Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith - Not In Love

Crystal Castles are an experimental electro group originating from Canada.  Their second, imaginatively titled album Crystal Castles II (pictured) was released earlier this year and now they've re-produced Not in Love to include vocals from The Cure frontman Robert Smith.  The processed vocals of the original are perhaps a little too quirky for popular tastes; here the distinctive vocals of Smith add a sense of 80s romance and nostalgia.

Indeed, this track mixes the best of both worlds and the collision of 80s new wave with modern electronic noise works extremely well.  The sorrowful lyrics depicting the breakdown of a relationship ("And we were lovers, now we can't be friends") clash with hyped-up, frenzied electronica.  It's a more accesible track than the last single, Baptism.  But if you like this, the rest of the album is definitely worth checking out, pushing electronica into new, progressive territories.


Afrojack feat. Eva Simons - Take Over Control

This is the best club track I've heard in a long while.  Plug it in and turn it on.

The song juxtaposes the female vocal of Dutch 'Popstars' winner Eva Simons, with a hard house beat.  It's incredibly catchy and is guaranteed to get your blood pumping, whether out clubbing or simply sat in your living room.  Yes, club music isn't everyone's cup of tea.  But chuck some vodka down your throat and you'll be all over this.

To think, Dutch dance music superstar Afrojack is only 23.  And his mentor is David Guetta.  Bastard.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Single Man (2009) - Tom Ford

"Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty"

Beauty being the operative word here.  Ford's focus is clearly on the visual artistry of the film, as you'd expect from a fashion designer, but unfortunately the film falls victim to style over substance.

The film presents a day in the life of George (Colin Firth), a man living in Los Angeles in 1962 on the brink of suicide after the death of his long-term partner.  The narrative portrays how he copes with his grief, depicting that there is life after the death of a loved one, as he finds solace with his friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult).  Though the plot is brief, it is thoroughly compelling and emphasised by the visuals.  This is an impeccably stylish film.  George has shades of Richard Gere in American Gigolo with his immaculate and meticulous dress sense and of course the costumes are exquisite.  The use of colour as George makes peace with his grief is cleverly employed.  And Ford manages to find beauty in ever minute detail of the human form.

At times, though, some of the visual effects seem a little forced, as if Ford is trying to prove a point that his film is to be taken seriously (this being his debut).  More so, for all the visual artistry, the plot lacks some emotional weight.  Ford chooses to emphasise the isolation of a homosexual man in 1960s America, rather than explore the broader theme of coping with grief applicable to all.  Whilst films such as Brokeback Mountain successfuly exploit wider thematic implications, A Single Man feels a bit insular by comparison and isn't quite as clever as Ford would have you believe.

Firth gives a brilliant performance and is deserving of his Best Actor Oscar nomination.  The film relies on his characterisation and luckily it's easy to get drawn into the plot and empathise with George.  But the narrative substance can't quite live up to the visual opulence.


Saturday, 27 November 2010

Nicole Scherzinger - Poison

RedOne strikes again.  He sure does get around.  But you know what really bugs me?  When artists feel the need for their name to be said at the start of the track.  Craig David was all over that (boink) and now Nicole is at it.  There's no need.

Still, this is quite a good track.  Scherzinger is clearly trying to move on from the Pussycat Dolls with a hard-edged, aggressive track, coupled with the superhero/villain video.  Sure, lyrically it's simplistic stuff and the song is essentially just a vehicle for her to pout and look sexy.  But it proves that she's managed to get a good production team behind her.  It's hardly innovative, but it's a good dance track that's sure to do well.


Friday, 26 November 2010

The Reader (2008) - Stephen Daldry

As if we didn't see enough of Kate Winslet in Titanic, there's plenty of nudity and eroticism here in The Reader, even if it does border on child abuseMoreover, Winslet reveals herself as a truly talented actress deserving of the high praise she has received.

What begins as a simple plot about a teenage boy in Germany and his illicit affair with an older woman spirals, over time, into a story about the impact of Auschwitz through the generations.  More so, it is a tale about the impact of the past on our future; the catharsis of literature; and overcoming guilt.  This is framed by the overarching story of a father who learns to accept the past and his emotions, finally opening up to others - most of all his daughter.  It is a fairly slow narrative that gradually draws you in, most prominently through its characterisation.  It is no surprise that Winslet won an Oscar for her performance as a woman conflicted by inner turmoil, shame and regret - the success of the film hangs largely on her character and she proves here that her skills are remarkable.  Kross and Fiennes also do a fantastic job in their dual role as the teenage and adult Michael respectively.

It is, due to its melancholic subject, a rather bleak and sombre film, matched by the washed out visuals.  But, though the film evades over-sentimentality, it seems to be lacking a certain amount of emotional impact.  The film invites us to question the morality of a prison guard at Auschwitz and expects us to accept that, due to her illiteracy, her complicity in mass murder can be forgiven.  This, understandably, is a little hard to stomach.

Ironically, the film is based on a novel by German writer Bernhard Schlink.  Though I am not familiar with it, I would imagine that the film has attempted to encompass all of its details.  As a result, the film covers too much ground and lacks focus.  Perhaps for this reason Winslet's performance is so prominent - it provides a constant for the audience to latch on to.

The Reader is worth watching for Winslet, but, though the film is thought-provoking, I'd choose Schindler's List for a more successful take on the tragedy of Auschwitz.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Warpaint - Undertow

Originally from LA, this all-female band have been buzzing on the music radar as of late and I was curious to hear their music.  With a name like Warpaint, I was expecting something a bit more hard-edged but instead this track is suprisingly chilled out.

It's no coincidence that they've been touring with The XX - if you like one, you'll likely enjoy the other.  The guitar sounds are intriguing and the song has a sombre, relaxed feel.  Some may call it hypnotic and psychedelic, I would say it's verging on dull.  The verses and chorus blend together into one continuous texture and the song is lacking a real killer hook.  On the plus side, once the song builds to include the drums, the overall sonority is an interesting foil to the processed pop in the charts.  You can easily sit back and just let the music wash over you.  But at 5mins53, it feels a little too long and it's not something I'd choose to listen to repeatedly.  And the backing harmonies are out of tune in places...

Undertow is the iTunes single of the week, so with a free track this experimental band are certainly worth checking out.  Even from a quick listen, their album, The Fool, has other, better tracks with a much darker edge that are more worthy of your time.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Script - Nothing

I'd like this song far more if I'd never heard The Script before.  But the band name is very apt - with each song the band has played it safe, sticking to the same love themes and musical sonority.  It's all very well creating a niche for yourself, but some variation would be welcome.  With each new song you know what's coming before you've even read the script...

On the other hand, this is certainly one of their best songs.  The soaring chorus may utilise the standard pop song chord sequence, but as a whole the song typifies the band's sound (the middle-eight is very Goo Goo Dolls-esque), tweaked to slick pop-rock.  More so, they write excellent lyrics which tell a great love story.  The singing's not bad either. 

As a single, it works.  But once you've heard this, you won't need the album.


Monday, 22 November 2010

Duffy - Well, well, well

As the title suggests, this is one of the most repetitive songs I've ever heard. 

Her debut may have sold millions, but with the new album her sound hasn't changed or developed - it's exactly as expected.  Not only does the instrumentation not change throughout (funky as it is), but neither does the chord sequence.  Ever.  Even the lyrics repeat the same lines over and over and over...

Meanwhile we have to endure Duffy incoherently screeching over the music, like the merging of a squeaky toy and a baby whining.  The song is relentless noise, 2mins 44 seconds too long.  That's the length of the song.

Well, well, well, Duffy.  More like waah, waah, waah.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (2010) - Sanders, DeBlois

...I could give you step by step instructions, but watching this animated film by Dreamworks is much more entertaining...

Our story concerns hapless Hiccup, a young clumsy Viking desperate to prove his worth to his father Stoick (chieftain of the tribe, voiced by Gerard Butler) and his love, Astrid.  When he manages to capture his first dragon, a deadly Night Fury, nobody will believe him as he is unable to kill it.  Instead, he befriends it and ultimately proves his worth to the Viking tribe in a predictable, yet thrilling, way.  Sure, it's a children's film, but like the best it has universal appeal.  It has loveable characters, both human and reptilian, and though it's not a complete comedy, it has its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments.  Most of all, it's cheerful, upbeat and highly enjoyable, without being slushy.

Special mention must be given to the visuals, though I am a sucker for fantastical Viking/Dragon style.  This is a beautiful film, especially on Blu-ray.  The environments look incredibly realistic; the dragon characters are full of expression; and every detail of the scale, hair and fur textures can be seen.  Stunning.

This really does have everything: a heartwarming narrative, epic musical score, excellent visuals and charm.  It's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) - David Yates

(NB. I will keep this spoiler free for anyone not familiar with the plot)

Watching the Potter films as a fan of the books is both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, fans are more forgiving of the series' faults, whilst simultaneously criticising the lack of detail in comparison to the books.  Finally, with the penultimate film, a Potter film has arrived that fans can be proud of, though Potter haters will be more alienated than ever.

As has been persistently said, this is the darkest Potter yet; the bleak tone set before the titles even appear.  The extension to two parts has allowed for more detail for the audience to be immersed in.  There is even time for extra scenes such as that at the beginning with Hermione and her parents.  In terms of fan service, this is the most detailed Potter film yet, covering all plot points of the books almost to the letter.  Fans will relish another chance to fall in love with Rowling's magical world. 

However, problems arise from the change to two parts and stem from problems with the book itself.  Some characters and plot points are glossed over here - characters cut in the earlier films suddenly grow in importance this late in the story, but are given little to no introduction.  Whilst this is fine for fans, those unfamililar with the books may find the story difficult to follow.  Also, by splitting the film into two parts, the story too has been split in half.  The pacing of this part is a little slow as most of the exciting set-pieces occur in the second half of the book - the film to come.  As such, this film is a little unsatisfying and will leave the audience wanting more.  This is probably intentional, but it's frustrating nevertheless.

Further, I had a personal gripe with the book's plot which still rings true here.  One of my favourtie parts has always been Hogwarts itself - its history, its teachers and lessons and, most importantly, its MAGIC.  In this film, as Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the run in search for horcruxes, Hogwarts is nowhere to be seen.  Although the first six stories do become somewhat formulaic, I found each book reassuringly familiar.  For the series finale, the break in formula fits with the darker themes, but sometimes I feel the book (and, by extension, the film) takes itself a little too seriously and loses some of the charm, sense of wonder and magic of the earlier stories.  However dark the stories may become, they are still essentially children's tales.

The special effects are fantastic, the Burton-esque animation of the Deathly Hallows story is particularly well done.  There's also a slightly racy moment I won't spoil - it was unexpected but boundary pushing is welcome.  Performances are as expected across the board - some great English talent does a fine job.  But with the focus on the central three children, most of the peripheral characters are criminally given little to no screen time.  And though Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have improved with each film, the more tender moments between them are awkward and fall flat (Harry dancing anyone?!).  The soundtrack is very good, though is used sparsely to enhance the empty sense of dread.

Overall, this is a brilliant entry in the film series that fans will love, despite effectively serving as an appetiser in preparation for the next film.  I just look forward to the time I can watch both films back-to-back as intended, instead of two halves.  The poster's tagline should be taken as a warning: "The end begins".

And do yourselves a favour, whether for the first, tenth or millionth time - READ THE BOOK FIRST!


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Ellie Goulding - Your Song

As heard on the John Lewis Christmas advert...

Want to do a cover of a well known song?  Simple.  Reduce the instrumentation to a simplistic piano figuration and add some romantic cello.  Bob's your uncle.

This may be a standard method of 'making a song your own' (apparently), but it's certainly effective at adding some haunting romance to a piece.  And when the song is as good as this, it's a no brainer.  Goulding's slightly squeaky vocal may not be to everyone's taste, though here it gives a sense of vulnerability.  This cover version does lack some of the more interesting electro sounds from Goulding's album.  But it's beautiful and nostalgic, despite not being hugely original.  A bit like Christmas then...


Monday, 15 November 2010

John Williams @ Bridgewater Hall

Classical guitarist John Williams is often compared to his contemporary 'rival' Julian Bream, the former the precise technician, the latter the soulful emoter.  Unfortunately, this comparison still rings true today.

For the discerning guitarist, the program was tantalising.  Williams walked out in his striped woolen jumper and addressed the audience with an air of informality, though this somewhat seeped into his playing with very little preparation time to tune between pieces.  He was almost impatient to move on to the next piece.  My key criticism of his playing is his lack of emotion, stemming primarily from his choice of tempo.  Much of his playing was too fast, with phrases merging relentlessly into long melodic marathons.  By contrast, other pieces were played too slow, seeming laboured and as if Williams was merely going through the motions. 

This was particularly evident in the first half.  The second of the Villa-Lobos Preludes lacked the bouncy and lively rhythms necessary, whilst the fourth was so fast it was as if Williams was sprinting to the interval.  Disappointingly, his rendition of Brouwers Black Decameron fell victim to the same problems, though the second movement is stunning played at any tempo.  I realise I'm being particularly critical being familiar with these pieces, much of the audience did erupt in rapturous applause.

Fortunately the second half took a turn for the better, due largely to the emphasis on Williams' own compositions which he clearly feels more comfortable playing.  These pieces felt much more relaxed and offered some beautiful playing.  In the final part of the programme, Williams relapsed into the same frame of mind as the first half.  However, the playing was largely more relaxed as, understandably, first half nerves dissipated.  More so, Williams' precise playing style is more suited to the Baroque sensibility of Barrios' music.  Of course, it must be stated that the pieces were technically incredibly challenging and in this Williams must be praised.

William's technical skill is unparalleled and certainly a sight to behold.  But I can't help feeling that the old master is, sadly, past his prime.


Saturday, 13 November 2010

Enchanted (2007) - Kevin Lima


Ok, being a twenty-something cynical male I was never going to like this.  But still...really?  I had to sit with a sick bucket next to me...

The concept behind it is actually quite good, giving the Disney cartoon a 21st century reality check.  It's just the execution is terrible.  I know it's a children's film, but the comedy was completely juvenile.  It has none of the family humour of the Pixar films and none of the memorable songs of the Disney classics.  Yes, I realise it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and over the top.  And no, I'm not averse to a 'girly' Disney film - I'd happily watch Sleeping Beauty or The Little Mermaid.  But it is possible to make a comedy Disney film without completely ridiculing its history.  The only people who could possibly enjoy this film are 4 year old 'princesses'.

Yet it does still have some Disney charm.  And somewhere, deep down in my cold heart, a miniscule spark of romance was lit.  Kind of.  We all need a bit of fantasy in our lives, but let's not get carried away...


Friday, 12 November 2010

James Blake - Limit to Your Love

My old music teacher always used to define music as 'organised sound and silence'.  This track fits that description perfectly with some intense use of silence, high emotion suspended in oblivion.

It's a cover of Feist's The Limit to Your LoveBut Blake puts his own spin on the song, which becomes dark, mournful and haunting.  Predominantly, the texture is simply superb vocals and piano, punctuated by some percussion and the use of sub-bass and computerised editing.  It's here that the dub-step influence comes in, though subtly done.  Other tracks, such as CMYK, reveal a greater electronic influence and prove Blake's excellent skill as a sampler, editor and producer.

Limit to Your Love is a perfect example of less is more - sparse but beautifully sung.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Willow Smith - Whip My Hair


For her age she's certainly got star quality and is a disturbingly confident performer.  But I can't help but feel that's more the result of clearly the pushiest parents in showbiz.  SHE'S TEN.  Surely this song is evidence of todays celebrity focused culture reaching younger depths?  I don't think she's as musically talented as people seem to be making out.  SHE'S TEN.  Instead it's down to the producers for creating a track that is simultaneously annoyingly catchy and weirdly quite cool.  Take note Justin Bieber.  I just feel a bit sick watching the video, in the same way that American child beauty pageants are repulsive.  SHE'S TEN.  Yet despite the fairly adult styling (she looks like a younger Rihanna) and lines such as "all my ladies" (SHE'S TEN), it somehow strangely works and Whip My Hair is quite a good party track.

Still, SHE'S TEN.  Shouldn't she be in school?


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Full Metal Jacket (1987) - Stanley Kubrick

Forget the new Call of Duty and have yourself some Kubrick...

The plot is simple, following a group of marines in the Vietnam war.  It is filmed in stark realism, bordering on documentary and divides neatly in two halves.  The first half depicts the group in training.  The Marines is not a place for the individual.  From the off, the men are seen having their heads shaved, losing all sense of identity.  Gradually, two men emerge from the group as our central focus - 'Joker' and 'Pyle'.  Pyle's story is particularly heartbreaking (why are the fat ones always so endearing?), with moments of pathos and light comedy juxtaposed with shear brutality.  Just as the men are training, this half prepares the viewer for the horrors to come.

The second half takes us to war-torn Vietnam and the strict military precision of training makes way for the fluidity and chaos of war.  Here, the plot centres on Joker, now a soldier-reporter.  His reporting and filming of the events parallels Kubrick himself, emphasising the sense of realism.  The use of music in particular is excellent, ranging from the ironic "Chapel of Love" and "Surfin' Bird" (forever linked to Family Guy...) to more abstract soundscapes which heighten tension.  The final shootout is especially tense and gripping.

Ultimately, war turns good men into monstrous killing machines, but the breakdown is eminently watchable.  There is far too much in this film to discuss in this small piece of Internet space.  Full Metal Jacket is a must-see film, not only as a precursor to more recent war films such as the recent (and brilliant) The Hurt Locker, but as a provocative piece of film in its own right.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

JLS - Love you More

Blimey.  You know you've made it big (so to speak) when you release your own brand of 'just love safe' condoms.  Suddenly the title of this track makes sense...

Rubber aside, Love You More is the first ballad from JLS following a string of pop RnB tracks.  It's pretty standard boyband slush and it's a shame that they're incapable of singing in harmony, despite there being four of them.  However, though I know I probably shouldn't, I actually quite like this.  It's simply a nice little pop song and every time I listen to it I like it a little bit more... and moooooooore.

Best of all, Love you More is this year's Children in Need single.  So you won't feel guilty for downloading it.  Good job they've got those 'lucrative' jonnies to make up for the lack of cash...


Sunday, 7 November 2010

On The Town (1949) - Kelly & Donan

You don't mess with the classics, especially when it involves Bernstein's music...

But that's exactly what On The Town does, a film adapted from the musical of the same name.  The plot is admittedly a bit silly - three sailors arrive in New York with one day to experience as much of the city (and the women) as possible.  The trouble is that the film only vaguely follows the narrative and script of the original musical and for the most part lacks any form of darkness or danger.  This is fluffy, camp Hollywood through and through.  More unforgivably, much of Bernstein's music is substitued for cheesy, romantic schmoltz by Roger Edens.  In fact, despite this being a musical, the music and nasal, flat singing are the worst parts of the film. 

Unsurprisingly, those sections that utilise Bernstein's score are the standout moments - from the opening 'New York, New York', to the fantastic Miss Turnstiles dance routine and the dream ballet which serves as Gene Kelly's moment in the spotlight (literally).  The emphasis on tap dance is a welcome one - Anne Miller in particular has a spectacular routine.

Despite its obvious flaws, you can't help but be swept along by its charm.  In the words of Hildy, the film is "so-so...so, so charming".


Top 5: Harry Potter characters

Having just watched Half Blood Prince in preparation for the latest release in the series (keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming review), I decided that rather than review the film, I'd reveal the top 5 characters in the series, in my humble opinion.  Everyone loves a good countdown, right?
(NB. This is based on both the books and the films...)

5. Voldemort

He has the features of a cold-hearted snake.  He selfishly and ruthlessy murdered people to split his soul and maintain his own immortality.  In fact, he's so malevolent, people daren't speak his name.  That's pretty evil...

4. Remus Lupin

He's a freakin' werewolf.  'Nuff said.

3. Bellatrix Lestrange

I was never a huge fan of Bellatrix during the novels.  But thanks to the excellent portrayal by Helena Bonham-Carter, her evil borders on the psychotic and her devotion to the Dark Lord is almost fetishistic.  She even rivals Voldemort himself for the title of best villain.

2. Hermione Granger
Or Hermy-one as I affectionately named her, before the films revealed the correct pronunciation.  Looking at the three child protagonists, we have firstly Ron: a dim-witted pratt with no redeeming features, he's just a comedy act.  Second, there's Potter himself: our (supposed) central focus, who relies purely on luck to get by.  Then there's the much under-appreciated Hermione, who's main attribute is intelligence - finally something I can get behind.  She's clearly the brains behind the threesome.  On top of her natural aptitude for magic, she spends hours slogging away in the library, discovering solutions for Harry's problems, only for Potter to steal all the glory in the end.  What a bastard. 

1. Severus Snape

He may have started as the teacher we all love to hate, but through the series he grew into the most interesting and ambiguous character.  The latter part of the series is very much Snape's story, not Potter's.  He is the Anakin Skywalker of Hogwarts, burdened with forever balancing the opposing forces of good and evil.  And Alan Rickman purrs to perfection in this role.  He may be the Half-Blood Prince, but in my view he's king of the series. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Jason Derulo - The Sky's the Limit

Another month, another Derulo record...

In fact, suprisingly, this is only his fifth single.  You don't need me to describe it, you know what it sounds like already.  He's just a poor imitation Usher and that's not a compliment.  Production by 'jjjjjj rr.rr.rr...' aka J.R. Rotem who is currently saturating the charts with his dross, overly auto-tuned falsetto and dancing that pales in comparison to Michael Jackson.  He is also one of the worst live singers I've heard.  Derulo, you're just not as cool or talented as you think you are, put your shirt back on.  I'll never forgive you for ruining Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek....

Also, has anyone else noticed how the verse melody is a complete rip of 'What a feeling' from Flashdance?!


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

No Country For Old Men (2007) - Coen Brothers

I can't help but feel this is a bit overrated, though after the amount of awards this has won, I'm probably in the minority here.

The central theme of the film is chance, but the narrative is quite simple.  Set in 1980s Texas, an ordinary man, Llewelyn Moss (Brolin), discovers a crime scene and chances upon a bag of cash.  But a hitman (Bardem) is sent to recover the money, whilst a cop (Jones) is also on the case and a game of cat and mouse ensues between the three men.  My main problem with the film is the slow pace.  For me it lacked vital tension, which is largely due to Bardem who just didn't feel as threatening as the film would have you believe.  All his talking is done via shotgun.  Further, this is very sparse film-making.  The narrative is relatively simple yet drags out longer than it should.  The soundtrack is pretty much non-existent, with just a few splashes of diagetic music.  There's not a huge amount of dialogue either, but the actors mumble their way through with such strong southern accents they're unintelligible. 

On the plus side, the film is beautifully shot.  The wide vistas of the opening are particularly impressive and prove it was worth buying that HD TV - on Blu-Ray every grain of sand is detailed.  But so much screen time is given to the visuals and creating atmosphere, the film feels a bit self-indulgent without a truly gripping narrative to back them up.  The ending especially is incredibly drawn out - I was just plain bored and wanted it to finish.

It's certainly a film worth watching and the Coen brothers are excellent directors.  I just found it a bit disappointing.


No Love - Eminem ft. Lil' Wayne

Why do rappers think they have the liberty to ruin classic songs?

Case in point: No Love.  Take Haddaway's 1993 tune What is Love.  Add a pretty standard hip hop beat.  'Talk' over it reeaaally faaaast.  Include some swear words because, you know, that's mature.  Film video about young boy being bullied to show you have heart, vulnerability and that your track has a message.  Contradict this by looking reaaaally haaard, exuding 'gangsta' attitude and the fact you probably shoot people for fun.  Release said track and watch it soar up the charts.



Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Kids Are All Right (2010) - Lisa Cholodenko

I think the fact that I was the only one in the cinema watching this proves that this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea.  Either that, or everyone else has something better to do on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.  Like...work.  But it wasn't particularly to my taste either.

Nic (Bening) and Jules (Moore) are a lesbian couple with two kids, Joni (Wasikowska) and Laser (Hutcherson).  When the kids decide to contact their donor father Paul (Ruffalo), things start to go awry and family relationships are strained.  Cholodenko's intention is that the film portrays the normality of a family with same-sex parents.  Kudos for attempting this.  But it just didn't work for me.  Like Joni's friend, everything becomes sexual, to the point that lesbian sexuality becomes so overblown and in your face that it seems totally abnormal.  Moreover, it felt incredibly patronising, which was only emphasised by Jules' speech at the end about marriage being difficult - no shit...  At the same time, the animalistic relationship that develops between Jules and Paul seems to illustrate that naturally every woman needs a penis, which obviously contradicts the central message of the film.  Eventually, sexuality is supposed to dissipate (as Jules' speech suggests), so that the narrative is elevated to metaphor.  However it's impossible to look past such an overblown and patronising representation of sexuality.  And considering everything turns out well in the end, is marriage and having a family really that hard?  Does it even matter?!

Audiences will be divided as to which of the central women they sympathise with.  Me?  Neither.  Continuing from the narrative, the characterisation of Nic and Jules is over the top, almost to the point of caricature.  It just proves how annoying it would be to have two mothers.  The kids are (as the name suggests) alright, if a little dull - Wasikowska especially.  She already proved she couldn't act in Burton's terrible Alice in Wonderland.  She's not even attractive.  Ultimately, I actually felt sorry for Paul who is let into the family and then brutally isolated.  I'm sure this is supposed to symbolise feminism and female empowerment.  But at the risk of sounding totally chauvinistic, that penis mentioned earlier is pretty necessary for your "normal" family.  Look out for plenty of phallic food imagery - bananas and hot dogs as male sustenance anyone?

Despite this, I still felt compelled to watch.  It's just the central message grated on me.  I guess the film is alright...


Heavy In Your Arms - Florence & The Machine

I got really excited when I heard this on the radio last week - finally some new material from Florence and her award-winning musical machine.  But what do I discover when I look it up on YouTube?  It's on the soundtrack to Twilight: Eclipse.  This means that a) it's not quite as new as I thought, and b)...well it's Twilight.  Luckily the video for this track is disturbing, stylish and has nothing to do with that annoying teenage bitch who suffers from permanent PMT and makes Eeyore look like Tigger on crack. 

Anyway... on to the song itself.  This is undeniably the sound of Florence and her unmistakable vocal chords.  The instrumentation takes the song literally, with an emphasis on a heavy drum beat and a deep bass and piano riff that penetrates like a heartbeat.  The song does take a while to get going, but the constant build towards the final chorus is perfectly pitched.  Once it hits, Florence's voice soars over haunting harmonies and all the song's elements pull together.  If this is the direction of the next album, I for one cannot wait.  I just miss the harp...

Oh, and if you want to download this track separately from the Twilight soundtrack, it's released on the 14th November.