Documentary Review: ReMastered: Tricky Dick and the Man In Black (2018)

Release Date: 2018
Directed by: Sara Dosa, Barbara Kopple
Written by: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Music by: Johnny Cash, Glen Matisoff (music coordinator)
Cast: Johnny Cash (archive footage), Richard Nixon (archive footage)

All Rise Films, Triage Entertainment, Netflix, 59 Minutes

Review:

Tricky Dick and the Man In Black is the story of how Johnny Cash and Richard Nixon crossed paths during a turbulent time in America. A time that was more turbulent than now, if you can believe it.

This covers how Nixon reached out to Cash to get him to perform at the White House, which is a hell of an accomplishment for any artist, regardless of who’s got the keys to the country. And this obviously happened before Nixon’s crimes would be exposed and he would go on to severely damage the reputation of the United States government.

Anyway, in 1970, Cash did perform at the White House. However, Cash soon developed some serious reservations about it as it became apparent to him that his ideals clashed with that of the president.

This examines what led up to the concert at the White House and the reasoning behind how Cash ultimately wasn’t happy with the regime that was in charge of the land he loved.

Overall, the subject matter was damn interesting but I feel like this documentary was too short and didn’t really get deep enough into the mud. But this story is mostly told through talking head interviews by people who aren’t Cash and Nixon, as they’re no longer with us.

This was still a worthwhile and entertaining watch, however. It just needed more meat and felt incomplete. 

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (2003)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (complete title)
Release Date: December 20th, 2003 (TV)
Directed by: Nick Marck
Written by: Matty Simmons
Based on: characters by John Hughes
Music by: Nathan Furst
Cast: Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, Dana Barron, Jake Thomas, Ed Asner, Fred Willard, Sung Hi Lee, Beverly Garland, Eric Idle, 

National Lampoon, Elliot Friedgen & Company, Warner Bros. Television, 83 Minutes

Review:

Full disclosure, I didn’t go into this with any anticipation of it being good or all that enjoyable. I just wanted to complete my mission of reviewing all the National Lampoon Vacation movies, so that also included this shitty, made-for-television spinoff.

That being said, for being a really shitty movie, this was more palatable than I had thought it would be. I guess the main reason is because Randy Quaid is just charismatic and the goofiness of Cousin Eddie works, even if the script is bad and most of the jokes don’t land as intended.

It’s not Quaid’s fault that the material was so bad but he does the best with it and you find yourself still cheering for the lovable loser. Hell, you cheer for him more than the franchise’s main character, Clark Griswold. Why? Well, because Cousin Eddie isn’t a self-absorbed prick. He actually just wants to give his family the best Christmas possible despite their seemingly perilous situation.

In the end though, this is still awfully written to the point that the movie just never builds enough steam to make you give much of a shit. I also don’t think I laughed once and spent more time scratching my head over some of the movie’s more ridiculous moments like Cousin Eddie’s fishing debacle.

Still, Randy Quaid was as enjoyable as he could possibly be in this.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.

Film Review: Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)

Also known as: Nick Fury (Argentina, France, Italy, Poland)
Release Date: May 26th, 1998 (TV)
Directed by: Rod Hardy
Written by: David Goyer
Based on: Nick Fury by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Kevin Kiner
Cast: David Hasselhoff, Lisa Rinna, Sandra Hess, Neil Roberts, Garry Chalk, Tracy Waterhouse, Tom McBeath, Ron Canada

Fury Productions Limited Partnership, National Studios Inc., 20th Century Fox Television, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Contessa Valentina de Allegro Fontaine. Quite a mouthful when you try and wrap your tongue around it. Don’t let the blue blood fool ya, Pierce. Val’s an old hand at the sexpionage game, aren’t ya?” – Nick Fury

I remember seeing the ads for this on television back in 1998 and thinking, “Yeeeeeeeesh…” Because of that, I never watched this but I have seen some scenes and clips over the years.

If I’m being completely honest, though, there probably wasn’t better casting at the time than David Hasselhoff to play the classic Nick Fury in a low budget, TV movie that was, more or less, a failed pilot for a series.

Watching this now, I really like Hasselhoff and I think that he nails the look and chutzpah of the comic book Nick Fury pretty well. It just sucks that the rest of the production around him is really terrible and it actually brings down his performance.

If someone came up to six year-old me in 1985, handed me a Jim Steranko Nick Fury comic and said that the dude from Knight Rider would play him one day, I probably would’ve been beyond ecstatic. But alas, we got a picture that failed from top-to-bottom.

The plot is fucking terrible and makes little to no sense. For most of the movie, Fury has been exposed to a deadly toxin but it doesn’t even start to effect him till like the end of the movie, when he’s hunting down the chick that poisoned him but can also cure him. I guess the toxin isn’t all that bad if this dude can fight like nothing is wrong with him for half the movie. And if anyone knows the character Viper, once she poisons you, you’re pretty much immediately fucked.

Whatever.

This could’ve been pretty damn great and led to a decent Marvel Comics television show in an era where people would’ve really ate it up. Instead, we got a poorly written, awfully directed piece of crap, starring a guy that could’ve brought great things to the table if someone behind the scenes gave half a shit.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel films before the 2000s changed everything.

TV Review: Lost Territory: The Best of Continental Wrestling (2019)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)

Jadat Sports, 5 Episodes, 401 Minutes (total)

Review:

This was a five-disc set that I found on Amazon for a pretty good price, considering how much stuff was packed onto each disc.

This is a compilation featuring matches and angles specifically from Continental Championship Wrestling in the era when it was ran by Ron Fuller.

CCW is a little known territory to those outside of Knoxville in the ’80s. In more recent years, thanks to tape traders in the ’90s getting the ball rolling, the small wrestling territory has become more widely known due to how bonkers some of the angles were and because of how much talent moved in and out of the company.

Watching this collection is like watching a who’s who compilation of legends featured in matches most people haven’t seen.

This was a pretty cool set and watching each disc was a treat and they flew by rather quickly.

All in all, this was a great set bought at a great value. What’s not to love for the old school wrestling aficionado like myself?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

TV Review: The New Statesman (1987-1994)

Original Run: September 13th, 1987 – December 30th, 1994
Created by: Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran
Directed by: Geoffrey Sax, Graeme Harper
Written by: Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran
Music by: Modest Mussorgsky, Alan Hawkshaw
Cast: Rik Mayall, Marsha Fitzalan, Michael Troughton

Yorkshire Television, Alomo Productions, ITV Studios, Fremantle, 26 Episodes + 3 Specials, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Out of the three shows that Rik Mayall starred in, The New Statesman seems to be the least known, at least from an American standpoint. While I have friends that love The Young Ones, Bottom and Mayall as a comedic actor, none of them knew about this show until I introduced them to it. 

It’s been a favorite of mine for years and I actually discovered it on a tape sent to me from a friend in the UK, who I used to tape trade with in the ’90s.

The show is a satire of British politics in the opulent ’80s. It features Mayall as Alan B’Stard, a Conservative Party backbencher in Parliament that schemes his way to more power, as the show progresses.

B’Stard commits terrible crimes and has no morals whatsoever and while that may sound like the recipe for a completely unlikable character, with Mayall playing him, he brings to life the show’s despicable main character with his charisma, charm and stupendous ability to make it all work.

Alan B’Stard is an iconic character even if modern audiences aren’t aware of him, especially in the States. While it’s easy to see how UK conservatives of the ’80s would’ve been offended by the show’s over-the-top critique of them, I think it’d be really hard for any fan of comedy and political satire not to laugh. Mayall is simply perfect.

Each episode over the four series is pretty good and has a purpose behind it. The writers hit a lot of topical issues from ’87 through ’94 and even if this feels like it’s only showing things from one side of the political spectrum, it’s still entertaining.

Also, my view could be skewed because I’m American and I’m not really a fan of any political party or mainstream political ideals. They’re all authoritarian fascists in my book.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other British sitcoms starring Rik Myall.

TV Review: Spaced (1999-2001)

Original Run: September 24th, 1999 – April 13th, 2001
Created by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Music by: various
Cast: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Katy Carmichael, Lucy Akhurst, Anna Wilson-Jones, Bill Bailey, James Lance, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley

Big Talk, London Weekend Television, Channel 4, 14 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Marsha, they say that the family of the twenty-first century is made up of friends, and not relatives, and if that’s true, then you’re the best aunty I’ve ever had!” – Tim

I’m not from the UK so I didn’t know about this show until about a year after it aired. I discovered it when a friend from the UK sent me the first season to check out because he thought I’d like it. I did and it actually became one of my favorite shows of all-time and still is. But since I haven’t watched it in nearly a decade, I wanted to dust it off and revisit it. Especially, after I just revisited and reviewed the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

The show is directed by Edgar Wright and stars two of his long-time collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It also stars Jessica Stevenson, who co-wrote the show with Pegg. The two of them had previously worked together in a short-lived show called Asylum, which Wright also created and directed.

Seeing this now, it’s very ’90s but at the same time, it’s absolutely timeless. This isn’t something I would’ve picked up on in the past but the struggles of these twentysomethings is pretty damn real and I think it’s still relatable. In fact, I guess I didn’t realize how much I related to it in my mid-to-late 20s.

While I’m younger than the cast and the age they represented when I first watched this, it was only a few years later before my experiences lined up with theirs. Also, being someone in a creative field that is both an artist and a writer, I think I relate to both of them even more, looking back at where I started and where my career and hobbies led me over the last two decades.

All that being said, I almost love this show even more now, as I realize how much heart and soul went into it and how genuine and authentic it truly is. And I think it comes from the fact that these people are also creatives and were probably going through similar struggles as the characters they wrote and played.

Beyond that, this was a unique show in how Wright didn’t shoot it like a standard sitcom but he used techniques typical to horror and sci-fi films. He went for extreme angles and quick motion, as opposed to fixed, static cameras focused on a set. Quite a bit of the show was also shot outside and Wright employed the same techniques outdoors, giving the Spaced world more energy than that of a typical show. 

Also, everyone in this is perfect. It’s just really well cast and that’s not just the six core characters but also the reoccurring ones that pop in and out.

The show also goes for pretty surreal situations and humor but it works well, fits the style and isn’t overdone to where this becomes a bizarre “brainy” show that dolts pretend they like because they don’t want to appear as if they don’t “get it”.

Unfortunately, the show ended at least a season too early, as you kind of pick up on the fact that the two leads are going to fall in love, as the story rolls on. By season two, it’s regularly hinted at and even though the ending to that season was satisfying to that season’s arc, I feel like the show and its fans deserved at least one more seven episode helping before everyone moved on to things like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Man, I knew I loved this show but I guess I forgot how much. And now, that love has grown even more, as I appreciate Spaced on new and deeper levels thanks to how well it has held up and how technically savvy it is. Plus, the experiences and issues these characters face are timeless and they’re presented in a way that’s kind of pure, which transcends generations and cultural changes.

Spaced, to me, is a near perfect show. I can’t call every episode a classic but they all have something really worthwhile and they all do a superb job of building up these characters, their lives together and the audience’s love for each of them.

In the end, even after two decades and a dozen watch throughs, it’s hard to say goodbye to them in that final episode.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, as well as Pegg’s other comedy series before he became a film star.

Documentary Review: Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal (2003)

Release Date: March 16th, 2003
Directed by: James P. Taylor Jr.
Written by: J.V. Martin
Music by: Mark Leggett
Cast: Peter Tomarken (presenter), various

Termite Art Productions, FremantleMedia, Game Show Network, 83 Minutes

Review:

“On May 19, 1984, a dubious kind of history was made. An unemployed ice cream truck driver took a major television network on a ride no one watching would ever forget.” – Peter Tomarken

I’ve known about this story for years but I didn’t know that a documentary was ever made about it. Apparently, the Game Show Network did just that in 2003 and it was also hosted by former Press Your Luck host, Peter Tomarken.

This also brought back the other two contestants from the famous duo of episodes that saw Michael Larson take the game show to the cleaners after memorizing the patterns on the board and using that knowledge and great timing to go on a legendary run unlike anything anyone had seen before it.

This documentary uses a mix of old game show footage, talking head interviews and dramatizations to tell the story of Michael Larson. It shows the viewer what was behind his motivation, how his obsession ruined personal relationships and how his life became a driven by greed.

Over the course of this documentary, we get to see both of the episodes in their entirety with unaired footage added back in. With that, it shows us, step-by-step, how Larson decoded the board and outwitted the show’s producers and ran away with the network’s money.

This was really damn intriguing for something made for television by a gimmick cable network. In fact, it was so well done and presented, I want to see if the Game Show Network has made other similar films based off of other scandals.

Still, no game show scandal was quite like this one. 

Rating: 6.5/10

TV Review: In Search of… (1977-1982)

Original Run: April 17th, 1977 – March 1st, 1982
Created by: Alan Landsburg Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Laurin Rinder, W. Michael Lewis, Mike Lewis
Cast: Leonard Nimoy (presenter, host, narrator)

Alan Landsburg Productions, Rhodes Productions, *syndicated, 144 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While it’s been decades since I’ve seen this show, I used to watch it in the late ’80s and early ’90s, where it would rerun on late night syndication. It was a favorite of mine, as were many of the television shows, back then, that dealt with ghosts, aliens, cryptids and other cool, unexplainable mysteries.

Out of all of these shows, though, this one was always my favorite. That probably has a lot to do with Leonard Nimoy being the host and narrator but it also has to do with it being kind of stylish and dated, even a decade later. The low budget ’70s television panache just made it a bit more magical and otherworldly than the similar shows that were current at the time.

I had no idea that there were as many as 144 episodes until I actually bought the DVD set off of Amazon, which is really cheap, by the way.

So while I haven’t watched the series in its entirety, yet, I have revisited some of the most memorable episodes and they bring me back to that magical place I was when I first experienced them.

That being said, it’s probably hard to review this without nostalgia giving it a boost but I think it’ll hit those same notes in people that already have a love of the weird, as well as television shows from this era.

While this is presented in a documentary style, the conclusions presented in the show are simply based off of the evidence that they had at the time. The show isn’t dishonest, as it admits to conjecture in its opening introduction. However, it’s sort of a time capsule now, as it presents these mysteries through the eyes, findings and interpretations of the world nearly forty-five years ago.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other shows about mysterious phenomenon, cryptozoology and things still left unexplained by science.

TV Review: Red Dwarf – The Promised Land (2020)

Original Airdate: April 9th, 2020
Created by: Doug Naylor
Directed by: Doug Naylor
Written by: Doug Naylor
Based on: Red Dwarf by Rob Grant, Doug Naylor
Music by: Paul Farrer, Howard Goodall
Cast: Chris Barrie, Craig Charles, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn, Norman Lovett, Ray Fearon, Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon, Lucy Pearman, Al Roberts

Baby Cow Productions, Grant Naylor Productions, UKTV, Dave, 1 Episode (Movie), 87 Minutes

Review:

I’m probably as big of a Red Dwarf fan as any American born person can possibly be. 2020 and this damn pandemic really screwed up my entire year, however, and I didn’t even know that this had came out or even existed until very recently. So I re-upped my old subscription to BritBox so that I could watch it through Prime Video.

Needless to say, I’m glad that this was made because it helped lift me up on a day where I was feeling like shit.

The main reason for that is because these guys still care about these characters 32 years into their existence. They play these roles with the same passion and vigor they always have despite their age and all the other opportunities their careers have offered them. Longevity like this is really unheard of, especially in regards to a sitcom.

The Promised Land is kind of similar to what they did in 2009 with Back to Earth, which was a three episode miniseries that equated to about 90 minutes and played more like a movie when watched in one sitting. The only real difference is that they didn’t break this up into three episodes and instead just aired it as a TV movie.

I can’t say that the story is as great as the greatest episodes but it was still fun and a callback to a lot of awesome things from the long history of the show. Most importantly, this involved Cat’s people and you meet his brother, who is a spacefaring warlord that denies the long held religious beliefs of his people. These “feral” space cats are kind of played like the Klingons from Star Trek.

Every character in this was pretty well-balanced and we also got to see Norman Lovett come back as the ship’s computer, Holly. It was cool seeing him in this, as it wasn’t just a simple cameo.

The spirit of the show was still very much alive. If you like the modern era seasons from the 2010s, this is pretty much on the same level.

But if I’m being honest, I almost don’t even care what the adventure is, as long as I get to spend more time with these characters who have been a big part of my life over the course of most of it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Anything Red Dwarf.

TV Review: Spider-Man (1994-1998)

Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998
Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee
Directed by: Bob Richardson
Written by: John Semper, various
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz
Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen

New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.

While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.

The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.

Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.

The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.

I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.