[Excursions] Funk’d @ The Aberystwyth Boat Club (review)

puss puss© Eddie Whitehead Photography 

What: A music event with performances from Roughian, Sgilti Ysgafn Droed, Endeser and Cloaka // When: March 13th, next event slated for May 26th // Where: Aberystwyth Boat Club 

Review: In an age in which Spotify are obligated to offer users the option to hide their guilty pleasures from public view and a BBC Radio One presenter can expect a standing ovation for admitting to liking a Taylor Swift song, one wonders if music listeners have ever been so self-conscious. A song such as Mark Ronson’s impeccably-produced pastiche “Uptown Funk” arguably reaches the masses by deftly dousing inherently cool funk tropes – spangly horn sections, raspy James Brown posturing courtesy of Bruno Mars – in 2014 hedonism. The track’s reluctance to attempt anything truly innovative was apparently of great comfort to consumers on a worldwide scale, and as inescapable hits go, there was still much to enjoy about Ronson’s irony-tinged emulation of a brand of music that is more perceptibly credible by mere virtue of its age.

But it is a notable lack of irony and inhibition that marks out Aberystwyth’s Funk’d as a distinctly joyous music event. The musical jamboree – which has been organised by local musician Gwion Llyr for almost two years – emblazoned the Aberystwyth Boat Club with an eclectic eruption of disco, IDM, techno, and house. The choice cuts of both resident and touring DJs represented a multitude of decades, with the titular genre only sprinkled occasionally throughout.

This is a night in which recently canonised dancefloor staples – from the giddy, neon-drenched EDM of the Avicii and Sebastien Drums collaboration “My Feelings For You” to the irresistible deep bass pulsations of Jauz’s “Feel The Volume” – shamelessly rub shoulders with juicy remixes of earthy classics such as Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” and Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road”. The effect is an intoxicating sense of spontaneity and airborne excitement, and these are excerpts from just one set; that of Aberystwyth’s own electronic music duo Roughian, comprised of Llyr and Steffan Woodruff. Sgilti Ysgafn Droed, Endeser and Cloaka, the evening’s much-buzzed-about headliner, all turned in stellar showings.

Although unassuming in both size and reputation, students and local residents alike should find the Boat Club to be a welcome deviation from the town’s leading nighttime venues, Why Not and Pier Pressure. It has the slightly rickety maritime charm of the latter, coupled with the former’s USP. Yes, you heard right: one may drink on the dancefloor. The venue’s bar-club duality is easy to navigate thanks to a spacious smoking deck, and while it may be comparatively isolated in terms of its location – there is an admittedly galling lack of nearby cash machines, so do bring cash! – it also provides patrons with respite from the often claustrophobic nature of the town’s nightlife.

With Funk’d continuing to grow and experiment – the Boat Club is set to be taken over again on May 26th – the music lovers of Aberystwyth have been afforded the rare chance to immerse themselves in an endlessly ambitious event in its embryonic stages.

[Movies] The Way, Way Back (review)

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Director: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash // Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures // Release Date: August 28th // Starring: Liam Jones, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Alison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet and Maya Rudolph // Plot: Depressed at the thought of staying with his mother and her arrogant boyfriend at the latter’s summer beach house, taciturn teen Duncan (Jones) finds reprieve in his  bond with Owen , the sarcastic but nurturing manager of the Water Wizz water park.

Review: Why Nat Faxon and Jim Rash leave it to sixteen-year old Liam Jones to find substance in their directorial debut is a mystery, especially with the likes of Steve Carrell, Toni Collette and Allison Janney on the payroll.

To say that The Killing star comes up short is not to denounce his ability. His turn as despondent teen Duncan occasionally hits the right notes, particularly in a stilted ‘heart to heart’ with his mother’s snide boyfriend Trent (Carrell), who asks his potential stepson to rate himself out of ten. When met with a hopeful answer, Trent cruelly negates it. Jones matches Carrell’s almost overwhelmingly smug air with a squirming delivery that brilliantly conveys the awkwardness of adolescence. In a car with only Trent, his prickly daughter Steph, and Duncan’s sleeping mother Pam (Collette) for company, his performance appears stark and understated. With the arrival of Janney’s vivacious Betty – a one-woman Neighbourhood Watch who ambushes this makeshift clan the second they arrive at their summer beach house –  Jones seems borderline catatonic.

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[Movies] Before Midnight (review)

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Director: Richard Linklater // Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing // Release Date: June 21st // Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply.

It’s been nine years since we last checked in one of modern cinema’s most intoxicating love stories. This third installment initially paints a picture of domestic bliss for cerebral soul mates Jesse and Celine. Hank, the former’s teenage son from a previous marriage, has just spent what he calls the “best summer of my life” with his father’s family (including his twin girls, conceived in the wake of Before Sunset’s romantic trysts) on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, and the film begins with a quietly panicked Jesse seeing him off at the airport. It’s a winning opening, with Hawke’s affectingly strained performance suggesting that priorities have changed since Jesse first boarded that train to Vienna almost twenty years ago.

Personalities run the risk of being diluted when children are thrown into the mix, but in a ballsy move, Before Midnight positions its characters as people, not parents. Lazy scriptwriting and mortifying perceptions of gender norms mean female characters are most likely to fall prey to the insipid trappings of domesticity. Thankfully, Celine is as unmovable as ever. Her inclination for tart honesty and playful emasculation has only strengthened over the years, and it’s the latter trait that allows tension to mount over otherwise jovial group dinners.

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[Movies] Stories We Tell (review)

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Director: Sarah Polley // Distributor: Artificial Eye // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Michael Polley, Sarah Polley, Pixie Bigelow, Joanna Polley, John Buchan, Geoffrey Bowes and Susy Buchan.

The multitalented Sarah Polley seeks answers to some very personal questions in this touching documentary. Through a series of jovial interviews, Polley explores the art of storytelling and the impact one particular tale has had on her own life.

Stories We Tell could so easily have been a trifling vanity project. That it isn’t stands not only as a testament to Polley’s talent, but also her inherent likability and aversion to vanity. Behind the mixing desk at a recording studio, Polley coaches her father Michael as he reads out his own account of the many questions left behind in the wake of his wife’s death. She sits there exposed; no Hollywood lighting, no flaw-devouring make-up. The same could be said of her family, who make up the bulk of her interviewees. Few of them are formally introduced and minimal background information is given. Characters instead develop as the film progresses, granting the documentary a swift pace that takes you straight to the heart of their family dynamic.

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[Movies] Renoir (review)

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Director: Gilles Bourdos // Distributor: Soda Pictures // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, and Vincent Rottiers.

Review: The sumptuous Côte d’Azur setting of Renoir may suggest a languorous tone, but Gilles Bourdos’ story of a precocious teenager reigniting the passions of both of an aging artist and his convalescent son boasts a satisfying sense of momentum.

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[Movies] This Is The End (review)

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Director: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogan // Distributor: Sony Pictures // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jonah Hill. // Plot: A group of celebrities and their entourages flock to James Franco’s house for a massive party, only to the face the arrival of the apocalypse.

Review: Let it be known that This Is The End is a great film. Eventually. The messy first half of this Rogan/Goldberg comedy alternates between genuine hilarity and pitiful self-indulgence. But when it finds its feet, there’s a lot to enjoy. Security was tight at the screening I attended, obviously in the aim of preventing the film’s many surprises from hitting the net. And we’re not just talking about celebrity cameos – although there are plenty of those to go around – but nerve-shredding sequences, solid scares and some brilliantly realised monsters.

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[Movies] Film Distributor’s Association Showcase / Embargos

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If there’s one thing I can take from the Film Distributors’ Association showcase I attended this week, it is that I am a man of simple pleasures. Even before the suits from Twentieth Century Fox insisted on confiscating our phones for fear of snatches of coming-of-age comedy The Way, Way Back being plastered across social networking sites (Oh, how I longed to wield an innocent Nokia 3210 in their faces…), I was in my element. There were contracts, free coffee and a lanyard with my name on it. It was about as close to Heaven as I ever plan to get.

Now, perhaps my favourite thing about writing, as opposed to merely ‘talking’, is that you cannot see my face. This isn’t to say I consider myself ugly (after all, some people say I remind them of a young Glenn Close), more to point out that I am a terrible liar. I am also legally obligated to wait until each film’s respective embargo expires before I can publish my thoughts, and if I was to be talking to you in person, my face would simply give everything away. However, I can reveal that the line-up (picture after the jump) certainly gave me a lot to think about, and I must thank IdeasTap profusely for granting me this wonderful opportunity.

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