Tread killdozer documentary road rages into Netflix top 10

Tread ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Netflix continues to shine with documentary releases.

Tread, which premiered last year to rave reviews at the South by Southwest film festival, is currently sitting on the streamer’s Top Ten list for movies in the U.S. The story Tread tells is so singularly strange that viewers could be forgiven for questioning whether it’s even real. However, as anybody from Colorado can attest, it’s very real indeed.

The true crime documentary crushing it on Netflix

This isn’t as harrowing as Dead Man’s Line (see: Dead Mans Line – A Riveting, Real Hostage Standoff), but once that armored killdozer starts wrecking buildings and cars, it’s on.

There was another story about how Marvin Heemeyer was wronged by small town politics and that should have been dramatized instead of a bunch of dozer reenactments (that were just moving along down roads — those shots could have been handled by the actual footage). There could also have been drama from people fleeing their homes and businesses but that wasn’t dramatized either, viewers were just told. These criticisms aside, the dozer scenes were fantastic.

Some real tension here. Check it out.

The short documentary on the Rubik’s Cube solving was good too, also on Netflix. Two teenage boys going against each other but staying great friends. Keep these good documentaries coming, Netflix.

FIRST LOOK: The Last Dance (Sports Docuseries) – Netflix

Something we hope Netflix continues to do is buy up and share those excellent ESPN sports docuseries. They are documentaries in mini-series format running several episodes.

Netflix covers the docuseries niche surprisingly well. If you’re looking for something different to watch than a TV series or a single movie-length documentary, the docuseries might be your fix.

We don’t talk sports here very often because it seems far afield from movies, but some sports stories, if done right, would make amazing films. They’ve tried with some polarizing sports figures like Mike Tyson (more on him in a future post, as he is curiously tuning up at age 54 for a September 12, 2020 8-round exhibition boxing match with Roy Jones Jr). Pete Rose would make a heckuva good biopic, again, if done right. Somebody needs to get on his story, if they aren’t already.

And then there are team stories like the NBA Chicago Bulls with their historic two runs to threepeat finals wins (1990, 91, 92 and 96, 97 and 98) led by basketball virtuoso Michael “Air” Jordan.

Jordan was surrounded by another colorful character that deserves a movie biopic, Dennis Rodman, one of the greatest defensive NBA players to ever play the game.

Let’s not forget Phil Jackson, arguably one of the best NBA coaches of all time. He could have a biopic made about him too, although there wasn’t much off screen controversy like there were with others on the Bulls.

In the 10 episodes, we get some of Rodman’s bizarre off-court antics, mixed with his ferocious rebounding, but it’s mostly about Jordan, the captain and leader of the team. We get to see a present day Jordan with watery, yellow eyes — making me think he’s got some kind of liver health-related issues these days. Jordan sits with a tablet and watches clips of interviews with others we’re told he hasn’t seen.

The nonfiction series, which was a sensation on ESPN this past spring ahead of its bow on Netflix this weekend, is flawed as documentary in all but one way: It provides a remarkable testament to the power of Jordan’s celebrity, a power morphed but not undimmed by time. His talent on the basketball court, massive though it is, may indeed come second to the sheer force of his personality.

‘The Last Dance’ Shows Why Michael Jordan Was the Last of His Kind – Variety

I binge watched The Last Dance with ease: fondly remembering the Bulls dominance in the 90s, Michael Jordan’s father’s tragic murder, his detour from baseketball to try and become a professional baseball player and triumphant return.

The Bulls offer a great story that is fruitful material for a movie, most likely too long, at least in any sane run time, but is a better movie story than the last basketball movie I saw in 2019, The Way Back ⭐️⭐️⭐️ starring Ben Affleck. In the meantime, it’s a good watch to see experience that amazing Bulls run in championship victories in the 90s.

The Last Dance is currently available to stream on Netflix.

TV REVIEW: McMillion$ ⭐️⭐️½ – All 6 Episodes Rated and Reviewed

McMillion$ is an HBO docuseries (minseries + documentary) detailing the scam surrounding various McDonald’s games, available for streaming on HBO Max, all six episodes, rated and reviewed in this post.

“Episode 1” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
HBO
Air date: February 3, 2020

The FBI receives a tip that the top winners in McDonald’s games are rigged, with the winners going to relatives. A newer agent goes undercover with a fake camera crew to expose the identity of “Uncle Jerry”

This is a compelling opening episode that tells a story based on various interviews. Viewers don’t know who is behind the con game, but it becomes increasingly apparent that the games are being rigged somehow.

We are led to the security firm, Simon Marketing, that prints the game pieces.

“Episode 2” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
HBO
February 10, 2020

Following the trail of the head of security at the Simon Marketing, Jerry Jacobson and his web of connections. At first we are led to believe “Uncle Jerry” is Jerry Jacobson, but we’re also introduced to a crime family leader named Jerry Columbo. It turns out Columbo would buy the winning tickets from Jacobson and then distribute them to winners for a cut.

At the end of the episode we learn the identity of “Uncle Jerry.”

This episode didn’t have as much punch as the first, but was still interesting and entertaining.

“Episode 3” ⭐️⭐️
HBO
February 17, 2020

Digs into the world of Jerry Columbo, courtesy of his brother being interviewed. Columbo was one of Jerry Jacobson’s connections that helped find winners for the big tickets. Columbo was involved with various unsavory criminal entities.

This episode seemed to get a little too far away from the McDonald’s game ticket scam and more into Columbo’s family and other people he associated with (there were multiple people, as we learn in the next episode), but it was a little dry and didn’t seem nearly as focused or important as the first two episodes.

“Episode 4” ⭐️
HBO
February 24, 2020

Jerry Columbo is involved in a car accident and dies. His house is looted, including some McDonald’s big ticket winners, but we don’t ever find out if those tickets were claimed as part of it … which leaves the viewer wondering what the purpose of telling this part of the story was.

We’re then introduced to AJ, an ex-con who is involved in distributing the winning tickets after Jerry Columbo passed away.

Another episode that was too padded. We could have gotten the pertinent information to the scam in episode 3 and 4 in 10 minutes instead of two hours. Too much padding, losing interest fast, get back to the game scam, please!

“Episode 5” ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
HBO
March 2, 2020

Jerry Jacobson’s son is profiled at the beginning as going against his father’s wishes to involve himself with the film, but then he disappears into the background (until the episode ending) and the focus becomes the FBI taking down and arresting all the people involved in the conspiracy to defraud McDonald’s game.

This episode brings back the interest level that was fading into too much semi-related information about the people involved. Now, it’s time to arrest the people, and all of them are arrested without conflict.

“Episode 6” ⭐️⭐️⭐️½ 
HBO
March 9. 2020

Trial for the accused. We also learn how Jerry Jacobson pulled off the scheme of obtaining the winning tickets from a locked briefcase handcuffed to his arm and requiring multiple combinations. It’s not as ingenious a flaw in the security procedure as you might expect, but you can watch and learn.

Typically, white collar crimes don’t carry heavy sentences. The victims of this $20 million McDonald’s game scam are all the customers of McDonald’s who thought they were playing a legitimate game for 10+ years and the employees of the printing company that lost their jobs because of the lost business.

In the closing credits, we learn that McDonald’s gave away $25 million to randomly selected customers. While I haven’t paid that much attention, I think these games are still happening in McDonald’s, obviously now with even more heightened security in place. Same lousy odds of winning, however.

Summary

Ultimately, this is a story of one man’s scam impacting many other people and the FBI investigation that exposed the crime. A bit on the depressing side, but then it reminded me why I never got into the McDonald’s Monopoly game anyway. Not because I suspected there was this high level scam in place, but because I knew the odds of winning the big prizes were ridiculously low. I don’t play the state lotteries very often either. We do the scratch cards once in awhile and yes we do gamble in casinos. Much better odds on any game being played inside there.

Still, we realize gambling is a loser’s game. You are statistically and predictably going to lose. Slot machines are regulated to payback a percentage above 90% in most casinos and even if you did that on every machine, every time — which you wouldn’t — you’d systematically lose 10 cents or so on each dollar. Who does that? The answer is people do it for the entertainment value and the chance at the really, really big jackpot. Yeah, those odds are terrible, too, but there are worse things one can spend his/her entertainment money on.

Did/do you play these McDonald’s games?

This started out strong, but never really has the steam through the other five episodes as of the first. It ends wrapping up many of the loose ends, but not all of them. They just took way too long to tell this story. It should have been a two-parter. Heck, this could make an entertaining movie. There isn’t enough meat on the bones for a six-part, six hour docuseries.

Overall series rating: ⭐️⭐️½

FIRST LOOK: Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (Documentary) – HBO Max

Ever since seeing the timeless Christmas film Miracle on 34th Street ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ the first time as a child and over many, many rewatches, I’ve been fascinated with Natalie Wood.

Then there was her drowning in the cold waters near Catalina Island with her husband and Christopher Walken on the boat, which cut her life short in her early 40s. It just added to the mystique and legend surrounding the talented actress.

The tabloids and other rags have played up conspiracy theories surrounding the circumstances of her death, going as far as accusing Robert “RJ” Wagoner of possibly being involved in her death. Wood’s daughter produced the documentary which runs at times like a 20-20 interview style with Robert Wagoner and her and covers the painful night of her death, among many other topics.

Still, Gregson Wagner, who produced the documentary, and director Laurent Bouzereau knew that the film would need to address Wood’s death head-on to help audiences process it, hopefully once and for all. Knowing how crucial the conversation with Wagner would be to the project, Gregson Wagner and Bouzereau shot that portion first. “If we didn’t get what we were hoping we would get,” Bouzereau told Vanity Fair, the project may not have happened. Gregson Wagner knows that suspicions have shadowed her stepfather over the past four decades: “I do really hope that this [documentary] ends some of that nonsense,” she told Vanity Fair.

Why Natalie Wood’s Daughter Is Confronting Robert Wagner About Wood’s Death | Vanity Fair

The trailer gives a nice intro into how the documentary plays out:

My personal take from watching the documentary and seeing the absolute pain and grief on Robert Wagoner’s face, as well as the stories and pictures of how close and happy their family was make me think this was exactly what the investigation ruled at the time: an absolutely tragic accident.

One good thing about movies is they outlive everybody who made them and moviegoers can continue to appreciate Natalie Wood’s talents through the years.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is available for streaming on HBO Max.

Is Ronda Rousey’s Meltdown on WWE Fans Real or Fake?

The Ronda Rousey Story: Through My Father’s Eyes ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The phrase: don’t bite the hand that feeds seem to be apt for the vitriol at “ungrateful fans” from Ronda Rousey — if it’s real.

That’s the question with pro wrestling: how much of what you’re seeing is and isn’t real?

You might have heard Rousey’s name, the former UFC badass that was the master of the arm bar submission. She lost her last two bouts, retired and went to pro wrestling.

I haven’t followed her career in wrestling, but have seen stories here and there suggesting she’s been doing well there, and good for them.

Until I saw this story that she’s tired of the road and, perhaps, truly disgruntled with fans.

“So it’s just like … what am I doing it for if I’m not being able to spend my time and energy on my family, but instead spending my time and my energy on a bunch of f*cking ungrateful fans that don’t even appreciate me? I love performing. I love the girls. I love being out there … but, at the end of the day, I was just like, ‘F*ck these fans, dude.’ My family loves me and they appreciate me and I want all my energy to go into them.

Ronda Rousey Says She Won’t Return Full-Time, Blames Ungrateful Fans

Ouch. I’m guessing this won’t go well with wrestling fans. Or maybe it will, as she’s turning into a WWE villain.

You can watch Ronda Rousey’s documentary on Netflix — click the title link at the start of this post for my review — and learn more about her time before she went to wrestling. There’s a good story there.

As for melting down against fans? I can’t really comment, because I don’t know if it’s real angst or a con job to rile up the fans (so more ticket sales will be generated). After all, the “Rowdy” in Ronda’s fighting name came from one of the best rile-em-up masters in wrestling: Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Ronda is now battling with another female wrestler, Nia Jax, in a war of words outside the ring:

“Anyone who is outraged by me calling pro wrestling ‘fake fights for fun’ has never been in a REAL fight,” Rousey wrote. “While you all are tip toeing around bruising some pro wrestlers’ huge soft egos – no one is thinking about all the REAL fighters you’re insulting when pretending pro wrestling is somehow on the same level of realism. Yes, I understand, wrestling 300 days a year for years on end is incredibly tough on the body and a difficult profession – but do you know what would happen if you got in 300 REAL fights in a year? You would be dead.”

The escalating ruse paving Ronda Rousey’s path toward WWE return

Hype or real? I don’t know. Usually you don’t see the wrestlers using the four letter F-word that ends with an ‘e’ instead of a ‘k’, so maybe this is real. What Ronda describes as a grueling physical run for the sport is real, the people involved are all in very good shape actors who spend a lot of time on the road working. Fans that love the sport and are very passionate about it are real, too. It’s fun entertainment to watch, especially when there are spirited personalities.

Dead Mans Line – A Riveting, Real Hostage Standoff

My heart pounded and almost made me sweat. This film is that good.

Thanksgiving morning I was clicking around on Amazon Prime, looking for something unusual to watch under the “recommended for you” section and came across ….

Dead Man’s Line ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️½

I thought, hmm, this documentary looks interesting and I don’t know anything about the subject matter — even better!

(I know what some reading are thinking: argh, just a documentary? Not your thing, you’d rather see a “real” movie, right? Wrong! This is every bit a real movie wrapped up in a very special package)

Sure, I was tempted to Google or visit Wikipedia to learn about “The True Story of Tony Kiritsis” and am glad to have resisted that impulse.

That is another disadvantage to watching movies at home vs. at the theater. If you wander into a theater and say (I’ve done this): “Please give me a ticket to the next movie that is playing” and head into the theater only knowing the title of the movie. Completely unaware of what the movie will be about.

Now that I’m doing more pre-research on movies with this blog, I can’t do that at the theater any more. I know at least what the basic story info about each movie is about before we go into the theater. A lot of that serendipitous viewing at the theater is now lost (this is also why I try to avoid spoilers and reading reading full reviews before seeing any new movies). Sometimes, I’ll FIRST LOOK or PREVIEW movies and, thus, know even more about those going in.

Stay with me, I’m not going to ruin this one here. There are zero spoilers ahead.

Dead Man’s Line

Dick Hall’s face turning purple as the wire around his neck is constricting his ability to breath ….

The title, the description of what that is, really a perfect title.

An hour later after watching this film, I’m completely mesmerized. This story is riveting and frightening real. Here’s the background:

Over 40 years ago on Tuesday, February 8, 1977 Tony Kiritsis went into a mortgage office and took mortgage broker Richard Hall hostage with a sawed-off shotgun. Kiritsis wired a “dead man’s line” around Hall’s neck and to his trigger finger, meaning that with any sudden movement or if he was killed the trigger would be pulled and Hall would have his head blown off.

What makes this documentary so fascinating is the amount of authentic news reel footage, including actual live audio, used in the film. Most documentaries include some real footage and voices of those involved years later, if still alive, but this one uses a significant amount of news footage at the time it happened. So much that it transports the viewers back in time to when it all happened and we feel the intense drama over what’s going to happen in this standoff.

Keep on. It’s safe to read my review and this blog post because there’s no way I’m going to spoil what happens. If you know what happens, then the film won’t have the same dramatic impact, but wow, if you don’t, you’re in for a major suspenseful treat.

Here I’m writing this 12 hours after watching and still feeling a rush from the experience. Oh, and I sent a tweet about it, too!

(Let this post simmer for an additional day before posting, just to see if I had the same emotion or was just being overly-excited … yes, I still feel the same!)

These are the film experiences I search for. It’s more challenging with the volume of films I’ve seen to find these type of films, but I’m like a miner looking for that special gold nugget and when I find it …. eureka! Then, of course, I want to share with my family, friends and others. So, that’s where those of you who, like me, knew nothing about the story of Tony Kiritsis, come in on this fine Saturday morning. I’m envious for the experience you’re about to have if you watch this film as I did.

Enjoy!

Is Eddie Sick? Don’t Want to “Hear About It Later” Van Halen Deserves An “Unchained” Music Movie “Right Now”

Since 2018, there has been a resurgence of music movies: Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen), Elton John in Rocketman, Judy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Garland), Yesterday ⭐️⭐️½  (celebrating the iconic music of The Beatles), Blinded By The Light ⭐️½  (fictional story inspired by music of Bruce Springsteen), and more…

Van Halen LIVE 6/12/81 Oakland Coliseum starts with “Hear About It Later”

For quite some time there has been speculation that legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s health has not been well. He had part of his tongue removed while battling cancer 20 years ago and it seemed like he had the disease in remission.

The band reunited with singer David Lee Roth and used Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass instead of Michael Anthony and did an arena tour, then released a new album “A Different Kind of Truth” and then another tour and since then … nothing.

Our sources say … Eddie has flown to Germany for 5 years to get radiation treatment, and for the most part it’s worked to keep the disease in check.

Eddie Van Halen Traveling to Germany for Throat Cancer Treatment

David Lee Roth recently had made it sound like Van Halen as we know it is done, and instead working on a Las Vegas residency with his own band. Meanwhile, what’s happening with Eddie? Nobody is talking.

And out comes this news from gossip mongering site TMZ that their “sources” indicate that Eddie Van Halen’s throat cancer has returned and/or never completely went out of remission. Eddie is rumored to be taking plane trips out of the country to get radiation treatments over the past five years.

And then there is video of what appears like medical equipment in the background of a Facebook post leading to even more rumor and speculation. Meanwhile, the Van Halen camp has release no official news. They have always been quiet and only speak to the media when they want to say something.

This is the kind of drama that is either incredibly personally invasive to speak about or, when you’re a band as big as Van Halen, fodder for a movie.

Even without Eddie’s cancer, the Van Halen rock and roll story deserves to be told in a moderate budget film. Why do they have to end the band like Motley Crue did before we can get some kind of music biopic about them?

Here we talk movies, not the rock band rumor mill, BUT the reason this is here is to cover a band that would/will someday make a great movie. Van Halen has all the drama of a script along the lines of Motley Crue, The Dirt that came out on Netflix this year.

Obviously, I hope the rumors are false and/or greatly exaggerated. I grew up with Van Halen and it saddens me to think anybody dying of cancer, including guitar god Eddie. Too many great musicians and bands that were popular during my lifetime are either on their last tour (literally), already gone, or close to hanging it up due to old age and/or health.

Someday we’re going to get a Van Halen movie.

I rewatched on Amazon Prime Video, Van Halen: The Early Years ⭐️⭐️⭐️½  – It’s a good start for those who want to learn more about the history of the band. No idea what is going on for certain right now, but hopefully Eddie is OK and the boys will be rocking again soon.