Down Under Day

So, who wants to swig Fosters with me while I dance to Minogue music, watch Baz Luhrmann movies on a loop (only breaking for ‘Home & Away’) and warble along to Sia? You there, Muriel??

happy australia day

Happy Australia Day, folks! (Happy Monday to everyone else – including me cuz, well, I’m not Australian…)

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Going Down to the Bayou

So, I’m officially going to New Orleans next year – EEEEEK!

the princess and the frog

‘Excited’ is a word that doesn’t really do justice to my anticipation about tripping to what is a pretty mythical place for someone who has watched too many movies and read too many books. I’m aware of the historical and cultural significance of the place, and can’t wait to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a stone’s throw away from the Mississippi whilst sipping on some Hurricanes and listening to jazz. ARGH!

Time to re-watch ‘The Princess & the Frog’, flick through some dog-eared Anne Rice books, and start dreaming bad dreams starring Robert DeNiro as the Devil. Might order the entire boxset of ‘Treme’ too!

Anyone got any good tips for New Orleans movies, shows, books and music? I’ll devour it all!

Gaga: Pop Maverick or Art Pretender?

In 2010, I shelled out on eBay tickets for a Lady Gaga show in May when I’d seen her perform mere months before in the same city. Post-‘Bad Romance’, she had the pop world in her pocket and her bonkers but brilliant Monster Ball justified the hype: trashy, flashy, eccentric and exhausting, it was nevertheless a tour de force showcase of a premier pop talent. I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do next.

For me, this stretch in 2010 was Gaga’s defining pop moment; she may very well outdo herself and deliver on her promise in coming years, but nothing that has followed has topped Stefani’s ‘Fame Monster’ era. Unsurprisingly, for an artist who changes tack on a daily basis, there have been flashes of that brilliance in everything since – but just as many face-palm faux pas. The meat dress, the Madge ‘Born This Way’ controversy, the pretentious pre-hype waffle surrounding ‘Artpop’ – all of this and more has detracted from someone I still believe is (or at least has the potential to be) the great fucking pop juggernaut who threatened to dominate Planet Pop four/five years ago.

lady gaga artrave

Having skipped the ‘Born This Way’ ball in 2012, only a brief hesitation preceded my purchase of tickets to Gaga’s ‘Artrave’ tour in support of her least successful album to date, ‘Artpop’. Gaga’s pop pursuits have always had a touch of genius about them, with frequent clever references in debt to our pop culture DNA; however, my issue with ‘Artpop’ is that, while two-thirds of it (if not more) stands up as a solid pop album, the hyperbole would have had you thinking it was going to change the world. Gaga is great and her lofty ambitions are admirable, but a song like Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’ has previously blended pop sensibilities with artistic intentions a lot more skilfully than, say, an ‘Applause’ or R. Kelly duet. Therefore, the album couldn’t fail to disappoint.

That said, catching Gaga in a live environment was an exciting proposition after four years. Could the spectacle live up to the Monster Ball, or would the arty-farty pretensions get in the way?

Thankfully (and I’m sure the free-flowing, overpriced Birmingham NIA beer helped), Gaga’s ‘Artrave’ was a blast. Sure, there’s the semi-dressed dancers, multiple costume changes (everything from seashell bikinis to fishnets-and-bra combos) and all the other OTT frills one would expect, but it’s a blast of a pop concert and ‘Artpop’s overlooked coulda-been-singles sound better live than they do on record. ‘G.U.Y’ is an early highlight, as is the vintage triple-whammy of ‘Just Dance’, ‘Telephone’ and ‘Poker Face’ which is confidently dispensed with just a quarter of the way in.

artpop lady gaga

As ever though, she truly shines – and surprises – when the crazy pop façade is stripped and she sits at the piano. ‘Dope’ and ‘You & I’ display her strengths as a vocalist, and she does her gay pride thang during a piano-and-vox rendition of ‘Born This Way’ when she invites a young fan and his boyfriend to sit either side of her as she pounds the keys. She came in for criticism after ‘Born This Way’, with some of her gay fanbase not taking the song as a compliment and rather voicing their dislike that she’d ‘volunteered’ herself as their defender; her constant references to gay rights and other causes in interviews may come off as annoying, but it’s hard to question her sincerity as she reads the fan’s heartfelt letter then hugs him to her as she belts out her anthem to her little monsters.

The midsection shows off her musicianship, but pop thrill seekers get their money’s worth before the show wraps up. Things get dark and sexy with ‘Judas’, ‘Aura’ and ‘Alejandro’ before she gets all jazzy and pimps out her new Tony Bennett collaboration with her cover of ‘Bang Bang’. Then it’s time for the big finale, when she appears as a dayglo K-Pop raver and brings the house down with ‘Bad Romance’ (surely still one of the best pop singles of the millennium so far) and the off-the-wall ‘Swine’.

So, the consensus? Faith is restored. While the music isn’t exactly breaking boundaries but doing its perfectly fine job of making pop fans dance, the Lady’s formidable presence, charisma and talent (yep, believe it) means her future is still exciting to me. Who knows what she’ll come up with next?

Post-Comic Con Recon

So, now the geek dust has settled and San Diego costume shops have had their supply of superhero capes returned, it’s (perhaps past) time to reflect on the year’s biggest annual genre convention.

While there was nothing quite as awesome as last year’s impromptu Loki cosplay from Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston, there were some rather exciting announcements. Because I love lists – damn you, Buzzfeed! – here are the 15 things to emerge from SDCC ’14 that your McGeek is most excited about:

avengers 2

1. The new ‘Age of Ultron’ info, headed up by the insane poster above, is super news for fans of those super-sorts, The Avengers. Whedon, Downey, exciting new baddies – is it April 2015 yet?

2. Next year’s other Bigger-than-Big superhero team-up, ‘Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ revealed its feminine charms with shots of Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman cozzy. Wouldn’t it be funny if she kicks both their asses?!

3. The ‘Warcraft’ trailer. Never played it, doubt I ever will – but looks pretty epic!

4. Following its glowing reviews and major box office, it was announced that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is getting a sequel. Not too bad for a Marvel-lous gamble featuring a talking tree, huh?

5. Speaking of sequels, Gareth Edwards gets to play with his monster toybox some more with a second ‘Godzilla’ movie. After the somewhat muted reception to this year’s San Francisco-set rampage, maybe Edwards will deliver the monster movie to rule – and smash – all other monster movies with his second Godzilla outing.

6. Here’s some more sequel news for you – or sorta-sequel prequel news, anyway. King Kong’s prehistoric island home will be a destination for summer cinema audiences soon with a newly announced trip back to ‘Skull Island’. Joe Cornish is in the frame to direct.

7. Oh, and Christopher Nolan unveiled a new trailer for ‘Interstellar’. Thinkings, space travellers?

8. Summer means an impending new season of TV, so many of our favourites were in the frame. ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ happily gets a second season despite a tail-off in viewership, so with that we get rumours of new characters like super agent Mockingbird as well as new cast members, including Lucy Lawless and ‘Dollhouse’s Reed Diamond.

9. Keeping it Marvel, an interesting expansion of the property’s TV portfolio comes with a rebooted ‘Daredevil’ for can-do-no-wrong Netflix. Will the platform’s creative freedom allow for the edgy, dark incarnation that the Ben Affleck vehicle so sadly wasn’t??

10. Didn’t think Homer would ever meet Peter Griffin? Erm…

homer meets peter griffin

11. Still reeling from the second season finale of ‘Hannibal?’ The third course will be set a year after that shocking bloodbath – and, as a Bryan Fuller buff and avid fan of the show, I can’t wait to see who lives, who dies and what the cannibal concocts next. The Red Dragon himself, Francis Dolarhyde, is set to make an appearance. Nightmares at the ready.

12. TV/game crossovers can be tricky to get right (‘Defiance’ anyone?) but the news that the cast of ‘Firefly’ are reuniting for a new online game is just, well, SHINY. She keeps on flying… *happy sigh*

13. Sam Raimi, in attendance to announce ‘The Last of Us’ film adap, also teased a possible new ‘Evil Dead’ series with Bruce Campbell also possibly involved. Can post-watershed handle this?

14. Horror buffs can also look forward to a return-to-form Guillermo del Toro, who takes a pause from pitting robots against giant monsters to deliver in ‘Crimson Peak’ the type of elegant, scary-as-hell pic with which he first made his name. Jeepers creepers.

15. Finally, Christmas soon which means mince pies, Santa and one big ol’ present in the final (for now) trip to Middle-earth for Peter Jackson’s ‘Hobbit’ trilogy. Sniff.

Until next year! Someone buy me a ticket??

Glasto A-Go-Go

glastonbury

Although I’ve just returned off my jollies, I’ve already found myself wistfully thinking ‘This time last year…’ at least 81 times so far this week. That’s because, after my second trip to the hallowed fields of Worthy Farm last year, I am not currently hiccupping on cider at 2014’s Glastonbury Festival.

Last year, I was almost crippled by the Sunday and so missed must-see James Blake and was dazed and confused during my final headliner, Cat Power. This factored somewhat into my decision not to pitch up tent once again this year, as well as a lineup that is Glasto-levels strong but missing a next-level legend like Prince or Bowie. Of course, with curveballs like Dolly Parton and Metallica amongst the array of Top 40 acts, superstar DJs, hippies with guitars and madcap crazy acts you’ll find playing in something approaching a rabbit hole (in fact, there’s a stage called The Rabbit Hole!), there’s plenty to get excited about even if you’re not dashing around Michael Eavis’s backyard trying to catch five bands at once.

If, like me, you’ll be camped out in front of the TV all weekend (this is the REAL World Cup, yeah?) then the BBC is your best friend. My dream red button lineup includes Arcade Fire, Lykke Li, Warpaint, Blondie, James Blake, Jack White, MIA, John Grant, The 2 Bears, London Grammar, Lana Del Rey and so on and so forth… who will you be watching??

Geek On Tour

Normal geek service will resume week commencing 22nd June, but I’m off to sunny (hopefully) Majorca for a week.

My plan is for my body to be 90% pina colada and the wi-fi situation may be limited, so I’m basically off-grid. But I’m sure you’ll all be too busy listening to the new Lana, catching the final ‘Fargo’ or watching that football thing to care.

See you in a few!