PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (2012) — Documentary Retroview

PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (2012) — Documentary Retroview

In Player Hating: A Love Story, filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West follows Jasun Wardlaw, the talented hip hop recording artist known as Half-a-Mill, as he and his crew of ‘thugs’ prepare to release his first big record album. Half-a-Mill is hoping that the album will be the kind of success that will catapult him out of Brooklyn, New York’s crime-riddled Atlantic Housing Project, where he’s faced tough — no, make that dire — living conditions since his childhood. He’s deeply in need of some form of relief. And so are his family and friends. In fact, so is the whole neighborhood.

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PRODIGAL SONS — Documentary Retroview

PRODIGAL SONS — Documentary Retroview

In Prodigal Sons, transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed documents her return to the rural Montana town where she grew up — as Paul McKerrow, the local high school football star and the younger brother of Marc McKerrow, the emotionally disturbed adopted son of Paul’s birth parents. Kimberly, who’s had a sex change operation since she last saw her family and high school peers, is comfortable in her new identity, but faces the difficult dual challenge of revisiting high school cohorts and a sibling whose jealousies about her bloodline and high school popularity have often erupted into actual violence.

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KING CORN (2007) — Documentary Retroview

KING CORN (2007) — Documentary Retroview

If you believe you are what you eat, you’ll no doubt be shocked to learn that you’re mostly corn. Aaron Woolf’s documentary reveals that most Americans eat mostly food products derived from or containing corn. In King Corn, Woolf follows young eco-activists Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis–who met and became investigative cohorts while undergrads at Yale–as they plant and harvest an acre’s worth of corn, and then to trace their crop as it is processed into the food products that nurture the increasingly obese and unhealthy–and always hungry–American population.

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COLONY (2009) – Documentary Review

COLONY (2009) – Documentary Review

Beekeepers haul their wooden bee hive boxes across the US, providing an essential service to farmers who rely on honey bees to pollinate their crops. However the entire enterprise and way of life is now threatened by a mysterious phenomenon called ‘bee colony collapse disorder,’ marked by the death and disappearance of millions of bees. By following several beekeepers as they struggle to sustain their colonies and way of life, and presenting close up views of activity within the hives, Colony provides a fascinating overview of an essential yet endangered element of agricultural production.

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MORE THAN HONEY (2013) – Documentary Review

MORE THAN HONEY (2013) – Documentary Review

More Than Honey is a phenomenally well-researched and thorough study of bees and their complex influence on human civilization, and an in depth investigation of the honeybee colony collapse disorder, a current crisis that some experts say threatens the extinction of honeybees, which would have a potentially devastating impact on human civilization. Without honeybees and their effective cross pollination of plants, there would be no crops, no harvest, nothing for humans or other species to eat.

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QUEEN OF THE SUN: THE ENDANGERED WORLD OF BEES (2010) — Documentary Review

QUEEN OF THE SUN: THE ENDANGERED WORLD OF BEES  (2010) — Documentary Review

Queen of the Sun is an in depth study about bees and their importance to Earth’s sustainability. It delves into the history of beekeeping and investigates the causes, implications and impending impact of the colony collapse disorder, which is currently reaching epidemic proportions.

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THE YELLOW BIRDS — Movie Review

THE YELLOW BIRDS — Movie Review

This powerful drama shatters notions that going to war makes heroes of ordinary men. Neither Bartle (Alden Ehrenreich), age 21, nor Murph (Tye Sheridan), who is barely 18, have any idea about what they want to do with their lives, so they join the military. They meet in basic training, and bond as brothers, determined to get through the military drill together. Their conmection is strengthened when Bartle meets Murph’s doting and very anxious mom (Jennifer Aniston), at an on base family dinner before the two deploy to Iraq, where they quickly learn that war is not a video game.

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A LEAF OF FAITH — Documentary Review

A LEAF OF FAITH — Documentary Review

Filmmaker Chris Bell, pursuing ongoing concerns about drug issues that plague athletes and the general public, focuses on the crippling and death dealing addiction to opioid painkillers. Having reached epidemic proportions, opioids — ranging from heroin addiction and overdose to abuse of synthetic opioids to withdraw from heroin addition and the use of prescription of addictive opoids to relieve chronic pain — are currently among the top causes of death in the U.S. In A Leap of Faith, Bell introduces and investigates a possible solution — the use of Kratom as an alternative.

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BIGGER STRONGER FASTER (2008) – Documentary Retroview

BIGGER STRONGER FASTER (2008) – Documentary Retroview

Chris Bell uses his personal story as a platform for consideration of doping in America. The film shows that famous hunks like Hulk Hogan, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were dopers, and shows that the use of steroids is not only addictive, but also dangerous to both health and reputation.

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HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD — Documentary Review

HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD — Documentary Review

Filmmaker Rudiger Suchsland’s Hitler’s Hollywood is a compilation documentary that uses clips from films produced during the Nazi regime to show how the movies were used to indoctrinate the masses and influence their behavior. Subtitled German Cinema in the Age of Propaganda: 1933-45, the film is more analysis than homage, presenting a fascinating profile of the Nazi period of German history that creates positive stereotypes and presents mythic illusions about current and historic events.

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DREAMS OF A LIFE (2012) — Documentary Retroview

DREAMS OF A LIFE (2012) — Documentary Retroview

Dreams of a Life is the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a 40-something woman whose decomposed corpse was discovered in a North London bedsit in 2003, but only when and because authorities broke in to evict her for nonpayment of rent. She’d been dead for three years and nobody had missed her, nobody had asked after her, nobody had noticed the mail piling up at the door.

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THE BEACHES OF AGNES (LES PLAGES D’AGNES) – Documentary Review

THE BEACHES OF AGNES (LES PLAGES D’AGNES) – Documentary Review

In The Beaches of Agnes (Les Plages d’Agnes), the legendary French filmmaker (who directed the narrative Cleo From Nine to Five and documentary The Gleaners, among other classics) revisits her childhood, presents footage of her young womanhood and tells of the start of her career as a photographer and cinematographer, of her eventual marriage to French New Wave director Jacques Demy and motherhood, and brings us up to the present. Mme Varda is 80 years old as this film releases theatrically in the U.S. in July, 2009, and she’s still going strong. Very strong.

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Last Train Home (2009) – Documentary Retroview

Last Train Home (2009) – Documentary Retroview

In what filmmaker Lixin Fan characterizes as the world’s largest human migration, some 130-million Chinese migrant workers leave their work-a-day lives in China’s cities to travel to their homes in the impoverished countryside to celebrate the New Year with their families. To show us their arduous and frustrating journey and reveal the impact their long-term absence has on their families, the filmmaker follows Chen Suqin and her husband Zhang Changhua, as they return from their factory jobs in Guangzhou to their family home, a rural farm, where they reunite with their two children, who’ve been left in the care of Chen’s mother.

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GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011) — Documentary Retroview

GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011) — Documentary Retroview

Part courtroom drama, part political thriller and part war movie, Granito: How to Nail A Dictator is one of the most compelling. gripping and inspiring documentaries of the year to date. Watching you film, you feel that you’re privy to an insider’s experience in furthering the fight for human rights and justice.

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Movie Review: THE FIFTH ELEMENT

Movie Review: THE FIFTH ELEMENT

Luc Besson’s classic femme-centric scifi actioner is being re-released in theaters to mark the film’s 20th anniversary. Concurrently, SONY is preparing a special edition Blu-ray/DVD, which will be available in July 2917. As the new version of Wonder Woman is about to blockbust her way into into women’s psyches, it’s the perfect time for The Fifth Element to appear again on the big screen and re-establish her place among our galaxy of superstar cinematic female heroines.

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Movie Review: PARIS CAN WAIT

Movie Review: PARIS CAN WAIT

Paris Can Wait is a rich repast for Francophiles and foodies, and women who are hungry for more romance in their marriages. Writer/director Eleanor Coppola delivers her first feature at age 81 — a remarkable and inspiring achievement, especially since she does it so deliciously. Replete with with elegant character development, a superb cast and stunning cinematography, Paris Can Wait is a delightfully satisfying escape into a lifestyle that is for most of the world’s women pure fantasy. Take time to savor it.

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PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011) — RetroView by Jennifer Merin

PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011) — RetroView by Jennifer Merin

All The News That’s Fit To Print? The New York Times continues to be the nation’s newspaper of record, although news gathering and publishing are undergoing rapid transformations, and the New York Times has had to cut its staff for economic reasons. The film looks at how the New York Times is handling the rise of new media, and considers what will become of the newspaper in the future.

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Documentary Review: WARTORN 1861-2010

Documentary Review: WARTORN 1861-2010

Soldiers returning from combat experience severe depression, sleep disorders and other symptoms collectively known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Wartorn presents the history of the effects of war on combat veterans from the time of the U.S. Civil War — when doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity — the to the present. None of the soldiers who appear in the film lack fortitude. They simply cannot cope with what they’ve experienced in war. And, they tell you exactly what that is. And, their accounts are seconded by those of their immediate families, who are also deeply effected by the condition of their beloved husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: RESTREPO

Documentary Review:  RESTREPO

Filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger follow a platoon of U.S. soldiers, the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during their 15-month deployment to Afghanistan’s remote Korengal Valley. Without comment or personal intervention, the filmmakers show what it’s like to be at war. The soldiers are in constant danger, under extreme stress and always fearful. Filmmakers who follow soldiers into combat are also in danger. Tim Heatherington was subsequently killed while filming in the Middle East. Read my review….

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Documentary Review: THE TILLMAN STORY

Documentary Review: THE TILLMAN STORY

Director Amir Bar Lev incorporates archival footage and photos gleaned from the Tillman family, the NFL and news media sources with on-camera interviews with family members, friends and fellow soldiers who witnessed Tillman’s death, to present a comprehensive, compelling and truthful narrative covering Pat Tillman’s extraordinary life and lasting legacy. The documentary affords viewers the joyful experience of getting to an American hero. But be advised, The Tillman Story is not a light-hearted fan-pandering biopic. Read my review…

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Documentaries About the Holocaust and World War II

Documentaries About the Holocaust and World War II

As official records and personal stories about the Holocaust continue to come to light, documentaries serve as a vehicle for making them known to the public. There are documentaries that chronicle circumstances of horror and unfathomable human cruelty, of life in the ghettos and survival in the concentration camps. Others tell stories of Jewish resistance, of extraordinary courage and inspiration, of individuals who defied the Nazis and expresses their humanity through music and art. These documentaries are keeping knowledge of the holocaust alive, and will hopefully prevent a repeat of this devastating period in human history. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of excellent documentaries that present important holocaust stories — stories that must be remembered.

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Margot Benacerraf on ARAYA, Documentaries and the Sun as a Protagonist

Margot Benacerraf on ARAYA, Documentaries and the Sun as a Protagonist

Milestone Films’ restoration of Margot Benacerraf’s Araya coincided with the 50th anniversary of the film’s premier at Cannes Film Festival, where it shared the International Critics Prize with Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Despite the win, Araya didn’t receive widespread distribution. Nevertheless, director Margot Benacerraf, now in her 80s, is a legendary figure in world cinema. Although she’s made few films, her work is compared to that of Robert Flaherty, Luchino Visconti and other master filmmakers.

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Olivia Cooke Talks ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, Roles for Women and Amy Winehouse (Exclusive, Uncut Audio Interview)

Olivia Cooke Talks ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, Roles for Women and Amy Winehouse (Exclusive, Uncut Audio Interview)

Olivia Cooke brings a vitality to the role of Rachel that is sure to touch youngsters who are coming of age — whether they’re in the grips of normal hormonal changes or life-threatening diseases. In this interview she speaks about women’s roles in cinema and the importance of not playing the victim or becoming reedits of roles written for men. Listen to the exclusive, uncut audio.

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Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Making Films That Matter (Exclusive, Unedited Audio Interview)

Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Making Films That Matter (Exclusive, Unedited Audio Interview)

In this exclusive and unedited audio interview, Andrew Morgan discusses his eye-opening documentary, The True Cost, about how ‘fast fashion’ – you know, those stylish little frocks that H&M and other branded purveyors sell by the millions for $9.99 each — impacts our global economy, shatters local cultures, causes political unrest and poses a serious threat to the environment. Surprise: H&M is just about on a par with Monsanto in its sacrifice of human well-being for the sake of profit. Read on and listen to the interview.

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Thomas Vinterberg on FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, Dogme and Feminism (Exclusive Audio Interview)

Thomas Vinterberg on FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, Dogme and Feminism (Exclusive Audio Interview)

In this exclusive audio interview, Vinterberg talks about FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, cinematic truth beyond dogme, feminism and the importance of devotion. Jennifer Merin interviews — while, due to YouTube’s odd posting protocols, birds fly across a lake, their caws, cries and comments silenced by a mute button. To listen to the interview, click here

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