Live In Concert (Blu-Ray) – Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Live In Concert sees Petty and Co.’s 2003 Sound Stage show touched up and reissued on DVD and Blu-Ray. Recorded after his induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002, this features tracks from across Tom Petty’s career including his stint in the ‘supergroup’ The Travelling Wilburys alongside some hand-picked American Roots classics.
Petty is backed by his band of Heartbreakers whose current line-up includes original members Ron Blair and Benmont Tench. More than just making up the numbers are Mike Campbell, Scott Thurston and the ever reliable Steve Ferrone on drums, musical veterans one and all who radiate a palpable air of confidence throughout .
Petty himself cuts a surprisingly relaxed and laid back band leader, notoriously prickly, he seems quite at ease throughout and whilst between song banter is kept sparse, his playing more than makes up for any lack of communication. The set list is an eclectic mix of Petty originals and covers and serves as a perfect balance between his own output and tributes to those that have influenced his career.
Amongst the many highlights is a sublimely beautiful rendition of Crawling Back To You makes this set worth buying on its own. Rarely played live, it is taken from 1994’s Wildflowers and is one of my personal favourite Petty tracks.
A great run through of Willie Dixon’s Little Red Rooster nestles comfortably amongst the Petty originals, I Won’t Back Down and Refugee represent the more well-known side of Petty’s releases and still sound every inch the classic today.
Finishing with another Wildflowers’ number, You Wreck Me, Live In Concert may be light on theatrics or stage sets but it more than makes up for this with the sheer captivating power of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers performance.
The blu-ray/DVD is sadly lacking any kind of bonus material, no interviews or out-takes are included which is a shame as it would have been interesting to get some input from the band about the show. This however is a small gripe as the quality of picture, sound and show itself are fantastic and it is the perfect introduction to Tom Petty’s work as well as being essential viewing for existing fans.
To find out more visit the Tom Petty website HERE.
American Pie 4 Reunion – Cinema Review
The success of American Pie: Reunion will depend largely on your age and how fondly you remember the first three films (ignore the other cash-ins), essentially it is a trip down memory lane, for both audience and cast alike.
Returning for their 13th anniversary school reunion, the whole Ameican Pie crew are back, older but not much wiser. Marriage is taking its toll on Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), parenthood has put the dampeners on their sex life and finding the odd moment to ‘please themselves’ is the best they can hope for. This does lead to the now obligatory and excruciating (in more ways than one) pre-credit masturbating scene.
Oz (Chris Klein) is a sports reporter and minor celebratory with a model girlfriend but far from model life and is conflicted at seeing Heather (Mena Suvari) again. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is happily married but still harbours feelings for first love Vicky (Tara Reid) whilst Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) appears to have become the nomadic jet-setter he always wanted to be. Of course there is no American Pie without Stifler (Sean William Scott) and there is plenty of Stifler to go around, every bit as loud and obnoxious as ever but equally as funny. This probably works best when he ‘mentors’ Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy). When I say ‘mentor’ I of course mean, gets him drunk and sends him looking for ‘Vag’.
The majority of the film is spent lamenting on the passage of time and how things have changed ‘since they were young’ whilst lusting after jail bait in bikinis. Both Heather and Vicky seem to have been forgotten in the plot and neither get much to do other than look slightly forlorn and/or lovestruck, only Michelle gets anything resembling character development.
The laugh out loud moments are still present but the gross out factor has been lost over the years, once you’ve shagged a pie it is hard to top it. There is a chance for some justice to be dished out to one of the characters though, I will not give it away but rest assured an old score is settled. ‘Laid’ to rest shall we say?
There is still plenty of fun to be had, there may not be as many shocks as there were in the originals but as with the characters, time has passed by and things are different now. The joy of spending another couple of hours in the company of old friends is enough to make this well worth going to see. However, just like the school reunion itself, there is fun to be had with nostalgia and catching up with past acquaintances but somehow it is never the same as the first time around.
Jules says… 3.5/5
Safe – cinema review
Some films try to push the boundaries of story and visuals, break the mould, tread new ground… Others, don’t. Safe falls squarely into the latter category but does it with aplomb. This is down largely to the gnarly presence of bone fide hard man Jason Statham, a man so gruff he should be sponsored by lemsip.
Introduced as the ‘garbage collector’ it soon becomes clear his skills extend to much more than lugging around trash cans, in fact it soon becomes apparent he never worked for the refuse department at all. This is a lesson that an almost endless stream of Russian mobsters, dirty cops and Chinese Triad types learn, in a variety of bone crunching ways.
Having inadvertently put a cage fighting opponent into a coma, rather than losing the fight as he was supposed to do, Statham finds himself in the Russian mob’s bad books. This leads to them killing his wife and promising to murder anyone he so much as talks to in the future as way of retribution. However, a chance meeting with child maths prodigy Mei in a New York subway and his will to live is suddenly reignited and this spells bad news for, well, everyone.
Cue car chases, gun battles, close quarter bust ups and some nifty set pieces and you have a testosterone drenched, old skool actioner. As Statham races around New York getting ever closer to the titular Safe and playing each side against each other, the stakes are raised and the treachery gradually makes its way, inevitably to the highest levels. The end draws together all the strands and the final face off works well enough.
So in closing, Safe is an apt title, this hardly pushes the envelope but is solid stuff and Statham is one of the best tough guys around. The action sequences are handled with calculated precision by director Boaz Yakin and you get a curious sense of satisfaction from Statham breaking faces. Throw away fun.
Jules says… 3/5
Avengers Assemble – Cinema Review
Few films come with such a weight of expectation, the Avengers is not just a comic book movie, it has the potential to be THE definitive comic book movie to date. Never before have so many high profile characters (and indeed actors) been Assembled (natch) for a project as ambitious, and likely to fail, as this.
Bringing together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk was a risky, albeit inevitable move given the success their individual franchises have achieved… well, scrap The Hulk. Whilst welcomed by fandom you can sense that although one hand is outstretched in friendship, the other hides a knife ready to plunge it into the back of the director should he tarnish the graphic novel heritage. In this case however, as established in my last review of one of his films (The Cabin In The Woods), Joss Whedon, King amongst geeks, is the director tasked with the seemingly impossible.
Avengers Assemble is virtually flawless, faithful to the source; action packed and at times laugh out loud funny. Jeremy Renner continues to impress and his action hero credentials are certainly boosted with his portrayal of Hawkeye, this all bodes well for when he picks up the Bourne franchise. Scarlet Johanson adds an icy chill to Black Widow, her introduction alone is worth the ticket price. More astounding than all of that though, Mark Ruffalo cuts a convincing Bruce Banner and The Hulk is actually fantastic. Who’d have thought.
As with the birth of any new series there comes the inevitable exposition, add to this the need for a mini ‘catch-up’ on the back story for each of the main Avengers and the beginning could easily have dragged. This is a landmine that Whedon dodges, getting the balance between action and explanation pretty much spot on and allowing the plot to develop alongside ‘who they?’ reminders.
Baddie and brother of Thor (or half-brother as is amusingly pointed out) Loki returns to wreak havoc on earth but this time he has buddied up with some other worldly types. Throw in the ‘Tesseract’, a source of potentially infinite power and such is the threat, one superhero is just not enough. Up steps Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, head honcho of S.H.I.E.L.D and the brains behind the Avengers, to save the World.
As much fun can be had from the clash of egos as any of the spandex stretching set pieces, be it Thor squaring up to Iron Man or Captain America facing off against… er, Iron Man, there could be a theme here, the alliance is an uneasy one and the nuances of each member of the team is played out to perfection. To give away too much more about the plot is to ruin the ride and believe me, it is a thrill a minute.
With an ending that not so much hints at, but rather slaps you in the face with the prospect of the (already Green lit) Avengers 2 the appetite for the next chapter is most definitely whet. Not forgetting the confirmed Iron Man 3, Captain America 2 and Thor 2 follow ups and on the strength of this, The Hulk, Hawkeye and probably Black Widow spin offs too, DC have a long way to go to catch up with Marvel in the superhero stakes. The final Nolan Batman notwithstanding, DC must be donning an extra pair of underpants over their hero tights as they build up to their all-important Superman reboot next year.
Jules says… 5/5
The Cabin In The Woods – cinema review
I was already looking forward to being swept away by The Cabin In The Woods, the trailer gave away all and nothing in one go and with Joss Whedon attached and Chris Hemsworth starring, the bar of expectation was set high. Couple this with the fact we had snuck our own drinks into the cinema and the thrill of living life on the edge had the heart racing before the credits rolled.
If I am a fanboy then it is fair to say that Whedon is my King, a mantle he proudly wears throughout TCITW with reference after reference to any number of cult classic horror franchises (Evil Dead, Hellraiser, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the list goes on) but done in style and delivered with tongue in cheek panache.
To reveal too much of the plot is to ruin the ride and unlike so many horror movies, the plot is key to the success of the film, there actually is one and thanks to the spot on casting, it works well. What you think is going to happen and what actually does take place are two very different things, the hints in the trailer, for once, do not reveal all.
Playing with the horror stereotypes (jock, virgin, stoner etc) and serving up a perfect balance between comedy and shocks, it is no exaggeration to say that TCITW has the potential to be a horror game changer in the same way The Blair Witch Project or Scream were in their day.
I want to tell you more, in fact I want to talk about this film continuously, I loved it that much! However, until you have seen it for yourself it is only going to undermine the thrill of seeing it for yourselves. So hurry up, finish what you are doing and get down to your local multiplex to check it out. Then come back to me and we can talk.
Jules says… 5/5
BRAQUO Out on Blu Ray and DVD on April 30
Just when I was anticipating a heavy duty cluck coming off my fix of Euro-Crime as BBC 4′s retro Sicilian Sleuth Sizzler Montabano came to end-lawdf have mercy-Season One of Francais latest Crime Epique came a tumblin’ through my letter box. I have just finished watching the last episode (and I might as well tell you now that it ends on a cliffhanger!) and before I immerse myself into the first two episodes of The Bridge, I need time to catch my breath and tell you Believe The Hype!
Looking at the trailers I was expecting a Franco version of The Shield (which I have to admit I avoided as a) it doesn’t have subtitles b) it isn’t set in Baltimore c) it doesn’t star James Gandolfini) Rogue Cop having a meltdown/midlife crisis etc. But no, as expected this follows the tradition of the Gallic Cop Thrillers which means there’s violence, corruption and a bit of the old ooh la la! The story revolves around four police officers of the SDPJ Hauts-de-Seine, Eddie Caplan, Walter Morlighem, Theo Wachevski and Roxane Delgado who set out to prove the innocence of their boss Max, who (without giving too much away) tops himself when wrongly accused of corruption. Oh sure his interrogation techniques (as demonstrated with a drug addled rapist) wouldn’t pass health and safety guidlines but it soon becomes apparent that these guys have to deal with the sub scum and therefore contstanty blur the lines of what is known as kosher.
Although the main characters are solid and defined, it’s the supporting cast that take this series to a whole new level. Take Roland Vogel the internal investigator who looks like a weasle-like version of Andy Warhol and is more immoral than any criminal lowlife in the gutters of Paris. Or howabout retiring boss who initially comes across like a downtrodden subversive but turns out to be a much tougher proposition than one would have imagined. And ofcourse there’s the supervillan-Serge Lemoine-who looks like a compressed version of Shaun Ryder and is without a doubt the star of the show. I would love to tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Just expect a white knuckle, adrenaline ride through the sleazier, darker alleys of the Chant Elysee’s as each episode leaves you breathless and gagging for more. This is Cop drama at its best. It’s The Sweeny with added garlic. Fermez La Bouche, my son.
PS-While Season Two has already started on FX, there is already talks of a Season Three. You have been warned!
Pete says… 5/5
Wrath Of The Titans – cinema review
Let me just set the scene for you a little so you can appreciate my mood before enduring Wrath Of The Titans. Not only did I enter the cinema with a beer and bag of peanut M&Ms but the ticket stub, presumably due to a lack of characters rather than some kind of premonition, actually read ‘Wrath Of The Tit’. Throw in the 3D trailers of both Avengers Assemble AND Prometheus and as good moods go, I was in one. This disposition is sorely tested over the course of the next 100 mins or so.
I am not sure why I should bother spending any time with talking about the plot or characters, the director clearly had little interest in such trifling matters. The Gods are losing their powers as people don’t believe in them anyone, how apt, the upshot of this is things are going to get pretty bad for us mortals…. Although halfway through watching this I would gladly take my chances.
Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes really should know better, one can only presume their contract was so water tight that only a lawsuit would get them out of having to be in the sequel….. but Sam Worthington is devoid of any charm, only marginally less wooden than the dagger his son presents him with early on in the film. In fact, this is the major problem with ‘Wrath Of The Titans’, for a film full of monsters and mythical creatures, how can it be so little fun?!
On the plus side the 3D is relatively good and the effects deserved a better film and….. no, that’s it I’m done. Congratulations, you took a bad film (Clash Of The Titans) and made it worse.
Jules says…. 1.5/5
The Thing (2011) – Blu-Ray Review
I assume that the weight of expectation surrounding the release of The Thing is partly to blame for the reason no one wants to say ‘prequel’. But prequel it is, in fact there are many geek friendly nods to the first movie including the all-important ending. This is not ruining anything, if like me you LOVE John Carpenter’s The Thing then there are certain boxes you need the prequel to check. If you have not seen the 1982 version it will mean nothing to you anyway.
The reason that Carpenter’s Thing worked so well was down to two main factors, the (at the time) horrific special effects, all pre-CGI and gloriously effective but also down to the oppressive claustrophobic tone. The paranoia spreads fast, not just with those on screen but with us, the audience, the terror comes from not knowing who is real and who is an ‘imitation’. OK, we could go deeper and compare the paranoia to that of America in the 1980s with the threat of the Cold War ever present… but let’s face it; most of us just watch the film for a fright.
The 1982 Thing also sets up the premise and in actual fact, the conclusion, for this prequel and to stay faithful to the original we head into The Thing (2) with a sense of knowing and therefore expectation of the path it should take. So with this in mind, how do you deliver any surprises when so many questions have already been answered before shooting has even begun?
The answer is simple, stick close to the narrative of the first movie and make ‘The Thing’ bigger and more grotesque than before. Starting with the discovery of the creature trapped in the huge block of ice (as seen in the Carpenter version) the set-up is kept brief so we can get straight to the action.
The introduction of a feisty female lead, palaeontologist Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is for more than just eye candy or a clumsy romantic sub-plot. Despite her initial fear of the situation she soon takes charge and although much of her time is spent looking shocked or scared, she handles the role well and is almost capable of stepping into MacReady’s large snow boots. Almost.
Clearly director Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr. approached this project with care, although The Thing is in part CGI there are still enough physical effects to keep the die hards happy. So far, so good.
The final act is perhaps a little too ambitious and in stark contrast to the restrained ending of the Carpenter entry, you also get the feeling it is allowing the door to stay open for a third act.
Overall though, considering how loved the John Carpenter film is, The Thing 2011 stands its ground amicably well. The cast are believable, the little details are there for the aficionado to pick up on and the terror of a shapeshifting alien is still as powerful in 2012 as it was in 1982. Credit where credit is due, The Thing is a worthy addition to both the horror genre and more importantly, the original’s legacy.
Jules says…. 3.5/5
The Woman In Black – in cinemas now
Regardless of what follows in this review it should be noted from the word go, this should not be a 12A. I can only assume that the current batch of certificators… is that a word? REALLY hate kids. Whilst I have no qualms that children are on the whole annoying, subjecting them to the frights of The Woman In Black seems harsh for even the most ardent ASBO sprog.
Back to the film however and as a grown up (of sorts) how scary actually is The Woman In Black… well this will probably depend on how many horror films you have watched in your life. For me, horror was a staple part of my movie diet as I grew up so the ‘bangs and crashes’ approach adopted for much of the film is a little wasted on me. The film is shot beautifully and the house itself is the picture of quiet malevolence meaning that many of the chills come from the look of the movie rather than any actual frightening event.
The casting is solid, although it does not seem possible that Harry Potter is old enough to have a child, I guess it wasn’t just quidditch he was up to at Hogwarts afterall. I have many more ‘magic wand’ jokes but I’ll leave it there. In fairness Daniel Radcliffe is pretty good, he does a great line in ‘pensive’ looks but his insistence on going TOWARDS the mysterious noises rather than running away screaming like a little girl is often perplexing, but this is a very classic kind of horror and that is just what happens in a good old fashioned ghost yarn.
The story itself is a well told one, based on the 1983 novel, a tale which has already spawned a theatre production that has been running for two decades, although this movie adaption plays with the details and apart from the slightly too ‘nice’ ending, it doesn’t suffer from the meddling.
There are some fantastic set pieces, none of which I will ruin for you here and there are times where the ‘woman’ is suitably sinister, not dissimilar to that of a J-Horror baddies lurking in ‘The Grudge’ or ‘The Ring’
It is great to have the Hammer studios back and The Woman In Black is a fitting picture to herald their return, vintage chills in a very English manner. Just leave the kids at home.
Jules says…. 3.5/5
Tyrannosaur – Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD
Some films set out to be deliberately provocative, attempting to show the horror as much as possible and unsettle or upset the audience in a visceral manner. Other movies manage to unsettle with a lot less fanfare. These are the ones that stick with you and this is exactly what Tyrannosaur does.
First time director Paddy Considine has proved his skill behind the camera is equal to that in front and Tyrannosaur is a monstrous movie, if you will forgive the pun.
Olivia Colman is truly remarkable as the downtrodden but good hearted Hannah, whose chance encounter with the damaged Joseph becomes the catalyst for the unravelling of her less than perfect marriage to the utterly detestable James (Eddie Marsden).
Beauty is hard to find in any of the characters, not in the physical sense but of the soul, each one of them has an ugliness within they are struggling to contain, just some do it better than others. Yet, in spite of the fact that virtually our first encounter with Joseph is when he kicks his dog to death, you still feel sympathy, even empathy with him. Credit here has to be given to both the script and Peter Mullan’s harrowing portrayal, there is no single traumatic incident in his past to justify his actions, he is just an angry man and like us, the observer, he seems unaware of the source of his rage too.
What Tyrannosaur does almost pitch perfectly is make you feel. They are not always comfortable feelings, in fact a good majority of the time it is close to distressing, but so few films these days move you in the genuine way that Paddy Considine’s movie does.
If you are looking for Hollywood glitz then I suggest you move swiftly on, if however you want a movie of true substance, this is it. Truly wonderful.
Jules says…. 4.5/5