Talking Movies

July 11, 2015

St Vincent at Iveagh Gardens

St Vincent arrived in the Iveagh Gardens on the back of the deluxe reissue of fourth album St Vincent, and played nearly all of it.

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Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Striding out onstage with slicked-back raven hair she was as alien a presence as David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase, and began with ‘Birth in Reverse’ with choreographed dance movements (courtesy of Annie-B Parson) with her bassist Toko Yasuda, that only added to the otherworldly aura if you were far enough from the stage to not be able see her feet as she and Yasuda moved forward and back as if standing on treadmills. Climbing the large three step podium to deliver a triptych of songs before falling down into an inverse crucifixion pose there was also something of Gozer the Destroyer about the stage-craft, something that might please an artist who referenced Edward Scissorhands as an inspiration for the codpiece-flaunting black outfit with touches of grey, often bathed in red or green lights as it was for ‘Cruel’.

After the opening salvo of ‘Birth in Reverse’, ‘Regret’, ‘Marrow’ and a vocally soaring rendition of ‘Cruel’ it was time for the first trademark rambling monologue, dismissing James Joyce as long-winded. And before she could be accused of the same crime she launched into her biggest hit ‘Digital Witness’, followed by ‘Year of the Tiger’, and then three songs delivered in a haze of dry ice from atop the podium – ‘Severed Crossed Fingers’, ‘Cheerleader’, and ‘Prince Johnny’. Standing near the speakers on the right of the stage it was noticeable from the off just how crisp and crunchy the sound was, rendering St Vincent’s material more electro-clash than you’d think. This was perhaps a pity for some of the quieter songs, but it rendered the opening of ‘Rattlesnake’, repeated over again while St Vincent danced, an unexpectedly juddering dance riff.

After ‘Every Tear Disappears’ and ‘Chloe in the Afternoon’ St Vincent delivered another monologue, with a huge pause after talking about how much she shared with Dubliners, like her favourite Yeats quote, before deadpanning ‘There’s … so many, too many to pick just one…’ and launching into ‘Actor Out of Work’. ‘Teenage Talk’, ‘Bring Me Your Loves’, and a rousing ‘Huey Newton’ closed the set. Returning for an encore laid out like a body in repose she delivered ‘The Party’ lying down, before utilising the full depth of the stage and the front row for ‘Your Lips Are Red’ which turned into a full-on Led Zeppelin ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ solo-tastic improv-jamming freak-out. St Vincent played 9 songs from her newest album, all effective, and the two most reflective and subdued of them, played atop the podium, were highlights.

St Vincent might have been better served venue-wise by a brace of Olympia dates, but she’s an artist at the height of performing confidence promoting an equally strong record.

4/5

 

 

 

 

*Nothing to do with the gig proper, but this was the worst crowd I’ve suffered through a concert with; not for setting fire to tents, but for talking. Talking, and talking, and talking… When St Vincent and her bassist stripped ‘Your Lips Are Red’ down to just vocals I could barely hear them above the hubbub of six different group conversations. Throughout the gig when she played louder, people shouted louder, to continue their *deep and meaningful* dialogues. I saw one woman’s face almost as much as St Vincent’s throughout the show because no matter how much I moved she always ended up in my line of sight as her group moved, and she was always facing me because she was nearly always turning her back on St Vincent to talk to her friends instead. People, just go to Starbucks…

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May 5, 2014

X-Men: Days of Live Premieres

It’s got an ensemble cast that’s truly mouth-watering, the return of Bryan Singer after 11 years away from the X-director’s chair, and a storyline derived from one of Claremont and Byrne’s most revered runs on the comics title: and now, to increase the hype levels even more, the X-cast are going to globetrot around the world to premiere the movie…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxNS0vUB1Pc&feature=youtu.be

Beginning May 10th the cast will start premiering the movie around the globe in the X-Men X-perience. Hugh Jackman’s obviously going to land in Melbourne, and he may well do so via Asia, while the rest of the globe spread from London all over the world. It’s unclear yet if Michael Fassbender will be able to drag enough of his colleagues from the London premiere to Dublin for a separate premiere, but we can only hope he and James McAvoy travel. An event like Russell Crowe’s eccentric Noah trek around the Celtic capitals doesn’t happen every day of the week.

And just in case you’ve forgotten why you should be excited here’s the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past using Led Zeppelin’s imperious ‘Kashmir’.

As I’ve written before I’m both excited and nostalgic for this film because I regard it as the X-3 we always deserved, and have now eventually got. In a dystopian future, where homo superior has been decimated by the Sentinels of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back into the past at the bidding of a reunited Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) to try and alter history by effecting a rapprochement of their younger selves (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender) in the 1970s. X-Men: First Class was for me the 2nd best film of 2011 (only beaten by the devastating Canadian drama Incendies), and I’m hoping this will be not just the blockbuster of the summer, but the film of the year. Fingers and bone claws crossed.

September 18, 2012

Any Other Business: Part V

What is one to do with  thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a  proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into  a fifth  portmanteau post on television of course!

RTE  Heart Hans  Zimmer

Have you noticed a  tendency for everything to be drowned in Hans Zimmer music lately? I think it was when I  was watching a serious and rather good RTE documentary on the bank guarantee in  2008 that I  first got annoyed at the tendency to plaster Hans Zimmer scores over everything.  I don’t need the Joker’s musical theme shimmering over tales  of dodgy American sub-prime mortgages and CFD problems in Anglo-Irish Bank to know  that someone is engaged in villainous double-dealing. I don’t need to have the  pulsasting  Batman goes to war music playing over accounts of frantic meetings late at night  to know that action was being taken to avert a crisis. There has to come a point  where talking heads in a documentary are allowed to speak and the audience is  treated as intelligent enough to grasp the implications of what they’re saying without needing a musical cue  of the most bombastic sort. And that’s the other problem. Does everything need to  have The  Dark Knight  or Inception backing  it? These are  very recognisable and quite well-known soundtracks whose constant intrusion into  a serious documentary can pull you right out, as you think about the  Nolan movie instead of what you’re watching. The one free pass I’ll  give anyone regarding use of Hans Zimmer is TG4 booming Inception music for their rugby  coverage  because at least it’s a change from Kasabian (see below…). It’s time to stop  spoon-feeding the audience, and subsidising Mr  Zimmer.

Kasabian:  Born to Rock/Soundtrack Sport

Kasabian are one of  those bands who appear to have the stars aligned in their favour. I went to see  their show in Marlay Park a few weeks ago, only knowing the The West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and was taken aback at  just how many of their songs I actually knew. There is a story told that Richard  Linklater wanted to use ‘Immigrant Song’ for a scene in his 2004 film School  of Rock and  was taken aback to be asked for 10 times as much money as he’d had to fork over  to use Led Zeppelin for his 1993 film Dazed  and Confused; indeed the amount  asked for ‘Immigrant Song’ equalled the budget for his entire 1993 movie, and  only after much begging was he able to get the price down to a reasonable  level.  Kasabian emerged at a moment when industrial illegal downloading had so  decimated traditional revenue streams that licensing music for TV and cinema was  becoming not just a clever way of getting exposure (a la Moby with Play) but damn near the only  way you could be guaranteed getting paid when people listened  to your  music. Enter Kasabian, whose breakthrough single ‘Clubfoot’ was used on TV spots  for Smallville and 24 and damn  near every action film for a year. Since then they’ve carved out an incredible  niche. I  don’t know how they do it but damn near every song Kasabian release as a single  seems to have the potential to become the  soundtrack to TV sports. ‘Underdog’, ‘Vlad the Impaler’, ‘Fire’, ‘Days Are  Forgotten’, ‘Velociraptor’, and others have all popped up. They provide the  title music for rugby on RTE, the theme tune of football on Sky, and the  background music for fixture lists and league tables while pundits converse at  half-time on several channels. Kasabian have established their music as the  default setting for TV editors. This is both remarkable and financially  lucrative – how do they do it?

February 17, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 3-D

The lunatics behind the Crank movies shake up the comic book genre visually but can’t quite match the previous high standard of fun nonsense they’ve set themselves.

Ghost Rider 2 assumes that you’ve never seen Ghost Rider 1 and so gives you an animated introduction to your hero Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), stunt motorcyclist who made a deal with Roarke aka the Devil, and is now cursed to spend his nights as a fiery skeleton roaring around the world sucking the souls out of guilty people. Guilty of anything at all, even illegal downloading, and sssshlurp there goes your soul… Hiding out in Eastern Europe he’s contacted by bibulous priest Moreau (Idris Elba) who promises to lift the curse if Blaze finds Nadya (Violante Placido) and protects her son Danny (Fergus Riordan), who just happens to be the Anti-Christ; and who Roarke needs for a solstice ceremony to walk the earth in a purpose-conceived mortal vessel capable of containing his immortal powers.

Johnny Whitworth, a Talking Movies favourite, is Blaze’s adversary Carrigan, Nadya’s ex and an associate of Roarke who counters the Rider’s supernatural powers with ever more ludicrously high-powered weaponry until a slumming Ciaran Hinds as Roarke decides he’s being inefficient and grants him the power of decay. Finally a supervillain, a showdown beckons even as Blaze holds Moreau to his promise to rid him of his supernatural powers. The final act is a ramble thru old favourites like Hellboy and Superman II but while a loveably drawling Whitworth has some fun you’ll be riveted by Cage’s self-parodic performance. All I could think of was Studio 60’s “Welcome TO the Nicolas Cage SHOW!” during an interrogation scene which should become comedy legend as Cage bulges his eyes, twitches his head, laughs maniacally, and sings his lines to suppress the emerging Rider.

Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor make set-pieces such as an assault on a cameoing Anthony Head’s monastery vividly immediate, and their insistence on hand-held in-close camera-work elevates this genre nonsense above its scripting. Their flair for nonsense is also proudly displayed in absurdist moments like Moreau hanging upside down in a tree to the strains of the Marsellaise, and Blaze explaining how relieving himself when possessed by the Rider gives him a flamethrower to add to his usual weaponry of chains. But despite encouraging Nicolas Cage to let it all hang out there this is no Crank, and it falls a bit short of the gleeful knowingness of Drive Angry; despite its pounding ‘Led Zeppelin jamming’ soundtrack. An unusually reflective moment when Elba gives Blaze Holy Communion and the origin of the Rider are the only original elements of the script.

This is good silly fun, but unless you have a taste for nonsense or Nicolas Cage going mad, and those two categories are practically one category, it’s not essential viewing.

3/5

August 2, 2011

Roger Daltrey @ the Park

Roger Daltrey was always bound to be highlight of the @thePark series of concerts this summer and so it proved last Tuesday.

The recession appears to be biting hard as Marlay Park remained open during the concert; which was restricted to half the size of previous events, and under canvass in a marquee tent rather than in the open air in front of Marlay House. Daltrey is back on the road as a solo artist owing to Pete Townshend’s increasing hearing difficulties, and, back-dropped by original animations from London art-school students, he’s playing all of The Who’s seminal 1969 rock-opera Tommy. Daltrey started at the staggeringly early time of 8:17pm, catching most of the crowd off-guard, leading to a stampede into the tent. This intimate venue easily allowed me to get the closest to the stage I’ve been since seeing Frank Black in the Temple Bar Music Centre in 2003.

Daltrey stated he needed to warm up his voice after getting frozen at an open-air gig in Norfolk the day before and so belted out Who classics ‘I Can See For Miles’, ‘Pictures of Lilly’ and ‘Tattoo’, as well as his collaboration with The Chieftains, before the main event. Daltrey’s onstage introduction dismissed previous attempts by The Who to perform Tommy as ‘circus versions’ – played too fast, lacking the proper instruments, and ignoring the play of various voices. Here then was Tommy as it was meant to be performed, with guitarist Simon Townshend taking over vocal duties on a number of songs to flesh out the fictional universe. Daltrey meanwhile brought out the different characters in his array of songs, with his wonderfully sinister vocals when assuming the role of Uncle Ernie a highlight; especially his chilling delivery of the one word ‘Welcome…’ at the end of ‘Tommy’s Holiday Camp’. A huge cheer greeted the album’s sing-along track, ‘Pinball Wizard’, but the whole rendition was a triumph. The semi-abstract visuals banished all memory of Ken Russell’s filmic vision, while the amazing variety, and play of light and dark, in Townshend’s music and lyrics has never been more dazzlingly displayed. The clear anticipations of Led Zeppelin and Bowie hits to be heard in some songs demonstrated the influence of this work.

After Tommy Daltrey’s band launched into some playful interpretations of the obligatory Who classics including ‘Who Are You?’ ‘My Generation’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, and ‘The Kids Are Alright’. A highlight was a thrilling ‘Baba O’Riley’ ending with Daltrey himself playing the run-away violin finale part on harmonica. They continued with an affectionate Johnny Cash medley, and some extended blues jams, and the theme song ‘Without Your Love’ from Daltrey’s film McVicar, before appropriately ending with just Daltrey playing the Who rarity ‘Red, Blue and Grey’ on the ukulele. Tommy is a dark album but this was a luminous performance… Daltrey left the stage at 10:53pm, having played for a whopping 2 hours 36 minutes.

Not bad for a 67 year old. And he still swings a mean microphone too…

4/5

March 4, 2011

Personal Movies

What then might a ‘personal movie’ be?

I would define a ‘personal movie’ as a film which may not be that great objectively, but which holds for you a deep personal meaning; which is either enigmatically inexplicable, or, is incommunicable except in emotional connection with a time, place and person. A work of art can often become a kind of mental hook on which we hang experiences. I first read Brideshead Revisited mere days after picking up my Leaving Cert results and then immediately afterwards buying Blur’s Parklife album. To this day there are times when I’ll be reading Brideshead and the sound of the brass intro to ‘Badhead’ will float through my head, not as a discordant note in a story set in the inter-war period, but as an essential part of my first experience of reading this rich novel while I waited to start college. I’m sure everyone has similar Proustian moments of hearing a song and instantly associating it with a certain time and place.

I think the same is true for personal movies. They will take on a resonance which can be almost completely unrelated to their quality, and the resonance of that first encounter will forever echo thru subsequent viewings. A friend of mine became hopelessly devoted to The Holiday, fully aware that it’s a terrible film, because of the emotional resonance of particular architecture featured in the film as well as its theme of betrayals in love. Another friend had something of a Joycean epiphany while watching Betty Blue as a teenager and has, perhaps not coincidentally, ended up living in France. Resonance can come from within a film or be introduced into it from without, and sometimes can just be a matter of timing. I avoided the release of Almost Famous in early 2001, and only finally saw it on television in early summer 2004, which meant that the film resonated with me more than it ever could have in 2001 as in the interim I had discovered Led Zeppelin…

Just over a year ago, as preparation for my Top 10/Worst 10 Films of the Decade one-off return to the University Observer, I posted Films of the Decade? This provisional list of 20 films featured a few personal movies but I felt I could argue they were also either great movies or reflected the decade exceptionally; in other words that there was some sort of Eliotian objective correlative for the personal meaning they held for me. I saw Roger Avary’s 2002 film The Rules of Attraction just days before my birthday during its extremely limited release in 2003. I’ve since heard others say it’s the best film from Bret Easton Ellis’ work and an improvement on the source novel. The film’s unflinching bleakness struck a chord because I was at a low ebb when I saw it; tremendously frustrated with problems in writing my PhD dissertation. Since then it has repeatedly aired on TV, uncannily nearly always when I’ve felt hopeless, and the ecstatic bliss of its nihilism has lifted me out of my ruts.

I think everyone has a stack of personal movies like this, and who knows, perhaps the reason old classics are classics is simply because, however odd it may sound, they are deeply personal movies – for millions of people.

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