Reviews At A Glance

Sometimes, writing in-depth reviews of everything can become daunting, especially when you find yourself with little down time. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new segment called REVIEWS AT A GLANCE, a brief take on the movies and albums I’ve had in current rotation. It will mostly be newer stuff, since that’s what I focus on in terms of reviewing, but I might drop some old school gems in there from time to time.

What have you been watching and listening to?

July 26, 2015 by Jericho Cerrona

What I've Been Watching
Writer-director Ragnar Bragason's Scandinavian coming-of-age film follows Hera, a disenfranchised young woman (Thorbjorg Helga Thorgilsdottir, in a remarkable performance) dealing with the tragic death of her metal-loving brother. The film understands not only the awkwardness of limping into adulthood, but also the stigma attached to fans of the metal genre. With the wintry Icelandic setting as a backdrop, Bragason's minor gem focuses on Hera's restless need to emulate her deceased brother's interests; from recording lo-fi tapes of her own music, to her fascination with the emerging Black Metal scene. Gently humorous, starkly melancholy, and chock full of 80s-era metal riffage. Metalhead

On the surface, Francesco Munzi's atmospheric crime drama seems to be a fairly standard story of double-crosses, familial traditions, generational sins, and cyclical violence. However, the story about three brothers caught up in Mafia corruption in Southern Italy takes familiar tropes and then cunningly bucks genre conventions. Slowly paced, with moody cinematography and dynamic performances, Black Souls is a de-glamorizing view of cultural identification and barbaric rituals that sets the stage for a whopper of a fatalistic finale. Black Souls

Arnold Schwarzenegger drops the winking self-awareness for a trip to the dark side of post-apocalyptic humanity in Maggie, a picture which desperately wants to subvert the cliched zombie genre, but instead comes off glumly self-serious, and worse of all, deadly boring. As directed by newbie Henry Hobson, the film boils down to a rather trite family melodrama, with Schwarzenegger valiantly attempting to protect his daughter (Abigal Breslin, doing most the heavy emotional lifting), who has contacted a virus and will slowly transform into one of the walking dead. A kind of art-house variation on one of those Cable TV "disease movies of the week", Maggie is a portentous snooze, and quite frankly, could have used more Arnie one-liners. Maggie
David Oyelowo is an intensely talented actor, and he gets to strut his stuff with a one-man show in Nightingale, director Elliot Lester's overdetermined expose of a man gradually losing his mind while holed up inside a house. From the outset, we know Oyelowo's character Peter Snowden has committed a heinous crime, and for the rest of the film's running time, Frederick Mensch's stagey script continuously strains credulity as Peter runs around frantically answering the phone, pining for an old lover, and performing arch monologues in front of a webcam. While Oyelowo's performance holds interest, it also comes across too much like an acting exercise and Lester's unimaginative direction (lots of blurry depth of field, dissolves, etc) just further exacerbates the film's most glaring flaw; that Peter isn't really a human being having a break with reality, but rather, a writers construct in order to set an entire film inside one central location. Nightingale

Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz’s tale of two lovers (Clemens Schick and Wagner Moura) who meet and bond after a horrific drowning accident, is a dreamy exploration of the way life changes almost imperceptibly over time. Beautifully shot; with long-held shots of Brazilian beaches and later on, grey-skied German locales, and featuring very little dialogue or standard plotting, Futuro Beach encourages the audience to surrender to its sensual rhythms rather than have everything spelled out. A third character (Jesuita Barbosa) from the past enters the picture during the poetically transfixing final stretch, creating a dynamic three-hander that seeks to understand love, regret, and pain without dipping into theatrics. Futuro Beach
What I've Been Listening To
Oxford, England outfit Swervedriver may have been overshadowed by bands like Ride and Slowdive during their heyday, but as evidenced by their first full-length in 17 years, there's a reason the whole 90s revival has seen such a cultural shift in recent times. I Wasn't Born To Lose You is made up of the kind of melodic, jangly rock 'n roll that seems to be the choice du jour for many younger bands these days; only that Swervedriver don't sound like they are emulating anyone but themselves. Distorted guitar tones, dreamy reverb, and singer Adam Franklin's lackadaisical drawl hits the shoegazey sweet spot. Swervedriver I Wasn't Born To Lose You 7 out of 10
Now that the rather unfortunate genre known as Chillwave has reached its inevitable demise, Chaz Bundick can pillage through 70s pop, guitar psych, disco, and AM-soft rock with the same kind of meticulousness that he brought to his 2010 debut Causers of This. While fans may be flummoxed by Bundick's move away from R & B-inflected synth pop, the addition of reverb-drenched guitars and 70s soulfulness gives What For? an expansiveness only hinted at in past efforts. Still, while there's admirable mixture of sounds and textures on display here, something is still missing from Toro Y Moi's sonic arsenal. It's almost as if Bundick has the retro aping down so well that he's forgotten to add a sense of discernible personality; (something that fellow revisionist Ariel Pink manages to do brilliantly), resulting in a pleasurable, though only mildly diverting, listen. Toro Y Moi What For? 6 out of 10
Multi-Love, the latest LP from lo-fi R & B experimentalists Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is essentially a heartbreak album. Over the course of 9 tracks, frontman Ruban Nielson ruminates on the ever-evolving nature of romantic love, the confusion of possibly loving two people simultaneously, and the prickly contradictions of human relationships. The overall tone of the album, though, is decidedly up-beat and soulful. In a way, Multi-Love often sounds like a Sly and the Family Stone record submerged under water; with warbly production, futuristic synths, honking brass, and Nielson's subdued vocals, which are often masked by hazy effects, gliding the listener deeper into the retro-psychedelic basement. Poppy and slightly alienating at the same time. Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love 7 out of 10
Hot Chip are a band, not some scuzzy-looking dude with oversized glasses raising his hands behind a DJ booth. Nowadays, with the onslaught of superstar spinners filling stadiums, there's something nostalgic about a revolving set of members creating dance music. On their sixth full-length, Hot Chip continue to do what they do best; namely, making old school dance-floor numbers which draw on a more live sound than many of their contemporaries. Unfortunately, the sound that Hot Chip pioneered for the better part of 15 years, and was later cribbed by people like James Murphy, sounds positively tame in 2015. Instead of pushing forward, Why Make Sense? comes off extremely vanilla, using 70s funk (the talkbox is abused shamelessly) as a springboard for a mostly repetitive set of whiteboy dance anthems. Hot Chip Why Make Sense? 5 out of 10
After 2013's brilliant Cabinet of Curiosities, multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardener would either have to scale back with a more intimate sound, or go even bigger on his followup. In a way, he's attained something of a middle ground on Hypnophobia; a record thats every bit as lushly psychedelic as his previous effort, but which also seems to go deeper lyrically, dealing primarily with nightmarish dreamscapes and an inevitable feeling of losing control. Production-wise, there's a bit of Stereolab at play here with the analog synth-driven melodies, as well a Todd Rundgren-influenced knack for pop experimentalism. Mostly, though, Gardner is a master of orchestration; everything from strings, plucked guitar, electric piano, and his effortlessly soothing vocals are layered with absolute perfection.

Jacco Gardener Hypnophobia 8 out of 10