TV Review: The Imagineering Story (2019)

Original Run: November 12th, 2019 – December 13th, 2019
Created by: Leslie Iwerks
Directed by: Leslie Iwerks
Written by: Mark Catalena
Music by: Jeffrey Kryka
Cast: Angela Bassett (narrator), various

Iwerks & Co., Disney+, 6 Episodes, 62-68 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

In the last few years, I’ve started to take many documentaries with a grain of salt. Reason being, they always have an objective and typically tend to lean towards their preconceived biases, ignoring things that may actually challenge or disprove their message.

This is especially true when a documentary about a subject is made by the subject itself. For instance, for those who know anything about the wrestling business beyond the WWE, when they watch WWE documentaries, they know that it’s from the company’s point-of-view and that they often times don’t tell the whole story, alter the story for their benefit or completely ignore or gloss over some of the darker, unpleasant things.

I’ve got to say, though, as dishonest and “woke” as Disney has become with their output, this seemed to be pretty straightforward and fairly objective. It also included many key people from Disney’s past and didn’t really seem to sugarcoat things or censor the talking heads who may have had issues with Disney after moving on by their choice or the company’s.

That being said, I enjoyed this quite a bit and binged through it over a rainy Sunday afternoon.

It talks about Disney’s Imagineers from their earliest days up to modern times. Each of the six episodes moves forward and covers a different era of the many theme parks, their creation at the earliest stages, their design and engineering challenges, as well as their birth into the world and how they were perceived by the people who worked on them, the company itself and the public, who just want the best experience money can buy.

My only real complaint about this, and it’s probably just my personal preference, is that I wish they spent more time on the earliest stuff. I honestly don’t feel like one episode on Walt Disney, the man, and the genesis of the original Disneyland was enough. Granted, each episode could’ve been beefed up to two hours apiece and I’d still find this enjoyable.

The Imagineering Story is pretty damn cool if you’re into this stuff.

Rating: 8/10

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

TV Review: The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Original Run: October 23rd, 2020
Created by: Scott Frank, Allan Scott
Directed by: Scott Frank
Written by: Scott Frank
Based on: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
Music by: Carlos Rafael Rivera
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Moses Ingram, Isla Johnson, Christine Seidel, Rebecca Root, Chloe Pirrie, Akemnji Ndifornyen, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Patrick Kennedy, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marcin Dorocinski

Flitcraft Ltd., Wonderful Films, Netflix, 7 Episodes, 46-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While everyone was hyping this up over the last few months, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as my opinion often times differs greatly from the modern consensus. However, I’m a big fan of Anya Taylor-Joy’s work ever since first seeing her in The Witch and Split.

I’m glad to say that this was actually damn good. In fact, it was kind of refreshing and it should be held up as a great example of how to tell the story of a strong female character.

The 2010s were the decade of the Mary Sue, especially in regards to popular cinema like the Disney Star Wars movies and Marvel films like Captain Marvel, where female characters are the best at everything by default and every other character in the story has to constantly reassure them that they’re the greatest, the bestest and just f’n perfect.

The Queen’s Gambit ignores that terrible trend and it gives us a young girl that has to overcome a really difficult life, her own failures, her own faults, her addictions and the rivals that are presented like real mountains to climb and not just annoying obstacles.

Additionally, this doesn’t build up the woman by trashing every male character and making them all awful. Just about every character is handled with care and comes off as truly genuine. There are a lot of great male characters in this series and we’ve gotten to a point in entertainment where that’s really rare.

Frankly, this is how you tell a feminist story and with that it’s not specifically a feminist story, as much as it is an inspirational story regardless of the viewer’s gender.

The Queen’s Gambit isn’t just a great story, executed exceptionally well on screen by the director and his crew, it’s also highly emotional due to how goddamned talented the cast is.

The heavy lifting is really done by Anya Taylor-Joy, though, and she proves, once again, that she’s quite possibly the best actress of her generation. She also recently won the Golden Globe, her first major award, for her performance in this. While I now take major awards very lightly, I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more than her for this performance.

Man, I really loved this show and it ends pretty f’n perfectly. I’m glad that it was a limited series, as you can’t really do anything else with it and you don’t need to.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent period dramas.

TV Review: WandaVision (2021)

Original Run: January 15th, 2021 – March 5th, 2021
Created by: Jac Schaeffer
Directed by: Matt Shakman
Written by: various
Based on: Scarlet Witch by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby; The Vision by Roy Thomas, John Buscema
Music by: Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Evan Peters, Debra Jo Rupp, Fred Melamed

Disney Platform Distribution, Marvel Studios, Disney+, 9 Episodes, 29-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

There’s been some criticism over the last few years that movies set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become too formulaic and predictable. Well, with the announcement that there would now be MCU television series streamed exclusively on Disney+, the possibility of breaking the mold and doing something very different had apparently arrived.

WandaVision is pretty ambitious and it doesn’t fit into any mold that came before it, MCU or otherwise. Because of its originality, I at least found it refreshing, interesting and intriguing, as it was initially hard to figure out where it could go.

However, its attempts at being so different also kind of bogged it down in the first half of the season.

The show recreates the world of sitcom television through multiple eras. As each episode progresses, we see WandaVision through a new decade’s lens. It starts with two episodes that take place in what appears to be late ’50s/early ’60s sitcoms then moves on to the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s. It was a cool concept but it started to get tiresome by episode three. Thankfully, the show evolved beyond just the sitcom format at the end of episode three and started to allow the regular Marvel Cinematic Universe to creep in, as it began to show the real world outside of the sitcom setting.

By episode four, we’re introduced to new characters for the show, many of which we’ve seen before in the films. This is where things started to be revealed and the mystery behind what was going on got really interesting. While there were some Easter eggs and clues in the first three episodes, the fourth one is where everything took shape and got the viewer grounded in the concept.

For the most part, I liked this show. It has its hiccups and faults but the chemistry between Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany was so damn good that it kind of overshadows everything else that one might find faulty or annoying.

I also really liked Kathryn Hahn in this but then I like her in everything. It was really cool seeing her get to do something so large beyond just comedy, though. She obviously does the comedy parts well but when she has to get serious and more dramatic, she proves she can hang with actors on the same level as Olsen and Bettany.

Additionally, I liked Teyonah Parris, as the adult version of Monica Rambeau, who becomes another version of Captain Marvel in the comics. She’s pretty solid in this show and really carries the production on her back in the real world scenes. Also, this show serves as her superhero origin story, as we see how she gets her powers towards the end of the series. Granted, her excusing Wanda’s behavior at the end was baffling and weird and shows that the writers may actually lack any understanding of actual morals.

WandaVision was a pretty cool concept and it was mostly executed well, even with a pretty shaky ending. While I’m familiar with the comics well enough to kind of know what was happening from the get go, the show still had some good surprises that kept my interest till the end.

But no, it’s not okay that she did horrendous shit to lots of people and just walked away because she was grieving.

Also, the guy made out to be the villain the whole show was actually right about everything. But whatevs, white authority guy bad!

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other films and television series that take place in the MCU.

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.

TV Review: Myths & Monsters (2017)

Original Run: 2017 (UK)
Directed by: Daniel Kontur
Written by: William Simpson
Music by: Murat Evgin
Cast: Nicholas Day (presenter), various

3DD Productions, Netflix, 6 Episodes, 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I guess this show is on Netflix but I started watching it on the Dox channel I subscribe to on Prime Video. But if you have Netflix, you can enjoy it there without the Prime add-on.

Myth & Monsters is a pretty cool limited series that uses its six episodes to go through the history of different myths and legends and how they’ve inspired stories throughout the ages.

Each episode focuses on a specific topic ranging from love, war, the hero’s journey, etc. I found each installment to be just about equally as good and pretty informative thanks to the great talking head interviews of many experts in the fields of literature, folklore and mythology.

Also, the show just looks wonderful from the art used throughout the series to the look of the production as a whole. The interview segments were designed to focus on the subjects with a pretty minimalist approach to their surroundings while the set the host presented from looked like a great, manly library of yore.

I also really enjoyed the presenter Nicholas Day, as he did a stupendous job narrating and setting up each segment of every episode. The man has acted for years but I feel like he was almost tailor made for this role, as he was natural and just very good. I’d probably watch anything else that he would host in a similar fashion.

As someone who loves the stories born out of classic mythology and legends, this was definitely a worthwhile, engaging watch.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2021)

Original Run: January 13th, 2021 (Internet)
Directed by: James Carroll, Tiller Russell
Music by: Brooke Blair, Will Blair
Cast: various

The Intellectual Property Corporation, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 189 Minutes (total)

Review:

I kind of just watched this on a whim on a day where I was hungover and not moving. I’m glad I did, as it was a really compelling documentary series on one of the sickest serial killers in my lifetime.

Netflix seems to do a real good job of either producing or finding great crime series to feature on their service. This one is no different and this chilling tale was so perfectly told and laid out over four episodes that it really made me want to delve into more of these Netflix offerings.

This story is incredibly gruesome and the series doesn’t shy away from showing you the details and images of the crime scenes. At the same time, I think it is necessary to properly paint the picture of this killer.

This also delves into the personal lives of the detectives on the case, the victims and their families, as well as showing how the evil killer became somewhat of a cult icon by weirdo serial killer worshipping groupies.

All in all, this was captivating, enthralling and definitely worth a watch if these type of stories are your cup of tea.

This is well produced, incredibly well executed and seemingly leaves no stone unturned.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other crime documentary series on Netflix.

TV Review: The Transformers – Seasons 3 & 4 (1986-1987)

Also known as: Transformers: Generation 1, Transformers G1 (informal titles)
Release Date: September 15th, 1986 – November 11th, 1987
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro and Takara Tomy
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Robert J. Walsh
Cast (voices): Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Chris Latta, Michael Bell, Corey Burton, John Stephenson, Jack Angel, Casey Kasem, Scatman Crothers, Charlie Adler

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, AKOM, Claster Television, 33 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wanted to review this portion of the classic Transformers television show separate from the first half of the series, simply because these two seasons take place after the cinematic film, which completely changed the landscape, characters and settings of the franchise.

In this era, Optimus Prime is dead and the Autobots are led by Rodimus Prime, formerly Hot Rod. Many other Autobots died, as well. And the same can be said about the Decepticons, who are now led by a suped up Megatron renamed Galvatron, as well as Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps, as opposed to Starscream and the Seekers.

Additionally, Spike is older, married and has a son named Daniel, who is a big character on the show.

We also see just about every episode taking place in outer space, as opposed to Earth. The overall landscape and scope of the series has grown much larger and there is a new villain group that often times plays the Autobots and Decepticons against each other like chess pieces.

When I was a kid, this was my favorite era of the series and aesthetically, it still is. I do really enjoy the better episodes but unfortunately, there are some really bad ones too. The one with the musical aliens is nearly unwatchable. But the good things still greatly outweigh the bad.

I like the altered mythos, the newer character designs and the show just feels darker and more bleak. Granted, by the end, Optimus Prime does come back and there is even a moment of peace between him and Galvatron.

This stretch of the show also has some cool Easter eggs that officially connect it to G.I. Joe in the animated series canon. One major human character is the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye. We even get a cameo from Cobra Commander, as an aged weapons dealer, no longer with an army to rule over.

The end of this era also debuts the Headmasters and Trigger Masters concepts. While the show didn’t continue on beyond their debut, it was a cool way to end the show. Especially, for those of us that were still buying the toys at that point. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow Transformers and G.I. Joe stuff.

TV Review: Dracula (2020)

Original Run: January 1st, 2020 – January 3rd, 2020
Created by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Directed by: Johnny Campbell, Damon Thomas, Paul McGuigan
Written by: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by: David Arnold, Michael Price
Cast: Claes Bang, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark, Joanna Schanlan, Mark Gatiss, Lydia West

Hartswood Films, BBC, Netflix, 3 Episodes, 88-91 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Yeesh!

What a fucking catastrophe this show was.

It started out kind of interesting and I watched it because Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat were the creative forces behind it. I liked most of their work even if their later Doctor Who stuff turned to shit. But I had hoped this would be more like Sherlock than late-Doctor Who but what I got was more like a botched kidney transplant.

The show really got away from itself at the midpoint of the first episode where it decided to deviate from the traditional Dracula story. While I’m okay with creative freedom and the Dracula story has been reinvented dozens, if not hundreds, of times, this was one of the worst Dracula storytelling experiments I’ve ever had to suffer through.

Now this isn’t a knock against the actors, they were mostly really good, and it’s not a knock against the quality of the production as it looked great. No, this is about the story and how stupid and batshit retarded it was.

This was damn near unwatchable once it went off the rails but there was that part of me that stuck through it, hoping that the genius of Gatiss and Moffat would somehow turn this around and make it something great or at least acceptable enough to not be a total waste.

By the time you get through the third and final episode, however, you’re left scratching your head wondering what the fucking point was.

Honestly, I have no idea and I can’t get my four and a half hours back.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: waking up in a bathtub full of ice after an abduction and a kidney gone missing.

TV Review: McMillions (2020)

Original Run: February 3rd, 2020 – March 9th, 2020
Directed by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Written by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: various

FunMeter, Unrealistic Ideas, HBO, 6 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

As a McDonald’s shareholder, a loyal customer for decades and a massive fan of the Monopoly game, this was a story that absolutely intrigued me. So seeing that HBO made a documentary series telling the story of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged was a must watch for me.

My only real gripe about this is that I never felt like the scheme was all that clear. I understood how they found people to be “winners” of the top tier game pieces (and it was fantastic hearing their stories) but I never clearly understood why the criminals behind the scheme did it in the first place.

Selling these lucrative prizes at a small fraction of what their actual value was, was kind of baffling. I feel like there had to have been a much better way for them to exploit the system and in the end, they got caught, anyway.

Also, I had always assumed that McDonald’s was involved in the shenanigans because the actual story and all the facts weren’t something I delved into before this. I had just always assumed that by giving the pieces to “friends and family members” meant that some McDonald’s exec was just doing that for personal or corporate favors.

This was interesting as hell though and I watched all six episodes in one sitting.

In the end, I’m glad that those who were roped into the scheme, didn’t have their lives ruined based off of the poor circumstances they were in when the schemesters chose them to exploit for their own gain.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent crime documentaries and series.