Once (2007)

I found out about “Once” while watching extras to the film Begin Again.  Once was written & directed by the same director — John Carney — and stars Irish musician/actor Glen Hansard and Czech musician/actress Markéta Irglová.

Usually when I make note of a music-related film it’s because I strongly related to it relative to music — it struck a chord (no pun intended) in me, it spoke to me about the experience and the inexpiable thing that is music … this one is hard to write about.  More than anything I think for me this film speaks to me because of the busking and because of the from-the-core music of the male lead, played by Irish musician/actor Glen Hansard.

Frankly, it’s difficult to write about because I missed about 15 minutes of the film about 1 hour in — the DVD sketched out, which is a typical problem with films I get from the library.  From what I could tell visually I predict that there were important elements to the story line, especially having to do with the ending.  It was very disappointing and I’d like to get my hands on a non-blemished copy so I can get the full story.  I liked that the film was shot hand-held — it made it feel human, that you were with the guy & gal leads having their experience.  Which is another thing … I didn’t realize until I saw the credits that they never have names in the film — as listed in the credits, they are “guy” & “girl”.

Maybe the two areas where this particularly spoke to me …

  • One, it was shot on the streets of Dublin.  I’ve barely spent four days there, but places were familiar.  I particularly recognized parts around the Temple Bar area, and know that a lot of famous performers out of Ireland have come from there.  Despite aspects that didn’t register well with me — that it’s a tourist town with too many poor mannered American college kids, and there are a lot of immigrants and it was hard to find Irish people in Dublin/Ireland — I no less came away knowing that I wanted to return and see more of not just the city but the country.
  • Two, I identified with this film from the standpoint of being a broke musician — dealing with the challenges that come with trying to survive, trying to live your passion (music), and trying to keep your music supported financially when you are struggling to pay rent and for food.

Also, similar to what I got out of Begin Again, I think this film spoke to me about going for it with your music — being venerable with your art and releasing every inhibition to touch the depth of each emotion present in a tune, in a song, and playing it despite judgment, despite an audience, and regardless of what stage you’re on.

Ultimately, about this film, I can’t put my finger on why I’m writing about this one or its importance why a musician or non-musician should see it — but there is something about it that I can’t let it go without note, it touches something inexpiable which is a huge part of music itself.  This film is not just a story, it’s not just a vignette of drama, it does not fall into the ranks of ‘just a music film’ as it is music itself.

I think it’s fair to say that there are some common threads that go through this film that also go through Begin Again, and given how I responded to Begin Again maybe that’s why I respond to its predecessor Once.

PS – I essentially just watched the film a second time.  Without giving anything away, there is an element to the ending – perhaps a few, but one in particular – that to me is beautiful, it is subtle yet it is powerful, it is joy and it is balance.  You might & you might not see it; it may be a musician thing.  If you don’t see it, that’s okay.

Once at IMDB and Wikipedia

Glen Hansard at IMDBWikipedia, and his Official Website

Markéta Irglová at IMDB Wikipedia and her Official website

John Carney at IMDB and Wikipedia

Begin Again (2013)

Cut to the chase — in fact, it makes sense for me me to start on that given how this film struck me.  The story is good, but it wasn’t the important thing to me, but it supported what I saw as the bigger point to the film … which maybe comes out to a musician viewing the film as opposed to a non-musician.  So maybe now you’re saying I haven’t cut to the chase, but you’d be wrong — I’m coming off as cryptic because I haven’t written the rest of my point supporting my what would be cryptic.

Right, so, let’s get on with it.

So here’s the basis of the story …

A British song-writer breaks-up with her rising-pop-star boyfriend and gets noticed for one of her songs by an out-of-work record producer when she performs at an open-mic in NYC the night before she was going to return to England.  The music producer convinces her to stay and record an album with him but they don’t have money or other support to make it.  Through portable gear and musicians of varying abilities they take her songs to the streets and record live around New York.  The first track gets recorded in an alley, another in Central Park, one on a train platform, the last on the roof of a building.

Here’s my thing from this film …

To date I have more than 30 concepts for albums that I want to record.  To date I have done a lot of work toward five or twelve of these and haven’t recorded a single note maybe beyond a few demos.  Five or so years ago I got myself into a playing-skill space over a three-day weekend.  I was back in school at the time — busy — I felt that if I could keep working during the coming school week that I could belt out recording my part the following weekend.  Well, I returned to school, was busy with school work (remember, ‘busy’), and didn’t continue to practice hence I didn’t make the recording.  But what if I had?  What if I just made the recording, even if I wasn’t that little blip further along in my ability.  I thought of it then, figuring that I’d be better off to do it, to make it, — to have a recording to work with it if I didn’t get to push for that little bit better playing ability.

Why not record?  Why not record every performance, record every time you’re close to the idea you want to record?  I’m not talking about studio recording – I can’t record that, many musicians can’t.  I’m talking about personal gear.  These days you can get good equipment that’s pretty easy to use, really for not much money.  At a guess, I’ve spent about a thousand dollars on music gear — about half new and half used.  I’ve read a little how to use it, I’ve experimented with it, I’ve asked advise of folks who are in the know, and I’ve captured recordings that sound at least pretty good – recordings that can be worked with.  Likely, had I recorded and later recorded the other musicians, got the album finished, let’s face it … it wouldn’t have been the last time I played those numbers … and I could have recorded them again.  I could have taken the album and booked myself for small performances, maybe had something special happen on some night, and recorded that too.

I’m not saying playing bad is good or making a garbage recording is acceptable.  Play well and make a good recording, but neither have to be some ideal of ‘perfection’.  It’d be better to play, perform, and record as opposed to never doing any.  The Grateful Dead recorded their songs, released, and once touring always played exactly as they did on their albums?  NO!  Their recordings were a foundation to work from, to create upon.  Record – get the playing, get the moment, do it instead of don’t, you may get something unique.

I didn’t cut to the chase, did I?

By the way … if you like Begin Again — which was directed by John Carney — I urge you to watch Once (2007), which Mr. Carney both wrote & directed.

Begin Again at IMDB and Wikipedia

Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage (2010)

This film gave me a renewed interest for the band.

I appreciated that the band has always made their music their way rather regardless of industry trends.  For them the creativity and pushing their skill is what is most important.

Using and transitioning between different time signatures has always been an important element to their music — and they do so seamlessly.  With this a musician who understands time signatures follows along and is impressed by their work and yet with the seamless transitions someone who is not musically inclined follows their music and also experiences the energy of their work.  While this makes them a musician’s band they have always also been the people’s band.

Rush – Beyond The Lighted Stage at IMDB and Wikipeida

Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz (2013)

Red Blood

As far as I’m concerned Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz does not deserve the honor of a review or a comment on my webpage — but — I bought a copy, I’ve seen it, and I’m fairly thorough …. and I’ll share my opinion for other film fans of a genere to see something great or avoid something terrible.

Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz = AVOID

So there are a few things that happen in HolloWood that really stink up art, films, creative ideas …. and I mean stink up like the scrapings from the dog park at the end of a July weekend.  One of them is excessive creative liberties …. “I paid for the license on this story, and now regardless of whatever that story is I can do what I want — and I do!”  Another one is the thought that world federation wrestlers, extreme fighters, or ultimate weight lifters can act …. instead of putting them out to pasture once they’ve body-slammed their brains out or whatever, someone tries putting them into film.  Sometimes that works — a great example would be Dwayne Johnson — not only did we get lucky there, we got a real gift.  Usually what’s done is they put them in high-action/low-story roles, and because there’s a bunch of action it must be a good film.  WRONG!

This film takes the setting of Outpost and tries to give the back-story — the origins of the machine and the experiments — and strings along a battle-royal with some Russian Special Forces soldiers who come off more as resistance fighters and ultimately does nothing to establish the subtitle of the ‘rise of the Spetsnaz‘.

The opportunity for a quality, meaningful, story-establishing prequel to Outpost (2008) was entirely missed with Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz.  As my understanding goes, there was more money wasted on Rise of the Spetsnaz than there was spent on making Outpost: Black Sun (2012).  Black Sun is in my mind a superior film to ROTSpetnaz.  Black Sun derivatives from the character of the original 2008 film but stays enough within the universe.  Rise of the Spetnaz just took the setting and did whatever it wanted for the sake of making some meatheads an acting career.  In Black Sun the world is being threatened by the machine and the un-dead phase-shifting nazi super soldiers, and had the money that was thrown away in making ROTSpetnaz been put to Black Sun it could have delivered this world-threat development better.

I now own the 2008, 2012, and 2013 Outpost films.  I’m glad to have seen all three to know all the ground covered with the original idea, but had I known what was done with Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz I wouldn’t have paid ten cents for a copy.

Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz (2013) at IMDB and Wikipedia

Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

Yellow Puss

The short writing about this film is this …. at one time I had a longer writing …. it’s relative to that time that I thought I didn’t need to back-up my hard drive.

More or less to say, the additional film that should have been made to compliment the original 2008 Outpost.  The story works, you get to revisit the dangerous location found in the original film and yet go further in.  The phase-shifting zombie-nazis are now more of a threat — in this case, to the whole world!  There are some creative liberties I could have done without.  The sad thing is that this film has less money behind it (or at least to my understanding) than the 2013 Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz and did far more to carry the story line.  Had only the wasted Rise of the Spetsnaz money been put to this film then Black Sun could have been even better.  If you liked the original Outpost, see Outpost: Black Sun —  skip seeing Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz.

Outpost: Black Sun (2012) at IMDB and Wikipedia

Outpost (2008)

Green Ooze – BagpiperDon’s +/- Top 10

This film was my first exposure to zombie nazis. I found a copy of the film on DVD at a liquidator store for $3 — figuring that it was going to be a roach, I was just too amused at the combination of zombies & nazis, and found out that it was a fantastic film.

Oh, and if you get really opinionated about the film, you can debate as to whether or not the nazis are zombies, phase-shifting zombies, or humans transformed into ghosts. Regardless, in this humble Highland bagpiper’s z-film opinion, this flick kicks ass.

Die Glocke AKA The Bell on Wikipedia

Outpost ‘Behind The Scenes’ Featurette

Outpost official page movie on Facebook

Outpost (2008) – IMDBWikipedia,  and Rotten Tomatoes

Outpost: Black Sun – the pretty-darn-good 2012 direct-to-DVD sequel

Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz – the garbage 2013 prequel that Should Not have been made

Billy Elliot (2000)

Green Ooze

At first blush this film appears to be about a boy in Northern England who trades his boxing gloves for ballet toe-shoes, and is otherwise absolutely grossly devoid of zombies. However, I am fairly sure the sick grandmother charactre is in the beginning stages of turning into an undead person. I predict that the film “Billy Elliot 2 – The Years Between” will be made; this will reveal the zombie outbreak, teen-Billy’s epic trials of battle & survival, and rebuilding of society where we rejoin Billy at the end of film 1 having freed himself from his zombie-apocalypse PTSD through ballet. Oh yeah … mark my words, Billy Elliot 2 will be made … any day now … I’m sure of it.

Billy Elliot (2000) at IMDB and Wikipedia

American Zombie (2007)

Yellow Puss

A mocumentary* suggesting that the reanimated dead live among us — from wild or low functioning zombies all the way to high functioning zombies who can pass for being human**. It’s amusing, a lot of subtle humor that sometimes you have to be paying attention and think for (God help us if we have to actually think!) — it could very well be a film that was shot right before some sort of mass zombie outbreak and consequent attack. This film, however, I feel would bore the life out of a non-Z-film-fan, but would be a good chuckle to fans of zombie genre.
* Mocumentary – a fictitious documentary
** Which could help to explain a few of the people I’ve met, particularly in the work-place and management.

American Zombie (2007) at IMDB

 

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Green Ooze nearing-Yellow Puss

When I saw that a part-2 was coming to 28 Days Later I was beyond excited. Only a few years earlier I saw the original on DVD and with this addition I could exercise my fandom with everyone else … then life happened and I found myself too busy & too broke to catch 28 Weeks Later in theaters.

Now viewing this this film 364 weeks (that’d be 7 years) after the release, I’m finding myself … well, I wouldn’t say that 28WL is a warm-over of 28DL, but I’m finding it bothersome that as many images & details along with elements of Jim & Saleena’s journey were drawn from 28DL. One could argue that someone had 1/2 to 2/3rds of the concept necessary for a part-2 flick and the rest of the script was filler from the original. When you watched Batman Begins, Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises, did you notice the identical components between the films? I did, and I made an Excel file tracking them — it’s unbelievable — the 3 films largely work off the same scenes, stunts, etc. When it comes to 28DL and 28WL I am seriously considering making a similar file — it might predict what will bee seen in 28 Years Later.

I liked that the film was set in the after-math of a zombie out-break — I’ve seen films where a population of survivors are holding out, but not during the reconstruction of a society. Overall it isn’t that this film left me wanting more, it left me wanting at least a little better. Without giving a spoiler I will say this for the film, it has a happy ending.

28 Weeks Later (2007) at IMDB
28 Weeks Later (2007) at Wikipedia

A NOTE ABOUT THE “28 Days/Weeks Later” SERIES from BagpiperDon (06September2014)

Sometimes hind-sight sneaks up and stabs you in the back like a grumpy UFO ninja pirate. In this case, I have been holding an inner-debate for the past few weeks as to whether I should include the 28D/WLater series in my inventory. Why?

Simple, I’m not 100% convinced that these are zombie films.

In the 28-series the threat is from rage infected people and my impression is that these people become dead and continue to be animated as a result of the infection; further they are never shown as dead who are reanimated by the virus. Like the films Quarantine and Carriers, the 28D/WL-series are infection films, not zombie films. So why have I left them in my review? For that matter, why are the Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness films in my review, too?

Again, the answer is ‘Simple‘ — I like them, and this is my webpage — I can do what I want.

Maybe as zombie-film fans we need to question, though, “Do zombies have to be dead?” In VooDoo zombieism commonly is about a person who is controlled under the spell of another and during that time they are mindless, but they are not dead. The zombie genre is largely not defined, so perhaps there is room for an infection of some sort to make living people zombies. In other words, so long as people are mindless and functioning, they can be zombies … now zombieism can include office workers, managers, politicians, die-hard pot-heads, and sleep-deprived parents with newborns.

That said …

If you dislike my “It’s my webpage & I can do what I want” attitude, trust me, it’s better than having a grumpy UFO ninja pirate sneak up and stab you in the back … particularly when they have bad breath.

28 Days Later (2002)

Green Ooze – BagpiperDon’s +/- Top 10

I came to own a copy of this film by accident and I couldn’t be happier!

While I won’t give away the ending to a film, in this case I won’t give you the exact beginning either — but the film really starts when Jim, a bike-messenger wakes up from a coma in an abandoned Emergency Room.  He has to figure out the enigma of where everyone is, and what happened 28 days  earlier after he got hit by a car in London.

This was my first introduction to Cillian Murphy and I’ve come to love his work.  This was also my first introduction to Naomie Harris — who I’ve come to love … her work.  You also get to see the work of the fabulous Brendan Gleeson.  All together directed by Danny Boyle , 28 Days Later goes for your throat, your heart, and chases you down dark alleys of humanity.

Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, & Naomie Harris

This was the first time I saw fast moving zombies, and for me that really CRANKS UP the zombie threat level — the shambling thing never really did it for me. Apparently the shamble-vrs-fast thing is a debate among zombie fans — and I can see both sides of it, but after seeing fast I think I know what side of the fence I fall on…

I’ve heard that the part-2 film “28 Weeks Later” is a warm-over of the original film, but I still want to see it. There is also a graphic novel or two out there that further tell the story which I’d like to get my hands & eyes on — so the next time you’re wondering what to get BagpiperDon for his birthday, Xmas, celebration of next album release, etc … now you know.

28 Days Later (2002) on IMDB and Wikipedia

Further proof that 28 Days Later is AWESOME — here’s the review at RottenTomatoes.com