Documentary Review: The History of Pinball (1997)

Release Date: 1997
Directed by: Mark Helms
Written by: Mark Helms
Music by: Michael Moss
Cast: Mark Helms (narrator), Joe Perry, Roger Sharpe, Slash, Frank Thomas

New Video Images, 59 Minutes

Review:

After revisiting the great pinball documentary Special When Lit, I wanted to know more about the history of pinball in its earliest days. While that film was good, it really just starts in the ’70s and talks about pinball in more recent years.

This made-for-TV documentary covers all that stuff that Special When Lit jumped over.

I really liked this a lot, as a fan of pinball, arcade games and historical Americana in general.

It goes way back and talks about the earliest European games that were predecessors to what pinball would become. It then brings the viewer through time, showing how these games evolved into modern pinball.

This also features a lot of interviews with experts on the subject and just about every talking head blurp was informative and helped paint a unique and cool story about the subject.

I also liked that there was so much footage of pinball machines from all eras.

For just 59 minutes, this is really comprehensive.

It’s well edited, covers a lot of ground and it’s pretty compelling for those who have a love for the game and for history.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about pinball and arcade games, many have been reviewed here already.

Film Review: Jack Frost (1997)

Release Date: November 18th, 1997
Directed by: Michael Cooney
Written by: Michael Cooney, Jeremy Paige
Music by: Chris Anderson, Carl Schurtz
Cast: Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Rob LaBelle, Shannon Elizabeth, Jack Lindine, Zack Egniton, Brian Leckner, Marsha Clark, Eileen Seeley, Kelly Jean Peters, Scott MacDonald

Frost Bite Films Ltd., Moonstone Entertainment, Storyteller Films Ltd., A-Pix Entertainment, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Gosh. I only axed you for a smoke.” – Jack Frost

I’ve heard people refer to this as the movie that made Shannon Elizabeth famous. Actually, I think this is the movie that Shannon Elizabeth made famous after she blew up from her part in the original American Pie and rumors that she was also nude in this flick.

Apart from Shannon Elizabeth, there really isn’t anything in this film worth looking at.

It’s a horror comedy about a killer that has his body turned into shapeshifting sentient snow. So basically, he’s a killer snowman with some nonsensical snow-based powers and lots of really bad one-liners.

While this isn’t a movie made by Full Moon, it has a similar vibe in its cheapness, its terribly bad humor and its lack of anything that will make you want to sit still for 89 minutes. Well, except the infamous Shannon Elizabeth scene but that only takes up about three percent of the film’s run time.

The special effects are bad, the acting is bad, the jokes are even worse and the film is pretty boring, even though it features one of the strangest horror monsters of its time.

There’s not much else to say about the movie, as there isn’t much worth talking about other than Shannon Elizabeth. But you can just watch her important scene online and skip the other 97 percent of the movie.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other terrible, terrible horror movies.

Film Review: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Release Date: May 14th, 1997 (Cannes)
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson
Based on: L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, Matt McCoy, Simon Baker

Regency Enterprises, The Wolper Organization, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.” – Capt. Dudley Smith

I’ve seen parts of L.A. Confidential over the years and I knew enough about the story before even watching it but yes, this is my first viewing of the film in its entirety.

While that may seem odd for a fan of film-noir, I didn’t become a true lover of noir fiction until I got past my teen years. Sure, I always liked crime movies but the noir aesthetic didn’t truly penetrate my psyche until my late 20s and really didn’t make me do a deep dive into the cinematic style until my mid-30s.

Now L.A. Confidential is a modern neo-noir that takes its narrative and stylistic cues from classic film-noir but it has this pristine razzle dazzle about it and that’s not simply because of the star power. It’s visual allure is just breathtaking and while other films in the ’90s tried to encapsulate the noir look, albeit in color, there is just something fantastical about how this comes off on screen.

On one hand, the movie feels like a dark fairytale of a time long gone and a world that doesn’t exist in the same way. On the other hand, there is a gritty realness to it that makes the darker parts of humanity come across as genuine and frightening.

That being said, this is still great because of its star power on top of the film’s visual look. You really have a solid cast between Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. Everyone does a perfect job with the script and the story.

However, I think the glue that holds everything together so well is director Curtis Hanson. While not having a prolific name like Scorsese, Coppola or De Palma, he takes the crime fiction material and makes it work, incredibly well. He got the most out of his cast while having a great eye for mise-en-scène. The film boasts stupendous cinematography and shot framing.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also pretty close to perfect.

My only real complaint about the film comes in regards to its pacing. While mostly energetic, there are a few points in the film that drag a bit more than they need to. I didn’t find it to wreck the movie or even be much of a distraction, though.

The ’90s produced a lot of neo-noir motion pictures but L.A. Confidential certainly deserves its place in the upper echelon.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s neo-noir films: Heat, The Two Jakes, The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, Seven, Red Rock West, Devil In a Blue Dress, Dick Tracy, etc.

Film Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion (1997)

Also known as: The End of Evangelion (shortened title)
Release Date: July 19th, 1997 (Japan premiere)
Directed by: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Movic, Production I.G/ING, Toei, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I’m so fucked up.” – Shinji Ikari

Yes, Shinji… you are fucked up.

In fact, Shinji makes this thing damn near unwatchable. If you thought he freaked out and had emo storms in the television series, it’s like he rolls all of them up, wedges them into just 90 minutes and then turns the volume way up.

I absolutely hate Shinji. I don’t care that he’s young and has had a troubled childhood. So did I at one point, I didn’t act anything like this.

It also doesn’t help that Asuka is having freak outs the whole damn time either.

So what this film is, is it is an alternate ending to the shitty ending that the television series gave us. This makes things real and not just some Patrick Duffy shower dream. And I wanted the events of the show to be real within the show. But this was not really an improvement when all is said and done.

This was damn hard to get through with all the emotional meltdowns and screaming.

The only saving grace was that the animation was a step up from the series but then it should be, as this was a film released theatrically.

But whatever.

Honestly, this film made me actually like the show less, as it exposed some of its flaws and made me never want to see Shinji’s bitch tantrums ever again.

While fans will debate for eons which ending was the true ending, I’ll debate with myself whether this was more shrill or less shrill than a cat orgy.

But I guess I’ll watch the movie after this one too, as it’s on Netflix and I might as well complete all that’s offered there.

Let me order some new earplugs off of Amazon first.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: all things Evangelion, as well as all things Robotech or Macross and Knights of Sidonia.

Film Review: Event Horizon (1997)

Also known as: The Stars My Destination (working title)
Release Date: August 15th, 1997
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by: Philip Eisner
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jason Issacs, Sean Pertwee, Jack Noseworthy, Noah Huntley, Peter Marinker

Golar Productions, Impact Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 96 Minutes, 130 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“I’m telling you it was his voice I heard, he was calling to me. A young bosun named Eddie Corrick. We served on the Goliath together. When the O2 tanks ruptured, four of us made it to the lifeboat but Corrick was still on board the Goliath when the fire broke out.” – Miller

This is hands down my favorite film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.

In fact, I love it so much that it bothers me that there was once a 130 minute rough cut of the film that none of us will ever be able to see because they didn’t really archive deleted scenes and alternate takes like they started to do a few years later when DVD extras became a thing.

What’s really sad about that is that this was a film that was whittled down by the producers into a quick, palatable 96 minutes because I guess horror or sci-fi movies can’t be longer than that. I feel cheated not being able to see Anderson’s full vision.

However, this is still a solid, sci-fi thriller with sick and disturbing twists that made this the most frightening space movie of its time. I can’t say that it’s as good as the first two Alien movies but it exceeds all of the sequels after the first two pictures.

This is also imaginative and just fucking cool.

The story follows a space crew as they travel to the orbit of Neptune to see what happened to another crew that went missing. Once there, they discover a pretty horrific truth. The missing crew’s ship jumped through a different dimension and thus, brought back what can only be described as Hell in space.

For those who have never seen this movie but are familiar with the Dead Space video game series, you’ll see a lot of stylistic similarities. Funny enough, every time I watch this movie, I want to go back and play those games.

In lots of ways, this is a terrifying film. It’s visuals are intense and it’s some of the best work Anderson has ever done. The movie is a total mindfuck but what does kind of suck is that you’re left with so many questions and you want to know more. Unfortunately, there will probably never be a sequel. I mean, it’s been 22 years since this came out.

Apart from Anderson being on his A game, this movie is truly carried by the performances of its great cast. There are ton of people in this, most of whom have gone on to have bigger careers after this picture. But they were all very capable and convincing actors in this film. I’ve always loved Sean Pertwee, Jason Issacs and Jack Noteworthy and seeing them get to work alongside Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill is excellent.

Event Horizon is such an underrated film. It came and went in theaters pretty quickly and it did okay on video but I feel like it came out in the wrong era and was lost in the shuffle of all the other horror movies from its time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, as well as Pandorum and 2017’s Life.

Documentary Review: Funhouse (1997)

Release Date: 1997

Discovery Channel, 44 Minutes

Review:

I remember seeing this on the Discovery Channel when it was new. It always stuck with me and after becoming a fan of the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld, I wanted to try and track this down to revisit.

Sadly, there is no information about it online. There isn’t even an IMDb page. As I like to list the credits for everything I review, it sucks that I can’t give the proper people the credit they deserve for this cool little documentary that has stuck with me for 22 years.

Seeing it now, it was still a lot of fun and the real high point is where it showcases local, lesser known theme parks throughout the country. The two main ones that we get a peek at here are Bushkill Park and Kennywood, both from Pennsylvania.

What’s extra special about seeing this now, is that since this documentary, Bushkill Park has fallen into disrepair and doesn’t function as a full park anymore. There have been attempts at fixing it but the iconic rides of the past no longer function and have been wrecked by flooding and vandalism. But at the time of this documentary’s production, we got to see a lot of the old attractions in their mostly full glory.

This also goes into the technological advances that Universal Studios and Disney World were bringing into the theme park industry at the time. Some of the “new” rides featured here no longer exist or have evolved but this was a cool time capsule that looks into what was cutting edge in the ’90s.

If you like theme parks and their history, this is a fun watch. I put the whole documentary below and it even has the commercials left in, so its like a real ’90s TV time capsule.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld.

Film Review: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Also known as: Conan the Conqueror (working title)
Release Date: August 29th, 1997
Directed by: John Nicolella
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: Kull of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tia Carrere, Litefoot, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Roy Brocksmith, Pat Roach

Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[with corpses around the throne] My heirs challenged me for the throne. So I’ve spared all my children any future disappointment!” – King Borna

This was originally written to be the third Conan film but the De Laurentiis family couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger to commit to it. So after several years, they locked up Kevin Sorbo, star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. However, Sorbo didn’t want to play a character that was already made famous by another actor, so the filmmakers retooled the Conan script and decided to use a different but similar Robert E. Howard barbarian character, Kull of Atlantis.

To be frank, I was really excited to see Kull get his own movie. While I love Conan, when I was a kid I read a few of the Kull stories and loved him as well. He was definitely a character worth exploring. Plus, his comics from Marvel were also in abundance in my collection.

For the most part, this is just an okay movie. It’s lighthearted, fun but it’s cheap and it shows. The story also isn’t very good but I guess it’s as good as the plot of Conan the Destroyer or other mid-tier sword and sorcery pictures.

What makes this film more enjoyable than it would otherwise be is the charisma of Kevin Sorbo and the vastly underappreciated Thomas Ian Griffith, who I have been a fan of since first seeing him in The Karate Kid, Part III. These two guys absolutely carry this movie on their backs. The opening scene between them is fantastic, as is every other scene that they share.

But in the end, I really wanted more from a Kull movie. Hopefully, someday, we can get a resurgence in sword and sorcery films and actually see Kull return to the big screen, preferably with a decent budget and stronger script.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other movies based on Robert E. Howard creations: the Conan films, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane, as well as the Beastmaster film series.