RMB: Records, Movies, Books
British mercenary, Lex Walker, (Craig Fairbrass) is called away from fighting on the front lines in Afghanistan to identify a body, which he was lead to believe was his daughter’s, Samantha, in an L.A. morgue. Upon lifting back the sheet at the morgue, however, he discovers that the body is not actually Samantha’s. Walker scours Samantha’s already turned-over apartment and finds a photo of her with the mystery girl who is lying on a slab in the morgue. Walker realises that time is running out to help Samantha and turns up unannounced at the offices of her employer, a wealthy Internet entrepreneur, Schuuster (James Caan). Walker's meeting with Schuuster pricks his suspicion. When finally reunited with his daughter, after a few generic twists and turns that you would expect to see in an ‘action/thriller’ movie, and overcoming Samantha’s abandonment issues, they work together, along with her crooked boyfriend and a bargirl Walker picked up, to bring down Schuuster and his cronies.
Fairbrass makes a disappointing leading man with his uncharismatic performance and wooden acting style. Although Fairbass co-wrote the script, he did not leave himself much to work with in terms of a noteworthy role as there was no in-depth exploration of his character, thus leading to a 2D performance. The Outsider is a poor man’s Taken. Isabel Rose
Qohen Leth, (Christoph Waltz) a put upon computer programmer working for a giant corporate employer in a dystopian future, is given the task of solving the Zero Theorem; a theorem that proves that all life is meaningless.
To picture the world in which Qohen lives, think Blade Runner meets Internet pop-up sex adverts and you have a close approximation of the future that director, Terry Gilliam, envisages. Gilliam has denied that his Zero Theorem forms the final part of a loose trilogy of his films that started with Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, however, their overarching influence is clear to see. The movie tries to explore themes of love and the universe with a lot of
talk of mathematics, however, the beautifully realised world in which it inhabits can, at times, be too distracting, its lurid details making the difficult narrative hard to follow. It’s unfortunate, but maybe this intrusion is saying something about the world we are ever more living in.
A shaven head Walts plays Quohen well. It’s down to his skill as an actor that the difficult character is believable. With a lesser actor, the film would likely have fallen apart. It is desperately trying to say something about the loneliness found in our interconnected world but stumbles. It’s always better to see a film tackle big ideas and fail than to churn out mediocre Hollywood tripe again and again. Zero Theorem is still a movie well worth seeing; it’s just that it could have been so much more.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Auteur director, Wes Anderson, has returned with The Grand Budapest Hotel, perfectly hitting his mark, delivering one of his funniest films in years. There are few contemporary directors whose works are so instantly recognisable as
Anderson’s. So heavily stylised are they that they easily lend themselves to satire, and, recently, Anderson’s films have been so distinctly ‘Wes Anderson’ that it’s hard to tell apart the satire and the actual films. With The Grand Budapest Hotel however, the stylistic avalanche that can overwhelm has found a happy medium that fits comfortably. The titular hotel, on which the movie is based, resides in Zubrowka, a fictional amalgam of European countries. The story darts across the middle of the 20th century with the narrative moving in and out of different periods in the characters’ lives. It’s convoluted and intriguing. The life of the hotel centering around M. Gustav, played to perfection by Ralph Fiennes, a legendary concierge who pays particular attention to the elderly female clientele. After one of Gustav’s older lovers and guests dies during her stay, a priceless artwork is left in her will to him, much to the dismay of her family. The story that follows features theft, murder, a prison break and a host of other adventures with a dazzling A-list ensemble cast that would make most directors weep with envy.
Anderson has created one of his best films of recent years; hilarious and enthralling in equal measure. Not to be missed.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
After the cult success of 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, the directors, producers and cast are back with this hotly anticipated sequel. Set several years after the original movie, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married co-anchors on a popular news show. All seems well until Corningstone receives a promotion whilst Burgundy simultaneously gets fired. What ensues is a downward spiral for Burgundy as he grapples with his wife’s success and his failure before finally storming out of his family home leaving behind Corningstone and their six-year-old son.
Just as Burgundy hits rock bottom, he is headhunted by GNN, the world’s first 24-hour news channel, for their official launch. This leads Burgundy to round up his old news team, David Koechner, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, with hilarious consequences. Although initially given the graveyard shift, Burgundy and his merry men wheel out sensationalist, attention grabbing headlines before getting bumped to primetime. As Burgundy’s star rises, so too does his proximity to Corningstone.
Fans of the first movie will be pleased to find the same level of humour and crude jokes, although, sometimes the comedy moments seem laboured as the stupidity becomes excruciating. The star-studded news team fight is enough of a reason to watch this movie through to the end, featuring cameos from Sacha Baron Cohen for BBC news, Kanye West for MTV news, Will Smith for ESPN and Liam Neeson for the History Channel.
The Exact Unknown, And Other
Tales of Modern China
(Magic Theater Books)
At once reviled and respected by his contemporaries, underground blogger, Isham Cook, is an expatriate to contend
with, covering sexy and sordid subject matter that not even the most cavalier Old China Hand would confess.
His debut book, Lust & Philosophy, was a primal rampage largely set in Beijing (where Cook moonlights as a professor), though its experimental narrative ensured that it never reached a mass-market audience. In The Exact Unknown, Cook presents a more palatable read, but still manages to disregard all literary decorum that the old guard of China writers have put in place.
Pieced together from his most outrageous blog posts, this collection is an intoxicating, and at times toxic, cocktail of freshly fashioned creations of flesh and fantasy. Cook obviously delights in the “distress (his writings) cause many Western readers, particularly on the subject of the Chinese having sex, or having sex with foreigners.”
Several of the stories pruriently portray the narrator’s seduction of his female Chinese students, though each encounter tends to conclude with the delirious if not hilarious surrealism that only happens
The book is disclaimed as fiction, though the details and dialogue are too precise to be purely imagined. Female expats will predictably be turned off if not outraged, but for worldly libertines, this may become required bedtime reading.
John F. Nardizzi
“San Francisco: where you went when no one… was talking to you anymore.” So illustrates the ostracised tone of Telegraph Hill, the new crime noir penned by real-life private eye John Nardizzi, which is just as much about finding as it is being lost.
Sculpted after the PI pulp of days past, Nardizzi covers a tried and true page-turning formula: disenchanted detective tracking down an elusive prostitute, who witnessed a gang shooting, before blood-thirsty Chinese triads get to her first.
The story encompasses all the classic requisites of an urban thriller – narrow escapes, sexy femme fatales, investigative interludes and violent crescendos – but is refreshingly countered with cheek towards clichéd noir symbols – “He wondered why steam still drifted from manholes in the 21st century”.
At times, the plot seems a little forced as the author squeezes in nearly every Bay Area landmark. Nardizzi might have done better with a retro ’70s setting, as today’s triad syndicates, mostly operating through legitimate multinational corporations, are not nearly as prevalent nor trigger-happy as portrayed.
However, where this novel stands apart is the lyrical prose and intimate observations of lesserknown S.F. neighbourhoods and their respective counter-cultures.
Chinese cultural references and scenes in Hong Kong appealed to this San Francisco City native living as an expatriate in China, as did the subtle themes of displacement, from the cast-out protagonist to the astray prostitute. Tom Carter
Love Letters, the fourth album from Metronomy, is a return to the same electro indie pop vein in which they have
made their home, but with a much more melancholic feel. The unassuming English charm of The English Rivera has been tempered by a feeling of loss. If The English Riviera was a refection of the height of the British summer, then Love Letters’ mood is of a seaside town in the dead of winter.
The band chose to record at Toe Rag Studios in Hackney; an all-analogue institution made popular by the likes of the White Stripes. This production shows through with slow burning nuances that are only apparent after multiple listens. It’s definitely not as accessible as its predecessor; there are no songs like The Bay with immediate gratification. The first few singles have been polarising fans everywhere. However, it seems like it was meant to be this way. Frontman, Joe Mount, has spoken of his fear of becoming a stadium band, brash and aloof, so with this much more personal record, maybe he’s just trying to steer the band towards a different destination.
All this is not to say that the album is solely full of depressing songs, even though the lyrics focus on the likes of long distance break-ups and heartbreak, there are uplifting spells. It’s safe to say that Metronomy are right on the edge of being huge. They’re way up the roster on the festival circuit this summer. It’s simply up to them in which direction they choose to travel next.
The War On Drugs
Lost In The Dream
It’s rare these days for a band to deliver increasingly good music. Too often, new bands are overhyped in a media frenzy only to fall short when weighed and measured; with the ‘difficult’ second album a common curse that plagues the industry through and through. It’s refreshing therefore to see a band that is developing so brilliantly. Starting out with middling promise, The War on Drugs’ first album was released to little fanfare. Their second album, 2011’s Slave Ambient, however, was a marked improvement and released to critical acclaim. Since then there have been changes to the band’s line up over the years, but theses changes seem to have left the band more focused; their sound has developed into an expansive yet claustrophobic mesh that is truly beautiful to hear.
Soaring synth riffs and duelling guitars play off each other to map out enveloping soundscapes that you want to loose yourself in. Play it loud and let the mumbling vocals take you where you’re going, and enjoy; front man Adam Granduciel’s voice recalling the likes of Dylan and Springsteen.
The yearlong process of producing this record, a gruelling series of re-recording’s and perfectionist tweaking, have layered the album with a mesmerising texture, rich and layered. The obsessive commitment has played off in full. One of the best albums of the year so far, this hazy psychedelic rock record is miles ahead of its predecessor, and with the band’s current trajectory, I’m itching for my next fix.