Metal and Movies

Dark Phoenix is the biggest of the month's new films while stoner punk trio Bokassa's new album leads the list of metal releases

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Bringing the current X-Men iteration to a close in an ambitious way, Dark Phoenix takes its lead from the comic in which Jean Grey plays host to a powerful entity. Unable to control what is inside her she ends up hurting the ones she loves most. Unfortunately we’ve been spoilt by the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of late and, despite Fox’s best efforts with the Deadpool movies and Logan, this unconnected universe just can’t live up to its competition.

Re-uniting Thor stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, Men In Black: International is an extension of the franchise. Despite the stars’ chemistry, MIB: international is a formulaic movie that feels although it’s been made out of necessity to keep the franchise alive.

Disney jerks yet more tears from audiences with Toy Story 4. It’s 24 years since the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the rest first melted our hearts. With such long gaps between the movies, half the intended audience will be too young to have seen the previous one in cinemas. Yet the franchise that made Pixar a household name has gone from strength to strength. The graphics may have improved but little else has changed and it’s still as heartwarming a family adventure as ever.

Brandon jumps to the conclusion that because he threw a lawnmower 100 yards it’s a good idea to purposefully stick his hand in the spinning blades

With a strapline of “From producer James Gunn” (Guardians of the Galaxy, Endgame, Infinity War, etc) very dark superhero film Brightburn sounds promising. Unfortunately, despite stellar performances from its cast, it’s a terrible movie that just spins out a superhero origin story to “oh, he’s actually evil”. When a meteor lands on a struggling childless couple’s farm, they find a baby inside, raise it as their own… you know the rest. Only this time, instead of discovering his powers slowly or accidentally, Brandon jumps to the conclusion that because he threw a lawnmower 100 yards it’s a good idea to purposefully stick his hand in the spinning blades.

Moving development along too fast and lazily, he crushes the hand of the girl that spurned him and called him a pervert (because he was flying and spying outside her bedroom window). He then kills some people. Despite having a loving family willing to at first protect him he is on a destructive path with no real reason. With a little more character development and reasoning or hinting behind why he is this way, Brightburn has the potential to be an interesting, original movie, instead of something infuriatingly dumb.

Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis ask us to imagine a world without the Beatles – imagine all the people, living life in peace! Unfortunately that’s where the dream ends, because their new film Yesterday, although not directly about the band, is about their music. After an accident during a global blackout, struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik wakes up to discover he is the only person who has ever heard of the Beatles.

With his own material going down like a lead balloon he starts performing the songs of the Fab Four as his own to the unknowing masses. Jack starts getting attention and is catapulted to stardom with help from Ed Sheeran, who tells him to call a song Hey Dude. As ever with the fame comes complications, as this sloppy fanfic romcom shows. But if you like the music you’ll actually probably enjoy the film and I can only hope to enlighten you with the following albums.

Having just supported Metallica and Ghost on their arena tour, Norwegian stoner punk trio Bokassa release Crimson Riders, a big fuzzy riff-driven record. Sometimes doomy and slow, occasionally thrashy, there’s a mix of paces but it always feels driven with a solid beat. The riffs are catchy without having an obviously notable hook and demand heads be nodded in time. With obvious influences from bands like Anti-Flag, Queens of the Stone Age and Red Fang, plus an underlying sense of humour, this is sunny beer-drinking festival metal – not what you usually expect from Norway.

Hed PE’s rap side sounds more modern, chilled and electronic, and the rock riffs are bigger, deeper and driven

Although never as big as some other rap rockers, Hed PE have kept going for over 20 years. Their new album Stampede opens with Noapologies. Kicking off as a chilled hip-hop rap before rising into an epic sweeping Deftones-style chorus, it’s a theme that continues throughout the album. Although Hed PE’s music has always been a cross of punk, metal, rap, hip-hop and g-funk, Stampede seems to separate the genres a bit more. The rap side sounds more modern, chilled and electronic, and the rock riffs are bigger, deeper and driven. It’s hard to tell whether this album is an evolution or a deconstruction of the bands sound.

Goth metalcore outfit Motionless in White have donned a more stripped-down image and a nu-metal sound for their new album Disguise. Rooted in the darker side of nu-metal and industrial bands, its big tight riffs blend with broken aggressive electronics and haunting synths in a well-produced album. But the influence of bands like Korn, Slipknot and the likes are all too obvious. It feels style over substance rather than a genuine identity from the band.

Heart Of A Coward return with a new frontman to deliver a punishing technical masterclass. The Disconnect is anything but disconnected. The tech riffs, blastbeats and chugging rhythms are delivered with crushing precision. Although the majority of the album is a djent-led heavy affair, Return to Dust does give new vocalist Kaan Tasan a chance to show he can sing clean, although that doesn’t last long before it’s back to screaming.

Spiritbox’s singles collection pieces together the tracks drip-released over the past year from husband and wife team and former Iwrestledabearonce members Courtney LaPlante and Mike Stringer. Balancing a strange line between art-rock, ambient, djent and brutal core-based metal, the result is a strange but appealing mix. The multilayered vocal harmonies on Trust Fall blend with a heavy bouncing riff and echoing clean-picked guitars and slap bass. Belcarra and Bleach Bath take more traditional and aggressive leads yet still make time for some space and pace changes mid way through. Spiritbox don’t sit in much of a traditional genre – there are some recognisable elements from their previous IWABO days – but this is still very different and worth a listen.

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