[Movie Review] Shrek

ShrekStarring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, Cameron Diaz
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
Genre: Comedy
Cert: G
Released: 2001

When you hear a Scottish accent in a movie, who is the first man you think of? Sean Connery? Maybe, Ewan McGregor? Well I reckon the most prolific Scottish accent in movies these days is from a Canadian. In “Shrek”, Mike Myers once again utilises the highland twang that he has used in numerous projects such as “Saturday Night Live”, “So I Married an Axe Murderer” and “Austin Powers 2”.

Myers is one of the major stars enlisted to voice characters in the smash-hit animated movie. He plays Scottish ogre, Shrek, an unlikely hero recruited by Lord Farquaad (Lithgow), to rescue imprisoned Princess Fiona (Diaz) from an evil dragon. Farquaad intends to marry Fiona, so that he can become King. Along with a motor-mouth donkey (Murphy) Shrek recovers the Princess and on the long trek back to Farquaad, all three learn a lot about friendship and love.

Despite the seeming straight-forward story, and the fact that this is ?merely’ an animated movie, there is more depth to “Shrek” than you might think. Although the first thirty minutes is a somewhat lame collection of irritating jokes, it soon becomes a hugely enjoyable romp full of genuinely funny lines and situations. But it is the main characters individual self-discovery, their understanding of their place in the grand scheme of things and what love is really about, that will outlast the jokes.

Myers and Murphy trade verbals throughout most of the movie, and the results are mixed. Overall I found Myers to be hugely annoying, his Scottish accent totally out of place with the character he played. Murphy surprisingly wasn’t as bad, but still I couldn’t warm to his portrayal of the worlds most excitable mule. Diaz and Lithgow deliver well, Lithgow particularly suited to playing the ignorant Lord Farquaad, Diaz’s real-life beauty a perfect match for her animated alter-ego!

There are numerous lines that will go above the average child’s head such as the constant references to what the sub-five foot Farquaad might be compensating for by having a big castle. Indeed. There are other examples of toilet humour, and while I don’t normally like that sort of thing, it didn’t turn me off. There are numerous stabs at Disney too, but since I’m not exactly a Disney aficionado, I didn’t get them.

“Shrek” is enjoyable for what it is, and while it doesn’t match the hype, it’s a charming way to spend an hour and a half.



[Album Review] "Young Lust" – Aerosmith

Young Lust - AerosmithAlbum Title: Young Lust – The Aerosmith Anthology
Artist: Aerosmith
Year: 2001
Running Time: 158m 45s

Track listing: [DISC 1] 1 Let the Music Do the Talking; 2 My Fist Your Face; 3 Shame On You; 4 Heart’s Done Time; 5 Rag Doll; 6 Dude (Looks Like a Lady); 7 Angel; 8 Hangman Jury; 9 Permanent Vacation; 10 Young Lust; 11 The Other Side; 12 What It Takes; 13 Monkey on my Back; 14 Love in an Elevator; 15 Janie’s Got a Gun; 16 Ain’t Enough; 17 Walk This Way (with Run-DMC)  [DISC 2] 1 Eat the Rich; 2 Love me Two Times; 3 Head First; 4 Livin’ On the Edge (acoustic); 5 Don’t Stop; 6 Can’t Stop Messin; 7 Amazing (orchestral); 8 Cryin’; 9 Crazy; 10 Shut up and Dance; 11 Deuces are Wild; 12 Walk on Water; 13 Blind Man; 14 Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees) (live); 15 Dream On (live); 16 Hole in my Soul (live); 17 Sweet Emotion (live)

Another greatest hits collection from Aerosmith, but actually nothing to do with the band rather complexly. Geffen have thrown together the best of Aerosmith from their years with the label (roughly 1985 to 1996), but the band were not consulted in any way about the project. So is that a good or a bad thing?

“Young Lust” is one of those rare collections. We thankfully do not just get the hits, we also get a number of non-studio album tracks, a few rarities and those album tracks that are fan favourites but did not receive radio play, or a single release.

Starting at the beginning is a trio of tracks from the much maligned “Done With Mirrors” album from 1985. Recorded during the tail end of Aerosmith’s drug and alcohol abuse, the album failed to perform well in the charts, and only moderately from a critical and creative point of view. Still, the best of it is here – the Joe Perry Project tune ‘Let the Music do the Talking’, catchy rocker (and album best) ‘My Fist Your Face’ and brooding Led Zep-styled ‘Shame On You’.

Comeback album “Permanent Vacation” is well represented with the three hits (‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’, ‘Angel’, ‘Rag Doll’) and the best of the rest included (outstanding cut ‘Hangman Jury’ and ‘Heart’s Done Time’ along with the title track). The trick is repeated with their career-best release, “Pump”. The popular hits, ‘Janies Got a Gun’, ‘Love in an Elevator’, ‘What it Takes’ and ‘The Other Side’ are all here, and they are ably accompanied by the unnerving raunch of ‘Young Lust’ and Tyler’s story of addiction, ‘Monkey on my Back’. Shame that ‘FINE’ is not included mind you.

The first disc finishes off with the reasonable ‘Ain’t Enough’, a Japan-only recording, and the career-saving ‘Walk this Way’ re-recording with Run DMC, as fresh now as it was 15 years ago.

The peak of Aerosmith’s commercial success came with “Get a Grip” and there cannot be many fans who don’t own it. So it is too Geffen’s credit that they have tried to vary things a little by including alternative versions of big hits ‘Amazing’ (orchestral version) and one of the decades best tracks, ‘Living on the Edge’ (acoustic). The inevitable inclusion of the over-exposed ‘Cryin’ and ‘Crazy’ is expected, and also here are mediocre rockers ‘Eat the Rich’ and ‘Shut up and Dance’. Thankfully we also get the brilliant ‘Head First’ and funky ‘Don’t Stop’ (only available as B-sides before this) as well as Europe-only release, ‘Can’t Stop Messin’. Soundtrack releases ‘Love me Two Times’, a cover of the Doors classic, and Beavis and Butthead Experience recording, the superb ‘Deuces are Wild’ (why this wasn’t an album track I will never know) are thrown in for good measure also

Completing the album are the two new recordings for the “Big Ones” greatest hits release in 1994, ‘Blind Man’ and the better of the two tracks, ‘Walk on Water’. The last four tracks are taken from the live Geffen release, “A Little South of Sanity”, a handy way for them to include tracks recorded for Columbia on 1997’s “Nine Lives” – ‘Falling in Love’ and ‘Hole in my Soul’ as well as 70s classics, ‘Sweet Emotion’ and ‘Dream On’. Pity that they couldn’t give us a live version of ‘Pink’ somehow.

This is pretty much a flawless collection, although who is going to buy it is another thing. Die-hard fans will have much of it (although it is a convenient way of getting your hands on hard to find stuff like the B-sides), while casual listeners may be put off by the fact that they don’t recognise around a dozen or so of the tracks.

But you can’t knock 34 tunes, and this is the best representation of the bands career during this time. Get your hands on the “Greatest Hits 1973-1988” as well and you will have a great cross-section of one of rock’s finest bands all in 2 albums.

[Movie Review] The Man Who Wasn't There

The Man Who Wasn't ThereStarring: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Michael Badalucco, Jon Polito
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Genre: Drama
Cert: 15
Released: 2001

Since this is a Coens movie, you can only expect one outcome. That is for me to decalre it as a triumph and encourage you to go see it. Well, yes I will. Once again brothers Joel and Ethan, who share co-writing credits but a single direction credit for Joel, have delivered a finely crafted and stylish comic thriller.

What a defining shot - Billy Bob, as Ed Crane.A difficult plot to dissect without spoiling, it starts with Ed Crane (Thornton – “Sling Blade”, “Bandits”, “Primary Colours”, “Armageddon”), a quiet chain-smoking barber describing a typical day in his uneventful life. As talkative as Crane is silent, his brother-in-law Frank (Badalucco – TVs “The Practice”) shares hair-cutting duties in their family barbers business. Ed’s passive nature sees him badgered into a dead-end marriage with Frank’s sister Doris (McDormand – Oscar winner for “Fargo”, “Almost Famous”, “Primal Fear”). This leads to Doris having an affair with Ed’s best friend, Big Dave (Gandolfini – TVs “The Sopranos”), something which Ed suspects, but decides to let go.

When quirky entrepreneur, Creighton Tolliver (Polito – “Stuart Little”, “The Big Lebowski”, “The Crow”), rambles on about a new business venture that he is seeking a $10,000 investment for, Ed sees it as an opportunity to take a little risk and step outside of his ordinary life. However, his methods in obtaining the money lead him into an unthinkable chain-reaction of events that end up destroying not only his life, but the lives of everyone around him.

The beauty about the Coen’s complex writing is the ability it has to enable subtle actions lead to events that seemed inconceivable before they happened. In this respect, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” bears a resemblance to the superb “Fargo”, even if the style is far removed from the Oscar nominated movie. Filmed entirely in black-and-white, the craggy and withdrawn features of Thornton in the lead role are about as perfect a piece of casting as you could imagine. Thornton manages to deliver a host of reactions and personality characteristics through the bare minimum of expressions. Humorously compare this to the expressionless Harrison Ford who manages to look like a piece of cardboard in most performances.

Coen directs with a nonchalant lack of vigour although the story moves at a steady pace. Close-up shots of the main protagonists tell a story that might take a number of lines of dialogue in other circumstances, and the lack of urgency is to the film-makers credit.

It’s not just writing and directing where the Coen’s succeed consistently, it is also their ability to cast suitably rather Ed and Big Dave discuss feeling noir-ish.than hire names that will put bums on seats. Micahel Badalucco is hilarious as big-kid, Frank, while Polito excels as the money-hungry entrepreneur. Tony Shalhoub (“Spy Kids”, “Galaxy Quest”, “A Civil Action”, “Primary Colours”) steals numerous scenes as heartless, fast-talking lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider and the amusing good-cop/good-cop double act of Christopher Kriesa and Brian Haley is notable for the few scenes they pop into.

This movie will have you thinking for days. It is a triumph, and you should go see it. But I told you that a good few paragraphs ago.