3 September 2010

The Dark Knight Cartoon sage continues...

Batman: Under the Red Hood – Brandon Vietti

Now becoming a regular release, made by Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation, who seem to be creating direct-to-DVD-releases where the story of Batman and other famous DC Comic characters are explored, the latest Batman featured film follows Bruce Wayne as the famous caped crusader who must tackle a new enemy named the Red Hood as well as other villains who are in the act. Named under the guise of the “DC Universe Animated Original Movies”, this is the third release to have the Dark Knight after Batman: Gotham Knight and the combination of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Having not seen Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, my experience with the series is only slightly knowledge having seen Gotham Knight and loving the art style and direction of the whole project. Having several different directors come in and shoot a short which follows what happens in-between the movies Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it’s both interesting and action packed and is great for a fan boy. This latest release is a more straight forward hour long episode of Batman directed by Brandon Vietti and featuring Batman, Red Hood, The Joker, Nightwing, Ra’s al Ghul, Black Mask, The Riddler, Alfred and a young Robin. All of which are major characters in the comic books and it’s good to see them in an adventure such as this. With upcoming features with the sequel to the Batman/Superman series and to adapt the Frank Miller’s story of Batman Year One, the company will continue to make great films which the fans of the superhero will love.

The film follows Red Hood, a vigilante/crime lord who appears in Gotham and soon takes on the rival drug gangs and kills to his way to the top to find the rival gang leader Black Mask. Batman and Nightwing soon go on a chase to find who the Red Hood is but soon find themselves chasing a skilled man. Also showing the death of Robin in the heads of Joker at the beginning of the film, the premise is set up and the action lets fly early on. With having Batman chase Red hood throughout the story whilst him contemplating upon the death of Robin, he seems distracting leading Red Hood to cause massive moves in the crime sector of Gotham. I won’t reveal the whole story as it’s a decent one that doesn’t deserved to be spoiled.

Seeing as it’s a direct-to-DVD release, it’s defiantly worth renting or buying because it’s fun, it’s action packed and it’s reminiscent of the old school animation that we watched as a child with the Batman: Animated Series and the original Spiderman cartoon, it has that style and funniness but with great writing and direction. More please!


Simon Childs

A British Biopic of Rock and Roll Proportions

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Mat Whitecross

Going into this film, i hadn’t known much about it, only knowing that Andy Serkis was the lead and that it was biopic about a famous British musician. I’m not going to lie and tell you i knew of this person, because i hadn’t. I came into the film not knowing of Ian Dury and his musical legacy which he had seemed to have made. When you sit down and watch a biopic not having a clue that the person is, you need to be informed, you need to be given the vital information about their life, and what made them famous. Not like the recent John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, where you’re expected to know who John Lennon is and respond to the way he acts as being “John Lennon-ish”. Recently released on DVD Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is the latest biopic, named after a famous Ian Dury song of the same name, it follows the rise to fame and documents the struggle Dury has with a mixture of family problems, battling a childhood disease of polio, drug and drink problems and becoming a better musician. His manic lifestyle is what makes Dury the person he is well known to be, with the wild parties, the crazy stage shows and the complicated relationship problems. Well as i don’t know of Dury and his legacy, I’m just going by what I’ve seen in the film.

As pointed out before Dury is played by Serkis and he plays him with both humorous and tender moments, creating one of the most complicated characters I’ve ever seen, in instances you want to hate him but in others you wish you were more like him. He tries to understand the world around him in a different perspective which then unleashes itself onto other people’s life’s, either affecting them for better or for worse. Along with the storytelling of Dury’s rise to fame, it also has segments involving Dury’s songs with Serkis singing them to a crowd, which breaks the fourth wall where the sings intertwine with the story and become a part of the set up. These performances are guaranteed meant to symbolise and replicate the performances Dury would give, and they are certainly “different”. It has moments of humour and moments of tragedy but it still isn’t in the same par as other musician biopics released over the last century, which notable examples such as Walk The Line, Ray and I’m Not There. Having a decent British cast behind does help and it does have its moments which outshine the whole of Nowhere Boy but it still isn’t a story i would love to know more about.


Simon Childs

The End of It All (The Pacific Part 10)

Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa

The end of the epic review series of The Pacific, and it ends on a kinda high, i guess. You can’t have a whole series of war and violence and have a final episode with that in too, you need to have a finale where you show the main characters and where they end up and here it’s done with class and style. Sure it’s very cheesy but i like it, i want to know what happens to all the men that I’ve watched over the last ten hours, showing their struggles and their heartache and the pain they’ve been through, i at least deserve to see their homecoming and triumphs. Massive congratulations on the last segment of the episode where it showed the actors who played them and then went to describe the real people the characters were based on with a photo and some information about them. Having that final punch of realisation that these people and these stories were real, and that all the effects of mental instability and seeing the many horrors of the war, is very real. It makes it frightening emotional. Each main character gets the send off and it’s great to see how they have changed since they first appeared with Basilone dead, his family and new wife try to pick themselves up, Leckie comes back and rejoins the paper he worked for before and starts seeing the girl from before the war and Sledge or Sledgehammer to his friends, comes back a lot worse than everyone and the obvious effects are devastating. A great series and it just shows if the right amount time, effort and money are put into a television show, all future programming will be on the same high quality level as this.

Simon Childs

Album of the Month - AUGUST 2010

The Arcade Fire – Suburbs

‘The Suburbs’ is a concept album that unsurprisingly deals with the deep and meaningful ‘concept’ of suburban life. It provides a sharp social critique, attacking apathy and conformism in such a way that it attracts an emotional response at base level. The effect is such that listening to this record encourages you to leave the house and make something of yourself. It encourages you to want better, in the faint hope you may eventually end up with something than the meaningless existence of your elders. It speaks of the idea of a better way.

Or it would, if anyone actually listened to the end.

It is fair to say that instead of providing a thought provoking insight into the ‘previously unexplored’ idea of suburbia, the album simply descents into itself. It becomes dull and lifeless, in a sense, everything it is speaking out against. For example, the predictably titled opener ‘The Suburbs’ lazily trudges through two riffs for its five minute duration, with plenty of clean guitar and reverberating noise in the background. This is essentially the formula for most of the rest of the album. Many of the subsequent tracks feature the same basic instrumentation, slow pace and background synthy noise that makes the title track a hard listen. Indeed, tracks like ‘City With No Children’ and ‘Rococo’ lack any purpose and direction, essentially providing a listening experience as apathetic as the suburban lifestyle the album criticises. Similarly, there appears to be a lack of deeper meaning in the album itself – rather than open up to listener, the second spin accentuates the negative aspects of it that made the second listen necessary in the first place.

That isn’t to say there aren’t any attempts at variation – the album’s second, and standout track ‘Ready to Start’ is a faster paced, and altogether more lively affair, making for an engaging listening experience. Similarly, the verses of ‘Modern Man’ differentiate themselves from the droll of the rest of the album using a pattern of odd time signatures. However, these standout moments are few and far between, with each catchy riff interspersed with many that lack variation and quality.

In this sense, ‘The Suburbs’ is a pretty underwhelming album, failing for the most part to live up to the hype surrounding The Arcade Fire. While there are some moments of note, for the most part the album provides the soundtrack to the tedium of suburbia rather than a criticism of it. For all its multi instrumentalists and lazy textures, the album lacks the craftsmanship and intelligence that makes an album more than just background music for everything it stands against.

Standout tracks – Ready to Start, Month of May


Dan Stafford