Bowling for Soup / Suburban Legends / Orange – O2 ABC, Glasgow

Suburban Legends
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

[more photos of the gig in this Flickr collection, and this one]

Bowling For Soup are always bound to guarantee a giggle and also to bring good support with them. This year we got Orange (who we missed, sorry) and Suburban Legends who were incredibly good fun. As well as having nice bouncy songs, they were well-choreographed and acted like a headlining act for their short tenure on the stage. Definitely a band to keep your eye out for if they tour sometime.

BFS themselves strolled on stage around 15 minutes after SL finished – a quick set change by anyone’s standards. Sadly, three of the band are recovering from ‘flu which did seem to affect their performance. Don’t get me wrong. They were great fun, but you could just tell it was a harder slog than normal. Credit to them for fighting through the snot and headaches to put on a performance.

Many of the classics were blasted out at rapid speed as well as a decent selection from the current Fishing For Woos. As a bonus, we also got “Stacy’s Mom” which the band recently released as a B-side because people keep thinking they did the original. The between-song banter was as good as ever, though perhaps not as prevalent as last year due to the headaches being suffered by the band. Man flu is a killer.

Bowling For Soup - Glasgow ABC
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

Despite this, they did pretty damn well though the stage set itself wasn’t as good as the one at the Academy in 2010 where we had nice big video screens. There was an inflatable pig, though. Admittedly it was about 12″ long and thrown up from the crowd, but hey. Beggars can’t be choosers. You’re not going to get a 25′ inflatable sheep into the ABC without crushing half the crowd.

Overall, an enjoyable show but not the best I’ve seen from them. I put this entirely down to evil viruses and not the band. Other acts would have considered cancelling, so full credit to Jared and the guys for going ahead with the show. It was worth the effort!

Also, please excuse the short post. I’m knackered after virtually no sleep from last night after the Volbeat gig

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Volbeat – Glasgow Garage

Volbeat - Glasgow Garage
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

[more pics of this gig in the related Flickr collection]

This will have to be a very quick review as I’m absolutely knackered, have work in the morning and Bowling For Soup to see tomorrow night.

Quick back story. I’d really never heard of Volbeat until their gig was advertised on Rock Radio (sadly rebranded this week and sounding like it’s going downhill already). The one riff they used appealed, so I searched around and got hold of Volbeat’s albums.

Wow.

I then promptly forgot about the gig, partly as we already have tickets for so many. Then I realised it was a couple of days away, and assumed I could pay on the door. Thankfully I checked and was informed by the staff that I couldn’t (on this occasion) and managed to get one online in the afternoon.

Remembering the early curfew at the Garage, I got there around 8pm as the Black Spiders were finishing their set. I’d last saw them opening for Airbourne and didn’t think much of them. They sounded a lot better in this small venue, but they still don’t do it for me.

Volbeat - Glasgow Garage
Image by Iain Purdie via Flickr

Volbeat took to the stage at 8:45 and started as they proceeded to go on until around 10:30 – rocking.

Take one look at lead singer/rhythm guitarist Michael Poulsen‘s tattoos and you’ll have some idea of their sound – “J.R.Cash” across his collarbone; “Elvis Aaron Presley” on his left bicep; “Social Distortion” down his left forearm. Yeah, quite a variety. For a band with a singer who sounds so American it’s almost surprising to find out that they hail from Denmark.

I can honestly say I have never seen a band grinning so much on stage as this bunch. They obviously enjoy what they’re doing and it transfers into their music which – despite the heavy rhythms and low toned vocals – is generally upbeat.

The crowd were definitely well up for a good gig and they certainly got one. Don’t ask me to name any of the songs, though as well as a ton of great home-grown material, there were two cover versions (one Johnny Cash, one Hank Williams) plus a smattering of snippets of songs from other artists such as Metallica, Slayer and Mercyful Fate. Hell, the band were doing “requests” based on the t-shirts they could see in the audience.

For a gig by a band who I barely knew, I had a tremendous time and would definitely recommend seeing them if you get the chance. And getting their albums.

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Johnny English Reborn / Real Steel / Contagion

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsNo cinema for about two weeks then three in a day. Well, I caught three. Because Cineworld buggered up a change in direct debit details, Gillian had to go home and ring them to re-enable her card which meant that she missed the first of our trilogy. Thanks a bunch, Cineworld.

Johnny English Reborn

“Dear God, don’t let me get killed by the Swiss.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: inept Bond-esque character makes a return only this time he’s not as goofy

See it if you like: Amusing comedy romps with a dash of slapstick which somehow still manage to shoehorn in a decent plot

We (re-)watched the original film the other week as Gillian hadn’t seen it before and, in honesty, it wasn’t as enjoyable as I remember. Still, I was looking forward to seeing Rowan Atkinson back on screen as the clumsy secret agent originally created for a series of Barclaycard commercials. It’s certainly better than another Mr Bean outing (shudder).

The film begins with English back in the bad books after something goes wrong in a job in Mozambique (more of which becomes clear as the story progresses). Stripped of his knighthood and his position with MI7 he is enrolled in a Tibetan monastery. Cue a rather amusing slapstick sequence where Atkinson gets to show off his legendary facial expressions, rubber limbs and comic timing.

The new head of MI7, Pegasus (Gillian Anderson with a posh accent) is forced to draft English back in when an informant insists on speaking only to him. English is partnered with junior agent Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya) who fills in the “sensible” role of Bough from the original without being the same character. Far less experienced and less prepared to pick up English’s mess. In fact, the opening (low speed and comically brilliant) chase sequence shows that the roles have very much been reversed. English with the smarts and Tucker obviously an inexperienced though keen agent.

There’s still a fair amount in the film that’s predictable – it’s that kind of humour – but there are plenty of good laughs that haven’t been spoiled in the trailer. The story isn’t bad, either, with a good handful of twists and turns. The action sequences are appropriately funny/ridiculous and also quite cool in places.

This is far from remake or rehash of the original. Atkinson has taken the English character in a new direction rather than just playing him out in another outing. This film is far better as a result.

Good laughs, great cast, family friendly and definitely recommended.

Real Steel

“You know you’re bringing him home in pieces, right?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: down-and-out robot boxer discovers he has a son. Robots get smushed. Bonds form.

See it if you like: the idea of unusual combinations of father/son dramas and boxing/sports films.

This was a great film. Exciting, innovative, funny, emotional, visually impressive, imaginative… We loved it and the kids a couple of rows in front were completely enraptured with the fight sequences.

Ex-boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) has fallen into debt with far too many people as he travels the country trying to win cash back as a robot boxer. People no longer box. The viewing public has moved on, wanting to see gigantic metal titans beat each other to scrap.

To add to his problems, Kenton’s old girlfriend dies and he finds himself lumbered with an 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo), for the summer.

The story then mixes Rocky (if you want to know how much, see the IMDB trivia page for the plot similarities) with a heart-warming drama where Charlie gets to know his son. Stars of the show are the robots, of course. Every single one was built both physically and digitally – and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between them.

When I look back, the story – certainly as far as the fights – was pretty much by-the-numbers. There are very few original stories left in Hollywood, the trick these days being in how well you tell them. This one is told particularly well. The stunning visuals really help, but the characters and plot are what’s important.

A sequel is mooted for 2014 and part of me is dreading it as this is a nicely-encapsulated story. It doesn’t need a sequel. This is a great movie in its own right.

Contagion

“It’s a bad day to be a rhesus monkey.”

Plot-in–a-nutshell: A virulent virus breaks out and the CDC/WHO are tasked with stopping it as it sweeps across the world

See it if you like: dark dramas with a realistic edge

Imagine that the last Swine Flu or Bird Flu panic wasn’t as blown out of proportion as it seemed. Imagine that the virus really was novel and changing to the point where it spread remarkably quickly, killed in days and was ridiculously hard to cultivate in a lab. This is the premise for Contagion, a dark present-day thriller from Steven Soderbergh.

This film divided Gillian and I. She found it too slow and with not enough accurate information. I found it dark and gripping with just the right balance. It isn’t a fast film, she’s right, but the pace seems to increase as the virus spreads and as the public get more and more out of control.

Focus is very much on the medical staff involved in the case (played by the likes of Laurence Fishburne and Kate Winslet), though there are side-steps into the lives of victims (Matt Damon) and the anti-capitalist brigade (led by an appropriately annoying Jude Law) who believe that the drug companies are withholding cures so as to make more money for themselves.

Nothing like this has happened to us as yet, but it could. Plagues in history have been limited by geography. The way we hop across the globe nowadays means this isn’t going to happen any more. The figures thrown around in the film – tens of millions dead – are scarily possible.

It’s not surprising the performances are good when you look at the number of award winners and nominees up there. Soderbergh has quite the track record as well, though this is the first of his films I’ve seen that I’ve really enjoyed. A shame Gillian didn’t think as much of it as I did.

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Drive / Red State

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsTwo grisly action-ish films this weekend, both quite different from each other.

Drive

“There are no good sharks?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: quiet guy gets involved in a crime to help out a friend and it all goes pear shaped

See it if you like: shocking, grisly violence with a dash of pathos

If you’ve seen Shoot ‘Em Up, this isn’t a million miles away as far as the basic plot goes. However, the out and out bullet-fest of Clive Owen‘s effort is instead drawn out and played in a much quieter – though no less lethal style – by Ryan Gosling.

The plot is fairly simple. Gosling plays a part-time stunt driver, part-time mechanic (and part-time getaway driver) who says very little. He gets to know his pretty next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and offers to help her husband out when he’s released from prison with a ton of “we stopped you getting knifed inside” debt. Unfortunately, the job goes belly-up and our lead is left trying to figure out what went wrong and why.

Cue bad guys hunting him down, and a sudden surge of protectiveness welling from our quiet yet violent hero.

The pace of the film may be too slow for some – certainly this was Gillian’s main complaint and I can see what she means. However, I personally thought it was well done. There are periods where little happens, but it’s a reflection of the character himself. He’s not impetuous. He’s careful, patient and plans well. Even the opening sequence is a mixture of short adrenaline bursts and stomach-clenching tension during long moments where nothing happens. It’s a bit of a gamble by director Nicolas Winding Refn, but it pays off.

As the film goes on, Gosling’s character reveals more of the bastard he really is – both verbally and in his actions. From virtually mute, his spoken scenes get longer but almost always when he’s threatening someone. And when those threats are followed through… yow.

The splatter scenes aren’t for the faint of heart. One scene was – according to the director – cut quite drastically as it was too much for the MPAA. What remains is predominantly off-camera, but still grisly. The guy sat next to me was a giggle. Every time something violent occurred 0n-screen, he sat with his hand clamped over his mouth and his eyes bugging out! I hate to think what he’d be like in a screening of a Final Destination movie.

A bit slow going, as I said, but worth the effort. Nothing hugely original, but very well acted and filmed.

Red State

“Simple just shit itself”

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a mad-as-a-box-of-badgers religious sect kidnaps three teenagers. Coincidentally, the ATF turn up at their doorstep to check on a few alleged firearms irregularities. Comedy does not ensue.

See it if you like – seeing an established director take a fresh direction

Funnily enough, I’m enjoying this film more on reflection than I did at the time. Part of this is down to the fact that I’ve just found out that the special effects budget was only $5000 and the entire thing was shot in 25 days, in order and with a cast partly including family members of the crew to keep the costs down.

If you’re expecting a gross-out comedy along the lines of Chasing Amy or a film full of Clerks-esque monologues then you’ll be disappointed. The longest monologue in the film goes to Michael Parks who plays Abin Cooper, insane leader of a small cult which may or may not be based on the real-life Westboro Baptist Church ( sadder, more pathetic bunch of fuck-rags you’ll be hard pressed to find in the western world). Sadly, this monologue is just a load of Christian claptrap and drags on far too long. Yes, we gathered he’s a nut-job. Yes, we know he’s using the Bible to justify his hatred of gays. We don’t need ten minutes of bonkers preacher man to prove it.

Other than that one segment, the film moves along at quite a pace. However, at times it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be. Or what is it. Or where it was when they finished filming the day before. A case in point is just after the introduction of John Goodman‘s ATF agent. The screen goes black with a caption: “4:27am”. Yes, fine, but why tell us the time at that point in the film at at absolutely no other? Unless it’s one of the ten “Easter eggs” that director Kevin Smith says are hidden in the film.

Given the amateur status of so many of the cast, their performances are pretty damn good and the story is an interesting one – disjointed though it may be. There are some laughs, mainly of the darker variety, and don’t get too attached to any of the characters…

The ending is also rather sudden and does smack of “we’re running out of cash… how can we wrap this up?” syndrome.

At the time, we both came out of the cinema thinking “Well… that was OK”. Looking back, though, there are some good moments and it’s worth considering.

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