Documentary Review: 350 Days (2018)

Also known as: 350 Days – Legends. Champions. Survivors (DVD title)
Release Date: July 12th, 2018
Directed by: Fulvio Cecere
Cast: Bret Hart, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Snuka, James J. Dillon, Bill Eadie, Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, Ted DiBiase, David “Gangrel” Heath, Marty Jannetty, Angelo Mosca, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Lex Luger, Lanny Poffo, Wendi Richter, Larry Sharpe, George “The Animal” Steele

Happy Fish Productions, 108 Minutes

Review:

This was a pretty interesting documentary that focuses on a part of the wrestling business that I don’t think has been covered as the sole subject of a documentary before: the travel schedule.

The film lets a few dozen wrestlers discuss their travel schedules over the course of their careers and how it effected them physically, mentally and their lives inside and outside of the ring.

Each wrestler has their own story and almost everything here is pretty cool for fans of the business.

This is presented as talking head interviews edited into a quick paced narrative, keeping things flowing nicely and allowing each of the wrestlers’ stories to build off of one another’s.

I especially like hearing insight from Bret Hart, Lanny Poffo, Greg Valentine, Billy Graham, Wendi Richter and Ted DiBiase.

I don’t think that a lot of people that aren’t fans of the wrestling industry, know or understand how hard a professional wrestler’s schedule and travel can be. This does a good job of explaining it through personal stories.

This isn’t the greatest wrestling documentary out there, but it was still professionally shot, edited and presented and that sets it apart from some of the sloppy ones you may have seen.

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

Film Review: The Marshes (2018)

Release Date: 2018 (Australia)
Directed by: Roger Scott
Written by: Roger Scott
Music by: Tristan Coelho
Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Mathew Cooper, Zac Drayson, Amanda McGregor, Eddie Baroo

28 Productions, 85 Minutes

Review:

Holy fuck this was a dreadfully bad movie!

That sucks because I saw a pretty glowing review for this but that reviewer must have been someone that worked on the film or the director’s mother.

The story taps into the Australian legend about the Swagman. He’s a sort of Boogeyman that lives in the marshes. Other than that, I don’t know anything about him and the film doesn’t do much to spell it out for you either. So those watching it that aren’t privy to Australian folklore are pretty much left in the dark. Honestly, maybe it’s not even a real legend and I’m just assuming that because the plot here is so thin that a bulimic ’90s supermodel is in awe of it.

The worst thing about this film is that you don’t care about the peril that the main characters are in. Why? Because there isn’t a single character in the movie that is remotely likable. They’re all know-it-all douchebag Millennials that are so into themselves and their bullshit that they’re pretty damn insufferable. So I guess these type of youngsters aren’t exclusive to just the United States. And that’s not a shot at Millennials in general, just the dominant type of Millennial.

Anyway, there are also two redneck characters but they’re even worse than the three leads.

The Marshes tries really hard to be a slow burning suspense thriller but it fails in that regard. Not a lot happens and it takes awhile to get to the good stuff but the slow build is kind of just derivative shite, mostly boring and totally predictable.

When it comes to the killer, he’s not that exciting or cool. His powers are confusing and you never fully see him or get to understand him on any level.

This film is a complete failure of storytelling, character development, pacing and just about everything else that’s important to a motion picture.

Well, on a positive note, it’s pretty short.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: the crappiest of crappy foreign slasher films.

Film Review: The Hug (2018)

Release Date: October 1st, 2018
Directed by: Jack Bishop
Written by: Jack Bishop, Justin Nijm
Cast: Nick Armstrong, Roman Dean George

Hulu, 5 Minutes

Review:

“Grrreat! But first you gotta come give me a big fat hug!” – Pandory the Panda

I kind of just came across this on Hulu, as it was suggested to me. I thought it was brand new but apparently this popped up around Halloween, last year.

It’s a pretty quick short film with a simple premise and its really just one scene.

Still, it’s effective in that its kind of cool and pretty creepy.

There’s nothing that’s going to change the game with this but I think that the killer animatronic creature was a good idea, as it taps into what every kid of the ’80s and ’90s feared while looking into the dead eyes of Chuck E. Cheese and his furry robot friends.

This is an idea that could be expanded on though for a good 90 minute horror film. Snot-nosed shitty kids break into a pizza palace to have a party and trash the place, then they get locked in with the animatronic cast of the show and suddenly you’ve got Chopping Mall in Chuck E. Cheese.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The Banana Splits Movie.

Documentary Review: Jack of All Trades (2018)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2018 (Cinequest Festival)
Directed by: Harvey Glazer, Stuart Stone
Written by: Stuart Stone
Music by: John Stuart Newman, Jamie Rise, Stuart Stone
Cast: Stuart Stone, Harvey Glazer, Adam Rodness, Jose Canseco, Karie Stone

5’7 Films, R2-G2, 85 Minutes

Review:

I have loved collecting since I was a little kid in the ’80s buying up sports cards, comics and all sorts of other things. So this documentary about the baseball card hobby was something I wanted to check out.

This is more than that though, as it follows a guy whose love of baseball collecting came from his father. As the story picks up, it has been over twenty-five years since the guy’s father walked out on his family.

Initially, this is about examining the once massive baseball card industry and how all the cards ’80s and ’90s kids saved are pretty much worthless. But by the end, it is about a guy confronting his father and trying to find peace.

Overall, this is a good, engaging documentary. It really delves into baseball card collecting and also has some interviews with people from Topps and Upper Deck, as well as Jose Canseco and a guy with more baseball cards than anyone else in existence.

However, the very human story between the son and his father takes over. But that’s actually what is unique and cool about this film.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about collecting, hobbies or nerdom.

Film Review: Death Wish (2018)

Release Date: March 1st, 2018 (UAE, Kuwait, Philippines, Singapore)
Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Joe Carnahan
Based on: Death Wish by Wendell Mayes, Death Wish by Brian Garfield
Music by: Ludwig Goransson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Beau Knapp, Camila Morrone

Cave 76, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 107 Minutes, 97 Minutes (Mainland China censored version)

Review:

“People rely on the police to keep them safe. That’s the problem. The police only arrive after the crime has taken place. That’s like trapping the fox as he’s comin’ out of the hen house. If a man really wants to protect what’s his. He has to do it for himself.” – Ben

Well, I finally got around to watching this remake no one asked for. But I have to admit, the team up of director Eli Roth and actor Bruce Willis kind of intrigued me. Although, with Roth attached, I expected this to be over the top in regards to violence but it was pretty tame.

This also throws Vincent D’Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue and Dean Norris into the mix, so it had a solid cast.

Being a fan of the original film series, I never wanted more. I mean we had five films, three of which were great, one of which was good and another one that was at least amusing enough to justify its existence. Plus, I didn’t want to see anyone else other than Charles Bronson play Paul Kersey.

However, unlike the Bronson Kersey, the Willis Kersey is not an architect, he’s a doctor. That significantly changes the plot but then it also makes me wonder why this had to be a Death Wish movie as opposed to just some other vigilante revenge flick?

Like a lot of the modern vigilante movies, this one is pretty run of the mill, predictable and doesn’t offer much of anything that you haven’t seen before and done better.

Now I didn’t dislike this. In fact, I liked seeing Bruce Willis kick ass because he’s so damn good at it. He also elevates just about every movie he’s ever been in. Plus, the rest of the cast pulled their weight and I liked everyone in this that wasn’t a scumbag.

There’s nothing special here though. It’s just good, mindless entertainment but it doesn’t hold a candle to the first three films that Bronson did. Hell, it doesn’t hold a candle to Kevin Bacon’s vigilante flick Death Sentence. But if you’ve got nothing better to do for 107 minutes, give it a shot.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon and the original five Death Wish films.

Documentary Review: The Commodore Story: Changing the World 8-Bits at a Time (2018)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2018 (London and California premieres)
Directed by: Steven Fletcher
Written by: Steven Fletcher
Music by: Harry Filby, Matthew Fletcher, Tristan Kane

WavemStudios, 120 Minutes

Review:

I never owned a Commodore 64 but I had a cousin that owned one. Every time I went to his house, all we did was play games on it. To me, it was a really cool experience and very different than playing games on consoles. All I owned were a Nintendo and the Atari 5200, so using the Commodore was always a treat.

And while I don’t have a lot of experience with Commodore, I did have some experience with Amiga, as my mum had one for work. I got to play it whenever she wasn’t using it for graphic design and it always sort of brought up the same feelings I got with the Commodore 64.

The reason I bring up Amiga, is that this is just as much a documentary about that company, as it is Commodore. In fact, there’s even a lot of stuff in here about Atari too, as many of the people interviewed worked for two or all three of the companies in some capacity.

If you like the history and culture of the tech industry or video games, this is certainly a worthwhile documentary to check out. It’s certainly a must watch for retro gaming junkies like myself.

This was a crowdfunded documentary that really should have pleased its investors. It’s meticulously produced and presented with great interviews, stellar editing and a really good flow. Plus, it’s incredibly informative, as all the people in this give personal stories and their two cents on the business end of things regarding the evolution of all these companies discussed and ultimately, how Commodore ceased to exist.

I was entertained and engaged for the entire duration. And honestly, it made me want to fire up my Commodore emulator.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other tech industry documentaries.

Documentary Review: Bad Reputation (2018)

Also known as: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (poster title)
Release Date: January 22nd, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: Kevin Kerslake
Written by: Joel Marcus
Music by: The Runaways, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Cast: Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Pop, Michael J. Fox, Rodney Bingenheimer, Debbie Harry, Kristen Stewart, Pete Townsend, Dana White

BMG, Blackheart Films, Inaudible Films, Submarine, Magnolia Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

Joan Jett is awesome. If you disagree, you have horrible taste.

Now that that’s out of the way, I was glad to come across this documentary about her life and career. Because, frankly, outside of just enjoying her music whether with the Runaways or with the Blackhearts, I never knew much about her.

As a biographical music documentary, this is pretty standard fare. It goes into her personal life, her backstory and then talks about all the major points in her career.

It’s a well produced and edited piece though and it’s Joan, herself, that gives this thing its life. She’s just great to listen to and her passion comes through.

Additionally, there are a lot of talking head interviews with a slew of famous fans and other musicians. This had a good, solid cast of people with their own unique takes and stories about Joan.

This is definitely one of the more enjoyable rock and roll documentaries to come out in the last few years. The production quality is great, there isn’t a dull moment and it was a fantastic way to kill time on a cramped, cross country flight.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent rock and roll biopics: Gimme Danger, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whiteny, A Band Called Death, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and David Bowie: The Last Five Years

Film Review: Monster Party (2018)

Also known as: Killer Party (UK)
Release Date: October 1st, 2018 (Beyond Fest)
Directed by: Chris von Hoffman
Written by: Chris von Hoffman
Music by: Felix Erskine, Nao Sato
Cast: Sam Strike, Erin Moriarty, Kian Lawley, Julian McMahon, Virginia Gardner, Brandon Michael Hall, Robin Tunney, Lance Reddick, Bill Engvall

RLJ Entertainment, AMC Networks, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Here I am, a functioning member of society.” – Roxanne Dawson

As a Shudder subscriber, I’ve been trying to work my way through the Shudder exclusives. This one is a pretty recent addition to the streaming service and it boasts a pretty capable cast with Julian McMahon, Robin Tunney and Lance Reddick. Hell, even “blue collar” comedian Bill Engvall shows up in this.

This also starts off fairly well with a good, engaging premise.

However, as the film rolls on, it all fell apart for me.

There were a lot of interesting angles that this film could have had but ultimately, it took a pretty pedestrian and derivative route, marking cliches off of the checklist and trying to throw a mix of craziness and gore at its audience without really providing anything new or fresh.

The acting was better than average for something like this but it gets lost in the mess of a movie, which tried really hard to be overly stylized and hip but felt more like a direct to video horror film from the ’90s that you never would’ve heard of if not seeing it taking up shelf space in Blockbuster by the register.

All that being said, the film isn’t a waste of time for fans of the slasher or psycho family sub genres of horror. I did like it for the most part but in the end, it was predictable, far from shocking and quite tiresome by the third act.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent slashery films but nothing good comes to mind.

Film Review: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

Release Date: July 20th, 2018 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Written by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Music by: Joe Kraemer
Cast: Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Caitlin FitzGerald, Sean Bridgers, Ron Livingston, Larry Miller, Ellar Coltrane, Rizwan Manji

Epic Pictures, Title Media, 98 Minutes

Review:

“An American Myth” – tagline

Sam Elliott is one of those guys that when you see him, you think to yourself, “This is the most badass guy on all of planet Earth.” Well, this film does nothing to dispel that thought.

This was also one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Well, as far as modern motion pictures go.

The story is mostly about an older man reflecting back on his life and thinking about the things he should’ve done and how some decisions have weighed heavily on his soul. In some regard, it reminds me of another recent Sam Elliott film, The Hero, as well as one of Harry Dean Stanton’s last, Lucky.

Unlike those films, though, this movie includes the death of Adolf Hitler and Bigfoot.

However, those two events that are actually given away in the film’s title aren’t a big part of the story. Well, they are, as far as how they effect the man’s life but they are just two really cool sequences that serve as a backdrop for the film’s human drama.

Sam Elliott is one hell of an actor and this film is him at his best. But Elliott never disappoints, so I feel as if that should go without saying. But it’s not just Elliott that puts in a superb performance, the same can be said about Aidan Turner, who plays the younger version of the character, as well as Larry Miller, who I wish I could see in more dramatic roles. I mostly associate Miller with comedic performances but the guy has got chops.

Additionally, even with minimal screen time, Ron Livingston livens things up once he shows up. I have loved Livingston ever since Office Space but I feel like he’s such an underutilized actor. Like Larry Miller, it’s always nice to see Livingston’s more serious side.

When researching this film, I noticed that the ratings aren’t high for it and I guess I get that. The title might imply that this is some strange, quirky, time traveling, action adventure. It’s definitely not that, it’s something much better, actually. But character studies and dramas about old men processing a lifetime full of regret doesn’t put modern asses in seats.

But fuck those modern asses.

This is a very touching and personal film with a neat, amusing and interesting premise.

Plus it has a monster in it and I really like the unconventional approach this film took with its Sasquatch.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the recent Sam Elliott starring The Hero, as well as Lucky with Harry Dean Stanton.

Film Review: The Ranger (2018)

Release Date: March 12th, 2018 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jenn Wexler
Written by: Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Music by: Wade MacNeil, Andrew Gordon Macpherson
Cast: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez

Hood River Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, 77 Minutes

Review:

“I kept your secret. I protected you.” – The Ranger

I really wanted to like this film and I did find it fairly enjoyable but there is nothing new here and it’s pretty mundane and weak, as far as slasher movies go.

The story is about some punk teens on the run, following a drug bust at a concert that was capped off by one of them stabbing a cop. The teens make their way to a cabin in the woods that once belonged to the uncle of one of the girls in the group.

However, the mountain where the cabin sits is under the watchful eye of a psychotic park ranger that has a past with that same teen girl. When she was a child, she did something bad and he took her in, protected her from the law and tried to train her to be more like him: a predatory wolf, living off the land and surviving by any means necessary.

So it doesn’t take long before these cliche punk teens disrespect authority, throw the word “fascist” around and start fucking up the woods, drawing the ire of the park ranger.

One problem I have with the movie is the characters. Except for the proverbial final girl, everyone here is completely unlikable. Plus, they all just kind of fit played out archetypes and their punk schtick feels forced. They’re not real punk rock, they’re like the punk that Target tries to sell on t-shirts to 12 year-old girls in Wisconsin. If you are looking for something in the same vein as the punk rock teens of The Return of the Living Dead, these kids aren’t them.

I do like the main girl though and the park ranger is pretty awesome. I just wish he had a bit more backstory. Maybe they’ll tap into that if there’s ever a sequel to this but I don’t think that very many people even know about this movie. I didn’t until Shudder suggested it within the app.

Also, this film has a bit of gore and blood but it implies gore more than it actually shows it. A lot of the kills are weak and maybe that’s because they didn’t have the budget to sever teenagers from limb to limb but some of these moments could have been done much better with practical effects and for not a lot of money.

The Ranger had a neat premise and two characters good enough to anchor it. However, it falls short of my low expectations and is pretty forgettable.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other films currently streaming on Shudder: Revenge, Monster Party, Boar and What Keeps You Alive.