Companeros is one of the most popular Spaghetti Westerns, directed by Sergio Corbucci who was responsible for popular genre movies like Django, The Mercenary and The Great Silence. The starring roles belong to Italian actor Franco Nero of Django and The Day of the Owl fame and Cuban American actor Tomas Milian who appeared in The Ugly Ones and The Big Gundown. The film is often compared to Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as both movies focus on two lonesome outlaws who are trying to make money in the middle of a conflict. There are some important differences between the two films however. Sergio Leone's film takes place during the American Civil War while Companeros is a so-called Zapata Western which takes places during the Mexican Revolution. While Sergio Leone's film features distinguishable cinematography, a memorable soundtrack and multiple tense build-ups, Sergio Corbucci's movie focuses less on cinematography, features a very good but not excellent score by Ennio Morricone and has a more fluid pace instead of multiple climaxes.
On the positive side, Companeros convinces with charismatic characters in form of a chaotic rebel leader played by Tomas Milian who teams up with a womanizing tongue-in-cheek Swedish arms dealer portrayed by Franco Nero. The two characters have an entertainingly ambivalent relationship. Things are spiced up with a psychopathic antagonist with a wooden arm and a dangerous pet hawk played by American actor Jack Palance. The movie also features German actress Iris Berben as idealistic rebel leader who is briefly romantically involved with the two protagonists. Another positive element of the film is the epic journey that takes the two protagonists from Mexico to the United States of America and back again. The landscapes and settings are beautiful and at times memorable. The historical context is an important part of the movie which portrays the downsides of the Mexican Revolution in a dry and sarcastic manner. Instead of offering a heroic image of the rebels, they are shown drinking, fighting and swearing all the time while intellectual minds are mistreated for egoistic purposes.
Companeros also has a few downsides which explain why it is a good Spaghetti Western but not among the very best of its kind. The film overstays its welcome with a length of two hours and especially the dragging middle section could have been shortened by at least fifteen to twenty minutes. Moreover, the movie focuses too much on slapstick comedy centered around Tomas Milian's character that takes away from an already quite simplistic story line. The conclusion feels somewhat random and one would have liked to witness a final showdown.
In the end, fans of Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly should definitely give this film a try. The great actors, stunning landscapes and epic settings pardon for a shallow story line with a few too many slapstick scenes. Companeros is authentic and entertaining but just not a quite memorable and unique film.
Are there still people who are watching shark movies in the twenty-first century? Apparently so but since there wasn't anything else on television, I still gave The Reef a shot. It was a solid movie, no more, no less. The story is as simple as it gets. Five friends go on a sailing trip but their ship capsizes. Four friends decide to swim to the next Island while one of them stays on the capsized ship. They are soon hunted down by a Great White Shark and try to survive.
On the positive side, the movie has a few solid jump scares in the first half and some tense moments in the second half that keep the tension high. Secondly, the film avoids special effects and actually uses genuine shark footage which gives the film a more realistic touch since the animal isn't portrayed as a brutal beast but rather as an intelligent predator. Thirdly, even though the characters are lacking depth, they aren't stereotypical and the movie only offers one predictable scene with a hysterically screaming woman.
On the negative side, the movie gets slightly dull despite its relatively short running time as patterns are particularly repetitive in the second half. The fate of one of the characters and the ship is never really explained for unknown reasons. The film ends with a boring short written epilogue instead of offering a proper conclusion as if the producers had run out of funds.
In conclusion, this film is only interesting for shark movie fans and if there's really nothing else on television. The film is neither bad nor good which makes it rather forgettable.
Scream for Me Sarajevo is an intense documentary about a dangerous concert played under difficult circumstances and delivers a profound anti-war message. The soundtrack to this movie could have been a great way to introduce Bruce Dickinson's music to those who have just discovered him thanks to this documentary. However, the final result we get here is quite a mixed bag.
When the concert in question took place, Bruce Dickinson had just founded a new band called Skunkworks that adopted a moody alternative rock style with some grunge and space rock influences. The music the band wrote at the time would later on be released as a Bruce Dickinson solo effort anyway and the group really didn't last much longer. One should have assumed that this compilation would include quite a few tracks from that era but it only features one regular studio track with the gloomy "Strange Death in Paradise" and one live version with the catchy "Inertia". Instead, the record randomly features songs from records that weren't even written when the concert took place but that are used as background music in the documentary. Bruce Dickinson's commercially successful first solo record Tattooed Millionaire is completely omitted. What might be his greatest release in form of the mysterious conceptual record Chemical Wedding that would later on partially inspire a movie is also ignored by this compilation. Instead, one gets songs from his inconsistent second release Balls to Picasso, a whole bunch of songs from his heavy metal comeback release Accident of Birth and some cuts his last studio album to date in form of the strong Tyranny of Souls. This compilation also includes two rare tracks in form of the rather unspectacular "Acoustic Song" with timid Spanish flamenco elements and the smooth and airy "Eternal" that could please Pink Floyd fans.
Don't get me wrong: most of the songs on this release are great melodic heavy metal tracks with depth but the song selection for the movie and its compilation is baffling. It doesn't cover the songs played during the show in Sarajevo. It omits two of Bruce Dickinson's most important records. It features two completely unrelated rare tracks but doesn't offer any new material. The only interesting elements about this release are the charismatic cover artwork and intriguing booklet that gives us some more Information about the documentary. This soundtrack is only interesting for avid collectors of everything Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden have released. If you're one of the few who haven't listened to Bruce Dickinson's solo efforts yet and got in touch with it thanks to the documentary, ignore this release and purchase the brilliant The Best of Bruce Dickinson instead. The one-disc version offers his greatest hits plus two explosive exclusive songs while the two-disc version comes around with some truly interesting rarities.
Final rating: 50%
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Eastern Conference Wild Card
1. Columbus Blue Jackets (ME) 98
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Western Conference Wild Card
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Prince of Wales Trophy: Tampa Bay Lightning
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Los Angeles Kings
Stanley Cup champion: Tampa Bay Lightning
Calder Memorial Trophy: Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers)
Hart Memorial Trophy: Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning)
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings)
Vezina Trophy: Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Jack Adams Award: Bill Peters (Calgary Flames)
Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy: Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets)
An extensive Ayreon concert seemed to be an impossible project. The studio records involved a multitude of guest musicians and singers, the tracks often had extensive lengths and the songs were often interwoven in conceptual outputs. Ayreon Universe - Best of Ayreon Live makes the improbable reality.
Band leader Arjen Lucassen managed to gather twenty-six musicians and singers around him that participate with passion. Some of the singers on the original studio versions of specific songs like Symphony X's Russell Allen or Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson couldn't participate but were replaced accurately by similarly sounding performers. The names of the guests read like a who's who of rock and metal's greatest performers, including Blind Guardian's Hansi Kürsch, Kamelot's Tommy Karevik and Nightwish's Marco Hietala and Floor Jansen. The guest list also includes regular collaborators like singer Anneke van Giersbergen and her husband Rob Snijders who performs on drums and percussion, underrated Belgian singer Magali Luyten and drummer and vocalist Ed Warby.
Many tracks were shortened without losing their atmosphere, energy and essence. The emotional and epic "Dawn of a Million Souls" is two and a half minutes shorter than the original version and features a different vocalist but sounds as great as the original version. The atmospheric " Into the Black Hole" received a similar treatment with a different vocalist and a version that is more than four minutes shorter than the original version without losing the original's haunting atmosphere. The atmospheric and majestic "Age of Shadows" is even less than half as long as the original tune but still sounds to the point. The track list features twenty-eight songs covering Ayreon's greatest hits with at least one song from each studio record plus two tracks from Arjen Lucassen's similarly sounding Star One project.
The track list was very carefully chosen. There are occasionally two tracks from the same record following one another but otherwise one gets a potpourri of Ayreon's space metal from the last two and a half decades that sounds surprisingly fluid yet diversified. The vivid and folk-driven "Loser" is followed by the elegiac progressive rock pearl "And the Druids Turned to Stone" and the two songs manage to complement one another perfectly despite their stylistic differences. The haunting "Everybody Dies" continues fluidly with the epic "The Castle Hall" as if these two tracks had always belonged together and weren't from two completely different records. Even the encores, when the nearly instrumental progressive metal epic "Amazing Flight in Space" is followed by the thoughtful "Day Eleven: Love", blend together flawlessly.
In the end, Ayreon Universe - Best of Ayreon Live is an essential record for faithful fans of the project and newcomers alike. Along with the extensive compilation Timeline released ten years earlier, this generous live release is the best Ayreon album in my book. If you like progressive rock and metal with ambitious science-fiction stories, you can't get around this release. I would listen to this new Ayreon release instead of watching any new Star Wars spin-off or sequel anytime. Enjoy your ride on the waves of space and time!
Final rating: 98%
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