Category Archives: Movie

Movie reviews, suggested movies for musicians to view, etc

Joyeux Noël AKA Merry Christmas (2005)

I’ve wanted to watch the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël” (AKA Merry Christmas) for years — finally got to and I’m very glad I did!  One could easily say that every piper, every musician, and every person ought to.

We all know the setting…

The Great War, which of course later came to be known as World War I and lasted from 28July1914 to 11November1918.  It is viewed as being the first modern war and the most destructive.

Scottish soldiers in a WWI trench
Emerging from the trenches with Silent Night in the film.

During the first year of the war there were a number of informal and unauthorized “Christmas truces“, where men on both sides of the Western Front line stopped fighting to celebrate the holiday … and in some cases met in the middle to celebrate together.  Joyeux Noël is a dramatization of a group of French, Scottish, and German soldiers.  Having heard Silent Night on bagpipes from trench and the singing of the classic song by a German vocalist in another trench, they rose and met on No Man’s Land in one of these truces.

Maybe I think too much, this gets listed as an anti-war film.  I’m not always sure what makes a song or a film (etc) an anti-war piece — or to say, some are more obvious and direct than others.  What I am clear on is that Joyeux Noël shows that we as different cultures can set aside our differences, meet together peacefully, and share what we have in common.  To me some of the significance of this film has to do with universal languages — among those I believe are math and music.  As musicians we bring people together — in good times, in bad times, and bridging our different languages.  The lyrics may sound different but the music is the same.

Here are my side-notes on this film — in other words, these are the not important things I observed …

To me this film looked great — the costumes were good, there were four languages in this film (so long as you count the priest delivering a sermon in Latin), the acting was good, and so far as I could tell everything was period correct.  According to Wikipedia, Joyeux Noël had a budget of $22 million and brought in only $17,709,155 at the box office.  This happens — a well made film with a beautiful message … clearly it did not go unnoticed, and from when I’ve talked about wanting to see it the film apparently resonates in the collective conscious … but I’m saddened that this didn’t get as much notice in the theater that it profited let alone broke even.

As a musician I of course enjoy seeing when singers and instrumentalists are given focus in a film or in a TV show — especially when pipes are featured in a film.  I’m also accustom to these not actually featuring singers or musicians. In the case of this film the actors-not-singing is glaringly obvious — the lip syncing is painful.  The bagpiping in this film is also synced (pipe-synced?), which is understandable — finding actors who play bagpipes is uncommon (yep, sorry — Viggo Mortensen doesn’t actually play pipes in Captain Fantastic, although the filmmakers did a very good job of making it look like he did and Viggo trained hard to look as-so).  The pipe-syncing is both good & bad in Joyeux Noël.  When pipers start playing and then stop playing but the tune continues … that’s bad.  However, at times in this film the actors-not-pipers are seen playing and they actually do a considerably accurate job of appearing to play … so to some extent these guys actually trained — WOW!

The one other hang-up I had, or call it that if you will — there were four sets of bagpipes in the film.  Four clearly bran new, shiny sets of pipes.  I find it hard to imagine that pipes exposed to such conditions would be in such good shape, but this is a small thing so let’s look past it.

Okay, before I get any more into the weeds, let’s just say this — Joyeux Noël was a heck of a film — see it, it well deserves its time in the sun.

Joyeux Noël AKA Merry Christmas

Make no mistake, this is not a buddy-comedy film

 

Rammbock Berlin Undead (2011)

Once again, a review in note vrs essay form by DPScobie
Rated – Yellow Puss

I think this is the first non-English-language zombie film I’ve seen. When I saw this on the library shelf I grabbed it up precisely for that reason — in this case, Germany. Personally, I watch DVDs with the subtitles on because I find I follow the story better — I’m glad that this DVD also had English audio over-dub. Also, I found that I had a hard time doing what I usually do while watching movies — type or work on a small hand project — I really had to just-watch the film. Yeah, I know, actually ‘watch a film’ — what a concept — it’s how I prefer to view films & spend my viewing time.

Things are looking up!

Zombie bite + angry victim = another zombie
Potentially the human immune system can beat the zombie infection over time providing the victim stays calm while their body beats the infection

The zombies are rather rabid, including frothing & drooling at the mouth

Initially this doesn’t have The Journey” element (for the first 54 minutes of the film) — instead the people are trapped in their apartments

The zombies are repelled by strobes because their retina’s are sensitive to the light

Has a bit of a 28 Days Later vibe to it — like this is the B-team in the same story line

When in a zombie apocalypse, find a nice guy in a gray sweater — he’ll take a dive for you

I’m unclear if there are supposed to be some comedic elements — this could be the difference in the timing between the original German execution and the English over-dubs

She’s not your mother anymore!!!

Deals with the personal experience of a person changing from a human to a zombie

Shows people who aren’t able to handle the stress and emotions of the catastrophe, killing themselves in various ways

The film is shorter than what I’m used to — it ends (goes to credits) around 58 minutes

There’s a fun & campy video in the bonus features — a PSA on zombie identification & eradication

ENGLISH DIALOG
Ladies and gentlemen, The German parliament has authorized the immediate use of military force. A state of emergency has been declared according to article 35 of the constitution. It is now clear that a pervasive epidemic is spreading via a virus of unknown origin. The pathogen is thought to be transmitted by bodily fluids exchanged through bites from infected individuals. Within hours or perhaps minutes the virus spreads through the body. Infection does not mean a full blown illness. The pathogen only enters the brain when the body releases adrenaline. I repeat, adrenaline released under strong emotional stress activates the illness. If you think you may be infected, it is very important to stay clam. Stay away from others and, if possible, sedate yourself. There are indications that the immune system can conquer the disease if the illness remains dormant. If illness develops, seek safety away from the infected person. Under no circumstances should one attract their attention, even if they are family members or friends. Remain calm. If you are in an urban area do not try to leave on your own. All major traffic routes have been blocked. The army is preparing to evacuate large cities via waterways. Stay in a safe place. Barricade your doors and windows. Keep your radios on. As information becomes available this station will broadcast the latest updates. You are urged to stay tuned and, as we stated earlier, remain calm. Authorities are working to find a solution to the crisis and medical personnel are treating infected victims at make-shift crisis centers across the city.

SUBTITLES
a pervasive epidemic is spreading
via a virus of unknown origin
The pathogen
is transmitted by bodily fluids
via bites and bleeding wounds.
Within minutes or hours, the virus spreads
through the body.
Infection does not mean
a full blown illness.
The pathogen only enters the brain
when the body releases adrenaline.
I repeat, adrenaline released under strong emotional stress
activates the illness.
If you think you may be infected, it is very important to stay clam.
Stay away from others.
If possible, sedate yourself.
There are indications that the immune system
can conquer the disease if the illness remains dormant.
If illness develops, seek safety
away from the infected person.
Under no circumstances
should one attract attention,
even if they are family members or friends.
Remain calm.
If you are in an urban area do not try to leave on your own.
All major traffic routes have been blocked.
The army
is preparing to evacuate large cities via waterways.
Stay in a safe place. Barricade your doors and windows.
Keep your radios on.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The German parliament has authorized immediate use of military force.
A state of emergency has been declared according to article 35 of the constitution

Rammbock (2010) at IMDb

Rammbock at Wikipedia

Hard to kill?!?!
You weren’t kidding!!!

Exit Humanity (2011)

Film by Bloody Disgusting
Notes by DPScobie

Okay, so here’s the explanation to hopefully un-confuse this review…

Usually I write my reviews as a film is ending or right after I watched it.  Sometimes I’m busy and just write notes, maybe because the ‘what’ to write wasn’t flowing for me.  It’s been long enough since I watched Exit Humanity I don’t remember what the situation was.  A year ago (2016) I had a hard drive crash, and of the data I lost these notes (from 2014) survived.  I didn’t go back and write these notes into essay form then and I’m not doing it now — so you figure it out.

The short of this is as IMDB puts it about Exit Humanity “A young man’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of a deadly undead outbreak during the American Civil War.”

Fighting zombies with a bad chest cold is unadvised
  • Starting out this makes me think of Asylum Films — ripping off other films and being screen-tests for wannabe actors … but better than Asylum … and better than SciFi channel films.
  • This particular story makes me think they’re ripping off the book version of World War Z … I haven’t read it all yet but I have listened to some of the spoken-book featuring a number of actors/artists/famous-voices … just this is a whole film that focuses on a historic occurrence of zombies outbreaks.

    Not an ideal first date…
  • Think of it like this … you’ve seen films that feature the lone person surviving in the aftermath of a zombie-outbreak — living off of what remains from civilization, running from the undead and slaying zombies to stay alive. This film is that but set in post US Civil War period. There would still be certain problems, at least with the people of this film, they’d run out of bullets to scrounge.
  • Interesting that there is only narration for the first 23 minutes of the film, no actor lines/dialogue
  • The film looks like some that I’ve seen on YouTube — but then I’ve seen some rather well done DIY shorts there.
  • Surviving would be easier in a period where people already live closer to the land.
  • I like the personal experience this film gives.

    SSSHH — I’m a Ninja!
  • There are period-incorrect details that become immediately obvious — clothing being the big one, the ninja poncho the main charactre makes for himself, gas can, and I am in question of the rifle (less obvious detail) the main charactre has following the Civil War.

    Not to be confused with Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Something about the start of this film made me think of the 1999 film “Ravenous” with Robert Carlye (IMDB and Wikipedia).
  • This is one of the few films I’ve seen without a sub-title option … but then that saves you from screwed up sub-titles … like my copies of Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, and 6 where Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker talk about their “life savers” — mmm, tasty! I wonder if it doesn’t have sub-titles because it is a low-budget film.
  • IMO some of the pacing or mood lacks making scenes drag.
  • I like that the film was able to go from a narrated personal account into a story-line, however I think I enjoyed what I was seeing as the narrated film and would have liked to seen the whole story experience carried in that same way.
  • I’ve noticed the lack of Indians and blacks — only white zombies and survivors.  This is not an equal-opportunity zombie film.
  • The book and the Eve’s house makes me think of Evil Dead I & II.
  • Had this been kept as a narrated piece it would have made for a unique piece — period film and zombie theme prose. Frankly, I did what I often do while watching a film — kept myself busy with a project — so I did not give my full attention to this piece. Had this been the narration-only driven piece it could have been, as with the sections it does feature, that would have better commanded the attention of the viewer in my opinion. This film could be re-made into a stronger piece with more feeling and horror, however using this film as an example to a remake I’m sure someone with the money for a project would say that it’s not worth spending the money because you’d only be making this a bit stronger ultimately … but then it wouldn’t be the first time the wheel was re-invented and only slightly improved.
  • I don’t believe I have seen a z-film where there are people who have immunity to the z-virus
  • The ‘witch’ Eve could be more convincing … I think the problem is the charactre needs to be played by an older actress … maybe it’s just that her hair is too black … as-in dyed black not a natural ‘black’ … so if she had some gray hints or her hair was not as smooth, that might help me to buy in to her charactre. (This is peculiar to say seeing as this actress is the most experienced out of the whole cast – to clarify, my issue is with her appearance, it doesn’t match with her acting or the profile of the character.)
  • Despite this film’s short comings, I would strongly encourage zombie enthusiasts to see this piece.

    Dinner will be ready in a minute….
  • The source of the zombie outbreak was a bit predictable but does have a slight twist that I haven’t seen before — SPOILER — this has zombie-virus coming from witchcraft or as they elude to Vodou. Once this is revealed the film takes a bit more of a World War Z touch.
  • I can think of 2 z-films I’ve seen that are ‘zombies in the old-west’, I would say that this one is arguably better than the both.
  • As zombie make-up goes I’ve seen better and I’ve seen much worse — for what this film is the zombies look great.
  • Something I really appreciate about this film came from the watching the making-of piece (titled “Blood Sweat And Tears”) in the special features — this film is low budget and very DIY. It was shot in a matter of weeks and many of the crew personnel were volunteer, including family members of the director. I’d be surprised if the Civil War solders at the opening of the film weren’t volunteer reenactors. (When you watch the film with the director’s commentary he indicates that these actors were reenactors, more interestingly they’re Canadians.)

Exit Humanity at IMDB

The American Civil War

Canada and Canadians

World War Z (2013) the movie at IMDb and Wikipedia

World War Z (2006) the novel by Max Brooks

Asylum Films

OTHER ZOMBIE THOUGHTS (UNRELATED)

  • Police zombies in riot squad gear are harder to kill because of their armor.
  • Zombie outbreaks that occur on Hallowe’en makes zombies that are at least as freaky as clown zombies.
  • Coworker zombies are awesome because you finally get to do the things you want to do to your coworkers … except for that cute gal in accounting.

Day Of The Dead (1985)

Yellow Puss

Whaddayaknow — George A. Romero wrote & directed another zombie film!

What’s the significance of this film?  I’m still trying to figure that out myself.  Heck, 30 minutes into the film I asked “Where’s this film going?”  After an hour & thirty-seven minutes I asked myself that again and then the credits started rolling.

  • Music that was used in Shaun Of The Dead, which SOTD did intentionally drawing from a number of Z-films to pay homage to their predecessors
  • Yelling “Hello?” that sounds like the same delivery I first heard in 28 Days Later and suspect that Day Of The Dead was the origin
  • Experiments with cognizant zombies – most notable in the film is “Bub”, a male zombie who at a base level shows memory of things from when he was a human (ex applying a disposable razor to his face for shaving)
  • In some cases over-the-top campy acting, which can be characteristic of B/Z-films, but in this case struck me as poor acting &/or directing choices. I think the film could have had better execution & resonance in the same scenes (ALTHOUGH I NOTE – it was only the military AKA government characters that acted in this ‘ridiculous’ way, which may start to make some sense when you understand that this is supposed to be representative of a conflict between the public & the government.)
  • Questionably gay straight guy or straight gay guy
  • Oldest private in history, Private Steele – so did he join late, has this zombie conflict been going on that long and there was no one around to promote him, or is that he joined young and remained a career private?
  • Better make up & effects than Dawn Of The Dead
  • Instead of being held up in a shopping mall (Dawn Of The Dead) with a helicopter they’re holed up in an underground facility of some sort with a helicopter
Bub just got the latest BagpiperDon album.

I happened to have a collector’s edition of this film when I viewed it, so I also had all the extras — including the ‘interviews with the cast members X#-of-years later’ AKA ‘today’.  One of the things said (by Romero) was that the two parties of people in this film — scientists & military — stuck in the underground bunker was meant to represent the public and the government of the time (mid-1980s) and how there was a distrust between the two.

Some zombies are more handy than others.

Perhaps this film had that significance then (in 1985) but viewing it in 2017 it has no staying power.

This film could probably be good with a re-write & re-make, not unlike how Total Recall was grossly improved.

Day Of The Dead at IMDB

For those about to rock, we salute you!

Cemetery Man (1994)

This is perhaps one of the worst reviews I could give.  I put this DVD in my player, watched the trailer, and popped the disc back out.  The preview looked so-so, but being a zombie film my think is to watch it still — because if I only watched the well-made Z-films then I’d only have about a dozen reviews and all of them would be a part of my nearly-top-10-list.  The issue that I had with Cemetery Man was that it was subtitled and did not have a language over-dub option, and at the time I didn’t have time to watch a film that required me to read (I usually work on something while I watch a film at home, usually my laptop).  I’ve been told that an over-dub version followed the 1994 release a few years later — so I may try to get my hands on that and give this film another go.  Still, IMDB indicates that this film had a $4-million budget (which is not just low but it is LOW) and grossed $253,969 at the US box-office ….. so how much of a film am I missing here really?!?

Cemetery Man AKA Dellamorte Dellamore (original title) at IMDB

Cemetery Man at Wikipedia

Black Swan (2010)

Adding this title to this list came with a small debate. A big portion of it is a psychological thriller; its also about an artist making a personal break-through into a different area of their craft. Someone else might call me a dufass saying I missed the point entirely — and maybe I did, but the film is also subjective. To me, it had something to say about working within an art form that has an exacting/purist community surrounding it and breaking through … and that for me is the greatest point of the film.

Black Swan at IMDB and Wikipedia

DIY or DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist (2002)

If you’re an independent artist of any type, you’ll want to see this. At the beginning of the piece the film-maker states his point to project & what he wanted to explore — and over the course of the film I don’t feel that his interviewees proved, represented or developed his point … at all. However, the interviewees speak a lot about the passion behind their work and doing it successfully their way regardless of what “The Industry” indicates.

DIY or DIE at IMDB and Wikipedia

NOTE – The full title of this film is DIY or DIE: How To Survive as an Independent Artist (AKA DIY or DIE: Burn This DVD)

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