21 February 2014

B5 Review: Epiphanies, The Illusion of Truth & Atonement

In the aftermath of the Shadow War, our crew try to get back to their lives with much work left ahead for them. Bester returns, troubles on Earth resurface for the crew and Delenn has to face some more skeletons from her past...

Garibaldi resignsIn celebration of the end of the Shadow War, the Babylon 5 crew are reminded of the troubles awaiting them back home when Bester arrives telling of a plan to further discredit B5 by President Clark. Bester also wants to go to Z'ha'dum.

Clark has installed a blockade at the jumpgate leading to Babylon 5 and plans to launch a sneak attack using Psi-Corps' Black Omega to discredit the station back home. Bester leaks this information in exchange for passage to Z'ha'dum to capture any leftover technology.

Garibaldi surprisingly resigns from his post as Security Chief and the Whitestar arrives at Z'ha'dum just in time to witness its evacuation and destruction. We later find out that Lyta's telepathic abilities are the likely culprit.

As the episode that directly follows the Shadow War, JMS is able to begin to show us just what goes on in such an aftermath and that there is likely much still to come from this war in the future regarding the Shadows allies and what has appeared on the Regent on Centauri Prime. Bester also leaks a bit of information regarding an 'ace in the hole'.

This episode does a good job of setting up what's to come, I rate it a 6.5/10.

The Illusion of Truth 
Garibaldi talks to ISN reporter Dan RandallA news team from ISN arrives to do a story about Babylon 5 to bring back to Earth. Begrudgingly, Sheridan goes along with it.

I have to admit that I really don't like this episode. In my reviews of each episode of B5, I have made sure to read their entries (where they exist) on the Babylon 5 Wiki and on the Lurkers Guide, to make sure I'm not missing the point. It is interesting that this episode is so well received on the latter site and I can see their point - but it doesn't mean I have to like it, and maybe in that case, JMS still has got his message across effectively.

The blatant propaganda displayed in this episode really hits hard against our beloved main characters, especially Sheridan and Delenn and it's only blatant to an informed audience. Would a report like the one finally portrayed really have an effect on Earth under martial law?

As JMS states, it's an episode that will be discussed a lot, but not re-watched often. For that, and because I simply don't like it, it gets my lowest rating of any B5 episode so far of 5/10.

Delenn and DukhatDelenn must face her past on Minbar when her clan challenges her relationship with Sheridan. Meanwhile, Marcus and Stephen are about to embark on a long journey to make contact with their allies on Mars.

We learn much more about Delenn's past through the 'Dreaming' she experiences with Lennier. Most importantly, her life as an acolyte by Dukhat's side, to becoming a member of the Grey Council and the beginning of the Earth-Minbari War.

As a result of what Delenn saw in the 'Dreaming', we find that Human DNA has been in Minbari society since Valen's arrival during the last Shadow War (and his children entered Minbari society).

Meanwhile, President Clark's propaganda against Babylon 5 is working against them forcing Sheridan to move quicker than he'd like, sending Marcus and Stephen on a mission to contact the Mars Resistance.

For the truth revealed about Delenn's role in the Earth-Minbari War and that the wheels are in motion for a possible conflict against Clark again, I rate this episode a 7.5/10.

14 February 2014

The Best of 2013

Ok, so after my previous entry about how bad (the second half of) 2013 was, I figured I'd put together a post about what wasn't so bad about it. After all, in 365 days it couldn't all be horribly bad could it?

I thank everyone who offered their words of comfort and support in response to that blog entry and I'll aim to keep a more positive tone in future. I do realise I don't have the largest or most engaged following through this blog but in any case, those few of you who do read these entries, I appreciate it!

So, without further ado, and in similar tone to the post about The Best of 2012, here is the Best of 2013...

Best Life Event - The Art of Australia ABC/BBC Documentary

This one was a bit of a surprise in the middle of the year when I was approached by someone working on an Art series documenting the story of Australian art for the ABC and BBC. They had asked to use some of my aviation footage (see my YouTube channel!) to showcase the famous (and now gone from our skies) Wunala Dreaming 747 from Qantas. I was happy to oblige (and it was legit) and was reimbursed for the contribution. Those in the UK got to see my 15 seconds of fame in three separate shots that made it into the final edit while the ABC decided to remove the footage from the Australian broadcast - they removed the segment mentioning the aircraft completely :(

However, it was a bit of a nice moment for me to gain some recognition for my love of aviation and plane spotting. While the Australian release missed out on the footage, I was sent a copy of the UK version on DVD for my own keeping. I might try one day to share the story somehow.

Best Holiday/Trip - Hawaii, July/August
Runner Up - Melbourne for the Australian Open, January

The year began with us being on a trip, a get together with the in-laws, in-laws in far eastern Victoria to usher in the new year. We were quickly back to Melbourne for another trip in January and then there was a long wait before we headed to Hawaii in late July. I can't even remember how we came to booking that particular trip but it certainly wins as our destination of the year. I also made my own way to Canberra later in the year with a group of friends for a weekend of driving roads and antics.

Much like our awesome trip through Japan in 2012, we had heard a lot of good reviews about Hawaii and so we planned an island hopping adventure to explore Hawai'i, aka the Big Island, Maui and of course Oahu. We enjoyed the sights, the Mustang convertible I'd arranged for us to hire on Maui and the shopping and Pearl Harbor on Oahu. It was a well deserved break at a time when things seemed to be going so well in the year. How things change.

We also had quite an enjoyable time on our second visit to Melbourne (in the same month) in January for the Australian Open. After visiting the Formula 1 in 2012 it was only fair we finally get to watch Tennis, a sport Eleonor enjoys watching and we got some good value out of a match between Djokovic and Wawrinka. We also got to see much of Melbourne, a city we quite like visiting and feel fairly comfortable with now.

Best Dessert Place - The Choc Pot, Burwood

I stopped reviewing restaurants during 2013, I'm not really sure why and none of the ones we did visit stood out in particular. A highlight would definitely have been visiting the famous and world renowned Aria for the first time which is located near Sydney's Opera House. That was a nice experience. However, as much as I like trying new places to eat, I've always loved a good dessert place.

There's been a growing trend for dessert places over the last few years with Max Brenner opening up shop in a suburb near you and other well known brands like the Lindt Factory and Guylian Cafe's in the city.

2013's new entrant and worthy recipient for Best Dessert place goes to The Choc Pot. I had become aware of The Choc Pot through some Facebook friends checking in there. Curiosity got the better of me and their website enticed me to check them out. Their friendly staff, their awesome menu, selection and brilliant food have to be experienced. I enjoyed it so much we went back there for a second visit in quick succession and I'll make sure to pop by any chance I get now :)

The usual contenders remain, with Chocolateria San Churro's continuing to deliver good quality chocolate desserts and expanding their menu offerings. I'm not far from having my loyalty and discount card with them - hopefully 2014 will open that door for me! The Chocolate Room consistently delivered large serves of delicious chocolatey goodness and Rouse Hill's Chocolate Lounge (not to be confused with the previous establishment) surprised with some nice waffles!

Best Movie - Rush (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Runner-up - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Honourable Mention - Fast & Furious 6 (4 out of 5 stars)

2013 shaped up to be a year for films I was looking forward to seeing. Among the most anticipated titles included sci-fi releases Oblivion, Elysium, Pacific Rim and of course, Star Trek Into Darkness. Then my motoring enthusiast was going to get a workout with Fast & Furious 6 and Rush.

Fast & Furious 6 was the surprise package in that it was thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable - I still think it is the best instalment of the franchise so far even with its over-the-top stunts and action sequences, it finally brought the entire series together (including the displaced Tokyo Drift). The unfortunate passing of lead man Paul Walker leaves the story of the seventh open but I am still looking forward to seeing what will happen next.

However, it was Rush that blew me away. For a film that concentrates on an era of motorsport I had no chance of seeing, it was captured and portrayed so wonderfully. The rivalry between Hunt and Lauda and the thrill of Formula 1 for the era was captured so well, I couldn't help but be impressed.

I didn't get to see either Oblivion or Elysium, though I imagine I will at some point. Pacific Rim was a fun entry in sci-fi but didn't really leave me so impressed that I'd want to watch it again and again. Where's Star Trek Into Darkness? Indeed, that's a good question. While at the end of last year I was literally abuzz with excitement about the new film, my initial reaction following Into Darkness was of slight disappointment. On a second watch in full IMAX 3D, I guess I knew what to expect, so I did appreciate the film a bit more - but as it stands, I have only watched it twice and at this point I've given it 3 stars out of 5. Other Trekkers ridiculed the film and even named it the worst ever - but it was successful for Paramount studios and there definitely were some great parts in it - I will need to watch it again at some point and see if my verdict changes. It certainly hasn't changed my love of the overall franchise.

The surprise and late entrant was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a Ben Stiller film. I found this to be a simple story but it was beautifully shot and executed. With a 4.5 out of 5, it equals Rush's score and is deserving of a runner-up prize.

Best Concert - Metallica at Soundwave

The year was a bit quieter when it came to music and concerts. We started in January with The Presets and then my first visit to a 'festival' style setup at Soundwave the following month, with Linkin Park and Metallica headlining the show. Metallica once again showed why they're so good with a great setlist and awesome performance. Unlike their show in 2010 (the first time I saw them), they played some of my favourites including Creeping Death and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). They were preceded by Linkin Park who had their own great performance showcasing their latest album release, Living Things. Play was stopped for a time due to a fallen member of the crowd though, which saw one song unfinished.

We would see Linkin Park again in their own right and then a bit of a drought until December where Eleonor and I returned to Sydney's Opera House to hear the orchestra play music from the animated series Wallace and Gromit.

The Presets - This Boy's in Love (at Melbourne Australian Open)

The Presets - My People (Enmore Theatre)

Linkin Park - Lost in the Echo (Soundwave 2013)

Metallica - Master of Puppets (Soundwave 2013)

Linkin Park - Somewhere I Belong (Entertainment Centre, Sydney)