Until the Light Takes Us

This is a 2009 documentary about the beginnings of Black Metal in Norway, available free to watch on YouTube.

While I do like my metal, I am not into black metal at all, it just don’t grab me. But, I was intrigued enough to want to learn more about it, so when I came across this on YouTube I gave it a go.

It turned out to be quite an eye-opener as the fellows interviewed in this were very interesting, and not what I was expecting. The main interviewee was “Fenriz”, one of the OG’s of black metal and a very friendly guy with some interesting things to say. He is basically the John Jydon of black metal, he doesn’t like the direction black metal took as punk did in the 80’s, especially how it became satanic, but he is very mellow and not angry at all, unlike Mr Lydon.

Things get nutty though when we meet Varg Vikernes, aka Count Grishnackh, the sole member his influential band “Burzum”. He was tried for the murder of his friend “Euronymous”, another black metal musician in 1993, with the interviews taking place inside his very nice looking prison cell (curtains over the windows and a computer on a desk). He was released from prison on bail not long after actually, he served only 14 years of his 21 year sentence. At one point he very matter of factly describes the murder which up to a point seemed to be in self-defense. But, the description takes a dark turn when he describes the actual stabbing, and well, from then he seemed more than just a bit odd. He is though a very well-spoken and obviously intelligent guy with strong convictions. He now lives in France with his wife and son, and has a regular YouTube channel. I watched one and was again impressed by his intelligence, and he seems very like-able. However, his nonchalant way of saying “After I had killed Euronymous…” (2:51) it makes you wonder if releasing him was a good idea. He was also convicted for burning three churches back in the day.


Varg reacting to his guilty sentence.

A lot of the film is quite dark as it was filmed in the Norwegian winter, I don’t know if I could stand that. I guess the constant darkness partly explains how black metal came about, but there are obviously other factors. Norway seems to be a very conservative place.

There is some criticism that the film makers did not question or push their interviewees on why they did what they did which is fair, it was all very one-sided really. But even so, it was a very fascinating look at a genre of music that I still have little interest in, but at least I know a little more about.

Next up: a documentary about Gary Numan.

Date watched: May 11th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 32

Hacksaw Ridge

I always like to watch films about World War Two as I have an interest in WW2 history, so I was looking forward to this.

And it was pretty good stuff, especially as it was based on a true story, and apparently most of it was accurate. Mel Gibson directed, and I must say he did a good job. It was slickly made and the action sequences were very well done, and it did not use a lot of CGI trickery, Mel wanted to keep it real. He had a budget of 40 million bucks, with the film making 175 big ones at the box office, so he will be in the film studio’s good books again. His next project is a sequel to The Passion of the Christ.

My only criticisms would be that perhaps the portrayal of the Japanese soldiers was a bit stereotypical, and that it got just a bit too sappy at times. The ridge in question in real life was a whole lot smaller than in reality, but Mel knows a thing or two about spectacle.

There are better war films, but this is still a very good watch.

Date watched: March 31st
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 27

Bubba Ho-Tep

I had seen this many years ago, before this blog started, but I wanted to see it again as I had forgotten a lot of it and anything with Bruce Campbell is always pure gold.

The story was slow moving, but Bruce’s portrayal of Elvis Presley held the whole thing together, as well as Ossie Davis as a fellow who thought he was John F. Kennedy. Add in an Egyptian mummy who is slowly picking off the old people where Elvis and JFK live by sucking their souls out through their behinds and you have quite a unique story at least. The story is also about growing old and just how much it sucks, as well as the pitfalls of fame.

I haven’t seen many films about Elvis, if any, but I would say that Bruce’s portrayal of him is the best ever and will never be topped. He was in no way mocking Elvis, and his Elvis accent was spot on. One of the greats is Bruce.

The film cost a million bucks to make (and made 1.2 million), but it did not feel too much like a low budget film. It was shot well and the supporting cast were not B-grade actors. The only disappointment is the mummy which just looked like a zombie wearing a cowboy outfit.

Another classic Bruce film, not his best, but still well worth a watch.

Date watched: March 30th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 25

The Devil’s Backbone

This is a 2001 Spanish/Mexican film directed by Guillermo del Toro.

The story is of an orphan boy taken to an orphanage where he discovers it is haunted by a boy ghost. The villain of the story is a helper who grew up in the orphanage, and who knows that the people who run the orphanage have some gold bars somewhere in the building, and he will do anything (mostly dastardly) to get it.

It is set in Spain towards the end of the civil war (1936 to 1939).

The story was reasonably original, and there were a few surprises, but it was also quite predictable at times. The acting was superb, especially from the young boys, and it was nicely shot.

I liked the way the ghost was portrayed. I won’t go into detail, but I thought it was better than the usual scary ghosts we see in most films.

A very worthy ghost tale.

Date watched: February 15th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 15

The Man Who Would Be Polka King

The title of this film got me hooked, especially the “polka” part because I like a little polka every so often.

This is the true story of Jan Lewan, a Polish immigrant who wanted to make it big in America, so he decided he was going to be the Kurt Cobain of polka (without the drugs and attitude).

The story though turns bad as he basically starts a ponzi scheme to fund his polka world domination plans. It is actually another very depressing story of a musician who goes off the rails a bit, but at least he doesn’t die (although he almost did in jail).

It is hard to feel sorry for him even though he seemed to be a happy and genuine guy who just wanted to realise his dreams, but he just went in too deep. It is also hard to feel sorry for some of the people, mostly retired persons, who invested a lot of their money into something that was obviously a bit dodgy right from the start. It was pure greed. When asked in interviews by the director about what happened in prison to him (he was shivved and barely survived), they just got plain nasty and wished openly that he had died.

The whole thing was shot in a kind of 1980’s style video-taped look which suited the story, and at only 69 minutes it is an easy watch. There is a comedy film based on this story on Netflix starring Jack Black, so with the background story fresh in my mind I will watch it next.

Jan is now out of prison and is back into his polka, I would say very much on the straight and narrow this time.

Date watched: January 26th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2018: 6

Sample This

This is quite an interesting doco about the tune Apache, as covered by the Incredible Bongo Band, who consisted of a few great session musicians, brought together by a producer to supplement the soundtrack to the B-film The Thing With Two Heads (which looks INCREDIBLE, have to try and check that out). It went on to be sampled by hip hop pioneer Kool Herc a few years later. Instantly recognisable now of course. Gene Simmons narrates!

Date watched: 12th November
Score: 8/10
Film count 2017: 63

So many one-liners!

 

Depeche Mode: the Dark Progression

I felt like watching something random again, so this unauthorised documentary about Depeche Mode seemed like a good choice.

I am not a fan of Depeche Mode at all, and I am not into synth-pop, but this was still a fascinating look into the history of one of the biggest and most successful electronic music bands in the world (according to the documentary), and how they make their music.

There were interviews with various people involved with the band, and also with the likes of Thomas Dolby, Gary Numan, and Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, all three of whom were very interesting.

As this was unauthorised there were no interviews with the band members, except from archives. This did not feel like an unauthorised documentary though, there was no dirt or tales of debauchery, rather it was a respectful look into the history and music-making of the band. The lead vocalist did have a serious drug problem in the 90’s, but this was only very briefly touched upon. The band were pretty hardcore at one time when it came to rock ‘n’ roll excess, and I was reading that even Primal Scream could not keep up with them. As for me, I am quite happily addicted to music, films, and writing about them.

I am still not a fan of Depeche Mode, but I found this to be an interesting watch. As for my preferred synth bands, I quite like Chemical Brothers and Buck Futtons.

Date watched: November 21st
Score: 8/10
Film count 2017: 130