Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category

Citizenfour

Monday, December 8th, 2014

tn_citizenfourWhen you hear that CITIZENFOUR is a really good documentary about Edward Snowden, you don’t really picture what it actually is. Or at least I didn’t.

I figured it would be a really powerful documentary about the exiled NSA whistleblower and the programs he exposed, the issues they raise about privacy, governmental overreach and technology. It would be really upsetting at times, sometimes shocking, it would use news footage and interviews to tell this story. Hopefully a well put together version of these advocacy documentaries that draw our attention to an important thing going on in the world and tell us some facts about it that we might not’ve known, get us real riled up.

Well, it’s most of those things, except it’s not at all a talking head documentary. What I didn’t know going in is that this movie is part of the leak itself. Before Snowden even met with journalist Glenn Greenwald about the National Security Agency secretly working with telecommunications companies to spy on the phone calls and emails of Americans not even suspected of any crimes, he contacted documentary director Laura Poitras to document it. So this is not a movie telling the story of what happened. This is actual footage of it happening.
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For the Love of Dolly (and my trip to Dollywood)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

tn_dollyNOTE: It’s October now, and you know what that means: Slasher Search and horror review avalanche. I have saved some action reviews to include for variety and will do some new releases but otherwise I’ll be on a strict slashers and monsters diet for the next 31 days. But before we kick that off I really need to polish off an unfinished project from months ago. Way back in May I visited the state of Tennessee, I had a great time, wanted to write a little about it, and found an excuse, starting with this documentary about Dolly Parton fans.

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I used to think I hated country music. I mean, I watched the Mandrell Sisters Show and some Kenny Rogers movies in the ’80s, that’s about it. To me, Dolly Parton was just the lady from BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS and 9 TO 5 and stuff. It wasn’t until way after the fact that I noticed what a saint that lady was. Remember she did a song for TRANS AMERICA? She just seems so relentlessly positive and non-judgmental. Also, some of that stuff she sang when she was real young – “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors” – I realize now that I like some of that stuff.

(although come on Dolly, you gotta put the responsiblity for this one on your man, not on Jolene.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Act of Killing

Friday, January 17th, 2014

tn_actofkillingBTISLMan, I don’t know how long this will last, but when I finished watching THE ACT OF KILLING I had a strong feeling that not only did that have to be the best movie I saw from 2013, it might be one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s an amazing, one-of-a-kind documentary that achieves a whole bunch of things: it shows me fascinating, outside-of-my-experience human beings in crazy situations; it’s a stunning visual portrait of places and people in Indonesia; it is deeply upsetting and shocking and yet at times horribly, uncomfortably funny; it tells my ignorant American ass a few things about a major human tragedy I never heard of but also, it sounds like, helped the people of Indonesia start to address a deliberately whitewashed part of their history. When you hear the subject it sounds like a message movie, but aside from that it has what I think is always more important in a documentary: it captures some incredible human moments that you can’t believe you’re actually seeing, including a monstrous war criminal coming to realizations about what he did.

It accomplishes this all without a single talking head, no narration and very little explanatory text. It plunges you into this world of war criminals and their supporters who are amazingly comfortable with director Joshua Oppenheimer (and un-named Indonesian co-director – at least half of the names on the credits are listed as “ANONYMOUS”). Oppenheimer is barely seen or heard but sometimes they address him by name like a trusted friend. (read the rest of this shit…)

Reincarnated

Friday, April 26th, 2013

tn_reincarnated“Snoop gets Lionized”  –headline I predict Rolling Stone or somebody will use for their review

Like anybody, when I heard that one of my all time favorite but past his album recording prime rappers Snoop Dogg was changing his name to Snoop Lion and doing a reggae record, I shook my head and laughed. Ah, what will he think of next? But I saw the trailer for this Vice-produced documentary about Snoop going to Jamaica to record the album and suddenly I had to take the whole idea more seriously. The movie looked good enough that I would’ve gone to see it in a theater if it had played here. Instead here it is on DVD in time to promote the album of the same name, which came out Tuesday.

BTISLAnd holy shit you guys, this is a great documentary. I watched it last weekend and it overshadowed all the other things I’ve been watching lately, most of which I liked. I loved it so much I decided to invent this new medal just to make sure you guys will know I’m not fuckin around. This is an acclaimed documentary now, otherwise it wouldn’t have won a prestigious medal like this. If you love Snoop Dogg, or are even open to the idea of Snoop Dogg, you gotta see this. Regardless of how anybody feels about the album this is a great document of a man trying to find himself, of a historic bridging of musical cultures and generations, of the process of songwriting, of an awesome trip to Jamaica.

(read the rest of this shit…)

G.L.O.W.: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

tn_glowDo you guys remember G.L.O.W.? Back in the ’80s, specifically 1986-1990, it was a weekly televised all women’s wrestling event. What I remember is it was taped in what looked like a hotel banquet room (turns out it was in a casino). And because of the time it happened there was alot of big hair, alot of glitter, alot of shiny aerobics type outfits. And face paint.

This movie is one of these nostalgic documentaries we’re gonna start seeing even more of because of Kickstarter. It’s HEY, REMEMBER G.L.O.W.?: THE MOVIE. Not alot of substance. But it’s an unusual topic that’s interesting to me, so I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane.

The director Brett Whitcomb and writer Bradford Thomason actually did another nostalgic documentary about a colorful pop culture oddity that only could’ve happened in the ’80s, THE ROCK-A-FIRE EXPLOSION. I recommend that to anybody that wants to see a movie about the animatronic bears and gorillas and shit that played music at the Show Biz Pizza chain, the weird guy that invented them, the crazy coke-fueled hey day when the company was on top of the world, the inevitable downfall, and the dilapidated warehouse where he still keeps all the old crap he has left. That’s real interesting stuff, GLOW actually seems kinda predictable compared to that but, you know, it’s about women who used to paint their faces and wave chainsaws around and rap and bodyslam each other on TV. I’m gonna watch it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

“The Art of Rap is the first Ice-T film.” –first line in Ice-T’s first film The Art of Rap

Some of you may know Ice-T as a kangaroo man from TANK GIRL, or a Lo-Tek in JOHNNY MNEMONIC. Some may know him for his appearances in whichever Law & Order crime drama it is. For others he’s the guy for some reason you always confuse with Ice Cube even though they look and sound totally different from each other. But you may have also heard that before all that he was a pioneering west coast rapper. I still bust out his albums Power and O.G. – Original Gangster every once in a while, and they hold up well.
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Windy City Heat

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

WINDY CITY HEAT is the story of Stone Fury, the Chicago sports private eye who all the legendary athletes come to when they’re the victim of a crime. For example one of the cases he investigates in this one is when William “The Refrigerator” Perry comes to him and says his refrigerator has been stolen. “How am I gonna chill my food?” he asks Fury. “How?

Well, that’s not the WINDY CITY HEAT you’ll sit down to watch, though. That’s the movie-within-the-movie. The movie that we can get on DVD is an elaborate practical joke played on “Scary” Perry Caravello, the weirdo Sam Kinison wannabe and accomplished film extra who plays Fury. Comedians Don Barris and Mole (who always pretends to be stoned and wears an obviously fake wig) have known him for years and like to fuck with him. With the help of producers Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla they convince him he’s auditioning for, then filming, the role of Stone Fury. He’s convinced he’s a great actor (you will disagree) and of course agrees to interviews and cameras following him around for the behind-the-scenes documentary.
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Destricted: ‘Impaled’ by Larry Clark

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

tn_destrictedWhen I was working on my DEMOLITION MAN review recently I noticed that one of Marco Brambilla’s few directing credits was on DESTRICTED, an anthology of experimental shorts that got some attention in 2006 when it played Cannes Critics Week and was an official selection at Sundance. The official websight describes it as “the first short film collection of its kind, bringing together sex and art in a series of films created by some of the world’s most visual and provocative artists and directors. They reveal the diverse attitudes by which we represent ourselves sexually.” The cover says “WARNING: Contains strong real sex and strobing effects.” (That last part is ’cause Gaspar Noe did one of the shorts.)

Anyway I always heard the Larry Clark part was good, and now that I knew Brambilla did one I could review it and say “from the creators of KEN PARK and DEMOLITION MAN.”
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Thunder Soul

Monday, March 19th, 2012

tn_thundersoulTHUNDER SOUL is kind of like that movie WHEEDLE’S GROOVE, another documentary about a now-mostly-forgotten regional funk phenomenon of the ’70s, recounting the glory days through photo montage and vintage clips, with interviews of the musicians now that they’re all grown up and square with regular jobs and families but can use their rediscovery by young white record geeks as an excuse to reunite and prove to themselves that they’re still kinda cool. In my opinion that was a long sentence. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Friday, February 10th, 2012

tn_blackpowermixtapeTHE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975 is an unusual documentary. The title means that the footage wasn’t made as part of one movie, it’s a collection of short pieces covering stories of the American civil rights movement, put together and recontextualized a little with voiceovers by activists (Angela Davis), poets (Abiodun Oyewole from the Last Poets) and musicians (Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu) talking about what they’re seeing. There’s coverage of Stokely Carmichael, young Nation of Islam spokesman Louis Farrakhan talking about his church, the Attica riots, Angela Davis in jail (wearing a red turtleneck) telling about the terror of racist bombings during her childhood to chastise an interviewer for asking her if she believes in violence. (read the rest of this shit…)