Documentary Review: Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain (2018)

Also known as: Decentralized: The Story of Blockchain (working title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2018 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Written by: Alex Winter
Music by: Bill Laswell
Cast: Rosario Dawson (narrator), Alex Winter (interviewer), various

SingularDTV, Futurism Studios, Breaker, 84 Minutes

Review:

After watching Alex Winter’s documentary Deep Web, I was left wanting more. He followed that one up a few years later with this, which covers similar topics but with the majority of its focus on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

What I liked most about this film is that it describes these complex things and ideas really damn well. It makes this somewhat palatable for the layman.

Also, this interviews several people who know what they’re talking about while also featuring comments from many of blockchain and crypto’s detractors along with some great rebuttals.

A big part of the documentary follows the story of Lauri Love, a British hacker and activist that was wanted by the United States for alleged activities as a member of the hacker collective Anonymous. His story is really damn interesting and the film does a solid job of telling it.

If you have an interest in this stuff and haven’t seen this documentary, you should probably check it out. Alex Winter does great work and presents these subjects well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk stuff like blockchain, cryptocurrency, hacking, etc. Especially, those by Alex Winter.

Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Also known as: M:I-6, Mission: Impossible VI (alternative titles) 
Release Date: July 12th, 2018 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Vanessa Kirby, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Ross O’Hennessy, Wolf Blitzer (cameo)

TC Productions, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, 147 Minutes

Review:

“There cannot be peace without first a great suffering. The greater the suffering, the greater the peace. The end you’ve always feared… is coming. It’s coming, and the blood will be on your hands.” – Solomon Lane

These movies are so damn good! Well, at least from the third one forward. I’m still sour about my initial experience with M:I-2 from twenty years ago.

Anyway, this one is a hair below the previous chapter but it’s still a near perfect, spy thriller masterpiece.

There is really only one negative with this film and that’s the exclusion of Jeremy Renner. However, Renner had become too busy with his work as Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so his absence is understandable. Also, adding Henry Cavill to the cast was a massive plus, even if he doesn’t survive beyond this chapter… or so, one would assume.

Other than Renner, this brings back everyone from the previous film, as well as bringing back Michelle Monaghan in a role that was thankfully bigger than just an uncredited cameo like in the fourth movie.

This one also adds in Angela Bassett as the CIA director, who is a secondary antagonist until she sees the light and learns to trust America’s greatest hero, Ethan Hunt. We’re also introduced to a new character, played by Vanessa Kirby, who I sincerely hope returns in future films. Not just because she’s f’n gorgeous but because her character is really damn interesting, badass and I’d just like to see her get to develop more, as they keep pumping out these movies because Tom Cruise is ageless.

The plot feels a little heavy and overloaded but thankfully, by the end, everything kind of falls into place in a good way. I also felt like this didn’t just build off of its direct predecessor by featuring the same villain and key characters but it also sets up the future, as the main villain is still alive and one would assume that he will come back into play again, almost becoming Mission: Impossible‘s equivalent to James Bond‘s Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Plus, Sean Harris is f’n chilling as hell in this role and despite him being a monster, I want to see more of him. Although, I do eventually want to see him catch a bullet or an even more over-the-top death.

I think that my favorite thing about this film, though, was the rivalry and personal war that developed between Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and Henry Cavill’s August Walker. While Cavill dies, their final battle was so damn enjoyable that I wish he hadn’t. And no, I don’t think they’ll bring him back because that’d be stupid, based off of how he gets taken out, but killing him was a mistake due to how well he and Cruise worked together.

Additionally, the action in this chapter is top notch and nothing short of what you would expect.

I also feel like I need to give props to the film’s score by Lorne Balfe, who successfully experimented with the classic Mission: Impossible theme in multiple parts of the picture. I liked his fresh take on the score, as it felt like it belonged and didn’t come off as a composer trying too hard to stand out and make his own mark. It meshed well with what we’ve become used to over the last few films and just built off of that.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is impressive. But most importantly it was entertaining as hell and a shit ton of fun.

I’m also just going to come out and say that this series, after the disastrous second chapter, is my favorite film series post-2000. They’re consistently great, always leave me impressed and make me yearn for more.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Documentary Review: Easter Island Unsolved (2018)

Release Date: 2018

National Geographic, 44 Minutes

Review:

Man, it’s always hard getting full credits info on National Geographic documentaries because they often times take them and repackage them from different series that they do. However, the company should give credit to the people that make these in a way that’s available online, as I’m not going to go back to the streaming file and sit through it for the hopes that it’ll include full credits.

Griping aside, this was fairly enjoyable but I wouldn’t say that it’s an exceptional piece by any stretch.

It covers the history of Easter Island but there’s only so much you can cover in 44 minutes. So even though this hits a lot of points and topics, it doesn’t spend nearly enough time on them. Really, it’d be cool if there was a series on Easter Island, as it is one of the most interesting places in the world.

Overall, this was worth watching. It killed close to an hour’s worth of time and it’s streaming for all to see that have Disney+. But really, it feels like more of a primer or an intro to a much larger, detailed story that someone needs to tell in this medium and with Nat Geo’s quality.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other National Geographic documentaries, many of which can be found on Disney+ now.

*no trailer because Disney+ and Nat Geo are slacking on promotional material.

 

Documentary Review: WWE Chronicle: Shinsuke Nakamura (2018)

Release Date: April 8th, 2018
Cast: Shinsuke Nakamura, Triple H, various

WWE, 37 Minutes

Review:

I was hoping for more out of this but WWE’s modern documentaries are really a mixed bag, as sometimes they just throw shit together because they need content for their streaming network.

Being a big fan of Shinsuke Nakamura, I hoped this would go more into the man and his career.

Granted, WWE won’t show his New Japan stuff or even really acknowledge it because they like to pretend that no other wrestling exists outside of their own sphere.

Anyway, this follows Nakamura from the time he won the 2018 Royal Rumble up to his match for the World Championship at Wrestlemania, a few months later.

This isn’t as insightful as one would hope and it kind of just randomly checks in on him and lets him talk for a minute or two before cutting to something else. Sadly, I never felt like they really let you know the guy but WWE also has a poor track record of dealing with language barriers, even though Nakamura is pretty damn good at English.

I don’t know, it was cool seeing him being featured in his own documentary; I just wish that WWE would’ve given a shit.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other modern documentaries made for the WWE Network.

Documentary Review: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)

Release Date: August 30th, 2018 (Venice premiere)
Directed by: Morgan Neville
Music by: Daniel Wohl
Cast: Orson Welles (archive footage), Alan Cumming (host, narrator), Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Peter Jason, Cybill Shepherd, Frank Marshall, Beatrice Welles, John Huston (archive footage), Dennis Hopper (archive footage) 

Tremolo Productions, Royal Road Entertainment, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a pretty fascinating documentary but then Orson Welles, the film’s subject, is an immensely fascinating guy.

This tells the story of Welles’ attempt at trying to complete what would have been his final film: The Other Side of the Wind. However, the picture, despite Welles’ best efforts and years spent filming footage, would not see the light of day.

Beyond that, this explores why it never materialized into a final, complete form. It looks at Welles’ rocky relationship with the Hollywood elite but also shows how passionate he was about the project, which seemed to be ever evolving and not something that had any sort of definitive framework.

More than anything, this was a great documentary simply because it showed us an intimate look into Welles’ life and career at its final stages. He was a lovable, charismatic guy that remained somewhat enigmatic till the end.

It’s also worth seeing for any Welles’ fan, as it does show a lot of the footage that was filmed for The Other Side of the Wind. And even if you don’t get a clear understanding of what the film was to be, you do at least come to understand, as much as a mortal can, Welles’ creative process and motivation in making it.

This is a stupendous documentary film on the man and his brand of filmmaking. And since it is on Netflix, those with the streaming service should probably check it out.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Orson Welles and filmmaking from his era.

Film Review: Summer of ’84 (2018)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Written by: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Music by: Le Matos
Cast: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer

Gunpowder & Sky, Brightlight Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“You know you can get AIDS from looking through trash, right?” – Curtis Farraday, “Only way you’re ever getting AIDS.” – Tommy ‘Eats’ Eaton

*There be spoilers here! But not about plot details, more about expectations. It’s better if you go into this film blindly and ride it out.

I didn’t know much about this movie going into it, other than it was directed by the same trio that directed the fantastic Turbo Kid. Granted, this seemed to be very different but still also clinging on to some thick ’80s nostalgia.

At first glance, one might easily dismiss this as another one of many things trying to emulate the vibe (and success) of Netflix’s Stranger Things. However, the only real similarities is that this takes place in the same era, features kids as the main characters and also delves into the realm of horror. This is a very different kind of horror, however, and it stays grounded in reality without being swept away into a fantastical supernatural world.

Everything in this film feels like it could be real and very plausible. It’s well thought out, well written and meticulously constructed in how it builds suspense, genuine dread and a real sense of fear.

Also, it initially feels fairly predictable and like with all horror films that have some mystery to them, you’re waiting for a big swerve or for the obvious red herring to reveal itself as such, making you feel like the smartest viewer in the theater because you saw it coming.

However, this movie doesn’t quite do that. In fact, it subverts expectations. And that’s a term and concept I’ve grown to hate, as it’s often used to justify terrible creative choices in terrible movies. But in this film, it does it right! It really punches you in the gut and this film ends in a way that you probably won’t expect.

That’s why I ended up loving this film. It became a much better picture than I thought it could be, as I was watching it. The final twenty or so minutes will stick with me for a long time. And while I don’t know if the effect will still be there on repeated viewings, the ending did shock me and jar my senses in a similar way to the ending of Sleepaway Camp.

It’s worth pointing out that I don’t think this movie could’ve worked as well as it did without the cast. These kids were great. The lead kid was especially good, as was the girl he was crushing on. In fact, she was charismatic and genuine and she’s an actress that has that rare “it” factor. I hope she gets to do a lot more in the future.

This is the type of film that I see becoming a cult classic. A lot of people still don’t know about it but I think it’s legend will grow, as more people see it and tell their friends about it.

Rating: 8.75/10

Documentary Review: Henchman: The Al Leong Story (2018)

Release Date: December 15th, 2018
Directed by: Vito Trabucco 
Music by: DJ Disco T.
Cast: Al Leong, John Carpenter, Jeff Imada, Dave Callaham, James Lew

Yinzer Enterprises, 110 Minutes

Review:

Growing up in the ’80s, I saw Al Leong everywhere. I didn’t know who he was; all I knew was that he’s a really unique looking dude that would show up as a henchman to the villain in just about every iconic ’80s action flick.

As I got older, I learned more about him but still, most people just saw him as that dude that popped up all over the place, who eventually got killed after doing some badass shit.

So I’m glad that this documentary was made, as the guy deserves to be showcased and to have his story told to all the fans who have appreciated him over the last four decades.

Leong’s story is much deeper and richer than I had expected and it was fantastic getting to hear him talk about his life in his own words.

We also get to see his colleagues discuss him and his career. It’s really cool seeing John Carpenter talk about Leong and why he used him in his films so often.

Overall, this isn’t a great documentary but it will satisfy fans of the guy’s work or just those who remember seeing him everywhere.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about character actors and filmmaking in the ’80s.

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.