Results tagged “Documentary”

With Great Power...The Stan Lee Story DVD Review: A Look at This Legendary Comic Creator

With Great Power tells the story of Marvel Comics' biggest name.
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When Stanley Martin Lieber took a job as an assistant at Timely Comics in 1939, little did he know that 78 years later, he’d arguably become the biggest name in comic-book history. Yet that is exactly what happened, with a little help from some equally legendary artists, of course. The documentary With Great Power…The Stan Lee Story takes a detailed view at Lee’s life, attempting (and generally succeeding) to tell his story in 80 minutes. Originally released in 2010, and winner of numerous awards such as “Best Directors Docufest” at Atlanta 2011 and the “Special Jury Prize” at the 2011

Gospel According to Al Green DVD Review: A Career at a Crossroads

An R&B legend's struggle with the spiritual and sensual is chronicled in this electrifying portrait.
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In 1977, R&B legend Al Green signaled to fans that he was undergoing a life—and career—transformation. “Belle,” a track off his LP The Belle Album, contains a telling lyric: “It’s you that I want, but it’s Him that I need.” Green’s struggle to reconcile the spiritual and sensual, the sacred and profane, is chronicled in the newly reissued 1984 documentary Gospel According to Al Green. Originally produced for the BBC, this Robert Mugge-directed film has been remastered for DVD and Blu-ray, and features extras such as updated director commentary, previously unaired outtakes, and the full audio of Mugge’s two-hour interview

Long Strange Trip Movie Review: All a Dream They Dreamed One Afternoon Long Ago

Ladies and gentlemen, the Grateful Dead...
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Like America itself, the Grateful Dead were a great melting pot of cultures, genres, and styles. Take a close look at the songs they chose to cover in their 30 years of existence and you’ll see nearly every brand of American music of the last century. From Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, the Reverend Gary Davis to Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Marley, Blind Willie Johnson, Leiber and Stoller, Martha and the Vanillas?, the Dead played jazz, folk, blues, rock and roll, Appalachian folk music, reggae, and everything in between. They took all those styles and more, blended

Buena Vista Social Club Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Cuban Musicians Get the Recognition They Deserve

A landmark and infectious documentary about the joy of Cuban music and the great individuals who brought it to life.
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When it comes to music, there are many styles and cultures: Mexican, Spanish, Portugese, etc. However, Cuban music seems to be for only certain tastes, and even sadder, the singular individuals who created it have become virtually forgotten. Thankfully, Wim Wenders' 1999 influential documentary, Buena Vista Social Club, gives new life to these all-but-ancient musical talents and gives the recognition they extremely deserve. It is also a documentary of how music, in general, can be a lifelong desire and reason for living. Wenders' camera and the legendary Ry Cooper, along with his son Joachim, travel to Cuba to find and

Shadowman Movie Review: A Beautiful Mind Fraught By Invisibility

The story of tortured artist Richard Hambleton is short of depth but long on intrigue.
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Since Van Gogh cut his ear off it's well-known that the mind of the artist is a tortured one. This isn't a new assertion nor does director Oren Jacoby's new documentary, Shadowman, do anything to debunk it. What Jacoby does capture is the story of a man whose tortured mind allowed him to create amazing works of art while simultaneously destroying his chances for success. Jacoby's subject is one of the last few artists out there, one uninterested in commerce, but who needs to rely on it nonetheless. Peppered with ironic asides that would be comical if they weren't so

Mifune: The Last Samurai DVD Review: Japan's Greatest Actor Profiled

Informative, engaging overview of the actor's life and work, both with Akira Kurosawa and beyond.
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Toshiro Mifune is one of the most dynamic actors who's ever played on the big screen. He was an animal presence that made it difficult to look away. Even in one of Akira Kurosawa's more staid productions, the stagy and fairly drab The Lower Depths, comes to life when his character comes on screen for an unfortunate few times. In combination with Akira Kurosawa, he made one of the definitive actor/director teams who shaped the future of Japanese cinema, helping to bring it to international attention for the first time in 1950’s Rashomon. Mifune: The Last Samurai, a feature-length documentary

We Are X Blu-ray Review: Hair Metal and Heartache

This story of the enormously successful Japanese metal band is steeped in both triumph and (near constant) tragedy.
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Early in We Are X, Yoshiki, the leader of the band is asked in an English-language interview why the band broke up in 1997. He says, “My vocalist got brainwashed” in his heavily accented but perfectly fluent English. Is it a joke, or a cultural misunderstanding? Absolutely not - in 1997 Toshi quit X Japan, an enormously successful band, because a cult leader had convinced him it was wrong. Six months later, the band’s lead guitarist was dead in an apparent suicide. Yoshiki, the band’s founder, drummer, and lead composer tells about finding his own father dead on the floor

For the Love of Spock DVD Review: Perfect for Both Those Who Love and Those Who Don't Know Spock

A great example of how a documentary should be constructed.
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We all know that there are people that don’t like or simply don’t get Star Trek. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with the success of the franchise. A great deal of credit for the success can be bestowed upon Leonard Nimoy. His life and career are chronicled here by his son Adam who started the project of telling the story of Spock with his father before the elder Nimoy passed away. When Leonard Nimoy died, the project became much more than originally intended. Available now, the DVD release still manages to leave you wanting more at 111 minutes plus some

The Creeping Garden (Arrow Academy) Blu-ray Review: An Intriguing Look At Slime Mold

A documentary that is insightful, beautifully shot, and fun to watch.
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The Creeping Garden opens with a 1973 newscast that reports on some “blobs” being found in the backyards of some people’s households in Texas. This makes it seem like something had leapt from the horror-movie genre and made its way to reality. The fact of the matter is, these so-called blobs that were found in people’s backyards are called slime molds, and they’ve been around for quite some time. Unfortunately, not many people know about it, and, for a while, it was considered to be another type of fungus based on its look. But the difference between fungus and a

Robert Klein Still Can't Stop His Leg Movie Review: He's Got His Mojo Working

The comedians’ favorite comedian gets an affectionate if overlong portrait that is loaded with laughs.
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I should actually recuse myself from reviewing Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg, the Starz documentary debuting March 31, 10:00pm ET/PT, because I’m in it, though I don’t have a speaking part. Let me explain: I saw Robert (I feel I’ve known him long enough to call him by his first name) a few years ago in Dix Hills, N.Y. at one of the many performance clips featured in this documentary. There I am with three of my oldest friends, laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing. I haven’t laughed that loud, for that long, since. So the other

I Am Not Your Negro Movie Review: A Film That Needs to Be Seen and Taught

Director Raoul Peck gives the audience a lot to consider and to question.
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I think about James Baldwin quite a lot. I think about his writings and his teachings. I think about the fact that he could have just stayed in France and ignored what was happening to Black Americans in the United States. Baldwin could have actually turned a blind eye and not returned to the country that he actually loved so much. But James Baldwin was not that kind of man. One of Baldwin's most famous quotes is "I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize

Cameraperson Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Beautiful, Sad, Wonderful

Cameraperson tells the story of one filmmaker through the dozens of movies she's shot.
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Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll lie in bed at night and think about all the different houses and apartments I’ve lived in. I’ll mentally walk through each room, picturing what it looked like and describing them as if to a friend. Sometimes the rooms are very clear to me - I can picture it as if I'm there. Sometimes they are more fuzzy and I have to think really hard about what they looked like. Sometimes I can’t remember them at all. There is one house I briefly lived in on Grand Lake whose guest bedrooms are a mystery

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man Blu-ray Review: An Awkward Documentary Hybrid

From the department of celebrity death cash-ins: An unnecessary Blu-ray upgrade of a forgettable concert film/biography mash-up.
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We’d already hit capacity overload on the “Fuck 2016” meme by the time Leonard Cohen’s death was announced on Nov. 10, but that didn’t mean the gut-punch of his passing hurt any less. Less than a month before, Cohen had solemnly announced, “I am ready to die” in David Remnick’s exhaustive New Yorker profile, before abruptly reversing course a few days after the interview’s publication at a listening session for his final album, You Want It Darker. “I said I was ready to die recently, and I think I was exaggerating. I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live

Cameraperson Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: No Better Film Experience Last Year

A soulful and illuminating document of the human experience.
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When it comes to human honesty, there is no better genre of film stronger than the documentary. In a time where special effects, explosions, CGI, and even 3D basically dominate the box office, it is very refreshing to know that some movies would rather deal with reality and what the world is really like. Director Kirsten Johnson's fascinating 2016 film, Cameraperson, shows us what being human truly means to be. In this brilliant snapshot, or series of tableux, Johnson captures in real time, stories of people, places, and things. Whether it is a young boxer in his first match in

2017 Oscar-nominated Documentary Short Films Review

The rundown on the five nominees for the documentary short subject category.
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Through the wars of the past and the present to the wars that we battle in our own bodies, this year’s Academy Award nominees in the Documentary Short Film category all tackle remarkable subject matter that reflect the power and courage of the human spirit. They show that human connection and caring for one another is one of the greatest gifts we can give or receive. All these films center on the theme of hope. 4.1 Miles (director Daphne Matziraki, USA, 26 minutes) This documentary follows Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a captain in the Greek Coast Guard who is caught in the

American Masters: By Sidney Lumet Review: See the Master in a New Light

An engrossing and thoughtfully revealing portrait of an American cinema master.
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The great Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) was an American original, a genius storyteller, and a quintessential New York filmmaker whose versatile gifts created some of the greatest films ever made, including 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network among others. However, as amazing as he was, he is still highly underrated in film circles today. Award-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski's enlightening documentary, By Sidney Lumet, gives viewers a chance to see the master himself in a new light, a light that should continue to shine over film history. This portrait with Lumet himself, which was filmed three years before his

The Search for Weng Weng DVD Review: The Height of the World's Shortest Star

Filipino cinema's least-likely leading man was only 2-foot 9-inches tall, but his appeal to cult cinema aficionados is immeasurable.
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For anyone who has only experienced the mainstream world of cinema, venturing into the output of the Filipino film industry ‒ particularly its numerous exploitation movies made during the '70s and '80s ‒ can seem akin to jumping head first into a swimming pool with very little water in it. I still vividly recall the first time I sat down to cast my disbelieving orbs on Bobby A. Suarez's The One Armed Executioner, wherein Franco Guerrero and his giant pompadour sought vengeance against the evil men who killed his bride and left him minus an extremity. It was the closest

808 Movie Review: All About That Bass

Documentary about the Roland TR-808 drum machine explores its indelible contributions to modern music.
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The singular defining aspect of all modern popular music is its deep, thumping bass. This new documentary explores the principal electronic architect of that bass, the Roland TR-808 drum machine. No other piece of musical equipment in history is known so globally by its model number, and that 808 moniker continues to receive frequent shoutouts and respect in all genres with a beat, including electronic, pop, R&B, and hip hop. The filmmakers take a historical approach to the subject, tracing the 808’s emergence as a powerful music tool in the 1970s through to its continued current use. While they don’t

Mifune: The Last Samurai Movie Review: A Wonderful Remembrance

A straightforward biography that reveals little more than the story of the man's life.
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Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazak's documentary tells the story of Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who together with director Akira Kurosawa became worldwide sensations because of their work together on 16 films, from Drunken Angel (1948) to Red Beard (1965). Narrator Reeves says they were "some of the greatest movies ever made...Together, they influenced filmmaking and popular culture around the world." Their partnership was such an integral part of their lives, it's not a surprise it's an integral part of this documentary as well. Because film was such an important part of what he became, the story of Mifune: The Last Samurai

Last of the Mississippi Jukes DVD Review: Blues History Revisited

This riveting documentary chronicles the history of the Mississippi juke joint and the ongoing struggle to preserve remaining clubs.
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Actor Morgan Freeman, who co-owns Mississippi juke joint Ground Zero, describes Delta Blues as “American classical music.” The documentary Last of the Mississippi Jukes—originally released in 2003 and now available on DVD—chronicles one state’s fight to preserve not only Delta Blues but the juke joints that introduced the blues. This loving tribute spotlights two venues, one older and the other a recreation of traditional juke joints. While the fate of these two places diverge, they share one common interest: fostering local talent and maintaining the tight community that the blues formed. Juke joints first appeared on southern plantations after the
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