Posts from 19th July 2004

Jul 04

With the movie reincarnation of International Rescue

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With the movie reincarnation of International Rescue storming towards us with the beauty of Brains and the grace of Thunderbird 2, plenty have mentioned that a central innovation of the film – on top of better effects, a bit of character development and, for some reason, human beings – is the somewhat intrusive appearance of a plot.  No longer will a mere collapsing bridge or teetering cable car tower threaten the utopian order, perhaps with a nod to the villainous Mr Hood.  Now there’s motivation, conflict and denouement.  Its sacrilege.

But Thunderbirds was never the worst for papery thin absurdity.  That prize must go to stable mate Joe 90, which once devoted the first third of an episode to the hero’s search for a pair of swimming trunks.  In some shops. 

Now there’s a challenge for Jonathan Frakes.  Go for it.

THE SQUARE TABLE 4 / BIG AND RICH – “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)”

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THE SQUARE TABLE 4 / BIG AND RICH – “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)”

Pop Factor: 784 Controversy Score: 256

You’ll love it first time if you’re going to love it at all, I reckon. The froth of messageboard talk raised my eyebrow – country-disco-rock? Oh-kay. Sounded great – on paper. On record? Oh, only perfect. It delivers everything that blend might suggest – cute words, big chorus, hotline to the hips – and then looks around for even more to absorb. The smatter of city slang makes it plain that Big And Rich are living in our world; the craft should satisfy the most technocratic pop fan; the two-part harmonies are thrillingly traditional. Tying it all is the casual delight in the record: its simple confident infectious rightness. “Save A Horse” has soundtracked some of the best of my Summer already – hope it does the same to yours. 10. (Tom)

What type of name is Leroy for a horse?? CHAMPION, now there’s a name, Champion, or perhaps Fido, but Leroy? And bling-blinging?! You’ll never get a horse down Broadway! What would the cops say? Best song ever, obviously. 10 (Sarah C)

James Bond banjo, achy-breaky block-rockin’ beats, and even some modest guitar shreddin’ straight from the Jackson Family school of Owning Your Ass. If the world were a perfect place, this track would replace “Cotton Eye Joe” AND “YMCA” at every sporting event, wedding. batmitzvah, house closing, and ritual sacrifice from here to the return of Cthulhu. 10 (David Raposa)

I can’t recall being this enthusiastic about joining a hype in a long, long time. Growing up with a Gram Parsons/Byrds/Kris Kristofferson loving father has ensured that I find delight in the same fiddles and banjos some instinctively deride, so this was never going to get a low score from me, but oh there’s so much more. It rocks with as much gleefulness as any Darkness track, they reference the “Bonanza” theme song, the chorus has the sort of over-the-top Southern drawl that we’ve become used from hip-hop (“citay” fits in nicely with “urrbody in the club get tipsy”), and also features a bunch of children singing the song’s title; there’s the line “I’m singin’ and bling-blingin'”; there’s self-references (always a dandy) and, of course, the song’s biggest highlight: “sang her every Willie Nelson song I could think of/AND WE MADE LOVE!”

I used to have a misguided tendency to use the words “joie de vivre” whenever I reviewed something I loved, and of thinking that this was the main aesthetic standard that one should search for in all art. That’s bollocks, but when a record comes along that epitomizes that feel with such perfection, it still feels to me as good as music could possibly get. 10 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

Anthony Easton’s comment was long and incisive and deserves to be a separate post. But he gave it a 10 too.

This is great! The best country record of the year and the best rock record! The lyrics might not get much of the attention, but the rhyming and cadences in the opening verse are tremendous – the use and neatness of the internal rhymes is almost Eminemesque. But it’s the punchiness and wit, with the elegant old-fashioned country fiddling embellishing the rock power chords, that makes this an outstanding record. The blend is wonderful – everything works, the female second voice, the banjo plucking, all of it. This is a terrific, storming record, and surely must be a huge hit. 10 (Martin Skidmore)

They’re unspeakably generous, and I’m not talking about the hundred-dollar bills they pass out or the double round of Crown they buy the bar.

The way they say they “wouldn’t trade ol’ Leroy or their Chevrolet for your Escalade or your freak parade” speaks to a generosity of spirit, a non-grudging, non-judgmental self-acceptance that invests the groove they offer with something edgier than a “Kumbaya” cool-pose. They may be “the only John Wayne in this town,” but that doesn’t keep them from singing “every Willie Nelson song I could think of” to get next to Ms. Right Now.

They’re not a player, they just twang a lot. They want to lay down the boogie and play that country music till they die. And all the girlies say they’re pretty fly for a cowboy! 10 (George Kelly)

It announces itself as a novelty record, it goes on in the vein of a novelty record but unlike a classic novelty record there is still something left when the novelty has worn off. It’s the theme to the musical version of Midnight Cowboy, with a tip of its hat and a cheery smile and no consideration that an in-depth look at the lyrics may
uncover some zoophiliac content. 9 (Pete)

Haha, this is great! Obviously not as good as Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory album though. They sing kinda like Brett Michaels, and the totally lame song title appeals to me. The spoken bit towards the end is brilliant. This song is totally wrestlers coming to the ring music, overblown with all that whole fake bravado and booze vibe. Maybe they’re not joking? I doubt it. 9 (jel)

It’s almost like they’re daring you to have a go, isn’t it? Country and pop and staggeringly defiantly so. They use “Bling-bling” as a verb, and it doesn’t sound terrible. That chorus! Pump that fist! Some – no, all will call it novelty. The album’s meant to be great, though, isn’t it? Heard one other song, it was also classy. Should be a hit. Deserves to be anyhow. 8 (William B Swygart)

Jumpin’ Jesus on a souped up pogo stick, what the heck is THIS? Just kidding; I know what it is: my newest, guiltiest pleasure. I’d be embarrassed to be found listening to this but I can’t turn it off; a too-familiar set of circumstances that suggests that I have a good pop cut in hand.

You pull the banjo and this track doesn’t work; without a solid country backbone, I don’t buy it. You cut the self-aware trickery (the Lone Ranger intro, the Peter Gunn theme tnterpolation at the bridge, the blingbling/escalade/”what, what” hip hop lingo), it’s a little too lunkheaded. Without the swift, crisp songwriting (that “WE MADE LOVE” line – absolutely perfect), without the lighter-in-the-air powerballad gee-tar and the twangin’ bangin’ sangin’, you got a car with no engine. The disparate parts make one hella whole.

As if we needed it, Big+Rich strike me as proof that the speedy canonization of Outkast was a good thing for the music buying public. A quantum leap ahead of the odious Kid Rock, a sideways glance at Bubba Sparxxx and a hope that this continues to sound clever in the morning after I’ve sent this review and gotten some sleep. As it is? 8 (Forksclovetofu)

The girls, they are so prettay.

Normally, it’s the harmonies that hook me on country, something campfire warm to the intervals: but that’s for melancholia, and this is… not. These two sing almost all of the song an octave apart from one another, yowl above and growl below, a comfortable clutter of instruments trapped between their voices. Heaven knows you can’t go far wrong with a bit of banjo, but that twiddling fiddle that pirouettes about behind the semi-spoken section is the real star of the show, its over-excited little twitter after ‘begging for salvation all night long’. It’s impossible to hear without smiling – and that goes for the whole song, a bow-legged strut that can’t quite keep the stupid grin off its face. 7 (cis)

Big And Rich might be part of Country, but it’s closer to Kid Rawk style bling dung than Willie Nelson. So, no, “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” – is this some sexual innuendo or wot wot? – is not really my kinda thang, baby. It’s just too slick – could the production be slickah? – and trying to attract all crowds – dropping hip references in between the slap’n’yell. I’m sure Big And Rich is extremely entertaining, but only on a Nashville stage, not on this single. 6 horses and half a mule. This cowgirl ain’t riding with these cowboy duo. (Stevie Nixed)

It’s being described as a “country-rap” song, a cheap – and probably fraudulent – way to create some buzz and spark endless threads about “the state of country music today” and the inevitable “but if you do a little research you’ll find that the first cowboys were actually black” bit of trivia in tagboards everywhere. The “bling-blingin'” bit will surely be offensive for some country fans, “can’t you see they’re mocking hip-hop?” for more forgiving others. Though on a first listen I hated it, some days later I find myself having a soft spot for this song, the same I had for Electric Six’s over-the-top macho rock. 6 (Diego Valladolid)

A stomping swamp hoedown that boasts of the bling-bling – although it sounds all a bit Rednexx, the powerful motor of ZZ Top is roaring away in the engine room. The lyrics are of course a context-less farce, but the joke is done with such a speedy pitter-patter delivery it’s contagious. I fancy that a lot of work went into this one, and it’s paid off. 6 (Derek Walmsley)

The best thing about this track is that it immediately reminds me of the film The Cowboy Way starring Woody Harrelson and indeed seems to have been inspired by it. Ten years on from that MASTERPIECE we have an accompanying anthem only with extra ‘bling bling’ references…yes this is basically some wry faux-redneck posse imitating Nelly imitating wry faux-redneck posses which in one way is absolutely fantastic (well crafted pop nonsense, does what it says on the tin splendidly – could well be a massive hit even in Europe, will at least be hearing it in Walkabouts and similar watering holes for a while to come surely), but in another more accurate way is as dumb as actual redneck posses (inane but hey-fun celebration of the idea of cowboys coming to New York and doing rather well with the ladies – yes fine but done much better in aforementioned film!). Probably better than ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ tho. 5 (Steve M)

We haven’t had a novelty cowboy song for several years now, so here comes Big And Rich to fill that void. Honestly, songs like this seem to exist solely to provide us with jokey reference points in future pubs. Who doesn’t get a kick out of slurring the lines of “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” or “Wild Wild West”? I’m not sure that history will be so kind to Big And Rich. This “Horse” song is kinda fun, but it only makes me long for Kid Rock. 3 (Henry Scollard)

Smart-arse frat-rock bollocks. What sounds like it ought to be an anti-redneck slogan turns out just to be dumb-duh-duh-dumb-dumb dumb. A waste of a good AC/DC riff, buried under all the banjos. 2 (alext)

The last U2 album was called All That You Can’t Leave Behind.

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The last U2 album was called All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
The new one will be called All That You Shouldn’t Leave Lying Around For Interweb Scallys To Steal. Let’s just hope no-one posts tracks up illegally on the internet. That would be a tragedy to hear unfunished demo’s, unable to be polished to the usual U2 high standard. And you know, the more of my life I can live without hearing th enew traks, the greater the joy will be when I do. I would imagine. And no-one else should make money out of U2’s pain.

A bit on TMFD on The Miracle Of Bern

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A bit on TMFD on The Miracle Of Bern,  and why films seem to insiste on getting football wrong.Sometimes films should try and be more like television, is the conclusion. WHich does not necessarily mean remakes of The Flintstones.

I saw The Miracle Of Bern on Saturday.

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I saw The Miracle Of Bern on Saturday. Yes I know it is a film and that is what Do You See? is for but it was about football so it fits here nicely. And note, I saw it at 3pm, traditional kick off time. Except we had the ads and trailers first which you do not get at the football. Anyway the film is a German retelling of the 1954 cup final which West Germany won against most odds (the odds being that Hungary had not lost a game in four years).
Many reviews ay that the football is some of the best ever shown on film. They are sadly incorrect. There is precious little football at all, the only extended sequences being in the final itself. How one would liked to have seen much more of a representation of Germany getting spanked 8-3 by Hungary in an earlier round, just to help build the tension for the final. And this is a jingoistic, hero-worship affair so even the play we do get to see is full of silky skills, rather than the more tradional opinion of the film – which is the German’s kicked the Hungarians all over the park (football – its a mans game etc etc).
Teh problem the film has is trying to use the game as a metaphor for post-war Germany. It does not work well as a metaphor, so they also tell a parallel story of a football mad kids father returning from a Russian P.O.W. camp. These scenes are good in a predictable way but dovetail poorly into the football bits. And they are also the justification for us not seeing the games. In 1954 German very few people had televisions and therefore got results from the radio, newspapers or (nicely done in one scene) carrier pigeons.
The problem with the football scenes is one most football movies have. We have a pictoral representation of football already, whether from TV or watching in the ground. The TV one is the idealised spectator – generally omnipotent high in the stands. As a spectator we stay rooted to the spot. Yet in football film, the camera will insist on getting in among the players. To make us part of the team. We don’t want to be part of the team. We are spectators, and we know how we like our footie. Note that computer games rarely try to replicate the playing experience, rather the spectating experience. The football scenes are okay, but not what we want to see.
It will be interesting to see how Wimbledon deals with this.

Kid Shirt

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Kid Shirt: I like this blog a lot.

For all those who I was boring on Saturday night – more info on

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For all those who I was boring on Saturday night – more info on Carrie: The Musical. Initially produced in Stratford Up Upon Avon for a month before transfering to Broadway – for four days. One of the most notorious stage flops, I have slowly become obsessed by it and will possibly be interviewing a cast member in a couple of weeks time. The reviews are not all bad, but the box-office receipts certainly were.

The Horror Channel

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The Horror Channel recently stole into the Sky schedules in the dead of night. Programming output is based on a mixture of Hammer Horror, b-movie trash and little known classics such as Hard Rock ZombiesWhen a rock band are brutally murdered by a family of ghouls, a medieval tune resurrects them as zombies.
At midnight, the films tip over into soft-core vampire lesbian thrillers. These early hours films tend to be less frightening.


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FT Top 100 Films

Martin Skidmore says:

A film that is 85 years old is pretty hard to watch the way it would have been viewed at the time. Silent of course, and the acting, particularly Conrad Veidt’s hypnotised character, is wildly exaggerated, a very different style from that which started to become the standard within two decades of this – but once you get used to it, there is a force in the performances here. The story is kind of corny by now too, and director Robert Weine was forced to add a cop-out twist ending (which is sort of fun, though pretty nonsensical) to remove the film’s anti-authoritarian message.
The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari is worth watching for reasons other than out of interest in the history of cinema (significant as it is in that context), and that’s largely because of the extraordinary look of it. The sets are often unmistakeably cardboard flats, but the whole set design (credited to Walter Reimann, Walter R’hrig and Hermann  Warm) is captivating throughout and often breathtaking, pure German expressionism, all strange angles and irrational architecture. The direction matches the mood too – this was before anyone had come up with tracking or most other things we are used to, but Wiene creates a powerful atmosphere.
David Steans says: 
“Weine tried to repeat his success in later years, but failed miserably.” I wanted to write about this wonderfully abrupt statement from the back of the Caligari DVD exclusively, in lieu of the actual film, but just couldn’t help myself.
I’ve always found Caligari very creepy, but not really for the reasons usually cited. Yes the design is fantastic, as are the chilly tints and Werner Krauss’s monstrous Caligari and about a hundred other things. But it?s the premise of a murderous somnambulist that hooked me. Conrad Veidt’s Cesare has impossibly big eyes and is almost as scary as the Dr. I find the subconscious mind and all it’s connotations so scary I often wonder why horror hasn’t tapped into it more often, or more efficiently. A Nightmare on Elm Street springs to mind, perhaps because it was on Channel 5 the other night. Although here the sleeping characters are the victims, it’s frenetic energy and downright nastiness occasionally creates some of the feelings of helplessness and disorientation that Caligari does. The two films also share a kind of willful abandon when it comes to representations of reality, with Caligari pushing against early cinema’s pre-occupation with realism and Nightmare the stark pared-down aesthetic of the slashers, and possibly even Craven’s own Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes.
Whatever the reasons, Fritz Lang’s loss is ours and Weine’s gain, “miserable failures” notwithstanding.

Anthony Easton says:
It’s all about the ending, it is told in the beginning as a story, and revealed in the end as a dream of mad men–all of the artistry and amorality then can be dismissed as nothing more then a mad mens raving. What we are left with is the imagery, and the movie would not have survived with out it. It is an isolating and claustrophobic film to watch, as each frame and then what is in that frame  looks as it is about to collapse not only on those on the screen, but maybe even the screen itself, making it into some kind of black hole of angst and fear.

Heat and humidity brings on free love fest.

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Heat and humidity brings on free love fest.
Anyone else get hit in the face by a winged ant on his way back from an orgy?
West Hampstead saw record numbers of flying ants over the weekend undergoing their brief flying sex-a-thon mating season.  Quite a few looked like it’d all been a bit much and I’m guessing there’s a number of satisfied queens in the area.
Swallowing one of these randy buggers did not help my Sunday morning hangover though.