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.