I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story

I’ve tried to review a few a few boy band documentaries in my time. Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of came out in 2015, made me cry, made me feel connected, and I gave it a 4 out of 4. Although yes, that number was probably too high and definitely didn’t make my end of the year list.

Earlier this year, we got The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story, which deals more with the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, about their former manager, who formed them and swindled them out of tons of money. It involved legal fees, it started the war between the boy bands, and all of that.

I never wrote the review because it was on YouTube, but it was overall just okay. A lot more N’Sync focused, not balanced. I can’t believe they couldn’t get more people to say their stories.

But what about the other side of the fandom? Not the boys or men on the stage, but the women down below, screaming, fainting, crying in fits of passion? Are they just robots in this boy band equation? Are they people too, or do those years just get blacked out for these people and after awhile they go back to functioning members of society?

I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story wants to tell their tale.

doc
There is power in their voices.

The majority of the documentary is interviews with a few women, who all became obsessed with some band. They talk about how they were before hand, when they gained the desire to love the band, what they did as mega fans, and how they still feel now, some of them years, or even decades later.

We don’t just have the 90’s here. We have a more modern representative for One Direction! We have one of the many people who were extreme fans of The Beatles. And we have those obsessed with Take That, an Australian boy band, and Backstreet Boys.

Variety is nice, but I feel like I would have preferred more individual fans with various stories, instead of just focusing on one per band. Sure, some of these fandoms changed their lives, and still affect them to this day. But it starts to drag when we only get these stories, as the interesting tidbits seem to get fewer and fewer between.

I will also note that they didn’t break up the format enough during this documentary. Only at one point do they back away to talk about what it means to be a fan, or the boy band formula, or anything like that. It is important to talk about it, but I wish there were more interruptions from the fangirl narrative that kept the information flowing and broke up the monotony.

Eventually all of these documentaries can be put together to form a more cohesive boy band focused 90’s experience that will be truly telling of the times, and I cannot wait for that.

2 out of 4.

The Death of Dick Long

A24 has been a cream of the crop for a few years. A good mix of great titles, quirky titles, original titles, and sometimes all three put together.

Who doesn’t want a film that is original, quirky, and really great? That is my kind of film of the year. That is what we get with things like Colossal (not A24). I am just happy they are still making money enough to try.

And that is what we get with something like The Death of Dick Long. Heh. Dick Long. Nice.

men
Men. Just being guys. Doing manly things.
Last night was a blast. A lot of booze, fireworks, shenanigans, and more. But in the extreme early hours of the morning, Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr.) and Earl (Andre Hyland) find themselves racing to the ER to secretly leave their friend, Dick Long, who is bleeding and dying, and getting out of there before it is too late. They don’t want their friend to die, but they also don’t want to be associated with his injuries, because of how they got formed. They take his ID and skedaddle.

Hell, Earl says they just need to skip town its so bad.

But for Zeke it isn’t as easy. He has a wife and kid, and he needs to clean his car, and destroy evidence. But it seems no matter what Zeke and Earl try to do, they just keep getting mixed up in their own lies and the innocence of others, driving the story closer and closer to home.

They really, really, really, don’t want people to know what they did.

Also starring Janelle Cochrane, Roy Wood Jr., Jess Weixler, Poppy Cunningham, Virginia Newcomb, Sunita Mani, and Sarah Baker.

gasp
The face a lot of people will make halfway through.

The Death of Dick Long is a simple story, about a crime that people don’t like, but not one that people have normally seen as dangerous. It is based on a news article that the director read at some point, and wondered what the lives were like of the people involved.

The lives of the people involved? Apparently mostly normal, redneckish people, trying to live simple lives, who sometimes develop curiosities. They aren’t trying to hurt people, but they’d still want to hide their own sins.

This movie was over hyped for me, but thankfully I still found enjoyment in the film. My favorite moments were just watching the lies completely get unraveled by very obvious irregularities and people talking to each other. It made me cringe and I got a lot of enjoyment over it. I was busting out laughing in a final scene, when a character decided his best option was just to run away finally.

But it didn’t maintain the chuckles throughout. It felt like the acting was fine, but I never felt like the movie went hard enough. Now, I wasn’t expecting them to show the acts that lead to the death in question, because then they’d be going purely for shock instead of focusing on the story. But I still expected more comedic moments, or more dark moments, and was disappointed it didn’t go far enough.

3 out of 4.

Ad Astra

Years ago, James Gray gave us The Lost City of Z, based off of a book and a real life dude, and it was very ambitious. It felt a bit too long, but it had a lot of good going for it, and I know some critics who had it on their top of the year list.

I hadn’t seen anything else from Gray, but I have seen all of his films since then. You know, this one, Ad Astra.

Space Drama? Brad Pitt? Mystery?

Sign me the god damn fuck up.


Sorry Mr. Pitt. I will watch my language in the future.

Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is a decorated veteran in the armed forces, and has lived a life full of patriotism, honor, and sacrifice. He does his job, and he does it well, with little fuss. He also has a famous father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), the most successful astronaut explorer in human history. He has done so much for space travel and has been held in the highest of honors, and also for this fact, been completely absent from Roy’s life.

Their emotions are distant, both mentally and physically.

And then Clifford had to go missing, on his further adventure yet. No one is sure what happened to his crew. Maybe he died. Maybe he is alive. But the folks are having a sure enough difficult time trying to get in contact with him, so they figure maybe his son will have a better shot. At the same time, there are these pulses that are putting a damper on space travel and getting worse and worse, and they might have something to do with why Clifford and his crew have gone missing.

Can Roy find his father? Basically a man he has already been searching for his whole life?

Also starring Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, and Donald Sutherland.

recording studio
In space, no one can hear you scream. Unless you have a space recording studio.

Where does one begin with a movie like Ad Astra? The previews don’t tell a lot, and neither did my plot section. This is a movie about the journey, about the dangers of space and putting real limitations on our travel. I don’t believe everything was fully explained in terms of how things worked, but they felt realistic. It felt like a real potential for our future, without relying on mysterious future technology too much.

No mysterious space magic or space technology lasers here to solve the day, no siree.

And this is a movie to showcase Brad “The Pit” Pitt. One who knows nothing about him would assume almost that he isn’t acting. He is very passive, telling more with his inner monologue and face than his lack of actions with others. The sins of the father story line is strong here, and so on the nose it is the entire face.

Ad Astra is a movie that is best experienced on a large screen, with large speakers, and an open mind. It is definitely light on the action (despite glimmers and shocks), and heavy on the sorrow. This is a strange epic that is completely unforgiving along the way with one main story to tell. It will be hard to top this level of care that went into an original story this year, but one I am glad I was able to witness.

4 out of 4.

The Amazing Johnathan Documentary

I first heard about The Amazing Johnathan in 2002 or 2003. He had a comedy special on Comedy Central Presents, which blew me away and I thought it was the greatest combination of dark humor and magic. I had seen maybe one other special about him too around the time, and like a lot of comedians, I think forgot about them as comedy central stopped caring so much about stand up comedians and I stopped watching TV as much.

And so you can imagine my surprise when I heard there was a documentary coming out about him, aptly named The Amazing Johnathan Documentary. Where the hell had he been over the last few decades? Does anyone even remember him?

Turns out, my own knowledge of The Amazing Johnathan comes closer to the tail end of his career. At this point, he was already in Vegas headlining, and not traveling as much, which he did for decades before. Shit, he is four years older than my own dad. I am late in the game!

But it turns out he was done doing comedy in 2014, because he developed a heart condition. A pretty bad one, given at most a year to live. And as of right now, at the writing of this review, August 2019, he is still alive. How did he survive 5 years? Was the whole thing just another dark humor ruse to get people to notice him? Maybe…

amazing johnathan
words

Now, let’s actually talk about why this documentary matters. It was directed by Benjamin Berman, who you know from nothing before this. And he is in the documentary too. Because a large portion of this documentary is focused not just on Johnathan’s story, but also how the hell they are going to make a documentary about him be good. What is the conclusion? Do they just film it until he dies? Does Berman actually believe Johnathan is sick or does he think this is a sick joke?

And really, the whole thing is turned up on its head only a half hour in when we find out that a second documentary crew has been hired by Johnathan, competing for the same footage and interviews and hoping to get the better story out overall. A very unorthodox thing indeed, but that is just step one of the craziness that entitles this documentary.

This documentary is more than just a story about The Amazing Johnathan. It is a documentary about how to make a documentary, why we make documentaries at all, and just a man who wants to be remembered at all costs before he kicks the bucket.

It is real, it is emotional, and it is full of personal growth. It is a game changer for the standard documentary, which makes since given the topic is not a standard sort of man.

It is worth the watch for people who know nothing about the comedian magician.

3 out of 4.

Unplanned

Ted Cruz likes this movie, Unplanned. Ted Cruz hyped this movie as it came out in theaters. Ted Cruz talked about how wonderful it was to see this very powerful movie early. Ted Cruz encouraged people to see this movie to see the truth about abortion. Ted Cruz was happy to see its numbers. Ted Cruz hyped the movie again when it came out on DVD.

I think it is certain to say that any movie Ted Cruz decides to talk about is pretty damn bad. In at least the last 3-4 years, I haven’t seen Ted Cruz talk about any movie, at all, ever, as a regular person or a senator. And he obsessed over this one.

Clearly, Ted Cruz was given some financial incentive for this film.

It is also clear that any movie that Ted Cruz likes is likely a colossal waste of time.

operating table
Ted Cruz is just another part of the cog.

You want an abortion movie? Well you got it! This film decides the best thing for it to do is give us part of the ending first, so it can do something graphic, and then give us the long story of her life before then. And in this scene, Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher), director of a Planned Parenthood, has to help with an abortion by just holding an Ultrasound. And during the process, she believes the fetus is running away/trying to escape, so she realizes she is terrible and time to quit.

Before that moment though? Abby as a college student always believed in women rights. She actually had two abortions, once from an accident, and the other time from a marriage that ended up not being a good fit and she needed to escape. So she appreciated Planned Parenthood despite apparently everyone in her family being extremely religious and anti-abortion.

So she also decided to volunteer with the company. She walked women from their cars to the doors to not have to deal with the protesters. Eventually she worked her way up, got an official job, then became a counselor to help people decide what to do, and eventually also run the dang facility.

The whole time, her new husband (Brooks Ryan) is incredibly disappointed with her. There is almost never a scene of him just being happy. His religion means that she is wrong and he hates her and is kind of a dick. Not physically. But constantly judging? Definitely a dick.

Oh, and Abby’s boss, who is also climbing up the corporate ladder, Cheryl (Robia Scott) is apparently just driven by profits and loves loves love abortions. But Abby got in this job to help women who need it, but prevent them from getting to the abortion step if possible. You know, the mission of Planned Parenthood. to help women at all costs along the way.

And, spoilers, after the beginning scene, and after all this other mess and being judged, Abby quits her jobs and joins a protest group, deciding to also now shout at those women who leave their cars, but use her position of former director to give more credit to her words.

harassment
A turncoat, if you will.

In this movie, Planned Parenthood is a big boogeyman of a corporation that is driven to make lots of money. They apparently thrive off of abortions, and the more women who get abortions, the more rich they get, and the more powerful they get. They don’t care about women, they care about getting those fetuses out for that paycheck.

They are compared to Big Oil and Pharmacy companies, and driven by huge donors to get this anti-Christian agenda off and running, because of dealing with all of these bad people! And of course the boss character is just a manifestation of all of this. Needs more abortions, needs only loyalty, needs money! And it is ridiculous.

This is all supposed to be a true story. And sure, maybe Abby had a bad boss and attributed things to the whole company? That’s fucked up. But the “disasters” shown in this film, the medical emergencies, and whatever, that seem to make it look terrible, also take place over 9 years I think. If that is the case, then it seems like for the most part a nice ship has been run. All companies have hiccups.

I don’t want to say Abby Johnson is a terrible person. She was driven to this eventually to societal peer pressure. Besides hearing protesters daily for years, her husband was always extremely disappointed with her, and her parents hated her as well. Of course she’d eventually stop and “see the light”. What is messed up is instead of just abandoning it, she tried to use her former authority to convince people it was bad, when really it was just her religious doctrine getting in the way, not her authority and knowledge.

This is an annoying religious film, because 97% of the people who watch it will be those who already are anti-abortion. The other 3% are going to be people who thought it was about something else, or people like me. It won’t change a mind, it is just one of the Christian films where Christians stroke their own egos about how right they are to be Christians. A lot more of them are popping up in big amounts lately, but they are not great films, and Ted Cruz is a goddamn idiot.

Wait. No. He is not an idiot. I don’t fathom he believes all this. He is just motivated to be on this side, politically and financially (most likely), and so he is running with it. He knows it sucks too. He knows.

0 out of 4.

Between The Darkness

Between The Darkness, formerly called Come Save The Night, is a straight to VOD film that deals with another home schooled family in the woods.

These have become popular lately, with our recent films like Captain Fantastic and Leave No Trace. Why not be off the grid and live on your own? Why do we have to conform to society?

Now this is a much more indie film than those other two, which also were really indie. It doesn’t also have big names attached, so it can maybe tell an even more intense and dark story.

But I will say now while watching, that I figured out why I was asked to review the film by the company. And it is a unique reason. This film has the word Gorgon in it. It is used a lot, actually, and referring to the real mythical creature, not some other version of Gorgons like in Small Soldiers. And damn it, if I can’t be the official source of all movies that deal with Gorgons, then what is the point?


I think everyone now is secretly a Gorgon in this film.

Roy Grady (Lew Temple) our man in the woods with his family, lives in the woods! With his family! He has a daughter, Sprout (Nicole Moorea Sherman) and a younger son, Percy (Tate Birchmore). They have a lot of land, legally, but they don’t have phones and the kids never leave the land. Sprout had an older sister, who died within the last few years, and their mom also died years before that. Very sad times.

Now Roy is very weird. He is teaching them about the gods, the Greek mythologies, as their official religion and focus on life. Thus the name of the youngest kid. And because he teachers her about mythology, Sprout starts to believe she can see Gorgons in the woods, and other monsters. They are out to get her, and her dad isn’t buying it.

But it turns out that there are a lot of secrets in those woods, and she will discover them as her life begins to unravel and change at a faster rate.

Also starring Danielle Harris, Daniela Leon, and Max Page.

c
Warrior.

By the end of the film, sure, it got really weird, and took us to a place I didn’t expect at the beginning. Unfortunately, one could easily describe what the ending was about, but the minor levels of interpretation and details are all fuzzy and quick.

We don’t really know why the dad is such a dick. For most people to go and live in the woods and worship ancient Greek gods, you wouldn’t also expect them to be homophobic or anti-liberal while being anti-Christian. So his character is hard to comprehend.

I think this film had a lot of good ideas, but maybe the budget constraints and timing lead to it feeling like it was missing a lot. It wasn’t too short, it just didn’t move the plot along always at a good pace.

I did really enjoy Sprout as the main character and think that she has a lot going on for her, but it just doesn’t add up enough. I root for her, but understand that I am not getting enough of a complete story.

Between The Darkness has a lot of ambition, but is unable to reach its lofty desires in a narratively pleasing way.

2 out of 4.