Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Choke

Monday, October 11th, 2010

tn_chokeCHOKE is an early mixed martial arts documentary, released in ’99 and directed by one Rob Goodman. They don’t call it “mixed martial arts” or “MMA,” they seem to like “no rules fighting,” even though the movie makes it clear that there are rules, and even shows people arguing over what the rules should be. It focuses on the 1995 Vale Tudo tournament, a Japanese freestyle fighting competition similar to Ultimate Fighting Championship except in a ring instead of an octagon. It has ropes instead of walls and is a totally different shape although the number 8 is divisible by 4, in my opinion. (read the rest of this shit…)

I Think We’re Alone Now

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

tn_ithinkwerealonenowI THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW is an hour long documentary following Jeff and Kelly, two fans of the ’80s teen pop singer Tiffany. While most of us forgot Tiffany existed until we read that she was teaming with Debbie Gibson for MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID, these two remained dedicated fans the whole time. Jeff continued to follow her career long after she fell off the map. He went to all her shows around Santa Cruz, went to every autograph show she did, collected magazine articles, wrote her letters, etc. And by etc. I mean that in ’88 he got arrested at a courthouse trying to give Tiffany some flowers and a samurai sword, and the year after that she got a restraining order against him. In the opening scene he sarcastically reads an old magazine article about it and laughs when they use his full name and call him a “stalker.” He thinks the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. But, you know, most of us don’t end up in any situations that could be blown into those particular proportions. (read the rest of this shit…)

Still Bill

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

tn_stillbillAfter all that EXPENDABLES business, how ’bout a musical interlude?

STILL BILL is a sweet, intimate reunion with Bill Withers, the great singer and songwriter known for songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean On Me” and “Just the Two of Us.” Withers has a great voice soaked in emotion, but what I love most about his music is his honest and down to earth lyrics that cover topics dear to his heart that aren’t usually covered by other singers. Take for example “Grandma’s Hands,” about his love and gratitude for everything his grandma did for him and others when he was growing up, and ultimately how much he misses her. Or “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” about a wounded war veteran. He had more on his mind than “baby I love you” type of business. (read the rest of this shit…)

Best Worst Movie

Friday, June 18th, 2010

tn_bestworstmovieIf you’ve ever seen TROLL 2 you know what a weirdly terrible movie it is. A little boy discovers that his town of Nilbog is secretly overrun by goblins who are feeding the humans foods that turn them into plants so they can be eaten by the goblins, who are vegetarians. (Ever thought of that, Tofurkey people? Just turn real turkeys into plants and sell ‘em!) The main thing I remember from the movie is that nobody believes the kid that they shouldn’t eat the food, so he stands up on a table and pisses all over it.

Well, that kid was Michael Stephenson, he’s now grown up, has a sense of humor about the thing, and has written and directed a documentary about it. A little under a third of BEST WORST MOVIE is the type of deal you expect: interviews with “fans” about their TROLL 2 parties, their homemade masks and childhood memories, and scenes of the cast finally enjoying the limelight as the movie is rediscovered and enjoyed in revival screenings, even if it’s in a sarcastic or ironic type of way. Some of this material would be a pretty good DVD extra, some gets a little tedious. But it’s well worth sitting through for the rest of the movie, which in my opinion comes close to True Greatness in its exploration of relative fame, abandoned dreams, the subjectivity of art and the dangers of smug hipsterism. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

tn_warriorsjourneybruceleeiconIt just occurred to me that there’s a Fred Williamson movie I could’ve reviewed to go from GAME OF DEATH to DEATH JOURNEY to WARRIOR’S JOURNEY. But we don’t got time for word games. Let’s get rollin.

There are a whole lot of documentaries and TV episodes about the short life of Bruce Lee, so why did we need another one in 2000? Well, because this was the uncovering-King-Tut’s-tomb of Bruce Lee documentaries, created by John Little, a bodybuilding expert who is also considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on Bruce Lee. Little went through the archives and studied notes, sketches, outlines and footage to find out what Lee’s plans were for his unfinished movie GAME OF DEATH and what footage was shot that wasn’t used in the fake-beard version that was released (the Graverobber’s Cut). He shows through interviews and archival business how Lee’s career and evolving martial arts philosophy were all leading up to what would’ve been his masterpiece, a movie where he teaches all his ideas but through some of the best fight scenes ever constructed. Then Little unveils what was made of GAME OF DEATH, edited together with the takes Lee planned to use (luckily he wrote all this down!) (read the rest of this shit…)

Ginger Baker in Africa

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

tn_gingerbakerWell, I’m feeling good, my new book is getting good reviews, I got the next two days off work. What should I do? How ’bout review something even more obscure than the other day’s comments-killer THE DEADLY ART OF SURVIVAL? I mean, if I had to guess I’d say this one was probly a little better known that that one, but I can’t even find it listed on IMDb. So everybody’s gonna think I made it up. They need documentation and records. But I swear to you, I watched GINGER BAKER IN AFRICA on an officially released DVD and everything.

Before you get too excited, I gotta tell you that GINGER BAKER IN AFRICA is not at all like SHAFT IN AFRICA. It’s much more experimental. It’s about how in 1971 Ginger Baker, the drummer from Cream, wanted to build a recording studio in Nigeria, so he flew to Marrakech and then drove across the desert. Although it’s real footage it’s not really what you would usually think of as a documentary. It doesn’t really explain much, but it also doesn’t linger on scenes long enough to be direct cinema. It’s pretty confusing. It doesn’t matter. (read the rest of this shit…)

Party in Rio

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

tn_partyinrioCITY OF GOD, CITY OF MEN and NEWS FROM A PERSONAL WAR got me interested in what’s going on in Brazil. For further research I decided to check out this video I’d always meant to see, an enlightening travel documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger visiting Rio De Janeiro during Carnaval.

You young people probly think Schwarznegger is merely the governor of California who used to star in great movies like COMMANDO and TOTAL RECALL, but in fact he is also the former Mr. Universe and notorious horndog. This was 1983, after CONAN THE BARBARIAN but before THE TERMINATOR, and it’s the sort of video that probly mostly played after midnight on Cinemax.

(You young people probly think Cinemax was merely a channel that showed movies. In fact it was what kids used to see boobs before the invention of the internet if they couldn’t find their dad’s stash of Playboys.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Capitalism: A Love Story

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

tn_capitalismI think the end of the Bush era killed most of the demand for left wing documentaries. I think I heard Robert Greenwald is managing a food co-op or something.

Remember when FAHRENHEIT 9-11 came out? It was a phenomenon. I remember I tried to get tickets online and literally every show in Seattle was sold out. I had to go out of town to wait in a long line to see it. It seemed like such a huge deal then because it was like shit, finally. Finally somebody saying something.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Rank

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

tn_rankOkay, my last two reviews brought out everybody’s expertise of mixed martial arts competitions and professional wrestling. Let’s see how you guys do with this sport.

RANK is another John Hyams documentary in the tradition of THE SMASHING MACHINE, but this one’s in the world of professional bullriding. In both sports Hyams has documented so far the athletes break parts of themselves that they aren’t gonna be able to fix. And the filmatistic approach he used in SMASHING MACHINE ain’t broke so he doesn’t fix that either: it’s almost-direct cinema (just following people around, but they do talk to the camera sometimes), hypnotic score, themes that make themselves apparent and don’t need to be underlined. This time around it looks like he got better cameras, though. The cinematography is outstanding. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Smashing Machine

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

tn_smashingmachineTHE SMASHING MACHINE is a documentary about Mark Kerr, at the time an undefeated fighter in UFC, Pride and other mixed martial arts competitions. The director is John Hyams, whose UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION was so unexpectedly great I felt compelled to watch everything else he’s directed. In fact, Van Damme’s admiration of this movie is apparently what got Hyams the gig on the ol’ UNISOL.

The opening got me right away because it’s a voiceover on top of fight footage, and something seems wrong. The gentle, almost nerdy voice that’s talking to us doesn’t seem to match this muscleman we’re watching use his bare hands and feet to take flesh that God shaped in His own image and reconfigure it into an ugly pile of of bruise and injury. If Mark Kerr called you on the phone and said, “I’m the Smashing Machine,” you’d hear his voice and you’d never believe him. You’d hang up. But it’s true, he’s the Smashing Machine. And also a nice, thoughtful guy. (read the rest of this shit…)