Documentary Review: Jack of All Trades (2018)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2018 (Cinequest Festival)
Directed by: Harvey Glazer, Stuart Stone
Written by: Stuart Stone
Music by: John Stuart Newman, Jamie Rise, Stuart Stone
Cast: Stuart Stone, Harvey Glazer, Adam Rodness, Jose Canseco, Karie Stone

5’7 Films, R2-G2, 85 Minutes

Review:

I have loved collecting since I was a little kid in the ’80s buying up sports cards, comics and all sorts of other things. So this documentary about the baseball card hobby was something I wanted to check out.

This is more than that though, as it follows a guy whose love of baseball collecting came from his father. As the story picks up, it has been over twenty-five years since the guy’s father walked out on his family.

Initially, this is about examining the once massive baseball card industry and how all the cards ’80s and ’90s kids saved are pretty much worthless. But by the end, it is about a guy confronting his father and trying to find peace.

Overall, this is a good, engaging documentary. It really delves into baseball card collecting and also has some interviews with people from Topps and Upper Deck, as well as Jose Canseco and a guy with more baseball cards than anyone else in existence.

However, the very human story between the son and his father takes over. But that’s actually what is unique and cool about this film.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about collecting, hobbies or nerdom.

Film Review: Sicario (2015)

Release Date: May 19th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Music by: Johann Johannsson
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan

Black Label Media, Thunder Road, Lionsgate, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears, and you will doubt everything that we do, but in the end you will understand.” – Alejandro

This is a film that I put off watching because there was a lot of hype about it when it came out. Had I watched it in 2015 or even 2016, I probably would’ve lost my shit.

Reason being, this is nowhere near as good as the critics and my friends led me to believe.

In fact, other than less than a handful of scenes, this is a boring fucking movie that doesn’t seem to have much of a point.

I mean, I get it, the drug cartels in Mexico are fucked up. But I’ve known this and seen this in lots of film and television shows that are far better than this.

With the cast and a very capable director I was expected an intense, badass neo-western in the vein of No Country For Old Men and Hell or High Water. Sadly, this doesn’t hold a candle to those films and it is just a few cool action sequences and one intense dinner scene, strung together with moral babble and Emily Blunt not doing much other than looking offended and confused.

I can see why she didn’t come back for a sequel but her character was completely vacant anyway and it didn’t really matter that she was in this film. And that’s not to knock Blunt, she’s an incredibly capable actress. However, they could’ve just taken all her close ups in this movie, spliced them into the sequel and no one would’ve been the wiser, as she is just sort of in the film as an observer and moral compass.

Now I can’t completely shit on the film. The high points were actually good and intense. The dinner scene has incredible tension but at the same time, the end result of that scene is not shocking and has little effect. It’s more fucked up than shocking.

Also, the cinematography and shot framing were incredible. This is a good looking film from start to finish and that’s probably its biggest positive. But I can get these things in a music video from a talented director of photography. Alluring visuals are great and they are important but they can’t be the sole driving force of a film.

For instance, The Revenant was visually breathtaking but none of that would’ve mattered if the rest of the film was a crap factory.

I absolutely love the modernized western film but they are really hard to do well. Sicario doesn’t deliver on much but I’ll still probably check out the sequel just to review it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the sequel and other neo-westerns, most of which are better than this.

Film Review: Critters Attack! (2019)

Also known as: Critters 5 (working title)
Release Date: July 13th, 2019 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Bobby Miller
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Based on: Critters by Stephen Herek, Domonic Muir, Don Keith Opper
Music by: Russ Howard III
Cast: Tashiana Washington, Dee Wallace, Jaeden Noel, Jack Fulton, Ava Preston, Leon Clingman, Vash Singh, Steve Blum (voice)

Blue Ribbon Content, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Television, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Taste my steel, you rat bastards. I have the best blades in the business.” – Chef Loong

So we don’t get any new Critters movies for two and a half decades but in the same year, we get a television show and a movie. Weirdly, the two aren’t related so I’m not sure if they’re both alternative sequels or alternative reboots. Or maybe one is a sequel and one is a reboot… I don’t know.

Does it really matter, though?

At their core, these are just movies about little carnivorous alien creatures that show up in small towns and eat the people, as well as dogs, cats, rats and anything that is meat or junk food.

Like the recent television show, this outing was pretty bad. I guess the main character was okay and it was neat seeing Dee Wallace return but none of that was enough to carry this dud.

The film also introduces us to a “good” Crite, who is trying to help the humans kill her “evil” brethren. I guess she’s sort of like what Gizmo was to the Gremlins.

For the most part, the film looks and feels cheap. I’d say that the alien Crites are still amusing and I much prefer them to be like they are in this film than in the television show, as they were regular conversationalists in that. Also, this isn’t derailed by a bizarre storyline that sees one of its main characters find out that they are some sort of human/Crite hybrid.

Still, this was worse than the show. It wasn’t as entertaining and maybe the show’s batshit craziness is what made it resonate with me a bit more. While that sounds contradictory to my statement about the bonkers addition of the human/Crite hybrid, at least that insanity kept my attention because my baffling bewilderment shifted into overdrive.

Plus, the show had Gilbert Gottfried and the voice of Stephen Merchant, which gives it some extra brownie points when compared to this pretty forgettable flick.

I mean, how do you not make a better film than Critters 3 or 4 in your sleep?

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the Critters movies, as well as anything featuring Gremlins, Ghoulies or Munchies.

Film Review: Death Wish (2018)

Release Date: March 1st, 2018 (UAE, Kuwait, Philippines, Singapore)
Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Joe Carnahan
Based on: Death Wish by Wendell Mayes, Death Wish by Brian Garfield
Music by: Ludwig Goransson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Beau Knapp, Camila Morrone

Cave 76, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 107 Minutes, 97 Minutes (Mainland China censored version)

Review:

“People rely on the police to keep them safe. That’s the problem. The police only arrive after the crime has taken place. That’s like trapping the fox as he’s comin’ out of the hen house. If a man really wants to protect what’s his. He has to do it for himself.” – Ben

Well, I finally got around to watching this remake no one asked for. But I have to admit, the team up of director Eli Roth and actor Bruce Willis kind of intrigued me. Although, with Roth attached, I expected this to be over the top in regards to violence but it was pretty tame.

This also throws Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue and Dean Norris into the mix, so it had a solid cast.

Being a fan of the original film series, I never wanted more. I mean we had five films, three of which were great, one of which was good and another one that was at least amusing enough to justify its existence. Plus, I didn’t want to see anyone else other than Charles Bronson play Paul Kersey.

However, unlike the Bronson Kersey, the Willis Kersey is not an architect, he’s a doctor. That significantly changes the plot but then it also makes me wonder why this had to be a Death Wish movie as opposed to just some other vigilante revenge flick?

Like a lot of the modern vigilante movies, this one is pretty run of the mill, predictable and doesn’t offer much of anything that you haven’t seen before and done better.

Now I didn’t dislike this. In fact, I liked seeing Bruce Willis kick ass because he’s so damn good at it. He also elevates just about every movie he’s ever been in. Plus, the rest of the cast pulled their weight and I liked everyone in this that wasn’t a scumbag.

There’s nothing special here though. It’s just good, mindless entertainment but it doesn’t hold a candle to the first three films that Bronson did. Hell, it doesn’t hold a candle to Kevin Bacon’s vigilante flick Death Sentence. But if you’ve got nothing better to do for 107 minutes, give it a shot.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon and the original five Death Wish films.

Documentary Review: At the Drive-In (2017)

Release Date: October 20th, 2017 (Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival)
Directed by: Alexander Monelli

80 Minutes

Review:

For film lovers, this is a pretty heartwarming documentary.

The story here is about an old school drive-in theater that didn’t have the money to move into the digital age that Hollywood film studios have forced theaters into. So they became a drive-in that focuses on old films.

But the story goes deeper than that, as it really focuses on the love for film that all the people around this unique theater share.

It shows you a community coming together to keep the drive-in running, as its employees work for free, volunteering their time to turn this place into something special when almost all the other drive-ins in America have shut down over the years.

While this is a film about the love of movies, it’s really a human story and about people’s love for the things that make them feel whole. Without the drive-in, these people would lose something dear to them and their community.

And frankly, I’m all for keeping old movies relevant and for having as many means to showcase them as possible. Especially, in a day and age where Hollywood has lost its way and the art of filmmaking has greatly been diminished by the art of making dollars.

It’s just really great to see passionate people put their lives and their own self-interest on hold in order to hold onto something that could easily slip away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Going Attractions and Out of Print.

TV Review: 11.22.63 (2016)

Original Run: February 15th, 2016 – April 4th, 2016
Created by: Bridget Carpenter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Music by: J. J. Abrams, Alex Heffes
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, Daniel Webber, T. R. Knight, Kevin J. O’Connor, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper, Annette O’Toole

Carpenter B., Bad Robot Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Hulu, 8 Episodes, 44-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I was actually pretty hyped to watch this when it was coming out, three years ago. However, my work life took a turn for the worse and I spent most of 2016 working about 70 hours per week and not having much time for anything else. I actually started this site later in that year when things started to stabilize again but by that point, this slipped down the memory hole.

However, I’ve been wanting to watch Stephen King’s Castle Rock on Hulu. So before getting into that, I wanted to go back and check this out, as it was King’s first Hulu collaboration.

The premise follows a man (James Franco), as he goes back in time to try and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s an interesting premise but it does also seem that the protagonist does it really haphazardly, as messing with the timeline can have some unforeseen consequences and it does. In fact, it has grave consequences, which I think are supposed to surprise you but for fans of time travel stories, it really doesn’t. I kind of sighed and went, “Well, it’s not like this wasn’t an obvious result of his meddling.”

What’s interesting about this though, is that King explores the idea of time itself fighting back during the hero’s journey. It almost feels like horror at times but at the same time, the effect that time has in fighting back against changes seems inconsistent throughout the story. It is really only used where it is convenient to the plot in some way or just to remind you that time is its own master.

I had a problem with that aspect of the story and I felt like it was a wasted opportunity in a lot of ways. Cool concept, half assed execution.

But still, this was damn compelling television. You get drawn into this world, this character’s mission and you do fall in love with some of the characters.

The acting is superb and this is some of Franco’s best dramatic work. But the rest of the cast is also exceptional, especially the love interest, played by Sarah Gadon, the and the best friend/partner, played by George MacKay. But two real standouts were Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald and the evil son of a bitch that was brought to life by Josh Duhamel.

Overall, this was a solid political thriller with a time travel twist. While the time travel stuff was handled pretty willy-nilly, you get so caught up in the proceedings that it feels secondary.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: The Chair (2016)

Release Date: October 8th, 2016 (Northeast Wisconsin Horror Festival)
Directed by: Chad Ferrin
Written by: Erin Kohut, Peter Simeti
Based on: The Chair by Peter Simeti
Music by: Douglas Edward
Cast: Bill Oberst Jr., Roddy Piper, Noah Hathaway, Zach Galligan, Naomi Grossman, Ezra Buzzington, Joseph Pilato, Joe Laurinaitis

Alterna Comics, Crappy World Films, Girls and Corpses Magazine, 84 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue for a really long time. I kept putting it off because I was afraid I would be disappointed by it. Well, those concerns were valid, as I was.

I wanted to go into this with high hopes, as it was Roddy Piper’s last movie and also featured Noah Hathaway and Zach Galligan, two guys that made 1984 a great year for my young imagination. Additionally, this was based on Peter Simeti’s graphic novel that he released through his own comic company Alterna.

Simeti has always come off as a great guy and I like the vast majority of the comics he publishes. Especially in an age where more comics than not are kind of shit.

But in the end, this was a mess of a film that was really hindered by its budget. While you can do a lot for very little, this movie sacrifices the atmosphere by really cheaping out on it. And what I mean by that is that the whole thing looks as if it were filmed in one or two corridors with a few different rooms. And then everything is so damn dark, its hard to see the film in most shots.

Now the comic book is also very dark but the visual style works well in the comic book medium, as it takes advantage of a high chiaroscuro presentation. Even the comic is hard to look at due to the overly gritty art but it works for this story. In this film, however, the style and the character of what exists in the comic is lost in the constant darkness. Really, it’s a poorly lit film but that’s only one of many technical issues that hinders the whole presentation.

The acting by the more veteran players isn’t actually half bad. Piper does a pretty superb job with what he’s given and I can’t knock his work here.

Apart from Piper, though, the film is just insanely dull. It was really hard to get through, especially with the comic as a frame of reference and being a fan of four of the actors in the picture.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the graphic novel it’s based on but I thought the comic was much better.