Archive for June, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 Review

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations on June 15, 2011 by Adam Broome

Three years ago, another CGI animation hit our screens. For once, Pixar was not responsible, yet it had all the ingredients of a successful children’s film – cuddly creatures, colourful characters, well-constructed and presented scenery and plenty of action, complete with a good story. The film was Kung Fu Panda, a rather ridiculous story of one overweight panda called Po who becomes a destined martial arts master of legend. This year, the panda comes ‘back for seconds’, though is it time this panda really started to lose weight?

The story follows on straight from the first. I’ve only seen the first film once, which was a while back, and it took me a decent ten minutes before I actually recalled the events of the first film. The story starts off with more coy philosophy that is supposed to send up the martial arts films of the 1970s. Given that the whole film is based on this prologue though, it makes the story a very linear and straightforward affair. You can pretty much predict the whole narrative based on the opening sequence alone – though this is film aimed at children, so we’re never expecting Inception here.

The fast and furious pace is established early on – rarely does the film slow down for breath. This has been done many times – the characterization has been set up in the first film, making the sequel jump headfirst into action scenes and almost completely forget characterization or plot development to any decent degree. Thus you find yourself after only about ten minutes on an adventure with a bunch of animals out to stop an evil peacock called Shen. The only noticeable development in terms of any plot or character comes in the form of Po trying to find out what happened to his real parents (though as aforementioned, it’s nothing you can’t read clearly in the opening sequence).

The only thing this film ultimately has to rely upon entirely is a sense of fun – lucky then, that it manages to pull off the ‘adventure’ part very well indeed. The action scenes, although very speedily edited – are as varied and as colourful as a CGI animation can get. From racing through the streets of a city in a lion costume, to descending and then re-ascending a crumbling tower going up in flames, the imagination is rarely spared as the animals beat their way through one close shave to the next.

Half of hollywood turn up to do their part – Hans Zimmer is on sound, Gary Oldman is in ‘rent a villain’ mode, and other new additions to the cast such as Dennis Haysbert lend their hand to the old familiar vocals, making a medley of voices throughout that you definitely know from somewhere. Facial animation is very well handled and up to scratch (it would be a sorry film if it wasn’t). Most of the jokes hit the mark, making for some memorable one-liners. The jokes work for kids and adults alike, and fans of martial arts will appreciate the in-jokes throughout. ‘Cuteness’ is taken all the way up to extreme (dangerous levels to be honest), meaning if you don’t like seeing huge cuddly fluffy animals cry, you’ll probably find some parts of this film hard to get through without showing up in front of your friends.

But all things considered, for such wafer thin story and non-existent development in characters, this film is surprisingly fun. It is simple, it does absolutely nothing at all to challenge the genre or the audience, and I also thought some of the jokes fell a little flat. But enough of this film works to get away with it – my recommendation is to avoid it if you haven’t seen the first one, otherwise you may find yourself struggling to grasp what backstory there is. The action is relentless, and film stops before the pace gets too repetitive. This second helping is just more of the same, but done with care nonetheless. If your looking for something colourful and cute to kick back to whilst leaving your brain at the door, this is a film for you.

8/10

Public Image Limited – Coventry Kasbah 31/05/11

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , , , on June 1, 2011 by Adam Broome

“Oh my god! What have they done to the main hall?! It NEVER looks this good!”

I’ve just been told I have to pay an extra fiver at the door to get in. Having heard the lone female voice exclaim her alarm from inside the venue, and having been looking forward to this night for months, I quickly pay up anyway and edge inside. The main hall is all in shadow, an industrial gothic gloom cascading over a predictably middle-aged audience who were already on the booze. I pick my space three rows from the front, beneath a giant PiL logo. After doing a state of butter adverts in the late 2000s, John Lydon (A.K.A ‘Johnny Rotten’) reformed his old post-punk band to do a spout of recent reunion tours – a group that some consider to be one of the best alternative bands of the 1980s.

Much to my surprise, it’s only forty minutes later that Public Image Limited themselves enter onto the stage – no warm-up band to speak of. Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame enters onto the stage with his crew, one of whom is the spitting image of Fleetwood Mac. There is much applause, yet over all the high spirits one man is able to shout out above the rest.

“Johnny! John-ay! John-ay! Johnny Johnny!”

The singer drops a flat expression to the awaiting crowd.

“You know its funny… we play gigs all over the UK, and every night at every gig, in the audience there is always one tit!”

Johnny Rotten stares at the drunk man with well-humoured, if slightly crazed, eyes.

“Congratulations! Tonight, YOU’RE IT!”

His entrance secured, Johnny takes PiL straight into it. Public Image is the opening song, followed by a free-styled version of Albatross.  For the first twenty minutes, Johnny Rotten appears to be struggling. His aging band are still having a whale of a time playing their riffs, but Rotten seems to have difficulty hitting the high notes. However, after the opening two songs, he settles into the gig, and you can see the glimpse of the ‘godfather of punk’ that’d we’d all expected to see, come back into full bloom.

Much to my surprise, This Is Not A Love Song is actually their third song, despite being a tune you’d expect more at the encore. The hit eighties single puts everyone in a good mood, and from then on the set list plows through a stream of alternative electro punk from a bygone era. It’s pretty much all there – from the rendition of Swan Lake from Tchaikovsky’s legendary ballet suite, to Disappointed and Warrior from PiL’s later albums. The industrial beats, despite their age, are giving everyone in the room some serious bass. It’s not long before the shy head banging turns into proper ‘moshing’ down at the front, with only occasional drunkards dropping down to spoil the show from time to time. The only notable songs missing from the set list are Seatlle and Fat Chance Hotel – the latter being a song I had really hoped they’d played.

Half way through, the Kasbah security decide to add their own laser display to accompany proceedings, singling out everyone in the audience possessing a camera with a laser, to guide other personnel to their location. It doesn’t stop anybody – everyone just becomes more discreet. Whilst the guard on the balcony plays ‘pretend sniper’ with his laser pen, down in the crowd no one could care less. Several youngsters appear alongside me, demonstrating the importance of ’14+’ gigs – as usual at gigs like these, the older generations are more rowdy than the younger ones.

The music hits all the right notes. The complex mix of industrial ‘punk dance’ is pulled off with aplomb, with most songs being improvised. This did mean that some songs went on slightly too long I felt – I’m sure one song clocked in at around fifteen minutes. However, at the times when the songs connected the least, I did feel a certain emotional experience, looking at John Lydon in front of me, and being transported back to the 1970s in the Manchester music scene, doing the same as Ian Curtis and Mick Hucknall before me. Whichever way you look at it, everyone was in the presence of a music legend, and a true icon of the 20th century who revolutionized music forever.

PiL leave the stage abruptly, but of course return for an encore that features perhaps their most well-known song Rise, getting the audience chanting ‘anger is an energy!’ in perfect synchronicity. The last song is a remix of Lydon’s collaboration with the Chemical Brothers – Open Up. The audience seem to know this is definitely the finale, and all of the sudden synonymously  just think ‘sod it’. The mosh pit engulfs the entire front half of the main hall. Beer flies all over the place. Sweaty middle aged men relive their younger years alongside a few other youngsters as everyone shoves and jumps all over the dance floor. The grinding industrial tune is the closing song, leaving Johnny Rotten to simply thank the audience and wave goodbye.

At one point in the gig, John called his music ‘disgusting garbage’ – with a sense of ironic humour, naturally. Generally, the quality of music was of a very high standard throughout. The gig gets extra points for having no warm-up band – the whole experience went a lot smoother and quicker than I expected. The atmosphere was definitely ‘underground’ – it was a feeling I’ve not experienced in a long time, and has been sorely missed. Considering my last concert was Paramore, and my last great gig was Gary Numan, this has been a long time coming. Down and dirty in Kasbah, this was also my first gig in the main hall – it was nice to have a change from the rather claustrophobic side room. My only criticism was that some songs had dated worse than others, and unfortunately these tended to be the songs that lasted over ten minutes. Still, the good vastly outweighed the not-so-good, leading to a memorable night, and probably the best gig I’ve been to at the Kasbah thus far. It’s certainly an acquired taste, but for those into their ‘experimental’ and their ‘underground’, this is an experience not to be missed.

8/10