Reviews for No No: A Dockumentary, Frank, and Dinosaur 13.
No No: A Dockumentary is the compelling story of enigmatic baseball player Dock Ellis, the pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates that once threw a no-hitter (a “no no”) while tripping on LSD. Ellis was a character, a bold individual that spoke his mind at a time when few minorities in his sport did. He had a lot of charisma, always kept it real, and much like Alejandro Jodorowsky in Jodorowsky’s Dune, is the perfect subject for a feature-length documentary.
The stories told by Dock and his teammates, friends, and family are entertaining and the part about him sparring with Muhammad Ali in the clubhouse is worth the price of admission alone. Major League Baseball was a lot different in the 60’s and 70’s and drug use was rampant. Ellis speaks candidly about his use of “greenies” (Dexamyl- a form of speed that the majority of ball players used at the time), marijuana, LSD, and cocaine. He chronicles the highs and lows of his career and the documentary doesn’t shy away from his darkest moments. No No is deeper than expected and provides insight on a controversial figure.
It’s also a fun watch with no shortage of anecdotes and the jammin’ soul music is a nice touch. Director Jeff Radice does a fine job of delivering the info. If you’re into crazy stories, characters that walk to the beat of their own drum, baseball, or poignant doc(k)s, I suggest you check it out.
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
A few years ago, artist James Blagden provided animation to the audio of Dock Ellis telling his psychedelic no-hitter story. This is a nice companion piece to the doc. You may prefer to see the doc first.
Frank is an odd little comedy-drama featuring Michael Fassbender in a giant paper mache head. He plays the titular character, Frank, the eccentric leader of an experimental band, who is never caught without his oversized mask. Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is a wannabe musician that joins the band when their keyboardist tries to drown himself. The movie is part band movie satire, and part whimsical memoir, a seriously silly film that never manages to be as clever or funny as it wants to be. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t fully embrace it either.
Simply put, it’s a crime to stuff Fassbender in a mask like that. That’s what the part called for, but it seems like a waste to have all that talent trapped behind a big expressionless mug. He makes the most of it, but does nothing to warrant remarks like the “FASSBENDER’S PERFORMANCE IS A MASTER CLASS” quip seen on the poster above. To be fair, there’s not much you can do when you have a big fucking barrel on your head.
Frank reminded me of the recent film Chef in two ways. First, they both feature social networking- twitter specifically- and show tweets on the screen. Second, they both include road trips. Ironically, characters in both movies travel to Austin.
Good but not great, Frank loses steam near the end. The serious revelation in the third act doesn’t blend well with the quirky tone of the rest of the movie. Gleeson’s performance is a bright spot though and Frank does have it’s moments. Worth a look if you like band flicks, weird dramedies, or Napolean Dynamite-style humor.
3 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Dinosaur 13 is the crazy story of the greatest dinosaur discovery in history. At over 80% complete, “Sue” is the largest, most extensive Tyrannosaurus rex specimen ever found. Discovered by Sue Hendrickson of Black Hills Institute in 1990, Sue the dinosaur was the center of a dispute between the paleontologists that found her, the US government, and a member of the Sioux tribe, that lasted for nearly a decade.
It was a nasty ordeal in which the fossil Sue, and all of the research related to her was confiscated by the FBI- by people ill-equipped to properly handle/store such a specimen. The government threw the book at Pete Larson and his bone collecting partners and they faced the possibility of serious jail time. The people of Hill City, South Dakota were appalled and took to the streets in protest.
The story is as frustrating as it is fascinating. The doc clearly paints Black Hills Institute as the victim; a David fighting the Goliath that is the big bad government. Instead of presenting the facts and letting people decide for themselves, Dinosaur 13 is manipulative and feels a bit one-sided, nudging the viewer to feel a certain way. Director Todd Douglas Miller does his best to crank up the drama, and create sympathy for his subjects and it’s unnecessary. The audience would most likely arrive at the same conclusion without the extra push.
The story alone makes this worth a watch, even if the storytelling isn’t the greatest. My favorite scenes are the ones that show Sue up close and depict the team digging her out of the ground. It wasn’t until the end of the movie that I realized I’ve actually seen Sue, fully-assembled, in person. I won’t mention where as it could be seen as a spoiler, but I can testify that it was a sight to behold. It’s pretty cool to now know the story of how she ended up where she is.
3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
All three of these movies are currently playing in Houston.
No No: A Dockumentary and Frank are playing at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park
Dinosaur 13 is playing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and is streaming on Amazon
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