Blu-Ray Review: The Decline of Western Civilisation Collection

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection sees three cult music documentaries directed by Penelope Spheeris (known largely for Wayne’s World these days) finally get a UK DVD and Blu-Ray release. I must admit, when I was offered the set to review I went for it largely on a whim. I had a vague recollection of the title being mentioned somewhere and the writeup made it sound interesting. I’m very glad I did take up the offer though as I was treated to an exceptionally good trilogy of films. In this age of blockbuster sagas being churned out by the dozen, it’s refreshing to see a set of documentaries show us how a film series should really be done.

The Decline of Western Civilization

Director: Penelope Spheeris
Screenplay: Penelope Spheeris
Starring: Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, X, Fear, Circle Jerks
Country: USA
Running Time: 100 min
Year: 1981
BBFC Certification: 18

The first of Spheeris’ documentaries, The Decline of Western Civilization, saw her explore the burgeoning hardcore punk scene of her native L.A. around 1979-80. Speaking to a number of bands such as Black Flag, X, Circle Jerks, Fear and The Germs as well as some of their fans, she gets to the heart of the lifestyle as well as the music. Speaking of which, a number of live performances run throughout proceedings, acting as an anchor to the interviews.

Spheeris adopts a ‘warts and all’ approach, throwing the viewer in without a safety net. After a brief introduction we jump straight into the mosh pit (or whatever it was called in that era). The aggressive, sweaty atmosphere is captured perfectly and it’s easy to get caught up in the energy of the performances. I’m not a huge fan of punk rock, but the film sells it very well. Yes it looks violent and dirty and the music is loud and offensive, but through the kineticism of the action on screen and some occasional subtitles revealing otherwise hidden depth to the lyrics, you can really appreciate why these people are so dedicated to the genre.

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Cinecast Episode 362 – Primordial Dwarfism

Aafter nearly a three week hiatus, Weeeeee’re Baaaaa-aaack. In what is a true first on the Cinecast’s 8 year history, all three of Andrew, Kurt and Matt assembled in the same space to do a show with no telecommunications/web bridge. So, of course we pick a noisy bar and record over too many cocktails. With munchies and Montreal Smoked Meat, on the docket are three main reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy, Boyhood and Lucy which, oddly enough GotG gets the consensus favourite. Ever want to hear Kurt praise a Disney-Marvel production, now is your chance.

There is no 1984 project this week, but rest assured things will return to tomorrow with 2010: The Year We Make Contact next week, and Stop Making Sense after that.

Kurt does his annual 1+ hour recap of The Fantasia International Film Festival (which was also the source of the imported smoked meat) which is followed by a slew of titles from Matt (James Cameron Rape Sci-fi, Abortion Comedy, Punk Catharsis) and Andrew (Zach Braff, Heavy Metal, Alan Partridge and the last of Phillip Seymour Hoffman) with a little Terry Gilliam to round out the picture. LIVE FROM MINNEAPOLIS it is a lengthy, boozy, robust episode of the Cinecast, where bartenders, paramedics, rowdy billiard players, and the odd waitress all make for background character and salty language is tossed around in public spaces.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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DVD Review: Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Rush Poster

Director: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Global Metal, Iron Maiden: Flight 666)
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 117 min.

As someone who grew up with a father who loves rock music, I was introduced to Rush at an early age. I always loved the music but over the years my taste shifted and with it my love affair with some bands while others took a foothold in the pantheon. Rush never quite entered that level of rock god status for me but they’ve always been a band I liked and then Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen came along.

Rush Movie StillOver the last few years the pair have become synonymous with rock documentaries from heavy metal in Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey to fandom (Global Metal (review)) and most recently bringing to the screen Iron Maiden: Flight 666. With their eye turned home, their latest takes on Canadian legends Rush and the result is the unforgettable tribute Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.

Dunn and McFadyen begin with the band’s early heavy metal days as high-school entertainers and follows through on their long career of change and discovery. Using archival footage and in depth interviews with band members Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, we follow Rush as they grow from bar band to global superstars and the road isn’t always easy. There are insights into the early days of touring, the difficulties of being a band with substance (the making of “2112” was particularly eye opening to me), and the constant struggle to be the best musicians they can be while still being true to the music. Rush is a band that made a conscious effort never to “sell out” and their ever changing sound goes a long way to support that.

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VIFF 09 Review: Gigante



This isn’t your average love story. It may involve a boy and a girl and a boy falling for a girl but it’s done in a way I’ve never seen before, at least never seen work. Meet Jara. During the week he’s a security guard at a big grocery store, by day he sleeps, takes care of his nephew and listens to heavy metal, during the weekend he’s a bouncer at a night club. He’s a big guy and at first glance, you’d likely turn the other way and run but on closer inspection, we see a kind face and eyes that reveal the soul of a big teddy bear. But what makes Adrián Biniez directorial debut Gigante, a Berlin Prize Winner, special is the way in which the romance evolves.

You see, Jara doesn’t meet a girl, date a girl and then fall in love instead, he spots a young woman who works on the store floor and becomes infatuated to the point where he begins to follow her. At first, you can’t help but chalk up the interest to curiosity but as the film slowly unfolds and Jara’s stalking activities escalate, a bell goes off. Amazingly, due in part to the direction and the performance from Horacio Camandule as Jara, the film never feels creepy and instead, I found myself rooting for Jara to succeed in his quest to finally speak to the girl.

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Trailer for the AWESOME Anvil! The Story of Anvil

One of my favourite films of last year, and easily one of my favourite documentaries of the last few, was Anvil! The Story of Anvil (our review) . The film has been touring through various cities since its premiere at Sundance but no distributor to be found anywhere and outside of a few clips tacked together from the festival, there wasn’t even a trailer for the film. That has now changed.

The film is scheduled to open in the UK on February 20th and I can’t say this enough, if you have the opportunity to see it, SEE IT. Even if you’re not a metal fan, this is will touch your heart (and if it doesn’t then you’re obviously an early incarnation of the android). I hope that the film gets a wider distribution in North America as well – I’d love the opportunity to see it again, this time with a few friends in tow!

Thanks to Jay at The Documentary Blog for the heads up on the trailer. Rock on!

Review: Anvil! The Story of Anvil

Anvil One Sheet

Director: Sacha Gervasi
Producer: Rebecca Yeldham
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 90 min

My parents always said that if I had passion, worked hard and made sacrifices I could do anything I wanted to. The so-called “American Dream” is fairly universal and perhaps it is that universality that has seen the saying and belief proliferate beyond America’s borders to enter the subconscious of the human race. For some, the dreams are small but for others, they are grandiose: become stars. But working hard doesn’t always translate into success and for many, a large part of success is also dependent on luck. Being at the right place, at the right time, knowing the right people and in the case of musicians, being heard.

Anvil Movie StillMTV and VH1 only show the stories of the successful, the ones that made it. But what about the rest? In 2004 director Ondi Timoner followed two promising American rock bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, for her excellent documentary DiG!. One became successful (the Warhols) and the other not so much (Jonestown). It was interesting to see the derailment of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and from early on it was clearly apparent why that band would never hit the big time but watching Anvil! The Story of Anvil, the derailment isn’t apparent. This isn’t even a derailment; it’s simply a case of talented guys who never caught a lucky break.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi, former band roadie and long-time fan, the documentary tells the heartbreaking story of Toronto metal demi-gods Anvil. The band, which originally formed in the late 70’s, has released thirteen albums and after thirty years of hard work, remain largely unknown. How did this happen to a band that in 1984 played the Super Rock Festival in Tokyo with the likes of then up-and-comers Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Scorpions (all of whom went on to huge success)?

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Fincher News: Heavy Metal AND Torso?

David FincherThere are a lot of news floating around the web at the moment regarding film maker David Fincher. The Zodiac director’s new film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, has yet to show in its entirety but festival goers at Telluride were treated to twenty minutes of footage that left a sour taste in a few mouths. General consensus: not great but it’s Fincher and we’ll wait to pass judgment. Good call.

To continue with the drama, Fincher seems to be having problems with the studio regarding the cut of the film; it’s fairly long and the studio wants it cut down. The ensuring argument has had an effect on one of Fincher’s other projects. Paramount, who is behind Benjamin Button, was in line to produce Fincher’s vision of Heavy Metal but now that the studio and director are in the heat of a disagreement, Fincher has jumped ship and taken the project with him.

I’ve previously salivated at the thought of a Fincher produced film full of boobs, heavy metal music, sex and violence but now that I’ve seen some of the other names potentially attached to the project, I’m even more excited. According to a recent interview with Kevin Eastman, editor and publisher of “Heavy Metal” magazine, alongside Fincher himself, Guillermo Del Toro, Gore Verbinski and Zack Snyder have all expressed interest in directing portions of the project. Given Verbinski and Snyder are not the world’s best directors but it’s fair to say that they both have distinct styles and vision that could lend itself well to the project.

In other Fincher news, the folks at IGN are running an interesting story that Fincher’s next project will be the long-in-development adaptation of the Brian Michael Bendis’ graphic novel “Torso” which tells the story of a serial killer who leaves behind the torsos of his victims. I’m not 100% sure as to the accuracy of the second story. Apparently, this project is also being being set up at Paramount but I’m not sure why Fincher would involve himself with the studio after moving away with Heavy Metal. Hopefully news will be a little more detailed once the dust settles.

This has been your Fincher news minute.

Review: Global Metal

Global Metal One Sheet

Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey)
Producers: Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 93 min

A few years ago music’s black sheep, heavy metal, made a big splash in the film world when filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen released their documentary Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. It’s safe to say that no one expected this little documentary to make the splashes that it did but here we are, two years later, taking in the filmmaker’s second adventure though the dark tunnels of metal. The first film traced the history of metal from its humble beginnings in the working class suburbs of the UK and the US but it was very apparent from the interviews with heavy metal greats and footage from various big events, including the Wacken Open Air, that metal was a global phenomenon.

Global Metal Movie StillAfter receiving correspondence from metal fans in the most unlikely of places, Dunn and McFadyen decided that their look at metal wasn’t finished just yet and the pair set off to discover the metal offerings from places as varied as India, Japan and Israel. The result, Global Metal, is a unique anthropological research project that is much more interesting to study than anything I’ve seen in a textbook.

Beginning in Brazil and making their way to such distant and exotic locales as Indonesia, Dunn and McFadyen speak to both fans and musicians who love their metal and what we find is that as suspected, metal speaks to many. The most interesting bit of information discovered thought their travels is that the sound of metal varies from country to country and culture to culture. Though many of the fans and musicians associate their beginnings with listening to the Scorpions, Deep Purple, Sepultura, Iron Maiden and a long line of notable predecessors, they have taken the sound and made it their own, infusing the music with their personal struggles, beliefs and politics. The result, is a varied landscape of sounds with a common ancestor.

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