Original Run: May 7th, 2021
Created by: Steven S. DeKnight
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Jupiter’s Legacy by Mark Millar, Frank Quitely
Music by: Stephanie Economou
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb, Andrew Horton, Elena Kampouris, Mike Wade, Matt Lanter, Tyler Mane, Kurtwood Smith
Di Bonaventura Productions, DeKnight Productions, Millarworld Productions, Netflix, 8 Episodes, 35-56 Minutes (per episode)
Jupiter’s Legacy was made like it was expected to be a massive hit, right out of the gate. I also think that Netflix, who had acquired a lot of comic book legend Mark Millar’s properties, thought that they could capitalize off of Amazon’s The Boys and make something that could either exist on its level of commercial and critical success or possibly even surpass it.
Sadly, this show was cancelled almost immediately after it debuted due to a lukewarm response, its astronomical production cost and what one would have to assume was complications due to COVID, which has been the death knell of a lot of promising Hollywood productions.
All that being said, it’s kind of sad seeing this television show not having the time to evolve into something. It’s only eight episodes and the first season serves as more of a prologue to a larger, more epic story.
Initially, I wasn’t into the show and I had to push through the first few episodes. But as I progressed through them, things started to click and the show found its footing. By the end, I wanted to see more and to see how this was going to play out. However, I guess none of us will ever know. Well, I could pick up the comics and give them a shot and I might.
At first, I wasn’t too keen on the costumes and the general look of the show but as it rolls on, it starts to work and this does take on its own identity, even if it may appear to be derivative and just another superhero show in a sea of superhero shows and movies.
For the most part, I liked the cast. I especially thought that Josh Duhamel was damn good as the patriarch of his superhero family. I also liked Leslie Bibb and it was cool seeing her get to shine and ply her trade as one of the top characters in a serious drama, even if it is about pulp heroes and concepts.
I wish there would have been a bigger sample size of episodes to critique and analyze but I guess we’ve got what we’ve got.
Pairs well with: other recent comic book television adaptations.
Release Date: 2018
Directed by: Sara Dosa, Barbara Kopple
Written by: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Music by: Johnny Cash, Glen Matisoff (music coordinator)
Cast: Johnny Cash (archive footage), Richard Nixon (archive footage)
All Rise Films, Triage Entertainment, Netflix, 59 Minutes
Tricky Dick and the Man In Black is the story of how Johnny Cash and Richard Nixon crossed paths during a turbulent time in America. A time that was more turbulent than now, if you can believe it.
This covers how Nixon reached out to Cash to get him to perform at the White House, which is a hell of an accomplishment for any artist, regardless of who’s got the keys to the country. And this obviously happened before Nixon’s crimes would be exposed and he would go on to severely damage the reputation of the United States government.
Anyway, in 1970, Cash did perform at the White House. However, Cash soon developed some serious reservations about it as it became apparent to him that his ideals clashed with that of the president.
This examines what led up to the concert at the White House and the reasoning behind how Cash ultimately wasn’t happy with the regime that was in charge of the land he loved.
Overall, the subject matter was damn interesting but I feel like this documentary was too short and didn’t really get deep enough into the mud. But this story is mostly told through talking head interviews by people who aren’t Cash and Nixon, as they’re no longer with us.
This was still a worthwhile and entertaining watch, however. It just needed more meat and felt incomplete.
Also known as: Mucho mucho amor: La leyenda de Walter Mercado (Spanish title)
Release Date: January 24th, 2020 (Sundance)
Directed by: Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch
Music by: Jeff Morrow
Cast: Walter Mercado, various
Muck Media, Key Rat, Topic Studios, Netflix, 96 Minutes
“Walter Mercado is a force of nature without beginnings and endings. He used to be a star, but now, Walter is a constellation.” – Walter Mercado
This was a pleasant surprise and a much more interesting and fun documentary than I had anticipated.
Full disclosure, I’ve always loved the hell out of Walter Mercado. While I don’t believe in astrology and am an atheist, he always seemed well-meaning and he also meant a lot to millions of people that felt uplifted by his woo woo messages of positivity.
As a teenager, I discovered him on television at one of my best friends’ houses. This Honduran family that I’d often times eat dinner with always had Walter on in the evening and even if I didn’t understand Spanish enough to know what he was saying in full detail, it was impossible not to be captivated by him.
What I never knew was his actual story between his early life, the genesis of his public persona and all the hardships he faced over the years. Watching this, I felt like I got to know Walter on a genuine level and I’ve got to say, all razzle dazzle aside, I really like the guy.
The best thing about this documentary is that it wasn’t made about Walter, it was made with his involvement and he stars in it, giving you a peek into his life now. He also tells his own stories, giving great first-person accounts of the key events in his life.
This also features interviews with people that have worked with Walter over the years and one guy that pretty much screwed him over and preyed on Walter’s good, trusting nature to steal the famous man’s name and “brand”.
For those who don’t know who Walter Mercado is, I still think that this would be a worthwhile documentary to check out, as he’s just an interesting person that lived an incredibly unique life and still has a lot to say to the world.
Pairs well with: other recent pop culture biographical documentaries.
Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Nate Adams, Adam Carolla
Chassy Media, Netflix, 99 Minutes
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.
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Le Mans and motorsports in general.
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)
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.
Pairs well with: other recent period dramas.
Release Date: March 8th, 2019 (SXSW)
Directed by: Paul Solet
Music by: Austin Wintory
Zipper Bros Films, Sutter Road Picture Company, Netflix, 89 Minutes
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.
Pairs well with: other Netflix true story and crime documentaries.
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)
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.
Original Run: January 13th, 2021 (Internet)
Directed by: James Carroll, Tiller Russell
Music by: Brooke Blair, Will Blair
The Intellectual Property Corporation, Netflix, 4 Episodes, 189 Minutes (total)
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.
Pairs well with: other crime documentary series on Netflix.
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
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.
Pairs well with: other documentaries about LGBTQ cultural history, porn and small business.