Category: Z-View

“Coded” (2021) / Z-View

Coded (2021)

Director:  Ryan White

Tagline: Look Between the Lines.

The Plot…

J.C. Leyendecker was arguably the most popular artist of his time.  He worked professionally the mid-1890s until his death in 1951.  Leyendecker is most famous for his run of Saturday Evening Post covers that covered a 44 year span.  He also was known for his Arrow Shirts commercial art.

J.C. Leyendecker was gay and although closeted (due to prejudice of the time), some aspects of his lifestyle came through subliminally in his art.  Coded explores Leyendecker’s career and subliminal messages in commercial art then and now.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Although I’m a fan of J.C. Leyendecker’s art, I didn’t know much about his life or career.  It was interesting that Leyendecker mentored Norman Rockwell who went on to be the next “Leyendecker”.

Coded gets my highest recommendation.

Coded (2021) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Revolution in the Ring” (2017) / Z-View

Revolution in the Ring (2017)

Director:  Jason Sklaver

Writer: Jason Sklaver

Tagline: None

The Plot…

Teófilo Stevenson was a Cuban amateur boxer who won Gold Medals in the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympics.  Because Cuba outlawed professional sports in 1962, Stevenson was never allowed to turn pro.  With Stevenson’s Gold Medal wins, many wondered how he would fare against the best heavyweight boxers in the world.  Several promoters offered Stevenson one million dollars to challenge Muhammad Ali for the title.  The fight never happened.  Revolution in the Ring is that story.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

A couple of times it appeared that the Ali vs Stevenson fight would be made.  Fight aficionados still debate who would have won. Ali fought the best professionals in the world in battles that went 15 rounds.  Stevenson fought the world’s best amateurs in matches that lasted 3 rounds at most.  The edge would go to Ali in a professional fight.  Yet, if the fight was held in 1977, Ali was past his prime and Stevenson was still in his.  So maybe Stevenson would have the edge.  The fight never happened but the debate will never end.

Revolution in the Ring (2017) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“MLK/FBI” (2020) / Z-View

MLK/FBI (2020)

Director:  Sam Pollard

Writers: David J. Carrow, Benjamin Hedin, Laura Tomaselli

Stars:  Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, Andrew Young, James Comey, Merv Griffin, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy  and Coretta Scott King

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

MLK/FBI chronicles the attempts made by the FBI through wiretaps and surveillance to discredit and ruin Martin Luther King, Jr..  Using newly declassified files coupled with news reports and film from the time period, we are given insight into the methods and extreme steps taken.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

MLK/FBI does an excellent job of presenting the civil unrest and movement for equal rights that brought Martin Luther King to the attention of our nation. The film’s biggest shocker is the lengths J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the F.B.I. took to discredit Martin Luther King, Jr..

When phone wiretaps proved Martin Luther King, Jr. was having affairs with multiple women, this information was used in an attempt to blackmail MLK into committing suicide!  The film says that Martin Luther King was worried that the information would become public knowledge.  It didn’t.  But Martin Luther King’s wife, Coretta Scott King was sent copies of the tapes.  So were church and civic leaders.  At the end of the film there is brief discussion that confirmed MLK did have affairs.  I would have liked to have heard more about how these revelations were received when the tapes were delivered.  Were these folks already aware?  What was the plan if the tapes became public knowledge?

Martin Luther King was a flawed human being.  He wasn’t perfect.  But who is?  The lengths the F.B.I. went to discredit him are shameful.  And we haven’t heard the full story yet.  Perhaps we never will.  Even with the full weight of the government working to take him down, Martin Luther King continued to speak out for equal rights for all and a future that we have yet to achieve.

MLK/FBI (2020) earns 3 of 5 stars.

“The League” (2023) / Z-View

The League (2023)

Director:  Sam Pollard

Writers:  Bob Motley, Byron Motley

Stars:  Hank Aaron, Monte Irvin, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Maya Angelou

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The League details the birth, rise and demise of the Professional Negro Baseball Leagues and the outstanding players who made it popular.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The League shows that black players have been playing baseball since it’s invention.  It wasn’t until the major leagues wouldn’t allow players of color to participate that the Negro leagues came to be.  Cities that had a Negro League team saw their economies improve.  Fans saw a faster paced, more exciting game.

The League does an amazing job of presenting the social issues and history that brought about the formation of Negro Professional Baseball Leagues.  In addition to learning about the stars who played the game we learn about the folks behind the scenes who made the leagues possible.

The League earns my highest recommendation.

The League (2023) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“MLK: The Assassination Tapes” (2012) / Z-View

MLK: The Assassination Tapes (2012)

Director:  Tom Jennings

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is documented using primary sources, some never seen/heard from television and radio reports as well as police communications.  Director Tom Jennings does an amazing job of setting up the events that brought Dr. King to Memphis as well as his assassination and aftermath.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

MLK: The Assassination Tapes gets my highest recommendation.

MLK: The Assassination Tapes (2012) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“A Murder at the End of the World” (2023) starring Emma Corrin and Clive Owen / Z-View

A Murder at the End of the World (2023)

Created by:  Brit Marling, Zal Batmanglij

Directors:  Brit Marling (eps. 1, 5 – 6); Zal Batmanglij (eps. 2 – 4, 7)

Teleplays: Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij (eps. 1, 4, 6 – 7); Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij and Melanie Marnich & Rebecca Roanhorse (ep. 2); Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij & Melanie Marnich (ep. 3); Brit Marling (ep. 5)

Stars: Emma Corrin, Brit Marling, Harris Dickinson, Louis Cancelmi, Clive Owen, Joan Chen and Alice Braga.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Darby Hart (Corrin) is an amateur detective and author of a book detailing how she solved a cold case where a serial killer had murdered several women.  Darby accepts an invitation from billionaire Andy Ronson (Owen) to attend a retreat being held in a remote location in Iceland.  Ronson has invited nine people from different walks of life who think out of the box.

When Darby arrives, she is surprised to discover that Ronson has used his billions to create a home that is like a fortress from the future.  Artificial Intelligence responds to commands throughout the mansion. Even more surprising is that her former boyfriend, Bill Farrah (Dickinson) is there.  Bill was her partner when she followed clues to solve the cold case. They haven’t seen each other in six years.

Ronson explains that the guests are there to brainstorm ideas to make the future better.  The guests mingle and begin to get to know each other.  After everyone has retired for the night, Darby decides to go to Bill’s room.  Through the window Darby sees Bill on the floor bleeding and taking his last breaths.  By the time Darby gets help, Bill has died.

It’s obvious Bill was murdered.  Since no one else could have gained entrance to Ronson’s estate, the murderer is one of them.  Will Darby figure who before the killer strikes again?  Who can she trust?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

A Murder at the End of the World is a clever whodunnit.  Emma Corrin is outstanding as Darby, the socially awkward amateur sleuth.  I love that the story takes place in a rarely used location.  If you’re a fan of Nero Wolfe, Benoit Blanc and/or Hercule Poirot then give this one a shot.

A Murder at the End of the World (2023) earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Lincoln’s Last Day” (2015) / Z-View

Lincoln’s Last Day (2015)

Director:  Molly Hermann

Writer: Molly Hermann

Cast: William Frasca, Tuesday Beebe, Fritz Klein and William Mark McCullough

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Everyone knows that John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln.  What many don’t know is that Booth was in a conspiracy that as he killed Lincoln, his associates would also kill Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson.  Lincoln’s Last Day details the plot as well as an almost hour by hour movement of all involved.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Lincoln’s Last Day is extremely well done.  Seeing actual artifacts worn by Lincoln on his last day as well as the derringer Booth used to kill the President add gravitas.

Lincoln’s Last Day (2015) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Tommy” (2017) / Z-View

Tommy (2017)

Directors:  Gentry Kirby, Erin Leyden

Tagline: His Toughest Fight Was Outside the Ring

The Plot…

Tommy Morrison rose from poverty and a broken home to co-star in Rocky V, and become a World Champion Boxer.  Morrison was on top, but his inability to control his addiction to drugs, partying and women led to his downfall.  Morrison made repeated comebacks, but sabotaged himself every time.  Finally he received news that ended his career and ultimately his life.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Tommy Morrison’s story is a sad one.  This is especially true since Morrison’s own behavior caused his downfall.  I give him credit for his initial press conference when he announced he had HIV.  Sadly, his behavior went south after that.  He had a doctor give him bicep implants, he claimed he no longer had HIV and he began getting in trouble with the law (DUIs, drugs and weapons convictions, etc.).  He continued to lie and cheat on the two women he truly loved him.

Tommy Morrison with better self-control could have had a career in boxing and maybe even movies or television.  I thought it was funny that Tommy’s boxing nickname was “The Duke” because John Wayne was a distant relative.  It’s funny because it wasn’t true and Morrison was surprised no one ever checked.

Tommy (2017) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“The Day Hitler Died” (2016) / Z-View

The Day Hitler Died (2016)

Directors:  Craig Collinson

Writers: Craig Collinson

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

In 1948, U.S. Navy Captain and Nuremberg Judge, Michael Musmanno, filmed interviews with members of Adolph Hitler’s inner circle who were with him in his bunker in his final days.  These interviews provide a first hand look at Hitler’s spiraling mental health as he realizes all is lost.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

These interviews were only rediscovered in 2013 and had not been seen by the public.

The Day Hitler Died (2016) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Attack of the Hollywood Cliches!” (2021) hosted by Rob Lowe / Z-View

Attack of the Hollywood Cliches! (2021)

Directors:  Sean Doherty, Ricky Kelehar, Alice Mathias

Writers:  Dane Baptiste, Ben Caudell, Sean Doherty

Stars: Rob Lowe, Andie MacDowell

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Rob Lowe hosts an exploration of movie cliches like the hero walking calmly away as something behind him explodes, one-man super-soldiers, kissing in the rain, a character coming from the grocery store always has a loaf of French bread sticking out of the bag and more.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

A harmless way to spend an hour.

Attack of the Hollywood Cliches! (2021) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Legend of Lead Belly” (2013) / Z-View

Legend of Lead Belly (2013)

Director:  Alan Ravenscroft

Stars: Huddie Ledbetter (aka Lead Belly), Bob Dylan

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Huddie Ledbetter aka Lead Belly, despite being born in poverty, growing up in a time of extreme racism, and serving several jail/prison terms, became an accomplished musician whose influence spanned music genres and generations.  Although crowned the “King of the Twelve-String Guitar”, Lead Belly was an accomplished musician who could also play piano, mandolin, harmonica and violin.  His songs have been covered by Frank Sinatra to Nirvana.  His influence in music is still felt 75 years after his death.  Legend of Lead Belly provides an excellent overview of his life.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Lead Belly was serving time for murder.  He wrote and recorded a song asking for clemency from the Governor… and received it!

It’s interesting that late in life, Lead Belly wanted to play a movie singing cowboy.  Unfortunately he never achieved that goal.

If you know the name Lead Belly, but don’t know much about him, Legend of Lead Belly is a great starting point.

Legend of Lead Belly (2013) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“The Strain”: Season 4 (2017) / Z-View

The Strain: Season 4 (2017)

Created by:  Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan

Directors:  J. Miles Dale (eps. 1 – 2, 10); Kevin Dowling (eps. 3 – 4); Norberto Barba (eps. 5 – 6); Thomas Carter (ep. 7); Paco Cabezas (ep. 8); Jennifer Lynch (ep. 9)

Screenplay: Carlton Cruse, Chuck Hogan (ep. 1, 10); Liz Phang (ep. 2, 8); David Weddle, Bradley Thompson (ep. 3, 9); Chuck Hogan (ep. 3); Mickey Fisher (ep. 4); Jeff Wadlow (ep. 5); Paul Keables (ep. 6); Andy Iser (ep. 7)

Stars: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Jim Watson, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Natalie Brown, Miguel Gomez, Max Charles, Ruta Gedmintas, Rupert Penry-Jones, Samantha Mathis, Joaquín Cosío, Adriana Barraza.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

Nine months have passed since the bombs went off.  A nuclear winter envelopes the world.  The strigoi have formed a “partnership” with surviving humans.  Humans donate blood to feed the strigoi.  Despite people disappearing most humans feel the partnership is their only hope.

Setrakian, Fet, Mr. Quinlan, Gus and the others continue to work separately and together to find a way to kill the Master.  If they can do that, the strigoi will be mindless and easier to destroy.  When the group comes up with a suicide plan, there is little doubt that all will not survive… the real question is will the Master be killed.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have created a modern day vampire tale with a backstory that extends not just decades, but centuries.  The vampires aren’t the classic creatures of the night seen in countless movies.  And the stakes aren’t just a beautiful woman’s soul.  Here the fate of the world is at risk.

The writers should be commended for creating a huge cast of interesting characters with wonderful backstories.  In different episodes, different characters get the spotlight but viewers don’t get the feeling that it is by the numbers.  David Bradley as Professor Abraham Setrakian, Kevin Durand as Vasiliy Fet and Miguel Gomez as Augustin “Gus” Elizalde continue to shine.  Jonathan Hyde as Eldritch Palmer and Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichhorst, the Nazi vampire acolyte continue to be great villains.  Rupert Penry-Jones as Quinlan makes a great anti-hero.

Although Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan wrote a Strain trilogy of novels, the series doesn’t follow them exactly.

The Strain: Season 4 (2017) earns 5 of 5 stars.

“Badland Hunters” (2024) starring Don Lee / Z-View

Badland Hunters (2024)

Director:  Heo Myeong Haeng

Screenplay: Kim Bo-tong, Kwak Jae-min

Stars: Ma Dong-seok (aka Don Lee), Lee Joon-young

Tagline: The world has come to an end, The world calls upon the hunter.

The Plot…

A series of earthquakes have turned Seoul into a wasteland.  Nam San (Lee) and his young sidekick, Choi ji-wan (Joon-young) are hunters who provide meat for their settlement.  When Dr. Yang Gi-su sends in a team promising the people of the settlement a better life, several families decide to leave.

Dr. Gi-su actually wants the young people for his mad experiments and the adults as slave labor.  He has the elders killed.  Gi-su’s experiments turn people into thinking zombie-like beings.  Nam San and Choi discover what has happened and go to free them.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I’m a Don Lee fan.  He deserved a better film.  So did his fans.  The story is weak and the effects are okay at best.  Still, there is plenty of action… and Don Lee.

Badland Hunters (2024) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Postcard Killings” (2020) starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan / Z-View

The Postcard Killings (2020)

Director:  Danis Tanovic

Screenplay: Tove Alsterdal, Ellen Brown Furman, Liza Marklund, Andrew Stern, Tena Štivičić based on THE POSTCARD KILLERS by Liza Marklund and James Patterson

Stars: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen

Tagline: The art of crime

The Plot…

New York Detective Jacob Kanon (Morgan) heads to London when his daughter is brutally murdered while on her honeymoon.  Kanon starts an investigation of his own and discovers a serial killer is targeting couples throughout Europe.  Kanon is determined to find the killer before he strikes again.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

The Postcard Killings didn’t resonate with me.  I’m not alone.  The movie currently has a 5.8 rating out of 10 on IMDb and 24% reviewers score and 40% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Postcard Killings (2020) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Greatest Night in Pop” (2024) / Z-View

The Greatest Night in Pop (2024)

Director:  Bao Nguyen

Stars: Lionel Richie, Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Huey Lewis, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Sheila E.,  Kenny Rogers, Dan Aykroyd, Christie Brinkley, Lindsey Buckingham, David Byrne, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Bob Geldof, Daryl Hall, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Billy Joel, Madonna, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, John Oates, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, Anita Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer, Prince, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder and Waylon Jennings

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The Greatest Night in Pop chronicles everything from the birth of the idea to the night that dozens of the greatest recording stars in the world came together for a single session to create We Are the World.  The record went on to raise millions for African famine relief.  To this day, the song continues to raise money for the charity.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

It’s amazing that dozens of the biggest singing stars of the era could be brought together for one recording session.  Egos had to be left at the door.  Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones were able to keep the process moving.

At one point Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles both walked to the restroom together.  One of the stars remarked, “That’s truly the blind leading the blind.”

Paul Simon said that if a bomb was dropped on the studio, John Denver would be back on top.

It’s surprising that Madonna wasn’t included.  She was a huge star at the time.  Dan Aykroyd gets to be on the record, but not Madonna?

At one point Stevie Wonder wanted to include some lyrics Swahili.  Quincy Jones and others tried to see if they could make it work.  Waylon Jennings got frustrated with the attempts and left the recording.  Someone ultimately pointed out that Swahili wasn’t the language of the famine area.  The idea was dropped.

Having stars who are star-struck by being in the same room with their idols is fun.  Bob Dylan and others weren’t sure how to sing their solos. Things like that humanized them.  Hats off for having the soloists get parts that made the singers instantly identifiable.

The Greatest Night in Pop (2024) rates 5 of 5 stars.