Reviews

G-Force

G-Force's dedication to egregious stereotypes is hackneyed and indefensible: this is how racism lives on.


G-Force

Director: Hoyt Yeatman
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Will Arnett, Penélope Cruz, Bill Nighy
Rated: PG
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-07-24 (General release)
UK date: 2009-07-31 (General release)
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Trailer

How do you get from Volver to G-Force? While there are surely more interesting and worthy questions you might ask PenÄlope Cruz, this one might come to mind on seeing G-Force, also known as the "first 3-D animated feature" from producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Cruz is surely not the voice actor who might be queried regarding this feeble effort. But as the super-spy team's designated girl, a guinea pig with big eyes named Juarez, she does stand out. This premise does not go unnoticed by the team's eligible boys, Darwin (Sam Rockwell) and Blaster (Tracy Morgan). They spend a little too much time trying to get her attention, or rather, to gauge her level of "interest" in them, "interest" being the apparent term of art for guinea pigs who must perform as adults (undercover agents with gizmos and weapons) and children (identification points for the presumed target audience) at the same time.

Granted, this is a difficult line to walk. But this movie is hardly interested in difficulties, or subtleties or even those pleasures that might be taken in watching animated rodents act out childish fantasies. Rather, G-Force, deeply unclever and unoriginal, is a slap-dash, high-concept mish-mash of Transformers and Alvin and the Chipmunks that condescends to its presumed viewers in the most tedious ways.

It didn't have to be this way. There is a sliver of parody in the early going, when Darwin and his team -- including the nerdy mole Speckles (Nic Cage) and prompted by their human chief Ben (Zach Galifiankis) -- infiltrate a mansion owned by home appliances magnate Leonard Saber (Bill Nighy). The deployment of teeny gizmos is cute, the obstacles to be overcome are predictable but not offensive (sensitive-nosed guard dogs, clumsy human feet), and the team's tech-talk is what you'd expect from a screenplay drawing from every available precursor, from James Bond to Indiana Jones, True Lies to Wanted.

After this bit of insider's business, however, when the plot kicks in, the movie pretty much slides off the rails. Darwin sees computer-file evidence of a scheme to exterminate the world -- via microchips implanted in microwave ovens and coffee makers Saber has sold -- and duly believes he's done good work. In order to extend the movie's running time, however, this achievement must be thwarted. As Ben and his assistant Marcie (Kelli Garner) imagine they will be rewarded, especially for training guinea pigs to rappel and parachute off buildings and drive little cars, as well as speak English with the use of micro-translators, they soon learn this is not the case. Something goes wrong in their presentation to FBI Special Agent in Charge Kip Killian (Will Arnett), who the orders their lab shut down and the guinea pigs confiscated.

Mini-mayhem follows: they rodents, for a minute, by hiding in a cage en route to a pet store. Here they meet another big-hearted, if clumsy, guinea pig, Hurley (Jon Favreau), and a conniving hamster, Bucky (Steve Buscemi), before Blaster and Juarez are taken home by a couple of kids. The bull older brother Connor (Tyler Patrick Jones) sends Blaster through an obstacle course on a remote-controlled car, while decidedly uncharming Penny (Piper Mackenzie Harris) dresses up Juarez in a tiara and lipstick. The guinea pigs fight back, in a sequence where the kids are knocked down and generally abused, essentially for trying to remake their new pets in their own stereotypical gender images. (This punishment seems an odd choice, in a movie that wants to connect kid viewers with its little animal heroes.)

After eluding mostly clueless FBI agents in big fast cars (in a sequence lifted from Toy Story 2), the guinea pigs team is reunited -- just in time to bond over their mutual misfitness and combat those computerized appliances, now triggered into borgy hive-mind mode. As the action descends into the sort of mindless crash-and-burn explosions and effects that characterize the Transformers franchise, the protagonists' cuteness pretty much falls by the wayside.

This much might be expected, of course, if not precisely forgiven. More hackneyed and less defensible is the movie's dedication to egregious stereotypes, not only with regard to gender, but also race and ethnicity. Even as the guinea pigs -- whose DNA, you learn apropos of nothing, is "98.7% identical to humans" -- perform their ludicrous stunts and fart jokes, name-check icons like Macgyver, and quote repeatedly from other movies (Indiana Jones, Apocalypse Now, Die Hard), they also flaunt their status as dreary clichés: while Darwin is bland and white-bready, Juarez, for all her tomboyishness, is reduced to muttering about her dress size and urging her boys to "vamos," and Blaster must thrill to a newly outfitted vehicle by exclaiming, "Pimp my ride!" There are not enough explosions on the planet to cover over such noise.

2

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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