Writer David Benioff and director Wolfgang Petersen make mincemeat of the old Trojan War legends, confident that their target audience will never know the difference. There are impressive sets and good battle scenes, but this film trivializes the tale, compressing an epic 10-year war down to a stubby 17 days, and passing over the integral role of the gods almost entirely.
|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Arguably the first of the three screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s stories to feel like a film, instead of merely being a word-for-word rehash of the novels. Credit new director Alfonso Cuarón for the positive changes, resulting in a snappier pace, a more mature joke or two, and a darker, more palpable sense of danger.
French Canadian police ask an FBI profiler to help catch a serial killer who takes on the identity of each victim. The plot follows the movie’s genre straight down the line, which means the big “twist“ near the end doesn’t come off as such a surprise at all. Decent performances by Jolie and Hawke, but too little menace.
Legendary classic about lawman awaiting fateful showdown with ruthless bandits, with highly acclaimed performances by Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lon Chaney. Tight direction and a suspenseful buildup continue to make this a must-see for Western fans, although its depiction of violence will no doubt seem tame by today’s Tarantino-level standards.
|Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
Former Red House Painters frontman Mark Kozelek continues to sing minor-key melodies, sometimes in a falsetto sigh and sometimes in a tenor moan. His new incarnation is a rootsy, romantic, melancholy effort, which – while it certainly owes a debt to Neil Young – is also a credit to Kozelek’s deft musicianship and lyrical skill.
|Four Tet – Rounds
Kieran Hebden’s follow-up to the acclaimed Pause album boasts an even more organic blend of mellow but muscular compositions that could be called experimental electronica, ranging from an Asian-influenced plucked groove to a funky guitar melody with a stilted jazz back beat. But even at its most eclectic, Four Tet’s sound continues to be aimed at those wanting to have their ears challenged, not assaulted.
|The Art of the Chinese Erhu – Zhao Yu
A well put together specialty collection featuring the Chinese erhu, which sounds at times like a violin, but with a richer spectrum of emotion and tonal flair. The selection of traditional compositions truly represents the versatility built into this ancient string instrument.
|Ascenseur Pour l’Echafaud – Original Soundtrack
The music for Louis Malle’s film helped define the sound of “film noir“, with slow-walking bass beats and muted, slithering horn lines underlining the emotions of the characters on screen. Performed by a Miles Davis-fronted European band, this is Miles playing in the moment, improvising fragmented musical impressions as he watched the screen.