Monthly Archives: April 2013

Iron Man Three

Iron Man Three posterEither rounding off Marvel’s ‘first phase’ or kicking off it’s ‘second phase’, depending on how you look at it, comes Robert Downey Jr. et al once again in Iron Man Three (3?).

Undeniably it was the first Iron Man that set the scene for The Avengers series to come and, while Iron Man 2 was largely disposable (as evidenced in Iron Man Three), this is the only series of movies in the ongoing comic book genre to stand up to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films.

Plot-wise, this one is hard to go into too much detail on for fear of spoilers stemming from a few exceptional twists that really help to make the film as exciting as it is and certainly make it one of the best of the Marvel run so far (I’d say only the Iron Man really stands up to it overall, but wasn’t a patch on this in terms of the story).

Like its predecessors though it’s the characters that really make Iron Man Three what it is. Downey Jr. is back on fine form as Tony Stark and once again seems to be having an amazing time on screen but also manages to get across the things that Stark is going through post-Avengers in terms of, essentially, post traumatic stress disorder, and the balance between humour and seriousness is absolutely spot on.

Robert Downey Jr - Tony Stark and Iron ManWhen it comes to the recurring characters it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts who grows the most here as she develops from the role of assistant/girlfriend into a real character and actually features in a few of the films most pivotal moments in great ways, which was very nice to see and is certainly one of the things that sets this apart from pretty much every other superhero movie of recent years.

Looking at the new characters, as ever with superhero movies, it’s mostly villains and shady characters that fill this category and this is no different, Ben Kingsley nails The Mandarin in a way that works without stepping into the dubious waters of the comics original interpretation but still makes him fascinating and, as is remarked, the Marvel universe’s Bin Laden.

Ben Kingsley - The MandarinGuy Pearce is also excellent as the Tony Stark gone wrong cypher. This is one of my few criticisms of the plot, and only because of what’s come before, as all three Iron Man films feature a character who is essentially Stark gone bad as a villain, though I’d have to say this is the most successful and genuinely threatening of the bunch.

As with all these films things boil down to a spectacular fight scene set piece, but, what set this apart from the previous offerings, was that it avoided the simple ‘robots hitting each other’ approach and added a much more genuine sense of jeopardy for some of our heroes that was nice to see following some of the other threat-less action scenes that have closed films of late.

Guy Pearce - Aldrich KillianThe other thing that really hit home here was that it had the feeling of being a swan song, this takes me back to my initial point about where it sits in the Marvel movie ‘phase’ system as, while the very end of the credits told us “Tony Stark Will Return”, this felt like it could be the end for Robert Downey Jr. in the role and, with his contract at Marvel seemingly being public knowledge, we do know this is the last of the movies from his original deal.

It was this notion of continuation that was stuck in my head as I left the cinema after Iron Man Three, thinking about where Marvel are going now (there’s a lot in the pipeline) and how Iron Man, Tony Stark and Downey Jr. might play into this – this left me feeling a bit odd as, while I had really enjoyed this film and, on reflection I’d probably say it’s the best of the bunch so far, I couldn’t help but think “where now Marvel, how do you get around this one?”

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: April 2013 – Mt. Wolf and Jack McGahy

Jack McGahy in the studio

Jack McGahy in the studio

For the April 2013 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I was joined in the studio by two acts at different stages of their career.

First was Mt. Wolf, half of whom originally hail from Guernsey, though they are now based in London. The band have been making a name for themselves off the back of their debut EP Life Size Ghosts and a series of shows around the city, but are, as I write, heading around the UK on their first nationwide tour. The tour started with a show in Guernsey with support from Lloyd Yates and Bright_Lights and I caught up with them while they were in the island.

The second ‘live’ guest was young singer-songwriter Jack McGahy who has been playing gigs around the island regularly since last summer – as well as talking to Jack he also played a four song acoustic session for us.

You can listen to the show until next Saturday evening (4th May 2013) through the BBC iPlayer and Radio Player, and here is the track list for the show:

And here’s a video of Jack playing in the studio:

And this is Mt. Wolf’s new video:

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Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone posterAfter listening to the How Did This Get Made podcast about this movie which, lovingly and with the help of its director, Lexi Alexander, tore Punisher: War Zone to shreds, I thought I’d give it a re-watch.

I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Marvel’s black clad vigilante avenger, but have to admit this is largely based on the concept more than the actual comics – though I have read and enjoyed a few – so I also have all three movie iterations of the character in my library (from Lundgren, through Thomas Jane, to Ray Stevenson who dons the body armour here).

Of all three versions each has its merits (ok, maybe not the Lundgren one) but Alexander’s take develops it to a new point based on the issues written by Garth Ennis which certainly up the extremity of the Marvel universe way beyond what anything in the current run of family friendly Avengers movies even hints at.

Having read Ennis’ Preacher series, and a handful of his Punishers, it is very clear that this movie is as close to realizing that kind of comic on film as anyone has ever got. Ennis’ work is known for it’s physically over the top characters, from the subtly named Arseface and Herr Starr to The Saint of Killers and Irish vampire Cassidy which is very much reflected in the villain brothers here, Jigsaw and Loony Bin Jim, who personify that grotesque style of character.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw

The exceptionally visceral action is another element of this recreation of Ennis’ comic book style on-screen. In most modern actioners a certain level of blood and guts are par for the course, here though if a regular movie would have a throat slit we get a decapitation, and this is from the opening action set piece onwards as Frank Castle cuts his way through the majority of the New York underworld over dinner and sets all the gears in the motion.

The story is a fairly simple one, but then I don’t think anyone could ever describe the world of The Punisher as being that complex in terms of its overall scale, so we get a slightly tweaked revenge story which throws in a bit of emotional background for our anti-hero which works very well in this context.

Punisher War ZoneThe other comic book element that comes out is through the use of colour in the film. While The Punisher himself is his standard all black with a white skull (albeit more subtly here than in some versions), the background colours often are the total opposite with neon pinks, greens and yellows appearing giving the feel of the seedier side of the city while other scenes feature other colour palettes which reflect the simpler colour schemes of comics (at least up until the 1990s) which gives the film a very well worked sense of heightened reality which is the essence of the Marvel universe.

Ok, so you can probably tell if you’ve read this far I’m a fan of Punisher: War Zone, but I will admit it has its flaws. The main one, I think, is possibly in what I’ve been highlighting as a good point up until now – its recreation of Ennis’ style.

The PunisherWhile this is an exciting thing to see for a fan of books like Preacher, for anyone else it might seem simply outlandish and, particularly for a Marvel film (even one tagged Marvel Knights), somewhat out of place.

Also, I’d be the first to admit, that what we are getting here really is nothing new, if it didn’t have The Punisher and Marvel tags it would be a very simple straight to DVD piece that could easily put in a few more moral speeches and have Steven Seagal in one of his fetching jackets replacing Frank Castle.

What sets this movie apart for me though is its sense of knowing style that allows it to revel in its source material and I have to admit that I would love this brand of Marvel (the Knights strand) to get some more movie time and become a sideline within the Avengers cinematic universe of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, et al.

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Mt. Wolf, Lloyd Yates and Bright_Lights – video review

Mt. Wolf

Mt. Wolf

Another one of my ‘video review’ attempts – so fewer words (maybe) and a few videos from the show – this time looking at the gig played by Mt. Wolf, Lloyd Yates and Bright_Lights at The Carlton in Guernsey on Friday 19th April 2013.

As ever my photos from the show can be seen over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

The show not only marked the start of Mt. Wolf’s first full tour of the British Isles, but also saw them bring their full live show to Guernsey for the first time.

Bright_Lights

Bright_Lights

The show started out with Bright_Lights who have been consistently rising through the local music scene since their re-debut at last year’s Vale Earth Fair and tonight there seemed to be a core contingent of fans who’d come along early to see them. In terms of sound this was the best I’d heard the band with all aspects of their music clearly audible even more than in the past, which added a new clarity to their songs.

While both guitarist Oliver and singer Fran did their best to engage with the crowd between songs, for me this still remains the band’s weakest element which can make their sets feel a little disjointed and tonight this wasn’t helped by the fact that, though there were some excited to see the Bright_Lights, most were still arriving at the venue and, while appreciative, weren’t really there to engage with the band.

That said, the band were extremely tight and they are clearly on a path to building quite a name for themselves.

Lloyd Yates

Lloyd Yates

Jersey/London folk-ish act Lloyd Yates were up next, making their return to Guernsey following a show here at the Vale Earth Fair a few years ago.

From the start they drew the crowd, previously keeping a safe distance, forward and got them dancing to their sounds which greatly reminded me of The Dave Matthews Band. What really struck me most about the band were the harmonies they employed in the vocals which is something that few bands we get the chance to see live genuinely employ and it made for a performance that, for me, was the best of the night.

Steve and Kate of Mt. Wolf

Steve and Kate of Mt. Wolf

Finally it was Mt. Wolf’s turn to take to the stage. Featuring two members from the island, this gig marked something of a ‘hometown’ show for the band and it was clear from the start that this was a very partisan crowd and, in their eyes, Mt. Wolf could do no wrong.

Unfortunately this didn’t really translate to me in the same way. While the band clearly have some excellent songs, their Life Size Ghosts and Hypolight EPs are both testament to that, tonight they seemed somewhat lost in technology.

While I appreciate their style of music has a certain amount of tech behind it, it seemed to overburden their performance with both Steve and Kate, along with the band’s other guitarist, seeming to be having to play two instruments at once at pretty much all times. For me, this lost the set’s musical momentum and ‘live’ nature as it was clear the band were concentrating on the tech rather than performing and connecting with those of us in the crowd who weren’t already buying in 100%.

The most successful parts of the set were when Steve was just playing his acoustic guitar and got locked in with the drums rhythms which suddenly saw the energy jump from the stage in a way it hadn’t otherwise. These moments reminded of the more stripped down sound they seemed to have at Guernsey Festival last year when I was very impressed with their performance – tonight however, it just didn’t really work for me.

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit posterWith Wreck-It Ralph having recently appeared in cinemas it was interesting to go back 25 years and take a look at Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a film that took cartoon characters into the cinema in a similar way Wreck-It Ralph did with video game characters, though with much more success.

What struck me most across the film was that, while the titular lead was created for the film, almost all of the other characters we see came from Hollywood’s golden era of animation. So we get to see Daffy and Donald delivering a piano duet and Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse sharing the screen along with many other cameos, including a great Porky Pig send off.

If nothing else this mix of characters goes to show the power directors like Steven Spielberg, a producer here, have over the studios, and particularly had in the 1980s when Hollywood was still settling into the post-studio, summer blockbuster, system we have now – and of course it’s also great fun to see these ‘cross-over’ moments.

Roger Rabbit and Bob HoskinsAside from the myriad of characters that appear we get a story that could be fairly run of the mill, private detective gets involved in something bigger than he anticipates in post-war Los Angeles, but thanks to the ‘toon’ conceit what we actually get is a real ride of a movie that plays with conventions to create what I can only describe as a minor classic.

As well as Roger Rabbit, voiced in suitably irritating fashion by Charles Fleischer, it is Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd who own the film, acting brilliantly alongside their animated co-stars, and in the case of Lloyd twisting this to great effect and a great demonstration of special effects wizardry from both the animators and ILM who did the post production work.

Christopher LloydThis post production work is, I think, what makes this film a real success. There had been previous attempts to mix live action with animation, but, generally, the effect was such that it was just too distracting to work for the duration of a feature film.

Here though the almost 3D (in a 2D film sense) feeling of the animated characters makes, with appropriate suspension of disbelief, for a combination that works and we believe, in the confines of this universe at least, that Hoskins, Lloyd et al are genuinely interacting with Roger, Jessica and their Toontown comrades.

So, in all, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is certainly a minor classic movie that has held up well 25 years on, despite advances in digital effects technology, by being both technically impressive, funny and, in its own way, charming while also acting as an homage of an essentially mythical (and here further mytholigised) period of Hollywood history in a way that the makers of any future Wreck-It Ralph sequels could really learn from.

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Last of the Light Brigade single launch with The John Wesley Stone

Last of the Light Brigade (with John McCarthy and Andy Coleman)Last of the Light Brigade continued their musical journey with a special show to mark the launch of their new single, The Door, at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 13th April 2013.

On the night the indie rockers were joined on stage by a selection of special guests as well as being supported by country-skiffle outfit The John Wesley Stone.

I was on hand with my camera and you can see a full gallery of photos over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th April 2013 (the photos in the article are by Andrew at TallPictures – check out his site for loads of great photos of bands in Guernsey):

LOTLB single launch scan 1 - 20:04:13

LOTLB single launch scan 2 - 20:04:13

Here’s a video of The John Wesley Stone from the night and, as I didn’t get any live stuff of the headliners, the new promo video for the single, The Door, which is available through iTunes:

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Chaos Night – 6th April 2013 – on Niche

Jack of Of Empires

Update: The Niche website has now been taken down, scroll down the page to read the full review

On Saturday 6th April 2013 Chaos Events continued the trek to their summer festival with a show at The Fermain Tavern featuring three Guernsey bands alongside a Jersey act making their debut on our shores.

The night was opened by young metallers Distant Shores, followed by SugarSlam and Of Empires and rounded off by Jersey’s Harlequin Knights with all four bands getting people onto the dancefloor.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review has been published via the Niche showcase website (read it by clicking the screen grab below):

Chaos Night - 6:4:13 - screen grab

With names such as Mallory Knox and Evarane already announced for this year’s Chaos weekend music festival and bike show in July, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation as The Fermain Tavern began to fill up for tonight’s festival warm up show.

The Tav was already busy as young metallers Distant Shores took to the stage to start the night’s proceedings and chaotic is probably the best way to sum up their performance tonight. In the past Distant Shores have proved a breath of fresh air in Guernsey’s metal scene, tonight though their set felt somewhat pedestrian with them also not sounding as tight as in the past.

Frontman James Holmes did admit the band had only had two rehearsals in preparation for tonight and that only left me thinking maybe they should practice more – I hope there’s still something to this band as I have very much enjoyed them in the past, but tonight, it seemed to get a bit lost.

They may have started a bit slow with quite a change in style from Distant Shores, but by the mid point of their set SugarSlam were back up to their usual blistering form. What SugarSlam have that won them the crowd to night is, simply, great songs that combine pop and rock enough to appeal to a wide audience and this was demonstrated this evening.

Plumb was, as ever, the centre of attention on stage, but the band’s natural chemistry together translated well and as the set went on the applause the band received, and the number of bodies on the dancefloor, was testament to their impressive appeal and they almost stole the show.

Show stealing duties tonight however went to Of Empires who upped their game considerably and really began to capitalise on the potential they have always shown.

Playing their first gig this year it was clear the band have been busy with their down time, writing an almost completely new set of songs which have developed their sound with extra backing vocals and additional harmonicas, in particular, adding a real depth that was missing before.

Not only was the band on top form for this set but the light show, provided by Lloyd Helyer of L.H. Events, was spot on to back it up tonight – I don’t often mention things like the light show, but, for Of Empire’s set tonight, it seemed more than worthy of it.

Rounding off their set with new song Carla (all about vampires) and single I Am The Night left things on a real high as Carla certainly has the sound of being a future single, and left several in the Tav shouting for more.

Jersey’s Harlequin Knights have only been together for seven months or so and were making their Guernsey debut tonight so as the set started the dancefloor was filled more with those curious to hear this new band than those ready to dance, but the Knights would soon turn this on its head.

Reminiscent of Guernsey’s own Tantale, but with a bit more of an attitude stirring under the tunes, the four piece combined indie rock with electronic and synth sounds and a bit of wigged out guitar work to create something a bit different for the Channel Islands.

As the set went on more and more headed onto the dancefloor (though the still inexplicable post 11pm audience drain seemed to have left other areas of the venue a bit sparse) and by the time the band fired into No More, certainly a potential crowd favourite, the room was bouncing.

Certainly this will be a band worth catching when they play Chaos itself in July and, all being well, they will have the Beer Tent bouncing, tonight though, while not entirely a successful set from where I was watching, Harlequin Knights certainly made an impact and I’m sure won a few new fans on our rock.

I only got one video on the night, but here it is, a taste of Distant Shores:

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Thee Jenerators at the De La Rue

Thee Jenerators at the De La RueSince the release of their fourth album, Rejeneration, in early 2012 Guernsey’s favourite garage rockers, Thee Jenerators, have been remarkably quiet – the band, who in the past had made their name with their frenetic live shows, seemed to have gone to ground.

So, when they announced a show on a Monday night (a very rare thing for a rock ‘n’ roll band in Guernsey) there was a notable sense of anticipation from their fans, which, coupled with this being their first gig with new bass player Jo Reeve, drew a fair number down to the De La Rue on April 8th.

Though the crowd was a bit more subdued than they might have been on a Friday or Saturday, Thee Jenerators weren’t put off as they launched into a set spanning their 10 year history with tracks from debut album Jenerator X rubbing sonic shoulders with songs from Rejeneration, and even a few brand new ones too, and it was clear that the addition of a new, full-time, bass player had given the band back the chemistry which had sometimes been missing from their more recent shows.

Mark and Steve

Mark and Steve

The addition of Jo as dedicated bass man added a sense of the same vibe the band had at their live peak when Nick Dodd filled those shoes, and it seemed to me that the whole band felt more together with this five-piece combination than they had as a four-piece.

Aside from Jo’s rumbling tones, the band’s new material was another nice surprise.

Continuing their meandering trek through rock ‘n’ roll history that has seen them take on everything from punk rock to mod to ska to football terrace sing-alongs, the new songs had a driving power reminiscent of underground 70s rock and tonight were delivered at breakneck pace.

Jo and Mark

Jo and Mark

Even though it was a “school night” the band got a few of the livelier members of the audience up and dancing for favourites like Who The Hell Is Frank Wilson? and Crazy Little Love Machine and, even if the crowd weren’t moving much, Mark Le Gallez was back at his energetic best whether he was rolling on the floor or climbing over Ozzy’s drums.

As ever this was backed up by Steve Lynch’s suitably 60’s-style fuzz fueled guitar that seemed its most comfortable in this context for a while.

In the end it may have been a different night, but then the band (who at one point tonight described themselves as being “like the Dave Clarke Five on acid”) have never been ones to fit in with the rest of the pack if they could help it, but Thee Jenerators more than lived up to expectation tonight and kicked off their 10th year in fine style.

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Insurrection – MMXIII

More than two decades after their debut, british-style hardcore punks Insurrection return with a new EP, distributed online for free.

I reviewed MMXIII for The Guernsey Press on Saturday 6th April:

Insurrection - MMXIII review scan - 6:4:13You can download the EP through the band’s Facebook page and it will be available direct from members of the band on CD as well.

And here is a video of the band from one of their gigs, playing EP opener, Speak Your Mind:

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A Lion’s Tale: Around The World in Spandex by Chris Jericho

A Lion's Tale - Chris Jericho coverEver since Mick Foley wrote Have A Nice Day pro-wrestling autobiographies have become something of a must for pretty much any performer who ever had even the slightest recognition in the mainstream.

While some, like the aforementioned Foley’s or Ric Flair’s books are fascinating insights into the strange and bizarre multi-million dollar carnival of pro-wrestling, others are clearly cash-ins that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

So where does Jericho’s book come in this scheme?

Thankfully it’s nearer the caliber of Foley’s work than say, The Hardy Boyz, as it takes us largely through the Lion Heart’s time working through the 90s indie wrestling world and in Europe, Mexico and Japan, as well as his time in WCW.

Written while Jericho was on a break from WWE in the mid-2000s the book pulls no punches in its discussion of pro-wrestling, this gives us a truly interesting look at the much misunderstood industry and points out its flaws as well as its good sides from training right through to the big time – although as it ends with Jericho’s WWE debut it does, potentially, let Vince and co off the hook.

Lance Storm and Chris Jericho

Lance Storm and Chris Jericho

That aside we get to see how ‘The last survivor of the Hart Dungeon’ made it from a bowling alley in Calgary to the biggest arenas in the world.

For me the most interesting parts were hearing about how the industry differs from one country to another. While Canada and the USA have all but merged in terms of pro-wrestling the stories from Mexico, Germany and Japan show very different ways of doing things and explain a lot about the different matches I have seen from each region – particularly the European approach where many of wrestlers mentioned have visited Guernsey over the years to flog their shtick of ‘homage’ of famous guys from the US.

What we also get an insight into is how the characters of wrestlers are created, or at least how it worked for Jericho.

Having established himself as a heel (bad guy), Jericho angled to work that role whenever possible but, depending on the bookers (the guys who put the matches and shows together) they would either work with him or impose their ideas and if Jericho didn’t follow he’d be out of a job.

Chris Jericho in JapanThis led to some interesting moments that have been left out of WWE’s official history of “the Ayatollah or Rock and Roll-a” including The Phoenix in Mexico and the one time only appearance of Super Liger in New Japan and how such things effected his journey.

The last chunk of the book deals with the time in WCW and again gives an interesting view of how things were working there as, while it doesn’t exactly paint the likes of Bischoff, Hall, Nash and Hogan in the best light, it doesn’t do a complete hatchet job on them either as it draws a picture of a company running totally off the rails, which cleared up some of my questions about how WCW hit such a peak and then so quickly collapsed before it was taken over by WWE in 2001.

On top of all the wrestling stuff we also get to find out about Chris Irvine, the man who is Chris Jericho, and see how his life has panned out from being a young wrestling fan onwards.

Chris Jericho in WCWIt’s this that takes the book up a level as we gain a real insight into why he does what he does in the ring and how his real life and wrestling life have affected each other over the years.

This is something that doesn’t always come across as, for some, its something that they don’t want to put across (or would spoil their in-ring persona) or there seemingly isn’t that much to tell – here though, much like in Foley’s story, we get a balance of the two that really made me connect with Jericho in a way that the best autobiographies (on any subject) do.

While I’m not going to claim A Lion’s Tale would be a fascinating read for non-wrestling fans, it is one the books on the subject I’ve read which would at least be accessible and, for any ‘Jericho-holics’, is a must, while there is certainly something in there for both more casual fans and even some non-fans to find out more about both the man and the multi-million dollar sideshow world he lives in.

And here’s a little bit of Jericho himself talking about the book:

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