W.E. are not amused…

I doubt King Eddie was quite that ripped.

W.E: 15
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
DIRECTOR: Madonna
STARRING: Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy

I DON’T think I’ve ever walked out of the cinema.

Mostly, I’ll sit through anything – no matter how dull – but even the added bonus of a giant bag of pic ‘n mix couldn’t keep me interested in W.E for longer than an hour.

The critics haven’t been kind to Madonna in her directorial debut and for that reason I wasn’t expecting a work of genius with her take on Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII’s torrid love affair.

With so many biopics on the loose at the moment (The Iron Lady, J.Edgar, etc), all the pop star legend had to do was look to her contemporaries to bash together a half-decent tale.

An abdicating king marrying an American divorcee is hardly lacking in the drama department, yet somehow in Madge’s scrawny grip the lust, shame and scandal plays second fiddle to a yawn-a-minute story featuring Abbie Cornish as a desperate housewife obsessed with Wallis Simpson.
 
In fact, too much of the story focuses on the dull plight of Wally Winthrop (Cornish), a former Sotherby’s researcher who mopes night after night around an exhibition dedicated to the former Duke and Duchess.

This is all in an effort to escape her unravelling home life (cheating husband, fertility issues, etc), but Cornish’s character is so annoying it’s hard to give a shit – particularly when she starts bawling over Simpson’s jewellery like it belonged to her dead mother.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, wet-Wally starts seeing Simpson in mirrors offering her life advice in the manner of a low-budget melodrama commissioned by A-level drama students, complete with camera spins and ghostly voice overs.

It’s a shame this wholly unecessary and irritating framework is given so much screen time and the gold-platter love story on which this film could have been served is so bizarrely in the backseat.

Andrea Riseborough is criminally overlooked for her performance as Simpson and James D’Arcy is far too tall to play such a well-known short arse, though it has to be said that by and large he plays the  abdicating King well.

Unfortunately they are both plagued by awkward direction and by that I mean a graduate of the school of lingering looks.

There’s merit in the well-observed art-deco aesthetics and fashionistas will drool over the sharp costumes and styling, but it’s like an apple pie with no filling – it looks golden and toasty on the outside but the inside is offensively empty.

W.E isn’t a crime to celluloid – though the over-long narrative is both confused and embarassing – but no attention to martinis and jazz can save the film from falling quite that short.

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Eight reasons to go to Beacons

BEACONS festival is only a week away and the line-up is crammed with a ton of super cool bands worth seeing.
 
But the festival curse hits us all hard and between time conflicts, wading through furlongs of mud and hours spent queuing for a sick-free portaloo/warm pint of cider, it’s impossible to see them all.
 
So to make life easier for you, me, and everyone we know, here’s a few that are worth making the effort to see.
 

Tom should've gone to Specsavers

TOM VEK

The elusive Tom Vek deliberately dropped off the radar five years ago, giving conspiracy theorists half a decade to spread half-baked ideas about his untimely death.

Though I have it on good authority that Vek is very much alive and spent the back end of last year producing an EP for South Londoners, Breton, it wasn’t until April this year that he made a sly return to the airwaves with comeback single, “A Chore”.

Naturally, an explanation for his sabbatical hasn’t been forthcoming, and masterfully, his fans were tortured with a further two month tease, including the whiff of tour dates and eventually, the release of sophomore album, Leisure Seizure – giving music journalists everywhere permission to gush forth with superlatives.

Vek’s geek-chic reputation as the coolest one-man-band around has the weight of expectation to contend with, but no doubt his handful of summer performances will make up for the extended silence.

Don't ask me, I don't know what that dial does either...

JAMIE XX

Even more synonymous with The XX’s rocket rise to fame is Jamie Smith’s flourishing reputation as a first class remix artist.

Pushing the haunting heartbreak of the band’s debut album to one side, Jamie XX  is filling in between albums by carving out a niche as a dub-step DJ, deft at blurring genre boundaries.

Most notable is his rumbling rework of “New York Is Killing Me” by the late Gil Scott-Heron,  though some would argue that his biggest achievement is vastly improving Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”,  a feat for any producer, no matter how talented.

Elizabeth was plotting when to throw out Jeremy's jumper

SUMMER CAMP

A healthy dose of happiness comes on the side as standard when you order Summer Camp  – what with all those lush sunshine vibes and chill wave glitchiness.

The virtually unknown duo of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey spread their rose-tinted nostalgia thickly onto slabs of warm and fuzzy tunes worthy of being filed alongside Best Coast.

Think hazy Polaroids, knitted tank tops and the first flush of love and you’re halfway to indie-shmindie heaven. And why the fuck not, summer camp always looked fun in the movies.

Can you adjust the arial?

FACTORY FLOOR

The industrial stylings of Factory Floor are an acquired taste, much like gherkin or The Daily Mail.

But their four track mini-album certainly piqued the critics’ interest when it pulverised eardrums last year.

The untitled release harbours a fundamentally bleak nature harking back to the low budget production of early Joy Division – heavy on emotionless soundscapes and a deadening loop of blunt percussion.

It’s the musical equivalent of Tarkovskiy’s Solaris – an unrelenting, dystopic mission devoid of any hope – and on the whole, its grim ambience is a bit depressing.

 But it’s a feat of musical structure that shouldn’t be missed live.

From left: Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala, Cox...

THE APPLES

Israeli nine piece The Apples are a modern jazz-funk outfit expertly flirting with vintage brass and bass.  

Their un-ironic cover of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of” is known to slay crowds from the outset and no wonder, what with the combination of a double bass, turntablists, and two saxophonists to sex it up.

Their debut album Kings – a work that fuses elements of dub, fusion and middle-eastern rhythms – is a testament to the rich strands of culture that bind the group, taking traditional jazz and wrapping it up in tape delays and scratchy dub samples.  

 

Louis never went anywhere without his Factor 50

SPECTRALS

Leeds soloist Louis Jones, aka, Spectrals wouldn’t have been out of place on Sun Records back in the 60s, nipping at the heels of California’s golden boys.

Squeaky clean guitar licks conjure up whimsical images of old-fashioned ice cream parlours and coke floats, laced with romance and endearing glockenspiel chimes.

The only thing to shatter the Americana ambience is Jones’ obvious aversion to tanning, but we can’t hold that against him. His natural talent for producing a slew of happy-go-lucky love tokens is hypnotically delightful for lazy afternoons, sunless or otherwise.

Is it hot in here?

PAPER CROWS

Look “ethereal” up in the dictionary and any of the synonyms could apply to goth-poppers, Paper Crows. It’s a lazily obvious comparison, but vocalist Emma Panas clearly spent her youth listening to Kate Bush in the dark.

Single “Follow the Leader” has the production of Madonna’s “Frozen” to thank for its haunting atmosphere, while “Stand Alight” channels the likes of Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan pumped up on dub-step steroids.

For guaranteed chills, Paper Crows are best enjoyed in the drizzle at dusk.

Anika was bummed to receive her electric bill

ANIKA

“A German journalist joins a band” sounds like the start of a piss-poor joke, especially when it’s backed up with an album largely comprised of covers.

But in the case of Anika and her self-titled collaboration with Beak – the brainchild of Portishead’s producer Geoff Barrow – a Nico-like presence is unleashed upon us.

While a rendition of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang” borrows the disco-funk accessibility of early 80s sister-troupe, ESG, the deadpan delivery of “Masters of War” quivers with a Dylan-meets-dub momentum.

The album owes a huge debt to minimalist Kraut-rockers as its vocalist flatly warbles through a mix of tuneless oratory and detached melodies.

She stays so low in the mix it could be mistaken for the whispered wailings of a mad woman, which makes for a distracting self-awareness.

It’s unapologetic in its crass era-stealing style, uncomfortably ghostly and somewhat unsettling. But somehow it carries it off with Teutonic panache.

And finally, a few more that are worth a look in….

The Horn The Hunt… Echo Lake… D/R/U/G/S… Mazes… Dutch Uncles…

Visit www.greetingsfrombeacons.com for the full line up.