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The sad truth
The sad truth is, there isn't enough left of the Amazing Johnathan to make a documentary about. Years of dedicated drug abuse and health problems have flattened his affect, and I'm not sure he was that interesting a performer even before that. I enjoyed his comedy/magic show back in the day, but that's not necessarily the basis for an involving documentary. So, as others here have opined, the documentarian opts to make a documentary about making a documentary - and it is a miserable and unmitigated failure. I think the filmmaker is on camera about five times more often than his subject - and what a truckload of nonsensical angst he would have the audience suffer through with him. We watch what seemed like hours of him driving around in a beat-up car with a look of deep gravitas on his none too camera-friendly face as he tries to figure out how to rescue his documentary from the deep pit of nothingness it has wandered into. What he comes up with is a series of moronic rabbit holes that lead into even more nothing. This is one of those rare occasions when a filmmaking exercise is so flawed, so false, and such a complete waste of time that I add the auteur's name to a relatively brief list of people whose films I will never watch again. Oh, and those 10-star reviews about how the rest of us just don't get the brilliance blah blah blah - those are the usual shills who have some kind of investment in the film, and (I strongly suspect) close relatives of you-know-who. Three stars for a couple of moving candid moments here and there. You've been warned.
Off the Rails (2016)
Not so much
This is a one-note, sporadically interesting, often quite boring documentary of no particular distinction, cinematic or otherwise. It's about a guy who is familiar to most New Yorkers - he made a career out of dressing up in a transit worker's uniform and commandeering various trains and buses for wild rides through the city, leading to his prompt arrest and incarceration. Rinse and repeat - over and over and over again, until he wound up spending most of his life in prison. There are the usual talking heads bemoaning the failures of the justice system blah blah blah - but there seems to be little interest in getting to the motivation behind the repeated crimes. In place of that, we are told again and again that Darius, the culprit, suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. Exactly how that was determined, and who determined it, is never addressed. I have my own theory about what Darius suffers from. I think it is A**holeberger's Syndrome. He seems intelligent enough, and nothing in his affect suggests any particular emotional deficit. But he clearly gets a big thrill, possibly a somewhat sexual thrill, out of posing as a transit worker and making off with trains and buses, often filled with unsuspecting New Yorkers on their way to work or wherever. So I'm not sure what the authorities are supposed to do with people like Darius, other than institutionalize them somewhere so they cannot pose a threat to men, women and children going about their lives in a busy metropolis. Some in the documentary suggest simply giving him a job in the transit system. What a great idea! Let's apply the same brilliant logic to people who impersonate doctors or police officers. I'm not usually much of a hard liner but this is one instance where I think we are better off holding the perpetrator to account than our entire legal and social services system. Despite the documentary's attempts to portray Darius as a sympathetic character, I found myself disliking him more and more as he committed crime after crime upon release from prison. And because he is basically repeating the same selfish behavior over and over again, he really isn't much of a subject for a documentary either. Ultimately, Darius - and this film about him - are simply dreadful bores.
Bomb the System (2002)
A true rarity
Perhaps only once or twice in a lifetime does a film this insipid and wrong-headed come along - a celebration of graffiti "artists" - created by idiots, for idiots, and about idiots. These are the brilliant talents that scrawl garish dripping odes to themselves upon our cities' historic buildings, monuments, and anything else they can deface. From New York City where I grew up to the magnificent ancient landmarks of Prague, these vandals have ruined priceless historic treasures with their crappy handiwork - and now, finally, we have a movie that makes them feel like misunderstood heroes and artistic geniuses. Everyone associated with this dreadful film should be banned from the industry forever. Sorry for the rant, but this one really made me sick.
You need to watch it through to the end
I strongly suspect that most of those who have reviewed this title on IMDB never watched the documentary through to the end. That's understandable - the filmmaker mostly just lets his subjects talk to the camera, and for the first 50 or so minutes of the film, the people who are speaking are essentially those who have drunk the free energy Kool-aid. It's after that portion of the film that the documentary actually gets quite interesting. In the last 30 or so minutes of the film, Newman (the inventor of a Rube Goldberg device that can power the world for peanuts) is revealed unequivocally as a scam artist and looney-tune - and a very hostile, violence-prone looney-tune at that. We see "demonstrations" of his goofy technology that reveal clearly that it is bogus - the demonstrations fail miserably. I think this is a worthwhile film as documentaries go, and I often find that good documentaries require the viewer to stick with them. There is often an opening which makes you think the film is one-sided, but all it takes is a little patience to get to the truth of the matter. The reviewer who wordily describes this as redemption for the inventor clearly didn't watch the whole film. Nor did those one-star reviewers who thought the film was propaganda for free energy "technology." The portrait of a slick homespun scam artist gradually descending into raging madness is actually quite riveting.
Too Late for Tears (1949)
Mediocre low-budget noir
This right here is a low-budget B-feature noir lovingly restored by UCLA - but why? The sets are straight out of an old Republic serial, the actors are third-rate has-beens, the plot is more full of holes than a Swiss cheese on an artillery range, and nothing makes a grain of sense from beginning to end. It's watchable, but you may want to check messages on your phone, or even your news feed, while you try to stay awake. I grew up on these old films (in the early days of television, folks) and I love a good film noir classic, but this just isn't one of them. Don't get me wrong - it has its moments. But when your main thought process is - jeeze, could that apartment set have cost more than $63 to build? - something is just not right. One of the key facets of good noir - atmospheric lighting - is almost entirely absent here. Worth a watch, but keep a firm grip on the remote.
The Deadly Spawn (1983)
Give me a break
A gem? A neglected classic? A fun-filled romp? Don't you people know a steaming pile of doo-doo when you smell it? I mean really, don't you guys have anything better to do with you lives? Good Lord.
Secret Beyond the Door... (1947)
Not really noir
This is in the tradition of the spooky old house films, not noir in the same sense as Asphalt Jungle, for instance. The script is a bunch of psychological hokum, and just in case you can't figure out when to be very afraid, there is plenty of nightmare-alley type music that would be more appropriate in a wolf man movie. The plot makes nary a grain of sense, and Joan Bennett and Michael Redgrave seem to be in a contest to see who can chew up more of the scenery. Fritz Lang has made some awesome films - this just isn't one of them.
Maybe it's me
I literally had to force myself to watch this film through to the end. The subject of the documentary, Chris Sievey, appears to me to be a modestly talented but wholly undisciplined artist, whose clearest identifying feature is that he is a total attention junkie. He composes and plays some mildly clever but ultimately worthless music, creates cute little cartoons of this and that, and somewhere along the line, invented a character with a papier maché head that he appears as in any venue that will have him. Mostly his audience seems to be a bunch of drunks who find him utterly charming and amusing. However, he is not my cup of tea, and his artistry seems more motivated by wanting the adulation of everyone he comes into contact with than anything else. At one hour and 45 minutes, this film was about an hour and a half too long for me. But for those who find Sievey's brand of "humor" amusing, I'm sure it is not nearly long enough. The rather sordid details of his personal life more or less confirm his narcissism and borderline sociopathy. Yet, ultimately what emerges is a portrait of a life, warts and all, that some may find rewarding. One last word of caution: the vast bulk of this film is old grainy, wavy-lined VHS home video footage of Sievey in his heyday. That, plus the cheesiness of his performances, will likely be a dealbreaker for many.
Outrageous Fortune (1987)
This light comedy is rendered virtually unwatchable by horrendously overplayed performances by Shelley Long and Bette Midler. Both actresses are capable of better things, so I suspect the fault lies with the director encouraging them to ham it up. In any case, the script is mediocre, and while there may be a couple of laughs to be had here, it is difficult to watch this type of vaudeville performance totally lacking in nuance or charm.
Oy oy oy oy oy oy
Quite possibly the worst acting you will ever witness. Of course, that's offset by the $200 budget for cinematography. I don't really know who this guy was, but whoever he was, and however crappy his life may have been, he deserves better than this as an epitaph.
Adventures of Aladdin (2019)
Combine one miserably written script, a bunch of dreadful ham actors, an ultra-low budget, childish special effects, cheesy costumes, and what do you get? One awesomely horrendous movie. No kid could suffer through it, and no adult will be able to tolerate more than two minutes of it. This is is grade-Z garbage plain and simple.
A Modern Man (2017)
If watching an insufferable twit opine about the good life is your idea of a fun evening, here's your new favorite film. As I passed the theater, the ushers were out in the street offering $1,000 and a free dinner to anyone who could sit through this atrocity. I gave it a go but I just couldn't make it. After barfing twice within the first minute, I just threw my vomit bag at the screen and wandered off into the night. Maybe you'll have better luck, but I sincerely doubt it. Suggestion: recommend it to someone you loathe!
Ludicrous grand guignol style horror film
This is blood-bath style horror, with plenty of tight closeups of amateur organ harvesting. The film is ever so slightly livened up by the performance of the actor who plays the masked Mexican wrestler, but weighted down by a preposterous plot and all the familiar low-budget indie trappings - including cheap sets, a minimum of locales, and plenty of confused acting by actors are clearly flummoxed by the loopy script. It's essentially a cartoonish horror film with an occasional nice touch.
Nope, it's not a comedy
With a title like this one, viewers like me cannot be blamed for coming to the film with the expectation of a comedy, or at least a couple of laughs along the way. Nope, not to be found here. This is a perfectly straight movie about exactly what it says, a guy who kills Hitler and then a Big Foot type creature. The guy is played by Sam Elliot in one of his patented aw-shucks slow-talking Texan good ole boy performances. Why he associated himself with this grand mess of a movie I will never know. There is no real plot to speak of, just a series of low-budget tight shots of endless conversations with character actors who seem to be mighty sad about something or other but I'm not sure what. The movie takes itself totally seriously - even the part about the Big Foot guy (who looks an awful lot like the Grinch on a bad hair day) spreading some kind of dreaded disease that is threatening all of humanity if it spreads beyond the low-budget shooting area. At that point I cut my losses and went to bed. I doubt you'll last half as long as I did.
Watchable but really silly
This is a well-executed ridiculous movie, in which the director's creativity and the main actors' performances momentarily distract the viewer from the total implausibility of the story and script. Ultimately, the movie falls flat - it's a hodgepodge of grade-B gangster movie cliches, melodramatic comic book situations, suspenseful bad guys vs. good guys moments, and tender family moments, all not quite held together by the most preposterously silly plot to come out of Hollywood in a long time. If the movie didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a little more fun, and it would have been a little easier to suspend disbelief. As it is, the film has enough going for it that you stick with it to the end - at least I did, although I could distinctly hear myself muttering "Oh come on" repeatedly during the last 45 minutes.
After Porn Ends 3 (2018)
The Sad Truth
The sad truth is, they were boring way back when, at the height of their careers, and they're even more boring now, trying to pretend what great fun it all was, and what pioneers of personal liberty they all were. Pornography itself is inherently boring, and the endless babbling about their so-called lives after porn is one colossal yawn. Plus, in their search for porn "stars", the producers are now plumbing the bottom of the D list. If this crew of has-beens wasn't so enormously self-aggrandizing, one might be tempted to feel some pity for them. But peddling this pathetic lifestyle as fun and glamorous erases any sense of empathy any normal viewer might feel.
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
A Bitter Disappointment
Let me start by saying that I am a major Orson Welles fan. With a few notable exceptions, his films are true classics. And he continued making great films into the late 50s. In Touch of Evil, released in 1958, Welles continued to expand our cinematic vocabulary with astonishing camera work and dialog techniques. I was so excited by the prospect of a "new" Welles release that instead of waiting for the Netflix release, I paid 20 bucks times two to see this at a film festival with my better half. Oh. My. God. What a colossal stinky mess of a movie! Atrocious script (half of which is attributed to Welle's lady friend, Oja Kodar, whose expressionless acting is also featured in the film). Hugely self-conscious, stilted performances by Peter Bogdanovich, Edmund O'Brien, Cameron Mitchell and John Huston, to name just a few. And shaky artsy-fartsy camera work that is edited in such a frenetic style that I started looking for the closest exit after only a couple of minutes. The simple fact is, Welles' greatest work was done while he was under the control, or at least supervision, of the big studios. Somehow, that tension produced fascinating, character-driven films. Later, operating on his own, with no one but himself to answer to, Welles drifted on to "message" films - like F is for Fake, another turkey, although not as big a turkey as the work at hand. It is hard to say how much of the blame here lies with Bogdanovich and those others who took it upon themselves to complete the master's last film. Clearly, they made a hash of it, although my suspicion is they really didn't have much to work with. I cannot think of a single scene in the entire film that came across as relevant or believable. It pains me to say it, but this one would have been better left to disintegrate in the can.
The King (2017)
This is an infuriatingly pretentious "documentary" that documents nothing except an astonishing lack of talent on the part of those who assembled it. While the title might lead you to believe this is a film about Elvis, that's not a big enough canvas for this director. Instead, the film attempts to somehow correlate Elvis' life story with America's current and ongoing political and social woes - by interweaving a vast hodge-podge of unrelated vignettes into one grand festering mess of a movie. The various devices the film trots out, unsuccessfully, to make its ill-conceived point include: a series of (mostly forgotten) celebrities opining about Elvis, Donald Trump, racism, cultural appropriation, and anything else that floats into their self-reverent brains; various virtually unknown performers plunking away on guitars, ukeleles, and other stringed instruments in the back seat of Elvis' vintage Rolls-Royce as it travels aimlessly around the country; snippets of familiar newsreel footage ranging from riots and marches to atom bombs detonating; and last but not least, some actual clips of Elvis performing throughout his meteoric career. At the end, you're left feeling as if you just got bilked by Colonel Tom Parker at the carnival - and instead of a hot dog, you just got a bun. I am awarding this moronic turkey two stars instead of one because I just adore Elvis, and a few of the clips of him seen here are not the ones that have become so commonplace. But please, if you elect to watch this for that reason, bring your gas mask and have a vomit bag handy just in case. You've been warned.
Death Kiss (2018)
One of the most ludicrous "movies" imaginable
OK, so we have a Charles Bronson "lookalike" who actually looks to be in his late seventies or early eighties, kinda lumpy and pasty, wearing a greasy toupee that seems to have been painted black with a large can of Benjamin Moore enamel paint. That's the big draw here - on top of a script that makes Plan 9 from Outer Space sound like Shakespeare, an action budget right up there with the old Dolemite movies, and a cast of heavies and hotties that seems to have been hauled straight out of the nearest dive bar. I suggest you save your money on this one, folks. I've had better times bashing my head against a wall. And oh, wait a minute - I forgot about the usual production hambones who write their one IMDB review giving stinkers like this a 10 star rating plus all the accolades they know how to spell - for you guys, Judge Judy and I have 3 words: GET A JOB.
Three Identical Strangers (2018)
A remarkable documentary
You may be tempted to bag this during the first 15 minutes - but that would be a big mistake. While the film starts off with some sappy and rather saccharine interviews, it is all part of a very gradual unraveling that leads through some dark corridors but ultimately results in a sense of wonder in the viewer - at least in this viewer. So my advice is to stick with this one. It is one of those rare documentaries that engages you at all levels.
Angie X (2017)
Inept filmmaking at its most depressing
Shot entirely in close-ups because there is no money for an actual set, and miserably scripted, acted, directed, filmed and edited, this painful yawn of a movie makes you long for the old days of the major studios, when you could at least depend on films to have a budget and be professionally brought to the screen. I challenge you to make it through more than ten minutes of this colossal waste of time.
Another sports documentary that misses the point
After spending endless camera time reviewing the racial injustice of sentencing a promising young black basketball player to prison time for slamming a chair over a woman's head and knocking her unconscious, this long-winded, virtually pointless documentary completely skirts the most compelling piece of information that might help the viewer form an intelligent opinion: this very same basketball player, after being pardoned and going on to a long, hugely profitable professional career, has been involved in numerous other incidents of violence, and has served subsequent prison time for offenses involving drugs, firearms, and more. So if you can't make an honest documentary that delivers all the relevant information, why make a documentary in the first place? I watched this through to the end and pronounce it an utterly unredeemable waste of time.
A steaming pile of nonsense
This documentary, and I hesitate to call it that, purports to reveal the secrets of the international digital porn industry - but in fact reveals very little about anything. The interviewer, ostensibly herself a former European porn star, remains largely mute during the interviews, so it is not surprising that she doesn't get much out of her subjects. The thread that runs through the film (along with titillating snippets of hardcore porn) is that a mysterious multinational porn cabal is up to something fishy, perhaps laundering money. Duh. I am tempted to give this a single star but am upping it to two stars solely because of the wonderful scene, early on in the film, where Pierre Woodman, one of the inventors of misogynist porn in which women are physically abused to the point of tears, complains so long and loud about the online "tube" industry stealing his content and virtually putting him out of business unless he shoots and edits his movies all by himself using a crappy camcorder and a laptop - that he crashes the car he is driving on the middle of the interview. THAT is worth watching. And from the expressionless interviewer, not a single word.
Too Late (2015)
The glowing reviews are truly baffling
I love film noir and I like indie films, but I found very little to like in this one. For starters, the film is shot in chapters, and each 15-minute chapter (they seem much longer than that, trust me) is a single unbroken hand-held shot. Why? you ask. Absolutely no idea. But the result of this gratuitous construct is that each conversation (and the movie is mostly endless conversation) involves the handheld camera panning from one speaker to the next speaker and back again, over and over and over again. This contributes to a growing sense of vertigo in the viewer as the film progresses. And in the unlikely event that you can get past that, then you've got the script to deal with - an absolutely preposterous and nonsensical hodge-podge of secret identities and hidden relationships that makes not one iota of sense. Mr. Hawkes seems to have cut out a career for himself playing essentially sleaze-bag end-of-the-line private investigators: he recently reprised almost the identical role in another awful film called Small Town Crime. He and some of the other actors are competent, but there is simply nothing to be done with a script this inept.
I beg to differ
A turgid script filled with comic book villains, cheerful misogyny, and sappy dialog plus absolutely leaden performances by Kristofferson and Treat Williams (seriously, dude, your name is Treat?), and an incomprehensible plot, result in one of the least interesting action movies of the 80s. I believe this is a made-for-HBO movie before they figured out how to do series like the Sopranos. It looks like a typical no-budget made-for-TV movie with the addition of a couple of raunchy scenes and a few dozen swear words. The only thing more baffling than the end is why I watched it to the end. But as an act of generosity, I am awarding this turkey three whole stars - for the 3 minutes of screen time occupied by one of the film's stars, Rip Torn, who delivers a patented Rip Torn performance that at least lets you know you are watching an actual actor.