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  • Idle Hands - Don't Waste Your Time II (2020)

    Idle Hands is certainly the greatest band I have discovered in the past year and a half. The gothic metal quintet from the American West Coast has released a phenomenal debut extended play entitled Don't Waste Your Time that was followed by a highly emotional full length effort called Mana. This release here contains two songs that were supposed to be on the debut extended play but didn't make it due to financial restrictions. While the band is working on a new full length release tentatively due early next year, the group has finalized the work on its two lost songs and released them without any promotion earlier this week. The two new songs are a welcome refreshment during the hot summer days reaching temperatures above thirty-five degrees these days.

    ''It Doesn't Really Matter'' includes all the elements that make for an excellent Idle Hands song. The lyrics are bleak, intelligent and philosophical. The atmospheric musicianship is situated somewhere between heavy metal and gothic rock. The gloomy but melodic vocals transport the song splendidly. The chorus is energetic and memorable. No second is wasted in a short running time just above three minutes.

    ''Puppy Love'' is a little bit smoother but there are still a lot of things going on. The song includes a short bass guitar solo, echoing voice effects, futuristic sound effects and it ends on a fade-out with a passionate guitar solo. Despite those experiments, the track is catchy thanks to clever songwriting, creative lyrics, passionate vocals, skillful melancholic guitar play and dynamic rhythm section. The track is neither too soft nor too heavy. It's perfectly balanced.

    I have listened to this extended play five times since it has been released and I'm not feeling like stopping anytime soon. Idle Hands is the band I have always been looking for without even knowing it. The bleak lyrics, catchy vocals, dynamic rhythm section, excellent guitar play and gloomy atmosphere combine the greatest elements of my favourite two music genres that are gothic and metal. If you haven't listened to this band yet, give Don't Waste Your Time II a chance. If you like ''It Doesn't Really Matter'' and ''Puppy Love'', you are going to like anything else the band has released as well. If it isn't your cup of tea, so be it.

    On a closing side note, I wish the band could release this new extended play on CD as I would most certainly buy it.

    Final rating: 100%

    It Doesn't Really Matter

    Puppy Love

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  • Resident Evil (2002) - Science-fiction horror classic of the early years of the new millennium that has aged surprisingly well - 90%

    Resident Evil (2002)

    Resident Evil is the first of six live action movies based upon the Japanese Biohazard video game franchise. The movie tells the story of a mysterious attack on an underground research facility known as The Hive that is owned by Umbrella Corporation. A specialized commando attempts to enter the vast complex and find out what has happened. Three amnesiacs who are found near the facility are captured by the the commando. The group soon realizes that the scientists have been murdered and that the research facility hides abominable secrets that put their lives in danger.

    This movie has aged surprisingly well. The special effects look barely dated and convince with a gripping dystopian atmosphere. The locations are particularly intriguing as the entire movie takes place in a dark underground research facility and its immediate surroundings. The soundtrack underlines the film's atmosphere and comes around with sinister, liberating and gripping nu metal and alternative rock music. The story comes around with a few twists and turns. The characters are quite intriguing, especially enigmatic lead character Alice played by an excellent Milla Jovovich, tough police officer Rain Ocampo played by Michelle Rodriguez and the holograph played by Michaela Dicker who represents the facility's artificial intelligence known as the Red Queen. Resident Evil offers a balanced mixture of atmospheric and tense sequences and brutal and dynamic scenes. The combination of action, horror, mystery and science-fiction elements is also quite balanced.

    In the end, Resident Evil is certainly one of the very best live action movies based upon a video game franchise. I initially watched this film as a teenager and liked it but I have recently been watching it again as an adult and have come to the conclusion that I like it even better today than I did back in the days. The movie is in the spirit of numerous horror and science-fiction movies of the late nineties and early years of the millennium such as Cube, Equilibirum and My Little Eye. If you like these films, you are going to adore Resident Evil. Make sure to check out the video games as well if you haven't done so already. 

     Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) - Frantic pace and vivid entertainment - 48%

    Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

    Resident Evil: Apocalypse was a massive disappointment for me when I first watched it one decade and a half ago. While the first movie had a clever plot, stunning locations and mysterious atmosphere, this sequel walks off the beaten path. The story is extremely thin, the gloomy locations in a destroyed city are everything but spectacular and the atmospheric passages are replaced by countless action scenes. The latter make the movie somewhat entertaining in hindsight as I have recently been rediscovering this live action movie franchise. Ignore the plot and the lack of atmosphere, grab something to drink and to eat, invite a few friends, switch your brain off and enjoy this shallow but entertaining movie for what it is.

    The film starts where the previous one had ended two years earlier as lead character Alice makes it out alive of the secret laboratory called the Hive to come back to the surface of Raccoon City. The dangerous T-Virus couldn't be contained in the Hive and has spread across the city as people transform into monsters and attack everyone around them. The leaders of Umbrella Corporation decide to lock the city down which leads to violent riots. They soon realize that the virus cannot be contained and plan on using a nuclear bomb to destroy the city at dusk. Alice must find a way out of the city and save as many lives as possible during one fateful night. She cooperates with a doctor who has worked for Umbrella Corporation but is willing to turn against them to save his daughter who is caught at school.

    On the positive side, the film has a perfect length of ninety-four minutes. Its pace is frantic which makes the movie entertaining from start to finish. Lead character Alice develops from an amnesiac survivor into a skilled fighter who definitely turns against the corporation she had once worked for. The numerous action scenes are intense and spectacular. The threat of a nuclear bomb adds some tension and thrill to the film.

    However, there are also numerous negative things to mention. The story is simplistic, shallow and predictable. The new characters aren't as attaching, memorable and unique as those from the first movie. The locations are rather repetitive as the destroyed city is much less intriguing than the complex laboratory from the first film. The idea to transform the only other survivor beside the lead character from the first film into a brainless monster is lacking depth. 

    Still, the movie transforms a franchise that started as a mysterious science-fiction thriller into an overwhelming action spectacle that walks off the beaten path. The connection and transition between the two movies is nevertheless done rather smoothly. While the movie is lacking creativity and depth, it convinces with entertainment and pace. The film has aged rather well and is actually better than I had remembered it. Still, this movie is nowhere near being a great movie and can only be recommended to fans of fast-paced science-fiction action-thrillers who are familiar with the first film.

     Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) - Mad Max meets The Birds - 62%

    Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

    Resident Evil: Extinction is the third of six entries in the live action series around former security officer Alice who fights her former employer known as Umbrella Corporation. She joins a group of survivors in Utah who plan on traveling to a safe haven in Alaska that hasn't been affected by the deadly T-Virus. However, the group gets caught in a deadly trap in Nevada and must fight against Umbrella Corporation's powerful administrators, security officers and soldiers.

    The film's biggest flaw is its beginning. While the transition between the first and the second movie was smooth, this movie takes place several months later and only explains rather vaguely what has happened in between. Some important characters of the predecessor have disappeared without any explanations while completely new characters show up without any introductions.

    Among the new characters, a tough but charming female teenager named K-mart played by a charismatic and quirky Spencer Locke steals the show. Another strong element are the dusty, isolated and hot locations that recall the Mad Max franchise. The film's highlight is when mutated crows attack the survivors which recalls animal horror masterpiece The Birds. The final showdown in Las Vegas is also highly entertaining and has a lot of symbolism as it shows how ephemeral this desert city of steel and class actually is. 

    The plot is even thinner than in the previous movies and this film obviously ends yet again on a cliffhanger. Thanks to interesting characters, fascinating locations and creative special effects, this third entry in the franchise is however a step in the right direction after the painfully average immediate predecessor. Fans of dystopian science-fiction tales should give this franchise in general and this movie in particular a chance.

     Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) - Average survival horror in a prison and on a tanker - 58%

    Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

    Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth entry in the live action franchise based upon the Japanese video game series that started in the mid-nineties. The story revolves around the urban legend of a safe haven called Arcadia that seems to be located in Alaska. Former private security operative Alice attacks the headquarters of her former employer in Tokyo before heading for Alaska where she expects to join the group of survivors she had met eighteen months earlier. However, there is no safe haven to be found and Alice even gets attacked by a former companion who seems to have lost her memory and acts erratically. Alice manages to calm her former friend down and they travel south to Los Angeles to find out what happened to the group of survivors and unveil the secret behind the urban legend. The duo meets a group of survivors hiding in a maximum security prison that is surrounded by undead victims of the infamous T-Virus. Alice learns that Arcadia isn't a fixed place but a cargo tanker that is now situated in the port of Los Angeles. She tries to get on board to find out what happened to the survivors but realizes too late that the ship is a trap.

    On the positive side, the new characters Alice encounters in Los Angeles are overall quite diversified, quirky and unique which leads to a few emotional scenes. The locations in and around the abandoned prison are quite haunting. The action scenes are particularly intense and are truly impressive in the film's middle section and ending. The special effects are fluidly crafted and blend in very well. The showdown on the ship is truly gripping but also ends on a cliffhanger leading to the fifth installment.

    On the negative side, the transition between the third film and the fourth movie isn't exactly fluid as there is a gap of twelve months between the third film's last scene and the fourth movie's first scene. Furthermore, there is another gap of six months after the opening sequence. The scenes in Alaska are rather disappointing and basically only consist of a fight between Alice and the lone survivor who attacks her. The story is simplistic and unrealistic, even by the franchise's low standards. Some side characters such as the one played by Norman Yeung are rather exchangeable while former intriguing characters such as the one played by Spencer Locke only have cameo appearances here.

    In the end, Resident Evil: Afterlife is pretty much on the same level as its predecessor. It's a slightly above average science-fiction movie with impressive effects and stunts, a healthy dose of creepy atmosphere and intriguing lead characters while it's suffering from a lack of fluidity, a ridiculous plot and boring side characters. Fans of the live action franchise can watch this film without any regrets but this is neither a good movie to discover the franchise nor a film that will change your mind if you have never managed to get into this particular franchise in the first place. At the end of the day, this movie is solid and entertaining but fails to innovate or leave a lasting impression.

    Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) - Quantity instead of quality again - 52%

    Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

    I've been a big fan of the very first Resident Evil movie because it had a unique horror film atmosphere, a twisted story and many intriguing characters. When I watched the second film, I was completely disappointed because it only focused on action scenes and had a very depressing and dumb atmosphere all the time. I disliked the film so much that I stopped caring for the sequels. In addition to this, the fascination of the initial concept had just worn out after numerous comics, novels, video games and movies. I feel that only the closed-minded die hard fans will continue buying all this stuff and ignoring the lack of quality that has been replaced by an elevated quantity. As it seems, there are still enough of these people around to carry the whole concept on.

    I only watched this movie by pure coincidence as I spent a weekend with a friend who is a fan of the series and who asked me to go to watch this flick at his cheap local movie theater with him. This new flick didn't inspire me at all to watch the flicks I've had missed or to continue following the series. It just underlines what I've already expected. The movie is filled with numerous action scenes, cheap effects and ultimately leads to another sequel while the characters have no development and while there is also a complete absence of any story whatsoever.

    There are still a few good points about this film. First of all, the location of a complex Soviet bunker system somewhere underneath the permafrost of North-East Russia is quite promising and definitely has its charm even if the idea had been used before. The decorations are overall quite stylish and a few shots are in fact very well done. Apart of this, I also enjoyed the simulated places the characters come across in this movie such as Tokyo, New York City or Moscow. These scenes are especially intriguing for people who adore to travel and discover the world and at some moments, there are certain deja-vu moments. As a last point, I might say that I liked the addition of Li Bingbing to the movie. I have seen several Chinese flicks with her before she rose to fame and she definitely is a promising actress. It's sad that she is not acting very much in here, just like all the other actors and actresses incarnating characters that have no development. She's just there all of a sudden, incarnates a tough woman and shows us her long beautiful legs. That's definitely nice to watch but she has clearly more than just this to offer and the team wasted a lot of promising potential.

    In the end, this movie seems to be another continuous step down for the Resident Evil universe. There will be more movies but I hope it will stop at a certain point. While the makers of the comparable Underworld saga were able to pull of a quite decent new flick this year, the team behind Resident Evil fails while it tries. Let's hope for an explosive final chapter before the whole thing will finally be brought to an end. I can only recommend this movie to the die-hard fans, anyone else should skip this, watch the first and best feature again and discover more movies with Li Bingbing.

    Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) - Sometimes dead is better - 60%

    Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

    Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the sixth and last entry in the live action franchise based upon the famous Japanese video games. To be honest, the plug should have been pulled much earlier. While the first movie has been excellent, the four sequels have been average at best with the second film being the worst. This final movie is also a rather average conclusion and one can only hope that the live action franchise has definitely come to an end now.

    The most exciting element about the predecessor was how it built up to the last scene foreshadowing an intense battle in Washington D.C.. As this movie starts, the battle is however already over. What happened during the battle? What was the fate of Alice's friends and foes? Where did intriguing characters like Ada Wong played by Li Bingbing go? This movie never really answers these questions and the film's start is certainly its weakest point.

    What follows is a good average dystopian science-fiction movie. At least, the franchise comes full circle as Alice has to return to Raccoon City and The Hive were the deadly T-virus outbreak had started in the first movie released fifteen years earlier. The tough protagonist is looking for an antivirus, planning on eliminating the surviving foes from Umbrella Corporation and trying to save a few survivors on her way.

    While the movie remains entertaining with a surprisingly long running time of one hundred six minutes by the franchise's standards, its outcome is highly predictable. At least, the action scenes are gripping, the atmosphere is sinister and the special effects look sharp. The movie's conclusion finally answers the most important questions but still leaves room for yet another sequel. The fact that the movie had the worst North American box office gross might foreshadow that a potential reboot isn't going to come around too quickly. 

    In the end, fans of the franchise will certainly appreciate the film that follows the tradition of its four immediate predecessor. This science-fiction action spectacle is certainly entertaining. Milla Jovovich's dedication to her role deserves much praise as well. However, the only truly imaginative, intense and surprising entry in the franchise was the first film. Even though this sixth and last chapter is a good average movie in the context of the franchise, the time for the live action films to come to an end had been overdue. Let's hope that the series will now rest in peace and that the producers invest their money in something new.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    The world's greatest contemporary composer Ennio Morricone has died today. In honour of his astonishing soundtracks, I have created a playlist with songs from twenty different movies. The chosen songs cover his career from the early sixties until the last decade. The tracks were composed for action, comedy, science-fiction, thriller and western movies. Please check out my most recent playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2nbjcMdyJk2reC9KCcI8Ed

    Rest in peace!

    1. The Ecstasy of Gold (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - 1966)

    2. For a Few Dollars More (For a Few Dollars More - 1965)

    3. My Name Is Nobody (My Name Is Nobody - 1973)

    4. Square Dance (A Fistful of Dollars - 1964)

    5. Angel Face (A Pistol for Ringo - 1965)

    6. Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso - 1988)

    7. Un Monumento (Django Unchained - 2012)

    8. Gabriel's Oboe (The Mission - 1986)

    9. Deborah's Theme / Amapola (Once Upon a Time in America - 1984)

    10. La vérité et le soleil (I as in Icarus - 1979)

    11. Piume di Cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage - 1970)

    12. The Lady Caliph (The Lady Caliph - 1970)

    13. Death Rides a Horse (Death Rides a Horse - 1967)

    14. Lonesome Billy (Bullets Don't Argue - 1964)

    15. Overture (The Hateful Eight - 2015)

    16. The Thing (The Thing - 1982)

    17. Regan's Theme (The Exorcist II: The Heretic - 1977)

    18. Al Capone (The Untouchables - 1987)

    19. A Gringo Like Me (Gunfight in the Red Sands - 1963)

    20. Man with a Harmonica (Once Upon a Time in the West - 1968)

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  • Spacemak3r (2010)

    Spacemak3r - Spacemak3r (2010)

    Groundbreaking futuristic circus metal from Quebec

    The province of Quebec has always been known for its experimental and progressive metal bands around Voivod, UneXpect, Quo Vadis, Obliveon, Martyr and Augury among others. I’ve always been impressed by the high amount of technically impressive bands coming from that small province and now I even have to add Spacemak3r to that list. I guess it’s needless to say that they have once again a very unique artistic approach that makes it hard to compare them to other bands. 

    The band is in fact some sort of project elaborated by band leader and compositor Michael Gagnon. He created his project with close friends and family members over the years before the release of this first record back in 2010 that definitely didn’t get enough media attention despite the creation of many intriguing video clips that can be found on the band’s website. The project is built around six musicians and four actors that appear in the colourful video clips and also during the few visually stunning concerts this band has given over the years. That’s why one can talk about a theatrical creation where the visual and lyrical factors are almost as important as the music itself. 

    The conceptual story around this project is also quite interesting. It tells tales about the schizophrenic mind of a child called Alex. The isolated boy is followed by weird imaginary creatures everywhere he goes: in his sleeping room at night, at a lost playground or even at school. The twelve tracks tell about the unique everyday life of this outsider and the tracks vary from hysteric metalcore parts up to calm and eerie gothic rock soundtrack moments. 

    Musically, we don’t only get the traditional instruments and some very emotional vocals that perfectly fit to the story. We also get keyboard and string sounds. One musician is even some sort of disc jockey who adds a few weird scratches to the sound which give the record a more modern touch that I would describe as an intriguing mixture of metalcore, nu metal and industrial metal moments that are combined with a strong gothic rock or metal feeling plus many atmospheric and progressive parts. The mixture between all these elements is just well-balanced and this record will still impress you artistically, touch you emotionally and surprise you musically after many spins. 

    This record will definitely leave a deep impression on you. If you’re open-minded for all these influences, the impression will be great but some people might find this kind of music too hard to digest. Personally, this release is a true little treasure for me that I happen to enjoy every now and then when I feel like it. Anybody who calls her- or himself open-minded and interested in musical innovation far from established genres should immediately try this release out.

    Final rating: 100%

    Spacemak3r II (2014)

    Spacemak3r - Spacemak3r II (2014)

    Poor Alex - Lucky Listener

    Spacemak3r is an interesting project from Quebec City that convinces artistically, lyrically and musically. The band's splendid artworks on the album covers and booklets, their visually stunning video clips and even the different actors and settings on stage recall Tim Burton movies in a colourful yet somber way. The different songs talk about a schizophrenic boy called Alexander who is making up imaginary characters who are haunting him day by day. The band's music is a vivid mixture of bass-dominated nu metal in the key of KoRn, straight industrial metal à la Marilyn Manson, contemporary metalcore acts like Trivium, symphonic gothic metal recalling the underrated Le Grand Guignol and dystopian dubstep elements that remind me of Skrillex among others.

    As if this incredible mixture of genres wasn't enough, the band also invited creative photographer Paul Di Giacomo who is also a member of the hardcore band Never More Than Less and violonist Sébastien Savard to perform on two of the eleven new tracks. Paul Di Giacomo appears on the vivid "Rock Bottom" that sounds like a mixture of early Rammstein and early Linkin Park with a mean twist. Sébastien Savard appears on the epic album closer "Violince" that also offers a short hidden passage. The track sounds like a majestic Apocalyptica song with dubstep elements that add a more dystopian and maddening feeling to it.

    While all songs are great in their own way, I need to point out a few personal highlights. "Through the Mirror" is one of the calmer tracks and slowly builds up a nightmarish atmosphere with distorted guitar sounds, dominantly slapping bass licks, epic symphonic sound samples, electronic sound samples and hypnotizing vocal effects. Each stylistic element works perfectly in this tune and the different sounds don't collide in a chaotic way but fusion to build something truly atmospheric and unique. This track presents everything Spacemak3r stands for. It's highly recommended to listen to this song at night to increase its scary atmosphere. "Trick 'r Treat" is a crazy up-tempo track with heavy dubstep influences and a lot of uneasy scratching parts that make you want to jump around and go insane. This is probably the weirdest song on an amazingly disturbing album.

    In the end, this record is probably the scariest album since the gothic metal masterpiece "Carpathia: A Dramatic Poem" by The Vision Bleak which came out ten years earlier and happens to be one of my favourite records of all times. This record is just as great as the first Spacemak3r release and I hope this project will finally get the credit it deserves since this is easily the best contemporary rock or metal band from the beautiful province of Quebec. I hope these guys play some more concerts in the future and don't hesitate to book shows in Ottawa or all over Canada in general.

    Final rating: 100%

    Spacemak3r III (2019)

    Spacemak3r - Spacemak3r III (2019)

    The Madness Ends

    Spacemak3r's third output concludes the trilogy about a schizophrenic child named Alex who makes up imaginary creatures that haunt him in his eventful everyday life. The band describes its genre as circus metal and this is surprisingly accurate. Contemporary metalcore and nu metal meet chanson, circus music, dubstep, gothic rock and industrial rock. Imagine if members of Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and KoRn were asked to record the soundtrack to a Tim Burton movie and you might have an idea of what this record sounds like.

    This third release is as atmospheric, creative and diversified as its two predecessors. Creepy sound samples collide with menacing narrative sections to fusion with experimental soundscapes interrupted by angry metal outbursts. Despite the highly entertaining final result conceived by the project's mastermind Michael Gagnon, there are two minor problems that should be mentioned here. First of all, this album doesn't push things further than the two predecessors and even seems to rehash some ideas. Secondly, this album is missing a truly catchy, impressive and memorable tune like ''Circus'' or ''Trick 'r Treat'' on the predecessors.

    In the end, this album is nevertheless highly recommended to fans of experimental modern metal music who have a weakness for twisted horror stories. However, it's highly recommended to discover the project's three records in chronological order to understand all the references and especially the ambitious concept. While this third record is the weakest of the three, it still sounds unlike anything you might have heard from other bands. However, the sum is clearly greater than its parts since this trilogy is perhaps the best series of conceptual records of the past decade. Discover this unfairly overlooked underground project from Montreal where the worlds of circus shows, mental issues and modern metal collide in a unique way.

    Final rating: 75%

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