Friday, January 8, 2016

“Dog Years” DVD (director: Warren Sroka and Brent Willis)

Smart and emotive indie

This little indie film comes across with little fanfare or notice, but damned if it doesn’t deliver with an entertaining and complex storyline that I fell into right away. Featuring both directors (who are also the writers, commendably) in the lead acting roles, “Dog Years” is the tale of a pair of estranged American brothers who find themselves together in Tokyo (both for different reasons), and working to resolve their family issues in very different ways.

The pair don’t get along, being of completely different temperaments and attitudes. Elliiot’s dismissive attitude towards his brother Ben’s overbearing positivity is gradually eroded, until he starts to see a light at the tunnel during his business trip to Japan. Ben’s relationship with the culture also becomes strained, but the brothers come to terms with their predicaments in different ways. This is a story of human interaction and maturation, and it works pretty well.

Billed as a sort of comedy-drama, even on the packaging, I found “Dog Years” to be a bit more serious than that. It’s not perfect, but there’s solid acting and a great story here that make for a really enlightening and engrossing watch. No spoilers here, but suffice to say, this is a completely worthy little indie film with much to offer. Nice work, guys.

Monday, January 4, 2016

“Eyes Of The Woods” DVD (directors: Miguel F. Valenti & Darrin Reed)

Flawed monster mess

Another troubled horror film suffering from the usual limitations ...poor audio, poor acting and lackluster, well-tread and derivative storyline. You've already seen this movje, in other words, and done much, much better.

The positives? The monster effects are pretty solid, and the gore is splattery good, with some nice head splittings and bloody sprays. A shortage of breastage hurts this, too, especially as there are several lovely young ladies who tempt but never quite get nekkid. The bloody topless blonde is an unexplained anomaly, making no sense at all, and it's all we get of the boobs. Call me sexist, but in this kind of trash film, there are certain, uh, “needs”. There are some choppy edits, some pretty blatant film “stops” or skips, and plenty of technical belches that really show a lack of care.

A shame, as this one shows some promise. As it stands, though, this is a weak and flawed film with really no memorable angle, sadly.

Fade To Black / Central Film Company

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gil Scott-Heron - “Black Wax” BluRay (director: Robert Mugge)

Poet-prophet and proto-rap icon

Anyone not familiar with the work of Gil Scott-Heron is really missing out on one of America's finest and wisest musical storytellers and a major (major!) inspiration for the early rap scene even. Scott-Heron was a profoundly political and socially responsible poet and musician, working in the avenues of spoken word and music both separately and simultaneously. 

Here, in this 1982 film, director Mugge pretty much hands over the controls to him, and to great result. Juxtaposing funky live footage of Scott-Heron with his band and in-the-streets-and-on-the-move spoken poetry, “Black Wax” is an intimately personal portrait of an artist at the top of his game. Don’t expect any sort of history lesson, as there’s no background or historical info here, but simply a “day in the life” of this brilliant man.

Sadly, Scott-Heron passed away in 2011. But thanks to MVD Visual, this lively and enlightening document is seeing a new life on remastered BluRay. It looks and sounds great, and the words of Gil Scott-Heron resonate still today. Superb film!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chronotope Project - “Dawn Treader” CD

Lovely selection of exotic, diverse soundscapes

This is the first I’ve heard of Jeffrey Ericson Allen, whose Chronotope Project has been active for several years releasing evocative and often cinematic electronic music. “Dawn Treader”, inspired by the C.S. Lewis story, is an intensely visual and sometimes playful listening experience, with plenty of twists and turns. 

Opening with the percolating sequencer sounds of “Dawn Treader”, the music gives way to the languid and introspective track, “The Scent Of Evening Flowers”, which gradually works itself into a bleepy outer-space soundtrack. “Basho’s Journey” brings an Asian influence to the table, no doubt due to the prominent use of the traditionally-tuned 13-string Japanese koto. “Ocean Of Subtle Flames” is a spiritual journey, complete with light rhythms and flutes punctuating the otherwise fleeting ambient textures. “Canticle For The Stars” is a kind of space music/classical hybrid, with blippy synth sequences alongside electronic strings. “She Who Hears The Cries Of The World” brings it all together into a wonderful melange of exotic textures, fleeting melodies, and evocative world music-meets-ambient vibes. It’s a celebration of all things musical, artful, and worldly.

Chronotope Project

Stone Roses - "Made Of Stone (director: Shane Meadows)” DVD

Doc on foppy Madchester fools

Manchester’s Stone Roses were partially responsible for one of the worst late 80s/early 90s music trends...the foppy, baggy-trousered “Madchester” scene that sadly tried to meld acid house club music with slackerly psychedelic rock. These guys inspired some even more insipid acts (anybody remember the atrocious Inspiral Carpets?), and even the notoriously  pompous Gallagher boys took the Roses’ self-congratulatory praises themselves all too seriously, and all the way to the bank with their vastly overrated Oasis. Any band who heralds themselves as "the best band in the world" or “better than the Beatles” deserves a swift kick in the nads, right?

The Stone Roses, however, despite becoming a huge (and hyped) act with the release of their 1st self-titled LP in 1989, could never quite rise above, with label and personal squabbling taking a fatal toll on the group as soon as fame and fortune raised their greedy heads.

This documentary traces an ill-fated 2012 reunion that brought the members together for some high profile gigs, only to see attitudes tear up the band again. Fans (anybody out there?) will be enlightened by this well done doc, but others unconvinced of the brilliance of the Stone Roses (me) will want to steer clear.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Time Being - “A Place To Belong” CD

Lovely minimalist ambient

The second album from micro-ambient composers Phillip Wilkerson and Jourdan Laik begins with the icy digital drone tones of “The Wind Has Called”. “Every Memory” is a more ethereal trip into the clouds at daybreak, and “From Where We Are” brings a piano element alongside the fragile drones. If any album release were tailor-made for the wee hours, or for the waking dream state, this is it. Wilkerson and Laik’s gentle and unobtrusive ambiences are both soothing and narcotic.

“Farther Worlds” is an awakening of sorts, with big ominous bass drones amongst the shimmery tones. “Here Is Life” is more typically ambient, with a shifting juxtaposition of darker elements with lighter, lilting fields of cinematic sound, and the finale, “An Infinite Home”, reminds of a superb Eno piece, a seamless and refined statement in minimalist ambiance. 

A beautiful release of gentle and evocative sound.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

“In The House Of Flies” DVD (director: Gabriel Carrer)

Unfulfilling torture indie

This micro-indie abduction horror/thriller is notable mostly for the voice acting of one Henry Rollins, who performs as “The Voice” — an unseen abductor who traps a young couple and confines them to a dark basement while he performs cruel tricks and mind-games on them. The pacing here is very slow, and there’s a lot of forgettable scenes and dialogue that really don’t do much to help.

To their own credit, main stars Lindsay Smith and Ryan Koteck (the teen lovers faced with starvation and torture) are quite believable in their roles as victims. The claustrophobic setting is effective enough, but the film’s lack of action nor depth makes for a  pretty tedious movie overall. And although this comes close to an outright horror film, the lack of much real gore or viscera is a definite detractor, too. It’s like “In The House Of Flies” holds itself back from the level of a “Saw” or other torture horror films by going a cleaner, milder route. And it just doesn’t quite work.

Ultimately, “In The House Of Flies” is unfulfilling and forgettable, and with that, I can’t justifiably recommend it.