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Private Century

Conceived and directed by Jan Sikl, this collection of eight hour-long films follows the major events of Czech history through the prism of everyday citizens. The short documentaries stitches together home movies, still photography and narration compiled from interviews with the surviving members of families featured in the films to create vivid portraits of everyday life in this embattled country from the 1920s to the 1960s.

The films have an auteur’s touch to them. It takes a couple of installments to get into the pace of the films and Sikl’s authorial voice. But once you’re hooked, you will come away enriched and moved by the joys and sorrows of the simple citizens. It’s reminiscent in that sense of Gore Vidal’s first person takes on the huge issues of the day. But capturing the sweep of history in this intimate fashion will leave you deeply impressed as it fleshes out the small details of these often huge sea changes.

(released by Facets)

December 13, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | , , | Leave a comment

Nick Swardson: Seriously, Who Farted?/Greg Giraldo: Midlife Vices

There are the superstar comics of the world – Dane Cook, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld. Then there are the ones who have all the respect of the comedy nerds and critics – Patton Oswalt, Eugene Mirman, Aziz Ansari.

Then there are the gaggle in the middle who are able to carve out a decent living on the road and taking bit parts in movies and TV shows, but either don’t have the shtick or the smarts to make it into either of the above categories. Comics like Nick Swardson and Greg Giraldo.

They aren’t terrible comics by any means, particularly Giraldo who has some potent political material and a whole lot of bile, but they are missing some essential something that could really carry them over the top. Swardson especially falls prey to this ingratiating need to please his audience by going for the old college audience stand by material about drinking, drugs and making fun of the elderly.

Giraldo, on the other hand, does what most comics take as their fall back, standing superior over his audience and the rest of the world. And he tends to contradict himself as in with his material about racists which is quickly followed by commentary about the Iraqi who threw his shoe at former President Bush, referring to him in blatantly derogatory terms. It throws all the good stuff into stark relief.

(both discs released by Comedy Central)

December 13, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | , , | Leave a comment

Three Sheets: Season 4

Three Sheets follows in the footsteps of wide ranging travelogues like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and puts a simple but surprisingly vibrant spin on it. Over the course of four seasons, it follows the charming, catty and amazingly tolerant host Zane Lamprey around the globe as he tries local spirits and beers and meets a bevy of drinking buddies along the way.

This four-disc set carries 18 episodes that sends Lamprey to such far-flung destinations as Namibia, Lithuania, and the island of Lesbos. And, yes, he drinks a lot, taking in all manner of fare including a liquor and ice cream concoction called Buffalo Milk and a green liqueur that takes its name from the African creature called a springbok.

It’s a cute, if overdone, program, that would be near to unwatchable if it wasn’t for the local color featured on it, as well as Lamprey’s surprisingly charm as host. Even as it veers into ludicrously created history lessons and fills every available minute with sound effects and music, it still maintains a keen sense of fun and adventure. At least the kind of adventure that can come after imbibing shot after painful shot of bitter-tasting booze.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | Leave a comment

DVD Review: Life On Mars Series 2

When we last left the hero of Life On Mars, Sam Tyler (played ably by John Simm), he was sinking into a sort of acceptance with his plight – languishing in a coma in modern day England while his mind is stuck in 1973 Manchester. As we pick up the story, Tyler is trying to come to terms with his unusual situation, even as he tries to snap out of his unconscious state.

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November 28, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | , | Leave a comment

DVD Review: The Mighty Boosh Special Edition DVD

If you’re not a specialty DVD distributor a la Criterion or Flicker Alley, your understanding of the marketplace when it comes to DVDs is something like this: put out a bare bones edition first, then¬† – by either an anniversary of a film’s release date or the proximity to holiday shopping season – release a meatier edition of the same film. Some go one step further, waiting a few years for an even bigger release of a DVD, taking advantage of current advances in home video technology and adding more discs and more gewgaws and special features and whiz bang packaging. As a DVD reviewer, who tends to get each subsequent release for free, it’s pretty cool. For the consumer, it has to be a lot frustrating.

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November 27, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | , | Leave a comment

DVD Review: The Steve Coogan Collection

Unless you are a British comedy fanatic or someone who follows the indie movie market, the chances are good that the only person in your household who will recognize Steve Coogan will be your child.

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November 27, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | , , , , | Leave a comment

Join The Circle Of Trust

The fine folks at Oscilloscope Laboratories, the movie production/distribution company co-owned by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, have introduced a new subscription service called “The Circle Of Trust.” $150 will net you the next 10 DVD releases they have coming down the pipeline, and you get them a week before the release date.

I usually don’t take to recommending things like this but this is a great deal, especially considering the care that Oscilloscope puts into choosing films – they’ve handled the distribution for indies like Wendy & Lucy and No Impact Man and foreign fare like Burma VJ and Treeless Mountain – and the beautiful, recycled packaging that each disc comes in. Well worth the expense in this reporter’s opinion.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | News | Leave a comment

Adult Swim Lets You Build Your Own DVD

The folks at Adult Swim have locked on to a great idea that will hopefully inspire other DVD makers to follow suit. Offering an alternative to their TV season box sets, they are allowing you to put together your own collection of episodes from select shows (including Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Robot Chicken, and The Drinky Crow Show, among others) – and help design the packaging – for a mere $20. It adds a nice personal spin to the DVD buying experience and lets you avoid the episodes of these shows that you didn’t care for. Go here to check it out.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | News | Leave a comment

Xavier: Renegade Angel Seasons 1 And 2

Review by Robert Ham

If you are at all familiar with the deconstructionist children’s show parody Wonder Showzen that Xavier creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee cooked up for MTV2, you might have some insight into the depths that its creators was were willing to go to provoke a reaction (not necessarily laughter, either, though there was plenty of that to be had). But I doubt anyone could have predicted this show as their next step.

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November 18, 2009 Posted by | DVD review | , , | Leave a comment