TV: “Children of the Universe” Molly Smitten-Downes Official Video

“As I am awakened with fire in my bones”

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(“Yes, I am fabulous!”)

Rather excitingly, the official video for Molly Smitten-Downes entry into Eurovision 2014 has been uploaded in the past few days. The video, available on her official youtube channel, shows Molly amongst her band lounging around on plush furniture and standing in front of flowers.

The official video has clearer audio than the studio version that was uploaded earlier in the year. The song is actually pretty good, and even incredible considering this is a UK entry. Personally, I didn’t need any more reasons to love Molly’s creation, but the luxurious official video does help.

However, as good as the song is, it all depends on the actual night. Eurovision semi-finals will take place on the 6th and 8th of May, and the UK has automatic entry into the finals, taking place on 10th of May 2014.

See the video below:

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Musings: Avoiding Britain’s Got Talent

“Change channels”

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(Dancing for a YES)

I don’t usually publicly announce that I’m boycotting, or avoiding things, because usually I change my mind and have to explain why I reverted. However, in this case, I will explain why I have been avoiding Britain’s Got Talent for the past couple of years, and why after seeing a snatch of it now, I’m glad I don’t keep up with it anymore.

Britain’s Got Talent is a big feature of Saturday evenings, and is watched by millions of people all over the country. Yet, it’s the judges, not the acts, that are putting on the biggest show.

I thought it was about finding an entertaining act for the Queen? Or even, something worth £250,000?! Wasn’t that the point? Surely the judges can get past the their huge egos, of which no-one’s is bigger than Simon Cowell‘s.

When dance group Cartel auditioned in tonight’s show, one of the members was being judges far more harshly based on his looks and age. Jamie, pictured above on the far left, is in his late 20’s, and his teammates are in their teens. Simon see a terrible error in letting an older dancer perform with younger ones.

Does Jamie‘s age affect his performance? Not at all. He is as slick and proficient at dancing as any of those other performers, but was singled out because he is older. Apart from being incredibly rude, this is being ageist. Do I have to watch Simon’s opinions rule over television? Absolutely not, I will change the channel.

Hopefully in the future, there will be an end to over-produced audition-based shows, with egoistic judges, and auditions with sob-stories. My fingers are crossed for a fresh wave of entertainment, on new platforms.

See Cartel’s audition below:

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TV: BBC Horrible Histories Series 1-5 DVD Box Set (UK Edition)

“The best thing since cave-men!”

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Studio: BBC

Genre: Comedy, Historical, Age: 5+

Released: October 2013  (UK version)

Horrible Histories, for those that don’t know, are an insanely popular series of factual-comedic books made for children. They are pretty old, considering I read them in school, and are filled with facts that seem ridiculous, but are actually true. There have been many productions based off the books, from broadway shows, to animated series, but the 2009 series is easily the best one, being made for all age groups, not just children.

The whole box set is around 30 hours long, and includes all episodes from the five series. The first 12 episodes of each series has sketches, fake historical ads, historical parodies of modern-day reality and chat shows, songs, and quizes. Episode 13, the last of every series, has a compilation of the best songs from the series, and a few extended sketches.

The series groups ancient and modern history into categories titled like Rotten Romans, Awful Egyptians, and Terrible Tudors. Although the show starts off with mainly British related history, it does branch out into significant American and some European history.

Each member of the main cast plays a plethora of characters. As time grows on, you can immediately recognise them and their acting style, and the familiarity makes the comedy even more hilarious.

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(Featuring Ancient Beauty Tips from our experts)

I personally find it impossible to pick a favourite person from the cast, because even when they are not in the starring role, they bring a lot of charm and charisma to the sketch, and are great in their supporting roles.

Each cast member has plays many characters, but my favourite roles are Jim’s Shouty Man, Matt’s King Charles II of England, Simon’s Robert Dudley, Martha’s Queen Elizabeth I of England, Larry’s Bob Hale, and Ben’s King Henry VIII of England.

More information and videos below:

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TV: Star-Crossed – Episode 1 Summary + Review

“Roman, Roman, where for art thou..”

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(“You know, those aliens are pretty good looking….”)

Airing on: Sky

Genre: Romance, Drama, Sci-Fi, Aliens, Age: 13+

Released: 4th April 2014 – onwards

Aliens called Atrians have landed on earth in September 2014, and immediately face hostilities. Emery Whitehall finds a young Atrian boy hiding in her shed, close to where the alien ship has landed. She takes care of the frightened young boy, however the military finds him and shoots him in front of Emery.

Ten years later, and Emery is beginning her first day of high school after spending the last few years in hospital. She and her friend Julia watch as young Atrians are beginning the same school; a program to integrate them into the same society as humans. If this program is successful, it could mean the start of cohabitation by humans and Atrians, but high school is never easy.

Warning! May contain spoilers!

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Music: Janet Devlin – Hide & Seek – Album Review

“The Creatures of The Night. Me, Myself and I.”

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Artists: Janet Devlin

Age: 12th November 1994 (age 19)

Genre: Pop, Folk

Released: 3rd July 2014

I’m going through a big change in the music I listen to. Gone are the loud sounds, harsh vocals and lewd lyrics, I’m attracted more and more to soul-searching songs that feel like they explore the depths of the universe itself. There are very, very few artists that I can place within that category, and as such, they are getting a bit overplayed.

Janet Devlin is one of those singers that deserves recognition for having a beautiful voice. There is a rare quality in her young, bit-rough vocals, with it’s Irish lilt, and her album showcases her astonishingly understated vocals perfectly.

I first saw Janet Devlin on X Factor UK 2011, and in her auditions, she brought a charm and innocence to all her performances, and she’s good, very good.

Janet Devlin not only sings, but has co-written all the songs on this album. It adds that extra spark and personality to every line. Hide & Seek (obviously a reference to Imogen Heap, one of Devlin‘s influences) was first released in limited quantities last July (2013), but is set to re-released this summer.

The album explores Pop and Folk genres, and there are some upbeat songs, Wonderful, Working for the Man, that are mainstream pop. They are catchy enough, but sound hideously generic compared to quirky-piano-pop Creatures of the Night.

Walk Away, Who am I to You, Pick Me Up and the titular Hide & Seek, are pleasant songs that are perfect for putting on as background music. They don’t stand out in particular, but the feel is of good, solid, pop music. When was the last time I heard that? Probably not in a decade.

The standout tracks for me are Devlin‘s slower songs. If there is a reason to buy this album, it is for Crown of Thorns, Things We Lost In The Fire, Nothing Left to Hide, and the brilliantly haunting When We Were Young. I have never heard such a young voice sing so expressively, and against quiet accompaniment, and still move me.

There is an untrained quality to Devlin’s voice. A raw power that hasn’t grown into its own, and is so unusual in a world filled with auto-tune or power singers (and shriekers).

Not everyone will “get” her. There is a reason why she managed 5th on the X Factor, and had her album funded by PledgeMusic. However, if you love this type of sound, she is a great artist at the beginning of her career, filled with talent and great potential.

I know I am a fan.

See below for album previews:

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Book: Nicholas Sayre & The Creature in the Case Cover Image

“Of scratching and inkings”

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Age: YA+

Released: 1st October 2007 (UK version)

Going on a Garth Nix kick, I had a look through this book, which a follow-on story from The Old Kingdom Trilogy (The Abhorsen Trilogy). There are a few nice pictures which relate to the short stories that I haven’t seen online. Garth Nix’s short stories have been published in various fantasy anthologies, but I haven’t come across any of these illustrations, possibly because this is an old children’s edition.

I will try and upload the illustrations as I review the stories. This is the Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case image, which I have already reviewed.
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Credit goes to David Wyatt, who has illustrated the headings of the stories for the Harper Collins Children’s Book’s in Great Britain 2006. Photographs taken by me.

Manga: My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) Volume 1 Summary + Review

“I’m not getting involved with this”

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Publisher: Kodansha Europe

Genre: Romantic, Comedy, Shojou, Drama  Age: 13+

Released: 20th March 2014 (UK Version)

Hardworking schoolgirl Shizuku Mizutani is a student with a life mission to get perfect grades. Her life is turned upside down when she is asked to deliver a homework assignment to the school delinquent, who then manages to convince himself he is love with her. Haru appears to have very little social skills, but the pair clearly have a chemistry, even if Haru is getting in the way of Shizuku’s goal of being number one at her school.

This is the manga that formed the basis for the anime series, and the first volume covers up to the first two and a half episodes.

Warning! May contain spoilers!

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News: Final Fantasy X HD Limited Edition Preorder on Amazon UK

“So close, so close to my hands….”

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Release Date: 21st March 2014

I’m sure a lot of people got this email from Amazon, but for those that didn’t; the Limited Edition of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD is still available for preorder. This is actually around the £30 mark, which was the same as the LE pre-orders taken before.

See the Pre-Order page here.

The game is, of course, going to sell bucket-loads, and be the saviour of Square Enix’s review ratings, after the travesty of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. I can’t wait to get my hands on my own copy, when the game comes out on 21st March, which at this point is less than a week away.

You get limited edition packaging, an artbook disc-case, and new models of Tidus and Yuna to drool over, but the big satisfaction is in replaying an old favourite. They don’t make games like this anymore.

Update: Pre-orders are now closed.

TV: My Jihad – BBC Three Original Drama Short – Episode 2 Summary + Review

“Jihad: the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.”

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(“You live with your parents…?”)

Airing on: BBC iPlayer Exclusive

Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy Age: All ages

Released: March 2014

At first it was the title that caught my eye. I was thinking about how someone has managed to drag the media-buzzword “Jihad” into yet another production, but happily this is a drama about a young Muslim man called Nazir who is looking for a wife.

At a speed-dating event, Nazir (Hamza Jeetooa) is being wrung out by the various attendees about his lack of finances. Fahmida (Anjli Mohindra), who is chaperoning her friend at this event, gives Nazir a particularly hard time. The are immediately at odds, but a chance meeting on a bus opens up a conversation, and they are able to look at each other in a favourable light.

This is one of the standalone BBC Three Original Drama Shorts that are available to watch on BBC iPlayer. The premise is to celebrate the new talent joining the BBC, and each episode is less than 20 minutes.

Warning! May Contain Spoilers!

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Musings: The direction of “Things” and Commitment

“Where are we going now..?”

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It’s been a while since I’ve openly discussed the direction of this blog. What’s new, what’s in the works, and how updates will be arranged?

It’s been my lifelong ambition to Stick With Things. I think, I let a lot of opportunities go by, because I didn’t commit to it for long enough, or I just let my standards fall, or let things drift away.

Well, I am quite proud that I have stuck by this review blog for almost two years. I started  this blog at the beginning of 2012 (back when I got zero views), and yet by some miracle, it’s still going, and has daily visitors.

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Thankyou, for that.

As conceited as I can be, I originally put up reviews to share my opinions with the rest of the internet. I never dreamed that people would actually follow this blog, or check back daily, or even leave a comment.

Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, I am glad that people treat this site as a source of information. It’s a real honour.

There’s no dark side to this post. It’s actually very positive (albeit fumbling) in a way, that I am trying to say that I will commit to this blog, that there will be updates.

Updates, updates… Anime

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I’m not sure if I want to finish the reviews for Sukitte ii na yo/Say “I Love You”, and Tonari ni Kaibutsu-kun/My Little Mosnter. You see, the manga of those two series are being released in the UK soon, and I would actually prefer to read the story. Especially since I finished watching Say “I Love You”‘s anime, and it didn’t strike me as amazing, but seems like good material for manga. A lot of pacing issues in slower anime tend to not be as obvious in the manga, because it depends on your reading speed.

And then in direct contrast to that, I would love, love to review all of Noragami, even though the anime is being is released. And Inari, Kokon Koi Iroha struck a chord in me that an anime hadn’t done for a while.

Books

I have recently finished (re-re-re-)reading the Old Kingdom Trilogy/Abhorsen Trilogy, which are the three books by Garth Nix: Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorson. Reading an old favourite rejuvenated me. It was great to read something “perfect” instead of diving into yet another new fantasy world, and wondering if the author will let me down.

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I previously reviewed A Confusion of Princes, another book  by Garth Nix, which was okay but not as good as the Old Kingdom Trilogy. Most people will know his work from the Trilogy.

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I also want to put up my thoughts on the rather brilliant The Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling. It will be a review of my second reading, the first time, I didn’t feel like I’d gotten to grips with the characters enough. It’s an unfair advantage Rowling has, to have readers not discredit her work straight away. I’m aware that other authors wouldn’t get the same treatment. On the other hand, I feel that bias is part of having opinions, so it’s okay.

Pictures of stuff…

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And lastly, I really enjoyed waffling through endless of descriptions of packaging. I don’t know how much people pay attention to packaging of anime, but I feel like this area needs to be criticised. Besides, when you buy overpriced anime stuff, you deserve to analyse every inch of it.

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