Author: Admin

Last Men in Aleppo

There is a lot going wrong in Syria, and shit, it definitely sucks. It sucks a lot and is still being ignored by regular media. Well, in America it isn’t ignored, but its focus is wrong. It is on ISIS and the the other large forces fighting in Syria, including Russia and America. It is on refugees, but rarely in a positive light. And it is almost always never on the regular Syrian citizens, brought into this war against their wills and fighting for their lives just to exist in the home they have known all their lives.

That must be why there are so many documentaries about it. Hell, we had City of Ghosts come out in 2017 as well, I reviewed it halfway through the year. It was the true story about the Syrians who became journalists to reveal the problems with ISIS to the world, the torture and brutality of their regime.

It was amazing.

And two years ago we had The White Helmets, which was nominated for and won Best Documentary Short. It was about the civilian group of volunteers, The White Helmets, who run to blast sites to check for injuries, look for survivors, and help those who were hurt. They are heroes!

And this movie, Last Men In Aleppo is about…um, The White Helmets again.

Aleppo
Yep, white helmets alright.

For real. This documentary ends up following along members of The White Helmets, as they hang out with their family, as they save other families, and as they put their lives on the line and die to help others.

It is a life of messes and chaos and sadness. And yet, unfortunately, I have already seen it all before.

Thanks to the docuemntary short, this group is already known. They won a goddamn award for it. And this documentary just told more of their story. It didn’t give me really new information, just new people doing the same things.

And maybe that is a bad way to grade this. Doesn’t matter though. I want to see documentaries to learn things, and this one didn’t really let me learn anything.

2 out of 4.

Icarus

Urine has always been an attention grabbing headline. Whether it relates to the president peeing in some sexual act in Russia, or R. Kelly peeing on a fan who isn’t at the age of consent to be peed on.

People love hearing pee stories, because people generally love peeing, it makes sense.

But people were quite upset at Lance Armstrong when his pee story hit the news. Everything was a lie, nothing was sacred, and all of those drug tests he passed could not detect his doping problems. Fuck.

What now? Are all professional dopers just waiting to get caught? (Yes). And should we care? (Eh, maybe not?). Bryan Fogel, who you definitely do not know, is an amateur bicyclist who went and did a big hard race in France that lasted only a short amount of days. His goal was to top 100 and he ended up in the top 20, but he was playing against basic machines. People who should have been pro.

So he wanted to find out if he could beat the drug tests, if he should take steroids since “Everyone does it” and if it was known out there how to do it. He didn’t call it Icarus for that reason, but for the other reasons that will maybe be made apparent.

It took him some time to find someone to help him, but eventually he found Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, a Russian scientist. He was very interested in doing tests with Fogel, telling him exactly what to do, when to pee, and how they might try and beat the system. And then, a lot more started to happen.

Urine
Look at all this urine! Hooray science!

You see, Dr. Rodchenkov was in charge of the Russian center for testing for drugs for their athletes. He had a long storied career, working around the world, and he was in charge in Russia for a bit now. And it was coming out, rumors, that the entire Russian Olympic program was doping, sponsored by the Russian government. Oh shit!

This is news that would affect the 2016 Olympics! And other programs. But it didn’t happen, and Rodchenkov was feeling breathes down his back in Russia. So he got out of town, joined Fogel in America, to go into basic hiding. He then told his story to the New York Times and the FBI. And the rest is history.

Just kidding, the rest is still getting started, what with the Russian ban in the 2018 Winter Olympics and all.

Fuck! I love the Olympics, and it is crazy that something like this can actually come to the forefront after all these years. I am talking decades, especially when there was talk of them doing it when they were the USSR. All of my pop culture knowledge has brought me to this moment and it just makes since. We had to know it from Rocky IV, right?

This is one of those documentaries that just feels so lucky. Fogel started it with one purpose, and it grew into something so much larger. It is just so goddamn lucky. It starts off strong with good ideas, and builds into something so complex and politically wonderful. In fact, we need an Icarus 2 in some years just to see what came of everything. Solid documentary, overall.

3 out of 4.

Faces Places

The year of 2017 wasn’t great for me and watching documentaries. I didn’t do it as often as I used to (as I used to force one a week for review). I decided I needed them to come more naturally, to see what I wanted, what looked interesting, and sure, some that didn’t look interesting.

But still, I didn’t see too many. So I had been keeping track of the movies on the Shortlist for Oscars Best Documentary. I saw titles that seemed interesting and plots that I couldn’t wait to see. I was trying to guess what might be the top five picked.

And then Faces Places was picked. It was one of the ones on the shortlist that I just did not expect overall. The documentary just felt like something that could be a one season show on The Travel Channel, and not something that might change the world, like some of the titles on the list.

Doc
Yep, I see many faces and…wait, what’s that in the background?
Oh yeah, that’s a place.

Agnès Varda is a really old woman, but a famed director in her country of origin. She has directed many films and has had a wonderful, personal career. JR is a photographer, much younger, and a bit eccentric. The two met and decided to work together on this documentary project.

Basically, they were going to travel the French countryside, small villages and towns, meet people, hear their stories, and enhance their community through their faces. They drove around in a vehicle with a large camera on the side. You could go in, get your picture, and a large picture would print out that you could put somewhere.

They decorated the sides of homes, monuments, to honor individuals and make unique artwork for the folks who lived there.

And it was cute, it had some interesting moments, and overall, it just felt…pointless. I am not saying there is no point to bring niceness to the world. It is just that there are so many documentaries that bringing up untold stories, important political and social events, that this one just feels off in its own little happy world.

I wish the world didn’t have so much fucked up shit in it. And really, the rating comes from these two individuals who just wanted to make people happy and increase their own happiness. The relevance and importance of the documentary is just less than others.

Faces Places will probably be on Netflix, eventually. And it isn’t even one you can sort of put on and half ignore to just see moments of happy, given the subtitles.

I can’t imagine this one winning anything. I hope I still get around to watching Kedi.

2 out of 4.

Abacus: Small Enough To Jail

When America shit itself economically, back in 2008, I didn’t know a whole lot about money. I knew I didn’t have a lot of it, and I wanted more. Ten years ago me and current me are very similar in that regard.

I knew that the banks were bailed out, that people were angry about this, that people occupied Wall Street, and eventually I got to see The Big Short. The Big Short was, at the time, my favorite film of that year, but since then it has been surpassed by Steve Jobs.

But I still only knew a little bit, just what some movies told me. I did learn enough from the movie to give me the buzz words and sort of explain what everyone was doing to cause it.

That leads us to Abacus: Small Enough To Jail.

Abacus
Shit, all those boxes, he must be hiding something. A ton of tiny somethings.

Abacus was a small bank located in Chinatown in NYC. It had a staff of Chinese Americans, it served the local Chinese community and little else. They didn’t bar other people, but other people just generally didn’t come to them for banking needs.

The founder made it to be able to help members of his community, by providing them loans to start their businesses. These businesses would strengthen their community, increase everyone’s revenue, and bring the bank revenue as well. A win win win. However, at one point they found out that one of their employees had been lying on loan forms for mortgages in order to get loans out to people.

So the bank fired him, wiped their hands clean of the situation. It wasn’t until later, during the financial crisis, when anyone cared. That employee became an informant, and Abacus was brought to court. In fact, they were seemingly trying to blame the entire financial crisis on what a few of their employees were doing!

Needless to say, this documentary is about their trials, the trial itself, and how the government tried to make an example of these Chinese Americans, and perhaps why they were made the target.

Overall, it is a wonderful story, and one that folds out very nicely on the camera. It has some legal drama, some race drama, a lot to make a good, and possibly tragic story. I didn’t know how it would end, but it captivated me the whole way.

It did feel a bit “made for TV special” at times, so an increased in production value would have made it bigger. I have to assume when it was made it was not sure how big this story would blow up or what it would mean for America.

Definitely a story worthy of being told as a documentary and one that is worth a watch.

3 out of 4.

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma! is an old famous musical about the state above Texas. People love Oklahoma.

Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma, and it has more mixed reviews when compared to the old musical about the state.

The Oklahoma City Bombing is a tragic event that took place in the 1990’s. It has very strong reviews that are not favorable at all towards the events that took place. Some people like it, but those people are assholes.

And this documentary, Oklahoma City, is not just about the bombings that people really disliked, but events that led up to the bombings, where the people involved got their ideas and the big events that made these people take action.

OKC
And apparently there are a decent amount of people you may not know anything about!

The reason I wanted to see Oklahoma City was because I was very young at the time of the bombing attack. I heard about it occasionally, the name Timothy McVeigh was one on my subconscious. I definitely remember it being a big deal when he was executed, although I still didn’t fully understand why. And then 9/11 happened later that year. It sort of took over the world in terms of disasters by terrorists, and the OKC bombings were just not important news anymore.

So due to all of this, my knowledge was lacking, so why not a documentary to not only catch me up, but tell the entire story and make me very well informed. After all, the event is done, it has been fully investigated, there isn’t anything new anymore to learn.

We can find it all in one condensed documentary place!

And it definitely had a lot of information, but information that just seemed all over the place, in my mind. We started way back, getting a lot of information about people I had never heard about before. It just took so long to finally feel connected to the bombings themselves and to McVeigh.

If the documentary had done a better job relating these previous events, like Waco, to OKC, then it might have felt more coherent. Unfortunately, it told a very linear story (which I admit, totally makes sense). It just started so far away that I was quick to learn interest.

Shit, I want to know about McVeigh’s life in particular, and his youth, and then introduce these other characters. And these other events.

But instead, this just felt like a history lesson. A lesson where you even knew the end goal, but totally still felt lost along the way.

I think I just need to really read a Wikipedia page to get the information I wanted. That will make me feel content.

1 out of 4.

All The Money In The World

I am mostly certain I wouldn’t have seen All The Money in The World as soon as I did, if it wasn’t for the controversy.

At this point, telling me that Ridley Scott was the director doesn’t’ do anything for me. He has put out a lot of shit. Like The Counselor.

But Kevin Spacey was in the movie. His role was important, it was in trailers and on posters. He was basically the central villain. When it came out he was a central villain to people in real life though, his stock dropped significantly, and Scott decided to kick him out of the film. A month before it was being released. Without moving back the release date.

Instead, Christopher Plummer was brought in for the role. Everything was re-shot within a week, editing occurred, and we got the same release date. It also gained controversy over pay disparity from these reshoots, which is even more free PR.

Remember, there is no such thing as bad PR. Because the movie got award nominations – and we will never know if it is for the film itself, or the speed and craft of getting so much of the film done in just a week. Or maybe to give Spacey the finger.

Replica
I’m not fully convinced that he isn’t CGI’d into some of these scenes.

The story is a little bit about John Paul Getty (Plummer), who at the time was the richest person in the world. He was very meticulous with his money. He didn’t spend more than he had to, he always looked for deals, he got his fortune from oil in the middle east, and he was shrewd.

Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) was his daughter-in-law. She married her son and had a few kids, but the son became a drunk and a bad husband so they divorced. She divorced out of the family, taking none of the money, just full custody, wanting to distance themselves. But her son, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) was still growing up with the richness of the world around him. He had access to money, he got to travel the world, and one day, in France, he was kidnapped.

The kidnappers knew who they had, they were basically celebrities! So they knew they could ask for a lot of money to get Getty to have his grandson back. But Getty was careful with his money. He said no, and that was it.

All The Money in The World tells the story of Harris, trying to get her son back, trying to convince her father in law to help, while her son’s life was seemingly on the line.

Also starring Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan, Marco Leonardi, and Giuseppe Bonifati.

Press
Oh. And the Paparazzi. They are all over this movie like…paparazzi.

Is this real story worth a film? Yeah, sure. It has drama, it has suspense, it has real dicks and real buttholes.

But this movie never really captivated me or drew me in to care about the characters involved. It never really felt real, but instead felt like a fast paced movie without a lot of thought behind it.

The movie starts off, time jumping back and forth across decades. We get some history of Getty, of the marriage, of the kids being younger kids. The time jumping goes too quickly and doesn’t really feel as helpful as they probably imagined. And of course, it was awkward that Plummer looked identical across 30 or so years. That’s an issue with the movie, and one you can’t just ignore by saying they did it in a week. Yeah. It shows at times.

Once the plot finally gets going, it relies heavily on Williams, Plummer, and sure, Wahlberg, to carry the story. I really enjoyed Williams as the mother. She was a strong character, constantly seeming like she was on her last wits end, but somehow keeping it all together. Wahlberg felt like a generic number two “Get it done” man, while Plummer just felt like a cranky old dude who gave no fucks. I don’t know if it is realistic, it is just true that his character didn’t have a lot going for him across the dimensions.

I knew close to nothing about the story, but it was quite clear what parts must have been embellished and what actually occurred. I don’t go to movies to see 100% factual events, but I do usually get annoyed when the truth is far more interesting than the film parts. I was notably annoyed at the end, when the rescue attempts were almost done. They kept switching back to Getty, and I had to role my eyes knowing that the timing of those events was just so stupid. And yeah, they existed just to make the movie seem more frantic.

This is a good story, with at least one great performance, that just feels rushed and overly dramatized. We can handle drama without the forced thriller parts. Just make sure everyone on board is giving it their all. I don’t know how much I dislike that can be blamed on the change of cast, but I do know I wouldn’t have given it any awards.

2 out of 4.

Unrest

I know we have all thought about it in our lives. It would be sweet to kind of just, lay around all day, not having to stand up to shower, or do chores, or work, or take care of the kids or pets, or adult at all. It would be swell!

You would be able to stand up or move if you wanted to of course. You would just limit it for being lazy for a good few hours or days. And then sure, back to normal.

But what if you were on bed arrest basically, for most of your life. Your legs were not broken, your nerves work, but you are just so damn weak your body cannot support you. Not only that, but you were always tired, it hurt to lift really any body part, and your entire survival was based on the kindness of others who took care of your basic needs. Worst of all, this condition is hard to detect from regular doctors through regular methods. In fact, a lot of them might say it is entirely in the patient’s head and they will get over it eventually, even if they have to force them.

That would be the life for individuals who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, of which their story is not generally known. And of course, that is why this documentary, Unrest, exists.

Documentary
This just looks like a great Sunday morning, to be honest.

Jennifer Brea used to be a go-getter, a mountain hiker individual, who married a husband with similar issues. Then one day, she got a lot more tired. She couldn’t be as active as she once was. Standing started to get hard, and she would rather roll or crawl along the floor. At some point, she decided to start filming her life in order to tell a story about her condition, which again, doctors were very unhelpful.

In this documentary, we see Brea become more and more bed only, as she struggles with her relationship with her husband (where Brea feels terrible and like a burden), while she discovers more about CFS and the people who suffer from it. We get first hand accounts from individuals and interviews, including a mother who did have a husband who left her, leaving her daughters to take care of her (and one of her daughters gaining CFS as well). And another girl who has spent most of her life now in a bed, getting CFS at a young age.

These are extremely sad stories, as long as you are paying attention, it will break your damn heart. While at the same time, you can see the hope in these individuals, who clearly don’t like their position, but still feel positive that they are loved, that they can love, and that one day they might be back on their feet again.

Admittedly, the purpose of this documentary is just to raise awareness. It is certainly something I never knew about and would have easily just brushed it off as something that sounds made up (which makes the whole thing harder on the individuals). On those levels it fully succeeds.

Personally it took me a long time to really get invested into it, and for documentaries that can be really hard on viewers. If someone just scrolling isn’t hooked early on, they will likely pass it to go onto a different one. I’d have liked more information on current curing efforts (which I know are small) and their protest/march/demonstration, which ended up being a very powerful moment. Or hell, just more personal stories, because that is where the tears come from.

3 out of 4.

The Dark Tower

Outside of the realm of superheros and already established franchises, The Dark Tower film was probably one of the most hyped and anticipated films to come out for some time.

I first heard about the book series in high school, but it existed long before I was at that level. I never touched it because hey, Steven King does scary things, and I didn’t do scary things. But in recent years I thought about adding it to my list of books to hit in the next few years, as I do love long franchises, especially if they are done, not leaving the reader wondering if the final books will ever happen.

The Dark Tower had years of development hell if I recall, for maybe a decade. Different directors, scripts, actors, whatever. But having it come out finally with two top notch actors at the lead sounded great!

It just started to sound a lot worse when people learned that it was meant as a follow up of the successful franchise, and not the successful franchise itself.

Guns
Initial thoughts? This needs way more guns!

In this section I’d love to tell you about, the film and everything it is about. But it is really hard for me to to describe a plot when the plot itself feels so incomprehensible for most of the film.

I know it starts with a boy, Jake (Tom Taylor), who is young and having weird recurring dreams that make him piss his pants. Not literally. All the people around him say that it is trauma from the death of his dad a year or so ago, but they are consistent, similar, and freaking him out.

They have some dude wearing black (Matthew McConaughey) really wanting to destroy some tower somewhere, and a Gunslinger guy (Idris Elba) not wanting him to do that thing.

And in the simplest way, that is the plot. But it involves a parallel universe or shadow realm, magic stuff, disaster stuff and monster things. And some how the kid is key to it all, because YOLO.

Also starring Ben Gavin, Claudia Kim, and Jackie Earle Haley. Other people too, but I think they’d rather I didn’t lump them in this review as well.

Black
Final thoughts: This still didn’t live up to my gun potential.

What a fucking mess. Or a goddamn mess. I am not sure what kind of mess this film ended up being.

If I had read seven or whatever books in this series before watching this movie, would it have been better? I don’t even know. I can’t actually imagine a big budgeted film coming out that requires that much investment in books to understand it. The movie definitely attempted to explain some things. Why else have some kid thrown into the story if not an exposition device for the viewers?

But I still have no earthly idea what I watched. Once it started doing its silly other world stuff, the film just jumped off the rails and my mind was gone. Extremely poor plot and writing aside, it also was very unattractive to look at. The CGI was awful. The movie was loud and tried to fill itself with cool sequences instead of just good movie.

I mean. I am trying really hard to remember cool or especially bad moments in the film. Something that stands out. But when your movie is 100% trash, well, then it just looks like trash.

0 out of 4.

Wish Upon

Sometimes it is really hard to remember all the genre specific films that come out in a year. Especially 2017 and horror.

When did Wish Upon come out? I don’t remember. I might have gotten an invite, but I don’t remember. Did I choose to not go, or was there something better to watch? Who fucking knows!

But at the end of the year, Wish Upon was already out, and I gave it a check because of the name and I knew that some shitty horror films had to be out there as well. And our star was not used to the leading role, but she was used to some horror films, so there was potential.

Chickfight
I bet the word viral is used in this movie at least twice.

Clare Shannon (Joey King) is your typical high school outcast. Small group of friends (Sydney Park, Shannon Purser), into some weird hobbies, sort of poor, normal stuff. Here mom (Elisabeth Röhm) committed suicide when she was younger, which haunts her occasionally. Her dad (Ryan Phillippe) has an embarrassing trait where he likes to dumpster dive for treasure for friends, but really it just makes him a hoarder and their house is a disaster.

And then one day, he finds a Chinese box that looks cool and leaves it in her room. She only dabbles in the language, and can see that it has wish on it, so for the lolz, she wishes this bully girl at school (Josephine Langford) will just rot away. And lo and behold! She gets a disease on her face and doesn’t return to school. Hooray!

However, this wish box has a deadly side. Every time it grants a wish, an entity the wisher knows will die. And if the wishes ever get used up, their own soul will be taken as well. But she doesn’t know Chinese, let alone ancient! And her old friend (Ki Hong Lee) can only help her so much, especially if she doesn’t listen. Time to wish for stupid stuff, consequences be damned!

Also starring Mitchell Slaggert.

Box
Behold, foreign mysticism as your villainous holder of items!

A horror movies where wishes don’t go as expected? That isn’t new at all. But these wishes basically work out well, except for the whole dead friends or neighbors or family members part. However, it takes way too long for the lead to realize the wishes are real, happening, and the box is the culprit.

By the time she for sure knows, she also knows she has seven max. She has done four of seven, and knows that she is running out, and that it brings danger to people. And she fucking wishes her fifth wish for school popularity.

It is so goddamn stupid. That is the sort of wish you can imagine in the first three, maybe, especially when testing to see if it worked. But at this point in the film, it is already clear the writers had lost their goddamn minds.

Wish Upon takes a regular story and tries to add some Final Destination elements to it. Because they quickly start playing up the deaths, so we can sort of guess and see how they will die. Or even WHO will die, as they show multiple characters in potentially deadly circumstances. But they feel cheesy and not scary, unlike the FD franchise.

And really, the ending is horseshit as well. This is a horror film about a girl of below intelligence, who thinks she is above average intelligence, and then some people die.

0 out of 4.

Women Who Kill

Women Who Kill is another indie film I would have never seen if, let alone heard about, if it wasn’t for the Spirit Awards. This is only a cool thing to say if I ended up liking the film, and so hey, good news, yay Spirit Awards!

There are a lot of interesting things to say about the film, most of which I will say at the end, but probably one of the best aspects of the movie are how many women characters are in it. I would say there are only two guys who have speaking roles in the whole film that matter to the story in a slight amount. Basically this is a film directed, written by, produced by, and starring a woman, about women who like killer women.

For those of you who like women a lot, you will probably like Women Who Kill.

Podcasting
On the other hand, if you like women, maybe you don’t like them killing?

Lesbians. Podcasters. Stereotypes. Morgan (Ingrid Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr) run a podcast show called, Women Who Kill. It is specifically about serial killers, who happen to be women, and that is it. Because Morgan and Jean are fascinated by serial killers, want to talk about them, want to go super in depth about them, and people love hearing about them.

Unrealistically, they are sort of famous for this podcast and are recognized on the street by people who love their podcast. A rarity, given that podcast is rarely visual, but hey, lets run with this fantasy.

Morgan and Jean used to be lovers, but ended it after sometime and still maintained their working relationship. Jean has moved on and is dating a man now, but Morgan is alone. Heck, another of Morgan’s exes is currently about to get married too. Everyone is happy. And then Morgan meets Simone (Sheila Vand). At the local farm/store co-op that Morgan works at (more stereotypes). She is hot and into Morgan, which is great. They hit it off, but still, Simone is a bit weird and it is hard to figure out why.

That is, until Jean puts the idea in her head. Maybe Simone is a serial killer. Maybe she is the daughter of a serial killer and is continuing her mom’s path. And maybe she wants to kill Morgan, as an ultimate meta prize and is waiting for the opportunity to strike. Or it could all be coincidences!

Also starring Annette O’Toole, Deborah Rush, Grace Rex, and Tami Sagher.

Kiss
On the third hand, if you like women, maybe you do like them kissing other women.

Women Who Kill, early on, quickly found its stride with witty dialogue, funny moments, and likable different characters. It is fun to cheer for Morgan and Jean, making it harder to see their faults when they get to the points of real conflict.

Simone’s character definitely stands out in the world they created, seemingly always shining (or the opposite of shine in some instances), just to pop out. Most of the surroundings just seem dreary, but not Simone, so her entity begs questioning and adds to the mysteriousness.

I thought for sure I would end up loving this movie, but I thought the end started to unravel what started out as a fun clever story. It didn’t follow through too well, and honestly, sort of hated the ending.

But Women Who Kill is a movie that definitely celebrates women. Of the two men roles, one of them is playing a role of house husband who adds nothing to the film and is practically ignored, which is a hilarious role reversal of a serious problem in movies.

Still worth a watch, give these ladies some of your money.

3 out of 4.