The Green Hornet (Contains Spoilers)

What seems to be a wave of “non-hero” films that got started by Kick-Ass has spat out a few no-hitters (we’re looking at you Defendor), but out of this has come the re-imagining of a classic radio series-come-TV show The Green Hornet. Originally, The Green Hornet radio show was a tie-in to The Lone Ranger (Britt Reid is his grandnephew) but for an audience that wanted someone on a more modern basis as the hero. Eventually, The Green Hornet became a TV show which saw Bruce Lee as Kato in one of his earlier English language roles. Since that point, The Green Hornet has been more associated with the like of the Adam West Batman than anything more legitimate.

But Michel Gondry, a questionable choice in director considering he’s better known for things like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, has managed to breathe new life into the green-clad vigilante and his martial art’s expert sidekick and create something fresh. Originally, Kevin Smith was asked to direct this ask it was thought that he would be able to do justice to a film that would sit nicely amongst other comic book-type movies, but he declined as he didn’t want to direct an action movie because of the long hours spent choreographing sequences and then reshooting them time and time again. He even stated that his version of The Green Hornet would be him and Kato hanging out by the Black Beauty and then going off-screen to beat up bad guys every so often. Luckily, Michel Gondry’s version has a bit more action than that, and that’s what made this version so enjoyable, and with less pot jokes, and Kevin Smith’s script is now a comic series of The Green Hornet.

The idea behind The Green Hornet is that Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the son of a newspaper owner who dies and leaves him his legacy. Being a known party animal, Britt decides it’s time to step up and do something memorable and help people. With his dad’s mechanic Kato, they set out to make a difference by being heroes posing as bad guys in order to infiltrate gangs and stop them from the inside, whilst Britt uses the newspaper to make a name for his alter-ego. It’s an original motive behind the normal reasoning for becoming a hero, but it got pulled off pretty well. A few geeky references are made in The Green Hornet, one notably being in Kato’s sketchbook there is a page of Bruce Lee sketches, paying tribute to Lee as the original Kato, and James Franco makes an appearance at the start of the film after appearing with Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.

Generally, I thought The Green Hornet was an enjoyable film – it wasn’t amazingly hilarious, it wasn’t a great hero movie either, but the thing that people don’t get is that The Green Hornet never was any of these anyway! It’s a bit fitting that its remembered more along the lines of the original Adam West Batman because that’s how it was originally written – semi-serious but generally just enjoyable. And that’s exactly what this version does too. Essentially, Seth Rogen is doing the kind of comedy he does best, but mixing it in with being a masked vigilante and kicking some ass at the same time.  Jay Chou is really great as Kato and comes very close to upstaging Rogen as one of the better characters of the film, not just because of his martial arts scenes but also because of his delivery of some one-liners. I think Cameron Diaz was pinned on a little to this movie for some star recognition as she didn’t add that much to the plot, but Christoph Waltz did a good job as mob boss Chudnofsky, who gets one of the best deaths of the film with two wood planks to the face! Of course, the real star of the movie was always going to be the Black Beauty, Britt Reid’s super car with all kinds of gadgets and weapons which is responsible for most of the action scenes!

One thing I wasn’t so happy with was the fact that someone felt it was necessary to pin the 3D movie tag to this film and jump on the 3D bandwagon, even though there was barely any 3D moments during the film. There were plenty of opportunities for some, but in actual fact the transfer to 3D was a last minute decision and as such there wasn’t that much use of it. Apart from that, The Green Hornet was an enjoyably funny film that had just as much action thrown into the mix too, and only suffered very minimally from the “Take-away Film” syndrome (i.e., you enjoy it while you’re watching it, but have forgotten about it 2 hours later), which means it wasn’t a throw-away effort.

Perhaps the best description of this film is a superhero version of Pineapple Express with the same kind of humour and action, but replacing the pot jokes with Black Beauty scenes! So, on that note, I’m giving The Green Hornet 6 out of 10 for enjoyment, but it loses points  for its lack of 3D despite its advertising.

Chuck Ragan – “Gold Country”

Perhaps better known for his daytime work as the frontman of punk band Hot Water Music, Chuck Ragan has also made a career for himself with his own blend of country folk punk in his spare time. I first saw Chuck Ragan support The Gaslight Anthem (which is fitting since they’re both signed to Side One Dummy Records) and liked his unique sound so much I thought I’d give his record a go, and Gold Country is Chuck Ragan’s latest and most popular album release.

What Chuck Ragan does on this, his solo project, can’t really be categorised into any one particular brand of music. There’s a lot of country, some blues, some acoustic, but then every so often there’s this uplifting little twist of punk which adds some bounce to the songs and gives you something you don’t expect. So to say that Gold Country is a blues record would be wrong, as would saying it’s a punk record, because its neither of them and yet both at the same time.

There’s an eclectic mix of different sounds on Gold Country, but opening the record is For Goodness Sake which is simply Chuck Ragan and a guitar creating a beautiful flowing introduction to the album. The next couple of songs are probably not the best ones on the album, but that perhaps because they’re a little slower than what you first expect from the album. But all of that changes when you start hearing the intro’s to Done and Done, a particular favourite of mine from this album with lyrics like “wake up now we’ve got to go, somewhere higher’s all I know. Leave behind the walking dead, leave the mess don’t make the bed”, The Trench and, a bit later, Cut Em Down which pick up a little bit with a twist of some punk rock added to the mix of bluegrass and violin from Jon Gaunt (the other creative half of the general project). These songs seem to be a bit closer to home for what Chuck Ragan normally does, and you can tell that from how good they sound and how they add something new to the mix of songs.

Some of the other songs take on a softer sound and have a lot of tender, meaningful lyrics coming from the heart. 10 West is a song about his longing to settle down somewhere in California with its lyrics like “I’m heading to your mountains, through your rivers, onto your sea. And I’ll make it only if I stay rolling.” This is followed by Ole Diesel, another ballad-y song and then later on by Let It Rain, a song quite clearly dedicated to Chuck Ragan’s wife.

Quite a few of the songs on Gold Country clearly take their influence from some older artists, which is probably why Chuck Ragan is detaching himself from his punk roots more and indulging himself in more folk-like influences. There’s an undeniable influence of Johnny Cash on Rotterdam that you’d be crazy to ignore, and the country roots are also evident on Good Enough For Rock And Roll and Don’t Say A Word. The slower songs like these contrast well with the more energetic ones, as it then makes it more of a mix of different kinds of folk ranging from bluegrass to country to a bouncier kind of folk, showing how versatile Chuck Ragan can make one kind of genre.

The album closer Get Em All Home is a pretty touching song clearly written about bringing troops in service home safely with the line “And all I can do is pray that the world will see what this war costs”. It’s a nice way of rounding off an album like this, but why there’s a 30 minute loop of a roaring log fire sound running afterwards isn’t explained. Surely that’s going to mess with a few people’s MP3 players. Who knows, maybe that’s the reason!

Gold Country is generally quite an inventive album, and takes you through a range of different feelings. Some parts are a little too country-style for my taste, with that twang-y, electric-y slide guitar sound going in the back of some songs, but some of the others will be easy to like if (like me you already like The Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner as there is definitely similar vibes going on!

Frank Turner – “Rock & Roll” EP

Once again, the mighty folk-punk troubadour of the south coast Frank Turner releases a new set of songs for his fans to sit and absorb in the old-timey fashion of actually sitting and listening to them. Ok, so whilst this might not be a full albums worth of material – hence why this is a 5 track EP clocking in at just over 17 minutes total – and is not exactly a follow up to his hugely successful previous album Poetry of the Deed, Rock & Roll certainly works as a bridge into something bigger surely to be released soon. A between-meals snack, as it was, for the music-hungry masses.

Frank Turner has never ceased to amaze me, personally. His music is fantastic and covers a range of emotions, he is always a gentleman on stage and on record and makes good, solid music that can very rarely be flawed and even then only by people that don’t like “this kind of music” (which, personally, I never understood as this is as close to “real” music as you can get). But above all, his music and lyrics are honest, and truthful, and always make light of points regular folk seem to miss. Poetry of the Deed did this incredibly well through songs that make you want to appreciate more about life and seize the day in a punk rock style rather than sitting and letting life happen to you instead. Rock & Roll clearly seeks to continue this train of thought with its content, and its songs about what it is to know honest music and be part of a society that is united by its roots in music.

Rock & Roll is a very well put together EP, as you would expect for a CD 5 songs in length. The songs are all in the right place and span a range of styles in what I can only think of as “the right order”. Starting off the CD is Frank Turner’s latest single I Still Believe, a song that rings out about people coming together to celebrate music in all its glory and to unite over the old folk traditions and be a part of Rock and Roll. “Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Friends and Romans, Countrymen” opens the song in a folky-acoustic fashion before it moulds itself into a gathering of people chanting back “I Still Believe” in relation to traditional styles of music bringing people together.

Pass It Along is an equally folky song about the history of the music Frank Turner takes as his influences, the styles and attitudes being handed down from generation to generation and changing along the way to still be relevant today.

Rock & Roll Romance is easily the shortest song on the record at about a minute and a half, but it is quite simply just Frank Turner, his guitar, a microphone in an empty room and a slightly bittersweet love song for someone, with the line “And I can sympathise ‘cuz I’ve been searching too and I’ve yet to find a girl half as good as you”. Essentially, this is the “slow middle” you’d normally get on a regular album condensed down into a single song to fit the EP, but that doesn’t detract from its impact at all as the song is still very moving.

To Absent Friends is an ode to friends who are no longer among us, and is by far one of the punchier songs on the album and acts in much the same way Poetry of the Deed did on Frank Turner’s previous album by lifting spirits whilst also making you think about the messages its sending out.

Lastly, The Next Round closes off the EP with its slightly melancholy sound trailing away, but leaving behind promise of a lot more to come. Quite honestly, if Frank Turner keeps putting out songs like these, I for one will keep listening!

127 Hours (Contains Spoilers)

Getting the year started off with some brilliant films is always a good sign of cinema to come throughout the rest of the year. So trust me when I say that seeing 127 Hours as the first cinema offering of the year means that I have officially set the bar high for other films!

127 Hours is the latest offering from Danny Boyle who, for those of you out there unfamiliar with this name (shame on you…) has also directed landmark films as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and more recently the highly successful Slumdog Millionaire. Personally, I thought that Boyle would have a hard time following up Slumdog Millionaire with something as equally hard-hitting and thought provoking, but amazingly this retelling of true events manages to do exactly that.

127 Hours is the true story of extreme mountain climber/explorer/canyoneer Aron Ralston who, whilst trekking across Blue John Canyon in Utah on a day no-one knew where he had gone, fell down a 65 foot crevice and a rock trapped his arm against the canyon wall. With limited supplies, dwindling amounts of water and a single video camera, Aron Ralston has to survive 5 days trapped between a rock and a hard place before he managed to free himself and scale back up the wall and trek over 8 miles before he was rescued. 127 Hours recalls these events with incredible accuracy and in such a way that you empathise incredibly strongly with James Franco’s quite honestly amazingly human performance as Aron Ralston.

James Franco apparently wasn’t the first choice for the role of Aron Ralston, but the fact that he does an amazing performance with reactions to the situations he find himself in with incredible humanity is a testament to his capturing of the personality. The fact that you see Ralston interact with people he meets at the start of the film manages to set up what kind of person he is before “the accident” happens. When he meets Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn), you manage to get a sense of what drives this person to do such extreme exploring, and it’s this interaction that sets up certain personality changes and mental states later in the film. When “the accident” occurs, its sudden and shocking which is effective as you then start feeling everything Ralston feels from that point, and its only at that point (20 minutes into the actual film) that the title shows and signals the start of the clock for how long Ralston is trapped there for.

As you would expect, to start with Ralston tries everything he can to escape – lifting, pushing, screaming, swearing and eventually reverts back to how he was and becomes very calculating, laying out everything that he has on him on the rock and starts formulating a plan. Because we already have the sense that this is what he knows more about than anything else, you get the sense that he is more likely to figure something out than any average person would be able to. And that is confirmed when you see him create a crude pulley system to try and hoist the rock away, and though this doesn’t work it is still explained why it hasn’t.

And that is one thing that makes 127 Hours more interesting to watch than it otherwise would – the dynamic story-telling technique of Ralston documenting the events over the 5 days he is trapped onto a video camera, which apparently is exactly what Ralston did in real life. This technique allows the audience to better understand what is happening in Ralston’s mind during the days that he is trapped for and almost becomes a direct link between Ralston and the audience, talking directly to them.

This, after a while, becomes slightly unsettling as although Ralston manages to keep it together and perhaps fares better than anyone else would in his situation because of his training, you do see him slip slowly away from a sound mental state and start to lose it a little every so often. You become a part of all his imaginings and his hallucinations along with him, which better brings you into what he is going through. This doesn’t exactly happen quickly, but more builds up slowly as his supplies slowly run out, but that’s what resorting to drinking your own urine does to someone.

It’s the point at which the rain comes and starts creating a torrent through the cavern Ralston is trapped in that things start to truly turn, as you see him manage to escape from the rock and make it back to civilisation, and all the way through this sequence you want it to be true even though you already know how he really gets out.

What I perhaps found most effective throughout 127 Hours was how sounds and music are used. We already know how effectively Danny Boyle can use the smallest elements of a scene to create something bigger, but the fact that each song from the soundtrack matched the scenes and the action perfectly made it that much more interesting to watch. But so much more than that is the use of the sounds in each scene – every little sound in emphasised to create a different sense of the surroundings, everything from him drinking and swallowing water, to cracking his wrist after working, to rubbing his skin and lips and using his equipment. It these elements that help create the strong sense of being truly alone throughout the film.

When the time finally comes for Ralston to take drastic measures in order to escape, there is no hiding the fact of what he has to do. Things he has done throughout the film lead up to him cutting off his own arm with a crappy penknife no less, and it’s the use of sound again in this scene that makes it even more gripping and worrying at the same time. Every crunch of bone and cutting of skin is heard and emphasised, and even when he reaches a nerve the sounds of feedback accentuate what he must feel as he cuts through it. This sound itself reminded me of playing “Operation”, and made it feel as though he was cutting an electrical wire inside his own arm, which frankly is enough to set my teeth on edge and everyone else’s too!

The good thing about 127 Hours is throughout the film you know that Aron doesn’t die, because he made it out to write a book and have this film made about him. But that doesn’t stop you from second-guessing what might happen and finding yourself concerned that actually, he might not make it out at all, and that’s mostly down to the fact that you start believing what Aron himself believes. But when he does make it out and finds help, after saying a fairly ironic “Thank you” to the rock that trapped him for 5 solid days, you feel this overwhelming sense of relief that he finally made it out and can go see his family again.

Danny Boyle knows how to tell a story full of humanity, and there’s no denying that fact. What he’s done with 127 Hours is take a fairly straightforward premise where, potentially, not very much could happen (he was trapped in one place for 5 days) and turned it into a study of humanity and the human mind, and how one man can fight against elements, overwhelming odds and even his own mental state to prevail and come out the other side still alive.

127 Hours is a great story, well told, and as such I’m giving it a huge 8 out of 10 for being a great start to a year of cinema!

LISTED Film Previews – Jan/Feb 2011

Kicking off the year in some style, here are my usual film previews to keep you happy film lovers all content in knowing what you’re going to see!! Please do bear in mind that because I had to squeeze in 2 months worth into one months article, I have had to miss out such awesome films like 127 Hours, The Kings Speech and Paul, so make an effort to see those films as well as these ones. Anyway, without further ado, here are the film previews for January and February:

THE GREEN HORNET (12A) (Dir. Michel Gondry)

The first of the big comic book movies of 2011 gives the year a jump-start of action with Seth Rogen taking on the famous vigilante. By day, Britt Reid (Rogen) is a newspaper publisher reporting the news, but by night he’s the one making it as the masked crime fighter Green Hornet, alongside his martial arts expert partner Kato (Jay Chou). Ok, so it’s not exactly Batman or Iron Man, but with a last minute 3D conversion and as long as it’s perhaps not taken too seriously, you can still expect some attention-worthy fight scenes, big budget Black Beauty (that’s his car…) effects, and perhaps less pot jokes than they potentially could have made with Kevin Smith directing it! Released January 14th.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (15) (Dir. Troy Nixey)

With Guillermo Del Toro at the helm of writing and producing this film, you can expect this re-make of a TV movie to be something a bit more dark and disturbing than its original. A young girl is sent to live with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in a huge mansion, in which creature living in the darkness threaten to take her and claim her as one of their own. This film promises to hold people in tight suspense, so hopefully the freaky creatures of Del Toro’s mind mixed with good direction will live up to that. Released January 21st.

SANCTUM (12A) (Dir. Alister Grierson)

Otherwise known as James Cameron’s Sanctum, this 3D action-thriller should have special effects and budgets something close towards Avatar released just over a year ago. Expert diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) leads a team of diving explorers on a treacherous expedition through one of the world’s largest and least accessible underwater caves. But when a flash flood cuts off their exit, they begin to question whether they can stay alive long enough to find a way out of the cave system back to the surface. Whilst it’s not exactly the action-adventure epic that Avatar was, Sanctum does tackle a subject that sends some chills up peoples spines and should provide an interesting concept for a film with its effect backing it up. Released February 4th.

I AM NUMBER FOUR (12A) (Dir. D.J. Caruso)

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, I Am Number Four follows the story of John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) a.k.a. Number Four, a refugee from an alien world, who is on the run from forces that would otherwise kill him, as they have done with three of the eight others just like him. He has incredible powers, and an otherworldly connection to the others that share his destiny. But when he settles in a small town in Ohio, a love interest in Sarah (Dianna Agron) could change everything he knows. Although this might fall dangerously close to the Twilight school of film production, its effects budget and original storyline looks like it might pull back some credibility – for the guys, it looks like there are some good action scenes and effects. For the girls, there’s Alex Pettyfer. A reasonable exchange, perhaps? We’ll have to see. Released February 18th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com

Who’s up for Round 3?

And so, after the fogs of the Champagne have parted in your mind and the various gym membership forms have been filled out, what is left to bring you into the New Year? Well, I know it’s probably a bit late doing this half way through January, but this represents a whole 2 Years of My Different Take being up on the web! Sometimes popular, sometimes deader than Shakespeare, but always being updated, My Different Take has been my own personal link into the world of the Internet and expressing my opinion, for what its worth, all across your various Internet Providers displays.

So, what rocked in 2010? This is open to debate, but a lot of awesomeness went down in 2010 that will be hard to top. Firstly, I had my time out in California having some awesome times, meeting awesome people and doing work that ranged from awesome to being yelled at, but regardless it was all experience. 2010 brought around opportunities like: Meeting the cast of Kick-Ass, bumming on the beach with some of my best friends in the world whilst trying to start BBQ’s and failing miserably. It brought beautiful sunsets, amazing holidays, and personal growth like no other. While there were also some losses along the way and some choices that may not have been the best ones of my life, 2010 will not be easily forgotten.

It also brought us some pretty awesome films and music: The start of the year saw Kick-Ass get released along with Iron Man 2 and Inception which I still have yet to see, but fear not as I have the DVD now! Later films included Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and The Social Network, which I still insist are among the best films of the year and are now some of my own personal favourites! As for albums, the ones I’ve most enjoyed throughout 2010 were My Dinosaur Life from Motion City Soundtrack which pretty much made my summer/autumn time, The Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang which can easily make you feel better about anything and make you want to get a convertible and drive down to the city, and Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones from Cancer Bats for some unadulterated punk ‘n roll goodness!

With all of that in mind, 2011 might have some work to do to keep up with the previous year! So, what looks god for 2011? Well firstly, as with last year, we start 2011 with some great looking films like 127 Hours, a true story film from Danny Boyle that looks to have a lot of humanity and tough choices dealt with, The Kings Speech is already winning multiple awards for Colin Firth, and The Green Hornet, whilst it seems might not have the best script in the world, does look like it will have some good laughs behind it as long as it’s not taken too seriously as a “comic book movie” (which, technically, it’s not). Also, let us not forget the re-make of True Grit with Jeff Bridges as, whilst it is a re-make, has been gaining successful reviews across the board for how well it has been put together and how many people are getting interested in it. Other big releases this year that I myself am getting hugely excited about include Thor, and now that it’s in 3D as well has got me very excited to see what they’ve done with the visuals, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch which looks phenomenal in its seemless mixing of fantasy, action and CGI and could wind up being a geeks heaven visualised, Cowboys and Aliens which will see Daniel Craig breaking out of his Bond persona to do something a bit more comic related, and Paul which is the latest offering from the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost combo but without the direction of Edgar Wright its touch and go on whether it will live up to their last releases.

Other films that I’m starting to come round to the idea of are Captain America: The First Avenger after I’ve started seeing more shots from the set from it, after I initially didn’t like the idea of Chris Evans doing Steve Rogers since he’s already Johnny Storm in Marvel’s Fantastic Four films. I’m also starting to like the look of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides even though it doesn’t seem to have all that much that is original or will set it apart from the other ones other than Orlando Bloom and (thankfully) Kira Knightly aren’t in it. Unfortunately, Penelope Cruz is also trying to do that annoying thing where she tries to speak British in this new one. Still, Blackbeard? I’m in! Real Steel is another one that looks fairly interesting, sort of what would happen if Rocky met Transformers, and with Hugh Jackman too, so I’ll look forward to seeing how that one turns out. One of the other hugely anticipated comic book movies of the year, alongside Cap and Thor, is Green Lantern which is looks a little more light-hearted than some of DC’s other offerings like the Superman or Batman franchises. Considering that the CGI plays an important part in Green Lantern, and I’m undecided as to whether Ryan Reynolds will be better as Hal Jordan than Nathan Fillion after all, it could currently go either way. Still, there is potential for this to be as big a franchise as DC’s other films. Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn is also releasing X-Men: First Class this year, so it’s looking to be a triple win for Marvel if all three films take off well, but I’m unsure about the casting for this film until pictures get released. Lastly, speaking of franchises, theres Transformers: The Dark of the Moon. I can safely say that the only direction for these films to go in is up after the diabolical last film, but without Megan Fox ruining the film by not opening her mouth when she talks there is a chance the this could bring it back for the robots in disguise and all the fans who lost faith.

As far as music goes, there are a few new releases that I’m looking forward to. To start with, Architects are making a new release very soon to start off the year in their more melodic than usual offering of The Here And Now, and from what I’ve heard so far its a pretty solid mix of brutality and melody to fit all kinds of moods. Yellowcard are set to release a new record which I’m anxiously waiting to hear stuff from around the time that they tour the UK with All Time Low in March who are also releasing a new album, so the success from that will be interesting considering their amount of radio play in the UK.

Deaf Havana are releasing an album this year after a change in their line-up from their last album and ergo, a change in their sound to something still melodic but no less punchy. Rumours of a new Frank Turner album, I’m not sure yet, but I don’t think are confirmed but I do remember him saying a follow-up to his latest Rock And Roll EP is due sometime this year, so I shall be keeping an eye out for that! After their recent reformation and announcement of headlining this years Download Festival, I think its safe to expect a new offering from System of a Down this year, and who knows, we might even see this fabled new Blink-182 album they’ve been making for nearly two-damn-years now which was meant to be out last year but still hasn’t!

Anyway, the long and short of it is that you can expect there to be more reviews, previews, and general expression of my own opinion on this site for a while to come yet, and with any luck I’ll be able to do it more regularly this year! Year one was a healthy experiment, year two got more people reading and me writing more. Let’s see what year three’s got.