Monday, 12 March 2012

Sesame Seedy Fun

Seeing as I've been a bit busy this past week and haven't had much of a chance to post on here I thought I'd write about one of the reasons I've been quiet. On Wednesday of last week I took Wen to see the musical Avenue Q at Rhyl Pavillion. I'd been aware that it was showing in Rhyl but to be honest I wasn't really willing to pay £20ish, as luck would have it one of my new co-workers was able to hook me up with a two for one deal (more on that soon) so suddenly £20ish seemed reasonable.

For people who aren't familiar with Avenue Q, it's essentially Sesame Street with swearing and f*cking within the frame of musical theatre. Now I'm not a theatre goer and there isn't many occassions where I am interested in going to a show but I'll be damned if I'm gonna miss out on two for one puppet sex.

The basic story is of a university graduate named Princeton who moves to New York, we follow him as he rents his first apartment, has his first relationship, first job, and tries to find his purpose in life. His apartment happens to be on Avenue Q and this is where the straightforward sounding plot gets a little mental. Avenue Q is Sesame Street for sexual fiends, former child actors, the poverty-stricken, and closet homosexuals. Through Princeton's exploits we get to meet all the characters living on Avenue Q and see what ridiculous things they get up to, I'll take this opportunity to introduce the rest the characters. There is the previously mentioned Princeton (puppet), Kate Monster (puppet love interest and kindergarten teacher), there is Rod (puppet and closet gay) and Nicky (puppet and scruffy flatmate of Rod), Brian (human and wannabe comedian) and his oriental girlfriend Christmas Eve (human and qualified therapist), Trekkie Monster (puppet and letchy recluse), Gary Coleman (human and washed up TV star turned caretaker), The Bad Idea Bears (puppets and troublemakers), and there is the no explanation needed Lucy The Slut (puppet).

During the course of the show all of the characters deal with their own issues and try to find their way in life, usually by way of a song. Whilst the show is laugh out loud funny in places and of course seeing how the  blend of puppets and humans works, the real reason for tipping up the admission fee is the songs. They are incredibly catchy and wildly funny, essentially they are twisted songs that get stuck in your head in the same way Disney songs do. You'll have to get a feel for the songs from their titles: 'It Sucks To Be Me', 'If You Were Gay', 'The Internet Is For Porn', and 'You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)'. As you can gather from the titles there is some pretty adult themes in these songs but they still have that catchy child-like quality to them, as seen below.

Now the people in that video aren't the actors in the production I went to but to be honest they aren't any different either. The performance that's touring the UK at the moment stars, what the programme informs me, a host of theatre luminaries who have done the occasional stint in TV shows like Doctors. I'll be honest when I read that in the programme it didn't inspire confidence but to be fair they all have bills to pay and I imagine it's hard to get a break in the industry. Any doubts I had about the pedigree of the cast were quickly dispelled by a series of great performances and even better singing voices, the lady singing for Lucy The Slut and Kate Monster in particular was incredible in her ability to change her singing voice and still sound brilliant. The cast were extremely enthusiastic and were putting in plenty of effort which showed in their work and that was the only negative I have for the show. Now I'm not saying it was a bad thing that they were trying so hard, that's awesome, it did make me uncomfortable though. You see, those two for one tickets I mentioned, those were being given out because the show wasn't selling. Now that isn't their fault but when a cast is giving their all to all of seventy people it can be a little awkward. There are a couple of occasions in which the cast work the stage and go to the sides to make sure the whole audience gets involved,, thing is there wasn't anybody there and all I could think about during those moments was how soul destroying that must be. That being said I'd much rather that went about things professionally than perform half-hearted for the empty room.

Normally I would encourage folks to check this out, and if you do get a chance you totally should, unfortunately though I've wrote this post three days after it has finished playing in Rhyl! If it does tour again or if you happen to be for a little traveling I would highly recommend catching this show. It's a unique experience and those involved deserve far bigger crowds than the Rhyl shows gave them.

Puppets + swearing + (Disney songs - children) + puppet sex = A top night in Rhyl.



(my phone won't let me post my Mecha picture so you can have this Johnny Explaino instead)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ou est le Jean Claude?

He's right here, rocking it!

This post is dedicated to one of the best films of the last few years, and before any smart-ass asks, NO! No I haven't used the wrong picture for this post. The film I'm talking about does in fact star Jean Claude Van Damme and he is playing... Jean Claude Van Damme!

We're talking about the appropriately titled JCVD, brilliantly directed by the unknown Mabrouk El Mechri. Jean Claude plays an exaggerated version of himself, an out of work, out of money, has-been action star going through the motions and in the midst of a custody battle for his daughter. Whilst visiting his native Belgium he pops to the local post office to pick up some cash. Unfortunately for Monsieur Van Damme he walks into an armed robbery and is soon taken hostage. In the ensuing stand-off with police both the media and the police assume that it's Van Damme that's actually responsible for the robbery because why wouldn't he be? He needs the cash so why the hell wouldn't he? What unravels is a character driven movie that is funny, heart-warming, and intensely personal.

The year this film came out was the year everyone was campaigning for Mickey Rourke to get an Oscar, which ultimately he didn't, for his role in The Wrestler. Now Mickey Rourke did get a nomination and it's for that reason that I can only assume that nobody at The Academy was sent a copy of this film because Jean Claude Van Damme, at the very least, deserved a nomination for this performance. Now I know they'll be some of you out there assuming I've actually lost my damn mind. Am I really saying that Jean Claude Van Damme, star of Bloodsport, deserved Oscar recognition? This guy right here...

...That guy right there! I kid you not, his performance is a masterclass in laying yourself at the mercy of the camera. Van Damme did exactly what Mickey Rourke did in The Wrestler and he did that shit better! The only reason he didn't get the recognition he deserved is that people don't forget that this is a chap who has spent most of his film career doing things like punching out snakes as above. Jean Claude has a lot of baggage. I like most people of a similar age to me grew up on Van Dammage, I used to eat up the ridiculousness of those films. Van Damme would be some kind of bad-ass maverick, he beat up a ruck of people, he got the girls (usually followed by a flash of his bum), and he did the splits.They were good times, apart from his insistence on showing his arse, but they were also a long time ago. In recent years The Muscles from Brussels has made a slew of straight to DVD, made in Romania, pieces of shit that have tried hard to recapture the glory days and failed miserably. It's probably fair to be wary of Van Damme but you'd be horribly unfair to yourself if you didn't take a chance on this film.

I should probably point out that this film is mainly French, they do speak a bit of English but for the most part Jean Claude is rocking his native tongue. I think this helps him to pull off a very natural performance and obviously it get rid of the stumbling over English words that have often popped up in his films. The film is full of dark comedy and some real laugh out loud moments, try and watch the cigarette scene without cracking up, you won't do it. The real stand out moment of the film though has to be the five minute monologue Jean Claude delivers straight at the camera. For five minutes Jean Claude puts all his cards on the table and shows the torment he feels inside. Now I can honestly say that this is possibly the greatest monologue I have ever seen and while we're being honest about things, I'll admit that I damn near cried during this scene. All six or seven times I've seen it! For those five minutes alone Van Damme deserved an Oscar nomination or at the very least the respect of film fans everywhere. I can't rate this film highly enough and I would recommend picking it up if you get the chance (I have a copy going spare since I got the Blu Ray if anyone is interested?). If I haven't swung you with this post and you're not tempted by this film then please listen to Mr Nicolas Cage.                      

Cheers for reading


Monday, 5 March 2012

Attack The Blog

Unfortunately Martin is the one on the right.

I want to use this little blog to encourage folks to check out the site
The site is dedicated to the Troma-esque whimsies of the dude pictured above. Mart is a comic book writer, publisher, film-maker, student, and all around good guy (it hurts to type that). 

Mart and I became friends through a mutual love of films and music and a burning desire to actually make our own film. One day on the way back to mine to watch a couple of films, we were having our usual whining session about whatever film we didn't like at the time when we decided that we were being idiots. I mean how could we have the audacity to constantly rip apart other people's work without at least attempting to contribute to the art form? Don't get me wrong, it's okay to criticise the work of others but I was one of those clowns that thought it was okay to constantly talk about the things I didn't like! If your going to criticise others then what the hell, you might as well try and solve the problem you're complaining about. So we figured we'd make the kind of film we'd like to see made.

Making films is hard. It's really quite hard, especially hard if you are a bell-end of a teenager who thinks that zombies should cover any other shortcomings your film may have, if one of those shortcomings is the script you can consider a robo-zombie (yeah we actually wrote that). Needless to say our first attempts were less than stellar but we found something that was a great bit of fun to do and for the last ten years we've made a few short films and lots of incomplete nonsense. Whilst we still haven't made anything I think we can really be proud of, I think over the last couple of films there is a definite improvement and maybe in another ten years we'll have made something worthwhile. Mart is currently down in Aberystwyth learning all about film-making and if you're intrigued you can check out the films he's making now as well as a few of the things we've made over the years. Just check out the films section of his site, it features gems like the one below.

The other thing Mart is peddling on that there site is his comics. Now it's worth noting that Mart is completely self-published and funds everything to do with these comics, credit where it's due, the dude is getting his stuff out there. There are four comics that can and should be purchased on his site. His first was Paralysis, which has quite an old school pulpy feel to it and set amongst a Nazi attack on London. Whilst short it serves as a good introduction to the kind of story that Mart seems to delight in telling and features some of the detailed research that permeates most of his work, be it comics or scripts. If you're interested in Cowboys, Indians, and Zombies (a decade on but to be fair this is a far better effort than our first script) then The Mutilated Dead is probably for you. I must say that this is a stylish looking comic. The art-work is so unique it's worth checking for that alone. I'm sure Mart won't mind me saying so but the art-work does detract somewhat from the story, it is hard to get the plot from the controlled messy style of the drawings. That said there is cowboys, Indians, zombies, and a ruck of blood. Good times. Mart's third release is certainly his most accomplished, A Rope Around Your Broken Neck tells the story of a persecuted Jesuit priest locked in The Tower of London during the Great Plague. Again the artwork in this one is stunning (handled by R.Ricardo and N.Brondo) but the most impressive thing is the slow burning, human story at the centre of it. Once again Martin shows just how well researched his stuff can be, the plague doctor being a prime example of how that research pays off. A Rope... is typical of the kind of gems that can be found in the indie comic scene, although you do have to do a fair bit of digging. You can also purchase the fun as hell Attackosaur: Robot Dinosaur Police Force which is drawn by Martin Ian Smith himself and tells the tale of a Robotic Dinosaur Police Squad with the brains of some of the finest police officers to have ever walked the earth and it tells that story on Mars. No more words are needed on that one.

I urge you all to head on over to his site by clicking the link at the top of this post and spending a couple of pounds to support an independent guy trying to get a break. Just think, if he ever makes it you can always brag that you were in at the ground floor.

Until the next blog.

Peace, Unity, and Power


Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Freshest Slice of Hip Hop

I want to kick things off properly by talking about a new album that's had some serious play from me over the last week or so. It's DJ Format's Statement of Intent and at the risk of sounding like a cliched music journalist, what a statement it is! I must confess I'm a pretty big Format fan and when I first started really getting into hip hop properly he was one of the acts that got me hooked. I still listen to Music For The Mature B-Boy and If You Can't Join 'Em, Beat 'Em on a fairly regular basis so I was really looking forward to this album once it was announced. Music For The Mature B-Boy was about ten years ago and the follow up was only a couple years after that so it's been a long time since I've had some new Format to play.

The first thing I will say about this album is aimed towards the folks that are familiar with this dude's work, there is no Abdominal. The reason I mention this is because over the two albums mentioned earlier Abs pops up a fair bit and songs like Vicious Battle Raps, Ill Culinary Behaviour, Ugly Brothers, and 3ft Deep (also featuring D-Sisive) are straight up classics. Abdominal rhyming over a funk filled Format beat is one of the most enjoyable things in all of Hip Hop and some people out there might be disappointed that Abs isn't present on this. I'm not one of those people, I'm quite happy he's not on this album as it keeps things fresh, it might also free up some time for Abdominal and DJ Fase to put out their own follow up, and it makes it a bit more interesting as I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from this album. Now that we've got that out of the way I'm going to say a few words on a couple of the tracks that have really jumped out at me so here goes...

Statement of Intent kicks things off with a guest spot from Sureshot LA Rock, I must admit before this album I'd never heard of Sureshot so we're getting that fresh stuff right off the bat. To me Sureshot has a real old school type of voice and he fits nicely over an old school beat from Format. This track has some great cuts from Format and a guitar riff that bounces along brilliantly to the standard funky drums that Format creates on a more consistent basis than anyone else out there could ever hope to. Everything about this opener is heaped in that old school vibe, from Sureshot's lyrics, shell-toes and Melle Mel get their shout, to the way Sureshot and Format seem to be playing off each other to such great effect. It harks back to the feel good party tracks that few people are making these days and serves as an excellent welcome to the album and indication of what is to come for the most part.

Spaceship Earth features Edan. That should be enough for anybody who has even a passing interest in hip hop . If you aren't familiar with Edan then you really are missing out, he is on a whole other level and if you've never listened to him please, please check him out. I really can't get across how amazing this combo is to me, before I heard this song I knew it would be a future classic and I was right, right in a big way. Again Format drops the perfect beat for his rapper and a beat that would easily play well without any rapper at all on the track, cutting in bleeps and whooshes to give it that futuristic feel. Edan is possibly flowing better than I've ever heard him and considering how into Edan I am, that's high praise indeed. I really can't put into words just how good this track actually is, if you take one thing away from this blog it should be listening to this song. I know it's only March but I can honestly say I don't think I'll hear a better song this year.

Beyond Disco is an absolute tour de force in electro brilliance. The track features The Simonsound, which is actually a duo made up of Simon James and... DJ Format! The breaks in the song are unreal and Format is at the top of his game on this one, he's clearly gotten seriously dusty when digging in those crates. I can't give it much higher praise than saying if someone played this to me and told me it was a lost Bambaataa track or really any of the great stuff from that era I'd totally believe them.

Terror featuring Mr.Lif is another one of those dream combo's for me like the Edan track mentioned above. Mr.Lif has been one of the most consistently brilliant rappers for years now. The beat Format drops on this one is a tad more aggressive than usual for him and the drums are heavier, but no less effective, than most of his songs. The use of the blood curdling screams of a woman at regular intervals on the track give a great blend between raw hip hop and 50's horror movies. I was always going to love this song because me and Twitter played a very small part in getting it made. You can all check my Twitter timeline if you don't believe me (@Mechagodzeala). Basically I was tweeting DJ Format and he was kind enough to tweet back, a couple of days earlier I'd noticed Mr.Lif compliment him on the Edan track, with this in mind I mentioned that those two should do a track together. DJ Format said it was a good idea but he was 'just happy that Lif even knew his stuff'... it was worth a try! Next morning when I woke up I had a tweet from Lif stating that was a good idea and I saw he's tweeted Format asking for details so they could set up a collaboration. Cut to a week or so later and Format announces on Twitter that Mr.Lif is going to be on the album. Now it may have just been coincidence right? Check my timeline again, I asked if I can take some credit and Format and Lif both kindly said I played a part, however insignificant. To most folks that won't be a big deal but I'll be dining off this for years, I'm pretty sure my girlfriend is bored of me telling people this story now but I don't care. In however small a way, I am saying I put together this Format & Lif track, deal with it.

Mayor Of A Ghost Town is straight up ridiculous. Four and a half minutes of instrumental brilliance, it has so many layers to it I don't know where to start. The piano on this song is both haunting and menacing, the drums sound like they're stalking an attractive woman down an Italian back street. Somewhere along the way we get a filthy, funk filled guitar lick. If I ever make a giallo film this is the song that let's you know someone is about to get hurt.

There is so much more to enjoy on this album from the classic DJ hype track featuring Sureshot 'Mr DJ', tracks like 'Horse Power' that are vintage Format guaranteed to get you on a dancefloor, and even a jazzy track like 'Notes In Quotation' featuring The Nostalgia 77 Quintet that is up there with the best stuff Format has ever done.

All in all the album feels a lot more confident and in places straight up harder than anything DJ Format has previously released. There just seems to be so much confidence and swagger in these beats and as cliched as it is to say, Format really seems to have grown as an artist. If you take your music seriously then you really need to check this album out, today! Even better, get out and see one of his shows, he won't disappoint.

I'll see you all down front for the Wrexham leg of his tour.



Saturday, 3 March 2012

How do folks?

To anybody that's stumbled across this page, welcome. Just having a bit of a play about at the moment but I'll be hoping to use this as a place to talk about the music and films that I've been checking out. Hopefully folks might check out some of the things I'm talking about and maybe even find some stuff they like.