SXSW Review: Under The Influence (2022)

When Casey Neistat first sat down to interview YouTube sensation, David Dobrik, neither of them knew they were about to capture one of the most precipitous rise and falls in the history of the internet… in real-time. David, protected by the belief that he’s just a kid with a camera, has constantly assumed risks. Even as a story of a sexual assault breaks, he’s busy covering up a near-lethal accident caught on film, intended to be entertainment. In the real world, these kinds of actions have life-changing consequences, but in the gold rush ecosystem of Social Media influence, the audience decides who succeeds, and who gets banished forever. 

I heard about a David Dobrik documentary being made but I assumed that it was going to be slapped on to YouTube and that would be the end of it. So I was surprised to see it at SXSW and decided to watch it out of pure curiosity, this is pretty much the story of David Dobrik and the controversies that happened particularly what happened to Jeff Wittek and the situation involving Durte Dom. If you were going into the documentary hoping for new information you aren’t going to get any here, if you know everything that happened nothing in this documentary is going to be new maybe except a few reactions from a few people. The most interesting thing about this documentary is how the public who has no idea about this situation is going to react, will the discussion of why Dobrik walked away with his career still intact be discussed again? Will this lead to more people speaking up and coming forward? As far as filmmaking goes it’s fine, there’s really nothing noteworthy about it outside of a few shots that are pretty neat. I do think there’s a conversation to be had about how your own platform can turn you into a completely different person in a negative way, which is definitely the strongest part about the documentary. But everything else is either common knowledge or nothing very interesting, overall Under The Influence is a documentary that will be good for people who have no idea about David Dobrik not so much for people who are well knowledgeable about the subject.

Under The Influence currently has no release date.

4/10 D+

SXSW Review: Spaz (2022)

Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams is a little-known pioneer in computer animation. This intimate account examines his life story and events surrounding the historical moment when his digital dinosaurs walked onto the silver screen in JURASSIC PARK. Steve and a chorus of expert witnesses recount a dramatic tale of rebellion and revolution at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic in the early 1990s–a time when creating realistic creatures with a computer was considered impossible. As the industry changes at breakneck speed, Steve’s longing for acknowledgement triggers a humble reckoning with his chaotic past.

Spaz is a very straightforward documentary about the pioneer of computer effects Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams, this is the man who gave us iconic moments from Jurassic World, Star Wars, Terminator 2 and many others. It’s very refreshing to see computer effects artists get praised for their work as it often does feel like they are put on the sidelines, there’s a lot of great archival footage and interviews in the documentary that really show how beautifully made Williams’s work was and still is. Plus Williams is a great speaker he’s the type of person where you could just listen to him talk to you forever and not get tired of it. The documentary does struggle when it comes to the last half, as it does struggle to to keep both conversations of Williams success and his career’s fall balanced. There’s a lot of one conversation talking over the other, however that doesn’t stop it from being a very interesting piece about someone who gave us some of the most iconic moments in film history.

Spaz currently has no release date.

7/10 B

Lucy and Desi is a solid documentary about the iconic Hollywood couple!

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz form an unlikely partnership to become one of the most prolific power couples in Hollywood.

Going to keep this relatively short because there really is not much to go over. But I got a hell of a lot more out of Lucy and Desi than I did from Being The Ricardos, while the documentary is surface level and doesn’t break any new ground for documentaries. It’s still a very nicely put together documentary that lays out all of the information for the viewer, the interviews of the people who knew Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are both very captivating and interesting to listen to, the movie goes through the ups and downs of the iconic comedy couple’s relationship over the years. It tells us how they felt, what they were thinking and what inspired them to keep moving their careers along, it’s actually a pretty inspiring documentary at times and really does a pretty solid job of telling the couple’s story. If you are a fan of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz you will definitely appreciate the documentary!

Lucy and Desi is available on Amazon Prime Video!

7/10 B

A Peloton Of One is an important documentary for survivors of sexual abuse.

In late 2018, Dave Ohlmuller embarks on a solo bike ride from Chicago to New York City. As a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest, Dave rides to inspire other survivors to come forward and tell their stories.

A Peloton Of One is not an easy watch as the documentary is about a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest tries to inspire other survivors to come forward and tell their stories. The survivor is named Dave Ohlmuller who is very inspiring throughout the documentary, he rides his bike from Chicago to New York City it’s a journey he takes you on while sharing his story and the survivors he meets a long the way share there’s as well. The documentary also talks a bit about the American Justice system and how these cases either get ignored or can’t be put on trial, the journey Ohlmuller takes is a powerful one that really captures tons of emotions, hearing survivors share their stories is truly heartbreaking. There’s a lot of sense of healing in the documentary, you could look at Ohlmuller’s journey as sense of healing but also one that helps survivors and teaches the audience. As far as filmmaking there isn’t anything that crazy or something worth mentioning but there really doesn’t need to be. In fact that benefits the film when you think about it, it’s shot in this very raw style to it that moves the documentary along very well. Overall A Peloton Of One is a fantastic documentary that while it might be hard for some people to watch it is a very important documentary.

A Peloton Of One is currently in theaters. It will release on all VOD Platforms March 11th!

8/10 B+

Sundance Review: Fire Of Love is a beautiful film that captures the beauty of volcanos!

Intrepid scientists and lovers Katia and Maurice Krafft die in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing some of nature’s most explosive imagery.

Who knew a documentary about two people sharing their love for volcanos would be one of my favorite films of the Sundance film festival. Fire Of Love tells the story of Katia and Maurice Kraftt two married volcanologists who share their love for volcanos, the film uses archival footage as well as Miranda July’s commentary to the tell story. Which both combined truly create something absolutely stunning, the beauty of the lava is truly captivating and really grabs you, there truly is something whimsical about watching the lava and hearing the story of two people who share their love for volcanos. It’s also an incredibly touching story that really get’s to you, Miranda July’s commentary adds so much to the documentary in every single way possible she has this beautiful voice that truly hypnotizes you. The archival footage is brilliantly used, it really shows the beauty of the volcano and adds so much layers to the documentary. Overall Fire Of Love is straightforward yet a absolutely fantastic documentary that I can’t wait to watch again!

Fire Of Love currently has no release date!

9/10 A

Sundance Review: Riotsville USA is a cold and disturbing watch.

1968: Massive civil unrest, followed by a rare chance for justice. Riotsville, USA is the untold story of what we did instead. Told through a series of all-archival chapters chronicling forgotten and increasingly bizarre events, the film reveals the mechanism by which a nation declares war against its own.

Riotsville USA is entirely archival footage with some narration but not a whole lot, which truly helps this documentary get it’s point across. It talks about a lot of different topics such as the history of the police, the government’s control of American protests in the 1960s particularly the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It draws a lot of parallels of the past and present and does a really good job of explaining why, it truly teleports you to the 1960s and shows how these protests happened, why they happened and how did the media react. As far as filmmaking goes it feels very experimental which is a very different approach from a lot of other documentaries I’ve seen, sure the information given In Riotsville USA might not be new but the use of archival footage really makes this a quite disturbing and cold film that I truly believe justifies a watch.

Riotsville USA currently has no release date.

8/10 B+

Sundance Review: The Princess is a haunting documentary with effective use of archival footage.

Princess Diana’s story is told exclusively through contemporaneous archive creating a bold and immersive narrative of her life and death. It also illuminates how the public’s attitude to the monarchy was and still is.

Although The Princess doesn’t say anything new about Princess Diana, the documentary goes for a different approach which is using archival footage with no commentary. Which makes it surprisingly pretty haunting at times, it’s entirely from the media’s point of view and it truly highlights both sides of the media. Showing how much she was loved and how some outlets took advantage of her during scandals, it was outlets going at war with each other which I have to say was very interesting. The archival footage as I said before is very effective, it makes it a lot more raw and definitely gives us a different perspective of what Princess Diana’s life was like in the royal family. We have heard many other documentaries talk about that from people who knew her or family members, but here it definitely feels a lot different. It feels a lot more open which is definitely a lot more effective for the viewer.

The Princess currently has no release date but will be released on HBO later this year.

8/10 B+

Sundance Review: TikTok, Boom doesn’t tell anything new about the popular app.

With TikTok crowned the world’s most downloaded app, these are the personal stories of a cultural phenomenon, told through an ensemble cast of Gen-Z natives, journalists and experts alike.

TikTok, Boom was by far the weakest documentary I watched at Sundance, basically this documentary covers all the controversies that TickTok has been in such as the whole situation with China, the Trump rally being taken over, Trump threatening to shut down TikTok, the BLM hashtag being silenced because of a “glitch” and so on. There is absolutely nothing new here at all that wasn’t on the news, sure the documentary does a decent job of talking about the controversies but if you go into this already knowing everything that has happened with TikTok you are not going to get anything out of this. The best thing I can say about it is at least it was sort of refreshing to hear the perspective of some other TikTokers who aren’t Addison Rae, Bella Poarch or some of the others. But that doesn’t make it an interesting documentary, I guess it ends on a nice message but it doesn’t make up for the rest of the movie being a slog to get through. You are better off just reading news articles about the controversies surrounding the app rather than sitting through the documentary.

TikTok, Boom currently has no release date.

3/10 D-

Val (2021) Movie Review!

Documentary centering on the daily life of actor Val Kilmer featuring never-before-seen footage spanning 40 years.

Val is a very straightforward documentary about Val Kilmer, it’s a heartfelt and at times moving documentary about his life and career as an actor. Kilmer himself is in the documentary and goes into detail of his experiences in certain films he’s been in, there’s also a lot of home movies (that’s mostly filmed by Kilmer himself) and behind the scenes footage that’s used and it’s quite enjoyable to watch. Val is a very personal documentary that Kilmer share’s with the audience, I’ve said this in past but this is the type of documentary where you feel like your having a conversation with someone, in this case Val Kilmer. He’s telling you his experiences as an actor and about his life and the end result is a moving and touching conversation. As far as filmmaking there really isn’t anything noteworthy but in this case there really doesn’t have to be, it’s a personal film that gets the point across pretty well. I say give this one a watch it’s a solid documentary that’s a very enjoyable and moving watch!

Val is now available on Amazon Prime Video!

7/10 B

Summer Of Soul (2021) Movie Review!

Over the course of six weeks during the summer of 1969, thousands of people attend the Harlem Cultural Festival to celebrate Black history, culture, music and fashion.

Summer Of Soul is a fantastic and very wonderful experience, seeing a lot of footage that was thought to be lost be rediscovered and shown to the public. Especially when it’s about the topic of summer of 1969 where thousands of people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival. The documentary is exactly what the description says it’s about, it’s a huge celebration of Black history, culture, music and fashion and every minute of it is glorious. I have said before how I like lost media being found and then being released to the public, this is a prime example of that. The footage shown is absolutely beautiful, it feels like you are there at the festival with everyone just having a great time. It’s time capsule that’s truly beautiful and captures so much about a community coming together and just having fun while talking about important history and issues. I highly recommend giving this one a look if you haven’t already.

Summer of Soul is now available in Theaters and on Hulu!

9/10 A