Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Master (film)

Although I found it incredibly difficult not to get my hopes up about a film that had received mass amounts of critical praise (as I had been looking forward to Paul Thomas Anderson's so called "Masterpiece" for months on end) I walked into the cinema to see The Master with good expectations, rather than great ones, just in case I was in fact let down.

The Master, a 135 minute arty-drama piece is sure to sweep every major award ceremony this season. It is both aesthetically beautiful in its cinematography, in addition to being wonderfully acted. Headed by Joaquin Phoenix in his first lead role since hilarious documentary I'm Still Here, Phoenix’s character Freddie Queller is a recently discharged World War II vet. who is lost, alone and suffering from major anger issues. He meets Ron L. Hubbard... I mean Lancaster Dodd, an author and leader in a controversial movement known as 'The Cause'. Queller finds himself drawn into the aura, and blatant lies of Dodd, played by the ever fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman, and soon becomes one of his most loyal followers; much to the dismay of Dodd's son, Val (Jessie Plemons). Despite the fact Freddie may be enamoured by the new figure in his life, his manic and alcoholic tendencies swirled in with the nature of The Cause lead him down a path of chaos and destruction. 

The script is incredibly strong, with amazing on screen chemistry between Queller and Dodds. Although The Master is a solid piece, the film sags and drags in places, which can often make you feel as if certain scenes would've been better left on the cutting room floor.

Hoffman is the most crooked, sly yet well-presented "villan" in recent cinema history. But I did in fact find myself slightly let down by the events of the film, purely because its explosive dialogue scenes were few and far between. Plus, they could’ve given Amy Adams, who played Lancaster’s wife, Peggy, a hell of a lot more to do.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Rihanna - Unapologetic (album)

Rihanna is barely a human being. Unapologetic marks the stars 7th official studio album, more than Christina Aguilera and tying with Britney Spears. Funnily enough it's also her fourth consecutive annual album release for the month of November, with Talk That Talk, Loud and Rated R preceding Unapologetic in 2011, 2010 and 2009 respectively. Although Rihanna may churn out albums faster than the Pussycat Dolls turnover rate, this is her only LP that actually feels rushed, with little thought gone into various aspects of the album.

'Phresh of the Runway' produced by pop and R&B mastermind The-Dream contains his killah signature but is in fact a slightly weak and redundant opener. Third track 'Numb' featuring Eminem is almost too ironic as it is in fact mind-numbingly repetitive. As Rihanna makes her way through the album, flirting with various musical styles including pop ballads ('What Now', 'Stay'), dubstep and dance ('Jump' and 'Right Now'), and 80s synth ('Love Without Loss') it is on the contemporary R&B styles and reggae fusion track 'No Love Allowed' in which the star truly shines. 

It's best to steer completely clear of 'Nobody’s Business' a throwback collaboration with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown (sample lyric: "You’ll always be mine, sing it to the world, always be my boy, always be your girl"), as the two lament the past claiming that it is in fact nobody business. The problem with this is the fact that the two choose to make their relationship everyone's business by writing and singing about it.

The album features heavier twinges of R&B than Rihanna's recent records have. But as previously stated, the album ultimately feels hurried and to be completely honest, lazy in its production and lyrical content.


Key Tracks: Diamonds, Love Without Loss/Mother Mary, No Love Allowed

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lana Del Rey - 'Born To Die (Paradise Edition)'

You can read my review of the original Born To Die here

For those expecting an upbeat pop-y follow up to Del Rey’s debut album Born To Die released in January can look elsewhere, as Born To Die – Paradise Edition is treated almost as a complete continuation of what has been offered on the previously released disc. With this in mind, I think it’s safe to say that those who didn't enjoy the first outing are sure to feel the same way about this follow up.

As I am still avidly enjoying Lana’s first offering, the 8 track piece from the salacious siren is an uneven set – travelling through the interesting to lyrically labyrinthine then through to the mundane and the drab as the album progresses.

BTD – PE opens with the lead single ‘Ride’: a hauntingly beautiful Brandon Flowers inspired ballad. Lana’s temperament is apparent from the offset, and doesn't seem to change throughout the whole extended play. Even when she mutters that her “pussy tastes like Pepsi cola” on a track called...you guessed it, ‘Cola’, she sounds as if she is on the cusp of boredom and lethargy. Similarly in ‘Gods & Monsters’, Lana coos “fuck yeah, give it to me” a number of times over a classically serene drum and violin combo. Not two concepts you would ever expect to married together. The fifth track, a cover of ‘Blue Velvet’ (originally released by The Clovers in 1950) is a sweet yet melodramatic throwback which wouldn't sound of out of place in the works of John Huston and Adolph Deutsch, while the last two songs 'Yayo' and 'Bel Air' are the least rewarding songs on the disc.

What saves Lana’s sometimes lackadaisical tone is the great production that runs throughout each track. The singer partnered up with Rick Nowels, who has crafted songs for Marina and the Diamonds and Sia, as well as Del Rey on the original Born To Die. Although the EP has its dreary moments throughout, Lana lets her inner nympho reign supreme, making for a complicated and captivating release.


Key Tracks: American, Cola, Gods and Monsters