Future Zeitgeist: 3 pop culture resolutions for 2016

Future Zeitgiest 2016 3 resolutions MAIN


Another new year!

Thousands of new movies to watch. Hundreds of TV shows to watch. Billions of books to read (wait, is that only me?). And an insane amount of music waiting to be downloaded and listened to over the next 366 days.

So what to prioritise? What to see, listen, watch and read? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I’m not about to tell you what your priorities because frankly I struggle every year to work out what mine should be, but here are the three things I’d really to experience in 2016, around which I’ll fit in everything else, and hopefully not fry my pop culture-loving brain in the process!


3 Resolutions 2016 MAIN


Attack my TBR pile with syllable-munching zest

Like many booklovers I buy books way faster than I can read them.

I call it aspirational reading, the idea that this book is SO appealing and readable that I will surely read it one day.

And to some extent, I hold true to that idea with books getting read eventually; but given that they compete with TV, movies and music, it can often be VERY eventually, with every visit to a bookstore, and no, I cannot just walk by them thanks for asking, yielding one or two more purchases.

So I am going to sign up to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, run by the blog Estella’s Revenge, and brought to my attention by my blogger friend Heather,  which comes with some pretty simple rules on what you can and can’t do:

• Read my own books
• Try to knock off 100 in 2016 by either reading them or ditching the ones that are DNF
• I can’t buyyyy myself any books until I’ve read a significant amount of my own. Like maybe I can treat myself for every 5-10 of my own books I read. I’ll be fairly flexible with this and see where my guilt leads me.
• If I’m itching for newness…use the library. Even if it’s the shitty local one.

Quite whether I’ll stick to it is another matter but it would be nice to get through lots of the TBR pile, clean up my bookshelves … and yeah, you guessed it, make way for some new books!



Watch the 46th season of Sesame Street on HBO

You may have heard that Sesame Street is going to be showing its all-new episodes on HBO starting January 2016.

Its traditional home, PBS, will get these episodes 9 months later, as well as continuing to play the classic episodes we all know and love so much.

But if you want the new stuff, you’ll need to know the way to HBO, which will be worth finding if this fun 46th season trailer is any guide that promises all the old faces, and some fun guest stars and new characters, according to Zap2it.

Sesame Street season 46 debuts on 16 January, 2016.


3 resolutions 2016 pic 3


And last but not least, despite having an internet connection so contrary and up-and-down that you have no idea minute to minute how well it will work, I am determined to catch up on all those TV shows I’ve missed over the last year or so.

First up, I will finish Game of Thrones season 4 and 5 before season 6 kicks off in April.

If you detect a note, nay an entire symphony of fierce determination, that’s due to two things:

(a) I want to finish a brilliantly-realised show that captivates me every step of the way in a genre, fantasy, that forms the majority of my viewing choices.

(b) My friend Bridget and her boyfriend Dave want my partner and I as viewing buddies and I’ve been told that after missing last year’s deadline to watch season 5 with them that this year’s deadline is non-negotiable.

And secondly I am going to find a better internet service provider and finally sign up to Netflix and Stan and watch shows like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Grace & Frankie, Sense8 and Master of None.

The final season of Community is also high on the list too.

I know it’s impossible to watch everything – though there are some supremely talented people out there who appear to do just that, or lie very effectively about doing it anyway – but I want to catch these shows and as many others as my crowded pop culture consuming schedule will allow.

Wish me luck and let me know what your grand plans for 2016 are.


Movie review: The Good Dinosaur

(image via Seat 42F)
(image via Seat 42F)


Being the curious creatures that we are, humanity has always loved a good “What if?” scenario.

It has fuelled the ragingly successful genre of alternate history, one that Pixar has now joined with gusto and its trademark insight into the “human” condition and emotional nuance.

Far from being the poorer cousin that had the “misfortune” to come out in the same year as one of the legendary animation studio’s most successful efforts yet, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur is a deeply-affecting clever film, one that pivots on the idea that the meteor that destroyed much of the prehistoric life on Earth 65 million years ago never happened, leaving dinosaurs free to keep merrily evolving.

The result is an agrarian society where Apatosaurus, which includes the family of the endearing protagonist Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), are pioneer farmers carving out a hard but honest living, Tyrannosaurs are tough, well-worn but kindly ranchers herding irascible groups of prehistoric longhorns, and velociraptors, keeping with their image as the opportunistic “cowboys” of the very ancient world, are redneck smugglers, always keen to benefit from another dinosaurs work.

It’s a classic Western set-up, one that screenwriter Meg LeFauve, and director Peter Sohn, to perfect effect to create a world in which humanity, still stuck in the caves, and incapable of speech though bonded in fiercely-loving, protective family groups, are lagging way behind the dinosaurs.

In this brave new alternate world, a lost caveboy such as Spot (Jack Bright) is a “critter”, a pest that feeds off the stored grain of Arlo’s family – Poppa Henry (Jeffrey Wright), Momma Isa (Frances McDormand) and siblings Buck (Marcus Scribner) and Libby (Maleah Padilla) – who must be exterminated if the family is to survive the winter.

But young Arlo, the youngest and more timid of his siblings, is not as brave as the rest of his family, who have all made their mark – in this case, literally with each member stamping a footprint on to the tall hollow stone cairn which houses the corn they have harvested – after accomplishing something greater than themselves.



Arlo, afraid of the chickens in the coop, who frankly look like the love children of actual chickens and ZZ Top, and life in general, is afraid he might never come close to making his mark, with life providing plenty of opportunities to run the other way.

Then as is the way of these things, something unexpected happens and Arlo finds himself in close quarters a long way from his farm with Spot, so-named because he displays all the tenacity and affection of a devoted puppy, with the less-advanced human child coming to his dinosaur counterpart’s rescue on more than one occasion.

And there is quite a bit of rescuing to be done, with this alternate world every bit as challenging and dangerous as the one it supplanted, the world we live in now.

For all the allies that Arlo and Spot come across, including grizzled but fair Tyrannosaur ranchers Butch (Sam Elliott), Nash (A. J. Buckley) and Ramsey (Anna Paquin), there are a host of adversaries such as a loopy New Age Styracosaurus (Peter Sohn) who wants to add Spot to his cultish multi-horned dwelling menagerie, and deluded, messianic Nyctosaurus (Steve Zahn) who is convinced that the storms which regularly plague the landscape in which Arlo is now lost and far from home, are harbingers of plenty and the promise of a bountiful life to come.

That’s if you’re a cruel, duplicitous hungry flying reptile that is.

Together, bit by bit, Arlo and Spot discover they’re not so different after all, and they set about trying to get back to the former’s home where his family awaits and a world in which human and dinosaur may not be so far apart beckons.



What distinguishes The Good Dinosaur, and lends it far more substance and emotional impact than the trailers might suggest, is its willingness to inject a far darker tone than animated tales of protagonists trying with all their might to reach secure surroundings often possess.

It is every bit as impacting, despite its vastly different subject matter as Inside Out, daring us to own up to our fears (suppressing them gets you nowhere), face them and come through to what Arlo’s dad calls “the beauty on the other side”.

Arlo isn’t just faced with physical challenges but existential ones in which he is asked with force and vigour, and some lovely touches of nicely-positioned humour and collegially-warm moments, to choose the kind of dinosaur (read: person) he will be.

It’s hard to miss that The Good Dinosaur comes with a great, big moral but for all that, it’s never so heavy-handed as to become overbearing or mawkish.

The emotional payoff in the story, as it is with pretty much all the superlative Pixar efforts, is hard-won and meaningful, the result of a character going to figurative hell and back to find out who they really are, and what truly matters to them.

Set against stunningly beautiful photo-realistic backdrops, where water flows with power and beauty and a single grain stands in stark contrast to the stony ground on which it falls, The Good Dinosaur is a visual and emotional triumph.

Don’t think for a moment that Pixar has spent all of the intellectual and emotional capital devoted to its twin 2015 releases on Inside Out; brilliant though that film is, The Good Dinosaur is every bit its equal reminding us over and over that alternate world or not, we all have a need, dinosaur and human together, to make our mark, to feel as if our lives amount to something.

It’s a sage lesson that Pixar once again conveys with deep emotional resonance, stunning animation and intellectual brilliance in The Good Dinosaur, yet another worthy entry in the studio’s ever-growing stable of superlatively-realised, and always affecting, animated films.




Re-stacking the shelves: The 10 books I loved most in 2015

Restacking the shelves MAIN


One of the great drawbacks of being a pop culture consuming omnivore is that I don’t have nearly enough time to read as I would like to.

Movies happen at set times at the cinema and so I must be there or miss out, music can be listened to on the run thanks to my trusty iPod and TV shows are often consumed with my housemate of an evening when the work day is done.

But books, even though I love them and find reading to be one of the most relaxing parts of my day, tend to get shoved into the margins – those few minutes before bed, those rare times on the train where I get a seat all the way to work and the occasional lazy weekend afternoon.

All of which means that one of the great loves of my life almost ends up as an afterthought when it is nothing of the kind.

So, my resolution for next year is to make book reading one of the priorities, not the leftovers; in the meantime, I have picked the 10 books of the ones I did get to read this year, the books that made me fall in love with reading all over again.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


THe Night Circus book review MAIN


Just magical in all its ways.

Morgenstern manages to peer deep into the darkest and loveliest parts of the all-too real human soul all while reminding us that magic exists in and around us in the most unexpected and life-changing of ways.

Here’s my full review of The Night Circus.



Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


The exquisitely evocative cover for Station Eleven, designed by Nathan Burton (image via and (c) Nathan Burton Design / Picador)
The exquisitely evocative cover for Station Eleven, designed by Nathan Burton (image via and (c) Nathan Burton Design / Picador)


Think that everything that can be said about humanity’s potential dystopian future has been said?

Think again.

St. John Mandel manages to give an entirely fresh take on this much-trodden path by reminding us that even after it has sunk to its lowest point that humanity can rise up again; in other words, amidst the dystopian despair there is hope.

Here’s my full review of Station Eleven.



King of the Road by Nigel Bartlett


(image courtesy Random House Australia)
(image courtesy Random House Australia)


Think of the worst thing that couldn’t happen to you – in the case of David Kingsgrove, it’s being falsely accused of the sexual exploitation and disappearance of his nephew – and then think about how you would go about righting things with the entire world massed against you.

It’s a riveting if terrifying premise and Bartlett uses it incredibly effectively to tell a gripping, thrilling story that wears its heart on its sleeve while staying measured and deeply insightful.

Here’s my full review of King of the Road.


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George


(image via and (c) Hachette Australia)
(image via and (c) Hachette Australia)


It’s never too late to make amends and come to grips with the mistakes of the past.

Parisian bookseller Jean Perdu learns this lesson and learns it well on a spontaneous trip down the canals of France where he not only makes new friends but confronts the demons of his past to liberating effects in Nina George’s charming book.

Here’s my full review of The Little Paris Bookshop.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
by Katarina Bivald


(image courtesy Random House Australia)
(image courtesy Random House Australia)


I love stories of people stuck in a rut who take an unexpected turn in life, in this case from Sweden to a small old town in midtown America, and find some kind of purpose and direction.

It might be seen as twee by some but in the hands of Bivald its uplifting, quirky and a whole lot of redemptive fun.

Here’s my full review of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.



A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install


(image courtesy Random House Australia)
(image courtesy Random House Australia)


One day a robot appears in your garden, seemingly out of nowhere and with nothing much else going on – marriage just ended, no career, no real friends – you decide to find out why.

And launch yourself without thinking on the most wondrous, charming journey of your life, one that upends everything and reminds you that life isn’t done with you yet.

Here’s my full review of A Robot in the Garden.


You’re Never Weird On the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day


(image courtesy Simon and Schuster)
(image courtesy Simon and Schuster)


Society doesn’t generally like people who don’t fit in exactly.

And that can make life a lonely and unsettling experience if you don’t drink the Kool-Aid and dare to be your own person.

But as Felicia Day points in her funny, meaningful and insightful collection of autobiographical essays, that’s by no means the end of the story and you’ll find out how rewarding life can be when you stick to your guns and live it on your terms.

Here’s my full review of You’re Never Weird On the Internet (Almost).



The Guest Cat by Takahashi Hiraide


(image via and (c) Picador)
(image via and (c) Picador)


We all think we know what’s best for us.

But if what a cat decides that it knows better and decides to make itself at home in your life with ramifications far more profound and life-changing than you might ever have imagined.

This gently-observed reminds us that the upending of life can be a tough but very beneficial thing indeed.

Here’s my full review of The Guest Cat.

Paper Towns by John Green


(image via Harper Collins)
(image via Harper Collins)


My lord but this man can write!

His books are always a delight and this one is no exception – bright, funny, clever with an ending that defies convention and is all the better for it.

Here’s my full review of Paper Towns.



Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing by Lisa Walker


(image courtesy Random House Australia)
(image courtesy Random House Australia)


We all make mistakes, big, small and utterly life-changing.

Arkie Douglas had made the last one, and she’s convinced there’s pretty much no way back from it.

But then one New Year’s Eve on a disused railway platform in Byron Bay, a Japanese tourist with some regrets of her own, comes into her life and she discovers that life can be redeemed.

Roaming all across the region in which I grew up, the novel is a love letter to the Big Things Australia loves to build in the oddest places like The Big Prawn and The Big Pineapple and the unlikely way these often overlooked items can change lives if people are simply open to it.

Here’s my full review of Arkie’s Pilgrimage to the Next Big Thing.


A Monster Calls: If no one sees you, are you really there at all?

(image via YouTube)
(image via YouTube)


A Monster Calls is the story of Conor, a boy who faces the challenge of a very ill mother, school bullies and the isolation, or “Invisibility” the situation creates. In the vein of Where The Wild Things Are, Conor escapes into the world of fantasy and imagination, conjuring the Monster from an old and gnarled tree in the graveyard his bedroom overlooks. The source novel does not sugar coat the suffering of childhood either, and deals with the topics of loss, tragedy and loneliness that can be experienced at any age. (synopsis via Screenrant)

As someone who endured an unending torrent of bullying throughout almost all my time at school, I can completely relate to the idea that being cruelly and habitually excluded can result in an enervating sense of “invisibility”.

Unlike Conor, I didn’t have to cope with domestic issues on top of the bullying but so all-consuming was my daily torment that like the young boy, I escaped whenever I could into a world entirely of my own making where heroes made things better, unsolvable situations always came with a triumphant solution, and I had grappled back some sense of control, something in extremely short supply in my everyday world.

The teaser trailer for the film, the screenplay for which was penned by the source novel’s author, Patrick Ness, captures the sense of darkness, isolation and sealing off the rest of humanity damn near perfectly.

Watching it, I felt like I had stepped back in time and was reliving those years all over again, which is testament to how accurately it captures the emotional sense of being invisible to everyone but yourself.

But as Liam Neeson’s titular monster intones in a gravelly narration throughout the trailer, “… if no one sees you, are you really there at all?”

That is EXACTLY how it feels and I am looking forward to seeing what looks like a deeply personal, insightful and deeply affecting movie when it drops in October 2016.


Re-watching the big glowing box: The 10 TV shows I loved most in 2015

Rewatching the glowing box MAIN


I am a man caught between two screens – a big cinematic one and a much smaller but ever-increasingly influential and powerful one.

The tug of war is intense but I find myself drawn again and again to the powerful, funny, clever, engaging stories television tells, especially in what has often been dubbed the new “Golden Age of Television”.

Of course, there are so many TV shows now that trying to watch all of them is becoming an impossible, nay actually impossible, task, made all the more complicated by the fact that I live in an apartment with horrific internet connections, making the use of streaming services a non-event.

Hence shows I would love to see like Sense8, Grace and Frankie, the final season of Community – thank you Yahoo! for rescuing one of my favourite TV sitcoms ever before making it ridiculously hard to see – are out of reach and will remain so till the new year and hopefully great new internet deal.

Still, even without those shows on my crowded viewing schedule, I found more a few to watch and these are my 10 favourite of the year.



(image courtesy NBC)
(image courtesy NBC)


I have loved this mix of police procedural, action serial and supernatural, postmodern mythos since the first episode.

backed up by taut writing, beautifully-realised characters and engrossing narrative arcs, Grimm can pretty much do no wrong.

Season 4, which is the latest to air in Australia – I am not so patiently awaiting the arrival of season 5 – was packed full of odd alliance borne of necessity, realpolitik, action, intrigue and heartbreak, brought on by the death of some major characters.

Yep Grimm got itself a great case of “No one is safe” syndrome and it worked brilliantly well for the show, setting it up for what I expect will be a heart-thumpingly good season 5.

You know when it actually gets here …



The Walking Dead


(image courtesy AMC)
(image courtesy AMC)


It took my housemate ages to convince me to watch one of the few watercooler shows left around but once I took in the pilot there was no looking back and now I am utterly enmeshed in this undead apocalyptic world.

There is so much to recommend it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not particularly into horror or zombies – I am most certainly not an aficionado of the genre – because The Walking Dead is, at heart, a riveting examination of the best and the worst of humanity set against a scenario that tests every last part of who we are as a species.

And season 6 has seen the show return to rip-roaring form with some imaginative storytelling techniques, some riveting moral dilemmas, epic, zombie set pieces and some incredibly intimate relational questions.

It’s all there, it’s all undead and it’s proof that though the world may end, the glories and frailties of humanity do not.

  • I review every episode of The Walking Dead with the latest post the mid-season finale, “Start to Finish”.





(image courtesy Starz)
(image courtesy Starz)


I have yet to read Diana Gabaldon’s series about a woman caught between the 20th and 18th centuries but it’s high on the list after this impressively-realised show captured my attention to a far greater extent than I thought it would.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate historical drama – I am a history nerd from way back and you can find my devouring documentaries on the History channel if ever I have a spare second to spare – but I never expected to be so captivated by a love story interwoven with dramatically-engaging events that come alive so forcefully that history comes alive in spectacular ways.

Everything about Outlander is impressive – its production values are top notch, the acting is superb, the narrative gripping, preferring actual drama over melodrama, and the attention to detail is breathtakingly good.

All of which means that the massive wait between season 1 and 2 – which is coming, I am assured, in March/April 2016 – feels interminable.



Z Nation


(image courtesy Syfy)
(image courtesy Syfy)


I’ll be honest – my first reaction to The Walking Dead‘s goofy cousin, where the surreal meets the all-too-grittily undead real was a big “no, thank you.”

After all, I’d seen Sharknado and its sequels, and while they had a deliberate schlock horror charm, a knowingness that said “We’re tongue-in-cheek crap and we know it, I wasn’t really interested in watching a zombie show with the same mindset and production values.

But Z Nation, just concluded, it’s second season has surprised me – it’s increasingly far more sophisticated in its storytelling that I would ever have imagined, it’s possesses a gleefully mischievous sense of humour that recognises that humour might still exist in the apocalypse, and characters who have grown in stature and complexity.

It’s actually every bit as good in its own way as The Walking Dead – yes I know heresy to some but it really it becoming that good – providing a whole different perspective on the rise of the dead and the horrors, and yes hilarity, they bring.



Game of Thrones


(image courtesy HBO)
(image courtesy HBO)


Another show that I longed to watch but as the seasons ticked on and I fell further behind, felt like it was ever further out of my viewing grasp.

I am not entirely sure why I didn’t start watching it when it first came out since I love fantasy in any form, and Game of Thrones is the kind of show you’d expect me to lap up in an instant.

But I didn’t and I likely would’ve left in the too hard basket of my friend Bridget and her boyfriend Dave hadn’t challenged me to watch the first four seasons before season 5 started in March 2015.

I didn’t make that deadline of course and right now I am only at season 4, episode 3 but hey that’s way further than I expected to get and I have an extremely good shot of getting through seasons 4 and 5 before season 6 kicks of in 2016.

I’d better – Dave won’t be happy if I miss another deadline.



About a Boy


(image courtesy NBC)
(image courtesy NBC)


Sadly this gently-observant NBC sitcom got cancelled at the end its second season but About A Boy, based on Nick Hornby’s novel and owing a great deal to its movie adaptation while happily forging its own path is a joy.

Transplanting events to San Francisco and taking a far more conventional sitcom format, About A Boy manages to be be funny, sweet and cleverly satirical in ways you might not expect an NBC sitcom to be.

And let’s be honest any of their shows that display anything above the bog standard lowest common denominator are swiftly excised from the schedule or ignore altogether.

It’s a pity because this is one sitcom with the wit, intelligence and observance of human character that could’ve gone on for far longer.



Please Like Me


(image courtesy ABC)
(image courtesy ABC)


Josh Thomas is a brave man.

He has taken so much of his life – his coming out story, his mother’s mental illness and a host of other elements that most people would prefer to keep hidden from the public eye and forged them into an intelligent, funny, cleverly-observant show that recognises that life is not always an upward trajectory.

Sure, over the show’s three seasons, Josh and his friends have matured but they’ve also taken a few steps backwards and made some messy mistakes, but hey’s that’s life and the joy of Please Like Me is that it’s not afraid to admit that.

And be very quirkily funny doing it.





(image courtesy Showcase)
(image courtesy Showcase)


It was a bit hit and miss in parts but largely Continuum, which centred on a police detective Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) catapulted back from 2077 where corporations have replaced governments as the ruling authorities to our present day where a disparate group of time travellers are trying to change the future in 1000 different ways.

Desperate to get back to the time she knows, Kiera does her best, initially, at least, to stop them, until she realises that maybe the version of the future she knew is the one humanity most needs.

Replete with a host of big questions about humanity and what it needs or deserves, Continuum was a clever show that neatly balanced action and social commentary to compelling effect.



The Flash


(image courtesy CW)
(image courtesy CW)

I have said it once, and I will say it again, I am not a natural viewer of superhero movies or TV shows.

I watch many of the movies at the cinema – I’m more a Marvel than a DC boy for some reason – but very few of the TV shows.

And yet The Flash, full of superhero action but also lots of humour and sweet, complex relationships, is one show that has captured my attention and my heart.

A lot of that has to be do with the imaginative writing and Grant Gustin as The Flash who manages to be both sweet and determined all at once, lending the titular character far more muscularity and depth than you might otherwise expect.

The show’s willingness to throw in everything but the kitchen sink – there’s time travel, portals, alternate universes, superheroes to name but a few – and make it work harmoniously is a big factor too.





(image courtesy CW)
(image courtesy CW)


I didn’t get to watch as much of this clever, oneliner-heavy show as I would have liked to but what I did see mightily impressed.

An imaginative examination of what happens when a bright up-and-coming medical student becomes a zombie, upending her life and forcing to do all kinds of things she would never have expected to do just to stay human, iZombie is storytelling as its finest.

Not to mention insightful and very, VERY funny.



And here are the TV shows that Watch Mojo thought would be big in 2015 while Indiewire’s TV team, who are paid to watch TV for a living (bliss!) thought these shows were the best of the year..


Bring on the anti-hero! Deadpool debuts two new trailers

(image via Big Fan Boy)
(image via Big Fan Boy)


Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life. (official synopsis via Flickering Myth)

Anti-heroes are in.

Some would say it’s because we live in a far more cynical age where there is little room for idealism or unalloyed blissful outlooks on life.

But I think it has more to do with the fact that we realise that even the most laudable of people, yes even superheroes, have their flaws and faults, and that this doesn’t diminish the good things they do by even one iota.

It’s a more realistic view of a fantastic world if you like.

And one that Deadpool, Marvel’s anti-hero par excellence, fits into perfectly with his deadpan wit, his dark outlook on life and his willingness to push the envelope of acceptability.

Ryan Reynolds looks like he’s going to bring him to life with all the panache, humour, darkness and humanity you could ask for, if these trailers are any indication.

Deadpool is the kind of character that’s guaranteed to not only bring in the Marvel fanboys and girls but also people like myself who like our heroes a little less perfect and whole lot more fallible.

Deadpool opens 11 February 2016 in USA and Australia.




And if you’re wondering if a man like Deadpool is capable of entering into the spirit of Christmas, then this video featured on Super Hero Stuff shows he is, well in his own unique way anyway …


Re-play the music please maestro: The 10 songs I loved most in 2015

Replay the music maestro MAIN


Music makes my world go round.

Well, granted so do movies, TV shows and books, and big fat slices of caramel cheesecake, but music is the one thing that goes with me pretty everywhere, the soundtrack to my life if you will.

It’s there with me when I am commuting, when I exercising, when I’m decorating the Christmas tree and when I’m simply sitting back and letting the world go by (which let’s face it, never happens; I’m a tad Type A OK?)

So it makes sense that I listen a lot of music and that picking just 10 songs as my favourites for the year is well nigh impossible but I have managed it and here they are in no particular order.

“Overbite” by Paris Wells


Paris Wells (image courtesy official Paris Wells Facebook page)
Paris Wells (image courtesy official Paris Wells Facebook page)


This is an inspiring song driven by the artist’s struggle with her overbite, something that she hated until she realised how much it informed who she is.

As someone who was made to feel less than I am because of everything from geekiness to my sexuality, this song resonates.

Plus it pumps out danceable attitude like crazy!

You can read my full review of the song at Now This is Music #59.



“Go” by Postiljonen


Postiljonen (Photo by @stiansmollerfoto via official Postiljonen Facebook page)
Postiljonen (Photo by @stiansmollerfoto via official Postiljonen Facebook page)


This song from the Swedish singer/songwriter has so much energy!

She says “Go!” and I go without question.

You can read my full review of the song at Now This is Music #57.



“Easy Come, Easy Go” (Pat Lok Remix” by Alice on the Roof


Alice on the Roof (image via @ronquieres via official Alice on the Roof Facebook page)
Alice on the Roof (image via @ronquieres via official Alice on the Roof Facebook page)


All deft, soft bouncy beats and fey but hardly unnoticeable vocals, the song by Alice on the Roof is a delight from start to finish, a dreamy concoction that speaks not of endless bliss and happiness as you might expect but rather getting over the trauma of a broken heart.

You can my full review of the song at Now This is Music #53.



“Cherry Blossom” by ALA.NI


ALA.NI (image via official ALA.NI Facebook page)
ALA.NI (image via official ALA.NI Facebook page)


“Cherry Blossom”, the follow up the equally beguiling debut single “Suddenly” from the London-based singer, is a delicate thing of beauty, channeling the spirit of the 1931 romantically-infused classic “Dream a Little Dream of Me” with a wistful air, a meandering, exquisitely-wrought melody and a dreamy sense of longing and love.

You can read my full review of the song at Now This is Music 46.


“Take Me Up” by Coleman Hell


Coleman Hell (image via official Coleman Hell Facebook page)
Coleman Hell (image via official Coleman Hell Facebook page)


An elevating mix of “hip-hop, electronic, and pop music” (Earmilk), “Take Me Up” passionately and foot-tappingly, hand-clappingly waxes lyrical about those sweet spots in life where you have done the whole “darkest before the dawn” thing and emerged out into the breathless possibilities of a new place in your life.

You get the sense that Coleman Hell has journeyed to that dark, tough and painful place and come out the other side, with the song, which bounces along on a wave of keyboard-driven euphoria and more than a hint of cloud-nine-ish brio and joy, and which reflects the Torontorian’s ability to switch genres with consummate ease, an affirmation that life isn’t just darkness and disappointment.

You can read the full review at Now This is Music 48.



“Peanut Butter Jelly” by Galantis


Galantis (image via official Galantis Facebook page)
Galantis (image via official Galantis Facebook page)


Now this, THIS IS FUN!

How could you expect a song called “Peanut Butter Jelly” not to be?

The fourth single from the debut album Pharmacy (2015) of Swedish dance duo Galantis (Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklöw), it surges with an intense, irresistible danceability that will have you not just dancing around like an uncaring fool, but jumping up and down when simply moving your feet to the rhythm seems insufficient.

You can review my full review of the song at Now This is Music #54.



“Seventeen” by sjowgren


sjowgren (image via official sjowgren Facebook page)
sjowgren (image via official sjowgren Facebook page)


Hailing from the Bay Area, sjowgren describe themselves on Medium as “Three friends making music for fun”.

And never were truer words committed to social media.

“Seventeen” is all surfy, sunny, harmony-rich guitar-driven indie pop that will have you not just dancing but pogosticking like mad if there’s even a hint of a rhythm-seeking bone in your body.

You can the full review of the song at Now This is Music #54.



“Clenched Teeth” by Okay Kaya


Okay Kaya (image via I D Vice)
Okay Kaya (image via I D Vice)


Hailing from Norway, but now quite happily ensconced in the musically-rich creative atmosphere of NYC, Okay Kaya has crafted a delicately-beautiful song with some real emotional heft.

“Clenched Teeth”, as she told Dazed Digital, is all about “The song is just about laying next to someone and drifting off into a lucid dream where they’re finally able to confess everything to you through clenched teeth.”

So a reluctant confessional if you will, set to music that is at once ethereally fey but also robustly meaningful, matching the ruminative, mind-wandering nature of the lyrics to a tee.

You can read my full review of the song at Now This is Music #56.



“The Dreamer” by Anna of the North


Anna of the North (Photo: Ole Martin Halvorsen via official Anna of the North Facebook page)
Anna of the North Photo: Ole Martin Halvorsen via official Anna of the North Facebook page)

The Dreamer” starts off, appropriately enough, in an understated dreamlike fashion, the melody sneaking in under Norwegian singer Anna of the North’s almost whispered plaintive vocal, before kicking off at a loping light-synth driven clip that gathers pace in time with the lyrical urgency.

For all its ethereal underpinnings, and they are there in might force, feyness be damned, “The Dreamer” isn’t some ode to a lazy summer’s day with friends, or a harmless feckless youth more inclined to imagining than actually doing.

No what this magnificent slice of Scandinavian indie pop does, in common with many of its brethren who marvellously balance between light and dark, is talk about how even when a relationship is over, one that has understandably dominated your heart, life and art, there’s still an almost realisation that “it’s not about you anymore”.

You can read my full review of the song at Now This is Music #58.



“Alright” by The Magic Gang


The Magic Gang (Photo by Emma Viola Lilja via official The Magic Gang Facebook page)
The Magic Gang (Photo by Emma Viola Lilja via official The Magic Gang Facebook page)


Tempting though it might be to imagine this is the band Harry Potter and the gang formed after they left Hogwarts, four piece band The Magic Gang, all jangly guitars, beguiling harmonies, and crunchy, delectable melodies with just the right hint of ’60s retro melancholy, actually hail from Brighton, England where they are in the business of bringing some irrepressible loveliness to the often emotionally messy business of love.

Injecting unexpectedly downcast introspection into a song that sounds like an ice cream-and-laughter day at the beach, The Magic Gang capture the balance inherent in almost every aspect of the human experience – happy and sad, contentment and a little doubt, confidence and uncertainty.

You can read my full review of the song at Now This is Music #51.



Want to listen to the 50 biggest pop hits of the year but you simply don’t have the time? Fear not for DJ Earworm has handily mashed them altogether in his annual bringing together of pop goodness.



And incase you were wondering who the 20 best new bands of 2015 were – yeah I have trouble keeping up too; there’s so much great music out there – Paste Magazine is here to help you.

You’re welcome.

On holidays in space … wish you were here: iambit’s Postcards From Space take you out of this world

(image (c) Ryan Brinkerhoff/iambit Gallery via io9)
(image (c) Ryan Brinkerhoff/iam8bit Gallery via io9)


Ah space, the final vacation frontier.

Who wouldn’t want to get away to all those wide open spaces, those endless starlit nights, those plants teeming with fun and adventure.

(For the purposes of this giddily happy intergalactic holiday post, let’s pretend that things like Alien xenomorphs and Imperial Stromtroopers aren’t around to harsh out vacay bliss.)

While it may be possible in real life just yet, the good people at iam8bit Gallery have asked 40 talented artists what a postcard from a host of fictional planets might look like, and the results are spectacularly good, and a whole heap of fun!

Book me in for the 8 planet, warp 10 tour of the galaxy please and hold the Cylons!

You can check out the full collection here.

(source: io9)


(image (c) Gabriel Bautista/iam8bit Gallery via io9)
(image (c) Gabriel Bautista/iam8bit Gallery via io9)


(image (c) Bwana Spoons/iam8bit Gallery via io9)
(image (c) Bwana Spoons/iam8bit Gallery via io9)


(image (c) Marko Manev/ia8bit Gallery via io9)
(image (c) Marko Manev/ia8bit Gallery via io9)


(image (c) Marco D'Alfonso/iam8bit Gallery via io9)
(image (c) Marco D’Alfonso/iam8bit Gallery via io9)

Re-heating the popcorn: The 10 movies I loved most in 2015

Reheating the popcorn MAIN

I really should live in a cinema.

One also equipped with wall-to-wall bookcases, a Sonos sound system and a TV that broadcasts cable, free-to-air and streaming services, but a cinema nonetheless.

Not because of my ever-growing popcorn and choc top addiction – this is probably not the place to discuss that – but because I love seeing movies.

Many, MANY movies.

Which makes picking just 10 favourites in one year an almost impossible Herculean task, a decision of Solomonic proportions that doesn’t get easier every year.

Still I have managed to complete this task and yes, cheated just a little bit by throwing in a number of runners-up too.

* Please note that I have picked movies that came out in Australia this year rather than simply on the year they were officially released, and that they are no particular order within the two sections.




(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


Life is a messy business and we rarely handle it or the passage of time quite as elegantly and cleanly as we would like.

Sils Maria, starring the consistently wonderful Juliet Binoche and Kristen Stewart, who has put Twilight far behind with this impressive performance alone, is a powerful film that examines what happens when the past and the present collide and all sorts of uncomfortable truths are revealed.

Here’s my full reviews of Sils Maria.



Star Wars: The Force Awakens


(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


They say you can never go back but what about if going back involves leaping forward to events in a galaxy far far away and a long time ago? Surely that’s OK right?

In the case of the long-awaited Star Wars sequel, which leaves the poorly-executed prequels in the galactic dust, with Jar Jar Binks’ corpse hopefully floating among it, it’s not simply alright but utterly transportively magnificent, a triumph of nostalgia revived and the future reawakened.

Here’s my full review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.





(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


If you’re going to confront the demons and mistakes of your past, then it’s a good idea if you’re played by Lily Tomlin who has the acting chops to carry off a central role that requires, ballsiness, humour and a willingness to let some much-needed vulnerability creep in sometimes.

Another film about time catching up with you and refusing to take “no” for an answer, Grandma gently but firmly reminds you that you will at some point in the future have to pay the piper and it’s how you do that that will define you.

Here’s my full review of Grandma.



Inside Out


(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


If it’s even possible, given how perfectly-realised pretty much all their movies are, Pixar surpassed themselves with this funny, poignant, heartbreakingly self-aware look inside the mind of a young girl, and by extension all of us.

It leaves you clapping with gleeful insight, revelling in the perfectly-realised characters and the colourfully neurological world they inhabit, and laughing even as you cry.

Wonderful, just gloriously wonderful.





(image via Fliks)
(image via Fliks)


Romantic love is generally a glorious thing, replete with promise, excitement, a sense of companionship and the creation of a world occupied by and perfectly-suited to just two people.

But when that love runs headlong into tradition, the results are not always as overwhelmingly positive as young lovers might think it will be and the consequences unknowable and potentially tragic.

Here’s my full review of Tanna.



The Martian


The Martian movie review MAIN


Anchored by a tour de force performance by Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded alone on Mars, a plane not exactly known for its hospitable environment, The Martian is warm, witty, nail-bitingly tense, self-deprecating and clever, managing to make a film with an inevitably happy ending still radiate with tension and a sense of unknowingness.

Here’s my full review of The Martian.



People Places Things


(image via Visit Films)
(image via Visit Films)


Right so life hands you lemons so you’re not supposed to make lemonade right?

Well if you’re aspiring author Will Henry, divorced with two daughters and an uncertain view of the future, you make lemonade sure, very funny lemonade but you do with sadness, vulnerability and a stumbling sense of finding your way forward that makes People Places Things relatable for anyone with a pulse.

Here’s my full review of People Places Things.



Mad Max Fury Road


(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


We love our dystopian view of the future.

Not living in them ourselves no, but watching other people try to eke out an existence in them? Well, sure.

And Mad Max Fury Road, part of a franchise I was aware of but not in love it, is one of the finest views of a harsh and bleak future to come across my path in many a long year.


Here’s my full review of Mad Max Fury Road.



The Peanuts Movie


(image via Teaser-Trailer (c) Peanuts/Blue Sky)
(image via Teaser-Trailer (c) Peanuts/Blue Sky)


Nostalgia isn’t worth much if all you do is retread what came before.

Thankfully The Peanuts Movie does more than simply make us feel warm-and-fuzzy about the greatest comic strip ever, by deftly evoking the past while setting a course for a bright and zeitgeist-worthy future.

Here’s my full review of The Peanuts Movie.



Infinitely Polar Bear


(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)


Life is complicated enough without having mental illness thrown into the mix.

But as this witty, real, heartbreakingly honest and hopeful film reminds us, mental illness is not some kind of doom-laden death sentence but rather another way of living life that is challenging and hard but not impossible.

Here’s my full review of Infinitely Polar Bear.



And here … drum roll please (with a Jaffa or two thrown down the aisle for effect), are the 20 runners up …


The Dressmaker

Queens and Cowboys



The Visit

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Love & Mercy


A Most Violent Year

Ex Machina

Ricki and the Flash

Shaun the Sheep

Love is Strange 



Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

The Mafia Kills Only in Summer

Mr. Holmes



Want all of 2015’s movie trailers in one easily-viewable video? You got it!



And here are the year’s best and worse movie posters as decreed by EW and the 11 best indie ones as decided by Indiewire.

My favourite? Joy. Simple, evocative, beautiful.


(image via Coming Soon)
(image via Coming Soon)

Merry pop culture Christmas to all … and to all a good movie-watching, TV-bingeing, music-listening, book-reading night

(image (c) and Via Geek and Sundry)
(image (c) and via Geek and Sundry)


It’s Christmas time again and that means, as you well know, that it’s some time for festive pop culture fun.

Actually, pop culture fun is a year round things and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for sticking around and reading the many posts hat have popped up over the last 365 years.

I appreciate your time and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year …

Along with the wish that your neighbour might build a Star wars TIE fighter out of Christmas lights on his house.


If anything will awaken the Force, it's this fantastic set of lights by Imgur user Guitarfarts (image via Laughing Squid)
If anything will awaken the Force, it’s this fantastic set of lights by Imgur user Guitarfarts (image via Laughing Squid)


Or even go the whole hog and do an entirely brilliant choreographed Star Wars display to raise money for charity as music director Tom BetGeorge does each year.



That Rashida Jones and Jimmy Fallon,a long with Queen Latifah and Eric Nally will serenade you with seasonal parodies of popular songs.



Or that you’ll be serenaded by Terry Crew’s incredibly expressive pecs in this Brooklyn Nine-Nine festive promo.



That the dystopian characters from Mad Max: Fury Road might take some time out from fighting and scrabbling for precious resources to enjoy some festive cheer, courtesy of Etsy artist P. J. McQuade.


(image (c) P J McQuade via Digital Spy))
(image (c) P J McQuade via Digital Spy)


That you won’t end up like poor Elvin Snowdin who in an act of democratic bravery releases Santa’s Naughty List Online in Alisha & Scott’s delightful stop motion parody of Citizenfour (source: Indiewire)



That you’ll have some time to enjoy Christmas specials such as this year’s Doctor Who effort – hopefully way better than the uneven season 9 that has preceded it – which features, as Den of Geek reminds us, the return of Alex Kingston’s River Song.



And that you not only get to dream of a “White Christmas” but can do so on Hoth with Luke Skywalker and Frank Sinatra.


And take some time to enjoy a Night Before Christmas with a difference with the ladies of Orange is the New Black



Merry Christmas to all and to all a Cookie Monster Christmas tree by Reddit user Enhydra-lutris (just one of many fantastic pop culture-friendly festive efforts thank to Uproxx).


(image via Reddit user Enhydra-lutris)
(image via Reddit user Enhydra-lutris)