About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

18 December 2014

Movie: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The final instalment of The Hobbit, starts with the spectacular sequence of Smaug burning down Laketown and his ultimate demise at the hand of the Bard. Unfortunately, this is also probably the only real highlight of the movie - a franchise that has strayed often too far from the story, and extended the plot line for no real reason. 

The entire movie is about a battle - but much of it feels forced and over the top for no reason. As an example, it feels strange that suddenly the emergence of the 13 dwarves would immediately turn around the fortunes of the Dwarven and Eleven sides against the thousands of Orcs - a battle that was clearly being lost. 

All in all, while being entertaining from an action movie perspective - the series has not risen to the heights of Lord of the Rings. It's sad - I think the Tolkien universe has a lot to offer - but not in this way.

15 December 2014

The Foo Fighters

In one of my classes in high school, I sat next to a guy who was Nirvana devotee - his pencil case was devoted to Kurt Cobain, he doodled Nirvana logos all the time, and etched Nirvana on desks. This was still a few years after Nirvana disbanded, but I was introduced to Nirvana and related bands such as Foo Fighters through him. Although I really got into Nirvana, I only occasionally listen to Foo Fighters; thus when the concerts were announced, I didn't rush to get tickets.

I did however read about their amazing concerts, and given that Kaiser Chiefs were also on the bill; I sourced some tickets via gumtree (at cost - so no scalpers prices required). The concert itself was sold out of standing and golden circle - but quite a lot of the stadium seating remained open.

I am glad I went - this was one of the best, if not the best, concert I have attended. It did not have pyrotechnic effects, or amazing lighting effects. It was just a long and energetic performance with amazing crowd rapport from Dave Grohl.

I have avoided parking at the FNB Stadium previously - but the park and ride options this time around were not ideal. The parking itself was easy to access, and well controlled; getting out however was a nightmare with very little co-ordination and control of traffic flow. Once inside the stadium, the food and merchandise stands were equally badly managed with long queues, so much so, that we ended up missing most of BLK JKS.

The last performance of Kaiser Chiefs I attended also involved Jared Leto's 30 Second to Mars, and featured Jared Leto climbing up scaffolding "to see the crowd better". Clearly front man Ricky Wilson (who also donned the Kaizer Chiefs jersey with his name on the back) learnt something - the performance was amazingly athletic; with him running across the stage, and climbing scaffolding a few times. I haven't heard much of the new album; but the performance was a combination of some of the great hits together with the new album and it was great to hear them live again.

After a couple of songs from the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl commented that they are not "a 1 hour 30 minute band, not a 1 hour 45 minute band ... not a 2 hour 30 minute band" but rather, they will play until they can't play no more. This is not a new claim by headline acts - but for once the band delivered. For close to 3 hours, with no breaks in between, the Foo Fighters went through their repertoire - songs from every album, a song from Queen, and even a song with Dave Grohl drumming (cover of a Cheap Trick song).

The performance was a perfect example in how the live performances can be so different (and in my mind better) than the recorded albums. From additional chorus renditions, to leading the crowd through singing choruses, to long musical interludes within the song - it was an amazing concert performance.

13 December 2014

Movie: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Of the three Hunger Games novels, Mockingjay is the most complicated - but I don't think it warranted a split into two parts; especially when the first part of the story is basically a set-up towards the finale. The acting is mostly mundane (including very wooden performances by actors such as Julianne Moore), and nothing really happens - although the experience does feel a bit short-changed. I think movies like these, should really be released close to each other, or just combined to be one large movie.

16 November 2014

Cape Town Tango Ensemble @ The Orbit

The Cape Town Tango Ensemble (or at least a part of them) flew up to give a recital at The Orbit last night; with support from some local musicians (Elena Zlatkova on violin and Tambinkosi Mavimbela on double bass) with Melanie Scholtz providing vocals. The ensemble is featured quite often on Classic FM (and the Cape's Fine Music Radio), and their live performance did not disappoint. The performance was a mixture of "classic" tango music, heavily featuring Argentinian composer Astor Piazolla, as well as the ensemble's own compositions.

14 November 2014

JPO's 3rd 2014 Season, 2nd Concert: Azerbaijan

For the 2nd and last concert of the season, the JPO had a special concert on the music of Azerbaijan, sponsored by the Azerbaijani Embassy. Earlier this year, the JPO was the orchestra for the Gabala music festival, and the return leg featuring music from Azerbaijan was a good showcase of global music.

Every piece performed was a good departure from the traditional fare. Quite a bit of the music felt like film scores - of a piece trying to tell a tale. The cultural influences of Arabian and Western European musical styles made a great contrast - and was very enjoyable to listen to. I particularly enjoyed the Piano Concerto - which had amazing contrast between the Western and Arabian styles; for both the orchestra and the pianist.

This is the type of concert that the JPO should perform more of. Unfortunately, the marketing seemed to be a let down once again, and the attendance was very poor. A pity - it was a great concert. I would actually go as far as saying, it was one of the best JPO concerts I have been to.

Amirov's Azerbaijan Capriccio
Hajibeyov's Caravan
Amirov & Nazirova's Piano Concerto on Arabian Themes
Ibramimova's Confession for Cello, Piano and Strings
Garayev's Adagio & Waltz from the Seven Beauties Ballet

Conductor: Yalchin Adigezalov
Cellist: Aleksey Miltykh
Pianist: Saida Tagi-Zadeh

09 November 2014

Movie: Interstellar

It is part a movie about extinction - of humans, part a movie about exploration and the bravery of explorers of the unknown; and partly a movie about mysticism and time travel paradoxes. Interstellar is visually stunning, with an amazing cast and script that manages to narrate what survival of the human species beyond Earth might actually mean. 

In a near future, Earth's agriculture is failing, people have died in mass from starvation, and it is clear that the end is nigh. Almost as a last ditch attempt, Matthew McConaughey leads a team to a different galaxy via a mysterious wormhole to try find a new world for humans. Others have gone before to try identify potential worlds - now is the time to pick one so that humanity can continue. The plot, with its twist and turns is amazing (complete with the very well known time travel paradox) - and the only negative I have is the last few scenes before the finale as Matthew's character re-connects with humanity. If it was to be done, it should have been done a lot better. I am not sure if it needed to be done in the first place.

The visuals are spectacular - not only of the strange and alien worlds (much filmed on Earth, not necessarily effects); but also of Earth itself, as it grinds to dust. This is a movie that must be watched on a big screen - the bigger the better. With only two Imax cinemas in South Africa, the choices are limited - but it is certainly worth it.

30 October 2014

JPO's 3rd 2014 Season, 1st Concert

To call it a 3rd season is overly generous - after all, there are only 2 concerts!That said, the line-up for both concerts is quite interesting and some shows are better than no shows! Last night's concert, in some ways, encapsulated two of the big problems with the current state of the JPO - poor communication and poor attendance. I am a subscriber, but I only got a SMS about the concerts the day before - certainly not the best way to advertise at such short notice. There were apparently emails, but quite a few people didn't seem to get them. There were apparently a few radio ads also - but in the age of so many communication mediums, it is quite sad that the JPO can't seem to get the word out that that there are actually performing! Poor attendance obviously flows from poor communication and marketing, and it certainly doesn't help the JPO's financial position, sponsorship and ultimately its future prospects.

Starting the evening off, was Grieg's Holberg Suite. I have heard most of the individual components a number of times on radio - especially Sarabande and Rigaudon - but this was the first time I have heard them all together. It was a fun piece, and very easy to appreciate - and certainly a good piece to kick off a concert!

Multiple competition winner, Russian pianist Andrey Pisarev, played a double concerto bill of Chopin's First and Second Piano Concertos. Like the performance last year, Andrey Pisarev, seemed to be in his own world; looking only at the piano or the conductor during his performance. His fingers flew across the keyboard - something that was quite fun to watch, especially in the virtuoso parts of the performance - but he was far more reserved. It was a great performance, and I think I am getting to like Chopin more and more - but not necessarily as personable as Alexander Lubyantsev last year.