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: 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.

Documentary Review: Circus of Books (2019)

Release Date: April 26th, 2019 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Rachel Mason
Written by: Rachel Mason, Kathryn Robson
Cast: Karen Mason, Barry Mason, Rachel Mason, various

Netflix, 92 Minutes

Review:

I saw this pop up on Netflix, so I figured I’d check it out, as I generally enjoy the documentaries they distribute through their streaming service.

I wasn’t disappointed, as this is a really interesting story about a religious Jewish family who opened up a gay porn store, which also became a gay porn film studio and distributor. The store rose to prominence within the Los Angeles gay scene in the ’80s and would also reach far beyond its home city.

This kind of hit close to home, as I’ve been around gay culture since my teen years. The scene in southern Florida is big and even though I’m straight, I’ve always had gay friends and also lived with a pretty legit drag queen for a bit. The era that the bulk of this story took place in just brought a lot of those great memories back.

Beyond the nostalgia, this is an intriguing story about really interesting, good people. It’s hard not to love the family that started this store and it’s just as much a love letter to them, as it is the store itself.

I especially liked how interesting the father was with his backstory and the road that life took him on, leading up to becoming a straight, religious, family man that owned a gay book store.

This also examines the impact that owning the store had on the family as a whole in an age when it was considered really taboo. I liked meeting the kids, getting their take on all of it and how they grew up with this “moral” cloud over their religious upbringing.

It was also really cool seeing people from the L.A. gay community talking about the store and what it meant to them during really difficult times in their lives.

This really hits you in the feels and it’s unfortunate that the store, during the filming of this documentary, was falling on real hard times due to the world evolving away from the old mediums of pornography thanks to the Internet.

While this documentary was made by someone within the family, it’s not in any way inauthentic or dishonest because of that. In fact, it made the experience more intimate and meaningful.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about LGBTQ cultural history, porn and small business.

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.

Documentary Review: The Social Dilemma (2020)

Release Date: January 26th, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jeff Orlowski
Written by: Davis Coombe, Vickie Curtis, Jeff Orlowski
Music by: Mark A. Crawford
Cast: Interviewees: Tristan Harris, Aza Raskin, Justin Rosenstein, Shoshana Zuboff, Jaron Lanier, Tim Kendall, Rashida Richardson, Renee DiResta, Anna Lembke, Roger McNamee, Guillaume Chaslot; Performances: Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, Vincent Kartheiser, Sophia Hammons, Catalina Garayoa, Barbara Gehring, Chris Grundy

Exposure Labs, Argent Pictures, The Space Program, Netflix, 94 Minutes

Review:

“How do you wake up from the Matrix when you don’t know you’re in the Matrix?” – Self – Google, Former Design Ethicist

I watched this based off of a recommendation and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have, otherwise. I’m glad I did though, as it was really refreshing seeing some of the people who were instrumental in developing social media, kind of condemning certain parts of it, as it’s now being used in a way to create an addiction to it and to further divide the people using it.

Initially, it was created to bring people together, where they could interact with one another, all over the world. Where they could share ideas and more or less, come together in a positive, constructive way in an effort to shape a better planet.

In the last decade or so, all of that has started to take a turn for the worse.

This film breaks down how this happened and how it all works. Frankly, it’s kind of scary but it’s also not like most of us sane, rational people aren’t aware of it. There’s a reason why I stopped using Facebook, only occasionally touch Instagram and pretty much just use Twitter to promote this site and then shitpost.

This also has some bits in it where actors play characters being affected by all of this. It’s used to illustrate in an interesting way how social media can destroy relationships and human interaction. It also shows how these apps work and why they hone in on our different triggers to sell products and to keep us engaging with the app.

I can’t say that anything here was new information but it’s refreshing seeing the architects of the problem try to combat it and bring more awareness to it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other recent tech documentaries.

TV Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)

Original Run: May 27th, 2020
Directed by: Lisa Bryant
Based on: Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson
Music by: Justin Melland

RadicalMedia, JP Entertainment, Third Eye Motion Picture Company, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 55-57 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I didn’t know as much about this story as I probably needed to. Sure, I, like most people, know the general gist of it but not the details.

Although, if I’m being honest, I kind of expected this to go much deeper and also expose the guy’s ties to some of the politicians and celebrities that were in his orbit.

Regardless of that, this was still a decent primer on the horrible shit that this guy did.

Frankly, this was pretty tough to get through, as you come to realize how deep the rabbit hole goes and how many different under-aged girls that this guy sexually assaulted on a constant basis.

Most importantly, this serves as a warning against the type of people that prey on young girls, as well as looking at their behavior and the methods that they could use to exploit and violate others.

As a documentary, I thought this was just okay. I feel like it needed a lot more information and that it could’ve gone a lot deeper into Epstein’s reach among the elite.

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