Tag Archives: documentary

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a 2018 documentary about the iconic comedian. Robin Williams was one of a kind, renowned for his quick wit and manic energy. Director Marina Zenovich takes you on a journey through his life, starting with his childhood, exploring how he developed his talent, the highs and lows of his comedy and acting career, revealing aspects of his private life, and ultimately his final days and his enduring legacy.

I was kind of reluctant to watch it at first. It was kind of late to be starting a two hour movie, and I was afraid that it would be depressing. It wasn’t. I was laughing and learning and reminiscing for pretty much the whole running time. It only got sad towards the end as his mind started to betray him and his talent slipped away.

The documentary is pretty thorough but doesn’t cover everything. It goes into behind-the-scenes stories from a lot of his movies, but omits Hook for some reason. It loses a couple of points for that. It also doesn’t delve into his habit of stealing jokes from other comedians. Yeah, he was brilliant but a lot of his jokes came from other people. They should have addressed that.

Robin Williams was larger than life, but Come Inside My Mind makes you realize that he was a real person too. He had hopes and dreams and flaws and fears. He accomplished a lot and was an inspiration for many. His death left a void in the world. This documentary is a nice tribute to a great performer.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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We Cause Scenes: The Rise of Improv Everywhere

We Cause Scenes: The Rise of Improv Everywhere is a 2013 documentary about Improv Everywhere and its founder Charlie Todd. If you’ve been on the internet in the last five years, you’re probably familiar with Improv Everywhere. They are the comedy/performance art group known for performing elaborate pranks in public places. They never break character to create a moment of amusing bewilderment for anyone who happens to be in the area. They are the guys that froze in place in Grand Central Terminal for five minutes, the organizers of the No Pants Subway Ride, and raiding Best Buy with an army of people wearing blue shirts and khaki pants.

Director Matt Adams takes you behind the scenes of Improv Everywhere and introduces you to Charlie Todd, the creator and founder of the group. Todd talks about his inspiration for Improv Everywhere. It started with him impersonating Ben Folds in a bar one night. A couple of girls bought into it and he wanted to share his story with as many people as possible, but he didn’t have an outlet to do it. So he wrote it down and created a website. He started thinking of more and more pranks and they got bigger and bigger. Improv Everywhere also had connections to Upright Citizens Brigade, which have proved very influential to their performances. Todd is quick to point out that Improv Everywhere was started two years before flash mobs were a thing and that the two have very little in common. Flash mobs are a trend. Improv Everywhere is art.

The documentary also explores some of the group’s most famous pranks. You find out how they came up with the idea, how they pulled it off, and reflections of the aftermath. It’s a very interesting film and you can find it on Netflix. It’s hard to grab the attention of the internet and go viral. It’s even harder to do it on a consistent basis. Improv Everywhere deserves all their YouTube glory. Watch this documentary and find out why.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Straight Outta L.A.

Straight Outta L.A. is an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary directed and narrated by Ice Cube. It’s about the Los Angeles Raiders and the rise of gangster rap in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. This was a tumultuous time in L.A. The crack epidemic was going on, police brutality was common, gangs and violence were rampant. The Raiders were a team that was a little rough around the edges and played a little dirty, but they won games and the city of Los Angeles quickly adopted them as their own. Among those fans was a young Ice Cube and the other founding members of NWA. They were pioneers in hip-hop and brought a new, raw style of rapping that came to be called gangster rap.

Ice Cube and the rest of NWA chose to use Raiders gear as part as their image. The iconic pirate logo and powerful silver and black colors became synonymous with gangster rap, and the two became linked for better or for worse. Ice Cube’s film features interviews with Raiders legends like Al Davis, Howie Long, and Marcus Allen as well as hip-hop legends like Ice T and Snoop Dogg to tell the story of how the Raiders influenced rap music and a city, changing the world in the process.

I know a few Raiders fans. I respect them a lot more after watching this documentary.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Survive and Advance (documentary)

Survive and Advance is a documentary that was released as part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. I can’t get enough of the 30 for 30 documentaries. There are so many great stories in sports, and it seems like ESPN is out to cover them all. This documentary is about the 1983 NC State Wolfpack winning nine elimination games in a row on their way to capturing the national championship in a spectacular upset. Derek Whittenberg threw up a shot in the closing seconds out of pure desperation. The ball was a little bit offline, but Lorenzo Charles was there to snatch the ball out of the air and slam it through the net with a second left on the clock. It was a great play to end the game, and it was further immortalized when coach Jim Valvano ran out onto the court in celebration and couldn’t find anybody to hug. Even non-sports fans can appreciate an underdog story, and it doesn’t get much more underdog than this.

Director Jonathan Hock does a marvelous job introducing up to the NC State Wolfpack players and their charismatic coach. Jim Valvano seemed more like an entertainer than a coach, but he had the skills and vision to lead the Wolfpack to an unlikely victory. And then another one. And another one. And even more after that. The Wolfpack survived nine elimination games, seven of which they were losing with a minute left to play. They were able to beat the top ranked college teams, defeating legendary players like Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Clyde Drexler, and Akeem Olajuwon. Check it out if you can. It’s inspirational, motivational, and well worth watching.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Jordan Rides the Bus (documentary)

Jordan Rides the Bus is another entry in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. It’s an interesting documentary that explores what happened when NBA legend Michael Jordan retired from basketball at the height of his popularity to give professional baseball a shot. Director Ron Shelton examines the reasons why Michael left one game for another and shows the struggles and triumphs of Michael’s stint in the Minor Leagues. Basically he stinks in the beginning, puts a lot of effort into getting better, he improves a little bit, and then he went back to playing in the NBA. Sorry for the spoilers but you should already know that.

Michael Jordan has been considered the best basketball player of all time and his attempt at playing baseball has often been considered a punchline. This documentary makes you realize that it wasn’t a joke. The guy really wanted to be a baseball player. He sucked but that’s beside the point. The point is that he tried. He doesn’t regret anything in the end. His time in the bush league took him from the top of the pedestal to the bottom, he learned some humility, and he became a better person and teammate when he triumphantly returned to the NBA.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Day The Series Stopped (documentary)

October 17th was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the San Francisco Giants are in the World Series again, so it only seems fitting to talk about ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary The Day The Series Stopped. Director Ryan Fleck takes you back to the unforgettable 1989 earthquake that rocked the Bay Area just prior to the World Series Game 3 between the A’s and the Giants. It’s not the best documentary about the Loma Prieta earthquake, but it’s definitely the most sports-focused one.

The documentary begins by exploring the rivalry between the two teams and cities and setting up the atmosphere of the Bay Area at the time. You meet the important players and coaches and characters from each team. You meet a few fans and what their teams mean to them. Fleck does a great job of setting you up for the moment that changed everything. At 5:04 p.m. the ground started to shake as 6.9 magnitude quake roared to life. You experience the quake through the eyes of the players, coaches, broadcasters, and fans in the stadium that day.

At first they are shaken, then relieved, then they want the game to start. But soon they start to hear reports of all the widespread damage and chaos and the scope of the tragedy starts to set in. Baseball takes a backseat to Mother Nature any day of the week. The documentary explores the eyewitness accounts of fans, players, and coaches and even delves into the science of earthquakes. It shows the healing power of sports through escapism. It’s emotional, educational, and entertaining. It’s not the best 30 for 30 documentary but it’s one of my favorites. Although, I’m a little bit biased because I experienced the quake myself and my parents were at that game. It’s worth watching.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Waiting for Lightning (documentary)

Waiting for Lightning is a 2012 documentary about legendary skateboarder Danny Way. He is known for his willingness to go big. He jumped onto a ramp from a helicopter and he pioneered megaramps because normal ramps couldn’t contain him. The documentary explores Danny’s childhood and what drives him to keep on pushing the limits of an already extreme sport as he prepares to jump over the Great Wall of China on one of the highest ramps ever constructed.

Director Jacob Rosenberg has a lot of respect for his subject matter and it shows in the final result. He interviews Danny’s family and friends (including Rob Dyrdek, Travis Pastrana, and Tony Hawk), and Danny himself and pairs it with footage of his most extreme stunts and home movies. The climactic jump over the Great Wall of China is the highlight and feel-good moment of the film, a testament to his grit and determination as he battles injuries and personal demons to ultimately triumph in the end. Oh yeah, spoiler alert. Check out this documentary, you won’t regret it.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Broke (documentary)

Broke is documentary that explores the reasons how so many professional athletes squander their money and end up declaring bankruptcy. It was the premiere episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 Volume II, and was directed by Billy Corben. Various athletes from the MLB, NBA, and NFL give interviews and provide insight about how they wasted their millions of dollars. They buy mansions, luxury cars, and outrageous jewelry. They pay child support and huge divorce settlements. They loan money to family and friends and never get paid back. They gamble and make it rain at strip clubs. They get hurt and injured and never see that big paycheck. They are forced to retire by age thirty-three and have no work experience to get a real job. They don’t know how to save, they make bad investments, and they get swindled.

Broke is an interesting documentary because sports stars become icons, they become heroes and it’s fascinating to see your heroes lying in the gutter. Sad, yes. Tragic, yes. But definitely fascinating. You realize how easy it is to waste a fortune. Some of them lost their fortunes because of bad luck and bad circumstances. But most of them lost their money out of sheer arrogance and stupidity. And all of them have an interesting tale. Check it out, I watched it on YouTube and you can too.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Craigslist Joe

Craigslist Joe is one of those documentaries with a simple but intriguing premise that ends up taking you places you never thought possible. It begins with a guy named Joe Garner wondering if he could survive for 31 days living off the kindness of strangers that he meets on Craigslist. He begins by cutting himself off from friends and family members. He gets a new phone with no contacts and no numbers whatsoever. Then he begins his mission of survival. Each day he has to find food, shelter, and something to do, all via Craigslist. He makes his way from Los Angeles to Portland to New York City to New Orleans… he even goes to San Francisco and meets the actual Craig from Craigslist. He goes all over the US and even ventures into Mexico briefly. He hitched rides, he made new friends, and he formed new bonds. Anyone who has ever been on a road trip knows that time slows down and real conversations happen and real relationships are formed. The biggest flaw of the documentary is that is focuses too much on Joe and not enough on the people that he meets. I mean he’s traveling with a cameraman who is doing everything that Joe is doing, but all you see is Joe taking a free dance lesson, or Joe walking the flood-damaged streets of New Orleans in silent reflection, or Joe drinking a cup of joe. The best thing about Craigslist Joe is that it makes you wonder if you could survive for thirty-one days living off the Internet. Yeah, you could. But do you have the balls to do it? Check it out on Netflix or iTunes or find it streaming online somewhere.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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My Last Days

            My Last Days is a short documentary about Zach Sobiech, a young musician with a few months to live. It was released by SoulPancake (actor Rainn Wilson’s YouTube channel), which is fitting because Zach Sobiech is a YouTube sensation. In May of 2012, he was told he had a year to live. He spent his time writing down lyrics and creating songs as a way to say goodbye to his family and friends. He made a video for his song “Clouds” and released it on YouTube where it quickly went viral. Hopefully you’ve seen either his original video or the video with celebrities lip-syncing to it. Even if you haven’t, you should watch this documentary if you have twenty minutes to kill. It gives the backstory behind Zach and his inspiration for “Clouds” and how he searches for closure with the people he loves. I’m warning you now, you will cry a lot. But you’ll also laugh. And you’ll remember to enjoy life, to hang out with friends, to spend time with family, to tell the people you love that you love them… Live life like you’re going to die, because you’re going to. Zach Sobiech had a great life and I’m glad he shared it with us. My Last Days is powerful and inspirational and you need to watch it right now.

Critically Rated at 17/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Overnight (documentary)

Overnight is a 2003 documentary about the fast rise and quicker fall of Troy Duffy, the writer and director of The Boondock Saints. It’s almost like a real life episode of Entourage; you get to see how Hollywood works. And there’s a whole lot of backstabbing and ego trips. Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith take you behind the scenes to show you the dark side of movie making.

Troy Duffy was a virtual unknown, just a bartender from Boston that played in a band and wrote on the side. Somehow Harvey Weinstein and Miramax found out about him and a script called The Boondock Saints. They bought his script, they named him the director (despite never making a movie before or going to film school), and even gave his band a recording contract. Troy Duffy became one of the biggest sensations in Hollywood overnight.

But then the politics and reality of filmmaking start to present themselves. Making a Hollywood movie is not easy. And Troy Duffy is a difficult guy to work with. He is arrogant and argumentative and grows more and more frustrated as preproduction keeps getting delayed. His business and personal relationships start to flounder as he spirals out of control; he goes from being the toast of the town to the butt of jokes. Eventually his film gets made, but both him and the movie are blacklisted from Hollywood. You can achieve success overnight, but you can lose it all before breakfast time. This documentary about the making of The Boondock Saints is more memorable and entertaining than the film that inspired it.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (documentary)

This documentary will change your life. When filmmaker Kurt Kuenne’s childhood friend was murdered, Kuenne set out to make a documentary about him to show his son one day. The goal was to interview the friends and family of Andrew Bagby to paint a portrait for the son who would never know him. But real life is crazier than any Hollywood story and the loving tribute for a fallen friend becomes a quest for justice.

There once was a promising young doctor named Andrew Bagby. He was the only child of two loving parents, he had a million lifelong friends, he was happy, funny, respected, and an all-around great guy. He also had a psychotic girlfriend who responded to their break-up by murdering him in cold blood and fleeing the country.

A few months later Andrew Bagby’s parents found out that their son’s murderer is pregnant with his child. David and Kathleen Bagby decided that their grandson should live with them and not with his murderous mother. This sets off a fierce legal battle for the custody of baby Zachary. But the legal system is flawed and justice is never easy. Sometimes there is no justice. Sometimes a mother kills her baby and herself out of spite.

This is one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever experienced. You don’t have a soul if you don’t cry. You really get a sense of Andrew Bagby’s genuine warmth and sympathize with his grieving parents. You feel outraged that his killer is allowed to walk free and feel sad for a kid growing up without his father. And you’ll never get over the shocking conclusion to this true story. If you have 90 minutes and a box of Kleenex to spare, check out this film.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Pumping Iron (documentary)

Pumping Iron is a 1977 documentary about the world of professional bodybuilding. It’s directed by Robert Fiore and George Butler and first follows Mike Katz and Ken Waller preparing for the amateur Mr. Universe competition and then Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger preparing for the professional Mr. Olympia competition. This is the movie that launched Arnold’s career. And it’s real life.

If you like gladiator movies but want something even more homoerotic, this is the film for you. One of the highlights is Arnold Schwarzenegger describing how working out is like cumming, how being onstage performing is like cumming, how he feels like he is cumming all the time. And there’s a lot of footage of buff guys in Speedos rubbing oil all over each other throughout the film, in case you were wondering.

There’s actually a lot more to bodybuilding than man-on-man massages. There’s finesse, there’s technique, and there’s a psychological side to it that’s hard to master. Arnold Schwarzenegger mastered it. He’s portrayed as the villain, the reigning Mr. Olympia five years running, and he’s not above manipulating people to gain an edge. Lou Ferrigno is the hero. He’s earnest, hardworking, and trains with his father in private while Arnold works out in the spotlight. But Arnold is Arnold; you can’t help but like him, no matter how arrogant and conceited he is. Lou Ferrigno is boring. Arnold is larger than life. He conquered bodybuilding and Hollywood, he became governor of California, he married a Kennedy… Ferrigno’s biggest claim to fame is playing the Incredible Hulk on a TV show because CG didn’t exist then.

Check out Pumping Iron if you like documentaries, Schwarzenegger movies, or watching guys work out from the privacy of your home.

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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