Tag Archives: The Schlocketeer

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Lock, Stock, and a Barrel of Laughs

Three Day Millionaire

by Daniel Baldwin

What would you do if, after being handed a big paycheck, you found out that it might be your last? That your bosses had conspired to do away with your job? If you’re a character in the latest film from Jack Spring (Destination Dewsbury), you’d find yourself in a British heist comedy!

Three Day Millionaire follows a gaggle of “Trawler-men” from the port town of Grimsby, England as they come ashore to have themselves a good time with their latest hefty batch of wages, only to find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Their world is about to move on without them, leaving them with only hope and desperate measures. It’s a tale as old as time: the smalltown little guy versus the unflinching, uncaring machine that is corporate “progress” and greed.

Director/producer Spring takes this premise and fashions a dark comedy around it, imbuing the all-too-familiar plight of the working man with all the British crime comedy tropes that we have come to love throughout the decades. As well as a few that maybe should have been allowed to die off. The resulting concoction presents itself as a smaller, more regional riff on the works of Guy Ritchie, Danny Boyle, and Edgar Wright.

The good news is that this is filled with a lot of personality, which can go a very long way in films of this type. The bad news is that sometimes it goes a bit too far into pastiche, particularly when it comes to the freeze-framed “character bio” introductions.

Three Day Millionaire never truly finds an identity purely its own, instead leaning on the aforementioned auteurs to get its tale across. Its Ritchie-ness is thick, but also shallower than Guy. Its party-hard Boyle-isms are never as biting as Danny’s. It’s Wright-ings never fully measure up to the wittiness of Edgar. Despite all of this, as well as some pacing issues, it still manages to be a laugh-filled good time.

If you’re in the mood for a quainter British black comedy caper picture, it’ll get the job done. Not every film needs to rewrite the rule book, as sometimes you just want something that will deliver what’s on the box. Jack Spring’s Three Day Millionaire does just that.

You Know Their Name

The Other Fellow

by Daniel Baldwin

In 1953, while writing Casino Royale, Ian Fleming decided to name his hero after an ornithologist who had written a book on Caribbean birds that he enjoyed. That name was Bond. James Bond. You know his name and you know his number, but what about all of the other folks out there who share the same name?

Our names are a part of our identity. Some of us like our names; others don’t. So too it goes for the other souls around the globe who are named James Bond. Matthew Bauer’s documentary The Other Fellow is their story. From an annoyed lawyer to a self-made raconteur to someone fleeing a real-life villain to another accused of murder, these people carry both the pleasure and the pain of being compared to the world’s most famous spy every time they introduce themselves.

Much like the Bond films, this documentary is a globe-trotting affair filled with beauty, grief, suspense, and yes, even product placement. In most hands, this could have been a cheap piece of cinematic fluff meant to grift some money off of Bond fans, but the filmmakers have managed to craft something far more meaningful here. Whether or not you sympathize with the varying trials and tribulations of its different subjects, The Other Fellow is a compelling and human look into identity – be it chosen or not – and how it affects a person as they go through life.

Why would someone intentionally change their name to James Bond? Well, as it turns out, there can be some very good reasons for that. Similarly, there are scenarios in which carrying that name could ruin your entire life because of the baggage it carries. Being Bond comes with a cost, be it a grand one or just the occasional annoying one in the form of bad jokes from strangers. For better or worse, such is the way of things when one shares a name with a celebrity (be they real or fictional), which is something yours truly knows a tiny bit about.

The Other Fellow is an intriguing and insightful look at how our names can shape our personality, our growth, our day-to-day lives, and ultimately our future. It’s an 80-minute dive into identity that, much like its subjects, just happens to evoke a certain 00 agent. It might not leave you shaken and stirred, but it’s worth a look.

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Way Down in Poconos

Mean Spirited

by Daniel Baldwin

Influencer-themed genre fare seems to be all the rage these days. The latest entry in this quickly-expanding subgenre is writer/director/co-star Jeff Ryan’s Mean Spirited. This satirical slice of would-be spookery sees a pair of childhood friends (and former vlogger business partners) attempting to reconnect over the course of a weekend vacation in the Poconos, but the realm of the supernatural has other plans for the two of them.

There is quite a bit of insightful commentary and scathing satire of YouTuber culture, influencer vapidity, and modern social media posturing on display here. All of this is reinforced by intentional editing choices that mimic many vlog styles, all the while sending them up in the process. We are gifted with a mix of both completed vlog footage, as well as unedited video, which allows for the public façade to be peeled back on these characters when there’s no one for them to put on a show for. It’s in these moments that the film hits its stride.

Unfortunately, all of it is mired by a wobbly execution of the film’s genre elements. Comedy is an insanely subjective genre, more so than even horror, but even taking that into consideration, a little bit of obnoxious YouTuber humor goes a long way. Even in a satire, too much can push the grating needle into the red, and that’s a trap the filmmakers fall into here. Add in the fact that the actual scares come way too late, and the end result is a horror comedy that never manages to find a healthy balance between either genre.

Mean Spirited may not be one of the better entries in the influencer-themed horror comedy subgenre, but if you’re a fan of found footage, mockumentaries, and/or YouTuber culture, you might still find some enjoyment within. You might also perhaps want to consider avoiding weekend getaways to the Poconos with an estranged friend.

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Aimless Butterflies and Deluded Bees

My Father Muhammad Ali: The Untold Story

by Daniel Baldwin

What becomes of the child of one of the most famous people in the world? What’s it like to have a father who you never really knew, because he was constantly on the road? What’s it like to have a mother that chose the fortune & glory of her husband’s life on the road over you? These are hard questions that this documentary is asking. Ones with very tough answers.

The title points toward a documentary focused on an untold side of Muhammad Ali’s life, but the actual film itself is almost entirely focused on the current life of one of his children, 50-year-old Muhammad Ali Jr. Junior has lived through decades of drug addiction, harassment, abandonment, financial issues, marital strife, etc. This is about him looking back at the trials, tribulations, and mistakes of his own life, in comparison to those of his iconic father.

Others are interviewed throughout – sometimes about Ali, sometimes about Junior – but Junior himself is the primary storyteller. He is an unreliable narrator; constantly dishing out his version of events and frequently dropping into unprompted impressions of his father as a defensive coping mechanism whenever his own faults are focused on too closely for his liking. It’s rather heartbreaking.

If that sounds compelling, it is, at least on paper. The filmmakers never seem to settle on any sort of thematic throughline for what they are showcasing, leaving the narrative (or lack thereof) being spun before us to just meander along in a highly segmented fashion. Because of this, the finished work feels less like a film and more like a miniseries that has been chopped down to feature-length.

The filmmakers know that Junior is often deceiving them, as well as himself, but outside of a few moments with a therapist, he is never called on it. Nor are enough witnesses to the contrary present to fully illustrate this. The sheer lack of voices from his early life leaves us with an unclear picture of his past. Context is key and this film is sorely lacking it.

There’s also the matter of his best friend/manager, who the filmmakers clearly do not entirely trust, but once again, they never bother to fully interrogate that. If they were intentionally leaving room for interpretation, they left too much. In the end, the final question is less “Are the sins of the father repeated by the son?” and more “Why does this film exist?”