Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an energetic roller coaster ride similar to the first instalment three years earlier. It's basically a reinvention of the James Bond franchise for younger generations, especially teenagers and young adults. The mixture of relentless action, British humor, a tiny shot of eroticism, exotic locations, twisted scenarios and spectacular special effects still works very well. What makes the Kingsman franchise special are the young and geeky main character, the connection to contemporary phenomenons such as social media activities and robotics as well as a more extreme mixture between situation comedy to lighten things up and visually explicit images to impress younger generations.
There are only a few minor elements that are wrong with this sequel which is on the same level as the predecessor. First of all, the movie includes a few continuity mistakes such as car doors getting torn off just to look perfectly intact one shot later. This shows that the filmmaking process was slightly rushed and sloppy. Secondly, the movie overuses the use of stereotypes about the differences between American and British cultures. Especially the song Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver is overused in this film, especially since the movie takes mostly place in Kentucky and not in West Virginia. Thirdly and most importantly, the plot is also somewhat incoherent. It never becomes obvious why Harry suspects Whiskey to be a traitor. The idea that the villain placed antidotes in secret locations all around the world without even one of them being discovered is quite ridiculous as well. The way the Kingsmen finally discover Poppy's hideout in Cambodia doesn't make much sense either.
In the end, Kingsma: The Golden Circle is an energizing, entertaining and fast-paced spy flick for teenagers and young adults. If you are open to pardon some obvious filmmaking and plot mistakes and just want to switch your brain off, you will certainly enjoy this slightly shallow film for what it is. I really liked the vivid ride but I wouldn't consider this film or the franchise a contemporary classic as many other people seem to do. It's fun but lacking substance to be more than just that.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Earlier this year, I wrote a similar article about Ottawa's thrash metal legend Annihilator. Today, I would like to discuss the first seven studio records released by Japanese heavy metal legend Anthem between 1981 and 1992. The band is still one of Japan's most popular heavy metal today along with Loudness. I've recently purchased the 30th Anniversary of Nexus Years Limited Collector's Box which includes the band's first seven studio records, plus a live record, a compilation of rarities and a DVD with live clips and an interview. This expensive but rewarding purchase gave me the occasion to discover and appreciate this particularly energizing band. This article presents each of the first seven records with cover artworks and video clips plus a list of my fifteen favorite songs from that era. Enjoy and keep an open mind to discover music from all around the world.
Not bad for a first strike
Anthem is a Japanese heavy metal band that kicked off its career with this self-titled release back in 1985. The guys from Tokyo play traditional heavy metal with a lot of passion but fail to write really addicting, gripping and outstanding songs on their first strike. The record has many repetitive passages and a lack of originality. They clearly don't come close to the quality of their genre colleagues Loudness who are often mentioned as references. Nevertheless, these guys have still enough talent to sound promising and create an enjoyable listening experience.
The most outstanding parts of Anthem are definitely the vocals. They are quite unique and varied and always sound a little bit over the top. I would describe them as truly emotional and sometimes even hysterical. One also gets a couple of truly well performed guitar solos on this release with many interesting ideas such as unique distortion sounds giving the tracks a more progressive vein at some points. Sadly, the production doesn't do the great guitar performance justice and sounds a little bit thin and especially the riffs suffer a lot from this. The rhythm section is tight but not spectacular at all. The bass guitar as well as the drums and precussions are just there to build the backbone of the songs without feeling the need to stand out. That's why many tracks sound a little bit too similar on this release.
As highlights on this debut release, I would definitely cite the crushing "Warning Action" and the energizing album closer "Steeler" that convince with incredible guitar solos in quite fast paced and energizing tracks. This pitiless but still emotional speed attacks are definitely worth to be checked out.
There are also a couple of tracks that have a slightly progressive vein thanks to distorted guitar sounds and some unexpected slow breaks that interrupt some heavier and sped up passages. These songs would be "Red Light Fever" as well as "Turn Back To The Night" and especially "Star Formation" which is another album highlight. The hectical and progressive passages of these three songs make me think a little bit of Voivod while the catchier moments such as the main riffs or the choruses are comparable to what more traditional genre colleagues and inspirations such as Aria, Judas Priest or of course Loudness had created around the same time.
The catchiest tracks on this release are "Lay Down" and "Blind City" in my opinion. They are quite easy to follow slow to mid tempo tracks with solid hooks or sing along passages. The latter track reminds me positively of early Savatage thanks to some energizing heavy metal riffs, a couple of technically well done breaks that prove the musical talent of this young band as well as some energizing guitar solos once again. The most stunning aspect is though the rough but always emotional vocal effort in this song that makes me think a little bit of the legendary Jon Oliva in his early years. That's the moment where this band really gives me some solid goose bumps.
In the end, this release is all but a weak album and has many promising moments and well executed tracks. The biggest problem in here is the lack of originality at some points, a clear guiding line and some experiments that would have freshed up this release a little bit. As this is a debut release, this factor is nothing surprising and tolerable at a certain point but the band already sounds a little bit too old fashioned at some points even though they prove that they are able to do better, especially from a technical point of view concerning the great guitar play and the variable vocals. That's why I'm positive that they could have already done better than this and probably didn't put enough effort into the final release. I would somewhat compare this album to a rough diamond that has not been cut, shaped and polished yet to truly shine.
If you are a genre fan and want to purchase this rare Japanese gem, be sure to get the limited edition with the very solid bonus tracks "Ready To Ride" which is a quite catchy mid tempo banger that should have made on the debut record as well as the less spectacular but still classic vintage heavy metal track "Shed".
Thirty-six minutes of ferocious power
Less than one year after its self-titled debut release, Japanese heavy metal institution Anthem came around with the vivid Tightrope. Stylistically, this album isn't trying out new things but rather focuses on eight compact tracks somewhere between heavy and speed metal. In less than thirty-seven minutes, the Japanese quartet delivers raw, liberating and emotional vocals performing Japanese lyrics with a few random English phrases thrown in between, ferocious guitar riffs and a few technically stunning solos, a pumping bass guitar sound and a speedy and tight drum performance.
Among the highlights, there is the extended guitar solo in the vivid title track ''Tightrope Dancer'', the pitiless rhythm section in ''Driving Wire'', the energizing gang shouts in the rhythmic ''Finger's on the Trigger'' and the melodic vocal lines in my personal highlight ''Light It Up''. No weak song can be found on Tight Rope and the middle section is particularly consistent.
There are though three minor elements why Tightrope is still only a good to very good record and nothing more. First of all, the songs sound quite similar and even exchangeable at times as the band fails to vary its approach. The songs are either fast or very fast speed metal with classic heavy metal vibes. Anthem is great at this particular style but things get a little bit tiring if you fail to spice things up here and there. Secondly, Tightrope sounds a little bit too similar to the predecessor. It sounds as if the band had quickly released a bunch of songs from the same recording sessions that didn't make it onto the debut release. While the quality of the material is equally good on both albums, one would have expected a slight improvement or at least a certain progression between the debut effort and the sophomore output. Thirdly, the record might have an authentic production for its time that some might still find charming nowadays but it also reveals that Tightrope sounds quite old-fashioned these days and hasn't aged as well as many Western heavy, speed and thrash metal outputs around the same time.
Tightrope offers a lot of authenticity, energy and entertainment if you like heavy and speed metal from the early to mid-eighties but it doesn't stand out among the numerous genre releases of yore and fails to add its own note to the genre if compared to both the Eastern and the Western metal scenes back then. If you already own Anthem's debut release, then there is no reason for purchasing the slightly inferior successor. If you aren't familiar with Anthem yet however, Tightrope might be a good starting point as it represents everything the Japanese quartet was all about in its early years.
Bound to Break (1987)
Japan's answer to Judas Priest's Turbo
Japanese heavy metal quartet had proven with its first two full length releases Anthem and Tightrope that it had enough inspiration, passion and talent to be among the best heavy metal bands of its country and even around the world but the songwriting was overall a little bit too predictable and repetitive to stand out. Anthem's third release Bound to Break is a big step forward for the band. With the help of engineer, producer and songwriter Chris Tsangarides, Anthem manages to deliver a record with distinctive tracks that find the right balance between catchy choruses and strong instrumental work.
Three tracks really stand out on Bound to Break. First of all, there is the mid-paced rocker ''Show Must Go On!'' with some cool guitar effects, dominating bass guitar and strong lyrics. Chris Tsangarides co-wrote the lyrics and along with the almost danceable rhythmic vibe, this song recalls Judas Priest's Turbo record without copying it. It would actually have been one of the best songs on that release. ''Soldiers'' is a passionate up-tempo track with galloping rhythm section, a great main riff and expressive vocals which are occasionally supported by mysterious background chants. The song stands out because it has a dramatic and epic vibe despite its focused and vivid instrumentation. The track finds just the right balance between atmosphere and pace. ''Machine Mad Dog'' goes back to the mid-tempo pace and style of ''Show Must Go On!'' with guitar effects and tight rhythm section. The song stands out because the vocals and especially the chorus are really catchy. This track should have been released as a single to help the band get more attention and praise.
In general, the album doesn't include any fillers even though the two opening tracks are standard up-tempo material for Anthem while the middle section and second half of the album carefully integrates new elements into the sound the band had established on its first two releases. The rhythm section is catchy, gripping and often danceable. The guitar play finds the perfect balance between focused main riffs and a few experimental sound effects that give the album a then-contemporary vibe. Eizo Sakamoto really shines on this album and proves to be one of the most skilled and passionate heavy metal singers in the world. It's a shame that this was his last album with Anthem before the band's reunion.
Bound to Break might not be as revolutionary as Loudness' early works but it's a great heavy metal album with a catchy, commercial and danceable vibe that could easily appeal to rock fans all around the world and I mean this in a very positive way. The collaboration with Chris Tsangarides seems to have helped the band to focus on its strengths and add some exciting new elements to production and songwriting. Bound to Break sounds like a less controversial Japanese version of Judas Priest's Turbo and I have always had a soft spot for that album.
Gypsy Ways (1988)
One of the catchiest heavy metal albums ever
Anthem had managed to establish itself as one of Japan's greatest heavy metal bands over the past few years and even had some minor success overseas, propulsed by the popularity of genre colleagues Loudness. Nothing seemed to stop the band when singer Eizo Sakamoto suddenly left because he couldn't handle the band's rise to glory. For most bands, such an important line-up change would have provoked a short break and decline in popularity but this wasn't the case for Anthem. They quickly recruited Yukio Morikawa, who had once competed against Eizo Sakamoto in an audition to join the band. In just a few weeks, Yukio Morikawa left his job in a sushi restaurant and became the lead singer of one of Japan's most popular bands. Only fourteen months after the predecessor, Anthem released Gypsy Ways and it would turn out to be the band's best album so far. The band's efficiency, motivation and resilience were absolutely stunning and an example to follow.
Despite the line-up change, Gypsy Ways is a logical successor of Bound to Break. The band went further away from its vivid heavy and speed metal roots to focus on more melodic hard rock and heavy metal anthems. Once more produced by acclaimed Chris Tsangarides, Gypsy Ways finds the right balance between smooth, melodic and accessible soundscapes and an organic sound chosen for the rhythm section and guitar solos. The songwriting is even more precise than before as this record includes ten potential singles that are extremely catchy and memorable. This doesn't mean that the tracks are bland, commercial and predictable. Anthem keeps things interesting as the record varies from power ballads such as ''Cryin' Heart'' over more rhythmic tracks like ''Bad Habits Die Hard'' to more atmospheric and sinister songs in the key of ''Legal Killing''.
Opening the record with one of the greatest tracks in the group's long career in form of the uplifting title track ''Gypsy Ways (Win, Lose or Draw)'' was a smart move, not only because it's an energizing track with an unforgettable chorus but because it showcases Yukio Morikawa's vocal skills. His predecessor had a rawer voice and less accurate pronounciation. Morikawa however was regularly compared to Graham Bonnet for his more clean, high-pitched and melodic voice and clearer pronounciation. While the predecessor had a voice that would please speed and even thrash metal fans, Morikawa represents the ideals of a skilled hard rock and heavy metal singer. It's a matter of taste whether you prefer the more unique Sakamoto or the more skilled Morikawa but from a technical point of view, Morikawa pushed Anthem to the next level and his vocal style suits the record perfectly.
Gypsy Ways might not be the most innovative heavy metal album but it's one of the catchiest releases of its kind and features ten memorable tracks with single potential that make this release Anthem's most consistent album at that point in its career. It's a big step forward for Anthem commercially, stylistically and technically. Any fan of melodic heavy metal music should call this release her or his own.
Hunting Time (1989)
Anthem found its very own style
Anthem was on quite a run when the band released Hunting Time exactly one year after the incredibly catchy Gypsy Ways. The second album with melodic and skilled singer Yukio Morikawa successfully mixes the energy and speed of the band's first three outputs with the catchy and melodic approach of the critically acclaimed predecessor. Anthem found its very own style with this release.
The record opens with a bang in form of the unchained up-tempo track ''The Juggler'' with gripping riffs and howling guitar sounds, a vividly pumping bass guitar, wild yet precise drumming and a more variable vocal effort mixing an uplifting melodic approach with a rawer undertone. This outstanding opener exemplifies Anthem's unique style on this record.
The record features more vivid tunes like the powerful ''Evil Touch'' with its ferocious instrumental section and outstanding guitar solos that is occasionally lightened up by a few epic keyboard passage reminding me of organ sounds.
On the other side, there are also more melodic, creative and complex songs such as the diversified and almost progressive title song ''Hunting Time'' where each band member showcases his incredible talent in six passionate minutes without ever drifting off towards instrumental wankery.
Another song that needs to be pointed out is the rhythmic ''Let Your Heart Beat'' with its thunderous drum play and surgical opening riff before the song gets more melodic and almost danceable towards the longing and soothing chorus, supported by occasional backing vocals, melodically howling guitars and a few decent keyboard patterns. Just like the more explosive opener, this song that never gets boring or predictable perfectly represents what Anthem stands for and can be considered an overlooked highlight on this release as well as in Anthem's long career.
The excellent song material progresses in diversified yet logical order as heavier tracks are often followed by more melodic tunes. Everything is hold together by a refreshingly organic production by Chris Tsangarides who collaborated with the band for a third time in a row.
Anthem was at the height of its career in the late eighties and early nineties. Ultimately, it's a matter of personal taste whether your prefer the more catchy and melodic Gypsy Ways or the more diversified and heavy Hunting Time. Personally, I slightly prefer the latter because the band sounds so variable, unchained and creative and delivers eight killer tracks without any fillers. Anthem has also found its very own style on this record and can't be compared to any other artists or bands here. The energizing and precise instrumental work sounds better than ever before and the vocals find the right balance between energy and melody. Any fan of classic heavy metal of the eighties should own Anthem's Hunting Time.
No Smoke Without Fire (1990)
Anthem was on a roll and released No Smoke Without Fire only ten months after the vivid predecessor Hunting Time. It still amazes me how many heavy metal bands released excellent records in one year or less when it takes the same bands numerous years to deliver good average outputs at best these days. No Smoke Without Fire keeps all the excellent elements of its two ferocious predecessors, adds a particularly heavy production, a few skillfully employed keyboard sounds and comes around with a balanced yet coherent songwriting to deliver what might be the quartet's best record ever.
The album wasn't produced by Chris Tsangarides this time around and has a slightly heavier sound than usual which is a pleasant change. Especially the great bass guitar play has never been more audible than on this release as one can hear in the incredibly diversified ''Do You Understand''. This type of song represents this record's particularly heavy approach which almost leans towards thrash metal, not unlike what Judas Priest attempted in the same year with the release of Painkiller.
On the other side, this album is also the first to feature Don Airey whose decently employed keyboard sounds add a longing twist to several songs such as the epic ''Blinded Pain'' with its soothing vocals carrying the emotional track for almost seven minutes.
With the melodic mid-tempo stomper ''Power & Blood'' with its uplifting keyboard sounds, melodic guitar solos and catchy chorus, the record even includes a track with massive single potential, reminding me of a heavier Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe track despite being the mellowest and most simplistic tune on this release. The more atmospheric and playful album closer ''The Night We Stand'' with its explosive chorus has a similar approach and would have also been a really decent single that would have deserved international airplay. It ends an incredibly strong record on a particularly high note.
In the end, No Smoke Without Fire burns brightly as it combines Anthem's heaviest tracks ever recorded with a few more longing and melodic epics. The album isn't watered down by any ballads or instrumental fillers but delivers nine efficient tracks for almost forty-five minutes of excellent heavy metal. The guitar solos always blend in perfectly, the bass guitar is particularly dominant, the drums are thunderous, the longing keyboard sounds add depth to the production and Yukio Morikawa proves to be one of the most variable and charismatic heavy metal singers who manages to combine longing melodic lines with a heartfelt and raw energy. Every musician involved gives the best he can which makes No Smoke Without Fire my favorite Anthem record of the early years, even though the two predecessors are very nearly equally great. It's a shame that this record was somewhat overlooked and turned out to be the second to last release of Anthem's legendary early years. If you want to rediscover the energy, sound and stylistics of heavy metal in the late eighties and early nineties, give yourself a gift and purchase this outstanding heavy metal milestone.
Domestic Booty (1992)
Neither buttocks nor plunder
Alright, what did Anthem smoke to call the last record of its early years Domestic Booty? And are we talking about buttocks or plunder here? Anyway, the record is neither outstanding enough to make me think of a booty nor superficial enough to be described as plunder. What we actually get here is an average release by Anthem's standards. The band had peaked nationally and internationally in the late eighties but attention and sales figures had regressed slightly since the beginning of the decade. Numerous line-up changes and a decrease of interest in traditional heavy metal with the rising grunge and visual kei movements were the nails in the coffin of a band that would have had a short but intense career. Thankfully, the band reunited in the beginning of the new millennium, has released a few very strong contemporary records since then and is still around as we speak.
Let's go back to Domestic Booty. Once again perfectly produced by Chris Tsangarides and featuring guest performances by legendary keyboarder Don Airey, the album includes a few energizing tracks with emotional guitar solos and powerful vocals such as this record's catchiest tune and opener ''Venom Strike'' and one of the band's most vivid tunes ever recorded in form of the euphoric and thunderous ''Renegade'' which is probably my favorite song on the album. The album also includes a few more atmospheric passages with keyboard passages reminding me of organ sounds, giving the respective tracks an elegant, epic and sacral vibe. This works particularly well in the two amazing instrumental tracks ''Blood Sky Crying'' and ''Willesden High-Road''. My only complaint is that these two promising tunes are extremely short and would have had the potential to become some of the band's greatest tracks ever if they had been combined with lyrics. An honorable mention goes out to ''Gold & Diamonds'', a song combining ferocious guitar sounds with sacral keyboard sounds and catchy vocal lines. This song should have been a final single representing Anthem's dying moments of the early years. The song represents Domestic Booty's style perfectly.
The rest of the album consists of heavy metal songs by the numbers. They aren't bad but remind a lot of Anthem's previous three albums. Overall, the band had passed its peak and failed to progress or reinvent its sound. Even by the standards back then, the record sounded somewhat old-fashioned. That isn't a bad thing necessarily and heavy metal purists will attest the band some credibility but it might have been wiser for the band to slightly adapt its style in order to carry on instead of breaking up after this release. Overall, Domestic Booty is an above average heavy metal record with great musicianship and vocals but suffers from some worn-out song structures and conservative stylistics. Faithful and occasional fans of traditional heavy metal will certainly enjoy this release but anyone else can pass.
Bonus: The fifteen best tracks from Anthem's early years
1. Gypsy Ways (Win, Lose or Draw)
2. Do You Understand
3. Hunting Time
4. Show Must Go On!
5. Let Your Heart Beat
6. Legal Killing
7. Blinded Pain
10. Venom Strike
11. Power & Blood
12. Evil Touch
13. Warning Action
14. Light It Up
15. Star Formation
Going into this movie, I didn't expect anything. I went to a movie night at my local cinema on a Tuesday night and simply needed to find a second film to complete my double feature. It turns out that I got much more than I would have expected from this film.
The story is quite diversified and family drama, conspiracy thriller and science-fiction blockbuster all at once. The difficult relationship between the main character and his brother as well as his daughter was touching and realistic. The conspiracy included two major twists that I didn't see coming. The movie makes you believe that certain characters could be behind the conspiracy before the story takes a few clever turns. The movie obviously features a lot of vivid special effects. Usually I'm not a fan of artificially flavored CGI stylistics but they actually looked impressive on screen at my movie theatre and they were also quite diversified. Exploding gas lines, gigantic hail and tidal waves are only some of the impressive meteorological elements you will see.
The film wasn't boring at any point and doesn't deserve the harsh critics it gets. It's one of the best catastrophe movies in recent memory, probably the greatest of its kind since the South Korean blockbuster Tidal Wave a whopping eight years ago.
An honorable mention goes out to the opening sequence where the rough but sympathetic main character played by Gerard Butler delivers a passionate speech pointing out his team's accomplishments in front of an arrogant judge and an assimilated group of followers in form of a jury. They try to bring him down but the main character stands his ground despite risking his career. Standing up for your ideals no matter what isn't always easy and could put you into a lot of trouble but you won't wake up in the morning and feel like vomiting when you see your own face in the mirror. Integrity is worth more than any money in the world. This opening sequence perfectly represents what the rest of the movie is all about. This excellent opening sequence really struck a chord with me.
In the end, ignore the negative comments and get entertained by a vivid movie mixing family drama, conspiracy thriller and science- fiction blockbuster with charismatic characters in a visually stunning way. Make sure to watch this film at a movie theater to appreciate its bombastic sound and visual effects. Geostorm truly is a pleasant surprise.
The blandly titled The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is another entry in Iron Maiden's lengthy list of live records. This album goes back to the rather infamous A Real Dead One and A Real Live One records from the nineties as it features songs from different concerts recorded during the tour for the successful last studio record The Book of Souls. The goal is to appeal to fans around the world who might buy this release because they were present during the recording of a particular song which is also my personal case because I attended the group's show in Montreal. The downside is that such a compilative effort doesn't recapture the atmosphere, flow and spirit of a real concert. The video of the show released on the internet even shows how certain members of the group mysteriously switch guitars three times in a few seconds within the same song or how the first row in front of the stage includes a set of completely different characters from one moment to another. The audio version manages to hide the flaws of this patchwork but the atmosphere on this release can't be compared to Live After Death or Rock in Rio.
Let's focus on the performances instead. All eyes were on singer Bruce Dickinson during this tour who had defeated cancer between the recording sessions of the studio album and the beginning of the tour. He who might be the best heavy metal singer of all times deserves our respect because he sounds as charismatic, energizing and skilled as ever and even better than at certain moments in the past. Having attended a show of the tour myself, I can confirm that he really nailed his performances and that there weren't too many things that got polished in the process of this live album's production. The instrumental work is solid as usual but maybe a little bit too slick. I would have liked a few more differences between the studio versions and the live versions.
Some Iron Maiden tracks work much better live than the studio versions because they sound more atmospheric, direct and organic. This is for example the case for the Blaze Bayley records as well as the efforts of the early millennium. Other tracks have a very specific atmosphere on their respective studio records which can't be quite reproduced on stage. This might be the case for the charismatically produced Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son records. The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is the first case where studio and live versions sound pretty much identical. ''Death or Glory'' remains a bland rocker by the numbers while the eerie ''If Eternity Should Fail'' keeps its mysterious atmosphere. ''Speed of Light'' still sounds like a solid copy of ''El Dorado'' while ''The Great Unknown'' is another exchangeable gloomy tune with an overlong introduction. ''The Book of Souls'' is still one of the weakest title tracks in the history of Iron Maiden while ''The Red and the Black'' is somehow fun despite its predictability. To keep it short, if you own the last studio album, you don't really need this live album. Only purchasing the live album would be a mistake as well, since you would miss out on the emotional half ballad ''Tears of a Clown'' and the elegant epic ''Empire of the Clouds''. Even though ''Tears of a Clown'' and ''Hallowed Be thy Name'' have been played during the first few legs of the tour, they weren't included on The Book of Souls: Live Chapter. In the latter case, a lawsuit related to copyright claims might be the reason behind the omission but there isn't any obvious reason for the exclusion of one of the last studio record's highlights.
Concerning the classics, this release mostly delivers the usual suspects. Personally, I don't need another version of ''Wrathchild'', ''The Trooper'' and ''The Number of the Beast''. I would have prefered one or two surprises in form of songs that were rarely or never played live before. At least, this album offers a vivid rendition of the atmospheric epic ''Powerslave'' and a dynamic conclusion with a tight rendition of ''Wasted Years''. The set list is satisfying for occasional fans but faithful supporters don't get a lot to chew on aside of the tracks from the last studio effort.
The Book of Souls: Live Chapter isn't a bad live record by any means. The production is authentic and the performances are stellar but it fails to be as atmospheric and outstanding as any other regular live release of the band in the last twenty years. By Iron Maiden's high standards, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is a good average effort at best. It's for collectors and fans only.
Final rating: 70%
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Villainess could have been one of this year's greatest movies. The first-person action choreography is absolutely stunning, the characters are interesting to profound and the story is filled with numerous twists and turns.
However, the movie loses its potential due to a messy script. Instead of telling us the story of the main character in chronological order, the movie starts in the middle of nowhere, shows us numerous flashbacks in random order and meanders in such a vivid manner that more than one viewer will get lost trying to keep track of characters and events. The storytelling tries to be as much over the top as the action sequences when it should be the exact opposite for a balanced experience.
The weird script has a negative impact on everything else that is going on in the film. The action sequences seem randomly inserted in the plodding middle part that feels overlong if compared to the exaggerated sequences in the opening and concluding ten minutes that feel like an overblown video game with plenty of gratuitous violence. The interesting relationships of the main character with her daughter, her father and her neighbour are losing depth because they are constantly interrupted by shifts in place and time. The main character herself also starts to act strangely, behaving like a cold-blooded killing machine in one scene and like a confused, crying and hesitating emotional wreck just one minute later.
Another thing that bothered me were the numerous killing sequences. I'm familiar with quite bloody and gory films and I do appreciate some of them but certain sequences in this film feel just gratuitous. About fifty people get killed by the main character in the first ten minutes and they all look like dummies without any skills. The thing that makes other vivid action movies such as The Raid so interesting is that there were some serious opponents that could cause the main character some serious trouble. In this movie, our villainess acts like a unstoppable schizophrenic superhero gone crazy. Another element I disliked is that the young child dies a quite brutal death after having already witnessed a series of cruel actions and that the director shows us her bruised face like a broken porcelain doll. I'm a tough guy but that's definitely going too far. Killing the husband would have been sufficient to trigger the main character's final rampage. Showing the bloodied body of a murdered child that can barely talk and walk is disgusting.
In the end, I must say that The Villainess is a disappointing film. It's not outrageously bad but I have rarely watched a movie that sounded so promising on paper but ended up being so messy on screen. I still have to give a generous rating because the film has so many glorious ideas and could have been a masterpiece with a better script. However, I can't recommend this movie to anyone. Those who are looking for pitiless action sequences have to sit through one hour and a half of romantic slices of life interwoven with random flashbacks. Those who are interested in an actual story will get gratuitous violence and a puzzle that is too hard to solve. Those who just want to switch their brains off and have some fun will get shaken up by the unnecessary death of the child.
I've never ever been a fan of remakes but this movie should get one with a better director and script to achieve this film's full potential.
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