DVD Reviews – January 2008

Alive Day Memories; Home From Iraq
HBO Documentary Film
Street: 10.23
James Gandolfini
This chilling documentary interviews U.S. troops that were severely disabled while serving in Iraq. These injured soldiers go into great detail explaining in their own words, exactly how they were hurt and the impact it made in their lives. The descriptions of their injuries are often supplemented with insurgent-released video of the actual injury occurring. The stories that are told, coupled with the footage from Iraq, adequately create an emotional overtone that demands sympathy and understanding. This film offers a unique point of view that everyone should hear. These soldiers aren't preaching about anything, they are just reminding you that they are people, doing their job in a warzone. Ben Trentelman

Avant Garde 2: Experimental Cineam 1928 1954
Films from the Raymond Rohauer Collection
Kino International
Street: 07.24
Volume two of their experimental cinema series sees Kino doing an amazing job of bringing films that test the limits of the cinematic experience into wider circulation. Volume one saw classic experimental art cinema from the likes of Antonin Artaud's L'Etoile De Mer and Hans Richter's Rhythmus 21. Volume two moves out of the 1920s and 30s to encapsulate post-war film explorations from the likes of James Broughton, Stan Brakhage and Jean Mitry. The crowning jewel of this collection, however, is Jean Isidore Isou's Venom and Eternitycomplete and uncut! Holy shit face! Again, the image and audio quality are pristine, while linear notes providing context and extension for the films represented here. Another must have collection for fans of radical cinema. Erik Lopez

A Christmas Family Tragedy
Break of Dawn Productions
Street: 11.27
Ah, Christmas: snow, anxiety, obligations, debt and murder. This is a concise little documentary about Charlie Lawson, who murdered his wife and most of his kids, before turning the gun on himself in 1929. There's a lot of local folklore that has come as a result of these brutal killings, and this documentary covers plenty of it. While much of the production and camera work were obviously done on a shoestring budget, the amount of information is almost overwhelming. Many of the interviews are of people who knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone at the timeplaying into the lore of this grisly act even more. There's even some History Channel styled reenacting to help the viewer visualize what took place, and although some of it is cheesy, it adds to the fun. Instead of watching Tim Allen's sequential abortions on Christmas Eve with the family, watch this instead. Conor Dow

Dark Funeral
Attera Orbis Terrarum, Pt. 1
Regain Records
Street: 11.06
Strap on you're spikes, break out the corpse paint and adorn your upside down crosses, because Sweden's satanic black metal icons Dark Funeral have dished out a two disc DVD. Ultimately entertaining for any black metal fan, in the end it is definitely for the die-hard fans of the band. Delving through four hours of DVD content can be a daunting task, with three professionally shot shows, two of which have the exact same set list and the other isn't all that different. All are shot well, some better than others, but every one has quality sound mixing, that allows every instrument to be heard. The real gem of this monster collection is the fan shot footage, that after sorting through all the pro stuff, shows the from their first show in 94 to 97 and is as grim, raw, cult and black metal as it gets. Bryer Wharton

The Naked Trucker and T-Bones: Live at the Troubadour
Warner Bros. Records
Streer: 03.20
HE'S NAKED, GET IT?? Prior to viewing this, I hadn't even heard of the show. I went in with a great deal of skepticism, and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't end up completely hating what I saw. Even though the shtick is probably played out, I was delighted by some of the jokes included in the lyrics, including some very clever Noam Chomsky references. David Koechner does a good job playing an uneducated man-child, and the music, which is basically Johnny Cash lite, isn't half bad. I guess my main problem is that if this was just a single DVD, it might have the potential to be a one of a kind gem, but since it's also a television series on Comedy Central, the lasting appeal will disappear quickly. Pick this up if you thought Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was worth two hours of your time. Conor Dow

The Ritchie Boys
Docurama Films
Street: 11.20
This is the story of several immigrant and refugee Germans who fled Nazi Germany to combat those who forced them from their homes. These Germans joined the US military to be stationed at Camp Ritchie, where they received training to serve in US intelligence. Now much older, some of the surviving troops from Camp Ritchie tell their stories. These guys share an amazing perspective on what it was like to be a German fighting the Nazi party. Their tales are both hilarious, and dramatic as they boast how they outsmarted and tricked several German troops into disclosing valuable information, and in many cases surrender. This documentary presents a great deal of information with a great sense of humor, while maintaining an undertone of urgency and danger. Bauer does a wonderful job of simply letting these men tell their stories without clouding the documentary with sappy music and imagery. Ben Trentelman

Sergi Eisenstein's
Battleship Potemkin
F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu
Kino International
Street: 10.23 and 11.20 respectively
For those who are movie fans, it would be worthless to review reissues of such classic films as Battleship Potemkin and Nosferatuyou've already seen them and know whats going on. However, with all the different versions floating around out there of these two movies, its worth making mention which edition to get and from whom: Kino International. With Battleship Potemkin, Kino has restored Eissenstein's masterpiece to its original specifications even adding an epic 5.1 Dolby surround-sound score of the original 1926 masterpiece. Needless to say, on the 5.1 system I saw this on, my balls dropped two and half inches in disbelief; Kino's restoration rivals and maybe exceeds Criterion care and concern for the products they put out. For Nosferatu, Kino has provided the same exacting eye towards visual restoration and audio excellence5.1 sound again graces this production with full orchestral arrangements and the high-def transfer is impeccable. Both films sport double-DVD treatment and should be the final word on both films. Erik Lopez

Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip
Music for Experimental Film
Kino International
Street: 09.25
The premise of this DVD is fairly simple: somewhere along the line Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip got together, watched some experimental films from the 1920s and wrote soundtracks for them. Most of the movies on this DVD can be found in Kino's excellent Experimental Cinema series, volume one. While Verlaine and Rip do a great job of making smart, intelligent, guitar-noodling soundtracks to films such as Rhythmus 21 and L'Etoile De Mer, it seems that the premise doesn't follow from the practice. The music for the soundtracks was recording from concerts in Portugal and Spain. This fact, slyly printed on the back, kind of cheapens the feel of a soundtrack made specifically for the movies but none-the-less, fans of Television and guitar wankery will love this DVD. I know I do! Erik Lopez

Various Artists
The Unholy Alliance Tour
American Records
Street: 10.30
The mighty Slayer has brought forth their first Unholy Alliance Tour DVD to give fans a glimpse of the tour that may have passed up their town. Slayer has put out many live DVD's and videos throughout their career, so the only thing different about this one is the addition of the new songs. Slayer always put on a good show, and their set was enjoyable as always, as for the other bands, none of the performances really stand out. Thine Eyes Bleed is the only band that offers a new song, not featured on their only record. Mastodon, Children of Bodom and Lamb of God's shows are all pretty predictable and lack luster. The sound mixing also suffers some flaws, including some fuzziness coming through on the DVD. There are also interviews intermingled in the DVD before each bands songs begin, which are actually interesting, part of the time. Bryer Wharton

Via Marina
Eric Longden, Mike Marasco and Christopher Thurber
Studio 411
Street: 11.08
Via Marina is one of those movies you don't hear about and then when you watch it and you are completely blown away that you didn't know about it sooner. All of the skateboarding is top notch with stellar parts from Chris Roberts, Joey Brezinski and Furby. Although I like their parts a lot, Richie Jackson takes the cake with best part by far, you can see how much fun he is having with every trick. The music choices were a little emo for my liking, with exception to Andre Nickatina's jam that Furby skates to and Richie Jackson's song is rather good as well. The filming in all of it is pretty good too, so if you have some extra time and want to see all the good things people are doing with themselves you should check this movie out. Dig? adam dorobiala

War & Peace
Koch Vision/BBC Miniseries
Street: 10.23
I was a little worried stepping into this massive production of War & Peacethe book was long enough and another fifteen hours was all I needed of the Russian epic. Surprisingly, however, it was a blast to watch for a few reasons: 1970s production values, without all this glitz and glam of computers, added to the charm of the story; the acting was immense and starred a young Anthony Hopkins as Pierre Bezuhov and finally the character development that typified the book was kept in tact with this mammoth miniseries, which is the whole reason to read the book. Other productions of the same story were thin on development and in turn were a little bit to narrative arc heavy. The only thing that bothered me somewhat was that the sound was horrible, it went in and out due to the technological limitations of the day. Even so, I can overlook that for the quality presented here. Furthermore, the DVD version is beautifully packaged and provides a 44-page booklet that lays out the characters and plot and goes into production detail. How is that for bang for your buck? Well worth the price of admission. Erik Lopez