Brain Trust

Maybe I'm not laughing as much at zombie flicks these days because I got a huge hole in my gut that's leaking blood and stuff all over the house, but still . . .

Last night I stayed home with my stepdad, Nick, who is here visiting me from New York via California, and we watched that flick everyone's been raving about, Shaun of the Dead.

You know, the one from that backwater country called England where they have more dental problems than they do in the West Valley? Anyway, the film, made last year, stars a brilliant Simon Pegg as a slacker named Shaun, who wakes up to a world full of zombies. While Pegg, who also wrote this film, is dead on, the rest of the movie, well, blows. Sucks. Eats crap. Intestines, arms, legs and brains, too.

Okay, I get the title; it's clever. But the trailer for the movie made it sound like it was the best thing out of the U.K. since Monty Python.

The problem here?

Plot. The movie tries to have one.

And it's much like the plot of the original George Romero flick, Dawn of the Dead. Yeah, we're all zombies, yeah, we hate our jobs, yeah, we go through life blind, but this movie could have been done so much better. And what kills Nick and me is that it wasn't funny. It was almost a remake of Dawn of the Dead with worse jokes. And if there's anything you want in a zombie movie, it's humor. Then again, that just could be us New Yorkers, and maybe others around the globe see no humor in their antlike day-to-day existences. Then I could see where this would be scary. But on a George and Nick scale, we gotta say it sucks. Even if some of the gore blows our minds. Or the zombies'. All over the screen.

Since Nick is here playing nursemaid, we also had the chance to see the new movie End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones. It should be out on DVD any day now.

So, how was it?

"It's accurate. It left me disturbed," said Johnny Ramone before he went to the big CBGB in the sky, leaving behind a very phallic statue I described here last week. Don't believe me? Just look at the bronze hair on the beast. Gabba Gabba Penis.

Anyway, the movie. Well, after all the pre-press for this thing, and all the edits it went through, and all the trouble filmmakers Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia talked about in the media for the last couple of years, you'd think this movie would be the be-all, end-all flick about America's best band. But instead, it's just another rock documentary that rears its fangs like that Metallica one, but doesn't really state the importance of the band.

That's not to say it doesn't try. But watching a whole movie about guys who really hate one another leaves viewers with nothing but a bad taste in their mouths. Sure, there is some great early footage of the band, and even some film of the Ramones fighting onstage, which is priceless. There are also charming interviews with the late Dee Dee Ramone, who really does come off as the artistic light bulb of the band, and the late, great Joey Ramone has some nice stuff to say as well.

But when the camera turns to Johnny, a good ex-pal of mine, the movie just gets plain ugly. John, not looking his best, tells the truths behind all the shit that happened over the years, and doesn't really gloss over anything. And it's sad. In End of the Century, we learn that lead singer Joey and guitarist Johnny didn't talk to each other for nearly 20 years. Even though they shared the same van, same stage, same jackets, same everything. A happy family? This movie blows that idea out of the water.

And that's why I think this film should be locked away in some vault somewhere never to be seen again.

The Ramones were more than a band. Somehow they became a movement, the punk-rock movement, and offered hope and unity to youth worldwide. Whether they liked one another, as you can see in the film, doesn't really matter. They did their jobs.

Of course, some in the band sought fame and fortune, but some of the guys got what they were doing, and for them, I'm happy. I guess we are all always going to compete with some image of something we have in our heads of ourselves, and that's too bad. If the Ramones could have just stepped back before they died and saw how they changed the world, maybe they'd have been happier people. Then again, out of twisted lives comes the best material.

All in all, worth seeing, then burying. Then go watch Rock 'n' Roll High School 50 times and kneel down and give me 100 Gabba Gabba heys.

Okay, enough with the Jurassic Punk. Out now on New York's Whoa Oh Records is the first album by The Unlovables. These guys and girls do pop-punk so well, I will not be surprised when they sell more records than Avril or Yellowcard (whoever they are), and people realize that really good pop-punk comes from the same place it has always come from. The streets.

The kids in this band, including singer Hallie and guitarist Frank, have been on the scene for quite a while, and this, their first product, just shows how much they really care about their craft.

Oh, and let's not forget to mention Whoa Oh Records. Put together by a guy named "Johnny Whoa Oh." If you are old enough to remember the heyday of Lookout! Records and Mutant Pop, then you'll get what Johnny's trying to do: Put out the best music he can find. And he's doing a damn good job at it.

So is Stefan, for that matter. He's this dude who runs Stardumb Records out of Holland. Like Johnny Whoa Oh, Stefan also has great taste in pop-punk and has recently put out some great albums from bands like The Apers and The Groovie Ghoulies. I swear, if these two labels were not in existence, there'd be no hope left in the pop-punk world.

And speaking of that, true pop-punkers love Zelda more than anything. That's right, the Nintendo video game. And there's a new cart out for the GameBoy Advance called The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Looking much like The Wind Waker for the Nintendo Game Cube, this installment of video game action fun finds our hero, Link, talking to his hat. As silly as it sounds, it's loads of fun, has some great puzzles, and is well worth your money. Pop in this cart, listen to a record on Whoa Oh or Stardumb, and be happy.

That is, until the zombies come to eat your brains. Then just tell 'em you ran out and send them to Scottsdale Fashion Square. Hot Topic will probably give them free tee shirts or something for looking so "punk."


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