Documentary Review: Grizzly Man (2005)

Release Date: January 24th, 2005 (Sundance)
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Written by: Werner Herzog
Music by: Richard Thompson
Cast: Werner Herzog (narrator), Timothy Treadwell

Discovery Docs, Real Big Production, Lions Gate Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

Grizzly Man is a documentary by Werner Herzog. It follows the life and tragic death of Timothy Treadwell, who was killed and partially eaten by grizzly bears along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard.

Herzog, like in his other documentaries, weaves a wonderful tale out of extraordinary events and a very interesting character. This is one of my favorite Herzog documentaries, as it showcases a man, who many believe was out of his mind, and his crossing the line into living among the wild.

Timothy Treadwell was certainly eccentric and you can clearly see that, as much of the film is made up of the home movies Timothy shot while living with Alaskan grizzlies over thirteen summer seasons. One could bring his sanity into question and as the film went on, the less I liked the guy and thought he was off of his rocker. Did he deserve to die? No, but his incessant stupidity at being “one with the bears” eventually lead to him being one with the bears’ digestive track.

The videos that Timothy shot of the bears over the course of his time with them is nothing short of exceptional but he died for his work and very idiotically so. I understand passion but I also understand mental illness and I’m not saying that he was mentally ill but he certainly wasn’t all there and lived in a fantasy world where he thought he could tame the wild and thrive in it and among its apex predators. Even with thirteen years experience, one day the wild had enough of Timothy Treadwell.

This is a tragic story regardless of how you feel about Treadwell. In the end, I am glad I got to go on the journey and see things through his eyes, even though he wore rose-colored glasses.

And there is an awesomely epic bear fight about halfway through the film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Into the Inferno, The White Diamond and Into the Wild.

TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.

Film Review: The Accountant (2001)

Also known as: O Contador
Release Date: January, 2001 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ray McKinnon
Written by: Ray McKinnon
Music by: Rusty Andrews
Cast: Ray McKinnon, Walton Goggins, Eddie King

Ginny Mule Pictures, 40 Minutes

Review:

“If a man builds a machine and that machine conspires with another machine built by another man, are those men conspiring?” – The Accountant

I didn’t know much about Ray McKinnon other than his role as the preacher on the first season on Deadwood and seeing him pop up a few times in Sons of Anarchy. But he was a powerful performer and really lured me in when he was on screen.

I’ve been a fan of Walton Goggins for a really long time. I remember seeing him for the first time in that terrible fourth Karate Kid film and that also terrible third Major League movie. However, he stuck with me. I then remember seeing him get an Academy Award way back in 2002 for a short film that he had produced. I figured I’d check it out, as I wanted to go back and see a lot more of his earlier indie stuff. To my surprise, that short film was written, directed and starred Ray McKinnon. Well, it stars Goggins too, as well as another actor, Eddie King.

Man, I don’t really know how to describe this but it takes you to a lot of places emotionally in forty minutes. It is the perfect length, however. Had this been stretched out to feature length it probably would’ve dragged on too much and lost it’s impact.

In a lot of ways, this is like a punch to the gut but not in a bad way. There is some serious stuff to deal with here but it leaves you with some hope and also taps into the nostalgia of those who love simpler times and classic Americana.

This really has a strong Southern spirit to it in the best way possible.

McKinnon is utterly f’n superb in this and Goggins was the perfect actor to play off of him. These guys have real chemistry, which is probably why they’ve been good friends for years and have done multiple projects together.

I also thought that the music made for the film by Rusty Andrews was damn good and really added to the emotions and feelings that this film successfully conveyed.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Ray McKinnon’s Randy and the Mob and Chrystal.

Film Review: Slither (2006)

Release Date: March 31st, 2006
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Tania Saulnier, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Jenna Fischer, Frank Welker (voice)

Gold Circle Films, Strike Entertainment, Brightlight Pictures, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“[referring to a mutated Grant] He looks likes something that fell off my dick during the war.” – Tourneur

Slither is a movie that came out in 2006 and felt like something from a bygone era. It’s better than the vast majority of terrible PG-13 horror pictures from the ’00s and beyond and gives you something that feels like it is straight out of the ’70s and ’80s in how it channels elements of Night of the CreepsThe ThingShivers and From Beyond.

This also really brought James Gunn into the mainstream, after starting his career at Troma Entertainment. Oddly enough, I revisited this movie on the same night that all this weird James Gunn stuff exploded on social media. But I’m not going to let that sway my opinion of his directorial abilities or this film.

Gunn did a solid job creating this unique and gruesome world that he gave us here for 95 minutes. This film is terrifying, horrifying and yet, pretty f’n funny and entertaining. I can see why this lead to him getting more gigs like his anti-superhero flick Super and his hiring by Disney and Marvel to helm the beloved Guardians of the Galaxy film series.

If you are into the old school horror films that I mentioned a few paragraphs back, as well as darker humor, than there is no reason why this movie wouldn’t be for you. Gunn does a great job balancing his brand of pure unadulterated dread and humor.

I also love that this cast Nathan Fillion and gave him a real platform to show his talents outside of Firefly and Serenity. Additionally, Elizabeth Banks was really sweet and lovable in this and Michael Rooker nailed his role, as well. We even get to see a small part for Jenna Fischer, as she was just becoming known as Pam Beesly on the American version of The Office.

The special effects on this film were pretty good for the scant budget and Gunn, using what he learned about being frugal at Troma, was able to craft something that looked much better than the sum of its financial parts.

This is twelve years old now but it has aged really well. It still feels like a throwback to a better era of horror and certainly doesn’t feel like a horror movie from 2006.

To be completely honest, this is a film that I was hoping Gunn would build off of for either a sequel or something else set in the same universe. Now that he has been fired by Disney, maybe he can go back to making films that are closer to this one and where he has more creative control.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Night of the Creeps, Night of the Comet, The Thing (1982), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The FacultyThe StuffFrom Beyond and Shivers.

Documentary Review: Way of the Puck (2006)

Release Date: April 29th, 2006 (WorldFest Houston)
Directed by: Eric D. Anderson
Written by: Eric D. Anderson
Music by: Brian Hawlk, Santiago Step

Creative Ape, 81 Minutes

Review:

Way of the Puck is one of many documentaries to come out in the last decade or so that follows a very small segment of the nerd world. Like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters or Special When Lit, this movie showcases a group of elite players in a competitive niche hobby. The focus of this documentary is air hockey.

The movie does a good job at following around the different characters and showing their personalities. It also paints an interesting picture of competitive air hockey. It even makes a decent argument about how air hockey should be considered a sport by those outside of its tiny inner circle.

The problem, with the film, like air hockey, is in the end, it just isn’t that interesting. Where the films mentioned earlier were about retro arcade games and pinball, it worked for those films because video games and pinball are more interesting subject matter than air hockey. Yes, air hockey is fun to a degree but there is a reason why, since the late ’70s, air hockey tables tend to remain vacant while dozens swarm around video game cabinets and pinball machines.

I can appreciate the love and passion of these die hard fans in this film but it isn’t enough to enlighten me or most people. It is a little known hobby and it had its peak decades ago. That doesn’t mean that it can’t survive and thrive within the minuscule segment of society that loves it. But more likely than not, it is a hobby that will die with these guys. But that’s okay. It wouldn’t be the first hobby to fall victim to a fast moving world and its own growing obscurity.

Way of the Puck is a very human film that at least gives these guys a platform to talk to the world. Their message will most likely fall on deaf ears for the most part. But if air hockey makes them happy, then it really should be all they need. If you can find peace and happiness painting portraits on Pop-Tarts, good for you. But don’t expect other people to follow suit.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Special When Lit.

Film Review: Venom (2005)

Also known as: Backwater, The Reaper (working titles)
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
Directed by: Jim Gillespie
Written by: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten, Brandon Boyce
Music by: James L. Venable, John Debney
Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Laura Ramsey, D.J. Cotrona, Meagan Good, Bijou Phillips, Method Man

Outerbanks Entertainment, Collision Entertainment, Miramax Films, Dimension Films, 85 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a milking ceremony. It’s an old Haitian ritual. The Mambo is saving the man’s soul, clensing him of evil. It’s his last rites. The snakes are charmed by the Mamboto suck out the man’s evil, so that his soul may pass on.” – Cece

Man, this was shit.

And it wasn’t the good sort of shit. It was just stinky, funky, boring shit.

Venom is a slasher film that takes place in the Louisiana bayou. It has elements of voodoo in it too, as this film’s slasher is a victim of cursed ghost snakes that possess it and control it. Ghost snakes brought to life by shoddy CGI, mind you. I guess going to the pet store at the mall and buying a couple pythons for a hundred bucks a pop would have killed the budget. The entire CGI for this film probably cost about eight dollars.

Anyway, we get a group of teens and each one fits a predetermined role that anyone who has watched a slasher film knows exactly who’s who. Immediately, you know the girl who will survive and pretty much know the general order in which these kids will get picked off.

The villain is this scared up gas station worker with a big ass tow truck. He’s normal in the beginning but he crashes into some old voodoo lady, tries to save her but ultimately gets bitten by her cartoon voodoo snakes and becomes a swamp zombie. Seriously, he looks like a shirtless, maskless Jason Voorhees covered in mud like Dutch from Predator. Oh, and the cartoon voodoo snakes often times peek through the holes in his decaying body.

Everything about this film was predictable. Slasher films, however, aren’t known for being well-written affairs but at least the good ones tried to do something unique. I guess the voodoo twist is supposed to be unique but we’ve already had voodoo elements brought into slasher pictures; Child’s Play, Candyman and Maniac Cop III immediately come to mind.

Agnes Bruckner was the final girl in this and I thought she was carving out a nice scream queen career for herself as she did this and The Woods around the same time. The Woods is a better film, by the way, and it had Bruce Campbell in it. I can’t recall anything else Bruckner’s done but I remember seeing her in this and thinking, she might be the ’00s horror hero icon.

Method Man from Wu-Tang is in this too but just barely. I feel bad that he got roped into this when he could have done something better with his time like recording another follow up to Tical.

Probably the biggest reason why this movie sucks is that it has absolutely no balls. None. Every big kill happens just after the camera turns away. Sometimes we get to see the aftermath of a kill but the gore is minimal and this just feels like it was edited for television. Fuck this movie and its lack of anything truly horrifying.

Eh. I’m done. I hate this piece of crap. Granted, it’s not the worst horror movie of its decade but I’d rather get a tick in my urethra than ever watch this again.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre or bad ’00s horror films: Stay AliveBlack X-MasProm NightValentineSorority Row, See No Evil, etc.

TV Review: Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)

Also known as: Los Conchords (Spain)
Original Run: February 26th, 2016-current
Created by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Directed by: James Bobin, Taika Waititi, various
Written by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Taika Waititi, various
Music by: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker

Dakota Pictures, HBO, 22 Episodes, 26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Having just watched Jemaine Clement in the fantastic What We Do In the Shadows, I was inspired to revisit Flight of the Conchords, as I hadn’t watched it since it was last on HBO in 2009. Also, I had never seen it in its entirety and in the proper sequence. Now I have and I’m glad I did. By the way, both seasons are streaming for free on Amazon’s video-on-demand service, right now.

So, as much as I loved this show when it was current, I loved it even more revisiting it several years later and after seeing Clement’s career evolve. It was nice to get back to basics and see him and his crew at their best. I wouldn’t call this their creative peak but I would say that it was where they were the most in-tune to the versatility of their talents.

Following a New Zealand band, the Flight of the Conchords, and their lives trying to make it in New York City, is a unique experience. The show ties together entertaining stories, hilarious musical segments and great characters that are unlike any other. Being that everyone in this show is pretty much an exaggerated extension of themselves makes it feel authentic despite its absurdity.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie are a perfect duo and play off of each other so well, that there is nothing unnatural or forced about their relationship. Kristen Schaal and Rhys Darby are also great members of this show’s cast and are both believable and lovable. Arj Barker, who plays their best friend, is fantastic as Dave. In fact, if you have time, go to YouTube and search for “Dave’s Pearls of Wisdom”.

This is one of the best comedies HBO has ever aired and they have aired several comedies that are now classics. I wish that the show went on for more than two seasons but the quality of work was so strong, and the ending was pretty fitting. There are few shows that feel this satisfying throughout their entire run.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other films and shows created by this same group of guys: What We Do In the Shadows, Eagle Vs. Shark, etc.