Monthly Archives: March 2012
Liquid Rooms Edinburgh, 28/03/12. Support – Tall Ships
So my very social week was rounded off by heading to my first gig since seeing Modest Mouse about a year ago. Sad as it is but most of the bands I like don’t head to Edinburgh that often. This paired with the fact that as I become older and more of a recluse I am less inclined to travel to see a band. So I was delighted when buying tickets for next months Graham Coxon gig to see that Los Campesinos! were playing. Ten bucks (well 12.63 or what ever the “Booking fee” for buying a ticket over a shop counter is) to see one of my favourite bands looked like a dam good deal.
Another reason I fancied this gig was that I have never seen them play coupled with the shocking fact that I have yet to listen to their new album which came out late last year. I decided not to listen to any of the new songs once I bought the ticket and wait to catch them live. I thought it would be an odd experience to know every word of 2/3’s of the songs and have no clue about the other 1/3. Think about how often this kind of opportunity occurs? So on Wednesday evening I left for the Liquid Rooms with a feeling of anticipation as well as the usual pre gig feelings of excitement and a dread of disappointment since it was my first time seeing them (Sometimes bands disappoint, it happens).
I have been to the Liquid Rooms once before when I went to see The Hot Hot Heat about 7 years ago. I remembered the balconied and bar at the back but I remembered the venue being much larger. This has happened to me before with the Garage in Glasgow. I went when I was 15 to see CKY, a gig I can remember really clearly. Yet when I returned early last year to see the Wildhearts the place seemed to be about a quarter of the size I expected. Must be a visual spacial defect of getting older!
Anyway, onto the gig itself.
I got there about ten minutes before the support band. Pretty chuffed with my timing I looked around and found a nice wee space next to a pillar.I then settled in to watch Tall Ships. Tall Ships are a three piece band where both the bassist and guitarist use keyboards and effects to beef up their sound to build up their songs into epic crescendos of noise before breaking down to start the process again. The guitarist used a loop peddle more than any one else I have seen using one. Rather than using it as a gimmick or a bit of fun, it was used in every song. This obviously gives the songs layered complexity but it did mean that during the build up each layer needed to be recorded before everything really kicks off. This can take a while but is all held together with some excellent technical drumming which without over complicating things kept these long build ups from becoming stale. I enjoyed what they did, they played a nice varied set and are comfortably up there with the best supports I have seen in the last few years. (http://www.myspace.com/tallshipsfromfalmouth)
So after a fair bit of set up it was time for the main event. It was time for the 7 piece “Los Campesinos!” to get the capacity crowed moving. Having never seen the band I was surprise by the amount of kit they had on stage. Other than your standard guitars, bass and drums there were two synths, a xylophone and a second drum rig, as well as a selection of odd bits a bobs scattered around. I’m not going to go into detail about every song and how they made me feel or even into great depth about what their music is like. I mean its easy enough to listen to yourselves and form your own opinions. You all ready know that I’m a fan and was not disappointed by their live performance, in fact I thought they were brilliant. All I will say is that their music ranges from all out bouncy-dance-along numbers to deeper almost poetic songs ( I would recommend listening the album “Romance Is Boring” to get a feel of this). What I will say is for a band with so many “moving” parts they kept everything really tight while not taking themselves too seriously on stage. They genuinely looked like they were having a great time and isn’t that why any band go out to tour? (I suppose it doesn’t seem that way all the time these days) to find out more head to – http://www.facebook.com/loscampesinos
Overall I thought this was a great gig. It is always a bit of a victory when the band play your favourite song near the end when you think they had maybe omitted it. (In this case a song called “The sea is a good place to think about the future) Also when a band are a good laugh between songs thats a bit of a bonus as well. So, if you had never heard of Los Campesinos then give them a try, and if you have then maybe give Tall Ships a go.
Till next time,
Learning from my mistakes
So last week “This Means War” left a bad taste in the mouth and I was desperate for something in the cinema that can be called a “brainless film” to be half decent. I don’t even demand to be wowed. I just wanted to have a little laugh and let the pool of dribble collect on the floor as a switch my brain off for 90 minutes. The decision to venture out and try another film of this kind straight away was a hard one. During the trailers last week I noticed this little film, “21 Jump Street”. Watching the trailer I laughed a couple of times (twice more than in This Mean War) but I was not convinced. What made me go was that I once said the same thing about another film starring Jonah Hill, “Superbad” and I was wrong not to go and see that.
So that’s where the misleading by-line comes from. Not because this film is terrible. Far from it. Basically “21 Jump Street” was exactly what I was after and I didn’t let it pass like Superbad.
One thing that this film has on “This Means War” is that its funny. It even verges on really good at times. This is mainly down to the writers actually sitting down, reading out the jokes and physically seeing if it made anyone laugh. The writers of T.M.W. seemed to just take situations that might rise a laugh and inserted a mixture of funny sounding words and crude sex references. Where as the 21 Jump team have taken a story and then thought about how to make it funny. Basically they took a bit of time and craft unlike last weeks offering.
So what is 21 Jump Street? Well it was a T.V. series about young-looking cops going under cover in high schools and collages . Now I don’t know about you but I had never heard of the show before I saw the film. Little did I know that the show had ran for 5 seasons, having 103 episodes in the process and starred non other than Johnny Depp, so it must have had some class and a bit of a following. I don’t think the film takes a lot from the TV series other than the name and the concept. It is about two guys Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) who both head into police training after being polar opposites at High School (Tatum the jock and would-you-believe-it Hill the nerd). While training they become best friends and partners in the force. It goes a bit wrong for them when they attempt their first bust. After making a bit of a balls up they are put on the 21 Jump Street Crew because they can both pass for high school kids. They go under cover in a high school where lo and behold everything has changed. It is now cool to be a nerd and Hill’s character goes from the most unpopular kid in school during his own high school experience to being the cool guy. And in a “shocking” but not all that upsetting twist Tatum character goes from prom king to outcast. The guys are trying to bring down a drug ring and…well….you can kind of guess the storyline which concludes at Prom.
It is a very good story. It keeps ticking along nicely and dose not get to bogged down in little tangents like some similar films do. It keeps a good pace and the laughs have a good rhythm to them aswell. Basically you are looking at a film somewhere between Role Models and the remake of Starsky and Hutch.
I would also like to give a tip-of-the-hat to Jonah Hill for his role in this film. Not only does he star but he is also one of the writing double team. Now I have already praised the writing for an almost perfect brainless film but I think that Hill’s role has giving me a new-found respect for the guy. I liked him in Superbad but he seemed to be a bit of a one trick pony since then playing a slightly older version of the same character. He then had small yet decent bit parts in films such as Get him to the Greek and Funny People. I was also not a fan of his work in Cyrus, mainly as he seemed to be doing that “Jonah Hill” role again. But I feel this film shows another side to him, which is also helped with his work developing the story line. I have definitely changed my view on the guy. He was also well received for his supporting role in “Moneyball” (a film I cant wait to see) which show he must be able to act beyond the “same old, same old” of his early career.
This film has also been giving the green light for a sequel which I am a bit unsure about. I’m never sure a film like this can endure another outing (god they tried/are trying with American Pie) but they are going to keep the same team and if they can come up with a good script, different enough to this film, then I suppose I am all for it.
So 21 Jump Street is well worth a watch, it’s no classic but what films have been lately.
Till next time,
An occasional piece looking at World Cinema or things you may not have seen
This is a new kind of article that I was toying with calling “World Cinema Film of the Week” but I don’t think it will happen as often as that. So what is this? Basically I am going to concentrate on giving your peepers something a bit different to watch from the usual action or comedy formulaic films of Hollywood.
So my first pick is a Japanese film called “The Machine Girl”. It’s may not be the best pick for something different I suppose. It has the Hollywood feel as it’s a film about revenge which has been done so many times in main stream cinema. I can’t think of the hook, the thing that makes it different. No wait…… the main character has a machine gun for an arm! Now she was not born with this. Here original arm (i.e. the one she was born with) was cut of by the Yakuza bad guy family after she went after them for killing her little brother and his friend. So she went to the friends family for help. They were mechanics and built her a machine gun arm. Pretty standard stuff for a film eh?
This film has the same visual effects director as Tokyo Gore Police ( Yoshihiro Nishimura) which is another of my Favourite Japanese films. If you haven’t seen any of his work, it’s a bit like ever person in the film has the same blood pressure as a 54-year-old alcoholic Geography teacher who hates their life. Every time there’s a stabbing or a limb is cut off (about ever 36 seconds) then there is a high pressure fountain of blood. Very stylised and to be taken a little tongue in check. Certainly if you are looking for realism you have come to the wrong place. Then again if you look for realism you probably should pick up a DVD with a girl that has a machine gun where a hand should be.
So the film follow Ami as she attempts to kill everyone who is involved in killing her brother. Seems simple enough but there are scenes where she gets a tempura arm, where a man is tortures with nails in his face and a scene with a drill bra. Yip, a DRILL BRA. It’s not your average film and falls into the shock and gore genre of Asian cinema and is quite unlike any other area of film I have seen. What makes it different is that it doesn’t attack you with ridiculous shock gore all the time. At point you even forget that 5 minutes ago someone was cut in half in a geyser of blood. And then bang, 15 minutes of craziness before it settles down to a bit of average Asian drama.
Basically if you want to watch this film but are unsure, watch the first 5 minutes. If it’s not up your street then stop. If you have a stupid smile on you face like me then continue as you will love the whole crazy shamble that falls into order over the next 90 minutes. This won’t be up everyone’s street but it is on Netflix and I urge you to at least watch the beginning so you can chip in with opinion if anyone starts to talk about Japanese shock/gore films in the pub (happens all the time to me).
Right, well we will see how this goes down and if you want more of this kind of thing let me know with a wee comment and I will maybe make it a weekly post!
Till next time
The day I lost faith in humanity and worked out I a film snob
This evening it finally happened. I no longer believe that everyone is equal. It’s a lovely concept but in reality it can’t happen. I mean how can it when a whole cinema, not just a few people, laugh, openly laugh, through out this film. HOW! Ok, you might get the feeling I disliked this film from this opening statement. You are wrong. The film as a concept is sound. I could have been so much more if it had not been for terrible dialogue and being so bloody predictable.
So I went to see this film as one of these “you made me go and see *insert guy film title*” paybacks to the girlfriend. I thought it was a safe bet. A reasonably original concept, ok cast and a trailer which didn’t turn my eyes to a dribbling goo like most of the films the lady-friend thinks “might be ok”. I went in not wanting to pick holes in it, I just wanted to turn off my brain and enjoy a nice story, a bit of action and some general silliness. I didn’t happen. This review is not about picking hole, nope it’s about trying to find the edge on the gaping hole of the 97 minute shambles.
The problem isn’t the story. As I say the story is about as sound and a story about to CIA agents going out with the same girl can be. The two agents, FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are both in love with Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon) and use all manner of spy kit to hamper each others advances. All along some Russia mobster is trying to kill them when it is convenient to the storyline (this is a very muted storyline and is forgotten through out until its needed). Also Lauren Scott is given love advice by her friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) who is probably the worst character I have ever seen in a film (more about that below).
It also attempts to make a chick flick which is laced with action to interest dragged along boyfriends. A bit like cocktails that have beer or whisky in them. In doing so they kind of lose half the audience at each extreme and the bits where they meet are messy and a bit unpleasant to watch.
So as tradition dictates I am now going to a part with spoilers. Do yourself a favour and read it. You will thank me in the end (after watching this film I fear that’s not far off).
So first up is the completely predictable outcomes. Lets see if you can work it out what will happen from these three points.
1. One guy is American and the other is British and this film is made in America.
2. You find out at the beginning that the British character has a son to a mother he no longer lives with but she pops up from time to time.
3. A Russia guys brother is killed by the two agents at the beginning and he vows revenge.
So what happens? Go on have a guess!
Ok. She strings the two along, just as she is going to tell them who she has chosen she is kidnaped by the Russian, the two then save here, she picks the American guy (who is a bit of an asshole and kind of tricks her into liking her). The rejected British guy then gets back together with his wife and somewhere in there the Russia guy is killed in an explosion of some sorts. Now, here is a thought, how about changing it up a bit. Not have the same old formula. No chance that would require some kind of brain power by the writing staff.
This lack of grey matter when writing was also a problem with the dialogue. Lazy one liner, after lazy one liner. Quotes that don’t make sense. But the worst is the crud “girl chats” between Lauren and Trish. The Trish character fits the bill of the fat crud guy role in an “Blokes” comedy. Think the bigger lass in that Bridesmaids film. What she says is embarrassingly crass and unfunny like shouting “That’s what we need, a SEX OFF!” in a soft play surrounded by children. Just loud and trying badly to be edgy for the sake of it. The story and the flow of the film is hampered by it and it tipped this film from poor to terrible in my eyes.
I also didn’t help that the “Live from the Red Carpet” crap during the trailers gave the punchline away to one of the only well-developed jokes in the whole film. This is where Tuck destroys the field at a paint ball game in a nice long montage of ass kicking. Then when talking to Lauren she accidentally shoots him in the crotch. It would have been a bit obvious but maybe would have raised a giggle if I had not known what was going to happen the second I clocked a paint ball gun. Not the films fault I suppose but cinemas need to stop crap like that happening.
On a positive Tom Hardy is very good in the film. I felt he played the role really well and I was even a tad pleased when he got a girl at the end. My respect for him has risen and he proved himself as a fine actor despite working with a terrible script. I also though that Reese Witherspoon come out with plus marks over all but Chris Pine struck me as a poor-mans Jason Bateman.
The thing that really gets me is that people will like this film. They will even say it was good when in reality it was terrible lowest-common-denominator trash that had the potential to be so much more. I wish they had spent as much time on writing the script as they did on working on the concept.
God I hope the next film I see is a belter so I can be positive about it. Writing this was draining!
Till next time
A look at bands which don’t have enough members to be called a four piece.
A couple of nights ago I was at a band practice and we were talking about trying to bulk up areas of our songs to give them more presence. While we were talking about this it got me thinking about how bands that have fewer members than our conventional four piece manage to make interesting and complex music with so little man power. So I started to think about bands I know that fit this description and how they hold up against bands with more members.
I suppose the obvious place to start is with a band that only have two members yet are one of the most famous bands of the last ten years. Have you worked out who it is yet? It’s the White Stripes (of course). A band with two members, Jack White on the guitar and vocals and Meg White on the drums. Together they had an unmistakable sound and probably one of the most played songs ever with “Seven Nation Army”. It could well be that only having two members resulted in their unique sound but it can not be said to be a flash-in-the-pan-one-off as they had six very well received albums before calling it a day in 2011.
So the White Stripes are definitely a success for the small band. One example of a hideous noise coming from two people is The Ting Tings. They certainly have a style but it seems to be play three notes over and over and shout something in an aggressive tesco till lassie voice. You may have gathered I am not a fan. I am also not a fan of the members of the band. Katie White the singer once said in an interview that if a song was not sounding finished in 20 minutes then it wasn’t going to work. It just seems to fit into the “I want it now!” mentality of people these days and goes against working for your art. So having just two people will give you a distinct sound. And from The Ting Tings we find out that in some cases this is a bad thing!
A band that I really like from my youth are a two piece called The Very. They were based in Edinburgh and had a pink penguin on their album cover. They again had a very distinct sound but rather than the complexity of Jack White or the screeching of The Ting Tings, The Very added over drive to their guitar and kept the songs high tempo. This kept the songs interesting and ensured that there was a depth to their sound. (http://www.myspace.com/yesyesthevery) I suppose that in a small band it is very important to ensure that there is a depth in the songs. If not the bands sound could be mistaken for acoustic and be accused of being limp and all of these bands have no danger of being accused of this.
The key is making people doubt that they are listening to a band with only two or three members. If the audience need to nip onto Wikipedia to check how many folk are in the band then they must be doing something right! A couple of example would be The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Muse and bands such as Blink 182 and Green Day.
I have a lot of respect for bands that have 3 or fewer members and still don’t understand how bands like The Very and The White Stripes manage to make the music that they do. Then again I have the same sentiment for The Ting Tings.
Till next time
A List of My Top 5 US Comedies
So I have found myself watching a lot of American comedies lately. A couple of years ago I mainly watched UK based shows like Peep Show, IT Crowd and the likes of Big Train but there has far from a wealth of UK shows of any quality in the past few years. So more and more I am looking over the pond for a bit of a ROFL (*Inserts rolling eyes*). So here I am, running down my 5 favourite US shows that make me laugh. Remember this is my 5 favourites, by no means am I saying these are the 5 BEST EVER SHOWS EVER! It’s a little bit of personal opinion brought to you in the friendly format of a list! There are a few that I have found it hard to leave out but they will be in the “honourable mentions” at the end.
5. The (US) Office
This is an odd one as it has its alternative in the UK on which it is based around. The thing with the two shows is that I love the US version and really dislike the UK one. “But wait a minute. Surely they can not be that different?”. I suppose they are not as a concept but there is one character that is portrayer very differently. This is Steve Carell’s character Michael Scott. In the American series he is a bit of an annoying loser of a boss but you always feel sorry for him and you can see the good he is trying to do. Sometime you even get to see a man beyond the wisdom of everyone else in the show. Rick Gervais plays the character differently. You just dislike him, he doesn’t have then same likeability. I think this is why the US office has managed the longevity of 8 seasons. I am currently on season 4 and I am looking forward to see what they will do now that the main arcs of the first few seasons have settled.
4. 30 Rock
30 Rock is a show that I have been watching for years. Unlike the US Office which I am new too, 30 Rock is a show that I started watching when it is in its infancy. Now it is working its way through its 6 season. 30 Rock is problem the best sitcom about a group of misfits all pushed together. This is done on the set of the fictional show TGS (The Girly Show). Tina Fay plays the head writer of the show and is constantly trying to keep here writers and talent in order while looking for advice from here boss Alec Baldwin. The show has great story lines and borders on the bizarre sometimes without really heading over the line to ridiculous.
3. Bored To Death
This is one that many of you may not agree with or even have heard of. This is the story of a writer who’s girlfriend leaves him. In his despair it seems like a good idea to become a private detective. After putting an advert on Craig’s List he starts to get the odd job. This part is played by Jason Schwartzman who plays the part excellently and is brilliantly back by Zach Galifianakis who plays his struggling cartoonist best friend and Ted Danson, his ageing boss at the magazine. The cast makes this show the marvel that it is. The three are all looking for more from life and this is the story of the scrapes this gets them into. It is really funny, clever and something a bit different to the other 4 shows on this list.
If you have not seen Seinfeld then go outside, take your shoes off, smash a bottle and run across the glinting shards. Sorry but you deserve that. It a classic. 180 episodes and maybe only 2 or 3 that are not gold. Why E4 repeated Friends over and over when they could have had Seinfeld is crazy. In fact the absence of Seinfeld on British TV was a travesty in its day being pushed back to after midnight on BBC 2. (Much like Arrested Development, which is not N0.1…controversial!). But the main reason for Seinfeld being so high is the series where Jerry and Gorge pitch the idea of Seinfeld to TV executives telling the story of what Seinfeld and Larry David went through when trying to get the show picked up. Its intelligent and idiotic at the same time. Maybe the best Sitcom series arc ever.
1. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Well, this is my number one. Why? There is nothing quite like Always Sunny. It has the most mind boggling story lines that would be unbelievable if you hadn’t watched the last few series and knew what the characters were capable of. With every series everything is upped a little more. For those of you who have never seen it, all 7 seasons are on Netfixs and its free for a month so there is no excuse. Writer Charlie Day is an evil genius. The ideas that pop out his head are verging on horror film sometimes yet still have you rolling around the floor as you follow the lives of 5 of the most despicable human beings in the world. Danny DeVito came out of retirement to co-star in this show because he clearly seen it as something treading new ground. Lets be honest for a comedy, especially an US comedy, being a trail blazer and succeeding at it is something special. This my friends is why this is my number one.
So the shows I never added but also love. Well, Arrested Development – Brilliant but I would have had it at 6 of these, hard not to put it in. Fraiser – another of my favourites but it came down to Seinfeld or Fraiser and picking one or the other is one of the hardest things I have had to do! Also newer shows like The Big Bang Theory and Community could have been in the list.
I am sure there are others so post if I have not mentioned them and I will try to catch them if I can!
If you have not seen any of these I would recommend all of them. It’s probably over 500 episodes of laughs so you can’t go wrong really!
Anyway, till next time
What is writing this blog?
So over the last few days for one reason or another I have been absent from my blog. A mixture of illness, being social (I know, this also surprised me!) and working on other projects has meant that poor wee DCOTU took a bit of a back seat over the last week or so. What surprised me is how this has effected me. I started to feel guilty. Its a bit like neglecting a Tamagotchi, it doesn’t hurt anyone to leave it alone but it some how feels wrong. So it got me thinking, if this was purely something that I do to pass time and have no real desire to keep a regular input then why was it eating at me that I had not posted in a couple of days.
I suppose it comes down to enjoying writing and having people look at my articles. Its addictive to see how many people have visited your page and when someone comments or says in passing that they like what you are doing it drives you to do more of the same. I do not believe that I am a good writer, I like to think I am at least a tad entertaining. So I suppose the best way to get better is to practice. Where better to do so than on this blog.
In a long round about way this is an apology to you, my loyal readers, for not doing anything for a few days (not sure any of you actually mind!) and to myself for being neglectful of something that gives me joy. I resolve to not leave entries as long in future. In fact I think I will work on a few just now. Maybe one later or tomorrow (then again I have promised such things before this week!)
Anyway, till next time
A Look at my First Imax Experience
So it has been about two months since the Imax opened at my local cinema in Edinburgh. Apparently it was an Imax many moons before but was scraped. So now it is back but so far the offerings of Mission Impossible 4 and The Journey 2 were doing nothing for me. These are not the kinds of films that will compel me to spend over 4 bucks extra rather than just using my pass. But this week something changed. The Cineworld realised that there are old Imax films they can show. So out of the blue they popped up a poster for “The Dark Knight” in Imax. Hell. Yeah.
So this week I stumped up the extra cash to see a film that I own on DVD to see what all the Imax fuss is about.
I had no real idea what the Imax was. I knew it was bigger and that was about it. I also had some crazy convention that it would somehow be kind of pop up, almost 3D but obviously that is a stupid notion. But that is the power of the myth of Imax, if you have never seen it you have no idea how it can really be any different to regular cinema.
So what’s the difference? Well it is a lot bigger. In fact the screen is almost the whole wall. To be honest even to see this when you first walk in is a fair spectacle. The main thing about the size of the screen is that when you look at the centre you can not see the edge so this immersed you in the film more. You feel a bigger part of the experience which after many years of cinema going is a rare effect for a regular screen to have. Also the picture is in HD. So it is like watching the HD film channel on your widescreen tv, positioned about two inches away from the screen yet feeling comfortable doing this. The other advantage is the sound. The sound is awesome. When there is actual music playing it can be argued that its to loud but as for sound effects it like it is happening in the seat next to you.
Is it worth the extra cash? I suppose it depends on the film. Most regular films on the Imax do not use the whole screen. The Dark Knight has about 30 mins that used the whole screen although it is still huge and HD in the other parts. I would be interested to see a 3D film in the Imax to see what effect that has as well. So, yeah. For the right film I would say that the Imax is worth it. I would also add that The Dark Knight is definitely one of those films.
Anyway, till next time