Film Review: Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

Release Date: December 3rd, 2010
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos
Music by: Sinoia Caves
Cast: Michael Rogers, Eva Allan, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry, Rondel Reynoldson

Chromewood Productions, Magnet Releasing, Mongrel Media, 110 Minutes

Review:

“[while holding baby Elena and before submerging her into the black goo] Your mother’s reabsorption into the cycle of life won’t be for nothing, my darling, Elena. You will be the dawning of a new era for the human race… and the human soul. Let the new age of enlightenment begin!” – Mercurio Arboria

I really dug Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, a film that sort of came out of nowhere a few years ago that in some ways, boosted and reignited Nicolas Cage’s acting career. I don’t think that it was long-lasting but his role in Mandy proved that the dude can still bring it and excel when given the right part in a movie.

Cosmatos only has one other film and, at this point, it’s already over a decade old. It’s been in my queue since I saw Mandy, however, so I felt like checking it out was long overdue.

Now having seen this, it’s a picture that I’m really split on.

From the visual side of things, it’s pretty close to a masterpiece. From a storytelling point-of-view, it’s pretty sloppy, slow, pointless and boring.

Visuals can salvage a film for me, sometimes. The thing is, there has to be enough meat on the other side of the coin for me to give an extremely artistic picture a pass on its weaker points. This one just doesn’t have enough to make me care about what’s actually going on in the movie.

This has a lot of really cool, bizarre shit thrown in but I don’t want to watch a movie just to see a surrealist painting in motion, I want to connect to it on a visceral level that requires me to care about what I’m watching and the characters within it.

This is one of those films that introduces cool but underdeveloped concepts and ideas but then never really tries to make it make sense. Sure, you can draw allusions based off of bits of dialogue and clues but when the filmmaker wants you to do all the work and see it in your own way, which I assume is the case here, I find that lazy and it makes me think that there was never a clear vision to begin with.

The entire film plays like a dream. You see and experience wild and cool shit but when you get through it and try to piece it together, it’s just a big blob of cool visual shit and a rollercoaster of mixed and underdeveloped emotions. You just think, “Well, I don’t know what the fuck that was about but it was kind of cool in certain parts.”

All that being said, I can’t knock the acting. It’s pretty good even if every character gives a severely understated performance.

Also, the music and sound were really neat and interesting. It added to the surreal effect of the picture quite well.

In the end, I didn’t just find this underwhelming, I also found it to be disappointing. However, I’d still check out whatever Cosmatos comes up with in the future.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, as well as other modern overly surreal movies like Under the Skin and Enter the Void.

Documentary Review: The Sheik (2014)

Release Date: April 26th, 2014 (Hot Docs International Documentary Festival – Canada)
Directed by: Igal Hecht
Written by: Jian Magen, Jake Neiman, Igal Hecht
Music by: Michael Hanson
Cast: Khosrow Vaziri “The Iron Sheik”, Mick Foley, Seth Green, Jack Black, Bret Hart, Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Orton Sr., Bruce Pritchard, Jake Roberts, Jim Ross, Ron Simmons, Koko B. Ware, The Nasty Boys

Magen Boys Entertainment, Big Media, Chutzpa Productions, 95 Minutes

Review:

This film was one of the rare documentaries that I actually got to see in the theater. I think I saw it around 2016, as a small indie theater near me hosted a screening. I was pretty captivated by it and always wanted to watch it again. Since it’s been about five years, I figured I’d revisit it and review it.

I’ve reviewed several wrestler biographical documentaries but most of them don’t match the overall quality of this film. It actually looks like a budget went into it, as it’s really competently shot, edited and brings in some real heavy-hitters for the talking head interviews.

The great cast assembled in this could also be due to the film’s subject, Khosrow Vaziri a.k.a. The Iron Sheik, as he is legitimately a beloved legend who would influence not just many iconic wrestlers but also people from other fields within the larger entertainment sphere.

This film really delves into the Sheik’s backstory and the stuff about his early life is truly fascinating and impressive. It discusses his major accomplishments in the sport of amateur wrestling, why he left Iran for America and then how he adjusted to life in the States and a new career as a professional wrestler, once he moved to Minnesota and found Vern Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) territory.

We see Sheik come up through the ranks and then eventually make his way to the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) where he reached superstardom after winning the World Championship from Bob Backlund and then helped launch the career of Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in professional wrestling history.

There is a dark side to this story too and that’s where the documentary becomes both compelling and heartbreaking. We see The Sheik struggle with drugs and alcohol and how it has a severely adverse effect on his family life and life in general. That’s not to say that this doesn’t have a happy ending but seeing Sheik at his worst is really difficult, especially for a long-time fan like myself.

This documentary tells a great story, though. While a lot of this may seem all too familiar with the biographical documentaries on other wrestling legends from The Sheik’s generation, this one just tells its story really well. Sheik has infectious charisma and it’s on full display, here, making this one of the best character pieces of its type.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other biographical wrestling documentaries. Many have been reviewed on this site, already.

Documentary Review: For the Love of Spock (2016)

Release Date: April 16th, 2016 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Adam Nimoy
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Cast: Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy (archive footage), Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Chris Pine, William Shatner, Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, J.J. Abrams, Jason Alexander, Catherine Hicks, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nicholas Meyer, Julie Nimoy

455 Films, For The Love Of Spock Productions, 111 Minutes

Review:

“The review that Variety gave us when we first went on the air in September of 1966: “Star Trek won’t work.” [grins]” – Leonard Nimoy

This had been in my queue for quite awhile. I’m not sure why I hadn’t watched it until now but I’m glad that I finally did, as Leonard Nimoy is an actor that had a pretty profound effect on me, as a kid, and because he’s someone I greatly admire, as an adult.

This documentary went into production while Nimoy was still alive but he died early on in the process of making it. Because of that, this evolved into being about the man and his most famous character, Spock from Star Trek.

For the Love of Spock is also a passionate letter from a loving son to his father, which also involves a lot of the talented people that worked with Nimoy over decades.

I like that this spent a lot of time on Nimoy, the man, as well as the Spock character. It delves into his personal life, his history in showbiz and how he was instrumental in shaping not just his character but the mythos of Star Trek, as a whole.

This was well shot, superbly edited and it was nice seeing all of his living colleagues and friends talk about his life, work and contributions to one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all-time.

This documentary is nearly two hours but it flew by like a breeze. I was actually surprised when it started to wrap up, as I hadn’t realized how much time had passed.

All in all, this is a pretty solid film on a pretty solid and supremely talented man.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The World’s End (2013)

Release Date: July 10th, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy (voice), David Bradley, Darren Boyd, Michael Smiley, Sophie Evans, Rose Reynolds, Peter Serafinowicz (uncredited), Rafe Spall, Mark Heap, Nicholas Burns, Edgar Wright (voice, uncredited)

Relativity Media, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“Hey it is our basic human right to be fuck ups. This civilization was founded on fuck ups and you know what? That makes me proud!” – Gary King

When I first saw this movie, I was fairly disappointed by it and I remember many others being as well. However, I think my initial assessment of it was faulty, as its actually not a bad film and after having nearly eight years to digest it and reflect on it, I thought that maybe I needed to give it another go, knowing what I was getting into this time.

So seeing it now was actually kind of refreshing. I had forgotten a great deal of the film and its story. Sure, I remembered the gist of it, as well as the ending but I hadn’t retained all of the context and nuance. And now that I’ve re-experienced it, I think that I just wasn’t in the right headspace or hadn’t experienced enough of life to find things in it that resonated so deeply in the way they do now.

The thing is, the power trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are all about 5-10 years older than me. Well, seeing this somewhere within 5-10 years after its release, makes me roughly the same age that they were when they made it. Why’s that important? I’ll explain.

The main thing is that the film deals with guys approaching the midway point of life and thus, right at the age that the midlife crisis stage can begin in many males. Now that I’ve also reached this point, I can relate to how one character in particular is obsessed with the greatest night of his life, which came in his youth, and how his future then was a clean slate for him to do anything but now, years later, life hasn’t panned out as greatly as he had anticipated or hoped. I think everyone has these thoughts around 40 or so but some people can take it to the extreme.

Additionally, this same character, you find out late into the film, recently tried to commit suicide and was dealing with massive depression caused by the immense weight of his own disappointment in himself. Depression at that level is something I have dealt with for my entire life and I’ve had friends who were even worse off and have taken their lives. Two of them hit me really hard in the last few years. But having now lived through that in my own life makes the emotional parts of this film much more real and gut punching. Luckily, I’ve mostly overcome my issues in the last few years.

While I can sympathize with Simon Pegg’s Gary and understand his issue first hand, I feel like I more closely relate to Nick Frost’s Andy, as the guy who realizes the pain his best friend has been in and feels immense guilt for not being there for him. I think that’s something that all good people feel when they’ve lost a friend or a loved one to suicide.

Now mixed in with all that emotional stuff that I didn’t appreciate as deeply as I do now, we have the larger group of friends, who also have to try and work out their issues with each other. And then on top of that, we have a pub crawl marathon in a small quaint town that has seen its citizens replaced by manufactured shells controlled by a high-tech alien species who have been secretly invading and assimilating the planet for quite awhile.

So there’s a lot in this movie to take in but it’s really well-balanced between the real human drama and the really awesome sci-fi action plot. And frankly, the plot is pretty cool, as are the special effects and the solid soundtrack that may be Edgar Wright’s best in how he used it throughout the film to set the tone and to properly generate the right level of nostalgia.

Additionally, the acting in this is the best out of the three films in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. By this, the third film, these guys are just so perfect together and the surrounding cast is full of many people who have worked with these guys multiple times that they all just feel like an onscreen family. To put it simply, everyone has great chemistry but the bond between Pegg and Frost has never been stronger than it is here. I’d also say that this is Nick Frost’s greatest performance, as he actually was the more serious character for the first time and with that, had to help uplift his broken friend and become the real hero of the story.

Still, this is my least favorite film in the trilogy. But that’s like saying oral is your least favorite type of sex. In the end, it’s still really fucking good.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Documentary Review: The 24 Hour War (2016)

Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Nate Adams, Adam Carolla
Cast: various

Chassy Media, Netflix, 99 Minutes

Review:

Man, I really wanted to watch this as The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and the biggest motorsports thing that I care about.

However, this was pretty underwhelming even though it told a great story, which was the Le Mans rivalry that developed between Ferrari and Ford. Since there’s a very well-received and beloved drama film on this very subject, it’s not a true story short on excitement.

I think that the biggest problem with this documentary, though, was the editing. It wasn’t very good and it made this play like a disjointed clusterfuck at times. I don’t want to be too hard on it but it shifted gears in strange ways that left my brain feeling like a speed bag.

It was hard to follow the narrative but I did enjoy the interviews within this. Although, that doesn’t save the film from its issues.

While this is probably more factually accurate than the dramatized motion picture, you’re probably better off just watching that. Plus, it boasts great performances from its A-list cast.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Le Mans and motorsports in general.

Film Review: The Big Short (2015)

Release Date: November 12th, 2015 (AFI Fest)
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay
Based on: The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Music by: Nicholas Britell
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan, Margot Robbie (cameo), Anthony Bourdain (cameo), Selena Gomez (cameo)

New Regency Productions, Plan B Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t get it. Why are they confessing?” – Mark Baum, “They’re not confessing.” – Danny Moses, “They’re bragging.” – Porter Collins

I never saw The Big Short, even though I read the Michael Lewis book several years ago. I liked the book and thought that it did a good job of telling the stories about the real people who were important figures during the 2008 financial crisis caused by the housing bubble.

I guess I felt inspired to watch it because of the recent events surrounding WallStreetBets and their attempts at fucking over hedge funds. However, I’ve watched and reviewed several other finance industry movies over the last few months, so I figured I’d give this one a shot too. Plus, it has a stellar cast.

Oddly, I had no idea that this was directed by a guy that’s mostly just directed Will Ferrell comedies. The director, Adam McKay, did a pretty good job of transitioning to drama while also still having a bit of comedy added in. This is still a serious film, though, and it tackles the subject matter quite well.

My only real complaint about the film is the editing style and pacing. It often times felt sporadic and I felt like I was jolted around so much that I was losing my footing.

The acting is so good that I really wanted to focus on the performances, especially Steve Carell’s but the the quick, flashy edits often times pulled me out of the picture and the moment. I feel like it was hard to build the proper emotional connection to certain scenes because they kept overlapping scenes with one another.

Still, I did enjoy this and when you can actually zero in on specific performances, it was really entertaining, emotional and kind of impressive. Carell truly takes the cake in this, though, and I definitely felt closer to his character than any of the others, as he sort of represents what this film’s audience should feel about what these banksters were doing just to fatten their pockets at the expense of the average American.

I can’t see this as a classic like several of the other finance industry movies that I’ve recently reviewed but it’s still a good, enjoyable picture that maps out and explains the housing crisis well enough for the average Joe to understand while also entertaining its audience.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other finance industry thrillers like the Wall Street films, The Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room.

Film Review: Color Out of Space (2019)

Also known as: The Color from Out Off Space (working title)
Release Date: September 7th, 2019 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Based on: The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft
Music by: Colin Stetson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Elliot Knight, Madeleine Arthur, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tommy Chong

SpectreVision, ACE Pictures Entertainment, XYZ Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“What touched this place cannot be quantified or understood by human science. It was just a color out of space. A messenger from realms whose existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the gulfs that it throws open before our frenzied eyes.” – Ward

Many films are called a “mindfuck” but that might actually be an overstatement when those films are compared to Color Out of Space, which takes the viewer on a maddening ride into a very unique and different Hell.

This movie is absolutely batshit crazy but I loved it. It’s a modernized adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story and it was directed by Richard Stanley, who was a pretty accomplished indie filmmaker before leaving his craft after the drama that was 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I’m really glad that Stanley came back to making cinematic art, though, and I’d have to say that this is his best movie. That’s kind of incredible when you think about it too, as it’s his first picture in a quarter of a century!

This movie also has both Nic Cage and Tommy Chong in it, which just adds to the bonkers story and the performances it needed to pull out of its cast. That being said, everyone in this is pretty damn good and I especially liked Cage and Chong, as well as the actress who plays the daughter and the actor who plays the scientist that’s trying to save the family from their bizarre and horrific fate.

It’s actually kind of hard to define the story or give it a proper synopsis and I also don’t want to spoil too much. However, in a nutshell, a strange meteor lands in a family’s front yard and with it, strange things start happening to the people and the Earth around the meteor site. Unfortunately for the family, they are a dozen or more miles away from anyone else.

This film is also visually stunning, almost unbelievably so. Richard Stanley brought this twisted, strange tale to cinematic life and everything he did from the lighting to the special effects that he managed, just turned out perfect. As unbelievable and surreal as the picture is, you’re never really pulled out of it and that’s a testament to Stanley’s skill and how well this was all executed.

Color Out of Space, at times, can feel like sensory overload but there’s still a vibrant beauty about it all.

Going into this, I was pretty sure I’d enjoy it, but it exceeded those expectations a bit and I found it hard to look away. Also, this film just flew by.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Richard Stanley’s earlier films, as well as Mandy with Nicolas Cage.

Documentary Review: Tread (2019)

Release Date: March 8th, 2019 (SXSW)
Directed by: Paul Solet
Music by: Austin Wintory
Cast: various

Zipper Bros Films, Sutter Road Picture Company, Netflix, 89 Minutes

Review:

This is a film about Marvin Heemeyer, a man tired of his small town elites’ bullshit. In response, he decided to build a “killdozer” in order to get revenge on them.

Despite the name the machine was given by the media, Heemeyer didn’t kill anyone and that wasn’t his plan. Instead, he wanted an unstoppable machine of his own making to turn the buildings and businesses of his enemies into rubble. Heemeyer succeeded in destroying thirteen buildings in his small Colorado mountain town. Once his destruction came to an end, he took his own life with a gun inside of his rolling fortress.

As nutty as this story was, it wasn’t as big of a new story as one would probably expect. I vaguely remembered it but it was overshadowed by the death of Ronald Reagan and all the post-9/11 conflict that was going on.

This documentary did a solid job of giving the viewer the backstory to Heemeyer’s fateful last day.

It went through who the man was, how he came to hate the leaders of his community and how he went about constructing this mechanical beast in secret. I feel like the documentary was fair to everyone, except maybe Heemeyer, as he obviously wasn’t alive to give his point-of-view.

Everything comes to a head in the third act of the film, as we get to see that final day play out with commentary from those who were there mixed with actual clips and reenactment footage to fill in the blanks.

This is a sad story about a guy that didn’t need to take his own life but it’s also relatable to anyone who has had the system work against them. I imagine that’s most people on some level. With that, Heemeyer became a sort of folk hero, whether he was right or wrong.

Tread is a good film about this intriguing and tragic story. I wish the end had a more positive outcome but I guess “it is what it is”, as they say.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Netflix true story and crime documentaries.

TV Review: Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (2019)

Original Run: May 10th, 2019 – May 31st, 2019
Created by: Sacha Jenkins
Directed by: Sacha Jenkins
Written by: Paul Greenhouse, Sacha Jenkins, Peter J. Scalettar
Music by: J. Ralph, Wu-Tang Clan
Cast: Wu-Tang Clan, various

Showtime, 4 Episodes, 58-59 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I don’t know why I didn’t know about this documentary series until a few weeks ago. I’m a lifelong fan of Wu-Tang Clan and if I’m being honest, they’re one of the few music groups that actually had an effect on my life. They forever changed hip-hop music and culture and since that was something I was a part of in my younger years, it changed the way I was doing things and my creative approach to making my own music.

This was actually quite great and I enjoyed this immensely. It really goes through the history of Wu-Tang before they were even formed up until now.

With this, you get to have an intimate view into their lives, past and present, you meet their families and you get to hear their personal stories about their struggles and triumphs.

You also learn a lot about the group behind the scenes and how even with their differences over the years, they always find a way back home to each other.

For fans of the group, there are some sad, disheartening moments in this. However, by the time you get to the end, you really understand their bond and it’s actually really inspirational to see how they still come together and unify as a family. This sort of unity is unheard of in the music industry, especially when this group has now existed for three decades.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Hulu drama series about Wu-Tang Clan’s lives, as well as other music documentaries.

Film Review: Orcs! (2011)

Release Date: June 6th, 2011 (UK)
Directed by: Andrew Black (as James McPherson)
Written by: Anne Black, Jason Faller, Kynan Griffin, Justin Partridge
Music by: Panu Aaltio, Ben Carson
Cast: Adam Johnson, Maclain Nelson, Renny Grames, Barta Heiner, Michael Behrens, Brad Johnson

Rub Pictures, 3 Men in a Tub Productions, Camera 40 Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

When I first read about this movie, I thought the concept was damn cool and if handled correctly, this could’ve been a great, entertaining and badass cult film. Then a few months later, I saw the trailer and it was hard for me to muster up any interest in watching it until now, a decade later.

The main reason for watching it was that it was free on Prime Video and it was only 78 minutes. Sure, part of me hoped I’d be wrong and that I’d find something amusing and entertaining in the picture. While I didn’t hate every aspect of it, it was dull, overall, and it suffered from what appeared to be a PG-13 rating.

The only real positive was the lead actor, who had charisma, was legitimately funny and at least kept this movie from being a total waste of time.

Apart from that, this was a disappointing, tame fantasy horror flick that needed some old fashioned gore and over the top badass moments. Had this been directed by someone like James Gunn or Peter Jackson before he actually made his own orc movies, we could’ve been treated to an exceptional picture that would’ve lived on for decades as a real cult classic.

Instead, we’re given a neutered, mostly boring movie that shies away from the brutality that one should expect from a film about deranged orcs savagely murdering every human being they come in contact with.

I thought that the orcs actually looked pretty good for the budget and limitations of this movie but they were wasted because of their lack of actual brutality on the screen.

In the end, this could’ve and should’ve been great. I don’t understand the creative direction of the movie and the filmmakers didn’t seem to understand what this picture needed to actually deliver.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other modern, really low budget horror movies.