Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Aural Violation

This blog is inspired by two recent events. One; by the recent achievement of The Jonster in passing his driving test. Two; after such a fantastic year of music in 2007, and many months listening to amazing tracks and albums whilst compiling my new year's CD, I've become somewhat music-fatigued and have spent most of January listening to mainstream radio to pass the very slow hours at work. These two things have been gestating for a while now, and has led me to the following conclusion...

There should be an exam, or license for the right to make music! Music is a subjective thing, of course, like all types of entertainment, but there is simply no arguing with this point. Certain people should not be allowed to make music, or at the very least prohibited from letting anyone but themselves hear it.

Surprisingly, I'm not talking about the daytime pop-pap you hear all over daytime commercial radio. No, dancey chart pop is not my thing by a long shot, but it's mainly harmless and serves a purpose so that's fine. No, I'm talking about the stuff that is meant to be, or perceived as being edgy or cool. The stuff that 'real music' fans are supposed to like, but is actually the most offensive, nonsensical tripe that will ever rape your ears.

Avril Lavigne and Kate Nash, I'm looking at you. And I'm not impressed. Not one bit. Avril's last album is stupidly being praised for being a return to intelligent pop that supposedly even NME kids like. The song 'Girlfriend' made so many Tracks of the Year lists in 2007 (by some normally respectable publications like Rolling Stone and Mojo) it's staggering. And yet hearing it constantly stabbing at my face from the radio, it's amazing this woman is allowed to write words for songs. The music is forgettable, and was no doubt hammered out by a team of monkeys in a couple of minutes, but the lyrics for that song are just offensively bad to the point of actually causing me to have a body spasm not unlike vomiting!

"Don't pretend, I think you know I'm damn precious
And hell yes, I'm the one and only princess"

What does that even mean??! It's just random words thrown together that rhyme. And I'm not being highbrow, because I genuinely mean it when I say Bucks Fizz had better lyrics than this girl.

"She's like, so whatever
You could do so much better
I think we should get together"

Did an 8 year-old write this? I actually cringed whilst typing those lyrics out. The whole thing stinks of a self-important pre-teen attempting "witty". The fucking monkeys would've done better!

Not so fast, Nash, you don't get off that easily! You're the only artist in the world that I hate more than Lilly Allen, and that's some feat you've accomplished, believe me. You're the one that's meant to be cool, an "important new voice" I read somewhere. A credible musician, some have said, winning all these awards and selling shitloads of albums. And yet you write songs that even Avril's monkeys would piss on.

Let's forget first single 'Foundations' with it's inane ramblings of a girl who obviously thinks she's cool, with all the "fittah" and "bittah" nonsense. That may have been a fluke, so we'll let it go. The next single, however, begins thusly:

"This is my face
Covered in skin"

That's not a lyric! It's a fucking fact! And combined with the simpleton melody and trying-too-hard fake cockney shrill of a voice, it's just unbearable. I am literally staggered that people bought that song, or that the record company agreed to release it. Is the writer's strike in America affecting the UK music industry now, that companies are tossing out any old wank quickly without bothering to check if it's any good? Well, yes, it always has, but still... "This is my face"??? Are you even trying, Nash, or are you just some hideous performance artist or experiment by the industry to test just how much shite the public can be conned into believing is good?

And don't get me started on her new song 'Pumpkin Soup' (too late...). Never mind that the song is a dreadful, headache-inducing assault on the senses. Forget the whiney shriek of her latest intelligent thought, "I just want your kiss, boooyyyyy". Take a moment and try to listen to the song, and you realise the production is just HORRIBLE! The whole thing's a mess, a shambles. You can't actually hear what's going on, what notes are being played, what instruments are being used, and in the fleeting moments that you can you realise it's all OUT OF TUNE! I'm not joking, I could vomit from eating feet-flavoured cheese and it would be sonically superior to that song.

And these are the people winning awards. Selling albums. Making the NME 'cool list'. All over the radio. STEALING YOUR MONEY!

Do me a favahh!!!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Films Of The Year 2007 - Numero Uno!!!


I'm feeling bold here; No Country For Old Men is not just the best film of 2007, it's the best film of the 2000's, possibly even the last decade. And I wasn't even that excited about watching it to start with. I'd only recently heard of it, knew nothing of the story, and the only thing I knew for sure was that it was adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy and directed by The Coen Brothers.

I'm always a little wary going into a new film by the Coens. Yes, there's no denying that Miller's Crossing and Blood Simple are great films, but I'm probably the only person out there that thinks The Big Lebowski and Fargo, while good films, are highly overrated and certainly don't deserve the level of adoration that's been put on them. Hell, my favourite Coen brothers film is The Hudsucker Proxy, the biggest flop they've made and the one film everyone said was nothing like a Coen brothers film. So I'm certainly not coming at this from a film-snob "you must love the Coen's new film" frame of mind.

But the reviews for Country have been phenomenal. They tend to always get good reviews, but this one is currently sitting on 93% positive from US critics, which is almost unheard of, and Oscar buzz is all over this thing. So I figured I should check it out and, as much as it pains me to get on the bandwagon, they're all right. This is just breathtaking film making; perfectly paced, subtle, clever, twisting, and all lead by an outstanding cast acting their socks off. And don't be put off if you think it may be highbrow or something, as it's basically a simple, gripping thriller populated with fantastic characters. It's fun, and scary, and totally engrossing from frame one.

The main story revolves around three men and a missing bag containing $2m from a drug deal gone wrong. Set against the sprawling and sparse vistas of Wyoming, a cat and mouse game quickly escalates between a mumbling cowboy (Josh Brolin) who stumbles across the money whilst hunting deer, a weary local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) on the trail of the money, and a recently escaped hitman (Javier Bardem) who's been hired to find the bounty.

To say more would be pointless, as I can't reveal how truly masterful this film is without going into details, but just know this is absolutely a film you need to give a chance, even if it doesn't sound like your thing. It simply has everything; wonderful characters played to perfection by faultless acting, the fast-paced action moments which actually come organically from the character work, darkly brooding humour and dialogue to die for. The perfect film. Quite literally. Brothers Coen, I shall never doubt you again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Films of 2007: 6 - 2

Yes, I'm a couple of days late posting this with all the Xmas/New Year hoolerifia that's been going on. I also had to make a last minute revisement to my choices after seeing a film on Dec 29th, which is still in keeping with my rules for this list: It must have been released theatrically in 2007, and I must have watched it in 2007, although the first rule has had to be bent in places due to other circumstances, but more on that later.

I should mention these reviews are spoiler-free and will not ruin anything about these films. If I mention a story point, it's either from a structure point-of-view and nothing specific, or it's been in the trailers already and I've put links to trailers at the start of each entry. Let the fun begin!


I'll be honest, I was only excited about this film when I heard that the first trailer for The Dark Knight romp that would probably be was attached to it, but still thought it looked quite cool. I was expecting a fun, cool sci-fiforgettable. What I actually found was a dark, psychological character study about what it means to be the last person on earth; the isolation, the loneliness and clinging to whatever sanity you have left.

It also had scares aplenty as Robert Neville is in a constant struggle to avoid/capture the mysterious creatures that lurk in the dark places of the city. Will Smith is absolutely engrossing in this, all stripped down raw nerves and emotions as he maybe starts to lose his grip on reality. In fact, I'm not sure there's another actor out there that could carry such a huge movie on his lone shoulders and keep it engaging.


A tiny little film that has all the potential in the world to be TV movie-of-the-week trite, but avoids this trap in spades by realising that by telling the truth of the story instead of the emotion it gets the emotion in a far more powerful response. Sherry (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is just out of prison after three years and anxious to get back to her young daughter and try to establish some form of normal life, but her struggle to kick a drug habit soon starts to send things spiraling apart.

Like I said, this should be sentimental pap, but thanks to sharp writing, honest direction and powerhouse performances, this is gripping and heartbreaking. And Maggie Gyllenhaal, ladies and gentlemen, is THE actress of her generation. It's a strong statement, but one well deserved. I've not seen a performance by an actress this strong and devastating since Jennifer Jason Leigh in Last Exit To Brooklyn. She simply pours her entire soul into the character of Sherry and it's a beautiful and frightening thing to behold.


Adapted from the 2005 novel by Dennis Lehane, this is the story of Amanda McCready, a young girl abducted from her home in a close-knit Boston suburb and the effect it has on the community. Small-time private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) is hired by the family to find her because of his reputation for getting people to talk who won't speak to the police. First things first; yes, this is uncomfortable subject matter considering the recent McCann abduction. But the novel was published nearly 3 years ago, and the film was completed in January 2006, so it's simply a horrible and unfortunate coincidence. Add to that the fact the director Ben Affleck pulled the UK release and has stated the film will never be released in Britain as long as the case is ongoing, and it's clear the film makers know how sensitive a situation this is.

But that doesn't stop it from being an astonishing piece of work though. This is one where I had to bend my own rules. Yes, it was released and I watched it in 2007, but due to the UK embargo I had to turn to Mr Internet for help. And I'm glad I did, as it's a taught, emotional, wrenching film. Not just because of recent news, but because any film on this subject needs to be wrenching (although I can't deny that being a UK resident may have affected my core response in places). After last year's Golden Globe nomination for Hollywoodland, Ben Affleck furthers his credible comeback by directing in a low-key, tight and stylish way, paving the way for a career-best performance from his brother Casey. And if the moral choice at the end doesn't honestly make you question what you'd do, then you're dead inside.


Yes, David Fincher makes another serial killer film. But whereas Se7en was a stylish piece of decadent pop-art, Zodiac is the true story of San Francisco newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith who becomes obsessed with trying to track down the infamous 'Zodiac killer' from 1969 to 1983. Based on Graysmith's own book, this case remains unsolved to this day, and is more about men completely unequipped to tackle such an inhuman adversary and how it slowly starts to destroy their lives. The fact that this is true only adds to the atrocities inflicted, and the desperation you feel for characters who find their lives becoming only about finding the monster still on the loose.

It's a Fincher, so of course the film looks gorgeous, and direction is tight, but this isn't the flashy Fincher we're used to. For the first time he seems confident enough in the material and his actors to simply leave the camera alone and let them act out the story. And speaking of the actors, this cast is phenomenal, specifically Robert Downey, Jr as journalist Paul Avery, a cocky piece of shit writer. Most credit, though, has to go to Jake Gyllenhaal as Graysmith. For the first hour you almost don't notice him acting, as like his character he keeps very quiet, but once Graysmith's obsession grows, Gyllenhaal completely dominates the screen and commands every frame he's in. It's Fincher's best film, even better than Se7en - fact!


And director Paul Greengrass makes my top films list two years in a row (his United 93 was my number 1 last year) with part three of the Bourne series; the best chapter in a perfect trilogy. The problem here is that I can't really explain the story without either ruining this or the previous 2 films, so let's just say that Jason Bourne, the spy with amnesia, finally remembers everything and sets after those who were responsible for what happened to him at the very beginning.

The strange thing about the Bourne series is how it's become such a standard for intelligent, well-made action movies in just a few short years, and that Greengrass has made this entirely his own beast since taking over from Doug Liman for part 2, The Bourne Supremacy. Greengrass' Supremacy is single-handedly responsible for the Bond reboot Casino Royale (and if only the 2nd installment of a series can make a 30-year old franchise rethink their steps you must be doing something right). Hell, even Spielberg and Lucas are using Bourne as a template for what to do right with their upcoming Indiana Jones 4. And yet, it's not strange this happened at all, as they're just wonderfully intelligent, exciting, well-made films.

This new (and maybe final) chapter, Ultimatum, allows Greengrass to build on his own sequel and get deeper into the world. And it's an incredibly ballsy film for a summer release too. Ultimatum starts about 6 weeks before the end of the previous film; in fact we're nearly halfway through part 3 before we get to the scene that ended part 2. In a major blockbuster release that's almost unheard of, and putting a lot of faith in the audience. Which, as it happens, may be Bourne's greatest strength - it expects the audience to keep up if you know the story so far, but never goes so far as to lose you if you're new to the franchise.

I'll go on record here: Matt Damon has built himself a fantastically well-orchestrated career at this point, balancing the hits with the revered work brilliantly, but I don't think he'll ever find a character so perfectly suited to him as Jason Bourne again. And he owns the role now. People first scoffed at the idea of 'Matt Damon: Action Star' in the first film until they saw it. Now, people expect it from him, and yet the character is damaged and brutal enough to allow the action to come from a place of real pathos.

The original Die Hard was the anti-action action movie, rallying against the overblown antics of the 80's. Tellingly, in 2007, the year when John McLane became an unbelievable superhero, it was Jason Bourne who was carrying the torch of the true action star.

Number 1 to follow...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Furlong Collective presents...



(uttered endlessly when Simon is engrossed in any activity that makes him ignore you, after a 4-second pause...)


(upon being irritated by something, usually a computer, to the Nth degree of irritation a Simon can handle...)
"Jesus Fucking Arse Christ!!!"

(witnessed by The Jenster, upon Simon having to wait for an unusually slow cash machine in the high street...)
"Dispense, you fucker!!!"


(upon returning home from a cinema trip to see a certain boy wizard, slightly over-enthusiastic...)
"I'm drunk on Potter!!!"


(after a drunken night out, when the Simon had work in a matter of only a few hours...)
"I should be in bed but instead I'm having a teacake!!!"

And the number one Simon quote of 2007, as decided by The Furlong Collective, is a recent addition and simply ungodly in it's genius...


(upon finishing a scrapbook dedicated to his muse, The Fizz's Jay Aston, Simon stepped back to admire his work and declared...)

"It's like looking into the face of God, awesome in all senses of the word!!!"

Oh, Simon... We, The Collective, salute you.