29 September 2008

The Dark Knight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Music composed by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard

*** (out of ****)

Christopher Nolan said when he sat down to pen the script for THE DARK KNIGHT; he popped in the CD for BATMAN BEGINS to get in the mood and inspiration. If that CD brought about such a phenomenal sequel, just imagine what Nolan can construct popping in the DARK KNIGHT CD.

Composers Hans Zimmer (THE LAST SAMURAI) and James Newton Howard (KING KONG) re-unite and deliver one hell of a brilliant score. Take away the movie entirely but leave the music – you’ll still have one hell of a fantastic experience. Now, I’m not the best bloke in the world to review musical scores, but this one was just too good to ignore. Hopefully my ill-fated attempt at describing the beauty of this score will perhaps spark curiosity on your part and download a few tracks.

“Why So Serious?” begins the album, and it’s a doozy. Also known as the ‘Joker’s theme’, it is erratic and edgy, keeping you constantly engaged by the unpredictability of what’s going to happen next. “I’m Not a Hero” continues the trend of awesomeness, being moody yet thrilling, and “Harvey Two-Face” perfectly compliments the character of Harvey – valiant and Mr. Do Gooder. Pumping up the blood is “Aggressive Expansion”, which completely engrosses you into the action. “Like a Dog Chasing Cars” is energetic and thrilling, the resounding action piece of the album. “Agent of Chaos” is gut-wrenching. “Watch the World Burn” is haunting, freaky, and uncomfortable. The disc concludes with the 16-minute “A Dark Knight”, which is pretty much a culmination of all the themes present in the past two movies, and it, too, is beautiful.

Every CD has their one particular track that stands out above all others, and although most would argue it’s “Why So Serious?”, I lean towards “Like a Dog Chasing Cars.” The track is simply breathtaking, beautiful, brilliant, fantastic, yada, yada, yada. It truly, I feel, epitomizes the Batman character and his struggle against himself and the rest of Gotham City, as well as the entire film itself. It is, simply, an excellent, emotionally moving track. The other track that stands out would be “Agent of Chaos”; as stated earlier, when you link the events of the film to this cue (which is almost unavoidable), it truly is one of the most emotionally moving recording I’ve heard in quite a while. Although it has taken repeated listening to get into it, the final suite, “A Dark Knight”, is nothing short of perfect. These tracks, out of this entire album of greatness, stand out against the rest as – um, even greater-ness…ness…

So, to sum up for those slow on the uptake: bloody brilliant score, and I recommend it to everyone, even the blokes who aren’t exactly very into the whole music scene. If the score for Dark Knight is overlooked by the Academy gits, I will be very, very, very agitated. I’m thinking Hulk-sized agitated, my friends.

On a side note, the CD for Dark Knight was released in two different versions. One is your normal jewel case sporting the cover imaged above with nothing but the soundtrack; the other is a ‘Special Edition’ that, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to that title. Sporting a cardboard case similar to Disney’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END release, it contains three collectable cards, each featuring a face shot of a character: Batman, the Joker, and Harvey Dent (holding his I Believe in Harvey Dent badge) that you’ve seen before. In the back of them are stills from the flick. So, that’s pretty much it. Kind of disappointing for the extra money spent on it.

Why So Serious? (9:14)
I’m Not a Hero (6:35)
Harvey Two-Face (6:17)
Aggressive Expansion (4:36)
Always a Catch (1:40)
Blood on My Hands (2:17)
A Little Push (2:43)
Like a Dog Chasing Cars (5:03)
I Am the Batman (2:00)
And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad (2:29)
Agent of Chaos (6:55)
Introduce a Little Anarchy (3:43)
Watch the World Burn (3:48)
A Dark Knight (16:15)

Total Album Time: 73:35

18 September 2008

Smallville: Odyssey

Starring: Tom Welling, Allison Mack, Erica Durance, Cassidy Freeman, Aaron Ashmore, Justin Hartley
Teleplay by Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer, Story by Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders, Directed by Glen Winter

“I’ve written eulogies. I’ve seen people walk away from me, but I’ve never really said goodbye. I’ve been holding onto a life on this farm that hasn’t existed in years.”- Clark

*** (out of ****)

(S08E01) Eight seasons in, and SMALLVILLE is still insanely entertaining! Anyone else think this show was going to last more than five seasons max? C’mon! Give it some kudos! Alright, this being the season premiere, it has some high expectations, seeing as how no matter how good or how crappy a entire season is, the premieres and finales are always exceptionally well crafted. “Odyssey” isn’t the greatest premiere by any means, but it’s still fun and entertaining, keeping your attention throughout; and aside from being anxious to see Clark Kent fly and don his costume, I wager the “fun” factor is what keeps people tuning in each week.

Previously on…
Season seven left things in a strange, rather illogical way. A secret society called Veritas (who knows why) was formed by a bunch of gazillionaires – the Queens, Teagues, Luthors, and Swann. Their purpose: find the Traveler (a extraterrestrial being) for reasons I don’t really remember why. If, however, the Traveler was hostile instead of a Barney-like character, there is this ‘weapon’ that has the ability to control him. Lex embarked on a hunt to locate the weapon, while Clark merely talked about stopping him without doing much about it. Jimmy proposed to Chloe, but the Department of Homeland Security came knocking and took her into custody. Lex discovered the Fortress, weapon in hand, and Clark arrived to try to talk sense into his former mate. Believing Clark to be the Destroyer of Worlds or something along those lines, Lex impaled the weapon into the Fortress crystals. Clark collapsed to the ground, immobile, and Lex crouched to comfort him as the Fortress crumbled above them.

Anyone got any sort of explanation for what Alfred Gough and Miles Miller were trying to do? Lex knows Clark’s identity – a complete contradiction from the comics, and can be resolved in only one way: Lex once again getting knocked in the head, wakes up, and forgets everything from the past month. Also, how did that ‘weapon’ work exactly, and why would Jor-El create such a thing? Taking Jor-El’s speechyfing the past six or seven seasons, that whole thing doesn’t make much in the way of sense. The topping on the cake is the Fortress being destroyed – why the hell did that happen? This ‘controlling’ of the Traveler was nothing more than making him immobile? Huh?

So here we are. Only two cast members from the first season are still around (Welling and Mack), and we have seven past seasons of storylines – how can this show survive its eighth season on the air?

To my utter amazement, the premiere was better than I expected. Obviously, this being
Smallville, there are areas that need improving, but overall, a pretty damn decent episode.

Four weeks after the events of ‘Arctic’ (S07E20), Tess Mercer, the newly appointed CEO head honcho, meets up with Luthors’ right hand man, Reagen, who is desperately searching for Lex. She expects results, and they better be soon, damn it! Then, three members of the Justice League – the Green Arrow, Aquaman, and the Black Canary – storm onto the site looking for Clark, and all they find is his damn red jacket that I wish was burning in the pits of Hades. Turns out, Clark is in a Russian labor prison camp thingy, and lacking the whole being-super powered-thing; but no biggie. Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow) arrives on the scene to bail Clark out. With Clark found, they embark on a quest to locate Chloe, who has also been missing for four weeks. Well, Chloe is being held against her will in a LuthorCorp-owned building in Montana that Lex created to interrogate or study meteor freaks – which is what has been happening to Chloe. Also, Chloe has picked up a new ability: super-brains! Oliver rescues Clark and they embark on a mission to rescue Chloe and the other two members of the League who were captured via a cell phone trace. While executing their siege on the factory, Clark meets up with Lois, and they combine forces and free Chloe. During this period of time, Oliver is drugged, and under the influence, he shoots Clark. Dying, the Martin Manhunter stops by, picks Clark up, and flies towards the sun. When Clark wakes, he’s in his barn, the Martin Manhunter still there. Clark’s powers have been reinstated, while the Manhunter’s powers went bye-bye (permanently or temporarily is not explained). Jimmy meets up with Chloe, and Chloe responds to Jimmy’s marriage proposal with a resounding “yes.”

The mystery that’s most likely going to play out until the series finale – whenever that will be – is the disappearance of Lex Luthor. In four weeks, LuthorCorp knows nothing except that Lex is still missing – and, well, the briefcase of Lexs’ that has Clark’s crystal. So, unless the Smallville writers make the Lex Luthor who is Superman’s arch nemesis a clone, Lex is still alive and well. What kind of state is Lex in? Did he lose his memory? (He better not, because the writers have used this device to death, and I won’t be in the least happy) Nonetheless, it is nice to know Lex still holds a strong influence on the characters and the overall season. Hopefully, when this storyline is resolved, it better have a satisfactory conclusion.

Tom Welling gave us a fantastic performance in this episode, so that means next week he’s going to be completely uneven; seriously, it’s a strange thing: one week, Welling is phenomenal, the next, it’s something straight out of a really bad Ed Wood movie. Instead of making mortal Clark whiney and completely irritating, Welling made the wise decision to retain an authoritative voice and come off all heroic, which is a nice change of pace (see: Seasons 1-7). So, good for you Tom!

Cassidy Freeman joins the cast as a series regular. Fingers crossed, she can act better in future episodes, because if this is any indication, her ‘performances’ are cringe worthy. Yes, she can pull off being an authoritative bitch very well, but who can’t, really? Freeman’s main fault is that she isn’t believable. The scenes and dialogue written for her are powerful and well written, so that rules out it being the scripts fault; nay, all signs point to Ms. Freeman and her inability to act not stale.

Allison Mack graces us again with a effortlessly portrayed Chloe Sullivan; I’m sure both Allison and Tom can do this job sleepwalking, but it’s good to give them props nonetheless. Erica Durance enters her fourth year as Lois Lane, and just this episode alone, I’ve never loved her more. Confident, a total smart ass, and undeniably beautiful; this season is going to let Lois shine. Justin Hartley also sleepwalks through a fun and energetic performance as Oliver Queen, while the actor who plays Aquaman has hardly a thing to do other than look pretty, and the actress who plays the Black Canary seriously cannot act.

Weak points of the script: the conclusion to the Veritas storyline. Although it is possible Jor-El stripped Clark of his powers prior to the mechanism functioning to its full potential, the notion that all this weapon did to ‘control’ the Traveler was make him human is completely absurd and totally stupid, not to mention entirely redundant from previous seasons (S05E02, ‘Mortal’). Yes, thank the Almighty Lord that the Veritas arc is concluded, but still – this was just a load of bollocks. But, overall, I blame it on previous Smallville executives and writers Al Gough and Miles Miller (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) for going along with this ridiculous idea (though, admittedly, I was initially intrigued). Another very discouraging part of the episode that made me fear the writers have run out of ideas was Clark, once again, dying (S05E03, ‘Hidden’). It’s a very annoying tactic I hope doesn’t pop up again, though its use here is, to an extent, understandable.

Smallville can still deliver the goods. Presenting a seemingly more mature show with above average, intelligent writing and performances, it still can entice viewers. Why does Chloe have this new power? Where is Lex? Who the hell is Tess Mercer? What happened to Lexs’ right hand man? And..how the hell can they keep this show going for another season?

(Screen cap from Devoted to Smallville)

07 September 2008

In Short: Ghost Town, Hamlet 2


Starring: Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, Tea Leoni, Directed & Written by David Koepp

102 mins.

** (out of ****)

Get ready for this novel idea: a dude (this time the socially awkward Ricky Gervais) dies for some odd mintues, wakes up, and finds that he has the ability to see the dead walking amongst the living! This individual begins to talk to the dead, slowly realizing that he is, in fact, having conversations with himself, and must thus weevil out his way out of sounding insane to everyday people. One of these dead have a "final wish" that must be fulfilled, and then they can get off this damn Earth and go get some peace and quiet in the afterlife. A truly stunning and original premise that doesn't get expounded or given a original landscape all that much. GHOST TOWN is nothing more than a alright time-passer when there’s no better comedies on, like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS or SUPERBAD. Although, I admit Gervais occasionally makes the ‘talk-himself-out-of-a-odd-convo’ moments fun to watch, but that’s few and far between. A small, nifty semi-twist is that Gervais’ character is a downright prick, giving less than a shit about anyone who is not him, and his ‘epiphany moment’ (oh, sorry, is that a spoiler?) was handled convincingly and actually got me to laugh, which this flick accomplished maybe three times total. Tea Leoni infuses her performance with more vigor than I anticipated; although she easily could have sleepwalked this part, she instead decides to – well - give a bit of a damn. If you’re bored and you saw everything at your local multiplex already, then I recommend GHOST TOWN because it works well as a nice diversion; there’s very little originality or substance to the flick, but the parts it does get right, they’re enjoyable.

Starring: Steve Coogan, Cahterine Kenear, David Arquette, Directed by Andrew Fleming, Written by Pam Brady & Andrew Fleming, 92 mins.

* (out of ****)

I have only been disappointed by a movie once this year, and that movie is HAMLET 2. The trailers made it look humorous, the poster sold me, and the concept was bloody brilliant; it could have been a fantastic comedy. Instead, HAMLET 2 was just pure, utter crap. I’ve only just encountered the ‘actor’ Steve Coogan with this summer’s TROPIC THUNDER and he was slightly humorous in that, but he’s given top billing here, and with the exception of one joke I laughed at, everything he did was flat and nearing on agitating. There are three bright spots to be found in the movie, though: Catherine Keener (40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN) plays Coogan’s frustrated wife, and David Arquette – barely having six inconsequential lines – who plays a drunken free-loader at their house. These two actors are the funniest thing about the entire movie. Finally, the musical number “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” is so brilliantly awful and funny, it would be the only reason I recommend this to anyone (which I’m not). Not even Amy Poehler's humorous cameo can save this flick. I’ve read plenty of 50/50 reviews, so HAMLET 2 is definitely a movie you’ll have to experience to get a opinion about it. As for me, I was as giddy to see this as I was THE DARK KNIGHT, and I ended up with a god-awful movie with very few bright spots. If possible, skip the first 80% of the movie and just watch the actually HAMLET 2 performance – that’s when it becomes bearable. However, the play is so completely frakked up, and makes no coherent sense whatsoever. But sod it, it was slightly enjoyable. But if you’re curious, give it a try, but otherwise, I implore you to save your bucks.