TV Review: WWE Ruthless Aggression (2020)

Original Run: February 16th, 2020 – current
Cast: John Cena, Dave Bautista, Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Vince McMahon, Jim Cornette

WWE, 4 Episodes (so far), 41-65 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the Attitude Era, WWE gave us the Ruthless Aggression Era. It’s never been considered as popular but it seems like some people have gotten nostalgic about it in recent years. Maybe that’s because the WWE has evolved into a pretty shitty product since the advent of the PG Era and has never really recovered. I’d say that has more to do with lack of real competition and Vince McMahon losing touch with pop culture, as he gets older, but still won’t give some control to other people who might steer the ship better.

That being said, I’m honestly not a big fan of the Ruthless Aggression Era, as it really started to be where my interest in WWE began its decline. That’s not a knock against guys like John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar or Dave Bautista, it just is what it is because even if these guys are great, they just didn’t have the same sort of electricity as The Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho or even Triple H.

I still wanted to check out this weekly documentary series, however, because I typically dig stuff like this regardless of the era it features. Mainly, I like the wrestling business and industry, which is why I can actually stomach things like Total Divas in small doses.

For the most part, this is entertaining television but it does the same crap that most WWE produced pieces about WWE do: it tells a revisionist history because McMahon is always trying to control whatever narrative comes out of his company and he underestimates the intelligence of his longtime viewers and thinks that they don’t remember certain details.

I guess for modern fans who didn’t live through this era, this might come across as compelling, solid, documentary television. It’s certainly well produced, well edited and presented like a top notch production on par with some of the stuff ESPN puts out but it feels like WWE is trying to write a more colorful and interesting history than what reality actually is.

The Ruthless Aggression Era was a step down from the Attitude Era but it appears as if WWE wants to convince its modern audience that it saved a company in decline.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other WWE documentary television series.

TV Review: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Original Run: January 20th, 2008 – September 29th, 2013
Created by: Vince Gilligan
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Steven Michael Quezada, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Krysten Ritter, Mark Margolis, Michael Bowen, Bill Burr, Raymond Cruz, Jere Burns, John de Lancie

High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, Sony Pictures Television, AMC, 62 Episodes, 43-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I came to the Breaking Bad party pretty late but after multiple seasons of people raving about it, I ended up binging through it all just before the last season premiered.

I also almost quit the show, as the beginning of the first season drags. But once I got to the end of Season One, everything just sort of clicked and I was hooked. But even then, I thought that it would be good but that it would slowly lose steam, as all shows do and eventually, I wouldn’t care about it.

Breaking Bad did something that almost no other show has been capable of doing, though. It continued to improve and get better as it rolled on.

Just when you thought the show reached its peak, it’d throw a curveball or shock you in a way that television shows before this were never able to do. And most importantly, it either gave you satisfying resolutions to plot threads or it subverted expectations and actually gave you something better and surprising.

Frankly, I hate the “subvert their expectations” bullshit that creatives in Hollywood seem to be clinging onto because 99 percent of the time, it’s just an indicator that they’re out of ideas and their only solution is to take a big shit and go, “Ha! You fans didn’t see that coming! I’m a genius! Adore me!”

No. Breaking Bad subverts expectations and gives the viewer something better. And it didn’t just do this once or twice, it did it quite often and it was consistently really fucking good at it. More than anything, that’s what made this show so great.

Additionally, very extreme things happen on the show but it never jumps the shark or takes you out of reality. Everything feels real and plausible and it does a superb job in staying grounded and not taking a turn for the ridiculous, as many shows have done that started out really strong.

I’d have to say that the best thing about this, though, is the cast. Everyone, top to bottom, is perfection.

Almost every character in the show starts at one end of the spectrum and finds a way to make it to the opposite side. All of this happens slowly and naturally. Characters you like become ones you despise and ones you might not have liked become lovable. There are secondary characters that stay the same throughout but many of them are there to be measuring sticks, to show you how every main character evolves in their own way over five seasons.

I know that there has been a ton of hype about this show for years but it is one of the few that lived up to it and actually, in my opinion, exceeded it. Breaking Bad is as close to a perfect show that you can get for a crime drama with neo-western and neo-noir flavors.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other modern crime dramas but this is the best of the lot.

Documentary Review: Adrian Street: Imagine What I Could Do to You (2019)

Release Date: August 31st, 2019
Cast: Adrian Street, William Regal, Johnny Saint, Road Dogg

WWE Network, 21 Minutes

Review:

Adrian Street was a wrestler that was around during my most impressionable time and in an era where I grew to love that industry. However, I didn’t learn about the guy until later on, as he wasn’t featured on the few shows I had access to.

Still, the guy is a fucking legend and he may not have been the first wrestler to be kind of a dandy but he was the first to really push the bar sexually and thus, opened the doors for the others who weren’t afraid to add a certain level of flamboyant mystery and potential gayness to their character.

This short documentary was really fun to watch albeit way, way too short. I would’ve liked to have seen a whole retrospective on his career, as opposed to this Cliff Notes version that mostly just focused on the gimmick instead of the actual career and achievements the man had.

While he might not have been a WWE star, he made a massive impact that influenced a generation of wrestlers that would go on to influence another generation.

Without Adrian Street, there is no Goldust, no Adrian Adonis, no Billy & Chuck, no Kwee-Wee, etc. Street changed the wrestling landscape forever and made some things a lot less taboo, culturally, in an industry that was ruled by old men pushing tradition and alpha manliness.

I don’t feel like this documentary really makes that point as well as it could, had it been longer than twenty minutes.

Still, this is a good short documentary to check out because, if anything, it will just make you want to know more about the character and the man behind it.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network documentaries.

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965)

Also known as: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (Season 8-10)
Original Run: October 2nd, 1955 – June 26th, 1965
Created by: Alfred Hitchcock
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Stanley Wilson (music supervisor), various
Cast: Alfred Hitchcock, various

Revue Studios, Universal Television, Shamley Productions, CBS, NBC, 361 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode – seasons 1-7), 50 Minutes (per episode – seasons 8-10)

Review:

I grew up watching this show a lot with my granmum in reruns on cable. The theme song always got me excited and even though I was a kid of the ’80s that loved everything about that decade, I still also enjoyed older stuff like this and the other anthology shows of the era like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents always intrigued me though, as it seemed to have more legitimacy, at least to my little kid brain. This was because I knew very much who Hitchcock was, I was familiar with a lot of his work and I really liked his films, even when I was too young to grasp them or fully understand their meaning and themes. Plus, I just really liked Hitchcock’s personality.

Over the last few years, I’ve rewatched a lot of the episodes. I haven’t seen all of them, as there are just so many and because even if family members have DVD collections they have let me borrow, there are still a lot of missing pieces I haven’t gotten my hands on.

Regardless of that, I feel as if I have seen a large enough sample size, from most seasons, to give the show a review.

Overall, Alfred Hitchcock Presents is pretty good from top to bottom and the quality of the seasons feels consistent. Sure, like with any anthology series, there are episodes that don’t live up to expectations and sometimes feel like they could’ve been snuffed out at the pre-production stage. However, there aren’t a lot of episodes like this and, for the most part, the show isn’t hindered by its low points.

The show has a pretty wide range of genres it uses over the course of its 361 episodes but nearly everything feels like it lines up with Hitchcock’s own cinematic work.

Each episode may be written and directed by its own team but it seems as if Hitchcock was pretty involved in everything and just about every story maintains a certain tone and visual style.

This is such a massive show to get into and to try and watch in its entirety. I’m not even sure if all of it is commercially released, as it switched from different networks over the years it was originally broadcast. However, I know that a lot of episodes were on Hulu, recently. I’m assuming that you can still find them there. That is, unless the NBC episodes have been pulled for their upcoming streaming service.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other anthology mystery and horror shows of the era.

Documentary Review: Holy Grail: The Search for WWE’s Most Infamous Lost Match (2019)

Release Date: May 13th, 2019
Cast: Bret Hart, Tom Magee, Sean Waltman, Chris Spradlin, T.J. Wilson, Harry Smith, Sam Roberts, Mary-Kate Anthony

WWE, 28 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been meaning to watch this ever since it came out last year but my queues in all my streaming services are rather large.

I had some interest in this, however, as I’m very aware of the history behind this “lost tape” of a non-televised match between Bret “Hitman” Hart and Tom Magee, a guy that the suits at the World Wrestling Federation thought was going to be the next Hulk Hogan.

Back in the ’90s and into the early ’00s, I was a wrestling tape trader. This match was sort of this legendary thing that many people in the tape trading community speculated over. Did it actually exist? Was it real? A hoax? Did the match actually take place? Why was it even filmed? Why wasn’t it televised? Why did it have commentary from Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan?

The tape does actually exist and this documentary is the story of how it was found while also explaining the significance of it and what the search for it meant to so many people. This also ends with the match itself, shown officially for the first time in history.

Having a once invested interest in this, I found the documentary to be pretty cool and fascinating. Especially, since it means that it’s now actually been acknowledged by the WWE and the men who were in the match. What’s even cooler is that Tom Magee appears in this now, all these years later, to give his two cents on the whole thing.

This is a short, quick documentary but it isn’t short on details and actually packs a lot more than I anticipated.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other short documentaries featured on the WWE Network.

Documentary Review: John Ford Goes to War (2002)

Release Date: 2002
Directed by: Tom Thurman
Written by: Tom Marksbury
Cast: John Ford (archive footage), John Wayne (archive footage), Kris Kristofferson (narrator), Peter Bogdanovich, Dan Ford, Leonard Maltin, Oliver Stone,

FBN Productions, Starz! Encore Entertainment, 56 Minutes

Review:

I fired this up on a rainy afternoon because I saw it on the Starz app and because I mostly like the films of John Ford.

It’s a fairly interesting documentary that delves into the man’s war experience and how it helped shape the pictures he would go on to make as one of Hollywood’s premier directors.

My only real issue with the documentary is that it is pretty slow and boring. The subject matter is engaging but the presentation almost puts you to sleep.

This was relatively short though, just being under an hour and it is worth checking out if you admire John Ford’s filmmaking style, especially in regards to his war pictures.

I wouldn’t call this a necessary TV documentary, even for fans of the man’s work. Honestly, it just makes me hope that someone will come along and make a more comprehensive and energetic film on the great director’s career.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Starz filmmaking documentaries.

 

Documentary Review: The History of Pinball (1997)

Release Date: 1997
Directed by: Mark Helms
Written by: Mark Helms
Music by: Michael Moss
Cast: Mark Helms (narrator), Joe Perry, Roger Sharpe, Slash, Frank Thomas

New Video Images, 59 Minutes

Review:

After revisiting the great pinball documentary Special When Lit, I wanted to know more about the history of pinball in its earliest days. While that film was good, it really just starts in the ’70s and talks about pinball in more recent years.

This made-for-TV documentary covers all that stuff that Special When Lit jumped over.

I really liked this a lot, as a fan of pinball, arcade games and historical Americana in general.

It goes way back and talks about the earliest European games that were predecessors to what pinball would become. It then brings the viewer through time, showing how these games evolved into modern pinball.

This also features a lot of interviews with experts on the subject and just about every talking head blurp was informative and helped paint a unique and cool story about the subject.

I also liked that there was so much footage of pinball machines from all eras.

For just 59 minutes, this is really comprehensive.

It’s well edited, covers a lot of ground and it’s pretty compelling for those who have a love for the game and for history.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about pinball and arcade games, many have been reviewed here already.