In the age of the internet, the “webisode” has become extremely popular in the last few years. In a prime example of how the internet can be a mechanism for artistic freedom, film makers are now not as dependent on TV networks to get a show on the air. Now they can just do it themselves, and post it online for anyone to watch and give feed back. These shows are almost always done on the cheap and no one makes money, but it’s great for getting exposure and experience.

That’s all the invitation that Brett and Jason Butler need. They were last seen starring and writing the comedic “mob” flick “Notorious Newman Brothers.” Now they have started posting episodes of their new Online effort “Larry and Burt’s Gut Rot.” The Butler brother’s play Larry and Burt who are both pretty unhappy with how life is treating them. Larry delivers pizza for a living and hates his job so much that he spends an hour after every shift cleaning, trying to get the smell of pizza out of his car. Each episode features Larry trying to do his job, but customers constantly making it difficult. Those that are truly awful make Larry’s list, of horrible customers.

Burt on the other hand is unemployed and flat broke, a condition fed by his unhappy relationship with his girlfriend Ruth, who continually picks on him. Larry spends a lot of his time in the bathroom as a place of solitude, but even there he’s never quite safe from Ruth. The three live together in a small apartment, and getting by is obviously a struggle.

Unlike “Notorious Newman Brothers” where the dialogue was rapid fire and a little chaotic, here the Butler’s are focused more on the images telling the story. It was often quite effective in the Larry sequences especially, as Larry is in an awkward situation with a customer and the silence between dialogue really added to the tension. Brett Butler who plays Larry has a really intriguing voice (reminds me of Stephen Wright), which works quite well for comedy.

Each episode of “Larry and Burt’s Gut Rot” are 10 minutes including a fun ad for Larry’ workplace, Upper Crust Pizza. Two episodes have been posted so far which can be found on Youtube at the Gutrot’s Channel. I think a lot of people who are struggling in these tough economic times will find a friend in Larry and Burt, and should give an episode a wirl.

Punk music is something that inspires me, infuriates me, and at other times
baffles me.  Sometimes all at the same time.  But having the opportunity to
work some punk shows back in the early 90’s I was always quite impressed
with how the local punk community were extremely committed, fanatically
loyal, and in about 5 or 6 bands at one time.  (That, and always trying to
sneak in booze past the door, thinking I was an idiot) There was a real
sense of community amongst these kids.  Thus, I was pleased to watch
“Between Resistance and Community,”  and saw that these little punk
sub-cultures are as popular as ever across North America.

The focus of the doc is on the Long Island punk scene which refers to
itself as “DIY Punk” or Do It Yourself.  This is an idea that has been
repeated in many communities where there isn’t a great deal of public space
for punk bands to perform.  In cases like these fans improvise by hosting
bands in their homes which has proved popular to bands and fans alike.  By
playing in a home instead of a bar, the band gets almost the entire door,
interact with the fans in ways they never would in a formal setting, and
they like getting dinner from the host, and having a place to sleep with a
little bit of cash in their pocket before getting back on the road to the
next show.

The documentary interviews a lot of local punk bands and fans alike on a
range of interesting issues.  One of  them detailed  a rift developing
between some of the bands when one of their own, On the Might of Princes,
signed with a larger record label to get better distribution and promotion
of their music and tours.  A number of the bands and fans expressed
disappointment and concern that a band  the Long Island punk scene had
helped develop and nurture was now “selling out” by signing with a larger
label.  On the Might of Princes stressed that this wasn’t about money, but
about trying to get their name out there.  This discussion was quite
fascinating.

Fans of the music will love all of the live performances by a number of
local and touring bands throughout the documentary and in the extras as
well.  The extras on this dvd are jam packed with great follow up interviews
since the documentary was originally made in 2001 and one extra in
particular, talks specifically about women in the punk scene who often have
trouble fitting into the male dominated culture and how the girls of the
Long Island scene created their own organizations to express themselves.
This is a great document of an often maligned youth culture (as the constant
run ins with law enforcement shows),  which fans of punk music will delight
in.

Quality over Quantity is Evident with AAAAAH!! Indie Horror Hits

Horror is a genre I must admit I don’t spend a lot of time on. So many of the movies that I see coming out of main stream horror seem directed at the teenage dollar and more focused on special effects and killing people, rather then narrative and creating the odd “scare” for the audience. Then, a couple of years ago, I started to watch some of the films coming out of the “Masters of Horror” series, and my opinion began to change. Many of the films were quite original, and the film-making was often inventive. With “AAAAAH!! Indie Horror Hits” horror fans get treated to a series of 7 independent short films, from the United States and Canada.

Canadian Director Miguel Gallego, is the brainchild behind this project which sets out to give greater exposure to indie horror films that were well received on the festival circuit, but risk fading into obscurity as short films have difficulty finding an audience. All 7 films vary greatly in their length and their style.

Gallego features his own film “Crypt Club” a rather quirky and creepy tale of three teenage girls coming to a remote cemetery so that one of them can be initiated into the club, by desecrating the grave of an infamous murderer. The 3 young actresses give strong performances, and the director executed the many twists to the story expertly.

Two other films really stood out here as well. “Old Friends” was directed by Kevin Greutert who some horror aficionado’s will recognise as the editor on the iconic Saw series. This short film convinced producers to allow Greutert to direct Saw VI. The clever short details the worst case scenario of the Avian flu epidemic of a couple of years ago, where the virus has over run an American city and survivors are holed up in their homes waiting for rescue that’s not coming as food, water, and electricity (not to mention hope) dwindle, and neighbours turn on each other for what little remains. The final line of the film is one that is extremely funny although in the context of the disasters of the last decade, rather haunting as well.

Oculus” is much more of a psychological horror of a man (Scott Graham) investigating a mirror that he believes is responsible for tragedies dating back to the 1700’s that have led to the deaths of hundreds of people. As the man begins his investigation of the mirror he has gone to great pains setting up an environment that will protect him from what befell so many others and allow him to uncover the mirror’s secrets. Director Mike Flanagan does a great job of creating a build to the story and a growing sense of dread as our investigator relates to the cameras he’s meticulously set up around the room the history of the mirror and the terrible fate of its numerous owners. As the film continues we learn of the investigator’s own connection to the mirror and strange things begin to happen, but is it all in his head?

A great collection all in all, and there is a second compilation already in development. This DVD is a must for all horror fans, as it gives you a taste of some great up and coming horror directors. I look forward to the next installment.

Max Chaplin (Ryan Noel) is a meek little man living with his mother and desperately wanting to be a documentary film maker. In hopes of finding inspiration he puts an ad in the classifieds looking for anyone interested having their story told. Much to his horror, and later fascination he is contacted by Paulie and Thunderclap Newman (Jason and Brett Butler) who according to them are major criminals who want their lifestyle documented. After much cajoling and eventually having his life threatened, Max and his small crew reluctantly meet up with the Notorious Newman Brothers, to experience some breaking and entering, some drug deals, and a lot of insults directed at poor Max.

Notorious Newman Brothers is the fourth film from the Toronto based Butler Brothers who were last seen in Confusions of an Unmarried Couple. A difference between this film and their previous outings is that they did not direct, as well as star, write and produce. Directing was Ryan Noel, who also played the film-maker. Noel made the movie very guerrilla style, as many great mockumentaries in the past have done. There was defiantly echo’s of a 90’s Belgian film called Man Bites Dog, about a film crew that follows a likeable psychotic killer on his daily rounds.

The movie has a lot of funny moments, almost all of them coming from Paulie and Thunderclap who’s chemistry was rapid, flowing, and unrelenting from the second they first entered the frame. I appreciated that they could be rather crude and foul one moment, and get extremely absurd the next. The two brothers never hesitate in trying to relate what kind of bad-asses they are, and more importantly trumping each other’s ridiculous claim with something even more outlandish. As the film went on it became extremely apparent that the Brothers were hiding something and weren’t nearly the hardened criminals they so desperately want the world to believe they were.

While a number of the comic moments in the movie were very funny, many of the scenes felt a bit long. The point of the scenes and the humour was often reached half way in, but the scene continued to roll on. It felt that if some of the scenes had been scaled back the film overall would have benefited.

However, this is a good outing from the trio of film makers, who showed that you do not need a large budget to create a world for viewers. What you need is an idea and the passion and follow-through to bring it off.

Since the early 1990’s an event has been occurring on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world. Cyclists get together for a spontaneous ride through the main streets of a given town, as a way of celebrating bike culture and to spotlight the inadequate consideration given to the growing number of cyclist in most urban areas. Originally beginning in San Francisco, the “Critical Mass” event is now common all around the world. Still We Ride highlights the problems between Critical Mass riders and authorities in New York City where Police and City Officials have become very aggressive in trying to shut down the monthly ride, much to the displeasure of the cyclists.

The film focus’s on the period of the summer of 2004, preceding the Republican National Convention through the first half of 2005. In this period the Critical Mass had become a rather popular event attracting as many as 5,000 riders as they rode around Manhattan, much to the annoyance of Police who saw it as a disruption of traffic and a form of protest with no permit. In response to this, and with the support of city hall who wanted to clear the streets for the upcoming convention, New York’s finest tried to shut down the rides with mass arrests, confiscating bikes, and using extremely aggressive tactics.

As I watched many shots of cops holding cyclists on the ground while handcuffing them, and fellow officers threatening crowds with clubs and pepper spray, I kept thinking to myself, “Is all this really necessary?” Officials hoped that by arresting those who rode in the event, harassing them at their meeting points, and tightening city laws, that the group would fade away.

Much to their displeasure the group refused to back down from what they felt was their basic right to ride their bikes as part of traffic, and as an act of free expression. Thus, the violent clashes were repeated for several months.

Directed by a trio of filmmakers and bike activists (Elizabeth Press, Andrew Lynn, Christopher Ryan) the doc is a passionate telling of the clashes between Critical Mass and authorities and they make no attempt to hide their own personal bias. The film is vibrant, taking the viewer into the sub-culture, and talking about their struggle in terms of basic rights and self-expression.

At 37 minutes it is a very quick watch and moves at a brisk pace. Those who are cyclists, or are interested in social movements, or concerned with over-reactive authorities will defiantly be interested in this document.

Homeland Insecurity is the latest film compilation to be released by indie-filmmaker, and zine writer Bill Brown. Perhaps best known for Confederation Park (1999), Mr. Brown a native of Lubbock Texas, and shoots his movies on 16mm giving them a home movie feeling. His films are documentaries of sorts, but the themes he explores are often quite personal, making these movies refreshingly difficult to categorise.

The DVD contains 3 short films including Kustom Kamera Kommandos which is a very funny musical tribute to a man, his camera, and their devotion to each other. In Hub City Brown examines his hometown of Lubbock Texas, who’s greatest claim to fame is the birthplace of Buddy Holly. In the earnest deadpan that typifies the narration of his movies, Brown bemoans the obsession most of us have with dates and locations of tragedies (the day the music died), while few are interested in what led up to the disaster. He terms the film “as the first part in a doomed project” in tracking the skies above Lubbock over time. He contrasts the sky with shots of Lubbock that shows a town looking frayed and slowly being reclaimed by a patient desert.

The main event of this DVD is The Other Side, which is a fascinating and sometimes troubling look at the multitude of problems along the U.S-Mexico border as he travels by car from his home state of Texas to California. Illegal immigrants has been a concern for many years, but after 9/11 and the rampant paranoia that came with it, border guards had the mandate to crack down on these migrants. It is alleged that since security has been raised, migrants have been dying by the hundreds in the desert. The thesis of the film appears to be that for all the money and manpower that’s been put into border security (including construction of the infamous “border fence”), illegal migration hasn’t been curtailed at all. It’s only made it much more dangerous and expensive for those trying to get across.

Brown in his journey finds a number of individuals that have tried to help these illegals, concerned more about their survival then their legal status. There is a whole sub-culture in this border region of secret aid stations manned by students, blue water barrels filled by former weapons designers, and migrant camps that lay deserted except for scattered water bottles. The film is full of his beautiful still postcard photography of the desert and discarded signs of humanity, filled out by his narration and unseen interviews. The anonymous voices made everything just a little bit eerie, in its presentation.

The three films together are a little less then 70 minutes and it definitely left me wanting more. He has a great eye for finding the odd in the everyday, and narrating in a prose that reminds me of CBC’s Wiretap. If you are a fan of documentaries, or unique filmmaking Bill Brown is definitely one to watch.

What is Dreamscape? It’s a chip that is inserted beneath the scalp that turns your ordinary dreams into intricate adventures. Fantasies are downloaded from a central program for a monthly fee. It is based in your reality, so the stories are Dreamscape, but you settings are your own.

The setting is speculative sci fi, as in today, but another dimension. The look, bleak, black and white, with art deco buildings and a slight noir bent. The setting and dark themes are well photographed, never trying to outdo the medium (dv video) they are shot in.

Our hero an everyman, deadpan Daniel J. Fox (also the writer, director, editor, photographer and camera operator. Go Daniel go!) , has the Dreamscape chip inserted into his scalp. When he falls asleep the audience is pulled into what could be a dream about the main character suddenly being turned into some sort of secret agent, or is it reality? The whole time, while enjoying a very passible script, and a few terrible, but thankfully minor, characters, I was worried that I will end up so confused I would have to diss what started off as a promising, intriguing, and well shot low budget thriller. Luckily I was catered and explained to.

A true family affair (I think I counted three Foxes, with multiple production and acting roles) Dreamscape is worth the watch.

Bio:

Graduating from the North West School of Art and Design in 2003 with a BA Hons in the Moving Image, Daniel has over 7 years experience writing and directing shorts, music videos and promotional films.

Dreamscape follows the success of his short film, Vendetta, which premiered at the 2004 NYIFVF winning the award for Best International Short Film.

Co-director of Chat Noir Productions Ltd. he is presently developing several feature projects and television projects.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s