Goodnight Mommy

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*Spoilers beyond!

When your trailer is proclaimed as the scariest ever, you’d better back that shit up by making an equally terrifying whole. That trailer went viral in 2015, and as a horror fan it was a bold claim that I needed to verify. What I will say about the trailer is that it makes the movie look like something it isn’t. I didn’t find the trailer scary in the slightest but it did look ominous and interesting and had enough potential to make me want to see the whole thing. Now that I have seen it, did the final product live up to that potential?

Well…. no. Goodnight Mommy does have an interesting premise but misses out on creating any real sense of paranoia or dread. There is maybe a single page’s worth of dialogue in the entire movie, no real action appears until the final twenty minutes of an unnecessarily stretched running time, none of the ideas it purports are explored, and the whole thing is simply dull. We have meandering, lingering shots of empty rooms, the Austrian countryside, and people sitting, staring, walking, and we have unsympathetic and ultimately uninteresting characters leaping to conclusions and exhibiting behavior that seems to have no plausibility or reason. If we compare it to a movie such as, say A Tale Of Two Sisters, the difference in quality is vast. You could argue that it is an invalid comparison but it’s clear the makers desperately wanted to make something in that vein. A Tale Of Two Sisters makes use of its absolutely gorgeous cinematography and colour palette, and isn’t merely there to remind us that the family is isolated. The performances in Goodnight Mommy are sterile, while A Tale Of Two Sisters is visceral, and perhaps most crucially the Asian film is genuinely unsettling and scary.

Goodnight Mommy tells the story of two brothers who apparently live alone in a large house far from civilization, until one day a woman claiming to be their mother returns home from an operation. She is shrouded in bandages and seems to be grumpy and detached compared to when she left. The boys are left to their own devices but they begin to wonder if the woman in their house is an impostor – naturally they leap to the next logical step of torture (in fairness they do try to reach out to a priest, but he takes them home – knowingly). There is a supposed twist, but it’s unclear if the viewer was meant to know it before the official reveal or during one of the several unofficial reveals, or even during the first ten or 15 minutes of the movie where it is fairly obvious anyway. Several notable clichés are invoked such as the good old ‘outsider comes to the rescue only to be distracted at the crucial moment’ and the ‘almost escapes but is caught by something which would never happen in reality’. It’s muddled and plain and boring, and it isn’t redeemed by a better final twenty minutes. There are ideas, there is potential, and some of the scenes towards the end might even cause a hardened horror fan to cringe, but there isn’t enough to recommend. It’s a case of wanting to grab the filmmakers by the shoulders and scream in their faces ‘you’re doing it wrong! I know you’re better than this!’

By all means, watch this if you were genuinely creeped out by the trailer – I mean, check out the many many glowing reviews this has received by better people and clearer voices than me and mine. I can’t say I was disappointed by this as I wasn’t expecting much, but in the end this is a fairly tame thriller that both abandons and under uses its ideas. Let us know in the comments what you thought of the movie!

Nightman Listens To – Joy Division – Closer (Top 1000 Albums Series)

When I started writing this series of Listens To! posts, my idea was to:

A: Listen to the tonnes of albums I have acquired over the years that I hadn’t bothered to actually listen to yet and give my thoughts as I listened for the first time.

B: Catch up on those artists that I was aware of/liked certain songs by, but whose albums I had never listened to in their entirety.

C: Potentially get some new favourites based off what I heard or by recommendations from my billions of readers.

D: Because there are a tonne of albums which always appear on best of lists which I have never heard. As a musician, music fan, and human with working ears, I feel that I should give these a go.

To get some focus, I decided to go to 2000 Edition of ‘Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums’ because it looks fairly comprehensive (and there are a few extra sections listing top 100 albums by genre which cover selections left out of the main 1000 which I will also try to cover).

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Greetings, Glancers! Once again I embark on a voyage through time to expose my brain to the supposed classic albums of the past. Today we look at one of the most revered cult bands ever in Joy Division, and their album Closer. I’ll let you in on a secret; come Closer; in my younger, more songwritingy and singingy days I was compared favourably to Ian Curtis, though I’m not sure why. I sound more like Michael Jackson when I sing, and while my lyrics tended to fall on the darker side of the human condition there was also plenty of humour and nonsense and childlike wonder. I think people thought I looked a bit like him too. I have probably heard many parts of this album but never paid it much attention. While on paper Joy Division always sounded like exactly the sort of band I would listen to, what I’ve heard over the years never enamoured them to me, as well as the fact that I’m not much of a New Order fan or of all the stuff which came out of Manchester in the aftermath. Moving on.

What Do I Know About Joy Division: Led by Ian Curtis, an enigmatic front man who killed himself at 23 after suffering from increasing bouts of depression and epilepsy. The remaining members went on to form New Order. Every time there is some new Indie resurgence, new bands point to Joy Division as an influence. Famed for a gloomy sound blending post-punk, pre-grunge, and synth sounds.

What Do I Know About Closer: The band’s second and final album.

Atrocity Exhibition: Drums. Funky bass. Scary noises. Morrison vocals and poetry. Scratchy guitars and the odd tin drum blast. Lots of distortion of noise and throbbing. This is the way. This is the end? There is an emptiness or coldness to the sound. Reminds me a lot of In Utero. There’s a repetitive quieter thirty seconds in there which isn’t really necessary.

Isolation: Faster, odd synth noises. This one seems familiar but those synth sounds are quite silly. Bass prominent again as expected, but something annoying about it. Sounds more upbeat musically but I suspect the lyrics are not. I don’t like the effects on the vocals. Heavier drums now. Sudden end. Then comes back. Then ends.

Passover: Funky drums. Solo descending notes. Riff. Bass. There’s so much space and emptiness in the verses. There’s a sinister tone with this one thanks to the relentless beat, near spoken vocals, and eerie guitar. It’s the first song where the guitar feels prominent.

Colony: Drums and bass and guitar chugging together. I’m not convinced that the vocals work as well here, or maybe it’s that strange effect on them. The guitar begins playing something different from the drums and bass which sounds bizarre, clashing but not sounding 100% out of place.

A Means To An End: Another thumping, monotonous beat, more jagged guitar, this one sounding more like a traditional riff. I appreciate the vocals, but I do find them getting on my nerve – too plain and cold and emotionless – it works for me on one off listens, but a succession of songs with no variance in the delivery make everything feel too similar. On the flip side, it all adds up to a more potent, chilling whole album.

Heart And Soul: Funky bass and nice drums. Emerging synth. Like a low chant. Of course now they throw in a different effect on the vocals. Sounds more like Morrison. Still the style and delivery is the same. Mesmeric middle. Sudden heavier drum. More words. More sound. End.

Twenty Four Hours: Nice guitar tone. Chattering sounds. Unusual beat. Very Holy Bible. Slower. I still say these songs would sound even better with a less dry vocal delivery. Best song so far, superb stuff. Little shift at the end for a final surprise.

The Eternal: Hissing hisses. Stalking bass. Funeral march piano. More great stuff. Not typing, too busy listening. Sad. Inevitable. Vocals waver slightly into being off key which I assume was on purpose, adding to a sense of futility. Guitar flickery bits. Garden sprinkler ending. Piano mistake.

Decades: More percussive pieces to give lifeless industrial feel. Sudden comedy synth. I wanna die in your arms tonight. Later more 80s drums and synth come in. Beat and rhythm constantly changing. Blasts of backing organ synth stuff. The ‘where have they been’ section is the warmest stuff musically on the album.

What Did I Learn: I wouldn’t say I’ve learned anything, but I definitely appreciate them now that I have listened to them. I like the coldness and intelligence and approach and originality, but I don’t think there is enough variance musically or emotionally to convert me to being some die hard fan. There is great stuff here though and I can see why so many love it and love Curtis. I’ll definitely listen to it again.

Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I’ll have to say yes, although it’s plain to see that this will alienate many people and it’s clearly something that select groups of people will want to listen to. The style is cold and otherwordly, definitely not the stuff of charts past, present or future. As well as the obvious influences on New Order and everything which came from there, the band (I’m not sure if it was this album specifically though) continues to influence new artists and those on the fringe. Teens, kids, and the placeless and questioning will continue to uncover this album for decades to come.

What are your thoughts of Joy Division and Closer? Let us know in the comments!

The Secret Life Of Pets

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The first full cinema experience for my kids (barring Peppa Pig And The Golden Boots), The Secret Life Of Pets is one movie my girls (and me) were busting to see having enjoyed the various trailers. This was Illumination Entertainment’s first truly successful move away from the Despicable Me franchise and features all of the zany humour and intelligent insight you would expect. It goes without saying that the film will be just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids – the animated movie genre has come full circle in the early 21st Century for providing cinematic treats for all the family.

The Secret Life Of Pets begins with a series of vignettes based in a typical New York apartment block. Anyone who has ever owned an animal should get a lot of chuckles from these scenes as the behaviour and characteristics of the animals will be very familiar. We focus on little domesticated dog Max, whose life is spent watching the door for his owner Katie to come home. He, like all the pets, wonder what the humans get up to when the leave but his world is shaken up when Kate comes home with a new, much larger dog – Duke. The two do not get along and begin to conspire against one another leading to an intervention by the guys from the Dog Pound…

The film received a fair amount of criticism saying the story and characters were thinly veiled versions of Woody and Buzz from Toy Story. While not entirely untrue, the same can be said for a hell of a lot of other movies and Toy Story took its fair share of ideas from what had come before – it seems a little disingenuous to make such comments about the film when there is so much to enjoy. There is a wide roster of characters and animals, from the skyscraper roof dwelling hawk who would just as soon eat the pets as help them, to the tough street cats who despise the pets for living in domestic bliss. Taking that one step further are the Flushed Pets – the unwanted, lost, or forgotten animals of NYC who live in the sewers (yes, there is a Crocodile). Led by Kevin Hart’s Snowball, a crazed rabbit who wants revenge on all humans, they spend most of the movie chasing down Max and Co who accidentally killed one of their group.

As with any animated movie these days, a key draw and component in its success is the voice cast. It feels a little strange then that this isn’t exactly filled with recognizable A List talent. The cast is good, and they are talented, but most of the performers are not household names. As mentioned, Kevin Hart lends his talents, and he is joined by Steve Coogan, Louis CK, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, and then a bunch of sitcom actors I don’t really know. Luckily this won’t matter to anyone but the most obtuse viewer and the youngsters certainly won’t care. The voices are distinct and build each character to match the personality shown via the animation and story – lazy, boisterous, decrepit etc. The performers deliver their lines, whether subtle quips, energetic wails, or general dialogue with vivre and as with all these movies they sound like they enjoyed themselves making it.

The Secret Life Of Pets should be a fun movie for kids of all ages and rewarding for adults too, especially pet owners. It may not be as immediately wacky or laugh out loud funny as some, and it may not have the emotional depth of others, but it is still a lot of fun while offering some insightful crumbs on the little beasties we allow into your homes and love. Let us know in the comments what you thought of the movie and how it ranks alongside other recent efforts!

Best Supporting Actress – 1970

Official Nominations: Helen Hayes. Karen Black. Lee Grant. Sally Kellerman. Maureen Stapleton.

Unusually, Helen Hayes was the first person to win in both Lead and Supporting categories with her win for Airport this year. I would have assumed such an event occurred much earlier, but there ya go. Airport is a strange one – it’s not a film, or perhaps more accurately, it’s not a genre that you think of when you think of award winning performances. The Hayes win is a strange one, clearly The Academy handed the award to her for years of service, but then she already had one so…

At the other end of the road was Karen Black, just staring out on her career and having already cemented herself as something of a potential cult icon thanks to her appearance in Easy Rider. In Five Easy Pieces she gets to truly show her chops – no mean feat when she was doing it alongside Jack Nicholson. She is Nicholson’s bit on the side for the duration of the movie, using her sexually, reluctantly dragging her along wherever he goes, and while we see her through his eyes for most of the film Black’s performance stands out on its own in showing a woman with flaws and dreams as much as Bobby. Lee Grant also received a veteran nomination, though her career had been on the rise in recent years. The Landlord is another interesting one, a low budget discourse on racial tension and the desire of the young to be free of the expectations of the old, funny and sad together. Grant’s performance is okay, not a huge role, but fine. Sally Kellerman got a strange nomination for an ensemble piece where the men are the major focus, and Maureen Stapleton received her second nomination as the wife of Airport’s central antagonist. All fine performances, but there’s one clear winner here.

My Winner: Karen Black.

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My Nominations: Karen Black. Susan Anspach. Tuesday Weld. Susan Sarandon.

Only Karen Black makes it over to my list, and joining her is her Five Easy Pieces co-star Susan Anspach – a temptress and escape for Jack Nicholson’s character but one who refuses to be part of is roaming. Tuesday Weld is a different sort of temptress for a different sort of man in I Walk The Line, while Susan Sarandon makes a decent entrance as the runaway daughter of a man sick of counter-culture in Joe. Yeah, I couldn’t think of too many other performances this year I loved.

My Winner: Karen Black.

Let us know in the comments who you think should have won the Best Supporting Actress award for 1970!

#Thisisyourfilm 1999 – 2007

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1999:

Top Grossing Film: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

My Favourite Film: Bangkok Dangerous.

Quite a few good films and big films this year – The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project, and Fight Club are all obvious choices. My pick though is one so very few have seen – there’s no excuse, it’s fucking glorious. Plenty of cult classics this year too.

Biggest Selling Song: Baby One More Time by Britney Spears

My Favourite Song: Unintended by Muse

I almost went for the title track, but then remembered how Unintended grabbed me. I’d heard some of their earlier EP from one of those old radio sampler cds, but it was their ballad that convinced me they would be huge.

Biggest Selling Album: Millennium by Backstreet Boys

My Favourite Album: Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Not too many huge releases this year that I could have gone for, really between this, Muse, and Lene Marlin. Californication is a beast though, a massive return to form and a huge commercial and critical success.

My Favourite Book:  Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

2000:

Top Grossing Film: Mission Impossible 2

My Favourite Film: Battle Royale.

A lot of strong foreign movies this year, aside from my winner. When I first saw Battle Royale I proclaimed it as the most important film of the new millennium. I still stand by that. Pick a better film from 2000, I dare you. 

Biggest Selling Song: Music by Madonna

My Favourite Song: Bumblebee by JJ72

The studio version is quite lovely in its torment, but seeing it live is an entirely different beast – it transforms into a destructive, euphoric masterpiece.

Biggest Selling Album: No Strings Attached by NSYNC

My Favourite Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

I don’t think there was a better album this year, a year which also included Rated R, JJ72,  Lost Souls, Brave New World, Kid A, Wishmaster, and more.

My Favourite Book: A Storm Of Swords by George R R Martin.

2001:

Top Grossing Film: Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

My Favourite Film: The Fellowship Of The Ring

Plenty of worthy picks this year, but come on, LOTR wins every damn time.

Biggest Selling Song: It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy

My Favourite Song: Hurricane by Natalie Imbruglia

Biggest Selling Album: Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park

My Favourite Album: Origin Of Symmetry. 

White Lillies Island, Toxicity, Amnesiac, Blackwater Park, and a whole host of euro and american metal and rock coming back into the mainstream. Muse raised their game and easily bypassed any and all expectations for their second album.

My Favourite Book: Black House by Stephen King

I feel like I should apologize for how limited by reading appears on these lists. At this point in my life I was reading 2-3 books a week, mostly for University. Those books were almost exclusively old – pre-20th Century, or pre-1983 at least. What spare time I had was going on King’s latest releases. He had two this year, and Black House (which I stupidly read before The Talisman) is the better of the two. Looking at what else was released in 2001, I think my choice stands.

2002:

Top Grossing Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

My Favourite Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

See above.

Biggest Selling Song: Anything is possible/Evergreen by Will Young.

My Favourite Song: Under The Ice by Blind Guardian

Biggest Selling Album: The Eminem Show by Eminem

My Favourite Album: Century Child by Nightwish

Night On My Side, A Night At The Opera, Highly Evolved, I To Sky, Deliverance, and plenty more personal favourites.

My Favourite Book: Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

Some of King’s finest short stories collected here, including Little Sisters Of Eluria and the award winning The Man In The Black Suit.

2003:

Top Grossing Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

My Favourite Film: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

See above. Again.

Biggest Selling Song: Where Is The Love by Black Eyed Peas

My Favourite Song: No More Lies by Iron Maiden

Biggest Selling Album: Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ by 50 Cent

My Favourite Album: Another Day by Lene Marlin

The Music, Damnation, Dance Of Death, Absolution, Souvenirs… probably others.

My Favourite Book: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

Not to be an asshole, but I was on the hype train for this before anyone else. I even started an IMDB thread about a potential movie on the book before the book was even released. Anyway, it’s great.

2004:

Top Grossing Film: Shrek 2

My Favourite Film: Dawn Of The Dead

This wasn’t a great year personally for standout films. There were some very good sequels and plenty of films I enjoyed – not many that leap out as a strong favourite. My two obvious picks involved zombies. I’ve gone for the one most would not pick.

Biggest Selling Song: Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Various

My Favourite Song: Ghost Love Score by Nightwish

Biggest Selling Album: Confessions by Usher

My Favourite Album: Welcome To The North by The Music

Faded Seaside Glamour, Once, Until The End, Leviathan, Lifeblood, and more. But my album of the year is also the album of the decade and one of the best ever.

My Favourite Book: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Well, I had to, didn’t I?

2005:

Top Grossing Film: Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

My Favourite Film: Batman Begins

Plenty of worthy comedies and dramas, but Batman wins it.

Biggest Selling Song: Is This The Way To Amarillo by Peter Kay and Tony Christie

My Favourite Song: Something In The Way by Gemma Hayes

Biggest Selling Album: The Emancipation of Mimi by Mariah Carey

My Favourite Album: Ghost Reveries by Opeth

Counting down The Days, Dirty Diamonds, The Roads Don’t Love You and not a lot else. A pretty crappy year.

My Favourite Book: Kafka On The Shore, by Haruki Murakami

Cats. Cats everywhere.

2006:

Top Grossing Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

My Favourite Film: Casino Royale

A terrific year for movies and at least five I could just as easily call my favourite. I’m going to go with what might not be the best out of my favourites, but I think it just about cinches it for ‘rewatchability’.

Biggest Selling Song: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley.

My Favourite Song: Waking Hour by The Gathering

Biggest Selling Album: The High School Musical Soundtrack

My Favourite Album: A Matter Of Life And Death by Iron Maiden

Inhuman Rampage, Black Holes And Revelations, Blood Mountain, Home. Iron Maiden’s return to form culminates in their epic war-based monster.

My Favourite Book: Cell by Stephen King

I know I know, but it’s good!

2007:

Top Grossing Film: Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End

My Favourite Film: Enchanted

A bit of a crap year, actually. Even all the films which did well at The Oscars which most non-Oscars people like, I felt were a bit meh.

Biggest Selling Song: Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis

My Favourite Song: Bouncing Off Clouds by Tori Amos

Biggest Selling Album: Noel by Josh Groban

My Favourite Album: Send Away The Tigers by Manic Street Preachers

As you can tell, the number of quality releases drastically shrinks with each year this decade, so by this point there is’t much worth mentioning – naturally there’s a tonne I haven’t heard so there’s bound to be plenty of great albums and songs I’ve missed. I narrowed by albums down to three, but none of them are even great choices.

My Favourite Book: Unknown

You know, I don’t think I’ve read a single book published in 2007. I mean, I probably have but I can’t think of any which likely means any I did read I didn’t particularly enjoy.

Next time I’ll squeeze the remaining years into one post and I’ll probably remove the books section as there haven’t really been too many books in recent years that I’ve loved outside of the usual suspects. Maybe that’s what happens when you get old(er).