At the Movies: Raw

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For me, the concept of monstrosity should be seen as “I,” not as “they”…

-Julia Ducournau- Raw’s Director/Writer  

As with all the best horror movies, Raw’s prologue is nebulous and intriguing. It opens with a lone car speeding down a quiescent highway. A figure rushes across the road, forcing the car to make an emergency stop but, failing spectacularly, it hits the figure and crashes off the side of the road. At first it looks as though there are no survivors, but as we watch, the figure lying in the road begins to twitch, stretch its limbs and, standing up, makes its way slowly and purposefully towards the passengers in the car. It is at this moment we realize that the figure is a predator, not a victim, and that the car has driven straight into a trap…

I remember hearing stories about Raw a while back- apparently when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness screening, paramedics had to be called to treat all the audience members who had passed out from the horror and extreme gore! I also heard that sick bags were being handed out at film screenings…

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But despite all of this, the director Julia Ducourna says that her aim was to omit all generic horror clichés and challenge the traditional treatment of women in the genre. She sees it as more of a coming of age movie and described it as “a modern ancient tragedy about too much love”.

Inevitably, the first thing that’ll come to mind when you talk about Raw will be those few truly horrific moments which weave together cannibalism, horror, sex and violence. Some of the most memorable moments reminded me of other horrors such as Carrie, Rosemary’s Baby and Let the Right One In, whilst others bore zero resemblance to anything I’d ever seen before! But I think the horrific scenes stick in mind not just because they’re axiomatically shocking -Raw should never be compared to a Lars Von Trier Movie- (note- there is no link to any of his work), but because we’re completely submerged within Justine’s nightmare, discovering everything just as she does. There is therefore a sense of innocence, somewhat incongruous in a cannibal movie.

Raw divulges an unusual fresher’s year. The movie begins as 16 year old Justine arrives at University, ready for her first year at veterinary school. She is wide eyed, studious and, as a staunch vegetarian, firmly grounded in her morals and ethics. But at an initiation ceremony, she is forced to swallow a raw rabbit liver and becomes obsessed with raw meat. Swiftly realizing that her cravings cannot be satiated by animal flesh alone, her morals begin to lax…

Superficially, Raw is about a girl who eats people, but actually, there’s so more to it than this. It’s a rites of passage movie about going to University, growing up, and having the freedom to explore your principles, removed from the shadow of your parents. And inevitably, Justine’s primal urges for food and sex become interlaced, where the former becomes a proxy for the latter.

However, horror and realism are constantly interwoven: after unwittingly and compulsively chewing on her own hair Justine makes herself sick in the university toilets, and in an oddly placed comedic moment, upon hearing her retching, a fellow student in the bathroom gives her some friendly advice on how to make herself sick. This scene gives us a moment to comprehend how absolutely ludicrous this movie is! But it also draws clear parallels between Justine’s lack of control and (what can only be described as a very unusual) eating disorder and more typical eating disorders! The film consistently uses horror to explore the darker sides of growing up.

Raw asks us to consider the consequences of taking any of our beliefs to their logical extreme. At the start of the film, Justine questions why not eat humans if you’re going to eat animals and challenges her fellow students to site the differentiating factors that make one okay and the other not. Its certainly not just a promotion for vegetarianism but it got me thinking about that too….

I really loved Raw. It has a universal parable- esque quality and more than enough gore to satiate you. It’s the best horror movie I’ve seen this year (so far!)

Usually monsters are called “them.” They are creatures from outer space, or zombies, stuff like that. I’ve always found that funny, because we have all felt—and we will, and we sometimes still do feel—like monsters, you know? For me, the concept of monstrosity should be seen as “I,” not as “they.”

Julia Ducournau

 

The A List: 3rd April

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The A List is where we round up our ten favourite songs right now. It’s been on hold for a couple of weeks, but its back with a bang. Here they are for your listening pleasure:

1. Drones Club – Hurricane (New Entry)

Straddling the fence between dance and indie, the electronic chorus soars into the sky. Every listen feels familiar – it’s rooted in an early 90s baggy feel – and yet it feels absolutely fresh.

2. Gorillaz, Vince Staples  – Ascension (New Entry)

Ascension ends up sounding like a space age gospel infused pop track; it’s a little bonkers but that’s the fun of it.

3. Billie Eilish – Bellyache (New Entry)

The outrageously young Billie Eilish has delivered a stunning piece of electro pop that seems to be about, well… murder. From the stunning production to the simple yet oh-so-effective vocals (a la Lorde) Bellyache is just a joy from start to finish.

4. Daniel Trakell – Paradise (New Entry)

The song is both speaking of a paradise that is tangible and truly beautiful in the present, but also of a place that has yet to come in the afterlife.

5. Nightdubbing – Frontline

With perhaps the funkiest bass part of 2017 driving this track along, Frontline meanders between elements of house and disco to create what would be the perfect soundtrack to a day out in the sun.

6. Todd Terje – Jungelknugen (Four Tet Remix) (New Entry)
As with Four Tet’s Opus remix, Jungelknugen refuses to go where you expect it to, but continues to delight throughout. Building synths, layer upon layer of electronic waves and some out and out hands-in-the-air moments; stonkingly good.

7. Sun Lil Moon – Bergen to Trondheim (New Entry)

This is a song that skirts ever so close to being beyond the pale. Maybe I’ve listened to far too much Father John Misty, but to my ears this is one of the darkest, sarcastic and satirical songs I’ve heard in a very long time.

8. HVOB – Deus (New Entry)

Deus starts slowly, repetitive vocals coiled around intimidating synths; then the beat drops. It conjures up feelings of space travel and loneliness; danger and claustrophobia. I like this more with every listen.

9. Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever (New Entry)

Total Entertainment Forever is a catchy pop song with a familiarity that comes from a sound that has produced countless hits before; it’s sure to leave foots tapping. Yet then there’s the lyrics, and the biting take down of modern life.

10. Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4 (New Entry)

The Heart Part 4 chops and changes in style, and certainly suffers from the braggadocious spirit that blights a lot of hip hop, yet spending a few minutes with the lyrics of this track is hugely rewarding.

Word on the Street: March 2017

Word on the Street: March 2017

Following another month packed full of quality releases, one musician stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. No, it’s not Drake (although we’ll get to him later). The man in question? DJ Q.

Some of you may be familiar with the DJ/producer from his groundbreaking work in the bassline scene about a decade ago. Q became 1Xtra’s youngest DJ, hosting the station’s fortnightly UKG Mix show, and first came to my attention with his 4×4 mix cd series – my best friend and I used to drive around with the mixes pumping out loud, and I still listen to them regularly now. With the bassline scene hitting its peak in 2007/08, he had undoubtedly his biggest success with the release of his huge single “You Wot” featuring MC Bonez.

Fast forward almost 10 years, and Q’s profile has probably never been higher. His 2014 album, Ineffable, on Local Action Records was a well-compiled collection of productions, including two garage tunes of such astounding quality (“Notice Me” and “Be Mine”), that for me made him the king of the UKG vocal chop

It’s the last 12 months, however, that have really seen his output skyrocket. A slew of singles, mostly using well-known samples (such as Rocky, Bell Biv Devoe and Sonic The Hedgehog) have helped build to an outrageous month in March.

Starting in the first week of the month, East London MC Jammz released his latest single “Who’s That Girl?”, produced by our man of the moment. Once again featuring a female vocal chop, Jammz and Aleisha Lee do battle over a girl that’s possibly caught the MC’s eye – it’s incredibly reminiscent of Dizzee Rascal’s “I Luv U”.

Just over a week later, as part of the supergroup TQD (with Royal T and Flava D), one of my favourite albums of the year so far, UKG, saw the light of day. It’s a perfect blend of huge bassline wobblers, crafted 2-step garage, and grime. Check out their video for “A Letter To EZ”, and marvel at the meticulous attention to detail required to put together such an intricate visual.

Not staying quiet for long, it was only another 2 days until Q gave us his next gift. The intro and vocal on “Naked Truth” left me worried the first time I heard them. I thought it sounded too commercial, and not gritty enough, but my fears were allayed as soon as I heard the bassline for the first time. Once again, he hadn’t let me down.

On the last day of the month, the Yorkshireman had another grime production to showcase, this time in the form of YGG’s “Bad”. Comprised of London MCs PK, Lyrical Strally and Saint, the trio are one of the most exciting groups in grime at the moment, and their appearances on NTS and Radar are always must-listens. Q’s production is tropical in nature, and the perfect accompaniment to what the youngsters offer vocally.

Along with this single, there came the release of the Pure Bassline compilation, mixed by the DJ, along with another bassline legend, Jamie Duggan. It features many of our protagonist’s own productions, and really demonstrates the rude health that the scene currently finds itself in – is it due a renaissance, like the current reincarnation of grime? Whatever happens, I hope Q gets everything he deserves, because no-one has worked harder.

While we’re on the subject of legends in the scene producing beats for MCs, Dubstep pioneer N-Type recorded the first single to be released on the new Go Getter Music label, with South London’s Eazyman. “Work Rate” is a pure slice of UK-style trap, as the orator preaches about his work ethic, and how he’s left behind a life of violence and drugs.

Elsewhere in the UK scene, Spyro and Capo Lee finally dropped their Stop Talk EP. I’d previously mentioned how excited I was for this and it certainly wasn’t a let-down. “Tekkers” followed the lead from “Stop Talk” as a single of stunning quality, and the rest of the tunes are just as good.

Another long-awaited EP, this time from Preditah, was also unleashed. Focussing on grime instrumentals, the Birmingham producer enlisted the talents of his brother C4 for the release’s lead track “Touch Road”. It’s visceral and rugged, and is rightly getting a lot of attention on some of the country’s radio stations.

The rise of afro bashment continues at an alarming speed here in the UK, spearheaded by artists like Kojo Funds, LottoBoyzz and Mr Eazi. This Spotify playlist in particular is worth checking on a regular basis to be updated on the latest sounds – it’s only a matter of time before the scene blows up, and it has to be the sound of this Summer.

One afro bashment name that has so far had a mention in every Word On The Street column to date is J Hus, and his latest, “Did You See” is probably my favourite offering from the genre so far. From his opening gambit of “did you see what I done, came in a black Benz, left in a white one” the listener is captivated, and I challenge you not to shuffle wherever you are!

Finally, before we cross the pond, a word on Toddla T. The Sheffield-born DJ has long been an integral part of the Caribbean-influenced side of the UK’s music offering. His two albums to date, Skanky Skanky and Watch Me Dance, have both laid the foundations for his footing in the scene, which has led to his weekly 1Xtra show being essential listening. So imagine my surprise this month when I checked out his new video for the first single from his forthcoming release, “Blackjack21”. It’s a total departure from his usual sound, but really is an exciting prospect for what is to come. The visuals are stunning, and the beat and vocal will leave a lasting impression. Imagine “You Got The Love” being channelled through a live funk band, and you’re halfway there.

Now the inevitable. On a Saturday in the middle of March, Drake finally aired his latest project, More Life. Having been touted as a playlist rather than an album, and following several delays to the release date, it was no surprise to see it sending social networks into the usual frenzy. I won’t wax lyrical about how good it is (oh, it is) – instead I’ll let you all make up your own minds. All I’ll say is that I generally prefer the tracks Drizzy is singing on, rather than rapping. My highlights? Black Coffee’s production on “Get It Together”, Skepta’s “Interlude”, “KMT” featuring UK road rap superstar Giggs, and leading the way, “Blem”.

Drake took a lot of flak across all mediums following the release, for his appropriation of UK culture. Some British fans seemed outraged at his use of phrases such as wasteman, and even the fact that he named one of the tracks “Gyalchester”. American fans were horrified at the inclusion of what they considered to be inferior British rappers – they really didn’t like Giggs. As far as I’m concerned it can only be a good thing. No, the UK scene doesn’t necessarily need any help, but when was the last time that a huge worldwide artist championed another country’s talent in this way? Let’s embrace his love for our nation, and appreciate all he’s doing to showcase it.

Kendrick Lamar also made his comeback in March with the release of “The Heart Part 4”, and a video for “HUMBLE.”. Both give a hint as to what we can expect from his next album, which must be imminent.

In club culture, one release really grabbed my attention in the last month. Canadian producer Jacques Greene has been consistently making and releasing music since 2010, so his debut album has felt a long time coming. Mixing up a blend of garage, house and r&b, I’m pretty sure Feel Infinite already has the potential to be one of my favourite albums of the year.

For once, I don’t have any other business to bring to your attention, so I’ll leave you to enjoy the usual Spotify playlist below. As always get in touch and let me know what I got right and wrong – astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. See you again next month!

This Week Playlist

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After a few weeks off, here is the latest This Week Playlist, ten songs that are tickling our ears right now and are primed and ready for you to enjoy:

1. Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4

So I confess that I don’t share the adoration for Kendrick’s work that seems obligatory for music fans in 2017. I’ve liked plenty of his work, but his status as – in his own words – the greatest rapper alive has eluded me so far. However when friend-in-exile Miceal (who I think may have given up his Catholic faith to follow the religion of Kendrick instead) messaged last Friday to say that The Heart Part 4 had dropped, I was excited to hear it. It chops and changes in style, and certainly suffers from the braggadocious spirit that blights a lot of hip hop, yet spending a few minutes with the lyrics of this track is hugely rewarding.

The whole world goin’ mad

Bodies is adding up, market’s about to crash

Niggas is fake rich, bitches is fake bad

Blacks that act white, whites that do the dab

Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel, punk

Tell ’em that God comin’

And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to somethin’

 

2. Gorillaz, Vince Staples  – Ascension

If you’re not a fan of the Gorillaz then it might be best you skip this blog for a few months. They’re one of those bands for me: an act that can go in any new direction and make it seem like it was the perfect choice. They combine hip hop, pop and indie in a way few other bands have ever managed, and with a new album on the way, it promises to be a big few months for them. On Ascension they’ve recruited one of the most exciting men in music Vince Staples for vocal duties. The result ends up sounding like a space age gospel infused pop track; it’s a little bonkers but that’s the fun of it.

 

3. Drones Club – Hurricane

Drones Club produced two of my favourite songs of 2016 and have delivered yet another stunning record. Straddling the fence between dance and indie, the electronic chorus soars into the sky. Every listen feels familiar – it’s rooted in an early 90s baggy feel – and yet it feels absolutely fresh. I cannot wait for them to deliver an album.

 

4. HVOB – Deus

I only discovered Austrian dance duo HVOB (Her Voice Over Boys) recently but I’ve been impressed with that I’ve heard. Deus starts slowly, repetitive vocals coiled around intimidating synths; then the beat drops. I love dance music that is simple yet oh so effective, and Deus is absolutely from that mold. It conjures up feelings of space travel and loneliness; danger and claustrophobia. I like this more with every listen.

 

5. IDLES – Exeter

I blogged only this morning about seeing IDLES recently and Exeter was a massive highlight of their set. It’s full of anger and contempt; the frustration of growing up and living in a place where ‘nothing ever happens’. It somehow combines the sort of lyrical topic The Streets reveled in, matched by a raw punk aggression and elevated by a chorus that seems to satirize Britpop.

 

6. Honey Tower – Couture

Couture is the sort of industrial electro that would have been at home in the soundtracks of either the Matrix or – for those who remember it – Hackers. It’s a pretty bad ass track; rumbling, robotic and firmly underground in its sensibilities. This is my first exposure to Honey Tower, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for the German’s future works.

 

7. Sun Lil Moon – Bergen to Trondheim

This is a song that skirts ever so close to being beyond the pale. Maybe I’ve listened to far too much Father John Misty, but to my ears this is one of the darkest, sarcastic and satirical songs I’ve heard in a very long time. It seems ever so much like Sun Lil Moon has had enough of celebrities and Twitter culture and their immediate – obvious, and poorly-considered – reactions to sad events as they globe-trot around the world. Complete with canned cheering and a refrain of “Me, we, me, we, me, we, me, we” I’m still struggling to come to terms with the boldness.

 

8. Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever

The joy of FJM is the numerous layers through which you can appreciate his work. There is the melody; Total Entertainment Forever is a catchy pop song with a familiarity that comes from a sound that has produced countless hits before; it’s sure to leave foots tapping. Yet then there’s the lyrics, and the biting take down of modern life. Then there’s the motivation, and the questions over where observation ends and sarcasm, satire and provocation begins. He is, for my money, one of the most important song-writers around at the moment and – with his new album out next week – we should all be excited.

 

9. Billie Eilish – Bellyache

I’ve been wanting to post this for a few weeks. The outrageously young Billie Eilish has delivered a stunning piece of electro pop that seems to be about, well… murder. From the stunning production to the simple yet oh-so-effective vocals (a la Lorde) Bellyache is just a joy from start to finish.

 

10. HalfNoise – French Class

HalfNoise is Zac Farro, formerly the drummer in Paramore. French Class is from his recent The Velvet Face EP and combines indie sensibilities with a sunny uplifting – slightly disco-y – sound.

 

Ramblings: on blogging, The XX, IDLES and Secret Cinema (Moulin Rouge)

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There were four things I feared when I started Astralpenguins:

  1. I wouldn’t enjoy writing it
  2. People would react negatively to such a weird collection of music
  3. I’d run out of music that I liked and therefore end up plugging music I wasn’t that keen on
  4. I’d run out of time/energy to keep it updated.

Well the fourth of those concerns came about around the middle of March. Work, personal admin and commitments conspired to take my time away. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time to write the blog, it was that I didn’t have time to listen to music at all.

And yet, here I am. On the other side of a strange couple of weeks. I’ve had a blog post in my mind for a fortnight that I don’t really feel is worth writing in full anymore, but it revolved around two gigs I went to – with Gig buddy Matt – on consecutive nights.

The first was seeing The XX at one of their Brixton shows, absolutely smashing it. It was a total pleasure from start to finish watching that band – a band that I’ve loved since I first heard them on the radio around 7 years ago – stand triumphant in front of their hometown crowd.

I have to be honest, I was on such a high from The XX that I feared for the following night’s acts. I even considered not going. But boy am I glad I did. First, some history: one of the ways I check out new bands is from the email lists of various venues I like; they email out a list of acts who are playing soon and then I listen to the music of the bands I haven’t heard of before.

Back in the summer of 2015 I received an email from Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen advertising a band called IDLES. They had one EP on Spotify, and it was – from memory – pretty solid indie rock. Tickets were c. £5 and I thought ‘why not?’ – I even persuaded Gig Buddy Matt to come along. We were in for a surprise…

The band had somewhat changed their sound since that EP, eschewing indie sensibilities for a considerably more brutal punk sound. The audience was sparse – probably around 40 of us – and the band were intimidating. They looked like they’d be cobbled together in some sort of prison rehabilitation programme; all pent-up rage channelled – mostly – through their instruments. The lead singer jumped off the stage and paced around the audience, who visibly recoiled.

They were, in short, rather brilliant. The kind of band you need to see; full of eccentricities and chemistry, yet always bordering on an explosion. They were supported on that night by a 2 piece called John (which, they helpfully point out, is a terrible name for a band, as you can’t find them on Google). I’m delighted we spent the £5 – it’s one of those gigs we still talk about with joy and laughter.

And then late last year, something unexpected happened. Radio 1 started championing IDLES. They were getting radio play, invited in for live lounge performances … it gave them a level of exposure they’d previously lacked. And so they returned to London (Moth Club) a couple of weeks ago – once again supported by the once again excellent but totally un-google-able John) with a considerably bigger crowd.

What hadn’t changed is their spirit. The punk ethos, the chaotic live show, the humour… it was there. They were fantastic. If you haven’t seen them, don’t hesitate. This is a band who have worked incredibly hard to get themselves to this stage, and their live show is, right now, one of music’s most provocative experiences.

That was two weeks ago. Then things in my life intervened (see above). Then someone attacked the place I work, killing a policeman and four others, and injuring dozens more.

I haven’t mentioned I work in Parliament on the blog before because it isn’t relevant to the music or anything else I’m going to write about. I am reluctant to mention it now; because nothing that happened last week was about me and there are families grieving who deserve to have their loved ones at home; who were robbed of their joy by an abominable act. My heart goes out to them and I’m profoundly moved by those who came to help the injured and suffering last week.

But – as this is a music blog – I wanted to say one thing about it. Music is usually my escape from things, the place I go to for joy. Events last week left me wanted to skip music for a little while. I didn’t want to escape from the world; I wanted to come to terms with what had happened so that – like thousands of others who work in Westminster – I could, in some way, accept it and move on.

And here I am. Finding my feet again in the blogging world and hoping you’ll forgive the absence.

There is one other thing I wanted to mention from the past week. My favourite film in the world is Moulin Rouge (closely followed by Die Hard) and at the moment in London an organisation called Secret Cinema are hosting their version of screenings of the film. Essentially Secret Cinema try to recreate the magic and ethos of the film by bringing elements of it to life. My other half bought me tickets for one of their screenings (performances?) for Christmas, and we excitedly went along last Sunday.

I’m loathe to write anything resembling a review of the night, but the top line is that I thought the whole thing was atrocious. Lacking creative direction, artistic merit or a sense of how to add value to something that is already pretty much perfect, it is one of the worst cultural experiences I’ve had in London. I can only suggest – if you are thinking of going – that you avoid it. Better to sit at home and watch the film; it’s better than the second rate am-dram drivel you’ll experience at the Secret Cinema experience, and it’ll save you from shelling out for the ridiculously overpriced tickets, drinks, food and costume.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Back soon – and I promise to stick to music from now on.

At the Movies: Logan

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Oscar season is well and truly drawing to a close and March is beginning to welcome in an entirely new movie epoch. But despite what a lot of people seem to think, this month isn’t just about the big blockbuster releases; I’m particularly looking forward to Ben Wheatley’s new movie, Free Fire, the incendiary revenge rape thriller, Elle and the upcoming horror movie on ‘benevolent racism’, Get Out (So all the cheery ones…!).

However, this March, we are seeing the release of several epic Blockbusters that probably wouldn’t have come out during the more nuanced Oscar run. The new Tom Hiddleston monster franchise, Kong Skull Island came out just last week, and this week we’ve seen the release of the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson. Often, movies such as these are accused of as being pre-packaged and formulaic in their attempt to mitigate as much risk as possible and exist simply to make money and act as a pillow for ‘risker’ movies to fall back on. Superhero movies are generally pointed to as being the worst culprits of this, and most recently, Suicide Squad, Batman Versus Superman Dawn of Justice and X-men Apocalypse have been largely viewed with disdain and a degree of cynicism.

Last week, I went to see the superhero movie, Logan. For those of you who don’t know, it is one of the Marvel Comic movies and the tenth instalment in the X-men film series. It marks the 17th year that Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine, but the publicity surrounding the movie suggests a sharp tonal shift from its predecessors. Hugh Jackman insists that had the studio vetoed this version of the movie, he would have renounced his involvement in it. I had heard it described as ‘No Country for X-men’ and was immediately intrigued– Why is a superhero movie being compared to the Cohen Brothers’ Nihilistic, minimalist thriller…?!

The dystopian film is set in a version of 2029 far removed from anything we can expect to experience anytime soon (Even post-Brexit…). We are immediately plunged into the dusty decrepit Arizona desert. The heat is intense and overbearing and the cinematography reminded me of that in Mad Max.

Mutants are on the brink of extinction; Wolverine is weakening, and the former leader of the X-Men, Charles (Patrick Stewart) is suffering from a neuro- degenerative disease and slowly losing his mind. Both men have certainly seen better days! I’m not sure I could call them super-heroes- there is nothing ‘super’ about these weary anti-heroes, who are clearly both nearing the end of their lives and the plot unfurls with a sense of foreboding fatalism.

Logan wants nothing more than to stop fighting and go and live out the rest of his life in peace on a boat. This is until he meets a little girl, Laura, whose powers suspiciously resemble his own… He unwittingly becomes a father figure for her and resolves to take her to a safer place, all the while being chased by supervillain Donald Pierce who wants to steal Laura and use her powers for his own evil ends.

In essence, the plot is pretty simple and follows a classic a cat/mouse chase structure in which the ‘baddies’ are very bad: our evil super-villain comes complete with a robotic hand and some bad ass sunglasses that he sporadically removes and replaces for dramatic effect.

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In an unusually peaceful scene in the film, Laura tries to listen to a young boy’s music. As she inches closer and closer to his iPod, the villain’s inch closer and closer to our heroes and we hear Raury’s lyrics’ blaring out of the headphones ‘you better run, run from the devil!’. Clearly, subtlety is beside the point and these sorts of moments simply add another loop to this roller coaster- the movie is a lot of fun!

And actually, the predictability of the plot and the straightforward good/evil dichotomy allows us the opportunity to really focus on the three main characters who make for a very strange assortment! Logan must learn, not only how to be a father, but also how to care for his mutant 8-year-old daughter who is unaccustomed to the real world and uninhibited in her abilities to wreak total havoc. Laura’s strength and effervescence sharply contrasts with Logan’s waning determination. It makes sense that the film is called ‘Logan’ rather than Wolverine as it focuses on the weaknesses of the man rather than the strengths of the superhero. This is especially evident in the scene in which Charles has a seizure causing everything to freeze. It takes Logan all his energy to dragoon his body up the stairs and into the hotel room. However, by the end of the scene, Laura is still full of energy and rage and able to scream as she fires a shot. She has the energy that her father now lacks; she is the new superhero of the movie!

Logan is far more reflective than most superhero movies. Although it is visceral and grim, it is about regret and the consequences of violence. Hugh Jackman describes it as ‘about the soldier who returns home from war and has to find peace’. The film’s director, James Mangold, called it a Western and you can see similarities to a Western throughout the film, this is overtly pointed in a scene in a hotel room in which the movie Shane plays on a television screen.

Shane and Logan

So, although quite a few recent superhero movies have been formulaic and predictable, Logan is not one of them. This is more of a post-super hero movie (I’m so sorry for using that phrase!) than a superhero movie; more of a western than an action. It is genre bending in a similar way to Deadpool. In my opinion, this is proof that any genre can surprise you and be innovative and inventive. I look forward to more superhero movies like this one!

 

Lend Me Your Ears

Lend Me Your Ears

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Harry McVeigh

Winter is taking ages

This talking never helped the pain when the wave hits

Darling, I can’t explain it

This city hits a low when it’s raining.

– Don’t Want To Feel It All

 

As White Lies walked onto the stage of the Troxy, I felt a familiar nervousness in my stomach. Touring for their fourth album, Friends, they had reinvented their sound yet again – would they retain the energy that had always made them so entertaining to see live? My initial apprehension quickly vanished, however, as band settled into the distinctive rhythm of Take It Out On Me, a recent release that provides a fresh take on the classic sound of the early albums.

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White Lies’ sound is complex and resists straightforward explanation. It is at once dark, intense, serious…and yet euphoric and uplifting. Shunning virtuoso guitar solos, they build up intricate layers of textured sound that keep growing throughout a song, to be released in a climactic final chorus. Harry McVeigh’s haunting voice soars over the top, a singer who achieves the rare feat of combining emotional power with technical excellence. He sings about misunderstanding, loss, romance gone wrong – but his words are full of a bittersweet resignation that come across as more reflective than anguished. The band has always made heavy use of minor chords to suit the sombre lyrics, but with Friends, they have taken a further step away from the ‘indie’ sound of their first album and towards a more ‘alternative’ vibe. Crashing guitar chords in the choruses have been replaced with wistful synths as their style mellows with age. Nevertheless, the unapologetically melancholic lyrics and the emotionally intensity they have retained makes for music that remains totally immersive.

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Charles Cave

As performers, White Lies are serious and professional, rather than showy, and they let the music do most of the talking. Well suited for festivals and large crowds, the raw power of their shows makes them highly engaging for newcomers and veterans alike. On this night, old fans were spoiled rotten as the band made judicious selection from their magnificent back catalogue as well as their most recent album. I even had the pleasure of hearing Unfinished Business, a classic from the first album that I had never heard live before! But overall, we were treated to a Best Of, crowd-pleasing set, including festival favourites ‘To Lose My Life, ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ and ‘Bigger Than Us’. I must say that despite my nostalgia for these blasts from the past, some of my favourite moments of the night were singing along to two of their new tracks, ‘Hold Back Your Love’ and ‘Don’t Want to Feel It All’. They really have pulled off the unlikely feat of changing style whilst retaining the essence of what thrust them into the limelight in the first place.

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As I belted out track after track, arms around my oldest friends, memories flooded back to me of an earlier time – of moments of my life that I will always look back fondly on. Being able to enjoy the music with my brother Rob, the man who originally showed me White Lies back in the day, made it all the more unforgettable an occasion. I left the gig like the music I’d just heard – sad, but in a good way.