Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lana Del Rey
Live @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 27/7/12

Lana's stage, laced with countless plants, a string quartet band and a giant projector screen showcasing vintage video montages on loop was the perfect setting for Lana to make her first Sydney concert entrance.
Starting the show off with 'Blue Jeans', Lana walked her way directly into the crowd as she greeted fans and sang the opening track amidst a sea of ecstatic arms grabbing at her. She even took a couple opportunities to stand on some strategically placed platforms to get a better birds eye view of the crowd from the front row, that in turn only made the crowd even more excited to finally see her, which made the smile on her face obviously hard to hide.
Although she didn't talk a lot to the audience outside of a few "thank you" moments, she did get very up close and physical a few times during the concert, which well and truly made up for the lack of dialog. She seemed at ease with her fans, and received a few nice gifts every time she ventured into the crowd, it was cute.

Her venue gigs, away from the eyes of awkward live TV, have always been her comfort zone as far as performing goes. She's able to kick back and just enjoy the moment.
Vocally she sounded great, with her best delivery on a jazzed up version of 'Million Dollar Man', definitely a show highlight. 'Without You' was also surprisingly nicely sung, as well as 'Carmen'.
The haunting, 'I Sing The Body Electric' was one of her best performances of the night, but my personal favourite from the show was her newly added cover of Nirvana's 'Heart Shaped Box'. It completely came out of nowhere and was a nice surprise for the audience. Hopefully we see it on a future release by her.
Although it was sad to see a few great tracks not performed from her debut album, like 'Lolita' and 'Dark Paradise', there was still enough on offer from the record like, 'Radio', 'Summertime Sadness' and the epic final track of the night, 'National Anthem', which Lana performed draped in an Australian flag handed to her by a fan in the audience.

My only minor complaint was that the show was a bit short, it would have been nice to see her utilize a few more of her songs to give the crowd a fuller experience, however to be fair, for a show of it's size, it was paced fairly well and by the end of it, it still felt like a well rounded enough concert.
My only regret is that i didn't get tickets to see her again on the following Friday. Guess i'll just have to wait till the next time she visits, which i'm sure won't be too long away.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy. 

 Much like the previous installments in Nolan's Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises provides another tense and complicated storyline that weaves itself together with the last two films to wrap up the trilogy with a fitting and complete finish. Once you get to the end of the film, it's amazing to piece together everything you've seen from the trilogy over the years and be impressed by the sheer scope of everything. The movies are huge and i imagine watching them back to back would be exhausting, in a good way of course.
Rises is the grittiest out of all the Nolan films, everything is multiplied by 10. The stakes are at their highest,  the emotional scope of the story is at it's most moving and Bruce's journey feels very much like it's coming to a proper closing as the film unfolds. The twists and turns Rises takes are also massive, with a few major surprises popping up within the story [mostly toward the end] that i didn't see coming.

As usual with these Batman films, the cast do a fantastic job of portraying their characters. The original cast are all solid, with Bale giving his best performance yet as Wayne, taking his journey full circle as he revisits his past and tries to get himself back onto the road of redemption to save Gotham City. Cain as Alfred and Oldman as Gordan give Bruce's story the emotional depth it needed between all the tense storytelling and brutal action.
The real standouts in Rises however are the newcomers to the cast. Levitt is very likeable as a young Detective working alongside Bruce and Gordon, his character played a much bigger role than i expected, Hardy is brooding and scary as the muscled and menacing, Bane, and last but not least, Hathaway as Selina Kyle, who received the biggest eyebrow raise by fans when she was cast actually does a really fantastic job of playing her iconic character. She has the sex appeal and mischievous nature of the Selina on point, and her character is given a well written and layered story which i wish we saw more of [she's never actually refereed to as Catwoman]. Her chemistry with Bruce is also natural and believable.

There's very little to fault with this film, aside from some minor pacing issues [it moves a little too fast at times], the movie was pretty much flaw free. I remember not being overly blown away by Batman Begins, i thought it was enjoyable, but it didn't leave any sort of lasting impression on me. The Dark Knight was something i went into with very low expectations and came out of it completely blown away by how incredible it was. Rises certainly had a lot to live up to when it came to not only being anywhere near as good as Dark Knight, but also finishing off the trilogy strong enough. The Dark Knight probably has the extra edge thanks to Ledger as The Joker, who is still my favourite villain from these films, but Rises is much grander, and the fact that Nolan has been able to maintain such a high standard of quality over three films is impressive to see when you sit each movie side by side. Rises doesn't have a villain as perfect as The Joker, but it does have enough twists, turns and a moving ending to really give The Dark Knight a run for it's money.

Overall, Rises won't disappoint. In fact, it not only makes the Nolan films one of the best trilogies we've ever seen, but it also makes Rises one of, if not THE BEST 3rd film from a trilogy i have ever come across. The only other film i can think of that comes close as far as quality goes is The Return of The King.

Monday, June 25, 2012

 Snow White and the Huntsman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Rupert Sanders


In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.

Snow White and the Huntsman shows a lot of promise when it first starts. In fact, the entire first act of the film unfolds perfectly with the introduction of the Evil Queen and how she quickly takes over the Kingdom after she murders the King and imprisons his daughter. Knights, swords, magic, it's all rolled out "old skool" style like those fantasy films from the 80's that i used to enjoy so much growing up as a kid.
That's what i loved most about Huntsman, it completely indulges in the fact that it's a fantasy film. The design team must have had a ball bringing it to life, it looks amazing on screen. Sadly, the amazing visuals aren't strong enough to hide some under-developed characters and an unevenly paced storyline.

After an initial promising beginning, Huntsman slowly starts to become a little boring as we hit the middle mark of the film. As we are introduced to the dwarves and the blossoming romance between Snow White and the Huntsman, i noticed that i started to not care about what was happening in the story.
The main issue with the dwarves is that they weren't as interesting as they should have been. Sure they looked the part, and made some slightly amusing jokes every now and again, but overall, the history and depth the writers attempted to add into Snow White's mission of revenge via the dwarves and their "wisdom" felt flat and uninspired.
Speaking of uninspired, the romance between the Huntsman and Snow White had zero chemistry and i had no idea why either of them were attracted to each other. It was an addition to the story that felt forced, like the makers felt like it HAD to have a romance otherwise it would be missing something. To be honest, i thought Snow White's childhood relationship with the Prince showed more potential as a future romance than with the Huntsman, they at least shared a history.
The middle section of the film also brings the fast pace of the beginning of the story to a sudden halt. Had the new characters introduced to us during this time been more interesting, this wouldn't have been an issue, but since i didn't care about most of them, it all just felt a bit dull. Thankfully, one of the best moments in the film occurs during these parts which brings the stories excitement level up again as Snow White enters the Fairy Forest. It's a beautifully created scene that brings the story back to Snow White herself and leaves the boring new characters on the sidelines where they deserve to be. This is followed by the poison apple scene and Snow White's "death", which were also both nicely done.

As we near the end of the film, and as things start to pick up again in the story, we are left with a build up to what feels like a possibly epic final confrontation between the Queen and Snow White. Once both woman are finally face to face ready to slug it out though, we unfortunately get a very quick and anti climatic battle that should have been so much bigger than what was presented to us.
The Queen was supposed to be very powerful and dangerous, and she seems like a pretty easy kill at the end of the day. I know she was weak by the time we reach the ending, but still, she was so desperate to live forever and so willing to showcase that throughout the whole film, i expected her to put up a bit more of a fight.

Casting wise they did a decent job. Much has been debated about Kristen Stewart in this role, people don't seem to think she looks the part of "fairest of them all" when compared to Charlise Theron's obvious stronger beauty, however, i still think Stewart brought her own sort of beauty to the role of Snow White. Her big beautiful green eyes, her long dark hair, it suited the character well and she played the part believably.
Chris Hemsworth is decent as the Huntsman, however he does look a little bored at times since he really isn't given anything challenging to do other than act like a poor mans Thor.
The real winner of the piece however is Charlize as the Queen. She's a very dark character, Charlize merges psychotic and beautiful successfully. She did at times scream a little too much, but i guess that added to the melodrama of the character anyway.

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman is an enjoyable enough film if you like fairytales for adults. Had it executed pacing more evenly and had a stronger finale, i would have loved it. As it stands though, Huntsman is a pretty looking, but flawed movie. Decent enough for a watch certainly, but it could have been so much more with some tweaking.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace
Directed by: Ridley Scott


A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe.

In case you've been living under a rock for the last year, Prometheus has been hinted at being a very loosely based prequel to the Alien franchise. Because of that, Alien fans are very curious as to how much both films are linked together.
In Prometheus, any links to Alien are fairly low key. Essentially what we are given are two different teams from two different franchises existing in the same universe, but having two different storylines beginning from the same source material".
The tone and feel of Prometheus borrows very heavily from Alien. Giger's artistic creations take center stage once again, which gives the movie a great nostalgic throwback feel to the Alien series.
Seeing the film on IMAX really gave the visuals of the movie a spotlight to shine under. Every sweeping landscape was beautifully showcased, and Ridley's always slick direction looked amazing on the big screen. When it comes to aesthetics, Prometheus gets everything right.

Story wise, every character follows a similar pattern to a lot of these sorts of sci-fi films with characters being a good mix of curious doctors, captains, hard arsed corporate big wigs and assorted angry and wild crew members being thrown into random events throughout the course of the film.
Nothing new is brought in as far as character development is concerned, although it wasn't really an issue since the characters are likeable enough and cast well. Stand outs are Charlize Theron as the cold Meredith Vickers, and Michael Fassbender as the intelligent robot, David.

Much like Alien, the pacing is slow and steady with some great tension as the drama starts to kick into gear. Anything Prometheus lacks in mildly under-developed characters gets made up for with an entertaining story.
My only small gripe with the film was that it didn't actually answer the two big questions the movie was asking of the audience to actually stick around for. I would have been happy to have at least one answered, but the answers to "why were we made" and "why are we being destroyed" don't actually come to any sort of resolution. Of course that would be something that could be explored in a sequel, however, i still think the movie felt too open ended. Sure the characters discover where we came from, but it wasn't enough for me to really feel like i got as much as i needed from the story as a pay off.
The one thing that made up for that was the one and only moment of the film that really tied a strong link to Alien, and that was a scene that pops up right at the end. I won't go into detail about what it was, but it certainly put a smile on my face as a fan of the Alien series. It was a good fan finish.

Overall, Prometheus was a solid film. It feels completely unfinished in many ways, and i guess we'll see more of it once the next movie comes along. For now though, Alien fans will get a lot out of it, and non fans will be in for a well directed and tense sci-fi drama. 


Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Joyful Noise

I'm guessing the days of Gossip sounding like a straight up grimy punk band are over. Their last album was disco infused rock, and i wondered whether it was a one off change of direction. Now with the release of A Joyful Noise, i think Gossip has finally found it's signature niche with another collection of danceable rock infused songs that you can either bang out on a guitar to or dance your ass off under a mirror ball.

Beth Ditto's solo dance EP that was released in 2011 has had a strong influence on the bands new album, with even more disco inspired beats sharing the stage with thrashing rock band production thanks to UK album producer, Xenomania.
You'll find specks of their previous album, Music For Men, throughout the new record. The track, Get A Job, could have easily been been part of their previous albums track listing. A Joyful Noise feels very much like a continuation of their last album, while still taking the production a little bit further.
Some of the melodies feel very old skool, they feature the types of hooks you'd hear in tracks from the late 70's/ early 80s, songs like Perfect World and Casualties of War showcase how much listening to ABBA over the last couple years has rubbed off on Beth, and the band has never gone more 70's disco than they have on stompers like Get Lost and Love In A Foreign Place.

On first listen, the album may take a few plays to sink in, but once it does, it quickly starts to come together. A Joyful Noise isn't as instant or obviously hit filled as their last album, but it's probably overall slightly more cohesive, for me anyway. Personally, there were a couple of songs on Music For Men that i never warmed up to, A Joyful Noise however doesn't have one track that i haven't grown to enjoy, so for that, i'm labeling this as their easiest album to fall in love with. Not sure if it's necessarily their best, but it could grow to become that over time.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Best Movie Strippers!
Pull out your dollar notes! it's time to pay your pussy bill!

Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan in "Sin City"
You won't get to see her in colour, or fully nude [Alba didn't want to go topless like her character in the comic book], however, she does do a nice little bar dance for us, topped off with a rope and wind machine.

 Demi Moore as Erin Grant in "Striptease"
The Motherly hairdo doesn't do a lot for her sex appeal, but Demi has a bangin' body and actually does some great dancing. She showcases her new silicone chesticles as well!.

 Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens in "Flashdance"
Welder by day, club dancer by night! Alex doesn't dance at a regular strip club though, this is a "clothes on" type of job! Still, she removes most of her clothes, and even though it's obviously NOT Beals doing the dancing, she's still sexy when they do her facial zoom ins. J.Lo loves it!

 Natalie Portman as Alice in "Closer"
We only see a small glimpse of Alice dancing, she's more of a talker, and what a talker she is!.


 Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi Malone in "Showgirls"
Nomi Malone doesn't like to be called a stripper! she's a dancer!!!!! even though she gets the most naked out of EVERYONE on this list. She shows it all, top bottom, front, back, it's all there on show, so are the high kicks, pole twirls, lesbian strip teases, flailing arms in the air dance moves and painted nipples.

 Daryl Hannah as Angel in "Dancing at the Blue Iguana"
 Angel isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, she'll mistake someone elses pregnancy test as her own even though she hasn't had sex in months, she'll put a photo of Adam West in her house and pretend it's her Father and expect nobody to notice, but she's still very sweet!. There's other assorted strippers in this one too, Jennifer Tilly as a dominatrix, Sandra Oh as a dancing poet, lovely.

 Rose McGowen as Cherry Darling in "Planet Terror"
She does a sexy dance for us during the opening credits, but the rest of the film is Cherry trying to comes to terms with having her leg ripped off while a zombie apocalypse is going down. Her solution? substitute a leg with a machine gun and shoot the crap out of everything! fantastic!.

 Holli Would in "Cool World"
Jessica Rabbit may be considered the sexiest cartoon ever, but Holli is the dirtiest! [and imo hotter than Jessica]. If she isn't dancing her ass off at her local club, than she's having cartoon sex with Gabriel Byrne. She was voiced by Kim Basinger.

 Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium in "From Dusk Till Dawn"
Sadly, Salma doesn't take it all off in this role, but it's not needed really. She exudes enough sex to melt your TV during her snake dance number, you might want to enjoy it while it lasts though, because soon after its finished, she turns a bit.....ugly.

 Pamela Anderson as Barb Wire in "Barb Wire"
It's Pamela Anderson, so naturally she goes all out with her opening credits dance, tight dress, swinging from the ceiling, water spraying all over her, Pammy knows how to do it all!

Friday, May 4, 2012

 The Avengers
Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson
Directed by: Joss Whedon


Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from an intergalactic army.

As a film, The Avengers had the potential to become a huge mess if not approached in the right way. You have a big cast all vying for the same amount of screen time, characters who are from different stories needing to come together to create one believable world, and a scope that's so big that it seems almost impossible to write a story with enough character development to make it more than just a pointless action film.
The best man to go to for this sort of job is, Joss Whedon. The majority of his past work has focused on vast stories and ensemble casts, Buffy, Firefly, Toy Story, Cabin in the Woods ect. so it's no surprise that he was able to take something as varied as Avengers and make it work, it's perfectly suited to his style of directing and writing.
It's almost amazing how easily everything flows throughout Avengers, from the introduction to the cast, to the ease of the unfolding story. Joss gets a huge thumbs up for making such a daunting project look so easy.

The Avengers strongest point is it's script, which has been injected with Joss's signature sense of humor, giving the story some hilarious laugh out loud moments, while still keeping the action coming in my the bucket loads. Joss's ability to toggle drama, comedy and action has always been his strongest asset, and it gives The Avengers some much needed personality.
Speaking of action, there's A LOT of it to get through, and all of it is fantastic from start to finish. Nothing will prepare you for the eye melting scope of the last 30 minute battle of the film. It's almost as if the creators thought they may never have a chance for a sequel, so they wanted to go out with the biggest bang they could possibly bang out. Everything is thrown at us during that section of the film, i almost felt tired by the time it was over, it was an impressive spectacle.

Casting wise, everyone is on point and no one gets left behind. They all get gags, all get big action set pieces and all get enough screen time. All of the actors did a great job, with the highlights being Downey Jnr as Iron Man, Hiddleston as Loki and Ruffalo as Hulk.

You don't need to have seen the films these characters come from to have a full understanding of what's going on within the story, however, it does help you understand a few small references here and there if you have seen them. An instant appreciation for some of the characters due to back story knowledge from other films does make it all feel a bit more well rounded, although as i said, it's not essential.

The Avengers is an unapologetic comic film from top to bottom, which makes it stand out amongst other darker and more realistic films coming out this year like The Dark Knight Rises and Spider Man. It's colourful, entertaining and very hard to not like. It took a lot of balls to take it down the route Joss did, this style of more "cartoony" comic book films has produced some very average results over the past few years, but Joss was able to nail with smarts and lots of heart. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nicki Minaj
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded [Deluxe Edition]

Nicki blurred the lines between rap star and pop star with her first album, Pink Friday. Still not wanting to let the world force her into a genre box, Nicki delves even further into being as versatile as possible with her new album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.
With this new album, Nicki offers a huge amount of songs in an attempt to satisfy both new and old fans of her work. Essentially what we are given are 2 albums in one. Fans of her old hip hop mix-tapes are given a much bigger selection of songs to choose from, and newer fans who prefer her more pop orientated music, get just as much. For me, i'm a fan of both styles, so PF: RR offers a whole bag of new material to play with.

The first half of the album features the main bulk of the hip hop themed songs. The album opens with the bizarre and musical-esque, Roman Holiday, one of the most original moments on the album and a perfect way to open the record. As we roll through the first 9 songs we hear Nicki at her most schizophrenic and hilarious on Come On A Cone, where she barks her way through the chaotic chorus and softly sings the lyrics "put my dick in your face" during the bridge, crazy.
Beez In The Trap is Nicki's pounding ode to strippers, set to a sexy mid-tempo bass-line thats almost ear bleeding when played loud enough.
Roman Reloaded [which features Lil Wayne] and HOV Lane are the most old skool inspired Nicki tracks on the album, they could have easily come off any one of her old mix tapes.
Right By My Side is a cute and catchy ballad, even if it does feature Chris Brown, and the mid-tempo, Champion, is beautifully produced. Sadly, the same can't be said for the very dated and cheesy sounding, Sex In The Lounge, which sounds like a Boyz II Men left over from 1994. The song also barely features Nicki, placing the featured guests center stage instead of the star herself.

Once we hit the half way point, the dance/pop portion of the album starts. RedOne provides all of the production on the Euro inspired tracks, which are fairly generic, but still very catchy. The throw away but fun, Starships is first, followed by the similar yet slightly more appealing, Pound the Alarm. The much better, Automatic and Whip It follow, but the best of the club tracks is, Beautiful Sinner, slightly darker than the songs before it, it's a brilliant dance track with a great vocal delivery by Nicki.

The remaining last section of the album is a collection of r&b ballads which are all excellent. Marilyn Monroe features the strongest hook on the album and is very catchy, Forever Young screams single and is possibly my favourite song from the record. Fire Burns is pretty and is the 'Save Me' on the album and Beenie Man joins Nicki in the generic but still enjoyable, Gun Shot.
The album ends with 'Stupid Hoe', which is either odd and hypnotically re-playable or the most annoying song you have ever heard in your life. Most people consider it the latter, i personally don't mind it.

The deluxe album provides 3 more songs for anyone who wants more than the 19 the standard offers. Turn Me On, a great collaboration with David Guetta is one of them, still a solid track after all these months on the charts, VaVa Voom is a very catchy pop track, which deserves to be placed on the standard edition and Masquerade is the final and weakest of the bonus material, still catchy enough though.

What makes PP:RR so impressive, is that for an album that features so many songs, Nicki has done extremely well in keeping the record consistent. Artists like Christina Aguilera always bog down their albums with way too many songs, most of which turn out to be filler. Nicki succeeds in actually delivering an over populated track list and actually making it work. That's not an easy thing to do, so kudos to her for getting it right.
Also, with the album running at 80 minutes long, it's actually a very easy listen. A lot of songs are on the shorter side, and with the album being so carefree, it doesn't take much effort to get through it all.

Whether you find her untraditional approach to rap music appealing or not, you can't deny that Nicki moves to the beat of her own drum and is finding huge cross-over success doing it. Her versatility has always been her strong point, and as long as she can cater to her very wide fan base, she'll have no problems sustaining an already very promising pop career. I like that she doesn't shy away from doing what she wants and being the type of artist she wants to be. If people choose to judge her on that and think it makes her "rapping" less authentic to the hip hop community, that's their problem, Nicki clearly doesn't seem to give a shit, and that's what's most important.

As a fan, PF:RR is a very satisfying listen. It's fun, colourful and varied, which is pretty much Nicki's personalities in a nutshell. Some of the production can certainly be on the generic side at times, but with so much personality on each track, and with hooks by the bucket load, it's a minor issue when it comes to enjoying the entire album for what it is, a whole lot of fun.

Friday, April 6, 2012

MDNA [Deluxe Edition]

Madonna's last album, Hard Candy, was certainly well crafted, however, it lacked a lot of personality and had way too many production hands all over it. It was missing that certain signature Madonna stamp that usually comes with her music.
MDNA brings back that familiar Madonna feeling, with nods to her past work both musically and visually throughout the new album.
MDNA feels like a combination of a few of her past records, but it most notably shares the most similarities with her 'Music' album from 2000. MDNA has the same eclectic feel as Music with the album exploring a couple of different styles, rather than keeping with the same production on every track [aka. Confessions On A Dancefloor].

On one end we have songs that take a lot of inspiration from 60's retro pop tunes, and on the other end, we have a much more modern sounding and edgier inspired batch of dance songs.
I'm no stranger to old skool inspired modern music, artists like Outkast and Andre 3000 have incorporated those sorts of sounds into their work over the years and i've enjoyed it. MDNA however showcases these types of songs in a slightly cheesy way at times, which will either work for you or against you, depending on how sickly sweet you like your music to sound.
The lead single, Give Me All Your Luvin' is essentially a poor man's 'Hey Ya' [Outkast], and even though the song has grown on me slightly, i still think it's one of the weakest moments on the album, although it does feature 2 decent features with Nicki Minaj and MIA on the track. 'Superstar' also has the same sort of throw back feel, although it's catchier than the lead single.
Where the album really misses the mark though is with the bonus track, B'Day Song'. Although it's cute, it's just way too juvenile sounding to be listened to by anyone over the age of 4. After a whole albums worth of thunderous dance songs, it feels odd to reach a point on the record where you feel like you're listening to the latest Sesame Street song. Don't take my word for it though, fans seem to love the track, so i'm in the minority with that one.

Aside from a couple minor mis-steps though, the rest of MDNA is incredibly well produced and very fresh sounding. There are a few generic moments that feel like previous album lefts overs like, Girl Gone Wild and Masterpiece, but they're still both fantastic songs. Masterpiece doesn't fit the album very well, but it's such a great traditional Madonna ballad, i don't mind that it's on the standard track listing.
Other album highlights are the bonus tracks, Beautiful Killer and I Fucked Up, both of which should have been placed on the standard edition.
Love Spent is a wonderful 80's electro dance song, I Don't Give A is brilliantly produced and Nicki Minaj gets a second chance at a much cooler feature, Turn Up The Radio is a catchy and I'm A Sinner takes the retro sound from other weaker throwback tracks but actually makes it work thanks to William Orbits smart production.
The albums best moments for me however are the drugged out and chaotic, I'm Addicted, the fantastic electro track, Some Girls [which is the albums hidden gem] and Gang Bang, which features a cinematic, dark and sexy bass line amidst Madonnas breathy vocals . It's the best song Madonna has done in years and my favourite track off the album.

As a whole, Madonna has delivered a varied and solid album that is far more interesting than it's singles make it out to be. Although the album does have some a couple weak moments, there's more than enough on MDNA to make it worth your while. This is definitely Madonna's best album in a long time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson
Directed by Gary Ross


Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.

As a fan of the book series, i had high expectations for The Hunger Games, so it certainly had a lot to live up to. In saying that though, i'm not some sort of obsessed book worm who feels like movie adaptations need to be the perfect representations of the books i enjoy. There have been many films over the years that i've enjoyed, even if the books have still been superior [Eg. Interview with the Vampire, Harry Potter].
As a book to film representation of the series, Hunger Games does actually succeed for the most part. It stays very faithful to the storyline of the book with only a few minor changes, which actually made sense in the context of the film itself.
The world of The Hunger Games was nicely visualized. The districts all looked exactly how i imagined them too, as did the Capitol and it's inhabitants. Casting was also executed well, each actor did a good job in bringing their characters to life, especially Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna and of course, Jennifer Laurence as Katniss.
The build up to the games themselves was slow and steady, but the pay off at the end with the games finally kicking into gear was meant to make that all worth it. Sadly, this is where the film started to fall apart.

In book form, the arena the chosen tributes fought in was actually a dangerous place. There was obvious tension, danger always felt near, and the desperation to stay alive was constantly pushed onto the reader. In the film, there didn't seem to be danger or suspense at all whatsoever. The Hunger Games themselves felt like a snail paced bore-fest with Katniss looking relaxed most of the time and action scenes feeling void of excitement or drama. This was a major let down, as the arena was meant to be a thriving zone for some really well executed action scenes, and we got none of those.
Battle Royale, which the book series gets compared to a lot, displayed this much better when it was turned into a movie. It was more violent, more bloody, and the characters seemed more vicious and desperate to survive. I didn't expect The Hunger Games to be an all out bloodbath since the film does have a PG 13 rating, however, the books were a lot more violent, and much of that was skimmed over in the film. It just felt too safe, and too family friendly.

Another part of the film which needed to be pulled off perfectly was the romance between Peeta and Katniss. It was beautifully unfolded in the book, but in the movie it was rushed and empty. The infamous "cave" scene from the book was decently done in the film, although more time should have been dedicated to it, it could have been more fleshed out.
The final scene in the film between Katniss and Peeta was a real slap in the face though. It was hacked down to literally 2 lines of vapid dialog that seemed so rushed that you barely understood the impact of what Katniss or Peeta were feeling.

To be fair, i am in the minority with my view of this film. People are loving it all over the world, and although i'm glad the movie is doing well since i loved the books so much, i can't say that i got what i was looking for from this movie. All the ingredients were there, but the end result was half baked. Without the sense of adventure within the arena and with very minimal emotional pull between characters, it was hard for me to get anything from this film.
It has it's good points, acting, design, and a couple scenes were a highlight, like the Reaping and the final battle between Katniss, Peeta and the vicious dogs. However, that just wasn't enough to sustain the whole film which felt too slow, too empty on adrenaline and ultimately just way too boring. Honestly, i was so bored while watching it i nearly fell asleep.

I'll be interested to see what they do with the second film in the franchise, hopefully that feeling of adventure and drama i was wanting is finally given to me. So far though, The Hunger Games was a dull disappointment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Underworld: Awakening [2012]
Starring; Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea
Directed by: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein

When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. 

I've been a fan of the Underworld series since it began, so there's no surprise that the new entry in the franchise was something i got into fairly easily.
All the expected basics are there, gothic imagery, endless vampire action and Kate Beckinsale in the tightest outfit ever. My favourite thing about the Underworld films is the mythology. It's vast, and over the course of the series it's gotten bigger and bigger. 'Awakening' continues building on that mythology, even though it can feel a bit rushed in places.
Most of this films problems come with the issue of Scott Speedman missing in action for this film. I have no idea why he couldn't be involved in the production of the movie, but his face has been CGI'd
onto a stand in and his character is seen more as a background figure than a title character like he's meant to be. Because of this, it feels as if the writers had to "work around" his absense and make do with what they could without being able to use him properly.
It's not a major issue, but certain things are skimmed over fairly quickly, like what happened to the characters between 'Awakening' and 'Evolution'. That portion of the story has been relegated to a quick montage in the beginning of the film. I imagine with Scott IN the actual movie, they would have tagged on an extra 15 minutes to the short running time of 'Awakening' to flesh out the current storyline better.
The ending of the film also suffers from this messy approach, with the story feeling uncomfortably unfinished as the credits roll. Of course, it's meant to have a "to be contiuned" finish like all of the previous Underworld films, but in Awakening, it feels poorly executed.

I guess the makers of 'Awakening' had to make do with what they had, and all things considering, they still managed to pull together an entertaining and fun movie.
Kate Beckinsale as Selene is at her cold killing best, as she runs up walls and jumps out of buildings better than she ever has. A lot of the action is brutal and her fight choreography is fantastic. The introduction of the hybrid child character, Eve, mixes up the new cast nicely, as well as other new and likeable additions to the cast, like Selene's new vampire side-kick, David.
The camera work is slick, the Lycans attack by the bucket full and movie runs at a tense fast pace.

Had 'Awakening' been given the opportunity to make better use of it's developing story, this could have been the best in the franchise so far. As it stands though, 'Awakening' feels more like a bridge between 'Evolution' and the next film, which i hope is given more room to bring the series to a proper close.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lana Del Rey
Born To Die: Deluxe Edition 


When Lana starting creating her album, Born To Die, she had a very specific idea as to what kind of sound she wanted sonically throughout the record. Musically, she's been described as the "Gangster Nancy Sinatra", and when you hear the album, it's obvious she took that name literally, with the majority of the record sounding like the soundtrack to a romantic urban mobster movie set in the 1950's.
The production on the songs moves beautifully between lush, vast melodies and string heavy hip hop beats. There's a dream like quality to the music that helps listeners become absorbed into Lana's world, and that's exactly what Lana and her producers have created with Born To Die, a complete audio and visual universe, a place to escape to.

The booming strings of the title track, Born To Die, open the album. Lana sings about a doomed relationship amidst a thunderous hip hop beat. It's the perfect way to start the record, the song feels like the opening credits to an old Hollywood film.
There's no time to take a breath however once Off To The Races immediatly kicks into gear literally a second after the title track ends. Lana's vocals sweep in and out of even louder hip hop beats this time, as the song builds and builds to a beautiful and cinematic string heavy finale.
The sexy, Blue Jeans is next, taking obvious notes from Chris Isaac's, 'Wicked Game'. The very haunting and timeless sounding torch ballad, Video Games, follows, which shares the same themes lyrically as the song before it.
The album takes a welcome change of direction at this point with, Diet Mountain Dew. The more lighter and upbeat vibe of the song is a nice way to pick the mood up after the more darker opening tracks. This song has had a few incarnations over the last few months with it's various demos. For the album version, the beat has been given an obvious "kick" and a lovely piano melody has been added to the already catchy chorus. This isn't my favourite version of the song, but the hook is so strong, it doesn't really matter to me either way. This wouldn't sound too far removed on an Amy Whinehouse album.
The small glimmer of light Diet Mountain Dew gives us doesn't last too long once the next track, National Anthem, begins. Similar to the previous track, this is known a much different sounding song by fans due to a demo leaking online last year. Gone is the summery chanting sound of the previous version, now the song sounds more like a war march at a funeral, with dark heavy synths and a creepy haunting chorus. It's a beautiful and eerie track, i like the song in both forms, but this version fits the feel of the album better.
Dark Paradise follows, and is the biggest surprise on the album for me. I'd heard a live snippet of the song months ago, and it didn't grab me as much as other new live songs did at the time. On the album however, the song is incredible. I especially love the opening few chords and the surprising change of direction during the bridge. Production wise, it's the best song on the album.
The sweet sound of Radio changes the tone of the album once again, with Lana singing about being in love over a very charming and catchy melancholic beat. Like earlier in the album however, it's yet another short lived lighter side to the record once the sinister, noir-esque and dark, Carmen, begins. This song seems to divide fans, it has a musical feel to it which might be off putting to some. Personally it's an album highlight for me.
The last few tracks that round off the standard edition of the album are the mid tempo, jazz-lite, Million Dollar Man. It's a sexy moody ballad and Lana's vocals sound their best on this. Summertime Sadness, a fan favourite, is next. It has the same beachy feel of Blue Jeans, with an even catchier chorus.
Last but not least, This Is What Makes Us Girls, closes the standard edition of the album. Like a few of the other songs, this has a different sounding demo that's been around for a while. On the album the song has been changed with newly added vocals and a Kanye West inspired hip hop beat.

The deluxe edition features 3 extra songs, but they don't feel tagged on to the end like an after thought, they blend nicely with the rest of the album.
Like Carmen and Dark Paradise, the first of the bonus tracks, Without You, features some of the most unique production on the album. The song is only a few tempos away from being a dance song, yet the beat is kept restrained throughout the track, making the song a mid-tempo ballad with a subtle bassline that feels like a tease.
Lolita, is next. Gone is the 1950's pop sound of the demo, Lolita now sounds like the next Bond theme with it's cinematic, dark and dramatic production. This should have made the standard edition, it's fantastic.
The final song on the deluxe album, Lucky Ones, ends it all on a surprisingly lighter note. This is Lana's ode to falling in love, and after the mostly depressing tone of the previous 14 tracks, Lucky Ones is a nice way to say goodbye to listeners by ending on a positive and hopeful note. Production wise, it's my least favourite song on the album though.

There are a few minor issues with the album that i have. Even though the production is beautifully lavish and rich, that also means the album as a whole can be a bit of a heavy listen.
More of an attempt to make each song not blend together so much would have benefited the overall experience of hearing the album by adding some variety. The differences in the production are actually there, but they're subtle,and you may need to give the album time to showcase that a little.
Also, i did prefer the previous finished version of Diet Mountain Dew [titled 'Diet Mtn Dew'] over the album version. The new version is nice, but it's missing the pre-chorus lyrics which were my favourite part of the previous version.

The only other album that has captivated my "imagination" as much as Born To Die was Fever Rey's debut album from a few years ago. Lana's music features the same other wordly feel as that album, she has a very unique and distinct voice, and when combined with her lush and atmospheric music, she sets herself apart from what any other artist is doing at the moment.
Whether you like Lana's overall product as an artist or not, there's no denying the amount of ambition and passion that has gone into this album. From Lana's incredible lyrics and signature voice to the rich and vast sound of the music, every inch of this album is absolutley dripping with passion. I doubt i'll find a better album this year, she's set the bar very high.

Born To Die 5/5
Off To The Races 5/5
Blue Jeans 5/5
Video Games 5/5
Diet Mountain Dew 3.5/5
National Anthem 4/5

Dark Paradise 5/5
Radio 3.5/5
Carmen 5/5
Million Dollar Man 4/5
Summertime Sadness 5/5
This Is What Makes Us Girls 5/5
Without You 4/5
Lolita 5/5
Lucky Ones 3/5

Monday, January 9, 2012

Upcoming In 2012
Here's a list of my most anticipated things in 2012...

 Lana Del Rey "Born To Die"
This is my most anticipated release of 2012, and luckily i don't need to wait long with the album out on January 30th. I've heard 9 tracks from the album already and they're all fantastic. It will be a great record to kick off the year, and an album that will no doubt be a very hard one to beat as the year rolls on.

There have been rumours about a second album release from Santigold for a couple years now, but it seems like 2012 is pretty much the year she's officially giving us a full length new release. Her debut was good, hopefully this next album is just as strong. No idea when it will be released.

Skylar Grey "Invisible"
She was featured on a Dr. Dre track, and other acts were singing songs she had written ["Coming Home" Diddy Dirty Money, "Love The Way You Lie" Eminem] throughout 2011, however in 2012, she finally releases her own debut album. I've heard a couple live tracks, they sound promising, she even did a duet with Marilyn Manson on one of the songs. There's no official release date yet, but it should be out before June.

Kanye West
There's no word as to when this will be out, or what the album will sound like, however, he did hint at possibly experimenting with dance music this year. Only Kanye could explore that genre and actually come up with something that doesn't sound like everything else right now, so i look forward to hearing what it sounds like. 

Ellie Goulding
Not sure if she'll try something new or go down the same route musically as her debut album, either way, i like her style, so i'm excited to hear whatever she releases next. No date is set for the release, but i'm guessing it will be near the end of the year. 

How To Destroy Angels
Trent Reznor and his wife teamed up to create this project, they released an EP a couple years ago which was pretty cool, and tis year we get a proper full length album.

Also this year:  
Marilyn Manson "Born Villain",  
Nicki Minaj "Roman Reloaded"


The Dark Knight Rises
'The Dark Knight' was incredible, and one of the best cinema experiences i've ever had. My anticipation for this is huge, as it is for pretty much everyone else out there.

Snow White & the Huntsman
There's another Snow White film called 'Mirror Mirror' coming out earlier in 2012 that's for kids, this one however is a much darker adult version of the story. Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth star. Out in June.

The loosely based prequel to Ridley Scott's 'Alien'. Same Universe, different characters and storyline. Or so Ridley says. Out mid year.

My Week With Marilyn
It had a limited run in America end of 2011, but everywhere else gets it in 2012. Early reviews have been good, and it will be interesting to see if Michelle Williams can pull off her role as Marilyn. Out early 2012.

This "handy cam" style movie centres around 3 friends who discover they have super powers. Cool concept, looks fun. Out mid year.

The Hobbit: Part 1
I doubt it will live up to the epic scale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but Peter Jackson is back as director and so are some of the original cast, which means it's in good hands. I'll love going back to Middle Earth!. Out end of 2012.

In The Land of Blood and Honey
Angelina Jolie's directorial debut! preview screenings in December 2011 were positive, and as a Jolie fan, it will be interesting seeing her pull off her role as a director. No idea when this will be released properly, but it will be sometime this year.

The Hunger Games
It sounds like it's borrowed a little from Battle Royale, but you can't really go wrong being inspired by such a great film. I've just picked up the books now.

Dark Shadows
I'm a bit over Tim Burton as a director at this point, but this movie does sound interesting and has a great cast. There's no trailer for this yet, but i do know that the movie is a fantasy drama about a family of vampires. Out end of 2012.

World War Z
Based on the famous zombie book, this is Day of the Dead meets Contagian. The books take a very scientific and serious approach to what would happen if the world was over-run by zombies after a viral outbreak that starts in China. No idea how different this will be from the books, but it stars Brad Pitt and is the first part of a trilogy. Released end of the year.

Video Games

Tomb Raider
It's been a good few years since the last game. I've been on board with this series since the early days, hard to believe it's still going after so long. The series is getting a complete overhaul from start to finish, that's never happened before, so i'm curious to see how the new game plays out. Out end of 2012.

I Am Alive
I don't know much about the game, but you play one of only a few survivors in a city that's been destroyed. It's basically an exploration game where you try to survive while helping those around you. Looks interesting. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

The BEST + WORST of 2011

Music of 2011

10 // Zola Jesus Conatus
A little lighter than her last album, but still trademark sythy Zola.
Best track: Hikikomori

09 // Kimbra Vows
A great debut from an underrated artist. You'll be surprised at how easily she can go from popstar to soul singer.
Best track: Good Intent

08 // Gotye Making Mirrors
I can't believe it's taken me all these years to finally discover him. I love the cinematic feel of the production on the album.
Best track: Somebody That I Used To Know

07 // Nero Welcome Reality
It's a shame David Guetta and Calvin Harris get more radioplay than these guys, i really enjoyed this album, best dance record of the year for me.
Best track: Guilty

06 // Natalia Kills Perfectionist
What Natalie lacks in personality and charisma she makes up for with great production and melodies. For those who like their pop a little darker.
Best track: Wonderland

05 // Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch The Throne
There were big expectations for this collaboration, and not surprisingly, the guys delivered.
Best track: Murder To Excellence

04 // Katy B On A Mission
Haven't heard this sort of downtempo club sound since the first Sugababes album over a decade ago. Great debut.
Best track: Witches Brew

03 // Florence + The Machine Ceremonials
Florence doesn't tread any new ground with this album, but it does expand nicely on her previous record. It's bigger and better than her debut.
Best track: Leave My Body

02 // Lady Gaga Born This Way
Gaga explores some new sounds while still staying close to her trademark style. My favourite "popstar" album of the year.
Best track: Heavy Metal Lover

01 // Adele 21
There isn't one song on this album i can fault, it's perfect from start to finish. The only problem with 21 is she may never top it because she set the bar so high.
Best track: Someone Like You

Honorable Mentions:
Electric Lady Lab Flash!
Bjork Biophilia
iiO Exit 101
Beyonce 4

Avril Lavigne Goodbye Lullaby
Avril Lavigne has become a bit of a by the numbers type of act nowdays. She follows the same formula with each record, going between annoying upbeat first single and dull and uninspired second and 3rd singles following. She's gone as far as she can creatively, at this point, no one cares anymore, and one has to wonder how long she can keep dressing like a 15 year old emo as she edges close to turning 30 and selling her tweeny tinged product.
Songs of 2011

20 // David Guetta & Sia Titanium
Epic chorus, Sia's vocals are beautiful on this.

19 // Kelly Rowland Work It Man
I prefer Kelly doing r&b over dance.

18 // Taryn Manning Turn It Up
One half of Boomkat, Taryn is going solo!.

17 // Bjork Crystalline
Love the dupstep outro and melody on this.

16 // Wynter Gordon Till Death
Best dance track by a girl this year [yes, even better than than God awful 'We Found Love'].

15 // Zola Jesus Vessel

Love me some Zola Jesus!

14 // The Rapture How Deep Is Your Love

Caught onto this one a bit late, but better late than never i suppose.

13 // Electric Lady Lab Follow You
Could have used a couple of there songs on here, but i went for this one, underrated duo.

12 // Adele Someone Like You
Overplayed, but still such a great song.

11 // Calvin Harris Feels So Close

I'm not usually into his stuff, but this was a great track.

10 // Florence + The Machine Shake It Out
An epic song to compliment an equally epic album.

09 // J. Cole Work Out
His album disappointed me, this track was oddly missing from it, but i loved it anyway.

08 // Example Changed The Way You Kissed Me
Love the alternative style vocals mixed with the hard dance production.

07 // Katy B Witches Brew
Catchiest chorus of the year?

06 // Ms Dynamite Neva Soft

The UK is really delivering with underground acts this year. Love this song.

05 // Kimbra Good Intent
I fell in love with it the moment i heard it. Also became my favourite music video of the year.

04 // Beyonce Run The World [Girls]

I know pretty much everyone hated this, but i loved it.

03 // Natalia Kills Wonderland
It's an old track, but her debut album came out this year and this was on it.

02 // Gotye & Kimbra Somebody That I Used To Know
For a while it was my #1 song of the year. Amazing song and i love Kimbra's part. 

01 // Lana Del Rey Video Games
She came out of nowhere this year, and Video Games became a sleeper hit on iTunes all over the world. The production on the song is beautiful and her voice is very haunting. 2012 will be a big year for her.


Cher Lloyd // Swagger Jagger
It's hard to believe this song was actually a serious release. It sounds like a cheap Black Eyed Peas attempt with a video that's one of the most cringe worthy things i've ever seen. Worst song of the year.

Bruno Mars // The Lazy Song
Bruno is a talented guy with a great voice, but i can't stand his music. It's annoying "songs for my cute sweet girlfriend" crap that bores me to tears. 'The Lazy Song' however the worst of the worst when it comes to his single releases. The annoying video that goes along with it makes it even more unbearable.

Jason Derulo // Don't Wanna Go Home
You may not want to go home, Jason, but i want you to. Awful use of a cringe sample.