GregHorrorShow: The TV Of 2017

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It’s been another huge year for TV as people’s appetite for binge watching new shows remains at an all time high. Services like Netflix and Amazon have completely changed how we consume our television and are delivering extremely high quality shows right into our living rooms and onto our phones.

12 Monkeys returned for it’s third season with a bang, several bangs in fact followed by a nice rendition of Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”. While the show has moved away from the plague threat of the initial two seasons it remains a much watch, especially if you have any interest in time travel. I thoroughly enjoyed the second season of Agents Of Shield, the way they handled the transition through the season of switching enemies was great and there were a few good twists in there as well. Keeping things Marvel, I thought Iron Fist was pretty good but still the weakest of the four ‘Defender’ arcs of the Netflix shows. Was great to see some good Kung Fu but it didn’t deliver the same character investment for me as the other shows. One Marvel show that did deliver was Legion, despite me not really knowing what the hell was going on for the first 4 or 5 episodes. It’s a complex, sometimes disturbing, show but it’s a visual spectacular and as a music fan it was great to listening out for the various end credit tracks, all linked lyrically to each episode.

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Although its run is still continuing The Gifted is a fun watch. The story of X-Men mutants from their perspective as an oppressed minority is interesting if a little heavy handed at times. Killjoys was another cheesy show that I’m on the fence about, will probably stick with it and see where it goes. DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow remains fun and an easy watch, the chemistry between the crew is keeping me on board and the show is doing interesting things with the idea of time travel catching up with you. Arrow (Season 3) is plodding along, it’s nice to see the team expanding which changes up the dynamic a bit. It’s been a poor season but any opportunity to watch Paul Blackthorne chew the scenery as Quentin Lance is one I’m happy to take. (His ‘Laurel, honey/sweetheart…’ has saved many an episode!)

I found the second season of Quantico difficult to get in to, the sense of deja vu is a bit much for me. It feels too similar to the first season with just a bunch of new recruits thrown into the mix. Orphan Black returned for a final season and what a ride that turned out to be. Another tour de force from Tatiana Maslany, this was definitely a show you should check out if you didn’t get a chance previously. Travellers, a tale of people sent from the future taking over the bodies of people who would’ve died at that moment otherwise, was a nice idea but it really ran out of steam.

The Good Place kinda came out of nowhere and stole my heart. The show has so much going on, commentary on our, sometimes, self centred desire to help others or ideas about death, it’s a truly great watch with some wonderful twists and turns along the way. Ted Danson is particularly good but the whole cast is great. On the other end of the emotional scale was The OA, which is the story of a girl who returns home after going missing and the, sort of, cult that grows around her. It was a harrowing watch but definitely enjoyable.

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Blindspot returned and while the main plot gets more ridiculous as time goes on (how many layers can Jane’s tattoos have?!) the team dynamic and individual stories are what keeps me coming back. Plus I love that Patterson created a wildly popular mobile game while the team took some time off! Another returning show was iZombie, last year’s best show winner. It was another stellar season as the story becomes more about the upcoming human/zombie war as opposed to the previous seasons which focused on trying to keep the zombie secret.

Going back to time travel, what a year it’s been for shows that shift through the timeline – maybe with everything going on in the real world people like the idea of rewinding the clock. Another time travel show was Timeless which follows the well trodden Assassin’s Creed style of time travel, where you end up taking part in massive historical events (tipping tea off the boats at the Boston Tea Party in Assassin’s Creed III anyone?). It was fun watching the characters, often accidentally, help shape huge cultural events. It had some nice twists and one particularly savage gut punch in the mix – roll on season 2! Frequency took a different tact and focused on a different type of time distortion. The main character Raimy discovers she can communicate with her deceased father in the past via a ham radio. Can she help him avoid his death? Should she reveal who she is? It was a novel set up and while it was definitely cheesy at times I think it did enough to keep me hooked.

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BEST NEW SHOW

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There have been so many great shows this year I literally had three nailed on options for these two slots, it’s a testament to the quality of TV that this is so tough. I thought Legion looked interesting but I had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. What an amazing trip, a confusing, colourful (organised) mess that delivered something new with every episode. The cast were great, Dan Stevens really bringing it as David and Aubrey Plaza was perfectly insane as Lenny Busker. My one recommendation would be not to binge watch this one, having a few days between each episode really lets you digest what is going on. I’m also giving a huge shout out to Timeless, which was the other show in the running here. It was better than it had any right to be.

 

BEST SHOW

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The Good Place is one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages. The wonderful premise, the great acting and really strong writing make for a really cool show. Eleanor’s (Kristen Bell) horror as she realises they’ve let the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop into heaven is quite something to behold. As she unravels with the fear of being exposed… well it’s just great. I don’t want to spoil anything but I will say that the show pivots in really interesting ways to stay fresh. I can’t wait to watch more of this.

 

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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2017

Paddington 2

2017 has been a strange year for film. With the threat of streaming services continuing to grow, the industry seems stuck in a catatonic state at a time that it needs to rise up, embrace streaming and meet the challenges it faces. In addition to that, the industry itself was rocked by the ongoing sexual assault/abuse revelations that will hopefully, in time, mean that the film industry (and other areas of media) are a safer, more fair place to work.

With the latter in mind I would like to make an honourable mention for Baby Driver as one of the most enjoyable films I watched this year. It has now become tainted by association through the uncovering of years of Kevin Spacey’s predatory behaviour and co-star Jon Bernthal has recently said that Spacey was a bully on the set of Baby Driver. However, a lot more people than Kevin Spacey put a huge amount of time and effort into a film that I thought was excellent so while I’m uncomfortable praising something featuring Spacey, this shout out goes to Edgar Wright, the rest of the cast and the crew who made a really great movie.

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I also enjoyed T2: Trainspotting, which was an interesting trip down memory lane as someone who was a teenager when the first film dropped. Nostalgia was a big factor in the film and I can completely see why some people might not have liked the movie, especially if they didn’t have that attachment to the characters. Certainly, it has some moments that I thought were really weak and the main players became almost caricatures of their initial roles but I came out of the film more positive than negative. I loved The Big Sick, which came out of nowhere for me. Telling the real life story of Kumail Nanjiani and the early part of his relationship with Emily Gardner, it was a touching, interesting look at how cultural differences can impact a relationship.

2017 was a year that I didn’t actually make it to the cinema much sadly, most of the trips I did take were with the family and there were a couple of stand out kids films for me. Despicable Me 3 was, as expected, a fun film that continued the adventures of Gru and his adopted daughters. The introduction of his lost long brother was a nice touch and meant the film focused a lot on that relationship but it also led to a feeling that the third instalment didn’t quite hit the high points of the previous two. Paddington 2 was phenomenal, one of the greatest kids films I’ve ever seen and Hugh Grant was the best I’ve seen him as villain Phoenix Buchanan. Much recommended.

As part of the BFI’s Stephen King retrospective, I saw Maximum Overdrive for the first time. This was King’s one and only directorial role and it wasn’t hard to see why! It was certainly an enjoyable b-movie but it’s not one for the history books. Although big props to AC/DC for a great soundtrack.

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And a final call out for little known Christmas film Hitched For The Holidays. I’m not one for Hallmark-esque TV movies but my wife loves them at this time of year. However, I was pleasingly surprised by this one which stars 12 Monkeys’ Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) alongside early 90’s heartthrob Joey Lawrence. It’s cheesy as hell but this tale of two people who agree to be each other’s fake partner over the holiday season has just the right amount of warmth and heart for the festive season.

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FILM OF THE YEAR

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It was close, I nearly gave this to Paddington 2 but in the end The Big Sick takes it. It’s a wonderful, funny, heart-wrenching film with some outstanding performances. Of course Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan as the two main characters are brilliant but Ray Ramano and the always amazing Holly Hunter really deliver as Emily’s parents. A truly life affirming firm.

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GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2017

Lorde

2017 was the year that the general public fully embraced streaming and it was fascinating to see changes in attitudes towards the charts and what constitutes a ‘hit’.

There was plenty of amazing music released through the year, here is a Spotify playlist with some favourites in there:

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I listened to a huge amount of pop throughout the year, I enjoyed new stuff by Carly Rae Jepsen, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. I loved the Lorde album and Green Light was a brilliant single. Charli XCX dropped Pop2 a week ago and I’m still digging into that, it’s great. Also shout out to Shawn Mendes for the earworm that is ‘Nothing Holdin’ Me Back‘. Add to that standout singles from Sigrid and Selena Gomez and it’s been a hell of year for great pop songs.

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The Haim sisters returned with a set of killer singles and a fantastic album, along with the ever awesome Jessie Ware whose album is great. Sam Smith delivered his second album and he didn’t disappoint. Pray being a particular highlight for me.

On the OST front I loved the music in Baby Driver and on the game front Ruiner was amazing and Garoad had me hooked on a soundtrack for a game I haven’t even played yet!

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On the hip hop front Logic‘s album is one of the best I’ve heard in ages, complimented nicely by DAMN by Kendrick Lamar, which is also brilliant.

Benjamin Clementine‘s album was a challenging listen but it’s growing on me and Mr Jukes‘ album was a very pleasant surprise. Greta Van Fleet kept the rock flowing, Sampha won the Mercury Music Prize and it was nice to see Liz Lawrence return with new material.

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2017

Filmish

I started 2017 strong on the reading front but during the last few months I’ve struggled to get going and make it through many books. I also feel like 2017 was the first year in a long time that I didn’t enjoy a lot of the books I read, which is a real shame and might explain why I’ve been struggling of late.

I finally got around to reading Murder On The Orient Express (Agatha Christie) and what a wonderful novel it is. Fantastic pacing and Poirot is a pleasure as always. I received Filmish (Edward Ross) as a gift and it was a lovely ‘Sunday-afternoon’ book that I would dip into and read a chapter at a time. It’s a comic book telling the history/theory of film and is definitely worth checking out.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, there were some books that just didn’t grab me. I had super high hopes for The Axeman’s Jazz (Ray Celestin), a retelling of the story of the Axeman of New Orleans but from the perspective of fictional Detective lieutenant Michael Talbot and Ida Davis, along with her friend, real life musician Louis Armstrong. Sadly I was left wanting as the story plodded along, it wasn’t a terrible novel but left me disappointed. ‘Childhoods End‘ (Arthur C. Clarke) was a Sci-Fi novel that I found to be really tough to get into. A few flashes of interesting story ideas washed away in tale that struggled to raise any emotion in me.

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Bad Monkeys‘ (Matt Ruff) was similar in that it had a few nice touches but simply wasn’t for me. Another disappointment was The Violent Century (Lavie Tidhar), which from the blurb sounded great – a tale of Oblivion and Fogg, two old friends who have spent years watching the world crumble. In reality, I didn’t like the characters and felt that the book overall was a little boring.

Back to more positive tomes and the ever reliable Ray Bradbury was on fine form for The Martian Chronicles, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie) skirted a fine line between positive and negative but did enough in the end to tie everything together and I suspect I will read the rest of the series at some stage. Likewise, The Power (Naomi Alderman) had a fantastic premise but felt like it was wasting it until a few twists delivered a really solid and enjoyable ending.

In non-fiction well being beacon Krista Tippet’s ‘Becoming Wise‘ was a lovely read that I’d recommend to everyone. Especially helpful if you’re looking for some guidance or a way to be more grounded, it features interviews with lots of fantastic thinkers/speakers.

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But my favourite book of the year, which I read in one weekend is the stunning ‘Annihilation‘ (Jeff VanderMeer). Telling the story of an unnamed group made up of an anthropologist, surveyor, biologist, and psychologist that are tasked with exploring Area X. This one had me hooked from the very start. It’s not a long book but it packs a hefty punch as it develops and there are some nice twists and turns throughout. I now can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

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