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July 16, 2007

Transformers - The Review by Dr T

Filed under: film, reviews, authors, Topics, Dr T. — drt @ 3:23 pm

TRANSFORMERS

I’ve still got the original Optimus Prime toy. OK, so it’s in my old bedroom in Kent, but my Mum has strict orders to NEVER throw it away. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Transformers. I was teased at primary school for reading the comics when the rest of the kids were, I dunno, reading whatever was considered cool when you’re ten years old. The Hasbro target market aside, I am exactly the kind of person who the new Transformers movie was made for.

My initial joy at the news of a new Transformers movie was somewhat diminished when Michael Bay was revealed to be the director. Like all cinephiles, I know that of all the directors to admire (Godard, Herzog, Hartley, Kurosawa et al), Mr Bay’s name is never to be mentioned. He seems to want to craft entire films from strings of overstated, hamfisted cliches. The slo-mo, the contra slow music/action sequence, the silhouettes against the sun, the parallax meeting room pan, the ratcheting up of the tension by adding a pointless little kid into the mix, if the list were endless it would at least credit Mr Bay with imagination, but his bag of tricks is shallow indeed.

However, not even Michael Bay can go wrong with the formula of “Big F**k Off Robots Tw@tting Each Other And Transforming Into Cool Stuff”. I mean, what right minded person doesn’t want to see an F-22 fighter jet change mid-flight into a robot that leaps onto a pursuing jet, and then onto another one, smashing them all up with glee… It’s precisely this sort of spectacle that makes one forget about the humdrum reality of inept car-bombs and inconvenient truths.

This film looks amazing. Finally CGI has reached a point where you forget that the robots aren’t really there, not nuts and bolts, just bits and bytes. Although they lack the clean lines of their 80s incarnations, these robots do still look cool. I was a bit disappointed to see that they’d done away with Prime’s face guard and given him a moving mouth (I always thought the old style face guard gave Prime a ‘knight-like’ quality). But I was equally pleased to see that they’d given up on the whole “Megatron is a giant robot that can shrink into a hand-held gun” contradiction. In the film, he’s a flying… something. I know my military jets, and I couldn’t place it.

Apparently the fanboys are up in arms about “Frenzy being the new Jar Jar Binks”. It all comes down to a mis-step in sound effects. The foley artists should have just done some sinister whirring sounds and clicks, but no, it seems they decided to give this Decepticon master of infiltration the personality of Jabba’s Annoying Little Helper from ROTJ. That was wrist slap number one.

Wrist slap number two is that the action sequences are cut too fast. You never really get a proper look at what’s going on, with the camera zooming here and there, and then going all shakey hand-held docudrama style. I’m sure it adds to the visceral impact of the movie and illustrates the madness of war, but really, I’ve seen ‘Saving Private Ryan’, now I just want to see that giant robot shoot up some tanks, the human tragedy of it all can wait til later.

All in all, a great watch. It could have been a LOT worse. It’s no ‘Battlestar Galactica’ quality re-imagining, but it’s certainly Michael Bay’s best film. It’s got some good humour, the girl is well fit, and there’s GIANT ROBOTS BASHING SEVEN SHADES OF CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER! Come on!

June 16, 2007

Clerks 2 - The Review by Dr T

Filed under: film, reviews, authors, Topics, Dr T. — drt @ 3:19 pm

Well.. It’s better than ‘Jersey Girl’…

Let me elaborate:

It’s not brilliant, but not bad. Frustating flashes of genius generally sullied by a persistantly emotional streak. And waaaay too much ‘MTV Epiphanies’ where people think about what they’re going to do with their life by mutely staring whilst the soundtrack plays a nice rock song. And K Smith can’t get on my good side by using ‘1979′ either.

There’s some great discussions of LOTR and Star Wars, with Randall really laying into the gaye hobbits. The Transformers movie is discussed, and the term ‘Go Bot’ is used perjoratively, which I found ‘delicious’.

Jay and Silent Bob are relegated to their usual background roles, with hardly any good material.

I found Randall to be a bit too much of a bully, although you might be able to sympathise if you’re 33 and still working in a burger joint. I’d be angry and frustrated too…

Plot Spoiler LOOK AWAY AND SCROLL DOWN A BIT IF NECESSARY….

The script seemed to be building up to Dante having to make a ‘decision’ because early on in the film he was persistantly refered to as the guy who let other people (women in particular) make the decisions for him, and so you think “well I guess he will have to pick between the two ladies”, except halfway through the film, one of the ladies turns out to be pregnant, so that pretty much takes most of the decision out of his hands. And by doing so, makes the character arc redundant from a dramatic point of view.

YOU CAN LOOK NOW…
In the end, Kevin Smith has made a rather smutty “do what your heart tells you, because that’s where real happiness lies” flick. It is the literal definition of “ne’er fish nor fowl”, too sappy in places, too smutty in others. The hardcore fans will not be satisfied, and the Bridget Jones Brigade will turn off in disgust.

To Sum Up:
Worth a rental, wait for the sales, not as bad as ‘Jersey Girl.’

Memorable (Randall) line from the film:
“The next step up from a girl with a large cl!t is a guy with a tiny d!ck.”

May 16, 2007

From the lips of the ‘niX… with PhoeniX PhiL

Filed under: music, film, reviews, editorial, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 6:06 pm

From the lips of the ‘nix… with PhoeniX PhiL


I can’t believe that there hasn’t been more made of the fact that there was a kids film called “The Last Mimzy” playing in the cinemas recently… I always thought “Mimzy” was posh slang for um, well a virgina. And to think they used to blame alchopops for the supposed huge amount of under aged sex that occurs in the UK. It used to make me laugh, I drank loads of alchopops as a young man but couldn’t get laid for love nor money. Do they even still do the classic alchopops… like Hooch or Two Dogs? I’m typing this up during my lunch break at my boring job and oh I suddenly crave an alcoholic  lemonade.
Memories are flooding back to me of New Years Eve 1995 / New Years Day 1996. I was stuck in a lock-in happening in a pub located on the Isle of Sheppy. The night had been typically awful, I had gone there with my friend and his girlfriend who was desperately trying to get her friends to fancy me (and oh! how I had to bare distant witness to disgusted refusals). I wasn’t too bothered as none of the girls liked Kiss (this was a year before I resigned myself to the sad truth that my first girlfriend probably wouldn’t like Kiss). So with any threat of sexual tension out of the way I found comfort in constant “one bottle of Two Dogs” demands at the bar to a soundtrack of current hits such as “Sorted For E’s & Whizz”, “Girl From Mars”, Mike Flower’s version of “Wonderwall” and um, “I Believe” by Robson & Jerome….
The night ended with me drunkenly p!ssing up against a wall in East Street, Sittingbourne while two chav girls clapped… which I kidded myself could be seen in some cultures as getting laid…
…ah the height of “The Brit-Pop Wars”.
Now then, I hear you screaming “Why oh why is he banging on about some forgotten night back in the 90’s?” Well, being an “indieboy of a certain age” I can’t help but feel a little bit of a tingle in my stomach about return of the Manic Street Preachers and Ash. Two bands admittedly well past their prime but seemingly two bands ready to make amends for previous crimes.

 
Of the two bands, the Manics perhaps fell the furthest. Back in 1992, they were possibly my favourite band in the world. I wasn’t a typical “Old school Manics fan” (things like that don’t reach Sittingbourne. For example “New rave” hasn’t exploded in Sittingbourne… possibly because “Old Rave” still hasn’t left Sittingbourne… but that’s another story for another time) but I was in love with them. I had a strange taped copy of “Generation Terrorists” I got from a friend of friend’s cousin in exchange for taping “Use Your Illusion 2″. My version of “Generation Terrorists” had a completely different tracklisting (it kicked off with the B-side “A Vision Of Dead Desire”… Yay!) and ended with a lengthy interview with Nicky Wire on the Steve Wright Radio Show.

 
For a long time that tape was my sonic bible… and Nicky’s claim in the interview that he “couldn’t see past” only releasing one album filled me with a strange kind of electricity. I liked Nirvana for their energy and mischief but I couldn’t relate to their songs (”a mosquito, an albino”… um, ok?) so the Manics were the ones that soundtracked my teenage essence.

 
I was a bit disappointed with “Gold Against The Soul” (despite it’s truly awesome singles) and “The Holy Bible” was great but it didn’t bond with me the same way that “Generation Terrorists” did. I’m not going to talk about the tragedy that followed as enough (possibly too much) has been said in the past, however I will add that “Everything Must Go” was a great hit fuelled album and would’ve been an ideal place to stop BUT NO the surviving three decided to carry on.

 
What followed was an album called “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours” which in my opinion is the worst album ever released… sorry I’ll say that again THE WORST ALBUM EVER RELEASED. How it sold aswell as it did, I’ll never know… it’s 63 minutes and 10 seconds of boring dirge ( “S.Y.M.M.” is possibly the most terrible closing track ever). The only song I can stand on it is “Black Dog on My Shoulder” which is the one most people hate.

 
I couldn’t forgive them for that album so while the MSP limped on to produce two further albums I decided to look away. But now they’re back… dressed in their army clothes again singing a quite pleasant little ditty called “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough ” it’s not a classic, it’s not a return to form but is the sound of band seemingly getting something out of being a band again. It also features Cardigans vocalist Nina Persson who also seems to be feeling the “hooray lets be exciting pop stars again” vibe. So for the record The Manics: I forgive you… heck, I may even buy your new album.

 
Ash on the other hand are a strange property, they were responsible for some of the greatest indie-punk singles ever but there seems very little else for them do. I want the new Ash album to be amazing but I’m fearing it will be “Meltdown” part two. Time will tell I guess.

 
My long predicted “Jellyfish / McFly crossover” finally happens, as McFly’s new single is a cover of “Baby’s Coming Back”. Quite brilliantly though, McFly have developed a charming harpsichord / percussive little riff for the intro …which makes sense seeing as how McFly have already used the original intro of the song for their second hit “Obviously”. Bloody kids and their thieving… they’re just making life difficult for themselves.

 
I’m not a big fan of nepotism so I have to tread carefully with my praise of Lucky Soul’s debut album “The Great Unwanted”. My love of Lucky Soul is well documented and I’ve bragged like a fanboy about doing handclaps on the album so all I say is if you like shimmery, heart break indie-pop i recommend you check out the album. “Lips Are Unhappy” and “One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer” are glorious should-be-massive-pop-hits and I’m loving the final trilogy of teary eyed songs on the album (”Towering Inferno”, “It’s Yours” and “Last Song”). I prefer LS when they sound a bit bruised by life… not that I’m wishing them to be actually unhappy in life… I saw that Carpenters documentary t’other day it was very upsetting. DON’T SUFFER FOR YOUR ART LUCKY SOUL… PLEASE DON’T SUFFER! I think “Towering Inferno” may be my favourite.. that horn sound is “the sex”. oh yes. Yes I would like to see LS wade further into darker waters. They’ve stuck their toe in… now I’d like to see them get their knees wet.

 
Also me and Tamla Tim made the sleevenotes… which officially makes us the Shampoo to LS’ Manic Street Preachers. Bring on the Yen.
Am I the only one more than a little nervous about the news that Kylie Minogue is going to guest star in the next X-Mas Dr.Who? I mean I love Kylie and I love Dr. Who but surely this is going to be “the sh!ts”. Don’t believe me? Well… apparently the story is that she’s a sexy Cyber-woman sent to seduce “The Doctor”!!! Jesus Christ… how awful does that sound?

 

And I’m getting sick and tired of all this Dr.Who quasi-love interest stuff… HE’S DR.WHO… NOT AUSTIN POWERS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! With rumours of John Barrowman returning shortly I’m expecting the innuendo level to reach “Carry On” level by the end of the series.

 
I’m putting money on the end of the Christmas episode being that The Doctor reprograms Cyber-Minogue and sends her wrapped in a bow to Captain Jack Harkness as a Christmas present. Captain Jack looks her up and down and with a frown sighs “Oh well… what’s good for the goose..”(he then undoes his flies)”…is good for the gander… now “spin around” and touch your toes”. Captain Jack lets out a satisfied “Oooh”, he then looks straight into the camera and with a wink wishes us all a very happy Christmas. Is this what Terry Nation died for?
Anyhow, I’m very excited… it’s less than a week until Spider-man 3. I am a bit concerned about what Venom will look like. In this picture…
 

Venom Spiderman 3 
He looks like a demented alien toddler… hopefully they cgi it up. Or something… it’s almost as bizarrely scarily rubbish as that robot-woman thing at the end of Superman 3. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been showing much Venom in the trailers.

 
Oh well see you same time next week True Believers…

 
..and you can trust this
…it’s from the lips
…of the ‘niX
xx

April 16, 2007

Sound & Vision… with PhoeniX PhiL

Filed under: music, film, editorial, authors, PhoeniX Phil, Topics — pxpl @ 12:14 pm

The internet is a bit of a mixed blessing really. Admitedly it offers up a world of information and archive material with just a few clicks however I feel it robs popular culture of some of the magic and the mystery that powers all great music, movies etc. For example look at movies… these days spoilers and tit bits flood onto the net at a daily rate.

This is especially true with franchises, most fanboys go the cinema not to see how the story turns out but to see which one of the leaked scripts they read six months ago was the correct one. I remember the gorgeous thrill that was the secrecy behind Gremlins when it fist came out.

The trailers and posters for Gremlins didnt show a lot of the creatures themselves… a quick shot of Gizmo’s paw, a shadowy silhouette of Spike running through an alley. Anticipation was high as Spielberg was involved and everyone was relating it to E.T. I remember my Mum excitedly saying that a breakfast TV host had an exclusive Gremlin toy in her hand. Due to a secrecy contract it was covered up by her hands with just the ears sticking out (or as my mum in correctly reported at the time “it looked like two butterfly wings”).

Why do i bring this up now, well apparentally a new trailer for Spiderman 3 got shown at a comicbook convention that showed not only the speedy shot of Venom coming at the screen fangs first (which has being doing the net rounds for months and was much feared to be the very final shot of the film) ….but also of Spidey getting pulled through the ceilng by Venom’s clawed hands.

Which means that it is now official… Spidey vs Venom at the end of the movie. Oh yes! The secrecy behind what Venom looks like and how big a role he actually has in this film has made being a fanboy extremely exciting. Apparentally four very different endings have been shot so not even the cast know how it ends. extremely exciting. Yes.. i know i’m a geek… but i’ll be the most excited geek in the world on may the 4th. oh yes.

With regrads to other films I watched this month, I saw the whole of the Outkast film “Idlewild” which comes close to be really good but doesnt quite make the grade.

It’s no “Graffiti Bridge” / “Sgt Pepper: The Movie” nightmare but it’s certainly no “8 mile”. I think the problem is that essentially it tries to cram in two storys at the same time… Andre 3000’s bullied by his father, shy musician in love tale with (the more entertaining in my opinion) Big Boi’s gangster pimp story. The first hour or so this works really well as story’s cross over ect. but then towards the end it’s like a mad dash to tie everything up and it left me a bit unsatisfied…

..another problem with it is some of the song choices… bizarely lots of the songs from it arent actually from the 1930’s sounding “idlewild” soundtrack but are album tracks from “Speakerboxx / the Love Below” and lyrically or musically they dont tie into the story at all. Strange.

In closing it looks good and the lads dont embaress themselves with the acting or anything but the last 20 minutes lets it down. Definetely worth a watch… but only on someone elses clock.

“But what about the sound?” I hear you cry, “But what about this month’s music?”… well speaking of a different kind of Idlewild, I got their new album “Make Another World”. Apparentally a return to form, I found it constistantly “O.K”. No more. No less. Regretably, none of the songs have really wedged a place in my heart yet though and i fear this album (like The Dears’ “Gang Of Losers”) will just fade to the back of my cd collection.

I suppose the big indie album of the month was Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible”. It seems that people are as quick to jump on the backlash of this album as they were to jump on the bandwagon for the previous album “Funeral”. Which i find odd because as an album.. in it’s whole (remember that kids? …lets judge albums as a whole)… I PREFER “Neon Bible” to “Funeral” “… but then again i’ve never seen the Arcade Fores as anything more than “Mercury Rev” + “Men Without Hats” + “Stars In Your eyes Bjork impersonator” = very good band.

A bit of quiet month for music but seeing as it’s now spring and “indie season” is up and running expect the wax to be flooding out… starting with PopArt alumni Lucky Soul’s debut album coming out on April 16th.

March 16, 2007

Sound & Vision… with PhoeniX PhiL

Filed under: music, film, editorial, authors, PhoeniX Phil, Topics — pxpl @ 11:51 am

Hello welcome to the first “Sound & Vision… with PhoeniX PhiL”, where I’ll be having a chat and rant about recent music, films, TV etc. First up on the agenda lets talk about Mika. For those unfamiliar with Mika, he’s the lanky, frizzy haired, falsetto loving, ex-child prodigy who shot to number 1 with his debut single “Grace Kelly” on downloads alone. Surely this whole “downloads counting as valid chart stats” allows record companies to cheat on a major scale… after all if they’ll spend 3 million quid on a video what’s to stop them using friends and families computers to buy a million downloads at 79p?

My main problem with Mika is that it’s yet another example of the mainstream music industry saying to the average person in the street “here is your new favourite popstar” and then promoting him almost exclusively until the general public think that his is the only album in the shops to buy. Yep! keep all the promotion costs on the same product for a lengthy period and keep the profits steady. It’s an awful device but it makes business sense …in the short term at least. Give it 10 years and a manky £5.99 “best of” will collecting dust in the budget section of Woolies. That’s if Woolies still exists in 10 years time… Oh! the death of the high street… but that’s another story for another time.

Anyhow, the single’s alright in a catchy, falsetto lead, bouncy piano way… but to be honest McFly’s forthcoming single “Transylvania” does the whole ripping off “Jellyfish’s Queen / 10cc inspired ways” thing a hell of a lot better. Speaking of which, I’m possibly the only person to be thrilled at the way “Transylvania” has gone from fan favourite b-side to album track and now it’s going to be released as a single. It’s the same chain of events that lead to “How Soon Is Now” being released as a single. I love it when the voice of the fans is heard. Yes… I know I’ll never marry.

On the other end of the musical spectrum, I’m proud to award Butcher Boy “Profit In Your Poetry” as my album of the month. The indiepop explosion of last year was amazing fun and a great soundtrack to the summer HOWEVER me being cynical like I am I was concerned that perhaps it was all getting a bit too um, “happy clappy”. I mean that “Treehouse” song by “I’m From Barcelona” is a lot fun granted but there needed to be someone to um, “bring balance to force”… and luckily Butcher Boy have wandered into twee-town and boy oh boy, they aint here to make everything sunny.

Sounding like a strange rainy-day hangover conducted by Arthur Lee, the album takes the usual indiepop stylings (..or trappings) and drains them of anything that could be considered twee. The end result could be described as sombre post-punk meets beautiful orchestrated folk. It felt like eaves dropping on a strange whisper of a world. Enticingly tender yet possibly savage.

Opening track “Trouble & Desire” and closing track “Days Like These Will Be The Death Of Me’ bookend an album that’s prefect for when the worlds beat you down and you need a similar sound to get lost in. It’s not all doom and gloom though, first single “Girls Make Me Sick” powers along on an motown-esque bass line before exploding into crashing guitar chords for the verse pay-off while the title track is cut from the same hazy-pop cloth as “Don’t Fear The Reaper”.

With regard to other new albums I’ve bought this month, I’m bizarrely really struggling with the new Shins album. Everyone keeps saying it’s brilliant but to me (a big fan of their first two albums) it all sounds a bit samey and there’s no real stand out moments. It’s the same problem I had with The Flaming Lips when they got heaps of praise for the “Yoshimi ..” album which I thought was rather dull and pedestrian. To be fair I’ve only heard the new Shins on my I-pod while rushing around being “The ‘niX”. Maybe I need to listen to it on one of those rare occasion that I get to relax and listen to albums in their whole whilst sitting on my easy chair enjoying a hot chocolate.

In terms of films I saw Clerks 2 the other night on dvd and I think Dr.T’s review (see last months PopArt Digest) was rather harsh. All of Big Kev’s films have a clichéd emo streak (apart from J&SBSB… which ironically perhaps features some of his wisest and profound statements). Yes, the Smashing Pumpkin’s “1979″ bit was cheese but at least it was good cheese.

Yep Randall is more of a bully but as pointed out by Dr.T (and hinted at in the film) he’s just transferring his frustration. His “home” was the quickstop and starwars… now he’s stuck in Moobys with people talking about LOTR.

Dante Hicks’ whole problem is summed up in clerks 1 with the potty anecdote… admittedly I do think the whole “everything happening on his last day in town” thing was a bit soap opera but …so what. I also admire that fact that his “wife to be” wasn’t a stereotypical evil pussywhipper. Most film makers would’ve gone with the nagging “wife to be” who can offer controlled luxury Vs. the poor girl who truly loves him so the Americans knew who to cheer for. I liked the shades of grey.

As for Jay & Silent Bob… or the lack of. Well as Big Kev once said in a interview “The film’s called Clerks 2 …not J&SBSB 2.” I though that they were entertaining enough in this film. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of Silent Bob wisdom. But there you have it. As ever some of the best stuff is in the deleted scenes… the extended car ride scene with the “masturbating at work” chat is Kevin Smith GOLD.

In closing I’d say it’s better than Chasing Amy and Dogma not as cool as Clerks 1 and not as laugh out loud as Mallrats and J&SBSB. I still haven’t seen Jersey Girl so I still don’t know. Plus the final song is “Misery” by Soul asylum. What more could a boy of a certain age want? I DID however hate Dante’s closing line…. fingers down the throat time.

I suppose “Hot Fuzz” was the first of many “must see” films at the cinema this year for me…it was very good but simply couldn’t follow up the 100 mph fun of Shaun of The Dead… plus Edgar White well over uses his trademark “fast cutting” bits to the point of if it being a bit wanky and annoying… a bit like a guitarist who gets famous and then decides the end of every bar needs a widdly bit.

In TV news, we’re just a few sweet weeks away from WWE’s Wrestlemania 23. This years matches are harder to predict than ever… firstly there’s World champion Batista taking on WWE veteran The Undertaker for the World title. The real interest here is that The Undertaker HAS NEVER BEEN DEFEATED AT WRESTLEMANIA… will Batista be able to end this winning streak? will the Undertaker be able to win the world title for the first time in 5 years? EXCITING for sure. Then there’s John Cena and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels battling for the WWE title… at the moment the pair of them are not only both “good guys” but also the current tag team champions… will one of them turn “heel” (into a bad guy) …and what will become their tag team? I don’t even get me started on the WWE owner Vinnie Mac’s representative Umaga taking on Donald Trump’s representative Bobby Lashley where the losing billionaire will end up having their head shaved. Anyone planning on having a Wrestlemania viewing party ? I don’t have Sky and I’m desperate to see it.

Oh well now I’ve lost all of my cool points, I’ll be on my way. Expect more observations soon.

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