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[Movie Review] Get Hard

Film review

Get Hard

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The rather dubiously titled Get Hard is the latest comedy written by Etan Cohen the man responsible for writing Tropic Thunder and Men in Black III. Whilst he’s no stranger to writing this is his first movie as a director and Get Hard is a little hit and miss.

 

James King (Will Ferrell) is wrongfully accused of fraud and embezzlement and is sentenced to ten years in a hard prison. Being a white guy from the right side of Bel Air, James employs his car washing guy Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) to harden him up for life on the inside. He has thirty days for Darnell, who incidentally has never been to prison to teach him all there is to know about life on the inside.

 

What ensues is thirty days of Darnell turning James’ Bel Air mansion into a prison and bluffing his way through teaching King all about Thug Life. It’s a learning curve for James as between the two of them they muddle their way through gang land and gay bars in an effort to turn James into a mad dog.

 

The movie has a pretty basic story line that has been done before with similar themes in Rob Schneider’s Big Stan. So the movie is really not breaking any new ground at all. Towards the end of the movie it is apparent that the racial and social gap has been bridged and the two have become friends. Predictably Darnell tries to clear his friends name by catching the real bad guy.

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Whilst the movie is at times funny it is Kevin Hart with his bulldog- like approach to delivering lines that garner the most laughs. Some of the jokes and one lines delivered by Ferrell are a little rough and racial stereotyping is quite prevalent rather than being funny it is cringe- worthy racism at its worst. There are also a few too many cheap laughs at the start of the film with unnecessary views of Ferrell’s naked butt; a rather juvenile way to get a laugh. Once Kevin Hart steps in it does get better.

 

It’s one of those movies that without the right casting could have been a lot worse. Luckily Kevin Hart is a huge talent that manages to drag this comedy over the line and he is quite brilliant on screen. The movie is worth a look as there are times where it is good, but it is probably not going to end up as a comedy classic that viewers will want to see time and time again.

 

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[ Movie Review] Focus

Film Review

Focus.

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Always remain focused and die with the lie. That is the main theme for Will Smith’s new movie Focus also starring Australia’s Margot Robbie. Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and also starring Rodrigo Santoro.

Aging con- man and lifelong grifter Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) is quietly enjoying a meal on his own when the young and beautiful Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) a rather green grifter herself fails in her attempt to seduce him and steal his wallet. He agrees to take her under his wing and teach her the tricks of the trade. They head down to New Orleans where he tutors her in the art of pick pocketing and small time cons. At the end of the job he unceremoniously dumps her after she begins to fall in love with him.

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Fast forward there years and Nicky is contracted for a really large con, probably the biggest of his career. Down in Buenos Aires he arrives to work for billionaire motorsport Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) to set up a sting to beat Australian businessman McEwan (Robert Taylor) and win the championship. It’s all set to go ahead when in walks Jess, who is now Garriga’s girlfriend.

Nicky begins to pursue Jess again and as it unfolds an unknowing Jess is bound up in the con in a complex web of deceit. The con unfolds to a surprising complex twist in the end, leaving Jess and the viewer a little perplexed.

Whilst the movie is enjoyable enough it really doesn’t have a strong climax or story that is overly strong. It’s a pretty much go- nowhere movie that leaves little to have to think about in the end. Will Smith is his usual adept self, and is enjoyable enough to watch. Margot Robbie is not much more than a pretty face and really is a bit young to be believable to be a love interest for the aging Will Smith. For her to be believable in roles she needs to be cast alongside younger male actors as she looks a little foolish playing alongside would be sugar- daddies.

The movie does at times try to be unpredictable but it really does not have overly surprising twists and turns. It glides along at a reasonable pace, but does not prove any points or make any great statements. It’s descent enough but there are more enjoyable ways to spend an hour and forty five minutes other than this movie.

 

 

 

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[Live Review] Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin

The Zoo Friday, March 20

 

In a dark dingy, poorly lit pub known as The Zoo, Jeff Martin comes on stage, surrounded by guitars and some casually draped velvet.

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He takes a seat and tells us that he finds it incredible that people have come out this evening because “It is so f-ing hot, I sing songs about the Devil quite a lot- I didn’t think I’d be in his house tonight”.

 

That being said, Jeff Martin is low key tonight; not the usual larger than life rock star that fronts successful Canadian band The Tea Party. Tonight he is an artist, with some really cool guitars that is here to play acoustic music to a dedicated intimate crowd.

 

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Sure he’s going to play some of The Tea Party classics- “The Bazaar”, “Sister Awake” and new material like “The Black Sea” (sung for the first time acoustically) but if you really listen hard- and this is the brilliance of the solo show- he’s going to educate you some. Listen closely and he intertwines other classic music along with his own. There is some Led Zeppelin, Massive Attack, Dead Can Dance and even a little Hendrix interspersed with some exceptional guitar work.

 

He pauses for a reflective moment he tells us “Ok people so he’s the thing, with the music that I’ve had the pleasure to make with The Tea Party over all those years and uh, the things I have done off on my own, it seems that my music and The Tea Party’s music affects people in a certain way and sometimes it helps them get through things that seem quite difficult in life. And it seems to be a soundtrack of sorts. So I’ve got a brother, a friend who I consider a brother back in Perth that is going through some major, major s**t and I do believe that music can travel through the Ether, so I would like to send this song to my brother, because he needs it”. He launches into “Requiem” and it is clear that the pain is etched in his face delivering this. At the bridge he transitions the song into Trent Reznor’s “Hurt” before switching back. It’s a poignant moment and unforgettable for those of us here to witness it.

 

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For the devoted fans that have come out this evening, watching Jeff Martin deliver his catalogue of songs this evening, interacting with the crowd has been a music lovers dream. He has taken the time to enjoy himself, interact with his fans and even poke a few jokes at Kenny his hard working roadie. He has made us listen enraptured as he delivers with a voice that could invoke the old Gods to come down to listen. For the truly dedicated fans, this has been a night to remember.

 

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[Live Review] Macy Gray

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The Tivoli, Brisbane
Saturday March 14, 2015

‏In the late 1990s, Macy Gray rose to meteoric fame with her beautiful debut single, ‘I Try’. It’s been some time since she graced our shores, but she is back and as beautiful as ever.

‏Mysteriously this evening there is no support act, and so the crowd wait for Ms Gray to take to the stage. Anticipation builds as the room begins to clap and chant her name, calling her on stage. By the time she saunters on stage bedecked in a silver sequin dress, blue heels and a large purple feather boa all eyes are upon her.

‏She opens with ‘Get Up’, kicking off the show with an upbeat vibe. She dances, sways around and sings with her smoky voice that is like a mixture of honey and one too many cigarettes. Slow to warm to the crowd at first, eventually she gets going. Whenever she smiles she is disarmingly charming and gorgeous. She also brings an old world charm and glamour that could be right at home in a 1920s San Fransisco speak easy. When she asks the crowd to sing for her, it’s clear to see she has them in the palm of her hand raising the energy just a notch higher.

Taking a second to slow it down a bit she becomes reflective for a moment to deliver ‘Sweet Baby’, wrapping her hands tightly around the microphone and singing it slowly and sexily. It’s a serious section in the performance allowing Macy to show a softer side. She is entranced in the moment, under a spell.

‏She pauses to introduce the band and her guitarist Martine she informs us that “This is what happened, Martine Strattord over here on his guitar, he was at home and he had nothing to do, so he went on his laptop and he googled “What should I do right now?” and Google said “You should go to Brisbane“, pausing to let the crowd cheer So Martine a curious man, he googled “Why, why should I go all the way to Brisbane on a Saturday night? I’m a long way here in Los Angeles, why should I travel to Brisbane tonight?”

‏She proceeds to tell the room why her and the band have travelled to Brisbane tonight and it is at that moment that she has well and truly won over the crowd. She is funny and charming and tells the room that we really know how to party and scream loud and “That google says you sure do drink a lot, which is good – the more you drink, the better we sound“. She has the showmanship of one born to the stage and delivers with perfect comedic timing.

 

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‏For most of the night she sticks to her earlier material and not so much of her new album. It’s a mix of songs from her first and second album mostly. She keeps the energy alive with mostly upbeat songs, staying away from the ballads and quirky songs of recent album material. She did pleasantly surprises the crowd with a sultry rendition of Radiohead’s, ‘Creep’ though.

‏Launching into ‘A Moment To Myself’, she glides around the room dancing provocatively only to pause half way through and tell the crowd that her drummer, Tommy,is going to take “A moment to himself, alright?” The house lights dim as the band exits the stage and Tommy launches into an impressive nine and a half minuet drum solo, taking over whilst Macy heads off stage.

 

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‏She returns looking glamorous in a gold sequin dress and a long fox fur stole, she brings home the show with some more high energy numbers and the momentum keeps steady for the rest of the evening, that includes smash hit ‘I Try’, hidden amongst a medley. Closing the show by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of her band members and playing a recording of 50 Cents, ‘In The Club’, she promptly leaves. Several moments pass and she returns in a black and orange dress with matching feather boa she returns to perform a quick introduction of songs from the new album.

‏This evening, Macy Gray has not only performed, but she has seduced the crowd, raised everyone up and had them dancing and laughing with her energetic eccentric self. She has been a Goddess in sequins to watch that will have people remembering this performance long after the house lights go up. Let’s hope this beautiful soul singer returns to the stage soon.

Reviewer and Photographer : Amanda Starkey

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[Movie Review] Run All Night

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Run all Night is the latest action movie from director Jaume Collett-Serra and stars action movie heavy weights Liam Neeson and Ed Harris. It is the third consecutive movie from the director with Neeson also starring in Unknown and Non-Stop.

 

Set almost entirely at night Run All Night is a nail biting action movie that sees an ageing hit man and mobster Jimmy Conlon thrown into a life and death choice as his estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) witnesses a brutal mob execution. Jimmy is a down-on-his luck hit man that the viewer can only empathise with and now he must choose sides, shun past loyalties and take on his old mob boss Shaun Maguire (Ed Harris) after he slays Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). We see his vulnerable side as he steers his son clear from following in his footsteps and protects him from the killers that hunt him. Mike struggles with wanting to hate and punish him for being an absent father, but he also needs him to survive the revenge promise and price that is on his head.

What ensues is a night of outwitting former colleagues sent to kill them, running from the police and keeping Mike alive so that Shaun cannot exact revenge. It’s a battle of wills between the former allies who promise each other in the end “We cross that line together” and inadvertently they try as hard as they can to stick to that pact.

Upping the ante is cold professional killer Mr. Price (Common) stalks them and these two clearly have a fight on their hands with him; as well an arch nemesis in the form of an ageing Detective Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio) wanting Jimmy to confess to all his past sins, so they really do have it coming at them from every corner of New York.

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Run all Night is a movie is dark and gritty and pretty much what can be expected of a Liam Neeson action movie. Neeson has the brilliant ability to really be imposing on screen and this is probably why his late in life turn as an action hero has been so successful, he really knows how to command the screen.

 

The main difference with this role being that this time he plays a somewhat flawed human being trying to make amends for past mistakes and redeem himself before it is too late. He must sacrifice himself so that his son may live. Themes of death, regret and redemption juxtaposed throughout the film adding to the heavy context.

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There is some clever camera angles throughout as the movie glides from location to location showing off the city of New York. Whilst the story line leans towards being a little predictable at times there are a few surprises that leave the viewer gasping in shock. It is defiantly an enjoyable ride and yet another Neeson movie that will please audiences.

 

 

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[Live Review] Vance Joy

Vance Joy

The Tivoli

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It was a warm night when hipsters and house wives alike gathered at The Tivoli to see the sold out concert for Vance Joy. Even the guy busking outside for money to buy a ticket to see the show couldn’t contain his excitement to be able to witness Vance’s first solo tour. Since touring with Brisbane’s own favourite son Bernard Fanning recently Joy’s star has begun to rise and his following has swollen to much larger proportions. The run away commercial success of single Rip Tide adding to the hype. Tonight many fans await with baited breath to see if Vance Joy can deliver all that is promised.

 

A large back drop with the name Vance Joy illuminates the singers entrance. Opening with “From Afar” a soft sweet piece to slowly introduce the fans to the evening. It’s the debut single from EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing and is a low key way to open the show.

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He proves that he is skilled with the guitar, however as a showman he is very quiet and subdued. He rarely speaks and when he does with his tendency to mumble is difficult to hear him. It comes across as a shy man that could be just a little over whelmed by all the hype that surrounds him.

Sticking mostly to songs from the album at times the set list is track for track and at this leads to a little predictability for those familiar with the album. “Winds of Change” “Mess is Mine” and ” Wasted Time” all playing within succession of each other. Not surprisingly he steers clear of playing “Rip Tide” too soon, instead launching into a very sweet version of Bruce Springsteen’s” Dancing in the Dark”. He takes the classic well known song, slows it down and makes it his own. His voice tends to wobble a little during the night and he has an overly noticeable wide vibrato. At moments this is distracting, however the sweetness of the lyrics overcomes the lack of control in his vocal ability.

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The highlights for the evening is undoubtedly “Georgia” and “Emmylou”, both such mesmerising songs with bitter sweet themes that lend to a certain sadness and longing. The crowd sings along to Georgia; a saccharine moment as every person sways in unison. For the most part however, Joy’s inability or unwillingness to interact with the audience leaves the show some what lack lustre and not overly memorable. Whilst his singing is mostly pleasant, if listeners have the ability to ignore some of the flaws in the performance then the night is mostly enjoyable.

 

Switching to the ukulele for the moment everyone has been waiting for Joy launches into “Rip Tide” to round out the evening. The song is uplifting and during the chorus it soars. The pleasure that one brilliantly written catchy, quirky song can bring is a wonderment. It’s a perfect high to end the evening and smart choice for the last song. A short encore of “Play with Fire” and Fleetwood Mac’s ” The Chain” closes the show. Vance Joy has proven with this evenings set that he is a capable performer, very good guitarist and amazing song writer. Leaving the venue it is clear to see there are smiles all around and he has lived up to his namesake by spreading quite a bit of joy around for his legion of fans.

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[Live Review] Soundwave

Soundwave 2015

Feburary 28- March 01

This year’s Soundwave saw some of the heavy weights of both grunge and metal come out in full force for the two day extravaganza of live music that was a feast for music lovers of all ages.

Headlining the two day event were Slipnot, Slash, Fall Out Boy,  The Smashing Pumpkins Judas Priest and Fear Factory to name a few for the first day. Crowds gathered across the five- stage arena that played host to some of the biggest names.

Billy Corgan kept it mellow for most of The Smashing Pumpkins set, cranking it up for 1979 and Bullet with Butterfly Wings to take it up a notch. He displayed some amazing guitar work playing mostly tracks from the new album. Goosebumps were a plenty when he launches into classic Disarm. 

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Slash and Myles Kennedy play several new tracks from the album, but for most of the set it is a trip back in time playing mostly old Guns N Roses back catalouge. Welcome to the Jungle, really gets the crowd going and Myles Kenneday has a voice that is so similar to Axl Rose that it is uncanny.

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Marrilyn Manson enters the arena with a lot of pomp and drama dressed in a black corset and covered in strange make up. He gyrates, falls down and spits great globs of spittle all over the stage. The Beautiful People and Sweet Dreams are highlights of the set, but for the most part  a bloated Manson struggles.

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Fall Out Boy play to smaller Stage 3 but have packed the arena. Patrick Vaughn Stump may be the lead singer but it is Pete Wentz that leads the show. He is charasmatic and engaging telling the audience anecdotes and stories. Thanks for the Memories and This Ain’t a Scence, It’s an Arms Race  are definite crowd pleasers with stunning visuals beingplayed on the big screeen.

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Heading into day two Fear Factory play under the warm sun and get the crowd worked up. There are mowhaws and dreadlocks thrashing about.  Things get a bit a rough over at Colour Morale with some over enthustiastic crowd surfers and heavy handed security.

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Steele Panther prove that it does not take much talent, good vocals or a good song writing skills for some. They are vulgar and disguting with the dozens of topless women on stage bounding around to disgise the fact that the lead singer really does not have a good voice or any vocal range. Maybe they are a noevelty for some, but they really are just vulgar and talentless.

Brandon Boyd however is on-pointe with his vocals fronting Incubus. He is erratic and moves all about the stage, lost in the moment entirely. Playing a back catalouge of hits including Nice to know you and Make Yourself  Brandon Boyd is exceptional to watch. Sometimes it is like the crowd is not there, he is enjoying himself that much.

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Chris Cornell hails the triumphant return of Soundgarden by opening with classic hit Spoonman. The rest of the set is a range of hits from the albums spanning across more that 15 years of music. My Wave, Black Hole Sun and The Day I tried to Live taking the crowd back to the 90s and teenage angst.

 

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Wrapping up the weekend are Faith No More. Decorating the stage with hundreds of flowers in every shape and description. Dressed all in white with floral leis the bad look like they have just emerged from an Indian Ashram. Visually the show is quite entertaining, but it is front man  Mike Paton that has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. He seems quite amused that Brisbane is affectionalty named BrisVegas, and he throws in a few of his own suggestions ” BrisYork, BrisAngeles, BrisFransisco or are we Taking a Briss?” gesturing. He is charasmatic and charming with a sensational voice.  Classics  older hits Epic and  Last Cup of Sorrow are absolute wonders to hear live with Paton really showing his amazing vocal range.

 

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With the weekend closing up it has been a journey back in time from some of the bands and some discovering of new bands. It has been a feast for ears and eyes alike. Like a soldier going into battle, we all have emerged from the weekend a little weary and bruised but with some great memories.

 

 

 

 

 

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[Movie Review] Inherent Vice

inherent_vice_posterInherent Vice

Movie Review

 

Inherent Vice is the latest film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, the creator of amazing films Punch- Drunk Love, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. This movie is a foray into comedy-drama set in the colourful landscape of the 1970s.

With a star- studded cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reece Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro and Martin Short just to name a few it is not short on some of Hollywoods heavy weight actors.

The story begins with Shasta Fay Hepworth ( Katherine Waterson) showing up at the beach house of her Ex-boyfriend Larry “Doc” Sportello ( Joaquin Phoenix) a private investigator/ psychiatrist and all out pot head to tell him about her new lover, Mickey Wolfman ( Eric Roberts). It seems Mickey’s wife ( Serena Scott Thomas) has hatched a plan to have the wealthy real estate developer abducted and committed to an insane asylum.

 

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What ensues is 2.5 hours of plot and sub-plot that is just confusing. There are stories running over the top of the main story, adding to the confusion and mayhem and there is not any point in the film where the viewer knows what is going on exactly. As Doc Sportello rolls from one scenario to the next the story just becomes more and more convoluted. Sometimes not even Doc Sportello knows what is going on and blunders about in a haze.

What there is however is some brilliant acting. Joaquin Phoenix spends the entire movie in a kind of confused/ stoned state, wandering from dilemma to dilemma with a charm that is very well played. At times he is funny, scruffy and just a little loveable. He creates humour that may or may not be intended, but works.

Whilst Paul Thomas Anderson has created some amazing films in the past ( Punch- Drunk Love is brilliant) this film is too confusing to be overly successful. Whilst the acting is brilliant ( apart from a strange appearance by Martin Short as a dentist) and the cinematography is exceptional the plot and sub- plots leave the viewer scratching their head. Set to a fantastic soundtrack the costuming is authentic and spot-on. The only way it can be enjoyed is to sit back and not make any attempt to understand it.

 

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[Movie Review] Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter-Ascending

 

Jupiter Ascending

Our fates are all written in our stars is the opening message that begins the epic journey of new movie Jupiter Ascending, the latest offering from the Wachowski’s. Famous for The Matrix trilogy the Wachowski’s have stuck with the sci-fi future theme that they love so well.

The story centres on Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) a young Russian- American who is plucked from her routine boring life into the fight for the galaxy and her life. Unbeknownst to Jupiter (and the rest of the human race) Earth is a part of a harvesting plant, farmed for a youth serum used by rich entitled royalty the galaxy over. When the Queen of the Galaxy and matriarch the powerful House of Abrasax, her children Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth) go into battle over her estate.

Being the reincarnation of their dead mother Jupiter Jones is thrown into the fight when Titus sends a mercenary to collect Jupiter in the form of a genetically engineered warrior named Caine (Channing Tatum). On their tail are some intergalactic bounty hunters to throw some confusion in the mix. At least Stinger (Sean Bean) is there to help him get her to safety and earn back their wings.

 

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Trouble ensues as the sibling’s battle to gain control of the galaxy and each of them allows their plans to unfold. Caine must step in to help her do battle against the three and regain control and ownership of Earth.

The movie is visually spectacular with broad sweeping landscapes and stunning imagery. The costuming and make up are exceptional. However the story line at times is confusing and a little clunky. The chemistry between Jupiter and Caine is comical as she tries to make him understand that she likes him – even if he is beneath her. It adds to a bit of light humour to the otherwise heavy and at times confusing story line.

Mila Kunis is great at playing feisty Jupiter and she takes on the role with gusto. She may be diminutive but she plays the role with enthusiasm. Tatum is his usual brooding self as Caine and the two are relatively acceptable on screen. As the evil Balem, Eddie Redmayne was not overly believable and the character voice that he chose to use for the role is creepy. He does not play a villain well and a better actor could have been chosen for the role. Sean Bean is his reliable in the role of the loveable fallen rouge and like a familiar friend is always great to see on screen,

Overall the movie is at times confusing and a little hard to follow but the amazing special effects make up for the holes in the story line. It is a relatively easy movie to watch, however coming from the brilliance of the Wachowski’s it is a little disappointing that the movie is not as amazing as The Matrix trilogy, however it is still enjoyable enough.

 

 

7/10

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[Live Review] The Basics

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The Basics Valentines Day Busk

GOMA

It was a warm Valentine’s Day night for the lovers and lost souls alike on the warm Saturday evening when The Basics took to the stage. Warm air and love filled the night as the band played a mixture of covers and originals.

Consisting of Wally de Backer (better known as Gotye), Kris. J. Schroder and Tim Heath the band are easy going and casual. De Backer sits behind the drums tonight, letting the other two take the lead. Even behind the drums De Backer is charismatic and smiling. The drums can’t hide his obvious stage presence.

Sticking to the love theme, The Basics performed mostly love songs for the hour long set. Sticking to a catalogue of older songs by The Beatles and George Harrison it is clear these boys know their music, throwing in a very funky cover of The Beatles “Come Together” which has the crowd up and dancing.

The evening is very casual and easy going. The trio take turns in singing and harmonise together exceptionally well. They make the occasional joke and are very relaxed. Taking turns to sing The Travelling Wilburys “Handle me with care”, they stumble through it and fluff the words; De Backer chuckling to his band mates as he misses a verse completely. Nobody notices and they pick it back up. Everyone is having too much fun to even care.

Wrapping up the evening with a quick encore The Basics have come along to entertain the crowd tonight and have done a fantastic job of keeping it light, getting the crowd up dancing and making sure that this Valentine’s Day is one to remember.

 

 

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