Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Bag It" (director: Suzan Beraza)

This smart and enlightening, yet thoroughly engaging and entertaining documentary began as a study on the effects of all the disposable plastic bags we have used for years. Think about it. Every time you went to buy groceries, you got a stash of throwaway plastic bags. Sure, if you're like me, you "recycle" them as cat litter bags, trash can liners, etc. But do we really ever question where these bags go? The director has a valid point. We throw them away, but where, exactly, is "away"? There is no such thing.

We have created a vast sea of floating plastic garbage, ensnaring and stifling sea life for miles and miles, and in several spots around the world. But does that affect any of us, who live in the mainland? Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Director Beraza enlists the affable "everyman" Jeb Barrier to narrate and host this film, and it's a real winner. But before you turn away shouting "guilt trip from the environmental tree-hugging extremists", this one is optimistic and hopeful, and certainly "must-see" viewing for anyone looking to educate themselves on the world and our unnecessary impact upon her.

Diverging from the simple plastic bag, "Bag It" also looks at plastics at large. Cheap, useful, and, in modern times, an essential part of our survival, this chemical-based building material has been a blessing and a curse on our culture. But as stated earlier, the likeable host here, Barrier (and his wife) provide enough comic relief and humility to make what could be heavy-handed easy-to-digest and to show that we have the ability, knowledge, and technology to make things so much better for our children. Do yourself (and your friends and family) a favor and see this!

"Bag It" is set for National Public Television screenings beginning this month, too, so check your local listings or search your DVR...

To purchase DVD/merch

To find the nearest public screening

Fire + Ice - "Hollow Ways" CD

Fans of the dark pagan folk of Sol Invictus or Current 93 will already be familiar with the work of Ian Read. This early (1994) work from Read's own band is a charming and deceptive collection of Nordic and Germanic-inspired mystical folk music. Utilizing traditional songs from the old European traditions alongside his own songs, Read's often pastoral and acoustic offerings are often paeans to legend, wars, and the old gods. Without regard for modern culture, Fire + Ice are more concerned with the spiritual world and the preservation of the poeticism and existentialism of life.
A cover of the Irish traditional "Rising Of The Moon" is a memorable standout, as is Kipling's "The Old Grey Widowmaker". But Read's own songs complement these, exhibiting a delicate sensitivity and haunting sorrow, as well as a boldness and strength from within. A superb gem of an album, perhaps too obscure for some, but for those who choose to listen closely, there's much to take in here. (Tesco Distribution)

Fire + Ice site

"Derailroaded - Inside The Mind Of Larry "Wild Man" Fischer" DVD

I had never heard of Wild Man Fischer, but this documentary does a great job bringing me up to snuff. Back in the wild 60's, Los Angeles street singer Fischer was "discovered" by one Frank Zappa, who brought the troubled young man into a studio to record an album that would go on to be seen as an "outsider" classic, and a favorite on quirky radio shows like Dr. Demento with his signature tune, "Merry Go Round".
But beyond this level of fringe stardom lies the story of a man who was institutionalized as a teen, suffered a tragic and disturbing family life, and has lived with paranoid schizophrenia for his entire life. In "Derailroaded", director Josh Rubin looks closer at Fischer, and his unbiased eye lets the viewer see Wild Man in his prime, as well as in recent years. Music, interviews with family and friends, and lots of archival films make this one an important and fairly comprehensive look into the man and his music. Interviews include friends Barnes & Barnes, Weird Al Yankovic, Mark Mothersbaugh, Dr. Demento, and Frank and Gail Zappa. A fine documentary and a fascinating individual. (MVD Visual)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Across Tundras - "Sage" album

After a number of obscure and limited albums, this Nashville-based group finally gets their due with their first release on Neurot. Starting things off with the thick, molasses rock of "In The Name Of River Grand", this group's attack is multi-pronged. On one hand, they're a heavy rock band with roots in extreme metal. But the moods and textures here are distinctly Americana, with country, western and Appalachian themes around the edges. For example, "Buried Arrows" is a country-folk tune at heart, but played with louder amps. "Tchulu Junction" is a slow-burn crusher with enough epic peaks and valleys to please any Neurosis or Swans fan. "Mean Season Movin' On" is a 12-minute mountain of huge post-Hawkwind psychedelic space rock, and the closer, "Shunka Sapa" is another wandering psyche-metal jam that proves that these guys are at the top of their game. Splendid work! (Neurot Recordings)

Across Tundras site

Across Tundraspace

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Summon The Crows - "One More For The Gallows" album

Fiery and potent thrash/death metal here from a Norwegian act. Limited to only 1000 copies, "One More For The Gallows" also channels some crusty English hardcore on tracks like the punchy "Ornaments", and "Black Hole" brings in some black metal influences, as well. All said, it's 10 tracks in 26 minutes here, all fairly vicious and packed with crunch and groove. Completely worthy. (Southern Lord)

Summon The Crowspace

Monday, April 4, 2011

"The Quiet Arrangement" DVD (director: David C. Snyder)

This small-time indie film may not be perfect, but certainly shows some vision and skill. A tense action crime thriller ripe with treachery and murder, "The Quiet Arrangement" begins with a simple abduction and ransom, but gradually morphs into a befuddling and twisty ride. Featuring a cameo from Public Enemy's Chuck D, this one has some outstanding cinematography, decent acting, and a fine showing from the alluring Christina Simkovich, who plays abductee Sharon Briggs. Stylish and inventive, this is one micro-indie that's well worth a chance. Here's hoping Sundance or IFC will pick it up. (MVD Visual)

Duke Ellington - "Reminiscing In Tempo" DVD (director: Gary Keys)

This loving tribute was filmed predominantly at Duke's sister's yearly celebrations in honor of Duke's birthday. So expect a cast of Ellington's former bandmates and colleagues, some telling stories of the famed jazz bandleader/pianist's heyday and some even performing pieces. "Reminiscing In Tempo" strays from the usual documentary format in that it's like being at a party in honor of Ellington (which it is). Director Keys also inserts a number of rare video clips and photos into the mix, so this one's probably a must-see for fans and those curious about one of America's most important musical icons. Enjoyable and well-done. (MVD Visual)

Duke Ellington website