Film Review “Rush”

Starring: Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl
Directed by: Ron Howard
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 3 mins

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When I was growing up in the 1970s there was no ESPN. There was one baseball game shown on television on Saturday afternoon and “Monday Night Football” was just beginning. If you enjoyed sports your show of shows was ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” From cliff divers to the Harlem Globetrotters and everything in between, WWoS was the place to be. Among the events broadcast was Formula One racing. Think of it as NASCAR in a smaller, less safer car. In 1976 the World Championships of Formula One racing came down to two drivers: James Hunt of England and Austria’s Niki Lauda. Both paid a price in their hunt for the top prize, a price detailed brilliantly in Ron Howard’s latest film, “Rush.”

James Hunt (Hemsworth) seemingly has it all. Good looks. A way with the ladies. And the ability to drive a car faster then almost anyone else in the world. From early days in the minor leagues of racing he has worked his way into the echelon of Formula One racing. Niki Lauda (Bruhl) can also maneuver a car around a track with seeming ease. But instead of embracing all that racing has offered he keeps to himself, constantly working to become the best he can be. On August 1, 1976 at the Nurburgring Grand Prix in Germany, both men’s lives changed in an instant. Those changes, and the events that lead up to them, are the story of “Rush.”

It’s ironic that Ron Howard’s first film as a director, 1977’s “Grand Theft Auto,” dealt with cars going very fast and crashing. His latest film is yet another jewel in the crowns of one of the finest filmmakers of the past quarter century. In his second pairing with screenwriter Peter Morgan (the two earned much deserved Oscar nominations for their first venture, “Frost/Nixon”), Howard has managed to take the audience inside the world of Formula One racing, putting them directly into the cockpit and enabling them to experience the thrill and the danger from their seats. Morgan’s script is solidly written, especially when it deals with the inner workings of the main characters. Hunt is the typical 70s athlete…confident to the point of being smug. Lauda is the same, only where Hunt’s attitude is looked at as bravado Lauda comes across as arrogant. They both find themselves supported by significant others, again in similar yet different fashion. While Suzy (Olivia Wilde) eventually learns that the only love in Hunt’s life is racing, Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) learns to accept her place in her husband’s life and her support is vital. Sadly, both female leads don’t have much to do, often as much in the background as the fans in the stands. A sub-plot showing Suzy Hunt dating Richard Burton (they would eventually marry after, rumor has it, Burton paid James Hunt $1 million to hasten the divorce) seems to be shoehorned into the film at the last minute.

Both leads are outstanding. If you only know Hemsworth from his work as Thor in the various Marvel Universe films, prepared to be impressed. He captures perfectly Hunt’s swagger yet still manages to portray the vulnerability Hunt felt in his lonelier moments. Bruhl is just as captivating. Probably best known to movie goers for his portrayal of Private Frederik Zoller in “Inglorious Basterds,” Bruhl is sure to make the short list in the Best Supporting Actor category come Oscar time. And keep a spot reserved for Howard as well. His cameras not only take you to the races, they put you in the middle of them. You can practically feel the wind in your face as the camera takes you around the track at 200 miles per hour. Simply put, “Rush” is a rush!

Book Review “Rush: The Illustrated History”

Author: Martin Popoff
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Release Date: May 30, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I am not sure what it is about Rush but they are just flat out amazing.  They are easily one of my top favorite band ever. They has been kicking ass and taking names in music for the last 45 years…and yet they are better than they ever have been! Plus 2013 is the year of Rush since they not only released on of their best albums “Clockwork Angels” but they also got inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame (finally). This “Illustrated History” book is timed just right and is a must for any Rush fan out there.  So get ready to crank those old vinyls up to 11 and air bass (or drum, whichever is your preference) and enjoy this amazing book.

Official Premise: Now, for the first time, Rush is treated to the epic visual celebration they so richly deserve in a beautifully designed and profusely illustrated history following the band’s entire career. A chronological overview history written by noted music scribe and Rush authority Martin Popoff spans the band’s entire career from 1968 to today. A complete Rush discography chronicles all their albums, from the debut album to 2112, Moving Pictures, and Signals to Grace Under Pressure, Vapor Trails, and more. The authoritative text is complemented by album reviews written by well-known music journalists from around the globe, commentary from fellow musicians, a discography, and hundreds of photographs and pieces of memorabilia, including picture sleeves, gig posters, rare vinyl, handbills, ticket stubs, and much more.

This book is authored by the perfect man for the job, Martin Popoff.  He has been called “the world’s most famous heavy metal journalist” and if anyone can put out a kick-ass music book it would be him.  Plus he also worked with the band on the film “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage”. The book itself contains over 420 color & black and white photos spread out all over the nearly 200 page book. When it is called “history” that should not be taken lightly. We go back to the early days of the band to the current “Clockwork Angels” tour.  We are talking a full discography cover from end to end! There is everything here from concert tickets, posters, vintage programs to candid backstage shots.  So if you are a veteran fan or a brand new Rush fan this book has something for everyone and will not disappoint!

Kevin J. Anderson talks about working with the band Rush on the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”

Kevin J. Anderson is the co-author of the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”, which is based on the band Rush’s latest album. The novelization is co-written with Neil Peart, who is the drummer and lyricist for the band. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kevin about this collaboration and his work with Rush.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up collaborating with Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart on “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”?
Kevin J. Anderson: Neil and I have been friends since around 1990; I’ve always been a Rush fan, and he reads my novels. My first novel, Resurrection, Inc., was inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure. Over the years we’ve toyed with the idea of doing a novel/album crossover project, but the stories and the schedules never synched up. As Clockwork Angels began to take shape, though, it had that right set of ingredients. As he developed the story for the songs, he suggested that I do the novel.

MG: Since Neil wrote “Clockwork Angels” as a concept album, did that make the adapting process easier?
KJA: He’s always given me props for my worldbuilding skills, and when he started putting the songs and the story together, he turned me loose to let me develop the world, to see how the pieces fit together (like “Clockwork,” naturally!). Neil had most of the framework for the story, which is set out in the songs, but I helped connect the dots, added extra characters, fleshed out the scenes. But I didn’t change anything in the album or the songs—Neil wrote what he wanted to write, and I developed a story that captured it as best I could.

MG: What was your inspiration for the dystopian fiction featured in the story?
KJA: Oddly, we consider this a “nice” sort of dystopia. Yes, the Watchmaker controls a lot of people’s lives, which is a bad thing if you’re a square peg and the rest of the world is made of round holes, but for the vast majority of the population, this really is an idyllic sort of world. But our character is a dreamer and wants something more.

MG: How did you end up merging this story with the steampunk subgenre?
I’ve been writing steampunk since 1989 (before the term was ever invented, I think), and Neil liked that aspect. He had the idea of a steampunk motif from the very beginning, and it was always part of the canvas as the story and music took shape.

MG: Tell us about your work with artist Hugh Syme?
KJA: Hugh had already done some of the paintings for the CD booklet before I started writing. I used his artwork for details and inspiration, and he read the drafts of some scenes as I delivered them. Hugh had an uncanny knack for taking a detail or a metaphor at the core of the story (something even I didn’t realize) and pulling it to the surface, which would send me back to the draft to emphasize that part and add new scenes. We worked closely together for the illustrated booklet that accompanies the unabridged audiobook (which Neil Peart narrates), Hugh and I getting the finished content, design, and layout done for Brilliance Audio in only a few days!

MG: I think that this novel would make a great movie…(Hint Hint)!
I certainly wouldn’t disagree with you, but it doesn’t matter what I think. Some movie producer has to get that idea in his or her head!

MG: Do you feel that there will ever been another additional chapter to this story?
KJA: Not as an endless series of book after book. But Neil and I love the world and the characters, and we feel that some of the side tales might be worth exploring. Not in the immediate future, though. I have two massive books I’m writing, and Rush has this tour thing they’re on…

MG: What is your favorite song on the album “Clockwork Angels”?
KJA: It often changes as I keep listening to the album. Right now, the one that seems closest to my heart is “Headlong Flight,” which means so much to the story and means so much to me about my life.

MG: What do you have planned next? Any plans to work with Rush again?
KJA: Right now I am editing MENTATS OF DUNE with Brian Herbert, my next major novel in that series, and I am beginning a new trilogy in my gigantic “Seven Suns” universe, THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS. It’ll probably be a thousand pages long, and as of today I hit the halfway point! And I have two other novels ready to be cued up in the new year. It’s too soon to think about doing anything else with Rush —they’ll be touring for quite some time yet.


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Film Review “Premium Rush”

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez and Michael Shannon
Directed by: David Koepp
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hr 31 mins

Our Score: 2 out 5 stars

There are 1500 bicycle messengers on the street in Manhattan every day. At least that is what we’re told in the opening narration of “Premium Rush.” If you’ve ever been to Manhattan (guilty) you can’t help but marvel at how these two-wheeled delivery boys (and girls) risk serious injury to speed through some of the most congested traffic in the world. Wilee (Gordon-Levitt) is one of those delivery boys. A former BMX/trick rider he zooms through the streets on a bike with one speed and no brakes. When a last minute delivery order comes in,with instructions to get the package to Chinatown before a certain time, Wilee jumps at the chance to get the gig. But when he finds himself being chased and harassed though rush hour traffic, for the envelope he’s carrying, he may decide to quit his day-job!

An almost thrilling 90 minutes, “Premium Rush” begins very slowly to set up the speed in which director Keoepp’s cameras speed recklessly through the streets. As the audience goes along for the ride you’ll marvel at how our two wheeled heroes maneuver around cabs and pedestrians to ensure they’re packages arrive, be it rain, sleet, snow or maniac.

The cast is so-so, with Gordon-Levitt having nothing more to do then ride a bike through traffic and antagonize the police. The first cop (Michael Shannon) was apparently told to do a comical yet serious imitation of Christopher Walken, which is a shame because when necessary Shannon is one hell of an actor. Here he bugs his eyes and whines his dialogue as he tries to recover what he thinks is his. He is truly one person to avoid on the streets, this current film included.

There is also a romance and scenes of what may or may not be human trafficking but unless the action is happening on the back of a Schwinn it pretty much is only hinted at on screen. The story is also very reminiscent of a 1986 film entitled “Quicksilver,” which starred Kevin Bacon and Jami Gertz. “Premium Rush” only comes to life when Gordon-Levitt plays “what if” – imagining the outcome on his person depending on which route he takes before he takes it. Clever, yes, but not enough to rescue this package!

CD Review: Rush “Clockwork Angels”

“Clockwork Angels”
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Label: Roadrunner Records
Tracks: 12
Running Time: 67 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I have been a fan of Rush for many many years and I have also seen them perform live more times than I can count. They are easily one of my favorite bands ever! Rush is just one of these bands that can be around for 40 years and yet make hit after hit. I saw David Gilmour from Pink Floyd during his solo tour in 2006 and when he played tracks from his latest album “On an Island”, everyone took a bathroom/beer break. But I don’t know how to explain it but when Rush releases a new album, it is like instant GOLD!…and when they play their new material live, forget it, the crowd goes insane. I call that the power of Rush!

“Clockwork Angels” is Rush’s first album at Roadrunner Records. It is produced by Grammy Award winner Nick Raskulinecz, who also collaborated with the band on their last studio album, “Snakes and Arrows”.  The album is not just any ‘ole album, it has an amazing story behind it.   It  chronicles a young man’s quest, through Neil Peart’s lyrics, across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy as he aims to follow his dreams.  I really enjoyed the story overall and there is even a novel adaptation of the album coming out later this year from ECW Press.

Let’s get to these new songs for Rush’s 20th studio album “Clockwork Angels.  “Caravan” easily kicks the album off with a bang.  I had heard and already loved “BU2B” from their live album “Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland” (which was also amazing!).  I loved how on the studio album version, they set the song up with a quiet prologue and then blew it up.  It also really sets the tone for the whole album and its story.  The production on the track “Clockwork Angels” is so amazing and well-done. “Halo Effect” is a sweet song, along relatable to a love song.  “Headlong Flight” flies way over the 7 minute marks and channels its inner-Floyd. “The Garden” is an interesting yet perfect ending to this album.  Rush really delivers amazing song after song here,  I mean each one is honestly gold.

I can’t wait to see this year’s tour to back this album.  It is going to be a really visual and amazing journey to see how this story is told out live.  Also there is a little Easter egg for super-Rush fans on the album’s cover. Take a look at the clock, put it in military time and what do we get… 21:12, OH YEAH! I mean if that doesn’t scream super cool…I do not know what does! This band never shows any signs of slowing down, especially if they keep making albums like “Clockwork Angels”. After 20 albums, it only seems to get better…hears to 20 more guys!

Track Listing:
1. Caravan
2. BU2B
3. Clockwork Angels
4. The Anarchist
5. Carnies
6. Halo Effect
7. Seven Cities Of Gold
8. The Wreckers
9. Headlong Flight
10. BU2B2
11. Wish Them Well
12. The Garden