Throw an ex-child star who’s career has been on a downward trajectory for some time, the world’s most famous male porn star with zero real dramatic acting experience, a writer with one big hit and a string of controversies, and a director who just happened to write two of the most influential classics of modern American cinema. What do you get? The Canyons, which would be one of the most laughably bad films to gain a cinema release if only it were able to be laughed at.
Such considerable disasters often results in something that is still enjoyable on some level - often for reasons unintended by the filmmakers - like The Room and Birdemic, or more mainstream, big-budget fare like Pompeii, but there’s little if any point for The Canyons to even exist. Funded from their own pockets as well as money from Kickstarter, I feel Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader owe each of those backers a refund for swindling them out of cash in order to make this tedious, trashy satire of rich assholes that’s as empty as a discarded bottle of off-brand Coke and equally as plastic, and wouldn’t make it past a second draft of a third-rate Grand Theft Auto knockoff.
Likeable characters aren’t a necessity in cinema, but they at least need to be understandable beings, beings we can empathise with and root for. Instead we’re given a vapid pair of Tinseltown corpses, a married couple who can barely contain their seething hatred for each other, seemingly fuck everything in sight and are of little worth to anyone. The “wealthy couple who hate each other” trope worked in, say, American Beauty when both characters were recognisable as humans with human emotions and feelings and thoughts, who are interesting and compelling. But here, Lindsay Lohan and James Deen are given short shrift in having to bring life to a pair of empty conduits for Ellis & Schrader’s bitterness at a Hollywood that has moved on from their kind. Schrader’s constant shots of closed-down movie theatres rams this home as bluntly as possible, and Ellis in particular falls back on lazily regurgitating his key elements; upper class guys stricken with ennui, barely-sketched out women, backstabbing, the occasional splash of violence… it’s just all so very dull and rote at this point in time, 23 years after American Psycho caused a furore in polite society, and 14 years after Mary Harron managed to craft a good film out Ellis’ writing. Selling something as an erotic thriller doesn’t work if you don’t deliver any worthwhile thrills or eroticism whatsoever.
I feel as if it’d be overly harsh to truly criticise Lohan or Deen; after all you can only make good lemonade if you’re given good lemons, and Ellis’ script is a yellow lemon-shaped rock. The two leads’ performances don’t manage to share an area code with good, but it’s probably LiLo’s best gig in some time, and Deen could have some kind of future in B-movie lead roles if he fancies wearing clothes in front of cameras for a living. Alas, The Canyons doesn’t even have the good grace to be well made, with cinematography so poor, it might as well have been filmed on a Nokia from 2002; even with a $250k budget, a director of Schrader’s calibre should be capable of making something approaching cinematic. There are film students who’s budget barely covers travel to their school, making films which outstrip this in every department. Even the technical elements of Deen’s work in porn is superior in pretty much every way. Perhaps shooting on film or video instead of digital might have lent the film’s vacuous machinations a smidgen of gravitas, but if anything it’d be more akin to slapping an Instagram filter on a turd.
Decidedly Not Bald Supervillain of the day: Hoo, boy, this isn’t going to please the fanboys. Reaction to Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor in the then-untitled Batman-featuring Man Of Steel sequel was lukewarm at best (to be fair, after rumours of Bryan Cranston getting the role, anyone else is going to be a bit of a letdown), but this photo with a fan will likely only exacerbate skepticism. Snapped on the set of Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice by Twitter user Nicole Yloupis, Eisenberg looks, well, absolutely nothing like his comic book counterpart, famed for being follicularly challenged.
Now, that’s almost definitely a wig that Eisenberg is wearing, so whether Snyder’s vision of the character involves a smart-casual side-parting instead of Eisenberg’s usual curls, or Luthor be wearing a wig in-universe for a cooler public image as a young media figurehead, or we’re set for something of a Luthor origin story in which he tragically loses his locks, we’ll have to wait until the film is released on March 25th 2016 to find out. Alas, ‘til then, this might just be more ammunition for the growing section of fans writing it off as a failure already.
“British music” – a phrase that provokes a Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers-esque “uhhhhh” in 2014. It conjures up images of twee twats who dress like farmers, boy-bands that party with David Cameron in their music videos, and self-proclaimed saviours of rock ‘n’ roll who would probably cry if they lost their leather jacket before a gig.
It’s true. This country has truly gone to the dogs, hasn’t it? NOPE! Despite how it appears on the surface, relentless, boorish music nerds such as music critics know that there is a rich array of chronic weirdos making fantastic sounds in the UK. Baby Godzilla smash up venues practically every night. The Fat White Family confuse the fuck out of anyone they come across. Wounds spit at their audiences and goad them into a frenzy. Beans on Toast is proving that folk can be rowdy as fuck in a live setting. Royal Blood have even released an album of stomping blues-rock riffs that has just nabbed the Number One spot in the album chart (and an 8/10 review from Hitsville).
Then there’s Pulled Apart by Horses – what a band! Rather than spending hours sorting out their hair, dodging taxes, and wondering why girls only call them after a few joints, these shaggy dudes have been touring relentlessly since 2008, singing (well, shouting) songs about punching lions in the throat and being a dick. Its real exciting stuff, especially if you would gladly trade in a thousand subtly composed and critically acclaimed post-rock albums for one stomping riff that you could comfortably lose your shit to on a Friday night.
If that’s you, then you may be a little disappointed, because Pulled Apart have not made another album of tracks that greet you with a punch in the face. Instead, Blood glares at you menacingly from across the bar. But which is more frightening: violence, or the threat of violence? Yeah, Pulled Apart have seemingly to slowed down and add another dimension to their music apart from their outrageous, highly energetic riffs, but don’t get too scared – they haven’t gone full on Coldplay on us yet. There’s no doubting that you will still be able to get your twisted little rocks off to these monstrous grooves when they venture to your local rock club. A track with a wonderfully clichéd title, “Skull Noir”, opens with a sea of guitar noise and plundering bass which harks back to Black Sabbath’s doomy opus "War Pigs", before breaking into a chugging riff that practically forces you to nod your head in time with the beat. Meanwhile, on the assertive “You Want It”, the bass races along at double time while singer Tom Hudson hollers out lyrics about “going out of your mind”, before breaking into a refrain of “You want it! You want it! You want it! You want it!”. Hey, it’s not exactly Keats, but it is fantastically unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll.
But, yes, to your imagined shock and horror, PABH head off in strange new directions on this album. Ever wondered what their first album would sound like when filtered through psychedelic influences? Well, wonder no more, as “ADHD In HD” gives you exactly that, vocal harmonies and all. “Medium Rare”, on the other hand, takes a more grungey approach than we’ve ever heard from the band before. The track is built around a stunning riff that competes with anything the stadium trotting bands of the genre, such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, have ever done, and build to a life-affirming conclusion that will no doubt sound ten times bigger than the venues it will eventually be played in.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all is the amount of times that the Horses boys sound like they’ve produced tracks aimed squarely at the radio. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that they are guaranteed hit-makers quite yet. Occasionally, they strike gold, on tracks such as “Hello Men”, which is the kind of song you can imagine becoming one of those songs you see repeatedly played on rock TV channels if it had they right video. The chorus is fantastic, and simple little refrains such as “she’s the one” and “work it out” assure that it stays hooked in your brain. However, there are moments when they sound like they would be a lot more comfortable playing the gloriously mindless fast-paced stuff from their first couple of albums, such as the meandering “Weird Weather”, which seems to go through the motions of a bass-led verse, a power-chord-and-raised-voice chorus, and then a heavy bit and a solo. The track is perhaps the most unremarkable thing that they’ve done in their career, and to be honest, I hope we can all just look the other way and move on.
That is, of course, the problem with bands experimenting with their sound: experiments can fail. Nobody wants to end up like the current crop of rock “heritage acts”; becoming washed up old hacks that play the same three chords to audiences of delirious drunks who have bought into the myth that they make good music. One can imagine that’s something akin to an ironic punishment given in hell for pulling out the same riff every time you pick up a guitar at a party. However, failed experiments such as the “oh, shall we try writing a song that sounds a bit like Queens Of The Stone Age?” track “Grim Deal” can’t be ignored, or forgiven. Why should they be? They take up your hard earned free time, and you deserve better. Thankfully, these atrociously dull tracks are few and far between, and aren’t even actively bad: they just leave you with a nagging sense that you could be doing something more interesting with your time, like reading some guy’s opinion on a rock album right here on Hitsville U.K.
Blood is a sort of adolescent point in the band’s song-writing, and we all know two things about adolescence. The first is that it is a period where we make mistakes, and the second is that being a kid is a hell of a lot more fun. Pulled Apart By Horses have proved they’re no one trick ponies, but it’s at the expense of sacrificing some of the raw charm their previous albums had. In stopping to think about what they’re doing, something has been lost, and that’s a real shame. Still, the band hold on to enough of their rugged appeal to keep the listener interested, and occasionally their risk taking pays off. Perhaps their ambitions will be fully realised on their next release. For now, this will do.
If Telltale Games’ adaptation of the popular comic The Walking Dead, can do anything, it’s deliver. The first five-episode season won Game of the Year in 2012 (beating my personal favourite, Dishonored), went on to sell well over one million copies over three gaming platforms, and was only the fourth video game to ever make me cry (and believe me, I’ve played A LOT of video games).
But unfortunately, I felt a little deflated by Season Two, especially towards the end of the run. Everything started off well at the beginning of the season - you are thrown straight into the action and are left on a cliffhanger at several occasions, and are also left asking a lot of questions - the answers to which are slowly unravelled like a ball of wool as the game unfolds, whilst adapting to the choices and the decisions which you the player, in the role of Clementine (the returning heroine from the first season) have to make.
Are some of them hard decisions? Why of course. Are some of them unfair or unjust? Definitely. Are some of them completely pointless and have no effect on the story whatsoever? You bet your sweet arse on it.
Unfortunately, the latter was the biggest downside of the game for me – it was like after roughly halfway through Episode 4, the writers just couldn’t be bothered and all downed tools and went to the pub, leaving the remaining part of that episode, and its concluding finale in Episode 5, to the juniors and the interns. I lost all empathy for all of the support characters by this point and at the very end, I even found Clementine unbelievable.
Of course I am aware this is all fictional and I am willingly playing a video game and not a re-enactment of a real life event, but that metaphorical hold which Clementine had over me throughout the entire first season was loosened – I cared about that kid as if she were my own flesh & blood whilst she adventured across America with the hero of the season, Lee, but when she found herself on her own and eventually a part of an ever changing, ever evolving group of both friends and survivors, I found her attitude had changed for the worst – in the same kind of way that Lara Croft became a seasoned fighter after roughly four kills in the popular 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. The last two scenes of the game didn’t make me cry or feel any empathy towards the very few remaining characters, it was like Episode 5 was just building up and up to something which never happened.
Despite all the criticism I am firing at the game, it did have some solid, positive aspects – all of the characters and their backgrounds were varied and well thought out, and I liked how a large part of the cast were represented by POC, a refreshing change in many “whitewashed” video games. There were two, perhaps three, genuinely good plot twists which I did not anticipate at all, the cameos from the characters that appeared in the 400 Days DLC mini-episode were a nice thought and definitely a worthy addition to the storyline, and the voice acting, as in Season One, was absolutely fantastic as well. At the moment we are unaware as to whether Telltale will be making a third season of the franchise, but if they do, they need to put that spark, that fire, back into the plot, the one which shone in Season One, but had all been reduced to embers by the end of Season Two.
Overall, this title is worth a play – but please don’t get your hopes up too much.
News: Run The Jewels reveal second album art, tracklist: Just over a year since Killer Mike and El-P’s first joint album comes their second. Taking the Led Zeppelin and Franz Ferdinand route with the title and artwork (Led Zep are famous for the eponymous numbered titles, and around the time of their second album Franz were planning on doing something similar as well as using the same artwork as their debut record but with different colour schemes), Run The Jewels 2 is out on October 28th via Nas’ label Mass Appeal, with a remix album due in 2015 on former home Fool’s Gold. The tracklist, which features the already-dropped “Blockbuster Night Part 1” is as follows:
- Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
- Blockbuster Night Part 1
- Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) (featuring Zack de la Rocha)
- All My Life
- Lie, Cheat, Steal
- Early (featuring Boots)
- All Due Respect (featuring Travis Barker)
- Love Again (Akinyele Back)
- Crown (featuring Diane Coffee)
- Angel Duster
"Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)" is a song of the year contender just based on that title alone.