This month of Music & Movies kicks off with another literary adaptation, Don DeLillo’s ‘Cosmopolis’. Further highlights include Simon Sweetman’s tour through New Zealand’s pop landscape in ‘On Song’; critically acclaimed musical biopic ‘The Sapphires’; and Willie Nelson stakes his claim for autobiography title of the year with ‘Roll me up and smoke me when I die’.
New DVDs for February include adaptations of Duncan Sarkies’ ‘Two Little Boys’ & Don DeLillos’ ‘Cosmopolis’; the true stories that inspired Jack Black’s ‘Bernie’ & the feel-good ‘The Sapphires’; & new UK TV shows ‘The Jury’, ‘Pramface’ & ‘Silk’…
“The union of director David Cronenberg and Twilight star Robert Pattinson is hardly a predictable one, but the pair prove quite the combination with Cosmopolis. A drama set across 24 hours in New York City, the film sees Pattinson as Eric, a rich asset manager on a trip across Manhattan in a luxury limousine. But it’s no ordinary trip: with Manhattan preparing for the visit of the President of the United States, things soon start to go very, very wrong for Eric. Cronenberg wrote the script as well as directing here, and Cosmopolis is a challenging, slow film, that treats its audience with intelligence. Pattinson works hard in the lead role, with considerable success, and the supporting players, including Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche and Samantha Morton are excellent, too. Cosmopolis may not be as accessible as Cronenberg’s films that more immediately preceded it, but it’s a film with real substance to it, from a genuinely great director…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)
“.. “What you’re fixin’ to see is a true story”… sets the perfect down-home tone for the charming, if occasionally gruesome story of an East Texas funeral director named Bernie Tiede, whose sociable selflessness, empathetic demeanor, and guileless personality won him the friendship of the whole town of Carthage, especially the little old ladies. He even captivated the good graces of the meanest and richest old lady of them all, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), eventually becoming her business manager and constant companion. But even with the patience of Job and the compassion of Jesus, eventually Bernie couldn’t take it anymore and in a fit of pique shot her in the back four times then dumped her body in a freezer. That synopsis hardly seems the stuff of a lighthearted comedy that energizes a large ensemble of endearing characters. But in the hands of director Richard Linklater (who cowrote the script with Skip Hollandsworth, who originally reported the story for Texas Monthly magazine), the tale is simultaneously knee-slappingly funny and head-shakingly poignant…” (Adapted from Amazon.com review)
“Meet Jamie, 16, and Laura, 18. They are two teenagers who after one too many drinks, some deceptive party lighting and an available bedroom find they have one very big complication on their hands. Laura is pregnant. Only problem is, she’s meant to be heading off to university and Jamie is way too young to be considering raising a kid. Prior to this, the extent of his responsibilities was doing his homework and managing his pocket money. Pramface brings humour and heart to a tricky subject, as it follows these two unexpected parents-to-be as they try, and frequently fail, to negotiate family, sex and what happens once nine months is up…” (Syndetics summary)
“The Sapphires is an inspirational tale set in the heady days of the late 60s when four young, talented singers from a remote Aboriginal mission are discovered and guided by an unlikely manager. Starring AFI award-winner Deborah Mailman (Offspring), platinum selling artist Jessica Mauboy and Bridesmaids’ Chris O’Dowd, this feel-good hit is based on the successful Australian stage musical and inspired by a remarkable true story. Plucked from obscurity and branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes. The Sapphires grasp the opporturnity of a lifetime when invited to entertain American troops in Vietnam. Their journey of discovery offers them not only the chance to show off their musical skills, but find love and togetherness and grow as women…” (Syndetics summary)
Silk. [Series 1].
“Single, attractive, thirty something Martha Costello is a brilliant, passionate defence barister with the unwavering belief that all are innocent until proven guilty. Martha is about to apply to become Queen’s Counsel; she is applying for ‘Silk’, but she’s not the only one at her chambers– Clive Reader is charming, ruthless and dangerous, and knows how to play the game– Only one of them will be made QC and Senior Clerk, Billy Lamb, is the man with everyone’s lives and careers in his hands. Martha’s conscience and faith in the criminal justice system are tested to breaking point as she deals with clients who are good, bad and downright evil…” (Syndetics summary)
“Spanish psychological horror from director Jaume Balagueró. The film follows César (Luis Tosar), the concierge to the residents at a wealthy apartment building. César seems extraordinarily helpful and polite and is consequently adored by the residents, but little do they know that he is in fact a man so incapable of happiness and human feeling that he makes it his goal in life to make others as miserable as he is. He focuses much of his attention on Clara (Martra Etura), a beautiful young woman whose vivacity and spontaneous sense of happiness make her his opposite in almost every way. With his usual blend of underhand tricks, which include sneaking into her apartment to rig unpleasant surprises and even hiding beneath her bed, César begins to unnerve Clara. When her boyfriend Marcos (Alberto San Juan) unexpectedly returns the situation quickly escalates towards a point of no return…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)
“A disturbing and completely compelling story dealing with teen suicide and the fascination we have for voyeurism, at the expense of common decency. Robert is a young student at an elite boarding school on America’s East Coast. Robert is a loner whose world revolves around porn sites and surfing the net. As part of a film study course, Robert accidentally films the deaths of twin sisters, an apparent joint suicide. Robert has every opportunity to help, to intervene, but calmly films on– Everyone is outrages– his scandalous behaviour causes almost as much shock as the girls’ deaths. However, the film strangely immortalizes the girls– as students, teachers and the girls’ parents struggle to come to terms with the tragedy…’ (Syndetics summary)
Two little boys.
“The film follows Nige and his best mate Deano’s riotous misadventures as they struggle with their imploding friendship which has been put under pressure by an unfortunate incident involving a hot meat pie, a ginger cat and the untimely death of a Scandinavian soccer star. Nige chucks the dead body in a nearby roadworks hole and runs to Deano for help. Trouble is, Deano’s not really the guy you should turn to in a crisis…” (Syndetics summary)
“Written by Peter Morgan (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen), The Jury is a compelling, character based drama series which focuses on the everyday people who find themselves at the centre of one of the most controversial criminal re-trials of their time. Focusing on the retrial of a man sentenced for the murder of three women–all killed following internet dates. A key piece of evidence was deliberately ignored by the CPS, possibly because the police were under pressure for a quick conviction and blackmail was being used over a senior person involved with the investigation who was having an affair. Ultimately, we will see the man acquitted but it will be an “imperfect, messy, human triumph for the jury by acquitting the man”. Gripping, dark and emotionally charged as jurors are forced to face their prejudices as they come to grips with the complexities and unwanted attention of being a key player in such a high profile Old Bailey trial…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)
The devil’s double.
“Summoned from the frontline to Saddam Hussein’s palace, Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) is thrust into the highest echelons of the “royal family” when he’s ordered to become the ‘fiday’ – or body double – to Saddam’s son, the notorious “Black Prince” Uday Hussein (also Dominic Cooper), a reckless, sadistic party-boy with a rabid hunger for sex and brutality. With his and his family’s lives at stake, Latif must surrender his former self forever as he learns to walk, talk and act like Uday. But nothing could have prepared him for the horror of the Black Prince’s psychotic, drug-addled life of fast cars, easy women and impulsive violence. With one wrong move costing him his life, Latif forges an intimate bond with Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), Uday’s seductive mistress who’s haunted by her own secrets. But as war looms with Kuwait and Uday’s depraved gangster regime threatens to destroy them all, Latif realises that escape from the devil‘s den will only come at the highest possible cost. Featuring a riveting double performance by Dominic Cooper (An Education, Mamma Mia) in the roles of Latif Yahia and Uday Hussein, The Devil’s Double is a dynamic, chilling adaptation of Latif Yahia’s autobiographical novel, charting one man’s defiant struggle to survive a viper’s pit of corruption and brutality…” (Description from Amazon.co.uk)
New books on popular music this month include Madonna’s new book which features fantastic photos and the comprehensive biography of Freddie Mercury. Also, we have two new books from very popular Dummies ‘how to play’ series.
Madonna style / by Carol Clerk ; with Stacey Appel.
“This updated edition now includes details of Madonna’s new 2012 album and subsequent World Tour, her advertising campaigns for Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana, her clothing lines for H&M and her own Material Girl label as well as her Hard Candy album and videos for Celebration, Four Minutes and Beat Goes On.Here is a dazzling exploration of a unique pop-culture goddess. How does she do it? The answer comes in the form of this sumptuous collection of Madonna’s style effects. Every visual aspect of Madonna is shown including her wildly inventive catalogue of personae that she and her style army have conjured over the years. The result is an absolutely stunning one-woman fashion show that spans nearly half a century.” (adapted from amazon.com summary)
Stone alone : the story of a rock ‘n’ roll band / with Ray Coleman.
“YA– Wyman, bass player for the Rolling Stones, leaves no word unturned in this comprehensive, readable, witty account of the group from its beginnings as a struggling rhythm-and-blues band in 1962 to its superstar status and the death of founder and lead guitarist Brian Jones in 1969. With the help of veteran rock journalist Coleman, Wyman turns his exhaustive diary and other files into this well-written tome on the band and the London music scene of the ’60s. While the book contains a wealth of material and information, it offers few startling insights into the Stones as a group or individually. However, Stone Alone will certainly gather no moss on most library shelves”(School Library Journal)
A light that never goes out : the enduring saga of the Smiths / Tony Fletcher.
“Indie cult heavyweights the Smiths never charted a single higher than number 10, but they are widely considered to be an important musical component of British pop music of the 1980s. Their enigmatic vocalist and lyricist, Morrissey, is a bit of a hero to the disaffected, which only adds to his and the band’s angsty cachet. Of course, they broke up in 1987, but with rumored reunions that never materialized and the individual members’ post-Smiths activities (as a solo), Morrissey has cracked Top 10 lists), their self-conscious legend lives on. In relating the story of the band, Fletcher centers on Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, digging deep in terms of the details of the band’s creative process and progress but with plenty of time for conjecture about the comprehensively enigmatic Morrissey.” (Booklist)
Freddie Mercury : the great pretender : a life in pictures / [text, Sean O’Hagan ; captions, Greg Brooks and Phil Symes ; art direction, Richard Gray].
“Iconic Queen front man, Freddie Mercury (1946-91) had always been a flamboyant, larger-than-life figure. This lavish, oversized book of photographs is a fitting tribute to his life and work. The book includes images from every stage of Mercury’s life, from his childhood in Zanzibar and India to his early musical career in England and his rise to international fame fronting Queen. Although filled with many images of Mercury striking his trademark dramatic stage poses, the book also reveals the singer’s more personal, vulnerable side-a distinct and fascinating contrast.” (Library Journal)
Blues harmonica for dummies / by Winslow Yerxa.
“Blues harmonica is the most popular and influential style of harmonica playing, and it forms the basis for playing harmonica in other styles such as rock and country. Blues Harmonica for Dummies gives you a wealth of content devoted to the blues approach—specific techniques and applications, including bending and making your notes sound richer and fuller with tongue-blocked enhancements; use of amplification to develop a blues sound; blues licks and riffs; constructing a blues harmonica solo; accompanying singers; historical development of blues styles; and important blues players and recordings.” (adapted from amazon.com summary)
Guitar for dummies / by Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell.
“The music guides in the popular “For Dummies” series all follow the same basic format, which includes much of the same information found in the other self-instruction resources reviewed here, but in more detail-getting started with the instrument, chords and melodies, playing technique, stylistic characteristics, and choosing instruments. Unlike most of the other series, the details of some techniques, such as fingerpicking, are covered in the chapters on style instead of getting chapters or sections of their own. These volumes also don’t cover reading music, though scored examples are included: players who don’t read are advised to pick up chords and melodies by ear from the accompanying CD. Best for teens and adults with some musical background, not necessarily with the guitar.”(Library Journal)
OnSong : stories behind New Zealand’s pop classics / Simon Sweetman.
“On Song is a lively journey through New Zealand’s diverse pop landscape. Prolific music journalist Simon Sweetman has interviewed the writers and performers of beloved Kiwi classics, presenting ‘in conversation’ text that illuminates the fascinating stories behind the pop songs we all know and love, all complemented with a plethora of artists’ personal imagery and archival photography” (Publisher information)
The million sellers / contributors, Tim Brock … [et al.].
“Published to mark the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Official Singles Charts in 1952, The Million Sellers tells the story of every million-selling single in the history of the UK music industry. An analysis of the 123 singles which have passed the magical million sales threshold in the UK in the past 60 years, from Bill Haley & The Comets very first UK million-seller right through to more recent singles by Lady Gaga, Rihanna and the Black Eyed Peas. Interviews with some of the artists reflecting on their memories of their million sellers and what they remember of the success at the time At a-glance facts and data outlining the songwriters, producers, albums and total sales figures for the million selling track.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)
Make up to breakup : my life in and out of Kiss / Peter Criss with Larry “Ratso” Sloman.
“Criss, the original drummer of Kiss and the third member of the band to pen a memoir, delivers an entertaining autobiography written with Sloman, who coauthored Scar Tissue, the memoir by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis. But while bass player Gene Simmons (KISS and Make Up) focused on the sex and lead guitarist Ace Frehley (No Regrets) detailed the drugs, the appealing part of Criss’s account is that he keeps the focus on the rock and roll, which results in the best-and most honest-account of Kiss craziness during the band’s heyday in the 1970s. The book’s most interesting section explores Criss’s early life as a street punk turned hardcore jazz fan in the 1960s; this may be the first time the name Thelonious Monk has appeared in a book on Kiss.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)
The future is the beginning : the words and wisdom of Bob Marley / Bob Marley ; introduction by Cedella Marley ; edited by Gerald Hausman.
“Taken from interviews and edited by Marley/Rastafarianism expert Gerald Hausman, this book highlights the famed reggae musician’s personal and spiritual beliefs.” (adapted from Library Journal)
Noel Gallagher : the biography / Lucian Randall.
“Noel Gallagher is a well-known for his singer-songwriter talent as he is for his controversial, outspoken statements and his tempestuous relationships. With the renowned Britpop band, Oasis, Noel found worldwide acclaim and influenced and musical style of a generation. But what is the truth about the boy from Manchester? This book maps out Noel’s story from the beginning. It takes you from his dysfunctional upbringing in Manchester to the man we know now.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk summary)
Roll me up and smoke me when I die : musings from the road / Willie Nelson ; foreword by Kinky Friedman ; illustrations by Micah Nelson.
“The latest in a collection of anecdotes and essays from singer-songwriter Nelson (The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes) serves to reinforce his image as a sentimental country veteran who isn’t averse to firing up the occasional joint or two. Peppered with the occasional dirty joke, the book makes for an irreverent, entertaining read. Humble, optimistic, and quick to give credit to those around him for contributing to his success, Nelson is a charming narrator, lurching from subject to subject, but always with a point in mind.” (adapted from Publisher Weekly)
The festive season is over, work and school have gone back for another year and its time to put your nose to the grindstone. What better time to take a moment to get inspired and motivated by music! Here are a few selections to help you on your way to musical enlightenment.
A parent’s survival guide to music lessons : help your child succeed in music / Elisabeth Lawrence.
“Perhaps you are looking for a way to keep your youngsters occupied during the holidays, or maybe a new violin for Christmas means you need to get them some lessons QUICK! In any case, learning about the ins and outs of music lessons is a good place to start.” (Syndetics summary)
Transcriptions [sound recording] / Liszt.
“An album framed around Liszt’s Paraphrases and Transcriptions – this is an impressive and delightful programme which presents Niu Niu as a serious and gifted pianist”. (amazon.co.uk)
A ceremony of carols [sound recording] : op. 28 ; Saint Nicolas : op. 42 / Britten.
“Stephen Layton leads the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge and the Holst Singers in two of Benjamin Britten’s most popular choral works for Christmastide. The cantata Saint Nicolas tells the story of the original Santa Claus, a fourth-century saint whose altruistic acts led to his canonization as patron saint of children and sailors. Britten’s lively setting is distinctly operatic, full of atmosphere and color – with the story brought ‘home’ through the use of congregational hymns.” (Amazon.com Review)
The Starlight Express [sound recording] / Edward Elgar.
“This fairytale melodrama was adapted from a book by Algernon Blackwood A Prisoner in Fairyland for a West End theatre production staged during World War 1 with music by Elgar. Based on a new score which has been adapted by Sir Andrew Davis who also here conducts the Scottish Chamber Orchestra this is the most comprehensive recorded version to date. The two-disc set includes the incidental music with narrative by Simon Callow and an extended suite of freestanding orchestral movements and songs”. (amazon.com)
The Piano Guys [sound recording].
“Rather self explanatory, but a wonderful series of pieces that cross genres and bring out the best in this modern ensemble. ‘The Piano Guys’ bring modern works to the table and reinvent them. Anybody else interested to see how they interpret ‘Rolling in the Deep’ and ‘What makes you beautiful’?” (Syndetics summary)