Documentary Review: WWE Chronicle: Shinsuke Nakamura (2018)

Release Date: April 8th, 2018
Cast: Shinsuke Nakamura, Triple H, various

WWE, 37 Minutes

Review:

I was hoping for more out of this but WWE’s modern documentaries are really a mixed bag, as sometimes they just throw shit together because they need content for their streaming network.

Being a big fan of Shinsuke Nakamura, I hoped this would go more into the man and his career.

Granted, WWE won’t show his New Japan stuff or even really acknowledge it because they like to pretend that no other wrestling exists outside of their own sphere.

Anyway, this follows Nakamura from the time he won the 2018 Royal Rumble up to his match for the World Championship at Wrestlemania, a few months later.

This isn’t as insightful as one would hope and it kind of just randomly checks in on him and lets him talk for a minute or two before cutting to something else. Sadly, I never felt like they really let you know the guy but WWE also has a poor track record of dealing with language barriers, even though Nakamura is pretty damn good at English.

I don’t know, it was cool seeing him being featured in his own documentary; I just wish that WWE would’ve given a shit.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other modern documentaries made for the WWE Network.

TV Review: Fear City: New York vs. The Mafia (2020)

Original Run: July 22nd, 2020
Created by: Dimitri Doganis, Bart Layton, Adam Hawkins, Jon Liebman
Directed by: Sam Hobkinson
Cast: Rudy Giuliani, various

Brillstein Entertainment Partners, Raw Television, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 44-62 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I watched this on a recommendation by a friend. I was glad I did though, as I might not have known about it, as I rarely even login to Netflix anymore.

The title is pretty self-explanatory but to delve beyond that, this specifically talks about how guys like Rudy Giuliani, other lawyers and the FBI worked at bringing down the big crime families in New York City during the mid-’80s.

The show features a lot of talking head interviews by the people who were there, as they recount all the key events and developments that led to the collapse of organized crime and how their efforts changed how mob rule would be fought against forever.

Overall, this is engaging and packed full of so many great stories that I was pretty captivated by it from start to finish. In fact, I binged through it in one sitting but it is also only three episodes long.

I’d like to see this series continue in the future, maybe looking at how organized crime was fought in different cities or regions.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries, many others are also found on Netflix.

TV Review: Boston Common (1996-1997)

Original Run: March 21st, 1996 – April 27th, 1997
Created by: Max Mutchnick, David Kohan
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Anthony Clark, Traylor Howard, Hedy Burress, Steve Paymer, Roger Rees, Tasha Smith, Vincent Ventresca, Sam Anderson, Margot Kidder, Zach Galifianakis

KoMut Entertainment, Castle Rock Entertainment, Columbia TriStar Television, Sony Pictures Television, NBC, 32 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Recently, while on YouTube, I went down the sitcom rabbit hole and started to rewatch a lot of the stuff I used to like, back in the day. I was curious to see how these shows held up and if I would still enjoy them. This one, particularly, was one I would watch in the late ’90s when the USA Network would do that morning block of shows called USAM.

Boston Common was unfortunately short-lived, as it was a mid-season replacement in its first season and then only got a full second season later that same year.

I remember thinking that Anthony Clark was hilarious and I was crushing hard on Traylor Howard, who played the apple of his eye on the show.

In 2020, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. It’s hokey in the way that traditional multi-cam, studio audience sitcoms were back then but it has character and depth beyond what’s on the surface. The characters develop well over the short time they had to exist and it’s hard not to find something to like in all of them. Even Jack, the pompous professor.

Shows like this don’t seem to really work nowadays but its a shame. They were a good, light-hearted way to escape from reality. And even if they did touch on some tougher or topical subjects, they always did it in a way that was more palatable and fair than the heavy-handed, overly biased shows of today.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other late ’90s sitcoms.

TV Review: Houston’s Wrestling Spectacular (2016)

Original Run: August 22nd, 2016
Cast: Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody, Jimmy Snuka, Johnny Valentine, Ken Patera, Nick Bockwinkle, Ivan Koloff, Dick Slater, various

Kit Parker Films, 246 Minutes

Review:

After recently watching the Wrestling Gold box set, I was pretty excited to watch this compilation, as it also features territory wrestling from that same era.

While this features some of the same stars as the Wrestling Gold volumes, this specifically focuses on the Houston territory that was run by Paul Boesch. For those that don’t know, Boesch was putting out some of the best shit of his time.

This features matches with Bruiser Brody, Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy Snuka, Nick Bockwinkle and so many others. This is a good collection of some of the best matches from Houston and it’s just a real gem for fans of old school wrasslin’.

While this isn’t as beefy and great as Wrestling Gold, it is still worth adding to your collection if this is your thing.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Wrestling Gold DVD series and other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

TV Review: Noir Alley (2017- )

Original Run: March 5th, 2017 – current
Cast: Eddie Muller

Turner Classic Movies

Review:

While I’ve always been a fan of classic film-noir, it was TCM’s Noir Alley that really reinvigorated my love for them and pushed me towards covering them a lot more on Talking Pulp.

There are two reasons as to why I really gravitated towards this movie show.

The first is the host, Eddie Muller. The guy is quite possibly the greatest expert on the subject of film-noir that we have in modern times. He works towards restoring old noir films and is a literal Wikipedia of knowledge when it comes to the history of film-noir and really, film history in general.

Muller is the perfect host for this show, as he breaks the films down, talks about their history, their genesis and their overall impact. His extensive knowledge on directors, actors, cinematographers, writers, etc. is astounding. Plus, he’s well spoken, extremely likable and he really taps into what makes these films and this era in film history, so damn cool.

The second thing I love about Noir Alley is the film selection. Muller really digs up and dusts off some lesser known gems and showcases them alongside some of the more famous noir classics. Without this show, it’s possible I wouldn’t have discovered nearly half of the films it has featured.

I sincerely hope that this is a show that can keep going for years to come. One may think that they’ll eventually run out of films to show but once you go down the noir rabbit hole, you discover that there are so many movies worth talking about.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: noir documentaries, primarily those featuring Eddie Muller.

TV Review: Lethal Weapon (2016-2019)

Original Run: September 21st, 2016 – February 26th, 2019
Created by: Matt Miller
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Lethal Weapon by Shane Black
Music by: Vo Williams, various
Cast: Damon Wayans, Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Keesha Sharp, Kevin Rahm, Johnathan Fernandez, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown, Michelle Mitchenor, Seann William Scott, Chandler Kinney, Dante Brown, Thomas Lennon, Hilarie Burton, Floriana Lima

Good Session Productions, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Fox, 55 Episodes, 42-46 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been slowly working my way through this show since I finished revisiting the movies over a month ago. Initially, I didn’t want to watch this TV series reboot but those who have watched it spoke pretty highly of it. With that, I figured I’d check out a few episodes to see if it was worth investing my time into watching the whole series.

I have to admit that I was also intrigued by the controversy surrounding the show and its stars, which if you aren’t aware of, you should Google it, as there’s too much to sum up in a sentence or two.

Now knowing that the two leads pretty much hated each other, it’s incredible that they have a pretty natural bond and chemistry, as characters onscreen. And they are playing Riggs and Murtaugh, which are big shoes to fill, so having chemistry was absolutely key for this to work. Somehow, it does; magnificently well, in fact.

At it’s core, this is a fairly formulaic, episodic, police procedural, action dramedy. But really, it’s just about what you would expect from a TV show reboot of Lethal Weapon. I typically don’t vibe with shows like that but this one works for me simply because I love the characters and I love the broader stories that happen slowly over the course of each season. This show does a solid job of character and relationship building and that’s honestly the glue that holds this all together for me.

I also really, really like Clayne Crawford’s version of Martin Riggs, even if this role did make him miserable. I don’t think it was the role itself, I think he was just unhappy with the overall experience. But within the realm of the show, he doesn’t seem to let it effect his performance and he delivers. The guy is a hell of an actor and he makes you care about Riggs, probably on a deeper level than Mel Gibson had time to do in just two hour films.

Full disclosure, I know that Riggs gets killed off because Crawford was fired but I’m not there yet. I’m close to the end of season two, just before his exit. After watching season three, if my opinion of the show drastically changes, I’ll update this post at the bottom.

I also like Murtaugh, played by Damon Wayans, and that this film gets to expand on his family dynamic a lot more than the movies did. I like that part of the show and how Murtaugh’s wife is very instrumental in helping Riggs through his grief in the first season.

The supporting cast is good too, especially Kevin Rahm as the police chief and Jordana Brewster as the police psychologist. Rahm was one of my favorite actors on Mad Men and Brewster actually gets to show off her acting chops much more than just being eye candy in sportscar heist movies.

Overall, this is a pretty good show that was better than I thought it could be and maybe I should’ve given it a chance from the get go instead of initially looking at it as just another soulless, cash cow remake attempt.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the Lethal Weapon film series, as well as other action/comedy buddy cop television shows.

TV Review: Wrestling Gold (2001)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)
Cast: Jim Cornette, Dave Meltzer, Jerry Lawler, Randy Savage, Terry Funk, various

VCI Video, 5 Episodes, 105-130 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is a box set of five different DVD releases by VCI Video from 2001. I believe this is the full set of the DVDs that they put out. You can still get this on Amazon but I bought mine off of Jim Cornette’s website, as he still has some and he’ll actually sign them for you.

The five DVDs are all co-hosted by Jim Cornette and Dave Meltzer, as they give their two cents on each of the dozens of matches presented, providing historical context and a lot of the behind the scenes stories that led to certain matches.

Most of the original commentary tracks from these various matches are still there but sometimes Cornette and Meltzer have to fill in the blanks.

This collection doesn’t just focus on one territory from back in the day, it covers a lot of ground actually and showcases great matches, primarily from the early-to-mid ’80s.

There is a lot of stuff from Memphis and Texas on here and each match typically features one or more wrestlers that made it big in the WWF or NWA. This is packed full of wrestling stars, mostly in the early stages of their career. But this is also cool to see, as many of the larger guys or guys who got banged up, actually show you what they were capable of before their bodies started to suffer.

I was pretty ecstatic to get my hands on this, just because I love the territory days and seeing wrestlers before Vince McMahon got a hold of them. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d appreciate and cherish this collection.

For old school wrestling lovers, this is a must own! In fact, it inspired me to track down other collections and sets of old school territory matches from this era.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

TV Review: Dark Side of the Ring (2019- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2019 – current
Created by: Evan Husney, Jason Eisener
Directed by: Jason Eisener
Cast: Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Jim Ross, various

Vice Media, Crave, 6 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this series when I first heard about it. Wrestling documentaries are a dime a dozen and most of them are produced with an agenda in mind.

However, after watching the first season, I really thought that this was the best series of documentaries on the darker side of the wrestling business. Every episode felt well researched, well presented and very fair.

Interviews with the participants may be contradictory in some aspects but they are presented in a way that allows the audience to come to their own conclusion without any sort of agenda seeping in from the filmmakers or producers.

That being said, I was really impressed by this series and I went into it thinking that it’d just be more of the same and a little too “sensationalist cable TV”, if you know what I mean.

Hats off to the guys behind this series, Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, as they’ve created seriously compelling television in an era where compelling television rarely exists.

All of the first season episodes pulled me in and didn’t let go. Even the episodes I thought might be redundant like the ones surrounding the Von Erich family and Gino Hernandez gave me a fresh perspective on both of those stories, even though WWE did a pretty good documentary that covered those tales, a decade and a half ago.

Top to bottom, this series is great and I’m really excited at delving into season two, which features episodes on the Chris Benoit and Owen Hart tragedies. It’ll be interesting to see how these guys handle those episodes but after season one, I’m pretty confident that they’ll do those stories justice.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but this show is hard to top.

TV Review: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)

Original Run: March 20th, 2020
Created by: Chris Smith, Fisher Stevens, Eric Goode, Rebecca Chaiklin
Directed by: Eric Goode, Rebecca Chaiklin
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh, John Enroth, Albert Fox, Robert Mothersbaugh
Cast: Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, Bhagavan Antle, John Finlay, Rick Kirkham, John Reinke, Saff Saffery, Jeff Lowe, Howard Baskin, Travis Maldonado, Dillon Passage

Netflix, 7 Episodes, 41-48 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I knew all about Joe Exotic and even though he’s a weird eccentric zoo keeper and wannabe politician that tried to pay someone to commit murder, I wasn’t super excited to have to sit through an entire documentary miniseries about it.

Being that everyone and I mean everyone is talking about this damn show, I figured I’d just give the first episode or two a watch to see if it’s all that it’s cracked up to be. Well, I’ve got to say, it sucked me in.

Granted, this could be due to not having a whole lot to do during the COVID-19 pandemic but the real reason this latched onto my mind is due to all the other characters in this story. The majority of these people are all eccentric, batshit crazy and have major skeletons in their closets.

Sure, I knew who Carole Baskin was but I never really deep dived into her past, as this documentary does. I was also aware of Bhagavan Antle but I didn’t know that he basically ran a fucking zoo harem. Add in all the other colorful weirdos and criminals and this becomes one of the most intriguing and weirdest true crime sagas that I’ve ever seen unfold.

This is compelling television and it tries to tell all sides of the story. It appears to be mostly fair to all parties involved but I can see how almost all of them will have a problem with how they were portrayed here, as it doesn’t paint a nice picture for nearly any of the participants. Point being, this doesn’t seem biased in one direction or the other and maybe these are all just shitty people.

Only a few of the key or even minor players here came out looking kind of okay. And if anything, this exposes just how insane this world is and it certainly doesn’t do any favors for the big cat and exotic animal industries. But I’m okay with that, as these places really shouldn’t exist and humankind should work towards not keeping wild animals in captivity, unless it is to actually help and study animals without using them as attractions or personal pets.

In the end, none of these people really seem to give a shit about the animals they claim they’re doing this for.

But I’m also not here to rant on about the politics of this.

So as a show, this is pretty effective and informative entertainment. Now I can’t say that this is effective because of how it is presented, I just think that the story itself is so fascinating on its own that it made the documentary filmmakers’ jobs easier. Granted, I’m also not saying their not skilled, this is just a unique and bonkers story full of strange, oddball, dark personalities that the show just sort of sells itself without any need for extra frills and post-production or narrative trickery.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Joe Exotic’s crazy campaign videos.

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.