Reviews

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Written by Jamie Brannon Saturday, 24 May 2014 12:46
Features - Reviews
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Limp Bizkit, Brixton Academy, London

For a brief period in the early part of the millennium, Limp Bizkit were infiltrating the musical mainstream to a great degree with their turbo-charged rap-rock anthems propelling them to figurehead status of a scene dubbed “nu-metal”. Fast forward a decade or so and Limp Bizkit’s pulling power has gradually waned, only maintained by an audience hoping to remind themselves why they got so excited in their adolescence.

To be fair, frontman Fred Durst and the band are well aware their star is no longer in the ascendant and this headline slot on the Kerrang! Awards Tour is a trade-in on former glories, and it’s no surprise to witness all the signature hits checked off, generally in a ferocious, brutal and, on occasion, playful manner.

After opening with a taut version of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ the crowd start to really mosh like its 2001 when the opening off ‘Rollin’ sparks pandemonium. The song that defined their commercial zenith still packs a punch, even if Durst’s delivery is wayward and the lyrics could have been pieced together when he was in kindergarten. Aside from his and lyrical and vocal foibles, Durst’s dress sense doesn’t seem to have evolved since their heyday either, as he’s still wearing garb that anyone past 24 is going to be struggling to make work. While his attempts at crowd interaction are tedious, cringe worthy and misguided.

That said, these flaws are somewhat masked by the effusiveness of maverick guitarist Wes Borland, whose energy, punchy attitude and sense of fun liven up proceedings. Conversely, Durst tends to go through the motions more, maybe the passing of time has made him realise that the majority of the Bizkit catalogue is laughable, not that it seems like this to the sweaty masses in the Brixton jungle, who are quite happy to be overdosing on nostalgia as savage mosh-pits breakout, while Bizkit run through old favourites such as ‘Nookie’, ‘Take a Look Around’, and ‘My Way’. These old hits being punctuated by snippets of cover versions, including a riotous segment of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit, which goes down a storm, even if Kurt Cobain would be spinning in his grave if he thought a band like Limp Bizkit were making hay out of  an era-defining anthem.

Climaxing with ‘Break Stuff’, you can’t disguise the fact they remain an explosive live act, but seem devoid of evolving their sound. However if you wanted old-school thrills served up  hard, dirty and fast, you are not going to be disappointed with the Bizkit demonstration.

 

 

Written by Phil Robinson Monday, 02 December 2013 22:39
Features - Reviews
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Believe the hype with this gravity defying sci- fi hit by Alfonso Cuarón (also known for his bleak apocalyptic film Children of Men), in which we see a pair of astronauts left adrift in the big vast beyond after a pile of space debris ruins their space station and any chance of returning home or making contact with earth (my personal worst nightmare!) Just.Hold.On is the films tagline and one which resonates throughout the entire film.
Obviously the first thing that grabs your attention in the opening credits is the technical achievement in the rendering of space( and the planet earth) as the camera slowly pans to let you take it all in. In that instant you can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be up there.
Not only are the special effects beautiful and vivid, (especially in 3d) but the way the entire film is shot does everything to make you feel as though you are up there experiencing the whole beautiful disaster. Spinning camera angles and close up shots taken from the characters perspectives during the action, sit nicely against some lingering contemplative imagery in calmer moments; all of which help to keep the films pace in constant motion. The idea of watching just two characters in space for ninety minutes sounds daunting but there really never is a dull drawn out moment. The soundtrack by Steven Price is also entirely unique and perfect to reflect this ‘next generation in filming’ style; ambient, powerful, and electronic.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play the two poor souls left floating , and aside from a choice four other cast members, (of which we only see one other for a short period) the film is really focused on these two actors. Luckily they both deliver great performances which are balanced by the contrast of the characters themselves; on one hand we have Kowalski (Clooney) who is the more level headed and charismatic of the two, and Stone (Bullock) who is withdrawn in an almost depressive state (with good reason) and less experienced in space travel as her partner. George Clooney gives a good stable performance however I did feel I could have been watching him from any other film he has been in! But the true star of the film (as is intended to be) is Sandra Bullock who captures Stone’s internal and external transition.
Some have criticized Gravity for not being accurate in depicting some of the mechanics and physics of space travel (as in other films such as Apollo 11). However this is not a film about historical events or devices, neither is it space related science fiction film akin to that of say Star Trek. This is an introspective drama about the human condition when faced with a disaster... Oh and it just happens to be set in space as a metaphor for Sandra Bullock’s character ‘Stone’. If you are familiar with the 2002 release; Solaris (which just happened to have George Clooney in as well), then you will know what I mean; A subtle contemplative sci fi film way ahead of its time, misinterpreted (and mis sold) as a sci fi horror by the adverts.
Don’t be seduced by the sci fi tag and expect plot twists, big aliens with bigger guns, or antagonists of any kind really. But for a film absent of these things it is still a terrifying and profoundly emotional experience best had in 3d while it is still showing. Top class!
Believe the hype with this gravity defying sci- fi hit by Alfonso Cuarón (also known for his bleak apocalyptic film Children of Men), in which we see a pair of astronauts left adrift in the big vast beyond after a pile of space debris ruins their space station and any chance of returning home or making contact with earth (my personal worst nightmare!) Just.Hold.On is the films tagline and one which resonates throughout the entire film.
Obviously the first thing that grabs your attention in the opening credits is the technical achievement in the rendering of space( and the planet earth) as the camera slowly pans to let you take it all in. In that instant you can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be up there.
Not only are the special effects beautiful and vivid, (especially in 3d) but the way the entire film is shot does everything to make you feel as though you are up there experiencing the whole beautiful disaster. Spinning camera angles and close up shots taken from the characters perspectives during the action, sit nicely against some lingering contemplative imagery in calmer moments; all of which help to keep the films pace in constant motion. The idea of watching just two characters in space for ninety minutes sounds daunting but there really never is a dull drawn out moment. The soundtrack by Steven Price is also entirely unique and perfect to reflect this ‘next generation in filming’ style; ambient, powerful, and electronic.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play the two poor souls left floating , and aside from a choice four other cast members, (of which we only see one other for a short period) the film is really focused on these two actors. Luckily they both deliver great performances which are balanced by the contrast of the characters themselves; on one hand we have Kowalski (Clooney) who is the more level headed and charismatic of the two, and Stone (Bullock) who is withdrawn in an almost depressive state (with good reason) and less experienced in space travel as her partner. George Clooney gives a good stable performance however I did feel I could have been watching him from any other film he has been in! But the true star of the film (as is intended to be) is Sandra Bullock who captures Stone’s internal and external transition.
Some have criticized Gravity for not being accurate in depicting some of the mechanics and physics of space travel (as in other films such as Apollo 11). However this is not a film about historical events or devices, neither is it space related science fiction film akin to that of say Star Trek. This is an introspective drama about the human condition when faced with a disaster... Oh and it just happens to be set in space as a metaphor for Sandra Bullock’s character ‘Stone’. If you are familiar with the 2002 release; Solaris (which just happened to have George Clooney in as well), then you will know what I mean; A subtle contemplative sci fi film way ahead of its time, misinterpreted (and mis sold) as a sci fi horror by the adverts.
Don’t be seduced by the sci fi tag and expect plot twists, big aliens with bigger guns, or antagonists of any kind really. But for a film absent of these things it is still a terrifying and profoundly emotional experience best had in 3d while it is still showing. Top class!
Written by Phil Robinson Sunday, 04 August 2013 15:51
Features - Reviews
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With record breaking box office sales in its first opening week and whispers of a sequel, Guillermo Del Torros Pacific Rim came crashing into our cinemas like a Kaiju looking for a fight with a Jaeger! If you haven’t already seen the ads or posters boasting city sized transformer type robots squaring off against Godzilla type monsters then the plot is simply that…city sized robots (known as Jaegers) engaged in what can only be described as WWF smack-down with an array of giant dinosaur looking monsters (knows as Kaiju) and this film sure does deliver the punches.

With a string of successful fantasy/horror films (such as Hellboy, Pans Labyrinth, and Mama), Del Torro is broadening his view and taking on the sci-fi genre. A wise choice taking the already well-established Godzilla B movie, blending it together with other sub genres, and adding his own over the top (almost iconic) style with hugely enjoyable results. It would be easy to dismiss this is just another 'big robots' action film, but if you are familiar with Torro's unique comic book style (look no further than Hellboy) then you know you are in for a treat.

Instead of the usual 'introduction' to a film where a city is suddenly taken over by a seemingly unstoppable force, Pacific Rim takes place in the future after the events of a major invasion. Following a voice over introduction by Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Becket), we are then thrown into the 'present' world war setup where the humans are on the losing side to the otherworldly creatures entering from the depths of the sea via an inter-dimensional portal called the rift. Immediately this film has set itself apart by creating a world where the influence of the Kaiju has changed everything. From a crumbling economy and lives of the working class who assist the war in working on defensive city walls, the 'armed forces' team up in pairs to mentally join together inside the giant machines to defend against the invading monsters. Visually this film does a great job of reflecting a ruined cityscape; everything has a used damaged and pieced together feel, with Japanese visuals saturating most of what’s left in a kind of east meets west future (reminded me of something out of Bladerunner or Serenity).

The designs of the creatures themselves are one of the main focuses of the film and they really are awe-inspiring and otherworldly (bioluminescent sea creatures crossed with dinosaurs comes to mind). As with the robots, each Kaiju has its own style and personality/behaviour. This helps to keep a lot of the action sequences fresh and exciting. Just when you think you are going to get bored of seeing entire streets of buildings demolished as metal clashes against lizard flesh, a new 'mechanism' of attack is unleashed. Whether it be a spray of luminous acidic spit, a bio-electric shockwave or a Jaeger spouting a huge samurai-type sword, you can’t help but feel like a wide eyed excitable teen ready to stand up, throw your popcorn and cheer at the fight!

This is a film you can just sit back and enjoy for what it is. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but knows exactly what it strengths are and shows them off to its fullest. Unlike some recent sci-fi trends, which attempt to be more slick, mature, and thought provoking but lose some of the charm, Pacific Rim is full to bursting with charm and humour in all the right places. All of the characters are complete over the top stereotypes and do not shy away from it. In fact they bask in it as though they are characters straight from an Anime comic. From the fearless (yet big softie at heart) commander Pentecost (Idris Elba), to the shy yet determined badass Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi). All of the characters have the spotlight and a backstory, and not just as a means to further the lead characters story arc. The Interplay between Dr Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) is unbelievably tongue in cheek but you can’t help but laugh along and enjoy it.

Pacific Rim is an experience best had on the big screen. I suggest any hardened cynical film critic to leave their reservations at the door and enjoy what this film has to offer, clichés and all. Maybe not the complete film, but a bold, highly enjoyable blockbuster definitely.

Written by Jamie Brannon Monday, 01 April 2013 00:00
Features - Reviews
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Bloc Party – Earls Court, London

After roughly a decade of gigging, Bloc Party had finally reached a zenith by playing their biggest UK show to date at the spacious but, slightly soulless, Earls Court.

It was the band’s final night of their European tour, which seems to have reignited their passion for the Bloc Party manifesto, as during frontman Kele Okereke’s solo phase the band’s future had been cast into doubt.

From the outset, Bloc Party and the audience themselves were in no mood to mess around. Starting with ‘So He Begins to Lie’, the energy and physicality down the front was ferociously intense, belying their reputation as angular indie purveyors. This was very much a deep, down and dirty rock show. To be frank, the moshpit carnage was beginning to get out of hand as they charged through old favourites, ‘Hunting for Witches’ and ‘Positive Tension’. Even more doleful moments such as ‘Waiting for the 7.18’ were greeted as beastly rock numbers. At the end of the day, it was Friday and Earls Court was ready to go insane and no quarter was given.

Such is the depth of the band’s back catalogue these days that old classics like ‘Banquet’ just feel part of the set, not necessarily the standout track.

After a marginal drop-off in quality, a thumping, glorious version of ‘The Prayer’, and the disco-infused ‘One More Chance’ quickly help us return to the high standards that permeate the majority of the show.

Adopting the policy of a double encore, their first one is a little mixed. The dreary ‘Kreuzberg’, followed by the uninspiring ‘Ares’ provide a brief lull, but it is quickly forgotten as they drop in ‘This Modern Love’, a favourite of their original angular-indie incarnation. The first encore climaxes with, arguably, their greatest song – ‘Flux’. As ever, it provides a futuristic soundscape eliciting a communal uprising in an Earls Court crowd now in a state of nirvana.

As for the introduction to their final encore, Bloc Party play a new track, Ratchet, which immediately grabs you due to a funky groove, supplemented by Okereke’s pseudo-rapping. Next is ‘Truth’, which feels like a makeweight before they play a set-closer that everyone is anticipating.

Okereke offers the usual gig-closing platitudes and urges those who haven’t to mosh. He shouldn’t have bothered as soon as he the opening riff of old-school classic ‘Helicopter’ is heard, chaos engulfs Earls Court, sparking an intensity and devotion that will hopefully inspire Bloc Party to carry on a few more years. There ain’t no party like a Bloc Party!

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