Cream 2005 Re-Union Concert Too Timid

Finally got my hands on a copy of Cream’s re-union concert held at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2005. Overall, I felt disappointed. The performances are timid and a far cry from the wild energy of the seminal power trio‘s peak in the late 1960s. Age plays a part in this – Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker are no longer young and don’t play with the carefree abandon they once did. The musicianship is alright I suppose, but Clapton isn’t busy enough and without Baker’s frantic drumming, the music lacks the manic and mesmerizing quality it once did. This is particular felt on songs like Crossroads. On the upside, the sound quality is good.

As re-union’s go, I enjoyed Eric Clapton’s 2008 double bill with Steve Winwood at the Madison Square Garden better.

Royal Albert Hall

Highway Star : awesome version by Chickenfoot

I wasn’t aware that Joe Satriani was once invited to join Deep Purple as the replacement guitarist for Ritchie Blackmore until the recent release of a tribute album to Deep Purple. The album received quite a lot of coverage, and my favourite track is supergroup Chickenfoot‘s blazing rendition of Highway Star. I especially like Satriani’s tribute to Jon Lord’s organ solo – very nice.

Big Long Slidin’ Thing

Back when I was in the States, I used to listen to NPR radio stations playing jazz and blues. The great thing about listening to these radio channels is one gets to hear rare recordings. One night the DJ played this hilariously sexy tune by Dinah Washington. And the great things about the web, is now I can listen to the very same radio channels via the Internet on the other side of the planet. Lovely.

Angel

I’ve heard good things about Boris (the band) for quite a while, but only managed to get my hands on some of their music recently. And in that process, I came across this little gem – Angel by Wata, from the Boris guitarist’s solo EP release. The ballad starts out slowly, with calm guitar strumming, but when the distorted guitar solo kicks in, man, I get those goosebumps. Very very nice song.

Prometheus : deeply flawed but still a must see

Probably the film that I was most looking forward to in 2012, Prometheus has generally been dubbed a let down by fans of the Alien franchise and science fiction cinema in general. A quick look at Rotten Tomatoes shows that the film has a 74% fresh score (on 12 June 2012), which really isn’t bad, but browse online and one can find loads of negative comments of people who have seen the film. So what gives?

Prometheus wants to be a thought-provoking science fiction epic about a group of scientist exploring the origins of humans. The problem is it poses many questions, never answers them, and opts for genre picture thrills instead.

The opening prologue looks amazing and sets up some very interesting questions. A humanoid drinks a black fluid, decomposes and falls into a waterfall. Is the humanoid (space engineer) on pre-historic Earth? Does his death provide the seeds for life to flourish on Earth? It is a very intriguing and impressive opening.

After the movie titles appear, we are now in 2089 and 2 archaeologists discover some cave paintings. Apparently, these painting are very similar to those found across different ancient cultures and they all show a large figure pointing at some stars in the sky. They believe this to be an invitation to a distant planet (LV-223) where the creators of man may reside. The archaeologists jump to the conclusion that we must go to this planet – in the next scene, we are already in space en route to LV-223. We are never shown any discussion about what the cave paintings may or may not imply. Couldn’t the paintings just be some sort of rite – a king / leader figure pointing to alignment of stars that might mean the coming of rain or something like that?

Throughout the film, the scientists / specialist act without any rigorous analysis of events and act spontaneously (and sometimes quite moronically). For example, when the crew arrive on the planet and venture out into the weird cave, one of them detects that the atmosphere is “breathable”. What do the crew do? They immediately take off their containment suit helmets! Surely they should be aware that while the atmosphere may have enough oxygen, it doesn’t mean it is safe to breathe. What about bacteria and alien viruses?  That night, two of the crew left behind in the cave encounter a snake-like creature. What do they do? Do they run away given that they have seen loads of dead humanoid corpses? Do they sense any danger? No, they poke the creature with their hands. These are just some examples of what I find to be a let down in Prometheus. In a genre picture that aims simply to provide thrills, it is perhaps okay. I don’t question too much when I watch the Resident Evil films and I enjoy them. But Prometheus promised to be more.

Having said all this, I liked Prometheus. I really do. I would rather watch a film that tries to be great than a calculated Hollywood franchise like Battleship. Prometheus is truly beautiful to look at (I saw it in 2D – now I’m dying to see it in IMAX 3D) and if you don’t think hard about the plot holes or unanswered questions, it can still be an enjoyable genre picture. Michael Fassbender is excellent as the synthetic David (who models himself on Peter O’Toole‘s Lawrence of Arabia – I’m sure there’s a paper in that); the rest of the cast is serviceable but their roles aren’t quite as meaty. The science effects are top-notch too – we are no longer watching dark space ship corridors (which really seem to me to be a practicality back in the original Alien to hide the flaws of the special effects) and squinting our eyes to see the details. Everything is clearly shot and look simply stunning.

So in short, Prometheus is ambitious and stunning to look at but deeply flawed.

Some interesting reading : here is a blog post that tries admirably to argue that Prometheus’ plot isn’t that full of holes. There are loads of interesting points mentioned, but at the end, I’m not sure it works for me. Still it makes for very good reading.