Documentary Review: Things That Go Bump In the Night: The Spooky Pinball Story (2017)

Release Date: March 24th, 2017 (Texas Pinball Festival)
Directed by: Joel Reeves
Cast: various

Reeves Media Group, 65 Minutes

Review:

This was a good, positive documentary that I’m glad I watched, as the world slips further and further into a seemingly darker and uncertain future.

Also, this is centered around pinball, which is something I’ve loved since the days where I first learned how to drop my parents’ quarters into a slot.

Things That Go Bump In the Night tells the story of a devoted family man that gave up his twenty year career to pursue his dream of becoming a pinball manufacturer.

With that, we meet the man, his family and see how his family became a part of his business and continues to encourage his work and his dream. Along the way we see all the wonderful creations he came up with, as well as the trials and tribulations associated with creating a small, niche business that is already in an industry that is shrinking but also really competitive.

This was lighthearted and inspiring and honestly, I hope the guy is still going strong after the events of the past year and how the pandemic has negatively effected the arcade game and pinball industry.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on the video game/pinball industry.

TV Review: Counterpart (2017–2019)

Original Run: December 10th, 2017 – February 17th, 2019
Created by: Justin Marks
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jeff Russo
Cast: J.K. Simmons, Olivia Williams, Harry Lloyd, Nazanin Boniadi, Sara Serraiocco, Ulrich Thomsen, Nicholas Pinnock, Betty Gabriel, James Cromwell, Kenneth Choi, Stephen Rea, Jacqueline Bisset

Gilbert Films, Anonymous Content, Gate 34, MRC, Studio Babelsberg, Starz, Sony Pictures Television, 20 Episodes, 56-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Sadly, I hadn’t heard about this show when it was current just a couple of years ago and I’ve been a Starz subscriber for awhile now. I guess they failed to promote it properly, which sucks, as this was one of the most interesting shows I’ve watched from the previous decade.

This also stars J.K. Simmons in duel roles and he’s an actor that I enjoy in everything that he does. It also features Olivia Coleman and several others who bring their A-game and make this incredibly intriguing world come to life.

The story is about how there are two alternate versions of our world, after they split and went into different directions shortly before the Berlin Wall fell in Germany. The two versions of our world can only be accessed by a connecting tunnel underneath a secret UN facility in Berlin. Since the split, scientists working on the project have observed the two worlds, slightly tinkering with it along the way, making every person on both Earths their lab rats.

With that, this show features two versions of most of the core characters. While this is really damn cool, at first, the show does quickly introduce more characters and it does become a bit hard to follow at times. While the characters have slightly different visual cues and the two world’s also have visual differences, if you’re not paying close attention, the show can often times seem like a mishmash. I think this could’ve been avoided by easing into new characters more slowly but this entire series’ story is also told over just twenty episodes.

I guess Starz chose not to order more episodes after the second season but at least this felt like it had a natural end, which tells me the showrunners were probably told to wrap it up. I think they did wrap it up fairly well, all things considered.

The best part about this show, honestly, were the actors. The key players were all solid and their relationships drove the story. While I watched this for the sci-fi elements I wanted to see explored, it’s the personal relationships that kept me interested. Also, I liked that this showed how one event can completely change a person.

Overall, this was a damn good series and while I don’t specifically wish for more episodes, it left an impact that will stick with me for quite awhile.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: World of Darkness (2017)

Release Date: May 11th, 2017 (Germany)
Directed by: Giles Alderson
Written by: Kevin Lee
Cast: various

Figi Productions, Luckyday, 89 Minutes

Review:

After recently watching a good documentary on Dungeons & Dragons, I wanted to watch this, as it’s about a role-playing community I was more involved in.

In fact, I was involved in a relationship about twenty years ago that found itself wrapped up in this game’s orbit quite a bit. It was fun for the time and even though I wasn’t a die hard player or fan, I enjoyed those in the community I got to know and I really enjoyed the original PC game.

That being said, this is a good recount of the history of the White Wolf company and the fans who loved their products. It also goes into how White Wolf sort of fucked themselves and pissed off those loyal fans, essentially sabotaging future growth and brand loyalty.

I remember when all the shenanigans started and while I didn’t understand (or pay attention) to all the details back then, I do remember how pissed off a lot of people were.

This is an interesting documentary because the story of White Wolf is an interesting one. However, beyond that, this plays like many of the other documentaries about niche fandoms.

Also, it didn’t interview some of the company’s former die hards that felt betrayed. Sure, some people here were miffed by it and added their two cents but I felt like the issues were addressed and quickly brushed under the rug and dismissed, looking forward into the future and what the White Wolf IP rights holders hope will be a lucrative business once again.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about table top gaming, video games and specific fandoms.

Documentary Review: Easy to Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari (2017)

Release Date: February, 2017 (Italy)
Directed by: Tomaso Walliser
Written by: Tomaso Walliser
Cast: Bill Herd, Nolan Bushnell, Manny Gerard, Ray Kassar, Al Alcorn, Ralph H. Baer, Joe Decuir, David Crane, Howard Scott Warshaw, Dannis Koble, Ed Rotberg, David Rolfe, Steve Russel, Chuck Peddle, Steve Wozniak, Eugene Jarvis, Steven Kent, Chris Kohler, Walter Day, Minoru Arakawa

Junk Food Films, 110 Minutes

Review:

I watched this a few years back but for some reason didn’t review it. I’m often times suffering from whiskey-induced Swiss cheese brain.

Anyway, I recently revisited the documentary The Commodore Story: Changing the World 8-Bits at a Time and it got me thinking about this similar documentary about Atari, so I figured I’d revisit it.

For fans of retrogaming, this is definitely worth a watch as Atari’s story is really interesting and full of colorful characters who were actually involved in this documentary.

Like most good documentaries about pop culture things, this one is loaded full of talking head interviews with the people who were there and lived the story.

This goes back into how Atari came to be, what initially inspired it and how they went to the moon and eventually came crashing back down to Earth.

Overall, this is a fun, engaging film about a company everyone should love. Granted, not everyone has a love of old school gaming but there are also people who pay to be pissed on.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other historical documentaries about the video game industry.

Film Review: Victor Crowley (2017)

Also known as: Hatchet IV (alternative title)
Release Date: August 22nd, 2017 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Adam Green
Music by: Jason Akers, Sam Ewing
Cast: Kane Hodder, Tyler Mane, Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, Dave Sheridan, Krystal Joy Brown, Felissa Rose, Brian Quinn, Tiffany Shepis, Jonah Ray, Blake Woodruff, Tony Todd, Danielle Harris (cameo)

IncitefulMedia, ArieScope Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Ten years later, you are like the O.J. Simpson of Honey Island Swamp. Wouldn’t you say?” – Sabrina, “Uh. No, I wouldn’t.” – Andrew

After seeing Hatchet III, several years ago, I thought that the film series really ran its course and went out with a pretty decent bang. I didn’t think I really wanted another one, then a few years later, this one came out, which I slept on. I intended to eventually watch it but then it slipped down the memory hole until it was featured on an episode of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.

I’m glad that Joe Bob hosted this, though, and that he also brought in writer/director/creator Adam Green, as well as a lot of the cast, to discuss the film, the franchise and its possible future.

I love Kane Hodder, so anytime the guy can get some solid horror work, I’m happy. He deserves to work as long as he wants to and since they aren’t making Friday the 13th movies anymore, this is the next best thing. Especially, since the character of Victor Crowley gets to use Hodder’s talents and then turns them up to eleven, allowing him to go ape shit crazy and express himself in stark contrast to the more reserved, quiet Jason Voorhees.

For the most part, this is a decent sequel in the same vein as the other films. It sees a plane crash in the swamp near Crowley’s home. Also, there is a filmmaking crew out there, trying to make a film about Crowley. The two groups converge and end up holed up in the crashed plane, trying to survive the night with the uber-violent Crowley outside.

The film is pretty straightforward and even though it’s a self-aware “wink at the camera” horror film, it’s never annoying about it like most modern horror flicks that try to do the same tired ass shit. This is one of the reasons why modern horror is crap but at least Victor Crowley doesn’t contribute to that problem and actually shows that you can be self-aware and not be a total douche about it.

Ultimately, I liked this movie and I think Adam Green has a really good grasp on his creation and how to traverse through the modern horror world where the competition is lackluster, redundant and uninspiring. While I can’t call his movies game changers, they at least give audiences something new and fun and don’t fall victim to the same, lame modern horror tropes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the Hatchet series, as well as other slasher films, specifically the Friday the 13th movies with Kane Hodder as Jason.

Documentary Review: Life After Flash (2017)

Release Date: October 2nd, 2017 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Topol, Peter Wyngarde, Richard O’Brien, Deep Roy, Brian May, Peter Duncan, Howard Blake, Barry Bostwick, Martha De Laurentiis, Richard Donner, Lou Ferrigno, Rich Fulcher, Sean Gunn, Jon Heder, Stan Lee, Ross Marquand, Josh McDermitt, Jason Mewes, Mark Millar, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Rooker, Alex Ross, Patrick Warburton, various

Strict Machine, Spare Change Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

This documentary has been in my queue for a bit but I wanted to revisit Flash Gordon first before checking this out. Luckily, I recently found my DVD of the original film and was able to watch it and review it a week or so ago.

Now that the 1980 film was fresh in my mind again, as I hadn’t seen it in years, I felt like I could go into this with more familiarity, context and creative reference.

Overall, this was pretty good and it was intriguing listening to Sam J. Jones’ story about how his career sort of fizzled out and the reasons behind that. Luckily, this is a Hollywood story with a positive outcome, as the guy is now doing well and on the right track, personally and career-wise.

This spends a lot of time talking about Jones but it also delves into the film’s production, history and features interviews with many of the people who were involved in it. I especially liked seeing Brian Blessed in this, as I’ve always loved that guy.

Life After Flash also explores the fandom a bit, as it interviews super fans and collectors but also allows them to show off their cool shit and talk about their love for the film.

I dug this documentary quite a bit, as I feel like the 1980 Flash Gordon doesn’t get enough love and has sort of been forgotten by modern audiences. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about filmmaking and specific fandoms.

Film Review: Mayhem (2017)

Release Date: March 13th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Joe Lynch
Written by: Matias Caruso
Music by: Steve Moore
Cast: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Roberts

Circle of Confusion, Royal Viking Entertainment, RLJE Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“My mother used to say that no one raindrop ever thought it caused the flood. I now know what she meant by that.” – Melanie Cross

The Last Drive-In had it’s worst week ever when it showed this, paired with Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Both of these are films I hate but I’ll save my criticism of Tetsuo for that review.

As far as Mayhem goes, fuck this turd.

It basically takes the concept of 28 Days Later and sets it in an office building. The story sees people get infected with a virus that causes them to act out their most violent and sexual impulses. Due to this infection, the entire office building is locked down in quarantine for several hours.

We then get treated to terrible people doing terrible things to one another in what is one of the most derivative and low brow edgy boi movies I’ve seen in quite some time. 

This is a film that wants you to think that it is pushing the bar but you might only fall for that if you’re thirteen. It doesn’t push the bar and in fact, it pulls its punches. Hell, when the two main characters decide to give into their animalistic urges and fuck, they don’t even rip their clothes off. By the end of this film, they should’ve been running around naked, covered in blood, screaming and killing with reckless abandon. I mean, that is if you want me to buy into the juvenile and done-to-death premise.

It’s like this film was written by a deranged middle schooler after a wet dream nightmare following a night of drinking mass amounts of cough syrup while binge watching Workaholics.

It’s so poorly acted that it actually has me second guessing its star, Steven Yeun. Maybe it is best that he got his brain bludgeoned in by Negan on The Walking Dead. Honestly, I was secretly hoping for Negan to show up and do that again.

I guess Samara Weaving was the best thing about the picture but I’m still not sure if she’s got the potential to be an actress that deserves more than this. This film certainly didn’t do her any favors despite being the only real bright spot.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: The Belko Experiment and bad, edgy horror films that try to pass themselves off as high art.

Documentary Review: 30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story (2017)

Release Date: September 20th, 2017
Directed by: Jeff Zapata, Joe Simko
Music by: Dr. Chud, Matthew Chojnacki
Cast: Art Spiegelman, John Pound, Tom Bunk, James Warhola, Adam F. Goldberg, Mackenzie Astin, various

Peel Here Productions, 114 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue for a long time but it was only available to buy. They recently set it for rent, so I was finally able to check it out. No offense, filmmakers and Amazon but I didn’t know if I wanted to spend like $12 on it. A few bucks for a rental, now that’s more like it. Make everything rentable.

Anyway, I was happy to see this, as I was one of those ’80s kids that spent a good few years obsessed with Garbage Pail Kids, even though they became hard to track down in my area after local parents groups caught on and got them pulled out of stores. You know, the same parents that didn’t care that their kids in the ’80s were watching slasher movies from the video store or flipping through dad’s Playboys.

I pretty much already knew the story about Garbage Pail Kids but it was neat seeing the story retold in an official documentary. Plus, this also gave some background on the creation of the Topps trading card company, as well as a lot of the other non-sports cards they produced before Garbage Pail Kids came along.

My favorite thing about this, though, was where it went into the art side of things. It went through how the Garbage Pail Kids came to be, every step of the way. It also explained the process and the reason why they made each set a certain size and the process in how cards were selected based off of dozens of concepts.

Additionally, this interviews a lot of the key people involved, including the primary artists who worked on these over the years.

After that, I really liked the section about the live-action Garbage Pail Kids movie and being enlightened as to why it was such a terrible film, pretty much destined to fail.

All in all, this was a beefy and informative piece about something I once loved and kind of still do.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about niche ’80s and ’90s stuff, as well as specific fandoms.

Film Review: One Cut of the Dead (2017)

Also known as: Kamera o Tomeru na!, lit. Don’t Stop the Camera! (original Japanese title)
Release Date: November 4th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Written by: Shin’ichirô Ueda
Music by: Nobuhiro Suzuki, Kailu Nagai
Cast: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Ngaya

ENBU Seminar, Panpokopina, 96 Minutes

Review:

Well, it is impossible to really talk about this film without spoiling it. So if you don’t want it spoiled, you might not want to read any further.

For a couple of years now, just about everyone who has seen this movie has really talked it up to me. I’ve been told it’s clever, a game changer and that it’s just too cool to be missed. However, I’ve grown pretty tired of the zombie subgenre of horror, as well as modern horror comedy. If you can’t top The Return of the Living Dead, why even try?

Side note: No one will ever top The Return of the Living Dead because it is perfection. Also, filmmakers should try because maybe someone will prove me wrong.

Anyway, I finally saw this due to it being featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In. Joe Bob really seemed to love the film as well, so I figured that I since I’m already fully committed to whatever Joe Bob wants to throw at me, I’d give this movie a shot.

I guess I’m the only person on Earth that didn’t really like it. Granted, I can appreciate it and the work that went into it, specifically the first 37 minutes that were filmed in a single take. It did take them six tries to get the take right but it’s still a tremendous feat and I love it when filmmakers put a real effort into doing something special, even if they’re far from the first to attempt it.

My problem with the film is that it is never really clear what this is supposed to be. The plot structure is bizarre, which is fine, but it doesn’t gel in a way that makes it all come together for me.

The first 37 minutes are a horror movie within a horror movie. It follows its characters who are in an abandoned World War II facility where they are filming a zombie movie. However, real zombies show up and they have to fight to survive. It’s not a wholly original idea but what is in horror, these days?

This sequence ends with credits rolling and I guess some people left the theater thinking this was just a short film. What follows is the second act, which goes backwards in time to show how the production of the film started. This is all pretty boring and it slows things down quite a bit.

The third act of the film is a return to the location of the first act. Except, this time, we see the events play out from the production standpoint, showing how the opening of the film was shot and made. Then it all ends and I was left wondering what the hell I had just watched and what the point of it was.

From what I understand, the film was produced on a true micro-budget and it was made by film students as their final project. Frankly, that’s exactly what this feels like and looking at it through that lens, it is damn impressive, as it required a lot of technical skill and it looks really good for what it is.

However, that doesn’t mean that I can give it a free pass. Sure, I can respect what went into it and appreciate that stuff but ultimately, it just makes me want to see what the people behind this could do with the right resources behind them.

I don’t think I’d ever have the urge to watch it again but it’s still something I’d recommend to people that want to see what can be done with little to no resources in the modern era of filmmaking. Also, just because it doesn’t resonate with me, doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with others. As I’ve said, most people seem to like the film.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Japanese horror comedies and zombie comedies in general.

Documentary Review: Bruiser Brody: Wrestling’s Last Rebel (2017)

Release Date: 2017
Cast: Bruiser Brody (archive footage), Gerald Brisco, Bill Apter, Bob Armstrong, Kevin Sullivan, Jim Ross, Dave Meltzer, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Hart, J.J. Dillon, Bill DeMott, Stan Hansen, Tony Atlas, various

Highpsots, 110 Minutes

Review:

I loaded up on a bunch of documentaries from Highspots due to not having much else to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve run some great sales on their site, so it’s allowed me to grab a lot of the films and collections that I’ve wanted to own for quite awhile.

Being that I love Bruiser Brody, at least the stuff I’ve seen over the years since my tape trading days, I was stoked to see a beefy documentary about the guy. There is a great Dark Side of the Ring episode about his death but this here, is pretty much his full story, as it talks about his early life, his family and his career as a whole.

Like all the Highspots documentaries that I’ve seen, this features a ton of talking head interviews with Brody’s friends and colleagues. Many of these were taken from various shoot interviews over the years but they are well edited and form a good, energetic narrative.

There are also segments and narration by his widow, which add a lot of context to who the man was outside of the ring while also shedding more light on his tragic end.

For fans of old school wrestling, especially of the territories at their height, this is a cool film to dive into. Brody was primarily an indie wrestler that worked just about everywhere, touching a lot of people be they co-workers or fans.

This also comes as a three disc set with two other discs chock full of bonus material and some matches.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by Highspots.