First of all, if you haven’t sampled the first season of The Toys That Made Us, go and smash that out quickly now. It’s only four episodes and won’t take long. We’ll wait for you. Back again? Great! By now, you’re probably hooked on the irreverent style of this novel documentary series, what with its effortless humour, fascinating first-hand accounts and even a bit of historical recreation with dodgy 70’s haircuts. What’s the basic gist? In Season 1, TTTMU delved into Star Wars, G.I. Joe, He-Man and Malibu Stacy (sorry, force of habit, Barbie). Season 2 offers very in-depth, behind-the-scenes access to the usually secretive dealmakers and artisans behind the toy lines of LEGO, Star Trek, Transformers and Hello Kitty.Don’t expect to be bogged down in borax and boredom though – this is a documentary anthology for casual outsiders, not the diehard collectors themselves. You’ll receive an easy-to-follow walkthrough of each toy’s cultural significance, the key personnel involved and the financial rollercoaster ride to success (or failure) that followed. The interviewees here are surprisingly candid and often emotional about the opportunities won and lost thirty odd years ago. Take Peter Cullen for example, who is still the voice of Optimus Prime. There’s a touching moment when he recounts some pre-audition advice his decorated Vietnam vet brother gave him on how a “real hero” sounds compared to phoney, aggressive Hollywood heroes. The advice was heeded, Peter landed the gig and a truer rendition of heroic leadership was channelled out to a generation of kids. These are the insights that make this documentary series worth the watch.
Other interesting titbits include Lucille Ball (of I Love Lucy fame) being involved in the Star Trek toys with Rod Roddenberry and her production company. There’s also the tale of toy company Meego, who later secured the license for $5000 to milk $50 million out of it. Dazzle your Transformer-loving mates with the fact that Hasbro was basically copy-pasting the Japanese products of Microman and Diaclone (who in turn had evolved their own robot lines from Hasbro’s own 1964 G.I. Joe toy). It was all a bit incestuous, to be honest.Fans of Hello Kitty might want to keep the anthropomorphic action going with a Netflix anime called Aggretsuko (translation: Aggressive Retsuko). Fair warning, though, it’s a Sanrio production for adults. Think: a 25-year-old Red Panda languishing in an advertising department – her only stress relief, the death metal amateur karaoke circuit. No, for real. That’s the plot.Meanwhile, anybody seeking robots who “have more to them than meets the eye” would do well to check out both Transformers Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise on Netflix. For an extra ton of Cybertron, you should also seek out Transformers: The Last Night on Foxtel Now.
Trekkies have plenty of dessert options, too. Foxtel and Prime Video are home to the 1966 Star Trek series and J.J.’s lens-flare-a-go-go 2009 film. We also highly recommend you energise over some Star Trek Discovery via Netflix. Phenomenal new series that one. Set our faces to stunned.
Last but not least, the LEGO brand has built itself quite the home on Netflix. If you haven’t yet seen the LEGO Movie or the LEGO Batman Movie, you need to amend that error now or go hit the bricks, pal.
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
John Waters (Seed of Chucky)
Matt Stone (South Park)
Maria Bello (The Cooler)
Racvhel Blanchard (Chasing Holden)
In a rare and refreshing reversal of roles, filmmakers put the powerful Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA for short) under the microscope for inspection in Academy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick’s incisive look at stateside cinema’s most notorious non-censoring censors. Compelled by the staggering amount of power that the MPAA ratings board wields, the filmmaker seeks out the true identities of the anonymous elite who control what films make it to the multiplex. He even goes so far as to hire a private investigator to stake out MPAA headquarters and expose Hollywood’s best-kept secret. Along the way, Dick speaks with numerous filmmakers whose careers have been affected by the seemingly random and sexual-content obsessed judgments of the MPAA, including John Waters, Mary Harron, Darren Aronofsky, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, and Atom Egoyan.
Since the Hays Code, filmmakers have had a lot more freedom over the content of their films. However, the MPAA ratings board still does exercise a certain de facto censorship power. Most people do not realize this. “This Film is not Yet Rated” exposes the arbitrariness, secrecy, and bias of the MPAA ratings board and makes the viewer question why movies receive the ratings they do. Kirby Dick puts together a nice cross-section of directors and “talking heads” who discuss the MPAA ratings board’s biases when it comes to realism, sex, violence, gay themes, and other taboo issues in films. Dozens of major directors have had problems with the MPAA ratings board – they either received the NC-17 (or the old “X”) rating or had to cut their films to meet the requirements of the ratings board. Some examples are: Kubrick, Tarantino, Lynch, Woo, Friedkin, Peckinpah, Aronofsky, and countless others. This film exposes the fact that the ratings board is made up of people who are given NO criteria and NO training for rating films, so they basically use their own personal (and obviously heavily biased) judgments to decide what rating a particular movie should receive. This is an important film because so few people realize how movies are rated in the U.S. Even fewer realize how problematic (biased, anti-democratic, non-transparent, not accountable) our system is. It is also well put together, so it is easier to watch than most documentaries. I would have liked to have heard more comparisons between the U.S. rating system and others worldwide, something that was only briefly touched upon.
Roddy McDowall (Batman: The Animated Series)
Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur)
Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Linda Harrison (Batman: The Series 1966)
Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek II)
James Naughton (Hostages)
This release was first broadcast by American Movie Classics (AMC) and is hosted by the late Roddy McDowell who played “Cornelius”. Included here is three plus hours of footage (in addition to the main documentary) that will be most welcome to fans of the series and a pleasant surprise to those like myself who are not that familiar with “Apes”. All five films in the series are covered and trailers included for all. Also here is the 1967 North American Theatre Owners (NATO) presentation as well as a fascinating screen test featuring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson, who was originally tapped to play Heston’s ape nemesis, but later bowed out due to health concerns.
All in all, this will appeal to two groups of DVD fans-those that love the “Apes” series and those who love behind the scenes and “the making of” type documentaries.
Robert Englund (Wishmaster)
Heather Langenkamp (Hellraiser: Judgement)
Wes Craven (Scream 4)
Robert Shaye (New Nightmare)
Amanda Wyss (Highlander: THe Series)
Jsu Garcia (Along Came Polly)
Johnny Depp (Blow)
John Saxon (From Dusk Till Dawn)
Leslie Hoffman (Star Trek: DS9)
Robert Rusler (Weird Science)
Kim Myers (Hellraiser 4)
Clu Gulager (The Virginian)
Marshall Bell (Total Recall)
Ken Sagoes (Intolerable Cruelty)
Rodney Eastman (I Spit On Your Grave)
Penelope Dudrow (After Midnight)
Jennifer Rubin (Screamers)
Ira Heiden (Alias)
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Priscilla Pointer (The Flash
Brooke Bundy (General Hospital)
Lisa Wilcox (Watchers Reborn)
Tuesday Knight (The Fan)
Lisa Zane (Bad Influence)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Kane Hodder (Jaxon X)
Breendan Fletcher (Bloodrayne 3)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
The documentary itself lasts just under 4 hours, each film gets at least 25 minutes dedicated to it, and Freddy’s Nightmares and New Line Cinema get a brief discussion as well. Asides from Johnny Depp and Patricia Arquette more or less everyone from the 8 films is interviewed. I watched the whole documentary in one sitting, at no point does it drag. It isn’t just talking heads there are interesting behind the scenes photos and videos, some of which feature unused special effects and deleted scenes – including a replacement for Robert Englund if he had wanted to much of a pay rise for the second film, I’ll say this, thankfully the two parties came to agreement! The interviewees don’t just pander to one another and pat each other on the back, they are quick to point out flaws in their own performances and disappointment with others.
Highly recommended. It is the perfect companion to the films.
The slasher movie has always been looked upon with much disdain by critics, fans of ‘real’ film and even some horror fans for many years, which is strange considering its endurance; there are well over 500 in existence from the roots of ‘Psycho’ all the way up to features like ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane’ and the remake of ‘April Fool’s Day’. As an advocate of the genre with an academic background in film, I was glad that somebody finally took the time to make a serious documentary that didn’t spend all its time telling us things we already knew.
‘Going to Pieces’ is based on Adam Rockoff’s book (which restricted itself to covering the years 1974-1986) and goes through the central elements of the genre with interjections from individuals who have contributed landmark productions to it (Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Sean Cunningham, even Amy Holden Jones!) and clips from a large cross-section of films. The only possible flaw is that it focuses much of its time on the well-known franchises. Even through tribute is paid to the likes of ‘Happy Birthday to Me’, ‘Graduation Day’, ‘The Burning’ and the ultra-trashy ‘Pieces’, where is ‘Hell Night’? More importantly, where is the original ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’? While this is a minor point, it’s more than compensated for with some previously banned footage, most notably the pitchfork-shower scene from ‘The Prowler’, which was heavily scissored by the BBFC.
Time is taken to attempt to defend the genre somewhat, by drawing analogies between ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and other properties and making a case for (most of) these films really being more than simplistic body count gorefests; slasher movies can be cathartic. Genre-haters Ebert and Siskel appear in their famous rant about sleazy horror, which centered around misogyny and the lack of art – I wonder what they’d make of this?
Definitely worth a look for those curious about the genre; even my anti-horror friend was slightly humbled that there could be intellectual thought surrounding these films!
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Pamela Adlon (Some Girl)
Charlie Adler (Wall-E)
Carlos Alazraqui (Free Birds)
Jack Angel (A.I.)
Ed Asner (Batman: TAS)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Eric Bauza (Batman: Assault on Arkham)
Jeff Bennett (The Return of Jafar)
Bob Bergen (Up)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Steven Blum (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Jim Cummings (Aladdin)
Grey DeLisle (Ultimate Avengers)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylkon 5)
June Foray (Cinderella)
Pat Fraley (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Nika Futterman (Hey Arnold)
Seth Green (Family Green)
Matt Groening (The Simpsons)
Jennifer Hale (Spider-Man Unlimited)
Mark Hamill (Batman: TAS)
Jess Harnell (Transformers)
David Herman (Futurama)
Richard Steven Horvitz (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Danny Jacobs (Ultimate Spide-Man)
Tom Kane (Star wars: The Clone Wars)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)
Josh Keaton (The Spectacular Spider-Man)
Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
Phill LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Janet Waldo (The Jetsons)
Rachael MacFarlane (American Dad)
Jason Marsden (Full House)
Mona Marshall (Fraggle Rock)
Breckin Meyer (Garfield)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Colleen Villard (Static Shock)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Nolan North (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Rob Paulsen (The Mask: TAS)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Stephen Root (Dodgeball)
Marion Ross (Happy Days)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Cree Summer (Bambi II)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: The Brave and The Bold)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde)
Kari Wahlgren (Ben 10)
Jim Ward (Wolverine and The X-Men)
Billy West (Futurama)
I Know That Voice (2013) takes a gander at a subject that many of us never give much credence to. This film takes a personal look at what it means to be an actor who is never actually seen on screen. I speak of the voice over artists who use their gift of gab to create and bring to life some of the most iconic characters in the world of entertainment. Produced by John DiMaggio (the alcohol fueled robot Bender from the popular series Futurama), this film feels like a labor of love and what unfolds is wonderful.The movie explains the history of voice artists from the beginning of talkies until present day, peppering in a slew of interviews from some of the most popular talent out there. Weaving a tale of both the struggles and the love of the business, I Know That Voice keeps you interested from start to finish as the actors known for being silly animated characters, show you a side of the process which makes the viewer appreciate what was once looked at as child’s fair. Throughout, you meet everyone from Sponge Bob to Roger Rabbit. And these are truly actors, damn fine ones at that.