Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Recks, Ray & The Guns and Thee Jenerators at The Fermain Tavern

The Recks

The Recks

On Friday 24th May 2013 The Recks played a gig at The Fermain Tavern ahead of a tour of the south of England, they were supported at the gig by Ray & The Guns and Thee Jenerators.

A full gallery of my photos from the gig is up on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 1st June 2013 and you can read it below:

The Recks, Ray and the Guns, Thee Jenerators scan - 01:06:13

And here are a few videos from the show:

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The Black Vote and Bulletproof album review

Ahead of the launch gig for their new split album on Friday 7th June I reviewed the new split album from The Black Vote and Bulletproof for The Guernsey Press.

The review was published on Saturday 25th May, click the image below to read the full review:

The Black Vote and Bulletproof album review scan - 25:05:13

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: May 2013 – Of Empires and Flexagon

BBC Introducing Guernsey in studio May 2013For the May 2013 edition of BBC Introducing Guernsey I was joined in the studio by both rockers Of Empires and DJ/Producer/Promoter Flexagon on Saturday 25th May.

Of Empires played an acoustic session for us, including a stripped back take of their new single Carla, and I had a chat with them about the band, what they’ve been up to and what they have coming up, including playing LibRock on Liberation Day earlier in the month and their upcoming show with New Yorkers The Killing Floor and London’s The French Electric.

My other ‘live’ guest was Felxagon, formerly known as Psylobster. Flexagon has just had his first official remix released and has been hard at work on more as well as working with local musicians on doing some recordings. He also told us about the upcoming Peace Tent On Tour gig and plans for The Peace Tent itself at the Chaos festival.

You can listen to the show online until the evening of Saturday 1st June here.

Track List

And as a bonus here’s a new acoustic video from Of Empires:

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Fast & Furious 6

Fast & Furious 6 posterWith the only big full on action movie to have made me venture into the cinema so far this year being A Good Day To Die Hard, I headed into Fast & Furious 6 in the hope and expectation that, at the very least, it would be better than that.

Having followed the Fast & Furious movies since their inception they have been a mixed bag to say the least. Starting out as pretty much muscle headed car movies from number four (aka Fast & Furious) onwards they have developed into the more full on action movie genre with international locations and heist based storylines that balance straight up fast cars and action with enough knowing irony to make them genuinely entertaining, while providing the only effective vehicle for Vin Diesel since Pitch Black.

Fast & Furious 6 starts off where Fast 5 lets off with Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his gang enjoying their new-found wealth and freedom (as long as they don’t try and go back to the USA) in their own unique ways, while Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is back on duty investigating improbable car based heists in Russia.

fast & furious-6 - paul walker and vin dieselThis sets up our maguffin plot which draws the old team back together to thwart the plans of a rogue former British special forces type (Luke Evans as Owen Shaw) and his gang who are pretty much a direct mirror of Dom and co.

Along with this plot, which leads us through increasingly implausible but excellently delivered set pieces (you’ll believe Vin Diesel can fly and is actually a T-1000), we have the ever-present Fast & Furious family sub-plot, here increased by the fact that Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner is now a father and that Dom’s ex-girlfriend (who died in Fast & Furious) has somehow returned as part of Shaw’s gang.

Fast & Furious 6 - Michelle RodriquezIt’s this family subplot that, while as corny as they come, really gives the film a heart as we root for Dom and his team and genuinely feel an attachment to them and shows how it is superior to many other blockbusters and actioners as I, at least, genuinely did feel something for these characters when they live, die or are effected by the life of (good guy) crime they have all chosen and join with them in rooting for the rest of the gang as they battle against the odds to, hopefully, prevail.

Following a film like A Good Day To Die Hard, where the nearest to emotion anyone shows is Bruce Willis telling us the guy he’s with is his son, or the likes of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, where the humans are an expandable side-show, it is genuinely refreshing to actually root for the heroes in a movie.

Fast & Furious 6 - Dwayne Johnson The Rock and Gina CaranoOf course the ‘heart’ is only part of any movie and, while brains may not be high on the agenda of Fast & Furious 6, muscle sure is, and it has it in spades, almost as much as The Rock (sorry, Dwayne Johnson).

Things start off with a relatively straightforward car chase sequence through London that defies sense and geography in the most enjoyable of ways and sets up the fact that these two gangs of glorified carjackers are a match for each other.

Things then move to Spain (why not? As long as it’s not the USA it fits the plot as well as anywhere) where we get what feels like the movie’s climax as the two gangs destroy a motorway trying to claim possession of the movie’s physical maguffin, a part of a missile that I’m sure could destroy the world in the wrong hands – or something like that, like all the best macguffins it simply doesn’t matter.

Fast & Furious 6 - Flip car and Luke EvansFollowing this, any remaining credulity is thrown out of the window as we head to what must be the worlds longest airstrip, as Dom’s team chase down Shaw’s team (now boarding a cargo plane) and do their utmost to stop the plane taking off using cars, harpoons with tow cables and good old-fashioned hand to hand fighting, which is clearly designed to give The Rock the chance to show off his pro-wrestling chops – a Doomsday Device like attack from Diesel and The Rock on one of the henchman being the highlight of this.

Leaving things open for a sequel in genuinely shocking style, that has me wanting to see what’s next right now, Fast & Furious 6 continues the series recent run of knowing pure entertainment that, while not quite as all out fun as Fast 5 is very close – now if other action filmmakers would just learn some lessons from this we might get another heyday of the genre as existed in the mid to late 1980s.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness posterAfter somewhat reinventing the wheel with Star Trek in 2009 JJ Abrams is back with a sequel, Into Darkness, that continues to both create a new Star Trek for a new generation of fans, while also paying tribute to its origins.

Thematically Star Trek Into Darkness does what all the best Star Trek, and sci-fi in general, does and hold up a mirror to our world today, so, where the original series dealt with issues of race, civil rights and had some post Second World War, pre-Vietnam feelings going for it, Into Darkness takes us into the shades of grey world of terrorism and threat of ‘the other’ while also mining a rich seam of conspiracy fact/fiction.

While it does the reflecting contemporary issues thing, what Abrams has brought to Trek is a new life as a modern blockbuster movie with action and irreverence aplenty. Some Star Trek fans seem to have taken this as a negative step, but, speaking as a huge fan from Kirk to Janeway and back again, for me it has simply brought what seemed to be a dying series back and in a big way.

This can be clearly seen in the film’s opening sequence where Kirk (Chris Pine), McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), still the central trinity of the franchise, discuss the issues surrounding the Prime Directive but, rather than doing it sat in a room on starship as was often the case in the past, they do it trying to escape the primitive culture they run the risk of effecting, while Spock sky dives into a volcano with a cold fusion bomb.

Spock - Zachary QuintoOf the three traditional leads, much like in the 2009 movie, it is Quinto who stands out as he has truly created his own version of the Vulcan that is both clearly the same character as Leonard Nimoy’s iteration but adds something new.

Into Darkness also does something interesting with notion of the half human/half Vulcan, which really had only been hinted at in previous versions, with Spock’s emotions being tested and used like never before as regards both his friendship with Kirk and his relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) – though to say more would lead to some major spoilers.

Benedict CumberbatchThe other highlight of the film for me was Benedict Cumberbatch’s rogue agent John Harrison, who, while a fairly stereotypical bad guy initially, grows into something more interesting as more is revealed.

Following a slower (but by no means slow) first act introducing us to Harrison, as well as Admiral Marcus, the Enterprise heads out and things don’t let up for an instant until the credits role.

While this makes for an exciting ride that takes us from Starfleet HQ in San Francisco, to Qo’noS (The Klingon homeworld) and back, it is in this fast pace that I find my one major criticism of the movie, and that is that the motive and means of the main antagonist is never really properly explained which gives one section of the big set piece effects and action sequence an oddly unbalanced feel.

Spock and Kirk - Zachary Quinto and Chris PineAside from this the only other problem I found was occasionally when putting in elements from the original version of these characters it came across more as spoof or parody than being a genuine part of the character, this was particularly notable in some of McCoy’s lines such as “Dammit Jim I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician.”

This aside Star Trek Into Darkness continues with Abrams revamped Trek universe excellently and puts a new spin on some old ideas while also being very much its own thing.

With Abrams now heading off to direct the other great Star franchises’ return I hope Paramount can keep up the trend of good Star Trek movies that has been established and not fall back into the even-numbered films are good trait of the originals which had diminished to such a point is was not clear even those were going to be good movies anymore.

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The Future Shock at The Fermain – 18/05/13

Lifejacket

Lifejacket

With the large number of ‘event’ gigs and shows already having taken place this year a gig like this, where four bands simply play a show for the sake of making music, seems to have become somewhat run of the mill, but, thankfully for us gig goers, this didn’t seem to effect any of the bands’ approaches tonight.

The gig, organised by The Future Shock, started out as people were still filtering into The Fermain Tavern with newcomers, Brunt. This was only their second gig but, much like their first, they took to the stage as if they’ve been playing together for a long time.

Chris and Ave of Brunt

Chris and Ave of Brunt

The kind of groove based, ‘stoner’, rock the band play is the sort where, to be effective, all three band members have to be in synch and, for the most part, Brunt were just that tonight, grooving and rocking like a machine.

As the set began Brunt’s sound seemed a bit lost in the sparsely populated venue but, even as just the back of the bar began to get busier and more of those at the tables took an interest in the band, their sound balanced out to something that had me nodding along just as it should.

Rounding off their set with a Asteroid cover with Ben Mullard of Dead Wing on vocals, showing just where their inspirations lie, they left the audience primed for the rest of the night and Brunt seemed to have won over some new fans as well.

The OK

The OK

With a few more gigs under their belt than Brunt, but still relative newcomers to the scene, The OK were second on stage tonight and their rock ‘n’ roll covers (and a few originals) had come on even since their recent gig at the De La Rue with SugarSlam.

What really struck me about The OK tonight was that they seem to be finding their sound in the more garage rock style. With covers of the likes of The Hives and The Vines, along with their own more garage-y originals, The OK had a small crowd in front of the stage by the end of their set and were another band who seemed to win some new fans tonight.

Party In Paris

Party In Paris

I’ll be the first to admit that in the past I haven’t been the most appreciative of Party In Paris’ pop-rock sounds, tonight though they may have won a new fan – around the halfway point of their set in particular, the five-piece seemed to kick things up a gear into a more power pop vein that, on the right night, could certainly have got me dancing.

Aside from myself, Party In Paris once again drew the evening’s biggest crowd to the front of the stage, and, though the audience took a while to warm up, by the end of the set many were moving.

Once again Gemma Honey really stood out on lead vocals and the young singer could have quite a future, and tonight Jodie Martel, also seemed to be taking more of a part on backing vocals giving the band a much deeper vocal dynamic as well as adding something a bit different many bands over here with her saxophone.

With a gig coming up supporting the reformed Sacred Hearts next month, it seems danceable power pop could be back on the cards for Guernsey this summer.

Andy of Lifejacket

Andy of Lifejacket

Playing only their second show this year, Lifejacket rounded off proceedings tonight with one of their more irreverent sets.

While the band were far from the tightest they’ve been their energy and songs carried them through, and the lyrics to a couple of their songs came across clearer than in the past, revealing some of the acerbic wit of Andy Sauvage’s writing, a prime example being: “You’re preaching rhubarb but you don’t have the custard, your grasp of English isn’t cutting the mustard,” amongst several others.

Closing with a typically storming rendition of Mclusky’s Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues and an encore reprising original number Brains, they left people calling for more and closed a night showing off the variety of Guernsey’s live rock scene in fine style.

You can see a gallery of my photos over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page (or by clicking on any of the pictures here).

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Rear Window

Rear Window posterI’ve long been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, ever since I first saw his early 60s horror double bill, Psycho and The Birds, but it wasn’t really until sitting down to properly watch Rear Window that I realized quite why he was dubbed by many “The Master of Suspense”.

Focusing on James Stewart wheelchair bound photographer, L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, as he goes stir crazy, and cabin fever and paranoia set in, as he nears the end of an 8 week stint in his New York apartment recovering from a broken leg.

As the film begins, all appears normal as we are looking into the everyday lives of Jeff and his neighbours, all from the viewpoint of his apartment, and we meet Jeff fashionista girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly).

As with many of Hitchcock’s films the leading pair of Stewart and Kelly are oddly mismatched, possibly reflecting Hitch’s own supposed fantasies, but, for the most part, I was so engrossed in the tense story developing around them that this was a minor factor.

Rear Window - James Stewart and Grace KellyAs the suspense heightens as Jeff believes he is witness to a murder Hitchcock’s mastery of direction really makes itself obvious, as the camera never leaves the flat giving us the same feeling as our hero as he sees what he thinks he sees.

The design of the set is another wonder. The apartment block shows itself to be a full size practical creation as we explore the lives of its inhabitants and events slowly reveal themselves and we get to know everyone as well (or better) as many know their own neighbours in real life.

James Stewart Rear WindowStewart’s performance, trapped in a wheelchair for most of the movie, is brilliantly understated for the first half of the film before the signs of paranoia begin to display themselves in largely subtle ways, until the film’s climax. Kelly also plays this style acting largely as an equal to Stewart, leading to some great scenes between the two and its only in the end that she becomes the damsel in distress and, even then, the script gives her a little extra something to play with.

For only one scene is Jeff’s apartment blocked off from the outside world as Lisa lowers the blinds to offer the couple some privacy, but, even then, Hitchcock never lets us forget the proximity in which Jeff is living with his neighbours as the lights of the other apartments remain clearly visible through the barrier.

Rear Window setThis really gives the film its main theme as we are plunged into the heart of a modern society that was really hitting its peak in the post war era the film comes from, and it still reflects something about society today, where people are living in close proximity to each other but don’t really know who each other or what they might be getting up to.

As Hitchcock movies go, Rear Window falls somewhere between the out-and-out ‘graphic’ movies like Psycho and The Birds and the more suspense based films like North By Northwest and Vertigo to create another truly great picture that demonstrates just what made Hitchcock such a celebrated director.

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Casablanca

Casablanca posterI first saw Casablanca while studying for my A-Levels where we watched it as one of the touchstones of American cinema and, looking back it now some 13 or 14 years later, I can appreciate this even more as its context as a film set near contemporaneously to its 1942 release has become even more obvious to me.

The thing that Casablanca is undeniably most famous for is its love story, where Humphrey Bogart’s Rick and Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa meet in the titular city following an affair in Paris and their lives are thrown together against a backdrop of resistance, corruption and the shadow of the Third Reich.

While this love story has become famous as the backbone of the film, even this element of it breaks with what could be described as convention in the end, and this is something that marks the rest of the film.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid BergmanAlong with the love story we get a plot of suspense and intrigue as we head into Rick’s Café Americain and meet a cast of largely unsavoury characters most of who are either criminals in one sense or another or otherwise corrupt and we feel the claustrophobia and paranoia of the city in this microcosm location.

This suspense occasionally breaks into all out action (for a movie from 1942) which also builds on the atmosphere of tension and threat that exists and increases as a group of Nazis arrive to investigate a disappearance and chase an escapee from a concentration camp.

humphrey bogart, claude rains, paul henried and ingrid bergman - casablanca 1943While all this sounds like quite a lot to fit into a film, and actually feels a lot like the constituent parts of many current Hollywood blockbusters, the way it is delivered here is swift and deft and while things never let up, there is breathing room for the relationships to develop and expose themselves through character and action rather than obvious expositionary dialogue so we really feel we get to know these people, especially our lead couple along with Claude Raines’ chief of police, Renault, Paul Henreid’s Victor Laszlo and even smaller characters like Dooley Wilson as Sam.

Humphrey BogartAs the film goes on we are left never quite being sure where the plot will take us as many twists and turns are open to all involved and the ending may not be the one everyone would expect but, in being that, is all the more satisfying for it and leaves our heroes just that, even if they maybe hadn’t been for the whole movie.

After enjoying Casablanca even more on this viewing than my first I was left thinking one thing: While some modern blockbuster filmmakers are capable of great feats, there are many who could do with looking back at this movie to see how one can tell a varied tale of suspense, intrigue, mystery and romance and get it all in well under two hours, with excitement aplenty and a well crafted picture to boot.

(If you’ve not seen the film the following trailer, from the original release, is a bit spoiler-y, just as a warning)

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Of Empires on BBC Introducing Guernsey

Jack Fletcher and Matt Berry of Of EmpiresOn Sunday 12th May 2013 I was joined in the BBC Guernsey studios by rock band Of Empires to record an acoustic session and interview for the next BBC Introducing Guernsey show, to be broadcast on Saturday 25th May.

The band chatted about playing Liberation Day, releasing their new single Carla and their plans for the future, including an upcoming gig with New York rockers The Killing Floor and London’s The French Electric, as well as Guernsey’s own Thee Jenerators, at The Jamaica Inn.

The session consisted of acoustic versions of four of the band’s songs, here is a little preview of it (the version to be broadcast will, of course, have higher quality audio than this video):

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Extended Edition

Lord of the Rings posterAfter watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last week I felt like it was long overdue time I revisited Peter Jackson’s earlier visits to Middle Earth so I embarked on the quest like pass time that is watching all three of the extended cuts of The Lord of the Rings movies within the week and, to my own surprise, managed to do this (for those who don’t know that’s around 10 hours of movie watching).

To be honest, going in I was a bit worried how much I was looking back on my enjoyment of these films with rose-tinted spectacles as I was one of many caught up in the general excitement around their release both theatrically and then on DVD, but this fear soon slipped away.

Rohan location

Rohan location

From the start its clear that Jackson created a very complete world in these films as we get to see both the history, in the form of the battle of the elves and men with Sauron’s forces and the introduction of the history of the Ring, and the present home life of Bilbo, Frodo and the Hobbits of The Shire.

This aspect of creating a world is what really makes the whole trilogy something so impressive. Across its epic running time we travel all over Tolkien’s Middle Earth from The Shire, through the dwarf mines of Moria to the plains of Rohan while heading to Isengard and Gondor and, of course, eventually, Mordor.

Lord of the RingsEach of these locations is shown as their own separate kingdoms with differing geography, wildlife and architecture marking each. While all of these obviously draw on Tolkein’s work the way in which it is done is very impressive as, when showing a pseudo-medieval world, it would be very easy for it all to fall into a very standard look, but here this never happens as New Zealand is tweaked with CGI to create a unique vision that I’ve only seen Game of Thrones (which borrows a lot from this) come close to recreating.

HobbitsI’m intentionally steering away from the plot in this review as, obviously, that comes from the source novels, though with tweaks, but Jackson and his vast team’s delivery of this story is phenomenal as they wrangle a large cast of characters and make us feel for all of them as their quests take them on divergent paths, making them all true individuals giving the films a sense of emotion and heart that I never found in my attempts on the books.

The other thing that impressed me on this rewatch of the trilogy was how well the special effects stand up a decade on. Even a few years after their release such effects heavy blockbusters as The Matrix had dated but here, with a few exceptions of videogame-like CG characters, the effects are as impressive now as they were on release.

Battle of Helms Deep

Battle of Helms Deep

Particularly memorable are the armies during the battles of Helms Deep and Pelennor Fields who, though almost entirely CG, are totally convincing and the edits to live action and model shots within the battles are seamless.

While, for me, The Fellowship of the Ring was the most engrossing of the three movies, both The Two Towers and The Return of the King come very close and what I remembered being a very drawn out ending to the trilogy actually seems fitting and ties all the characters together in a suitable and satisfactory way, even if Gimli and Legolas are somewhat sidelined at this stage as the age of men dawns and the elves and dwarves slide further into the shadows.

With such a well created and impressive trilogy under his belt I am very much looking forward to the remaining two Hobbit films and hope Jackson can repeat his success, though it’s going to take some doing to capture what he did in The Lord of the Rings once more.

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