Archive | October, 2011

What the World Is Waiting For, or Fools Gold?…The return of The Stone Roses

20 Oct

15 years after they split, and still with something to prove.

The Stone Roses have been resurrected. Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni and Mani have done what few thought could be done, and reformed one of the most seminal British bands of the last 25 years. It was a long time coming, and all four members had previously said it was never going to happen, but the band that defined an era have actually returned. The only other event that could surpass this in stature or unlikeliness is the reformation of fellow Mancunians The Smiths. Now, I could say that that has absolutely no chance of happening, even if Morrissey and Marr are now on speaking terms. But we could have said a similar thing about The Stone Roses until very recently.
On Tuesday the band announced their intention to perform again (and perhaps even record some new music), and this was done in their usual irreverent manner. Continue reading

For the love of Kate

17 Oct

Always a beautiful woman, but still not what your usual pop star looks like (quite in keeping with how she sounds).

There are some musical artists that defy categorization and their very uniqueness is the thing that caught your attraction in the first place. This keeps you going back to them every few years, like a puzzle that you’ve not quite solved or a book where there is still an unread chapter. With Catherine Bush, there always feels like something to go back for, even if it is just to gain a reminder of what caught you in her spell in the first place.

It’s as true for Kate Bush as any other pop star, perhaps more so, that once you become a fan of her music you can’t really go back to the state of affairs before you heard her. She clearly doesn’t sound very much like anybody else (except some who came after her) and her music treads such a fine line between whimsy, lunacy and the downright odd that it’s often easy to lose sight of how good her material is, and how thought provoking and occasionally life affirming her music and lyrics can be. At least two of her singles (“Wuthering Heights” and “Running up That Hill”) were so unlike anything heard in the top ten before that they must have caused people to double take their attention and catch themselves; who is this and what is she singing about? So, once a Kate fan, forever a Kate fan I would say, because even the overplayed singles keep on giving, rewarding you with a fresh surprise years after you last heard them. Perhaps the only pity for fans is that she hasn’t toured since 1979, perhaps due to the death of her 21 year old lighting director Bill Drummond, although I suspect it is more to do with the huge work and exhaustion involved in getting the final show just right. With this being Kate Bush, the tour wasn’t just an average tour, it was a full mixed-media performance piece. Whatever the reason it looks unlikely she’ll tour again (barring the occasional live appearance), but with Kate you just never know.

Kate Bush in 2011- The Sexy Clown look is obviously a new image.

If you’re reading this you probably know the Kate Bush story by now- how the teenage Bush was ‘discovered’ by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, wrote much of her first album when she was at school, stood up to the big wigs at EMI so they would release her choice of song as her first single (the chart topping Bronte inspired “Wuthering Heights”). Her idiosyncratic image and music quickly got her noticed and late ‘70s Britain really took to her, culminating in her 1979 TV Christmas special and further success in Europe, Japan and Australasia, among many other places. In the United States she would have to wait a little longer for mainstream recognition, although she would remain very much a cult star. By the time she released her defining work and knocked Madonna off pole position (1985’s album Hounds of Love) she was just 26. Continue reading

‘Dune’- Great book, a shame about the film.

15 Oct

The 'Dune' film poster- it doesn't get much better than this. No, really, it doesn't get much better than this....

Sometime, not so long ago, I was meant to go out to the pub and meet a close friend but something personal came up and he had to cancel. With no other social arrangements to fall back on, I thought I’d spend an alternative night of indoor entertainment. Cut to Blockbuster, and what do I see on the sci-fi shelf? Dune, that’s what! After double checking that it was in fact the David Lynch film and not the later TV mini-series, I paid my money and went home to watch it.

Cup of tea made and biscuits out, I settled down to watch it. It all started quite promisingly with some P rincess Irulan giving a monologue about the future of mankind and the spice called malange (Virginia Madsen I believe!). Very engaging and imaginative, and not completely unlike the intro to The Fellowship of the Ring in the feelings it aroused (although nowhere near as emotive).
At that point I was quite excited, especially as I didn’t really remember any of it and it was looking very promising! About 15 minutes in and the script had (quite literally) lost the plot for me. On one hand I really felt I was watching a future, alien society, which was good, but as a piece of entertainment it was almost ignoring the fact it had an audience- characters came and went with little or no introduction or motivation, lines were delivered with little context, scenes were obviously there for exposition and to just drive the plot (but seemed to be failing at both) and some of the acting was particularly poor. Despite great veterans like Max Von Sydow and Jose Ferrer. Although to be fair I’m not sure if that was more to do with the style of the production and the lines they were given as to the actors themselves. On the plus side, Patrick Stewart equips himself well and is one of the few characters to displays any convincing emotion. A lot of the characters also have a corny voice over, which goes some way to explaining what is going on (and confusing things in the process- quite a feat!) Then another character will come in and explain what is happening out loud anyway!…and it still makes no sense! A lot of things happen without much rational explanation (in the context of the universe it’s set in) and I almost got used to wondering what the hell was going on!

Nobody smiles much on Arrakis.

It looks fantastic- all sumptuous Boroque- but while I appreciate it’s a complex story, it’s not that complex! In other words, the narrative should have been clearer. As it was, I found a lot of it a muddled mess that was extremely hard to follow. Too much occurs with no decent explanation. I don’t want to be spoon fed at all, but how they thought this would appeal to the toy buying kids is beyond me; maybe Dino de Laurentis didn’t know what kind of film Lynch would give him. Continue reading

The Dracula Movies #6: “Dracula” (Dan Curtis, 1973)

9 Oct

Jack Palance. A very scary Dracula indeed.

Dan Curtis’ version of Dracula is in many ways relatively faithful to the novel (although some elements are changed or omitted altogether, such as the character of Renfield), but it adds a romantic element not present in the Stoker original, which would be touched upon again in the 1992 film version.
The change in the emphasis was done to give Dracula an apparently more plausible reason for coming to England, as he wants to find the reincarnation of his lost love, although to be fair I always thought fresh blood and good old fashioned vampiric invasion were good enough reasons on their own. Continue reading

“A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you”, The James Bond Blogs: ‘Goldeneye’ (1995)

9 Oct

After legal wrangles that could have cost ‘Cubby’ Broccoli the continuation of the Bond film series, Bond did eventually return in 1995- after a six-year hiatus. Timothy Dalton stepped down from the role some time before, which was quite a loss for some fans that had warmed to his more Fleming friendly interpretation. Enter Pierce Brosnan, who had almost been Bond some years before until his contract for TV series Remington Steele got in the way. Finally he had his chance to make the role his own.

Brosnan's turn to shoot towards the gunbarrel

Goldeneye (named after Ian Fleming’s Jamaican retreat) is another original story; with enough nods to Bond’s creator to make it feel like a genuine Fleming based 007. Where Goldeneye is radically different to previous films is that is transplants James Bond into the (then) modern world in a way which had never been done before. All aspects of the cold war exist only in past tense, as this had to be a Bond of the new ‘Glasnost’ age. In many ways it feels like a brand new series, a luxury granted by the passing of so many years since Dalton’s second outing. The style has been refined and updated. How much you like this depends on how much you believe the Bond series has a place as a current franchise. ‘M’ is now a woman, played rather marvellously by Dame Judi Dench, and there is a new charming Moneypenny in Samantha Bond (the best name for the job perhaps). Desmond Llewelyn, looking far more aged, is a nice link to the ‘classic’ Bonds, as he reprises his role of gadget master ‘Q’. There is no Felix Leiter, however, despite the film having a role that could well have been Felix. Even if the films don’t directly carry on from each other, Felix was still alive and well (just) at the end of Licence to kill. Continue reading