Movie Roundup – Documentaries 2018 Part 1

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Documentaries 2018 (Part 1)! Basically, the documentaries I watched and didn’t yet write about, and need to really review, or else.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Documentaries 2018 Part 1

The Bleeding Edge

The Bleeding Edge is a Netflix medical documentary, and one I assumed was targeted towards Women. You know, because of bleeding.

And sure it isn’t about periods, but it is definitely geared towards women in some aspect, as two of the three technologies would only go into women. Long story short, there are a lot of “cutting edge” technologies out there that can save lives, be put into people, to solve problems. You know, like the pacemaker. However, the medical technology field is the least overseen of the official fields, unlike food and drugs. Anyone can get their device approved, especially if you just say its the same as a previously approved device, but one change. You can daisy chain approvals, and get to a point where what you are claiming was approved, was only approved from something else now discontinued for not working.

That is scary, people can get hurt, watch what you put in your body, and check the testing. That is what this documentary teaches, which is fine, but I can’t fully explain its science. I will assume dozens of real people testimony about other side effects should be heard, and this documentary gives them a voice, it is just a bit boring.

2 out of 4.

Bleeding

Death of a Nation

Look who it is. Dinesh D’Souza, this fucker. This guy who breaks the law, gets pardoned by Trump, and keeps making these documentaries.

I wanted to watch this one in the theaters and review right away, but still, I knew how it would be, and knew how angry I would be, and didn’t want to give it any more money. So I yes, waited, until I could see it for free, and then blast it, and here is the blasting.

A lot of this documentary is saying the same things he has said in past documentaries. No one gives a shit about Thomas Jefferson and it isn’t relevant to now. The past is not now, and right now Republicans are racist and shitty. Very simple. He badly tries to tear down Democrats and there is nothing new in this documentary at all. He isn’t even trying, he just needs his documentary every 2 years to take from Republicans, to give it back to Republicans. Hard pass.

0 out of 4.

Dinesh

Fahrenheit 11/9

Speaking of political documentaries, we have Fahrenheit 11/9, a sequel or sort. I will say the title is very clever, since it is about the election, and that happened on 11/9. Fantastic work on titles, Michael Moore.

A lot of people don’t like him and that is fair. He is brash and in your face and annoying. But this is not just an inverse of the previous documentary. Like one that only Liberals will like or anything. It is definitely in its sort of own path, and plenty of liberals won’t like it, either. Moore does a better job of shitting on current Democratic leadership and practices over the last decade than D’Souza has in his last few movies. There are real truths here and they are important and useful for us to move forward.

Overall again, not a great piece of work, but it is better, and highlights some interesting aspects of the Flint water crisis as well.

2 out of 4.

Fahrenheit

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

I think that this is one of the first movies I watched that started my giant backlog of things to review. I saw it, couldn’t figure out how to write about it, and it just sat there on my list, forever, waiting and waiting, and then other films joined it, and here we are today.

Robin Williams is fucking amazing. Everyone knows it, or should know it, and if they like him they should see it. It gives a nice life arc, the darkest times, the better times, his family, and so on. And it goes over his passing, the aftermath, and some of the reasons why it occurred. It made me realize some of the friendships he had with some other big names that I never knew, and they tell some touching anecdotes. I watched it, I loved it, and surprisingly it didn’t make me cry.

It still feels odd as a documentary, and was never close to being as impactful as something like RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. Which is odd, because as a viewer, I would say I actually had a relationship with Williams unlike the other two, but still couldn’t get as engrossed in this documentary on his life.

3 out of 4.

Robwilliams

Shirkers

There are documentaries, and then there is Shirkers. Shirkers is weird, and haunting. It draws you in, while seemingly being about nothing.

I had no idea why it hypnotized me when it seemed that it was about the making of an independent movie far away, like, how could it be good? Why should I care? And at the end, it is still hard to answer that question, even when you find out who the documentary actually ends up being about. The amount of footage of the film is incredible, and it seems like the type of movie I definitely would not have enjoyed.

And yet, I could not look away. The only suggestion for a documentary like Shirkers is to just watch the documentary. Give it a try. See it. If it doesn’t look good after about 10 minutes, then bail, but really any information on it outside of what I gave is just something to be discovered.

3 out of 4.

Shirkers

Overall, there are lots of documentaries out there that I have seen this year, and more that I have (because this is just part 1). But I put some of the bigger names in this one, because I am ashamed they didn’t have reviews already. Not that part 2, or 3 will be bad, but hey, they will come out soon enough.

Chef Flynn

Being a prodigy can be a blessing and a curse. Being a prodigy means that sure, you have talent in something, something that is notable enough for people to care about. And they have to be really good at it, earlier than most other people are doing those same talents.

Being a prodigy means you can get fame from just being good at an early age, even if you are never the best. Because you are young, you are special, and people will take note. This can lead to later opportunities in your life as well, just from publicity and inherent fame.

And then there are the bad sides. By being a prodigy, people will talk about privilege. They will talk about being a gimmick and maybe even attack you for not being the best. “Sure, they can tap dance at one, but I’ve seen better!” And then there is the aspect of not living up to your own name. If you are seen as a wunderkind and eventually struggle or don’t reach the next step, you will be seen as a failure, a false prophet, and everything may leave you. There is a ton of pressure to keep going strong and they can get burned out. And if they don’t reach the levels people said they would, they can become depressed and lead into a tailspin.

That’s why I can take solace in my own mediocrity.

And the documentary Chef Flynn is about a kid who just really wanted to be a fancy chef, and put his whole young life into it.

Flynn
You can tell he is a chef from his outfit.

Flynn grew up like a lot of kids, with separated parents, some siblings, and generally enough food to eat. His mom was a small time director/actress and so she spent a lot of time with cameras and filming her own family. And what she didn’t spend a lot of time doing is cooking varied meals. A lot of ordering in, and a lot of easy meals for dinner, and she was struggling. So Flynn at a young age knew he needed to help and wanted to work on the food aspects.

And work he did. He started getting really fancy with his food making, going into huge specialties, trying and experimenting and caring about plating. This grew into his own kitchen at home, to his small in home restaurant for friends and family, to bigger and bigger opportunities. And as already discussed, with bigger opportunities comes bigger scorn. For every magazine article or cover, comes anger and meanie butt heads.

This documentary is a lot more on that. On a young man dealing with the stresses of the worlds placed on him, and his attempts to overcome it, while maintaining some good relationship with his family.

Sure, it shows how he got to this point, and at the time of the end of the documentary, he was an adult. Living on his own, trying to start a restaurant and doing it now without his mom’s help.

Chef Flynn is an interesting tale about a cool kid and his mom, but it isn’t going to be a life changing documentary. It could maybe inspire someone to go out and chase their own dreams, but this didn’t seem to be the point. This documentary is overall just a fluff piece. And yes, it is interesting, but probably best watched by people who enjoy cooking or young people being successful. Or you know, a nice documentary to potentially cheer you up.

2 out of 4.

Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much

I love me some game shows. LOVE. When I had game show network, I would always make that my channel of choice while I worked around the house, or played video games, or tried to sleep. A good show to help stimulate my mind, fill me with useless trivia, whatever. I stopped caring about GSN of course when it just turned into the Steve Harvey Family Feud channel, instead of…well, anything else.

Game Shows have various levels of entertainment for me. The ones that involve being smarter, or clever, they are great. The ones with more blind luck can just go to hell. I never want to see Deal or No Deal. A show like that has no value added to the watcher, who just…watches. Nothing to answer, nothing to do.

So The Price is Right is an okay show to watch. It is very straight forward, the watcher can make their own guesses of course, feel accomplished every once in awhile and go about their day. It is also full of flashy lights and happy people so it is nice. Some people take game shows to an extreme. They find one, they watch it, become experts. And you can do that with something like The Price is Right! They reuse items all the time for their showcase.

And one time, the unthinkable happened. A contestant, in the final showcase, guessed the exact price of their showcase. It is so large and unexpected, but they knew if it happened, that the contestant would win both prizes. It had never been done in decades, and it did within the last decade finally. Was this guy an expert? A lucky old man? Did he cheat? Or did he have a secret weapon he didn’t know he had? This is the story that Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much wanted to answer.

Perfect Bid
Seems like a good secret weapon should be hairier.

Meet Theodore Slauson. He did not get the perfect bid on the showcase. The picture of him on the show was forever ago. But he was known for watching it a lot, studying the prices, and being an amazing audience member. It took him over ten times of visiting the show before finally being picked, and it was like a dream come true. His downfall was that dreaded wheel, which is hard to smart your way through. He was getting well known for knowing the exact prices of things and yelling them out consistently in the audience. And he helped plenty of people he just met win the show.

It is a fun story for him, and how he eventually got someone to win two showcases. Now the man who won those showcases didn’t acknowledge Theodore. He gave his own bullshit responses in interviews, but the footage is clear that Theodore yelled it out and they have tracked his career enough to know it was definitely the voice the man heard before giving his answer.

And you know what? This is a neat story with a lot of history behind it. But as even a game show enthusiest, I was left a bit bored. It didn’t have the same thrill that Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal had going for it. This felt good, wholesome, and completely average. A story that could have probably been told in a half hour special with the same amount of fan fare. Easily forgettable and a bit neat.

2 out of 4.

All the Queen’s Horses

What would you do with $54 Million? Would you buy a lot of cars? Would you waste it quickly and go back to your poverty stricken self? Would you cure world hunger? I don’t know if you can with that much, but would you anyways?

Or would you buy a bunch of horses and go to shows and shit?

Well, if that last one sounds good, then I got a documentary for you.

All The Queen’s Horses is not about a queen, and not really about horses. It is about a Rita Crundwell, a former resident of Dixon, Illinois, the city where Ronald Reagan was born! Yeah! A relatively small town, with a small form of government. The people who ran the government had other jobs as well and they shared a lot of responsibilities.

Crundwell was basically their main treasurer. She helped put funds in the right accounts to pay for things. And for decades she did this job. Their town was losing money, and they had to get loans from other areas, but they were doing their best. Even if they were 4-6 million in the hole each year.

And then one fateful day, an assistant found a bank account that no one else had known about. And in this bank account there were several checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. She got the mayor to look at it, they contacted the FBI, and the race was on to see where this money was coming from and how much of it is actually missing.

Of course, we know what happened. Crundwell took it! A lot of it! For over a decade! About $54 million in all! And she spent it mostly on horses! Horses!

ATQH
Horses!

I mean hey, people like Horses. I get it. I like things. I like movies. I like games. I don’t think I’d spend that much on any of my hobbies, but how the hell do I know that, I don’t have that kind of money.

To be fair, she had this hobby as a kid, showing some horses. And she just went to be really good at it. And really rich, to buy the best breeds to win more awards to make them worth even more. Her trophy room was huge. She wasn’t just a buyer of talent, she still knew how to work at it and make them win too.

And she knew how to rip off the town she lived in most of her life for millions, eventually getting caught and thrown in jail for forever.

This documentary goes over the whole story. The discovery, the evidence, the trial, the town freaking out, and the after math. After math? Yeah, who is to blame and why did she steal so much without people knowing? Why was a nearby city the first to really figure it out?

And we get to hear about how bad their system was set up including their auditors and banks.

Either way. This documentary was really straightforward. It didn’t offer any overarching theme of american disparity. It just wanted to tell the story and update on how it happened. It did just what it wanted to. It was mildly entertaining and I learned a little bit about the topic.

Nothing to great or groundbreaking. Not something terrible. Just totally okay.

2 out of 4.

The King

If you are a person, you are supposed to love Elvis. That is the rules. That is the rules I heard growing up again.

He was called The King of Rock and Roll, because people went nuts for him. His moves, his words, his sex aura. He was a musician famous across the world despite only playing in America. He was in the army for a couple of years. He was an actor for a long time after that as well. And eventually, he died, and then fat people in suits pretended to be him for decades after that.

I don’t have any strong feelings about Elvis. I knew the famous songs growing up but didn’t care for it. Just like I didn’t care for The Beatles. I am too young and carefree to care for the trailblazers. It happens. So I have never been crazy about Elvis, and honestly, wasn’t crazy about this documentary.

What I did know, and have learned in the past, is that Elvis didn’t invent Rock and Roll. It is very apparent, if it wasn’t at the time (it was) that Elvis was just singing and playing music already played and made popular by black people at the time. But because Elvis was white, he was able to make it popular, more acceptable (despite plenty of protests) and it elevated him into superstar status on the shoulders of others.

Of course, this is all information they go through in the documentary too. It is just what I really knew going into the movie, so I was ready and waiting to see how they would treat this subject.

Doc
By having people sit in his old car.

Technically, this documentary as the filmmaker going around with the actual automobile owned by Elvis at one point, and having famous people and musicians sit in it (some of the interviewees include Ethan Hawke, Alec Baldwin, and Chuck D). Some of them are telling his history, some telling how he was perceived, and some just want to get that vibe. But we get to hear them talk, amongst other interviews of people talking.

Despite it being the “point” of the documentary if you describe it in a line, it ended up having very little to do with the overall message and purpose of the documentary. More of it was on just Elvis and his history and life. And, as they make it abundantly clear, it is also a bit about the history of America, how it changed with the times and as it got to where we are now. It has several montage things that lead us to (you guessed it) the presidential election. And the documentary is trying to relate all of this to the life of Elvis.

And well, uhhh. It kind of never really connects for me. It feels like two completely different aspects. The life of Elvis, and then this other stuff, that is not at all gone into tons of detail. It tries to be bigger than it is and just seems to fall flat on my end.

I like that they tried something new, but it has to be a lot more straightforward to drive those bigger and bolder points they were hoping for.

1 out of 4.

Eating Animals

Oh hey, a documentary. One about food, those aren’t common at all.

This one doesn’t even try to hide under a clever punny title about the issues. Eating Animals is straight to the point. It is most likely also going to be anti eating animals. I can’t imagine a documentary that is going to talk about the pros of carnivorism with a title like this.

Oh and it is narrated by Natalie Portman. That helps solidify the point as well.

I wonder at this point how much new information a documentary can have over a topic that has been so beaten to death at this point. But hey maybe.

Eating Animals
I didn’t expect the documentary to get so graphic and watch this man eat this chicken without cutting away for 35 minutes straight.

Needless to say I don’t have a lot to say about this documentary. It doesn’t go out and say animals are unhealthy for human consumption. Instead it is on the impacts on the environment and on the small farmer. It goes after corporations and sure, some animal rights is fair. Really what it wants to say is that if you are going to eat meat to think about where your food comes from. Support more local small time farmers and ones that treat their animals nicely.

I can respect that.

The documentary itself is deeply boring however. It has no pizazz. We have a true story of people getting punished and hurt from their better raising methods. That sucks. It is still boring.

Basically this is a documentary that will change nothing. People who like meat won’t go watching it. People who don’t might watch it and will probably still not eat meat.

Just give me something new in a documentary before making it, okay?

1 out of 4.

John McCain: For Whom The Bell Tolls

What’s this? ANOTHER political documentary?

Well first of all, complainy McComplainy Pants, most documentaries are inherently political. Secondly, yes, yes it is. First I had RBG (which is the shit), then I had The Final Year, which was disappointing.

Given them, I still cannot tell you why I decided to go out of my way to watch a documentary about John McCain. Dude didn’t even become President. And he is a Republican, which makes him a bad guy, right (#NotAllRepublicans)?

But I gave it a shot, because it was also on HBO, and HBO has generally impressed me with its documentaries. I was also so disappointed with The Final Year that I figured it couldn’t be worse. Especially with a more focused topic and a longer run time to tell the story.

Seems like the timing is also important, since (as of the time of this writing), McCain is still alive despite working with a pretty intense form of Cancer that is very likely to kill him. Now we can at least get his point of view on events as he reflects on his career, while he still has a chance. John McCain: For Whom The Bell Tolls will be interesting, if anything.

John McCain
It is just 100 minutes of him staring at you from the screen, only blinking seven times.

General knowledge has told me a few things about McCain before this viewing, and some I experienced. Besides the cancer, I knew he was a prisoner of war during Vietnam for quite some time. I knew he was from Arizona. I knew he lost the presidential election in 2008 by a shit ton to Barack Obama, and is the reason we all know who Sarah Palin is right now. And I know he is nicknamed a Maverick, and had partially helped stop bad health care bills from coming through recently. Not all of them, but some of them.

I didn’t know a lot more. The documentary goes into his families history of military service, and of course a big portion on the war. Details from his wife at the time, his kids, and of course himself. We also see his post war efforts when returning home, when he meets John Kerry, how he got into politics, and many of the major things he worked on before running for president.

Even better is an acknowledgement that Palin was a terrible choice as a VP nominee, and is one of the reasons he definitely lost the election. I like that they highlighted how he tried to run a clean campaign and not bad mouth Obama while running.

Unfortunately, after the election it basically fast forwards to this last year. His cancer problems, his confusing statements on senate meetings, and the health care notes. It makes him seem like a great guy, but it nicely points out that he was basically a huge dick while Obama was in office. Sure, occasionally he would say something we could agree with, but he still mostly just voted along political lines and didn’t feel like a Maverick unless he could get something out of it.

It is still a well crafted documentary about an interesting man. I am happy we get interviews with so many people, political and otherwise, who knew him, and of course the man himself.

3 out of 4.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

To get things started, I never saw an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood until I was 27 years old. And now, since then, I have seen about 1 and a half episodes. There are no Fred Rogers nostalgia bones in my body, because I just watched different things. My parents didn’t put it in front of me, and that is that.

I have seen a shit ton of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, because I have kids, and it is relatively swell. I think it raises good points and has easy enough songs to help relate to real life.

Now, I knew about Mr. Rogers growing up of course. I probably made fun of the concept of him, because I was a little shit. Late on in life, I’ve realized how incredibly awesome of a person and a man he was and how much difficulty even someone like him faced on getting his simple message of positivity out there. And really, that is just stuff I learned from memes.

I was really excited for a fully detailed account on his life and his struggles. And so despite the lack of nostalgia, I went in excited to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, knowing that I could learn a lot about both a man, and how I should personally be a man.

WYBMN
That’s one small gesture for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.

This documentary gives us the whole Rogers story. How he first got involved with TV in the 60’s, his first show, and how things evolved from there. We had archive footage for him to tackle all of the biggest events, from the Robert Kennedy assassination to 9/11. Whatever happened, Rogers was there.

He didn’t dumb things down. Sure he talked simply. He talked slowly. He talked like someone who was willing to listen. But he still talked about hard topics that kids would hear and need help fully comprehending, instead of bottling things inside.

It is incredible the journey this man went through, and what he did for human rights. I definitely cried at least three times during this documentary, so I cannot imagine what someone will do who lived and grew up with Mr. Rogers. You will be bawling your eyes out from start to finish.

We also gain a lot of insight on the show from former crew members, actors, and guests, including Yo-Yo Ma, and of course his wife, Joanne.

Next year we have a bio film coming out as well, with Tom Hanks in the lead called You Are My Friend. I am sure it will be excellent and probably focus on just a small part of his life. But good or bad, I will be content knowing that this documentary exists and is a truly worthy piece of art for a worthy human being.

4 out of 4.

The Final Year

I first heard about the documentary The Final Year sometime last year. Politics are getting crazier every day, and the Obama administration feels like forever ago.

From what I understood, it would be looking into the year 2016, not from a year of worrying about primaries and nominations, but specifically on Obama and his goals in that last year. What drove him forward, what was he hoping to accomplish, what did he actually accomplish, and why? His desires to not just be a lame duck and coast his final year.

And it would have behind the scenes access! It would be very fly on the wall candid feeling!

These are mostly assumptions I made in my head it turns out.

It was technically about Obama, sure. But really, it was about the Obama administration foreign policy team, dealing with the world, and what the world was doing to them.

TFY
Oh good, a photo of the four main people, with the most focus on those who had less screen time.

John Kerry was the Secretary of State in the second half of the Obama administration, and he was dealing with foreign policy. We also have Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes. Power was the Ambassador to the United Nations for four years, while was the Deputy National Security Adviser.

Clearly all three of these individuals were in positions to deal with a lot when it came to foreign policy. We get a lot of access to these three during the final year, both from interviews for the documentary, their own scandals, and videos of them doing their normal jobs and responsibilities. Kerry has less screen time than Rhodes/Power but still is definitely a lot more involved than Obama.

And well, I think this one fails to become a great documentary for feeling all over the place. What connects it is just one year and events happening to and from three people. And lets just be clear, this is not an opinion. They are less interesting than Obama. A lot of people are going to go into this expecting a lot of Obama, and they are going to be disappointed.

It also feels a bit sadder overall, knowing that basically everything they set to accomplish and did is being dismantled and finished. It is a dark look at politics in that regard. But still not dark enough to really fully care.

At this point, I wish this documentary came out a whole year earlier, right away, so that we can get the impact fresh in our minds. At this point, it just feels too late.

1 out of 4.

Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie

Rethinking Barbie?! How can I rethink a barbie? As a man, with daughters, I am trying my best to make sure my girls are well rounded individuals, exploring many different types of toys and sure, some dolls. I want to make sure they don’t grow up thinking they have to be one type of girl. The girl who plays with dolls, the girl who dreams of being a passive princess, the girl who might just want to be a housewife (nothing wrong with that last one, but it is important for them to know options are available).

So I have never given my girls a barbie doll. Other people have, when people are lazy at gift giving. She still has a ton for absolutely no reason. I say no reason, because why do they need like, 8 barbie dolls? People not thinking give her one every birthday, every Christmas, and sometimes multiple ones, because it is easy to just grab a barbie and send it over. I mean, its a girl toy! Girl toys are dolls, and boy toys are everything else (including different dolls).

It is completely fucked up. But I still went into Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, letting my mind me somewhat open. Come on, tell my why Barbie is progressive now. Tell me everything I have learned through slight googling in the past is a lie.

See? I am a willing participant!

Barbs
“Couldn’t you have picked a less creepy photo for this review?” No.

This documentary has two goals. One, to give a small history of barbie, to show how it was a trendsetter back in the day (first doll with boobs!), how it didn’t want to be a perfect women archetype, to the eventual feminist backlash. Their idea was to make sure Barbie had all these jobs so that it could encourage woman to live out fantasies and achieve these dream jobs, not just be a homemaker. And of course, modern, modern backlash over its unrealistic proportions and body image notes.

And that is where the other part of the documentary comes into play. Actually trying to change the way Barbie looks and the problems that have come about. You see, they have been trying to change her appearance for some time to better represent more realistic people. But they have had plenty of focus group issues. They have the issue that the model rarely ever changes, and by having a change, that creates accessory issues, and is the change worth making it so they need various sized outfits/accessories for every release? (More expensive for them and the consumer).

Add to the fact that they don’t want people to think they are pandering to an audience and doing too little too late. They have one shot to try and redefine Barbie so that she has various body types, a task they can’t just do every year in case they mess up. They have to make a statement and they WANT to make a statement.

Strangely enough, this toy redesign happened in 2016 and I really didn’t hear about it at all. There are four different sized barbies at this point, did you know? I didn’t. I remember when they made a lot of hooplah about the different races represented with their barbies, which was a good change, but for whatever reason this redesign was never put in front of my eyes.

I found the whole story to be compelling and it was good to see a company full of people who cared. They cared about the repercussions of their decisions and they wanted to help make the world feel more inclusive. I still don’t think I’d go out of my way to introduce different sized barbies to the kids. My wife told me we actually had different sized ones, so that is how unnoticeable the changes really were.

But this is still a good story of a company trying to do good, and coupling it with a history that I knew nothing about, makes it a compelling story.

3 out of 4.

1 2 3 18