Sunday, 28 November 2010

Movie Review: Blue Thunder (1983)

A movie that exists for the sole purpose of showcasing helicopter acrobatics, Blue Thunder provides only a bit of fun as it plunders through the usual macho-cliches and government conspiracy puddles.

In the skies of Los Angeles, a police unit uses helicopters to support ground officers and help keep the peace. Veteran pilot Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is the local maverick, capable of exceptional flying tricks but haunted by his combat experiences flying in Vietnam. A sinister new chopper is brought in for testing: unlike the regular police helicopters, Blue Thunder is tricked out with a massive amount of weapons, technology and armor.

Murphy's old adversary, the slimy Colonel Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), seems keen to bring the military-style Blue Thunder into police service, and soon their are hints at a conspiracy to manufacture civil strife in order to justify pushing the heavy-handed chopper into service. After his partner (Daniel Stern) is killed, Murphy gets help from his girlfriend (Candy Clark) and takes matters into his own hands, stealing Blue Thunder, surviving an encounter with two F-16 fighter jets, and engaging Cochrane in a climactic helicopter battle that includes destroying several Los Angeles high rises.

Director John Badham chooses efficiency over style, and is a lot more interested in the machinery than the people. The storyline of Blue Thunder is silly, juvenile, and hopelessly stupid, with performances to match from cast members who all seem to be vying for career-worst awards, including the unfortunate Warren Oates in one of his last roles as Murphy's long suffering Captain.

But all that is almost besides the point. The film is all about arousal by technology, and in 1983, the gizmos packed into Blue Thunder classified the film as high-tech and futuristic. It is both scary and revealing that what passed as cutting-edge in the early 1980's looks clumsy and obsolete to war-weary modern eyes, but that does not make Blue Thunder any less nonsensical as a movie.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Book Review: Sharon And My Mother-In-Law, by Suad Amiry (2004)

The diaries of a Palestinian professor living in Ramallah under the Israeli occupation, Sharon And My Mother-In-Law is a slice-of-life book that portrays a daily form of living controlled by checkpoints, soldiers, tanks, and suffocating restrictions on movement.

Recounting experiences from the first Gulf War through to the early 2000's, Suad Amiry usually manages to find the funny side of what the occupation throws at her, from lining up for gas masks that never materialize, to navigating with the occupation's bureaucracy to secure permits for her dog, to waiting out endless curfews made much worse by having to deal with her elderly mother-in-law.

The book is not attempting to be a literary classic, and Amiry's stories are far from unique. It may not be relevant to criticize a diary, but it's worthwhile to point out that nowhere in her book does Amiry discuss any of the Palestinian atrocities that prompt Israeli crackdowns, proportionate or not.

Instead, Amiry reveals a spunky spirit and courage to challenge her surroundings and land herself in situations that are at the same time dangerous, funny and sad. She occasionally and self-righteously allows her fury at the mistreatment of her people to shine through, but for the most part she allows the ridiculous stories of survival without dignity speak for themselves.

Sharon And My Mother In Law will not change the Middle East, but it does accessibly highlight the shameful and unsustainable mistreatment being endured by the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Subtitled "Ramallah Diaries".
Printed in soft cover by Granta Books.
194 pages.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review Index is here.

CD Review: Lights Out, by UFO (1977)

A mixture of 1960's psychedelia and 1970's pop-rock with a nod to more muscular elements, UFO's Lights Out never threatens to cross fully into metal terrain. Despite the presence of Michael Schenker on guitar, UFO are snooping around pop territory seeking mainstream appeal rather than pushing into any dark corners.

Opener Too Hot To Handle, the classic title track Lights Out, and the moody, swirly Love To Love inject the most energy into the proceedings, but songs like the awful Gettin' Ready work hard to suck the life straight back out of the album.

The cover of Love's Alone Again Or deserves a mention as probably the most 1960's hippie track ever to groove its way onto an otherwise rock/metal record.

Throughout the album Schenker, still only 22 years old, is more restrained than flamboyant, allowing Phil Mogg's mainstream vocals to dominate. The rest of the band are functional rather than impressive, with Paul Raymond's keyboards occasionally prominent.

Lights Out is of mostly archaeological interest as an artifact of an era when rock, metal and pop intersected, and a young guitar hero stood in the middle before striking out on his own.


Phil Mogg - Vocals
Michael Schenker - Guitars
Pete Way - Bass
Andy Parker - Drums
Paul Raymond - Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Too Hot To Handle - 8
2. Just Another Suicide - 6
3. Try Me - 6
4. Lights Out - 8
5. Gettin' Ready - 5
6. Alone Again Or - 7
7. Electric Phase - 6
8. Love To Love - 8

Average: 6.75

Produced by Ron Nevison.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

CD Review: Psalm 9, by Trouble (1984)

As merchants of doom go, Trouble may be one of the most direct spiritual descendants of Black Sabbath. They don't possess anywhere near the consistency of Sabbath, but on the occasions when Trouble put all the pieces together, the earth rumbles, the clouds move in, the wind howls, the women and children run behind closed doors, and then everything goes dark.

Psalm 9, the debut (and originally self-titled) album from the Chicago quintet features admirable cover artwork and includes three excellent tracks: opener The Tempter is one of the best songs that the band ever wrote, a full-on Sabbath-inspired assault, with massive, chunky doom-laden chords, alternating between dangerously oozing and just pummeling the terrain. Instrumental Endtime and the title track Psalm 9 are both almost equally as intense and as good.

The rest of the material suffers in comparison, and betrays the band's relatively limited creative range. None of the songs are poor; they just lack the needed edge to force themselves into the memorable league.

Trouble did distinguish themselves by mixing the sound of doom with bible-inspired, anti-satanic lyrics, setting their music apart from the black metal brigade. Positive messaging and doom metal may sound contradictory, but Trouble created some excellent music trying to align the two concepts.


Eric Wagner - Vocals
Rick Wartell - Guitars
Bruce Franklin - Guitars
Sean McAllister - Bass
Jeff Olson - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. The Tempter - 10
2. Assassin - 7
3. Victim Of The Insane - 7
4. Revelation (Life Or Death) - 7
5. Bastards Will Pay - 7
6. The Fall Of Lucifer - 7
7. Endtime - 9
8. Psalm 9 - 9
9. Tales Of Brave Ulysses - 7

Average: 7.78

Produced by Trouble, Bill Metoyer, and Brian Slagel.
Engineered by Bill Metoyer. Mastered by JVC.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

CD Review: Van Halen, by Van Halen (1978)

Out of California, Van Halen explode onto the scene with music that mixes hyperactive metal with uncontrolled fun. Overnight, Eddie Van Halen became a guitar hero to a new generation of metal fans, and David Lee Roth's husky, overtly lecherous and smooth vocals appealed both to young men who wanted to be him and young women who wanted to be with him.

Van Halen's debut features amped-up guitar wizardry from Eddie and playful vocals from Roth. Alex Van Halen on drums and Michael Anthony on bass are good, but there is no mistaking that this band is all about the duel for centre stage between lead guitarist and lead vocalist, with the music being the main beneficiary.

Van Halen is the album that paved the highway for metal to overlap with hard rock in a context where having fun was the dominant objective. That this road ended up in the dead-end of glam metal is not the fault of Van Halen - unlike what followed, Van Halen had the brilliant talent and faultless execution to earn and deserve the good times.

While Eruption is Eddie's passport to greatness and became the rite of passage for guitar freaks, the album is full of metal gems: Runnin' With The Devil, Jamie's Cryin', Atomic Punk, and On Fire represent some of the best metal that the band ever created. On each track Eddie throws in original solos that redefine what the guitar can do, and etches his name as a wizard at age 23.

Meanwhile, the covers of You Really Got Me and Ice Cream Man started the band's tradition of recreating classics to suit their own image.

Van Halen's vibe throughout the eleven tracks is a band having a blast, mixing power with fun, and showing off ridiculous talent with consummate coolness. Regretfully, Van Halen were never able to match the brilliance of their debut. Although many of their subsequent albums were very good, when you start at the very peak, all forward directions are down.


David Lee Roth - Vocals
Eddie Van Halen - Guitar
Alex Van Halen - Drums
Michael Anthony - Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Runnin' With The Devil - 10
2. Eruption - 8
3. You Really Got Me - 10
4. Ain't Talking 'Bout Love - 8
5. I'm The One - 7
6. Jamie's Cryin' - 10
7. Atomic Punk - 10 *see below*
8. Feel Your Love Tonight - 7
9. Little Dreamer - 8
10. Ice Cream Man - 8
11. On Fire - 10

Average: 8.73

Produced by Ted Templeman. Engineered by Donn Landee.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Movie Review: The Wild Bunch (1969)

The opening scene is a botched bank robbery that results in a prolonged shoot-out between the Wild Bunch and bounty-hunters, with civilians including women and children caught in the cross-fire.

In the middle of the movie is a smooth, old-fashioned train heist to seize weapons and ammunition.

And the movie ends with a long, gory, final battle, more of a meat-grinder suicide mission, as the Wild Bunch, all four of them, take on an entire Mexican army battalion gone rogue.

Sam Peckinpah's epic western The Wild Bunch does not have the wit or sly artistic stylings of Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly or Once Upon A Time In The West. But Peckinpah does satisfyingly saturate The Wild Bunch with a desperate mood of gloom for an entire class of men, as the era of living the outlaw life comes to an end with a bloody exclamation mark. He also introduces a poetic and lyrical style of portraying violence, aided by magnificent editing (Lou Lombardo) and cinematography (Lucien Ballard), that set a new standard and blurred the line between condemning and enjoying violence.

The story follows Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his gang of ruthless bandits, including Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), brothers Lyle (Warren Oates) and Tector (Ben Johnson), and the Mexican Angel (Jaime Sanchez), who make a living robbing rail company payrolls. The rail companies start fighting back just as ruthlessly: a rail company baron hires Pike's former partner Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) to lead a group of bounty hunters to halt, once and for all, Pike's rampage.

Deke and his men botch the ambush that opens the movie but still manage to decimate Pike's gang down to five men. Deke chases Pike and the remnants of his Wild Bunch across the border from Texas to Mexico, where Pike and his men encounter the slimy General Mapache and his men, who are terrorizing local villages while entertaining some seedy-looking German army types. Pike and his men fend off Deke and attempt a double-cross game of helping Mapache and the villagers to secure guns and ammunition, but with Deke closing in, Mapache reveals himself to be as despicable as any gangster, and Pike ends the misadventures of his gang in a blaze of bloody glory.

Between the film's three main action set-pieces, there is plenty of time for Peckinpah to elaborate on the end of a way of life. He does so through conversations between Pike and Dutch, flashbacks, and expanding on Deke's internal conflict as he chases down his former partner. The movie is set in 1913, and the startling appearance of a motor vehicle, being used by Mapache's men, is a stark reminder that the outlaw cowboy days are well and truly coming to an end.

The film is populated by Western movie stalwarts and character actors, all of them grimy, dirty, desperate, and in a nod to Leone, none of them good, just shades of conflicted. The absence of an outright movie star helps to focus attention on the impact of the changing times on men in general, rather than any individual. Peckinpah also marks the beginning of a new epoch in film-making by redefining the boundaries of acceptable violence, blood and gore in mainstream American movies.

Ironically, rather than usher in a new age of realistic westerns, The Wild Bunch proved to be both a chronicler of an era that had passed, and the final word in western movies. It stands alone, tall in the saddle.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Movie Review: Duplicity (2009)

A movie that is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is, Duplicity attempts to dazzle with a high dose of faux glitz but falls apart when the most cursory of plot elements fail to hold together.

Ray Koval (Clive Owen) and Claire Stenwich (Julia Roberts) are spies, formerly rivals in government service but now working for corporations who have a lot of trade secrets to hide or steal. Ray and Claire have a fling, and may be falling for each other or just using each other as they decide to covertly team-up to profit from a trade war between two rival companies, Equikrom and Burkett & Randle.

The CEO of Burkett & Randle (Tom Wilkinson) is about to unveil to great new product that will change the industry; his rival the CEO of Equikrom (Paul Giamatti) is desperate to get his hands on this breakthrough. Ray and Claire position themselves to control the trade secret ahead of anyone else, in an attempt to sell it for a huge profit.

Despite the interesting premise, too many basic building blocks in Duplicity are cracked beyond salvation. The attraction and chemistry between the main characters Ray and Claire? The only thing we know they have in common is a deep, mutual and prolonged distrust of each other. Not a good basis for the movie to establish and maintain any romantic angle.

The great corporate trade secret everyone is chasing? It's a one page - yes, hard copy - hand-drawn chemical diagram that looks like it was torn from a grade six textbook. Apparently, the digital revolution has not penetrated too far in some of America's most advanced corporations.

And the corporate spies who have the ability and technology to insert agents deep undercover? They apparently are only capable of copying and transmitting documents using photocopy machines operating at one page per minute. Digital cameras and e-mail, anyone?

For a film trying to be romantic thriller set in the high tech world of corporate espionage, such rudimentary gaps in flow and logic are unforgivably distracting.

We are left with the appeal of the two stars, and neither is convincing. Julia Roberts works hard to try and persuade us that she is a shrewd and ruthless operator, but she can't hide a persona that seems to just want to travel to exotic places and wear the priciest clothes. As her foil, Clive Owen does not appear to be trying too hard to convince us of anything. He generally sleep walks through the movie relying solely on a charisma that unfortunately for him decided to sit this one out.

Director Tony Gilroy tries to entertain the easily impressed with various locales including Dubai, Italy, Cleveland, Florida, New York City and Switzerland, and tells the tale of the relationship between Ray and Claire through flashbacks. But the film lacks any artistic touches or true directorial flare that would have provided an edge.

Pretending to be ready to deliver clever action when you're serving mainly limp entertainment? Duplicity indeed.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Movie Review: 21 (2008)

Based on true events, 21 is an entertaining drama examining what happens when the glitter and seductiveness of the Las Vegas gambling world are used as ill-conceived shortcuts on the road of real life.

21 is based on the events described in the book Bringing Down The House, by Ben Mezrich. The movie was accused of white-washing what in reality was a predominantly Asian-American Blackjack Team. While the decision to cast white actors in all the leading roles is understandable from the perspective of increasing the film's marketability, it is a sad statement on society that actor ethnicity remains a major factor in determining commercial success.

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is a student at MIT, a math wizard, and looking to get into Harvard Medical School. He is recruited by one of his professors, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), to join the Blackjack Team: a group of students organized by Rosa to use a card-counting system and win big at Blackjack during weekend trips to Las Vegas casinos.

At first reluctant but seduced by the idea of making enough money to pay for medical school, Campbell joins the team, falls in love with team-member Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth), and over 17 glitzy Vegas weekends makes more money than he ever imagined possible. He enjoys the fast and loose life style of the big-time winning gambler, but things start to fall apart when he loses his friends at MIT; tensions erupt between the Blackjack Team members; and Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), a burly Vegas security chief with a mean streak, smells something wrong with Campbell's unlikely winning streak.

Director Robert Luketic ensures that 21 looks great, whether in luxury-drenched Vegas or the more staid and academic Boston environment. Kevin Spacey keeps his balance walking the fine line between smiling math professor and conniving blackjack strategist, alternating between charming and badgering his students to win him money. Laurence Fishburne does not need to bother with the charming part, he just bulldozes his way to uncovering those who try to win at Blackjack by counting. Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth are an appealing mix of student naivete and young adults forced to deal with the challenges of an alternate world.

Slick, engaging and thought-provoking, 21 doesn't bring down the house, but it does shake it up.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

CD Review: Reign In Blood, by Slayer (1986)

Less an album of music than a force of nature, Reign In Blood is a tornado that lands, destroys everything within earshot, and departs as quickly and unexpectedly as it arrived. It's an experience that can only be admired, with the force and fury rendering unimportant any shortcomings in the sophistication of the music.

The third studio album from California's Slayer redefined where thrash metal could go. With lyrics drenched with blood, gore and body parts, Reign In Blood became the door through which many bands would travel to more extreme sub-genre's of metal. Slayer themselves remained on the edge of mainstream thrash to keep Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax company, but they did occupy the most dangerous corner of that neighbourhood.

Reign In Blood features vocals spit out in short spurts by bassist Tom Araya, while drummer Dave Lombardo establishes a new threshold for the total annihilation that heavy metal drums can cause. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman deliver a clinic on fast and accurate thrash guitar work. They push to the borderline between human play and inhuman fast-forward, but for the most part stay within the realm of the possible and melodically enjoyable.

The album starts by embracing controversy, Angel Of Death throwing Nazi butcher Josef Mengele straight into the middle of the rumble about whether or not Slayer were celebrating or condemning mass murder of the worst kind. No publicity is bad publicity, of course, and after that opening Reign In Blood follows a trail of dripping blood on a succession of short and shorter tracks, rarely longer than three minutes, all exceptionally delivered but none too distinguished until the final three.

Epidemic and Postmortem build to a crescendo that explodes on Raining Blood, one of heavy metal's all-time great tracks. Combining a threatening, interrogating riff with unimaginable power and pace, Raining Blood ends with a massive thunderclap and the sound of quiet red rain that could only accompany a scene of utter devastation.


Kerry King - Guitars
Jeff Hanneman - Guitars
Tom Araya - Vocals, Bass
Dave Lombardo - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Angel Of Death - 10
2. Piece By Piece - 7
3. Necrophobic - 7
4. Altar Of Sacrifice - 7
5. Jesus Saves - 7
6. Criminally Insane - 7
7. Reborn - 7
8. Epidemic - 8
9. Postmortem - 9
10. Raining Blood - 10

Average: 7.90

Produced by Rick Rubin and Slayer.
Engineered by Andy Wallace. Mastered by Howie Weinburg.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

CD Review: All Killer No Filler, by Sum 41 (2001)

A mixture of punk and ska in a metal package, Ontario's Sum 41 mostly want to have fun.

The first track on All Killer No Filler is a take-off on the opening spoken words of Iron Maiden's The Number Of The Beast, and the closing track Pain For Pleasure is an unfortunately short pure Maidenesque tune, meant as a joke but with the potential to have been so much more.

In between, All Killer No Filler provides a long list of short tracks, relying heavily on crunchy but simplistic chords from Dave Baksh's guitar, and over-enthusiastic punk-inspired but ultimately irritating vocals from Deryck Whibley.

Fat Lip manages to distinguish itself from the rest with a more assured, less frantic structure, but otherwise a samey sound quickly creeps into the proceedings, and the back end of the album disintegrates into a cascade of indistinguishable tracks and strays far from the title boast. In fact, none of it is killer, and a lot of it is filler.


Bizzy D (Deryck Whibley) - Guitar, Vocals
Brown Sound (Dave Baksh) - Guitar, Vocals
Cone (McCaslin) - Bass
Stevo 32 (Steve Jocz) - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Introduction To Destruction - n/a (spoken words)
2. Nothing On My Back - 7
3. Never Wake Up - 6
4. Fat Lip - 8
5. Rhythms - 7
6. Motivation - 7
7. In Too Deep -7
8. Summer - 7
9. Handle This - 6
10. Crazy Amanda Bunkface - 6
11. All She's Got - 6
12. Heart Attack - 6
13. Pain For Pleasure - 7

Average: 6.67

Produced by Jerry Finn. Mixed by Terry Lord-Alge.
Engineered by Joe McGrath. Mastered by Brian Gardner.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

CD Review: Fright Night by Stratovarius (1989)

Early Stratovarius music walks a fine line between the incompetence of a local pub band and the brilliance of Yngwie Malmsteen.

On Fright Night, the debut from one of Finland's earlier metal success stories, the music often threatens to fall into the abyss of hopelessness, particularly with Timo Tolkki's tortured vocals. But then magical if brief guitar segments, again courtesy of Tolkki, arrive to save the day and land the album in respectable territory.

Fright Night provides a promising foundation, but leaves the definite impression that Stratovarius have a lot of maturing to go through. Better songwriting, better vocals, and an independent producer would go a long way to polishing the band's sound.

The short sharp length of the album, at eight meaningful tracks, is appreciated. Three of the songs using "Night" in the title is an example of the growing-up that is needed.

Opener Future Shock and title track Fright Night demonstrate the best of the band and the ability to pull together complex songs with some powerful guitar-driven passages. But even these two tracks suffer some dodgy patches and vocals screaming for help.

The rest of the material alternates between amateur city with brief glimpses of excellence that point to potential yet to be fulfilled; but there is enough talent, drive and ambition on display for Stratovarius to receive the benefit of the doubt, if not yet accolades.


Timo Tolkki - Vocals, Guitar
Jyrki Lentonen - Bass
Tuomo Lassila - Drums
Antti Ikonen - Keyboards

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Future Shock - 9
2. False Messiah - 7
3. Black Night - 7
4. Witch-Hunt - 7
5. Fire Dance - 8
6. Fright Night - 9
7. Night Screamer - 8
8. Darkness - 6
9. Goodbye - n/a (short instrumental)

Average: 7.63

Produced by Stratovarius.
Engineered by Make Torronen.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

CD Review: Sven Gali by Sven Gali (1992)

Sven Gali's first of only two albums sounds a lot like watered-down Slaughter. And given that Slaughter themselves are no great fountain of innovation, Sven Gali's sound is as close as can be to machine-manufactured, paint-by-numbers metal lite.

Perhaps Sven Gali, from Hamilton, Ontario, were already doomed since they started as a cover band, and appear to have stumbled into life as a real metal act with a helping push from a record company looking to boost its catalogue content in the dying days of mail-order music clubs. Regardless, the album is filled with short, simplistic, radio friendly songs, with a phony edge of danger and clear desperation to receive airplay.

Opener Under The Influence, the up-tempo Stiff Competition and the cover of Disgusteen demonstrate a bit of added oomph compared to the rest of the tracks, but even on the better songs the energy appears to be manufactured more than heartfelt. However, while formulaic metal never inspires, it rarely bombs, and so Sven Gali just tramps along, never repulsive enough to be turned off but also never reaching any heights that deserve more than passing attention. However, the two acoustic ballads, Love Don't Live Here Anymore and Whisper In The Rain, confirm almost beyond a reasonable doubt that the band's lyrics were written by an android.

Sven Gali's second album saw them veer away from the by-then very dead glam metal sound towards a grunge derivative. It's failure marked the end of the band, and based on this evidence, that was no great loss.


David Wanless - Vocals
Gregg Gerson - Drums
Dee Cernile - Guitar
Shawn T. T. Maher - Bass
Andy Frank - Guitar

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Under The Influence - 8
2. Tie Dyed Skies - 7
3. Sweet Little Gypsy - 7
4. In My Garden - 7
5. Freakz - 7
6. Love Don't Live Here Anymore - 6
7. Stiff Competition - 8
8. Real Thing - 7
9. Whisper In The Rain - 6
10. 25 Hours A Day - 7
11. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow - 7
12. Disgusteen - 8

Average: 7.08

Produced by David Bendeth. Mixed by Earl Porno Torno.
Recorded by Dan Harjung. Mastered by Tom Coyne.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Movie Review: The Fast And The Furious (2001)

In a demonstration of the potential for style to triumph over substance, The Fast And The Furious is a sleek, shiny film that entertains thanks to its vibe and cool factor. Not much else about this movie actually matters.

Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) is an undercover cop, infiltrating the Los Angeles illegal street racing community to crack an audacious theft ring that hijacks container trucks at formidable speeds. Brian befriends Dominic (Dom) Toretto (Vin Diesel), the fulcrum around whom the street racing scene rotates; Brian also falls for Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). Dom has shady friends and dangerous enemies; Brian is soon under pressure and has to risk his relationships to sort out the bad guys from the ugly guys before the truck drivers start resolving matters with shotguns.

The Fast And The Furious derives its pleasure and appeal from the glimmering overpowered machines that fuel the street racing scene, and the film matches the insane kinetic energy of the cars that are as important to the movie as the actors. Credit to director Rob Cohen for avoiding the temptation of moving mindlessly from one stunt race scene to the next; there is actually surprisingly little racing action in the movie, more a glorification of the cars, the people, and the culture, as time is spent colouring, with vivid intensity, the details of the characters who inhabit this underground world.

As a result, when the racing and stunt set-pieces do kick-in, they are treats to be enjoyed, helped by exceptional execution, editing and directing.

Vin Diesel cruises through the movie oozing coolness that is appropriately unreal. Paul Walker is almost equally impossibly on top of the out of control action, but as the force of good in the movie he manages to be less outrightly dismissive. The grease-stained group surrounding Dom Toretto's character appear to be drawn from the guys that always seem to be hanging around the local car repair shops, doing nothing much that appears to be legal.

The rap music score thumps along adding to the high and edgy level of energy that throbs through the movie.

The Fast And The Furious is like speeding on an empty freeway. Absolutely nothing good will come of it, but it could be ever so enjoyable.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

CD Review: Toxicity, by System Of A Down (2001)

With their original sound - let's call it manic theatrical metal - System Of A Down create a memorable album full of crunch, power, life and drama.

On a long set of 14 songs, Toxicity maintains a remarkably consistent level of good quality, and a high proportion of the material is memorable.

Toxicity features massive chords from Daron Malakian's guitar, vocals from Serj Tankian that could belong in a grand musical theatre and that are embellished by the rare but welcome psychotic growl, and the thunderous, hyperactive drums of John Dolmayan.

When the songwriting matches the talent, which is often, the results are spectacular. It's impossible to sit still as Prison Song, Needles, Chop Suey!, and Toxicity mix hypnotic melodies, high speed power, complex structures, and perfect delivery. The title song particularly captures the essence of the album, with the tireless, hyper-energetic drums and mix of softness and brutality yielding a dramatic classic.

The good work continues on tracks that are all embedded with a mix of unique elements and elaborate compositions, including Deer Dance, X, Bounce, Atwa, Psycho, and Aerials. Toxicity is an inspired fountain of ideas, but the wide scope of variety all fits within the band's distinctive style.

The album gives the impression that the band are having a lot of fun, and that they all suffer from a mix of genius and attention deficit hyperactive disorder of the first degree.

Toxicity is a unique achievement, and one the best metal albums of the 2000's.


Daron Malakian - Guitars, Vocals
Serj Tankian - Vocals, Keyboards
Shavo Odadjian - Bass
John Dolmayan - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Prison Song - 10
2. Needles - 10
3. Deer Dance - 8
4. Jet Pilot - 7
5. X - 9
6. Chop Suey! - 10
7. Bounce - 8
8. Forest - 7
9. Atwa - 8
10. Science - 7
11. Shimmy - 6
12. Toxicity - 10 *see below*
13. Psycho - 8
14. Aerials - 9

Average: 8.36

Produced by Rick Rubin and Daron Malakian.
Mixed by Andy Wallace. Engineered by David Schiffman.
Mastered by Eddy Schreyer.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Movie Review: The Deep (1977)

There are two main objectives behind The Deep: the first is to showcase the dramatic advancements in underwater filming that were occurring in the second half of the 1970's. The second is to showcase Jacqueline Bisset in a variety of revealing poses.

Author Peter Benchley had enjoyed huge success with his 1974 debut book Jaws, which was turned into the most successful (at that time) movie ever made by a young Steven Spielberg in 1975. Benchley's next book was going to be a success no matter what, and he released The Deep in 1976. The book is a muddled, unconvincing sunken-treasure adventure, and Benchley co-wrote the script for this muddled, unconvincing movie adaptation released in 1977.

The story follows David Sanders (Nick Nolte) and Gail Berke (Bisset) two amateur divers vacationing in Bermuda where they stumble onto a lost shipwreck with some precious cargo. They seek the help of local shipwreck expert Romer Treece (Robert Shaw), and soon enough they are pursued by spooky local henchmen from Haiti led by Henri Cloche (Louis Gossett Jr.). And emerging into the sunlight in a seemingly drunken stupor is Adam Coffin (Eli Wallach), an easily manipulated shipwreck survivor.

It turns out that David and Gail have uncovered not one but two shipwrecks on top of each other, one carrying enormous amounts of morphine that Cloche wants to get his hands on, and the other carrying an even more precious treasure of ancient jewelry.

The underwater scenes consume more than half the film, and have little to no dialogue as David, Gail and Romer explore the wrecks and irritate a particularly ugly large eel. The underwater cinematography is impressive, and director Peter Yates is able to maintain both tension and comprehension with few spoken words.

The scenes above the water are mostly tiresome discussions as the trio try to research and understand the shipwrecks, their cargo and their history, occasionally interrupted by Cloche and his men seeking to do harm.

Bisset finds reasons to remove her wet T-shirt, remove her bikini top, unbutton her shirt to her navel, and wrap herself in a towel, but always turns her back discreetly to the camera when needed, as Yates and his star focus on the tried and true titillation school of film-making. Nolte plays the angry-young-man with the clever shadings of an angry young man, and Shaw appears unsure whether or not his role as the grizzled expert that everyone turns to for help is actually a reincarnation of Quint from Jaws.

John Barry, of James Bond music fame, and disco queen Donna Summer collaborated on the hypnotic, synth-driven main theme music for the film, appropriately titled Down Deep Inside (Theme From The Deep). It turned into a major chart hit and helped drive the success of the film.

Benchley's next book was The Island, published in 1979, about modern-day pirates, and its failure along with the hideous 1980 movie adaptation starring Michael Caine, officially ended his winning streak. The Deep provided some strong hints that it would turn out all wet.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Movie Review: Morning Glory (2010)

Morning Glory is an adequately entertaining but relatively shallow comedy set in the ruthless world of broadcast television.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), a young, enthusiastic television producer, is hired by network executive Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) to revive Daybreak, a desperately under-performing morning show. Becky brings in veteran newscaster Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to co-host the show with resident anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). The grizzled Pomeroy looks down on any and all segments not related to hard news; Becky needs him to buy into the morning show's varied format to rescue the program.

Director Roger Michell's previous credits include the human-centred Changing Lanes (2002) and Notting Hill (1999), and here he again maintains focus on the characters, although despite the efforts of a good cast, none of the key roles reveal too much nuance. Once the personalities are revealed in broad brushes, they dry quickly. The Aline Brosh McKenna script enjoys some funny moments mostly at the expense of the resident weatherman, but generally lacks the sharpness and wit of her work on the juicier The Devil Wears Prada (2006).

McAdams almost overplays the perky, hyperactive, and passionate Becky, whose only future, at this pace, appears to be marrying her work and eating non-stop take-out Chinese dinners. Ford enjoys himself as the dour Mike Pomeroy, a man living off the legend of a formerly distinguished career. Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum add good depth to the cast. Patrick Wilson, as Becky's love interest Adam Bennett is bland to the point of transparency.

Morning Glory does not warrant waking up early; but it is engaging enough not to demand that the channel be changed.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Movie Review: Fame (1980)

The experiences, from auditions to graduation, of students at the New York High School for Performing Arts, Fame is one of Hollywood's best musical dramas.

Doris (Maureen Teefy) is studying to be an actress, but she sees herself as exceedingly plain and not anywhere near glamorous enough to become a successful star. Ralph (Barry Miller) and Montgomery (Paul McCrane) are also studying drama: Ralph is obsessed with the life and death of stand-up comic Freddie Prinze; Montgomery is dealing with being gay.

Coco (Irene Cara) is an ambitious singer, eagerly looking for her big break. She teams up with keyboardist Bruno (Lee Curreri), who has the talent but not the people skills to promote his electronic music. Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray) is a terrific dancer but cannot succeed at school because he's illiterate; Lisa (Laura Dean) wants to be a dancer but has neither the natural talent nor the work ethic to succeed.

Director Alan Parker invites us into the lives of these students using a documentary, gritty approach. With the absence of any stars in front of the camera, and making full use of a Manhattan yet to be scrubbed by corporate dollars, the result feels exceedingly real, as if Parker and his cameras were genuinely intruding into the lives of the students.

The script, by Christopher Gore, effectively creates a multitude of well-rounded characters, who evolve from the nerves of auditions to the confidence of their senior year within two hours. Making each scene count, every student gets a back-story that enhances their personality without detracting from the focus on their high school years.

Fame succeeds in avoiding cliches and most importantly, Parker stays true to his emphasis on reality by eschewing any and all nicely wrapped-up happy endings. We leave the students certainly four years wiser that when we first meet them, but they all have significant unresolved conflicts and challenges still to be overcome.

Within all this emphasis on genuineness, Fame also has a lot of fun. In particular, two musical song and dance numbers are outstanding: the Hot Lunch Jam in the school cafeteria and the celebratory song Fame shutting down a Manhattan street are both spine-tingling classics.

Of the cast members, Irene Cara was catapulted into immediate super-stardom by the success of the songs Fame and Out Here On My Own. The other actors, surprisingly and ironically, achieved little subsequent success. They did, however, leave a terrific legacy in their one shot at fame.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Movie Review: GoldenEye (1995)

A full six years after the previous Bond film, GoldenEye represented a significant franchise re-boot. A new Bond (Pierce Brosnan), and new M (Judi Dench), and the first ever Bond movie set and released after the end of the Cold War.

It's a new world, and M does not think highly of Bond -- she calls him "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur", and "a relic of the Cold War." Still, when control of a Soviet-era military satellite system capable of destroying cities with an electromagnetic pulse falls into the wrong hands, M sends Bond after the mysterious Janus Crime Syndicate.

Janus turns out to be Alec Trevelyan, previously known as Agent 006 (Sean Bean), and formerly believed to have been killed while on a joint mission with Bond. Helping Trevelyan on his quest to destroy London is Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), who get orgasmic delight while killing people, particularly when she is suffocating her victims between her thighs during sex. Also among the bad guys is Soviet-era General Ourumov (Gottfried John) and techno-geek Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming).

Meanwhile, Bond is getting help in and out of bed from Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), a Russian computer programmer. Natalya repeatedly complains that Bond destroys every piece of machinery that he get close to, but that does not prevent her from falling into his arms at every opportunity.

The pursuit of the bad guys takes Bond from Monte Carlo to St. Petersburg, where he commandeers a tank to chase Ourumov through the city streets while being chased by countless army jeeps and police Ladas in one of the most fun chase sequences that the franchise has offered. The story reaches a climax at a hidden satellite control facility in Cuba, with the typical frequency and intensity of loud explosions.

Pierce Brosnan was born to be Bond, and he does not disappoint with his naturally suave persona easily slipping into the Bond world. Judi Dench gives M a new world spin, balancing the incompetence of analysts and accountants with the real threats to global stability. The rest of the cast has limited star power and the characters remain well within the thick lines of typical Bond villains and babes. As has become common, neither Scorupco nor Janssen were able to translate their Bond experience into significant international career success.

GoldenEye may not be a masterpiece, but it probably saved Bond from extinction -- and for that, secret agents and movie fans world-wide are grateful.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Movie Review: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

A study of confinement when injected with a surge of anti-establishment, Cool Hand Luke examines the impact of one free-spirited character on his suffocating environment. A perfect metaphor for the upheavals rocking traditional society in the 1960's, the film resonates today thanks to a terrific cast, clever directing, outstanding cinematography and a haunting music score.

Luke (Paul Newman), a decorated war veteran, is arrested for destroying municipal property: while drunk, he deliberately cuts the heads off parking meters. He is sentenced to two years in a Florida prison camp, where the daily routine involves exhausting labour whacking weeds or paving roads on endless rural highways supervised by shot-gun wielding guards. With his lack of respect for any conventions, Luke quickly agitates Dragline (George Kennedy), the most senior prisoner.

But gradually, Luke earns the respect and then the adulation of all the prisoners with his laid-back but fearless attitude. He does not back-down while pummeled in a fight with Dragline; he non-chalantly wins a poker game with a useless hand; he wins a spur-of-the-moment bet to eat 50 eggs in one hour; and he leads the men to finish a road paving job much quicker than anyone expected, earning them a couple of hours of rest.

When he receives news that his mother has died and the prison guards start to abuse him with solitary confinement, Luke becomes obsessed with escaping. Each time he is caught, the abuse gets worse, his reputation among the prisoners is elevated, and he is spurred to try again, leading to a final conversation with God, and a final confrontation with the guards.

In an example of a star dominating a movie seemingly without even trying, this is one of Paul Newman's defining roles. He conveys emotion and establishes dominance with the sliest of smiles and an economy of words. George Kennedy is the perfect foil, using an excess of physicality and presence to maintain his position as top prison dog. The cast of prisoners is deep with future notables: Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Joe Don Baker are in among the sweaty bodies fighting the weeds and boredom of prison life.

Strother Martin, in charge of the prison as its "captain", gets one of the most famous lines in movie history, courtesy of script writers Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Martin's nasally delivery underlines a legend of short sentence fragments:

"What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week. Which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you men."

In his major film debut, director Stuart Rosenberg paces the film and allows time for the characters and events to unfold. He brilliantly contrasts the open spaces on the highways of Florida against the confined prisoners' quarters, with the irony that the men have more freedom to have fun when left alone in their cramped quarters, as opposed to the ever-present threat of shot-guns over their heads out on the highway.

Working with cinematographer Conrad Hall, Rosenberg paints the movie a gloomy yellowish orange, emanating outdoors from the unforgiving scorching sun and indoors from the men's mostly topless bronzed bodies.

Lalo Schifrin's music score is a mixture of the playful, the downbeat, the menacing and the emotional, all of it hinting at sadness and a sense of doomed destiny.

At once sad, grim, hopeful, funny, and realistic, Cool Hand Luke is a rare example of a star-centred film where all the other elements also shine bright.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Movie Review: Changing Lanes (2002)

In New York, young lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) gets involved in a minor car crash with recovering alcoholic Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson). Both are on their way to court for very different reasons: Banek to help his law firm take control of a large account; Gipson to argue for joint child custody.

The confusion caused by the crash costs both men dearly: Banek loses an essential file that threatens to derail his career. Gipson is late for his court date and loses custody rights, with his ex-wife planning on relocating herself and their kids across the country to Oregon.

With both men desperate, they take out their frustration on each other over the course of a single day, while gradually coming to the realization that they both need to re-examine the trajectories of their lives.

Changing Lanes is an interesting premise, helped by two good performances from Affleck and Jackson, but undermined somewhat by the increasingly over-the-top actions forced on the two men by an uncompromising script. Banek is quick to illegally destroy Gipson's credit rating, thereby ruining his frail hold on a normal life. He also gets him arrested by framing him for child abduction. In revenge, Gipson seems to have little hesitation in putting Banek's life in real danger on the freeway.

These are not the actions of most normal men, and the exaggerated battle distances the characters from the real world that the movie is otherwise desperate to inhabit.

A rich supporting cast adds interest and helps to paper over some of the cracks. Sydney Pollack, in a purely acting role, is Banek's father-in-law and one of the senior partners in his law firm. William Hurt is Gipson's mentor at Alcoholics Anonymous. And Amanda Peet is Banek's wife, as cold and ruthless as her Dad. Toni Collette as Banek's fellow-lawyer and former lover, and Richard Jenkins as another senior partner at the firm, ensure terrific depth.

Changing Lanes ends with some welcome vagueness about the future of both men. Some restraint in the lead-up to the denouement would have been equally welcome.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

CD Review: Badmotorfinger, by Soundgarden (1991)

The most metallic grunge band this side of Nirvana, Seattle's Soundgarden were capable of producing moments of power and brilliance that could hold their own in any metal landscape.

On Badmotorfinger, the band's third album, five songs dominate, and four of them lead-off the album: Rusty Cage, Outshined, Slaves and Bulldozers, and Jesus Christ Pose are the front four, and towards the back of the album is Holy Water. All five are among the best known anthems of grunge, and deservedly so. Without ever reaching peaks of absolute brilliance, they offer the depth of metal sound mixed with a punk ethic, driven by grand chords, innnovative sounds and hooked-up melodies.

Unfortunately for the overall album quality, there are seven other tracks on Badmotorfinger, including some pretty desperate and lame material. Face Pollution and Somewhere carry the stench of expired filler, and Mind Riot is not much better. Overall, the twelve tracks are about four too many.

Chris Cornell on vocals is a one man perpetual high energy source, his range of octaves equaled only by the range of his emotions, with his average intensity level bouncing between anguished and agonized.

The rest of the band is more about the collective than the individual, with an appealing wall of sound created for each track rather than individual moments of brilliance. Whether it's the mix or the talent, Ben Shepherd's bass is generally missing in action and conspicuously absent when the opportunity is there to dominate.

Three years after Badmotofinger Soundgarden went on to record the more famous but quite bloated Superunknown. Although not necessarily better, Badmotorfinger was the less pretentious, and perhaps more honest, album.


Chris Cornell - Vocals, Guitar
Kim Thayil - Guitar
Matt Cameron - Drums
Ben Shepherd - Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Rusty Cage - 9
2. Outshined - 8
3. Slaves and Bulldozers - 9
4. Jesus Christ Pose - 9
5. Face Pollution - 5
6. Somewhere - 5
7. Searching With My Good Eye Close - 7
8. Room A Thousand Years Wide - 7
9. Mind Riot - 6
10. Drawing Flies - 7
11. Holy Water - 9
12. New Damage - 7

Average: 7.33

Produced by Terry Date and Soundgarden. Engineered by Terry Date.
Mixed by Ron St. Germain. Mastered by Howie Weinberg.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

CD Review: Wildhoney, by Tiamat (1994)

Less an album than a continuous soundtrack to a spaced-out journey of the mind, Wildhoney is filled with synthesizer-driven interludes that may sound cool as background music to a multi-coloured psychedelic journey for the easily impressed. As a heavy metal album, it's not very good.

Of the six meaningful tracks, The Ar registers some soul and power. The other five songs vary from the mundane to the mediocre passing through the muddled, and by and large they are forgettable.

Wildhoney was the fourth and by far most famous studio album from Sweden's Tiamat, primarily a vehicle for vocalist / guitarist Johan Edlund with a revolving door of other musicians.

The band theoretically focused on gothic metal, but in terms of sound and mood, Wildhoney is less about the gothic and more about the garishly galactic.


Johnny Hagel - Bass
Johan Edlund - Vocals, Guitar
Magnus Sahlgren - Guitar
Lars Skold - Drums
Waldemar Sorychta - Keyboards

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Wildhoney - n/a (short instrumental)
2. Whatever That Hurts - 7
3. The Ar - 8
4. 25th Floor - n/a (short instrumental)
5. Gaia - 6
6. Visionaire - 7
7. Kaleidoscope - n/a (short instrumental)
8. Do You Dream Of Me? - 6
9. Planets - n/a (short instrumental)
10. A Pocket Size Sun - 5

Average: 6.50

Produced by Waldemar Sorychta.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

CD Review: Stick It To Ya, by Slaughter (1990)

The frustration with Stick It To Ya is how much better it could have been as an album, had the bloated track list been trimmed.

Adding Loaded Gun to the first eight tracks and releasing a nine-song set would have resulted in a much more highly regarded album. As it stands, the album is a good one third longer than it needs to be, and the back-end is padded with forgettable and sometimes outright poor tracks like That's Not Enough, You Are The One, and Gave Me Your Heart. And the acoustic version of Fly To The Angels, sucking the power out of a power ballad, is also an unnecessary addition.

Arriving really late to the glam metal party, Slaughter, from Las Vegas, was formed from the ashes of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, and released Stick It To Ya as their debut. It was to remain their most commercially successful release.

The good parts of the album tend to be the more up-tempo tracks, mixing the best elements of Bon Jovi-type anthems with some confident and surprisingly edgy energy to deliver songs like Eye To Eye, Up All Night, Mad About You and Loaded Gun. The late Tim Kelly on guitar drives these tracks, never pretending to be a great soloist, but making up with dedication and commitment what he lacks in talent. Mark Slaughter's raspy, higher-pitched vocals are pleasingly distinctive, while Blas Elias on drums and Dana Strum on the bass provide a thumping foundation to build on.

And a special mention of the album cover, with artwork by Glen Wexler and Hugh Syme that is moodier and more distinctive than most metal fare.

A case study in why it's useful to leave'em wanting more, Stick It To Ya contains many memorable moments, and in its overgrown state, just as many regrettable ones.


Mark Slaughter - Vocals, Guitar
Dana Strum - Bass
Tim Kelly - Guitar
Blas Elias - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Eye To Eye - 9
2. Burnin' Bridges - 7
3. Up All Night - 8
4. Spend My Life - 7
5. Thinking Of June - n/a (short instrumental)
6. She Wants More - 7
7. Fly To The Angels - 8
8. Mad About You - 10
9. That's Not Enough - 6
10. You Are The One - 5
11. Gave Me Your Heart - 6
12. Desperately - 7
13. Loaded Gun - 9
14. Fly To The Angels (Acoustic Version) - 7
15. Wingin' It - n/a (short joke track)

Average: 7.38

Produced by Dana Strum and Mark Slaughter.
Engineered by Andy Chappel. Mastered by Bob Ludwig.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Book Review: The Last Living Slut, by Roxana Shirazi (2010)

It will always be difficult to understand the mind of a groupie. While prostitutes and porn stars have the common sense to try and get paid for having sex with random strangers, groupies are happy to be treated like meat just as long as the man claims some connection to rock music.

The Last Living Slut, the autobiography of groupie Roxana Shirazi, is only interesting in as far as it confirms some well-known patterns about girls who lose their way. Growing up in Iran at the time of the 1979 revolution, Roxana had an absentee, drug-addicted father; a mother distracted by politics and busy participating in anti-government demonstrations instead of looking after her daughter; random male strangers abusing her; and a step-father who beat her. Raised by her grandmother, she had no clue what a positive male role model looks like when she was shipped off to England at age 10, again with her grandmother and in the absence of parental guidance.

No wonder then that as soon as she could, she was looking for love in all the wrong places, and while many girls would end up on the street selling themselves, Roxana fell in love with the rock and roll life style and made herself sexually available to any man who postured on-stage.

The book is a numbingly endless sequence of ever more sordid sexual encounters with names famous, once-famous, and never famous from the world of hard rock and heavy metal, with Roxana repeatedly and foolishly believing that she is falling in love with any rocker who offered anything more than anonymous copulation. That the men want nothing more than female flesh is painfully obvious; that Roxana cannot tell the difference between lust and love is just sad in the extreme. Most pathetic is her ability to convince herself that she is in love with one man while simultaneously seeking meaningless sex with numerous other random men.

Roxana predictably spirals downwards, her adventures leading to a drug-induced seizure, an abortion, a suicide attempt, depression and a stint at a psych ward. No warning sign seems to convince her that aging rockers are not a high-probability pool to find a suitable male partner in life. After each of her life tragedies, she is back for more abuse. Her story is stranger than most in that she seems to have enough intelligence to pursue higher education at the university level but not the smarts needed to extricate herself from a life of agony as a groupie.

The Last Living Slut is not witty nor funny. It is just a sad peek into the fetid sewer that flows below the world of rock music, and specifically the women who, for whatever reason, choose to immerse themselves in the rancid, contaminated filth, and then wonder why they can't find true love.

Subtitled Born In Iran, Bred Backstage.
Published in hardcover by HarperCollins.
315 pages, including colour and black and white photos.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review Index is here.

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