DVD Reviews – July 2008

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La Chinoise
Koch Lorber Films
Street: 05.13
As all film students and movie-buffs know, Jean-Luc Goddard is one of, if not THE, master of French cinema. To this day, countless filmmakers "pay homage to" (which is a fancy way of saying "rip off") his unique styles and techniques in order to entertain today's audiences. However, for a director who has a filmography of over 90 films, is it possible/acceptable for the genius to slip up from time to time? Sure, why not? In 1967, Goddard's 24th film, La Chinoise, examined the worldwide political movements of Communists, Leninists, Maoists and the Americans' war in Vietnam through the eyes of five middle-class French students who form a Maoist terror cell. While the plot appears captivating, the majority of the first 60-minutes consist of the actors breaking the fourth-wall by speaking directly to the camera or conducting in-depth interviews about their beliefs. It feels like an over-the-top performance you'd witness at a local coffee shop on poetry night. Don't get me wrong, the message is entrancing. It's the execution that is monotonous. There are a handful of moments that expose Goddard's true artistic power and creativity, but in the end, it falls short of preserving the viewers' expectations. Jimmy Martin

Making Of
Koch Lorber Films
Street 06.12
It's not everyday you get to witness the rhymes and reasons of individuals who feel they've been chosen by God to detonate themselves in a crowded market, but director Nouri Bouzid has created a film that accomplishes this specific task in a unique fashion. Making Of chronicles the fictitious story of Bahta (Lotfi Abdelli), an impressionable Tunisian breakdancer who, while searching for his purpose in life, becomes involved with Islamic extremists only to become brainwashed into thinking he's a living martyr. The synopsis alone had me at "Tunisian breakdancer," but Bouzid adds an additional ingredient to his cinematic recipe that separates his creation from other films exploring the subject. Intertwined within the narrative, Bouzid documents actor Abdelli's genuine reactions to the film's message ... even if it occurs in the middle of a scene. As Abdelli questions Bouzid's message and motives, he contemplates his own safety for making a film illustrating fundamentalists. While most filmmakers would toss these clippings in a cheesy behind-the-scenes featurette on their special edition DVD, Bouzid found its message as vital as the narrative. The imaginative storyline and the authentic accounts make this film wade in one's brainpool well after the closing credits. Jimmy Martin

Pete York's Super Drumming Vol. 3
Street: 06.10
In the late 80s people went bonkers for the technical aspects of music. Long gone were the days of rock and roll, and punk was struggling to be edgy or political. Musicians in the 80s were competing with new forms of technology as synths and drum machines were becoming affordable to the general public. It was in this arena that the fusion drummer was born. Emphasis on technicality, but with a rock n' roll attitude. And thanks to metal and loud rock, the drums were bigger and louder than ever. Super Drumming was a series of on stage performance in the last three years of the 80s by some of the most sought after studio drummers of the time: Bill Bruford, Billy Conham and congo player Nippy Noy. The series also brought in jazz greats Ed Thigpen and the incomparable Louis Bellson for some old school charm. During one stupendous performance, an oscilloscope is connected to a Yamaha RX-11 drum machine and Simon Phillips plays along with the machine for a while but then goes on a tear that leaves the electronics in the dust. This compilation easily crosses into the "so bad it's good" territory 12 paradiddles over. Forget Youtube drum solos, this is the real deal. This is a must have for every drummer, both as a time capsule to see how much drumming has progressed, but also as a good reminder that good technique really can improve drumming style. Andrew Glassett

Snoop Dogg--Drop It Like It's Hot
MVD Visual
Street: 07.08
I have no idea why filming in front of a bunch of honkies in Brussels would be better than a Long Beach crowd, but Snoop Dogg did it. This self-styled boss does everything you think he would do. I think Snoop is a little too perma-stoned (is there such a thing?) to try anything new in his performances that differ from his albums. But his uncle June Bug (guy's at least 70) dancing on the side of the stage was a nice touch, as was The Game. The production is ok: imagine a long Snoop music video with more visual effects. The best segment is when one of Snoop's cronies holds up a 2Pac flag backward for the duration of the Pac tribute song. This DVD will only blow your mind if you light up a blunt when Snoop does at the start and then puff-puff-pass as needed. Jon "JP" Paxton

Ya Heard Me?
Buoyant Films
Street: 2008
Who would have guessed that turning your ass into a life-sized metronome would help define a region's music movement? Bounce, according to recording artist Mia X, is a distinctive style of music that encompasses a perfect recipe of a little dancehall, a pinch of Miami bass, mixed with a dash of Louisiana jazz and a smidgen of some dirty blues vocals for the lyrics. I bet Martha Stewart never thought of this shit. Directors Matt Miller and Stephen Thomas' documentary Ya Heard Me? transports the audience on a journey to the pioneer days of New Orleans' distinct hip-hop movement and investigates its founding fathers and various features. From the early 1980s to the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the film reveals the true essence of the Big Easy with its block parties, underground music labels, homosexual "sissy" rappers and ward loyalties (not so fast President Monson, it's not that type of ward). While the film does explore other topics not as entertaining as those listed above, Ya Heard Me? is gritty, raw and a perfect counterpart for its subject matter. Jimmy Martin