The World’s End Soundtrack A Fun Musical Trip Back In Time

Courtesy:  ABKCO Records

Courtesy: ABKCO Records

Writer/Director Edgar Wright notes in the liner notes of the soundtrack of his movie, The World’s End that in writing the movie’s script alongside actor Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Room on the Broom), that the pair listened to a playlist consisting of some three hundred songs.  He writes in the very first page of the soundtrack’s liner notes, “When Simon Pegg and myself wrote the screenplay for the film, we listened to a 300 strong playlist of songs, mainly from 1988 to 1993…It powered our writing as much as it power’s Gary’s [King] quest.”  King is the character played by Pegg in the new movie in question.  This single statement from Wright in the very first page of the soundtrack’s liner notes perfectly explain why the songs included in the compilation bear influences from 80’s Brit-pop and synth-pop.  Right off the top, Primal Scream’s ‘Loaded; conjures thoughts of George Michaels’ hit, ‘Freedom’ with its mix of horns and piano.  It’s not a direct lifting of Michaels’ song.  But the similarity is obvious.  It’s just the start of things on this compilation.

The energy established by Primal Scream on the soundtrack’s opener is kicked up another notch as Blur picks up where Primal Scream left off.  Blur’s entry, ‘There’s No Other Way’ is a fitting track for this soundtrack considering the story behind the movie.  Front man Damon Albarn sings in the song’s only verses, “You’re taking the fun out of everything/And making me run when I don’t want to think/You’re taking the fun out of everything/I don’t’ want to think at all…You’re taking the fun out of everything/You’re making it clear when I don’t want to think/You’re taking me up when I don’t’ want to go up anymore/I’m just watching it all.”  This is so fitting in that the plot of the movie centers on Pegg’s character, Gary King.  Gary doesn’t want to have to be an adult and face the adult world, which ends up leading to everything that happens in the story.  Keeping this in mind, it actually becomes quite clear how this song would fit so well into the movie, even with its high energy.  Suffice it to say that it’s just one of so many songs that fans of the old school synth-pop and Brit-pop sounds will appreciate on this compilation.

Just as Blur’s ‘There’s No Other Way’ is a fitting addition to the soundtrack of The World’s End, so is the Soup Dragons’ ‘I’m Free.’  The song, from the Scottish band’s 1990 album, Lovegod, is just as catchy as the compilation’s first two songs.  And in the same fashion, it’s just as fitting lyrically.  The band sings in this song, “I’m free to do what I want/Any old time.”  This would seem to once again mirror Gary’s mindset.   It would be easy to see this song used as part of the pub crawl originally undertaken by Gary’s friends in the movie’s two prequels of sorts, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.

If the songs noted here aren’t enough for fans of the old school Brit-pop and synth-pop sounds of the late 80s and early 90s, then there is no reason to worry.  The World’s End soundtrack has more than its share of classics for fans of that genre including the likes of Pulp’s ‘Do You Remember the First Time?’, The Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’, and British rapper Silver Bullet’s ’20 Seconds to Comply (World’s End Bomb Squad Mix Re-edit’, which in its own way shows where The Prodigy might have gotten the influence for its first big hit, ‘Firestarter.’  Whether for these songs, the previously mentioned songs or any of the others included in this compilation, it offers something for any music lover that grew up in the late 80s and early 90s.  It will prove to be a fun musical trip back in time for those listeners when they pick it up now in stores or order it online.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Admission Gets A “Passing” Grade

Courtesy:  Focus Features/Universal Studios

Courtesy: Focus Features/Universal Studios

Tina Fey’s latest starring vehicle, Admission is a surprisingly entertaining movie for a romantic dramedy.  The movie is on the surface just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  But on a deeper level, it’s more than that.  Presented in this story, audiences are introduced to a woman who is quite the go-getter of an admissions officer at Princeton University, one of America’s elite universities.  She has no husband.  But she does have a long-term boyfriend.  And surprise surprise, she also has a long lost child.  Here’s where things get really interesting.  The identity of said child becomes just one of a handful of twists that no one would have ever seen coming.  And it is those twists, along with Portia’s own personal revelations that make this the surprising story that it is.  The movie’s cast is just as much to thank for the story’s enjoyment, too.  The current slate of sequels and otherwise brainless flicks that have polluted theaters this year only serve to heighten the enjoyment of this movie.  They heighten its importance and work with this last factor to explain even more why Admission is both a romantic dramedy and general movie worth at least one watch.

The main star of Admission is not so much any one member of the cast, but the writing.  Writer Karen Croner’s story was largely panned by critics and general audiences alike when it debuted in theaters in early 2013.  The seemingly common thread between the movie’s criticisms was its casting.  There’s no denying that the pairing of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd didn’t work.  Fey should be commended for making the effort, though.  That’s because she did in fact pull off her role relatively well.  But that will be discussed at a later point.  At this point, the movie’s writing takes center stage so to speak.  As touchy as the casting was, Karen Croner deserves some credit for having crafted a story that turns out to be anything but the standard romantic dramedy.  Sure, the boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  And there’s even a reference to the far too over used romantic airport finale, even that turns out to be quite the surprise.  As the near two hour movie progresses, audiences learn that the movie is less about Portia’s growing romance with John and more about her own personal growth.  The main story is centered on Portia’s personal growth and having to come to terms with her past and how it is directly tied in to the woman that she had become.  The story takes a very realistic element of life and mirrors it in her life in this movie in a fashion that both entertains audiences and moves them.

There are plenty of laughs along the way over the course of Portia’s personal growth.  At one point, she even offers to go toe-to-toe with one of her co-workers over the file of a young man whom she believes to be her son.  The co-workers is one with whom she is competing for the chance to take over as Dean of Admissions at Princeton since their boss, Clarence (Wallace Shawn—The Incredibles, Chicken Little, The Princess Bride, The Cosby Show) is retiring at the end of the academic year.  It’s one of a handful of funny moments that is included throughout the story.  And Portia’s dialogue with her co-worker is what really makes the moment so funny.  She asks her co-worker if she wants to go outside and see just how touchy she is as she throws up her fists.  It’s a wonderfully hilarious moment that once again really exhibited Fey’s comic chops.  This scene is sure to get plenty of laughs from audiences.  By direct contrast, the more emotional moments written into the movie really hit hard as Portia begins to realize what she really gave up when she gave up her child for adoption.

The story’s more emotional moments are wonderful additions to Admission’s script.  They are a good juxtaposition to the more comical moments peppered throughout the story.  And Fey’s interpretation of those more emotional and comical moments plays right into another of the movie’s positives. She does an impressive job of interpreting the scripts in her acting, which is another of the movie’s positives.  She had already proven herself when she starred alongside Steve Carell in Date Night.  Now she’s taken her acting chops up a notch this time out.  This is even despite starring alongside Paul Rudd.  Rudd does next to nothing to enhance the movie.  This is the case even in scenes placing him alongside Fey.  By contrast, her partnership with Carell in Date Night worked far better.  Whereas Paul Rudd didn’t work by himself or even with Tina Fey, his young co-star, Travaris Spears, is a joy to watch.  Thank goodness for his inclusion in the story.  Both in his comedic moments and slightly more serious moments, Spears shines as John’s adopted son, Nelson.  Some of his best lines come with Portia.  Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh when Nelson makes jokes at Portia’s expense about her being dull and predictable.  There’s just something about his delivery that makes these jokes worth every laugh.  By comparison, his more serious moments are just as powerful.

Tina Fey and Travaris Spears are the real stars of Admission in terms of its cast.  That’s not to say that leading star Nat Wolff didn’t do a good job as Jeremiah.  His role was integral in the story.  But it felt difficult to connect to Jeremiah on an emotional level.  Thankfully his chemistry with Fey’s Porta offset that lack of connection, and helped audiences connect even more to her.  To that end, Wolff was a good choice to fill Jeremiah’s shoes.  His was a choice that along with Tina Fey and Travaris Spears, helped to make Admission more bearable than it could have been.

Admission is a movie that is worth at least one watch, whether one is a fan of rom-coms and romantic dramedies or not.  That is thanks in large part to the story’s writing and to its casting.  Sure, not the entire cast was too well cast.  But having Tina Fey and Travaris Spears on board was the right choice.  Their interpretation of the scripts really helped to move the story along.  There is one more factor to consider in this movie’s success.  It is a comparison of this movie to the rest of the movies that have been churned out so far in 2013.  Considering that most of the movies that have come to theaters in 2013 have been either sequels or generally dumbed down flicks, Admission actually holds its own quite well against them.  It’s a romantic dramedy.  But it’s less romantic dramedy than it is a story of one woman’s personal growth and revelations.  It doesn’t play out to the far too perfected formula of so many other movies in its genre.  That’s probably another reason that it was panned by viewers and critics.  But it’s also exactly what makes it so much better than its counterparts.  It doesn’t fit nicely into that mold.  Because of that and the acting and casting combined, it becomes a movie that is worth at least one watch whether alone or as a couple.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Promised Land A Deep But Largely Forgettable Film

Courtesy:  Focus Features/Universal Studios

Courtesy: Focus Features/Universal Studios

Matt Damon’s new starring vehicle, Promised Land is not one of the best of 2013’s crop of new movies.  It is however, worth at least one watch.  It’s a relatively simple movie, despite what so many critics and audiences have apparently thought of it.  It is not as deep as those individuals would have people believe.  The crux of Promised Land has absolutely nothing to do with the issue of fracking.  The real issue at hand in this seemingly socially conscious story is that of corruption within the world’s major energy companies and businesses in general.  It just so happens that the issue of fracking is used as the backdrop for that plot.  And at the heart of it all is Matt Damon’s character of Steve Butler who thinks all along, that he is doing something good, until a twist late in the story leaves him questioning everything that he has known.  Of course, add in a minor romance subplot for Steve, and audiences get the end result that is this interesting but not entirely memorable story.

The major hurdle that Promised Land faced when it originally debuted in theaters in early 2013 was figuring out a way to take the tried and true plot centered on business corruption from being stale and boring.  Stories centered on corruption within the business world are nothing new.  See Michael Douglas’ Wall Street franchise or Leonardo DiCaprio’s upcoming movie, The Wolf of Wall Street.  Since this plot is nothing new to Hollywood’s brass, it should be said that at least the execution of the story line is original even if the plot isn’t.  So the movie as a whole does have that much going for it.  For its attempts to be at least somewhat original, Damon and his co-writers deserve some credit.  The real problem with the whole movie was the timing of its release.

Promised Land had trouble performing at top notch levels in theaters.  There is no denying this.  Its performance issues were not just because of its subject matter, but also because of the timing of its release.  America is currently in an economic and political climate that necessitates movies as means to escape even more than ever.  So being faced with a story that deals with issues that have been all over the news, viewers obviously turned largely away from it.  Had the nation’s economic and political situations been different when this was released, movie-goers’ reaction might have been different.  From that angle, it can be said that perhaps this is a positive.  It’s a positive in that it serves as an example of what not to do in planning the release date for a movie.  So it has that going for it, too.      

For the issues surrounding Promised Land, it isn’t entirely without its merits.  Lead actor Matt Damon was at least mildly convincing as the socially blind Steve Butler.  In its own way, his portrayal of Steve is realistic.  Just look at the way that supporters of one political party or another blindly support their side every day on every major issue.  Look at the way that PR professionals cover up the wrongs of their companies.  In many cases, those professionals actually believe the words that they spew out.  This isn’t always the case.  But it does happen.  So Steve’s reaction in figuring out that he has been little more than a pawn in Global’s bigger plot makes him a more sympathetic character for audiences.  He becomes someone to whom audiences can relate and for whom they can cheer.  It’s at least one reason for viewers to take in this story at least once.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hyde Park On Hudson One Of The Worst Historical Works In Years

Courtesy: Universal Studios/Focus Features

Courtesy: Universal Studios/Focus Features

Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the least enjoyable movies of 2012 and just as uninteresting now that is has been released to DVD and Blu-ray.  The problem with this attempt at a semi-biopic is the lack of balance between the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s relationship with his mistress Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley and that of the visit by King George and his wife, Queen Elizabeth.  The script attempts to tie the two storylines together.  But in that effort, writer Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell have instead crafted a story that ends up plodding along at a near snail’s pace all while not really amounting to anything by the time it ends.  The story is narrated by what is supposed to be Margaret Suckley, explaining her relationship.  Herein lies another issue with the story.  Because it is told from the vantage point of “the other woman”, there’s no way to ignore the comparison to the Madonna helmed W./E.  Just as the latter was an art film, this movie comes across the same way, eventually amounting to nothing.

The initial comparison to W./E. is only one problem with Hyde Park on Hudson.  Anyone that has any knowledge of presidential history or even the slightest interest in said history know that Roosevelt was just one of so many political figures that has been anything but faithful in their marriage.  Keeping this in mind, it makes the storyline of FDR’s relationship with his mistress–and only certain people knowing about it—all the less interesting.  Had the story been more focused and aimed perhaps at the political relationship between the British royals and the President, it might have actually had more substance about it.  But sadly, Nelson opts instead for the more dramatized side of things, going more for the intended soap opera that surrounded FDR and his mistress, again causing the story’s pacing to drag along slowly, and thus leave audiences feel robbed of their time.

For all of the negatives surrounding Hyde Park on Hudson, it does have at least one positive.  That positive would be its backdrops and associated cinematography.  The beautiful countryside backdrops of the story are beautiful.  And thanks to the expert work of the movie’s film crew, those backdrops became the real stars of the movie; even more so than lead star Bill Murray who did quite the job of portraying the late President.  Murray’s portrayal leaves one wondering if he did so well, then how much better could this script have been had Nelson and Michell come to terms on which story was more important.  But because of Hollywood’s seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and reboots, one can only hope that should the story of Roosevelt’s “secret” ever be retold, it will star Murray again, but actually have more worth seeing.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Forget The Franchises, Go See Moonrise Kingdom

Courtesy: American Empirical Pictures/Indian Paintbrush/Focus Features

Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most peculiar yet deepest and most heartfelt movies of 2012.  It is a niche film, meaning it isn’t for everyone.  But it is still a story worth seeing.  Moonrise Kingdom is for all essential purposes, a coming of age story.  The short and simple is that Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are surrounded by dysfunction, and through simple correspondence, they run off together.  In the process, they learn about themselves and each other.

The coming of age story has been done and then some throughout Hollywood’s history.  But this story has completely set itself apart from all the other movies in that sub-genre.  Somehow, it managed to combine themes of love and overcoming adversity in a way that doesn’t bog down the story.  Both Suzy and Sam want love.  One has parents who don’t give her the love that she needs. The other is an orphan, so all he needs is love.  Top it all off by presenting each in a setting that’s rife with dysfunction, and it makes both Suzy and Sam very sympathetic characters.  That being the case, it makes the pair’s idealistic puppy love forgiveable.  For that matter, it actually makes the pair’s “relationship” more believeable and heartwarming, albeit a little bit seemingly dysfunctional in itself.

The story behind Moonrise Kingdom is deep and heartfelt in the long run.  It’s only one part of what makes this one of the year’s most underrated movies.  The cinematography really added to the film’s enjoyment.  There was something about the shooting style in this movie that made it stand out among the masses.  One example of that shooting style comes as Sam and Suzy are attempting to cross a stream.  The shot for this scene is somewhat grainy and imperfect.  Yet that imperfection makes it a wonderful shot.  It helps the surrounding scenery really stand out.  It’s just one of so many that any student of the film art will appreciate throughout the story.

Acting and cinematography are big parts of what make a movie great.  But another part of what makes a movie great is a soundtrack.  Far too often, movies just toss in a bunch of songs here and there that are in reality little more than background noise.  But in the case of Moonrise Kingdom, the story’s soundtrack is a whole part of the movie in itself.  In listening to the soundtrack alone, one doesn’t really catch the impact that the music has on the movie.  But in watching the movie with the soundtrack, it adds so much emotion from one scene to the next.  That even includes the addition of some classic Hank Williams, Sr. songs.  Composer Benjamin Britten’s “Heroic Weather-Conditions Of the Universe” suite is beautiful in itself.  And added to the story, it makes the scenes in which it is used that much more powerful. 

So much work went into making Moonrise Kingdom.  And it shows from every angle.  The story of what brought Sam and Suzy together makes their relationship at least somewhat understandable.  That story itself has so many layers.  Somehow, they manage to interweave without getting to be too much for the story.  The movie’s scenery, cinematography and soundtrack add layers all their own to what is already an interesting story.  Do they combine to make Moonrise Kingdom one of 2012’s best?  That’s debatable.  However, one thing can be said of Moonrise Kingdom.  And that is that at a time when movie studios are churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and reboots, this movie has turned out to be one of the year’s most original and heartwarming (and slightly twisted) works.  Whether or not it’s among the year’s best is in the eye of the beholder.  But it is a breath of fresh air in a sea of franchises from studios that are too scared to take a chance on something original.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.