Month: July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

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All my movie reviews so far have been for films that were (at the time) in the cinema, with The Dark Knight Rises being one of them. All of those reviews have been recommendations rather than full in-depth reviews with no spoilers at all. I’m going to do the opposite this time around because The Dark Knight Rises will no doubt be the biggest movie released this year. I don’t think I really need to recommend it because the two predecessors, the biggest action movies released in their respective years, made their impact on the movie theatre and you had the choice to see them and decide if you liked them. If you liked them, then you’ve probably already seen The Dark Knight Rises. If you haven’t seen them, or didn’t like them, then the new one most likely won’t change your mind, unless you want to know what the fuss is about.

So here’s the spoiler warning. If you don’t want spoilers, scroll down to the last paragraph to see my overall consensus and review score. This review is going spoil the movie, so if you haven’t seen it or its predecessors, DO NOT READ BELOW. Even if you don’t plan on watching them, don’t read below, because I bet you will watch them at some point in time.

If you’re reading from here on, you’ve already seen all three movies now, am I correct? If not, leave now. Ok good. What an amazing movie. What an amazing trilogy!

All three movies are really consistent – great characters, great villains and of course great action. It’s easy to see that they designed this movie in mind to end the trilogy. Just like in the comics, Bane “breaks the Batman”. It’s emotionally exhausting to watch Bruce Wayne finally be defeated physically and mentally. Bane is such a threatening and effective villain, even though it’s hard to understand what he is saying sometimes. I also thought Selina Kyle/Catwoman worked really well in this movie. By the end, she was a radically different person and she was a lot of fun to watch on screen.

When I was watching the film, I was in disbelief by the awesome action that I saw presented on screen. While there was doubt that Batman would save the day again, I didn’t expect to see the city suffer so much destruction and then be held hostage. The tension was so high that by the end it’s hard to take it in. The twist at the end when Tate is revealed to be a villain was incorporated the exact way a great twist should be; I never saw it coming, but it explains some of Tate’s questionable actions throughout the film. I was glued to the screen when I watched Batman take the bomb that his enterprise created away from the city. You do get the feeling that Wayne would give up his life for the city, but would also be smart enough to program the autopilot. It’s also great to finally see Bruce Wayne move on, doing what he should have done after The Dark Knight. Batman has retired, while Bruce Wayne has started fresh, just the way Alfred wanted. While I’m sure this series won’t continue in spin-off form, Nolan has made an ending that allows fans to interpret what will happen afterwards. Blake takes over the batcave, will he become Robin or the next Batman?

It’s great to see some closure for the characters, after going through such a thrilling climax. The film is long, about 3 hours, but after I left the cinema I couldn’t believe that 3 hours had really passed. As someone who hates long movies, that’s a great testament to this one as it manages to go over three hours without dragging on. I can’t really decide which is my favourite film in the trilogy, I’ll have to (and will) watch them all again at some point on Blu-Ray. One thing I am sure about is this is one of the greatest movie trilogies ever made; it’s one of my favourites tied with the Toy Story trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises takes everything you liked about the previous two movies and turns it up to a new level. I rate it 5/5 and think it’s the best movie released this year.

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Being Lara Bingle and The Shire

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My friend dared me to watch an episode each of Being Lara Bingle and The Shire and to review them in this blog, and I took up his challenge. It seems fair, because how can I diss these two shows when I haven’t actually watched them? Well now I have, but keep in mind that this blog is more of a “first impression”, rather than a review, because I can’t really review a show after watching one episode. Though I suppose I can still give a rating to the episodes I watched.

Reportedly, Network Ten’s ratings and profits have gone down lately. I guess it’s no surprise as the only high rating show I can think of still showing on Channel Ten is Masterchef, which is going through the motions. Desperate times, call for desperate measures, which must be why the network adds a few easy reality shows to its schedule. The Seven Network has much more reality shows than the Nine Network or Ten, but at least it didn’t produce The Shire.

I hope Being Lara Bingle wins the “No Reason to Exist” award at the Logies, though the Logies would probably win that prize too. I don’t really have to explain what the show is about because the title gives it away. On catch-up TV online I watched the first episode and found it beyond pointless. The exception to this was the scene when her car was pulled over by the cops because she was driving in the bus lane. Her licence – that she forgot at home – got suspended again. All this occurred with a few paparazzi filming and taking photos at the scene. Pretty funny stuff, but that was the only good thing that episode. The rest was just Lara explaining her life to the Australian public, which will probably make her more famous and increase the paparazzi following even more. Apparently this show was “written” by Lara, as it states on the Wikipedia article, but explain to me how a reality show is written…unless everything that happened in the episode was set-up! But that’s me thinking too much about a show I’m not going to watch ever again anyway. If you’re the kind of person who reads celebrity magazines, you might give a damn about Being Lara Bingle. Then again, Lara getting done by the police with the paparazzi watching was rather entertaining; I’ll give it that. I rate episode one 2/5.

Ten’s desperation has led them to find a bunch of good looking people with relatively low IQs and ask them if they don’t mind having cameras watching as they do either stupid or boring things. The Shire is what became of this grand, ambitious vision. The Shire is set in the Sunderland Shire (or The Shire for short, as you probably guessed) in New South Wales. Coincidentally, though by all means not a shocking revelation at all, Lara Bingle also hails from The Shire. This place doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the state, so it’s no surprise Channel Ten chose it for their TV show and even less surprising that the real people living in the area don’t think very highly of the show. Well I think they have a point, as the people on this show don’t seem to represent Australia well, but they do represent “STRAYA”.

The Shire is billed by Ten as a “dramality”, which is quite an awkward looking word, obviously putting together “drama” and “reality”. So yes, it’s a reality show, but there’s drama! Although I think dramality means that the reality is that The Shire is dramatically horrible TV. Two of the morons the show follows are two chicks who may be true best friends, but have fake bodies. They have fake lips, fake boobs and fake tans. One of them stated they wanted their lips bigger, but her doctor said her current lips almost touch the bottom of her nose.  What a damn shame. Nothing much happens to them in this episode, except discussing whether they’d rather have a good looking kid or a smart one…and then they get botox. I hope these two realise that a lot of people are disgusted by plastic, fake and manufactured girls walking the streets. They go overboard. Another “character” is Beckaa, the only name I remember because it looks and sounds icky. In this episode, she returns from Dubai and hops in a limo with her father and she reveals how she got a nose job and spent $15,000 like she always does. Her dad doesn’t mind too much. Wow, I’ve never seen someone so spoilt. She looks fake too, when will these dumb chicks learn? Last storyline involves some jock and his ex-girlfriend who wants him back. Upcoming episodes are going to introduce new characters, I MEAN new real people, but I’m not going to watch anymore. There is a rock chick apparently in upcoming episodes whose band appears to be on the verge of success. That’s actually something I would be interested to watch but I don’t want to put up with the rest of the high school level banter from the other cast members .I know some people are interested in these sorts of things presented in these shows, but it makes me want to smash the remote through the TV and hopefully lower the ratings during the process.

Can Channel Ten arrange to rename The Shire as “The Shite”? That might be insulting to the people from The Shire, but it really is how I feel about this stupid show. I’ve heard comparisons to The Hills, Jersey Shore and Geordie Shore, shows I’ve never seen, but I have also heard that those shows are entertaining while The Shite is not. Despite this, maybe there’s a chance you’ll enjoy The Shite if you like those shows. Most likely you’ve seen the ads on television; The Shite is exactly what is presented in the ads. Did you like what you saw in the ads? Well give The Shite a try, though I rather you didn’t because I think it’s the scum of the idiot box. I give the premiere of The Shite, 1/5.

I wondered why Lara Bingle was considered important enough to have her own show when I heard about it. Little did I know that Channel Ten was planning a bigger monstrosity that I like to call The Shite. Even if you think you’d enjoy them, please don’t watch either of these shows. At least Masterchef had a beneficial effect on society. Channel Ten thought that these shows were a good idea, I think they are crap. Don’t watch them! Even if you think you’d like them, don’t watch them! Do something useful with your time, like writing a reality show about residents from Dandenong and naming it That’s Dandy!

Linkin Park – Living Things

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I must admit I look forward to any Linkin Park release. In my pre-teens I only listened to the odd popular song, but generally I thought I didn’t like any music. When I was 14, I discovered Linkin Park, who essentially got me into music. I had nothing else to listen to at the time, so it was all I ever listened to. Obviously over the last 5 years I’ve expanded my game, but I still love this band as much as ever.

Linkin Park’s first two albums, Hybrid Theory (2000) and Meteora (2003), were nu metal, the next two, Minutes to Midnight (2007) and A Thousand Suns (2010), were a departure from that sound. The band claims that their brand new album, Living Things, mixes elements of the albums that came before it, and when I listen to it, I can agree. Essentially, the album combines the energy of the old material with the experimentation of the new. Something to note is that the lyrical content of the album, as the name suggests, contain personal themes. This is much like the first two albums, but is a notable departure from the political content of the previous two releases, especially A Thousand Suns.

The album opens with my favourite track, “Lost in the Echo”. I can definitely feel the energy of the first two albums in this track. It reminds me of “Lying From You” and “Faint” from Meteora, but still sounds like something new. I definitely think this song, which will be the upcoming second single, will be a fan favourite, as it combines all the awesome Linkin Park elements – plenty of electronic samples, distorted guitar, Chester Bennington singing and screaming the choruses and Mike Shinoda rapping the verses. I can’t wait to hear this song live.

The next two tracks, “In My Remains” and the first single, “Burn It Down” feature amazing vocal performances by Chester with some great guitar work. Both songs have electronic elements that enhance the production of these tracks, rather than get in the way. The latter features a rap verse by Shinoda (which has rather cheesy lyrics) and he and Chester have a vocal call-and-response which will please fans for sure. The rapping continues into “Lies Greed Misery”, where Shinoda raps over a thick electronic beat with Chester screaming the choruses.

Then we arrive at a couple of songs with string arrangements. “I’ll Be Gone” sounds like a leftover from the Minutes to Midnight sessions that evolved. Like a lot of the songs from that album, Shinoda has no lead vocals or rap parts but aids Chester’s voice in the background. Following this song is the surprisingly effective “Castle of Glass”. There’s no rapping or screaming on this song, but both vocalists deliver mellow vocal performances that go well with the string arrangements that I found rather satisfying.

“Victimized” is another highlight of the album that springs out of nowhere. It goes for less than two minutes. It’s one of Linkin Park’s most aggressive songs in a very long time, and despite the short length, it manages to fit in two verses from Shinoda and plenty of Chester’s trademark screams.

“Roads Untravelled” features piano, which was heavily featured on A Thousand Suns. That’s not the only thing this track is about, as both vocalists sing “whoa oh ohh” near the end. I wasn’t really sure what to think of this song, but I can say it is satisfying to listen to. Skin to Bone isn’t anything new for the band, and is probably the weakest track on the album. The lyrics are fairly clichéd, as any song that contains “ash to ashes, dust to dust” would.

“Until It Breaks” sounded all over the place the first time I heard it, but it’s quite an interesting song. It’s weird but in a good way, like “When They Come For Me” off A Thousand Suns. The best part of the song, which is strange for me to say, is the section at the end that features the first lead vocals from Brad Delson, the band’s main guitarist. There’s something about his singing that worked really well for this song. I don’t think this is going to be a fan favourite, but it’s definitely worth a listen to, especially for the absolute hardcore fans like me.

When I heard that the second last track on the album, “Tinfoil”, was going to be an instrumental, I was pretty excited. I was hoping for something like “Cure for the Itch” or “Session”, but it turned out to be merely an intro to the final track on the album. It’s not bad by all means, and it serves its purpose well as it leads into “Powerless”, a ballad. This was a great way to end the album. It has great lyrics and Chester’s vocal performance is one of the most heartfelt ever. This track doesn’t break new ground for the band, but it is what it is, a really good song and I think it will be a single down the line.

Living Things delivers nearly everything a fan would want from a Linkin Park album, except for heavily distorted metal guitar parts. The guitar parts are there, but are softer, much like on Minutes to Midnight. Everything else you expect from a Linkin Park album are present: Mike’s rapping, Chester’s screams and soft melodic singing, DJ Joe Hahn’s scratching and sampling. That’s what the band does best, they mix rock, hip-hop and electronic music better than anyone.

If you’re a fan of old Linkin Park and despise the new stuff, I would recommend you listen to Living Things. It’s not a return to nu metal, but it captures the feeling of the old stuff. If you like newer Linkin Park, then I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t like this album. If you don’t like Linkin Park at all, then I don’t think this album will change your mind, but I still recommend a listen, because you never know. If you’re a hardcore Linkin Park fan like me you should already own the CD. I still recommend the album to the rest of you have never listened to Linkin Park before, because Living Things is a very good album. It sounds like a Linkin Park album, but it’s something new as well, and you know they are the only band that could deliver it.

Living Things is better than the last two albums, but it doesn’t stand up to the first two. I rate Living Things 4/5. See below for the tracklisting, with my favourites in bold, as well as the music video for the lead single, “Burn It Down”.

1.

“Lost in the Echo”  

3:25

2.

“In My Remains”  

3:20

3.

“Burn It Down”  

3:50

4.

“Lies Greed Misery”

2:27

5.

“I’ll Be Gone”

3:31

6.

“Castle of Glass”  

3:25

7.

“Victimized”  

1:46

8.

“Roads Untraveled”

3:49

9.

“Skin to Bone”

2:48

10.

“Until It Breaks”

3:43

11.

“Tinfoil”

1:11

12.

“Powerless”  

3:44

Ted

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Ted is a comedy film in theatres now and is brought to us by Seth McFarlane, of Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad fame. It stars Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, a man in his thirties who has been in a four-year relationship with Lori Collins, played by Mila Kunis. Something that gets in the way of the relationship is John’s best friend, Ted, (voiced by Seth McFarlane), an immature teddy bear that came to life during John’s childhood and has been there for him ever since.

Promoting the fact that Ted comes from the creator of Family Guy makes perfect sense, as the writing and jokes are very much like that show. It’s very rude for a start, and having a talking teddy bear makes sense coming from a guy who voices a talking dog and bear on his other shows. I’m a fan of Family Guy, so I really enjoyed this movie. While the premise of a talking bear is surely what makes this movie special, Ted is one of those stories where a friendship gets in the way of a relationship, which is nothing new, but will anyone care?

The answer to that is no, because it’s a very funny movie that doesn’t waste any time. I was surprised to see that there were some emotional moments too, which certainly enhance the experience. The casting is great, with some cool cameos too.

I think Ted is the funniest movie this blockbuster season, with the exception of Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator. I do strongly recommend you see both movies. If you can only see one, I would recommend The Dictator, but that decision may ultimately boil down to whether you prefer Cohen’s work or McFarlane’s work. If you don’t like Seth McFarlane’s humour, then there’s a good chance you won’t enjoy Ted. The rest of us will enjoy one of the funniest movies released this year.

Rating: 4.5/5.

Rock of Ages (2012 film and soundtrack)

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The post is a review of the film Rock of Ages and its soundtrack.

Film review

In theatres now is a film based on Rock of Ages, a jukebox musical comedy. By “jukebox”, I mean that the songs featured were not written for the musical, but are already hit songs. Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough, who also co-starred in last year’s Footloose remake) and how they ultimately get together after a number of hurdles with a few subplots in between involving an ensemble cast, to a soundtrack of rock hits from the 80’s. I saw the Rock of Ages musical about 9 months ago with the Australian cast. It was quite an enjoyable experience. It had great songs and was surprisingly funny. Like most musicals, the story was basic, but the songs are there to enhance the moments. When I heard a film adaptation was coming, I was stoked to say the least. Did it live up to my expectations?

The film adaptation makes quite a few changes – with characters, musical numbers and plot lines added, subtracted or simply fiddled with. Some of these changes are good, while others are bad. The hilarious Regina, Franz and Hertz unfortunately got cut in favour of a larger role for the mayor and introducing his wife as the villain. Playing as the wife is Catherine Zeta-Jones, whose performance I didn’t like at all, which is strange because this is the actress that did an amazing job playing Velma in the film adaptation of the musical Chicago. Her role in the story seems a bit copied from Footloose. Russell Brand was perfect to play Lonny, but it’s a shame that character becomes a lot less utilised. He no longer narrates, which is a shame because the moments in the musical where the fourth wall were broken were some of the most memorable. I do like that the Stacee Jaxx character was given a larger role, and I liked his subplot with the reporter. Stacee Jaxx’s manager was also given a bigger role, and the film made good use of his screen time.

I was fairly sceptical when I heard that Tom Cruise was not only playing Stacee Jaxx, but co-starring alongside the main protagonists. Tom Cruise had never sung before, but he really dedicated himself to this role. For many months prior to filming, Cruise trained 5 hours a day to sing with assistance by Axl Rose’s vocal coach. Strangely enough, and this is not an insult to the movie or the rest of the ensemble cast, but Tom Cruise’s performances are the highlights of the movie. You will have to see it to believe it. His singing voice is actually quite good and he stays very well in character.

As I said before, I didn’t like Zeta-Jones performance as the mayor’s wife, and the leading lovers are not bad, but could’ve done a better job as they are the leads. It might be the script those two are working with, or they may not simply be strong actors (I haven’t seen Julianne Hough in Footloose, so I can’t be sure about her). The rest of the cast, most of whom I’ve already mentioned, are pretty good. In addition there is very a welcome presence of 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin as Dennis Dupree and Mary J. Blige as the owner of a strip club.

Unfortunately, the script wasn’t written in a way that truly makes the cast standout, especially the two young leads. Tom Cruise seems immune to this, with his flawless performance. The jokes aren’t as funny as the musical. As a love story, the best moments are during musical numbers, with the only real connection between the leads felt during “Waiting for a Girl Like You”. Those are the reasons you watch a musical, rather than the script. It is the most clichéd love story ever, but it’s just there to fit the musical numbers together. Rock hits from the 80’s were a lot of fun, and that successfully transcends into this film.

The film adaptation of Rock of Ages is pretty good. A friend of mine agrees with me that the musical was much better, but we both liked this version nonetheless. Don’t think that you have to have seen the musical, or even know the songs featured, to enjoy this film. While the film doesn’t capture the same hilarity and energy of the musical, it is still a lot of fun and is worth seeing and I’d love to watch it again. There are great songs and great performances, and I challenge you to not enjoy Tom Cruise’s Stacee Jaxx. If you haven’t seen the musical, that’s even more of a reason to watch it, while you wait for the essential purchase of the recording of the musical to be released (one would hope), or better yet, the actual musical being performed in your area. If you hate the music featured, then you should give it a miss, but that would be the only reason not to watch it. I give Rock of Ages 3.5/5.

Soundtrack review

Just like the film, there are changes to the soundtrack that I liked and some I didn’t like. There were also some that made no difference to me at all. Most disappointingly cut is Europe’s “The Final Countdown”. The ending with “Don’t Stop Believin’” actually made me feel a bit cheated. It’s a lot shorter than the amazing version from the musical and also lacks the energy. I felt cheated because the film actually builds up to this finale. If you haven’t seen the musical this won’t be a problem at all most likely. I liked the addition of “Paradise City”, “Rock Me Like a Hurricane” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, all well sung by Tom Cruise. His version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” is much better than the musical version. A surprising highlight is the duet with Cruise and Malin Akerman (who played the reporter) in “I Want to Know What Love Is”. The shortened version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is nothing compared to the extraordinary version in the musical.

While not as energetic as the soundtrack to the musical, that’s not saying the performances on this CD has no life. Most of what’s here is pretty good, some a lot better than the songs on the musical and creates a fantastic vibe when you listen to it. The same recommendations I gave to the film can be applied here. The same rating of 3.5/5, is what I give the Rock of Ages soundtrack, though I also recommend you check out the musical’s CD as well.

Here is the tracklisting, with the songs in bold my favourites.

  1. 1.  “Paradise City” – Tom Cruise
    2.  “Sister Christian” / “Just Like Paradise” / “Nothin’ But A Good Time” – Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin
    3.  “Juke Box Hero” / “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Julianne Hough
    4.  “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Catherine Zeta-Jones
    5.  “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough
    6.  “More Than Words” / “Heaven” – Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta
    7.  “Wanted Dead Or Alive” – Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough
    8.  “I Want To Know What Love Is” – Tom Cruise, Malin Akerman

    9.  “I Wanna Rock” – Diego Boneta
    10.  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Tom Cruise
    11.  “Harden My Heart” – Julianne Hough, Mary J. Blige
    12.  “Shadows of the Night” / “Harden My Heart” – Mary J. Blige, Julianne Hough
    13.  “Here I Go Again” – Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Julianne Hough, Mary J. Blige, Tom Cruise,
    14.  “Can’t Fight This Feeling” – Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin
    15.  “Any Way You Want It” – Mary J. Blige, Constantine Maroulis, Julianne Hough
    16.  “Undercover Love” (original song) – Diego Boneta
    17.  “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Mary J. Blige
    18.  “Rock You Like A Hurricane” – Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise
    19.  “We Built This City” / “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Russell Brand / Catherine Zeta-Jones
    20.  “Don’t Stop Believin’”- Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige