Review: Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin (2018)
Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett. Written by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder. Directed by Marc Forster.

It’s been thirty years since Christopher Robin last visited the Hundred Acre Wood, and he is sorely missed by its denizens. He’s a man now, with a career as an efficiency manager for a luggage company in post-WWII London. He has a wife and a daughter, and if he ever thinks of his friends Pooh and Piglet, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Christopher Robin is unhappy, despite a lovely family and a good job. His job is draining him, and his sense of duty has removed the joy from his family life.

Since Christopher Robin will not visit the Hundred Acre Wood, which has always been there for him, Winnie-the-Pooh comes looking for Christopher Robin, stumbling into London through the door where they used to meet.

The rest alternates from magically, nostalgically unexpected to disappointingly cliche. By the time it becomes the latter, however, some viewers will have bought into the whole thing. That’s what happened to me. Although I wasn’t once tempted to say “Awwwwww” the way everyone in the row behind me did several times, I admit to a few teary moments. Christopher Robin runs 104 minutes, and about 80 of them are quite sad.

Ewan McGregor is perfectly cast as middle-aged Christopher Robin, reminding me at times of his wonderful Alfred Jones character in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, only not as funny. Brad Garrett seems like a no-brainer to voice Eeyore (my favorite), but he’s kind of distractingly recognizable as Brad Garrett most of the time. Young people will probably not have this issue, as Everybody Loves Raymond has been off the air for thirteen years.

Another excellent decision was to represent the animal characters based on the original drawings by E. H. Shepard in the books, rather than on the Disney cartoons that have replaced them in many of our minds. However the animators managed to put these characters on the screen, the animals seem pretty real to me throughout the film, in both their and Christopher Robin’s realities. Which is rather perfect.

Although I admit I found most of the third act disappointing, I cannot deny the emotional effect the very existence of this film had on me, an enormous fan of the books by A. A. Milne. I did not have these books read to me as a child, and I came to them rather late, beginning in sixth grade and finishing in seventh. I don’t know what drew me to them then, but I hold tightly to them today for their utter lack of cynicism, for their pureness of spirit, and for their steadfast belief in the virtues of kindness, curiosity, imagination, and the specialness of certain relationships.

In a time where certain forces seem determined to erode my confidence in foundational institutions of government, religion, and culture, I’m willing to believe, at least for 104 minutes, that “wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

Small point deduction for not including some variation of that quote somewhere in the film.

8/10
80/100

Friday 5s: Performance Evaluation and Repeat

A couple of Friday 5s (this week’s and last week’s). From here and here.

Friday 5: Performance Evaluation

  1. In what way do you maintain a tidy and efficient workstation?
    My desk at the office is not tidy, but I would like to remind people that I’m a writer with attention issues.  A huge part of my job is thinking, and it helps to surround myself with some visual stimuli, such as a few novels I’m working through or plan to work through someday, some posters on the wall, a printout of an amusing Awkward Yeti comic, some movie ticket stubs, and scraps of writing ideas I’m saving for later.  However, I do tidy it up at the end of every month just to keep things from getting out of hand.  My desk at home is a disaster and I’m thinking of setting the whole thing on fire.
  2. In what way do you maintain positive relationships with others?
    I try to send friendly text messages every so often, most of which get ignored, but that’s fine.  I reach out on social media in positive ways.  I know; I could do a lot better for sure.
  3. What effort do you take to be punctual?
    When I became a bus rider, I repeated the commitment I made the previous time I became a bus rider: no using the bus as an excuse to be late for anything, and no running for a bus.  This mostly keeps me on time for stuff, but when I’m trying to get somewhere I don’t go very often, on a bus line I’m not familiar with, I’m sometimes off the mark.  Most of the time, though, I’m pretty good about getting places on time, which is not one of my skills.
  4. What are your strengths and challenges in communicating effectively?
    In person, I tend to take too many words to say stuff that doesn’t require them.  I also overexplain, probably a vestige leftover from my teaching.
  5. What will be your focus for growth in the coming year?
    I really need to get back to the weight-losing trend I established a couple of years ago.

 

Friday 5: Repeat

  1. What’s something you are repeatedly asked to prove?
    I still get carded when I buy alcohol sometimes, and I was born in the Sixties.  I suppose a bus pass is proof that I paid the monthly fee, and so is a Costco card.  I read an article on network security that says the average person at work has to know eight different passwords just to do his or her job.  I think I have seven, including the entry code for the building door and the combination for the lock that secures my laptop to my desk.
  2. What’s an album you can listen to on endless repeat?
    I’m a guy who does this all the time.  On my all-time list are Extreme’s Extreme II: Pornograffiti, Yes’s Drama, and Styx’s Paradise Theater.  Lately, I’ve had Monster Magnet’s Mindfucker, The Sword’s Used Future, and the Night Flight Orchestra’s Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough.
  3. What’s a story you’ve told several times?
    There used to be this heavy metal record store near on Ward Avenue.  I only went in there once, but it was glorious, and I hoped to get a real job later in high school and spend all my money there and even hang out on weekends, maybe when I got some wheels.  The store didn’t live long and it’s gone, and I apparently have told people this story many times.  They keep letting me tell it even when they’ve heard it.
  4. What’s something you always order at a certain restaurant?
    I like to mix it up, but despite better intentions, whenever I eat at Likelike Drive-In, I seem always to get the loco moco unless they have the pot roast special (they serve it on noodles, which is amazing).  At Koa Cafe, I’ve fallen into a rut, almost always ordering the Denver omelette although I usually go in there telling myself to order something else.  Oh, you know what?  I pretty much always get the Waikiki Burger at Teddy’s.  It’s a teri burger with a hashbrown on the patty.
  5. In what way do you hope this weekend will be exactly like last?
    I hope to get some good sleep.  This past week was night after night of miserable sleep.  Friday night was also pretty bad.  Determined to get good sleep tonight and Sunday.  I hate that this is one of my issues.

Friday 5 for July 20: Acromony

From here.

  1. When were you recently SOL?
    I took Friday off from work because Bruce Cockburn played two shows here for the first time in his 50+ year career.  I had a few errands to run in the morning and took the opportunity to have lunch downtown.  Now that I work in Manoa, I’m almost never downtown on a weekday for lunch anymore and I miss it.  As I passed through this one sandwich spot off Fort Street Mall, I was lured by the digital sign saying the sandwich of the week was a roasted chicken and goat cheese sandwich  with curry mayo.  Sold!  But not really.  It had been last week’s sandwich of the week, and they hadn’t changed the sign yet.  Great.  I ordered instead a half turkey-bacon-avo sandwich on sourdough that would have been decent but it was so messy I had to eat it with a knife and fork.
  2. What was a recent SNAFU?
    Friday I discovered that I didn’t have seven tickets for the Saturday show; I had eight.  Woo.  Sent a few texts to friends who’d probably be interested, but they had family plans.  When I invited the third person on my list, she seemed interested but then I didn’t hear back from her all day Friday, despite my text every few hours.  Ugh.  Now I had this extra ticket, an invitation just hanging out there, and time running out to find a new plan if this person declined.  When I finally heard back Saturday afternoon, my friend said she was bringing her dad.  It was kind of messed up but I refused to worry about it, and it mostly worked out fine.
  3. From what social gathering were you most recently AWOL?
    I planned to get lunch on a work day with a couple of former coworkers at the engineering firm.  But I was working against a deadline so I had to bail.  The friends decided not to meet anyway once I was out.
  4. When has someone reminded you to MYOB?
    I make a huge effort to stay out of other people’s stuff unless it looks like people need help and I might be able to offer it.  When I was in Walmart several months ago to get a micro SD card, the woman in front of me asked the cashier something about USB ports on a wireless keyboard she was holding up.  You should never ask a Walmart cashier a technical question, no matter how easy the question.  I thought I was being helpful when I said the keyboard she had in her hand was wireless and didn’t need a USB, which I now realize was egregious mansplaining, or possibly geeksplaining.  She was an older woman, and I think I assumed she was therefore clueless (I mean, who asks a Walmart cashier a tech questions if she’s not clueless?).  It turns out she was asking for auxiliary USB ports so some things could run off the keyboard.  I apologized but probably not sincerely enough.  She didn’t tell me to MYOB but that’s what she was saying.  It was the message I received anyway.
  5. What might get in your way this weekend as you TCB?
    I’m typing this Sunday morning, so there’s not much weekend left, and the important stuff happened Friday and Saturday.  Most of what I have left is the usual Sunday stuff, so missed buses could foul things up, but probably not much else.  I’m a little behind on my Camp NaNo project, but I’m ahead on my side work, so I may have some time this evening to focus on getting those flash fictions drafted.

More about Bruce later.  Still kind of processing.

Friday 5 for July 13: The Road to H. E. Double Hockeysticks

From here.

  1. What are some titles in your to-read stack?
    My stack is huge and keeps getting huger.  Some books I’m really looking forward to are David Mitchell’s Slade House, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, and a whole bunch of cozy mysteries I recently took a break from.
  2. What are the highlights of this weekend’s to-do list?
    A bit of work for the side gigs, for sure.  Some housecleaning.  A trip to the swap meet for black t-shirts.  Maybe the World Cup final.  I’d like to squeeze in a DVD or two as well.
  3. Which current or upcoming movies are you looking forward to?
    Still haven’t seen The Incredibles 2, and there’s this Ben Foster film called Leave No Trace that interests me even though it’s only playing at Kahala, a theater that’s a bit out of the way for me.  Crazy Rich Asians in August.  A modernization of Little Women at the end of September with Lea Thompson as Marmee.
  4. What’s something you meant to do this past week that will have to wait until next week?
    Really wanted to make a bunch of cucumber kimchi but with Camp NaNoWriMo taking up almost every evening, it’s been tough to make time.  Plus I’ve really tried to put a high priority on getting enough sleep on work nights.  It’s tough to find time for that.  I also have a boatload of films to write reviews for and some website-related maintenance I’ve putting off.
  5. What’s an unfinished project (unrelated to media consumption) you haven’t touched in at least a year?
    Ah shoot.  I started my first cross-stitching project a couple of years ago and it was going really well, but I haven’t had time to finish it up.  It’s sitting in a very visible, prominent space in my living room to remind me that I want to do this.

Camp NaNoWriMo July has consumed me these past couple of weeks and it will continue to do so until the end of the month.  More about this later.

Review: Book Club

Book Club (2018)
Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, Candice Bergen, Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Wallace Shawn, Richard Dreyfuss, Alicia Silverstone, Ed Begley Jr.. Written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms. Directed by Bill Holderman.

Four women who’ve been friends since college have now been a book club for more than thirty years. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen play Diane, Vivian, Carol, and Sharon.

Diane is a recently widowed mother of two adult daughters. She’s going through some reidentification and is unsure of herself, but she’s not nearly as disoriented as her daughters perceive.

Vivian is a builder and owner of hotels, apparently a self-made business success who doesn’t let relationships with men get too serious because they interfere with her independence.

Carol is an empty nester, married to a great guy (Craig T. Nelson) but unhappy with her nonexistent sex life.

Sharon is a judge, divorced for fifteen years. Her adult son is engaged, her ex-husband is dating a much younger woman, and she spends her evenings with a fluffy cat.

At one of the book club meetings one of the women passes around copies of 50 Shades of Grey, which draws complaints and derision from the group, but “bestsellers” is the club’s theme this year, and so they give it a go. The novel inspires them to make a few changes to their love lives, each in her own way.

Some of the sequences are ridiculous, but I suspect we’re meant to take the themes seriously but not the stories, and if you’re capable of doing this, you’ll find a few things to like here. I already have a Mary Steenburgen bias, so I love every scene she’s in, pretty much. Of the four main characters, Candice Bergen’s Sharon is perhaps the most interesting.

I was frustrated with Diane Keaton’s character Diane, because she’s forced to play a character who’s nonassertive around her adult kids, a mode that doesn’t suit the actress well at all. It isn’t until nearly the end of the film where we see Keaton shine as an actress. I wished her story could have begun right there.

It’s a harmless movie, but in this era of gigantic comic book superhero films, its existence and box office popularity feel important. Here are four celebrated actresses of proven competence, yet how often do we get to see them in starring roles anymore? The movie is worth seeing if only to send a message to Hollywood that there’s a market here. Let’s not waste good talent.

6/10
61/100

Friday 5: Happy ASLIRT

From here.

It’s about trail mix, you see?  ASLIRT.  Trail mix.  Or trails mix I guess.

  1. What are your favorite and least favorite nuts?
    I guess pistachios are my favorite, but I want to shout out two non-nuts that are nutty enough for consideration: cashews and pumpkin seeds.  Although I certainly don’t dislike them, I’m beginning not to be thrilled about either walnuts or pecans, exept in a pecan pie.
  2. What are your favorite and least favorite berries?
    My favorite are blackberries, with strawberries a close second.  My least favorite are raspberries, which I will eat if they are placed in front of me but will not place them in front of me myself.  You know those berry mixes in the freezer aisle?  I don’t buy those because a third of those mixes is always raspberries.  I’ll be darned if I’m going to pay for them.  I will make my own blueberry-blackberry-strawberry mix myself, thank you.
  3. What are your favorite and least favorite tropical fruits?
    It’s a sad thing that I have lived in the tropics pretty much my whole life and do not love tropical fruit.  I guess I’ll go with lychee as a favorite and mango as a least favorite, although there’s a local tradition of pickling green mango, and that’s pretty good eating, I guess because I just love vinegar so much.  In recent years, I’ve taught myself to like banana.  I am now trying to do the same with papaya.
  4. What are your favorite and least favorite varieties of M&Ms?
    My favorite are peanut butter, with rice krispies second.  My least are either those berry-flavored ones the mint ones.  I dig mint with chocolate (those Hershey Cookies & Mint bars are amazing), but the mint in the M&Ms is disgusting.  It tastes like brushing your teeth and eating chocolate at the same time.
  5. What are your favorite and least favorite raisin-containing foods?
    My favorite are cinnamon raisin bagels.  My least favorite might be bread pudding.  I eat them when they’re in there, but I can’t help feeling like they’re degrading a perfectly good bread pudding.  You know, it’s also true of rice pudding with raisins.  Let’s just keep raisins out of any pudding.

Friday 5: Scattergories, Part 8

From here.

I rolled the letter G.  I like it.  Surely not a gimme, but not crazy difficult either.  I always find G words intriguing.  For example, what do you think is the largest American city whose name begins with G?  Galveston?  Grand Rapids?   Can you even think of other cities beginning with G?  I just looked it up, and it’s Greensboro, North Carolina, whose 2010 Census data says it has 269,666 residents, good enough for 68th largest in the country.   Next is Glendale, Arizona, with 226,721, the 87th largest.  Gilbert, Arizona (91st), Garland, Texas (95th), and Glendale, California (112th), all come in ahead of Grand Rapids, Michigan at 119.  Galveston doesn’t make it into the top 311.  Sheldon Cooper was a big fish in a small pond, I guess.

    1. What’s a movie you love whose title begins with the letter?
      Librarians say The Greatest Showman begins with G, but maybe that’s cheating.  I mean the title isn’t Greatest Showman.   Movies I’ve seen that legitimately begin with G include Galaxy Quest, Garden State, Gates of Heaven, Gattaca, Get Him to the Greek, Get Low, Get Smart, Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal, Get on the Bus, Ghost, Ghost World, Ghostbusters, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Global Metal, Glory, Gnomeo & Juliet, God Said Ha!, Gods and Monsters, Goin’ Coconuts, Going Ape!, Gone, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Good Hair, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Goodfellas, Gosford Park, Grand Canyon, Grease, Gremlins, Gross Anatomy, Groundhog Day, Gulliver’s Travels, Gung Ho, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Gangster Squad, Garden of Words, Gimme the Loot, Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla, and Gravity.  There are some great movies in that list, but my favorite is easily Groundhog Day.  Top 20 movie of all time for me.
    2. What’s a popular tourist destination whose name begins with the letter?
      The Grand Canyon certainly qualifies, but the Texas Rangers (Texas again?) play in Globe Life Park in Arlington (the “in Arlington” is part of its name), the Cincinnati Reds play in Great American Ball Park, and the Chicago White Sox play in Guaranteed Rate Field.  I would rather visit each of those ballparks a few times each before the Grand Canyon .
    3. What’s something you do, whose name begins with the letter, when you’re very happy?
      I’m neither much of a gloater nor gamboler, so how about just grinning?
    4. What’s a frightening animal whose name begins with the letter?
      Are you supposed to be afraid of gila monsters?  No?  Okay then:  Great.  White.  Shark.
    5. Who’s a person you admire whose name begins with the letter?
      My first answer is Geddy Lee of Rush, but I talk about Rush all the time, so let’s take a moment to appreciate George Thorogood.  George is sort of Geddy’s opposite.  Where just about everything about Rush is precise, considered, exact, almost strangely (and beautifully) mechanical, George’s playing style is loose and messy, dirty and nasty.  It almost seems like he just puts his chording hand wherever it lands on the fretboard, and he does something with whatever sound happens to come out.  Someday I’ll take formal lessons, and I envision myself telling my instructor to teach me how to play like George Thorogood.  This live video of my favorite Thorogood song is super cool because it includes Elvin Bishop.  “One drink ain’t enough, Jack; you better bring three.”

Now I (kssssssssh) Lay Me (ksssssssssssssh) Down

The sleep thing continues to be an issue.  I can neither explain nor understand it.  I get home from work with the clearest, best intentions of getting stuff ready for the next morning (I’m okay there), then doing something to unwind, then putting myself to bed properly, getting a good rest — thanks to my Darth Vader machine — and waking up refreshed and ready for another day.

In the past ten days, it’s worked out this way maybe once.  It’s comical and heartbreaking at the same time, which I just realized should probably be my epitaph.

After weeks of breaking my own promises to myself, I finally made those doctor appointments.  Had my blood pressure taken, and it was almost fifty points lower than when I first had it looked at last August, but it was up a few ticks from the last time several months ago.  Ugh.  Doctor upped my meds by 25% (two pills in the morning instead of the one and a half) and I go back in a month to check it again.  My systolic has gone steadily down, which is a big encouragement.

I see the eye doctor Monday afternoon.  I think it’s time for a field of vision test, but this one might just be eye pressures to see if I’m holding.  I should be; I take my eyedrops religiously, which is one of the idiotic reasons I haven’t always been putting Darth Vader on my face.  The stupid eyedrops go in, and I have to lie still for three minutes or so.  I usually make it five just to be safe.  And you know what happens?  I fall asleep.  I do set a timer, but the timer goes off and instead of reaching over and grabbing the face mask, I just hit the kill button and stay where I am.

Sigh.

I also discovered (because I finally read the accompanying literature, only eight months after my diagnosis) that replacement Darth Vader parts are covered 80% by my insurance if I order through the approved vendor.  Different components have different wait times for replacement approval, but I was eligible to get everything replaced.  My 20% share came out to $67 bucks, which is kind of alarming.  Not for me, but for people who don’t have the insurance I have.

My weight is up a few ticks from the last time I looked at it, but down seven pounds overall since last August.  Should probably keep that trend going.

Friday 5: Gear

Friday 5 from here.

This isn’t the exact corker I have, but it’s pretty close. You turn this thing over so that the plunger is on the underside. Directly below the plunger is a cavity into which you put a cork that’s been soaking in water overnight. You squeeze the the other handles together, compressing the cork in the cavity. Then you turn the device back up (so it’s oriented as in this photo), place the cavity over the mouth of the wine bottle and plunge the plunger, forcing the cork into the opening of the bottle. The cork expands to fill the neck.
  1. What kind of specialized equipment do you own for a specific non-electronic hobby or job?
    Okay, here’s one I may not have written about.  I used to make wine.  Fruit wine, as opposed to grape wine.  I still consider it a hobby despite having put it on hold for the past ten years or so.  Still read up on it, still window-shop the winemaking vendor websites, still make plans for the next batch I plan to make.  The hobby of winemaking suits my personality very well: it requires some intense attention but not every day.  It requires a lot of patience.  And it helps if the winemaker is a bit adventurous.  So I have a bunch of winemaking stuff: carboys, bungs, airlocks, hydrometers, funnels, and tubing aren’t exclusive to winemaking, but I have a corker, a device that squeezes corks so you can insert them into the necks of bottles.  Also corks, yeast (Montrachet and Champagne) and other chemicals to keep things either sterile or alive.
  2. In what way can this equipment be upgraded or souped-up, and how difficult or expensive would the update be?
    There’s definitely high-end winemaking stuff but it’s not a lot better than mid-level stuff, so I don’t feel the need to upgrade.  I did get one of the better corkers; it’s a device I’m rather fond of.  My next toy, whenever I get around to making my next batch, will be an air gun.  I’m not sure if that’s what it’s called, but it’s like a blow-dryer amped up, the sort you might use if you were shaping plastics.  You  know the foil that wraps around the mouth and upper neck of the wine bottle?  The air gun shrink-wraps the foil there so nothing messes with the corkWhen critters are aware of something good behind the cork, they will nibble at it until they finally get through.  Please don’t ask me how I know.
  3. In your fields of interest, what’s the gear envy like?
    You know, I don’t know any other winemakers, so I wouldn’t know.  I look through the catalogs and there’s stuff I want, but I don’t necessarily envy people who have it, perhaps because I don’t know anyone who has it.  If I hung out at the local winemaking supply store more, I would probably have a better answer.  As you can tell from my verbosity, winemakers love talking about winemaking.  I seldom go into the supply store anymore, but whenever I do, I take my purchases to the register and I can count on the cashier to ask me what he or she asks everyone: “What are you making?”  It’s mostly a homebrew store, actually, and I guess homebrew people are about the same kind of person as the winemakers.
  4. What’s something you own the old version of because it’s better than the new version?
    If you’d asked me this question two weeks ago, I’d have said my iPhone 5s.  I held onto that thing as long as I possibly could because I didn’t like the larger sizes of the newer models.  I no longer think this, and I feel great about moving on.  Oh shoot, I meant for these answers to be non-electronic.  I suppose the easy answer is books, since reading is my favorite thing in the world.  This question is difficult.  Who’s the banana who wrote it?
  5. What’s a hobby you don’t engage in that intrigues you mostly because of its equipment or tools?
    You know, fishers seem to have cool stuff.  Oh, and bowlers.

Review: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)
Written and directed by Mark Hartley.

Until I popped this DVD into my player, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Cannon Films, although I consider myself a casual fan of Troma Entertainment, the super-low-budget-film company that seems to be Cannon’s kindred spirit.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a documentary about the rise and fall of a movie production company owned by two cousins who just loved to make movies. Gifted salesmen, they made a career-long practice of coming up with a movie title, creating a movie poster, showing the poster to possible investors, and collecting the money for production, often before a script was written or actors cast.

Their figure-it-out-as-we-go approach often meant budgets far lower than expected, story changes in the middle of filming, and bizarre casting decisions. Yet like Troma, Cannon seemed to figure that low budgets meant easier profits, and they could put out a lot of movies in short amounts of time if they didn’t sweat stuff like quality or cohesion. As long as their films had lots of sex, monsters, and explosions, sometimes in the same scene, they knew people would have a good time and come back for the fifth and sixth sequels.

When one of the cousins saw a breakdancer on a Los Angeles sidewalk, he immediately set into motion the production of a movie about breaking. He hired the dancers who would be his stars, hurriedly wrote a story about them, and raced through filming because he heard that another studio was filming Beat Street. For Cannon, it was about getting out there first, not best. Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo were among Cannon’s first hits, but they were not the last.

Other well-known hit-or-miss-but-mostly-miss titles the company cranked out are the Happy Hooker and Emmanuelle series, three Death Wish sequels, the American Ninja trilogy, almost every Chuck Norris film including the Missing in Action and Delta Force series, Runaway Train, King Solomon’s Mines, Over the Top, Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Barfly, Invasion U.S.A., and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. At the same time, it is a hilarious yet impressive filmography. Is there a movie fan older than thirty who hasn’t seen at least a small handful of these pictures?

Writer-director Mark Hartley interviews nearly thirty actors, producers, and directors about their memories of working for Cannon, including Bo Derek, Sybil Danning, Richard Chamberlain, Dolph Lundgren, Molly Ringwald, Franco Zeffirelli, Cassandra Peterson (Elvira!), Tobe Hooper, Elliot Gould, Robert Forster, and John Avildsen. Some of them have nothing nice to say about their experiences with Cannon, while others wax a bit more nostalgic. The tone is mostly one of amusement, but many contributors admit that there was something valuable about making these films, and something valuable in the films themselves.

In one segment, the directors talk about how the execs at Cannon promised that they would be allowed to make the movies they wanted, with very little interference from leadership. They don’t seem always to have kept the promise, but you can see why such noted filmmakers as Avildsen, Hooper, Zeffirelli, and John Cassavetes would be willing to work with smaller budgets for a company with Cannon’s checkered past. Zeffirelli says his Otello, a Cannon movie, is the best film of his career.

Would you rather act in a crappy movie or no movie at all? Would you rather direct one with a small budget but creative control, or one with much more backing but much more oversight? These are identity-defining questions, and if nothing else, Cannon offered actors and directors the choice.

This is a funny documentary and making art is a funny thing. Should lack of talent or resources keep you from the joy of creating? I say no, and if there’s some sincerity in Cannon’s love of making movies, maybe there’s something valuable in the art itself.

I laughed aloud multiple times, and am inspired to check out more of the Cannon team’s work.

8/10
81/100