Highlights, Sports

Victory over Sydney FC: The Sweet Sorrow

It’s been a mediocre season for the Melbourne Victory at best, highlighted by frustrating lack of imagination, average goalkeeping and, most painfully, an Archie Thompson-less attack exhibiting as much bite as a senior citizen with gum disease. Kevin Muscat, always a talisman, has looked old and broken while the midfield primarily rotating through Grant Brebner, Carlos Hernandez and Leigh Broxham has at times looked utterly clueless. I sat through a painful home opener to see Robbie Fowler (Robbie Fowler for Christ’s sake!) poke holes through our defense (eventuating in an 0-2 loss) and had to sit through the indignity of that other Melbourne team I refuse to name win the very first city derby.

We’re probably not going to win the league or the championship this year, but I’m okay with that, because on a night where temperatures hit rock bottom, we put one over Sydney FC. We put one over them well and good, 3-0 at home and even Carlos Hernandez (who until this point couldn’t hit the side of a barn) put one into the back of the net. Now I’m normally a fairly reasonable human being, well kept and level headed, but when it comes to matters pertaining to the team from the Harbour City, I lose all sanity and revert into a profanity swilling, anger-driven, hate-filled animal hell-bent on the destruction of all that is Sydney FC. It’s permeated through to my understanding of the city itself- it’s an overly stylish city whose metropolitan self-belief overshadows the truth; it’s a craphole.

March 2010
Perched upon the third deck of Etihad Stadium, I am staring into the stars in disbelief. Moments ago, Sydney FC’s Byun Sung-Hwan had slotted the last penalty of the Grand Final past our goalkeeper and in the distance, an infestation of sky blue is rapturous in their celebration. Sydney FC had just won the A-League Grand Final on our turf on a penalty shoot out on a night I will have trouble forgetting until my deathbed. There are few instances in sports as stomach-punchingly painful as losing a final by way of penalty shoot out. There just isn’t, and this of all nights, against them of all teams.

http://media.foxsports.com.au/FlashDev/prod/flintplayer/FlintShellLoader.swf

October 2010
Months removed from their pitiful displays of joy, Sydney FC are languishing at the bottom of the ladder, suffering through their most pathetic season since their formation. They’ve notched up zero wins through the first ten league games and have performed with the sputtering guile of a dying antelope. And nothing has brought me more joy and happiness in sports than the suffering and pain of their club, their city, and most of all, their fans. It’s an unreasonable train of thought, inhuman even, to take pride in the suffering of others, but it’s a sports thing- and one only diehard fans and crazies can understand. We know it’s not right, we not it’s not human, but we’re programmed this way.

So perhaps this season may not end up being the Victory’s best, and yes, that other Melbourne team that I refuse to name pulled the wool over our heads in embarrassing fashion, but I tell you, watching Sydney suffer the way they’ve suffered, brings the kind of joy meant to be celebrated with champagne and fireworks.

Suffer in your jocks Sydney. Take your ugly-ass uniforms and your average team back to your always-empty stadium and suffer for all eternity.

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Film, Highlights

New Scream 4 picture, Neve Campbell interview

Long dormant slasher series Scream is returning to the big screen in 2011.

Ten years since Scream 3, Wes Craven returns to direct one of modern cinemas most successful horror series, reigniting the movies that in 1996, gave a star turn to then young actors Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard and Skeet Ulrich. Entertainment Weekly recently premiered the first photo still from the movie (seen here).

Scream 4 will see a return to the big-scream for Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox-Arquette and David Arquette. Joining them will be contemporary young stars Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, that champagne popping video), Emma Roberts (Julia’s niece), Alison Brie (Community), Adam Brody (that guy from The OC) and Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights).

Kevin Williamson (who wrote Scream, Scream 2 and co-wrote Scream 3) returned to write the fourth installment. No word as of yet regarding plot but we can safely assume that there will be many self-referential moments, movie-in-movie scenes, people who we thought were already dead, and Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell cameos (we are also sure they will both be dead within the first 10 minutes of the film).

Scream 4 is slated to hit cinemas April 15, 2011. Neve Campbell recently sat down with Entertainment Tonight to talk about the latest installment, how it was being back on set, and the success of the previous films. You can view the video below.

VIDEO:
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Album Reviews, Highlights, Music

Review: Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man

In an interview prior to the release of The Dissent of Man, Brett Gurewitz had referenced Tom Petty and The Kinks as influential outlets for the album’s songwriting. It was a disarming statement at first, but why can’t a Bad Religion album sound a little like something Ray Davies would have written? Yet as The Dissent of Man unfolds, it is clear that it is still a distinctively Bad Religion album- compact melodies, sharp guitars and Brooks Wackerman’s great percussion work- but there are many instances where they venture out into the kind of ambition unseen since Into the Unknown.

It isn’t a grating, blatantly abstract form of musical diversity- they’ve exercised these textures with certain restraint. Most evident perhaps, in the closing “I Won’t Say Anything”, an acoustic driven, soft rock-tinged tune that will play closer to Tom Petty and Ray Davies than Greg Ginn and Steve Soto. But the song’s diversion from the regular Bad Religion sound is still in line with the album’s bigger thematic nuances- so it doesn’t feel out of place. Mid tempo tracks “Won’t Somebody” and “The Devil in Stitches” are from the same book as “The Answer” and “Honest Goodbye” while “The Pride And the Pallor” is a great example of forward thinking songwriting blended perfectly with accessible rock aesthetics and their trademark lyrical attack.

Where The Dissent of Man really tests the waters are with its two (yes, two) love-themed tracks, and as alarming as it is to know that Bad Religion have written a love song, it is less so once you hear it. Lyrically, it’s a mix of cheese and embittered lovelorn couplets in “Cyanide”; “Let me say / (Oh oh) well there’s no place left to hide / (Oh oh) from the loneliness inside”, complemented well by the song’s country-punk flavoured sound. “Turn Your Back On Me” is equally pessimistic.

The most effective aspects of The Dissent of Man are when Bad Religion ups the tempo and dives into more familiar waters. “Only Rain” and “The Resist Stance” (first heard on 30 Years Live) is closer to vintage BR, while tracks like “Meeting of the Minds” and “Wrong Way Kids” would not feel out of place on Generator or Against the Grain.

Gurewitz has said that there have been a few cases where they would step back from the progressive writing to pen a more straightforward punk album (as with New Maps of Hell and The Empire Strikes First) but this is not one of those times. Greg Graffin has made no secret of the band’s intake of music outside of punk rock since their earliest of days. Their latest simply shows these influences on a more prominent level. Some 30 years after their formation, The Dissent of Man is proof that one of the smartest bands on Earth is still challenging music on a multitude of levels. They’ve now challenged long-time fans and listeners as well, with remarkable effect. (Epitaph)

[xrr rating=4/5]

AUDIO STREAM: “The Pride And the Pallor”
Bad Religion – The Pride And the Pallor (from the album The Dissent of Man)

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Album Reviews, Highlights, Music

Review: Jimmy Eat World – Invented

Jimmy Eat World have always come across as artists whose authenticity isn’t tangled in the typical blueprints of critical music appreciation. Their appeal, one long standing and global, rests on values outside of these norms (the kind the Robert Christgaus and Lester Bangs of the world harp on about) oft associated with socially affecting music. Yet one could argue that Jimmy Eat World have indeed been on the forefront of a socially viable brand of music. It is because their music is about moments and not about revolution, about heart and not art, that the praise languished upon them is from the thousands of people who fill their venues through an emotional connection and not by some witty journalist with a furrowed brow.

Their music, from Static Prevails and Clarity, to Futures and Chase This Light, is described by the one word critically acclaimed music cannot be; “beautiful.” It is not angular, or blunt or transient. It is patient and refined. Invented, their latest, is by all accounts, beautifully executed sentimentality. Histrionic in its words, its aural accompaniments are all about chasing that uncontrollable chemistry that happens within each and every one of us. The best place to begin is at the very apex- the title track “Invented”. It is the moment in which the long awaited build reaches its crescendo and over its seven minutes plus, the shimmering acoustics and the whispered vocal hum become a firework of sharp guitars, dynamic percussions and that unforgettable emotional incandescence we’ve seen in “Table For Glasses” and to a more compact extent, “For Me This is Heaven”. In “Littlething”, they embark on the kind of lyrical introspection that has become the hallmark for the band. Writing words on frosted windows with lines like; “Just a little thing / buried in the other things / burning away, from inside / could you be with me tonight?” to the backdrop of orchestral harmonies and melodies best suited for moments when snow is falling on your driveway.

“Evidence” plays out like a mid-paced “Big Casino” while the first single, “My Best Theory”, is the band at its most unorthodox. Its skittering beats and rhythmic dissonance is the closest they’ll ever get to angular songwriting. In “Movielike”, they dissect the realities of big city life for all those who seek fortune and happiness within its monolithic walls; “Nothing movie-like / Nothing magic / People just tire to fight the constant battle / Waiting to see a sign? / Then you’ve seen the best already.” And while its content is anything but, the song itself is in sharp contrast to its disappointed outlook, and in essence, very much like its namesake.

Introspection, life and love are the cornerstones of the Jimmy Eat World manifesto. Be it sad heart musings (“Cut”) or recollections on those pioneering instincts of post-school restlessness (“Coffee And Cigarettes”), their connection to listeners continues to be this bond. They are the principal protagonists of their genre and Invented is its most important expression since Something to Write Home About. Beautiful and stellar, these Jimmy Eat World songs always sound like they’re written amongst the stars. (Interscope)

AUDIO STREAM: “Movielike”
Jimmy Eat World – Movielike (from the album Invented)

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Featured, Highlights, Television

Nikita: The New Femme Fatale

The original La Femme Nikita TV series developed such a rabid cult following that when it was initially cancelled, the furor and uproar it caused led to a shortened fifth season renewal. The fifth season was, of course, terrible and quietly I’m sure, people would have been happier if they left it at four. It is however, this passionate fanbase that still drives the lore of the series today. Fuelled in part by the show’s characters and the many twists they took throughout its run. Created by 24’sJoel Surnow, it’s easy to see in retrospect that it was the template to many of 24’s story arcs. Much of the cinematography, editing and action sequences perfected by the latter can be seen in their infancy through La Femme Nikita. It was a daring show driven by Peta Wilson and Roy Dupuis’ chemistry and mystery, characters whose complex layers and allegiances tested viewers expectations. It looks and feels dated today, thanks in part to the quick-cut editing that has become the norm for action-based series, but it was on the forefront of a landscape that would later be dominated by the 24s and Alias’ of contemporary television.

Nikita, The CW’s latest series reboot is a surprise in itself as it traverses the busy spy-charged schedule of prime time. Taking elements from both the original French film of the same name, the American remake and the Canadian series, Nikita is the dark-toned, sexualized modernization of an already modern concept. The introduction we get to the series is a smart combination of the both the film and the original series, convoluting the premise enough to leave viewers with a sense of intrigue as the pilot wraps. There is familiarity; a teenage girl is arrested and jailed by police only to have her death faked by a rogue government organization (Division) that recruits them as assassins. Alex (played by Lyndsy Fonseca) is initially recruited as the series opens, and we expect her to play out the part, but we soon discover that she is holding more cards than the viewers are led to believe. It is a unique twist that sets this update apart- all the more so as we are soon graced by the presence of the new NikitaMaggie Q. Unlike previous adaptations, Nikita is on the outside of Division, an ex-agent returning to the fold driven to destroy the organization from within. It is a smarter premise, and gives Q her opportunity to display all her spectacular femininity and serious face-kicking vengeance with style.

For any red-blooded male, there is no additional enticement required other than Maggie Q herself (superlatives have been exhausted trying to properly exemplify her magnetism). However, it isn’t just an explosion of sexuality that drives this show. She shows vulnerability, humor, and a brokenness that cannot always be hidden beneath her poised rage and determination. She is as ruthless as she is beautiful and never has a Nikita been this captivating (no disrespect to Peta Wilson of course). We see through the first few episodes that there is a compassionate side to her, and while it is in retrospect a result of what has happened to her through a troubled childhood and time as a Division agent, her nurturing of Alex demonstrates humanity within her character.

The series is still in its infancy but a weakness of the early episodes is rather unfortunately the character of Michael. Played by Dupuis in the original, there was a sense of mystery about him. Rarely spoken and oft brooding, his actions louder than words were the trademark of his character’s distinct appeal. Shane West tackles the role and while he is sound in the acting department, he lacks the enigmatic qualities seen in Dupuis. It is however, still too early to tell how this character develops, but while he isn’t as interesting as the original Michael, there is a great deal more realism to his persona (one that unfolds as the pilot ends). Television veterans Melinda Clarke (The OC, CSI) and Xander Berkeley (24) round out Division’s pointy end and both do their villainous jobs with admiration. Both exhibit a kind of “more than they’re letting on” aura that will surely come to light as the series progresses.

Nikita is cinematically slick; an artful precision to its settings adapts the sometimes-unbelievable premise to a more believable reality. In a world of filled with spies, detectives, rogue agents and one-line crime scene investigators, there is certainly room for an entire division of secret agents that even the CIA can’t control. The new series is produced by Craig Silverstein, Danny Cannon and McG, the latter whom can surely be attributed for the glossier action sequences and bigger budget feel. It’s removed from the original in many respects and could do what Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse couldn’t; thrust a strong but fragile, complicated female lead character into territory usually reserved for the Jack Bauer’s of the small screen.

Until the season unfolds and we understand the depths in which both Nikita and Alex function at, intrigue, intelligent writing and good character chemistry (and Maggie Q) do more than its share to propel this series to the “ones to watch” list. Good enough that even fans of the original may like it.

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Nikita airs 9pm Thursday nights on The CW.

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Album Reviews, Highlights, Music

Review: Weezer – Hurley

It’s been a long time since we’ve heard Rivers Cuomo write songs because he wants to, not because he has to. The sentiment in Hurley is the most genuine we’ve seen from Weezer in almost a decade and is easily the closest they’ve been to emulating The Blue Album since Pinkerton. Yet it is clear that anyone who hopes that Weezer will someday release another Blue Album will most likely be waiting for a long time. Hurley is however, not without moments that sound as if they crystallized sometime in 1994. The riff heavy textures of “Ruling Me” are momentary to its throwback choruses and light synthesizer touches. Small in comparison to the song’s grandiose appeal, it comes across as falling somewhere in between “My Name is Jonas” and “No One Else”.

The delicate, more textured songwriting that has seemingly eluded Cuomo for some time resurfaces in the acoustic melodrama of “Unspoken” as it quietly unfolds to a very “Say It Ain’t So”-like crescendo. Having cornered the market of geeky rock humor, “Smart Girls” is a vibrant entry into the canon. With its plucky couplets (rhyming Tatiana with Donna for example) and synthesizer fuelled guitar melodies, it’s another showcase of simple authenticity done well.

It is frustrating however, that we get “Where’s My Sex?” Sounding painfully like a Make Believe cut, its cheesy disposition and woeful lyrical exercise is a quick reminder that when Weezer wants to be bad, they’re really bad. “Run Away” and “Hang On” are quick to remedy this malaise, once again employing more layered songwriting and a potency that leaves you wondering why it can’t be like this all the time.

The deluxe edition of the album gives you a pretty great cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”, a reminder that Weezer’s tongue-in-cheek bravado is not lost amongst the volume of material they’ve written in the past 15 years. Hurley is such an improvement over Raditude that it’s an uneasy comfort. It isn’t without its flaws, and “Memories” is still a God-awful song, but it goes a long way in making us all forget the last five years. In “Trainwrecks”, Cuomo sings “someday we’ll cut our critics down to size” and you get the feeling that for the first time in years, he’s right. (Epitaph)

[xrr rating=3/5]

AUDIO STREAM:
Weezer – Ruling Me (from the album Hurley)

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Film, Film Reviews, Highlights

Film Review: The Other Guys

Set to the backdrop of large-scale financial crime and scandal, the Adam McKay-directed The Other Guys is part buddy cop movie and part outrageous comedy sprinkled with dabs of absurdist action/drama. It is as unconventional as it sounds, and at times, proves to be a tough slog, but surprising results at its conclusion make this the surprise comedy hit of the year.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are an out-of-sorts detective pairing that has spent more time at a desk than out in the field. Ferrell’s character (Allen Gamble) is tied to his computer because he’s hiding a less-than-savory past while Wahlberg’s Terry Hoitz was demoted for hilariously shooting Derek Jeter in the leg and conceding the Yankees to a World Series loss (and for any real New Yorker, a big deal). They’re both offbeat but of a different nature, Gamble is smart, reserved, painfully dorky, while Hoitz is angry and disgruntled. Their characters provide much of the movie’s comedic friction between two diverging points of view. It’s unexpected too, with Wahlberg proving to be as good as an action star as he is a deadpan humorist. He doesn’t do much laughing in the movie, just lots of shouting, blank stares and pitch-perfect one-liners delivered with unexpectedly great comic timing. Ferrell on the other hand, juggles his over-the-top routine with more subdued but equally funny quips that is typical Ferrell, but just a little less Ron Burgundy.

The two find themselves thrust into the center of the scandal after New York’s most ridiculous and gung-ho detective duo (brief but welcome appearances from Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are put out of commission. These two were the supercops of the city, and much of the humor comes from Gamble and Hoitz trying to emulate their success with their own brand of police work as they attempt to overcome one obstacle after another. Steve Coogan plays white-collar criminal and investment guru David Ershon, whose bumbling but conniving character is good enough to propel the story, if not a little underused. Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes are good in their supporting roles with Keaton’s police chief by day and Bed Bath & Beyond employee by weekend as funny as Keaton’s been in years. Mendes’ turn as Gamble’s suprisingly beautiful wife is a good running gag- played off well by the dumbfounded and perplexed reaction we get from Wahlberg’s character during their initial meeting. There’s a lot to take in with the smorgasbord of characters on show weaving in and out of the story, and the movie does its best to try and maintain cohesion amongst the humor. Gamble and Hoitz are no Riggs and Murtaugh, but there is a far more genuine bond between the two than any two-cop pairing since the first Bad Boys.

Collectively, the strong cast is able to offset the unstable nature of the movie’s comedic premise. Those expecting the same kind of brainless humor in Talladega Nights or Step Brothers will probably be disappointed with The Other Guys and it’s more textured jokes. It’s a modern hybrid of the absurd with the conventional, all done with ample intelligence. Alongside Judd Apatow, McKay has been on the forefront of the recent drive of changing comedy. It’s smarter humor, one without a laugh track, and unfortunately it’s lost amongst some. But regardless of its reception, The Other Guys is genuinely one of the funniest movies of the year, succeeding by telling a good joke with smarts and cool confidence.

Directed by: Adam McKay
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johson
Released by: Gary Sanchez Productions / Columbia Pictures
Website: http://www.theotherguys-movie.com/

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

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