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.

Film Review: Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

Release Date: October 14th, 1888 (UK)
Directed by: Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
Cast: Annie Hartley, Adolphe Le Prince, Joseph Whitley, Sarah Whitley

Whitley Partners, Original length 4.33 seconds, 52 frames at 12fps

Review:

How do you review something that is less than five seconds long? Let alone something completely devoid of plot? Well, you can’t.

The reason I am talking about this film though is due to its historical significance.

It is the oldest surviving film, at least that anyone knows about. Maybe there are some other experimental pieces buried in a European cellar somewhere but who’s to say?

Now some people may say that 1877’s Sallie Gardner at a Gallop is the first “motion picture” but it wasn’t shot with a single camera, it was shot with multiple cameras with each photo frame being used like a flip book or animation.

Louis Le Prince, this film’s director, was a French artist and inventor and this short clip was a test of his newly invented motion picture camera. While his invention and this film are significant, Le Prince didn’t have a direct influence on what would become the motion picture industry.

Le Prince also made a few other short film clips but two years after this experiment, he vanished… literally. No one knows what happened to him but it’s suspected that he committed suicide due to impending bankruptcy.

Some have thought that this film may be cursed. Because in addition to Le Prince’s disappearance, Sarah Whitley, one of the people in the scene, died ten days after filming. Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, was also shot to death. However, that happened a few years after he testified in court in defense of his fahter’s inventions against Thomas Edison. But some people like to connect all of this to the film clip like it’s some 1880s Poltergeist.

Anyway, the clip is pretty basic and straightforward, as you can see for yourself below. It’s not really reviewable but it is worth shedding some light on for its place in early motion picture history.

Rating: NR/10
Pairs well with: other very early and experimental films.

Documentary Review: The Commodore Story: Changing the World 8-Bits at a Time (2018)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2018 (London and California premieres)
Directed by: Steven Fletcher
Written by: Steven Fletcher
Music by: Harry Filby, Matthew Fletcher, Tristan Kane

WavemStudios, 120 Minutes

Review:

I never owned a Commodore 64 but I had a cousin that owned one. Every time I went to his house, all we did was play games on it. To me, it was a really cool experience and very different than playing games on consoles. All I owned were a Nintendo and the Atari 5200, so using the Commodore was always a treat.

And while I don’t have a lot of experience with Commodore, I did have some experience with Amiga, as my mum had one for work. I got to play it whenever she wasn’t using it for graphic design and it always sort of brought up the same feelings I got with the Commodore 64.

The reason I bring up Amiga, is that this is just as much a documentary about that company, as it is Commodore. In fact, there’s even a lot of stuff in here about Atari too, as many of the people interviewed worked for two or all three of the companies in some capacity.

If you like the history and culture of the tech industry or video games, this is certainly a worthwhile documentary to check out. It’s certainly a must watch for retro gaming junkies like myself.

This was a crowdfunded documentary that really should have pleased its investors. It’s meticulously produced and presented with great interviews, stellar editing and a really good flow. Plus, it’s incredibly informative, as all the people in this give personal stories and their two cents on the business end of things regarding the evolution of all these companies discussed and ultimately, how Commodore ceased to exist.

I was entertained and engaged for the entire duration. And honestly, it made me want to fire up my Commodore emulator.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other tech industry documentaries.

Documentary Review: Bloodsucking Cinema (2007)

Release Date: October 26th, 2007
Directed by: Barry Gray
Written by: Barry Gray
Music by: Don MacDonald
Cast: Uwe Boll, John Carpenter, David S. Goyer, Corey Haim, John Landis, Kristanna Loken, Leonard Maltin, Cheech Marin, Greg Nicotero, Joel Schumacher, Stephen Sommers, Stuart Townsend, Stan Winston, Len Wiseman, Marv Wolfman

Insight Film Studios, Vamp Productions, 56 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my Starz queue for a long ass time, so I figured I’d give it a watch to clear out some of the stuff that’s been there for too long.

Overall, this was a pretty boring documentary with a lot of talking head interviews edited together pretty sloppily.

There didn’t seem to be a clear direction or objective about this short documentary other than having a bunch of actors and directors talking about vampire films they’ve been apart of.

Frankly, this felt random as hell and features a slew of films that no one cared about when they came out and certainly don’t care about now. While they talk about some solid films like Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, they also spend a lot of time talking about shit movies like Van Helsing, BloodRayne and Queen of the Damned.

I wouldn’t call this informative or entertaining. It’s a pointless, shitty production that only barely scratches the surface on the history of vampire cinema and would rather showcase Uwe Boll and Stephen Sommers rambling about their atrocious movies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: sniffing hobo farts.

 

Documentary Review: Bad Reputation (2018)

Also known as: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (poster title)
Release Date: January 22nd, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: Kevin Kerslake
Written by: Joel Marcus
Music by: The Runaways, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Cast: Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Pop, Michael J. Fox, Rodney Bingenheimer, Debbie Harry, Kristen Stewart, Pete Townsend, Dana White

BMG, Blackheart Films, Inaudible Films, Submarine, Magnolia Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

Joan Jett is awesome. If you disagree, you have horrible taste.

Now that that’s out of the way, I was glad to come across this documentary about her life and career. Because, frankly, outside of just enjoying her music whether with the Runaways or with the Blackhearts, I never knew much about her.

As a biographical music documentary, this is pretty standard fare. It goes into her personal life, her backstory and then talks about all the major points in her career.

It’s a well produced and edited piece though and it’s Joan, herself, that gives this thing its life. She’s just great to listen to and her passion comes through.

Additionally, there are a lot of talking head interviews with a slew of famous fans and other musicians. This had a good, solid cast of people with their own unique takes and stories about Joan.

This is definitely one of the more enjoyable rock and roll documentaries to come out in the last few years. The production quality is great, there isn’t a dull moment and it was a fantastic way to kill time on a cramped, cross country flight.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent rock and roll biopics: Gimme Danger, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whiteny, 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: WWE 365: Alexa Bliss (2019)

Release Date: June 23rd, 2019
Cast: Alexa Bliss

WWE Network, 49 Minutes

Review:

This was the first of the WWE 365 documentaries that I watched. But based off of this one, I will probably check out the others.

I watched this one because it aired immediately after a pay-per-view I was watching and because I have really dug Alexa Bliss since she was first called up to the main WWE roster in the summer of 2016.

For having less than three years on the main roster, she has already carved out one of the best careers out of any of WWE’s female superstars in history. Sure, she’s not quite on the Trish Stratus or Fabulous Moolah level (yet) but her rise to the top was almost immediate and she hasn’t let go of that brass ring other than where injuries kept her out of action.

What’s really compelling about this documentary is that it follows her for a year and it was the year where she started out on top but had to work through a lengthy and dangerous injury in an effort to get back to form and to once again rule the women’s roster.

Alexa has a great personality, is pretty damn likable and she gets to be herself and not just a character on television. Her charm and charisma come through and this solid episode of 365 allows you to connect with her on a real level.

You learn about her past struggles, her loves outside of the ring and you see her in a different light, as she has mostly been a villain since winning her first (of many) championships.

For wrestling fans, WWE 365 is worth checking out. For fans of Alexa Bliss, this installment is a must watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other WWE 365 episodes, as well as their other documentary series, WWE 24.

Documentary Review: Road to Wasteland (2017)

Release Date: June 24th, 2017 (France – TV)
Directed by: Sébastien Antoine, Vivien Floris
Written by: Sébastien Antoine, Vivien Floris

AB Productions, 53 Minutes

Review:

I’m glad that I watched this documentary simply for the fact that it made me aware of this subculture within Mad Max fandom, as well as the annual Wasteland event that sees these people come together to show off their Mad Max inspired vehicles.

This was a pretty straightforward documentary with typical talking head interviews but everyone had a good story, a cool vehicle and expressed their love of this weekend festival with convincing passion.

No one here seemed like they were overselling or that they weren’t genuinely in love with this event. It’s the kind of the passion that rubs off and makes you want to experience it as well.

This was only 53 minutes, as it was made for television but this could have been longer and been just as interesting.

I’ve seen about a billion documentaries about different types of fandom and they are all pretty much the same. But few are this cool.

If you are a fan of the Mad Max films or even a part of some subculture born out of that, you’ll probably find great enjoyment in this.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about specific fandoms.