Sunday, 28 March 2010

A Good Week part 2: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

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Kick-Ass has barely had time to get to first base with movie geeks, but already they're being offered a cheeky feel from another brassy Brit flick - Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, directed by Edgar Wright, him what did Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. It's looking as if it'll be a total riot, packed with Wright's usual dynamic and playful style, with a ridiculous attention to detail.

A Good Week part 1: LCD Soundsystem return

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There is a big vat of regard for James Murphy here at PCCP, so new LCD Soundsystem business is a cause for giddy schoolgirl rejoice.

The forthcoming album - supposedly the last, said the New Yorker unto Zane Lowe - is getting the default rosy feedback, with The Quietus hinting that it's all you could hope for, though this time the everso beloved disco-kraut-punk-acid has had the edges sanded down, making it more mass humanity-friendly – you can kinda hear that in Drunk Girls, which appeared over the net and can be streamed over here at Pitchfork.

Murphy already seems to be looking over the horizon: as well as his LCD business, he's scored the new Ben Stiller / Noah Baumbach film Greenberg, which has Murphy scooting off into gentler, more pensive climes, filled with the kind of Seventies comedown rock, an expansive west coast sound, where the bitterness of the failure of the hippy generation is expressed by blissed-out rich men recording at the bottom of pit of disappointment. Don't worry, that makes sense in my head.

Does this help?

Monday, 22 March 2010

PCCP reviews Kick-Ass, comes off second best

Comic-book film adaptation shark-jump update: initial suspicions were that Watchmen would be the moment when normal people, the ones who don't give a shit who Jack Kirby is, stopped paying good money to sit in a cinema and watch blokes with a keen eye for colour-coordinated tight-fitting outfits getting physical with each other.

It's all a bit irrelevant now, as Kick-Ass is about to make every superhero film that follows it redundant. Based on the mini-series by the ridiculously talented British writer Mark Millar and industry legend John Romita Jr, Kick-Ass finishes the job Watchmen started and dismantles the genre by applying the superhero cliches to the real world to see how they stand up. On one level, Kick-Ass is deconstructivist evaluation of an art form that has struggled to come to terms with its own identity, but more importantly, it's a traffic-stopping, highly savvy claret-soaked action-comedy tear-up, and unquestionably the most fun you will have all year - unless you happen to end up at your local Odeon getting tromboned by the entire Brazilian beach volleyball team after having set loose a gang of howler monkeys in the Daily Mail offices.

After wondering why everybody wants to be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider-Man, high-school no-mark Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to mask up as Kick-Ass and take on bad guys - armed only with good intentions and a geek's knowledge of comics. Despite getting his ass handed to him in the worst way while on his first foray, Dave persists and finds fame after a clip of him taking on some thugs winds up on YouTube. Being a viral sensastion leads to a kind of noble glory, so he sets up a Kick-Ass MySpace page to help people in need, including Katie, the girl he has such a crush on that he's willing to pretend he's gay just to get close to her.

But his exploits also put him in cahoots with fellow masked avengers Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz), whose brand of ultra-violence lets Dave know that he's in well over his head. Drawn into their battle with local crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), Dave discovers what he's really let himself in for - and that he needs to seriously man up if he really wants to do this for a living.

Anyone who's seen the trailers already knows why Kick-Ass is point-blank essential viewing: Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl. Obviously, sizeable tittering comes from seeing an 11-year-old schoolgirl dropping F- and C-bombs, but the truth is SHE IS UNQUESTIONABLY INCREDIBLY GOOD IN THIS, which bodes well for anyone fearing the Hollywood remake of Let The Right One In, as she's been cast as a lead in that. The wee sod truly owns this movie; as well as nailing it as an Early Learning Centre death-dealer, she also never loses sight of the naive innocence of her character, ultimately as fragile as much as she is a brutal fucker. In fact, virtually the whole of the young cast are impressive - Aaron Johnson has the perfect Peter Parker bland everyman charm, while Clark Duke will probably be able to get any role that Jonah Hill turns down after his effortless turn as Dave's smart-arse mate Marty. Fan favourite Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in too as D'Amico's son and bandwagon jumper Red Mist, but his presence feels more of a marketplace signifier, rounding up the Superbad demogrpahic.

What's slightly confusing is that the performances of the experienced cast members jars against this lot. Both Nicolas Cage, channeling Adam West as Big Daddy, and Mark Strong as crime boss D'Amico are both too mannered and over the top in comparison - it's like they've popped in from a lesser film to see how the kids are getting on. It's this sense of disconnection that is the basis of Kick-Ass' major flaw. It has plenty of neat points to make, from redirecting the apathetic nature of modern society, with its facile social networking and meme culture, to breaking down the observational character errors of superheroes - Dave wants to be a superhero to be cool as much as to be heroic. But it trades it off against some overly broad passages that drag it down in places - D'Amico and his goons are just cartoon cliches, while the films excessive nature veers slightly into self-parody at moments in the later stages, when a key aspect of Millar's comics was that, unlike Spider-Man or Watchmen, all this could feasibly happen.

But that's just me being a picky sod just to look smart. Kick-Ass is a ceaseless riot of smart ideas, snappy dialogue, wanton bloodshed and potty-mouthed ridiculousness that starts awesome, gets awesomer and ends awesomest.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Competition time: who wants a night out with the Plump DJs at Matter?

Morning all, should this Friday the 19th feature an evening hole that needs a little Dutch kid sticking his finger in it, then you're in luck.

We have two tickets to the launch night of the Plump DJs new residency at Matter @ the O2, with the genially exceptional electro-house gents being joined by the likes of Hot Chip, Vitalic and some other people who we can only assume have passed the City & Guilds in record playing.

For your chance to win, send your answer to the following question to us by 3pm Friday 19th March. Funniest answer win.

If PCCP didn't already stand for Pop Culture Care Package, what could it stand for? Example: Pat Cash's Colostomy Problem or Please Chastise Cher's Parents.

Chuck your answers in this electro post-hole...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Has Pineapple Dance Studio torn the fabric of reality?

It started out innocently and smugly enough. After reading Charlie Brooker's agog review in the Guardian, I tuned into Pineapple Dance Studio expecting some of those middle-class water-cooler moments, where we dispense with the pretense of empathy that producers use to appease commissioning editors, instead honing in on the laughs that we're really being sold in shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and those glorious Tourette's documentaries.

"It's like a high-camp absurdist version of The Office," was my initial response. Then I realised that I had badly misjudged it, and that rather than a garish stream of curiously bland flamboyance, it is in fact a highly meta inter-textual dissection of reality in all its forms - plus an incisive analysis of modern society. Honestly. It flirts with reality and shifts perception like nothing I've seen since The Matrix, Memento or Synecdoche.

Oh, of course, to the passing eye it's a frothy documentary about a famous dance studio and its inhabitants. This is ratified by the presence of owner Debbie Moore and dance teacher Mark Tattershall - the studio is their reality and they adhere to the guidelines of that existence with ponderous dilligence. But then alternate realities start to reveal themselves. Behind the construct of the accepted parameters of the studio is the crushing dullardity of everyday, real life in the form of the gent who carries out tedious bureaucratic staff appraisals with his painfully tired demeanour, which serves to remind us that, no matter where we are, we can never totally escape from the humdrum.

Then, as we dig deeper, we find a third strata: the modern reality bequeathed to us by Big Brother. This is the one only where you only exist in terms of media validation; it has its own standards, delusions, demands and forms of representation. This is encapsulated by dance teacher Andrew Stone, who's using the show to promote his fuck's-sake awful band. He embodies the voguish notion that an ability to adhere to the reality TV template of unfounded self-belief and a grating willingness to behave like a tit are more worth more than effort, merit, talent and application. With his amply apparent misguided shitness, this loon also straddles a fourth reality, the close neighbour of reality TV, the mockumentary. His sheer woefulness steers him into David Brent territory, and when he loses his bearings, his band's fetal manager chips in with with some Alan Partridge moments of his own to keep him on track.

But above it all is artistic director Louie Spence (above). He may appear to be an attention-seeking fusion of every possible riotous gay cliche, but if this project is The Matrix, then Louie is Morpheus. Spence is a highly sentient genius who's aware of all of the above planes of reality and exists comfortably on all of them, switching between them with ease. Not only is he the man who physically oversees the day-to-day running of the studio, he also binds the fabric of perception. At the same time as carrying out his tasks, he wears the mask of the Reality TV wannabe - yet he never loses sight of the tepid necessity that underpins life. The clip below was the moment when it all fell into place for me. The key factors here are his respect for fire safety and the presence of a faulty lightbulb...

Rather than mugging, what he's actually done here is fuse the show's stated reality, the theatricality of Reality TV, the absurdity of mockumentary with the banal signifiers of everyday life. In one short, fluid sequence. To a drum track. You have to admit that's impressive.

What's also important to realise is that Louie KNOWS. You can't laugh at him, only with him.

Besides, he operates on four different levels of consciousness, how many are you on, eh?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Uma: a pot that few are willing to piss in

I've just watched the Coen brothers' A Serious Man again, and the theme of seriously shitty things happening to arseholism-neutral people may very well be a social-realist allegory of the career arc of Uma Thurman. Two Tarantino films, a Gilliam and a Linklater aside, she also has the legendary hummer Avengers staring up at her from her IMDB page, plus her Batman & Robin was recently voted Worst Film Ever by Empire readers. Jennifer Aniston clearly deserves that kind of fate, but surely not Uma?

But it appears even that wasn't enough to satisfy the wrathful god of cinema. Her latest expedition, Motherhood, was released in the UK this past weekend – and took just £88 in its first weekend. Of that, only £9 was taken on the Sunday - meaning just one person saw it that day.

At £9 for an 90 minutes... allowing double time for Sundays... Uma was on the equivalent of just £3 an hour. Jesus, the UK National Minimum Wage is £5.80. This was brought in to protect workers, surely there must be something we can do to highlight this poor lass' plight?

By the way, we need to find the one person who actually saw Motherhood on that Sunday...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Joy by Primary numbers


OCP gave Robocop four Prime Directives. PCCP is giving you just one: make a hole in your brain for The Blues, a floaty, yet rock-solid little electro-soul number from soon-to-be-cropping-up-in-magazine-hot-tip-nibs outfit Primary 1. It has a heavenly, childlike glockenspiely riff piled on top of brow-mopping synth washes, set off against sweetly flutter-soul vocals, tin-hatted by the neverending sultry bliss that is the vocal chords of Cardigan's singer-lady Nina Perrson. It is nice.

I know precious little about Primary 1 man Joe Fiory. This is partly due to a pre-post-modernist / post-cult-of-celeb stance on my part of not allowing humanising detail to colour my opinion of art, but also because I am ostensibly lazy and the press release gave me no info of note (tho his previous collabo with Riton may suggest an explanation for the Krauty metronomic undercarriage).

What's also an encouraging sign is the wealth of ideas going on in their Mess Detectives demos - a smooth soulful thread passes through scrunched beats, electronic fiddling to Detroit Grand Pooobahsy astoundiness (Ploy - now that's a track, that).

Anyway, here you go...

The New Mods Seen

It's fairly shameful to write about somebody that you know, but when that somebody is a remarkably talented fucker who needs no help from anyone to be even more successful than he already is, then all that guilt evaporates. Said talented fucker is NME photographer, film-maker, DJ and quiff-brandisher Dean Chalkey, whose latest exhibition,  The New Faces, is parking itself at the Book Club 100 on Leonard Street in the capital between 5th March and 29th April.

Focusing on the current manifestation of the mod scene, The New Faces shows how few people are as attuned to the unfuckwithable appeal of youth culture as Dean. His relentless passion for it always shows through; his club scenes constantly nail the messy energy of those throwaway moments, adeptly capturing the embryonic cell division that takes place as timeless memories are formed, as previous exhibition Southend's Underground proved - it paid as much of a tribute to the kids who made up the numbers at the scene as it did figureheads The Horrors. "Music isn’t just about the rock star on the stage," Chalkey told the NME. "It has a deeper effect and significance seeping into the soul of people."

Not only that, his NME cover shots and commercial ad campaigns for the likes of Channel 4 always imbue the subject with optimum depth and character, capturing some small detail or expression that helps the makes the shot exist beyond the frame and define apearance and personality in equal measure, whether it's Simon Cowell's shit-eating condescension or Noel Gallagher's carefully measured insolence.

So you could do a lot worse than getting yourself down there and taking The New Faces in, don't you think?