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Ode to Zappa 

'Baby Snakes' captures the musician in prime form.

BABY SNAKES

Eagle Eye Media
Movie: A-
Special Features: None worth grading
Geek Factor: 8.5 (out of 10)

It's been 10 years since Frank Zappa left the planet, which sucks. Luckily, we have Baby Snakes, a concert film and documentary originally released in 1979 that caught the musical genius having what looks to be loads of fun. Zappa's band had many lineups over the years, and this one, featuring guitarist Adrian Belew (Talking Heads, King Crimson) and drummer Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons) was certainly one of the more entertaining incarnations. Fans of Zappa's music will rejoice with every frame of this film, and those who aren't on Zappa's frequency might still get a kick out of treats like Belew's rendition of "City of Tiny Lites," punctuated by a Zappa guitar solo that will shock the uninitiated. (The man was one of the greatest players ever to pick up a guitar.)

The highlight of this movie is drummer/vocalist Bozzio's apocalyptic performance of "Punky's Whips." Staring straight into the camera, drumming with unmatched ferocity and whipping up the most frightening of sexual lathers, Bozzio is the very definition of Rock God. The musical segments of Baby Snakes do a beautiful job of capturing some of the more eccentrically wonderful musical beasts to ever hit the stage. This film, directed by Zappa, is a must-have for any Zappa freak.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Were Frank still with us, there probably would've been a bunch of extras. As it stands, there are only a couple of trailers and DVD previews. Fans will have to settle only for a film that is nearly three hours long and highly entertaining. Mixed in with the concert footage is the amazing Claymation work of Bruce Bickford, who does some stuff with naked bodies that will haunt your dreams.


AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE

Warner Brothers
Show: A
Special Features: B-
Geek Factor: 8

This is an incredibly funny show that has built a cult following on the Cartoon Network. Featuring an animated shake, a box of fries and a meatball (Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad respectively), the trio is supposed to be some sort of crime fighter/detective force, but they spend the majority of their show lounging around in their cranky neighbor's pool. The DVD contains 16 episodes, all about 12 minutes long, not one of them less than completely hilarious. Each segment begins with an experiment from Dr. Weird somewhere near the Jersey shore, who introduces his latest invention and then disappears from the program. Aqua Teen makes no sense, and it might take a few viewings to hook newcomers. But when it gets you, it's an addiction that only many repeated viewings of this DVD can cure. Meatwad rocks!

SPECIAL FEATURES: Fans might be interested in the original pilot, still in rough form. Commentaries by the show's producers and voices are pretty strange (one starts with a three-minute psychedelic guitar solo). A promo video done for a comic convention completes the supplements.


MELVIN GOES TO DINNER

Sundance Channel Home Entertainment
Movie: C+
Special Features: B-
Geek Factor: 4

Bob Odenkirk is one of the funniest people currently out there trying to make you laugh. He's been a writer for Saturday Night Live and a writer-performer on The Ben Stiller Show and Mr. Show, two programs that should've lived forever but, alas, did not. Now comes Odenkirk's directorial debut, which winds up being a quiet little movie about four friends having dinner and freaking each other out with their weird stories. While Odenkirk shows some flair as a dramatic director, his film amounts to little more than yet another movie where people sit around a dinner table talking a lot. Some of the conversation is compelling, but much of it tries too hard to be different, resulting in an ending that feels ridiculous and manipulative. For fans of Odenkirk, it's worth seeing as a means of catching his more serious side, and cameos by himself, David Cross and Jack Black give the movie a few sparks. I look forward to his next effort, whatever that might be, but have no desire to dine with Melvin again. (James DiGiovanna, the lead Tucson Weekly movie critic, gave this film a far more positive review during its theatrical release.)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Two commentaries, one with the technical staff and one with the actors (both featuring Odenkirk), offer little insight into the film. There's a lot of talk about how the film was once a play (something that becomes obvious with the actors' stage-like dialogue delivery in the movie), but the majority of their talk is meandering and distracting. Odenkirk's short film, The Frank International Film Festival, is a funny riff on the countless festivals popping up around the country and is better than the feature movie. There are also some scenes from the original play.

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