TV Review: The Innocent Man (2018)

Original Run: December 14th, 2018
Created by: Ross M. Dinerstein, Clay Tweel
Directed by: Clay Tweel
Based on: The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice In a Small Town by John Grisham
Cast: John Grisham, various

Campfire, The Gernert Company, Netflix, 6 Episodes, 42-52 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This was another release in a long list of Netflix true crime documentary miniseries. As I’m trying to work my ways through these, out of the ones I hadn’t yet seen, the premise for this one interested me, especially since it dealt with the possibility of false confessions, which has been a key portion of other similar documentaries I’ve seen.

This deals with a small Oklahoma town called Ada, and two murder cases that happened just two years apart in the early ’80s. The fact that two brutal murders happened in such a small town, so close together, isn’t even the most shocking thing. The story of these two cases and their similarities captivated crime author John Grisham so much, that all of this became the subject of his only nonfiction book.

I thought that this had the same issue as a lot of the other Netflix true crime releases with more than a handful of episodes and that was pacing and a fixation on certain details that are overall moot. I guess that these are made to lay out as much of the evidence as possible but at the same time, Netflix true crime productions have omitted things in the past and they don’t need to dwell on certain things just to milk the story in an effort to increase viewing hours. Well, maybe they do, as investors are fickle hoes.

Like many of the other Netflix true crime sagas, this also doesn’t give you a satisfying ending, as these cases are still a clusterfuck, the justice system is in the way of itself and the people who are most likely wrongfully imprisoned are still imprisoned without much hope that this will change.

Still, these things are usually damn compelling and this is no different. I like hearing from the people involved, directly, and getting their two cents without some third party just interpreting their words and potentially adding their spin or agenda to it.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Doctor X (1932)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1932 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Robert Tasker, Earl Baldwin
Based on: Terror, 1928 play by Howard W. Comstock, Allen C. Miller
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernard Kaun
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

First National Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Were the murdered women… attacked?” – Dr. Haines, Academy of Surgical Research

I don’t know if this is the first horror/comedy ever made but it’s gotta be pretty close. However, it also blends together several genres in what’s a really unique experience for a motion picture from 1932.

This is directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct several film-noir pictures, as well as big budget swashbuckling blockbusters starring the legendary Errol Flynn. Curtiz was a pretty versatile and now celebrated director but this may be his most unusual film.

So the version of this that I watched was actually the one restored by George Lucas’ people, which was also in Technicolor, as opposed to the traditional black and white.

However, I really liked the Technicolor work in this film and it made it feel gritty and real and also somewhat haunting and majestic. The use of green accents enhanced it in a unique way and while I typically prefer to see films, as they were intended, this almost makes a good argument for the use of colorization just by how it was employed here.

I thought that the film was amusing, I liked the comedy and it still works for those few of us that still enjoy pictures from this era.

I also enjoyed the performances by Lionel Atwill, a guy that was featured in a slew of classic Universal Monsters films, as well as Fay Wray, who will always be remembered for her iconic part in the original King Kong.

While this is sort of your typical mad scientist tale, it’s genre bending narrative comes across as fresh and unique when compared to similar movies of the time.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: The Keepers (2017)

Original Run: May 19th, 2017
Created by: Ryan White
Directed by: Ryan White
Based on: Murder of Catherine Cesnik
Cast: various

Film 45, Tripod Media, Netflix, 7 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This Netflix true crime documentary featured an incredibly interesting story about the mysterious and unsolved murder of a nun more than fifty years-ago and how it seems as if it is associated with the sexual abuse committed by a priest at a high school.

Sadly, that priest is dead and can’t suffer for the things he did to several children. However, this documentary does serve as an avenue for these victims to speak about what happened to them and how it may very well relate to the murder of the young nun, who many of the female victims saw as their one true confidant in the school.

This documentary series is seven episodes long and while each is chock full of details, this did seem like it was dragged out much further than it needed to be, especially since the case is still unsolved, even after all the information that is shared in these seven hours.

Like many of the other Netflix true crime miniseries, though, this is well-produced and well-presented. 

This is a tragic and honestly, infuriating story. Hopefully, this sheds enough light onto the case that it can actually be solved some day. As is the nature of these things, though, the more time passes, the less likely that seems possible.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The Boys From Brazil (1978)

Release Date: August 19th, 1978 (Honolulu sneak preview)
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by: Heywood Gould
Based on: The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, John Rubinstein, Anne Meara, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, Sky du Mont, Carl Duering, Prunella Scales

Sir Lew Grade, Producers Circle, ITC Films, 125 Minutes

Review:

“Do you know what I saw on the television in my motel room at one o’clock this morning? Films of Hitler! They are showing films about the war! The movement! People are fascinated! The time is ripe! Adolf Hitler is alive!” – Dr. Josef Mengele

This is a movie that I watched in middle school, back in the early ’90s. I remembered digging the hell out of it and thought it was a pretty cool story with some actors that I really liked. I haven’t seen it since then, though, so I wanted to see what I thought about it as an adult. Plus, the decades in-between have made me forget some of the finer details.

The story is about a mad Nazi doctor (Gregory Peck) that has made 94 clones of Adolf Hitler and is having them raised under similar circumstances in an effort to champion in the Fourth Reich. However, a clever Jewish Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) is informed of the mad doctor’s plot by a young man (Steve Guttenberg) that stumbled upon it in Paraguay.

The movie also features a lot of talent beyond Peck, Olivier and Guttenberg. You’ve also got James Mason, Rosemary Harris, Denholm Elliott, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, Anne Meara and Prunella Scales.

Overall, this is just a cool concept that’s executed pretty well. This plays like other solid ’70s political thrillers but the stacked cast really brings it to a higher level, especially Peck, Olivier and Mason: three legit heavyweights that make everything they touch better.

The story is interesting, the acting is superb, the editing is good, the pacing is perfect and the movie gives you a really enjoyable finale that’s worth the wait.

After all these years, I actually think that I liked The Boys From Brazil more than I had anticipated. It’s something that I’m sure I’ll revisit again.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: The Staircase (2004-2018)

Original Run: October 7th, 2004 – June 8th, 2018
Created by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Directed by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Written by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Cast: Michael Peterson, various

Canal+, Netflix, 13 Episodes, 44-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard people rave about this documentary series a few years back. Since I’ve recently been binging the shit out of Netflix true crime documentaries, I figured that I should finally give this one a watch.

Well, I was really underwhelmed by it and I think it’s just another case of hype blowing something up to an unrealistic level.

I will say that the story here is damn compelling and there are a lot of holes in the investigation or so it would appear, based on how this documentary reveals the details.

However, it’s the presentation of this series that made it somewhat of a bore to get through.

This follows the investigation and spends a lot of time in the court room during the trials. However, most of the show is shot and presented reality TV style, following around all the members of the family and legal team, as they constantly pontificate on that day’s activities and developments. It’s just not that interesting when you realize that all of the accused killer’s kids (minus one) are going to believe his innocence no matter what.

“Not my dad! There’s no way he could do that! I know my dad!”

“Did you know he had gay sex with male prostitutes?”

“What? I didn’t know my dad was gay! But he could never kill my mom! I know my dad!”

I also feel like this documentary was obviously biased towards the family and towards the sentiment that author-possibly-turned-killer, Michael Peterson, was innocent. Looking into that after watching this for myself, there are a lot of other people that feel like this was a biased documentary and that it omitted things that didn’t support its narrative.

In the end, I was initially captivated by the story but from a production standpoint, this wasn’t as polished and well-paced as the more recent Netflix true crime documentaries. I also don’t feel confident in the details provided by this documentary.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Don’t Fuck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (2019)

Original Run: December 18th, 2019
Created by: Dimitri Doganis, Adam Hawkins
Directed by: Mark Lewis
Written by: Mark Lewis
Music by: Blue Spill
Cast: various

Raw TV, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I knew vaguely about this story from headlines that I’d see pop-up on social media from time-to-time. However, I never knew all the details and how big this investigation by regular people online had grown in an effort to catch this sick, sadistic, narcissistic fuck.

Overall, this was a compelling documentary miniseries and one of the best that I’ve seen from Netflix. Weirdly, I’m starting to get addicted to these things, where they weren’t my cup of tea before. Maybe that has something to do with getting older or maybe it’s just because Netflix creates some high quality, really well produced material in this regard.

Initially, the story starts out with a group of people on Facebook trying to discover who is behind a video that features the murder of a cat. Things escalate to the point where the cat killer challenges these people to find him, as he’s obsessed with the attention its getting him. He then kills more cats and hints that he’s going to turn to people next. Eventually he lures in a guy for sex but murders him on camera, as well.

All the while, the authorities are of no help and don’t really believe the warnings of the people from the Facebook group. Ultimately, once a human is killed, the real authorities get involved and take all the previous evidence more seriously.

By the end of the story, the scumbag is caught and brought to justice.

This was presented in a compelling way and all of the key talking head interviews were pretty damn stellar, as they were able to recall all the details and help paint a picture of who this killer was and what they feel were his motivations.

In the end, this is an incredibly disturbing story that is hard to get through, at points, due to the nature of the crimes and the details, but it does have a happy ending considering that such an evil piece of shit is off the streets.

Rating: 8/10