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April 21, 2017

24 Hours In NoHo

by Jack Witt
April 19, 2017

How is your Mental Equivalent?

by Fran Montano
April 17, 2017

Six Simple Ways to be Confident on a First Date

by Cristina Morara
April 12, 2017

Po-lice

by Raleigh Barrett
Sliced Orange Marmalade Pork Belly - The Duo Dishes
April 11, 2017

Orange Marmalade Pork Belly

by The Duo Dishes
April 07, 2017

One Animal Lover Can Make a Difference

by Nancy Bianconi
April 04, 2017

“The evolution of Evolution”

by Luckie
April 03, 2017

Horoscopes - April 2017

by Maya White
March 31, 2017

5 ways to keep you and your clients happy

by Jessie Marcus
March 30, 2017

Are you lost in the gym?

by Connor Coman
March 30, 2017

Looking for Female Superhero Movies?

by Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
Cream NoHo
March 28, 2017

Cream

by Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros
March 21, 2017

The Artist Dilemma – Perfections vs Excellence

by Fran Montano
March 17, 2017

Affordable Countertops; Who knew.

by Christopher Porikos
March 15, 2017

818 Arts

by Raleigh Barrett

Friends with Kids aims to be a romantic comedy for the not-so-new millennium, incorporating the perils of parenting, the death of marriage (at least when kids are involved), and the bonds of friendship into what eventually turns out to be standard romantic comedy fare.

Friday, 02 March 2012 07:49

Wanderlust and The Iron Lady: Flights from Reality

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In David Wain’s enjoyable but uneven Wanderlust, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are a married couple who have just moved into their overly expensive, not-so-ideal New York City apartment (you’ve seen closets that are bigger) only to be undone by a perfect storm of job loss (his), unfulfilled job expectation (hers), and a plummeting housing market (his and hers). They happen upon a commune in Georgia run by a very shaggy Justin Theroux and an almost equally shaggy Alan Alda. Rudd loves the free and easy nature of the place, whereas Aniston is a tad apprehensive. Nevertheless, after an unhappy interlude with Rudd’s successful vulgarian of a brother, they decide to make a new life for themselves (on a trial basis) with these happy-go-lucky vegans (never thought I’d put those words together). Rudd gets his share of laughs as he tries to reconcile his tenuous hold on marital morality with the free love temptations presented by the enticing Malin Ackerman. Aniston, in her best work in years, does a fine job depicting a frustrated, conflicted soul who leaps at the chance for liberation. However Justin Theroux steals the proceedings as the ultra-hippie whose pseudo-naïve, seductive ways with Aniston prove to be a thorn in Rudd’s side. Yet, for every funny bit, there’s another that falls flat or feels forced, and the screenwriters Wain and Ken Marino do themselves no favors by including a Little Guy vs. Big Casino subplot that causes the characters to behave in generally implausible ways.

Meryl Streep just took home a third Oscar for The Iron Lady, and she—aided by her Oscar-winning make-up men Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland-turns in a remarkable performance as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She is compelling both in the sections that show her confronting labor unions, foreign unrest, and dissension within Parliament—and the sections that depict her in her dotage, carrying on conversations with her long-deceased husband (Jim Broadbent). The problem here is that the film doesn’t provide any fresh insights into Thatcher, and the film shuttles back and forth between a steely Thatcher in her prime and a dementia-fighting Thatcher of the present to no real discernible effect. What we’re left with is a worthy performance that transcends its material.

Some unsolicited Oscar thoughts:

Billy Crystal was good-not great, but good. He faltered in trying to be a little “hip” but some of the bits worked. I’ve always liked Crystal’s “reading minds” with Nick Nolte and Marty (!) and he amusingly acknowledged when jokes fell flat.

Having watched the Oscars all my life, I’ve noticed something: just when you think the show should be hurtling toward its conclusion, it stops—dead. Just when you think there’s no room for another superfluous montage—there’s yet another superfluous montage of filmmakers, or a musical number, or an homage—or something that causes the last thirty minutes to feel like a hundred and thirty minutes. It doesn’t matter who the host is, who the producer is—the show can’t help but shoot itself in the foot.

I liked Octavia Spencer in The Help—but-she had no idea she was going to win? Really?

The Sun Explodes is a five piece rock band that fuses several styles of rock with electronic to create their distinct sound. Their debut album ‘Emergence ’ is welcomed with open arms in my eyes. It is fresh and exciting in all the right places. Some might say that they have similarities with the likes of Enter Shikari, this is true and they have the potential to rival them.

Friday, 24 February 2012 19:16

Band: Atlantis Album: Atlantis Rating: 10/10

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Leicestershire lads Atlantis, release their EP ‘Atlantis’ and they truly are in a league of their own. They mix hardcore, passion and in your face music to create eight neatly compact songs of pure music adrenaline. Singer Jones is one the most talented vocalists I’ve heard in a long time with his versatile ability to switch from gritty screams to powerful vocals instantly.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012 01:29

Band: mylittlebrother Album: Nosedive Rating: 7/10

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mylittlebrother have released their emotion filled EP ‘Nosedive’. It is a is very Beatle-esque bunch of songs, letting the listener become immediately familiar with its tone and sound. The band have taken their influences, added their own style and have created something not to be taken lightly. What makes it even better is that it isn't only one style, at times it can come across slightly folksy adding a more poetic side to the songs.

Grey Goes Down are a three piece alternative punk band from Nottingham, who together form something that's one of a kind. Their debut album 'Love Letters to Rock 'n' Roll, will take listeners back to a time where music was about the music and nothing else. The vocals can be compared to early Green Day and at times vaguely reminiscent of the late Kurt Cobain. The music is simplistic yet powerful and the two go hand in hand to create a catchy grunge fused punk vibe.

Denzel Washington and his charisma glide through director Daniel Espinosa’s Safe House, a sporadically exciting (not for lack of trying) action thriller that puts an exceptional cast (Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard) at the mercy of a pretty flimsy script with fairly predictable twists. Ryan Reynolds (it’s been a busy year for Ryan—he should take a break) is a naïve, reluctant CIA operative stuck in the thankless job of being “innkeeper” at a CIA safe house in South Africa. After rogue ex-CIA agent Washington is apprehended and brought to the safe house to be interrogated (read tortured), some armed and very dangerous men breach security and manage to kill everyone except for Reynolds and his handcuffed prisoner Washington, who manage to escape amid the carnage. From here on in, the chases come semi-fast and furious (the automatic weapon-toting henchmen remind me of the armies in the Rambo films who manage to hit everything in sight-except their intended target) as the intrepid duo test each others’ mettle—not to say allegiances- while attempting to evade their murderous pursuers—who come in all shapes, sizes and nationalities. The movie works best in the scenes between Washington’s enigmatic, lethal prisoner with secrets and Reynolds’ reluctant captor. Washington is entertaining, even here on auto-pilot and brings out the “best” in Reynolds, who is earnest but overmatched; Gleeson, Farmiga and Shepard invest their roles with some verve and more than a little bite—almost successfully persuading us that they’re not marking time until something of value comes along.

In Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, a plane carrying an oil drilling team crashes in the freezing Alaskan wilderness and seven survivors led by a grizzled, grim Liam Neeson (well, let’s face it, after working for this “team” as a wolf-killer, crash-landing and enduring dream-like flashbacks whose real import isn’t made clear till the end—he’s got reasons to be gloomy) try to survive despite the cold—and several wolves who would like to make a meal out of them (poetic justice?) One can see that The Grey is not aspiring to be a standard action adventure: the pace is a little deliberate and the opening scenes with the dispirited men at work and play in the harsh landscape, present an atmosphere of despair-even before the harrowing crash. Unfortunately, the lugubrious pacing continues after the crash, and on through the survivors’ attempt to elude the murderous wolves (hopefully avoiding the wolves’ den) and to live to fight another day. If this were a Twilight Zone episode, the trek would have been over in a half-hour, ending with the requisite (and in this case, not-too surprising) twist. However, Carnahan’s man vs. the elements saga aims for something deeper, as in a treatise on nature, faith, despair, and survival. This is fine, as long as the participants’ actions and dialogue are occasionally interesting. However, the clichés are lurking as much as the wolves: who’ll fall behind and be killed; who’ll drop his guard while standing watch and wind up as wolf-chow; who’ll go on and on about his family before a life and death situation-in which he comes out on the short end. (WARNING -SEMI-SPOLER ALERT COMING) Where the film departs from cliché is at the very end. If you’ve seen the ads, you’ve seen the picture of a determined Neeson poised to go mano a mano with the wolves. What Carnahan (as writer and director) does with this situation might cause you to feel you are either in the presence of a cinematic innovator—or feel cheated (I am in the latter category). However it makes you feel, be sure to stay until after the closing credits.

Thursday, 09 February 2012 14:48

Artist: Young Guns Album: Bones Rating: 10 out of 10

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Young Guns are one of those bands that can’t seem to do any wrong. Talent seems to ooze out of every aspect of them and sometimes it’s easy to forget that their new album is only their second.

(And a Few Semi-Random Musings) 

While there are some touching moments in Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Jonathan Safran Soer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, courtesy of Sandra Bullock and Jeffrey Wright. The problem is it takes about two hours to get there, trapped in the company of an extremely—shall we say talkative-ten year old protagonist Oskar Schell.

It isn’t often you hear electro genres mix with the metal genre, but when you do it sounds something like Enter Shikari. The band has recently released their third studio album ‘A Flash Flood of Colour’ and it is as politically charged as ever. It is full of chunky metal riffs and beats from various genres including dubstep and electronica. Usually you wouldn’t expect these to mix very well, and on paper I wouldn’t consider this music that good; but there is something special about this band. Maybe it is their passion for music, which can be seen in the energy they put into their songs. Perhaps it is their meaningful lyrics that question our society and the governments that run it. Whatever it is it works for them and music fans are grateful for it.

Monday, 16 January 2012 09:30

The Black Keys

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Since The Black Keys arrival in 2001 the music scene has been gifted with something new and refreshing. If the saying ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ applied anywhere, then it would apply here, as they have to stuck to what they are good at and built around it. Releasing their seventh studio album El Camino at the end of 2011, these guys have flooded their listeners ears with dirty guitar riffs, distorted vocals and whiskey fuelled songs that we have all become familiar with.

Thursday, 12 January 2012 06:49

2011 in Review: Not Exactly a Best-Of List

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What can I say about the Year in Film- 2011?  Well for one thing, there were too many sequels, superheroes—and superfluous 3-D.  I mean—enough already with this universally accepted shell game aimed at wresting more shekels from unwilling viewers. Only a few of these films (such as Hugo) showcased the technology in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  And still, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have preferred these movies without 3-D.  

Saturday, 31 December 2011 15:05

The Best of 2011

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2011 has been a strange but wonderful year for music. We have seen the musical world take a far more dark and gritty turn, with some artists pushing it to the limit with what the say and talk about in their music. Here is a list of the albums I have rated the best.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011 14:06

War Horse

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War Horse is an epic film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is a beautiful, tender story about the love between a man and a horse and the love between two horses and the love between people, all during the horrors of World War I. The cinematography is breath taking in contrast to the scenes of war that were emotionally horrific. However, through out the movie, the common thread was how kindness and love can be found even during war. The film was an emotional roller coaster ride for the majority of the audience that was sitting near me. Spielberg truly touched the heart in a profound way as he is so well known to do. I would like to say that one of my favorite stars was Joey, the "almost" thoroughbred horse that was sold to the army saving the Narracott family's farm. Albert Narracott played by Jeremy Irvine is the young son who was grief stricken when his cherished Joey left for war...a very convincing performance.



The film unfolds showing the experiences that Joey is confronted with during the war as a work horse for the English and German armies. The interwoven theme is how Joey touches the lives of soldiers and village people caught up in the terrors of war. I was very moved by a scene beautifully acted by a German and an English soldier who both wanted to help Joey. This book was a children's novel but by no means is this only for children. It is a masterpiece that should be seen by all ages. This is definitely an Oscar contender.

www.warhorsemovie.com

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 09:17

The Artist and My Week with Marilyn: Movie Magic

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By the time you read this, The Artist should have made its way to more local cinemas, and it’s about time. For those of you who might put off seeing it because “it’s silent” or “it’s in black and white,” all I can say is that you would be missing one of the more enchanting pictures of the year—and all the pleasures that the film has to offer. Michel Haznavicus’ loving homage to silent cinema—and old-style romance, uses music and well-placed sound effects to tell the tale of swashbuckling silent star George Valentin (winningly played by Jean Dujardin as a cross between Douglas Fairbanks and Gene Kelly) whose star falls as he tries to resist the coming of sound, and Peppy Miller (warmly portrayed by Beatrice Bejo) a dancer whose star rises with the advent of talkies. Valentin and Miller are drawn to each other, but life gets in the way-specifically his marriage, his pride (namely, his disastrous decision to finance a downbeat silent starring vehicle for himself), the changing times-- and her own resounding cinematic success. Yet they never stop thinking about—and caring for each other, and you will pull for them to get together despite the odds—I know I did, and judging from the applause at the end, so did my fellow moviegoers. While you can probably guess some of the plot points The Artist will hit (especially those with some knowledge of film lore and A Star is Born), this is ultimately an upbeat, buoyant romance with very appealing performances all the way down the line, including James Cromwell as Valentin’s ever-faithful employee and John Goodman’s huffing studio boss; a lovely score by Ludovic Bource (with assists from period composers—and Bernard Herrmann in a pivotal scene); gorgeous black and white cinematography by Giullaume Schiffman, and above all Jean Dujardin and Beatrice Bejo, the two beguiling leads who help turn what might have been an academic exercise into a heartfelt exploration of the fleeting nature of fame—and the redemptive power of love. Heck, I’d love to see it again.

Motion picture fame is also at the forefront of My Week with Marilyn, a bittersweet behind the scenes look at the making of The Prince and the Showgirl-which itself had been a slight (though some might say ponderous) romance directed by Laurence Olivier and starring Olivier-and Marilyn Monroe. These events are viewed through the idealistic eyes of that film’s assistant director Colin Clark, who had the enviable task of looking after Miss Monroe—especially after her newlywed husband Arthur Miller, left Britain to return home for a spell. Kenneth Branagh makes a terrific Olivier, capturing not only his imperious nature—which is rendered helpless in the face of his mercurial co-star, and her overly attentive-not to say indulgent acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker, oozing seemingly sympathetic venom), but also the insecurity of a man who knows he’s a supreme actor but longs to be a movie star. Julia Ormond is a lovely Vivien Leigh in her few moments on screen, nailing not only the fragility of her beauty, but a temperament that knows her hold on her husband is tenuous at best. Eddie Redmayne does a good job as Colin ambitious, idealistic, and somewhat callow starstruck youth who manages to (temporarily) win Miss Monroe’s affections with his the diligence of his attentions—while neglecting a lovely, albeit ordinary colleague (Emma Watson). Yet in the end, a film like My Week with Marilyn rises or falls with its Marilyn—and Michelle Williams doesn’t disappoint. I admit I was a little apprehensive, but Williams makes for a superb Monroe: flirtatious, fun-loving, all too aware of her effect on the opposite sex, more than a little calculating, and more than a little vulnerable: having surrounded herself with sycophants, high-powered studio types and intellectuals, her sense of inferiority keeps spilling over to the surface. Williams-as Monroe-projects the antithesis of Branagh’s Olivier—as she is the movie star who yearns to be considered an actress. The “scenes within the movie” allow Miss Williams to recreate Monroe’s cinematic appeal—a a certain “something”that made directors want to work with her despite her somewhat exasperating behavior, not the least of which was legendary tardiness. It is a lovely performance in an intelligent, most entertaining movie.

Thursday, 15 December 2011 10:06

Hugo

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Directed by Martin Scorsese

The Invention of Special Effects in Films Through The Eyes Of A Magician.

You will find this review of Hugo a little different from anything you may have read about the film. It is mostly known that Hugo is a 3D adventure drama based on Brian Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

I had decided not to read any reviews about the film before I went so that I would experience it without any preconceived notions. All I knew was based on its advertisement's description. "Twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity." Written by John Logan (screenplay) and Brian Selznick (book); I found that the story was cleverly brought to screen with a perfect balance of drama, comedy, intrigue and adventure. It wasn't until I was sitting in the theatre, watching it, that I realized it dealt with something that was very close to my heart; the history of magic and movie making. I will be focusing on the part of the story you don't typically read much about in the film's publicity: Scorsese's tale of one of the greatest magician innovators of our times.

Last weekend I showed up at the nearest ArcLight Cinema near NoHo to catch Hugo. I stood in line for quite a while waiting to buy a ticket. There were dozens of people in front of me. When it came to my turn they sadly informed me they were sold out. Boo Hoo! and I had already bought my popcorn. So I stood there in the lobby, pacifying my sadness by chugging down as much popcorn that could comfort me, Then from out of nowhere, just like in the movies, a stranger walked up to me and said, " I have an extra ticket, do you want it?" Graciously grinning like the Cheshire Cat I thanked him and ran off to catch the film which was about to start in moments.

As the previews flickered in the dark, I took my seat and the feature began. But for a moment I thought I had eaten too much popcorn. The screen was all blurry and I wondered if I was getting sick. As my eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness I noticed people wearing 3D glasses. "Oh My!" I remembered, this film was in 3D and since I did not get a ticket from the box office, I had no glasses. So I ran to the lobby, got myself a pair and made it back in record time, just in time for the opening sequence. That sprint alone burned off all the butter calories I had just consumed and I was ready for the adventure.

These were not your typical cardboard red and green 3Dglasses. They were a super comfortable, deluxe, hard framed XPAND glasses with olive green tinted lenses. Now, I have seen over 50 films in 3D and I found that they don't always integrate 3D technology appropriately. I was thrilled to discover that Scorsese uses 3D the way 3D should and needs to be used, to enhance the story. It not only enhanced the depth of field, it added depth of feeling and gave it a sense of really being there; inside the movie, inside old Paris. Without giving anything away here, some of the scenes take place inside a giant clock mechanism. The 3D version of this film puts you so much inside these clocks, you feel you are one of the cogs in the ticking machine's wheel. Beyond it being so visually immersive, Scorsese's 3D helps amplify the emotional connection that the characters have with their environment.

The opening sequence was exquisitely spectacular, worth the price of the ticket alone. Wait, I got my ticket as a gift! OK, you get my excitement. It was breathtakingly sensational, Scorsese directs a track shot through a 1930s train station that totally takes you on an E-ticket visual ride that will drop your jaws and pop your eyes out. To think I had almost missed it. If you are one of those people who miss the beginning of movies, get there early, do not miss the opening. This film is one of the best examples of using effects as a storytelling ingredient and not just for the eye candy of the effect. The effects are part of the story. Very appropriate too, since the story is about the man responsible for pioneering special effects in films.

Let me also applaud Director of Photography Robert Richardson for his visual contribution to this masterpiece. Mr. Richardson goes way back as a brilliant cinematographer to Platoon and image-rich movies such as Kill Bill. His cinematography is goose-bumping transcending, completely capturing the look and feel of Paris in the early 1900s. Having worked together before in Aviator, Scorsese and Richardson make a fantastic team in creating movie magic that makes you suspend the awareness of your current reality and completely puts you inside another very real and believable world. This film is wonderfully successful in not only bringing history back to life, but also in re-creating how some of the earliest motion pictures were made.

Being a filmmaker and magician myself, I was pleasantly surprised that Scorsese chose to tell the story of the father of special effects, Georges Méliès (1861 -1938). Méliès discovered the stop trick and was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves and hand-painted color in his films. Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the First "Cinemagician." The role of Georges Méliès is masterfully played by one of my favorite actors, Oscar winner, Ben Kingsley. A fascinating character, Kinglesy is perfect for the role and truly captures the essence of the spirit of a magician-visionary inventor.

The movie takes place during a very important period in the history of stage magic. Méliès was a very active magician during the catapulting era of modern conjurers. He purchased French patriarch magician, Robert-Houdin's famous theatre, specifically to do magic. Méliès created over 30 new illusions staged with comedy and melodrama, most of which are still done today in one form or another. One of the stage tricks I recently performed at the Experience NoHo event, the headless woman, is probably somewhat a related descendant of Méliès's Recalcitrant Decapitated Man.

Méliès life changed when e saw one of the very first films ever made shown by the Lumière Brothers. The Lumières are credited as one of the first inventors of Cinema as a mass medium. The short film had a train arriving at a station. People had never seen anything like this and jumped out of their seats in fear believing the train was leaping out of the screen. It's interesting to note that the Lumière Brothers were trying to achieve a 3D image even prior to this first ever public exhibition of motion picture. Here is yet another reason why Scorsese's choice to direct Hugo in 3D is so well fitting. Méliès was so stunned by the amazingly realistic illusions created by moving pictures he wanted to buy the machines to make his own movies. The Lumiere's didn't think there was a future for movies and refused to sell to him. So Méliès decided to build his own camera and so began our cinematic history.

The greatest illusionists of the early 1900s such as Harry Houdini (1874- 1926), Harry Blackstone Sr. (1885-1965) and many others, probably grew up themselves watching his movies. This was an exciting time in history where people's minds were being blown away with stage illusions and the new art form of films. As a magician I can tell you that most of us live and thrive to find ways to create illusions that will provoke our audience's senses. This movie totally captures that passion and gives us a glimpse inside that unique human phenomena that steers some of us to be part magician-part jester and the drive that makes us continue to do so, in spite of life's ups and downs.

So besides being a fun and entertaining theatre experience, Hugo can inspire all of us artists. Méliès produced over 500 movies, most of them lost or destroyed. Through the eyes of the character Hugo Cabret, played by Asa Butterfield, we gently get the message of the importance of following our dreams and protecting our creations. This is strongly conveyed in how young Cabret is so fixed on re-constructing an automaton left to him by his father. It is through this innocent kid's raw passion to bring the robot back to life that we learn about Méliès' life work.

Hugo is Scorsese's homage to the innovations created by our predecessors. With Hugo he gifts us with the opportunity to be motivated to think of new things. It reminds us that there is much to learn from what has been created in the past. It is a call to the awareness of the importance of perceiving art.

As soon as I left the theatre I called many of my magician friends and filmmakers to urge them to see this movie. Many did not know that the film was so rich in movie-magic history. One of my fellow magic colleagues, Harry Every, went to see Hugo the very next day. As Chairman & CEO at Transmersive, Harry has been involved in the business and innovation of 3D technology for years. He is quite an accomplished producer, effects supervisor and imagineer himself. This is what he wishes to share with us after seeing Hugo.

"It's a fascinating adventure in its own right that looks into the mind of one of our greatest illusionist innovators of our time. It's truly inspiring and motivating to just imagine the amazing creations they were able to produce back then. This, without any instructional books or references and with technology that by today standards barely qualifies as nomadic. Illusionists and filmmakers today could be, and should be, wanting to create new effects and run out to shoot new innovative films."

Brandon Scott is a professional magician and featured performer at the Magic Castle. He is an award winning filmmaker and a resident actor/theatre producer in NOHO. http://storywizards.com/

 

X Factor finalist Olly Murs is back with his sophmore album, and it's easy to say that he is back with style. Having already released a hit record the previous year, he has definitely returned with something to rival it.

Alexander Payne’s adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel The Descendants deftly walks a fine line (for the most part) between comedy and drama as it tells the tale of a workaholic Hawaiian lawyer (George Clooney) trying to cope with the irreversible coma of his wife, while brokering the imminent sale of a huge tract of pristine, picture-postcard family-owned (it’s a big extended-family, including Beau Bridges) Hawaiian real estate. In addition, the wife’s coma forces him to reacquaint himself with his daughters, the eldest of whom (Shailene Woodley) blindsides Dad with the news that Mom had been having an affair.

Having been around for more than a decade Coldplay have become one of the most successful bands on the planet, in that time they have released four astonishing albums that have set the bench mark for British alternative rock.

“He’ll do anything to hold on to his power.” An older J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio in fairly good old-age make-up) says this about Richard Nixon late in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, but he might as well be talking about himself. It also exhibits a characteristic of the screenplay, in that it—to borrow Billy Wilder’s phrase-tends to “make the subtleties obvious.” Certain motifs are reiterated and underlined just in case we missed them (abuse of power, grandstanding, self-deception). Not that the movie isn’t entertaining—it is--it just could have been a lot more.

After spending nearly two decades in Oasis it is hard to imagine Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds debut album ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ sounding any different to Oasis or being anywhere near as good. To my pleasant surprise it was. The record contains ten short sweet tracks of that classic Brit-Pop sound, which pushed Noel into the superstar fame, with a modern touch to it.

Whilst being recorded, it was said that some of the songs on the album had the potential to be as big as Oasis’ big hits. After listening to tracks such as ‘Stop All The Clocks’ which is one of the strongest tracks on the album it is easy to see why this statement had been made; it has the potential, with the right exposure, to be as big of a hit as ‘Wonderwall’ was. The record itself still has a very strong sounding resemblance to Oasis, there is something about it however that makes it it’s own, separate from Noel’s past projects. It is full of catchy riffs, memorable lyrics and good composure that makes up good music.

The key element to the CD is the range of instruments used during the songs, there is this constant build up during the verses which leads to this sort of explosion on the chorus making them very powerful and easy to remember. The main negative unfortunately, which is probably the biggest negative in todays music in general is the length of the album, it does feel slightly too short, and it leaves you wanting to hear more.

If you are a fan of Oasis or any Brit-Pop than I would recommend you give this album a listen. It is also a CD to have in your music collection as this is the first release Noel has made since his departure from one of the biggest bands on the planet, Oasis.

The best parts of George Clooney’s The Ides of March are those scenes centering on loyalty, betrayal and revenge—which is not surprising as the title is an allusion to a pivotal moment in the Roman political arena immortalized in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. While there is nothing that compelling on display here, Clooney’s (co-writing, directing, starring) film is a fairly enjoyable drama about a rising young junior campaign manager(Ryan Gosling) for Democratic presidential candidate Clooney—and what happens when some crises fall Gosling’s way--in the form of an invite (from a cool, calculating Paul Giamatti) to join the other team—and a casual fling with a campaign intern (Evan Rachel Wood) that leads to some unwanted revelations that could bring down candidate Clooney. The weakest parts have to do with Gosling’s savvy character’s first reactions to the news regarding his intern. It reminded me of supposedly sharp cop Andy Garcia’a over-the-top, shocked reaction in Night Falls on Manhattan when he learns that there’s (gasp!) corruption in the NYPD. In other words, how could the Gosling character—in this day and age—be so overcome by certain developments? However, once you get past that, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in scenes involving Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman (whose monologue about loyalty is one of the best moments of the year), Gosling and Giamatti-especially when Giamatti reveals his Macchiavellian side, and in the climactic confrontation between Clooney and Gosling where each plays his hand—with no less than the future of the free world (perhaps I’m exaggerating) at stake.

Ben Howard was once referred to as so unique that he will make you feel like he is the original troubadour. Whilst that may be a hugely sweeping statement, I find it hard to argue with, he seems to almost be an upbeat Nick Drake. Having released two EP’s already gaining an ever growing fan base his debut album ‘Every Kingdom’ was greeted with high anticipation. It was no surprise that the CD was truly fantastic, everything from the soulful voice, which has a very distinct sound and I feel makes the album, to the lyrics on tracks like ‘Old Pine’. The song that really leapt out at me in front of all other songs in ‘Black Flies’, there is something about its slow slightly dark feel that completely hypnotizes you.

Technically the CD matches up to its expectations as well, bringing that finger picking folk sound to the songs and the way the album has been composed truly does give the whole album a completely original and unique sound. It isn’t too often in songs where you can clearly hear every single instrument being used but you can with this, which is just another plus.

There are no real negatives to this album. There are several songs on the record which have been on EP’s; but those songs have been altered slightly adding a new element to them.

I would definitely recommend you give this album a listen if acoustic music is your thing, and even if it isn’t you will most likely be pleasantly surprised. This really is one of the greater releases of the year and is not one to be missed.

Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill contribute sterling work in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, an intelligent, engrossing drama about taking risks and using the odds to succeed--by going against the accepted wisdom.

It’s the end of the 2001 baseball season, and the Oakland Athletics not only lose to the New York Yankees in post-season play, but face the defection of several key players to teams with deeper pockets.  General Manager (and former glowing prospect) Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) hires Peter Brand  (Jonah Hill) away from the Cleveland Indians because of Beane’s belief in Brand’s radical ideas about assessing players’ true value through their on-base percentage.  This puts Beane in conflict with his players, scouts, and most of all, scowling veteran manager Art Howe (Hoffman)— and for a while, it looks as if this strategy will not yield the desired results, until…well, if you’ve seen enough—or any--sports films, you know what kind of turn the film will take—and this movie earns that turn.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011 06:11

Artist: Ed Sheeran Album: + Rating: 7 out of 10

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Ed Sheeran is without a doubt one of the most hyped UK artists around at the moment; with the recent release of his debut album ‘+’ there was some serious expectations to live up to.

When I first listened to the album I wasn’t that impressed, it seemed like he had given up some of his quirky style to get the album made, and also a lot of the tracks on the record were already well known, so it seemed to lack anything that new and exciting. On the second listen however I was blown away. The vocals on tracks such as ‘Give Me Love’ are comparable to those of Damien Rice and the lyrics in ‘Kiss Me’ are some of the most poetic songs I’ve ever listened to and stood out as my favourite on the album. What I liked most about the album was the fact that even though there are tracks that have been floating around for a while he has completely reinvented the songs to make them brand new ‘U.N.I.’ and ‘Wake Me Up’ are just a few examples. This man has the poetic ability and guitar skills of Jason Mraz, whilst creating love ballads that can relate to listeners of all ages.

However he isn’t a one themed musician, he covers varying subject matter from love songs, to up beat songs to the more serious ‘The A Team’ telling the story of a young homeless girl who was pushed into prostitution, he even does a version of the old Irish folk song ‘The Parting Glass’.

If you are a fan of the acoustic troubadour then this is definitely an album for you. He is your traditional acoustic singer/songwriter with a twist.

Off to university and thought this was an apt song by Brandon Boyd, to see me on my way…

"It takes courage and control, but you start by letting go"

The song deals with a common theme that Brandon Boyd often talks about, (both in song and in interviews) which is allowing yourself to live a life of expression and freedom of fear of how others might judge you.  It can be easy to let this fear control every aspect of your life, from the petty things like how you dress, to more major decisions like what you do for a living or where you live.  Without even realizing it, many people make these decisions based on what they feel is expected of them rather than what they may have done if no one judged them.

check it out...

Contagion
It could be the end of the world as we know it as Gynneth Paltrow has the misfortune to be "patient zero" in Steven Soderbergh's earnest, intense all-star thriller Contagion. Poor Paltrow spends but a few minutes onscreen, having returned from China to the U.S, (by way of a quick illicit rest stop in Chicago), and succumbing to a mysterious virus that she may well have brought over. Paltrow's grieving (and immune) husband Matt Damon tries to protect his surviving daughter from infection while health official Lawrence Fishburne uses his expertise (and extensive staff) to try to come up with a vaccine. In the meantime, scientist Kate Winslet looks for answers stateside while Marion Cotillard 's WHO investigator looks to China, and the fate of the world might just fall to two dedicated doctors, Jennifer Ehle-and Elliott Gould. Lest you think that this worldwide outbreak only inspires acts of altruism, there are disturbing passages of mankind running amok in scenes of looting, home invasions and killings. Soderbergh presents these episodes with a degree of restraint, but it's no holds barred in the graphic depiction of the effects of the virus (only beginning with Ms. Paltrow). In addition, Jude Law is on hand as an unscrupulous blogger who uses the outbreak as a chance to promote himself -and some dangerous conspiracy theories. The movie's solemn, almost clinical tone gains emotional impact as it goes on, and all the actors do convincing work; however some key players disappear from the proceedings in a not so credible manner (and I don't mean by dying), while some plot developments are dropped abruptly. In spite of this, Contagion is worth the trip-just don't forget the hand wipes.

DRIVE
If you crossed Michael Mann's 80's crime films with the French New Wave cinema, and then tossed in some Sergio Leone references and soaked them all in a Sam Pechinpah-style bloodbath, you'll have something resembling Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive, a somewhat unconventional thriller with its roots in well-known (primarily Hollywood) conventions. Ryan Gosling is a Hollywood stunt driver-- and occasional getaway driver-- with no name: steely, calm, taciturn, with a disarming smile he trots out on occasion, especially in the company of innocent neighbor Carey Mulligan and her young son. When his boss Bryan Cranston introduces Gosling to a shady ex-producer (Albert Brooks) with money to invest, the future seems momentarily bright. But as we're in the land of film noir, the inevitable complications arise in the form of Mulligan's ex-con husband, a heist gone awry, double crosses and some mighty bloody (and I do mean bloody) confrontations with some very dangerous characters. While the movie's plot outline may not hold many surprises, there are many pleasures to be had throughout: the car chase sequences work on a visceral level; Gosling and Mulligan make an appealing pair; Christina Hendricks is fine as a calculating moll while Ron Perlman is an imposing presence as a gangster with hidden interests. However, when all is said and done, Albert Brooks steals the show. He plays the role of an ex-producer turned murderous gangster as if he were waiting for this part all his life. In the movie's early sections, he displays hints of menace, along with the usual witty displays of Brooksian neurosis that is a hallmark of his own work. He makes this shady character likable, believable, and very dangerous, up until-and way past---the moment when he uses his fork for something other than to twirl spaghetti.

Vengeance is Beautiful, says the ad for Colombiana,  and this isn’t false advertising, especially as embodied by Zoe Saldana as a lovely assassin who wants to kill the men who murdered her parents in Colombia.

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