Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Play In The Gray" (director: Kaitlin Meelia)

A surprisingly immersive, subversive, and provocative documentary, "Play In The Gray" looks at the acclaimed gender-bending stage & performance group All The Kings Men. From the socio-political comedy of their drag shows to behind the scenes, these women are creating a friendlier world for those who don't fit into rigid gender roles or stereotypes. And I say "Bravo!" to them.

Hailing from Boston, the 6 ladies of All The Kings Men have performed hundreds of shows all over the country, and their vaudevillian, over-the-top characters are both hilarious and campy. In "Play In The Gray", we get to meet each of the performers, and sometimes their families and partners. We see what makes these girls tick, as they get into costume and subvert what we think makes a "woman" or a "man". Some of the girls are comfortable as male characters, while others are more feminine. Each of them, though, has a story and persona that's empowering and uplifting. Kudos to the filmmakers and All The Kings Men, for producing a film that breaks down some stereotypes and boundaries. (Planting Seeds Productions)

"Mourning Wood (director: Ryan Convery)

Ah, another micro-indie splatstick zombie-comedy (zombedy?). This one doesn't fare so well, being a tale of a small-town informercial king who accidentally unleashes a mutant zombie strain in his "Shampube" genital-washing product. The result are silly undead who hump everything within sight and "expel" torrents of white goo (which, naturally, turns others into zombies).

Granted, some of the head-splattering gore effects are fine, but everything else here is just bad. It's a juvenile, "not-funny" comedy with a penchant for silly digital effects, bad acting, and a fratboy sense of humor. I lost interest rather quickly. (Brain Damage Films)

"Busty Maids: Housekeepers In Heat" DVD & "Busty Bookworm Babes: Loose Nude & Dirty" DVD (director: Thomas Coven aka Thelonius Punk)

This pair (hahah) of hour-long DVDs arrive straight out of the box boasting of promises not delivered. To me, "busty" implies "with ample breasts", which both of these features definitely do NOT live up to. Immediate points off for false advertising.

Both "Busty Maids" and "Busty Bookworm Babes" consist of shorter vignettes of what amounts to softcore stripteases (and some simulated masturbation). Many of the same actresses appear, as well. "Busty Maids" just includes campy Halloween-store "maid" outfits, rather than the "nerdy" glasses and business attire of "Busty Bookworm Babes". Otherwise, these films are interchangeable. These are, for the most part, little more than substitutes for those boring Playboy videos. No, thanks. (Purgatory Blues and Bovine Studios)

"Joint Body" DVD (director: Brian Jun)

This well-done crime drama stars Mark Pellegrino (best-known as Jacob from "Lost") as an ex-convict who, upon release, is abandoned by his ex-wife and estranged from his daughter. In trying to find his feet in the real world, he meets troubled stripper Michelle (played well by the lovely Alicia Witt), and together they get mixed up in another, umm, legal debacle. 

Director and writer Jun does well leading us to empathize for both Nick and Michelle, who are both strong and likable characters, despite their histories. With a minimum of violence and sex, "Join Body" remains gritty and realistic, and subsequently, an exceptional indie film with heart and spirit. I enjoyed this one all the way through! (40 West/Level 33 Entertainment)

Shane Morris & Mystified - "Epoch" CD

Pooling the talents of ambient artists Morris and Mystified (aka Thomas Park), "Epoch" is the initial collaboration in what is planned to be a 3-part auditory journey through prehistoric time and evolution. It's an interesting idea, and this album would make a fitting soundtrack to such a sojourn.

The artists wisely utilize only organic, acoustic instruments here, before processing them heavily with electronics. The resultant sound is a primordial soup of textures and amorphous tonalities. An effected didjeridoo blends with drones and gradually-shifting washes of what sounds like wind instruments in "Devonia". "Triassic Extinction" is a more mysterious ambient journey to a barren landscape, while the 14-minute "Jurassic Dawn" is a droning affirmation of life, from nutrient-laden seas to lush, green landscapes. "Epoch" sums up the beginnings of life well, and I look forward to exploring more of the Earth with Morris and Park. (Lotuspike)

"I'm Not Nuts- Living With Food Allergies" DVD (director: Kevin J. Lindenmuth)

A vital and timely documentary about the growing problem of food allergies, "I'm Not Nuts" is a fairly straight-forward look at the affliction and it's permutations. Interviews with doctors, scientists, and those (mainly parents) who deal with these mysterious allergies every day are the foundation, as they well should be.

As well, "I'm Not Nuts" provides a number of valid alternatives, and general rays of hope for someone coping with extreme food allergy. Director Lindenmuth doesn't go the flashy route, as there's not extensive reliance on attention-grabbing graphics, but the info here is paramount. As it stands, this should be a must-see for anyone involved in the food industry, or anyone with children. (MVD Visual)