Documentary Review: Woodstock 99: Peace Love and Rage (2021)

Release Date: July 23rd, 2021
Directed by: Garret Price
Music by: Noel Hogan, Sindri Mar Sigfusson, various
Cast: various

Ringer Films, Polygram Entertainment, HBO Documentary Films, 110 Minutes

Review:

I nearly went to Woodstock ’99. In retrospect, I’m glad I missed this disaster but honestly, it would’ve still been an insane experience that stuck with me for the rest of my life, assuming I wasn’t one of the people that died an unfortunate death caused by a myriad of reasons.

This documentary really dives deep into those reasons and exposes the levels of mismanagement, poor decisions, poor conditions, riotous musical lineup, sexual assaults, overpriced everything and the angsty temperament of the youth at the time.

I think that this does a decent job of throwing out a lot of accusations and theories and then analyzes them, allowing the viewer to come to their own conclusions. Granted, many of the talking heads try to steer the conversation in their own ways.

All things considered, this was still a really well put together documentary that covered a hell of a lot of ground in under two hours. Plus, there’s a lot of information that I don’t think was readily available or reported on at the time. With all the pieces laid out, this was intriguing and fairly fascinating.

The nearly two hours flew by and I was kind of surprised when it started to wrap up. I’ve got to give credit to the filmmakers for the pacing, editing and keeping this thing as engaging as it was from start-to-finish.

I feel like we’re in an era where documentaries spend more time beating a dead horse and force feeding you their agenda without all the facts. It’s refreshing that this seemed to just lay it all on the table and let you ponder all of it freely.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Release Date: March 18th, 2021
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder, Will Beall
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Jesse Eisenberg, Joe Manganiello (uncredited), Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Russell Crowe, Marc McClure, Carla Gugino (voice), Billy Crudup (uncredited)

DC Entertainment, The Stone Quarry, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., HBO Max, 242 Minutes

Review:

“How do you know your team’s strong enough? If you can’t bring down the charging bull, then don’t wave the red cape at it.” – Alfred Pennyworth

For years, fans of Zack Snyder demanded that Warner Bros. release The Snyder Cut of 2017’s Justice League movie. For those who have read my review of it, you already know about how much I disliked that terrible film, which was taken over and finished by Joss Whedon after Snyder left the production due to a family emergency.

Needless to say, I never wanted this movie. However, it’s release seems like a real victory for fans in a time when they’re being labeled “toxic” by Hollywood and the media outlets that suck the shit straight out of the big studios’ assholes. So despite my feelings on the theatrical version of this movie, I am happy for the fans that demanded this version of it.

That being said, this is, indeed, a much better version of the film. Granted, it’s four fucking hours long, which is way too long. This probably should’ve been cut into two parts or released as an episodic miniseries. There’s just so much material but honestly, a lot of what’s here is also unnecessary. There are so many slow motion scenes that those parts really put an exclamation point on how dragged out this movie is.

It’s also got its fair share of cringe.

The biggest instance of cringe that pops into my mind is the scene that introduces Wonder Woman. She fights some terrorists with hostages but they do this weird thing where they speed up and slow down the film for dramatic effect. It’s weird, hokey and shitty. Also, she blocks every bullet fired from a machine gun with her bracelets like she has the speed and accuracy of the Flash. They’ve basically made her a female Superman with bracelets and a lasso and it’s just sort of confusing. I get that she fits this mold in the comics but in this already established film canon, it’s like her powers have increased to that of a literal god in a very short span of time compared to the length of her life. But I can also look beyond it and sort of accept it within the framework of this movie, which wasn’t supposed to exist.

Regarding other cringe, there’s the dialogue, which often times is horrendous.

There’s also Ezra Miller, who brings down the entire production every time he shows up on screen and tries to be cute and funny but just comes off like that asshole millennial barista that thinks he’s smarter than you but you can see the cat food stains on his shirt from last night’s dinner. Ezra Miller as The Flash may be the worst casting decision in the history of mainstream superhero films.

There is some good with this picture, though.

For one, every time I see Ben Affleck as Batman, he grows on me. Affleck deserves his own Batman movie but he never got one and was instead wasted in multiple shitty DCEU movies. He could be three solo Batman pictures deep now but we’ve got to see him parade around with Ezra Miller and other superheroes that appear lame in his really cool orbit.

I also thought that Steppenwolf, the film’s primary villain was much, much better in this. He feels like a real character with a real story arc. In the theatrical version, he came across as some generic miniboss whose dungeon you could skip in Skyrim. Plus, he looks so much fucking cooler in this version.

Additionally, this film gives me what I’ve always wanted to see and that’s Darkseid on the big screen. Granted, this wasn’t released in theaters so the “big screen” was a combination of a 50 inch television and my tablet screen.

There are also some great new action sequences. I kind of liked the big battle between Steppenwolf and the Amazons, as well as the big war between Darkseid, his minions and the armies of Greek gods, Amazons and Atlanteans. It was a flashback scene but it was still damn cool. Especially, the Green Lantern stuff they added in. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the intro to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I also liked that Cyborg was much more developed and didn’t just seem like a last minute addition added in to pad out the team.

The first act of the film is the worst and I felt like it moved too slow and didn’t really make me care about the movie too much. The second act, however, switched into high gear and that’s where it grabbed me as well as it could and I started to feel like I was finally getting a better, more fleshed out and worthwhile movie.

I also generally liked the third act but I thought a lot of the epilogue was unnecessary and didn’t need to be in the film. It also spends a lot of time establishing future storylines but it’s very damn likely that this will never get a sequel, as Warner Bros. were really determined not to allow this version of the film to be completed in the first place, as they want Zack Snyder to just go away now.

For those who don’t know, it was their parent company, AT&T, that forced their hand, as they needed something huge to help drive potential subscribers to their new HBO Max streaming service. This is also why this probably didn’t get a proper theatrical release.

In the end, this was still far from great and it was too damn long. However, I’d say that it’s the best DC Comics related film that Snyder has done apart from Watchmen.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Zack Snyder’s other DCEU films.

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.

Documentary Review: Citizenfour (2014)

Release Date: October 10th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Laura Poitras
Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Jacob Applebaum, Ewen MacAskill

HBO Films, Participant Media, Praxis Films, Radius-TWC, 113 Minutes

Review:

For those who don’t already know the story of Edward Snowden, this does a good job of laying out all the facts and events that led to the situation he finds himself in, today.

While millions of people want him to get a presidential pardon, which I agree with, I think it’s important for those who don’t really know his story to actually learn about it because so many seem to easily accept the “traitor” label that’s been applied to him by those in the former Obama Administration.

What’s best about this, is that it actually stars Snowden. The cameras follow him, as he traverses through the muck while trying to get all the secrets he’s discovered out there.

Additionally, this features those who helped Snowden leak his secrets.

For the most part, this was really good and it makes its point well.

There’s not much to say about the contents of the film, as people really should watch it play out for themselves.

It’s well presented and it at least gives Snowden a voice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other films on cypherpunk culture, specifically on hacking and leaking. I’ve reviewed many, here.

TV Review: McMillions (2020)

Original Run: February 3rd, 2020 – March 9th, 2020
Directed by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Written by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: various

FunMeter, Unrealistic Ideas, HBO, 6 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As a McDonald’s shareholder, a loyal customer for decades and a massive fan of the Monopoly game, this was a story that absolutely intrigued me. So seeing that HBO made a documentary series telling the story of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged was a must watch for me.

My only real gripe about this is that I never felt like the scheme was all that clear. I understood how they found people to be “winners” of the top tier game pieces (and it was fantastic hearing their stories) but I never clearly understood why the criminals behind the scheme did it in the first place.

Selling these lucrative prizes at a small fraction of what their actual value was, was kind of baffling. I feel like there had to have been a much better way for them to exploit the system and in the end, they got caught, anyway.

Also, I had always assumed that McDonald’s was involved in the shenanigans because the actual story and all the facts weren’t something I delved into before this. I had just always assumed that by giving the pieces to “friends and family members” meant that some McDonald’s exec was just doing that for personal or corporate favors.

This was interesting as hell though and I watched all six episodes in one sitting.

In the end, I’m glad that those who were roped into the scheme, didn’t have their lives ruined based off of the poor circumstances they were in when the schemesters chose them to exploit for their own gain.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries and series.

Film Review: Deadwood: The Movie (2019)

Release Date: May 31st, 2019
Directed by: Daniel Minahan
Written by: David Milch
Music by: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Brent Sexton, Sean Bridgers, Franklyn Ajaye, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Jeffrey Jones, Don Swayze, Jade Pettyjohn, Cleo King, Peter Jason, Geri Jewell, Garret Dillahunt (cameo), Larry Cedar (cameo)

Red Board Productions, The Mighty Mint, HBO Films, 110 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a sad night. Something’s afire. Christ, I do have feelings.” – Al Swearengen

Man, I’m still a bit pissed that we never got a fourth season of Deadwood, especially with how the third season ended. We were told that there’d be a movie to followup the series, however, but that seemed to be an empty promise, as it was in limbo for well over a decade. Well, in 2018, they were finally able to get the key cast members back to revisit the Deadwood world once again.

While I still would’ve preferred a fourth season and felt like the followup to the George Hearst storyline needed more time to come to its proper and satisfying conclusion, this was still probably the next best thing, considering the long hiatus and frankly, it’s better than nothing, as we’re no longer left with an intense, unresolved cliffhanger.

Even though, this film came out thirteen years after the show ended, the story takes place ten years later. It lets us peek into the lives of all these great characters once again and it does a pretty good job of closing out some lingering issues and plot threads. But, unfortunately, these characters deserved more time, especially since there are so many of them that you care about and only 110 minutes to wedge all this story into.

I get it, it was a bit of a miracle that this actually, finally, got made. But it would’ve been a richer, better and more satisfactory story had it at least been a multi-part miniseries or even the length of half of a regular season. While I know that these shows and films are expensive to produce, Deadwood was iconic and even if it is wrapped up, for better or worse, it just left you needing more.

Still, this was damn enjoyable and every actor really stepped up and brought their A-game, returning to roles that none of them had played for nearly a decade and a half. In fact, many of them have grown and become even better with all the added experience they’ve gotten over their careers. Most of these actors have gone on to do many, great things and it was impressive that they were actually able to get most of them back.

I thought the story was really good and the best that could be done with the running time. There isn’t a dull moment in the film and it flies by. On the flipside of that, it doesn’t feel like too much is stuffed in either. Plus, it is fairly well-balanced between all the key characters. I even like that they were able to work in some of the minor characters without it feeling forced or just cheap fan service.

While this isn’t as great as a fourth season could have been, it at least gives fans some closure after all these years. Still, I’d always be down for more.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the Deadwood television series, which should probably be watched first.

Vids I Dig 145: The Critical Drinker: ‘Watchmen’ – Episode 1

 

From The Critical Drinker’s YouTube description: So is HBO’s Watchmen a worthy successor to the critically acclaimed comic book and the dark and gritty Zack Snyder movie, or just a trashy, low-effort waste of time? Let’s find out as I review Episode 1 – “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out Of Ice”.

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