Film Review: The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee (2020)

Also known as: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (working title), The Very Excellent Mr. Crocodile Dundee, Mr. Dundee (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 17th, 2020 (Australia, New Zealand – Internet)
Directed by: Dean Murphy
Written by: Robert Mond, Dean Murphy
Music by: John Foreman
Cast: Paul Hogan, Rachael Carpani, Jacob Elordi, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Olivia Newton-John, Reginald VelJohnson, Wayne Knight, Paul Fenech, Shane Jacobson, Kerry Armstrong, Charlotte Stent, Luke Hemsworth, Jim Jefferies, Costas Mandylor, Nancy O’Dell

Clock Sounds Productions Pty, Kathy Morgan International, Piccadilly Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“He’s back, whether he likes it or not.” – tagline

I grew up loving Paul Hogan, which is honestly why I even watched this in the first place. I certainly wasn’t lured in by the trailer or the 4.9 out of 10 on IMDb. But Hogan is a hell of a cool guy and I wanted to give this a shot because I immensely enjoy Crocodile Dundee I and II.

Needless to say, I thought that this was better than a 4.9 but not by a large margin. I enjoyed it, mostly, but it isn’t something that I’ll probably ever watch again. It was certainly better than the mostly terrible Crocodile Dundee III but a hair beneath Hogan’s Almost An Angel.

That being said, it’s nice spending time with Hogan again, as well as some of the other people he brought into this movie like Reginald VelJohnson, John Cleese, Wayne Knight, Chevy Chase and Olivia Newton-John. It’s also chock full of cameos from a lot of Australian celebrities and other friends of Hogan’s.

The plot sees Hogan playing himself and I guess it’s a lot like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where the actor playing himself constantly screws up in every situation. For the most part, though, Hogan means well and not to offend but he either doesn’t fully understand the situation he’s in or someone else is a complete asshole but Hogan is blamed for it – like when the nun gets knocked out, which was due to Hogan protecting himself from an object thrown by a raging imbecile.

Most of the gags are still amusing, even if you see them coming from a mile away.

I thought that was is just a charming and lighthearted picture because of Paul Hogan. But honestly, there’s not much reason to watch it more than once and you should already have a love for its star.

Rating: 5.5/10

Documentary Review: Stripped: Los Angeles (2020)

Release Date: September 1st, 2020 (online premiere)
Directed by: Marc Ostrick
Written by: Marc Ostrick
Music by: Danny Mordujovich
Cast: Bama Babii, Erica Solitaire Chappell, Della Dane, Nikki Knightly, Sizi Sev

Ostrick Productions, 80 Minutes

Review:

Man, this was excruciating to watch. Not because of the subject matter, by any means, but because the production was amateurish as hell and I kind of found it shocking that Starz would even distribute this. Then again, Starz’s self-produced documentaries have rarely, if ever, been all that good.

I actually wanted a peek into the lives of the girls, here. I worked as a bodyguard and as security in the adult industry in my early twenties. I met a lot of cool and interesting people back then and with that, was expecting some pretty solid personal stories in this.

The problem wasn’t really the girls featured, as much as it was the presentation itself.

This is sloppily edited and most of it was shot like they were making videos for TikTok. Half of the movie is just strippers smoking weed talking about their pets and pointless, boring shit. Do strippers and adult entertainers not really party or have a good time, anymore? I mean, I know that they do but the director seemed to pick the worst days to capture these girls lives.

I know that this was made in an effort to show the real personas of these women but it failed to captivate or even hold my attention.

Honestly, as someone who worked in that industry, I’ve got to wonder if the director was just like all those random dudes that would come into the strip clubs and porn events I worked at, trying to butter up the girls, convincing them they were legit photographers and producers that wanted to use them for a big project. These dudes were a dime a dozen and while most adult entertainers have heard this shit a zillion times, some still gave out their phone numbers. 

Rating: 3.5/10

Film Review: Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons – The Movie (2020)

Release Date: August 4th, 2020
Directed by: Sung Jin Ahn
Written by: J.M. DeMatteis
Based on: Deathstroke by Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Music by: Kevin Riepl
Cast: Michael Chiklis, Chris Jai Alex, Sasha Alexander

Berlanti Productions, Blue Ribbon Content, DC Entertainment, 87 Minutes

Review:

I was a bit stoked when I saw that there was an animated Deathstroke film on HBO Max. It came out a year ago and I’m assuming it was initially on DC Universe before that got swallowed up and absorbed by the newly launched HBO Max, which is sort of a central hub of all the content Warner Bros. associated streaming services hosted before converging into one thing.

Anyway, I was pretty underwhelmed by this. That’s not surprising, as DC animated features are a mixed bag. Some are really meh but some are very, very good. Most of them meet somewhere in the middle but this one does fall closer to the meh side of that pendulum.

While I liked that Michael Chiklis voiced Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke, the film was kind of a bore. It featured a couple C-list villains for Deathstroke to tie-up with but it also leaned into his personal life and his family, which I feel like has been explored to death in comics and other mediums already.

Frankly, I just kind of wanted Deathstroke in his anti-hero role, going up against impossible odds to take down a serious baddie. I wanted some dark, black-ops shit. While I guess this does send him on shadow missions of some degree, it just never really grabbed me.

There’s a television series of Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, so I’m not sure if this is a sequel to it or a prequel. Maybe this is just a condensed version of a larger story. Either way, it’s kind of sloppy and boring. 

Rating: 5.25/10

Documentary Review: Life After the Navigator (2020)

Release Date: November 9th, 2020 (UK)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Joey Cramer, Veronica Cartwright, Cliff DeYoung, Howard Hesseman, Randal Kleiser, Matt Adler, Raymond Forchion, Albie Whitaker

Life After Movies, Spare Change Films, Strict Machine, 91 Minutes

Review:

A few years ago, I heard about what had happened with Joey Cramer, the former child actor that was a favorite of mine because of how good he was in The Flight of the Navigator and his few scenes in Runaway.

For those that don’t know, Cramer robbed a bank out of desperation due to his bad drug habit. Upon discovering this, I also learned about his history with prison and drugs and how his life had spiraled out of control in the years since he left acting behind.

Sadly, this isn’t a story that’s too uncommon with child actors who grow up, don’t get work and have to return to a normal life that’s never going to be truly normal due to the level of fame they once had.

I’m happy to say that Joey did turn his life around and this film chronicles that tough journey. You meet his family, friends and get to hear from those who starred alongside him in The Flight of the Navigator. 

This documentary is really two things merged into one. It’s primarily about Joey, his issues and his battle to get better. However, it’s also about the Navigator film and reflects on it, all these years later, as it has become an iconic film, beloved by more than just the Gen Xers that saw it in the theater back in 1986.

All in all, this was a sad but ultimately feel good story. It was cool seeing everyone support Joey and still share their love of the film, as well. I just hope that he can now stay on the right path and keep building towards a better life than the one he lived for the last few decades.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Flight of the Navigator, as well as the documentary Life After Flash.

Film Review: Fried Barry (2020)

Release Date: March 6th, 2020 (Cinequest Film Festival – US)
Directed by: Ryan Kruger
Written by: Ryan Kruger
Music by: various
Cast: Gary Green, Bianka Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael, Chanelle de Jager, Joey Cramer, Jonathan Pienaar

The Department of Special Projects, The Department of Special Projects, Enigma Ace Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

If this hadn’t been featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I probably wouldn’t have watched it on my own. However, I’m glad that Joe Bob brought it into my living room because I was surprised and fairly impressed by it.

This is a South African picture that sees Barry, a heroin addict, shoot up, get super high, get abducted by aliens and then have his body possessed by one of those same aliens.

When the setup is done, Alien Barry just wanders all over Cape Town at night, in human form, experiencing everything the night life has to offer from more drugs, dancing, casual sex, prostitution sex and everything else in-between.

After his first night, we see his estranged wife try to reconnect with him, as well as him getting beaten up and abducted by a pedo. Alien Barry then kills the pedo and frees the kids, goes on to discover that he’s the father of a fully grown toddler that looks like him and then experiences some other zany, wild shit.

Frankly, the film is hard to describe but it’s pretty much just a random mindfuck. And typically, I don’t like these sort of films but this one held my attention and entertained me from scene-to-scene.

I think a lot of the movie’s awesomeness has to do with how well Barry himself was. He was played by Gary Green, who has mostly just played extras in other South African films. I also thought that the director did a stupendous job, top-to-bottom. Most importantly, this is fantastically well-paced and knew when it needed to move on to the next scene.

What’s kind of astonishing is that this didn’t really have a script. The director/writer, Ryan Kruger, had a list of scenes and sequences to work off of and everything else was pretty much improvised. That’s probably not the best way to go into shooting a movie but it worked for this picture.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other trippy as fuck drug movies.

Documentary Review: In Search of Darkness: Part II (2020)

Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Directed by: David A. Weiner
Written by: David A. Weiner
Music by: Weary Pines
Cast: Nancy Allen, Tom Atkins, Joe Bob Briggs, Doug Bradley, Clancy Brown, Lori Cardille, John Carpenter, Nick Castle, Larry Cohen, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Keith David, Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, Andre Gower, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Chris Jericho, Jackie Kong, Heather Langenkamp, Don Mancini, Harry Manfredini, Kelli Maroney, Bill Moseley, Greg Nicotero, Cassandra Peterson, Diana Prince, Linnea Quigley, James Rolfe, Robert Rusler, Tom Savini, Corey Taylor, Gedde Watanabe, Caroline Williams, Alex Winter, Tom Woodruff Jr., Brian Yuzna

CreatorVC, 263 Minutes

Review:

Everything I said in my review of the first film in this series still holds true for this one. Reason being, they’re exactly the same in what they are. It’s just that each one features different films.

I think that I like this one a wee bit better for two reasons.

The first, is that I already know what I’m getting into now. I know that this will just fly through dozens of films and not give them the proper amount of time they deserve. As I said in the previous film’s review, I’d love to see each section spread out into a full episode and have these films actually be a streaming series.

The second reason, is that I like that the films are getting more obscure, as there were a few here I hadn’t heard of. With that, I walked away from this with a list of shit I need to watch and review.

Apart from that, this was more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, at all. I just wish that these documentaries didn’t fly through films and other topics so quickly.

I still like these, though. I know there’s a third one coming, which I look forward to, and there’s also one coming out on ’80s sci-fi flicks.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other documentaries in the In Search of… series, as well as other documentaries on ’80s horror.

Documentary Review: The Last Blockbuster (2020)

Release Date: December 15th, 2020
Directed by: Taylor Morden
Written by: Zeke Kamm
Cast: Lauren Lapkus (narrator), Kevin Smith, Doug Benson, Ron Funches, Adam Brody, Samm Levine, Paul Scheer, Brian Posehn, Jamie Kennedy, Ione Skye, Lloyd Kaufman, various

September Club, Popmotion Pictures, 1091 Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled across this on Netflix and I was definitely interested in checking it out but it had Kevin Smith’s mug all over it and in the 2020s, that’s a big turnoff for me. That dude’s usually crying and drooling these days and it’s creepy and f’n weird. But luckily, he wasn’t a weeping, insufferable asshole in this and he’s also not in it too much. He’s just one of about a dozen celebrities who popped up to tell their personal stories about Blockbuster Video.

So this is a film about the last Blockbuster store in existence, which runs independently now, and it’s also about the history of video stores in the US from the original mom and pop shops to the mega chains like Blockbuster. In just under 90 minutes, this surprisingly covers a lot.

As I stated in the first paragraph, this also features about a dozen celebrities who talk about what Blockbuster meant to them and a few of them worked in one or simply spent a lot of time in the store.

Overall, this was a solid, fun and positive experience. You come to know the woman who runs the last store, her family, her employees and what the store means to its community and the community’s history.

You also see what it takes to run the store in an era where it’s not as easy to acquire DVDs and Blu-rays because we now live in an age of streaming. We also learn that to use the Blockbuster name, the store has to get permission, annually, from the large corporation that still holds the trademark on the brand.

I think the real highlight for me was hearing the stories from the dozen or so people that were interviewed. For those who visited the last Blockbuster, it was great seeing them overcome with joy, stepping into a legitimate time capsule.

Whether you were a big fan of Blockbuster or just video stores in general, this will definitely give you a hearty helping of warm nostalgia.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about retro pop culture things.

Film Review: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Jeff Fowler
Written by: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Based on: Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Jim Carrey, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough

Original Film, Sega Sammy Group, Paramount Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Why do you keep calling me Donut Lord?” – Tom, “Because you talk to donuts and then eat them if they get out of line.” – Sonic

I’ll be honest, I initially didn’t have much interest in a live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie and frankly, I wasn’t sure how they could do one without bringing the title character into the normal world. Well, that’s exactly what they did and while that’s somewhat predictable, it still worked and I enjoyed this quite a bit.

When the trailer for this movie first dropped, fans were taken aback by the look of the Sonic character. Because of backlash over the character design, the director and the study delayed the film’s release in order to rework Sonic’s design to be much closer to the video games.

Frankly, I was impressed by this, as it happen in a time where if fans are displeased, studios and their media minions dismiss them as “toxic” and then ignore their feedback on the road to crashing and burning.

Because of that, I felt somewhat compelled to support the movie because the people making it just wanted to make the best movie they could for the fans. I didn’t see this in the theater, as I had a lot going on last February and then COVID happened. However, I finally got around to it and this movie I would’ve otherwise dismissed, won me over and actually has me interested in its upcoming sequel. And had the filmmakers not made the changes to the movie, a sequel probably wouldn’t have happened.

The three leads in this movie are just great.

I love Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic and he gives life to the character and just meshes well with the spirit of the franchise. Honestly, I think he was the perfect choice and I can’t think of anyone who would’ve done a better job.

James Marsden was enjoyable too and I’ve always liked him since he was Cyclops in the original X-Men trilogy of films. The dude never friggin’ ages and with that, he always has a youthful energy about him, even though he has the presence of someone closer to middle age. He spent this entire movie playing off of a CGI character that didn’t exist until post-production and he does a pretty stupendous job in making his interactions with Sonic believable. The two characters formed a solid bond over the course of the movie and I can’t wait to see more of it in the next chapter.

The real scene stealer, though, was Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik a.k.a. Eggman. I thought it was initially odd casting, as he doesn’t look like the traditional version of Robotnik but you kind of don’t care because he’s so damn good that it’s hard not to love the character. In fact, this is one of my favorite Jim Carrey performances of all-time and honestly, I hope once more films are out, it reinvigorates him and gets his career back on the right trajectory. Also, spoiler alert: by the end of the movie, we see that he’s becoming a more accurate physical representation of the Robotnik character.

The best thing about this movie is something I’ve pointed out in several reviews lately. It’s just great escapism. This is a quality that seems to be growing in importance to me, more and more, as modern movies have lost this.

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with Hollywood’s political and social commentary in everything. It’s just nice to have a new film that is just fun and doesn’t beat you over the head with any sort of message or agenda.

This is what films like Sonic the Hedgehog are supposed to be. Just entertain me. Life has enough crap and sometimes I want to forget about it for a few hours. Sonic the Hedgehog did just that. It made me smile, it kept me engaged and it didn’t go out of its way to tell me I’m a horrible person because of X, Y and Z.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent, mostly kid friendly blockbusters.

Film Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

Also known as: Untitled Universal Monster Project (working title)
Release Date: February 24th, 2020 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Written by: Leigh Whannell
Based on: characters and concepts by H. G. Wells for The Invisible Man
Music by: Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nash Edgerton

Goalpost Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“He said that wherever I went, he would find me, walk right up to me, and I wouldn’t be able to see him.” – Cecilia Kass

As a lifelong fan of the Universal Monsters film series and all its reinventions (good and bad), this one just didn’t resonate with me at first glance. I thought the marketing was pretty dull and then it came out just before COVID shoved movie theaters into a flaming dumpster.

I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this, though.

Initially, I wasn’t a big fan of seeing a modernized take on the classic story but honestly, this is just inspired by the original H. G. Wells novel and is very much its own, unique thing.

This takes the Invisible Man formula and brings it in to modern day, showing a psychotic ex-boyfriend using his ability to be invisible to destroy the life of the woman that left him. Since he’s invisible, he obviously does horrible things that only she’s aware of while her friends start to think she’s going insane. As the film rolls on, the scumbag gets more and more ballsy and eventually, people are aware that the woman (now in an asylum) isn’t lying.

Since this takes place in modern times, the Invisible Man in this is a Tony Stark type of inventor that has made a legit stealth camouflage suit. Also, the suit is really f’n cool looking and inventive, being comprised of what appear to be hundreds of small cameras/projectors. The scenes where the suit is partially exposed come off really damn well and the special effects, as a whole, are pretty seamless, believable and impressive.

What I found most impressive about this movie, though, was Elisabeth Moss’ acting. Man, she stepped up to the plate and hit homeruns in just about every scene. What I sincerely appreciate, as a long-time horror fan, is how serious she took the subject matter and put her all into it, giving one of the most believable performances I’ve seen in a horror picture in a really long time.

My only real complaint about the film was the twist ending. I mostly saw it coming and it felt kind of cheap, ending the way it did. At the same time, you really can’t keep the villain alive, as you don’t know what kind of technological tricks he might have up his sleeve.

This doesn’t end in a way that leaves it open for a sequel and I hope there isn’t one, as it would probably diminish the effect of this single, pretty solid picture. Basically, don’t be like Saw.

Now that doesn’t mean that I’d be against other modern takes on the Universal Monsters properties after seeing how well this one was executed. It certainly blew Tom Cruise’s The Mummy out of the water.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the older adaptations of this story, as well as some of the actually good, modern horror flicks.

TV Review: Red Dwarf – The Promised Land (2020)

Original Airdate: April 9th, 2020
Created by: Doug Naylor
Directed by: Doug Naylor
Written by: Doug Naylor
Based on: Red Dwarf by Rob Grant, Doug Naylor
Music by: Paul Farrer, Howard Goodall
Cast: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Norman Lovett, Ray Fearon, Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon, Lucy Pearman, Al Roberts

Baby Cow Productions, Grant Naylor Productions, UKTV, Dave, 1 Episode (Movie), 87 Minutes

Review:

I’m probably as big of a Red Dwarf fan as any American born person can possibly be. 2020 and this damn pandemic really screwed up my entire year, however, and I didn’t even know that this had came out or even existed until very recently. So I re-upped my old subscription to BritBox so that I could watch it through Prime Video.

Needless to say, I’m glad that this was made because it helped lift me up on a day where I was feeling like shit.

The main reason for that is because these guys still care about these characters 32 years into their existence. They play these roles with the same passion and vigor they always have despite their age and all the other opportunities their careers have offered them. Longevity like this is really unheard of, especially in regards to a sitcom.

The Promised Land is kind of similar to what they did in 2009 with Back to Earth, which was a three episode miniseries that equated to about 90 minutes and played more like a movie when watched in one sitting. The only real difference is that they didn’t break this up into three episodes and instead just aired it as a TV movie.

I can’t say that the story is as great as the greatest episodes but it was still fun and a callback to a lot of awesome things from the long history of the show. Most importantly, this involved Cat’s people and you meet his brother, who is a spacefaring warlord that denies the long held religious beliefs of his people. These “feral” space cats are kind of played like the Klingons from Star Trek.

Every character in this was pretty well-balanced and we also got to see Norman Lovett come back as the ship’s computer, Holly. It was cool seeing him in this, as it wasn’t just a simple cameo.

The spirit of the show was still very much alive. If you like the modern era seasons from the 2010s, this is pretty much on the same level.

But if I’m being honest, I almost don’t even care what the adventure is, as long as I get to spend more time with these characters who have been a big part of my life over the course of most of it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Anything Red Dwarf.