Hurricane Season (2009)

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I came across Hurricane Season by chance looking for some fresh basketball themed material. A solid cast headed by Forest Whitaker in the lead and with a unique premise; High school coach refuses to give up on his team after Hurricane Katrina decimates his community, uses the sport to unify it – it looked worth a shot. Of course, this is based on a true story and even though I’m sure some of the “facts” are tinkered slightly, it’s heart is certainly in the right place – some brief footage of the real coach and team before the closing credits is a nice touch too. The choice to show the characters significantly before the disaster (but not the hurricane itself) helps build a solid foundation that keeps you watching. That and Forest Whitaker.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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Despite it being 30 years since the release of Beyond Thunderdome – the third, mediocre instalment in the Mad Max saga, George Miller’s franchise remains iconic and still capable in 2015 of generating rabid passion, gigantic anticipation and millions of dollars from film geeks and action junkies alike. It’s ironic that the Tina Turner/Mel Gibson blockbuster was such a misfire because (not surprisingly) Fury Road does borrow a little from its predecessor, though more obviously from the ground breaking and inspiring chapter before that; The Road Warrior. But this is no reboot or remake and you’d be stretching to call it a sequel even.

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Chappie (2015)

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Unfortunately, Chappie will never earn a decent amount of supporters. It is far from a disaster, but it drops the ball too often with brushed over techie plot holes, failed tonal shifts, being too light handed with its social commentary and most unfortunate of all, it kind of fails at moving us and at the end of the day, this is what it wants to achieve the most. It is not totally devoid of emotion or message, but for “serious” film watchers, it will never be embraced because of these short comings. Short comings that seem to plague director Neil Blomkamp with each film. Chappie is simply another version of Robocop, Short Circuit or District 9. It has humour, violence, a trainload of f-bombs and some nice ideas about artificial intelligence, but ultimately it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table besides its superb computer animation.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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I’ll just get it out of the way and say that if you grew up as a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you probably should indulge this film at least once. If you’re a film fan who didn’t, it is pretty average to poor and offers little, even for a summer blockbuster. This has Michael Bay-isms all through it (banal scripting, video-game sheen, blatant sexism and product placement – the movie is basically a Pizza Hut ad at times) and even if he didn’t direct it, he might as well have. And, if you’re a kid (specifically a boy aged 10-15), you should definitely lap this cgi-fest up just as Bay planned. If you fall into neither of those categories, there is no reason what so ever to watch this movie even in the context of a kids/family action film.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Captain America: The First Avenger was pretty low key. A little bit twee and humorous as well as largely harmless. At least Chris Evans (as with Rob Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth), proved a great casting choice for Marvel Studio’s juggernaut of heroes brought to life on the big screen. The thing was though, compared to the booming Iron Man films, the mega-popular Thor and the super hero blockbuster to end all blockbusters; The Avengers, Captain America’s origin movie was mainly uneventful, even for a “Phase 1” flick. But you can’t exactly make such a character that glamorous anyway can you? I enjoyed it and while it was admirable in forging its own vibe (that of a glossy WW2 matinee), it ultimately seemed plodding and lacking purpose. Ironic, considering it sets up a lot of the ground floor elements for the entire Avengers universe.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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With X3 being a total missed opportunity and First Class an ok to mediocre prequel/reboot effort, Days of Future Past is a vast improvement over the last two instalments, but then when Marvel reinstated director Bryan Singer – the man whom instigated quality and respect for the franchise in the first place, that was always going to be the case. It’s not a total celebration though of course.

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The Captain’s Ten: Albums of 2013

In 2013, I only heard about 11 or 12 new releases (not counting scores or soundtracks) and of them I put 10 in some sort of order of favourite/most listened/most impressive here. The amount of albums I wanted to, but never got around to listening is inexcusably high. 2013 was a great year in music, but I feel I will be spending the next twelve months catching up on it…

10. Alice in Chains – The Devil put Dinosaurs Here

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When AiC returned in 2009 with Black Gives Way to Blue – their first album after the death of lead singer Layne Staley, fans rejoiced at the band retaining to their trademark sound and ferocity and the album was a true return to form in many ways. The follow-up doesn’t quite capture the same exuberance or intensity for my money, though amongst the displays of the band perhaps going through the motions slightly, some genuine new AiC brilliance was put down on tracks such as , ‘Pretty Done’, ‘Stone’ and ‘Lab Monkey’. It’s the band sounding as ever like their incarnation of the heyday, so there is little to not admire overall.

9. Kvelertak – Meir

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The most eclectic and interesting band in metal right now is Norway’s Kvelertak. After a debut that sent heads collectively spinning and banging, the band dropped the ominous second release to a much similar response; but without question, there was evolve and confidence in their new sound and production worthy of nodding approval. Capitalizing on their amazing ability to blend rock and metal – all the while wailing in their native tongue, allows the music to break through barriers. On Meir, you get punk, black metal, even glam and would you believe it, riffs that sound like Keith Richards came and helped out in the studio on some sessions. Melding the extreme and the classic here, though not really as innovative as the first record, Kvelertak offer a second reason to be lauded.

8. Clutch – Earth Rocker

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To call a band like Clutch consistent, would be about as far as an understatement as you could imagine. Over the past twenty years they have not released a single “bad” album and have forever been labelled as an influence or genre defining by many – though ironically, their eclectic blend of blues, rock and metal all the while channeling bands from Faith No More to CCR defies genre most of the time. They are pretty much on ALL the time, so when Earth Rocker dropped, it’s probably understandable that some fans were left a little cold and disappointed. Why? because the band is in no mood for overly intricate here; Rocker is just that; a straight rocker that will blow your head back to the point of multiple listens need to be spread apart – it’s 11 tracks of ferocity (with a quiet interlude on ‘Gone Cold’) with that typical Clutch “no bullshit” attitude. It’s the rawness and simplicity that may surprise most.

7. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law

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Joy Fomidable’s debut, The Big Roar, was a long time coming (from a band already known to locals and peers alike) and didn’t disappoint. The follow-up furthers their intention of becoming the best thing about indie rock. Though not as innovative as the debut, Law sees the band mature and progress without compromise. The soaring vocal gymnastics of pint-sized leading lady, Ritzy Bryan cannot be denied and if the threesome continues on this path, awesome music will always follow.

6. Ministry – From Beer to Eternity

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After the loss of Paul Barker in 2003, Ministry’s output has been up and down to say the least. As yet (another) final epitaph for the band and his good friend and main collaborator over the last five odd years, Mike Sccacia, legendary frontman Al Jorgenson was finally able to put it altogether in just the right way delivering a record long-standing (or suffering – depends how you look at it) fans a final, exceptional goodbye. Although not a perfect album, the inclusion of production and attitudes reminiscent of past classics, Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste and Land of Rape and Honey, elevates FBTE to an addictive industrial dub stew that finally sounds totally unique to the band once again. Too bad he had to leave it so late.

5. Yuck – Glow and Behold

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Losing your driving force frontman has got to be tough. Yuck did, with Daniel Blumberg moving on to pursue a solo career. This left the remaining three members to stick it out and take control of the songwriting. Is it as dynamic or fresh as the warm and addictive debut? Not quite, but so much remains that is fun and just perfect sounding that the notion of these guys not just recreating an era of alternative music, but living it, is hard to ignore. Fans of the first will be happy, but new fans should be expected as post-rock and occasional pop ditties are all displayed in (new) frontman’s Max Bloom repertoire amongst the typical showgaze grind and acoustic fuzz come to be expected by Yuck.

4. Childish Gambino – because the internet

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Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) is unique to the world or “urban” music in that he will appeal to both the mainstream and the underground – and has done for several years now. The likes of Kayne West or Jay-Z could be said fill this void also, but there is something about Gambino’s swagger coupled with his ability to combine Busta Rhymes (as well as Q-Tip and Missy Elliot) type flow and goose bump inducing R&B coolness that transcends even those guys. Not content with producing easy on the ear song structures either, Gambino is at his best when at his most varied and eclectic – because the internet is him putting himself on a big stage and luckily for us, he has brought all those unique eccentricities with him, cementing his place as arguably the most interesting artist that falls under that urban blanket genre.

3. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

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Another band that over their two and a half decade career has remained consistent for my money, Pearl Jam’s last few records have however not really contained the spark that infused them with the energy and intensity that defined their sound for most of those years – Backspacer in particular, while consistent, especially. The release of Lightning Bolt shows the band once again back at full strength and retain that spirit which is why it got so much rotation from me this year more than most of my top ten. From the production to the passion clearly exhibited on it, Bolt could easily sit somewhere amongst Vitalogy and Yield – the band arguably at its peak. From soaring quieter numbers to (unfortunately only a few) door slamming rockers, this is the band and Vedder sounding with their hearts and minds at a level not heard in years.

2. Haim – Days Are Gone

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Pop music is an acquired taste. Sometimes it’s too cute. Sometimes it blends genres, watering them down to the point of nauseum, but the best of it (and the people behind it) know when to draw lines and create what by definition is “pop” music, but remain devastatingly unique to their influences – making it impossible to ignore regardless of your preferred genre. The three California sisters that make up Haim’s songwriting collective achieve just that with their debut. Ultra addictive 80’s flavoured/90’s styled melodies and just a how-can-you-not-love-them persona make these girls the future of that pop music. An all killer/no filler debut, which is what Days Are Gone is, will only help that cause.

1. QOTSA – …like clockwork

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Not everybody appreciates Josh Homme. For whatever reason; whether it be his cocky attitude or his defiance against reproducing himself and make the same first three QOTSA albums over and over again (alienating many early fans), just not everybody is on board to embrace him; a guy potentially the most interesting songwriter in rock for the last two decades. Of course, those that DO, know too well Josh is king and after a seven-year wait between drinks for his primary band (in the middle releasing a jaw dropping ahead-of-its-time ditty called Them Crooked Vultures), he didn’t disappoint. Re-inventing himself yet again stylistically, …Like Clockwork was everything QOTSA defined as well as being a departure from the previous two (poles apart) albums by a long margin. Quite simply, it is a flawless collection of modern rock blending genres and styles so seamlessly, it feels like a brand new sound altogether. Only time will tell if this will indeed be QOTSA in their finest hour, but when you hear tracks such as ‘I Appear Missing’ and ‘Kalopsia’, it’s hard to argue in 2013.