Thursday, October 27, 2011

Florence + The Machine
Ceremonials: Deluxe Edition [2011]

The new Florence album doesn't tread any dramatic new ground, in fact, if you've heard her previous album, 'Lungs', you'll know exactly what you're in for as far as tone and sound goes. What Ceremonials does is build on an already signature sound for the singer, while taking it to a much bigger, yet still familiar place.

Lungs was a very whimsical and light sounding album, pretty harps and organic production were littered throughout the songs, and there was a child-like innocence to the overall sound of the music. 'Ceremonials' puts a much louder spin on that by amplifying the drums, and giving the songs a much more booming and epic scope.
There's an anger and sense of urgency in Ceremonials that was missing from Lungs, and even the more lighter songs on the new album maintain a very vast sound.

The beautiful, 'Shake It Out', is the perfect throw-back to Lungs and works well as the lead single off the album. The anthem sounding, 'What The Water Gave Me', hints at a song that would sound incredible with a live audience singing along, and the build up towards the final minutes in the track are perfectly produced. Other songs like 'Never Let Me Go' and the romantic sounding, 'All This And Heaven Too', have a similar build up.
The witchy and dark, 'Seven Devils', is slow and powerful with a beautiful choir on backing vocals, that choir is used again just as well in chorus for, 'Leave My Body' [my favourite song off the album]. The tribal-esque drums on 'Heartlines' are deep enough to shatter your speakers, and the drum and chant heavy, 'No Light No Light', is just as lively.

There are moments where the album feels a little "samey". There is so much use of the same sorts of instruments and chants that certain songs can get lost within the similar production. 'Spectrum' is a decent track, but i feel by the time i get to it, i've kinda heard it all before, so it loses a bit of impact for me. Personally, i think the bonus track, 'Strangeness and Charm' should have replaced it on the standard track listing. It packs a bit more of a catchy punch.
A couple songs are so over produced to the point of being a little overbearing as well, 'Breaking Down' and 'Lover To Lover' suffer because of that, and the melodies within the songs border on the cheesy side a little.

What the standard tracklisting lacks is made up for with a few of the bonus tracks from the deluxe edition. 'Remain Nameless' is a nice change of pace for Florence, less organic than the rest of the album, it would have broken up the standard track listing nicely, it's a great song. 'Bedroom Hyms', is a nice one also.

Much like 'Lungs', 'Ceremonials' is nearly perfect, but stumbles in a few areas that stop it from being flawless from start to finish. However, the good certainly out-weights the bad, and 'Ceremonials' is a strong sophomore effort from Florence. In many ways, it's actually stronger than her debut, and if you liked her previous work, you'll love this.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Favourite Films of ALL TIME! #20Terminator 2: Judgment Day [1991]
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Directed by: James Cameron

James Cameron has a bit of a reputation of outdoing original films by giving them much stronger sequels. The first time he did this was with Aliens [sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien], which wasn't an easy thing to do since Ridley's first Alien was such a classic. James however managed to take the sequel to a new and much bigger place, and that's exactly what he did with T2 as well.

T2 picks up a few years after the original Terminator film left off, with Sarah Connor [survivor from film 1] being locked in a mental ward due to her crazy rants about being stalked by a cyborg from the future. Her teenage son, John Connor, is living with foster parents. Arnold reprises his classic role as The Terminator in T2, however this time, he isn't playin
g the bad guy, he's the good guy. He's been sent back again in time to protect John from a different Cyborg, who's job is to finish the job 'bad guy Terminator Arnie' failed to do in movie 1.
In film 1, Sarah Connor was the target because her future son was going to lead a resistance against the future Cyborgs who will declare war against mankind. Since she escaped first time around, she was then free to have her son, which now means John is the new target for assassination. Once all of this is revealed to John after he escapes near death at the hands of the new terminator [who's metallic form can melt into shape changing liquid metal], he sets out on a mission with the Arnie-bot to free his Mother from the mental institut
ion she's being held captive in so they can fight against the newly upgraded assassin cyborg that is out to kill John.
To say T2 is an upgrade from the first film is putting it lightly, the scope is 10 times bigger, the story is more developed and the biggest change of all comes in the form of a newly buff and tough, Sarah Connor, who is transformed from a puffy haired screaming woman in the 80's to a muscle punching, shotgun shooting warrior of the 90's. The change Linda went through to become the new Sarah is incredible, and not only does she look the part, but her acting in the role is incredible. Many critics and movie fans over the years have labeled Linda's performance in T2 as one/if not the best female action role in movie history, only ever being close to Ripley in the Alien franchise. In fact, James knows how to create really powerful female leads in his stories [Aliens, Avatar].

At the time, T2 was also showcasing brand new special effects, mostly due to the liquid metal effects of the evil cyborg. They still hold up today, and there are some really iconic moments in T2 that showcase how far they pushed the visual effects back then.
With so much action and sparkling effects on show, James still manages to put together a very moving and powerful story. Whether it's Sarah Connor dealing with having to work alongside the cyborg who tried to kill her years earlier, or the Father-like relationship John Connor develops with the Arnie-bot, there are some great character moments within the story that are very moving.
The impending apocalypse within the story gives the movie a strong atmosphere as well, one scene in particular is quite eerie and used to really creep me out as a kid. It revolves around a dream Sarah Connor has, where she watches children play in an outdoor playground just as an atomic explosion hits the area and her silent muted screams of danger are met with a volcanic explosion of fire and destruction as the city is destroyed and Sarah's body is burnt away to the bone. It's a strong image, and you can't help but wonder "what if?" when thinking about this sort of thing happening in our world today.

Terminator 1 is a favourite of many, but to be honest, it's never been a film that has blown me away. For me, T2 is where the series really does something special. There's a great nostalgia attached to T2 because i've been watching it since i was a kid, i even remember being 7 years old and seeing it at the cinemas. It's one of my earliest memories of going to the movies for the first few times in my life. The classic film score is also one of my favourites.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Most Underrated Movies EVER!
These are my personal picks, i know there are a few you may think are underrated that i haven't included in the list, so let me know what they are in the comments section....

Freeway [1996]
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Keither Sutherland
This had a very small cinema run [i think only in the U.S.] and was eventu
ally released straight to video and has since become one of those random old movies that not many people i know have seen. I do stumble upon a few people every so often on the web who have seen it at some point though, and it did have a very small cult following which got it a direct to video sequel [without Reese].

Cube [1997]
Starring: A bunch of nobodies
More of a known treat for watchers of sci-fi, but generally a small indi forgotten gem that passed a lot of people by when it was released.

The Faculty [1998]
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Clea DuVall
The way this movie was marketed was wrong. Robert Rodriguez's tongue in cheek approach to the film trailer seemed to not sit well with people. It just sounded l
ike a really stupid premise when watching the trailer. The film however was actually really great, and the old skool sci-fi throwback genre fit in perfectly with Robert's hip high school setting. Josh Hartnett and his badly cut hair can grate on the nerves a bit, but the rest of the cast put in some good performances. It's a fun movie, but one that seems to only live on through people my age who lived through it back in the late 90's.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame [1996]
Starring: Demi Moore, Jason Alexander
Disney was on a roll during the 90's with one massive re
lease after another [The Lion King, Aladdin ect], and even though Hunchback did well on it's release, i've noticed it's really fallen to the bottom of the list amongst such massively popular films that came before and after it. It's in my top 3 favourite Disney flicks of all time, and features some of the most dynamic animation and music Disney has ever put out.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [2010]
Starring: Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick
Based on a popular cult comic series, this was set to bring the geeks flocking to cinemas to make it a box office hit, however, the movie severely underperformed at the b
ox office and was a flop. It still found a certain audience though, and ironically like the comic book series, has become a bit more of a "cult" affair.

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love [1996]
Starring: Naveen Andrews, Indira Varma
It's beautifully filmed and acted, but Kama Sutra seems to have disappeared into no mans land over the years. It's one of those movies i ask people about and they'v
e never heard of it. Maybe it's low key cast and sexual subject matter made it zoom past peoples radars. It's one of my all time favourites.

Lost Highway [1997]
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Bill Pullman
Certainly known amongst David Lynch fans and people who watch a lot of a
rt house cinema, but compared to Lynch's other more high profile films [Blue Velvet, Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive], this one always felt like it fell through the gaps of the public audience a little. Maybe it was too dark or too explicit, but it's never really mentioned by critics or regular cinema folk compared to his other films. Personally, this is my favourite Lynch film.

Pitch Black [2000]
Starring: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell
Not as low key as some of the other films on here, but it does seem like a b
it of a forgotten gem, especially since Vin Diesel took the Riddick character from Pitch Black and gave him his own much more high profile adventure [The Chronicles of Riddick]. It's a low key film, shot in Australia, and features a fairly unknown cast [at the time Vin was making his debut in this]. I think it's one of the best sci-fi flicks to come out of the last decade, it doesn't get enough re-visits from a lot of casual movie goers in my opinion.

Legend [1985]
Starring: Tom Cruise, Tim Curry
There were so many sword and sorcery flicks in the 80's, this was the best one in my opinion. Beautifully directed by Ridley Scott, and perfectly scored by Jerry Goldsmith. The U.S. version came with a crappy score by Tangerine Dream, which sucked all the atmosphere and other worldly feel out of the the Jerry Goldsmith version. It's no surprise it flopped badly on initial release in America with how much of an edited mess it became, had they stuck to the original version which is a visual and audio masterpiece, maybe it would have received better reviews. The non-U.S version faired a bit better outside of America, and it was the version i grew up with.

The Prophecy [1996]
Starring: Christopher Walken
This actually was a popular straight to video film that spawned a few sequels, but i still find it's a film not a lot of people have stayed connected to over the years. I feel like
i'm the only person on Earth who not only saw it, but owns it too.

Leon: The Professional [1994]
Starring: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman
This has certainly held a strong cult status over the years, and is also well known for it's controversial casting of a very young Natalie Portman playing a very Lolita-esque child assassin. Even though it has it's fans though, i've always felt more people should see it. I've introduced this to a good few people over the years and they've all loved it. It's a classic to me, and the director's cut adds so much more to the original film, if you ever get the opportunity to see it, make sure it's that version.

Go [1996]
Starring: Katie Holmes, Scott Wolf, Sarah Polley
Similar to The Faculty, this seems to be a film that has stayed with teens at the time it was released, but has since been forgotten by everyone else. Great film, critics called it Pulp Fiction for a younger audience.

The Doom Generation [1995]
Starring: Rose McGowan, James Duval
This is a Gregg Araki film, so you can't help but have this be a lot more low key than you're usual indi film. Still, it's a great mind fuck of a movie with an awesome soundtrack and a wacky over-sexed cast. Not for everyone, but still underrated.