Wednesday, 18 January 2017

More wheat, less chaff

It's been said that TV series boxsets are now more popular than movies.
This comes as no surprise, because as popularity has increased, so has both quality and quantity in general.
That's not to say it's all good news (there's plenty of garbage out there) but chances are anyone will be able to find several series that appeal to them, providing ample opportunities for sitting on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a tube of Pringles for a good old binge watching session.
Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange Is The New Black, Luke Cage, House MD..... hour after hour of quality entertainment that makes you wonder what the hell the movie industry is up to as it continues to churn out an endless stream of mediocrity.

For a while I thought my attention span was suffering from a catastrophic death spiral, but I've come to realise it's a combination of the generally lamentable quality of today's films and me being increasingly fussy.
If a movie doesn't grab my attention in some way within the first fifteen minutes, it doesn't look good. If I'm still not interested after the first half hour, I'll go and do something else rather than waste a further ninety minutes being bored on the off-chance it might get better. If it fails the 'half-hour-rule' then that's that.
Last night I picked a film on Netflix called 'Clinical', which sounded like it was worth a shot.
It survived the half-hour rule, but although it was mostly OK, it took a nose-dive about three quarters of the way through and by the end I wished I hadn't bothered after all.
This sort of experience has become so common that it's almost surprising when I watch a film that actually turns out to be good.

At the weekend we watched 'Hunt For The Wilderpeople' starring Sam Neill.
I admit I was sceptical beforehand, suspicious it was going to be one of those films that sort of wanders along aimlessly and ends up leaving you wondering what it was supposed to be about, but the wife was keen to see it and there wasn't much else to do so I gave it a go.
As it turned out, it was well worth it. I won't do any spoilers here, but if you want a well-acted film that's all about the story and the characters rather than big explosions and millions of pounds worth of green-screen computer graphics, then I'd highly recommend it.
As modern films go, it sits like a diamond in the rough, and I wonder if there are more films out there of this quality that I'm missing out on just because all the publicity gets focused on all the CGI blockbuster nonsense.
We only heard of 'Hunt For The Wilderpeople' because Sam Neill was talking about it as a guest on the Graham Norton show a while ago.

It's for the same reason that I'll often pick a classic film rather than a new release.
I'm bored of over-the-top movies that are just an endless barrage of special effects - I want something with a decent story and proper acting; not just gunfights, car chases, steroid-enhanced heroes and pathetic screaming women.
'Rear Window', 'White Heat', 'Roman Holiday', 'Some Like It Hot', 'To Kill a Mockingbird' - great films.
'Guardians of the Galaxy', 'Fast and Furious 6' - utter crap.
It's not as though I'm an old fart who grew up in the days when Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were the current film stars and constantly wander around saying "It was much better back in my day!".
I'm 45 and grew up on a diet of 'Knight Rider', 'Airwolf', and an endless list of cheesy 80's action movies, so each of these classic black and white films is a whole new discovery. OK, so they're not all great, but at least they're an entertaining alternative; rather like only ever having listened to bands like Metallica and Judas Priest, then suddenly discovering Supertramp.

'Hunt For The Wilderpeople' can therefore be archived on the same shelf as films like 'Amelie', and 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' while I go on a quest to find some more modern films that feel like uplifting entertainment rather than physical assault.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Let's go retro! Or not....

There's a big interest in all things 'retro' these days, and despite being seen as a wonderful opportunity for ripping off the more gullible members of society by advertising any old shit on Ebay as being 'retro' or 'vintage' and doubling the price, there seems to be a genuine interest in stuff from our past.
Now rose-tinted spectacles can be a dangerous thing (try driving that car you loved twenty years ago now, and see how terrible it is compared to the one you currently own), but that isn't stopping people from wanting to turn back the clock to bygone days.

You need look no further than the revival of interest in vinyl records for evidence of this.
Sales of vinyl shot up last year (possibly fuelled by the appearance of a range of LPs in Sainsburys) as people suddenly became all misty-eyed about how we listened to music in the past.

I'm not immune to this. Only recently I did a post about how I love sitting and listening to an album from start to finish, unlike most youths who can't see music as anything more than a constant background noise accompanying their lives, and as a result I've been casually looking at various turntables from Rega, Pro-ject and Audio Technica with the idea that it might be a cool thing to have again.
But against such romantic notions I have to balance the downsides of vinyl such as the background hiss and how carefully they need to be handled if they're to be kept in good condition.
I have to remember why I replaced all my old records with CDs in the first place, even if it did take me a while to get used to 'A trick of the tail' by Genesis not jumping at one particular point.
The wife had a huge record collection (mostly 70's funk including many rarities), but they were all disposed of along with all of mine excluding three that I didn't want to part with for various reasons.
Somewhere in the darkest depths of the loft lurks 'Three sides live' by Genesis which I kept because the original CD release had a different track list. This has since been re-released in original form, so no need to keep that.
Then there's a synth album called 'Space Art' which I've recently found on Spotify, and a limited edition numbered 10" single of 'So in love with you' by Spear of Destiny which I thought might be worth something, but when I checked the other week I found it's only worth about eight quid.
So if you consider the down sides, which include the fact that records now cost twice as much as CDs, why on earth would I want to buy another turntable? No idea, but I still have a hankering.

Video games are another area where 'retro-cool' pokes its nose into our business. It's perhaps unsurprising as for the most part games haven't really changed for many years beyond prettier graphics, so it's no wonder people start to revive an interest in games from way back when the graphics may have been awful, but the gameplay experience was so much more rewarding.
My first 'proper' gaming took place on a Sinclair Spectrum, and a while ago I found that the entire back catalogue is out there to be downloaded from various websites and can be played on a PC via an emulator program.
Naturally I threw myself into this, downloading all the old favourites like Chuckie Egg, Elite, Paperboy and Pyjamrama and settled down for a session of reliving old memories.
It didn't last long. It wasn't the poor visuals or the dodgy beeping sounds that ruined it, but the realisation that those games were suddenly so frustratingly difficult.
Needless to say I went back to the PS4, resigned to the fact that the reality of old-school games doesn't live up to the fond memories.

Things move on, and for the most part they improve - certainly where technology is concerned - but that doesn't stop us from wanting things to be like they used to be.
I can only assume that we feel happier and more comfortable when things are just a little bit crap.