Will Rogers : Misfits

Originally posted on riserdrummer:

The latest album to drop into my inbox is the soon-to-be-released offering by Will Rogers, Misfits.

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Will’s music is an open, honest mix of lyric-driven acoustic rhythms, no more so evident than in the title track, which cocks its hat very much in the style of Barenaked Ladies. But this album has many more layers and dimensions to it that the simple desire to cram as many words as possible into two minutes and fifty four seconds. It comes over very much as a labour of love and an insight into the musician’s soul.

Take the first track, More, which espouses all of the collective fervour of Billy Bragg’s social utopia with none of Bragg’s annoying political overtones. It’s a great little sing-along song with catchy riffs and a tagline that sticks in the head, leading to those embarrassing moments when you find yourself singing aloud in public. Together…

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Movie review – WestWorld

It’s far too long since I wrote any reviews, so high time I caught up. There have been loads of movies, television shows, and albums that have warranted a review, so let’s start off with…

WestWorld

Year: 1973

Director: Michael Crichton

Stars: Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin

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Set in the near future, WestWorld is one of a trio of holiday destinations at the resort of Delos. In MedievalWorld, you can indulge yourself at the court of the king, with knights, jousting, wenches, feasting and carousing. RomanWorld places you in pre-Christian Rome, allowing you to indulge yourself fully in the excesses of the time, whilst WestWorld places you in the land of outlaws, rustlers, saloon girls and duels. At each of them, for a thousand dollars a day, you can indulge yourself completely, including fights to the death, as the resort is populated by androids so lifelike you can barely tell them from humans.

Peter (Benjamin)  and John (Brolin) have chosen WestWorld, and after settling in they are soon well into the swing of things, twice bettering the Gunslinger (Brynner) who is programmed to provoke them into action, but never to actually harm them.

Until something strange starts happening to the androids. A computer glitch – similar to an infectious virus – begins affecting the way the androids behave, and this comes to a head when, drawing against the Gunslinger once more, John is shot and killed. Peter realises that the android is after him, and runs for his life, pursued by the murderous machine through the other worlds and down into the control tunnels underneath the resort. On his own, he needs to find some way of defeating the android before he becomes its next victim…

Westworld was written and directed by Michael Crichton years before he gave us Jurassic Park, and the similarities between the two movies are clear. In both, the human visitors have to fight for survival against all odds, and against an enemy that can’t be reasoned with. Jurassic Park has the advantage of dinosaurs and 90s CGI. WestWorld relies on good acting, real tension, and what was, at the time, some ground-breaking digital effects. And it does the job very well. The three leads all bring something different to the movie: Brolin is an experienced, devil-may-care adventurer, Benjamin a naive, first-timer with very natural fears and excitement, and it’s interesting to see Yul Brynner, dressed in the same costume he wore as the hero in The Magnificent Seven, playing the role of the implacable, unstoppable baddie.

WestWorld is a movie that has stood the test of time very well, despite some of the ‘futuristic’ computer equipment being very much the 70s idea of future tech. The story is strong, the performances compelling, and the tension works well – the fear of the unstoppable foe that simply won’t give up the chase is brilliantly played out by Brynner.

A real seventies classic.

Album Review – Degrees of Freedom’s PERFECT WORLD

riserdrummer:

Here’s an album review – go check it out…..

Originally posted on riserdrummer:

It’s always a good feeling when you do something new – visiting a city for the first time, reading a new book, watching a new movie. So I was pleasantly surprised when my copy of the recent Degrees Of Freedom album, ‘Perfect World’ hit my doormat. Some new music by a band I’d never heard before was just what I needed.

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The story behind the album is interesting – it’s the culmination of guitarist John Aulabaugh’s mid-life crisis, which took a Blues Brothers twist when he decided to pull his band back together after a quarter of a century. I’m not sure if a 106-mile road trip or the Illinois Law Enforcement Agency were involved, but I’m sure the sunglasses put in an appearance!

As far as line-up goes, Degrees Of Freedom are guitarist John Aulabaugh, vocalist Michael Husler, Michael Murphy on bass and drummer Tim Murphy. In addition, the…

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Movie review – Electric Dreams

Year: 1984

Director: Steve Barron

Stars: Lenny von Dohlen, Virginia Madsen, Maxwell Caulfield, Bud Cort

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Miles Harding (Lenny von Dohlen) is a bit of a nerd. In fact he’s the quintessential 80s nerd, an over-intelligent architect who is trying to invent ‘The Earthquake-Proof Brick’. A smart guy…

Well, almost. He’s not great with computers. He’s not really great at life, as it happens. So when one of his colleagues convinces him he needs ‘organizing’, he buys himself a computer, connects it to all the gadgets in his house, and like all wannabe computer geeks, sets about running his entire house from the comfort of his swivel chair.

All goes well, until he accidentally overloads the computer with data from his office mainframe. Trying to put out the fire, he spills champagne over the keyboard. There’s some violent interaction between bubbles and circuitry, and, when he switches the system back after drying it out, Edgar (the computer, voiced by Bud Cort) comes strangely to life.

After a few initial doubts, Miles is fine with this and indeed comes to like it. That is, until cello player Madeline (Virginia Madsen) moves into the apartment upstairs.

Things begin to get out of hand when Miles falls in love with Madeline. Edgar, left alone in the apartment during the work day soon follows suit and seduces Madeline by accompanying her cello practice. Miles gets Edgar to write a love song for Madeline, in which Edgar pours out his silicon heart. In surely the strangest love triangle ever made, Madeline believes that her wonderful musical muse is Miles, whilst we all know better. A jealous clash is brewing. How can Miles win Madeline from a competitor she doesn’t know is there? What will Edgar do next to try to get the edge over Miles?

If you haven’t seen the movie, then all this probably sounds rather pitiful. And it would be, were it not for fine performances from the under-rated Lenny von Dohlen and Virginia Madsen. The emphasis here is definitely on ‘heart’ and ‘style’ and this magical urban fairytale is laced with some of the best pop music ever written for a movie. It’s also very well photographed and a bit surreal in places. A bit like a long pop video, which I’m sure is what mean-spirited critics would say about it.

There are also many little details that the scriptwriters used in the movie, which pre-dates the Personal Computer era, but cleverly predicts the hassles man would have with his silicon friends. An example is when Miles mis-types his name as ‘Moles’ during an initial setup screen and Edgar, the computer, refers to him by that name for the rest of the movie! (not much has changed since, in computer setup software, it would seem!).

I remember seeing this movie in London when it first came out, when computers were still unusual and fascinatingly, big clunky boxes with built in keyboards, and when Bill Gates was still just some guy with glasses in Connecticut or somewhere… Well, ok, Bill was actually already in there, but he wasn’t the household name that he is today.

The Apple II, Commodore 64 and TRS80 were still being sold through specialist outlets, running with their own versions of DOS and memory measured in a few K, not GigaBytes.

This movie was good on several levels, the love story was well crafted, the soundtrack is superb (Giorgio Moroder at his best) and Virginia Madsen looked marvellous (very much like a friend of mine years later – when I first met her, she reminded me of this movie immediately). The technology obviously dates the movie, but the ideas on how to expand the use of computers are still valid today. If you can, catch the movie whenever it’s on.

Movie review – FAQ About Time Travel

Year: 2009

Director: Gareth Carrivick

Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Mark Wootton, Dean Lennox Kelly, Anna Faris

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Every now and then, a small-budget, small-scope film comes along and puts the mega-million blockbusters to shame. For me, FAQ about Time Travel is one such film.

It’s a simple story of three friends. Ray (O’Dowd) is a self-declared ‘imagineer’ (or what we would call a nerd), interested in his science fiction, his fantasies, and his desire for life to be more exciting than skipping from one dead-end job to another. Toby (Wootton) is a dreamer, constantly writing new ideas for movie plots in his little book, and desperately hoping one will be the idea that changes his life. Pete (Kelly) is the cynic of the bunch, constantly belittling the dreams of the other two, but in truth craving the company of his friends in his equally pointless life.

During a typical evening at the pub, Ray is approached by Cassie (Faris), who tells him a tale almost designed to appeal – she’s a time-traveller, sent across the centuries to fix a ‘time-leak’ and who couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet “Ray The Great”. Before he can fathom out whether she’s telling the truth (but not before embarrassing himself totally) she’s gone, and he returns to his friends to thank them for ‘setting the thing up’. They of course deny it and think Ray’s making the whole thing up, but as the evening progresses, the three are caught up in a series of leaps through time via the time-leak (which turns out to be an uncontrolled portal sending them back and forth through time, located inside the men’s toilets).

Cassie reappears to explain things to Ray, and eventually the three get back to the present, only to be confronted by an Editor – a rogue time traveler changing the future by killing people just after their most famous work. And somehow, this is the time for our three heroes, based on an idea of Toby’s……

O’Dowd is the lead character in the film, and brings a very similar style to that of The IT Crowd’s Roy. Wootton is great as the slightly spaced-out Toby, and Kelly brings a welcome warmth to the cynical Pete that his performances in Shameless would benefit from. Faris is suitably pretty and ditzy as Cassie, and this works well, as a more confident, forceful performance would have been too overpowering against the three male leads.

Produced by BBC Films, FAQ About Time Travel is a gentle, humorous and very enjoyable film, with a number of laugh-out-loud moments and a great outcome for all involved.

* Contains moderate bad language

Movie Review – High Road To China

Director: Brian G Hutton

Year: 1983

Stars: Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston, Wilfred Brimley, Brian Blessed, Robert Morley

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Imagine Indiana Jones with a big old moustache, flying goggles and a drink problem. In fact, imagine Tom Selleck in the role. Because that’s what we nearly got, until they realised that Selleck’s commitments to shooting Magnum PI got in the way. Harrison Ford picked up the role, and the rest is history.

History sometimes shows us what we missed out on though, and this is where High Road To China comes in. Some people say that this movie was given to Selleck as consolation for missing out before, and in the way he plays Patrick O’Malley, you can kind of see how his Indy would have turned out.

The basic story is as follows: it’s the early part of the 20th Century. and there’s these two businessmen, one an inventing genius (Bradley Tozer) and one a big money man (Bentik). Tozer goes missing when out in the Far East, and Bentik sees an opportunity to grab their company and all the cash by having his partner declared legally dead. To prevent this, Tozer’s society-girl daughter Evie needs to find him and get him before a British court before the end of the month. The only way she can get there is by hiring O’Malley, a former Air Force pilot and current flying instructor whose skills are legendary with plane and with the ladies – when he can stay sober, that is.

As Evie, O’Malley and engineer Struts journey from Paris to China, they have to battle natives, German fighter pilots, and chinese warlords on the long journey, where hopefully they will find Evie’s father still alive and willing to help them.

Selleck is actually pretty good in the role of the drunken Irish-American hero, and his growing relationship with Evie as they fly along works well due to his obstinance and her feisty attitude. The supporting actors are a key part of the charm, with Robert Morley as the slimy Bentik, and Brian Blessed as the native chief Suleman Khan the stand outs.

There were a number of Indy impersonators around at the time, and this one is the best of the bunch. Probably because only the hawaiian shirt and Ferrari kept him away from the fedora in the first place.