Documentary Review: Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012)

Release Date: September 4th, 2012 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Sophie Huber
Music by: Chris Robertson, Roland Widmer

hugofilm, isotopefilms, Adopt Films, 77 Minutes

Review:

Very few actors have as much mileage as Harry Dean Stanton did. He passed away late last year and it sort of feels like there is a massive void that no one else will really be able to fill. Sure, he was a character actor of the highest regard but those few times where he got to be the lead were pretty damn exceptional.

I’ve been working my way through a lot of the Stanton roles I still haven’t seen. For a guy that has 202 IMDb credits, as an actor, I feel as if there will always be some Harry Dean gem I haven’t yet discovered.

This documentary is sweet and initimate. It’s pretty short but we get to spend time with Harry, as he talks about himself, in his own words. We also get to see him reminisce with some of the people he was closest too throughout his career: David Lynch, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Shepard, Debbie Harry and Wim Wenders. He also hear from his personal assistant and see him interact with others.

The documentary also has some bits where Harry sings and talks about how he regrets not trying his hand at music professionally.

While the film does cover some of Stanton’s most notable work, this is more a character study of the man himself.

For fans of Harry Dean Stanton, this is a really cool little film to experience.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries about other famous character actors. That Guy Dick Miller, immediately comes to mind.

Documentary Review: Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (2015)

Release Date: May 16th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Gabriel Clarke, John McKenna
Written by: Gabriel Clarke
Music by: Jim Copperthwaite
Cast: Steve McQueen (archive footage), Chad McQueen, Neile Adams, Louise Edlind

Content Media, McQueen Racing, Pit Lane Productions, 102 Minutes

Review:

Le Mans is my favorite movie about auto racing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a classic with fantastic action and a true sense of realism unlike anything ever filmed on the subject before it. It feels like a documentary accented by the presence of Steve McQueen.

The story behind the film is more intriguing, however.

This was Steve McQueen’s dream project, as it focused on his biggest love: motorsports. More specifically, it focused on the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, which is the biggest annual motorsports event in the world, which pits all the top auto manufacturers against each other with the best drivers in the world, gunning for bragging rights and world supremacy, at least until the following year.

McQueen was at the point in his career where he could be attached to anything and any studio would just write a check. However, due to creative problems, production issues, falling behind and the immense undertaking that this film became, the project turned into a nightmare for all involved. McQueen’s vision was his vision, whether or not the people brought on to help him realize it, understood what they were doing or not.

This documentary also analyzes McQueen’s personal life, its ups and downs and how all that played into his attitude and his handling of creating this dream. Le Mans was an arduous task that had to be finished but McQueen’s personal demons didn’t make it any easier.

In the end, the film got made, it didn’t do so well upon release but has grown to cult status among car and racing aficionados. It’s an amazing film for a lot of reasons and this documentary shows you why.

Plus, it’s always a treat to watch McQueen’s Le Mans footage. This also has a lot of behind the scenes stuff mixed in.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The film Le Mans, as well as other documentaries about the Le Mans race, most notably the Audi produced ones Truth In 24 I and II.

Documentary Review: That Guy Dick Miller (2014)

Release Date: March 7th, 2014 (SXSW)
Directed by: Elijah Drenner
Music by: Jason Brandt
Cast: Dick Miller, Lainie Miller, Gilbert Adler, Allan Arkush, Julie Corman, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Fred Dekker, William Sadler, Robert Picardo, Ernest R. Dickerson, Corey Feldman, Robert Forster, Zach Galligan, Jonathan Haze, Jack Hill, Leonard Maltin, John Sayles, Mary Woronov

Autumn Rose Productions, End Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

If you don’t know who Dick Miller is or at least recognize his face, you were probably born after the year 2000. Even then, if you’ve ever watched a film before that time, you have most likely seen him at one point or a dozen.

Dick Miller was in everything from the 1950s through the 1990s. No, seriously, he was. Well, at least it seemed like he was in everything. The man has 180 credits to his name according to IMDb. Growing up in the ’80s, I saw him pop up a few times a year in the coolest movies of the time. The one that will always stand out the most for me was his part in Gremlins, which was the first time I remember seeing him. Every time I saw Mr. Miller after that was always a nice treat.

As I got older and went back and watched older films, especially when I found a love for Roger Corman’s pictures, I started to experience a younger and hip Dick Miller. He started his career in a lot of those early Roger Corman pictures and that association would serve him well, as all the young directors who rose to prominence, who were influenced by Corman, started hiring Miller for their films.

This documentary goes back and shows Miller’s early life, how he made the connection with Corman and how his career blossomed in unseen ways because of it. I love that it goes through his long history in films and interviews a lot of the people who were there alongside him. It also talks to the directors who hired him and have a love for his work.

Dick Miller is a guy that deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the films he was a part of. He was a mainstay in Hollywood for decades and if he was in a movie it sort of legitimized it as cool. It didn’t matter when he got older either, as he took over the screen in his cameos in a lot of Joe Dante’s pictures.

That Guy Dick Miller is a pretty awesome documentary for fans who grew up watching this guy work. Even if you aren’t familiar with him, this is probably still enjoyable and will give you a solid appreciation for the man and the films he was a part of.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other showbiz documentaries: Corman’s World and Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.

Documentary Review: Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012)

Release Date: October 5th, 2012
Directed by: Stevan Riley
Music by: various

Passion Pictures, Red Box Films, 98 Minutes

Review:

Who doesn’t want to see a documentary that covers the creation of the literary James Bond, the film James Bond and the long history of the Bond franchise, told by the people who were there all along the way?

Everything or Nothing is just that film.

I guess the thing I like most about this documentary is the stuff about Ian Fleming and his creation of the character, as well as the story behind the partnership of Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who formed Eon Productions a.k.a. “Everything or nothing”.

The family members of Broccoli and Saltzman do a good job of fleshing out the tale and all the interviews feel very candid and real. I think that the partnership at Eon is something that most modern fans aren’t familiar with but it is a very important part of the overall Bond legacy.

We also get to see a lot of the details surrounding all the Bond ownership rights lawsuits over the years, as it is something that has often times put the film franchise on hold.

The documentary also covers some details about every film in the franchise from the original American Casino Royale, through Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Sean Connery again, Roger Moore, Sean Connery yet again, back to Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and up to Daniel Craig. Most of the actors get to spend some time talking about their experiences in these iconic films.

Overall, this is a pretty solid picture and fans of James Bond should definitely check it out.

Documentary Review: Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)

Release Date: May 18th, 2013 (Cannes)
Directed by: Frank Pavich
Music by: Kurt Stenzel

City Film, Snowfort Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, 90 Minutes

Review:

While this movie does shit all over the David Lynch adaptation, I won’t let me personal feelings on the matter get in the way of enjoying this documentary and experiencing the vision that Alejandro Jodorowsky had for Frank Herbert’s Dune.

The guy certainly has a gift for creativity and an interesting vision and his Dune certainly would have been an incredibly unique experience that could have beat Star Wars to the cultural phenomenon punch and actually have been the trendsetter for big blockbusters to come.

However, this is one of those things that probably looks a lot cooler on paper and I can’t blame Hollywood for not making it. It’s bizarre and I just don’t see how it would have connected with the general public. Sure, art house film lovers would have probably ate it up but there’s no way that this bizarre movie would have captured audiences’ attention like Star Wars did.

The problem I have with it, is what Jodorowsky loves about it. It is his vision and really, a bastardization of Frank Herbert’s iconic science fiction novel, which is considered by many to be a sci-fi bible.

Jodorowsky could make his own sci-fi epic with as different as this film would have been from its source material. While the Lynch adaptation was ruined by producers, at least it had the story mostly right and his visual work is still what I see in my head when I read any Dune book. And Lynch’s creation certainly fits the tone much better.

Jodorowsky is in love with himself and his ideas. The guy is a bit off of his rocker and incredibly self-absorbed. He even compared what he was doing to Herbert’s work to raping your wife on your wedding night… but raping her with love. I’m serious, that’s how he saw this project.

Frankly, Lynch’s film was far from perfect but I’m glad that we got that version instead. Even if Lynch has disowned it since it came out.

As a documentary, this was really interesting, especially for fans of Dune and the fact that this was almost made in the early ’70s. If anything, it is cool hearing the tale of how this insane picture almost happened and how all the key players came together, one of which was Salvador Dali.

Documentary Review: This Filthy World (2006)

Release Date: November 24th, 2006
Directed by: Jeff Garlin
Written by: John Waters
Music by: Jared Gustaldt, Lukas Kaiser
Cast: John Waters

Red Envelope Entertainment, Netflix, 86 Minutes

Review:

This is a pretty unique piece of work and highly enjoyable.

Basically, this was directed by Jeff Garlin, most known for his acting work on Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Goldbergs, and it features John Waters, on stage, talking about his past and the films he directed over the years.

If you are a fan of Waters, his personality and his style, than this is definitely something you want to check out.

Waters talks about growing up in Baltimore, his friendship with Divine and how his films came to be. He also adds in his two cents on a lot of things within pop culture. His bit about “bears” is pretty damn funny.

There isn’t much else here other than Waters talking on stage for almost ninety minutes but he pulls you in and captivates like only he can. This is entertaining and it gives you a more intimate connection with the director, who was most known for upsetting censors with his filthy pictures for decades.

However one feels about Waters’ work, it’s hard not walking away from this experience without a deep appreciation and respect for the man and his world view.

Film Review: The Disaster Artist (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: James Franco
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Based on: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero, Tom Bissell
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, Megan Mullally, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bob Odenkirk, Bryan Cranston, Judd Apatow, Zach Braff, J. J. Abrams, Lizzy Caplan, Kristen Bell, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Scott, Danny McBride, Kate Upton, Kevin Smith, Ike Barinholtz

New Line Cinema, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Good Universe, Point Grey Pictures, Rabbit Bandini Productions, Ramona Films, A24, 103 Minutes

Review:

“No, no! Very necessary. I need to show my ass to sell this picture.” – Tommy Wiseau

This was one of the most anticipated film sf 2017. It wasn’t just anticipated by me, though. Anyone who had seen Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult classic The Room was probably in line on opening night. Plus, it was directed by and stars James Franco, a guy with a deep personal connection to Wiseau who probably still doesn’t get enough credit for his talents.

The film also stars little brother, Dave Franco, as Greg Sestero, Tommy’s best friend and the author of the book this is based on, also titled The Disaster Artist. The book is a pretty exceptional look into The Room and into Wiseau’s life and if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Because even though I did like this film, the book has so much more that Franco couldn’t fit into a two hour movie.

In fact, there are a lot of things in the book that I wish had made it into the movie but I understand why time wouldn’t permit it. I really would have liked to have seen Sestero’s experience working on a Puppet Master film or all the stuff in the book surrounding The Talented Mr. Ripley and how Mark in The Room was named after Matt Damon but Wiseau mistakenly called him “Mark”. But the fact that we got the James Dean bits, was pretty cool.

Both Franco brothers did a great job of bringing Wiseau and Sestero to life. While James will get most of the acting props in this film for his portrayal of Wiseau and how he mastered his accent and mannerisms, I want to be the one person to actually put the focus on Dave. You see, Dave was the actual glue that held this picture together and made it work. He is the real eyes and ears of the audience and we really take this journey with him, as we did in the book. Dave Franco put in a better performance here than he has in his entire acting career. That isn’t a knock against his other work, it’s just great to see him evolve as an actor and display that he has the skills his older brother does. Hopefully, this leads to bigger and better things for the younger Franco and I assume it will.

This film is littered with a ton of celebrity cameos. Bryan Cranston even plays himself back when he was still working on Malcolm In the Middle, before his big breakout on Breaking Bad. The one cameo I loved and had actually hoped to see more of, as the character was more prominent in the book, was Sharon Stone’s portrayal of Iris Burton, Sestero’s agent. I also loved Megan Mullally as Sestero’s mother but who doesn’t love Mullally in everything?

You also get a lot of other celeb cameos, as they introduce the movie. Having known about it and having read the book, I didn’t need the intro but it serves to educate people going into this film blindly and it was still nice hearing some famous people talk about their love of The Room and its significance.

The Disaster Artist serves the story of the book well and the film was a delight. It didn’t surprise me in any way and it was pretty much exactly the film I anticipated. That’s neither good or bad, as Hollywood biopics are usually very straightforward.

Even though there weren’t surprises in the film, this is a fantastic story, that at its core, is about a man not giving up on his dream and forging his own path against those that held him back and told him “no”. The real story behind it all, is that Wiseau’s tale is an underdog tale and it’s a true story, not a Hollywood fabrication. Wiseau did something incredible and although the reception he got might not have been what he initially wanted, he did rise above all the adversity and became a star in an arena where he wasn’t welcome.

The lasting power of The Room isn’t just about how incredibly bad it is, it is that once people know its story, it is hard not to feel an intimate connection to Tommy Wiseau, a guy that should serve as an inspiration in spite of his bizarre personality and tactics.