July 16, 2007

Transformers - The Review by Dr T

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


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!

July 10, 2007

Have I Got Tunes For You.

Filed under: music, editorial, authors, Tamla Tim, Topics — tamlatim @ 11:35 am
Tamla Tim’s current affairs based mixtapes.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading the papers and catching up on world events I like to have an accompanying soundtrack and I thought it might be nice to share some of these current affair compilations with you. PopArt naturally seeks to inform and educate as well as entertain. If you’re too young to know what a mixtape is just substitute ‘i-pod playlist’ or ‘range of ringtones’.

So this week we find out what I’ve been listening to whilst keeping abreast of all the news surrounding the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces. Obviously I’ve been listening to a lot of Ash, Smokey Robinson, Collapsed Lung and oft overlooked fag end of Britpop chancers 10 Benson, but I like the lyrics to speak to me, so the final tape was:

Left Outside Alone – Anastacia

Poor old ‘Stacia. She is famously a big fan of Rothman’s Superkings but can’t get anyone to join her in the pub car park for a crafty smoke. She’s literally been left outside alone.

Smoking In The Boys Room – Motley Crue

Traditional right of passage in schools but we’ll see more of this kind of thing in pubs and restaurants no doubt. Along with bogwashing diners who look like they might play chess and writing ‘Terry Patterson is made from helmet cheese’ on the wall with Tip-Ex.

Smokin’/Lets Quit Smoking - Super Furry Animals

Both sides of the debate on these two tunes from 1998’s Ice Hockey Hair EP – SFA, as ever, about 10 years ahead of their time. I like the fact that once they’ve decided to kick the filthy habit their spelling immediately improves.

Baby It’s Cold Outside - Bing Crosby

You won’t get round a no nonsense landlady like Big Vera ‘Bluto’ McGarnigy with that kind of sweet talk, Crosby – take you pipe out into the car park and keep Anastacia company.

I’m Still Your Fag - Broken Social Scene

I think they mean ‘fag’ in the American sense of the word, but to me, as I read the weekend supplements, it sounds like a desperate plea from your last Marlboro Light. “I’m still here for you,” it cries. “Remember the good times?” No? That’s just me then I think

KC and the Sunshine Band – Give It Up

Up tempo encouragement to kick the habit from the Disco legends. Leaves more time and lung capacity to ‘Blow Your Whistle’. So actually carry on smoking.

MC Hammer – Too Legit To Quit

The Hammer, on the other hand, is very successfully sticking to all the requirements of the new legislation, and sees no sense in giving up. He’s literally too legit to quit.

Breath – The Prodigy

Ooooh, get that fresh air in your gills.

Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes - Modest Mouse

Bing and ‘Stacia didn’t have much to talk about out there in the car park and have undertaken some microscopic town planning with the piles of fag ash. It’s the material of the 21st Century.

Nicotine and Gravy – Beck

That same cigarette style hit and a pub lunch in one convenient package, all quite legally enjoyed indoors. Typically innovative thinking from Beck, tends to taste like shite though.

Tar Heel Boy – The Magnetic Fields

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I admire the James Bond-esque gadgetry of concealing tobacco products in your shoes but you’re bound to be noticed trying to light your loafer and in any case would have to walk home in your socks. Full marks for ingenuity but frankly unworkable.

Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie

Seems to tell the tale of the death of smoking itself. The literal cigarette ashes have turned, metaphorically, to the ashes of a bygone age. I’ve only listened to the first half and I’m getting all conceptual – that Bowie weaves some strong voodoo. And it contains the lyric ‘One flash of light but no smoking pistol’ which could be about smoking fags. If you ignore the word ‘pistol’.


The Hymn For The Cigarettes – Hefner

But of course this had to be included. “Lucky Strikes remind me of my friends out on the west coast, Camel Lights remind me of my ex-girlfriend at Christmas time, Marlboro Reds remind me of giving up in Berlin .” They’ll all remind me of huddling in shop doorways and getting rained on now.

So that’s it. I’ve had my last drag indoors and filed my Smoking Ban mixtape away. What tunes will we have for you next time? Only the news gods know.

July 1, 2007

Now That, I Do Like…

Filed under: music, reviews, authors, PhoeniX Phil, Topics, Dr T. — drt @ 3:12 pm



 (Hi, This is PhoeniX PhiL. While watching Mtv2 drunk & bored at my mums a few weeks ago i wondered what my ex-housemate Dr.T would make of it all. He has always been a grumpy old so and so and I missed his barbed citicisms and confusion of how the kids would pay £12.99 for a Datsuns album while cruelly ignoring the Todd Rundgren cd’s in the sale section. I sent him 4 videos to look at and these were his “findings”.. enjoy. )


In the hectic self conscious city of London, everyone is looking at everyone else. What are the new bands?
Should I like what I think I like, or like what I think that fit girl likes, even though she WAS reading the NME on the bus. Sometimes it’s easier to just says ‘Yes’ to hipness, but at what cost? Just what kind of faustian pact are the young people of today making?

Perhaps what the youth of today needs is guidance.
Dispassionate advice from someone far away, removed from the pressures of fashion and of peers.

So, let me peruse these selections made for me by Phoenix Phil, and give you my thoughts:

First up with have CSS with ‘Let’s Make Love To Death from Above’
The youtube info says that they are from Sao Paulo. And they’re probably very proud of that, but I’m confused, because I thought Brazil was meant to be chocka with bronzed beauties. Of course looks aren’t everything (that’s why I rely on books), but in these days of saturated hip-hop video clips, there’s no reason not to throw in at least a couple of lovely ladies. People have expectations you know.

Are ‘Death From Above’ another band I’ve never heard of? Do I want to make love to them? Do I even want to make love with them playing concurrently on the stereo? Does Brazil still have those death squads that Sepultura used to sing about? Are the band named after the online shooter CounterStrike Source? Big questions one and all. Answers on a postcard.

As for the video and the song… Well, some ‘Mid Standard Distribution Curve’ girls and a moustachioed guy miming in various urban locations is your standard lo-budget indie clip. The song is unremarkable, lacks hooks, and perfect for the less discerning hormone addled p!ssed up booty shakers, who will love this song by the vague associated memories it conjures of flickering lights and blurred boobs.

Next, Editors with ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’.
First, lets quickly deal with the musical content of this offering:
Five piss poor minutes of Coldplay bumming Interpol.

Now, this video director knows his stuff, because it stars a pretty girl. Thank you Mr Director for sparing us 300 merciless seconds of some scruffs emoting in a warehouse. The plot (such as it is) of this promotional clip is as follows: ‘Girl escapes from loonie bin, is helped by prossies, pikeys and the littlest hobo, gets into a boat, walks on water, runs away from scruffy singer of the band, into forest and freedom’.

I suppose the message of the clip is that even beautiful crazy people want to be free, and hey, we’re all a bit beautiful and crazy, and you’re free to buy this record! Also, Jesus was a nutter (thus solving the ‘mad, bad, or messiah’ conundrum).

Well Editors, my definite article has come to this conclusion: You can stick your sepia toned, Eastern European clip up where the customs people look. Thanks to youtube, I can watch Alizee’s ‘Moi Lolita’ clip as many times as my wife will let me, and that piece of seedy French pop says all there is to say about beautiful crazy girls on the run.

Thirdly, we have The Klaxons and their ’song’ - ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ So these are The Klaxons. If this quiet loud quiet loud dirge is representative of their output, then their monicker is well chosen. I was expecting better production. I suppose the whole ‘how can this music be called rave?’ discussion has long since worn itself out. And I suppose a promo video pitch called ‘Band ‘x’ are New Romantic Ninjas Fighting Geometric Shapes In Superman’s Fortress Of Solitude’ can’t fail to be commissioned. Bravo. One very strange man’s vision has become reality.

This fuzzy nothing of a song has no redeeming features, and is just mildly objectionable noise.

Style over substance by definition never goes out of fashion, more’s the pity.

Now, I do like…
Biffy Clyro and their song ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’ I didn’t quite catch all the lyrics to this song, but I’m pretty confident that Biffy Clyro haven’t fully explored the philosophical implications of their song title (does ‘everything’ die? Even rocks? Define your terms etc etc). But, as Douglas Adams admirably points out, sometimes just knowing the question is important.

It’s clever move by Biffy Clyro, going for the niche market of ‘Doom Indie’, especially given that this track can be best described as ‘emo-Fear Factory for boys (as opposed to Men)’. Half time changes, punctuated drumkit sections, the spoonful of sugar in the hint of synth. It’s all there. But not quite as shouty and fast. And the intro had me hoping for something more along Pet Shop Boys lines, but twas not to be…

The promo video takes in a few staples of the metal genre, low light, underground, water on the drumkit for lovely sprays in slow motion for the camera. Tattoos and guitars in close up, and plenty of silhouettes and shouting. In other words, just about every Morbid Angel, Carcass and Prong video clip rolled into one (Prong? I hear you ask… Look up ‘Snap Your Fingers Snap your Neck’ on youtube). I suppose this track gets my thumbs up because it reminds me of staying up til the early hours waiting to watch ‘Raw Power’ on ITV.

In the land of the arseholes, the half arsed is king.

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