‘The Double’: Film Review

 

Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James and James Simon

 

Billed as a black comedy, The Double is more a poignant drama about isolationism, suicide and identity. Most interestingly it is, to me at least, a modern take on classic German expressionism in films. Yes, Jesse Eisenberg is very good here, his physicality giving his two roles clear distinctions and Mia Wasikowska is quirky without being annoying but the real star is director Richard Ayoade, surely an auteur in the making. From the visual style to sound design, everything is so precise. The world is an amalgamation of eras; everything looks 1950’s or earlier, with crude computers and a wonderfully cheesy sci-fi show backed by 70’s synthesisers (and a Paddy Considine cameo!) blended in.The apartments and offices look like underground WWII bunkers or prisons; bleak and claustrophobic. Similar to the way characters move, there is a strange rhythm to the score, which plays more like a soundscape than anything else – there is a regular, soft wailing sound underscoring scenes set in the apartment blocks, as if someone is injured and pitifully wailing for help in the distance.

I could really go on about all the little touches in this film but there are really so many it would take forever to list and be a discredit to a film you are best off seeing for yourself. Despite what listings tell you the genre is The Double can be uncomfortable viewing but, if you are interested in the art of cinema or Richard Ayoade‘s blossoming directorial career, you will find much to enjoy here.

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Review

If Captain America: The First Avenger was a simple, wholesome 40’s war movie with wholesome Americans punching Nazis fun, The Winter Soldier is a modern thriller, complete with all the car chases, trust issues, and characters seemingly in peril whipping out a well concealed gun at the last second. All of these genres staples are in full effect here and mostly, very well done: the grey morality is particularly well handled, with Cap having to understand that’s how the world is nowadays. What’s not so well done is the bad guys overall plot: it just seems too ‘big’, not just for a thriller but in that it seems to what to top Avengers when these solo films should be smaller and more personal in my opinion (Thor and Iron Man can perhaps get away easier with a big spectacle finale with one being an all powerful God and the other being well… Iron Man). The titular Winter Soldier doesn’t get that much to do at all; that whole subplot is a bit predictable, underdeveloped and left open when you’d think it should be wrapped up, given the subtitle. There are enough plot threads running in the MCU at is it, with Guardians, Thor 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Cap 2 is less a standalone film and more a tease for the characters third solo entry. Which leads back to a positive point. Yes, its billed as a Captain America film but there is a lot of screentime dedicated to Black Window, instantly likeable newbie The Falcon, and Nick Fury. This is a good thing, as Chris Evans’ hero works best bouncing off other characters. I just wish a lot more of that character interaction was with the other titular character, as this really could’ve heightened to emotion to same levels as action and intrigue to make a really strong film, compared to a pretty good one.

 

 

Do you have a minute to talk about pop’s saviour Lily Allen?

So on Monday (March 10th) My 2nd Favourite Popstar Ever Lily Allen debuted a new song and video from her third album, wonderfully titled ‘Sheezus’. Here it is:

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Now, its safe to say reaction to this song and, as a result, the whole ‘Sheezus’ ‘era’ has been mixed. The press were quick to pick up on a (now deleted) reply Lily made to someone’s tweet on Twitter (the best place to make a tweet really) that went like this:

RJwilding: “@lilyallen’s new music is actually docile pop rubbish. So disappointing. She properly just wrote some rubbish to cash some cheques.”

Lily: “@RJwilding what you’ve heard so far yes. All i can do is do my best, the labels and the radio stations won’t play the better stuff. keep the faith.”

That’s a fair few elephants in the room. Whilst I guess its refreshing to be honest (which is what I love Lily for) its sad to see her admit that songs like ‘Our Time’ and Air Balloon‘ are “docile pop rubbish”. Labels aren’t always the best at picking singles (I’m still gutted Gaga’s ScheiBe‘ never got a single release) but for an artist to admit they are unhappy with those choices before the album is even out is pretty major. Especially when that artist is Lily Allen, who you’d think was too outspoken to be forced into releasing songs she doesn’t want or pander to mainstream radio. ‘Air Balloon’ got a lot of flak for that very reason, from people like Mr. Wilding.  I myself wrote about it before I said I enjoyed its carefree nature but it was more of a B-side standard. Since then I’ve not been able to get it out of my brain and I actually think its worthwhile as a single. The labels plan worked, as the song has had strong radio airplay and charted this week at #7, better than Hard Out Here’ did last year. Personally, I think people are expecting every single song by Lily to have some sort of social commentary, and if that’s your beef you probably won’t enjoy this new one either.

Just a catchy song to show a different side to Lily Allen, or a soulless product designed to get an easy chart hit?

Lyrically, ‘Our Time’ is about a typical pop topic (a popic, if you like): a night out. But rather than being a generic full-on club banger, this is a more chilled tune with lyrics more down-to-Earth than throwing your cash in the air and getting with every single lady you see. And that’s refreshing. Groundbreaking? Not at all. Social commentary? Not really. Does that make it “docile pop rubbish”? I don’t think so. There’s always room for songs about nothing in particular but just lift you up and make you feel good. If every song I listened to was deadly serious I’d be pretty depressed (and/or a Coldplay fan). That’s why I love Kylie MinogueIf I’ve had a stressy day at work or one of life’s little things gets me down, it’s songs like Love at First Sight‘, ‘Lola’s Theme‘, ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and even ‘Air Balloon’ that cheer me up. So don’t hate on Lily Allen because not every new song is another The Fear‘ , ‘F** You‘ or Kabul Shit‘. 

Seriously, go buy this now.

Writing that last sentence has kind of put things into perspective a little bit. Perhaps the reason a lot of us are disappointed with the songs from ‘Sheezus’ so far is because every song from ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ was so, so good. As in, my favourite album of all time good. Apart from maybe ‘Hard Out Here’, everything from this campaign sounds like a sequel to Lily’s 2006 debut, ‘Alright, Still’. And once again, that’s fine. Although we are promised the ‘better stuff’ is on the album, I’m not expecting it to beat her sophomore effort. If it does, I will be more than pleasantly surprised. If not, I will still have another album of great pop music made by a great popstar. I can’t wait.

If nothing else, this album ‘era’ has given us these two gems and that’s better than what your favourite could ever pull off:

Lily Allen Baggy Pussy

How all nights out in Britain end, fighting with a hot dog

How all nights out in Britain end, fighting with a hot dog

#KEEPTHEFAITH

Some new songs that came out in (or around) February

Usually on my music write-ups I gush about pop music by artists that aren’t exactly mainstream, and no one really pays attention to me. So in a blatant attempt to get some views (and for people to read about an artist I really, really like) I’m going to also review two songs by people whose music I always hear ‘in the club’…

First up, Ludacris ‘Party Girls’ (feat. Wiz Khalifa, Jeremih and Cashmere Cat)

Ludacris is really popular, right? I mean, I liked his song ‘Rollout’ when I was like, twelve and didn’t know better. His bit is the only non-chorus bit of Usher’s ‘Yeah’ that people attempt to sing/rap along to and he’s obviously on Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’. He’s also roped in the guy who did that ‘Birthday Sex’ song, some dude I’ve never heard of but I assume is popular amongst hip-hop fans and the chap from ‘Payphone’ and the song where T-Pain ruins one of my favourite Lily Allen tracks. If that’s not going to get me tons of views nothing will! So onto the song itself…

Oh dear. I imagine Ludacris think he’s being really edgy and cool by sampling Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ here. Sure, rappers like Flo-Rida have been taking cheesy Eurodance songs and turning them into anthems about having lots of sex with sexy ladies for a while now, but to go further than any rapper has before and interpolate THAT song is pretty courageous, right?

No. In fact, its about as boring as going to Subway and buying just ham on plain Italian. Onto the next one

Jason Derulo – ‘Stupid Love’

About as boring as going to Subway and just having bread.

Well, if you came here for Ludacris and Derulo then please stay for five more minutes and listen to this song by one of my favourites artists. She’s been an internet favourite for a few years now, hopefully moving into up-and-coming success in the mainstream territory. This is Florrie…

Florrie – ‘Seashells’

With Girls Aloud breaking up almost a year ago to the day, the Gossip album being a major mixed bag and the whole Amelia Lily debacle, I was thinking this was the end for Xenomania – my favourite pop makers of all time. Luckily, Florrie was there with my second favourite song of last year ‘Live a Little’ keeping my faith alive. Despite finally signing to a label, this singer-drummer-model-fireman combo hasn’t ditched team X to work with the current big names that everyone else is. And despite the songs Brian Higgins and co have put out over the last 2 years nearly all being firmly in the electronic category, ‘Seashells’ instantly hits you with some Asian-sounding production. This is typically Florrie and Xenomania in that it ignores typical verse-chorus song but is made up of nonsensical playground style chants that earworm into your brain. It’s not the most immediate song on first listen, nor does it seem to compare to earlier Florrie songs like ‘Call of the Wild‘ or ‘Every Inch’, but if your curiosity takes you back for further listens, it really grows on you.

The video suits the song too, its not really about anything but its got the chilled aura to it. The Instagram effects coupled with Florrie’s relative unknown status make this pretty hipster friendly but she really is worth getting into, and not just to have an unknown popstar to brag about liking but because her music is really damn good.

(and she’s not actually a fireman)

Why I’m Not Going Next-Gen For A While

Recently I’ve started blogging on IGN.com, a famous video games, film and TV website I particularly adore. My first post on there was a general ‘about me’ thing so I decided it wasn’t really worth re-posting on here. I’ve just published another post on there I’m going to link to here, and I’ll do the same for anything I publish on there about video games.

My music posts will be published here, and linked to from IGN whilst posts about films or TV shows I’m not sure which way around I’ll do it. WordPress is such a larger site with a huge range of topics covered in blogs its hard to get traffic for the kind of things I write about, whereas on IGN everyone is on there to read about the same things.

Anyway, here is the link to my latest IGN Blog; Why I’m Not Going Next-Gen For A While

http://www.ign.com/blogs/joendm/2014/02/07/why-im-not-going-next-gen-for-a-while

Three New Songs By Three Really Good Female Popstars

No opening paragraph today, just going to get right to the good stuff.

Stine Bramsen – Prototypical

If you don’t recognise this lady, or her voice, then you need to go and have an Alphabeat session right now. Both their first two albums were 50% rubbish and 50% beyond incredible. They had a great run of singles too – ‘Fascination’, ‘10,000 Nights (of Thunder)’, ‘Boyfriend’, ‘Hole in my Heart’ and ‘DJ’ (well, this remix anyway) being my favourites. They had a third album too but I really didn’t pay attention to that, it’s not anything special apparently.

Now Stine is going solo whilst the band is taking a break and after featuring on the incredible ‘I Want You’ in 2011, Bramsen is back with the ‘Prototypical’. I’ve embedded the live session version above and it’s my favourite, but the actual version is worth listening to as well.

Lily Allen – Air Balloon

After making her return late last year with The Annual John Lewis Christmas Song and the fantastically sharp-tongued ‘Hard Out Here’ Lily Allen is releasing her second single from her long-awaited, still untitled third album. It’s catchy, combining modern beats with playground melodies and cute lyrics about Elvis getting to first base before Kurt Cobain. It’s good, but in a B-Side-That’s-Not-As-Good-As-Any-Of-Her-2nd-Album*-Era-B-Sides way. Let’s just hope the video takes the day-dreamy feel of the song and elevates it (pun intended) to something worthy of a single from my 2nd favourite popstar ever.

*That 2nd Album is called It’s Not Me, It’s You and its my favourite album of all time. Every song is perfect. Buy it. Now.

Kylie Minogue – Into The Blue

Into The Blue

http://a.tumblr.com/tumblr_mznojei9I31qjdybto1.mp3#_=_

(In lieu of any sort of video, here is the single cover and a link.)

Thanks to some naughty internet people leaking things they shouldn’t, we get new songs from 2nd and 1st favourite Popstars in one week. January blues? Not this year!

I only heard this for the first time last night and didn’t really like it, but at that point I had been awake for 20 hours and you could’ve given me a million pounds and I would’ve grumbled it wasn’t 2 million. Now I’ve had some sleep and given this tune a proper whirl I’m ready to give my (still mixed) opinion. It’s not as an Americanised as I’d feared from Kylie‘s deal with Roc Nation (Jay-Z‘s label) but the ‘E-yo-oh-oh-oh’ hook is the basic sounding thing you’d find on a Flo-Rida song and why sing ‘Don’t need no miracle’ rather than ‘Don’t need a miracle’? Just generally unnecessary.

Also, the production on the chorus is a bit too ‘hard’ and contrasts with the feeling but the verses sound divine as expected from the Goddess of Pop herself. To be honest, it’s Kylie and it’s hard to dislike because she delivers warmth and happy fuzzy feelings in spades. I can’t wait for her debut performance on The Voice (where she is instantly the best judge, obviously) and studio album number 12.

That’s it from me today, peace out!

Happy 5th Birthday The Loving Kind/Memory Of You

It’s been a while. I know I shouldn’t have kept you waiting. But I’m here now.

I do love a good musical reference, if you know the song you get a bonus cookie to go along with the humble pie I have here. It’s been two months since I last updated and I’m not trying to make excuses but going from working on average 17 hours a week to 40+ hours has taken its toll – not to mention Christmas and work experience (full post on that soon, promise!) taking up what free time I have. Anyway, it’s Saturday night and I’m here eating sweets and drinking Fizzy Tooth Rot Max, what better time to talk about the sugary sparkling goodness that is pop music.

Over  the festive period, the music channels love to remind us all of the godawful songs we’ve bought in Decembers gone by – Cascada’s cover of ‘Last Christmas’, ‘Bob the Builder’, ‘Proper Crimbo’, the original ‘Last Christmas’ and yes, the Almighty Girls Aloud‘s ‘tepid’ (I’m being nice) cover of ‘See the Day’.

Being reminded of this song’s existence prompted me to list the Girls Aloud singles in order of best to worst because… why not, I’m a nerd. It was a tough decision over whether ‘See the Day’ or the ‘Walk This Way’ cover with the Sugababes got the dubious honour of worst single (the latter ‘won’) but best single.. that was easy.

‘Sound of the Underground’? Incredible but overrated. ‘Jump’? Great fun, best cover single but nah. ‘Love Machine’? Very good but it annoys me when people say that’s all GA are. ‘Biology’? Not mistaking it. ‘Sexy! No No No…’? VERY close but no. ‘Untouchable’? The album version is my favourite song of all time. The radio mix… no.

My favourite single has got to be:

The Loving Kind

Look at that release date. Now look at the date on your screen. Don’t you feel old now? I know I do.

IT’S FIVE YEARS SINCE THE LOVING KIND WAS RELEASED.

If you don’t remember it, then here it is:

So why do I find this song so fantastic?

Well, it’s a three-way collaboration between three of my favourite entities (for lack of a better word) in pop: the girls on vocals, once again perfect production by Xenomania – who have produced 90% of their output and are the reason GA aren’t another Atomic Kitten – and as the Wikipedia box states, co-written with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

It’s the bloody Pet Shop Boys darling

Some critics wrote this song isn’t as good as an AloudShopBoysmania collaboration could be, whereas others derided it for sounding like a weaker ‘Call the Shots’. I disagree entirely. All parties are at the top of their game here. The girls all get a good share of delivering wistful vocals, with Sarah taking the lead (a rare treat) and Nicola delivering the desperation of her part perfectly. The song wasn’t written for them (but for the Boys own Xenomania produced album, the excellent Yes) but they pull off beautiful Tennant lyrics such as the opening “Sometimes, I watch your when you’re sleeping, I wonder what you’re feeling”. The songwriting captures that horrid feeling when you just know that the romance is fading away. Xenomania are in their element of melancholic electronic and the production is typically layered, such a the faint ‘woahhhh-ohhhhh’s in the background and whooses that lead from one segment to the next. The arrangement isn’t all over the place as something like ‘Biology’, but the  “I’d do anything” part sounds like it would be the middle 8 of a more straightforward song, yet here it’s post-first chorus, keeping the energy going before that wonderful drop into the downtrodden “rush hour of another day” moment.

The Loving Kind video 1

The video is also fantastic, something that can’t really be said for many of the Aloud’s efforts. It’s got a minimalist colour scheme of white, black and red and is wonderfully arty. The girls are in these glass boxes, either looking all sad, doing turns, stretches, pouts and poses (as you do in pop videos) or smashing up old photos and chucking flowers all over the place. It’s pretty simple and sounds dull on paper but the visuals and editing are fantastic. I l-o-v-e (reference!) the bit at the start of the final chorus, where it cuts to each girl all doing the same arms stretched head shaking movement then drop to the floor and back up again.

And also, don’t the girls look stunning?

So many Cheryls! It's like a heterosexual man's dream.

So many Cheryls! It’s like a heterosexual man’s dream.

There's only one Queen Nuhdeen!

There’s only one Queen Nuhdeen!

No pun here, just reiterating how the endless reflections look fantastic.

No pun here, just reiterating how the endless reflections look fantastic.

So yeah, fantastic song, brilliant video, the team-up being the thing of pop nerd’s dreams. But that’s not (just) why I adore ‘The Loving Kind‘ so much. I’d always enjoyed Girls Aloud‘s music on the same level I enjoyed most chart stuff before I really listened to music more in-depth. Catchy stuff, knew the choruses and most of the words (whatever anything in ‘Love Machine’ means), happy to dance to at a party. But then ‘The Promise’ came along and I thought “this is something pretty special”, and a lot of people thought so too, it hit Number One and so did the album Out Of Control. And then I saw ‘The Loving Kind’ video and fell in love. I dipped into some of the album tracks from that album, and never turned back. As I wrote about before, Girls Aloud musically opened my eyes (ears) to a lot more musically, and were my gateway into an online pop community. ‘The Loving Kind’ is where it all started.

Which is a shame that it’s not a massive hit. It was the girls 20th (not counting ‘St. Trinian’s Theme’, sadly counting ‘Walk This Way’) consecutive top 10 – an incredible feat, specially as once an album is out, the singles don’t really do the numbers anymore. It’s in the top ten best selling songs of theirs according to those MTV count down shows and was on the music channels and radio a fair bit when it was out. But it’s not really stuck in many memories five years on (I’m still dumbfounded its been that long) and that’s sadly because it was massively overshadowed by its predecessor. In fact, it may not have even been a Top 10 hit at all (it landed exactly at #10) if it wasn’t for hardcore fans:

Didn’t help that all the promo the girls did for the song was before Christmas. They scraped by this time, but Untouchable wasn’t so fortunate.

Despite it not being critically or commercially Girls Aloud’s crowning glory, I still treasure this song deeply 5 years to the day after it was released as a single. Of course, fans will know it isn’t the only Aloud song released on 12th January 2009…

One of the reasons I love Girls Aloud (and risk sounding like a total hipster) is that their B-sides are all kinds of incredible. Not just their singles (unlike a lot of artists), not just their album tracks (like most artists) but the songs they only put out on CD (remember those?) or vinyl (your parents remember those?). Before 2012 and the bonus disc of their greatest hits TEN, you had to buy a 50 quid limited edition boxset to get this song on disc and therefore; legally onto your iPod. It added to the cult feel on the song, and it really is a fan favourite. In a poll to decide the album tracks and B-sides for the TEN bonus disc, this song was the runaway winner and with good reason.

From the opening stop-start synth lines, to Kimberley’s vocodered, echoey first verse “Late at night I dream I’m falling into love again, twenty five electric angels are dancing in the rain” this track oozes dark and moody, with ethereal qualities Ellie Goulding could only dream of (sorry housemate Jade!). Like ‘The Loving Kind’, it’s full on Melancholic Electronic (if I ever made an album, it’d be called that) but in a much more dancier way. Typically nonsense but intriguing lyrics (“paradise with ice cream skies”, “wondering if sheep count us when they can’t sleep at night” only make sense to songwriter Miranda Cooper), incredibly busy but pin-sharp production and gorgeous solos from only Kimberley and Nicola, the two who are usually seen as the background members of the group by the general public, come together perfectly. It’s so perfect that when Nicola released a solo version, with exactly the same instrumental and just her singing all the vocals, it wasn’t right. Kimberley’s deeper voice opening the song sets the mood, and the contrast between there vocals as the second verse goes into the bridge is one of my favourite bits. I appreciate Nicola for trying to please the fanbase, but don’t mess with perfection.

Even though it adds to the less commercial, more pop-cult feel of the track, I do find it a bit of a shame that song wasn’t given single treatment. It would’ve been a joy to hear in clubs, especially with so much dance pop focused solely on the same old getting drunk and putting your hands up stuff I tired of ages ago. But at the same time it’s cool, in a weird way, to have this incredible piece of music that almost ‘belongs’ to a certain group of people: dedicated pop and Girls Aloud fans.

Five years ago I was just getting into this group and discovering their flawless catalogue, with the promise (reference!) of 3 new albums following a brief hiatus exciting me no end. As we all know, that hiatus lasted 3 years with four new songs (three of them just as wonderful as I was waiting for, and the other being ‘Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me’) and a tour that wasn’t a farewell tour but was a farewell tour. Obviously they never would have performed ‘Memory of You’, being a HITS tour but I am GUTTED that ‘The Loving Kind’ wasn’t performed. I know it wasn’t their biggest hit and apparently Nicola doesn’t like it very much but to me, of all their singles, it was the most special of all.

If the legacy of these songs amounts to nothing but the following video, then that’s fine:

Happy Fifth Birthday, The Loving Kind and Memory of You.