Films and TV of the month: June




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The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) (Charles Crichton)
Very entertaining UK classic with unpredictable developments. Not really a comedy as advertised but very good storytelling in the vein of a thriller which kept me glued to the screen until the end. It’s not a spoiler to say I kind of wanted the criminals to succeed.





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The Ladykillers (1955) (Alexander Mackendrick)
My second Ealing Studios film this month. A British farce comedy which is funnier than The Lavender Hill Mob. The story is pretty silly and cartoonish, especially the ending. The aspect of wanting to kill an old lady reminded me of 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda







Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (Nicholas Meyer)

Considered the best of the 80s Star Trek movies and the closest in spirit to the 1966-69 TV series. In the key moments, there’s a threat of danger for the crew. Controlling minds with the ear worms makes no sense though. The Genesis project and the aspect of playing God is an interesting idea, and Khan is a memorable villain. The ending involving Spock in a radiation chamber is iconic.







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Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (Leonard Nimoy)
A sequel to Wrath of Khan (1982), with a weaker story. You know the crew will reach Spock eventually so the destination feels inevitable. I found it quite distracting that Christopher Lloyd is in full Klingon makeup, his character is evil yet without depth. The best action scene involves a rival spacecraft getting tricked which is a bit similar to the previous film. Bones in the restaurant reminded me of the cantina scene in Star Wars. I wasn’t sold on the logic of the ending, wouldn’t he keep aging rapidly because of his condition? Anyway, a movie which was okay but I doubt I’d watch again.







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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) (Christian Tafdrup)

Rewatch. The film with the most humor in the trilogy. Just as entertaining as Wrath of Khan. A tad overlong and could have been trimmed in the weaker opening 30 minutes. Refreshingly, the supporting cast are given a bit more to do, and not just the usual operations on the space ship. I like the humpback whale story and it’s interestingly not a human but an alien object that is the main villain. Though it is a far-fetched story and there isn’t an explanation as to the intentions of the probe. The story, which involves time travel, satirizes 20th Century behavior ”Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word” ”To hunt a species to extinction is not logical”.






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Parents (2016) (Christian Tafdrup)
By the director of A Horrible Woman(arguably the best Danish film of 2017). Taftrup’s debut feature from 2016 is a weirder and less assured drama, as there is a massive tonal shift in the second half that could prove divisive to audiences. As the title suggests, about parents, and in this case how they deal with a son moving away from home. It causes them to reevaluate their own life. An interesting, original concept. The parents want to recapture their youth, but I felt the filmmakers didn’t have enough material for a film so added the fantasy elements to spice it up. If you are middle aged parents and have grown-up kids (or vice versa) you’ll likely identify. Worth a rent.






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Hereditary (2018) (Ari Aster)

I saw a sneak preview. Gripping horror that held my attention throughout. The weakness is it feels a bit derivative, sort of a patchwork of other films from the genre. I heard audience members say on their way out that it wasn’t scary enough and they kind of had a point. The music score by Colin Stetson is the best thing about Hereditary and adds to the sense of unease. You don’t want to read anything beforehand as plot points can be easily spoiled. Based on the zoom-in during the opening scene, I’m wondering what was real. Toni Collette is a contender for awards recognition for her impressive lead performance.






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The Guilty (2018) (Gustav Möller)
A new Danish thriller that won the Audience Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Takes place in a single location, at a police call center. Manages to build suspense, and captures the stress the alarm dispatch duty can involve. My only gripe is would a police officer under suspicion of misconduct still be on duty? I guess assigning him a different job (not on the streets) was deemed an appropriate move, but I don’t buy him still at work given the nature of his wrongdoing. A good movie despite this issue I had.




What do you think? As always, comments are welcome



Albums of the month: June


I’m still pretty swamped so posts will be at a minimum over the summer. I’m hoping to move to a new property while also tidying up my old stuff so I have less boxes to take with me.  I’ll try and keep the blog afloat with the album/film monthly recaps so there is at least a little blog activity.  I managed nine albums in June, seven of them new to me and two re-listens. My thoughts on them below


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John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan (1967)

Well-written, enigmatic lyrics, and acclaimed by critics, yet melodically not as accessible as other Dylan albums from the era. Going to take a while to unpack and reach an opinion. I like the drumming and harmonica though I’m finding it rather samey from track to track. All Along the Watchtower (famously covered by Jimi Hendrix) is a classic, sounding like a precursor to the Rubin (Hurricane) Carter song from Dylan’s 1976 LP Desire.






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Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails (1
Recommended by Steven who currently is reviewing the band’s discography over at his music site.
Not the first industrial rock album, as it could be argued bands such as Klinik, Throbbing Gristle, Killing Joke, Skinny Puppy, Coil, Ministry, and Foetus paved the way, but Nine Inch Nails’ debut LP was the first time the genre reached a wider audience.
The big 80s chorus is apparent on songs such as Head Like a Hole, Tell A Lie, and Down in It, although their well-produced sound has plenty of detail besides that. The piano ballad Something I Can Never Have is a change of pace and has a quiet power. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the group’s most accessible record, as they appear to have gone in less commercial directions on later releases. Trent Renzor’s vocal I’m not the biggest fan of which is the reason the rating isn’t higher. Solid album with few weaknesses. I’ve heard complaints about the lyrics being a bit immature in places but at least the words felt authentic. Kind of an angrier Depeche Mode.





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The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Angrier and darker than the debut, with big shifts in loudness. A partially self-biographical tale about a man who was on a ‘downward spiral’ through depression to suicide. Surprising it sold millions of copies as I found it a jarring and uncomfortable listen. An album I struggled to connect with except a few songs. I liked the quieter parts of March Of The Pigs but not the rage-filled vocal. The single Closer, open to multiple interpretations, could be about reaching out to another person or to God to fight your own sadness. Ruiner has an epic sound. Hurt is a 90s classic, famously covered by Johnny Cash. I guess if you are down in the dumps the music can give you solace. I respect the ambitious concept and baring of ones soul, but hard to listen to. Give it time and the album might grow on me. Right now, I prefer Pretty Hate Machine.





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Illmatic by Nas  (1994)
An important hip-hop album with impressive production and lyrics. The chorus “Cause life’s a bitch and then you die” is iconic. But if I’m honest, I couldn’t connect emotionally to most of the substance, growing up in the projects in New York amid guns and drugs, calling out the fake rappers, etc. Illmatic is so dense that listening to it feels like homework rather than pleasure. I admire Nas’ skill but the album was exhausting.







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Prairie Wind by Neil Young (2005)

Good but not great. An acoustic sound in the vein of Harvest and Harvest Moon. Technically there’s nothing wrong per se, though he is competing with a great back catalogue, and in that regard, the melodies and lyrics are not as distinctive and affecting as his best work. Some tracks wash over me without leaving much of an impression. A few highlights, The Painter and It’s A Dream are quite moving. The album was in part inspired by the illness and recent death of his father, and the title track, Here for You, and Falling Off The Face Of The Earth seem to be an ode to his old man and become stronger when you know the context. No Wonder is about 9/11 and He Was The King is about seeing Elvis live. This Old Guitar is too similar to Harvest Moon era. I hardly noticed Emmylou Harris’ vocal, her contributions aren’t memorable.







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Marie Antoinette (Soundtrack) by Various Artists (2006)
I love Sofia Coppola’s music choices and to me this tops her Lost in Translation soundtrack. Granted it’s unconventional to have modern music played during a period film but the soundtrack is great to listen to even without the film. Disc 2 is among my favorites of all-time, a go-to album to chill out and relax to. The new wave classics and The Radio Dept. tracks flow well together on disc 1. There aren’t many compilations I consider perfect but this is very close.






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Blunderbuss by Jack White (2012)

I didn’t care for the album when I heard it in 2012 but apparently my taste must have changed, as I found many tracks to enjoy this time. The best of them are the piano-driven Hypocritical Kiss and Weep Themselves to Sleep, though I would not have placed them back-to-back on the tracklist. White’s 2012 and 2014 solo records have more replay value than the new 2018 LP.







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The Honeybear by Hampshire & Foat (2018)

Nice, relaxing Folk/Ambient. Had never heard of UK musicians Warren Hampshire and Greg Foat, went in with extremely low expectations. and was pleasantly surprised by their second LP. A prolific duo who have released three collaborative albums since May 2017. My only real complaint is tracks 2 and 3 are pretty similar and repetitive. A short listen at approx 35 minutes. The second half of the album is more jazzy and improvisational. Best: Honey Dreams, The Promise, Winter Bound, The Elderflower






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Age Of by Oneohtrix Point Never (2018)

The title track Age Of starts beautifully with a lovely harp instrumental, but it’s downhill after that. The autotuned vocal just wasn’t for me on the next tracks. Admirable for its instrumental experimentation but too dissonant to my ears. His hardcore fans will probably lap it up though. The album just makes me want to listen to prog from the 70s instead.




What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


Films and TV of the month: May


I haven’t been a very good blogger or commenter in recent weeks, have things going on in the real world which I need to take care of, and explains why this post is late.  Less time means the number of films watched is quite low for May, although I did finish two tv series (Alan Partridge and Matador) which I have been watching on and off for the past six months. Just started the ten part documentary mini-series about the Vietnam War from 2017 so expect a review at some point.





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Midnight Run (1988) (Martin Brest)

Action, thriller, comedy? Probably all of the above. takes a while to get going, especially the second hour is suspenseful. Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin have good chemistry as the duo on the run.
There’s nothing wrong with Danny Elfman’s score per se but it just didn’t feel right in every scene. Perhaps a less intrusive score would have given certain moments a bit more emotional weight. That said, as undemanding, escapist entertainment, it delivers. Plus, it’s more quotable than most recent movies.
Funny how two road movies from 1988 feature a character who won’t fly on a plane, and they have to find alternative transport, the other is Best Picture winner Rain Man.





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Night of the Comet (1984) (Thom Eberhardt)
If you prefer your science fiction to take itself seriously, you might want to skip this one. A light-hearted, campy post-apocalyptic exploitation sci-fi with female protagonists. Considering the $700.000 budget, an impressive effort, especially the cinematography. The reddish/neon colors and abandoned locations are beautifully captured. The haircuts and music are very 80s. The soundtrack is good but not great, occasionally too overpowering by playing over dialogue. The ending is a bit foreseeable. Contains a few entertaining what-if situations in which the girls take advantage of opportunities. Odd how the two sisters only show grief very briefly and elect not to seek out survivors, but as I said earlier it’s not a serious work. The teenagers treat the end of the world as a playground of fun and you don’t blame them for wanting to enjoy themselves as it’s a way to cope with a harsh reality. And to be honest, the story is better off without getting bogged down in psychological trauma. I now have less respect for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which basically copies aspects from Night of the Comet.





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I’m Alan Partridge (British tv-series) (Season 1) (six episodes) 
I knew The Trip, but Steve Coogan’s alter-ego Alan Partridge is his most famous comedy creation. In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, I’m Alan Partridge was named the 38th best British television series of all time. Entertainment Weekly described the show as “bleakly hilarious”. His iconic catchphrase ”a-ha!” is a reworking of the ABBA lyric.
In the six episodes, we follow Alan as he lives at Linton Travel Lodge, clumsily engages with hotel staff, his personal assistant Lynn, and others. He works as a radio presenter/disc jockey at Radio Norwich and does other odd jobs, while attempting to get himself back on TV.
Alan is awkward yet talkative, often embarrassing himself and saying the wrong things. You feel sorry for him, as he rubs people up the wrong way and they tend to perceive him as a clown. Many in his path are offended, laughing at him and not with him. He’s a bit of a tragic figure who has delusions of grandeur about his celebrity. Very British, the strength of the show is the dialogue and wit, referencing British popular culture, occasionally the writing is dated, but often still relatable. If you had to point to a minor flaw it’s that not a lot happens and the episodes sometimes become inconsequential (but this is partly to do with Alan’s circumstances so makes sense)
The best episode involves a super fan (Ep5) while in the weaker Episode 4 the writers must have run out of ideas. I’ve just started season 2 which takes place five years later.





Matador (Danish TV series) (24 episodes) (1978-1982) 
Probably the most beloved Danish tv-series ever made. Not well known outside of Denmark but available on dvd with English subtitles. I watched the newly restored print. The characters and music by Bent Fabricius-Bjerre are national treasures. I prefer tv where there is an actual progression and Matador has that. Running for 24 episodes, this was among my biggest blind spots. When Matador came up in conversations, I was not able to decipher the references, which bothered me. When I told people I had never watched the tv-series, they were surprised and encouraged me to watch immediately.
Initially set in the 1920s and 1930s and continuing into the 1940s, a time capsule of that era. A depiction of the evolution of a small town and how outside influences change things. There was a social hierarchy which that generation had to navigate and that we can still see echoes of today. The wealthy could afford servants, who had to slave away on a small salary and leftovers from the dinners, while the privileged did what they pleased. The local inn and restaurant provide many a conversation between the locals.
Now I understand the iconic image (from the poster) of the boy sitting on the steps, which is depicted in episode 1. The expression “she is a Maude type” also makes sense to me now, as it’s to do with a fragile female character who goes to bed when there’s a problem. But Maude does have her moments of assertion in episode 12 and episode 18.
While there is a universal Danish-ness about the characters which has aged well, I couldn’t help feeling the series is most identifiable for the generations who grew up in the era that is portrayed.
Aspects delved into include ‘jantelov’ (Scandinavian modesty) a familiar attitude even today in smaller communities in which ambition is frowned upon, as you are not supposed to think you are better than others, grippingly detailed in episode 9 and episode 12. Mads Andersen-Skjern challenges the status quo by always looking to expand, he opens a rival store near the snobby clothes shop on the same street. Mads has aspirations for his children but not everything goes according to plan.
A romance blossoms between Elisabeth and Kristen (Mad’s brother) which is complicated due to the rivalry of their respective families. Episode 6 is of the times, as today a father usually has the legal right to spend time with his children. There’s also a good amount of humor such as the amusing birthday misunderstanding in Episode 7, Daniel’s dinner guest in episode 19, and later Misse’s fear of men. Agnes (a housemaid) might be the character who goes through the biggest transformation as she wants to make something of her life, Mads tells her she has “tæft”(instinct for what is the right thing to do in various situations). In episode 11, a group of characters actually play Matador (the Danish version of the board game Monopoly).
The series is very much a document of the times, for example introducing the fridge-freezer, new in 1937-38, and depicting life during WW2, the persecution of Jews, blackout curtains, food rationing, curfews, and the joy of experiencing the end of the war. In episode 15, the series takes a critical stance on indremission(pious religious belief). Mad’s and Kristen’s sister visits and disapproves of the family’s modern clothes, materialism, dancing and alcohol. Most find the sister rude and insufferable.
Overall, the series has many memorable characters and I became immersed in their lives. The children are slightly less compelling to follow compared to their parents, the latter are given more time to breath.




What do you think. As always, comments are welcome

Albums of the month: May

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Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1969)
A showcase for the rockier side of Neil Young, offering several classics including Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Down by the River, and Cowgirl in the Sand. Running Dry is the best of the slower songs.
A great album, with superb guitar work. I just prefer his acoustic direction on After the Gold Rush and Harvest which hits me harder emotionally.






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After the Gold Rush by Neil Young (1970)
Southern Man is a classic and Tell Me Why, After the Gold Rush, Only Love Can Break Your Heart are great too. On the track Oh Lonesome Me he makes the listener contemplate going to a party or staying home. There’s an earnestness in his vocal. The last four tracks are weaker.





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Tonight’s the Nigh
t by Neil Young (1975)
A raw, emotional blues rock/country rock album. Part of the so-called ”Ditch Trilogy” (Time Fades Away and On The Beach are the other two), in which Neil Young’s success collided with personal chaos and loss. A darker album with Neil is in a reflective mood due to the death of his friend & Crazy Horse band member Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry (professional roadie for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). There’s a pessimism that stemmed from the idealism of the 1960s. Needle and the Damage Done (Harvest) was written about Whitten’s heroin addiction. Young revealed in an interview that he felt responsible for Whitten’s death (he was fired by Young on 18 Nov. ’72 and died of an overdose later that night). The album was recorded in August ’73 but wasn’t released until 1975. Whitten sings and plays on “Come On Baby”, which was recorded live in 1970.
The title track Tonight’s the Night (a cautionary song about Bruce Berry’s drug overdose) improves with each listen. The moving ballad Borrowed Tune is a personal favorite and Speakin’ Out has great lyrics and much replay value. Albuquerque and Lookout Joe are the most memorable from the B-side.






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Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1979)

You can’t really go wrong with Neil Young from the 1970s. Rust Never Sleeps is a semi live/semi studio album, split into an acoustic A-side, followed by an electric B-side. I was impressed by the songwriting. The iconic opener My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) and Pocahontas are great songs with distinctive guitar melodies, the former is probably one of the most affecting songs of his career.
Powderfinger and the guitar playing is a highlight of the B-side, in the vein of the 1969 Crazy Horse collaborations. Sail Away felt like filler.






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Demons and Wizards by Uriah Heep (1972)

Why is this album rated so highly on RYM? Annoying quivering vocal, boring lyrics, unremarkable singles. But not a total waste of time as the closer Paradise / The Spell is powerful and skillfully composed. Circle Of Hands is good too.






The Garden by Zero 7 (2006)
The Garden by Zero 7 (2006)

Third album by Zero 7, an electronic/down tempo group who were active in the 2000s. At times, their sound is reminiscent of the French duo Air. Fond memories of Crosses with José González on lead vocal, easily the track with the most energy and best production. The rest of the album isn’t as essential. I like the jazzy, mostly instrumental Your Place. The Sia tracks are fairly dull.






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Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino by Arctic Monkeys (2018) 

As a collection of Alex Turner poetry it’s not bad, but if you like a good melody you won’t find many here (She Looks Like Fun and Batphone are the most melodic). The group reinvent themselves, going for a low-key lounge style, very different to the guitar/riff based previous albums. As others have said, it feels less like an Arctic Monkeys album and more of an Alex Turner solo project. I respect the desire to change but I can’t say I found it a particularly enjoyable listen. Sort of in the same vein as 2017’s Pure Comedy by Father John Misty, lyrical content and piano are prominent.
Kudos for the Blade Runner shout-out and space themed concept, writing about another world in order to comment on this one. The commentary on fame, gentrification, Donald Trump, Theresa May, smart phone/device obsessions, internet trolling, and the “endless stream of great TV” is relevant, yet merely repeating what others have said before. Nice artwork on the sleeve.






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7 by Beach House (2018)

Currently my favorite album of 2018. The songs are very pleasant. Dive, L’Inconnue, and The Jesus and Mary Chain-esque Pay No Mind are early favorites. Lemon Glow is the weakest of the four singles.
The heavy distortion at times makes it difficult to detect Victoria Legrand’s recognizable vocal, for example on the opener. Maybe the change is a blessing. Dive is the most Beach House-y because she actually sounds like herself. I’d be curious to listen to the album in a higher audio quality than free spotify provides.







What do you think? As always, comments are welcome



Top 50 songs of 2017 countdown (#1-#5)







1.) Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane by Gang of Youths
(The best ballad The National never wrote? A plea to value life, an autobiographical song from the heart. The singer explained in an interview he nearly died. I was lucky to find Australian band Gang of Youths thanks to another blogger: Every Record Tells A Story’s Albums Of 2017)





2.) Shadow by Chromatics (the YouTube video contains Twin Peaks S3 spoilers) 
(Technically a 2015 single, was re-recorded in 2017 for Twin Peaks. The new version is beautiful and gives me all the feels when watched with the fan-made video)




3.) Windswept by Johnny Jewel
(From season 3 of Twin Peaks. Evoking a sense of mystery and used at the end of episode 5. Some fans call it the theme of Dougie. Johnny Jewel really outdid himself with this instrumental, eclipsing even the new material by Angelo Badalamenti)




4.) Call the Police by LCD Soundsystem
(Wonderful production and the lyrics are open to interpretation. The strongest moment on an album that I thought was overrated)




5.)  Rise Up by Foxygen
(Their latest album has an orchestral, retro 70s sound. I really couldn’t tell it’s contemporary. The closer Rise Up is epic and inspiring)








This post brings to a close the ten part series, I hope you enjoyed reading and listening. What do you think? As always, comments are welcome