Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

This Is It

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

tn_thisisitAs a Michael Jackson fan who stuck with him in the later years, I was always dreaming about the comeback he could have some day. I never really believed in my heart that I’d get a chance to see him live, but maybe on DVD. I was so excited for those 50 shows he was gonna do in London, and nervous about what would happen if he wasn’t feeling up to it. There are still a million lingering frustrations about all the possibilities that were cut off when Michael died four months ago. But one of the more dramatic ones was this series of shows he called This Is It. He was so close. And we’ll never get to see the exclamation point on the end of that sentence.

So as a fan it’s a comfort and a blessing to see this almost-concert movie made up of footage taken during his rehearsals in Los Angeles. I mean, I would’ve loved to have seen this even if he hadn’t died, but as the rough draft to his last ambition it takes on extra importance. (read the rest of this shit…)

Not Quite Hollywood + Hurricane Smith

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

tn_notquitehollywoodNOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD is a pretty good documentary with a really good subject: the history of exploitation movies in Australia. Of course, this is a talking heads and film clips movie, that’s about the only way they could do it. And it tries to cover a broad range of movies over many years, so it doesn’t get real deep into anything. It’s more like a real good TV special than a great movie. It’s a primer, an overview, a sampler to get you started. It gives you a taste of a whole bunch of strange movies you might not have heard of before, points you in some interesting directions, tells you a few good stories. And for that sort of thing it’s very good. (read the rest of this shit…)


Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

tn_derbyI meant to put this review up months ago when DERBY was new on DVD, but I lost it or something. I bet you didn’t know it came out or that it existed anyway so let’s pretend it’s real timely.

DERBY is a 1971 documentary that you think is gonna be about roller derby. In the locker room team captain Charlie O’Connell talks to a young guy who wants to join the derby and keeps bragging that he can do a handspring on skates. The young guy is Mike Snell, 23 year-old of Dayton, Ohio, father of one, wearer of sunglasses, seems to think he’s James Dean. The cameras follow Mike to his wife, who is very supportive of his plan to quit his job at the tire factory and head to San Francisco for 6 weeks of training that he has to take before he can even try out. Obviously this is gonna be like THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, he’s gonna pull himself up by the rollerskate straps or whatever. Or at least it’ll follow him as he learns the ropes and at the end he’ll try out and we’ll see if he achieves his dream or not. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tyson (2009 Documentary)

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

tn_tysonWell, shit. Mike Tyson’s poor 4-year-old daughter died. I was already working on a couple of Mike Tyson-related reviews and I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to tie in with that terrible news. But he’s an interesting dude and these movies are worth discussing, so I’m gonna put them up anyway.

TYSON is a documentary about Mike Tyson. Actually, it’s an interview with Mike Tyson, illustrated by old clips and photos, so it’s his life story and career from his point of view. In the beginning there’s some split screen with overlapping clips of him talking. For a second I thought “Oh shit, that’s right, James Toback did that shitty movie TIMECODE with the 4-way split-screen. I forgot about that movie.” (I bet you forgot about it too until I mentioned it. Sorry.)  But don’t worry, most of it is a simple, straightforward documentary about an unusual person.

[UPDATE: and as Handsome Dan pointed out in the comments I was confusing Toback with Mike Figgis. Toback is guilty of BLACK AND WHITE, but innocent of TIMECODE.]

I don’t really follow boxing so I didn’t know much about him, and it turns out it’s an interesting story. He talks about being picked on as a kid, then getting in his first fight (a guy killed his pigeon) and winning. That changed his whole attitude about himself. Then he started boxing and he met this grizzled old white guy Cus D’Amato, he’s like Burgess Meredith in ROCKY, he takes Mike under his wing and molds him mentally and physically into a warrior. At first Mike wasn’t taking it that seriously, he was still on the streets robbing people and shit, until this D’Amato convinced him he could be great. They had a father-son type relationship, you see through vintage interviews how much they meant to each other, then the guy died when Mike was 19. Real sad story. (read the rest of this shit…)

Southern Discomfort

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Nope, this is not a sequel or rebuttal to Walter Hill’s SOUTHERN COMFORT, and it’s not a withering expose of labor unrest at the Southern Comfort liqueur factory. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT is an hour long documentary about a night of indie wrestling in Alabama made in 2000 by Fred Olen Ray, a director I thought only did no-budget movies with babes and dinosaurs and shit like that. Although much more upbeat than THE WRESTLER or the Jake “The Snake” Roberts portion of BEYOND THE MAT this is that same world, the bonebreaking for small crowds and small pay in high school gyms.

The Iron Sheik is the superstar of the bunch, doing a good job of not seeming drpessed that he went from 19,000 fans at Wrestlemania in Madison Square Garden to 400 at the Saks High gymnasium. But the stars are all wrestlers I never heard of before who as far as I can tell have mostly never achieved much more fame than this and in their interviews never imply that they want to. They’re happy working regular small town jobs and then on the weekends putting on a mask and throwing people around. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vern Throws A Kick At JCVD!!

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.

By now, you most likely know what this is, and wheter or not you’re interested in it. I’m thrilled Vern got a chance to check it out, though, and if there’s any review of it I’ve been waiting to read, it’s this one.

This is one of those things that almost seems too good to really exist. Did a talented French director really convince Jean-Claude Van Damme to play himself in an arty hostage thriller, giving him his best production values in years, one of his best movies, and definitely the best acting performance and most personal artistic expression of his career (so far)? Okay, I can believe somebody would come up with the idea, I can sort of believe Van Damme would be interested, but it’s hard to believe that they really found the money, really made it, really executed it this good. 2008, I love you. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Jesse Ventura Story

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

In 1999, after the pro-wrestler and PREDATOR badass Jesse “The Body” Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota, they made this quickie TV movie about his life. My main problem with it is that it kind of sucks.

TV movies don’t have to be bad. There is the obvious DUEL precedent, but I’m not gonna hold anything to that standard. A more fair comparison would be the EVIL KNIEVEL movie starring George Hamilton. That one’s pretty cool, and personally I think a wrestler who becomes governor is an even better biographical subject than a dude who jumps motorcycles over canyons. (read the rest of this shit…)

80 Blocks from Tiffany’s

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

This review might as well be part of an ongoing FOR GOD’S SAKE, SOMEBODY PUT THIS OUT ON DVD series. I found it for rent on VHS and before I was even done watching it I was so impressed I stopped it and went online to see if I could order a used copy. There was exactly one on, but for $60. Only one copy on ebay, and it was $100. So most of you will have to see it some day in the future if it’s ever released on DVD [UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE: it has since had a small DVD release], or chopped up into little files on youtube or something. But it will be worth it.

80 BLOCKS FROM TIFFANY’S is an amazing 1979 documentary about New York Street gangs The Savage Skulls and The Savage Nomads. I read somebody claiming somewhere that it was an influence on THE WARRIORS, and I believe it. It made me realize that as exaggerated as that movie was, it wasn’t as exaggerated as I thought. These are gangs who wear Nazi storm trooper helmets in public. There’s a guy with a cowboy hat and a bright red bandana over his face. They have names like Comanche, Fly and Crazy Joe. You see them practicing high-flying karate kicks, climbing up the side of buildings, jumping from fire escapes.
There’s a couple funny re-enactments showing how they steal TVs from apartments and hijack shipments from delivery trucks. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vern Deflects Bullets And Ties On A Cape To Review CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.

I keep missing this film, and it frustrates me enormously. I think it sounds fascinating, and not just because there are a few seconds of screentime dedicated to my face, either.

Reaction to this one has been really strong at festivals so far, and I hope I do catch up with it soon. For now, here’s a reviewer who is always more correct than me…

With all these questions surrounding JUSTICE LEAGUE (will it be delayed by the strike, who will be cast, when will Vern stop telling us about how awesome George Miller is) there is one fact that most of us have missed: a Justice League movie has already been made starring your favorite Justice League heroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and of course The Incredible Hulk. There are also guest appearances by lesser heroes like Ghost Rider, Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vern is sympathetic to those in ZOO – the yearnings, the love… the bestiality.

Monday, September 10th, 2007


ZOO, directed by Robinson Devor, is a movie you might’ve heard of when it played Sundance last January. For some reason it had a very limited theatrical run, it was not really given the same chance a SPIDER-MAN or a SHREK would get to catch on with the public, but fortunately THINKFilm releases the DVD September 18th.

I really liked Devor’s first movie THE WOMAN CHASER. That one, COCKFIGHTER and MIAMI BLUES are the only movie adaptations of my favorite writer, Charles Willeford. Patrick Warburton is so good playing a bored used car salesman turned desperate embezzler/nihilistic independent filmmaker that I have a hard time not picturing him as the lead in other Willeford books as I’m reading them. I can’t recommend that movie enough, but unfortunately it’s never been released on DVD, and good luck finding the VHS. (read the rest of this shit…)