TV Review: Q: Into the Storm (2021)

Original Run: March 21st, 2021 – April 4th, 2021
Created by: Adam McKay, Todd Schulman, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, Cullen Hoback, Alina Solodnikova, Tina Nguyen
Directed by: Cullen Hoback
Cast: various

HBO Documentary Films, Hyperobject Industries, Hyrax Films, 6 Episodes, 57-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I have HBO Max but I didn’t even know this was out there until Joe Rogan was talking to Zuby about it on his podcast. Granted, I also didn’t know what the hell Q was until a few months before the 2020 presidential election when you couldn’t escape mention of it on Twitter, a platform I still use because apparently I’m into torture and pig vomit limited to 280 characters.

Because of all the hoopla regarding Q, especially over the last twelve months, I figured I should watch this to learn more about what it is, why it is, how it is and the people that are connected to it. It’s become this strange, cultish, conspiratorial phenomenon and whether you agree with any of it or not, it’s still pretty fucking fascinating.

Being that this was put out by HBO, I was skeptical about it, as I wasn’t sure how objective and unbiased it would be. And frankly, that’s a real issue that I have with most documentaries these days that deal with political and/or social issues.

I ended up seeing this as pretty objective, though. It let all sides of the story that participated, clearly give their points of view on QAnon and everything surrounding 8Chan and its effect on the world of social media, American politics and the minds of those caught within its orbit.

That being said, this did feel more like a documentary about 8Chan than Q and QAnon. Sure, this does try to solve the mystery about who Q is and even though it does try to point to someone in the documentary, the viewer is still allowed to take the evidence presented and draw their own ideas and theories. But, at the same time, does it even really matter who it is?

All in all, I thought this was well-made, well-edited, well-paced after the first two episodes and it was hard to turn off and not watch in a single sitting. In a lot of ways, I guess this became my Tiger King for this year.

In the end, I don’t think this came close to solving this mystery but it was an entertaining journey and pretty damn informative, overall.

Rating: 7.5/10

Book Review: ‘Bruiser Brody’ by Emerson Murray

I know, I know… I’ve reviewed a ton of wrestler biographies over the last year or so. There’s just so many good ones and I especially want to read through everything put out by Crowbar Press, as those are generally on another level.

Bruiser Brody was also a guy who I loved. I heard the legendary tales about the guy but due to him being murdered while still at the height of his career, I didn’t get to actually see him perform until I became a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s.

Once I saw Brody, I realized that the hype was real and the guy had an infectious charisma and a ring presence that made nearly anyone facing him look like the victim of a savage beatdown.

Over the years, I amassed a pretty big library of Bruiser Brody footage from all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan, where he did some of his most amazing work. I’ve studied the guy for a few decades now and have read a lot of old articles about him. But I never felt like I knew enough about the actual man behind the persona, until now.

This book does a superb job in showing you Brody’s life from his childhood, his life in football and his life in wrestling up until the night where he was stabbed in the showers before a wrestling event in Puerto Rico.

The best part of this book is that we get to read a lot of Brody stories through the words of other wrestling legends that worked with the man, were his friends and traveled with him.

I also like that this book is loaded with photos. But even then, it’s not so loaded that there isn’t a lot to read here. This is a good-sized book and it really lets you get to know this legend that passed way before his time.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: 100 Years of Horror (1996-1997)

Original Run: 1996 – 1997
Created by: Ted Newsom, Dante J. Pugliese
Directed by: Ted Newsom
Written by: Ted Newson, Jeff Forrester (uncredited)
Cast: Christopher Lee (presenter), Roger Corman, Hugh Hefner, Fred Olen Ray, Richard Denning, Bela Lugosi Jr., Hazel Court, Robert Wise, Beverly Garland, Gloria Talbott, Sara Karloff, Dick Miller, Caroline Munro, John Agar, Ralph Bellamy, John Carpenter, Richard Matheson, Linnea Quigley, various

Multicom Entertainment Group, 26 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m glad that this documentary television series was made when it was, in the mid-’90s, as it allowed for the children of multiple horror icons to be involved and to tell stories about their fathers, their careers and their personal lives outside of the public eye.

Additionally, I love that this was able to include a lot of the filmmakers, writers and actors that were involved in a lot of classic horror films. Had this been made today, a lot of these people wouldn’t have been able to tell their stories in their own words, as they’re no longer with us.

Also, I love that Christopher Lee was the presenter of this series, as there wasn’t a more perfect choice available.

This series features 26 episodes, roughly 22 minutes apiece. Each episode tackles a different subject, be it a type of monster or a legendary horror actor. Plus, each episode covers a lot of ground for its running time, jumping through history and trying to show the audience everything it possibly can on the subject.

There really isn’t a dull episode, as there are so many different things that can be covered. There could’ve been more episodes and there still would’ve more topics to explore.

I like that this just dives right in and delivers so much. In fact, every episode showed me something I wasn’t aware of and helped me expand my list of old school horror movies that I still have left to watch and review.

All in all, this was pretty great and classic horror fans will probably find themselves lost in each episode, traveling through time and seeing things they still haven’t seen before.

Rating: 7.5/10

Documentary Review: The British Bulldogs (1986)

Release Date: October 15th, 1986 (video)
Directed by: Vince McMahon
Written by: Steven B. Hecht, Vince McMahon
Cast: “Dynamite Kid” Tommy Billington, Davey Boy Smith, Lou Albano, Bret Hart, The Iron Sheik, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, various

World Wrestling Federation, Coliseum Video, 90 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled upon this on Peacock in the documentary section of their WWE content. I was pretty stoked to watch it, as The British Bulldogs were one of my all-time favorite tag teams and seeing a then-WWF documentary from 1986 seemed pretty cool.

Well, it’s not a documentary. While WWE become known for making great historical wrestling documentaries about past talent, this was produced before that era and thus, it’s a collection of Bulldogs matches with a few other segments mixed in.

This was still really neat to watch, though, as these guys were just solid f’n workers in the ring and they had an intensity that was kind of unmatched in the era until their greatest rivals came along, The Hart Foundation.

The content here is all enjoyable but it doesn’t feature their best stuff. This came out in the middle of their historic run, so WWF only had the first half of that run to pick matches from. There are some memorable matches thrown on this like their feud with The Dream Team (Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake before he was “The Barber”).

Half of this is singles matches, though. And that’s fine, as both the Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy can work on their own. However, I was hoping for a lot of their iconic tag team championship matches. I was also hoping for a lot more of their feud with The Hart Foundation but this came out when that feud was really getting started.

Still, if you also love The Bulldogs, this is definitely worth checking out to see them win those titles and to see them both wrestle in their primes.

Rating: 7/10

Documentary Review: Stripped: Los Angeles (2020)

Release Date: September 1st, 2020 (online premiere)
Directed by: Marc Ostrick
Written by: Marc Ostrick
Music by: Danny Mordujovich
Cast: Bama Babii, Erica Solitaire Chappell, Della Dane, Nikki Knightly, Sizi Sev

Ostrick Productions, 80 Minutes

Review:

Man, this was excruciating to watch. Not because of the subject matter, by any means, but because the production was amateurish as hell and I kind of found it shocking that Starz would even distribute this. Then again, Starz’s self-produced documentaries have rarely, if ever, been all that good.

I actually wanted a peek into the lives of the girls, here. I worked as a bodyguard and as security in the adult industry in my early twenties. I met a lot of cool and interesting people back then and with that, was expecting some pretty solid personal stories in this.

The problem wasn’t really the girls featured, as much as it was the presentation itself.

This is sloppily edited and most of it was shot like they were making videos for TikTok. Half of the movie is just strippers smoking weed talking about their pets and pointless, boring shit. Do strippers and adult entertainers not really party or have a good time, anymore? I mean, I know that they do but the director seemed to pick the worst days to capture these girls lives.

I know that this was made in an effort to show the real personas of these women but it failed to captivate or even hold my attention.

Honestly, as someone who worked in that industry, I’ve got to wonder if the director was just like all those random dudes that would come into the strip clubs and porn events I worked at, trying to butter up the girls, convincing them they were legit photographers and producers that wanted to use them for a big project. These dudes were a dime a dozen and while most adult entertainers have heard this shit a zillion times, some still gave out their phone numbers. 

Rating: 3.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to el Líder Máximo’ by Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, Axel Gyldén

It’s kind of odd that I bought this book on Amazon and then later that same day, the large protests in Cuba started.

Anyway, I wanted to read this for awhile and I figured I’d take a break from all the fantasy fiction and wrestling biographies I had been reading and reviewing, lately.

Growing up in Florida, I’ve always had a fascination with Cuba, Castro, their history, culture and people. While I’ve grown up pretty immersed in Cuban culture in South Florida, I’ve heard countless stories from my childhood friends, their parents, grandparents and many other Cubans I’ve befriended and worked with over the years. I work in the cigar industry and have for two decades now, so even my career and livelihood is tied to what goes on in Cuba.

That being said, this book, written by one of Fidel Castro’s most trusted bodyguards, is pretty damn fascinating. I learned a lot about the guy, his life, his past, his family and the fact that what he does in private completely contradicts what he preaches in public. Granted, to those of us outside of Cuba, this isn’t a shock. Especially, after the past year seeing politicians break their own COVID rules.

Juan Reinaldo Sánchez really goes deep into the subject matter and paints a pretty rich and complex picture. He also discusses his life, though. He talks about where his mind set started to shift and how he eventually stopped buying into the propaganda and eventually fled Cuba for America.

I’d go into more detail but I sincerely don’t want to spoil the details of this book for those who’d really like to read it.

If this is a subject you’re interested in (or even if you aren’t), this book is damn enthralling and a warning to those who simply believe the things they’re told from those in power.

Rating: 9/10

Documentary Review: Bruno (2018)

Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Cast: Bruno Sammartino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, various

WWE, 46 Minutes

Review:

This was thrown together and released onto WWE Network just a few days after Bruno Sammartino passed away in 2018.

However, instead of trying to release it as quickly as possible, I really wish that WWE would’ve spent the time to put together a good, feature length documentary on Bruno. Hell, if anyone deserved it, it’s this guy, a legitimate legend that really helped make the World-Wide Wrestling Federation, decades before it became today’s WWE. In fact, this guy was the Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan. He was the megastar of the company and really carried it on his back.

Bruno and Vince McMahon had a falling out in the late ’80s, though, and they never really patched things up until a few years before Bruno’s death when he finally accepted a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, after rejecting those offers for nearly two decades.

This documentary does go into Bruno’s life and his career but it mostly covers him coming back into the WWE fold and his reunion with Vince McMahon. It also features some neat backstage footage of Bruno and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the night of his Hall of Fame induction.

This was fairly decent but if I’m being honest, a legend like Bruno Sammartino deserved more and this just felt like it was slapped together to capitalize off of his death happening just a few days earlier.

Rating: 6/10

Documentary Review: My Way: The Life and Legacy of Pat Patterson (2021)

Release Date: January 24th, 2021
Cast: Pat Patterson, Vince McMahon, Gerald Brisco, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, John Cena, Dwayne Johnson, various

WWE, 57 Minutes

Review:

Pat Patterson passed away last December and with his passing, the professional wrestling business lost a true legend and a guy that was very instrumental in how the business moved forward from the ’80s and into the modern era.

Not only was he a legend in the ring, he became Vince McMahon’s right hand when the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) became the dominant force in the industry.

Patterson helped shape the personalities and careers of several legendary wrestlers. He took guys like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and helped mold them into superstars.

However, Pat Patterson was also a gay man in an industry where that was very taboo in his day. It’s also an industry that is all about machismo and with that, Patterson kept his personal life very private. Those who were close to him, knew that he was gay but it was never publically stated by Patterson himself until really late in life when he felt like he didn’t have to hide it anymore.

All that being said, Patterson was an interesting but very layered guy. He was a sweet man, though. I met him briefly backstage at shows a few times and he was always a hell of a nice guy and always accommodating to the fans that got to be around him.

This WWE Network special did a pretty good job of capturing the man’s life even if it had what I consider a scant running time. But I did enjoy the fact that there was enough recorded material of Patterson for him to really tell you his story in his own words.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Witchfinder General (1968)

Also known as: The Conqueror Worm (theatrical title), Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (UK complete title), Matthew Hopkins: Conqueror Worm (US complete title), Edgar Allan Poe’s The Conqueror Worm (US promotional title)
Release Date: May 15th, 1968 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Michael Reeves
Written by: Tom Baker, Michael Reeves, Louis M. Heyward
Based on: Witchfinder General by Ronald Bassett
Music by: Paul Ferris
Cast: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Wilfrid Brambell, Patrick Wymark, Robert Russell, Nicky Henson, Hilary Dwyer

Tigon British Film Productions, American International Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Men sometimes have strange motives for the things they do.” – Matthew Hopkins

I always get Witchfinder General a.k.a. The Conqueror Worm and Cry of the Banshee mixed up in my head. They both star Vincent Price in a very similar role, deal with the same subject matter and came out around the same time.

This is the superior of the two films and it boasts one of Price’s greatest performances. It’s also more grounded than 1970’s Cry of the Banshee, which honestly feels like it was made just to piggyback off of this film’s momentum.

The story, here, follows Matthew Hopkins, a famous (or infamous) witch-hunter. It shows his corruption, how he uses his power to rule over those who fear him and what lengths he’s willing to go to essentially prove that he is the ruler of his own domain.

For those who don’t know, Hopkins was a real historical figure and with that, this film had a bit more chutzpah to it than Cry of the Banshee. There was something really sinister about the fact that this was a real guy. Sure, this was glamorized and took some liberties, as it’s a film that had to up the ante and lean into the horror bits, but from what I’ve read about the guy, none of this really seems out of character and in fact, Price’s portrayal of the character may have been tame by comparison. I mean, in just the three years that Hopkins claimed to be the “Witchfinder General”, he killed more suspected witches than his contemporaries did in the previous 100 years.

This is a fairly compelling film, even if it is a bit slow. But even with its apparent faults, Price’s performance is damn convincing and truly elevates what would’ve been a mundane picture, otherwise.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Spartacus (1960)

Also known as: Spartacus: Rebel Against Rome (US poster title)
Release Date: October 6th, 1960 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Dalton Trumbo
Based on: Spartacus by Howard Fast
Music by: Alex North
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Tony Curtis

Bryna Productions, Universal International, 197 Minutes

Review:

“If you looked into a magic crystal, you saw your army destroyed and yourself dead. If you saw that in the future, as I’m sure you’re seeing it now, would you continue to fight?” – Tigranes Levantus, “Yes.” – Spartacus, “Knowing that you must lose?” – Tigranes Levantus, “Knowing we can. All men lose when they die and all men die. But a slave and a free man lose different things.” – Spartacus, “They both lose life.” – Tigranes Levantus, “When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.” – Spartacus

Spartacus is another one of those classic epic films that I had seen in segments, dozens of times, on television at my granmum’s house as a kid. I don’t think that I had ever seen it in its entirety from beginning to end and with that, it’s the only Stanley Kubrick feature film that I hadn’t watched properly.

As a kid, this and Lawrence of Arabia were very similar to me. I also found this to be similar to the old sword and sandal movies of the same era, mainly the Hercules ones. However, Lawrence of Arabia takes place in a very different time and those Hercules movies can’t compete with Spartacus‘ greatness.

To start, this is directed by Stanley Kubrick, a real auteur who is on my Mount Rushmore of film directors. However, this was the one film where he wasn’t fully in control of the production and had to work within the big studio system, as he was brought in to replace a fired director. Kubrick was brought in at the request of his friend Kirk Douglas, who had worked with him previously on Paths of Glory.

Kubrick still utilized his skill set to great effect, however. While I don’t find this movie to be as stylistic as his other work, some of the shots in this are simply spectacular. For instance, watching the soldiers move into position on the battlefield is incredibly impressive and almost otherworldly while also slowly building up a real sense of dread just before the first attack.

The action in general is fantastic in this from the war scenes to the personal gladiatorial battles and every other skirmish in-between.

Beyond just Kubrick’s incredible artistic abilities, the film is loaded with some of the best acting talent that the motion picture industry has ever seen between Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier. Not to mention Jean Simmons and Tony Curtis. And to be honest, this is some of the best work all these actors have done individually.

I guess it also helps that the director and his actors had a great script to work with from the legendary Dalton Trumbo, who did a stupendous job in adapting Howard Fast’s Spartacus novel, which I read in middle school and loved.

This is a movie that is pretty close to perfect for being what it is, which is a historical war drama with high stakes, a massive battle, action, romance and a good balance of humor and camaraderie between its stars.

Rating: 9.5/10