DVD Reviews – April 2008

9 Star Hotel
Ido Haar
KOCH Lorber Films
Street: 02.05
Did you spend Valentine's Day taking bong rips and watching the Bourne series for the second year in a row? Your roommate used up all the hot water taking ridiculously long showers again? How about your horrible bussing job: You're worth sooo much more than they're paying you. Well, you probably won't think these things are so bad after comparing your life to the folks in this film. 9 Star Hotel follows two Palestinian brothers who must cross over the border into Israel to find work each and every day. It's hard to really understand how immensely terrible these guys' lives are without seeing it with your own two eyes. Being constantly on the run from the border patrol is the least of their worries. If you feel like you need a bit of a humbling experience without getting off of your privileged, fat, lazy ass, then watch this film. —Ross Solomon

Criss Angel: Mindfreak
The Complete Season Three
A&E Home Video
Street: 01.15
It seems these days with technology and science explaining many of life's mysteries, there is a certain mysticism and charisma life that is missing. Criss Angel brings that magic to just about everyone who wants to see it with his TV series Mindfreak, which is in its fourth season on A&E. With the third season, skeptic or not, your brain will be perplexed. You don't even need to have seen the first two seasons from this extreme magician to enjoy the third. The three-disc DVD set is packed with the man doing all sorts of tricks and stunts, like his levitation over the Luxor in Las Vegas, a couple car-crash escapes, disappearing acts and my favorite, magic performed for street audiences throughout Vegas, astounding fans and newcomers with tricks that will have you scratching your head. There is a great honesty with what Angel does. The series shows his stunts that went wrong, creating the feeling that even a master magician can't be perfect. The real fun with this DVD set is getting to watch it as many times as you want and trying to explain to yourself what you see. Criss Angel has brought a dying art form to the masses and amped it up for any age to enjoy and let their imaginations fly free. –Bryer Wharton

Live in Sin
MVD Visual
Street: 10.16.07
If there is one thing I hate about certain live DVDs, it's the live overdub. It is almost pointless to call the DVD release a live show because, in essence, it is not. The songs are overdubbed with audio from who knows what. In this case, it sounds almost too perfect, mainly because there is no distortion or reverb that you'd get in a live setting, as well as no crowd noise. The songs are a collection of clips from various shows, which, for the Genitorturers, I think misses the point of what they are trying to capture—the sexual gothic nature and theatrics contained in the band's show. The live feeling is extremely absent in the 10 songs included in this release, which is sad. Thrown into the already annoyingly abundant strobes are visual effects obviously added later on top of the footage, trying to give it a psychedelic feel. I know that bands don't have a lot to do with their DVD releases; in this case, I think the Genitortures would be disappointed with the bland outcome. But if you're a horny gothic teenager, this thing is the shit. –Bryer Wharton

Street: 02.19
In the day and age of the Internet, DVD music video compilations are basically becoming obsolete because the majority of the videos on this compilation, which is actually just two older comps combined, can be found on YouTube or MySpace. I also thought the purpose of record labels releasing music video compilations was to showcase new material. Extreme metal label Earache Records tossed together their first and second iCrusher DVD compilations for whatever reason. Don't get me wrong, there are some great classic music videos on here from the likes of Godflesh, Morbid Angel, Mortis, Napalm Death and some cool relatively newer ones, but half of the second side of this double-sided disc is all audio stuff—not video. The second side is extremely old with a lot from bands that have since given up. I don't really see the point in this release other than a meager attempt to make some cash from material that's been lying around for years, yet readily available to pretty much anyone who wanted to seek it out in other forms. –Bryer Wharton

Iron Maiden
Live After Death
I want you to think about what a heavy-metal band should sound like. That's what Iron Maiden sounds like. Picture what the record covers of heavy metal band should look like. That's what Iron Maiden's record covers look like. Now picture what a heavy metal band's show should look like.That's exactly what Iron Maiden will give you. Big light shows, big stage props, big guitar sounds and solos. It truly is stifling to take it all in. This 1984 live show in Long Beach, Calif. shows the band at their peak. After a band has been around for so long, and they've done so much, and been through so much it's hard to see them through fresh eyes, but after this DVD, I'm reminded of why they are the standard that every metal act is held to. Bruce Dickenson jumps across the stage like a gazelle, while drummer Nicko Mcbrain, behind his monstrous kit, proves he's hands down the best heavy metal drummer ever. Tommy Lee isn't qualified to carry his crash cymbals. These guys were athletes back then and it comes through in their performance. Songs like "2 Minutes to Midnight" explode off the screen. This is just the Maiden machine at its best. Disc one contains the initial 90-minute concert, and disc two has an hour-long follow up to the Early Days DVD. Also on disc two is another 50 minutes of concert footage from a show in Rio in '85. In total, there's three hours of footage to cover. Or, I should say, three hours of bliss for any Maiden fan. –James Orme

Overkill: Live at Wacken Open Air 2007
Bodog Music
Street: 02.05
As a general rule lately, bands don't usually release a live DVD without any bonus features. Well, that is not the case for Overkill's Live at Waken Open Air 2007. The disc just contains 10 live cuts, spanning the band's career, which began in 1980. There are two songs from the band's latest album, Immortalis. The rest, with very few exceptions, have been on other live albums and videos the band made throughout their career. Overkill is a great band and have always played thrash true to their roots. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the music/song selection on the DVD, but the production, mainly editing, is piss-poor. There is never a shoot that stays in one place for long and there are plenty of pointless shots of basically complete darkness. No worries on the sound production, though—any stereo system or TV will do the show justice. –Bryer Wharton

Radiant City
Koch Lorber Films
Street: 03.04
What the fuck is happening to the classic idea of suburban sprawl and social communities? Even in Salt Lake, the notion of a small and unique town is quickly dwindling, especially in the case of Sugarhouse. What was once a quirky, trendsetting area is now nothing but a crater in the earth and the future home of multi-leveled condominiums, and let us not forget the disgustingly "revamped" Redman building (the new sign sucks). Directors Jim Brown and Gary Burns' film, Radiant City, follows this exact concept about the collapse of social America due to the clusterfuck of developing communities. Filled with commentary by professionals and trailing the lifestyles of various suburbanites, it's funny, educational, alarming and depressing all in 85 minutes. It's nauseating that the majority of Americans now live in an endless ocean of lumber and shingles in cookie-cutter homes with cookie-cutter lifestyles. Take a trip to Jordan Landing in West Jordan and you'll get a firsthand look at the disease that's spreading across our landscape. Where did all the trees go? There's an unnecessary twist at the end of the film, but its message and content are paved as smooth as the new highway that's running through my backyard. –Jimmy Martin

Return of the Living Dead Boys Halloween Night 1986
MVD Vision
Street: 03.18
I've been into punk rock for almost longer than I haven't. I've heard an awful lot of stuff in that period of time. I have always heard how legendary The Dead Boys are. Somehow, though, they managed to slip through the cracks for me. Apart from "Sonic Reducer" (played not once, but twice on this disc), which everybody knows, this was really the first time I had consciously listened to The Dead Boys. However, they are a band whose legacy precedes them and thus, not terribly surprisingly, I recognized about one half of the songs (even knew the lyrics to a couple) on this DVD. Return of the Living Dead Boys chronicles the band's reunion on Halloween Night in 1986. The DVD starts off with an introduction by Joey Ramone, who seems genuinely excited to see The Dead Boys perform again. I'm still trying to decide if Stiv Bators' get up is a Halloween costume, or if he really is trying to look like a stand in for some dickhead from Mötley Crüe. I think it's probably the former, as he doesn't seem too concerned with keeping it on. There is a lot of stuff from both of their original records and a cover of The Stooges' "Search and Destroy," complete with gushing tribute by Stiv to Iggy Pop prior to the actual song. It was fun to watch for its solid energy alone, not to mention that the music is good as well. And this is coming from somebody who isn't very well-acquainted with The Dead Boys. For longtime fans, this is an absolute must-have. –Aaron Day

Sigur Ros – Heima (2-Disc)
Dean DeBlois
XL Recordings / Krunx
Street: 2007
Heima captures 97 minutes of Sigur Ros' beautiful music presented on the backdrop of their birthplace—Iceland. Heima, meaning "at home," shows Sigur Ros playing free "word of mouth" concerts in multiple cities of their country––wowing a little village with a population of two, to grandiose cities of thousands. They play in town squares, abandoned fish factories, or in the colorful, open grasslands of the countryside. The cinematography acts as a storyteller in this documentary, but also proves to be the perfect imagery to capture Sigur Ros' feeling and sound as a band. The most remarkable part of the film is the range of people that come out to celebrate the music––entire families, everyone from grandmas to newborns. Icelanders unite to witness a small piece of their history through the art of Sigur Ros. Most music documentaries are filled with self-adoration, while Heima shows the environment and grand scope of bringing people together and giving something back. The second disc of this release includes a two-hour concert, which is highly recommended for fans of the band. –Adam Palcher

David Moreau and Xavier Palud
Dark Sky Films
Street: 03.25
There's a common characteristic reaching modern horror films: simplicity. Forget the protagonist who stabbed the killer's sister or the heroine who defenestrated the psycho's mother. All we want is pure, preemptive, unexpected death. But, can films be too simple? David Moreau and Xavier Palud's Romanian, 77-minute thriller, Them, proves they can. After a 10-minute, semi-chilling opening (and with five minutes of credits at the beginning and end), the central narrative barely reaches an hour. The straightforward story follows Clémentine and Lucas, and their terror-filled night of survival. Granted, there were several moments when I caught myself holding my breath attempting to remain silent, but when you blink too often and miss half the film (which is basically 85 percent of people running around), something's missing. I don't think the overly elaborate 1980s and 1990s storylines (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Scream) are necessarily better, but give the audience something besides a name and occupation. Make the audience relate to the victims, so when the knife slowly pierces their skin, we feel marginally bad. The most frightening aspect of the film is that it's based on a true story, which definitely raises the Oh Shit! Bar© a notch, but its lack in detail makes it forgettable. –Jimmy Martin

Un Poquito De Tanta Verdad
Corrugate Films
Street: 2007
This documentary shows the year of 2006 in Oaxaca, Mexico. This is the year the community of Oaxaca would mold together for a common purpose and rise above the federal government. At first, it was a peaceful strike that the teachers of Oaxaca were taking so the children of their schools could have proper textbooks come to school with shoes on or a full belly. Their every move was broadcasted by a local radio station and supported by the farmers, housewives, students and every member of the community. What started out as a peaceful protest turned into a revolution for the Oaxaca people, demanding that the state's governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, be removed from office for acts of corruption and repression. The situation became so serious that many street battles occurred and riots ensued. People built a barricade and took over radio and television stations so their word could be heard. The content and unbelievable acts that are caught on film with this documentary are jaw dropping. If you are into political uprisings, this film falls no short of awesome in that category. –Adam Palcher