Thursday, February 24, 2011

Depeche Mode - Rewind: 30 Years at the Edge (2011)

Depeche Mode was one of the most successful synth pop bands of the 80's and 90's.  From their humble beginnings in Basildon, England to having a number one album in the US and UK (Songs of Love and Devotion), Depeche Mode has been through it all.  I remember when the song Enjoy the Silence blew up and they used to show the video of singer Dave Gahan dressed like a king on MTV constantly and I HATED it.  I don't think I even paid attention to the song, I just hated the video.  And the band's name, which I thought was pronounced "Dep-ek Mode".  Of course now the song is one of my favorites of all time and I love Depeche Mode.  Unsurprisingly, this 2 DVD set was a must see.

Depeche Mode -Rewind: 30 Years at the Edge is a 2 disc set featuring two separate documentaries on the band.  The first (clocking in at an hour and a half) focuses on the most loved period of the band, the four album span of Black Celebration, Music for the Masses, Violator and Songs of Love and Devotion.  The documentary starts out with the band's formation all the way until they hit their peak.  The hour long second disc is a more broad overview of the band featuring interviews with old friends, producers, etc.

Documentaries don't get much better than this.  When a documentary focuses on a band I love and four albums that I love, there is little that can be done to make me not like it.  Rewind goes above and beyond to show video clips, interviews with not only those who worked with the band but other electronic musicians of the time (Gary Numan, Thomas Dolby, Andy McCluskey of OMD) to give the most in depth information possible.  Though not as strong as the first disc, disc 2 has some nice interviews and is more for casual fans of the band.  The one part that particularly stuck out in the second disc was the interview footage with Brian Griffin, the cover artist for several of the band's early albums where he explains how those brilliant covers came to be.  Overall, MVD has put out another brilliant documentary on an important band that is in-depth, fast paced and very entertaining.

RATING:  10/10

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XX (2011)

Shout! Factory continues churning out the great Mystery Science Theater 3000 box sets with this, their 20th set (yes, the X's are roman numerals, smarty).  I have long been a fan of the show, catching it whenever I could on TV and checking out some of the box sets that had films I loved or knew would be hilarious with the Satellite of Love crew ranking on them.  Though I was unfamiliar with the films in this set, the titles alone assured me they had potential to be great fodder for the humor of Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson), Tom Servo and Crow.

First up in this great set is Magic Voyage of Sinbad, a Russian film from 1953 that is filled with all of the epic costumes and locations you'd expect from a Sinbad adventure, as well as all of the ridiculousness you'd expect from something chosen for MST3K.  Next up are Master Ninja 1 and 2 which aren't actually films but several episodes of the 1984 television series The Master cut together.  Starring an over the hill Lee Van Cleef as an indestructable ninja and (not so) tough guy Timothy Van Patten as his student/sidekick, a pet gerbil that lives in their van and a slew of soon to be stars (Demi Moore, Crystal Bernard).  Lastly is Project Moonbase, a cheesy sci fi movie from 1953 which has been padded here with a few episodes of the old Commando Cody serial.

This set definitely ranks up there with some of the laugh out loud funniest episodes of MST3K.  The Master Ninja 1 disc was definitely my favorite and had me in hysterics from start to finish.  The other discs were each hilarious as well and to top it off, they include a wealth of bonus features.  Included are a new interview with Master Ninja guest star Bill McKinney, Tom Servo vs Tom Servo 2010 Dragon*Con Panel, an Exploring the Look of MST3K featurette with Director of Photography Jeff Stonehouse and more.  The box set itself has each disc in its own slimcase with artwork and 4 mini posters included too.  The best part of all though is if you order it directly from Shout! Factory (here), you get a free MST3K Stress Ball!  If you are a fan of bad movies or MST3K, then this is definitely a must buy.  Or if you are just in the mood to laugh until you pee yourself, this set won't disappoint.

RATING:  9/10

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Heaven 17 - Live at Scala, London (2011)

 Heaven 17 is a synth pop band best known for their musical output in the 1980s, especially their number 2 hit single "Temptation".  Formed in 1980 by vocalist Glenn Gregory and ex-Human League members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, the band named itself after a fictional music group from the novel Clockwork Orange.  After releasing several singles and albums in the 80's, the band went on hiatus but has reunited several times since then, including this 2005 concert in London.

Live at Scala shows Heaven 17 in an intimate setting in front of a small crowd of enthusiastic fans.  The band itself include Gregory, Ware, Marsh and three female vocalists.  Included are "Temptation", "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang", "Let Me Go" and "Penthouse and Pavement" as well as 11 other singles and album tracks (new and old).

This DVD is a great representation of one of the many 80s new wave bands..  Playing new and old songs, singles and album tracks, you hear the band sounding just as good as it did 25 years ago.  The sound is very clear and the singing by Glenn Gregory is especially good.  If I had heard this live recording without seeing the video accompanying it, I would have guessed it was recorded in the band's prime.  The electronic instrumentation (no guitar, bass or drums, just synthesizers and drum machines) sound great as well.  The recent interview footage of Gregory and Ware is very informative and is a dream for fans, especially since they are answering fan-submitted questions.  They touch upon how things have changed since the 80s and how different touring is now without major label support.  It was actually a little depressing but the band members had a good attitude about it.  Overall, this DVD is a great document of a classic synth pop band and anyone who loves 80s pop music will surely be want to check it out.

This title will be released on February 22nd 2011 and is up for pre-order from MVD HERE.

RATING:  7/10

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A History Lesson Part 1: Punk Rock in Los Angeles in 1984 (2011, Dave Travis)

The early 80s LA punk/hardcore scene was one of the most exciting and beloved.  The fact so many legendary bands all started sprouting up and influencing each other in one area was amazing.  Sure it was going on in many other states at the same time (Boston, NYC, Minneapolis, Athens, etc), but there was something very special about California.  I always love watching video footage from this time.  Films like The Decline of Western Civilization, The Slog Movie, Suburbia, Urban Struggle: The Battle of the Cuckoo's Nest and a few more have lots of great footage.  Now we have one more, MVD's A History Lesson Part 1: Punk Rock in Los Angeles in 1984.

This DVD features interview and live footage of four legendary bands from the early-mid 80s punk boom filmed by Dave Travis, a teenager who decided he wanted to make an account of music history as it was happening.  First is The Minutemen with interview footage of bassist Mike Watt.  Then there is The Meat Puppets (who were actually from Arizona) with interview footage with bassist/singer Cris Kirkwood and guitarist/singer Curt Kirkwood.  Next is Redd Kross with interviews featuring Steven (guitar) and Jeff (bass) MacDonald.  Last is the little known, punk supergroup (of sorts) Twisted Roots which at one time featured Pat Smear from the Germs/Nirvana/Foo Fighters and Kira Roessler from Black Flag.  The band here features Paul Roessler (keyboard) from The Screamers and Dez Cadena (guitar) from Black Flag amonst others.  There is also interview footage with Paul Roessler and punk personality Hellin Killer.

A History Lesson Part 1 is a very important punk document and also a very informative and entertaining film.  Though only about an hour long, the interviews and live performances are well worth a watch.  The interviews (which were all filmed recently) show the various band members reflecting on the time the live footage was shot.  The live footage, though filmed on a cheap camera by a teenager are still very clear and the sound surprisingly good.  If you are a fan of any of the bands mentioned or of punk in general, this film is a must see.

This DVD will be released 3/22/11 and can be pre-ordered through MVD HERE

RATING:  9/10

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vampire Circus (1972, Robert Young)

Whether it's their gothic locales, beautiful period costumes on some of the most beautiful actors and actresses ever caught on celluloid, graphic violence which was way ahead of its time or all of the above, Hammer Horror films all have something special about them.  Though known mostly for the classic monsters Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, Hammer's lesser known films were still well worth checking out and frequently surprised viewers with many wonderful and strange ideas not utilized in the more popular features.  Vampire Circus is a perfect example.

Vampire Circus starts out with a mother and daughter walking through the woods and stumbling upon a castle, as if out of a fairy tale.  What they don't know is that inside lives a vampire named Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman) who bites the young girl to death and seduces the mother.  The townspeople storm in and put a stake through the Count's heart.  Many years later, the town is quarantined by the plague and is visited by a traveling circus.  The town folk find much amusement in the circus until they realize that it is run by disciples of Count Mitterhaus who want to get revenge on the Count's killers.

Vampire Circus is a fun, gory, creepy and just plain weird film.  The story is pretty straight forward and doesn't bore viewers.  There is a good deal of nudity and bloody deaths to keep exploitation and horror fans happy.  Plus it also has many great performances and a who's who cast of character actors (David Prowse, aka Darth Vader for instance).  Synapse does an incredible job in preserving this film on this DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack (this is reportedly the first Hammer Horror film on Blu-Ray).  The picture is crystal clear with barely any visible wear and the colors are all very vivid.  Also present is a wealth of bonus features including a making of featurette, as well as featurettes on Hammer itself and a history of Circus Horror films, a theatrical trailer, still and poster gallery and a motion comic book.  Overall this is a dynamite release of a lesser known film that I'm sure will definitely please Hammer fans and horror fans alike.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Help out the "Bowman Body" documentary

The makers of the brilliant documentary Virginia Creepers are making a follow up documentary on one of the horror hosts featured in Virginia Creepers, Bill "The Bowman Body" Bowman.

If you are able, please donate whatever you can to help cover final expenses for this documentary here.  Also, you can join the I Want a Bowman Body documentary facebook page, and visit their youtube channel and their official website.

This documentary is sure to be another important history lesson for horror host fans.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sacred Triangle: Bowie Iggy & Lou 1971-1973 (2010)

Everyone has idols.  Some may be relatives, some may be football players, some may be serial killers, some may be religious figures.  I can't say I really idolize anyone but if I did, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed would be at the top of that list.  Not to say that I want to be them or agree with their past lifestyles, but their music has been an important part of my life since I was a teenager.  I remember finding a vinyl copy of Ziggy Stardust and instantly connecting with it.  I also remember buying a copy of Raw Power to hear "that song Guns n' Roses covered" and being blown away.  Then of course there was the life changing moment I first heard The Velvet Underground and Nico.  When I discovered this documentary about the three musicians responsible for those important landmarks of my admittedly simple life, it was an instant must see.

The relationship between David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed is a fascinating example of three very different but equally brilliant artists coming together to form a great alliance.  Though Iggy and Lou technically didn't really collaborate, their link to Bowie was a very important one.  Bowie's popularity in the early 70s allowed him the freedom to lend a hand to some of his own musical idols, two of which were Lou Reed's Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop's The Stooges.  In this short period of three years from 1971 to 1973, Bowie helped produce two of the best albums by his idols, Lou Reed's Transformer and Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power.  There are many interesting stories and anecdotes about these partnerships that can all be obtained from this documentary.

The Sacred Triangle is another amazing music documenatary from MVD.  It is full of rare clips and photos of the artists and interviews with several experts on the subjects, including Angela Bowie, punk personality Wayne/Jayne County and Lou Reed biographer Victor Bockris.  That such a specific topic is covered by this documentary proves that at least someone out there knows what music fans want.  From recording sessions to personal life and more, no stone is unturned in this film about three of the most interesting and respected cult music icons.

RATING:  9/10

You can order this DVD directly through MVD HERE

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? (2011)

I'll admit I am a total sucker for music documentaries.  Even for musicians I could care less about, there is just something about their histories that interest me.  Pink Floyd is a band I have had a love/hate relationship with for my whole life.  When I was starting to get into music, some of my friends liked Pink Floyd but I never really connected with them.  I was listening to punk and more aggressive music that was the antithesis of what (I thought) Pink Floyd were.  Then I started listening to Syd Barrett and I grew more interested in Pink Floyd, but only their early stuff.  It was fairly recently that I started giving them another chance and found that I actually like some of their stuff a lot.  I also wondered whatever happened to Pink Floyd?  So how could I pass this documentary up?

Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? The Strange Case of Waters and Gilmour explores the turmoil the band went through following the release of their breakthrough album Dark Side of the Moon in 1973.  Roger Waters, the band's bass player, vocalist and songwriter, had taken charge of the band, partially because of his band members' lack of material and input.  This caused some tension in the band but things remained the same for many years after.  Roger Waters eventually left, leaving the remaining members (vocalist/guitarist David Gilmour, Drummer Nick Mason and Keyboardist Rick Wright) to soldier on without him.  Water's departure led the group in a more commercial direction and surprisingly the band was very successful despite losing its leader.  This documentary explores what really happened from this period up until the present.

Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? is a fascinating portrayal of a much loved band going through the most tumultuous time of it's long history.  Interspersed with interview footage from the band members as well as music historians, the truth comes out about what really happened.  Also included are several clips of classic performances and other footage from the band's career.  You really can't ask more from a documentary.  Even those who are not fans of Pink Floyd should find this documentary a worthwhile glimpse into an important band's story.

RATING: 9/10

Pre Order now - release date 2/22/11