[Movie Review] Cast Away

Cast AwayStarring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Drama
Cert: 12
Released: 2000

Chuck Noland (Hanks) is a busy FedEx executive who continually delivers the message of the importance of time to FedEx employees around the world. Just before Christmas he is called away on business and kisses his sweetheart, Kelly (Hunt), telling her that he will be back for New Years.

But tragedy strikes as his plane goes down over the Pacific Ocean. Somehow Noland survives, washed up on a deserted island. With only the clothes he was wearing and a few Fed-Ex packages that were washed on-shore with him, he finds himself stranded, no idea where he is or if he will ever be found. For Noland, time management takes on a whole new meaning.

“Cast Away” is not an outstanding movie, but thanks to Tom Hanks mesmerising performance, it manages to fasincate and grip in equal measure. For much of the movie, Hanks acts alone, only props and facial expressions available to help him translate the storyline for the viewer. The addition of a volleyball with a painted face allows Hanks to interact and add something new to the experience. Ludicrous as it sounds, it works very well, even down to the emotional bond that Hanks builds with the rubber ball.

The movie is let down by unambitious scripting of the final twenty minutes or so and while director Zemeckis, along with Hunt and Hanks, do their best you can’t help but feeling the pay off should have been greater. However, overall it’s a movie worth seeing and appreciating.

3halfstar

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[Album Review] "Just Push Play" – Aerosmith (original review)

Just Push Play - AerosmithAlbum Title: Just Push Play
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 2001
Running Time: 53m 44s

Track listing: 1 Beyond Beautiful; 2 Just Push Play; 3 Jaded; 4 Fly Away From Here; 5 Trip Hoppin’; 6 Sunshine; 7 Under My Skin; 8 Luv Lies; 9 Outta Your Head; 10 Drop Dead Gorgeous; 11 Light Inside; 12 Avant Garden; 13 Face

I’ve blabbed on before about the lack of respect that Aerosmith receive for their achievements in the last 30 years. They are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month, and have also just been certified as the tenth best selling artist of all time, with 60m albums sold world-wide. An amazing achievement for a band who are scoffed at just far too much. Steven Tyler reckons there’s more money to be made and more fame to be had, and he has brought his band back for another stab at world domination, with their thirteenth studio album, “Just Push Play”. The seventies are well gone, the eighties are a distant memory, and the successful commercialism of the nineties has just disappeared around the corner. So it’s a brand new Aerosmith in the twenty-first century.

And they lay their cards on the table right away with the storming Led Zeppelin-inspired power of ‘Beyond Beautiful’. ‘This love that we’ve got is beyond beautiful’ screeches Tyler, who is on top form, while the rhythm section of Whitford, Kramer and Hamilton dig a deep groove that wraps itself around the lyrics in a faultless manner.

As if to reinforce the fact that things are a little different on this album, the industrial strains of rap-rocker ‘Just Push Play’ are enough to confirm it. The anti-censorship message of ‘just push play; fuckin A; they’re gonna bleep it anyway’ has created a probable concert-opener and definite concert favourite. The almost-Beck-styled rocker, ‘Trip Hoppin” hits the mark pretty well. Whitford and Perry clash wonderfully with Brad’s deep rhythm playing a perfect foil to Joe’s upbeat post-chorus lead lick. The song is very reminiscent of ‘Line Up’ from “Get a Grip”, horns and all.

‘Outta Your Head’ is manic, another semi-rap effort from Tyler complete with screaming guitars, industrial drum sound and numerous off-the-wall effects. Pretty cool, really and another triumph for the band’s fresh sound on this record.

‘Sunshine’ is a nice little groove – not quite ‘Pink’, but all the better for it probably. Tyler takes a familiar sounding tune and keeps it fresh with timely harmonies, subtle strings and a gentle mid-tempo acoustic verse. The only song that’s more infectious on the album is probably the polished pop/rock anthem ‘Jaded’, already a huge single on both sides of the Atlantic. Not a universal favourite of all fans, it demonstrates how well Aerosmith do this kind of tune – no one does it better.

‘Under My Skin’, sounding a little like Anthrax’s ‘This is not an Exit’, almost succeeds before the dull chorus ruins the whole thing. it’s got the dense guitar work (also ‘Kashmir’-sounding it should be said), patented harmonica, wonderful pre-chorus set up, but then falls flat. Some good guitar work from Perry during the solo, but it’s frankly a bit of a mess.

Aerosmith are never far away from the slower side of rock, and there’s three solid ballads on this record too. The string-laden ‘Fly Away From Here’ is touching and emotive on one hand, but powerful and determined on the other. Meanwhile ‘Luv Lies’ mixes the best bits of ‘What It Takes’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Never Say Goodbye’, and produces a decent country ballad.

But ‘Avant Garden’ is one of the strongest tracks on the album. This melodic, European-style beauty should end up as a single release – it sees Aerosmith at their creative and song-writing best.

‘Light Inside’ is heavy and powerful and works very well despite the repetitive chorus, ‘Face’ is a pleasing acoustic folk tune, while Joe Perry’s standard vocal appearance on ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ disappoints despite it’s psychedelic power – they just forgot the hook. The hidden track is ‘Under My Skin (reprise)’, a 60 second electric-orchestral track.

So there you go, thirteen is lucky for some. Well it’s lucky for Aerosmith. A mixture of high-octane power-chords, subtle and beautiful string-arranged ballads, funky-off-the-wall rap/rock efforts, and a tinge of industrial nous for those who thought there was something missing. Have I left anything out?
3star

[Movie Review] The 6th Day

The 6th DayStarring: Arnold Schwarzenneger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Robert Duvall
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Genre: Sci-Fi
Cert: 15
Released: 2000

We’re vaguely told that it is sometime in the future and while human cloning is outlawed, the cloning of animals has become an acceptable way to replace that dead pet situation that we all hate to deal with. Replacement Technologies, the major cloning institute in the US, is run by businessman Michael Drucker (Goldwyn). Although they advertise their animal cloning services and research, behind the scenes they have already been involved in the sinister cloning of humans, using the expertise of Dr Griffin Weir (Duvall).

A “sixth day violation” occurs when Replacement Technologies mistakingly clone Adam Gibson (Schwarzenneger) believing him to be killed in a shoot-out. Gibson returns home to find that his clone has already assumed his life and now Replacement want him captured and murdered in order to keep their secret safe. If anyone sees Gibson and his clone together, then those people will be killed and Gibson realises that the only way he can put an end to the nightmare is to infiltrate Replacement and stop their operation.

“The 6th Day” can be pretty much be summed up by the word ‘flawed’. The idea of human cloning throws up numerous interesting premises, and indeed director Spottiswoode (“Tomorrow Never Dies”, “And the Band Played On”, “Stop or my Mom Will Shoot”) plays on the unique idea with some genuinely amusing lines (“Doesn’t anyone stay dead anymore?”) and situations. His direction never really excites though: the action scenes are sloppy and interest wanes very easily throughout.

The best element of the movie is the humour. Arnie gets to play with some genuinely funny lines and the scene which sees Michael Rooker convince a cop that his Replacement colleague is perfectly alive and not suffering from a broken neck, is hilarious. The cast, mind you, is uninspiring. Outisde of Robert Duvall and his screen wife Katherine (Cannon), there is little talent or charisma present between the motley crew of Rooker, Goldwyn, Rapaport and Crewson. Schwarzenneger performs with his usual strong-arm vigour. Cloning is a great subject for the big screen and I think we will see better movies than this. Not recommended.

1halfstar

[Movie Review] Man on the Moon

Man on the MoonStarring: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti, Vincent Schiavelli, Jerry Lawler
Director: Milos Forman
Genre: Drama
Cert: 15
Released: 1999

Andy Kaufman was as enigmatic as a comic can get. The off-beat performer was born in 1949, but died of lung cancer in 1984. This bio-pic, starring Jim Carrey in the lead role, charts his career from his discovery by manager, George Shapiro (DeVito), to his untimely death.

After showing the young Kaufman performing to his kid sister in the 1950s, we fast forward to see him performing the club scene with his curious act. His future manager, Shapiro, sees something special in him and gets him a spot on Saturday Night Live, followed by convincing the resistant Kaufman to take a role in brand new sit-com, ‘Taxi’, as a Lithuanian driver called Latko. But Kaufman is unhappy with the direction of his career, and challenges the TV-comedy niche that he has been pushed into by becoming a wrestling celebrity. He creates the “intergender wrestling championship” and wrestles women around the country before starting a legendary feud with Southern Champion, Jerry Lawler. The film also touches on his relationship with best friend Bob (Giamatti – “Big Mommas House”, “Negotiator”, “The Truman Show”), his girlfriend Lynne (Love – “People Vs Larry Flint”) and his family, but never delves very much into them.

Kaufman was a unique talent. And after seeing the movie, if it is a faithful recreation of his abilities, I use the term ‘talent’ lightly. There was hardly any point in the movie where I was amused (not to be confused with how entertained I was by Carrey’s brilliant performance). Kaufman insisted that he wasn’t a comedian but rather he just wanted to be ‘funny’ – he entertained himself more than his audience. A number of the performances portrayed in the movie showed him to be arrogant and smug, including one time when he entertained a college audience by reading verbatim from ‘The Great Gatsby’ rather than do the Taxi-character that they were calling for.

The main problem with the movie is the complete un-evenness of the picture. In the space of 20 minutes, Kaufman goes from failed club-performer to star of one of TVs biggest sit-coms. It makes for a very unbelievable storyline and leaves the movie lacking credibility at a crucial time. Things improve in the second-half, but the lack of emphasis on Kaufman the person, rather than the character, means that we don’t see just how much his life means to him, how important his girlfriend or his family are. Due to the development of his wrestling persona, which saw him flagrantly bad-mouth women and southern people in a very gross-mannered way, his public image has gone from lovable oaf to loathed monster. When he reports that he has contracted lung-cancer, he struggles to convince his friends and family that it is true. Director, Milos Forman (“People Vs Larry Flint”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”), then tries to rush through this period to show us that Kaufman actually does value life and does value those around him despite his self-centered ways. It’s too late, the damage is done.

“Man on the Moon” is wonderful for the performances of DeVito, Love, Giamatti and, especially, Carrey. But there is little else to recommend it. Forman could have given us more to like about the central character and have us feel sympathy for him, but his brash and egocentric mannerisms, true as they might have been, leave us feeling cold at his fate later in life. As a biography it is probably quite loyal to the subject matter…which is probably it’s biggest failing.

2star