Documentary Review: Special When Lit (2009)

Release Date: October 1st, 2009 (Raindance Film Festival – UK)
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Music by: Brett Sullivan
Cast: Roger Sharpe, Rick Stetta, Sam Harvey, Steve Epstein, Gary Stern, Lyman Sheats Jr., Tim Arnold, Josh Kaplan, Pat Lawlor, Steve Ritchie, Steve Kordek, Steve Keeler, Raphael Lankar, Koi Morris, Al Thomka

Stream Motion and Sound, PBS International, 97 Minutes

Review:

I’ve always been a fan of pinball and arcade games in general. When I grew up in the ’80s it was hard not to be captivated by these things as gaming machines of all types were everywhere you went, even in a small town like mine.

Because of that, I was excited to see this documentary back when it first came out. It also came out in a time when pinball and video game documentaries were at an all-time high, probably due to the 2007 cult hit The King of Kong.

This delves into the history of pinball and it covers a lot of ground but it is mostly focused on the mid-’70s and beyond. It touches on the history before that but I actually would’ve liked to have seen more of its early history, as well. But there are other documentaries that cover that.

For the most part, this is simply talking head interviews edited together to tell a story. It’s well organized and edited and the whole documentary runs smoothly, as it looks at the fan side of pinball, the corporate side and the competitive side. All bases are pretty much covered and everything is given a good amount of time.

Now I don’t know how much this will resonate with everyone but if you’ve got an interest in the subject, it’s certainly worth a watch, as it’s full of colorful, entertaining characters and it’ll probably make you want to go collect your quarters and find the nearest machine to play.

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

Film Review: Black Devil Doll (2007)

Release Date: October 31st, 2007 (limited)
Directed by: Jonathan Louis Lewis
Written by: Shawn Lewis, Mitch Mayes
Music by: The Giallos Flame
Cast: Jonathan Louis Lewis, Heather Murphy, Natasha Talonz, Erika Branich, Precious Cox, Christine Svendsen

Lowest Common Denominator Entertainment, Rotten Cotton, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Rated X by an All-White Jury!” – tagline

I never knew of this film’s existence until I was sitting with some friends in Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas and clips of the movie were edited into a video mixtape that was playing on all the TVs in the bar. The scenes of a Black Panther Chucky-like doll violently fucking and then murdering big breasted white girls intrigued me and I had to track down the film.

The same friends and I then had a party where we watched this on DVD, as you could actually get those from Netflix, back in the day. We had our own Tiki horror party and paired this up with Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead, which is basically just a horror themed nudie cutie from the ’60s. I reviewed that ages ago here.

Anyway, this is a dumb movie but I say that lovingly. It’s the sort of dumb, edgy boi, violent, offensive, cinematic trash that can easily entertain me. Since this was only 73 minutes, and actually felt shorter, this was the perfect running time before the joke ran dry and I zoned out.

The story is about a Black Panther who is set to be executed but his soul is then trapped in a little doll, similar to the origin of Chucky. Except this doll likes to fuck and kill big titted women. It’s exploitation at its finest with a supernatural twist.

And that’s basically all this movie is. A plot barely exists and this is mostly just softcore porn scenes with ’70s grindhouse style gore thrown in with a wisecracking killer doll that delivers great one-liners like a pro.

This film won’t resonate with most people bit it wasn’t made to.

It’s really hard to track this down now but if you come across a copy, you should definitely seize the opportunity.

I also remember that there was a sequel sitcom series that was in development. However, it was being crowdfunded and I don’t think it made its goal. If it does exist and you’ve seen it or know how to track it down, let me know in the comments below.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Black Devil Doll From Hell, Dolly Dearest, Dolls and the Child’s Play movies.

Film Review: Ready to Rumble (2000)

Also known as: Untitled Wrestling Movie (working title), Head Lock Go! Go! Professional Wrestling (Japanese English title)
Release Date: April 5th, 2000 (premiere)
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Written by: Steven Brill
Based on: World Championship Wrestling
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Bill Goldberg, Rose McGowan, Diamond Dallas Page, Joe Pantoliano, Martin Landau, Ahmet Zappa, Jill Ritchie, Caroline Rhea, Lewis Arquette, Kathleen Freeman, Steve “Sting” Borden, Bam Bam Bigelow, Randy Savage, Booker T, Sid “Vicious” Eudy, Juventud Guerrera, Curt Hennig, Disco Inferno, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Rey Misterio, Perry Saturn, Prince Iaukea, Van Hammer, Michael Buffer, Gene Okerlund, Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Charles Robinson, Billy Silverman, The Nitro Girls, John Cena (uncredited)

Bel Air Entertainment, Outlaw Productions, Tollin/Robbins Productions, World Championship Wrestling, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Just cause it’s your dream doesn’t make it right or noble or whatever! Charles Manson was following his dream! Joseph Stalin, Michael Bolton, you get my point?” – Mr. Boggs

When this came out in 2000, I didn’t bother to see it. It didn’t matter that I was a wrestling fan or that WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was promoting the shit out of it. The movie just looked terrible beyond belief and well, frankly, movies with major wrestlers in them were never good, at least up until this point. Thanks for fixing that, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I finally caught this on TV a year or two later because I was trapped at home with my car in the shop, Uber didn’t yet exist, and there was nothing on in the afternoon other than soap operas, lame game shows and even lamer talk shows. So I gave in and watched this unfunny and bizarre turd.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m just being mean and shitting on a shitty film for the sake of being an asshole. It’s just a bad fucking movie and that’s mostly because it was written by someone who doesn’t know a damn thing about wrestling. If they do, the script and the story doesn’t show it and it’s almost insulting for those who have a love for this stuff.

Frankly, professional wrestling was treated like a joke. I get that this is a comedy movie but that doesn’t mean that you don’t do your research and try to give the audience something more authentic. Look at Slap Shot, a movie about hockey that is, at times, batshit crazy. Yet, it respects the sport and it doesn’t insult the fans of it by being written by someone just writing about what they think hockey is about, as opposed to someone who actually knew because she spent a season traveling with her brother’s team, an experience that led to her writing the Slap Shot script.

I don’t know how the wrestlers in this weren’t furious and insulted. I don’t know how they didn’t have meltdowns on the set about how stupid and inaccurate the script was in regards to something that was their beloved profession. Granted, I’m sure they were held hostage by their contracts and had more mouths to feed other than their own but the actual wrestlers had to see the writing on the wall with this shit show.

Now all that being said, I can’t hate on David Arquette or Scott Caan for being in this. They both really tried to make the best out of it and Arquette is a lifelong wrestling fan that probably signed on to this with some enthusiasm. I hope he didn’t see how bad the script was until after he signed the dotted line though because I’d rather hope that he just got hoodwinked.

But the effects of this movie were so bad that it led to Arquette legitimately becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in real life, something he was apprehensive about and felt disrespected the talent that spent their entire adult lives training for the spot that was handed to him just to help market a shit movie. The tactic massively backfired and the Arquette incident is a major factor in what led to WCW permanently shutting its doors a year later.

As for the movie, it’s terribly unfunny. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense and it makes wrestling look stupid as hell. The whole thing is a caricature of what it’s supposed to represent, written as if it were some asshole’s personal take on something he didn’t even give a shit about in the first place.

I honestly feel bad for the people in this film. And while I like Brian Robbins as a comedic actor, as a director, this is the equivalent of him volunteering to wear a dunce cap made out of excrement.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really, really shitty ’90s and ’00s buddy comedies.

Documentary Review: Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004)

Also known as: Empire of Dreams (shortened title)
Release Date: September 12th, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Burns, Edith Becker
Written by: Ed Singer
Music by: John Williams
Cast: George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Warwick Davis, Frank Oz, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Alan Ladd Jr., Irvin Kershner, Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite

Prometheus Entertainment, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, A&E, 151 Minutes, 120 Minutes (TV Edit)

Review:

“I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but… he’s a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something’s there. “It’s right there, I wrote it down. Do that”. You know, sometimes you can’t just “do that” and make it work.” – Harrison Ford

I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years since this documentary came out. It was the selling point of getting me to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD though, as I had already owned the movies several times over, in all their incarnations, but wanted to have this documentary to keep and rewatch over the years.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen it but it’s available on Prime Video, as well as Disney+ now.

Seeing this again sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005. It was that feeling of wonder, excitement and childlike awe. Disney is incapable of generating that sensation in me since they took over the Star Wars franchise and honestly, it’s mostly dead to me.

Empire of Dreams brought me back to where I was though from my childhood and into my twenties when I had a deep love for everything Star Wars. But most importantly, this showed me how much better the original movies were compared to Disney’s schlock and the shoddy prequels.

If Disney tried to make an Empire of Dreams followup about their new trilogy, would anyone care? Well, anyone with actual taste that was alive when the original Star Wars phenomenon was still alive and strong? I mean, how interesting would that documentary even be? And do you really even care about seeing any of the modern Star Wars actors and filmmakers talking about these new movies?

Empire of Dreams does a stupendous job of delving deep into the creation of one of the greatest film franchises of all-time. But seeing it with 2019 eyes, it more importantly shows you just how magical the Star Wars brand once was before Disney retrofitted it for an audience of wine moms and broke social justice warriors who can’t afford to buy the merch in the first place.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the original Star Wars trilogy and other Star Wars documentaries.

Documentary Review: Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen (2004)

Release Date: September 4th, 2004 (Germany)
Directed by: Michael Palm
Written by: Michael Palm
Cast: Edgar G. Ulmer (voice, archive footage), Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Ann Savage, John Saxon, William Schallert, Arianne Ulmer, Tom Weaver, Wim Wenders

Edgar G. Ulmer Preservation Corporation, Mischief Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), 77 Minutes

Review:

While I was perusing the offerings on the Criterion Channel, I came across this documentary about filmmaker, Edgar G. Ulmer.

This guy made magic in three of my favorite genres: horror, science fiction and film-noir. I believe that this documentary may actually be included on the Criterion Collection version of Detour.

What’s neat about it is that it features interviews and conversations with a lot of well known directors and actors that worked with or were influenced by Ulmer’s work behind the camera.

This also features his daughter who gives more intimate details on Ulmer, his life, her life as his daughter, as well as talking about her time in front of the camera with her father directing.

I really liked the conversation here between Joe Dante and John Landis. I also enjoyed the parts with John Saxon, Ann Savage, Roger Corman and Wim Wenders.

This was just a solid piece of work that really went through the man’s career with insight from some of the people who were there and others who had their own unique insight.

I couldn’t find a trailer for the documentary, so I put a trailer for Detour below, as it is my favorite Edgar G. Ulmer picture.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about horror, sci-fi and noir filmmakers.

Film Review: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Also known as: Child’s Play 5, Son of Chucky, Bride of Chucky 2 (working titles)
Release Date: November 12th, 2004
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Billy Boyd, Hannah Spearritt, Steve Lawton, John Waters

Rogue Pictures, David Kirschner Productions, Castel Film Romania, 87 Minutes, 88 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Christ! Enough about your mother! I killed that bitch twenty years ago and she still won’t shut up!” – Chucky

Whenever this movie comes up in conversation, everyone I talk to seems to hate it. Granted, when it came out, the trailer didn’t make me want to see it and I put it off for nearly ten years. However, once I did give the film a chance, I liked it near the same level that I liked its predecessor: Bride of Chucky.

I understand why this entry into the long running movie series gets a lot of hate but I think that is because people try to view it in the same way that they looked at the original trilogy of films, as a serious slasher with some colorful and funny one-liners from the killer doll.

The big difference is that this needs to be viewed as a comedy. Sure, a dark, twisted, fucked up comedy but this takes the increase in comedy from Bride of Chucky and magnifies it a lot more. Now I understand why that would upset some hardcore slasher purists but this is really the 1966 Batman of the franchise and I mean that as lovingly as possible.

Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly are absolutely dynamite in this. It honestly feels like Dourif was ad-libbing the whole thing. I know that’s not really possible, unless he was controlling Chucky’s animatronics while voice acting but this has a similar feel to it as improv comedy. Plus, Chucky’s never been funnier and the jokes are just constant.

The real star of the film is Billy Boyd, though. He plays the offspring of Chuck and Tiff and isn’t sure about his/her gender, his/her life and his/her place in all of the madness that surrounds his/her parents. I guess a lot of people disliked this character severely and he/she’s sort of been pushed out of the film series since this picture but I’d still like to see him/her reappear or at least get a mention as to what his/her whereabouts are.

After typing that politically correct paragraph, I came to the realization that Don Mancini and the Child’s Play franchise were more socially progressive than Twitter by at least a decade.

Anyway, I still prefer the original three films to anything that came after but this reinvents the franchise quite a bit and honestly, it needed some reinvention. While Bride of Chucky accomplished that already, Seed of Chucky pushed the bar further.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

TV Review: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009)

Original Run: January 13th, 2008 – April 10th, 2009
Created by: Josh Friedman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Terminator by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Brian Austin Green, Garret Dillahunt, Shirley Manson, Richard T. Jones, Leven Rambin, Stephanie Jacobsen, Dean Winters, Dean Norris, Stephany Jacobsen, Busy Philipps, Theo Rossi, Chad L. Coleman

Sarah Connor Pictures, Bartleby Company, C2 Pictures, The Halcyon Company, Warner Bros. Television, Fox, 31 Episodes, 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

There are nearly a half dozen versions of what happens after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Having seen all the sequels and reboots, I have to say, this is the best version of a sequel to the first two iconic films.

Now I haven’t seen the new movie that just came out, so I’ll have to see how that measures up once I get around to watching it. But the only real selling point for me is the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor.

But, if I’m being honest, I really like Lena Headey’s version of Sarah Connor after having finally seen this show.

Additionally, I also like Thomas Dekker’s John Connor, Summer Glau’s Terminator and the inclusion of Kyle Resse’s brother Derek, as played by Brian Austin Green, who I loved in this.

The cast is pretty solid, all around. Richard T. Jones did fantastic, as did Garret Dillahunt, who actually gets better as the show rolls on. I really thought that Dean Winters was a scene stealer in the episodes he was in though. I actually wish we would’ve gotten to see Winters more but then again, I wish this show could have survived beyond just a half season and one full season.

While this is an hour long drama show made for network television, it didn’t get bogged down by too much of the slice of life stuff. That did exist in the show but each episode had a purpose, was well paced and structured and you never felt like the characters were safe. There was always danger, they had to move a lot and thankfully, we didn’t get Summer Glau’s Terminator evolving into a happy homemaker, which was something I worried about before actually watching the show.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles builds off of the established mythos quote well and it explores some really interesting territory that none of the films have explored. There is a rogue liquid metal Terminator (played by Shirley Manson of the band Garbage), who is trying to build an anti-Skynet. You also have multiple timelines and different versions of characters that pop up. There was just a lot of neat angles the show took that we never get a real payoff to, as the second seasons ended on a cliffhanger that was never resolved.

This was a fantastic show that sadly didn’t get the longevity it needed to complete its story. Granted, everything could’ve gone to shit but I think that it probably would’ve been satisfying to see it all play out. Well, at least more satisfying than all the other attempts at a Terminator 3.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the first two Terminator films.