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Archive for April 2011

What A Bad Film You Are, My Dear…..

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There are three good things about Catherine Hardwick’s Red Riding Hood. They are, in no particular order, Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman and the opening helicopter / pan shot of an impressive looking forest. The utter toss in between all these things is so unimaginably bad and hackneyed I had a pain in my face by the end of the film. The story, and I use that term loosely centres on Valerie. Young Vaelrie falls for an orphaned woodcutter, Peter. Played by a chiselled, moody looking and ultimately uncharasmatic Shiloh Fernandez. And being a Hardwicke film, he spends a lot of the film with his top off, staring moodily. OMG!!! HE IS LUSH!!!!!!

Valerie’s family are not best pleased with Valerie’s choice of betrothed, as they want her to marry the posh, richer but equally as uncharismatic Henry, played by Max Irons. The poor girl really is spoilt for choice, isn’t she? Anyway, the villagers begin to disappear, and there is talk of a werewolf. Being set in such times, suspicion automatically falls on Peter. Poor attractive Peter. And so Gary Oldman is sent for. Ah, Gary. I think they should have pushed for Valerie to marry Gary’s loopy Father Solomon. A far better option. Anyway, he warns the villagers of the “beast that lives among us!!”

What follows is tripe, complete and utter tripe. Catherine Hardwicke has a knack of telling attractive people to look moody and spout cliched, tired dialogue. And I am not a historian, but you can bet your hat that people back in those times were never that attractive. Come on, gout, diptheria, witch trials? Who would have had time to gel their hair or put on foundation? Ridiculous. I won’t ruin the ending, but let’s just say banish the story you already know.

Before I leave you, a few more gripes. Obviously, being aimed at the tween market, mostly girls, Hardwicke can not have full frontal nudity or rumpy pumpy. So as with the Twilight series, the lead characters stare at each other and roll around a lot. Hinting at sex, but never going to third base. And the whole “gobble you up” thing the werewolf does is clearly a veiled metaphor for what she can’t show.

As I said, the opening shot, Seyfired and Oldman are the best things about this unwanted retelling of the famous children’s tale. But both actors are hampered by tired, pedestrian directing, a cliched script and the shackles of a terrible, terrible film. Amanda Seyfired, Gary Oldman and indeed you the money paying cinema goer deserver far better than this. Avoid like a bout of old time gout…..

Written by thepanch

April 24, 2011 at 8:45 am

Easy A

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School can be a vicious place. The older you get, the more susceptible you are to the rumour mill, and this mill can make or break you. Which is basically the plot of Will Gluck’s movie, Easy A, starring Emma Stone (You know, that one Jonah Hill is in love with in Superbad?) Stone plays Olive Prendergast, a virtuous, upstanding, clean cut student from a balanced family. Given this is high school in America, none of those factors make Olive a popular girl in the ever increasing social circles. That all changes when Olive, in order to shut her up, tells her friend, Rhiannon (played by Alyson Michalka), that she has lost her virginity to this guy she met called “George.” Not only did she not lose her virginity, George doesn’t even exist.

Within a day or two, the whole school is now aware of Olive Prendergast. They all believe the rumour that Olive herself started and have begun to judge her accordingly. However, Olive sees this as an opportunity to further her reputation and make some money. She offers the school nerds, no hopers and dateless wonders a glimmer of hope and charges them fees to start a rumour that she has slept with them. Surely nothing can go wrong I hear you say? Oh, but it does.

Olive becomes more well known, but in the process incurs the wrath of the holier than thou Christian Brigade, the school guidance counsellor and loses her best friend. Stone carries the whole film, even some of the clichéd situations, with tremendous comedic timing and gives Olive a sense of worth, despite her attempts to fit in. The supporting cast are no slouches either. The standouts are Lisa Kudrow’s morally corrupt school counsellor, Amanda Bynes’ sanctimonious Marianne and Olive’s parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Not normally my cup of tea, but Stone is more than capable of handling herself with good material. Her comedic chops are finely honed from parts in Superbad and Zombieland. She makes Olive sympathetic, clever without being annoying and ultimately likeable. A highly recommended comedy.

 

3 /5

Written by thepanch

April 6, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Film Reviews

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A Royal Celebration

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Dear readers, would you be upstanding to celebrate the pageantry, pomp and sheer rock and roll majesty that is Queen. Yes, they celebrate turning 40 this year. Well it marks the official anniversary of the full line-up. John Deacon or Deacon John as he’s billed on their first album (yes, I’m a Queen nerd) did not join as bassist until March 1970. And so in conjunction with this 40th anniversary the band have seen quite the

resurgence in popularity and have blessed fans with a huge bag of goodies to celebrate.

Their musical, We Will Rock You won the Laurence Olivier Award last month, an exhibition of early live photos has opened in London called Stormtrooper in Stilettos, and their first five albums have been reissued, re-mastered and repackaged with a new disc of bonus un-released material for each album. And I have had the pleasure of hearing all five. In the words of Mr. Mercury, “Let’s do it!”

The band’s first album, eponymously titled Queen, debuted in 1973. It was recorded in Trident Studios mostly at night-time. The night time sessions began when their label mate David Bowie was finished in the studio. Most nights would not begin until 3am as Bowie was a bigger star at the time. The sessions would have to end at seven as staff filed in and began to clean up in and around the studio. As a result there is none of the trademark Queen Sound. Brian May states that “there was all this technology around, but we were not given time to experiment.”

Roger Taylor also recalls similar problems with the recording. His drum sound was far too loud and not “fashionable, and so they pushed the dry drum sound on us.” This was achieved by taping Taylor’s drums to within an inch of their life. The album is not bad, and indeed has signs of what would later be defined as early 1970’s Queen. Mystical lyrics, harmonies and complex arrangements are all apparent if not as big as they would later become. The best examples are Liar, Great King Rat and Doing All Right. The album is central to the band’s development as it features their first single release, Keep Yourself Alive. The bonus disc features demos of Liar, Keep Yourself Alive and the Night Comes Down. The album was lukewarmly received but Queen was on the map, and indeed on the road.

To support the first album, they toured extensively. Mostly England and Ireland, but the itineraries were solid and wide reaching. All this experience would lead to an altogether tighter, more confident band on their second studio release. Again, signs of severe ego at work. The second album was called Queen II. You can’t really hate a band that deems their own names important enough for two album titles, can you?

Queen II opens up with the first of Brian May’s forays into guitar based experimentation, Procession which shows the guitarist’s intricate use of guitar as an effect. This minute long intro was used as a precursor to every Queen live show for the next two years. Father and Son follows, which is possibly one of my favourite early Queen songs. The songs on this album are very heavy and obviously influenced by The Who and Led Zeppelin. It’s all heavy guitars and drums, no tape on Taylor’s drums this time around. This album is also significant on vinyl, as it is divided up into two sides, Side White and Side Black. The Black Side is dedicated entirely to fantasy, the white side to emotional tracks.

The standout tracks on Side Black are Ogre Battle, The Fairy-Teller’s Master Stroke and the track that many see as the precursor to Bohemian Rhapsody. The March of the Black Queen signifies the Queen of this era. That is long, epic songs that feature different styles and indeed different time signatures. This song is a pure primal beast.

 

Their third album, Sheer Heart Attack, which was my first exposure to Queen as a youngster age 8, is my favourite Queen album. Kerrang Magazine voted the album in at Number 8 in their list of 100 Greatest British Rock Albums of All Time. Musically, lyrically and production wise it is in my opinion, their heaviest and indeed greatest album. And it featured their first, accessible hit in Killer Queen. The track is musically, the least complex and as such easiest to digest song on this album.

Elsewhere on the album, all four members are represented. May wrote Brighton Rock, which featured a more intricate use of the techniques he used on Procession on Queen II. Deacon wrote the tropical, throwaway but highly infectious track, Misfire. And Taylor wrote Tenement Funster. A typical Taylor song, dealing with youth and rebellion. The song was the first in an overlapping 3 song melody which would segue into Flick of the Wrist and the beautiful, aching last part, Lily of The Valley.

This album also featured perennial Queen rocker, Now I’m Here. The song used to open the shows to accompany the tour. A tour which indeed was to date Queen’s biggest. It was their first world tour, consisting of a 7 month trek across 77 dates. Taking in mainland Europe and more importantly the USA, where the album climbed to Number 20 on the Billboard Chart. The album would cement the band’s hard rock reputation, and the success gave them the opportunity to spend more time in the studio for their next album, A Night at the Opera.

Named after the famed Marx Brothers movie, this album is touted by Queen purists as their “masterpiece.” Indeed all the factors that would give this argument weight are evident. Every song is completely different, but sounding like a band that finally found their musical feet. Styles range from prog rock (Sweet Lady, The Prophet’s Song), vaudeville (Seaside Rendezvous), folk (’39), radio friendly rock (You’re My Best Friend) and the daddy of them all, Bohemian Rhapsody.

I’m probably going to be shot, but due to over familiarity this is my least favourite song on the album. That being said, the album is nothing short of fantastic with the only dip in quality being the tired sounding Sweet Lady. Gripes aside, the album delivers on every level and shows Queen at their studio peak. The touring would only increase from here, and by this stage they had cemented their reputation as a live band. As a result, their studio output suffered. Not in lack of quality, but from Opera on, their studio work was solid but not challenging or groundbreaking.

This can be said of their fifth and the final of the reissues, A Day at the Races. Again, the Marx Brothers provide the title. There are some quality songs, Somebody to Love, Tie Your Mother Down; You Take My Breath Away and the Millionaire’s Waltz. Critically the album was uber – successful, going to Number One in the UK, Japan and The Netherlands. It registered in at a not disappointingly number 5 on the US Billboard. The album was supported by in this writer’s opinion the strongest live line-up on the band. I have heard and seen bootlegs of the band from this tour and they are on fire.

If you’re a Queen fan you will, or should own all these albums already. I do, including two on vinyl. But these re-issues should not be viewed as mere cash ins. The sound quality, which was fine the first time out, is beautifully toned up. Every nuance is captured in every song, and the work is clear to be heard. Queen was not and never will be a fashionable band, but these albums speak for themselves. They serve as an aural scrapbook of a band going through their paces, and fine tuning their sound until they found that sound that is as recognisable as the birds in the trees or the traffic on the roads. Bow down before the majesty of Queen; crank the speakers up to 11 and crack open the champers, darlings!!!

 

Queen                                      6 / 10

Queen II                                  8.5 / 10

Sheer Heart Attack                  9.5 / 10

A Night at the Opera               8 / 10

A Day at the Races                  6.5 / 10

 

 

 

 

Written by thepanch

April 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Music

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The Rocker

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Despite shuffling from this mortal coil in order to join the great rock and roll party upstairs 25 years ago, Phillip Parris Lynott has never left the Irish consciousness and as it should be. For my money, the greatest rock star Ireland ever produced. I mean what was not to love? A six foot frame, cheeky Irish smile all topped off with a jet black head of afro curls. Oh, yea and some of the best songs ever committed to tape by an Irishman. The man oozed rock and roll, sex appeal, danger and friendliness all in the same breath. No mean feat, and indeed a feat that has yet to be repeated.
The Phil Lynott Exhibition is running for an extra month in St. Stephen’s Green, until May the 4th. For the small sum of €10, you can immerse yourself in all things Thin Lizzy, and indeed Phillo. Myself, Fiona and the little lady went up on Thursday last and we were not disappointed. As luck would have it Philomena, Phil’s ever so devoted mother was in, signing copies of her book.
Truly a wonderful woman, I found her warm, welcoming and ever so happy to talk about her boy. The mere mention of his name makes her emerald green eyes shine and she gives you a wide, friendly smile of a mother that not only loved her son dearly, but loves the fact that most of the country and indeed the world felt and still feels the same way.
The exhibition itself is a must for Lizzy fans, or at that music fans in general. You name it and it is there. Phil’s bass guitars, tour itineraries (they played Tramore in 1971 for the princely sum of £132!), tour jackets as worn by the big man, every vinyl single and album including Phil’s personal gold discs. The true finds are all the handwritten pieces. Ranging from lyrics to postcards to poetry, these were my favourite part of the tour.
Phil Lynott was, in my opinion, the greatest rock star we ever produced. The man bled green and was so proud to be Irish. As he said himself, “When I’m in England, I say, I’m from Ireland. When I’m in Ireland, I say, I’m from Dublin. When I’m in Dublin, I say, I’m from Crumlin. When I’m in Crumlin, I say, Leighlin Road. When I’m in Leighlin Road, I say, I’m a Lynott.” Phil was a great lover of all Irish culture. We should carry on that tradition. Go to Stephen’s Green and enjoy the life and work of our own Roisin Dubh, Phillip Parris Lynott.

Written by thepanch

April 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Music

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