[Movies] Eraserhead (review)

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Director: David Lynch // Screenplay by: David Lynch // Distributor: Libra Films International // Release Date: March 19th, 1977 // Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, and Jeanne Bates. 

Review: Early in Eraserhead, Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) holds a mirror to the audience’s inevitable bemusement. As he tells his boorish father-in-law, Henry, rather like the viewer, “doesn’t know much of anything” – but that’s OK. Knowledge rarely equals power in the world of David Lynch.

His first feature-length picture comes with a fresh-out-film-school verve that is at once immersive and uncomfortable, with its black and white aesthetic serving as a perversely cosy frame for some nightmarish images of DIY body-horror. The imagery is so blatantly sexual that a Freudian analysis would almost be as redundant as an elaboration of the plot. Henry’s arc revolves around his mounting obsession with a swollen-cheeked chanteuse credited as the Lady in the Radiator, who offers him reprieve from his malformed child; a sperm-shaped humanoid with snake-like qualities that may very well have been a prototype of the chestburster from Alien.

Much of the film’s horror is derived from its hideously bleak set design, with the gloomy cinematography and paranoid soundscapes colliding for a sombre viewing experience. But Eraserhead is more than just a mood piece. The intermittent presence of Henry’s darkly seductive neighbour lends the film a noirish feel, while Henry’s shocking response to the duties he’s been burdened with is a highly unnerving set-piece.

Lynch found mainstream success with slightly more conventional works since, but the taciturn Eraserhead is still essential viewing. If the plot seems underfed on paper, then open your mind, press play and let it devour you.

8.5/10

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[Music] Veruca Salt – Resolver (review)

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Review: Fellow followers of current pop music-related events will have inevitably stumbled upon the term “shade” at least once throughout their travels in cyberspace – either through Rihanna’s Twitter page or an ill-advised visit to minimum security insane asylum ATRL – but for any neophytes out there, it essentially refers to sly insults delivered by useless people in the public eye, such as X-Factor judges or Perez Hilton. Fans of both pop music and heavily contrived drama can take pleasure in picking apart interviews with their ‘faves’, all the time believing that talk of an ex-bandmate’s handwriting and a diverted hand placement could the spell the end for a girl group (as was very much the case for this band).

Even when there is behind-the-scenes tension, it is rarely as explicit as we would like it to be, putting even more pressure on fans to read into every lyric, tweet, and hashtag until they can be certain that pretty much everyone in pop hates each other. Those tired of reading between the lines may find much to enjoy in Veruca Salt’s third record. With all but one of it’s thirteen tracks dedicated to either the fall-out between singer/guitarists Louise Post and Nina Gordon or the former’s split from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, Resolver is positively brimming with rage and, yes, unadulterated, unexpurgated ‘shade’.

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Veruca Salt crush it on debut American Thighs

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When you lead an album with a single as attention-grabbing as 90s alt-rock gem “Seether”, it’s only fair to have something to match it down the line. In reality, Veruca Salt’s debut American Thighs holds only three additional rock-outs.

Thanks to singer-guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post, the frenetic “Seether” is packed with garage-rock grit and lyrical titillation (it was supposedly about a woman’s monthly gift). If the band’s later efforts demonstrated an attraction to heavy metal, then “All Hail Me” stands as a warning. Sonically, it’s the weightiest track on the record, full of chilling wails and galloping guitars.

Number One Blind” sounds like a crossover hit, but for a different band. Nonetheless, the slightly cheesy melody blends surprisingly well with the rest of the record. “Victrola” boasts the same raucous charm as “Seether”, but at barely two minutes in length, it’s a bit throwaway.

So that leaves us with what Rolling Stone described as “flat balladry”. The triptych of “Spiderman ‘79“, “Forsythia” and “Wolf” is an awkward one. All three drag, but only the second fails to reach a bombastic conclusion. “Forsythia” has a cute sashaying riff, but it nosedives into a faceless instrumental when its chorus deserves a poppier structure.

Celebrate You” brings stubborn teenage melodrama and contains the album’s campest lyric: “I tip my glass and toast to you; / the blood spills on the carpet / at your celebration.” Fuzzy power ballad “Twinstar” is lyrically simple (“You wanna lift me up / but you don’t know / I’m stuck in my ways”), but when singer-guitarists Nina Gordon and Post belt that chorus out, it’s a lighter-in-the-air moment.

Ideally, the album should have ended here, but of course there’s an ‘epic’ to slog through. The amateurish “25” is disappointing, although the whispered kiss-off “Sleeping Where I Want To” goes some way towards making amends.

There was something admirable about Veruca Salt’s lack of ambition. What their debut lacks in meaning and experimentation it makes up for with killer hooks melded with a pleasingly hazy atmosphere. While their personal troubles ensured they would never again make quite such an innocent record, American Thighs remains an oddly bewitching relic from a simpler time.

8/10

[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] In The House / Dans La Maison (review)

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Director: François Ozon // Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuale Seigner, Denis Ménochet,  Bastien Ughetto // Plot: When sixteen-year-old Claude shows promise as a writer, his teacher becomes increasingly involved in creating a story that blurs the line between fact and fiction.

Review: The first half of François Ozon’s latest is an absolute dream, as enigmatic teenager Claude (Umhauer) brings wholesome suburbanites Esther and Rapha Artole (Seigner and Ménochet) to the attention of snarky, childless teacher Germain (Luchini) and his wife Jeanne (Scott Thomas) via his designated writing assignments. The dialogue fizzes and the pace is relentless and confident, while a subplot involving the intricacies of Jeanne’s art gallery works in tandem alongside the teacher’s aggressive critiquing to pose the rather stupefying question of what actually constitutes as credible art, in whatever form. Sadly, such neat self-awareness is simultaneously lost on Ozon, as the celebrated auteur takes his characters into unnecessarily strange territory.

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[Movies] Zero Dark Thirty (review)

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Director: Kathryn Bigelow // Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler  // Plot: An exhaustive account of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

Review:  Much has been made of Zero Dark Thirty’s stance on torture as a method of interrogation, with some publications accusing director Kathryn Bigelow of lacing a pro-torture agenda throughout her latest film – a finely sculpted account of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden. An alarming thought, no doubt – but what is of more concern is the readiness with which some critics are willing to discount the films many achievements almost entirely as a result. Zero Dark Thirty is remarkable for its ability to keep one as enthralled watching a CIA boardroom meeting as they are to witness the true jewel in an already-encrusted crown: a breathless reenactment of bin Laden’s eventual capture in Pakistan that ensures the film’s final stretch is also its most rewarding.

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[Movies] Quartet (review)

Director: Dustin Hoffman // Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly, Pauline Collins // Plot: Ageing opera singer Reginald Paget (Courtenay) finds the splendour of Beecham House, a home for retired musicians, to be compromised when his prickly ex-wife Jean (Smith) comes to stay. As the houses financial future becomes unclear, Jean does all she can to avoid reuniting with her former quartet members Sissy (Collins), Wilf (Connelly) and, of course, her ex-husband Reggie.

Review: Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut is a sporadically touching adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s 1998 play of the same name. Despite being very much geared towards to a particular demographic, this viewer can attest that he, at the tender age of 21, found much to enjoy in Quartet, although a frustrating lack of focus makes it hard to recommend to audiences at large.

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