Documentary Review: The Authentic Untold Story ECW (2016)

Release Date: November 21st, 2016
Cast: Corey Graves (host), The Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer

WWE, 47 Minutes

Review:

I wasn’t sure what this was when I fired it up on the WWE Network but then I immediately realized that I had already seen it back when it aired.

It’s not a traditional documentary, as much as it is a one-off interview show with a panel of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) legends talking about their time in the promotion back in the ’90s and very early ’00s.

Overall, for old school ECW fans, this was a worthwhile watch that felt pretty honest and unfiltered. It features the Dudley Boyz, Tazz, Tommy Dreamer and ECW boss, Paul Heyman.

Each guy told stories about the heyday of ECW and went through a bunch of topics.

This is kind of a nice followup watch to the WWE’s superb documentary, The Rise and Fall of ECW.

However, for those who aren’t familiar with ECW and don’t already have a love for it, this probably doesn’t offer up much that would be considered engaging or entertaining. Although, if you’re a fan of wrestling history, you’ll probably find this interesting, regardless of your feelings on ECW.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other WWE Network exclusives and documentaries.

Film Review: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Also known as: ID Forever (working title), IDR (short title), Resurgence, Independence Day 2 (informal titles)
Release Date: June 20th, 2016 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Nicholas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Based on: characters by Dean Devlin, James A. Woods
Music by: Thomas Wander, Harald Kloser
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Travis Tope, Sela Ward, Angelababy, Vivica A. Fox, Deobia Oparei, Nicolas Wright, Ng Chin Han, Robert Loggia, Mckenna Grace

Centropolis Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 120 Minutes

Review:

“We convinced an entire generation, that this is a battle that we could win. We sacrifice for each other no matter what the cost. And that’s worth fighting for.” – President Whitmore

When I saw this in the theater, there was that part of me that hoped this would be a sleeper hit that ended up impressing me, as opposed to being another half-assed sequel. Plus, I hadn’t liked anything that Roland Emmerich had done since the first Independence Day in 1996. But my absolute love of that film made me hopeful that this one would generate the same sort of effect that the first film had on me.

Initially, it didn’t and I was pretty disappointed with the final product. However, four years later a.k.a. now, I actually found this a bit more enjoyable. I think that mainly has to do with my love of the original core characters who returned.

This isn’t anywhere near as good or memorable as its predecessor but it’s still a fun, over-the-top blockbuster that uses Emmerich’s style better than any other film since the original Independence Day. This certainly blows Godzilla out of the water and it’s a better movie than The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC and 2012. I’d probably put The Patriot and White House Down ahead of it but I was extremely drunk when I saw White House Down, which is why I didn’t officially review it.

I liked Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch in this because they’re so good as father and son. I also liked what they did with Bill Pullman’s character and how they brought back Brent Spiner, who was still on his A-game even after a twenty year coma and new technologies that he had never worked with. But whatever, just turn your brain off; this is an Emmerich movie about kicking alien ass!

My biggest complaint about the film is the opposite of how I feel about most films and that’s that this needed more time to develop its characters and to get you more invested in it. Granted, I think they overdid it by trying to introduce so many characters for the next generation of heroes. It really only needed two or three core newbies and not a whole squad and separate environment with its own large supporting cast. Most of these characters don’t make much of an impact and are easily forgotten, unlike the first movie where even the small roles were memorable and felt important.

However, I like how this does make the human victory feel like a real team effort. That’s what I loved about the original story and this replicates that well, even if some people are lost in the shuffle.

I also liked the introduction of the aliens having a hive mind and a queen. While that’s nothing new, I liked how they made the queen massive and the final battle essentially turned the film into a kaiju movie. The only mistake with it was that the giant alien queen was thrown into the desert and not a city or populated area where she could smash buildings and bitchslap tanks.

In the end, this pales in comparison to the original but it expands the universe in a neat way and brings back characters you love, giving them more life.

Sadly, this under-performed and we most assuredly won’t get a third movie despite this ending in a way that made it seem like one was definitely coming. Despite this film’s overall quality, I would’ve liked to have seen a good, final chapter, making this a fun and entertaining trilogy where the lowly, primitive Earthlings finally destroyed the biggest threat to the universe.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and other Roland Emmerich films or movies where Jeff Goldblum plays a heroic boffin.

Documentary Review: The Funks (2016)

Release Date: August 10th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliott
Cast: Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Ricky Steamboat, Gerald Brisco, Steve Corino, James J. Dillon, Stan Hansen, Bret Hart, The Blue Meanie, Jim Ross

EllBow Productions, 124 Minutes

Review:

I’m still working my way through a big stack of DVD documentaries I ordered when they were running COVID sales on Highspots. This one was the next one in the stack and it was made by EllBow Productions, whose wrestling documentaries have all been pretty good.

This one focuses on the Funk bros, Dory Jr. and Terry and their wrestling careers.

This starts off going through their early life, however. It talks about their upbringing and their father, who ran his own wrestling territory. It then goes into how the sons sort of took over the business but ultimately, started wrestling for other marquee promoters, becoming two of the biggest stars of their time.

The Funks also delves into their world title runs, their greatest rivalries, as well as their retirements (multiple for Terry), as well as Terry’s time in Japan.

Like many of these documentaries, this features several different wrestling personalities giving talking head interviews. These are clipped and edited in to provide a good, cohesive narrative.

Overall, the documentary flows well and it gives you a lot of good insight into these men’s lives inside and outside the ring.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBow Productions or released through Highspots.

 

Documentary Review: I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story (2016)

Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Cast: Magnum T.A., Bill Apter, Dave Meltzer, Jim Ross, Ricky Morton, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff, George South, Jimmy Valiant, various

Highspots, Ellbow Productions, 92 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, just really getting into wrestling, Magnum T.A. was a pretty big f’n deal. I loved the guy regardless of my allegiance to the heels. I think a lot of that had to due with his association with Dusty Rhodes, one of the few babyfaces I gave a pass to, but Magnum was still a great talent and commanded attention when he spoke and when he fought in the ring.

This guy was a supernova of charisma and talent but sadly, a car crash ended his career before he even reached his peak.

I remember when I first heard about this tragedy and even though I was a little kid, it was a punch to the gut.

In later years, as I learned more about what other wrestlers thought about how great this guy would have been, it became a much sadder story, as the wrestling industry could’ve really used Magnum during one of its lowest eras, the early ’90s.

It was really nice seeing this documentary though, as I learned that the man has weathered the storm about as well as one could. He’s got a pretty positive and good outlook on life and the business he was once a huge part of. Frankly, he’s still involved in different ways and he makes appearances to this day.

But I really liked hearing his story from his own words, as well as the words of his closest peers and his mother. Ultimately, this made me appreciate Magnum T.A. more than I had before.

If you remember the guy or just have a love of old school wrestling, this is definitely worth looking at.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries put out by Highspots and Ellbow Productions.

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: 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.

Documentary Review: Ghostheads (2016)

Release Date: July 15th, 2016
Directed by: Brendan Mertens
Music by: John Avarese
Cast: William Atherton, Dan Aykroyd, Matt Cardona (Zack Ryder), Dave Coulier, Paul Feig, Kurt Fuller, Ernie Hudson, Ivan Reitman, James Rolfe, Jennifer Runyon, Sigourney Weaver

Double Windsor Films, Patchwork Media, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, 73 Minutes

Review:

There are a lot of specific fandoms out there. In this day and age with crowdfunding, it seems like all of them have their own documentaries. That’s cool though, as I find myself as a part of many different fandoms. Maybe not to the extent of the people in these sort of documentaries but I’m always down to hear from people that share one of my many passions.

I’ve loved Ghostbusters almost my entire life. I first saw it at five or six years-old and I was hooked. Between the two movies, the animated series and the toys, I spent a lot of time with my imagination locked into the Ghostbusters world.

What’s impressive about this specific fandom documentary, however, is that it actually interviews a lot of the people who were involved in the films and in the genesis of the franchise’s creation.

It’s cool hearing from the actors, the filmmakers and even voice actors from the cartoon.

Beyond that, this also focuses on the fans, as most fandom documentaries do because that’s sort of the point.

All in all, it seems like these films are a dime a dozen. But this is definitely one of the better ones I’ve seen.

The Ghostbusters fan community really goes all out on the cosplay and in trying to deck out their own personal vehicles to resemble the iconic Ecto-1. It’s hard not to appreciate that sort of enthusiasm.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about specific fandoms.

Documentary Review: Gimme Danger (2016)

Release Date: May 19th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Music by: Iggy Pop, The Stooges
Cast: Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton, Danny Fields

Amazon Studios, Magnolia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue forever but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it. Being that it was in the queue for so long is why I kept forgetting about it, as it was way, way down the list.

Anyway, I usually like Jim Jamrusch as a filmmaker. While he typically does dramatic features, I don’t think I’ve seen a documentary by him. Being that this one is on Iggy Pop and The Stooges is really what peaked my interest. Iggy has been a favorite artist of mine pretty much my entire life, since I first heard “Lust for Life”, and The Stooges made what I consider to be one of the best albums of all-time with their 1969 self-titled debut.

This immediately gets right into their breakup and troubles but it’s all a set up, as the credits roll after a few minutes. Following the credits, the story goes back to the beginning to fill in what happened before the real drama.

This also goes well beyond the break up of The Stooges, focuses on Iggy’s solo career, his time in London with David Bowie and what his former bandmates were up to. Eventually, we get to see The Stooges, older and wiser, reunite and reignite their friendship.

Gimme Danger is pretty compelling and just a good rock and roll story starring a legitimate living legend.

It moves at a good, brisk pace without any wasted moments.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent music biopics: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whitney, A Band Called Death, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and David Bowie: The Last Five Years.

TV Review: 11.22.63 (2016)

Original Run: February 15th, 2016 – April 4th, 2016
Created by: Bridget Carpenter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Music by: J. J. Abrams, Alex Heffes
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, Daniel Webber, T. R. Knight, Kevin J. O’Connor, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper, Annette O’Toole

Carpenter B., Bad Robot Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Hulu, 8 Episodes, 44-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I was actually pretty hyped to watch this when it was coming out, three years ago. However, my work life took a turn for the worse and I spent most of 2016 working about 70 hours per week and not having much time for anything else. I actually started this site later in that year when things started to stabilize again but by that point, this slipped down the memory hole.

However, I’ve been wanting to watch Stephen King’s Castle Rock on Hulu. So before getting into that, I wanted to go back and check this out, as it was King’s first Hulu collaboration.

The premise follows a man (James Franco), as he goes back in time to try and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s an interesting premise but it does also seem that the protagonist does it really haphazardly, as messing with the timeline can have some unforeseen consequences and it does. In fact, it has grave consequences, which I think are supposed to surprise you but for fans of time travel stories, it really doesn’t. I kind of sighed and went, “Well, it’s not like this wasn’t an obvious result of his meddling.”

What’s interesting about this though, is that King explores the idea of time itself fighting back during the hero’s journey. It almost feels like horror at times but at the same time, the effect that time has in fighting back against changes seems inconsistent throughout the story. It is really only used where it is convenient to the plot in some way or just to remind you that time is its own master.

I had a problem with that aspect of the story and I felt like it was a wasted opportunity in a lot of ways. Cool concept, half assed execution.

But still, this was damn compelling television. You get drawn into this world, this character’s mission and you do fall in love with some of the characters.

The acting is superb and this is some of Franco’s best dramatic work. But the rest of the cast is also exceptional, especially the love interest, played by Sarah Gadon, the and the best friend/partner, played by George MacKay. But two real standouts were Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald and the evil son of a bitch that was brought to life by Josh Duhamel.

Overall, this was a solid political thriller with a time travel twist. While the time travel stuff was handled pretty willy-nilly, you get so caught up in the proceedings that it feels secondary.

Rating: 8.5/10

Film Review: The Chair (2016)

Release Date: October 8th, 2016 (Northeast Wisconsin Horror Festival)
Directed by: Chad Ferrin
Written by: Erin Kohut, Peter Simeti
Based on: The Chair by Peter Simeti
Music by: Douglas Edward
Cast: Bill Oberst Jr., Roddy Piper, Noah Hathaway, Zach Galligan, Naomi Grossman, Ezra Buzzington, Joseph Pilato, Joe Laurinaitis

Alterna Comics, Crappy World Films, Girls and Corpses Magazine, 84 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my queue for a really long time. I kept putting it off because I was afraid I would be disappointed by it. Well, those concerns were valid, as I was.

I wanted to go into this with high hopes, as it was Roddy Piper’s last movie and also featured Noah Hathaway and Zach Galligan, two guys that made 1984 a great year for my young imagination. Additionally, this was based on Peter Simeti’s graphic novel that he released through his own comic company Alterna.

Simeti has always come off as a great guy and I like the vast majority of the comics he publishes. Especially in an age where more comics than not are kind of shit.

But in the end, this was a mess of a film that was really hindered by its budget. While you can do a lot for very little, this movie sacrifices the atmosphere by really cheaping out on it. And what I mean by that is that the whole thing looks as if it were filmed in one or two corridors with a few different rooms. And then everything is so damn dark, its hard to see the film in most shots.

Now the comic book is also very dark but the visual style works well in the comic book medium, as it takes advantage of a high chiaroscuro presentation. Even the comic is hard to look at due to the overly gritty art but it works for this story. In this film, however, the style and the character of what exists in the comic is lost in the constant darkness. Really, it’s a poorly lit film but that’s only one of many technical issues that hinders the whole presentation.

The acting by the more veteran players isn’t actually half bad. Piper does a pretty superb job with what he’s given and I can’t knock his work here.

Apart from Piper, though, the film is just insanely dull. It was really hard to get through, especially with the comic as a frame of reference and being a fan of four of the actors in the picture.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the graphic novel it’s based on but I thought the comic was much better.