My first post after a festive period spent away from the keyboard, dusting off the cobwebs to take a look at Editors latest album (which was released in the US on Monday, despite being available in the UK since October of last year). While you take a gander at that, please notice that Slant have unveiled a spiffy new design that allows readers (i.e. you) to submit comments on all of the entries posted on the website. Even if you choose not to capitalise on that lovely feature, it all looks very sleek anyway. Wünderbar.
Michael Caine’s turn in Harry Brown has deservedly drawn comparisons to Walt Kowalski, Clint Eastwood’s loveable bigot who purged his suburbs from Hmong gang-bangers in the tremendous Gran Torino. Much like his transatlantic counterpart, Harry Brown plays a similarly jaded, melancholic war veteran in a decaying dystopia where he has no place and no purpose. Brown’s only pleasure comes from chess games with his similarly disillusioned pal Leonard (David Bradley), but when he discovers his friend has been savagely murdered by a gang of young hoodlums, Harry swaps his rook for a P226 semi-automatic pistol and sets out for bloody revenge.
But to call the film a “British Gran Torino” is very lazy journalism. Though these vigilante pensioners are both embroiled in gangland conflict with those young enough to be their grandchildren, they’re quests for retribution are poles apart: Eastwood played the pacifist, waging his war with a tact and diplomacy that never justified his partaking in the violence going on around him. Caine, though, wastes no time in entertaining murder, arson and torture to get even. At times, the brutality with which Harry Brown is composed can detract from the sentiment behind its eponymous hero’s crusade. It seems that director Daniel Barber—and, indeed, his trigger-happy protagonist—is enjoying the violence a little too much, culminating in a curtain call bathed in blood and devoid of much emotion or justice. Thinking back to Gran Torino, though, I was left with the impression justice had been served, whereas Harry Brown just feels as though the tables have been turned slightly.
The film is still wildly entertaining, mainly due to Caine’s icy executioner routine. Like his turn in Get Carter, Caine underplays his toughness throughout. And though Harry Brown doesn’t pack the emotive punch of Eastwood’s vehicle, it provides solid entertainment nonetheless.
Uh-oh! Surely, not another rap/rock collaboration album!? Yes, yes it is… my favourite names in hip-hop (including Raekwon, Mos Def, RZA, and Pharoahe Monch) come together with blues duo The Black Keys providing the instrumentals for Blakroc, going some way to shake the terrible stigma with which these genre-benders have been plagued. For the full review, follow the link to Slant Magazine below:
Puppetmastaz are one of those groups you’re never going to hear on the radio; they’re four studio albums into their career, but these records have been released to little or no popular press coverage whatsoever. I imagine The Break Up will be a similar story, there are very few reviews available on the internet and it’s yet to even find its own Wikipedia entry. So you’ll have to take my word as gospel, and head over to the usual place for the review:
When a picture is marketed almost solely on the sexual prowess of its starlet, it indicates that plot cohesion may have taken a backseat to flagrant titillation. Such is the case with Jennifer’s Body and its knockout starlet Meagan Fox, who floats across Karyn Kusama’s horror-comedy in an array of alluring attire that leaves less to the imagination as the film draws on. Fox plays Jennifer Check, flag girl turned succubus thanks to a virginal sacrifice gone awry, feeding on the male township of Devil’s Kettle in emblematic slasher-flick fashion. Kusama juggles this slasher-film archetype with a message of female empowerment, with Amanda Seyfried assuming another strong female role as Jennifer’s geeky best friend “Needy”. The male players, then, are reduced to fodder for Fox’s demonic seductress; killed off in a series of clichéd happenings which seem borrowed from the scores of similar pictures before it. Jennifer’s Body offers nothing new, nothing lasting, but there’s nothing really detestable about it either.
The last time the horror genre was infused with a woman’s touch, we got the Twilight saga, so we should be very thankful that all we have to contend with here is the sultry Meagan Fox being naughty in a string of seduction scenes. Fox conducts herself confidently in the alpha-female title role―spring in her step and twinkle in her eye―oozing enough sex appeal to propose getting your entrails devoured might not be so bad. Seyfried’s sardonic nerd acts as a charming counterbalance, though as Jennifer’s Body wraps up you get the impression she’s been dealt too unfair a hand. In the space of a short 100 minutes she loses everything; her best friend, her boyfriend, and, finally, her freedom. The only resolution comes rolling over the credits in a series of still images, but it feels so detached from the narrative that doesn’t impart the bittersweet justice that Kusama and screenwriter Diablo Cody were shooting for.
In Roland Emmerich’s 2012, the director once again squanders an enormous budget doing exactly what he does best… desecrating global landmarks with cataclysmic special effects. We’ve already seen invading aliens open fire on the White House (Independence Day), tidal waves engulf the Statue of Liberty (The Day After Tomorrow) and giant lizards rampage through Manhattan (Godzilla), but good old Roland Emmerich has managed to piece together yet another half-baked plot to justify the lavish demolition of more Earthly monuments: Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, St. Peter’s Square, and the White House (again). And to what force do we witness our world bowing to this time? Well, the planets are aligned and we’ve reached the end of the ancient Mayan calendar, so leave your brain at home and brace yourself for another disaster-porn extravaganza.
The term ‘disaster’ can be applied to the picture at large, as there are few redeeming factors in this exhausting 158-minute catastrophe marathon. John Cusack steps into the estranged father role as Jackson Curtis, making a mockery of the apocalypse as he weaves his limousine through collapsing skyscrapers before outrunning a volcanic firestorm in a campervan. And if these two nonsensical scenarios haven’t challenged our faith in the narrative enough, then we have a first-time pilot doing exactly the same things in an outmoded plane. By this point, the apocalyptic epic Emmerich had envisioned (as he has done before) has descended into complete farce (as it has done before), and 2012 doesn’t even try to up its game as it limps toward a lacklustre curtain call. Squeaky clean geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) unravels the ropey science behind these feverish effects, charming if never captivating with his do-gooder exploits, but it’s all too late as the Earth’s core is melting (MEEELTIIING!!)… or something like that.
Essentially, 2012 ― like The Day After Tomorrow and Godzilla before it ― underlines the futility in sensational effects without emotional or thematic resonance to support them. Granted, watching the city of Los Angeles descend into the sea is an awe-inspiring sight, but with such hollow players and shallow story, these scenes are stripped of their sense of spectacle. Roland Emmerich, then, is fast becoming a caricature of the critique he receives, churning out another style over substance high-octane epic despite being lambasted for his previous efforts in the same vein. And without any substance whatsoever, does anyone really care about the style?
The self-titled debut album of hard rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures (Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones) hits shelves today in the United Kingdom and tomorrow in the States, after a year of somewhat understated hype considering the stature of its members. Though it never strays too far from Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age sound, it’s a fantastic record, one of my favourites of the year. For those interested, I harp on at length if you’d like to click the link below:
The Pro Evolution Soccer franchise (formerly ISS) has been a big part of my pathetic little life for over ten years, starting with International Superstar Soccer Pro on the Playstation 2. Despite being besieged with fictional player names, sporting no club teams and Peter Brackley’s duff commentary (“What a poor example of poor officials”), it was a foretaste of the immensely playable game engine that would adorn its many sequels. And with this watertight engine as its main draw, the franchise was established as the market’s leading football simulation year after year. That is, until now, where Electronic Arts’ steadily improving FIFA series has launched a coup d’état with its most polished product to date, impressive enough to see a large number of the PES faithful jump ship. I have always maintained that I would never turn to the so-called “dark side”, but with Konami failing to improve on its shortcomings (lack of licenses, substandard presentation, baffling goalkeeper A.I), many of my friends with whom I would often lock horns – be it online or in one of many frenzied sessions at one another’s houses – were crossing over. Am I destined to be that captain who stays on his sinking ship? Read the rest of this entry »
After the torrential abuse stemming from my review of Weezer’s Raditude, I’m adopting a policy where any future material is awarded at least 4 stars. No matter how bad I feel the album/film/whatever is deep down, I’ll be sure to praise it enthusiastically. So, even though I couldn’t stand this album – a mastered live recording of Nirvana’s infamous performance at the 1992 Reading festival – I decided to give it 4.5 stars. It’s like my mum always used to say; if I haven’t got anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. Seriously, though, this is a fantastic record which has reinvigorated my interest in Nirvana (a band I grew up worshipping), a powerful rock performance which perfectly compliments their softer Unplugged in New York album. Anyway, enough of my babbling, the review itself is here:
As I said, there’s been a venomous response to my review of Weezer’s Raditude. The comments box at Slant has been inundated with calls for my head, though some were of course forwarded with less intelligence than others. To my knowledge, it’s the first real backlash I’ve ever had to face for my work. And, in all honesty, I am flattered by these heated responses. Read the rest of this entry »