@Metallica – Ride The Lightning #Metallica #RideTheLightning

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“Slaves. Hebrews born to serve, to the Pharaoh. Heed. To his every word, live in fear. Faith. Of the unknown one, the deliverer. Wait. Something must be done, four hundred years”

For as long as I can remember people have been debating the sound of Metallica’s music and their musical direction. The band caused controversy and upset in 2008 when they released their “clipping wars” album Death Magnetic, even leading the album to feature in a BBC radio documentary that suggested the album’s “alternative mix” in the popular video game Guitar Hero Metallica was proof the band had tampered with their own sound. There was backlash over St Anger, an album which drummer Lars Ulrich was quoted as saying was “the album Metallica needed to make to survive” and yet didn’t sit right with fans. In 1996 fans complained about the direction of music in Load and in 1988 complained about the lack of bass on And Justice for All. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned their self titled “black” album from 1991.

The longer Metallica have continued to make music, the more controversial their fans have seemed to be about it, yet I’d wager there are only a handful of “original” fans left. Those who were standing on the front line when the band released their debut album Kill Em All in 1983. A mere ten months after the release of their album, Metallica had recorded its follow up in Denmark, an album in which the band broadened its approach by employing acoustic guitars, extended instrumentals, and more complex harmonies. The result? 1984’s Ride The Lightning.

Now hailed as a masterpiece of modern metal, it’s perhaps easy to forget that this album attracted almost as much criticism from “fans” as St Anger had in 2003, those who had already accused the band of selling out. On the other hand the musical press were quick to commend the album for it’s maturity and depth from a band who hadn’t long since released their debut record. Part of this credit must go to Cliff Burton, the bands bassist, whose study of music and composition was heavily influential in teaching the band more about the music they played and gave Burton a more pivotal role in writing for the album. It’s his subsequent death, just two years after this album was released, that is perhaps the biggest tragedy of all as we review the 2016 reissue.

Released on Metallica’s own ‘Blackened Recordings’ with a gate fold sleeve and mini vinyl quality, there is unfortunately nothing particularly special about this release. It is a real shame that Metallica included none of the demo material from larger box sets on the standard …Lightning re-release, likewise both the linear notes and CD art are carbon copies of the original, giving us nothing new to look at and no new retrospective from a band (or one band member, at least) who are usually very eager to reflect on their material. It’s highly probable that if you’re a Metallica fan you’ll own a copy of this album already, so no new incentive (beyond that of the highly priced box set alternative) seems rather unusual.

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Re-listening to this album it’s easy to see why Kerrang! Magazine gave Metallica their first UK cover story in December 1984, as tracks like ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, ‘Fade To Black’ and ‘Creeping Death’ are some of the most well written thrash songs ever composed. Infectious, powerful and harmonious the sound of this remaster is extremely clear and crisp, with it obvious that the up most care has been taken, to preserve the sound of the original recording. With that said, there is only so much that can be done, meaning that perhaps only the strictest of audiophiles will have something to shout about.

The real joy in this issue is coming to terms with tracks such as ‘Trapped Under Ice’ and even the self loathed ‘Escape’, songs that have plagued Metallica for decades, either as parodies of themselves or have simply failed to become the live staple of a track like ‘Nothing Else Matters’ or ‘Enter Sandman’. When reviewing certain tracks in this way it’s a chance to take another look at songs that serve almost as their own B-Sides within an album, lost and forgotten in the shadow of their more famous brothers and sisters. Whether you consider them silent gems of the Metallica catalog or just whether you’d rather they stayed that bit more silent is completely up to you. But it just remains to be said that from ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ to ‘Call of Ktulu’ this album remains one of the strongest jewels Metallica have, even if that misspelling is going to piss off an entire new generation of fans.

Wayne Madden

#Batman (2012) #DarkKnightRises Review @TheDarkNolan

Originally published in 2012 on the website YRadio.co.uk and written by Wayne Madden, myself, republished here with my own permission as I own said copyright anyway and I’m unlikely to sue myself. Unlikely.

This review is dedicated in memory of the 14 people killed in Denver, Colorado, on July 20th 2012 at a premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.

The Beatles sang about a “long and winding road” and it’s certainly been that for Christopher Nolan. In 2003 he first began plans to resurrect Batman on screen following the commercial failures of a previous trilogy of movies and almost a decade later we’re presented with the final piece of the British American director’s own trilogy complete. The Dark Knight Rises presents a very different Gotham to the one seen in its predecessors, eight years removed from the death of Harvey Dent, and prospering under the crime free paradise that exists following the apparent disappearance of the caped crusader.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), the eccentric billionaire playboy, has long since hid in seclusion – mourning the death of his lost love Rachael Dawes – while his mentor and butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) attempts to bring him some comfort. Into this limo comes Bane (Tom Hardy), a psychotic mercenary with just a single thought, that of revolution and the upheaval of Gotham’s streets.

It’s from here that we enter a different story, one which sees Batman question who he is, while Bruce Wayne also struggles to discover where the mask ends and the Batman Begins. Bruce forms relationships with a number of people including Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and we’re never quite sure if this Catwoman is good or bad. This, more than any other film in the trilogy, focuses on Batman being Bruce Wayne – indeed, at several points his secret is revealed either intentionally or unintentionally – and by the end we discover that a close knit group of people know the true identity of the protector of Gotham.

Lt. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) struggles with his own demons, knowing the secret of Two Face, and how those imprisoned in Blackgate have been done so under false pretense.

As the film unfurls it is Bane who controls most of the intrigue, however, never revealing two much about himself or his reasons for madness – in the same way mirroring The Joker and The Scarecrow from previous films. It’s this, however, that ultimately lets the film down.

While it’s an ambitious project that ends the trilogy in style and grace it does so with an uninteresting back story (slightly fabricated then those in the comic strips) that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.David S. Goyer’s script is not as watertight as Jonathan Nolan’s and Bane just isn’t as interesting to watch as Heath Ledger’s Joker.

On the same topic, whereas most Batman films pride themselves on two villains, Catwoman’s one woman exterior and questionable motives mean it’s almost all Bane representing the villains. Of course, there are some cameos of course, but alone he just can’t compete with previous efforts, especially given the almost one dimensional nature of the character and also the rich tapestry of Batman villains that exists.A lack of humor is also present, which saw an audience devoid of laughter, and raised only a slight applause once the film had concluded at our 5am premiere.

Graphically, as usual, there is much to be praised – a particular highlight being a scene involving the Gotham Knights – and former NFL player Hines Ward which results in the destruction of a football pitch – something that has to be seen to be believed.

But the sparks of energy do little to invigorate in a film that runs past 2hrs and 30 minutes. While it’s a great film that you should certainly watch, it’s not the groundbreaking film we’d come to expect, certainly we can’t think of anything that drives the streak home for a three for three.

Coincidentally, while we emerged from our premiere, news broke in the US about a gunman who (dressed like Batman) had entered a cinema in Denver, Colorado, killing and wounding many who (just like us) had attended a worldwide timed premiere of their favorite movie.

This is disappointing, shocking and saddening news for sure but reminds us that the real world we live in can be filthy, gritty and dirty, realism that Nolan has definitely captured in this new era of Batman.

Wayne Madden

#FindingDory (2016) Review @TheEllenShow @findingdory

There will be spoilers. Duh*

At one point in Finding Dory, as the title character comes across her childhood home, you’re faced with an interesting thought. Just what has happened to Dory’s parents? Up until this point we’ve seen them through flashbacks, as the irresistibly cute and charming youngster, helping her struggle with short term memory loss. But it’s at this point, in the present day, that you realize her parents may not still be alive. While it would be incredibly difficult (and in some ways cruel) to introduce a topic like this into such an impressionable film there is still that fear. And it’s that fear which hooks you right up until the last frame.

It’s hard to believe that almost thirteen years has passed since Finding Nemo first graced cinema screens. The film was always one of the most popular in the Disney/Pixar franchise and as such there were frequently calls and requests for a sequel, specifically dealing with ‘Dory’, the good Samaritan who helps Marlin track down his first crucial piece of evidence in the quest to find his son. This film brings that story full circle, literally explaining to us virtually all aspects of Dory’s life up until the moment she and Marlin first meet. Separated from her parents, and then even unsure of this, Dory’s flashbacks piece together in a striking similar way to the film Memento, revealing little by little the full scope of the story.

But, as well laid out as the story is in its complexity, this is still a children’s film – and you’re not going to find a deep exploration of the struggles her parents have in raising a mentally disabled child or the actual length of time they’ve been separated; that said, the intervening 13 years between films does seem to give a fair indication this is the direction in which the studio were going. This certainly makes Dory a lot younger than perhaps any of us first suspected. Certainly in human years. If you’re counting that way.

One of the things I loved best about this film was it’s simplicity in bringing together elements of ‘Finding Nemo’ and placing them neatly in this story line as if they’d always been there. Where did Dory learn to speak whale? Why does she just keep swimming? How did she learn to read human writing? All of these pieces of information are glossed over in the story line but provide the viewer with a perfect chance at catching a glimpse of fan service. In the same way, Nemo and Marlin serve as supporting characters in this film, their few scenes shared with Dory or together are all focused on the story at end, in no way do the title characters from the last film look to simply rob the stage. This is great because as welcome as it is to hear the return of Albert Brooks voicing Marlin I did feel that Nemo is a fairly bland and one dimensional fish. He was lost and now is found, there ending the lesson.

If we’re speaking about fan service however, nothing is better than the scene in which Dory is finding her way through the vents, being guided by the sonar technology of a whale. The set up and reveal of this scene is quite clearly a homage to a more famous scene from the film Alien – a reference I might have been clueless as to why they’d included if not for the brilliant Sigourney Weaver cameo. I won’t spoil her involvement in this film but I think the fact it happens speaks volumes for itself.

Indeed there’s a lot of vocal talent on hand in this film, with Diane Keaton offering vocals as Dory’s mother and Ed O’ Neill (or Al Bundy) playing Hank, the Octopus, without whom this film just couldn’t have happened – quite literally – since Hank provides the bridge between water and land that allows Dory to reach a pivotal destination at a crucial plot point.

As the story reaches its climax you’re routing for these characters. You want Dory to find her family and you want everyone to live happily every after. And even for a children’s film, that’s a tall order, but the beautiful thing about Pixar is that if anybody is likely to make it happen its them. The film does struggle towards the end and I felt one scene was entirely robbed from the much funnier Over The Hedge but asides I still saw what I considered to be one of the best modern animations of recent years. And who knows, maybe you’ll even learn something.

Wayne Madden

#FreddyGotFingered (2001) Review @tomgreenlive

There will be spoilers. Duh*

I normally use Flixster as a great referencing tool for my film tastes. It works as an app on my phone and I’m able to choose a film and get some quick information about it without ruining the entire plot or purpose. The other week I decided to watch a handful of films that had, for one reason or another, gained a large amount of infamy upon their release. I’d never seen any of these films but I’d heard of them, I knew their titles and their stars, so I wanted to see “what all the fuss was about” or how well (in the case of some films which had aged by a decade or three) they’d stood the test of time.

Freddy Got Fingered was originally released in October 2001, and is almost solely the brainchild of a Canadian comedian called Tom Green, who attracted such (in)famous moments at the turn of the Millennium, thanks to his self titled show on MTV. Rivaling with the likes of Jackass this show followed a similar principle, in which Green would effectively embarrass himself, or his family, for comic amusement (should that be bemusement) and through the conduct of the stupidest pranks or most inappropriate situations imaginable. This led to a relationship (and later marriage) to actress Drew Barrymore, but not much else, unless you consider this film to be Green’s magnum opus. And you shouldn’t.

In fairness, Green has achieved several high profile directorial spots, and films like Two Lane Blacktop show an extremely talented side to this director. His performance in the often unseen 2015 film Downriver is also to be applauded, proving that (when he so chooses) Green can act with dignity. Freddy Got Fingered is, on the other hand, simply a movie version of his show and features (what one would assume) is a collection of sketches thrown together in order to create some vague plot.

That plot centers around Gord, who is going to Los Angeles in order to work at the Cheese Sandwich factory, a sort of metaphor for moving out of his parents basement (in this case quite literally), getting a job in the big city and earning his keep. There’s a mild rivalry with his younger brother Freddy, and although that will serve its purpose later, you don’t really get the sense its very important. In fact, I thought Tom Green played Freddy, and the title reference meant the finger of justice…but that also turned out to be very, very wrong.

To sum up how stupid this film gets very fast there’s a scene not 5 minutes in where (while listening to Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ and driving down an open country road) Gord stumbles across a stud farm. Cue the close up shot of a horse penis growing in length and the screech of brakes. Gord, demanding to know what the farmers are doing, soon jumps the gate and proceeds to offer the horse some hand relief. Literally. I don’t know how, why or even when this scene was first suggested – and I’m going to go on a whim here and say the entire scene was filmed with actors (certainly Jackass wouldn’t get away with this sort of thing) but it’s the kind of scene which will ultimately make you decide whether this film is something you can continue with or something you’d like to just ignore, switch off and never mention again.

There are moments of good comedy in this film. A short scene featuring brother Freddy in the “Home for Sexually Abused Children” is outstanding. Not only is Freddy far too old to be considered a minor, he also reacts in such a timid way to any accusation of abuse that his manner is taken to mean shame and remorse at the incident.

The interesting thing about this film, however, is that in terms of script writing and cliche it does intend on avoiding as much as it can wherever possible. It’s actually fair to say that the film goes to extreme lengths to avoid having a linear plot and often completely turns around on itself half way through a story. Gord quickly befriends an animator, who advises him to “get inside the animals” in order to find the inspiration for his concept of the utterly absurd ‘Zebra’s in America’ cartoon. Finding roadkill on the way back from LA he decides to dress himself in the carcass in an effort to understand the creatures of the forest. Yet later, having achieved his goal and getting the cartoon commissioned, he spends the money in a heartbeat on the most absurd and ridiculous items in order to win his father’s respect.

Perhaps the one thing that Freddie Got Fingered does achieve is that it provides an absurd look at the ideals of the American dream. For all his failings, Gord achieves the life he wants, the career he wants and (ultimately) the relationship with his father that he wants. All, that is, without actually doing much of anything productive and causing crisis and chaos on every step. On the other hand, it could just be a complete waste of time, as Green had an extra hold up a sign towards the end of the film asking “when does this movie end?” obviously indicating that even he knew the movie had gone to ridiculous lengths. This is perhaps a metaphor for Green’s activities with the Tom Green show, a big middle finger up to the establishment who commissioned a film that was never going to achieve anything based on ratings of a joke wearing thin.

We may never know.

Wayne Madden

#JasonBourne (2016) Review

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There will be spoilers. Duh*

With a legacy spanning almost 15 years its more of an astonishment to me that I’ve never even watched another movie in the Jason Bourne franchise. Between this and ‘Mission Impossible’ I’ve always seen them (wrongly or rightly) as takes on a more classic James Bond style scenario, or even mirroring films like ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Clear and Present Danger’. Perhaps Harrison Ford was to his generation what Matt Damon is to this one, although I do remember more dialogue coming from the mouth of CIA operative Jack Ryan.

There’s a line in this film, uttered by Tommy Lee Jones, which sums up the franchise quite well; “you’re never going to find any peace. Not until you admit to yourself who you really are”. It’s a telling and emotional climax to what has essentially been a rather drawn out fifth outing for the CIA’s most well kept secret. Especially when the crux of the matter could have been settled and discussed in about five minutes. Having forgotten who he was and then subsequently learned about his past, there was always one issue in his mind keeping him awake at night, that being the death of his father Richard Webb. Much like John Connor in Terminator 3 Bourne is living off the grid and has little to no contact with anyone remotely human.

If there is one thing this film does right its the use of geographical locations for absolutely no reason other than to seem important, since the entire movie spends the whole time globe hopping from one position to another for the chance to get the crews passport stamped. At several times I found myself asking why certain situations had to occur several thousand miles away from others when there was no good reason for them to be there.

The first of these situations happens in Iceland, when a former operative hacks classified files from the CIA, and then discovers information which provides the catalyst for the movies story. Tracking down Bourne (in one country, then arranging to meet him several hundred miles away in another) the operative has a very cliche moment of “you’ve led them right to us” which begins the movies first major battle sequence. The film contains four, or possibly five, more of these sequences with a little dialogue in between; once again hurdling us towards a conclusion at break neck speed with little to no time to stop and take stock.

With everybody using each other and nobody using much logical thinking the film certainly extends the previous four movies and makes a nice end to a marathon viewing spree. That said, Damon’s use of little dialogue means that there is more time to focus on his characters abilities rather than a Bond esque bedding every woman in the building. There’s no “Bourne girl” and no casino sequences or fancy gadgets. Rather, this is a film which builds nicely upon unanswered information from previous installments, even if that information didn’t need another film to answer it and hadn’t much weight behind it.

Wayne Madden