Thursday, April 25, 2013

movie review: PIRATE RADIO (2009)


(reviews may contain spoilers for those that have never seen the film or are unfamiliar with the characters.)

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Back before the Internet and mp3's were part of main stream vocabulary, people consumed their music by listening to vinyl records, or more than likely, broadcast radio.

While licensed radio stations were the norm, there was an underground movement of radio broadcasters who sailed the seas in converted ships to skirt around the unofficial British policy to avoid playing evil Rock N' Roll. Hence why they were called pirates.

I can remember vaguely listening to some European pirate radio stations back in the 1970s on my Hammarlund HQ-160 short wave radio, which my father bought the day I was born.

Pirate Radio takes place in the Spring of 1967 aboard Radio Rock, which sails the North Sea spinning records 24/7, much to the disdain of a particular member of the British Ministry of Communications.

Initially we accompany Young Kevin (Tom Sturridge), as he boards the ship one stormy night. He's being sent by his mother (Emma Thompson) because he needs to straighten up after being kicked out of his prep school for smoking.

Young Kevin's adventure is just one small plot, among several plots, in the film. The most obvious one is the somewhat one-sided battle between government officials and the pirates over their broadcasting. Unfortunately, that plot is treated almost like an afterthought for most of the picture.

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From the self-proclaimed rock royalty Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to the wild-haired Bob (Ralph Brown), the supporting case of DJs represented the open ended music style of the period.

And just as hip as the DJs were, the government officials Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) and his scheming lackey, played by Jack Davenport, were properly stodgy in their battle to overcome perceived lawlessness by the Radio Rock crowd.

Bill Nighy plays Radio Rock's maverick owner. He felt like a cross between Sir Richard Branson and Phil Spector. It's a shame he didn't get more screen time because his character added a bit of common sense, in a hip and offbeat way, to counter the DJs.

Though the cast is primarily male, January Jones and Talulah Riley play a couple of sweet, seemingly innocent albeit naughty, girls along for the ride.

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As great as the ensemble cast may have been, bigger kudos goes to Stephen Price, the music editor. He must've felt like a kid in a candy store with all the tracks at his disposal.

I suppose it was a case where rights were easier to come by in 2009 than back in 1973 when George Lucas made American Graffiti, and the studios forced him to cut back his soundtrack due to the monumental fees they would have had to pay.

When Gavin (Rhys Ifans) made is slow motion appearance onboard, to the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, there's a swagger to his character that wouldn't have been there had they used the original idea of the MoTown sound of either The Supremes or Temptations.

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The R rating is is for language and crude humor, including some brief nude scenes. Probably not a good film I'd let a child watch, no matter how open-minded you might be.

The film is also a bit long, weighing in at just over two hours, plus there's over 30 minutes of Deleted Scenes in a bonus track which, for the most part, added nothing to the film.

RATED: 6.5 out of 10 STARS

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Pirate Radio is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming at Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tantalizing your taste buds


I'm sure by now most people have seen the commercial with Eva Longoria losing her mind over which of three potato chip flavors are her "new favorite" and then after she says she can't decide pitchman Chef Michael Symon tells us we will decide which one is America's favorite by voting by May 5th.

Now, we're not talking about deciding between mundane things like Barbeque, Sea Salt or Plain. Competing to break into the Lay's Potato Chip line up are Sriracha, Cheesy Garlic Bread and Chicken & Waffles!!

These three flavors were the top finalists in a contest held late last year where people could submit their own flavor ideas, and then vote on submissions. (I submitted Spicy Shawarma, a Middle Eastern treat!!).

If any of those three finalists sound odd to you, consider these mouthwatering options: Marshmallow, Watermelon, Bubble Gum, Mint Chocolate Chip. I kid you not. When I was going through voting I saw those among the options we could vote on.

One of the biggest problems has actually been getting my hands on a bag of any of the finalists so I could make an educated choice. Not sure if it was a case of under estimating demand, or an intentional scarcity to bump up popularity.

In either case, with the exception of the first week they went on sale, they have been scarcer than Hen's teeth, to the point that people were selling bags on for $25!! And to think I cringed at the $4.29 MSRP.

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Here are my thoughts after having been able to sample the chips.

SRIRACHA – This was my pre-sample favorite. I love chili and hot spicy foods. For those that don't know it, Sriracha is that bright red chili paste sauce you may have seen at your favorite Asian restaurant. It comes in a tall plastic bottle with a neon green cap, and usually has a rooster or tiger on the label.

Sadly, this flavor just didn't hold up well when compared to foods that I've drenched with copious amounts of the spicy sweet goodness of Sriracha, and never stood up and said, "HEY THERE DUDE!! IT'S SRIRACHA TIME!!"

CHICKEN & WAFFLES – Of the three flavors, this one has probably generated the most Internet chatter. People seem to either be intrigued by the idea, or repulsed by it.

For those that can't figure the combo out, it's a traditional late night, after the bars close, menu item that originated in Harlem, New York (despite all the non-Southerners trying to claim it's a Southern thing).

With an open mind, I finally got the chance to try this most sought after flavor just last Sunday.

It starts off with a syrupy sweetness which reminded me of Mrs. Butterworth's Butter Flavored Pancake Syrup. Then the back of your tongue kicks in and delivers a flavor reminiscent, not so much of chicken itself, but of the golden fried batter you get on the outside of a properly crispy crunchy piece of fried chicken.

As much as I did find the Chicken & Waffles flavor tasty, it wasn't to the point where I'd want to buy a big bag and wolf it down in one or two sittings. Admittedly never a good idea, but a sign of a good flavor.

CHEESY GARLIC BREAD – This was actually the first flavor I was able to get a hold of, and the one I originally thought I'd be least likely to vote for. It just sounded too normal compared to the more exotic offerings.

As I was eating this flavor, it honestly tasted like I was eating a piece of French Bread, crispy from the oven, with that garlic and parmesan butter, spread you can buy, slathered all over it. The garlic was just right.

So in the end, the flavor I thought I'd be least likely to vote for earned by vote. Now, will just have to wait to see which one earns a place next to other Lay's flavors such as Dill Pickle Chip, BLT and Honey Mesquite Barbeque.