Documentary Review: No No: A Dockumentary (2014)

Release Date: January 20th, 2014 (Sundance Film Festival)
Directed by: Jeff Radice
Music by: DAdam Horovitz

Arts+Labor, 100 Minutes

NONO FINAL FILE

Review:

Many have heard the tale of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis and how he pitched a no-hitter on LSD. Well, this documentary covers that game and also the career of one of baseball’s most enigmatic figures.

Dock Ellis was a guy who didn’t like the system and always used his voice to be a thorn in the establishment’s side. Whether it was the baseball establishment or the establishment of American society in the 60s and 70s.

He was also an avid drug user and alcoholic. He’s gone on to talk about how he never pitched sober and how it helped him deal with the fear he had in being in such a high pressure position on the grandest stage.

No No chronicles all of these things and also how his substance abuse issues affected those around him, whether it was his ex-wives or his teammates. The film also paints an amazing picture of baseball culture in Ellis’ day.

Most importantly however, the film shows how he hit rock bottom and turned his life around. In interviews with Ellis, he talks about how he has moved on from those darker days and used his experience to talk to other people with substance abuse issues.

It also sheds light on how he wasn’t proud of his LSD-fueled no-hitter.

The documentary interviews a lot of Ellis’ teammates and friends and even Ron Howard, who worked with Ellis on his film Gung Ho.

This is one of the best baseball documentaries to come out in recent years. It is definitely worth a viewing and is currently streaming on Netflix.

Book Review: ‘The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: Vol. 2: 1984-2014’ by John LeMay

The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: Vol. 2 is a perfect continuation of what started in the first volume.

The first volume, which I have already reviewed, covered kaiju films through the Shōwa period. That is the era that most people are familiar with when it comes to the Godzilla and Gamera franchises.

This second volume covers the Heisei and Millennium eras. These are the films that were part of the attempts to resurrect the franchises in the 80s and 90s. They are lesser known in the United States but still beloved kaiju pictures.

John LeMay wrote this book in the exact same format as the previous one and I’m a fan of the way he organizes his information. He lists out the essential credits (similar to how I start my film reviews), then he gives a rundown of the plot, goes into the history and production of the film and then caps off each section with some trivia tidbits.

LeMay does a fantastic job of providing real context to each film he talks about. Also, the trivia bits are usually filled with facts that even I, someone who has been immersed in kaiju films for decades, didn’t know.

There are a lot of books you can get about kaiju movies but this and its predecessor are must owns for loyal fans of the genre.

Documentary Review: Room 237 (2012)

Release Date: January 23rd, 2012 (Sundance)
Directed by: Rodney Ascher
Music by: Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson, The Caretaker, Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind

IFC Films, IFC Midnight, 102 Minutes

Review:

If you are a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, you will probably be pretty interested in this film.

Room 237 is a pretty meaty documentary about the hidden messages and imagery within The Shining.

You see, some people believe that Kubrick’s films all had hidden meanings and messages. Being that this is his most horrifying film, I guess it was the one that has generated the most theories and obsessive-compulsive analysis.

This documentary could be a journey into madness.

What I mean by that, is that this film allows five different “intellectual” types go on rants about all their theories and “discoveries” in this film. Some theories seem pretty plausible but most do not. Then there are those that go so far off of the deep end that it is hard taking any of this too seriously. One guy goes on a rant about how Kubrick used this film to cleanse his soul from the guilt he felt after the government supposedly used him to fake the moon landing.

This film is full of a lot of bullshit and unfortunately, in all these shared theories by people’s whose faces we never see on camera, no one offers up any real evidence. Everything we are presented with is just the speculation of people who have obsessed over this film for decades. If you stare at something long enough, you can start to make connections to anything you want. It’s like people who read Nostradamus’ bullshit cryptic poetry and think that he predicted the Holocaust and 9/11. In fact, I almost feel like Alex Jones woke up one day and decided to make a conspiracy film about The Shining.

The thing is, despite my criticisms, I still really liked this movie. While many theories were way over the top, this film was still entertaining as hell to someone who has watched The Shining almost annually and who suffers from a mild form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I then saw my own “hidden message”. I saw that the people talking in this film, were actually symbolically stuck in Room 237. They became too fixated on all of this and walked into the room where you aren’t supposed to go. Now they sit in there, obsessed and haunted over things they can’t understand but have to decipher: trapped by an almost supernatural power that fuels their obsession and steals their sanity. And maybe that is the point of this film.

I think that this is a film worth watching if you are a Kubrick fan or just like conspiracy theories.

When questioned about this film recently, Stephen King referred to it as “academic bullshit.” I don’t really disagree with him but it is academic bullshit that is fun to watch.

Looking Back at 500 Posts

Cinespiria has reached the milestone of 500 posts. Not bad for a blog that started back in November of last year. But the reason that there has been this many posts in a short time is due to the massive back catalog of reviews I have from previous blogs that no longer exist.

When I decided that focusing on film was what I wanted to do, I wanted to have all of my reviews and other film centered writings in one place. The blog was started solely as an outlet for me to put down my thoughts and keep them better organized in one place.

Also, for those who also read Cinespiria’s content, I wanted this site to maybe educate people on more obscure films or to draw attention to movies the general public has not heard of or has forgotten over time.

I also like posting lists that rank the films of notable directors, actors and even franchises. The reason for this, is that I love the discussions that they often times generate, as I learn new things from those who have varying opinions or who point me towards movies I might not know about or haven’t seen in a long time.

I figured that I would do something special with this post so I decided to list out my top ten genre categories, people (actors, directors, composers, special effects maestros), years of release of the films I have covered and the country of a film’s origin (excluding the US, as I never tag it).

So here are the most popular tags in each topic.

Top 10 Genres:
1. sci-fi
2. action
3. horror
4. adventure
5. drama
6. thriller
7. fantasy
8. comedy
9. crime
10. kaiju

Top 10 People:
1. Eiji Tsuburaya
2. Ennio Morricone
3. Scarlett Johansson
4. Roger Corman
5. Ishirō Honda
6. Greg Nicotero
7. Dario Argento
8. Lee Van Cleef
9. Bill Murray
10. Peter Cushing

Top 10 Years of Release:
1. 2014
2. 2016
3. 1966
4. 1985
5. 1986
6. 1984
7. 1987
8. 2015
9. 1989
10. 1974

Top 10 Countries of Origin:
1. Italy
2. Japan
3. UK
4. Spain
5. Hong Kong (China)
6. Germany
7. France
8. Canada
9. Russia (Soviet Union)
10. Australia

Book Review: ‘151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen’ by Leonard Maltin

Along with Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel and Gene Shalit, Leonard Maltin was one of my favorite critics to read and watch when I was younger. I’ve always appreciated his work and his contribution to his craft and for how he has shined a light on several films I might not have seen or given a chance otherwise. Also, he gets brownie points for hosting those George Lucas interviews on the VHS re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy in 1995.

In Maltin’s 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, he gives us a list and a personal summary and account of 151 films that flew under the radar. These are Maltin’s favorites that never seemed to be big hits with the masses. Granted, despite the title, I had already seen about twenty of them and heard of at least half. I am a obsessive compulsive film watching freak, though.

In any event, Maltin gives his readers a big list of movies to check out. These are the films he is most passionate about that out of the thousands he’s seen, deserve to be recognized and enjoyed despite their lack of notoriety.

As with everything that Leonard Maltin writes, his passion for the subjects he discusses really shines through. Maltin has a keen way of sharing his enthusiasm and getting you just as excited about something as he is.

151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen is a pretty strong piece of work that sells these motion pictures quite well and I plan to use this book as a guide, as I work my way through the films I can get a hold of from this list.

This book also makes me appreciate Leonard Maltin, as a critic, even more. Additionally, it makes me want to delve into his other titles that I’ve missed over the years.

Documentary Review: Document of the Dead (2012)

Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Directed by: Roy Frumkes
Music by: Rick Ulfik

Synapse Films, 66 Minutes (1979 cut), 85 Minutes (1989 cut), 102 Minutes (2012 cut)

Review:

Document of the Dead is a documentary that has been released at three different times, as it has been updated and expanded throughout the years.

Initially, it was about the making of Goerge A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. Since then, it has looked behind the scenes at some of his other films, as well as checked in with the man and those close to him from 1978 up through 2006.

It is a sort of disjointed documentary, as the additions are very apparent in a way that distracts from the narrative. Also, the documentary jumps around a lot. It is entertaining and informative but it is a mess too.

I am reviewing the 2012 version, the final one released, so I can’t really say if the earlier versions, especially the 1979 original version, were more coherent. Anyway, it is the 1979 material that is the most compelling anyway.

Some of the cool things in this are seeing Tom Savini put the makeup on the Dawn of the Dead zombies, as well as his stunt work. Also, just seeing the behind the scenes stuff is cool, especially on an old school movie like this where DVD extras were still twenty years away.

Document of the Dead, while not a great documentary, is still a cool look into the world of Romero from a filmmaking point-of-view. For fans of Romero’s Dead series, it is certainly worth checking out.

Book Review: ‘Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In’ by Joe Bob Briggs

After reading Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In I had to get my hands on its sequel Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In.

This book is essentially more of the same. While the first book covers Joe Bob’s tenure as a movie critic for the Dallas Times Herald, this book follows his stint at the Dallas Observer, following his firing from the Herald. It also leads up to when he left the newspapers behind and went on to host The Movie Channel’s popular series Dirve-In Theater.

This book has tons of great reviews of drive-in and grindhouse classics. This volume spans the mid to late 1980s and even gets into VHS reviews, as changing technologies were causing drive-ins to shutdown across the United States.

Joe Bob writes in his gonzo style, as he did with the previous book. However, there are less personal stories about the colorful characters that populated his first volume. Here, we get more into his social and political views. He also experiments with the format a bit more. Honestly though, I liked his more straight up gonzo style that he used at the Dallas Times Herald, which is featured in the first book.

In any event, this is still a hilarious read and Joe Bob covers a lot of films, many I already knew and some I didn’t. The man had a talent for picking out some really obscure yet interesting pictures during his time as a film reviewer.

If you are a fan of Joe Bob Briggs, these books are great to have. The first one is slightly better but this one is still a great piece of work where Joe Bob pulls no punches and goes for the throat with every article featured in the book.