FILM – Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect (2012)

I managed to “drag” a friend along to see Pitch Perfect over the weekend – thought it might be one more for the Glee crowd but the a capella “No Diggity” cover slipped into the trailer sold me on at least giving it a fair shot.

The best words I can think of to sum it up in a comparison is “Bring It On with singing (instead of cheerleading)”.

It seemed to be proud in its kitsch and cheesy clichés, with several self-deprecating acknowledgements of the “boy meets girl, boy almost loses girl, boy eventually gets girl” storyline – I can’t apologise for a spoiler here as there was possibly, possibly, about one minute of film during which I thought it might not happen until business was resumed as usual. Not a spoiler.

But it’s funny, it’s sweet, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t – plus, the soundtrack is GREAT.

What I loved about it most is that it managed to blend mainstream, commercial chart music (still not 100% sure if the “You know David Guetta?” question was meant to be ironic…) – “Price Tag” – Jessie J, “Party In The USA” – Miley Cyrus – with guilty pleasures – “Eternal Flame” – The Bangles, “It Must Have Been Love” – Roxette – nostalgia – “Mickey” – Tony Basil, “Don’t You Forget About Me” – Simple Minds – and contemporary indie. There’s even some Ace of Base.

There are two tracks from the Pitch Perfect soundtrack I’m undecided over posting – so you’re getting them both.

The first one was playing in the campus radio station near the start of the film, and it’s a track that doesn’t seem to be on the It’s Too Late EP released by the band in 2012 – it’s called “Keep You” and it’s from Natalie & Elliot Bergman, a.k.a. Wild Belle:

The second track is here because I wasn’t expecting it AT ALL. Anna Kendrick sings it at her audition for the Bellas and it actually made me sit up in my seat because the first time I saw it performed was at a little bandstand in Islington in front of about 50 people, cups and all:

LuLu and the Lampshades – “Cups (You’re Gonna Miss Me)” – I sincerely hope they got a TON of money for that…or do now.

Anyway – if you’re a fan of Glee, or X Factor, or BGT (AGT?) or anything like that, I’d recommend you see it – if not, but you are a music fan… love it or hate it, you’ll hopefully at least appreciate some of the music choices. Soundtrack?

For me, it’s a decent enough take on the college comedy flick, but it’s the soundtrack that makes it.

Well duh.

FILM – Your Sister’s Sister

Your Sister's Sister

Your Sister's Sister (2012)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a film on Musings. I’m not sure why that is – perhaps because it’s been a while since I’ve seen a film I wanted to write something about. Spending the weekend in Sheffield (closest accommodation we could find to The Stone Roses, Heaton Park at the last minute) left a couple of days to wander around and see the sights, part of which involved a visit to The Showroom Cinema.

I recently saw another Emily Blunt film – The Five-Year Engagement – so was expecting a romantic comedy along similar lines, but was instead presented with Your Sister’s Sister, an intelligent, warm and often playful observation on relationships, in this instance between two sisters, Iris and Hannah, and Iris’ best friend Jack.

Without giving too much away – so much of the film’s charm lies in its amusing portrayal of unanticipated situations – Iris offers up her family’s remote cabin to her best friend Jack so that he can spend some time alone following the one year anniversary of his brother’s, her ex-boyfriend’s, passing. On arriving, Jack meets Hannah for the first time and drunken encounter between them before Iris’ surprise arrival the following day leads to a series of conversations and events that reveal nuances of character and feeling, many of which were either unknown, ignored or avoided by each up until that point.

In a style similar to so many of Woody Allen’s films (at least those I’ve seen so far!), watching Your Sister’s Sister, I felt as though I was witnessing the events unfold as the characters themselves were experiencing them, that thoughts and opinions were being formed by each as the film progressed and that I was observing and listening to real and private conversations.

The film sensitively portrayed the comic undercurrents in what are often essentially sombre occasions – only possible because of the closeness and familiarity between the characters themselves.

Written and directed by Lynn Shelton and starring Mark DuplassEmily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt – in case it hasn’t come across, the film gets a “highly recommended” from me.

Normally when I write about a film, as opposed to the music in the film, I post a track that I myself associated with it, perhaps one that was brought to mind by the story or by a certain scene or character rather than one from the soundtrack. This time, however, it’s the song that played as the end-credits were rolling:

Breathe Owl Breathe – Playing Dead [amzn]

The closing track on the Ghost Glacier (2009) album from Michigan indie folk band Breathe Owl Breathe, the lyrics sing “I got you, didn’t I?” which adopts an equally nuanced meaning  having seen the film. I’ll let you watch and decide for yourselves…

Kavinsky – Nightcall (Drive Soundtrack)

Drive OST (2011)

I had to post at least one track from the soundtrack to the movie “Drive” – there was no way to avoid one of the coolest soundtracks ever put together for one of the most talked about movies of this year. It was always going to happen.

I picked this one because of the lyrics.

“There’s something inside you
It’s hard to explain
They’re talking about you boy
But you’re still the same”

It features in the opening credits to the movie and says to me, “this mild-mannered mechanic you see before you is not as harmless as you think he is” – of course, before you even know he’s a mechanic, the hide-and-seek opening sequence of the movie has already taken place.

It’s a slick and stylish film, featuring a fantastic soundtrack, Ryan Gosling and a shiny scorpion bomber jacket (see inset picture). I do find it quite funny though, that someone is trying to sue the production studio because it isn’t the car-chase action driving movie that’s allegedly portrayed in the trailer.

Oh yes – the song:

Kavinsky – Nightcall

Very retro.

FILM – Fallen

Fallen (1998)

I was walking along Oxford Street earlier this week and a passing stranger brushed my hand as they walked by. It happens often, Oxford Street is never quiet, and every time it does, it reminds me of late nineties supernatural thriller, Fallen.

I remember watching this around the time it was fairly new, Denzel Washington (John Hobbes) the detective/narrator and Elias Koteas (Edgar Reese) the serial killer who provides the template for copycat activity. Just before he is executed, Reese grabs Hobbes’ hand and sings:

The Rolling Stones – Time Is On My Side

The song then becomes a repeating motif throughout the film. I can’t really write this blog post without explaining the relevance, so if you don’t want to know the premise of the film – STOP READING NOW.

It transpires that the copycat murders are actually the work of the spirit of Reese who returns to take revenge for his execution, passing between hosts through the medium of touch, mainly as they brush past each other on busy streets – the song when hummed, whistled or sung is the signal that the person is the current host.

Walking down Oxford Street, the inevitable stranger that passes a little too closely always reminds me of this song, and this film.

FILM – Source Code

Source Code (2011)

I watched the new movie from director Duncan Jones (Son of David Bowie, also director of 2009 science fiction movie, Moon) a couple of months back – Source Code.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the premise is that Jake Gyllenhaal is soldier Captain Colter Stevens, undertaking a mission as part of a special unit, and has been transported into the body of a passenger on a train that was the scene of an explosion earlier that day. His mission is to re-live the last 8 minutes of the passenger’s life over and over again to slowly uncover clues as to the identity of the bomber, so his plans to strike again can be stopped.

The Captain starts the movie unaware as to where he is or why he doesn’t look like himself but slowly pieces the information together with the help of his handler, Vera Farmiga.

The movie has had  mixed reviews – I personally really enjoyed it both in terms of the Hollywood sci-fi action appeal and the range of themes explored by the narrative (time travel, parallel universes and on a more personal level duty, destiny, regret, choices). It was pretty much a current and modified version of Minority Report (2002), which was long overdue – we have glass touch-screen technology now so the tech from that film doesn’t seem so impossible anymore…

Jake Gyllenhaal was convincing, the visual effects were dramatic, the conclusion was full of hope and optimism – although, without ruining the plot, I’ve heard the opinion that it should have stopped at the freeze-frame to avoid the cheese factor – if you don’t go in expecting the dark and understated sinister unravelling of Moon but are prepared for a Hollywood suspense thriller with an interesting premise, you won’t be disappointed.

The point of this post for me was twofold:

1. To touch briefly on my new theory of time travel and why, if it’s possible, no one’s visibly come back from the future yet

Clearly there’s tech involved that means if you are here from the future, although risking catalysing a chain reaction that leads to the non-existence of donuts, anyone that you share your secret with is also transported back to the future with you. Which means that we don’t find out about the invention of time-travel until we invent it. Sorry Source Code.

2. To post a song.

I know the movie was set on a Chicago commuter train but I was at The Great Escape in Brighton this weekend and heard this song live for the first time – at an in-store show from Guillemots at Beyond Retro:

Guillemots – Trains to Brazil (Acoustic)

It was one of my top 3 gigs of the festival – the other two being from Breton and Lucy Rose – and they played both older material and songs from their new album, Walk the River. On tour in the UK at the moment.

FILM – Shutter Island

Shutter Island (2010)

I wanted to try and expand the content of this blog a little – so first up: Shutter Island.

I was reluctant to give this a shot as I’m not so great with films that I’d rather not watch by myself in the dark during a thunderstorm – but Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and the “psychological thriller” genre classification led me to try last night.

The film takes place on an island that houses an asylum for the criminally insane. US Marshall Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) is called there to investigate the disappearance of a patient and, in the course of his encounters with the other residents during his exploration of the facility, begins to question his own sanity.

I’m someone who needs to know that traumatic fiction turns out ok – I hated The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo intensely but had to read to the end to make sure the conclusion was sufficiently benign – and about 15 minutes from the climax of this particular film I Googled the ending to ensure it was something I wanted to see. If you haven’t seen the film, don’t click here.

It’s a heartbreaking story – I’m not sure that’s the first term that would come to most minds but all the suspense and mystery, the sinister soundtrack and the eerie cinematography throughout are an ornate and elaborate cloak for a movie that, for me, is about perception and human fallibility. It left me a little scared – realism always does – but also incredibly sad.

I don’t want this to become a movie review blog – as well as not wanting to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’d much rather write about my experience of the film than critique it – so I’m going to maintain the music element in every post. This could have been on the soundtrack (but wasn’t):

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand (1994)

Similarly eerie, from the opening bell chime to the menacing vocal, the quiet suspense punctuated by organ chords would fit just as well with a silent movie horror (minus the vocals!) as a film noir detective mystery. Or in this case, a psychological thriller. Previous uses include Songs in the Key of X: Music From and Inspired by the X-Files and the Scream Trilogy.

As well as Leonardo DiCaprio who we all know has developed into a widely respected and mature actor since the Titanic blip, Michelle Williams is surprising me with every film I see – Brokeback Mountain, Deception, Blue Valentine, Shutter Island, I’m excited to see where both of them will go next…