Saturday, 31 March 2012

Wrath of the Titans Review

My review for Wrath of the Titans is now online at Grounded Online. Following on from the 2010 remake, Clash of the Titans starring Sam Worthington, Wrath actually features titans (well, one) this time round to actually justify the title. Here's a bit of what I had to say:
"..the film does at least pass by with moderately less annoyance than its predecessor; the film’s visuals occasionally throw out something arrestingly epic, with both the battle against the Cyclops and the gargantuan stone body of Kronos, emerging from the rocks of Tartarus, being particular standouts. Similarly, the film’s cast is also generally more likeable this time round (though any movie free of Nicholas Hoult is a positive), with Rosamund Pike and Toby Kebbell doing the best with the rather poor script they’re working with. Less impressive is Fiennes’ turn as Hades, whose embarrassment at being involved is made all the more obvious when put against Neeson, heartily continuing his role as the aging king of bad action movies."

Whilst the film doesn't suck as bad as the first one, it still sucks. It just happens to look pretty every twenty minutes or so as well. If you're interested in reading more, you can check out the full review here.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Those Noble Folk Take Flight

With flurried wings and fluttered flaps,
In twilight skies and fading light,
Through winding lane and gnarled branch,
Those noble folk, the bats, take flight.

Not evil souls, nor winged fiends,
Or foul harbingers of the night,
But private scamps misunderstood,
Like swallows, dainty thrill to sight.

From sleeping barns and ancient trees,
In rippling surges through the breeze,
Benign and hushed into the night,
Those noble folk, the bats, take flight.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

I Think It's A Birch

The tree that knew my boyhood climbs
Is the same that feels them still,
That which bought joy in bygone times
Holds yet the power to thrill.
I won't let age dictate my terms,
Or count of days decide my view,
And though some years have passed by since,
I'm both ten and twenty-two.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Spectrum MiniMix: Spring Hop

The weather is gorgeous; for now at least, spring is well and truly here. Which means anyone in England is behaving like it's midsummer, myself included. This week's Spectrum MiniMix showcases a half hour of sun-drenched hip hop tracks to act as the backdrop to your imaginary convertible cruise, giving the pistol hand out the window. Maybe that's just me, I don't know. Either way, there's some nice new stuff here with a couple of classics thrown in for good measure. Enjoy: Spectrum MiniMix: Spring Hop (Spotify required)

1. Das Racist - "Relax"
2. Kreayshawn - "Gucci Gucci - Two Stacks Remix"
3. The Notorious B.I.G. - "Machine Gun Funk"
4. A$AP Rocky - "Purple Swag"
5. Mellowhype feat. Frank Ocean - "Rico"
6. Black Moon - "Who Got Da Props"
7. Flosstradamus feat. Kid Sister - "Luuk Out Gurl"
8. Cut Chemist feat. Hymnal - "What's the Altitude"

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Hunger Games Review

My review for The Hunger Games, the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling teen novel, can be found here at Grounded Online. Here's a taste of what I had to say about it:

"With Bella Swann finally bowing out of the limelight later this year, the time is ripe for eagle eyed studio execs to set another teen-lit series to the silver screen and fill the (rather profitable) gap. Step in The Hunger Games, an adaptation of the first in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of the same name. Whilst the story may trade in vampires for a dystopian future of kill-or-be-killed reality TV shows, the love triangles, melodrama, and alternative soundtrack are all present and accounted for. And whilst later Twilight sequels might have been more than a little naff, The Hunger Games does a good job of topping the admittedly decent original, even whilst carrying similar flaws."

There's a rather good survival film underneath all the melodramatic toss that finds itself hampered by some poor cinematography and a surprisingly prudish aversion to sex and violence. It's in no way the masterpiece some are hailing it as, but it's a bang-up teen fantasy that wipes the floor with Twilight. Whether it has the same command of audiences however, remains to be seen.

Oh and...Happy 50th Post Spectrum!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

21 Jump Street Review

Another review up at Grounded Online, this time for the actually-really-bloody-good-and-you-should-go-see-it teen comedy, 21 Jump Street. Here's what I had to say:

"On the surface, 21 Jump Street’s script is full of obvious clichés – the rise of the underdog, the return to high school, the professional bromance – but the film continually calls on these common themes and, if not always reinventing them, then mocking them. The now-familiar school cliques of the jocks, Goths and geeks are made obsolete in light of today’s teen staples; indie kids, Youtube and smartphones, and the result is a film that satires, rather than idolises, the 80s. Bacall clearly has his finger on the pulse of modern culture, seeing its flaws whilst also being entranced by them, and the result is one of the first American teen comedies to feel fresh and vibrant in quite a long time."

This film is a real breath of fresh air after some of the lazier American comedies audiences have been subjected to recently, and I am now a firm believer in the power of Tatum. Want to find out more? Read on here!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Spectrum MiniMix: 21st Century Pop

This week's MiniMix brings you another half hour collection of musical treats for your eager ear holes. "21st Century Pop" covers exactly that; catchy tracks that point to the past whilst bringing something fresh and foot-tappin' to the table.

A great way to brighten up a rather dull Saturday afternoon, grab it here! (Spotify required)

1. Summer Camp - "Better Off Without You"
2. Tennis - "Marathon"
3. Wild Nothing - "Chinatown"
4. Here We Go Magic - "Collector"
5. Twin Sister - "Kimmi In a Rice Field"
6. Toro Y Moi - "Still Sound"
7. Twin Shadow - "Slow"
8. Destroyer - "Kaputt"

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Muppets Review

I've got another film review up at Grounded Online, this time having a gander at the rather fantastic comeback feature, The Muppets.

"It’s been a long time since the Muppets had any real attention in the media – or even an audience. In the twelve years since their last cinematic outing, the fairly dreadful Muppets from Space, Jim Henson’s puppets have steadily faded into obscurity, with a generation of kids growing up unaware of what Kermit and co are even about. So it was something of a surprise when How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel successfully pitched a Muppets revival to Disney some years back; the ambitiously titled The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time!!!. What’s more surprising is that, despite since being having the adjective trimmed from its final name, The Muppets does a pretty great job of living up to the claim. Self aware, with a strong eye for contemporary pop culture whilst firmly flaunting its own past, The Muppets is a riotous return for the gang that proves they still have something to offer today."

If that whets your appetite to find out more, the rest of the review is available here

Friday, 9 March 2012

Project X Review

We are all on druuuuggs

I recently reviewed teen-comedy/found footage/mean-spirited wet dream feature Project X for Grounded Online:

In light of the success of Skins, both in the UK and US, as well such films as The Hangover, it’s really a surprise that producer Todd Philip’s latest ode to drink and debauchery, Project X, came along as late as it did. What’s not so surprising is that, for all its noise and commotion, Nima Nourizadeh’s feature length debut is a rather predictable teen comedy, clearly indebted to the likes of Superbad and Risky Business even as it tries to upstage them with “the party you’ve only dreamed about”. As an 88 minute document of said party, Project X excels. But as a witty, memorable film with characters to root for? Not so much.

Project X only really works as a piece of false nostalgia for the kind of party none of us has actually been to, and as a result is about as memorable as the last amnesia-inducing bender you went on. It's fun but totally forgettable stuff. If you're interested in reading more, the full article can be found here!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Rampart Review

In a recent issue of Esquire (don’t judge), veteran actor Woody Harrelson was asked a quickfire round of questions on his career, literature, sports – the general gamut. The short article, adorned with a blow up of the man’s face, goofy grin literally splitting the image in half, had Harrelson merrily trot out the word “phenomenal” four times. In Harrelson’s eyes, everything’s groovy, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his sincere affection for – well, everything. In light of this, his turn as ‘Nam and LAPD vet Dave “Date Rape” Brown in Rampart, the actor’s second collaboration with director Oren Moverman, is all the more striking. The unwelcome stench left over after the Rampart scandal of the late ‘90s, Brown is a dinosaur, whose failure to adapt to a more stringent system provides writer Ellroy with another opportunity to explore LA corruption, whilst paving the way for one utterly convincing character piece from Harrelson.

 It’s 1999. In the aftermath of the infamous Rampart scandal, a two year fiasco that saw LAPD cops involved  in everything from drug dealing and bank robbery to Death Row Records, officer Dave Brown finds himself faced with a police department that no longer wishes to cater for his cavalier method of law enforcement. “Date Rape”, so named for his alleged murder of a serial date rapist, plays on this shaky, street-justice persona to excuse a career of double-dealing, bigoted self-service that embodies everything uncovered in the Rampart shakedown. And yet, he’s still around. Following the reckless beating of a hit and run driver, however, Brown finds himself under more and more scrutiny from the media and the state, his flawed attempts to ratify and rewrite his actions instead closing the net tighter and tighter around him.

 Brown comes from a long line of dirty cops on screen, and the film shares more than a little in common with Keitel’s original rendition of “The Bad Lieutenant.” Whilst Keitel’s cop was perhaps the more shocking (despite Rampart’s ambitiously stated tagline: “The most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen”), Harrelson’s is arguably the more electrifying performance, offering a far more coherent character portrait than the schizoid approach favoured in Ferrara’s equally barmy film. Brown might be a brutal bastard, but he’s also loquacious and (for the most part) canny – to call him charming would be to suggest he was cliché-ridden. He’s a womaniser in the most clinical sense of the word, alternately living with neighbouring sisters who have both mothered daughters for him, and Harrelson endows Brown with the necessary swagger, revealing the desperation and sickness more and more as the gravity of Brown’s situation becomes ever clearer.

 Ably married to this is Moverman and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski’s rendition of LA; a saturated land bleeding colours and heat to a point of claustrophobia, it’s as gaudy and hollow as the man declaring himself its king. Moverman’s handicam is frequently up in the face of the film’s cast, making the fraught scenes with Brown’s former lovers, Catherine (Anne Heche) and Barbara (Cynthia Nixon) feel particularly volatile. Less energised is the film’s moment of delirious excess; the stock “sex-club-bathed-in-red-light-with-pumping-soundtrack-and-dispassionate-camera-work” that seems to be the short-circuit way of highlighting just how terribly low a man can go. We saw it in Shame a few months ago and it was, to be quite honest, the laziest moment of that film also. It also only helps highlight some of the rougher edges to Ellroy’s script, which seems to hope that some of its fraying corners might be mistaken for the general tone of helplessness that tracks Brown.

 Brie Larson, Sigourney Weaver and Ice Cube all give satisfying performances as the voices of reason bearing down on Brown, but at the end of the day, this is undoubtedly a one man gig, and a strong one at that. Whilst it might not be quite as tightly penned as that other New Hollywood successor referenced above, Rampart is nevertheless a well-constructed character study that also returns to the murky cop dramas of the 90s without retreading them.

Spectrum MiniMix: A Dream of You

It's a grey, wet day outside, and indoors isn't much better. So what better way to lift yourself out of the mire and into the clouds than with this half hour of pure condensed musical aether? Today's mix provides an introduction to some of Dream Pop's undisputed classics, as well as offering insight into some of the contemporary offerings available (man, that Boy Friend track...).

Fancy spacing out for awhile? Then just click here (Spotify required)

Track list:
1. Cocteau Twins - "Evangeline"
2. Mazzy Star - "Cry, Cry"
3. Holly Miranda - "Joints"
4. Boy Friend - "False Cross"
5. Youth Lagoon - "Montana"
6. Galaxie 500 - "Snowstorm"
7. A Sunny Day in Glasgow - "C'mon"
8. Julee Cruise - "The Voice of Love"