GregHorrorShow’s Non Gaming 2020 Round Up

I’m kicking off my round up of the year that was 2020 with a look at all things non-gaming, the gaming round up will land early in the new year!

I was lucky enough to use some of my extra time at home from not commuting to plough through lots of books, mainly over the summer months. In terms of fiction I particularly enjoyed Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a wonderful time travel story, Call For The Dead by John le Carre, an old school mystery thriller and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, a touching tale of loss and grief. The second Black Prism book, The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks was also a novel I enjoyed – coming in at over 700 pages meant it was a hefty read though!

On the graphic novel front I really liked the 4th instalment of Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, The Last Of Us: American Dreams by Druckmann/Hicks and Vox Machina: Origins by Mercer/Colville. However my absolute highlight was Paper Girls (Vol. 2 & 3), which might be one of my favourite graphic novel series ever. The story continues as the four paper girls meet future selves and travel through time – I imagine it won’t be long until this gets made into a TV show.

I read a lot of factual books as well in 2020. Spotify Teardown was an interesting, if dry, look at what makes the streaming giant tick and I really liked Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc, a look inside how Pixar works and the best ways to work in a creative environment. Rockonomics by Alan Krueger was a brilliant look at the music industry and everything in it while my favourite book this year, EMI: Selling The Pig by Eamonn Forde, focuses solely on the troubled times of the legendary record label EMI before it was acquired a few years back. Fascinating stuff for music buffs.

As usual I have a playlist of some of my favourite tracks from the year, embedded below:

In terms of big artists it was hard to avoid Dua Lipa or Billie Eilish during 2020, with both delivering a great run of singles. Blackpink continued their dominance of the pop scene with tracks that included duets with Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez. Taylor Swift dropped two excellent albums within months of each other to remind everyone why she is one of the biggest, and best, pop stars in the world.

It was brilliant to see Haim back with another superb album and very early in the year The Big Moon released a fantastic album after some really great singles last year. Celeste was everywhere and for good reason, she is an amazing artist with a wonderful voice and we also saw a new album from Disclosure that had a host of bangers on, along with some brilliant vocal guests.

I discovered some awesome new artists in 2020 – Baby Rose, Gracey, Bree Runway and Tiana Blake all had a big impact and Chelsea Cutler‘s debut album was a huge highlight during a tough year. However my album of the year goes to Kelly Lee Owens for ‘Inner Song.’ What an amazing collection of songs, On, Melt!, Re-Wild – I could probably just list them all as high points. It sounds familiar but fresh, a most enjoyable listen!

I didn’t see a huge amount of new films this year, as we spent a lot of time as a family rewatching old classics (Bill & Ted, Sister Act, The Goonies etc.), but I loved The Go-Go’s and Motown Records documentaries. Both were brilliant looks at legendary performers and the Motown one was packed with stories about famous songs and artists. A great watch. One film that really had an impact was the excellent Rocks, the story of a young girl and her brother surviving in London after their mother leaves them alone. Trolls 2, Onward, Jumanji 2 and Spies In Disguise were all fun kids films and for the festive season we found some new holiday classics in the shape of Christmas Chronicles 2, Noelle and Jingle Jangle. My film of the year though was one that I actually didn’t have high expectations for – Enola Holmes came highly recommended via Netflix and ended up being a really smart, well written film that all the family enjoyed.

There was so much new TV arriving during the year that I feel bad about the amount of programmes I started but didn’t get through the season – I really liked The Comey Rule, The Mandolorian, The Pale Horse, The Queen’s Gambit and Devs but never made it all the way through. I’m sure I’ll return to them at some stage. We enjoyed Glitch Techs and Fast & Furious: Spy Racers with the kids but it was the Netflix trinity of She Ra, Carmen Sandiego and Kipo & The Age Of Wonderbeasts that really got the majority of family view time. All three of those are excellent, which work on various levels for both the adults and the kids.

DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow and Umbrella Academy provided some much needed superhero escapism, while The Inbetween and Evil brought the scares. Evil has been great so far and while The Inbetween isn’t up to that standard it does have my favourite scenery chewer Paul Blackthorne (Laurel!) so it’s not all bad. I really enjoyed Small Axe: Mangrove, an important show and a difficult watch but much needed during these times.

Blood and Treasure was continent hopping nonsense but good fun and Stumptown showed us the life of a struggling P.I, unfortunately the show was renewed but then cancelled due to the pandemic. I enjoyed Miss Scarlet & The Duke, a sort of historical Murder She Wrote with a new crime each week. The Rookie was back again and delivered some tense thrills and lots of warm hearted fun. Looking forward to seeing where they take things in the next season.

My favourite show of the year though, was Blindspot. Something I could sit and watch with a smile on my face and just enjoy. Is it a ridiculous premise? Even more so as time has gone on but the writing is fun and it’s fast paced with enough action and laughs to sustain every episode. And that’s exactly what I needed during this year. (Also can we get some sort of a Patterson/Rich DotCom spin off please?!)

So there we go, a weird and wild year in the rear view – hopefully better times ahead in 2021.

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The Everything Else of 2018

JadeBird

I’ve decided to mix things up a little bit with my end of year round ups, for a start I’m moving away from the ‘award’ format itself but also I’ll be splitting things in a more simple way. One round-up for games and another for ‘Everything Else’.

So without further ado, let’s get into The Everything Else of 2018!

Musically it’s been a phenomenal year – full of big beats, guitars and wonderful pop. My Spotify round-up playlist is embedded below but some highlights were: Jade Bird, who continues her rise as one of the UK’s most under-rated female singer/songwriters, Billie Eilish, who delivers material well beyond what you’d expect from a 16-year-old, Sigrid, who is currently one of the best pop stars out there, Greta Van Fleet, who are on a mission to bring fun guitar music back, Robyn, who returns with another stunning single, Bobby Sessions, who brings a sense of levity and some political musings to proceedings and Carly Rae Jepsen, back again with a huge slice of pop goodness in ‘Party For One’.

I managed to do quite a bit of reading last year, a mix of fiction, fact and some great graphic novels. Of course the Overwatch graphic novel series continued with some really fun moments that help to flesh out the back story of the world and characters. The first volume of Lumberjanes was super fun, a nice collection of characters, it’s all about a group of girls at a summer scout camp. Everything is not as it seems though as strange creatures and otherworldly events transpire.

My favourite graphic novel this year though was Reborn from Mark Millar. Telling the story of Bonnie Black, an elderly lady who passes away on a stroke ward and suddenly finds herself in a new, younger body in a weird place called Adystria. Not only is this world some sort of limbo, it looks like she is the chosen one – here to save the world. It’s a standard fantasy set up but the art is lovely and its a clever idea. Word in the Summer was that Netflix have optioned Reborn as a TV series/film, should be an interesting watch!

Reborn

In terms of factual books, I thoroughly enjoyed Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier – a fascinating look behind the scenes on some of the industries biggest and most interesting titles. If you’re into games, this is definitely worth your time. But it’s hard to look past the epic tome that is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a big read but this look at how the world has been shaped by Humans is in equal measure spellbinding and horrifying.

Once I got past the heavy cockney accents in Gaie Sebold’s Shanghai Sparrow I found it be a really great read and look forward to exploring more titles in the series soon. I managed a double-header of Lee Child books in 2018; Night School and The Midnight Line, both of which I thought were good. It’s nice to see Child has diversified slightly from his well-worn (if enjoyable) formula to mix things up a bit. Another double was parts 2 (Authority) and 3 (Acceptance) in Jeff VanderMeer’s fantastically creepy trilogy that had started with Annihilation. I loved these and would recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different. Probably my favourite books of the year, despite their unsettling nature.

I also stepped up my reading of some classics: Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemingway, The Trial – Franz Kafka, Chess – Stefan Zweig, Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton and Chronicle of a Death Foretold – Gabriel García Márquez. These were all great (they are classics for a reason!) but for me Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton was my favourite. I also really liked Chess and The Trial but the ending of Kafka’s story was just too much of a let down for me personally.

Sabrina

On the TV front it was another great year. I enjoyed Erased, a Japanese show about time travel but wasn’t sure about A Discovery of Witches, which I just struggled to get into. There were plenty of shows that continued to be a good watch – Jessica Jones, iZombie, Legends Of Tomorrow and Blindspot all veered between the sublime and the ridiculous but kept me entertained. While I enjoyed Legion it definitely felt like a hard watch at times, the confusion from the first season continued but this season was even darker than the last. I caught up on seasons 3 through 5 of Marvel’s Agents Of Shield which, while still enjoyable, has got weaker as time goes on. The flip to space lost me but (as usual!) it is the time travel stuff that keeps me on board.

My favourites from the year though were The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, The Bodyguard, Glow, The Good Place, Howard’s End and Dark. Sabrina had the right amount of camp and scares for me, The Bodyguard was intense and full of twists, Glow was depressing and hilarious in equal measure, The Good Place continued to be a highlight, Howard’s End was a completely unexpected delight and Dark was a German language sci-fi show that crossed genres in different and strange ways.

HowardsEnd

Film-wise I saw lots of interesting things this year. I loved the book so was really excited for the film version of Annihilation. While it was definitely a visual spectacle I really felt that perhaps Netflix might’ve been better to do the whole trilogy as a TV series. The Aftermath was a brilliant film, with great performances from Keira Knightly and Alexander Skarsgard. I thought Lean On Pete, the story of a young kid who gets into horse training but can’t let his horse go, was heartwarming. The London set musical Been So Long was a vivid, vibrant look at life in the capital. Meanwhile, Blue Iguana was a crime thriller with a more grounded trip to London.

I was also fortunate enough to see a couple of films that will be out in 2019 but were screened at festivals in 2018. Driven, the true story of DeLorean creator John DeLorean and Wild Rose, the fictional story of a country singer from Glasgow who dreams of visiting Nashville. I thought both of these were great but I did work on them music-wise so take that as you will 🙂

WreckIt

I loved Bohemian Rhapsody, it was a really uplifting look at one of the world’s biggest bands. Just before Christmas I saw The Grinch, which I thought was a fun festive film and The Christmas Chronicles, in which Kurt Russell delivered the Santa I never knew I needed! I really loved this and suspect it will become an annual viewing experience in my house. My absolute favourites of this year though were The Incredibles 2 and Wreck It Ralph 2, both of which I thought had some great writing, music and (of course) visuals.

So there you have it – 2018 in a (large) nutshell. As always feel free to comment or reach out on socials to let me know what your highlights have been from this year and what I missed but should check out.