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This new series from J.J. Abrams (creator of Alias, Lost, and director of the new Star Trek movie) follows the work of FBI agent Olivia Dunham and her team as they investigate strange goings-on that all seem to be part of the same 'pattern'. This show is very much a modern X-Files. Most of the storylines could have come from that iconic show, and there is an overarching plot (the aforementioned 'pattern') much like the overarching 'alien invasion' plot which ran through The X-Files. These are strong storylines. My only problem with the show is the cast. Anna Torv plays Agent Dunham and she has only one expression that she use throughout, which I can only really describe as 'pained'. Her main sidekick, Peter Bishop, is played by Joshua Jackson who looks, sounds and acts just like he did as Pacey in Dawson's Creek all those years ago. Despite this the plots are strong and makes the show worth watching. I am currently on the 7th episode of the first season and am still enjoying it and plan to continue watching, so that is definitely a positive.
On Saturday evening I went to see the new TRANSFORMERS movie. I remember seeing the first one and thinking that it was 'alright, but nothing special'. I was hoping for at least a similar feeling from this one, but I was sadly disappointed. There are so many things wrong with this film. Let's start with the acting - Megan Fox has been blasted by the director Michael Bay for saying that the Transformers films are 'not about acting' but I have to say that I agree with her from the point of view of an audience member - the acting was not good. Shia Lebouf has been good in other things I have seen him in but here was poor, and the only good thing about Fox was her looks. Special effects were great, but cannot make an enjoyable 2 1/2 hour film alone. The story was poor and was really nothing that hasn't been seen in numerous action/adventure movies over the years. The characters are ciphers, only existing to take us from one explosion/fight to another. There are far too many 'comedy characters' - Lebouf's parents, their dogs, a comedy robot duo - and sadly despite the plethora of them, they don't really bring much humour to the film, just embarrassment. The only thing I can say about this film really is stay away - it's rubbish.
Little introduction is needed to the band THE BEATLES, of course. I have to say that they are one of my favourite pop groups, if not my favourite of all time (they are no competition to Elvis Presley of course, he was an individual singer rather than a group). The Beatles had a huge influence on all pop music ever since, even though they split as a band in 1970. This album, WITH THE BEATLES, was originally released back in 1963 and features some of their classic songs. This was before SGT. PEPPER, before psychedelia, before the band focussed on making ALBUMS. Instead, this is a collection of songs, rather than a concept piece, and is all the better for it. The album features some of my favourite Beatles songs. IT WON'T BE LONG and ALL MY LOVING are real toe-tappers, and in addition to the Lennon-McCartney songs on the album are a collection of cover versions, such as MONEY and ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN. These remind us that in their early days the band were a real rock-and-roll band, playing standards from the genre. I really like this album and commend it to anyone with any interest in The Beatles.
I was really looking forward to seeing the new TERMINATOR movie. I have been a fan of these movies since the very first one, back in the mid-1980s, and when Terminator 2 came out in 1991 I truly believed that it was the best movie I had ever seen. Terminator 3 was nowhere near as good - mainly because of the inclusion of too much humour, but the downbeat ending was excellent. It was with high hopes that I went into see Salvation. Although it was directed by McG, whose previous films I don't really rate, it starred Christian Bale (often described as 'the best actor of his generation') and the trailers really had me thinking that this could be something special. Sadly I was disappointed. The story wasn't grea, and this is probably because to me Terminator movies are about time-travel, and this film featured none of that. Bale's performance was one-note, and the brief appearance of Linda Hamilton's voice as his character's mum, Sarah Connor, was pointless - it didn't even sound like her. Also, a brief appearance from Arnie didn't help the film - it simply proved to me that a Terminator movie without him in the main role is not really a Terminator movie. I can't really recommend this film to Terminator fans, and that is a sad thing for me to say. Just dig out your DVDs of the first 2 movies and watch them again instead.
In 1969 Elvis returned to live performances for the first time since 1961. This was a direct result of his 1968 TV show known as 'Comeback Special' where he performed to an audience for the first time since '61 and got a real thrill out of it. He immediately made arrangements to perform in Las Vegas in 1969. This season was so successful he returned there year after year until his sad death in 1977. His record company, RCA, had really seen how great Elvis' live performances were and so during his residency in Vegas in February 1970 they recorded lots of the songs and created this album to reflect how wonderful Elvis was at the time. There are some real gems on this album which really show how well Elvis was singing at this time. THE WONDER OF YOU and POLK SALAD ANNIE, two of my favourite Elvis songs EVER, really rock in these versions, and less known songs such as WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES and PROUD MARY (the later made famous by Creedence Clearwater Revival) are also fantastic. The only sour note is his performance of a Beatles medley featuring YESTERDAY and HEY JUDE. I've heard a number of recordings of Elvis singing Beatles songs, including SOMETHING, and have never really rated his versions, and so it is here. The truth is that whenever I listen to this album I always skip this track, pretending that it never happened in the first place! Overall this is a fantastic album - Elvis is performing at his best, and the song choices are great (apart from the aforementioned Beatles medley). If you have any interest in Elvis at all then you MUST own this album!
Now this is more like it. My previous review was of an album Elvis Presley's record label produced called ELVIS - INSPIRATIONAL but where the track listing was in fact anything but. With the album ULTIMATE GOSPEL though they got it exactly right - the title 'INSPIRATIONAL' should have been used for this album instead. It is no secret that Elvis' loved gospel music, although this was a shock in the 1950s to those who first came to him through his rebellious rock and roll music. However over the years he recorded a number of great performances of wonderful gospel songs, and indeed his only Grammy award was for a gospel album. ULTIMATE GOSPEL collects together a large collection of these gospel recordings. My favourite songs on the album are HE TOUCHED ME and HIS HAND IN MINE - I really feel that I can experience Elvis' strong spiritual feelings when listening to these songs. AN EVENING PRAYER is less successful, although most of the other songs are of as high a quality as the previous 2 songs I mentioned. If you want to hear some inspirational Elvis music, go for this album instead of the one called INSPIRATIONAL.
During his musical career Elvis Presley recorded almost 1000 songs and these have been collected into numerous compilation albums by his record companies over the years since his death in 1977. This particular set is called INSPIRATIONAL and presumably the idea of the studio was to release a compilation of his most inspiration songs and/or performances. Whilst I have no problem with this as an idea, the song selection if quite odd if this is the case. Although all of the performances are sound, many of them are not what I'd call 'inspirational' - I've never felt particular 'inspired' by Elvis' performance of DANNY BOY for example. Some might say "well these are religious songs and that's why they are inspirational" but that's not the case either - IN THE GHETTO and MAMA LIKED THE ROSES, although good songs, are not remotely religious. So what are we left with? A selection of good songs and good performances, supposedly grouped by a theme, but the theme is non-existent. Buy it if you like the songs but don't expect a coherent track listing.
This 2-CD set, entitled SPECIAL COLLECTOR'S EDITION, is an important one to own if you are a fanatical Elvis admirer. The first CD is a collection of Elvis interviews and broadcasts taken from all eras of Elvis' career, including some from the 1950s, such as a very interesting one from 1957 recorded in Elvis' hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. The most interesting to me is the recording of Elvis' press conference from 1972, prior to recording his show at Madison Square Gardens - Elvis is in good humour in this press conference and as this performance is one of my favourites, hearing his words beforehand is quite interesting. The second CD is a collection of Elvis' live performances on the Louisiana Hayride roadshow in the 1950s. These are audience recordings and are not of great quality, but it is really useful to hear Elvis singing live in this period - it is not hard to understand how the world fell for such a thriving, energetic performer. This CD is currently available from Amazon for less than £2 and I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in Elvis Presley.
FROM THE WAIST UP is the third volume in a set of 3, called ELVIS - THE GREAT PERFORMANCES. This is a documentary, narrated by Bono from the rock band U2, who is a fanatical Elvis fan himself. The footage featured on the DVD tells the story of Elvis' rise to fame over a period of 12 months in the mid-1950s and features material from many of his television appearances from the time, including appearances on the Dorsey Brothers show, and culminating in his performances from Ed Sullivan's Show. This is a great collection of performances and really show how revolutionary Elvis was at the time. His performances really rock, as does his stage presence, and it is not hard to imagine all of the teenagers of the time going over the moon over him. There is not a duff performances amongst the lot, and although Bono's narration occasionally grates this does not take away from the enjoyment of the documentary.
EASY COME, EASY GO and SPEEDWAY were two of the Elvis films which came out towards the end of his movie career, in 1967 and 1968 respectively. Elvis had become very bored with the limpid storylines and poor music he was expected to sing in these movies and it was later in 1968 that would come his Comeback Special (a TV show) which would re-establish him as a rocker of the first order. This CD features the music from these 2 films and it is mostly not good. Rumour has it that the appalling YOGA IS AS YOGA DOES was written on the orders of Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, as a response to Elvis' then current love, yoga - Parker didn't like the spiritual aspects of the technique. Unfortunately Elvis went along with singing the song, which is not a good one. The best song from the EASY COME EASY GO selection is LEAVE MY WOMAN ALONE, which is a cover of a Ray Charles song. The songs from SPEEDWAY are a little better, mainly because Elvis was co-starring against Nancy Sinatra, who he had something of a crush on (although not as much as Ann-Margret a few years before) and this inspired him, if only a little. The title song is a rocking tune and SUPPOSE has Elvis in fine form. This is an OK album with some OK songs, but be prepared for some songs of lower quality too.
By 1968 Elvis Presley had spent almost a decade making movies. If you were an Elvis fan you were not able to see him live on stage, instead if you wanted to see him perform you had to go to see him at the cinema. The vast majority of these movies were not good, but they all made money - mainly because they were cheap to make, and Elvis had millions of fans who would go and see him in anything. In 1968 someone at NBC came up with the bright idea of giving Elvis his own Christmas show. Elvis agreed, but didn't want to do a cheesy Christmas special - he wanted to do something more substantial. This CD is music from that show, which has since become known as the '68 COMEBACK SPECIAL. The music is a revelation to anyone who only knows Elvis' music from the movies. Around this time he was singing songs like OLD MACDONALD in his movies, which was not good, but here you get songs like GUITAR MAN and IF I CAN DREAM. There are also live versions of some of his classics like HEARTBREAK HOTEL and HOUND DOG. There is a rawness to his sound - mainly because he hadn't performed live since 1961 and he found himself really enjoying himself. This TV special is an important point in the life and career of The King of Rock and Roll, and if you like him you MUST own this CD.
During the 1960s Elvis Presley didn't perform live on stage like he had in the 1950s and later would in the 1970s. Instead if his fans wanted to see him perform they had to go to see the movies he made, which were poor in comparison to his live performances. The storylines were often turgid, and the songs were, more often than not, pretty poor too. This CD features music from two of these 1960s movies - SPINOUT, from 1966, and DOUBLE TROUBLE, from 1967. None of the songs featured here are essential Elvis tracks, although both title tracks are reasonable fun. There is very poor material here though, including such dire songs as SMORGASBORD (where Elvis is singing about liking lots of different types of girls, like a 'smorgasbord' features lots of different types of food), and even an absolutely appalling version of the children's song OLD MACDONALD. This is only an essential purchase if you are an Elvis fan who feels the need to own all of the songs he ever recorded (like me). If you are not such an obsessive fan then you can pass this CD by.
As with all of Elvis Presley's music it can be quite daunting to know where to start - his albums have been re-released over and over again, and a great many compilation albums have also been created. If you are wanted to listen to his gospel music though, you can't go far wrong with buying this 4 CD set called I BELIEVE - THE GOSPEL MASTERS. This features all of the studio-recorded gospel music Elvis recorded during his lifetime, with an additional disc featuring the gospel music he recorded for his movies, his 1968 TV show (commonly referred to as the 'Comeback Special'), his live shows from the 1970s, and even some informal home recordings of gospel songs. This is a fantastic set and buying this will mean that you would never need any other gospel release from the Elvis Presley catalogue. Songs such as HOW GREAT THOU ART and CRYING IN THE CHAPEL are wonderful gospel songs, and even those which are of a lower quality, such as the little-known LIFE have the exuberance which Elvis brought to all of his recordings. This set is a must-have and comes highly recommended by this Elvis fan.
LAS VEGAS is one of the most fun cities in the USA. I went there a couple of years ago and didn't really expect to like it, thinking it would be really tacky and horrible. The funny thing is that although it is really tacky, it wasn't horrible in the least. Yes the whole purpose of Vegas is to make people gamble their money away. There are casinos everywhere, and all of the shows are used as a draw to get people into the casinos. But once you accept this then you have no problem. I didn't have much of a gambling budget and forced myself to not go over my budget and although it was really tempting I managed to stick to this. I did see some shows - nothing with famous names as they are so expensive, but I did see a magic show and a Rat pack tribute show. Both were OK, nothing special, but a fun way to spend the evening. I really enjoyed Vegas and am looking forward to going back again - this time with a higher gambling budget!
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1960, PSYCHO is a classic thriller which should be seen by everyone who loves movies. It initially seems to be telling the story of Marion Crane, a secretary who steals some money from her boss and drives off to join her boyfriend to set up a new life. However approxiately 40 minutes into the film the narrative takes a dark turn, which I won't reveal here in case you, dear reader, have never seen the film before, but which totally shakes up the story. It is at this point that we meet Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, one of the scariest movie villains of all time. Out of all of Hitchcock's movies this is my favourite. It is as if all of his powers and abilities came together at once and he produced a true classic which deserves to be watched. Whatever you do though, watch this original version and avoid the appalling remake from the late 1990s, for which I can see no purpose. In addition to the remake this film was followed by 2 movie sequels and a TV movie sequel which also serves as a prequel. All have moments of quality but none come anywhere near the power of this original film. Watch it!