Documentary Review: Tommaso Ciampa: Blackheart (2019)

Release Date: October 9th, 2019
Cast: Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Triple H

WWE Network, 29 Minutes

Review:

I like Tommaso Ciampa and was pretty bummed when he got hurt earlier this year and didn’t get to pass the torch to his best friend in a match that most assuredly would have been another classic between the two.

That being said, I’m now really glad that he’s back and doing his thing.

However, his injury and road to recovery were pretty tough things to deal with and roadblocks he had to overcome in order to get back to where he was before he had to leave.

This short documentary was made for the WWE Network and it focuses on Ciampa before surgery and how he is putting more focus into his family during his time off.

It’s a pretty good piece and it shows the man in a light that most people haven’t seen him in.

Overall, I thought it was actually too short and that there was a bigger story to tell.

Regardless, it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of the guy and want to see a peek at what he’s like beyond his character.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: WWE 365 and WWE 24.

TV Review: NWA Ten Pounds of Gold (2017- )

Original Run: 2017 – current
Created by: William Patrick Corgan
Directed by: David Lagana
Cast: Tim Storm, Nick Aldis, Cody Rhodes, Eli Drake, James Storm, Marty Scurll, Billy Corgan, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes (archive footage)

A Lightning One Production, 59 Episodes (so far), Minutes Vary Greatly (per episode)

Review:

As a lifelong wrestling fan, WWE is kind of dead to me. Over the years, I kept watching it because it was the only thing that was regularly accessible. And every few years I’d get excited about new signees like Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka or Finn Bálor only to see them misused and wasted because Vince McMahon is an out of touch old man.

However, as of late, things have changed. We now have AEW, as a legit alternative. But in the shadows, a once great wrestling promotion has been building steam and making an impact once again and that company is the WWE’s once greatest rival: the National Wrestling Alliance.

With just a few marquee events and only a few episodes of their new YouTube series NWA Powerrr under their belt, they are making real waves and have reignited my love for professional wrestling and not “sports entertainment”.

I immediately fell in love with Powerrr just two weeks ago but it made me want to support the company as much as I can. So I picked up their Ten Pounds of Gold DVD, which is a three disc set of their reality YouTube series that follows the journey of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship and the men who possess it and fight over it.

This series has been streaming on YouTube since 2017 and I’ve checked out episodes, here and there. However, seeing them in order and now as a complete body of work, this is a really awesome series for fans of old school wrestling.

This primarily focuses on the journeys of Tim Storm, Nick Aldis and Cody Rhodes but it also features a ton of great wrestlers and other personalities with lots of commentary and input from the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, the owner of the NWA since 2017.

If you miss the days of old territory wrestling or the era where it felt like it was actually a sport that was dominated by manly men and not kamikaze millennials trying to emulate better wrestlers before them, than this is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries.

TV Review: The Anti-Gravity Room (1995-1997)

Original Run: 1995 – 1997
Created by: Chris Greaves, Ian Murray
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Angelo Oddi, Ben Johannesen
Cast: Nick Amadeus, Phil Guerrero, Shashi Bhatia, Jaimy Mahlon

YTV, 54 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, I dug the hell out of this show back in the day.

The main reason is because there was nothing like it and once upon a time, the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) was pretty cool.

This was the only show, as far as I knew in the mid-’90s, that focused specifically on comic books and video games. It really was the best of both of those worlds, as the presenters interviewed a slew of highly important people in both of those creative mediums.

Also, the show would delve into movies and TV and often times had guest hosts like Kevin Smith and Janeane Garofalo when I still thought they were cool.

The show has almost a public access, no budget feel to it but that’s pretty much what it was. It was actually a Canadian television show that Sci-Fi just decided to air in the United States.

In the end, it kind of came and went pretty quickly but I had fond memories of taping episodes and then binging them late nights on weekends with friends.

Luckily, for those interested, there are several episodes on YouTube thanks to the great people who didn’t throw their VHS tapes away and were then able to upload them for modern audiences to check out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Documentary Review: WWE 365: Alexa Bliss (2019)

Release Date: June 23rd, 2019
Cast: Alexa Bliss

WWE Network, 49 Minutes

Review:

This was the first of the WWE 365 documentaries that I watched. But based off of this one, I will probably check out the others.

I watched this one because it aired immediately after a pay-per-view I was watching and because I have really dug Alexa Bliss since she was first called up to the main WWE roster in the summer of 2016.

For having less than three years on the main roster, she has already carved out one of the best careers out of any of WWE’s female superstars in history. Sure, she’s not quite on the Trish Stratus or Fabulous Moolah level (yet) but her rise to the top was almost immediate and she hasn’t let go of that brass ring other than where injuries kept her out of action.

What’s really compelling about this documentary is that it follows her for a year and it was the year where she started out on top but had to work through a lengthy and dangerous injury in an effort to get back to form and to once again rule the women’s roster.

Alexa has a great personality, is pretty damn likable and she gets to be herself and not just a character on television. Her charm and charisma come through and this solid episode of 365 allows you to connect with her on a real level.

You learn about her past struggles, her loves outside of the ring and you see her in a different light, as she has mostly been a villain since winning her first (of many) championships.

For wrestling fans, WWE 365 is worth checking out. For fans of Alexa Bliss, this installment is a must watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other WWE 365 episodes, as well as their other documentary series, WWE 24.

TV Review: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (2016- )

Original Run: November 29th, 2016 – current
Created by: Leah Remini, Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Alex Weresow
Music by: various
Cast: Leah Remini, Mike Rinder

No Seriously Productions, The Intellectual Property Corporation, A&E, 36 Episodes (so far), 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I never really had any intention of watching this but I had a few friends always bring it up to me, so I checked it out. To be frank, I don’t give a shit about religion, regardless of what the belief system is.

Anyway, I also know that just about every documentary has an agenda and that the truth is usually somewhere outside of the idea being pushed.

However, this is pretty compelling and it lets people tell their own stories in their own words. Sure, Leah Remini has an ax to grind and she sometimes steers the conversation but her ax seems like it is genuine and the more I learn about Scientology, the more I can understand why she feels that getting all of this out in the open is so important. And honestly, I support her in that.

When you start watching this show, it is hard to turn away. And as more is revealed through the testimonials of former Scientologists, the more interesting the show gets because there are so many layers to the bizarre beliefs and culture of Scientology. And really, it definitely comes across as a legitimate cult in how it tries to control and police its members.

The show can get repetitive after awhile but each episode features a new person with a new story. The thing is, everyone’s account of the way this church is run all lines up from episode to episode and if this was just a bunch of people trying to attack the church in ways that weren’t honest, I think it’d become pretty apparent. But everyone seems to consistently hit the same points.

I think this show is compelling in how it gives you an real insider’s view into the Church of Scientology but it also grabs you and holds on because so much of this seems so unbelievable. That is, until you start hearing similar stories from so many former Scientologists.

In the end, I believe Leah Remini and the people featured on the show. There’s just too much consistency from story to story for this to be a dishonest, bitter condemnation of Scientology.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Scientology.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 12 – Spotlight on Whilce Portacio (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Whilce Portacio

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 52 Minutes

Review:

Well, this is it, the final episode of The Comic Book Greats. There was one more video released after this one but that was a “best of” compendium of all the episodes. I’d also like to review that one but it’s not up streaming anywhere that I can find. If it does become available, at some point, I’ll check it out and let you know how it is.

This series really did go out on a bang, though. I didn’t know what to expect from this episode as I never saw it and I also haven’t seen much with Whilce Portacio in other interviews. But I have always liked his work, especially the stuff he did on X-MenX-Factor and his own creation for Image Comics, Wetworks.

Portacio is very engaging and had a good rapport with Stan Lee. Lee seemed genuinely fascinated by Whilce and his backstory, especially regarding Filipino culture.

Whilce also does a good job at the drawing table, discussing his technique during his creation process. Like the other Image guys that had videos before this one, I think Whilce would make a good teacher.

It’s kind of sad that this is the last episode of the series, I feel like there were a lot of other greats that the series could have showcased but this final episode was pretty darn good and a solid end to the series.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 11 – Spotlight on Will Eisner (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Will Eisner

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

Well, this is the penultimate episode of The Comic Book Greats (omitting the “best of” compilation) and it has been a nice journey getting to this point. But looking at all the volumes and who is featured on each, I was really anticipating getting to this one, which sees Stan Lee sit down with the great Will Eisner.

When I started reviewing this series, all the episodes were available on YouTube. As I worked my way through them, I noticed that this one had been pulled down. But luckily, after being patient, someone else re-uploaded it. So that saved me a bunch of money from having to track down the original VHS tape and having to borrow a working VCR, as my last one died some time ago.

This episode was worth being patient for, though. Stan Lee and Will Eisner talked about a great deal of things and even had some really good, friendly debates about the aspects of storytelling and meaning in art as a whole.

Like most of the episodes, the first half was a sit down interview at a table. Then, about midway through, Stan and Will went to the art table and continued conversing as Eisner did some cool sketches, one of which was a damn good piece of his most famous creation, The Spirit.

This was another stellar episode and one of my favorite ones of the lot.

Next up is the final episode, which features Stan Lee sitting down with Whilce Portacio.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.