Thursday, 17 December 2009

Happy birthday to me!

I always look forward to the Winter months because not only does it mean Christmas is approaching, it also means my birthday is too! Well that glorious day, the 14th of December, has come and gone, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My ethos is that no matter how old you are, your birthday is the one day of the year when you have the divine right to act like a child again. With that in mind, I spent my 23rd birthday playing Final Fantasy, watching Star Wars and building Lego!

I actually made a birthday and Christmas list this year, which sounds a bit childish but hear me out. My reasoning is that instead of people worrying about what to get me I'll give them some options. When you get older you know you're not gonna get as much for your birthday as you used to, so I thought I'd make sure the things I did get were things I actually wanted.

With that in mind, I wasn't totally surprised by my presents, but I was really thankful. Of course I got the obligatory chocolate and cash (both very appreciated), but I also got some cool DVDs, such as the first season of Firefly, a couple of Studio Ghibli films, and the original Star Wars trilogy. I only had them on VHS up until now. Lauren out-did herself this year and got me the above lego kit, which contains a lego Tauntaun and a Han Solo mini-figure with a cool little hood! Am I ever gonna grow up? Not likely!

Anyway, thank you to everyone who sent me a card or a gift, I appreciate your thoughts and generosity deeply. Also thanks to everyone who sent me a Facebook message. My inbox was clogged up with notifications as a result, but it was a welcome annoyance!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

This is my run down of the worst through to the best of the Star Wars films, the live-action ones that this. Enjoy!

6. The Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The pinnacle of the steaming pile of excrement that is the new trilogy of Star Wars films. The charm and excitement of the original series is all but gone at this point, replaced by awful dialogue, shocking performances and an over-reliance on CGI. Even the cool space battles and light saber duels have become boring at this point. There are a few gems within this dark pit of a film, such as the Galactic Empire being formed legitimately, mirroring the coming to power of the Nazi government in 1930s Germany. But for the most part, this is just the culmination of Hayden Christensen's horrific acting, George Lucas' now terrible directing, and hopefully the last time we ever see Jar Jar Binks in a live-action Star Wars film.

5. Attack of the Clones (2002)

Definitely the worst-named Star Wars film, and quite inaccurately named, as the clone troopers technically come to the 'defense' of the Jedi. This was the point when things really started to go downhill. The plot of this installment is shaky at best, and with the introduction of Mister Christensen to the saga, the acting becomes as wooden as a tree. At no point did I believe in, or care about Anakin Skywalker's love for Padme, not when the only way he could express it seemed to be by grimacing. The film's conclusion is decidedly anti-climatic. Although the desert battle between the clone troopers and the separatist forces is fairly epic, the light saber confrontation afterwards is a hum-drum affair, even with all of Yoda's pinwheeling and leaping about.

4. The Phantom Menace (1999)

By no means is this film on a par with any of the original trilogy, but it is definitely the best of the new films. While this part of the Star Wars canon does show that Lucas' skill as a director is either gone or no longer relevant, there are some elements that are in keeping with the feel of the series. The light saber battles at this point were very impressive and not repetitive, especially the 'duel of the fates' finale. Darth Maul, the devilish henchman of the emperor, is positive element, and in my opinion the best addition to the Star Wars universe from the new films. However, this film also contains the worst addition to the Star Wars universe; Jar-Jar Binks. Argh! Just thinking about him makes me angry! I don't think I need to go into detail.

3. A New Hope (1977)

A small disclaimer at this point. The three remaining films in the rundown are light-years ahead of the previous three, and it is extremely hard to rank one better than the other. But this is how I've judged it. I remember sitting in my auntie's house as a wide-eyed child, watching those golden letters scroll up the star-spotted screen as the majestic sound of John Williams' score thundered into my ears. I was amazed by the grandeur of Luke and Han's quest to save Princess Leia and destroy the Death Star. The childish bickering of R2D2 and C3PO added humour to tale, contrasted with characters such as the evil Grand Moff Tarkin and the towering monster of Darth Vader. Every time I see the x-wing fighters wheeling over ominous Death Star, I get the same fantastic feeling. Like I'm back in my childhood again. From this point on, I was hooked, a Star Wars fan to core.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This was a hard decision. Most people rank Empire as the best Star Wars film, and so I'm disagreeing with the majority by putting it second. But it is a supremely close second. This film contains possibly the most earth-shattering narrative twist ever seen in film history. It's so good I'm not going elaborate any further, on the slim chance that someone reading this may not have watched a Star Wars film yet. From the snowy plains of Hoth, through the swamps of Dagobah, and on to the cloud city of Bespin, the struggle of Luke, Han and Leia against the empire continues. It is worth noting that this installment of the series introduces one of the most memorable pieces of music in film history, the chilling 'The Imperial March'. New characters in form of the enigmatic bounty hunter Boba Fett, the quirky and tiny alien Jedi master Yoda and the slick businessman Lando Calrissian add new depth to the story and instantly become fan favourites.

1. Return of the Jedi (1983)

Here we are, at what I consider to be the best Star Wars film of the saga. Luke is on his way to becoming a Jedi, and the rebels have a plan to cripple the empire once and for all. But there's the little matter of freeing Han Solo from the clutches of the malicious slug-like crime-lord Jabba the Hutt. And then it's off to meet everyone's favourite deadly teddy bears on Endor. I guess the ewoks are probably the reason why Jedi is seen as a worse film than Empire, but look at it this way; they could be Gungans. The film's epic finale is what wins it for me. The three simultaneous battles, one amidst the trees of Endor, another above the planet in space, and the final one between the warriors light and dark in the emperor's throne room, make for a truly entertaining end to the saga. This is my favourite Star Wars film for sure. It ties up the story nicely, but has allowed for an amazing universe of fan fiction to be built upon it and carry on the legend.

And that's it for my rundown. It's fairly brief, but I think I'd bore you if I went any further. And trust me I could go on.

Friday, 4 December 2009

I'm lovin' it

I discovered this morning that if I turn around and face the door of my bathroom whilst I'm in the shower, I can see myself reflected in the mirror. It was rather unnerving, mainly because I decided to put my contact lenses in before I showered, so when I turned around I was presented with my long-lost twin, lathering up in high-def. Quite a disturbing image I assure you.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, I'm loving Spotify at the moment! For anyone who hasn't heard of Spotify, it's a piece of downloadable software that gives you access to an online library of music for free. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, there are a few catches. To listen for free you, you have to put up with adverts that pop up in between every few songs, which cannot be skipped and pause if you turn the volume down. Sneaky! You can pay monthly for premium usage without adverts, or buy a daily pass for 99p to avoid the ads for 24 hours. The other catch is that due to it's rising popularity, Spotify is only available for free if you receive an invite, which you can apply for on their homepage. So unless you happened to sign up when it was fairly unknown, you've gotta wait indefinitely for an invite.

Apart from these negative aspects, caused by the need to squeeze the maximum amount of money out of the user, it's a pretty cool bit of software. There's a fairly wide variety of music in the library, which covers a lot of different genres and styles. Although it isn't exhaustive, I was quite surprised by the stuff I found on there. I've been using Spotify to listen to some cool music, such as the chilled-out alternative styles of Team Sleep, the side-project fronted by Chino Moreno of Deftones. On a similar vein, I discovered a band called Strata, who are a cross between The Mars Volta, Tool and Deftones. Very atmospheric and powerful. Sadly they've split up, which is annoying cos I've just got into them!

In other news, I've completely changed my writing project idea for university course. I was going to write the first 10,000 words of a sci-fi novel, but I was getting nowhere with it. I had a plot sorted out, which could extend into a series, but the setting and the characters just weren't coming to me. Every idea I thought of just seemed derivative and dull. So after a flash of inspiration I decided to start over with a new idea; I'm going to write a collection of short stories and micro-fictions (REALLY short stories!) with a sci-fi theme, inspired by quotes from my favourite films, fiction and music. Gotta pitch the idea to my tutor next Tuesday, let's hope it goes well!