Classic

You must experience these.

Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Ray Monk)

Book

Fantastic autobiography recounting both the life and ideas of Oppenheimer.

Classic

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream (H G Bissinger)

Book

Incredible book (which inspired the film and TV series). Fascinating account of life in a football obsessed city in 80's Texas. A must read.

Classic

Game of Thrones (Season 3)

TV

It may be a little slow in places, giving too much attention to peripheral storylines, but when it is good it is better than anything else currently being made. The penultimate episode, The Rains of Castamere, is what the producers apparently had in mind as a target and it more than delivers.

Classic

Just Money: How Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance (Ann Pettifor)

Book

A clear account of how banking actually works (something virtually no economists understand), a damning explanation of where our current financial system with its rentier financiers goes wrong and a hopeful (in many respects properly Keynesian) set of proposals to make things better.

Classic

Hannah Arendt

Film

Excellent film (currently on Netflix) focused on eponymous philosopher/political theorist, who reported for The New Yorker on the trail of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Her criticisms of the actions of Jewish leaders in Europe led to much controversy. Incredible acting, makes philosophical debate utterly compelling.

Classic

The Liar's Gospel (Naomi Alderman)

Book

Four 'gospels' from Mary, Judas, Caiaphas and Barabbas. A grieving Mary rejected by her son, Judas who tells tales of Jesus for entertainment and tries to fit into the Roman world, a Caiaphas wanting to spare Jesus and the rebel leader Barabbas. Original, captivating stuff.

Classic

The Hunt (Jagten)

Film

Hard to say anything without spoiling this must watch film. An accusation of child abuse and consequential suspicion. Outstanding.

Classic

Breaking Bad Felina (final episode)

TV

A fantastic end to Breaking Bad. Arguably too neat but a satisfying set of conclusions, tying up many threads with nods to earlier events for the fans.

Classic

Game of Thrones (Season 2)

TV

More fantastic television. The world widens and more fantasy elements are introduced. One episode (Blackwater) comfortably exceeds most of cinema.

Classic

Interstellar

Film

Brilliant, sci-fi from Christopher Nolan. Not as easy to watch as Inception etc but with substance and enough thrills to keep things moving. One has, of course, to ignore some of the details of the 'science'; but with a surprisingly coherent conclusion, beautiful cinematography (see it in IMAX if you can) and epic soundtrack, I highly recommend it.

Classic

Ray Donovan (Season 2)

TV

Stunningly interwoven, orchestrated dark drama. An astonishing mid series episode with a Donovan family party (and inevitable chaos) which seems like it will be the high point of the season is followed by a shocking episode which turns things up another level. Essential viewing.

Classic

Economics the User's Guide (Ha-Joon Chang)

Book

Outstanding introduction to Economics, without the usual mathematical tedium, focused on actual economies, giving actual details. Gives a little too much attention to some more fringe ideas (but his critique of the dominant academic economic idea is fair, if even understated); if you asked me for recommendation for a single book to read on economics this would be it.

Classic

Boyhood

Film

Incredible film made over 12 years, centred on a boy growing up and his family; I don't want to say much more, but you must see this: probably the best film of 2014 so far.

Classic

Frago (TV Series)

TV

Brilliant 10 episode series following the style and set in the world of the Cohen Brothers' film; captures the dark humour of the original, and if anything, exceeds it. A must watch.

Classic

Calvary

Film

A bold film following a priest who has been warned in confession that he will be murdered next Sunday morning. Big themes, in contemporary, largely secular, rural Irish society with extremely sharp dialogue. Compelling stuff.

Classic

Game of Thrones (Season 1)

TV

Astonishingly good television series. Compelling stories and high production values in a sophisticated fantasy-light/middle ages world. Makes the Lord of the Rings films look like they are for children (in every sense).

Classic

Lion

Film

Incredible, emotional film centred around five year old lost in Calcutta and adopted by an Austrialian couple. Must see.

Classic

Good Vibrations

Film

Outstanding film chronicling Terri Hooley's life in Belfast; setting up a record-store and developing punk-rock music in the troubled 70s. Inspiring, engaging; a must see.

Classic

Timescapes

Film

Incredible time lapse photography and landscape videography. Sublime: a must-experience. Available in ridiculously high resolutions; I watched in 1620p(!) but you can choose whatever is best for your display.

Classic

The West Wing

TV

I rewatched some of the key episodes via Amazon instant video. An incredible, powerful and compelling series: sharp dialogue, lefty-idealism, fascinating plots and great characters. Not yet bettered.

Classic

PRISM_ (iOS)

Game

Incredible puzzle game; innovative use of multitouch, beautiful graphics with an amazingly tactile experience and genuinely interesting, 3D spatial manipulation puzzles.

Classic

Show Me How The Spectres Dance (Liam Frost & The Slowdown Family)

Audio

Incredible poignant, edgy songs; brilliantly realised from this singer songwriter (and band, which it feels like he is missing on more recent releases).

Classic

Duke Special (Under the Dark Cloth Live, at Greenbelt 2015)

Performance

Brilliant performance from Duke Special with some of his best work (poignant responses to classic photographs). See a previous recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_VdxPtlnso

Classic

East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

Book

Astonishing. You must read this, in fact if I had to choose just a single novel to recommend I think this would be it. An epic classic novel, but one which is consistently enjoyable to read.

Classic

Game of Thrones (Season 4)

TV

Perhaps the best yet? Four absolutely brilliant episodes (the other six are excellent) and a sustained pace not seen before. The best television series currently being made. A rich fantasy world which keeps expanding, great stories, great actors and a brutality which keeps you on your toes.

Classic

Journey

Game

Incredible. Perhaps the most beautiful game yet made and one of the most impressive pieces of art ever created. Original, brilliant, Jaw dropping: you must play this.

Classic

The Unfinished Swan

Game

Beautiful adventure-puzzle game. A sort of Journey + Portal in one, with plenty of its own original ideas and incredible visuals and audio. Essential.

Classic

Dunkirk

Film

Extraordinary. Utterly compelling, absorbing film; which plays around with time as it builds tension. Sparse dialogue, astonishing production values. Visually and auditorily incredible. A must experience.

Classic

Generative Design (Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Gross, Julia Laub and Claudius Lazzeroni)

Book

An incredible book which is both a showcase of generative (code driven) design/art and an excellent tutorial, where each step is typically illustrated with a set of beautiful examples (rather than the perfunctory ones typically found in such books). Inspiring and informative: the best book on Processing I have read.

Classic

Life of Pi

Film

To the incredible novel's story this film adds beautiful CG visuals which still look great today. It is a wonderful adaptation, well paced, keeping the essence of the book.

Classic

Bioshock Infinite (PS3)

Game

Incredible: beautiful graphics, great story, fun gameplay; this game has everything and is an essential play. The narrative in particular is astonishingly good, really pushing things forward for AAA games. For the most part (aside from the final battle) wonderfully balanced, enjoyable gameplay.

Classic

The Joy of Nothing (Foy Vance)

Audio

A stunning album from the Northern Irish, American-influenced singer-songwriter Foy Vance. A beautiful, deep and coherent album. Looking forward to hearing some of this live.

Classic

The Universe Versus Alex Woods (Gavin Extence)

Book

Tale from an outsider teenager perspective a la The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; but probably surpases that book. Geeky central character, unusual friendships, everyday school issues and big moral issues. A must read.

Classic

The Secret In Their Eyes

Film

Astonishing Argentine film; an investigator reflects on a brutal rape and murder case from twenty five years ago, as he writes a book and reconnects with his old boss and the victim's husband. Unrealised love and the search for justice. A must watch.

Classic

Rework (37 Signals)

Book

Fantastic book on how to be entrepreneurial or start things without the counterproductive overwork, delusion and bs that one typically sees.

Classic

Making a Murder

TV

Powerful TV series following exonerated rape convict as, as he looks to be winning a civil case against those who arrested him, is arrested for murder. The series paints a convincing picture of corrupt police and manipulation of a child. (though apparently it leaves out some key evidence). Definitely one to watch.

Classic

Friday Night Lights (Season 5)

TV

Fantastic conclusion to a brilliant series which doesn't outstay its welcome: a must watch. Beautifully resolves a multitude of interwoven stories.

Classic

House of Cards (Season 3)

TV

Another fantastic series. It lacks the urgency and direction of the previous seasons; but the leisurely pace allows for the development of some great storylines with Frank and Claire; international relations and confrontational domestic politics.

Classic

House of Cards (Season 4)

TV

Another enthralling, dark season with plenty of twists and shocks. Watched the entire thing over a (long) weekend... definitely one to put at the top of your Netflix list.

Classic

Monument Valley (iOS)

Game

Astonishing. A delightful game and extraordinary work of art. Great touchscreen controls in a beautifully realised world where the normal laws of space don't apply. Utterly captivating. A must play.

Classic

Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

Book

Astonishing book from Yann Martel (I had already seen the excellent film adaptation). A compelling story of the battle for survival of Pi stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. A must read.

Classic

Search Inside Yourself (Chade-Meng Tan)

Book

Mindfulness + emotional intelligence = better performance + happier + world peace. Not sure if I buy the last one, but an outstanding introduction to mindfulness and emotional intelligence for the techy/scientific/... person.

Classic

Thomas Was Alone (PS Vita; also on lots of other platforms)

Game

Fantastic platform game, with near perfectly judged level of increasing challenge. High quality voice-over, music and minimalist graphics. A surprisingly substantial, must play.

Classic

Chromecast

Other

Magical: this little and cheap hdmi dongle allows you to play HD Netflix, stream music, mirror your Android screen and more through your TV; it is almost completely hassle free.

Classic

Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure (Cédric Villani)

Book

Remarkable book from one of the world's leading mathematicians. The technical details are often beyond me (and I have two degrees in Mathematics!) yet it is still incredibly engaging; a wonderful tale of how actual mathematical research happens from a slightly eccentric perspective. A outstanding classic work.

Classic

The World of Yesterday (Stefan Zweig)

Book

Astonishing eyewitness account of the first half of the twentieth century from the perspective of an Austrian Jew and leading literary figure. Insightful, wonderful writing; a must read.

Classic

Your Name

Film

Anime where a rural girl and city boy swap bodies on random days. That alone sounds like an interesting premise, but this film twists in extraordinary ways... one of the best films I've seen this year. It also happens to have beautiful visuals. A must watch.

Classic

Super Hexagon (Android, iOS, Steam)

Game

Initially seems impossible, turns out to be just very hard. Ridiculously fast moving (to actually complete it you merely need to last for 60 seconds) and compulsive game.

Classic

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Book

Compelling account of introversion and how an extravert-dominated society loses out and suppresses thoughtful, critical individuals. Essential reading, with many interesting observations and results from studies (e.g. introverts make better managers of engaged employees).

Classic

Kajaki

Film

Utterly absorbing, visceral, believable take on warfare. British soldiers trapped in riverbed minefield, struggle to escape. Seemingly incredible true-to-live take on horrendous events. An essential film.

Classic

Great

Highly recommended.

Detachment

Film

Gritty drama, shot in a documentary style, following a US inner-city substitute teacher at a struggling school. A must watch (on Netflix).

Great

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Elixir

Book

A really interesting language build on Erlang (for concurrency) but with Ruby-ish, functional syntax. Clear introduction from a clearly enthused author (his favourite language) although I would have preferred more on concurrency and less on metaprogramming. Will be looking into this more.

Great

The Theory of Everything

Film

Inspiring biopic of Stephen Hawking. The maths and science is a bit neglected (and when featured is often silly) but a powerful story of overcoming physical adversity as well as powerful portrayal of his relationship with his first wife.

Great

Friday Night Lights

Film

I rewatched this brilliant sports movie recently. This delivers a wonderfully polished sports movie (which you don't need to know the sport to enjoy). The series offers a much longer take on similar themes; the book is also excellent.

Great

The Tribe

Film

Seriously dark film set at Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf (the entire film is un-subtitled). Innovative, compelling; perhaps one of the finest 'silent' movies ever made?

Great

The Spectacular Now

Film

Surprisingly sympathetic treatment of alcoholism, centred around an eighteen year old and his relationships (with his ex, girlfriend, mother and sister). Great performances, captivating story, well worth watching.

Great

Southpaw

Film

Gritting boxing drama. Highly enjoyable, sufficiently dark stuff.

Great

Strata (iOS)

Game

Engaging puzzle game requiring carefully planning and thought as you add layers of ribbons to create patterns.

Great

The Unrequited (Niall Williams)

Book

Beautiful little story of unrequited love. Costs a few pence in eBook formats.

Great

Rush

Film

It seems like a film about formula one should be incredibly dull; this is far from it, a compelling tale of rivalry that is consistently entertaining, beautifully shot with great music etc. Highly recommended.

Great

Einstein: His Life and Universe (Walter Isaacson)

Book

Great biography from Walter Isaacson. Not at the level of Ray's bio of Oppenheimer, and like Isaacson's Jobs bio, considerably longer and flabbier than it should have been (in particular places too much emphasis on Einstein's later years). But still essential.

Great

Regardless (Thea Gilmore)

Audio

Outstanding album from a great singer-songwriter. I was impressed with some of her previous songs, but this album is consistently excellent, standing up to and improving with repeated listenings.

Great

The Lives of Others

Film

Compelling drama set in East Germany featuring Stasi officer and the target of his surveillance.

Great

Zona Sur

Film

Bolivian film focused on upper class family and their servant as their position in that society crumbles. Sharp dialogue, beautiful cinematography; compelling.

Great

Damages (my overall opinion)

TV

Excellent television series, which used flash forwards to great effect (compelling you to watch more), had interesting, ruthless characters, intricate plots and mostly satisfying resolutions to each series. A few series are a bit overlong, it was a bit light on the actual legal jousting (some seasons barely had any) but fairly consistently compelling and edgy. Recommend, particularly the first season.

Great

Eighty One (Yppah)

Audio

Fantastic fusion of genres, subtle vocals, upbeat mood. Great.

Great

Les Miserables (the 2012 film)

Film

The epic musical is brilliantly produced as a film.

Great

Splinter Cell Blacklist (PS3)

Game

Another thrilling Splinter Cell game. Even smoother and more technically impressive stuff.

Great

Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin's Flight (PS Vita)

Game

Expansion pack for Thomas Was Alone (only on PS3/PS Vita?) which adds a jetpack to the mix. Nice set of 20 extra levels with the same polish as before. Perhaps a little more frustrating than the original and a little short, but definitely worth playing.

Great

Ray Donovan (Season 1)

TV

Dark, compelling drama; centred around Ray (who does the dirty work for LA's rich and famous) and his troubled family (including newly released from prison father). Serious, intelligent stuff.

Great

Pivot (iOS)

Game

Great, just-one-more-go, minimalist game. Reminiscent of Super Hexagon, requiring quick reactions, but also adds a more puzzle-memory slant along with smoother controls.

Great

Dresden: A Survivor's Story (Victor Gregg)

Book

A grim but compelling Kindle Single account of the Dresden bombing from a POW on the ground. A must read.

Great

Boss (Season 2)

TV

Another excellent dark political series.

Great

Pride

Film

A fantastic, feel good film (it will put a smile on your face for most of its running length). Gay rights campaigners from London join Welsh miners in resisting Thatcher.

Great

Newton and the Counterfeiter (Thomas Levenson)

Book

A fantastic historical account of Newton's work as, essentially, a detective on behalf of the Royal Mint combating counterfeiters. However, the strongest parts are early on, where Levenson concisely describes Newton's amazing contributions to human knowledge.

Great

The Leftovers (Season 1)

TV

Filling Game of Thrones' slot on HBO is tough; but this was an interesting series. After a powerful opening episode it was a slow burner for a while, but really picked up towards the end of the series. 3% of the world's population vanish on one day, we follow those left behind. New religions, nihilism, insanity and the possibility of an explanation.

Great

The Pity of War

TV

First World War documentary with live audience and panel of experts from Niall Ferguson. The British (early) entry into a continental war was a catastrophic mistake, prolonging the conflict (by keeping France going), making it a truly world war and was generally terrible for British interests. Surprising to find myself largely agreeing with Ferguson. Though none of the in studio historians agreed.

Great

Flight Brigade

Performance

Fantastic soundscape-y rock, with visuals. (Greenbelt 2014)

Great

Game of Thrones (Telltale Games)

Game

Impressive episodic gaming which does a great job of bringing Game of Thrones to the touch screen, sucking you in with the first episode in authentic Game of Thrones style. Technically problematic: the lack of cloud save meant I lost most of my progress, frequently crashed, rubbish menu UI, downloads slow and huge waits between episodes. Overall still very good, but Telltale really need to raise their technical game.

Great

Gravity

Film

You wait years for a single film as suspenseful as Captain Phillips and this year we get two. Gravity is visually stunning (see it in 3D!) , and this is why I'm rating it as Great, but also entertaining, tightly edited stuff.

Great

Zen To Done (Leo Babauta)

Book

Getting Things Done streamlined. Compelling, picks out key elements of the famous productivity system and suggests focusing on these individually as habits.

Great

Noah

Film

Surprisingly impressive film: the trailer makes it look absolutely dire, but it is not the Lord of the Ring wannabe portrayed there. Loosely inspired by the Biblical Noah story, with a dash of environmentalism and other mythic elements; centred around Noah and his decisions and relationships. God, or rather 'the creator' is largely absent; leaving Noah to make the hard choices.

Great

The Golden Dream

Film

Three friends set of from Guatemala and are joined by another (who doesn't speak Spanish) as they try to move to the USA. Bleak, powerful stuff. A must see.

Great

1913: The Eve of War (Paul Ham)

Book

Compelling account of the stupidity of European leaders in the build up to (the in no way inevitable) World War I. (Short, fascinating book.)

Great

Rita (Season 1)

TV

Danish school drama centred around uncompromising teacher Rita. Fantastic series.

Great

Chasing Ice

Film

Incredible documentary following James Balog and his team as they use time lapse photography to capture glaciers retreating dramatically. Beautiful photographs and videos and an important message.

Great

Slow West

Film

Dark, clever western film, with clueless Scottish boy searching for his lost love, guided by mysterious bounty hunter (whose target is actually the love's father). Definitely worth watching.

Great

Captain Phillips

Film

I managed to go to see this without knowing the ending (it turns out this level of ignorance was an unusual achievement) which only added to the tension which was sustained for nearly the entire length of the film. Definitely worth watching.

Great

Firewatch

Game

Interesting game in a beautiful, remote US National park. You are part of "Firewatch", left almost entirely alone for summer. Strange things happen and a powerful story is uncovered. (I'm trying not to ruin things.) Definitely one to experience.

Great

Winter of the World (Ken Follett)

Book

The second part of Ken Follett's twentieth century historical fiction trilogy. We follow the rise of Nazism in Germany, the Spanish Revolution, Stalinism and the Second World War, through the families featured in the first book. Again balances entertainment and historical content extremely well.

Great

Emperor of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

Book

A gripping conclusion to the trilogy, filling in more details and bringing things to a satisfying end. I really enjoyed this series a lot more than (what I have read of) Songs of Ice and Fire.

Great

Jurassic World

Film

Entertaining Jurassic Park movie with plenty of thrills, wit, incredible special effects (particularly in 3D), tight editing and enough substance (and references to the original) to impress.

Great

Man in the High Castle

TV

Alternate history; Nazi's win WWII thanks to assassination of Roosevelt. We follow the resistance, Nazi's and Japanese in USA split into two. Entertaining, disturbing drama which, after slightly flabby mid season, pulls things together with panache. From Wikipedia's description of the novel it is based on looks like the creators did a great job of adapting and reimagining it.

Great

The Brothers (Asko Sahlberg)

Book

Epic short novel, told from multiple (contradictory) perspectives. Initially this feels awkward, but soon the multitude threads of war, fraternal, maternal and other family relationships and grand themes of war and love pull you in. So many characters, so impressively realised in such a short work (about 100 pages). Recommended.

Great

Zombieland

Film

An interesting and entertaining twist on the zombie movie. Highly recommended (see also Warm Bodies).

Great

Boss (Season 1)

TV

Excellent series centred around Chicago Mayor with degenerative neurological disease (Kelsey Grammer); compulsive dark political drama.

Great

House of Cards (Season 2)

TV

Another fantastic, compelling (roughly, evil West Wing) series from Netflix. A must watch.

Great

Lyne (iOS)

Game

Great puzzle game, with seemingly infinite levels (it generates new ones each day): nice balance between logic, memory and exploration. Beautiful minimalist style.

Great

Star Trek First Contact

Film

Foolishly started watching this on Netflix (and ended up watching the whole thing again). Only recently challenged for 'best star trek film' by the reboot; still remains strong.

Great

Friday Night Lights (Season 4)

TV

Return to form for an excellent television series (based, like the film, on an excellent book). Highly recommended.

Great

Ender's Game

Film

Impressive and interesting sci-fi. Well worth watching.

Great

X+Y

Film

Heartwarming film following autistic boy who excels at mathematics as he competes in the International Mathematics Olympiad. Highly recommended.

Great

UWantMeToKillHim?

Film

Fascinating, dark film of incitement to murder over the internet. Based on a true story, apparently.

Great

Edge of Eternity (Ken Follett)

Book

The final part of the epic 20th century trilogy following the lives of several families across the world through world wars (and now cold war). Entertaining and interesting and accessible history.

Great

Tomb Raider (PS3)

Game

Another fantastic game included with PS Plus... great action, bleak, dark story, fun climbing, combat generally great (you can adjust difficulty when it gets frustrating). A great update to Tomb Raider (in fact, it is now clearly the best Tomb Raider game) including all the major advances in AAA action computer games.

Great

The Way He Looks

Film

Brazilian coming-of-age drama centred on blind teenager. Saying more would spoil things, but really excellent film.

Great

Game of Thrones (Season 5)

TV

While it can't match the strength of season 4, it is still better than almost anything else on television.

Great

The Raid

Film

Maintains an ridiculous level of intensity throughout a compelling, violent and substantial film. So much more than a Hollywood action movie.

Great

The Liar's Key (Mark Lawrence)

Book

Impressive 2nd book in Lawrence's follow up trilogy to the Broken Empire trilogy; centred around another selfish, reluctant protagonist. Another solid instalment.

Great

Teapigs Chocolate Flake Tea

Other

Blend of black leaf tea in pyramid bags with cocoa and chocolate; great, subtle flavour.

Great

Hook (iOS)

Game

Cool little puzzle game, where you pull out hooks and try to avoid them catching with a beautiful minimalist, electric circuit style and interesting bomb diffusion-esque gameplay.

Great

Snowpiercer

Film

Bleak, dystopian film set on board a train constantly rotating a terraforming-gone-wrong frozen earth. The passengers in the tail rebel against those in first class. Really interesting story, which I don't want to spoil, but lots of subtleties (and plenty of action).

Great

Orange is the New Black (Season 2)

TV

Another great season ripe for binge watching. The way the rivalries between groups at the prison develop makes this hard not to keep clicking on 'next episode'.

Great

Kill Your Darlings

Film

Engaging, interesting film following the origins of the Beat Generation in an un-romanticised way.

Great

The Killing (Season 4, US Version)

TV

The best so far: restricting it to only 6 episodes resulted in a much tighter series; a powerful story building on the end to season 3, with Linden's private and professional lives more directly intertwined.

Great

Orange is the New Black (Season 1)

TV

Compelling Netflix series, which weaves interesting individual stories and rivalries in a US women's prison.

Great

No Exit: Struggling to Survive a Modern Gold Rush (Gideon Lewis-Kraus)

Book

An on-the-ground report on the grim realities of start-up life in San Francisco. Captivating reading and a valuable counterpoint to the typical cheerleading views on start-ups from Wired and others (this short book is in fact an expanded version of a Wired article).

Great

Common

Film

British drama set around the a stabbing and the prosecution of clueless teenager (who gave his cousin and friends a lift) under Joint Enterprise law. Powerful, interesting.

Great

The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

Book

Fascinating combination of sci-fi and romance novel. Certain aspects could be interpreted as grooming, but if you are wiling to overlook that a moving story, raising issues of determinism, love and time. A must read.

Great

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction (Martin Bunton)

Book

Excellent, balanced account of conflict; clearly explains how both Israeli and Palestinian notions of nationhood and this conflict have arisen over the last one hundred and twenty years.

Great

Acer C720 Chromebook

Other

Got one of these from a conference. Really impressed with this: amazing keyboard (comparable to Apple laptop), good trackpad, fast enough with decent Intel processor (Chrome isn't noticeably slower than my MacBook Pro Retina) and fast SSD, incredibly quick boot. Only weak point is the screen, but at a RRP of £200 it is actually acceptable. If you want a Chromebook this is probably the one to go for as the ARM ones are reputedly underpowered.

Great

From Budd to Bolt: 50 Stunning Olympic Moments (Guardian Shorts)

Book

Not actually that short, a great anthology of historical olympic moments. Very interesting, if like me, you are too young to remember most of them.

Great

Alan Turing (Andrew Hodges)

Book

Fascinating account of the life of Alan Turing. The war sections are more exciting than the ridiculously inaccurate recent film portrays. Highly recommended.

Great

Dark Eden (Chris Beckett)

Book

A group of a few hundred people, descended from a handful of survivors from a spacecraft, wait on a world of permanent darkness for Earth to come and rescue them. Saying more would spoil things, but a really interesting and entertaining piece of science fiction (a genre I rarely read).

Great

Almost Famous

Film

Compelling coming-of-age film. Well worth watching.

Great

Better Call Saul

TV

Prequel to Breaking Bad centred on the creation of Saul Goodman (the name to be adopted by the main character). Entertaining stuff.

Great

13 Assassins

Film

Feudal Japanese intrigue, a psychopathic dictator and a visceral, bloody battle between 13 assassins and an army of hundreds. Recommended (if this is your kind of thing).

Great

Lara Croft GO (iOS)

Game

Fantastic distillation of Tomb Raider puzzling into a turn based game; in this new form it has a slick set of touch screen controls and a pure focus on puzzles. Better than all Tomb Raider games (except perhaps the Tomb Raider reboot). Essential.

Great

Shutter Island

Film

Brilliant psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes.

Great

Twelve Years a Slave

Film

Powerful, epic film adaptation of Solomon Northup's autobiographical account of his time as a slave. Unflinching, uncomfortable and essential.

Great

Beyond Two Souls (PS3)

Game

Great visuals and an innovative blend of narrative and interaction. There are flaws, but it is a must play.

Great

Kings of Summer

Film

Witty, warm, nostalgic film about three 15 year olds who run away to the woods to escape their parents. Fantastic dialogue, wonderful story. Watch this.

Great

Les Revenants (Saison 1)

TV

Fantastic French television series. The deceased start to turn up at a remote French town. Difficult to say much without giving things away but definitely a series to watch.

Great

Daredevil (Season 2)

TV

While there are quite a few scenes where my reaction was roughly "sigh, Daredevil is again clearly going to non-lethally beat the shit out a bunch of interchangeable bad guys"; the major new characters and interesting stories keep it moving. Perhaps would have been better as 10 episodes, but still great stuff. The sustained intensity of this season is incredible and definitely one to watch.

Great

There Will Be Blood

Film

Epic film charting an oil prospector's rise, his relationship (as a single parent) with his son and his entanglements with a young preacher. Obsession, religion, money.

Great

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Lua

Book

Trying to do seven languages in one week (over holiday). The Lua chapter provides a clear introduction to (in my case reminder of) Lua and a good demonstration of how good it can do scripting based on low level libraries.

Great

Turkey and Celeriac Winter Salad (Pret a Manger, Christmas 2013 menu)

Other

Really tasty, varied (and seemingly healthy) salad from Pret. Turkey, peppers, celeriac, quinoa, pickled cabbage and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil dressing.

Great

Nightcrawler

Film

Dark thriller following freelance crime cameraman chasing 'newsworthy' crime footage in LA, a cynical news editor and a hapless assistant. Really impressive.

Great

Citizenfour

Film

Thrilling documentary following Edward Snowden as he releases the initial material from Hong Kong. In places feels like an espionage thriller, such is our engagement with the (possibly justified) paranoia of those involved. Important, compelling stuff.

Great

Rita (Season 2)

TV

Another great season of Rita

Great

Rake (Australian original, Series 3)

TV

A return to form for Rake after a slightly disappointing, though still entertaining, second season. Big themes, events and courtroom exchanges; well worth watching.

Great

Tim's Vermeer

Film

Tim Jenison, a successful inventor/computer graphics technologist (but not an artist in conventional sense) sets out on an obsessive journey to recreate the (unknown) process the Dutch Master Vermeer used in his paintings. He builds his own optical system utilising a lens and mirror to be able to take a manual 'photograph' in oils of a scene. Fascinating documentary film making the case that Vermeer was not some kind of savant, but an inventor and tinkerer. (Worth reading a few upset Art Historian reviews!)

Great

Mr Robot (Season 1)

TV

Show centred around hacker with social issues. Remarkably realistic in many respects, a little too like a certain film I think is vastly overrated; with a few of the mid to later season episodes looking ready to jump sharks; but the final few (largely) return to form. Looking forward to the next season.

Great

AngularJS: Up and Running (Shyam Seshadri, Brad Green)

Book

The 2014 version of the O'Reilly book (a free upgrade for us electronic purchasers of the old and rapidly outdated one). A clear guide to Angular.js with lots of advice on best practices.

Great

The Pixar Story

TV

Fascinating documentary charting the origins and ascension of Pixar.

Great

Io e te

Film

Introverted teenager pretends to be on ski trip while hiding in basement of their building. Then his estranged junkie half sister shows up. Always compelling, a (and by this I don't mean to be critical) nice film. I've just ordered the novel for Kindle.

Great

Far Cry 4

Game

Far Cry 3 in a failed state in the Himalayas with elephants and mini-helicopters. Ubisoft have taken Far Cry 3's successful blend of open world RPG and FPS and raised it to new heights. Extremely entertaining, utterly compulsive gameplay. It only misses out on a 'classic' as it fails to really innovate on Far Cry 3.

Great

Up

Film

Finally got round to this film which everyone seemed to think was unacceptable that I hadn't seen. Excellent stuff from Pixar; compelling and surprisingly poignant story (I found this a lot more emotive than say Toy Story 3).

Great

Sinead O'Conner

Performance

Fantastic performance, great music, wonderful singing from somebody of whom I really only know (that) one song. (Greenbelt 2014.)

Great

The Prince of Fools, The Red Queen's War Book I (Mark Lawrence)

Book

Fantastic opening to a new series set in the Broken Empire world. Dark, compelling fantasy. A really strong start (but read the original trilogy first).

Great

Road to Perdition

Film

Impressively realised gangster film lacking the cheap thrills of many lesser films. Engaging and definitely worth watching.

Great

Jimmy's Hall

Film

An account of the resistance in post British Ireland against an alliance of the landowning elite and Catholic Church. Nuanced, interesting stuff.

Great

In the Flesh Series 1

TV

Great alt-zombie mini series from BBC; treated zombies return to society and are met with intolerance. I don't want to give things away, but a substantial, dark and original series.

Great

Rita (Season 3)

TV

Rita grapples with being alone in another fantastic series.

Great

District 9

Film

Am perplexed that I didn't notice this on release. Outstanding original, darkly comic, satirical sci-fi set in South Africa. A must watch (ideally in HD).

Great

Fall of Giants (Ken Follett)

Book

Entertaining part one of a trilogy following five families through the twentieth century; a blend of historical events, drama and romance.

Great

The Lego Movie

Film

Brilliant take on an animated, family film; often genuinely hilarious, better (in my opinion at least) than many of the recent efforts from Pixar. (Though I did play with Lego a lot as a child so I may be biased.) Blends genres, critiques our celebrity driven consumerist culture and includes an almost perfect balance of poignant moments and humour.

Great

A Conversation With My Father

Performance

A really interesting blend of theatre and documentary: recounts the actor's experiences in protests and her conversations with her father (a police officer who has policed protests).

Great

King of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

Book

A strong follow up to Prince of Thorns. Effectively jumps forward and back in time, telling its epic, dark fantasy story.

Great

Whiplash

Film

What is permissible from a coach in the pursuit of greatness? This film zeroes in on this tension (is the 'coach' a bully or doing what is necessary) and the ruthless world of elite music. A perfectly judged ending concludes an engrossing film.

Great

Primer

Film

Fantastic film, apparently produced on a tiny budget. Friends working in a garage build a limited sort of time machine. What will they do with it? Joyously complex, ambiguous, tightly edited film.

Great

Rake (Australian original, Series 1)

TV

Fantastic series featuring a talented but alcoholic, drug-taking and gambling barrister who defends the (almost) indefensible.

Great

Dans La Maison

Film

Clever and funny French film; combines elements of dark comedy and coming-of-age drama in an entertaining way, where it is often not quite clear what is 'real' and what is imagined.

Great

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Film

A fantastic follow up to the original classic. Darker, funnier, incredible visuals; always entertaining.

Great

Free to Play

Film

Compelling documentary following three professional gamers as they take part in a $1M prize DOTA competition. You don't need to know or care about DOTA (I still don't know what it stands for) to enjoy this tightly edited (75 minute) documentary. Well worth watching.

Great

Lau

Performance

At Greenbelt 2014. Bravely forgoing vocals for the first few songs; but a impressive often-instrumental-only folk bank.

Great

Sens8

TV

Ridiculously ambitious, world spanning TV series where 8 individuals are mentally linked across the world. They share experiences and skills as the group is hunted down. The best thing the Wachowskis have done since, at least, V for Vendetta.

Great

The Testament of Mary (Colm Toibin)

Book

The testament of a mother having lost a son, rather than from followers of Jesus. Powerful, well worth a read.

Great

Prince of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

Book

First of dark, fantasy trilogy; a little like Game of Thrones except more tightly focused on the central character (and better written). Highly recommended.

Great

Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie)

Book

Brilliant sci-fi centred around a a character who's consciousness is (at least for part of the novel) shared with multiple entities and who struggles with the notion of gender (she regularly can't tell what gender the people she is talking to are). Innovative, multi award winning stuff.

Great

Stories We Tell

Film

Great documentary looking back on family life, centred around the creator's mother; but told from the contradictory perspectives of husband, sons, daughters and others.

Great

Safety Not Guaranteed

Film

Delightful, brilliant film, where a magazine journalist with two interns investigate a local advert for a time travelling assistant. I don't want to say any more, but I highly recommend this if you are looking for an entertaining/easy to watch but substantial film.

Great

Testament of Youth

Film

Started watching this via Netflix without knowing it was based on true story and would be quite so bleak. Follows young woman and her male friends as her Oxford education is interrupted by WWII. Must watch.

Great

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Julia

Book

Great introduction to Julia which after explaining the basics covers both parallel programming and macros; then shows how Julia can be used for image processing. Another language to watch (and this is a pretty good starting point).

Great

Hurt Locker

Film

Thrilling film featuring a US army bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Compelling action but with surprising depth. Highly recommended.

Great

Gates of Fire (Steven Pressfield)

Book

Historical fiction based around the Battle of Thermopylae and Spartan society. Extremely enjoyable, interesting and well written stuff; if only Homer could 'write' so well!

Great

Good

Worth experiencing but not essential.

Man of Steel

Film

Probably the best Superman film yet (although that isn't saying much). Heavier on sci-fi, lighter on comic book; fun and polished action-filled blockbuster.

Good

RTS Short: North

Film

Watched this via Sky NowTV... interesting short film focused around a son as his mother dies in rural setting.

Good

Tron: Legacy

Film

Beautiful visuals and entertaining, well paced sci-fi action with a lot more depth than you might expect.

Good

Top of the Lake

TV

Exquisite footage of New Zealand lakes and mountains is the backdrop for a gritty, dark crime series where the crime(s) committed become gradually clearer.

Good

Catfish

Film

'True' story (some apparently documentary, some recreated) of a journalist and an apparently artistically gifted child (and her family). Hard (even afterwards) to figure out what is true, but an interesting film.

Good

Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS3)

Game

Exactly what I want in Call of Duty game: a polished, single player experience with lots of spectacular scenarios, a world wide conflict and fun first person action with a selection of other gameplay modes (scuba diving, space, tanks, ...). After the buggy mess that was Black Ops 2, this was a return to form. Never going to be a classic, but entertaining.

Good

How to think about Exercise (Damon Young)

Book

Interesting little book from the School of Life series. Nothing radically new for the sports-playing, yoga-practicing, (health) scientifically interested but a nice collection of ideas, for example on the importance of the physical for 'mental' tasks.

Good

Node.js the Right Way (Jim R. Wilson)

Book

Eclectic, interesting introduction (for people who already have fairly strong javascript skills) to Node.js. Express is left to near the end and instead we learn about asynchronous code, messaging and CouchDB first. While some of the code was outdated the github repo was (quite substantially) updated.

Good

Print the Legend

Film

Really interesting documentary focused on the personalities and businesses of 3D printing. MakerBot, Formlabs and crazy 3d-gun printer.

Good

Bonobo

Film

Daughter joins what the in film press describe as a "Sex cult", mother goes to intervene. Funny, entertaining stuff.

Good

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Film

Netflix make a sequel to the classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Enjoyable, recreates the fighting style of the original as well as some of the same spirit. A more straightforward martial arts film, but with many beautiful scenes and plenty of energy.

Good

The Bluffer's Guide to Skiing (David Allsop)

Book

Entertaining and frequently hilarious collection of tips on how to fake experience of skiing.

Good

The Hours

Film

Interesting drama following the loosely related lives of three women (Virginia Woolf, a 1950s housewife and a modern book editor).

Good

Kick Ass 2

Film

Entertaining film, but lacks charm of original, replacing this with extra violence.

Good

The Dirties

Film

Interesting, in style of class project documentary, film about getting revenge on bullies. Can't say much more without major spoilers but worth watching.

Good

Assault on Wall Street

Film

The self-serving actions of a financial institution cause an 'average' person to take them on (with guns). Entertaining, and surprisingly substantial.

Good

Under the Dome (Season 1)

TV

Entertaining not-yet-sure-what-genre series adapted from Stephen King's novel. High body count but with some interesting characters.

Good

World War Z

Film

Solid, entertaining zombie movie.

Good

Het Diner

Film

Surprisingly successful adaptation of what should be an unfilmable book. Faithful to the book; very dark, compelling stuff.

Good

Gone Home

Game

Original, concise game which breaks with typical video game fare. Slow to start, but an interesting experience (in large part because of what it doesn't do and how it plays off your expectations).

Good

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Film

Solid comic book film (a lot better than the perplexingly critically-acclaimed and commercial success that was Avengers Assemble). Both the Captain America and Iron Man films have been consistently impressive.

Good

Stardust

Film

Entertaining, family fantasy film. Nothing particularly special, but pretty good.

Good

Creators (Paul Johnson)

Book

Interesting mini-biographies on a series of major creatives along with some general reflections on creation. Interesting selection, for example pairing Picasso and Disney.

Good

Arbitrage

Film

Entertaining and interesting take on a hedge fund manager's crumbling empire.

Good

The Killing (Season One and Two, US version)

TV

These twenty six episodes (or about 19 hours) need to reviewed as one compulsive unit: with a few exceptions each episode delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding the killing of teenage girl, what we think we know is revealed to be untrue or partially true. Would have been better with fewer episodes and some side plots trimmed but worth watching: occasionally great, nearly always compelling.

Good

Black Mirror, White Christmas

TV

Christmas special, this time with three interesting tech-dystopian-near-future stories. This works a lot better than the normal episodes, which while interesting always felt significantly too long.

Good

Stornoway

Performance

Entertaining, melodic, interesting vocals, folk-ish sound. (Greenbelt 2014.)

Good

The Double

Film

Beautifully realised take on the Doestoevskian double/doppelgänger story. Compelling, dark, visually distinct.

Good

Rake (Australian original, Series 2)

TV

Another impressive series of Rake, with the focus shifting toward politics and conspiracy. Lacks the first series tight focus on individual cases but still manages to include interesting moral issues.

Good

Chef's Table

TV

Good international cooking documentary series: we meet 6 of the best chefs in the world and learn about how they started and how they approach cooking.

Good

Dallas Buyers Club

Film

Powerful biography based on the life of AIDS patient and 'drug smuggler'. I can see why Mark Kermode thinks the best actor Oscar may go for this (and not Twelve Years a Slave).

Good

Kiwanuka (iOS)

Game

Beautifully illustrated Lemmings-but-multi-touch puzzle game. It could have been clearer that holding above gives you a guide circle to line things up, it starts a bit slow and the later levels lean too heavily on frustration-prone timing, but overall an interesting, fun game.

Good

Lone Survivor

Film

A small team of Americans are massively out numbered and gradually worn down by dozens of heavily armed Taliban fighters. Utterly ridiculous in places as the Americans get shot repeatedly (in slow motion, blood filled shots) then continue picking off their targets. Compulsive, but something like Kajaki is way more credible.

Good

The Fighter

Film

Gritty film following a fading boxer and his unreliable family as he struggles with a final change to make it.

Good

Fresh Meat (Series 1)

TV

Hilarious and entertaining first-year-at-university comedy-drama from channel 4.

Good

Marco Polo

TV

Missing Game of Thrones? Well this has even more nudity, along with epic power struggles and impressive martial arts. Entertaining stuff. All available on Netflix.

Good

ZTE Open C

Other

Got one of these to try out Firefox OS (less than £40 on eBay). Firefox OS is doomed (limited, slow, ...); however, you can easily install Android 4.4 which runs incredibly well given the low cost (Firefox OS really is doomed!) so a great extra test device (if like me you are a developer). Of course as a consumer I'd suggest spending a little more and getting a Moto E.

Good

How to be a Man

Film

A dark comedy featuring a former comedian who, dying of cancer, recruits an inexperienced filmmaker to make a documentary for his unborn son. Surprisingly good.

Good

Digital Revolution (at Barbican)

Performance

Impressive exhibition of creative technology in art, films and videogames. Interesting selection of historical examples, some of the best recent work and some newly commissioned pieces. Heavier on tech than art (but given how terrible most contemporary art is that might be a good thing). The 'biggest' exhibit (the interactive laser pit) is actually one of the weaker ones.

Good

Dexter Remember the Monsters? (final episode)

TV

A somewhat disappointing end to Dexter, after what has probably been the weakest season. Still better than almost everything else out there.

Good

Locke

Film

A man's life falls apart as he drives at night to London; the film is mostly just his car phone calls and yet is compelling stuff. Recommended.

Good

Circle

Film

Every two minutes a stranger from a the "circle" is killed, after a vote from the others on who to kill. Interesting, dark film.

Good

Youth in Revolt

Film

Quirky Michael Cera comedy; smarter and funnier than many comparable films.

Good

Developing a React Edge

Book

Interesting, fairly clear, if becoming dated introduction to React.js Given lack of alternatives (as of November 2015) worth a read if you want to learn about the latest wonder-framework.

Good

Flight

Film

Drug and alcohol addict pulls of a near impossible flying manoeuvre which saves nearly everyone on a passenger plane. We follow the aftermath.

Good

Hard Candy

Film

Intense(ly) dark film in which a teenage girl confronts an apparent paedophile.

Good

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Factor

Book

Clear introduction to a perverse (if interesting) language: Factor uses a stack for calculations. Testing seems nice (as have the stack to check state of) everything else seemed awkward.

Good

Shades of Grey (Jasper Fforde)

Book

Interesting, creative dystopian novel around a world where colour perception is limited and society has made a number of leaps backward and the old technology is banned.

Good

In the Flesh Series 2

TV

Less focused than the first series, there are twice as many episodes, but still pretty good alt-zombie series. Some great moments, but quite a few weak storylines, retreading of earlier material and less plausible (given we accept the zombie premise) events (the MP grates).

Good

Fury

Film

Surprisingly impressive film; gritty and gripping.

Good

The Wise Kids

Film

Independent, Kickstarted(?) film: small town, evangelical USA, centred around church; three kids: one clever enough to secure her place at a good university (while doubting her religion), one gay and one embracing tradition. Interesting.

Good

Driving Lessons

Film

Slightly more substantial that I expected, coming-of-age/comedy/drama, classic if slightly unusual these days, story of hypocritical religious mother, shy teenager and eccentric friend who helps him loosen up; worth watching.

Good

Nokia X

Other

It is impressive what a low end phone can do these days. Firefox and basic functionality works well (and the camera is decent for RRP). Feels very solid, if a little bulky. However, I can't really recommend it as, dual-sim aside, any of the similarly priced Moto E/G or Lumia 520/630 are better value. Disclaimer: got sent one of these by Nokia.

Good

Drops Like Stars (Rob Bell)

Book

Interesting little book connecting creativity and suffering.

Good

Godzilla (2014 version)

Film

Surprisingly good film. Manages to lightly hint at a bunch of issues (around nuclear power and weapons), keeps things entertaining, but with enough depth to engage.

Good

Mr Turner

Film

Interesting, understated, biopic.

Good

The Circle (Dave Eggers)

Book

Highly readable account of a Google-Facebook-Twitter-in-one company's rise and their elimination of privacy. Captures some of the absurdities of contemporary technology world well, albeit in an exaggerated way.

Good

The Walking Dead Season 3

TV

Can't quite decide where to place this show: it is compelling, grim and well presented; but, it feels like this 16 episode season is twice as long as it should be (though doesn't ever drag).

Good

The Way Way Back

Film

Coming of age film, with a shy fourteen year old, his mother and her boyfriend. Feel good, but not over the top. Recommended.

Good

Frozen

Film

It has been ages since I've watched a non-Pixar Disney film; surprised at how funny it was. Light, entertaining stuff.

Good

World Without End

TV

While I don't think this was ever quite as good as Pillars of Earth, this adaptation of Ken Follett's historical novel is compelling. And by featuring the Black Death manages to kill off a greater proportion of its cast than Game of Thrones!

Good

Educating Yorkshire

TV

I usually try to avoid reality TV, but this series showing teachers making a difference is well worth watching. Inspiring and funny.

Good

Homeland Season 4

TV

Entertaining, a major improvement on the (particularly) silly season 3.

Good

The Giver

Film

Dystopian scifi adapted from YA novel; an increasingly common part of mainstream cinema. While never being anything particularly special, it is a solid, sufficiently dark, entertaining film.

Good

Transsiberian

Film

Thrilling film set largely on a Transsiberian train. Drugs, murder and tension.

Good

Joe

Film

Interesting, compelling if unexceptional coming of age film.

Good

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Film

Quirky historical-drama-comedy centred on the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel and his Lobby boy. Art theft, wealth, inheritance and the rise of fascism. Recommended.

Good

LG G Watch

Other

Tempted by a sale on Amazon I picked up one of these. Android Wear is genuinely impressive and useful (I have quite a limited set of notifications enabled so those I do get are important). Voice search, music control and ambient (Google Now powered) info are small but useful supplements to a smartphone. The hardware is bland, but the screen is clear, performance good and battery life slightly better than my phone. However, the 4.4W2 update made it ridiculously sensitive (repeatedly interrupting my music!) so it is going back to Amazon.

Good

Damages (Season 5)

TV

A strong end to a strong series (after a relatively weak season 4). Addictive, compelling stuff.

Good

Edge of Tomorrow

Film

Entertaining blockbuster film... impressive effects, well paced, coherent; has some interesting moments, but don't expect too much depth.

Good

Guardians of the Galaxy

Film

Surprisingly good, clever, entertaining comic-book-esque sci-fi. Much better than say the incoherent Avengers Assemble.

Good

After Friday Night Lights: When the Games Ended, Real Life Began. An Unlikely Love Story. (Buzz Bissinger)

Book

Interesting, short (Kindle Single) follow up to Friday Night Lights.

Good

Kidnapped for Christ

Film

Terrifying film centered around an abusive 'treatment' centre in the Dominican Republic; where parents send their supposedly troubled teenagers to get 'saved'. Makes Jesus Camp look mild.

Good

A Book Of Silence (Sara Maitland)

Book

Interesting travel-autobiography reflection on types of silence, the lack of silence in our society, creative silence and self-emptying silence.

Good

Bicolor (iOS)

Game

Entertaining iOS puzzle game. Great minimalist style, interesting game.

Good

Night Moves

Film

Interesting film following eco-terrorists, their plans to destroy a hydroelectric dam and the consequences.

Good

Brave

Film

Another impressive film from Pixar. Entertaining, funny and compelling.

Good

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Film

From something which couldn't really escape Battle Royale's shadow to a more distinctive dystopian film. Surprisingly good.

Good

Starred Up

Film

Gritty prison drama focusing on a young offender and his father.

Good

Four Lions

Film

Making a comedy film about suicide bombers should not work; this is both surprisingly funny and surprisingly grim (they could have made a lot of safer choices).

Good

Warm Bodies

Film

A twist on the usual Zombie fare, manages to quite successfully blend dark comedy and romance! See also Zombieland.

Good

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Game

Difficult to review: on the one hand this is an incredible, beautiful audiovisual experience; on the other hand there is no real game, just a (very) slow paced walk around an almost entirely un-interactive village where glowing lights reveal what has happened (everyone is missing). On balance one to avoid, which is a pity as there are some interesting ideas and incredible aesthetics here.

Good

Video Game High School (Season 2)

TV

More entertaining stuff.

Good

Someday this pain will be useful to you

Film

Drama centred around teenager who struggles to relate to his family and only really gets on with his grandmother. Interesting and a lot more substantial than most coming of age dramas.

Good

Silicon Valley (Season One)

TV

Entertaining series, which like Amazon's Betas focuses on the start-up world in silicon valley; for comedy series both are surprisingly realistic takes, though each has its out of place aspects (most notably in SV, that they are producing a product that actually solves hard CS problems and does something useful).

Good

Tengami (iOS)

Game

Basically a point and click, but with absolutely beautiful pop-up book style graphics and great soundtrack. A couple of the later puzzles are pointlessly hard (based on observing various symbols as you pass to solve combination locks), but just use an FAQ for these. A little too slow paced (you will wish the character could jog every now and again) but visually and aurally outstanding.

Good

Video Game High School (Season 1)

TV

Great little series mashing up a high school drama and competitive video gaming. Entertaining, funny stuff.

Good

The Hunger Games

Film

Battle Royale lite. Entertaining stuff, but hard to recommend when Battle Royale exists. Surprisingly edgy for such a mainstream (and almost family, or at least young adult) film.

Good

Kingsman

Film

Surprisingly good, entertaining comic spy-thriller with enough wit to to keep things fresh.

Good

Scream (Netflix series)

TV

Entertaining, watchable series. Surprising how well it worked in this (serial) medium.

Good

Cut the Rope 2

Game

Entertaining, polished and thoughtful gameplay; fun, but lacks the originality of the original.

Good

Taxi Driver

Film

Finally got round to watching this (I must have bought the Blu-ray over a year ago). Interesting film, though doesn't feel like it quite deserves its reputation: perhaps it has now been imitated and influenced many other films.

Good

Daredevil

TV

A dark, physical take on Marvel's Daredevil from Netflix. Entertaining.

Good

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Game

Another Call of Duty instalment: entertaining stuff from a franchise that seems to consistently alternate between good and okay. This is a 'good' year (unexpected as Ghosts was also pretty good), providing extremely polished, fun action; if nothing particularly special or original.

Good

A short book about drawing (Andrew Marr)

Book

Interesting, unpretentious book encouraging the reader to explore drawing.

Good

Blackfish

Film

Convincing documentary, making the case that keeping Orcas in captivity is immoral and dangerous. Feels a little dragged out (not sure what being feature length adds to this; lots of repetition).

Good

Betas

TV

Amazon's comedy drama series set in the start-up world of Silicon Valley. Entertaining and more charming than HBO's Silicon Valley. Both are decent and surprisingly realistic takes (a lot more so than for example The Social Network).

Good

Folk On

Performance

A comedy folk band (and regulars at Greenbelt). Entertaining songs, great engagement with crowd.

Good

Mac OS X Yosemite

Other

A beautiful update to Mac OS X: many aesthetic improvements though little in the way of functional improvements (virtually nothing I actually use was changed). No technical issues with update.

Good

Rudderless

Film

Grieving father finds some of his deceased son's lyrics and forms a band, using this music. A lot better than that description makes it sound (but hard not give things away). Worth watching.

Good

Flask Web Development (Miguel Grinberg)

Book

Nice clear guide to Flask (a lightweight Python web framework); as I was interested in Flask for App Engine there were quite a few redundant chapters, but otherwise seemed good.

Good

Damages (Season 4)

TV

Another ridiculously compulsive (just one more episode) season; perhaps not quite as strong as the first two seasons, but very easy to binge on (thanks Netflix).

Good

The Raid 2

Film

Takes the visceral intensity of The Raid (which was unsurpassed) and dials it up to 11. Frequently astonishing, extremely violent: do not watch this if you are at all squeamish. Lacks the tight focus of the original as we now have a more typical gang-war saga, but impressive stuff.

Good

Octagon (iOS)

Game

Fast, hard minimalist game. Reminiscent of Super Hexagon. Fun, but overly hard.

Good

Okay

Acceptable; I didn't regret it but I wouldn't really recommend it.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars (Ian Doescher)

Book

Initially funny, then it gets tedious. Shakespeare woven into Star Wars Episode 4.

Okay

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Elm

Book

Interesting replacement for Javascript (and HTML and CSS!) Uses 'Signals' to replace callbacks, infers types, functional style etc. Unfortunately the chapter was already outdated (the language is young and frequently changing). One to check back on when more stable.

Okay

Cars 2

Film

Entertaining but not one of Pixar's best.

Okay

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): MiniKraken

Book

I skimmed quite a lot of this chapter... it seems one really needs to already know Clojure to get the most out of it. Learning about a logic DSL embedded in a general purpose language would be great... a Python, Ruby, Javascript or (given earlier chapter) Elixir version would have made more sense.

Okay

Getting Started with p5.js

Book

Not for me (way too simple!) but seemingly clear into to web version of Processing: p5.js

Okay

Jericho

TV

Promising yet disappointing TV series (I gave up in about of third of the way through the first series on Netflix). Some interesting ideas (or more precisely the promise of interesting revelations), but, like many US series of 20+ episodes, spreads itself way too thinly.

Okay

Community

TV

Popular US comedy-drama around lawyer without degree who is going to community college to get one. Polished but insubstantial.

Okay

Sightseers

Film

Dark drama-comedy, as a caravanning couple tour Northern England, murdering those who irritate them.

Okay

Pacific Rim

Film

Giant robots battling giant monsters doesn't sound promising (it sounds terrible), but this is a surprisingly entertaining action movie.

Okay

The Wolverine

Film

X-Men with the violence levels dialled up a lot. Nothing special.

Okay

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Film

Finally we get to a Hobbit Movie which isn't bad. However, it certainly isn't good. After the brilliant Lord of the Rings trilogy one can't help but be exasperated by this 3-part cynical cash in. Peter Jackson please just put down the camera and retire to some where remote (like New Zealand). Entertaining stuff, but what might have been one good film was one terrible one, one overly long one and one okay, if superficial one.

Okay

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Film

A solid, if in no way special, Liam Neeson film. Compelling, somewhat gruesome, sometimes interesting film. Non-Stop is better.

Okay

X-Men Days of Future Past

Film

Entertaining, well paced film; though nothing particularly interesting, retreading familiar ground albeit with a sent from the future twist.

Okay

The Fractalist (Benoit Mandelbrot)

Book

While reading this Fama shared the Nobel prize in Economics for the EFM (a result clearly either trivial or wrong); Mandelbrot was so much greater, making many huge scientific contributions. This autobiography is readable though doesn't give any real details; his co-authored book on finance is better.

Okay

How I Live Now

Film

Post World War III fight for survival and teen romance mash up... relatively compelling, some beautiful footage of English countryside.

Okay

Type Rider (iOS/Android)

Game

Fun physics based platformer with quirky history-of-typography theme.

Okay

Impossible Road (iOS)

Game

Interesting little game: minimalist, 3d windy path, fast moving (super-monkey-style) ball, when you fall off (and you will, quickly) you have a few seconds to try to land on the path below. Nice controls; however, the game is too random with high scores feeling lucky and premature endings unfair. Still worth playing.

Okay

Tinariwen

Performance

Ridiculously dressed, guitar centred music. The kind of stuff that might be nice in the background while doing something else.

Okay

The Iliad (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Book

A difficult one to review. The translation is probably excellent (I'm not going to read others, but 'faithfulness to the Greek' has been jettisoned in favour of readability and the language feels kind of contemporary but also, due to the content, intrinsically anachronistic). The Poem is, well, actually quite dull, with very occasional brilliance. I skipped through quite a lot of it. Probably one to avoid. Just watch Troy (seriously). Or read the Aeneid (I think I read David West's translation) which is outstanding.

Okay

David (iOS)

Game

Slick minimalist graphics and original gameplay (platformer/puzzler with charging attack). But the controls don't quite work (always feel awkward) and the game is too damn hard. Interesting, but I'd suggest avoiding. Could have been much more fun.

Okay

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Film

A massive improvement on the dire first Hobbit film. The massive budget and acting talent (who should be making more Sherlock!) seems wasted on this merely fairly entertaining film. Still lacking in tension, but keeps things moving and looking good.

Okay

Hjordis

TV

Centred around characters from Rita (but without Rita). Disappointing after Rita: I think I only watched first episode. Lacks substance.

Okay

Conflict Time Photography (Tate Modern)

Other

An exhibition of photography at varying points in time (moments, days, years) following conflict or war. Interesting if grim; though often lacking in context, simply providing a multitude of images. Implicitly a convincing argument of the relative lack of worth of elite art when compared to decent journalism or history.

Okay

What we do in the shadows

Film

Faux documentary about vampires. Came highly recommended but I didn't see what the fuss was about (and abandoned after c. 30 minutes).

Okay

Outlander

TV

Ultimately disappointing, though lavishly realised, drama of a WWII nurse sent back in time to Jacobite revolutionary Scotland.

Okay

The Walking Dead Season 2

TV

Compulsive post-apocalyptic zombie action. Feels a bit repetitive at times, but entertaining, grim stuff.

Okay

Whitechapel (Series 3)

TV

The crime has become formulaic, while the ongoing personal stories of the characters more developed. 6 episodes, but even this feels like a stretch (the first two seasons were a much tighter 3 episodes each).

Okay

X-Men

Film

Hasn't really aged well; not one to re-watch. Interesting formula but after 4 very similar films (and a few spin offs) feels very tired.

Okay

House of Last Things

Film

This seems interesting at first but stagnates and the last half an hour is quite tedious. You will probably watch to the end to find out the mystery, but I suggest avoiding entirely.

Okay

Orange is the New Black (Season 3)

TV

After two great seasons I just couldn't get into this. I think I watched the first three or so episodes. Piper is as weak a central character as ever, but this time none of the other characters pick up the slack.

Okay

The Minimalist Photographer (Steve Johnson)

Book

Reasonable book on a minimalist approach to photography: inexpensive equipment and light workflow. Some useful advice on light and composition; but nothing that special (and quite short).

Okay

Dropcord iOS

Game

Nice little game with double touch controlling rotating chord; hit targets avoid red things. Great presentation, worth one go.

Okay

Halo: The Fall of Reach

Film

Okay, CG animated film with some Halo backstory.

Okay

X-Men 2

Film

One of the more interesting ones in the series, but as so many of these repeat the same basic story it is hard to find it interesting on re-watching.

Okay

The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex (Mark Kermode)

Book

Entertaining, if a bit slow and repetitive. Stick to the radio/print reviews?

Okay

Robocop

Film

Decent, entertaining sci-fi. Manages to update Robocop to deal with contemporary issues of drone killings and USA-style insane (possibly influential) television anchors, while preserving the essence of the original. Never outstanding, but solid, entertaining stuff.

Okay

True Detective (Season 1)

TV

Can't actually tell if I like this! Clever, compulsive, dark but ultimately lacking anything special.

Okay

Avengers Assemble

Film

One of those films whose popularity and (relative) critical and popular acclaim seems completely out of line with what seems to me to be merely a big budget, thoroughly uninteresting and unexceptional film. Avoid. Try any of the Iron Man films instead.

Okay

Switch (Nils Petter Molvaer)

Audio

Ambient-fusion trumpet apparently; or what sounds to me like that tedious, self indulgent genre: jazz. Occasional percussion hints at something more interesting, but never really happens.

Okay

Poor

Avoid.

Churchill

Film

Painfully bad and obviously historically inaccurate. An unsympathetic portrayal of Churchill but implausibly as a sentimental, sidelined leader worried about the regular soldiers. Netflix's The Crown has a much more interesting and plausible take on Churchill in decline (when he is back in government); this is just bad. Avoid.

Poor

The Lost City of Z

Film

Tedious, though lavishly realised in places and with a few somewhat interesting scenes. But fails to be anything more than a period recreation.

Poor

Blade Runner 2049

Film

Incredibly boring with muddy/miserable aesthetic and grating audio. Can't believe this is from director of Arrival and composer of Dunkirk. Incomparably worse to either. Perhaps could have been salvaged by cutting out half the runtime. Avoid.

Poor

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Film

Beautiful special effects, but otherwise tedious self indulgence from Peter Jackson and completely lacking in tension or the grandeur of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Avoid.

Poor

Avengers Age of Ultron

Film

The original Avengers Assemble was ridiculously overrated but at least managed to be consistently entertaining. This is worse. Avoid.

Poor

What's Happening in Scotland?

Performance

A terrible (pro independence) talk on Scotland. Emotionally manipulative, economically illiterate; insanity. With loudly shouted, bad, poetry. (Talk at Greenbelt 2014)

Poor

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Film

Disappointing. The original was a fresh comic book twist on space opera, this while genuinely funny on a handful of occasions is generally poor. Reminded me of the also weak Age of Ultron: lacking in tension or interest.

Poor

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes (PS3)

Game

This is actually a £20 demo. Fairly impressive technically I suppose, but it will probably take you about an hour to complete. Lots of the standard Metal Gear flaws remain (such awkward combat, slow pacing) making this quite frustrating. Lacks the polished gameplay of Western AAA games. Suggests that when the full game is released, it won't be the Tomb Raider style reinvention which Metal Gear demands.

Poor

Melancholia

Film

Supposedly the "non-tedious, non-offensive" Lars von Trier film; well it isn't offensive, it is however extremely dull with only a few interesting moments.

Poor