Documentary Review: Pepsi Vs. Cola: The Marketing Battle of the Century (2014)

Also known as: Pepsi Vs. Coca: The Marketing Battle of the Century (title card)
Release Date: 2014
Directed by: Nicolas Glimois, Thomas Risch, Christophe Weber

Indigenius, 53 Minutes

Review:

I have no idea where this documentary first appeared, as there isn’t a whole lot of information on it, even though it is streaming for free on Prime Video for Amazon Prime members.

However, I like documentaries on business history, especially in regards to iconic companies and industry feuds.

I’m pretty sure this was an episode of a TV series that was repackaged, as it plays like that. But even so, this is a thorough and highly informational piece about the rivalry between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, which also delves into the history of each company.

I learned a lot watching this but it wasn’t an exciting documentary. It was mostly interviews with some experts in this realm, as they walked the viewer through both companies marketing strategies over their many decades in business.

This also clears up a lot of the theories surrounding New Coke and whether or not it was real or an elaborate marketing hoax. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a hoax.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other business history documentaries.

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*

 

Documentary Review: The Madness of Max (2015)

Release Date: August 1st, 2015
Directed by: Gary McFeat, Tim Ridge
Written by: Gary McFeat, Tim Ridge
Music by: Gary McFeat
Cast: George Miller, Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Joanne Samuel

Macau Light Company, 157 Minutes

Review:

Being a big fan of Mad Max, I’ve wanted to see this documentary for awhile. While it has a lot of information and stories, it’s way too long for the subject matter, moves pretty slow and is actually a bit boring.

For something that’s over two and a half hours, this could have had some stuff in it about the sequels but those aren’t really mentioned, as this focuses solely on the first film and its creation. It’s an interesting story, for sure, but this documentary’s pacing and length sucked my interest right out of the room.

This thing is more than an hour longer than the movie its talking about, which is kind of mad, pun intended.

I like the insight from George Miller, as well as the cast but all this is, is 157 minutes of talking heads cut together into sections about certain subjects in regards to the film’s production.

A lot of this felt like interviews that could have been whittled down and better edited. A lot of people rehash the same things, again and again, and a lot of the details don’t need to be presented multiple times. But maybe the filmmakers wanted to give everyone an equal amount of time. But in doing that, it makes the flow and quality of this picture suffer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other “making of” movie documentaries.

Documentary Review: Free Solo (2018)

Release Date: August 31st, 2018 (Telluride Film Festival)
Directed by: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Alex Honnold, Sanni McCandless, Jimmy Chin, Tommy Caldwell

Itinerant Films, Little Monster Films, National Geographic, 100 Minutes

Review:

Since this film won the Academy Award, I thought I’d check it out.

It follows Alex Honnold a free solo climber as he attempts to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. While we do get to see his big attempt at scaling the massive rock face, the documentary focuses more on the life of a climber than the feat itself.

Free Solo delves into the special sort of insanity that a free solo climber has. In Alex’s case, he doesn’t have time for love or a life that in any way distracts from his goals. However, by the start of this film, Alex now has a girlfriend and the movie analyzes their relationship and how it effects (or doesn’t effect) Alex in preparing for his big climb.

The documentary is definitely engaging and it is superbly shot, capturing the majestic beauty of El Capitan in all its glory.

But in the end, it just makes me question the subject’s sanity and what propels his mania.

I wouldn’t call this a documentary of the year or anything but it was an entertaining way to spend 100 minutes. But I’m more intrigued by the mind of the man than the accomplishments of the man.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Meru and The Dawn Wall. 

Documentary Review: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Release Date: January 25th, 2015 (Sundance)
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Written by: Alex Gibney
Based on: Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
Music by: Will Bates
Cast: Alex Gibney (narrator), Lawrence Wright, Mark Rathburn, Mike Rinder, Jason Beghe, Paul Haggis

HBO Documentary Films, Jigsaw Productions, Sky Atlantic, 119 Minutes

Review:

After recently watching the first season of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, I wanted to see something that delved more into Scientology in regards to their actual beliefs, their attraction to celebrities and all the other factors that I felt weren’t touched on enough in Leah’s show, as it focuses mainly on the personal stories of former Scientologists.

This documentary put out by HBO really provided me with the material that I was looking for. Also, this predates Leah’s show by a year or so, so maybe that’s why she didn’t rehash a lot of this stuff.

While this, like all documentaries, has an agenda, this doesn’t feel like it is trying to hammer you in the face with its condemnation of Scientology. Sure, it exposes it, reveals its twisted inner workings and allows those who were involved in it to speak out, but it’s presented in a good and clear way that sort of just lets the facts speak for themselves.

I found this to be informative and pretty engaging. It’s an entertaining film with a lot to absorb but it’s important with documentaries to not take everything at face value. But the more I look into Scientology, the more I find common threads and consistency within all its the criticism.

This was well produced, well organized and definitely worth a watch for anyone interested in the subject matter.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Film Review: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Release Date: September 24th, 1986 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: John McNaughton
Written by: Richard Fire, John McNaughton
Music by: Ken Hale, Steven A. Jones, Robert McNaughton
Cast: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Maljack Productions, Greycat Films, 83 Minutes, 75 Minutes (TV edit)

Review:

“How about those Bears?” – Store Clerk, “Fuck the Bears.” – Henry

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a brutal f’n movie. However, it’s also very slow and drawn out more than it needs to be. Now I get the old school suspense thriller style of building up tension but it’s not effective here and it makes 75 percent of this movie pretty damn boring.

I get that this movie has its fans but I’m really not one of them.

Now this film does have three distinct positives.

One, the acting is superb. Michael Rooker is more chilling than ever and since I’m a big fan of Rooker, I do like this film as far as his performance goes. He went to some really dark places here but what’s most interesting about it, is that he showed how capable of an actor he was even in his younger years.

Two, I like the cinematography and how this film was shot. The lighting was done well, the shot framing was better than one would anticipate and overall, the visual aesthetic enhanced the tone of the story, greatly.

Three, the score is unsettling but interesting in a way that also enhanced the film and its effect.

Sadly, the pacing just undoes a lot of the good.

Additionally, this is an extremely violent picture and while I don’t have a problem with gore, when there’s a real purpose for it, this film seems to use it just to push the bar and maybe that’s because the rest of the picture is so dull. The film does seem like it’s trying too hard to be shocking in those scenes.

I’m not sure if this was trying to pass itself off as high art but it’s definitely not high art. It’s not necessarily a proto-Silence of the Lambs, as much as it just feels like a gore riddled Manhunter.

But for fans of Rooker, it is worth a watch for sure.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs.

Documentary Review: Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (2010)

Release Date: October 9th, 2010 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Sequart Organization, Respect! Films, Halo-8 Entertainment, 80 Minutes

Review:

I have really enjoyed the comic book documentaries that Patrick Meaney has made. However, this one was kind of a dud, which is unfortunate, as I have liked some of Grant Morrison’s work over the years.

This was also Meaney’s first documentary, so there’s that.

What I mean, is that this felt amateurish and the editing wasn’t as good as it became in his later films. This was mostly talking head interviews and even then, most of them were just one or two sentence blurbs that came out pretty rapidly. Also, this was definitely a puff piece where everyone interviewed just praised Morrison like he was the second coming.

A lot of this felt insincere. And I don’t mean that to knock Morrison but this wasn’t a good documentary or very interesting. I anticipated really delving into the man and really getting some insight into his best work. Instead, this is just a bunch of people trying to sell you on Morrison, a guy you probably already know if you’re taking the time out to watch this.

I don’t care that he’s an alien abducted wizard and how “cool” this “rockstar” is, I want to know more about his creative process and why he did certain things a certain way. There’s a lot of “Oh, yeah… that was great! And then so and so stole it for this movie!”

This was just a lot of people giving Morrison a community wide handjob, telling us he’s great but not actually telling us what makes him great and why his work is great.

This was a real bore to get through but I’m glad that Meaney’s documentaries got better. Check out the one on Image Comics and the one on Chris Claremont. Those were infinitely more engaging than this was.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Patrick Meaney’s other comic book documentaries but his later ones are much better.