Film Review: Green Lantern (2011)

Release Date: June 14th, 2011 (New Zealand)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Temuera Morrison, Geoffrey Rush (voice), Michael Clarke Duncan (voice), Taika Waititi, Clancy Brown (voice)

DC Entertainment, De Line Pictures, Warner Bros., 114 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“You’re impertinent, Hal Jordan. You’re rash, volatile, opinionated – It seems Abin Sur found another just like himself.” – Sinestro

Man, I had high hopes for this film when it was coming out. Although, I thought Ryan Reynolds was a poor choice, despite liking him in general. He’s just not the Hal Jordan type and luckily he found his superhero calling once he started making Deadpool movies. I’m ignoring his first outing as Deadpool in that Wolverine movie though, as that was atrocious beyond atrociousness.

Anyway, this film was a supreme dud. It could’ve been great, especially coming off of the heels of how great the Geoff Johns run was in the Green Lantern comics just before this movie. Also, this had an incredible cast apart from the Reynolds misfire.

I think my hopes were also high due to how well the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were in those first few years. But I guess the filmmakers behind this didn’t learn the lessons from the bad comic book adaptations, as they took the villain Parallax and essentially made him a giant fucking cloud like Galactus in the laughably awful Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

For positives, I liked what they were doing with Hector Hammond and I also liked the world building they did with the Green Lantern Corps. I also liked most of the people in the film but they should’ve used Sinestro more, especially with Mark Strong in the role. They also sort of wasted Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett without giving them more and better material to work with.

The special effects were pretty terrible. There are some good effects moments but the film looks overly cartoon-y and the Oa scenes felt more like a Pixar movie than anything I could try and attach to any sort of reality.

Also, giving the Green Lanterns fully CGI costumes was a bad idea.

I guess the biggest disappointment out of this was that it was directed by Martin Campbell, who did two of my favorite James Bond movies: GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: other crappy superhero movies of the ’00s and ’10s.

Documentary Review: Life After Flash (2017)

Release Date: October 2nd, 2017 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Topol, Peter Wyngarde, Richard O’Brien, Deep Roy, Brian May, Peter Duncan, Howard Blake, Barry Bostwick, Martha De Laurentiis, Richard Donner, Lou Ferrigno, Rich Fulcher, Sean Gunn, Jon Heder, Stan Lee, Ross Marquand, Josh McDermitt, Jason Mewes, Mark Millar, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Rooker, Alex Ross, Patrick Warburton, various

Strict Machine, Spare Change Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

This documentary has been in my queue for a bit but I wanted to revisit Flash Gordon first before checking this out. Luckily, I recently found my DVD of the original film and was able to watch it and review it a week or so ago.

Now that the 1980 film was fresh in my mind again, as I hadn’t seen it in years, I felt like I could go into this with more familiarity, context and creative reference.

Overall, this was pretty good and it was intriguing listening to Sam J. Jones’ story about how his career sort of fizzled out and the reasons behind that. Luckily, this is a Hollywood story with a positive outcome, as the guy is now doing well and on the right track, personally and career-wise.

This spends a lot of time talking about Jones but it also delves into the film’s production, history and features interviews with many of the people who were involved in it. I especially liked seeing Brian Blessed in this, as I’ve always loved that guy.

Life After Flash also explores the fandom a bit, as it interviews super fans and collectors but also allows them to show off their cool shit and talk about their love for the film.

I dug this documentary quite a bit, as I feel like the 1980 Flash Gordon doesn’t get enough love and has sort of been forgotten by modern audiences. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about filmmaking and specific fandoms.

Film Review: Shaft (2019)

Also known as: Son of Shaft (Germany)
Release Date: June 14th, 2019
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow
Based on: Shaft by Ernest Tidyman
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Titus Welliver, Method Man, Lauren Velez

Davis Entertainment, Khalabo Ink Society, Netflix, 111 Minutes

Review:

“You’re the one being misogynistic, I never even mentioned her gender! I’m an equal-opportunity ass-whooper!” – John Shaft II

I put this off for awhile, especially after revisiting the 2000 Shaft film, as I found that one to be really lackluster and not as good as my memories of it were.

However, this one was definitely better than the 2000 film and I think that had a lot to do with this installment being more comedic and lighthearted, even though it dealt with some serious stuff.

Overall, this plays more like a Bad Boys film where the buddy cop formula is played out by a father-son duo. The grandfather, the original John Shaft, joins them for the climax.

Sam Jackson is back on his A-game for this one but I’m sure it’ll rub sensitive, cancel culture Millennials the wrong way because he puts them on blast, repeatedly.

In fact, I give the filmmakers and the studio immense props for not taking the bitch route and making this an overly “woke” movie and instead, allowed it to be critical of this generation’s young adults, as seen through the eyes of the older generation.

Weirdly, though, this Shaft film seems to be a lot less obsessed with race and social politics. While I like that these issues have been at the forefront of the other four films in the franchise, it was actually kind of refreshing to see these characters just be badass and not just fighting for some sort of racial injustice.

With that, though, it sort of loses the long-lasting blaxploitation vibe that the name Shaft has carried since 1971. But maybe this was trying to convey that we were starting to enter a post-racial era before 2020 happened and fucked everything up again.

For the most part, I liked everyone in this film. Jessie T. Usher’s John Shaft Jr. was annoying but his character was supposed to be, as part of the story dealt with him being kind of a pussy and overly concerned with how society sees him. He’s a “woke” Millennial that has a grudge against his uber-masculine father, who wasn’t around when he grew up.

These character traits allowed for some great criticism of his generation, though, and Sam Jackson delivers his punches without remorse or worry that his snowflake son wants to hear it or not. In a lot of ways, it felt like the writers and Tim Story, the film’s directors, were trying to send a message to the kids of today that think they’ve got the world figured out.

It also felt that it was trying to convey the importance of fathers, which Hollywood seems to hate.

Honestly, this Shaft film felt like it was really trying to be anti-“woke”.

As far as the crime story goes, it’s a bit weak but in films like this, that stuff doesn’t matter too much. This is more of a film about three generations of men coming together, in spite of their personal issues, in an effort to force justice down the throats of some shitty scumbags.

In the end, this was a better movie than I thought it could be. I don’t think it necessarily needs a sequel but I’d be much more willing to check one out if the same creative team stayed on.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: 2000’s Shaft, as well as the original ’70s Shaft trilogy.

Film Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Also known as: Ghost Rider 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 11th, 2011 (Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Written by: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert, Idris Elba

Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Hyde Park Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[voiceover] Why does the devil walk on human form anyway? I have no idea. Maybe he doesn’t know either. Maybe he passes on from body to body, down through history, waiting for the perfect fit. But I know one thing, on Earth, he’s weak. His powers are limited. He needs emissaries to do his dirty work, so he finds them or makes them, using his greatest power, the power of the deal.” – Johnny Blaze

I dreaded going into this, as there was no way it could be better than its predecessor, which was a pretty big pile of cinematic shit.

However, I was wrong.

Granted, I may be alone in my assessment of this picture but I found it to be more palatable than the first Ghost Rider film because it just went batshit crazy from the get go and Nicolas Cage was fully unchained and allowed to be the insane madman he can be when he turns his performance up to eleven.

This is still a terrible film and I doubt I’ll ever watch it more than once but I didn’t find myself wanting to fast-forward like I did with the previous one.

I think it also helped the movie that Idris Elba was in it, even though he should never have to be a part of a production this atrocious. He was a bright spot in this turd, however.

Elba couldn’t save the movie, though, as it had a bafflingly bad script, not a very good story to begin with and then was littered with horrendous CGI special effects and awful acting.

Honestly, based off of the first film, this one should’ve never been made and I think that it was only greenlit, at the time, in order for the studio to try and hang on to the intellectual property rights. I mean, it’s obvious that no one associated with this film gave a shit about it.

Well, except maybe Nicolas Cage, who dedicated himself to the insanity so much that it’s only worth seeing because the level that Cage performs at here, must be seen to be believed.

At the end of the day, the movie feels like cocaine that somehow became sentient and then sniffed itself.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the Ghost Rider film before it.

Documentary Review: WWE Chronicle: Shinsuke Nakamura (2018)

Release Date: April 8th, 2018
Cast: Shinsuke Nakamura, Triple H, various

WWE, 37 Minutes

Review:

I was hoping for more out of this but WWE’s modern documentaries are really a mixed bag, as sometimes they just throw shit together because they need content for their streaming network.

Being a big fan of Shinsuke Nakamura, I hoped this would go more into the man and his career.

Granted, WWE won’t show his New Japan stuff or even really acknowledge it because they like to pretend that no other wrestling exists outside of their own sphere.

Anyway, this follows Nakamura from the time he won the 2018 Royal Rumble up to his match for the World Championship at Wrestlemania, a few months later.

This isn’t as insightful as one would hope and it kind of just randomly checks in on him and lets him talk for a minute or two before cutting to something else. Sadly, I never felt like they really let you know the guy but WWE also has a poor track record of dealing with language barriers, even though Nakamura is pretty damn good at English.

I don’t know, it was cool seeing him being featured in his own documentary; I just wish that WWE would’ve given a shit.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other modern documentaries made for the WWE Network.

Documentary Review: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)

Release Date: August 30th, 2018 (Venice premiere)
Directed by: Morgan Neville
Music by: Daniel Wohl
Cast: Orson Welles (archive footage), Alan Cumming (host, narrator), Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Peter Jason, Cybill Shepherd, Frank Marshall, Beatrice Welles, John Huston (archive footage), Dennis Hopper (archive footage) 

Tremolo Productions, Royal Road Entertainment, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a pretty fascinating documentary but then Orson Welles, the film’s subject, is an immensely fascinating guy.

This tells the story of Welles’ attempt at trying to complete what would have been his final film: The Other Side of the Wind. However, the picture, despite Welles’ best efforts and years spent filming footage, would not see the light of day.

Beyond that, this explores why it never materialized into a final, complete form. It looks at Welles’ rocky relationship with the Hollywood elite but also shows how passionate he was about the project, which seemed to be ever evolving and not something that had any sort of definitive framework.

More than anything, this was a great documentary simply because it showed us an intimate look into Welles’ life and career at its final stages. He was a lovable, charismatic guy that remained somewhat enigmatic till the end.

It’s also worth seeing for any Welles’ fan, as it does show a lot of the footage that was filmed for The Other Side of the Wind. And even if you don’t get a clear understanding of what the film was to be, you do at least come to understand, as much as a mortal can, Welles’ creative process and motivation in making it.

This is a stupendous documentary film on the man and his brand of filmmaking. And since it is on Netflix, those with the streaming service should probably check it out.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Orson Welles and filmmaking from his era.

Documentary Review: Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story (2010)

Release Date: October 15th, 2010 (Anaheim International Film Festival)
Directed by: Kevin Tostado
Written by: Kevin Tostado, Craig Bentley
Music by: Larry Groupe
Cast: Zachory Levi (narrator), various

Tostie Productions, Rhino Films, Imageworks.tv, 88 Minutes

Review:

As a lifelong Monopoly master, I liked his documentary because regardless of how well I can play the game, I didn’t know much about its history. But I usually love documentaries like this that go into the background and origins of big pop culture things.

This documentary covers a lot of ground for something under 90 minutes.

It goes through the games creation, it’s evolution, shows how it’s penetrated pop culture and also focuses on some people who play the game in legitimate Las Vegas tournaments.

This also interviews a ton of people associated with all the different focuses of the documentary.

It’s well edited, well paced and, at times, an exciting film.

It’s also educational and does a wonderful job of cluing the viewer in on all aspects of the game, its history and what it means to so many across the world.

This is also free on Prime Video.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other fairly recent documentaries about unique pastimes and pop culture.

Film Review: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Also known as: Jumanji 3 (alternative title)
Release Date: December 4th, 2019 (Finland, France, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan)
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg
Based on: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Marin Hinkle

Matt Tolmach Productions, Seven Bucks Productions, The Detective Agency, 123 Minutes

Review:

“Getting old is a gift. I forget that sometimes, but it is. What more could a guy possibly want?” – Eddie

To start, this wasn’t as good of a movie as the one before it but it was still an entertaining, lighthearted and fun picture that allowed for real escapism, which seems to be a lost art these days.

I also like that there are minor jabs at modern political correctness. Or it’s possible that the filmmakers just haven’t gotten the memos that the rest of Hollywood has gotten over the last few years.

This film focuses on the same core characters from the previous movie but it also adds in Danny DeVito and Danny Glover and this time, when they all enter the video game world, most of the characters find themselves in different avatars. This is kind of the big gag of this film but it runs out of gas fairly quickly.

It was initially funny seeing The Rock a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson trying to act like Danny DeVito but the joke wore thin pretty fast. Now that’s not a knock against The Rock, it’s a knock against the writers pushing it so hard for too long in the film.

But this was also offset by Kevin Hart playing old man Danny Glover. Hart was actually great at this and he was my favorite character in this chapter of the franchise because he did it so well.

We also get a few new avatars added to the cast, as there are now seven players in the game instead of just the five from the first movie.

The problem with this movie, is that it feels completely unnecessary and it’s just more of the same. Simply switching personalities around in the avatars isn’t going to carry or even justify the story. Like I said, it’s a gag that worked but flattened out quickly.

If you liked the first movie, you’ll still probably like this one. While it just rehashes the whole concept just because it can, a lot of the sequences at least feel creative. I liked the part with the moving bridges and thought that the new mountain setting for the finale was cool.

Still, I didn’t need this movie and I don’t really feel like another film is necessary but we’re probably going to get it anyway because if something makes money, Hollywood will just recycle it with as little effort as possible.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Jumanji films, as well as Zathura.

Film Review: Chronicle (2012)

Release Date: January 28th, 2012 (France – Gerardmer Fantasy Film Festival)
Directed by: Josh Trank
Written by: Josh Trank, Max Landis
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Anna Wood

Davis Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 89 Minutes, 89 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Please believe me, Steve. Please, it’s just I-I don’t know what I did. I lost control, and I’m so sorry. This thing, it’s just becoming a part of me now and I don’t… I miss you, Steve.” – Andrew Detmer

I kind of wanted to see this back in 2012 when it came out but apparently not enough to actually get off of my ass and go to the theater. That was also a busy year for me, as I was at the height of writing political commentary and free time was a fantasy.

Years have now passed and I kind of lost interest after seeing how awful Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four movie was. However, this was available on Cinemax and I figured I’d finally give it a shot.

This isn’t a bad film but it’s not a particularly good one either. It’s fairly impressive for being made on a very small budget but it also takes advantage of the “found footage” style that was way too popular at the time.

Still, the big finale is superbly executed and pulled off really well. Everything leading up to that, however, is just okay.

The plot follows three teens who find a weird glowing star thing in a cave in the woods. This thing gives them telekinetic powers. Over time, they grow stronger but one of them is a tortured teen that comes from a terrible home life and is also picked on relentlessly by bullies at school. So, you probably know where this is going.

Anyway, angsty teen ends up hurting people and also accidentally kills one of his friends. The finale sees the angsty teen’s cousin try to stop him from hurting more people, as the police come out in full force to take him out.

For the most part, this is enjoyable and certainly worth checking out for those who like this genre. But it’s nothing special, which is probably why it’s fallen down the cultural memory hole.

The acting and direction are okay but nothing really stands out. Ultimately, it’s a bit better than meh but much better films have explored these concepts already.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Brightburn, Super 8 and Project Almanac.

Documentary Review: In Search of the Last Action Heroes (2019)

Release Date: September, 2019
Directed by: Oliver Harper
Written by: Oliver Harper, Timon Singh
Music by: Peter Bruce
Cast: Scott Adkins, Shane Black, Ronny Cox, Steven E. de Souza, Bill Duke, Sam Firstenberg, Jenette Goldstein, Matthias Hues, Al Leong, Mark L. Lester, Sheldon Lettich, Zak Penn, Phillip Rhee, Eric Roberts, Cynthia Rothrock, Paul Verhoeven, Vernon Wells, Michael Jai White, Alex Winter, Graham Yost, various

140 Minutes

Review:

When this popped up on Prime Video, I got pretty excited. Especially, because I had just watched Henchman: The Al Leong Story and felt that ’80s action flicks needed more documentary love.

Overall, this was enjoyable and it covered a lot of ground but it also had a beefy running time. However, I felt like they jumped from movie-to-movie too quickly and nothing was really discussed in depth.

Still, this gives the viewer a good idea of how broad, vast and popular the action genre was through the ’80s and into the first half of the ’90s.

I guess the thing that I liked best was that this interviewed a lot of people that were involved in the making of these iconic films. You had actors, directors, writers and stuntmen all taking about their craft and their love for a genre that hasn’t been the same since its peak, a few decades ago.

Now this was a crowdfunded project and with that, you can only do so much. But I wish that some distributor or streaming service saw this and decided to make it much broader like a television series where episodes can focus on specific films or at the very least, spend more time on each era or topic.

Maybe someone will see this, take the bull by the horns and actually do that at some point. But this could be a solid pop culture documentary series like Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us.

For those who love the action flicks of this era, this is certainly worth checking out. Had I known about it when it was raising funds, I would’ve backed it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent historical filmmaking documentaries, most notably Henchman: The Al Leong Story and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.