Documentary Review: Spielberg (2017)

Release Date: October 5th, 2017 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Susan Lacy
Cast: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Richard Dreyfuss, John Williams, J.J. Abrams, James Brolin, Bob Balaban, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Frank Marshall, Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Zemeckis, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tom Cruise, Eric Bana, Daniel Craig

HBO Documentary Films, Pentimento Productions, 147 Minutes

Review:

This was a pretty stellar documentary for fans of not just Steven Spielberg but filmmaking and film history in general.

It reminded me a lot of the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, in that this spent a lot of time breaking down most of the key movies in Spielberg’s oeuvre.

Every segment here was rich, detailed and featured interviews with some major directors, actors and producers. But the film also gets into Spielberg’s personal life and how real life experiences influenced his movies.

This was a lengthy documentary, just as the Kubrick one was and rightfully so. In fact, this could have been the length of a ten part, two hour apiece Ken Burns documentary and I still would have been fully engaged.

Spielberg’s career has been long and full of at least a dozen classic films that will be remembered forever. Each segment could’ve been it’s own documentary film and it actually kind of sucks that a few films were mentioned but not given as much detail, most notably A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the Jurassic Park sequels and some of his production work like Back to the Future.

Still, this is pretty thorough and there is so much to unpack and take away from this. It is one of the best documentaries on a filmmaker’s life and career.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on specific directors but this reminded me a lot of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures.

TV Review: Maniac (2018- )

Original Run: September 21st, 2018 – current
Created by: Patrick Somerville
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by: Patrick Somerville, various
Based on: Maniac by Espen PA Lervaag, Håakon Bast Mossige, Kjetil Indregard, Ole Marius Araldsen
Music by: Dan Romer
Cast: Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux, Sonoya Mizuno, Gabriel Byrne, Sally Field, Julia Garner, Hank Azaria, Selenis Leyva

Parliament of Owls, Rubicon TV, Anonymous Content, Paramount Television, Netflix, 10 Episodes (so far), 26-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I had no idea what this show was and I hadn’t heard anything about it before it dropped. That being said, I was glad that I went into this blindly. All I knew is that it was sci-fi, had Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and was directed by a guy who did True Detective, a show I still haven’t seen but have heard nothing but great things about.

Also, this is a miniseries. So I’m not sure if it’s a one-off or if it will return for new seasons with a whole new cast similar to Fukunaga’s True Detective or a lot of other recent television shows on various premium and cable networks.

The story is hard to summarize but in a nutshell this is about two people who undergo some controversial and dangerous drug trial. The pills and the almost otherworldly tech sends them into a strong dream state where they play out the lives of other people. The first story seems grounded in reality, even if it’s a bit nuts, and then each tale gets more and more fantastical. Ultimately, it all serves to help cure them of their personal and emotional demons. The two main characters, played by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, develop a strong connection as they become directly involved in each other’s road to emotional recovery.

The show started out really strong, it lost me a bit going into the second half but then it recovered nicely in the last two episodes where everything came together in a great way.

This was a really cool experiment and this was exceptionally well crafted but I don’t know if it’s something I would want to revisit in a second season. I guess that depends on the cast and what the premise would be.

I loved the hybrid of retro and futuristic styles. In a lot of ways, this resembles an ’80s cinematic representation of the future.

I guess the high point for me was Sally Field. I liked seeing her play two very contrasting roles and she nailed both exceptionally well but at the same time, it’s Sally f’n Field.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Netflix shows: Black MirrorAltered Carbon and The OA.

Film Review: Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Release Date: May 27th, 1977
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: James Lee Barrett, Charles Shyer, Alan Mandel
Music by: Bill Justis, Jerry Reed
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, Macon McCalman

Rastar, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What we’re dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.” – Sheriff Buford T. Justice

Smokey and the Bandit is one of those pop culture things that was huge and often times talked about when I was a kid. Granted, I wasn’t born until the end of 1978 but this was a film that I couldn’t escape, as it spawned a few sequels and was so beloved that it was on television and VHS everywhere I looked. But justifiably so, because there is just something bad ass and cool about Burt Reynolds, especially with Jerry Reed as his partner and Jackie Gleason in hot pursuit. Not to mention the charming charisma of Sally Field.

While this is a massively cherished movie, I personally don’t see it as a classic worthy of the highest levels of esteem. Is it fun? You bet your ass. It is also hilarious, at times, and the characters are all pretty lovable. All that aside though, it’s not a great movie. Well, not great in the sense that it should be a true cinematic classic.

The action is better than decent but it isn’t anything exceptional. It really plays like an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard except it is a feature length picture. As a kid, I certainly enjoyed The Dukes of Hazzard a lot more but maybe that is because I had the car, the poster and it was on television just about every single day. Sure, that television series was obviously inspired by Smokey and the Bandit and a whole slew of cowboy car and trucker movies but it had a bigger impact on me and I certainly feel more nostalgic for it than Smokey.

Burt Reynolds is still pretty damn enjoyable in anything but therein lies the problem. Had this not been a vehicle for Reynolds, it probably would have just come and went and not reached the pop culture heights that it did. Take out Jackie Gleason and you’re not left with much other than a run of the mill car stunt movie.

This is a film that is truly carried by its stars. While I would probably still find enjoyment with it had someone else played the Bandit, I doubt that the general public would have gotten behind it like they did.

The direction isn’t great and the editing is choppy in some parts and actually has a lot of mistakes, especially in regards to where vehicles are in relation to each other from cut to cut. Also, Coors is a pretty shitty beer but the microbrewery revolution hadn’t really kicked off in 1977 and rednecks today still drink mass produced swill.

While it may sound like I am being hard on this film, I’m just putting the facts out there, as I see them. I really like Smokey and the Bandit but not in the same vein as its hardcore fans. But that’s okay. Everyone has their cup of tea and while this is a very good cup, it isn’t a great cup.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Release Date: March 31st, 2014 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkler, James Vanderbilt
Based on: The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Felicity Jones, B.J. Novak, Denis Leary, Chris Cooper

Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Inc., Matt Tolmach Productions, Columbia Pictures, 142 Minutes

the_amazing_spiderman_2Review:

Man, where do I begin with this film? To start, it was pretty awful overall. Granted, I wasn’t a fan of the first one and I didn’t expect much from this outing but despite a few things I liked, the vast majority of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was complete shit.

Every male actor in this film was horrible. Andrew Garfield is not all that likeable and I can’t relate to him like I did to the previous Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire. Garfield just can’t sell the “nerdy photographer” shtick all that well and most of the time he is borderline emo (I am ignoring Maguire’s fall into emo madness in Spider-Man 3 because I pretend that that film doesn’t exist).

Speaking of emo, Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn was atrocious. He was an emo girl’s wet dream, whining and crawling on the ground and whining some more with his burnout lizard-looking face and Dashboard Confessional haircut. I never felt threatened by this dime store wuss and his attempts at being bad ass were laughable when they weren’t just irritating. His look as Green Goblin was just goofy and ridiculous. I felt like I was watching some waify angsty morally conflicted rich kid at Comic-Con trying to dress up as Sting in Dune but doing a bad job at it.

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon a.k.a. Electro was probably the worst performance of his illustrious career since Booty Call. The character was also unlikable and so one-dimensional that almost every piece of dialogue that was written for him was completely predictable. He may have been the stupidest smart person in the history of cinema.

Then there was Paul Giamatti as the dude who becomes Rhino, talking in the worst Russian accent I have ever heard while just being completely idiotic. I typically love Giamatti, but in this film, I felt embarrassed for him.

Weirdly, all the females in the movie were pretty good. Emma Stone was great, adorable and mesmerizing, as always, Sally Field was fantastic and Felicity Jones was good with the limited role she had. But even the strong female presences couldn’t save this pile of insipid juvenile crap.

As far as the plot goes, there was so much nonsensical bullshit that it became a complete clusterfuck and the plot was just secondary and didn’t matter all that much. The whole film was a cookie cutter superhero love story with a predictable outcome mixed in with over-the-top CGI orgasmfests that offered nothing new or captivating.

And why was it so friggin’ long?

On a positive note, it wasn’t as dull and boring as the first film in the series.