Documentary Review: Jack of All Trades (2018)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2018 (Cinequest Festival)
Directed by: Harvey Glazer, Stuart Stone
Written by: Stuart Stone
Music by: John Stuart Newman, Jamie Rise, Stuart Stone
Cast: Stuart Stone, Harvey Glazer, Adam Rodness, Jose Canseco, Karie Stone

5’7 Films, R2-G2, 85 Minutes

Review:

I have loved collecting since I was a little kid in the ’80s buying up sports cards, comics and all sorts of other things. So this documentary about the baseball card hobby was something I wanted to check out.

This is more than that though, as it follows a guy whose love of baseball collecting came from his father. As the story picks up, it has been over twenty-five years since the guy’s father walked out on his family.

Initially, this is about examining the once massive baseball card industry and how all the cards ’80s and ’90s kids saved are pretty much worthless. But by the end, it is about a guy confronting his father and trying to find peace.

Overall, this is a good, engaging documentary. It really delves into baseball card collecting and also has some interviews with people from Topps and Upper Deck, as well as Jose Canseco and a guy with more baseball cards than anyone else in existence.

However, the very human story between the son and his father takes over. But that’s actually what is unique and cool about this film.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about collecting, hobbies or nerdom.

Documentary Review: The Commodore Story: Changing the World 8-Bits at a Time (2018)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2018 (London and California premieres)
Directed by: Steven Fletcher
Written by: Steven Fletcher
Music by: Harry Filby, Matthew Fletcher, Tristan Kane

WavemStudios, 120 Minutes

Review:

I never owned a Commodore 64 but I had a cousin that owned one. Every time I went to his house, all we did was play games on it. To me, it was a really cool experience and very different than playing games on consoles. All I owned were a Nintendo and the Atari 5200, so using the Commodore was always a treat.

And while I don’t have a lot of experience with Commodore, I did have some experience with Amiga, as my mum had one for work. I got to play it whenever she wasn’t using it for graphic design and it always sort of brought up the same feelings I got with the Commodore 64.

The reason I bring up Amiga, is that this is just as much a documentary about that company, as it is Commodore. In fact, there’s even a lot of stuff in here about Atari too, as many of the people interviewed worked for two or all three of the companies in some capacity.

If you like the history and culture of the tech industry or video games, this is certainly a worthwhile documentary to check out. It’s certainly a must watch for retro gaming junkies like myself.

This was a crowdfunded documentary that really should have pleased its investors. It’s meticulously produced and presented with great interviews, stellar editing and a really good flow. Plus, it’s incredibly informative, as all the people in this give personal stories and their two cents on the business end of things regarding the evolution of all these companies discussed and ultimately, how Commodore ceased to exist.

I was entertained and engaged for the entire duration. And honestly, it made me want to fire up my Commodore emulator.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other tech industry documentaries.

Documentary Review: Bad Reputation (2018)

Also known as: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (poster title)
Release Date: January 22nd, 2018 (Sundance)
Directed by: Kevin Kerslake
Written by: Joel Marcus
Music by: The Runaways, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Cast: Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Pop, Michael J. Fox, Rodney Bingenheimer, Debbie Harry, Kristen Stewart, Pete Townsend, Dana White

BMG, Blackheart Films, Inaudible Films, Submarine, Magnolia Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

Joan Jett is awesome. If you disagree, you have horrible taste.

Now that that’s out of the way, I was glad to come across this documentary about her life and career. Because, frankly, outside of just enjoying her music whether with the Runaways or with the Blackhearts, I never knew much about her.

As a biographical music documentary, this is pretty standard fare. It goes into her personal life, her backstory and then talks about all the major points in her career.

It’s a well produced and edited piece though and it’s Joan, herself, that gives this thing its life. She’s just great to listen to and her passion comes through.

Additionally, there are a lot of talking head interviews with a slew of famous fans and other musicians. This had a good, solid cast of people with their own unique takes and stories about Joan.

This is definitely one of the more enjoyable rock and roll documentaries to come out in the last few years. The production quality is great, there isn’t a dull moment and it was a fantastic way to kill time on a cramped, cross country flight.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent rock and roll biopics: Gimme Danger, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whiteny, A Band Called Death, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and David Bowie: The Last Five Years

Documentary Review: WWE 365: Alexa Bliss (2019)

Release Date: June 23rd, 2019
Cast: Alexa Bliss

WWE Network, 49 Minutes

Review:

This was the first of the WWE 365 documentaries that I watched. But based off of this one, I will probably check out the others.

I watched this one because it aired immediately after a pay-per-view I was watching and because I have really dug Alexa Bliss since she was first called up to the main WWE roster in the summer of 2016.

For having less than three years on the main roster, she has already carved out one of the best careers out of any of WWE’s female superstars in history. Sure, she’s not quite on the Trish Stratus or Fabulous Moolah level (yet) but her rise to the top was almost immediate and she hasn’t let go of that brass ring other than where injuries kept her out of action.

What’s really compelling about this documentary is that it follows her for a year and it was the year where she started out on top but had to work through a lengthy and dangerous injury in an effort to get back to form and to once again rule the women’s roster.

Alexa has a great personality, is pretty damn likable and she gets to be herself and not just a character on television. Her charm and charisma come through and this solid episode of 365 allows you to connect with her on a real level.

You learn about her past struggles, her loves outside of the ring and you see her in a different light, as she has mostly been a villain since winning her first (of many) championships.

For wrestling fans, WWE 365 is worth checking out. For fans of Alexa Bliss, this installment is a must watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other WWE 365 episodes, as well as their other documentary series, WWE 24.

Documentary Review: Pepsi Vs. Cola: The Marketing Battle of the Century (2014)

Also known as: Pepsi Vs. Coca: The Marketing Battle of the Century (title card)
Release Date: 2014
Directed by: Nicolas Glimois, Thomas Risch, Christophe Weber

Indigenius, 53 Minutes

Review:

I have no idea where this documentary first appeared, as there isn’t a whole lot of information on it, even though it is streaming for free on Prime Video for Amazon Prime members.

However, I like documentaries on business history, especially in regards to iconic companies and industry feuds.

I’m pretty sure this was an episode of a TV series that was repackaged, as it plays like that. But even so, this is a thorough and highly informational piece about the rivalry between Pepsi and Coca-Cola, which also delves into the history of each company.

I learned a lot watching this but it wasn’t an exciting documentary. It was mostly interviews with some experts in this realm, as they walked the viewer through both companies marketing strategies over their many decades in business.

This also clears up a lot of the theories surrounding New Coke and whether or not it was real or an elaborate marketing hoax. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a hoax.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other business history documentaries.

Documentary Review: Comic Book Kingdom (2018)

Release Date: May 25th, 2018 (Brighton Rocks Film Festival)
Directed by: Marius Smuts
Music by: Maz Iannone
Cast: Edward Bentley, Laurence Campbell, Matt Hardy, Kev Hopgood, Inko, Chie Kutsuwada, Ian Sharman, Zara Slattery, Myfanwy Tristram, Nigel Twumasi

MSP, 61 Minutes

Review:

Surprisingly, this has been out for a year and it doesn’t even have a rating on IMDb. Also, I couldn’t find a trailer for it, so one won’t accompany this post.

This was a short, one hour documentary that focuses on indie comic creators from the UK.

For the most part, this was enjoyable and interesting. Most of the people featured I had never heard of but this delves into a myriad of indie comic book styles, as well as some manga.

The documentary is mostly just a bunch of talking head interviews cut together but it’s at least well organized and edited decently, even though it jumps back and forth. A lot of these comic book talking head pieces can be all over the map; this one isn’t.

My only real complaint with it, is I wish that it edited in more footage of artists creating, as they talked. It does show some of that but nowhere near enough. I’m always into seeing how artists create, as they create, and it feels like that’s an afterthought here.

But this wasn’t a bad way to spend an hour and it’s streaming for free on Prime Video if you have an account.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent comic book documentaries, many of which I have already reviewed.

*NO TRAILER AVAILABLE*

 

Documentary Review: The Madness of Max (2015)

Release Date: August 1st, 2015
Directed by: Gary McFeat, Tim Ridge
Written by: Gary McFeat, Tim Ridge
Music by: Gary McFeat
Cast: George Miller, Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Joanne Samuel

Macau Light Company, 157 Minutes

Review:

Being a big fan of Mad Max, I’ve wanted to see this documentary for awhile. While it has a lot of information and stories, it’s way too long for the subject matter, moves pretty slow and is actually a bit boring.

For something that’s over two and a half hours, this could have had some stuff in it about the sequels but those aren’t really mentioned, as this focuses solely on the first film and its creation. It’s an interesting story, for sure, but this documentary’s pacing and length sucked my interest right out of the room.

This thing is more than an hour longer than the movie its talking about, which is kind of mad, pun intended.

I like the insight from George Miller, as well as the cast but all this is, is 157 minutes of talking heads cut together into sections about certain subjects in regards to the film’s production.

A lot of this felt like interviews that could have been whittled down and better edited. A lot of people rehash the same things, again and again, and a lot of the details don’t need to be presented multiple times. But maybe the filmmakers wanted to give everyone an equal amount of time. But in doing that, it makes the flow and quality of this picture suffer.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other “making of” movie documentaries.