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.

Film Review: Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

Release Date: February 3rd, 2018 (Internet)
Directed by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Deron Johnson
Cast: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Heather Langenkamp, Paul T. Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, John Gulager

Dimension Films, Puzzle Box Pictures, Lionsgate Films, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Please. Let’s save ourselves the time and you the considerable pain by answering the questions honestly. Clearly this is a place where the rules of your world do not apply. And obviously, I’m a man for whom pain is nothing more than a common currency. [pulls out a straight razor] I will spend some on you… if you like.” – The Auditor

After the last Hellraiser film, which came out in 2011, I declared this franchise dead. Granted, it felt dead long before that, as most of the later sequels were pretty awful. However, the 2011 movie was one of the worst films I’ve ever had to suffer through. It’s like Pinhead wanted me to finally experience pain on an epic level.

So I didn’t anticipate this film wowing me in any way and it definitely doesn’t but this is one of the better sequels in that it gets back to basics and at least feels more like the first few movies in the series, as opposed to all the straight-to-video sequels that were just re-purposed scripts made to fit within the Hellraiser brand.

Gary J. Tunnicliffe wrote and directed this and even stars in it as the Auditor. Sadly, Pinhead is not Doug Bradley but the new actor was infinitely better than the guy who played him in the previous abomination. Also, this has a brief cameo by Heather Langenkamp and she’s the only known actor in the entire picture.

That being said, the film isn’t well acted but it’s passable for what this is. And it’s also not bad in anyway that detracts from the film.

The plot here is interesting, adds a lot of new stuff to the mythos that respects what came before it and it opened the doors for new stories and possibilities for future installments.

Sadly, I don’t think there will be any sort of expansion on this film, as they’ve announced a Hellraiser reboot by David S. Goyer, who is hit or miss but mostly miss.

In the end, this one wasn’t a total waste of time, it is a nice homage to the better parts of the Hellraiser franchise and it doesn’t try to rehash what we’ve already seen or assault us with surprise curveballs that feel like they shouldn’t even be within this once great film series.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the nine previous Hellraiser films.

Documentary Review: Comic Book Kingdom (2018)

Release Date: May 25th, 2018 (Brighton Rocks Film Festival)
Directed by: Marius Smuts
Music by: Maz Iannone
Cast: Edward Bentley, Laurence Campbell, Matt Hardy, Kev Hopgood, Inko, Chie Kutsuwada, Ian Sharman, Zara Slattery, Myfanwy Tristram, Nigel Twumasi

MSP, 61 Minutes

Review:

Surprisingly, this has been out for a year and it doesn’t even have a rating on IMDb. Also, I couldn’t find a trailer for it, so one won’t accompany this post.

This was a short, one hour documentary that focuses on indie comic creators from the UK.

For the most part, this was enjoyable and interesting. Most of the people featured I had never heard of but this delves into a myriad of indie comic book styles, as well as some manga.

The documentary is mostly just a bunch of talking head interviews cut together but it’s at least well organized and edited decently, even though it jumps back and forth. A lot of these comic book talking head pieces can be all over the map; this one isn’t.

My only real complaint with it, is I wish that it edited in more footage of artists creating, as they talked. It does show some of that but nowhere near enough. I’m always into seeing how artists create, as they create, and it feels like that’s an afterthought here.

But this wasn’t a bad way to spend an hour and it’s streaming for free on Prime Video if you have an account.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent comic book documentaries, many of which I have already reviewed.

*NO TRAILER AVAILABLE*