Documentary Review: The Rise and Fall of WCW (2009)

Release Date: August 25th, 2009
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Cast: Magnum T.A., Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, Lady Blossom, Jim Crockett Jr., David Crockett, Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg, Mike Graham, Shane Helms, Chris Jericho, John Kap, Joe Laurinaitis, Dean Malenko, Tyler Mane, Vince McMahon, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Dusty Rhodes, Jim Ross, Dr. Harvey Schiller, Michael P.S. Hayes, Kevin Sullivan, Bill Watts, Paul Wight, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan

WWE, 105 Minutes

Review:

I recently revisited and reviewed The Rise and Fall of ECW documentary and I really enjoyed seeing it again. So, I thought that going back and watching the WCW version of their rise and fall would also be a good experience.

It was and it was neat going back down memory lane, as I lived through just about everything covered in the film, going way back to the National Wrestling Alliance and Jim Crockett eras up through Vince McMahon buying WCW and absorbing them into the WWE.

My only real complaints about this are the same complaints I have for a lot of WWE produced documentaries.

Firstly, it’s told from the WWE’s perspective and isn’t always 100 percent accurate and without bias. I mean, that’s fine and understandable, as long as the gist of the story told is pretty close to what happened and in this case, I feel that it is.

Secondly, this would have benefited from more interviews with more of the people that lived through these experiences. WWE tends to leave out the opinions and insight of wrestlers and executives that they have beefs with and thus, these things are typically only presented by talent that is on good terms with Vince McMahon.

Additionally, this, like many WWE documentaries, features a lot of archive interviews clipped and edited into the larger tapestry. While that’s fine, it’d be nicer hearing more direct answers and insight from guys like Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, as opposed to just using material from old interviews.

Needless to say, this is well edited, well presented and it goes through the timeline quite superbly. While not on the same level as the ECW documentary, this still gives you a pretty solid history on World Championship Wrestling and a clear understanding of how it was mismanaged into oblivion.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other WWE documentaries on the legacies of past wrestling promotions.

Film Review: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Also known as: T3 (promotional abbreviation), York Square (fake working title)
Release Date: June 30th, 2003 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, Tedi Sarafian
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, Earl Boen, M.C. Gainey, Chris Hardwick

Intermedia Films, IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 3. Produktions KG, C-2 Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“[raises palm to cashier] Talk to the hand.” – Terminator

I saw this the night it came out, back in 2003. It was a massive disappointment and thus, I’ve never gone back and watched it again until now. But this film is really where the Terminator franchise completely went off the rails and honestly, it has never recovered, except for the too brief television show that ended on a cliffhanger.

Out of all the sequels, I think that this one is the worst. Genisys actually had a worse story but Schwarzenegger was really enjoyable in that one and kind of saved it from being complete and utter shit. In this one, however, his humor and attempts at one-liners are so fucking cringe that it drags a somewhat better story way down into the mud.

For positives, I think there’s really just one: Nick Stahl. I’m not sure what the critical and fan consensus is on his performance as John Connor (I’d assume it’s not good) but I actually thought he did fairly well for having a terrible script to work with and being a last minute replacement for Edward Furlong, who couldn’t return due to his drug abuse issues at the time.

Beyond that, Claire Danes is terrible in this and Kristanna Loken looked great but was so boring she pulls you out of the film.

One could say, “Well, Robert Patrick wasn’t exciting in T2.” But those people would be wrong. Just because an actor has to play an emotional robot of a character, doesn’t mean that they have to be a generic blank slate, tilting their head like a dog that heard a high pitch sound. Patrick in T2 and Schwarzenegger in T1 both knew how to move and how to act in order to come across as a soulless predator. It was in their body language, their facial expressions and the way they hunted their targets. To be fair, I don’t necessarily blame Loken, I blame the director for not seeing this and fine tuning her performance to live up to the standard set before her.

While I like the idea that Armageddon is inevitable, as this film strongly implies throughout the entirety of its story, I want to know why. It never tells us why. It just has Schwarzenegger randomly say, “You just delayed Armageddon; Armageddon is inevitable.” Well, why does he say that or think that? What does he know that makes this a fact? There’s a story there that could’ve enriched the bigger picture here but it’s just a repeated throwaway line that we just have to accept and go, “M’kay, sure… that makes sense.”

The most important thing working against this film isn’t any of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, it’s the fact that this is just really fucking boring. It doesn’t matter that the Terminator uses one-liners that were already out of date by 2003 or that the Loken Terminator doesn’t make a lot of sense and she’s overpowered for the sake of being overpowered. This is just a dreadfully boring piece of shit.

It’s not competent, it feels incredibly generic and there’s nothing in the film that is memorable. There’s no great action sequence that you will care to remember like many of the great sequences from the first two films. I guess the biggest one I remember is the car chase with the crane truck and remote control police cars but I was more annoyed by it than impressed.

The whole film felt as soulless as Loken’s Terminator.

But at least it’s less than two hours.

Side note: I thought the closing moments in the underground bunker were actually kind of good and somewhat chilling.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other shitty Terminator movies that followed.

Documentary Review: The Rise and Fall of ECW (2004)

Also known as: The Rise+Fall of ECW (stylized on DVD box art)
Release Date: November 14th, 2004
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Written by: Paul Heyman
Cast: Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon, Taz, Chris Jericho, Jerry Lawler, The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam, Spike Dudley, Lance Storm, Ron Buffone, Dawn Marie, Rhino, Stevie Richards, Rey Misterio Jr.

WWE, 170 Minutes

Review:

I remember buying and watching this documentary the day that it came out. I haven’t seen it since but looking at it all these years later, it’s especially cool because it was made just three years after the demise of Extreme Championship Wrestling, so everything discussed here is still really fresh in everyone’s memory.

ECW is the promotion that got me back into wrestling when I was high school aged. At the time, I had outgrown WWF, as it remained cheesy, goofy and gimmicky. Plus, WCW was in a weird state of change, which eventually led to a better product for awhile. However, in ECW, I found a promotion that was much more adult, much more extreme and yet, featured some of the best wrestling on the planet.

I used to go to the shows when they traveled down to Florida from their home base of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Going to those shows gave me some of the best professional wrestling memories of my life. Still, to this day, my experiences from going to ECW shows hasn’t been matched. But I was also impressionable, it was the ’90s and edgy boi shit was the male youth culture of the time.

This documentary is nearly three hours but it covers just about everything that happened in ECW from the beginning up until it all fell apart. The stories shared are pretty great and give you several different perspectives.

For wrestling fans, especially in regards to the historical side of the business, this is a must watch. In fact, this documentary was such a massive success that it pushed WWE into resurrecting ECW for a short time. Granted, that version was nothing like the original but two of the three pay-per-views were quite good.

Overall, this is a damn cool documentary that doesn’t feel nearly as long as it is because the subject matter is interesting and the interviews are informative and help paint the picture well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other WWE documentaries on the legacies of past wrestling promotions.

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: The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA (2006)

Release Date: November 21st, 2006
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Cast: Eric Bischoff, Nick Bockwinkle, Jim Brunzell, Greg Gagne, Verne Gagne, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Mike Graham, Bobby Heenan, Larry Hennig, Hulk Hogan, Jack Lanza, Jerry Lawler, Vince McMahon, Baron Von Raschke, Dusty Rhodes, Michael Hayes, Bob Windham

WWE, 109 Minutes

Review:

I was too young to experience the American Wrestling Association in its heyday. However, I was old enough to see how well its talent did on a larger, worldwide stage once Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation became a global phenomenon in the mid-’80s. A lot of the WWF’s success was built off of the talent that established themselves in Verne Gagne’s AWA.

Being produced by WWE, one might think that this has a slant to it and while that may be true to some degree, it features interviews with a ton of people from both sides of the conversation. Although, it does mostly feature talent that has worked for both, which makes this feel more honest.

Plus, this includes Verne Gagne and Greg Gagne talking about all the events that led to the fall of the AWA from their perspective. And I guess the coolest thing about this is that it lets Verne talk about it pretty candidly. Sadly, just a few years after this, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Vince McMahon gives his perspective too, which is interesting, especially coming off of all the tales that were told in this documentary.

I think the whole thing is a highpoint though, as it goes through the history of the AWA, discusses its biggest stars and ultimately, how they left and how they contributed to the wrestling business overall.

By the end of this, you leave with a clear understanding that the professional wrestling landscape would have been vastly different if not for the existence and the legacy of the American Wrestling Association.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other WWE historical documentaries.

 

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles (2001)

Also known as: Crocodile Dundee III, Crocodile Dundee In Hollywood, Crocodile Dundee Returns (working titles)
Release Date: April 12th, 2001 (Australia)
Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by: Eric Abrams, Matthew Berry
Based on: characters by Paul Hogan
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Jere Burns, Jonathan Banks, Aida Turturro, Paul Rodriguez, Steve Rackman, Gerry Skilton, Mike Tyson (cameo)

Bungalow Productions, Silver Lion Films, Vision View Entertainment, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Now, you pick out what you want on that menu there. Then you yell it out into that box. Then in 2 minutes, you’re scoffing it down, without even getting out of the car.” – Mick Dundee, “So, you can eat like a pig… and nobody can see you. [winks] Clever buggers, these yanks.” – Jacko

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t looking forward to revisiting this film, even though I just revisited the two chapters before it and still found them to be entertaining and a great way to waste a few hours.

This one was bad when it came out and time hasn’t done it any favors. In fact, it’s made it worse.

The main issue with this picture is that it wasn’t even written by Paul Hogan. Some other blokes took over that part of the creative process for some reason.

The second issue is that this waited way too long to come out. There is a thirteen year gap between its most recent predecessor and it hurts this movie a lot, as it feels like it’s written like an early ’90s comedy and not something that was made at the turn of the millennium. Honestly, it kind of shows that the style of film that the first two Crocodile Dundees were, were products of their time that worked well back then but not in 2001.

The story is a mess and it takes the weakest part of the first film, which was just being a series of “fish out of water” segments and embraces them more than any of the other installments. It just doesn’t work and most of the bits and gags fall flat in spite of Paul Hogan still having a hell of a lot of charm. But that charm just can’t save a poorly written, unfunny turd.

In fact, the only comedic bits I found amusing were the ones with his buddy, Jacko. They had good chemistry and they were funny together but these scenes were kind of scant and didn’t do anything to propel the story forward.

The criminal plot in this movie is also pretty dumb. It has to do with a Hollywood producer that shoots movies in Europe and Hollywood, using the travel between the two locations as a way to smuggle valuable paintings out of Europe. It’s damn asinine.

Anyway, you can watch the first two movies and still get a lot of enjoyment out of them. This one, not so much.

Well, except for that bonkers Mike Tyson cameo; I can watch that anytime.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee films but they’re both a lot better than this one.

Film Review: Return to House On Haunted Hill (2007)

Also known as: House On Haunted Hill 2 (working title)
Release Date: October 3rd, 2007 (Australia)
Directed by: Victor Garcia
Written by: William Massa
Based on: House On Haunted Hill by Robb White
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Amanda Righetti, Cerina Vincent, Erik Palladino, Tom Riley, Andrew Lee Potts, Jeffrey Combs

Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Premiere, 79 Minutes, 81 Minutes (unrated)

Review:

“Mansions with their own mental wards. Only in fucking L.A.” – Desmond

I really liked the predecessor to this film. In fact, I reviewed it a few weeks back, after revisiting it for the first time in years. Seeing it made me appreciate it even more and it also motivated me to finally check out this straight-to-DVD sequel that I slept on in 2007 because I heard nothing but shitty things about it.

Well, all the shitty criticism that I heard regarding this film is true. In fact, it may not have been harsh enough, as this is one of the worst films I’ve sat through, so far in 2020.

I mean, I expected this to be much worse than the 1999 film but I was hoping it’d be a 5/10 in that it’d have good atmosphere and be true enough to the film it’s a sequel to that it would’ve helped push it past its flaws. Nope. It’s total and utter shit.

First off, and as should be expected, the acting is horrific. While I expected that for the most part, I did anticipate Amanda Righetti and Jeffrey Combs to at least carry the rest of the cast. They didn’t and that’s probably because RIghetti was dragged down by everyone else and Combs didn’t talk at all and just twitched a lot. I get that Combs is playing the same character he did in the previous film but I had hoped that they would’ve actually let him speak and come to life more, as he could’ve possibly saved the picture if they had expanded his role.

The setup to this film and the overall premise are fucking stupid.

Apparently, the girl who survived the previous movie and got the millions of dollars for doing so, went crazy and killed herself. Her ghost didn’t even closely resemble Ali Larter, which just goes to show how little the creative team gave a shit about the first film. Additionally, her character was pretty uncharacteristic of who she was in that first movie. Also, the Taye Diggs character is nowhere to be found and sort of just forgotten.

So the sister of the dead Ali Larter goes back to the house after being abducted with some thugs and an archaeologist looking for some cursed ancient statue. So the story now, is that the house itself is possessed by this cursed item and that’s why everything there is evil. Why can’t we just stick to the evil, fucked up doctor creating an evil environment where he is trapped with his tortured patients? Now we’ve got to make up some fucking bullshit MacGuffin that’s hidden in the literal heart of the house?! Yes, the house has a physical, organic fucking heart now!

Another massive problem with this festival of cinematic shit is that the house doesn’t even resemble the house of the first movie. I mean, how hard would that have been to pull off? The previous film’s house was mainly just simple fucking corridors with dirt, rust and blood all over the walls. This looks like it was filmed in a random warehouse from a Fallout game and I don’t mean that complimentary.

The only part of the house that looks familiar is the entrance hall but even then, it’s smaller and it is so well lit that it destroys the whole aesthetic.

This film has no redeeming qualities, not a single fucking one. Sure, you could say, “But Jeffrey Combs is in it!” And while that’s true, he’s completely wasted and it wouldn’t have mattered if he returned to play Dr. Vannacutt or if they had cast the fucking Key Grip.

Rating: 1.5/10
Pairs well with: removing duct tape from your face.