Thursday, 30 December 2010

Best of 2010 - Movies

With only a day and half left of this year at the time of writing, I can't help but think back over the year in terms of the new films that I've had the pleasure to sit down and watch, be it at the cinema, or in the comfort of my own home. Anyone that knows me well will probably be aware that I am rather enthusiastic, and downright passionate when it comes to film, so looking back at the year in cinema is something I've been looking forward to for a while. Now, I was struggling to decide whether this list would be a countdown kind of thing, in which my favourite films would be ranked, with a clear favourite as number one. The problem with that sort of thing though, is that I will ultimately wind up being unhappy with it for a number of reasons. One such reason would be that I haven't yet seen so many films that have been released this year, such as 2012 and Bad Lieutenant, which are both films that I think I'd really like. Another reason would be that after viewing some of these films again in the future, I might decide that the ranking should be different. So I decided upon writing a straight up list of films in no particular order... until I then changed my mind again, and decided to man-up and properly rank my top films of the year. So what follows will be my top ten films of 2010; a list of films released this year, that at the time of writing, I have seen and enjoyed. You may disagree, hell, I may even find myself disagreeing when I think about it tomorrow. Anyways, here it goes:

Honorary Mentions
A few films that didn't quite make the list, but were still among my favourites this year included How to Train Your Dragon; From Paris with Love; The Other Guys; The A-Team; Get Him to the Greek; The Sorcerer's Apprentice; MacGruber; I love you Phillip Morris and Hot Tub Time Machine.  

The fact that none of these films made it into the top ten list just goes to show what an awesome year we experienced in terms of the films that we were treated to.

10. The Expendables

The script for this film was passable, but not much better than that, and the acting on display was all right at best, but I didn't care, as this was the action film to end all action films. Sylvester Stallone was at the helm of this one, having written and produced it, and going on to star in and direct the flick. The cast that Stallone was able to assemble was mind blowing, as it included names such as Jason Statham, Jet Li, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, and somehow, even included a cameo from the Governor of California: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The action levels in this movie were as off the charts as expected, and Stallone did a fantastic job of directing the fights, stunts and explosions. As I've already mentioned, it may not have had the best storyline in the world, but this was an hour and a half of pure fun to watch, and I enjoyed every second of it, putting it in my top ten films of 2010.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

The Harry Potter film franchise is fast approaching the end of the road now, and with the seventh book in the series including way too much important content to miss out on, the team at Warner Bros. have decided to finish the series in style with a spectacular two parter for the Deathly Hallows. In fact this idea was so good, that the money sucking vampires that are Team Twilight have stolen it for their own finale.

The Potter films have been somewhat of a mixed bag. They will never be as good as the books, but as films alone, have been average to great in quality. Thankfully, the last few installments have been very good, and to a large extent have done the books the justice that they deserve. This first part of the final chapter of the Potter tale was extremely well done in capturing the book's epic opening battle, and then going on to focus on the long, drawn out quest through forests and villages, showcasing the tried friendships between Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The biggest surprise to come from this film, that seemed to make parents who had taken their kids to see it squirm was the part in which one of the Horcruxes shows Ron a live, ghostly vision of his worst nightmare in a bid to prevent the ginger sidekick from smashing it into pieces. The vision shown is of a naked Harry and Hermione (Ron's girlfriend) getting very... intimate. It looked almost like some kind of very big-budget porno at this point, hence the twitching parents. With a part one tag line, we all know that a part two is on the way, and that the story is not going to end as it usually does, so one of the biggest issues for the filmmakers was going to be where to end this film, and continue from next time. I don't want to ruin it for you, but all I will say is, they made the right decision here, as emotions were certainly at their highest as the end credits rolled. I myself can't wait for June (or is it July?) when the Potter story in film comes to its big, hopefully very dramatic end.

8. Shrek Forever After

I love the Shrek films, I think that they really are a work of genius, that has modernised the fairy tale world so that it is easily accessible to children and adults of all ages. The humour is there for everyone, be it in the form of immature fart jokes for kids, or in the form of subtle jokes designed for the older viewer, that will go straight over the child's head. The third film in the series was good, but didn't feel as magical as the first two movies. It was as if something was missing, or that the writers had run out of great, hilarious ideas. Fortunately, Shrek Forever After (dubbed as the Final Chapter in the Shrek saga) brings the franchise back to form for one last time. Darker than the previous films, Shrek finds himself having been conned by Rumpelstiltskin, and in a world in which he never met and married his love, Fiona, and in which Rumpel rules as King. The plot is complex, yet can be easily understood, and is pretty much flawless. In other words, Shrek goes out in style. I'm now left hoping that all the Puss-in-Boots spin-off rumours are indeed true.

7. Shutter Island

Earlier in the year, when perusing my local bookshop for which I had a voucher, I saw the front cover for Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, which featured the cinema poster. I'd heard of the film and I think at that point had seen and been intrigued by the trailer. I picked up the book, bought it, and took it home to read. The book had me on the edge of my seat (or bed, depending on where I was reading it), and it always kept you second guessing, right up until the final page with the big reveal. I missed it at the cinema, but as soon as it appeared at work, I rented the blu-ray immediately. With only one or two scenes missing, the film does a great job of capturing the terrifying, and often confusing plot devices used in the novel. I don't want to give too much away for those that haven't read the book or seen the film yet, as it's best to do so in suspense, but I will say that the basic plot follows U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who, with a new partner Chuck, is sent to Shutter Island, an insane asylum at sea which has mysteriously lost one of its patients: Rachel Solando. A conspiracy is soon unearthed, and trapped on the island due to a horrendous storm making sea travel an impossibility, Teddy and Chuck must escape, but has Teddy already lost his mind?

If you haven't read or watched this yet, I urge you to do so. It was also the first indication this year that Leonardo DiCaprio has matured so much as an actor, as he does a stellar job here in his role of portraying Teddy.

6. Alice in Wonderland

It's fair to say that Tim Burton is a Marmite director. You either love his work, or you hate it. My favourite film of all time is The Nightmare Before Christmas and I've always enjoyed the dark, gothic, sickly humorous worlds that he has created for us in films such as Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd. This then, was easily the first film of the year that I was eagerly looking forward to going to see at the cinema. When considering his style, Alice in Wonderland was a no-brainer for Burton, however he wasn't content to create a simple adaptation of the classic Lewis Carroll novel. Instead, Tim Burton rewrote the story, so that this time, Alice, aged nineteen, was returning to Wonderland, with everybody there already knowing who she was. Alice herself though, had no recollection of having been there, most likely putting it down to being a dream when she was younger. What really made this film a must see though was the look, and feel of it all, coupled with the acting of Johnny Depp as the bonkers Mad Hatter, and Helena Bonham Carter as the sinister Red Queen.

5. Iron Man 2

The first Iron Man film was most definitely my top film of 2008. I loved it, and have watched it several times since it was first released. Therefore, Iron Man 2 was my most anticipated film of 2010 without a doubt. The fact that it is only just in the top 5 though, goes to show just what a great year for movies 2010 has been. This film began with a lot of action, and included all of the cheeky, loveable comedy from Robert Downey Junior that we could have ever wanted after the first film. Mickey Rourke's performance as Russian villain Whiplash was off the charts, and provided an excellent opponent for Iron Man, who teams with Don Cheedle's portrayal of War Machine. The one error that this film faced was that the final battle was too short, especially in comparison to the build up. It should have been far more spectacular. Other than that though, we were treated to more of the fantastically carved Marvel characters, and scenes of great acting that delved deep into the character flaws of Tony Stark (Iron Man for you non-comic book fans). Of course, it wouldn't be a Marvel film these days without a snippet of a scene after the end credits, and this time we had one teasing us with the arrival to Earth of Thor. I for one can't wait to go and see Thor in 2011, and have also been left eagerly awaiting the next Iron Man film, as well as the inevitable Avengers movie.

4. Kick Ass

Where the hell did this film come from? I try and describe it, even now, to people that haven't seen it, and they look at me as if I'm stupid. The premise of this film really shouldn't work, but it does, it just does, and on so many levels. Based on a graphic novel by the same name, Kick Ass follows a normal kid who decides to become a superhero by buying a diving suit and some batons. He then goes by the name Kick Ass to protect his identity. This film has it all, from cute side-story in which the girl of his dreams thinks that he's gay, to a foul-mouthed, tough as nails eleven year old girl. It also includes the performance of a lifetime by Nicholas Cage as he dons a Batmanesque attire to become Big Daddy, and kicks all kinds of ass, unlike Kick Ass himself. So yeah, this film has it all: comedy, drama, action, gangsters, high school shenanigans, and plenty of swearing and blood shed. This is one of the coolest films you will ever see. I should know, I saw it twice at the cinema!

3. Inception

After viewing this film for the first time, I would have placed it lower on the list. I would have definitely ranked both Kick Ass and Iron Man 2 higher. That's not to say that I didn't like this film, in fact I thought it was brilliant, it's just, I guess I hadn't fully taken it all in. After watching this film another one and half times, I can safely say that this film is more than brilliant, it is tremendous. Again, this film, on paper or in descriptive form shouldn't work, and if you try to describe it to anyone, they give you a look that says 'What are you on?'. But in this world created by writer and director Christopher Nolan (the same movie genius behind 2008's The Dark Knight), it all becomes logical and makes a lot of sense. Basically, the technology exists in this world to enter the dreams of others. Ideas can be stolen in this manner, but the premise of the plot, is that the team, lead by Dominick Cobb, played by the now undoubtedly outstanding Leonardo DiCaprio, must implant an idea into somebody's mind in a way that they'll think that they came up with the idea themselves. This involves going down into several dream levels (dreams within dreams), each time running the risk of going to far and getting trapped in limbo, as time travels slower each level down you go. This all becomes rather confusing, and most people won't fully understand after a single viewing (I certainly didn't), but after multiple plays, more and more will be spotted, and your understanding will grow. In essence, this is one of those films which you'll take a little more away from everytime you watch it.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Director Edgar Wright has a history of messing up and playing around with genres. You need only to look at Shaun of the Dead, described a Rom-Zom-Com to see that. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World goes so much further though. I'm trying to decide what genre to say that it best fits into, but to be honest, I have no idea, and I consider myself to have a slightly broader knowledge of film than most people. I mean, it could fit into the comedy category in that it does make you laugh quite a bit, especially with the pure absurdity the film emits to the audience. It could also be viewed as a drama of sorts, or a romance, as a boy is merely trying to be with the girl of his dreams (the fact that Ramona first appears in Scott's dream makes this a true statement). You could combine two of the elements and say that it is a rom-com, but to tell the truth, it is really unlike any rom-com I've ever been forced to sit through. No, there is officially no genre for this film, and that's why this film works so well, it plays by its own rules.

Based on a series of graphic novels, this film was for some reason, a massive flop at the box-office. I have no idea why, as I found the trailers to perfectly show you just how cool this film was. I went with a group of friends to see this, and even the doubters going in came out impressed. We all left the cinema feeling good... wait, that's it, this is a feel-good film, we have ourselves a genre everybody, one that features a lot of rock music due to Scott also being in a band called 'Sex Bob-Omb'!

The idea behind the film is simple, to be with Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim must defeat her seven evil exes (note the absence of the word boyfriend there) in arcade style fights, as they all seem to have superpowers. The post production on this film is immense, as the editing and effects are unlike any seen before. This film is also a cheeky nod to long time gamers, as throughout the film such as the aforementioned band name, enemies turning into coins when they are vanquished, and the fact that you will often here a very subtle piece of music playing in the background, being music from Zelda or Final Fantasy.

All in all, this film has both style and substance. It also caused me to actually like Michael Cera, as I felt he did an extremely brilliant job in the lead role, and of course we had the very pretty Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the role of the girl who's hair colour changes every week and a half, Ramona. Go out and buy this film now!

1. Sex and the City 2

Just kidding... It was terrible!

The REAL number 1:
Toy Story 3

Back in the late nineties, I was at the perfect age for the first two Toy Story films. I was at the target age for the films to work, and of course, to be bought the merchandise for Christmas. In a way, I felt as if I myself had grown up with these toys as Andy himself had. Especially since I often pop the original films in the DVD player every now and again to relive the magic that brought Pixar to prominence. The third installment was eleven years in the waiting, and it sure as hell did not disappoint. After the fantastic efforts Pixar have made in recent years with hits such as Wall-E and Up, it would have been a major travesty if this film didn't live up to its legacy. Pixar did of course pull it out of the bag, and gave us one of the most emotional films ever made. All I can say is that I'm glad that we had 3D glasses over our eyes so as to hide the tears that welled up and eventually streamed down our faces. This was quite simply animation at its best with unbelievable characters, both heroes and villains that we can more than believe in. We fall in love with them and get behind them. If this really is the final film of the franchise, then all I can do is send a congratulations to Pixar for ending it so, so well, with more style than that which Buzz fell with in the first movie.

Well, that's it, my list for the top films of 2010. I will probably regret some decisions as soon as I press the 'Publish Post' button. But I won't edit it. This is what I feel is right right now. I hope you've enjoyed reading this list, and if you haven't seen any of the films on it, I hope you feel inspired to look them up and give them a good watch.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas past, PRESENT, and future.

I'm hoping that everyone and anyone that takes the time to read these has had a very merry Christmas, and will have themselves a happy new year too. My Christmas didn't feel as I always hope it will, but then that's most likely what working in retail at this time of year does to you. It literally saps your Christmas spirit. Case in point; three days ago, on Christmas eve, I was worked a mammoth ten hour shift. Now at the beginning of the day I was, as were many of my colleagues, full of life, energy, and excitement. Nine hours later though, and those of us still there were completely drained mentally, physically, and emotionally. I believe that one colleague was actually contemplating suicide.

Anyways, we made it reasonably unscathed to the end of the shift, and some of us went out for some drinkie-times and general merriment in a rather crowded regular pub of ours. Due to tiredness (and maybe a little because I didn't want to ruin Christmas by bumping into Santa, thus earning a spot on the naughty list), we left at the somewhat early time of 10:30pm. Christmas morning came earlier for me than I had hoped, for that young little sister of mine came knocking on my door at 5:30am. I took the bullet for the rest of the family by keeping her occupied for a good hour and a half, before we went downstairs to open presents at seven. In what was my highlight of Christmas, my little sister received a new bike, which was covered by a thin plastic sheet. She didn't seem to realise what it was though, despite the front wheel sticking out from under the cover, and she even reached over it to pick up another present; a bicycle helmet, which she seemed a little confused to have been given. To top it all off, when the penny finally dropped, she accidentally knocked the bike over, causing to crash onto the floor. I would say that you couldn't write this stuff, but clearly I just have. It was absolutely hilarious to see though, and gave us something to laugh at for the rest of the day, and a brand new Christmas memory.

Christmas day shot by, with only one argument which broke out between my dad and me over a board game, and then it was straight back to work on boxing day. The joy! It wasn't as bad of a shift as it could have been, but there was still a queue of... well, losers waiting outside before we opened. I had to push my way through to get to the front door. Seriously, it was as if every inbred person in town had turned out. Working again so soon completely killed off any festive feeling that I had left, which is I think why Christmas seems to mean slightly less each year for me. I've been working in retail for six Christmases now, and as I've mentioned in a past blog, the public can sometimes be proper arseholes, and it just ruins the most magical time of the year for me. I just try to think of the money that I'm earning and it makes me smile a little. Luckily we were treated to some light entertainment during the working day though, as the slush machine exploded, and the back of my head was covered in blue, raspberry flavoured, slightly frozen tap-water. The machine quite literally decided to break with a loud bang, and caused quite the mess. In seriousness though, we were lucky that none of us were too near it at the time, as we could have been injured quite badly, because the spirally bit that mixes it all in had come flying out, and was rather pointy and dangerous looking.

I got to leave early, if you can consider finishing work at 6:30pm on boxing day early, and got to spend my evening playing games with Stacey's family. I felt a little happier here because I'd finished work and actually have a couple of days off now, even if I do have to get some Open Uni work done.

So, yeah I've had a little rant, but it's my issue and I have exaggerated slightly in order to try and entertain you, and myself while writing. At least I got to work my shifts with people that I like, which is always a plus. Also, the boxing day shift did seem to fly by in no time at all, so it wasn't too bad at all. Right, anyway, I seem to be rambling on and on in circles now, so I might attempt now to cut to the chase in terms of what inspired me to start writing this piece: PRESENTS!

As much as it shocked me, because being an adult (according to numbers and laws at least) I don't expect to get too much for Christmas anymore. But somehow, someway, it turns out that my family, and my girlfriend actually like me, because they did buy me things and stuff, and left me feeling pretty darn spoilt.

My biggest, most expensive, and absolutely awesome present this year was from Stacey. An Amazon Kindle. For those of you asking 'A what?' right now, I'll quickly fill you in. It's Amazon's own version of an e-reader, an electronic device on which to read downloaded books. Essentially it's an MP3 player for literature. The features on it are amazing, as you can download books on the device direct from Amazon, you can also download newspapers and magazines, and can even subscribe so that a newspaper will automatically be delivered to the Kindle overnight for you. For many books it, you can tell the machine to read the book to you in one of those slightly odd robot voices, and of course when reading in the traditional sense, you can adjust the font, text size, and positioning. It even acts almost like a tablet computer, as it can read PDF files, and Word documents can be converted onto it, and it even surfs the web. Looking at Facebook on it was rather bizarre to the screen, which is the most impressive thing about it. You see when viewing a website on the Kindle, it appeared as though it were a black and white printout of the page, as the screen of the device looks just like paper. This means that I can read outside in the summer, and there will be no blinding glare on the screen from the sun. It also doesn't drain the battery at all to display pages, power is only consumed in changing the page, which was proved by the fact that when I got it out of the box, what we thought to be a sticker stuck over the screen was in fact a screen saver!

In all, it is a very impressive bit of kit, and to the readers out there, I whole heartily recommend them, as I've started reading a book on it and must say that it is so much easier to read from that regular paper books. It's also easier to hold, as it is extremely light, and is thinner than a standard pencil. As for other presents given to me this Christmas, ironically I received quite a few books. Now I will read them all in time, but that I have to read them in regular paper form just seems boring, old, and obsolete to me now. I'm a modern reading man now dammit!

I was also given the usual array of films and a couple of games including the brilliant Super Mario AllStars 25th Anniversary pack that features the first four Super Mario games, as well as a soundtrack CD and a History of Mario book.

Now, the Kindle was in my mind, the coolest, most exciting Christmas present that I've received in years. Since I got the Wii in fact, four years ago now. This got me thinking down that lane of memories, which I'll call Memory Lane, to some of my favourite, and most memorable presents of Christmas past. The Nintendo Wii four years ago was definitely an exciting one because I mean, it had motion control for heaven's sake, it was ground-breaking, different, unique. Of course four years later it's hard to remember just how damn exciting that was back then, now that Sony and Microsoft have copied Nintendo's idea (to be fair, I will say that Microsoft's Kinnect is rather impressive).

I can remember being over the moon at Christmas when I was five, as there was my first ever remote-controlled car under the tree, just for me. I can still remember spending the whole day driving around the house, and in the evening at my grandparents' house. Well, between having to repeatedly charge it up of course. I can also remember the most disappointed I felt of a Christmas morning too. I must have been seven or eight, and had been asking for nearly a whole year for my very own train set. I was desperate for one. And then on Christmas day, under the tree, was a big box, addressed to me. This was my train set, I just knew it. I waited and waited until I was finally allowed to open it, and when I did I was shocked to find a box that had not pictures if locomotives on the front, but rather cars. It was a Scalextric. I was upset, and my dad and my uncle had a wail of a time that day playing it. Now, I must seem a little ungrateful here, but I can't describe how much I had wanted that train set, and to see racing cars instead of steam engines killed me a little inside. I did end up having some fun playing the Scalextric, but was more than a little peeved the following year when my little brother was given a train set of his own!

There are a few others that I remember fondly, such as my ride-on tractor which I thought was very cool because it had a bit that you could attach to the back that you could carry stuff in while you peddled along. Looking back it was just a glorified tricycle, but at the time I thought of it as the real deal. I must have been about four or five back then. Another very exciting present was a decade ago this Christmas, when I was eleven, as I received myself a copy of WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64. It proved to be the final game that I would get for that console, but it was easily one of the best. If ever I have access to an N64 nowadays (mine died a tragic death the day after I upgraded to my GameCube) I always try and get a go on what is often considered one of the best sports games of all time.

As I believe this blog has gone on for long enough now, I'll leave you all to enjoy the rest of your Christmas week. I'm going to the panto later, which should make me feel more than festive. Yeah! I hope that you all got what you wanted under the tree this year, and wish you all a happy new year.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

My Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I'm not asking for much this year, just a few things to make my life a little bit easier this Winter.

1. A high powered flame thrower
This first request may sound like an odd, and potentially dangerous one, but I've only got good intentions with it I swear. What with all this snow reeking havoc upon our country, and making travel a real pain in the arse, a flame thrower sounds like the perfect solution to me. Think about it, as I'm walking along the path, I hold my flame thrower out in front of me and it will melt all that slippery ice away, meaning that I won't slip over. It would come in real handy when walking down the alley-way near my house,  as every time we've had snow, it becomes so compacted down there, that you can't get down it without ice skates.

I'd therefore become a local hero, as I'd clear all the paths, and allow everybody else to walk around too. But why stop there? Stacey has been stuck at my house for days now, as she hasn't been able to drive home along the dangerous roads. Even now that the main roads are more or less sorted, it is still going to be a struggle to get out of my neighbourhood, as our roads are more backstreet. What I believe is that I could safely attach my flame thrower to the front of any car that I'm travelling in, be it Stacey's or my own, and as we drive along, the road in front of us would clear a safe path for us to follow thanks to my trusty present.

With these reasons in mind, I hope that you, Santa, also feel that bringing me a flame thrower this Christmas is a good idea.

2. An extension to our house
Now I know that our house is a little crowded, so you're probably assuming that this extension that I'm proposing it to give us an extra bedroom, or perhaps another place to shower. Well Santa, if that's the case, you'd be wrong. What I want is a sauna, and a steam room. I've been feeling worse and worse the past few days due to the horrible cold weather, and I feel that a sauna is just what I need to help me feel better and to keep me warm over the chilly months still to come. While you're at it, could you also include an indoor swimming pool, as we could do with one of those to keep us cool in the summer, as well as to give us a fun form of exercise. With it being an indoor pool, we could also continue to use it during the Winter, at which time we could turn up the water temperature, so as to not get cold.

I hate the cold.....

3. A 'Cure anything' medicine
If any laboratory in the world could pull this off Santa, I know it'd be your one at the North Pole. See, I'm feeling rather run down and just plain ill today with a rotten cold, and just want to feel better. Your elves are a smart bunch, and if the movies are to be believed, can make anything, so I really want them to make this medicine for me, so that it can cure my common cold. As it could cure anything, it would also come in handy for the rest of my life, as illness comes in many forms, and is sometimes deadly. Therefore with my medicine, I'll never again have to suffer.

I originally imagined this medicine to take the form of a pill, but on second thoughts, I have decided that it should come as a liquid medicine. Growing up I have always enjoyed the taste of liquid antibiotics, Pixilix, Piriton, and of course my personal favourite: Calpol. So please make sure that this medicine also has a delicious, disease-killing flavour to it.

Thank you for reading my humble wish list Santa, I know that you'll come through for me. Have a safe flight later this month, and Merry Christmas.

From James, who promises that he has been very good this year.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

UK Tour - Part Two

Happy December everybody, and for the benefit of those of you currently skiving off: Happy Snow Day!

A couple of blogs back I wrote about the first part of my November UK tour, and with December now upon us, that does indeed mean that it is over with, finished, gone with the wind, finito. So, as you may know if you are one of my loyal readers, part one consisted of travelling up to Manchester on the 8th to see the television taping of WWE Monday Night Raw at the Manchester Evening News Arena, heading to the O2 arena to see a non-televised Raw show on the 9th, and then seeing the awesome Linkin Park the very next night, once again at the O2 arena.

The following Sunday saw part two kick off, as after a day at work, Stacey and I travelled a great long distance to Tunbridge Wells, to see the stand-up antics of Sean Lock live at the Assembly Hall. Part of his 'Lockipedia' tour, Sean was on top form, and had the audience in fits of laughter all night. In my opinion this was one of the funnier stand up shows that I've attended, and was far, far, far superior to Frankie Boyle back in June.

The three weeks that followed were the same old in the wonderful life of me. They consisted of work, study, writing, film watching, reading, Stacey, family, etc....

And then, we got to this past Monday, the 29th November. Stacey had a half day at work, and I had the whole day off, and in the early afternoon she drove us down to Brighton. We checked into our hotel, which despite the ominous look of the scaffolding outside, was actually very nice. We had a nice TV, a comfy bed and a good hearty breakfast. What more could you want? Before the gig, we went for a wander around, and had ourselves a walk on the pier. The lights were on, but nobody was seemingly home, as it was pretty much empty. There were one or two people wandering around on the pier, and the arcades were open for business, but the rides were shut, and the end of the pier was in total, eery darkness. We soon left as it was bloody freezing on the pier, and there wasn't much to do there to occupy our time, so we headed back to land in search of a place to eat.

That's when I discovered Harvester for the first time in my life. Why has nobody ever suggested going to one before? It was awesome! For little over £30 we both had a starter and access to the salad bar, I had a pint of ale and an 8 ounce sirloin steak, while she had some veggie burger and a cocktail. We both shared a massive pudding, and I had a cappuccino to wash it all down. Bargain!

After food-time we walked up to the Brighton Centre and wound up queueing half way around the building. Once we finally got inside, and into the warmth, we took our seats and were pleasantly surprised to find just how close we were to the stage, as the Brighton Centre is nowhere near as big as some of the other venues I've attended, which in no way means it is a bad venue. You're probably wondering what it was we went to see, as I haven't yet mentioned it in this blog yet. 30 Seconds to Mars is the name of the band. That's right longtime reader, for the second time this year we went to see them play live. And it was much of the same as last time, which was in no way a bad thing, as more of the same was exactly what I was wanting to see. Lead singer Jared Leto had been sick that day, but you wouldn't have been able to tell as he once again poured in 110% to his performance. He is by far the most charismatic front-man out there in terms of crowd interactivity. If a section of people weren't standing, or looking lively, Jared soon made sure they were up and having a good time. He also repeated his trick from the Wembley show earlier this year, by leaving the stage while we were distracted, and reappearing somewhere else in the arena with an acoustic guitar. This time he played from the back of the venue and treated us to acoustic versions of their songs From Yesterday and Alibi, as well as a bizarre cover of Lady GaGa's Bad Romance.

There were even giant balloons during the gig; what more do you need for a fantastic show?
Our hotel was only two doors away from the Brighton Centre, so it was only about 200 hundred steps to make until we were tucked up in bed, and could drift to sleepville with Family Guy on in the background.
The next day we did a bit of shopping in the coastal city, before deciding to leave earlier than planned due to news of snow back home. Although it was snowing in Brighton, it was setting, which was not the case back in Kent.

As we drove, the more inland we got, the more snow could be seen, and it was when we were nearing our destination that we entered into a Winter Wonderland.
Driving through a Winter Wonderland
Fortunately we got home safe, even if the car did slip once or twice. Of course today things are much worse, so I'm thankful that the gig wasn't a day later than it was.

And so ends my UK Tour. I can't believe that November has already come and gone, and my little adventure around the country is at an end. I now turn my sights to Christmas, which has got me especially excited with the opening of door number one on my advent calender. I'm also receiving daily Simpsons quotes via text from Pete Town. If you too would like to receive a daily Simpsons quote direct to your mobile phone, then follow this link to Pete's always brilliant blog, and leave your number in his comments section.

In memoriam

I'd like to end today's blogging by paying my respects to a comedy icon. Leslie Nielson passed away at the beginning of this week, and as a child, nothing even came close to making me laugh as much as the classic movie Airplane always did. Rest in Peace Leslie, as long as they're not calling you Shirley up there, I'm sure you will.