Elizabeth A Portrait In Parts: One To Anger Both The Royalists And The Anti-Royalists

1.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A documentary about the life of Queen Elizabeth II told in parts.

Man, there was a lot wrong with this film.  I am going to assume that a lot of the more questionable aspects of this were done for stylistic reasons because other wise I can see no clear justification.

Firstly to the issues of this as a documentary. There was no narration and no interviews it was simply a series of seemingly connected bits of stock footage pieced together, sometimes this stock footage wouldn’t even be of the Queen but from films or other things which added to the confusion of the film. Moreover, there were a lot of odd time jumps within the film that made it hard to follow, an example would be intercutting the Prince Andrew Pizza Express interview between segments on Princess Diana, who thought this was a good idea?

Moreover, I found this piece to be manically depressing showing a woman who has given so much of herself to the public that she has nothing left. There are moments in this film were the Queen looks thoroughly miserable and like she hates the life she has been forced into. Maybe that comes from my reading of the film but it made it hard for me to get through.

Finally there are a number of odd musical choices such as a song by Stormzy and a song wherein the singer wants to have sex with the Queen, both of which feel disrespectful but also incredibly out of place, who did the score for this film?

Overall, a very bad attempt at documentary that will likely leave no one happy.

Pros.

It is at times so strange that it becomes funny

A few nice moments

Cons.

The out of place songs

It is depressing

It doesn’t work as a documentary

It jumps around far too much in a timeline sense

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Navalny: Calling Up Your Would Be Murderers

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

This documentary follows Alexei Navalny in the aftermath of the attempt on his life by the Russian Government as he tries to find out who the assassins were and continues his fight against the Russian regime.

I thought this was a hugely eye opening documentary, not in that it revealed anything that I didn’t already know, but because it highlighted to me the impunity with which the Russian government is able to influence things abroad and the complete control they have at home. With the current war in Ukraine this feels especially relevant and chilling.

I thought the tone of the documentary was a nice mix of happiness and sadness, obviously a lot of the events depicted are manically depressing, but there are some moments of levity peppered throughout, such as the scenes with the pony which I particularly enjoyed. Moreover, on the pacing front I liked that this documentary didn’t spend very long at all explaining who Navalny was and assumed that its audience already had a degree of knowledge on the subject. It is nice for media to have that faith in the audience.

Overall, I think this documentary is a must watch, especially with the current geo-political situation being what it is.

Pros.

It is very informative

It is inspirational

It maintains a good tone and pace

The pony scenes

Cons.

Some of the scenes feel a little disjointed and out of place

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Sideworld Haunted Forests Of England: Viewing Material Before Your Next Trip To The Woods

5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

3 of England’s most haunted forests are explored with their myths and folklore brought to life.

I can’t believe George Popov has done it again, he has forged yet another masterpiece after his previous work The Droving. I think this film spoke to me so much personally because I am a huge folklore fan, I love going to new locations and learning about their strange and mysterious pasts, my book shelf is filled with tomes about mysteries and ghost stories and so this film was right up my alley.

I enjoyed how the film was set out, I thought by exploring 3 different forests and by extension 3 different types of folklore the film allowed itself a lot of room to stay fresh and also produce so really strong scares. I was surprised at how many times this film unsettled me, moreover it not only unsettled me but it also stayed with me after watching, I found myself still creeped out hours later.

I also think another strength of this film that is no less important is the fact that it teaches you more about England, and for those of us that live in Britain that means we learn more about our island and possibly have new places to visit next Halloween. I always enjoy films that can teach me something I didn’t know before and this definitely does that.

Overall, a deeply engaging, creepy affair and definitely one to check out.

Pros.

It teaches you a lot

It is scares

The folklore is fascinating

The pacing is superb

It stay with you

Cons.

None.

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Why Me: In Search Of Answers

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Actor Pietro Sermonti goes in search of answers regarding how much our DNA predetermines our life.

I thought this documentary was quite informative and posed questions I had never really thought about before, I can say that I feel smarter for watching it.

Moreover, I thought the cast of talking heads the film brought together were a nice mix, I found them to be both knowledge able, but also from enough different areas and backgrounds that it never felt one sided in it’s exploration of the subject area.

Overall, interesting for about three quarters of the run time, sadly that other quarter really drags.

Pros.

It is interesting, for the most part

A good selection of talking heads

It is informative and I felt like I learnt something from it

Cons.

Pacing issues

Some sections went on for too long and approached boredom

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Tiger King Season Two: Series Overview

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

All of the supposed Tiger Kings and Queens are back for a follow up.

The biggest question I have for this show after watching it is did we need the second season at all? What did it add? In many ways, it just showed us more of the same and doubled down on a lot of the themes and narrative through lines of the first season. Including more of the unethical issues that many decried the first series for, to see an example of what I and others are talking about consider the issue of bias within the second season of Tiger King. There are clear heroes and villains in the overarching narrative of the show and this is less to do with who is or isn’t guilty but rather who the public latched on to. Yes, I am talking about Joe Exotic. The second season is incredibly in love with him, and decides to ignore his rather obvious animal abuse charges and instead paint him as some kind of falsely accused, for the murder for hire plot, folk hero whilst painting all of his enemies even the ones not convicted of any wrong doings as villains. You can see why Carole Baskin didn’t want to come back.

In the sense of a true documentary this series is and always has been an abject failure. It does not care about the truth but rather what is the most entertaining narrative, as such it is more akin to reality TV. It is in this sense I come to my review score because whilst this season did not need to exist I did find it entertaining whilst it was on, I enjoyed the roadshow as much as anyone else so whilst I can stand here and say it is bias therefore it is a bad documentary series, I think it is already aware of that and doesn’t care.

Furthermore, in some ways this second season provided comfort to me as we got to see a lot of the worst characters from the first season go to prison, or be on their way there, which restores some of my faith in humanity.

Overall, though it was unneeded and incredibly bias, I did still enjoy my time with the series.

Pros.

Dumb fun

The absurdity

Seeing some of the cruel animal abusers facing consequence

Cons.

The clear bias

It was needless

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Borley Rectory: Animation Makes Everything Creepier

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An animated documentary telling the history of ‘the most haunted house in Britain’.

I found this to be quite the frightening watch, the fact it was animated rather than the standard live action documentary really helped to give it a leg up over the competition. In that vein the film offers a number of striking visuals through this medium that stick with you after watching, my favourite and the one I found to be the creepiest would be the ghost man sitting on the little girls bed and turning to look into the camera.

Moreover, I found this to be a good documentary both in the sense that it was entertaining, the learning was fun, but also because it helped me to better understand the haunted geography and landscape of my own country a bit better. Before this I had a base understanding of why Borley Rectory was supposed to be haunted, now I know enough to confidently converse on the subject- as I am doing now.

My one issue with this film would be that it jumped around in time a lot. Now quite a lot of documentaries jump around with time but normally they do it in a linear way as in this happened then this then this, however this film doesn’t abide by that rule and jumps backwards as well as forwards which quickly becomes confusing. This is certainly not the sort of film you can ‘half’ watch as you will soon be lost with it.

Overall, a good creepy documentary.

Pros.

It is scary

The animation gives it an edge

A few good scares

It is interesting

Cons.

It can be confusing

It ends rather abruptly   

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The Sparks Brothers: Committed To The Music

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A look at the career so far of the Sparks Brothers, known more widely as the rock duo Sparks.

This documentary made me aware of and listen to Sparks for the first time so in that regard it is a huge success. I found the documentary to be different to the standard life of x musician fare that often clogs up the genre and thought that this was a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed the more out there and experimental visuals that this film employs to relay its history to us, it made everything pop just that bit more and become more memorable.

I thought the documentary did a very thorough job of covering the lives and careers of the Brothers Mael and its attention to detail really helps to paint a picture for us the audience, helping us to better understand the brothers both as artists and as people. I also enjoyed the various famous faces giving their own stories about how the brothers have impacted them in separate ways. It is clear to see that a personal attachment has been made.

The strongest part of this film is by far its soundtrack. Even if like me you start this film not knowing who or what Sparks is, by the end you will be dancing along. I found myself being given an auditory crash course on all things Sparks as I learnt about the life and times of its members, it was a very effective conversion; like I said earlier, I have since been listening to them fairly often since watching.

My one criticism, and it is fairly large, is that this film is on for far too long. Though I enjoyed the presentation and the soundtrack and the story itself I feel it could have been condensed down. What we are presented with is simply too long, and though I was still enjoying the music by the end my mind was elsewhere.

Overall, a good music documentary that manages to separate itself from the pack, though it could have done with being shorter.

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Operation Varsity Blues: Matthew Modine Rocking The Bowl Cut

Written by Luke Barnes

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is a drama documentary film based on real events, told using dramatic recreations and talking head interviews with those involved. The film explores the issues surrounding the college admissions scandal that saw a number of rich and in some cases famous people face jail time after bribing college officials to allow their children entry into the most prestigious universities in the United States.

Much like Netflix’s Fyre documentary this film will see you laughing and taking a small amount of joy out of seeing these privileged people be reminded that the rules do apply to them, and that they can’t just do what they want.

Also much like Fyre this documentary is fairly trashy and salacious, making sure to cram in and shame as many famous faces as it possibly can during its runtime, which is not inherently a bad thing more so it places this film firmly in the category of junk food documentary.

Something that bothered me about this film is the way they structure the ending sequence. As is fairly common practice the ending of a documentary usually features some text about ongoing events or updates that have happened since filming. This film decides to list the legal sentences that each culprit got instead, which is a novel idea, however, where it goes wrong is that in some cases certain people hadn’t been convicted or tried by the time of filming, and as such when the film shows them in the end credits it just says how they pled and not the conviction, which becomes jarring and confusing quickly.

Another thing that is quite confusing about this film is the use of recreations and talking head interviews, as we will be shown the real perpetrators on screen in an image but then for the purpose of the film be shown an actor standing in for the person, as they clearly didn’t want anything to do with the documentary, this again becomes confusing. More so when the film starts to blend the lines of based on true events drama and a standard documentary.

Overall, Matthew Modine sinks into his role as the mastermind of the scheme, Rick Singer and there is a lot of interesting and infuriating fun to be had here, however, several artistic choices hurt the film and I think the concept as a whole should have been better refined and adapted, the talking heads and the recreations together don’t work.  

Pros.

Modine

Trashy fun

A few interesting points raised

Cons.

An incomplete ending

The format doesn’t work as the recreations frequently clash with the talking heads

2.5/5

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Interview With Darcy Weir: Head Writer/ Director For Crop Circle Realities

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to chat to Darcy Weir about their documentary film Crop Circle Realities, the film serves to investigate the phenomena of crop circles and tries to suggest possible origin theories for them. We discuss other worldly visitors, UFO’s and of course the actual origins of crop circles, I hope you enjoy!

Q: What word would you use to describe Crop Circle Realities?

DW: Informative


Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?

DW: James Fox

Q:  What was the catalyst for you making this film?

DW: I found this story sitting in some hay in England…Jaime Maussan and I had done a couple documentaries together

and I saw how for years since the early 90’s he had been flying over to England to observe first-hand the crop circles as they appeared.

I wanted to find out more about his experience and what he had learned. This led me to meeting Gary King, who was the first person to

lead Jaime Maussan around a crop circle. It was all laid out for me from there.


Q:  Did you run into any stumbling blocks while making this film?

DW: Yes, I was looking for the original video of the Oliver Castle UFO laying a crop circle formation and through Tercer Milenio a Mexican News agency, I was able to obtain it finally.


Q: Do you have any fun on-set stories?

DW: Jaime Maussan fell off his seat at one time because he was startled by a call that he received on his cell phone mid interview. We had to cut that take for sure.


Q: What was your message with this film what were you trying to convey? 

DW: Not all crop circles are manmade, and the ones from an off world source have important messages for mankind. “Much pain, but there’s still time”.


Q: If you could go back in time to when you were first starting out as a filmmaker what advice would
you give yourself?

DW: Don’t be afraid to take chances, connect with as many like-minded people as possible and don’t waste your time on the other ones.


Q: What is the reality of crop circles?

DW: They have been showing up en-masse in the Wiltshire area of England for centuries now. There is a continuity in the messaging there and they will keep coming every year.


Q: If you won an award for the film who would you thank?

DW: My Wife, for supporting me and tagging along on these interview adventures.


Q:  Would you consider doing a follow up Documentary in the future?


DW: Yes, there is still a lot to talk about in terms of important crop circle messages that have shown up.

If you would like to check out Crop Circle Realities then you can find it on various streaming marketplaces, and as always check out my review of it which can be found on my blog right now!

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Crop Circle Realities: Lights In The Sky

Written by Luke Barnes

Crop Circle Realities is a documentary film directed by Darcy Weir. The plot of the film explores the phenomena of crop circles, and there possible alien connection. This documentary seeks out answers behind the creation of crop circles.

So, I must confess before watching this I had heard of crop circles before, in regard to aliens, but I never knew much about them beyond the basics. Luckily for me this film teaches you a lot about crop circles as a phenomena and is quite accessible in its presentation so everyone can understand and follow what is going on, regardless of prior knowledge.

I think the documentary strives to be informative over salacious, which is always a good thing, more so the film allows you to have fun watching it and feel entertained whether you believe in its central narrative or not.

Moreover, the more conservative run time of this film being only just over an hour allows it to operate at a nice quick pace: feeling like it is hitting on all the major points without feeling dragged out or padded for time, which can often cost documentaries marks.

Overall, a fun and informative documentary that raises some interesting questions and that prompts you to do you own research after the film ends.

Pros.

The pace

The accessibility

A lot of fun

Watchable even if you don’t believe in the central narrative

Cons.

A few ideas get brushed over and could do with a bit more time exploring them

3.5/5   

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