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Born in China – Movie Review

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Born in China – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Nobody is going to mistake the Disneynature series as being strongly educational, especially when compared to other nature documentaries. Even its inspiration, the True-Life Adventures, sought more to provide educational facts about animals. However, films like Born in China serve a necessary purpose in allowing children to experience these animals up close in a manner that still shows the dangers of their natural habitat. The narration may threaten to get too cutesy, but these are swiftly paced and pleasant for all audiences. They don’t beat a day at the zoo or even Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for that matter, but the Disneynature films do their job with the right level of respect for the environment.

Most Disneynature films keep the focus primarily on a specific animal they provide a name sake to. Born in China takes a different approach by telling stories about three animals and their search to survive through the changing seasons. The pandas and monkeys will probably be the audience favourites and they provide the necessary “Aww” factor, but the snow leopard is a splendor to watch, too. The animals are instantly endearing and the story the filmmakers craft for them do not belittle what they might be feeling in those moments. All of these plots are given equal attention by director Chuan Lu.

Born in China might be the most beautifully photographed of the Disneynature films, with some incredible shots of the landscapes and environments of the Chinese wilderness. The crew captures some amazing angles, though the end credits reveal they were a lot closer than we might think. The entire film gives an immersive experience as the camera swoops over the hills and near the trees, placing us directly in the middle of the action. Even the best zoos can’t capture the feeling of being right along with the animals as they attempt to survive or try to catch their potentially tasty prey.

As is tradition, a celebrity has been brought in to provide a narration. Disneynature scripts tend to overemphasize the cuddly nature of these animals and John Krasinski’s narration continues that aspect of these films. He gives the animals names and context for their apparent thoughts. It is fairly obvious the footage is edited to fit into a specific narrative created by the filmmakers, but Krasinski’s narration doesn’t descend too much into cuteness like earlier Disneynature narrations from John C. Reilly and Tim Allen’s. These documentaries are produced primarily for a child audience, but Born in China doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh environments as much as previous entries in this series.

It is nice Disney continues to produce the Disneynature films. These films give money to good causes as well as introduce children to some amazing animals. They are hardly the most thematically rich nature documentaries, but they are a necessary good deed and a calm break from other fare that is usually released in multiplexes. Next year will see the release of Dolphins, which should provide plenty more charming adventures. This is an annual Earth Day tradition people should welcome more.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


Free Fire – Movie Review

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Free Fire – Movie Review

Rating: C+ (Above Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

The concept behind Free Fire holds a lot of promise and Ben Wheatley certainly directs it with a certain amount of flourish. However, there is something almost juvenile about the way this story is written and the film does not do much to create the necessary excitement. The influences from classic westerns and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs can certainly be felt with its singular location and constant gunplay. Yet there is a distance from the characters and the constant shooting gets tiring rather quickly. Teenagers will almost instantly fall in love with the sly script and action set-pieces, but for those who have experienced it all before, frequent yawns will be had.

The best aspect of Free Fire comes from its actors. Wheatley has assembled an international collection of thespians and each of them dig into the roles with the proper relish. The stand-out is Brie Larson as the lone female gunslinger in this band of misfits. The biggest laugh comes courtesy of Larson and it’s not even a word of dialogue. Sharlto Copley delights in portraying one of the more unhinged members of the group, truly emphasizing the 1970s setting and slightly exaggerating his native South African accent. Armie Hammer displays the necessary suaveness and coolness during the film’s intense situation. The other actors also somewhat succeed in elevating their thinly written roles.

Profanity is one of the trickiest elements to write in a screenplay without sounding forced. Writers like Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet, Kevin Smith and the Coen Brothers have mastered the art of peppering their dialogue with salty language. Wheatley and his usual collaborator Amy Jump merely drop the f-bombs to emphasis the criminal nature of their characters, but they lack the proper weight. Free Fire feels entirely like a college student’s first screenplay, awkwardly throwing in swearing just to make the script appear more mature. It never earns the right to use these curse words and the film suffers for it.

Two thirds of the film is devoted to the characters shooting at each other. Gun heavy action scenes are hard to make exciting. There needs to be a proper level of tension and character investment, neither of which are in Free Fire. The film spends far too much time on making them look cool without properly delving into why we should care about their fates. Wheatley certainly gives the direction his all, but it becomes too repetitive rather quickly. A couple of clever twists and turns are occasionally thrown in, but not enough to break up the mundanity of the action. For one hour, we get characters shooting at each other with not enough creative choreography to make the inevitable end worthwhile.

One can imagine the excitement of walking on set and putting this entire set-piece together. One is instantly reminded of Mad Max: Fury Road, a strong technical accomplishment that was merely about going from Point A to Point B. Free Fire sticks firmly in Point A and many a great film has made strong use of a simple location. However, it gets tiring seeing the gun shots ricochet off this dreary looking warehouse and it’s easy to get lost of who is on what team and who is shooting at each other. Free Fire will almost certainly inspire a host of potentially better imitators.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


CMW 2017 Editor’s Choice

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CMW 2017 Editor’s Choice

Well folks, here we go again!

It’s year 35 for Canadian Music Week and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Some of the big names this year include: Wolf Parade, Hollerado, Good Charlotte, Papa Roach, Matt Mays and 54-40.

The conference part is no small matter with key speakers including: Michael Rapino (Live Nation), Paul Shaffer (The Tonight Show) and Scott Borchetta (Taylor Swift, American Idol, Big Machine Records)

As usual we are here to present the small things, because the small things matter.

Here is our list of must see acts performing in Toronto this week.

TUESDAY

Texas King
Tuesday April 18
Venue: Adelaide Hall
Time: 11pm

Texas King was formed by front man Jordan Macdonald in London Ontario during the late months of 2012. They released their debut EP in 2013 and immediately began touring and performing throughout Ontario and the east coast of Canada. It wasnt long before they earned themselves a reputation for their high-energy live shows.
The EP opened doors and allowed the band to take part in festivals like Canadian Music Week, NXNE, SCENE Fest and KOI Fest. Texas King was named London’s Best Rock Group at the 2014 Jack Richardson Music Awards and has landed supporting slots for bands such as X-Ambassadors, USS, Mother Mother, The Trews, and Current Swell.
In 2016 the band hit the studio with Juno award winner Dan Brodbeck to record their first full-length album. Soon after tracking was complete, the guys found themselves back in the van journeying to Lancaster Pennsylvania where they showcased at the annual Launch Music Festival.
Texas King is relentless. As they gear up for the release of their hook-filled debut, they couldnt be more hungry. Their accomplishments are impressive, but the band feels that its just the beginning.

 

MunizO  (Japan)
Tuesday April 18
Venue: Silver Dollar (486 Spadina Ave)
Time: 10pm
MunizO was formed in August 2015 by TarO&JirO and Yuta. TarO&JirO: In the spring of 2009, they left their homeland for London, UK and then, in 2011, expanded their activities in Europe, performing at Japan Expo in France, Rock Oz’Arene in Switzerland, and at the Guitare en Scene competition in France, where they won the first prize.
In 2013, after winning the Japanese section of Emergenza, they were signed to a major label and the next year they played at some of the biggest festivals in Japan, such as Rising Sun Rock Festival, Rock in Japan, and Countdown Japan.

 

WEDNESDAY

Tete (France)
Wednesday April 19
Spotlight On France
Venue: Rivoli
Time: 8pm
Welcome to Tété’s world. Having sold 500.000 records throughout the world, this french acoustic pop poet, seasoned live performer and songwriter is looking to expand his horizon with a new mini-album in english. Many have compared him to the likes of Ben Harper, Tete remains Tete, with his strong, melodic, blues tainted quirlky pop songs. Not to be missed!

 

BARQ (Ireland)
Wednesday April 21
Music From Ireland
Venue: Drake Underground (1150 Queen St. W)
9:40pm
BARQ are a high energy four-piece, shoving groove into the belly of the rock-beast and creating agro-soul. This is music to dance dangerously to. In March 2016, BARQ released their debut single “Gentle Kind of Lies” to critical acclaim and a surge of media attention. The track was picked up Spotify’s new music playlist in both the UK and Brazil, as well as being included on IASCA’s playirish USA, and two of Goldenplec’s Goldenstereo playlists.

 

DENIS THE NIGHT & THE PANIC PARTY (Italy)
Wednesday April 19
Venue: The Painted Lady (218 Ossington Ave)
Time: 11pm
Denis The Night & The Panic Party is an idiosyncratic collective born two years ago on the road across Italy and United Kingdom centred around the power trio of Ono Nora Fiorani, Nicola Sbrozzi and Alessandro Gobbi. Seeking musical freedom beyond songs, they started conceiving tridimensional landscapes and soundtracks for raves. Juxtaposing elements from various genres like neo-psychedelia, shoegaze, noise-pop, electro and avant-garde, they eschew traditional norms evolving into a music and visual arts collective, featuring other like-minded artists with a simpatico disaffection for conventions.

 

Bitch Falcon (Ireland)
Wednesday April 19
Music From Ireland
Venue: Drake Underground (1150 Queen St. W)
Time: 11:20pm
Two years on from an initial explosive emergence, the Dublin-based three-piece haven’t so much discovered their voice as honed and refined it. They relish in frenetic declarations, their sound always moving forward while throwing occasional nods to the past. The sonic aesthetic is raw, even a touch frenzied, yet manages to harness the strongest elements of rock, grunge, metal, hardcore and melodic electro-pop. Bitch Falcon’s end result is a distinctive, once-heard-not-forgotten voice.

 

Goodbye Honolulu
Wednesday April 19
Venue: Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton St)
Time: 11:30pm
Goodbye Honolulu is best known for their live shows and in best form when every member is screaming their heads off with shout along choruses. Whether it’s Emmett’s fuzz-layered guitar, Jacob’s gnarly vocals, Fox’s Bowie-inspired vocal inflections or Max beating his drum kit to death, Goodbye Honolulu make their audience the VIP guests to their rock n roll party. Highlights of Goodbye Honolulu’s ride so far include a USA tour supporting their pals Hinds and releasing their debut album Heavy Gold in 2016.

 

Danko Jones
Wednesday April 19
Venue: Velvet Underground (508 Queen St W)
Time: 10pm

Celebrating 20 years in the rock n’roll game in 2016, DANKO JONES have an impressive resume to show for the past two decades. In addition to sold out headline tours across Canada and the European continent they have also toured the US, Brazil, Japan, Australia and South Africa and done extensive collaborations with a vast number of great artists. The Canadian trio has spent months on the road with GUNS N ROSES, MOTÖRHEAD and VOLBEAT and opened up for THE ROLLING STONES and OZZY OSBOURNE.

 

 

THURSDAY

Tete  (France)
Thursday April 20
Venue: Paddock (178 Bathurst Street)
Time: 11pm

 

The Ballroom Babies
Thursday April 20
Venue: Coalition
Time: 1am

The Ballroom Babies are a rock trio from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The band consists of three brothers: Mike (drums/vocals), Steve (guitar/vocals) and Nathan (bass/vocals). From a young age, the three siblings shared a strong passion for music. They began performing in their first group, White Dove, before they had reached high school. Throughout their teenage years, each brother studied their respective instruments vigorously, enrolled in Humber College’s music program and formed separate bands. They have dedicated their lives to session work, touring, teaching and live performances. In 2010, after years of playing in different bands, they finally decided to form their own project, The Ballroom Babies.

 

DENIS THE NIGHT & THE PANIC PARTY (Italy)
Thursday April
Focus On Italy
Venue: Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton St)
Time: 10:30pm

 

The Foreign Resort (Denmark)
Thursday April 20
Venue: Nightowl (647 College St)
Time: 9pm
The Foreign Resort are Denmark’s finest musical export of post-punk and dark new wave. TFR combine the shadowy mysticism of The Cure’s Pornography era with a driving production aesthetic akin to LCD Soundsystem.

 

P.C.B. (Taiwan)
Thursday April 20
Taiwan Beats
Venue: Rivoli (334 Queen St W)
Time: 8:50pm

P.C.B sampling 8 bit sounds and graphic from Nintendo games, creating tracks who’s style ranges from Electronic, Techno, DNB to Dubstep. then places the mix on the dancefloor where it becomes not just indie music but electro indie.

 

 

 

FRIDAY

BARQ (Ireland)
Friday April 21
Venue: Supermarket (268 Augusta Ave)
Time: 9pm

 

Beyond The Wall
Friday April 21
Venue: Smiling Buddha (961 College St)
Time: 7pm

There’s so much excitement and adventure in becoming your own self through trial and error – don’t waste your life getting caught up in the shadows of someone else. There’s no “rulebook” for who you are or how you’re supposed to be, just appreciate whatever happens (good or bad) and strive on learning from all of it. You will become the truest version of yourself when you learn to reject what others see you as and what they say about you.
Be real, and be true. Be really true. This is what BTW lives by

 

Bitch Falcon (Ireland)
Friday April 21
Venue:The Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen St W)
Time: 10pm

 

The Foreign Resort (Denmark)
Friday April 22
Venue: Hideout (423 College St)
Time: 8pm

 

P.C.B. (Taiwan)
Friday April 21
Venue: Painted Lady (218 Ossington)
Time: 2am

 

MAYRAKI
Friday April 21
Venue: May Cafe (876 Dundas St W)
Time: 11pm

MAYRAKI is a Hip Hop Fusion band from Toronto, Ontario. Formed in 2012, the band is known for their high energy shows and unique approach to hip hop, incorporating funk, jazz and rock with splashes of blues, metal and other surprises. MAYRAKI, original spelling ‘Meraki’, is a Greek word defined as “the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work”. It’s all in the music.

 

Bike Thiefs
Friday April 21
Venue: Baby G (1608 Dundas St W)
Time: 11pm

Gramattically inept three-piece rock band

SATURDAY

Birds Of Bellwoods
Saturday April 22
Venue: Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St. West)
Time: 1am
Four men making handsome folk and rock music from a different angle.
With lush harmonies and haunting lyricism, the group has charmed venues throughout Ontario and beyond.

 

Moon Tan
Saturday April 22
Venue: The Bovine Sex Club
Time: 10pm

Energetic. Funky. Progressive. Vintage. Rock n Roll. These are a just few elements that have been forged together to create a unique yet very familiar soundone that is cleverly harnessed by Winnipeg’s power trio known as Moon Tan. Born of three separate imaginations, their diverse influences seamlessly blend to form a new genre, or “anti-genre” of music and entertainment, which they refer to as “intergalactic space freak rock n’ roll.”…Ohh and they won Indie Week last year.

SUNDAY

Fred Penner
Sunday April 23
Venue: Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas St W)
Time: 2pm
Because it’s Fred fucking Penner baby!

 

 

THE SCENE


Jessica Meuse signs deal with LA Group Management

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American Idol alum Jessica Meuse has signed a deal with L.A. Entertainment, Inc.’s management division, LA Group Management, and the Season 13, Top 4 finalist is also starting pre-production to record her debut album for release on Warrior Records/eOne.

Hailing from Slapout, AL, Meuse has been a natural performer, wowing audiences since the age of 10.  At 20, she won the state-wide artist showcase, Stars of Alabama, and in 2013 was part of the Vans Warped Tour. Meuse’s tenure on American Idol led to her becoming the first person in the history of the hit series to perform her own composition, “Blue-eyed Lie,” during the finals. “Jessica pulled together a powerful performance of her original song,” commented Ryan Seacrest.


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