Category Archives: Review

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

 

World War Z by Max Brooks

I got an audiobook copy of World War Z by Max Brooks sometime … somewhere … and I’ve tried listening to it a number of times but got busy and lost my place.  What I’ve heard I liked.  Lately I was given an e-reader toward my writing/book-publishing work, and with that I’ve been getting a bit into audiobooks … so… hopefully, ideally, I’ll SOON get to finally listen to this in its entirety.  The cool thing though…. when I have listened to it before, I recognized a number of the voices to the character.  If you look on Wikipedia, Max Brooks got quite the cast.

If you’ve seen the 2013 movie, staring  Brad Pitt and a bunch of people who’s names I don’t recognize, this is very different.  Having not read the book, it stands to reason that the audio book is more like the book.  Don’t get me wrong, the film was KICKASS and it’s one of my favourite Z-films.

World War Z audiobook at Wikipedia

World War Z (2013) – IMDb

Affliction Z: Patient Zero by L.T. Ryan

I received a promotional e-copy of Affliction Z: Patient Zero (Post Apocalyptic Thriller) by L.T. Ryan when it was first released.  Frankly, it has taken me a while to get un-busy to where I can read it.  Currently I’m about a quarter of the way in, and I am ENJOYING it!

The short of it — because I’m busy right now and really don’t have time to type a book review (sorry Mr. Ryan) — is that about a dozen top-notch military guys (SEALS, Rangers, etc) get dropped into somewhere without much information.  They have their mission details but what they don’t have is intel on what they’re getting into … and shortly after they arrive they find out they’re in the middle of a zombie outbreak!  Beyond that, I can’t give spoilers (nor would I) simply because I have the other three quarters of the book yet to read …. which may well happen soon as I’ve been having problems putting it down.

Things I particularly like about Affliction Z: Patient Zero…

  • I’m not an expert but I know quite a few things, and the military references seem spot on.
  • The chapters are easily read in chunks — this is good for a person who loves to read yet doesn’t have much time.
  • The situation the military guys are in is palpable!  For me it pops off the e-page.  I feel that I’m there with them in an unclear and unpredictable situation.

L.T. Ryan has quite a few books to his credit — two of which are part of the Affliction Z series, and he says he’s looking to write more.  I’m only 25% of the way into Patient Zero, but I know I want to get my hands on Affliction Z: Abandoned Hope (2013) and Affliction Z: Descended in Blood (2014).

Hey — I just found the AfflictionZ.com home page — L.T. Ryan says he has book 4 on the way!

Affliction Z: Patient Zero (Post Apocalyptic Thriller) available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions

AfflictionZ.com home page & book updates

L.T. Ryan’s author profile on Amazon and Facebook

The Devil Wears Prada – Zombie (EP)

Well, I listened to some metal today — Zombie (EP), the 2010 release by The Devil Wears Prada.  Frankly … not my thing. I’m cool with metal but I think Sesame Street is a much better gig for Cookie Monster.  Something a guitarist pointed out to me years ago – he said “I love distortion, but it also hides the poor playing of a lot of musicians.”

This album did feature a few things that I enjoyed – things that switched it up and gave it any redeeming depth and texture …

  • Escape – Thunder at the beginning of track one … some speaking mid-track of a guy on communicating what he’s seeing over a walkie-talkie or a phone … a car (or some such) alarm being used musically … groaning zombies.
  • Anatomy – Starts out with the sound of a nearby chainsaw.  It’s also really sweet when they kick into sound like they’re backed by a late-80s/early-90s boy band.  Way to bring it back guys, right on!
  • Outnumbered – Starts with a report warning of danger (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news agency, etc).  Yeah, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about this track.
  • Revive – There was a little bit of music and singing in here that wasn’t speed guitars and Cookie Monster.  I’m good with metal speed guitars, drums, etc …. but the Cookie Monster thing …. bleh!  Really there is very little good I can say about this track.  Suffice to say, not everything is for everyone.
  • Survivor – I listened to this track three times before typing here.  I can’t tell anything special about this track.  It’s all the noise of the first four tracks and nothing terribly interesting.

In Conclusion… I may listen to this album again for a few of the ‘texture’ ideas, but I don’t see myself listening to it out of interest, inspiration, or especially to feel anything other than frazzled out of my mind.  To each their own, not my thing.

Cookie Monster at Wikipedia and his character profile at IMDB

Cookie Monster Metal at Wikipedia

The Devil Wears Prada and their 23Aug2010 album Zombie (EP) at Wikipedia

Lyrics to Zombie (EP) because I can’t tell what the heck they’re singing … maybe I’m showing my age.

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