What else was worth checking out in February? Here goes…
BLACKBERRY SMOKE – HOLDING ALL THE ROSES
An obvious choice. A real band playing real music. In this case, Southern Rock, country-folk and old time rock n roll make it simple. Recommended.
Now, I will come right out and say that a lot of Oliver’s motivations on “Narda Parbat” make little sense. I mean, after everything that Malcolm Merlyn has done, why the hell would Oliver risk, not only his own life but that of Diggle’s, to save Merlyn? Kudos to John Barrowman for making Malcolm a deliciously despicable villain that nobody but nobody has any sympathy for. C’mon, at least Slade was utterly messed up in the head by the mirakuru in his system. So what’s Malcolm’s excuse?
Anyways, much of this episode feels like a re-tread of the one where Oliver voluntarily challenged Ra’s Al Ghul despite everybody (but Malcolm!) trying to dissuade him and for that reason it falls rather flat most of the way. It does seem that ever since the mid-season finale, Oliver has been guilty of incredibly stupid decision making! And… did anyone expect Oliver and Diggle to succeed, against the bloody League of Assassins? C’mon! That all said, I did not expect that final scene with Ra’s – alright, you got me there. Well done!
By the way, can someone tell me why Atom comes across as a second rate Iron Man? That is NOT the Atom, CW? WTF
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers speaks to an aged Peggy Carter and tells her “knowing you helped found S.H.I.E.L.D. is half the reason I stayed”.
When Agent Carter was first announced, perhaps many thought that the story of how Carter “helped found S.H.I.E.L.D.” would be told. Instead, what we got was how Carter was marginalised at the SSR but still ultimately played a major role in stopping Leviathan from executing a diabolical plot to kill thousands of innocent people and take revenge on Howard Stark.
This final episode of the mini-series does what one expects it to, and with much aplomb. Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper and James D’Arcy provide the star power as Carter, Stark and Jarvis as required, whereas Chad Michael Murray (Agent Thompson) and Enver Gjokaj (Agent Sousa) are functionary at best. So while Agent Carter was a fun ride into the post-war MCU, hopefully subsequent mini-series will explore more seriously the founding of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Carter’s role in the same.
Agent Carter has done well to make connections with MCU films (unlike say, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and has exploited well the strengths of having a shared universe. Let’s hope there’s more to come.
By now, it’s plainly apparent that Better Call Saul as a series is going to be a proper examination of James M. McGill aka Saul Goodman. Vince Gilligan and company are in no hurry to rush through these opening episodes and instead letting the story of McGill play out naturally. It’s fascinating to see how McGill goes from struggling public defender and the perpetual loser to an opportunist seeing the possibilities in every situation. Sure, he is still a little awkward and a bit of a buffoon but this episode – “Hero” lays out the genesis of Saul Goodman for all to see. The straight and narrow seems to be a path rightly forsaken in exchange for success. For the audience, it is intriguing to witness McGill’s metamorphosis and to attempt to second guess each one of McGill’s moves as he manoeuvres himself into positions of favour.
Definitely in no hurry to go from this prequel sequence of events into the post-Breaking Bad continuity – hoping the series will stay with this timeline for awhile.
The Campbell Apartment, named after a bar hidden inside New York’s Grand Central Station, is the brainchild of Russian born singer-songwriter and oil painter Ari Vais. Ari’s new Sundogs EP is the proverbial breath of fresh air in a modern rock scene obsessed with superficialities. No such issues with Vais and his straightforward musical agenda. The songs take top priority – memorable melodies and relatable lyrics – clothed in classic pop-rock arrangements and instrumentation. Tracks like “Something in the Way” and “Heroic Audio Display” hearken back to a kinder & gentler times (the 90s), the last hurrah of the Pop Underground, where thought and effort are put into communicating a genuine emotional resonance through words and tunes. By the time one gets to the music hall jauntiness of final number “What Do You Think Of That”, it’s easy to feel a sense of regret that there isn’t more. But that’s the harsh reality of releasing marginalised forms of music in 2014. So if you love songs that balances intelligence with musicality, support The Campbell Apartment and the Sundogs EP! Find out below how and why Ari Vais does what he does!
How did you start writing songs?
I must have learned how to play guitar well enough as a 10 year old to learn a bunch of Beatles songs by the time I was in high school, and then Floyd, Zeppelin, finally some REM and Lou Reed songs, and then around 16, a slew of my own songs where the burst of writing didn’t cease until recent years. I still write but not as prolifically. I guess when I started as a teen, the tunes were based on traditional chords, as well as chords that I had no idea what they were, where my fingers were just doing some formation that happened to sound cool and go with the song, because I still didn’t know my way around a guitar that well, and trying for clever words or earnest poetic ones, hopefully with a tiny dash of humor, and a strong melody. The last bit was the most important, and very much still is.
Possibly one of the best Walking Dead episodes in recent memory and it was achieved without having to kill a major character! All it did was examine the question of trust in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. After having suffered at the hands of the Governor and the cannibals of Terminus, it’s easy to understand Rick’s reluctance to trust anybody. But what if someone comes along and tells Rick and group that there is a relative paradise waiting for them? Too good to be true? When does playing safe become dangerous? For Michonne, that time to trust a stranger like Aaron is now, and finally Rick has to decide whether he can do so and put his children potentially at risk.
It’s as simple as that but of course, it isn’t simple at all and the tension and drama flows from the audience asking the same question that Rick does – can we trust these people? Well, can we?
Last June, we did an interview with Annie Ko, frontperson of Korean indie electro-rock trio Love X Stereo. Well, the group is now a duo consisting of Annie and Toby Hwang and is ready for the new year with a new EP, consisting of new material and re-recorded favourites. Part 1 of the We Love, We Leave album is already out now and indie pop fans will enjoy the new viz. the dynamic synth-pop energy of the sultry title track and the throbbing dance-able “My Anywhere” and the ‘old’ viz. the exciting versions of “Soul City (Seoul City)” and “Chain Reaction”. We caught up with Annie again to get some insights of where the duo is right here, right now.
Five of the songs on the new EP are re-worked versions of previously released tracks, why?
We were selected for government support provided by KOCCA in order to make a new record. Before we go any further, we wanted to take a step back to rearrange/rerecord our previous tracks, because we always wanted to. Originally, we wanted to make a LP with mixtures of old & new, but we had a strict time restraint, and that’s why we ended up splitting into two EPs. First one represents “We Love”, and the next one represents “We Leave”.
Definitely the most intense season 2 episode thus far as Amy ramps up her plans to get away from Brother Michael and the island. One cannot blame her considering the outrageous revelations made concerning the relationship between Brother Michael and herself. The most unlikely villainess but kudos to the writers for making it so. The CDC team is not in good shape either as the mistrust bred amongst them threatens to destroy them, even as Alan Farragate plays his role as agent provocateur to perfection.
On Julia’s side, the writers chose to tell her story not from the ’30 years later’ perspective but a background tale on what happened after Julia joined the Ilaria Corporation. Disorientating to say the least. Not sure why the writers decided to make that jump as it does not seem to add anything to the ‘present day’ narrative whatsoever. Am just wondering how long it will take for Brother Michael and/or the CDC team to figure out that Amy is behind everything.
Yes, I will admit it – I am getting a little jaded with the TV versions of James Cole and Cassandra Raily. They are just too picture perfect for their own good. Also, I am wondering whether this plot device of going back in time to recover the ‘original’ timeline is going to get tiring soon. I mean, it was fun when it was done in Back to the Future 2 as Marty McFly did his best to avoid himself in the past but considering that this is the 2nd time it’s happening in 12 Monkeys? Ho hum.
But as usual, 12 Monkeys introduced a new element in the plot that pique my interest. What was the whole ‘red forest’ acid trip that Raily went through? What was that about? Another mystery – who is the Witness? Will they reveal this mysteries soon or will they end up as unresolved plot lines like Lost? And how does one keep track of the alternate realities Cole is setting up? Wait and see or give up – what do YOU think?
When DC first collapsed the multiverse into one universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths, I was rather upset to lose the alternative earths that gave DC its unique flavour. Most of all, of course, I hated what it meant for the Legion of Super-heroes. But that’s another story, altogether. Well, a couple of years ago, DC went the opposite direction and brought the multiverse back – 52 universes to be exact (I rather enjoyed the process though – the Flashpoint event). In the Multiversity series, writer Grant Morrison has begun to develop this concept and take it to its logical conclusion, exploring the diverse universes that the New 52 had introduced into the continuity.
Thus far, the most interesting issue was undoubtedly the one with “Pax Americana” (featuring the ex-Charlton characters) drawn by Frank Quitely and coming across like a Watchmen homage of sorts. The latest issue – subtitled as “Guidebook” brings the concept home with Morrison detailing the 52 universes that exist (with a few mysterious exceptions) within the greater DC continuity now. Potentially, this provides creators with lots of room to work with, without having to be limited to the continuity of Earth-0 (see below).
After all, there are 51 other universes to be explored! Seems like DC is the place to be to at least see whether they can make this ambitious concept work. Time to investigate them universes more closely!
Yes, Scandal fans, if you haven’t seen the latest episode, I’ve just spoilt it if for you! But seriously, this was the solution to the ‘how do we get Olivia back?’ conundrum? Don’t really buy it! Sillier still if you consider that after all the brouhaha to demonstrate how much the enemies of America would want to get hold of Olivia, we are led to believe that a couple of new locks on her apartment door would keep her safe and secure? C’mon, these jokers were willing to pay a billion bucks!?! So, what’s to say some other bright spark would try the same trick? See where I’m going with this – how does the world go back to status quo after this?
Best part is that there was no hint of what the next storyline could even be remotely about after this. Which is rare for Scandal. I mean, how could they possibly top this? Over to you, Shonda…
Like Thea, viewers of Arrow might be getting a little exasperated at the little twists and turns the CW series needs to take, in order to tell its stories. The last few episodes have been tough on Oliver’s little sister as she has had to deal with an almighty info dump and this latest episode was probably the worst, when she discovered that she was responsible for Sara Lance’s murder. The episode was a bit of a stopgap, serving as an incredulous training lesson meted out by Malcolm Merlyn (why do the Queen siblings continue to trust him when he has proven time and again to be untrustworthy?) but at least brought back Wilson Slade/Deathstroke for more unnecessary violent fun.
In the flashback narrative, Oliver finds himself back in Starling five years ago with Maseo (who is one of the brighter cast additions) which leads to Oliver acquiring his fathers guilty list notebook (remember?). Naturally, the show could not resist throwing in familiar faces into this mix – 2010’s version Tommy, Laurel, John, Felicity, Thea and a drunk Det. Lance all featured in mostly character-revealing moments with the introduction of Lt. Matthew Shrieve (Marc Singer!) at the conclusion spicing things up once again.
But in the present day, things need to move forward with the Ra’s Al Ghul plot line and soon. C’mon!
To be honest, I was rather freaked out the first time I heard Talking Heads. That was in 1980 with Remain in Light, the band’s fourth album, which involved ground-breaking pop-rock experiments with African rhythms. And of course, when I first heard David Byrne’s voice, it took some getting used to as well. But when the follow-up, Speaking in Tongues was released in 1983, I found myself enjoying the catchy songwriting especially “Burning Down the House” and “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”. Presumably that is why I consider Little Creatures to be my favourite Talking Heads LP as it featured more conventional pop-rock, not to mention the introduction of country-folk into the dynamic.
Continue to be seriously on the fence about Syfy’s 12 Monkeys. This latest episode basically was a one location (The Nightroom) shoot as Cole and the Army of the 12 Monkeys came ever closer to their goal – the deadly virus. There was quite a bit of people sitting around and waiting for something to happen. The Pallid Man played mind games and tortured Cole as the Army was kept away from the virus by a lazer force field.
Jennifer Goines was reunited with Cole and her contribution proved crucial in the scheme of things. Actually, I am making all this sound more exciting than it actually was. Which made me resolve to give up on the series when once more, the show pulled a rabbit out of the hat with its mysterious ending. When a show is about time travel, there are a lot of possibilities for courageous writers to take narrative risks and it seemed at the conclusion that 12 Monkeys had done just that. Wait and see again, I guess.
Alright, so we are spoiling season 2 episode 5 with the above image which reveals that cult leader Michael is actually an immortal. But of course, that was hinted by the scores of portraits on his wall and the different generations of women advisors (they are all his daughters apparently). So, is Caleb (from the 30 years later storyline) also Michael’s son? Who knows? This revelation needed to come as the plot lines were steadily going nowhere.
As it was, the fact that certain cult factions were working against the CDC team without any consequences or concern from the ‘benevolent’ Michael seemed a tad too convenient. So maybe this revelation accounts for Michael’s constant placid demeanour. Elsewhere, Alan and Peter sort out their differences without satisfactory resolution with Peter once again keeping his cards close to his chest. Sure, I understand that secrets keep a story intriguing but too much is not a good thing either. In any case, we need some answers and soon.
Yes so why does it seem that the music of yester-year is miles better than anything new? Seems to have been the case since Y2K (mayhaps that was what the Millennium Bug was really about?). Consisting of John Lowry, Greg Addington and Chip Saam, the Hangabouts bring to mind the wonderful pop-rock music of 90s bands like Fountains of Wayne, Pernice Brothers and Teenage Fanclub where melody is paramount above all else. Lovers of that special rock era will never tire of what the band has to offer and will savour Illustrated Bird from beginning to end. Of course, suffice to say that the three Bs loom large as influences i.e. The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. It does not get any better than this when it comes together this well. Check out the interview we did with the band below.
Rashie Rosenfarb & Matt Francis aka Feral Conservatives seem like your typical two-piece indie rock band, except that their style does not quite fit in with your White Stripes/Black Keys garage-blues-rock cliches. In fact, Rosenfarb plays a mandolin (!) and there is a pleasing alt-country direction that the duo quite excel in. Their four-track cassette/digital release The Feeling Noise Becomes is a refreshing roots-pop take on modern rock that deserves closer attention. Rosenfarb shared with us the thinking behind the Feral Conservatives sound.
Is contrast an important element in your music making?
Yeah, we like to create a balance between noisy/chaotic and soft and delicate. I think it’s become a big part of who we are starting with my voice and the shimmery tones in the mandolin vs. Matt’s powerful drumming style and it’s just progressed from there.
How did the mandolin become part of your sound?
The two off us started off playing together in another band that was more garage rock back when we first became friends and I was just playing mandolin for fun (I played bass in the other band.) Matt and I started a folky side project with the mandolin not too much later and eventually the band we were in broke up so we just decided to transition everything we were creating into our side project. That’s how FC’s came to be and then it just morphed into more of a rock band while maintaining the folky elements and the mandolin to the fore.
Despite its increasingly implausible plot lines – this episode involved a bidding war over Olivia Pope amongst rogue nations, terrorist groups and crime lords (!) – the folks behind Scandal managed to imbue a sense of pathos that would seem ridiculous when one consider the stakes these characters are up against. Olivia herself does not play much of a role but she does what she can to try to influence proceedings but fails miserably – which is a fairly new situation for her. Olivia’s loved ones try their level best to get her back, short of moving heaven and earth, though the odd murder or two are committed in the endeavour.
But that is exactly what Scandal fans are looking for – over the top scenarios in this epic-scoped soap opera. There are strong moments of human emotion that litter the apocalyptic landscape of Olivia’s pursuit as the key players attempt to stay a step ahead of the other. This is political drama, lest anyone forgets, and by the end of the episode Olivia’s predicament takes on global significance. The ride ain’t over yet.
Remember that feeling you had when you watching one of the best TV series around? I am talking about Breaking Bad of course. Well, it’s hard not to get a sense of deja vu when watching Better Call Saul, a spin-off/prequel/sequel to that popular series. Well, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is still in the driving seat (together with Peter Gould) and it already looks like this series will be as memorable as Breaking Bad was. Excellent news!
Getting more and more intense with each passing episode, Arrow season 3 is maintaining its status as the best dark superhero soap opera out there.
Secrets are revealed left, right and centre and the impact on the series remains to be seen. Laurel Lance is accepted in her new role as the Canary and Ra’s Al Ghul makes his play and the Queen siblings realize that they have to trust Malcolm Merlyn, for better or worse.
Meanwhile, Oliver’s flashback narrative brings us an unexpected twist.
Peggy is in big trouble and so is the SSR. The agents of Leviathan have the upper hand and SSR is not even aware of this. SSR wrongfully accuse Peggy of being a spy and most of the episode is spent demonstrating Peggy evades capture until the end where she is subdued in unique fashion, to say the least.
With only two episodes left, it will be intriguing to see how Peggy and the SSR get out of this mess.
The secret origin of Firestorm! It took some time but finally The Flash revealed to us how Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond merged to become the Nuclear Man. In the meantime, Joe West recruits Cisco Ramon to investigate further the death of Barry Allen’s mother, with Dr Harrison Wells being the prime suspect.
Well written overall, with emotional resonance but somehow Firestorm’s lack of a costume made him look terribly lame. But Cisco’s investigation turns out some shocking results and the cliff-hanger ending kept the interest high. And.. where is Grodd?
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine.
This movie adaptation of the Mark Millar – Dave Gibbons comic (co-plotted by Vaughn) has a lot going for it. Strong cast, comic timing and fantastical settings. Underpinned by Millar’s stock in trade themes of the unlikely hero being thrust into an unimaginable new world (previously explored in Kick Ass and Wanted).
Remember when I said the strong point about the second season of Helix was the two parallel storylines? (present and future) Well, that only holds true if the storylines keep things interesting. And while more information was given about the disease (something to do with bees), the future scenario was awfully cliched even if it contained a kickass fight between Hatake and Julia.
The whole plot with Hatake seemed irrelevant even if his re-appearance initially suggest exciting possibilities. No answers there whatsoever. The episode ends with a cliffhanger as two characters from both timelines lay dying in a pool of their own blood. Yeah yeah nobody’s going to die but at least there’s incentive to tune in to episode 5. Just about…