Monthly Archives: November 2013

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations posterMovies about the punk scene are fairly common, but this is the first I’ve seen that looks at the element of that scene that grew up around the euphemistically named ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s. But not only that it looks at a man dubbed a ‘Godfather’ of that scene, Terri Hooley.

If I’m going to be totally honest there are hundreds of films with the same look and feel as Good Vibrations, its gritty enough to be real, has a good dose of ‘local’ humour and uses a pop culture trend to counterpoint a bigger more ‘serious’ issue. But, what Good Vibrations does with this, is show us a man who seemed to get the ethos of the particular brand of punk and politics he was into just right.

good-vibrations-film-650-430What first struck me about the film was the way it used documentary footage from the era it was set to show what was really going on and, in my case anyway, teach me something about the escalation of events in Northern Ireland into what became the Troubles which I remember being all over the news when I was younger but didn’t really know much about.

This, along with a brief introduction to Terri Hooley as a child, sets the scene so, when we are dropped into mid-70s Belfast and opening of the Good Vibrations record shop, we know exactly what is going on.

goodVirbationsFrom here we see Terri discover punk in a truly uplifting moment when a gig by Rudi and The Outcasts is infiltrated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary who are sent packing in no uncertain terms by the power of the music coming off the stage.

Scenes like this did make me wonder about the authenticity of events being shown, but, whether they were real or not, the feeling the film gives off throughout is that the essence and motivation of what we see is real, which is really what is to be expected from films ‘based on’ or ‘inspired by’ actual events.

The Undertones in Good VibrationsAs the film goes on we see more of these landmark events with Terri’s trip to London (which introduced John Peel to The Undertones debut Teenage Kicks) and a tour of Northern Ireland by Good Vibrations’ bands. This is backed up by the story of Terri’s home life and how it doesn’t always fit well when the Good Vibrations world breaks through.

Again this is all stuff we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it is the message of the movie and the performance of Michael Dormer as Terri that really make this film stand out.

Richard Dormer in Good VibrationsDormer is not an actor I am very familiar with (other than his small role as Beric Dondarrion in Game of Thrones), but, it is clear just from a brief look at his other work that he really disappears into the role of Hooley making it an utterly convincing portrayal of him that, while I assume heightened, still feels real.

The message is the other thing and is threaded through the film through the character of Hooley’s socialist father. This culminates in a spectacular ending that shows how powerful music can be at transmitting a message of unity even in the face of extreme situations and certainly strikes a chord with me (although I have never lived through the extreme circumstances) and despite the ups and downs of the life portrayed, makes this a feel good film in a real and genuine way that is rarely seen but always appreciated when it appears and is about as far from the Hollywood idea of ‘feel good’ as its possible to get.

And, well, because if its good enough for John Peel its more than good enough for me:

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Bright_Lights, Evarane and Static Alice – Fermain Tavern – 16/11/13

Evarane

Evarane

On Saturday 16th November 2013 ‘The Crew’ presented a show at The Fermain Tavern in Guernsey featuring two bands from the island along with one who had travelled over from the UK.

You can read my interview with the visitors, Evarane, here and below is my review of the show including Bright_Lights and Static Alice which was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 23rd November.

You can also see a gallery of my photos from the gig over on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Bright_Lights, Evarane, Static Alice review scan - 23:11:13And as I was quite pleased with how the article appeared in the Press with my photos (thanks Colin), here’s a photo of that:

Evarane, Bright_Lights, Static Alice - Press photo

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An Adventure In Space And Time

An Adventure in Space and Time posterBeing a Doctor Who fan the last few weeks have been something of a treat simply due to how much one of my favourite TV shows and characters has been, not only on TV, but also in the general media and, aside from the 50th Anniversary episode itself, The Day of the Doctor, the one thing I had been most looking forward to was this dramatisation of the show’s early days.

Written by Mark Gatiss, a fan of the show and now writer for the series, it takes us from Sydney Newman’s (Brian Cox) first idea for a science fiction show to appeal to children and adults, through to the first regeneration and, for the most part, focuses on the actor who played ‘the first’ Doctor, William Hartnell.

Hartnell is portrayed here with amazing accuracy by David Bradley who, while clearly, physically, not being the same man, seems to channel something of his energy, most clearly in the scenes where he is being the Doctor, but with what feels like an amazing authenticity away from this as we see Hartnell at home and meeting fans of the newly popular show in a park.

An-Adventure-in-Space-and-Time-2483408It is Bradley’s performance that creates the heart of the story as we see Hartnell as a fully rounded man. As well as the side that interacts in quite a touching way with fans and the show’s original producer, Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine), An Adventure In Space and Time does not shy away from showing him as an irascible older man, prone to outspokenness and temper.

This makes for a performance and programme that feels genuine, even though it is clearly dramatised and thus heightened, but the whole thing has a ring of truth about it.

Daleks on Westminster BridgeThis is backed up by the production design that recreates BBC studios of the time with startling accuracy from the cameras down to the cramped conditions Doctor Who was originally produced in, as well as the sets and monsters from the show itself, including a marvelous recreation of the original TARDIS console room.

The Daleks, one of the shows most iconic creations, particularly stand out and seeing them in colour, based on the original designs, rolling both through the studio and across Westminster Bridge, is fascinating and hints at how they could once have been genuinely frightening to youngsters.

Verity Lambert and Sydney NewmanAnother star of the show is BBC Television Centre which is shot in such a way as to make it look genuinely majestic, an impressive feat for a donut made up of many offices, but it manages to capture something of the magic it has always seemed to posses to me as a fan of so many of the TV shows made in its studios.

So I am a fan of Doctor Who and of BBC TV Centre, and An Adventure In Space and Time is clearly written as something of a love letter to both of these. That said, I think for anyone with an interest in TV history and well produced TV drama there is something here and Gatiss has managed to write something that works on both levels and, in Bradley, the producers have found someone capable of creating an astonishing performance of both William Hartnell and the Doctor.

And, with its references to Doctors to come, it also acts as a fitting tribute to mark the show’s 50th anniversary.

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The Wolverine (Unleashed Cut)

The Wolverine - posterHaving missed it in the cinema I thought I’d delve into The Wolverine by the extended ‘Unleashed’ cut of the movie that comes with the Blu-ray package. I’m not sure how much is different or added, but it seems the main gist of the changes is that Logan (Hugh Jackman) drops a few more ‘f-bombs’ and there’s a bit more graphic stuff in the fight scenes.

Anyway, The Wolverine tells us a new story about Logan and, thankfully, drops a lot of the over the top sci-fi comic book stuff of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and replaces with something that, at times, borders on feeling a bit James Bond as it takes Logan out of the world we’ve previously seen in the X-Men movies (though this is clearly still the same canon) as we go to Japan and find out about another part of the, essentially immortal, character’s story.

Hugh Jackman in The WolverineClearly inspired by the work of Frank Miller (the man who brought us 300 and Sin City) we are in a more serious world for The Wolverine, especially as we see Logan with his powers (sort of) removed for much of the film and, while it never quite reaches realistic territory, it does give Jackman something different to do with the character and attempts to introduce a bit more peril than there might otherwise have been.

Unfortunately, like most of the current crop of comic book movies, this sense of peril never quite gets to where we need it to. Much like Man of Steel or The Avengers, heading into this movie we already know the hero makes it through and, while it would be easy to assume that of any such movie, having the knowledge that a direct sequel was already in the works (and in the case here already being shot) does lose something in suspension of disbelief, so throughout there really is no feeling that Logan might not make it through no matter how dire the straits might appear.

Yukio in The WolverineFor a fair amount of the movie this is reasonably well dealt with as we get some pretty well executed action sequences that do some interesting things and so distract us, particularly earlier in the movie. A highlight of these is a sequence on the bullet train that mixes wirework with special effects to create something interesting and genuinely exciting.

These action scenes do have a slightly odd feel though as, while we may be used to Captain America or Iron Man knocking bad guys out before going on their way, Wolverine’s mutation of huge metal claws means he ends up inevitably killing a lot of the people he faces so the body count here is heading into Commando territory but without really paying it any notice. While in the era of Commando this was standard, in today’s style of action blockbuster it feels a bit strange as heroes killing people is generally frowned upon, though it does fit better with Logan than if he didn’t use the claws.

The Viper and LoganAs the film continues we get a bit more of Logan’s backstory, although emotionally speaking it doesn’t add much that we haven’t seen in any of the other X-Men films, and a bit more of the James Bond kind of feel, particularly reminiscent of You Only Live Twice, just without the hugely inappropriate make up work on the lead, this soon though gives way to more action, which again is well mounted with samurai swords vs claws being a major motif.

Unfortunately, for the films climactic scenes, we get back into the standard territory laid out in pretty much every Marvel movie of the recent run as a big robot-like thing turns up to have a fight with the lead and, while this does a much better job of it than Iron Man did with Iron Monger, it still doesn’t quite sit with the tone of the rest of the movie and feels very much like it had to be included to make it fit the ‘comic book movie’ style.

Silver Samurai and WolverineWhile Jackman clearly still loves playing Logan, and is excellent in the part, few other characters here stand a chance of being fully rounded leaving something of a lack of an emotional centre, despite the attempt to include a love interest storyline, everyone remains 2D, no matter what glasses you might be wearing.

While not a ‘bad’ film The Wolverine is also far from a particularly good one and, while far superior to X-Men Origins: Wolverine of X-Men: The Last Stand, it feels fairly imbalanced and is certainly over long at two and a bit hours, though waiting through it does lead to a ‘post’ credits scene that almost steals the show and sets up things to come in X-Men: Days of Future Past

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The Recks and Tadhg Daly & The Five Mile Road – Fermain Tavern – 9/11/13

The Recks

The Recks

For their last Guernsey gig of the year Sark band The Recks took to the stage at The Fermain Tavern for the first ‘Breda Sessions…’ event sponsored by the locally made beer.

Along with The Recks, Jersey’s Tadhg Daly & The Five Mile Road made their Guernsey debut.

You can see my photos of the gig on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 16th November 2013:

The Recks review scan - 16:11:13Here’s a video of Tadhg Daly & The Five Mile Road, taken by one of their fans, and with an introducing from Ash of The Recks:

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Evarane interview

13 - EvaraneOn Saturday 16th November, Essex based pop-rockers Evarane made their third visit to Guernsey to play at The Fermain Tavern, following playing Chaos this past summer and The Carlton last year.

Before they came over I spoke to their lead guitarist Nile Shephard about their previous visits and the band’s career and new singer, the interview was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 16th November 2013:

Evarane interview scan - 16:11:13

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games posterAs a fan of Battle Royale, going into The Hunger Games had me a bit on edge as, from what I knew of it, it sounded to have a very similar idea and premise – and, certainly, it does. But it deals with it in a very different way that made it, while not as satisfying as the Japanese teen shocker, at least a decent way to spend an evening.

Telling the story of young woman ‘sent’ into the titular games, in which she has to survive a host of other youngsters as they fight to the death in a specially created arena, it is clear to see how comparison’s will be drawn to Battle Royale, which deals with a school class trapped on an island until only one survives, both in the form of a TV show.

What it does though is take a different approach to this idea, while throwing in something that makes it far more of an entertainment, which ultimately makes for a far more satisfying movie than I had expected before I saw it, or even during its opening section.

The Hunger GamesThis opening drops us into this future society and doesn’t instantly tell us what is going on, though the opening title cards do give us a hint as the nature of the games, and it reveals to us a world divided between districts where people are fighting, day-to-day, for food and fuel (where our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from) and a world of seemingly limitless wealth, decadence and technology (and some particularly bizarre but well designed fashion).

Once the scene is set we are dropped, with Katniss, into The Hunger Games preparation, which smacks of how I see X-Factor and its ilk working with cynical producers turning real people into archetypes who can sell products and, in this case, with the feeling that it will distance the decadent viewers of the televised killing show from the people being sent in.

The Hunger GamesWithout wishing to be too spoilerful, once the games get going things do start off in fairly shocking (for a film aimed partially at younger teens) style, and moments of this remain giving a real sense of danger and suspense to things as we are never quite sure how this will all come out (although being a mainstream motion picture, there’s always a fair idea).

What happens though to make this more interesting is that Katniss becomes a figure of power as she goes through the games and begins to have an effect on the movies wider world, beyond the simple notion of her survival and the inevitable romantic subplot (which is also given an interesting spin).

The Hunger GamesWith all of these ideas of power of the individual, corrupt society, revolution and media exploitation of both youth and the general population the film has a feeling of being something a bit more than general Hollywood sci-fi fare which, these days, tends to rely more on robots having fights than anyone thinking and so harks back, albeit only partially, to the pre-Star Wars notion of sci-fi where the idea was to “hold up a mirror to reality” and, while The Hunger Games doesn’t totally do this, it certainly sows seeds of it and it’s nice to see a film try.

This gives it an appeal certainly wider than the teenage girl audience all the promotional material I had seen seemed to suggest and makes for something that can be enjoyed on several levels and, thus, by several different types of audience. Not being a teenage girl I don’t know how they’d react to it, but I can safely say that as a lighter end piece of well-made sci-fi, The Hunger Games holds up well and certainly is commendable in at least trying to make something interesting in a climate of Transformers sequels and increasingly repetitive comic book super heroes.

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The Dodge Brothers – The Sun Set

The Dodge Brothers - The Sun SetFor their third album the Southampton based skiffle quartet, The Dodge Brothers, decamped from the south of England to the Deep South of the USA, and Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee in particular, to create a set of ten original songs that take their music to a new level.

The most striking thing, as The Sun Set begins, is the very basic nature of the sound – it is clear throughout that this was largely recorded by four men in one room with a few microphones and a tape recorder running. This presents a sound that is fairly bold for any band creating a new record but, with a couple of what might be intentional outtakes, and the general sound of the room they were in, the album ends up sounding at once perfectly fine for a CD while clearly retaining its vintage edge.

While this production gives it less immediate punch than previous album Louisa And The Devil what it does do is perfectly compliment the band’s style that, really, has moved beyond its skiffle origins into more full on country, and having a genuine American, Mike Hammond, fronting the band certainly adds to that. This complementary nature comes in the form of a warmth to the tones and sounds that is something I have rarely heard and I can therefore only put down to being something of the vibe of recording an album by night in Memphis.

The Dodge Brothers in Sun Studios

The Dodge Brothers in Sun Studios

This is particularly noticeable on Strange Weather where The Dodge Brothers mix darker hued country with this warmth to make something that has a genuinely special sound. Now, I will admit that this lack of punch compared to the previous album has meant that it has taken me a few listens to genuinely appreciate it, so, if you’re getting hold of a copy, give it a few listens before sitting in judgement (unless you like it from the off, in which case, great!).

The Sun Set deals with many of the same issues as The Dodge Brothers past work, but that really is to be expected, as country music in general tends to stick to similar topics, but, as ever being from the UK today, and featuring members such as Mark Kermode who are certainly at least politically aware, means that alongside the songs of wine, women and locomotive travel we also get a sense of social politics and ‘current affairs’, particularly on songs like Banker’s Blues which acts as a far less angry and more fitting complement to Louisa And The Devil’s 42 Days.

The Dodge BrothersEvery song on this album feels like a well-rounded whole, and, for the first time, all 10 songs are original compositions which gives the feeling that The Dodge Brothers have now found their sound. While Louisa And The Devil had moments of obvious (and largely successful) experimentation, what we get here feels far more complete and hints at a band that have reached a sense of their own musical maturity, while not losing the power behind the songs, which is still there.

The guitar sound on the record particularly stood out to me as it combines enough twang, reverb and drive to hit a sweet spot that is rarely heard and must simply come from the use of genuine vintage equipment the likes of which the band had access too on these sessions.

The Dodge Brothers at Sun StudiosThe Sun Set is rounded off with the haunting ballad Wildflower that sticks in the head enough that it managed to leave a sense of warm, dry summer nights with me on a windy, rainy and overcast afternoon for a good few minutes.

Here The Dodge Brothers have delivered a great set of songs that has something truly unique to them, while also being very much archetypal of their chosen genre, and if you like your music based on a sense of honesty and purity this is more than worth picking up.

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Speakeasy – Trouble

SpeakeasyMod-revival supergroup Speakeasy put out their second album, Trouble, in November 2013, following on from their self-titled debut in early 2012.

The band is made up of members of The Risk, The Purple Hearts, The Chords and Long Tall Shorty (amongst others) and my review of the record appeared in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 7th November 2013:

Speakeasy - Trouble review scan - 07:11:13And here is the title track:

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Thee Jenerators Monday Madness – De La Rue – 28/10/13

Thee Jenerators

Thee Jenerators

On Monday 28th October 2013 Thee Jenerators underwent something of a ‘re-jeneration’ as they introduced a new member to the band while saying goodbye to another.

With support coming from acoustic acts Chloe Le Page and Matt Ward it made for a full night out of live music and rock ‘n’ roll on a Monday, an odd but not unwelcome happening in Guernsey.

You can see my photos of the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 2nd November:

Thee Jenerators scan - 2:11:13

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