DVD Reviews – February 2008

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Automatons

Facets Video

Street: 01.29

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan in me appreciates the concept of this movie. Basically, James Felix McKenney wanted to make a science fiction B-movie just like he wished had existed when he was a kid. This includes men in robot suits, bad voice dubbing, dark and grainy film and that eerie 50’s soundtrack that you don’t just hear, you feel. Not only is the story analogous of current events, but it makes for effective social commentary without being self-gratifying. Since this is such an incredibly well-done homage to 1950s sci-fi movies, my only gripe is that they could have omitted some of the remaining modernities belonging to the main character. My gripe is merely cosmetic, however, and while I found it distracting, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the overall presentation or production of the film. Not everyone will “get it,” but those who do will love this. –Conor Dow

Blood, Boobs & Beast: a Documentary about B-Horror Filmmaker Don Dohler

Videokitchen.TV

Street: Tromadance 08

Blood, Boobs & Beast tells the story of filmmaker Don Dohler, whose forays into sci-fi and horror films are thought by many to be the worst of all time. Still, there are those who think that his filmmaking is pure genius, and this film makes a compelling argument to this end. We are led through a career that started innocently enough, with stabs at film production and underground comic and magazine publishing. Over time, as television stations relied less on midnight movies to drum up viewership, Dohler’s projects were relegated more toward the straight-to-video side of film distribution. No longer making films for TV, the director found himself competing with gorier and more sexually charged films for distribution. As such, the mild-mannered filmmaker was made to lean more heavily on the Three B formula of horror film creation: blood, boobs and beasts. We are shown the inner-workings of his latest film shoot, and are introduced to his family and actors as well as a director he routinely uses to bring his visions to life. The film provides a fresh and comical look at just how much work goes into low-budget filmmaking, and how hard Don Dohler is willing to go to make a descent movie. –James Bennett

Calligraphy: The Pigeon Theory

Ruben Eudave

Corleone Connection Productions/ Studio 411

Street: Out Now

This is another rare find among the skateboard community. Calligraphy: The Pigeon Theory shows some amazing skating from southern California and Mexico inhabitants who skate some pretty cool spots with some pretty innovative tricks. The filming in some parts is a little shaky, but what’s a good skate video without some non-filmer filming? That’s what I thought, not a good skate video. Amazing parts from Brandon Case, Felix “Polo” May, Shadi Charbel, and Brett Nichols give us a glimpse of what is possible on the seven ply wooden device we call a skateboard. If I had to give this a thumbs up rating, I would give it an elephantitis-infested thumbs up, but luckily I don’t. So let’s just say it is worth watching while you wait for the winter weather to go away. – adam dorobiala

Cidade Dos Homens (City of Men)

Globo Filmes

Street: 09.26

If you’re familiar with the movie this television series is adapted from, City of God, you’re probably all too eager to get your hands on anything else affiliated with the film directed by Ktia Lund and Fernando Meirelles. Unfortunately, many of the things that made City of God such a great film (i.e. gratuitous sex, drugs, and violence–all framed in a ghetto-wide gang war), are conspicuously absent in the spin-off television series–replaced, at times, by hokey Telemundo-type episode concepts. The film’s protagonist, Rocket (Alex Rodriguez), is replaced in the TV series by Douglas Silva (Li’l Dice in City of God), and Darlan Cunha (Steak and Fries). The series follows their travails as they grow up in the favela (the Brazilian ghetto), but altogether misses the poignancy and unique storytelling structure of City of God. This series isn’t anywhere near the movie, but it’s still better than regular television. –Makena Walsh

Doin’ Time in Times Square

Charlie Ahearn

BrinkDVD

Street: 11.20

Charlie Ahearn is best known for making what most consider to be the first film on hip-hop culture, Wild Style, in 1982. Almost 10 years after making that film, Ahearn decided to create a video journal by pointing his camera outside his apartment in Times Square to capture the surreal sideshow in his backyard. The question this sort of projects begs to be asked is: who cares? Unlike Tony Conrad’s Bryant Park Moratorium Rally of 1969, which captures a slice of the tension over Vietnam, Ahearn’s movie feels and watches more like a bemused home movie. The novelty wears off pretty quickly as we see fights, arrests, some New Year’s Eve action, etc. interspersed with some shots of his family. Why release this shit? Who is going to pay money for this? Better left, if you are interested, for youtube. --Erik Lopez

The Gods of Times Square

MVD Visual

Street 12.04

The Gods of Times Square is a great film. Recorded over six years in the mid ’90s, the film documents the street preachers, doomsday prophets and assorted other religious zealots who once populated the Times Square area of New York City. They of course shared the legendary free-speech neighborhood with small shops, prostitutes and strip clubs—a combination which led to one of the grittiest, most culturally unique areas in the city. As mayor, Rudolph Giuliani allowed big business to come in and clean it up, leading to the almost complete homogenization of the once diverse quarter. Now, as companies like Disney and Time Warner have cleansed the neighborhood, open religious zealotry has taken a back seat to the artificially sanitized family zone that Times Square has become. This documentary shows how much the process of disneyfication impacted those who called the Square home. We are shown how the street folks functioned before, during and after the neighborhood’s sanitation. The DVD also features more in-depth featurettes about several of the more colorful characters that show up in the main film. Overall, this is a fantastic documentary that places the viewer right in the middle of a coarse urban phenomenon. –James Bennett

HellYeah

Below the Belt

Epic Records

Street: 11.03

I think band documentary DVDs are generally a waste of time, especially in the case of HellYeah. With only one album out and a few tours under your belt, how far can you go into the experiences of a band? The DVD goes through the motions with footage of the band recording their debut record, then the release party for the record and the band’s first live appearance, which may be somewhat interesting if you’re a fan. Then there is pointless drab, featuring the band’s crew, making the music video, more tour crap with live footage intermingled with overdub audio. If you’re not familiar, HellYeah is a supergroup, kind of, featuring former Pantera/Damageplan drummer, Vinnie Paul, along with Tom Maxwell, guitarist from the now defunct band Nothingface, and Chad Gray, the vocalist for Mudvayne. Basically, you’d have to be a huge fan of the band to get any enjoyment out of the release. But weeding through two hours of dribble is still a bore for anyone. They should have just released a live DVD with extras instead of just the documentary-style crap. –Bryer Wharton

Linescore: A Freeskiing Documentary

Coreshot Films

Street: Fall 07

This is the first full-feature production from Coreshot Films. It is also the first real production that exposes one of the most underrated scenes of the snow industry today. The film follows several skiers through a year in the US Freeskiing Tour, making stops all over the west. It is shot from the perspective of the athletes. This helps the rest of us see what it takes to have to huck your meat in the worst possible conditions. I personally have watched the events at several locations, but the guys at Coreshot do an excellent job of capturing the essence that the events offer. It is always entertaining to watch people send the biggest cliffs into moguls and chop. You will also witness some of the gnarliest crashes you have ever seen, with the worst being right here at Snowbird. The soundtrack has a good variety of tunes and there doesn’t seem to be much pointless filler within the film. This DVD is definitely a good one to add to anyone’s ski collection. –Mike Reff

Nardwuar the Human Serviette: Welcome to My Castle

Mint Records

Street 12.06

On the heels of 2006’s Doot Doola Doot Doo … Doot Doo! DVD, Mint Records has decided to rid their archives of all things Nardwuar the Human Serviette. This prequel of sorts is over five hours of footage from Nardwuar’s public access TV show, assorted celebrity-ambush interviews and music videos from his band the Evaporators. There is a lot of incredible interviews on this two-DVD collection, from people as mainstream as President Gerald Ford to people as unknown as the chick that made plaster casts of rock-star cocks in the ’70s. And where Borat has made the ambush interview into a conventional, and bankable Hollywood trend, Borat is only a character—Nardwuar is real. He is the same on camera as he is at home, and the authenticity of his real-life persona makes for celebrity interviews that are stimulating and fearless. At five and a half hours, it can be a bit much to watch all at once, but when you want to see four separate interviews of Courtney Love becoming frustrated while talking to a grown man who talks like Aaron Neville sings, there really is no other source. Nardwuar is king. –James Bennett

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

Lloyd Kaufman

Troma Entertainment

Street: 03.14

Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman’s latest film, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, is all about the number three. The print on the DVD says it marks the 33rd anniversary of Troma. three represents the number of $10 bills allocated for the budget to make this movie and, coincidentally, the first time I watched it was with all three of my triplet friends (for real). Three is also the number of minutes that one of the aforementioned triplets lasted before he decided Poultrygeist was the worst movie he’d ever seen and went to bed. Unfortunately for him, three just happens to be the number of laughter induced seizures this movie causes, which is about three more than your average decent comedy. Poultrygeist is the story of a small town being invaded, first by a fast food franchise and then by chicken zombies possessed by the spirits of angry Native Americans. It’s not so much a horror movie (something Kaufman himself admits to) as it is a pertinent social commentary of the corporate takeover of America. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s any less entertaining because of this fact, though. It gets that idea across pretty quickly and gets straight to reminding you what it means to be Troma. So, beneath the biting satire, the extreme level of political incorrect-ness, the terrible acting, the naked lesbian musical numbers, the gallons upon gallons of fake blood/vomit and the ridiculous storyline, you’ll find… Well, I don’t suppose you’ll find anything; these things are the movie. – Aaron Day

TED: The Future We Will Create

Docudrama films

Street: 12.18

Every year a group of people much smarter and more ambitious than you and I meet to share ideas at a conference know as TED; Technology, Entertainment and Design. Directed and narrated by socially aware actor Daphne Zuniga, (I remember her as Jo from Melrose Place) this DVD documents the enthusiasm and intent of the 2006 conference, highlighting many of the speakers. Each of 50 speakers is allowed 18 minutes to speak on the quintessence of his or her field and topic. Effectively, this short amount of time really forces a speaker to get the message across, really intriguing the viewer and hopefully encouraging them to become involved. Speakers include some familiar faces and some not, Al Gore presented his research on global warming, motivational giant Tony Robbins spoke, the inventor of Google showed, and Bono was highlighted from the 2005 event. The documentary is an inspiring watch and the DVD contains a bonus disc of many speakers’ complete presentations, I enjoyed all four hours of it, but this is for the geekiest of us PBS watchers. -Davy Bartlett

Terry Jones’ Barbarians

Koch Vision

Street: 01.08

It’s likely that whatever you know about the Romans is thanks to movies such as Gladiator or Spartacus, and maybe a blurred smattering of things you were taught in high school. Well, Terry Jones is about to rock your world with some awesome archeological discoveries, and one of the most interesting four-hour history lessons I’ve had in a long time. What is explored here is the idea that the Barbarians weren’t actually uncultured swine like the Romans would have everyone believe, but in fact they were a race of intelligent craftsmen and businessmen. It proceeds further into the eventual fall of Rome, Attila the Hun, and how these events affected things even to this day. This series was first shown on BBC in 2006, but is now being released on DVD, and if you enjoy your historical education spread with a light coat of British sarcasm, look no further. –Conor Dow