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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Review: Robin Williams Come Inside My Mind (2018)

Robin Williams Come Inside My Mind 
Genre: Documentary

Plot: An intimate look into the life and work of the late comedian, Robin Williams, told through the use of archive footage and interviews

'Unbalanced Documentary On Robin That Didn't Go Far Enough'

Come Inside My Mind attempts to explore the highs and lows, ups and downs of Robin's career, his relationship issues and substance abuse and that need of approval and acceptance, which was something that was lacking in his childhood. In a series of never-heard-before interviews, Chicago-born Williams narrates the viewers through as he reflects back on the early years from his humble beginnings of San Francisco where he grew up to become a national TV star on Mork & Mindy through his transition as a movie actor and star where he became a household name around the world. 

After a turbulent 1970s with drug and womanising issues, the death of fellow comedic actor, John Belushi, who was with Williams at the time of his passing, in addition to the birth of his first son, Zachery in the early 1980s became the wake-up call for Robin to change his ways. And to an extent, & for a while, this worked. 

Being the Robin Williams fan that I am, I was keen on this documentary and seeing how it fares and whether or not this film delves into any of his movie work. 

Again, like with 2014's Pioneers of Television: Robin Williams Remembered, it turns out very little attention is paid to his movies from the early to late 1980s & 1990s, but for dramas Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society and Awakenings, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, which are glossed over in favour of his Mork & Mindy TV success and personal life that is given more of an insight. Given that these periods were also the ones most viewers & avid fans are familiar with the most & will know him best for, is slightly baffling. & for a documentary that is supposed to come across as being faithful and showing the various facets, as well as both sides of his story, whilst some people will be happy that any mention of his movie work is kept to a minimal, I for one, thought this was a bit of a letdown. I tuned in in the midst of getting a documentary that was going to be fairly balanced, both in regards to his work as an actor and his personal life that truly does justice to Robin Williams. Yet it turns out this wasn't it & that it never transpired. With that in mind, this imbalance resulted in a documentary that wasn't as thorough and enriching as I would've liked it to be. 

There are several interviews conducted with former chat show host David Letterman, Pam Dawber who co-starred with Robin on Mork & Mindy, comedian and fellow actor Billy Crystal, who was also Robin's closest friend, along with his first wife, Valerie and son, Zack. They were nice & I smiled a few times, but it was nothing too profound. There was also a vague & meaningless interview with one of Williams's former girlfriends, which had me droning off. The film breezes through the years when Robin underwent open heart surgery, his drug addiction up until his unexpected death. 

The title does allude to the fact that it attempts to provide an insight into his mindset, of his thoughts and feelings, which from a human aspect point of view, is intriguing. Yet it is a pity Come Inside My Mind doesn't go beyond that aspect to deliver an emphatic tribute of Robin Williams's life story. 

I would also have liked to have seen a few more of Robin's co-stars & directors who have worked with him, partake and chip in with their own contributions and tributes: Robert De Niro, Ethan Hawke, Forrest Whitaker, Julia Roberts, Dustin Hoffman, Sally Field, Julie Kavner, Ben Affleck, Al Pacino, Steven Spielberg, Barry Levinson, Nathan Lane, Glenn Close, LL Cool J, Danny DeVito and Kurt Russell all lending their part to the cause. I really wanted to know from them not only what it was like working with Robin, but what they thought of him too. It would have made the film more worthwhile and thorough, and not just by those who know Robin personally. Therefore, Marina Zenovich's willingness to only feature a small and selective circle of Robin's closest friends, relatives, and even an ex-girlfriend of his, whilst choosing not to interview or be it omit any or some of the main stars, directors and actors he has worked with, took me out of this feature, when their insights would have provided further curiosity & pleasure. This was a bummer. 

Other notable absentees are Robin's second and third wives, Marsha and Susan of whom do not get a look in, whilst Robin's son, Zak is the only child that appears on camera, as he reminisces on the good times, as well as the struggles his father faced much later on in life. Valerie shares a few tales, and who speaks of him with nothing but fondness, despite their separation. 

His final years are rarely mentioned and the exact circumstances of his death are still shrouded in mystery, although in all honesty, it's not something that I, as a fan of Robin's, wish to dwell on. I did, however, enjoy seeing the rare footage and photos of Robin, of his impromptu comedy skits & TV and movie work that I was a fan of, especially the one with Billy Crystal and Robin on the set of Fathers' Day. Just seeing Robin over the years before he reached his '60s brought a smile to my face, immensely and of which sort of made up for the lack of transparency at times. Had it not been for the unseen footage, I would have enjoyed this even less so. 

Being an 'intimate' and celebratory look at his life and less so his career, with the former in his personal life, it's fine - but it is Robin's film career, which is one of the things I was keen on, whereby Zenovich dropped the ball- it just wasn't as comprehensive as I'd wanted and expected, and it is this particular aspect which made audiences and fans take notice of his talents & the joy he brought to millions onscreen. Yet Zenovich, as impersonal and at eased as it comes across onscreen, is reluctant to cover any further ground on this. One prime example is that she nullifies Williams's 1998 Oscar win for Good Will Hunting and his 3 other nominations; rather her approach in storytelling is far too linear and lopsided for a celebrity such as Robin Williams (whose career has been so varied spanning 4 decades), and not very penetrating and remarkable for it to be fully embraced. Whilst I am glad Zenovich (who won plaudits with her offerings on Roman Polanski and Richard Pryor) focuses on the positive & her absorption of Robin Williams as a man & human being, not just as a star, actor & father, as a whole, this still felt unfulfilling and lacking. I had high expectations that this was going to be THE Robin Williams documentary to topple all the rest that came before it - but in the end, despite the little moments, it underwhelmed me. 

In the face of the rare footage and photos, she doesn't go all out, as one would hope she'd do - and that is Come Inside My Mind's biggest downfall. A greater Robin Williams docudrama would have pushed itself even further & gone a little deeper, - but not to the extent it constantly emphasises his personal traumas & turmoil. Some people may be in favour of that & wanting Zenovich to focus on the negative aspects of his life & dissect his mental state to get a better picture of how and why things weren't going so well for him & why he was so unhappy. However, this would have made for uncomfortable viewing for me, personally. 

If I was making a documentary on Robin Williams, I'll definitely take some aspects from this offering, but also to not make it too impersonal & watchable. I'd also make it a four-parter by splitting it into a) his earlier life, Mork & Mindy and his TV work, b) 1980s movies, c) 1990s movies and D) 2000s and an obituary of some kind, whilst also exploring the impact he had on audiences and fans alike with 2 or 3 small interviews of them, explaining their love, adulation for Robin, along with interview clips from a couple of stars who performed with him. 

Sure, his story, his life, his career-defining decades, cannot be told in the stretch of just one hour as one cannot fit everything in. & yet still, that was an opportunity that filmmaker, Zenovich didn't seize to its fullest.  

If you are Robin Williams fan, it's still worth visiting and it's a good thing that it chooses to celebrate his accomplishments and the highs, rather than to be bombarded with tales about his drug use, marital woes etc. I also enjoy seeing the old footage and photos. But those who tune in with the expectation of looking forward to his career being highlighted and celebrated a great deal will be marginally disappointed. 

There will be viewers who will walk away from this feeling satisfied with what has been produced, whilst others, like myself, feel that Zenovich should have gone above and beyond. Because of this, I came away from Come Inside My Mind reeling that whilst Robin, himself, might have been happy with this, I felt a little shortchanged. Zenovich wanted to perhaps offer closure to fans, who for many are still coming to terms with what had happened. Yet her efforts here prove she didn't try hard enough. I still left feeling there were more questions than answers. 

4 years on since Robin Williams's passing, despite several attempts, I still await a fulfilling documentary that celebrates his crowning achievements and life as an actor of the past 4 decades, & not just as the wonderful, kind person that he was and is.

Unfortunately, this is not quite it. 

Though the result is more entertaining than PBS's Robin Williams Remembered, which is one thing Come Inside My Mind has over that offering, I can't help but wonder how with a few more additions, it would have been even more substantial. 

If you want a far more thorough, deeper and exhaustive look at Robin Williams, I'd say one is better off reading Dave Itzkoff's penned biography, Robin

For a biographical-based documentary titled Come Inside My Mind on the life and times of one of the most beloved movie actors of all-time, whilst it has its moments which are great to see as a fan of his, it's a bit of an irony that it doesn't amount to anything more than Zenovich's take on Robin's story which feels rather half-baked, when it ought to be resounding.


Pros +

- Never seen before photos and footage, which were nice

- It was nice to hear Robin's voice on the clips, making it come across as inviting and sincere 

- Mostly okay interviews

Cons -

- Filmmaker Zenovich doesn't and was probably reluctant to talk to many people, especially actors & directors who worked with Robin, which is a shame

- Any mentions and references of his movie work are brief and limited to only several of his well-known hits, hardly any references to The World According to Garp, The Survivors, Toys, Jumanji, The Birdcage to name

- Far from Illuminating 


(minus the footage) 


Monday, 16 July 2018

Mini Retro Review: Assault On Devil's Island (1998) #badmovies

Assault On Devil's Island

Almost mediocre and bland action TV movie brought to us by the creators of Baywatch, as much as it tries to convince, it is sadly let down by a story that drags on and on. Wrestler Hulk Hogan looks nothing like the Hulkster wrestling fans have come used to with his unnatural looking hairdo, which looked like he swiped off Triple H. He, along with Carl Weathers & porno actress, Shannon Tweed get together & beat up some bad guys in Tai bo expert, Billy Blanks and Mortal Kombat's Trevor Goddard. Tweed can't pull off the badass chick role as well as I'd hope. Basically, it's The Expendables, only with weaker and not very good action & fight scenes, a weak script & the story is just dull. 

Is It Worth Watching?

if you are a die-hard fan of Hulk Hogan, yes. Otherwise, not really


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Mini Retro Review: Battle Queen 2020 (2001) #badmovies

Battle Queen 2020
Action Sci-Fi

Sci-fi actioner starring softcore porn actress, Julie Strain where she doesn't get to kill a lot of bad guys. It has a subplot that is out of Aliens with Strain's heroine character looking after some little girl, a bit like Ripley and Newt in that movie. Yet despite the poster, this movie is anything but exciting and action-packed. Rather it is a bore, at times melodramatic in this T&A filled Aliens wannabe Z-movie, minus the tension, thrills and the story is just not that exciting. Julie Strain looks like an action figure coming to life, martial artist actor Jeff Wincott gets to sleep with Strain but otherwise, he has practically nothing to do here but smoke a cigar and utter a few cheap lines of dialogue. Even worse, it lacks that other crucial element that most action films have, and that is fun.

Is It Worth Watching?

Only For Julie Strain completists 


Friday, 13 July 2018

Retro Review: E.T & Friends: Magical Movie Visitors (1982)

E.T & Friends: Magical Movie Visitors
Airdate: 24 December, 1982
Runtime: 47 min

Plot: Documentary hosted by Robin Williams about the history of aliens in the movies, made to coincide with the theatrical release of ET, the Extra-Terrestrial

'Informative But Not That Engaging, Yet Worth Seeing For Robin Williams'

Airing in the fall of 1982, this TV special documentary charts various science fiction A & B-movies from the obscure to populist works in ET, Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

But for the appearance of the titular alien right at the end, it's much less about E.T and a behind-the-scenes making of the box office hit and that this was titled to capitalise on the release of the hit Steven Spielberg movie that came out in cinemas and theaters, worldwide.

There is a scene of a man in an ET mask who picks up a drink that is called ET and he drinks it. But of course, this is not really ET and he or it doesn't exist in real-life. It's just some actor in an ET costume, pretending to be that alien thing.

Robin entertained as the host and was aptly chosen and at times, he went into his silly voices routine and riffed a few lines. And some of it was nice to see. But even when Robin was his normal self without going, well, nuts, it was welcoming. As we first see him on screen, Robin mentions as a child, he never saw that many science fiction films, as he was too scared.

He even donned his red Mork outfit in one scene and it was one of a number of roles as a presenter, but the information and the rest of the documentary left a lot to be desired. But the manner in which Robin Williams delivered the information was very informative and professional-like and he went about it in an exemplary fashion. He is not just a great actor and comedian, but he proves he can make for an entertaining presenter and host who can engage audiences. Yet despite liking & enjoying some sci-fi movies, this just didn't engage me to the fullest. I just drifted off, not really paying attention to what was being said and covered. The movie clips that they picked but for ET, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, would not have drawn in wider audiences.

As well produced in some way or other, ET & Friends would have made for a better documentary had it been released during the mid-1990s. I couldn't help but feel uninterested as I sat through this. 

Notable film clips that were cobbled together included Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars A New Hope and ET: Extra-Terrestrial. There is also a scene featuring Dan Ackroyd of Ghostbusters as one-third of the Coneheads alongside Garrett Morris (The Jamie Foxx Show), as well as footage featuring Woody Allen. Yet had this been made and released in the mid-1990s with more familiar and well-known sci-fi movies, even action sci-fi based movies that audiences could recognise — Aliens, Metropolis, Blade Runner, Tron, Back To The Future, Independence Day, Total Recall, Star Trek to name — this would have made it far more engaging, & not just entertaining. Being released in 1982 meant that most of the films referenced are of the B-movie variety. It concludes with Robin Williams accompanying a guy in an ET costume and they walk off, which some may find amusing. Yet also there is almost an endearing quality to it. 

Still, if you are a sci-fi buff or fan, ET & Friends Magical Movie Visitors has enough to keep you invested and interested. & for Robin Williams fanatics, with his easy-going charm & funny antics kept to a minimum, he makes a good and pleasant presenter. 


Pros +

- Robin Williams made for an entertaining and informative host

- Well-produced

- Nice to see E.T in there 

Cons -

- Wouldn't appeal that much to non-sci-fi fans & buffs

- Would have worked better in the 1990s with Robin as host

- Could do with a few more interviews with the likes of Spielberg, George Lucas, actors who appeared in notable sci-fi movies 


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Review: Pioneers of Television: Robin Williams Remembered (2014)

Pioneers of Television: Robin Williams Remembered 
Runtime: 53 min

Plot: celebrating the life of Robin Williams with interviews, tributes and clips from his career

'Passable At Best, But Not The Definitive Onscreen Robin Williams Tribute'  

The TV documentary that aired on PBS in the U.S, 4 years ago didn't provide any new insights on one of the most successful & celebrated comedians and film actors of the past 4 decades, Robin Williams but at 60 mins long, it feels as though the story that was told felt incomplete. It never tried to go beyond or explore parts of his life and career in more thorough detail as one should do. 

Most of Robin Williams Remembered was comprised of old clips and footage, spliced along with interviews with cast members and those who knew him too well like Robin's Mork & Mindy co-star, Pam Dawber, Happy Days'  Henry Winkler, comedian Louie Anderson, Blake Clark & Awakenings director, Penny Marshall. 

His struggle with drugs, alcohol and depression are sadly lumped towards the very end of this feature and whilst it was a good thing it didn't turn into a discussion about his death, which really no one truly wants -, me included, it's kind of sad they decided to end the documentary on a sad note. I also felt that some aspects of his career and life were largely ignored and forgotten about, completely, though this is to do with the programme's time constraints. It didn't deserve just 60 mins, but more besides. It felt like a rushed job that was thrown together at the last minute after the death of Robin. It was all fragmented, uneven and because of the length, it jumped from one aspect to another without really delving into each of them properly. Produced one month after his death in 2014, it's likely that the people who took part still had to come to terms with his shocking demise and I think they and the producers should have waited 2 months after so they can gather their thoughts properly and after that, went ahead with the production. 

Williams's interview segments were straight from his mouth and whilst there was nothing new that hadn't been covered before, it wasn't that entertaining to endure, either. It's one of those documentaries where I was like: ''okay'' as I was sitting through it, but it never really left a monumental or lasting impact or impression on me.

Informative as it was and it tried to be, the Robin Williams Remembered TV special is ponderous and incomplete as life- based documentaries on famous people go. It's okay and watchable in places, but I just wasn't blown away by what I'd seen and heard. There wasn't anything that was too revealing that made me take notice. Being a PBS production meant that his TV career was more of the focal point ahead of his work as a movie actor, which have been cherry-picked and briefly referenced through major flicks Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting and Awakenings. Which I am a tad disappointed in because the bulk of his work was in feature-length and TV movies and they deserved more attention than just 1, 2 min clips and explanations from Robin and the other actors contributing to this piece. Yet Jumanji, Hook, Flubber, Patch Adams and Robin's lesser known movies are given the cold shoulder. 

Robin Williams Remembered is muddled, not very thorough and is more often mediocre in its execution than it is informative & entertaining.

I wouldn't watch this again.

There is still a great exhaustive Robin Williams tribute in documentary form lurking out there from somebody, but sadly, I think it will be a long time coming in seeing it being unleashed on the wider public and audiences, not to mention fans everywhere. 


Pros +

- Footage of the TV clips was nice 

- Interviews were all right

- Tries to be informative

Cons -

- Not very in-depth & it needed to have been longer 

- It's nothing the fans wouldn't have seen or known beforehand of Robin  

- Fragmented and it felt like a rush job


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