Friday, 19 December 2014

TRAGIK – ‘Path Of Destruction’ - Album review

Phil Vincent has released a lot of albums. By my count, ‘Path Of destruction’ is his nine hundred and twelfth, although I may be a few out. Buolt like a brick shithouse and determined to bring the same weight to his music, Phil is never less than entertaining, and although the Tragic stuff still sees him write everything, the addition of extra musicians does seem to bring a new dimension to his songs.

This latest album sees Phil teaming back up with his Legion cohort and serial guitar guest Vince O’Regan, who pops up for lead guitar duties, with other long term cohort Damien D’ercole adding his own guitar licks to the songs. Opener ‘Look At me Now’ is a catchy piece of work, accentuated by Eric Ragno on keyboards, and manages to be punchy as hell with a stiff melodic backbone. It’s great to hear Phil’s vocals improving slightly, with some good harmonies bolstered by a crystal clear production. It’s a pretty accurate indicator for the rest of the album, which mixes crunchy riffs, melodic choruses and some sweet guitarwork throughout. Worthy of note is track three, ‘All The Time In the World’, which ranks as one of Phil Vincent’s most melodic pieces of work, culminating in a skin chafing solo from O’Regan.

The run time of 55 minutes is bolstered by track six, where it all goes ambitious with a five part song called ‘Lake Of Tears’, clocking in at nearly seventeen minutes. To be honest this doesn’t mean that Phil has gone all prog rock or anything (thankfully), and the time flies by, even if the reading of it as a single track means I can’t listen to the parts as individual tracks without faffing about. A little later the album closes with ‘Thank You’, a sweet song of thanks that could be directed towards a mother or God.

‘Path Of Destruction’ can stand proudly at the top of the Phil Vincent catalogue, providing 55 minutes of quality melodic rock mixed with big riffs and very tuneful vocals. You can’t fault his ambition in chucking in a six part song, nor his talent for catchy choruses, but you can fault the decision to stick a picture of a fake breasted scantily clad lady on the inner sleeve (not to mention the arse shot on the back). This makes a very decent album look tacky and dated, and I was genuinely embarrassed that anyone else should see it, especially after getting interested queries from those hearing the music as I reviewed it.

In the end, it’s the music that counts, and with that in mind I can thoroughly recommend this album. There’s not a dull moment to be had, not a track that begs to be skipped. If you’ve ever liked one of Phil Vincent’s many albums and projects, from solo to Legion, then Tragik will make you a very happy music fan. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

BIG HERO 6 - Film review

Well, if you thought ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ was an obscure comic to turn into a film, it’s got nothing on ‘Big Hero 6’, taken from a 1998 Marvel comic featuring Sunfire, Silver Samuraui and some other people. If you have actually read it and were hoping for a tight adaptation I’d walk away now, as ‘Big Hero 6’ has been kicked around and abused so much fans should bring a rape kit to the cinema.

Whilst the established marvel characters from the comic have been jettisoned, they’ve kept 13 year old genius (think Tony Stark in short trousers) Hiro, and marshmallow like robot (changed from a monster) Baymax (I kept hearing Betamax for some reason). Other original characters Honey Lemon, Wasabi and, um, Fred are intact as well, but with different origins. Basically, the comic has been Disneyfied, and to be honest is probably better for it.

Set in a mash up of San Franciso and Tokyo (San Fransokyo, natch), this east meets West film tries very hard to mix anime with Disney, and doesn’t succeed that well, with oriental characters not looking at all oriental to be honest. The animation is, of course, first class, with the city itself looking gorgeous. The plot centres round loss and revenge, basically, with one massive hole in it that should make everyone question the villain’s methods. 

The star of the film is Baymax, a white, sort of cuddly medical robot who tries to fix Hiro’s broken spirit after a personal tragedy. Baymax is very endearing and has his own personal development alongside Hiro as the two become close. The other characters are pretty one dimensional and after the main Big hero 2, the other 4 fail to make the viewer care that much for them, being neither likable nor unlikable, just sort of there.  

‘Big Hero 6’ is remarkably contrived and very unoriginal, yet remains entertaining for all it’s faults. It’s never going to be regarded as a classic but will keep kids amused for 90 minutes with it’s fun characters and in your face action sequences. Just don’t expect too many of them to be clamouring for a baymax toy afterwards, as any excitement will probably disappear in a few hours.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

PADDINGTON - Film Review

When I was a wee sprog, I read a few Paddington books and enjoyed the adventures of the small bear from darkest Peru. I also hadrather a soft spot for the creatively made children’s TV series, where paper cut outs were animated to surprisingly good effect, and my mind will never forget next door grump Mr Curry’s shouts of ‘BEAR!’ whenever Paddington mucked things up. These are treasured memories, people, and I crossed fingers that the new film version wouldn’t trample all over them.

Well fear not, as ‘Paddington’ is one of the best family friendly films I’ve ever seen, full of genuinely hilarious and touching moments. The backstory of the bear himself is handled sensitively, with the animation of Paddington (un-named until he arrives at a certain railway station) and his Aunt & Uncle beautifully done. His adoption by the Brown family isn’t cut and dried, as grumpy risk assessor Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville) want’s to hand him over to ‘The Authorities’, which is never a Good Thing. 

It’s Mr Brown that provides the core of the film’s emotional heart, as he takes the same journey as Mr Banks in ‘Mary Poppins’, learning to love his family for who they are, not what he wants them to be, and to appreciate that having a bear in his life isn’t a bad thing, no matter how many times said bear accidentally nearly burns down the house, or floods the house etc etc. The rest of the family are very well sketched out and played, notably the old Scottish housekeeper Mrs Bird, played by a reliably on form Julie Walters. 

The only slight downside, for me anyway, is the need to add an evil villain to the plot. Nicole Kidman is Millicent, who basically wants to capture and stuff poor old Paddington. Her reasons for doing so neatly tie her in to the story, but I would have been happier if the film was simply about Paddington, the Browns and 90 minutes of mishaps. Nothing wrong with Kidman’s performance or indeed the plot itself, I just felt it wasn’t needed in any way, shape or form.

The best thing about the film is, rightly enough, Paddington himself. The personality, voice (from Ben Wishaw) and animation are faultless, and when he gets into a few little misadventures the comedy is fast and furious. A little bit of bother with a sellotape dispenser is worthy of Chaplin himself, and an escapade with a London bus brings to mind Norman Wisdom or even Frank Spencer at their best. His gradually acclimatisation to London life is handled well, as is his acceptance as part of the Brown family. The other highlight is some amazingly creative direction from Paul King, who uses several visual tricks that bring to mind Peter Howett’s imaginative ways back in the 90s. You may not have heard of him, but I have a feeling he is set for big things.

Absolutely stuffed full of jokes for young and old, smart and stupid, ‘Paddington’ is a film that all the family can enjoy. There has been a bit of a palaver over the PG rating, and to be honest it is definitely a case of the certification board being too overprotective of the young uns. There is nothing too upsetting here, or anything that impressionable minds are likely to copy. There is one, beautiful moment of peril that occurs in silence that had many in the cinema drawing in a concerned breath, but that’s about it, and it is brilliant to hear the reactions of the kids (and adults) to it. Very highly recommended, this will delight audiences for years to come.

Official trailer: