Documentary Review: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

Release Date: August 24th, 2014 (London FrightFest Film Festival premiere)
Directed by: David Gregory
Written by: David Gregory
Music by: Mark Raskin
Cast: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Rob Morrow, Robert Shaye, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson

Severin Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

I saw the mid-’90s Island of Dr. Moreau film in the theatre. But it was so bad that I barely remembered anything about it other than how damn weird and terrible it was. I also didn’t really know the story behind it until years later when I read articles about the problems on the set and the ousting of director, Richard Stanley.

This documentary does a pretty good job of covering the details and allowing several of the people involved in this fiasco to tell their stories from their points-of-view.

Most importantly, it let Stanley tell his side of the story while also cluing the viewer in on what he had planned. Frankly, his ideas and his vision for the picture sounded incredible, even if what he wanted to do was probably unachievable even before the producers started meddling with his plans.

It also didn’t help that two massive egomaniacs, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, were hired to star in the picture. With that, they developed a rivalry that truly derailed the production and caused even bigger problems.

Even knowing what I did going into this documentary, I still wasn’t prepared for the whole story and the dozens of additional details I never knew. Fairuza Balk’s stories about the experience were really interesting and allowed you see how this unfolded through the eyes of someone who was trapped in this production and pretty powerless to do anything about it.

All in all, this was informative and it shed a lot of light on one of the most troubled productions in motion picture history. It’s a compelling story and certainly deserving of having that story told.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about failed films, as well as all the Dr. Moreau film adaptations.

Documentary Review: The King of Arcades (2014)

Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Directed by: Sean Tiedeman
Music by: various
Cast: Walter Day, Billy Mitchell, Richie Knucklez, Eugene Jarvis, Ralph H. Baer, Jerry Buckner

K Studios, Tiedebaby Films, GOG.com, 100 Minutes

Review:

This was free on Prime Video and the plot seemed interesting, so I fired it up.

The story is about punk rocker Richie Knucklez of the band Knuckle Sandwich. This chronicles how his love of music and arcade video games led to a really cool life where he got to truly explore both of those passions in ways that other dreamers often don’t.

Richie had a pretty decent music career but later on, turned towards his love of arcade games and started his very own arcade, which became instantly cool and eventually, pretty iconic and beloved by not just his local community but by those in the worldwide gaming community.

Ultimately, this is a story of love and passion and in Richie’s case, perseverance.

This is a feel good movie about a guy that did what he wanted, believing his time to be very limited and has since wrote his own story in the way he wanted. Frankly, its inspirational and motivational.

The King of Arcades is definitely worth a watch if you want something uplifting, light and fun. And it made me want to fill all the empty corners in my house with the arcade machines I’ve always wanted.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about the history of video game culture.

Documentary Review: Citizenfour (2014)

Release Date: October 10th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Laura Poitras
Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Jacob Applebaum, Ewen MacAskill

HBO Films, Participant Media, Praxis Films, Radius-TWC, 113 Minutes

Review:

For those who don’t already know the story of Edward Snowden, this does a good job of laying out all the facts and events that led to the situation he finds himself in, today.

While millions of people want him to get a presidential pardon, which I agree with, I think it’s important for those who don’t really know his story to actually learn about it because so many seem to easily accept the “traitor” label that’s been applied to him by those in the former Obama Administration.

What’s best about this, is that it actually stars Snowden. The cameras follow him, as he traverses through the muck while trying to get all the secrets he’s discovered out there.

Additionally, this features those who helped Snowden leak his secrets.

For the most part, this was really good and it makes its point well.

There’s not much to say about the contents of the film, as people really should watch it play out for themselves.

It’s well presented and it at least gives Snowden a voice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other films on cypherpunk culture, specifically on hacking and leaking. I’ve reviewed many, here.

Documentary Review: The Hacker Wars (2014)

Release Date: October 17th, 2014
Directed by: Vivien Lesnik Weisman
Written by: Vivien Lesnik Weisman, Meredith Raithel Perry
Music by: Dicepticon, Christopher Lord, Ytcracker
Cast: Andrew “weev” Auemheimer, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond

Over 9000 Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

I heard good things about this documentary quite awhile ago but I never checked it out till now.

I was reminded of it while watching Alex Winter’s Dark Web, so I thought that I should also watch this. Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of similar documentaries, lately, as well as reading several books on cypherpunk culture.

This was an engaging watch but that also has a lot to do with me being fascinated by the subject matter and due to my own personal history within what became the cypherpunk movement.

I liked that this picked a few key people and their situations and focused on them, allowing these hackers and other cypherpunk personalities the chance to tell their own story and espouse their philosophies behind why they do what they do. Whether you agree with their viewpoint or not, it’s still pretty enthralling stuff.

All in all, this was well presented and I thought that it was pretty fair to all parties involved. Out of all the similar documentary films I’ve watched on the subject, this one really stands out because many of the players were actually involved in it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk culture.

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.