Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Roxette - Charm School

Roxette - Charm School (2011)

After a decade, Sweden's pop-rock favourites Roxette are back with their new album 'Charm School', and what a comeback it is. Brimming over with exuberant, catchy hooks and excellnt choruses, Marie and Per are on top form and Charm School is one of the best pop albums I've heard in years.

You may remember Roxette from classic hits like 'It Must Have Been Love', 'Joyride' and 'Fading Like A Flower'. 2011 find them just as good as ever (if not better). Songs such as the beutiful bittersweet ballad 'I'm Glad You Called', the Beatles-esque 'Dream On' and the instantly memorable lead single 'She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio)' have a quality and strength to them that is so often lacking in recent pop music.

No song on the album is dispensable, and Charm School is striking, exciting and full of heart and fun. It's so nice to hear artists that are obviously talented and know how to write a good tune - a real breath of fresh air in beteween the dirth of meaningless, indistinguishable top 40 hits of late that make 'pop' seem like a dirty word.

If you're already a Roxette fan, or a music lover longing for the days of the early 90s when radio played music with feeling and soul, or just want a good new album to add to your collection, don't miss Charm School.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: True Grit (2010)

True Grit first received widespread critical acclaim in America late last year before recently coming out in Europe (including the UK). It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards but lost out on all counts, possibly due to being overshadowed by the much more hyped 'The King's Speech' and 'Black Swan' (review coming soon).

Remade from the 1969 John Wayne movie, True Grit is a simple, small Western story about a strongminded young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) who takes matters into her own hand when her town's Sheriff refuses to find the man who killed her father. She hires a US Marshal in the form of gruff rule-bending drunkard Reuben Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to do the job and insists on following along to make sure the job is done to her satisfaction. Their party of two is infiltrated by the more conventional Texas Ranger LeBeouf (Matt Damon) who is understandably mistrustful of Cogburn, and forcibly offers his help.

True Grit is not flashy, doesn't rely on special effects or eyecandy, instead showcasing some great characters, cinematography, and gritty (no pun intended) dialogue. Jeff Bridges is excellent as the Marshal. His whiskey soaked drawl is hard to understand at times, but the well-spoken girl, Mattie Ross clearly finds him equally incomprehensible as the audience is clearly intended to sympathise with her plight.

I really liked Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger. He is unrecognisable as these are far from the typical Matt Damon look or mannerisms that you would recognise from The Bourne series or Good Will Hunting. He's therefore more believable in this setting and maybe even slightly outshines Jeff Bridges.

But for me the real star was Hailee Steinfeld. She never comes across as too 'kiddie' or over the top. Her character has a real sense of quiet strength and determination. Mattie Ross is actually cool, and not in a condescending 'young girl as a toughie' kind of way. There seems to be a real sense of understated maturity. I think it's a real shame that she didn't win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress because her performance is one of the best I've seen onscreen in a long time regardless of her age. I can't wait to see what she's going to do next.

Overall I thought True Grit was an excellent film. The three main actors work very well together, and the story is gripping and exciting. It's nice to see something that relies on old fashioned storytelling rather than flashy effects or unnecessary 3D. If you're too late to catch it in the cinema, be sure to check it out when the DVD is released.