We had national holidays over here in Chile, so I decided to take a little while longer in making this week's comic so I wouldn't explode, but something could be said about my tardiness when in between U2 drops a new album. Holy shit!
I think I've already made it abundantly clear by now in nearly every social network I've been to. They're my favorite band. I know that's something unpopular to say... pretty much everywhere, considering Bono's world-saving antics and the fact that they're the de facto biggest rock band around, but what do you want me to say. I think they're musically great, they're a band with a tremendously rich catalog, spanning many genres and topics through the years, unafraid of experimentation within rock boundaries.
I'd say that defines U2 up until the 90s. Then they released All That You Can't Leave Behind, a great album that made a teenaged fan with their “Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of” single; but the time since then hasn't been as productive as the couple of decades prior. Only two albums released, and while they were far from bad, it's definitely where they start becoming blander and soft-edged. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is lots of fun, but largely unrewarding lyrically save for a couple of tunes. No Line On The Horizon is more introspective, like a state-of-mind situation, but overall that's a gray album with a gray cover. Nothing really stood out there. It's a bit of a problem when the best song from the album, “I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy”, was largely skipped when they were touring in favor of... a remix. Said remix is great, by the way, far more desperate-sounding than the original.
And out of the blue they release a new album, Songs of Innocence. At last. The wait since 2009 was a long, long one – I was kinda fearing they would say they're on an honest-to-God hiatus and be back whenever they felt like it. But they're here now. And it's free! And that pissed some people off, but whatever. I don't have an iProduct, I only made an iTunes account to get the album, and even if I owned an iPhone or whatever, they're my favorite band so I would be fine. But still, Apple decisions on how to handle the album's distribution was a mess. A mess Apple costumers didn't mind on letting it become a storm in a teacup. Who cares, really.
In any case, the new album is great. Just great. While the album starts with its worst (or rather, less good) song, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”, it builds from there towards goodness. U2's never been this catchy, with tunes that borrow and tweak from Franz Ferdinand, Led Zeppelin and Youssou N'Dour to name a few. What I love about U2 from the 80s to the late 90s is that they kept a very steady evolution, filled with change and expansion towards all sorts of genres. They'd explore their upbringing and the Irish climate with Boy, October and War; they'd fill stadiums with soaring chords from An Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree; they'd dive into the american soundscape with Rattle & Hum; they'd (very positively) burn everything they did with Achtung Baby!, Zooropa and Pop; and they'd clear all the chaos and confusion with All That You Can't Leave Behind. The 2000s were quieter, more laidback – as if their work was already done, but now they're back at it. This is the U2 that I wanted to hear for so long. This album sounds like no other U2 album. It's weirdly upbeat, it's contagiously catchy, it's a clean slate for the guys. Lyrically they're going as back in time as they possibly can, yet the beats they make couldn't be any more fresher and new. It's wonderful.
And Bono has come up saying he's working on a sequel, Songs of Experience. I'm not gonna hold my breath – last time I did I waited for nearly 6 years, but if this is where they're going, couldn't be any more hype.
Favorite song? One day it's “Volcano”. The following day could be “This Is Where You Can Find Me Now”. And the day after that one it's “Raised By Wolves”. And then there's “Cedarwood Road” and “The Troubles” trying to sneak in to claim the title. Or the very Zooropa-ish “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”. So many worthy candidates! Can't wait to see all these songs live.
Anyway. Movies now.
Averaged, this wasn't a particularly brilliant time at the movies or anything. It was a time, defined by a number of time units, in which movies were seen. Some of them were great, others not so much. But overall, nothing here really stood out with me.
I started with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's 22 Jump Street
– it's so rare to see anyone other than Spielberg with two movies within a year, as this is their second release after Lego Movie. But much like Steven, they're great at it. Two movies, both of them great. In fact, this one's way better than the original. Following 21 Jump Street, Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and Tatum, respectively) are now undercover agents acting as students at a college, aiming to take down an underground cartel that's developing a new, dangerous drug.
Honestly there's not much more plot than that. I can't add an “but there's a catch, you see...” in there. They go and handle college things individually, investigating and fraternizing at the same time. And their chemistry's better than ever. They're a supremely bromantic riot. They don't have to sell you the idea of them working together through easy, reference-laden setups like they did in the first one (they still keep the meta-humor though, but it's tremendously minimized). They just go at it, unworried now that they proved themselves. While I liked just fine The Heat, this movie makes me very hyped for its sequel. That movie also made lots of money, yet the original ones for both series were too uneven for me. Not bad, but never peaking hysterical levels. 22 Jump Street, however, was just there with enviable ease. Check it out.
Up next is Frank Miller and Robert Rodríguez's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.
And I was complaining that U2's new album took forever to arrive. All the way from 2005, they finally made the side-pre-sequel to the strictly anti-gray, black-and-white-and-sometimes-other-colors vignette ultra-noir film starring Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba. And... it's not terrible. But it wasn't worth the wait.
While the visuals are still flawless, very well surviving the passage of time, the plot itself is a bit on the eh-side of things. Not bad by any means, but it's something that doesn't feel urgent enough for a sequel. It's stuff you could've annexed into the first movie. Nothing new or different is shown here. We get closure to some storylines, but they're dryly delivered. No impact at all. Maybe it's because of the time passed. Nowadays I don't really care that much about Marv or Nancy, yet this movie expects us to still feel the same way about them as we did back in 2005. As if nothing had happened in between. Maybe in Sin City things will remain forever the same, but as an audience, we've moved on, and A Dame To Kill For had not a whole lot to convince us to go back for more. Visuals and ambiance, they're still there and they're fine. But it's not enough.
We had national holidays here in Chile, so how about a local film? It's Sebastián Sepúlveda's Las Niñas Quispe
(The Quispe Girls). Based on real events, it's the story of the three middle-aged goatherding Quispe sisters, that tried to live their lives as normally as possible despite the times. It's 1973, and the coup d'etat in Santiago just happened, slowly but surely bringing its ripples towards their high on-the-mountain, desolate, lonesome valley.
While it's got a powerfully stoic cinematography and it's very well performed, with a deep level of characterization that pushes the three actresses (Francisca Gavilán as Luciana, Digna Quispe as Justa, and Catalina Saavedra as Lucía) to major physical commitments in the windy highlands and its volatile temperatures, … there's not a whole lot going on here. When I said “based on real events”, I should've said “barely based on real events”, because if there's a “real event” going on here, it's only happening at the LITERAL last ten minutes of the film. The rest is bloated silence. They're doing their everyday work, talking a bit, meeting someone, looking into the distance, and thinking about things going on elsewhere. Nothing is truly formed that'd give the movie a much needed aim – until, as I mentioned, the last scene.
It's a pretty good, chilling scene, but talking about it would be a bit of a major, dealbreaker spoiler. I had no idea about the Quispe ladies beforehand, and should've I known maybe I would've liked the movie somewhat more, although the ending wouldn't impact me as much.
And also: what's the deal with the animal violence going on here? No “no animals were harmed during the making of this film” bit at the credits. Those goats go through some rough hands and... there's something going on here I'm not sure it's not an effect.
Don't know where to stand on this one. Leaning closer the “nope”, but still respecting fractions of it.
Another based-on-true-stories film. Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man
. Colin Firth plays a war veteran with a passion for trains who, despite having found love and just marrying Nicole Kidman's character, is still dealing with his very traumatic past as a prisoner of war at a japanese labor camp in southern-east Asia – and upon discovering the man behind his pain's still alive, he seeks him to finally get some... something, out of him. Catharsis. Answers. Revenge. Anything that'll set him free.
The acting's great here, but the cinematography's just outstanding. But I feel that before talking about both aspects, I should mention the wildly shifting tones going on here. It starts with a laidback, serene composture, and then it dives into a very warm and lush romance of a few words. Then we're dealing with some heavy, unaccounted ghosts that'll take the movie to dark, physical levels – past and present alike. And then it's something not far removed from Liam Neeson's Taken films. Interrogation scenes with huge amounts of intensity for both parties.
And then it ends with a nice, uplifting tone.
Despite the ups and downs, I can't fully claim the movie's inconsistent: it's at least consistently well made. The acting, as mentioned, is top notch stuff. Firth once again proves he's as lovable as ever, yet he's also got an amazing talent for tapping into darkness and violence. If I'm allowed some self-insertion here, … who does he remind me of?
Props should also go to Jeremy Irvine, who plays the younger version of Colin Firth's character Eric – he's the one who goes through it all, with a fierce solemnity against humanity's worse. He's fantastic too. And the cinematography by Garry Phillips's a sensational work of minimalistic art, making waves out of still shots and slow pans of very carefully composed scenes – something akin to the work of Florian Hoffmeister in Terrence Davies's The Deep Blue Sea. Top notch.
If I'm not liking the movie as much, however, is precisely because it's a bit all over the map. It's a movie a bit too hard to grab and appreciate as a whole, but in bits it's pretty good. And regardless, it's one of the you can't say the sum of the parts add more than the whole – both of them are nearly equally good.
And finally, straight out of Cannes, it's David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars
. It focuses on the lives of a past-her-prime actress played by Julianne Moore, who's hungry to play the lead in a film once made by her mother; a celebrity dynasty with a very popular teenage son who's an actor in a sitcom; and a young girl deformed by burns on her skin who's just arrived to Hollywood, looking for a job and her family over there. That's all I say about them, other than there's something going on with these characters – and coming from Cronenberg, it's not something nice.
Much has been said about Moore here. She's great. She's bipolar as fuck. Everyone here are bipolar as fuck. It's a movie a bit tough to like, with everyone living in a very compact First World, with First World Problems; but their inner demons and issues are what will keep you glued here. Cronenberg has always worked wonders with the morbid, whether it's about the gross and the gruesome, or the scrupulous and the secretive. This one leans towards the latter end with gusto, never fearing showcasing how assholes these guys really are.
However, it's strictly a Hollywood-based film. Not that there's any legitimate dirt going on here against a true-life celebrity, but the limits make the movie somewhat predictably sensationalist. It's all about their jobs and their wealth and their fame, and I'm usually tuned out whenever their arrogant, selfish nature surfaces, as if, for as legitimate as this movie could ever be, there was a little voice on my voice saying there's no way these characters could be real people. And it's not funny/funny enough to pass as comedy so you could let it pass – although Moore has some inspired scenes.
It's alright. It's a movie tough to swallow, but the taste, while strong and unpleasant at first, will leave a lasting, unique aftertaste you won't regret.
That's it for now! Best of luck, everyone.