TV Review: The Staircase (2004-2018)

Original Run: October 7th, 2004 – June 8th, 2018
Created by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Directed by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Written by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Cast: Michael Peterson, various

Canal+, Netflix, 13 Episodes, 44-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard people rave about this documentary series a few years back. Since I’ve recently been binging the shit out of Netflix true crime documentaries, I figured that I should finally give this one a watch.

Well, I was really underwhelmed by it and I think it’s just another case of hype blowing something up to an unrealistic level.

I will say that the story here is damn compelling and there are a lot of holes in the investigation or so it would appear, based on how this documentary reveals the details.

However, it’s the presentation of this series that made it somewhat of a bore to get through.

This follows the investigation and spends a lot of time in the court room during the trials. However, most of the show is shot and presented reality TV style, following around all the members of the family and legal team, as they constantly pontificate on that day’s activities and developments. It’s just not that interesting when you realize that all of the accused killer’s kids (minus one) are going to believe his innocence no matter what.

“Not my dad! There’s no way he could do that! I know my dad!”

“Did you know he had gay sex with male prostitutes?”

“What? I didn’t know my dad was gay! But he could never kill my mom! I know my dad!”

I also feel like this documentary was obviously biased towards the family and towards the sentiment that author-possibly-turned-killer, Michael Peterson, was innocent. Looking into that after watching this for myself, there are a lot of other people that feel like this was a biased documentary and that it omitted things that didn’t support its narrative.

In the end, I was initially captivated by the story but from a production standpoint, this wasn’t as polished and well-paced as the more recent Netflix true crime documentaries. I also don’t feel confident in the details provided by this documentary.

Rating: 6/10

Documentary Review: This Is Paris (2020)

Release Date: April 15th, 2020 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Alexandra Dean
Written by: Alexandra Dean
Music by: Lara Meyerratken
Cast: Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Kyle Richards, Kathy Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Tessa Hilton

The Intellectual Property Corporation, YouTube Originals, 105 Minutes, 115 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

I kind of just watched this on a whim after checking out the trailer and while I didn’t have high expectations, it did exceed them and not only gave me an authentic and genuine understanding of who the real Paris Hilton is but it also goes to some dark places, examining some childhood trauma, which ties into what drove her to reach the levels she has.

For those who haven’t figured it out yet, the public persona of Paris is one that she manufactured. She’s not the hot airhead that the general public came to believe she is. In fact, she’s pretty intelligent and has created an empire around her brand: herself.

Sure, her family ties helped get her foot in the door with top notch fashion photographers and her family’s money allowed her to be a part of the socialite scene. However, it’s what she turned those opportunities into that are so impressive. And frankly, without the template she provided, there wouldn’t be others who followed in her footsteps and had their own success. Kim Kardashian, Paris’ former assistant and friend, immediately comes to mind.

This documentary allows you to see the world from Paris’ point-of-view while also displaying how the pressure of what she created has had an adverse effect on her mental health.

However, as the film goes deeper and deeper into her personal story, we learn about the one major horror story that traumatized her, greatly.

The second half of the documentary deals with Paris essentially being abducted by the officials of a school in Utah, which takes troubled kids in an effort to rehabilitate them. In reality, this school treats the kids like shit and actually makes them much worse than when they got there.

Paris and others from that school tell their stories and try to get the word out about the reality of places like it, as their school isn’t the only one that’s treating kids like adult prisoners in a maximum security facility.

I’ll be honest, I never had much of an opinion of Paris. But after seeing this, I’ve got tremendous respect for how she’s overcome the dark parts of her life and how she took an acorn and turned it into a lush, rich forest.

Overall, this was an engaging documentary that told a hell of a story in a fairly short amount of time. The film flew by and I didn’t realize that nearly two hours had passed when the credits started to roll.

It’s well edited, greatly presented and hopefully, enough people see it and places like the school where Paris was imprisoned are further exposed and scrutinized into oblivion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent pop culture biographical documentaries.

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.

Documentary Review: A Corny In the UK (2014)

Release Date: 2014
Directed by: Alex Spilling
Cast: Jim Cornette, Stacey Cornette, Alex Spilling

WrestleTalk TV, 96 Minutes

Review:

I picked up a signed copy of this off of Jim Cornette’s website. I remember seeing the trailer for it 6 years ago but then it went down the memory hole, which is becoming a problem as I become older and older.

Anyway, this was a fun film to watch, as it follows Cornette on his first and only tour or the United Kingdom. It’s great seeing his enthusiasm and his personality come to life while exploring a country he obviously enjoys.

What I liked most about this, is that you get to see Cornette as the real deal Cornette. He lets the audience in more so than he does on his podcasts or as his persona on television over the years. While he may be a controversial figure to modern wrestling fans or his outspokenness about the business and U.S. politics might push people away, I found it hard not to like the guy after seeing this, despite my feelings or thoughts on certain subjects.

Love him or hate him, Jim Cornette is a guy with a lot of opinions that can speak on them much better than most. He sticks to his guns and doesn’t let the modern cancel/outrage culture stand in his way. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s hard not to find him entertaining. Well, unless you’re a snowflake asshole.

This was just a solid way to spend an hour and a half while self-quarantining through this “Mexican Lager Viral Event”. I’m just going to call it that because social media platforms, where I will share this review, don’t like that new C-word.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries of the last few years.

Documentary Review: Holy Grail: The Search for WWE’s Most Infamous Lost Match (2019)

Release Date: May 13th, 2019
Cast: Bret Hart, Tom Magee, Sean Waltman, Chris Spradlin, T.J. Wilson, Harry Smith, Sam Roberts, Mary-Kate Anthony

WWE, 28 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been meaning to watch this ever since it came out last year but my queues in all my streaming services are rather large.

I had some interest in this, however, as I’m very aware of the history behind this “lost tape” of a non-televised match between Bret “Hitman” Hart and Tom Magee, a guy that the suits at the World Wrestling Federation thought was going to be the next Hulk Hogan.

Back in the ’90s and into the early ’00s, I was a wrestling tape trader. This match was sort of this legendary thing that many people in the tape trading community speculated over. Did it actually exist? Was it real? A hoax? Did the match actually take place? Why was it even filmed? Why wasn’t it televised? Why did it have commentary from Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan?

The tape does actually exist and this documentary is the story of how it was found while also explaining the significance of it and what the search for it meant to so many people. This also ends with the match itself, shown officially for the first time in history.

Having a once invested interest in this, I found the documentary to be pretty cool and fascinating. Especially, since it means that it’s now actually been acknowledged by the WWE and the men who were in the match. What’s even cooler is that Tom Magee appears in this now, all these years later, to give his two cents on the whole thing.

This is a short, quick documentary but it isn’t short on details and actually packs a lot more than I anticipated.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other short documentaries featured on the WWE Network.

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