Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Charly Coombes and the New Breed, 2010 Live Review


Images by Rodography

Familiar with a fair few live music venues across London, I’ve been pretty up close and personal to a number of bands, both great and truly awful, and wondered how Charly Coombes and the New Breed would fair at the Monto Water Rats in Kings Cross, as the stage is particularly petite. Taking to said stage on Saturday December 11th for the last night of their Waves EP promotional UK tour to a familiar crowd, CCATNB stole the show headlining a night of indie and rock music as the band with the edge. Showing only a comical strain to the end of their tour, the band set out with great energy getting the walls shaking to their distinct key led indie sound that is so easily digested.

Opening with their current single and crowd pleaser Jungles and Tides, momentarily forget about the ear candy, which is delightful, with many members of the crowd of the fairer sex, the eye candy wasn’t bad either. Clearly comfortable and at home playing The Water Rats, which has housed many bands, both up and coming and established, there’s a definite intimate tone to the night, where the crowd are within inches of the band, in all their sweat and glory. Their sound and musical ability isn’t matched within the indie music scene at the moment, taking soulful strides above the rest and echoing late 90s British rock at its best, the fellow bands of the night are good but not in the same sphere as the New Breed.

That aside, stand out tracks of the night include the head swinging God Knows, the beautiful and eloquent Sub Rosa, off their current EP Waves, which signals the musical prowess of the New Breed led effortlessly by Coombes’ key skills, and closer Dress to Kill, a song that marks the New Breed stepping things up a notch on their quest to bring decent independent music back home. Full of confidence and an instant connection with their fans old and new, CCATNB are for anyone who like a solid punch to their indie pie, and these guys are on the up and up. With their set ending all too quickly, catch them while you can at these intimate venues, as I can only see a brighter and bigger future for Charly Coombes and his New Breed.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Charly Coombes and the New Breed 'Waves' EP (2010)

Charly Coombes and the New Breed returns with their second EP, Waves, a searing follow up and welcome return to their debut EP Panic. Set for general release today.

Having been blown away by their previous EP, I had high hopes for the lovely Oxford bunch, and from the outset CCATNB’s sound has aged with distinction, and like a good wine, they seem to have gotten better with time. Opening with their current single Jungles and Tides, there is a familiar tone to their now recognisable style-keys driven with an up tempo dose of guitar and drums. The track marks a slight departure from their previous EP Panic which saw CCATNB become established as one of the UK’s most promising bands to shine for a while.

God Knows is classic CCATNB, and defines the EP as their well oiled sound that goes down a treat at their live gigs. For fans of Supergrass and 90s indie rock, a time not long past, yet apparently forgotten, it’s a pleasant reminder of how the independent music scene used to sound before things all got a bit emo, and the music was lost somehow. Sub-Rosa I believe is the crescendo of the EP, drawing the mind and ears into a reflective tone, with beautiful key led melodies that show Coombes’ skill and passion for a narrative, and his unparalleled understanding of how to make a track clutch at your senses, without the overload. The track holds the band high above the many, many faceless guitar bands out there at the moment. Keys it seems, and honest soul filled vocals are a good thing. Molly harks a heart that can’t be ignored, and brings the EP to an all too quick end, reminding me why many bands don’t compete with the New Breed.

Friday, 26 November 2010

AWOLNATION 'Back From Earth' EP (2010)


AWOLNATION – the eclectic brain child of Aaron Bruno’s multifaceted musical endeavours – originally hails from California, having previously fronted Under the Influence of Giants, but to categorise and decipher where AWOLNATION fits in a specific genre would be both limiting and tricky to the sound of their debut EP, Back From Earth.

First single and track is Burn it Down, the floor filling and synthesised mash up of musical tastes gone to the extreme – it’s pretty clear Bruno likes his ears to party, and to party hard. It would be difficult to not shake it, but there’s a definite darker tone to Burn it Down, slithering and looming within the bass, waiting to pounce. Guilty Filthy Soul is a guiltless foray into pop at its dirtiest, with its clean beats and solid chorus. Sail gleams as the stand out track, showcasing Bruno as a man taking more than just a stab in the dark at assaulting the ears of the chart pushers; whereas MF is the fun-fuelled and electric laced track that might prove the most reticent with the disco masses.

With an air of Beastie Boys creeping through the beats and scrawling through various genres, (from hip hop, rock, disco, pop or dance) it’s clear Bruno’s AWOLNATION hits those slick notes, with his vast musical tastes tapped into what keeps the floors filled, and the kids happy. He’s also enrolled Sam Ronson on remixing duties, and Wale are on board. So the question is, now he’s Back from Earth, where to next for AWOLNATION?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Little Fish, The Old Blue Last, London, 02.11.10

The Old Blue Last pub, just off Old Street is a descent venue, a 120 capacity pub and live music venue owned by VICE Magazine, having recently undergone a refurb. Sure the stage area is small and the dressing rooms a little neglected, but the atmosphere is warm, the toilets work and there’s something about the place that reminds me just why live music is so great.

The main reason I’m here is to see Little Fish, an Oxford based duo who have recently confirmed they’re a three piece with the permanent addition of their Hammond player, Ben Walker. Before they hit the stage, support act AWOLNATION threw an unexpected blistering thirty minute set. Hailing from America to promote their debut EP Back from Earth, and in good spirits, the band got a relatively meek crowd’s heads bopping and hips shaking. Opening with their fan pleaser Guilty Filthy Soul, their set merged dance beats, killer hooks and catchy rhythms, it’s clear this band have got energy, bags of charisma, and a hot lead singer. Off to a good start then, and one to keep an eye on.

On to Little Fish, who took to the stage after a swift set change, bringing out the bigger drums and bigger guns it would seem. Opening with the title track to their debut album Baffled and Beat, it didn’t take long for the room to fully get into the swing of the night. A couple of tracks in, and the floor was literally jumping with the crowd lapping up every ounce of sweat pouring from the stage. Lead singer and guitarist Julia ‘Juju’ Sophie never once showed sings of waning. Her vocals spilling over with raw emotion, it’s clear she absolutely loves what she does. The drums, courtesy of Nez Greenaway, thunder throughout the set, only letting up during the momentary softer close to a few tracks. Hammond in tow surges from back of stage through Little Fish’s explosive ferocity, bringing extra solidity to their sound, and allows them to sit comfortably above many other garage bands out there today.

Stand out tracks of the night include the vastly popular Darling Dear, Whiplash, and the sonically awesome Die Young, which confirms how far the trio have come, whilst retaining their classic stripped roots that scream a passion for conviction, since their debut EP Darling Dear last year. It’s tough not to compare Juju’s vocal ability and physical prowess to other women in rock, like Juliette Lewis and Courtney Love, both of which Little Fish have toured with, and why not? There aren’t enough women out there packing a rock and roll punch these days, and Little Fish aren’t scared to get their fisty cuffs out. If you like your rock hitting the garage mark hard, then head on down to their next gig and bring your dancing shoes. Brilliant.

Check out my interview with lead singer/guitarist Juju here:
http://tinyurl.com/32k4uzx

Their debut album Baffled and Beat is out now and released on Custard Records/Island.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Alain Johannes 'Spark' (2010)

Originally published for Amelia's Magazine.

Master guitarist and don to the desert rock producing world, Alain Johannes takes to the skies with his debut record Spark.

You might not know it, but you know Alain Johannes. Producer and artist extraordinaire, having previously produced and collaborated with the infamous Queens of the Stone Age; No Doubt, PJ Harvey, Eleven, and toured with the super group Them Crooked Vultures earlier this year, Johannes is renowned throughout many rock circles for his mesmerising guitar skills, which in March of this year had me caught in a spell during a musical intermission of the Crooked Vultures’ intense set. Thinking Johannes was a brave man to compete with the likes of Grohl, Homme and Jones, I was left blown away by his talent and unequivocal sound.

Making a stand in his own right, Johannes recently released his debut record Spark, co released with Dangerbird Records and Rekords Rekords, the latter label set up by fellow musical maestro Josh Homme of QOTSA and Them Crooked Vultures fame. This is definitely a family affair, and what an awesome family. Dedicating his debut record to his late wife and producing partner Natasha Shneider, fellow Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal collaborator, there is a great sense of magnitude, of heartfelt pain and strength that breathes through the tracks. First track and single Endless Eyes is a beautifully and eloquent tribute to Natasha, and sets the tone for the entire record. Johannes’ signature cigar box guitar creates such a definitive sound it’s refreshing to describe as innovative and enchanting. However stand out tracks include Return to You, which has an unashamed Beatles-esque tone to it, bringing an air of nostalgia and warmth to the record, which can’t be a bad thing.

The record stealing guitar crescendo of a masterpiece to my ears is the incredible Speechless, which builds with such classical and flamenco ferocity; it’s topped by Johannes’ elegant vocals that beautifully complete the ghostly track. Gentle Ghosts draws the record toward its close, but not without a trek through a sensory mind field that awakes the goose bumps scheduled for truly remarkable artists. There’s so much passion and raw emotion surging through Spark, its hard not to feel a greater sense of appreciation. Closing with Unfinished Plan, a classical guitar led cathartic and heartbreaking end to a brilliant debut.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Masters of Reality 'Pine/Cross Dover' (2010)

Masters of Reality return with their latest mind altered offering to master their, well, reality.

Masters of Reality’s sixth and latest record Pine/Cross Dover is a welcome return of the classic American desert kings who have many rock and roll fingers in many Palm Desert pies. Although released in 2009, the record is making waves over in the UK now. Presented as two halves, the question is Pine/Cross Dover, their first record in five years, any good?

As a pretty big Queens of the Stone Age fan, I was keen to dip my toe into the pool of rock and branch away from my Tension Head (a track which has incidentally been on my top five records for the last decade), let my ears broaden their taste and listen to fellow desert rockers Masters of Reality, which although I was quite familiar with them I hadn’t fully appreciated. Main member and founder Chris Goss has produced many QOTSA records, and so it’s a clear lineage many make associating the two bands together. To my bountiful joy I was pleased with what I heard in the shape of Pine/Cross Dover, kicking off with King Richard TLH, epitomizing from the outset the classic chugga chugga desert rock sound in a nutshell. This song makes me want to get up to get down, swing my limbs around the room and air drum to the max. Which, after doing so left me injured, but on a futuristic trip through nostalgia at the cusp of the desert rocking it’s best.

Aside from the belting opener, stand out tracks include the blissful Always, pounding with its repetitive drum beats and guitar riffs commonly associated to bands in the Palm Desert scene. The instrumental Johnny’s Dream, broadens the sound and style of Masters of Reality to something more then what many have said to be within the realms of stoner rock. Johnny’s Dream is pure end credit music and an awakening to the bands’ previous explorations. Further tracks to download include Absinthe Jim and Me, and the juggernaut Up In It, with Dave Catching playing guest guitar on the former – a fellow member of the desert rock scene and collaborator to many Josh Homme projects, including touring with Eagles of Death Metal last year. Masters of Reality, who add a dash of dark riff house blues to complete their newest record, are for anyone who has overplayed their Queens of the Stone Age records (which does happen) and are after a darker and deeper foray into the light of desert rock at it’s best. Due to tour the UK supporting The Cult in early 2011, if you’re into psychedelic, desert rock and dirty riffs, this is a band you don’t want to miss.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hot Fiction, The King William IV, London, 02.10.10

The King William IV, located north of ‘where the hell am I?’, or the river Thames, is a relatively secluded venue that doubles as a hostel, which is where I find myself for tonight’s Hot Fiction gig, the blues and riff led garage band that have been unashamedly filling up my commute time for most of the past week since discovering their debut record Dark Room. Arriving at the venue, having been drenched by what appears to be the second flood, I was ready for a stiff drink and a warm welcome, and luckily I was greeted by both.

Once the band took to stage, which at first I incidentally thought they were staff; due to their laid back and approachable manner, enthusiastically introduced themselves and got to work at rocking the room. Easing any newcomers in with their blissful sound of soul filled vocals that can make the toughest man quiver at his knees; Andy Yeoh has a great set of pipes. Their sound has been described by many as the English Black Keys, with a hint of Eagles of Death Metal’s charm, but from the get go I think Hot Fiction have something different to offer. The tracks flowed with ease throughout the hour long set, with a couple of covers including Stevie Wonder’s Superstition thrown in for good measure. Highlights of the night were extended versions of Get out of My House, and Autumn Girl, with a momentary law breaking moment when a familiar volunteer (fellow gigger and buddy of mine) took to the stage to shake the hell out of a tambourine. (Only two people are allowed on stage at the King William IV, reducing the number of band nights considerably.)

Hot Fiction kept the room charged with their honest and heartfelt approach to live music, and even during technical difficulties the tunes rolled out and with such gusto that it would be hard not to like these guys. A thoroughly enjoyed night from a band that took their debut record and mixed it up to create fresher takes on their already contemporary approach to a classic sound, this band aren’t afraid to squeeze a crowd of their blues.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Hot Fiction, 'Dark Room' (2010)

Hot Fiction are a two piece garage band that bring dirty southern vocals and nostalgic blues back into rock and roll, whilst sounding fresh and current in today’s alternative scene. Drummer and vocalist Andy Yeoh and guitarist Simon Miller are a strong pairing, having met at school and formed an allegiance through their common musical interests, Hot Fiction’s sound is well oiled, well thought through and established, their sound comes through the speakers effortlessly. Oh and they’re from the UK, making them very fresh indeed, with very few UK based bands injecting this soulful sound into our airwaves without a US passport. Many have commented that Hot Fiction are similar to The Black Keys and The White Stripes, purely on the fact that all these bands are duos, and have a blues tinge to them, but this is where the similarities end.

Stand out tracks on their 2010 debut record Dark Room include the solid My Girl Dances, which has a light-hearted bluegrass twang to it, reminding me of the same fun loving and easy going attitude that early Eagles of Death Metal tracks epitomised. The heavily riff laden War of Attrition brings to the table the soul, and Yeoh’s vocals throughout the record embody the coursing blues that make Dark Room such a delight to hear. Yeoh and Miller explore many tones and aren’t afraid to check out some dark territory with Thump, the funky When Nothing Else Mattered, and the closing track Creepy Disco seals the deal that this record is something more than just a jam session for an after school special. Hot Fiction sits comfortably on the big red juicy button of rock, ready to push at any given moment to inject a sound of music from a time forgotten, for a generation after more music with a soul. Aces.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Black Keys 'Brothers' (2010)

Formed in Akron, Ohio in 2001, The Black Keys are an American blues rock and roll musical two piece consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney. Remaining relatively unknown and underground, their distinctive sound, that mixes classic blues vocals with a heavy soul beat proved popular amongst the kids, and The Black Keys hit notoriety through their 2003 record Thickfreakness, releasing three singles, the most well known being Set You Free, which was featured on the School of Rock soundtrack. Known for recording their early albums in less than a day, The Black Keys generated an impulsive and explosive sound that few have ever replicated.

Their new record however, Brothers, released in May of this year, broadens their sound and takes a different direction to their previous records. First off, taking longer to record, it feels as though The Black Keys are taking this album more seriously then the others. Not to negate their previous work, which in many instances has a fun and light-hearted tone to it, (especially the Thickfreakness record, feet tapping and head bopping all the way) but the tone is darker, and takes my ears through a mystical journey of despair, sorrow, highs and lows and basically, sees the duo in a more grown up light, without taking away any aspect from their original quick stepped sound that brought them to the forefront of contemporary rock blues today. (Check out the first single Tighten Up, with Next Girl, Never Give You Up, and I’m Not the One for stand out tracks.)

They’ve managed to bring an old style of blues to a modern ear, accessing multiple eargasms through various outlets; whether on the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, or on the video game Grand Theft Auto IV or in an episode of One Tree Hill. Would you call them Sell-outs? Maybe. But selling a sound that many thought had died years ago? Hell, I’ll buy a copy and help keep this great sound alive. Currently on a world tour and heading to our shores in November of this year, head on over to the Brixton Academy if you’re after a night of ear throbbing nostalgia, with a hint of contemporary sweat and some killer vocals. See you then.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Swinging with the Finkels (2010)

Martin Freeman has never been a leading man. Mandy Moore has never been this grown up in a British movie before. There’s a first for everything, and maybe there’s a reason why these two have not gone down this road of firsts.

Swinging with the Finkels is a romantic comedy directed and written by Jonathan Newman, about a married couple who have lost their spark and lust for one another, and are plodding through their life wondering if the grass is greener on the other side. Whether this grass be an affair, a divorce, or as the film decrees, to swing. Effectively they are to switch partners with another participating couple for one night to spice up their love life.

With the premise aside, this movie begins to tread down similar territory, with an upbeat Freeman making his best Hugh Grant impression whilst walking down a market that, although not Notting Hill, really really wants to be. Let’s face it, Swinging with the Finkels is a British movie, set in London, with an English and American cast, and at the first stages appears to have replaced the inner monologue from the leading man (Grant) with a Sex and the City style outer dialogue to the viewer through small captions. ‘It’s certainly not boring now!’ Really?!

I almost instantly felt confused by this movie. And not because the plot was complex, far from it, but confused by many factors. Why was Martin Freeman married to Mandy Moore? Why do they have two best friends, also with mixed nationalities, who are going through very similar problems? Why does their storyline almost take over Moore’s and Freemans? And why, after a few laughs and a short appearance from Jerry Stiller, are we now watching what appear to be outtakes from American Pie?! What’s going on? These questions are never really answered, and I’m left wondering what the point was. The movie struggles to pull at any heart strings, as you really don’t feel invested in the Finkels and don’t really care for their swinging, which incidentally brings to light another question, if swinging, why with Angus Deaton?!! More laughs or more convincing sentimentally would make Swinging with the Finkels a believable rom com, but for now, it certainly was boring.

Copyright Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Switch (2010)

The latest Jennifer Aniston rom-com vehicle The Switch sees her in a familiar role to all her other movies: A single successful woman who has everything in life she could want professionally, but is missing that little extra nugget that is making her life complete. Enter the notion of self insemination with a fresh sample from token good looking all American teacher to complete her ultra good looking one point two family and eternal happiness. Jason Bateman is Wally, Aniston’s self confessed best friend who could never fall into the boyfriend category, even though he’s been in love with her for years. Sound familiar? Say to a certain TV show circa 1995 from whence Aniston shot to fame? Or just a coincidence? Hmm. Bateman provides some strained quips that just don’t last long, and appears bored throughout the duration of the movie. I don’t blame him at all, as it must be pretty lame playing yet another second wheel to the first lady of rom-coms.

Saying this, I do enjoy a good Jennifer Aniston flic, they’re light, airy, usually wholesome and she has that charisma and appeal that makes her the equivalent to Oprah in the movie world. Yet for some reason this newest Aniston regurgitation just didn’t seem to sit right. Aniston herself came across unsettled in her role, almost giving very little effort to a role she’s played many times before. A new direction, or script, maybe?

The main moments of humour were provided by the central characters’ side kicks, for Aniston its Juliette Lewis, who plays an excellent drunk, and for Bateman, Jeff Goldblum, who relaxed into their safe roles knowing the pressure of this disaster movie would never rest on their heads. The Switch’s plot is very basic, which isn’t a bad thing; it’s just executed so terribly that it made me want to switch off. There was little chemistry between Bateman and Aniston, who have known each other for years and have appeared in a few movies together, most notably The Break Up, in which Bateman plays the friend and realtor to the Aniston’s, aka Aniston and Vince Vaughn. They are obviously friends, but are no Ross and Rachel. Trying to convey anything more than friendship in The Switch is just painful to watch. Disappointing.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan is a genius. This is not speculative, this is fact.

His newest and biggest blockbuster, Inception, is a neurological epic to behold. Working on the notion that the mind is the most powerful tool to our disposal, where dreams, crimes, hopes and aspirations are built, expanded and destroyed. Nolan wastes no time going to work at proving to us that there are no boundaries to restrict the possibilities of human emotion, idealism and desperation when the limits of creative control are lifted, resulting in an exhilarating heist movie with a twist-the crime is within the mind, and to solve it, you have to literally go in and get it.

He is a genius in other ways too, as he has managed to create a movie that on the surface appears so complex, that the concentration levels initially start to go into overdrive to process the story unfolding on screen. Which in many cases would deter the blockbuster beefcakes from paying the submission fee and hopping over into The Expendables territory. This would be a mistake, as Nolan’s complex plot is all smoke and mirrors, and once you let the plot wash over your synapses, it’s really the best film ever. Possibly. And for 2010, certainly. Plus, there are plenty of dreamboats to keep everyone happy in the shape of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and not forgetting the female power within the movie in the shape of Hollywood’s shiniest new toy Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page, who takes the leap into the adult pool and swims with the big fish.

Comparisons have been made to Spielberg’s 2002 Minority Report, where crimes are solved before the offender has the chance to commit them through interpreting their pre-cogs, but these comparisons are in my opinion void. If these movies were cities, visually Minority Report would be one on the cusp of something great, yet dated, whereas Inception, would be beyond the realms of a cities’ landscape, constantly changing, the architecture would expand and shift beyond possibility, and deep into the layers of imagination. Plot wise, the similarities are pointless too as with Inception; the purpose of the plot is to plant an idea into someone’s mind, before they’ve thought of it, and convince them within their subconscious that this idea was their own. With lots of mind bending visuals to help. Taking the director and writer credits, Nolan is definitely genius. Plus zero gravity fist fights are way cool.

There are so many layers within layers that can be explored with such great detail, like the names of the characters and their meanings, the locations, the props, the landscape within the mind and so on, but all this should be explored first hand. Nolan has made a summer blockbuster that actually encourages the individual to think outside the box, or to look within the box within a box in a box, and open said box, and to dive deeper into the unknown. So much is going on, yet when the lights come back on and I start to gather my belongings, letting go of the crumpled popcorn holder that has formed the shape of my gripped hand, I smile, and know that this movie has thoroughly entertained me. And for all the plot curves, dynamics and Bond nods, which are all excellent, I wonder what I will dream tonight.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Sequels, Prequels and Remakes

As we embark on a new summer of blockbusters, from super heroes (Green Hornet, Jonah Hex, Thor) to gun wielding maniacs (The Expendables, A-Team) to threequals (the eagerly anticipated Toy Story 3), to just stop already (Shrek Forever After) one question seems to come to mind – where’s the originality in film making these days?

At every direction there seems to be a remake, (Nightmare on Elm Street, Mad Max, Karate Kid) a prequel, sequel or trilogy (Twilight) knocking around and this summer is no exception. Scream 4 has just begun shooting, and Top Gun 2 is in talks as THE film to save Tom Cruise’s sinking ship. A-Team is rearing its head to cash in on the successful 80s TV show, and Hollywood has even jumped on the bandwagon remaking recently released masterpieces, specifically the brilliantly dark, sinister and heartbreaking Swedish movie Let The Right One In, made in 2008 and directed by Tomas Alfredson. Did this movie really need to be remade into Let Me In? Are we as viewers unable to read subtitles, or do we simply just want to see the Hollywood stamp of approval smeared all over world cinema?

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy sequels; Kill Bill Vol 2 is one of my favourite Tarantino movies. (One of, there are many) and the thought that if many movies are too epic to fit into two hours they’d be shelved if sequels were void would be devastating. Saying this, the point I’m making is that I’m a strong believer that a movie should be a movie, for all intensive purposes, to entertain, maybe educate and enlighten an individual on a mass scale. But I do draw a line at a movie being commissioned to bump the $$$ of studio execs, feeding the already obese pay packets of the Hollywood elite. Star Wars' V and VI are brilliant examples of sequels that work, yet Star Wars I, II and III are, in my opinion, terrible attempts at milking a dead cow. Whenever the story might have been written, it just didn’t fit into the CGI scheme of things, and tried to be too big for its intergalactic boots. If that’s possible.

Disney is even in the process of making their most successful movies into 3D, specifically Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that 3D cinema is killing the ‘classic’ movie experience. What next, a remake of Citizen Kane in 3D? Some things should be held sacred, and while the times are changing and entertainment is becoming more accessible to the masses on a grand scale, I strongly believe that movie making should not be for everyone, and each release shouldn’t be churned to outweigh previous records. Avatar springs to mind here, considering it was billed as one of the biggest and original blockbusters of all time, isn’t it simply a reworking of tried and tested fail safe narratives? I was expecting to see Clint Eastwood spring up from under a leaf on Pandora the way it was going. Bring on Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster Inception, which has a plot Nolan admits to being influenced by many past movies, including MGM’s Bond franchise, but is one of the first summer blockbusters in recent Hollywood history that isn’t based on a previously successful formula. Bring. It. On.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A Single Man (2009)

Tom Ford’s directorial debut, based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, is an absolutely beautiful yet painful, honest and heartbreaking tale of the day in the life of a single man George (Colin Firth), as he struggles to come to terms with the tragic death of his partner (Matthew Goode). Set in California in 1962, A Single Man takes on the perpetual despair that is evident underneath the crisply controlled mannerisms of George, as he makes the decision to end his life, unable to bear the lift bestowed to him.

What is refreshing about A Single Man is that Ford, under the influence of Isherwood’s haunting novel, never makes George’s homosexuality the focal point of the plot, a common narrative tool used so frequently in Hollywood. This is a love story, regardless of sexual orientation, and Ford wholeheartedly focuses on the sheer magnitude of George’s grief, and the effect this has on his daily routine. Firth is cast perfectly as George, a man so disciplined and measured, yet consumed by guilt, frustration and pain, that’s bubbled beautifully beneath the surface of Firth’s dark rimmed spectacles. Every ounce of style, of wardrobe pressed to perfection, is painstakingly viewed through the heartache of George’s life.

Ford captivates George’s LA in detail beyond perfection, and credit should also go to cinematographer Eduard Grau, who keeps the tone of the movie very monochromatic, until George experiences what many consider to be mundane moments. These moments, whether in the bank or having a discussion with pivotal student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) act as moments of clarity for him, where the light is literally lifted and life is almost vibrant, almost worth living, and briefly ‘technicolored’ to the max. This movie is essential viewing, where even if it provides only a fleeting spell of clarity; its purpose has been achieved.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Charly Coombes & the New Breed

Charly Coombes & the New Breed are an Oxford based four piece, the brain child of Charly Coombes, (the youngest brother to Gaz and Rob Superpgrass Coombes), and released their debut EP, entitled Panic in February 2010. Now, with obvious Supergrass comparisons aside, CCATNB’s debut EP is a welcome breath of fresh air to the current alternative music scene. As a relatively young band, having formed in July 2009, the all Oxford residing members have a nostalgic energy that is absorbed far too easily into the ear holes, that they’re left wanting more. This is always a good sign.

From the outset the opening track, Panic Between the Sheets, sets up some classic piano thumping led riffs that stomp, delight and blow away the musty music that’s been polluting the British airwaves for the past year or so. Serge, sounding a little like a track to a French crime fighting caper takes on a different direction to its predecessor, and is reminiscent of how music used to sound, before all this technological nonsense brought the geek into music, rather then promoting the classically talented, instrumentally led music that has a passion and a story to tell. CCATNB offer this kind of sound, that does evoke comparisons with the mid to late 90s British sound, but with an edge.

Hell Below is a pleasant track that gets the feet tapping to the beat, while For the Pain I believe is a secret EP attention stealing wonder. With a 70s rock feel to it, following the successfully tried and tested formula to alternative rock, this track will leave you feeling like summer is here to stay, and brings a sense of childlike realisation that there’s hope and all will be ok, even though the lyrics suggest a sense of despair. Yes the Coombes family are a talented bunch, but it seems Charly and his New Breed have a lot to offer, and have no need to fear the shadow of Supergrass, but can firmly step into the light off their own musical endeavours. I look forward to their future releases.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Movie Trailers, 13.06.10

Movie trailers, I believe they’re the best and worst part about a new release. They can get your hopes up, or dash them within two minutes and possibly ruin any expectations you had about a particular movie. But then there are different expectations as to what a particular viewer wants out of a trailer, and each expectation cannot be pleased wholeheartedly. Take the new A-Team trailer, in which most of the films’ plot is divulged in the extended two minutes and fifty one seconds, leaving little left to the imagination. Look, a damned tank falls from the sky! But I guess this kind of a movie is targeted to a demographic that doesn’t necessarily want to buy into a complex plot and the extensive narrative curves that give the new Christopher Nolan movie Inception, a fellow summer blockbuster, a run for its money. But that’s just my opinion. For I guess everyone has some days when they want a full on mind melt of a movie that scratches the synapses until they bleed with joy, whereas other days the mind is sheer mush and watching anything more taxing then the new Ashton Kutcher flic Killers would be enough to turn any significant brain activity into pulp.

But with this in mind – and a mind that is in between the mush and the ones working on overload - a little middle ground never hurt anyone, did it? I mean, when seeing some of the more ‘fluffy’ trailers used to fill the popcorn cups at each multiplex across the country, I wonder how some of these movies get put into production. If you take out the factor of taste, education and expectation, some movies REALLY shouldn’t have been allowed to see the dull light of an ushers’ torch, guiding the unknowing viewer to a sealed two hour doom of wasted money. But then again the popcorn pushers are just as guilty buying into the trailer park as the studios are. If there was no market for these big budget cushions then they’d be shut down.

Saying this, please don’t take me for some art house elitist movie buff, for I’m not. I love a good old summer blockbuster that is all action and no reaction like the next, I just struggle to see the justification behind some of the more feeble attempts at filling seats, compared with the summer movies that are a full on metal jacket explosion of sheer happiness. Take the new Stollone summer blockbuster, The Expendables, in which he directs and stars in the pure iron pumping man fest of fake sweat and blood splurged through the audible mainstream American ‘rock’ that underpins the trailer. You cannot get more all out American feel good than this, aside from the A Team. Which, to be fair, has more pretty boy eye candy in the shape of Bradley Cooper.

So, as summer fast approaches to shine it’s tried and tested basic narrative arch over us for a few short weeks, I accept that fluff is the name of the game. But when autumn approaches, and reality kicks in, I’ll cast my mind back to those shady days of wondering why, as much as I love movie trailers and all they have to offer in their short lifespan, are more and more made for TV features cropping up more frequently. Bring on 2011, when a blockbuster that stimulates the brainwaves and the eye sockets will be upon us, in the shape of JJ Abrams’ next feature Super 8, where the best blockbuster maker in all the land, Mr Spielberg, is behind the producing reins to bring joy to all those who love cinema and the many mind mysteries it has to offer.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Juliette Lewis, 'Terra Incognita', 2009

A few months into the release of Juliette Lewis’ new album and currently on a world tour promoting it, her third full studio album, Terra Incognita, a Latin phrase meaning ‘new territory’, takes a sweeping departure from her previous ones, and now as a solo artist leaves her Licks behind allowing a new sound and confidence to emerge. Where previously Juliette Lewis and the Licks belted out catchy rock and roll riffs that got the floors thumping and hearts racing with a sense of fun and energy, Terra Incognita has encapsulated a more mature, independent and bluesy sound that while still fun, shows a more personal side to Lewis that in many ways the Licks never appeared to set out to achieve.

Terra Incognita is still full of energy and classic Lewis vocals, which are both heartfelt, raw and passionate, but there is a darker tone to the record that allow greater levels and dimensions to the sound that on initial listening are not expected. Which is not a bad thing. Far from it. It’s hard not to compare this record to her previous ones with the Licks, but with Grammy award winning producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez on board, the leader of Mars Volta, it’s no surprise that the sound is different, personal and crossing over many different genres to achieve this eclectic sound.

Looking at Juliette Lewis’ past musical endeavours, it’s clear that her albums with the Licks are a sound of fun, of female driven rock nostalgia and discovery, a sign of youthful energy and excitement. With Terra Incognita, Lewis has grown as a songwriter and musician, and I believe has cemented her as a fully fledged female rock musician, rather then a Hollywood actress playing with a side project. Great stuff.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders, The Scala, London May 11th 2010


The Scala, previously a cinema is now a popular and intimate location that was set to high voltage on Tuesday when Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders rocked out to 11 during the almost two hour set. Their support act, the currently unsigned Charly Coombes and the New Breed, are a four piece from Oxford who held their own as a great act in their own right, let alone one supporting the T-Hawk. A band, who having previously supported Supergrass (and set to support them again with The Coattail Riders in June at the Brixton Academy), are currently working their way around the UK offering a great blast of rock and roll freshness through the musty sound waves at the moment.

Comfortably positioned at the front of the crowd, I was confident I had a good spot to enjoy the hotly anticipated low key gig in all its glory. So with a beer in one hand and a camera in the other, I was not disappointed. Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders emerged, if a little reluctantly and took to the stage. With a little introduction, the band, which included Chris Chaney, the former bassist to Jane’s Addiction and a fellow band member to Taylor from Alanis Morisette, belted into Not Bad Luck, the track opener to Red Light Fever, from the new album in question. From there on the evening seemed to slip away as the songs kept melting into the night, until halfway through the set a few special guests poked their heads out of the stage door. Rufus Taylor and his pop, Roger, took to the stage and assisted on drumming duties to a rapturous crowd, many including myself in slight disbelief at how close these legends, including Taylor Hawkins, are to grasp. A couple of songs in and the one and only Brian May appeared, sheepishly riffing everyone’s face off, to both a few very early Queen tracks and finished with The Coattail Riders’ current single, Way Down.

Drenched in sweat, Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders performed a blistering set, and as Hawkins said during the evening, ‘Are you entertained?’ we surely were. As a side project away from the Foo Fighters, Hawkins has forged a superb group that stand above many others. If the Foo Fighters were to dissolve, this is one band that will continue to grow, and Red Light Fever delivers it’s nostalgic 70s rock sound time after time on the ears, and after tonight, on the eyes.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Released in 2007 and set in 2006, Paranormal Activity I believe is one of the greatest suspense films of the last decade. The film brings to the psychological horror table what The Blair Witch Project did for hand held camera sales in 1999. Almost ten years later, I believe the reason why this film is so successful at creating tension and sheer terror is by relying on the viewer to be more intelligent then many other films within this genre give credit to. The film allows the mind to create the horror rather then visually providing every element of dismay which is popular in the gore horror genre, where the viewer becomes increasingly lazy and complacent to their visceral experience.

Using a small cast of mainly unknown actors, the premise of the film is set around the re-viewing of a ‘true story’, in which a couple are experiencing unexplainable paranormal activity within their home, and the plot unfolds through how the couple cope with the events. Written and directed by Oren Peli, who prior to this film had no credited directorial experience, achieves great levels of tension and anxiety through similar techniques mastered by the great Hitchcock some forty years earlier. There are simple rules within the horror genre, which when followed are very effective at scaring the hell out of us, and as a film that preys on the psychological fears many have to the unknown, Paranormal Activity is a brilliant example of treating the viewer with respect, and giving them exactly what they want. To be scared silly. Good job there will be a Paranormal Activity 2 then, which is currently in pre-production. The question is, where many horror sequels fail, will this one be any good?

Monday, 19 April 2010

Slash, Slash (2010)

Slash’s debut album has been a long time coming. After Velvet Revolver’s hiatus Slash has finally released a solo project, which has his signature guitar-licked style stamped all over it. But is it any good? Enlisting the help from a vast array of high profile rock vocalists, (and some more pop based vocalists, to the dismay of others) drummers, guitarists and bassists, In many respects Slash has compiled a collection of songs all with very different styles, in a similar yet more mainstream approach to that of Tony Iommi’s first solo project in 2000, the founding member of Black Sabbath.

The album opens with Ghost, which has classic Slash on a blistering guitar riffed mission to the max with The Cult’s Ian Ashbury on vocals. There is a huge array of rock royalty on this album, from Ozzy Osbourne on slow builder Crucify the Dead, Audioslave’s Chris Cornell to Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolvers’ bassist Duff McKagen on the instrumental delight that is Watch This, creating a ‘one take’ face melter of a track that burns through the minutes in quick succession.

There is however another aspect to the album other than heavy rock and the swagger of past and present legends, which brings some unexpected guest vocalists to the table. One in particular is The Black Eyed Peas’s Fergie on Beautiful Dangerous, where it sounds as if she’s trying to actually emulate Axel Rose, which completely detracts from the force of the album, leaving it a little bittersweet. Kid Rock also brings a poppy/bluesy element to the album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t stand out as a great track by Slash. M Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold helps add closure to an album that has a good weight to it, encompassing some of the brilliant talents of Mr Saul Hudson (aka Slash) but with the mainstream vocals it’s almost as if other factors were at play when compiling the list of guest contributors. If you’re partial to big hair and bigger guitar riffs that hark back to the nostalgic rock of the 80s and 90s, then this is definitely the album for you. But be warned the mainstream aspects add a slight twinge of disappointment to an otherwise solid record.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders 'Red Light Fever' (2010)

The follow up album to the 2006 self titled debut Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, Red Light Fever shows greater confidence and is a deeper foray into the musical influences of the Foo Fighters’ drummer, where clearly from the outset the sound of the new album is slick, oiled up and full of stand alone energy. With the first album recorded in Drew Hester’s living room, the resident Foo Fighters’ fellow touring percussionist, he reprises his role as engineer on the second album, but this time with more musical friends and is recorded in the Foo Fighters' Studio 606.

Stand out tracks include Not Bad Luck, with its hard thumping, guitar-riffing and Queen-esque sound, Hawkins makes no secret of his musical idols, which is a joy to hear and know that musicians also idolise fellow musicians. Way Down, the first single off the album is effective at encapsulating the sound of the band in a nutshell. The drums are clearly prominent and concise, yet for a band whose lead singer is the drummer; they do not overpower the track or the album. The balance it seems is just right. There are elements of The Beatles on Hole In My Shoe too, and with Brian May and Roger Taylor on board it’s clear Hawkins has employed both his idols and influences to encompass an all round stand out record, that shows progress from the debut yet is still rooted in a passion for ‘70s rock and roll. With a UK release of Red Light Fever scheduled for later this month, and a world tour about to begin, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders are one side project that’s making waves around the world.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Alice in Wonderland 3D (2010)

Tim Burton’s most recent collaboration with Johhny Depp in the 2010 adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, was hyped with great anticipation, and I even found myself caught up in the excitement and buzz surrounding the newest film from one of Hollywood’s greatest offbeat directors. The adaptation of Carroll’s classic story of the same name about a girl who stumbles into a Wonderland could have been an excellent opportunity to put a Burton spin on the already highly imaginative tale.

Burton’s adaptation however is not taken from Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but rather from the sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, along with the poem Jabberwocky, and has thrust these three Carroll stories together and claimed them to be THE Alice in Wonderland. The Jabberwocky was even considered by many who read it to be the biggest load of nonsense ever written. Perfect then for Burton, who if past films are to go by was an excellent candidate to create a mind boggling interpretation of nonsense. Sadly, this awe inspiring adaptation never surfaced, and what we’re left with is a film caught in between a strange children’s fantasy story and a dark, intriguing and entertaining film for adults. In recent years Burton’s films struggled to decipher between the two worlds of children’s fantasy tales and adult motifs, (See Batman/Batman Returns and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) which don’t quite work and Alice in Wonderland is another example of this.

The combination of live action and animation doesn’t quite fit, and the green screen visual effects completely engulf the actors, leaving rather vacant expressions and a unpleasant taste in the mouth. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, does well to be the Alice from Wonderland who has no memory of said place, which for the benefit of Burton, allows him to explore the Wonderland (briefly) whilst not having to introduce the characters’ as new, or completely remake the remade Disney animated version in 1951. Burton’s 2010 Alice left me disappointed, in places bored and frustrated that the film did not live up to the hype. The 3D visual effects added little to the film, in some places actually made viewing more difficult and it acted as an unnecessary adage to the film. As a huge Pixar fan, (Dreamworks just doesn’t cut it for me) I enjoy animation and I accept that 3D cinema is sadly the way of the future, but after seeing the trailers before Alice started, I’d have been happy to jump ship and watch Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon in 3D. That’s saying something.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Eagles Of Death Metal (24.06.09)

It was a sweaty day in June, and waiting backstage at the Brixton Academy, I was in awe at the smell of excitement in the air. And cigarettes. And the smell of anticipation as Eagles of Death Metal were preparing to go on stage for one of their first major headlining gigs in the UK. Beer was flowing and a group of various musicians, including drummer Rat from the Damned, friends and various industry people were amounting in the small dressing rooms above the academy hall. Having never been backstage at a high profile bands’ gig, I was unsure of myself, especially at the sight of Joey Castillo-originally the drummer for Queens of the Stone Age and buddy of the band, I was in a trance. My expectations at this point were very high, and the band did not disappoint.

EODM played with a gusto that did not diminish throughout the hour and a half set, with crowd pleasers Cherry Cola and I Only Want You belting through the PA system and into the bleeding ear holes of every screaming fan. Scanning the crowd there were lots of aviator sunglasses and fake moustaches-clearly this band like to have fun, and want their fans to embrace the light-hearted rock and roll ethos that’s echoed in their sound. These guys know how to party, and everyone’s invited.

Here to promote their new album, Heart On, a slightly more mature sound then their previous two albums, EODM played a few tracks off the new record which were gobbled up by the crowd in an instant. They had the audience in the palm of their hands, and this is where the band really started to have fun. Closing with Speaking in Tongues, the gig ended on an awesome high, cementing the band with British fans as one who celebrate rock and roll, and all that it epitomises with a little extra kick for fun.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

TEENAGE CANCER TRUST (2010)

The Royal Albert Hall is truly an immense and awe inspiring venue. When walking the halls there is a great sense of status, wealth and generations of entertainment before tonight’s event having echoed through the enormous hall I find myself in. Tonight’s gig is part of a series of music and comedy gigs taking place to help raise awareness and funds for the ‘Teenage Cancer Trust’, a charity set up by The Who’s Roger Daltrey (CBE) that recognises the importance of entertainment as a form of escapism for teenagers suffering from cancer. After a short speech by Daltrey himself, introducing the significance of the charity and tonight’s acts (there are numerous acts playing throughout the last week of March 2010 to cater to a multitude of tastes) before the first act takes to the stage, Oxford based duo Little Fish.

Little Fish, which tonight were accompanied by a Hammond player, are an unexpected delight opening the evening’s entertainment. Lead singer and guitarist JuJu has a compelling and at times haunting voice, and a stage presence that echoes the likes of Juliette Lewis, clearly having fun yet taken away by the music entirely. The drummer Nez pumps out some blistering beats to an inquisitive crowd trying to decipher the genre mixing sound of the band. There are elements of punk, a little blues and some heartfelt rock riffs that with time will cements the duo as a great band on the up. One to definitely watch.

After a short interval the main act, the super group if you will, salute the stage and audience, and Them Crooked Vultures are ready to rock. The band, which, if you wanted a masterclass in how to rock, would be the ultimate choice of tutors consist of John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, and Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age (not including the many side groups each have formed and participated in.) These men know their stuff. So, with this in mind, the band swoop into the brilliant Dead End Friends, whipping the crowd into a frenzy of excitement and a circle pit of doom, which at the start of the gig appears relatively harmless. Although the songs on the self titled debut album are immense journeys of discombobulated timing and mesmerizing lyrics, the tunes are played with ease and in quick succession, with initially little banter between Homme and the crowd. With three seasoned musical pros, I would expect no less then a night of exceptional entertainment, and although a little short on the dialogue, TCV did not disappoint.

Halfway through the gig an eloquently performed Interlude with Ludes was sung by a swaggering Homme, who appeared possessed by the ghosts of the Albert Hall, and seemed to like it. From this moment on it was clear TCV are above and beyond the realms of any regular band, their lack of musical boundaries only serving as a catalyst to their exceptional sound. Most of the songs played were extended to defying lengths, and indeed volume, and at one point I became entirely entranced by the music to such a level it was as if the walls of the Albert Hall had melted away, and all that remained were the hypnotic sounds from the stage, with three musical giants pounding their instruments with all their might. I was completely caught under their spell, and I liked it. TCV performed an incredible set, and with expectations so high, the only disappointment was knowledge that the night had to come to an end, and it did. Bring on the new album, with even higher expectations and greater boundaries to blur. Daltrey said at the outset that music is there to help forget reality, and for the teenagers that the week long gigs are there for, tonight reality was a distant memory.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Whip It (2010)

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut for 2010’s Whip It is based on Shauna Cross’ novel Derby Girl, who also takes the credit of screenwriter for the movie. Set in Bodeen, Texas, the film follows the ups and downs of Bliss Cavendar (a brilliant Ellen ‘Juno’ Page) who has grown unhappy with her regular suburban life. Forced to compete in beauty pageants by her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), Bliss rebels against her small town expectations when a chance encounter with some roller derby girls unexpectedly help her search to find who she really is.

Whip It has a great supporting cast, including Daniel ‘Home Alone’ Stern, who plays Bliss’ father, and her main parental support in the world of roller derby. Barrymore also makes an appearance as Smashley Simpson, a fellow member of the derby team Hurl Scouts, while Juliette Lewis provides the main bout of vixen competition within the ring. Lewis is known for playing roles considered slightly outside the norm, but here she seems to play it safe, as do the rest of the cast, including Tarantino’s favourite stunt woman/actress Zoë Bell, allowing Page to shine through as the star vehicle. And she does.

Whip It is a classic coming of age story, but is not overtly sentimental. It’s about a young girl forging her own path away from the constraints of her parents, with roller derby as the chosen subculture to help Bliss lives in ‘the moment’, rather than through her mother’s eyes. The film has a great soundtrack, with the likes of .38 Special and The Ramones helping to emphasise the message of teenage rebellion, and its importance to help us all find our own way. Barrymore clearly had fun making this film, and I say to everyone who wants to live the dream, even for a moment, get your skates on.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are has been a long time coming. There had been much hype and anticipation regarding the adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1963 classic children's story, which itself received mixed reviews with the illustrated fanged monsters that are the Wild Things. Jonze’s take on the story also became subject to speculative criticism for not following Sendak’s story to the letter. There are two ways in which Jonze’s version can be taken-as a disappointing interpretation of a classic story that captured the hearts of many a parent and child; or as an imaginative reworking of a heartbreaking tale between a boy and his inner anxieties, expressed through the Wild Things. I opt for the latter.

The opening of Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are depicts the life of Max (played by Max Records), a young adolescent who struggles to control his temper as a misunderstood boy, when all he wants to do is play. He cannot understand life outside make believe, and does not want to. After arguing with his mother before dinner, Max runs away in anger and stumbles upon a world far from reality, drawn from the depths of his imagination where he discovers the Wild Things. It is here that we see Max explore his inner emotions, where each Wild Thing represents aspects of his personality and those dearest to him. Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) is the closest Wild Thing to Max’s own character, and represents the anger and frustration within Max. Judith (Catherine O’Hara) and K.W (Lauren Ambrose) are based on Max’s mother and sister, and convey his own fears of their abandonment that provide the most heartfelt scenes.

The cinematography is truly stunning, and Lance Accord completely captures the beauty on the Wild Things’ island. Where The Wild Things Are is a wonderful reimagining of a classic, which works on so many levels, appealing to many who have not read Sendak’s book. This film is for everyone who has ever had an imagination as a child, and dreamed of a world where you have no one to answer to. Jonze completely grasps the innocence and naivety of a child’s imagination, which is played brilliantly by Records.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Avatar (2009)

James Cameron's Avatar is THE movie of 2009. Apparently. The most expensive movie of all time, costing an estimated $300 million, for a remake of a video game, seems just a little excessive. I however went into this movie almost open minded, and came out of it very differently.

The premise around Avatar seems to be based on upping Cameron's hugely successful (and previously the most expensive films ever made) Titanic, which at the time of production in the mid 1990s, was on the brink of bankrupting the studio. Avatar for me, though visually amazing, failed to deliver past entertaining my retinas. The story, for all the hype over the past year came across as basic and unrewarding, a simple copy and paste plot of the classic Western, good versus bad, technology versus nature with the emphasis on the ground breaking technology developed to distract you from the absent plot. You can't please everyone, but I thought Avatar might have, after how much time, money and effort went into making the film, (aside from the plot.) Maybe the $300 million could have gone on, I don't know, preserving our own environment rather then the fictitious Pandora? For all it's plot and character development failings, 'James Cameron's Avatar'as it's known, is good for Sunday afternoons, helping you to forget the dawn of Monday morning as it vast approaches. Not great, but not awful either.