Okay, first of all, right of the bat, I have to get this out of the way. If you can’t stand cheap special effects, low budget filmmaking, bad to moderate, at best, acting, and cornball science fiction, do not in any way watch the Planet. Though despite all of these things I really quite enjoyed it.
Well okay I actually quite like really low budget sci-fi so I’m not gonna say it like it’s some sort of surprise. In fact it might because of these qualities. I had in fact kind of expected that I might like it, hearing about how cheap and all, this actually was. Supposedly it was made for like 8000 pounds, and it really does show, but hell I quite enjoyed the actual product.
Kind of neat storyline, little bit of a different spin on things. When it first started I thought, oh god crashing spaceship, prisoner, aliens, marooned ummm spaceship people, yawn I’ve seen that about a million times, but it quickly changed. The ship is brought down by unknown assailants and the crew escape separately to some previously uncharted planet, where they soon find each other, only to discover that hardly any of the ship’s personal have survived.
Of course they are faced with the difficulty of finding a way to communicate their position to their home base. And there are these spirit like monsters, that only real bullets will kill, not these like electro-charge laser thingies they use, and that really make things difficult for them.
And yes there is a mystery about the prisoner, who has also somehow made it off the ship and wandered out into the bleak desert landscape. And there is a big mystery about what exactly the prisoner represents. And to go any further into that would ruin the story developments that unfold.
I mean it’s not the most original storyline, but hell it adds enough bizarre twists and unexpected changes to keep the viewer interested, and stop the whole thing from spiralling into some sort of bad parody of itself. Actually I said moderate acting, but to be honest for the budget and I’m guessing the experience of these people it really is pretty believable, well as believable as futuristic ghost-like alien inhabited sci-fi can be.
But you actually find yourself identifying with and understanding the characters, which is good at least. And there are enough surprises, and moments of oh my gawd what is going to happen, to make it worth the watch.
So basically let me recap: into low budget sci-fi? Big yes go see this. Not into that sort of thing? Well more than likely it is not going to get you into it. But it is pretty entertaining. Who knows, maybe even then you might still find it
Initially I was going to throw this DVD into the garbage and pretend that I had never seen it, and act like it must have just disappeared. I assumed no one else would see it and everything would be for the best. One more piece of junk the world could use not knowing about. But then I did some looking online and it would seem that there is a move to peg this is a cult classic that is dripping with symbolism, and that if you don’t get the imagery then perhaps you are a little but dumb. And maybe I am just a little bit dumb but Dark Heart is so bad, it goes beyond being bad, to laughably bad, back into just bad and then out the other side. Leaving it I don’t even know what kind of bad. As I said when I first finished watching this film, I wasn’t even going to write a review because I thought hell this film would be a lot better if it just faded into obscurity and disappeared for ever.
But hell I keep chuckling to myself about some of the crap lines. And god was there ever bad cliché after cliché. And I became worried that with this attempt to make it seem as an artistic tour de force, or whatever else they might use, that someone might actually be duped into watching this thinking they have found some amazing art piece exposing the soft dark underbelly of American culture. I think it is supposed to be a scathing indictment of the American involvement in Iraq, and how when soldiers come back they don’t know what to do with themselves, however instead you get this incredibly pompous attempt at a making a meaningful low budget indie film dealing with war, with like no coherent plotline or anything.
I mean, okay, I get it there was supposed to be all these deep symbolisms etc, that mean really deep things, but fuck you have to establish some sort of basis for the symbolism not just have some guy stare at a form in the road for 15 minutes, when we don’t know where the hell it leads to, and this is three quarters of the way through the movie. But the thing is by this point we know he has to make a choice, and hell well there is absolutely no referencing anything early. Like it’s just there to be deep and arty.
Okay basic premise, soldier comes home from the Iraq war after having served in the special forces, he has been gone a long time, his sister hates him. He goes to the bar meets his childhood, or something friend it doesn’t really say, friend, and proceeds to get drunk. The hero proceeds tell to the friend how some of the soldiers found Saddam’s fortune and sent it home to their families. A group of saw mill workers whose mill is about to be closed overhear, and as lead by a Vietnam vet, wow the symbolism there, decided to capture and torture the chap. Again with no real justification other than corporate America is closing their mill.
I mean corporate America is pretty shitty, but I think it would take a lot more than just losing my job to make me torture someone. Especially if it was just rumoured that my job was gone. Oh and there is an evil deputy, who doesn’t really serve any purpose than perhaps to create some sort of Rambo-type commentary about corrupt law officials, and how we would’ve won if it wasn’t for those corrupt bureaucratic types. Oh and where they decide to torture the soldier, it just so happens the mill owners son is making the moves on some chick. And chaos ensues.
As for the symbolism since I haven’t really talked about it yet, yes there is loads of it and poignant imagery the only problem is that it sticks a little too closely to the rule of show don’t tell and all it does is show. And you are supposed to understand these unreferenced vague points. Just thrown into be deep and arty. Like see we are arty, we have symbols and stuff. Actually this whole thing suffers from this, it seems too loosely tied together, or rather not tied together. Like each section seems to exist without the section before, I mean there is a cluster of scenes that don’t really make a lot of sense with the scenes before, but thanks to the ridiculous overuse of out of focus shots it must be arty. In fact there is so much dramatic use of the out of focus shot, I began to question if the camera man was just drunk or incompetent.
So yes this is not a cult classic, this is not amazing, but you might have some fun with the bad writing. “You’re a loose wire, a loose wire”. Awww still evokes a smile. See how is that for vague and unreferenced.
A nice if highly opaque look at the life and times (and music) of Congolese musician Wendo Kolosoy. Instead of focusing on any kind of clear narrative, filmmaker Jacques Sarasin focuses on beautiful footage of people and scenes, interspersed with nice musical segments. As a result, any picture that is painted of Wendo’s life or the history of the Congo under Mobutu and Belgian rule is hard to decipher so you might want to do a little reading on both Wendo and the Congo before watching the film….
Papa Wendo, the father of Congolese Rumba made his name in 1948 with the hit Marie-Louise which was so infectious and popular that the Belgian imperialists banned the song, proclaiming it devil’s music, briefly throwing Wendo in jail and causing him to subsequently leave the country.
After his return, he was to some extent forced to quit music under Mobutu’s rule rather than endure the indignity of having to sing the tyrant’s praises in song. Wendo remained silent until the 90’s when he came out of hiding and began playing again. This film shows a bit of that journey back into the public eye and so has a bit of Buena Vista Social Club feel to it - getting in touch with the old band and putting together a group for a concert….
The music itself was largely inspired, apparently, by Cuban music, which was entering the country on vinyl at the time, and causing quite a stir. Combining it’s influences with African idioms and instruments, Kolosoy helped father a new style known as Congolese Rumba and subsequently Soukous.
Apart from a strangely awkward bit of staged documentary arguing, the movie feels quite natural. It’s nice to see such beautifiul footage of the country and it’s people living out their daily lives. The music bits are especially nice and if you’re not already a fan, they will undoubtedly leave you wanting to check out some albums – which I myself did and highly recommend…. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable film, with a great immersive feel.
Not unlike Sharpling & Wurster‘s Air Mix-loving Music Scholar, I had almost completely eschewed rock music when Arab on Rador was a working band, so even despite the fact that my girlfriend’s best friend was dating one of the guys in the band, I never bothered to check them out. All I knew was what my girlfriend told me: they’re really noisy.
Fast forward a number of years and I had come out of the woods and moved to the big city of Montreal where I was lucky enough to check out a White Mice/Athletic Automaton/To Live and Shave In LA/Hamborghini show at Friendship Cove. Athletic Automaton were brilliant - just two guys - Stephen Mattos from Arab on Radar on guitar and lap-steeel and a totally insane drummer by the name of Patrick Crump who played so hard he put his foot through his frigging bass pedal. The music was from another planet - I couldn’t discern any influences on the band myself at least - not from the noise or post-punk music scenes that they were ostenibly a part of. But then again, I hadn’t heard Arab on Radar, so I wasn’t entirely informed. And it did turn out that their sound did bear a certain resemblance to Arab on Radar, who in turn perhaps bore a certain resemblance to Providence noise forefathers Six Finger Satellite. So maybe the sound of both bands wasn’t totally alien, but orignal enough in both cases to be immediately recognizable and positively unforgettable.
Mattos, like most, if not all, of his former bandmates, went on to form other projects: Chinese Stars, Made In Mexico and Athletic Automaton are the names generally bandied about as the fallout of Arab’s breakup. As these bands and the noise rock scene in general continue to pick up steam it seems fitting, then, for a look back at the band that spawned these others, and that continues to be a name heard a fair bit in noisy circles.
The Arab on Radar DVD fills the void for that retrospective. Like the band itself, the documentary has the good sense to get in, hit hard, make it’s point and then end abruptly while still at it’s peak. Made up of live footage, band and fan interviews and random video footage from the band’s countless tours, the movie paints an interesting picture of Arab on Radar and their sound. Beyond that, the film manages to capture the romance of life in a touring group, the appeal of growing up blue collar, putting together a band, seeing all of the continental United States, touring the world, having a lot of fun and blowing some minds and eardrums along the way.
In addition to the thoroughly enjoyable, excellently edited and well-paced documentary, the DVD also includes a ton of concert footage from various venues, a slideshow of posters, and band photos.
This DVD has made me want to do two things: (1) start a band and hit the road, and (2) check out the Arab on Radar albums. What more could you ask from a rock documentary? Highly recommended for fans of the band or any of their subsequent projects, but enjoyable enough regardless of whether or not you’re already a fan of the sound to warrant checking out. Assuming you’re not immune to the charm of screechy noise-rock, it’s doubtless that you’ll have become a fan by the time the film is over.
An excellent look back at the beginnings of punk rock in Canada, D.O.A. Smash The State features concerts clips and other documentary footage from the early years 1978-1981. Concerts include the legendary San Francisco venue Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco club On Broadway, an Anarchist Anti-Canada Day concert in Stanley Park and more.
Snotty punk-is-just-beginning British accents abound from Keithley and crew on classic songs like Rich Bitch, Let’s Fuck, Disco Sucks and many more.
You’ve got to hand it to the D.O.A. guys - they toughed out from those rough and tumble beginnings and are still sticking it to the system some 30 years later.
In 1995/1996 The Dandy Warhol’s met The Brain Jonestown Massacre, this is the story about the love/ hate rivalry between the two and how each band takes road after road in different directions.
2000 hours of footage is kept for the film in the time of the happenings. It’s an easy to follow comparison method (of the two bands), which makes the story feel like it’s happening right in front of you. It impressed me to follow such juicy footage of the bands doing what they do. The quality varies on each bit of documentation. A personal perspective, as unbiased as can be delivered, Courtney Taylor Taylor takes you though the story with his narrative. The documentary collects commentary and footage that will be a key element to any Brian Jonestown Massacre collector as it leads you through their career chronologically during these 7 years. Covering: the music industry from a musicians’ prospective; as well as witnessing how to become a cliché rocker of the post grunge era - this documentary is named Dig! –An Ondi Timoner film and Snag production.
Introducing The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Anton Newcombe, Joel Gion, Matt Hollywood, Jeff Davies, Dean Taylor and Dave Deresinski. AND The Dandy Warhol’s: Courtney Taylor, Peter Holstrom, Eric Hedford and Zia McCabe.
The films’ happenings in sequence:
The film is highly entertaining but sort of leaves you feeling a little bit eerie after witnessing their demise and bitterness towards the two band. Then witnessing self-abuse Anton puts himself through isn’t easy to watch either. It’s almost scary seeing that closely into the lives of these musicians behaving like children. Anton sort of makes Kurt Cobain seem like a saint. The film is almost a statement of what is selling out? How does the industry abuse the musicians? AND a testament of kind of lifestyle they lead caused by the obsession of these talents trying to be the most inventive and rousing. Most importantly it makes you think, what does it mean to be successful?
I hope to have the chance to enjoy this balls-on-the-walls film because it doesn’t hold back, comparable to Pixies reunion film ‘loudQUIETloud’. It is a very entertaining and insightful documentary that leaves you feeling a tad bit disturbed but also more curious to check out each bands’ music once again.
The Last Pogo is an all-too-brief 26-minute glimpse at the Toronto punk scene circa 1978. The film set out to document one last-hurrah at the Horseshoe Tavern, a venue that two promoters known as The Garys had been booking with legendary punk groups both local and international for a short while. Despite their brief tenure at the club, the list is nevertheless a veritable who’s who: Dead Boys, Talking Heads, MC5, B52’s, Cramps, The Police, Suicide and many more. Those international bands were not the focus of this Last Pogo, though, this concert was more of a local affair. The lineup featured Teenage Head, The Viletones, The Ugly, The Mods, The Secrets, The Cardboard Brains and The Scenics.
While billed as a night of punk rock mayhem, the footage tells another story; the crowd looks to be made up more of relatively mild-mannered and happy Canadian art school kids than unhinged and dirty punk rockers, and tales of wildly thrashing fans and a near riot with police and firefighters are perplexingly nowhere to be seen. The bands too look very tame in comparison to what this writer commonly thinks of as punk rock of the era, bordering on new wave or art-school rock for the most part. That said, Steven Leckie of The Viletones is said to have been a pretty wild character whose stage antics were the stuff that Sex Pistols/GG Allin punk rock legends are made of.
Despite the apparent relative calm of Toronto punk – I was expecting degradation and violence! – The Last Pogo is a great and enjoyable document of the fashion and music of that Toronto scene of the time. Both the sound and footage are surprisingly high-quality, especially in comparison to a lot of the sadly primitive documentation from the early punk and hardcore years. The bands are good too – if you actually find yourself watching this obscure DVD, you either already know and love these bands or you will want to seek out some records after seeing the film.
An excellent music documentary that seeks out what’s left of hillbilly culture, Homemade Hillbilly Jam is a look, both visually and musically rich, at the Ozark Mountains. Focusing on the extended Bilyeu family and the Big Smith band that came out of the family’s rich musical tradition, interviews with family members are interspersed with langourous shots of beautiful Ozark countryside.
As might be expected from a documentary about this part of the Appalachians, Homemade Hillbilily Jam is chock full of first class bluegrass and gospel singing and playing that spans multiple generations. Aside from Big Smith the film also features the Branson, Missouri group The Baldknobbers, The Pine Ridge Singers and others.
While the film tends towards music, fun and the warmth of family gatherings, it does take some cursory glances at the effects of contemporary culture on the traditional mountain lifestyle in the Ozarks - the influx through the last few decades of chain restaurants and stores, population growth and the struggle to keep traditional music and family values alive.
Fans of bluegrass music will take delight in Homemade Hillbilly Jam, as will those with a curiosity about the Ozarks - a truly gorgeous countryside that is exquisiely captured here. A really good film.
A well-made bilingual documentary by Sophie Fortier and Audrey Gautier, with options of French or English subtitles about a hardworking punk band from Montreal, Quebec. The band has been paying dues since 1999, touring relentlessly and happily playing shows for 15 kids in towns all over Europe and North America and only found recognition - eg being signed by Fat Wreck Chords very recently. Accompanying the DVD is a full CD of outtakes and rarities.
Their music is great - hard-driving pop-punk that reminds me of Jawbreaker - but I'm not that involved in the punk scene so that's probably way off base. But they seem to occupy that same place in between punk and hardcore and pop and maybe even a touch of metal. The CD features 25 tracks of hard-to-find tracks including demos, outtakes, tracks from compilations and 7-inches. Comes with a nice full-color booklet of lyrics, info and anecdotes about the songs. This CD alone may be worth the price of admission for fans of the group.
But unless you're a huge fan of the band the documentary is not going to be of particular interest because their stage presence is relatively static and the story is not super crazy either - just a group of hard-working guys who've toiled in obscurity long and hard and now have found some success. From a punk documentary, the casual viewer might hope for some wild GG Allin/David Yow/Fucked Up/founding-days-of-Orange-County-hardcore style total chaos on stage and off, the tense, angry young man political tracts of an Ian MacKaye, or the just plain weird cool of a Jad Fair type character to make for an interesting documentary watch. The wildest story in The Soda Machine is about the time one of the band members puked in a box and hid it in the closet at someone's house on tour. And endless broke-down van tales.
The Soda Machine is a feel-good film with a hometown-boys-made-good theme. And you do come out of the film feeling happy that the guys found success - they seem like a nice bunch of people and it's admirable that they stuck it out long enough to find the recognition they deserve. But like I said - this would only be great for fans of the band, and maybe that's enough because this isn't likely a film you're going to stumble across unless you're looking for it. The music on the other hand, is great and well worth checking out if even if you're not already a fan, and you might find yourself turning into one rather quickly.