Monday, August 27, 2007

Versus: Ashlee Simpson & Avril Lavigne

Ashlee Simpson - she of the bad haircut, nosejob and coattails of Jessica.
Avril Lavigne - abuser of ties and eyeliner. So punk rawk.

Ashlee - If it wasn't glaringly obvious enough, the Superbowl lip-syncing disaster exposed Ashlee's talents for what they are; ie. non-existent. Utilizing synthesizers heavily to distract from the less than savoury vocals, Ashlee has made 'sing-thesizing' into an
art form. She can't hit the high notes right, veering closely to screeching and screaming in the chorus of 'Shadow'. Hell, if she had to rely on a back-up track just to get the low notes right, you know it's a long time coming before she's breaking any records at vocal prowess.

Avril - Apparently started singing at church since young. Did that help? Well, apparently not much. In her past albums, she's proven to be just a tad better than Ashless at this singing gig, which isn't saying a lot. I suspect that somewhere somehow Avril is living a second life. Her contribution to the Eragon soundtrack, seemed to promise a more mature sophomore album. For all it's power ballad-y instances in 'Keep Holding On', Avril mostly managed to tack on the power in her warbles. Then 'Girlfriend' was released. Right.

Ashlee = 0, Avril = 1

To look at it superficially, Ashlee and Avril's music deviate slightly in such that the former is more rock and the latter, more punk. Essentially, both pop stars are just that; pop. So drawing a difference between the two is a lot like drawing a line in sand during high tide. Nonetheless, Ashlee's back up band uses arguably more bass and riffs ('Boyfriend'). I mean, they would have to make up for the lack in vocals in some way after all. Avril on the other hand, keeps the verses and rhythm punchy ("He was a boy/She was a girl"). Of co
urse the hardcore punks are cursing plagues at Lavigne's house for her blasphemous 'tude. But at the very least kids below 4'9'' will be exposed to punk, or punk-reminiscent music to be more exact, without the sex and drugs that usually come attached with that genre of music.

Ashlee = 1, Avril = 0

- At the start of the career, to step out of her sister's shadow, Ashlee died her blonde hair black and assumed a rock persona. She was the chocolate chunks to Jessica's white vanilla in the Simpson gene pool, or so it seemed. For the most part she did successfully carve out a career separate from her sister's. And then she went blonde. And fixed her nose. And became the spokesperson for Skechers. And all of a sudden she's looking like a less-tan,
less-chesty version of Jessica Simpson. One Jessica Simpson in the world more than fills our vapid bimbo pop star quota. Do we really need another bland blonde robot? Interesting to note that Ashlee's original hair colour is blonde. Ashlee is also currently dating Pete Wentz, abuser of camera phone and bassist/song-writer for Fall Out Boy. Do you think they maybe pool money and bulk buy eye-liner? Cause that stuff ain't exactly cheap. Especially if you get the waterproof ones.

Avril - After showing the pre-teens that girls can wear neck ties too, Avril continued her trend of baggy pants and white wife-beater for a while. It was so rawking, th
e fashion world collectively fell into a boredom-induced coma. Then at some point she dis-owned her tie trend and put away the hair straightener. She took the pink out of her hair and started dressing up. Voila, one awesome model under the facade at your service! What she lacks for in vocals and personality, she makes up for in bone structure. That girl puts Derek Zoolander out of business, I tell ya.

Of course, come 'The Best Damn Thing', the straightener, pink and punk rawk is back with a vengence. Regressing to familiar territory may be great for album sales but awful for a bystander.

Ashlee = 0, Avril - 1-0 = 0

Ashlee - Blaming the band and "acid reflux" for your mistake just isn't cool. However, Ashlee's music videoclips earns her back whatever points she lost for flubbing responsibility. Have you seen that girl dance? For someone who apparently did ballet when she was younger, the girl has the grace of an elephant on rollerskates. No really, it's like she's having random seizure attacks.

And because I myself am one with the spazzy dancing, I can't hate on Ashlee for that.

Avril - Yeah, we get it. You're bad to the bone. We saw it in your music videos, we saw it in your interviews and the paparazzi saw it first hand when you spit at them. Yawn. Next!

Ashlee = 1, Avril = 0

Final tally
Ashlee = 2, Avril = 1
Ashlee Simspon slips in to win the battle of the can't-sing-"bad-ass" rawk princess. The world continues to turn on it's axis.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Movie review: Stardust

Having waited with bated breath for the Stardust to open in Australian cinemas (September 20), scoring tickets for a special premiere a whole month earlier would what the UrbanDictionary define as "sweet". To have Charlie Cox, breakout star of said movie, introduce the movie and regale us with random bits of trivia is just the perennial icing on the already very sweet cake. That the movie completely fulfils my every expectation and pulls out some unexpected surprises as well? Consider me a diabetic after the whole experience.

I feel that I must pre-face the review with this note; For those not in the know, Stardust is an adaptation of cult-fantasy-author Neil Gaiman's book off the same name. Neil Gaiman... that name itself explains more than I'll be able to in summing up the story.

The movie follows the quest of Tristran (played by Cox) who hunts down a fallen star in order to procure the hand of his lady love, Victoria (Sienna Miller). The fallen star takes the shape of a woman (Claire Danes) upon crashing onto the ground. Unbeknownst to Tristran, the star is also hunted by a witch (Michelle Pheiffer) who wants it for eternal youth and a king (Rupert Everett) who cannot take the throne without it. Of course thanks to the mind of Neil Gaiman, the story isn't quite cut and dry. Woven into the plot are pirates, magical kingdoms, ghosts, and unicorns. According to Wikipedia, Matthew Vaughn pitched the film as "The Princess Bride meets The Pirates of the Carribean." While I do not necessarily agree with the pitch, I can certainly see that the intricate balance of humour, action, and love found in these three films are what the critics will refer to in drawing comparisons.

I was very excited to see what Matthew Vaughn would do in only his second take at directing after Layer Cake (which impressed me so), and I must say that all in all, Vaughn did a fantastic job. Telling a story that is so detailed and encompassing isn't one for the weak-skilled. Initial choppy editing at the beginning of the film aside, Vaughn's vision and strength progressed to culminate into a killer climax. Many times during the film, I sat on the edge of the seat, trying hard not to yell words of support to the screen. It seems silly but I am definitely one of those who gets caught up in the moment. It certainly helped that all the players brought everything they had to the table.

Charlie Cox and Claire Danes are without doubt the stand-outs in the cast. Cox, who I had never seen perform before, blew me away. Tristran was the quintessential hero, growing from an adorable boy to a respected man (still adorable, but with better hair) as his storyline progressed. Brimming with charm and a certain innocent naiveté, Cox will definitely be one to watch in the future. Even Vanity Fair is sitting up and taking notice. Danes, on the other hand, I had often took as a one hit wonder - less then stellar career post-My So-Called Life. I was initially upset with her taking the role that Sarah Michelle Gellar turned down, because regardless of SMG's questionable career post-Buffy, I knew she had the chops to pull it off. I have never been more glad to be proven wrong! Danes was elegance and ethereal beauty personified in Yvaine, the fallen star. Her delivery in the monologue regarding love just made me stare wide-eyed, all goofy-grinned because of its sheer impact and brilliance. Who knew she had it in her? I guess I do now.

Unfortunately, films from the sci-fi/fantasy genre (that is not made from George Lucas) has a tradition of doing poorly in cinemas. Stardust opened at number four in the American box-office in its opening week. Hopefully it'll continue to stay strong and strong word-of-mouth will cause the public to flock to watch it. Nonetheless, what it lacks in box office sales will definitely be made up for when the DVD hits. Don't be one of those lagging dopes only catching it when the DVD drops!

Verdict: In 21 words or less
A future classic! There'll be a whole new generation of kids who will grow up on Stardust.

Trivia according to Charlie Cox:
The scene where Robert De Niro's pirate meets Ricky Gervais' bootleg seller is mostly ad-libbed. The actors had to turn their heads away from the camera to cover their laughter.