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All reviews - Movies (4) - TV Shows (1) - DVDs (2) - Books (1) - Music (2)

A good cure for insomnia

Posted : 15 years, 5 months ago on 17 February 2009 12:38 (A review of Broken)

Broken stars Heather Graham as a down on her luck wannabe singer-songwriter, working in a diner somewhere or other. She's left her junkie boyfriend, but he finds her, declaring her love and... well... by this point I was way past caring.

There is, to be fair, a bit of plot, but if I continued for another 30 words you'd know how it ends. The trouble is there's about 20 other characters who are sort of involved in what's going on in the diner, but no reason to actually care about any of them. In fact even Graham's character (cleverly called Hope... you see what they did there?) as the main protagonist is difficult to feel much for. A small bit of pity perhaps since she's clearly far too rubbish to live up to her dreams, but that aside completely emotionless.

Most of the film is shot in the one set, only occasionally breaking outside, presumably to give some kind of feeling of claustrophobia or similar, but all this does is reminds you that there was clearly virtually no budget for the film. It just becomes hard work caring after the first ten minutes or so.

Ultimately though, in fairness to the crew, this film isn't actually inherently bad. The plot itself actually hangs together, the characters' motives for their actions throughout the film are fairly clear and so on. When it comes down to it though, the plot and characters aren't interesting, while the whole things is just quite poorly told and ultimately enveloping the viewer with it's on inherent dullness. As the headline says, good for insomniacs only, otherwise avoid at all costs.

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Modern Life Is Rubbish review

Posted : 16 years, 4 months ago on 21 March 2008 11:13 (A review of Modern Life Is Rubbish)

At the time of recording their Sophomore album, Modern Life is Rubbish, Blur were at their (first) career low, off the back of a failed attempt to break the American market, having been defauded by their (former) manager and under pressure from their own label to get a successful album written and released. In the meantime, the British music scene had moved on since the foursome's debut, with the Manchester baggy scene having faded and being replaced with a new-found interest in all things American, in particular Grunge.

Modern Life is Rubbish was penned as something of a reaction to Britain's fascination of America and foreshadowed the way to the Britpop and "Cool Britania" era of the mid 90s with a celebration of all things British instead and begins to show a maturity that was largely missing on the quartet's debut, "Leisure".

While the production dates the record by today's standards and there's the odd piece of filler on the album (Turn It Up) - enjoyable pop hooks, but lacking the depth found in tracks such as Star Shaped and lead single For Tomorrow - Blur proved themselves more than adept at moving from genre to genre - from the punk tones of Advert to the slow and mellow yet beautiful Blue Jeans. Previous single Popscene was dropped from this (the British) version of the release after it flopped in the charts the previous year - as guitarist Graham Coxon put it "if you didn't want it then, you're not fucking having it now!", yet as brilliant and sought after as that single now proves to be, the album probably benefits from it's absence, with it not really thematically following the rest of the album.

15 years ago, critics received the record with relatively warm praise - noting the Englishness inherent in the lyrics and nods to previous English acts such as The Kinks, yet in the context of the sea change that Blur and Suede were on the crest of at the time, Modern Life is Rubbish retrospectively proves to be one of the most important British records of the 90s, and quite arguably Blur's finest work.

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A lesson in the surreal

Posted : 16 years, 4 months ago on 16 March 2008 10:30 (A review of Danger Mouse)

As a kid, the 80s cartoon DangerMouse was one of the few bits of essential lunchtime viewing, being on sometime around 1pm on Channel 4. It was probably the most entertaining thing on during the day at that age, but unlike most other classic 80s kids TV, amazingly it still holds up to scrutiny when 4 times the age and certainly family viewing.

The premise of the show is fairly simple - one of the world's greatest secret agents, DangerMouse, stars alongside a somewhat cowardly and timid sidekick, Penfold (a Hamster), in a series of adventures, invariably saving the world in one way or another - by conincidence or design.

Where the cartoon differs from many other family shows is in it's use of parody and the surreal. Rather than taking the British spy idea seriously Cosgrove and Hall take an often wry take on the genre, while on very regular occasions the plots take a surreal comedic twist. A long suffering narrator regularly voices his disdain for the nature of the stories, while much wordplay - that would surely often go unnoticed by youngsters - can be noted within the episodes when watching carfeully - indeed, it is from this wordplay that the absurdity of the show often arises.

While not up to the standard of great adult comedy programmes (Arrested Development anyone?), it's clearly a cut above pretty much any family cartoon created within the last decade - indeed, it could be argued that it found this niche years before The Simpsons (widely recognised as the pinnacle of such shows) was even conceived by Matt Groening.

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Way too much

Posted : 16 years, 4 months ago on 12 March 2008 09:39 (A review of NOT ALBUM)

The Killer's sophomore album - traditionally difficult for many artists - was released back in 2006 on the back of much (deserved) hype thanks to their debut's addictive rhythms, vocal hooks and unashamed indie pop-rock tunes. While the follow up clearly re-uses many of the same devices, it fails to do so with the same devastating effect - no song comes close to the best tracks on Hot Fuss, although the whole does feel somewhat more consistent.

The trouble with this release then... while the album clearly still sounds like The Killers, it also sounds like someone let them loose in a massive studio and gave them free reign to put as many instruments and layers onto each track as they wanted; no-one seems to have done the sensible thing and asked them to strip things down a bit. Debut single "When We Were Young" is as close as the band come to hitting the simple yet euphoric pop highs of previous singles, "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr Brightside", but the slow tempo and dated synth leads it to shoot and miss. Badly.

However, despite its glaring faults, the album does just about hang together as a whole piece, and makes for a reasonable occasional listen. Here's to a return to form for album 3...

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Control review

Posted : 16 years, 8 months ago on 30 October 2007 11:42 (A review of Control)

Well written and directed biopic about Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division. Riley does a good job of portraying the young and quiet but enigmatic vocalist and his troubles throughout his short career in music leading up to 1980, while Corbijn's direction lends a very authentic feel to the action onscreen, not least the choice to shoot in black and white. While not the best music biopic of the 21st century thus far (that accolade probably goes to Walk the Line), Control certainly rates among the better ones.

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The Last Samurai (2-Disc Widescreen Edition) review

Posted : 17 years, 7 months ago on 6 December 2006 03:00 (A review of The Last Samurai (2-Disc Widescreen Edition))

Disc one contains the film itself. To sum it up as average would probabl be fair - ok, but nothing special. Nice details on the historical front along with decent action scene are spoilt a little by parts of the screenplay, in particular a fairly major detail of the ending which is impossible to describe without giving away major spoilers.

Disc two lets the package down completely. There's a lot of volume, with 10-12 different additional documentaries and things about the making of the film and its historical context, but sadly most of them descent into self-congratulatory nonsense, often describing how much of a pleasure it was to work with Tom Cruise rather than saying anything substantial about the film itself - to the extent that discussion of the action scenes talks in depth about how Tom was determined to do his own scenes wherever possible. Drivel.

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Die Another Day review

Posted : 17 years, 7 months ago on 27 November 2006 05:55 (A review of Die Another Day)

As the only Bond film I've actually got round to watching properly over the years (I've seen bits of Goldeneye, and played the N64 game through but never sat down to watch it properly), I can't really say this exactly gave me a good impression of the franchise. While Brosnan, Dench and Cleese play their characters reasonably well, the rest of the cast are generally poor, and no-one's helped by the cringeworthy dialogue. The plot, meanwhile is pretty damn forgettable too: two weeks after last seeing it, I can't actually remember the slightest detail of what happened except for the general boredom by it all.

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Glastonbury review

Posted : 17 years, 8 months ago on 21 November 2006 11:47 (A review of Glastonbury)

Half decent documentary about one of the greatest music and arts festivals in the world. Captures the flavour reasonably well, and archive footage is used nicely to tell the history of the festival, but suffers a little from cutting some scenes too short and lingering over others for too long. Worth a look.

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Blur - The Best of review

Posted : 17 years, 8 months ago on 7 November 2006 12:22 (A review of Blur - The Best of)

As with so many bands, Blur released their video retrospective, with promotional videos from their first 22 singles (at the time of writing, Music is My Radar, Out of Time, Crazy Beat and Good Song are all missing). The DVD, much like the CD "Best of" released at a similar time, provides a good introduction to Blur's sound over the first 10 years of their career, and provides proper access to some classic videos for the first time. Coffee + TV, To the End and The Universal in particular are worth a few minutes of anyone's time.

Unfortunately, however, some of the videos are kinda slack - End of a Century, Stereotypes and Tender are just live videos (although admittedly the Tender one works better since it's an actual live recording) and worse, there's no other material on the DVD. Not even a short documentary. This shortcoming sadly puts this one into the category of one to be brought only by hardcore fans, or picked up in a bargain bin rather than a disc anyone could buy and enjoy.

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Football in the real world

Posted : 17 years, 8 months ago on 5 November 2006 10:34 (A review of Left Foot Forward: A Year in the Life of a Journeyman Footballer (20-20 Special Edition))

Ok, so as a rule, reading diaries written by "famous" people tends to be fairly dull. This is different. For one thing, 99% of people in the UK (let alone outside) wouldn't have the blindest clue who Garry Nelson is, less want to read his diary for a year.

What this provides, though, is an unsuppressed look behind the scenes at a mediocre Premiership club in the early to mid 90s by a self confessed journeyman footballer who got lucky. Nelson is never less than candid about his fears (being dropped, injury, ...) and talks about many of the issues at Charlton Athletic at the time, in particular that of having co-managers.

Any self respecting football fan should get themselves a copy of this as soon as possible, although for those not a fan of the sport, probably one to avoid.

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