Thursday, July 7, 2016

“A Dog Named Gucci” DVD (director: Gorman Bechard)

Dog who made a difference

Now, this is a moving, touching, and beautiful documentary. Initially based around the life of Gucci, a precocious 10-week old puppy who was intentionally set on fire in 1994, this film shows just how animal cruelty laws have been radically changed across the US by grass-roots efforts and those who care. Gucci lived to be 15 years old and received proper medical care and a loving forever home, and his plight inspired Alabama to enact new and stronger animal cruelty laws. 

The cases behind other maimed, tortured, or murdered dogs are also examined here, alongside interviews with their caretakers and animal rights activists. It’s a harrowing film, and not one for the ultra-squeamish, of course, but it does bring a positive message ultimately, as since the cases here have come to trial, every state in the US now considers animal cruelty to be a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. That’s a big win for those of us who cherish our animal friends and housemates. 

Director Berchard received the 2015 ASPCA Media Excellence Award, and rightfully so. “A Dog Named Gucci” shows that every individual who stands up for animal rights can indeed make a difference. And although there are still thousands of cases of animal abuse every year that go virtually unnoticed and unpunished, there are plenty of us who do stand up and fight for the rights of our Earthly brethren — canine, feline, or otherwise. 

Rigor Mortis - “Welcome To Your Funeral: The Story Of Rigor Mortis - Part 1” DVD (director: Bruce Corbitt)

R.I.P. Mike Scaccia

This documentary, produced with the direct involvement of the surviving Rigor Mortis members as a tribute to their fallen guitar legend Mike Scaccia (later famous for being Ministry’s mid-to-late period guitarist), covers the inception of this influential Texan speed metal outfit until 1987, when they signed to Capitol Records. It’s a solid and reverential collection of rare footage, both live and behind the scenes, with tons of interviews with friends and band members telling all sorts of sordid tales of the band’s legendary drunken brawls, parties, and hellbent live shows that fused brutal death and speed metal with a horror/gore slant.

Narrated by Philip H. Anselmo (yes, he of Pantera and Down fame and infamy), this is a thoroughly entertaining and intimate portrait of one of Texas’ best loved (and hated) bands. Speed and gore metal fans who are familiar with this band need to check this one out, and even those curious as to the genesis of a band who’ve since influenced a shit-ton of metal bands, would do well to see this one. It’s not overly slick or packed with digital graphics, but it’s a great document and a fitting tribute to a real-life guitar hero.

“The Nasty - Terrible T-KID 170 (Julius Cavero)” DVD (director: Carly Starr Brullo Niles)

Rough but informative doc on graffiti art legend

A quick (49-minute) documentary on the life and times of infamous NYC graffiti artist Cavero (aka Terrible T-KID 170), this rough and tumble collection of old, hand-shot footage and recent interviews (with Cavero himself, namely, alongside some of his peers and fans) isn’t much to look at, and may only be of limited interest, but it’s certainly a must-see for fans of renegade street art.

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