Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Friday, 16 August 2013

Film Review: The World's End

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Paddy Considine

The dreamteam that is writer/director Edgar Wright and actors/real-life-BBFs Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is finally reunited for a much-anticipated third outing with The World’s End, the final film in their so-called “Cornetto Trilogy”. After the unprecedented success of their first collaboration in 2003 with the now cult classic zombie-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, the team partnered up again in 2007 for the bizzaro buddy-cop flick Hot Fuzz.
After a string of other work commitments – most notably Wright’s directorial work on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and Pegg/Frost’s sci-fi road trip flick Paul – it’s certainly nice to have the band back together after all these years.
Although the team are now close to middle age, their latest offering still embraces youthful foolishness, but is perhaps comprised of a deeper and more emotive feeling than their first two efforts.

The film centres on Gary Knight (played with devilish charisma by Pegg), a recovering alcoholic loser whose life peaked in highschool and has never wanted to grow up. Facing a crisis of self-doubt, Gary decides to contact his old school friends Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Oliver (Martin Freeman) who have all moved on with their lives after highschool. Somehow he convinces them all to return to their sleepy hometown of Newton Haven in order to finish the 12-stop Golden Mile pub-crawl they failed to complete 20 years ago as teens.

However, once the group arrives in Newton Haven, they find that things aren’t quite like they remember, and they soon discover why. Quite bluntly, almost all the residents of the village have been replaced by blue-blooded robots called “Blanks”. The friends come to the conclusion that in order to escape the town, they must finish the epic pub-crawl so the “Blanks” don’t suspect anything. Of course that’s what you’d do, knock back a few pints and wait for the whole thing to blow over.

Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz need not to worry, The World’s End is just as charming, delightful and bat-shit crazy as its predecessors. The characters are all lovable, there are quirky running jokes to be had and geeky film references galore. There are certainly some poignant moments in the film, as the friends reminisce about their youth and question their futures; but for the film’s majority, the main tone is set at laugh-out-loud, pitch-black British comedy.

Edgar Wright’s directing is, as always, full of energy and wit. The use of rapid quick cuts is still a thrilling filmic device, and will always be a signature for Wright along with his comic book like approach to a story, a rocking 90s Brit-pop soundtrack and the wonderful British charm that runs through all his films.

Although its apocalyptically huge ending does go a little off the rails into the domain of the absolute impossible, The World’s End is definitely not a film taking itself too seriously, and neither should we. It’s the perfect escape to the end of the world that could be offered by Wright, Pegg and Frost, and hopefully not the last time the band gets back together.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Music Review: Soft Will by Smith Westerns

Although we may be suffering through a blistering cold Melbourne winter, over in America the release of the Smith Western’s third album, Soft Will, has been appropriately welcomed in all its summery glory.
Throughout Soft Will the Chicago four piece emulate iconic sounds of blissful summers and atmospheric indie pop. The album is a follow up to 2011’s ultra success Dye It Blonde, which featured an array of simple and sweet tunes to fill long summer days.
However, like many talented buzzbands who formed during indie’s peak years of 2007-2010, it was easy for the Smith Westerns to get lost in a seemingly endless parade of mindless indie pop groups who flourished on the vibes of wasted youth. Perhaps for the Smith Westerns the influences of David Bowie, Oasis and 80’s alt-rock was what set them apart from the rest of the pack.
Similar to other indie surf pop bands like Best Coast, Girls and The Drums, the themes that Smith Westerns explore in Soft Will focus on the lack of direction in life and the inevitable heartbreak faced by twenty-somethings worldwide.

Each track melts into another like an icy pole on a hot summer’s day. The naïve simplicity of the album’s opener, 3AM Spiritual, evokes a feeling of being dizzyingly in love, but explodes in layered indie rock melodies towards the end, setting the tone for the remainder of the album. The melancholic undertones of the instrumental XXIII induces the dread of childhood’s end and, in its most beautiful moments, sounds like a possible closing track to a Sofia Coppola film.
The woozy dreaminess of Fool Proof is a definite standout on Soft Will. With its swishing strings and distorted guitar strumming it’s sweet and laidback, but a more up-tempo and danceable track. On the tranquil track, Best Friend, lead singer Cullen Omori croons, “you’re the one” over and over again as 70s inspired layered guitar riffs play underneath.
Soft Will’s first single, and most notable track, Varsity closes the album (on LPs without the bonus tracks), and exhibits some of the Smith Western’s most sunny and romantic sounds. The track’s dreamlike youthfulness evokes imagery of running down suburban streets as the sun sets on the horizon. The end of summer and perhaps the end of adolescence, which may signal a change in the Smith Western’s mindset and possibly a more mature sound for whatever comes next.
The Smith Westerns have reached a peak in their short career with Soft Will, the ultimate blissful and dreamy soundtrack to a summer that we can only dream of. 


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Film Review: The Hunt

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: Tobias Lindhold and Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen and Lasse Folgelstørm

When Mads Mikkelsen accepted his Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival last year for his heart wrenching performance in The Hunt, he declared “I’d like to share this with all of you because you believe in what you do.” I suppose you’d need a whole lot of courage and faith in a story when creating a film, especially one in the vein of The Hunt.
Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s films are often considered mirrors that reflect the true pains of life. His latest film, The Hunt, sees him tackle the excruciatingly difficult subject matter of child sexual abuse and the alienation that faces the accused, whether they are guilty or not.

One of Denmark’s greatest exports, Mads Mikkelsen, portrays Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is finally getting his life back on track after a messy divorce. He has a new girlfriend, his teenage son Marcus (Lasse Folgelstørm) wants to live with him and he has a solid circle of friends who go on hunting weekends together.
Lucas’ life unravels when one of the children at the Kindergarten (whom also happens to be his best friend’s daughter) wrongfully accuses him of sexual abuse after a series of misunderstandings. The small Danish community is quick to label Lucas as guilty without even him fully understanding what he is being accused of. Friends turn their backs on him and he is ostracised from the community, publically humiliated and abused.

At the centre of The Hunt is a truly superb performance from Mads Mikkelsen, who always seems up for the challenge of a difficult role, and has played everything from a Bond villain to the Queen of Denmark’s lover to Hannibal Lecter. Mikkelsen is subtle in his portrayal of Lucas as a regular man with real life problems, but the humiliation and alienation he faces is handled with a sympathetic, committed and compassionate performance.
The film’s dedication to focusing almost solely on Lucas (there is barely a scene without him) is one of The Hunt’s strongest points. We know that Lucas is innocent, which makes the destruction of his life so much more devastating and almost unbearable to watch. Not to say that The Hunt is unwatchable, but the constant blows to Lucas’ life seem to have no end and there is barely a moment of relief from this tragedy. The ending is a true shock (not to spoil anything) and will leave your heart racing long after the credits roll.
Vinterberg has created a visually beautiful film with sweeping Danish landscapes of forests and lakes, and the beautifully decorated interiors that reflect a realistic middle-class community.

The Hunt deliberately makes its audience feel uncomfortable, anguished and helpless all at once. It tells one of the time’s oldest stories, the dangers of prejudice and judgement, which places it akin to a classic like To Kill A Mockingbird. But The Hunt’s major difference is that we know the entire time the accused is innocent, yet we are forced to watch powerlessly as a decent man is isolated from all that he loves. The Hunt is a true modern masterpiece that will break you heart and provoke you into questioning societies’ judgements and prejudices. 


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kaurtzman and Damon Lindelof (Screenplay), and Gene Roddenberry (Created Original “Star Trek” TV series)
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch

In 2009 Trekkies rejoiced when king of the nerds, the legendary producer/director/writer J.J. Abrams lived out of his childhood dream and rebooted the classic Sci-Fi TV show Star Trek into a sleek, sexy and sensational film.
The reboot delved into the development of lead protagonists Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) and their fiery bromance, whilst also providing some solid supporting characters, a thrilling storyline and breathtaking visual effects.

Abrams returns with his crew of space explorers in 2013 with Star Trek Into Darkness. The film is direct sequel to its predecessor and begins with a typical chaotic rush to save an alien world from destruction. From this very opening sequence we know we’re in for one hell of a ride. We are immediately able to feel connected to the crewmembers of the Starship Enterprise, almost as though we are a part of their weird and wacky family.
However, the Universe does not stay saved for long and we encounter a terrifying terrorist act on London by the sinister but charismatic John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). When finally apprehended by Starfleet, Harrison offers to help Kirk and Spock in uncovering a master plot to destroy Earth, à la Lecter/Starling.
Cumberbatch portrays Harrison as a mysterious creature full of charisma and steeliness, but his voice is so smooth and soothing that every word he utters sounds like a line from a Shakespearean play. Nevertheless, his villain is chilling, fascinating and holds firm ground against the protagonists.

Abrams utilises his sleek style magnificently through Star Trek Into Darkness, with his signature solar flares lighting up the screen giving a warm feel to the film’s atmosphere. His team of writers and himself effortlessly chop and change between moods, whether it’s an edge of your seat action sequence, heated debates between two highly-strung intellectuals or a witty dose of comic relief (usually served up by Scotty played by the ever charming Simon Pegg). For both die-hard Trekkies and casual fans (like myself) there is certainly something in Star Trek Into Darkness to please everyone.

The next project on the horizon for Abrams is a reboot of the just as loved and epic Star Wars franchise. If his reboot of Star Trek is any indication, Abrams’ Star Wars will be just as sleek, seductive and intelligent. Both franchises have legions of fans and infinite worlds of possibilities to explore, so it will be a thrill to see where Abram takes Star Wars. As for Star Trek Into Darkness, one does not have to be a devoted fan to the series and films to enjoy this thrilling and hilarious ride through the universe. It is a film that delves into our imaginations and exhibits some truly exciting prospects for the future. Hopefully Abrams will be back post-Star Wars to lead the adventures of the Starship Enterprise. Live long and prosper, I say.


Friday, 31 May 2013

Triple j's Hottest 100 of the Past 20 Years

Ugh. Why does Triple j do this to us?
The iconic Australian radio station is asking people to cast their vote for their favourite songs of the last 20 years (1993-2012). It’s excruciatingly difficult, and makes my brain (and soul) hurt so much. There are so many great songs I’m sure I've left out….
My approach to choosing my Top 20 was to pick songs that weren’t necessarily my FAVOURITE song by an artist, but were songs that I felt were iconic, polarising and deserved to be in the countdown. I also had to take into account past countdowns and the public’s tendency to vote for more “popular” songs.
So here’s my list!

Choose wisely people.
Voting closes on Sunday, so VOTE NOW! <3

My May Playlist

May Vibes

My favourite and most played songs of May.