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October 16, 2007

Blinking with Fists

Follow-up to Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist from groundling

A donator who wishes to remain anonymous (possibly because he paid good money for this tripe) has submitted some of Corgan’s poetry to me. Here is a representative sample.


A Most Cautious Wit

October 11, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist

1 out of 5 stars


I’m not interested in the altered line-up of this band, which has been the subject of endless debate in reviews and online forums: I don’t care if the absence of D’Arcy or James Iha disqualifies this as a ‘true’ Pumpkins album. To be honest, I’m glad to see the back of Iha, who threatened to destroy the worth of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by putting a song on it that ended, There’s a love that God puts in your heart. D’Arcy I am fairly indifferent to, knowing little about her other than that she gets her rack out in the liner notes for Adore.

My focus, rather, is on the trajectory of Billy Corgan’s songwriting output. The trend has been downward since 1995: a mediocre ‘mellow’ Pumpkins album, a patchy, Gothic concept-album, Machina, that didn’t quite reach the heights of the Pumpkins’ best, a Zwan album with a handful of good songs, a diabolical solo effort, a book of tortuous poetry entitled Blinking with Fists, and now this.

And now this.

Zeitgeist is a droning bore of a record. The only thing about it that stands out is that, remarkably, Corgan’s vocals are more irritating than on earlier records. This is due to his decision to overdub some harmonious ahh-ing on a few tracks: OK if you are Mark Lanegan or Dave Grohl; not so if you possess the most nasal voice in rock.

Kafka would be proud, he bleats.

Most songs on this record are nondescript – ‘Doomsday Clock’, ‘Bleeding the Orchid’, ‘That’s the Way (My Love Is)’ and more pass like a Show of Spectres without leaving much of an impression. ‘Tarantula’ might have been a great song was it not ruined by its confusing structure of post- and pre-choruses in no coherent arrangement that I can discern. And, of course, the Nasal Overdubs.

Corgan: short a few mil

There are reasons, too, to hate this record. To get all of the tracks you need to buy four different versions of Zeitgeist. Not that, on hearing this one, I would want to.

September 01, 2007

The Number 23

2 out of 5 stars

Far from inspiring silly cultish beliefs that can be rubbished as mere selection bias, the number 23 really does have a vast and striking range of significant associations. For example, amidst the leafy suburbs of south County Dublin, the number of my parents’ house is 23. I was 23 when I applied to Warwick’s graduate programme. Coincidentally, I’d give this film 23 marks out of 100. Further still, I can think of at least 23 better things you could do with your time than watch this nonsense. Weird, huh?

Jim Carrey leapt to fame – ruining my childhood meantimes – in a series of low-brow and highly successful comedies; The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, The Cable Guy, Ace Ventura. However, Carrey surprised and impressed with his versatility when he demonstrated his ability to cross over into more intelligent comedy-dramas such as The Truman Show, which won Carrey a number of awards if not an Oscar, and Man on the Moon, in which he accepted millions of dollars to kiss Courtney Love. I suppose it’s a further demonstration of Carrey’s desire to exhibit his belief that he is a Man of Many Talents that he elected to make a supernatural thriller.

But Carrey’s real-life past haunts him, as it were, throughout The Number 23, which seems unable to decide which Jim Carrey it wants to sell us. He’s introduced as Walter Sparrow (no relation to Jack) with an air of ironic humour and it’s unconvincing when, subsequently, he tries his hand at being Troubled and Harrowed. This is symptomatic of the whole film’s weakness. As he reads a novel with uncanny relevance to reality, the number 23 theme obsesses Walter Sparrow immediately, to the distress of his wife (Virginia Madsen), but the idea isn’t developed; no higher, oracular significance is attached to the number’s recurrence. Instead we’re given a number of glossy scenes from the novel shot in slick Sin City-vision amidst Sparrow’s slow-paced detective work. Overall it’s a mess, an interesting prospect gone awry; inchoate, meandering, tedious.

July 23, 2007


Movie image
5 out of 5 stars

Robots with anger-management problems take to the streets of Earth.

The by-the-numbers blockbuster may seem a low art form whose requirements are easily met, yet it’s a genre that has yielded some awful films. Spiderman 3, Godzilla, Ang Lee’s Hulk (unrelated to Ang Lee’s Emma) and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (I didn’t bother with 3) are turkeys of note. So it’s satisfying when something like Transformers comes along and hits all of its targets, avoiding the pitfalls of the family-movie genre: mawkishness, predictability, awful humour, and bad effects. Why, there are even masturbation jokes for those so inclined.

Explosions! Noise! More Robots!

Transformers has attempted to placate the more committed (read ‘desolate’) fans of the cartoon series: surveys were taken by the producers allowing participants to vote for their favourite lines from the TV series to be included in the film. I don’t remember enough of the cartoon to comment on the fidelity of the robots’ design to the originals, but I think it would be mean-spirited to complain, as they look great. Of course, it’s silly at times – Jazz is pretty obnoxious, but his presence is minimal, and the Autobots choose to disguise themselves as pretty lame American cars – but it’s enjoyable throughout. The robots themselves are impressive and have not been devalued too badly by those Citroen advertisements.

Fun for men who never grew up!

Right down to the metal soundtrack which includes, unfortunately, a new Smashing Pumpkins song, to which Optimus Prime writhes in agony. Poor chap. But that’s the low point. Let’s hope they don’t ruin the effect with a bunch of sub-standard sequels. The Curse of Starscream’s Gold.

May 07, 2007

Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3
2 out of 5 stars

In which Spiderman makes heavy work of battling foes who could be overcome with a gong and a cup of water.

If there’s one thing Spiderman can’t stand (and there are many), it’s infection with an extra-terrestrial phlegm; a pity because that’s exactly what he gets in Spiderman 3. The result, an Evil Spiderman, joins a long roster of anti-social wrongdoers in a film that includes such illustrious ne’er-do-wells as Venom, Hobgoblin Junior, and Flint Marko. Having spent the previous two films mythologising the death of Spidey’s sainted uncle, Ben Parker, the producers elect to inform us that actually, his murder was the work of one Flint Marko who, pathologically angry at the cruelty of his parents in naming him Flint Marko, turns to a life of Misdeed. By a poorly-explained accident involving a sand-pit and a particle accelerator Marko is transformed into Sandman. Because he is made of sand, water is not his friend.

If all this Evil sounds unpalatable, fans of Aunt May’s tedious moralising will be relieved to learn that Spiderman 3 is replete with her rage-inducing doses of sucrose. She even tells off Evil Spiderman for killing Marko, spoiling the party for everyone. Far more acceptable is Kirsten Dunst, whose reaction to all stimuli is to part her lips and gaze into the distance in that way that makes my friend Mike wish she was free for a beverage in central Carlow this Thursday evening. (Dunst, if you’re reading, I can testify that Mike is a true gentleman who can resolve disputes without recourse to CGI.)

The film’s sole stroke of genius is the scene that lets us know that it’s OK for grown-ups to like Spiderman. Due to receive the key to the city for his feats of civic destruction, Spidey informs MJ that his costume is a popular item at Hallowe’en, at which point the audience’s overgrown comic-readers trade knowing glances, the self-referential humour assuring them that this is adult entertainment and they do not all have Peter Pan complexes. (Besides, they prefer the term graphic novel.) Meanwhile, Mike mutters something unrepeatable about Dunst that begins in the conditional tense and ends with ‘until her ears bled’.

Out of popcorn. Tedium sets in. This is the worst film in the franchise. The mind drifts back to the Transformers trailer, hoping that it is free from the mawkish family-values that have marred everything Spielberg has done since the onset of his mid-life crisis. By now the meteoric substance courses through the veins of Aunt May. She terrorises the city, hurling corrective proverbs at the hapless New-Yorkers.

Can she be stopped?

Say; does anyone have a cup of water?

Depressed by a poor script

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