Tag Archives: Classic Film Reviews

Classic Film Review: Stop Making Sense

Full Title: Stop Making Sense
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Talking Heads and various special guests
Year: 1984
Set List:

1) Psycho Killer
2) Heaven
3) Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
4) Found a Job
5) Slippery People
6) Burning Down the House
7) Life During Wartime
8) Making Flippy Floppy
9) Swamp
10) What a Day That Was
11) This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
12) Once in a Lifetime
13) Genius of Love
14) Girlfriend is Better
15) Take Me to the River


16) Crosseyed and Painless

Stop Making Sense? When did the Talking Heads ever make sense?! Haha, of course their brand of weirdness, a “good” weirdness is exactly what made the Talking Heads, the Talking Heads. The other night I had the pleasure of revisiting this 1984 classic via a screening at the Sommerville Theater. I had been a fan of the live CD Stop Making Sense for years, but never got around to seeing it’s cinematic coutnerpart. Well, what better a venue than the Sommerville Theater?! And it was. The sound was a tad lower than desired, but besides that it fit really well for this presentation. Now to the film itself. David Byrne kicks things off with the TH classic, “Psycho Killer,” just Byrne himself gently rocking out on acoustic guitar with a tape player. As the song reaches its final moments, Byrne stumbles to the beat. He fake trips then catches himself, then again and again; fitting perfectly with the music. Next, the nerdy, neurotic singer is accompanied by his bandmate, Tina Weymouth (who is looking rather attractive here) on bass. The two launch into an impassioned, acoustic version of “Heaven.” And with each song another member hits the stage to join the circus. It should be noted that the Talking Heads put on an extremely entertaining show with incredible energy, charisma, and showmanship, without any of the big theatrics, i.e. light shows, back drop videos, etc. (at least in the first half of the film), oft-seen in such concert films. This speaks volumes for how well they can captivate an audience with just themselves as the visual stimulants; essentially less is more. They use a lot of light humor in their approach, such antics as the “Running Man” dance; at one point Byrne acutally runs around the whole stage at full speed! We also see him playfully push a lampshade back and forth, each time catching it at the last second just as it is about to hit the floor, amongst other weird, but amusing stunts. Byrne and crew seriously dance their asses off as the tunes become heavier and funkier. Songs that stood out in particular included “Burning Down the House,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Once In a Lifetime.” Perhaps they stood out to me because they are some of the bigger songs and/or some of my favorite TH numbers, but either way the performances were near perfect. Without a doubt, the most iconic moment in the picture is when we see the fabulous frontman in his lovely “Big Suit,” once again a bizarre, humorous, and ultimately memorable element of the Talking Heads’ craft. All in all, there is very little to nothing I can say bad about this movie. My one complaint, (a very small one) is that at some points it drags a bit on some of the tracks I am less enthusiastic about, such as “What a Day That Was” and “Girlfriend Is Better.” I feel like it wouldn’t have hurt to do some time truncating in these areas. Probably just me, but in the long run, this didn’t really harm my opinion of the performance. In short, for concert films this is top notch and certainly sets the bar for competition.

Grade: A/A-

Classic Film Review: Shield Around the K

Full Title: The Shield Around the K
Director: Heather Rose Dominic
Year: 2000

The title says it all. The metaphorical shield truly represented K’s mythical way of battling the corporate ogre in a unique and highly confrontational manner. For those sad souls out there that are unfamiliar with K, here’s a brief breakdown. K was and still is a defiantly and charismatically independent label; one of the greatest models for how an indepedent label can successfully operate. Calvin Johnson (K founder and Beat Happening frontman) challenged his audience and contemporaries by creating and documenting music that was unabashedly simple, coy, and as far away as possible from the mainstream. These kids challenged the mold of expecation of what a Punk band should look, sound, or act like. By making poppy, “twee,” love rock (as some call it), artists like Beat Happening distanced themselves from not only the corporate world, but also the oft-macho hardcore scene, which was dominating underground music at the time. All in all, this doc does a great job of articulating this important aspect of K Records as well as offering some great archive footage, interviews, and music videos and ultimately a detailed, informative backgound of said topic. One thing I (sorta) didn’t like was the fact that the film focused too much on Beat Happening; after all it was supposed to be about the K label and not about Beat Happening solely. Then again, they and their history are obviously vital to the K tale and since they are one of my all time favorite bands, I don’t mind seeing them on screen. Lastly, this doc features various key figures including, Ian Mackaye, Gerad Cosloy, Slim Moon, John Foster, amongst others. So, if you dig cutting edge (well, then cutting edge) Punk Rock or want to learn more about seminal, underground music then grab some black candy and check it out.

: B+

Classic Film Reviw: Gummo

Full Title: Gummo
Director: Harmony Korine (first timer)
Year: 1997
Grade: A
Comments: Chilling. Distubring. Haunting. These are some of the words that best describe Korine’s cult masterpiece. In more simple terms, however, FUCKED UP! describes it more accurately. Truly fucked up. Not strange. Not weird. Not bizarre. FUCKED UP. To be blunt, if you were trying to be polite and didn’t want to curse, so instead you replaced it with “screwed up,” I do not think you would be getting the picture across or doing the film justice for that matter. So, why is it so FUCKED UP? now, that I have mentioned it 500 times. Well, Korine does not present us with a story or a plot in any linear or normal sense. But, rather he takes us on a journey to a town “we would never want to call home,” as the tagline states (I may be paraphrasing) through documentary style, vivid, eerie shots of peculiar (to say the least) images and characters living their day to day lives. The characters are residents of a small, tornado struck town in Ohio, and their activities include killing (sometimes beating) cats and selling their remains, burglarizing, wrestling with chairs, amongst other antisocial behavior. And yes, that was not a joke about the chair wrestling! It is humorous in its odd nature, but at its heart, highly disturbng and really sad. These characters are bored and simply have nothing else to do, but wait to die or be the subject matter of a Steve Albini creation. Korine said he wanted to make a completely different kind of film, with shots coming from any (or every) direction and he did just that, so kudos to him. Gummo may not be the kind of movie you sit back and stuff popcorn down your throat and play over and over again for the giggles, but rather a totally unique experience worth at least one voyeursistic endeavour for those that can handle a completely (for the final time!) FUCKED UP film and want to challenge their psyche to something new; it’s nothing like I have ever seen before.

Here’s the trailer-

Fun Fact!: It was this trailer that specifically got me into Madonna’s “Like A Prayer,” as it is the only song by her that I like.


Classic Film Reviews

Ok, so whenever we see new movies at the theaters we write up reviews for them. When we hear new albums, we crank out reviews for them. In addition to new releases, we critique older, “classic” records as well. So, considering this, I figured we, or at least I, should review classic films we view for the first time or whatever. But, I do not plan on writing full fledged reviews here, just a quick blurb and a grade. So, here are two films I recently saw for the very first time this past week.


Director: Oliver Stone
Year: 1986
Grade: A, Stone effectively transforms his own miserable experienes of Vietnam into an ugly, but realistic look at the inhumanity of War and it’s effect on man; absolutely deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture that it obtained.

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From Dusk Till Dawn:

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Year: 1996
Grade: A, Fun, bizarre action/horror/gangster/vampire flick from Rodriguez and Tarantino (writer, co-star with George Clooney); it’s a straight up ‘guy’ flick with blood, bullets, boobs and basterd vampires, not of the pussy twilight variety, but real serious motherfuckers. Oh and Salma Hayek….