Directed by: Mandy Stein
Featuring: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Deborah Harry, Joan Jett, Thurston Moore, Tommy, Marky, and C.J. Ramone, and more
The Ramones are punk rock, end of story. Their music changed the face of punk as well as rock and later metal. Sadly, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone are no longer with us, but the Ramones continue to influence music and new generations of fans. This documentary shows how deep the Ramones fans and contemporaries continue to use their music as inspiration. Gabba Gabba Hey!
Too Tough to Die, chronicles a 2004 benefit concert held for the dying, cancer stricken Johnny Ramone. This benefit raised money for cancer research, but also fell on the 30th anniversary of te Ramones’ first performance. While the film is a documentary showing the concert, many of the acts on the ticket, as well as friends of Johnny Ramone, give commentary and insight into Johnny and the rest of the Ramones. The format is simple documentary, but the concert performances add much to the finished product. Instead of merely talking about Johnny and the Ramones’ influence, the audience gets to hear it in the respective bands’ performance.
I absolutely loved this documentary. I’m a huge fan of the Ramones and felt a bit disappointed by its lack of older Ramones’ footage, the fact that all of the other bands performed classic Ramones’ songs did feel right to me. Plus, the whole performance felt as if it was more of a tribute and not a goodbye to Johnny Ramone. While many people say that at sad occasions, this concert really delivers on that message.
The moments of sadness are plentiful, but the great music and memories really leave the viewer on a high note. All of the performances feel like a tribute and not trying to show their individual talents. Each band is humble and knows who and what the concert is about.
Based on pure music, this documentary is wonderful. Classic and newer punk bands are represented equally. Instead of being “older bands are better” rant, the film shows how newer music is influenced by the Ramones’ classic punk styling. While the X performance is lacking, the rest is top notch. This DVD is a must for any punk rock or Ramones’ fan. If you aren’t, then you will just like the heart represented by the friends of Johnny Ramone.
The video presentation is in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. All of the live footage is clear and really captures the feel of the music well. I was impressed at how the darker colors still seemed to pop on dark backgrounds. It is rather hard to get the feel of live music on film, but Mandy Stein does a great job. The direction is well done and the juxtaposition between live concert and interview looks amazing. Just from film quality, the viewer can see the difference.
DVD purists will complain that the feature is only in stereo, not any sort of Dolby, but punk rock has to sound rather rushed and grainy. If the audio were too clean, the finished product wouldn’t feel right in regards to the subject matter. The performances sound great and, with a proper system, will definitely sound nicer than just factory speakers.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging works so well on this feature. The pink lettering and Ramones’ seal along with Johnny rocking on guitar really get the feel of the Ramones’ quite nicely. Anchor Bay does a great job at showing this feature as punk rock, not a packaged nostalgia trip. While the only special features are a promo spot and Audio Commentary, the people on the commentary: Mandy Stein, Linda Cummings Ramone (Johnny’s wife), and fellow rocker Joe Sib really make the audio commentary worth while. In fact, the film is even more enjoyable with the commentary on to get insight into the people and bands that made the concert so special.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10