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"From Dusk Till Dawn" is a 1996 crime film which was directed by Robert Rodriguez, who has also directed such films as "The Faculty" (1998), "Sin City" (2005), and "Machete Kills" (2013).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 108 minutes in length and stars George Clooney ("Ocean's Eleven", "ER", "The Monuments Men") as Seth Gecko, Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction", "Desperado", "Little Nicky") as Richard Gecko, and Harvey Keitel ("Reservoir Dogs", "Mean Streets", "Taxi Driver") as Jacob Fuller.
The plot for the film reads as follows: Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by vampires, with chaotic results.
Quentin Tarantino was, at this time, one of Hollywood's best off-the-wall writers. He had come off the back of writing "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction" and "Natural Born Killers" and wanted to try his hand at something new. He was originally down to direct "From Dusk Till Dawn" also, but gave up the chair in favour of Robert Rodriguez, in order to put all his effort into playing the part of Richard Gecko. Rodriguez was not the first choice, however, with Tony Scott and Renny Harlin in the frame before Rodriguez, who had just finished with "Desperado", signed up.
The film has since achieved cult status and took over $25m in the Box Office, coming off of a budget of $20m. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film begins with a shot of a car coming towards the camera along a highway. It pulls in to a liquor store and the occupant gets out - a Texas Ranger. He grabs a cold beer out of the fridge and begins talking to the shop clerk behind the counter about life in general, and things which he doesn't like about the store. The two obviously know each other, but probably don't socialise. The officer is moaning about the heat outside and the food at the diner he ate at earlier, before he talks about a bank robbery in which three cops were killed. The Ranger goes to use the restroom and it is here were we first see Seth and Richard Gecko, as they come out from behind the counters with two hostages from the said bank robbery and tell the clerk to get rid of him.
One thing I did like is the aspect of the brutal murder of the hostage. Blood everywhere, flashing through scenes. I am not sure if this was Richard Rodriguez's influence or Quentin Tarantino's, but it does look a lot like something the latter would do, and has put to use on "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" especially. The unfortunate hostage was earlier seen in the boot of the car in a very short scene which is also synonymous with Tarantino, in that the car is in motion and an image of the woman can be seen from within before the car becomes solid again.
The bar in Mexico, the brilliantly named Titty Twister, looks like my kind of place. It looks majestic from the outside and with Cheech Marin on the door, you can't go wrong. Inside there are bar fights going on, a band playing, and plenty of scantily clad women dancing around. The décor inside is dark and is the type of place that you would associate with seedy back alley dives. Perhaps the most seductive scene comes here also, when Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) can be seen performing a dance which has the entire bar captivated (and, I must confess, me too). She can be seen with a Burmese python around her neck, though the actress is known to be extremely afraid of the reptiles. It is said that in order to get her to do the scene, Rodriguez convinced her that Madonna was waiting in the wings to take the part. However, I am not sure a 38-yr old Madonna would have been half as stunning as a Latino woman eight years younger.
There is a wonderful scene of horror that has plenty of blood, with throats being slashed and ripped out and many of the patrons being forced to fight for their lives. One of the bar goers (named Sex Machine) has a codpiece that conceals a gun, which is used with hilarious consequences. The special effects here are not the best a film has ever seen but they are still good, especially when the vampires burn and melt away into putrid green slime. Scenes like that are what make the film, if I'm honest. I can see where Tarantino wanted to go with the violence, but I can also see that he needed to challenge himself further and turn it into something different. This, for me, is Tarantino's strength in writing.
It is difficult to put this film in a genre of its own. You could say it's a horror film, you could say it's a comedy film, and you could say it's an action or thriller film. In truth, it is probably all three in one. What we have here is a film of two parts. The first part has some excellent scenes which show the seriousness of the two brothers, while the second part delves into the comedy and horror genre. We are led down the path of the action/thriller genre very early on as Richard and Seth go about their seemingly uncaring and brutal ways in order to get to Mexico, where it quickly turns into the horror/comedy genre as the vampires strike. One particular scene of both genres is where Sex Machine, realising he has been bitten by a vampire, suddenly gets the signs that he's changing. At first he tries to hide the longer fangs he's grown, then hides his elongated hands behind his back. Scenes like that make me think that the director is putting a spin on things by telling us that they're having fun.
I am not really a fan of George Clooney as a rule, but I do like the way he plays Seth Gecko here. Seth clearly has a problem with practically everything in the world and it is only his brother, Richard, who he seems to care for. Clooney's portrayal is cold and calculating, and though other people were in the frame for playing the part including John Travolta, Tim Roth and Christopher Walken, I find it difficult to look past what Clooney did here. There is a scene which shows off his potential to remain calm when Jacob Fuller is driving his family's vehicle and has to slam on the brakes in order to avoid hitting Seth, who just stands there and looks at them for a moment before walking off as if nothing happened. As I said, I don't recall liking a role that Clooney has played except maybe the bit part he had in "Welcome to Collinwood" as Jerzy, but I do like him in this film.
In complete contrast to Seth, Richard Gecko is a dangerous character to say the least. He has a penchant for sexual violence which is evident with his first victim in brutal fashion and also with Kate Fuller, who he is seemingly fixated with. So much so that he imagines her talking to him in a seductive manner. Tarantino is not the best actor in the world by a long way, but what he brings to the table is an attitude that is easy to like. I am obviously not condoning the nature of a sexual predator, but what I do like is how Tarantino plays one. It is a role that suits him because of his brooding nature.
I thought the Fuller family was a little diverse, but I also think that was a spin on the differences of the film itself. Jacob, played by Harvey Keitel, is a former pastor who has a problem with his beliefs since his wife was taken from him. Keitel is an actor I like a lot, and I do enjoy his input here. He has played dangerous characters in a number of films - "Bad Lieutenant" stands out - and calculating individuals like Winston Wolfe in "Pulp Fiction". Here, he's a bit of both, which is shows his ability to take on differing roles. Kate Fuller, played by Juliette Lewis, has a great role here. Coming into shooting of the film she had already been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting her performance as Danielle Bowden in "Cape Fear", and had memorably won people over as Mallory Knox in "Natural Born Killers'. Ernest Liu was the dark horse of the entire cast. Very little was known about him and very little is still known. I don't think the film challenged his acting, though, which did not help his career, at a guess.
This is a film which should have fared better in the Box Office, had people understood what it was meant to be. I think that the majority of film-goers were confused and didn't really appreciate the craziness put together by Tarantino and Rodriguez. The film won five Saturn Awards including Best Horror, Actor and Director, but also picked up Tarantino for the notorious Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor. I, however, loved it. This is how I envisage horror films, and the likes of Tarantino and Rob Zombie in particular, remind me of how George A. Romero liked to direct horror films. True, it's not the best film I've ever seen and there are some cracks which are present throughout, but I truly believe this was how it was supposed to be. It was never meant to be serious, and that's just how I like it.
What the Critics Say
Austin Chronicle: "This is horror with a wink and a nod to drive-in theatres and sweaty back seats. This is how it's done."
Variety: "A deliriously trashy, exuberantly vulgar, lavishly appointed exploitation picture, this weird combo of road-kill movie and martial-arts vampire gorefest is made to order for the stimulation of teenage boys."
San Francisco Examiner: "Spiritually it's a John Woo-George Romero-Jim Thompson picture, outrageously bloody and weird."
The New York Times: "Mr. Rodriguez demonstrates his talents more clearly than ever -- he's visually inventive, quick-witted and a fabulous editor -- while still hampering himself with sophomoric material."
TV Guide: "Rodriguez's film is a high-octane fun-house ride with only one speed: sick-making."
My rating: 8/10
"Alien" is a 1979 sci-fi film which was directed by Ridley Scott, who has also directed such films as "Blade Runner" (1982), "Gladiator" (2000), and "Hannibal" (2001).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 117 minutes in length and stars Sigourney Weaver ("Avatar", "Paul", "The Village") as Ripley, Tom Skerritt ("Top Gun", "Tears of the Sun", "Poison Ivy") as Dallas, and John Hurt ("Hellboy", "V for Vendetta", "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") as Kane.
The plot for the film reads as follows: The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors that planet they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them.
"Alien" is, at the time of writing, rated in IMDB's Top 250 films of all time at No.50, and was the second picture on which Ridley Scott took the helm. He was not the first choice, however, as the job was originally given to Walter Hill, who had passed on the chance and handed it down to Scott. Others in the frame were Robert Aldrich, who had directed "The Dirty Dozen", Peter Yates, who was responsible for "Krull" four years later, and "The Great Gatsby" director, Jack Clayton. The film came about when screenplay writer Dan O'Bannon made a film at university with John Carpenter, which featured an alien in a comedy guise. O'Bannon decided that he wanted to adapt this and make something much more terrifying. With "Star Wars" fresh in the minds of movie goers, Ridley Scott set out to bring a cinema masterpiece to the public. With a budget of just $11m, "Alien" went on to achieve phenomenal success, and raked in near $105m worldwide. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts out with a wide-angled shot of space as the opening credits roll. The Nostromo, a spacefreighter, comes in to view during the next shot, and we then get to see the now familiar corridors of the spacecraft. Everything is quiet on-board and we're given a sense of the loneliness the universe quite probably has, until a computer screen boots into life. The seven-person crew, which had been in stasis, awaken from their slumber and gather in the ship's mess and go about their business. Though every film has to start somewhere, I felt that one which was made in 1979 probably needed to explain the stasis part of things, as they carry on with their daily schedules as though nothing has happened, which, incidentally, is what would likely happen with stasis anyway, but I do wonder if the audience viewers of that decade would have realised this.
I just love the old computers in films which were made before the Internet and the World Wide Web became popular, all the way up to the modern computers of today. Almost all of them have green screen monitors, and you can practically guarantee to see some binary code appear at some point. "Wargames", "Hackers" and "The Matrix" are three which spring to mind here, proving that technology, though it moves fast these days, doesn't stray far from the basics of binary - a code which takes its origins from somewhere around 100 BC. The cinematography is excellent, with the ship looking as good in 1979 as it would have today. Of course, Blu-ray obviously enhances the effect, but Ridley Scott's vision of how a spacecraft should look was one of the future, and all credit is due to artist H.R. Giger, who designed the alien itself, among other things in the film.
The first time we see an alien is during a walk outside. The lifeforms are dead, but still look incredible. When Kane sees a live one, he is in awe. This quickly turns to shock as the being attacks his space helmet and attaches itself to his face. What I thought was clever was the way the alien kept its grip on its victim. If they tried to prise it away, its grip would tighten around the neck. Cutting one of its tentacles with a laser didn't help either, as the acid-like substance it spewed from the wound ate through the ship's floor. Of course, this is where one of the best pieces of science fiction film history takes place, with the 'John Hurt moment', as I like to call it, where a seemingly impregnated Kane goes through a painful experience with the 'birth' of an alien, emanating from inside his stomach. It is a great scene, and though a little dated today - you can tell it's robotic - it still ranks high as one of the most shocking.
There were a few things I didn't agree with throughout the film, and I am sure that if it was filmed for today's audience, Ridley Scott would have surely changed or excluded them. One such scene was when a ship was set to auto-destruct. As the huge explosion happens, Ripley is looking right at it. But we know that a blast of such magnitude would surely blind a person doing so. It is also a cliché that whenever you get a group of people together in a film which has a crisis, there is always one woman who is strong and gets on with what needs to be done, and always one who is whiny and hysterical. That is nothing against women on my part, by the way, but I am sure we all know of instances of where this has happened on the big screen.
Perhaps the film's ace up the sleeve is its atmosphere. Ridley Scott has done a great job in not diving feet first into the major plot, and instead his scenes eerily creep along with a sense that you know something's going to happen, but you just don't know when. Case in point being when some of the crew are walking through an alien vessel, not knowing what they will find around each corner. That feeling is projected into our minds as we watch the scene, because of the first-person angles we get to see. Years later when a game based on the film was released, it intensified those moments and brought back memories of first watching "Alien", as we now get to be the first person.
Everybody who has ever heard of the "Alien" series of films will know that Ripley was played by Sigourney Weaver. However, Meryl Streep, fresh from her performance as Linda in "The Deer Hunter" - a film which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - was also in the frame. This was Weaver's first full film role, but she grabbed it with both hands and took on the role with great enthusiasm, which was also a role she probably became typecast for. With the exception of "Ghostbusters", "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Avatar", it could be said that the actress has done very little via way of major roles apart from that of Ripley. Knowing what we know now, though, I have to say I am pretty confident that Weaver's Ripley is more suited to the film than what a Ripley with Streep would, or could, have been. I feel Streep is the kind of actress who would have not taken to Ripley as well as Sigourney Weaver did, and as a novice, Sigourney realised this was her big chance.
Jon Finch may not be a name on the lips of everyone who loves everything Hollywood, but you could say he was the 'nearly man' for a lot of films. He turned down the chance to play James Bond and the part ultimately went to Roger Moore. He also rejected the chance to play Doyle in "The Professionals" with Martin Shaw getting the nod instead. Ultimately, he was cast as Kane in "Alien", but on the second day of filming had a severe bout of diabetes and bronchitis, so had to drop out of shooting. Ridley Scott's original first choice, John Hurt, who had previously been contracted to another film made himself available, and the rest, as they say, is history. The now infamous chest-bursting scene in which Kane meets his demise was filmed without the knowledge of any of the actors around Hurt, and the look of panic and terror on their faces was completely real. It is said that Veronica Cartwright (Lambert) fainted, and Yaphet Kotto (Parker) was ordered to leave the set and relax in order to get his blood pressure down. John Hurt obviously made an impression on film producers and directors alike, because he came out of the role with plenty of offers, and just a year later was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, when he brilliantly played the role of John Merrick in "The Elephant Man".
Of the other characters and actors, Tom Skerritt (Dallas) is probably now the most well-known of them all, but he hadn't really starred in many big films to that date. Yaphet Kotto had, some six years earlier, starred as the 'Bond Baddie' in "Live and Let Die", but it was Ian Holm (Ash) who had been in the most films, ranging from "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1976) to "The Fixer" (1968) and "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1978).
Blu-ray Extras (Anthology Version)
1979 Theatrical Version - 117 minutes in length, and the original version for your viewing pleasure.
2003 Director's Cut - 116 minutes in length. The film as the director wanted it, though it is believed it's in name only and Ridley Scott had little input.
Audio Commentary - here we have the director, writer, producer, editor and five of the stars including Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt.
Audio Commentary 2 - This is the alternative commentary which features Ridley Scott only.
Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith - here you get to listen to the score on its own.
Composer's Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith - as above, you have the opportunity to hear the score without the film playing.
Deleted and Extended Scenes - some interesting scenes here. It is obvious why a few were cut, but I like the look of others, also.
MU-TH-UR Mode - plenty of options here as you're watching either version of the film when you have the feature enabled. This provides a heads up display which pops up whenever you get to a part which is featured. It gives you the option to watch the video clip or allows you to save it as a tag. If you do the latter, you can switch to the bonus disc after you have watched the film and your tags will be there for you, in the order you saved them.
What the Critics Say
Entertainment Weekly: "Pay attention to the enhanced detail audible in a new six-track sound mix, which may be the most important cleaning job of all; silence and Jerry Goldsmith's score have never twined so hauntingly."
Baltimore Sun: "Even with some scene tinkering that has left this "director's cut" one minute shorter than its original release, this is still one of the creepiest, scariest, most shocking films ever."
Film Threat: "This is a five star film because it is one of the most perfect science fiction thrillers of all time."
L.A. Weekly: "Unfortunately, fulfilling an apparent need to assert absolute control over his early successes no matter the cost, the director has gone ahead and loused up his 1979 masterpiece of gothic sci-fi horror."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "A landmark film, the unnecessary tinkering has not perceptibly harmed its overall effectiveness and it's a special Halloween treat to see it digitally spruced up and on the big screen for the first time in 25 years."
I liked this film the first few times I watched it, and I still do like it. I am also very opposed to remakes, but I can't help but feel "Alien" would benefit from a new imagining. Of course, it could be said that "Prometheus" (2012) is the fifth in the series which helps us see "Alien" from a 21st century perspective - a reboot if you like - so all is not lost. However, I also feel that if they were to continue the franchise, Sigourney Weaver should have been given the option to reprise her role as Ripley. With that out of the way, let's focus on what I've just seen. Here we have a film that is not only terrifying in some parts, but is (inadvertently) funny in others. The camaraderie between the crew is quite evident and they genuinely like to share jokes and play pranks on each other. Though jokes and pranks are obviously not seen during the film, the togetherness is, and that's what I enjoyed the most. It's this bunch of crew members who go about their mission, not knowing what's coming next. And we do the same while watching it.
My rating: 8/10
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" is a 2009 action film which was directed by Tatapoulos, in his only major directorial role.
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 92 minutes in length and stars Michael Sheen ("Frost/Nixon", "Kingdom of Heaven", "The Damned United") as Lucian, Bill Nighy ("Shaun of the Dead", "Underworld", "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest") as Viktor, and Rhona Mitra ("The Number 23", "Shooter", "Strike Back") as Sonja.
The plot for the film reads as follows: An origins story centered on the centuries-old feud between the race of aristocratic vampires and their onetime slaves, the Lycans.
This is the third in a series of films of which, at the time of writing, totalled four. It is not, however, the third, chronologically, as this is a prequel to "Underworld", "Underworld: Evolution" and "Underworld: Awakening", and deals with what we now know as the beginning of the rivalry between vampires and werewolves. This is (to date) the only directorial role for Patrick Tatapoulos, but the Frenchman is no stranger to Hollywood, and has overseen the production design of "Independence Day", "Live Free or Die Hard" and the remake of "Total Recall", amongst others. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts with a voice over from Sonja, who goes into detail on the beginning of the Lycans, as Viktor creates armies of slaves from their kind. There is some excellent imagery as the humans turn into werewolves. The transcript is as follows: "Two Decades had passed since the creation of both species. The War had begun. Viktor increased his Army, creating a Legion of Vampires to protect them from the very first Clan of Werewolves: A Vicious and Infectious Breed, unable to take Human Form ever again... Until 'He' was born. Lucian. And although every Fiber of Viktor's Soul warned him to slay this child, he did not. Over the years this child grew, he possessed a strength and focus that the ones before him did not. Viktor would use Lucian's infectious blood to his benefit, taking advantage of the Child's thirst, pitting it against him as he was forced to feed off Humans: Viktor's Slaves. Instead, he created a new race of Immortals, Lycans: Werewolf, but also Human. Unlike the others, this new breed could be harnessed, enslaved to guard them in the daylight hours of their Masters. Or so Viktor thought, so very long ago."
One thing I did enjoy about the film was its hue - almost as if it had a blue tint to it during most scenes when it was supposed to be dimly lit, like battles in the forests, or underground vaults. This helped the violent horror along quite nicely, and provides the viewer with some tremendous bloody and gory parts that are hugely enhanced if watching in high definition Blu-ray. The only problem I have with it, though, is that the make-up on Viktor's face, when shown close up, works well, but the make-up artist has somehow missed the ears. This is also evident on the rest of the vampires, too. However, the attention to detail on the werewolves is incredible.
Image-wise, the set designers have left no stone unturned. Viktor's castle is how you would imagine, with heavy iron doors, stone walls and floors, and huge pillars adorn it on either side of the pathway in the throne room. His throne, too, is a wonderful seat with a tall backrest that salutes his power. In contrast, the dungeons where he keeps his slaves are dank and cramped, which look as though they are not nice places at all. And that's fine, because it's exactly what they're supposed to look like. I am not so sure if, for example, Disney had gotten hold of it, whether the dungeons would have had the same fetid appeal.
I did enjoy a scene of splendid violence, where a human is given to Lucian as a sacrifice. It is here where the Lycan starts to understand what he is, and it was easy to feel his confusion and lack of knowledge of what was happening to him. He has spent his whole life around vampires as a slave but is starting to realise that he's different than his masters. The gory scenes as Lucian rips apart the unfortunate being is extremely bloody but it is important for the viewer to see what is going on with the storyline, and the beginning of the film series as a whole. All too often, a film can quickly get confusing if you don't know which point in time it is at. Having said that, Quentin Tarantino once said that every film must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It doesn't necessarily have to be in that order. I guess the case in point being with Pulp "Fiction", which skips around between all three.
When the Lycans rise up against the vampires, we get a healthy dose of some intense CGI with the biggest crossbows you've ever seen being fired from the vampire's castle on to the baying hordes, and while Viktor looks on, the essence of being a vampire is caught on film again as he was restricted to the dark shadows of the castle walls because of the creeping light outside. I also loved the vampire way of putting their own kind to death, which depicted the condemned one chained to the floor and a stone pillar. Slowly, a massive cog begins to unwind, and the covered roof begins to seep a little light, where it eventually opens up fully, letting light shine down on the victim as they burn away to non-existence.
It's not all brilliant, though. With the Blu-ray enhancement hitting our viewing pleasure, and the invention of the stunning 4K resolution TVs, it is getting easier to spot the cracks in the make-up the vampires are wearing. For instance, Viktor looks like he has corpse paint on - the sort that black metal musicians wear before taking to the stage. This is also noted when we see a side view of the vampire, where I easily picked out where the make-up artist stopped around the ear area. This was the only major blot on the film, however. If I had another, it would be that a story of such importance to the film series was a little rushed. I felt that it could have benefitted from being around 20 or 30 minutes longer, in my opinion.
It's difficult not to like Viktor, and I thoroughly enjoyed Bill Nighy's performance - an actor who always seems to step it up in each and every varied role he plays. This was Nighy's third outing as Viktor, though, and during that time he must have grown to understand his character a little more, making the vampire easier to play. Viktor is your typical vampire, which is something I like to see, and it is clear that Nighy has watched Christopher Lee in the past and transferred some of his acting to this era. The cool, calculating vampire has always been the quintessential vampire, as far as I'm concerned.
Rhona Mitra had filmed "Doomsday" a year before this film, which helped her to take on the role of Sonja because of its high-action fast-paced scenes. She loved the role so much that it is said she refused to remove the fangs, stating that "I put those fangs on the first day and I felt they should always have been there; it's strange. So I kept them in through the entire time of shooting, throughout all my dialogue and everything."
Michael Sheen played Lucian in the first "Underworld" film in a more pronounced role than this one and the chemistry between him and Kate Beckinsale (who played Selene) was undeniable, especially since the two had dated for nearly eight years at the time. The interaction between Sonja and Lucian is a little different, though, and I am not entirely convinced either actor felt comfortable with each other. Lucian felt so much love for Sonja and the wall driven between them by Viktor angered him, as well as helped ignite the war between lycan and vampire.
Filmmaker Commentary - I had hoped for an actor or two here, but we just get the director and producers. However, the detail is good and varied, with some informative talking points.
Cinechat - This is a feature which apparently lets you send messages to other people watching the film, providing your Blu-ray player is capable of online access. I failed to launch it every time I tried, though.
Behind the Castle Walls - I do like this. It has footage and interviews which play in a little window as the main feature rolls. I didn't watch it all the way through, but I may do one day.
Lycanthropes Around the World - Here we have an interesting map with info on werewolf sightings over many years.
From Script to Screen - A nice little insight into how they avoided potential continuity problems with the timeline of the film.
The Origin of the Feud - This is basically a discussion on how the relationship between Sonja and Lucian evolved, and its eventual lead-in to the beginning of the war.
Music Video - "Deathclub" - by William Control. Exactly what it is, that being a music video.
What the Critics Say
The Hollywood Reporter: "Thanks to sturdy performances by holdovers Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy as well as tidy, unfussy direction by first-timer Patrick Tatopoulos, the creature designer who is taking the reins from originator Len Wiseman, the third installment in the successful franchise should be to the fan base's lycan."
Variety: "First-time helmer Patrick Tatopoulos (who designed creatures for all three pics) offers a satisfyingly exciting monster rally that often plays like a period swashbuckler."
The New York Times: "Although the presence of Mr. Sheen is initially distracting, it soon becomes the movie's greatest asset. There is, as it turns out, some benefit to having a real performance even in a formulaic entertainment like this."
L.A. Weekly: "Mincing around like a bored old glam rocker and hissing threats from behind electric neon eyes, Nighy seems to be the only person on set who found a glint of amusement in his part. He fares better than poor Sheen, a scraggly Wolverine who made a more credible vampire-slayer opposite Frank Langella's Nixon."
Austin Chronicle: "It's a testament to Bill Nighy's cadaverous panache that this third entry in the ongoing exsanguinators vs. lycanthropes franchise (that's vampires and werewolves to anyone not weaned on Famous Monsters) is as tolerable as it is."
This is a difficult film to like, but I did enjoy it once I re-watched it again. I find that prequels are always hard to follow because your mind is set on what you've already seen, yet it hasn't happened in the series of films, chronologically. My head can understand that fact, but I still have to second-guess why this has happened, or why that person is alive. As with every "Underworld" film, I liked the rivalry between the two factions of vampire and lycan, and though I realise that you can't make a film like this without CGI, I still think it needed a bit more human factor to make it believable. Of course, I will still watch any other in the series if they make more, but the question I have to ask myself is an easy one: how many times would I dig this out of my collection and watch it? I guess that if I watched the entire series in one go, then I will watch it again. As it stands, I may not bother for quite some time. That does not reflect on my rating, though, because it is a film which I definitely enjoyed. It is just that I feel a film series should be watched in its entirety, rather than picking one out here and there.
My rating: 7/10
"Heaven and Hell" is the 9th studio album by British heavy metal band, Black Sabbath. It was released in 1980 on Vertigo Records and produced by Martin Birch. The line-up for the album was Ronnie James Dio (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Bill Ward (drums).
When Ozzy Osbourne was fired from Sabbath in 1979 after repeatedly falling out with Tony Iommi, the band needed a vocalist who would fit the bill in that Black Sabbath mould. Enter Ronnie James Dio, who had left fellow British band Rainbow not long before. Dio took the job of replacing Ozzy seriously, and set out to make "Heaven and Hell" a Sabbath album to be proud of and one which would stand the test of time. Bill Ward would be replaced on the drums for the follow-up album, and he would only feature on one more Sabbath album afterwards.
Sabbath looked to legendary producer Martin Birch to oversee the studio time, and it was a wise choice with an impressive string of production with Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and Rainbow had also been tracked by him. Birch would go on to bigger success by producing nine Iron Maiden albums before retiring in 1992. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Right from the first note you can tell Sabbath has changed as a band, moving out of the doom metal genre into mainstream heavy metal. It definitely sounds like Black Sabbath but something is different, and that may be down to Dio's input. The song flows at a good pace and it is only when Dio's trademark powerhouse vocals come in that you start to realise how good the new incarnation of the band could be. There are some good riffs and hooks in the song and the Sabbath fan of old will be happy with this version of the band. Dio/Iommi/Butler/Ward are proving a point here in that while Ozzy Osbourne may have been the original Black Sabbath vocalist, they are certainly marching on without him in the best way possible. It is believed that this was the last track to be recorded for the album but the band felt it was too good to not make it the opening track.
"Circles and rings, dragons and kings
Weaving a charm and a spell
Blessed by the night, holy and bright
Called by the toll of the bell"
Children of the Sea
Here is a song about how life has evolved over the many years since the earth's formation. It evolved from the water and eventually made it on to land, with technology growing faster and faster right up until the point where the very thing man built will destroy him and the earth that made him. It is another song that is very un-Sabbath-like, but once again it is Dio's influence which is shining through. As Toni Iommi recalls, he and Dio got together for an informal jamming session and as Iommi was playing along with a riff, Dio wrote the lyrics. Iommi said, "It was exciting and challenging because we were doing things that quite frankly would have been beyond us with Ozzy. He wasn't that sort of singer."
"In the misty morning, on the edge of time
We've lost the rising sun, a final sign
As the misty morning rolls away to die
Reaching for the stars, we blind the sky"
The song comes in with a familiar bass line that most Sex Pistols fans will recognise, as it is almost the same as the one used on Sid Vicious' version of "Something Else", originally recorded by Eddie Cochran in 1959. The pre verse is helped along by a solo from Iommi before Dio nails the vocal tracks once more. This is more of a rock and roll number than anything, but it certainly packs a punch. What you get here is a track that delves into the psyche of sexual encounters with ladies of the night, especially those of poorer countries that do not have good health care. The lyrics are suggesting that while you will have the time of your life, it is likely to be your death sentence as far as certain sexually transmitted diseases go. Black Sabbath don't just write songs about Satan - they provide valuable public information, too!
"There's a place just south of Witches' Valley
Where they say the wind won't blow
And they only speak in whispers of her name
There's a lady they say who feeds the darkness"
Heaven and Hell
The longest track on the album at just under seven minutes long is also the title track, and one that will have Sabbath fans craving for more. The opening riff is one of mastery and the brilliance of Tony Iommi shines through. The only downside is that you can have too little of a good thing as well as the opposite, and we just don't get enough of that main riff throughout the song. In fact, while the song definitely rocks, there is something missing from it and the bridge just fails to merge the two halves of the song together. The second part of the track is a straight-out rock and roll number with Iommi showing off his soloing skills while Dio cleverly delivers his vocal lines over the top in such a way which makes the listener sit up and realise that Ozzy couldn't sing like that. The outro is a nice little acoustic passage which fades to the end. This is a song that deals with the battle between good and evil. It is saying that we can all have our bad side as well as our compassionate side, but there are also people out there who deliberately use both for their own advantage.
"Sing me a song, you're a singer
Do me a wrong, you're a bringer of evil
The Devil is never a maker
The less that you give, you're a taker"
Here is a song that tells the story of a man who has everything he needs - most importantly fame and wealth. He is a man who, when he sees a girl he wants, flashes his wallet and seals the deal. He is a man with very few morals and once a night of passion is over, he treats the women he sleeps with like something he found on his shoe. There are plenty of musicians out there which have done this over the years and Sabbath is just trying to warn the gold diggers of the world about this. Iommi's creativity is once again at the forefront of heavy metal on this song as he provides a driving riff that carries the song forwards, and Sabbath definitely climbs aboard the fresh and vibrant 'New Wave of British Heavy Metal' train with the track. It is not a brilliant song by any means, but what it does do is provide fans with a more melodic version of the band, which is difficult not to like.
"Throw me a penny and I'll make you a dream
You find that life's not always what it seems, no no
Then think of a rainbow and I'll make it come real
Roll me, I'm a never ending wheel"
If "Paranoid" was Ozzy Osbourne's crowning glory with Black Sabbath, "Die Young" has got to be what epitomises Sabbath with Dio. It's an energetic, vibrant and refreshing song that allows the band to flow with a free reign of creativity and see what they could come up with. Fans will have attempted to imagine Ozzy singing the song but they will have all come to the conclusion that it is very unlikely he could have done it. The song is telling the listener to grab opportunities by the horns or you may regret it. You may die tomorrow so live for today and enjoy whatever you do. Many people complain about being bored but the time they have on this earth is precious and though it is your choice how you spend it, life is too short to waste.
"Yell with the wind, though the wind won't help you fly at all
Your back's to the wall
Chain the sun, and it tears away and it breaks you as you run
You run, you run!"
With Ozzy gone from the band, Sabbath thought it would be a good idea to put out a song with an anti drugs message, and that's exactly what you get with "Walk Away". The lyrics suggest that while the drug may be enticing, it really is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Sabbath is saying here that the dangers of addiction are very real, and while they are not citing Ozzy in particular they are definitely trying to tell friends of theirs who are or have been addicts that their next score may well be their last. Musically, this is a Sabbath song that doesn't take many risks and you have to wonder why. It is a solid rocker of a track but it doesn't quite have the bite of previous songs on the album, such as "Neon Knights" or "Die Young", for example. Fans of Rainbow will love this one, and it is clear to hear Dio's influence yet again.
"Lord she's handsome as she flows across the floor
Nothing I've seen in my life has ever pleased me more
She's got the look of freedom, and it makes you think she's wild
But I can see right through it all, it's the way to have a child"
Lonely is the Word
For the final track we get some old school Black Sabbath, in the shape of a blues rock number that chugs along at a steady pace. Some fans say this is one of the band's greatest songs and it can be easy to agree because of Dio's impressive vocal range. The jewel in the crown, though, has to be Tony Iommi's wonderful guitar work towards the end. With near two minutes to go on the track, the axeman lets rip and produces one of the most incredible of solos you will ever hear, which fades to the end. It is a good finale to the album that has had its ups and downs.
"It's a long way to nowhere
And I'm leaving very soon
On the way we pass so close
To the back side of the moon"
There has been a lot of debate on the band members who recorded this album. We know Dio, Iommi and Ward definitely did, and Ozzy definitely didn't, but in 2009 former Rainbow bassist Craig Gruber said he recorded all bass tracks for the album, and while Toni Iommi confirmed he had, he also stated that Geezer Butler re-recorded them when he returned to the band following problems with a divorce he was going through at the time. Because of all that commotion the only way to look at "Heaven and Hell" is in a completely different light. You have to almost treat it as an album by a different band to the Black Sabbath of old, or in some instances you have to dismiss the idea that it is a Black Sabbath album in order for it to completely set in. A lot of people could not get past that notion when the album was released, though the lure of the brilliant Ronnie James Dio singing for Black Sabbath was one many could not resist.
1. Neon Knights
2. Children of the Sea
3. Lady Evil
4. Heaven and Hell
5. Wishing Well
6. Die Young
7. Walk Away
8. Lonely is the Word
My rating: 7/10
"Countdown to Extinction: Live" is a live Blu-ray by American thrash metal band, Megadeth. It was released in 2013 on the Tradecraft label and produced by Dave Mustaine. The line-up for the album was Dave Mustaine (vocals/guitar), Chris Broderick (guitar), David Ellefson (bass) and Shawn Drover (drums).
So here we are, 20 years down the line from "Countdown to Extinction", and Megadeth decided to tour and play the album in its entirety, surrounded by a few other oldies and some newer tracks. With this live album you get 17 Megadeth songs which were recorded live at the Fox Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on December 7, 2012. The line-up of Mustaine/Broderick/Ellefson/Drover is becoming the best Megadeth quartet - even better than the "Rust in Peace" era - and that is down to the professionalism of the band, and Dave Mustaine cleaning up his act in particular. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The song and live performance comes in with "Trust" from the band's 1997 album, "Cryptic Writings", that has an orchestral feel which leads into a melodic lead riff. The first thing of note is that the production quality is excellent, and you can hear all instruments clearly, though if there was to be any criticism it would be that there is almost too much audience. "Trust" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance in 1998 but lost out to Tool with "Ænema". The song is about betrayal of trust in relationships, how you think you have everything perfect but you really don't, and the feeling of helplessness when it all comes crashing down.
My body aches from mistakes
Betrayed by lust
We lied to each other so much
That in nothing we trust
"Hangar 18" is one of Megadeth's songs of which a live concert wouldn't be the same without. It is another excellent guitar-driven song on which Mustaine and Broderick are both incredibly competent at the classic twin attack style popularised by the likes of Judas Priest's Tipton & Downing. It's a song about alien conspiracy, and asks the questions we all want the answers to. What's inside that hangar, what's going on at Area 51 - that off-limits area in Nevada that the US government denies exists? Lyrically, it's a short composition of just two verses and two tiny verses, but the magic flows from the riffs and solos during the long bridge and outro.
Welcome to our fortress tall
Take some time to show you around
Impossible to break these walls
For you see the steel is much too strong
Computer banks to rule the world
Instruments to sight the stars
Public Enemy No. 1
This is a song about Al Capone, the legendary 1920s mobster who was jailed in 1931 on tax evasion charges and died in 1947 at the age of 48. There is some great solo work from Mustaine during the introduction of the track, and the tempo goes along at a great pace throughout the song and the galloping of the guitar riffs and drums are interweaved in a way that cleverly makes the brain think of being in that situation where you're on the run from something. This song is reminiscent of the Megadeth of old, with their 3-4 minute blasts that the fans love.
Roses on your grave
I'll be on my way
There's no time to stay
With the enemies I've made
Skin o' My Teeth
The album kicks carries on in high gear with "Skin o' My Teeth", a song that Mustaine describes as not being about condoning suicide, but rather a song about how he's tried in the past and couldn't finish the job. Mustaine even had to convince MTV that it wasn't pro-suicide in order for the accompanying video to be aired on its network. It's a great song with a nice hook-turned-riff on the verses, but it's the solo that really steals the show as you'd expect with Dave and his counterpart, Chris Broderick. The drumming on this track is hard and heavy, and also sets down the ground rules that Shawn Drover is at his best.
I won't feel the hurt
I'm not trash any longer
That that doesn't kill me
Only makes me stronger
Symphony of Destruction
This is one of Megadeth's most famous songs and has excellent riffing throughout. Yes it's been played to death by every major music channel that dared to play it and yes it's a little commercial nowadays, but that should not matter. Whenever people see Megadeth live, they want to see the band play this track and the melody in the chorus is joyous. If fans had to name their ten favourite Megadeth songs, then "Symphony of Destruction" would most certainly be among them. It's a song about world leaders and how they change from normal people to egotistical beings when they gain power. They would trample over their own mothers once they've reached the top because nothing else matters in the world.
Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the symphony
Architecture of Aggression
This is a song with great riffs and even better solos. It begins with a mock-up of gunfire which is meant to be from a battlefield and then the instruments begin. Drover's drums often portray the rapid machinegun fire sound and you will really enjoy Ellefson's bass line. The bridge is a work of art, as Mustaine and Broderick play along with a meaty riff before the solos attack the ears. It's a song about the aggressive nature of some countries as they strive to oust political leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi from their homes to instil freedom to the people of those countries, but to counter that it's also about those oppressors that rule with an iron fist, where people live in fear of their own rulers.
Great nations built from the bones of the dead
With mud and straw, blood and sweat
You know your worth when your enemies
Praise your architecture of aggression
Foreclosure of a Dream
This is a song about the farmers of America who were getting a bad deal from the Reagan administration and how they took advantage of the farmers by taking their land to build roads, bypassing once thriving places and turning them into ghost towns. There is some really interesting acoustic playing which goes on around the structure of the song but it's Mustaine's vocals which steal the show, as it's almost as perfect as can he can be. The chorus is very catchy and if you want to know how to create the perfect blend to make a song tick, you have to listen to this, as it carries all the ingredients you need.
Barren land that once filled a need,
Are worthless now, dead without a deed.
Slipping away from an iron grip,
Nature's scales are forced to tip
This is a song about schizophrenia or the feeling that you might be schizophrenic without actually being so. Mustaine said that a lot of us live inside our heads and there's someone we all confer with, that being our conscience. Some people can't control it and it takes over, eventually making them snap. The stop-start melody where Mustaine is singing the verses followed by a quick riff is a stroke of genius, and the bridge is magnificent as we get more stellar drumming from Drover before some wild and wonderful solos hit us for six.
Like the walls are closing in
Blood stains on my hands
And I don't know where I've been
This Was My Life
You wouldn't expect this song to eclipse "Sweating Bullets" or "Symphony of Destruction or even "Skin 'o My Teeth", and in many ways it doesn't, but it's like the kid at the back of the class who quietly gets on with his work and passes his exams without really being noticed. In short, it is a gem of a song and Mustaine's singing on the chorus as well as the guitar harmony which accompanies it are great to hear. It's a song which is a true story about the thoughts going on in Mustaine's head when he was in a relationship with a woman before he got married. He says that he wanted to kill her or himself but if he chose the former, he'd be signing his own death warrant on a date with the electric chair.
There is something wrong with me
There is something wrong with you
There is nothing left of us
There is one thing I can do
Countdown to Extinction
The title track is a song about hunting and is against the brutality of it in general. Whether it's the killing of animals for meat or for sport, it's something that was frowned upon in the Megadeth camp during the writing process for the studio album. It probably isn't a dig at Metallica's James Hetfield (a well-known huntsman) because the lyrics were largely written by former drummer Nick Menza, but you can be sure Mustaine had a hand in the final thought process. The pace of the song is good, but it's not one that really sticks out as a great Megadeth track. There is some really nice bass work with a steady guitar riff in the chorus but on the whole, the song goes by without really saying much.
One hour from now,
Another species of life form
Will disappear off the face of the planet
Forever...and the rate is accelerating
High Speed Dirt
This is a song about sky diving and the dangers that come with it. There is that fine line between a safe jump and your last jump and that's what this relates to. The lyrics talk from a narrator's point of view and he's just realised that his parachute won't be opening today and he's hurtling towards the ground and his impending expiration. The riffmeister is at it again on this track and it's another really good song that puts forth a sense of togetherness within the band and shows just how good this foursome was at putting out music. Each instrument seems to know what the other is doing and they all play along as tight as ever has been heard. When you think Megadeth, "High Speed Dirt" doesn't automatically spring to mind as one of the classics, but it's still a very good song.
Energy of the gods, adrenalin surge
Won't stop til I hit the ground, I'm on my way for sure
Up here in the air, this will never hurt
I'm on my way to impact, taste the high speed dirt
This track screams old school Megadeth from the mid 1980s but with an entirely new aspect. There is some incredible solo playing from Chris Broderick in-between the verse lines that fill perfectly and the song picks up pace, springing into action with a fun-sounding melody that sticks in my mind, long after it's over and back to the verses. It's a song which is based around Deathlok the Demolisher from the Marvel comics and isn't the best lyrically, but that's easily forgiven when you listen to the song as a whole. If you like your metal songs with a literal metal meaning, then this is one for you.
Godspeed in glide
Battle plan running
A killing machine
This starts off melodic, but it soon changes into a full-blooded beast of a track that is probably some of Megadeth's best 'under-the-radar' work. There is a spoken word passage about a minute in which goes like this:
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?
Yes, we have Your Honour, we find the defendant guilty on all counts for crimes against all humanity.
By virtue of the jury's decision and the power vested in me by the State
I hereby sentence you to be incarcerated with no possibility of parole for life.
Life? Whadda ya mean life? I ain't got a life.
Boy! Your soul better belong to Jesus! Hmmm-mmm cause your ass belongs to me!
As that is played out, Drover is performing some great fills on the drums while Ellefson's bass chugs along and the two guitars perform their parts. It's a song which I listen to a lot off this album and while there are track which are better, you don't get anywhere with an album if you don't have the meat and potatoes, which this song most definitely is.
Madness comes and madness goes
An insane place, with insane moves
Battles without, for battles within
Where evil lives and evil rules
Ashes in Your Mouth
The fretwork from Mustaine and Ellefson is insane and this song easily delivers. It is a track about what will happen if World War III comes to light. Will it be a short fight with the destruction of mankind or will it be a long drawn-out war with millions of deaths. It's a song which tells us we're the creators of our own extinction and the countdown has already begun.
People have round shoulders from fairing heavy loads.
And the soldiers liberate them, laying mines along their roads.
Sorrow paid for valor is too much to recall
Of the countless corpses piled up along the wailing wall
Here is a great song that bites hard. It begins with a chugging guitar riff and Mustaine's vocals come in at just the right time, which is boosted further once the chorus joins in, and it is here where the unity of the band shines through. Lyrically, the song is about women who cheat, and in particular someone Mustaine knew. There is an excellent guitar duel during the bridge where Mustaine and Broderick play the same riff but at different pitches which screams of Judas Priest, but this is almost certainly homage to the metal gods as has been done many times before.
One look in her lusting eyes
Savage fear in you will rise
Teeth of terror sinking in
The bite of the she-wolf
This song has an instantly recognisable bass intro if you grew up in with MTV in the late 80s and early 90s, as it was used for MTV News. Legend has it that the company got away with paying royalties because they missed one second off the end. It's a song about heavy metal and fans of the genre being stereotyped and all tarred with the same brush, which is quite absurd and very incorrect. In the song, the narrator says that he's a Christian, works for a living and pays his bills, which dispels the theory that all heavy metal fans are Satanic, socially inept and poor. The main riff is simple yet effective and backed up wonderfully by the bass line, helped along by Mustaine's spitting lyrics.
What do you mean I don't believe in God?
Talk to him every day
What do you mean I don't support your system?
I go to court when I have to
Holy Wars... the Punishment Due
This is Megadeth at its best and there are many riffs and passages on here which truly shine out as one of the best thrash metal tracks, ever. It's a song in two parts, with the first being about the Troubles of Northern Ireland, from a personal experience that Mustaine had while touring there, while the second part of the track deals with the Marvel Comics super hero, the Punisher. A strange combination indeed, but it works, and the solos on the track are mind-blowing in structure and delivery. This song has all the hallmarks of what's required to make a decent song, and credit must go to Mustaine for pulling this off. You want thrash metal, you've got it. You want a story, it's there in the lyrics. You want some really fast passages that grab you by the shoulders and shake you about? They're there too. The song has become a staple live favourite over the years.
Brother will kill brother
Spilling blood across the land
Killing for religion
Something I don't understand
The "Countdown to Extinction" studio album might not have fulfilled the high expectations Mustaine placed on it due to the massive success of "Rust in Peace", but the live version still has some strong songs on it, and even more now it has some classic Megadeth at either side. Those that were fortunate enough to see the band play the album in its entirely got a rare treat, and thanks must go to Dave Mustaine for having the idea to do that, and to record one of those concerts for a live album.
2. Hangar 18
3. Public Enemy No.1
4. Skin o' My Teeth
5. Symphony of Destruction
6. Architecture of Aggression
7. Foreclosure of a Dream
8. Sweating Bullets
9. This Was My Life
10. Countdown to Extinction
11. High Speed Dirt
13. Captive Honour
14. Ashes in Your Mouth
16. Peace Sells
17. Holy Wars... the Punishment Due
My rating: 8/10
"Sherlock Holmes" is a 2009 action film which was directed by Guy Ritchie, who has also directed such films as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998), "Snatch" (2000), and "RocknRolla" (2008).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 128 minutes in length and stars Robert Downey Jr. ("Iron Man", "The Avengers", "Weird Science") as Sherlock Holmes, Jude Law ("Enemy at the Gates", "Gattaca", "The Wisdom of Crocodiles") as Dr. John Watson, and Rachel McAdams ("Midnight in Paris", "Mean Girls", "The Vow") as Irene Adler.
The plot for the film reads as follows: Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.
When I think of Guy Ritchie, my thoughts immediately turn to Madonna, the 80s, and my youth. But beyond that, the ex-husband of the pop icon shot to directing fame two years before he married her with the iconic British film, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". It is worth noting that apart from "Snatch" and "Mean Machine", the British-born Ritchie didn't really hit the limelight again until he was given the reigns for the "Sherlock Holmes" 'reboot', if you can call it a reboot.
The film was released on 25 December 2009 in the United States and was well-received at the Box Office, grossing an estimated $524 million, and was nominated for two Academy Awards in 2010; Hans Zimmer for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, and Sarah Greenwood & Katie Spencer for Best Achievement in Art Direction. The film spawned a sequel in 2011, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" in which both Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprised their roles as Holmes and Watson. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts out with an old London town fly-by before coming across a horse and cart, which had a troupe of police in it. Sherlock Holmes comes into view and enters a building. It is here where he first runs through a likely scenario in his head (which we see happen) and he begins to act it out for real, seconds later. He runs down an impressive stone spiral staircase where he meets John Watson at the bottom, and they both take care of a hooded figure's minions, before saving a girl from certain death. The figure turns out to be Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who is arrested by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), where upon the opening credits roll.
This version of Sherlock Holmes is a fighter, more battle-hardened than any other before. He likes bare-knuckle boxing that is portrayed in a brutal scene, in which Holmes is taking a beating. He sees a beautiful woman in a red dress in the blood-thirsty crowd, and has the back of his hair spat on by his opponent. Another one of those slow-motion run through moments comes around again, and Holmes gets to work on taking out the man who decided to mess up his hair. The play-through scenes are frequent in the film, but I like the way they are done. They show the viewer exactly what happens, before it happens in real time. This gives the mind a chance to play along and live each moment.
The cinematography of the film is absolutely stunning in most parts, and the level of detail is rich. Those responsible took great care to recreate London in the late 1800s. I especially enjoyed a wide angle scene which showed Tower Bridge undergoing construction, and loved the imagery of the backstreets of Old London Town. I also enjoyed a scene by night where Holmes and Watson travel along the Thames by boat. I am sure some of it was CGI but it gives you a sense of transportation in the 19th century. Speaking of Tower Bridge, there is an excellent fight scene towards the end of the film which takes place on the unfinished upper level walkways, high above the river Thames.
There are, of course, small doses of comedic moments throughout the film, one such scene which involves Holmes and Watson who are on the trail of Lord Blackwood, upon which the latter taunts the pair. Holmes tells Watson to save bullets but moments later the sleuth gets a fright and empties his chamber Watson says "What was that about saving bullets?" Another funny scene was when a maid entered Holmes' room and began picking up clothes strewn across the floor. She is given a fright by what we see next - Holmes handcuffed to the bed, naked except for a pillow in the right place, upon which he says "Madam, I need you to remain calm, and trust me, I'm a professional. Beneath this pillow lies the key to my release." - to which the maid turns her nose up in disgust and runs out of the door.
One thing that did strike as odd to me was the attire of some of the characters. For instance, Holmes was seen to don a fedora or a flat cap instead of his trademark deerstalker hat. However, this is also true to form as far as the original novels are concerned, where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never writes that Sherlock wears a deerstalker. Another thing of note was the way Irene Adler was dressed. For a woman in that timeframe, she would almost certainly have been dressed as a proper lady but instead she wore trousers held up with braces, and boots in a number of scenes. Watson, however, did dress the way I expected him to, as did Lestrade and Blackwood - the latter was immaculately dressed, just as you would expect with someone of nobility from that era.
It is said that Guy Ritchie thought Robert Downey Jr. was too old to play Sherlock Holmes, but he took to the part quite well, I thought. As an American actor, I thought that he pulled off the upper class English accent with ease - something which was helped with his role as Charlie Chaplin in 1992. It hasn't been an easy career for Downey Jr., but he has fought back from his drug and alcohol addictions to star in some of Hollywood's biggest films of the 2000s and beyond. Holmes is probably not the easiest character to play, given that it is one of the most famous film characters, but it seems as though Downey Jr. enjoys it more than most roles he's played, which makes it more evident after he once said, "I think me and Guy are well-suited to working together. The more I look into the books, the more fantastic it becomes. Holmes is such a weirdo."
I have always felt that Holmes should be somewhat taller than Watson, but Jude Law is a couple of inches taller than Robert Downey Jr. That does not take away from his performance as Dr. John Watson in the least, because he takes command with ease. Guy Ritchie had originally wanted Russell Crowe to play the part and it is believed that Colin Farrell was in talks with the producers before Law landed it. Having watched both this and the BBC serial, "Sherlock", it is difficult to choose between Jude Law and Martin Freeman as to who plays Watson the better. However, I do think Freeman just about edges it. That is not a knock on Law, I just slightly enjoyed the series more than the films. I am not sure about Crowe or Farrell in the role, though.
I have asked myself the question "is it a good film?" several times during the course of writing this review, and I have to reply that it is a good film but it's not a brilliant film. Of course, films of this genre will never be classed as brilliant, but you probably see where I'm coming from here. I enjoyed watching it, but I did think it was maybe 15 or 20 minutes too long, and would have been so much better if they had condensed it a little more, giving the viewer more of a thrilling ride instead of plodding along at times. Guy Ritchie has done a very good job here and the cast is strong. Some will like the film, the majority of people probably won't enjoy the Hollywood glitz which has been put on it by the studio responsible. Given the choice in the future, I don't think I would have bought it again, as it's one of those films which is okay to watch but I'd never consider having in my collection.
What the Critics Say
New York Daily News: "Downey has a winning take on Holmes: He's always on."
Boston Globe: "It pleases me to report, then, that Downey brings his brain, his wit, and his gift for intelligent underplaying, even as he understands he has been hired to play Sherlock Holmes, action hero."
Los Angeles Times: "There's a mystery at the heart of Sherlock Holmes, and it's not the one the great master of detection has been called on to solve. It's how a film that has so many good things going for it has turned out to be solid but not spectacular."
Austin Chronicle: "Here's hoping that younger members of the audience will seek out Conan Doyle's original stories to further explore Holmes' official amanuensis, Dr. John Watson, whose brilliant case studies regarding his friend, roommate, and fellow rationalist are the stuff dreams are made of."
Chicago Tribune: "It's a serious drag to see how Ritchie has turned Holmes and Dr. Watson into a couple of garden-variety thugs."
My rating: 7/10
"Opus Eponymous" is the debut album by Swedish heavy metal band, Ghost. It was released in 2010 on Metal Blade Records and produced by Gene Walker. The line-up for the album was Papa Emeritus (vocals), Nameless Ghoul (guitar), Nameless Ghoul (guitar), Nameless Ghoul (bass), Nameless Ghoul (drums) and Nameless Ghoul (keyboards).
There are many bands out there with gimmicks - Kiss with their make-up, Slipknot wearing masks, Gwar with elaborate alien costumes - and Ghost (or Ghost B.C. in the US) is one of those that puts a unique spin on making and playing music, as the vocalist, Papa Emeritus, appears with a mask that has a skull painted on it and a priest's robe and hat, while the rest of the band are Nameless Ghouls, appearing in public with black hooded robes and masks and each wears a different alchemy symbol, representing air, fire, water, earth and ether. The album is a tale of dark and angry moods, and, according to a Nameless Ghoul, is "about a coming darkness, an impending doom." Ghost is reported to be a satanic band but it is more about the gimmick, once more. So fear not, and the lyrics you are about to see are not to be taken seriously. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The album begins with a 93-second instrumental that is an eerie number played on the keyboard. It is likely meant to signify the beginning of Ghost as a band, but also indicates it could be the end of a life, as in a funeral dirge. It sets the mood for the album quite well and it also gives inkling into what the band has in store for the listener over the course of the next half hour or so.
Con Clavi Con Dio
The song's title is in Italian and roughly translates as "With Nails With God". It is a song about praising and worshipping Satan, with Papa Emeritus letting the listener know that Ghost is here and ready to give their lives for the evil master. The song starts out with a funky bass line which is very reminiscent of Geezer Butler and Black Sabbath. As soon as the impressive guitar riff, drums and keyboards kick in, we get a taste of Papa's vocals for the first time. The majority of people probably thought that the ears would be subjected to unfathomable death metal vocals but this is far from it, as he is quite an accomplished singer. It is pretty obvious that the band has taken influence from Sabbath, but there are also tones of Iron Maiden in the guitar playing, especially with the classic chugging riffs. It is a pretty solid song and has a great solo riff near the end, which is followed by haunting chants.
We are here
For your praise
Our conjuration sings infernal psalms
And smear the smudge in bleeding palms"
The song has a different kind of atmosphere to the previous track, in that, lyrically, it is not as demanding on the Satanism aspect, and musically, it is more of a poppier number than its predecessor. It sails along at a steady pace and would not sound out of place in the 1960s when bands were singing about flowers in the rain, good vibrations and the sunshine of your love. Of course, it's obviously heavier than anything put out in that decade but when you have a chorus which sounds like this one does, you know you're on to a winner. The combination of the instruments is what makes the song click, and it is definitely a fan favourite.
"Our fallen angel vexed
Was banished from the sky
Recite now from the text
Pray for all to die"
Here is a song about the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, aka the Blood Countess. Bathory was a serial killer who lived from 1560-1614 and bathed in the blood of her victims as she was of the impression that it would help keep her youth. The first thing to note of the song is that the production is excellent, with a nice mix of the guitars, drums and keyboards, putting forth the bass on a level with everything else. The song seems to have that winning formula that is very hard to create in the music world these days, in that it is catchy but not too catchy that it will get overplayed. There is a great guitar solo halfway through in which the mixers cleverly change from that great blend to an atmospheric and almost eerie backdrop, before bringing you back into the main part of the track again.
"Underneath the moonlight of old Hungarian skies
Buried in the blood-drenched earth
These barren lands of ice
She was an evil woman with an evil old soul
Piercing eyes emotionless
A heart so black and cold"
Stand by Him
The track begins with a mid-paced drum beat, quickly followed by the main guitar riff which will not fail to have the listener tapping along. This song has some good interchanges in between riffs and hooks, but once again it is the chorus which encapsulates its audience, and if that is not enough then the organ sound with its haunting melody is another piece of this puzzle which seems to effortlessly fit together. The song ends with a nice little guitar solo riff outro and when it completes, it is hard to imagine that it had been playing for almost four minutes.
"A moon shone bright above her trial
As flames ate through her body defiled
The witch hammer
Struck her down
Through our Sabbath
She is unbound"
The song comes in with a spatial guitar strum that sounds like something Hawkwind or Rush would do. The main bulk of the track itself is another of those pop-laden melodies that, as much as you will try to shake, you probably won't be able to. Though that said, it does have a little of the flower power effect to it, which brings the listener full circle to the 60s again. The most interesting thing about the song is the excellent bass line that one of the Nameless Ghouls is playing, especially in the bridge when it seems to be a free-for-all between the bass, guitar and keyboards that is a refreshing change from the doom and gloom of most of the song.
"Believe in one god do we
The uncreator of heaven and soil
And the unvisible and the visible
And in his son
Begotten of father"
This is a song that has Black Sabbath written all over it, as it is full of doom riffs, strange breaks and powerful riffs, as well as a timely knolling of a bell. Sabbath is not the only influence in the song, though, as you can hear a Slayer hook and a Machine Head riff, but most music is copied from one source or another these days anyway. Sadly that's where the good ends, as the song evolves into very much of the same thing heard in previous tracks on the album which is a shame, because it is at this point of an album where you need to hear something that will blow your mind.
"Say, can you see the cross?
Symbol for the goat
Of a thousand young"
This is a song about the coming of the antichrist, who is being carried by the anti-virgin Mary, posing as a nun. It goes through the motions of what she is feeling in the womb as she tries to keep her secret to herself without drawing attention to Satan's masterplan. While that description sounds incredible, the song is not that much. It starts out pretty good with a neat little interchange between bass and guitar but then it starts to get a little too repetitive. There is a lot of 70s prog rock in the song, but it is not enough to keep it interesting and it eventually tapers off long before the next song begins.
"Clad in cloak
Bearing the old one's bastard son
A varucose phallus
Obsessed and poised her
Cast a veil of dusk upon the cloister"
The album closes out in the same way it began - with an instrumental. However, this is a four-minute piece that unfortunately sounds a little too much like King Diamond to be taken seriously as one of Ghost's own, and does not really sound like the band at all. There is obviously some kind of togetherness with the Nameless Ghouls, and they appear to be showcasing their talent to all who will listen with a nice acoustic outro to complete it.
Debut albums are never easy to write and record, and if you don't get it right the first time you very rarely, if ever, get a chance to rectify your mistakes for another album. Ghost does a good job in giving their audience what they are craving, but it only just manages to captivate enough to make the listener crave more. The band's live show is where much of the hype is, though there are many high points the album has to offer. All in all it's a solid album, but it is not as strong as it could have been.
1. Deus Culpa
2. Con Clavi Con Dio
5. Stand by Him
6. Satan Prayer
7. Death Knell
8. Prime Mover
My rating: 7/10
"Leon" is a 1994 thriller film which was directed by Luc Besson, who has also directed such films as "Subway" (1985), "The Fifth Element" (1997), and "Angel-A" (2005).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 110 minutes in length and stars Jean Reno ("Ronin", "The Da Vinci Code", "22 Bullets") as Leon, Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", "Dracula", "Sid and Nancy") as Stansfield, and Natalie Portman ("Black Swan", "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace", "Your Highness") as Mathilda.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A professional assassin rescues a young girl whose parents were killed in a police raid.
The film began as an idea Luc Besson had while he was working on his 1990 offering, "La Femme Nikita". A character who appeared in that film, Victor the Cleaner, was played by Jean Reno and had very similar traits to Leon. The film was Besson's breakthrough, and, some would say, his defining moment as director, producer and writer. "Leon" gained huge respect from the Box Office upon its release and takes its place, at the time of writing, at No.27 in IMDB's top 250. The film was nominated for many awards, but nothing from the Academy Awards. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts out with a conversation between Tony (Danny Iello) and Leon. They are talking about hitting someone, and Tony asks if Leon is free Tuesday. Leon calmly replies "Yeah, I'm free Tuesday." What follows after that is the cold and calm pride Leon exerts in doing his job as he systematically takes out the target's henchmen one by one before spying through a bullet hole and setting one eye on his mark. Leon finds his target and makes him call his boss. Tony then tells him to make sure he gets out of town.
The first serious scene is one of the most disturbingly violent of any film I've ever seen. Stansfield bursts into Mathilda's apartment and proceeds to blast away with a pump-action shotgun. A scene of carnage ensues as he blasts one family member in the back, kicks open the bathroom door, reloads and fires again into the tub. I guess it's the manner in which he does it that shocks, because he's supposed to be a police officer upholding the law, and yet here he is killing an entire family without any bit of remorse.
The relationship between Leon and Mathilda is a strange and complicated one, and something which caused a little controversy when it was released because of the age - believed to be around 14 - of the young girl. She clearly grows to love Leon in a sexual way as well as a fatherly way but his feelings are different and he tries to stop the physical attraction from happening. Towards the end of the film, Leon makes a decision which would change the course of their relationship. Though I am not going to give a blatant spoiler, I feel the choice me makes was the only one he could make. The film had around 25 minutes cut from it, which went into more detail about the relationship between the two - scenes which apparently left screening audiences uncomfortable. These scenes are, however, included in the extended version.
Also of note are the littler things which almost go unnoticed. Leon's plant, for example. For a contract killer, he is very protective of his plant (a Japanese Peace Lilly) and during the film, it goes from hotel room to hotel room with Leon and Mathilda. A similar occurrence happens in "Hot Fuzz" as Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) takes his plant with him to nurture. I Leon's slowness may have been a recurring theme - not that caring for plants makes you slow - I just think he had a below average IQ. He giggles at films in the cinema, and a short scene between Leon and Mathilda with Piggy - an oven glove - is one of joy, but perhaps the most light-hearted moment comes when the pair are playing a dressing-up game. Mathilda dresses as Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and others, but Leon still has no idea who they are.
The action scenes throughout the film have excellent choreography, which must have taken awhile to perfect. Leon's perfection with an array of weapons is staggering, and the knowledge to stage some of the scenes could only have come from someone who has done something like that for real - a Special Forces consultant, maybe. There are some instances where it is a little overkill, but it is done in such a way that it doesn't feel like a body count is happening, and it all makes absolute sense. I think it was probably just right, compared to something like "Commando" or "Rambo", for example, where the kill count is ridiculously and unbelievably high.
I can't help but like Leon, who was brilliantly played by Jean Reno. He's a lovable rogue who is good at his job as a hitman but also has a kind side to him, which is evident in his growing relationship with Mathilda. There was talk on the extras of Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves being interested in the role, but, according to Luc Besson, Reno was the only actor he ever considered to play Leon, and who can argue with his choice? Jean Reno went on to play parts in some very successful films after this one, but it is "Leon" which will almost always be on the tongue if anyone was asked to name a film he was in.
This was Natalie Portman's film debut, which surprises some because of her acting maturity throughout. She is obviously a big household name now largely due to the success of the second helping of the "Star Wars" trilogy in 1999, 2002 and 2005, but it is clear that she was destined for stardom. In the film, Mathilda is said to be 14 years of age but has an air about her which makes her appear to be wiser than she looks. She almost comes across as someone who was in control of her own destiny and always wanted to do what Leon does for a living. There had been talk of a planned sequel with Portman's character having moved on and become a contract killer herself, but Luc Besson has gone on record to state that he would not direct it, and Portman also said that if Besson was not attached to any sequel, she would not be on-board either.
Gary Oldman had a particular trait about his acting work, in which every part he played, he was killed off. "Sid & Nancy", "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "JFK" spring to mind of a few in which he has died. I obviously am not going to give the game away here, but I think here he has a character to be very proud of in Stansfield. It is said that he was able to enjoy a free role to make the character his own and he improvises a lot of what he does on the screen. Stansfield is obviously quite psychotic and a drug addict, and though it is never known which drug he takes, it produces an effect of calmness before the storm arrives. Is he one of film's best-loved villains? Very possibly.
To put it frankly, I am hugely surprised "Leon" did not gain any Oscar nominations of any kind. Yes, it would have been up against the likes of "The Shawshank Redemption", "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and eventual winner, "Forrest Gump" for Best Picture, but I do think it deserved to be there. Jean Reno would have been up against Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman and Paul Newman for Best Actor, but, again, I think he belonged in that list. Likewise did Natalie Portman for Best Supporting Actress. But enough of what could have been, IMDB members and their opinions are what count in my book. Is this a good film? No, it's not. It's an excellent film, beyond that of being labelled as 'good'.
The acting of Reno, Portman and Oldman is outstanding and the mood of the film is perfectly balanced. Portman said "Working with Gary Oldman was probably the easiest acting experience of my life. I don't think I had to act at all in that scene. I mean, it was really simple, because he really does what he does well. It's pretty amazing to get to see it that close, but it was also a gift to me."
If you rent (or buy) just one film this week, make it "Leon: The Professional".
Blu-Ray Extra Features
Theatrical and Extended versions - here you get a choice of the 110 minute original version and the extended, uncut version which lasts for 132 minutes.
10 Year Retrospective - interviews with the cast, and stories about the making of the film. However, input from Gary Oldman and Luc Besson is missing, which almost spoils it a little.
Jean Reno: The Road to Leon - an interview with Reno about acting career and "Leon" in particular.
Natalie Portman: Starting Young - on this feature you get interviews with the young actress, her audition tape, and talk about how her parents restricted the role.
Fact Track - this gives out a little trivia about the film.
Previews - basically advertisements for upcoming (at the time) Sony films.
What the Critics Say
Entertainment Weekly: "Ah, monsieur, you can lead a Frenchman to the Big Apple, but you can't make him a New Yorker -- and that's exactly what makes this film so fascinating."
Washington Post: "Oldman is the least inhibited actor of his generation, and as this deranged detective, he keeps absolutely nothing in reserve."
Austin Chronicle: "Besson's visuals are, as always, vibrant and decidedly European. He fills the frames with odd-angled shots and alarming riots of color that catch you off-balance."
Time: "This is a Cuisinart of a movie, mixing familiar yet disparate ingredients, making something odd, possibly distasteful, undeniably arresting out of them."
The Globe and Mail: "Takes its viewers on a bouncing high-wire act between intense violence and sugar-sweet tenderness, with some light-hearted comedy along the way."
My rating: 9/10
"Aftershock" is the 21st studio album by British heavy metal band, Motörhead. It was released in 2013 on the UDR GmbH label, and produced by Cameron Webb. The line-up for the album was Lemmy (vocals/bass), Phil Campbell (guitar) and Mikkey Dee (drums).
Iron Maiden once said, "Only the good die young. All the evil seems to live forever," This seems to be the case with Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy. The iconic 67-year old frontman of Motörhead fell ill in June with a hematoma, forcing the band to cancel a string of European dates, and it emerged that he was fitted with a defibrillator for heart problems prior to the tour. But in October of the same year, Motörhead were back with a new album and Lemmy said he's feeling a lot better.
"It was nothing; I'm over it. I can still stand at that mic every night and play my songs. I'm getting better. By the time the tour comes around I'll be ready." Lemmy said in an October interview with Classic Rock magazine. This is great news for fans of the band, but most of us want him to take care of himself a little better. He doesn't smoke now and rarely drinks these days so his focus on "Aftershock" could be a little clearer than it has ever been. The album reached No.22 on the US Billboard 200 after its first week of release. That leads us to ask the question about this album. Is it any good? Let's find out!
There is something immensely satisfying about listening to the opening song of a Motörhead album for the very first time, and "Heartbreaker" is no exception. Instantly you are taken to the band's past, and comparisons with straight-edged rock and roll numbers Motörhead are known for spring to mind when listening to the fast-paced guitar riffs. The song does not let up through its duration but if there was a downside to it, then the singing of the below chorus could have been done a little better with perhaps the one-word last line sang in a different key.
"Danger in the dead of night
Takes away the strength to fight
All we know is black despair
Coup De Grace
Here is a number that could easily combine the likes of the blues with heavy rock, as Phil Campbell sets the standard with some solid guitar playing at the beginning of the song that has a great hook to be followed by the opening verse. The Motörhead fan out there will be craving to hear this one live, and it has everything of what Lemmy and the boys do best. The gravel-voiced front man is still showing the world that he's not done yet with some impressive pre-chorus chops.
"Stay here in the room
Show me all your tricks
I know all the things you need
I will get you fixed"
Lost Woman Blues
This song brings the pace down to a bluesy crawl, as Campbell's opening solo is encompassed by Lemmy's chunky bass riff. This is a song that you could quite easily hear in a blues bar of the American Deep South. This is a song someone like John Lee Hooker would have been proud to have written, and the greatest thing about it is that it picks up pace towards the end with some crunchier power chords that bring the track to a close. Lemmy sings the blues? You better believe it!
"One man use her
One man abused her
She took it out
She took it out
She took it all out on me"
End of Time
More Motörhead brilliance continues with this song. as Campbell churns out a fret-busy riff which could go down in history as one of the band's best, along with "Ace of Spades" and others. The trio are considerably older now, but they once again show that they can rock just as hard as they did when they first played a gig together in 1992 when Mikkey Dee joined the band. This will surely become a staple live favourite for the remainder of Motörhead's career, and one they should look back on with pride. If it has a fault, it is probably that it ends abruptly. Campbell throws in a solo and just when you think it is going somewhere, the track is over.
"Standing at the window
Looking at the wall
Looking for a killer
No one there at all"
Do You Believe
The song starts out with a belting solo which brings in Lemmy's vocals. The former Hawkwind member will never go down in history as one of the best singers out there, but that's what makes Lemmy the way he is. There is another excellent solo during the bridge of the track and you can sense that the gang is having fun in the studio. It could even be said that there is almost a feeling of it being recorded live with the three of them jamming along to a ditty Campbell starts playing. Of course, that's probably not the case, but this band could probably do anything they wanted and make it sound good, and why not. They have certainly earned the right.
"Don't know what I did last night
But I sure did it good
Out of sight
Lost in Hollywood"
Every album has its weak spots, and though "Death Machine" couldn't possibly be labelled as weak, it certainly doesn't live up to the previous songs on "Aftershock". Many would call this a by-the-numbers song, which is possibly filler, though it just does enough to crawl out of that category. Some fans may like the track, but its downfall is that it doesn't really quite get going, labouring out and ambling along like it can't wait to end.
"Sky turned white
And all the world was blind
Nothing was seen
Then the lights and sounds came crashing down
Dust and Glass
Here we have another foot tapper of a song, and one you can be sure Lemmy is proud of writing. It is not a fast song by any means, but what it does well is its ability to keep the ears interested. Motörhead has not written that many ballads over the years, but they have a monster on their hands with "Dust and Glass". Lemmy's vocals are as good as they have ever been, and Campbell's bluesy guitar gives the song a perfect platform. More blues rock is the order of the day here in a track that wouldn't be out of place on an early AC/DC album, however, this is another track which seems to end too quickly.
"Time goes by
Days and years
Only you and I"
Going to Mexico
Big drums, loud guitars and Lemmy's angry vocals are what you get with this song. If that is the sort of thing you like - why wouldn't you if you are a Motörhead fan - then you're going to enjoy the pace of "Going to Mexico". The song does have a little bit of "Ace of Spades" about it, though, but every band at one point in time has ripped off their own songs and put them in others. Whether they do it intentionally is a different matter, but it does happen.
"Ain't gonna fall
No sleep at all
Run for the river
Follow the call"
Silence When You Speak to Me
Here is where the seams start to unravel a little, which is unfortunate. The song begins with a nice little drum roll from Mikkey Dee but when the guitar riff joins in, it is quite clearly a heavier version of Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box" but with an extra hook at the end of the riff. The chorus is pretty good but the damage has already been done by the stolen riff, and the lyrics are typical Lemmy, who has written songs for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne in the past.
"We all are liars, every one
Sure as the moon, the stars and sun
We all are truthful on and the same
No one to answer, no one to blame"
Some good and honest rock and roll is on offer with this track, which also incorporates a piano which helps the number along. The delivery of Lemmy's stop/start lyrics on the verses is what makes the song a winner and the chorus is purely magical. This is not classic Motörhead by any means, but it is a Motörhead for the next generation of fans to get into, as well as keep the older ones very much hooked. One of the best songs on the album, and no doubt about it.
"Looky here honey, I'm the one for you
Just a bit further, we'll make it through
Stick at nothing, keep on pushing
Stick to me, you might get nothing"
Queen of the Damned
Motörhead is a band that prides itself on being loud, and with this song they try to make your ears bleed with its ferocious power. The telling guitar power chords are there in the background, but it is Lemmy's bass that provides the most noise here. This was one of the lead tracks from the album, and it offers no rest for those that wanted a breather. Lemmy sounds angry as he sings the lyrics, and that is always a good thing as far as Motörhead and heavy metal is concerned.
"The one that you fear is so close
The woman tattooed with the rose
Claws that are sharp, she'll tear you apart
Make you into food for the crows
Revenge is her aim, she'll make you pay
She talks a mean game and she'll blow you away"
This is a nice little rock and roll tune that keeps its eyes on the prize with a neat little harmony for the fan that likes a little bit of everything. Campbell's guitar playing is as good as on any of the band's songs and it is a little surprising that the number is under three minutes long, because it feels a lot longer. The song keeps time pretty well, and the feeling is that the different riffs and hooks work around Lemmy's brilliantly contrived lyrics to perfection. "Knife" is definitely one of those tracks you will want to keep coming back to.
"Nothing for me here, life in the dust
The desert sings of bones
You can wait forever
No one will pass you by
The snake has eyes of stone"
Keep Your Powder Dry
Just when you think Motörhead can't change direction any further, the band keeps you guessing with "Keep Your Powder Dry", which is more in the style of hard rock than their trademark heavy metal. You could certainly imagine a band in the mould of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal like Saxon or Diamond Head playing this song, and, more recently, Australian hard rockers, Airbourne. The song is a little like "Eat the Rich", which came from the film of the same name that starred the cast of "The Comic Strip".
"You must be brave and bold
You must be hard and cold
You must forget the rules
Before you're bought and sold"
Here is a real powerhouse of a song to wrap up the album, which is brought in by a Mikkey Dee drum roll and double bass fill. It is another sub three-minute number that rocks the very core of heavy metal foundations, and if this is the last ever Motörhead song on a studio album put out by the band, then they can look back and be proud of what they have achieved. Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey probably know they have a great record on their hands here.
"Running through the jungle
Shadows at my side
Running like a maniac
I don't want to die"
While it is hard to comprehend for the fan, this may very well be the last ever Motörhead album. Lemmy was 68 at the time of the publishing of this review, and time is most definitely not on his side. Phil Campbell broke the news on December 11 that Lemmy had had a pacemaker fitted, and in October Lemmy himself was quoted as saying "Death is an inevitability, isn't it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don't worry about it. I'm ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn't complain. It's been good." It has been good, and long may it continue. "Aftershock" is everything Motörhead stands for. It's loud, it's in your face, and it is an album Lemmy and the boys can be very proud of.
2. Coup De Grace
3. Lost Woman Blues
4. End of Time
5. Do You Believe
6. Death Machine
7. Dust and Glass
8. Going to Mexico
9. Silence When You Speak to Me
10. Crying Shame
11. Queen of the Damned
13. Keep Your Powder Dry
My rating: 9/10
"Mike Bassett: England Manager" is a 2001 comedy film which was directed by Steve Barron, who has also directed such films as "Electric Dreams" (1984), "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1990), and "Coneheads" (1993).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 89 minutes in length and stars Ricky Tomlinson ("Cracker", "The Royle Family", "Brookside") as Mike Bassett, Amanda Redman ("New Tricks", "For Queen and Country", "At Home With the Braithwaites") as Karine Bassett, and Bradley Walsh ("Law & Order: UK", "Coronation Street", "Murder City") as Dave Dodds.
The plot for the film reads as follows: The manager of England's national football unexpectedly succumbs to a heart attack, and suddenly the search is on for a replacement.
England expects. Or that's how I've always seen it, as far as the World Cup goes. The first tournament I can remember that England participated in was the 1982 tournament which took place in Spain. The team had failed to qualify for the previous two in 1974 and 1978 respectively, and a 10-year old version of myself expected in 1982, just as the rest of the nation did. England was eventually knocked out of the second group round and Ron Greenwood resigned - a pattern of World Cup failure which happened almost every time England played in a major tournament.
But enough of the history lesson, the question must be does England expect with this film? The answer to that and many more are listed (hopefully) in this review. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film begins with a quote from Kevin Keegan, the ex-England manager, which reads: "I know what is around the corner - I just don't know where the corner is." The TV is showing "Norwich Today" where Mike Bassett's Norwich City have won the cup at Wembley Stadium and the team has took on an open top bus tour of Norwich to celebrate. The driver takes a wrong turn and they end up on the motorway, with the team and manager feeling very chilly before the bus can turn around and head back to the city.
One thing I do like about this film is the way it is shot. It is done in the style of a documentary and even has Martin Bashir playing an interviewer, just as he does in his real life job. I also really enjoyed some of the one-liners that Mike Bassett comes out with. One such was "I just wish my dad could see me now. He was like a father figure to me." which reminded me of the "Naked Gun" series of comedy films.
As a fan of football I enjoy films in which the sport is a theme, and when I heard back in 2000 that there was to be a comedy film about the sport, I was very intrigued. Ricky Tomlinson has always been a favourite of mine from his days in "Cracker" and "The Royle Family" and add to that a good British cast which includes Amanda Redman, Bradley Walsh and even the legendary Pele himself, you have a good blend for something unique. Some films of this nature may well have been overdone which is not the case with Steve Barron's work here.
There was one poignant moment which pointed out the resolve of Mike Bassett, where he is holding a press conference and being slated by the reporters. As the reporters are hounding him and ganging up, Bassett begins reciting Rudyard Kipling's "If--" poem, which was first published in 1910. I enjoyed how his voice never wavered throughout the entire poem and he keeps a calm head. The packed room, which was baying for his blood, begins to quieten down and Bassett finishes the poem to utter silence before uttering "England will be playing four-four-fucking-two", to which he walks out. The poem is excellent in its own right but it is given a serious note during this important moment of the film.
It is not all good, though, as the one problem I have with the film is the unlikely scenario that the Football Association would appoint a manager from the lower leagues just because they wanted someone English. I suppose that is what makes the film what it is, in that it is something that would most certainly never happen, but all the way through I was thinking that maybe they should have brought in a foreign manager, completely forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that it is supposed to be a comedy, and not meant to be serious.
There is a rich and varied bunch of characters in the film, and most are based on real-life people from the world of football. It is not clear which manager Bassett is meant to resemble, but I would guess it is his namesake, Dave Bassett, who guided Wimbledon from non-league to the old First Division, with the team winning the FA Cup in 1988, a year after he left. Dave Dodds is most certainly modelled from Phil Neal, who was Graham Taylor's assistant when he was England manager, repeating everything Bassett says for double effect.
Player-wise, there are obvious likenesses to Paul Gascoigne, David Seaman, Vinnie Jones, David Beckham and Andy Cole, and there was also a tricky winger who played for Manchester United that could have been Ryan Giggs. I am not a fan of Phill Jupitus at all, but I thought his deadpan portrayal as Tommo Thompson, a press reporter, was pretty good. Amanda Redman is great as Bassett's wife, but as I have enjoyed everything she's done that I have seen, my judgement may be clouded. Look out for appearances from Atomic Kitten and Keith Allen, who get together with the England team to create the official World Cup song for the public, also.
Well, it is World Cup year and the World Cup takes place in Brazil, just like it did in the fictitious staging for the film, and it is a good time to dust off the cobwebs of forgotten films such as "Mike Bassett: England Manager". It proved popular enough to gain a 6-episode series, which does not necessarily make it brilliant. I enjoyed watching the film, but part of me wanted it to be a serious outing instead of comedy. Sure, some of the comedy moments are a little over the top and some of the characters are quite obviously based on real-life people, but I am certain these people would have watched the film and enjoyed it.
"Mike Bassett: England Manager" gets a thumbs up from me, but only just.
What the Critics Say
RTE Interactive: "There's just not enough great gags in Mike Bassett to make it funnier than Kevin Keegan's time in the England hotseat."
Time Out: "In the spirit of Kevin Keegan, the film-making is enthused, artless and all over the park."
BBC Films: "The film's curious lack of ambition makes it a parochial affair that will probably only appeal to die-hard soccer nuts and their long-suffering partners."
The Guardian: "Some very good gags, especially at the beginning, and Tomlinson turns in a first-class performance as the big-hearted bumbling idealist."
Empire Magazine: "The comedy strings are pulled byTomlinson's engaging mixture of saltiness and pathos."
My rating: 6/10
"Absolution" is a 1978 drama film which was directed by Anthony Page, who has also directed such films as "The Missiles of October" (1974), "Pueblo" (1973) and "Human Bomb" (1998).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 95 minutes in length and stars Richard Burton ("Where Eagles Dare", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold") as Father Goddard, Billy Connolly ("The Boondock Saints", "The Last Samurai", "The Debt Collector") as Blakey, and David Bradley ("Kes", "Zulu Dawn", "All Quiet on the Western Front") as Arthur Dyson.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A priest who teaches at a boys' school finds one of his favourite students is playing a nasty practical joke on him. He sets out to investigate the prank and stumbles upon a dead body, leading to his life spiralling out of control.
Set in a Catholic school, the film revolves around Father Goddard and his pupils, one of those who likes practical jokes. It was written by Anthony Schaffer who is noted for writing the screenplay for "The Wicker Man" and though it was first released in 1978, it took a further three years to make general release in the UK and it wasn't until 1988 when it was released in the United States. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film begins with the camera following a bird in flight before it picks out a man on a motorcycle driving down a country lane. That man is none other than Billy Connolly, and it is a good bet that he provided the banjo music that plays in the background. He drives past a local cricket match taking place before he stops and walks up a small hill towards a boys' school and asks a Father (Richard Burton) if he has any jobs. Father Goddard tells him he doesn't, and in his thick Glaswegian accent, Blakey says "and a merry Christmas to you too!" The both of them walk off in separate ways, and paves way for the next scene.
One thing I noticed early on was a factual error where the boys ask Father Goddard if they can watch Brazil in the World Cup semi-final game as Rivelino was playing. Because this is a 1978 film, I can only assume they are talking about the 1978 World Cup and if so, I knew there was no semi-finals games during that tournament, as the two group winners from the second group round went on to play in the final, and the two runners-up contested the 3rd/4th place playoff game. I also knew that Argentina beat Holland 3-1 in the final, and I had to do some searching to find out who played the 3rd place game. I discovered that Brazil beat Italy 2-1 in the match, but a 32-year-old Rivelino was a second-half substitute.
I really enjoyed Billy Connolly's portrayal of Blakey. Though he did not appear throughout the film, his presence was gratifying. This was his first major role, and it is clear even then that he was a special talent, as he oozes that comical timing without even trying. His time with The Humblebums - a group he started in the mid-1960s with Gerry Rafferty - helped him perform numerous times on the banjo, which was a joy to hear. All these years later whenever I am made aware of a new DVD he has out, I hope that he has included a song or two he wrote and performed live.
Perhaps the best sequence in the entire film was when Father Goddard was beginning to gradually lose the plot a little, with sequences of him in dreams and seeing things in classrooms. It is here where we see the Father's life go off the rails as he struggles with his conscience on what to do about a body he has seen in the nearby woods. He has already given his absolution to one of his pupils and he doesn't know in which direction to turn. There is a part of him which doesn't want to believe that one of his boys may be killing people, but the other part of him is strangely inquisitive and has an impulse to discover the truth with the most shocking of consequences. Richard Burton was a veteran actor at the time of this film, and his role as Father Goddard is one that only an actor of his stature could master. It is said that he turned down the role of King Lear on stage and that he agreed to play the part for a small fee to take the role.
There are some films where you can guess the outcome, and as I have mentioned in one or two reviews in the past, I really like those films which make me smile to myself at the end and say "I never saw that coming". "The Usual Suspects" is one such film which did that the first time I saw it, and I thought it was incredibly clever. There are not many other films that I can think of which do the same, but I must admit that I did not see what transpired in "Absolution" coming.
A cameo appearance from the brilliant Brian Glover was an unexpected pleasure, as I have always enjoyed his work. The talented actor from Yorkshire left his mark on a lot of roles in films such as "Kes", "An American Werewolf in London" and "Alien 3" to name a few, and though his role here was brief it was still one in which he excels as a policeman who badly plays Blakey's banjo and almost comically sings out of tune before he beats up the Scotsman, along with a fellow police officer.
What the Critics Say
The Guardian: "You can't make real bricks from this kind of straw, since a potentially interesting study of character and environment is gradually weakened by the constraints of a second-rate murder mystery."
Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide: "Burton gives a commanding performance. . . . Straightforward melodrama loses credibility toward the end."
TV Guide: "Poorly written, aimlessly directed, and badly photographed, ABSOLUTION is utterly depressing and pointless. Its sole selling point is Burton's presence."
Variety: "Absolution is a dull, gloomy, nasty, contrived marketplace misfit, apparently designed to ride on Richard Burton's shirttails."
This was an enjoyable film but it will not be to everyone's tastes. I thought Anthony Page did very well to get Richard Burton to star in the film and to pair him with Billy Connolly and other younger actors was a master stroke, as you have someone who can guide the rookies down the right path, and it is understood he was very approachable in-between takes. The twist at the end was one that most people will not see coming, but don't let that fool you into thinking it is the only thing that makes the film because there is some good acting and a decent plot leading up to it. There was apparently an alternate scene which showed the progression of events we never saw during the film but I do think it was a wise choice to leave it out in favour of the ending that was given the nod. I would definitely recommend this if you want to see a mixture of a veteran Richard Burton, a novice Billy Connolly and a post-"Kes" David Bradley. I am glad I took the plunge.
My rating: 7/10
"Let Me In" is a 2010 horror film which was directed by Matt Reeves, who has also directed such films as "The Pallbearer" (1996), "Cloverfield" (2008), and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (2014).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 116 minutes in length and stars Kodi Smit-McPhee ("ParaNorman", "The Road", "The Congress") as Owen, Chloe Grace Moretz ("Hugo", "Kick-Ass 2", "Dark Shadows") as Abby, and Richard Jenkins ("Jack Reacher", "The Cabin in the Woods", "Step Brothers") as The Father.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian.
There is something to be said for the legacy of Hammer Films from the birth of the company as far back as 1934 to the heyday of the 'Hammer Horror' of the 1960s with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in films such as "Dracula", "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" and "The Devil Rides Out". The film is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film "Let the Right One In" and received huge critical acclaim from filmgoers around the world. I was not a fan of "Cloverfield" and I must admit I had reservations about this, too, as it also had Matt Reeves at the helm. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film's opening sequence is set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1983,and shows the emergency services racing through a snowstorm. There is a man strapped in a gurney in an ambulance who is in some distress as he attempts to rid himself of his shackles. Once at the hospital, a detective goes into his room and proceeds to question the man about a murder. He leaves a pen and notepad for the man to write on. There is a scream which comes from the room and as the detective runs into it, he finds the man has jumped out of the window leaving a note which is incorrectly spelled and reads "I'm sory Abby".
The first thing to note is that the film is a little strange and could be construed as quite difficult to follow, but its mood is somewhat clever as it attempts to tell its story of Owen and Abby. The second, and more crucial aspect, is that the CGI is probably a little too much. I would have loved to see the Hammer of old with a no-frills horror film but I guess enhanced graphics is the way to go in this day and age, which is a shame because the fake blood content was a real winner with the Hammer films of old.
I really enjoyed the retro aspect and with the film set in 1983, we get to see arcade games such as "Pac-Man" which was one of my favourites from that era, as well as songs like Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" and Blue Oyster Cult's brilliant "Burnin' for You". But the thing that I warmed to the most was Owen trying to solve a Rubik's Cube. Some people can, most can't, and I have only just recently memorised the moves to speed solve it myself, which is something I am immensely proud of doing even though it is technically cheating! It is easy to set a film in the 1980s but it is often gotten wrong, and "Let Me In" shines through as an example of how to do it right.
There is an almost comedy aspect to The Father, and I am not entirely sure it wasn't intended. He reminds me of Wile E Coyote and his attempts to collect blood to feed his vampire 'daughter', which have disastrous and somewhat humorous consequences. Of course, this is probably Hammer's way of making light of something that is supposed to be chilling and showing the viewer that it is not meant to be serious, but it is definitely an eye-opener to say the least. In contrast, though, the horror is splendidly violent, and something which is great to see in this day and age where the majority of movie studios are playing it safe.
I did feel there could have been more to the film, but I enjoyed the direction that it went in. I do like a film to challenge me, and this has pulled out all the stops to attempt to capture the magic of the 1960s horror era. Each time when I thought it was getting slow, a surprise was thrown at me and at the end of it all I appreciated the pace of the film. I now feel that if it had been rushed, it may not have been as successful. I like a film that keeps me guessing, and this did up to a point. Maybe I did see the ending coming but it was done in such a way that I didn't feel cheated by it.
I felt Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee's portrayal of Owen was a solid one, and he managed to bring an air of something different to the screen. Probably the first thing I thought, though, is that the character resembled the 1980s children's TV character, Pob, a puppet that was operated by Robin Stevens, who has also worked on "Rosie & Jim" and "Teletubbies". Owen is a shy, troubled 12-year-old individual who likes to participate in voyeurism and is intrigued by Abby, a girl who tries to hide her secret from him. Very indifferent from Owen, Abby is a reserved and collect young girl, someone who is more mature than her years show. Chloe Grace Moretz, at the age of 14 when she shot the film, shows she has acting ability and I did enjoy the way she played the role which can't have been easy to do at that age.
What Hammer Productions does here is dish out a healthy dose of classic horror with a good dose of blood to keep the seasoned fan of the genre happy. Would I label it as a straight-out vampire film? No, I don't think so. There's a lot more going on in it, and though the principal aspect of the film is based around Owen's growing friendship with Abby, and I felt the development of everything around them was more important. Without a spine, you have no legs - or that's how I am looking at the film here!
I enjoyed this film a lot, and I would like to hope it is the beginning of the resurrection of Hammer Productions because as I have mentioned before, it's a company I grew up with, and if you did the same, you probably anticipated watching the "Hammer House of Horror" series as a youngster if you was allowed to, but at the same time you were scared witless with it. Yes it's a remake of the Swedish film "Let the Right One In", but I'm not one for foreign films at all. I can definitely recommend "Let Me In" as a true horror film of the 21st century.
What the Critics Say
The Hollywood Reporter: " Key to the remake's ultimate success is the casting of the troubled young leads.Smit-McPhee and Moretz possess the soulful depth and pre-adolescent vulnerability necessary to keep it compellingly real."
Variety: "Matt Reeves hasn't ruined the elegant Swedish vampire story by remaking it. If anything, he's made some improvements, including the addition of a tense action-horror sequence in the middle of the film."
New York Post: " The scariest, creepiest and most elegantly filmed horror movie I've seen in years - it positively drives a stake through the competition."
Portland Oregonian: " The film moves with strange, creepy energy and is populated by characters who delicately walk a line between charm and grotesquerie. It's a treat."
The Globe and Mail: " Less satisfying are the moments when the film concedes to American horror conventions, especially the scuttling vampire effects, which pull us out of the haunted world of these lovely damaged creatures into a place that, while not of this world, feels entirely too familiar."
My rating: 8/10
"Cowboys & Aliens" is a 2011 sci-fi film which was directed by Jon Favreau, who has also directed such films as "Elf" (2003), "Iron Man" (2008), and "Secret Cabinet" (2013).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 119 minutes in length and stars Daniel Craig ("Skyfall", "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", "Layer Cake") as Jake Lonergan, Harrison Ford ("Star Wars", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Blade Runner") as Woodrow Dolarhyde, and Olivia Wilde ("In Time", "The Change-Up", "House") as Ella Swanson.
The plot for the film reads as follows: A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way.
What happens when you put the Wild West and outer space together? You get "Cowboys & Aliens", a film which also pits James Bond against Han Solo in a move that attempted to put the viewer at ease by saying it was not a comedy film. It is thought that the tough guy imagery of the two actors was designed to quell that aspect and make it a serious action film. The production company brought in Jon Favreau to direct, following his success with "Iron Man" and its sequel. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts out with a long shot of Wild West plains, which pans right. Daniel Craig's character, Jake Lonergan, wakes up with a stomach wound and a strange device on his arm, which he attempts to break free of with a rock. In the background, a trio of old cowboys ride up behind him and set upon telling him that it is not his lucky day. Lonergan dispatches of the three and takes the clothes of one of them before riding off on a commissioned horse. Fortunately he did not say "I'll be back", a la Arnie Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" style.
I did enjoy one scene where an alien attack ensues, and the people of the Wild West are trying to attack the UFOs with revolvers. If it ever would have happened for real, it is unlikely they would have known what to do, just as we don't in this day and age. Shooting at an alien craft may well have been their only idea of attack, as fruitless as it may have been. There is some excellent CGI as the scene takes place, and the UFOs look really good as they roll in for wave after wave of attack. There is a little bit of a comedy moment as the humans attempt to figure out what just happened, but I will leave that for you to watch for yourselves.
There are plenty of action scenes throughout the film, and I suppose this is what a new generation of cinema goers are looking for these days. The drama film almost always wins the Academy Award for Best Picture, but the younger film watcher craves violent scenes with gunfire and death, because they've grown used to it by playing video games which depict war and the use of numerous military weapons. The same generation has also seen an action film with a story turn into one that is more dependent on fighting.
The one dilemma I had with the film is I could not decide whether it should have been a sci-fi film or a western film. I had a hard time trying to figure out whether the cowboys were making a perfectly good alien film bad or whether the aliens were taking a step too far with a cowboy film. I had the same problem with "Freddy vs Jason" and "Alien vs Predator". These crossover films really don't seem to work, and that's probably because of the often-said adage; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The majority of people that like westerns are not going to be sci-fi fans, so it would be safe to assume most sci-fi fans will not like the genre of the western. Of course, that is not set in stone, but one can surmise that it is probable.
I did find the run-up to the ending a little predictable, and even went as far as correctly guessing what would happen at the very end of the film. It was a huge disappointment when the last five minutes rolled around and I was absolutely correct. I like to be challenged when I am watching a film, but there was too much in those last few minutes which made me groan, and I always feel that is a little bit of a disappointment.
I must admit I was expecting Daniel Craig's character to take on some traits of James Bond, and while he is all-action, he holds an American accent that he is able to pull off. Some British actors can do that - Hugh Laurie did with Gregory House - but some definitely cannot. Having said that, it is the same reversed. Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp both are adept at speaking in an English accent. Speaking of the former, he was originally given Daniel Craig's role but eventually turned it down. Harrison Ford was almost 70 when he made this film, and it is pretty obvious that he is no spring chicken anymore and can't do the moves that Han Solo once did, but his pedigree as an actor is still there for all to see. His portrayal of Woodrow Dolarhyde is one of steel and determination but it is difficult to take him seriously, knowing that he was once the all-action hero in "Indiana Jones".âEurof
"Cowboys & Aliens" tries to be a serious film but it is hard to take it seriously because of what is involved. Aliens may exist but for now there is no concrete evidence that they do. This is why I had a hard time trying to like the film, just as I struggled to enjoy the 2009 film, "District 9". Of course, a sci-fi film about aliens can be great - you only have to look at the "Allien" quadrilogy to see that - but a different take on things when we actually go back in time to see the effects is something I can't quite grasp. For this reason I had to watch the film in two parts, or I may never have finished it. So yes, I was a little disappointed with the film, and I feel it was a waste of my time. Some people out there will love it. Personally, I think it is one that, in time, Daniel Craig will reflect on as something he should never have agreed to. The only good thing was the Blu-ray features. I always enjoy seeing how a film was made, and even though this was bad I still went ahead and watched it, though I did not play around with the pocket BLU app. Maybe next time and definitely on another film which isn't as bad as this one!
What the Critics Say
Empire: "A simple entertainment in a summer of overcomplicated disappointments. Also much harder-edged than you may have expected."
Arizona Republic: "Exactly what it sounds like: a cowboy movie and an alien movie thrown together, a genre mash-up that's more fun than good, but pretty good nonetheless."
Time: "Gradually, the movie sinks into ordinariness, serving up too many Spielbergian reaction shots of each cast member gawking or gulping at an alien encounter, and too many moral lessons that must be learned or taught."
Boxoffice Magazine: "It's easy to like the cast - thanks as much to their previous work as anything on screen here - but with such a convoluted, illogical and dull story, no one fares particularly well."
Los Angeles Times: "A leaden mash-up of western and science-fiction elements that ends up noisy, grotesque and unappealing."
My rating: 4/10
Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King (2013)
"Hail to the King" is the 6th studio album by American heavy metal band, Avenged Sevenfold. It was released in 2013 on the Warner Bros. label and, produced by Mike Elizondo. The line-up for the album was M. Shadows (vocals), Synyster Gates (guitar), Zacky Vengeance (guitar), Johnny Christ (bass) and Arin Ilejay (drums).
This was the first Avenged Sevenfold album to feature Arin Ilejay, after session drummer Mike Portnoy decided not to carry on behind the skins for the band when he played on the predecessing album, "Nightmare". Illejay is the band's first permanent drummer since the untimely death of Jimmy Sullivan in 2009. The album entered the Billboard 200 at No.1 and sold 159,000 copies during the first week of its release. M. Shadows has proclaimed that the album is some of the heaviest material they have recorded, but still follows the same trait as traditional heavy metal acts such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Synyster Gates stated that the album they wanted a bare bones, riff-orientated approach to their music, while Zacky Vengeance said it is the next progression of the band. Machine Head's Robb Flynn slammed the album as a 'covers album', and I will try to include some of his criticism in my review for good measure. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Shepherd of Fire
The album begins with a song about personal demons. The narrator is going through a torrid time and feels like he's on a hiding to nothing and, according to M. Shadows, a rollercoaster from hell. Robb Flynn stated that it was "Avenged Sevenfold: Now with even more Metallica", and it is pretty easy to understand what he means when you listen to the song as it definitely has tones of "Master of Puppets" about it, but not as heavy.
Hail to the King
Robb Flynn said that "Eyeliner sales skyrocket as thousands of heartbroken goth girls realize "Hail to the King" is actually that ugly AC/DC bands song "Thunderstruck"". And he may have a valid point, should the listener play both tracks one after another - or at least play the intros from both songs. They are not note-for-note, but they are strikingly similar in structure. It is a song about a tyrant who rules his land with corruption and intimidation, while his people live in poverty and fear.
Here is another song in which Robb Flynn has something negative to say, and this time it is Guns N' Roses which is the band in question. "After hearing Avenged's Guns N' Roses cover "Doing Time", Axl actually calls Slash, says, "Dude, what the ****!" This is quite amusing in that it is highly unlikely the pair will ever speak again. Flynn is definitely on the money here, as M. Shadows' intro vocals scream of Axl's trademark howl on many G N' R records, backed by basic guitar that are surprisingly good. It is a song about how we all feel trapped at times in our own prison cell and the struggle to regain freedom from the shackles of life that bog us down.
This Means War
This song is a more down-to-earth track which sounds like something Godsmack would do. Of course, some people reading reviews like this will not know who some of these bands are, but let's just say there is a difference between being inspired by a band and completely doing their own take on what's been done before. Of course, some people are also going to love what's been done here, but thinking outside the box it most certainly is not.
This is a song about the coming of Satan but don't worry - it is not a Satanic track by any means. It is said through the eyes of a minion and he is waiting, watching for his master to make his presence known on Earth so that the end of the world can finally arrive. The track is a little too stop-start but it is one of those that fans will either love or hate. The vocal style is done in the way of a church hymn but it doesn't quite grab the imagination it needed to be a standout song.
Here comes the obligatory song that starts out slow but eventually grows into something which is grandiose. It is a song about the birth of M. Shadows' son and in it he's saying that he is far from perfect but he will do all he can to be a great father to his child. Hardcore A7X fans are going to love singing along to this one but the casual fan will more than likely think it is not enjoyable. The acoustic beginning and subsequent heavy-but-slow part is nothing new, and the similarities of "Dear God" from the band's self titled album are quite evident.
Rob Flynn is back at it with this song and said "After hearing "Heretic", Dave Mustaine flips out, blames Obama, Metallica and UFO's for the A7X stealing "Symphony of Destruction". It definitely has a similar structure, no doubt about it, and it also has a strikingly similar harmony in places. It is a song about how religious beliefs are thrown at humanity, whether an individual is a believer of faith or not. It states that though there is obviously a purpose for us being here, religion does not make a convincing reason for any of it.
If ever there was a song on the album that is unique, it must be this one, though it must be said that the lyrical content, though different in words and structure, can be likened to the Iron Maiden song of the same name, which is about a pilot who sees the lights of the runway of his homeland. This track deals with a mortal from ancient times who has been through many battles and is returning home to his family.
This is a song which is, unsurprisingly, about the planets of our solar system. It deals with the possibility of planets colliding one day, saying that there is nothing that can be done to stop it happening, if it ever does. It must be said that the chorus is a little weak and very little thought has gone into the writing of the lyrics, but it is often the case that a song like this will win over the critics. It is hard to see how, though, when you probably have the weakest track on the album in "Planets".
The accompanying song to "Planets", "Acid Rain" deals with the aftermath of what we have done to our world and how we could have prevented its very destruction, caused by our own hands. It is another slow number done with an orchestra in parts but it fails to strike home the stark reality of what could happen to the Earth. Avenged Sevenfold has a made a habit of putting a teary track at the end of an album, and this is no different.
This is a hard one to call, and it should have been so much better than it was. The diehard fan of Avenged Sevenfold will love it but it must be said that the music lover who has heard their albums but not got into them will probably walk away forever. Of course, Robb Flynn was not serious when he wrote those damning words... or was he?
1. Shepherd of Fire
2. Hail to the King
3. Doing Time
4. This Means War
6. Crimson Day
8. Coming Home
10. Acid Rain
My rating: 2/10
"An American Werewolf in London" is a 1981 horror film which was directed by John Landis, who has also directed such films as "The Blues Brothers" (1980), "Animal House" (1978) and "Trading Places" (1983).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 97 minutes in length and stars David Naughton ("Midnight Madness", "Not For Publication", "Desert Steel") as David Kessler, Jenny Agutter ("Logan's Run", "The Railway Children", "The Avengers") as Alex Price, and Griffin Dunne ("My Girl", "Quiz Show", "After Hours") as Jack Goodman.
The plot for the film reads as follows: Two American tourists in Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.
Most people would associate John Landis with sitting in the big chair for comedies like "The Blues Brothers" and "National Lampoon's Animal House", but there was also a touch of the horror genre to the man who also directed the video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". Landis wrote and directed "An American Werewolf in London", which became one of my favourite horror films of all time. It had a budget of just $10m and raked in over $61m at the Box Office. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Makeup in 1982. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts with Bobby Vinton's rendition of "Blue Moon" as the hills of the Yorkshire moors are shown in different shots with the credits rolling. As the song fades to close, a sheep herder is seen pulling up and the two American tourists get out of the back. He tells them to keep off the moors and stick to the roads, and bids Jack and David farewell. As the guys are walking along the path, they keep themselves entertained by talking about the trip and telling jokes. It is here where they come across a village and entered the Slaughtered Lamb - a pub for locals. In the pub are a few famous faces of British film and TV, including Rik Mayall and Brian Glover.
The best scene in the film comes early on when Jack and David forget to 'stick to the roads and beware of the moors'. The werewolf is on their trail, and it is here were you really appreciate John Landis' brilliant direction. The sound effects for the beast are very good and completely believable, but it is the way Jack's death is shot that really stands out. I don't want to give the game away, but the brutality is excellent and the gore factor is immense. The thirst for horror in the early 1980s was huge, and this scene in particular is one of those that remains one of the bloodiest in horror film history.
The special effects and make up are two things which make this film even better, and it is no surprise that Rick Baker won an Academy Award for his work. The image of Jack throughout the film is extremely graphic, and during his first incarnation you can even see little flaps of skin rattling as he talks and if you look closely, you can see a piece of toast slide down as he eats it. As the film progresses, his appearance begins to get more gruesome as his body starts to decay. Of course the imagery is not all exclusive to Jack. The transformation of David to werewolf is brilliant, and it still stands out as one of the most iconic of all horror films. I enjoy how his hands and feet are shown to grow into wolf-shaped claws and hoofs, and his face becomes more pointed as the completion takes full effect. I especially like the way his voice deepens from his normal pitch to a more distinctive wolf sound and finally to a werewolf.
The main part of the film focuses on David's spree as a werewolf and the killings he does while on the rampage in London and his subsequent journey home to Nurse Alex Price's flat the day after. I did feel as though it could have been stretched out a little but as I understand it, the studio wanted bits cut out of it for being a little over the top. When you consider that films such as "The Exorcist" had already been released without studio interference, you have to wonder why they would leave in some brilliantly wonderful macabre but ditch some lesser scenes.
I did especially enjoy one scene where David is enticed in to a seedy movie theatre in Piccadilly Circus which is showing an adult film. He is introduced to his victims, and some are not very pleased to see him for obvious reasons, but one couple are very cheerful which lightens the mood a little. I think the point of him meeting all these people in an adult film cinema is supposed to be comical, and it is here where it changes for the last time before the end. It seems a little rushed if I'm honest but there again, it could be that some scenes were chopped making it appear to be over too fast as before you knew it, the film was over. Those final moments were pretty good, though, especially the werewolf walking through London on the rampage.
It is reported that the movie studio executives had wanted Landis to work again with Jake and Elwood Blues, aka John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, but Landis refused to cast the pair as David and Jack, and I can't help but agree with him here. Both films left a great legacy and I feel that if Belushi and Aykroyd had been given the nod, "An American Werewolf in London" would not have been the success that it was.
You obviously have the cameo roles of Frank Oz, Rik Mayall and Brian Glover in the film, but there are also appearances by "EastEnders" actor John Altman, and "The Bill" stars, John Salthouse and Peter Ellis. Perhaps the best bit of casting from a male point of view is in the form of Jenny Agutter as Nurse Alex Price. The stunning actress plays her role with ease without really doing much, but she could just stand there for all I cared, and she'd still win me over! David Naughton and Griffin Dunne were relatively unknown before "An American Werewolf in London" was released and to be fair, neither did much after it to capitalise on its success. However, both played their parts as well as could be expected and I would have put money on them making it big afterwards.
"An American Werewolf in London" is a great film and one could say it's a cult classic, though don't let John Landis hear that. If I had to name my top 10 horror films of all time, this would probably be in it. Not because it is a gripping film, but because of those scenes which I have previously mentioned that were groundbreaking in the horror film genre. Landis would go on to direct the likes of Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase and Simon Pegg in comedy films, while "An American Werewolf in Paris" - which had nothing to do with Landis - was released in 1997. It wasn't anywhere near the success as its predecessor and it was largely slated by critics and fans alike.
What the Critics Say
Empire: "Carnivorous lunar activities rarely come any more entertaining than this."
Variety: "A clever mixture of comedy and horror which succeeds in being both funny and scary, An American Werewolf in London possesses an overriding eagerness to please that prevents it from becoming off-putting, and special effects freaks get more than their money's worth."
Chicago Sun-Times: "Seems curiously unfinished, as if director John Landis spent all his energy on spectacular set pieces and then didn't want to bother with things like transitions, character development, or an ending."
Austin Chronicle: "This movie presented a radical melange of genuine horror and self-aware comic touches, not to mention the fabulous Rick Baker special effects."
Chicago Reader: "It's a failure, less because the odd stylistic mix doesn't take (it does from time to time, and to striking effect) than because Landis hasn't bothered to put his story into any kind of satisfying shape."
My rating: 8/10