Documentary Review: Life After Flash (2017)

Release Date: October 2nd, 2017 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Topol, Peter Wyngarde, Richard O’Brien, Deep Roy, Brian May, Peter Duncan, Howard Blake, Barry Bostwick, Martha De Laurentiis, Richard Donner, Lou Ferrigno, Rich Fulcher, Sean Gunn, Jon Heder, Stan Lee, Ross Marquand, Josh McDermitt, Jason Mewes, Mark Millar, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Rooker, Alex Ross, Patrick Warburton, various

Strict Machine, Spare Change Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

This documentary has been in my queue for a bit but I wanted to revisit Flash Gordon first before checking this out. Luckily, I recently found my DVD of the original film and was able to watch it and review it a week or so ago.

Now that the 1980 film was fresh in my mind again, as I hadn’t seen it in years, I felt like I could go into this with more familiarity, context and creative reference.

Overall, this was pretty good and it was intriguing listening to Sam J. Jones’ story about how his career sort of fizzled out and the reasons behind that. Luckily, this is a Hollywood story with a positive outcome, as the guy is now doing well and on the right track, personally and career-wise.

This spends a lot of time talking about Jones but it also delves into the film’s production, history and features interviews with many of the people who were involved in it. I especially liked seeing Brian Blessed in this, as I’ve always loved that guy.

Life After Flash also explores the fandom a bit, as it interviews super fans and collectors but also allows them to show off their cool shit and talk about their love for the film.

I dug this documentary quite a bit, as I feel like the 1980 Flash Gordon doesn’t get enough love and has sort of been forgotten by modern audiences. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about filmmaking and specific fandoms.

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.

Documentary Review: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)

Release Date: August 30th, 2018 (Venice premiere)
Directed by: Morgan Neville
Music by: Daniel Wohl
Cast: Orson Welles (archive footage), Alan Cumming (host, narrator), Peter Bogdanovich, Oja Kodar, Peter Jason, Cybill Shepherd, Frank Marshall, Beatrice Welles, John Huston (archive footage), Dennis Hopper (archive footage) 

Tremolo Productions, Royal Road Entertainment, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a pretty fascinating documentary but then Orson Welles, the film’s subject, is an immensely fascinating guy.

This tells the story of Welles’ attempt at trying to complete what would have been his final film: The Other Side of the Wind. However, the picture, despite Welles’ best efforts and years spent filming footage, would not see the light of day.

Beyond that, this explores why it never materialized into a final, complete form. It looks at Welles’ rocky relationship with the Hollywood elite but also shows how passionate he was about the project, which seemed to be ever evolving and not something that had any sort of definitive framework.

More than anything, this was a great documentary simply because it showed us an intimate look into Welles’ life and career at its final stages. He was a lovable, charismatic guy that remained somewhat enigmatic till the end.

It’s also worth seeing for any Welles’ fan, as it does show a lot of the footage that was filmed for The Other Side of the Wind. And even if you don’t get a clear understanding of what the film was to be, you do at least come to understand, as much as a mortal can, Welles’ creative process and motivation in making it.

This is a stupendous documentary film on the man and his brand of filmmaking. And since it is on Netflix, those with the streaming service should probably check it out.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Orson Welles and filmmaking from his era.

Book Review: ‘The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams’ by Greg Oliver & Steven Johnson

I’ve heard good things about this book series from several of the people on the old school wrestling podcasts I listen to regularly.

That being said, I really wanted to check this one out first, as I’m a massive fan of old school tag team wrestling because it’s an art that seems lost in the modern era and because so many of the legendary tag teams were just too cool for f’n school.

This does a great job of providing mini-biographies on the greatest teams the sport of wrestling has ever seen up to the early ’00s. It covers all the different eras going back to the beginning of tag team wrestling.

The book is well organized, well researched and it discusses the teams and the wrestling stars with great care.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I especially liked it because I don’t think tag teams get enough love.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books from this series, as well as other historical wrestling books.

Documentary Review: Jim Crockett Promotions: The Good Old Days (2013)

Release Date: 2013
Cast: various

EllBow Productions, 134 Minutes

Review:

This is the last of the large lot of wrestling documentary DVDs that I ordered from Highspots when COVID kicked off and I needed stuff to watch while living that quarantine life.

Like the others, this one is comprised of a lot of talking head interviews, edited and cut together to tell the narrative. Almost all of the interviews are taken from previously released shoot interviews that were filmed and released over the years.

I felt like I was saving the best documentary for last, as the history of Jim Crockett Promotions seemed like a fantastic story that I wanted to delve into.

The problem with this (and really, it’s just my problem) is that I already knew just about everything that was discussed and recounted here, as I’ve watched countless shoot interviews and read a lot of books on wrestling history, especially regarding the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

That’s not to say that this isn’t informative and comprehensive, it’s just to say that none of this isn’t information found elsewhere. I had kind of hoped for some new or deeper insight.

Still, this is solid, well edited, well constructed and pretty educational and interesting to those who have a love of the subject matter.

My only regret is that I didn’t buy this back in the day when they released a three disc versions with lots of matches and extras.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries by EllBow Productions or released through Highspots.

Book Review: ‘Don’t Call Me Fake: The Real Story of “Dr. D” David Schultz’ by David Schultz, John Cosper

To say that “Dr. D” David Schultz is one of the most interesting guys that ever worked in the wrestling business might be an understatement. He’s most famous for being infamous but he also got pushed out of the career he loved and became one of the most famous bounty hunters in the United States.

His most famous act, still to this day, was slapping 20/20‘s John Stossel back in December of 1984 at Madison Square Garden. It’s the incident that changed his life and set him on a different career path outside of professional wrestling.

Schultz is much more complex and a lot more interesting than just being the cantankerous heel that hit a reporter, though. He’s actually a pretty badass dude, legitimately.

He was known as one of the toughest wrestlers in the locker room and he would go on to have a great career as a bounty hunter where he actually used that job to try and help those on the wrong side of the law. Despite his legendary reputation as a heel, David Schultz has actually helped people turn their lives around, whether just checking up on them or helping them escape very bad people.

This book tells Schultz’s story in his own words and man, it’s compelling stuff and, hands down, one of the best wrestler biographies I have ever read.

The first half of the book covers Schultz’s youth and wrestling career while the second half takes you through his bounty hunting career. Even though I bought this for the wrestling stories, I found the bounty hunting stories to be much more intriguing and captivating. The guy has lived one hell of a life.

Don’t Call Me Fake is incredible and I don’t know why this hasn’t been made into a movie yet.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other biographies and historical books written about old school wrestling from the territory era.

Documentary Review: Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film (2019)

Release Date: February 8th, 2019 (Santa Barbara International Film Festival)
Directed by: William Conlin
Written by: Thomas R. Burman, William Conlin
Music by: Shawn Patterson
Cast: Thomas R. Burman, Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Richard Donner, Dana Gould, John Landis, Leonard Maltin, Greg Nicotero, various

Gravitas Ventures, The Burman Studio Inc., Hellcat Productions LLC,  86 Minutes

Review:

This recently popped up on Prime Video, so I added it to my queue. I didn’t want to watch it, however, until I was done revisiting the original run of Planet of the Apes movies.

This was a great thing to watch following the five original films, though. And it’s especially cool for those who love practical special effects, movie makeup and/or the film franchise.

From the start, this documentary gets right into the development of the first Planet of the Apes movie and how everything from the effects side of the film came to be. It also gets into the sequels and talks about the advances in technology and how they changed the way the future Apes movies were made.

The thing I liked best about this, other than learning about the makeup process, was getting to know the creatives behind it all and how their craft changed filmmaking forever. It was also interesting seeing how their relationships evolved with one another and in a few instances, dissolved.

This really is a great piece on special effects filmmaking but it is made even better by telling a really human story about people that should be regarded as legends.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries on filmmaking.

Book Review: ‘The Solie Chronicles: The Life and Times of Gordon Solie’ by Robert Allyn, Pamela S. Allyn & Scott Teal

I grew up in Florida with the men in my family being big professional wrestling fans. So the territory that I was exposed to the most was Florida’s. Because of that, Gordon Solie really was the voice of my childhood, as far as being the guy who was the host of every single episode of the television program I liked the most after G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Sadly, I never got to meet the man even though I saw him at wrestling events all over the state, as well as being front and center at the few studio tapings I went to with my dad and my uncles.

As a kid, I took Gordon Solie for granted. He was just always there and I guess I never realized how great he was and how much he meant to me until he wasn’t with us anymore and other than Jim Ross and Lance Russell, who I could only see when I had access to Memphis wrestling, I was typically disappointed with the wrestling commentary that came after Solie.

Additionally, I never knew much about the man. I had heard and read things over the years but even then, a lot of the information was scant and kind of unreliable. Wrestlers love telling stories but if you’ve listened to enough, you know that those stories often times comes with a lot of bullshit.

So reading this was really great. It’s written by Solie’s son-in-law and daughter and they were able to give a lot of insight into the man’s personal life, going all the way back to his childhood, his military service and how he eventually broke into sportscasting in the State of Florida.

I know that this book might not appeal to many people, as it’s about a guy from just one territory in a bygone era for a business that has completely changed but I enjoyed it and I think that those who know of Gordon Solie, might enjoy it too.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Documentary Review: Henchman: The Al Leong Story (2018)

Release Date: December 15th, 2018
Directed by: Vito Trabucco 
Music by: DJ Disco T.
Cast: Al Leong, John Carpenter, Jeff Imada, Dave Callaham, James Lew

Yinzer Enterprises, 110 Minutes

Review:

Growing up in the ’80s, I saw Al Leong everywhere. I didn’t know who he was; all I knew was that he’s a really unique looking dude that would show up as a henchman to the villain in just about every iconic ’80s action flick.

As I got older, I learned more about him but still, most people just saw him as that dude that popped up all over the place, who eventually got killed after doing some badass shit.

So I’m glad that this documentary was made, as the guy deserves to be showcased and to have his story told to all the fans who have appreciated him over the last four decades.

Leong’s story is much deeper and richer than I had expected and it was fantastic getting to hear him talk about his life in his own words.

We also get to see his colleagues discuss him and his career. It’s really cool seeing John Carpenter talk about Leong and why he used him in his films so often.

Overall, this isn’t a great documentary but it will satisfy fans of the guy’s work or just those who remember seeing him everywhere.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about character actors and filmmaking in the ’80s.