Saturday, July 4, 2015

“Freestyle - The Art Of Rhyme” DVD (director: DJ Organic)

Hip hop culture historical

This documentary dates back to an original theatrical release in 2004, but that doesn’t tarnish the impact and importance of its message. Taking a deep and historical look at the early days of hip hop and the art of improvisational rap, “Freestyle” traces the lineage from Jamaican toasting to gospel preaching to modern street hip hop, all the while illustrating it with interviews and rare footage from early proponents and important figures like Mos Def, the Last Poets, and Aesop Rock, to name just a few.

From a historical standpoint, “Freestyle” is pretty well a definitive lesson in itself of the culture, eschewing most commercial angles and pop culture icons and focusing on the reasoning and skills of the early street MCs themselves, some obscure and forgotten but all very skilled and worthy.

This is a fine documentary and should be a must-see for anyone who professes to live or respect hip hop culture. Superb!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

“Scream Park” DVD (director: Cary Hill)

Mediocre slasher with Ogre and Pinhead

Another ultra-low budget horror flick with an affinity for the classic 80s slashers here, featuring a couple of notable cast members. Unfortunately, there’s little else here worthy of mention. The premise is simple — a failing amusement park owner decides to create a “media sensation” by hiring insane redneck thugs to commit murders at the park. The park’s teen employees, enjoying a night of drinking and partying, end up being hunted, one-by-one, by the maniacs (one played by an often-masked Ogre from Skinny Puppy).

Not much else to say here, aside from a memorable appearance by Doug Bradley (Pinhead from “Hellraiser”). The usual grisly killings are here, alongside some mediocre acting, and a bit of nudity (the appealingly busty Kailey Marie Harris drops some wondrous double-D bombs), but overall this one just falls flat (unintentional pun), not distinguishing itself from a thousand others just like it.

“Scream Park” isn’t terrible, but it is unremarkable and fairly pedestrian. Serious slasher fans could do worse, but casual horror geeks can take it or leave it in good conscience.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

“The Search For Simon” DVD (director: Martin Gooch)

Sweet and nerdy British indie

Nerdy manchild (played by producer/director/writer Gooch himself) David is convinced his brother was abducted by extraterrestrials 30 years ago. His continuous search ‘alienates’ him from his friends and complicates what could be his love life. He travels the world searching for clues into the alien abduction phenomenon and relays his findings through a network of internet vlogs. He is a man obsessed, and it takes a series of unlikely coincidences (and a confession from his mother) to uncover the truth that may ultimately set David free.

“The Search For Simon” is billed as a comedy, but it worked better for me as a sad and sweet portrayal of a man on the fringes of sanity and madness who just needs a helping hand. David is well-played by Gooch, being a likable and good guy who just believes wholeheartedly in a truth that isn’t popular nor mainstream. When even his nerdy friends reject him, David finds solace in a lovely young lady who does her best to help him find “the truth” that’s out there.

Well-shot, and with surprisingly good special effects, “The Search For Simon” is an enjoyable and kind-hearted British indie film that has heart and soul, and as so deserves some notice. 

And with endorsements from a pair of Monty Python alumni on the case, how could you go wrong?

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Fall - “Re-Mit” CD

Superb and traditionally odd post-punk

After more than 35 years and over 70 albums (30ish of them studio), the venerable Mark E. Smith and his merry band’s 2013 offering is a solid work of weird indie post-punk mayhem. Smith’s usual muffled, incomprehensible vocal ramblings are like those of a streetside drunk (albeit a very literate, well-read one). Witness the scruffy, stumbling “Kinder Of Spine”, which brings a loose and playful 50s-style groove alongside Smith’s larger-than-life persona.

“Noise” is a slice of electronic sound poetry, while “Hittite Man” brings a swaggering almost Birthday Party-esque madness. “Pre-MDMA Years” is more skittering electronic sound poetry, actually quite effective, while “No Respects rev.” is a swanky, upbeat pop tune. That is, until Smith chimes in with his gruff and growly vocals. “Irish” is a cool post-punk beat that’s faithful to the Fall’s history as indie rabble-rousers.

This is a solid, listenable, and often experimental Fall album (witness the computer game blips opening the otherwise appropriately-titled “Jam Song”), and among the better I’ve heard in some time. Strong work!

Cherry Red

The Fall website

DeeperNet - “Impossible Landscape” CD

Superb electro grooves

Portlander Andrew Miles’ second album as DeeperNet continues the deep and dark electro grooves of his fine debut of a couple of years ago. Opening with the exotic “Aether” (which could almost be a trippy Coil outtake, and that is high praise), the album then pursues a more dubby trance groove with the pulsing “Fractal Dimension”.4

The rest of the album is a diverse set of quality electronic sounds, from the melodic “Fluid In Blue” (featuring the ethereal vocals of Zefora) to the upbeat synthpop of “Illuminated By Ultraviolet”. Other standouts include the percussive yet tender “Falling Through” (again featuring the soft vocals of Zefora) and the 10-minute finale, “Quantum Teleportation”, which flows in an astral trajectory with deep near-goa beats. A fine and more than enjoyable album by an artist who knows few boundaries.

“3 Holes And A Smoking Gun” DVD (director: Hilarion Banks)

Slow and convoluted indie thriller

A complicated drama about a university student’s world class screenplay that inspires his once-successful instructor (a Hollywood screen writer himself) to go to extreme ends to attach himself to. Dark secrets are exposed in this smart but convoluted film. First time acting lead Zuher Khan does an admirable job as the student, while James Wilder is menacingly sly in his role as teacher-liar-extortionist. Aside from that, there’s little here to report or notice.

Pacing here is slow and dialogue-driven, but there remains something else missing here. The characters here inspire little empathy, and this micro budget indie, though not entirely unwatchable, is best left in the bins.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

“EM3 (Eenie Meenie Miney Moe)” DVD (director: Jokes Yanes)

Well-done Miami crime thriller

Raul (played well by the likable Andres Dominguez) is a Miami tow truck driver, but he quickly discovers that in this dirty city, he needs to find other means to make a living. So he gets involved in the crime scene, stealing cars and, in concert with his friends, selling the drugs he gets (from the dealers whose cars have been swiped and chopped) as a side business.

Things are going well. Raul has met a fine lady (the sweet and delectable Belkys Galvez), and he plans on making a life with her, before he discovers that this lifestyle has its downside. 

That’s as close to a spoiler as you’ll get from me. I will say that this film is quite nicely paced and acted, with characters being believable, dialogue seeming natural, and the characters multi-dimensional. Director Yanes has a keen eye for cinematic flair, playing with light and sound (and even some subtle CGI). 

“EM3” is a strong showing in the realm of crime thrillers, with a modern electronic-based soundtrack (including a couple of tracks by Miami bass madman and Skinny Puppy collaborator Otto Von Schirach). I enjoyed this one.