Motion City Soundtrack – “My Dinosaur Life”

Minnesota-based  pop-punk band Motion City Soundtrack are back again with their fourth studio album, My Dinosaur Life – an infectious album filled with punk-rock hooks and choruses so catchy, even swine flu is afraid of it! Now, admittedly, I’m probably a little late to the game as far as being into Motion City Soundtrack goes, as if you ask anyone who was into Jimmy Eat World from an early point in their music career then they’ll probably tell you that Motion City Soundtrack have been around for quite a while and have done very well for themselves too. So, yes, admittedly buying this album now is probably a little late, but after hearing My Dinosaur Life I’ve decided it’s definitely better late than never!

Motion City Soundtrack have had a varied career, to say the least. Their first album, I Am The Movie, was a self-released debut which lead to the incredibly popular, multi-selling album Commit This To Memory which featured the huge single Everything Is Alright (which was produced by Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 fame). This lead to them being swept up by punk label Epitaph Records, after which they then released their follow up Even If It Kills Me, which only increased their popularity. Now, My Dinosaur Life is set to keep that trend on the rise and bring many more fans into the world of Motion City Soundtrack – one of pop-punk finesse and emotive, witty lyrics that are truly unique to their style.

Scruffy-haired Justin Pierre brings his own unique take on song writing to Motion City Soundtrack, which is probably what makes the songs on My Dinosaur Life so interesting. Clearly, being somewhat self-deprecating and overly confessional but at the same time having an entirely witty point of view pays off in the favour of uniqueness! Obviously, it helps their case that My Dinosaur Life has been wholly produced by Mark Hoppus, so they clearly have part of punk rock history on their side, but there’s only so far that can carry them and it’s their lyrics and music that have to do the rest of the work. And clearly the work has paid off, strangely enough, with the opening song on the album being titled Worker Bee

Worker Bee makes a great album opener, starting off deceptively slow and melodic but then suddenly breaking out with more energy and punch, with the melodies in the chorus reaching sky-high levels. The lyrics “I’ve been a good little worker bee, I deserve a gold star” are just the first of many examples of Justin Pierre’s observant wit in his lyric writing skills, and is an excellent taster of what’s to come over the next 40 minutes of the album.

The big single release of My Dinosaur Life is the song Her Words Destroyed My Planet, and it’s easy to see why this is when its awesomely melodic and truly catchy chorus comes in. This is reminiscent of the Jimmy Eat World kind of song style that got them to where they are, and when you mix that with Motion City Soundtrack’s mix of slightly witty and truly heartfelt lyrics like “I’m drowning in memories, call it residual blues. I fell asleep watching Veronica Mars again”, you know you’re listening to something of its own class. Her Words Destroyed My Planet is an amazing example of exactly what Motion City Soundtrack are great at doing – taking subjects that people can relate to, putting a witty spin on them and laying them over the top of some truly catchy punk rock riffs and melodies.

Disappear is a stutter-y staccato song that grabs your attention and makes you listen closely with its punk rock crunch and fast tempo. This is an interesting contrast to a later song History Lesson, which brings out a slightly more acoustic, folk-punk led side to Justin Pierre and is a noticeable change of pace from the punk rock aesthetics of the rest of the album. Similar things can be said of the next song Stand Too Close also, which is by far a slower and almost romantic, open-hearted affair, creating a slower mid-ground of the overall album.

Pulp Fiction brings some of the pace back to the rest of the album, and along with that are more lyrics that make you pause and think of the contrast of images they create, such as “It’s like a slasher film; I’m torn in opposite directions”. Following this is example is the song @!#?@!, possibly one of the stranger songs on the album, with its refrain of “You all need to leave me and my sensitive home-boys alone”. Even though this may be somewhat honest opinions from Pierre, the line of “what if there’s nothing more to us, we’re just carbon-based, we’re just pixie dust” in Skin And Bones perhaps takes the cake, but this is obviously for a reason as it comes across as a cynical deconstruction of who we really are.

Album closer The Weakends starts off slow and then breaks out with some forceful punk rock riffs and heartfelt melodies into one of Motion City Soundtrack’s highest points of My Dinosaur Life, leaving you with an upbeat sense of things.

Overall, My Dinosaur Life is one of Motion City Soundtrack’s slightly more gritty edge, and is definitely a complex listen but it’s definitely worth it for its beautiful melodies and its witty sense of humour about genuine day-to-day cultural situations. This is definitely another huge step in Motion City Soundtrack’s career, and My Dinosaur Life is definitely going to be a turning point for them in both their career and their style. And if this keeps up, you can be sure I’ll be coming back for more!

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This Is War – DVD Review

It has been said that War films get pretty samey – murky, grey-washed backdrops with a small band of the few and the brave, gradually marching their way towards their mission. However, with some character development and character losses along the way, everyone is ultimately better off at the end for having achieved their goal and won the war. Sadly though, being a trooper on the frontline is seldom like that in real life. It’s harsh, it’s brutal, and it’s not the best way of life for anyone. But they do it for a reason, and anyone who decides to put their life on the line on a daily basis has personal reasons for doing so. This Is War is entirely about that – life as a marine, and just how real it can get.

This Is War is more than just a documentary film about the Iraq war. It’s a firsthand account of life as a marine on the frontline, on the way to Baghdad to fight Saddam and to give a country back its freedom. It’s about the highs and lows of life at sea, surviving in the desert, and constantly facing danger.  It’s not just about the War; it’s about the REAL War – the psychological AND physical fight that these Marines go through on a daily basis. This Is War is the work of First Lieutenant Mike Scotti who, in July 2002, volunteered to extend his service with the American Marine Corps. Six months later he found himself on the frontline of one of the most notorious military strikes of recent years – Operation: Iraqi Freedom. What resulted was Scotti‘s recording of over 60 hours of firsthand experience from the frontline of the operation. The footage he captured on his Mini DV camera recorded just about every step of the operation from start to finish, and upon his return he entrusted documentary filmmaker Kristian Fraga with all of his tapes. Fraga then edited the material Scotti had collected into This Is War – a feature length documentary that brings you so close to the real world of Marines operations that if you were any closer to the action, you’d be holding a rifle and wearing combat gear.

Like a marriage of Cloverfield and The Hurt Locker, with a bit of an affair with Full Metal Jacket on the side, This Is War is the most engaging and eye-opening account of life in the Iraq war you’re likely to find.  From the little things that keep the marines grounded like reminders of why they’re fighting, loved ones, or getting mail, to the frighteningly brutal scenes of destruction on the frontline in Kuwait, This Is War pulls no punches in its coverage of the mundane daily chores to the extreme adrenaline-fuelled encounters with relentless Iraqi Paramilitaries. And that is exactly what sets This Is War apart from other films – its visceral reality of actual encounters.

Perhaps one of the most interesting points of This Is War is the fact that you share the perspective of Scotti and his fellow marines, and get a genuine idea of the mind-set and beliefs that each of them carries into the battlefield with them. Scotti’s unique narration and insight into his perspective of the events is both grounded and honest, yet also understandably one-sided given the amount of hindsight into the events of 2003 we now have. There is an understanding behind what all of the Military personnel were being told was the situation (Saddam Hussein being accused of harbouring WMD’s), and although the attitude of the marines in some scenes might not be very favourable, you find yourself able to understand why they do what they do. Scotti’s flippancy towards the events might seem overly sarcastic, but it’s also honest and true. As such, you find yourself being unsure whether to like or hate their attitude towards the war and the treatment of the insurgents they encounter, but you still end up respecting the fact that they are there on the frontline, and constantly facing the danger of an attack.

This Is War successfully breaks down any barriers between audience and subject, and manages to place you centrally in the action like never before. Equal parts sarcastically funny and realistically brutal, This Is War manages to capture your attention and hold it for every second of the film as you share just a small part of what every marine experiences on a daily basis. This is not just war, this is honest, this is brutal, and above all this is real.

This Is War is available on DVD from October 4th and if you’re a fan of war dramas, then this is the real deal!

LISTED Film Previews – September ’10

Here’s yet another lot of film previews for all of you out there to get your eyes wrapped round. September proved to be a bit of a struggle for some decent big cinema releases, so as well as these ones here (or if none of these take your fancy), you should check out some local cinemas which will likely be playing some things that are a little different. But anyway, here’s the September ones:

MACHETE (15) (Dir. Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis)

Bringing back his character in this Planet Terror spin-off, Robert Rodriguez brings us his second action-packed film in as many months. Danny Trejo is an ex-Federale who is betrayed by the organisation that hired him, which leads him to go on a brutal and bloody rampage of revenge. Considering that Machete comes from Rodriguez’s own Troublemaker Studios and smacks of his own style of films like Desperado, you can definitely expect Machete to have all the style and swagger that Rodriguez is capable of delivering. There’s also talks of a trilogy coming to fruition if this is well received which, fingers crossed, could also lead to Sin City 2? We can hope… Released September 10th.

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE 3D (18) (Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson)

Alice (Milla Jovovich) is back… and bringing a few of her friends. Or so the tagline reads, though it should actually be asking if we really care anymore. Considering that the last three films have ONLY been fairly well received and not exactly got people queuing for hours to get in, it was really only a matter of time before something like this jumped on the 3D bandwagon to reignite its franchise. OK, there may have been the odd bit every-so-often in the others that was worth a watch, but even though this has been filmed using James Cameron’s “Fusion” Technology (from Avatar) and shot in various locations around the world, I doubt that the prospect of seeing the same old stuff in 3D will be enough to tempt sceptics into trying it out. Get to the front if you’re a fanboy, but otherwise save your money! Released September 10th.

THE TOWN (12A) (Dir. Ben Affleck)

Ben Affleck directs AND plays the lead of Doug MacRay, a thief planning his next job whilst finding himself in a deepening relationship with Claire (Rebecca Hall), a bank teller traumatised by a heist that Doug is connected to, whilst avoiding the FBI investigator (Jon Hamm) who is close to unmasking Doug’s identity whilst wrestling with the feelings he also has for Claire. It does all sound a little tragic, which is normally Ben Affleck’s forte, but The Town does see Affleck taking the step from celebrity to film-maker and therefore giving his name that much more credibility in the film industry. If this film takes off, it could be in the running for Oscar Nominations as well, so watch out for those! Released September 17th.

THE AMERICAN (15) (Dir. Anton Corbijin)

George Clooney stars in this rather non-American cast as an assassin who hides out in an Italian village waiting for what could be his last ever assignment. Whilst hiding out, he tempts fate by befriending the local preist (Paolo Bonacelli) as well as the affection of Clara (Violante Placido). Clooney has had a run of very deep and engaging films over the last few years, so if those are anything to go by then this will definitely be worth seeking out. Released September 17th.