Documentary Review: Ghostheads (2016)

Release Date: July 15th, 2016
Directed by: Brendan Mertens
Music by: John Avarese
Cast: William Atherton, Dan Aykroyd, Matt Cardona (Zack Ryder), Dave Coulier, Paul Feig, Kurt Fuller, Ernie Hudson, Ivan Reitman, James Rolfe, Jennifer Runyon, Sigourney Weaver

Double Windsor Films, Patchwork Media, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, 73 Minutes

Review:

There are a lot of specific fandoms out there. In this day and age with crowdfunding, it seems like all of them have their own documentaries. That’s cool though, as I find myself as a part of many different fandoms. Maybe not to the extent of the people in these sort of documentaries but I’m always down to hear from people that share one of my many passions.

I’ve loved Ghostbusters almost my entire life. I first saw it at five or six years-old and I was hooked. Between the two movies, the animated series and the toys, I spent a lot of time with my imagination locked into the Ghostbusters world.

What’s impressive about this specific fandom documentary, however, is that it actually interviews a lot of the people who were involved in the films and in the genesis of the franchise’s creation.

It’s cool hearing from the actors, the filmmakers and even voice actors from the cartoon.

Beyond that, this also focuses on the fans, as most fandom documentaries do because that’s sort of the point.

All in all, it seems like these films are a dime a dozen. But this is definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen.

The Ghostbusters fan community really goes all out on the cosplay and in trying to deck out their own personal vehicles to resemble the iconic Ecto-1. It’s hard not to appreciate that sort of enthusiasm.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about specific fandoms.

Documentary Review: Gimme Danger (2016)

Release Date: May 19th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: Iggy Pop, The Stooges
Cast: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton, Danny Fields

Amazon Studios, Magnolia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue forever but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it. Being that it was in the queue for so long is why I kept forgetting about it, as it was way, way down the list.

Anyway, I usually like Jim Jamrusch as a filmmaker. While he typically does dramatic features, I don’t think I’ve seen a documentary by him. Being that this one is on Iggy Pop and The Stooges is really what peaked my interest. Iggy has been a favorite artist of mine pretty much my entire life, since I first heard “Lust for Life”, and The Stooges made what I consider to be one of the best albums of all-time with their 1969 self-titled debut.

This immediately gets right into their breakup and troubles but it’s all a set up, as the credits roll after a few minutes. Following the credits, the story goes back to the beginning to fill in what happened before the real drama.

This also goes well beyond the break up of The Stooges, focuses on Iggy’s solo career, his time in London with David Bowie and what his former bandmates were up to. Eventually, we get to see The Stooges, older and wiser, reunite and reignite their friendship.

Gimme Danger is pretty compelling and just a good rock and roll story starring a legitimate living legend.

It moves at a good, brisk pace without any wasted moments.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent music biopics: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whitney, A Band Called Death, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and David Bowie: The Last Five Years.

TV Review: 11.22.63 (2016)

Original Run: February 15th, 2016 – April 4th, 2016
Created by: Bridget Carpenter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Music by: J. J. Abrams, Alex Heffes
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, Daniel Webber, T. R. Knight, Kevin J. O’Connor, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper, Annette O’Toole

Carpenter B., Bad Robot Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Hulu, 8 Episodes, 44-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I was actually pretty hyped to watch this when it was coming out, three years ago. However, my work life took a turn for the worse and I spent most of 2016 working about 70 hours per week and not having much time for anything else. I actually started this site later in that year when things started to stabilize again but by that point, this slipped down the memory hole.

However, I’ve been wanting to watch Stephen King’s Castle Rock on Hulu. So before getting into that, I wanted to go back and check this out, as it was King’s first Hulu collaboration.

The premise follows a man (James Franco), as he goes back in time to try and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s an interesting premise but it does also seem that the protagonist does it really haphazardly, as messing with the timeline can have some unforeseen consequences and it does. In fact, it has grave consequences, which I think are supposed to surprise you but for fans of time travel stories, it really doesn’t. I kind of sighed and went, “Well, it’s not like this wasn’t an obvious result of his meddling.”

What’s interesting about this though, is that King explores the idea of time itself fighting back during the hero’s journey. It almost feels like horror at times but at the same time, the effect that time has in fighting back against changes seems inconsistent throughout the story. It is really only used where it is convenient to the plot in some way or just to remind you that time is its own master.

I had a problem with that aspect of the story and I felt like it was a wasted opportunity in a lot of ways. Cool concept, half assed execution.

But still, this was damn compelling television. You get drawn into this world, this character’s mission and you do fall in love with some of the characters.

The acting is superb and this is some of Franco’s best dramatic work. But the rest of the cast is also exceptional, especially the love interest, played by Sarah Gadon, the and the best friend/partner, played by George MacKay. But two real standouts were Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald and the evil son of a bitch that was brought to life by Josh Duhamel.

Overall, this was a solid political thriller with a time travel twist. While the time travel stuff was handled pretty willy-nilly, you get so caught up in the proceedings that it feels secondary.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: The Chair (2016)

Release Date: October 8th, 2016 (Northeast Wisconsin Horror Festival)
Directed by: Chad Ferrin
Written by: Erin Kohut, Peter Simeti
Based on: The Chair by Peter Simeti
Music by: Douglas Edward
Cast: Bill Oberst Jr., Roddy Piper, Noah Hathaway, Zach Galligan, Naomi Grossman, Ezra Buzzington, Joseph Pilato, Joe Laurinaitis

Alterna Comics, Crappy World Films, Girls and Corpses Magazine, 84 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue for a really long time. I kept putting it off because I was afraid I would be disappointed by it. Well, those concerns were valid, as I was.

I wanted to go into this with high hopes, as it was Roddy Piper’s last movie and also featured Noah Hathaway and Zach Galligan, two guys that made 1984 a great year for my young imagination. Additionally, this was based on Peter Simeti’s graphic novel that he released through his own comic company Alterna.

Simeti has always come off as a great guy and I like the vast majority of the comics he publishes. Especially in an age where more comics than not are kind of shit.

But in the end, this was a mess of a film that was really hindered by its budget. While you can do a lot for very little, this movie sacrifices the atmosphere by really cheaping out on it. And what I mean by that is that the whole thing looks as if it were filmed in one or two corridors with a few different rooms. And then everything is so damn dark, its hard to see the film in most shots.

Now the comic book is also very dark but the visual style works well in the comic book medium, as it takes advantage of a high chiaroscuro presentation. Even the comic is hard to look at due to the overly gritty art but it works for this story. In this film, however, the style and the character of what exists in the comic is lost in the constant darkness. Really, it’s a poorly lit film but that’s only one of many technical issues that hinders the whole presentation.

The acting by the more veteran players isn’t actually half bad. Piper does a pretty superb job with what he’s given and I can’t knock his work here.

Apart from Piper, though, the film is just insanely dull. It was really hard to get through, especially with the comic as a frame of reference and being a fan of four of the actors in the picture.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the graphic novel it’s based on but I thought the comic was much better.

Film Review: Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues (2016)

Release Date: August 2nd, 2016
Directed by: Gail Simone
Written by: Gail Simone
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith
Cast: Misty Lee, Shannon Kingston, Becca Strom, Scott McNeil

Shout! Factory, Dynamite Entertainment, 74 Minutes

Review:

I’m not a fan of motion comics, so I’m going to have a negative bias towards this in that regard. I came across this on Tubi and actually thought it was an animated film, which kind of got me excited and made me want to check it out because I had never heard of this.

However, the animation style is terrible. And this is why I hate motion comics. I’ve never actually seen one that has worked well. Even the highly heralded Watchmen one was hard for me to sit through and I believe I quit before finishing. It’s just not a medium I dig, as I’d rather just read the actual comic.

Also, this was adapted from a Gail Simone story arc and it was “directed” by her, whatever that means. Simone’s run on Red Sonja, was the lowest point in the long character’s reign at the top of the female-led sword and sorcery genre.

The story is uninteresting and weak. In fact, it is full of so many “girl power” cliches that it doesn’t fit the Red Sonja character. All of this is pretty apparent in the first scene where Sonja meets these two female archers who assist her and then act like valley girls trying to be badass. When Sonja asks about their experience they’re pretty much like, “Oh my gawd! We like… totally killed some squirrels with our bows… once!” That was me paraphrasing and the actual dialogue isn’t exactly that but it is almost exactly that.

I can’t believe that this was something released on Blu-ray and commercially sold to people. It should have been a freebie at the counter in a comic shop for customers that bought anything by Dynamite. Or it should have just been inserted as a bonus in a Red Sonja trade paperback.

This was to Red Sonja what The Coming Out of Their Shells Tour was to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other motion comics, I guess. But just read comics instead.

TV Review: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (2016- )

Original Run: November 29th, 2016 – current
Created by: Leah Remini, Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Alex Weresow
Music by: various
Cast: Leah Remini, Mike Rinder

No Seriously Productions, The Intellectual Property Corporation, A&E, 36 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I never really had any intention of watching this but I had a few friends always bring it up to me, so I checked it out. To be frank, I don’t give a shit about religion, regardless of what the belief system is.

Anyway, I also know that just about every documentary has an agenda and that the truth is usually somewhere outside of the idea being pushed.

However, this is pretty compelling and it lets people tell their own stories in their own words. Sure, Leah Remini has an ax to grind and she sometimes steers the conversation but her ax seems like it is genuine and the more I learn about Scientology, the more I can understand why she feels that getting all of this out in the open is so important. And honestly, I support her in that.

When you start watching this show, it is hard to turn away. And as more is revealed through the testimonials of former Scientologists, the more interesting the show gets because there are so many layers to the bizarre beliefs and culture of Scientology. And really, it definitely comes across as a legitimate cult in how it tries to control and police its members.

The show can get repetitive after awhile but each episode features a new person with a new story. The thing is, everyone’s account of the way this church is run all lines up from episode to episode and if this was just a bunch of people trying to attack the church in ways that weren’t honest, I think it’d become pretty apparent. But everyone seems to consistently hit the same points.

I think this show is compelling in how it gives you an real insider’s view into the Church of Scientology but it also grabs you and holds on because so much of this seems so unbelievable. That is, until you start hearing similar stories from so many former Scientologists.

In the end, I believe Leah Remini and the people featured on the show. There’s just too much consistency from story to story for this to be a dishonest, bitter condemnation of Scientology.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Scientology.

Film Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Also known as: Star Trek 3, Washington, Star Trek Into Oblivion (working titles)
Release Date: July 20th, 2016 (Indonesia, Iceland, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand)
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Deep Roy, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Greg Grunberg, Danny Pudi, Doug Jung, Leonard Nimoy (photo cameos)

Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, Sneaky Shark Productions, Perfect Storm Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 122 Minutes

Review:

“[to Kirk] It isn’t uncommon, you know, even for a captain, to want to leave. There is no relative direction in the vastness of space. There is only yourself, your ship, your crew. It’s easier than you think, to get lost.” – Commodore Paris

I guess they saved the best for last because even though this film did the worst at the box office out of the three J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies, it was the best movie of the lot.

Most people probably don’t agree with my assessment of this one but I like it because it feels more like Star Trek than the two films that Abrams directed. Who would’ve thought that Justin Lin, a director most known for Fast & Furious movies would turn out something so Trek-ish. And that’s not a knock against the Fast & Furious franchise, as I find those films pretty fun and enjoyable for what they are.

I believe that a lot of the credit for this film’s narrative has to go to the writers, Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, and Doug Jung, who also had a small cameo in this. Pegg isn’t just an actor, though, as he was a creative force in several of his other projects like the classic British comedy show Spaced and the films Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and The World’s End.

This is really action packed but it feels more like a Star Trek TV episode adventure than the two films before it. It is definitely more in tune with the films of the Original Series and Next Generation eras than the two Abrams pictures before it.

With that being said, this is also fresh and new and it does some really cool things that no other Trek film has done. The Enterprise faced a new type of threat that no ship in the entire Star Trek mythos has ever faced, small drone ships that act like a carnivorous swarm of locusts. You see the Enterprise get ripped apart and as much as any fan hates seeing the Enterprise get beat, it’s an incredible sequence and one of the absolute best in Star Trek history.

For the bulk of the picture, the crew is marooned on a planet. They must find a way off of the rock while stopping the evil plans of the madman that stranded them there. Additionally, that same madman plans to attack the Federation, so not only do Kirk and his crew need to escape their predicament but they also need to find a way to defeat the man that just destroyed the USS Enterprise.

There are some solid twists and turns in the plot and none of it feels like swerves just for the sake of swerves. The plot twists work organically and overall, this Star Trek film feels the least formulaic of this trilogy.

The final battle is a lot of fun, even if I never expected to see a final outer space showdown in Star Trek cued to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”. Some old school fans might find this to be a bit cringeworthy but in that moment, it worked for me. Plus, if you don’t like “Sabotage” you’re probably a communist.

My only big beef with the movie is that after introducing us to Dr. Carol Marcus, who joined the crew in the previous film and was played by the stunning Alice Eve, she’s mysteriously absent from this picture. Why? And also, WTF, man?!

Anyway, Star Trek Beyond was just a lot of fun. It was great escapism, filled its two hours incredibly well and it deserves more fanfare than it received. Frankly, I’m really disappointed that the fourth film in this series was cancelled.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness.