Song Of The Day
It’s nice to know Australian pop-rap has more than just Iggy Azalea to offer, as Adelaide’s Tka Maidza knocks it right out of the park with “U-Huh”.
Bad Words represents a brace of firsts for Jason Bateman. It’s his directorial debut, and it’s also the first time since his rise to the wider consciousness on Arrested Development that he’s definitely not played the straight man. Thanks to the likes of Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief, Paul, Hancock and Juno, we’re used to Bateman being the supposedly stern, put-upon, mature figure, essentially playing variations on Michael Bluth. But as bitter man-child protagonist Guy Trilby, he finally lets rip.
Alas, Bad Words is only a moderate success. Bateman is a competent director, making up for a lack of flair with a good understanding of what works best visually and a nice translation of his on-screen comic timing (although everything seems to be doused in that awful green wash so common in upper-level indie flicks). The real key component of the film is first time writer Andrew Dodge’s slight-but-solid script, which sees the middle-aged Trilby exploiting a loophole in the rules of a National Spelling Bee so that he can compete and win, against a bunch of pre-teens. Black comedy and unsuspecting kids together are a winning formula for comedy gold, aided by Bateman dropping F-bombs across the board. Trilby is obviously a terrible, warped human being, but Bateman has so much fun with with it and is so acerbic that you can’t help but root for his character. It helps that there’s an adorable comic foil in fellow competitor Chaitanya Chopra (Homeland’s Rohan Chand), who helps balance out Trilby’s nihilism with some wonderful childlike pep.
The thing is, if the pitch black comedy was dialled down even just a notch or two, Bad Words would essentially just be a rather trad “daddy issues” indie drama, almost like something Zach Braff would make. That freudian excuse behind Trilby’s actions is so anodyne that it can be guessed the second it’s brought up, and it’s brought up a whole hell of a lot. Constantly dangled like the proverbial carrot in front of us by the reporter (Kathryn Hahn) sponsoring Trilby’s exploits in exchange for the scoop, Trilby repeatedly refuses to tell her, for no real reason other than because the screenplay says it’s not time to reveal it. Everything ticks along just too neatly to match the supposed unpredictability of its main character. There was definitely potential for a truly great film about coming-of-age a bit too late here, but instead, Bad Words will have to serve as a mild beginning to Bateman’s career behind the camera.
I’m in the business of trying to make dope shit for the world. You’re in the business of representing scums and trying to make as much money as long as there’s this lapse in the law… I’m the smartest fucking celebrity you’ve ever dealt with. I’m not Britney Spears.
[Responding to the prosecution quoting a couplet from “Flashing Lights”: “Till I get flashed by the paparazzi / Damn, these niggas got me.”]
“You have to ask for a hall pass. You can’t just say the ‘n’ word around me,” he says. “It offends me because you’re a white person saying ‘nigga.’”
[On the struggles celebrities have in maintaining privacy and if he equates them with the civil rights struggles of the 1960s]
“I mean in the ’60s people used to hold up ‘Die N****r’ signs when my parents were in the sit-ins also…. Yes, 100%… I equate it to discrimination. I equate it to inequalities. We, as group of minorities here in L.A., as celebrities have to ban together to influence guys like this – guys trying to take the picture, guys trying to get the big win, guys trying to get the check.”
[On where he lives]
[On paparazzi using drones to photograph his family’s private life]
“Is your daughter stalked by like drones? Are there drones flying where she’s trying to learn how to swim at age one? … Wouldn’t you like to just teach your daughter how to swim without a drone flying? What happens if a drone falls right next to her? Would it electrocute her? … Could it fall and hit her if that paparazzi doesn’t understand how to remote control the drone over their house?”
Occasional hive of scum and villainy TMZ has obtained a transcript of the deposition of Kanye West from his 2013 trial for misdemeanours of criminal battery and attempted grand theft, which came after West allegedly attacking a paparazzo. He pled not guilty, and was eventually sentenced to two years probation in March.
These excerpts are pretty much vintage Kanye; if you love him, they’ll just make you love him more, and if you hate him, then it won’t exactly change your mind on Yeezy (although that civil rights comment is a bit of a stretch…)
Posters: Simpsons World: If you’re someone who already has every Simpsons episode hardwired into your mind and soul, but hasn’t had the time, inclination or means to download them to your computer via less-than-legal avenues, then the announcement of FXX’s Simpsons World was probably like manna from yellow-skinned, four fingered heaven to you. The service, which allows us Springfield obsessives to stream episodes, create playlists, share and search for specific clips, and even follow along with the original script, launches in October, after a 552 episode - the show’s entire run to date - marathon, 24 hours a day, seven days a week from August 21st to September 1st. These posters, designed by Cold Open, Arsonal and Gravillis Inc, to promote the launch are utterly sublime, and there are sure to be more than a few fans clamouring to have these hanging on their walls.
I’ve never been one for cheesy action films. The movies contained within those mountains of DVD cases that fill bargain bins in high street shops and supermarkets, the ones that make up the numbers in the schedules of satellite TV. The odd hero worship of the vascular macho men who couldn’t act their way out of your four year old cousin’s nativity play. I love action as a genre, but the utter unironic devotion to the wholly average subsection of films led by Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Seagal, et al, really go over my head. For these reasons, the Expendables franchise has never really found its way into my purview. Geriatric glorified bodybuilders reliving their heydays isn’t exactly in my cinematic wheelhouse, but surprisingly, this third entry in the saga is kinda watchable?
Yes, it might as well be plotless, and deals solely in unashamed nostalgia and tired action tropes. And sure, Sly Stallone still speaks like a drunk guy with marbles in his mouth which is a baffling choice for a lead actor. And yeah, even though he’s the antagonist, it’s awkward watching Mel Gibson get a presumably hefty Hollywood payday after his various transgressions. And of course, nothing to do with this film is going to challenge for awards come 2015. But I really can’t deny how gleeful it is to watch these major action stars trade quips and spout gruff one-liners.
It’s unashamedly silly and juvenile - the final battle takes place in the fictional country of Assmanistan… yes, really - but never really veers towards being puerile or exploitative. Despite the unabashed right wing “AMERICA FUCK YEAH” gun-nut fervour which flows through every frame, there’s surprisingly little bloodshed or gore involved, which makes for a nice changeThey even managed to include a female character this time around, and although UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champ Rhonda Rousey ain’t exactly Meryl Streep, it’s nice to have a little variety in those doling out ass-kickings on screen. The standouts of this all-star lineup are newcomers Antonion Banderas and Wesley Snipes, appearing in his first major release in five years. The pair add some much needed flair and charisma to the franchise regulars (Terry Crews could only hold things up on his own for so long on that front), and also help provide a lot of the comic relief.
I can’t in good conscience rate this highly at all. It’s not good enough to transcend its B-movie ghetto, but it has too much between its metaphorical ears to fall into the “so bad it’s good” or “how did this get made?” category. Likely the best entry into the franchise and probably the highlight of most of its cast’s recent careers, it’s two hours of your life you won’t get back, but were you really going to do anything worthwhile with them anyways?
Let me start by saying I’ve never watched a Transformers film. It’s not that I have a low tolerance for ludicrous CGI based blockbusters featuring bangs, whooshes and untold metropolitan damage - I’m an unabashed fanboy of Pacific Rim, as well as the Marvel Cinematic universe which seems to run on those tropes - and whilst my desire to chase Hollywood’s foremost probably racist, definitely sexist Michael Bay out of town with torches and pitchforks is high, I’m still capable of acknowledging he can make a good film now and then (The Bad Boys franchise and the horribly underrated Pain & Gain are all highly enjoyable in my eyes). But the combination of two enormously unsubtle, bombastic elements, coupled with the inclusion of cardboard cutouts of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox had the same effect on me as a violently swung broom has to a cat.
So the news of the casting of Mark Wahlberg in the fourth film of the series piqued my interest slightly. Marky Mark’s a charismatic screen presence, who can actually act when he wants to (Boogie Nights is the obvious example of hid talent, and I’m still kinda bitter about him missing out on the Supporting Actor Oscar in 2007 for The Departed), so his inclusion in Age Of Extinction certainly made the film a more watchable prospect than the initial Shia Trilogy. But unfortunately this of one of Wahlberg’s autopilot performances - playing an inventor, even an amateur one, seems out of his range - in a film which is lazier than a stoned sloth. I don’t think there’s ever existed a director with more disdain for his audience - or any audience than Bay. Sure, budget CGI beings and the ever-present explosions might entertain some for a moment or two but for anyone who prefers to engage their brain when watching something, it’d be more stimulating to watch paint dry.
Everything here is just so hacky, from the comic relief to the character names (Cade Yeager? Seriously? Not only a transparently poor Pacific Rim nod, but also utterly ridiculous for a human being) and archetypes. It’s a recurring theme in Bay’s work for the military to fetishised whilst government and “suits” are the absolute evil, but it’s just taken to ludicrous extremes. It almost feels like a parody of manufactured production line Hollywood blockbusters, something you’d see mocked in an infinitely more aware and intelligent property. Dialogue so wooden and unnatural, and character arcs seemingly transplanted from the ‘60s about over-protective fathers, and the serial objectification of women, where the “reward” for just happening to be powerful and female one is to become a sex object… all this is a braincell-destroying, arse-numbing , thumb-twiddling three goddamn hours. Why does a story of wisecracking intergalactic robots punching each other need more screen-time than 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Apocalypse Now or The Godfather?
There’s so much about Age Of Extinction's existence that boggles the mind, although with the continued massive success of Bay at the box-office, he clearly has carte blanche to do whatever the fuck he wants with budgets that dwarf the GDP of some small countries. He could film himself scratching his taint for day and it’d still probably make a billion dollars. It’s utterly depressing that, in an era of mega-budget films that at least pretend to be made with thought and heart and a interest in entertaining their audience, we have to put up with this bilge.
The first thing you hear when Perfect Pussy take the stage is a solid wall of noise, and the last thing you hear when they leave the stage is a solid wall of noise. Perfect Pussy aren’t innovative or breaking new musical ground, but what they are is very, very angry. On record Meredith Graves screams to be heard yet she is drowned out by the whirlpool of feedback. Live she just screams into the abyss, and the abyss keeps going for about twenty minutes, only stopping to breathe. Some people eat it up, some people stare on. Perfect Pussy are just there, and they’re really good.
Meanwhile, Joanna Gruesome just rip the void open with their incredibly sweet noise pop, frontwoman Alanna cooing about pulling teeth out amongst guitars that rage as much as they swoon. The music is as nice as it is furious, their set not lasting long at all. In the brief time they shine, songs off last year’s brilliant debut Weird Sister are torn through amongst new song “Jerome (Liar)”, which will appear on a split 12” with Trust Fund in late September. People dance, people cheer, everyone smiles. Then once the set is over they’re joined with Perfect Pussy and support bands Martha and The Spook School for a rendition of “You Belong With Me” to end a bloody good night.
It’s rare to come across an artist who absolutely dismantles the current slew of popular alternative music and sits suddenly and abruptly in its place, and yet it seems like that’s what has happened. FKA twigs’ “Two Weeks”, the first single from her debut album LP1 has been receiving pretty extensive radio play (I heard it on BBC Radio 2 while my mum was listening to it and asked to turn it up; she refused.). It’s both natural and unnatural - the songs are astoundingly accessible and well written, though the ostentatious noise of the instrumentals might have proven to be too challenging for mainstream audiences as Kanye West proved with Yeezus, and many bands do when they go in a more abstract direction.
LP1 is most certainly challenging. You’ve probably by now heard the oscillating “Two Weeks”, a brilliant song accompanied with a fine music video, but it’s definitely the most pop-oriented song from LP1, though “Lights On” and “Video Girl”make reasonable claims with the former’s vocal harmonies and double bass/noisy drums combo and the latter’s eery sub bass and groovy drum line. There are real hints of twigs’ former tourmate James Blake in “Pendulum“‘s stop-start pianos and in “Hours”, where there are real hints of UK garage that stretch beyond Blake’s influence. It would be foolish to call this a pop album; it exudes UK garage vibes like nothing has since Blake’s bursting onto the scene. The songs are expertly crafted, with scrapbook arrangement at times that never strays into an untidy-feeling way of writing songs.
FKA twigs doesn’t shirk on lyrical duties - some artists would be content to let the songwriting and instrumentals do the work but twigs has something to say, too - on the surface the songs seem to have a sensual undertone to them, though the message on “Kicks” does seem a bit too overt to have just one dimension to it. In “Preface”, she quotes Thomas Wyatt in saying “I love another, thus I hate myself.” which goes onto define the album in a lot of ways.
The spectacular songs will grab the attention - “Pendulum“‘s bright piano led choruses, “Two Weeks” speaks for itself - “Kicks” and “Lights On” are potential future singles, the former of which is a fitting outro to the album with massive synth stabs and sulky vocals, but it’s “Closer” that stays with me the most, with the massive, spacious choir vocals and the gargling, unintelligible pitched-up vocals and a slow burning beat that runs like a train parallel to the song.
LP1 is an unforgettable album which, with any luck, will come to define the shape of UK pop music for a good while in the future - god knows we need to hear more of this.