DVD Reviews – April 2007

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Benny Hill: The Hill's Angel Years
Benny Hill, Dennis Kirkland
Street: 01.06
England's Benny Hill became a huge hit on American TV in the 70s and 80s. His fast-motion silent skits were choreographed well enough to make Charlie Chaplin one of his biggest fans, and his misogynist humor was raunchy enough (for its time) to make most of his fellow Englishmen blush. This DVD chronicles his last three seasons in the late 80s, where after two decades on TV, he remained true to form as our favorite sexist Brit, set to what is perhaps the goofiest soundtrack of all time. While most people remember Hill's low-brow verbal comedy (don't get me wrong, it's good stuff), many forget his skills as a silent comedian who could be compared to the likes of Chaplin, Harry Langdon or Jacques Tati. By the end of his television run he didn't appear to have lost much steam, this is a great DVD for the final chapter of Hill's career. Jeff Guay

Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven
The First Annual Camp Out Live
MVD Visual
Street: 01.30
Concert films are usually a let down. Reunion tours are also generally a drag, especially when fans that spent their whole adolescence singing along with a band have to witness their older and uninspired heroes fuck up the chorus to their favorite songs. This DVD somehow manages to avoid all of these pitfalls. Singer David Lowery leads Camper Van Beethoven through such classics as "The Long Plastic Highway," "51-7" and "Take the Skinheads Bowling." He follows this with a Cracker set that includes "One Fine Day," "Movie Star" and "Low"the song whose video was an MTV mainstay in the early '90s, despite the band being both musically overqualified and lacking in the pretty-boy good looks normally required for music TV stardom. Both bands deliver quality sets, and the several solo performances and member side projects also featured on the disk show how large and variable this family of bands has become (Monks of Doom are especially cool). I would've liked some sort of documentary aspect to the event, but as a straight forward concert disk it is still very much worth watching. My only question is how long before we can start calling the whole, massive collective Cracker Van Beethoven? James Bennett

I'm Keith Hernandez
Rob Perri
Street: 01.07
Let me just get this out of the way first: Rob Perri is a genius. He has combined the likes of Being John Malcovich with 99 Tribulations to create a short, sweet and to the point look at, when T-shirts say the man, the legend, Keith Hernandez. Perri brings you into intimate and close contact with what it would be like if you were Keith Herandezhe masterfully uses news reel, clips and other Hernandez footage to make an obsessively wonderful portrait of America's favorite mustached macho man, but also uses him as a vehicle to talk about how Hernandez has shaped, no I mean is, the 80s. Educational, humorous, thoroughly research and well-crafted, I'm Keith Hernandez is that breath of fresh air in documentaries that is a must-have and deserves to placed next to your copy of High School High. Erik Lopez

McLuhan's Wake
Kevin McMahon
The Disinformation Series
Street: 01.23
Marshall McLuhan became one of the most famous intellectuals of the twentieth century with books such as The Mechanical Bride and Understanding Media. His theories of media's effects on culture were of huge significance in his own time, and have only grown in importance since his death over 25 years ago. His concept of the "global village"a globalized culture in which media's far reaching influence has spread across the entire worldhas become a reality. Take a drive through suburbia or channel surf for an afternoon and you'll see the homogenization of culture that McLuhan had so clearly predicted. This PBS style documentary on McLuhan depicts his life, ideas and influence with clarity and insight. While it is part biography, it's no Behind the Music. The film makers leave out flashy editing and sappy melodrama, focusing mostly on the man's philosophy. Jeff Guay

Screaming Masterpiece
Ari Magnusson
Milan Records
Street: 03.06
Wow, what an interesting concept for a music documentary! I thought to myself as I sat down to watch Screamin Masterpiece. Unfortunately, interesting concept is as far as the critical acclaim train goes. What is supposed to be an overview of the Icelandic music scene is B.B. and A.B. (Before Bjork and After Bjork) ends up being a muddled look at Bjork and her hot new contemporaries, Sigur Ros. It is as if the directors had an idea, but their eyes were bigger than their stomach. What the viewer is treated to are too many clips of live bands, not enough interviews talking about contemporary Icelandic music (except from Bjork, go figure) and a whole lot of interviews with people like a guy from an important music rag and some douche bag from Billboard. Who cares? The only thing that was interesting was a segment on a documentary about Icelandic punk rock from the 80s. I want to see that instead. A little more focus and a lot more planning would make this interesting concept leave the critical acclaim station, and head to bigger and brighter destinations besides that bargin bin. Erik Lopez

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection
Stuart Burge and Charles Crichton
Street: 02.27
For those that love James Bond and can't get enough of him, this megaset is for you. Patrick McGoohan aka John Drake is a secret agent for "Her Majesty." Foreseeing other great television shows such as Magnum PI and McGuyver, John Drake uses nifty gadgets and gets himself into fanciful situations, all while keeping that amazing British cool a la 007. While Drake might not have all the intrigue that McGuyver had or any of the moustache of Miami Vice, he definitely precipitated the sexual dynamo of both. A&E has done a great job of gathering all of Drakes adventures and suspense in a great package. Erik Lopez

Wendy O William & The Plasmatics
10 Years of Revolutionary Rock & Roll
Street: 11.21.06
Wendy O Williams was unorthodox in the best way possible. She pushed the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable at every corner. The Plasmatics were one of the first groups to bridge the gap between punk and metal, Wendy pushed fashion boarders with her mohawk and skin bearing outfits, was an environmental advocate long before anyone else gave a fuck about greenhouse gasses and was the first female in a band with an unbridled aggression that scared the shit out of people. The woman was way before her time and this DVD does an excellent job of capturing that. The documentary includes over two hours of footage spanning their decade long careerincluding live shows, court appearances and interviews with band and crew members. The film is lacking due to their choice of narrator. She speaks without inflection, and way to fast. The Plasmatics were harder to swallow than any other punk band that came before them, and choosing a narrator with such a monotone voice just didn't fit with the content of the film. Old articles written about the band would flash on the screen and disappear before I had a chance to read them. It would have been nice to read those blurbs for myself, instead of straining my ears to make out what the narrator was saying. I wish this was one of those DVD's that you could turn the sound off on, and still understand what was going on. Jeanette Moses

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