Entries in Documentary (16)

Friday
Oct072016

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week- The Touring Years- review

 

“The Beatles: Eight Days a Week- The Touring Years” (2016)

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring Paul McCartney,  Ringo Starr,  John Lennon, George Harrison

Running Time 137 Minutes

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Ron Howard directs the latest Beatles documentary focusing on their touring years.  “Eight Days a Week” doesn’t really have too much to say, just letting the superb concert footage of the Beatles stretching from before Beatlemania, getting a sense of just how crazy and big that truly was to their very last time together on a London rooftop in 1969.  Howard knows where the bread is buttered and would rather give you the joy of them playing than exploring too in depth about their interband woes.  Smart move, this could have been a vote for Donald Trump 2016 advertisement and just mostly played Beatles rocking out in concert, and I would have still thought it was a good film.

 

There are moments of enlightenment as I learned how the Beatles specifically had it in their touring contracts that they wouldn’t play any venue that enforced segregation, successfully bringing black and white audiences together in the south.  These nuggets are few and far between, but I wasn’t too worried as Lennon sang “Help”.

Genesis 2:2 

 

Thursday
Oct232014

Where the Trail Ends- review

 

“Where the Trail Ends” (2012)

Directed by Jeremy Grant

Starring Darren Berrecloth, James Doerfling,

Running Time 81 Minutes

1.5 out of 5 Mitch’s

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

A big mountain bike riding sports documentary that does absolutely nothing for the non avid fan, and I am not a big mountain bike riding fan.  As a whole, this is an absolutely horrible documentary.  Basically a whole bunch of footage was shot, and then half truth super thin premise was put upon it combined with a ridiculous V.O. that sounds like Brody of Ex-Presidents from “Point Break” read from a washed out cue card.  I kind of hated this movie that I swear went out of its way to bore me.  “Where the Trail Ends” may have a nice look to it but in the end is just a generic rinse and repeat of slow motion orgy ride shots that has zero soul.  

 

The film’s message or purpose (if you can call it that) is to follow a band of professional big mountain bike riders that realize that their usual stomping ground of Utah has grown old and so the riders trek out and search the globe for fresh trails where no big mountain biker has gone before.  Here’s how you know this film is superbad, the purpose of the film which is to galavant the globe in search for the great unknown, taking them to the Flaming Mountains of China, deep in the Canadian wilderness, and the outskirts of Nepal, is so easily abandons their goal by bringing the crew right back to Utah three quarters into the film like nothing ever happened.  Hence, we shot a lot of footage, so here’s some more of the Utah slo-mo stuff.  Speaking of the slo-mo, if you played this entire film in normal speed you might have enough for a 15 minute short.  

“Where the Trail Ends” is the epitome of lifeless documentation.  

“This” is the epitome of lifeless documentation.  

Genesis 1:31

 

 

Monday
Mar242014

Mateo- review (SXSW 2014)

 

"Mateo" (2014)

Directed by Aaron I. Naar

Starring Matthew Stoneman

Running Time 88 Minutes

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 


If Matthew Stoneman were to be compared to a superhero, it would be Superman.  In appearance Matthew is much like Clark Kent, a pale skinned and freckled 50 year old who resembles Mr. Dewey from “Saved by the Bell”, but it’s this meek nerdy look that is his alter ego because the real Matthew/Clark Kent goes by the name Mateo.  When Mateo pulls out his Mariachi guitar and lets out his angelic voice, it’s much like Superman breaking out the ‘S’ on his real attire and letting the cape wave through the clouds.

Unfortunately, the aptly titled documentary film’s kryptonite is the director.  Aaron I. Naar, a New Jersey native who has a BA in Latino and hispanic studies, whose past shorts all center around latino subjects obviously has a great interest with the community south of the border, but fails to pass that interest onto the viewer with his unfocused feature debut, “Mateo”.  Matthew, originally from New Hampshire, has no doubt a curious tale to how he became the gringo master of the bolero musical stylings.  The aspiring musician changed genres when his involvement with Mexican gangsters led to him getting arrested for robbery and then learning to love Latin music when behind bars.  

 

Naar doesn’t know when to transition from one subject, spending too much time on segments like Matthew’s quest for purchased affections on the streets of Cuba.  Even worse, when Naar does move on, his blackout lines are as contrived as can be.  Contrived is pretty much how you can sum up the viewing experience of the disappointing documentary “Mateo”.  

Psalm 104:33

 

Saturday
Mar222014

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon- review (SXSW 2014)

 

“Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2014)

Directed by Mike Myers 

Starring Michael Douglas, Shep Gordon, Emeril Lagasse

Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


You know that famous line from, Almost Famous, “I am a golden god!”?  That quote pretty much sums up the life and times of Shep Gordon, a would be prison gaurd turned drug dealer turned one of the most famous managers to some of the biggest musicians of their day.  You know that scene from Almost Famous where the plane is going down, and the bandmates blurt out confessions?  Shep Gordon was on that plane and so was Cameron Crowe, when he put that true outrageous moment into the movie.  Shep Gordon’s life is one very outrageous movie and now Mike Myers, in his directorial debut, turns it into a good time love letter and at times, moving documentary movie.

More than outrageous, Shep is a legend in his excess of sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Not one to miss an opportunity with the ladies, he would wear a t-shirt on tour that said, “No head, no backstage pass”.  But the magic of this film, something that Myers didn’t craft on accident, is that the biggest legend of Shep’s excess was the capacity of his heart.  A kind and very generous man, Shep was every famous person’s best friend because, unlike 99% of the music managers with their slimy reputation, he had the biggest heart in the room.  

After being ostrasized by the fellow prison guards because of his big unkempt hairstyle, Shep found himself holed up in a Hollywood hotel.  That hotel turned out to be the infamous Landmark Motor Hotel selling drugs to none other than Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix.  When Shep knew the heat would catch up to him sooner than later, he stepped away from dealing and got the idea from Hendrix to start managing music.  “You’re a Jew aren’t you? You should manage music”, and that’s how it all started.  Shep’s first client was Alice Cooper, and they’ve been inseparable since.  Even many, many, years and famous clients later, when Shep decided to retire he didn’t retire from his best friend Cooper.

 

It was with Cooper that Shep improvised press out of thin air turning Cooper into a star.  Shep was a very adaptable manager who had a diversity of clients that spanned the hard rock stylings of Cooper, to the R&B Teddy Pendergrass, to the Canadian country good girl Anne Murray.  He reached beyond music with many film producing credits, and when he became infatuated with the culinary arts, he represented the greatest chef’s in the world, inventing the celebrity chef (Emeril Legasse among many others).  The insight into each of these clients is truly wild and usually ended up with a happy ending; Pendergrass ending up a mixed bag tale.

And while we could listen to Shep’s wild tales and conquests forever, Myer’s gets us deep access into his personal life, never letting us forget that this is a good human being who really made a difference in so many lives.  His want for offspring keeps surfacing throughout.  The mix of his earlier promiscuous life with his self sacrificial motivation to bring all of his clients everything they could ever want has left him without an heir to the Gordon empire.  Shep gets closest to being a dad when tragedy strikes as an old girlfriend’s grandchildren lose their mother and he comes to the rescue not only wildly financially but also as a loving father figure.  That selfless deed is where the true legend of Shep Gordon lies, a supermensch, aka a superman.

“this” selfless deed is where the true legend of Shep Gordon lies, a supermensch, aka a superman.

Matthew 7:12

 

 

Saturday
Mar152014

Impossible Light- review (2014 SXSW)

 

“Impossible Light” (2014)

DIrected by Jeremy Ambers

Starring Ben Davis, Leo Villareal

Running Time 71 Minutes

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

 

With documentaries, having an interest in the subject matter shouldn’t be a necessity on whether you, the viewer, can enjoy the film or not.  In fact, it’s so much more rewarding when a doc can shed light on something that may be entirely out of your wheel house.  I don’t know much about anything when it comes to architecture, and/or large scale public art displays, unless you count the time I lined up the 56 buffalo wings I had just eaten and photographed it, but first time director Jeremy Ambers is able to shed over 25,000 lights in the ‘dare to dream’ inspiring documentary that is “Impossible Light”.

Those 25,000 lights were of the LED powered variety that on March 5th, 2013 lit up the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the San Fran skyline as an artistic piece on one very large canvas.  Ambers treks the project’s conception from Lukas Haas look-a-like Ben Davis who was part able to help raise an $8 million dollar budget and wisely able to snag artist Leo Villareal whose talents brought it all to life on a bridge that stretches 1.8 miles.

At times “Impossible Light” bogs itself down by focusing a little too heavy on the people who were behind the idea instead of the hard working class people who physically made it happen.  On the other hand Ambers, whose background is in editing, has a way of really getting across the deep admiration and true respect that everyone involved in this film has for the past, present, and future of the Bay Bridge that all too often plays ‘second fiddle’ to the Golden Gate’s ‘big pappi’ fame.  I can’t wait to see what Jeremy Ambers, who didn’t even have room for a shoestring in his budget, has next in store when given a few bucks.  The possibilities are impossible to limit.

The possibilities are impossible to “this”.

John 1:5

 

Tuesday
Jan072014

The Act of Killing- review

 

“The Act of Killing” (2013)

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer 

Starring Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin

Running Time 115 Minutes

5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“He’s a happy man.”

This is how one person describes Anwar Congo.  And it seems as such.  There is a bit of inherent jovialness to the elderly man, almost a playfulness that’s both charming and contagious.  A horrific fascination washed over me in watching this man since we quickly become privy by his own confession that his hands are personally responsible for murdering over 1,000 people.  

Joshua Oppenheimer’s courageous and brilliant documentary, “The Act of Killing”, creatively captures what the Texas native set out to do: point out how a violent past can still thrive in the present and continue to do massive damage to a society by helping fear and corruption dominate.  In 1965 the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military and looked to gangsters (translated ‘free men’) to exterminate the country of any and all ‘communists’; killing upwards to a million citizens.  Instead of using the typical interview set up for the documentary, Oppenheimer geniously and daringly suggests to Anwar and his fellow executioners to cinematically recreate their conquests.  Anwar and crew are more than happy to oblige, writing their own screenplay, building lavish sets, and utilizing makeup artists to put on a production that will truthfully document their historical triumphs over communism.  What follows is a truly outlandish and extraordinary film of the darkest proportions that documents life long after unspeakable sins.    

Anwar, a young man in 1965 was a death squad leader during the coup and earned quite the feared reputation. One of the first places Anwar takes us is to is the location where he spent so much time slaughtering so many lives.  Initially killing was so literally messy for Anwar, but inspired from American cinema he soon found out that wires were the way go for a cleaner killing.  When Oppenheimer plays this scene back for Anwar all Anwar can concentrate on is his wardrobe choice, noting he would have never worn white pants during killing time.     

So what happens to the mass murderer when he grows old?  In Indonesia he becomes a celebrity, appearing on local tv news where gangsters receive adoration and are praised for emulating those they saw from the American cinema.  I’ve never seen such blunt candidness of one’s tresspasses.  Anwar’s pride eventually becomes reflection and maybe even remorse.  For Anwar, this shoot which spans over five years is his therapy.  When reenactments have Anwar playing a communist being strangled, he tearfully confesses he finally realizes what it must of truly felt like, only for Oppenheimer to disagree because he never had to really ever be faced with actually dying.   

I came away thinking that today's Indonesia may be one of the most corrupt places on Earth.  We’re shown mafia type shakedowns of local shop owners where the onscreen enforcers take great joy in their acts, we see how politicians get their bribed votes, and we still see the fear of what it means to be accused a communist.  It’s like if the Nazi regime was still in power after World War 2.  

“War Crimes are defined by the winners”, spoken by the expertly emotionally repressive Adi Zulkardy, a fellow executioner of Anwar.  Sadly, Adi appears to correct but its with great hope that Oppenheimer’s crushing documentary will shed light on the losers.

Matthew 26:52

 

Monday
Nov252013

The Armstrong Lie- review

 

“The Armstrong Lie” (2013)

Directed by Alex Gibney

Starring Lance Armstrong

Running Time 122 Minutes

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

We all grow up with heroes.  For many of us they come from the sporting world, and when we’re young there’s a childlike faith we put into these athletes.  All too often our heroes turn out to be devils instead of gods, and that can be a hard reality to process.

For me, personally, I grew up hero worshiping the great Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett, I went so far as to promise that my first born son would be named after him, but after his retirement truths were found out that he was Dr. Jeckyl on the field and Mr. Hyde with his domestic problems and that was not to come.  Kirby Puckett made amazing contributions to many charities and was such a well respected member in the community, but it became impossible for me to separate those qualities with the horrid secrets he kept from us.

Such is the case for famed and now infamous cyclist Lance Armstrong.  Oscar winning documentary director Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) highlights the rise and fall of the 7 time Tour de France winner Armstrong. Gibney’s documentary wasn’t originally supposed to take that shape; Gibney started filming in 2009 wanting more of an inspirational take as Armstrong came out of retirement on quest for his 8th Yellow Jacket at the Tour de France.   Eventually, it was Armstrong’s ‘09 return that started his official demise in the cycling world as he was finally being convicted for the doping charges he had so long denied.

I was impressed with Gibney who acknowledges that he allowed all this missed deceit to happen under his lens. Like most of the world, he too was swooned by the native Texan’s on and off the bike heroics only to be counted among the many that was vehemently lied to straight to their face by Armstrong. Armstrong is a complex character who takes much pride with his charitable efforts for cancer research that have helped so many, but on the other side of the coin, his insane competitiveness and thirst for fame has monstrously damaged anyone who questioned his word.  

Gibney pursues the obvious question of why would Armstrong make a comeback when his biking legacy would have been left alone, but we don’t really get an answer.  What you do get is some amazing racing footage, and Gibney is somehow able to get you caught up in the ‘09 competition, even to the point of rooting for the defamed athlete.

By the end, though, I didn’t feel like I had Armstrong figured out.  Even though Armstrong confesses to this and that, you still can’t trust him entirely.  When Armstrong had testicular cancer he correlated failure with death, and he’s never let go of that philosophy.  You get the feeling that his confessions are not therapeutic releases of his sins but chess like moves to save face.  Lying has been part of his DNA for so long it’s hard to tell up from down.  Gibney does his darndest with ”The Armstrong Lie” and confirms that I will not be naming my first born son Lance.  

and confirms that I will not be naming my first born son “This”.  

Proverbs 19:9

 

Wednesday
Oct232013

Brasslands- review

 

“Brasslands” (2013)

Directed by Adam Pogoff plus 9 more

Running Time 88 Minutes

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Brasslands” is a joyous documentary about the culmination of Balkan trumpet and drum laced music and the musicians who play it.  Leading up to the world’s largest annual trumpet festival that meets in the small town of Guca, Serbia, I was captivated by the heartwarming “Brasslands” that hit all the right notes.   

I don’t know thing one about Balkan music, but there lies the power of an effective documentary.  Adam Pogoff, only one of the 10 directors from Meerkat Media Collective, was in audience for the film’s showing at the Twin Cities Film Festival where he was nice enough to do some Q and A and had the “Brasslands” music on CD to purchase.  It put a special joy in my heart that this film was so good that someone who had never been introduced to that world could walk away with a new found love- a love that the people in the film so infectiously show.

After the cozy introduction to the small town of Guca, we travel to busy Brooklyn where we’re greeted to an all U.S. born Balkan styled brass band called Zlante Uste.  In 1987 Zlante Uste was the first American band ever to be invited to the prominent Serbian festival where some old footage hilariously shows a Serbian MC bluntly explaining how the US’s band name when translated (Golden Lips) is grammatically incorrect.  

The band, made up of older high school gym teachers to young 20-year olds, may not have the dialect down, but it’s not for a lack of trying.  Each year they immerse themselves fully into the Serbian and Balkan culture by participating in a sort of Balkan Summer Camp.  They are quite aware of the nerdiness of it all, but they don’t care and quickly neither do we as their unadulterated transparent love for the music becomes contagious.  Being invited back to the festival that’s celebrating their 50th anniversary and holding their first ever foreign competition is a chance that means everything to Zlante Uste, who will get one more chance to express their passion directly to the people who created it.    

The Guca festival is considered the Olympics of brass music, and the reigning gold medal went to the cocky trumpeter Dejan Petrović.  The West Serbians skill has been passed down by his celebrated trumpeter father. Petrovic and his band don’t want to just play weddings for the rest of their lives, and we’re shown how that drive strains his family life.  Also a former festival winner is, Roma Gypsy, trumpeter Demiran Ćerimović, who lives on the other side of the Serbian tracks.  There is a fascinating division between West and South Serbia and their styles of music.  It’s almost akin to the east coast/west coast rap battles in the US as the two sides feud over who’s the best.

The festival brings a point of nationalistic pride that Serbia so desperately wants.  Still lying in the wake of US’s bombings of Serbia for their leaders crimes of ethnic cleansing, the fellow Serbs are very occupied with how the West views them and wishes to replace war with music as their national image.  Maybe they should be known more for their humor.  The cultural differences make for more than a few laugh out loud scenes, and for the most part of laughing with the characters, not at them.    

Documentaries that base their narrative around a competition have such an easy climax to build up to, but then again, its such a rewarding one when it hits.  Even though the ending was a bit purposely anti-climatic I was still filled with a nervousness for everyone involved, highly moved by their passions.  In the end, “Brasslands” is one of the more rewarding films of 2013.

 

Thursday
Jul112013

A Band Called Death- review

 

“A Band Called Death” (2013)

Directed by Mark Christopher Covino, Jeff Howlett

Starring Bobby Hackney, Dannis Hackney

Running Time 96 Minutes, Unrated

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

What’s in a name? For some people it’s everything.

To David Hackney, it was just that.  After his Baptist preacher father died in a tragic accident trying to save a mans life, David renamed the band he had with his two younger brothers Bobby and Dannis  Rock Fire Funk Express to Death.  “Because death is real” David explained with his ever forming positive look on spirituality.      

With the loss of their father and the combined musical influences of The Who and Alice Cooper, the teenaged Hackney brothers became a punk rock band in 1974 before there was punk rock.  All the more fascinating is the fact that the Hackney’s are black and started this in their hometown of Detroit, Michigan (doesn’t Detroit have enough music Gods?!).  The brothers’ every day jam sessions didn’t go over well with the predominantly all black community who didn’t relate well to the “white boy music”.  

When Death tried to release their LP in 1975, their talent opened doors, but it was their band’s ominous name that had music-industry bigwigs closing them.  David, the musical and spiritual leader of the band, wouldn’t waiver on the name, and while Dannis and Bobby would have, the lesson of backing up your brother that was drilled into them by their father always held strong.  

As the unheard record collected dust in an attic, David predicted that people would come looking for their music after his death.  Prophetically, David sadly died from lung cancer in 2000, but in 2009 after ardent music collectors got wind of and spread the music gospel of Death, their much delayed album was released and became a rock sensation.        

There is an exuberant joy that oozes from this rock doc.  Directors Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett wonderfully piece together a puzzle of musical buried treasure but more importantly of brotherly love.  Mostly heard from the pov of the two surviving Death members Bobby and Dannis, there is a sincere and authentic family bond propelled by their powerful faith that jumps out on screen almost giving you a hug.  

At times the band feels a little too praised in the hall of rock, but the brothers are just so happy to continue what their brother David helped start.  I would have liked to hear more of Death’s music laced throughout the film since that’s the celebrated topic on display, and even at only 96 minutes the film does meander towards the end but the joy of A Band Called Death is unmistakable and should be praised much like the band’s music.

but the joy of “this” is unmistakable and should be praised much like the bands music.   

Revelation 1:18

 

Tuesday
Apr092013

Room 237- review

 

Room 237 (2013)

Directed by  Rodney Ascher 

Starring Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns

Running Time 102 Minutes, Unrated

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

As someone who wrote over 100 film reviews last year, a documentary about any film classic would be tantalizing, but an obsessive study into Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, The Shining, is a cinephile's paradise.

In the documentary Room 237 Rodney Ascher takes the indepth pulse of five film historians, their unique and sometimes kooky proposed conspiracy theories, and many observations to one of my top 5 horror films of all time.  Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, Jay Weidener, and John Fell Ryan don’t spend much time talking about the actual plot of The Shining but rather the genius of Kubricks 200 IQ and the lengths he went to tell his own personal agenda.  

Blakemore is convinced The Shining is an allegory for how the white man slaughtered the Native Americans, pointing out how Kubrick specially placed Indian logo Calumet baking powder cans. Nazi historian Geoffrey Cocks believes its all about the Holocaust, citing how the typewriter that Jack Torrance writes on is German made and changes colors in the middle of the film.  Ryan points out some the better hidden tidbits, as in how the tv has no cord (how come I never noticed that?) and the fact that Jack is reading a Playgirl magazine in the main lobby before he’s interviewed by Stuart Ullman’s hotel manager Barry Nelson.  

The award for most out there conspiracy theory is a tie between Juli Kearns and Jay Weidener. Kearns gives us gold with mapping out of the motel, but her love for mythology stretches way too far when she points out a poster hung up in one of the rooms of a skier on that she is convinced is actually a Minotaur (I didn’t see it). Weidener tells us that The Shining is really just an apology for Kubrick filming the fake Apollo 11 moon landing. Yes its a bit odd that the moon is 237,000 miles from Earth, but Weidener loses me in his next breath when tries to dig deeper by telling us the key for room 237 is labeled ROOM No. 237 and that the letter R-O-O-M-N can only spell room and moon (not true- norm).      

The random Kubrick film footage along with staged theater goers spliced to transition from one theory to the next doesn’t do much to enhance his doc.  More of a deterrent is that we never see the faces of the five, and after their names are initially announced, they’re never brought up on screen again, so I found myself often guessing who was who.  Maybe Ascher did this to thicken the mystery, but really it just created confusion.  

The fun of Room 237 is not picking and choosing which one of the five’s theories are correct but in the journey that a movie can take us on.  How the beauty or the truth really is in the eye of the beholder.

How the beauty or the truth really is in the eye of the “this”.

Isaiah 8:12

 

Thursday
Sep292011

Memphis Heat- The True Story About Memphis Wrasslin'

“Memphis Heat: The True Story About Memphis Wrasslin” (2011)
Directed by Chad Schaffler
Starring Rocky Johnson, Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart
Running Time 91 Minutes, Unrated
3 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com  

Growing up I was raised on the WWE (still WWF in my head), as my brother and I relived the matches move for move from worn down VHS tapings of the Hulkamaniac, Macho Man Randy Savage (God rest his soul), and of Ravishing Rick Rude (until my mother saw me copying his gyrations and told me to knock that garbage off).  I lost interest in the mid to late 90’s era that came after and didn’t know much about the wrestling days that came before.  That is until I saw this documentary, “Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin.”

First thing I learned, and you can derive it from the title is that it wasn’t called wrestling, it was called Wrasslin’.  Director Chad Schaffler nicely pieces enough pictures, footage, and interviews from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s that made up the colorful history (usually blood covered) of what’s considered the greatest city in wrestling- Memphis.  

There are some interesting accounts from the early stars of Spudnik Monroe.  Spudnik who was not only a fan favorite but a white man who stood up for black rights in the south, earning a spot in what was said to be the three pictures black families had up in there house that included Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr. There were great stories of how they earned a hard buck from wrasslin’ pioneers like Jackie Fargo who was basically mentor to Memphis’ poster boy Jerry “The King” Lawler and his manager Jimmy Hart.     

There’s almost too much zippiness with the flow of telling these stories.  A scatterbrain effect to the content loses focus for any productive theme, and the tiny budget of only $25,000 probably contributed to the loss of any rights from the “Man on the Moon” or David Letterman footage of the fascinating Andy Kaufman/ Jerry Lawler saga.  Sadly there are no reactions or interviews from any of the WWE wrestlers that came after.  The DVD bonus features are great if you have an extra four hours, providing even more insightful stories.

Regardless, “Memphis Heat” has enough incite and warmth for it’s wrasslin’ predecessors to put a three-count on us for the victory.

...enough incite and warmth for “this” to put a three-count on us for the victory.

 

Tuesday
Jul052011

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop- review

“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” (2011)
Directed by Rodman Flender
Starring Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter
Running Time 89 Minutes, Rated R.
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com  

Warning:  Shameless name dropping is about to occur.  In my defense I’m going somewhere.   

In my many glamorous days of waiting tables, my most favorite celebrity to sling a meal to was a comedic hero of mine, Conan O’Brien.  When I mustard-ed up the courage to crack a joke, Mr. O’Brien was nice enough to engage in a back-and-forth little yuck-yuck which meant the world to me.  Going toe to toe with the nerd icon will forever be one of my favorite memories.  
-But Mitch, where you going with this?  
Well, after watching the documentary ,”Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”, I have a whole lot more insight into our encounter.  Conan truly can’t stop performing, to the point that it’s a sickness.  He has a need to perform even when it serves him no purpose, even when he’s having lunch with an old friend and instead takes the time to partake in a polite joke-off with his waiter (me) when all he needs the waiter for is to get him his eggs Benedict.  

46-year old Harvard grad Conan O’Brien can’t stop to the point that on the last day of his short stint as host of the Tonight Show he comes up with the idea to do a live tour for his first time ever.  The footage of the film is shot on this tour during the time that Conan was payed off well by NBC to be legally prohibited from being on t.v.   

We learn that Conan gets cranky.  We learn that Conan still likes to take angry jabs at NBC and Jay Leno (good for Conan).  We learn that Conan can be a bit of a bully with his joking as he prods his writers and a personal assistant who gets the brunt of some mean laughs.  We learn that Conan is extremely patient with his fans and well wishers but is driven nuts when before and after a show he has to shake hands with a thousand strangers.  

Something we don’t have to learn because we already know it is how funny Conan can be.  With the help of Andy Richter there are more than a few belly laughs through out.  A moment where Conan exhaustively puts his clown act on at the expense of his former writer Jack McBrayer is worth admission alone.  

First time director Rodman Flender doesn’t make it a concert film but instead focuses on Conan being the most comfortable when he’s on stage.  It would have been nice if Flender would have asked a few more hard questions at this crucial point in Conan’s life, but he takes a much less aggressive course by just keeping the camera on the performer.  Yeah, I laughed.  Yeah, I learned, but I wish Flender would have been a bit more a part of the documenting instead of looking like he was just happy to observe.

“This” was just happy to observe.

 

Genesis 3:19

Sunday
Sep192010

Catfish- review

“Catfish” (2010)

Directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Starring Nev Schulman

Running Time 86 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 ½ Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Fishy Social Networking

Maybe it’s just me but the trailers for the movie “Catfish” lead me to believe there was a horror aspect to the film.  In a sense trying to ride the “Paranormal Activity” wave of box office success with its vague trailers hinting to a story devious in nature.  Can’t blame them for the marketing ploy “Don’t let anyone tell you what it is” film slogan that “Catfish” has shoved down our throats…or can I?  Sure I can, and I do. 

I’ll give Catfish this, it’s a timely, original social commentary on the grip social networking has most of us wrapped around.  I fought that battle for a long time before losing to that Myspace/ Twitter/ Facebook/ Rotten Tomatoes beast.  What I can tell you without telling you anything is directors Henry Joost and Ariel Chulman follow brother Nev Schulman documentary style as he makes facebook friends with an upper Michigan area family that includes eight year old Abby, older sister Megan, and her mother Angela.  Over eight months Nev begins an online romance with the 20 year old dancer Megan, that reveals how today we get to know someone though a computer screen and the trust all that goes into that.  When Nev’s job brings him to the Midwest, the three boys and their camera decide to make a surprise visit to the “facebook family”.

This newly dubbed “reality thriller” (after the filmmakers were questioned about it’s documentarian authenticity) starts out at a snail’s pace that at times is hard to keep up with its myriad of facebook supporting players that are only spoken of but never fully introduced.   Once details finally start to unfold, an engaging mystery does develop.  And the farther we go down the rabbit hole the more this story resonates a fear of how this tale could happen to any of us.  If only it didn’t feel completely contrived since the earlier scenes were obviously replicated to retell the moments they didn’t get on camera once they realized the heights of the drama that unfolded.

“Catfish” puts up a good fight but once you reel it in you realize you’ve caught the mucky and manipulative bottom-feeding fish that it is.

“This” gives a good fight.

Matthew 17:27

Monday
May312010

Best Worst Movie- review

“Best Worst Movie” (2010) Directed by Michael Stephenson

Starring George Hardy, Michael Stephenson

Running Time 93 Minutes

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com


You might think Ed Wood’s “Planet 9 from Outer Space” is the worst movie of all time (I thought it was “Wild Wild West”).  But for a while, according to imdb.com, it was the 1990 low budget horror film “Troll 2”.  Cast member of “Troll 2” Michael Stephenson picks up a camera and documents how a straight-to-video movie goes on to play to sold out midnight movie screenings around the world and shows us the where-abouts of the cast.  With a few interesting insights into the ugliness of catching the “fame bug” as well as revealing the genuine sincerity it takes to make a truly epic bad film, there’s still not enough content to maintain my interest.  This is mainly due to the way Michael Stephenson’s drives the same points into the ground over and over delievering a finished product that comes across as an attempt to personally claim the film success he never got as the lead child actor in “Troll 2”. 

Stephenson gives screen time to all of the “Troll 2” main actors but focuses mostly on his screen dad played by George Hardy, a small Alabama town dentist that everyone likes.  George gets wind that the film that he was embarrassed to admit he was in, to which his own mother confesses that he’s no Cary Grant, has slowly made its way into cult status.  A N.Y.C. screening at the U.C.B Theatre brings in a massive nerd fest that gives Hardy the attention he’s always wanted.  The smitten crown begs him to deliver his most famous line “You don’t piss on hospitality”, which his fans might rate right up there with Robert De Niro’s “You talking to me”.  Sadly, as the film goes on, Hardy’s lust for more and more fame turns the fun loving guy we were sweet on into a royal turd-burglar.  At a failed horror convention, Hardy defensively rants about all the weird people with gingivitis after no one shows up to his booth.  

“Best Worst Movie” perks up my interest when it introduces “Troll 2’s” director, Claudio Fragasso.  There’s no cynicism in Claudio’s vision for the film.  The very Italian director really believes in the art of “Troll 2”.  It’s fascinating listening to Fragasso tell how he believes “Troll 2’s” plot of a town wanting to turn a family into plants and then eat them deals with some of the more important themes of life and is a great parable.  The best worst movies of course aren’t deliberately made bad.  Ed Wood really believed in his projects, as does Fragasso, bringing together the perfect crap storm that is “Troll 2”.  

“BWM” runs out of steam with Stephenson’s inability to really delve deeper into the material in front of him.  I wanted to know more about the fact that one of “T2’s” cast members was in a mental hospital when he auditioned for the film.  I wanted to push harder into the life of his screen mom played by the now recluse Margo Prey who believes “Troll 2” is right up there with “Casablanca”.  Frankly, “BWM” didn’t cut it for me, since “Troll 2” doesn’t feel like it deserves a documentary but I will say that it did make me put “Troll 2” in my Netflix queue with anticipation.

Put “this” in my Netfilx queue with anticipation.

Monday
May172010

Exit Through the Gift Shop- review

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” (2010) Directed by Banksy

Starring Thierry Guetta, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Rhys Ifans

Running Time 87 Minutes, Rated R. 4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

(Help, it's dark in here)

Let’s just put it out there- many consider “Exit Through the Gift Shop” directed by Banksy, the notorious and brilliant ‘street artist’, who is more reclusive than when Tiger Woods was in therapy, to be just a hoax. A grand con for Banksy’s famous ironic social statements now showcased for the silver screen. Maybe I’ve been played in a Banksy prankumentary. Maybe not. That doesn’t concern me, I choose to believe the world presented in front of me. A world of the underground ‘street-art graffiti’ and its mostly fascinating players that I knew little about but which took me on a wonderful exploration of art, and of what it is, who can, who does and who should do it.

With his voice distorted and face covered by a dark hoody, Banksy starts off “Exit” by telling us of a man who wanted to make a documentary of him but instead Banksy made it about the man. That man is fascinating player numero uno, Thierry Guetta, a Ron Jeremy look-a-like little Frenchman whose obsession with recording everything with his camcorder provided Guetta with an accidental purpose of documenting the “Street Movement”. Thierry captures the movement with zeal, endlessly showing the surge of graffiti on stickers, stencils, building walls, street signs, or anything else one can imagine. As the film goes on, its not so legal art surprisingly makes us, as viewers, want to express ourselves. Soon Thierry becomes the video lackey to the likes of Shepard Fairey (responsible for the Obama “Hope” poster) and eventually moves up to sidekick status and more importantly earns the trust of the biggest name in the street art game, Banksy.

When graffiti becomes the nation’s newest fad. Banksy issues Thierry to use the decades worth of countless tapes and make the documentary that Thierry has been promising. What comes back is unbearable garbage, propelling Banksy to take over as he quips, “ I don’t know how to make a film but that didn’t stop Thierry.” Banksy is a funny dude delivering a lot of the film’s humor as Thierry unknowingly delivers the rest. It’s at this point I remember that Banksy is the director of the film and not Thierry. Banksy is basically directing in the third person, directing Thierry’s originally directed footage of Banksy of which he was being directed. Uh yeah, like I said. Brilliant!

So as Banksy is now working on the doc he tells Thierry to go off and make his own art. This tragically makes Banksy Dr. Frankenstein, giving birth to the monster Mr. Brain Wash, an alter-ego (stress on the ego) that Thierry creates setting up a hype-fueled massive street-art exhibit that has every L.A. underground wannabe paying craploads to get. In the end, Thierry’s exhibit earns him over one million dollars leaving Banksy and Fairey question if anyone can be an artist and pointing out the drones that follow the fad. Again, if it is all just a hoax, then kudos to Banksy. Is Banksy’s Thierry Guetta on par to Andy Kaufman’s Tony Cliffton? Can anything be art? If so, then my friends were right when they drew a penis on my face after a night of too many drinks and called it a masterpiece. Either way Banksy delivers art to be enjoyed with “Exit Through the Gift Shop”.

“This” delivers art to be enjoyed.

Monday
Apr262010

Oceans- review

“Océans” (2010) Directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

Narrated by Pierce Bronson

Running Time 86 Minutes, Rated G.


2 ½ Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Blanket Octopus, Mantis Shrimp, and Ribbon Eels, Oh My!

(School's out for Summer)

In the latest efforts from the two Jacques who brought you the Academy award nominated “Winged Migration” comes the Disney Nature super-nature documentary “Oceans”.  Disney Nature, who released the awe-inspiring “Earth” in 2009, brings breathtaking visuals in “Oceans” but settles for a bare-bones story, telling us nothing new.    

“Oceans” moves around like my prior dating habits.  Oh, each new creature is very beautiful to look at but we don’t extract much information out of it and before you know it we’ve moved onto the next.  The storytelling has a wanderlust that is unfocused; scatter-braining it’s way throughout without much, if any narrative thread.  I like my doc’s to have somewhat of a storyline, not just a collection of spectacular images.  Basically, you can come in at any point of the movie without missing a beat.

Now that said, the spectacular images are well…spectacular.  I sat and wondered how Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud were able to get such amazing shots of the seven oceans inhabitants.  Vibrant images of schools of jellyfish floating like scary brains, Krill giving the ocean and orange-like hue as if the sun was setting as the massive blue whale takes feast, and fat and lazy sea lions (or as I like to think- the Wisconsinites of the deep blue) playing and basking in the sun.  “Oceans” uses the sounds of the sea to the filmmakers advantage turning the coral reef into a scene out of the wild, wild, west as the locals scutter around for the kill.  And a kung-fu movie breaks out when the freaky Mantis Shrimp does battle with a lowly crab.

“Oceans” is almost worth recommending on the wonderful shots alone, and this is definitely a film to take the kids to but they’re not going to learn a lot.  Once you get a brief tidbit on a specimen you’re quickly taken away losing any connection.  Pierce Bronson, a staunch eco-friendly supporter, as the narrator doesn’t help.  Pierce is a poor-mans Morgan Freeman with a monotone delivery that had me sleepy.  Lets hear some emotion when a human is right up against a Great White Shark instead of telling us the shark is hiding a smile, as the two co-exist.  The Earth Day message towards the end is all fine and dandy if it just wasn’t thrown in at the end. 

On a side note, I kept waiting for a sequence about the deep, deep unknown parts of the ocean.  There is footage out there of a 100-foot squid and not a peep of it here.  That’s like going to the ocean as a kid and your parents not letting you put your feet in.  

“This” is not letting you put your feet in.