Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is Not The Future My Mother Warned Me About

The teaser trailer for "Terminator Salvation" has been released and is below. The trailer will, from this weekend, be shown in cinemas alongside the release of "The Dark Knight" in the US. While all "The Dark Knight" talk and publicity centres on the late Heath Ledger, it is very obvious that by the time the 4th Terminator film is released in May 2009, Christian Bale will be the most well known actor of this generation. Christian Bale stars as John Connor. The films co-stars include Anton Yelchin, Sam Worthington, Common and Bryce Dallas Howard. I loved the first two Terminator movies and hated the third so every movie fans hopes are high for the return to the franchise next year. It is directed by McG, best known for the two "Charlie's Angels" movies. There is more information on the plot and production of the movie here. The image below is taken from the movie's web page which can be found here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Something Old....Something New.

The cover art for Madonna's second album, "Like A Virgin", is one of the most iconic images of the last 25 years. Would it have worked as well as a colour image? Judge it by comparing the photo above. You have to see this photo too. It's featured on a great American blog called Olga Loves Yuri.

Little Bright Lights Are We


My Fizzy Pop continues to be one of the best sources of new pop on the net and one song I came across on it recently was "Downtown Boys". This is the newest song by Danish pop duo Infernal who are still best known for their dance pop song "From Paris To Berlin".


"Downtown Boys" has already been number one in the Danish pop charts. The song is the first single from their new album "Electric Cabaret" which is released on August 11th.

Here's the video.

Starlight Shimmers

Last month, fellow blog-master, Enda featured the Freemasons remix of Kylie's new single The One on his website. The One is a gorgeous piece of remix heaven. What I only read recently is that The One was originally a song by Laid & Emma Holmgren and was, back in 2006, called I'm the One. Was it any good? Have a listen!

There must be an Angel

Growing up in the 1970's, my two big TV star crushes were Lee Majors as Steve Austin in "The Six Million Dollar Man" and Parker Stevenson as Frank in "The Hardy Boys". While Shaun Cassidy as Joe was the biggest teen idol, Frank Hardy and Steve Austin and the actors who played them represented, for me, all that was perfect about American TV. As a child if I wasn't watching TV I would be reading and it would usually be my Doctor Who books with the Tom Baker covers or the many Hardy Boys novels by Franklin W. Dixon just like the one below.
The book above, "The Haunted Fort", is the exact same edition that I got out of my library many, many years ago. My other favourite TV shows growing up were "Space 1999", "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" "Battlestar Galactica", "The Brady Bunch" and "Charlie's Angels".
"Charlie's Angels" and "The Hardy Boys" were pure escapist, entertaining TV. I hated the movie adaptations of "Charlie's Angels" and I can just imagine how awful the movie version of "The Hardy Boys" would be like. There have been rumours that Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller are to play Frank and Joe in a movie for Twentieth Century Fox called "The Hardy Men". Especially with Ben Stiller involved you can only imagine that this will be played for laughs. The original trio of "Charlie's Angels", Kelly, Sabrina and Jill were the best. While Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan and Farrah Fawcett-Majors as Jill Munroe were both gorgeous and fab, Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett was always my favourite Angel.
Recently I came across this great TV clip taken from "The Hardy Boys Mysteries", where Frank and Joe were investigating a case in Hollywood and Frank walks onto the "Charlie's Angels" set. TV worlds collide and the result is truly memorable!

Lili Hadyn

When Lili Haydn was a child her parents Lotus Weinstock and David Jove allowed her pick her to own name. For a while she choose Helicopter. How could you not like someone like that. Lili was born on Christmas Day 1969 and is an actress, composer and violinist. She is one of the many music artists who is currently performing on the True Colors 2008 tour. Her website is lovely and is full of writings and good causes. Her new album is called Places Between Places. One song that I like very much from that album is Strawberry Street and here it is.

True Colors

Cyndi Lauper plays Dublin's Tripod music venue on Saturday October 18th. I cannot remember Cyndi ever playing a show in Dublin before and of all the concerts I will see in 2008, this is the one I am most looking forward to. A big thank you to David for telling me about the concert, I know he will see her in London and I hope he loves the show. When I was growing up, my favourite music artist was of course Madonna, but for every Madonna song and video there was a Cyndi Lauper song and video which were equally as good. So many times Cyndi's image and music was compared to Madonna which I always felt wasn't fair. Pop music, good or bad, is always neatly put into boxes by music critics but each artist is special to their fans for individual reasons. I never thought I would see Cyndi in concert, I was going to go to England to see her and to think that she is playing a small venue which she will be perfect in, on an Autumn night is still like a dream to me. I love Cyndi because her heart has always been in the right place, she is fun and kooky and also serious and honest when she needs to be. There are so many Cyndi songs that I love. I am one of those people that never really liked "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" but almost every other Cyndi song is a pop classic. I grew up watching the video for "Time After Time" on the Irish Sunday afternoon show MT:USA, a show my fellow Irish bloggers will remember. I thought the "Time After Time" video was one of the most beautiful and saddest pieces of pop art I had seen then and still do now. "She's so Unusual" is still one of those perfect pop albums. It was released in 1983, 7 songs were released as singles and in 1984 Cyndi Lauper would win a Grammy for Best New Artist, she had been nominated for 5 that year. "All Through the Night" is another song that 25 years later is still timeless as is her cover version of Prince's "When You Were Mine". My favourite song on that album was "She Bop".
Most of Cyndi's videos can only be viewed by going into Youtube and keyword searching. All of these are of great quality both in sound and image. "She Bop" is a video of it's time, something you could put into a space capsule in years to come. Throughout the years other Cyndi songs that I loved were "Change of Heart" which featured backing vocals from The Bangles, "Sally Pigeon's", "Heading West", "Sisters of Avalon", "Please Don't Let me be Misunderstood" and "Same Ol' Story" from her new album "Bring Ya To The Brink". The video below is not one of Cyndi's many singles but is from a Tribute to John Lennon, which took place in Central Park on October 2nd 2001. I have never seen it before this week but when you look at the date, it was just 3 weeks after 911. Listen to the way that Cyndi introduces the song and then the song itself. In 2007 Cyndi was the organiser of the "True Colors" tour where various music artists toured to raise awareness and support the Human Rights Campaign and for groups that benefit GLBT (Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) groups and the Matthew Shepard Foundation and to educate people about the reality of hate crimes. This tour is credited as helping the Matthew Shepard Act to have come into law. The "True Colours" 2008 tour is presently playing in cities across America. It began on 31st May and continues until July 5th, playing in 24 cities. The artists performing at most or some of the venues this year include; The B-52's, Regina Spektor, Deborah Cox, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Rosie O'Donnell, Andy Bell and Tegan & Sara. The True Colors tour website is here. Below is Cyndi singing "True Colors" on the American TV show "The View" on March 19th 2007, this was before the first "True Colors" tour even started. She is joined by Rosie O'Donnell at the end of the performance.

Monday, July 14, 2008

These Are the Days of the Open Hand

Of all the winners of American Idol over the past few years, the greatest still I think is Carrie Underwood. I love both country and gospel pop music. Jesus Take The Wheel is the one of best of that combination of music.
Anyone who visits this site regularly knows that I love hearing music stars singing versions of other stars songs. This year Carrie sang a song that George Michael first sang in 1990. That song was Praying For Time and it was performed live on Idol Gives Back, where stars like Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Annie Lennox, Fergie and Miley Cyrus sang to raise money for charities in America and Africa. Carrie really stood out that night, both in how she looked and her delivery of the song.

Mamma Mia!: Simply Gorgeous

Last year the big musical to movie was "Hairspray". It was fun throughout. This year the biggest musical movie is "Mamma Mia!". It is the most joyous film this summer, a definite must see. It doesn't matter if you haven't seen the stage show but if you have, every now and again you will remember scenes from the original theatre production. The movie, thanks to it's cast and beautiful Greek Islands setting, is something that will stand alone by itself. The first song on screen is "I have a dream" sung by Sophie as played by Amanda Seyfried, as she posts three letters to the men of which one may be her father. The whole film is set over 48 hours; the day before and the day of Sophie's wedding to Sky on the island where her mother Donna runs a quaint but ramshackle hotel. When Sophie meets her two best friends, as they arrive for the wedding, the first full song sung is "Honey Honey". This was always one of my favourite Abba songs and it is a wonderful start to the movie. Amanda Seyfried has a great voice and in truth she is easily the best singer throughout the movie. Her recording of "Honey Honey" is below. "Mamma Mia!" does what the movie version of "Evita" should have done, that is; it isn't entirely sung, the songs are performed in between the dialogue. When you are watching this movie the one thing that you notice is how many hit songs Abba had and how great they still sound. The lyrics of each song remain the same as they were originally were written and they are incorporated into the script in a witty, if sometimes corny, way. Meryl Streep is just fantastic in her role as Donna, Sophie's mother and in many scenes is amazingly energetic, especially in the scene where she discovers that 3 of her former lovers are on the island. The humour in many scenes is bawdy, a girls night out type, or a boozy holiday, the type where a group of friends spend half the holiday simply laughing. Christine Baranski as Tanya and Julie Walters as Rosie had my friends and myself laughing each time they were on screen. Like "Sex & the City" this movie is aimed for the most part at women but it is something that children and teenagers will all enjoy immensely. "Sex & the City" has been credited for getting many women back to going to the cinema, "Mamma Mia" will continue that but will also bring many older couples too. Dominic Cooper as Sky is real future big star potential here and his scene with Sophie as they sing "Lay all Your Love on Me" is well, passionate. It is in the characters of the three potential fathers that the film lulls a bit, none of them can sing. Colin Firth hasn't looked as handsome since "Bridget Jones Diary" but his "Our Last Summer" is forgettable but not as bad as Pierce Brosnan's "S.O.S.", which is simply awful. At that point my friend turned to me and asked; "Is this supposed to be funny?". The only other slightly negative aspect that stood out for me was that the villagers on the Greek island really play second fiddle. They are used mainly to be part of a chorus or to join a Pied Piper merry song and dance march. It seems unusual that Donna lived so many years on the island without having a close Greek friend but with so many characters in the storyline, it's obvious that the film makers choose to centre just on Donna, Sophie and the main wedding party guests. Meryl Streep is not the greatest singer ever to sing in a musical but she gives the character of Donna her all and her solo songs are gutsy especially, "The Winner Takes it All". The view of the church in the distance, as she sings this song, is one of the most gorgeous pieces of cinematography I have seen all summer. If ever there was a tourist ad for a sunny destination in a movie it is that scene. Benny and Bjorn from Abba both make very brief guest appearances, both seem to enjoy their cameos immensely. There are parts of the film that it felt almost ad lib. There is one scene where Christine Baranski as Tanya seems to stumble over her lines and they keep on filming. If so, it works really well. Another wonderful aspect of the film is the fact that there are so many women involved in the production of the film. It is Phyllida Lloyd's first major movie as director. Judy Craymer is a producer and Rita Wilson is an executive producer, (along with her husband Tom Hanks.) Ellen Lewis and Priscilla John are the casting directors. At the close of the film there are two songs sung by the cast over the credits and then Amanda Seyfried singing appropriately enough, "Thank You for the Music". "On of Us" and "Knowing You, Knowing Me" are two songs used in the stage show which aren't sung in the movie version. The other song not sung in the movie version, which I loved in the stage show is "Under Attack". The original video of "Under Attack" is below. It seems only right to close this review with Abba, one of the best pop groups of all time.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

When Annie met Richard

Why oh why isn't Norwegian singer Annie one of the most successful singers of this generation? Cult status is one thing but she deserves to be more well known. Maybe her new single "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" will change all that. I think Annie is like Robyn's little cousin as her lyrics are just as cheeky and for all the bubble gum sound of her music the production work and structure of the songs is always immaculate. "I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me" is released next Monday in the UK and hopefully will be top ten bound. It is produced by Richard X who produced Annie's most well known singles "Chewing Gum" and "Me Plus One" and he has done great production work in the past for Liberty X, Sugababes and Kelis. Annie says that she had been listening to a lot of Prince when she wrote the song, especially the song "Kiss", the lyrics are loosely based on something that happened to one of her friends and also to herself. Here's the single cover for "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" or otherwise simply known as, in the days of the download; a nice picture. The single is taken from her new album "Don't Stop" which also features production work from Xenomania. There are more details on "Don't Stop" here.Annie's website can be found here and has been recently updated. If you want to sign your life away on the mailing list there is also a free remix. The video for "I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me" is below and I love it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Smash Hits! The Classic Covers: Stephen & Peter

Once upon a time I used to have every edition of the UK pop bible Smash Hits! but then, my family moved house and every issue, yes every issue, was burnt in a big bonfire! It was truly one of the most tragic moments of my life! In 2008, however, there is e-bay and issues dating back to the end of the 1970's can still be bought and kept away from bonfires. Smash Hits! was a perfect music magazine. Each fortnight, I used to buy my copy in my Uncle Tom's newsagent in Kilkenny. The covers were very often amazing and beginning this week I'm going to start a Strike Curious Poses, "Smash Hits! Classic Cover" section. The first classic Smash Hits! cover features Pete Burns and Morrissey. Dead or Alive were at the height of their fame at the time when the photograph above was taken in October 1995. Morrissey was still in The Smiths and that year The Smiths had released 4 singles, including their most recent single then; "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side". In January of 1985 The Smiths had released the song that would become one of their finest moments; "How Soon Is Now". In 1985 Pete Burns was at his most fabulous in his band, Dead or Alive. The Stock, Aitken and Waterman produced single, "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" had gotten to number one in March and their album "Youthquake" had some perfect pop songs such as "Lover Come Back To Me", "My Heart Goes Bang" and the song featured on video below; "In Too Deep".

Spotlight

Ne-Yo is currently number one in the UK with his single "Closer". He is also a co-writer and co-producer on the new single, "Spotlight" by Jennifer Hudson. This is currently available on download only in the US but hopefully will be released worldwide as well. It deserves to be a big hit. It reminds me of the type of big R'n'B ballads that were in the charts well before the days of Destiny's Child. Jennifer's self titled album is released on September 30th. The video for "Spotlight" has just been released and is featured below. Jennifer will next star in the film adaptation of "The Secret Life of Bees", the much loved novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Jennifer plays the central role of Rosaleen Daise, the carer and friend of Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning), a young girl who is trying to get over the death of her mother. The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and co-stars Paul Bethany, Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys. It should get a lot of publicity when it's released this Autumn.

Victims

The Culture Club song "Colour by Numbers" would never appear on the album of the same name in 1983. Instead it would be part of the re-mastered edition of the "Colours by Numbers" album in 2003. It was, however, the b-side to what is, I think, Culture Club's greatest single. That is, the song "Victims". The video was a fantastic, over the top affair and captured all that was fab about Culture Club at the time. "Victims" was the follow up single to "Karma Chameleon" which had been number one in 12 countries in the world earlier that year. "Karma Chameleon" was the true definition of a worldwide hit as it was a hit in several European countries, including Ireland, Australia, Japan and their only number one hit in the US. It made Boy George a huge star in America where he would be immortalised, years later, in doll form, as seen below.I have always thought that Boy George was one of the greatest pop songwriters of his day, the other person being George Michael. "Careless Whisper" was released in America as a song by Wham! featuring George Michael. By the early 1990's and after the success of the "Faith" album, George Michael was an even bigger solo star than he was in his days with Andrew in Wham! The serious, bearded George on the "Rolling Stone" cover below has the sub heading; "Life after Wham! No more kid stuff". This year George Michael tours America again and these days he performs a mixture of his adult and "kid" stuff as he preforms both his solo work and songs from his time in Wham! Back in 1991 George Michael toured the US and on October 1st 1991 in Oakland-Alameda County Arena he sang his own version of Culture Club's "Victims". It is a gorgeous version. I will always like Boy George's vocals the most on that song but George Michael's version is as good. There are some videos of concert footage of George singing "Victims" on Youtube but the quality isn't good so the clip below is live audio only.

Hors De Prix

In "Hors De Prix" ("Priceless"), Gad Elmaleh plays Jean, a bartender in a luxury Cote d'Azur hotel. One evening while waiting on a late night hotel guest, Jean accepts the offer of a drink and expensive cigar and falls asleep in the bar. He is discovered, alone, by Irene (Audrey Tautou) who is also staying in the hotel with her lover Jacques(Vernon Dobcheff). Irene mistakes Jean for a millionaire and Jean, after failing to make her realise he is the bartender, plays along with the mistaken identity. They get drunk, she makes a pass at him and they spend the night in the best suite in the hotel, which he has access to. A year later Irene and Jacques are back in the same hotel, Jean still works there and once again Jean pretends to be someone he's not. They end up in the suite again while Jacques is oblivious to what's going on, or so Irene thinks. Of course the truth of his charade, comes out quicker than Jean hopes for. Irene is dumped by Jacques and she takes the train to Nice, spending hours dialling numbers from her address book of potential suitors with whom she has various brief connections with in the past. Jean, love struck, follows Irene to Nice and in the space of one evening she manages to spend Jean's entire life savings. By morning, Jean has transferred all his life's savings, even his pension, to buy mere hours of having Irene in his life. In order to avoid being arrested in the hotel foyer for failing to pay his bill, Jean, somehow, ends up as a gigolo for an older rich socialite, Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam). "Hors de Prix" is a film I wanted to like but instead it ended up being one of the most depressing films I have seen in a long time. "Hors De Prix" is the arthouse equivalent of a romantic comedy. Or rather what arthouse cinema thinks is a romantic comedy. I am always intrigued by the imagery used in the publicity for movies. The poster above has the tag line; "She only dated men with money...until she met a man with a heart". Four male arms, offering expensive gifts, bribes, surround the elfin Irene. In reality, the two men who supply Irene with the luxuries she desires are, while both fairly decent men, are also Grandfather old and more than just the stereotypical sugar daddy. Irene is described as a gold-digger and opportunist in write ups of the film but what she is simply a prostitute. After Irene makes Jean a pauper, he too becomes one to avoid a prison sentence. Very few of the production photos feature the characters of Jacques or Madeleine, instead centring on the main protagonists of the story. In the photo below, Irene is centre stage while Jacques looks on, blurred in the close distance, in an almost voyeuristic shot. Interestingly, the shot is the same as the poster at the beginning of this article and this one below also erases Jacques to create a specific image. Whereas the imagery of Irene and Jean, as below, is much more romanticised. I watched a review of "Hors de Prix" on the Irish arts and culture TV programme, "The View", where the host John Kelly was obviously a big fan of the beauty of Audrey Tautou and the two male reviewers were also praising the film, it was left to the sole female panellist the journalist Anne-Marie Hourihane to say of Irene and Jean; "They're whores!". If "Hors de Prix" was a mainstream Hollywood film, it would have been torn apart by a panel like this. There has been countless depictions of prostitutes in cinema but I found the characters of Irene and Jean two of the most depressing portrayals I have seen. The earlier scene where Irene finds Jean alone in the bar and he pretends to be a bar man and makes Irene a cocktail was the first moment I knew the film was going to be ridiculous. Irene's character is not a stupid one and the fact that she didn't guess who he was straight away was unbelievable. The sad reality is that bar pursuing rich old men to attain a glamourous lifestyle, Irene has no idea of how to fend for herself. There is an especially sad scene where she ends up locked out of her hotel room, not for the first time, and she sits alone on a deckchair in a sarong and bikini top, freezing and waiting waiting for Jean to, financially, rescue her again. The love, or lust, that Jean has convinced himself that he has for Irene is a very tragic one. Bar her good looks and waif like appearance, there is nothing appealing about her character. Both Irene and Jean are owned by other people, no matter how many mind games they play with them. Both Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh look beautiful in the film, and Marie-Christine Adam has an icy beauty too but the viewer is never in doubt as to who has and has not in the film. Gad Elmaleh in particular has a great movie star look and is of the two leads, the better comedic actor. He was born in Casablanca, Morocco and is well known in France for his film, stage and stand up comedy performances. The film has been compared to classics like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but while it has touches of the screwball comedies of the 1950's and the 1960's which were set in Europe, it has very little in comparison to Blake Edwards 1961 film "Hors de Prix" was released in the US in March this year and made just $1,500,000 at the box office. It has made $26 million to date worldwide. The trailer is below and the film's French website is here.