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.

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.