Sunday, June 21, 2015

“The Search For Simon” DVD (director: Martin Gooch)

Sweet and nerdy British indie

Nerdy manchild (played by producer/director/writer Gooch himself) David is convinced his brother was abducted by extraterrestrials 30 years ago. His continuous search ‘alienates’ him from his friends and complicates what could be his love life. He travels the world searching for clues into the alien abduction phenomenon and relays his findings through a network of internet vlogs. He is a man obsessed, and it takes a series of unlikely coincidences (and a confession from his mother) to uncover the truth that may ultimately set David free.

“The Search For Simon” is billed as a comedy, but it worked better for me as a sad and sweet portrayal of a man on the fringes of sanity and madness who just needs a helping hand. David is well-played by Gooch, being a likable and good guy who just believes wholeheartedly in a truth that isn’t popular nor mainstream. When even his nerdy friends reject him, David finds solace in a lovely young lady who does her best to help him find “the truth” that’s out there.

Well-shot, and with surprisingly good special effects, “The Search For Simon” is an enjoyable and kind-hearted British indie film that has heart and soul, and as so deserves some notice. 

And with endorsements from a pair of Monty Python alumni on the case, how could you go wrong?

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Fall - “Re-Mit” CD

Superb and traditionally odd post-punk

After more than 35 years and over 70 albums (30ish of them studio), the venerable Mark E. Smith and his merry band’s 2013 offering is a solid work of weird indie post-punk mayhem. Smith’s usual muffled, incomprehensible vocal ramblings are like those of a streetside drunk (albeit a very literate, well-read one). Witness the scruffy, stumbling “Kinder Of Spine”, which brings a loose and playful 50s-style groove alongside Smith’s larger-than-life persona.

“Noise” is a slice of electronic sound poetry, while “Hittite Man” brings a swaggering almost Birthday Party-esque madness. “Pre-MDMA Years” is more skittering electronic sound poetry, actually quite effective, while “No Respects rev.” is a swanky, upbeat pop tune. That is, until Smith chimes in with his gruff and growly vocals. “Irish” is a cool post-punk beat that’s faithful to the Fall’s history as indie rabble-rousers.

This is a solid, listenable, and often experimental Fall album (witness the computer game blips opening the otherwise appropriately-titled “Jam Song”), and among the better I’ve heard in some time. Strong work!

Cherry Red

The Fall website

DeeperNet - “Impossible Landscape” CD

Superb electro grooves

Portlander Andrew Miles’ second album as DeeperNet continues the deep and dark electro grooves of his fine debut of a couple of years ago. Opening with the exotic “Aether” (which could almost be a trippy Coil outtake, and that is high praise), the album then pursues a more dubby trance groove with the pulsing “Fractal Dimension”.4

The rest of the album is a diverse set of quality electronic sounds, from the melodic “Fluid In Blue” (featuring the ethereal vocals of Zefora) to the upbeat synthpop of “Illuminated By Ultraviolet”. Other standouts include the percussive yet tender “Falling Through” (again featuring the soft vocals of Zefora) and the 10-minute finale, “Quantum Teleportation”, which flows in an astral trajectory with deep near-goa beats. A fine and more than enjoyable album by an artist who knows few boundaries.

“3 Holes And A Smoking Gun” DVD (director: Hilarion Banks)

Slow and convoluted indie thriller

A complicated drama about a university student’s world class screenplay that inspires his once-successful instructor (a Hollywood screen writer himself) to go to extreme ends to attach himself to. Dark secrets are exposed in this smart but convoluted film. First time acting lead Zuher Khan does an admirable job as the student, while James Wilder is menacingly sly in his role as teacher-liar-extortionist. Aside from that, there’s little here to report or notice.

Pacing here is slow and dialogue-driven, but there remains something else missing here. The characters here inspire little empathy, and this micro budget indie, though not entirely unwatchable, is best left in the bins.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

“EM3 (Eenie Meenie Miney Moe)” DVD (director: Jokes Yanes)

Well-done Miami crime thriller

Raul (played well by the likable Andres Dominguez) is a Miami tow truck driver, but he quickly discovers that in this dirty city, he needs to find other means to make a living. So he gets involved in the crime scene, stealing cars and, in concert with his friends, selling the drugs he gets (from the dealers whose cars have been swiped and chopped) as a side business.

Things are going well. Raul has met a fine lady (the sweet and delectable Belkys Galvez), and he plans on making a life with her, before he discovers that this lifestyle has its downside. 

That’s as close to a spoiler as you’ll get from me. I will say that this film is quite nicely paced and acted, with characters being believable, dialogue seeming natural, and the characters multi-dimensional. Director Yanes has a keen eye for cinematic flair, playing with light and sound (and even some subtle CGI). 

“EM3” is a strong showing in the realm of crime thrillers, with a modern electronic-based soundtrack (including a couple of tracks by Miami bass madman and Skinny Puppy collaborator Otto Von Schirach). I enjoyed this one.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

“All This Mayhem” Blu-Ray (director: Eddie Martin)

Skating fall from grace

Chronicling the lives of Australia pro skaters Tas and Ben Pappas, this superb and hard-hitting documentary details the rise and fall of two brothers who reached the top of the skating world. But, with such success came pitfalls, and this sad and cautionary (but never preachy) tale shows how their “rock star” lifestyles came to a head in a tragic way.

Blessed with determination and mad skills, Tas and Ben moved to America to compete in skating championships in the early 90s. They successfully competed head-to-head with the greatest, including Tony Hawk himself. However, their youth and inexperience dealing with fame and money got them into serious drugs and partying, and eventually led to Ben being arrested, and his getting involved in other criminal activity (and eventually to his untimely passing at the age of 28).

“All This Mayhem” isn’t just for skating fans, and although it’s centered around the sport, director Martin tells the tale like a biography, with tons of rare VHS material of the Pappas brothers, interviews with them (and their family and friends), and archival photos. It’s a fascinating and engrossing film, and one that shouldn’t be discounted by anyone with an eye toward the highs and lows of human existence. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

“On Tender Hooks” DVD (director: Kate Shenton)

Flawed look at fringe subculture

Fakir Musafar and Re/Search’s “Modern Primitives” have a lot to answer for. This documentary centers on the growing subculture of “suspension”, i.e. hanging oneself from meathooks. Director Shenton follows several practitioners in England, as well as partaking herself in a suspension ritual in the final chapter of this marginal film.

As shocking as this film purports to be, I found myself bored and restless, but not because of the “taboo” subject matter. The focus on a small and idiosyncratic group of piercing and suspension fans doesn’t include any history or clear lineage of the practice. Nor does it really touch upon much of the spiritual or cultural significance behind these body modifications. What is the genesis of such a practice? Why would modern-day people return to these rituals? “On Tender Hooks” strikes me as a personal document of Shenton’s experience, but does little to illustrate why it should be significant to an outside audience. As I don’t know Ms. Shenton nor have any insight into her life or history, I’m just left watching someone else’s experience, with little insight. Maybe this one has its own fringe “in-the-know” audience, but to an outsider like me, there is little to glean here, sorry.