If there is one thing I've learnt as a deck-hand on the good ship Chimpomatic it is not to jump to hasty conclusions. The case of the Explorers Club is a perfect illustration of this truism. On hearing the opening 'be my baby'-esque beats of 'Forever' my snap assessment was 'some-one should call Phil Spector and tell him that he's been robbed'. Which would have been rather premature. From that moment onwards it was clear that it had been wise to defer judgement. It transpired that if anyone needed to be informed that their genius had been pilfered then the only person who should be called is undoubtedly Brian Wilson. The Explorers Club main man Jason Brewer appears to be on a mission to write his version of the mythical 'lost' Beach Boys' album 'Smile' seemingly unaware that Wilson himself had already re-discovered and polished it down a few years back.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then if Wilson ever hears 'Freedom Wind' he will be blushing a profuse scarlet colour. Explorer's Club are less influenced by the Beach Boys than their unofficial re-incarnation. Soaring harmonies. Tick. Orchestral arrangements. Check. Lyrics of love and innocence lost. Present and correct. It would be a wonder if Brewer didn't write his songs on a baby grand piano in a sand pit. The Explorers Club are the ultimate in tribute acts, albeit one that puts out records rather than reminiscing on a revival tours. All of which beggars the question 'what's the point?'. If you were too young to camp it up Frieda and Agnetta or sing back 'yeah yeah yeah' to John, Paul, George and Ringo then a night with Bjorn Again or the Bootleg Beatles serves a purpose. But what's the point of listening to Explorer's Club when the authentic original thing is just as easily brought or downloaded? Does anybody buy supermarket own brand cola when the 'real thing' is selling at the same price? Does the coolest kid at school ask his Mum to buy trainers with 4 stripes when the 'brand with 3 stripes' is on offer? No. And I would recommend that if you are not unfamiliar with this kind of surfing summer sound then check out Pet Sounds and Wild Honey before you even think about listening to Explorer's Club (and even then go check out the Byrds or the Mamas and Papas before you do).
Sadly the thought surfing through my mind when listening to Explorer's Club was of a sit-com I previously thought was rather forgettable. Remember when Nicholas Lyndhurst could walk back in time to the East-End during World War Two? He'd cheekily tickle the ivories of the pub Joanna with Beatles numbers passed off as his own. How we laughed as the regulars marvelled at his ear for a tune and the fresh nature of his music. It seems that Explorer's Club space-time portal has mistakenly jumped forward in time rather than turning back the clocks. Nevertheless they are still trying to palm of music from 1967 as if we'd never heard it before. Except that we have. Consequently in the 21st century these songs about 'going steady' now just sound contrived and slightly ridiculous.Read more 1.5 star reviews
(dir. Clark Johnson)
You know how sometimes you ask someone what a film was like, and they're all "yeah, it was ok, bit forgettable really…" and you think, hmm, bet that would pass the time if I was in the mood for some undemanding action, and hey, it's got Kiefer in it, and it's going to take them ages to sort out the writers' strike before we get the next 24, so why not give it a go, and oh look, it's just starting right now.
And so you settle down, and think, hey Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger, Eva Longoria from Desperate Housewives (she's on strike too!) and that guy who was the evil DEA guy in Weeds - this might be alright, in a kind of not-as-good-as-In The Line Of Fire way, but hey, that's not on (and you've seen that enough anyhow).
And then you start thinking, hmm, they must really have given a lot away in the trailers for this, because I totally knew Kiefer was going to give Eva a hard time for being too sassy when she arrives for her first day in the tough Feds office, and yes, I knew they were going to get Michael Douglas walking through the White House like that… and I bet he's got a thing going with…
…and then you realise that this film is LITERALLY so forgettable, you've forgotten you have actually seen it. Probably would have scraped 2 ** on first viewing, but with added amnesiavision, it's getting downgraded.
Perhaps there was something about being Scottish and in a band in 1981 that made a person want to sing a bit like Edwyn Collins, or maybe that's just the way people's mooths work up there. Either way, you'll not hear a more comprehensive set of mangled vowels than in this compilation by Edinburgh's Fire Engines. What? The Fire Engines, you say? The post-punk-art-punk caledonians oft mentioned in the same hushed tones as Josef K? Yes, them unfortunately. Top effort for trying and all that, but a quarter of a century later it doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.
What's wrong with it? Well, at their best on say Big Gold Dream, the Fire Engines had a pretty good ACR vibe going - you know, the white boy funk band playing a little beyond their capabilities - which ACR totally pulled off. The Fire Engines sounded like they were always playing a lot beyond their capabilities - not tight enough to achieve a convincing Talking Heads funk, smart enough for the prog punk of Magazine, or catchy enough to be Orange Juice. To be fair, a production sound which could be generously described as rudimentary has not helped matters, a fact born out by hearing what they sound like now. Uber fans Franz (Ferdinand) shared a single with Fire Engines last year, on which they covered a track of each others, but that is not included here. Thankfully.
This group really has all the correct boxes ticked: from the right place, at the right time, famous fans, famous contemporaries who achieved great things. It's just the one box that's not getting swooshed - the great and memorable songs box.
(dir. Chris Miller, Raman Hui)
Lame threequel to this previously excellent series; really the only point seems to be to remind you how watchable (and re-watchable) the first two are. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas are all back as Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey and Puss in Boots.
A duff plot involving the succession to the Far, Far Away throne is thrown in as little more than an excuse for a trip to add Jason Timberlake as a goofy, but still v handsome Prince to the gang. Shrek doesn't want to be king (or a dad), meanwhile Rupert Everett's Prince Charming is back. He does want to take over — ooh, who will get the crown in the end?
Couple of OK jokes, Eric Idle's Merlin is not bad; but considering the non-stop, smart and unexpected gags that filled up the first two, you don't come away from this feeling very happy ever after at all.
Generally pointless and pretty disappointing entry in the Mondays' CV. Sounds pretty much as you'd expect, rambling lyrics from Shaun Ryder that no longer sound inspired, less-than-great beats, daft titles like Angels And Whores, Cuntry Disco, Anti Warhole On The Dancefloor etc
Occasional flashes of what was once a great band; dig out Freaky Dancing if you want to remember them as they should be remembered. Should be enough to put anyone off the idea of the Stone Roses getting back together
I‘ll hold my hands up and confess to not knowing a great deal about The Young Gods, which is surprising as apparently the Swiss group, formed in 1985, were a huge influence on bands such as Tool, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. But then maybe that's not all that surprising as those forementioned groups and their Industrial chums never really did it for me.
Apparently, The Young Gods are quite the visionaries, forever looking to reinvent their music. Impressive then, in a Back to the Future kind of way, that new album Super Ready / Fragmenté sounds well and truly stuck in the early 1990’s. All big-but-forgettable guitars, reverbed vocals sung with a clipped neutral European accent (or in French for the teeth-aching C’est Quoi C’est Ça) the odd Sitar now and again... Maybe I’m missing something huge, but the whole experience just washes by, enducing nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders. Not that front man Franz Treichler would be bothered, he seems quite the optimist as he sings this eurovision-esque couplet on opener I’m the Drug.
“We’ve got dreams to share. lots of love to spare.” OK. Goodnight.
(dir. Sam Raimi)
in which spidey channels his inner goth, goes a bit emo, battles sandman, venom and the green goblin and the film turns into chicago for a while before sinking into another dreary big battle.
where the first spider-man did an ok job of showing how a nerd like peter parker would learn to love his powers, this one sinks under the 2 villains/girlfriend angst/oh the trouble w being a freelance photographer formula that the second established. lots more cgi fights filled w maximum confusion and zero sense of peril - like all the new gen star wars battles, you just can't work out what's going on/where they are/what way up anyone is etc half the time.
it's also part of the annoying recent trend for making loooooong films where not much happens - and what does, is full of holes. they put on a parade for spidey to give him the keys to the city - but how have they got in touch with him? there's no spidey phone or spidey signal! they clearly aren't just hoping he'll swing by because they've worked out a coordinated little routine for him - but when was that supposed to have been organised?
then there's some daft bit where harry "son of green goblin" osborn gets mj to dump PP so he can get him where it hurts (ooh, in his sensitive heart) - but you've got no idea why she's going along w it - is he threatening her? is she into gg instead? it's all just left hanging, like they didn't have time to explain it - except, they do - they've got 156 min!!!
thomas "sideways" haydn church is sandman, another loser crim who's got the misfortune of stumbling across a random weird science experiment in the middle of some marshes somewhere and inadvertently gaining some powers. but we don't even get to find out who these scientists are or what they think they're doing. it's just, er, yeah, he's got blasted with some stuff, and, er, now he's sandman.
on the plus side, sam raimi main man bruce "evil dead" campbell's cameo is pretty funny, and the bits with daily bugle boss J Jonah Jameson all work. the bit where peter goes all emo side by brushing his hair to the side in the style of my chemical romance is fairly amusing too.
Enthusiastic? - maybe. Under produced and under developed? - definitely. In fact it was recorded over a single day.
This garage rock from New Zealand unfortunately offers nothing new, and with David Mitchell's grating voice often struggling to hold a tune, the music fades into derivative sound-a-like.
Bande A Part
In 2004 Nouvelle Vague put out their self titled debut album of catchy cover versions of 80's indie classics. Their sweet bossa nova lounge style was a joy to listen to and they really brought something different to these well known songs. However I quickly tired of the formula and was quite surprised to see their follow up album follow exactly the same pattern.
"Bande A Part" covers a similar era and the only difference here is the introduction of a second singer. On its release I had very little interest in it as it looked like more of the same, but after hearing the opening version of Echo & The Bunnymen's Killing Moon I was snared in its delightful trap. With The Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen In Love the grip tightened and I couldn't believe I was falling for the same trick a second time. Thankfully I managed to wriggle loose of its clutches and soon realised that this album was going nowhere. The novelty wears off soon after the first 3 tracks, as the formula sets in once more. I remember when I used to eat in McDonalds as a kid and they would play their own musak versions of popular songs. My mind would automatically search through it's database to tag the tune they were playing and once located the attention would come to an abrupt halt. This is the same here, after the song has been identified it holds no more intrigue. I think I would pay more attention to this band if they stopped the cover version gimmick and wrote some of their own material. They have such a beautiful style of easy listening, washed out and sun drenched bliss that at first went so well with their choice of covers but now is lost. If they dropped the covers their music would become the focus. Until then it fades to the background and becomes little more than lift music.
Day Old Belgian Blues
Recorded live at AB Box in Belgian (sic) on 11/04/04, this six-song limited edition EP showcases..... the fact that the Kings of Leon are trying to plug the gap between studio albums with this load of filler. This band were never prolific with their b-sides, and this live EP just makes that obvious. Uninspring versions of six songs - all which feature on the excellent studio releases - and not a sneaky rarity in site. Give this a miss and hold out for studio album number three.Read more 1.5 star reviews
(dir. Vincent Gallo)
Motorbike racing loner Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) travels across America for a race in Los Angeles, meeting several girls along the way - all the while looking a replacement for the love that he has lost, haunted by the memory of the last time he saw her.
Prior to seeing this film there were two forces governing my expectations:
1. The awesome trailer, laying Jackson C. Frank's song Milk And Honey over a split screen montage of an empty highway and an accident at a party.
2. The literal barrage of negative press following the screening at Cannes, and mostly regarding the edit of the film and the X-Rated sex scene with Gallo and Chloe Sevigny.
As Buffalo 66 had been so enjoyable I was at the very least intrigued to see what could have gone wrong with this alleged train crash of a movie. Things start of OK, with a slow sequence following Bud Clay as he competes in a race in New Hampshire. The shooting style seems like a mid 70's documentary, using grainy handheld footage. Clay then packs up his bike into his van, but before heading out on the open road he meets a young girl and convinces her to come to California with him. As she runs into her house to pick up a few things, Bud Clay changes his mind and drives away. Cue 20 minutes of Gallo driving. No dialogue. Repeat.
While Gallo is quite effective and watch-able, a lot of the interest is based upon some knowledge of his off screen personality - plus you are always waiting to see if nothing really does happen. The shooting shooting style is nice (and occasionally great), but you can't help but feel it's not quite how it should be. A long shot will focus on Gallo driving, while an out of focus landscape rolls past in the background. Except the foreground will be slightly out of focus too. The DVD was presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (leaving black bars on the left and right), but then some shots of the film seemed like they had been spliced back into the film after some some time literally on the cutting room floor... to no apparent effect.
The hype around the movie is mainly due to it's explicit nature, but if Gallo really wanted to improve the film he could have started by chopping that entire scene out, as it really does provide no further exposition or depth to the characters. The scenes following the x-rated scene do make the film somewhat more worthwhile, making the viewer think back over what they have been watching and draw some kind of sense - but the trailer was just as effective as the movie, setting up the tragedy and creating the same emotional impact in a mere two minutes. The poster is great too.
(dir. Brett Ratner)
When a scientist disovers a "cure" for mutancy, the government thinks it's a good thing. Understandably, the X-Men aren't too thrilled. Neither are Magneto and his gang. Everyone fights.
Very disappointing way to round up this trilogy. Loved the first two, thought they were one of the best comics-to-films translations - smart, well-shot, focused films with something to say. This one takes most of the same characters, adds in a few new ones (Beast, Angel, Callisto), then reimagines the whole thing as an 80s TV movie. Cheesy storyline, lame dialogue, pointless stunts and lots of messy explosions - nothing comes close to the fluidity of the X2 opening action with Nightcrawler for example (and he's wisely chosen not to show up).
Jean Grey returns to stand around a lot as Phoenix while everyone wonders, ooh, is she bad or good? The army don't seem to be that bothered about the mutants anymore so they're not in it much. Halle Berry's Storm seems to have developed a Wonder Woman-like ability to spin around quite fast. The big action scene, in which Magneto moves the Golden Gate Bridge over to Alcatraz could have been one of those "wow" moments, until you think: hang on, what's the point of doing when you've got lots of dudes in your evil gang who could just fly you over?
Frasier as Beast is quite fun, but it's an underwritten role; Hugh Jackman's Wolverine gets less to do here as well. A flashback scene with Magneto and Xavier meeting a young Jean Grey is quite good, and features the obligatory Stan Lee cameo. There's also a cameo from Shohreh "Beyrooooz!" Aghdashloo (aka Dina Araz from 24 day four).
There's a really dumb extra scene after some dull credits if you feel like dragging it out for even longer - yes, they're leaving it "open-ended" so it might not really be the Last Stand after all.
Overall verdict? suX
(dir. Andrew Adamson)
Phone call from Hollywood Powersuit to prospective director of The Chronicles of Narnia…
‘.....we’re all going nuts here over the massive success of Jackson’s Rings Trilogy. Adapting much-loved children’s books and turning them into fantastical action movies is the shit du jour. So, how do you feel about the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?’
‘What? The CS Lewis classic about 4 children evacuated from WW2 London; sent to live in a big stately home they stumble through a Wardrobe and into the magical world of Narnia, where animals talk. Unwittingly, they become drawn into a war between good and evil. That could be a really good film.’
‘Exactly. So we want something similar to LOTR, but working with a far smaller budget.’
‘Oh. So who’ve we got to play the children? Some gifted child stars? An Elijah Wood type figure?’
‘Afraid not. Just a bunch of kids straight out of drama school, all of whom are extremely posh and extremely punch able.’
‘Really. But you must have some stars involved’
‘Well Tilda Swinton is down to play the Ice-Queen. Only, if you ask nothing of her, allowing her to coast through the film with the odd look of embarrassment. You can also have a really good cameo from Jim Broadbent.’
‘But only if you use him for less than 5minutes.’
‘Oh. And for voice-overs?’
‘Well the highly skilled Liam Neeson is on-board, so skilled in fact that he can make Aslan, the Mighty Lion King, seem more irritating than heroic.’
‘We must have some money for CGI.’
‘There’s a bit of cash for a couple of scenes. You’ll have to make do with fairly cheap looking sets and costumes for the rest. Can you bring it all in close to the two hour mark as well’
‘But won’t trying to squeeze all that into 2 hours, mean we leap from one ‘action’ scene to the next, without developing character or building tension.’
‘Maybe, but little children will love it.’
‘Shouldn’t we just not bother, save the money and not fuck up Pullman’s Dark materials Trilogy?’
‘Are you still there?’
Living With War
According to Pitchfork this is Neil Young's "rawest release of new material since at least Ragged Glory, maybe even Rust Never Sleeps... " According to me it's about as immediate as his last 10 years of plod. It plods along and has the same plodding pace as his last 'Decade' of work, except this time it has some overtly political lyrics.
There's no doubting that this is protest music of the most literal order, but where his 60's protests like Ohio or Southern Man were relevant and emotional, the plodding Shock and Awe, Lookin' For A Leader or Let's Impeach The President have nothing like the weight, and certainly not the political commentary of an angry album like Radiohead's Hail To The Thief
I wish he'd get on with re-releasing his missing old stuff, rather than forever moving 'forward'....although judging by by 2004's 'Greatest Hits' even that could be a mis-fire.
(dir. James Mangold)
Biopic of the young Johnny Cash, following his upbringing by his tough father following the death of his brother, his start in the music business, his being offered drugs by Elvis' cronies, addiction and constant pursuit of hottie singer June Carter.
Joachim Phoenix was nothing special and I can see why he missed out on the Oscar nod. Unfortunately the same goes for Reese Witherspoon, both were OK and you could even assume they put in reasonable impressions of their characters, it was just that the story itself itself just wasn't that interesting. There was no real drama, goal or end point and in fact it pretty much just finished after the famous Folsom prison show.
The execution was very dull, and cliched... so much so that I thought the first half was simply setting up things for some kind of dark twist which never came. When things were hard it was raining, when they were good everything was sunny. I expected more from James Mangold after Copland... but then he did also bring us Identity. He meanders us through the story, broadcasting the drama to us in cliched and obvious ways (on the phone: "Stop cryin', I can hardly hear what your saying!") and then it just comes to a fairly abrupt but not unwelcome end.
(dir. James Mangold)
Pretty tricky mystery/thriller/horror from Copland's James Mangold. A load of strangers get stranded at a motel, while a killer with multiple personalites has his execution debated. It's twisty with a couple of surprises, but you can kind of see it all coming.Read more 1.5 star reviews