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dipesh parmar (Brighton)
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Drop The Vowels
Drop The Vowels
Price: £18.85

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ‘Drop the Vowels’ is a bruising, visceral wonder that sticks two fingers up at everything else., 31 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Drop The Vowels (Audio CD)
‘Drop the Vowels’ is the debut album from Millie & Andrea, better known as Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker who is one half of Demdike Stare. They’d collaborated on a few 12″s as Millie & Andrea for Modern Love’s sublabel Daphne over the past few years.

The opening ‘Gif Riff’ starts proceedings with some unexpected indian chanting and gamelan music. Things get heavy with ‘Stay Ugly’, a heavily compressed bass track which starts with a scuffing noise, metallic beats and heaving distorted bass. Its an awkward but exhilarating listen, continually dismantling itself into incoherent rhythms but manages to be remain tight. There is a distinct jungle theme running throughout this album, with ‘Temper Tantrum’ a clear bassweight floor filler. ‘Spectral Source’ is of a similar ilk, using a more unusual puncuated rhythm.

Stott and Whittaker really turn on the style with an absolute bastard of a track with the aptly named ‘Corrosive’. Darkcore electro permeates the spaces until some grubby dungeon bass and analogue bleeps click into gear. It strips down to silence before an enormous scuzzed up, messed up, off-the scale bass stab pounding mercilessly, flooring you with enough ammo to flatten Godzilla! All the music that preceded it is brought back, mixed into an electrifying frenzy of noise and primitive bass.

‘Drop the Vowels’ is a bare drum and bass track slowly gathering momentum, before some darkcore menace and incessant drum breaks pile on the pressure. ‘Back Down’ is a chilling slice of dub, a slow roller thats full of percussive atmosphere and friction. ‘Quay’ ends the album, a mournful ambient track full of grace and mystery. Its a perfect end to a quite stunning album.

There is not one duff track on Millie & Andrea’s jaw-dropping debut album, DJ’s all over will have a field day with many of these tracks. ‘Drop the Vowels’ is a bruising, visceral wonder that sticks two fingers up at everything else. Pure hardcore magnificence.

Rating: 9/10

The Past [DVD]
The Past [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bérénice Bejo
Price: £6.86

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Past has consummate acting and meticulous direction. Farhadi has a rare gift., 30 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Past [DVD] (DVD)
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi follows up his Oscar-winning drama `A Separation' with `The Past', a French film set in Paris where Marie (Bérénice Bejo) is going through a divorce with her estranged Iranian husband Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa).

After being absent for around 4 years, Ahmad eventually responds to Marie's many summons to sign the divorce papers. He learns that many things have changed, that Marie now has a new partner in Samir (Tahar Rahim). Samir has a young son called Fouad (Elyes Aguis), to add to Marie's two daughters Lea (Jeanne Jestin) and the teenage Lucie (Pauline Burlet) from her first marriage. This complicated family structure is further fractured by the fact that Samir is still married, whose wife Céline is in a coma. And its Celine's hospitalisation which triggers the emotional turmoil in everyone concerned.

Everyone seems to have dual existences, caught between the past and the current and unable to find a path to the future. Somehow, Marie has to decide what is best for herself and her family. She, and she alone needs to decide what the future holds for everyone. Farhadi's complex, intricate drama is a tragedy of good intentions and wrong decisions that seemed right at the time. Celine's situation is played like a murder-mystery, unravelled with consummate timing by Farhadi. It seems easier to cut your losses and move on, but nobody is capable of doing so. Paradoxically, Celine seems to have got off lightly.

Directing in a different language and culture, Farhadi has still managed to pull off another outstanding film. The acting, from the children to the adults, is quite extraordinary. As with `A Separation' and `About Elly', Farhadi manages to show a naturalistic humanity in all the characters. Even the children show a level of subtlety rare in film, especially in an extraordinary scene between Samir and Fouad in a Paris Metro station. Farhadi unravels the story meticulously, immersing you deeper and deeper into all these lives whose futures are at stake. The past is never shown, Farhadi's skill is in making the viewer piece together the past. The answers slowly come to the surface, but you couldn't say with any certainty of who was to blame. In the end, the final scene shows us what Samir doesn't see, which only adds to the uncertainty.

Farhadi tells simple stories that are intricately woven and deeply felt, raw and unsparingly emotive. You leave `The Past' not just thinking about the film itself but question your own life and the mistakes you've made, but ultimately its where you are now that is important. Farhadi has a rare gift.

Rating 9/10
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2014 7:06 AM BST

New World [DVD] [2013] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
New World [DVD] [2013] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £13.52

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Its just a shame that the drama ran out of steam with an all-too predictable ending., 4 Mar. 2014
Park Hoon-jung follows up his classic debut ‘I Saw the Devil’ with ‘New World’, starring Choi Min-sik as the manipulative police boss Kana who’s spent years trying to imprison scores of gangsters known collectively as Goldmoon.

This large criminal syndicate is thrown into chaos when its head is killed in a dubious car accident. Bosses from different factions vie for a place at the helm. The contenders in pole position are Jung (Hwang Jung-min), Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) and Lee (Park Sung-woong). Kang senses blood, since he’s employed some moles into the various factions.

Goldmoon seems to be run like a corporation, everyone seems more interested in keeping their sharp suits clean whilst backstabbing each other. And by doing so, you can forget about Hoon-jung’s crazed bloodbath being repeated in this film until near the end. The action doesn’t really get going till at least an hour into the film, when the many characters start to play their hands. Kang succeeds in playing the contenders off each other, leading to a bloody all-out assault by hundreds of men in suits in a car-park, ending in a great action sequence in a lift.

‘New World’ has plenty of twists, and then some. The problem is that its been done so many times now, and as hard as it tries it doesn’t offer that one twist which elevates it above the many other crime dramas. The red-hot cast do their jobs well, but the cool veneer of this stylish film lacks the tension needed to build the momentum for the second half of the film. ‘New World’ is an accomplished film, the direction and especially the cinematography from Chung Chung-hoon is superb. Its just a shame that the drama ran out of steam with an all-too predictable ending.

Rating 7/10

Her [DVD]
Her [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joaquin Phoenix

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For a theme that has been covered many times before in sci-fi films, Jonze could have dared to be much more provocative., 17 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Her [DVD] (DVD)
‘Her’ is director Spike Jonze's new film, set in a near future digital Los Angeles where Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix)<!--more--> is very slowly coming to terms with his divorce to Catherine (Rooney Mara).

His job is to write intimate special-occasion letters for people. Theodore's life changes when he buys a new operating system which has artificial intelligence capabilities. His computer adopts a female voice called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), who helps to organise his life. Samantha learns to offer reassuring personal advice to the introspective Theodore, reorganising his life to the point where she even sets him up on a date.

You would assume ‘Her’ is a comedy, even though it does have the odd comedic moments its all played straight. Samantha wants more and more of Theodore, and vice versa, engendering a most unorthodox relationship. But an even more subversive suggestion from Samantha spells disaster, where the situation becomes all too real for Theodore. The only real woman in his life who he feels close to is his old friend Amy (Amy Adams),  who coincidentally has her own marital and OS related issues.

Theodore isn’t sure what he wants from life or relationships, but its refreshing to see that he doesn’t come across as yet another awkwardly inept male who's unsure with himself. He seems perfectly happy alone or in the company of others. ‘Her’ is certainly eye-catching and thought-provoking, and its nice to see the hugely gifted Joaquin Phoenix playing a 'lighter' character. I found Scarlett Johansson as Samantha off-putting, because she has such a recognisable voice that it was hard to imagine Samantha as anybody else. ‘Her’ does take the retro-futuristic hipster aesthetic just a bit too far, if Theodore’s name isn’t ironic enough he also happens to play the ukulele and writes love letters for a living. And lets not forget the high-waist trousers and shirts soaked in brightly coloured hues.

For all the obvious references to people’s increasingly obsessive relationships with technology, 'Her' is just about the nature of love. Samantha may be the perfect woman for Theodore, but its of his making. Whats interesting is that Samantha has evolved where she can adapt herself to ‘play the field’ and be many types of girlfriends to many people. Samantha’s immaterial existence doesn’t stop us believing in ‘her’ relationship with Theodore. She’s the one who poses so many questions as soon as the operating system chooses a female voice rather than a male voice. Jonze doesn’t stick out his neck far enough for a theme that has been covered many times before in sci-fi films, he certainly could have dared to be much more provocative.

Rating: 7/10

Post Tenebras Lux [DVD]
Post Tenebras Lux [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nathalia Acevedo
Offered by vivaverve
Price: £5.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There’s a lot to ponder in ‘Post Tenebras Lux’ but a lot that you may cast aside just as quickly, 10 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Post Tenebras Lux [DVD] (DVD)
Mexican film-maker Carlos Reygadas returns with his most ambitious film yet with ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, in the most part using a self-made beer-glass camera lens which refracts his figures, doubles the image and leaves the screen’s borders blurred.

The opening sequence sums up the dreamlike drama of this film, where a young child is surrounded by a pack of dogs and horses from daylight to darkness. Your mind starts to panic as you assume the worst will happen, questions go through your mind about the wellbeing of the child. Its an unnerving scene. Things get stranger still, with a series of seemingly unconnected stories; where English children play rugby in a school; a red Lucifer/goat-like figure making housecalls with a toolbox; and a bathhouse where orgies take place in rooms named after Hegel and Duchamp. Inbetween the many short stories, a couple called Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) and Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo) live in a big house with their children in the mountains somewhere in Mexico. Their lives and the people that work for them are the only concentrated narrative strands running through this film.

These disparate short stories seem to be used to map out the different aspects of Reygadas’s home country. The rugby match is the one scene that doesn’t fit into this film, I assume its used as a unifying concept for Mexico’s people who shouldn’t be fighting amongst themselves but working as a team for the greater good, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs.

‘Post Tenebras Lux’ is a sketchy film that flits between the real and unreal. By taking so many different snapshots of life, the message is often lost. These broad brushstrokes are occasionally impressive in situations you least expect, such as in the forest and the headless man. Beautifully filmed, Reygadas’s vision and imagination unlocks images you may not have seen otherwise, or unsuspecting thoughts and feelings. There’s a lot to ponder in ‘Post Tenebras Lux’ but a lot that you may cast aside just as quickly, what’s left may be all you need from this film.

Ghosts Of Then And Now
Ghosts Of Then And Now
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £4.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Early EP’s showcased a musician full of invention, but this album plays it way too safe., 10 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Ghosts Of Then And Now (Audio CD)
After quite a few single releases, its taken Illum Sphere (Ryan Hunn) some time to release his debut ‘Ghosts of Then And Now’ on Ninja Tune.

Illum Sphere’s music is a mellow mix of jazz, soul and hip-hop wrapped up in cosy retro-futuristic electronica beats. ‘Ghosts of Then And Now’ may be 13 tracks long but it effortlessly fills your head with dreamy thoughts as soon as the opening ‘Liquesce’ plays. Standout tracks include the hypnotic ‘The Road’, featuring Shadowbox who appears on 3 tracks, a seductive and mysterious 2-stepper. Album highlight ‘It’ll Be Over Soon’ opens with crackles and a foreboding piano, before some peppered beats and a variety of different noises intertwine to drive the track to an ever increasing momentum.

There’s quite a few tracks on ‘Ghosts of Then And Now’ that don’t raise your pulses, such as the single ’Sleeprunner’, ‘Love Theme From Foreverness’ and ‘Lights Out / In Shinjuku’. These and many other tracks sound very similar to bands of a similar ilk such as Ikonika, Bonobo, Flying Lotus and quite a few others.

‘Ghosts of Then And Now’ doesn’t sound like an album that should be released in the Winter months, such is it Summery disposition. Ryan Hunn’s excellent early EP’s like ‘Incoming’, ‘Long Live the Plan’ and ‘Titan’ showcases a musician full of invention, but ‘Ghosts of Then And Now’ plays it too safe for my liking.

Rating: 5/10

Our Children [DVD]
Our Children [DVD]
Dvd ~ Niels Arestrup
Offered by The World Cinema Store
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars ‘Our Children’ is a quiet, delicately constructed drama, 2 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Our Children [DVD] (DVD)
‘Our Children’ is an intimate study of a relationship between schoolteacher Murielle (Émilie Dequenne) and Mounir (Tahar Rahim), a recently qualified doctor. Mounir was adopted, along with his sister, by André (Niels Arestrup) who is himself a doctor in Belgium.

Little is known of Mounir’s families situation prior to his adoption by André who has provided him with a life previously incomprehensible in Morrocco. He’s often caught in André’s shadow and unable to make his own decisions for fear of betraying him.

The couple live with André, and have four children in quick succession. Murielle struggles with their domestic situation and longs for a family home of their own. They even contemplate moving to Morocco to live near Mounir’s mother. André has a subtle overpowering effect on everyone around him, he dotes on everyone and thinks he knows whats best. André’s passivity is so convincing that you wouldn’t think it was strange for him to accompany the couple on their honeymoon!

Dequenne, Rahim and Arestrup are all excellent, but the weak link to this film is that there is little history to the individuals which pose many questions. We know nothing of Murielles past to give us some context to why she behaves in the way that she does. Why did André adopt Mounir but not his younger brother? Little is mentioned of André’s relationship with Mounir’s sister, which is a story in itself.

‘Our Children’ is a quiet, delicately constructed drama showing the unconscious cruelty committed by individuals who believe they’re acting in the best interest of their family. The culpable trio seem incapable of foreseeing the consequences of their actions. Based on a true story, director Joachim LaFosse keeps the suspense to an absolute minimum so that when the appalling conclusion arrives it actually passes you by before you start to comprehend what has happened.

Rating: 7/10

Price: £12.18

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I’m still stunned that Actress created an album as bad as this., 2 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Ghettoville (Audio CD)
Actress (aka Darren Cunningham) has raised the bar with each release of his own brand of progressive Techno, with his third album ‘R.I.P.’ being my personal favourite.

Actress’s fourth album ‘Ghettoville’ is meant to be the sequel to his 2008 debut album ‘Hazyville’, and apparently the last record Cunningham will produce under his Actress alias. As soon as the opening ‘Forgiven’ emerges, you realise that although Actress’s signature sound is present that this is a deliberately different album to his last three. And i’d never thought i’d say it of an Actress release, but this is a terrible album.

Since i’ve been a fan of his music from his first release, i’ve listened to ‘Ghettoville’ dozens of times because i’m still stunned by such an insipidly dull release. The majority of the album is slow, dreadfully uninspiring, and lacking virtually any imagination. This album should have been called ‘R.I.P.’ because Actress has literally ripped the heart and soul from his music, leaving us with just a corpse. I have nothing against his source of inspiration, but there is nothing musically challenging in ‘Ghettoville’. The majority of tracks are too long and repetitive, polarising the listener with an indifferent and unemotional purpose to the music. Most tracks are painfully slow, but even the pacier tracks like ‘Gaze’, ‘Skyline’ and ‘Rule’ have a lack of inspiration that just baffles me.

Whatever Cunningham’s intentions were hasn’t worked. ‘Ghettoville’ feels like a suicide note, such is the defeatism that pervades this album. I’m still stunned that Actress created an album as bad as this.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 17, 2014 8:02 AM GMT

Computer Chess [DVD] [2013] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Computer Chess [DVD] [2013] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £18.04

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The ponderousness of the many individuals seems to stretch to the whole film, 2 Feb. 2014
Andrew Bujalski's ‘Computer Chess’ creates a fictional account of the dawn of computers in the early 1980’s, shot in a mockumentary style using the same grainy video cameras used at the time.

The film is set in a hotel where a chess tournament with a difference is held,where computer geeks pit their own chess software programs against each other. This round-robin tournament ends with the overall winner getting the chance to test his or her chess program against a real grandmaster, who has never been beaten.

Bujalski amps up the geek-ratio to the maximum, a horde of awkward big brains intent on understanding computers, technology and the even bigger issues of artificial intelligence. This was a time prior to mass-produced computers, where incredibly patient computer engineers and programmers created unwieldly and clunky computers and software which are by todays standards practically archaic.

Bujalski doesn’t concentrate too much on the tournament, ‘Computer Chess’ digs deeper into the minds of the people behind the machines. There is also a sub-plot where the hotel also hosts a creepy new-age know-thyself group, some of whom seem to be swinging singles. A meeting of ‘minds’ between these two very different camps is inevitable, by which point you realise this is more of a comedy. Things get weirder still when alternative realities gets thrown into the mix. All very 1980’s.

‘Computer Chess’ had the ingredients for a good film, certainly a good comedy, but its a dull film filled with inert and often cliched characters. Theres also way too many, though very subtle, references to other films mostly of that era. The film has a snapshot approach where it hints at so many technological issues, many of which are hotly topical today such as mass surveillance and the governments role in shaping this new computer world.

The whole film is played out with so much dry wit that you often forget its a comedy, the ponderousness of the many individuals seems to stretch to the whole film. The sub-plots seem contrived and it all adds up to a film with no direction or purpose, leaving you utterly bored by the end.

Rating 3/10

Laurence Anyways [DVD]
Laurence Anyways [DVD]
Dvd ~ Melvil Poupaud
Price: £10.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful story filled with some great performances and great lines, 2 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Laurence Anyways [DVD] (DVD)
What do you do when the man you love and adore decides he isn’t the man he wants to be? This is the question posed in Xavier Dolan’s film ‘Laurence Anyways’, when Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) admits to his girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clément) that he wants to be a woman.

‘Laurence Anyways’ starts in late 1980’s Montreal, Canada, where trans-genders are classed in a negative light. Laurence’s change is filmed over more than a decade, but the story is just as much about the changes in Fred. Initially reluctant to accept such a drastic change of circumstances, Fred realises she is in love with Laurence the person, his sex is irrelevant. But will her devotion to him last?

Laurence has the bigger problems to face, once he’s accepted who he is he has to inform not just Fred but his parents, his friends and his colleagues in the college he teaches. You would assume that going to work in a dress in front of hundreds of children would be the most frightening experience he has to face, in fact the parents have more of an issue than his generally unmoved pupils. As much as he could prepare himself, Laurence realises the ramifications of what he proposes may be too hard to bare.

‘Laurence Anyways’ is not your average love story, and Dolan is to be praised for tackling such a subject which even today is taboo to many. Its often an uneven film, Dolan’s imaginative theatricality and pretensions sometimes fails to inspire, and its running time of 2 hours 40 mins is way too long.

But what holds this film together is a thoughtful story filled with some great performances and great lines, not least by Laurence’s unfazed mother played by Nathalie Baye who said to Laurence “Are you turning into a woman or an idiot?” when he asked if she still loved him! Suzanne Clément gives a terrific turn as Fred, managing to steal the limelight from Poupaud on many occasions.

‘Laurence Anyways’ focuses on transsexuality and gender identity, but Dolan sees Laurence and Fred’s relationship as the epicentre to this film. Both have their faults and insecurities, theirs is a fraught but tender and utterly believable relationship. But they just can’t remain apart or keep each other from their thoughts, regardless of what they’ve done to each other. Sounds like quite a normal relationship to me!

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