Film Reviews: November 2004
Note: Reviews are in no particular order

"Mayor of the Sunset Strip"
(DVD by First Look)

MAYOR OF THE SUNSET STRIP examines the life of rock music scenester-extrairdinaire, Rodney Bingenheimer. A virtual who's who list of stars appears in the film, all of who talk about Rodney and you are given a glimpse into his extraordinary life. It is amazing to see Rodney popping up in some of the televised rock shows of the '60s, in audience shots for such performers as Jerry Lee Lewis, the G.T.O.'s, The Mamas and the Papas, the Four Seasons. Rodney ought to make a "how to" book on getting close to rock stars! Also amazing are the scenes in his home where you see all the memorabilia. When he dies, someone had better make a "Rodney Bingenheimer Rock 'N Roll Museum"! The DVD version of this film is a must-have as there are over two hours of extra footage and rare interviews. Plus, there is a Rodney Bingenheimer commentary with the film, which is very revealing.

Rodney appears to be a little uncomfortable in front of the camera and exudes a certain sadness and aloneness. But maybe that's why he was able to endear himself to so many rock stars and celebrities - you just wanna take care of him! There are touching parts of the film, such as Rodney spreading his mother's ashes in England. And there are uncomfortable scenes, such as finding no pictures of Rodney in his father and stepmother's home! Another sad scene is when Camille (who Rodney is obviously smitten with) tells the camera that she is involved with somebody else. These events seem to add an aura of sadness around Rodney.

This film is probably one of the best every made about rock and roll and how it can affect people! When I was younger I would always fantasize about being a rock star - but now I realize that I wanna be Rodney Bingenheimer! Rodney IS rock 'n roll and this movie captures the spirit perfectly.

Review by Ronnie

"End of the Century"
(Magnolia Pictures)

END OF THE CENTURY is a godsend for Ramones' fans. Not only is there plenty of archival footage of the band included (one early film shows the band with a different stage setup than their 'standard' one - Dee Dee is on the left of the stage!) but there are interviews with their contemporaries of the New York scene and the punks of the English scene (such as Joe Strummer). Interesting enough, Clem Burke does not mention that he was a short-time member of the band in the later years (only drummed two gigs as a Ramone). One thing that is shown is that the Ramones never 'broke' through that commercial barrier - there is footage from a band gig in South America where they play to 30,000 - only to return to the states to continue playing clubs!

I've always found the most interesting part of the Ramones' story to be their time working with Phil Spector, and this film gives plenty of coverage to that difficult period for the band. It is fascinating to hear the various members' take on Spector - with Johnny, there was no love lost on Phil Spector, while Joey idolized him. Marky sees that time period as what started the breakup and separation of the band. The personal dynamics of the band is revealed and you wonder how they were able to stay together as long as they did. Not only were Joey and Johnny diametrically opposite in their political beliefs, but also Johnny took Joey's girlfriend away (eventually marrying her), inspiring the song, "The K.K.K. Took My Baby Away"!

I first saw END OF THE CENTURY the night before hearing about Johnny Ramone passing away, so it was a little ironic going from the high of seeing this fabulous film to the low of hearing about his death. This film captures the spirit of the Ramones better than any book I've read on them and it is one of the overall best documentaries on any rock 'n roll band. Well worth repeated viewings!

Review by Ronnie

"Trekkies 2" (DVD)

While the original TREKKIES talked about the Star Trek phenomenon in the United States, TREKKIES 2 takes on the global Star Trek phenomenon. The originality of Star Trek fans knows no bounds and this film displays that fact. For example, in Germany you meet the Klingon Santa Claus (only naughty children get presents!) and a fan that has spent $20,000 making his own fan films. In England there is a man that turned the entire interior of his flat into the décor of the Star Trek Next Generation set! In Italy there is a Star Trek mass. In Brazil there is a comedy play based on Trek. The film also revisits some of the trekkies from the first film such as Gabriel Koerner. A section of the film asks fans about "extreme fans" and the answers are diverse and interesting.

Of course, my favorite part of this film is the music part - the multitude of Star Trek themed bands (which all seem to congregate around Sacramento!?). You get to see the fabulous WARP 11, as well as the various incarnations of NO KILL I and STOVOKOR (the Klingon death metal band). FILK music (science fiction folk) is also covered. Interesting enough, all these bands have more of a visual appeal than a sonic appeal as is proven by the soundtrack (the one exception being WARP 11, who seems to translate well to music CD's).

The DVD contains a wealth of bonus footage, including two fan films (Gabriel Koerner's "Really Bad Star Trek" is hilarious!). While I'm not a diehard trekkie by any means, I was still found TREKKIES 2 immensely entertaining! If you don't 'get' Star Trek fans, you just might after seeing this film.

Review by Ronnie

"Utopia Live in Boston 1982" (DVD)

Note: This is a condensed version of the review - Click here for James Graham's extensive review of this DVD

This DVD is another fine release from Sanctuary, which has been putting out some of the finest music on CD and video for some time now. This is a must have for the collection of fan's of the power/pop/prog band UTOPIA.

Formed in 1973 by Todd Rundgren the classic line-up had taken place by 1976. In 1982 after a series of ambitious projects and big 70's style concept tours, the band signed a new deal with NETWORK records. The band then went to work on the album that was titled UTOPIA but is also know to fan's as the NETWORK album.

Which brings to this DVD. This is a snapshot of the tour for the album. As Todd tells us in his interview segment, the record company folded during the tour, which meant no support for the record. Do any of you remember the UTOPIA single on NETWORK? It was called FEET DON'T FAIL ME NOW and was sung by ROGER. The video with them portraying bugs was one of the early videos shown on MTV. This is a great companion DVD to the last Sanctuary UTOPIA release-LIVE IN COLUMBUS -79 which was a full-blown spectacle.

Watch the concert first. When you go over to the extras you can watch interviews with all 4 members of UTOPIA. It is a real treasure chest of info, you will learn a lot about the guys including how each member came into the band. I don't want to reveal much about the interviews but we do learn that Kasim had left and rejoined right before the NETWORK album. This might explain the slight inconsistencies in the match up of lyrics when he and Todd are singing in unison on a couple of the newer songs. That is also part of the beauty of the band, as I said earlier with UTOPIA what you saw and heard was what you got, if there were slight mistakes here and there, that was okay because the music was always heartfelt, inspired and uplifting. This DVD is a perfect reminder of a time when a band of 4 could go out and entertain with to borrow a title from a GRAND FUNK album- Good good'/Good Playin'.

Review by James Graham

"Bang Rajan"
(Magnolia Pictures)

At first BANG RAJAN might appear to be your typical ultra violent movie - until you realize that it is based on a true story. Taking place in 1765, this movie is like the Siamese version of the battle of the Alamo - a group of villagers fight an overwhelming force of Burmese invaders, delaying the Burmese army by five months on their advance to the capital city. Despite the odds and the perceived outcome, the villagers display extraordinary courage in the face of certain defeat. Although the film uses English subtitles, the actors in the film bring certain "humanness" to their characters.

It combines two of my favorite film types: historical films and action films. While I normally don't enjoy foreign films with subtitles, I did find BANG RAJAN an inspiring film that celebrates human nature and the courage that can emerge from common, everyday people. So view this movie instead of the recent "Alamo" one - you might be surprised.

Review by Ronnie