Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Big Commotion 1968

Zany, episodic mod 60s flick staring Japanese Group Sounds band The Spiders. The film kind of plays like a long Monkees episode. As I gather what's going on (no subs, baah!) the boy's Galaxy 500 wagon gets rear ended by this chick and of course one of the guys falls madly in love with her. The rest of the film is a bunch of set pieces about him trying to win her heart. One guy in the band keeps having these weird hallucinations and imagines the band playing in the North Pole (riding polar bears) and in war and similar odd situations.

Along the way, the Spiders play some songs. It's an interesting post-Beatles, pre-acid rock 60s sound. Lots of pop hooks, but a distinct Japanese flavor. Good stuff, I'd love to hear more.

It looks like this was taken from a video source and it's non anamorphic letterboxed, which is very good. However, the video has been processed through 5 Minutes to Live's patiented video crapifier making the end result a bit of a pixely mess. It's still watchable, but it looks more like some web video blown up and less like a DVD. (Dear 5mtl, your source may be A- but until you invest in a real capture device and not the set top DVD recorder you got at WalMart for $69, this disc is a C+.)

Also be aware there are no subs and this is in Japanese. It's not very easy to follow, but I doubt speaking the language would make it that much easier.

Recommended if you can trade for it *cough cough cough* and you're into this sort of thing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Review: Alice in Acidland/Smoke & Flesh

This one has been in the hopper for a while and I finally decided to tackle this double feature of drugsploitation this weekend. Why I picked this disc up, I don't know as the drug films really aren't my thing. I guess I'm a Something Weird completest.

We start with Alice in Acidland. This film is classic exploitation all the way through. From the faux moral high ground narration, to the depiction of all the depravity it is supposedly condemning, Alice is the grandchild of Reefer Madness through and through. Even the title carries the tradition of being leagues better than the picture under it.

Unfortunately, Alice is missing the goofy charm of it's predecessors. Make no mistake, this is a picture designed to show as much T&A and unattractive people dry humping as they could at the time, but it does so in the dullest way possible. I never made it to the full color acid trip scenes at the end, but I have a hunch I didn't miss a thing.

Marginally better is Smoke and Flesh. This one isn't a roadshow style exploiter, in fact it's almost arty in it's execution. Some groovy people score some pot whereupon they disrobe and have softcore sex. A gang of bikers crash the party and the hero doses the leader with LSD to get them to leave. Then everyone goes back to their cardboard tube bong and playing strip slot cars. The end.

There's not much to it, but it does have a few nice shots. It also has a garage rock track that sounds like of the Fabulous Wailers that plays over and over for nearly the entire 70 minutes of the film. And lots of shots of "the man" riding his motorcycle. Honestly, it was hard for me to pay attention to most of the film. Maybe I needed some of what they were smoking.

At least we have the special features and in this case they outshine the main attractions. First there's the usual assortment of trailers, radio ads and magazine covers. I'd buy discs of this stuff and, come to think of it, I have.

However, we also have a third featurette, Aphrodisiac: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana. Now this is something worth watching. An edited hardcore feature (I've heard it's more of a "soft" X. It's available from Something Weird on DVD-R, if you're really curious.) Aphrodisiac purports to be an educational film about the sexual properties of pot. What it is is plain and simple exploitation.

There's phony facts and figures. Silly man on the street interviews. Stiff dialogue. Early John Holmes. This one is really funny. Not worth the cost of the disc, mind you, but at least there's something worth watching here.

I love Something Weird, but I'll admit not everything they put out is for my taste. Maybe this is a case of that, but I really think with the exception of Aphrodisiac this is just a dull disc.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Pleasant Nightmares

Check it out here!

I don't know why I hadn't thought of checking YouTube for Sammy Terry clips before. Luckily there's a ton of stuff up there now. Prepare to waste most of a day going through all that good stuff.

For those who don't know, Sammy Terry was Indy's Shock Theater host who aired on WTTV from 1962-89. Not as well known as Svengoolie or some of the others, I think he's every bit as good, if not better.

I have a lot of good memories of not just the show, but also taking music lessons at Family Music, which was Bob Carter's store on the East Side. He stored some of his Sammy Terry props in the back room above the drum set. I never got enough nerve to root through there and see if George or Skull was lurking just above my head.

Anyway, for my Indy readers, hopefully this will take you back and everyone else should check it out and see what we grew up watching. Man I miss locally produced TV. You just don't get this kind of entertainment anymore.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sly & The Family Stone - The Collection

OK, this is going to be a quick review here of the new Sly & the Family Stone set from Legacy. This isn't really a box set as much as it is all seven of the recently remastered Family Stone albums boxed and sold at a cheap price (I got mine for $50.) These discs are all available separately, though I'd suggest springing for the whole set. There's at least four solid classic albums in there and the other three aren't that bad either.

While people constantly crab about how the Beatles catalog needs freshening up, it still amazes me at how shabby other acts of the era have fared on CD. At least you can get all the Beatles albums on CD and they have a semi-respectable replica of the original artwork. Small Talk was only available on CD in Japan until this reissue series and the covers for There's A Riot Goin' On and Dance to the Music were butchered horribly. And the sound, well, I don't even think it was near state of the art when these discs were first released.

These new issues restore all the art work in a digipack and feature spiffy new mastering jobs. I'm sorry they didn't go the hybrid SACD route like they did with the recent Bob Dylan set, but these things sound excellent. Though I still haven't combed over everything with a fine tooth comb, I can't find anything really to complain about there.

However, I do have one major beef. Legacy has thrown on a handful of bonus tracks and 45 mixes, all of which are appreciated. What I don't understand is why they couldn't have thrown on the three crucial single only tracks recorded between Stand! and Riot. It really aggravates me that I'm still going to have to buy a hits collection to have "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," "Everybody Is a Star" and "Hot Fun in the Summertime," easily three of the band's best tracks. There was plenty of room to include them and no reason not to (except the desire to make fans shell out for one more disc.)

The other thing I'd like to see is the couple of non-Family Stone Epic albums finally get a CD reissue (though I've heard they aren't very good) and, just to be complete, how about the ahead of it's time remix album Ten Years Too Soon? Still, thanks Legacy for finally doing Sly & the Family Stone Right. This is some essential music, highly recommended.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Best Musician Wanted Ad Ever.

Guitarists...if you are not Eddie Van Halen, think music died about 1976, have more vintage gear than a top name studio, are willing to learn 30 covers and practice several times during working hours (but have a steady financial situation,) have a willingness to be completely pushed around but are ready to make $100, possibly more, a week, have I got the gig for you.

Looks like he might take a drummer too but, just my luck, dude only plays a Hammond A-100. I can't get with anything less than a B-3. Pitty...I was so looking forward to rocking some Dave Mason in Kokomo Indiana.

UPDATE: well, he pulled down the ad, but thanks to the magic of Google Cache, IT LIVES!!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Yet another Grindhouse review.

Because this is one of those films that really seems to have people divided and is inspiring a lot of passion in movie nerds, I feel I should kind of break down where I'm coming from before I get into Grindhouse. First off, if you just stumbled in here, I am certainly a fan of the grindhouse cinema. I get and appreciate where this is coming from.

I'm fairly neutral on Tarantino and have no opinion on Rodriguez. I also went into this movie as blind as possible. I purposely didn't watch trailers, read up on the hype, etc.

With that out of the way, let's start.

Part One: Planet Terror. The government has created some sort of green mist that is turning people into pus filled zombies and a paramilitary group is after it. A mysterious guy fights with the hard nosed local law to save the world. His stripper girlfriend finds her true self in all the chaos.

Sound familiar? It should.

Planet Terror's story is appropriately convoluted and it almost all comes together in the end. Still, the story is secondary to the action, and Planet Terror is almost wall to wall action. By the end, it's obvious Rodriguez has kind of painted himself into a corner, but it really doesn't matter. If I had a dollar for every genre picture I've seen with a burn out ending, I'd be filming one of my own.

The one thing that seems to really have gotten the film nerds up in arms about Planet Terror is the use of CGI. Despite the artificial aging, this is obviously a modern film and I don't really think they were trying to hide that fact.

Imagine if Cannon Pictures invented a time machine, zoomed from 1982 to now, brought back some CGI technology (and a bit of 2007 budget,) gave it to Cozzi or Fulchi and told them to go nuts. Part homage, part parody, Planet Terror is every over the top 80s action/zombie gross out/horror flick you've seen refashioned for today.

It's silly, it's gory, it's loud and all action. Yes, Rose McGowan with a machine gun for a leg is ridiculous, but it's supposed to be. So many of these films were ridiculous.

Planet Terror was huge fun and exactly what I expected from Grindhouse.

Part Two: Death Proof. Where to start? I know what Tarantino was going for. I know he loved all the old AIP/Crown car pictures. How do I know that? Because the characters in Death Proof make explicit* reference to such genre classics as Vanishing Point and Gone In 60 Seconds (the original) when they aren't gabbing on and on about sex.

There's also an element of the rape revenge film, though there's no sex at all here. In fact, it's really difficult for me to understand what Kurt Russell's heavy Stuntman Mike was after here, because there was zero character development for him. All we know about him is he stalks these girls, kills them with his car and then breaks down like a little baby instantly when the table is turned.

And it's not just Stuntman Mike who is underdeveloped. In between a couple of rather uninteresting car chase scenes, there's talking, lots of talking that never really advances the plot or the characters. None of the characters really amounts to much, despite all the gabbing they do. Never once do you develop any interest in them and personally, I kept hoping Mike was going to manage to off the chicks in the end after all. Considering Quentin is trying to make this a character driven film, allowing the character to grate as they do is a big misstep.

If Quentin was trying to duplicate the tedium of some of these genre pictures, mission accomplished. However, I think true grindhouse audiences wouldn't have had the patience for this one. It's like when Death Proof is not trying to be a car chase/female empowerment film, Death Proof becomes some film school version of French New Wave and it just doesn't work.

So maybe I don't get Death Proof, but what I saw was a boring mess of a film. How Tarantino managed to make a film with hot chicks talking about sex, car chases and Kurt Russell dull, I don't know, but he did it. I'll say this, if you love that famous "Tarantino dialogue", you're going to adore this film because that's about all there is to it.

Bonus features: The fake trailers are pretty good. Thanksgiving and Don't are brilliant. I expected a little more from Rob Zombie's take on the Ilsa/Olga naziplotation genre though.

So, in the end I'd pass on the same advice I got going into this: you can safely leave after the trailer for Thanksgiving and feel like you got your money's worth. You really won't be missing much.

* I half expected the film to stop and Quentin come out and explain "Ok, in the next scene, I'm referring to..." It was almost insulting the way the character come right out and tell the audience what films Tarintion is paying homage to.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The EMI/iTunes Thing.

I'm sure you've heard about it by now, but if not, EMI is going to be the first label selling music without rights restricting DRM on the iTunes music store. They're also finally bumping the bit rate up to a more acceptable (but still not idea, that would be Apple Lossless or equal) bit rate. Oh, and they're charging you 30 cents more a track for the privilege.

In this deal, EMI gets to look cutting edge for being the first of the big four to lose DRM and Steve Jobs gets to look like the knight in shining armor because he gave this big anti-DRM speech recently. While I agree losing DRM is a win for consumers, I think when you look at this deal, it has a lot less to do with pleasing consumers and a lot more with business as usual.

Take Jobs for instance. Though there's a bit of revisionist history at work, Apple wasn't always anti-DRM. In fact, they've told labels who specifically asked to sell DRM-free music they couldn't. Why did this guy who, up 'till recently, had no problem with right restricting software suddenly have a change of heart?

Sure, it's possible Steve's had a change of heart. However, I think it might have something to do with not wanting to fight for DRM all over Europe. Norway already has smacked FairPlay down, Italy is going that way too. Same with France and Germany.

Pardon me for being cynical, but you have something that ties users to your specific product (and Jobs' figures on iTunes music store purchases vs. iPod ownership are really skewed) why you'd want to voluntary change that, I could not imagine. The fact that Jobs, who is a majority shareholder in Disney, hasn't come out against video DRM, and is clearly in a position to do something about that from both sides of the purchasing chain, also makes me skeptical.

As for EMI, here's where people are missing the big picture. It doesn't cost them any extra to offer higher bit rate, non-DRM tracks, but they're getting 30 cents more a pop. The record industry has been trying for quite a while to charge more at the iTunes music store, but up until now Jobs has said no.

Now Jobs is in a bit of a bind over this DRM thing, which up to know has worked out well for Apple and the industry. Apple needs to ditch the DRM, the industry wants to charge more and we end up where we are now. A win/win for Apple and EMI. A partial victory for consumers.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Free Movie: War of the Monsters

Thanks to my buddy at WTF-films, here's something kind of neat for you. It's the AIP-TV dub of Gamera vs. Baraugon in widescreen! Enjoy! (And take a shot each time they mispronounce Gamera.)