Reviews of movies, music, books and more by David Goody.

Monday, May 29, 2006

DVD: Stealth

Stealth is a high technology Top Gun film that's stupid with a capital S T O O. In fact it would probably make a satisfying double header with Team America World Police. The basic plot is that group of crack US Navy pilots are trained to fly advanced experimental planes. Then are then told that there is a fourth plane that is flown by an advanced computer brain. they call it Eddie but you may as well call it HAL.

Before you know HAL, sorry, Eddie, has used it's artificial intelligence to learn from the American pilots. What it has learnt it is to disobey orders and blow things up regardless of the collateral damage. Before long 1000 Asian farmers and the entirety of Pakistan is covered in nuclear fall-out, but the generals still think they can keep things under wraps. The energy of the films fist pumping patriotism drains after the 90 minute mark with a pointless coda involving the destruction of North / South Korea border to try and save the heroes girlfriend leaving empty explosions punctuating the absurd situations and by the end you are longing for the wit and excitement of Maverick, Goose and Ice Man.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Music: The Best Of 1996-2002 by Hefner

When they proclaimed themselves "Britain's Biggest Small Band" Hefner effectively wrote their own epitaph. One of many bands championed to a cult following by John Peel they never troubled the mainstream with songs that feel like a spikier Belle And Sebastian.

Their high point was second album The Fidelity Years, which is well represented on this retrospective. The Hymn For The Cigarettes is a stomping indie anthem that tells a tale failing love through fag manufacturers and contains the gorgeous chorus refrain "how can she love me when she doesn't even love the cinema I love". Slower tracks The Hymn For The Alcohol and Don't Flake Out On Me showcase the raw emotion of singer Darren Hayman's voice, a wonky taste that once acquired allows you to glory in the crystal clear diction.

Later albums continued to turn out moving odes to life outside the norm such as The Greedy Ugly People whilst The Day That Thatcher Dies still shocks with it's brazen celebration that 'the witch is dead'. The late electronic experimentations capture a band becoming bored and straining for something and losing their special touch. Despite it's 20 track length there are few tracks here that are anything but a joy to those who like their music wonky, witty and independently minded.

DVD: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

There are few films that are too clever for their own good but many that are ruined by being nowhere near as clever as they think they are. The tongue in cheek narration that guides us through Kiss Kiss Bang Bang often veers towards smug and self congratulatory ground but the sharpness of the script and the frequency of one liners means that you will end up amused rather than annoyed.

Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black has taken what appears to be a pulpy noir detective novel and covered the cliche ridden set-up and far fetched plot with a fast past knock-about script that sees small time crook Robert Downey Jr end up partnered with Val Kilmer's butch gay private eye. Nothing really makes much sense during the film and like the best of Raymond Chandler's work by the end you don't even care whodunnit, but laugh you will.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

DVD: Ghost In The Shell

Ghost In The Shell is a mid 1990's Japanese Manga animation that was considered groundbreaking at the time due to it's use of computer generated images. A decade it still stands a benchmark of animated cinema, now forming the link between Blade Runner and The Matrix.

The film centres on two government cyborgs who are attempting to track down a hacker called The Puppet Master who gets into people's minds and uses them as unknowing assassins. Alongside heart pounding action sequences it muses on the nature of existence in a way that makes The Matrix look like a primary school philosophy lesson. Whipping through at a taught 85 minutes it never pauses for breath and seems as cutting edge today as it did on release.