New Girl – Season 5

Another hilarious season of New Girl has gone by but has sadly ended with the same ‘cliffhanger’ (if you can call it that at this point) of ‘what’s going to happen between Nick and Jess?’ I think every season has ended with this question lingering now and it’s getting tiresome.

I love New Girl, after The Big Bang Theory it is my 2nd favourite sitcom that is still ongoing, but that same question has been looming forever and when you finally start to think it’s gone for good it just comes back in serious finale. Fortunately that was only the last episode (possibly the last two I don’t remember) and there hasn’t been any focus on it at all this season up to that point. Instead we’ve had Cece and Schmidt getting engaged and married, Winston becoming a cop and falling in love with his partner Aly, and a really well done romance between Nick and Reagan, despite her mainly being an off-screen character after her initial short stint whilst Jess was on Jury Duty/Zooey Deschanel was having a baby.

The level of comedy in this program is perfect for me. It’s a mix between intelligent comedy and very easy childish comedy and is seen in the dialogue, silly little scenes when there’s a prank or something goes wrong, and the characters personalities. Elizabeth Meriweather’s comedy writing is second to none and is very reminiscent of Friends but with an obvious 21st century modernised twist. Being forced to write Zooey Deschanel out of the program for a few episodes completely changed the rest of the series with a new character, 2 new plots, and a change of love interest for Nick. Zooey’s temporary replacement was Megan Fox and as much as I didn’t think much of her as an actress because of Transformers and other things she’s actually really good in this and was a shrewd casting choice. Refreshing as it was to have a new actress join the cast, all of the cast in this program are amazing. I feel like Zooey Deschanel plays the same quirky cute character in pretty much everything and from the interviews I’ve seen with her it seems that she’s just playing herself. None of the other actors are particularly famous and I think it’s the writing of the characters that makes them look good but that’s taking nothing away from any of them. They bring the characters to life and do the writing justice and that’s what makes a good actor.

Overall I don’t think this program is getting better or worse really, it’s steadily staying as funny as it has always been. Following the trend of 20-25 episodes per season suits New Girl perfectly. It keeps the audience interested for the entire season with a nice amount of different plots and changes taking place and leaves enough time to keep us in anticipation for several months before the next season starts. Let’s just hope we get an end to all the Nick and Jess nonsense and they either get together and stay together or never get together at all.

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Captain America: Civil War – 2016

For the first time in about 18 months I actually went out with another human being to the cinema and paid a ridiculous amount of money to watch a film that cost a ridiculous amount of money to make.

I watch these Superhero films to be part of the mindless herd of sheep that Marvel gobble up money from because obviously you’re just not cool unless you’ve seen The Avengers, which despite its name, this film basically is; the only characters it’s missing are Thor, The Hulk, and the people from SHIELD; and rather than just make a film with a few less characters in they’ve decided to over-compensate and add an additional abundance of characters with Ant-Man, Spiderman, Black Panther, Falcon, War Machine, and The Winter Soldier. There is a slight focus on Captain America and Iron-Man but there’s so many sub-plots going on surrounding the two main plots that it’s hard to keep track or really care about keeping track for that matter.
The acting is excellent as you would expect from the amount of high calibre and high profile actors and actresses in the film although I’m not sure how I feel about the new Spiderman (tangential story to come later). At this point in the franchise I feel like most of the actors are just playing themselves as they imagine they would be with superpowers. Their characters are all famous, rich, get noticed in any busy street in the world, and divide opinion. The only differences are the costumes and abilities and most of that is done with stuntmen and CG anyway.

The storyline itself (despite how many there are) is actually rather good. Very different from the usual formula of thousands of bad guys led by one really bad guy against a small band of superheroes who don’t really get on. The second part of the films title isn’t at all misleading as there is indeed a ‘Civil War’ between ‘Team Captain America’ and ‘Team Iron-Man’ because of disagreements to do with the governments of the World regulating The Avengers and because of The Winter Soldier. New guy Black Panther and Iron-Man both want to kill The Winter Soldier for different reasons and Captain America wants to protect him and let him help because he believes he’s been framed and knows he isn’t always in control of his own mind. All the other superheroes are back and forth on whose team to join, fighting and then not fighting again until there are two perfectly balanced teams for the culminating battle in the airport of all places. Suffice to say aeroplanes are used as weapons in this 15 minute action-packed scene that really delivered when it mattered because you do rely on these films for a mass amount of action and explosions. The thing I liked about this action scene and this does go for The Avengers films as well, they spread out the focus on each superhero really well, giving them all a little cameo appearance in the spotlight. I think that’s what allows people to choose a favourite more freely. It’s a good marketing ploy on the part of Marvel more than anything. The more they spread the favouritism, the more adaptations they can make and different merchandise they can sell. The only problem I have with this final battle is that I’m not sure it’s close enough to the end of the film and because of that the actual ending becomes unimportant and disappointingly forgettable. It’s not the most predictable end but it’s certainly not an exciting end either. There’s also another little post-credits segment just in case we didn’t already know they’re going to keep milking these Marvel films until they’re costing more than they’re making, and as they hit $1 Billion worldwide yesterday that could be a very long time.

All in all this is a solid film, a lot better than the previous Captain America films and actually probably better than The Avengers films as well, certainly not as action packed but a much more thought out story. Only really two small problems, the name, because it should just be called The Avengers, and the non-eventful ending. I have no idea what film of this Avenger based series is coming out next but I’m pretty sure I’ll watch it. X-Men is definitely the next superhero film on my watch list though, who knows I may even pay to see that too.

Tangential story about Tom Holland (Spiderman):
I’m not sure if any of this was filmed in Liverpool or some other film he was doing was but for some reason or other he was on a night out in Liverpool and tried to get into the club that I work in on a Monday night (The Blue Angel/The Raz). Monday night is a rather busy night for us, mostly due to students from The University of Liverpool so we often have a few hundred people queuing up outside. Tom Holland being the ‘celebrity’ that he thinks he is decided that because he was Spiderman, he would tell everyone and that meant he could jump the queue. He was however unceremoniously removed from the queue by our 6’8 bouncer who apparently told him that he has a Spiderman onesie so is Spiderman on the weekends too. In Tom Holland’s defence he didn’t leave kicking and screaming as a lot of people do, but he still seems like a bit of a dick.

Daredevil – Season 2

*Major Spoiler Alert*

The first season of Daredevil was excellent and I barely had a bad word to say about it. The second season was better in some ways and worse in some ways. Where the first season had a solid structure and Fisk was the one and only nemesis if you will of Daredevil, this season was a bit all over the place, a lot of bad guys, and then bad guys turning good and then turning bad again and it all got a bit confusing. Having said that I did binge watch all 13 episodes in 2 days so that might have contributed to scrambling my brain a little bit. The mass amount of bad guys in this season makes it both a good thing and a bad thing though.

Firstly we have Frank Castle/The Punisher played by Jon Bernthal, a seasoned actor now but best known by me as Shane from The Walking Dead  in a not too dissimilar role really. In The Walking Dead he is a sort of anti-hero because he is part of the main group of survivors but at the same time he’s trying to sleep with the main characters wife again. In this he plays the anti-hero who is trying to rid Hell’s Kitchen of crime by brutally murdering members of The Cartel, The Irish, and The Dogs of Hell biker gang. We find out later why he specifically targeted those groups but before we find that out he is the first and best bad guy of the season. He is an intriguing character throughout and Jon Bernthal does an excellent job of portraying him both as the typical murderous villain, and as the war veteran anti-hero.

The next new main character that we are introduced to is Elektra. I’m really conflicted about both the character and Elodie Yung, the actress that plays her. They obviously had to introduce her at some point because she goes hand in hand with Daredevil, they couldn’t really make a Daredevil series without Elektra. Firstly and most annoyingly is her accent. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, it seems to switch between a sort of posh British accent and a Latin American accent but Elodie Yung is of Cambodian and French descent and was born in Paris so I have no idea what her natural accent would actually be. The character is really annoying quite honestly and so was that part of the storyline in the earlier episodes she was in. I did enjoy the cameo’s from Stick because I find him quite amusingly blunt but generally the Elektra storyline let the middle of the season down a bit.

Fortunately that part of the storyline came together towards the end of the season when we find out about the ancient Ninja clan, The Hand, fronted by Nobu, a ninja assassin from the first season who has seemingly been immortalised. They are seeking what they call Black Sky, which we find out is Elektra and that is why they are seeking her out. There are parts of this season that at the time I thought were awful but in the final 2 episodes then made sense so a lot of the Elektra/The Hand storyline does seem messy but comes together really well in the end.

Then we move on to the occurring characters, there hasn’t been a lot of change in any of the main three characters. Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is still quite an elusive character on a personal level, he still isn’t involved in a massive amount of dialogue as himself and the the dialogue he is in as Daredevil he tends to deflect talking about himself to talk about the other person or to find something out. Foggy (Elden Henson) is still as witty as ever but has a much more aggressive side to him this season, standing up to Matt a lot more than he did in the previous season. I absolutely love his character and Elden Henson does an amazing job with it. I don’t remember what I said about Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) in my review of the first season but I really don’t like her. I don’t know if it’s the actress or the character but she just really annoys me, getting in everyone’s way, her on/off feelings for Matt, her weird feelings for Frank, it’s all just a bit pointless.

I’m a bit mixed on where it leaves the next season. Obviously Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) makes a couple of appearances in this season, albeit from prison and has now made enemies of both Daredevil and The Punisher so I assume he is going to be released from prison at some point during the next season and become the main enemy again. He makes an excellent nemesis and crime lord but hopefully there is more to the third season than just him. Bullseye will obviously have to make an appearance at some point, whether that will be in the next season I don’t know. I’ve also been told there is another Netflix season in production which sees Daredevil and a few other Marvel characters that Netflix are bringing to life again like they have with Jessica Jones. The other part of the story, the Matt Murdock part as opposed to the Daredevil part I have no idea what they’re going to do with. Murdock and Nelson has been disbanded so there is no longer a daytime job for him to go and do. They’ve already integrated Karen Page into another job as a journalist but I don’t know what they’re going to do with Foggy, but I won’t be happy if he’s not in the next season.

It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes but sadly there’s a long time to go before that. I’ll be eagerly anticipating the next season and any other Marvel series that Netflix has in store for us but for now I’m happy to say that this is up there with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones as one of the best programs on TV right now.

Ant-Man – 2015

“Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.”

This is going to be one of my rare all-positive reviews of a film because I absolutely loved it. Not a typical superhero film and I was afraid it was going to be similar to The Green Hornet which I think everyone can agree was just dreadful but this was just perfect. I have to compare it to that because Paul Rudd, like Seth Rogen, is typically seen in comedic roles and this is a massive change. I think the problem Seth Rogen had is that his comedy is usually a lot more vulgar and that change was a bit too drastic for him, whereas Paul Rudd just acted like a typical Paul Rudd character but in a superhero film. I’m not sure it should have worked but it definitely did.

It wasn’t just Paul Rudd though I thought the whole casting was pretty good. Michael Douglas is obviously good in everything, Evangeline Lilly isn’t exactly a household name but she was pretty good too, and Corey Stoll, again not somebody I particularly recognised but he was good. The whole concept of the film and Ant-Man as a superhero is ridiculously stupid but because of the casting choice it somehow works.

I can’t actually think of anything specific I liked about it though. I tend not to like recent superhero films because they’re over-hyped with a massive budget but this didn’t have either of those. The budget wasn’t small but it wasn’t like The Avengers, and other than die-hard superhero film fans nobody really cared about this film. I’ve never been one to love Oscar nominated films, I much prefer films that just go under the radar all year and that’s what this did, especially with all the other superhero films around these days.

I’m not sure how I feel about Ant-Man being in the new Captain America film coming out this year but that might just be because I don’t really like Captain America, but I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to this as much as it’s a long way away and I’m always looking forward to seeing Paul Rudd in any upcoming comedy films he’s in. I would definitely recommend Ant-Man to anyone though and for anyone who didn’t enjoy it first time, I would say give it another go.

Alter Bridge – My Top 10 Songs

So it was the 12 year anniversary of Alter Bridge at the start of this week so it seems only fitting that I write a post about my favourite band. I can’t pinpoint the exact time when I first discovered Alter Bridge, it may have been when Edge started using Metalingus as his theme song in WWE but it feels like about 10 years or so. It sounds sad but I feel like they’ve been a vital part in my life. They have a song for every emotion so no matter what mood you’re in, you can always play a bit of Alter Bridge. My 10 will be mainly quite typical I think, but hopefully at least one will surprise you.

10. New Way to Live

One of the bonus tracks from Blackbird, “New Way to Live” goes pretty unnoticed to everyone except the die hard AB fans but it was one of my early favourites and continues to be so. Although if I were introducing someone to Alter Bridge I would go for the more obvious songs like “Addicted to Pain” or “Metalingus” I feel like this song has everything that summed up a good rock band in the late 2000’s and summed up the general tone of Alter Bridge at the time. It might not be an epic or the most memorable song they have written but it reminds me of the consistent excellence that AB provide across the board.

9. Slip to the Void

I struggled to get to grips with ABIII when it first came out so I found myself listening to this song a lot simply because it was the first track on the album. I feel like this is a forgotten song because it precedes “Isolation” which really kicks off the heavier side of the album and was the first and most successful single released from the album. However “Slip to the Void” provides both sides of this album into one song. It’s not the happiest song in the world and it’s not intended to be but it’s actually quite a beautifully melancholic song that has always resonated with me.

8. Breath Again

As much as the word mediocre isn’t one I usually associate with Alter Bridge, keep in mind that I am only comparing it to other AB songs when I say that this song for a large part is rather mediocre. It has a mindblowing section though. If you’re a massive Alter Bridge fan, then you’re probably in love with the sound of Myles Kennedy’s voice and there is about 30 seconds of this song that renders me speechless every time I hear it. There are only 2 other songs where Myles Kennedy reaches these ridiculous notes, one of which I will talk about later. The other is “Summergirl” by The Mayfield Four and it is quite spectacular and deserves to mentioned alongside “Breath Again”. I may do a Myles Kennedy top 10 soon which will talk about this song more but for now I will move on.

7. Waters Rising

After the success of ABIII, Myles Kennedy went off to work with Slash which led to Mark Tremonti releasing his first solo album. Any AB fan knows how good Tremonti’s backing vocals are and how good of a song writer he is so it’s no surprise how good that first solo album was. When Alter Bridge then got back together for Fortress it was no surprise that Tremonti had been given the lead vocals on one of the best tracks on the album. There are a lot of exceptional songs on that album so it was hard to stand out but what it did was add another dimension to Alter Bridge that makes them that much better. Fortress was an experimental album and this was one experiment that definitely payed off.

6. One Day Remains

The title track of their first album and it’s still a brilliant song 12 years later. As much as it wasn’t the first song of theirs I heard I feel like there aren’t many bands around who’s debut song is that good. It wasn’t the first single they released, it was never the most popular song on the album, but vocally and lyrically it was and still is superb. Although I feel like they have come a long way since then and Fortress is a much more complete album, there are some songs that just won’t ever get old and this is one of them.

5. Wayward One

Hopefully this is a surprising one, I don’t often see it being quoted or talked about even within other AB related blogs/pages on social media but it has always been one of my favourites. The song is beautifully put together but the end is what makes it truly stand out. It’s one of those songs that when that ending guitar solo starts, I don’t want it to end and that’s why it’s probably the song I’ve put on repeat the most. It’s not the longest solo they’ve done, but for me it’s definitely one of the most memorable. It sort of comes out of nowhere but at the same time connects perfectly with the lyrics and the timing is impeccable. They don’t add another chorus on the end like they do with a lot of songs they just end it with the solo and leave you wanting more.

4. Cry of Achilles

I think this song was a certainty given the name of my blog but I think a lot of people thought it would be number 1 or 2 so hopefully this is surprisingly far down. As a general rock and metal fan though songs just don’t get any more complete than this. It is the first track on an experimental album and it’s one of the strangest yet excellently put together songs I have ever heard. It starts off with a brilliant soft rock acoustic solo for an intro before Myles kicks in with some typically perfect vocals. Then after a few verses and a chorus we get the first of two solo’s. Firstly we have a lengthy melodic soft rock solo, followed by a chorus, then the second solo; a short, scintillating hard rock solo from Tremonti. Despite the solos, the last 30 seconds of this song is my favourite part of the song. The end of the solo just drives into a last burst of Myles excellence with a final ending verse. This song sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album, it’s experimental, it’s something they’d never done before and it shows how much they have progressed in the time they’ve been together.

3. Metalingus

The song that introduced me to Alter Bridge a long time ago and hooked me in. Most of the focus of AB will always be on Myles and Mark but this song showcases the whole band in all their glory. Scott Phillips puts on a masterclass on the drums and Brian Marshall equally on the bass guitar. It also tends to be the one song that people who aren’t even AB fans still know and love. I had a friend a while ago who was a massive Metallica and heavy metal fan and thought Alter Bridge were nothing but soft rock for teenagers. Then he saw them at Download and watching this song live made him and instant fan. For me it’s the perfect mix of soft and hard rock, and because of this ‘sitting on the fence’ style, they stand out. They’ve not tried to copy anyone else, they’re just doing what they love and this song is the epitome of that.

2. Watch Over You

A breathtakingly beautiful song. After listening to other songs on this list like “Metalingus” or “Waters Rising” it still baffles me that they’re capable of producing a song that can make a grown man cry but this manages it. I’ve chosen this over “In Loving Memory” just because it hits me harder really. They’re both beautiful songs and the story behind “In Loving Memory” is well documented so it’s very personal to the band, but for some reason I’ve always connected more with this song. When I went to see AB live just over 2 years ago Myles did an acoustic version of this song with Lzzy Hale and it was absolutely stunning. It’s never going to make me smile with joy but in the right mood this song is simply perfect.

1. Blackbird

The most obvious song on this list but I think this would be number 1 on most AB fans lists. It is just a sensational piece of music. I said before they have songs for every emotion and every mood and nothing sums that up more than this. I have this song on every playlist because it doesn’t matter what sort of mood I am in, I know I will want to listen to this song. It manages to be melancholy, haunting, and uplifting all at the same time. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how much I love this song. The lyrics, the vocals, and the solo (helped by sublime drumming) are all incomprehensibly brilliant. Going back to the time I went to see them a couple of years ago, (sadly, the only time until hopefully later this year) it’s hard to believe that they’re actually doing it when it’s happening. It is an epic song, it means a lot to the band and it means a lot to the fans and as much as I think they are always improving, I don’t think they will ever top this exquisite and captivating song.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – 2014

“The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.”

I wasn’t actually going to do a review of this film because it’s been quite a while since it came out but I sat down the other day to watch it because I had been watch Star Trek on SyFy and wanted to see some more Patrick Stewart. I’d been putting it off for a while because the whole time travel thing just sounded a bit stupid and I thought it was going to be ridiculous. Well at least I thought I’d been putting it off. About half an hour into the film it dawns on me that I’d already seen it. I think that’s a reflection on just how bad this film is.

It has a star-studded line up from both the Patrick Stewart generation of X-Men and the new James McAvoy generation but even the amount of good actors couldn’t save this film. The whole sending Wolverine back in time was just stupid and a bad excuse to get all of these actors in the one film. There didn’t need to be a crossover film to have both generations of X-Men in. X-Men: First Class was too good of a film to throw away for the sake of this awful transitional film and I feel that X-Men: First Class has pretty much been made redundant as an introduction to the new generation now.

The action in the film isn’t too bad. It’s all done in a quite clever way but it sort of has to be clever to keep up with the time traveling malarkey. As I said before all the actors are good so it’s difficult to go wrong when you have that much quality on the screen. It’s also written well, it’s witty when it needs to be and emotional when it needs to be, it’s just the general idea of the time travel and the transition or crossover or whatever you want to call it that I didn’t like. When the whole film is based on a stupid premise it’s hard to get a really good film out of it and that’s probably why I managed to completely forget I had already seen it.

It’s a bit harsh saying that it was so bad that it’s forgettable because 2nd time around it didn’t seem that bad but that is what happened so obviously it wasn’t particularly good. X Men: First Class I have optionally watched twice after my first viewing just because it was a good film. After writing this I hope I don’t manage to forget that I’ve seen this film, because I really don’t want to watch it again.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – 2015

“When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.”

I could go on forever about how bad Marvel films are I really could. Too much money, too many characters, too many special effects, not enough good writers. Having said all that, they achieve the goals that they set out for themselves. They pump a load of money into actors that everybody loves and throw in explosions in beautiful locations and make entertaining films. I can say I hate them but it’s hypocritical because I will still always watch them and give them the money that makes them so successful. They’re really hard not to like let’s face it. They’re stupid, the acting is often really bad considering the amount of famous names they have, and the storylines are stupid. The one thing I really didn’t like about this film specifically though is that it was pretty much identical to the first one. If in 12 months time somebody put me in a room and put one of them on, I wouldn’t know which one it was. There’s too many superheroes these days that I just cannot keep up with it all. My mind can’t work like the 11 year old’s these films are made for.

The second thing I didn’t like and didn’t get about the film was the whole “Vision” thing. I don’t know where he came from or how/why they possibly needed extra help with the amount of them there already is, it just confused me. He looked like a camp Superman. The thing that’s supposed to redeem this film is that it’s supposed to be witty and funny but I think I’m just getting too old for it now. Either that or the writing is getting even worse than it already was. There are a few redeeming qualities though, Scarlett Johansson being the obvious one. She might not be the best actress in the world but she is ridiculously attractive. I know that’s not all she’s there for but it’s a nice little bonus isn’t it. The other is just the incessant action. It is non-stop from start to finish and through gritted teeth I have to say it’s good to watch.

I’m one of those people that enjoy not liking these types of films so Superhero films are always among the most anticipated films of the year for me. Suicide Squad is going to be the next one released I think at the beginning of next year although a review of Ant-Man will be up soon as well. I will always highly recommend Marvel/Avengers films because they’re good fun for all ages and you can watch them alone, with a partner, with friends, or with family.