Sunday, October 18, 2009
Buoyed by Demonaz’s grandiose lyrics, Abbath’s cave troll vocals splice the guitar wall and pummelling drums with relief filled confidence. Perhaps surprisingly though, Fall incorporates elements from many of the band’s previous work as opposed to moving forward drastically like they did with 1999’s At the Heart of Winter. Overall, the album is short (clocking in at just over 40 minutes), but slower in tempo. Ferocious moments reminiscent of 1997’s Blizzard Beasts (‘Hordes to War’) are there, along with the epic notions of their last album, Sons of Northern Darkness (‘Unearthly Kingdom’, ‘Norden on Fire‘) and even a riff or two that sounds like it could fit into Abbath’s heavy metal-esq side project, ’I’ (’The Rise of Darkness’).
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I didn’t really catch their under-the-radar released 2002 effort, Collidoscope (a record and reunion apparently born out of reaction to the 9-11 attacks), but it is known to be an auspicious release given the long time between recordings. Having disbanded after 1993’s hard-rocking opus, Stain, a few live guest appearances started to happen in the early 2000’s, then Collidoscope came after which another (recording) hiatus ensued. Luckily for us, they have regrouped yet again, with what feels like more energy than in the past, and picked up where they left off in ‘93.
With a not overly clean production, hard-hitting Helmet-esq riffs puncture the heavier numbers of Chair. Songs such as ‘Decadance’ and ‘Out of My Mind’ could be virtual Stain B-sides with their black denim attitude. Not to say they haven’t evolved beyond or in that particular sound, more that they still thankfully retain it with a passion. They have always encompassed so many styles however, it was never easy to define what their sound was. The colourful early days of Vivid and Time’s Up saw them incorporate everything from soul, rock, blues, pop, reggae, punk and metal as well. Chair still embraces them all and what is achieved is a schizophrenic combination of the harder-edged Stain and the inspired creativity of songs such as ‘Cult of Personality‘or 'Bi'.
Guitarist Vernon Reid - once touted as the next Hendrix (though more like a black Tom Morello), impresses whether espousing metal-tinged chorus riffs or providing grand sweeps in tracks such as the instant single, ‘Behind the Sun‘ & the unforgiving ‘Hard Times‘. Reid’s manic solos still remain a highlight as they did over a decade ago too. Behind it all, the simplistic but absurd brilliance of Will Calhoun’s drumming is more than complemented by the precise bass work of Doug Wimbish. Vocalist Corey Glover’s distinct tone punctuates and soars over the three piece’s impressive musicianship, giving us a collection of songs that are just a pleasure to listen too. The lyrics on Chair explore themes of identity crisis and purpose - a possible reflection on the band’s present and unpredictable future states of mind.
Overall and defying the odds, Living Colour have once again produced something that goes beyond trend or what is designated as ’mainstream’. If only they had kept it up after 1993, they would deservedly be more well known as one of the most important American rock bands - black or otherwise - in the last 20 years. Better late than never, The Chair in the Doorway sees the band pick up where they left off with definite confidence. For some it may seem lacking and only occasionally great, but for fans, it’s in impressive return to form even if it doesn’t quite match their formidable previous albums.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The director has hinted that his main influences were the hardcore sci-fi action movies of the 1980's. The works of Paul Verhoeven and films such as Predator, Aliens and the Terminator. This becomes obvious as the film goes on and despite what the first hour potentially offers us, it does feel more akin with those influences than one might have first thought. There are also obvious nods to the likes of David Cronenberg, but this is action sci-fi - or at least that is what it becomes. It should be said that the blatant plot holes and occasionally clunky script do expose it as an imperfect movie, but no such things ever really halt the adrenalin or excitement. Blomkamp has labelled it a "South African Hollywood film", and that is probably an apt description, though it is more than fair to say that this Peter Jackson produced effort definitely offers more depth and emotion - not to mention social and political commentary, than your average US blockbuster.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
If you like it, the next obvious question seems to be: is it in the same class as Heat? The short answer is not even close, despite several similarities to the 1995 film (including the line “We here for the bank’s money, not yours”). To be fair, it was always a lofty height to actually reach for a director who seemed to be losing his touch with his last couple of films. What cannot be denied though, is that at its core, Public Enemies is solid entertainment and for better or worse, Mann’s best effort in a while. Worth it for the escapism, not the history lesson.
Monday, August 10, 2009
R. I. P
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Working as a reporter for The Washington Globe, reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) sets out to a routine murder victim headline, but as more facts start to manifest, a much bigger story begins to unfold of a political cover-up involving defence force distributors, corrupt senators and even more murders. One of the main ideas behind State of Play however, is the parallels that appear between Cal’s handling of a hugely expanding conspiracy story and a police investigation. “It’s not a story! It’s a case”, Cal is abruptly told by the chief detective at one point. Nevertheless, Cal is determined for the same objective - the truth. The tension unfolds subtly with a nice cat and mouse sequence at the centre making it less a droning ‘talky’ as it is a gripping thriller with constant, finely realised twists. Kevin MacDonald knows this genre well and hardly falters bringing the script to life.
Ben Affleck as Senator Stephen Collins at the centre of all the interest suits his role and played it as well as one could have expected; straight laced with few extrovert qualities. Helen Mirren’s newspaper boss shines through with little to do and representing the new age of ‘blog reporting’, Rachel McAdams’ Della Frye counters Crowe’s McAffrey surprisingly well. Russ is top flight as always, proving that his ability to inhabit a man and all that makes him tick, makes him almost second to none within his generation of performers. Robin Wright-Penn channels her real-to-life wife scorned experiences with not surprising ease, adding weight to the supporting cast alongside small but pivotal roles from Jeff Daniels and Jason Bateman.
With such written films however, genre rules always tend to appear and even though the revelatory ending did not feel worse or better for the film, I might have been more satisfied if a reasonable, but rushed extra twist at the eleventh hour wasn't thrown in. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed despite thinking it doesn’t quite match McDonald's outstandingly tense Last King of Scotland. It is easily one of the best films of 2009 so far and as a film for adults goes, it’s a damn fine entertainment.
Finally, the biggest issue by far is the fact that the director made it in the first place. Part of me does wish that “going back to the well”, as Romero has done with here, is not the best he has left to offer. I’m not sure how many more films he has in him, but it would be nice to see something different than him clinging onto a legacy he can’t really match anymore. There is still fun to be had with Diary, and it is a very well put together effort, it just seems all very unfortunately forgettable. It would be a great film if he hadn’t already made it better 35 years ago.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Buscemi himself, as the central Tommy, plays out a meditation in all things loserdom excellently. Bad choices, selfishness, alienation, you name it; Tommy justifies such a label to himself and to all around him. Coupled with all that happens up until the poignant, almost depressing ending, it is difficult to sympathise with or for him. Not that Buscemi as writer/director expects or even wants us too. The laidback, but hardly laconic script slowly draws out circumstance in a very observatory way avoiding influencing the audience too much about how we should feel about these people. We can only gauge their actions, not really react.
The lesson then is that life is what you make it - and sitting around in a dive bar all day will not help your cause. Tommy, and many like him, are destructive people to all who are close, never fully realising until it is too late. In short, and incorporating a great soundtrack to boot, Trees Lounge is a deeply humorous, albeit bleak slice of life that, if you let it, can help put your own into perspective too.
Monday, April 20, 2009
At the centre of the film is two brilliant performances by two of Britain’s best actors. Richard Attenborough’s John Christie is a chillingly cold portrayal. No doubt an influence on certain elements of Anthony Hopkins’s essay of one Hannibal Lector, he is a soulless man, his inadequacies’ fuelling his need to murder, boarding up his victims inside the home’s crawlspace or burying them in his back garden. Opposite him is a young John Hurt, outstanding as the simple-minded, naïve Evans. He stands little chance against Christie’s manipulation of the facts during an eventual trial involving both men. Both rise to the challenge, being utterly convincing in their interpretations.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The film's title comes from the beloved car Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) owns as well as having his hands literally in it's production "back '72” at the Ford factory where he worked for fifty years. The grizzled Korean War veteran is now retired and finds that his not so glamorous neighbourhood has been infiltrated with disrespectful gang youths and Asian (Hmong) families he has more than a little trouble accepting live next door. Walt is a straight shooter, and his prejudice attitude defines his character. Coupled with the estranged relationship he has with his two sons and the recent death of his long time wife, he is now a lonely, angry man. He smokes and drinks constantly despite coughing up blood regularly, uses terms such as gook, slopes, spooks and zipper head to the recipient's faces and pulls his rifle on anybody spending too much uninvited time on his lawn.
As the film unfolds, Walt slowly breaks down his walls and after intervening in a tussle involving gang members and his neighbours he finds himself befriending the very people that he had no time for. Confirming this, he and Thao, a young man from his neighbour's family, form a skeletal, but invaluable father/son bond. However, gang members persist to harass Thao and his family with violence and intimidation. The film falters the most here as the structure and dialogue used to frame the initial story comes off as unrealistic and clichéd too often. Perhaps more experienced actors or a more authentic script may have helped fix these flaws, but when Walt's savage, racist barbs are what's keeping the audience's attention - both intentionally and unintentionally funny; it becomes clear something is missing. It is just not convincing enough and the first half of the film clunks along before the more emotional driven second redeems the story as best it can.
In short, the character of Walt is a thinly veiled Harry Callahan or Gunny Highway living out his twilight years, which makes it perfect fodder for Eastwood. Fans of the gruff exterior, straight talkin' cynical bastard he is famous for will have plenty to enjoy here. Indeed, it is a tailor made, obviously very personal film to the director, amplified by his passionate performance. It almost seems to be a closing chapter in many ways for those particular much-loved characters of his in that sense too. If it starred anybody but Clint, it could have been a much different film. As it stands, parts of it almost seems like caricature or parody because of it. This is a shame as the drama wants to be and deserves to be heavy going, but by the time the credits roll with Eastwood himself mouthing an ode to the car at the centre of it all, Gran Torino only really feels mildly moving despite saving it's most poignant and emotional moments for the excellent final act.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Keeping a similar feeling to 2006's Blood Mountain, it's epic in everyway! Check out under the pic for a link to a huge 1000x1000 version. Current release date is March 24th with the first single, Divinations apparently coming out on the 27th of Jan in the States...so in just a few hours then.
Mastodon are one of my current top three favourite bands and have been since late 2005. CtS has been a long time coming. Blood mountain blew me away and if I had too choose, it would be a contender for my fav album in the 00's so far. Early reviews of CtS have pointed to a much more rock based, prog sound (which was always going to be the case), which just makes my expectations even higher.
Expect gushing and/or unapproved man-love for the lads as the album release date gets closer....How sweet would this look on a vinyl??
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Unconventional director Darren Aronofsky has shaped a documentary-like film with The Wrestler, and like the central performance is unflinching, gritty and driven by severe emotion. It is debateable whether the character of Randy is a likeable one, but you are not really asked to choose anyhow. We follow him through his present day-to-day life and the film’s major achievement is that you cannot help but empathize with him - as if it was real life. As if The Ram is a wrestler in our world. In that sense too, the film avoids sentimentality but still manages to be profoundly affecting and at times, painful to watch.
The deft cutting is reminiscent of earlier Aronofsky films, Pi and Requiem for a Dream, and works well here to keep the pace brisk and break up potentially tedious dialogue-free scenes, as well as adding energy to ones such as when Randy is working behind a supermarket Deli counter. A subtle, precise acoustic score from Clint Mansell blends appropriately amongst the eighties hair metal Randy holds so dear, ultimately confirming that on a technical level, The Wrestler is scarcely flawed. The wrestling matches themselves flow with authenticity. It’s a credit to both Rourke and Aronofsky for not flinching during the handful of fights shown - making them feel real was essential, and they‘ve completely succeeded.
Exploring a relatively uncharted world in cinema, scriptwriter Robert D. Siegel gives us material that on the surface does resemble a clichéd story, but praise must be given to the eye for detail towards the underground wrestling circuit he demonstrates. It effectively kills any chance of formula pulling us out of Randy’s psyche of frustration and eventual acceptance of what he believes his life to amount too. Struggling to complete any relationship he has besides the ones he shares with his loyal fans, it’s seeing Randy risking his life trying to hold on to that what makes him feel human the most, which is genuinely heart-breaking. It's also what make The Wrestler an unmissable film.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Jonze’s vision has been under a cloud of “complications” it seems since it began production almost a good two years ago. This was always going to be a film with a heavy post-production period, but rumours of the studio initially rejecting the director’s first cut, requiring re-shoots and worst of all, potentially replacing Spike, seemed to have turned out to be just that; rumours. Even so, the film was pushed back too over a year from its initial release date. Jonze never commented, but words from the studio’s execs and one Forest Whittaker (he voices one of the Wild Things along side Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini) claiming all was well, was….well, reassuring.
For a film based on a seemingly important chapter in wine history, Bottle Shock’s major flaw is its almost forced elements of the relationships between its leads. It is not that padding such a distinctive story with dramatic liberties is bad, more that it is just not done that well here. A film like this does need something to keep the interest of non-wine aficionados in the audience, so the idea is acceptable, but the script fails to deliver a little more than a few solid moments of comedy and drama amongst a traditional Hollywood relationship arc. It is nothing you haven’t seen before, but its positives make it worth a watch (only once) with Rickman and wine fans certainly getting the most out of it.
Themes of opportunity, love, growth, life and death are consistent as we follow the unambiguous linear storyline, constantly moving forward. Engaging and quirky characters interweave the film throughout, with roundly excellent performances from all involved. Beyond Pitt’s effortless essay of Benjamin, Blanchett again proving she is the best female actor working today, Taraji Henson’s Queenie and Jason Flemyng as Thomas Button, deserve to be mentioned. The narration used to tell and introduce is delivered as well as one could have hoped with Pitt’s New Orleans’s drawl finely convincing.
I recoiled initially from the chosen narrative, of the journal being read by Daisy’s daughter to her on her deathbed. Beside the fact that this device brings unwanted comparisons to the vastly inferior, Forest Gump (note the same screenwriter here), a cut back to Daisy’s hospital room in present day, too rue or explain her regret about a certain situation, started to grow slightly tedious and almost into muddy cliché. Luckily Fincher pulls back before it becomes a nuisance or overly sentimental. It’s a close call, and I perhaps would rather have just seen the story unfold without it.
If you find yourself a bit too cynical too endure the message it provides of simply enjoying life and it’s never too late, it would not be so surprising, but you would be missing a wonderful experience. One that proves Fincher is someone who won’t be pigeon holed and without doubt, one the most interesting directors working out of Hollywood today.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
With the exception of 2006’s Lady in the Water, they’re never as unpleasant as some claim to be (I'm talking to you, The Village haters), but at the same time and despite dropping the twist gimmick, he seems to have hit a major wall in the last few years when it comes to finalizing his pictures. His latest oeuvre, The Happening, does contain a fresh take on the epidemic idea (ludicrous or not - and if you say it is stupid, then you must also dismiss a bunch of now regarded 'classics' of similar ilk), but in the end it can only be considered ordinary at best. So it seems Night is well and truly unable to re-create what he achieved in his most impressive work, Unbreakable.
The big question is though, was his breakthrough film, The Sixth Sense, that good anyway? If you believed the critics, he was the second coming of both Spielberg and Hitchcock. While it was interesting and original, it hardly has replay value. Perhaps the man, who arguably set the re-invention in motion of ‘the twist’ in mainstream cinema, gets a bit too much attention then. Shouldn’t we just drop the bar for the little guy already? It could be people ripping him to shreds or tripping over themselves in overstated praise, but the bottom line is, he is only a genre director with "Hitchcockian" ambitions, so why can’t he just make films without such scrutiny? Being egotistic is not enough to justify it, because there are HEAPS of egotistical filmmakers in Hollywood who don't cop it as much.
I consider the guy a decent storyteller, so I always walk into one of his films with only really that in my mind. I don’t think Night has really done anything to permit the size of the spotlight that’s on him is my point, but he’s no hack either. Brett Ratner is a hack. Woody Allen is an auteur. Stanley Kubrick is a master filmmaker. M.Night Shyamalan is none of the three really, but I understand it is easier to criticise than to praise. Maybe he should just focus on his strong point - the idea and conception, and then let someone with their feet closer to the ground take over. But he’s afraid to fly! He should be the most grounded filmmaker working today!
Part Two, the Captain's review of The Happening coming soon..