Ranking All 30 Second Series Episodes of ESPN’s 30 For 30

*Written in 2015.

Luckily for us, ESPN decided to do another set of thirty films to expand this series. Now that this series has also reached 30 films and we got the soccer spin-off series, I’m hoping we get a third generation.

But for now, here are the 30 films of the second series ranked. And to be honest, all of these are really good.

1. Survive and Advance
2. Of Miracles and Men
3. Requiem for the Big East
4. Ghosts of Ole Miss
5. No Más
6. I Hate Christian Laettner
7. Big Shot
8. Bad Boys
9. You Don’t Know Bo
10. Benji
11. Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau
12. Brothers In Exile
13. The U Part 2
14. Bernie and Ernie
15. Free Spirits
16. Angry Sky
17. Rand University
18. This is What They Want
19. When the Garden was Eden
20. Sole Man
21. The Price of Gold
22. Brian and the Boz
23. The Day the Series Stopped
24. Slaying the Badger
25. Broke
26. 9.79*
27. There’s No Place Like Home
28. Playing for the Mob
29. Elway to Marino
30. Youngstown Boys

Documentary Review: Center of Attention – The Unreal Life of Derek Sanderson (2015)

Release Date: June, 2015
Narrated by: John Slattery

NBC Sports Films, 47 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Recently I read Derek Sanderson’s autobiography Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original. While reading it, I was wrapped up in his tale and thought it would be a great story for a documentary. Luckily for all of us, NBCSN agreed and made a one hour film about Sanderson, which premiered this week after a Stanley Cup Finals game.

The documentary interviewed friends, family, coaches and former teammates – most notably the legendary Bobby Orr. It went on to highlight his career and his trouble with drugs and alcohol. Granted, I felt that Sanderson’s story could’ve been more fleshed out and presented over two hours instead of one but NBCSN still did a great job of hitting all the highs and lows of a man that went from the top of his sport to rock bottom in life.

While Sanderson’s story, at face value, isn’t unique, it is the character that Derek Sanderson was that make’s his tale compelling. He was the king of cool, often times referred to as the “Joe Namath of Hockey”. He was, at one time, the highest paid athlete in the world. And where so many of these stories end in tragedy, Sanderson’s had a happy ending, as he overcame his problems, turned his life around and dedicated his remaining days to helping those with substance abuse issues.

Still alive and kicking, when many thought he was on a quick trip to an early grave, Sanderson is a shining example of perseverance and a real man, who overcame adversity, conquered his demons and turned it all around for the better.

I hope NBCSN does more documateries like this, especially in the world of hockey. It was refreshing and engaging, especially when ESPN rarely showcases hockey stories in their great 30 For 30 documentary series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Last GladiatorsKing’s Ransom and Big Shot.

Documentary Review: Comic Book Independents (2007)

Also known as: Independents
Release Date: July 21st, 2007
Directed by: Chris Brandt
Music by: Tana Rusitanonta

Bain Street Productions, 77 Minutes

Review:

This was an interesting little documentary.

Mainly, it just interviewed several comic book creators, about two dozen. It focused on what it takes for them to create, how they work and also discusses some philosophical stuff within the comic book industry.

This isn’t a documentary that gets too political or anything like that, which is good as the comic book industry has no gotten incredibly political the last few years. This really just lets the creators talk about themselves, their work and their process. There are some general questions proposed to all of the interviewed subjects but a good portion of this is dedicated to their own unique styles and viewpoints.

Still, this wasn’t a very engaging documentary. Informative, yes… but not engaging. I think that this is due to how things were edited and cut together in post production. The film jumps around more than it should and I get that it is trying to tie together the ideas of different creators in regards to the same subject but sometimes this felt like a collection of soundbites.

It just didn’t seem like it flowed organically or all that coherently. And while I love the subject matter, I was kind of bored watching this.

It’s not a total waste and is worth checking out if you have an interest in comics, especially from the creative side. I just wish that the finished product was more fluid and orderly.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries on the comic book industry: The Image RevolutionRobert Kirkman’s Secret History of ComicsSuperheroes: A Never-Ending BattleChris Claremont’s X-Men and 24 Hour Comic.

Documentary Review: Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (2013)

Original Run: October 8th, 2013 – October 15th, 2013
Directed by: Michael Kantor
Written by: Michael Kantor, Laurence Maslon, J. David Spurlock
Music by: Christopher Rife
Cast: Liev Schreiber (host), Mark Waid, Stan Lee, Adam West, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrision, Lynda Carter, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Straczynski, Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Tim Daly

Ghost Light Films, National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, 3 Episodes, 55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

A few years ago, PBS did this three part documentary series on the history of comic books. It was hosted by Liev Schreiber, which was really cool, and featured a ton of creators, as well as notable celebrities who have played some of the iconic comic book characters in television and film.

The history of comic books is incredibly vast. Narrowing down what to cover in three episodes, each of which ran just under an hour, couldn’t have been easy but the people behind this did a good job of focusing on the important stuff. I wish there was more time given to the challenges of the Comics Code Authority but that’s probably boring subject matter to most modern fans.

Superheroes spends a lot of time talking about the creation of Superman, Batman and the early heroes that would be at the forefront of DC Comics. They then spent some time talking about Stan Lee and his creations, which helped to put Marvel on the map. To my surprise, even though they didn’t spend much time on it, they covered some of the story that lead to the formation of Image Comics in the ’90s, which was the biggest thing in comic books during my most formative years as a comics fan.

I wish that this would have been bigger than it was. Three episodes just weren’t enough. This could have easily been one of those 10-part Ken Burns style documentaries with two hour episodes and they still wouldn’t have run out of material. I’m hoping that someone does do a comic industry documentary like that at some point; it’s long overdue.

But at least we live in a time where this wonderful medium isn’t considered low brow shit. It’s become a respected art form and format for storytelling. A lot of that has to do with the success of comic book movies the last few decades but at least fans don’t have to feel like they need to hide their fandom when out in public anymore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics and recent comic book documentaries Chris Claremont’s X-Men and The Image Revolution.

 

TV Review: Brew Masters (2010)

Original Run: November 21st, 2010 – December 16th, 2010
Directed by: Bengt Anderson
Music by: Sarah Schachner
Cast: Sam Calagione

Zero Point Zero Production Inc., String and Can, Discovery Channel, 6 Episodes, 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Brew Masters is a Discovery Channel reality show that follows Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, as he and his staff search the world high and low for new inspirations to craft new beers.

The show is entertaining and it is interesting for anyone who wants to know more about the beer making process. With each episode focusing on a new project, there is a lot of variety and styles covered over just the few episodes that were made.

And I guess that’s the somewhat crappy part about the show, is that there are only five episodes that aired before it was cancelled. It would’ve been really interesting to see what they could have come up with in future episodes as some of the projects in its only season would be hard to top.

One thing I like about the show, is that it isn’t drama filled reality television bullshit. Everyone seemingly works well together, everyone is positive and people genuinely enjoy their jobs. Dogfish Head seems like an awesome company to work for and truthfully, I hope at some point I find something that exciting, rewarding and fun in my professional career.

Speaking of which, I come from the marketing and product development side of the cigar industry and have always wanted to venture into beer. I guess that is why I found this to be such an enjoyable show because it gave more transparency to the behind the scenes operations of a badass brewery. While the cigar industry is very similar, especially with creating new blends, the beer industry, at this level, is even more complex and there is just so much more they can do with ingredients. You can’t not respect the craft and Dogfish Head is one of the best, which is what made this show a pretty enriching experience.

You can currently watch it streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Brew DogsChug, Dark Horse Nation and Booze Traveler.

Ranking All 30 Original Episodes of ESPN’s 30 For 30

*Written in 2014.

1. The 16th Man
2. The Two Escobars
3. Muhammad and Larry
4. Little Big Men
5. Once Brothers
6. Straight Outta L.A.
7. Kings Ransom
8. Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?
9. Silly Little Game
10. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
11. June 17, 1994
12. Guru of Go
13. The U
14. Four Days In October
15. Pony Excess
16. Without Bias
17. Fernando Nation
18. One Night In Vegas
19. The Band That Wouldn’t Die
20. No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
21. Marion Jones: Press Pause
22. Jordan Rides the Bus
23. The Best That Never Ways
24. The Birth of Big Air
25. Into the Wind
26. Unmatched
27. The Legend of Jimmy The Greek
28. Run Ricky Run
29. Tim Richmond: To the Limit
30. The House of Steinbrenner

Documentary Review: Ken Burns: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009)

Release Date: September 27th, 2009 – October 2nd, 2009
Directed by: Ken Burns
Music by: various

PBS, 720 Minutes (6 episodes)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

After being enthralled by Ken Burns: Baseball, I will watch anything that this guy creates.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is a pretty inspiring piece of work and arguably a masterpiece. If you are familiar with Ken Burns’ directing style, you can expect more of the same. However, with the wonderful presentation, the fantastic narration and just the scope and beauty of the subject matter, this documentary is truly a sight to behold and an enchanting foray into almost endless and unfathomable beauty.

For a guy who likes the outdoors much more than the indoors, this motivated me to give an even bigger shit than I do now about conservation and the importance of our parks, not just National but all parks. It also put into perspective how amazing America is as far as natural wonders. In this country, we are literally sitting on a nature goldmine.

This series is broken into six episodes roughly two hours each, give or take a few minutes. Each part goes through different eras of the National Park System from the beginning up to modern times. Each part is thoroughly engaging and packed with more information than anyone could anticipate. Each part is also sprinkled with guest narrations from several recognizable voices, my favorite of all to pop up is Tom Hanks, who presented his lines majestically.

I love this documentary series. Ken Burns really outdid himself and PBS needs to always give him a platform to display his artistic and informative creations.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other Ken Burns documentary series.