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.

TV Review: 11.22.63 (2016)

Original Run: February 15th, 2016 – April 4th, 2016
Created by: Bridget Carpenter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Music by: J. J. Abrams, Alex Heffes
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, Daniel Webber, T. R. Knight, Kevin J. O’Connor, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper, Annette O’Toole

Carpenter B., Bad Robot Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Hulu, 8 Episodes, 44-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I was actually pretty hyped to watch this when it was coming out, three years ago. However, my work life took a turn for the worse and I spent most of 2016 working about 70 hours per week and not having much time for anything else. I actually started this site later in that year when things started to stabilize again but by that point, this slipped down the memory hole.

However, I’ve been wanting to watch Stephen King’s Castle Rock on Hulu. So before getting into that, I wanted to go back and check this out, as it was King’s first Hulu collaboration.

The premise follows a man (James Franco), as he goes back in time to try and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s an interesting premise but it does also seem that the protagonist does it really haphazardly, as messing with the timeline can have some unforeseen consequences and it does. In fact, it has grave consequences, which I think are supposed to surprise you but for fans of time travel stories, it really doesn’t. I kind of sighed and went, “Well, it’s not like this wasn’t an obvious result of his meddling.”

What’s interesting about this though, is that King explores the idea of time itself fighting back during the hero’s journey. It almost feels like horror at times but at the same time, the effect that time has in fighting back against changes seems inconsistent throughout the story. It is really only used where it is convenient to the plot in some way or just to remind you that time is its own master.

I had a problem with that aspect of the story and I felt like it was a wasted opportunity in a lot of ways. Cool concept, half assed execution.

But still, this was damn compelling television. You get drawn into this world, this character’s mission and you do fall in love with some of the characters.

The acting is superb and this is some of Franco’s best dramatic work. But the rest of the cast is also exceptional, especially the love interest, played by Sarah Gadon, the and the best friend/partner, played by George MacKay. But two real standouts were Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald and the evil son of a bitch that was brought to life by Josh Duhamel.

Overall, this was a solid political thriller with a time travel twist. While the time travel stuff was handled pretty willy-nilly, you get so caught up in the proceedings that it feels secondary.

Rating: 8.5/10

Vids I Dig 074: Toy Galaxy: The History of ‘MASK’: 1985 Toyline and Cartoon

From Toy Galaxy’s YouTube description: It was birthed at the retro pop culture nexus in 1985, had a relatively short lifespan and it’s fans have been teased with a reboot or resurrection multiple times since.

We are, of course, talking about MASK. That uniquely amazing toyline combining action figures, vehicles and transforming.

Here is the history of MASK.

Book Review: LIFE: Film Noir: 75 Years of the Greatest Crime Films

While this was technically released in a magazine format, it’s written more like a book, is devoid of ads and I read it on my kindle. Also, I want to read more specialty magazines like this for review purposes but since there are only a few I have, at the moment, I’ll categorize them with books for now.

This one looks at film-noir throughout history. It’s really broken into two sections: one that deals specifically with classic film-noir and then a latter section that deals with neo-noir, showing the effects and influence that classic noir had on later motion pictures.

The films selected here are all pretty top notch pictures in the genre. I thought it a bit odd that Sunset Boulevard was omitted but this magazine did seem to put its focus more on noir that were primarily crime dramas. But not really mentioning the impact of that film, as well as the influence of Citizen Kane, as far as style goes, seemed off. Especially when this does mention the stylistic influences it took from German Expressionism.

But I’m not going to gripe about those films not really being on the radar of the staff that put this together.

I think that this would have been a better and much richer read had it been put into something larger than a magazine. I blew through this in an hour and while I liked reading about the films discussed here, each chapter was pretty damn short. But I also get that this is more of a crash course and primer on noir movies than a full semester at film school.

The best part wasn’t even the write ups about the films, though. It was actually a lot of the captions that came with all the photos thrown in here. I learned more new information that way than from the film write ups themselves.

Reading this was a breeze but frankly, it left me wanting more… a lot more. But there are several great books on film-noir that give you a lot more meat and potatoes.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other books on film-noir: Into the Dark, Film Noir FAQ and The Dark Side of the Screen.

Vids I Dig 073: Yesterworld: The Troubled History of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

From Yesterworld’s YouTube description: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride closed at the Magic Kingdom in 1998, despite a media frenzy and protests, so here we explore the story of how it came to be, the Disneyland original version of Mr. Toad before New Fantasyland, and more Disney history.