Documentary Review: Birth of the Tramp (2013)

Also known as: La naissance de Charlot (original French title), How Chaplin Became the Tramp (alternate title)
Release Date: December 29th, 2013 (France)
Directed by: Serge Bromberg, Eric Lange
Music by: Robert Israel
Cast: Charlie Chaplin (archive footage)

Arte France, Lobster Films, Roy Export Company Establishment, 52 Minutes, 61 Minutes (extended TV edition)

Review:

There are a ton of documentaries on Charlie Chaplin. They are literally a dime a dozen and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad one but a lot of the information has been recycled a dozen times over. I’ve yet to see one that is exceptional, however.

That being said, this isn’t an exceptional one either but it is still a quick, entertaining watch and it pretty much just gets into his background and early career up to the point where he was about 30 years-old.

The focus of this was about how Chaplin evolved into his famous Tramp character. I like that this was character focused more so than on his general life or general filmmaking. It does cover those things but it’s more focused on the iconic Tramp persona.

This had good interviews and was well edited. The narrative flows nicely but I wish that this was actually fleshed out more. It just seemed a bit rushed for just a 52 minute piece.

Still, if you are a fan of Chaplin or the silent era of filmmaking, this is worth checking out. Also, it’s streaming for free for Prime members on Amazon Video.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: any of the various other documentaries on Charlie Chaplin, as well as his original films and the biopic Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin.

 

Film Review: Curse of Chucky (2013)

Also known as: Child’s Play 6 (working title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 2013 (Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Mancini
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnel, Summer H. Howell, A Martinez, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly (cameo), Alex Vincent (cameo)

Universal 1440 Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“25 years. Since then a lot of families have come and gone; the Barclays, the Kincaids, the Tillys. But you know Nica, your family was always my favorite. And now, you’re the last one standing… So to speak! [laughs manically, then glares down at Nica]” – Chucky

This came out after a long break from Child’s Play films. The later sequels: Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky got so humorous and weird that the darker spirit of the franchise was gone and the films sort of became parodies of themselves.

Curse of Chucky did a pretty decent job at correcting the tone, as Chucky, while still humorous because he always has been, is much scarier, more evil and also back to being more patient in how he reveals himself to his victims.

The one thing that this picture does really well is suspense. It’s a slow build until we really get to see Chucky at his murderous best. Sure, he kills and at first glance, it might suck that these heinous acts aren’t captured on film as they happen but the wait is worth the payoff, as once Chucky reveals himself to one of the main characters, shit truly hits the fan.

Now the film does feel really confined, as it primarily just takes place within one house. However, this actually benefits the film, as you feel the doom closing in and tightening its grip. Add in the fact that the main character is stuck in a wheelchair in a multilevel house and you really feel like you’re stuck in a sardine can with a live piranha by the climax. Those two key elevator scenes were fantastic as well and really served to make the environment work for the movie.

It was nice to see Chucky return to a darker, broodier tone. However, the film, sadly, isn’t as fun as the original three. Those still had a real darkness about them but they were more exiting and they have actually aged really well, considering their budget and time of release.

But I think that this and its follow up Cult of Chucky were good entries in the Child’s Play franchise. I had hoped to see more but I guess they’re going to reboot the series in the near future for some dumb reason.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: he Cult of Chucky, it’s direct sequel and the original Child’s Play trilogy when they were still really dark.

Documentary Review: Necessary Evil: The Super-Villains of DC Comics

Release Date: October 25th, 2013
Directed by: Scott Devine, J.M. Kenny
Written by: Scott Devine, Jack Mulligan
Music by: Kris Dirksen (as Methodic Doubt)
Cast: Christopher Lee (narrator), Neal Adams, Clancy Brown, Kevin Conroy, Guillermo del Toro, Dan Didio, Paul Dini, Richard Donner, Marc Guggenheim, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, CM Punk, Michael Shannon, Scott Snyder, Zack Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman

DC Comics, mOcean, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes

Review:

This was just a really cool documentary accented by the narration of the legendary and superb Christopher Lee. It also had a fantastic cast of interviewees.

A great retrospective on the darker half of DC Comics’ long history, Necessary Evil was delightful. I enjoyed it so much and wish that it was actually a lot longer. The DC mythos and it’s rich history could easily fill up a season of a documentary series. I could sit through a Ken Burns’ Baseball length documentary on this subject and maintain the same level of excitement. Assuming its as well produced as this is.

You can’t have a great hero without a great villain and this does a fantastic job at making the audience understand how these characters truly are a “necessary evil” in how they make the heroes better and how they make these stories last for decades. Comic books are America’s mythology and a good villain with a good story is at the forefront of the most memorable moments in these epic tales.

This film analyzes a lot of key villains in the DC universe. Unfortunately, you can’t cover every villain in 99 minutes and frankly, this probably only touches on like one percent of them, as there have been so many in the 80 years since the first Superman comic was published. One of the interviewees mentioned that DC’s villain count was into the thousands and really, that doesn’t seem too far fetched in the grand scheme of things.

I really enjoyed hearing from Jim Lee, Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder. These guys have been at the forefront of many of the stories I’ve enjoyed since the ’90s. We also get to see movie directors Richard Donner, Zack Snyder and Guillermo del Toro chime in.

A lot of comic book documentaries are done on the cheap and can’t round up a very solid cast of people to interview. In the last few years, we’ve gotten some really good documentaries on the subject, though. This is one of the best out there and really, who doesn’t love the f’n villains?

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other recent comic book documentaries: The Image RevolutionChris Claremont’s X-Men and Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously.

 

Film Review: Sonno Profondo (2013)

Also known as: Deep Sleep (English title)
Release Date: October 11th, 2013 (Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival – Spain)
Directed by: Luciano Onetti
Written by: Luciano Onetti
Music by: Luciano Onetti
Cast: Luciano Onetti, Daiana Garcia, Silvia Duhalde

Guante Negro Films, 67 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t even know about this film’s existence until I was perusing the depths of Shudder. But when I read that it was an Argentinean film that was a modernized version of classic ’70s giallo, I had to give it a watch. Plus, it was only 67 minutes so if it was painful to get through, at least I wouldn’t have to be committed to it for 90 minutes or more.

Anyway, one guy pretty much made this film. He had a few other actors he needed but he directed it, wrote it, produced it, did the music and starred in it. I guess this is a good way to make sure that the film matches your vision and this guy certainly had a unique vision.

What’s cool about this film is that the visual style of it works and for the most part, the set design was well done even if it was minimalistic. I liked the lighting and the general cinematography. However, a lot of the camerawork left a lot to be desired.

Most of the shots were done in extreme closeup and it made the film surreal but mostly just disorienting. While a sense of disorientation is most assuredly what the director was going for, it becomes pretty unwatchable after just the first few minutes. It’s something that works best if used sparingly but the effect was overwhelming and distracting to what the rest of the film was trying to convey. Really, this just felt like a 67 minute music video for a ’90s industrial band without any awesome industrial music to back it up.

I don’t like to shit on someone’s art unless it is terrible, pretentious, self-serving bullshit. This doesn’t quite feel like that but it does ride the fence of pretentiousness.

If one wants to recreate the effect of a classic giallo, one really needs to employ great set design, a masterful use of color, as well as a more calculated and broader range in regards to their cinematography. While this captures some of the giallo vibe, it misses the mark in most of the key areas.

This feels more like an experimental project from a young film student than an actual film. That’s not a bad thing but the work needs to be fine tuned and expand outward, painting a world beyond tight closeup shots and pretty standard driving scenes. But there is talent here.

The director’s films after this have higher ratings on IMDb, so maybe he was able to build off of this. I may check them out in the future, if I can find them streaming.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Mario Bava and Dario Argento giallo films but those are better than this.

TV Review: Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Original Run: March 4th, 2013 – April 17th, 2017
Created by: Chris Chinball
Directed by: James Strong, Euros Lyn, various
Written by: Chris Chinball, Louise Fox
Music by: Ólafur Arnalds, Arnór Dan
Cast: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvill, Andrew Buchan, Carolyn Pickles, Charlotte Beaumont, Charlotte Rampling, Eve Myles

Kudos Film and Television, Shine Group, Imaginary Friends, ITV, 24 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

ITV’s Broadchurch is one of the top five shows I have watched in recent memory. A bold statement, sure, but in a world full of crime dramas, this show is a big step above what is currently on television.

The showrunners must be big Doctor Who fans, as it features David Tennant in the lead role as DI Alec Hardy, Arthur Darvill as Rev. Paul Coates and Olivia Colman (who appeared in one episode of Doctor Who) as the other lead, DS Ellie Miller. Eve Myles from the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood shows up as a regular in the second series. (Updated note: Jodie Whittaker would go on to be the first female version of the Doctor after this show.)

Jodie Whittaker (Attack The Block) plays the mother of a murdered boy. Solving the mystery of the boy’s murder is what drives the plot of series one, while the trial of the murderer drives some of the plot of series two. Series two also focuses on a case that Hardy was unable to solve before he moved to Broadchurch.

This show, unlike many other crime dramas, is not predictable. There are a lot of layers, twists and turns and while that is a typical formula of these shows, the execution of it on Broadchurch is not only stellar, it is refreshing.

The show is also beautiful to look at. Filmed in Dorset, many shots are full of the iconic coastal cliffs, grassy hills and beaches of that area. The geography of the show enhances the tone greatly and while it feels warm and inviting at first, it is also cold and in someways, desolate.

The acting is top notch and this may be David Tennant’s greatest work, even considering his run as the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who and his role as the villainous Kilgrave on Jessica Jones. Olivia Colman has never been better and she is an actress that I have loved since first seeing her work with Mitchel and Webb in their sketch comedy shows, as well as Peep Show. The rest of the cast is equally fantastic.

There is a lot of shit on television today but Broadchurch is the antithesis of that norm.

Each series is also only eight episodes, which allow this masterpiece to be binge watched quite quickly.

Both of the series to date are now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Doctor Who and Torchwood for all the shared actors, the American remake Gracepoint and the BBC crime show Luther.

Documentary Review: Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’ (2013)

Also known as: American Masters: Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
Directed by: Bob Smeaton
Music by: Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Kramer (mixer)
Cast: Jimi Hendrix (archive footage)

Eagle Rock Entertainment, WNET Channel 13 New York, PBS, 90 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’ was actually an episode of PBS’ long-running television series American Masters. Even though this is a single episode of a show that has been on for decades, it is itself a film. In fact, it is one of the best biographical documentaries of a musician that I have seen in recent memory.

Obviously the film goes through the life of one of America’s greatest musicians of all-time, some would argue the best. This film has some pretty candid interviews however. Some of the most important and intimate are the old interviews with his father and the more modern ones with his sister, as well as other rock & roll gods and top rock music journalists.

The film gives a lot of insight into the personal life of Jimi, more so than other documentaries that I’ve seen on him. It extensively goes into his time in England, which was some of the coolest stuff in this documentary. The archive footage and performances of Hendrix were pretty amazing and should, from a cultural standpoint, be deemed priceless.

This PBS produced film is definitely worth the 90 minute playtime. It is currently streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other American Masters documentaries.

Film Review: Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)

Release Date: April 10th, 2013 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: James Nguyen
Written by: James Nguyen
Music by: Michael Gordon Shapiro
Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Patsy van Ettinger, Thomas Favaloro, Chelsea Turnbo, Brittany N. Pierce, Thuan Luu, Aaron Pressburg, Sam Hyde

Moviehead Pictures, I Got A Fish Productions, Chill, 79 Minutes

Review:

“Squaaah! Squaaah! Squaaah!” – every bird in the movie

This movie shouldn’t have been made once, let alone twice.

Seriously, this was fucking terrible with a capital FUCKING TERRIBLE.

I don’t mind the cast though. They seem like nice people having fun making these shitty ripoffs of The Birds, which are littered with environmental nonsense, alarmism and misinformation to the point that I can’t believe that the director is remotely serious about it. But then I’ve watched his interviews… he’s totally serious.

Anyway, the plot is even crazier than the first movie. Somehow it rains blood on the La Brea Tar Pits and prehistoric birds come flying out of the muck. Then there are other creatures effected too and we even get scenes featuring human zombies and killer cavemen. This tapestry of terrible bullshit makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There is a sequence where a woman is attacked by a CGI jellyfish that is very pixelated. It’s one of the most bizarre and baffling sequences I have ever seen on film. And then when the girl emerges from the water, she is covered in blood all over her body. How in the fuck can a jelly fish do that? Seriously? The director needs to watch a friggin’ Nat Geo documentary about jellyfish or hell… birds. While we’re at it, he should probably also watch ones on global warming, the environment and just general science.

The acting is beyond atrocious, the directing is completely nonexistent but we do get to see some nice boobies and horrendous dancing from uncoordinated white people.

I watched this alone in my room but the film made me feel awkward. Like people were looking down at me from Heaven, judging me for wasting my time on this. I could hear my dead relatives going, “There he is, just wasting away in his room spending 79 minutes on this garbage when he could be bettering himself somehow or making sandwiches for starving hobos.”

This movie is a blight on humanity. It’s easily one of the worst things ever filmed and I feel bad for the actors that came back to do this a second time. Like did their hours get cut at Starbucks? Because they certainly didn’t make more money doing this than working the Thursday morning shift.

Rating: 1.25/10
Pairs well with: Birdemic and really nothing else.