Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Alice Cooper 2011

Alice is going back to the future with his latest album a sequel to his 1975 concept album Welcome to My Nightmare.

A lot has changed in the last 35 years, Alice as much as anything. Constantly evolving as musical tastes change, so a reprise of an earlier album was going to be interesting.

Alice’s alter-ego Steven gets another outing, with his haunting piano theme introducing the album and his rythmic muttering on “The Nightmare returns”

“Caffine” and “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” are typical Alice crowd pleasers, I’m guessing the latter will become a staple of the live shows.

“The Last Man On Earth”, is a strutting top hat and cane song in the same ilk as “Some Things” whilst “The Congregation” has a touch of Ozzy Osbourne vocal and Marilyn Manson beat about it.

“Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” somehow reminds me of Lordi while also managing to be completely different from anything that they’ve done, followed by “Ghouls Gone Wild” a Lordi song title if ever I heard one which turns out to be homage to Alice’s surf-song origins (With maybe a touch of Weird Al).

In some ways, this album is “Greatest Hits” of songs he’s never written before. Each song somehow harkening back to an earlier incarnation of everybody’s favourite anti-hero, whilst still being new and fresh.

Funny thing is, all the elements are there but it just doesn’t quite gel with me yet. Not to say that this won’t become a favourite, but like quite a few of Alice’s albums it takes a while for them to mature like a fine wine.

AC/DC had Bon Scott and Angus Young, the rest of the band (visually) faded into the background, the heirs to the throne Airbourne, have Joel O’Keeffe a frontman infused with the ghost of Scott and the spirit and energy of Angus.

Erupting onto the stage with ‘Raise the Flag’ the crowd immediately roused out of the stupor induced by the two support bands and the stage was set  for an hour and a half of high energy rock. With hardly a pause for breath Airbourne powered through their set.

Halfway through ‘Girls in Black’, the band go into an instrumental as Joel jumps off the stage to run the length of the front row, playing all the while. Next thing he’s disapeared, we can still hear his guitar, but he’s disapeared into the crowd. A moment later he’s back, not on stage but coming down the aisle in the circle across the front row of the balcony and out through the emergency exit stage right!!!

Back on stage the energy never seems to dim whether leaping from the drum riser or rocking from the top of the amps, O’Keefe is never still, behind the mic for just enough time to belt out the lyrics before he’s off again.

Just when you think things can’t get any better ‘No Way But the Hard Way’ lights another fuse and the crowd errupt somehow finding a hidden reserve as the band leave the stage with ‘Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’

The pause before the encore is brief, the rest of the band starting a heavy riff and getting a little limelight before O’Keefe leaps back onto the stage with renewed energy to lead the band into ‘Runnin Wild’ and the final number ‘Stand Up For Rock ‘N’ Roll’

Astronaut Captain Charles “Chuck” Baker is on a mission to boldly go where no man has gone before, the supposedly uninhabited Planet 51, so he is rather suprised to find himself in a small town in 50’s America, with one important difference, the residents are green.

Being the era of sci-fi B movies, the residents of Glipforg are terrified by the prospect of being turned into zombies by alien invaders of which Chick is their first real example. With the aid of Lem and his friends and space probe Rover, Chuck has to get back to his ship within 74 hours or be stranded on this distant planet.

This animation is obviously aimed at the younger generation, and the storyline and style will keep kids enthralled for the duration. But hiding in the background is a humour that adults will understand and kids won’t. Just the thing to keep the adults entralled as well.

If your a fan of sci-fi, then there are plenty of references to classic movies, from the alienesque dog Ripley who pees acid to the handbook on what to do if your town is attacked by a 50-foot woman. The film follows the B-movie cliche with the obvious twist that the human is the “alien” on this world, faced with the shoot em first, ask questions later mentality of the inhabitants.

If you have kids then buy this movie, if you haven’t then borrow some first.

Fresh from my introduction to Swedish cinema, I decided to buy the book. Luckily, someone called Reg Keeland has taken the time to translate it.

Suprisingly, the film is actually very close to the book and the understandibly condensed film version misses few of the plot elements (hopefully the planned Hollywood version will take note).

Usually I wouldn’t recommend reading the book before the film, as disapointment usually follows, but this time it certainly wasn’t the case.

The book clarifies that Lisbeth (the hacker with the dragon tattoo)  is investigating Mikael (the reporter) as a prelude to his being hired by Henrik Vanger.

While certain events and characters were condensed for the film, the plot follows the same investigation into the disapearance of Harriet, Henrick’s neice 40 years previously and the grim discovery of a series of brutal murders across Sweden.

The book further fleshes out the relationship between Mikael and his business partner Erika Berger and members of the Vanger family as he pursues his quest for the truth and details how he fell foul of the law in the first place.

This was my third free screening in just over a week, an Irish wedding comedy.

The story follows the wedding day of two couples who happen to have booked the same hotel for their reception. Freddie is marrying for the second time to the same girl and Maura having dodged marriage for 30 years is marrying for enough money to keep a roof over her’s and her daughter’s heads.

Both couples stumble from disaster to disaster, with a psycho father-in-law, a missing bride and  the immigration service featuring prominently, eventually the two marriage parties are forced together by Maura’s daughter.

This is a film that had huge potential, unfortunatly it never meets it. The action is funny in places, but once you’ve laughed there’s nothing to take it up another notch and the storyline isn’t strong enough to satisfy in the gaps. Since you already know what the ending of the film is going to be from the moment the oposing bride and groom set eyes on each other there’s no suprises either.

All in all, the film was OK, but I wouldn’t pay cinema prices to see it.

Michael Nyqvist – Mikael Blomkvist
Noomi Rapace – Lisbeth Salander
Sven-Bertil Taube – Henrik Vanger
Peter Haber – Martin Vanger
Marika Lagercrantz – Cecilia Vanger
Lena Endre – Erika Berger
Björn Granath – Police Inspector Morell
Ingvar Hirdwall – Dirch Frode – Henrik’s lawyer
Peter Andersson – Bjurman
Michalis Koutsogiannakis – Dragan – Lisbeth’s boss
Ewa Fröling – Harriet Vanger
Gunnel Lindblom – Isabella Vanger
Gösta Bredefeldt – Harald Vanger
Stefan Sauk – Hans-Erik Wennerström
Jacob Ericksson – Christer Malm
Sofia Ledarp – Malin Eriksson
David Dencik – Janne
Well, the first thing you need to know about this film, and something I didn’t realise before it started, it’s in Swedish. Luckily someone was kind enough to add subtitles.

Having lost a libel case and waiting to be sentenced Mikael Blomkvist is asked by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger to investigate the disapearance (and supposed murder) of his neice Harriet over 40 years ago.

In the mean time, tattooed and pierced punk hacker Lisbeth Salander (who for reasons that escape me is investigating Blomkvist) has been assigned a new guardian to oversee her financial affairs due to problems in her youth. The new guardian only releases money to her after brutally and sexually abusing her.

The two tales run side by side without connection until  Lisbeth decodes a message that she ransacked from Mikael’s computer and she joins him in his investigation.This leads to the discovery of a string of horrific unsolved murders across Sweden that Harriet had discovered just before her disapearance.

Once you get used to reading the subtitles, the film opens up into a gripping thriller that hopefully won’t be ruined with the planned Hollywood remake. The world weary journalist and the emotionally scarred young hacker are made believable by the acting tallents of Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace leaving you in no doubt as to the confusion both character’s face as their relationship unfolds.

I’m looking forward to getting hold of the books (I assume they’ve been translated into English) and will be watching to see if they make the rest of the trilogy (in Swedish or not)

Sandra Bullock – Leigh Anne Tuohy
Tim McGraw – Sean Tuohy
Kathy Bates -Miss Sue
Quinton Aaron – Michael “Big Mike” Oher
Lily Collins – Collins Tuohy
Jae Head – Sean “S.J.” Tuohy, Jr.
Ray McKinnon – Coach Cotton
Kim Dickens – Mrs. Boswell
Adriane Lenox – Denise Oher
IronE Singleton – Alton
Catherine Dyer – Mrs. Smith

Based on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, the film tells the story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager who gets accepted into a Christian school on the grounds that he may be good at sports, being the only black kid in school leaves him isolated until he is befriended by SJ.

Seeing “Big Mike”  walking in the rain in just a t-shirt and pants, SJ’s mum, Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) takes pitty on him and offers him a place to sleep for the night, the start of Michael’s adoption into the family.

Along the way we discover that Michael isn’t the stereotypical dumb brute that his teachers have pegged him as, just neading additional help to release his intelligence and Leigh Anne Tuohy’s pep talk on the football field to unleash his prowess there.

The film has been accused of being racist, another example of the “magical-negro” stereotype, and while I suppose this may be the reason the film was made (although probably not intentionally) you’ll have to judge for yourself what the real motivations of the story were.

A more important question is asked towards the end of the film, where the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) investigate Michael’s scollarship to the University of Mississippi and whether his adoption by the Tuohy’s has a more sinister side – was he adopted and the effort put in to boost his educational grades purely to boost the “Ole Miss” football team.

This film  is a heartwarming character piece, a bit slow in places (as such films generally are), with a realistic humour to it. Unless you analyse it to the extreme it isn’t racist, but it does come over as a “party political broadcast” on behalf of the Tuohy family protesting their innocence, you can only hope that the truth does in fact live up to the story portrayed on screen.

“Just how many Hayseed Dixie albums can one man own?”

Well the boys are back (after a quiet year) to put this to the test with their eighth studio album (due out in February)

I haven’t heard the full album yet, but luckily Barley has been posting teasers on YouTube for a couple of months now.

While I like Hayseed Dixie’s tongue in cheek original songs (There’s seven on this release), the good news is that the cover versions are back in the mix with rockgrass assaults on bands like Queen, The Prodigy, Black Sabbath and Mozart, all chosen to highlight the album’s theme of killing and death, although the other three elements to any song worth singing also get a good airing.

“There’s still plenty of drinking, cheating and hell in there too, as them 4 elements all go together like stink on poop,” remarks front-maniac Barley Scotch.

If that isn’t enough to get you to put your hand in your pocket though, the package also comes with a DVD with six music videos from the album and five tutorials. Want to know what to do if your banjo playing brother accidentally cuts off one of his arms, or how to play Duelling Banjos with an African darbucka, the answers are right here.

Still not enough?? Well now it’s time to try your hand at being a record producer…

The DVD contains (in full CD quality) all the multi-track audio files for the album so that you can mix the songs yourself, there’s even a track – Love Cabin – that is only available if you mix it yourself, a first for any band.

So what are you waiting for (well apart from February), get out there and fund the band’s ambitious project to drink like students.

AvatarHaving previously been put off 3D by 80’s TV and magazines like Look In, (not to mention the £11 per ticket price tag) I was dubious about going to see this film expecting the good old red and green cardboard glasses. Instead the new version looks like NHS sunglasses with slightly darkened lenses (no sign of the colours of the past) and a proper plastic frame.

So preparing to be unimpressed I donned the glasses at the required time and the Disney Logo on the trailer that had just started, jumped out of the screen and hovered a foot from my nose!!! Not a bad start. We then got treated to the usual cliches of things jumping out of the screen towards you etc. which is all well and good, but tends to distract from a storyline.

Once the actual film starts, however, you notice that the 3D effects aren’t pushed, the story takes first place and the technology just adds that extra depth and clarity to the scenes, possibly the epitomy of this style is after the destruction of the Hometree, where the ash is falling all around you as well as the hero on screen.

Anyway, to the film…

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a disabled ex-marine is persuaded to take on his twin brother’s position on a moon called Pandora, rich in a coveted mineral and inhabited by a tall blue-skinned Na’vi, a “primitive” race. Jake’s job to control an Avatar, a genetically engineered simulation of one of the Na’vi in order to infiltrate the tribe and convince them to move from the mineral rich lands.

I assume that the writers analogy was that of the treatment of the Native Americans, but fresh from my escapades in Oz, I couldn’t fail to miss the similarities of the Na’vi’s belief system with that of the Aboriginies (somewhat helped by the fact that my guide, Evan Yanna Muru, had seen the film the day before my walkabout), being at one with the world around them enhanced in the Na’vi’s case by their ability to physically bond with the plants and animals.

Generally accepted that all they have to do is look like the Na’vi and educate them, it isn’t until Jake is separated from the others and meets up with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) that he discovers the rich tapestry of beliefs from his reluctant tutor. In learning these beliefs Jake comes to appreciate and bond with this primitive way of life.

Inevitably of course, the “advanced” human race decides that enough-is-enough and moves in to capture the mineral wealth by force, destroying the Hometree (which just happens to be on top of the biggest lode of Unobtanium) and dispersing the natives.

What follows is the usual hero changes sides and leads the tribe against the agressors (along with boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back by flying a huge reptile), which on the face of it is a pretty cliched storyline, but it is the well thought out background to the film (along with the careful use of 3D) that sets it apart from others. If you want an action movie, then it’s not bad, but if you miss out on the spirituality of the storyline then you’re only seeing half the film.