Month: April 2023


You can watch my interview with director Jalmari Helander, here

What is Sisu? Well, look it up, I am not your goddamn parent.

Most reviews of this film are likely going to give the definition of it, and I am being a trend setter by ignoring that, even though by sort of knowing the definition, and the fact that it is a Finnish concept, is kind of important for the plot of this film.

Instead, I will point out that this is director, Jalmari Helander‘s, third feature film. The first two were Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and Big Game. The former of which I saw personally over a decade ago on a random rent from Blockbuster, and was blown away by how original the story was, with one of my favorite film endings of that year. Big Game was an interesting film as well, not as great, but had some cool action scenes and was certainly unexpected. Like, you know, having Samuel L. Jackson as the President of the United States.

Looks like a few people brought asses to an ass kicking contest. Rookie mistakes. 
World War II in Finland was a bit weird. I don’t really care to get into all of the specifics on it, because I am certainly not expert, but Finland and Germany were fighting together! Yeah! Does that mean that the Finns liked Nazis? Oh, nope. But, They were being invaded by the Soviet Union during World War II, and didn’t like that, and since the Nazi’s were also fighting the Soviet Union, they had troops up there too. That is it, they were defending their homeland.

Then, near the end of WWII, Finland signing all of the treaties, had to agree to get the Nazi’s out of their country. Which they were going to let them take their time, and run to Norway. But then it still led to a few months of fighting, called the Lapland War. Good times. So yeah, this movie is set in that time.

See, our hero, Aatami (Jorma Tommila), was just existing in the fields with his dog, panning for gold, making a big discovery. Things are looking good for him, but then a gang of Nazi’s start to give him shit, so he does what has to be done. Getting revenge on every last Nazi and driving them from his land, so he can take his newly found riches and live that life of luxury he deserves.

Yep, a simple kill the Nazis revenge flick. One man, some women, and a bunch of Krauts.

Also starring Mimosa Willamo, Jack Doolan, and Aksel Hennie.

For those who can see this image, yes, this is exactly what it looks like. 

Now for those of you who were awesome and saw the interview I posted at the top, you would already know this. But it is clear while watching it as well, that this film is inspired by First Blood. Not the plot itself, but in terms of the action, of one man, in the wilderness, against greater odd forces, after being a special tactical soldier earlier in a war. It shows its influences, and goes to extreme levels.

The director has always been a fan of doing action and big stunts in his films in the past, but this takes it to a new and much higher level. Our one man army is just…on another level of action packed strong. It is so easy to get hyped during the film, broken down into its various chapters and areas. Kill after kill going for more unique and brutal ways. Our hero being a silent but deadly type is certainly a trope, and a welcome one in this movie. It is done mostly in English, outside of a few lines that I assume are in Finnish, which is also a new decision from the director.

For video game reasons, I am biased, but my favorite scene is of course what takes place in the minefield, but the ending is also high up there.

Seeing war movies about different countries is such an interesting experience, as an American. Because sometimes it can be hard to figure out who to really root for, given how history is likely taught in various countries. But this one has the Nazis, the universal bad guys, so it is pretty easy to cheer on our hero displaying Finnish pride and determination, even if we have no ties to the Land of Fin.

Sisu is allegedly hard to define into English, but the film Sisu is easy to define. Amazing and fun.

4 out of 4.

Attack of the Doc!

See my interview with the director/producer of Attack of the Doc!, Chris Gore, here!

If you are someone around my age, and I hate to say this, male, with a big cable package growing up, you are likely familiar with Attack of the Show! It has an exclamation point, but no, it is not a musical. It started out in 2005, as a sort of replacement for the show The Screen Savers. You see, The Screen Savers was on TechTV, it was a live show, throughout the week, about technology and all of that. But then G4 bought TechTV, started to show more video game based TV show, and eventually replacing The Screen Savers time slot with Attack of the Show!

So what is the show? Good question. It was a lot of things. It was hosted at the start by Kevin Pereira and Kevin Rose. It was about movies, video games, weird stungs, fun games with celebrities, nerd culture, and more. It was about the internet and rose with internet humor, starting to show viral things to the masses, in case they missed it. Eventually, Olivia Munn joined their cast, in her real breakout role, becoming an even bigger deal and TV show. You know, because she was a woman who was good at joking around “with the guys” and giving them a taste of their own medicine.

It was barbaric and mediaeval and cutting edge in a lot of different ways. It is one of the first shows to ever incorporate twitter in any way to its broadcast. It is a show that didn’t like to ask questions or permission, but just constantly tried to get away with more and more.

It lasted about 7 years, and disappeared into a sea of Cops reruns, as G4TV like many specialty tv stations, began to show the same basic reality shows most of the day, because it gave more profit than original programming.

It also was a show that had this in it. Amazing!

So clearly, I watched some Attack of the Show. Weirdly enough, I thought I had memories of watching it in 8th grade, but that was before it came out! Instead, it wasn’t until college, in like 2007-09 or so that I remember seeing it a lot. Watching with friends, seeing the viral videos and wild and wacky shenanigans was for sure ground breaking at the time. It was like all of the best parts of the internet in one package so everyone can be included. To clarify, I mean the best parts of the internet that can be shown on television.

It is a show that can only exist in a time bubble, and nothing that can be recreated now. Afterall, they tried, even with bringing back Kevin Pereira to host in 2021. But the ratings weren’t there, the viewers didn’t care, and it was a different beast. Why couldn’t it exist anymore? Why did it have problems? Well, the documentary, Attack of the Doc!, goes into all of that and it is pretty clear why it couldn’t exist today.

The director of the documentary is Chris Gore, who was the official Film Critic of Attack of the Show!, and had his own segment called DVDuesday. A weekly segment about new releases and what should be bought or rented or skipped. So he is someone intimately familiar with the material, and had a lot of people on to tell the story of the rise and fall of the show. And the documentary was put together through funding and Kickstarter in order to be made.

Overall, I would say it is a nice history of the show. What the documentary could certainly do less with is strange rants about woke or cancel culture. And lamenting the changing of humor. That made things weird and uncomfortable for me, personally. And made it something I wouldn’t fully love to watch multiple times. But it does show a lot of the greatest hits and makes it clear why it existed, which is one fans of the love would love to go through. The extra commentary? A weird move, but hey, it was a move they wanted to make.

2 out of 4.

Judy Blume Forever

First of all, and this is my fault completely, I used to get Judy Blume confuse with Beverly Cleary. In that, I assumed Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary both wrote the Ramona books. Oh boy, what a fool of a took I was. So I would say I definitely read Judy Blume books growing up, when it turns out, I haven’t read a damn thing.

That is good in a way. Because I don’t like to read the books before I watch a movie. Now, why is there a documentary about Judy Blume coming out? Oh, because one of her books is being made into a movie! Honestly, that is a surprise it took this long. In a couple weeks we will have Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., the movie.

Now, this documentary about Judy Blume is an interesting title. Because it sounds like it could be one of her books. And honestly, it is one of her books. She made a book titled, Forever…, and now the documentary about her life’s work living on through kids of every generation forever, becomes a pretty fitting title overall. Judy Blume Forever.

If you write a book, you become immortal. Those are the rules.

Despite knowing nothing about Judy Blume before, I sort of find myself loving her now after seeing this documentary. This lady was a trailblazer and someone who really understood what middle schoolers not just needed, but deserved. Not speaking about things doesn’t make them go away. Not speaking about how kids talk doesn’t make it go away.

The fact that her books were banned and had conservatives railing after sometime felt eerily familiar to current modern outrage going on in the school board meetings. Like, the exact same arguments. Honestly, I read quite a few books that have gone on banned lists in Texas, and most of them display teenagers and middle schoolers based on reality, not what their parents hope them to be. Middle schoolers will find out and talk about sex, and puberty, and growing up issues. High schoolers will at greater and more graphic detail, and in fact, likely have sex. And Judy Blume talked about these things in her book.

Good on her. And the similarities to the book bans during her time period and how they relate to our current ones, is talked about in this documentary as well. It is almost like the experiences she went through with are ones people can relate to even though it is decades later. Huh, maybe she is Forever?

This documentary made me excited to for the upcoming film, and hey maybe, just maybe, might read one of her books finally.

3 out of 4.

Ride On

New Jackie Chan movie?!

Hooray! It has been some amount of time. Honestly, I think I just naturally assumed at this point he retired. As of this moment, he is 69 years old (nice) and spent his life doing action films and hardcore stunt work. It must take a tole on his body and at some point, you gotta stop pushing yourself so hard and actually enjoy the fruits of your labor. You know, unless the retirement age keeps going up. But that is another topic.

This time Jackie Chan is seemingly picking a new sort of costar. A horse. A horse he is, presumably, going to Ride On. Thus the title.

But over the last fifteen years, there was no guarantee we would get classic Jackie Chan action. He is in more drama films and films where he has a small role. So this could have all been a ruse, who knows!

There is a mask, what if it is not Chan behind the mask?

First of all, this was not a ruse! Lao Luo (Jackie Chan) is an old man, who is mostly staying out of people’s way. He has a daughter, Xiao Bao (Haocun Liu), who wants him to just be chill and careful. It turns out he used to be a stuntman for films. So he had to do hard tasks, and his body took a beating. Huh, sounds familiar. But eventually, at some point, a mishap did happen, and it took a big toll on Luo, where he for sure had to stop.

This led to other issues. And eventually, many debts.

So now he is just is raising a horse, notably Red Hare, basically his best friend. They train together and trust each other. So when some debt collectors come and try to attack Luo, he is able to fight them off, with the help of his horse, and some recordings have this go viral.

Turns out, this was just what he needed to get back into the game. An older man, sure, but the horse? Hell yeah. They can do exciting horse action stunts, doesn’t matter his age.

Where does that leave us? An old man, who was already injured before, putting his body on the line again. And still debt issues and legal issues at the same time. Too much for a retired life.

Also starring Rongguang Yu, Kevin Guo, Jing Wu, and Joey Yung.

Is there anything stronger than the bond between a man and his horse?

Ride On is a film that has a lot going on with it. In fact, I would say, too much.

In one obvious way it feels like a love letter to Jackie Chan’s career, just hiding it behind a new face. It is really easy to see this plot aspect, especially when it comes to the character trying to protect the horse, yet still push the horse to more and more dangerous stunts, despite the obvious limitations. The initial disgust and anger towards using CGI for a stunt, even though it was one that clearly would hurt. And of course another moment looking at a montage of the characters “past stunts” when they were younger.

That is the movie I was hoping to see, while still getting the benefit of some interesting cool fight and stunt work. Yes I wanted it both ways.  But I knew that at least the fights and stunts throughout the film would actually be helped with CGI and safety would be a concern, because it is not the 80s anymore and there would be no chance of disaster.

And so I was happy with the fun fights and stunts and classic Jackie Chan humor with these fisticuffs, just also with a horse.

Unfortunately, the film is bogged down with the legal and debt story. That is likely another aspect of stunt work they wanted to highlight. These people are movie stars, whose bodies decay and don’t get the riches the face stars get. And they have legal problems that can tear their lives apart. But that aspect of the film just wasn’t given to us as well as the other exciting parts. It slowed down the film, and didn’t really give the best context.

I wondered of course if this film, Ride On, was meant to be a retirement film for Chan. But IMDB showed 7 titles currently in Upcoming, it means that Chan had a couple year break, maybe from just COVID concerns, and now he is still going forth and ready to do his thing.

2 out of 4.

On a Wing and a Prayer

On a Wing and a Prayer is a catch phrase. It means you are likely fucked. You don’t have the talent, or resources, or training, or something to make it through the situation. You know, like a plane that only has one wing. So how can it fly and land? Well, it is going to need that prayer element. Hope the universe can guide them to safety. Hopefully luck is on their side.

A film like this could be about anything. Hell, most films involve odds like this where the heroes overcome despite not having the right resources and need a lot of luck. But why not use that phrase for a literal movie about a plane problem? Heck, any plane disaster movie could have used it as a title. Like. Plane. United 93. All of them.

But it would be nice if it was about a one winged plane. Unfortunately for the movie On A Wing and a Prayer, the plane will have both wings the whole time, so the lack of resources will come from another place. And the prayer will come from Jesus, I guess.

Damn, no one is in that seat. Looks like it will have to be filled with the holy spirit. 

This film is a lot about Doug White (Dennis Quaid), a pharmacist. He has a wife (Heather Graham) and some kids, but really, the relationship we care about is the one he has with his brother, Jeff (Brett Rice). They are best buds, they do a random BBQ cook off together and win? Despite the fact that they just are regular people. This is meant to be a character trait I imagine.

Anyway they hang out, and days later after they go back home, Jeff dies! A shocker for sure. So they go to the funeral, and are flying back home in a tiny private plane with a pilot and just their family. When not many minutes after take off, the pilot dies as well! Damn, maybe Doug is just a jinx. Men around him just dying.

Now they are already in the air, and the autopilot is on, so they have time. But what if he needs the autopilot off because the safest thing would be to turn around to try and land? Doug has been taking pilot lessons. Not really. He did his first ever lesson, which has almost no actual training. So he lacks the experience to get it done. It takes a lot of people working together at nearby traffic control, and people outside of that, to give him any hope of success.

But hey, maybe Jesus will take the wheel?

Also starring Jesse Metcalfe, E. Roger Mitchell, Abigail Rhyne, Jessi Case, and Rocky Myers.

Oh nevermind, seat’s taken, Jesus. 

It is important to point out that sure, this film is based on a real story. And hey, anytime a real person who survives a crash and lands, despite not being a pilot, good on them. I love to hear it. I am super glad they didn’t die. But not every one of these stories needs to be made into a film.

This film has incredibly low stakes. I mean yeah, the life of the family on the plane. But it still feels like the film was filled with filler. [Editor’s note: That was an interesting sentence]. I wouldn’t say that we needed some kids nearby listening on a monitor. Did that help much? Nah. It just took away from the plane, which had not a lot of actual content to fill out the film. Heck, the beginning of the film was so awkward. The BBQ cookout win looked like it was all done in one take, no one really was caring much during that part of filming.

The idea of “Jesus taking the wheel” I always find to be a strange one in general, in real life. But to have that be a literal moment for this movie? It is certainly an interesting choice. On a Wing and a Prayer is a sort of religious movie. It doesn’t go as hard as something made by Alex Kendrick, so it feels a least a little bit realistic. But letting the end of the film rely on this sort of moment just, honestly, made me sigh and roll my eyes.

On a Wing and a Prayer is a drama film, not a thriller. It tells a relatively simple story, where we know everyone will be fine by the end. But even if it isn’t a thriller, it should have some level of thrills in it to keep my attention. But unfortunately, it never could.

1 out of 4.

Little Richard: I Am Everything

Before I forget to fit this scene in naturally, please watch this clip from the 2009 film Black Dynamite: here. It is about Little Richard! And so is this documentary.

I have been pretty excited to watch this one as soon as I heard about it. I missed it when it came by for Make Believe Seattle, but thankfully it is also getting released in many cities around the USA, so the opportunity didn’t leave me in the dark for too long.

What is not to like and want to learn about Little Richard? A famed musician, who helped invent Rock ‘n Roll, who was known for being gay, at a time when he could be jailed just for being black.

I go into this documentary acknowledging that I am pretty dumb on this subject, so I am excited to be enlightened.

little richard
Don’t ask me to name more than 1 Little Richard song, please. 

To be fair, I didn’t know how open Little Richard was about his sexuality. Specifically, I assumed he had kept things private in that regard, because it was the 1950’s. But it wasn’t like a big secret. He talked about it in interviews, on the road, on stage, and a lot of places. He was also very fluid, he wouldn’t let sexuality stop him from having relationships with whom he wanted to pursue. I mean that in the least creepiest way of saying that.

He was a man living his life the way he wanted to live it.

One of the most exciting things I learned from this documentary were the original lyrics and purpose of the song Tutti Frutti. Which I will not spoil in this review. But obviously you can look that up without the documentary, if you really wanted to know.

There is a lot more to learn about Richard in this documentary, how he got his start, how he kept his success, and the strives he overcame. And honestly, that is about it. I don’t think it ever really went on a bigger, deeper dive on the subject. There weren’t big hidden secrets uncovered. It was just a lit on the normal level by the end. And hey, that is fine. I did learn some things. I just thought I would get a little bit more by the end as well.

2 out of 4.

Living With Chucky

Chucky has to be top five in terms of recognizable horror movie villains right? Right?
Freddy Kreuger I would assume is the top spot. Michael Myers/Jason lose points because people confuse them sometimes. Ghostface maybe. Hellraiser hasnt had as many movies for recognition.

I don’t know how I would rate this, but Chucky is certainly up there. Almost everyone knows him. Hell, I know him and I also know for a fact that I haven’t seen a single Child’s Play movie. I don’t even know if I have seen part of one on the TV before, just random clips from media and documentaries, like this one. He is iconic enough to exist outside of his films and in references. Big enough to appear in cartoons and for likely kindergarteners to know and fear.

My favorite aspect of this series is that it started out Child’s Play for the franchise, but people didn’t like calling it that. They wanted Chucky to be the name, because it is the villain. So then the movies changes their naming style to match the Chucky theme, instead of continuing to force Child’s Play on us. This might be the only franchise to do that.

Another great thing about the franchise? Since 1988, the same people have been involved with making the movies. The same voice actor, stars are used multiple times and brought back, the cinematographer, director, writer, animatronics team, all of that. This is like a family bringing this stuff on, including the TV show (but not including the random Reboot, which honestly, shame on them for doing when the original people were still wanting to continue their story. And hell, the fact that it is all connected should be celebrated more than anything).

This doll is so big, it can survive having a canon story for 30 years.

Now the name for this documentary is actually quite clever. It is directed by Kyra Elise Gardner, a name you wouldn’t recognize. But, she is the daughter of Tony Gardner, one of the main doll puppeteers of the franchise. So in all reality, she did grow up with and live with Chucky for a large part of her life. To add more family elements to the story, the main voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif, through everything but the reboot, has his own daughter in the movies, Fiona Dourif, playing a real character who has to battle Chucky and eventually gets possessed by Chucky. Spoilers? Kind of.

A few people have grew up with Chucky, but notably, the directors, writers, and crew, have lived with Chucky for 30 years of their life. So this is directed by someone who grew up with Chucky, and interviewing her family, and friends of family she has known her whole life with Chucky, over the movies they made, the memories they gained, and the fun they had.

This documentary is nothing like Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. See, that one is 4 hours long and dense, with behind the scenes stories from the actors and film analysis. But each movie is almost independent. There isn’t a lot of carryover between the two. For this documentary we had the same people, talking about each film, because they were a part of it, and that is such a unique element.

I already mentioned I haven’t seen a single Chucky film yet. But honestly, the camaraderie and family nature behind these films has piqued my interest, and I think I might finally check off that aspect of pop culture before its too late.

3 out of 4.