Thursday, 8 December 2011

30 Seconds To Mars Live Review: The Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, 7th December 2011

Originally reviewed for Time Out New York.
Photography by Loren Wohl.

Decade-straddling heartthrob Jared “So Called” Leto and his electro-rock crew 30 Seconds To Mars hit the Hammerstein Ballroom last night for a record-breaking show—the 300th of their two-year This Is War tour. The band’s fans—most of whom seem to have miraculously gotten younger over the years—screamed Leto’s name relentlessly, squealing in response to his every move (and no doubt to his black cape and shades). Standing out among the teens were a handful of rock and roll parents, plus some heavily tattooed men getting caught up in the moment, and Jackass (and occasional 30 Seconds guest) Bam Margera.

If the trio looked a little jaded after such a long time on the road, it was lost on the crowd, which erupted (seriously, kids were crying) when the band opened with “A Beautiful Lie”, accompanied by futuristic lighting and jumbotrons playing the bands’ videos. Fans who couldn’t make it to the show could watch it (plus a Q&A) as it streamed live via As inflatable balls and lobsters fell from the sky and wind machines blasted out ticker tape, Leto took a few moments to explain how monumental this night was. Moving to a mini stage at the sound desk, he performed a few solo heartfelt acoustic tracks, including “Alibi,” proving too much for some emotional fans.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Muppets (2011) Review

The Muppets latest foray into the realms of cinematic adventure has created a lot of media buzz, and rightly so. The Muppets are back! Or are they? They’ve been away from the silver screen since 2005’s TV movie The Muppets: Wizard of Oz, and are now in the hands of Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), the man who also co-penned their new challenge, to raise $10 million and save the Muppet Theatre from the evil oil tycoon Tex Richman (brilliantly named, played by Chris Cooper). Segel has made no secret of his love for puppetry, (check out the end scenes of Forgetting Sarah Marshall if you want confirmation) and has on many occasions proclaimed his quest to work with The Muppets on a grander scale. Amy Adams does well as Segel's love interest Mary, but it's tough to compete for romance when you're in the presence of Kermit and Miss Piggy.

So The Muppets go about a very Muppet reunion after years of living their separate lives all over the world, and put on one last show to raise the moola. Cue various montage scenes, a few barn yard animal lead songs, and the heart strings pulled in any direction possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Muppets and have strong pangs of nostalgia every time I see the show-the trouble is this movie is relying too much on the nostalgia, and not enough on the new character Walter (voiced by Peter Linz), who given the chance could steal the show, and bring The Muppets into the next generation.

The difficulty is maintaining that fine line between acknowledging the nostalgic appreciation many have for a show that shaped childhoods all over the world, and hammering home how great The Muppets are. They are great, they are the best, but we don’t need most of the movie to tell us this. Dare I say it, Walter is what saves this movie from becoming a self indulgent farce when you’re given the keys to the kingdom. He plays Jason Segel’s little brother and their story growing up together as boy and puppet (for he is not technically a Muppet) is heart warming and explored well. The songs are fun, kids will get a kick out of the dance scenes, and there are a few in jokes the older ones will appreciate without any harm. Cameos are in abundance, and I get the impression some are more influenced by current popularity rather than an appreciation to be a part of The Muppet empire (Selena Gomez springs to mind). Scepticism aside, it’s a decent offering of a hard to hit franchise-the original characters are put on a pedestal from the get go and are impossible to reach, but should they be? For one puppet, it’s worth trying. For mere mortals, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Mark Hoppus Interview: Nylon Guys Magazine

Originally published for Nylon Guys Magazine 29th November 2011

Photography by Willemijn Barker-Benfield

With another Blink 182 album and a FUSE television show under his belt, Mark Hoppus is one busy guy. And now the rock star and new London resident is adding another project to his agenda, the movie The Other F Word. The documentary, out this month, follows Hoppus and other punk icons as they embark on their craziest adventure yet: fatherhood. NYLON’s Willemijn Barker-Benfield spoke with Hoppus about how Blink has changed over the years, why he’s too fickle for tattoos, and the reason he hasn’t ditched his punk attitude with parenthood.

So I hear you moved to London?

Mark Hoppus: I did. It’s great, it’s very different from what I grew up with. I grew up in the middle of the desert in California, and London is the polar opposite of that. I live in Mayfair now. Not a bad spot, we’re very happy with where we live.

How did you get involved in The Other F Word?

I was asked a few years ago if I wanted to be a part of it. I don’t know how exactly it came about, but I knew it was based on the book that Jim Lindberg had written called Punk Rock Dad. It seemed in the past few years, men that are in bands that have children are proud of that fact, and I used to talk with Dave Smalley from Down By Law, about doing a band that was all dad’s that were punk rockers, so I definitely wanted to be a part of it from the first time I heard about it.

How did the punk lifestyle change for you when you became a dad?

It really focuses your world view into a very small area. You really want this life to be something good, and you want to be a good person and you want to be a good role model. Growing up punk rock you just wanted to say “Fuck you!” to the world and make a lot of noise. Then when you have a kid, you want to say “fuck off!” and make a lot of noise in a much better, positive way… It’s interesting to see how different people are as parents, even though we all come out of the punk rock scene.

It’s refreshing to see that everyone’s different.

I think that being a punk rock dad is awesome. I think that being a father and coming out of the punk rock scene, which isn’t necessarily just about “Fuck everything”, I think the ethos that I took away from punk rock was question things, don’t just take everything at face value. Find your own way in life, and I think that if you have a good foundation – this is what I look at for my son.

So you have your TV show at Fuse in New York City, (Hoppus on Music), how did you get involved in TV?

Fuse called about a year and a half ago, and they said they were wanting to produce a cool music talk show. Something that was funny, irreverent, that focussed solely on music, and I was a little suspicious at first, I didn’t know what that meant. They wanted to do cool, brave, different things and it felt like a good fit so I said absolutely, so I’ve been flying out here every week for the past year and three months or something.

How do you find the transition from being a musician, and doing that still, to interviewing musicians?

I love it because it’s so different from what I do in my normal job, and I love promoting new bands and talking to other artists about music, and I love to be silly and funny and chop it up about music. We always have great guests, we always have great performances. Yesterday we had The Joy Formidable here who just blew doors off the place.

Tell us about your new Blink 182 Album, Neighborhoods.

The new Blink album is great- knock on wood-everyone reacted really well to it; I’m really pleased with the way everyone responded to it. The tour we’ve just finished was one of the best tours we’ve ever done. I’m very excited to go and tour the UK and Europe next summer. We leave tomorrow night, I film the show here, fly to LA and then the next day we shoot a video for our song called ‘After Midnight’, and we’re continuing to work on new Blink stuff as well.

How did the new record change from the last Blink records, was there a different process to how you’ve made it?

This one we didn’t have a producer because our dear friend and producer Jerry Finn passed away a few years ago, and there wasn’t really anybody that could fill his shoes in our minds, and I think that it was very necessary for us to produce it on our own, as part of our own internal band healing process. We recorded together in a studio and also in separate studios. Tom lives in San Diego, he has his own studio there, Travis and I at the time were living in LA, and Travis and I had a studio in Los Angeles, so we would get together work out song ideas and arrangements, and then we’d break apart and work on different things, then come back together and compare notes. It was good in that I feel like great things happen when the three of us are in a room, but at the same time I feel we need individual time to explore different ideas and then come back. So it was different then before where basically everybody was sitting in a room waiting for their chance to play.

Do you have a tour ritual that you follow before a show?

Before I go on stage I brush my teeth, that’s the last thing I do before I walk out on stage. I start stretching an hour before, I start warming up my voice, I start listening to music, I have a drink about an hour before I walk on stage, and that’s my routine.

What kind of music do you listen to before you go on stage?

I listen to Ministry, because you need something to really pump you up. I listen to a band called Far, I was listening to The Naked and Famous on this last tour, sometimes Genuine, sometimes Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, sometimes The Descendants. Upbeat music that makes me want to go out and make a lot of noise and be weird.

Tattoos go hand in hand with the punk scene; did you feel pressure to get tattooed?

I didn’t get tattoos for the longest time, and I only have two tattoos. I have my sons name on one wrist, and my wife’s name on my other wrist, and I’ve contemplated getting tattoos, but I’m so fickle in what I’m into at any given time, that depending on what period of my life I was in, I would have tattoos of Star Wars, of pirate ships, of haunted houses, of weird art, it would have just been a mess. It’s interesting when you look at people and you see they’ve got one sleeve done at one point in their life, and a bunch of different stuff done at different points in their life, and it must be a great scrapbook of memories for them, but to me it looks like you didn’t think it through at all.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Foo Fighters Back And Forth Documentary (2011) Review

Charting the 16 year history to one of America’s best stadium rock band is no easy feat, but Oscar winner James Moll captures the career highs and lows, as well as the many personal problems facing Foo Fighters in a one off cinematic release to his documentary, Back and Forth.

Through a montage of childhood photos, home videos, and early band performances from each member of the current Foo Fighters line up, there is a real sense of normality, and humanity. That these, now five affirmed members thanks to the reinstatement of Pat Smear, (former The Germs and Foo Fighters guitarist circa 1994-97) are regular guys, musicians, and they’re not the rock stars their legions of fans have come to associate.

Back and Forth chronicles the genesis of Foo Fighters, an almost therapeutic side project for Dave Grohl after the demise of Nirvana in 1994. Back and Forth goes to extreme lengths to give an access all areas look at where the Foo Fighters have come from, the many troubles they’ve faced to becoming one of the fastest bands to sell out Wembley Stadium in 2008. Many have criticised that Back and Forth is merely an anchor to help promote their seventh studio record, Wasting Light, which sees the band go back to basics by recording the entire record to analogue tape in Grohl’s garage, produced by the man behind Nirvana’s Nevermind Butch Vig. If that’s the case, fans still won't be disappointed as it’s something the band have steered away from in the past. There’s a clear sense of nostalgia, reflection and realisation that Foo Fighters are finally in their comfort zone, doing whatever they want.

Whilst the archive footage of countless performances and interviews are juxtaposed against one another, what really shines through Back and Forth is the emotional edge Moll has captured, both from the past through to seeing how Foo Fighters recorded Wasting Light. (A record I incidentally think is their best to date) There’s a real humanity behind the monotony of touring year after year, playing the same songs to a different crowd each night, and the personal struggles that go with it. Back and Forth is definitely for any Foo Fighters fan, and for anyone who has an appreciation for the human spirit, and what people will do to live dreams, and live life, normally.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Ya'el Musician Interview (2011)

UK Drummer.

All images by Matt Connors.

Originally from New York City, Yael currently resides in LA, and has recently completed ‘The Love Project’: a music documentary directed by Yael with Alain Vasquez. The Love Project, in which the songs were written, produced, recorded and completed between 2005 and 2010, really is a labour of love. Described as a ‘mission to simply create and find the Sound of Art: Working with different styles from around the globe and hand picking the right musicians for her project.’ The Love Project is only part of Yael’s story, and UK Drummer caught up with the exceptionally hard working drummer to find out more.

How old were you when you started to play the drums, and why did you start?
I started playing probably at the age of six on some toy drum kit that didn’t last very long but when I turned 13 I got my first real “Ludwig blue sparkle” kit with one cymbal that “sparked” me all over again.

What was your first kit and what do you play on now?

“Sterling Beat” was that initial toy kit. Two toms with fake paper heads when I was six. I purchased a Ludwig 5 piece for a while (I saved up my allowance a year thanks to John Henry Bonham) then went on to Sonor and Yamaha DBL kick kits. I finally got my DW’s…And I will never leave them, ha! I have a few kits via Drum Workshop and everything is totally customized to the player. I’ve been endorsed with them since 2000.

Would you say you’re driven, and what made you persevere as a musician?
I’m now probably the most ‘driven’ I have ever been. I simply have no reserve or worry about wanting to play drums… I’m just a bit more selective of who I make music with! Drumming is nearly a necessity at this point so I can breathe. Seriously.
Did you always know you’d be a musician, or was this a path that fell into place?
It’s definitely something I gravitated toward. But I enjoy all that I learned in the path of ‘growing into a musician’ which at this point lead me to editing, writing, marketing, and art forms I organically morphed into with the journey.

Did you find any difficulties breaking into the industry as a female drummer in a predominantly male environment? Would you say any of your experiences were pre-determined by your sex?
The Obvious package of ‘all girl band’ is/was one gig pre-determined by my sex. But otherwise not really. People take you more seriously after they see you actually playing and what you bring to the table. I have had countless amounts of encounters telling me they ‘didn’t expect that’ after a performance or a recording session… but that’s all pre meditated thinking. People are more ‘programmed’ than we realize.

Has being a female drummer driven you further, or has this never been an issue within the industry?
There are gigs I have passed on for sure or that have probably passed on me because I’m a girl. That bit sucks but chemistry is everything as Dr. Seuss once said, ‘Those who matter don’t mind. And those who mind don’t matter.’

You have a diverse and varied catalogue of work, is this a conscious choice to keep the mind cogs turning and to have a varied discography?
This has realistically stemmed partially from staying’ alive in the ‘music industry’ post 2000. And partially because most people tend to play with far less passion playing the same ten songs for over a year on a tour. Of course exceptions exist: Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine or Stevie Wonder, and the list continues. But most musicians that work together for long periods of time either have such a unique lethal combo that even the same song sounds a bit different every night. They are all very much alive in it. That’s the ultimate band situation. I have always had a pretty massive palette for music, only two kinds in my book really. Good or bad. People that connect well with each other personally tend to kick a whole lotta ass in the rooms and on the stages. That’s my conscious awareness. If it doesn’t move me/us as the performers, how on earth will it move an audience?

Starting out was there a specific genre of music that you were drawn to? How did this expand into your musical tastes today?
I started out listening to stuff at home, mostly Motown, Jackson5, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Police and so on. After Led Zeppelin came Ozzy Ozbourne with Randy, Pantera, Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, King Diamond, Motörhead and heavier bands. The energy was something I was really drawn to as a young buck, the triplets 6/8 grooves and the fast feet. But over time Nirvana popped up with Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and so many more, hence… back to Bonham as my centre.
From the heavy band I was in I went right into an R&B Hip Hop world (a few times now) that really switched gears on my playing. My folks had the ‘Rose’ (a Janis Joplin 8track) and Stevie Wonder in the car forever. Good music was everywhere in Jamaica Queens and Forest Hills where I grew up. I think seeds just got planted and when rock bands started playing festivals combined with non-traditional or funkier artists, which truly opened up my mind, it watered those same seeds that were planted in my early teens.

It was a barrier breaking time for music. The Red Hot Chili Peppers on the same stage as Bad Brains and Motörhead? With Primus? Really?! Alice with Fishbone, Soundgarden, Arrested Development. It was really good. Fish himself inspired me to switch those gears way more smoothly, and staying connected with good people over the years helps a lot. Music has to move you; it should have a flavour to it. It should always evolve. Dave Grohl is a perfect example of that. He can switch from band to band in the public eye very smoothly and still lead the way for others to find their voice in his work. When it’s him you know it’s him. That is one compliment I love hearing the most. There’s nothing like hearing when you play on a record… I automatically hear that it is you.

Which drummers influenced your style growing up, and have you collaborated with any of them now?
Growing up I listened to a ton of players. Everyone from Billy Cobham to John Bonham. I was blown away by Mikkey Dee (chops) and Tommy Lee (stage presence) and Bozzio in missing persons day was the epitome of the combo of chops n’ stage presence… the list is HUGE. I love a lot of drummers! I am influenced by so many and have been fortunate enough to collaborate with a few of them. Terry Bozzio on several occasions, his Art of Drumming show on Drum Channel and his collaboration on ‘The Love Project’ tracks on my dvd/cd was very surreal for me. Also, Roy Mayorga who has been a very close ‘brother from another mother’ and I got to do a track together called ‘Yaela Yorga’ on that same record after all these years. Roy actually plays guitar dulcimer on the track. I love Ray’s (Luzier) work and we got to jam on a DC show with another great buddy and talented Kirkee B (aka Curt Bisquera) but just recently I got to record and collaborate with Fish Fisher (Fishbone, Nikka Costa, Justin Timberlake, etc.) I have subbed for Fish on numerous gigs for well over a decade now. Being on a track he’s producing with him and I together on drums is a blessing. I am grateful for all those opportunities and I see more in the near future.

What is the process in which you decide to work with certain musicians? Are there any musicians you want to work with at the moment?
It kinda just comes up with my project. There was a lot of trade-offs and barter deals. “I will play on your record and you jam on this track with us while I film you? Deal?!” These days most musicians hit you up on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook. It’s a strange time in an even stranger world than anyone probably anticipated. Luckily I still get my phone calls and there’s never enough time to work with everyone I would love to collaborate with.

What were your influences growing up, musical or otherwise, and do they hold relevance to your work today?
Bonham is my forever. He will be the Rock no matter what style I play because that pocket and that groove is what works for me. When you listen to him you hear a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. He’s always my centre when it comes to drums. As for other influences, I like being the observer. Anyone with a little extra kick in their step and passion for existing resonates well for me. I do what I love and sometimes that means ramen noodles but most days I am okay with that. Other times it means “more food on the plate” metaphorically speaking. It’s all about perspective and making the moments count for something.

Were you professionally or self-taught? Do you think there’s a strong difference between the two when an experienced drummer, self-taught or otherwise, brings their talent to the forefront?
I am a self-taught player but I did take music classes in high school and junior high school which were great. At first (because I was a ‘little girl’) I was told a flat NO by the music teacher. They were very willing to give me a flute or a violin! However he was very intrigued by my interest after a while because I was little, but I was determined. He made me learn an entire rudiment book, buy a drum pad and learn it over summer to prove that I wanted to be a drummer in the class. This was bloody 6th grade, and so had a lot of gumption.

Honestly these days whenever I can I catch a Mike Johnston lesson online or buy some of his podcasts and just study them. It’s just a better drumming day with guys like Mike. He made the connection work for me, as taught people always sounded ‘taught’ and I know cats that play the hell out of rudiments but can’t groove if James Brown came back from the dead and hired them. Mike has taught this drummer how to read a bit for real, and actually I can now write my parts out. Even though I’m probably the only one that can read it! It’s a great tool for session work to have this knowledge under your belt too, thanks MJ Family; you’re some of the coolest drummers I’ve met.

What are you working on at the moment?
If I told ya, I’d have to… haha!
I’m working on a few demos and records including ‘Crush the Night’, featuring Jessy Greene (Foo Fighters, Pink, Fistful Of Mercy), Kii Arens (Flipp), Yariv Vaknin (The Love Project, The Matrix), Rami Jaffe (Foo Fighters, Wallflowers).
‘Circle 19’ a kick ass new project with Alain Vasquez (who I directed and edited my Love Project Journey DVD with), Carol Prince and some The Love Project family. ‘Patrick Ahern’, the singer/songwriter from Cork in Ireland who is a badass produced by Mikal Reid. Also, currently some new stuff with Fish in the studio and a new artist he is producing. Hopefully more soon with Roy.

I am playing at the Ford Amphitheatre in LA with David Maldonado’s project,‘A hundred years of Spanish Guitar, Cristina Hall, A Flamenco Dancer from Spain, poets and just lovely people in this production all around. Ole! We recently played the venue with special guest Frankie Banali (total sweetheart bad ass) I also performed and recorded a bit recently in Germany and Holland at Musikmesse and some one-offs with ‘Roxx Boxx’ which is Divinity Roxx’s solo stuff. She is wonderful, talented and currently on tour with Beyoncé but I think we are scheduled for SSMF in August. The last thing is in progress right now, always at the DrumAddict DrumHut headquarters working on something. You’ve gotta keep the lights on!

‘The Love Project DVD has kept me busy in the PR world and I would really love to get it broadcast on Palladia VH1 and across the pond. It’s gotten around so far but I think after five official selections to film festivals and the laurels it has received it needs bigger wings than I can give it on my own. People always ask for a live show and to come to their country as If we wouldn’t want to. The only problem is money, really. I can make a lot more happen with some financial backing. In the meantime my focus is back on playing because I don’t want to be a manager, especially not my own as it burns you out creatively.

What motivates your approach to song writing, and how do you start the process of writing drum tabs?
I have been on a funky kick lately. Just playing motivates me to write on a good day. The 4cd funk box set includes everything from Gil Scot Heron to Kool n’ the Gang, and then the other side/vibe is my “Two Steps from Hell” (Bergersen/Phoenix film scoring virtuosos) box set. I listen and create my own layer on what’s already there so when I play with musicians I’m always listening first. It’s best to give them what they already have first, brew and stew in that for a while and then slowly ease into your delivery and feel. Every single player sounds differently, even if they are playing the same exact thing. The tabs also start with a sharpie all over the drumheads.

What’s been your experience of the music industry, and do you find the industry has changed priorities digressing from artists to financial gain?
I play music with not much regard to any music industry. I haven’t yet managed any big financial gain in the ever changing industry. I always believed in whatever project I participated in or on. I also believed that the money would eventually come, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. C’est la vie.

If you’re after money in this biz it’s best if you can license your songs to a film or TV show if you want to get ‘paid’ or be lucky enough to physically play on a show or film. I have my own issues with all of that and just working on it. I don’t think I really care to know so much about it because in my experiences you see one person getting screwed after another. It’s all perspective, I stay out of it. I will play for the band because I love the band and I hope that will always show first. Whether I show up in my jeep or a BMW.

Did you ever work a ‘regular’ job, dreaming of the future, and when did that change to what you’re doing at the moment?
Not really, I worked in jewellery for a while with some friends but it wasn’t for me. I started playing kinda big shows straight out of high school and got hooked early on. I went to audio engineering university and got my degree and worked on/ off at studios – but that’s about it. With the making of ‘The Love Project’ I started to slowly learn to edit on my own and as the years went by making the documentary I got faster and better at it. It’s a lot of fun work but it tests your patience in a big way. Rendering film is worlds slower than rendering audio. YOU gotta really love it, and since the movie is out and well, I guess ‘love it’ is exactly what we did! I hope you get a chance to see it. (The Love Project journey DW DVD)

Would you ever consider staring your own band? If so, who would be in your ideal band?
If I could choose anyone I wanted, one combo would be John Frusciante, Eddie Vedder, Rami Jaffe, myself and Flea.
What’s the best venue you’ve played at so far, and is there a venue you haven’t played at yet that you’d like to?
I always enjoy the 9:30 club in D.C. Also The Ford Amphitheatre is pretty nice. I love those outdoor moonlit gigs, there’s something’ about playing outside. One I wish to play someday is the Acropolis.

What do you like to do in your down time?
Down time? What’s that?! I’ve been pretty into meditation these days. I get centred at the start and end of each day best I can. I also hike a lot. I attempt to run a bit and hang with anyone I can learn from whenever possible. I guess some sushi, some sake n’ some hang time with the ones I love. I visit the family any chance I get. I like downtime on the road because I get to explore new places in the world and the vibes of different people.

What advice would you give aspiring young drummers out there today?

Listen to as many artists as you can, surround yourself with positive peeps. Be the least critical you can of yourself and others that try to play music with you. Approach it all with integrity and remember to take your time because nobody likes a drummer in a rush. Find your own sound, find your own voice. You gotta dig a little deeper sometimes but don’t give up when you get frustrated or fail, or don’t get the gig. Every drummer you look up to did that first, at least once. Nobody nails ‘the black page’ the first time they played it.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Horrible Bosses Press Conference

Originally published for Screenjabber.

The premise behind Horrible Bosses is simple. What do you do when you have horrible boss? You can’t quit, so you obviously devise a plan to kill them. Indeed, simple. The brains behind this plan are three friends: Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charly Day) who all have very different, and very difficult, horrible bosses. Taking advice from ex con Jamie Foxx, the buddies create a plan to kill off their bosses for reasons three-fold and comically justified.

Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Jason Sudeikis, Charly Day, and directed by ‘Four Christmases’ and ‘King of Kong’ Seth Gordon, ‘Horrible Bosses’ is a dark comedy not afraid to push the boundaries of genre and typical casting style of the lead actors involved. Jennifer Aniston, who plays Dr Julia Harris D.D.S, the horrible nymphomaniac dentist boss to dental nurse Dale, explains her character at the London press conference for the movie that she “didn’t worry at all about going so far with the dialogue and the sexiness of the part, that was the fun of it, with how far it went, and the whole entire movie really went for it.” As for type casting, Aniston has stepped out of the rom com box and had fun with her character Julia. “I have never come across anyone like her, so I was pretty much just going into my own dark imagination and seeing what I could come up with. It’s not bad down there!” Admitting that Aniston was the first person he thought of when casting Julia, “I don’t know if that’s good or bad but that’s exactly who I thought of, she’s such a great comedian that I thought she’d bring a life to it that no one else could.”

Casting for the three disgruntled employees was not as easily determined from the outset, as Gordon continues, “the three main guys were not fully formed at first but we discovered an incredible chemistry with them, and I think Kevin [Spacey] was the perfect guy to create Mr Harken, the evil one.” Making a dark comedy on a subject many people can relate to has its drawbacks, albeit light-hearted drawbacks, as Spacey concurs that “it was an absolute treat to do, I think the hardest part for our three main protagonists is to not laugh all day long as it was a lot of fun.”

There’s an obvious chemistry between all the actors, which whilst at the conference tease each other and need little encouragement to joke around. When pressed on the most embarrassing scenes to shoot, in which when seeing the movie there are a few, Bateman concedes modestly that “when acting against Kevin Spacey you’re going to embarrass yourself, you’re running a tight second at best.” Whereas Spacey, ever the comic retorts he “was embarrassed to work with Jason at every time.” The ‘Horrible Bosses’ press conference allowed, for a brief moment, the chance for Screenjabber to see and for you to hear how a dark comedy came to fruition, with a group of people out to lighten the tone, to entertain, even if it’s briefly to distract you from your own horrible boss.

Friday, 27 May 2011

'X-Men: First Class' Press Conference 23rd May 2011

Written for Screenjabber Magazine.

Attending the X-Men First Class press conference was a great chance for Screenjabber to see the main draws of Marvel’s latest blockbuster, where James McAvoy, Kevin Bacon, Michael Fassbender, Jason Flemyng, Zoe Kravitz, Alex Gonzalez and writer Jane Goldman patiently answered the questions most on the mind of the press. The conference allowed the actors to let their jovial banter really shine through, and it’s clear to hear the friendships forged whilst making the movie. The topic of discussion lends towards the possibility of making a trilogy out of Matthew Vaughn’s first major foray into Hollywood territory, and the lengths of research each actor went through to truly understand their character. Kevin Bacon noted that he “didn’t grow up so much with comics”, but “knew the films” and like the rest of the cast, was given a bible of research to wade through. James McAvoy however was a “big fan” and “really aware of the cartoon growing up” having seen many of the episodes via the BBC’s Saturday morning children’s show Live and Kicking. He even patiently waited for each half of the cartoon to air throughout the rest of the show. Clearly comfortable to joke with friends, comically Zoe Kravitz was apparently not aware of the comic prior to the shoot.

With a grasp of who was and was not aware of the movie’s origins, the latest X-Men is based predominantly on the Marvel comics, but with a conscious approach to how this prequel will fit into the pre-existing X Men movie franchise. The latest movie develops heavier themes to the forefront of blockbuster cinema, including race, war, discrimination and prejudice. Whilst many of these themes have been touched on before, X-Men First Class has a weight of quality to it, establishing and really developing the human unity between the two lead characters, Professor X and Magneto, which we already know to be a fractured relationship from the previous instalments, played by Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen respectfully.

Jason Flemyng, considered by many to be Matthew Vaughn’s lucky charm, having appeared in the majority of his movies, became the go to man for the comic relief both on set and at the conference, having originally thought to audition for the beast when Vaughn “flirted with doing one of the other X-Men films” prior to First Class, but as Michael Fassbender added, he “didn’t look so good in blue” as he does in red, so rather then being blue and hairy, Flemyng is “bright red and slightly out of focus”.

A strong cast and an equally strong movie to match, X-Men: First Class is definitely one to check out for a number of reasons. The great character development takes you deeper into the realms of mutants not yet explored by the previous movies, along with the visuals completely capturing a time of war and social change not long forgotten. There’s also an emotional pull that is neither contrived nor forced. It’s an undeniable fact that although Matthew Vaughn has dabbled in a number of genres, his latest is definitely one of his, and Jane Goldman’s, greatest assault at the box office yet.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Limitless Poster Campaign

Accessing 100% of your brain is now possible with the clear pill.

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. The new Neil Burger movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, Abby Cornish and Robert DeNiro ticks the box as one that will entertain, but not necessarily inspire generations. The movie centres around Eddie Moora (Cooper) a writer lost in limbo, unable to become motivated. Offered ‘the clear pill’ as an attempt to try something new, he acquires almost super human abilities and is able to reach what he believes to be his full potential – brilliance, wealth and power. However not all pills are good for you, and so the loss of control ensues.

The poster campaign however, in which Bradley Cooper is seen to endorse the ‘clear pill’; one that will ‘unlock your potential, to become the perfect version of yourself’ is a great example of marketing campaigns that work, one that thinks outside the box. It’s an idea that has worked before, helping to generate hype around the movie. Made to look like many of the countless self help posters out there on buses, tubes and other forms of public transport, these advertising campaigns are in many ways comical, and are employed to not only sell an idea, but to help the onlooker create a better version of themselves, whilst also diverting attention away from fellow commuters.

The satirical poster boasts many side affects, including paralysis, psychosis, amnesia, homicidal blackouts and sudden death-at which point if you’re reading this advert in a smog ridden daze, all becomes clear that things are not as they seem. For the marketing campaign, it’s created a buzz and interest in a movie that a full blown publicity shoot may not have. There are other movies in the past that have played with marketing and paved the way for Limitless to follow suit, including Daren Aronofsky’s drug addled drama Requiem for a Dream, where the morality of the four central leads is explored through their different forms of addictions. A lot of hype was generated through the interactive website. Internet users can explore Aronofsky’s Coney Island world through the site designed to mimic the game show addict Sara Goldfarb (played by Ellen Burstyn), whilst finding ‘Easter eggs’ that explain the movie in greater detail and allowing users to draw further conclusions. Richard Kelly’s 2001 indie hit Donnie Darko also follows the interactive website route, which in many instances paved the way for a marketing campaigns to branch outside the norm.

TV shows have also played with interactivity, like the hit ABC show Lost, where viewers were encouraged to interact with each other on the official site and become a part of the narrative, trying to solve the mystery behind the Island. Where many shows and movies overkill their marketing, a few have increased the hype by having as little advertising as possible, relying on word of mouth and the relentless nature of fans. Take the new JJ Abrams movie Super 8, due for release this summer, in which gradually more and more information is divulged through various teaser trailers, offering very little in terms of plot, characters or who’s starring in it, all techniques employed to maximise interest, and minimize disappointment. No one likes to know the whole plot before they even set foot in the movie theatre.

Movies like Limitless come and go-they’re derived to give our retinas a little workout and enjoy some classic entertainment. But every now and then an interesting marketing campaign will coincide with a release, shaking the industry and our mundane commute up a little bit, reminding us why we love and buy into these movies in the first place.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Prodigy 'World's On Fire' (2011) Review

The Prodigy’s World’s on Fire film mainly comprises of live footage from their Warrior’s Dance Festival shot on location at Milton Keynes Bowl, their biggest ever solo draw, in the summer of 2010. The film opens as a mini documentary shot around South America during 2009 as the band, consisting of founder Liam Howlett, Maxim, Keith Flint, drummer Leo Crabtree and touring guitarist Rob Holliday discuss what’s required to put a show together as they embark on their latest tour. The trouble with this film is that it’s torn between two realms - documentary town and live footage city, together they don’t sit comfortably and would genuinely work better flying solo. Used together for World’s On Fire and the two briefly jeopardise the other, the direction is not clear, but only briefly. As the footage from Milton Keynes could in no way be eclipsed at all. When you watch the film (which you should) you’ll see why.

What makes World’s on Fire different from what has become an influx in ‘one night only’ live footage films ranging from Foo Fighters to Muse to Green Day, is that whilst watching The Prodigy perform to epic proportions their ear bleeding anthems, including Breathe, Invaders Must Die, Omen and Take Me To The Hospital, the fast paced editing and in some cases, point of view shots from both band and crowd alike, is that you really feel a part of the experience. Literally. My eyes were viscerally violated, A Clockwork Orange style, except I felt entranced under the sheer ferocity, unable to blink for fear I’d miss a snippet of footage. I was captivated by the energy of both band and crowd alike, the interaction between both and their determination to party, and party hard, with a legion of super fans astounding. At one point a circle pit of doom formed, like the fourth circle of hell, fierce and uncompromising. The film completely captures the cataclysmic atmosphere of The Prodigy at their peak, and at many points with such extreme close ups of each members’ eyes, you get the feeling they know this too.

World’s On Fire is fast paced, extreme, and an unapologetic assault into why The Prodigy have annihilated the electronic dance scene over the last twenty years, and for one night only, should not be missed.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Eagle (2011) Review

Originally published in Screenjabber.

The Eagle is an epic Roman adventure set in the year 140AD and follows the Roman commander Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) recently discharged from the army due to injury. Dissatisfied, Aquila goes on a quest with his slave Esca (Bell) to find the truth behind his father’s disappearance, after he led 5,000 men of the Ninth Legion and Rome’s symbolic totem golden eagle into the unknown territory of Caledonia twenty years prior. Neither the legion nor the eagle retuned, disgracing Aquila, his family and Rome.

Shot on location in a very bleak and cold Scotland, director Kevin MacDonald, whose previous movies include The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, really focuses on The Eagle as essentially a childlike buddy adventure movie, with refreshingly no female leads to both detract from the action, and take this movie into a completely different direction. There are not many epic action tales of late that do not try and market a movie as both action and romance, making it a good all rounder that all can enjoy. The Eagle makes no apologies that this is a movie really geared to let the inner 10-year-old child’s imagination run wild. There’s fisticuffs, battles, friendship and honour all poured into one that many grown-ups would have acted out as kids with sticks in their back gardens.

The cinematography is beautifully gritty, and with fast cuts and lots of extreme close-ups during the fight sequences to really hark home the nature of the movie. Adapted for the screen from Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel of the same name, this as a three parter, allows a glimmer that there may be sequels, or future parts to follow, but each one with a different lead. The Eagle isn’t for everyone, and if you’re after a movie that has romance, action and adventure, then I say you should rent the brainless Troy. But if CG fight sequences aren’t for you, and you’re after a refreshing take on a classic Roman epic, then The Eagle might very well be for you. The leads Tatum and Bell, both originally from dance backgrounds, appear to be making a conscious effort to step out of their comfort zone, and push each other further physically to prove their muster. While at times the acting can appear a little secondary, there’s no denying that there’s a strong friendship on screen between the two, and that’s one of the main themes that shines through The Eagle.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

SCRE4M (2011) Feature

What’s your favourite scary movie?

Scre4m is due to hit cinemas in April this year, Wes Craven’s latest teen slasher vehicle, driven at the helm by a cast of old survivors - on screen spouses Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers and David Arquette’s Dewey Riley, and of course the toughest victim to kill Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott. What makes Scre4m a cut above the other three Scream’s perhaps is the arrival of new blood; including Emma Roberts as Sidney’s hapless cousin Jill, Hayden Panettiere as Kirby Reed, and Rory Culkin as Charlie Walker. From the outset, the draw of the new blood appears to be a re-working of old successful characters from the previous three movies. However Scre4m isn’t a remake, far from it, the movie is most definitely a sequel to Scream 3 and deliberately takes on the horror genre’s recent bout of remaking yet not re-imagined classics. Scre4m seems to be taking the franchise further down the path of what horror sequels can achieve.

With the movie poster’s tag line declaring ‘New Decade, New Rules’, the bar has been raised to what we can expect from the latest instalment from the Craven empire. Welcoming back Kevin Williamson on screenplay duties, having written the first two Scream’s and with Ehren Kruger taking over on the third, it appears that Scre4m is also returning to its origins, in front and behind the camera. Classic horror movie dynamics are now broken, changed and manipulated to mark new beginnings for the teen slasher genre, bringing it into the new decade. So the question is will a fourth instalment putting void to all previous rules be a welcome return to a franchise that relied so heavily on the loyal audiences’ and character’s knowledge of horror codes?

Scre4m is also about passing the torch from the old to the new, with the new victims (Culkin, Roberts and Panettiere) enlisted to bring a fresher and younger audience to the franchise, with many of Scream’s original fans now well above the average age of the teen slasher market. What can be said about the much hyped trailer and anticipated release is that whilst Craven is making a conscious effort to turn the teen genre on its head - paving the way for new codes, expectations and parodies to be followed, (now virgins can die!) he’s actually reinventing the genre and allowing it to start all over again, without remaking it. What’s always been of great interest in a genre where the killer always has a motive that’s usually explained away in the closing third is that in the Scream franchise, the killer is never the same. So with new rules, new victims and possibly the start of a new trilogy, which character will the killer be this time?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Foo Fighters '2011 Single 'Rope'

Released today, Foo Fighters’ first single Rope, taken off their highly anticipated record Wasting Light (released in April) has pretty much got everything you’d expect from a Foo’s record. And then some. The track harks back to the distinct and familiar sound of the band yet is a vast departure from their 2007 record, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace. Where Echoes explored the ample diverse musical skills within the band, clearly revelling in both their rock and acoustic talents, Rope is a reminder of the Foo’s stripped down to their raw sound-and it sounds damn great.

Recorded in Dave’s garage on analogue tape, with Butch ‘Nevermind’ Vig recruited to bring the band back to basics, this is a record made with no expectations to impress, yet I reckon will result in the highest of expectations and accolades, the Foo’s finally sounding comfortable to do whatever the hell they want. Unlike their early tracks, which although have the same instant energy, (see their self their self titled record) Rope is well thought out, and will sound the same when played live and on tape.

Guitar riffs in abundance, drums pounding and Grohl vocally on top form, this track is the Foo’s at their peak-not trying to impress any ears, not trying to fit into any genres, just having full on fun. If this is a sign of how the rest of the record will sound, I cannot wait to hear it.