Film Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

Release Date: October 7th, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: James Marsh
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Based on: Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Stephen Hawking (computerized voice)

Working Title Films, Dentsu Motion Pictures, Fuji Television Network, 123 Minutes

Review:

“I have loved you.” – Jane Hawking

I really wanted to see this in the theater back when it came out. I missed it but then I had it in my queue on one of the streaming services where it eventually disappeared and then fell down my memory hole. But it popped back up on something recently, so I decided to give it a watch before the opportunity passed me by again.

I’ve always been a fan of Stephen Hawking and I read A Brief History of Time back when I was in middle school and probably not fully able to grasp it. However, I’ve read it multiple times since and he’s been one of my favorite science writers alongside Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene and Michio Kaku.

The film is adapted from Jane Hawking’s book about her life alongside Stephen. While they were married and she was by his side for years, things eventually dissolved but they remained close, trusted friends despite their marriage ending and both finding love in other people.

Honestly, this is a pretty beautiful story, even if it is romanticized for a film. But it does a good job of showing how love can evolve and change over time, as people grow through life and sometimes grow apart. And sometimes one type of love can turn into a different type. I really like how this film expresses these hard truths, shows us the pain of both characters at different points but allows you to remain hopeful, as neither are bad people, they just evolve into different people with different needs. And that doesn’t mean that they have to hate one another, they can continue to love each other even after letting one another go. It’s truly sad but there is a real positive lesson and worldview within that.

The acting in this film is absolutely incredible and I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, here. Everyone in this film brought their A-game and the performances greatly enhance the end result and made this somewhat exceptional in how it handled the emotionally difficult material. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were especially great and it’s hard to not love both of them.

In stories about love dissolving and changing, it’s really hard not to paint someone as the bad guy. In that regard, this film succeeds in making you care equally for both people and what it is that each one needs.

Apart from that, this film was good in every technical area. It’s well shot, perfectly edited and paced and boasts some incredible cinematography. The score was also quite great.

Overall, I like this movie a lot. I don’t consider it a classic or anything but it achieved what it set out to do and probably exceeded it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent biographical dramas.

Film Review: Hogzilla (2014)

Release Date: December 15th, 2014
Directed by: Diane Jacques
Written by: Diane Jacques, Beatrice Moon, Todd M. Webster
Cast: Joe Bob Briggs, William A. Butland, Zachary Dubale, Justin Kane, Joey Malone, Meredith Martin, John Pagnam, Tomey Sellars, Wade White

90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve heard the legend of this film’s existence for far too long. I wasn’t even sure if it was real and if it was, whether or not it was actually completed.

That being said, my only real interest in it was due to the fact that horror host icon Joe Bob Briggs was in it and it was about a giant killer hog. I like giant killer hog movies and there aren’t enough of them and frankly, none of the ones that do exist are all that good.

Well, this one may actually be the worst one I’ve seen. Also, the poster is a lie, as there aren’t a bunch of gun toting hotties in the movie. It’s just a pretty mundane group of normies with no real skills whatsoever. One of them is a Marine, I guess, but you only really know that because he wears camo pants and a very clean t-shirt that says “Marines” on it.

The great Joe Bob is in this and while his scenes are just about the only watchable ones in the film, I guess he’s a ghost or something because he just fades away at the end.

I don’t know, this just sucked. I had hoped it was going to be that type of film that was so shitty it was entertaining and amusing but it was so boring, drab and incompetent that it was a real bore to sit through.

It also sucks as it was filmed in Florida, not too far away from me, and I like killer animal horror from my neck of the woods.

Well, I guess I can claim that I’ve seen it now and that I can verify its existence but it didn’t make me a better person or teach me any worthwhile lessons that I could pass on to someone else’s kids.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other extremely low budget killer animal horror movies.

Documentary Review: Harley Race: The Greatest Wrestler On God’s Green Earth (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Cast: Harley Race, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette, various

Ellbow Productions, Highspots, 112 Minutes

Review:

I’m not 100 percent sure on whether or not this came out in 2014 but that’s the earliest date I saw attached to a trailer with pre-order info. Also, it’s hard to get all the credit details, as this doesn’t even have an IMDb page or really anything more than just the title and running time.

Anyway, I got this, along with three other wrestling documentary/compilation box sets from Highspots. The shipping was lightning fast, which was great considering all the COVID-19 shenanigans. So while I’m mostly self-quarantining, Highspots’ quick turnaround was able to ensure that I wouldn’t be bored, at least for one weekend.

As for the documentary, itself, it was a pretty engaging piece. But look, I’ve always loved the hell out of Harley Race ever since I met him as a kid and saw him in the ring, growing up in NWA country. So I might be somewhat biased but he’s an interesting guy that had a tremendous career in the professional wrestling business.

This documentary is also special in that a lot of it just features Harley talking about his life and career. Other greats also chime in like Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette and many more but the absolute highlight of this is hearing Harley talk about Harley in his own words.

This also covers a lot of ground but as I said, this guy had a legendary career that spanned decades and multiple federations.

I also found this refreshing in that it didn’t play like a big budget WWE style documentary with quick, careful edits and a sort of agenda behind it. This actually plays more like a Ken Burns style documentary in that it is slow but it’s also really informative and builds up a sort of romantic affinity for the wrestling business during the intriguing territory era.

Plus, this comes with a second disc full of matches and other moments.

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

Documentary Review: A Corny In the UK (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Directed by: Alex Spilling
Cast: Jim Cornette, Stacey Cornette, Alex Spilling

WrestleTalk TV, 96 Minutes

Review:

I picked up a signed copy of this off of Jim Cornette’s website. I remember seeing the trailer for it 6 years ago but then it went down the memory hole, which is becoming a problem as I become older and older.

Anyway, this was a fun film to watch, as it follows Cornette on his first and only tour or the United Kingdom. It’s great seeing his enthusiasm and his personality come to life while exploring a country he obviously enjoys.

What I liked most about this, is that you get to see Cornette as the real deal Cornette. He lets the audience in more so than he does on his podcasts or as his persona on television over the years. While he may be a controversial figure to modern wrestling fans or his outspokenness about the business and U.S. politics might push people away, I found it hard not to like the guy after seeing this, despite my feelings or thoughts on certain subjects.

Love him or hate him, Jim Cornette is a guy with a lot of opinions that can speak on them much better than most. He sticks to his guns and doesn’t let the modern cancel/outrage culture stand in his way. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s hard not to find him entertaining. Well, unless you’re a snowflake asshole.

This was just a solid way to spend an hour and a half while self-quarantining through this “Mexican Lager Viral Event”. I’m just going to call it that because social media platforms, where I will share this review, don’t like that new C-word.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries of the last few years.

Documentary Review: Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! (2014)

Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Music by: Lauren Pardini, Daniel Sternbaum
Cast: Axel Alonso, Hayley Atwell, Gerry Conway, Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Seth Green, Clark Gregg, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Ralph Macchio, Todd McFarlane, Patton Oswalt, Nicole Perlman, Joe Quesada, Peter Sanderson, Jim Shooter, Kevin Smith, Jim Starlin, Emily VanCamp, Len Wein, Ming-Na Wen

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

I recently reviewed a short, made-for-TV documentary on Disney+ called Assembling a Universe. That one was a piece on how Disney and Marvel assembled a movie franchise based off of Marvel’s rich treasure trove of characters and stories.

This short documentary is kind of more of the same but it focuses mostly on the comic books themselves and how Marvel grew into what it is today.

Like the previous documentary, which came out earlier in the same year, this one is really just a marketing tool to try and get people to go see their movies. It’s made by Disney, Marvel and ABC, all of whom are essentially the same company, so this is made to sort of pimp themselves out.

Ultimately, this is an autobiographical puff piece. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things of value in it. It’s informative and gives you a good amount of info to start with for those interested in Marvel’s history but there are much better documentaries, books and magazine articles on the subject.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Assembling a Universe and Empire of Dreams.

Documentary Review: Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Shane Black, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Vin Diesel, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jon Favreau, Kevin Feige, Clark Gregg, James Gunn, Chris Hardwick, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier, Jeph Loeb, Anthony Mackie, George R.R. Martin, Tom Morello, Bobby Moynihan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Pratt, Joe Quesada, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Ming-Na Wen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon, Edgar Wright (uncredited)

ABC Studios, Disney, Marvel, 42 Minutes

Review:

After watching the beefy but solid Star Wars documentary Empire of Dreams, I noticed that Disney+ also featured a similar made-for-TV documentary about the making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I figured I’d check it out, as it originally aired in 2014, on the cusp of the MCU reaching its peak.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as compelling as Empire of Dreams and it plays more like a Marvel produced production used mainly to pimp themselves out and market Captain America: Winter Solider and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. But I get it, this played on ABC, which like Marvel, is owned by Disney.

It’s still an informative piece with a lot of insight into the making of the first Iron Man movie, which opened the floodgates for the rest of the MCU.

It also expands beyond that and delves a little bit into each movie up to the then still in-production Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I think that this was the first real peek into the Guardians of the Galaxy production.

The best part about this short feature is the interviews with the stars and filmmakers who helped bring this universe to life. I especially liked hearing the enthusiasm that Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau had with the early Iron Man pictures.

Overall, this isn’t a must watch but it’s worth your time if you are a big MCU fan.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other filmmaking documentaries about blockbusters. Empire of Dreams, immediately comes to mind.

Film Review: Inherent Vice (2014)

Release Date: October 4th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Based on: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Joanna Newsom, Hong Chau, Eric Roberts

Ghoulardi Film Company, Warner Bros., IAC Films, 148 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it’s dark and lonely work, but somebody’s gotta do it, right?” – Petunia Leeway

I had really high hopes for this film.

It’s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who everyone, even their pets, loves. It stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and a superb supporting cast. And, well, it’s a neo-noir set in the early ’70s that looked damn cool from the trailers.

Sadly, this was duller than an unsharpened pencil.

I kind of hate that I didn’t dig this but it was really hard for me not to nod off through almost every really long, drawn out scene. Frankly, the film didn’t even need to be two hours, let alone 148 minutes.

Visually, the film is stunning. Every scene and every shot looks pristine and perfect. But that’s not enough to carry a movie. I can see cinematography of the highest caliber in television commercials and music videos.

The thing is, the narrative needs to be as exciting as the visual allure. It needs to capture you, hold on and at least try to leave you breathless until the final frame.

I watched this movie and was so disinterested in it that I couldn’t remember what the film was about, where it needed to go or why Phoenix was investigating things. I felt like my mind was as numb and disoriented as the majority of the characters in the picture.

If you like movies solely for visuals and great soundtracks, than this may be your bag.

It wasn’t mine though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: mind numbing drugs and a case of cheap whiskey while watching a Hypercolor t-shirt cook in the microwave.

TV Review: Road to the NHL Winter Classic – Blackhawks v. Capitals (2014)

Original Run: December, 2014
Written by: Aaron Cohen
Cast: Bill Camp (narrator)

Ross Greenberg Productions, EPIX, 4 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

To ring in the most recent Winter Classic event put on by the National Hockey League, EPIX ran a four-part one hour documentary series called Road to the NHL Winter Classic. Unfortunately, I don’t have EPIX but I was able to catch this a few months later, as it is currently streaming on Netflix.

The documentary series follows the two teams involved in the big event: the home team Washington Capitals and the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. It goes through their recent history and chronicles the first few months of their season – leading up to the big event. The fourth and final part of the documentary covers the big game itself, the result of it and a bit of aftermath. It is certainly worth checking out if you are a hockey fan, especially if you are a Capitals or Blackhawks fan.

The series gives a nice look into the personal lives of coaches Joel Quenneville (Blackhawks) and Barry Trotz (Capitals). It also follows a lot of the key players on both sides of the equation. It shows an inside view of both organizations and hockey as a whole. It is nice seeing some of these guys in roles other than just warriors on the ice.

Road to the NHL Winter Classic is well shot, well edited and presented nicely. I actually hope it is the start of more NHL documentary projects. Other sports need to step their game up because NFL Films has been ruling the roost for decades.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other EPIX NHL documentary series.

Documentary Review: Pepsi Vs. Cola: The Marketing Battle of the Century (2014)

Also known as: Pepsi Vs. Coca: The Marketing Battle of the Century (title card)
Release Date: 2014
Directed by: Nicolas Glimois, Thomas Risch, Christophe Weber

Indigenius, 53 Minutes

Review:

I have no idea where this documentary first appeared, as there isn’t a whole lot of information on it, even though it is streaming for free on Prime Video for Amazon Prime members.

However, I like documentaries on business history, especially in regards to iconic companies and industry feuds.

I’m pretty sure this was an episode of a TV series that was repackaged, as it plays like that. But even so, this is a thorough and highly informational piece about the rivalry between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, which also delves into the history of each company.

I learned a lot watching this but it wasn’t an exciting documentary. It was mostly interviews with some experts in this realm, as they walked the viewer through both companies marketing strategies over their many decades in business.

This also clears up a lot of the theories surrounding New Coke and whether or not it was real or an elaborate marketing hoax. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a hoax.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other business history documentaries.

Film Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Release Date: January 19th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Written by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Music by: Bei Ru
Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marno, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo

Say Ahh Productions, SpectreVision, Logan Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me alone.” – Arash

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a unique film.

First of all, it takes place in Iran but was filmed in the United States with all the actors speaking in Persian. Additionally, it considers itself to be the first Persian vampire western, which is an odd description.

In fact, I don’t know where the western genre comes into play other than one specific scene where the film’s composer is clearly borrowing from the style of Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores.

Anyway, as bizarre as this thing is, it’s a really solid film. While it is full of immense darkness, it is also full of sweetness.

It’s also one of the coolest films of the last decade.

I think a lot of that has to do with some of the deliberate style choices in regards to the genre melding, the cinematography, the use of music and the personalities of the cast. But how many films have a skateboarding vampire?

At points, this is a slow moving picture but everything is presented in a way that lures you in. You don’t mind the slow build because the actors are able to convey a lot of emotion with pretty understated performances. But I also think that a lot of that credit has to go to the director, Ana Lily Amirpour, who employs a great understanding of mise-en-scène that it enhances the actors’ abilities. Amirpour crafted an impressive stylistic framework that brings everything together quite nicely, especially with the movie being carried by performance.

I love the cinematography, which is done in black and white and takes its chiaroscuro cues from classic film-noir and German Expressionism.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an enchanting film and with that, is beautiful to look at. It delivers a sort of cinematic intimacy that most filmmakers, over the last decade, aren’t able to achieve. It feels like something from another era, even if it has things within the film that date it as modern.

However, like other vampire films, it has that one plot point that always bothers me with the genre. What I’m referring to is how a being that has existed for a few hundred years can fall in love with someone in their early twenties. It’s a plot device in vampire fiction that as all too common. I get the part about being attracted to youth and innocence but I’m now 40 years-old and I can’t go on a date with a 25 year-old and find anything to talk about. I can’t imagine how that date would go if I ever make it to 200. But at the same time, it’s a trope of vampire stories and I’m not going to come down on this picture too hard for it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other arthouse vampire movies: Only Lovers Left Alive, Let the Right One In, Shadow of a Vampire, Near Dark and The Hunger.