Still wild at heart
The Japandroids’ breakout album, Celebration Rock, was a surprising thrill for the way it translated euphoria into guitar-driven indie rock. But a lot has changed since 2012. And Japandroids’ Near to the Wild Heart of Life (★★★) isn’t overflowing with frantic energy the way its predecessor was. It’s there in the fist-pumping No Known Drink or Drug, which effortlessly gathers speed to a memorable conclusion in about three minutes. And on North East South West, they offer both a tour bus travelogue and plenty of Canadian shout-outs. –Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Train off track
Train’s new album, A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat (★★1⁄2), continues the odd Benjamin Button-like trajectory of the band’s artistic view. Since the success of the peppy Hey Soul Sister, Train seems more interested in teen pop. It starts with the fizzy Drink Up, which sounds like a Maroon 5 rejection, while the first single, Play That Song, is built around a riff that sounds like Blue Moon, one of the first songs kids learn on the piano. That’s a track Train needs to switch from quickly. – Glenn Gamboa, Newsday.
Hanks goes corporate
As A Hologram For The King‘s (M, ★★★) IT executive trying to close a deal in Saudi Arabia, Tom Hanks displays resonant traces of a Willy Loman-like mortality in his ageing corporate everyman, which German filmmaker Tom Tykwer expertly balances against the otherworldly contradictions of the desert kingdom where a traditional theocracy is awash in the symbols of fiscal excess. Perpetually off-kilter, Alan is the comic protagonist in a labyrinthine existence that always keeps the humour at an uneasy edge. The movie, an adaptation of Dave Eggers’ 2012 novel of the same name, captures the mercenary basis of corporate culture and Tykwer’s love for the visual information conveyed by architecture, but it narrows in scope quickly as romance takes hold.– Craig Mathieson, Fairfax
Singing and dancing Queen
Winner of a bonny baby competition, Irishman Rory O’Neill was always something of an exotic bird. But it wasn’t until he escaped 1980s Dublin for the bright lights of Tokyo that he found his true calling. Reborn as drag queen Panti Bliss, O’Neill’s lip-synching and stand-up comedy became a hit worldwide. Both a fascinating account of significant culture change and a terrific portrait of a larger-than-life figure, Conor Horgan’s delightful documentary The Queen of Ireland (R13,★★★★) is a perfect mix of the factual and the fun. – James Croot
Panti Bliss in The Queen of Ireland.