Monthly Archives: July 2012

Big Dog…Small Bed.

 

Hagrid, our lovely dog, politely annexing his friend Doris’ doggy bed during a recent visit. She’s quite a bit smaller than he is…

On a related note, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs takes you on a journey into our daily routine over at her blog today.

Yes, incredulous readers, there is a Six A.M. every day – and it sometimes looks like the pictures that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs has so taken.  It’s prime dog-walking time for us as fewer people are out taking their pets for a perambulation and it helps us to wake up before heading off to a day of doing something or other in an office.

Plus, you’ve got to let a big guy do his sniffing – he’s quite fond of it.

 

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Bruce Dickinson – voice of reason?

Bruce Dickinson, of Iron Maiden, at Newcastle Metro Arena – via Journallive.co.uk

If you needed another reason to love Iron Maiden – other than their superlative back catalogue, Janick Gers’ manic metal pixie stage presence, Nicko McBrain’s deranged fizzog, the three-pronged guitar attack, that fellow on bass and lovely, delightful Eddie – here’s one that will ring true with anybody who’s been to a gig in the last five years or so:

Vocalist Bruce Dickinson berates texting fan in audience.

Who hasn’t wanted to do just that (without being removed from the venue and abruptly deposited on the pavement outside by a zero tolerance bouncer)? I complained about this practice when I went to see Dutch symphonic metallers Delain earlier in the spring and it really, honestly boggles my mind to see three or four teenagers standing around in huddles updating their Facebook statuses and sending texts whilst the band are playing, apparently oblivious to the show happening around them.  Are people so utterly obsessed by their mobile devices and so addicted to social media that they can’t experience social situations without having to furiously input their every notion into their phones lest it be lost to eternity?

You’ve paid for your ticket – shouldn’t you, y’know, watch the gig?

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“The Dark Knight Rises” – film review

“I once caught a bat THIS BIG

I still remember the slightly dazed feeling that Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I had after going to the Vue cinema in Sheffield to see Christopher Nolan‘s dizzying, operatic “Batman Begins” sequel, “The Dark Knight“, in summer 2008.

It was a Sunday lunchtime, Batman was in the wind after sorting out the Harvey Dent situation and there was this distinct sense between us of having just been put through the wringer.  Had we just been entertained for two and a half hours or been through a punishing, sensory obstacle course?

The same feeling struck me after emerging from this morning’s screening of the third movie in Nolan’s series based on the DC comics character, The Dark Knight Rises“.

It needs to be said that this is an excellent film – a worthy cherry on top of the proverbial trilogy cake – but it’s an exhausting one which demands a lot of the audience, in terms of memory and ability to not visit the bathroom several times (forego the Super Gulp cup at your concessions stand – you will miss stuff if you have to visit the facilities during the film).  There’s no walking into this film green – you really do have to refresh your memory of “Batman Begins”, as it plays a significant part in proceedings, and it helps to have an appreciation of Harvey Dent, too.  It’s not as though there’s an exam paper to sit as you leave, but it will help to have some recollection of how our hero got to this point in this life and to know who the characters are, as introductions are sketchy at best. This is particularly true if the people in your party are not quite as geeky as the rest of us – you’ll be explaining a lot to them and missing things yourself.

The scale of the enterprise is what surprised me – we’ve all read those pre-release puff-pieces which seek to convince that “Summer Blockbuster X” sets the bar incredibly high and that we’re going to see things that we’ve never seen on-screen before – usually this translates as ‘canned special effects sequence marginally more entertaining than the one in that film we were conned into seeing last year’.  With “The Dark Knight Rises” I actually believe the hype for once – I’ve can’t recall having seen a film which has action set-pieces of the scale and duration seen during the last act in this film.  Big isn’t necessarily better, but Nolan’s taut command of the toy box at his disposal on “TDKR” makes the likes of “Transformers 3” seem even more weightless and juvenile than it already was, despite both films dealing in similar scenes of extended metropolitan destruction.

The performances match up to the apocalyptic imagery on display – Christian Bale is excellent and fully justifies Nolan’s initial decision to cast him with the rounded, nuanced turn he delivers here.  He’s beaten, bloodied and bowed by the demands and toll that his by-night vigilante campaign has taken on his body and mind – this is a Batman who wants out from the life he’s created for himself and finds that a wider world has something quite different to say about that.

Leaving on a jet plane? Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in “The Dark Knight Rises”

He’s more than complemented by Anne Hathaway, who defies a million dim-witted fanboy forum posts by making the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman her own – slinky, sarcastic, haunted, defiant, conflicted, capable and able to walk in heels that even Lady Gaga might deem a bit complicated, this is a Catwoman quite distinctively different to those we’ve seen before in Bat-Cinema, TV and games.  There’s an exchange of dialogue between her and Joseph Gordon Levitt‘s idealistic policeman mid-way through the film which goes past beyond the sexy cat burglar archetype to hint at Kyle’s essential dilemna in this telling of the tale – she’s brilliant at what she does, but what she does puts her in situations which can’t help but keep her in the mire that she’s trying to escape.

Best Catwoman ever?  Your mileage may vary, but I thought that she was wonderful and that Hathaway did splendid work in the role.  Even the ears worked.  Kind of.

Tom Hardy is fantastic as the force of nature Bane – he’s got layers of character which haven’t been hinted at in the pre-publicity and their unpicking on-screen is a delight, giving this unaccountably posh berserker man-mountain an array of quotable and – get this – easy to understand dialogue.  It’s a strong actor indeed who can command the screen and hold the attention with much of his face replaced by a high-tech dog muzzle and Hardy manages to do it consistently – he’s helped, of course, by his imposing physical presence.  The words ‘Brick’ and ‘Outhouse’ come to mind.

Is this a good ending to the Nolan trilogy?  I would say so – but it’s not without some dodgy moments.  I thought that we were going to have a retread of  the second film’s “Which boat shall we blow up? The one with the rapists and murderers or the ‘Ickle Kittens and Orphans’ cruise?” moral non-quandry at one point, but we got past it swiftly.  There’s some fairly on-the-nose dialogue to contend with, too – you may wonder if Bane’s job is to defeat Batman or engage in some kind of unorthodox, “The Game”-style Billionaire Life Coach programme with him, given the steady stream of tough love aphorisms he delivers in their scenes together.   And Hans Zimmer‘s score is so overwrought that any metalhead listening will wonder why they didn’t save a few bob and just sling some Dimmu Borgir on the soundtrack – the aural, cumulative effect is noticeably similar.

I will want to revisit this film, but I suspect that a little distance will certainly help me to appreciate it all the more – it’s big with a capital B and such an endeavour deserves to have a little gulf between viewings, I think.  If “The Avengers” was like the best chocolate cake ever (with extra sprinkles), “The Dark Knight Rises” is like a delicious pasta dish with such a rich tomato sauce that you can’t face any other course afterwards.

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Take my money, Christopher Nolan – Take it!

Wonder if I can borrow the Tumbler to get there?

Well, that’s my Friday morning (and lunchtime) sorted.  The Dark Knight Rises, bought and paid for.  Not (Lie)Max, as it happens – I anticipate seeing this film again, though, so there’s always time to have my eyeballs scoured by Wally Pfister‘s cinematography being projected mere inches from my face, for the full sensory overload treatment.

Excuse me, Sir – You wouldn’t be attempting to record the film on your iPhone now, would you?

See you sometime later today with my non-spoiler verdict on this trilogy-capping uber-sequel.

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Child in Time

 

Now that’s a rock star – Jon Lord, Deep Purple mainstay, who passed away on 16 July 2012.

It would be remiss of any blogger who loves rock music to not mention the passing of Deep Purple‘s keyboard player and all-round suave dude, Jon Lord, who died yesterday at 71 years old having fought a valiant battle against cancer.

He co-wrote Purple’s defining tune Smoke on the Water“, did time with David Coverdale in Whitesnake and composed classical work in his later years.  To hear him at his best, check out this vintage tv footage of Purple’s “Child in Time”.

 

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Alas, Poor Poddy

Poddy – you served me well…

If you’ve ever owned an iPod whose internal hard drive began to make the dreaded clicking chime of doom, you’ll know just how I feel right now – yep, my beloved 80gb MP3 player has gone to the great gadget graveyard in the sky.

Getting over the undeniable fact that this is a first world problem, and that there’s a lot of people dealing with a lot more on a daily basis than merely the end of a beloved leisure product, I don’t feel embarrassed to confess that I felt absolutely sick as Poddy gasped and clicked his last.  Anybody who has had this kind of device fail befall them will no doubt attest that the feeling is rather akin to that clearly evident on the face of Wile E. Coyote in the RoadRunner cartoons, as he looked directly into the camera seconds before plunging towards the canyon floor.

Did I back up my music?  Is it all there? What about the podcasts?  A range of questions begin to present themselves, not the least of which is   “Do I want to keep going down the Apple route or should I cut my losses and get a cheaper MP3 player and manage my music the old-school way?”  Because, friends, an 80gb iPod Classic isn’t a cheap thing to buy – and the less said about the hilarious price of a 64gb iPod Touch the better (oh Apple tax, will you ever stop providing me with entertainment?).

Not that moving past Apple is easy, once you take format quirks and the fact that the iPod is now synonymous with MP3 player for many retailers and users – the various flavours of iPod are the only game in town…

 

 

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Fluffrick’s Half-Year Hitters

The best thing that Delain have done to date? I should say so…

Inspired by Angry Metal Guy’s list, and because everybody loves a top ten (no matter how arbitrary they end up being), here’s my selection of the best records in 2012 so far.   I can’t really say that anything which I’ve picked up has been a massive disappointment, and I’ve even found a band in the form of Diabulus In Musica who I totally adore and had never heard of before taking a chance on their second release.  Excellent returns from old-hands, convincing albums from established Euro Metal acts and cracking debut collections – you can’t say fairer than that from a year, can you?

1) Delain“We Are The Others”.  Clearly the best album this gifted Dutch symphonic metal quintet have released so far – as much for the ways that it diverts from the established musical template of that genre whilst still retaining their identity.  It’s the kind of record with enough diversity that your favourite song will change with each listening session – for me, the late-album track “Are You Done With Me?” is an alternate universe smash hit, but “I Want You” is also a genius slab of knowingly overwrought, sweeping metal balladry whose lyrics take a delicious, twisted about face in the last minute or two.

2) Luca Turilli‘s Rhapsody“Ascending to Infinity”.  Face-melting operatic insanity from the former Rhapsody of Fire guitarist.  The soundtrack to movies not yet made, with a lovely cover of the Alessandro Safina opera/pop crossover hit, “Luna”, which somehow perfectly fits in with the neo-classical influence and metal flourishes evident elsewhere.

3) Epica“Requiem for the Indifferent”.  Confident, seemingly effortlessly melodic symphonic goodness from Simone Simons and co – but with the underpinning, genuinely metallic riffing and musicianship which carves the band out a distinctive place of their own amidst the multitude of European bands playing in a similar musical field.  This is a record which I’ll be returning to repeatedly in the months to come, ahead of the band’s UK tour at the end of 2012.

4) Van Halen“A Different Kind of Truth”.  I was an early doubter of this legendarily fractious band’s ability to bounce back, record a record and tour it without something bad happening.  Thankfully, that doubt is more than eclipsed by the quality of this album – it might be a selection of reworked seventies cuts which never made it onto studio records first time around, but the end release is classic Van Halen.  End of debate, I guess.  The proof’s in the likes of “Blood and Fire”, “She’s The Woman” and “Stay Frosty” – all evidence that the VH you know and love still has it.

Another band I’m seeing live this year – I see a pattern forming…

5) Firewind – “Few Against Many”.  A departure from Firewind’s expected Power Metal sound, introducing 70’s hard rock influences into the mix and doing it without sacrificing the riffs and splendid solos that you want from guitar genius, Gus G.

6) SabatonCarolus Rex.  Sweden’s finest purveyors of fist-pumping, martial tunes about war and gubbins head way back into Swedish history for a tale of divine presumption, flawed military campaigns and good old-fashioned hubris married to some of the best tunes they’ve ever written.  All that and inter-band strife which led to the group splintering and taking on a new rhythm section and guitarists right as the record released.  For my money – currently £5.00 and coffee stamp card for the local java palace – “Lion From The North” is the best damn thing that they’ve recorded yet.  I look forward to seeing Joakim and co. pile drive it into the faces of the faithful at their Sheffield show in November…

7) Lacuna Coil“Dark Adrenaline”.  Many fans were split on the merits of Lacuna Coil’s fifth album, Shallow Life.  I wasn’t one of those who didn’t care for it (There’s some classic tunes on there – “I Won’t Tell You”, “Underdog”, “The Pain”) but I think that most fans will agree that Lacuna Coil’s 2012 record is a genuine monster of an album – not that these things count, but it’s been the highest charting release in their career in many countries.   Sleek, modern production makes the likes of “Against You” and “Tell Me Something More” sound impressively huge and expansive – a progressive and contemporary sounding record which skilfully integrates their electronic underpinnings with fantastic, gut-punching riffs and solos.  Modern Metal for the discerning?  I should say so.

8) Halestorm  –“The Strange Case Of…”.  I’m inclined to say that this is the closest thing that this list will get to provoking controversy, as in some corners this band is very much persona non grata – a radio-friendly US rock quartet led by noted spell-check confoundress, Lzzy Hale whose tunes have been tearing up US radio and sneaking into “Glee”, just for the hell of it.  There’s no doubt that they have their detractors, but I’m not one of them and I’m pretty sure that this record is a quantum jump forward from their debut album.

That wasn’t a terrible record by any sensible application of the term, but it pales in comparison to this record – go and listen to “American Boys” or “I Miss The Misery” and be hooked by the riffs, Lzzy’s voice – which goes from zero to ‘whisky-soaked, bar-room fight starting hellion’ in five seconds flat.    Not Metal, but bloody magnificent.

9) Diabulus in Musica“The Wanderer”.  This appallingly photogenic band of Spanish symphonic metallers are one of the few bands with the ‘beauty & the beast’ vocal divergence that I can get behind without feeling slightly as though I’m being growled and simpered at by a sugar-deprived Cookie Monster and his mate, Dame Olivia Von Divason.  The symphonic synths, galloping guitars and dark operatic vocals on “Ex Nihilo” make for some of my favourite tunes of the year – in fact, it may be my favourite trad metal song of 2012.  UK shows, please!

10) End of September – Self-titled.  One of the bands that I’ve discovered through a review in the UK’s “Power Play” rock magazine, and a genuinely nice surprise.  Hailing from Sweden and straddling the middle ground between Delain, contemporary Within Temptation and, say, Kamelot, End of September have a female vocalist in Elin Redin who doesn’t go for operatic flourishes but a soulful, distinctive and plaintive tone which serves the band excellently.  If you love your rock big, dramatic but not veering into the full-on metal attack of many groups in this top ten, End of September are a band that you’ll definitely want to listen out for.  Their single “Isolated” is a great indicator of their sound – if you like that, you’ll love their album.

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