Yo, Apple, next time you wanna deposit a surprise new album from a major act into my iTunes without my consent, can it be the new Kanye or Kendrick or hell, even a new One Direction album. Anything but a goddamn U2 record.
Let’s face it, the only things Songs Of Innocence will be remembered for is its release strategy and the subsequent worldwide backlash (which I’m now gleefully joining in on). I can’t recall anyone having much positive to say about waking up to the news that they were owners of a fresh album from the Irish megastars, one which was unable to be deleted (until Apple provided an app to do so). The implications of being forced to own an album you never asked for, especially with a never-ending debate over privacy rolling on, aren’t good, especially when you consider just how politically active Bono is known to be. You can’t imagine others known for similar leanings, like Springsteen et al, pulling a similar stunt.
Musically, U2’s thirteenth studio album belies its unique release, as it’s soulless to the point where any glimmer of sincerity is extremely well hidden. The power and energy that their music once carried has all but dissipated; the sole exception being the slightly raw “Volcano”, but even that devolves into mindless chants and bombast. Nothing quite sinks to the level of the abominable “Get On Your Boots”, but still, that can barely qualify as praise.
The band now sound like a pale imitation of the groups who aped and have since overtaken them in the stadium rock game. They’re audibly grasping at straws to sound as big and accessible as Kings Of Leon or Coldplay, it verges on laughable, especially with Dangermouse’s production continuing to be the flattest in the game. The Edge’s iconic guitar sound, once a defining element of contemporary rock, has faded to a barely identifiable buzzing, whilst Bono’s hollering and yelping has lost any subtlety it once had, every line now dripping in more faux-earnestness than ever before. That this sanctimonious prick dared to name a song after one of the writers of some of the greatest dumb, simple, fun pop songs (namely “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, one of three parentheses’d song titles on the album) is an affront to anyone who calls them a fan of rock music. Never mind that it’s possibly the only decent track on the album and annoyingly catchy, it’s bloody offensive.
This very much seems like the official point where we can give up on U2 as an act capable of creating something truly worthwhile, if you hadn’t already done so. When it prevents this kind of tripe entering the public’s consciousness, it’s absolutely to burn out than slowly, sadly fade away.
If there’s one person you don’t starring in a film which is best described as a “bawdy sex romp”, it’s Woody Allen. Even if you ignore the allegations that surround him (tough to do, I acknowledge), just the man himself is the antithesis of sex appeal; a neurotic, nebbish Jewish guy who looks increasingly like a sentient flaccid penis, his presence negating any potential eroticism in whatever film he may be in.
Fading Gigolo is one such “romp”, written, directed, and starring everyone’s favourite character actor John Turturro. But for all the goodwill I have towards Turturro, I can’t in good critical conscience be positive about this. On paper, a farce centring on an octogenarian pimp and his middle-aged, near-mute prostitute has some comedic potential, but in reality it spurns barely nascent laughs for pretensions of depth, a flavour of melancholy and regressive characterisation. The women of Fading Gigolo are either sex-crazed nymphos or meek wallflowers, but either way, they’re given little life or shading outside of their interactions with the wrinkled male lead duo, who are themselves barely sketched out. And you’re stretching the suspension of disbelief beyond breaking point when you ask your audience to believe that women as beautiful and successful as Sofia Vergara and Sharon Stone are having trouble finding a willing man to be the third point in a menage a trois with them, to the extremes where they have to pay someone to participate, especially when that someone looks like Turturro.
With a pace akin to molasses, uninspired humour and a weak attempt at criticising Orthodox Judaism for its prehistoric view on women (not exactly a daring move, but if you’re going to commit to it, then actually commit to it), it’s amazing none of the famous faces involved didn’t pull Turturro aside to convince him to either not make this, or give it a few dozen more rewrites. It’s an unfortunate addition to the droves of shameless vanity projects which already pack the annals of popular cinema.
Trailer: Inherent Vice: The trailer for Paul Thomas Anderon’s much-anticipated Inherent Vice, the director’s first film since The Master and an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name, has finally arrived. The film will be the first feature adaptation of a Pynchon novel, and will star Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom and newcomer Katherine Waterston.
The film is set to premiere at the New York Film Festival this weekend. Here’s NYFF’s synopsis:
Paul Thomas Anderson’s wild and entrancing new movie, the very first adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, is a cinematic time machine, placing the viewer deep within the world of the paranoid, hazy L.A. dope culture of the early ’70s. It’s not just the look (which is ineffably right, from the mutton chops and the peasant dresses to the battered screen doors and the neon glow), it’s the feel, the rhythm of hanging out, of talking yourself into a state of shivering ecstasy or fear or something in between. Joaquin Phoenix goes all the way for Anderson (just as he did in The Master) playing Doc Sportello, the private investigator searching for his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston, a revelation), menaced at every turn by Josh Brolin as the telegenic police detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen. Among the other members of Anderson’s mind-boggling cast are Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Owen Wilson, and Jena Malone. A trip, and a truly great American film. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Inherent Vice is scheduled for release in select theatres on December 12th (meaning it probably won’t reach the UK and Europe until 2015 unfortunately)
Despite attempts at carving himself a niche as Britain’s answer to Eminem, Professor Green has never once seemed dangerous or fiery. His neck tattoo belies of just how sanitised and palatable his music has been, never exemplified as much as on this latest album, Growing Up In Public. There’s far too much in common here with fellow quasi—rap star Example (who pops up like an unwanted zit on the dreary schmaltz of “Fast Life”) for Green to continue to be taken seriously as a musical prospect.
Despite having an eventful few years since his last album At Your Convenience in 2011 - being banned from driving, being mugged outside his home, getting married - very little of that potential interesting subject matter makes its way into Green’s lyrics. Instead the tracks seem divided into three flavours; painfully-eager-to-be-funny banter, self-obsessed bemoaning of the fame game, and stony-faced string-laden “realness”, all of which are neutered by Green’s nasal whine and basic flows. Even the production seems to give up most of the time, falling back on glossy but uninspiring commercially-viable dance, with nods to dub step and classic house.
As a basic, established pop-rapper, we can’t really expect Pro Green to be as innovative or creative as the likes of Kanye or Kendrick or spin harsh gritty narratives like Freddie Gibbs, but even so, this is an extremely poor, pallid effort. No wonder its released was delayed and pushed back so often.
Hollywood is probably one of the most alternately self-aggrandising and self-loathing institutions in the world. It absolutely loves to jerk itself off with one hand, whilst ripping its own hair out and punching itself with the other, resulting in the likes of, amongst others, Sunset Boulevard, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Entourage, The Player, Adaptation, Tropic Thunder, the interminable Canyons, All About Eve, and David Lynch’s two most recent films Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. But where this films are content with taking most pot-shots and throwing quick jabs, David Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars comes out swinging at Tinseltown like The Bear Jew at so many Nazi soldiers.
But for the viciousness and bile Cronenberg and script writer Bruce Wagner serve at the LA city’s fame culture, it still feels a little like shooting dead fish in a barrel with a BB gun. Sure, the outrageous lines spouted by the small clutch of characters are likely ripped from real life encounters that Wagner has been a part of, but the character archetypes employed feel ancient - the wild child teen star, the desperate aging has-been, the wide-eyed ingenue, the constantly-auditioning wannabe - to the point where there’s little milage left in them. A 13 year old child actor with a drug habit calling his agent a ”Jew faggot” almost feels passé, like an aching-to-be-relevant transparent Justin Bieber analogue (despite the script being around long before Biebz’ late-teen meltdown), whilst an actress clinging to middle-age and deathly afraid of losing out on roles is pretty outmoded in an age when roughly 50% of the nominees for the female acting Oscars have been middle-aged and over.
It certainly doesn’t help that the narrative is equally as thin as the characters in it. Maps pieces itself together from a few intriguing strands which look like they might possibly build towards something, but instead just float in mid-air without anything particularly satisfactory happening. Curious elements like ghosts, incest and murder are mostly pulled from the conversation as soon as they’re thrown in, and if they happen to remain, they’re not built on. As a whole, the film rather odd and entertaining sure, but that’s not because of the writing or the directing, which are just simply flat. David Cronenberg is one of the most unique and strange filmmakers of the last 40-odd years, but lately he seems stuck on autopilot; this would be fine if he were still a body horror-obsessed auteur, but 2011’s A Dangerous Method, 2012’s Cosmopolis, and now Maps are nowhere near as visceral or interesting as even a standard piece of genre cinema like Eastern Promises. Overly sterile and filmed like an ugly network drama, we’re kept as too much of a distance from these characters - even as we get a front row seat to Julianne Moore shitting in a toilet, noises and all - and never really get a feel of what they’re truly like beyond some shallow characterisation.
As an aside, I have to make brief mention of a short scene which comes late in the film, a scene which includes some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in some time. Maps is a film that had a budget of $13 million, yet it seems that only $50 of that not-insignificant amount of money was allocated of visual effects. How anyone could’ve seen this scene and allowed it to be in the finished version is baffling.
Were it not for a tremendous anchoring performance from Moore (who appears to have transformed into Lindsay Lohan’s elder sister) as haunted and abused older actress Havanna Segrand, Maps would probably be an out-and-out failure. Moore is backed up great support from Mia Wasikowska (who’s building up quite a sterling highlight reel with her choice of roles recently) and Evan Bird as the infinitely punchable teen star terror Benji Weiss, who help provide a little spark and verve but not quite enough to move the film to punch above its weight. Of the actors in the tertiary roles, Robert Pattinson is hamstrung by a virtually tiny-if-important role, Olivia Williams phones it in as Benji’s typical monstrous Hollywood mother/manager, and John Cusack (face rendered rubbery and still presumably by plastic surgery) doesn’t have the outward, radiant charisma to pull off his role as a bullshitting celebrity self-help guru.
Perhaps, it was the sheer lure of the name of Cronenberg which drew such a stellar ensemble to the film, in spite of his recent output and such a messy script. Even as two hours of awful people being awful and saying awful things to one another, it pales in comparison to the likes of American Horror Story or Game Of Thrones. However it this a trip to the slightly darker side of a fictional Hollywood is a trip worth taking, if only for Moore’s performance (which won her the Best Actress award at Cannes) and for one of the odder cinematic experiences of the year.
Things We Wish Were Real of the day: Disappointed that the Buffy The Vampire Slayer cartoon series was developed but never got off the ground? Welp, this fully realised intro from artist Stephen Byrne is only going to make you pine harder for a trip to an animated Sunnydale. Watch out for a ton of in-jokes and call backs to the original show, and be weirdly okay with a rather funky take on Nerf Herder’s immortal theme song, and then petition those US TV companies to make this a reality.
At some point within the last decade, Halloween became a month-long celebration. It’s not even October and I’ve already been asked by several people what my costume will be and, worse yet, I already know. But whether or not you too have succumbed to the Halloween Industrial Complex, there is no better way to celebrate the spookiest time of the year than with King Tuff’s shtick-y new album, Black Moon Spell.
King Tuff has resurrected the bloated corpse of glam rock along with all of the flamboyance and none of the machismo of its first wave. The mastermind behind it all is Vermont-to-L.A. transplant Kyle Thomas, who has a knack for keeping a tight balance between goofy and grounded. His third and latest album is rife with visions of black cats and hexes backed by cartoonishly loud guitar riffs. It toes the line of kitsch with imagery straight out of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown but is held together by Thomas’s ability to be self-aware without being bitter and insincere.
He employs impressive technical skill while reviving classically simple lyricism. Standouts include the lead single, “Eyes Of The Muse”, which recalls hazy ‘70s summer jams with an added mystic twist, and “I Love You Ugly”, a twangy retro-pop track that sounds like a Schoolhouse Rock song with no educational value. While not necessarily the most memorable track, “Black Holes In Stereo” neatly distills the vibe of the entire album into a measly two minutes—like a Bowie song for children, Thomas sings about boys and girls from outer space and 45s falling from a UFO. Considering Thomas’s obvious vintage influences and his played up devil-may-care attitude, the song’s line “I learned more working at the record store than I ever did in high school” could be the album’s thesis statement.
Thomas’s talent for being intelligently cheesy has never been more apparent than it is on this album. There isn’t much range stylistically, so the album can get a little tiring by a certain point. But luckily Thomas is very skilled with the specific sound that he has crafted and because of that Black Moon Spell is still a good time all around.
[Bill & Ted] will be 40-something and it’s all about Bill and Ted grown up, or not grown up. It’s really sweet and really fucking funny.
But it’s a Bill & Ted movie, that’s what it is. It’s for the fans of Bill & Ted. It fits very neatly in the [series]. It’s not going to feel like a reboot. The conceit is really funny: What if you’re middle-aged, haven’t really grown up and you’re supposed to have saved the world and maybe, just maybe, you kinda haven’t?
There’s many versions of ourselves in this movie. [It’s] answering the question: ‘What happened to these guys?’ They’re supposed to have done all this stuff, they weren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree, what happened 20 years later? To answer that question in a comedic way felt rich with possibility.
The thing we had going against us is that word got out. That was kind of a bummer. It just takes a long time to put a movie together. Now we’re having to build this thing in public, which is fine. I just feel bad [the fans] have to get dragged through this long, boring, protracted process.
Me and Keanu and [original writers] Chris [Matheson] and Ed [Solomon] are all very close and have remained close over the years. We’d be having dinner and we’d be like, ‘is there a point? Is there a way in?’ We’d kick an idea around and go no and we would leave it alone for a bunch of years. I guess about four years ago we had an idea together that we thought was pretty great. I think it was because so much time had gone by that it was great.
It was really just the four of us and we were really very measured about it. It took time to construct the idea, it took Chris and Ed time to build the first draft. Then we put a producer together and got a director [Galaxy Quest helmer Dean Parisot]. We’ve been working on drafts for the last couple of years. The script’s been finished for a while, but comedy is so specific. We’re in that world where producers are on, financiers are on and we’re just working and reworking the script.In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, actor and director Alex Winter, better known Bill, let slip a lot of details about the upcoming third film in the most excellent Bill & Ted series. Both Winter and Keanu “Ted” Reeves are set to return to the characters 23 years after they last played them in 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Album: Tomorrow's Modern BoxesArtist: Thom YorkeSong: A Brain In A BottlePlays: 98