Alien Workshop ‘Mind Field’ DVD

Firstly, I’m not going to be reviewing every skate video production that comes out. I can barely keep up with Youtube clips, let alone the releases and premieres for all the major productions. That said, if you find yourself reading a skate flick review on here, then that means that it’s probably worth your time checking it out for yourself.

I’ve always liked Alien Workshop. There was something creepy and genuinely different about their vibe from the get-go, and it hasn’t got tired over the years: you know what you’re going to get with any footage they release, so injections of interstitial treatments and bizarre sepia-tinged clips don’t get in the way of your viewing pleasure. I was there in 1991, buying their first video release (‘Memory Screen’, with its weird yellow VHS cassette) and recalling that 15 minutes of actual skating in a 41 minute long video was a little… unusual. Something here was different.

The one main thing that has changed since those days is the team of riders. Some are still there (Rob Dyrdek, for example), but there’s always a healthy draw to their productions through the new blood and seasoned pros that are on the roster. With ‘Mind Field’, their fourth video, Alien had the tough job of topping 2000’s ‘Photosynthesis’ – arguably one of the best skate videos of all time.

‘Mind Field’ has been on the boil for a good few years, so expectations were already high before even considering the vast talent on the team’s roster. Leaked photos, advertisements and messageboard rumours kept the interest levels at a premium, maybe second only to the pre-launch of Lakai’s ‘Fully Flared’. Enough babble: if you’ve read this far, you already know all of this. I could have searched for a download, pestered people for a torrent file… whatever: like the Habitat video… or the Stereo box set… or any other production that I actually cared about, I was willing to hold out for the proper DVD release. You get the main film, a nice little 60-page book showing the making of the production, some bonus footage (which, truth be told, I haven’t explored yet)… It’s a nice set. So, what’s the feature like then?

It’s really good.

Opening up with plenty of ‘Memory Screen’ visual references (was that Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis I saw and heard there?), things were off to an interesting start. But when Omar Salazar’s section chimes in with his vast amount of pop and stair-hopping, you soon realise that this is two steps beyond. Gone are Steve Claar, Bo Turner, John Pryor, Scott Conklin and the others (although Duane Pitre does supply some music in this one). Gone is the experimental feel that the scratchy 8mm footage once had. This is big business.

Omar’s in for the opener, as mentioned already, and he proves worthy of it. It might not blow you away like Mike Mo did on ‘Flared’, but it’s a great opening section to the hour-long film. Lots of needle-threading (including an interesting hedge hop), rail pounding and ledge/Hubba antics make for a great section. Whether I preferred this to his Nike ‘Nothing But The Truth’ part is hard to say, because in that film his part stood out slightly more. The game’s been raised in terms of editing and production (and by the lack of terrible subplot) in this one. His ender is amazing.

Jake Johnson can skate switch as well as he can regular. Fast lines, peppered with confidently popped and caught tricks makes for a high adrenaline watch. The Jersey barrier wallie to tailslide on a rail is dope, as is the fakie heelflip down the Brooklyn steps. Wallride over a double set? No problem.

Arto Saari had a lot of hype to live up to, thanks to things such as his Skateboard Mag cover (that double kink backside lipslide, which incidentally is just as amazing to see here), but he manages to bring it to the table. Arto doesn’t need to show you 300 different tricks: I’d rather see a tight selection executed with smooth perfect style, which is exactly what he does here. It’s a good section. The popped pivot to fakie on the bank to wall (trust me, you’ll know it when you see it) is perfect.

Dylan Rieder probably had one of the most anticipated parts here, and with good reason. A relaxed flowing style with plenty of pop on various terrains gives a well-rounded part. The ditch lines are fast and fun, while the last trick – a vast fakie 360 flip down a big five – is an impressive end to one of my favourite parts of the film. Oh, and I liked the Segway interlude that followed.

Now, if I’m honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from Rob Dyrdek and Steve Berra’s contributions to ‘Mind Field’. Both are plagued with the potential disinterest from skeptics, to the point of where I think they’d have to skate twice as hard as others just to get some recognition. Dyrdek’s been busy with all kinds of projects, whilst Berra was out of action for a while with injuries. To hold that against them before viewing their sections is a little presumptuous: both skaters have turned in short-but-very sweet parts that I really enjoyed. Dyrdek does a particularly dope switch tailslide flip out and Berra is the king of half-cab flips down sets of steps and over gaps. Both skaters did the lesser-spotted fakie double flip (Rob’s was off a bank, Steve’s amidst an amazing line), which made me smile.

Josh Kalis comes through with a great part. Despite having filmed a multitude of video contributions for the last God-knows-how-many years, his section here is classic Kalis: it’s been said many times, but Josh is a contender for best tre flip ever. Lots of clever manual trickery, some slick ledge work and plenty of switch goodness. The switch bigspin heelfip over the block at Fort Miley is an immediate rewind, and he has switch backside tails on lock. Strike up another win for Philly’s finest.

Grant Taylor had a highly anticipated section. Seeing him mature as you watch his part is amazing – the little guy at the start is a man by the time he hops the bump in the playground to frontside boardslide on the fence gate. Watch that move carefully – it’s amazing. I liked him flying around the waterpark as well: that place looks amazing to ride.

Mr. Big Socks, Jason Dill skates as you’d expect: fast, fun lines, using a variety of street obstacles. His part is short, but adds another element to the team line-up. What else can you say about the guy?

Tyler Bledsoe… Oh man. Watching him recently on The Berrics site, I had high hopes for his part and the bespectacled warrior turns in a contender for top section here. Yeah, it’s that good, honestly. A sick frontside boardslide shove-it popped over a rail kicks his section off with finesse, but he goes off: perfect backside bigspin to frontside bluntslide on rails, a huge bigflip down the Carlsbad gap… I won’t spoil it for you by listing everything, but he has all angles in his repertoire. This guy is going to be one to watch. Top three here, for sure. Mikey Taylor’s style stood out to me in the DVS film and he continues where he left off. Backside nollie flip/tailslide at speed, super long crooks down a man-sized rail… a huge nollie heel down a 10 set… An amazing section – and a nod of respect to our recently departed Van Wastell was a lovely touch. Anthony Van Engelen’s up next and, to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. Maybe I’d neglected to check out enough of his previous footage to realise just how good his part was going to be. Massive ollies, some sick lines (one high speed street line ends with a switch crooked grind up a ledge, popped out to 50-50 around a corner. I can’t really explain it, but it stuck in my memory immediately), a massive switch frontside noseslide to fakie on a bank to wall, a vast fakie nosegrind down a big rail… Lots of super-good tailslide-to-noseslide variations too. Another amazing section – and could’ve been curtains in any other video.

But… that duty goes to Heath Kirchart here. There’s no point trying to do his section justice in a website write-up. You can’t do it without bombarding everyone with superlatives. You feel that Heath worked hard on this section and the proof is there for all to see. The best double flip out of a schoolyard bank, over a picnic table… catching it at its peak… and then rolling away like he was in ‘Goodfellas’: “I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you?”. Insane curved Hubba 50-50. Transition debauchery at a park, nosegrabbing 360s higher than most people can jump on a trampoline. The closing trick is amazing. I’ll leave it for you to try and decipher.

With everyone proclaiming to be online journalists, I have little doubt that as soon as the premieres had shown, kids were running to their Blogger accounts to write up their take on the film. There seems to be a trend of downplaying things just so you can have that critical edge on the next guy, but I think it’s too easy to take something apart instead of enjoying it for what it is. Don’t listen too hard to online opinion (including mine, probably): go and see ‘Mind Field’ for yourself. It’s a very good skateboarding film.

Filed Under: Reviews

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

Comments are closed.