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31 Days of Horror 5: Room 237 (2012) by Jamie

So I decided to take something of a different route for this entry into 31 Days of Horror. I honestly haven’t had that much to say about the films that I’ve watched so far. The ‘let’s randomly watch a film that I just stumble upon’ approach has been, let’s say, unrewarding for the most part. So I reckoned I’d take a look at a film that I’d heard a lot about. It’s not a horror film itself persay. Rather it’s a documentary about one of the greatest horror films of all time, a little film called ‘The Shining’ by Stanley Kubrick. It is not, however, a film about the making of The Shining. Instead it is a film about all the conspiracies and secret meanings that certain fans have read into it.

Now, I don’t think I’d be causing any waves if I said that Stanley Kubrick was undeniably a genius filmmaker. Many of his films are considered among the greatest of all time with The Shining in particular often topping horror film list and with good reason. He was also something of a perfectionist and a somewhat private person. This privacy garnered him the somewhat unfair reputation as a recluse. It is this famed attention to detail plus this supposed reclusiveness that has certainly helped some of the conspiracies and myths build up around him. There is also the fact that some of his films are, well, kinda batshit insane.

Still just because The Shining has something of an aura that is conducive to conspiracy does not mean that conspiracies actually exist as is true of any conspiracy theory. And this is one of the problems with ‘Room 237’. The film is literally just voice over of people explaining their particular conspiracy theories over often slow motion shots of the film. In terms of style, the film I could most compare this to is ‘Zoo’, a film which I was not exactly a fan of. So all you get is the someone talking largely nonsense about how The Shining is actually about the genocide of the Native Americans or the Holocaust or how Kubrick faked the moon landings or some other bull crap. I’ll admit, some of the conspiracies are somewhat interesting though still so loosely cobbled together as to be laughable, all the result of random coincidence and self-delusion. Seriously, if I watched it enough times I could probably come up with a theory about how ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ is actually a treatise on the Kennedy Assassination that reveals the identity of the true shooter.

The truth is that conspiracy theories aren’t nearly as interesting as the people who come up with them and that’s what could have made this film a whole lot better. Show me the people behind the conspiracies. Let me get to know about them and more about why they think this way. As it is, all I have is a collection of faceless voices giving me their secret meanings about a film. In essence, someone has made a documentary about an internet message board. Well done.

In summation this could have been a really interesting film if it had delved just a little deeper than the surface it offered. Still it has left me wondering just why the fuck Jack Torrance is reading an issue of Playgirl while he waits to meet the hotel manager? Two pints out of five. Laterz.

Room 237



Documental: Cropsey by Jamie

It seems that every town has an urban legend involving some kind of scary maniac, weirdo or boogeyman who lives away from the rest of society doing untoward things like kidnapping or murder. The one we had growing up was Bill, a homeless man who lived down by the river. Admittedly ours was an actual person though the legend that grew up around him was probably somewhat exaggerated. There were those who said he was an eccentric billionaire who actually owned a rather nice house but decided to live down by the river instead because he was mental. I don’t really remember any tales of murder but I do remember that our parents would warn us of him when ever we were going down that way.

I remember one day when a few of us were walking across the Cow Pipe (a pipe elevated of the ground that ran from one part of the river to a cow field next to it) and Bill came round the corner. My friend fell and I grabbed him. Unfortuantely he took me with him and I landed in a big pile of stinging nettles. Bill sat there on the pipe laughing at us for a few minute before wandering off. It was one of the times that I remember being really and truly afraid.

The urban legend that circled amongst the kids on Staten Island was of Cropsey and that’s kind of what the film of the same name deals with. The interesting thing about this case is that something happened after the establisment of the legend that gave the story further credence.

On Staten Island there used to be a mental institution called Willowbrook. It was originally designed for 4,000 residents but by 1965 it had over 6,000 and was the biggest state-run institution for the mentally handicapped. In 1972 the institution was visited by the admirably mustachioed Geraldo Rivera in a report he called ‘Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace”. His footage, some of which is shown in ‘Cropsey’ showed scenes of overcrowding, children screeching naked and covered in filth. The report caused a public outcry but Willowbrook would remain open until 1987.

After it’s closure a few of the former residents and even staff members returned, living for periods in the woods around the institution of in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the old building. One of these people was a former employee, Andre Rand.

Whilst all this was going on, children were going missing on Staten Island and this just helped to feed the Cropsey legend further. In 1987 a young girl with Down’s Syndrome called Jennifer Schwiezer went missing. Searches were carried out around the island and eventually her body was found close to Willowbrook. Attention turned towards Rand especially when witnesses came forward claiming that Jennifer had last been seen with a man fitting his description. He was brought in for questioning, charged and convicted receiving twenty -five years to life.

The film itself investigates all aspects of the legends and facts around Staten Island and Willowbrook. First it traces the legened of Cropsey before getting more and more involved in the case of Rand, going so far as to contact him and ask for interviews as a new trial is about to begin involving the disappearance of another little girl from 1981.

Overall it’s a pretty fascinating documentary and one which honestly gets more than a little creepy at times, particularly when the film makers are going through the ruins of Willowbrook at night, discovering all the old sleeping places of people who used to live there. It also handles the question of whether or not Rand is guilty quite well early on although as the film progresses I certainly found myself thinking he was probably guilty not so much because of any slant in the film but because of the actions of Rand himself which also ties into things. Is Rand being declared guilty because of any concrete evidence or because he seems like the kind of person who might do horrible things and therefore makes a convenient boogeyman for the community of Staten Island?

In closing the only real problem I had was that the film seemed a little all over the place at times but I’ll put this down to the nature of the story rather than any real fault of the film itself. Four pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Catfish by Jamie

I thought long and hard about whether or not to make this review spoiler free or not and, in the end, I came to the conclusion that not mentioning spoilers would make this film particularly difficult to write about so yes, there will be spoilers in this review. Due to the nature of this film I would heartily suggest that you go and watch the film before reading further. To make sure that you don’t accidentally read anything that will spoil the film for you, I’ll place a video underneath this paragraph.

Hahaha, that never gets old. Yes, there’s nothing quite as funny as a chimp sexually violating a frog. It’s true what they say, they’re so like us. Anyway, on with Catfish then. I assume that we’re all finally on the same page here, all having watched the film. If you decided to read on anyway without watching the film then I guess that’s up to you. I can’t stop you.

The film begins in New York when professional photographer Nev Schulman receives a painting of one of his pictures from Abby Pierce, an eight year old from Michigan. Nev begins an online friendship with Abby and, by exension, Abby’s family including Abby’s mother, Angela, Abby’s brother Joel and Abby’s older half-sister Megan who Nev takes quite a shine to as they chat online and via phone calls.

Nev’s brother Ariel and his friend Henry Joost begin documenting Nev’s relationship with the family, in particular his developing romance with Megan. It turns out that Abby isn’t the only artiste in the family and that Megan herself is quite the proficient dancer and prolific songwriter. She sends him copies of songs she has recorded and he is quite impressed. Impressed, that is, until he finds that the songs have pretty much been taking from YouTube videos. This leads to the guys investigating some of the other claims the family have made.

For example, Megan had claimed that they had purchased a gallery in order to hold shows for Abby’s work and had sent them pictures of the building. Through some online sleuthing they discover that the building is actually an old JC Penney’s which is actually still up for sale. Determined to find out the truth behind the story of the family, the filmmakers decide to head out to Michigan to confront the family.

The first place they head to is a horse ranch which Megan supposedly owns in the middle of the night, which actually turns out to be quite a creepy scene. Upon arriving they find that find that no one is there and there is certainly no sign of any horses. Furthermore an investigation of the mailbox reveals that it’s full of postcards which Nev had sent Megan on his travels proving once and for all that the British door-based letter slot is far superior than the American mailbox system.

The next morning the three guys decide to just show up at the family’s house. There they find that Angela and her husband doesn’t look anything like their Facebook pictures, Abby isn’t an artist, Megan is no where to be found and Angela is in fact a housewife who cares for two disabled sons and is the actual person behind the paintings. The filmmakers come to the conclusion that it is Angela who has essentially fabricated an entire life on Facebook, creating fictional profiles for a large network of family and friends and that she is, in fact, in love with Nev

Nev eventually gently confronts Angela about all this and the truth finally comes out. The last half hour or so of the film is spent basically interviewing Angela and her family in order to try and get some kind of handle of just who she is. It’s revealed through these interviews that she basically carried out the lie in order to vicariously experience a life she had given up on in order to have the family she has now. During most of her interviews, Angela is seen making a sketch of Nev. When everything is all over Nev returns to New York where he finally receives Angela‘s portrait of himself.

So yeah, that’s basically the film. And it’s a well told story with many interesting turns and twists and you never really lose interest but by far the biggest question surrounding this film is it’s veracity. Are the events pictured real or is it all an elaborate hoax. It does seem as though things play out so nicely that it’s almost unbelievable but I’ve let documentaries slide for that before, the fantastic ‘King of Kong’ being a good example.

Still, there’s something else that just drives me to believe that the whole thing is fabricated and that’s the way people speak, especially the three filmmakers. It just seems to me as though they are saying things that they had planned out and trying to make it sound natural. I’ll admit this could be simply due to the presence of a camera. I’ve seen people just talking about stuff and coming off completely differently simply because they are being filmed. Still, these guys just come off so unnatural to me that I have a hard time believing that the film is a true documentary.

There’s also a scene where they’re talking about chickens and apparently none of them knew that chickens lay one egg a day. Really? Are you shitting me? Who the fuck doesn’t know that? I know that they live in New York but surely they must have learnt that at some point in their lives. The whole thing, again, comes of as something written that they thought would be a wacky little conversation because seriously, I refuse to believe that there’s anyone who has heard of chickens that doesn’t know that they lay an egg a day. I mean Jesus fucking Christ!

Ahem. Whether or not the film is real there are a couple things that just rubbed me up the wrong way. The first is the unrepentant douchebaggery of the three main characters. They just seem so smug to me that I just found them genuinely annoying and I was kinda glad that they’d been played for fools. The second thing is the style of the film. Something about how heavily it relied on the internet imagery pissed me off as well. Yes, I understand it’s a documentary about people meeting and forming relationships over the internet but do I really need to see Google Maps every time they go travelling? And I swear this film had showed Facebook more fucking times than ‘The Social Network’ did. It just seemed as though they were saying “Look! The internet exists and we’re using it a lot in our movie! Aren’t we current and up to date!” It just irritated the hell out of me and I realise that’s more my problem than the films but still.

Despite these flaws, it is a interesting story, true or not, about the perils of relationships with strangers over the internet and one which is certainly relevant right now what with the release of ‘The Social Network’ and Mark Zuckerberg being name ‘Times’ man of the year. Yes, 2010 was the year of Facebook and ‘Catfish’ is another part of that. Overall I’ll give it 3 out of 5.



The Depress-A-Thon: The Cove by Jamie

In recent years, my impression of dolphins has really gone down a few notches. In my youth I quite liked them but as I grew up, I heard more and more horror stories that convinced me that these so-called ‘clowns of the sea’ were actually unrepentant bastards. I’ve seen reports where they’ve tried to rape divers, cases where they’ve killed men in order to get to a woman and one harrowing documentary which showed the darker side of the bottle-nosed menace where they were actually killing baby porpoises and enjoying the fuck out of it.

No, I consider myself a shark person. Sharks have always gotten a bad rap, Great White Sharks in particular (Ironically due to the success of one of my favourite films of all time, Jaws). The truth is sharks kill very, very few people. Generally they mistake a diver for a seal, take a bite, realise that there isn’t enough fat to make a decent meal and swim off. It’s a shame that that bite can be quite substantial but hey, they’re just predators without a great deal of intelligence. Like Matt Hooper says “All they know how to do is swim, eat and make little sharks.” Dolphins, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re doing. They’re self-aware, highly intelligent and apparently serial-killing, psychopathic rapists.

Still, I highly respect them for their intelligence, an intelligence which we really don’t fully understand. Hell, they might be more intelligence than us but without the benefit of thumbs they’ve really fallen behind in the technology stakes. And that’s probably a good thing. Who knows, if dolphins had the technology to build suits that allowed them to move about on land uninhibited, they’d probably rape you and everyone you care about… I’m fairly sure I was supposed to write about a movie at some point…

So yeah, the film is called ‘The Cove’ and it follows the adventures of Ric O’Barry and his Oceans 11-esque crew of high tech eco-warriors as they attempt to bring attention the yearly slaughter of 23,000 dolphins in a cove in Taiji, Japan. The public face of the operation is catching dolphins for aquariums around the world, selling them for massive amounts of money so they can be enslaved and trained for our amusement like I’m assuming God intended. The rest of the dolphins are then herded into a smaller, more secretive cove nearby and harpooned to death.

And why is Ric O’Barry so concerned about the welfare of these animals which decided to evolve in reverse for some reason? (I mean seriously, what animal evolves to go back to a fully aquatic life after their ancestors had tasted the sweet, easy life on land?) Well Ric feels somewhat responsible for the captive dolphin shows taking off the way they did. You see he used to be a dolphin wrangler and trainer for the TV show ‘Flipper’. It was these show which caught the public’s imagination and began the love affair with dolphins. From then on dolphin shows became big business. O’Barry’s opinion on this treatment of our cetacean friends changed when his favourite dolphin, Cathy, appeared to commit suicide by purposefully closing her blow hole which he attributed to depression caused by her captivity. And it’s easy to see why. If you were born with free range over the planet’s oceans and you suddenly found yourself confined to a concrete tank being forced to do tricks for moronic hairless apes, the noise they make completely fucking up your primary sensory organ, you’d be pretty depressed too.

So O’Barry and his team travel to Taiji in order to film the slaughter, setting up cameras in order to get a complete view of the cove in some pretty sweet covert operations. I don’t wanna give too much away except to say the tricks they come up with to get this whole operation done are pretty fucking awesome. If the real message of the film wasn’t so important I’d say that this alone was reason enough to watch it. Of course the important thing is the message, the footage that they capture and massively depressing and distressing it is too.

I know I’ve made jokes at the expense of the issue and the animals during this review but I just kind of felt the need to because the facts of what are happening in Taiji are truly, truly horrific. The scene where they finally show you the dolphin slaughter is an image that’ll probably stick with me for the rest of my life. You get the impression that these aren’t just animals acting on the whim of a basic survival instinct but intelligent beings who are experiencing real panic and terror, creatures that understand the concept of death just as well as humans do and know what it is that is happening to them. It’s heart wrenching.

The film isn’t just about the well being of the dolphins, though. It also hits on some of the issues surrounding human consumption of dolphin and whale meat due to the high mercury content of their meat and some of the political issues involving the International Whaling Committee and the way that the Japanese government basically manipulates a powerless organisation and buys off other, poorer countries in order to get their support. The lengths they go to in order to keep killing cetaceans is really quite incredible.

All in all I think ‘The Cove’ is an incredibly important film one that should be viewed by anyone with even a passing interest in these animals, even if that interest is as simple as getting drunk and yelling accusations of rape at the ocean… But seriously, it’s an important film, an interesting film and, despite it’s very serious subject matter, it even manages to work a little bit of humour in there as well which is much appreciated when dealing with such a heavy issue. The Cove gets five pints out of five.

To find out ways you can help bring an end to cetacean hunting you can visit this site.

You can buy the Cove on DVD from the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk store.



Documental: Exit Through The Gift Shop by Jamie

Spoilers ahead though honestly I don’t think they’ll really hurt your enjoyment of the film.

I’m not the most artistic person in the world. I can just about manage to draw half-human, half-animal people in as long as they’re pretty much just standing there. Oh, and drawing hands always gives me trouble as well. I don’t know much of the art world either. I can look at a painting and say whether or not I like it. Art interpretation is a bit of a mystery to me. This may be because my preferred art form, cinema, has become a huge bloated corporate corpse that’s quite far removed from the art world that birthed it. Sure, there are still the independent film makers still trying to cling onto their artistic integrity and even some mainstream film makers you could still claim are quite artistic but for the most part Hollywood is largely concerned with the dollar. Hell, even if you are an artistic, visionary director, there’s a good chance that your work will be fucked around with by the studio unless you already have quite a bit of clout. Just look at what happened to Fincher on Alien 3.

Still there is one genre of film-making at least were the substance of the story seems to be more important than the profitability of the project and that is documentary, a genre which I am particularly fond of. Sometimes these documentaries are about art such as the one I’m looking at today… Wow, that was a tortuous segue. Anyway, my point is this is a review of ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, the documentary touted as being about Banksy and, whilst he does feature in it, it isn’t really about him when you get down to it. Rather it’s about the man, Thierry Guetta, who set out to make a documentary about street artists such as Banksy and what happened during this process.

Now, I should point out that there’s been some controversy over whether or not the film is a hoax or not. All I’ll say on this subject is that I’ve seen a fair few documentaries in my time and if this is a hoax then it’s a fucking food one. Everyone interviewed comes off completely natural and unscripted so I personally think it’s real but hey, I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

Anyway, Thierry Guetta is a French man living in California, America. He owns a clothing shop and he has one obsession, his camera. He takes it everywhere and films everything so much so that it‘s occasionally gotten him in trouble during the odd celebrity spotting. On a visit to Paris he meets up with a cousin of his who is part of the burgeoning Street Art movement. My understanding of Street Art is that it’s the inevitable evolution of graffiti, taking it from simple tagging to actually creating murals and pieces of visual theatre and such. That’s what I think it is anyway. Like I said, not particularly arty. Guetta’s cousin, named Invader, makes mosaics of characters from the retro video game ‘Space Invaders’ and places them throughout Paris and, eventually, other cities throughout the world. Guetta joins and films Invader as he spreads his art throughout the Parisian streets.

This ignites a passion in Guetta and he seeks out other street artists in order to film them at work. Finally a chance encounter leads him to Banksy and the idea of creating a documentary is discussed seriously. Good thing too because along his travels Guetta has collected literally thousands and thousands of hours of street artists at work without really considering what he was going to do with it.

Something else begins to happen as he films these people as well. He begins to help them pasting up their giant posters, helping them paint, holding ladders and keeping an eye out for the fuzz. He breaks one of those old documentarian rules, never get involved. I’ll admit, that might only apply to nature documentaries but still I stand by it. The point is that as Guetta gets more involved with the art, the more he begins to become obsessed with it. Soon he’s going out by himself and creating his own pieces. Whilst this is going on, Street Art continues to grow and starts becoming quite big commercially. Inspired by a show that Banksy has put on, Guetta decides he wants to do one as well giving himself the pseudonym Mr Brainwash.

He advertises his show heavily, apparently putting more work into the publicity for the show than he does actually doing the work into it. Still, he hires a massive team, gives them the designs and mass production begins on thousands of pieces of art that Mr Brainwash plans to sell at his show. Finally the show comes around, much money is made and Mr Brainwash is pleased. Some of the Street Artists he had befriended and who had helped him aren’t though. They see his overnight success as something corrupting, something he didn’t work hard to achieve by himself like they had.

And in the end I think that’s what the title of the film means. The film starts of with a genuine look at the rise of the Street Artists and an examination of what they do and why they do it and it ends with a show full of art, mass produced like cheap souvenirs in a museum gift shop, which seems to have been made simply because the ‘artist’ saw that it was making other people money and he wanted that himself. In fact the museum gift shop analogy is fairly apt. You enter the building because your interested in the paintings and such housed inside. You can study them, interpret them, find out the history of them and at the end of the day you can pick yourself up a cheap, meaningless imitation. That’s what I think anyway. Like I said, I’m not much for art interpretation.

Over all, this is a fucking fantastic documentary that I highly recommend whether you’re interested in the subject matter or not. Luckily I do because, although I may not be much into the art, I do like the Street Art stuff, Banksy in particular, but I honestly think that the story is interesting and engaging enough that you’d be able to enjoy it whether you had an interest in it or not even if this review doesn’t really get that across. Sorry but I wrote this a week after watching the film and didn’t have time to watch it again. Still, watch it and I promise you’ll enjoy it. Five pints out of Five. Laterz.



Documental: Capturing The Friedmans by Jamie

Even the most unassuming of people can harbour the darkest of secrets. And when those secrets come to the surface they can tear even the most seemingly loving family completely apart. That essentially sums up the premise of the film ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ as directed by Andrew Jarecki.

Arnold Friedman is the aforementioned unassuming man. He was an award winning teacher, taking hundreds of children under his wing to teach them computer classes. He had a seemingly perfect family, a loving wife and three sons. Of course he also had a dark secret otherwise we wouldn‘t be talking about him, would we? What was that dark secret? Well, it seems as though Arnie had a bit of a penchant for kiddie porn. He was captured when the postal service seized some of his mail which turned out to contain items of that nature. They set up a sting operation, Arnie fell for it and he was arrested. Fair enough but it‘s from here that things take a more controversial turn.

Now of course it‘s only natural that when child pornography turns up in the possession of someone who has been teaching children that further investigation is necessary. You’ll want to interview those kids and find out if anything untoward had been going on. It‘s at this point that the film began to remind me of another film, Witch Hunt (which I thought I‘d reviewed but apparently I haven‘t).

The problem with interviewing children is that they can be very eager to please and so will respond to questioning differently depending on the way the questions are asked and the methods used to obtain the answers. To be fair, that‘s probably a sweeping generalisation. I‘m fairly sure most adults will act in the same way when confronted with an authority figure. Anyway, the problem is that it is hinted that the police questioned the children using leading questions, in other words basically telling the children the answers they wanted to hear. They also used hypnosis to try and recover hidden memories which is so fucking irresponsible it pretty much begs belief. You see the suggestive state caused by paralysis is a wonderful way of accidentally implanting false memories which is a bit of a problem when investigating a crime. It should also be noted that there is absolutely no physical evidence that any of the children had been molested at all and the testimony of hundreds of children that absolutely nothing happened.

Due to the testimony of the children, not only is Arnold arrested but so is his eighteen year old son, Jesse. Now, the film never really strongly takes a side with regards to Arnold‘s guilt but it seems as though it‘s pretty much made up it‘s mind that Jesse is innocent. I don‘t know if that’s the reason why but I certainly ended up feeling the same way. With Arnold, I felt he was probably guilty of something but it’s really hard to know for sure. Obviously he should have served time for the possession of child pornography but whether he or not he actually molested children is really up in the air.

What do you do in that situation? Do you take the cautious route and convict someone of a serious crime when there’s the possibility of that they’re or innocent? Or do you accept the fact that when there is still a good amount of reasonable doubt with regards to someone’s guilt that you simply can’t convict them, let them go free and live with the possible consequences that being wrong could lead to? It’s a tough one to be sure.

Still, this film isn‘t just about the arrest and whether or not it was justified. There’s also the more personal story of how these allegations affect the Friedman family as a whole, most importantly the almost complete breakdown of the relationship between the three sons and their mother. The three sons are firmly on the side of their father, believing that the allegations are ridiculous and that he‘s clearly innocent. The mother, Elaine, on the other hand, has lost all emotional attachments to her husband since the whole mess started and, through home movies, you get to see a few huge arguments and the complete lack of respect that the boys now have for their mother essentially seeing her as a traitor to their father. It really is quite devastating to watch.

At the end of the day Capturing The Friedmans is a damn fine film. Nothing is really resolved by it but then I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s just a chronicling of the events and all the consequences triggered by them and at that it succeeds admirably. I highly recommend it. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.



Documental: Nerdcore Rising by Jamie

The internet has done many great and wonderful things. It has made instant, worldwide communication possible, it has become a repository for all human knowledge and it has allowed for the easy dissemination of massive amounts of the filthiest pornography known to mankind. Seriously, there’s shit on there that would make Pinhead baulk.

But that’s not all it has done. It has provided a safe haven for geeks. Millions of people who used to sit alone in darkened rooms playing on their computer were suddenly connected to millions of other people who were also sat alone in darkened rooms playing on their computer. Before anyone knew what had happened, geek had gone mainstream. Sure there had always been gatherings at conventions and geek culture has always been around but this was different. Geeks not only utilised the internet but they were it’s pioneers, boldly going where no man had gone before, finding new lands and building websites upon it… or something like that.

Now it’s almost impossible to find any aspect of life which has been touched by the hand of Geek. It’s kind of easy to influence the world if you’re the ones who know how to utilise it’s greatest technological development. Now we’ve got all kinds of things tailored specifically to geeks. Movie companies, for example, will specifically keep track of what the geeks are talking about with regard to their latest film, especially that rash of comic book movies we’ve had lately. God forbid you piss of the geeks. Bad word of mouth, in an instant over the internet, can really fuck up that big movie you had such high hopes for.

TV has caught on as well. Think of all the TV shows which are tailored specifically to geeks and geek humour hoping to get that all important internet demographic. Shows like Robot Chicken, Family Guy, The Big Bang Theory, Myth Busters and a whole host of others. We are Geekdom. All your culture are belong to us.

The reason, I think, that geek culture has permeated so fully is that everyone has a little bit of geek in them (And you can have a bit more in you if you play your cards right. Smooth.) Everyone has that movie that they can quote without even thinking about, everyone has a video game that they love and everyone that little piece of pop-culture that they are obsessed with. It just that you’re full on geeks that to the next level.

It turns out that geek culture has even gotten itself into that most unlikely of places, that would seem to be almost it’s exact opposite, the world of Hip Hop. The sub-genre, nerdcore as it’s known, has been growing in popularity over the past few years and I myself have become exposed to it through mc chris frequent contributor to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. To give the uninitiated an idea of what nerdcore kind of is, I shall post here ‘Fett’s Vette’ probably one of mc chris’ most popular songs.

So there you go. That’s a small sample of nerdcore and it’s essentially exactly what it seems to be, rapping about subjects which one would typically associate with Geekdom, things like Star Wars, computing, role playing and the like. It also happens to be the subject of the documentary we’re going to look at today ‘Nerdcore Rising’. Wow, that’s probably the longest preamble to a review I’ve ever written.

Anyway, Nerdcore Rising follows the story of the grandfather of nerdcore, MC Frontalot as he embarks on his first national tour and the ups and downs that he and his band, The Minibosses, encounter along the way. It also interviews some of his fans who show up to watch him play and they are arguably the most interesting parts of the film.

The parts that follow the band are interesting, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that they seem just like every other documentary I’ve seen that’s followed a small band embarking on their first tour, just with a slightly geekier edge. And it is that geekier edge which does provide some amusing moments. For example there’s a scene where they are discussing their first ‘groupie’ who has followed them for three shows. They start to make fun of her a little bit until they come to the realisation that the reason that they’re being a little mean is that girls make them nervous.

There’s also a scene in which one of the band members tries to explain the rules of Magic: The Gathering, a game which requires level of geekiness far beyond what I can muster in order to play it. This explanation takes about two hours and forty five minutes. Still it’s that passion for their obsessions that you really have to admire in the hardcore geeks and I do because I know I have a similar level of passion for my own particular obsessions.

Still, as I said, the most interesting aspects of the film are the interviews with MC Frontalot’s fans. It’s through these that you really get a sense of what his music means to them as geeks and you get a wider view of geek culture as a whole. The sense that you get throughout most of it is that they’re just appreciative that someone is out there making music about the things they care about. They have no interest in rhymes about popping caps in asses and pimpin’. They want music about the things I mentioned earlier, Star Wars, computing, role-playing and the like and they are just really glad that someone has finally created a genre of music they can relate to.

Also of interest are the interviews with other musicians. They’ve got rappers from the more mainstream areas of hip hop, other nerdcore rappers (including mc chris) and permanent geek favourite, Weird Al Yankovic. What’s most impressive is that the mainstream rappers are really quite supportive of the whole nerdcore movement. They respect the fact that they are making music that is important and culturally important to themselves. Most importantly they respect the fact that they are keeping it real. It was really quite touching. Oh, and Weird Al was just his awesome, awesome self.

The tour culminates with a performance in front of 7000 people at the KPAX gaming expo, set up by the guys from Penny Arcade. I gotta say that it’s a beautiful thing to see geeks gathered together, waving glowing lightsabers around and just having a good time. As for MC Frontalot, well, whilst I fully support the whole nerdcore movement and respect him and his efforts, I can’t say I’m a fan. Something about the way he raps just kinda irritates me. I think I’ll just stick with mc chris for now… Though there was a group called Optimus Rhyme and, even though they are now defunct, that name alone demands at least a listen. It’s also good because my own idea for a nerdcore rap name, Hip Hoptimus Prime is still available. In terms of other ‘geek‘ musicians outside of the nerdcore subgenre well, I don‘t think you can ever go wrong with Jonathan Coulton.

Well, that’s that. Overall it was a fairly enjoyable documentary even if it didn’t get me fully on the nerdcore wagon. I’ll give it 3.5 pints out of 5. Laterz




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