60 posts categorized "War"

March 29, 2021


COLESMITHEY.COMPunk 101: The band from Derry.

"Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?
Every time she walks down the street
Another girl in the neighborhood
Wish she was mine, she looks so good"

Even if The Undertones had only written “Teenage Kicks,” the band would stand as one of the most important Punk groups responsible for energizing international culture and music. Hell, the song's been covered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, not to mention Nouvelle Vague's great version. And still the hits kept coming. "Mars Bar" is the ultimate non-commercial song about how a candy bar can keep you going when you're knee deep in shit of any political/societal strife.

The Undertones - Teenage Kicks watch for free or download video

"My Cousin Kevin" is a hard slag on every golden boy destined for oblivion. "Here Comes The Summer" is a joyful romp about the one season that promises anything and everything. I could go on but you need to listen to The Undertones records for yourself. 

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With significant on-screen assistance from legendary BBC Radio DJ John Peel, Irish documentarian Tom Collins packs every necessary punch into a lively 72 minute documentary.  

Review: The Undertones - Singles 1978 - 1983 | Vinyl Chapters

From 1975 to 1983, The Undertones held their own alongside Punk heavyweights such as The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Blondie, Johnny Thunders, and The Clash. What musical excitement.

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That The Undertones’ sparkling brand of radio-ready power pop was created in the midst of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, which lasted from the ‘60s into the late ‘90s, is a testament to the group’s deceptive maturity despite their young ages.

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In the '70s, New York City was beset with garbage piling up in the streets and CIA-introduced heroin, but Derry, Northern Ireland was steel trap of military occupation. Bombings, shootings and guns stuck in kids’ faces everyday prompted The Undertones’ rebellion of musical sweetness. To watch this great documentary is to get a sense of how five young Irish musicians (Feargal Sharkey, John O'Neill, Damian O'Neill, Michael Bradley, and Bill Doherty) declared their freedom and individuality with infectious original songs about teenage angst. Contrary to the misconception that Punk was about kids who couldn't play their instruments, shouting unintelligible crap, bands such as X-Ray Spex, The Damned, Billy Idol, The Buzzcocks, and The Undertones made joyful pop that made you want to dance, fuck, and hang out with your pals. 

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The band’s lead singer Feargal Sharkey’s irrepressible tenor voice cuts through every song with an urgent passion that cannot be denied. Sharkey has an amazing voice that he puts to fierce fun-loving purpose. It’s sad that Feargal is interviewed alone while other bandmates share the luxury of each other’s presence in some sequences. Such is the fallout from the band’s inevitable breakup amid personal and social pressures. Nostalgic and bittersweet joy emanate from a labor of love movie that will get your heart pumping and your feet tapping. The band from Derry is unforgettable. 

4 Stars

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September 24, 2017


Softcore Pro-War Pap
By Cole Smithey

Colesmithey.comAt best, Christopher Nolan is a barely competent filmmaker. Still, he is far from being an adept storyteller, much less a great director. Not only is Nolan’s “Dunkirk” far from the “masterpiece” that every phony bandwagon-jumping “film critic” pretends it is, the movie is one of the worst war films ever made. Here is a cinematic peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with creamy p.b. and a ton of jelly so that it won’t stick in your throat. You’ll be reaching for a glass of milk rather than the stiff drink that you would be thirsty for if this war movie were any good. Let's be clear, this movie sucks.

Search all you want, there isn’t a protagonist to be found in "Dunkirk." There isn’t even an enemy. All we see of the faceless German troops is the exteriors of their warplanes. Talk about half-assed screenwriting, “Dunkirk” exists in a filmic bubble the size of your fingernail. 

Hans Zimmer’s relentless music pounds the film with 120 beats-per-minute of aural hamburger-helper; you may as well wear a blindfold, you’ll get the gist of every scene I promise. Nolan clearly knew he was in trouble deep that he needed to mask the film’s weaknesses with so much musical bombast. I can still hear Zimmer's pedantic music ringing in my ears.

Screenwriter Nolan splits up his jumbled film into three parallel plotlines twisted to represent the battle of Dunkirk from perspectives of the land, sea, and air. Nolan only names three of plotlines although there’s an extra thrown in for additional uncertainty. Most confusing is the fact that each plotline takes up a different amount of time, ranging from a single hour to one day, to one week. Christopher Nolan’s faulty foundation for “Dunkirk” is doomed to be taught in film schools for decades as an example of what not to do.


There’s “The Mole” plotline about Tommy, a young British soldier who we are led to believe is mute because he doesn’t utter a single word for the first half of the movie. While taking a dump on a French beach, Tommy meets Gibson, a similarly mute soldier busy burying a fellow soldier in a shallow grave of sand. The “mole” refers to the wood and stone pier that Tommy and Gibson traverse in order to board a U-boat (while opportunistically carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher) that they hope will take them to safety from the gathered masses of German troops who have 30,000 soldiers backed onto the beach.  

From the pier, Royal Navy Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) mumbles dialogue as though he has marbles in his mouth along with Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy) who seems to have even more marbles in his own maw. Christopher Nolan clearly didn’t care too much about the dialogue in these scenes since the audience will barely catch a word of it.  

Another story thread follows fighter pilot squadron leader Farrier (Tom Hardy) running low on fuel as he dogfights German “bandits” in the skies over the English Channel. There are two other fighters in Farrier’s squadron, but their subplots are so glossed over, you’ll barely notice they’re there. One thing you get is that Christopher Nolan has a fetish for making Tom Hardy act from behind a mask. “You’re not eating enough strawberries.”    


The “sea” aspect of the narrative follows the adventures of a British dad traveling on his family boat with his two teenaged sons in an attempt to rescue soldiers from the French beach. Their rescue of a British soldier played by Cillian Murphy backfires when the shell-shocked soldier flips out because he doesn’t want to be taken back into the line of fire. The subplot does allow for the film’s best performance from the ever-reliable Cillian Murphy.

Nolan's most egregious sin arrives as an anticlimactic punchline to his supposed "fact-based" story when roughly a dozen small craft boats "rescue" a fraction of the 30,000 soldiers stranded on the French beach. I wonder what the other 29,920 doomed soldiers would have thought of Nolan's rendition of Dunkirk. 

As for as the lack of filmmaking technique on hand, all you need do is compare any scene from “Dunkirk” against any scene from a film made by Polanski, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Klimov, Linklater, or Tarantino to discover the blatant weaknesses in Nolan’s uninspired, and unschooled, approach to composition and atmosphere. Nolan wouldn’t know an “axial cut” from a hole in the ground. To pretend that Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker of any consequence is pure folly. Not only does Nolan not know where to put the camera, he hasn’t a clue about what to show and what not to show. There simply isn’t any logic or continuity to his use of filmic language.


All war films should be anti-war films by definition. If you take Elem Klimov’s bar-setting “Come and See,” for example, you’ll see what I mean.

“Dunkirk” seems to say that there are no heroes in war, only victims, suckers, survivors, and assholes. Perhaps Christopher Nolan’s movie has a point after all.

Rated PG-13. 106 mins. (F) (Zero stars — out of five / no halves)

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January 08, 2017


Zero MotivationTalya Lavie’s 2014 black comedy, about a woman’s place in the Israeli Army, plays like a cross between “Reform School Girls” and “Catch 22.” Lavie skewers religious and military indoctrination in the context of psychological and physical abuses levied against female soldiers by male and female officers alike.

Writer-director Lavie takes inspiration from Jean Vigo's once banned 1933 film Zero For Conduct, about bourgeoning rebellion in an all boys boarding school, to transpose a narrative drawn from her experiences serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Although this movie might play as light comedy to Israeli audiences, the film echoes systemic abuses of female soldiers in the American military where rape is a common occurrence.


When our rebellious heroine soldier Zohar (Dana Ivgy) attempts to lose her virginity to a fellow soldier, she requests that he “be more gentle.” His callous response, “I’m combat, baby” speaks volumes about the sexist effect of his military training. Zero Motivation is a troubling movie in spite of its primarily comedic tone.

"War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing." —Edwin Starr

Zero Motivation

Not Rated. 97 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

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