It’s that time again: time for another one of my much-loved reviews of the year. Well, I’ve only really done one review of the year before, for 2011, but still – who’s counting, eh?
Once again, this isn’t really a review of things which have come out this year, so much as a review of things I’ve seen / heard / done this year (i.e. there will be a fair few things in this list from 2011, 2010 and earlier…). The reason for this is… well, mainly because I never see anything which is current. (Hey, one day I might get around to actually playing Portal, rather than just quoting ‘the cake is a lie’ from time to time…)
So, without further ado (further adon’t?), here’s a few things which Phill quite enjoyed this year (and there’s no more glowing commendation than that).
I’ll be honest with you: Phil and I don’t go to the cinema very often. I think the only film we’ve seen at the cinema this year is ‘Loopers’ – which probably wouldn’t make it onto this list (it was good but not great). But we do rent and watch LoveFilm DVDs, and these are a selection of them we’ve watched this year. Note that this isn’t in any particular order, just the order we happened to watch them in:
- The Men who Stare at Goats – surprisingly good. I’d seen the trailer for this before, and I didn’t really fancy it. It really surprised me – it was actually hilarious, some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Clever story, too.
- Amazing Grace – film about William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade. This film was well-made, with a heart-warming and positive true story. I didn’t know much of the history of William Wilberforce, and I think this film did a pretty good job – although I’d have liked to see a bit more about his Christian faith, but still!
- Source Code – interesting premise, interesting film. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, but it turned out to be very clever and a good story to boot.
- Limitless – Another clever premise. Well-executed story; and I particularly like the fact it makes you think and consider the possibilities. A good conversation starter for a few days afterwards!
- Stand By Me – Old film, but fantastic. This is another Stephen King adaption, made in the 80s by Rob Reiner (of Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride fame, amongst other things…) Well worth watching if you haven’t already – the story unfolds slowly and gently and leaves you feeling like you’re with an old friend.
- Unforgiven – This film isn’t for the faint hearted as such, but it’s another one which deals with some interesting themes and makes you think.
- The Mission – Another oldie, but a goodie. Beautifully shot, beautifully told true story.
- Super 8 – If this story wasn’t told so brilliantly and compellingly, it would be cliche. If you’ve watched any sci-fi film before you’ll recognise all the elements, but JJ Abrams knows his trade and this is excellent.
- 50/50 – someone getting cancer is not the kind of thing you’d think would be good material for a comedy. And yet, this works! They manage to tackle the subject matter seriously, without demeaning it, while at the same time making some great laughs – mostly coming from the protagonist’s best friend.
- The Guard – Another surprisingly clever and funny film. Not as funny as some of the others I’ve mentioned, but worth watching.
- True Grit – i.e. the 2011 Coen brothers remake. Classic Western remade with a modern twist. Beautifully shot, and well-told story (of course, I don’t know what the original is like – that might be better…)
- RED – another film I was surprised to like. It has an amazing cast, and somehow manages to hit the right buttons. An action film with some funny moments which didn’t put me to sleep, what more can I say!
The only thing we saw at the Theatre this year was “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”, put on by the National Theatre (we watched it at a National Theatre Live event). Although you can’t see it now, it was good. So there.
Haven’t really had the money to be buying much in the way of new music this year. That said, two albums came out from some of our favourite bands: Strangeland by Keane and The 2nd Law by Muse.
Strangeland is a fantastic album, it stands up well to repeat listening. I couldn’t pick a favourite song on it; they’re all brilliant. We loved going to see Keane live in November.
The 2nd Law is a good album, it has some really strong songs on it – they take a more dubstep-influenced direction, which I actually quite like (never thought I’d see the day I’d say that…) I really like the two title tracks (‘Madness’ and ‘Survival’); apart from that I haven’t really got into the album.
I haven’t read a lot of books this year, as I have to do a fair bit of reading to do with my course! I do try to read 1-2 per month, although quite a few of those are Christian (I’m a glutton for punishment…) But here’s a list of those I think people might enjoy generally:
- The Knot by Mark Watson. We went to the book launch for this book. It’s a very entertaining read dealing with what quite dark subject matter (well, a taboo subject anyway). Recommended.
- Machine Man by Max Barry. Technically I read this in 2011, but whatever. This year I’ve re-read the rest of his books and they’re all fantastic. Machine Man is probably the darkest of them, and probably the most technology-oriented. I thought it was brilliant.
- One Red Paperclip by Kyle Macdonald. This came out a few years ago, but I only read it this year. This is a fascinating story about how a guy decided to swap things – starting with one red paperclip – until he ended up with a house. Well worth reading.
- The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. Great book, whether you’re married or think you might want to be married in the future. It helps a lot with thinking about what marriage is and isn’t, I think I’d have benefited from reading this before being married!
- Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart – I’ve already written a review of it, so I’ll just say it’s probably the best Christian apologetic book I’ve read (not that I’ve read many, but still).
- In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland. A bit ploddy and does get bogged down in the detail sometimes, but fantastic for learning more about the murky origins of Islam.
Well, that lot ought to keep you busy for a while at least. Maybe even until the next review at the beginning of 2014… who knows!