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    Music and Movies

    50 films in 2013 challenge and first reviews

    I’m a big fan of the cinema, which is probably why I ended up there 38 times last year.  This sounds a lot, but with one of those Unlimited cards and a slight Batman obsession it didn’t feel like it.  In fact it felt like I should’ve gone more.  So in 2013 I’m aiming to…in fact I’m aiming to go 50 times this year.

    I’ve bought a notebook to record each of the visits, but I’m also going to blog very short reviews here, because if the internet knows I’ve challenged myself to go 50 times then I kinda have to do it.  Why 50?  Well it’s a nice round number for starters, but that’s one a week with a two week holiday (or a two week break for when the only thing showing is Furious Paranormal Extreme Sawing VII or whatever crap is on).  Oh and it totally counts if I see more than one film in one visit because cinema days are awesome, but I’m not sure whether seeing the same film does yet.  I guess there are still a few things to figure out.

    I’ve made some good progress…

    1. Rise of the Guardians

    The Immortal Guardians, including the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Sandman and the Tooth Fairy, require the help of Jack Frost to defeat the evil spirit Pitch Black / Bogeyman who aims to infect the world’s children with fear.

    Despite being a film squarely aimed at kids this film was surprisingly enjoyable.  Hugh Jackman’s Easter Bunny with anger management issues and the yoda-like Sandman are particularly favourites as the team battle to save hope, belief, imagination and joy of children worldwide.  Leaving cynicism at the door this is fun-filled and sure there are some plot holes, but ultimately enjoyable. 4/5

    2. Playing for Keeps

    Gerrard Butler plays an ex-football superstar who has never really learnt to deal with life off the pitch.  As he arrives back in the hometown of his ex-wife and son he tries to bond with his son through coaching the local football team, where he also catches the eye of the local Soccer Moms.  But can he convince his ex-wife he still loves her before she marries someone else?

    Squared fairly in the romantic comedy genre this film was trying to be so much but ultimately failing.  Well known actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman and Dennis Quaid are criminally under-utilised in a film which just never really hits its mark.  Someone needed to go through this script with a red pen because it could’ve been a lot better.  Falls into the nothing-better-to-do afternoon on the telly viewing if you’re going to watch.  Shame really. 1.5/5

    3. Life of Pi

    Adapted from the best-selling novel by Yann Martel this is the story of a young man whose family set sail for the West in search of a better life, only for him to survive a shipwreck which sees him stranded on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger.

    Largely believed to be an unfilmable book, Ang Lee does a decent job of making this a watchable film, but ultimately I still think it’s one best left to the page.  The fantastical, magical realism of a man and a tiger adrift was beautiful but lacked much real sense of fear.  An enjoyable twist to the tale is lost in what is a juddering ending which doesn’t give the audience time to consider the alternatives.  Ultimately a visual display which is worth seeing if only for the tiger, but probably best to read the book. 3/5

    4. The Impossible

    Based on a true-life tale of one family’s fight to be reunited after the Boxing Day Tusnami in 2006.  Maria, Henry and their three sons are holidaying in Thailand when a wall of water destroys almost everything in its wake, splitting the family and leaving behind an incredible devastation.

    A brave story of a terrible natural disaster is let down by a terrible music placement.  The scene-setting calming waters are interrupted by a farcical Jaws-like theme and deeply emotional scenes are ruined with imposing, ill placed tunes.  Aside from that the film has great casting, particularly that of Tom Holland who plays Lucas, a character who steals the show.  The gratuitous shots of Naomi Watts is disappointing, as is the film’s treatment of the indigenous people who seem to exist only as help for the westerners, even in the aftermath when thousands lost their life.    An attempt at giving a more identifiable view to an overwhelming natural disaster which just fell short. 2.5/5

    Music and Movies

    Stumbling across acoustic gems: Koji and Into It Over It

    I love it when a gig surprises you.

    A few weeks ago I went to see Koji and Into It Over It on the Birmingham leg of their UK tour at the Wagon and Horses.  It was the first time I’ve been there even though I’d been meaning to go for ages.  It’s a pretty cool place – looks a bit like an old man pub, but the function room (“out the back and up the fire escape” was how it was described to me) plays host to a load of punk, hardcore and metal type stuff on a regular basis.  Which I’ve kinda been missing since moving back to Brum.

    Anyway this gig wasn’t really that kind of show.  Well a couple of the bands were, but the two main acts were delightfully acoustic, which I have to admit now I really wasn’t expecting.  But it was a great surprise.

    First of the main act was Koji.  His original stuff was stunning, I picked up a CD and its been a delightful distraction to rush hour traffic on the way home from home.  But one of my favourite songs on the night was his cover of Ted Leo/Pharmacists’s Biomusicology.  I found a copy of youtube;

    I adored what became the audience participation part; “All in all we cannot stop singing we cannot start sinking, we swim until it ends.  They may kill and we may be parted, but we will never be broken hearted”.  I’d not heard the original before, but koji’s version has to have been one of the best ways to be introduced to the song.  Just beautiful.

    And Into It Over It was also pretty brilliant too.  Would highly recommend checking out both guys’ music, I know I’ll be buying more of it soon.

    Music and Movies

    Jimmy Eat World, HMV Forum, 22/6/11

    HMV Forum, London
    22nd June 2011

    Jimmy Eat World

    I’ve been trying to write a review of the Jimmy Eat World gig I went to last week but struggling.  I’ve written several attempts, but they just come off too gushing.  So, rather than try and write a straight up review, here’s my thoughts on the two albums they played in full at the gig (which was to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Bleed American being released) and the gig itself.

    I found Jimmy Eat World through Bleed American back in 2001 and along with its follow up Futures, are two of their best albums.  For some quirk, I’ve found that back catalogues never really connect as much as the gateway and subsequent albums from most bands.   So whilst I enjoy Clarity as an album, I just don’t have the affection for it that I do for Bleed American and albums since.

    That said, I do enjoy Clarity, but I just don’t identify with it as much as I do Bleed American.  It’s got some great songs.  But Lucky Denver Mint’s “You’re not bigger than this, not better why can’t you learn?” just doesn’t have the optimism that I come to expect from Jimmy, despite being a great song.  Goodbye Sky Harbour, 12.23.1995 and A Sunday all just seem to be lyrically filled with subjects not sure of themselves, but are beautifully written.  So it seemed fitting that the gig had no support band, as Clarity to felt like it took that place in the show.  The crowd knew the words, enjoyed the songs, but it felt very much like the audience got to Clarity after buying the Bleed American, so the passion and love for the songs in the first half of the show weren’t as intense at the second half.  Or maybe its just because the album itself is more relaxed, but either way performance wise, they were top notch.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that I genuinely think Bleed American is a tremendous album.  There is a great mix of upbeat, powerful anthems that most bands could only ever wish to write.  The Middle, Sweetness and A Praise Chorus are great fast-paced songs.  “I’m on my feet I’m on the floor I’m good to go, now all I need is just to hear a song I know” might be the lyrics of A Praise Chorus, but it sums up most of that album; they’re songs that once they’re on my ipod will make me run harder at the gym.  And the ones it doesn’t are the kind of slower songs which shock you into stillness with their beauty.  “A song for a heart so big God wouldn’t let it live” gets me every time I hear Hear You Me, it’s truly a captivating song.  In fact the whole album has some great lyrics, like the rousing speeches of an optimist, with lyrics which beg to be quoted in times when you’re just not that sure of yourself.  It’s a perfect album for people finding their way in life – from teenage years to mid-twenties.

    And at the show last week could you feel the intensity people hold for that album.  As the band came on for the second set of the night the backing screen went down, lighting was revealed and the change in atmosphere was palpable.  The crowd moved more for the more upbeat songs, but there was none of the obnoxiousness usually found at gigs.  Even though they were playing their hit songs, this was a show for people who adore the band and you got the feeling it was mutual, this really was a celebratory show.

    Rounding off the night with a four song encore, one of which was the superb song 23, the gig was as near to perfect as it could get.  I only hope that in three years we get to see a full run through of Futures.  And if it was a Bleed American and Futures show, that would, for me, be heaven.

    Music and Movies

    Mystery Jets interview – Chevrolet Spark Unscheduled Tour, 6 May 2010

    Birmingham won a coveted second spot on the Chevrolet Spark Unscheduled Tour contest to see the Mystery Jets head to the Custard Factory last Thursday (aka Election Day) in support of their upcoming album, Serotonin.

    Space 2 in the Custard Factory is a fairly intimate venue, holding around 200 people, and is the perfect place to showcase the Mystery Jets new songs from Serotonin (out in July) and welcomes them back into touring the UK. The new album seems less pop, more dance influenced and looks to be aiming for the hallowed arena of a Coldplay concert. Just with more fun.

    Older songs such as Young Love and Hideaway get the biggest reception of the night, which is hardly surprising. But the audience lap up the newer stuff too, some of which has been showcased on their MySpace beforehand but mostly unheard.

    Earlier in the day I caught up with William and Kapil from the band…

    How would you describe your sound?
    William: it’s pop music with a whole multitude of different influences from psychedelic music to dance music.  I wouldn’t describe it, it’s hard to talk about your own music – go and listen to it.

    Do you have any non-music influences?
    William: Novels and books make it into our songs.  A book called Lorna Doone is the title of one of our songs.  A book some of us were reading a year of two ago called The Fountainhead was a big influence in how we approached some of our song writing.  All that definitely finds its way in.

    How did you get involved in the Spark Unscheduled tour?
    William: Chevrolet approached us and propositioned us.  It sounded like a really great way of coming back and doing gigs in England, because we haven’t released anything for a couple of years and we didn’t really tour the UK last year.  We did a few festivals but mainly we were out the country. And it seemed like a really nice idea to come to places like Birmingham and play quite intimate venues.

    Did the pop-up idea of the tour interest you?
    William: It’s a really exciting way of doing a gig when people don’t really know exactly where or when it’s going to be.  It just kinda appears.  The more people that vote for the gig to be in Birmingham, then the more chance it has of happening.

    I really wanted to do one in Cornwall because there’s an outdoor theatre right on the sea.  Like a kind of mini amphitheatre made out of stone, which is just incredible.  They do Shakespeare there in the summer.  It wasn’t possible on this tour, but we hope to do something there some point – maybe something acoustic.

    If you could be any other artist, who would you be?
    William: I don’t know – maybe Robert Wyatt or Ray Davis.  But I only really like Ray Davis’s music from about 1965-74.  He’s just a really great songwriter, the best, in my opinion.  He didn’t necessarily go off and do really wild things, some people are more innovative.

    On a similar note, you mentioned the All Tomorrows Parties festivals in another interview.  Who would you pick to play at yours?
    William: I think is really cool when bands reform just to play their best album and do it in its entirety.  I always think that’s great.  I’d get Talk Talk to reform and do Spirit of Eden and The Meat Puppets to do Mirage.  All sorts of things really – Robert Wyatt on there.

    The new album, Serotonin, is it a similar to older album?
    William: I think it’s quite a departure, our new record.  It’s really big sounding and wide screen.  It’s filmic and epic.
    Kapil: And elegant as well.
    William: Yeah, I think there’s a kind of elegance to it.  It’s just such a mixture; every song is different and quite drastically as well.
    Kapil: I do think there are elements of our first record there.
    William: Yeah, it’s almost like a marriage of the first and second albums.

    Can you explain the significance of the title?
    William: The idea of serotonin is that we want our music to have the same effect on people as serotonin has on them.

    It is Election Day today, is that something that interests you?
    William: Yeah, we all voted.  It’s really important.  With this election it’s drawn a lot of young people in to be interested in politics – it definitely has with all of us.
    Kapil: There’s a real opportunity to shake things up and make a change.
    William: I wouldn’t say we’re a political band, I don’t think that’s ever going to come out in our song writing in the way you get those slightly political religious overtones with bands like U2.  I don’t think that’s particularly interesting, what I think is interesting is the way this election has been dealt with in a  kind of X-Factor way.  It’s become sort of political porn – when you watch it, it’s more about the tension on the TV screen and the fight of it.  The whole bullshit around it is quite interesting, none of them are really saying what they’re going to do, they’re just saying he’s shit, don’t vote for him.
    Kapil: they’re all just attacking each other.
    William: It’s a big dogfight and that’s always very entertaining to watch.
    Kapil: It also makes you more confused thinking about it.  They all just as good as each other – or bad as each other.
    William: No one is saying we’re gonna do that, make your choice.  It’s not as clear as that – it’s so confusing.  Particularly David Cameron, he just wants to please people, I think.  I think the only part that is really saying what we’re going to do and that’s it is Labour.

    Mystery Jets’ new album, Serotonin, is out on Rough Trade records on 5 July.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music and Movies

    Birmingham has a new academy

    If it weren’t for the fact I am sat on the floor in the new Birmingham Academy listening to the first headlining band, Editors, playing I might not believe it to actually be open.

    They’ve been talking about this move forever, so it’s good to see it finally happen. I spent a fair amount of time in the old academy and it was a woefully depressing music venue. The air conditioning stopped working, the loos always flooded and you could barely see anything on the Academy2 stage. Bar academy was a smelly tunnel and completely useless for an audience of more than 15. I spent a lot of time at the academy because it was where the bands I wanted to see were playing. As a music venue it was horrible.

    But enough about the old. This is a new Academy. The new paint smell is still lingering and the carpet has that freshly laid bounce. It’s shiny and brand new. It has at least 44 ladies loos. More importantly, there are three very seperate venues. Something the old one never really managed. I’ve only seen two so far, as Academy2 isn’t open to the public yet, but The main and third academy look like good spaces.

    Main Academy holds around 3000, I think, with a balcony area which is currently holding the VIPs so I’ve not been up. I’m not overly keen on balconies, so we’ll leave it at that. The floor, however, feels better. There are three quite large bars on two adjacent walls, a nice big merchandise area and a few good spaces to sit – although still not enough, in my opinion, hence sitting on the floor. More importantly there’s a good view from the room. But there’s still quite a lot of those blind spits the old Academy suffered from, they just don’t seem as bad.

    Academy3 is very plush. It holds about 250 and looks like the kind of place you’d put on nice singer-songwriter gigs who weren’t going to make a mess. It’s also where the good carpet is. Waiting to see how long that survives.

    The Academy team have done well, this place looks great. I’m looking forward to seeing the middle-sized room and hopefully the increase in bands and artists playing in brum. Hopefully when the fresh paint smell us replaced with spilt beer the shine or the Academy won’t go with it.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music and Movies

    Brand New London setlist – 27/06/09

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Brand New’s London set list from 27/06/09

    1. The Shower Scene.
    2. The Quiet Things.
    3. The No Seatbelt Song.
    4. Sic Transit Gloria.
    5. Okay I Believe You.
    6. Jaws Theme Swimming.
    7. Play Crack the Sky.
    8. Gasoline.
    9. Sowing Season.
    10. Millstone.
    11. Archers.
    12. Jesus Christ.
    13. Luca.
    14. Bride.
    15. Degausser.
    16. You Won’t Know.
    17. My Girl cover
    18. Mixtape
    19. 70 x 7
    20. Oh Comely (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)