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Only by the Night - Kings of Leon 08/04/2009

Kings of commercial

Only by the Night - Kings of Leon As I’m a big fan of all their records so far, the 4th album from the foursome from Nashville, Tennessee was met with the usual nervous excitement. This was probably put together quicker than any of their other albums, to capitalise on headline slots in UK festival after festival the previous summer. That thought alone led to anxious thoughts, but I need not have worried too much. An indication of what was in store came from the album design which is an amalgamation of the four Followills faces within an eagles head! Only by the Night is the album that brings them together as a musical unit, whereas on past albums I feel that their individual talents have shone. Let me take you through my thoughts track by track: Closer – Opening up with a strong intent to set a mood conveyed throughout this album, closer is a song which threatens greatness but doesn’t quite reach those heights. The song is full off loops and beats which signify a more electronic departure for the Kings. Also evident is that Caleb’s vocal has more clarity. This is something I had to adjust to as he seems to have slowed things down, perhaps for commercial reasons? They really do seem to have made a push to crack the elusive American market and considering it’s their own patch any acclaim stateside would be well overdue. Crawl – Much more like it. Dark and broody anthem that harks back to the Followills’ bluegrass roots. The song was actually released as a free download before the album and it certainly ...

Walk The Line (DVD) 28/09/2008

A haunted man and his music

Walk The Line (DVD) I have always been a huge fan of Johnny Cash. Some of my earliest memories are from watching his prison concerts with my dad, so I was delighted to hear that the latest biopic coming out of Hollywood was going to be about the life of the Man in Black. This film was made in 2005 and I knew that the casting would be crucial to pull off a performance worthy of one of the best loved singers to have graced the billboard charts. Plot - The movie begins with a young Johnny growing up on an Arkansas farm, and gives us a brief insight into his family and his close relationship with his big brother Jack, and an early interest in music. They grow up listening to the gospel and country from the Carter Family. Little does young Johnny know that the youngest Carter June, is to go on and be such an integral part of his later years. Tragically, Johnny's brother Jack is taken at an early age due to an accident with a table-saw. It is an incident that lives with Johnny for the rest of his life, especially as his father seems to pass his guilt over the affair onto the young shoulders of Johnny. Via a stint in the air force, Johnny manages to set off on a road that eventually leads to the doors of Sun records, Memphis, Tennessee - at a time when the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were just cutting their teeth. Now married and under contract, he goes off on tour. This is where he meets June for the first time, and the two are instantly drawn to each other, although both are ...

Niagara Falls, Canada 27/04/2008

A Winter Wonder

Niagara Falls, Canada Visiting Niagara Falls for the first time evokes dreams that have been instilled upon the conscience. Whether you have been told tales or seen shots in Hollywood movies, it is a tourist attraction that everybody has some knowledge of. Getting there - I started off in Toronto and joined a bus running day trips to Niagara. There is a different viewpoint if you travel from America where day trips are available from New York. However, I had been led to believe that the experience is enhanced on the Canadian side. The trip that I took was with JoJo Tours and runs daily from Canadiana Backpackers Inn on Widmer Street, downtown Toronto ( Although, there are two other tour companies who pick up from this hostel, the time that JoJo left suited us far better. I was staying with my friends when we booked this tour the night before, so you don't need to be staying at the hostel to join. However, you may need to book earlier in advance during the busy seasons. This tour cost 40CAD, but is 50CAD, during peak times. The road to Niagara - JoJo's coach, which takes a maximum of 14 passengers, provided insightful information on the road down. Everybody on the tour was asked to provide a sound bite about themselves to help get to know each other better. The driver was also respectful of those wanting quiet time. I enjoyed hearing the stories of all the people who had tried to come up with their own unique way of taking a trip through the falls. ...

Sea Of Love (DVD) 26/04/2008

New York can be a lonely place

Sea Of Love (DVD) A down on his luck New York cop, Det. Frank Keller, played by Al Pacino, is the centrepiece to this steamy thriller based around the hunt for a serial killer. The movie opens in a film noir style. There are shots of Manhattan with an energetic beat running alongside the sounds of the saxophone. We cut to a room where we begin to discover where the title of the movie comes from. The sixties song 'Sea Of Love' is playing on repeat on a record player. A couple of murders follow, and the song links both. It leads Keller to the lonely hearts column in the New York Weekly singles magazine, which both victims have written for. He begins to investigate the women that reply to the ads, and he becomes involved with one of the suspects, Helen Cruger. Keller gets involved in a passionate affair, convinced of her innocence. Cast: - Al Pacino (Scarface) - Det. Frank Keller Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy) - Helen Cruger John Goodman (Coyote Ugly) - Det. Sherman Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer) - Terry William Hickey - Frank's father Watch out for a cameo from Samuel L. Jackson, credited as 'black guy', during the opening police sting operation. Filmed in 1989, this was one of his first ever appearances. Directed by: - Harold Becker (Malice) The two stars have an instant connection between their characters. Pacino's cop works the night, whereas Barkin's character seems to come alive during the night. Barkin brings an authenticity to her role. ...

Looney Tunes - Acme Arsenal (Wii) 22/04/2008

This will drive you 'Looney Tunes'

Looney Tunes - Acme Arsenal (Wii) *Please note that the following review is based upon a 1 player experience only. How hard is it to make a well loved movie or very popular cartoon characters into a playable platformer game? A simple question to answer surely and one that Australian game developers Redtribe have haphazardly tried to answer across three platforms at the same time. Going by Acme Arsenal on the Nintendo Wii, it seems that this console has been neglected. Going into this I knew that I would at least get some enjoyment from seeing a multitude of Looney Tune characters in action. The case looks great with Bugs Bunny, Taz and Daffy Duck in a menacing pose. The first disappointment came with the instruction manual. It is flimsy and with no concise details of a one player game or the characters that you get to use. There are pages in here that have no explanation such as 'looney tune ancestors'. Maybe they show up in the game at some point. Who knows? Not I. It also lists 'playable tunes' characters, and from this list I just naturally expected that I could play as any of these guys. Hell, it even says on the back of the case that you can play as bugs, daffy, taz, marvin and more, so I assumed I would get more than I got. Main menu: - Tutorial I was confusing myself the more I looked at the instruction leaflet, so I thought I'd jump into the tutorial. To play at all, you need to have a wrist controller with a nunchuk attached to the back. The first surprise came as at this ...

Excite Truck (Wii) 20/04/2008

A race game that excites

Excite Truck (Wii) In Excite Truck from Monster games, the goal is ultimate carnage. Participating in global races, you are actually rewarded for the most amount of damage you create. With Wii owners currently snapping up the latest version of Mario Kart to be released for the format, it's good to see an example of how enjoyable an arcade type race game can be. I wasn't disappointed. Although it took zero inspiration to come up with the name, it can't be denied that it does exactly what it says on the case. It is guaranteed to excite, I quickly became addicted. Main menu Tutorials:- I began working through the tutorial section to get used to the controls. The wrist controller is held horizontally and if you make slight movements with it from side to side it will dictate the direction that your monster truck takes. It is quite difficult to master at first and some of the tutorial lessons take few attempts to master. I still have a few to go. Most of them are fun to try, and this is a good starting point before you get into the real action. It's probably beneficial to master turbo speed on here, before you take the step to participate on the next level. Excite race:- You start on the most basic tracks (bronze level) in different countries, and differing weather conditions, competing against five others. You have to unlock the silver, gold and platinum race events by getting a minimum number of gold stars from each track you compete on. You get more stars, the more adventurous ...

Garden State (DVD) 20/04/2008

Gardening leave from hell

Garden State (DVD) Andrew Largeman is an aspiring actor living in Los Angeles, famed for playing a retarded quarterback. He has been estranged from his family for many years, after an incident which made him pursue a career outside of New Jersey (the Garden State of the title). He has been on mind controlling drugs for many years, a course of action thought best by both his doctor and psychiatrist father Gideon. His mother's death brings him back to his home state for the first time in nine years. He also decides to use it as an opportunity to lay off the drugs for a while, to see what difference if any it makes. He has also been suffering some headaches like small lightning strikes. His visit home brings him into contact with some old familiar faces who have found themselves in bizarre situations due to their work, providing a lot of funny moments. His friend Mark is a gravedigger and he is involved in a scene where they typical audience reaction is to gasp! He hangs out at some parties with them that bore him rigid, as they haven't changed one bit. Largeman needs something new in his life. He meets Sam for the first time in a clinic waiting room, as she laughs at a dog humping his leg! They get talking, and she shares a song with him. "Listen to this song, it will change your life". They haven't properly met yet, but they are about to go on a journey of redemption together. Sam turns out to have some hang ups of her own, and they discover how much in common they actually have. They hold a ...

Barr Irn Bru 19/04/2008

The nectar of the gods

Barr Irn Bru It's Phenomenal. As the bottle says, bru'd in Scotland to a secret recipe for over 100 years. Irn Bru is manufactured by Barr's who also make Tizer amongst other soft drinks. It is the third best selling soft drink in the UK, after Coca-Cola and Pepsi. This just shows how much the Scots love it, as it can be hard to find elsewhere. Current sales between coke and Irn Bru in Scotland are roughly even. It truly is a national treasure. The spelling is often confused as traditional brew, and sometimes you can find supermarket own brands that carry the spelling 'iron brew'. The fizzy drink is coloured bright orange (only comparable in colour to lucozade) and tastes oh, so sweet and heavenly. The taste cannot be compared to anything else on this world. I find it utterly addictive and without getting carried away, it is truly the stuff that dreams are made of! I don't drink much fizzy juice these days as I prefer a healthier alternative, but I cannot deny the thrill that opening a can of irn bru gives me, every single time I have one. The diet version of the drink provides a slightly better alternative if you are watching those calories. I don't like the taste of this as much. It can also be a lot of fun introducing friends from abroad to a drink that they have normally never even heard of, for the first time. The common reaction is mostly positive. In Scotland, it is also considered to be a natural hangover cure, as the sugar levels will build you up again the morning after a ...

Restless Natives (DVD) 19/04/2008

As Scottish as Irn Bru

Restless Natives (DVD) On a Sunday morning in 1985, an aspiring Glaswegian actor named Vincent Friell picked up the phone to American director Michael Hoffman. "Vince, you are the wolfman," he said. With those five words, the legend of Scotland's most notorious public enemies began. Restless Natives is the tale of two young friends from Edinburgh who lead boring day to day lives. Will is a street cleaner and Ronnie works in a joke shop. Will's father is constantly on at him about getting up off your backside and making a difference in the world. One day, when the frustration boils over they stage their first robbery by riding a motorbike and wearing clown and wolf masks to hold up a tour bus. Armed with items straight out of the joke shop, it is a farce. They are so well mannered apologising for taking everybody's money and even give out change to an old American lady who needs £10 to get back to the airport! Will takes a shine to Margo, the tour guide on the bus, and they go to the effort of finding some flowers that they can go back with, for him to hand over. There is a hilarious moment when they are back in the joke shop the day after, and a policeman appears. Will and Ronnie look terrified as he has a good look around the shop and they think that he's on to them. He arrives at the counter and asks for an item that made me laugh out loud! They are free to commit more outlandish crime. Will, wearing a horrendous blue suit bumps into Margo again in a bus station. She instantly recognises ...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (DVD) 16/04/2008

Not just your average girl from L.A.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (DVD) Harry Lockhart is one of life's nice guys, but he can't ever finish anything that he starts, including school and his marriage. When he meets Harmony Lane in L.A., years after they both attended high school, he finds something that he finally wants to see through to the end. They both bump into each other at the same party in L.A. There's only one question to answer: Why does everybody keep dying? The start to this movie is terrific and pulls you straight in. You see Harry as a young magician and a young Harmony is his apprentice in a box; about to be sawn in half by a chainsaw. Harmony screams as it goes through and all the adults go crazy! Once the box is opened the little girl retorts, "I'm going to be… an actress!!!" Cut to Pnk Panther style opening credits. So, just how did Harry get to the party? Harry has become a petty thief, and is on the run when he happens upon a room where there is a screen test for a new detective movie (apparently Colin Farrell is too expensive)! Harry has never acted before, but he nails the audition and they whisk him away to L.A. He's soon supping on the finest champagne, and hobnobbing with all the important people at a poolside party. He has an acerbic wit for a one-liner, such as "You're mouth is a recommended place to put a sock!" Harmony comes from a small town in Indiana where the motto was; when in doubt, cut up a pig! She is sassy and wicked smart, and into detective novels. Because of these she dreams of getting away to ...

Ghost Rider (2007) 15/04/2008

Evil Knievel plays chess with Death

Ghost Rider (2007) Ghost Rider is a 2007 movie based on a Marvel comic character named Johnny Blaze, a world renowned stunt biker, who becomes the devil's bounty hunter. I loved Marvel comics growing up, but I have to say that Blaze was not a character that I was ever familiar with. Anyway, I thought this might be a fun movie so I bought it on DVD. At the start, we are introduced to the legend of the Ghost Rider, and soon meet a young Johnny Blaze. In his teenage years he is a stunt biker, who performs at carnivals with his father Brett. He is soon told that his girlfriend Roxanne is to be sent to live with her mum, and when Johnny happens upon further destructive news, he is in a dark place. The devil arrives on the scene and makes him an offer that he can't refuse. Johnny thinks life is rosy again, but not is all as it seems. Events conspire to only one outcome. The devil is in possession of Johnny's soul, and he is to be made responsible for finding evil souls on Earth and bringing them to Hell. Years later, he thinks he may just have a second chance at happiness, but only if he can beat the devil and win back his soul. To do this, he must beat Blackheart, the devil's nemesis and wayward son who plots to bring Hell on Earth. Nicolas Cage plays Blaze and Eva Mendes is Roxanne, the two young lovers who are brought back together years later by fate. I don't think Cage did a great job as he seemed to be doing his Elvis impression again, but if I had to pick one actor to play the rider, ...

Wii Sports (Wii) 14/04/2008

...And Nintendo created Wii

Wii Sports (Wii) As this is my first review on a game for the Wii, and as I hope to do many more, I shall start with a bit of background to my decision to purchase the console itself. It is fair to say I have been slacking when it comes to hardcore gaming. In fact, the last console I could call my own was a Sega Master System which I played until the controllers bled from their sockets! I won an Xbox in a competition in L.A., and shipped it home. What I fool I had been. It was the American version and it needed chipped for UK games. I sold it on to my brother-in-law. I thought fate was dictating that I should never own a modern day console again. The nearest I got was when visitng my mates and playing their respective versions of football or shoot 'em up games! A new concept on the horizon The Nintendo Wii. This looked for all intents and purposes, a wondrous new prospect. I decided to dip into the market once again. The Wii comes complete with a free game called Wii Sports and one Wii controller that straps to your wrist. The controller gives a signal to a sensor which needs to be placed in the middle of your TV screen, either at the top or the bottom. What is Wii Sports? The game is essentially an introduction to the whole new experience that Nintendo believe will have all the family enjoying game play in a more active environment. The game itself consists of five different sports and training aspects to help you master each one. You need to create your own character before ...

No Country For Old Men (DVD) 14/04/2008

No country for weary viewers

No Country For Old Men (DVD) I can't believe all the hype that has surrounded this movie. "No Country" was a major disappointment for me. To be honest, I was looking forward to seeing this so much, as all the basic elements were there to make a great film, being a fan of stories about good versus evil, and having loved just about every Coen brother's effort until their most recent offerings such as the remake of Ladykillers. The first half of the film is pretty mindblowing, and the performances of Javier Bardem and most of the cast are very impressive. Bardem gives the best portrayal of pure unadulterated evil that I can recall since Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. He was well worth his oscar nod. Kelly MacDonald also puts on a very convincing Texan accent for the duratin. I've always had a soft spot for her since Trainspotting, so good to see her getting some recognition. However, I would like someone to explain to me if there was any point to Woody Harrelson's character who came in and out of the movie so fast, it was difficult to see why he wasn't edited out - which would have also helped with the films marathon duration at 122 minutes. It seems like a long two hours. The second half of the movie is a bit of a mess, and it appeared to me that it became more about introducing fancy camera techniques than tying up loose ends of a very promising tale. Not much that happens is actually explained and without spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, it all became very annoying to ...

Babel (DVD) 14/04/2008

An emotional rollercoaster

Babel (DVD) This is the third of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrito's trilogy of love and loss which began with Amores Perros, and continued with 21 Grams. I have now seen all three and love every one of them. Babel is also the winner of the oscar for best picture in 2007, and similar in many ways and themes to the 2006 winner, Crash. The name of the film comes from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel - a tower built so that people could get closer to god. Biblical and religious questions are continuously raised throughout the film. Babel certainly isn't for everybody's taste. There are four stories interweaved between different countries and we constantly jump about between each. Two take place in Morrocco, and we start off by meeting two boys who go out with their father's newly acquired rifle to shoot jackal and protect their herd of goat. There is a couple trying to save their marriage in the Morroccan desert, played by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt. Meanwhile, their Mexican nanny is taking their two children across the border to her son's wedding party and we join in the celebrations. The last piece takes us to Tokyo, Japan and you get caught up in the life of a young deaf-mute girl. Because of all the different locations, there are subtitled sections, but both the cinematography and scenery are stunning throughout. This is not a film where I can give too much away about the characters involved as you are required to get to know them, and get caught up in their respective ...

Be Kind Rewind (DVD) 13/04/2008

Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind (DVD) Michel Gondry has delivered again! This is a charming, feelgood, funny movie. I saw this at the cinema and enjoyed every minute. Jack Black plays a junkyard worker who attempts to sabotage a power plant he suspects of causing his headaches. While doing so, he causes his brain to become magnetized, leading to wiping out the entire collection movies on VHS in his friend's store. In order to keep the store's custom, they take to recreating a long line of films including Rush Hour and Ghostbusters. They do this by using their term 'Sweding', as they claim the films come from Sweden to explain the longer wait and higher rental fee! Whereas they are actually putting themselves and their own townspeople into the films in 20 minute versions. They become the biggest stars in their neighborhood, and the film shows good ideas of how you can get communities to come together. You just know that everybody had a great time working on this film! The leads are fantastic. It's Jack Black's best role in a while and it was also good to see Danny Glover in something with a bit of meat again. I think that this is the film that should see Mos Def become a star. He is fast becoming one of my favourite actors at the moment, and he has such screen presence here, you daren't blink! As with Gondry films, you are also safe in the knowledge that there wont be a hollywood ending, as it could have potentially got very schmaltzy. There is also a fun website for the movie - You can ...
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