Directed by Michael DeGrazier & Benjamin Paulides and released in its home country of the USA in 2016.
After having heard about David Paulides on YouTube a few years back I was eagerly anticipating when a documentary on the subject would finally be made. And here we have it. Unfortunately I was very disappointed.
To give a brief synopsis, this is a documentary about the disappearances of five children from National Parks across North America. David Paulides is the man who introduced these cases to the world as well as their similarities.
The film focuses on a few specific cases where children went missing. It’s not until the last ten minutes of the film where we are told that out of the vast trove of cases Paulides’ uncovered of people going missing in National Parks across the world there were more than just children going missing: many adults also went missing. This is an important factor because if we think that it’s only children going missing, it’s easy to jump to a quick assumption that there’s one far-reaching conspiracy to abduct children from national parks.
When you look at the cases put forth in the film they are very interesting, and the main case which the film focuses on clearly has more than meets the eye and the documentary focusing on that could shed light on that case in particular. As a whole though I really wish they’d have focused more on all of the cases together and their similarities as opposed to specific cases. For this I think the film loses much of what Paulides’ investigations truly uncover, or at least seemingly begin to unravel.
Many many theories have come about suggesting the real reason for these disappearances from animal attacks, instances of drowning, people falling to their deaths from high altitudes, but if many of these are the case, then where is the evidence, and where are the bodies?
David Paulides used to be a police officer. Long after this period of his life ended, Paulides came to the attention of the public as an investigator into the Bigfoot phenomenon. Yeah. I thought the same thing as well. Some even suggest that Bigfoot is the cause of these missing persons’ cases.
Whatever it is, this documentary does not do Paulides’ investigations justice at all and I urge anybody even remotely interested in the topic to either seek out his numerous interviews on YouTube or read the books which he’s wrote.
Directed by Michael Campus and released in its home country of the USA in 1973.
Being heavily into hip hop I’ve heard so many songs and albums that sample either the fantastic Willie Hutch soundtrack or lines of dialogue from this movie. Looking at the poster I always thought Richard Pryor was the main character and its his involvement that piqued my interest in this along with the aforementioned sampling through hip hop history. Fortunately upon viewing I found out that there was so much more to this than Richard Pryor and a few bad-ass one liners.
The film tells the story of a man who, after a shootout with a rival gang, ends up being imprisoned. He comes out after a five year stretch to find his brother is now preaching black nationalism ala Malcolm X or Huey Newton. Our titular character, who has always dreamed of providing for his aging mother, decides to take the militarism of his brothers activism and funnel it into another avenue: pimping. He gets to the top of the game, but not without a few enemies.
Now if that doesn’t spark your interest, I don’t know what will. Those involved in the film say its not a blaxploitation film, and I tend to agree with them. While it does have many of the same tropes, I actually found it to be a gritty and very well done film with a stellar screenplay that keeps you wondering whats around the corner.
I was surprised to find out that many of the speeches delivered by The Mack’s brother in the film were word for word taken from speeches given by Black Panther Huey P. Newton.
The film is also historically relevant as it really does give you an insight into what life was like in these areas of America for black people during the early 1970s. It highlights the corruption of the police departments as well as highlighting the pitfalls of entering into criminal organisations such as pimping. Even so, I just couldn’t stop thinking how damn badass The Mack was through the whole picture.
Really loved this one.
Directed by Roberto Faenza and, while filmed in 1981, it was released in Italy in 1983 and in the country in which it is set not long after in 1984.
Former lead singer of iconic punk rock band the Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten, stars alongside Harvey Keitel in quite the strange film I must say. Whilst the director ended up trying to market the film to the arthouse crowd, it was filmed in 1981 and not released until 1983. The film has various titles, Copkiller, Order Of Death, Corrupt, as well as its Italian title L’Assassino dei Poliziotti, just to name a few.
It tells the story of a string of murders with the victims all being police officers. Rotten’s character, a rich bachelor with a history of confessing to crimes he supposedly hasn’t committed, turns up at one of two apartments’ belong to Harvey Keitel and one of his friends and professes that he is indeed the cop killer. The film is quite clever in that it leaves you guessing throughout the entire film who exactly the murderer is.
The film as a whole, at least for me, ends up quite all over the place and doesn’t really hold up very well over time. Having said that, the performance from the punk rock singer is quite the turn especially for those who know his music. I, myself, certainly didn’t expect him to pull in such a brilliant performance. The always brilliant Keitel offers a great performance too but as I mentioned before the film unfortunately does fall flat and while the atmosphere which pervades the film is quite eery and fits in with the theme of the film, I think – among other things – that the camera lingers on much too long for much of the film.
What’s also interesting to note is the score is done by the composing legend of spagehetti western fame Ennio Morricone. Not much to say on that really, beside the fact it helped build the creepy atmosphere which fitted well with the performances.
See it only if you’re interested in seeing how Rotten performs on film – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. He’s said himself he’s proud of the film and despite not particularly liking the finished film I can definitely see why.
Directed by Stacy Peralta and released in its home country of the USA in 2008.
This documentary is a frightening look into the history of the oppression of minorities in the United States of America pretty much since its inception. It was of course the political activism of the 1960s and ’70s which ultimately gave birth to the gang violence which is so eloquently displayed in this film through the use of news stories and interviews with gang members from all across the country.
The way in which it looks over the entire history and doesn’t hold anything back is one of the best things about the film. I feel that the emergence of crack cocaine definitely helped fuel the violence in these communities especially during the 1980s but I guess it didn’t really impact the gang culture too much as there isn’t much by way of that topic in this documentary.
Having said that it is fleshed out with interviews of family members of those who have been slain in gang violence and really gives you a glimpse into the dark side of the American life that hasn’t really been portrayed in any form of media so far as I can see.
Directed by Rian Johnson and released in it’s home country of the USA in 2012.
More often than not highly intelligent films such as this require repeat viewings to drill the meanings and plot into your head – like such titles as Fight Club or Primer – but with Looper it’s condensed into one viewing and you don’t have to be an idiot to follow it.
When I first saw Rian Johnson’s Brick back in 2006 I never imagined this was where the director would be at this point in his career, 6 years later. Fortunately for him, especially considering his just above average previous film The Brothers Bloom, I can safely say that this is the best thing he’s done since then.
It’s an awesome film, sadly I’d already had the ending of it spoiled for me months ago but I still can say I enjoyed it thoroughly. The effects and story tie together well with the characters. It’s nice to see such great writing, despite some of the elements which I didn’t gravitate toward. As for Joseph Gordon Levitt, the prosthetics he donned for this to try and make him look more like a younger Bruce Willis completely make him look like something else… plus it looks absolutely nothing like Willis. Still, the screenplay is really special and it’s a great modern science fiction film.
Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman and released in it’s home country of the USA in 2012.
The budget of the first Paranormal Activity film amounted to $15,000 but somehow the budgets of its three sequels, which are all pretty much exactly the same film, are in the millions. Why the extra cost? Marketing; the studios have no choice but to produce incredibly viral marketing for these films because the sequels are all exactly the fucking same films.
So in summary, the entire saga of these films has been utterly shite… this one however, number four, is by far the worst of the series. In the third film the story was actually somewhat plausible and it tied in together very nicely but after about ten minutes of this, I completely despised every minute of it. This kind of filmmaking is just abysmal and I am positive that if another of these comes out I won’t be sitting through it.
Directed by Harmony Korine and released in its home country of the USA in 2013.
After following Harmony Korine’s career for quite some time his move into the mainstream didn’t surprise. He took a leave from filmmaking after making the Dogme 95 film Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) – heavy drug use was the reason for his absence – then he made Mister Lonely (2007) which was his most accessible piece to date while still retaining the oddities of many of his previous efforts. Around this time he married Rachel Korine and had a child together more recently – she is the star of his last three features – and I think that really helped his ideas formulate.
Korine has always been the most articulate American filmmaker in the past 20 years and Trash Humpers (2009) was an abrasive and brash film that is hard to even take in. During an interview for the film he said he’d have loved to see it open in shopping malls and he expressed a want to work with the likes of Miley Cyrus. So, from my point of view leading up to this I could see what direction he was going with this. His short films Umshini Wam (2010) and Lotus Community Workshop – part of The Fourth Dimension (2010) – were stepping stones to this. In these films he began to experiment more with new digital cameras, an exact opposite of the format for Trash Humpers (VHS).
The film itself is a dreary and twisted telling of The American Dream – while simultaneously poking fun at both spring break and gangster rap culture. The spring break setting really isn’t important and as Korine says is moreso a symbol of these girls’ Dreams. The repetitive use of specific shots aswell as the hypnotizing voices on the soundtrack (mostly those of James Franco and Rachel Korine) and, which is now becoming somewhat of a trademark for Korine, the use of a host of different cameras which make for good mindfucking.
The film is entertaining but I do have some qualms. The soundtrack – I just hate this commercial dubstep shit – is hard to sit through and by around the 45 minute mark the repetition becomes boring. This film could’ve easily ended at least 10 minutes earlier if it just cut out all of those shots of either three or four of the girls just staring into space for elongated periods of time. Going into this I was most excited to see these four hot chicks in a movie done by Korine. I was somewhat disappointed by the performances delivered by Gomez especially (the screenplay did call for her to be a drag but not to this extent surely) and Rachel Korine does not fit this type of role either. I saw her in the Harmony-produced short film The Dirty Ones (2008) and her performance in that was incredible.
I have to commend Gucci Mane for managing to stay as gutta as possible while getting rode by a black chick with a fat ass. It was easily the funniest moment in the film. Franco’s accent really was irritating however, but by the time he’s stopped screaming “Look at my shit!” I’m already looking at a subliminally placed shot of a set of tits or some chick shaking her butt.
The director said that he sees the film as a sort of “pop-poem” and I praise the new “liquid-narrative” which he has carved perfectly with this film and the short films that I mentioned before. There are really no filmmakers alive any more that toy around with the medium as much as Harmony does. At the box office these days, it’s either the convoluted and lifeless film made for big bucks or the quiet indie film that no one ever sees that cost nothing. Spring Breakers sits comfortably in between those two and still manages to encapsulate the youth of the time that it shows and is aimed directly at.
All I can say to top it all off is that I didn’t expect to love it as I do for the majority of Harmony Korine’s other works but it’s decent and I’m very interested to see what his next film is going to be seeing as I haven’t heard anything on the radar so far.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and released in it’s home country of the USA in 1997.
The following review does contain spoilers.
So I just spent the last week absolutely devoted to Carl Sagan’s mini-series Cosmos. To say the least, it made me more intrigued by science than I ever have been before – and I’m sure that goes for most anyone who watches it. So on the basis of that, I figured after I’d finished the series I’d watch this, a film based on Sagan’s only novel in amongst an array of scientific books. Much to my celebration, I was not disappointed whatsoever.
I knew that being such an intelligent man, Carl Sagan would not hesitate to present an intellectually objective film and he did precisely that. Everything in this film is presented incredibly impartially especially considering Sagan’s own scepticism – from the test launch being interrupted by a suicide bomber, to Congress not believing a word the protagonist says aswell as holding back vital information that would lead to widespread awareness of the facts.
With this film, Carl Sagan created one of the most intelligent films about extra-terrestrial life I am sure has ever been made and ever will be made. I am now making it my top priority to delve deeper into Sagan’s works, especially the book that this film was based on.
Directed by Hal Ashby and released in it’s home country of America in 1979.
Despite having only seen Hal Ashby’s Harold & Maude, just minutes into this I knew the kind of humour to expect with this. Very dry and very morbid at times, Being There is a strange film with a very strange protagonist and it’s a wonder that any of the other characters in this film were taken in by his childishness. I guess the lesson here is that TV can’t teach you everything, but it can fool people into believing you know everything.
Nonetheless, Being There is a very beautifully shot film with a host of powerful performances, aside from the great deadpan performance of the brilliant Peter Sellers, Melvyn Douglas’ is the other most notable performance here for his magnificent turn as Benjamin Rand. The parallel between the presidents impotency and Peter Sellers’ unbeknownst celibacy is so fantastically written and I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard “You like to watch!? I’ll get Warren!” The president isn’t the only one not getting any, the lack of sex in this film culminates in a masturbation scene that I will never forget.
Speaking of Shirley MacLaine, she is the most perfect woman ever. I want to build a time machine just go to back in time and bring her back with me. Still though, she was cuter in The Apartment – even though it was 19 years earlier…. and she still looks amazing in this! The inevitably sad final ten minutes is let down by an ending that makes you read more into it than is deserved.
Directed by David Lynch and released in it’s home country of America in 1977.
Rewatching your favourite film is always a delight, but what happens when your favourite film is a dark and mysterious masterpiece that is as depressing as it is inspiring? Eraserhead is not a film, it is the nightmare of Henry Spencer. So dark and so atmospheric, it laid the foundation for the career in the surreal and bizarre that David Lynch would go onto articulate in such films as Blue Velvet and Inland Empire (which is stylistically the closest to Eraserhead Lynch has since come). The atmosphere is so creepy and freakish, only made more deafening by the screeching sounds of the infantile lovechild of Henry and his wife Mary and the sounds of the industrial wasteland which this family lives on.
Eraserhead itself is a somewhat passive character study of a man delving deeper and deeper into depression and isolation coupled with his anxiety about a marriage he is forced into due to his newborn “child” that pretty much ruins their lives! We spend so little time with Henry Spencer compared to the five years it took to film this incredible feat of a film, and the beauty of it’s creation is that of it’s creator. David Lynch. This film was a perfect catapult for him, and just the mere fact that he did everything from sound design to creating the so-called “baby” in this film among about eight or nine other duties is something I will always admire for as long as I want to make films – and one day will.
Never having divulged the “true” essence of the themes explored in his directorial debut, Lynch forces us to think for ourselves and make of it what each of our own subconscious will allow us to. For me it’s a tale about marriage and depression as the film stares deep into Henry Spencer’s soul and twists it until he’s gone completely insane (proven by his visions of a bearded woman singing “In heaven, everything is fine.”) It creates an incredibly isolated and claustrophobic film that is forever kept inside that dusty apartment as consistent shots of a brick wall through a window show us that Henry is trapped in this life. His only way out is the route he takes. One which I won’t spoil for any of you.
I once wrote a detailed review of this when I was 16 years old for English class, right before I left school. It was the first time I had ever articulated my words in such a way that helped me understand a film I loved more than I thought I did. Having only seen Eraserhead ten times or so, each repeated viewing allows me to delve deeper into elements that I so desperately want to explore myself in my own films. It is the one film that I will forever look to for inspiration. Thank you David Lynch.
Directed by Werner Herzog and released in it’s home country of the USA in 2005.
Werner Herzog’s subjects are always extraordinary and eccentric people, regardless of whether or not his film is a documentary. Previous films like God’s Angry Man and Fitzcarraldo are two great examples of extraordinary and eccentric character subjects and the latter of which was made with equal eccentricity by Herzog.
Grizzly Man, however, is Herzog’s finest film as a documentary filmmaker. Taking real footage filmed by it’s subject, Timothy Treadwell, Herzog splices interviews with Treadwell’s family and friends with footage of the grizzly bear enthusiast studying the bears and protecting them from poachers and what not. The obvious stand-out scene is that which appears around the midway mark. Werner Herzog is allowed to listen to the tape which features the death of Timothy Treadwell and his then-girlfriend while Tim’s ex-girlfriend watches on unaware of what sounds are on the tape.
Herzog is an unbelievably conventional filmmaker and his techniques have been seen in cinema for over a century now but he always manages to keep his ideas fresh. His themes of humanity, compassion for his subjects, aswell as never failing to show the other side of the argument (a staple of any non-bias documentary), despite how he may feel about his particular subject at that time, always shine through plot and characters in every one of his films.
Grizzly Man is a beautiful film about one man who fought, not for his own human rights, but for the rights of the animals he lived with for over 13 summers.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and released in it’s home country of the USA in 2012.
While not the masterpiece I was expecting, The Master is an excellent ensemble that works from an already excellent screenplay – from the master himself Paul Thomas Anderson. An undeniably career best performance from Joaquin Phoenix and while I’d love to say the same for Philip Seymour Hoffman I just can’t overthrow his performance in Synecdoche, New York, despite how brilliant he was in The Master. Both actors have already shown their extraordinary talents on plenty of occasions and for Phoenix to go from I’m Still Here to this is quite a feat…. but for an actor of his calibre, it’s nothing special. His performance here is nothing short of a revelation.
The cinematography is probably my favourite aspect of the whole film, every single shot is beautiful and all of Freddie Quell’s dream sequences further allude to the characters’ own madness genetically handed down by his mother. Phoenix dives so deep into this character that by the end of the film when one of those long trademark shots of PTA stares at Freddie Quell, be it in bed with a woman or lying on the beach, we see the despair of this man. I felt such a strong connection to the character at the end of the film aswell as a bad inclination toward Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd – but I felt his performance so strongly and his final sequence is an astonishing acting display from both men but more so Hoffman, the passion that these two actors have for their craft is so admirable.
All in all, it’s an incredible piece of cinema that features one of the very finest performances of this century. I’ll be hoping to rewatch this very soon as I can only imagine this will get much much better after time.
Directed by Henry LeBlanc and released on video in it’s home country of the USA in 1999.
The Houston hip hop scene in the late ’90s was at it’s peak (despite only becoming commercially successful after the death of DJ Screw and Three 6 Mafia’s hit single Sippin’ On Some Syrup in 2000) and luckily many members of Texas’ leading hip hop group The Screwed Up Click banded together to make this film.
The film features the likes of E.S.G., Big Pokey, Bird, Mr. 3-2, the now incarcerated South Park Mexican aswell as the originator of chopped and screwed music himself DJ Screw – each in plenty of different roles. The film itself however is your typical hood film, but my connection with the music and the rapper stars of this film put it close to my heart so I really can’t put any fault to this. Plus, this is actually one of those good hood movies as opposed to the films of No Limit head honcho Master P…. I won’t even go there….
Nevertheless, The Dirty 3rd is a great throwback to the Houston Hip Hop scene at it’s best and a testament to the ambition of all the rappers, producers and DJs who were a part of it and still are.
Directed by Aleksei Fedorchenko, Harmony Korine & Jan Kwiecinski, the film made the festival rounds in early 2012 and was released via Vice’s YouTube Channel earlier today for streaming.
A portmanteau piece from three directors from different countries. Each short takes notes from a manifesto of sorts created by Harmony Korine and the films producer; Vice’s Eddy Moretti. The three segments are distinguished only by quotes from the manifesto itself that basically say you have to forget everything you know about making a film and start from scratch making a film that challenges the idea of the fourth dimension.
The first piece – The Lotus Community Center – stars Val Kilmer as a warped version of himself and is directed by cult indie filmmaker Harmony Korine (who’s wife Rachel also stars). The film is lit like liquid and is clearly a pre-cursor to Korine’s next film Spring Breakers, although I’ve not seen it, as many quotes from the film have formed into how he approached the filming of that. The short piece switches back and forth between Val riding through the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Rachel and a motivational speech he is giving at the titular community center. There are also scenes in a video store (which was pretty pointless), telling a story to two shirtless old men and the married couple playing Kill Freak 2 for the Xbox. Definitely a culmination of Korine’s foray into commercial cinema and it looks like he’s finally achieved the look he’s been striving for for years with television commercials for the likes of Thorntons and Budweiser.
The second piece – Chroneye – is directed by the Russian Aleksei Fedorchenko and while it is in a completely different language and aspect ratio from the first piece, they flow together very well. It touches on many similar themes as the first place – mostly focusing on reaching a higher place in your life aswell as trying to reach other planets and beings on those planets. The cinematography is often static and scarce of cuts – a Russian trademark ever since the days of Tarkovsky. There is also a much more vibrant soundtrack that sucks you into it’s surroundings and characters. While there are also songs in the first piece, they aren’t as striking or oftenly placed as they are here. The lead role of Grigory the time-travel-experimenting pervert is played very well, by Igor Sergeev. Without fear but with much trepidation; much like Kilmer’s in the first part.
The third and final piece – Fawns – is directed by the Polish Jan Kwiecinski and tells the story of four teens, three guys and a girl. These characters are all by themselves in a barren landscape which gives you the feeling that they live in their own fourth dimension, away from everyone else on the planet – but it’s not the case as we see planes flying overhead and the sounds of klaxon and sirens blaring sporadically. The water levels are rising and everyone is being evacuated as we are told over radio and television signals. Most of the kids really don’t care to begin with but as the film draws to a close however each of the characters slowly begin to accept their fate while still trying to live out the last days of their ever-so-fragile lives to the fullest. This final part to this film is undeniably the most loyal to manifesto on which the films were created and it shows deeply. Another thing I find interesting is that Kwiecinski clearly saw Korine’s recent short film Snowballs; as the female character in this wears almost identical headgear to the girls in that short film by Korine.
The Fourth Dimension is a clear reminder that portmeanteau films can and do work when the essential themes at the heart are abided by. It’s rare in this day and age that you get a film like this so you really have to embrace it, take it at face value and appreciate the sporadic-ness of each story – all three of which are shot beautifully and play out just the opposite of what you expect them to.
Directed by Spike Lee and released in it’s home country of America in 2012.
Red Hook Summer is a film that suffers way too much from trying to integrate technology and today’s information-age society into it’s themes. It could’ve worked just as well without all the iPad’s and references to Twitter or Facebook. That is really my only qualm with the film – that and I wasn’t a fan of some of the performances. In typical Spike Lee fashion there are many instances of breaking the fourth wall and they are all enjoyable to watch despite the fact that this usually lets a film down.
Despite my problem with many of the core performances, the thing that really drives the film is Clarke Peters’ incredible performance. Ever since seeing him in The Wire and The Corner I knew he had an amazing talent and he really could’ve retired after starring in both of those television shows but he hasn’t and he’s gone on to give an amazing performance and to lead this new film.
This is my least favourite of Spike’s films but it contains one of the best performances in his films – that of Clarke Peters. I eagerly await the next film he marvels in.