Documentary Review: Shadowing the Third Man (2004)

Release Date: October 11th, 2004
Directed by: Frederick Baker
Written by: Frederick Baker
Cast: John Hurt (narrator)

Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes

Review:

The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.

So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.

This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.

What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.

This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.

Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.

Documentary Review: Ghostheads (2016)

Release Date: July 15th, 2016
Directed by: Brendan Mertens
Music by: John Avarese
Cast: William Atherton, Dan Aykroyd, Matt Cardona (Zack Ryder), Dave Coulier, Paul Feig, Kurt Fuller, Ernie Hudson, Ivan Reitman, James Rolfe, Jennifer Runyon, Sigourney Weaver

Double Windsor Films, Patchwork Media, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, 73 Minutes

Review:

There are a lot of specific fandoms out there. In this day and age with crowdfunding, it seems like all of them have their own documentaries. That’s cool though, as I find myself as a part of many different fandoms. Maybe not to the extent of the people in these sort of documentaries but I’m always down to hear from people that share one of my many passions.

I’ve loved Ghostbusters almost my entire life. I first saw it at five or six years-old and I was hooked. Between the two movies, the animated series and the toys, I spent a lot of time with my imagination locked into the Ghostbusters world.

What’s impressive about this specific fandom documentary, however, is that it actually interviews a lot of the people who were involved in the films and in the genesis of the franchise’s creation.

It’s cool hearing from the actors, the filmmakers and even voice actors from the cartoon.

Beyond that, this also focuses on the fans, as most fandom documentaries do because that’s sort of the point.

All in all, it seems like these films are a dime a dozen. But this is definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen.

The Ghostbusters fan community really goes all out on the cosplay and in trying to deck out their own personal vehicles to resemble the iconic Ecto-1. It’s hard not to appreciate that sort of enthusiasm.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about specific fandoms.

Documentary Review: Gimme Danger (2016)

Release Date: May 19th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: Iggy Pop, The Stooges
Cast: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton, Danny Fields

Amazon Studios, Magnolia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue forever but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it. Being that it was in the queue for so long is why I kept forgetting about it, as it was way, way down the list.

Anyway, I usually like Jim Jamrusch as a filmmaker. While he typically does dramatic features, I don’t think I’ve seen a documentary by him. Being that this one is on Iggy Pop and The Stooges is really what peaked my interest. Iggy has been a favorite artist of mine pretty much my entire life, since I first heard “Lust for Life”, and The Stooges made what I consider to be one of the best albums of all-time with their 1969 self-titled debut.

This immediately gets right into their breakup and troubles but it’s all a set up, as the credits roll after a few minutes. Following the credits, the story goes back to the beginning to fill in what happened before the real drama.

This also goes well beyond the break up of The Stooges, focuses on Iggy’s solo career, his time in London with David Bowie and what his former bandmates were up to. Eventually, we get to see The Stooges, older and wiser, reunite and reignite their friendship.

Gimme Danger is pretty compelling and just a good rock and roll story starring a legitimate living legend.

It moves at a good, brisk pace without any wasted moments.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent music biopics: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whitney, A Band Called Death, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and David Bowie: The Last Five Years.

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.

Documentary Review: At the Drive-In (2017)

Release Date: October 20th, 2017 (Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival)
Directed by: Alexander Monelli

80 Minutes

Review:

For film lovers, this is a pretty heartwarming documentary.

The story here is about an old school drive-in theater that didn’t have the money to move into the digital age that Hollywood film studios have forced theaters into. So they became a drive-in that focuses on old films.

But the story goes deeper than that, as it really focuses on the love for film that all the people around this unique theater share.

It shows you a community coming together to keep the drive-in running, as its employees work for free, volunteering their time to turn this place into something special when almost all the other drive-ins in America have shut down over the years.

While this is a film about the love of movies, it’s really a human story and about people’s love for the things that make them feel whole. Without the drive-in, these people would lose something dear to them and their community.

And frankly, I’m all for keeping old movies relevant and for having as many means to showcase them as possible. Especially, in a day and age where Hollywood has lost its way and the art of filmmaking has greatly been diminished by the art of making dollars.

It’s just really great to see passionate people put their lives and their own self-interest on hold in order to hold onto something that could easily slip away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Going Attractions and Out of Print.

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

Documentary Review: Funhouse (1997)

Release Date: 1997

Discovery Channel, 44 Minutes

Review:

I remember seeing this on the Discovery Channel when it was new. It always stuck with me and after becoming a fan of the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld, I wanted to try and track this down to revisit.

Sadly, there is no information about it online. There isn’t even an IMDb page. As I like to list the credits for everything I review, it sucks that I can’t give the proper people the credit they deserve for this cool little documentary that has stuck with me for 22 years.

Seeing it now, it was still a lot of fun and the real high point is where it showcases local, lesser known theme parks throughout the country. The two main ones that we get a peek at here are Bushkill Park and Kennywood, both from Pennsylvania.

What’s extra special about seeing this now, is that since this documentary, Bushkill Park has fallen into disrepair and doesn’t function as a full park anymore. There have been attempts at fixing it but the iconic rides of the past no longer function and have been wrecked by flooding and vandalism. But at the time of this documentary’s production, we got to see a lot of the old attractions in their mostly full glory.

This also goes into the technological advances that Universal Studios and Disney World were bringing into the theme park industry at the time. Some of the “new” rides featured here no longer exist or have evolved but this was a cool time capsule that looks into what was cutting edge in the ’90s.

If you like theme parks and their history, this is a fun watch. I put the whole documentary below and it even has the commercials left in, so its like a real ’90s TV time capsule.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld.