Documentary Review: The 24 Hour War (2016)

Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Nate Adams, Adam Carolla
Cast: various

Chassy Media, Netflix, 99 Minutes

Review:

Man, I really wanted to watch this as The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and the biggest motorsports thing that I care about.

However, this was pretty underwhelming even though it told a great story, which was the Le Mans rivalry that developed between Ferrari and Ford. Since there’s a very well-received and beloved drama film on this very subject, it’s not a true story short on excitement.

I think that the biggest problem with this documentary, though, was the editing. It wasn’t very good and it made this play like a disjointed clusterfuck at times. I don’t want to be too hard on it but it shifted gears in strange ways that left my brain feeling like a speed bag.

It was hard to follow the narrative but I did enjoy the interviews within this. Although, that doesn’t save the film from its issues.

While this is probably more factually accurate than the dramatized motion picture, you’re probably better off just watching that. Plus, it boasts great performances from its A-list cast.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Le Mans and motorsports in general.

Documentary Review: The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006)

Release Date: July 21st, 2006 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Maysles, Albert Maysles
Cast: Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale, Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale 

Maysles Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

“[on Republicans] Who’s the party of special interest that always grinds down the little people? Who’s the party that doesn’t give a damn as long as they make millions to put in their bank? Who’s the party that scrounges around to find all the dirt they can and use it against their opponent to destroy the two party system that made America what it is today? Who’s the party that delivered a crooked president?” – Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale

I liked the original Grey Gardens documentary enough to check out this sequel, which came out roughly thirty years later.

This wasn’t a traditional sequel, as in it didn’t check back in on these women after the events of the first movie. This was, instead, a new documentary made with unused footage, which apparently, there was a lot of.

This could’ve been released years ago or added into the original film, making it a three hour affair, but it’s kind of neat seeing it resurface decades later. Why they waited that long or even did it at all is a mystery but I still enjoyed this for the most part.

However, I can also see why most of this wasn’t used in the original film. Although, the scene with the fire in the house probably should’ve been in the original, as it explains why there’s a big burnt hole in the wall of this once great coastal mansion.

I probably wouldn’t watch this over Grey Gardens, if you haven’t seen either. However, if you liked Grey Gardens, this is a good companion piece to it and it gives you more insight and context into the lives of this mother and daughter.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and the biographical drama film that is based on these women, starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.

Documentary Review: This Is Paris (2020)

Release Date: April 15th, 2020 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Alexandra Dean
Written by: Alexandra Dean
Music by: Lara Meyerratken
Cast: Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Tessa Hilton

The Intellectual Property Corporation, YouTube Originals, 105 Minutes, 115 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

I kind of just watched this on a whim after checking out the trailer and while I didn’t have high expectations, it did exceed them and not only gave me an authentic and genuine understanding of who the real Paris Hilton is but it also goes to some dark places, examining some childhood trauma, which ties into what drove her to reach the levels she has.

For those who haven’t figured it out yet, the public persona of Paris is one that she manufactured. She’s not the hot airhead that the general public came to believe she is. In fact, she’s pretty intelligent and has created an empire around her brand: herself.

Sure, her family ties helped get her foot in the door with top notch fashion photographers and her family’s money allowed her to be a part of the socialite scene. However, it’s what she turned those opportunities into that are so impressive. And frankly, without the template she provided, there wouldn’t be others who followed in her footsteps and had their own success. Kim Kardashian, Paris’ former assistant and friend, immediately comes to mind.

This documentary allows you to see the world from Paris’ point-of-view while also displaying how the pressure of what she created has had an adverse effect on her mental health.

However, as the film goes deeper and deeper into her personal story, we learn about the one major horror story that traumatized her, greatly.

The second half of the documentary deals with Paris essentially being abducted by the officials of a school in Utah, which takes troubled kids in an effort to rehabilitate them. In reality, this school treats the kids like shit and actually makes them much worse than when they got there.

Paris and others from that school tell their stories and try to get the word out about the reality of places like it, as their school isn’t the only one that’s treating kids like adult prisoners in a maximum security facility.

I’ll be honest, I never had much of an opinion of Paris. But after seeing this, I’ve got tremendous respect for how she’s overcome the dark parts of her life and how she took an acorn and turned it into a lush, rich forest.

Overall, this was an engaging documentary that told a hell of a story in a fairly short amount of time. The film flew by and I didn’t realize that nearly two hours had passed when the credits started to roll.

It’s well edited, greatly presented and hopefully, enough people see it and places like the school where Paris was imprisoned are further exposed and scrutinized into oblivion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent pop culture biographical documentaries.

Documentary Review: Tread (2019)

Release Date: March 8th, 2019 (SXSW)
Directed by: Paul Solet
Music by: Austin Wintory
Cast: various

Zipper Bros Films, Sutter Road Picture Company, Netflix, 89 Minutes

Review:

This is a film about Marvin Heemeyer, a man tired of his small town elites’ bullshit. In response, he decided to build a “killdozer” in order to get revenge on them.

Despite the name the machine was given by the media, Heemeyer didn’t kill anyone and that wasn’t his plan. Instead, he wanted an unstoppable machine of his own making to turn the buildings and businesses of his enemies into rubble. Heemeyer succeeded in destroying thirteen buildings in his small Colorado mountain town. Once his destruction came to an end, he took his own life with a gun inside of his rolling fortress.

As nutty as this story was, it wasn’t as big of a new story as one would probably expect. I vaguely remembered it but it was overshadowed by the death of Ronald Reagan and all the post-9/11 conflict that was going on.

This documentary did a solid job of giving the viewer the backstory to Heemeyer’s fateful last day.

It went through who the man was, how he came to hate the leaders of his community and how he went about constructing this mechanical beast in secret. I feel like the documentary was fair to everyone, except maybe Heemeyer, as he obviously wasn’t alive to give his point-of-view.

Everything comes to a head in the third act of the film, as we get to see that final day play out with commentary from those who were there mixed with actual clips and reenactment footage to fill in the blanks.

This is a sad story about a guy that didn’t need to take his own life but it’s also relatable to anyone who has had the system work against them. I imagine that’s most people on some level. With that, Heemeyer became a sort of folk hero, whether he was right or wrong.

Tread is a good film about this intriguing and tragic story. I wish the end had a more positive outcome but I guess “it is what it is”, as they say.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Netflix true story and crime documentaries.

TV Review: Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (2019)

Original Run: May 10th, 2019 – May 31st, 2019
Created by: Sacha Jenkins
Directed by: Sacha Jenkins
Written by: Paul Greenhouse, Sacha Jenkins, Peter J. Scalettar
Music by: J. Ralph, Wu-Tang Clan
Cast: Wu-Tang Clan, various

Showtime, 4 Episodes, 58-59 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I don’t know why I didn’t know about this documentary series until a few weeks ago. I’m a lifelong fan of Wu-Tang Clan and if I’m being honest, they’re one of the few music groups that actually had an effect on my life. They forever changed hip-hop music and culture and since that was something I was a part of in my younger years, it changed the way I was doing things and my creative approach to making my own music.

This was actually quite great and I enjoyed this immensely. It really goes through the history of Wu-Tang before they were even formed up until now.

With this, you get to have an intimate view into their lives, past and present, you meet their families and you get to hear their personal stories about their struggles and triumphs.

You also learn a lot about the group behind the scenes and how even with their differences over the years, they always find a way back home to each other.

For fans of the group, there are some sad, disheartening moments in this. However, by the time you get to the end, you really understand their bond and it’s actually really inspirational to see how they still come together and unify as a family. This sort of unity is unheard of in the music industry, especially when this group has now existed for three decades.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Hulu drama series about Wu-Tang Clan’s lives, as well as other music documentaries.