Documentary Review: Kicking It (2008)

Release Date: January, 2008 (Sundance)
Directed by: Susan Koch, Jeff Werner
Written by: Susan Koch
Music by: Barry Cole
Narrated by: Colin Farrell

Liberation Entertainment, ESPN, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

In my string of soccer films that I’ve been watching to curb my World Cup fever when the games are over at night, I came across Kicking It. This film is hosted and narrated by Colin Farrell and is about the Homeless World Cup.

For those who don’t know, the Homeless World Cup is like the regular World Cup, as it takes soccer teams from various nations and pits them against one another in a big tournament.

The difference is, this is street soccer and the players are homeless. This concept was created to help rehabilitate homeless people throughout the world and it has had much success. Many players kick drugs and alcohol, find a sense of self worth and belonging and go on to better their situations.

Kicking It follows several players from various countries on their quest to play in the Homeless World Cup in South Africa. It told some pretty powerful stories and had you cheering for all these people because you wanted them to succeed. Unfortunately, like the regular World Cup, only one team can win. The fact of the matter is that almost everyone who participated in the tournament walked away a winner regardless.

The film was inspirational and it helped remind the viewer that even when someone has fallen or done bad things, it doesn’t mean that they can’t redeem themselves and make their own quality life. That was the real message of the film and it came through with gusto.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The ESPN Soccer Stories documentary series.

Documentary Review: Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name Is Paul Heyman (2014)

Release Date: August 5th, 2014
Directed by: Kevin Dunn

WWE, 121 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

WWE has done a great job over the years in making their own documentaries. They have covered a myriad of subjects and talent, especially since they hit the DVD market a decade and a half ago. Regardless of that, I was surprised to see them do a documentary on Paul Heyman. Not because Heyman isn’t an interesting subject, he most certainly is, but because of his turbulent history with the WWE has been legendary.

WWE was more than fair and really gave all sides of the story. I can’t say that there wasn’t an agenda, as there always is when the WWE produces their own material, but the fact that the bulk of the stories were told by Heyman himself, adds a level of credibility and honesty to the production, that would have otherwise been questionable.

This documentary tells Heyman’s life story and how he worked his way up the ranks and into the wrestling business, eventually becoming an enigma that changed the direction of the wrestling business forever, whether by creating a refreshing and edgy product to challenge the industry’s norms or through developing some of the biggest talents that the business has ever seen. Love him or hate him, Paul Heyman has contributed more to the wrestling business than most men.

I really enjoyed the documentary and I never get sick of seeing behind-the-scenes intimate coverage of ECW, my all-time favorite wrestling promotion. They spent a good amount of time on ECW and told the story from Heyman’s perspective, which hasn’t yet been done to this level and makes this a must-watch film for wrestling historians.

This is my favorite WWE production since the CM Punk documentary, a few years ago. While it isn’t about a wrestler and his epic battles, it is about a man that helped many of those wrestlers perfect their craft. Heyman is probably deserving of more respect and admiration than half of the legends who fought in the ring because what he brought was real significant change and a bold, new face to the business: changing it permanently.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WWE’s ECW documentaries.

Documentary Review: Touching the Wild: Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch (2014)

Release Date: April 16th, 2014
Directed by: David Allen
Cast: Joe Hutto

Rubin Tarrant Productions, 52 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Touching the Wild was a pretty stellar installment of PBS’ Nature series. In fact, it is now one of my favorite episodes of all-time in this show’s 30-plus year run.

It follows Joe Hutto as he lives with the mule deer of the Deadman Gulch area of Colorado. It chronicles how he gained their trust over years and became a part of their lives, families and societal structure.

Man, this was a pretty emotional documentary. It is hard not to get swept up in the feelings Joe conveys throughout this 52 minute film. And what is great about this documentary is that it just features Joe, telling his story, telling the story of all the deer and how it has effected him every step of the way.

From a science standpoint, Touching the Wild is pretty profound in that it delves deep into mule deer behavior, their way of life and shows a more intimate and up-close view than what has ever been seen before.

Deer are pretty private creatures that want nothing to do with humans. This shows how close a man can get however and it blurs the line between species – showing the true nature of these animals, their heart, their ability to trust and their ability to treat something unlike them, as one of their own.

And this is currently streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other installments of PBS’ Nature series.

Documentary Review: Chris Claremont’s X-Men (2018)

Release Date: February 6th, 2018
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Respect Films, J2 Films, 71 Minutes

Review:

I saw this drop on Amazon Video for rent a few weeks back and added it to my queue because I loved Chris Claremont’s run on X-Men. I mean, if you like X-Men at all, it is probably because of what Claremont created. Also, this was directed by the same guy that did The Image Revolution, which I really enjoyed.

The story behind how X-Men was initially a failure and how it evolved into a mega franchise under the Marvel banner is an interesting one. This shows how all the major players involved came to work on the series and it isn’t just about Claremont’s sole contribution to X-Men.

The X-Men comics of the ’80s had some of the best comic stories of all-time. Claremont and others at Marvel gave us some of the most iconic moments that would also go on to inspire the animated series as well as the big live action motion pictures throughout the ’00s and ’10s. Claremont also gave us some of the most iconic characters to be associated with the franchise.

His storied run is pretty much unparalleled in an industry where writers, artists and other creators are swapped around like pogs in a ’90s middle school lunchroom.

I love that this documentary interviews so many of the key people who were there. We even get to see Marc Silvestri and Rob Liefeld chime in on some of the events that they were there to witness firsthand.

For fans of comics, especially from this era, you won’t be disappointed with this documentary. After seeing this and The Image Revolution, I want to check out some of the other comic industry documentaries that Patrick Meaney has done.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Another comic book documentary by Patrick Meaney, The Image Revolution. Also, flows well with Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics.

Documentary Review: 24 Hour Comic (2017)

Release Date: March 21st, 2017 (Fargo Film Festival)
Directed by: Milan Erceg
Written by: David Chelsea, Milan Erceg, Ryan Sage

Milan Ercep Doc Films, 71 Minutes

Review:

I have heard about these 24 hour comic challenges that happen all over the country. I never get anything cool like this near me because Southwest Florida is devoid of any culture whatsoever. Well, unless you’re into Paul Anka impersonators, shell art and mediocre paintings of the Naples Pier.

I was pretty interested in checking this out, as I used to be a comic book artist. Well, not professionally, but I did some books in my early teen years and actually started a company with some friends in middle school. We were featured in the newspaper once, as we were successfully selling our books to other kids and making some money: most of which I deposited into a bank called Street Fighter II: Champion Edition.

While this documentary does a decent job of showcasing what this challenge is, it was surprisingly dull. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but I’ll probably never want to watch it again or show it to anyone, unless they have an interest in this challenge.

Mostly, this documentary focuses on a few of the people doing the challenge and some of their backstory. I liked feeling a connection to some of the artists but I would have liked to have known more about the history of the challenge and maybe seen interviews with actual people working in the comic book industry and their two cents on these sort of events.

I liked the movie but that’s mainly because I made comics for some time and understand the process and the difficulty of the challenge. It’d be hard for me to recommend this to anyone that doesn’t have that sort of connection to the medium, however.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries about comic books.

Documentary Review: 1:1 Thierry Henry (2011)

Release Date: November 13th, 2011 (Austria)
Directed by: Verena Soltiz
Written by: Verena Soltiz
Music by: Kawaski Nelson

Golden Girls Filmproduktion, 52 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Thierry Henry has accomplished more in his career than the vast majority of soccer players will ever achieve. He lead France to the top of the World Cup mountain in 1998 and won several championships in a career that has seen him play for some of soccer’s greatest franchises: Juventus (Serie A), Arsenal (Premier League) and Barcelona (La Liga). He currently plays for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS.

The short film 1:1 Thierry Henry follows Henry as he moves to America and becomes a member of the New York Red Bulls. It is a well edited and well put together piece that does a good job of covering Henry’s past accomplishments in detail.

It also goes on to show his initial stretch as a member of the Red Bulls and the early challenges he faced, such as his first MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United, as well as his big homecoming to Arsenal, who hosted the New York Red Bulls in London.

This is definitely a short film worth a peek if you’re familiar with Thierry Henry or you just dig soccer.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other soccer/football documentaries like One Night In Turin and the ESPN 30 For 30 soccer stuff.

Documentary Review: Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012)

Release Date: September 4th, 2012 (Venice Film Festival)
Directed by: Sophie Huber
Music by: Chris Robertson, Roland Widmer

hugofilm, isotopefilms, Adopt Films, 77 Minutes

Review:

Very few actors have as much mileage as Harry Dean Stanton did. He passed away late last year and it sort of feels like there is a massive void that no one else will really be able to fill. Sure, he was a character actor of the highest regard but those few times where he got to be the lead were pretty damn exceptional.

I’ve been working my way through a lot of the Stanton roles I still haven’t seen. For a guy that has 202 IMDb credits, as an actor, I feel as if there will always be some Harry Dean gem I haven’t yet discovered.

This documentary is sweet and initimate. It’s pretty short but we get to spend time with Harry, as he talks about himself, in his own words. We also get to see him reminisce with some of the people he was closest too throughout his career: David Lynch, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Shepard, Debbie Harry and Wim Wenders. He also hear from his personal assistant and see him interact with others.

The documentary also has some bits where Harry sings and talks about how he regrets not trying his hand at music professionally.

While the film does cover some of Stanton’s most notable work, this is more a character study of the man himself.

For fans of Harry Dean Stanton, this is a really cool little film to experience.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries about other famous character actors. That Guy Dick Miller, immediately comes to mind.