Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Great Film Moments #3: Edge of Darkness (2010)


Edge of Darkness is very much an underrated thriller. Mel Gibson's big screen return was a compelling and often shocking thriller about corruption in the highest offices of the United States. Perhaps held back by the strong anti-Gibson air around (and still here), the film was only a modest success at best and the film got unsurprisingly middling and mixed reviews. The remake of a 1985 BBC drama, Edge of Darkness will be remembered for several reasons; the aforementioned return of Gibson to the big screen, the brutal shotgun scene, the jaw-dropping car attack scene and the scene that I have chosen, Jedburgh's (Ray Winstone) final scene with the shameless politicians he protects after Gibson's Craven has been neutralised. 

Ray Winstone is a great screen presence. His ability ranges from playing quietly menacing characters to in-your-face madmen has been perfected over the years. Even his portrayal of Ray in Nil By Mouth, he exerted a likeability despite his callous and abusive behaviour. In Edge of Darkness, he is the primary antagonist, but becomes as much of a tragic figure as crusading Craven. The scene itself seems to be closing out without trouble, until they make an unfortunate joke out of Craven's terminal state (something Jedburgh relates to, as stated earlier in his own health woes). We see the best of Winstone here, the calm and collected consultant in a rare moment of emotion, snaps and viciously kills all two cronies in the room instantly. The Senator pleads for his life, stating he is 'An United States senator', to which Jedburgh replies; 'By what standard', before dispensing of the true villain of the conspiracy. It's brutal and shocking, but just what everyone watching want to see, given the corrupt behaviour and treatment of not only Craven, but Jedburgh too. It's a highly satisfying scene, but also a rather bittersweet one, as rather than shoot his way out of the building, he goes down without a fight, surrendering to an amateur guard who promptly shoots him dead.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

FILM REVIEW: End of Watch (2012)

Director: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Micheal Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo
Running Time: 109 minutes
Genre: Action drama

David Ayer has an impressive background in L.A. cop films. The writer of Oscar-winning Training Day, the underrated Kurt Russell pic Dark Blue and director of the silly, but highly enjoyable Street Kings returns with this searing thriller about two L.A.P.D. officers who get in over their heads with some with pretty nasty Mexican criminals. Using a variation of the found footage genre mixed with traditional camera set-ups, it makes for a compelling and gritty thriller that packs a punch and reaffirms Ayer's status as a promising writer/director.

End of Watch is not as much a cop film, more of a buddy picture that relies heavily (and thoroughly succeeds) on the performances of the two leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Simply put, either the film fails or succeeds on the relationship of the duo. Gladly, it is very much the latter as Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena) feel like fully fleshed out characters and the primary focus is on their relationship from the beginning with the oft hilarious banter or heart-to-heart conversations about relationships that don't seem forced and seems like everyday conversations two guys would have. The film's more intimate moments with Taylor and Zavala's families further back-up the full characterization of the two leads with Zavala's wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) and Taylor's love interest Janet (Anna Kendrick) providing more personal insights into the two. Both Gyllenhaal and Pena are great, with Pena in particular excelling (as he has done consistently in his career) as second fiddle to Gyllenhaal's Taylor. The story unfolds slowly, but it does not take away from the momentum of the film, with some clever set-pieces that only heighten the sense of dread that trouble is around the corner. Once the two run into trouble, there are some hyper-violent and dazzling action scenes that are wonderfully shot and executed. Tense and thrilling in equal measure, Ayer has perfected tense gun battles (see the opening to Street Kings for further proof) and again here he excels. However, one aspect of the film that suffers is the bland generic villains that while being intimidating and proper psychopaths, never get a decent enough look inside their world to understand their motives. It is a small niggle in such an entertaining film however, as it truly is Gyllenhaal and Pena's show.

End of Watch is a tough and gritty thriller (partly in thanks to the use of found footage style) with plenty for fans of the cop genre. Moreover, there are plenty thrills, excitement and entertaining performances to be found that raise the film above the run-of-the-mill generic cop thrillers out there, thanks greatly to the commanding and charismatic performances by Gyllenhaal and Pena. 


Sunday, 11 November 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Deftones - Koi No Yokan (2012)

Artist: Deftones
Album: Koi No Yokan
Label: Reprise
Genre: Alternative metal
Length: 51.50

The seventh album from Sacramento's finest alternative metal band has arrived and in a similar vein to 2010's expansive Diamond Eyes. Very much a sister piece to Diamond Eyes (partly down to Chi Cheng's absence, still recovering from a near fatal car accident), Koi No Yokan is a conflicted monster of an album, the quiet melodic grace and beauty is in constant battle with the grinding guitar riffs of Stephen Carpenter and blind fury of Chino Moreno's scowls. The band has found the perfect place between the contrasting sounds of metal and alternative and it is Koi No Yokan.

Deftones are definitely survivors. After six albums filled with multi-platinum highs and internal/personal lows, the band continues to mature and have come back even stronger with a progression in their artistic style and Koi No Yokan is the culmination of this artistic redefining and is an unrepentant success. From the infectious opening riff of 'Swerve City' to the slow burn finale of 'What Happened To You?', the group display an intricate skill for mixing elegantly complex lyrical verses with Carpenter's heavy alternative metal guitar riffs that are backed up by Chino's varied vocal delivery. With any other singer, a lot of the tracks on Koi No Yokan would fail miserably, but with Chino's assured delivery and outstanding vocal range (which varies from hauntingly beautiful to loudly violent and intimidating) it makes the album a resounding success. 

What stands out most on early listens to Koi No Yokan is the tender and melodic tracks like 'Romantic Dreams', 'Entombed', 'Rosemary' and the aforementioned 'What Happened To You?'. This softer sound is much more prevalent than on their previous records and presents a more intimate and personal side of the band than possibly ever seen before. An album stand-out is 'Entombed', lead guitarist Carpenter's intimate and sweeping riff mixed with Chino's ability to balance the melodies with reaching the high notes. 

The album's first single 'Leathers', much like Diamond Eyes opening single 'Rocket Skates' and very similar in style and set-up is a decent advertisement for the album's broad sound and is very much the vintage Deftones sound. Containing heavy riffs, an epic chorus and top notch production values (again from Nick Raskulinecz), it's a good, solid rocker. The second single from the album, 'Tempest', is a different beast altogether. Clocking in at over six-minutes long, it is an epic slow builder with Chino's melodic delivery met with some top grinding from Carpenter. This is one of the more progressive songs on the album and is a joy and was a great choice for the second single.

For fans of the bands more heavy side, there is plenty to find on Koi No Yokan with tracks like 'Swerve City', Poltergeist' and 'Gauze' fill the quota to varying degrees of success. 'Swerve City' is a fantastic opener to the album, with a strong and stand-out guitar work from Carpenter to match Chino's ever impressive howl. 'Poltergeist' is by far the heaviest song on the album, and is an onslaught of heavy riffing and ominous vocals from Chino. 'Gauze' is a good solid rocker, but is one of the lesser songs in context of the whole album.

So far, so good, right? It gets better. The album's 9th track and centrepiece song, the near-seven minute long 'Rosemary', will go up there with the finest efforts in the band's long career. Describing this song as epic is an understatement. It is a layered, sprawling effort, with lavish production and a heavenly sound. It becomes clear at this point, that the Deftones are a band at the peak of their creative powers, a band on a creative roll who has reinvented themselves as an important band in the rock landscape. 'Rosemary' is this albums crowning achievement. 

The album closer, 'What Happened To You?' finishes the album on a perfect note. Similar to the sound found on their 2011 album Covers, 'What Happened To You?' sounds unlike a Deftones song. That is what makes it a success. A group willing to broaden their musical range and that is what Koi No Yokan is undoubtedly about, artistic progression. What started with Diamond Eyes has reached its peak here. 

Koi No Yokan is an unprecedented success. The group's seventh album builds on everything good in their previous efforts and adds a new dimension of layered sound and expands on the melodic sounds hinted at in Diamond Eyes and their previous efforts. It is refreshing that a band that has been around for so long is not afraid to evolve and refine their style without completely losing their trademark sound, Deftones have managed this with considerable success and acclaim. This album is broad and expansive with great variety and substance to it and a contender for album of the year.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Great TV Moments #2: Bobby Baccalieri Sr. does one last job

Tony and Bobby Sr. have a little chat.

Bobby Baccalieri Sr. (Burt Young) made one appearance in The Sopranos. And it was a memorable one at that. Dying from lung cancer, the fragile elder Baccalieri undertakes a hit on orders from Tony to kill Mustang Sally, his godson. It must be noted that this storyline is not of any significant relevance to the seasons main story arc (other than building Bobby's relationship with his father and his feelings about Tony). However, what this scene does is contain all the hallmarks of what makes The Sopranos probably the greatest television show ever made. It is a scene that is brutally violent, yet darkly humourous as Bobby Sr. takes out these two goons in a brutally improvised fashion. It's a terrifically tense scene, where the ailing Bobby Sr. fights two younger, stronger, but far less clever men. It culminates in the seemingly pleasant old man taunting an injured Carlos before killing him. Old habits die hard for Bobby Sr. who then celebrates with a cigarette. Of course, as only The Sopranos would do, to suffer a heart attack afterwards while driving home is the show at its dark hearted best. Moments of dark humour and violence have never been mixed so well, especially on television. While it's of no great significance to the overall plot-line, it is what made The Sopranos such a joy to watch (see the episode Pine Barrens for further reference), the ability of the show to go on tangents and to bring in smaller characters and make them fully realised and enjoyable while never sacrificing the main ensemble. This self-contained segment mixed with wicked humour and gratuitous violence makes it a memorable moment (one of many) in The Sopranos legacy.

Carlos interrupts Bobby Sr. and ruins his plan. Whoops.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Great Film Moments #2: The finale of The Way of the Gun (2000)

Christopher McQuarrie's follow up to the legendary The Usual Suspects is a criminally unseen and highly entertaining genre pic, The Way of the Gun. While at the time hyped up to Tarantino levels of possible awesomeness, it never really delivered on that level. Owing more to Peckinpah than Tarantino, in retrospect you can see why the film failed to receive the acclaim and box office receipts of Tarantino's best efforts. This is a crime film with a bunch of arsehole lead characters trying to screw each other over from the very start. These people are all bad and McQuarrie makes no attempt to hide it. It's a very uneven film, that is sure, it can be very funny, quick witted and clever in parts, but there are moments that overrun and slow the film down to a crawl. That being said, the film has several stand out moments and will be what it's remembered for. The opening scene is a classic comic scene that doesn't suit the tone of the rest of the film, but is mightily funny and uses some colourful language. The kidnapping scene is as tense as they come, and uniquely plays with genre conventions. The motel shootout/sniper scene is a glorious scene that tests 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound to the limit. These scenes are up there with the most enjoyable in crime cinema, but it's the final bloody set-piece that steals the show.

"There's always free cheese in a mouse trap" - Longbaugh

As Parker (Ryan Phillippe) and Longbaugh (Benicio del Toro) make one last go for their fortune, they come across a legion of goons and Joe Sarno (the great James Caan). What follows is one of the finest choreographed action scenes in film history. As far as film goes, it is also up there with one of the most realistic takes on a gun battle, the action is all around, a fully realised battleground with danger incoming from 360 degrees. Which is refreshing. And most importantly, it's thrilling, tense and packs a mighty wallop. It's one of the loudest and most frantic set-pieces ever filmed (perhaps only beaten by Michael Mann's Heat) and for the first time in the film, you also want Parker and Longbaugh to succeed and get away. Bar one dreadful bit (the shotgun to the nuts, which looks bad and dated) and a scene where the realism slips for one endlessly deafening barrage of bullets to draw one helpless goon out, bullets fly, Parker and Longbaugh battle on furiously, but taking heavy damage. A genuinely squirm inducing scene involving the fountain and Parker ups the gore ante and sets up the finale, ominous reel. Despite that one scene, the set-piece doesn't rely on gore and bloodletting, rather the sound is amped up and it works wonders in giving the scene an epic sound (5.1 has never sounded better). It is action cinema at its very best. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012


Directors: Adam Winguard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Starring: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Winguard, Hannah Fierman,  Mike Donlan
Running Time: 115 minutes
Genre: Horror anthology

The found footage gimmick is becoming stale. It's resurgence in recent years due to the success of the Paranormal Activity has brought up a host of cheap and tacky imitations trying the same trick over and over. V/H/S is a breath of fresh air in that regard. Unlike the majority of these films threats of near-misses for 90 minutes and then one big reveal at the finish, V/H/S goes straight for the jugular. It's gruesome, nasty, vile, ultra-violent and disturbing in parts, but one thing you can't deny is that it is an effective horror film that sticks a middle finger to the safe horror that is constantly being thrown into cinemas.

Rather than being one long haul, V/H/S is an anthology film, broken into six short segments (five of which are seen in one main arc called 'Tape 56'). This allows for greater variety in tone and style, which is often a hindrance on such films, where the found footage gimmick can wear thin pretty quick. Tape 56 suffers the most from being broken up in bit segments while the other shorts play and is the most confusing, but there are a few chills to be found, despite the group being a bunch of douchebags. The opening short, Amateur Night (directed by David Bruckner) is the best of the bunch. Following three guys on a night out, their drunken antics (except the quiet and nice guy of the group cameraman) and their inability to see that everything isn't okay with one of the chicks they pick up from a bar. Cue madness. This segment is bat-shit bonkers. The warning signs are evident for the boys early on and it's horror movie school 101 stuff, but is executed with such thrilling style and makes exceptional use of the found footage format. Visceral and pretty much every young man's nightmare, it's a fantastic opening segment. The second segment, Second Honeymoon (directed by Ti West) is a more subdued affair. Anyone who knows West's output will instantly know his involvement here. Slow building and full of quiet menace, a couple on their second honeymoon become victim of a deranged stalker. Here, the use of the found footage is haunting and eerily creepy. West's horror instincts (as seen in the great The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers and probably the main reason I wanted to see this film) are old school, the slow build, the ominous signs and the night scenes. They are beyond scary. The stalker using the couples camera is a master stroke. The menace and threat of the stalker in those scenes do more than the blood-letting that comes afterwards. The shockingly brutal climax will warrant a strong stomach and is about as explicitly violent a film can get without being censored. Be warned! 

The third segment, Tuesday the 17th (directed by Glenn McQuaid), plays with the slasher movie format and after the first two segments feels like a let down. It has its moments with some genuinely spooky flashes. One or two of the kills are rough and nasty, but the over-reliance on gore here (and some shoddy effects/fake looking props) hinder. It has its moments, but nowhere as effective as the previous two. The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Young (directed by Joe Swanberg) is the weakest segment of the film. Relying on a Skype camera call scenario, a young woman who suspects there is a ghost in her apartment contacting her doctor boyfriend to keep a record of the events. There are scares to be had here, as the Paranormal Activity premise is turned on its head in pretty disgusting fashion. Two impromptu surgery scenes again keep the recurring theme of extreme gore at a high. This is perhaps the weakest segment of the film, but given the tricky and confining setting, it does well all things considered. The final segment is the most fun of the bunch, 10/31/98. Directed by Radio Silence, this segment has by far the most visual scares of the film, as a group of guys go to the wrong Halloween party and enter a real life house of horrors. The scares are not a gruesome as the previous segments and there is a lighter feel to this segment (for the opening exchanges anyway). The scares are great, giving more in jumps in 15 minutes that the combined Paranormal Activity franchise combined. 

V/H/S is a great horror film. Mean and nasty, but with enough clever touches to stop it from being exploitive, there are enough scares and blood here for hardcore horror fans. Definitely not for those with a weak stomach though. All involved have made an entertaining and genuinely unique take on a horror sub-genre that has relied on safe and basic scares. V/H/S rectifies this, with blood-soaked aplomb. Be warned, it is intensely violent and gruesome. One for Halloween then!


BOSS; the most underrated show on television

Starz is not a channel people would rank up there on the level of HBO and AMC for its programming output. Recently, with popular shows like Spartacus (haven't seen it, so I can't comment on the quality of the show) or the misfire that was Camelot; there have attempts at making grittier shows along with the likes Magic City and the upcoming Noir. But no have been successes on the level of the powerful brands of HBO and lately, AMC, whose shows Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Mad Men have seen the channel rise as a powerhouse of television. Boss was seen as being Starz answer to these shows and as a challenger. However, as seems common in the States, shows live and die based on viewing figures, with little regard for acclaim or critical praise. Even though Boss has made it to a second season, it's viewing figures have been abysmal and I'd be surprised if there'll be a third season. Which is a shame, because Boss is a pretty darn good show.

With this being billed as Kelsey Grammer's first serious lead-role away from his more comedic centred efforts for which he became famous for, it is a great and unsuspecting success. As Mayor Tom Kane, there is a new side to the man once fondly remembered as Frasier Crane. Tom Kane is a monster. A ruthless man with time against him. Diagnosed in the opening scene of the first episode as having Lewy bodies with dementia, we first see him at his strongest. This is the compelling point of this show. There will be no recovery for Kane. He is going downhill from the very first episode and unlike most shows when these problems tend to be resolved easily and thrown aside (something that always took away from Breaking Bad for me). Kane's battle to hide his illness from both his family and the public is a compelling look at a man losing control, who was perhaps not a likeable man before his diagnosis, but has become even more so as the series has progressed. Now I am not sure of the portrayal of Lewy bodies in the show, if it is a genuine portrayal of the illness or sensationalised for entertainment purposes. If it is a genuine portray; then it's a harrowing affliction as Kane (especially in the later episodes of season 1 and rises in season 2 and provides some of the seasons best scenes) loses his grip on reality, his hallucinations become more vivid and his mind veers away from stability. While not wanting to go into plot specifics and spoilers, Kane's conversations with right-hand man Ezra Stone (the terrific Martin Donovan) provide the series highlights. Stone's cool precision mixed with Kane's fury makes for thrilling television and even more so in the second series as the show evolves from political drama into a full blown psychological thriller. 

While not being the greatest show ever, it is great to see Grammer tackle more challenging projects. From start to finish of every episode, he is the focal point, confidently carrying each episode. It's Boss's greatest strength but also it's greatest weakness. This over-reliance on Grammer. While Donovan's Stone is the pick of the supporting characters, shows like the aforementioned Breaking Bad or classic shows of the highest calibre like The Sopranos and The Wire make use of a strong supporting ensemble, where often the supporting characters are the highlight; hello Mike Ehrmantraut and Christopher Moltisanti! Boss in this regard suffers. It is very much a one man show, for all the supporting characters plotting and scheming, they are not in the least memorable in the grand scale of modern television viewing. Which is a shame, because Grammer's Tom Kane is. Despite these flaws, the show is definitely worth having a look at, purely for Grammer's powerhouse performance. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

RETROSPECTIVE: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollak
Running Time: 106 minutes
Genre: Crime thriller

The Usual Suspects is my all time favourite film. Ever. It's one of the few films I've seen countless times and practically know every line off by heart. Everything about this film reeks of greatness. And it gets better with every viewing. That's saying something to the intricacy of the plot, the labyrinth plot and all round terrific performances on display. Director Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie crafted a film so clever, so smart, that even on my gazillionth time re-watching it; I pick up on something new, a smile or a reference, something simple that wows me. It is a film so clever it makes you feel a bit silly at the end for getting duped. With the emergence of Tarantino as a premier film-maker in the earlier part of the 1990s, the crime genre became awash with cheap imitations and knock-offs of his work, the crime ensemble, the tough guys with sharp tongues, a taste for violence and visual flair filled with pop culture beats. Singer and McQuarrie wisely neglected to include the latter trait. There are no retro 70s classics, no talk about McDonalds and Burger King and so on. The film is very much a self-contained entity. And that's what makes it a masterpiece. Blissfully residing somewhere between the old fashioned crime caper and the aforementioned Tarantino stylism of the ninties, The Usual Suspects is too clever to resort to such things. Everything that happens is necessary in the overall context of the tale that is being told. And it's a mighty pay-off that lacks the bloated nature and unnecessarily over-long running time that often plagues films of this type. Everything about this film is perfection.

Kevin Spacey (as Verbal Kint) and Gabriel Byrne (as Dean Keaton)

The success of the film is in no small part to the magnificent cast. Gabriel Byrne gives a career best performance as Dean Keaton, a disgraced former cop who despite his best efforts to leave the crime world, is pulled down by vindictive former peers, including Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri). Kujan meets with Verbal Kint, played by the wonderful Kevin Spacey, one of two who survived a brutal harbour shoot-out the night before. Kujan's mission is to find out if Keaton was one of the men that was killed. What follows is an intricate tale of five criminals as they become embroiled with a mysterious and myth like criminal named Keyser Soze. The crew, consisting of Keaton, Kint, McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Hockney (Kevin Pollak) and Fenster (Benicio del Toro). An early scene that cements their bond through being victimized as 'the usual suspects' for a police line-up sets the team up and they plan to get even on the corrupt police force. Keaton's reluctance puts Kint's role in the team at risk, but is persuaded by Kint after a heart-to-heart. Once the crew is assembled the action comes at a frantic pace. The robbery of a bunch of corrupt NYPD officers is a sharp and efficient set piece. It gives us an insight into both the solidarity of the team, but also that they are professionals. Again, if the five criminals were played by other actors they'd risk becoming generic cardboard canon fodder, but in Singer and McQuarrie's hands, each is uniquely likeable in their own way, even del Toro's Fenster who has far less screen time than the others, but still makes an impression ("Flip you, flip ya for real!") that you are rooting for the gang to succeed. 

One thing that is apparent from early on is that everything is not as it seems. Kujan, essentially represents us, the viewer and has enough intuition to know Kint is holding out. As Kujan finds out more (from other detectives interviewing a Hungarian survivor of the shooting) the plot thickens further. The introduction of Redfoot the Fence (Peter Greene) further adds to the mystery, with the crew now placed in danger and immediate threat. The scenes with Redfoot are some of the best in the film, and highlights the vulnerability of them under threat from the more powerful Redfoot and the introduction of Kobayashi (the late Pete Postlethwaite) into proceedings complicates matters further. Watching the group of macho males descend into paranoia and fear under threat from Soze is terrific in parts. Baldwin (in the performance of his career) as McManus and not like the man you'd probably know best recently as a member of Celebrity Big Brother is a revelation. In anybody else's film, Baldwin's McManus would be the lead, oozing charm, likeability and with machismo to spare. Similarly Pollak's Hockney is a secondary character, but is highly entertaining (thanks in part to Pollak's razor sharp delivery and wise-cracking sensibility) and you do nothing but root for him to succeed. While Kint's story too relegates himself to a secondary character, his petty criminal mixed in with career criminals make him a more relatable character and his wanting to get the job done without violence (well, unless it's necessary) make him the perfect narrator for the story. 

Stephen Baldwin (as McManus) and Kevin Pollak (as Todd Hockney)

But it is truly Byrne's Keaton that is the focal point of the film. Is Kint protecting him by making him out to be such a nice guy? All the questions that arise from Kint's story in contrast to Kujan's version of Keaton. It must be noted too that Palminteri excels as the determined cop who is essentially the straight man of the piece, he knows certain facts, but is drip fed information much like the audience and his piecing together of the facts is the same as the audiences. But back to Keaton, Kint's version of him is a highly complex character, a man whose life has seemingly been destroyed by his past, but does that even matter as do we ever know if he's telling the truth (well the finale clears this up, but we are left guessing practically until the final scene). And Kujan spiteful hatred of Keaton ("Dean Keaton was a piece of shit") further puts questions in Kint's representation of Keaton. With this in mind, it is still impossible not to root for the Keaton we experience. Initially a beaten figure, once he joins with the four he becomes the central figure of the operation with his insight into police procedures and gives the team enough information to do the job right. The mere mention of Soze to the four (excluding Kint, who hadn't heard of him) brings that forlorn and defeated look back and the sense of dread  that the films opening scene may actually be what happened and that Keaton didn't actually make it out of the harbour. 

Again, nothing is never as it seems and that's what makes this film such a job and complete mindfuck. The big harbour finale reeks of dread and something is really, really wrong here (along with all the brutal shootings of course). Certain films that tease this amount of complexity usually tend to fall off in the final act for a reveal so pointless and obvious that is ruins what came before it. The Usual Suspects does no such thing. The 'suspects' know they are in above their heads but resolve to do it anyway to get away from Soze's grasp. Whatever the outcome, they'll be free. Singer handles the action here with aplomb. The violence hits hard, but never feels unnecessary or becoming anything like gun porn. All the guns do is symbolize a threat that has been lingering for the 'suspects' for a long time, that Soze is close and the truth too (note in the scenes with Redfoot, his goons are heavily armed, but no action is taken, symbolizing the 'suspects' getting closer to Soze). Another part that drives the film is a fiendishly sinister score composed by John Ottman. From the opening theme right through, Ottman's score sets the mood. It is a strikingly gorgeous score that adds to an already strong central theme of mystery and intrigue for the film. 

Endlessly quotable, an iconic ensemble and perhaps the finest twist in modern film history, The Usual Suspects is not only the best film of the ninties, it is one of the all time greatest. A film that cleverly plays with genre expectations and turns them on their head, Singer and McQuarrie delivered the rarest of treats, a film as clever as it thinks it is, even on repeat viewings, the twists and turns hold up. The elaborate mixture of actuality and fiction mirror a truly wonderful piece of modern film-making. Add to the mix, an Oscar winning performance by Spacey (and screenwriting award for McQuarrie) and terrific all around performances beyond the usual filler typically associated with the genre and you have an all time classic. Just amazingly amazing.


The Suspects: Hockney, McManus, Fenster (Benicio del Toro), Keaton and Kint

TV REVIEW: The Shadow Line (2011)

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston, Stephen Rea, Rafe Spall, Antony Sehr
Genre: Drama

It is easy to forget that not too long ago British television was the pinnacle of programming. Long before the HBO's of this world came along, the BBC (and ITV too) were throwing out show after show of immense quality. The detective drama in particular being a staple of British television over the years and with The Shadow Line, the BBC have delivered a show that remains true to the age old BBC style, but adding modern threads of grit and themes utterly consistent with the finest shows from the States. The Shadow Line is not only the best British drama of recent years, it's one that down the line will be looked at in the same vein as Tinker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy as a classic of the conspiracy/noir genre, a complex and enthralling thriller that exceeds all expectations. 

From early on, creator, writer and producer Hugo Blick sets out to be different. The first scene in particular sets up that this is not your usual police procedural with an inexperienced rookie being shown the ropes at a crime scene by the shady Sgt. Foley (David Schofield) and this sets the ominous overtone for the series seven episodes. These opening exchanges hint at something far different than the usual detective mystery drama, with the thin line between the supposed good and bad guys being non-existent, each character is shadier than the last. Everything is not as it seems and the sense of foreboding bleeds in every darkly lit scene. Jonah Gabriel (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a detective with a shady past of his own working on trying to solve the murder of a recently released crimelord, Harvey Wratten. On the other divide is Christopher Eccleston's Joseph Bede, a man trying to leave the criminal world, but whose own plans are thrown up in the air upon Wratten's death. Bede has to deal with his wife's illness and juggle an assortment of shady underworld characters, including the psychopathic nephew of Harvey, Jay (Rafe Spall), who is determined to kill his uncle's killer. Then there is Gatehouse (a creepy Stephen Rea), a man in the shadows seemingly controlling the show. Along with Spall's Jay, these are two of the most entertaining villains in recent television memory. Spall excels as Jay, delivering a performance that is terrifying and amusing in equal amounts. While the show is mainly laugh free, there are a few scenes that he brings chuckles, but never losing that menacing look. 

This makes Rea's Gatehouse all the more compelling and in complete contrast to Jay as he is a monster of a completely different kind. Quietly sinister and sombrely downbeat but intelligently played by Rea, his Gatehouse is the cold hearted centre of the series and whenever he appears, you know danger is near. As the show progresses, there are a stunning variety of twists, turns, shocks and genuinely disturbing moments. Gabriel's descent into this world and revelations about his own past and his secrets from his wife make him a compellingly flawed central character. Ejiofor is perfectly cast, varying from forlorn copper to a husband trying to juggle a series of mistakes and tribulations. Surprisingly violent, there are several moments throughout the show that will leave you speechless. There are too many sub-plots to go into detail here; with Tobias Menzies crusading journalist out to find the truth about Gabriel's past, or Bede's tragic relationship with his wife (Lesley Sharp), all taking up considerable time. But rather than weighing down the main plot line, these side plots build up the central characters and your connection with them, especially Eccleston's Bede, who becomes the tragic anti-hero of the piece, with you rooting for him to succeed. As the final episode begins, you wonder how on earth will Blick wrap this up and he succeeds in the most shocking and memorable way possible. For a show dedicated to focusing on near truths and deception, the finale is shockingly blunt and in your face. It is a terrific change of pace to a show that never tires of dropping hints and half-truths. The final scenes are the truth, whether you like it or not. 

The Shadow Line is a series of highly complex, clever set-ups and a pay off that is chilling, haunting and up there with the best in recent memory. Even the main theme (performed by Emily Barker) provides the perfect sound for the show, beautiful but with an underlying tone of threat and menace that will stick with you and haunt you long after it is over. This show is a compelling masterpiece. The plot is as deep and complex as they come and interweaves multiple angles. The performances are compelling (especially Eccleston who becomes the series heart and soul), and a final revelation that is nothing short of a shocking masterclass, The Shadow Line is television at its absolute best. A masterpiece.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Great Film Moments #1: Van Damme's monologue from JCVD (2008)

I won't lie, I've always been fond of Jean-Claude Van Damme. He starred in a few films that I loved when I was a kid, he kicked ass and was good at it. Recently his career has slumped a bit and has starred in his share of clunkers, but a few gems have appeared in his DTV career like the awesomely fun Universal Soldier: Regeneration and films like Assassination Games and Until Death, which were solid B-movies. But most have been throwaway clunkers while not as bad as Seagal's fall from grace, but still nonetheless not near his usual entertaining, fun and generally nonsense action films that he made in his heyday (Timecop, Universal Soldier etc.). 

Then 2008's JCVD came along. A surreal film. A meta-philosophical action drama in French about a has-been actor caught up in a bank robbery. What followed was a revelatory performance from an actor whose acting range was never even considered. And that's what makes this scene all the more monumental. And heartbreaking. The meta-project line is crossed and we are presented with a monologue that is perhaps more personal confession than Van Damme acting, but by fuck is it outstanding. It is a moment of breathtaking brilliance and beauty, something that it rarely seen on-screen these days; raw emotion. So much so, Time magazine called it the second best performance of 2008, second only to Heath Ledger's now iconic Joker portrayal in The Dark Knight. That tells you of the strength of the performance here. It is a jaw-dropping scene and performance from Van Damme. Career redefining, putting his excesses of the 90s and his personal addictions in context and giving him a second chance to perhaps turn the tide on his career to some extent. 

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Peter Greene has long since been one of my favourite supporting actors. This may be rooted in his performance in my favourite film of all time The Usual Suspects as the sinister and to be honest, absolute badass Redfoot. Many will know him from his role in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as Zed - "Zed's dead baby, Zed's dead!". Others will know him as the villains in both The Mask and, erm, Martin Lawrence's Blue Streak. After coming to public attention for an acclaimed performance in the little seen Clean, Shaven, as the lead character with schizophrenia, Greene got cast in roles usually as the villain or a secondary henchman. Starring in two of the most iconic and popular films of the 90s and you think Greene would have been set. But like many talented performers, temptations can take their toll, which perhaps hindered his status as a reliable performer much like another actor I'm fond of, Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Heat and countless other roles). Much to my joy, however, Greene has re-emerged recently, albeit in supporting bit-parts on television shows and cameos in films like Training Day in 2001. He had a superbly entertaining cameo in the opening scene of Timothy Olyphant led crime show Justified in 2010, which again exhibited his intensity and ability to portray quiet but psychotically dangerous villains. Last night, he popped up on a show I began watching the other night (from 2007), The Black Donnellys, again as a villain. But his calm and calculated Dokey is a breathe of fresh air in a show that doesn't know if it wants to be The Sopranos or The OC and elevates the show in the process. While having a latter CV of films I know little or heard little about, his recent more high profile appearances on television suggest that there's life left in the underrated bad ass yet. Embedded below are probably two of the best moments of 1995's The Usual Suspects. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Great TV Moments #1 - Mike's Speech in Breaking Bad

*Breaking Bad spoilers yo*

The rise of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in Breaking Bad coincided with the rise of the show to becoming one of the best shows currently on air. While the main character of Walter (the immense Bryan Cranston) will be the shows most iconic face, it is the smaller and supporting characters that have made Walter's journey all the more entertaining, characters like the amusing Saul (Bob Odenkirk), Gale (David Constabile) and so on. But Mike is the stand-out, by far. His rise to prominence from his first appearance at the end of season 2 to this scene in the twelfth episode of season 3 is staggering. And after the events of the first part of season 5, this scene has become all the more poignant. 

The scene is a simple story from Mike's past as a cop. But the delivery and the intricacy of the writing is astonishing. You can feel that this is a memory that has plagued him since it happened, every word carefully picked and recited in his head a million times. And it makes his character come full circle as to how such a seemingly noble character could become involved in Gus Fring's (Giancarlo Esposito) drug operation and involved in organized crime. Banks absolutely owns this scene. For a character that rarely shows emotion in the show, it is a truly touching scene. His story of little relevance to the overall plot of the story, but is delivered with such impact that affects Walt in the worst possible way. 

"The moral of the story is; I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I'll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter".

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

FOOTBALL: The Perfect Start

It would be easy to get lost in the excitement of having the Premier League back on our screens and one 5-0 victory under the belt, but after a mixed summer (some inexpensive quality signings, but several key players leaving/or wanting to) this is the best possible start for Fulham. Despite this wonderful start, for me, the goal is still the same; avoid relegation first and foremost and build from there. That being said, there is nothing wrong with lapping up the team being top of the Premier League for the sheer token value of it. It's rare for a club of Fulham's stature to be sitting atop the league, and even if it's after a single game, it's still a smug grin inducing affair. Especially with the troubles big Martin Jol is having with want away Clint Dempsey and seemingly big clubs looking at Moussa Dembele too. 

It would not surprise me if they both left. They are both terrific players and no doubt could cut it at a top 4 team. Dembele in particular is quickly becoming one of the finest talents in the Premier League and a big move is only a matter of time. And at only 25, his best years are definitely ahead of him. As fond as I am of Clint Dempsey (and even despite his apparent disappointing behaviour), it will be a shame to see him go, but a necessary one. His personal ambitions have outgrown the modest clubs secure environment (or his desire to move to a 'bigger' club at least) and from that moment, he has to go. It's not good for the team morale or any of the younger talents the club has coming through to see Dempsey's behaviour and think it's an acceptable means of forcing a move. Despite all this, Clint has been a terrific player for us and have been a pivotal player for us and given the club some of his finest displays. I wish him all the best at whatever club he goes to. But now, back to Saturday and the wonderful 5-0 thumping of Norwich City. Absolutely terrific stuff. Mladen Petric may very well be one of the signings of the season if he is half as good as his performance Saturday suggests with two well taken goals. Youngster Alex Kacaniklic also gave a good account and is definitely a talent in the same vein of Kerim Frei. Bryan Ruiz will have to have a big season to fill the boots left by Dempsey (and possibly Dembele) and surely his second season with the club will be a more consistent one. It would be easy to get carried away with this win, but it must be said that Norwich had a shocker and that the next 37 league games won't be anywhere as easy as this and with a trip to Old Trafford to come next week against a no doubt fuming Manchester United team after their loss at Everton Monday night, the team will do very well to sneak something from the game.

A good start to the season then. We have lost quite a few squad players this summer with the legnendary Danny Murphy leaving, as well as players like Dickson Etuhu and Andy Johnson, so hopefully Jol can strengthen the squad further before the transfer deadline closes and keep Dembele and build a team around him. United in four days time at Old Trafford will be a completely different game altogether and I except us to be firmly brought back down to reality. But for the meantime, we are officially top of the table!

Friday, 17 August 2012

HEROES: Mark Lanegan

Mark Lanegan is a legend, pure and simple. His career from the early years with the Screaming Trees as a pioneer of what would become known as the 'grunge' sound to his recent solo and collaborative efforts have established him as one of the consistently finest creative minds performing. His trademark raspy baritone voice remains a unique presence in the modern music landscape. While Screaming Trees might not be as recognizable or as well remembered as later bands that came to symbolize the Seattle sound of the late 80s/early 90s, they like other and perhaps even less known bands (in mainstream terms anyway) like Green River, Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. While never achieving this multi-platinum success of the big four (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden), their 1992 album Sweet Oblivion remains one of the finest releases of that generation with hits like Nearly Lost You and Dollar Bill featuring trademark Lanegan delivery. 

No One Knows by Screaming Trees from their album Sweet Oblivion (1992)

During the successes of the Trees, Lanegan began releasing solo material and again while never getting the sales success, maintained a healthy progression in his writing and singing abilities. His second solo album in particular, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, exhibits a vulnerability not previously seen in his work and would become a prime theme in his works. Songs like The River Rise and Kingdoms of Rain exhibit this softer sounding but more emotionally intense work. His work with Screaming Trees was on-and-off during the mid-to-late nineties and finally came to an end in 2000 after their final release together Dust, which was released in 1996 to again positive reception. In 2011, eleven years after the bands breakup, songs from their recording sessions in 1998/99 were released in a collection called Last Words: The Final Recordings, containing some trademark Trees sounding material. All in all, of all the collection albums released by bands after their demise; this was certainly one of the better collections, containing authentic and not altogether overly edited or changed songs, but suffering from the same problems that collections have. It also shows the development in sound the band have over the final four years of the band. 

The River Rise by Mark Lanegan from his album Whiskey for the Holy Ghost (1994)

In addition to his word with Screaming Trees and his wide collection of collaborative efforts, he has released seven solo albums, with his most recent being Blues Funeral (released under the name Mark Lanegan Band). Safe to say this album rekindled my love with his music. Blues Funeral is a devastatingly effective album, combining Lanegan's trademark vocal delivery with a new production style, a shift for a straightforward/alternative rock sound to a combination of electronica and guitar elements in one of the finest albums of 2012. It would take an age to go through each album and pick out highlights. But for each listener, if they enjoy Lanegan's sound, there is something for everyone to find. All released to positive critical reception, yet while again not being outstanding commercial but consistently moderate successes, it remains testament to Lanegan's appeal that he has established a strong core fanbase to equate to the high reception his work has received. 

Harborview Hospital by Mark Lanegan Band from their album Blues Funeral (2012)

Over the years, Lanegan has collaborated with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Mad Season, P.J. Harvey, Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli, Soulsavers, Unkle and a variety of others. His collaborations with Soulsavers in particular show another side of Lanegan's output. In the two albums he was featured on with the 'savers, and especially in the first album, It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land, shows a more expressive and vocally impressive Lanegan, his range on display and being a highlight of tracks like Revival and No Expectations. Perhaps he has received most mainstream attention for his work with Queens of the Stone Age on three of their albums, including backing/lead vocals on several songs, most notably their biggest hit, No One Knows, from 2002's Songs for the Deaf

Revival by Soulsavers from their album It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land (2007)

His ongoing collaboration with Greg Dulli as part of The Gutter Twins has been another source of critical acclaim for the duo. Lanegan and Dulli's co-vocal blues-rock delivery show another darker, heavier side to Lanegan's catalogue, with Dulli reaching the higher notes, but with Lanegan giving the depth and filling out most tracks. Tracks like Idle Hands displays this heavier sound, dual vocal delivery. The album contains a variety of sounds and influences, with orchestral elements being used in the track The Stations. Despite the praise the album received, no follow up has been released despite touring in 2009. The band is currently inactive. 

Idle Hands by Gutter Twins from their album Saturnalia (2008)

Since the release of Blues Funeral, there has been another reason for rejoice with the news that along with original Mad Season members Mike McCready (of Pearl Jam) and Barrett Martin (of Screaming Trees), Lanegan will be performing lead vocals on a new album from the group, their first since 1995. Although two original members, Layne Staley (whom he was close friends with) and John Baker Saunders, have died, it is fitting that Lanegan should be involed. Considering he was involved in the first album, Above, it is poignant that Lanegan will be part of the album and if anywhere near as good and beloved as the first album was, should be a treat. 

Long Gone Day (Live) by Mad Season from Live at the Moore Theatre

Mark Lanegan has had a long and varied career. He has overcome personal hardships (drug addiction in his youth) to become a highly respected figure in alternative music and has remained a relevant and creative figure through almost three decades of a changing rock scene and has become a prime and influential figure, which is emphasised by his latest release, Blues Funeral, that is receiving some of his best notices of his career. With a large and varied catalogue of work and only being 47 years old, we have still plenty more to see from Lanegan, be it in his sole or collaborative works. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

MUSIC: The Magic of Bruce Springsteen

There is no show like a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show. Performing for well over three hours, Springsteen and company delivered another sprawling, enjoyable, often humorous, sometimes emotional, but always a thrilling show and had the audience under their spell for the duration. They are relentless in their pursuit of entertaining the audience, providing value for money on a scale rarely seen these days. For well over three hours last Tuesday, Springsteen made you believe that nothing else mattered and he was there to entertain you and not that you there to see him sing a few songs. The man is out of this world in terms of being a performer and it is obvious he loves every minute of it, and it is reflected in his energetic performances that in turn drive the rest of the band.

It was obvious from early on that he was on mischievous form and in the mood for fun, making light of the Hyde Park curfew mess and using it as a starting point and setting the mood for a great rendition of 'I Fought the Law'. From there on, the band rampaged through 30 songs from their extensive back catalogue. Even songs I confess that I have no time for or dislike (songs like 'Dancing in the Dark' do nowt for me) were rip-roaring and the band had the audience in their raptures for large spells, blazing out classic after classic and the RDS was afloat with joy and pure entertainment. This brings me to perhaps what I think the main reason for Springsteen and the band being such an enduring presence and maintaining their high levels of popularity is their diversity and for every 'Dancing in the Dark' and 'Born in the U.S.A.' are a 'My City of Ruins' (which had me in awe and was arguably song of the night for me), 'Darkness on the Edge of Town' and 'My Hometown'. These are collections of songs so contrasting in style and substance, but which provide a perfect mix of emotions that allow for the band to remain relevant and to keep going for such a long time. 

Among other highlights of the night was the thrilling and lively 'Murder Incorporated' as well as a selection of the songs from the latest album, Wrecking Ball. The epic encore, consisting of crowd favourites like 'Born to Run', 'Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)' and another standout, 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-out', that contained a wonderful tribute to the late Clarence Clemons was a wonderful summarization of what this collection of musicians are all about. Even though it's my third time seeing them, it is still an awe-inspiring and breathtaking spectacle, there is no reliance on a light-show or big gimmicks, just a band doing what they do best.

SONG OF THE DAY: 25/7/12

A song taken from The Veils second album Nux Vomica; Jesus for the Jugular has all the peculiarity of the early Nick Cave output, but yet having enough oddness of its own to keep it from becoming a cheap knock off. I heard this originally in the film The Devil's Double, a film that is worth a look at purely for Dominic Cooper's terrific performance. Cool song, cool film, check it.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

RETROSPECTIVE: The Bourne Identity (2002)

Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Clive Owen
Running Time: 118 minutes
Genre: Action adventure

Matt Damon's first outing as Jason Bourne in 2002's The Bourne Identity was an exciting and occasionally exhilarating Euro thriller. The film (even more so with Greengrass's sequels) helped shape a new, darker and more realistic hero and take on action cinema, with its strive for realism over sensationalism and a reliance on intrigue and suspense filled action thrills over high and extravagant body counts. The Bourne Identity was the catalyst in the re-imagining of a genre on the wane. Released in the same year as the twentieth Bond film, the abysmal Die Another Day, Doug Liman's take on Robert Ludlum's spy franchise provided the perfect antidote to the now silly and irrelevant Bond saga that had began to sink under the sheer ridiculousness of the special effects driven gadgets and unimpressive villains/character development. Jason Bourne came at a time where films like xXx were being made and while being profitable, were just not very good. Bourne in essence returned action cinema to positive critical reception and reshaped Hollywood ideals on what the audience wanted to see.

Damon's Bourne is a complex character, one who is not the same man he was before the yacht shooting, a killer who has regained his conscience. In contrast to the ultra assured and confident guise of Bond (and backed by M16), Bourne is seen as a threat to his government, is suffering from amnesia and doesn't remember anything of his former life and has little to no backup or support. This change around, with the lead having to utilize basically a guerilla defence against his former employers and his constant being on edge with the prospect of assassins constantly on his tail allow him little time for wisecracks or any of the suave elegance Bond was afforded. There is a pace to the thrills in Bourne, they are quick and elaborate but never cross the borders of realism (on-screen 'movie' realism anyway). Perhaps the finest set-piece of The Bourne Identity (embedded below) that typifies the gritty and serious direction the film goes in is Bourne's confrontation with fellow assassin 'The Professor' (Clive Owen). There are no smiles, humour or show-boating, it is just what has to be done and the little talk between Bourne and The Professor (and with all credit to Owen, who gives a memorable performance despite the small screen time he gets) is not one hatred or illogical dislike for each other, it was what they are trained to do and The Professor's talk about the headaches (which Bourne complained about earlier) fills one with sympathy for him, as he is ultimately in the same predicament as Bourne. 

The films central villains Conklin (Chris Cooper) and Abbott (Brian Cox) are as reprehensible as possible, only self-serving and out to cover their backs which leads them to use Bourne as a scapegoat. Cooper is excellent and has a menace to his performance that draws you even closer to Bourne's fight. The most important plot point that makes Bourne likeable is his relationship with Marie (Franka Potente) and their relationship comes off as being genuine and Damon excels at these scenes, where you can see Bourne slowly falling in love with her, much like a boys first crush. A scene that Marie shows her obvious attraction to Bourne (but he is too preoccupied to notice) is when they arrive at the apartment in Paris, is a scene of genuine sweetness that only makes the viewer hope that they get away and live happily ever after. Despite all its strengths (and perhaps being held up to the vastly superior sequels), The Bourne Identity suffers from being too long and drawn out in parts and with Wombosi storyline in particular given too much screen time (despite it's necessity to the overall plot, it could have been handled better). 

Despite these small issues, The Bourne Identity all serves as a great origin story (much like Casino Royale, Batman Begins and countless others would do in the wake of Bourne's success) that Paul Greengrass would build on and elevate to unprecedented levels of greatness in the two sequels. Moreover, The Bourne Identity works as a great standalone thriller and equally serves as a good set-up for the sequels. Damon's now iconic performance as Bourne contains many of the traits that the modern action hero has come to embody, with his relationship with Marie as an emotional anchor and compass for him in his search for the truth and ultimately for freedom. Identity is a classic of modern action cinema.


SONG OF THE DAY: 14/7/12

Taken from their 2007 album War Stories and featuring the vocals of Gavin Clark, Unkle's Broken was a song I first heard on the end credits of 2008 film The X-Files: I Want to Believe and perhaps remains one of the few positive aspects of that film (even as a big fan of Mulder and Scully). I've never really heard many of Unkle's songs except maybe their remixes of Ian Brown's F.E.A.R. and a couple of Queens of the Stone Age tracks they did which were on a QOTSA B-Sides album. This song is a nice little melodic and atmospheric tune with decent vocals by Clark. The chorus in particular is a standout for me, where all of Unkle's production skills come to the fore.

Friday, 13 July 2012

SONG REVIEW: Pure Love - Handsome Devil's Club (2012)

Artist: Pure Love
Song: Handsome Devil's Club
Genre: Alternative rock
Release Date: 22 July 2012

While not having the bang-wallop factor of 'Bury My Bones', Pure Love's second single is everything that the title of their debut album (the ever-so-aptly named Anthems) suggests an absolute rocking sing-along treat. 'Handsome Devil's Club' is such a catchy song (the chorus is immense) and grows in stature and impact on repeat listens. Lead singer Frank Carter's Morrissey-lite lyrics and raw delivery only reinforce the lovelorn and careless in love vibe of the song.

With Anthems not being released until the Autumn and a small UK tour inbetween now and then to rouse anticipation even further along with Handsome Devil's Club will satisfy fans needs until then with ease. It's hardly going to reinvent the rock world, but it is most definitely a catchy and infectious rock song that will you begging for more of these guys. Also, for anyone looking for more Pure Love material, be sure to check out Daytrotter's live sessions for terrific live performances of songs from the upcoming album. 


SONG OF THE DAY: 13/7/12

One regret I will have for the rest of my life is not getting to see these guys perform live, especially their multiple visits to Dublin in the latter part of their career. R.E.M. loved Dublin and a collection of their Dublin concerts have become their official live releases. This song, The Ascent of Man, from their 2007 album R.E.M. Live exhibits all the range of Michael Stipe's immense vocal capabilities.  Never have the most basic lyrics of "Yeah" over and over again sounded so powerful with Stipe giving it his all. It is a wonderful little gem of a song.