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sethbecky's reviews view profile

Interesting but shallow  
on November 23, 2007 - 12:27 PM PST
  of American Hardcore (2005)
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful

You can see Henry Rollins talk about his opinions and views anywhere, even on his TV show, but seeing him specifically talk about the hardcore punk movement and what it means (now) to him is fascinating. American Hardcore is long on retrospective interviews and on live footage captured by hand held home cameras in dingy clubs in the early 80s, all of which is fun to watch and educational for anyone who missed the scene, even second-hand.

The documentary focuses on where hardcore bands appeared and how the style and ethic traveled from location to location, comprising great analysis of the cross-pollination of musical style, politics, and audience behavior that is the core of any small music scene.

Unfortunately, the director glosses over violence, drugs, sex, and egos, trying instead to paint the overall scene as highly political and carrying a message of social responsibility. He demonstrates that some bands were these things: Bad Brains definitely insisted on social messages in many of their songs, and the "I hate everything" nihilism of the angry young men who created the scene (pulling the older and more skilled groups like Bad Brains in) did include simplistic political messages against Ronald Reagan. But the documentary returns repeatedly to the idea that these 15 year-old punks would not have created the music and culture they did without a reaction to Reagan's "Morning in America" campaign. In the interviews, only HR from Bad Brains and Henry Rollins--punk's resident intellectual pundits--speak credibly about politics or social missions, and Rollins has never been one to sugar coat his opinions or hide the testosterone-infused mania that drove the scene.

Instead of any insight into how common youthful anger was directed into this scene and the good and bad of it, American Hardcore paints a picture of the joys of punching people without rancor while preaching a message against drug use and Ronald Reagan, with the idea that these 13-18 year old musicians were socially sophisticated enough to live in squalor so they could continue their campaign.

The interviews are interesting, for what they are. We've all heard stories of bands driving cross-country to sleep on another band's floor just to play one gig and learn from each other how they play music, how their management works, and how their audiences react. The stories from the hardcore band members--presumably cleaned up to remove references to drugs, sex, and most violence--are as interesting for the stories (and many fun stories are included) as they are for the middle-class suburban homes they are conducted in and the mainstream bands the kids went on to join.

American Hardcore is worth a watch. It does give a great overview of the major bands in the scene and how they inspired one another and it includes some fabulous concert footage. Just don't take it as very complete and it's a fun survey course in hardcore punk.
Fun and campy  
on August 16, 2004 - 3:26 PM PDT
  of Die Mommie Die! (2003)
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful

First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. This is *not* a "gay movie," nor is it only for those with "gay," "really gay," or "super gay" interests. One of the characters is gay, and one character is bi or "adaptable," but the lead is simply a woman played by a man. No more a gay theme than Linda Hunt playing Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously.

But it *is* for people with some specialized interests: campy melodrama and 40's-60's "womens' movies." This type of camp may only be associated in some people's minds with drag clubs, so that may feed into the perception that this is for the Hedwig crowd only.

The opening does move a little slowly, in keeping with the pacing of the genre(s) it's parodying. But if you enjoy the campy acting (Busch pulling each sentence out like it's an Oscar Moment and Lyonne's emotionless rapid-fire, no-nonsense staccato), you'll be fine waiting for the inevitable murder, plot twists, and revelation of secrets.

Straight or gay, if you like camp and melodrama, this is a screamer. The acting is wonderfully arch throughout, especially the always-fabulous Natasha Lyonne. Priestly is channeling every cut-rate actor overplaying a hard-boiled or film noir detective with just a splash of swaggering gigolo for good measure.

If you haven't seen Chinatown, Madame X, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, sixties acid exploitation reels, Double Indemnity, etc. etc. etc., you will miss some of the jokes, but you'll still get the story and the humor. Quite fun and highly recommended.

Definitely check out the costuming throughout, especially on Lyonne and Busch. When Busch opens the wrap on the all-white ensemble from the first scene and we see what's underneath... well, it's fabulous. This is not the sweet, slight, lost woman moving ghostlike through the cemetary we expected. Great characterization through costuming.

Give this one a try, but expect melodrama camp. There's nothing subtle about the source material, and that goes double for this parody.
Too talkie, but some nice ideas  
on August 16, 2004 - 2:34 PM PDT
  of Necropolis Awakened
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

I really, really wanted to like this one: a low bugdet zombie actioner made for the pure love of filmmaking and the horror genre. Unfortunately, it's almost unwatchable.

First, some good points. We have a basic zombie plotline with the "smart zombies" variant. The zombies are led by a group of parasol-carrying madmen who have made themselves into zombies without sacrificing any intelligence and they have turned the town into midnless zombie slaves. Our hero, Bob, wants to get away or destroy them. The characters are wonderfully one-dimensional.

The main action is not between the hero(es) and the zombies, but between the hero(es) and a group of killers the zombies have hired to protect them. This provides a nice change of pace and lets us see into the zombie society. The killers are a mixed bunch who aren't always sure they want to work for undead monsters, but they're determined to do their job.

The zombie makeup is fun and the action scenes are entertaining. I should have loved this.

Unfortunately, it's about 45 minutes too long. A lot of slow, "talky" scenes with little happening and no character development drag the movie down. It feels like mediocre improv. The scenes aren't bad ideas, but too many minutes of the actors trying to figure out what to say--or just filling time by repeating what they've already said--loses the action mood, kills the horror mood, and breaks any intentional or unintentional comedy. If it doesn't move the story along, and it doesn't add atmosphere, kill it. Trimming inside these scenes would have made the movie watchable.

Also, the sound engineering on the movie is atrocious and headache-inducing. The speech is muddy and below the background sounds, intersperced with incoherent, fuzzy screams that blow out the cheap mics. This really detracts from the watchability.

All the actors are fun (and appropriately unprofessional). The story is fine. The effects are fun. I look forward to more movies buy the Whites, now that they have their first feature out of the way.

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