Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vanilla Ice - Hard to Swallow (1998)

A colossal misfire from the rasputin of Rap

Listening to his third studio album, you start to wonder if the american rapper Vanilla Ice aka Robert Van Winkle should have stayed an obscurity after his initial super duper reign of success. His long absence from the music scene was hardly noticed, until this ill conceived mishmash of an album with rap core and nu-metal elements reminds us of why rap and hiphop fans are glad he's been gone. 

In his heyday, he tried to pull the wool over our eyes and have us think he was a gangsta rapper from Miami, and legit. This image go-around finds him hoeing a row different than before this time, but it's just as pointless. Hard to Swallow is just that. 

The eleven proper songs are indicative of his prior style stealing. This time the victim is the metal-esque rap metal done by bands like Rage Against the Machine, Korn, etc which Ice calls "Skate Rock". The songs are all way too long and wear quickly. Ice raps in a lower register as he attempts to growl / rap in a poor de la Rocha imitation. All in all, the whole idea is way too contrived. 

The raps themselves are ridiculous. "Fuck Me" is a long rant through all the finest of foul language. He spouts off obscenity at every turn for no real reason. Did he think we would find him cool because he can swear? Then we have the needless "Zig Zag Stories." In another attempt of trying to convince us he's cool, Ice spouts off a story of smoking blunts and every other pot cliché and nickname you can think of. In addition to this beauty, "Prozac" finds Ice chanting "We gets crazy like Prozac." Isn't that backwards? you're crazy so you need Prozac? To top off this banality is the utterly idiotic "Stompin Through the Bayou" with its faux metal swamp guitar and Ice's mundane refrain. 

All through the record Ice refers back to lines from the first piece of schmaltz: "Ice, Ice, baby" gets many repeatings in many different contexts. An album like this is hard to review as it's so contrived. From it's style copping music and raps, to the bare breasts on the cover it is one piece of material that reeks of corporate composition in an attempt to cash in and revive a dead stars career. It is an abhorrent waste of money, time and plastic and nobody would have missed it's existence.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Your typical big budget 90s sports movie, Oliver Stone Style

Seeing this ensemble casted, sports drama makes you wonder if the egomaniac tendencies of Oliver Stone are clearly evident here as he pulls a few tricks in providing an intriguing story set around the American football scene, and with an excessive running time. He gives us a dose of slow-motion sequences, black and white fading, quick cuts, and other gimmicks. It does take a while before the viewer is able to settle down to living the plot.

"Any Given Sunday" tells of the working conditions both on and off the football field. The film is a typical sports movie and has to take in many plotlines. Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) is coach of the fictional Miami Sharks team. They are in a losing streak and he feels his team coming apart. D’Amato also needs to contend with his disruptive family life, as a divorcee who never seems to have time to see his kids. His passion for football is very evident, yet he feels frustrated with the intrusions of the female owner of the team, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz). In a man’s world, she is a new breed. Making a profit is more important than the traditions. She also fights with the esteemed position that her late father held in society. She wants to succeed in her own right. 

The season turns bleak when ageing player Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is hurt with a potentially career-ending injury. D’Amato has to rely on the brash, unproven talent of Willie ‘Steaming’ Beamen (Jamie Foxx) to lead his team out of trouble. Willie has trouble as a leader. His maturity is not yet developed, and his selfishness causes the team to unravel. D’Amato has a real dilemma on his hands. Oliver Stone shows us the ugly side of the sport – the temptation of fame, money, affluent lifestyles, and the exploitation of players. His use of dramatic and photographic overkill is frustrating, though. 

The script is slightly complicated and the ideas for the Jamie Foxx character are mysterious. He is the flashy new football star, yet Foxx’s acting didn’t generate much interest for me. Al Pacino is his usual dynamic self, turning up the volume as Stone would want. Cameron Diaz does another unusual turn and continues to build herself up into a fine character actress. James Woods, as the team doctor, turns in another fine performance. It is recommended that the soundtrack be given a good listen. Featuring Fatboy Slim and Moby, it is great value. 

Stone has been plagued, in as many years, with big budget overkill within his films. Perhaps he should be asked to have a set budget of a smaller scale to force his hand in great filmmaking techniques again. Above all, however, the fact remains that this is an American sports movie with a familiar story and cameos by many former American football greats including Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Johnny Unitas, Pat Toomay, Warren Moon, Y. A. Tittle, Terrell Owens,  Ricky Watters, Emmitt Smith & Barry Switzer besides good actors like Charlton Heston, James Woods, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine,  Lauren Holly, Aaron Eckhart, John C. McGinley and more

Certainly, this flick would be recommended for such fans because there is good material to grasp Stone’s out-of-control motives. It may not be that accommodating to the other side. Dung Le

Sunday, June 7, 2015

In the Light of the Moon (2000)

A fairly okay movie on Ed Gein, the famed Serial Killer of the 50s

Before serial killing became a fashionable hobby, Ed Gein was doing terrible things to women in Wisconsin in the Fifties. Usually they were dead and he stole their bodies from the grave, but occasionally, when his mother told him, "It's time for you to do the Lord's work," they were alive. By then, his mother was also dead, which made it doubly weird.

The producers are eager to point out that Gein was the inspiration for Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence Of The Lambs. It's true that Ed adored his mother and she filled his young mind with images of Old Testament damnation and after she died, when he was 39, he became increasingly reclusive and strange. He would flay the flesh of unresurrected corpses and use the skin to make lampshades and chair covers and clothes.

He lived alone in a farmhouse, reading books on the female anatomy, Nazi war crimes and Polynesian head-shrinkers. The place was filled with macabre momentoes and junk. He ate tinned pork-and-beans and human body parts. He would go to the bar in the little town of Plainfield, where the locals made fun of him, and occasionally to a neighbour's house to watch TV and play draughts. His shyness with women was acute.

Given such real-life material, writer Stephen Johnston and director Chuck Parello (Henry II: Portrait of a Serial Killer) go against the trend for explicit gore. They recreate the atmosphere of a rural community during the Eisenhower era, when life was slow and easy, with infinite care. Steve Railsback plays Ed as a man tormented by visions, caught between the need to bring the dead back to life and do his mother's bidding. He is neither vicious, nor intimidating, rather sad and gentle. The madness that drives him belongs in another place.

Carrie Snodgrass gives herself more room. Ed's mother controlled her children with an iron will. Religious mania clouded her judgement. She would save her boys from the wickedness of the world and destroy sin through the instrument of her second son, as Jehovah did at Sodom and Gomorrah. After her death, when she appears to Ed, she has become a figure of nightmares. 

Ed Gein, the movie, is a fine example of horror as an extension of private delusion, rather than the expansion of something beyond human experience. A.W.Murray

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