Movie Review: The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks (2022)


Title: The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Director: Reginald Harkema
Production Company: Blue Ant Media
Summary/Review:

This two-part documentary on Amazon Prime Video is tied in with the release of a new season of The Kids in the Hall, the first in 27 years!  I’m not going to review that series but if you’re a fan of the Kids in the Hall, watch it because it’s excellent and they haven’t missed a step.  The documentary features interviews with all five Kids – Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney,  and Scott Thompson – as well as producer Lorne Michaels, writer Paul Bellini, and celebrity fans like Mike Myers and Eddie Izzard, among others.  It also is rich in archival footage and clips from various KITH all projects.

I learned that Dave & Kevin were the closest partnership in the group and had started performing together in Toronto.  Meanwhile Bruce and Mark began working together in Calgary before moving to Toronto.  The four of them formed the Kids in the Hall (which Mark wanted to call The Audience) and then Scott Thompson willed himself into the group.  I also learned that Scott had survived a mass shooting at his school in Ontario as a child which has informed his work.  KITH also made a miniseries in 2012 called Death Comes to Town which I’d never even heard of.

This is a solid and informative documentary.  But it does strike me as an extremely conventional approach for a documentary about an unconventional comedy team.  At least Paul Bellini wears a towel during some of his interviews.

 

Rating: ***

Documentary Movie Review: Zion (2018) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter Documentaries starting with the letter Z that I have previously reviewed include: 

TitleZion
Release Date: August 10, 2018
Director: Floyd Russ
Production Company: Netflix
Summary/Review:

Zion Clark is a young man who was born without legs who finds his place as a wrestler in high school.  It pretty much leans into the inspiration cliches of both movies about sports and movies about people with disabilities. Which is fine, it is well done for an 11-minute film.  But I do wish it had been more educational.  Like, tell us a little bit about wrestling and how Zion adapts his body type to competing in the sport.

Rating: ***

Documentary Movie Review: 1991: The Year Punk Broke (1992) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

I guess I’m fudging things again by using a letter from the subtitle for Y but I really wanted to watch this one and there weren’t many good options for Y.  You could just say I’m being punk rock!

Documentaries starting with the letter Documentaries starting with the letter Y that I have previously reviewed include: 

Title: 1991: The Year Punk Broke
Release Date:  24 December 1992
Director: Dave Markey
Production Company: We Got Power Productions | Sonic Life
Summary/Review:

This concert/tour film follows Sonic Youth along with Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, Gumball and The Ramones as they tour festivals in Ireland, England, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands in the end of August of 1991.  This occured as the same time as the hard line coup against Gorbachev in the U.S.S.R and more personally right when I started my first year in college.  While I was never a big fan of Sonic Youth (nor did I dislike them), they were at the vanguard of what was called “college rock” at the time and soon would be “alternative rock,” so this film is a time capsule of an exciting period in my life.

There’s a homemade feel to the documentary that seems appropriate to an ethos that was against “selling out.” The concert footage is quite good and I like the disorienting effect of editing together performances of the same songs from different shows.  The montages of the artists and their colleagues goofing off around Europe are also entertaining.  There is however an element of cringe to how people behave that reminds me how stupid we were back then.  Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth is particularly insufferable.  On the other hand, while Sonic Youth may seem to  represent the voice of my generation, while researching this movie I learned that mindblowing fact that the members of the band were born in the 1950s.  They’re all Baby Boomers who are closer in age to my parents than they are to me! I guess they’re literally Sonic Youthful!

Rating: ***1/2

Documentary Movie Review: XV: Beyond the Tryline (2016) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Since it’s so hard to find things starting with the letter X, I typically go algebraic and use X to represent a number.  But in this case I have a movie title that starts with the letter X but is also part of the Roman numeral for “15.”

Documentaries starting with the letter X that I have previously reviewed include:

Documentaries starting with numbers that I have previously reviewed include:

Title: XV: Beyond the Tryline
Release Date: December 5, 2016
Director: Pierre Deschamps
Production Company: RWC Legacy Productions (main) | Finite Films | Documentree Films | Scampy Jones Media
Summary/Review:

I know next to nothing about rugby other than that there are two codes – rugby union and rugby league – and fans are fiercely partisan about which code is better.  This documentary takes place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England where national rugby union teams representing twenty countries participated.  Your typical sports documentary would feature highlights with interviews with players, coaches, journalists, and maybe some fans.  This documentary is different as it explores the game of rugby with interviews with a referee, the medical staff, stadium volunteers, choirs performing the national anthems, the locker room logistics expert, a photographer, amateur rugby players and coaches, parents, and the groundskeeper at Twickenham Stadium (Keith Kent, the groundskeeper was my favorite). I still don’t know much about rugby, but I found the enthusiasm that all these people had for the sport to be infectious.

Rating: ***1/2

Documentary Movie Review: We Were Here (2011) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter Documentaries starting with the letter W that I have previously reviewed include: 

Title: We Were Here
Release Date: September 2011
Director: David Weissman and Bill Weber
Production Company:  Weismann Projects
Summary/Review:

We Were There examines the HIV/AIDS epidemic in San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s through interviews with five members of the community who lived through the plague. The subjects include a counselor to gay men, a nurse, and a florist who ended up providing flowers for many funerals.  They tell heart wrenching stories of the unfathomable numbers of deaths of friends, partners, and family members while at the same time facing stigmatization from a society that discriminates against queer people.  And yet, there’s a lot of hope in these stories too.  LGBTQ people often talk of their community as family, when their blood relatives may have shunned them.  The epidemic brought this family in San Francisco together to care for one another and inspired a generation of activists.  This is a very simple documentary in form but it contains a very powerful message.

Rating: ****

Documentary Movie Review: Val (2021) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter Documentaries starting with the letter V that I have previously reviewed include: that I have previously reviewed include:

TitleVal
Release Date: July 23, 2021
Director: Leo Scott and Ting Poo
Production Company: A24 | IAC Films | Boardwalk Pictures | Cartel Films
Summary/Review:

What would it be like if you had a movie made of your entire life?  Actor Val Kilmer answers that question in this unique documentary made out of home hundreds of hours of movie footage he shot starting in childhood.  I remember really liking Kilmer early in his career when he starred in Top Secret! and Real Genius, and always wondered why he didn’t do more comedy.  He became more famous for his roles in movies like Top Gun and The Doors, and starred as Batman in one of the 90s version of that franchise.

Today, Kilmer’s voice has been damaged by throat cancer. He wrote the narration for the film which is read by his son Jack, who sounds startlingly like a younger Val.  In this film we see the surprisingly sophisticated movies he made as a child with his brother, his theater training at Julliard, and his ongoing frustration with a Hollywood system that has little use for his style of acting.  This has given him a reputation as a troublesome actor, although there are also many actors and directors who’ve enjoyed working with him.  The movie also delves into his personal life and doesn’t always show him in the best light.

This is a kind of fascinating movie which I think is more than your typical celebrity biography, but also an examination of an actor’s life.

Rating: ***

Documentary Movie Review: Uprising (2021) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter U that I have previously reviewed include:

TitleUprising
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Director: Steve McQueen and James Rogan
Production Company: Rogan Productions |  BBC | Lammas Park | Turbine Studios
Summary/Review:

This three part documentary series details the emergence of a new civil rights movement among Black British people in the early 1980s.  At the time, the fascist National Front was gaining support with their anti-Black and anti-immigrant views that were echoed in the opinions of the new prime minister Margaret Thatcher.  The subjects of this documentary are primarily British-born children of West Indian immigrants who grew up in this atmosphere in the 70s and 80s.

The first part focuses on an event that catalyzed the movement, a fire at a house party in South East London in January 1981 that killed 13 children and young adults.  Witnesses believe they saw someone throw a firebomb into the house (a tactic that had been used by racists elsewhere in London) but the police investigation focused on blaming the victims.  Public officials and the news media responded with indifference and derision.

The centerpiece of the second part is the Black People’s Day of Action in March 1981 when 20,000 people marched through London.  Black people from across England came to participate in the largest protest for racial justice in the nation’s history.  With growing awareness of Black power and racial tension, the spring and summer of 1981 was marred by riots throughout England.  The third part of the series focuses particularly on the riot in Brixton.

Along with a lot of phenomenal archival footage (and scored to some terrific reggae music from the period) this movie includes interviews with several survivors of the the New Cross fire and participants in the Brixton riots.  There are also interviews with many white government officials and police officers, some of whom seem to have become more culturally sensitive as a result of their experience, and some who hang themselves with their own words.

I was not familiar with these events but they seemed sadly similar to racial history in the United States.  I also noted some parallels with how British officials mismanaged The Troubles in Ireland and the Hillsborough disaster.

Rating: ****

Documentary Movie Review: Tongues Untied (1989) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter T that I have previously reviewed include:

Title: Tongues Untied
Release Date: October 26, 1989
Director: Marlon T. Riggs
Production Company: Signifyin’ Works
Summary/Review:

This is not your typical documentary, but more of an art piece.  Through poetry, music, performance art, and film footage Marlon T. Riggs explores the experience of Black gay men in America.  Racial discrimination, homophobia, and the masculine desire to repress emotions all conspire to silence Black gay men.  This movie is all about letting them speak out their pain, anger, joy, and love.  It’s really hard to describe this movie in words, but it is very powerful – and unflinching – and worth the watch.

Rating: ****

Documentary Movie Review: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter S that I have previously reviewed include:

TitleStreet Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Director: Marilyn Agrelo
Production Company: Macrocosm Entertainment | HBO Documentary Films | The Exchange
BondIt Media Capital | Citizen Skull Productions
Summary/Review:

Based on the book of the same titleStreet Gang is a look at the creation of the early days of Sesame Street.  The advantage of a movie over a book is that it gets to incorporate a lot of memorable footage from Sesame Street as well as behind-the-scenes footage including a sequence of Muppet performers hilariously breaking character. The strength of the documentary is that it doesn’t credit one lone “genius” as being behind Sesame Street but recognizes that it was a collaborative effort.  Producer Joan Ganz Cooney, early director Jon Stone, Muppet creator Jim Henson, composer Joe Raposo, and several other members of the cast and crew get their due recognition.  The problem with this approach is that even with the focus basically on the first decade of the show, it feels a bit unfocused and incomplete.

I suppose a fully-satisfying documentary of Sesame Street would require a 10-part series, though. Nevertheless, I suspect that anyone who grew up watching Sesame Street (which is probably every American at this point) will appreciate the warm, nostalgic glow of this movie.  In the meantime, I recommend watching I Am Big Bird and Being Elmo to complement this movie.

Rating: ****

Documentary Movie Review: Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011) #atozchallenge


Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter Documentaries starting with the letter R that I have previously reviewed include:

Title: Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Director: Jon Foy
Production Company: With Land of Missing Parts Productions
Summary/Review:

You may have seen a strange message embedded in the asphalt when walking across the street in many American cities and even in South America:

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN KUBRICK’S 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER.

These Toynbee Tiles began appearing in the 1980s and have caused confusion and fascination to many.  This documentary follows a group of individuals from Philadelphia who are brought together by the mystery of the Toynbee Tiles and investigate their origins.  Their work turns up some strange clues, including a Philadelphia Inquirer article, a David Mamet play, and a shortwave radio convention.

Eventually their research leads fairly conclusively to a reclusive man who lives in South Philadelphia, who they wisely chose not to disturb.  There’s a nice contradiction to a man who’s gone to great lengths to get his inscrutable message to the world not being interested in talking about it.  The biggest a-ha moment in this movie is when they learn from neighbors that their #1 suspect had a car with missing floorboards meaning he could easily drop the Toynbee Tiles on the road without leaving his car.

Anyhow this is an interesting story about a strange phenomenon.

Rating: ***1/2