2018 end of year favourites (TV and Film)

28 12 2018

Here are some of my favourite film and TV events from 2018.

A Ghost Story

Released in 2017, but first bought by me this year, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is by far my favourite film of the year.

A lot of people seem to have been put off by the pace of the film (especially THAT scene) but for me this is one of the highlights. The slow pace, and periods of everyday life add to the feeling of reality, which makes the loss and grief all the more palpable.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are perfectly cast, and offer sympathetic portrayals of their characters. The soundtrack by Daniel Hart adds so much depth to the film, which is one I have returned to regularly this year.

Buy A Ghost Story on Amazon

Threads (remastered)

First broadcast in September 1984 on BBC2, Threads is the most harrowing depiction of nuclear war ever committed to film.

Written by Barry Hines and directed by Mick Jackson, Threads covers the growing tension in the weeks leading up to war, the attack itself and the bleak years of nuclear winter that follow.

The major nations nuclear weapons are even more powerful today, but I still think this film should be shown to all world leaders to give them a glimpse into what they would unleash by pressing that button.

This 2-disc set presents the original film remastered in 2k from the original BBC prints. It is available in HD on Blu-Ray for the very first time in the UK, and includes the world premiere of the director-approved widescreen edition. It’s difficult to watch, but Threads is a piece of British TV history.

Buy Threads (remastered) on Amazon


Hereditary is the directorial debut from Ari Aster, and there is not much I can say about the film without dishing out major plot spoilers, but the film has the feel of the classic 70s horror flicks, which is always a good thing in my eyes.

Buy Hereditary on Amazon

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water features Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon in a story that seems to reference 1950’s creature movies, particularly Creature from the Black Lagoon, and is a surprisingly moving experience. The visuals are stunning and for once, the monster is not the enemy.

Buy The Shape of Water on Amazon

Killing Eve

Killing Eve was broadcast at the same time as Bodyguard, and although it did not achieve the same attention in the press, I found it to be the more rewarding and enjoyable of the two Autumn TV dramas.

I loved the dry, emotionless portrayal of the assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) alongside the equally strong performance from Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri.

Buy Killing Eve on Amazon

Black Mirror (Season 4)

Season 4 was a strong collection – with my favourites being the Jodie Foster directed Arkangel and Hang the DJ which is up there with San Junipero (from Season 3) as Black Mirror highlights for me.

I’m writing this with my head in a mess after watching the premiere of Bandersnatch, the first interactive (and a rare feature length) Black Mirror episode.

Hopefully we will get a new, full series of Black Mirror in 2019.

Buy Black Mirror Season 4 on Amazon

The Deuce Season 2

Season 2 of HBO’s The Deuce was set in the years 1977 -1978, so the series had a wonderful, mostly new wave and disco, soundtrack along with a new theme tune, a re-imagining of This Year’s Girl by Elvis Costello with Natalie Bergman on co-vocals.

Season 2 saw some of the characters becoming more independent and powerful, but also saw three main characters die. The third and final season of The Deuce will hopefully air in September 2019.

Season 2 is now available on bluray. Season 1 is also available here.

Here’s to a great year of film and TV in 2019. You can read my 2018 end of year music favourites here.

2017 end of year favourites

23 12 2017

I haven’t done this for a few years, but here are my favourite music, tv and film releases from 2017.

Top 5 new albums

In no particular order:

Paul Draper — Spooky Action

Spooky Action from former Mansun mainman Paul Draper is a strong debut album. The songs are ambitious, a mix of new wave and alternative with a slight hint of prog. Whilst the album has hints of Drapers old band, it does not trade off nostalgia.

Tracks such as Don’t Poke The Bear and Friends Make The Worst Enemies are angry and highlight Paul Drapers powerful vocals. Jealousy Is A Powerful Emotion breaks new sonic ground for Draper, and is an album highlight.

The contribution of Catherine AD aka The Anchoress  to Spooky Action is noticeable and welcome.

Tim Bowness – Lost In The Ghost Light

2017 saw the release of the Tim’s 4th solo album, and my favourite to date. You can read my full review here.

The most progressive sounding release so far from the no-man vocalist, the album has a concept built around the onstage and backstage reflections of a fictional ‘classic’ Rock musician in the twilight of his career.

My favourite track on the album is one of my most played songs of the year, the haunting Nowhere Good To Go.

CousteauX – by CousteauX

The comeback of the year for me. Rising from the ashes of the late 90s band Cousteau, CousteauX take the Bowie-esque vocals of Liam McKahey and the razor sharp song-writing of Davey Ray Moor to new levels. Whilst retaining the charm of the original band, CousteauX have added a much more powerful and darker hue to their new songs.

Read my full review here.

Fader — First Light

A real surprise this one. The album crept up on me after two or three listens and it has remained a favourite throughout the year. Fader are Neil Arthur (Blancmange) and Benge (John Foxx & The Maths / Gazelle Twin).

First Light is a very low-fi electronic album containing one of my favourite songs of the year in Launderette. Apparently a “very British take on the solitary mood of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks”, this brooding, pulsating piece of electronica is timeless.

Read my full review here.

Hannah Peel – Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia

A mostly instrumental album, Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia has picked up new fans as the year has progressed. One for fans of Mike Oldfield, John Foxx and Jean Michel Jarre, its a very moving album. The mixture of synths and a (real) brass band works surprisingly well, and Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia is one of those albums that you should listen to in one sitting, in the correctly sequenced order. Turn off your shuffle!

Read my full review here.

Honourable mentions

Other albums that I have loved in 2017

My favourite progressive album of the year was White Willow – Future Hopes. Dropping the metal leanings of earlier albums, and adding a wonderfully colourful warm palette, Future Hopes is a synth lovers dream. My favourite track on the album is the gentle Silver And Gold. Read my full review here.

Destroyer – ken was released quite late in 2017, and is still seeping into my heart. Destroyer are definitely a marmite band – but I’m a huge fan. ken feels like a love song to the electronica of bands such as New Order. Just listen to the way the synths sweep in on opening track Sky’s Grey. An album for fans who enjoy uneasy listening!

Atone by White Moth Black Butterfly is a very commercial progressive / pop album from members of the bands TesseracT and Skyharbor. Delicate vocals (reminding me of the late George Michael at times) sit atop sweeping orchestral decorated songs.

There are some really strong performances and clever production touches to this fine album. At times I am also reminded of This Mortal Coil in some of the arrangements and reverb-heavy keyboard treatments.

Atone is on its way to becoming one of my favourite albums of the year.

The first album from Cigarettes After Sex might only have one gear – a slow gear – but I have grown to really love this album. I adore the guitar sound – sort of like The Cure mixed with I’m In Love With A German Film Star. The lyrics are intriguing, if slightly pervy and the Twin Peaks vibe makes for a rewarding listen.

Favourite re-issues

David Bowie’s A New Career In A New Town (1977 – 1982) covers my favourite Bowie era (the “Berlin” trilogy). Apart from the dreadful error with the Heroes album (I’m still waiting for my replacement disc, record company grrrr) I’m happy with this box-set. Its great having the Moroder version of Cat People (Putting Out Fire) and the full Baal EP on CD, plus the Tony Visconti re-mix of Lodger is fascinating and very different from the original.

The 30th anniversary re-issue of Scalywag Jaz by Thomas Lang brings all the associated tracks from the period, plus live recordings and a couple of new songs, into one package. Its a great value, definitive release for one of the finest albums of the 80s.

Read my full review here.

I also think the remaster of Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac deserves a mention at this point. The deluxe version includes some fascinating (high quality) demos, 12″ mixes plus the main album has never sounded so good. Big Love from me for this 2017 reissue. I’m so sorry.

TV and Film

My favourite film in 2017 (although the film was released in 2016 I caught it on bluray this year) was Nocturnal Animals.  Produced and directed by Tom Ford, and starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon, this psychological thriller kept me in a state of unease until the very end of the film.

The TV event of the year for me was by far Twin Peaks: The Return or as it is billed on the bluray, Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. I was a fan of the original series when it aired on TV in 1990, then fell in love with it again watching the series on its DVD re-issue many years later. I had high hopes for the new series, but after the initial nostalgia fuelled first few minutes, it was clear that Twin Peaks: The Return was going to surpass the original.

It wasn’t perfect, but then neither is life. There were entire sections and episodes that frustrated and baffled, but they were out-weighed by the visceral brutality of some of the characters (new and old) and their actions. This new series took me to places both wonderful and strange, and if this is the end of the Twin Peaks story, I’m so happy that we got to witness the return.

Episode 8 – watched in the early hours (the time it was broadcast in the UK), was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I have ever had. I simply could not believe what I was watching, and I went to work shortly afterwards with a mixture of euphoria and confusion.

As well as the bluray of The Return, there are also two fascinating books from Mark Frost (The Secret History of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier) to help fill in the blanks and the missing years. What a fine way to spend your Christmas vouchers!

My other favourite TV series of 2017 was HBO’s Big Little Lies. The series starred Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern, and kept the dark, brutal secret that rumbled through the entire series out of sight to the very end.

Finally, my favourite TV re-issue from 2017 was the blu-ray of Hammer House of Horror: The Complete Series.  The high definition remaster of the ITV series from 1980 features 13 spine-tingling stories starring Peter Cushing, Diana Dors, Denholm Elliott and Brian Cox.

Here’s to a great year of music, film and TV in 2018.

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