Monday, February 01, 2021

Media Notes: Roundup for January 2021


This is a somewhat random selection of the movies and series on DVD and/or online I watched during January 2021.

Movies and films (links to for basic information unless noted otherwise). Some of these I watched via or other online source. The DVDs come from the public library (unless noted otherwise). In addition, I will try to add other trivia notes, such as when a film is based on a book adding the information about the book (at least the WorldCat record if available):

  • In Search of Doc Holliday (2016. Documentary. Western. History.). Description: "The mysteries and fiery legacy around John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday are traced in this documentary about his life before the Tombstone gunfight." A pretty good documentary that looks at Doc Holliday's early life and then goes on past the O.K. Corral unto his later death. The man did have a colorful life and his contradictions for he could be civil and charming yet ruthless and violent. The documentary features some good photography, and visually it is good. The narrative is informative, and I found it interesting. The narration is a bit slow and a monotone that could put some to sleep. Still, the story was interesting. I liked it, so willing to give it 3 out of 5 stars. Via TubiTv. Watched 1/4.
  • Ascent of Evil: The Story of Mein Kampf (2016. French documentary. History. Link to documentary maker website). Brief description: "Using historical footage, photographs and interviews with scholars, Ascent of Evil plunges deep into the infamous blueprint for evil’s dark secrets and reveals how this book came to be written and its impact on world." The documentary is mainly narrated in English, but the experts and historians are mainly French, some German, speaking in French or German and subtitled into English. It argues Hitler did do a lot if not most of the writing in the book versus the old myth/theory he dictated it. He had plenty of time in prison, a relatively easy prison, comfortable, and this also gave him time to read books. He read a lot on topics like racial "hygiene" and other related subjects we now consider pseudoscience or outright racist, but keep in mind at the time such works were popular and accepted. So with all that reading and free time, he had time to write. Documentary looks at the book, its publishing history, significance, and its times. The book is a bit over 700 pages, often described as unreadable, yet it contains not just Hitler's ideas and plans, but also ideas that influence many extremists to this day, even if they have not read the book for they have likely heard or read selected quotes from the book. The documentary overall is interesting, even if the narrator is a bit dry. If you like book history, this may be of interest. I found, for example, the whole ordeal to get the book translated in French by a small publisher trying to warn the French while violating Hitler's copyright (he nor his publisher would allow such a translation) interesting. Also interesting how the book continues to be published and sold today, often popular in some parts of the world one might not expect. I'd say 3 1/2 stars out of 5. Via TubiTv. Watched 1/12.
  • Kill Command (2016. Action. Horror. Science Fiction). Brief description: "In a dystopian future, an elite army crew heads to a remote island for routine training, but finds that deadly robots have other plans in mind." The training mission soon becomes a survival fight as the soldiers have to fight the robots and figure out just what exactly is going on. As if there was not enough to worry, they are not sure the technical observer they were assigned, who is technologically enhanced, can be trusted or not. The movie has some decent action and tension in the evil robots chasing the humans and who will make it to the end genre. It is more of a science fiction movie with some action; the horror is relatively minimal to be honest. It was pretty good. I'd say about 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Via TubiTv. Watched 1/15. 
  • Witness to the Mob (1998. Mobsters. Crime. Drama. Made for TV movie).  Brief description: "Underboss 'The Bull' Gravano rises through the ranks of the Gambino mob. His brutal past catches up to him when he lands behind bars and faces the life-threatening decision to turn state's evidence against his former friend, John Gotti." It is a pretty slow drama that goes from Gravano's rise to him turning state's evidence. After a brief scene, we find Gravano already in prison, and he is looking back on his life. An issue is that Nicholas Turturro, as good an actor as he is, just does not have the gravity and toughness that Gravano had. Turturro comes across a bit too soft, and also his violence is pretty much downplayed in the film, attempting to make him more sympathetic. The film also sets him up to be the voice of reason in contrast to Gotti's flash and attention seeking behavior. Also the film makes Gravano a bit more introspective than he may have been. Do not be fooled. He was extremely smart, had a head for business when compared to other mobsters, but he was not as calm as he comes across in the film. The film has violence, but it is relatively tame. As for the rest of the cast, some are the usual folks you may see in mob movies. Abe Vigoda portrays Paul Castellano, which I thought worked out well. Tom Sizemore does OK as John Gotti but still seems to lack a bit of the larger than life persona Gotti had. In the end, it's an OK film. It is a 3 hour or so film, and it can drag a bit. I'd say about 2 out of 5 stars at most. This one was on YouTube. Watched 1/17. 
    • On a side note, I thought this might be based on a book, but according to the movie's Wikipedia article, it was based on "court records, FBI transcripts and news reports." It was not based on the book Underboss, the biography Peter Maas wrote about Gravano, with Gravano's cooperation and interviews. I did read and reviewed Underboss, which probably makes a better story than this film.

Television and other series (basic show information links via Wikipedia unless noted otherwise). Some of these come in DVD from the public library. Others may be via YouTube, which, as noted before, I keep finding all sorts of other old shows in it, often full episodes:

  • America's Dumbest Criminals (1996-2000. Reality. Humor. Crime).  See my June 2020 wrap up for commentary on this. Continued from last month with the third season. 
  • Crime Inc. (2009. Documentary. Series. Crime). I could not find much about this series of short episodes featuring various crimes and scandals and other stories. Stories can be modern or more historical. For example, first episode looks at Bonnie and Clyde, the Cambodian killing fields, Martha Stewart, the USS Cole incident, and one other story. They pack a lot in each episode.  Each episode is almost a half hour long. Episodes combine narrative with historical photos and video clips. I found them interesting albeit very brief. Via TubiTV, which had 13 episodes. It was OK so 2 out of 5 stars. 
  • Space: 1999 (1975-1977. Science Fiction. Adventure). Basic description: "The crew of Moonbase Alpha must struggle to survive when a massive explosion throws the Moon from orbit into deep space." I used to watch this when I was a kid, so I was happy to see Tubi TV had the show's two seasons. The first season is pretty interesting; the stories are pretty good. I managed to watch the first two episodes this month, and I hope to keep watching the rest of the series.


No comments: