Month: November 2012

“Taken 2” review

Taken 2 didn’t surprise me at all. You can probably guess what happens by the end. If you watched the trailer, that pretty much sums up the film. After rescuing his kidnapped daughter Kim from Albanian human traffickers in the first film, Bryan Mills and his ex-wife Lenore get taken as part of a plot for revenge. I guess human traffickers don’t appreciate it when their lives are being ruined.

It almost seems like The Hangover Part II, which had essentially the same structure as The Hangover 1. While Taken 2 isn’t entirely a remake of the first, it seems that way at times. The plot is almost the same. People get kidnapped; action hero blows things up in an awesome, yet absurd fashion. Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills made the first movie such a cult classic, and while Neeson’s character does want you want and expect in this movie, it just doesn’t have the same impact. In fact, the most memorable scenes in Taken 2 are the absurd ones.

Spoiler warning – skip the following paragraph to avoid a plot detail.

So there’s a scene where Kim crashes a taxi with Bryan in the passenger seat into the US Embassy because he told her too. Instead of just going through and stopping, he insists she drives right through the guards heavily armed who try to shoot them down. They crash. Bryan phones his friend and asks him to call off the embassy guards. Then Bryan leaves Kim behind and goes back for Lenore. Wow, that was an easy fix – he just leaves the embassy no questions asked. It’s like in Grand Theft Auto, when during a mission you can have a high wanted rating with police trying to kill you, but the moment you pass the mission, they act like you don’t exist and stop firing at you. This is the most absurd part of the film and it drove me insane.

Spoilers end here.

I remember seeing the trailer and thinking that his family being targeted and kidnapped again was too absurd to be believable. I was right. In saying that, this is not a terrible film. The action was mostly great and the acting was fairly solid. I liked the moments between the Mills family, even though the ending felt a bit too perfect. Fans of the original won’t have any regrets seeing this, even though I’m sure they will prefer the first. If you haven’t seen the first one, then the plot is still quite easy to follow, and I think you’ll get a kick out of it, and then enjoy the first even more.

Taken 2 is an enjoyable affair. It’s not as good as the first movie, and has a number of flaws preventing it from being very memorable, but still has the potential to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: 3/5

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Coldplay featuring The Temper Trap 2012 concert review

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Wow, where do I begin? What can I say? I think I’ll start with this statement. This may have been the best concert I have ever seen in my life. Coldplay went ALL out. That’s how you use a big budget to throw a concert. Supporting act The Temper Trap was awesome as well – I’ll talk about them first.

The Temper Trap was happy to be playing back in their hometown, as singer Dougy Mandagi told the crowd many times. They played a 50 minute set playing about half-half songs from their debut Conditions and the new self-titled album. It was overall a fantastic performance. It seemed as if most of the crowd hadn’t warmed up to the new songs as of yet, but “Trembling Hands”, one of the best singles released this year, got a very warm welcome. From Conditions, “Love Lost” and my favourite Temper Trap song, “Fader”, were proof of the staying power of this young band. Of course they ended with “Sweet Disposition”, which reminded us why we love this band, and brought us in the best possible mood for Coldplay.

Rating for Temper Trap’s set: 4/5.

Oh and there was also another opening band, named The Pierces, featuring two female singers. They’re a country band from the USA. They had some nice songs, but I had never heard of them. Maybe check them out if you like that sort of music.

When Coldplay finally came on, the crowd exploded with excitement. In fact, the stage practically exploded too. The fireworks, the lasers and coloured on screen visuals during the openers “Mylo Xyloto” and “Hurts Like Heaven” set the standards for the rest of the night. Those two songs also signalled the activation of the flashing wristbands provided. A radio signal allowed them to be turned on and off at will during songs, mostly the ones from Mylo Xyloto. Since nearly everyone in the audience had one, it made simply looking around the stadium part of the show; they were like Christmas lights. “Christmas Lights” was a song they should’ve played!

The wristbands turned off during the next song – fan favourite “In My Place”. This song saw the first instance of little paper doves and butterflies sprinkling into the air like confetti. All these theatrics were completely turned off for “Major Minus”, a new one of Mylo Xyloto. A new element of surprise came during Lovers in Japan as massive balloons got thrown into the crowd.

One could criticise everything going on during this concert as gimmicky, but the next three songs, “Yellow”, “The Scientist” and “Violet Hill”, were performed without any theatrics and the songs were given the chance to speak for themselves.

“God Put a Smile upon Your Face” was performed in a more rock oriented fashion, before the band moved to the middle of the stadium to perform three songs. “Princess of China” featured Rihanna on the screens, and it was apparent that despite the odd collaboration, the crowd still enjoyed the song. I think I was one of the few that enjoyed “Up in Flames” off the new album, and I really got into the live performance of the song while many others didn’t. The next song “Warning Sign”, an album track off A Rush of Blood to the Head, was a nice surprise for the hardcore Coldplay fans.

“Viva La Vida” came along after the band went back to the main stage, and it was truly magical. Definitely one of the best songs of the night, and a brilliant example of the anthems this band has written. “Charlie Brown” was most likely the inspiration for the flashing wristbands, making this track a moment no Coldplay fan should miss, or anyone for that matter. Wristband colours continued in the last song of the main set, “Paradise”. I was wondering if the band would have a string section or keyboard parts for the arrangements in the song. Turns out they used guitar instead, which seemed strange at first, but it worked well enough. Thanks for writing this great song Coldplay, because the entire stadium got into it and it was great!

After multiple “Viva La Vida” chants, the band returned to the back of the stadium for an encore. They played “Us Against the World” off the new record and the single off X & Y “Speed of Sound”, in a stripped down and more intimate version. They returned to the main stage to perform “Clocks”, my favourite Coldplay song. I was a little disappointed that they shortened it just a little, but it was still fantastic.  “Fix You” was also amazing as expected, and the show finished off with the lead single off Mylo Xyloto, “Every Tear is a Waterfall”. The wristbands lit up again, and just like the beginning of the show, there were heaps of fireworks. It was a fantastic way to end and I guarantee that every Coldplay fan in the audience was smiling when they left.

Some people think that all these theatrics would be gimmicky and prefer a more stripped down approach to a concert. I like those shows too, but as I spent over $150 AUD on my ticket, I’m glad there were so many things going on during the show. It was money well spent, because it’s not just a concert, but a massive show. Coldplay have upgraded from medium sized venues to huge stadiums this tour and it sure as hell shows. If you are a Coldplay fan, then you should have seen them in concert by now. If you don’t like Coldplay, then I don’t even know why you’re reading this. You have to see Coldplay live. People diss Coldplay saying they are trying to be the new U2 by being the biggest band in the world. The truth is, Coldplay were heavily influenced by U2, and they arguably are the biggest band on the planet right now, so they very well may be the new U2. U2’s 360 Tour was the greatest concert I’ve ever seen, but I think Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto Tour may have dethroned them.

Yes you guessed it, I give Coldplay’s concert 5/5. You have to see them before you die.

Check out the setlist below, the best moments are in bold. Quite a lot of best moments huh?

Back to the Future Theme

Mylo Xyloto
Hurts Like Heaven
In My Place
Major Minus
Lovers In Japan
The Scientist
Yellow
Violet Hill
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face

B-Stage

Princess of China
Up in Flames
Warning Sign
A Hopeful Transmission
Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
Viva La Vida
Charlie Brown
Paradise

C-stage

Us Against the World
Speed Of Sound

Encore:

Clocks
Fix You
M.M.I.X.
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

“Mylo Xyloto” – Coldplay album review

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Mylo Xyloto is Coldplay’s fifth studio album. “Mylo” and “Xyloto” are meant to be characters in a love story, as this record presents a love story. To this day I still don’t get any of it when I listen to the album; although some comics are going to be released soon that detail the story. I wish I could analyse the album as a concept record, but until those comics are released I have no idea. Mylo Xyloto is not Coldplay’s best, and it’s definitely not as good as Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. Most likely you won’t be impressed on your first listen, and still won’t be after a few. Give it a few more listens and you will start to finally get it (the music, not the story).

“Paradise” is hands down the best song on the album and possibly the greatest song that Coldplay has ever recorded. “Viva La Vida” was such an amazing song that I couldn’t fathom it being outdone, but the band did it with “Paradise”, a spiritual successor. In my opinion, every Coldplay album has had a masterpiece that stands clear above the other songs on the album and must be performed at every concert. Parachutes had “Yellow”, A Rush of Blood to the Head had “Clocks”, X & Y had “Fix You”, Viva La Vida had the title track and now Mylo Xyloto has “Paradise”. It’s such an amazing song, and during my first few listens, the only song I believed was worth listening to. I can’t wait to hear it live.

“Hurts Like Heaven” is a strong album opener (40 second intro song doesn’t count) that sounds like the Coldplay we know and love. Charming vocal performance from Chris Martin and the rest of the band back him up perfectly. “Charlie Brown” and “Every Tear is a Waterfall” were good choices for singles, as they are all very catchy and well made tracks, even though I have no idea what they are about.

“Princess of China” features Rihanna. It’s surprisingly good, like Slash’s song with Fergie. It would be unfair to write the song off just because Rihanna sings on it, just like it was unfair to write off the song Steel Panther wrote with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger just because of who they were working with. Coldplay wrote this song with Rihanna in mind, but they were nervous in asking her to sing it. You guys are in one of the biggest bands in the world! Of course she would say yes! The other thing is that Rihanna can’t perform live very well and she doesn’t write the majority of her music, so I’m sure Princess of China was a very comfortable environment for her. Her studio recordings sound great and her voice goes great with Martin’s so this collaboration works fine. The live version of this song has Rihanna’s studio recording being played when she isn’t there, so there’s another problem solved. Anyway, the track is quite good, so check it out!

“Up in Flames” is surprisingly good. It has a drum machine, which would seem to ruin the authenticity of the song, but it doesn’t. It’s a very simple and repetitive song that keeps adding layers as it goes along. Most of the other songs aren’t anything to write about, just filler really.

Coldplay could’ve done much worse than Mylo Xyloto, but I think everyone expected better. There are some great moments here that will add to the band’s legacy. Originally, the band had two albums in mind, they were Mylo Xyloto and a stripped down acoustic album. They eventually decided to combine the ideas of the albums into one. I can tell, because the acoustic and stripped down moments awkwardly clash with the more electronic moments. If you do listen to Mylo Xyloto, make sure you listen more than once. In fact, make sure you listen many times, because while this album was slightly disappointing, the songs do grow on you, and Coldplay fans will still love it.

Rating 3.5/5

1. Mylo Xyloto
2. Hurts Like Heaven
3. Paradise
4. Charlie Brown
5. Us Against The World
6. M.M.I.X.
7. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
8. Major Minus
9. U.F.O.
10. Princess Of China
11. Up In Flames
12. A Hopeful Transmission
13. Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
14. Up With The Birds

“The Temper Trap” – The Temper Trap album review

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The Temper Trap is a relatively new Australian band that originated from Melbourne, and is now based in London. Wikipedia calls them an “indie rock” band, which is a term I struggled to grasp. “Indie” is short for “independent”, meaning bands not signed to major record labels. Now the term seems to refer to, as I like to call it, “alternative alternative rock”, as in an alternative to alternative rock, due to the fact that indie rock bands were a “reaction” to the traditional alternative rock movement. More traditional alternative rock bands are more masculine and “macho”, while indie rock tends to be softer. Indie rock is softer alternative rock. Indie rock is still a stupid label I think.

Whoa. Anyway, Temper Trap released their second album this year, entitled The Temper Trap, so I guess they strongly believe this record defines them. I haven’t listened enough to their debut, Conditions, so I can’t make a good comparison between the two albums, but as a fan of the band I think that other fans will enjoy this new release. There are definitely great songs here that we will hear again in the band’s future; however it is an album that requires multiple listens to appreciate.

If Coldplay are the new U2, The Temper Trap could be the new Coldplay. Temper Trap’s breakout hit, “Sweet Disposition”, sounds a lot like U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name”. And the band’s vocalist’s style is similar to Chris Martin’s. Perhaps the touring companies agree, because The Temper Trap is supporting Coldplay on their Australian tour. If you like either of those bands, I think you will like The Temper Trap.

“Need Your Love” is the radio-friendly start to the album that you knew was going to be the single, which was the reason I immediately disregarded this song upon first listen. However, it’s a really enjoyable song and is a great start to the album. “London’s Burning” is about the London riots and features a recorded news broadcast from the event. It makes me wonder if the band has lost their Australian identity, but hey the song is good!

“Trembling Hands” is definitely the stand out from the album. It was a great choice to start the band’s three song set at this year’s AFL Grand Final half-time entertainment. It’s a very touching song, with great musicianship and great vocals.

I had a shaky start with “Miracle”, but that’s because I thought the clicking sounds in the song were my headphones failing. Once I realised my stupid error, I really got into the song. It’s very slow and has a great vocal performance by singer Dougy Mandagi, who wrote all the lyrics on the album.

There is vast array of effects present on this album, such as on the catchy “Where Do We Go From Here”, although there is a mostly acoustic guitar song in the vein of “Rabbit Hole”.

The Temper Trap is on track to become Australia’s next band to make it big overseas. The difficult second album syndrome has been avoided with this new record, and the band can only become bigger from here. This album is definitely a worthy listen for everyone who gives it time, whether you are a dedicated fan or never heard of The Temper Trap before.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Oh, but I must say I was disappointed with the CD album that I bought. The artwork looks great, the CD looks great, but the booklet just contains recolours of the album cover! Where are my lyrics?!

 

1. Need Your Love
2. London s Burning
3. Trembling Hands
4. The Sea Is Calling
5. Miracle
6. This Isn t Happiness
7. Where Do We Go From Here
8. Never Again
9. Dreams
10. Rabbit Hole
11. I m Gonna Wait
12. Leaving Heartbreak Hotel

“Paranormal Activity 4” review

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Paranormal Activity 4 gives you what you exactly expect, nothing more, nothing less. That’s assuming you know what the series is about. If not, let me fill you in. The series centres on Katie Featherston’s and her family who has been haunted by a demon for a number of years. Each film shows the demon haunting the house of her family. The first Paranormal Activity centred around Katie and her boyfriend Micah and the second on her sister’s family. The third film was a prequel to the previous two films, which actually happened around the same. The third film happened in the late ‘80s and revolved around Katie’s family when she and her sister were young children. The fourth film takes place 6 years after the first two films. Paranormal Activity 4 centres on a 15 year old girl named Alex, who lives with her parents and her little brother Wyatt. The neighbour’s son, Robbie, keeps coming to Alex’s house for unexplained reasons. After Robbie’s mother ends up in hospital, Robbie stays with Alex’s family. Afterwards, the family and especially Alex begin to notice strange occurrences happening in their house.

As I said before, this movie does exactly what you expect. It doesn’t break new grounds by all means. Just like its predecessors, it’s a “found footage” horror film. This means that everything you see in the film is supposed to be from camera footage taken from the missing or deceased. PA4 tries to be more up to date this time around, as most of the footage comes from MacBook computers and Kinect for the Xbox 360. The Kinect stuff is rather gimmicky but the Macbook footage works well enough. Using up to date technology surely works in the films favour.

I’ve seen all the Paranormal Activitys in the cinema, except for the third one, and it seems to me that this series is the new Saw. A horror franchise with which the first instalment gets people talking, so they release a new instalment Halloween time every year. New instalments in each series gave you exactly what you’d expect. Is that a bad thing? From a critical standpoint, yes, but I’ve become a fan of Paranormal Activity, just like I became a fan of Saw, so it’s not too bad. Yes, I did pay to see the same movie in the cinema, but it was still a good night out. Listening to girls in the audience scream is always fun, even though it happened a lot less this time around. While I admit I haven’t watched many horror movies, Paranormal Activity is definitely the scariest of the bunch. It’s a great example of the most frightful being what we don’t see. We’ve seen bits and pieces of this demon, but we haven’t seen its true form. A fifth film has been confirmed, as well as a sixth, so maybe we will get that chance.

The main cast in PA4 is actually pretty solid. The weakening relationship of Alex’s parents doesn’t get touched upon as much as I expected, but actors all put on a reasonably believable performance. The young child who played the kid from across the street, Robbie, deserves a medal, because he successfully played one of the creepiest kids I have ever seen.

As there isn’t much gore in this film, which is very rare for a horror film these days, the film depends on bringing the scares without grossing you out. It’s been a couple of years since I saw the second film, but I remember it cutting it the chase so quickly, with cheap scares, that it felt a bit rushed. PA4 on the other hand, doesn’t really get scary until the last part. The last 5-10 minutes will be the most memorable, just like the previous three films. It works, but fails to match the scares provided by the first movie or even the third.

PA4 has been mostly panned by critics, and is the first in the series to get a “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t think it’s the worst in the series; that honour belongs to the second one. I definitely think the first and third are better though. Both were much scarier too. It’s not necessarily because it is the fourth film and it seems repetitive, but because the movie itself simply isn’t as good. To illustrate my point, I thought the original Saw was pretty good, and the second one was ok. The third one was awful, and the fourth was just as bad. Fifth was a slight improvement, and the sixth one was surprisingly decent. The seventh and final one did exactly what I wanted as an ending, so it was alright in my books. And also in my books, is that so far, Paranormal Activity hasn’t released a bad film in its series, although it’s clear which are the best, and is also clear that the series needs to be refreshed, because I sincerely doubt PA5 will be any good at all if it follows the same structure of the other movies.

Paranormal Activity 4 is a good movie. Not as good as the first one, or the third, but it’s better than the second. It gives you exactly what you expect and nothing else. This lack of the element of surprise might turn moviegoers off, but for me and my friends, this is something to l look forward to every year, and is especially entertaining to see in the cinemas and I am looking forward to how this series eventually ends. If you’ve seen all the others in the series and enjoyed them, then you’ll probably want to see this one. If you didn’t enjoy the others, or 2 and 3, then I doubt you’ll enjoy the fourth instalment. PA4 is a very polarising film, and those who aren’t fans may not understand what all the fuss is about. However, this is still a horror franchise that brings on the scares, even if subsequent instalments may never match the punch of the first film, which was responsible for two sleepless nights.

Rating: 3.5/5