Film Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Also known as: Busanhaeng (original title), Invasion Zombie (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay), New Infection: Final Express (Japan – English title)
Release Date: May 13th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
Written by: Park Joo-suk
Music by: Jang Young-gyu
Cast: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee

Next Entertainment World, RedPeter Film, Movic Comics, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry, but you’re infected.” – Seok Woo

Apparently, this South Korean zombie film came out with a lot of praise and fanfare but I guess it just passed me by. That’s honestly my fault, as I barely pay attention to modern horror, as it just hasn’t been up to snuff for about two decades now, despite the occasional gem.

Well, this is one of those gems and I even liked it considering that I am most definitely exhausted with zombie flicks since they have legitimately monopolized the horror space in more recent years after vampire films cooled off and The Walking Dead became the most watched thing on television.

This film’s plot is pretty damn simple; a dad and his daughter get on a train to take them across South Korea just as a zombie outbreak happens. While on the train, people get infected and all hell breaks loose.

As the film progresses, we go from survivors trying to stay barricaded in train cars with zombies just a car away, then we get a great sequence in a train station and eventually, back on another train, as the few people left try to escape the hell that is chasing them.

As far as zombie movies go, this one, by the end, is one of the most emotional and heartbreaking ones I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you get to the climax and don’t feel like you’ve been mule kicked in the heart, you might not be human.

Additionally, the character arc of the little girl’s father in this is fucking superb. The guy goes from being a selfish coward to a real hero, after being challenged by his own daughter and another passenger that continually risks his life to save this sap, even after he nearly sacrificed the guy and his pregnant wife.

This was just a solid, fast paced movie from beginning to end and I couldn’t believe that it was nearly two hours as it flew by like it was only 80 minutes.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other foreign zombie movies with fairly fresh takes on the genre.

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

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.

Documentary Review: Banking On Bitcoin (2016)

Also known as: The Battle for Bitcoin, The Bitcoin Takeover (working titles)
Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Christopher Cannucciari
Written by: Christopher Cannucciari, Prichard Smith
Music by: Ben Prunty
Cast: Wences Casares, Nathaniel Popper, Gavin Andersen, Naomi Brockwell, Nancy Cannucciari, Michael Casey, David Chaum, Andy Greenberg, Benjamin Lawsky, Jaron Lukas, Blythe Masters, Rakesh Motwani, Rand Paul, Charlie Shrem, Barry Silbert, Nick Spanos, Chris Tarbell, David Thompson, Jeffrey A. Tucker, Paul Vigna, Erik Voorhees, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Alex Winter 

Periscope Entertainment, Downtown Community Television Center, Dynamic Range, Gravitas Ventures, 90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve owned some Bitcoin for awhile and while I generally understand it, it was neat seeing a good, well-produced documentary about it.

This covers the short but very interesting history of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency while also explaining what it is and how it works. The biggest obstacle it faces is the public’s lack of understanding of it. I think that this did the best job it could in trying to speak to the layman.

The documentary also features a lot of people who known what they’re talking about and have been involved in Bitcoin for quite some time.

If the subject matter doesn’t interest you, why have you read this far? If it does, this is well worth a watch.

There’s really not a whole lot more to say other than pointing out that this is one of the best documentaries I’ve come across on the subject.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on crypto currencies and cypherpunk culture.

Documentary Review: The Authentic Untold Story ECW (2016)

Release Date: November 21st, 2016
Cast: Corey Graves (host), The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer

WWE, 47 Minutes

Review:

I wasn’t sure what this was when I fired it up on the WWE Network but then I immediately realized that I had already seen it back when it aired.

It’s not a traditional documentary, as much as it is a one-off interview show with a panel of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) legends talking about their time in the promotion back in the ’90s and very early ’00s.

Overall, for old school ECW fans, this was a worthwhile watch that felt pretty honest and unfiltered. It features the Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer and ECW boss, Paul Heyman.

Each guy told stories about the heyday of ECW and went through a bunch of topics.

This is kind of a nice followup watch to the WWE’s superb documentary, The Rise and Fall of ECW.

However, for those who aren’t familiar with ECW and don’t already have a love for it, this probably doesn’t offer up much that would be considered engaging or entertaining. Although, if you’re a fan of wrestling history, you’ll probably find this interesting, regardless of your feelings on ECW.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network exclusives and documentaries.

Film Review: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Also known as: ID Forever (working title), IDR (short title), Resurgence, Independence Day 2 (informal titles)
Release Date: June 20th, 2016 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Nicholas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Based on: characters by Dean Devlin, James A. Woods
Music by: Thomas Wander, Harald Kloser
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Travis Tope, Sela Ward, Angelababy, Vivica A. Fox, Deobia Oparei, Nicolas Wright, Ng Chin Han, Robert Loggia, Mckenna Grace

Centropolis Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 120 Minutes

Review:

“We convinced an entire generation, that this is a battle that we could win. We sacrifice for each other no matter what the cost. And that’s worth fighting for.” – President Whitmore

When I saw this in the theater, there was that part of me that hoped this would be a sleeper hit that ended up impressing me, as opposed to being another half-assed sequel. Plus, I hadn’t liked anything that Roland Emmerich had done since the first Independence Day in 1996. But my absolute love of that film made me hopeful that this one would generate the same sort of effect that the first film had on me.

Initially, it didn’t and I was pretty disappointed with the final product. However, four years later a.k.a. now, I actually found this a bit more enjoyable. I think that mainly has to do with my love of the original core characters who returned.

This isn’t anywhere near as good or memorable as its predecessor but it’s still a fun, over-the-top blockbuster that uses Emmerich’s style better than any other film since the original Independence Day. This certainly blows Godzilla out of the water and it’s a better movie than The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC and 2012. I’d probably put The Patriot and White House Down ahead of it but I was extremely drunk when I saw White House Down, which is why I didn’t officially review it.

I liked Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch in this because they’re so good as father and son. I also liked what they did with Bill Pullman’s character and how they brought back Brent Spiner, who was still on his A-game even after a twenty year coma and new technologies that he had never worked with. But whatever, just turn your brain off; this is an Emmerich movie about kicking alien ass!

My biggest complaint about the film is the opposite of how I feel about most films and that’s that this needed more time to develop its characters and to get you more invested in it. Granted, I think they overdid it by trying to introduce so many characters for the next generation of heroes. It really only needed two or three core newbies and not a whole squad and separate environment with its own large supporting cast. Most of these characters don’t make much of an impact and are easily forgotten, unlike the first movie where even the small roles were memorable and felt important.

However, I like how this does make the human victory feel like a real team effort. That’s what I loved about the original story and this replicates that well, even if some people are lost in the shuffle.

I also liked the introduction of the aliens having a hive mind and a queen. While that’s nothing new, I liked how they made the queen massive and the final battle essentially turned the film into a kaiju movie. The only mistake with it was that the giant alien queen was thrown into the desert and not a city or populated area where she could smash buildings and bitchslap tanks.

In the end, this pales in comparison to the original but it expands the universe in a neat way and brings back characters you love, giving them more life.

Sadly, this under-performed and we most assuredly won’t get a third movie despite this ending in a way that made it seem like one was definitely coming. Despite this film’s overall quality, I would’ve liked to have seen a good, final chapter, making this a fun and entertaining trilogy where the lowly, primitive Earthlings finally destroyed the biggest threat to the universe.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and other Roland Emmerich films or movies where Jeff Goldblum plays a heroic boffin.

Documentary Review: The Funks (2016)

Release Date: August 10th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliott
Cast: Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Ricky Steamboat, Gerald Brisco, Steve Corino, James J. Dillon, Stan Hansen, Bret Hart, The Blue Meanie, Jim Ross

EllBow Productions, 124 Minutes

Review:

I’m still working my way through a big stack of DVD documentaries I ordered when they were running COVID sales on Highspots. This one was the next one in the stack and it was made by EllBow Productions, whose wrestling documentaries have all been pretty good.

This one focuses on the Funk bros, Dory Jr. and Terry and their wrestling careers.

This starts off going through their early life, however. It talks about their upbringing and their father, who ran his own wrestling territory. It then goes into how the sons sort of took over the business but ultimately, started wrestling for other marquee promoters, becoming two of the biggest stars of their time.

The Funks also delves into their world title runs, their greatest rivalries, as well as their retirements (multiple for Terry), as well as Terry’s time in Japan.

Like many of these documentaries, this features several different wrestling personalities giving talking head interviews. These are clipped and edited in to provide a good, cohesive narrative.

Overall, the documentary flows well and it gives you a lot of good insight into these men’s lives inside and outside the ring.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBow Productions or released through Highspots.

 

Documentary Review: I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story (2016)

Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Magnum T.A., Bill Apter, Dave Meltzer, Jim Ross, Ricky Morton, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff, George South, Jimmy Valiant, various

Highspots, Ellbow Productions, 92 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, just really getting into wrestling, Magnum T.A. was a pretty big f’n deal. I loved the guy regardless of my allegiance to the heels. I think a lot of that had to due with his association with Dusty Rhodes, one of the few babyfaces I gave a pass to, but Magnum was still a great talent and commanded attention when he spoke and when he fought in the ring.

This guy was a supernova of charisma and talent but sadly, a car crash ended his career before he even reached his peak.

I remember when I first heard about this tragedy and even though I was a little kid, it was a punch to the gut.

In later years, as I learned more about what other wrestlers thought about how great this guy would have been, it became a much sadder story, as the wrestling industry could’ve really used Magnum during one of its lowest eras, the early ’90s.

It was really nice seeing this documentary though, as I learned that the man has weathered the storm about as well as one could. He’s got a pretty positive and good outlook on life and the business he was once a huge part of. Frankly, he’s still involved in different ways and he makes appearances to this day.

But I really liked hearing his story from his own words, as well as the words of his closest peers and his mother. Ultimately, this made me appreciate Magnum T.A. more than I had before.

If you remember the guy or just have a love of old school wrestling, this is definitely worth looking at.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

TV Review: Houston’s Wrestling Spectacular (2016)

Original Run: August 22nd, 2016
Cast: Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Jimmy Snuka, Johnny Valentine, Ken Patera, Nick Bockwinkle, Ivan Koloff, Dick Slater, various

Kit Parker Films, 246 Minutes

Review:

After recently watching the Wrestling Gold box set, I was pretty excited to watch this compilation, as it also features territory wrestling from that same era.

While this features some of the same stars as the Wrestling Gold volumes, this specifically focuses on the Houston territory that was run by Paul Boesch. For those that don’t know, Boesch was putting out some of the best shit of his time.

This features matches with Bruiser Brody, Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy Snuka, Nick Bockwinkle and so many others. This is a good collection of some of the best matches from Houston and it’s just a real gem for fans of old school wrasslin’.

While this isn’t as beefy and great as Wrestling Gold, it is still worth adding to your collection if this is your thing.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Wrestling Gold DVD series and other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

TV Review: Lethal Weapon (2016-2019)

Original Run: September 21st, 2016 – February 26th, 2019
Created by: Matt Miller
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Lethal Weapon by Shane Black
Music by: Vo Williams, various
Cast: Damon Wayans, Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Keesha Sharp, Kevin Rahm, Johnathan Fernandez, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown, Michelle Mitchenor, Seann William Scott, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown, Thomas Lennon, Hilarie Burton, Floriana Lima

Good Session Productions, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Fox, 55 Episodes, 42-46 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been slowly working my way through this show since I finished revisiting the movies over a month ago. Initially, I didn’t want to watch this TV series reboot but those who have watched it spoke pretty highly of it. With that, I figured I’d check out a few episodes to see if it was worth investing my time into watching the whole series.

I have to admit that I was also intrigued by the controversy surrounding the show and its stars, which if you aren’t aware of, you should Google it, as there’s too much to sum up in a sentence or two.

Now knowing that the two leads pretty much hated each other, it’s incredible that they have a pretty natural bond and chemistry, as characters onscreen. And they are playing Riggs and Murtaugh, which are big shoes to fill, so having chemistry was absolutely key for this to work. Somehow, it does; magnificently well, in fact.

At it’s core, this is a fairly formulaic, episodic, police procedural, action dramedy. But really, it’s just about what you would expect from a TV show reboot of Lethal Weapon. I typically don’t vibe with shows like that but this one works for me simply because I love the characters and I love the broader stories that happen slowly over the course of each season. This show does a solid job of character and relationship building and that’s honestly the glue that holds this all together for me.

I also really, really like Clayne Crawford’s version of Martin Riggs, even if this role did make him miserable. I don’t think it was the role itself, I think he was just unhappy with the overall experience. But within the realm of the show, he doesn’t seem to let it effect his performance and he delivers. The guy is a hell of an actor and he makes you care about Riggs, probably on a deeper level than Mel Gibson had time to do in just two hour films.

Full disclosure, I know that Riggs gets killed off because Crawford was fired but I’m not there yet. I’m close to the end of season two, just before his exit. After watching season three, if my opinion of the show drastically changes, I’ll update this post at the bottom.

I also like Murtaugh, played by Damon Wayans, and that this film gets to expand on his family dynamic a lot more than the movies did. I like that part of the show and how Murtaugh’s wife is very instrumental in helping Riggs through his grief in the first season.

The supporting cast is good too, especially Kevin Rahm as the police chief and Jordana Brewster as the police psychologist. Rahm was one of my favorite actors on Mad Men and Brewster actually gets to show off her acting chops much more than just being eye candy in sportscar heist movies.

Overall, this is a pretty good show that was better than I thought it could be and maybe I should’ve given it a chance from the get go instead of initially looking at it as just another soulless, cash cow remake attempt.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Lethal Weapon film series, as well as other action/comedy buddy cop television shows.