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.

Documentary Review: Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story (2010)

Release Date: October 15th, 2010 (Anaheim International Film Festival)
Directed by: Kevin Tostado
Written by: Kevin Tostado, Craig Bentley
Music by: Larry Groupe
Cast: Zachory Levi (narrator), various

Tostie Productions, Rhino Films, Imageworks.tv, 88 Minutes

Review:

As a lifelong Monopoly master, I liked his documentary because regardless of how well I can play the game, I didn’t know much about its history. But I usually love documentaries like this that go into the background and origins of big pop culture things.

This documentary covers a lot of ground for something under 90 minutes.

It goes through the games creation, it’s evolution, shows how it’s penetrated pop culture and also focuses on some people who play the game in legitimate Las Vegas tournaments.

This also interviews a ton of people associated with all the different focuses of the documentary.

It’s well edited, well paced and, at times, an exciting film.

It’s also educational and does a wonderful job of cluing the viewer in on all aspects of the game, its history and what it means to so many across the world.

This is also free on Prime Video.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other fairly recent documentaries about unique pastimes and pop culture.

Documentary Review: In Search of the Last Action Heroes (2019)

Release Date: September, 2019
Directed by: Oliver Harper
Written by: Oliver Harper, Timon Singh
Music by: Peter Bruce
Cast: Scott Adkins, Shane Black, Ronny Cox, Steven E. de Souza, Bill Duke, Sam Firstenberg, Jenette Goldstein, Matthias Hues, Al Leong, Mark L. Lester, Sheldon Lettich, Zak Penn, Phillip Rhee, Eric Roberts, Cynthia Rothrock, Paul Verhoeven, Vernon Wells, Michael Jai White, Alex Winter, Graham Yost, various

140 Minutes

Review:

When this popped up on Prime Video, I got pretty excited. Especially, because I had just watched Henchman: The Al Leong Story and felt that ’80s action flicks needed more documentary love.

Overall, this was enjoyable and it covered a lot of ground but it also had a beefy running time. However, I felt like they jumped from movie-to-movie too quickly and nothing was really discussed in depth.

Still, this gives the viewer a good idea of how broad, vast and popular the action genre was through the ’80s and into the first half of the ’90s.

I guess the thing that I liked best was that this interviewed a lot of people that were involved in the making of these iconic films. You had actors, directors, writers and stuntmen all taking about their craft and their love for a genre that hasn’t been the same since its peak, a few decades ago.

Now this was a crowdfunded project and with that, you can only do so much. But I wish that some distributor or streaming service saw this and decided to make it much broader like a television series where episodes can focus on specific films or at the very least, spend more time on each era or topic.

Maybe someone will see this, take the bull by the horns and actually do that at some point. But this could be a solid pop culture documentary series like Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us.

For those who love the action flicks of this era, this is certainly worth checking out. Had I known about it when it was raising funds, I would’ve backed it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent historical filmmaking documentaries, most notably Henchman: The Al Leong Story and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

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.

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.

Documentary Review: Two Falls To A Finish – Sixty Years Of British Pro Wrestling (2015)

Release Date: 2015
Directed by: Adam Gill
Cast: Robbie Brookside, Marty Jones, Brian Dixon, various

Figure Four Films, 60 Minutes

Review:

When I saw that there was a documentary on the history of British wrestling, I had to get my hands on it. Especially, since most of the stuff I’ve gotten recently from Highspots has been pretty good.

This was a giant fucking bag of meh, though.

It’s just under an hour and while it talks about the history of professional wrestling in the United Kingdom, it barely puts any real emphasis on the past and focuses much more on the recent past, covering stuff from the late ’90s and into the ’00s.

Honestly, after it moved past the old school stuff, I lost interest.

It’s not that this was bad, it’s just that the title implies that it is about the long and storied history of British wrestling. This just glances over that shit really quickly and then just wants to show a bunch of modern stars talking about more recent stuff.

Well, hopefully someone out there can make the documentary that I had hoped this was.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other more modern documentaries on wrestling history.

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.