Documentary Review: 350 Days (2018)

Also known as: 350 Days – Legends. Champions. Survivors (DVD title)
Release Date: July 12th, 2018
Directed by: Fulvio Cecere
Cast: Bret Hart, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Snuka, James J. Dillon, Bill Eadie, Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, Ted DiBiase, David “Gangrel” Heath, Marty Jannetty, Angelo Mosca, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Lex Luger, Lanny Poffo, Wendi Richter, Larry Sharpe, George “The Animal” Steele

Happy Fish Productions, 108 Minutes

Review:

This was a pretty interesting documentary that focuses on a part of the wrestling business that I don’t think has been covered as the sole subject of a documentary before: the travel schedule.

The film lets a few dozen wrestlers discuss their travel schedules over the course of their careers and how it effected them physically, mentally and their lives inside and outside of the ring.

Each wrestler has their own story and almost everything here is pretty cool for fans of the business.

This is presented as talking head interviews edited into a quick paced narrative, keeping things flowing nicely and allowing each of the wrestlers’ stories to build off of one another’s.

I especially like hearing insight from Bret Hart, Lanny Poffo, Greg Valentine, Billy Graham, Wendi Richter and Ted DiBiase.

I don’t think that a lot of people that aren’t fans of the wrestling industry, know or understand how hard a professional wrestler’s schedule and travel can be. This does a good job of explaining it through personal stories.

This isn’t the greatest wrestling documentary out there, but it was still professionally shot, edited and presented and that sets it apart from some of the sloppy ones you may have seen.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent wrestling documentaries.

Film Review: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Release Date: August 11th, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Leo Howard, Bob Sapp, Ron Perlman, Nathan Jones, Morgan Freeman (narrator)

Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Cinema Vehicle Services, 113 Minutes

Review:

“I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.” – Conan

I put off watching this for a really long time. But finally, after nine years of ignoring this movie, I said, “fuck it!” and fired it up because it was free on Prime Video and because I’m a hardcore fan of the Conan franchise. Also, I believe that this is the only film based off of Robert E. Howard’s literary work that I hadn’t seen.

It’s actually not as bad as people led me to believe but it is far from a good movie and it’s honestly, really fucking boring.

Jason Momoa was a decent choice for the role of Conan but I feel like he was chosen a few years too early, as he hadn’t reached the level of fame that he has now and because he hadn’t developed more as an actor. He’s got some of his charm here but it is nowhere near as much as it was in 2018’s Aquaman.

That being said, if they made a Conan movie with him now, I’m pretty sure it would do really well. And hopefully, it would be better than this was, as it didn’t seem to understand what it needed to be to be successful.

The main issue with this movie is it doesn’t feel larger than life. It relies so heavily on CGI and green screen that it lacks the scope and scale the Schwarzenegger Conan movies had. Hell, 1985’s Red Sonja looks much more grandiose than this digital cartoon that looks more like a syndicated television show than a blockbuster movie featuring one of the biggest and greatest literary and comic book heroes of all-time.

Adding to that problem, Conan only really tangles with one monster in this movie. Now it doesn’t need to be overflowing with mythic beasts but it should take more cues from the books and comics, which saw Conan come face to face with big creatures a lot more often than he does in this picture.

Now I did like the casting of Rachel Nichols as the female love interest of Conan and I thought that Nichols and Momoa had pretty good chemistry but overall, they didn’t get much to work with between the mundane script and uninspiring story.

On the other side of the coin, the villains felt completely wasted.

I just wasn’t feeling Rose McGowan as the witch character and her performance here borderlined on cringe, which I found surprising as she is typically pretty good. But I think that the script failed her, as did the overall look of the character.

As far as Stephen Lang goes, how do you take the guy that stole the show and was really the only good thing about Avatar, and make him so lame and generic? Who the fuck was this guy? Why the fuck should I care? He just looks like a boss from the second level of a side scrolling beat’em up game from the ’80s.

I also thought the mask was stupid and they could’ve come up with a much better MacGuffin than that. I mean, there are countless books and comics to pull material from and you basically come up with Gran Naniwa’s crab mask? For those that don’t know, he was a goofy comedy wrestler from Japan in the ’90s: Google that fucker. Side note: he was actually really entertaining, unlike this movie.

Conan the Barbarian was hard to get through. I wanted to turn it off just about every three minutes. I had to watch it in spurts of twenty-to-thirty minutes because it was dreadfully slow, terribly lame and didn’t feel as badass as something with the Conan name on it should.

But I am definitely not against giving Jason Momoa another shot as the character. The studio just needs to get their shit together and give fans something worthy of the Conan brand.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern sword and sorcery films.

Documentary Review: Adrian Street: Imagine What I Could Do to You (2019)

Release Date: August 31st, 2019
Cast: Adrian Street, William Regal, Johnny Saint, Road Dogg

WWE Network, 21 Minutes

Review:

Adrian Street was a wrestler that was around during my most impressionable time and in an era where I grew to love that industry. However, I didn’t learn about the guy until later on, as he wasn’t featured on the few shows I had access to.

Still, the guy is a fucking legend and he may not have been the first wrestler to be kind of a dandy but he was the first to really push the bar sexually and thus, opened the doors for the others who weren’t afraid to add a certain level of flamboyant mystery and potential gayness to their character.

This short documentary was really fun to watch albeit way, way too short. I would’ve liked to have seen a whole retrospective on his career, as opposed to this Cliff Notes version that mostly just focused on the gimmick instead of the actual career and achievements the man had.

While he might not have been a WWE star, he made a massive impact that influenced a generation of wrestlers that would go on to influence another generation.

Without Adrian Street, there is no Goldust, no Adrian Adonis, no Billy & Chuck, no Kwee-Wee, etc. Street changed the wrestling landscape forever and made some things a lot less taboo, culturally, in an industry that was ruled by old men pushing tradition and alpha manliness.

I don’t feel like this documentary really makes that point as well as it could, had it been longer than twenty minutes.

Still, this is a good short documentary to check out because, if anything, it will just make you want to know more about the character and the man behind it.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network documentaries.

Documentary Review: Holy Grail: The Search for WWE’s Most Infamous Lost Match (2019)

Release Date: May 13th, 2019
Cast: Bret Hart, Tom Magee, Sean Waltman, Chris Spradlin, T.J. Wilson, Harry Smith, Sam Roberts, Mary-Kate Anthony

WWE, 28 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been meaning to watch this ever since it came out last year but my queues in all my streaming services are rather large.

I had some interest in this, however, as I’m very aware of the history behind this “lost tape” of a non-televised match between Bret “Hitman” Hart and Tom Magee, a guy that the suits at the World Wrestling Federation thought was going to be the next Hulk Hogan.

Back in the ’90s and into the early ’00s, I was a wrestling tape trader. This match was sort of this legendary thing that many people in the tape trading community speculated over. Did it actually exist? Was it real? A hoax? Did the match actually take place? Why was it even filmed? Why wasn’t it televised? Why did it have commentary from Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan?

The tape does actually exist and this documentary is the story of how it was found while also explaining the significance of it and what the search for it meant to so many people. This also ends with the match itself, shown officially for the first time in history.

Having a once invested interest in this, I found the documentary to be pretty cool and fascinating. Especially, since it means that it’s now actually been acknowledged by the WWE and the men who were in the match. What’s even cooler is that Tom Magee appears in this now, all these years later, to give his two cents on the whole thing.

This is a short, quick documentary but it isn’t short on details and actually packs a lot more than I anticipated.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other short documentaries featured on the WWE Network.

Film Review: Doctor Sleep (2019)

Release Date: October 30th, 2019 (France)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Written by: Mike Flanagan
Based on: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Music by: The Newton Brothers
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Zackary Momoh, Carel Struycken, Alex Essoe, Henry Thomas

Intrepid Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes, 180 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You’re magic. Like me.” – Abra Stone, “You need to listen to me. The world’s a hungry place. A dark place. I’ve only met two or three people like us. They died. When I was a kid, I bumped into these things. I don’t know about magic. I, I always called it “the shining.”” – Danny Torrance

*There be spoilers here!

When I first heard that Stephen King was penning a sequel to The Shining, I was pretty excited. If I’m being honest though, I didn’t have high expectations or anything, I just thought that it’d be cool to check in on Danny Torrance after the events of his childhood to see how he turned out and what sort of effect that level of horror had on him.

I wasn’t excited about the book, itself; I was more excited about the possibility of what the book’s existence meant. Especially, as a sequel film is something that has been toyed around with by Warner Bros. before. But luckily for us, they didn’t crap out some inferior straight-to-DVD product, they instead waited decades and decided to adapt King’s own sequel.

Full disclosure, I haven’t read the book and for those of you who have been reading my reviews for awhile, you probably already know that I’m not a massive fan of King’s writing but I’m more of a fan of live action adaptations of his work. Well, the good ones, anyway.

I didn’t have huge expectations for the film either but once I knew what the premise for the story was and saw who was cast as the lead, it was hard to not feel something.

Once I saw the first trailer, I felt that the tone and the style of the movie were solid and I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, I missed it on the big screen, as I had a lot going on and it didn’t stay in my local theater for more than a couple of weeks. Also, it’s hard for me to sit in the cinema now for two and a half hours because I’m getting old, I drink too much soda, hate holding my pee and can’t stand other people around me scrolling Facebook, answering their phones, chatting to their neighbor and making as much noise as possible with their popcorn crunching and candy bag diddling.

So I’m glad that I watched this at home, even though it would’ve been really cool to revisit the Overlook Hotel in a proper cinematic setting.

Getting to the film itself, I was really impressed with Doctor Sleep. I can’t say that it is as good as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining but it is really hard to top or even come close to a masterpiece. Still, this film does the material justice and it justifies its existence, becoming its own story and its own film, independent of the original. Granted, for context and for a richer overall experience, you should still probably watch the original film if you haven’t, as the call backs to it are really neat and it might be better to get the whole experience and not just one half of it.

Furthermore, this truly is a sequel to that 1980 Kubrick version. The hotel is the same, once you travel back there, and the actors cast to reprise that film’s iconic roles were done so with the intent of trying to replicate the performances and the look of those actors. I’d say that this film pulls that trick off, even if it is kind of weird seeing someone else’s face in the place of Shelley Duval’s, Scatman Crothers’ and Jack Nicholson’s. But its done in the best way possible and it respects the work of the actors that came before.

Side note: Jack Torrance appears very briefly and he’s played by Henry Thomas a.k.a. Elliott from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. What’s even more interesting is that he also once played the iconic Norman Bates in 1990’s Psycho IV: The Beginning.

Beyond all that, the actors playing the main roles in this film all give superb performances. I’ve especially got to give credit to Ewan McGregor, as the adult version of Danny Torrance, and Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Rose the Hat, this film’s primary antagonist.

I also thought that Kyliegh Curran was really good as the young Abra. This is the first movie I’ve seen her in and kid actors are usually annoying as hell but she played her part like a veteran and delivered in a way that most adult actors wouldn’t have been able to.

The supporting cast did their job solidly from Cliff Curtis as Danny’s friend, Zahn McClarnon as the evil but awesomely enchanting Crow Daddy, Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi and Bruce Greenwood, as Danny’s boss and leader of his AA group. We also get to see Carel Struycken as the patriarch of the evil gang, he’s probably most famous for playing the Giant in everything Twin Peaks related. He was also Terak, the villain from the second Ewoks TV movie from the ’80s.

The most important takeaway for me was the story. I loved it, I thought it was a great expansion on the already established mythos and even if a return to the hotel initially felt like cheap fan service, it worked and it brought things full circle for the Danny character.

Sadly, he does die, which I thought was a mistake because there is real potential in the idea of Danny and Abra having stories beyond this one. I guess they can utilize Danny as a ghost, as they did with the Dick Hollorann character, but there’s that part of you that wants him to survive this because there’s more good work to do and the end of the story is left wide open for further exploration, especially in regards to what the villains are and how there might be more.

I thought that the direction by Mike Flanagan was top notch. I’m not all that familiar with his other work, other than I know that he’s worked in the horror genre for a little while. This may inspire me to go back and look at his earlier films, though.

Additionally, the movie has great cinematography that is equal parts terrifying and mesmerizing. The film is meticulously shot and presented with perfect lighting regardless of the visual tone of the scene while also boasting magnificent shot framing. There isn’t a weak looking or half-assed scene in the picture and the work of the director and cinematographer, Michael Fimognari, is impressive.

My only real issue with the film is that I think it would have worked much better as a short (six or eight episode) season of a television series. There’s a lot to this tale and there is certainly a lot more context that could have been utilized to enrich the story if it had more time and more room to breathe. I wanted to know more about the villain group, their history, where they come from, what their larger purpose is, etc. I also would have liked to spend more time with Danny, as a new guy in town, trying to reestablish his life.

In the end, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen from 2019. It is also one of the best horror films of its decade, as the ’10s weren’t very kind to the genre and barely gave us a handful of memorable horror pictures.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the 1980 version of The Shining, as well as good movie and television adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

Film Review: Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

Also known as: Rambo V (alternative title)
Release Date: September 18th, 2019 (Indonesia)
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Written by: Matthew Cirulnick, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim, Joaquin Cosio, Oscar Jaenada

Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Campbell Grobman Films, Balboa Productions, 89 Minutes, 101 Minutes (international cut)

Review:

“I’m gonna tear you apart.” – John Rambo

I may be four months late to the party but I finally got around to seeing Rambo V or, as it is officially called, Rambo: Last Blood.

Getting straight to the heart of it, this is the worst Rambo film. That doesn’t mean it is bad, though, as I still really enjoyed it and it’s better than most other modern action films.

The last fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie are incredible for fans of hardcore ’80s style action. It’s an all out war between Rambo and piece of shit sex traffickers on Rambo’s farm.

The first two acts of the film are a bit weak, however. They don’t feature that much action, really, except for a few scenes of Rambo just beating up some thugs. This picture certainly doesn’t have the level of action as 2008’s, far superior, Rambo.

I think part of the problem is that this movie is too short. It’s less than 90 minutes and if you lob the credits off the film, it’s only about 80 minutes. Now there is a longer international cut that comes in at 101 minutes. I’d assume that this is a better cut of the film and maybe the US version had its violence and action toned down due to the overly bitchified political and social climate of 2019. I mean, this is a movie about a white dude killing off a fuck ton of Mexicans. It doesn’t matter that these people are the scumfucks of the Earth, the Hollywood elites would rather the races be reversed in movies like this now.

That being said, the villains in this are so evil that I don’t feel like the end was satisfying enough. After what these men did to Rambo’s surrogate daughter, his friend’s sister and well, to Rambo himself, I was really hoping for levels of violence and gore on par with the 2008 film.

The big finale is still great, as Rambo lures the scumfucks into his underground maze where he picks them off one-by-one like a silent predator. The murder of the gang leader at the very end is pretty intense and violent but I feel like that piece of shit got off too easily. But maybe this is a sign that Rambo is older and he just wants these men dead, as opposed to playing with them like a cat slowly torturing a mouse.

Like other Rambo movies, this one comes with a message. This time, the film’s message is about how fucked up the cartels are in Mexico between sex trafficking, kidnapping, drugs, etc.

I guess one big difference between this and the 2008 chapter, is that I didn’t leave this one wanting more. The ending is sort of ambiguous, as Rambo may or may not bleed out and die. I think it was left that way to keep the door open for Rambo VI. I don’t think it’s necessary though and now, I don’t think that this movie was necessary either.

The fourth film had a pretty perfect ending and went out on a really high note. This fifth film, while mostly okay, felt like that family member that stuck around a day or two too long after the rest of the family left following the holidays.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

Film Review: The Marshes (2018)

Release Date: 2018 (Australia)
Directed by: Roger Scott
Written by: Roger Scott
Music by: Tristan Coelho
Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Mathew Cooper, Zac Drayson, Amanda McGregor, Eddie Baroo

28 Productions, 85 Minutes

Review:

Holy fuck this was a dreadfully bad movie!

That sucks because I saw a pretty glowing review for this but that reviewer must have been someone that worked on the film or the director’s mother.

The story taps into the Australian legend about the Swagman. He’s a sort of Boogeyman that lives in the marshes. Other than that, I don’t know anything about him and the film doesn’t do much to spell it out for you either. So those watching it that aren’t privy to Australian folklore are pretty much left in the dark. Honestly, maybe it’s not even a real legend and I’m just assuming that because the plot here is so thin that a bulimic ’90s supermodel is in awe of it.

The worst thing about this film is that you don’t care about the peril that the main characters are in. Why? Because there isn’t a single character in the movie that is remotely likable. They’re all know-it-all douchebag Millennials that are so into themselves and their bullshit that they’re pretty damn insufferable. So I guess these type of youngsters aren’t exclusive to just the United States. And that’s not a shot at Millennials in general, just the dominant type of Millennial.

Anyway, there are also two redneck characters but they’re even worse than the three leads.

The Marshes tries really hard to be a slow burning suspense thriller but it fails in that regard. Not a lot happens and it takes awhile to get to the good stuff but the slow build is kind of just derivative shite, mostly boring and totally predictable.

When it comes to the killer, he’s not that exciting or cool. His powers are confusing and you never fully see him or get to understand him on any level.

This film is a complete failure of storytelling, character development, pacing and just about everything else that’s important to a motion picture.

Well, on a positive note, it’s pretty short.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: the crappiest of crappy foreign slasher films.