Friday, January 07, 2005


END OF THE CENTURY is a fantastic new documentary about punk legends, THE RAMONES. It is a labour of love from Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia, and they should be thanked by all Ramones fans for putting together a lot of archive footage as well as new interview footage with the various members of the band and lots of musicians who have been influenced by them. Notably, there is some priceless material with Dee Dee shortly before he OD'ed. The cast list reads like a who's who of rock, including Eddie Vedder, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Rick Rubin, Anthony Kiedis...and this should be enough to convince anyone who hasn't really heard of THE RAMONES to check it out. Because this doc. doesn't just show us why THE RAMONES were great with concert footage, it goes some way to put them in the context of rock history, and explain why these guys were just so dang important. We get all the classic stuff of concerts at CBGB where the band got into punch-ups on stage and salutory tales about drug abuse and stealing other people's girls. But aside from all this more obvious stuff, I felt that I learned a lot about the dynamic within the band and also the way in which the music business operated at the time. In other words, the doc. went some way to answering the question: why did THE RAMONES never get that break-out success that less talented groups like THE SEX PISTOLS had. I never thought it possible, but I reckon I admired THE RAMONES more having watched the doc. than before. Seriously, whether or not you know who these guys are, just see this flick. And if it isn't playing near you, hunt it down on DVD because (as with the majority of docs) this won't suffer from being seen on a small screen.

END OF THE CENTURY: THE RAMONES went on the festival circuit last year and is on limited release in the UK right now.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE - quirky to the point of genius

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE is, I suspect, the kind of movie that you either love or hate. But for me, this movie is kooky, quirky and eccentric to the point of genius. It is sweet, hopeful and yet never schmaltzy or obvious. And it's key message: that there is someone out there for all of us, is a fantastic way to start the year. The movie is a super low-budget indie flick by Jared Hess. And I mean Indie in the fullest sense of the word: from the eccentric characters in boon-dock America, to the pop-culture references, to the focus on the geeks and freaks at High School, to the cooler than thou sound-track, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE wears its Indie heart on its sleeve. However, all these features are never grating and, compared to some recent movies, NAPOLEON DYNAMITE never feels like it is trying too hard. Indeed, the story seems to unwind without effort and enchant us. The eponymous hero is a high school nerd, with big glasses, big teeth and a righteous 'fro. He says "gosh" a lot, draws cartoons of cross-breed animals, and is the star of the movie in his mind To wit, 'You know, there's like a butt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff." Genius. Napoleon is brought to life in a comic performance of real subtelty and brilliance by newbie Jon Heder. I have no doubt that his dance routine is destined to become as famous as Ricky Gervais' routine in British cult classic, THE OFFICE. The story, such as it is, follows Napoleon as he gets his first girlfriend, who is equally geeky. We also see Napoleon's brother Kip hook up with an internet date and Napoleon help his best mate, Pedro, get the student presidency. What links all these stories is the triumph of outsiders over the conventional without compromise. Like I said, this movie is one you either love or hate so it's hard to recommend. But if you find that off-beat comedy sets you giggling, you should check it out.

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE played at Sundance and London 2004 and is currently on release in the UK. It opens in Germany on May 18th 2005.