruger, and he certainly makes an impact with his borderline psychopathic (and I’m being very very generous with the word borderline there) agent charged with preventing Matt Damon’s Max from reaching Elysium. A very good sic-fi flick elevated by the message at it’s heart.

4)  The Worlds End. I think that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy are three of the best comedy films of all time. Obviously the first two have huge cult followings, and this one had a lot to live up to. And in my opinion it manages to. Science Fiction is definitely my favourite genre and so the fact that they did a sic-fi film was hugely exciting for me. The cast is excellent, especially the five main guys, although obviously led by Pegg and Frost and I’m hugely impressed that they managed to get most people from the first two films back. But as well as the sic-fi aspects the film also explores some very deep themes like depression/alcoholism and many more. And it’s that, along with fighting of an alien invasion by quoting Primal Scream that earns it a place on this list.

5) Man of Steel. A film that received a very mixed reaction from people, with some criticising everything from a lack of humour to the a lack of saving people. Others, myself included, have praised it for managing to do something interesting with the character of Superman, and not having him as a boring one dimensional good guy. There have also been many critisms of the ending and how he deals with his rival Zod, but what you have to remember is that this is the story of him becoming Superman, and Zach Snyder has provided explanations for why he did this (sorry for the vagueness I don’t want to be guilty of any spoilers). I felt this is the one film representation of Superman that really interested me, and the prospect of a Superman v Batman film (regardless of how anyone feels about Ben Affleck’s appointment) means this had to be in my top 5.

I feel that special mentions should also go to Pacific Rim, a film I didn’t review because I saw it so long after it came out, but an excellent homage to the Kaiju and Mecha genres that are so popular in Japan. It was a visual feast and, whenever Idris Elba or Ron Perlman were on screen you couldn’t help but watch them. Also deserving is Iron Man 3, another film that completely polarised opinions with it’s twist. I felt there was a lot of great things about the film, particularly that it showed that Stark was a hero in his own right, it wasn’t just the suit.

 

TV Shows:

1) Arrow. The second season of Arrow has been sensational. With far more threats packed in than the first, most of which had an obscure comic book reference that had me and other fans squealing with excitement (probably literally on my part). And then came the mid season finale which just brought everything together and really ratcheted it up a notch. The character arcs are brilliantly thought out and superbly acted, my personal favourite being original character John Diggle, played by David Ramsey, but everyone is superb. The first season of Arrow was good, but this year’s has taken it to a whole new level, and the fact that it’s the one tv show that I really hate having to wait another week for an episode means it had to top the list.

2) Misfits. A lot of people turned off Misfits following the departures of most of the main characters, but this, the fifth and final season, has been one of the best. The new characters have really found their feet now and the season has managed to do what it does best, combine really beautiful moving tv with lots of swearing, drug taking, sex, murder and general chaos. For me this season’s best moments came with Rudy (sensationally played by Joe Gilgun) and his split personality, Rudy 2. The show really hinges around his performance and character this season, and frankly he managed to deliver.

3) Luther. They may only make 4 episodes a year, but those 4 episodes of Luther are some of the best tv you could hope to see. It elevates a normal crime show to something more. Dark and brutal Luther never fails to shock and enthral it’s audience, and it’s all brilliantly held together by the central performance of Idris Elba (second time he’s got a mention here). Ruth Wilson’s Alice may barely appear, the ending of the third episode may have left a large part of the audience thinking what are you doing, you can’t do that, but thats why Luther is so good. You never know what’s going to happen, you just know you’ll keep watching it.

4)Hannibal. Talking of brutal. Hannibal shows Will Graham, a profiler working for the FBI, and his relationship with psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. The show is bizarre, creepy, even disgusting at times, but for me watching that central friendship, and watching Lecter manipulate Graham makes the show. The two central performances, Hugh Dancy as Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Lecter, are probably two of the best acting performances I’ve seen in a while. Hannibal is a must see for anyone who can stomach a bit of gore.

5) Broadchurch. I never thought anything from ITV would make it onto my top 5, but Broadchurch did something hugely impressive. It managed to sustain a murder mystery over 8 episodes, and a truly interesting one at that. As with several of these films and tv shows at the heart of why it was so good was the central performances. David Tennant was great as DI Alec Hardy, but even he was overshadowed by Olivia Colman’s DS Ellie Miller. Her performance, coupled with a gripping mystery and some really emotional and moving moment made this eminently watchable, and meant it had to make my top 5.

Also deserving mentions are Doctor Who which is it’s 50th year. Matt Smith’s Doctor and the story lines have come in for a decent amount of criticisms. Personally I don’t think a lot of it was deserved, and that, whilst there wasn’t many exceptional stories in this year series, there weren’t many awful ones either. And both the christmas special and 50th anniversary special were, in my opinion very good, and a fitting tribute to the longest standing sic-fi show and a send off to Matt Smith. Also How I Met Your Mother is ending. Personally I think this is one of the best of those American sitcoms because as well as having many many hilarious moments it also has really sad/emotion/moving moments worthy of a proper drama, and so it’ll be a sad miss when it finishes early next year.

 

Albums:

1) Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse. Back in early 2013 when I reviewed Pedestrian Verse I said it’d be a surprise if it wasn’t up there at the end of the year, and wow, what do you know? It’s not just up there it’s at the top. Frightened Rabbit have gone from strength to strength and this is without doubt my album of the year, particularly after seeing them pack out the O2 Academy Brixton, and put on a sensational show in a venue much bigger than anything they’d played before. With great songs, and Scott Hutchinson’s dulcet tone, this rival’s Frightened Rabbit’s Midnight Organ Flight, and that’s one of my all-time favourite albums.

2) Palma Violets – 180. I first heard of Palma Violets through the BBC Sound of the Year poll, obviously they didn’t make it to the main five, that was all boring pop groups for the most part, but they did grab my attention. So when the album came out I immediately purchased it and was very impressed. Good songs played with a hell of a lot of energy, what more can you ask for? Well an awesome live performance would be good and thats exactly what you get, a live show that made my dad cry out ‘Punk is not dead’. Overall a quality album from people who clearly just love making music.

3) Villagers – {Awayland}. The first Villagers album is just a masterpiece and was always going to be hard to live up to. Well boy did Awayland do that. Like the first superbly written songs that you have to listen to several times to get the complexities of and sung with Conor O’Brien’s simply amazing voice. Both very different and very similar to the first album at the same time Awayland managed to fulfil those very high expectations and therefore had to be on the list.

4) Biffy Clyro – Opposites. I love Biffy, and I think that this might just be their best offering to date. What they give you is just good old simple loud rock music. But it’s not just that, all their songs are brilliantly written and can be played acoustically, something that the Ayrshire boys apparently make sure of. And it this that really makes them quality. The deluxe version of this album (obviously the one to get) is packed full of loud, heavy guitars and great songs, but also clearly Biffy tried some interesting, carrying on the slightly experimental edge that Only Revolutions had. And it’s this that makes me think this is their best work, and Biffy best work was always going to feature in my favourite albums of the year.

5) Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time. Founding member of the Beta Band was back with his second album released under his own name, and it’s a far more personal and serious album than anything he’s done before. With several political themed songs such as Fire, Fight Them Back and, the rap based on the London riots over the shooting of Mark Duggan, More Money More Fire. A great album with loads of interesting stuff in it, everyone should check it out.

I feel there are quite a lot of other albums that deserve mentions due to their quality this year. Eminem’s return to form with The Marshall Mather LP 2, Daughter’s debut album If You Leave, Public Service Broadcasting’s first album Inform – Educate – Entertain, which sees them playing over public service videos, and finally Laura Marling’s fourth critically acclaimed album (out of four) Once I was an Eagle. All are superb and should be checked out.

 

Games:

Firstly I would like to say that I haven’t had the chance to play every game this year, sadly I haven’t had the chance to play either Assassins Creed: Black Flag or Batman: Arkham Origins, so obviously they are unable to make the list, but that simple because I haven’t played them.

1) LEGO Marvel Superheroes. I’m a big fan of the Lego games and this is quite simply the best one ever made. It features the huge open world maps you’d normally associate with a GTA or Assassins Creed with the Lego fun. It also has a huge range of well over a hundred characters, including many popular through Marvel’s films, and many that are known through the comics. It has a really fun storyline and that’s only about 15% of the game as there is a huge amount to do outside of the main story. Well worth getting if you have enjoyed any of the other LEGO Games or are a fan of Marvel comics.

2) Pokemon X and Y. Forget GTA V, this was probably the most anticipated game of the year amongst proper gamers. And boy it was worth the weight. With some of the best created Pokemon in a while, and the exciting new additions of the Fairy type and mega evolutions. Both have been positives for the game and have brought something new, when Pokemon could’ve become in danger of becoming samey. X and Y are excellent new addition to the Pokemon series and worth getting the new DS to be able to play it.

3) The Last Of Us. To be honest I haven’t played through the whole game as I don’t have PS3, and if I had it would probably have been higher. But in the half a game that I did play I was captivated by just how cinematic it is. The cutscenes and the story are so good, it is almost like watching a movie. Zombie games can get a little stale and repetitive, but I’m sure that the gripping and moving story is able to sustain the last of us. Certainly worthy of being many people’s game of the year.

4) Injustice: Gods Among Us. A simple fighting game in the style of Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, but featuring several of the character of the DC universe. It’s elevated beyond this due to a very interesting story. Whilst the game play does get repetitive, although there are other modes of gameplay, the story more than makes up for it, and makes it well worth getting.

5) Deadpool. This game is mental. There isn’t much more to say about it. Maybe some synonyms; crazy, bonkers, just plain bizarre. The game is hugely entertaining, with great classic Deadpool humour. Certainly if you enjoy slaughtering hundreds of enemies whilst hearing  Nolan North spouting classic Deadpoolisms then this is the game for you.

 

Sport: It’s been a hugely entertaining sporting year in 2013, we’ve had a british winner at Wimbledon, a Lions tour, the World Cup draw and two Ashes series.

In football there was several shocks this year. Firstly Wigan won the FA Cup against Manchester City, and then promptly got relegated, showing just how much of a shock it was. Sir Alex Ferguson retired from management, and his successor David Moyes is finding out that managing Man U is not quite as simple as Sir Alex made it look, one of the true greats. We have also had the draw for the World Cup next year in Brazil. Host Brazil have a fairly simple looking group, but if they get out will almost certainly be facing either Spain or the Netherland, who have been placed in a group together. England have an incredibly tough group facing Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rice and will probably struggle to make it out, for the two who do it looks like a relatively simple next round as group C looks fairly weak. Both France and Argentina have very easy looking groups in E and F, but that doesn’t mean France will make it through, just look at 2010 and 2002. Group G looks incredibly close with Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the USA all very dangerous teams. All this make for one brilliant looking World Cup.

Rugby Union saw a Lions Tour of Australia, and a very successful one at that. The first two test finished with one victory apiece, both very narrowly won, Lions winning the first 23-21 and the Aussies the second 16-15. But the final test the Lions absolutely dominated winning 41-16 in an incredible showing where Leigh Halfpenny kicked 49 points on his way to, deservedly, becoming the player of the series. This, the Lion’s first tour win since 1997, wasn’t the first time that Brits beat the Aussies this year.

In the first of two Ashes series this year, England romped to victory. With Ian Bell in magnificent form, scoring 562 runs in the series, and the three main bowlers all firing and taking above 20 wickets Anderson (22), Broad (22) and Swann (26) England coasted to a 3-0 series win, and it seemed like they’d manage to do so again in Australia. Alas it hasn’t been the case and England have been comprehensively beaten, losing the first 4 tests and staring down the barrel of a 5-0 series whitewash. Poor batting and bowling that fallen woefully short of the standard of Johnson and Harris for Australia, this loss has clearly taken it’s toll on England with Trott returning home through stress or depression and Swann announcing his retirement from test cricket. England Clearly have a rebuilding job to do, so don’t expect an immediate backlash in 2014.

Finally, many peoples sporting highlight of 2013, a Brit has won Wimbledon. Andy Murray was superb return after that heartbreaking loss to Federer last year. However in men’s tennis the year has belonged to Nadal, winning both the French and the US open along with 5 ATP events. Djokovic has pushed him close all year though, wining the Australian open and 4 ATP events. Murray can only boast a win in Miami to go along with his Wimbledon win. The women’s year rather echoed the men’s as, unsurprisingly, Serena Williams has been the dominant figure in women’s tennis winning both the US and the French. Azarenka (the woman with most annoying scream in tennis) won the Australian open, and a huge surprise at Wimbledon as Marion Bartolli won her first Grand Slam tournament and then announced her retirement, they do always say quite while you’re ahead. But even more surprising at Wimbledon was that we saw a british woman do well, as young Laura Robson managed to make it into the second week, eventually losing in the fourth round to Kanepi.

The were also several other big sporting moments in other sports. Vettel won his fourth successive Formula 1 world championship, a hugely impressive feat. Bolt and Fraser-Price dominated the mens sprinting in athletics, whilst Farah dominated the long distance events at the Athletics world championships, also Christine Ohuruogu became a two time world champion in the 400m as she won by the smallest margin possible in a photo finish. In the Super Bowl we had a bit of a shock as Joe Flacco lead the Ravens to a win over the 49ers. AP McCoy managed the incredible achievement of 4000 race win as a jockey. And in sailing Ben Ainsley inspired a remarkable comeback in the America’s cup. Whilst the 10oth winner of the Tour de France was a brit, Chris Froome, who was Britain second Tour de France winner in two years.

 

I hope all of you enjoyed 2013 as much as I did and I hope that 2014 is great to all of you.

Happy New Year

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