Sunday, September 6, 2015

“The Beast (aka La Bete)” Blu-Ray (director: Walerian Borowczyk)

Controversial Euro-sleaze!

This classic (and infamous) Euro-sleaze film from 1975 is given a new lease on life with this beautiful new Blu-Ray, adding plenty of bonus features, retrospective info and a crisp, clean video quality that is surprising given the age of the source material. 

Without giving too much away, “The Beast” is an adult re-telling of the “Beauty & The Beast” tale, with some shocking and very mature scenes. Where to begin? A wealthy American heiress is set to marry a reclusive French aristocrat in his crumbling castle when she discovers his past harbors a dark secret. It seems one of his ancestors was attacked in the woods nearby by a strange beast. This scene is relived through fantasy sequences as the heiress finds the sexual nature of the attack, well, titillating, herself. Things get wet and wild, with some extraordinarily explicit fantasy scenes of the woman and beast in flagrante delicto. All the while, the heiress finds ways to pleasure herself before her marriage.

The opening scenes of horses copulating are off-putting and quite disgusting, as director Borowczyk apparently really wanted to outright assault the boundaries of good taste with this film, which falls somewhere between weird horror/fantasy and porno. Despite all the revolting content here, the film is beautifully shot, with colorful visuals of the French castle and grounds. Art film? Surely. Trash film? Without argument. Watchable? Mostly. Erotic? Questionably. Unique? Most definitely. This is a film viewers will remember, undoubtably. But beware, as this one goes pretty far!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shane Morris & Mystified - “Evolution” CD

Evocative modern primitive soundscapes!

The third piece in a trilogy, this 5-track, 60-minute album charts organic life as it, well, evolves from the primordial stew into complex life forms. Using predominantly electronic instruments, Morris and Mystified (aka Thomas Park) craft sounds that evoke the imagined “proto-music” of primitive man. Basic percussion, tribal drums, minimal scratchings, gongs, and the sounds of the natural world all around are here, haunting, mysterious, and somehow alluring.

The “music”, or perhaps more appropriately ambient sound, on “Evolution” is subtle and quiet, but never static. The elements of mood and texture are all present, and even semblances of near-melody. But don’t expect a wistful set of cheery background sounds. This is a heady, rich, and immersive sound-stew that conjures vivid mental imagery, like a gradually-moving cinematic experience.

“Fire Gathering” is a dark night-time ritual — lighting torches in a ravine with the ocean breeze wafting along the treeline. “Growing Into New Territory” combines light percussion with the sounds of water running, and deep drones — like a tentative visit into an undiscovered cavern under a clear, starry night. It’s lovely music really, with a swell of wonder and a tingle of darkness. 

“Evolution” is a wonderfully rich and subtle (yet heady) work of electronic ambient sound sculpture. It’s a spacious travelogue to times long since forgotten. Fully recommended.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Against The Grain - “Road Warriors” CD

Revved-up Motor City rawk!

The fourth album from this veteran Detroit rock band pulses with energy and attitude, equal parts punk rock, sludge metal, and Kiss. Frontman Chris Nowak’s melodic but sometimes gruff vocals do echo prime Gene Simmons in spots, thus that comparison. I get a genuine sense of classic rock here, with a blend of sludgy heaviness, breakneck speed metal, and a “party-on” sense of fun.

“Sirens” is a well-executed slab of boggy boogie/doom metal that just sounds dirty (and that’s a good thing here). “Eyes” even recalls some Black Sabbath, so you know where these guys are coming from. My favorite track is “Run For Your Life”, a furiously fast speed-punk-metal assault that just slays. 

Overall, a solid, unpretentious case of serious rock and roll, raw and gritty and worthy of their heritage as Detroit rock city denizens. Killer, dudes!

“Soaked In Bleach” DVD (director: Benjamin Statler)

Cobain conspiracy?

It’s safe to say that there’s a glut of Kurt Cobain conspiracy theories around, despite the case of his suicide being closed and documented already via other media. Personally, I’m content to accept that Kurt couldn’t handle the fame and pressure of being a role model to thousands of troubled teens. Nonetheless, this film does present compelling evidence for the reopening of Cobain’s 1994 “suicide” case. Certainly, this film treads dangerously close to tabloid journalism with dramatized sequences, but the release of recorded phone interviews courtesy of investigator Tom Grant are examined and presented here, and definitely cast a shadow over Courtney Love’s alleged motives and involvement in the arranging of her husband’s death.

Grant, who it seems has made a business of exposing Cobain’s death “hoax”, is the central focus here, and he does present a wide-ranging and convincing argument to those who would listen. “Soaked In Bleach” does manage to illustrate the missteps taken by the Seattle Police Department, as well as seemingly capturing the obviously drug-addled Love in some bold-faced lies regarding Kurt’s overdose and intentions (she was facing an ugly divorce when Kurt was found dead). So was Kurt Cobain murdered? There’s no definitive answer, despite this film.

Overall, this film is a serious look at the “myth” of Cobain’s suicide. Taken with a grain of salt, it’s still an engrossing and curious document of a hidden side of America’s musical history. You may not be convinced of the worthiness of this, but it’s still an interesting watch.

“Kung-Fu & Titties” DVD (director: Joseph McConnell)

Leave all semblance of manners behind in this celebration of tits!

If the title doesn’t adequately give it away, this is truly a trash film far from the boundaries of “good taste”. As far as the synopsis goes, I’ll give it a word or three regardless, as “good taste” shouldn’t be a factor in this kind of cinema anyways. Sean Molnar plays the disgraceful kung-fu fighter Richard Titties, who sees his luscious girlfriend (played by the tantalizing Seregon O’Dassey) abducted into a netherworld of absurd, almost surreal nonsense centered around an “evil dictator” called Zeefros who really just wants to see everyone’s titties. Hmm. So he must save her from his clutches, and finds a companion in a weird trash-talking Brooklyn comic (Mike Marino) in a bad gorilla costume.

Former TV star Bronson Pinchot appears here as a side note, as does B-movie scream queen Raine Brown, but they certainly can’t save this sub-Troma comedic farce that isn't funny or worthy in any way unless you crave cheap thrills and tons of titties. Yes, there are plenty of breasts here, which I suppose is the film’s sole saving grace. That’s enough said already. You know if you want to see this one or not.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Leather Nun - “Whatever” CD

Superb return from Swedish legends

Returning to the scene after a 20+ year absence, Sweden’s Leather Nun have created a stunning and powerful return to form with “Whatever”. Known mostly in the 80s for their association with Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records (who released their debut EP in 1979) and their flirtation with stateside success with their darkly catchy “I Can Smell Your Thoughts" single in 1987, Leather Nun’s sound falls somewhere alongside Iggy Pop’s artier experiments (in and out of the Stooges) with a trace of Velvet Underground and a touch of industrial around the edges. 

This album of mostly new material opens with the lovely and introspective “All Those Crazy Dreams”. “Outside My Window” is a rumbling rock song with an ominous air, before the tongue-in-cheek interlude “Dancing In The Rain (I’m In Love)”. “Red Hot Gwen” begins with a late night piano before erupting into a sleazy big blues sound, albeit with Jonas Almqvist’s trademark Swedish-accented English. It’s a mix that’s distinctive and unique. The revved-up electro-blues of “Godtherapy” takes its name from the Jonas-led post-Leather Nun band of the same name, and fits well alongside the other cuts here.

Other standouts include the anthemic “Star (Yes You Are!)”, the haunting “I’m Not Afraid”, the swaggering “Mainstream”, the touchingly sensitive piano remake of “For The Love Of Your Eyes”, and the atmospheric “Another Rainy Day”. Yes, the whole album is top-tier.

“Whatever” is anything but negligible or passive. This is a complete return to form for a band on the verge of being forgotten (at least in America), and is the perfect continuation from the band’s past. Any fan of the Leather Nun’s “old days” will be delighted by this collection of melodic-yet-often heavy, sleazy-yet-romantic, and well-produced rock sounds that snarl darkly alongside a cheeky wink or two. A great album, period.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pearl Jam - “Long Strange Road - 25 Years At The Edge” 2xDVD

Repackaged retro

This unauthorized extended documentary combines the previously-released “Under Review” DVD with another previously-released DVD, “In Their Own Words”. So serious fans should scrutinize this accordingly if it’s worth their time. Sure, the gatefold packaging is nice and all, but this isn’t clearly marked as a “re-packaged” set, so the intent is to unscrupulously sell this to the uninformed. Beware!

That said, for the Pearl Jam novice, this set is a massive (170 minutes total) collection of biographical info (DVD 1), with the usual journalists and music writers chiming in their opinions over photos and films. DVD 2 is a load of haphazardly-arranged interviews with the band from TV over the years. Supposedly, most of these are already available online for free viewing, so again, this set is only recommended to the most fervent Pearl Jam fans.

Casual fans need only see Cameron Crowe’s superb official documentary, “Twenty”, rather than this amateurish collection.

Pride/Sexy Intellectual