Favorite songs by Prince (tracks 30-21)

21  Do Me Baby (From 1981’s Controversy)
(The song has grown on me with repeats plays. Which is better, the long album version or shorter single version? The live or studio edit? I haven’t decided)

22  Uptown (From 1980’s Dirty Mind)
(You just want to get up and dance to this. Here's a live version)

23  Mountains (From 1986’s Parade - Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon)
(I can listen to Mountains on repeat. Interestingly, Under The Cherry Moon was the first role in a movie for a young Kristin Scott Thomas. A movie I haven’t seen)

24  Pop Life (From 1985’s Around the World in a Day)
(Just all around great dance pop)

25  Head (From 1980’s Dirty Mind)  
(A daring, controversial song, even today)

26 When We’re Dancing Close and Slow (From 1979’s Prince)
(A slow ballad, which can stir the emotions. Too bad I couldn’t locate the full song)

27  17 Days (From 1993’s The Hits/The B-Sides)
(The quality of B-sides during the Purple Rain era is very high. 17 Days appeared on the flipside of his most successful single "When Doves Cry" (1984)

28  Money Don't Matter 2 Night (From 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls)
(Just immediately draws me in. I like to think it's about valuing the free things in life such as the soul, although the lyrics could also be about reckless spending)

29  Cream (From 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls)
(With a killer opening, the track really needed a flashy music video. Which it delivers)

30  I Wanna Be Your Lover (single version) (From 1979’s Prince)
(Was his first hit, gaining heavy radio airplay and chart success)

Be sure to stop by next time for tracks 20-11 as I continue the countdown to #1! Which are your favorites from these Prince albums? As always, comments are welcome.

Horror mini-reviews

Soon it will be Halloween, so it's time to watch horror. I watched a few of these earlier in the year. Have been saving the reviews for October. Lets get to it!

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Arthouse horror from Jim Jarmusch. Has a refreshing approach to the vampire story, and I like that it wasn’t about killing, which these types of horror films so often are.
Touches on themes such as vampires in love for centuries, being dependent on blood controls your life like a drug, and that the vampire lifestyle doesn’t have to be harmful to others. How you can learn a lot and have a ton of experience from staying alive for so long. In her suitcase is the huge book Infinite Jest, and she reads Les Anglais au pôle Nord by Jules Verne. Asks, what would you do, if you lived forever? Also about how a famous figure from the past (John Hurt character) could influence the present. The ice lolly scene was a fun idea. To my knowledge the wooden bullet was never used?
Does have an atmospheric soundtrack, which gives it its own mood. Funnel of Love was my favorite.
I liked how full of ideas it was, and it did seem unique. But I had problems with the storytelling and slow pacing. In many scenes they talk rather than do. They just sit or stand around. Speaking about the past, not letting us see what happened.
Hardly anything happens, I would call it a situation, rather than a story. I found it dull. A pity, because there was huge potential in those script ideas. I think the story is better suited for a book, because I sense it’s more about an inner struggle than an outer experience.
Jim Jarmusch interview about the film in March issue of Sight & Sound magazine was actually more fascinating than the movie. Could have been a classic, and somehow didn’t quite get there.
Rating 6.5/10

28 Days Later (2002)
Rewatch. I liked it more on second viewing. The opening 15-20 minutes of 28 Days later (in London) are what you remember. The rest of the movie is pretty good too. The "fast zombie" thing was something new. About what happens when society crumbles.
The soundtrack is quite haunting, especially In The House, In A Heartbeat by John Murphy
Rating 7.5/10

Beetlejuice (1988) 
Over the top horror comedy, directed by Tim Burton. I would say it’s suitable for the younger audience, despite the 15 age certificate. The film has a fine Danny Elfman score, and I like the original idea of ghosts learning the ropes. The sets and sfx are imaginative, yet isn’t really funny. There are contrived moments, on 2-3 occasions a character needs to know something and another character happens to be there to give the information. The finale is confusing, how are the couple cured from the séance? I guess when dealing with a fantasy world, there’s a certain creative freedom, anything is possible, so you just have to go with it as an audience.
Rating 6/10

It (1990)
Rewatch. Stephen King mini-series. Not as good as I remember. We see the characters both as adults and children. The first half when they are children I still think is the best part. The adults are hard to take seriously during the reunion in second half, and it drags a bit, maybe the acting is just poor. Pennywise (the clown played by Tim Curry) scared me as a kid, now he doesn’t. He gives a good performance. However the scares are quite lazy with repetitive confrontations with the clown.
Rating 7/10

Last House On The Left (1972)
Wes Craven’s first feature. Still scary despite made in early 70s. Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange was probably an influence. The dentist dream is terrifying. Only issue I have is the soundtrack doesn’t feel right for a horror film. Better than expected, Wes Craven made a great little movie on a limited budget.
Rating 8/10

The Innkeepers (2011)
I wasn’t scared by it at all, but it has atmosphere, likeable characters, and I wanted to see it through to find out about the mystery. Kind of a contemporary The Shining, as it’s set in a hotel. I'm surprised that it has such a low score on IMDb, as it really is quite good.
Rating 7/10

Irreversible (2002)
I’m including it as horror, because of the disturbing nature of the film.
Told in a somewhat confusing, yet involving non-chronological order. The violence is quite extreme at times.
Why Monica Bellucci wanted to star in that transgressive rape scene is unfathomable, I guess someone had to play that role. You won’t be in a hurry to go in the subway after watching. An ugly, yet unforgettable film.
Rating 8/10

Battle Royale (2000)
Debatable whether it can be labeled horror, you could call it a hybrid of drama, action, thriller and horror. I can appreciate that it’s an original idea(a precursor to Hunger Games) but in terms of personal preference I just don’t like to watch all that killing. Pretty gruesome to have your head chopped off, and then use the head as a grenade to kill again.
Favorite quote: Teacher: “Now you can’t even get angry when a student stabs you!”
Rating 7/10

Have you seen any of these films? Agree or disagree? Which horror will you be watching this month?

Favorite songs by Prince (tracks 40-31)

31 She’s Always in My Hair (From 1993’s The Hits/The B-Sides)
(Arguably among Prince’s best B-sides from the 80s. Released as the B-side to Raspberry Beret.  The track has proven it’s endurance in that Prince still plays SAIMH live)

32 Erotic City (From 1990 maxi single, extended dance mix)
(Incredibly funky, and incredibly dirty. Released as the B-side to the Purple Rain era single "Let's Go Crazy")

33 I Wish U Heaven (From 1988’s Lovesexy)
(Love the keyboard. The video is pretty bonkers, I wonder who he wishes goes to heaven. Perhaps everyone?)

34 Strange Relationship (From 1986’s Dream Factory)
(Strange relation ship ship ship….I prefer the instrumentation on Dream Factory alternative version which is different to the 1987 Sign o' the Times version)

35 Soft and Wet (From 1978’s For You)
(Such a fun, groovy sound. The song which got him noticed)

36 Why Do You Want To Treat Me so Bad? (From 1979’s Prince)
(I love the chorus)

37 Automatic (From 1982’s 1999)
(Probably goes on slightly too long. Even so, the beat is incredibly catchy)

38 Gold (From 1995’s The Gold Experience)
(The lyrics are a tad cliché, I love the instrumentation)

39 In This Bed I Scream by Prince (From 1996’s Emancipation)
(I sense this is the song on Emancipation’s disc 1 Prince put the most effort into, and could have been a single. The section where he sings and then the guitar answers back was a fun idea)

40 Compassion (From 2010’s 20ten)
(I didn’t expect a lot from an album that was given away for free with a newspaper. Compassion is possibly my favorite Prince song of this decade so far)

Be sure to stop by next time for tracks 30-21 as I continue the countdown! Which are your favorites from these Prince albums? As always, comments are welcome.

Favorite songs by Prince (tracks 50-41)

Here are tracks 50-41. Several of the below are lesser known songs, and if you're wondering about the hits, those will feature as I move forward in the top 50. I managed to include a track from PlectrumElectrum (2014)

41 Lets Pretend We’re Married (From 1982’s 1999)
(Danceable song. Only reason it isn't higher up is the somewhat average chorus: "Ooh-we-sha-sha-coo-coo-yeah" )

42 Power Fantastic (From 1993’s The Hits/The B-Sides)
(B-side that won me over, simple and powerful. Could listen to this one all day)

43 Lady Cab Driver (From 1982’s 1999) 
(Takes you on a journey, it's also quite sexually explicit. Not for kids)

44 The Holy River (From 1996’s Emancipation) 
(He was getting into spirituality at this point in his career, and it showed in his music. Prince would probably claim he always was spritual)

45 The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (From 1995’s The Gold Experience) 
( I'm not crazy about his vocal here, but it has grown on me, and a track that I feel deserves to be represented in the top 50)

46 Sexuality (From 1981's Controversy)
(Thanks to Steven from Surrender to the Void for the recommendation!)

47 Somewhere Here On Earth (From 2007’s Planet Earth) 
(A slow burner. If you like jazz)

48 Beautiful Strange (From 2001’s Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic)
(Oddly captivating. The video makes you feel like you are floating in the clouds. Prince has a thing for clouds, see the tracklist for new album Art Official Age.  I remember Prince once said he's a fan of Kate Bush's hit Cloudbusting)

49 Fixurlifeup (From 2014’s PlectrumElectrum) 
(All I can say is, YOU NEED TO FIX YOUR LIFE UP!!! )

50 God (From 1993’s The Hits/The B-Sides) 
(Amazing vocal performance. The B-side to Purple Rain single)

Be sure to stop by next time for tracks 40-31 as I continue the countdown! Which are your favorite lesser known Prince songs? As always, comments are welcome. I talked about the albums here

Viewing recap September

Boyhood (2014)
I was captivated from beginning to end, despite a running time of three hours. Even though I wasn't a kid in the same era that the characters are, it's still my favorite film of 2014 so far. The story could easily have felt uneven because the filmmakers and actors filmed this over so many years, but it somehow all fits together into a cohesive whole, and that to me is a sign of good directing and editing.
Before Sunrise is still my favorite by the director. I'd rank Boyhood somewhere among Linklater's top 10 films, maybe even top 5. Time will tell if his latest holds up to rewatching.
Rating 8.5/10

Come and See (1985)
Blindspot for September. Full review
Rating 9/10

Night Moves (2013)
The performances are spot on, feels realistic for the most part, and raises important questions about responsibility of actions. The weakness for me is a running time of 112 minutes. The filmmakers could easily have told the same story in 90 min (or less). Still, I'd probably rank Night Moves second behind only Wendy and Lucy, with Meek's Cutoff and Old Joy 3rd and 4th.
Rating 7/10

Blue Ruin (2013)
Like Blue is the Warmest Color, there is blue in almost every scene. The narrative is a simple one of revenge. What makes the story stand out is the main character is not a trained killer. He's a bum, actually, without the physical or technical skills to go on a revenge mission. A fairly realistic, ok thriller, done on a smallish budget, with mostly unknown actors.
Rating 7/10

Tom at the Farm (2013)
Held my interest despite the implausible situation that he would stick around so long at the farm. Most would just have got the hell out of there!
Rating 7/10

Troubled Water (2008)
Underrated Norwegian/Danish drama, which deserves a bigger audience. Directed by Erik Poppe, About secrets and forgiveness. Very good performances by the lead actors. A powerful film that still lingers in my mind a week later.
Rating 8/10

Bottle Rocket (1996)
A fun and entertaining debut feature by Wes Anderson. Maybe I'm wrong, of all his films, this one feels the most realistic. As with the directors other films, he is a wizard at putting music together with scenes, in this case Anthony running back to the motel with the song Alone Again Or by Love.
Favorite quote:
Grace: “When are you coming home?” Anthony: “Grace, I can’t come home, I’m an adult”
Rating 8/10

The Navigator (1924) 
Not quite reaching the heights of Buster Keaton’s best comedies. Still a pretty funny and sweet movie aboard a ship lost at sea. He has a female passenger with him, and it’s about their survival. The ghost was a highlight, and the underwater scenes are technically impressive for 1924. The ending is too far-fetched.
Rating 6.5/10

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Great performances by Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, and their tussle at sea creates a lot of tension.
Rating 8/10

Sylvia (2003)
I was under the impression Sylvia Plath was a bigger author than her husband Ted Hughes, that is not the case in the film.
Plath’s famous work The Bell Jar isn’t mentioned until 80 minutes into the movie. Wasn’t aware her poem collection Ariel is one of the most celebrated and widely read books of poetry of the 20th century.
The film feels a bit simplistic and one-note, I’m sure there was more to the Ted Hughes-Sylvia Plath marriage than simply Sylvia’s jealously.
Rating 6/10

Arthur (1980)
A quotable, heart-warming romantic comedy. I’ll probably have nightmares about Dudley Moore’s drunken laugh.
Favorite quote: "Tonight is New Year’s Eve, the third time this week"
Rating 7/10

Clue (1985)
Based on the board game Cludeo(Clue in north America). you could describe the movie as a dialogue-driven whodunit with comedy elements. A clever mystery that kept me guessing, yet I didn’t really care about who lived or died, and was only mildly interested in who the guilty party was. For me, the multiple ending approach was just too confusing. A few familiar faces make up the ensemble cast such as Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry and Lesley Ann Warren.  
Rating 6/10

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
First part of the Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy. (2003's Oldboy is the second part of trilogy)
The director has a real talent, beautiful angles, lighting and tracking shots. The kidnapping story is good, the scenes by the lake are especially vivid in my memory.
Rating 8/10

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
Part three of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy. My least favorite of the three films. Again, as with the director’s other work, every frame is handled so well visually. The opening credits especially stood out. However the chronology is messy and jumps around quite a lot so that it was tough to follow what’s going on at times.
Not as memorable as the first two installments in the trilogy. What stayed with me was the fat female rapist in prison, and the main character’s red eye shadow. There’s also a dream sequence set in a snowy environment where a man has the body of a dog which was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Shares quite a few similarities in terms of structure with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), and didn’t feel as groundbreaking as the previous two installments.
Rating 6/10

The American (2010)
Slow-building assassin thriller starring George Clooney. The cinematography is well-done, especially after dark with its yellowish nighttime light, and the mist drifting across the Italian village. You would expect this from director/photographer Anton Corbijn. Clooney’s character is very vague and we know little about his past, he plays the paranoid, evasive womanizer quite well. Unfortunately his character doesn’t come across as an interesting person, so all the concealment feels like a gimmick to keep the film moving.
While decent enough, I wouldn’t call the film a game changer, as it’s merely content to imitate other assassin thrillers such as Day of the Jackal. The only surprise was the ending. I love the poster, but it doesn’t sell the film well, since there are only a couple of action scenes.
Rating 6/10

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)
Having noticed praise for the film in the blogosphere, and seeing was nominated for 6 Oscars, I was expecting an above average movie. The filmmakers do a fine job of recreating the time it was set, and I can appreciate the events it depicts are historically important. Yet I could summon little enthusiasm for the history lesson, which I found quite dry and emotionless. I find it overrated.
Rating 5/10

Michael Clayton (2007)
Same reaction as Good Night and Good Luck, I just didn’t like any of the characters, who to me are cold. The storytelling was quite confusing. Bothers me when Brits (in this case both Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton) put on fake American accents. There’s suspense in the last third, but that and James Newton Howard’s score are the only things I enjoyed.
Rating 6/10

How was your month? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome

The music of Prince (part 1 of 6)

Prince is an artist I haven’t listened to previously, besides the unavoidable hits  such as Purple Rain and When Doves Cry.
He will release two new albums tomorrow on September 30, so to mark the occasion let’s look back at his career highlights. First a brief look at Prince’s albums. During October I'll share my top 50 songs by Prince, ten songs at a time. Will be interesting to see if the 2014 tracks can sneak onto the list!

His voice is certainly something that isn’t for everyone, which at times is very high-pitched similar to The Bee Gees and such artists. While a little too overly sex-obsessed in the lyrics for my taste, he does have things to say on albums such as Controversy, and his best music is very well-crafted and catchy, with a tremendous vocal range. His later career output has gone in a more spiritual direction, as he became interested in religion.
The guy is an absolute machine having released between 500-1000 songs and close to 40 albums in total since the late 1970s, so understandably I haven’t had the time to listen to everything. In fact I skipped the unofficial internet albums and live albums. Also, we shouldn't forget Manic Monday by The Bangals, which Prince co-wrote, and Nothing Compares To U which Sinead O’Connor memorably covered. Both great songs.
His peak was during the 80s when he released the classic albums 1999 (1982), Purple Rain (1984), and Sign o' the Times (1987). Whereas Prince had lead the way as an innovative mainstream artist for the duration of the 80s, by the end of the decade things were changing. Hip hop began to emerge from the underground in the US, and brought with it a culture in which Prince would find it tricky to stay at the top. Although he would remain a major player, his appeal would become more marginal in the 90s. After 1987’s Sign O The Times, he does not have consistent top 40 chart success.
In 1993 he had a well-publicized falling out with his record company, Prince complained about feeling like a slave to contractual obligations, and decided to part ways with Warner Bros who he had been with since the late 70s. During this time, he changed his name to an unpronounceable love symbol. He was sometimes referred to as The Artist, or The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. He recorded a number of albums under this name, with moderate success, and was unhappy that he didn't own the rights to his own hits. In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" once again. Musicology (2004) proved to be his most successful album since Diamonds and Pearl (1991). Art Official Age (2014) and PlectrumElectrum (2014) see Prince return to Warner Bros.

Album mini-reviews:

For You (1978)
His debut is an unmemorable album, which didn’t do well in the charts. The guitar in ”I’m Yours” reminds me of a Fleetwood Mac song. For me, the best track on the album is also what Prince refers to in Larry King interview as the track that got him noticed: Soft and Wet.

Prince (1979)
Prince’s self-titled second LP. He was still finding his footing. Was a minor breakthrough for him, thanks to the catchy single ”I Wanna Be Your Lover”. There are also four other singles which didn’t do much for me. Surprisingly the non-single When We're Dancing Close and Slow I prefer.

Dirty Mind (1980)
The album received very positive reviews, and features on best albums of the 80s lists. The title-track Dirty Mind is a classic Prince song, “Head” and “When You Were Mine” are great too.

Controversy (1981)
Prince’s fourth studio album. Keith Harris of Blender calls the album "Prince's first attempt to get you to love him for his mind, not just his body". The title track Controversy is very catchy. Let’s Work is the other stand-out for me.

1999 (1982)
My second favorite Prince album, with Purple Rain (1984) in first place. 1999 was Prince's breakthrough album, and remains one of his best. In 2003, the album was ranked number 163 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The first half of this album is incredible.

Purple Rain soundtrack (1984)
Prince’s biggest seller, and possibly his most accessible and mainstream record. His style goes in a rock n roll direction on many of the tracks. To date has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, becoming the sixth best-selling soundtrack album of all time. The movie, while flawed, is a cult classic, and features all the songs. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at #2 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s" behind only Michael Jackson's Thriller. 

Around the World in a Day (1985)
A psychedelic vibe that pervades much of the record. 2-3 great tracks, but as an album a step down from his last two records.

Parade - Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon (1986)
Kiss, Girls & Boys and Mountains are enjoyable singles, but the albums non-singles tracks didn’t have a lasting impact on me.

Sign O’ The Times (1987)
He was still at the peak of his powers in the late 80s, this is another strong effort. The record continues to grow on me. Often included when talking of his top 5 albums.

Lovesexy (1988)
There are a lot of textures in the music so it's quite an exhausting album to listen to, I almost feel the album is overproduced.

Batman soundtrack (1989)
I like the song Trust, which features in the movie. The soundtrack is decent, just not of the standard of his best 80s albums. Scandalous is the other stand-out that I go back to.

Graffiti Bridge (1990)
The sequel to Purple Rain. The opening track “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got” sounds too similar to “Footloose” from the 80s. I’m not a fan of rap, so I can’t really give a fair assessment. All I can say is none of the tracks lingered in my mind. In that good-but-not-great zone in which Prince has too often inhabited since his ‘80s peak.

Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
Prince's biggest seller of the '90s. An album I struggle to play from start to finish. I just don’t like the direction he went for on about half the tracks, Prince added hip-hop and rapper Tony B to his repertoire. 
However there are a bunch of strong singles I like such as: Diamonds and Pearls, Cream, Thunder, and Money Don't Matter 2 Night, and these singles sound like something he would have done in the 80s.

Love Symbol Album (1992)
Contains elements of musical styles including funk, R&B, hip hop, jazz, reggae, and synthpop. The singles are a bit underwhelming, and none of the tracks had a big impact on me.  

Any thoughts on the albums? Have you listened to Prince? Or are you new to his music as I am? As always, comments are welcome


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