Category Archives: soundtrack

Swingers

Swingers ~ Well over a decade before he revolutionized the superhero movie and created the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, Jon Favreau wrote and co-produced this dramedy for guys in the spirit of Diner that almost definitely inspired all the fictional parts of HBO’s “Entourage.” Man, Swingers is the flick.

These adventures of a group of neurotic struggling actors are as much classic Woody Allen and prime “Seinfeld” as they are 1960s Rat Pack. And the dated ‘lounge-speak’ that every drunken player/loser spouted back in the 1990s until you wanted to punch them, when done right, by the originals, and in context, is mesmerizing.

Style and substance, great characters and dialogue, and a killer soundtrack – this movie is money, and it knows it. Recommended.

RA-One

RA-One ~ This film has a lot in common with the recently reviewed Enthiran – The Robot. And while it follows Enthiran, and exists within the same continuity, it is not a sequel. Much the way the solo Avengers films led into the main Avengers movie, Chitti the Robot makes a cameo here. Being a comic book fan, I’m a sucker for universe building, and that’s exactly what Tamil science fiction is doing – creating a cinematic superhero universe.

The story here is nothing new really, derivative, but still original enough, and made magical by CGI and various other animation techniques. A videogame designer creates the ultimate super-villain, RA-One, for a virtual reality videogame where the player becomes the hero G-One to fight him. Like Enthiran, there are dazzling and mindboggling special effects, but at its core is a touching father and son story, that of the designer and his son.

Things go awry when RA-One gains sentience, and the designer must become G-One to stop him from destroying the real world. The battle sequences between G-One and RA-One are phenomenal. It is just amazing to me how other cultures seem to know better how to use American superhero concepts cinematically than most American filmmakers.

Like most Bollywood films, this has everything – action, comedy, romance, a couple if very scary moments, and of course terrific musical sequences. I really liked this film a lot, great videogame and comic book sensibilities, and like Enthiran, I bought the soundtrack as soon as I was done watching it the first time. Great fun.

Enthiran – The Robot

Enthiran – The Robot ~ This is a film whose reputation precedes it. Called the Avatar of its country, reputedly this is the most expensive film made to date in India, and also its highest grossing film. Not strictly a Bollywood film, but more accurately a ‘Kollywood’ film as it was made in Tamil Nadu, it is s work of science fiction, but as with all Indian films, it is truly a creature of mixed genre.

Also known as Robot, and Robo, and Enthiran, and a dozen other titles and spelling variations worldwide, this is roughly a Frankenstein story – a scientist makes a man in his own image, scarily Elvis-like, which tries to be human but eventually is looked upon as monster. The Robot, Chitti, is played by award winning veteran Indian actor Rajinikanth, who also plays his creator. His deadpan performance as the Robot is both fearsome and hilarious.

Written and directed by Shankar Shanmugam, or simply Shankar, the film has changed the way the world views Indian science fiction. And as the film is called the Avatar of India, similarly Shankar is called its James Cameron. No doubt he is one of their greatest visionaries.

The music is by A.R. Rahman, who also did the music for Slumdog Millionaire, Couples Retreat, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and dozens of Indian movies, among others – but this soundtrack was a worldwide instant blockbuster. That’s the popularity power of this flick.

The real star here is the special effects. CGI and animatronics from a company called Legacy Effects, the brain child of special effects wizard Stan Winston. From the robotics that make up our hero to the evil robot rampage to the outrageous cartoonish but reality based feats later in the film, as the evil robot fights everyone, and of course, the climax, the effects are king. More cars and guns than you have perhaps ever seen on the screen. Mind boggling. Matrix and Terminator, step aside.

This movie has everything. Adventure, romance, comedy, musical sequences, violence – both cartoonish and realistic (lots of gunplay and a very scary and racially offensive attempted rape scene, so it’s not for the kids), it’s all here. In many ways it’s a superhero movie sans costumes. This three hour long Tamil science fiction masterpiece, like Avatar, must be experienced at least once. Recommended.

Lost Hits of the New Wave #23

“The Fanatic” by Felony

Folks who were at last night’s Dumpsta Players show in Philly got their heads refreshed for this one.

While they did continue to perform and make records, Los Angeles’ Felony secured a true one hit wonder here, with “The Fanatic,” which was used not only in the film Valley Girl in the 1980s, but also the recent Take Me Home Tonight.

Skyfall

Skyfall ~ This twenty-third official James Bond film, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the movie franchise, seems to be at odds with itself in my opinion. There is a passion by the filmmakers to acknowledge the past here even as they backburner and mock it. To quote the new Q as he hands Bond simply a gun and radio, “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.” Much of the dialogue and the plot is dedicated toward saying the Bond way is passé, over with in this day and age, while simultaneously saying it’s needed. It is a nice balance.

I was not a fan of the first two Daniel Craig Bond films, not because of Craig’s humorless performance, or that they were rebooting the franchise for a new audience, mind you, but more because I resented them putting Pierce Brosnan out to pasture. I enjoyed Pierce quite a bit in the role. And actually Craig does a subtle humorous turn and smirk in this one. He’s winning me over. Daniel Craig is book perfect when it comes to James Bond, but I’ve been spoiled by the movie versions, and expect a little something extra, ya know?

What really brought this film to life for me was director Sam Mendes. His stunning and startlingly different visuals light up and dim the screen significantly and lend specific mood and atmosphere to every sequence. Most stunning are the Shanghai scenes, beautiful camera work. I recently had the chance to peruse and review Greg Williams’ book Bond on Set: Filming Skyfall over at Biff Bam Pop!, and while an amazing picture book, it doesn’t hold a candle to the actual film in vibrancy and spectacle.

Craig is flawless, as is Judi Dench as M, and new girl Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes is a pleasant surprise. I absolutely loved Ben Whishaw as the new Q, but that was easy because I love him in everything he’s in, especially “The Hour.” A major complaint however comes in the form of Javier Bardem as the villain Raoul Silva. Not just over the top evil like most Bond villains, but he’s also a bit creepy in a stereotype homosexual pedophile kind of way, so creepy in fact, that he comes off like a bad joke. He is as out of place in a Bond flick as say… Jaws and his girlfriend in Moonraker. For a franchise trying to upscale itself in the audience’s eyes, Bardem was a mistake.

The opening action sequence is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen in a while (Tomorrow Never Dies is still my favorite). The title theme song by Adele better than average and appropriate. What makes me sad is that for a movie that embraces its heritage, gives nods to its history, and celebrates its characters, even adding to their origins – it seems to back step into a simple vengeance storyline rather than a clever spy thriller – which is what it should be. I mean, let’s face it, the last sequences of this film could have easily been a Denzel action flick or perhaps another Die Hard. Revenge is the easy way out. I want to see Bond save the world, for Queen and for Country.

All that said, I really enjoyed this movie, from the fantastic visuals of director Mendes to the titanic score by Thomas Newman, Skyfall was a terrific Bond film. Recommended.

Dredd in 3D

Dredd ~ I wasn’t sure I was going to get to see this flick. It painfully underperformed at the box office, and I wasn’t sure it would last more than a week. Considering that most people only know the Judge Dredd character from that terrible Sylvester Stallone movie from 1995, it doesn’t seem that off of a chance that folks would give this new one a pass. Thankfully however, Dredd has little to do with the Sly film except for the source material. I’m not a big Judge Dredd fan myself, but I have read a handful of the Judge’s tales and know that very little of that movie was accurate.

I was excited about this new version after hearing interviews with its title star Karl Urban (known for his brilliant Bones in the latest Star Trek), director Peter Travis, and writer/producer Alex Garland. It seemed as though they both knew and loved the character, and were going to do Dredd right. The Judge was in the hands of true fans. I couldn’t wait, as far as I’m concerned, characters handled by those who love them are usually done well.

Two weeks out from release I was surprised to find the flick still playing and checked it out. The surprises kept coming. This was not a great film, but it was a damned good Judge Dredd film. I thought about it. I got everything I could possibly want in a Judge Dredd movie. I had no complaints. Besides that, the casting was terrific, the 3D was amongst the best I’ve seen, and the soundtrack by Paul Leonard-Morgan was purchased from iTunes when I got home. What more can I say?

Dredd is not a perfect movie, but I do think it’s the perfect Judge Dredd movie. Urban was on target, we got a story that fit both the standard action thriller genre (R-rated, mind you) and the future dystopian fantasy of Dredd’s world. Unlike most superhero movies, it was story-centric, not origin-centric, that’s a big plus for me. See it if you’re a fan, catch it in 3D if you can. Well worth seeing.

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch ~ At first glance, and from previews, this appears to be an explosion of imagination. Writer/director Zack Snyder makes it seem as if he has constructed a film around the concept that with motion capture, green screen and CGI nothing is impossible. I mean, come on, you can’t get any more genre chill than hot chick samurais and steampunk Nazi zombies. And at first glance, you might be right.

The problem is that only about twenty minutes of the film’s one hundred and ten minutes takes place in the hyper-reality of the story’s fantasy world. The rest happens in a dreary, depressing and relentlessly violent mental hospital reality that makes the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest seem like a house party. Nothing good happens in the hospital. It is painful to sit through, even worse if you watch. In the theater, I hated this majority of the flick, and at home, fast forward was my friend.

The fantasy scenes are amazing, truly stunning – I could watch them over and over again – and alone well worth the price of admission/rental. The sexy actresses and killer soundtrack are also formidable as well. I fully recommend the movie just for those reasons, but there’s a lot more going on.

On further viewings and discussions with other film fans I have discovered a whole different level to this flick. Pay close attention to the dialogue and the visuals as well, as everything is a metaphor. If you don’t want to get that deep, there is also the Pink Floyd factor. Much like The Wizard of Oz, if you play Dark Side of the Moon parallel to watching Sucker Punch, it lines up much the same way.

So no matter how you watch Sucker Punch, I recommend you give it a second chance, finger on the fast forward button or not.

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry

Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry ~ There was a time when I was a kid that I thought Peter Fonda was the coolest guy on Earth. He was in stuff like Race With the Devil and Futureworld and of course Easy Rider, so he could do no wrong. He was also in this charmer.

Until I saw Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry again recently I could remember very little about it. I remembered it starred Fonda, and Susan George, in the bizarre title roles, it was a car chase flick, and it was frequently one of channel 6’s late night Friday movies – you know, the ones I wasn’t supposed to be staying up watching – both because of the content, and because it was past my bedtime. Little else was retained by my memory.

Upon watching it again for the first time in almost maybe forty years, I am struck by how really bad it is. It may have been okay or mediocre for the time (1974), but let’s just say the years have not been kind. Rather than an interesting time capsule like other seventies films I’ve watched recently, this is a creaky relic.

Loosely based on the novel “The Chase” (later known as “Pursuit”) by Richard Unekis, one can easily see the influence of earlier films of the genre like Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, The French Connection, and even Bonnie and Clyde. The problem is that you can also see this film’s own influence on the destruction and mocking of the genre later in the decade by stuff like Smokey and the Bandit, Eat My Dust, and The Blues Brothers. This is the beginning of the car chase movie becoming a joke, amusing or not.

This movie is so seventies, down to the theme song by Marjorie McCoy being used throughout as if choreographed by Quentin Tarantino, to the crazy fashions and ugly cars, to the endless shots of the scenic southwest. And the late Vic Morrow wonderfully eats up the screen as the obsessed pursuing cop. It’s worth a look for the curious, but it’s no masterpiece, but Peter Fonda is still cool.

A Tale of Two Trons

I was never that big of a fan of the original Tron, yeah, I know, blasphemy, and I have to turn in my nerd license. Other than the cool (at the time) effects and the arcade game “Discs of Tron,” which I enjoyed on an almost daily basis for hours on just a few quarters, it never really did much for me.

The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it’s an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of ‘the grid’ is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me – Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way – it’s just harder to do these days.

What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That’s a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.

I also remember the music, a Journey song “Only Solutions,” that I liked – at a time when I wasn’t all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics – the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.

If 1982’s Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.

Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad’s arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film’s predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today’s CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it’s just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.

As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney’s Return to Oz was to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it’s not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn’s evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.

Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It’s been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better – and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This ‘effect’ is both stunning and disturbing.

Cast-wise, it’s fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn’t belong in Tron.

Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible – maybe we’ll see more of Dillinger’s kid, which I’m sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don’t forget to check out the original too, first if possible.

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Quickies 12-7-2010

Secretariat ~ Although falling into the same vein as Apollo 13, Miracle and the granddaddy of all the yes-you-idiot-this-really-happened flicks, Titanic, this was still an excellent and uplifting film. And unlike those others I mentioned, when I saw Secretariat, there was no one insanely younger than me worried about the outcome of the movie in the seats around me. Secretariat was the first Kentucky Derby winner I was aware of as a kid, and it was interesting to see the whole backstory as presented here. Terrific flick, great cast, highly recommended, and Diane Lane better get an Oscar nod for this.

Suck ~ This is a surprising black comedy horror musical about a rock band of mostly vampires trying to make it. Lots of great tunage, in-jokes and wonderful cameos from Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Alex Lifeson, Dave Foley, Henry Rollins, Malcolm McDowell, and someone probably only I remember, Carole Pope of Rough Trade. Great fun, recommended.

The Runaways ~ Dakota Fanning plays lead singer Cherie Currie in this bio-pic of the 1970s teen hard rock female sensations the Runaways, based on Cherie’s book Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. Kristen Stewart of the Twilight movies plays against type as Joan Jett, and Michael Shannon, one of the best new actors of recent years is the sadistic record producer Kim Fowley. Look quick or you’ll miss Tatum O’Neal as Cherie’s mom. Great soundtrack, bittersweet ending and great time capsule.

The Last Airbender ~ I love M. Night. Um, I used to love M. Night. Let’s face it, I held out longer for this dude than anyone else I know who loves and watches and writes and even just talks about movies. All the other rats have fled the sinking ship. I can still on occasion be caught defending The Village, swing away and yes, even the ‘narf.’ I saw promise, potential and genius. I just watched The Last Airbender. Wow. I seriously hope there is still a life raft willing to let me climb aboard.

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