Tag Archives: documentary

Movie Review: Last Train Home (2009)

Film: Last Train Home (2009)
Stars: Suqin Chen, Changhua Zhan, Qin Zhang, Yang Zhang
Director: Lixin Fan

Approximately 130 million of China’s workforce returns once a year to their rural homes, only to return again to the city once the New Year holiday is over. It’s considered the largest human migration on the planet. This documentary focuses on a working couple, which has a boy and girl back home in the country, being raised by a grandmother.  They have been making this journey for 16 years, and as a result, have relationships with their children which would be expected of any absentee parent. Mother obsesses over the education and advancement of her children. Father knows nothing but work, unable to communicate effectively with his children. Young son chafes under the scrutiny of his grades, and wonders why he must continue to study hard. Teenage sister fumes over her life, wanting nothing more than her own freedom from the family’s condition. What the parents must endure when returning home is harrowing for us in the States to watch- the sheer mass of humanity in the stations and on the trains is an overwhelming sight. The level of patience and endurance required boggles the mind. The relationships between the family members, however, are surprisingly global- their reactions are much like anyone in similar situations would have. There is one scene of familial violence which I found difficult to watch. However, the fact this is displayed for us with such candor is an example of how truthful this film seems. There are few moments in which I felt the family was acting for a camera, which is difficult to do when one is in your face for years. Highly recommended. Grade: A-

Movie Review: Eyes of the Mothman (2011)

Film: Eyes of the Mothman (2011)
Stars: Residents of Point Pleasant, WV
Director: Matthew J. Pellowski

Toxic waste, UFOs, men in black, prehistoric creatures, a dying man’s curse, and a tragic bridge collapse all manage to be part of the history of the Mothman, a creature which allegedly frightened the small town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, between 1966-67. With a running time of over two and a half hours, this documentary spends much time tying all these oddities together, but not very convincingly. Facts are  maddeningly loose at times. In one segment, the narrator quotes the year of someone’s death, while on the screen is a shot of a memorial, which has a different year on it! In another scene, a university scientist claims that intelligent life has only been around for 2,000 years. Sorry, ancient Greece and China. Even if these two instances are the result of mispeaking, was there not an editor for this film? Moments such as these combined to leave me a little disappointed. Grade: C

Movie Review: Darkon (2006)

Darkon (2006)
Stars: Skip Lipman, Kenyon Wells, a horde of dedicated LARPers
Director/s: Luke Meyer, Andrew Neel

The parks and fields in and around Baltimore, Maryland, become fictional lands and battlefields for dedicated groups of role-playing men and women, donning homemade fantasy weapons and armor, and fighting one another on weekends for domination of the map. This documentary’s focus is on two leaders of imaginary nations, one of which is attempting to rebel against the other. For the first twenty minutes of this film, I was chuckling at the expense of these characters. Then I took a minute to review my love of video games, and realized I’m not much different than them- at least they get some exercise during their gaming! I do think they need a reality check when it comes to sabotaging real-world friendships for the sake of a game, but that’s up to them, not me. The film makes many comparisons between real-world politics and countries and these fantasy counterparts, but to me this falls flat. Nearly all the participants come across as disillusioned with the worth of daily life, and seeking meaning and belonging  in a group of the like-minded. As such, they don’t seem good or evil, but simply in search of acceptance and worth. Grade: B