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Archive for July, 2011

Instant Reaction: Noel Gallagher’s debut single, “The Death of You and Me,” shines bright

Noel Gallagher, the chief songwriter and genius behind Oasis, is finally back with his first solo effort after leaving the band in 2009. Under the moniker Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Gallagher took the curtains off the single “The Death of You and Me” just about an hour ago. It was first played by BBC Radio 2, with its accompanying music video premiering on YouTube just a few minutes later.

Anyways, onto the music — and “The Death of You and Me” is a pure summer tune. Opening with a tickling guitar line, the song shifts to a breezy bounce (similar to “The Importance of Being Idle”). Gallagher’s vocals here strengthen as he leads the song into an incredibly catchy and strong chorus — “And is it any wonder / why the sea is calling out to me? / I seem to spend my whole life running / from people who could be / the death of you and me.”

Somewhere around the two-minute mark comes the dizzying horn section that also returns for the song’s close. Not only does it give off a New Orleans jazz vibe, but it gives the song even more of an identity. Nevertheless, it will most certainly be pointed out that the song sounds like it could fit anywhere on The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s” or “Magical Mystery Tour.”

Then again, this is an excellent step in the right direction for Gallagher. It’s hard to imagine brother Liam singing on this one — with the high-notes and all, of course. Furthermore, Noel’s songwriting shines through after a couple listens. It goes without saying that, lyrically, “The Death of You and Me” beats anything on Beady Eye’s debut “Different Gear, Still Speeding.” Ignoring the title, it turns out that “The Death of You and Me” is a love song (“Let’s run away and see / forever we’d be free”), following in the footsteps of Oasis songs that have a strange way of being uplifting.

For Noel Gallagher, it’s a strong start. No disrespect to Liam, but in looking back at the ups-and-downs of Beady Eye, “The Death of You and Me” is an exciting reminder that the best half of Oasis has finally returned.

A quick word regarding the famous “Digital Copy” ploy

The scenario: You find a couple good deals on Amazon — $10 each for Blu-ray copies of ‘Inglourious Basterds’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.’ You order them. You get them. And… sweet! Each film comes with a “Digital Copy.”

The problem: The “Digital Copy” on both films has EXPIRED. In fact, the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ code expired on April 30, 2011. That’s less than SIX MONTHS after the Blu-ray was released. Thanks, Universal Pictures.

The movie studios’ strategy: Give consumers incentive to buy films when they’re first released on Blu-ray.

Why it’s messed up: Because the studios are often still advertising the “Digital Copy” aspect well after they release the films on Blu-ray, which is obviously misleading. Actually, I’d call it false advertising.

A recommended solution: Why not just make available the “Digital Copy” in a select amount of Blu-ray releases with no expiration date? Then, once they’re gone, they’re gone. No horrendous advertising and no upset customers who can’t redeem their codes.

In the meantime: Give upset customers codes that work in place of their expired codes. Seems like a smart business decision to me.

Review: All-star cast turns the cute, sexy and smart ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ into one of the summer’s biggest winners

As much as I want to begin by talking about Steve Carell (one of the most likable lead actors you can find) or Julianne Moore or Emma Stone or Kevin Bacon, it’s inescapable not to start with Ryan Gosling. Aided by a smarter-than-your-average-romantic comedy script written by Dan Fogelman, the 30-year-old Hollywood hunk gives the best performance of his career as the womanizing Jacob in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’

Over the course of two hours — and much less screen time than Carell — Gosling predictably turns his character from womanizer to love-stricken. The surprise is how funny he is. In fact, Gosling upstages Carell in just about every scene the two share.

To be fair to Carell, some of that likely has to do with the character he plays — the suddenly-single Cal Weaver, a middle-aged family man somewhat simliar to Carell’s character in the touching ‘Dan in Real Life.’ His wife Emily (Moore) asks for a divorce after sleeping with co-worker David Lindhagen (Bacon). This leads to a meeting between Cal and Jacob at a fancy bar, in which Jacob proposes to teach Cal his womanizing ways. It all sounds pretty basic, but there’s actually three love stories here: the aforementioned broken marriage, Jacob’s love-at-first-sight attraction to a young woman (Stone) at the same bar, and Cal and Emily’s 13-year-old son’s (Jonah Bobo) addiction to his babysitter (Analeigh Tipton).

Instead of being the funnyman in every scene, Carell is asked to drive the movie, leaving plenty of room for his co-stars to deliver tremendous performances. By the time the separated-Cal is having one-night stands, his wife is coming to the realization that she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. Of course, that’s just another excellent day at work for Julianne Moore. Meanwhile, Emma Stone’s star continues to shine brighter and brighter. In this outing, she comes to her own realization that maybe she really has found her Prince Charming.

In smaller roles, Marisa Tomei seemingly has fun playing a crazy — er, driven-crazy — woman that ends up one of Cal’s one-night stands, and Kevin Bacon comes off less as a guy ruining a marriage as a guy just wanting love like everyone else. Truthfully, there’s really not a character here you don’t feel for. Additionally, it’s a credit to Jonah Bobo’s acting that you’ll be rooting for a 13-year-old by the film’s end.

And through all its twists and turns, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ isn’t nearly as predictable as other rom-coms. Even if it was predictable, the payoff of everything coming together rewards the viewer with a hilarious slapstick scene that I won’t soon forget.

No, the film doesn’t exactly breathe new life back into a cliche-filled genre. But it is cute, sexy, and — most of all — smart. Add in its professional and truly humorous cast (especially Gosling), and ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ is immensely enjoyable.

9/10

(Spoiler Free) Review: Eight films in, ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’ is the truly perfect ending

July 12, 2011 1 comment

For all the 20-somethings out there like myself, the end of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ franchise is bittersweet.

Already having gone through this once with the novels — a month or so after graduating from high school in 2007 — it was my thought that the final film, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,’ wouldn’t be able to conjure up the emotions I felt four years previously.

But just as us 20-somethings grew up with the characters of the seven books as they grew up, the same goes for the actors of the film series. We grew from adolescents to young adults. And in the eighth and final installment of the $6 billion film franchise, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) are brilliant. They are young adults who have moved beyond a script, instead taking the source material to a level not seen in the first seven films. It’s evident in Watson’s polyjuice-Bellatrix scene. It’s evident in Grint’s comic relief that, for the first time, feels completely unforced.

Most of all, it’s evident in Radcliffe’s sensational performance as ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ From the interrogations of the opening scene, Radcliffe has finally taken the step I long doubted any young actor would be able to do — with a cast of British acting royalty, Radcliffe puts the final film on his shoulders. To put it bluntly, an Oscar nod to Radcliffe should not be out of the question. Every single step of the way, you never question his mission to save the wizarding world as anything other than righteous. Over eight films, millions have seen Radcliffe go from comically catching the golden snitch in his mouth during a game of quidditch to finally facing down with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) to decide the fate of every wizard and witch. It’s to every director’s credit that each of these scenes (and throughout the franchise, so many in between) made the viewer feel as if — at that point in time — nothing else was as important.

So this brings us to the ultimate ‘Harry Potter’ experience. I’m not going to spoil ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’ for those fans who haven’t read the books, or even those fans who just want to take the experience in and not be spoiled by parts that have been left out of the final film.

However, in looking back and after seeing the ‘Harry Potter’ finale, I must say that it’s as if Rowling wrote the ending to perfectly fit the big-screen. From the redemption of the franchise’s most complex character (also my favorite) to the tidying up of loose ends and secondary characters (that somehow never feel secondary), ‘Death Hallows Part 2’ is a monumental achievement. Its plot continues from ‘Part 1’: Harry needs to destroy what Horcruxes remain, leading to a final showdown with Voldemort. A words-on-a-page world was brought to life by director Christopher Columbus in ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ and ‘Chamber of Secrets’ and turned darker in the film’s now-second-best-film, ‘Prisoner of Azkaban.’ Now that world is perfected at last by David Yates.

In his fourth ‘Harry Potter’ outing (‘Order of the Phoenix,’ ‘Half-Blood Prince,’ ‘Death Hallows Part 1,’ ‘Part 2’), Yates delivers on a grand scale not unlike Peter Jackson’s ‘The Return of the King.’ At the conclusion of a sprawling epic that so easily could have been mishandled, Yates and producer David Heyman stay as close to the source material as any film since the first two. For the final hour, the viewer becomes completely immersed in the equivalent scenes of the book chapters “The Prince’s Tale” (maybe the best scene in the entire franchise — it’s time for Alan Rickman to take an Oscar home for his role as Severus Snape), “The Forest Again,” “King’s Cross,” “The Flaw in the Plan,” and the epilogue.

The themes here are as big as the special effects and character devolopment: good versus evil, death, loss, love, and redemption. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll applaud. ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’ is more than all the ‘magical’ puns you’ll read in the multiple reviews of the final film. It’s the rare cinematic experience when, for two hours, you’ll forget everything else and enjoy an amazing story.

Indeed, at long last, a ‘Harry Potter’ film has cast the perfect spell.

10/10