Music, Sight & Sound

LISTEN: Jimmy Hawk’s Yana Homme

I’ve seen Melbourne singer/songwriter Jimmy Hawk on two occasions. The first, backed by an electric band The Endless Party, jamming through some fuzzed out stellar rock n roll. The second, a more subdued duo outing filled with experimental electronic soundscapes and guitar-strewn pop. His latest work falls somewhere between the two. “Yana Homme” is beautiful lo-fi folk and is a great example of Hawk’s musical dexterity and vast range.

Perfect for wisftul introspection and quiet afternoons, the new single is out now on his own First Love Records. Check out the single above and watch the music video below, which was created by comic book artist Ben Montero.

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Baseball

The Fall of Ryan Braun

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary again, where in the supplementary Tenth Inning, a great deal of time is dedicated to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s home run chase of 1998. It was swing and after beautiful swing, every crack of the bat, and the long soaring flight of all the balls as they sailed out into the crowd, into the decks, and into oblivion, one after another. It was such a beautiful time in baseball. Reeling after the crippling strike of 1994, the home run chase proved to be the perfect elixir to the greed doldrums, and both Sosa and McGwire became icons of the sport for not only enthralling a nation mired in a Presidential scandal, but one that was looking for solace in its old pastime.

Innocence is beautiful” says Pedro Martinez as he flashes a smile. There is a glint in his eye as he talks about his countryman Sosa, yet he knows that time and history will not look back on Sosa’s accomplishments with the kind of love and fervour America and the world showed him and McGwire as they chased, and ultimately, smashed Roger Maris’ record. But for that moment, for that year, as the world looked in on every at-bat, it was one of the greatest races in sports.

“Innocence is beautiful” -Pedro Martinez, talking about 1998 in the documentary ‘Baseball’.

Innocence however, hasn’t been beautiful for Ryan Braun. Now suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season for violating the MLB’s “Basic Agreement and Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program”, the much promised and talented Milwaukee Brewers star will live for the rest of his career under the same cloudy murk McGwire and Sosa live under thanks to this disgraceful Biogenesis debacle. His long stubborn stance proclaiming innocence looks ridiculous in hindsight, and his vehement protest against the process in which the 2012 drug test progressed is both awkward and rather ridiculous (even dragging Packers QB Aaron Rodgers into the mess as he stood up for his friend). It seethed of arrogance, and now with hat in hand, much of his words are neither entirely apologetic and/or filled with accountability. It’s a new kind of “what you do when you get caught”.

Perhaps this wasn’t too unexpected, but there was still a part of me, as a Brewers fan and as a fan of the game of baseball, that players in this day and age would have learned some, any, lessons. Or at the very least, have been collectively savvy enough to avoid the potential pitfalls of strip mall prescriptions. Maybe we want our stars to have learned their lessons, but in truth, when we all put so much on the success of these stars, it’s not hard to see the pressures of expectations and promise from such a young age.

Ryan Braun will probably never be inducted into the Hall of Fame and the Brewers have to accept the fact that the face of the franchise, our superstar, our beloved hero, is much less than we all hoped he would be. For this season, it won’t be too much of a loss. The Brewers are mired in mediocrity and have been without Braun for long stretches of the season, so continued reliance on talented youngsters like Jean Segura will be nothing new. There’s a chance for the likes of Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl to make an impact, while consistency from veteran players like Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Aramis Ramirez will continue to make a difference. But next year and the years ahead? We’ll have to wait and see Braun’s return to Miller Park and whether hometown fans will welcome him back with open arms (no doubt in opposing parks however, he was already hearing the chorus of boos before this suspension).

One of my Brewers shirts has Braun’s name emblazoned on the back. I’ll still wear the shirt because I still love the team, and a part of me wants to ignore the consequences of his actions because there’s a belief that the club, the franchise, will always be bigger than any player. But in baseball, that isn’t always the case. And because as a fan, he’s your guy, on your team. Innocence is beautiful and the support for your team is blind.

Buster Olney’s words on Braun are perhaps the most painful. For baseball fans and for fans of what we perceive to be heroes and ambassadors of the game;

“Their Cal Ripken is not Cal.”

One of the greatest falls of recent times.

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: Fun Size – Since We Last Spoke

Nostalgia can be an intoxicating thing. Like many long gone bands who have once again donned their guitar straps, Richmond, Virginia punks Fun Size have shelved their hiatus and have released their first album since 1998. For some, the nostalgia and another chance to cash in become the determining factor behind their drive, but for Fun Size, whose genesis as a band was formed when being punk was more about the true freedom of musical expression, Since We Last Spoke is an unbelievable breath of fresh, and familiar, air.

If you’ll let me digress a little; the band’s debut, Pop Secret, was a real gem, an album I found while browsing a Tower Records in Singapore some 15 years ago. Its songs, all rough around the edges and raw, exemplified the youthful unkemptness of 90s punk rock; when the actual songs mattered more than the production value and when bands of this nature wrote songs to play them in front of their friends. Songs like “Pickle” still hold up better than what the majority of what their contemporary counterparts produce (and not surprisingly, the line in the song, “we were here before you were / and we’ll be here after you’re gone”, is apropos in describing Generation Now). When the band signed to Fueled by Ramen for the release of their 1998 album Glad To See You’re Not Dead (this was before Fueled by Ramen started releasing junk), it seemed the band was on the up and up. The material on Glad To See… was a distinct change from Pop Secret. They weren’t afraid to add complexity to their music, forgoing the standard punk rock song writing structure for songs like “Pretentious Porch“. At the time perhaps, it went against what punk was “evolving” into, and not long after, the band called it a day.

Fast forward to 2013 and we’re getting a new Fun Size album that is not only the most polished effort they’ve released, but the most energetic and urgent sounding record they’ve done. “Useless, Useless” is the album’s high gear attitude that revs up Since We Last Spoke, a left hook reminder that the band may have been out of the spotlight, but didn’t lose any of their musical potency. Melodic, fast paced songs about the trials and tribulations of life wrapped in frenetic guitar work (“End of the Road”) and skate punk sensibilities (the terrific “Try Not to Care”), Since We Last Spoke is nostalgic yes, but convincingly new. For fans of 90s melodicore like Good Riddance, and for those who rode the wave that brought Unwritten Law and fellow Virginian’s Ann Beretta to the fold, will find much to like about Fun Size’s return.

It’s been a long time between drinks for Fun Size, and while the new album is more straight forward than their previous efforts, it is their ability to evoke sounds from the last generation of punk that gives Since We Last Spoke a distinct stamp of approval. (self released)

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Sight & Sound, Trailers

Watch: Veronica Mars’ Comic-Con footage

After being hailed as the most successful Kickstarter campaign to date, the first footage from the fan-funded Veronica Mars movie has made its debut at this year’s Comic-Con. A mish mash of interviews with cast and crew along with movie footage, the nearly 5 mins of film gives fans a glimpse at what their money is funding.

After raising more than $2million in just 10 hours, the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $6million to fund its cause, confirming what fans of the cancelled show have wanted for years: a movie.

Featuring the returning cast of Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Tina Majorino, Percy Dags III and Enrico Colantoni, the film is being directed by series creator Rob Thomas and is set for release sometime in 2014.

Check out the Comic-Con footage below.

http://www.traileraddict.com/emd/77464

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The story of the Calvin & Hobbes documentary is almost as compelling as that of Bill Watterson himself. Filmmaker Joel Schroeder has spent years piecing together an extensive retrospective on not just one of the most compelling comic strips of all time, but the enigma of the man behind the pen.

Titled Dear Mr. Watterson, the documentary features insight and commentary from many noted comic strip scribes and individuals like Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County), Bill Amend (Foxtrot), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) and Seth Green (Robot Chicken and Family Guy).

In other good news, Variety is reporting that the documentary has been picked up for North American release this November and will see both theatrical and VOD release on the 15th.

It’s a real delight, especially for Calvin & Hobbes fans. No word however if the documentary features the reclusive Watterson (I doubt it), but there’s just a joyous sense of nostalgia to the strip that lives long after the last new one was printed in 1995.

Film Reviews, Sight & Sound

Instagram trailer watch: Jobs

It’s fitting perhaps, that the first Instagram trailer be for the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic Jobs. The Ashton Kutcher-starring vehicle took out a first with its debut of the instrailer below. It’s a little innovative, smart, saavy and an unfortunate turn of events for those who love an old fashioned trailer to help build excitement for an upcoming “moving picture show”.

Are we not able to sit around for 3 minutes to watch a trailer? I hope this does not become the trailer staple.  Equal blame goes to the smart marketing innovators and Generation ADD.

//instagram.com/p/br4iT0oUeD/embed/

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Music, Sight & Sound

Video: City and Colour – “Thirst”

We reviewed Dallas Green’s latest album under the City and Colour moniker awhile ago, and it continues to receive its fare share of praise. And with the impressive speed in which tickets to his intimate Melbourne/Sydney shows sold out in, it seems that Green’s trajectory continues to be an upward one.

His latest video from the album is for the single “Thirst”, a percussion-driven, bluesy number with the right kind of toe-tapping infectiousness Green is becoming known for. If you didn’t get tickets to the upcoming shows, then indulge in what you’ll probably miss out on.

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Film, Film Reviews

Film Review: Pacific Rim

Somewhere between the minds that created Japanese Manga, mecha beasts and Hell demons comes Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Offering a glutinous feast of sight and sound for all the senses, Hollywood’s latest entry into the monster movie cannon is the personification of the Americanized Japanese blockbuster. While the spate of recent apocalyptic fare has offered up cynicism with its dose of explosive, Del Toro’s monster flick has far more optimism written in. Like the historical nature of the Japanese monster movie, there is a very clear definition between good and evil, and much of the characters’ hope comes from the promise of a rising sun.

Pacific Rim is massive, both in size and detail, and throws the viewer into the middle of the coda from the onset. Humanity has been thrust into a titanic battle with giant monsters that have emerged from the depths of our oceans. These leviathans (known as Kaijus) came through the seas and have forced humanity to build equally terrifying mechanical beasts (built as Jaegers) in retaliation. This exposition comes very quickly in the opening stanza of the film, and before you can dig in to your popcorn we’re shot 5 years into the present where the battle between man-made beast and beast is at its pinnacle. It’s a little bit of a shame we do not get the same gradual storytelling the way Independence Day unfolded, as while there is no time wasted before we’re into the meat of Pacific Rim, it would be have been a fascinating exploration into the reveal of these monsters if Del Toro would have spent more than 5 minutes explaining their sudden appearance on Earth.

jaegerThe cast is led by the booming presence of Idris Elba, whose headstrong-into-battle marshalling of the supporting cast is a pretty decent homage to Bill Pullman’s noble Presidential turn in ID4 (right down to the motivational speech). Alongside, Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) portrays Raleigh Beckett, your everyman hero; talented and charismatic, leading the charge against the monsters. His occasional brooding is brought upon by the burden of his past, and serves as both motivation and a hindrance to his return into the Jaeger program. His new co-pilot is Rinko Kikuchi’s (Babel) Mako Mori, whose deft touch to deceiving Asian frailty is offset by her ability to nail down her need to kick-ass when required. Similarly, her backstory takes the audience to perhaps the film’s most touching moment- the young Mako hunted through the city streets by a Kaiju (played by youngster Mana Ashida, who already has 23 titles to her resume). There is a real terrifying sense of hopelessness and fear to her character, and it really takes the audience far into the film’s best human moment.

As humanity and their machines battle the beasts, we find that the Kaiju continue to evolve and that their end game is unexpected. It is up to two wily scientists (played with some timely humour by Charlie Day and with odd Britishness by Burn Gorman) to figure out a way to effectively end the Kaiju menace. From here, we’re treated to some of the most exhilarating and breathtaking big screen CGI battles we’ve ever seen, and there is almost an operatic tone to Del Toro’s vision. While Michael Bay and Zack Snyder are happy to punch you in the head for 2+ hours, Del Toro adds a little song and dance to the fold. From the oceans to the metropolis streets, the collision of steel and flesh unfolds in the most effective and detailed carnage yet. It’s beautiful destruction without the fatigue.

“Those who grew up with Japanese robot cinema, or even kooky television shows like Dai Sentai Goggle-V, will know that there is a youthful veneer to all the beasts and destruction.”

Expectedly, there is some glorious cheese to the dialogue (and the Australian accents placed on the Australian Jaeger pilots are at times, excruciating), but Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham know that it isn’t Shakespearean context that will successfully connect all the action. It’s about being funny at the right times, being overly dramatic in others, and doing their best to be human the rest. Those who grew up with Japanese robot cinema, or even kooky television shows like Dai Sentai Goggle-V, will know that there is a youthful veneer to all the beasts and destruction. It says that while there is evil, there are good protectors that will defend and fight for the rest of humanity. And in contrast to all the computer generated modernity of the picture, much of Pacific Rim is old fashioned in its sensibilities.

With Del Toro’s eye for detail, some good casting and a seriously fun attitude, Pacific Rim does what films like the Hollywood version of Godzilla couldn’t do; make the ridiculous believable, exciting and at times, just immensely breathtaking. Go see Pacific Rim at the largest screened cinema you can find, where the audio is cranked up to 11, and where they’ll charge you an extra few dollars for 3D glasses. You will be entertained.

Pacific Rim is in cinemas July 11th in Australia and July 12th in the United States.

 

PACIFIC RIM
Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Written by: Travis Beachham, Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kickuchi, Charlie Day
Released by: Warner Bros.
Website: pacificrimmovie.com

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Baseball, Sports

Carlos Gomez saves the Brewers with HR-saving catch

Just a few days removed from writing about the silver lining in the Brewers woefully mediocre season comes this game saving gem from Carlos Gomez. Fresh from his All-Star call up, Gomez robs Joey Votto a game-winning HR, preserving the Brewers 4-3 lead and closing out the game. Gold Glove stuff, and anytime you can stick it to the Reds, I’m all for it.

The Brewers still aren’t very good but plays like this make this crappy season just a little more tolerable.

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Baseball

Silver Lining Playbooks: Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura tabbed for All-Star berth

Jean Segura: One of the bright spots for the Brewers this year.

Jean Segura: One of the bright spots for the Brewers this year.

 

It’s been one of those years for the Milwaukee Brewers. The kind that seem to go on forever with every possible disastrous turn of events sinking the team lower and lower into the depth’s of season’s despair. The latest, Johnny Hellweg’s pitiful ERA, is just another layer in the crap cake that’s being served at Miller Park this year. It’s hard to put too much on Hellweg however, the poor kid’s being thrown into the deep end with little or no support, but there’s little forgiving a 12.79 ERA through two starts. Yet, you can’t really put it all on the kid’s shoulders. Fielding errors in the last few games (with plenty of blame to go around- Segura, Ramirez) have added to the team’s lack of run production. Without Ryan Braun in the lineup, Ramirez on shaky knees, and no Corey Hart for the season, much of the hitting production has been left up to the likes of Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, Nori Aoki and a round robin of youngsters yoyo-ing up and down from Triple-A Nashville (Josh Prince, Caleb Gindl, Scooter Gennett). The Brewers need more from the Jonathan Lucroy and Rickie Weeks, otherwise waiting around for guys like Yuni Betancourt and Juan Francisco to hit big means we’ll probably be waiting for a long, long time.

Then there’s the mediocre pitching all around. It seems that every time you tune in, Kyle Lohse is struggling, or John Axford stinks again, and lately, Hellweg getting knocked out of games early. A feared pitching rotation it is not. Silver lining? Both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura were picked to represent the club at the All-Star Game. It’s not much but both have been putting in the hard yards and have kept afloat a struggling ball club. Carlos Gomez has been fielding a few beauties lately and Segura’s play at the plate has been significant.

Long season’s are part of every club’s cycle. 2013 will be a season to forget in Milwaukee but there’s still the opportunity for some of the youngsters to get in a few games and build on some promising futures. The Brewers could nab themselves some decent draft picks come next draft, so the team will continue to get some young legs in. It wasn’t long ago the Brewers were plying their trade in the NLCS (just two years ago), and in time and continued play from the likes of Gomez and Segura, Miller Park will be home to important games again. Just not this year.

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