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.

Documentary Review: Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)

Also known as: Mucho mucho amor: La leyenda de Walter Mercado (Spanish title)
Release Date: January 24th, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch
Music by: Jeff Morrow
Cast: Walter Mercado, various

Muck Media, Key Rat, Topic Studios, Netflix, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Walter Mercado is a force of nature without beginnings and endings. He used to be a star, but now, Walter is a constellation.” – Walter Mercado

This was a pleasant surprise and a much more interesting and fun documentary than I had anticipated.

Full disclosure, I’ve always loved the hell out of Walter Mercado. While I don’t believe in astrology and am an atheist, he always seemed well-meaning and he also meant a lot to millions of people that felt uplifted by his woo woo messages of positivity.

As a teenager, I discovered him on television at one of my best friends’ houses. This Honduran family that I’d often times eat dinner with always had Walter on in the evening and even if I didn’t understand Spanish enough to know what he was saying in full detail, it was impossible not to be captivated by him.

What I never knew was his actual story between his early life, the genesis of his public persona and all the hardships he faced over the years. Watching this, I felt like I got to know Walter on a genuine level and I’ve got to say, all razzle dazzle aside, I really like the guy.

The best thing about this documentary is that it wasn’t made about Walter, it was made with his involvement and he stars in it, giving you a peek into his life now. He also tells his own stories, giving great first-person accounts of the key events in his life.

This also features interviews with people that have worked with Walter over the years and one guy that pretty much screwed him over and preyed on Walter’s good, trusting nature to steal the famous man’s name and “brand”.

For those who don’t know who Walter Mercado is, I still think that this would be a worthwhile documentary to check out, as he’s just an interesting person that lived an incredibly unique life and still has a lot to say to the world.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent pop culture biographical documentaries.

TV Review: The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Original Run: October 23rd, 2020
Created by: Scott Frank, Allan Scott
Directed by: Scott Frank
Written by: Scott Frank
Based on: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
Music by: Carlos Rafael Rivera
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Moses Ingram, Isla Johnson, Christine Seidel, Rebecca Root, Chloe Pirrie, Akemnji Ndifornyen, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Patrick Kennedy, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marcin Dorocinski

Flitcraft Ltd., Wonderful Films, Netflix, 7 Episodes, 46-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While everyone was hyping this up over the last few months, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as my opinion often times differs greatly from the modern consensus. However, I’m a big fan of Anya Taylor-Joy’s work ever since first seeing her in The Witch and Split.

I’m glad to say that this was actually damn good. In fact, it was kind of refreshing and it should be held up as a great example of how to tell the story of a strong female character.

The 2010s were the decade of the Mary Sue, especially in regards to popular cinema like the Disney Star Wars movies and Marvel films like Captain Marvel, where female characters are the best at everything by default and every other character in the story has to constantly reassure them that they’re the greatest, the bestest and just f’n perfect.

The Queen’s Gambit ignores that terrible trend and it gives us a young girl that has to overcome a really difficult life, her own failures, her own faults, her addictions and the rivals that are presented like real mountains to climb and not just annoying obstacles.

Additionally, this doesn’t build up the woman by trashing every male character and making them all awful. Just about every character is handled with care and comes off as truly genuine. There are a lot of great male characters in this series and we’ve gotten to a point in entertainment where that’s really rare.

Frankly, this is how you tell a feminist story and with that it’s not specifically a feminist story, as much as it is an inspirational story regardless of the viewer’s gender.

The Queen’s Gambit isn’t just a great story, executed exceptionally well on screen by the director and his crew, it’s also highly emotional due to how goddamned talented the cast is.

The heavy lifting is really done by Anya Taylor-Joy, though, and she proves, once again, that she’s quite possibly the best actress of her generation. She also recently won the Golden Globe, her first major award, for her performance in this. While I now take major awards very lightly, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than her for this performance.

Man, I really loved this show and it ends pretty f’n perfectly. I’m glad that it was a limited series, as you can’t really do anything else with it and you don’t need to.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent period dramas.

Documentary Review: This Is Paris (2020)

Release Date: April 15th, 2020 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Alexandra Dean
Written by: Alexandra Dean
Music by: Lara Meyerratken
Cast: Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Tessa Hilton

The Intellectual Property Corporation, YouTube Originals, 105 Minutes, 115 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

I kind of just watched this on a whim after checking out the trailer and while I didn’t have high expectations, it did exceed them and not only gave me an authentic and genuine understanding of who the real Paris Hilton is but it also goes to some dark places, examining some childhood trauma, which ties into what drove her to reach the levels she has.

For those who haven’t figured it out yet, the public persona of Paris is one that she manufactured. She’s not the hot airhead that the general public came to believe she is. In fact, she’s pretty intelligent and has created an empire around her brand: herself.

Sure, her family ties helped get her foot in the door with top notch fashion photographers and her family’s money allowed her to be a part of the socialite scene. However, it’s what she turned those opportunities into that are so impressive. And frankly, without the template she provided, there wouldn’t be others who followed in her footsteps and had their own success. Kim Kardashian, Paris’ former assistant and friend, immediately comes to mind.

This documentary allows you to see the world from Paris’ point-of-view while also displaying how the pressure of what she created has had an adverse effect on her mental health.

However, as the film goes deeper and deeper into her personal story, we learn about the one major horror story that traumatized her, greatly.

The second half of the documentary deals with Paris essentially being abducted by the officials of a school in Utah, which takes troubled kids in an effort to rehabilitate them. In reality, this school treats the kids like shit and actually makes them much worse than when they got there.

Paris and others from that school tell their stories and try to get the word out about the reality of places like it, as their school isn’t the only one that’s treating kids like adult prisoners in a maximum security facility.

I’ll be honest, I never had much of an opinion of Paris. But after seeing this, I’ve got tremendous respect for how she’s overcome the dark parts of her life and how she took an acorn and turned it into a lush, rich forest.

Overall, this was an engaging documentary that told a hell of a story in a fairly short amount of time. The film flew by and I didn’t realize that nearly two hours had passed when the credits started to roll.

It’s well edited, greatly presented and hopefully, enough people see it and places like the school where Paris was imprisoned are further exposed and scrutinized into oblivion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent pop culture biographical documentaries.

Documentary Review: Cryptopia: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of the Internet (2020)

Release Date: January 14th, 2020 (Melbourne, Australia premiere)
Directed by: Torsten Hoffmann, Michael Watchulonis
Written by: Torsten Hoffmann
Music by: Joshua Keddie
Cast: various

3D Content Hub, 86 Minutes

Review:

Those that follow Talking Pulp are probably aware that I’ve watched and reviewed several documentaries on Bitcoin, crypto and blockchain over the last few months. Well, I’ve been kind of looking for the perfect one. The main reason being that I’ve been in the crypto space for awhile but I’d like to find something that I can point newbies towards.

That being said, this is one of the better ones.

This film is a sequel to Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It, which is also directed by Torsten Hoffmann and Michael Watchulonis. I saw that one a few years back and really liked it and I should probably rewatch and review it, as well.

I jumped on this one, though, because it came out in 2020 and it is the most up-to-date documentary on the subject.

I thought that the things explored and laid out in this were well done and it presented a lot of criticism and multiple sides to every topic covered. I felt like the filmmakers didn’t really try to lean one way or the other too much and the viewer is allowed to take what’s discussed here and form their own opinion.

One of the coolest things about this was that it showed the inside of a giant crypto vault buried in a mountain somewhere in Switzerland. What they could actually show was very limited but it was neat seeing how heavily secured the vault was.

This also just looks at crypto from a lot of different angles, all of which I found interesting and informative.

If you want something to watch on the subject to expand your knowledge, this is documentary might be a good start for you.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on cryptocurrency, blockchain or cypherpunk culture.

Film Review: Bloody Hell (2020)

Release Date: September 9th, 2020 (Germany – Fantasy Filmfest)
Directed by: Alister Grierson
Written by: Robert Benjamin
Music by: Brian Cachia
Cast: Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer, Meg Fraser

Heart Sleeve Productions, Entertainment Squad, Eclectik Vision, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, you know, what would be funny is if you tore this little asshole’s leg off, and then stuck it to yourself, and then walked upstairs as if nothing was wrong.” – Rex

I kind of just watched this on a whim, not knowing a thing about it, other than it was suggested after I watched Psycho Goreman.

The film is a mixed bag but it’s actually really amusing, fairly unpredictable and the lead actor is charismatic and damn good.

While I’ve seen dozens of psycho family movies and you probably have to, this one is at least fresh and unique. It adds some new ideas to the tired formula that make it a worthwhile experience.

For one, the main character has an imaginary friend that is really just himself. Also, this starts off with his action packed, heroic backstory, which takes up the entire first act but sets the stage for something very different than just being some rando that ended up in some crazy person’s house.

You never really know what all this is leading too, who you can fully trust or what surprises are going to pop up, as there are a few good ones.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot and the details within it because I went into this with no knowledge of the movie and I feel like having too much insight might have diminished the overall experience.

Now this isn’t great and I’m not sure how memorable it will be over time but it’s a solid time waster and better than what modern horror films tend to offer their audience.

This definitely isn’t PG-13 shit. It’s got good, gratuitous violence and with that, some entertaining, balls out sequences.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other psycho family horror movies.

Film Review: PG: Psycho Goreman (2020)

Also known as: Psycho Goreman (original title)
Release Date: September 10th, 2020 (Stiges Film Festival)
Directed by: Steven Kostanski
Written by: Steven Kostanski
Music by: Blitz//Berlin
Cast: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Steven Vlahos, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancey, Matthew Ninaber, Reece Presley

Dystopia Films, Raven Banner Entertainment, RLJE Films, Shudder, 95 Minutes

Review:

“The horrors you have just witnessed cannot be unseen. Your young minds will carry this until it consumes you in a miserable death.” – Psycho Goreman, “Cool.” – Mimi

With retro-styled horror and sci-fi films being all the rage lately and for having a pretty great trailer, I had to rent this as soon as I was made aware of it.

Although, it is distributed by Shudder and therefore, will probably stream on their service very soon. I wanted to give the people behind the movie my money though, as they earned it just through the trailer alone.

Anyway, I’m glad that I rented this, as it hit the right notes and was a fuck ton of fun with a good amount of ridiculous gore, slapstick-y humor and kid actors that were much better than most and carried this film.

The movie also homages a lot of great things in very subtle ways that the ’80s horror or sci-fi aficionado should pick up on while the basic normie will have no idea. Granted, this might be too much for the basic normie to handle, which kind of makes it more enjoyable.

The plot is about two siblings that awaken an alien badass in their backyard. The young girl controls the deadly alien by possessing his magic gem. With that, she prevents him from destroying the universe but also uses him as her pet and new BFF.

As the story rolls on, other aliens arrive to destroy the alien badass but eventually, he regains full power and unleashes hell. However, having discovered love through the young girl and her dysfunctional family, the alien spares them of harm. This also ends in a way where a sequel is possible, which I definitely wouldn’t mind.

I thought that the special effects were great for what they were. While there are some CGI flourishes throughout the film, the costumes and monsters are all done with practical effects and look superb. All the weird characters kind of give this movie the look of a Power Rangers episode that was produced in Hell and I certainly mean that very complimentary.

I also like that this movie breaks some of the modern tropes with showing families in entertainment. Sure, they go down the typical trope road but then subvert expectations in a good way and ultimately, the family comes together in the end, strengthening their bond and even turning the loser dad into a hero in his own way.

While this isn’t my favorite film in this style, it is one of the better ones and it’s something I would probably re-watch with some regularity.

Plus, Psycho Goreman is just an awesome character. I’m down to watch him fuck stuff up, again and again.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films that Steven Kostanski was involved in.

Documentary Review: Class Action Park (2020)

Also known as: Action Park (Canada – alternative title)
Release Date: August 20th, 2020 (Florida Film Festival)
Directed by: Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scott III
Music by: The Holladay Brothers
Cast: John Hodgman (narrator), Chris Gethard, Alison Becker, various

Pinball Party Productions, HBO, 90 Minutes

Review:

I wanted to watch this when I first saw the trailer for it months back. However, it was an HBO Max exclusive and I couldn’t get that app on my Amazon Firestick. I’m glad the two parties got that shit sorted out because now I have the app and therefore, access to this cool documentary about a defunct and pretty dangerous theme park.

Action Park wasn’t just dangerous, though, it became a place of legend. So much so, I knew about it in Florida when I was a kid from the few friends that moved to my state from New Jersey or others who had made it up there on a family trip.

The park actually served as inspiration for the Johnny Knoxville starring Action Point, which was a box office bomb but still looked kind of entertaining. I haven’t seen it yet but I might watch it soon after seeing this documentary about the actual source material.

This documentary did a great job of building nostalgia for the park it featured. While I personally have no first-hand knowledge of Action Park, the passion and the memories of those interviewed really came through, amazingly.

This goes through the founding and design of the park and it’s slapped together rides, as well as the problems it had, the shortcuts the owner took and all the dark stories that hadn’t been as widely known until now.

It’s the type of place I’d never send my kids to but if I was a kid, you’d bet your ass I’d sneak off and check it out regardless of my parents’ orders.

This was an energetic and endearing documentary and it made me feel kind of left out, as I never got to experience it for myself. Although, I grew up in Florida, the land of theme parks, and I probably won out in the end.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the content on the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld, much of which has been featured here in Vids I Dig posts.