Monthly Archives: July 2011

TAR Australia: Who made the Final Three?

The penultimate episode of The Amazing Race: Australia was one of the most suspenseful of the entire season. With two teams I’ve liked from the very first episode still in, I really wanted both of them to make the Final Three. Sadly, Matt & Tom checked in fourth at the Pit Stop and were eliminated.

I am gutted for them. Two first place finished in a row, only to get eliminated in the tenth leg. And because of a T-Shirt. This entire week, I was sure that if one of my teams had to go, it would be Sam & Renae, given their 30 minute penalty. However, they actually managed to check in first and only serve out a twenty minute penalty for traveling in an unregistered vehicle.

Tyler & Nathan also had to sit through 20 minutes worth of penalty for the same reason, yet they too qualified for the final. Is anyone actually surprised? I’ve always said these two will win it all in the end. They haven’t yet, but come on – out of the three remaining teams, they have the best overall leg placements. On top of that, they’re young and fit; I reckon they have a shot. They’ve always reminded me of Tyler & James, winners of the tenth season of TAR.

And then we have Jeff & Luke. I have to say they’re my least favorite team still left in the Race. I still like them, but enough to be happy if they win. For the sake of this season, which so far has been phenomenal, I hope they don’t. I really hope they don’t.

Like I’ve said, I am terribly sorry to see the Cowboys go. Nevertheless, we’ll see them again in the final episode, as well as everyone else. On that note, let us remember the other teams who fell along the way:

 

Ryot & Liberty: Even though they were the first team to be eliminated, you could tell they are true fans of the show. ‘Let’s do it together’ is what Liberty said before checking in for what would be their last time. So adorable.

Anne-Marie & Tracy: Honestly, is there one person who watched this season and NOT loved the Big W workmates? Because if you are such a person, leave a comment so I can hunt you down. The fact that they got eliminated so soon is one of the few things I disliked about this season. I’ve missed them ever since.

Richard & Joey: The ones who focused, believed and did not achieve anything. Yeah, they won a leg and annoyed everyone (racers and viewers alike) – but when you put that into perspective, are those such great achievements?

Mo & Mos: Or The Moose, as I had always called them. They were funny enough, but it took a while for me to grow on them. I’m happy with how far they’ve made it, although I would have been happier if they switched places with another team…ahem *Chris & Anastasia* ahem.

Alana & Mel: I always thought they had a weird relationship. Mel was definitely the more annoying out of the two. While they had their funny moments, they weren’t quite a team I was rooting for.

Chris & Anastasia: Neither were them. They might have worked well together in their last two legs. They might have come in first once. But they bickered, they fought and screamed at each other for the most part. So good riddance.

Dave & Kelly: Dave annoyed me with some of his comments, but I have to say him and Kelly make for a funny couple. Very devilish, sneaky and funny. They should be happy with how far they’ve made it.

Matt & Tom: The good thing is that we only have to watch one episode in which they don’t race. And if bringing back Anne-Marie & Tracy for an All-Stars seems unlikely, I can’t imagine one without the Cowboys. I don’t think I would watch one, to be honest.

 

So, who is your favorite team going into the final episode? Who would you like to see win? My answer to that question: Sam & Renae, although I still think it’s going to be Tyler & Nathan. And the world is a cruel place, so Jeff & Luke might end up winning as well. We’ll have to wait and see.

The Cowboys bit the dust. Unfortunately.

TAR Australia: ‘I hope we don’t have to wear a crown of thorns’

To be completely honest, I wasn’t that excited about this week’s episode of TAR: Australia. Harry Potter is still the main thing on my mind and on top of that, this week was a non-elimination, like I had predicted.

Has anyone else noticed how delighted Grant seemed to be when he announced Dave & Kelly ‘didn’t even make it to the Pit Stop’? What was that all about? Anyway, teams had to run around to a few locations before their first proper task – they encountered the Roadblock at Qumran, the archaeological site. The team member performing it had to decipher a message written in Hebrew.

Now, they were given a parchment with the English alphabet and their correspondent Hebrew letter. They basically had to spell out the words; it should have been an easy task. In fact, Tom and Sam quickly finished it, while their teammates were being very supportive – Matt took a nap and Renae shaved her legs. But Jeff, for some reason, had a hard time with the task. Such a hard time that he decided to work together with Nathan. Not to mention, prior to that he and Luke also donated their map to the Surfers.

I’m sorry, what was that? There are four teams left in the competition. No matter how well you get on with them, it’s time to start doing things on your own. It was silly for Nathan to agree to join forces with Jeff during the Roadblock. It was silly for Jeff & Luke to give away their map like that. I mean, come on – are you going to work together in the final leg as well? ‘Oi, Nathan, wanna try and find that Finish Line together?’

Meanwhile, The Cowboys entertained us by having the following conversation:

Tom: That’s a bagel, there. The round ones with the hole in the middle.

Matt: What’s it do?

Tom: What do you mean? It’s food.

I can’t possibly be the only one constantly surprised and amused at Matt’s lack of travel experience.

This week’s Detour was a choice between Pilgrim’s Trail – carry a wooden cross along the same path Jesus is said to have taken along to the site of His crucifixion – and Holy Grail, which required teams to unearth a clay pot and deliver it to a man in the City of David. Unsurprisingly, the three all-male teams went for the first one. The Surfers struggled with this task, managing to get lost although Jeff & Luke were right behind them. They started to get frustrated at each other and it was sort of uncomfortable to watch. Sam & Renae were, again, the only ones to chose the other side, but that was a good call. Not only they would have had trouble carrying the gigantic cross, but if you start the challenge in fourth place, chances are you’re going to finish it in fourth place. With Holy Grail, they seemed to make up some time.

A little more running around, some more swearing from Tyler and teams were already at the Pit Stop: The Western Wall. The placements remained unchanged from last week, meaning The Cowboys had won yet another leg and Sam & Renae came in last. Being the non-elimination leg that was, they were spared and have to check in first during the next leg, or else the 30 minute penalty will probably be their kiss of death.

I have to say, it wasn’t a very impressive leg and had I not been worried that Jeff & Luke would sneak in front of The Cowboys and steal the 1st place finish from them, it would have been plain boring. The preview clips at the end of the episode didn’t reveal much either, but considering it’s the final elimination of the season, it is bound to be pretty intense. Who do you think will go home?

And to end the post with some good news: The Amazing Race: Australia has officially been renewed for a second season. 😀

Harry Potter.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, but I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. Like, a huge, huge fan – I loved the books and movies ever since I was 9 or 10 and always will.

As everyone knows, the last movie in the series, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part Two, premiered on July 13. I feel a short blog entry was due, to share with the world a few thoughts on the movie.

The only reason I didn’t go to the midnight screening is because that was the 3D version of the movie and I wanted to see the 2D version first. Nevertheless, I went to the 13.50 screening on Thursday, so I still think I’m among the first people to see it. 😀

Also, in preparation for this event, I saw all the previous seven movies over the weekend. It was amazing, but at the same time tiring. I’ve been reminded how awesome the soundtrack of the entire series is, how much I hated Umbridge while reading HP and The Order of the Phoenix and other interesting things.

Anyway, back to the last movie. I will not be able to put into words just how much I loved it, I just won’t. So let’s just say I got goose bumps about…30 seconds? 40? into the movie and they more or less lasted the entire two hours. That has never happened before, not even with the other Harry Potter movies. Even though this was the shortest movie in the franchise, together with HP and the DH: P1, it did the book justice. I really do feel like this was the best movie in the series; there is not a thing I disliked. True, they still cut out some minor elements but overall they did a great job of staying faithful to the book.

The acting was top-notch. If Emma Watson (Hermione) and, to an extent Rupert Grint (Ron) shined in Part 1, the star of this one was definitely Daniel Radcliffe (Harry). Though really everyone did a fantastic job, from Alan Rickman (Snape) to Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix) and Maggie Smith (Prof. McGonagall). Evanna Lynch (Luna, who happens to be one of my favorite characters) and Matt Lewis (Neville) stole a few scenes as well. The one tiny observation I have (which isn’t anything new, by the way) is that there still is no chemistry whatsoever between Daniel and Bonnie Wright (Ginny). Does anyone actually believe their characters are in love? However, that can be and is easily overlooked.

One of the most touching scenes was The Prince’s Tale – I did not expect to see a crying baby Potter and a devastated Snape hugging the body of Lily. I got teary eyes. Then, the walk to the Forbidden Forest was also beautifully executed. I got teary eyes again. The battle scenes were also well done – they could have used a little more dueling, but they were still such a delight to the eyes.

I have to say though…I’m feeling emptier now. Yesterday, I was all excited and happy because the movie was so great. Now, after a good night’s sleep, it really hit me: one of the greatest things I had ever experienced finally came to an end. Well, it will never end (and certainly not for me), but there are no more books to wait for, no more movies… it’s almost depressing. I can’t bring myself to do anything, nor can I stop thinking about this wonderful phenomenon that has deeply marked my childhood. And listening to Farewell to Dobby and other songs from the soundtracks over and over again does not help!

I’m not sure when or if I will post another entry on Harry Potter (maybe once Pottermore arrives?), but it can’t not have its own category. So, to end this on a somewhat positive note, the quote from J. K. Rowling which I am sure has touched many more fans other than myself:

‘Whether you return by page or the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.’

TAR Australia: ‘When I saw everyone freezing to death’

Well, last night’s episode of The Amazing Race: Australia wasn’t, as I had hoped, a non-elimination one. In spite of what I said last week and given how things went down, I’m kinda glad it wasn’t. But next week we have to have a non-elimination leg. Right?

The five remaining teams had to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel. Dave & Kelly got up to a bad start right away when they missed the flight all the other teams were on. Still, they were able to catch up with everybody at the Roadblock. The team member performing the Roadblock had to drive a container through an obstacle course, but the shipping port didn’t open until six in the morning, with the four leading teams getting there at about three in the morning.

The task was quite difficult (not to mention it reminded me of the last leg in the Unfinished Business Race, the one in which Gary & Mallory lost due to a bad taxi), with Jeff being particularly anxious about it. Still, everybody got it right the first time… everybody but Renae. She had to do it twice, thus putting herself and Sam in last place. As Dave & Kelly were leaving, Dave was nice enough to wish Renae bad luck.

 

Which team’s relationship do you envy?

 

The next challenge was pretty awesome – each team member had to answer, separately, five questions about the Race. They would receive their next clue once their answers matched. Matt & Tom were the only team to finish within minutes; everybody else struggled. What I like about these types of challenges is that if you have one wrong, you can easily freak out and lose valuable time.

I was hoping Sam & Renae would surge ahead here, but Sam screwed up by reading a question wrong, which caused them to fall back to last place. Had she read it right, they might have had a shot at first place this leg. Jeff & Luke finished the task second, followed by The Surfers and Dave & Kelly. However, Renae eventually got it right and sneaked in fourth place, as Dave & Kelly decided to ‘get a bit of information’.

 

Lucky Thirteen

 

The Detour this week was a choice between Find Unseen (use a metal detector to search for a key, then open a chest) and Make Thirteen (play a ball and bat game, hitting the ball back and forth thirteen times without letting it fall on the ground). The latter sounded like the easier choice, so naturally everyone went for it. The Cowboys rocked this challenge as well, but both Jeff & Luke and Tyler & Nathan had a little trouble with it. Especially Jeff, who lost it when they dropped the ball after eleven passes and let out a horrid scream. Nevertheless, both teams were out of there before the Models and Dave & Kelly arrived.

Initially, both trailing teams opted for Make Thirteen and I sighed at the thought of having three episodes in a row in which one side of the Detour remained unused. Sam & Renae switched pretty quickly though and this proved to be a wise move. It is true at one point they looked as if they were about to lose their sanity in the hot Israeli sun, but ultimately they finished before Dave & Kelly.

 

The art of driving out of the way

 

The Pit Stop – Masada ruins – for this leg was some 200 km in the desert and teams had to drive themselves there. The Cowboys checked in first (woo-hoo!), but everyone else had problems getting there. Jeff & Luke got lost as usual, while Tyler & Nathan drove 50 km out of the way. In the end, they finished second and third, respectively.

Then we were tortured with images in which Kelly said they had a good map and they know where they’re going. All this while Renae drove around the other side of some mountain and had to backtrack. At this point, I thought for sure they will arrive at the Pit Stop last, but what do you know? Sam & Renae checked in as team number four. I’ve never seen a team looking more confused, skeptical and adorable as those two girls ever, on any season of The Amazing Race.

So what happened with Dave & Kelly? One moment they seem to be on track, the other they stop for coffee in the middle of the night. They looked exhausted from the start of the leg, but it’s a shame they couldn’t even get to the Pit Stop. I’m not sad they were eliminated – out of the five teams, they were my least favorite.
With only three episodes left, I think it’s safe to say this season was amazingly entertaining – it exceeded my expectations in teams, challenges and format.

What did you make of this episode?

ABBA is ABBA is ABBA is ABBA

Country: Sweden
Release date: 21 April 1975
Format: LP
Label: Polar (original release)

After the success of Waterloo, ABBA actually struggled for a few months, as everyone had deemed them to be the usual one-hit wonder Eurovision winner. As he confessed in later interviews, Bjorn was afraid ‘that was it, we were done’. So Long was the first single they released from their third album, ABBA. It went on to become the group’s worst charting single ever – in the UK for example, it only reached #91.

However, things soon started to pick up speed. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do, although only peaking at #38 in the UK charts, became a sizeable hit everywhere else. It topped the charts in a number of territories including, for the first time, Australia. The song even reached #15 in the USA, making it the only song that performed better in the USA than the UK. The release of SOS and Mamma Mia marked the beginning of ABBA’s global chart dominance, which would last until the end of their career.

If you have read my previous review, you know Waterloo is not quite my favorite ABBA album. While their self-titled one is much better, it still didn’t have a big impact on me. Usually albums that don’t share their title with one of their tracks don’t work for me. Of course, there are exceptions – this, obviously, being one of them. Yet it always takes me a few seconds to think of which songs are on this album and I don’t like that.(Edit: Yeah, that doesn’t really make any sense. I was just trying to find something somewhat negative to say about this album. Sue me.) But name and its effects on me aside, this is a very good album, with a nice balance of cheerful and more slow paced songs.

Unlike Waterloo, I like all songs on this album (Man in the Middle may be the only one that’s not quite on the same level as the others, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless). Sure enough, Mamma Mia and SOS steal the spotlight, but even on a first listening you can find many more that are just as good. Bang-A-Boomerang, for example, has a great beat and is somewhat reminiscent of the Waterloo track.

One of my favorite songs from this album is I’ve Been Waiting For You, because the harmony of Frida and Agnetha’s voices really shines through. It’s full of sentiment as well, in the chorus – especially the lyrics: ‘I love you, I adore you/ I lay my life before you‘. Of course, Intermezzo no. 1 also stands out as being the first of only two instrumental pieces released during ABBA’s years together.

With songs in which the music blends beautifully with the powerful vocals of the girls, this album is definitely deserving of more than one listening. You will find more of the greatness present in some songs of the Waterloo album, you will be entertained, you will love it. ABBA is a must for…anyone, really.

Check out my other (sort of) reviews of ABBA albums: Ring Ring and Waterloo.

TAR Australia: ‘At least the view’s nice’

Yes. Yes, the second half of the leg more than made up for the first one. I was very satisfied with it, as well as with its outcome… although that log chopping task? Insane.

 

 

‘It’s not over yet’

 

The episode started with Chris & Anastasia checking in first at the Pit Stop in Prague only to find out the leg’s not over yet. They immediately got their next clue, which instructed them to travel by train to Krakow, Poland and search the car park for a marked vehicle. Did I mention already that I love that teams are doing most of the driving?

The ‘Lovebirds’, Surfers, Father & Son and Models all got on the first train to Krakow. Surprising, since the train ride (or plane) at the start of a leg usually gives trailing teams a chance to catch up. The second train only carried Dave & Kelly and The Farmers. The latter are one of my favorites, but I somehow wasn’t worried about them.

Some problems arose for Tyler & Nathan, however, in the form of two men stealing their fanny pack. Still, since they were on a moving train, the chances of finding it were pretty good, I reckon. But the thieves were nice enough to only take the money and leave the rest behind. If I were in their position, I would have taken a few clues so I can frame them – worth so much more than whatever cash was in that fanny pack.

 

Dig, not push over!

 

Upon arriving in Krakow, teams encountered the second Roadblock of this leg: they had to drive to a salt mine, where one team member had to push a mine cart through the mine until the end of the line. They then had to dig through the cart to find crystalline keys, one of which unlocked the awesome looking crypt with the next clue. It was so much better than last one, even if only because of the crypt: I half expect a mummy to jump up and hand them the clue.

All four leading teams got to the mine at about the same time. Luke found the key first, but decided not to show it to anyone. We are down to the final six teams, so that was expected. I was so happy Renae was the second person to find the key – it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen ‘Sam & Renae – Currently in 2nd place’. Chris got his soon afterwards, leaving a frustrated Nathan to push his cart over. It was surprising they didn’t get a penalty of some sort for that – after all, the instructions specified he had to dig for the key. By the time The Cowboys and Dave & Kelly got to the Roadblock, everyone else was on their way to the Detour.

Detour which, was interesting this week, but I just wish the teams hadn’t all done the same task – Herd. They had to build a sheep pen and herd three marked sheep. Jeff & Luke once again got lost (in their words, ‘about four times’), meaning Sam & Renae arrived first.

Herding the sheep proved to be more troublesome than I had anticipated: the animals were running around and smashing fences, but this only angered Renae. And when Renae is angry, Renae goes the Herculean route: she lifts the marked sheep and carries them to the pen. Seriously though, she was awesome – one sheep weighed more than 50 kgs! They finished the task first, followed by Chris & Anastasia and Jeff & Luke.

Given the Cowboys’ embarrassing history with Cowboy-related tasks, I didn’t know how they would perform. Thankfully, they redeemed themselves, getting in after Dave & Kelly and leaving before them. Admittedly, Dave & Kelly are not exactly the ones to but, but at least they got out of last place.

 

Problems x4

 

The teams faced an Intersection next. After joining forces, they had to cut four slices of a huge log. Now, I think this was a bit too much. I mean, it’s the end of a double leg and teams are already exhausted. Cutting that leg seemed incredibly hard and it would have posed quite enough problems in a normal leg. Anastasia struggled with it the most; normally I really wouldn’t care, but she and Chris paired up with Sam & Renae. If she fell, the Models would fall with her and that’s not something I was looking forward to.

As Luke & Jeff got lost again, Sam & Renae finished cutting the first slice. But as Anastasia & Chris started working on the second one, all the other teams caught up. For Anastasia, ‘there was blood, sweat and tears’, as Renae said. I was never a fan of her team, but just this time, I really hoped she would be able to pull through. She wasn’t. Chris announced they give up. I started getting mad, but then Sam announced they were only given a two hour penalty, since they at least cut one slice. The Lovebirds, however, got a four hour one

Although they checked in first, The Models were dropped to third place when Luke & Jeff and Tyler & Nathan came in first and second. At this point, I was fairly confident this would be the last leg for Chris and Anastasia, but there still was a slight chance that Tom & Matt and Dave & Kelly will take longer to slice their log. After all, Kelly is not the strongest woman out there and Dave is over 50 years old. In the end though, both teams checked in before the Lovebirds, thus eliminating them.

Usually, the team that finishes in 6th place is one I really like (e.g.: The Cowboys, Gary & Mallory, Steve & Allie), so imagine how thrilled I was to actually get a break this season. On top of that, Chris & Anastasia were the only team I really didn’t like, so this was the best possible outcome.

Next week, ‘one team won’t make it to the Pit Stop’. The certitude with which Grant said that, coupled with the clips of Sam having a breakdown really worry me. Hopefully, next week is a non-elimination leg, because we all know there is one left for this season. Personally, I hate it when they wait until the last moment and have it at the final four stage.

 

Till next week.

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