[Movie Review] The Wicker Man

The Wicker ManStarring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan, Frances Conroy
Director: Neil LaBute
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 15
Released: 2006

Nic Cage is back! Again! In another movie!

This time he’s Edward Malus, a cop haunted by being unable to save a woman and young girl from a horrific car wreck. With his world caving in around him he is lured to a remote island in the Pacific Northwest by an ex-fiancée. She tells him that her daughter, Rowan, has been kidnapped and is being kept somewhere on the island.

After careful consideration Malus decides to hitch a ride to the island and encounters an eerie, closed society who pay no heed to mainland laws or conventional religion, where women seem to rule the roost and his ex-fiancée, Willow (Kate Beahan), seems afraid to reveal too much. Malus lays down the law to the likes of the domineering Sister Beech (the powerfully-built Diane Delano) and Sister Summerisle (Ellen Burstyn) and makes headway in his investigation, finding evidence that Rowan is on the island.

But there’s something in the air (Malus: “Something bad is about to happen”). What can it be?

My advice is don’t bother to find out. This is a remake of the well-received 1973 cult classic with Edward Woodward, a film I haven’t seen. I can only imagine it’s infinitely better than this. How could they get it so wrong?

Scenes and storylines seemingly exist for no reason other than to confuse you. Malus’ decision to visit this remote island and his behaviour there (wouldn’t you know it – he’s got no phone signal) makes no sense. It’s part-“Children of the Corn”, part-“In the Mouth of Madness”, part-“The Forgotten”, perhaps a bit of “Flightplan”. But it’s all rubbish.

1halfstar

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[Movie Review] Next

NextStarring: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Peter Falk
Director: Lee Tamahori
Genre: Sci-Fi
Cert: 15
Released: 2007

Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage, who it seems has appeared in every movie for the last five years) is a Vegas magician whose corny, low-key act doesn’t seem to raise many eyebrows around town. But FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is a keen observer because she suspects there’s more to it than an “act”.

And she’s right. Johnson can see any event two minutes in to the future as long as that event impacts his own life. For Ferris it’s a matter of life and death as she’s got international terrorists with a nuclear warhead (obviously) and she wants Johnson to track down its exact location before it is detonated.

But Johnson doesn’t fancy it and he goes on the run with Liz (Jessica Biel), a local stranger who for a reason unknown to him enables him to see much further in to the future than he otherwise could. Johnson wants to know why but with the FBI and the terrorists trying to track him down, will he live long enough to discover?

“Next” is borderline diabolical and features a cast who know they are starring in a hell of a turkey. Nic Cage rolls out his jaded, slack-jawed character and even the few moving scenes he and Biel share are trite. Julianne Moore – one of my favourite Hollywood ladies – is only short of rolling her eyes as she wrestles with weary lines and a director in Lee Tamahori who is unable to breathe life in to what turns out to be a disappointgly linear story. Peter Falk appears for a couple of minutes and it’s great to see the old boy who is 81 this year.

The whole thing is almost a plot-hole in itself but in its defence the final ten minutes go some way to giving a tiny level of satisfaction.

1halfstar

[Movie Review] Momentum

MomentumStarring: Louis Gossett Jr, Teri Hatcher, Zach Galligan, Grayson McCouch
Director: James Seale
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 18
Released: 2003

Zachary Shefford (Grayson McCouch – honestly, that’s his name) doesn’t like to use his telekinetik powers but relents in order to foil a hold-up at his local convenience store. The store’s security camera, which shows him throwing the gunman across the store without touching him, is passed to government agent Raymond Addison (Lou Gossett Jnr).

Addison hires Shefford to infiltrate a gang of telekinetiks who are intent on murder and mayhem. Once Shefford gets in he discovers from group leader Adrian Grieger (Michael Massee) that Addison is actually quite underhand and is trying to eliminate the group to cover up a top-secret government project (Momentum) from the 70s.

Meanwhile two FBI agents, Jordan Ripps (the lovely Teri Hatcher) and Frank McIntyre (the entertaining Carmen Argenziano) are investigating a heist on a security van which leads them to Grieger and his group. From there it’s a case of, well, not much…

I like these mind-based movies – “Scanners”, “The First Power”, “Fear” – but usually they are better when they have a plot to speak of. “Momentum” is so poorly plotted and scripted that it’s hard to really accept any of the characters as credible. The lovely Alexondra Lee appears in about three scenes for what seems to be no reason at all. McCouch’s character flip-flops around the place, seemingly forever packing up his office at the university he teaches at. Gossett Jnr sleepwalks through the minor role he has looking utterly bored and even too lazy to remove his hat.

There’s no real action, a feeble narrative and a hint at a future sequel which we could really all do without.

1halfstar

The Aerosmith Album Project: "Get Your Wings"

Get Your Wings - Aerosmith
Get Your Wings - Aerosmith

Album title: Get Your Wings
Year: 1974
Track Listing: 1. Same Old Song and Dance; 2. Lord of the Thighs; 3. Spaced; 4. Woman of the World; 5. SOS (Too Bad); 6. Train Kept a Rollin’; 7. Seasons of Wither; 8. Pandora’s Box
Running Time: 38m 6s
Units sold/certifications: 4 million worldwide [est.]/3x platinum (US)
Chart performance: #74 (US)

Track by Track

Same Old Song and Dance

After the buzz created by their debut album the band kicked their follow-up off in style with the blues-stomp of “Same Old Song and Dance”.  The story of a guy caught on a murder rap (“Coincidental murder/With nothing to show“), he faces a bad-ass judge (“With the judge’s constipation/Will go to his head/And his wife’s aggravation/Youll soon end up dead“) and incriminating evidence (“Gotcha with the cocaine/They found with your gun/No smooth face laywer/Could get ya undone“).  Still performed today it’s one of their signature tunes three and a half decades on.

Rating: *****

Lord of the Thighs

If their debut record was considered largely straight-forward (with perhaps the exception of “One Way Street”) then “Lord of the Thighs” threw in elements of prog-rock to confuse us all.  A dirty guitar riff combines with raunchy lyrics (“I’m waitin for my girls, when you caught my eyes…I’m your man, child, lord of the thighs“) before leading into a hard-rock chorus (“you must have come here to find it/you got that look in your eyes“) and then a bubbling bass-driven bridge.

Rating: ****

Spaced

It takes a while to set the scene but “Spaced” eventually gets to describing a post-apocalyptic earth (“Fire and steel, earth unreal/Find another planet to stay/Papa died, Ma survived/Tellin’ me about her ordeal “).  The lyrics are powerful in describing the feeling of loneliness (“And my soul I can not feel/’Cause they made me so unreal“) and hopelessness (“Spaced/Without a trace/ Waitin’ for the word to arrive/I’m the last man to survive“).  Hugely underrated track.

Rating: ****

Woman of the World

“Woman of the World” is a middling mid-tempo rocker about a good-time girl who can’t be pinned down (“She might be gone tomorrow/Oh lordy what you gonna do?“).  It jumps to life half-way through with some good advice (“Don’t save too much lovin’ for tomorrow/Get out all your lovin’ here tonight“) and does feature some of Steven Tyler’s best vocals.  Interesting to hear them branch out and try different styles and it’s a decent track but arguably the weakest they had recorded to date.

Rating: ***

S.O.S. (Too Bad)

If Woman of the World was a rest-hold then “S.O.S. (Too Bad)” is a bad-ass choke-slam.  A punchy rocker about a “stagecoach lady” with an “hourglass body“, a hard-ass father (“My daddy was hard, his face was pretty scarred/From kickin’ ass and playin’ poker to win“)  and possibly a femme-fatale (“My mama Katy/Chivalry was born at her feet…At night she put my daddy to sleep“).  Lyrically it jumps around and like most of mid 70s Aerosmith, it’s hard to interpret but we do know that it’s “too bad, can’t get me none of that“.

Rating: ****1/2

Train Kept a Rollin’

First recorded in 1951, covered by The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin in the 60s, Aerosmith made this their own in the 70s.  A mid-paced blues rocker, it tells the story of a couple who meet on a train and do nothing more than aim cursory glances at each other:  “Well on a train I met a dame/She rather handsome we kinda looked the same…I’m in heat I’m in love/But I just couldn’t tell her so“.  Although it sounds like it’s recorded live on the album, producer Jack Douglas talked them out of doing that and they simply overdubbed some crowd sounds on the studio recording.

Rating: *****

Seasons of Wither

As the crowd overdub slowly fades, a whistling wind introduces “Seasons of Wither”, arguably Steven Tyler’s greatest masterpiece.  Written in his basement during a cold Massachusetts winter and while battling a drug-induced depression, Tyler’s lyrical and vocal mastery envelopes you from the beginning.   Using language like “Seasons of wither, holdin’ me in“, “woe is me”, “lose your mind“, “live on borrowed time” and “Heat of my candle show me the way” you get a feeling of finality about the singers life.  Tyler certainly felt that way at the time.  Musically it’s immense and stands the test of time.

Rating: *****

Pandora’s Box

Drummer Joey Kramer tries his hand at songwriting for the first time, showing he has the same knack for raunch as Tyler: “Every time Pandora come my way/I get high, can’t explain the sensation…Sweet Pandora/God like aura/Smellin’ like a flora/Open up your door for meMama crack a smile for me…Now I ain’t what you’d call a city slicker/Or claim to fame to be a slitty licker“.  You get the idea.  At least he knows he’s really walking dangerous ground: “To get it on I got to watch what I say/Or I’ll catch hell from the women’s liberation”. Musically it’s fun funk-rock but lacks a strong hook.

Rating: ***

Summary

After a very strong debut album you wonder how they could have bettered it – but that they did.  Home to several bona-fide classics (“Same Old Song and Dance”, “Train Kept a Rollin'”, “Seasons of Wither”), this album is a notch above “Aerosmith” due to more sophisticated music, excellent production and a little more “bounce”.

4halfstar