• Manowar - The Final Battle I (2019)

    Six and a half years after Manowar last released new material in form of the horrible The Lord of Steel, the band has decided to release what is supposed to be its final album in three separate extended plays to make more money. This release is the first of the trilogy and one has to wonder whether the band is ever going to bring the other two to life since it's hard to imagine any overtly positive reactions to this travesty. Those releases might just never come to fruition like the Asgard Saga in collaboration with Wolfgang Hohlbein that was supposed to be released throughout the past decade. Don't get me started on the old-fashioned misogynist cover artwork, the cringe-worthy lyrics or the sub-par production with loud bass guitar sounds and thin electric guitar sounds. Let's strictly talk about the four songs that are offered to anyone who is still willing to give this band that has overstayed its welcome by a decade and a half another shot.

    ''March of the Heroes into Valhalla'' is an instrumental overture with a weird break that basically separates the tune into two even shorter instrumental tracks. It's not the first time the band has done this as could be witnessed on the endlessly dragging Gods of War. The music manages to establish an epic atmosphere even though it would have had even more energy with actual orchestral sounds instead of keyboard sounds recalling scores for adventure video games of the nineties. One also has to wonder whether such a short extended play consisting of only four songs in total even needed an instrumental overture. The track is average, forgettable and you should skip it right away.

    ''Blood and Steel'' is an average mid-paced heavy metal tune with domineering bass guitar sounds, decently employed keyboard layers, thin electric guitar riffs and stoic drum patterns that don't impress much. The emotional, epic and skilled vocals by Eric Adams who is going to celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday this year save the tune from mediocrity.

    ''Sword of the Highlands'' is the best track on here and this above average tune would have even been great if it had been about two minutes shorter towards the end. The cinematic keyboard layers, smooth bagpipe sounds and diversified vocals make this gradually more intense ballad stand out. It's rather a song one would expect from other heavy metal bands like Grave Digger and it's interesting to see Manowar try out something new so late in its career.

    Extended play closer ''You Shall Die Before I Die'' also tries out something new but that isn't positive in said case. That's actually an understatement. That might be the single worst song Manowar has ever written. Instrumentally, this song is unspectacular which would make this track boring and forgettable. However, the terrible vocal performance by Joey DeMaio makes this track unintentionally funny. He sounds like a grumpy grandfather who is about to have a stroke. The performance is somewhere between theatrical spoken word efforts and low growls that don't have anything to do with extreme metal but rather with a slightly irritated dog. The track could have been average if it had been sung by Eric Adams but nobody seems to have had the courage to tell Joey DeMaio that he was committing an atrocity. The unusual closer doesn't leave anyone wanting for more and should make most listener wish the band just called it quits already.

    Manowar's The Final Battle I isn't a triumphant victory but a dragging defeat. The final result is painfully average and should only please to unconditional Manowar fans who would even praise the recording of Joey DeMaio's farts as masterful true metal. To be fair, this extended play is better than the vapid The Lord of Steel and the unnecessary new recordings of past records which makes this release the best since the Thunder in the Sky extended play ten years earlier. However, this new release is still worse than anything Manowar has recorded in the first three decades of its career which speaks volumes for the quality of the band's accomplishments for the past ten years. Manowar should just quickly complete its final tour and call it quits. Aside of delusional true metal followers who would like to be brave warriors surrounded by female sex slaves as the characters in Manowar's lyrics and on their album covers instead of having boring or no jobs and being domineered by people around them, nobody really wants to listen to any new Manowar material anymore.

    Final rating: 45%

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  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Greatest Videos (2003)

     They like pleasure spiked with pain and music is their aeroplane. Californian crossover pioneers Red Hot Chili Peppers have always come around with thought-provoking music videos and this collection presents some of the quartet's most popular music videos created between 1989's Mother's Milk and 2003's Greatest Hits release. As a matter of fact, this DVD came with the limited edition of the compilation but was later on also released separately. Nearly sixteen years later, a sequel would be more then welcome as well. Anyone who likes quirky rock music between funk, pop and rap influences as well as colourful music videos should give this entertaining release a try.

    This release contains numerous memorable music videos. The award-winning black and white music video for ''Give It Away'' features four hsyterically dynamic band members dressed in glam rock fashion in a deserted area where they go completely crazy. Overlooked ballad ''Soul to Squeeze'' was also promoted with an atmospheric black and white music video that shows the band members as travelling circus members. Funk rock party anthem ''Aeroplane'' was graced with a shiny, glamorous and expensive music video with acrobats and dancers that also recalls circus elements. Melancholic alternative rock hit ''Otherside'' is another music video in black and white with a monochrome gothic style referencing German Expressionism and the early age of cinema embedded in a cartoonish story line with dream sequences. Epic rock ballad ''Californication'' was much more up-to-date at the time of its release and features the four band members as video game characters experiencing fast-paced jump-and-run adventures. Pitiless funk rock stomper ''By the Way'' shows how the lead singer gets kidnapped by a crazed cab driver and manages to escape in a stunt that one would rather expect from a high-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Rap rock monster ''Can't Stop'' on the other side is more artistic again and inspired by Erwin Wurm's One-Minute-Sculptures which are partially inspired by abstract art.

    While the release features nearly sixty-seven minutes of high-quality entertainment, there are some elements that could have been improved. First of all, some behind the scenes elements regarding the music videos would have given them more depth and details. Secondly, the band could have added a documentary to complement the history of its award-winning music videos. Thirdly, some music videos have been overlooked, the daring ''Warped'' with its homoerotic elements in particular. While such a down-stripped release make sense in the context of a greatest hits compilation, the separately released version should have added more value for money. The cover artwork could have also been more creative than just being an alternative shot of the Greatest Hits artwork.

    If you have the opportunity to purchase the limited edition of the band's Greatest Hits release including sixteen songs and sixteen music videos, you will get value for money. If you can only find the separately released version, you can't go wrong with it for a reduced price either. Red Hot Chili Peppers is still one of the most influential, daring and creative alternative rock bands out there as it has survived many other bands and styles throughout the past three and a half decades and the band is still going strong. The group's music videos are everything but boring and represent a time when music videos were more than just promotional tools but rather art forms between the mid-eighties and the early years of the new millennium.

    Let's cross our fingers that the band will release another greatest videos compilation sometime after the release of its upcoming twelfth studio release since the Californian quartet has since continued to respect its tradition of intriguing music videos with the rock and roll anthology style in ''Dani California'', the four band members living in four individually designed rooms in ''Look Around'' and the light-hearted and liberating vibe of ''Dark Necessities'' to only give three examples.

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  • Beoning / Burning (2018)

    Burning had a quite strange effect on me. While I was watching the film, I thought it was long and tedious and at one point I even thought of stopping to watch it altogether. Especially the opening three fifths of the film are hard to sit through and the film's resolution isn't as spectacular as some people have claimed. Describing this movie as one of the greatest in Korean cinema would be an exaggeration given the fact that this country has made numerous absolutely outstanding films in the past two decades in particular.

    However, the more I thought about the movie once it had concluded, the more I appreciated it. The film includes numerous details despite its dragging pace and the plot asks more questions than it actually answers which gives attentive viewers food for thought and discussion.

    The storytelling is certainly unique as it can't be compared to anything I have ever watched before. It's much more ambiguous than other Korean dramas such as Park Chan-wooks lavish The Handmaiden or Im Sang-soo's The Housemaid with its cold social criticism. On the other side, the movie never drifts off into the realm of fantasy or science-fiction like Kim Ki-duk's quietly romantic 3-Iron or Park Chan-wook's heartwarming I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK. Burning is certainly one of a kind.

    The story revolves around three detailed characters or so it seems since the viewers only get the protagonist's at times questionable perspective of events. Lee Song-ju is a shy, lonesome and doubtful young man who performs odd jobs in town and takes care of his father's dilapidated farm when he is arrested for assault.

    The young man coincidentally meets a former childhood neighbour and classmate who helps him win a watch. Shin Hae-mi is outgoing and expressive but also socially awkward and quite naive. The two connect as they bond in their struggle with their social isolation while feeling attracted by their quite different and sometimes even opposite philosophies. One day, Shin Hae-mi travels to Africa and asks Lee Song-ju to take care of her cat that seemingly lives in her chaotic flat but is never to be seen.

    When she comes back after several weeks, she is accompanied by Ben whom she met during a crisis related to a terror warning abroad. Ben is sociable, smart and rich and quite the opposite of both Shin Hae-mi and Lee Song-ju. He seems to be well-mannered, intellectual and generous but is at times self-centered, mysterious and manipulative.

    One night, the three meet at Lee Song-ju's farm and smoke pot. Hae-mi takes off her shirt and performs an African dance expressing hunger for the meaning of life in front of the two men. Lee Song-ju admits to Ben that he is in love with Hae-mi. Ben also has something to confess and admits that he burns down abandoned barns once every two months. After their meeting, Shin Hae-mi departs with Ben and they leave Lee Song-ju behind. From that moment on, Lee Song-ju doesn't hear from Shin Hae-mi anymore. Her flat is in perfect order but has been abandoned. She hasn't shown up for her pantomime classes. Even her family hasn't heard of her and doesn't want to see her anyway because of her credit card debt. Lee Song-ju starts to believe that Ben might have murdered Shin Hae-mi and starts investigating.

    Several events in the movie raise questions that remain unanswered. Who is regularly calling Lee Song-ju in the middle of the night? How come he doesn't remember Shin Hae-min and her troubled past while she seems to remember everything about him? What is Ben's interest in the fairly average-looking Shin Hae-min when he is constantly surrounded by great-looking rich women of the high society? Does Ben really burn down barns? Does Shin Hae-min's cat actually exist? I have my own theories related to each of these and many other questions and the viewer must actively think about such elements in order to make sense of the movie. My interpretation might be completely different from someone else's interpretation of events. This makes the movie so interesting to discuss.

    In the end, Burning is a slow burn but its aftermath really sets things afire. While initially not appreciating the film, I feel like revisiting it with friends for second or even third opinions to discuss the story. This mystery drama has grown on me. I would recommend this film to people who consider themselves intellectual and patient. If you think Captain Marvel is the greatest film of the year so far, then Burning is certainly not for you.

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  • Us (2019)

    Us is an American horror movie with and by Jordan Peele who is the mastermind behind the Academy Award winning Get Out, a horror movie dealing with social issues such as racial discrimination. His most recent film doesn't deal with social issues and balances horror elements with mystery sequences.

    The film's weakest point is the plot. Even though it sounds intriguing at first, it leaves many questions unanswered and even comes around with quite a few plot holes towards the end. The predictable twist can't save the messy script either. The movie revolves around a young girl who encounters a mysterious doppelgänger in a hall of mirrors which leaves her mentally tormented. Several decades later, she reluctantly returns to the region where she experienced this trauma and soon starts noticing strange occurences. She tries to convince her husband to depart with their two children but her doppelgänger and her family soon break into their cottage and attempt to kill them to take their places. The family manages to escape and realizes that citizen all around the region are being attacked by their doppelgängers. The young woman must confront the demons of her past in order to find a way to stop them.

    This horror movie convinces with numerous elements. It has an uneasy atmosphere right from the start that never lets go until its partial conclusion. The acting performances are authentic and especially lead actress Lupita Nyong'o is incredible as tormented soul with a heart of gold and remarkable resilience. Even the child actresses and actors deliver the goods in this film. The opening sequence takes place in the eighties and has a cool nostalgic flair. The locations are carefully chosen and especially the scenes in the hall of mirrors are memorable.

    Even though the movie isn't particularly scary and frustrates with a few plot holes, it is overall very entertaining and its strong acting performances, intense atmosphere and intriguing locations pardon for the film's minor flaws. I hesitated between giving the film seven or eight points but since I was thoroughly entertained by it at the local movie theatre, I decided to give it the better of the two grades. If you like mysterious horror films, you are going to appreciate this film.

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  • This cover artwork and the music video are impressive statements! Great job! 

    Rammstein - Deutschland

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