'Iron Sky'. Nazis on the Moon. Any Questions?

The Nazi base is shaped like a swastika; the little Nazi moon children grow up indoctrinated' the astronaut who discovers them is black. For God’s sake, this shit writes itself.

Iron Sky

Director: Timo Vuorensola
Cast: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto, Udo Kier, Peta Sergeant, Stephanie Paul
Distributor: E-One
Rated: R
Release date: 2014-03-11

How the hell could anyone fumble a movie about Nazis on the moon? That’s the question that crosses one’s mind when sitting through the alternatively engaging and cringe-inducing scenes in would-be tongue-in-cheek comic epic, Iron Sky. The formula seems foolproof: you take Nazis, you put ’em on the moon, you wait 70 years as they rebuild and plot and plan their revenge, and then have them invade Earth.

Their moon base, of course, is shaped like a swastika; the generations of little Nazi moon children grow up indoctrinated in all the evils of the untermensch. The astronaut who discovers them, of course, is black. For God’s sake, this shit writes itself.

Sadly, though, in this case it didn’t. Director Timo Vuorensola assembles a talented cast and crew and some genuinely impressive special effects (especially considering the low budget), but saddles the proceedings with a lame, going-for-laughs script that never dares to take its own premise seriously, outlandish though it may be. This is a shame, because the very idea of “Nazis on the moon” is enough to get any fan of kitsch-level cinema art, such as myself, all but salivating.

To be truly successful, though, a camp-kitsch fest like this has to pretend that it doesn’t know it’s a camp-kitsch fest. Just look at Sharknado, that recent masterpiece of the genre; there are a few throwaway jokes and self-indulgent winks at the audience ("Where did you learn so much about sharks?" "Shark Week"), but for the most part, that movie plays itself straight, with almost painfully sincere performances in service to its utterly ridiculous, shark-meets-tornado premise.

Iron Sky, on the other hand, falls into the trap that undermines so many wannabe romps. It thinks its smarter than its material, and that its audience will respect the filmmakers for being so.

This is not the case. Just about everybody on Earth is smarter than “Nazis on the moon”, so the filmmakers gain absolutely nothing by playing this stuff for laughs. A cold-eyed, steely-voiced, granite-jawed sincerity would at least have won points for commitment, if not necessarily execution. As it is, the film takes a self-indulgent, ironic approach, and fails dramatically.

This isn’t to say that Iron Sky is an unmitigated disaster. It’s not. As mentioned earlier, the special effects are surprisingly good, and the action set pieces, when they finally do arrive in the film’s last 30 minutes, are engaging enough for fans of exploding spaceships and other forms of mindless, gore-free destruction. For such a low-budget labor of love, there’s a good deal to admire.

Before we get to the rousing finalé, though, we have to sit through any number of painful and unfunny subplots, such as that of the black astronaut who is turned white through Nazi genetic engineering, the Sarah Palin presidential stand-in who has secretly constructed a space battleship called the George W. Bush, and the blonde Nazi schoolteacher who is in love – or is she? – with an uptight, high-ranking Nazi officer. None of this is funny. It's all supposed to be.

Do you really need a synopsis? Okay, here goes: in the near future, an American moon landing encounters a Nazi base, which leads to an invasion of Earth. Violence ensues.

Julia Dietze, who plays the Nazi schoolteacher Renate, brings a fresh-faced sweetness to her role, while Christopher Kirby, who plays the above mentioned black astronaut James Washington, does the best he can with weak material that has him preening and popping his eyes and all but calling people “jive turkeys”. The dialogue isn’t quite that bad, but it’s close.

Other than these two, the characters are forgettable: the wild-haired mad scientist, the plastic government drones on both sides of the battle, and of course the Nazis, who are movie Nazis, which is to say faceless and interchangeable. While nobody would go into this expecting a huge amount of characterization, especially of the cartoon villains, it would be pleasant if at least someone had a motivation for some of his or her actions other than, “They’re Nazis, what do you expect?”

While the story falls flat, the film excels visually. The moon shots are suitably murky and filled with shadow, with garish spotlights and great lumbering machinery chugging away in the background; camera angles are used to heighten drama (and cheesiness, but that’s okay, too). Honestly, the movie looks and sounds great, and this Blu-ray edition offers a pristine picture, as expected. It’s just a shame about that script.

This new “director’s cut” offers 20 additional minutes over the original release, which I suspect does the movie no favors. Not having seen the original release, I don’t know where the new scenes were inserted, but I can guess at least one, an early scene where Renate visits the imprisoned James and offers up a platter of uninteresting and unnecessary exposition. Fans of this movie may lap up the extra minutes on offer, but are more likely to be interested in the embellished SFX scenes (again, these were reportedly enhanced in this edition, but not having seen the original, I can’t comment other than to repeat that the film looks good).

The 90-minute “making of” featurette is as long as the original release of the film, and is far more interesting than most such, given the movie's low-budget Finnish roots. The feature traces the career of the principal filmmakers back to to '90s Star Wreck Internet films, then moves through the production itself, with interview bits from the cast, rehearsal clips and of course a fair bit of self-congratulation.

Also interesting is its lengthy discussion of crowdsourcing and other alternative forms of funding, and fans will be especially appreciative of these behind-the-scenes moments. A 32-page booklet containing preproduction art and storyboards from the movie’s early days is also included and is a nice touch.

Ultimately, Iron Sky is a lot less of a mess than it could have been, but it’s also not the jaw-dropping bit of awesomeness that it might have been, either. A lot of work and love went into it, and the end result is admirable, but it fails to live up to its promise. That’s too bad, because this could have been one of the all-time greats.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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