Documentary Review: The Two Escobars (2010)

Release Date: June 22nd, 2010
Directed by: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Music by: Michael Furjanic

All Rise Films, ESPN Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

The Two Escobars is one of my favorite installments of the original run of ESPN’s 30 For 30 series. I actually ranked it number two on an older website I ran.

This documentary follows the lives of Colombian soccer legend Andrés Escobar and Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The men were not related by blood but were related in their pride of Colombia and their lifelong love of soccer.

Both rose up from nothing and became forces in Colombia; one gained power through creating a massive criminal empire, the other gained admiration through becoming one of the greatest soccer players in the world. Both men gained respect; one through fear and one through competition. With two powerful forces within the same borders, they had to cross paths. This film is about that fascinating story.

Production-wise, this was a great documentary and one of the best ESPN has released in their 36 year history. The story was well-constructed and like most of the 30 For 30 films, the editing and interviews were exceptional. While a lot of films in this series cover a multitude of topics and stories, this is far and away the best story the series has told after the Nelson Mandela/Rugby film The 16th Man.

This documentary is on Netflix (well it was when I originally reviewed this). I would beseech any sports documentary fan, especially soccer fans, to check this out.

Film Review: The Ward (2010)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s The Ward
Release Date: September 13th, 2010 (TIFF)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
Music by: Mark Kilian
Cast: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mika Boorem, Jared Harris

Echo Lake Entertainment, A Bigger Boat, ARC Entertainment, XLrator Media, 99 Minutes

Review:

“What’s the first thing you remember?” – Dr. Stringer, “Fire.” – Kristen

*written in 2014.

The Ward was John Carpenter’s first film in nearly a decade when it came out in 2010. I think the decade off did good for Carpenter after the poor efforts of Ghosts of Mars, Vampires, Escape From L.A. and Village of the Damned had me thinking that his days as a good director were over. Sure, all those films had some good takeaways but ultimately, they were nowhere near the level of his great films like The Thing, Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness, the original Halloween, They Live, Big Trouble In Little China, Escape From New York and Starman.

This film was a return to form for Carpenter. It was a straight up ghost story and it captured that real dread that his last several films were missing. He built a good narrative, kept things mysterious and told a solid story. Granted, the end result wasn’t something all that original but the concept of this film worked and I liked it. I can’t go more into the concept without spoiling the plot, so I’ll leave it at that.

This film stars Amber Heard, who I have never had a problem looking at. In fact, I’ve been enamored with her since The Rum Diary and apparently Johnny Depp is too as they are now engaged. The film also stars Jared Harris, who played the awesome Lane Pryce on Mad Men.

The acting was better than decent in comparison to the overabundance of horrible horror films that have come out over the last decade. And truthfully, maybe it is the slew of horrible horror films that have made me appreciate this film and the return of John Carpenter. Regardless of the reason, The Ward is better than the cookie cutter crap that Hollywood has been pushing out.

It is far from a perfect film and it isn’t a classic or even in Carpenter’s upper echelon of work but it is still better than what has become the norm.

Documentary Review: Happy People: A Year In the Taiga (2010)

Release Date: September, 2010 (Telluride Film Festival)
Directed by: Werner Herzog, Dmitry Vasyukov
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Narrated by: Werner Herzog

Studio Babelsberg, 90 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

Happy People: A Year In the Taiga is a documentary by Werner Herzog that follows the people living in the village of Bakhtia along the Yenisei River in the Siberian Taiga. It mostly focuses on trappers but follows others with different occupations that help contribute to the overall well-being of all the people within their small community. The documentary also gives some insight into the lives of the native Ket people from that region.

The film goes on to show a way of life that hasn’t changed in over a century. Other than having a few machines to make life a bit easier, the people of Bakhtia still exist in virtually the same way that they always have. It is a unique and simple way of life that is not only hard but extreme for those of us looking through our television sets. To those of us in the first world, it is something so foreign and seemingly archaic. But one can’t not respect the lives of these tough people, who really are the hardest and most badass beings on this planet.

While the footage was originally filmed by Dmitry Vasyukov for a television film he made. The footage was re-edited and narrated by Wener Herzog for this more fleshed out theatrical version.

This film was pretty great to watch. It was slow at times but it was never boring, as it gave one a direct and intimate view of these people. Their words and advice on life, through their experience living in such harsh conditions, was fascinating. It was a thoroughly engaging film that I was pulled into from the start.

Herzog’s narration was enjoyable. From his deadpan humor and his awesome German accent, he kept the scenes moving and helped weave this wonderful tale. Furthermore, his re-editing of the material was well done. This is now one of my favorite Herzog documentaries.

I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to watch some tough men doing tough shit, living in tough conditions against the odds. While this life is somewhat romanticized in the film, it did make me yearn for a simpler time when there was less materialism and life was pretty straightforward. Granted, I’d never want to have to weather these insane conditions.

Documentary Review: One Night In Turin (2010)

Release Date: May 19th, 2010 (UK)
Directed by: James Erskine
Music by: Stuart Hancock
Narrated by: Gary Oldman

New Black Films, Northstar Ventures, 90 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

I’ve been watching a lot of soccer movies and shows, as it is World Cup season. Last night, I finally got around to watching One Night In Turin, an English soccer documentary narrated by Gary Oldman.

The film covers the violence and mayhem surrounding English soccer and how the Brits found themselves banned from competing in European soccer. It then goes into their 1990 World Cup performance and how they regained the respect and acceptance of Europe, which lead to the lift of their banishment.

While England made it to the final four in the 1990 World Cup, they did not make it to the championship or the championship game. However, their story was one of being underdogs with an army of hooligans. Through their perseverance and success in the tournament, the rest of Europe’s view on the British in the sport of soccer changed. This film does a pretty good job of painting the picture, as it went from disgrace to embrace.

The editing was okay, as the pacing of the film seemed weird at times. Certain chapters would drag, while others would go by in a flash. A lot of the film was made up of still photographs, as there didn’t seem to be a lot of footage acquired for the film. I understand that getting the permission to use such footage can be a massive headache but the lack of video at times, took away from what should have felt like a more action packed story. They did a decent job with what they had though.

One Night In Turin is still a pretty good film on a very interesting subject, especially for soccer fans. Regardless of the editing hiccups and lack of footage, the story was still well told and the narration by Gary Oldman was quite stellar.

Film Review: Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

Release Date: February 27th, 2010 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: James Nguyen
Written by: James Nguyen
Music by: Andrew Seger
Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Janae Caster, Colton Osborne, Adam Sessa, Tippi Hedren (archive footage)

Moviehead Pictures, Severin Films, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Squaaah! Squaaah! Squaaah!” – every bird in the movie

Birdemic: Shock and Terror is one of those movies that is famous for being absolutely terrible. In a way it is similar to The Room in that regard but it is actually a much worse film than that Tommy Wiseau accidental masterpiece. In fact, Birdemic is like a remake of The Birds directed by Wiseau but if he had half the talent. Yeah, it’s that bad.

The worst thing about this film isn’t the awful effects and atrocious acting, it is the over the top preachy bits about global warming and environmentalism. While it makes sense to tap into that to some degree, it is displayed and handled so terribly that the message loses its impact.

But then again, nothing in this film is really done in an effective manner and the only impact this movie made was in its extreme level of awfulness.

While some movies are so damn bad that they become enjoyable, this one really isn’t. I had to watch the version with RiffTrax riffing, as Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett at least made it tolerable enough to get through. I can’t imagine sitting through this without the riffing, as the opening credits sequence alone made me turn off the original version of the film when I tried to power through it.

This film has the worst visual effects I have ever seen. I’d rather the filmmaker use taxidermied eagles on fishing line than to ever attempt his brand of CGI effects again. But I guess he made a sequel to this, which I will probably eventually watch with great reluctance.

Man, this film is friggin’ godawful.

And yes, this turd is getting tossed into the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Documentary Review: Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

Release Date: May 13th, 2011
Directed by: Craig McCall
Music by: Mark Sayer-Wade

Modus Operandi Films, UK Film Council, National Lottery, 86 Minutes

Review:

I was glad to find this documentary streaming on FilmStruck, a service which every film lover should already be subscribed to.

I have known of Jack Cardiff and his contributions to movies for years but never have I seen anything that talks about the man and really analyzes the great work he did behind the camera for decades.

He was a master of color, of style and became one of the most sought after cinematographers in motion picture history. He was an auteur in the same vein as the greatest directors who have their own distinct styles.

This documentary is done in a general biography style but it spends a lot of time focusing on all the important and trendsetting films that Cardiff was a part of. It also gave me some films that I had to add to my “must see” list.

The coolest thing about Cameraman is that it interviews Cardiff and lets him speak about his work and his experiences. It also showcases directors, actors and other artists who worked with or were influenced by Jack Cardiff.

For those truly interested in filmmaking, film history and film culture, this is a documentary that is definitely worth your time. It is well produced, finely presented and paints a glorious picture of the man’s contribution to the art that he loved.

Film Review: Lunopolis (2010)

Release Date: February 12th, 2010
Directed by: Matthew Avant
Written by: Matthew Avant
Cast: Matthew Avant, Hal Maynor IV, Dave Potter

Media Savant, 97 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

This was a movie that I really wanted to like. Now while I think the fake documentary shtick has more than ran its course, especially where low-budget horror films are concerned, this movie featured time travel, a secret society, weird moon mysticism and some intense creepiness. The pros seemed to outweigh the cons, as I went into this film eager to see what was weaved together.

The first third or so of this movie was pretty entertaining. These guys stumble upon some weird cabin floating in the middle of the bayou. They go inside, it is freaky as hell and they find some tiny hidden elevator. They go beneath the bayou and find a scary dark room with some sort of weird mechanical device. Some creepy shit happens and they then take the device and escape as they are being pursued by some unseen enemy.

The machine is some weird time travel device that one wears as a backpack. They also get this mysterious green gem. One thing leads to another and these guys are hunted and harassed by odd characters.

They go on to talk a lot, interview other people that talk a lot and that is about it until the end of the movie.

The film started out with some promise but fell flat and really didn’t seem to know where it was going. The end was a pretty massive disappointment after what was established in the first act.

This movie isn’t a waste of time but it also isn’t a very good use of time. Other than the really cool first half hour, it is a completely forgettable film.