Documentary Review: Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys (2014)

Release Date: January 14th, 2014
Directed by: Brian Stillman
Written by: Brian Stillman
Music by: Chris Ianuzzi
Cast: various

X-Ray Films, 70 Minutes

Review:

Plastic Galaxy is a documentary about the people who have a bit of an obsession with collecting Star Wars toys. It mainly focuses on the original line of toys from the original trilogy of movies and it also goes into their history and development.

I was initially excited to check this out back when it was a new film. However, it’s kind of light, if I’m being honest and suffers from some clunky editing, too much reliance on talking head interviews and, at times, being a bit overly dramatic.

That being said, I think that the Star Wars episode of Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us is a much better watch and a more professional production.

Still, this was neat to revisit and it’s engaging enough. But the 70 minute running time seems scant and I feel like this really needed to delve into the history more and provide more backstory.

All in all, this is okay but it could’ve been a lot better than what it was.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on toys, video games, table top gaming, collecting and specific niche fandoms.

Documentary Review: The Sheik (2014)

Release Date: April 26th, 2014 (Hot Docs International Documentary Festival – Canada)
Directed by: Igal Hecht
Written by: Jian Magen, Jake Neiman, Igal Hecht
Music by: Michael Hanson
Cast: Khosrow Vaziri “The Iron Sheik”, Mick Foley, Seth Green, Jack Black, Bret Hart, Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Orton Sr., Bruce Pritchard, Jake Roberts, Jim Ross, Ron Simmons, Koko B. Ware, The Nasty Boys

Magen Boys Entertainment, Big Media, Chutzpa Productions, 95 Minutes

Review:

This film was one of the rare documentaries that I actually got to see in the theater. I think I saw it around 2016, as a small indie theater near me hosted a screening. I was pretty captivated by it and always wanted to watch it again. Since it’s been about five years, I figured I’d revisit it and review it.

I’ve reviewed several wrestler biographical documentaries but most of them don’t match the overall quality of this film. It actually looks like a budget went into it, as it’s really competently shot, edited and brings in some real heavy-hitters for the talking head interviews.

The great cast assembled in this could also be due to the film’s subject, Khosrow Vaziri a.k.a. The Iron Sheik, as he is legitimately a beloved legend who would influence not just many iconic wrestlers but also people from other fields within the larger entertainment sphere.

This film really delves into the Sheik’s backstory and the stuff about his early life is truly fascinating and impressive. It discusses his major accomplishments in the sport of amateur wrestling, why he left Iran for America and then how he adjusted to life in the States and a new career as a professional wrestler, once he moved to Minnesota and found Vern Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) territory.

We see Sheik come up through the ranks and then eventually make his way to the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) where he reached superstardom after winning the World Championship from Bob Backlund and then helped launch the career of Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in professional wrestling history.

There is a dark side to this story too and that’s where the documentary becomes both compelling and heartbreaking. We see The Sheik struggle with drugs and alcohol and how it has a severely adverse effect on his family life and life in general. That’s not to say that this doesn’t have a happy ending but seeing Sheik at his worst is really difficult, especially for a long-time fan like myself.

This documentary tells a great story, though. While a lot of this may seem all too familiar with the biographical documentaries on other wrestling legends from The Sheik’s generation, this one just tells its story really well. Sheik has infectious charisma and it’s on full display, here, making this one of the best character pieces of its type.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other biographical wrestling documentaries. Many have been reviewed on this site, already.

Documentary Review: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)

Release Date: August 24th, 2014 (London FrightFest Film Festival premiere)
Directed by: David Gregory
Written by: David Gregory
Music by: Mark Raskin
Cast: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Rob Morrow, Robert Shaye, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson

Severin Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

I saw the mid-’90s Island of Dr. Moreau film in the theatre. But it was so bad that I barely remembered anything about it other than how damn weird and terrible it was. I also didn’t really know the story behind it until years later when I read articles about the problems on the set and the ousting of director, Richard Stanley.

This documentary does a pretty good job of covering the details and allowing several of the people involved in this fiasco to tell their stories from their points-of-view.

Most importantly, it let Stanley tell his side of the story while also cluing the viewer in on what he had planned. Frankly, his ideas and his vision for the picture sounded incredible, even if what he wanted to do was probably unachievable even before the producers started meddling with his plans.

It also didn’t help that two massive egomaniacs, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, were hired to star in the picture. With that, they developed a rivalry that truly derailed the production and caused even bigger problems.

Even knowing what I did going into this documentary, I still wasn’t prepared for the whole story and the dozens of additional details I never knew. Fairuza Balk’s stories about the experience were really interesting and allowed you see how this unfolded through the eyes of someone who was trapped in this production and pretty powerless to do anything about it.

All in all, this was informative and it shed a lot of light on one of the most troubled productions in motion picture history. It’s a compelling story and certainly deserving of having that story told.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about failed films, as well as all the Dr. Moreau film adaptations.

Documentary Review: The King of Arcades (2014)

Release Date: June 17th, 2014
Directed by: Sean Tiedeman
Music by: various
Cast: Walter Day, Billy Mitchell, Richie Knucklez, Eugene Jarvis, Ralph H. Baer, Jerry Buckner

K Studios, Tiedebaby Films, GOG.com, 100 Minutes

Review:

This was free on Prime Video and the plot seemed interesting, so I fired it up.

The story is about punk rocker Richie Knucklez of the band Knuckle Sandwich. This chronicles how his love of music and arcade video games led to a really cool life where he got to truly explore both of those passions in ways that other dreamers often don’t.

Richie had a pretty decent music career but later on, turned towards his love of arcade games and started his very own arcade, which became instantly cool and eventually, pretty iconic and beloved by not just his local community but by those in the worldwide gaming community.

Ultimately, this is a story of love and passion and in Richie’s case, perseverance.

This is a feel good movie about a guy that did what he wanted, believing his time to be very limited and has since wrote his own story in the way he wanted. Frankly, its inspirational and motivational.

The King of Arcades is definitely worth a watch if you want something uplifting, light and fun. And it made me want to fill all the empty corners in my house with the arcade machines I’ve always wanted.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about the history of video game culture.

Documentary Review: Citizenfour (2014)

Release Date: October 10th, 2014 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Laura Poitras
Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Jacob Applebaum, Ewen MacAskill

HBO Films, Participant Media, Praxis Films, Radius-TWC, 113 Minutes

Review:

For those who don’t already know the story of Edward Snowden, this does a good job of laying out all the facts and events that led to the situation he finds himself in, today.

While millions of people want him to get a presidential pardon, which I agree with, I think it’s important for those who don’t really know his story to actually learn about it because so many seem to easily accept the “traitor” label that’s been applied to him by those in the former Obama Administration.

What’s best about this, is that it actually stars Snowden. The cameras follow him, as he traverses through the muck while trying to get all the secrets he’s discovered out there.

Additionally, this features those who helped Snowden leak his secrets.

For the most part, this was really good and it makes its point well.

There’s not much to say about the contents of the film, as people really should watch it play out for themselves.

It’s well presented and it at least gives Snowden a voice.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other films on cypherpunk culture, specifically on hacking and leaking. I’ve reviewed many, here.

Documentary Review: The Hacker Wars (2014)

Release Date: October 17th, 2014
Directed by: Vivien Lesnik Weisman
Written by: Vivien Lesnik Weisman, Meredith Raithel Perry
Music by: Dicepticon, Christopher Lord, Ytcracker
Cast: Andrew “weev” Auemheimer, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond

Over 9000 Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

I heard good things about this documentary quite awhile ago but I never checked it out till now.

I was reminded of it while watching Alex Winter’s Dark Web, so I thought that I should also watch this. Plus, I’ve been watching a lot of similar documentaries, lately, as well as reading several books on cypherpunk culture.

This was an engaging watch but that also has a lot to do with me being fascinated by the subject matter and due to my own personal history within what became the cypherpunk movement.

I liked that this picked a few key people and their situations and focused on them, allowing these hackers and other cypherpunk personalities the chance to tell their own story and espouse their philosophies behind why they do what they do. Whether you agree with their viewpoint or not, it’s still pretty enthralling stuff.

All in all, this was well presented and I thought that it was pretty fair to all parties involved. Out of all the similar documentary films I’ve watched on the subject, this one really stands out because many of the players were actually involved in it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about cypherpunk culture.

Film Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

Release Date: October 7th, 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: James Marsh
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Based on: Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking
Music by: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Stephen Hawking (computerized voice)

Working Title Films, Dentsu Motion Pictures, Fuji Television Network, 123 Minutes

Review:

“I have loved you.” – Jane Hawking

I really wanted to see this in the theater back when it came out. I missed it but then I had it in my queue on one of the streaming services where it eventually disappeared and then fell down my memory hole. But it popped back up on something recently, so I decided to give it a watch before the opportunity passed me by again.

I’ve always been a fan of Stephen Hawking and I read A Brief History of Time back when I was in middle school and probably not fully able to grasp it. However, I’ve read it multiple times since and he’s been one of my favorite science writers alongside Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene and Michio Kaku.

The film is adapted from Jane Hawking’s book about her life alongside Stephen. While they were married and she was by his side for years, things eventually dissolved but they remained close, trusted friends despite their marriage ending and both finding love in other people.

Honestly, this is a pretty beautiful story, even if it is romanticized for a film. But it does a good job of showing how love can evolve and change over time, as people grow through life and sometimes grow apart. And sometimes one type of love can turn into a different type. I really like how this film expresses these hard truths, shows us the pain of both characters at different points but allows you to remain hopeful, as neither are bad people, they just evolve into different people with different needs. And that doesn’t mean that they have to hate one another, they can continue to love each other even after letting one another go. It’s truly sad but there is a real positive lesson and worldview within that.

The acting in this film is absolutely incredible and I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, here. Everyone in this film brought their A-game and the performances greatly enhance the end result and made this somewhat exceptional in how it handled the emotionally difficult material. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were especially great and it’s hard to not love both of them.

In stories about love dissolving and changing, it’s really hard not to paint someone as the bad guy. In that regard, this film succeeds in making you care equally for both people and what it is that each one needs.

Apart from that, this film was good in every technical area. It’s well shot, perfectly edited and paced and boasts some incredible cinematography. The score was also quite great.

Overall, I like this movie a lot. I don’t consider it a classic or anything but it achieved what it set out to do and probably exceeded it.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent biographical dramas.

Film Review: Hogzilla (2014)

Release Date: December 15th, 2014
Directed by: Diane Jacques
Written by: Diane Jacques, Beatrice Moon, Todd M. Webster
Cast: Joe Bob Briggs, William A. Butland, Zachary Dubale, Justin Kane, Joey Malone, Meredith Martin, John Pagnam, Tomey Sellars, Wade White

90 Minutes

Review:

I’ve heard the legend of this film’s existence for far too long. I wasn’t even sure if it was real and if it was, whether or not it was actually completed.

That being said, my only real interest in it was due to the fact that horror host icon Joe Bob Briggs was in it and it was about a giant killer hog. I like giant killer hog movies and there aren’t enough of them and frankly, none of the ones that do exist are all that good.

Well, this one may actually be the worst one I’ve seen. Also, the poster is a lie, as there aren’t a bunch of gun toting hotties in the movie. It’s just a pretty mundane group of normies with no real skills whatsoever. One of them is a Marine, I guess, but you only really know that because he wears camo pants and a very clean t-shirt that says “Marines” on it.

The great Joe Bob is in this and while his scenes are just about the only watchable ones in the film, I guess he’s a ghost or something because he just fades away at the end.

I don’t know, this just sucked. I had hoped it was going to be that type of film that was so shitty it was entertaining and amusing but it was so boring, drab and incompetent that it was a real bore to sit through.

It also sucks as it was filmed in Florida, not too far away from me, and I like killer animal horror from my neck of the woods.

Well, I guess I can claim that I’ve seen it now and that I can verify its existence but it didn’t make me a better person or teach me any worthwhile lessons that I could pass on to someone else’s kids.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other extremely low budget killer animal horror movies.

Documentary Review: Harley Race: The Greatest Wrestler On God’s Green Earth (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Cast: Harley Race, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette, various

Ellbow Productions, Highspots, 112 Minutes

Review:

I’m not 100 percent sure on whether or not this came out in 2014 but that’s the earliest date I saw attached to a trailer with pre-order info. Also, it’s hard to get all the credit details, as this doesn’t even have an IMDb page or really anything more than just the title and running time.

Anyway, I got this, along with three other wrestling documentary/compilation box sets from Highspots. The shipping was lightning fast, which was great considering all the COVID-19 shenanigans. So while I’m mostly self-quarantining, Highspots’ quick turnaround was able to ensure that I wouldn’t be bored, at least for one weekend.

As for the documentary, itself, it was a pretty engaging piece. But look, I’ve always loved the hell out of Harley Race ever since I met him as a kid and saw him in the ring, growing up in NWA country. So I might be somewhat biased but he’s an interesting guy that had a tremendous career in the professional wrestling business.

This documentary is also special in that a lot of it just features Harley talking about his life and career. Other greats also chime in like Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Jim Cornette and many more but the absolute highlight of this is hearing Harley talk about Harley in his own words.

This also covers a lot of ground but as I said, this guy had a legendary career that spanned decades and multiple federations.

I also found this refreshing in that it didn’t play like a big budget WWE style documentary with quick, careful edits and a sort of agenda behind it. This actually plays more like a Ken Burns style documentary in that it is slow but it’s also really informative and builds up a sort of romantic affinity for the wrestling business during the intriguing territory era.

Plus, this comes with a second disc full of matches and other moments.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on wrestling legends.

Documentary Review: A Corny In the UK (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Directed by: Alex Spilling
Cast: Jim Cornette, Stacey Cornette, Alex Spilling

WrestleTalk TV, 96 Minutes

Review:

I picked up a signed copy of this off of Jim Cornette’s website. I remember seeing the trailer for it 6 years ago but then it went down the memory hole, which is becoming a problem as I become older and older.

Anyway, this was a fun film to watch, as it follows Cornette on his first and only tour or the United Kingdom. It’s great seeing his enthusiasm and his personality come to life while exploring a country he obviously enjoys.

What I liked most about this, is that you get to see Cornette as the real deal Cornette. He lets the audience in more so than he does on his podcasts or as his persona on television over the years. While he may be a controversial figure to modern wrestling fans or his outspokenness about the business and U.S. politics might push people away, I found it hard not to like the guy after seeing this, despite my feelings or thoughts on certain subjects.

Love him or hate him, Jim Cornette is a guy with a lot of opinions that can speak on them much better than most. He sticks to his guns and doesn’t let the modern cancel/outrage culture stand in his way. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s hard not to find him entertaining. Well, unless you’re a snowflake asshole.

This was just a solid way to spend an hour and a half while self-quarantining through this “Mexican Lager Viral Event”. I’m just going to call it that because social media platforms, where I will share this review, don’t like that new C-word.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries of the last few years.