Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Bob And The Monster" DVD (director: Keirda Bahruth)

Great look at rock redemption and the power of music

In the making for over 6 years, this stunning documentary focuses on Thelonious Monster founder Bob Forrest and his journey, from the untamed and beyond-control excesses of his rock wildman days to innovative rehab counselor. In-between, we are treated to numerous interviews with Bob's friends and musical collaborators (including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Guns 'N Roses, Jane's Addiction, and Hole members, among others). 

There's an extensive bio of Bob's journey from his happy childhood to his out-of-control addiction that nearly cost him his life. There's tons of rare footage of Bob's days fronting Thelonious Monster, onstage and off, along with candid interviews. If this were the heart of the movie, it would still be a top-shelf rock bio. But where many rock bios of this nature end tragically, "Bob And The Monster" is full of positive energy, redemption, and hope. 

Bob's current place in the world isn't taking rock to excessive highs (though he is a world-class songwriter still), but in assisting those in need. Indeed, Bob Forrest has been saving lives through his unconventional programs. His experience with addiction has made him a sympathetic and knowledgeable drug rehab counselor for those with little hope. His distrust and avoidance of pharmaceutical "cures" for chemical dependency is wise and prudent. "Bob And The Monster" is a superb film for anyone interested in the rise, fall, and rebirth of a gifted individual. In short, this is a beautiful film that I can highly recommend.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cosmic Psychos - "Blokes You Can Trust" DVD (director: Matt Weston)

Stellar bio on Aussie punks Cosmic Psychos 

It's a shame I had never been familiar with this veteran noise/punk act from Australia. Seems they've been quite influential on a number of famous Pacific Northwest rockers -- many of which are interviewed here. Director Weston qualifies this fine, engrossing documentary with testimonials from folks like Eddie Vedder, Mudhoney, Donita Sparks of L7, Melvins, Butch Vig, Steve Albini, and label supporters from both Sub Pop and Amphetamine Reptile Records. 

But the best parts of this film are the in-depth interviews with Cosmic Psychos members, namely the rock wildman Ross Knight, who's steered the band through (as the subtitle proclaims) a million beers, parties, women, and all the requisite tough times that serious devoted rock bands encounter (like a longtime member passing away due to an addiction). It's curious that, while still performing with a rejuvenated Cosmic Psychos, Knight is a professional body builder as well as a devoted family man and farmer, with a penchant for big tractors. Through it all, Knight is a good guy, likable and full of entertaining yarns.

There's classic footage of the band, as well as interviews with other members, their families, friends, and supporters. "Blokes You Can Trust" is everything a great rock doc/bio should be -- entertaining, fun, and even emotional. Recommended even for those unfamiliar with the band's heavy, raucous punk sounds. Bravo!

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Linda Lovelace's Loose Lips: The Last Interview With Legs McNeil" DVD (directors: Alex Chmaj and Legs McNeil)

Revealing doc on tragic porn star

Built around the legendary Linda Lovelace's final interview (before a tragic auto accident in 2002), this excellent documentary places it into a historical context with plenty of side interviews and footage from her short-lived film career. For those not in the know, Lovelace was the star of 1972's "Deep Throat" -- the largest grossing hardcore porno of all-time, and the film that in considered to have made adult film "mainstream". At the time, Lovelace seemed destined for superstardom, but she quickly retreat from the adult entertainment scene, and even spent years rallying against it.

This documentary attempts to answer some of the questions left behind by Lovelace and her claims that she was forced to do "blue movies" by her abusive and powerful manager-husband. Some holes are poked in many of Lovelace's comments, and indeed Lovelace seems to have been proven (at worst) a liar (and at best, a deluded and sad mental case). 

The saga of "Deep Throat" is a fascinating one, and it's peppered with all kinds of sensational claims (Lovelace's reported abuse, mafia involvement, the Anti-Porn Movement that followed, and the Hollywood insiders who befriended Lovelace -- Hugh Hefner, Sammy Davis Jr, and others). "Loose Lips" attempts to tie up some of these loose ends, and is an engrossing and entertaining look at a complex -- and troubled -- individual who never seemed to find the peace (or notoriety) she so desperately desired.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lydia Lunch & Rowland S. Howard - "Shotgun Wedding" CD

Classic swamp-blues rock from some legends

This is an expanded, remastered reissue of Lunch & Howard's classic 1991 album, which in my book remains a linchpin of either artists' separate careers. In fact, I'd wager this to be Howard's finest work since his Birthday Party days. It's a shame he's not around to add to that fine legacy. Still, "Shotgun Wedding" is a swampy post-punk affair full of dark edges and seductive textures. J.G. Thirlwell's dry, raw production is perfect, capturing an essential tension and junkie back-alley sinew. In short, this is a great album.

Opening with the iconic and slithery "Burning Skulls", the album moves forward to a gloriously gloomy (and bluesy) cover of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time Of Dying". "What Is Memory" is a skeletal showcase for Howard's prickly, twangy guitar-work. "Pigeon Town" is another highlight, being a rowdy swamp-blues affair, again highlighted by Howard's tight guitar. The album's closer is quite possibly the pinnacle, being Alice Cooper's magnificent "Black Juju" -- a slithery, snake-like trance rock track that hits some intense and dynamic highs. Between Howard's potent riffs and Lunch's cynical, aggressive vocals, "Shotgun Wedding" is a marvelous and memorable dark-edged rock trip, and one that just gets better with age.

This reissue adds Lunch and Howard's fine studio cover of Lee Hazlewood's "Some Velvet Morning", as well as 5 live recordings of fair to bootleg quality. And although these bonus additions aren't quite up to the quality of the album itself, it's certainly worth a look for serious Lunch or Howard fans. 

"Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven" DVD (director: Rena Riffel)

Rena Riffel's trashy 'sequel'

I must give a hand to multi-tasking actress Rena Riffel, who produced, wrote, directed, AND starred in this one. And although the film itself is long-winded (running at 2.5 hours!), convoluted, and downright silly, the fact that she alone was responsible for most of it is pretty well cool.

The story here supposedly picks up where the poorly-regarded "Showgirls" left off 18 years ago. Riffel (who looks great and fit at 44 years old and isn't afraid to bare her fine ta-tas, by the way) reprises her role as Penny Slot -- an aspiring dancer/showgirl who just can't get a break. Her quest takes her out of Las Vegas, and into sleazy, seedy Hollywood, where she has to sift her way through all kinds of trials and tribulations for "the part" -- most of which entail sleeping with (or getting felt up by) someone.

Sure, this isn't much of an original script (I've seen porn with similar executions), and the acting is often really over-the-top, but it seems Riffel is going for a sort of trashy homage to the original. She even references her roles in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" and "Striptease" here, which is kind of neat. 

Still, "Showgirls 2" leaves a lot to be desired, and even as a campy (and unofficial) follow-up, it's not one I'd easily recommend.

"The Great Hip Hop Hoax" DVD (director: Jeanie Finlay)

California skate rap from Scottish blokes

Another excellent documentary that I'm glad to have seen, "The Great Hip Hop Hoax" is a fascinating look at the Scottish hip hop duo, Silibil 'N Brains, who got themselves signed to Sony UK only after posing as American street hip hop MCs (after a devastating audition where label heads dismissed them as "rapping Proclaimers"). So, with fake accents and artificial "street cred", these pasty Scottish boys ended up making mad money, seeing big city lights and even garnering MTV airplay as "the next Eminem". Then it all came tumbling down as fast as it started, after a hailstorm of drinking, partying, and womanizing (naturally).

Interviews with both members, their families, and the record executives that landed them are enlightening, detailing the way that Silibil (real name Billy Boyd) and Brains (aka Gavin Bain) began their great hoax. Their California-boy, skate-punk, street-thug mentality convinced even those close to them, and it's a credit to Boyd and Bain's acting skills that they could take things that far. 

A great tale, and a weird kind of "success story", calling out the major labels on such a bluff. Sure, the boys are still around -- Bain still performs his own brand of hip-hop/rock as Hopeless Heroic, while Boyd got married, had children, and now works in the oil industry. 

A superb documentary, and a story for the ages.

Black Lips - "Kids Like You & Me" DVD (director: Bill Cody)

American indie/punk act visits "hostile" Middle East...

Going into this unfamiliar with American indie rock act Black Lips, I had no idea what to expect here. But I'm glad I took the chance to devote time to it. As much a study in culture, social and media bias as a straightforward tour film, "Kids Like You & Me" places Black Lips (and Lebanese touring partners Lazzy Lung) on tour within supposed "American-hostile" Middle Eastern countries. On their tour itinerary, the bands encounter enthusiastic crowds in Egypt, Dubai, Iraq, Lebanon, and others. Yes, the kids just want to dance, drink, party, and have a good time there, too.

The guys in Black Lips are mostly humble and likeable chaps, and their willingness to put aside biases and prejudices speaks volumes for them, as well as their Middle Eastern counterparts. I'm sure there were some strained and challenging moments on this tour, but overall, director Bill Cody and the band choose to highlight the good times and goodwill they received overseas. It's truly a global world, and I thank Black Lips for being good ambassadors. Maybe I'm not a huge fan of their music, but this film was enlightening and enjoyable all the way through.

"'83 US Festival: Days 1-3" DVD

US pop festival highlights

After 30 years, this landmark US pop festival (instigated and funded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak) finds a release on DVD. Mind you, this is merely highlights, but it works well, especially as there are added present-day commentaries from Wozniak and others involved.

Let's see, what else need I say about this "best of"? I could just name the artists. You get (mostly single tracks) by Divinyls, INXS, Stray Cats, The Clash, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Berlin (who's great "Sex (I'm A...)" is sadly truncated), U2, Missing Persons, and others. It's all filmed exceptionally well and professionally, though the transfer is from analogue (aka VHS) sources.

In short, this is a fine look at a legendary music festival with some great top-of-their-game talents. Maybe not essential for anyone but the staunchest collectors, but a worthy and entertaining watch, nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ohm - "Ohm" CD

Top-tier Vancouver industrial

A duo consisting of Vancouver industrialists Craig Huxtable (Landscape Body Machine) and Chris Peterson (ex-Front Line Assembly/Delerium and Decree), Ohm's debut is a sturdy set of deep, dark, and textural electronic tunes that will immediately please fans of bands like FLA, Skinny Puppy, or Numb. 

The opener, "When Robots Fuck", is subtle, mid-tempo, and effective enough to set the mood. "Car Crash" follows, and this is among the band's finest moments -- a subtle, heavy, and even catchy industrial thumper. "Detroit" features whispery vocals by Kaine Delay (of fellow Vancouver industrial punks Left Spine Down), and  is another winning combination -- all cinematic electronics with a masterful analogue beat undermining it all. "Destroyed In Seconds" and "Brute" are more aggressive mesh of furious techno rhythms and declarative vocals in the spirit of Peterson's excellent Decree project. 

Overall, a superb album of dark industrial beat masterpieces, and with really solid production, this is definitely steps ahead of of their peers. More, please!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Iggy Pop - "The Document" DVD+CD

Mixed bag of Iggfo

Ah, it's another re-packaged mess from UK label Chrome Dreams. This time, it's a double-disc set of Iggy Pop documentaries. The 72-minute CD, titled "The Classic Interviews", includes 8 radio and TV interviews, from 1977 and Iggy's "Lust For Life" period (one interview also includes friend and collaborator David Bowie) through to a 2005 "Remembering The Stooges" interview. There's some great info here, including the famous 1977 interview in which Iggy explains his take on "Punk Rock", as utilized by the famous Mogwai song of the same name. This disc is evidence that as Iggy ages, his wisdom and well-spoken nature becomes much more apparent. The man is simply a genius.

The DVD is actually a clever re-packaging of an earlier DVD ("The Sacred Triangle:  Bowie, Iggy, & Lou") that focuses on the collaborations and interactions in the 70s-80s between Iggy, Bowie, and Lou Reed. The fact that even the packaging addresses the DVD as "Iggy Pop: The Documentary DVD" is shameful and deceitful. That is not to say it isn't a well-done documentary, but to not acknowledge the truthful contents is mercenary.

Iggy Pop is supreme, and there's some good stuff on "The Document", to be sure. Just be aware of what you're buying.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kommandant - "Stormlegion" CD

Chicago black metal reissue

Kommandant's 2008 debut album is here reissued, and it's a 13-song set of blurry black metal created by a group from Chicago that consists of "anonymous" members of other bands, including Nachtmystium and Sarcophagus. It's really pretty solid work, with precise drumming and guitars, and the usual distorted witchy vocals.

My only issue here is the production, in which the drums sound a wee tinny and dry. Otherwise, as a debut offering, "Stormlegion" is a solid work of fearsome, if unremarkable, black metal madness.

Neomythics - "Projectiles" CD

Fine post-indie rock from Frisco

The second album from San Francisco-based duo Neomythics, "Projectiles" is a sly and slick rock experience. From the proto-new-wave opening title track, the moody "Your Life" makes a good case for smart pop stardom. "Countdown" is a nearly industrial/post-punk number, whereas "Phased Out" is prime "alternative rock". I could go on about these guys' diverse sounds, and truth be told, they do it all quite well. 

From outright pop-rock to smart indie sounds, Neomythics are a band with all the chops. Enjoyable!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Darshan Ambient - "Little Things" CD

Sweet and swirly ambience from a master

Prolific composer Michael Allison here presents his 17th album (and 7th overall for the impeccable Lotuspike label), and it's a lovely set of 12 ambient tracks with a decidedly melodic and rhythmic imprint. 

"The Mystery Of Sleep", for example, uses a lilting mix of swirly, dreamlike voices and strings alongside floating percussion and piano. In fact, fans of so-called shoegaze will find much of this album quite enjoyable, as it does manage a similar foggy, gauzy sweetness. "Shadow Country" unearths a bit of mystery, and even hints at a vaguely Southwestern-meets-Middle-Eastern vibe. "Soft Portrait" is a plaintive and gentle piano-based study, while "Slow Drum" is a gradually-building proto-rock entry.

Allison is a master of moody and emotive ambience, and "Little Things" highlights his approach to warm and inviting, and ultimately human electronic music. Superlative!

Beer: O'Fallon Brewing 10 Day Double IPA

O'FALLON - 10 DAY DOUBLE IPA (O'Fallon, MO) - 3.0 (average)

Located just outside St. Louis, O'Fallon Brewing has been around for 13 years now, and has seen craft brewing rise from a fringe "underground" to full-on mainstream acceptance. I've had a number of their beers over the years, and we here at Goatsden consider O'Fallon a solid, respectable, and quality producer of fine craft ales and lagers. We are pleased to announce a new addition to the brewery's year-round lineup, the heavy-duty, 9%ABV, palate-cleansing 10-Day Double IPA. Review as follows.

Pours a murky, cloudy ruby-amber, with a substantial head of off-white carbonation. Lovely, ornate, and impressive tri-finger lace.

Nose is aromatic pine and citrus hops, with an element of tropical fruit. Solid.

Taste is where things fall apart for me -- I get a wallop of heavy, sour, acidic, and bitter hoppiness. It's compounded by a big, heavy, and sweet malt profile that is overpowering, too. Sure, this is a huge beer for serious hop-heads, but I don't get a balance, nor any semblance of subtlety here, sorry. 

Not one I'd return to, unfortunately. With a bit of tweaking to the recipe, this could be a world-class IPA, but for now, it's recommended only to serious hop-fiends.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Beer: Schlafly American Brown Ale

SCHLAFLY AMERICAN BROWN ALE (St.  Louis, MO) - 3.75 (good)

St. Louis is a known as one of America's brewing centers (historically speaking, at least). Sure, the big player resides there, but there's also a pretty substantial craft beer scene in St. Louis. Spearheading that scene, and indeed pioneering it, is Schlafly Brewing. We here at Goatsden have enjoyed plenty of Schlafly's fine ales through the years, so we know to trust them.

Recently, the company added a canning line, and we're seeing some solid session ales come out of that. This American Brown Ale pours a caramel-amber, with a huge, oversized head of foam, and some thick, ornate, and detailed lace.

Nose is caramel and nuts. Very malty, and pretty well spot-on for a brown ale.

Taste is toasty and malty, with a hint of roasted nuts. I get a snappy hops presence at the finish. Overall, solid, but not world class. 

"The Audacity Of Hops" by Tom Acitelli

"The Audacity Of Hops: The History Of America's Craft Beer Revolution" by Tom Acitelli (2013 Chicago Review Press, softcover, 6" x 9", 400 pages)

This is the (so far) definitive book detailing the burgeoning craft beer movement in the United States. Tracing roots back to England and Germany, but more specifically San Francisco, and Fritz Maytag's venerable Anchor Brewing, writer Acitelli covers every major element in the craft brewing industry up to today. Along the way, he succeeds in presenting interviews and viewpoints from all of brewing's major players -- Jim Koch, Sam Calagione, Charlie Papazian, Greg Koch, Kim Jordan, Ken Grossman, and plenty of others. If these names mean nothing to you, you simply aren't tuned into the craft beer scene, period.

Acitelli's writing is succinct, yet descriptive, and this story follows so many branches that any craft beer fan will find plenty of fascinating information on the formation of their favorite brewery. Not only touching on the "big guys", there are historical looks at New Albion, Boulder, F.X. Matt/Saranac, Buffalo Bill's, Pete's Wicked Ales, Alaskan, Weeping Radish, Brooklyn, New Glarus, Redhook, Odell, Magic Hat, Flying Dog, Lagunitas, Catamount, Harpoon, Mendocino, and tons more.

In short, "The Audacity Of Hops" is a top-shelf book that should be in every beer lover's library. As comprehensive as it gets, this is a truly enlightening read, and a joy to behold. Bravo!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Distorted Memory - "The Eternal Return" CD

Dark Canadian electro

The third LP from Winnipeg-based artist Jeremy Pillipow, "The Eternal Return" is a pretty standard dark-electro-industrial release, complete with distorted vocals, sinister melodies, and plenty of sizzling sequencers. Compared to similar artists like early Leather Strip, Wumpscut, Suicide Commando, or Front Line Assembly, Distorted Memory hold their (his) own quite nicely.

"Throwing Stones" is as close to an anthem as this band get, combining smooth club sequences with cold, evil vocals. "Back Away" is retro-industrial that's smoothed over with clubby disco sounds. "Becoming Winter" is another standout, with throbbing mid-tempo analogue beats alongside Pillipow's cut-glass vocals. 

A solid work, if ultimately derivative of Europe's finer sequencer/electro acts.

Forgiven - Alcohol Recovery Shot

Hangover cure?

So, given that I have been writing about alcoholic products (namely, craft beer) for years now, it's a given that I would sometimes be offered unusual and related products for my evaluation (and promotion). This is something different, entirely.

Advertised as an "alcohol recovery shot", and "alcohol metabolizer", Forgiven is a vitamin-rich, fruit-flavored shot to assist in what most of us term as "hangovers". Sure, there have been numerous claims in the past, usually from "snake oil"-type salesmen, to remedy the awful next-day sickness often associated with excessive consumption of alcholic beverages. Truth is, there isn't any true "cure", aside from not drinking so much in the first place!

So, that said, I did approach Forgiven with plenty of trepidation. And, to be truthful, Forgiven doesn't CURE hangovers. It's basically a super-rich (and sweet) shot packed with tons of vitamins B1 (10,000%!), B3, B5, and B6 (2000%!), plus a generous dose of Zinc. In effect, this mix does assist the body in the quicker metabolization of the alcohol, thus getting it out of the system quicker. So it may not all be "snake oil".

So, the question everybody REALLY wants to know. Does it work? Using myself as a guinea pig, I tried the several varieties of Forgiven in liquid shot form. First, I tried the "Tropical Punch" flavor, with an aroma like weird herbal "fruit". Poured a dark brown, like Jagermeister. Tasted alright, though it was very syrupy-sweet. I didn't take notes as to how much I had to drink beforehand, but the effects were minimal. Maybe I was more conscious of my condition, but nothing really happened. Strike one.

A different night, and after several good beers, I popped the "Orange Dream" -- tasting like a super-sweet orange sherbet. Not bad, but, again, a very weird taste. I did, this time, immediately feel a slight alleviation of my previously-existing headache. I'm still a skeptic, and aware that the mere power of suggestion is quite powerful, too, but this time maybe the Forgiven helped?

Finally, I tried the Grape version, this time after a night of several IPAs and some whiskey shots. I can't say I felt too bad the next morning, anyway, but I did pop the shot in the morning, and had nothing but a slight, dull, distant headache lingering, and absolutely no nausea or loss of appetite. 

My final conclusion? Forgiven isn't a miracle cure, by any means. It does, however, help a bit with the ill after-effects of alcohol consumption. I wouldn't, personally, trust in the stuff too much, and I definitely wouldn't do it often, but as a quick "pick-me-up", it's worth a try, at least.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cat Rapes Dog - "Life Was Sweet" CD

Swedish trash-electro

Sweden's kings of sleazy biker-rock-tinged electro have returned after a hiatus of 14 years. The 9 new songs here clock in at only 35 minutes, and I get a much more clubby, disco sound that I've heard in the past. Nonetheless, the same tongue-in-cheek humor and offensiveness are intact, as evidenced by the opening single, the solid EBM-groovy "God Hates Christians".

"Through A Glass Darkly" pumps up the dance vibes, with female vocals from Annelie Bertilsson (aka "Dannie Dudemeister"). The new-wavey "River Of Pain" is a fun diversion, while "Head Around" harkens back the the band's earlier, harsher  EBM-electro days. "A Thousand Years" closes out the album, unfortunately, on a pretty forgettable note. Overall, it's good to see CRD return, and "Life Was Sweet" fairly sums up their career, from harder electro to more synth-poppy disco cuts. Long-time fans will not be disappointed, and those looking for retro-electro with teeth will also be satiated.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

AC/DC - "The Bon Scott Years" DVD/CD

Shallow and shameful cash-in

Ah, this is a really shady unlicensed set to be certain. The DVD features a few brief old Aussie TV interviews with the band and original front-man Bon Scott. There's very little insight or history here, at all. According to serious AC/DC fans, these clips have been available online for some time, rendering this one pretty well unnecessary. And the entire DVD runs for about 15 minutes. Shameful.

The attached CD isn't AC/DC at all, but early work from Bon Scott's pre-AC/DC days. Sure, serious fans may be curious to hear these 11 tunes, but as they are classic sixties-style pop (rather than bluesy hard rock), this may come as a big shock to fans expecting balls-out Bon Scott "rawk". 

All-in-all, don't be duped by this dubious set of "rare" AC/DC material.

Laser Media

"Bruce Lee - A Warrior's Journey / In Pursuit Of The Dragon" DVD (director: John Little)

Well-done and respectful documentary set

This set of 2 Lee retrospectives/documentaries is deceptively packaged as if it were a pair of long-lost Bruce Lee movies. But, looking beyond marketing gimmicks, these really are interesting and worthy viewing for any fan of the martial arts master.

The first documentary is "A Warrior's Journey", and it showcases Lee's life story -- all centered around 33 minutes of unreleased footage from Lee's unfinished (and final) film, "Game Of Death". Director Little paints a vivid and loving portrait of Lee and his career through interviews, film clips, and photos, even getting as close as an extensive interview with Lee's widow (and mother of his children).

The second film here, "In Pursuit Of The Dragon", proves to be less interesting. Re-visiting the scenes from famous Bruce Lee movies, Little compares and contrasts the locales now, versus the some-40 years since Lee's passing. I'm afraid this is something only die-hard Lee fans will find of interest.

So, a solid set of Bruce Lee documentaries here, and a great gift for serious Lee devotees.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Porn Shoot Massacre" DVD (director: Corbin Timbrook)

Mild film that only aspires to be "dangerous"

I have little patience for this sort of thing. Promises, promises. I say, if you're going to go for such a balls-out, all-in trashy title, at least back it up with something of, well, substance. This lame exploitation film goes nowhere fast. The premise? A porno in the making is marred by a grisly murder! The girls are being picked off one-by-one. Interested? Me, neither.

The opening scene is of an obviously-enhanced porn star in the shower. She is killed by an unseen assailant. There is obviously artificial blood. That is about as "hardcore" as it gets. For a film with both "porn" and "massacre" in the title, this one lacks both. Sure, there are plenty of breasts here and there, but there's also atrocious acting, a lame, generic story, and less-than-stellar murders and blood.  "Porn Shoot Massacre" is mild all the way, never quite cashing in all of it's chips. No, thanks.

"Fear The Forest" DVD (director: Matthew Bora)

Shallow Sasquatch Silliness

So, I may know where one of the masks from the "Where The Wild Things Are" movie went! Jokes aside, this silly micro-indie horror was off to a rocky start as the outer packaging included several mis-constructed sentences and misspellings. It didn't get a whole lot better, either.

So, how could a Bigfoot movie that includes a martial arts battle and motocross footage be that bad? Right. And some subtle references (or is it homages) to "Deliverance" and "The Evil Dead" do not make this any better. So what isn't present in "Fear The Forest"? How about a decent script and original idea. How about some acting? A believable monster? Or maybe even some nudity or sex scenes? Nope, we'll have none of that here. Lackluster in most every way, this film could've been a decent film school project, but in a lake teeming with bigger fish, this one is just chum.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Vodka: Exclusiv Cherry

Exclusiv Cherry Vodka (Serge Imports LLC) - 64 proof (32% ABV)

This cherry-flavored vodka is distilled from wheat, and hails from the small country of Moldova. It pours a typically translucent clear, as any vodka should. The aroma up front is, well, a strong cherry.

Tasting this well-chilled and on-the-rocks, Exclusiv Cherry features a deep cherry flavor. Whether or not this is artificial or natural, I don't know (as media info nor bottle mention), but it's a fairly faithful representation of cherry. I also get, alongside the cherry, hints of a woody, almost amaretto note. Of course, the finish has a biting, alcohol sting.

When enjoyed as a mixer alongside some cola, Exclusiv did well, too, adding a nice old-time soda fountain cherry flavor to the soft drink. On the negative side, the finish here was medicinal and funky.

Still, at it's low price point (around $10/750mL), this is a solid vodka for either straight drinking or mixing. Thanx to Ann at Utopia for the tasting!

"Going Underground - Paul McCartney, The Beatles And The UK Counter Culture" DVD

Beatles member dealing deeper underground

Another unauthorized documentary from the UK's venerable Pride Productions, this one centers on McCartney's inspirations from and within the sixties UK underground scene. As well as looking at the Beatles, a large part of this feature-length (153 minutes) film focuses on figures like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, the Soft Machine, AMM, the famous UFO Club, and Dr. Timothy Leary.

As with most of Pride's excellent productions, this one doesn't skimp on photos or footage. And though there are no official Beatles members interviewed, there are a number of important folks who were around then, including Eddie Prevost (of AMM), John "Hoppy" Hopkins (founder of the International Times magazine), Joe Boyd (Pink Floyd producer and UFO Club founder), Robert Wyatt (of the Soft Machine), as well as journalists and biographers. 

I gleaned a lot of info here, and learned that McCartney was far more instrumental in the Beatles' movement from teen-pop act to experimental rock than I'd previously imagined. His immersion in the counterculture, drugs, and the arts scene led him down a path which became immensely influential to the world of music and our own modern culture. "Going Underground" is a fine look at a time and place long since past, but still remaining vital as we go forwards. Well-done!

Pride Productions

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Unsolved" DVD (director: Lance McDaniel)

Well-done college murder/mystery

This is a suprisingly well-done murder/horror film from director Lance McDaniel, who the cover says directed "Children Of The Corn", though the trusty imdb says otherwise. It stars the attractive Lezette Boutin -- or Jane Bunting, depending on whether you believe the packaging or the actual film credits. Hmm. Despite all the typos or misinformation, "Unsolved" comes across with solid camerawork, good cinematography, and reasonable enough acting. 

The story is shifting and interesting, too. Boutin/Bunting is convincing in her role as Amanda, a law student who is assigned to investigate an unsolved murder at her own university 15 years ago. Her investigation gets her into trouble with school officials and seedy characters alike. All the while, her tag-along boyfriend shows himself to be little more than a conniving and unfaithful diversion.

Being a product of the Oklahoma City University film department, there's little sleaze action present, unfortunately, so you won't get an abundance of breasts or blood. The charm here is in the "Clue"-style mystery of it all. Could there be something to do with Amanda's prick of a boyfriend, or does the case involve important elected officials? 

Overall, not a bad film by any means. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Paranormal Apparition" DVD (director: Alec Tuckman)

Inferior ghost story

This micro-indie film is compared to "Paranormal Activity" on the packaging, which isn't really very apt or accurate. No surprise there, eh? This is a fairly generic, quickie movie that doesn't have much to offer the crowded "haunted house" genre. The story follows a typical broken family and their transplant into a ritzy Beverly Hills mansion that's been tainted by the blood of a vicious murder.

The daughter (here played by the lovely Lulu Brand -- obviously a pseudonym) is most susceptible to the influence of the paranormal, and she is the protagonist here. The special effects are purely of the silly digital variety, and there is practically no tension here whatsoever. The acting is average, but the story itself seems so played-out and generic, there's nothing here left to the imagination. Couple with that the fact that there's no nudity at all, and very little blood, and this is safely a throwaway cash-in attempt, riding the coattails of better-known (and creatively superior) films.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Agrimonia - "Rites Of Separation" CD

Superlative heathen metal

The third album (and first for Southern Lord) from this Gothenburg-based quintet is a scalding, monumental assault of diverse metal stylings. At 60 minutes and 5 tracks, this band pushes the envelope with drawn-out and developing tracks that hint at several heavy sub-genres --melding them into something altogether menacing and seductive.

The opener, "Talion", is 11-minutes of dense psychedelic sludge metal with thick riffs and shrill, demon-like vocals. "Hunted" is another mid-tempo monster, with epic tribal rhythms and spacious guitars building after a melodic piano-led intro. "While Life Lies" is a beast of post-black metal, with huge, thunderous riffs and rhythms. The closer, "Awaiting", is a subtle summation, complete with nearly ambient interludes alongside the voracious and vicious metallic assault.

Most certainly, Agrimonia have a wide and varied sonic palette to draw from, and their brand of heathen black/death/psyche/sludge metal is uniformly superb from any standpoint. Played this one multiple times. Amen Agrimonia.

"Welcome To The Machine" DVD (director: Andreas Steinkogler)

Music industry documentary

This feature-length documentary focuses on the music business, and it follows the trials of an upstart indie pop/dance band, along the way briefly interviewing a number of well-known acts, from the Bloodhound Gang to Lordi to the Album Leaf to AFI to Xiu Xiu. Director Steinkogler, who is based in Austria, naturally focuses on industry professionals in and around Austria and Germany, so the "name" musicians take a back seat.

Steinkogler's "12 Commandments" of making it in the business are pretty well common-sense, and he makes a case that there isn't a singular method to success in the business, but that it's also quite difficult to find an audience in our age of multi-media sensory overload. Honest and entertaining (though a bit long-winded), "Welcome To The Machine" is a well-done "behind the scenes" look at the workings of the music industry.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Linnea Quigley - Grindhouse Triple Feature" DVD

Scream Queen Trash Trilogy

First off, this isn't what's normally termed "grindhouse" -- it's more like eighties-era exploitation, of the type shown on late-night TV. That aside, legendary scream queen Quigley stars in these three trashy, sexy, horror-edged films. Expect plenty of eighties stereotypes here, and some of this footage looks to be sourced from VHS or laserdisc, but it's all more than watchable.

First up, "Nightmare Sisters" is probably the most memorable film. It's the tale of three nerdy girls who come into possession of a demonic crystal ball that transforms them into sex-starved vixens. Their party (with three nerdy guys) becomes, well, a bloodbath. There's plenty of topless action from Quigley and co-stars Michelle Bauer and Brinke Stevens, including a steamy triple-girl bath. Good, solid, trashy fun!

"Deadly Embrace" is pretty forgettable, and borders on murder-mystery. Stunning cougar wife Ty Randolph seduces her studly gardener (played woodenly by Ken Abraham, who spends more time grooming his hair than he does acting). Abraham's unwitting girlfriend (cue Quigley's character) gets involved, and things get hairy. Again, some steamy sex scenes ensue. but the faltering plot (straight from a cheesy romance novel) and poor acting leave this one D.O.A..

Finally, "Murder Weapon" is a confused and hackneyed murder thriller featuring a pair of girls (both daughters of murderous mobsters, no less) who leave a mental hospital only to hold a massive party with all of their old boyfriends. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, the party gets a bit out of hand, and boyfriends start ending up dead. Some reasonably bloody gore is here, and there are plenty of yummy romps with Quigley and her co-star, the shapely Karen Russell. 

Quigley fans will need this inexpensive collection, and fans of sexy horror with a B-movie twist will, without a doubt, be pleased.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beer: Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest

So, craft brewing pioneer Sierra Nevada releases two different "Harvest Fresh Hop Ales" per year. Northern Hemisphere features specially-harvested fresh hops from Yakima, Washington, while their Southern Hemisphere Ale, reviewed here, utilizes fresh hops from New Zealand. This is as delicious of an IPA as one can enjoy, in my humble beer-critic opinion! On to the review...


Pours a clean amber, with a huge, frothy, and creamy off-white head. Delicate, intricate lace. Top! Nose is exquisite citrus, tropical pineapple hops goodness. Tastes well-balanced, with the malts up front and a tropical citrus/grapefruit twang at the finish. 

Absolutely superb and well-enjoyable, and a great value at the price (As I remember, $4-5 per bomber).

This is only bottled and released once per year, so if you see it out and about, do yourself a favor and invest!

Beer: Indiana brews from Flat 12 Bierwerks, Fountain Square, and Cutters

Indiana, and most specifically Indianapolis, has become a hotbed of upstart craft breweries. Indy, specifically, has at least 10 I can count at this point, with others just starting up. The beers reviewed here are all from Indy, or not far from Indy (Cutters is based in Avon, IN near Bloomington). There are no dogs here, either, so if you find yourself within a fair distance, check these out. 

Keep in mind that my reviews are on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being awful, and 5 being awesome. A 3, therefore, is drinkable, whereas a 4 is superb. I don't give out any real 5's, so 4 is top-tier. Drink indie, drink local, and drink responsibly!

Flat 12 has become a favorite of late, with all of their core lineup being above average. This black IPA is no exception.

Black with ruby highlights. Massive head of bone-toned foam. Attractive lace. Nose is rich, dark, bittersweet chocolate. I get a hint of hops, but it's pretty obscure. Taste is nicely hopped, followed by a roasty charred finish. A solid and enjoyable brew combining some usually disparate styles.

Also of note -- I love the stark, dark, and stylish bottle art.

Also from Flat 12, this is my personal favorite "local" beer now, hands down. It's a pale ale that approaches IPA hoppiness/happiness. using only delicious tropical-citrus Australian Galaxy hops. Cool points to the rep from Flat 12 who poured this at the SWIRCA brewfest in Evansville in 2013. Love this beer!

Pours a fairly clear golden-amber. Average head of off-white suds. Attractive tree-line lacing. Nose is immediately recognizable -- aromatic Aussie hops with a spiky, sharp, and floral earthiness. Superb. Taste is also wonderfully brisk and sharp, with notes of bitter grapefruit and earth again. 

A superlative pale ale that could easily be classified as an IPA, I'd easily pick this up again!

An easy-to-drink pilsner from a new brewery. Hmm.

Pours a cloudy golden, with a huge head of white carbonation. Not much lace, though, oddly. Nose is light grains and malts, yeast. Very mild. Taste is crisp and malty, with only a tinge of citrus hops at the finish. 

This is a smooth and easy-to-drink lager -- not overly memorable but solid and quite session-worthy. 

Fointain Square's porter wasn't so successful, but it's certainly not bad, either.

Pours a dark ruby, with a small head of tan bubbles. Minimal lacing. Nose is roasty and fruity, and the body is light, even watery. Flavor is toffee up front, with some roasty chocolate in there as well. 

Maybe this isn't super unique or standout, but it does go down smoothly, and Backyard Porter is a faithful and flavorful English-style porter.

I haven't been a big fan of the few Cutters beers I've had thus far, and this one just didn't "cut" it for me, either. I do give these guys points for their big pours at local brewfests, and for serving their massive Empire imperial stouts at said functions!

Pours a cloudy amber, with minimal carbonation. Lace is small and erratic. Aroma is mild -- definitely a pine and citrus hops vibe, but it's not overwhelming. Taste is sharp and bitter hops, very much in a citric vein with plenty of acidity. 

Not bad, but not a notable or unique IPA, either.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Confessions From The Grassy Knoll" DVD / "I Shot JFK: The Shocking Truth" DVD / "Spooks, Hoods, & JFK: The Shocking Truth" DVD

Trio of conspiracy theory documentaries

The whole labyrinth of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 is a thick and mysteriously impenetrable one. I don't profess to knowing much, and it would take a lifetime of research to even gather a serious, well-educated opinion on just what happened that fateful day. Covert involvement by organized crime and the US government itself (perhaps with the participation of the mob) have been implicated for decades, but there's yet to be any 100% verifiable and accurate resolution, and I doubt there ever will be.

Nonetheless, these three independent documentaries all strive to present a different side to the story, with mixed results. Most well-rounded is "Confessions From A Grassy Knoll", which covers the widest scope, and features the most input from supposed insiders and sources. It's also the most entertaining and professionally-produced, with plenty of newsreel footage, photos, and interviews.

"I Shot JFK" is based around an intense prison interview with James Earl Files, who, before his death, confessed to the murder -- immediately throwing into question the truth behind the accused murderer Lee Harvey Oswald's role in the whole plot (if there was one). Files was a charismatic fellow, for sure, and many of his claims were seemingly very accurate despite the FBI's assertion that he wasn't "credible". At the least, this is an entertaining and inspiring interview, and it makes an ideal second part to the previously-mentioned "Confessions From The Grassy Knoll" release.

"Spooks, Hoods, & JFK" takes a different side, and is based around an in-depth interview with CIA operative and mob associate Chauncey Holt, who died a week following this interview. He brings a series of experiences and associations to the forefront in his version, and encompasses world powers, the US government, and more mafia connections. A lively film, this one feels like an old instructional film, with dry narration. It's an intriguing look at some other possibilities, but, as with any films of this ilk, it's all down to what you want to believe.

Overall, these are some fascinating documentaries, perhaps to be taken with a grain of salt, so to speak, but interesting nonetheless.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Beer: New Belgium - Hoppy Bock Lager

NEW BELGIUM - HOPPY BOCK LAGER (Fort Collins, CO) - 4.0 (excellent)

So, Fort Collins' premier craft brewery, New Belgium, has started a seasonal series of experimental hop-forward beers, delivered every few months in 22 oz. bombers for an enticingly low price. Under the aegis of "Hop Kitchen", this is the first in the series. I picked this gem up for only $4.19 at a local specialty shop, and I'm glad I did.

Pours a pale, clean golden with a rich and thick head of white carbonation.  Beautiful, detailed lace. Nose is toasty grains and grass, with a touch of floral hops somewhere in there. Promising start! Taste is sweet lager malts up front, with a bitter citrus hops finish. Drinks very lightly and easily, despite the 6.9% ABV. 

I really liked this one. Well-done, and I managed to pick up another before they were gone.

Headcount - "Lullabies For Dogs" CD

Post-punk aggro rockers return

Existing on the fringes of alternative rock, metal, and post-punk since 2002, English punks Headcount have released their 4th studio album, and it's a welcome change from metallic poses and hipster indie rock. Featuring legendary Adam & The Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni, "Lullabies For Dogs" is a heavy and smart  assault on the senses.

Opening with an atmospheric intro, "Liar" begins things with a near industrial backbeat alongside a chugging rock bass and guitar thunk. They've been compared to Therapy?, and that comparison does hold some weight. Lead single "News Corpse" follows, and it's a solid post-punk stormer that reminds me of Killing Joke or Prong almost. But this isn't a case of Headcount aping those bands, mind you. I needn't say that they have serious ties with the KJ boys going back some years, working with Paul Raven and recording for Mike Coles' Malicious Damage Records. Anyhow, the following tracks also exhibit a fiery, intense predilection for taut bass and drums, punk-tinged vocals, and moody but aggressive post-punk guitars. A strong, sturdy album of hard rock grooves for a more forward-thinking audience.