Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Directed By Morgan Spurlock

Starring – Morgan Spurlock

The Plot – Morgan Spurlock reignites his battle with the food industry, this time from behind the register, as he opens his own fast food restaurant.

Rated PG-13 for brief strong adult language


– Informatively provocative. In the fashion of the original film, this one as well has no shortage of scandalous facts and revelations to open eyes on everyone from Tyson Chicken to the advertising market for its unabashed manipulation of the consumer. In the first film, Spurlock taught us how our lifestyles had a negative effect on us, but in “Holy Chicken”, it’s really how that lifestyle has an effect on the animals who were sacrificed for the finished product, outlining a level of selfishness weighed heavily by the irony of a culture supposedly seeking change in the choices they’re given. There were times during this picture when I was angry, sad, and even grateful for the way Morgan turns the joke on those responsible, and through an expansive experimentation throughout the many fast food chains that make up the landscape, he proves that so very little outside of restaurant appearance has changed in fifteen years.

– Our leading man. While I definitely appreciate Spurlock more as a leader behind the camera rather than the one in front of it, I can’t dispel what his level of journalism brings to the uncovering of the information presented before us. As a detective, Spurlock’s blunt sarcasm is easily his greatest strength, narrating and navigating us through no shortage of on-screen guests and factual evidence at his disposal made even more appalling by the emphasis he gives in summarizing it all. He’s certainly a man not afraid of getting his hands dirty with the subject matter, putting himself front-and-center in the shoes of the many who experience these scandals. It establishes a bond between director and audience rarely ever seen on film, and allows him to come down to our level of reality when documenting it for the cameras.

– Riveting second act. This was easily the highlight of the film for me, as a conspiracy scandal against Big Chicken was brought to light through a series of farmer interviews that really struck a chord with the dreamer inside of me. What’s so endearing about this subplot is the way it really halts the humor of the film dead in its tracks, giving us a hard to swallow reality for many American workers forced to give up the family business because of the humbling circumstance brought forth by 21st century capitalism. Spurlock keeps the camera on them and allows the tears to flow, embracing the hurt ensued like a warm blanket of conscience that resonates soundly with anyone who watches it. With so much money flowing everywhere in the fast food industry, but especially the chicken wars, why are the people who make the biggest sacrifices the ones who are left with such very little proof of positives for their contributions?

– Effective animation. The most important continuity between films definitely comes in the form of these hilariously grim animated sequences that give visuals to what Spurlock is narrating through. These scenes prove fruitfully that the film has a strong sense of humor, and it’s one that uses animal torture to convey the message of what we otherwise can’t show in a PG-13 documentary. What I love about this besides the fact that the animation is so extreme in its rendering, is the way these visuals never allow the audience the same freedoms that they have been living through their whole life with when enjoying this product. They have to endure what it takes to feed their gluttony, and it’s nothing short of astonishing when you consider that actual animals go through this consumerism machine every single minute of every day. The coloring and fluidity of the sequences are gorgeous from an artistic level, and fill in the gaps of curiosity brilliantly during these sporadic moments throughout the picture.

– Razor sharp editing. This is especially important during a documentary because the words of the narrator and imagery that is transpiring have to move soundly throughout the many conversations and factual inserts, and in that regard, this was one of the best storytelling methods that I have seen in quite a long time. My favorite comes in the form of Morgan at the scene talking to someone, and the subject matter in question peeks into frame at just the exact moment to make the mention more effective dramatically. For instance, there’s a scene when the inevitable day comes for the chickens that Spurlock is raising, and the pacing of the editing reveals the big bombshell from the facial resonations of the feathered flock called into question. Besides this, we get a few exceptionally inserted newsreel clips of everything from the original “Super Size Me” and the effect that it had on the fast food nation, to shameful advertising that are heavy in manipulation. It’s great to have these examples present when they are brought up, and if nothing else Spurlock is exceptional as a director for always meeting his audience at eye level when stirring the proof into the pudding.

– As a sequel. There’s many decisions creatively that allows “Holy Chicken” to stand out on its own, all the while preserving the integrity and consistency of the original picture, which stands as a cultural landmark for many. In the initial first few scenes, we are taken through the events of fast food nation since the documentary aired, displaying the impact and awareness that Spurlock prescribed on many who were living with their eyes wide open for the first time. Where this film differs creatively from its predecessor, aside from focusing almost entirely on chicken, is the film’s on-the-ground approach that sees things through many different sets of eyes, instead of just Morgan’s. We are told the effects of the mass public in the original, but here we are shown it, and it’s an evolved and matured growth for a filmmaker who sticks so close to the subject matter between films.

– Genius ending. What better scene to be my favorite than the one that allows this film to end on a high note while maintaining almost all of the momentum that it attains on this steadfast journey of saturation? To say that the payoff is big for this film is an understatement, so instead I will indulge in the fact that it’s a cynically educated prescription for many who take truth in advertising. The saddest disappointment of this ending is that what is created physically doesn’t actually exist, because if it did it would be the tastefully devious approach at firing back against cryptic restaurants who shelter us from so much that is reality. The way this scene is edited in general realization is only surpassed by the mentally vapid’s inability to catch on, and the final threat that Spurlock makes towards the camera is one that challenges those businesses to do better.


– Phony interviews. Having sat through literally thousands of documentaries in my life, I would be foolish to think that the interactions between Spurlock and his guests were a hundred percent truthful, but with that said, the meeting up of each guest feels as artificial as a scripted film could manufacture. Call it terrible acting on the part of his guests, or logic suggesting that Morgan couldn’t just walk into an office with a film crew and start filming without permission, but these scenes during the first few moments of the film feel overly constructed to the point that the dialogue itself is lost in this cloud of desired reactions and perfect framing placements that chew away at the concepts of spontaneity. The film should’ve definitely just stuck with a dual camera interview sequence, which was primarily prominent during the first film. This cuts out the introductory period of Morgan meeting with them, that is every bit unnecessary as it is obvious for lacking the element of surprise.

– Pacing issues. Most of the movie is sound in its transitions and keeping the beat of the story pumping throughout the many angles it attacks its subject matter at, but the strings of conceit sneak into this film, outlining the fame of the same man who has been in tabloids for reasons not of the flattering kind. Occasionally, the storytelling will halt progress to squeeze in Morgan’s blossoming fame with how it complicates and challenges the idea behind this film. If you did this once or twice, fine, but there are four different times when this reality is brought into light, and after a while you just have to write it off as reflecting of the pretentious kind, which often comes in the form of a filmmaker receiving his first taste of global attention. It stands as the only thing that I would cut from the film entirely, and presents the lone speed bump on an otherwise perfect run time and storytelling progression for the film.

– Undecided. If you are going to make a film as judgmental and condemning as the material conveys, then you should have the guts to point blame at someone more substantial than the shadow figure associated with Big Chicken. It feels like a bit of a cop-out for this film to not have any political or social conscience to align itself with, especially considering that it has the uncanny ability to point at the problem, yet offers no solutions to deviate from reality. One could justify that the solution in itself is to quit feeding into the slaughter of animals all together, but that would then open up a bunch of other problems and freedom fights that I would rather not get into. Apparently, neither would Spurlock. Overall, it feels like too safe of a stance to truly appreciate the focus of the mission at hand, and leaves “Holy Chicken” with all cluck and no bite when it comes to feeling like a fearless documentary.

My Grade: 7/10 or C

Framing John Delorean

Directed By Dan Argott, Sheena M. Joyce

Starring – Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles

The Plot – The documentary recounts the extraordinary life and legend of the controversial automaker, tracing his meteoric rise through the ranks of General Motors, his obsessive quest to build a sports car that would conquer the world, and his shocking fall from grace on charges of cocaine trafficking. Interweaving a treasure trove of archival footage with dramatic vignettes starring Alec Baldwin, “Framing John DeLorean” is a gripping look at a man who gambled everything in his pursuit of the American Dream.

Currently not rated


– Crisp presentation. Argott and Joyce visually seduce us with a free-flowing allure in editing and storyboard movements that gives the documentary an investigation kind of format to its storytelling. With a combination of photographs from news stories, magazines, and personal family collections, as well as an array of guests close to the story, the film’s grasp on the intimate details is astonishing, granting us a level of access into the psychology and circumstance of Delorean that no other news story on the figure has given us before. Beyond this, the film’s own framing method of sliding each picture into frame with the uniqueness of a slide-show is one that constantly kept the pacing of the story moving, all the while covering so much of the time frame with a shocking abundance of accompanying visual flare.

– Surprises. Considering I knew very little about the Delorean trials, as well as the complications that he dealt with while building an entirely new automobile company from the ground up, I was surprisingly enlightened to learn about a figure who is every bit as innocent as he was guilty. It’s a strange juxtaposition because John was a man with honorable dreams and intentions, yet his naivety often got the worst of him, and cemented this ideal that for every one step forward he was often taking two steps back. In addition to this, the lasting image effects left on his family and work colleagues is something that conjures an air of tragedy to the story, where one man’s vision became the catalyst in the destruction for many careers and futures. In particular, the footage of John’s adopted son in present day is the most effective in garnering a feeling of empathy that I honestly wasn’t expecting for a family that had everything that the American dream entailed.

– Two for one. In addition to this being a documentary-first category of filmmaking, there’s also a Hollywood presentation that plays alongside the details of the previous, colorfully filling in the gaps of storytelling for the footage behind closed doors that we are unfortunately not afforded because of the circumstances. The production itself is believable enough without feeling cheap or cheesy, and the make-up work of a talented production transforms Baldwin to Delorean seamlessly before our very eyes. What’s important is that these cinematic inclusions never overstep their boundaries, or happen frequently enough to stall the pacing of the story, balancing two appreciated levels of filmmaking for the price of one. It capitalizes on the documentary’s many mentions of there never being a Hollywood film about the life of John, all the while living and breathing inside this bubble of biographical fact that documentaries thrive on.

– Appropriate tone. There’s a great deal of blunt personality that radiates from the many ironies of the story that take us through some very suffocating beats within Delorean’s life. Not only is the film not afraid to capitalize on the sheer lunacy of the many trials that John faced as a result of his own judgment, but it also hints at the selfishness of an elevated capitalist market within the American landscape in the 1980’s that maximized production of product into overdrive to satisfy demand. It helps that many of the speaking guests on-film are mostly animated in their deliveries, but it’s made even more convincing by the stakes in adversity that always seems present in John’s life and social surroundings, outlining a protagonist who was every bit unorthodox as the model car that he campaigned to an otherwise conventional market of consumerism.

– Enjoyable cast. This is really on the acting spectrum for the movie within the documentary, as the many familiar faces that move in and out of frame gives the story a big-screen presence in transforming this story for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. While none of the performances are transformational in anything other than look and character design, the intention of the character direction is something that clearly capitalizes on the big personality feel of the silver screen, skewering the pulse of the character for the conveniences of the story that it is trying to tell. Besides Baldwin, Gotham’s Morena Baccarin, Josh Charles, Michael Rispoli, Dean Winters, and Twin Peaks Dana Ashbrook are just a few of the names who give nuance to the respective characters within Delorean’s story, giving us a vibrant array of colorful personalities that play into a story involving drugs, gang warfare, and two class action lawsuits brought before congress.

– Back to The Future. The most alluring area of the screenplay to me going in was clearly going to be the behind-the-scenes access for how the Delorean automobile made its way onto one of the most memorable 80’s movies of all time; “Back To The Future”, and this film definitely didn’t disappoint. Considering the Delorean name was dead by 1985, the representation of the Delorean on the silver screen immortalized its name for future generations, benefiting in the way of advertisement that some automobile brands can’t pay for. For my money, I could’ve used more time dedicated to the meat of the pre-production aspect, in terms of John’s involvement in getting the car onto the set, but the interviews from screenwriter Bob Gale, as well as iconic footage playing simultaneously during it, proved why this was the perfect marriage of temporary product meeting timeless cinema to create something truly cohesive on all levels within the feature film. You certainly couldn’t imagine anything else being the time machine now, and this gives the Delorean immortality in a day and age where cars come and go like musical trends.

– An undying spirit. Without question, the most endearing quality of the film for me was the final moments of footage, where John’s mock-ups for the D.M.C 2 come into frame, and outline a vision in automobiles that was decades ahead of its time. Even for something that is only a first draft drawing, the dimensions and curvature associated with a product that is every bit fast as it is luxurious is something that even today is still unavailable to lower and middle class drivers. What this does is cement an idea about John that conveys him as being one of the good ones, who catered to the mass instead of the minority, and preserved that level of drive and determination that stuck with him until the day he died. To humanize a public figure so high up on the food chain of fame and fortune is remarkable, and perhaps stands as the single greatest achievement for Argott and Joyce, if only for the way add vulnerability to a man who was once considered to be, like his cars, indestructible.

– Similarities to other prominent figures. My interpretation of the film brought familiar feelings in watching documentaries about Nicolas Tesla, the man credited by some as the creator of electricity. In comparisons to Delorean, both men were hunted by the government, set-up in a sting operation to ruin their careers, and then had their visions ripped from them for profit at the hands of someone else. Most people don’t know that Delorean’s can still be manufactured in special requests to this day, conjuring up an unnerving feeling within me that gets the conspiracy wheels spinning. Both of these men were considered geniuses ahead of their respective times, and challenged the conventionalism within a system that ultimately led to their untimely downfalls.


– Stumbling pacing. This film was running smoothly until the cocaine trial, which takes up an inordinate amount of screen time to cover every single angle of the world-wide focus, and while it’s vital to include this in John’s story, the dominance that it has over the rest of the film offers too much separation from our protagonist’s psyche. Especially with a third act that breezes through with an ending that feels incomplete at best, the particular trial section bleeds the brakes on a progression that until then covered a variety of topics without staying put for far too long. Opposing that, there were many times in the film’s final half hour where I frequently checked my watch, and even stopped the film for an entire day because of waning interest. With more devotion to John’s final days, the film could’ve further fleshed out the real tragedy of his lasting memory, but it simply doesn’t seem interested in the weak John, leaving much of the weathered transformation on the floor of under developed curiosity.

– Unnecessary cursing. As mentioned up top, this film doesn’t have a designated rating, but one guest’s desire to drop F-bombs every other word soiled a level of class within the picture that had been maintained up to that point, and illustrated him as a nutcase of sorts to the case that he was trying to prescribe to the audience. One or two of these words is fine to articulate the anger from this particular character, but a barrage seems unnecessary, and reminds me of the freedom that the director’s had in allowing their guests to get get everything out. Even if you don’t agree with me on this, the desire of including the film’s final text with a line “He died in 2005. He lived to be 80 FUCKING years old” feels highly unnecessary.

My Grade: 8/10 or B+

Love, Gilda

Directed by Lisa Dapolito

Starring – Gilda Radner, Lorne Michaels, Melissa McCarthy

The Plot – In her own words, comedienne Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on her life and career. Weaving together recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends, rare home movies and diaries read by modern day comediennes. The film offers a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of a beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story

The film is currently not rated


– Vividly defines Gilda’s dive into comedy, that eventually made her a phenomenon. Comedy was much more than a job to Gilda; it very much serves as the bridging between her often-distant family, serving as a coping mechanism for the cruelties of life. In this regard, she used it to battle depression she suffered from weight gains, lack of friends her own age, and the decaying state of her father when she was only 14.

– Gilda’s influence. In the many varieties of interviewed guests, both in and out of the Saturday Night Live bubble, Dapolito constructs what may be Gilda’s most shining gift to the world, in how she paved the road for a generation of women starved for equality on television. Through Lisa’s absorbing timeline of Gilda’s rise, the film preserves her as an ahead-of-her-time feminist icon who rose much more than she failed, and held her own against a male dominated cast that included some of the biggest names in comedy history.

– Special gift. As to where other documentaries about deceased protagonists base their psychology on assumptions from the people closest to them, ‘Love, Gilda’ has the blessing of collecting a plentiful helping of tape recordings and diary entries from the title character herself, preserving the spirit of Radner for one more day of life. Aside from its use of style in displaying on-screen visuals of her writing, there are plenty of candid reveals from the celebrities who turn the pages on Gilda’s rocky road, allowing us a candid perspective that other documentaries just can’t pertain.

– Visual mastery. Dapolito treats us to many of Gilda’s most legendary moments, with a combination of stock footage and behind-the-scenes photography that perfectly immerse us in the particular time and place that Gilda’s journey passed through, giving it an enriching scrapbook style visual compass to compliment the material. In doing so, we’re reminded of the drug-and-disco 70’s that may or may not have been Gilda’s ultimate undoing, during a time when living free came with a valuable price tag.

– What I commend this film most of all for, is its dedication to its leading lady, that doesn’t wither or squander away, the deeper we get. One such example was my review for ‘Andre The Giant’ earlier this year, that focused for a solid 45 minutes on Hulk Hogan instead of its purpose character, but ‘Love, Gilda’ knows that its story and audience remain with her, so from birth to death we stand beside Gilda through it all, feeling like a cherished best friend who she always confides in.

– Relationship with Gene Wilder. This was the angle in the film that I was looking the most forward to, as most of their marriage together remained hidden from the public eye, and it didn’t disappoint. In understanding the importance of Gene to her at-the-time scattered life, we realize that marriage came across like a fresh take at a second start for Gilda, allowing her to immerse herself in the pleasures of life that up until that time she felt she didn’t deserve. It ultimately provided maturity to a woman who was afraid to grow-up, and proved that at the age of 38 she met the person she was destined to be with.

– Part of what made Gilda so infectious as a performer was her ability to reach inside and pull a smile or fit of laughter out of you regardless of the situation, and this homage to her more than accommodates this notion to the audience watching at home. Even for skits and material that are currently over forty years old, the essence of Radner’s personality remains persistently satisfying, giving us plenty of hearty laughter for a performer that always put her body and soul into everything she did. You might laugh or cry during this film, but one thing is clear: it is an effective watch.


– A bit disjointed in its pacing. In covering the entire spectrum of Gilda’s highs and lows, the film feels extremely limited at 81 brief minutes, refusing to allow us much lasting time of the events that move in and out of frame like the wind. Some chapters are given too much time, while others barely scratch the surface of learning exposition, and because of such ‘Love, Gilda’, like its leading lady, could afford to slow down and enjoy the roller-coaster of life.

– Dapolito certainly etches out a love letter, but it’s in her admiration for Gilda that takes away from some of the more compelling character flaws of Radner that the informative audiences will require. Particularly in Gilda’s experimentation with drugs, and her challenging interaction with her public, these angles definitely required more fleshing out and definition that Gilda wasn’t quite the saint that Lisa would like to illuminate her as.

– No epilogue? As you can imagine, this film ends in predictable territory. But it isn’t the formulaic direction that fills me with regret, but rather the lack of fitting conclusions from A-list guests that could’ve provided the underlining on Radner’s decades old lasting memory. It feels like the film just kind of unceremoniously ends because of it, capping off an otherwise interesting watch with the seeds of mediocrity.


Fahrenheit 11/9

Directed by Michael Moore

Starring – Michael Moore, Donald Trump, David Hogg

The Plot – Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” is a provocative and comedic look at the times in which we live. It will explore the two most important questions of the Trump Era: How the f**k did we get here, and how the f**k do we get out?

Rated R for some adult language and some disturbing material/images


– No film in theaters currently that is more important. In general, ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ feels like a ferociously unnerving wake-up call to Americans everywhere, and it does so by displaying how we a freedom-seekers have abandoned our own ideals in favor of corporate greed and selfishness. Moore cuts to the heart of the issue, refusing to ever apologize or relent in the focus of his topics, and regardless of how you feel about him as a person, you understand that he’s someone who has more than done his homework of what’s enclosed.

– As a narrator, Moore excels at informing and relating these often cryptic governmental terms and conditions to the audience, allowing even the most inexperienced viewer a chance to keep up. In this regard, Moore feels like an everyman filmmaker who is here, first and foremost, for the people, standing at eye level to meet them every step of the way. There’s never a moment in his newest film that ever felt overwhelming or trailing off, and this sense of persistence within the material allows the audience to keep their attention firmly on the rapid discussion.

– Versatility in footage used. Whether it’s on the ground cell phone coverage, or network stock footage that captures the complete spectrum of what’s depicted, Moore is an editing magician at piecing together enough visual evidence to back up his salty claims. Being that his film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ was so long ago, it’s a welcome approach to involving the benefits of technology, and Moore’s reach for a multitude of angles properly relays the whole story by conjuring up a curtain-peeking perspective.

– No voice goes unnoticed. In Moore’s desire to film and interview citizens in many diverse locations across this country, we are treated to a wide-range of on-ground commentary from the voice of the voiceless. This offers us the audience our most reflective glances of the real truths boiling beneath the fabricated media and hyperbolic headlines that we’re used to. Nothing of which is more somberly crippling than the citizens of Flint who take us through four trying years of heartache and loss. Moore goes front-and-center where most politicians haven’t, and it’s this candid delve that nourished the food for thought that comes with so many living in poisonous conditions.

– Electoral College faults. One of my biggest problems with the themes of democracy has always been the ideal of Electoral College voting. It’s a big business ploy to appeal to the upper one percent that does more damage than good, and the documentary does a solid job of expressing this disposition of compromise. This more than anything is proving to be a voter’s biggest obstacle, because when they figure out that their votes don’t matter, why should they vote? and it’s that thought process that candidates like Trump thrive on, diminishing the left majority of the country that gave him the second most amount of votes in the 2016 election.

– Without question, Moore’s strongest ability as a filmmaker is his ability to stay bi-partisan on issues and circumstances that are a reaction of so many things done wrong by the right and left. If you think this is a film that is just about what Trump has done wrong, then you’re sorely mistaken, as ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ highlights the many insensitive and consequential decisions that negated the Obama presidency that often many left-wingers conveniently overlook. Michael, while a long time democratic voter, thrives as a reporter without influence, and because of such it allows him to be the curious party necessary to uncovering these shocking truths from two respective sides that have gotten us to this moment.

– While I had some problems with the pacing and linking of such deep-seeded issues that Moore discusses, I can commend him for touching base and giving attention to many important issues that require an eye of curiosity. Particularly in the subplots of the Flint Water Crisis, big bank meandering upon political parties, and my personal favorite: the new generation of blue-collar candidates who aren’t lifetime politicians. Moore tends to hint that if we want something done, WE have to do it ourselves, and this layer of optimism in seeing so many everymen and women from our own communities, is something that gave me great pleasure within the film.

– Lasting power. I believe this film’s greatest accolades have yet to be written, and that it will stand as a welcome mat for the next twenty years for how it shapes and re-defines what it means to vote. Films like these are inspiring for how they prove not only that politicians are regular people like you and me, but also how they prescribe the notion that one voice moves miles. If you don’t stand up for what you want, someone will come along and shape America in the way they see fit, and through Moore’s ever-changing ball caps and citizen arrests of high-ranking officials, we are treated to the man who practices what he preaches.


– Manipulative musical score. For my money, it’s a bit over-the-top when Moore accommodates people like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with these popular tracks in pop-culture, yet narrates Trump with these darkly ominous Italian choirs, signaling something of Damien levels of terror. I see the intended purpose, but it feels too desperate and meandering over the facts that more than equate the problems. As I mentioned above, Moore does mostly a great job of staying in the middle, but this one example was something that had me rolling my eyes for how truly unnecessary and repetitive it was.

– Much of the material is etched in fact, but there is that occasional slip-up when Moore oversteps his boundaries in his hatred of Trump for what feels like mud-slinging. To know the problem, you must know the difference, with one being based on fact while the other is opinion, and it’s in the matters with the latter that I wish were left on the cutting room floor of a film that already exceeds two hours. Particularly the material involving Trump’s questionable affection of his daughter added nothing to the bigger picture of problems that feel leap years above this angle.

– Scattered second half. It doesn’t hurt to attack these many subplots one at a time, but when you step back and stare at the entire bigger picture, Moore’s anticipated sequel can come across as a bit disjointed. Particularly in how he transitions the material from one arc to the next requires a little more helming of the transitional bridging that smooths it all out. Because of such, it constantly feels like the film is in appropriately convenient DVD chapters instead of one cohesive project that works together.


To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story

Directed by Derek Dennis Herbert

Starring – Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Danielle Harris

The Plot – The film is the harrowing story of a stuntman overcoming a dehumanizing childhood filled with torment and bullying in Sparks, Nevada. After surviving a near-death burn accident, he worked his way up through Hollywood, leading to his ultimate rise as Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th series and making countless moviegoers forever terrified of hockey masks and summer camp. Featuring interviews with cinema legends, including Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), and Cassandra Peterson (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), To Hell and Back peels off the mask of Kane Hodder, cinema’s most prolific killer, in a gut-wrenching, but inspiring, documentary. After decades of watching Kane Hodder on screen, get ready to meet the man behind the mask in To Hell and Back; a uniquely human story about one of cinema’s most vicious monsters.

The film is currently not rated


– Most of the time, a backstory in documentaries serve as nothing more than exposition to tell the whole story, but with the first act of Kane’s life, we get a mold for who he eventually became. All of the bullying, the tolerance to pain, and really the overall entertainment that he gave his friends served as stepping stones to becoming the horror icon that he eventually became.

– Kane’s increasing passion for the characters he takes on is evident in multiple aspects of the film. For most actors, particularly stunt men, a role is just a paycheck until the next one, but for Hodder this embodiment is not only on a physical level, but also a mental one, as Kane himself approached the roles from a psychological level, giving Jason Voorhees some of his most menacing of qualities.

– Imaginative backdrop set pieces. Considering the entirety of this film is told in actor interviews, it’s nice to see that the production spent every creative effort in visually enhancing the rooms around the storytellers, with images straight out of a horror film. For Hodder in particular, we’re treated to what looks like a smashed kitchen, complete with broken chairs and turned over coffee cups, giving the picture that on-set kind of feel each time we cut to Kane.

– While Kane cherishes the fact that he never broke a bone in his decades of work, we still get a very detailed and revealing embodiment of just how dangerous this job truly is with these horror stories that are much worse than anything on-screen. In one of his first films alone, Kane describes being engulfed in flames to such vivid detail, all the while none of the actors and crew around him know just how badly he’s suffering because he does it so frequently. Herbert’s film has no problem glorifying the trade, but does so in a way that never relinquishes the responsibility in relaying the dangerous price that comes with the big lights of the Hollywood luster.

– As a storyteller, Kane’s finest moments seem to come when he tears up re-living some of his most torturous moments, both on and off screen. It offers a satisfyingly revealing side to Hodder that many of his biggest admirers have never been granted. In that regard alone, ‘To Hell and Back’ is the kind of valued documentary that provides emphasis in vulnerability that these often thought of invincible presences never receive.

– Important shooting locations. There is no shortage of on-site locations in landscape and hollowed hallways to some of Kane’s greatest tragedies and triumphs, and this rare gift decades later offers plenty on the way to spiritual reflection. Not only is this valuable to the story for visual representation, but it serves as a cathartic moment for Hodder himself, who comes full circle with the places and faces that have shaped him and his never-die spirit.

– A testament to Kane’s undying reputation, comes in the form of a who’s who list of horror genre celebrities who are interviewed for the film. As we all know, honesty in your work is judged upon by your peers, and the guest list on this picture might be the single greatest assembly of my own childhood heroes that any film has ever seen. Aside from Englund and Harris, Bruce Campbell, Bill Mosely, Sid Haig, Felissa Rose, and Cassandra Peterson are just a few of the names who have interacted with Kane, and if you forget any of their names, fear not, because the film goes overboard on repeating their visual name tags more than a few times.


– Studio stock musical score. No disrespect to composer Jonas Friedman, but the musical tones in ‘To Hell and Back’ strongly lack any kind of versatility or originality to the scenes they accompany, and constantly feel like they intrude upon an emotional rendering that a scene has going for itself.

– For a majority of the second act, the film starts to feel tedious in production team members naming their favorite moments, instead of resting the focus on the title protagonist. People will argue that it does this because Kane is a big part of these films, but I feel like the redundancy sometimes takes far too long to get to its intended finish line, and I would’ve preferred more time donated to Kane off of the screen.

– Much of the production value screams A&E Television style. Aside from the repeat in name tags that I mentioned earlier, that feel like they’re constantly coming back from commercial break, the camera movements and lack of inspirational interview angles diminish the value of creativity that stems from a majority of this project. This greatly leaves the film feeling burdened from transitioning into that big screen presence that so many documentaries this year have already attained.



Directed by Julie Cohen, Betsy West

Starring – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Sharon Frontiero

The Plot – At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans…until now.

Rated PG for some thematic elements and adult language


– Unique character framing. While it’s certainly no surprise for a documentary’s title figure to receive the royal treatment, Ginsburg’s superhero-like appeal is captured in the most unlikely of situations; with T-shirts and websites comparing her to figures like Notorious B.I.G. What I love about this is that it puts the world’s celebrity focus where it deserves to be; firmly with the support of those patriarchs who paved the way in crafting the world we live in today.

– Despite a brief runtime of 92 minutes, ‘RBG’ manages to envelope Ruth’s entire story, most notably her time on the Supreme Court bench, as well as her relationships at home. The latter was certainly more fascinating to me, as it’s in those interviews with her children, as well as soundbites from her deceased husband, that carve out a woman who truly did have and do it all. She never sacrificed her career to be a Mother or vice versa, and her up at dawn routine is firmly documented throughout.

– Because so many classic Supreme Court battles didn’t have the benefit of being filmed, we are treated to soundbites inside of the hearings as our depictions during the narrative. However, Cohen and West visually treat us to vital quotes that appear in eye-popping detail with a courtroom backdrop, to put us in the heat of the moment, without ever missing a step in dramatic pulse. This more than anything cements Ruth’s on-going legacy as a presence who never just rested on getting a seat at the table.

– Part of what makes Ruth such a lovable protagonist is her unabashed humility and selfless presence that is captured wonderfully in the up-close-and-personal style of shooting throughout this picture. Even at the age of 84, she can still command a room with her soft deliveries and stern-but-sweet personality that feels like the sweet grandmother we all deserved growing up. In the film, Ruth says she never yelled or intimidated when she spoke, because she believed that is the moment when a listener will tune out, and she couldn’t be more accurate, as my attention never withered or strained from hearing about her lasting legacy.

– My favorite aspect of the film that I think many people will indulge in, is her fifty-plus year marriage to her husband Martin. If there was ever a story for perfect couplings, Ruth and Martin take the cake. Throughout the picture, we learn that Martin was not only her biggest supporter during a time when the male majority was anything but, he was also her balancing act in making up in humor what she lacked. All of this is further elaborated on when you see the glow that Ruth preserves each time she looks at or speaks about him. There’s is a love too authentic for the silver screen.

– Revealing, insightful details. Even if you are the biggest of Ginsburg fans, ‘RBG’ will fill you with enough biographical, researched knowledge to make your head spin. Without spoiling a lot, some of the aspects of her time at Harvard Law greatly surprised me and enlightened me to the conditions that women were dealing with in seeking mutual employment. Interesting enough, this aspect of history repeats itself later on, when the focus turns to a group of females who seek entry into the Virginia Military Academy. You know what they say about learning from history.

– Now more than ever, a film like ‘RBG’ has such distinct value in those who seek the change that they wish to see in their own worlds. Inspiration is one thing, but this film teaches us that Ruth wasn’t alone in laying the bricks of activism, and if we’re going to see results of change, you won’t get a reaction without the action needed to push forward. Because of this, the film establishes that sense of being the perfect film at the perfect time for the #MeToo movement, proving that even though women have come so far, they still have a great distance to travel.

– In her inspiration of many young women, as the film so dutifully shows, the lasting impression of Ginsburg will never go one day again without being felt. This will undoubtedly give the film great replay value in terms of aging, that most films can’t pay for. Documentaries to me are usually a one-and-done kind of sit, but I see ‘RBG’ as being the cliff note for many future battles that our civilization will endure, going forward.


– While I can credit West and Cohen for their successful rendering of the topic subject, I cannot award them style points for anything groundbreaking or original in their visual presentation. Documentaries anymore provide a flare to compliment the hard-hitting details that virtually fly off of the page at you, and in this regard the movie was very plain and derivative for me, of everything else in the genre that came before it.

– My biggest fear coming into the film did come true, as the movie does divide our political cultures, instead of being the catalyst to unite them. It isn’t quite left-side propaganda, but it isn’t far off either, as much of the third act material takes valuable time to fling mud at any right-winger who has come in Ruth’s path of destruction. Being an independent voter myself, I am able to flesh out these instances of promoting, and to me it felt so very different from the woman Ruth evidently is. She’s never someone who uses a negative to reduce someone, but sadly the film is never as admirable with its clear-cut intention.


Three Identical Strangers

Directed by Tim Wardle

Starring – Silvi Alzetta-Reali, Eddy Galland, Ron Guttman

The Plot – New York, 1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they are identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds’ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, but it also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives, and could transform our understanding of human nature forever.

Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material


– Masterful storytelling in the form of the brothers, as well as the dozens of family members, doctors, and authors who played a pivotal role in this one-of-a-kind story. Eddy in particular, has such a unique tone of voice and passion when he describes someone he loves or a particular event in how it went down, and that kind of energy being tapped into played wonders in keeping me engaged in them throughout the picture.

– Articulate dramatizations that play hand-in-hand with the storytelling being told audibly. Most biopic documentaries use this feature, but use it in a way that is corny or comical in presentation to the way that takes away the focus on the details. But in ‘Three Identical Strangers’, this aspect in visual storytelling captures the essence involved with the atmosphere that feels honest to the imagining.

– A surprisingly big budget feel in musical favorites. Even if music isn’t the prime focus in a story like this one, the inclusion of tracks like disco and southern rock that were all the rave at the time of this discovery, do wonders in immersing us into the right time and place for this setting. Beyond just the triplets, this is a story about pop culture in the 80’s, a time when people started understanding that you don’t have to be in the movies to be considered a celebrity.

– There’s a rich combination of humor and dramatic material in the film never stumbles or cuts short the power of the other. For as much as I was authentically laughing during the first act of the movie, the evolution of maturity in material during the second and third acts when the relationship of the brothers becomes tested, felt very compelling in the sense of heartbreak for my immense interest in this uncovering of the truth that the trailer promised us endlessly.

– Speaking of that mystery, the less you know about these brothers and their circumstance, the better. I myself knew absolutely nothing about these triplets, other than what I was told in the trailer, and even that might be too much. In my opinion, go into this film completely blindfolded, because only then will the impact of helplessness cast upon these three gentlemen reach its boiling summit, and you’ll be moved to the point of being an information seeker because of it. Sometimes 91 minutes of a film just isn’t enough, and you’ll find yourself searching for what has happened since the cameras got turned off.

– With spoiling as little as I possibly can, the material focuses on the age old debate of nature versus nurture, and while the final verdict doesn’t feel anymore conclusive because of this shining chapter, the many ups and downs of uncovering this dark past certainly provide plenty of ammunition for both sides. Throughout the movie, I was debating with myself, occasionally changing sides with the more I knew about what these brothers had been through, pointing to that aspect of genetics that lies somewhere in the middle. Engaged and enraged, this film played chess with my opinions, and even still I’m as confused as ever.

– BAFTA nominated filmmaker Waddle does a superb job at piecing together the facts and the vast collection of TV appearances and newspaper articles of this story, while leaving his finger firmly on the pulse of human psychology. Selflessly, Waddle never allows himself to be much of a presence on-screen, albeit in just brief question deliveries that he has for his guests, but instead spends his time preserving the thriller aspect of the real life story that sometimes feels too compelling to be a true story, proving that drama plays for stronger stakes in the world far beyond the silver screen.

– Something interesting happens with the dialogue throughout the film that required you to constantly pay great attention. The only thing I could compare it to are the Saw movies, when a line of dialogue is re-inserted during the closing moments of the film to add new meaning to the clues it gave early on. That same thing happens many times in ‘Three Identical Strangers’, and does so without ever spoiling what’s to come, because most phrases in human conversation have double meanings when played out of context. Truly provocative in how it forces you to hang on to every word.

– Doesn’t waste time in getting to the meat of the story. What you do learn from reading the synopsis above, happens in the first twenty minutes of the documentary, leaving that inevitability that something bigger and darker lies just underneath the surface of human interest pieces. What evolves, does so without taking away from the luster of the enchanted tale, all the while harvesting this level of regret in somber details that only gains our interest so much more.


– In the heated debate throughout the film of nature versus nurture, there is one disappointing aspect, most notably in the time devoted to the lives of these kids and their adopting families. Everything is summarized briefly, but I feel like this particular angle needs more attention paid to it, especially during the third act, when we start to see the laces of theories and narrative thesis being tied together. Some more family experience or elaboration could’ve done wonders in making this a perfect film, but as it stands it is the only aspect of the movie I was disappointed with.


350 Days

Directed by Fulvio Cecere

Starring – Bret Hart, Ted Dibiase, Greg Valentine

The Plot – Get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of professional wrestling featuring interviews and photographs with legendary wrestlers and rare in-ring footage! Starring former champions Bret Hart and Billy Graham, it’s a true look behind the curtains at the grueling life they led on the road 350 days a year and the effect it had on their marriages, family, physical and mental health. Featuring Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Paul Orndorff, Abdullah The Butcher, Wendi Richter, Bill Eadie, Nikolai Volkoff, Stan Hansen, Angelo Mosca, Lex Luger, and more, the event also includes some of the last interviews ever done with George Steele, Jimmy Snuka, Ox Baker, The Wolfman, Don Fargo, and Angelo Savoldi. Plus, an exclusive introduction and interview with JJ Dillon (manager of The Four Horsemen) to discuss the current state of professional wrestling.

Currently not rated


– For anyone who is new to professional wrestling, or seeks more knowledge about the profession, ‘350 Days’ is an intricate starting chapter full of unlimited knowledge. This is an unabashed and candid look behind the curtain of entertainment that is second only to magicians in terms of secrecy, and through the many legends that are interviewed for it we get many horrific examples in and around wrestling that prove that fame comes with quite a steep price.

– Beyond its unlimited knowledge, the film is also responsible in the direction it takes with letting the audience decide if it’s worth it or not, once all of the facts are presented. It would be easy to glorify this sport in the eyes of a wrestling fan director or in the hundreds interviewed for the picture, but I appreciate that the material paints the sport as something that isn’t for everyone, asking several times if they can fight through the pain.

– There are some never-before-seen pictures that are displayed throughout the film that reveal talent in their most personable stages. These were perhaps the parts of the movie that were the most beneficial to a wrestling fan like me, because especially in the 80’s, you never got as much exposure backstage as you do in modern wrestling, and some of these rare prints gave me lots of intrigue while painting a vivid picture of the atmosphere that is covered throughout nearly two hours.

– Bret Hart is my all time favorite wrestler, so I appreciated that he more than anyone took the reigns midway through the film and became the on-going narrator of sorts. Beyond being a master historian, Bret is someone whose honesty has always carved out an opinion that you either love or hate him for, but either way there is probably no one better to speak who has been through the many stages of independent and big league wrestling to compare and contrast.


– This documentary reeks of a cheap production sprinkled throughout. Above everything else, it is in the use of pictures over video footage that clearly illustrates how the filmmakers were unable to attain the rights to show these special instances. While I mentioned earlier how I appreciated the pictures, a modern documentary can only go so far on storytelling and pictures alone that eventually it needs video evidence as a dramatization for what is being discussed.

– Terrible editing and scene transitions that could’ve easily used another director’s cut. Sometimes interviews drop out with little leading that the interview is concluded, sometimes the next person will cut off the previous person before they are finished talking, and sometimes wrong pictures will show when we begin to hear a voice, and that person won’t be the one in the picture. On the latter, there were so many times when I was deceived on thinking a particular person was in the film, only to discover that the picture had nothing to do with the voice of who was speaking, and it eventually got aggravating.

– At 110 minutes, this film is simply far too repetitive to keep you intrigued. With the many topics, it discusses the outline first, then eventually says how it effects each wrestler speaking. The problem with that is how many wrestlers were brought in for this project, so we have to get every single wrestler’s opinion on every single subject, and it all just blends together with repeating the same outline.

– Which brings me to my next problem; there is no minimum for who is invited to speak on this project. No disrespect to certain wrestlers, but some of these names I’ve never even remotely heard of, forcing me to lose interest every time one of them appeared on screen. In my opinion, the film should’ve stuck with the 12 wrestlers featured on the poster and just given more time to them. No film, documentary or screen play, should ever be introducing new characters with ten minutes left in the movie.

– There is a musical score in this film that is every bit repetitive as it is generic. Not that I expect versatility in a documentary about professional wrestling, but in hearing the same riffs over a repeated fifteen second offering, I was reminded of my many years playing 8 bit Nintendo games, where a repeated riff like on Friday the 13th or Who Framed Roger Rabbit could make you want to punch baby seals. ‘350 Days’ takes this gimmick and pushes it to such annoying levels that I crouched lower in my seat every time I knew a musical montage of pictures was coming.

– I have a ton of respect for Cecere’s first delve into the director’s chair, but ‘350 Days’ is every bit as unfocused as it is redundant, leaving very little impression or style to compliment his brand of filmmaking that makes this project stick out in any possible way. The very lack of direction in this film could’ve come from anyone, but it turns out that it’s helmed by an actor who has over 200 roles to date, proving that while he shines in front of the camera, he has much to learn about commanding behind one.



Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring – Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina Brown

The Plot – Whitney Houston broke more music industry records than any other female singer in history. With over 200 million album sales worldwide, she was the only artist to chart seven consecutive U.S. No. 1 singles. She also starred in several blockbuster movies before her brilliant career gave way to erratic behavior, scandals and death at age 48. The documentary feature Whitney is an intimate, unflinching portrait of Houston and her family that probes beyond familiar tabloid headlines and sheds new light on the spellbinding trajectory of Houston’s life.

Rated R for adult language and drug content


– Academy Award Winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald makes documentaries the way they should be made. I have seen some criticize Macdonald’s movements in this film as being too invasive, but he’s someone who I value as a filmmaker because he isn’t swayed by the celebrity of the topic, no matter how big the person or thing he is covering. ‘Whitney’ is most certainly his crowning jewel, unveiling truth after sobering truth about inherited mental distress that played a heavy hand in her eventual undoing.

– There’s an overwhelming sense of blame that runs rampant throughout the film. The idea that so many friends and family knew so much, yet did so little. This elevates the tragedy of Houston to unspeakable levels, and forced more than the occasional tear down this critic’s cheeks.

– The film does a terrific job in capturing the big stakes that Whitney rose to in her performances every single night. In a profession of constantly changing faces and personas, Houston and her timeless music carved out a slice of perfection that has rarely been seen over such a lengthy period. I always knew she had unbelievable range, but thanks to Macdonald’s unflinching focus with some of her greatest performances, I became incredibly aware to the once-in-a-lifetime talent that Whitney really was.

– With the music sampling in the film, it never felt repetitive or forced to represent a topical discussion. Instead, there’s a very eclectic offering of her catalog that represents the vast evolution in the ever-changing pop music world, collectively binding a greatest hits collection that feel like individual chapters for the many life and career arcs in Houston’s life.

– A fine mix of produced concert footage on-stage, as well as handheld VHS documentation to cover the entire spectrum of Whitney’s whirlwind life off-stage. This film has curtain pulling value that is second to none in terms of the very candid instances of the pop star’s personality, pre-cell phone age. In terms of trailing value, ‘Whitney’ feels like it is a story decades in the making, and should be commended for how much video has been preserved.

– Unabashed angles that never run or sugar coat the means of the facts. I appreciate this because Whitney’s is certainly a dark story to tell, but the picture has great brass bravery to inform fans both hardcore and casual of Whitney’s tortured kindred spirit. If you’re not surprised by at least one of the bombshell discoveries told in ‘Whitney’, then you must’ve been best friends with the singer. There has never been a more personal uncovering in the world of documentary.

– Strong establishment of the time and setting in each particular section. In between the musical listening of Houston’s greatest hits, we are treated to the rapid progression of a world that looks like it’s crumbling with consumerism, and Houston’s squeaky clean music is at the center of it. The birth of these two elements are made even more convincing and effective because of precision in editing that treats the bond as a video scrapbook.

– Much of the accompanying narration from Houston, pulled in bits from various interviews over the years, transcends us into believing that the singer lives and breathes for two more hours. It accomplishes this because Whitney is with us every step of the way to introduce us to the next topic of discussion, never appearing visually as she talks, so as to give off that feeling that Houston is speaking of them for the first time.

– Intimate interviews with those closest to her, that offer tons of insight into the events that shaped her. The focus is in speaking and looking directly into the camera, giving the audience the immersion of personal storytelling to make them feel like a valued member of this reflection. What this also does is capture the pain and anguish in so many who knew the high stakes that they and Houston were playing with, but never folded. That air of regret is so thick that it can’t be cut with a knife, and their recollections offer so much more than the casual ‘What Could Have Been’ perspective that other documentaries feel saddled with.

– A documentary that takes its allotted time (Nearly two hours) and makes the most with it. In understanding the two halves of Whitney’s life and career, you understand the pressures associated with fame and family reputation that demanded Whitney to find an identity of her own, and nothing is ever short-cut or subdued in thinking that one aspect of the story is more important than the other. When I saw the run time before the film, I expected lots of excess dead weight that could be cut in favor of fluent pacing, but there is nothing involved in the film that should be cut or trimmed in any way. It’s all vital to the bigger picture.



Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Directed by Morgan Neville

Starring – Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, Francois Scarborough Clemmons

The Plot – From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination.

Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and adult language


– Assertive, informative, and moving . Won’t You Be My Neighbor is the perfect documentary for all kinds of fans, passionate or occasional, who wish to immerse themselves one more time in their childhoods. It’s a heart-warming dissection of the man who refused to change in an ever-changing world, giving way to the kind of loving and supportive ideals that some in 2018 still struggle with.

– Documentaries often follow chronological time as their directing narrative for storytelling, but that predictable spin gets lost in favor of Neville’s focus on the impacts with the world at hand that only Fred could commute. In his unmatched relationship with his youthful audience, Rogers because a pioneer with a lasting legacy for positivity, something that figures from our childhoods are quickly being removed from.

– With any documentary about a particular person, I look forward to information about that person that I rarely knew about, and this film accomplishes this in spades. Aside from our own intimate portrait of Fred front-and-center, the film also has several deep psychological spins for what the many characters in-and-around the neighborhood represented.

– There is that stirring feeling watching the film, when you almost forget that Rogers has been deceased since 2003, and this is because of the masterful editing by Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden, that manipulates that feeling of real time. Aside from this consistent bending of time, there’s also an innovative way that the visual effects puts you in the seat of watching this on your own television, giving off that live vibe before our very eyes.

– With absolutely no shortage of scenes to reach for tissues, it specifically was the scenes of Fred supporting a gay cast member, as well as a child confined to a wheelchair where I lost it like I haven’t in years during a film. What’s even more credible is that these somber instances have absolute zero to do with negativity of the situation, and more to do with how truly beautiful Fred’s one-of-a-kind outlook on life truly was. If this movie doesn’t make you smile at least once, you should have your pulse checked.

– Wide assortment of friends, family, and colleagues that vividly paint the picture. It’s no surprise, nor small feat the kind of legend that Rogers became saddled with, but in hearing the perspectives of so many adults who he helped along the way, you start to understand that while children were his pedigree, the universal language of love was something he lived every single day of his life.

– Intercut during several points during the film, are some experimental animation with Daniel Tiger that added a layer of independent cinematic depth to perfectly capture the roller-coaster of moods that the film takes with its material. These illustrations by Jason Fruchter offer a kind of mature shading palate of the typical Daniel Tiger cartoon that can currently be seen on modern day PBS, where the color scheme breeds more psychadelic effect here that visually pleased.

– What was most impressive to me is that even though Rogers lacked the kind of controversy or trouble that a protagonist in these films always seems to have, the movie never lost steam to me in following along. This is proof that good storytelling doesn’t require a juicy circumference to hook its audience. Positivity still holds a place in this world, even though that aura of good does omit itself a bit after you leave the theater.

– Tons of behind-the-scenes footage that offer us that rare glimpse of him enjoying the many passions in his life. Even more beneficial in this aspect is the fading effect of this wall that divides character and person, reminding us of this rarity of them being the same person. Rogers lived and breathed his daily life lessons to those he constantly spoke to beyond the camera, giving much credibility to why his show worked despite the fact that it went against everything that was defined as great television for the time.


– Although I felt like the stuff involving Fox News certainly added a dimension of unnecessary backlash to Rogers consistently inspirational message, the focus aimed at the many shows and people who parodied Mr Rogers is something that I felt was strongly unnecessary during this particular film. Lashing out against these misguided comedians who are only doing it for a laugh makes Rogers almost come down to their level, and if it were up to me, I would be fine with Neville ignoring them all together instead of wasting minutes to even give them recognition. Even with Rogers comments on them, it never feels consistent with the rest of the film’s positive message of nothing coming between Fred and the kids.

“This world didn’t deserve Fred Rogers. We have to change our hearts or die” —— Josh Jones (Film 4 Cast)


Andre the Giant

Directed by Jason Hehir

Starring – Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Vince Mcmahon

The Plot – A look at the life and career of professional wrestler André Roussimoff, who gained notoriety in the 1980s as Andre the Giant.

This documentary is currently not rated


– Hehir’s unshakeable focus captures the drama and sadness of a lifestyle that seems electric from afar, offering a perspective that is every bit as educational as it is honest.

– Insightful narration by Andre’s closest colleagues. It’s rare especially in the wrestling business that a man is unanimously respected and universally praised, but it serves as a testament to the infectious touch that Andre had in such a short amount of time that he influenced.

– Soundly paced. At 85 consistent minutes, the film never lags or strays from the live fast style that Andre excelled at. Even the tales of his drinking legend are enough to fill a blank canvas.

– My favorite part was the never before seen material at home and outside of the ring that feels like the only honest look at Roussimoff. While the character was hard to remove from the person, these brief instances illustrate an outline of knowledge that Andre was so much more than booze and bodyslams.

– There’s an overall sense of tragedy by era that makes us wonder what if Andre was living today and able to easily seek the kind of medical advances that could reverse his judgmental health. Where I view this as a positive is that the kind of things that Andre suffered from can now be prevented for youths who would otherwise grow up to be on a limited clock just like him.

– Strong revolving camera techniques that alter back and forth with crisp execution during the testimonials. Beyond this, the inclusion and walking effects in and out of the places that Andre frequented, added a unique perspective that almost transports us back in time.

– This is a documentary with tremendous crossover appeal between wrestling and non-wrestling fans. In Andre, the uninformed see a protagonist and a man plagued by the gift that made him special, and that overall concept lays thick on the sense of empathy that people will feel almost immediately upon meeting him.

– It doesn’t shy away from those moments that are difficult to watch. The third act is full of the diminishing spirit of Andre’s lasting memory, but Hehir’s duty to his audience to stay with him all the way to the tearful goodbye is one that you have to admire for the dedication in not painting a fairytale. Bravo sir.

– HBO Films have proven their vast improvements in production over the years, and the collusion with WWE Films is a blessed marriage that fruitfully articulates the rise. From the over twenty years of wrestling footage, to the epic-thumping musical score by Rudy Chung, ‘Andre the Giant’ feels like it combines the rich textures of a Hollywood film with the unlimited access of a documentary, and it is a marriage worthy of a man responsible for leaving such an immense shadow not only on wrestling, but also the world.


– There’s a period of about fifteen minutes when the story drifts a bit too far from Andre for my taste. I get that the reason is to paint the boom in the ever-changing world of wrestling, but this distance feels like an unnecessary distraction that simply doesn’t belong.

– Without a doubt, the meat of Andre’s story is certainly the wrestling, but I was hoping for more of a direction of Andre’s personal life to fill some time. Much of Andre’s childhood is glossed over in a matter of sentences, and this was disappointing considering a lot of his troubles with school that I read in his autobiography is something that accurately prepares him for the lifetime of polarization that he will face.


Strong Island

One family’s testimonial with the judicial system leaves them reeling from racial prejudice and severe incompetence, in the documentary ‘Strong Island’. Winner of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award for Storytelling, the film directed by the victim herself, Yance Ford, takes place In April 1992, on Long Island NY. William Jr., the Ford’s eldest child, a black 24 year-old teacher, was killed by Mark Reilly, a white 19 year-old mechanic. Although Ford was unarmed, he became the prime suspect in his own murder. Ford chronicles the arc of the family across history, geography and tragedy; from the racial segregation of the Jim Crow South to the promise of New York City; from the presumed safety of middle class suburbs, to the maelstrom of an unexpected, violent death. A deeply intimate and meditative film, Strong Island asks what one can do when the grief of loss is entwined with historical injustice, and how one grapples with the complicity of silence, which can bind a family in an imitation of life, and a nation with a false sense of justice. ‘Strong Island’ is not rated.

Whether you’ve ever been subjected to racial bigotry or lawful mishandlings, a film like ‘Strong Island’ shapes the kind of reflective glance at our own world that only seems to be getting worse with time and educates the viewer on perhaps a side of the moral coin that they may not be privy to. The best kind of documentaries are the ones that hold the responsibility of teaching firmly in its grip and doesn’t alienate one side or the other when telling its story. To say that this is the perfect film for the perfect time is kind of a given, but what really throws another log onto the flames of enticement for Ford’s presentation is how she articulately crafts the two subjects hand-in-hand and rapidly erases the line of separation dividing his two subject matters. Every story in life deserves to be told, but Ford’s rushes to the front of the line by presenting unfolding drama from this decades old case that is even still unfurling before our very eyes. In this manner, the film steals a piece of your soul that it has no intention of giving back, and Netflix strikes the hot iron once again with a documentary mystery with all of the fixings.

Through 106 minutes of versatility in material, the film surprisingly holds a lot of depth that doesn’t stay rested on just being a one-note intention. Through the first act of the film, we are introduced to this family who while living through segregation in upper New York, are often polarized in demanding more for their circumstance. This area of the film is particularly compelling because it presents an angle that is already easy in understanding the disposition that this family takes in from a society that isn’t changing fast enough. Kind of like being a victim long before the worst has begun. From here, the middle act of the movie lays out the pivotal night in question and what led up to it. This is where the film feels the most informative because there’s lots to understand about this scenario that does and does not play out well for the Vance family. Thankfully enough, he is such a credible filmmaker and supreme storyteller that he never lets something that doesn’t cater to his narrative get in the way. Everything is presented with underlying honesty, and that’s something that I greatly appreciated from this film. What is most surprising perhaps, is how deep this film proceeds through the closing minutes, soaking in the pain and misery of a group of people left behind from a night that changes them all. One scene shows Yance crying into a towel, and the sound the emotes from this scene is shattering to the point that it instantly stirred goosebumps up my arms. I’m honest when I say there are motion picture films that don’t taste as riveting in the thick layer of melodrama that ‘Strong Island’ leans on, proving again that what is real impacts further, an ideal that this film goes to the well on frequently without it ever drying up.

Vance keeps the production simple enough for this presentation, choosing to focus more on strength in story than rich graphics and effects that can sometimes cloud the focus of an informative documentary. The decision to have pictures and letters appear and disappear at the effect of hand movements feeds more into the mentality of the storytelling experience, making us feel within the confines of those who are taking us through the journey. The music by Hildur Guðnadóttir and Craig Sutherland isn’t relied upon too heavily, just really for those scenes when it peaks the shock factor in the true disgust of this case as told, but I would’ve been fine without it for the surrealism that it occasionally breaks within this realm. Without question though, the single best decision that Ford chooses is to shoot these interviews so closely, leaving little room to look away or feel distracted. He does this as a means to an end so that we spot first hand the kind of reactions that our narrators play to, and if it is true that the eyes are the windows into the soul, then the pain and anguish of decades rises to the surface by this truly valuable decision to aim close.

The interviews too, added plenty of emotional firepower in transcribing how the loss of one has rocked a few. The set up of such are always in that one-on-one perspective with the director himself, relating more to an interview feel of authenticity rather than simply having each speaker talk to the camera. While the entirety of these guests are enjoyable enough and add plenty of differing perspectives to the events that they cover, the film definitely sizzles the strongest when Yance himself takes the reigns and commands an emotional rollercoaster of a person who changed more than anyone over the course of this loss. Through that angle, we meet and come to know a born woman who embraced life as a man, a sense of direction for the film that very few were expecting, but one that feels rewarding in reaching through to yet another demographic of African American audience who take this in. Through these eyes, it’s clear that Yance not only lost a brother, but also his lone confidant in his blossoming sexuality. This builds the siblings as something much more, and certainly outlines the light-hearded framing of William Jr that it builds up for itself. Yance’s focus remains unfazed in finding clarity within himself, something that comes at a bit higher of a price for the film itself.

THE VERDICT – ‘Strong Island’ is a gut-wrenching, somber, and hearty depiction about racial divide and segregation that never stops beating its message of injustice. Through its impeccable focus and free-range approach, Vance handcrafts us through a butterfly effect of consequences that stem from one terror-filled night of misunderstanding, questioning what could have been without the fear of racial tensions. Most importantly, it’s an intimate deposition into the kind of paralyzing aftermaths that comes with grief, and will leave you unsettled for pulling back the curtain of truth from those who have been plagued to tell it.