Feel Good Hits Of The Summer: May’s Blockbusters

Summer has always been a big release time for film, with films released July 4 weekend smashing records on an almost yearly basis, but does this years crop of films look to stand up to the pedigree of past years.

Last year was dominated by the superhero, as Iron Man and The Dark Knight stole the world’s attention, and putting in yet-another case for why comic book films are a serious business.

May is the big month this year, with almost all the big name releases being thrown at us relentlessly amid the (hopeful) sunshine.

Wolverine is the first big contender, or Xmen Origins: Wolverine, to give it its full, overblown title. Originally planned for release May 1, the date was rushed forward after a massively hyped piracy scandal, which saw the film leak prematurely on the internet, to which Hugh Jackman was reportedly very disappointed, since the version which got out wasn’t 100% done, and obviously you don’t get the full affect of all the nifty special effects.

Jackman is big in terms of star quality and he’s a very talented actor, so the film stands to do well merely rested on his shoulders (though Baz Luhrmann may disagree with this logic…), but if you add to that the vast fanbase of the Xmen franchise, both film and comic book, then you’ve got a massive potential audience before a metal clawed punch has been thrown.

Another film which has a huge, perhaps even epic, potential fanbase, is the latest incarnation of Star Trek directed by JJ “Help I’m LOST” Abrams on May 8. Those who haven’t heard of the starship Enterprise by now have surely been hiding under an astoriod, since the plight of the Galactic Federation of Planets has been played out in (at least) five series and nine previous films over the last 40 years.

With veteran Leonard Nimoy back for a cameo as the cooly logical poity-eared Vulcan Spock, hardcore Trekkies will already be unable to resist, while big budget sci-fi has been off the table long enough for it to make a comeback at the cinema.

This leads us inevitably on to Christian “husky voice” Bale in Terminator Salvation on May 21. Not technically a sequel, but a “re-boot” – to translate this industry jargon, it basically it means the last film didn’t do quite so well, so they wanted to distance themselves from it and start afresh (see also Hulk, Casino Royale and Batman Begins).

Judgement day has finally come for John Connor and those of humanity who’ve decided to fight back against evil supercomputer software Skynet and its company: all-round robitics-controlling-nasty Cyberdyne Systems.

Last in May is Disney Pixar animated tale Up, about a…I’m not sure, is it a floating house with a small child an old man going for a walk? Anyway it’s set up as being the most impressive Pixar spectacle yet, and since they keep raising the bar with every film (except perhaps Cars, but we’ll ignore that – talking cars? That’s madness!), we can expect some great things from the team.

In terms of vocal talent the film includes Christopher Plummer of A Beautiful Mind and as OAP with altitude Charles Muntz, along with newcomer SyrianaJordan Nagai as Russell. Family films often tend to do well, since they appeal to a wide audience by their very nature, and Pixar have proved their pedigree numerous times over the years, meaning young’uns will be clamouring for this latest story.

Crashing out of May and into June is Michael Bay’s Transformers sequel Revenge of the Fallen, but perhaps we’ll look into that a little more another time. Essentially all you need to know to appear up on the latest social trends is that is has Shia LeBouf, Megan Fox and giant transforming robots, simple!

Potential big hitters are Angels & Demons, an adaptation of another book from The Da Vinci Codes Dan Brown, and Drag Me To Hell, a horror flick directed by Sam Raimi, who helmed the Spiderman trilogy.

So, if you decide to see a film this May then you should have a bit more of an idea what to expect, chances are you’ve already decided what you like the look of and don’t but if you choose not to take the big names at face value, who knows?, you might be presently surprised.

Live: The Living End at Manchester Club Academy 21/04/09

Blistering guitar, infectious drums and slammin’ double-bass were order of the day in Manchester as Aussie trio The Living End stormed the Club Academy.

As competent support act Tellison left the stage the crowd was wrought with anticipation, it has been two years since the boys last played in Manchester, and tensions were beginning to run very high.

With an explosion of sound, the band leapt into fast-paced opener Raise The Alarm from new album White Noise. The crowd embraced the new material as if it had been in their minds for years, ‘woah-ing’ at every opportunity.

Following up a strong with a set filled with classics like Prisoner of Society, Roll On and We Want More. Anthemic new tunes such as How Do We Know were accepted by the audience after only a moments hesitation, uniting the groups wide age range of fans in one voice.

With such energy on stage you might expect the musical precision to suffer, but if anything it was enhanced, with lead man Chris Cheney’s fingers flying up and down the fretboard of his eletcro-acoustic axe, which is largely responsible for the band’s distinct rock n roll twang.

Beat master Andy Strachan relentlessly pounded the drums with an impressive mix of perfectly crafted rock beats, stopping only for a moment when he got a little over-excited and cracked a cymbal.

The third side of this rock triangle belongs to Scott Owen and his famous double-bass. Immediately giving Owen a massive presence on stage, the bass is over a metre and a half from scroll to spike and almost a metre wide, its difference in sound from a standard electric bass is noticeable, as well as the custom glow-in-the-dark paint job leading to the looming presence of a glowing skull when the lights go down.

Owen’s impressive party piece sees him hoist the great instrument up in the air and proceed to play behind his head in homage to the great Jimi Hendrix.

Cheney, not to be out-done, soon teamed up with Owen to climb up the side of the bass for a dramatic finale, before using a nearby beer bottle as a real bottleneck to unleash an astounding slide solo as beer sprayed everywhere, only relenting to down the last few drops.

Musical improvisation was by no means an isolated incident, as the threesome broke into fierce upbeat arrangements numerous times during the evening, as the crowd looked on with awe and wonder.

Despite the recent turmoil in their homeland from bush fires, the band were determined to show England that it had only strengthened their resolve on stage, and kept excitement levels raised until the very last. A truly mesmerising show.

Twitter: Fad or fabulous? It’s in your hands

It was bound to happen sooner or later, a post about Twitter. (Follow me here)

In recent months, Twitter has been heralded and criticised all across the cybersphere, and little more so than in Blogs.

Opinions are divided, as they often are, over it’s value and whether it is anything more than the latest ‘thing’.

As Facebook was the phenomenon of 2008 (and to a point even the year before that), Twitter has conjured a media firestorm, with everyone from Jonathan Ross to Oprah Winfrey Twittering away.

Recently cyber-history was made as Aston Kutcher became the first Twitterer to get over a million followers (shortly followed by CNN).

But what exactly does it all mean?

For those of you who haven’t been bitten by the twitterbug, Twitter sees you posting answers to the question “What are you doing?” and connecting yourself to other users to see what they are up to as well.

With the post limit at 140 characters, these so called ‘micro-blogs’ are limited, but often contain urls to interesting sites or news stories, or, in the case of QI Master Stephen Fry, simply the day-to-day interesting goings on in their lives.

You can also reply to people’s posts, or ‘tweets’ as they are known’ and send direct messages to them.

Peter Schwartz of the internet newspaper The Huffington Post today voiced his views on Twitter. You can read them here, but if you’re too lazy for that the gist of it is that he’s not a fan. He feels it’s been over-hyped, no doubt by blog posts like this one, and is only a passing fancy which people will soon grow tired off, and far from the “transpersonal communications organism” it’s founders are claiming it to be.

Despite Facebook and Google both reported to be trying to acquire Twitter, the site, according to Schwartz, is yet to make money:

“While no one is suggesting Twitter can support the $15 billion valuation that Facebook received for its Microsoft investment several years ago, the mania surrounding Twitter surely indicates the Web 2.0 frenzy has probably peaked.” Peter Schwartz

Like many things though, Twitter is what you make of it. On the most basic level it’s just a website, but if you involve yourself in it you can connect yourself to people you may never have had the privilage to meet. While it’s easy to be bogged down in the spam of people’s everyday lives, there are some interesting things to be found on there and through there, it’s just up to you to find them.

Is it a fad? Perhaps for some people, but for others it’s a serious exchanging of information, and right now it’s not going anywhere but up.

Now here’s a few of my personal favourites:

1) Xbox 360 Game Left 4 Dead re-enacted
2) 10 Gaming Characters on Twitter
3) Terrible Twilight Fan Art
4) Anything tweeted by qikipedia
5) Classic reply to one of my latest tweets about now being unemployed from VividEphany:

@James_Parry Sorry to hear that you were laid off. Keep your chin up. This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you need help, I’m here” – Just knowing that makes me feel safer…thanks

How to Record an Album

Is home recording or studio recording better? Why do bands make albums which are overproduced? What does it take to become commercially successful?

These questions answered and more in my detailed guide to the album recording process, featuring interviews from a number of industry professionals.

Check it out here on Music-News.com: http://tinyurl.com/h2album/

Censorship: Protecting the public or hiding the truth?

Film and television have always been subject to some sort of censorship, even at the most basic level, shows or films regarded as too violent, sexual or controversial have been banned. In video games too, censorship is a big issue, with Mortal Kombat being the victim of a media storm in the 90s for its violent finishing moves.

In the age of 24/7 entertainment and relentless information exchange, is it still right for companies to censor information? When you mention censorship, you might think of the limits on the Chinese version of Google or the propaganda of Nazi Germany, but in reality it goes on without the general public even realising.

The most recent example which I noticed was the broadcast of an episode of [Scrubs] on E4. The episode seemed innocent enough, 6 o’clock on a Tuesday evening, but as I watched, I noticed a few things that just weren’t quite right. Dialogue was cut short, suggestive lingering camera shots removed and the shows signature fantasy moments bizarrely tame. The reason: censorship. The network, for whatever reason, had taken out the comedy’s ‘edgier’ moments, leaving the show a shadow of it’s former self.

There are watershed issues to consider of course, and the concept itself (which essentially forbids the broadcast of illicit material until after 9pm) is important to protect the ‘innocence’ of children etc. But the real worry is that many of the omissions were nothing more outrageous than you might see on your typical episode of Eastenders, leading us to conclude that either the network is being over-cautious, or deliberately toning-down to appeal to their viewers.

Surely with the show available on DVD, they must know that many fans of the show will have a series or two, so may have watched the show before, making these omissions obvious. Obviously to those who have never seen the show before will be none the wiser, but it is still a concern.

This is just one example of the negative effects of censorship. There are claims long-term exposure to violence on television causes an increased risk of violence in the real world, but there is little evidence to substantiate that this affects more then a sever minority.

Back in 2000, the BBC reported on a study called ‘Making sense of Censorship’, which concluded that four out of five people would rather watch un-edited versions of film and television, and judge for themselves what not to watch.

The poll also raised the concern of children’s viewing, with 98% of adults saying they were responsible for deciding what their children should and should not watch. Interestingly, almost two thirds of people were more worried about censorship on the internet, an issue which has still not been significantly tackled by authorities. At the time the BBC spoke to Nick Jones, head of film programming for Channel 4 and FilmFour:

“This puts the emphasis on facts rather than pre-conceived myths, It shows middle England is more informed and wants to make its own choices about what they watch – based on information and not the intervention of a ‘nanny state’ It is now time to take a hard look at confused legislation that assumes there is such a thing as ‘the moral majority'” (Jones 2000)

There was controversy last year in the wake of Heath Ledger‘s death, when there were calls to omit the scene in ‘The Dark Knight’ which showed Ledger as the Joker in a body bag.

In 1995 Simon Birch wrote a report which discusses why censorship should be stopped. He concluded that the system is not working and that there are discrepancies which mean the public is being mis-informed:

“Sooner or later they will have to amend a system which allows more explicit detail of real sexual peccadilloes through the written media than it allows the viewing public to see within a fictional context.” (Birch 1995)

In the end, if the public objects to how something is being done, the government is forced to act to change it, but if people do not even know it is going on in the first place, then we may begin to see an ever-increasing problem in years to come.