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.

TV Review: The Anti-Gravity Room (1995-1997)

Original Run: 1995 – 1997
Created by: Chris Greaves, Ian Murray
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Angelo Oddi, Ben Johannesen
Cast: Nick Amadeus, Phil Guerrero, Shashi Bhatia, Jaimy Mahlon

YTV, 54 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, I dug the hell out of this show back in the day.

The main reason is because there was nothing like it and once upon a time, the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) was pretty cool.

This was the only show, as far as I knew in the mid-’90s, that focused specifically on comic books and video games. It really was the best of both of those worlds, as the presenters interviewed a slew of highly important people in both of those creative mediums.

Also, the show would delve into movies and TV and often times had guest hosts like Kevin Smith and Janeane Garofalo when I still thought they were cool.

The show has almost a public access, no budget feel to it but that’s pretty much what it was. It was actually a Canadian television show that Sci-Fi just decided to air in the United States.

In the end, it kind of came and went pretty quickly but I had fond memories of taping episodes and then binging them late nights on weekends with friends.

Luckily, for those interested, there are several episodes on YouTube thanks to the great people who didn’t throw their VHS tapes away and were then able to upload them for modern audiences to check out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Cannibal Girls (1973)

Release Date: April, 1973
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Daniel Goldberg, Ivan Reitman, Robert Sandler
Music by: Doug Riley
Cast: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Ronald Ulrich

Scary Pictures Productions, 84 Minutes

Review:

Strangely, I didn’t know about this movie’s existence until a few years ago. The reason I find that strange is that I’m a fan of Ivan Reitman’s work and I also really loved SCTV and that group of Canadian comedians.

I also find it odd that Reitman did a cannibal movie that starred two major players from SCTV before any of them had any real notoriety. As one might expect, this isn’t just straight horror and it sort of parodies the cannibal and gore movies that were popular with audiences of exploitation film.

All that being said, this was a cool experiment. It didn’t hit it out of the park or leave much of a mark but it was one of the very first steps in the careers of three talented people.

Now compared to the things it parodies, this is pretty light on gore. It’s more about capturing the same sort of vibe but having some cheekiness thrown in. It still has a gritty and brooding atmosphere that definitely feels authentic to the time.

However, also like the films it is channeling, it’s also mostly dull. While the black comedy sort of makes up for the lack of real exploitation, it isn’t enough to carry the picture or really salvage it.

Although, I liked seeing Levy and Martin play characters that were somewhat serious. They hadn’t quite grown into decent actors by this point but they are the best actors in the picture.

Reitman would go on to make some of the most memorable comedies of all-time but he was very raw as a director here. The film feels very green and there are some noticeable issues but to be fair, this was also better than similar films that lesser directors put out that wouldn’t go on to do anything worthwhile after starting in schlock.

This really isn’t a blip on the radar when looking back at exploitation cinema but this is something worth checking out just to see some of the earliest work by Reitman, Levy and Martin.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the exploitation films it sort of parodies: Blood Feast, The Organ Grinders and The Wizard of Gore.

Film Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Also known as: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (working title)
Release Date: July 27th, 2010 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright
Based on: Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Music by: Nigel Godrich
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Mae Whitman, Ellen Wong, Nelson Franklin, Thomas Jane, Clifton Collins Jr., Bill Hader (voice)

Universal Pictures, Marc Platt Productions, Big Talk Productions, 112 Minutes

Review:

“When I’m around you, I kind of feel like I’m on drugs. Not that I do drugs. Unless you do drugs, in which case I do them all the time. All of them.” – Scott Pilgrim

I haven’t watched this since it came out in theaters. From memory, I liked it at the time but strangely, I’ve never felt the urge to rewatch it until now, nine years later. And that was mainly just to review it, as I’m a fan of Edgar Wright’s work and Scott Pilgrim still seems to be beloved by comic book fans after all this time.

Well, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Maybe I’m older, or since I’ve seen this, I sort of know what to expect from it so the razzle dazzle doesn’t awe me as it once did or maybe it just isn’t a good movie as far as its story, characters and purpose goes.

To start, this is an amazing looking picture on its surface. I really dig that the filmmakers committed to the bit and gave us a true live action version of the comic without trying to rework it into something more realistic. The special effects are spectacular, the musical numbers are cool and this film is really impressive in that regard. I love it for its style and how it is all conveyed on screen.

However, the whole story is focused on one of the worst romances I have ever had to sit through in a film. Scott is obsessed with Ramona, but she acts like that girl who is too cool for everyone at all the parties she feels the need to keep going to. But really, she’s just a broken person with bad hair that delivers packages for Amazon Canada like a total twentysomething normie just trying to pay for hair dye, thrift shop clothes, avocado toast and her 1/9th of the rent.

Still, her personality is off putting as fuck but then so is Scott’s, as he just acts like whatever he thinks she wants and he even treats his current girlfriend like shit and doesn’t really seem to know who he is, what he wants or where he’s going. He just knows that he’s obsessed over some hipster douche with weird hair and now has to fight a bunch of her exes in order to maybe date her. But she is so indifferent and noncommittal for almost the entire picture that Scott just comes off as a dopey puppy that needs to have his heart crushed.

Normally I wouldn’t be so harsh on something like this but it is this budding relationship that is the framework for the entire narrative. Sad pussy puts it all on the line for salty nihilist weirdo bitch that kinda maybe likes him right this minute but has no idea how she will feel in five minutes.

There is no lesson to be learned on this journey.

I’ve never read the comic because I don’t have much interest in it but I hope the relationship in the source material isn’t this shallow and stupid.

The only reason why this doesn’t get a terrible rating from me is that the visuals and the style of this film are so alluring and perfectly presented in the film medium that the picture does put me in awe in that regard. This is a really cool and fun movie to look at and I dig the music. The surface is superb, it just turns to crap when you get past the polish, bright lights and groovy tunes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, as well as the Kick Ass movies and Zombieland.

Film Review: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Also known as: Prom Night 2 (shortened title), The Haunting of Hamilton High (Germany)
Release Date: May 11th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Bruce Pittman
Written by: Ron Oliver
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Justin Louis, Lisa Schrage, Richard Monette

Simcom Limited, Allarcom Limited, British Columbia Television, Norstar Releasing, Alliance Atlantis, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not who you come with, it’s who takes you home.” – Mary Lou Maloney

Surprisingly, I had never seen this movie before. But thanks to it being featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I finally got to check it out. I also had no idea that this wasn’t an actual sequel to the first film and was it’s own thing that only took the Prom Night title after it was filmed. I guess that was to market it better.

Originally titled The Haunting of Hamilton High, this cheap Canadian horror film stands out well on its own and maybe would’ve had more of a cult following had it stuck to that original title. And even though its premise borrows quite heavily from Carrie, it’s different enough to not just be a simple ripoff of that film.

Also, like Carrie, the girl with the magical powers that ruins the prom is an innocent victim. However, she is played up here as evil because I guess sluts are bad. But before she died, she was simply horny and cheating on her boyfriend. Now her boyfriend burns her alive but it was an accident. But the adult version of him, played by Michael Ironside, is pretty much a target when Mary Lou comes back from the dead 30 years later.

So with magic and the undead involved, this isn’t a straight up slasher like its predecessor in name only. This is one of those supernatural slashers, where the evil presence possesses other people and also uses a sort of telekinetic power. Or she just attacks as an invisible ghost, it’s hard to say which one it is for sure when she murders the pregnant teen by hanging her. But later on, she does telekinetically explode neon signs, which impale a girl.

While this is not a great movie, it doesn’t need to be. It does its job, it entertains and it leaves horny teenagers in its wake. What more do you want with an ’80s horror picture? Sure, it could have gored it up a bit more but it’s not completely lacking in that regard.

Also, Michael Ironside is a fucking bawse!

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Carrie and all its sequels/reboots, as well as the other Prom Night movies even if they are unrelated.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

Also known as: Ginger Snaps 3, Ginger Snaps: The Prequel (working titles), Licantropia (Italy)
Release Date: July 10th, 2004 (Canada – Fantasia Film Festival)
Directed by: Grant Harvey
Written by: Stephen Massicotte, Christina Ray
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Alex Khaskin
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher

49 Films, Combustion, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“The air is bloody…” – Ginger

Well, here we are, the end of this trilogy. I haven’t really enjoyed it even though I liked the first film like twenty years ago and I thought that the first sequel was a wee bit better for being straight up horror and not a puberty metaphor.

However, this one has a few good spots in it but it is mostly a really dull drudge to get through.

Most of the film is just Ginger and Brigitte wearing Colonial Era cloaks and moping around reminding us that they’re insufferable goth teen cliches. But this isn’t the same Ginger and Brigitte. No, this is somehow a prequel and they’re different characters but whatever. None of that makes sense and this is all a bad idea used to milk this into a franchise that no one wanted other than twelve year-old goth girls and the Canadian film industry.

Anyway, this tries to take itself seriously but it fails. It forgets that it is supposed to have a bit of cheese but it only has bad, unintentional cheese and doesn’t try to emulate what makes the good teen/twentysomething werewolf movies, well… good. There needs to be some humor and characters that you care for, so that the transformation to monsters actually makes the audience care. Look at An American Werewolf In London for a good example of what I’m talking about.

The Ginger Snaps film series is just an ugly, moody bitch. It’s an angsty teen without a sense of humor, doing its damnedest just to piss off mom and dad because “…like the suburbs suck and shit”. This film takes the worse parts about the original and just dumps them into the Canadian wilderness of the 1810s.

Also, the acting seems to have gotten worse.

Now as far as the cool bits, there is a scene at the end where werewolf Ginger opens the gates to the fort and a hoard of werewolves walk in to eat the inhabitants. It looks good, the effects are better than they were in the first two films and you finally get to see multiple werewolves onscreen at the same time. Now the faces of the monsters aren’t very good but overall, I can see that they actually put the budget into the effects. But I guess that’s why they had to film this in a big cabin, fronting as a fort, in some Canadian state park somewhere in the woods.

I don’t know, man. This was boring, tough to get through and it made sure that I’ll probably never rewatch one of these movies again.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.