63 UP – Documentary Review

63  UP – Documentary Review

For those who’ve followed filmmaker Michael Apted’s entire UP Series, it’s a treat to catch up with the subjects’ latest developments in 63 UP, the eighth and likely final episode in the series. Apted refers to the series as an exploration of the British class system, and asks all whether they think the original premise for the series — “give me a child at the age of seven and I’ll show you the man” — is true. The now familiar subjects’ responses are varied, authentic and provocative.

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Filmmaker Michael Apted: Leading Up to 63 UP

Filmmaker Michael Apted: Leading Up to 63 UP

Michael Apted helms both documentaries and narrative features, and has won numerous awards for both kinds of films. But he is best known for his career-defining Up Series, a unique documentary project that has been in progress since 1964. In the Beginning At the inception of the Up Series, Apted was working as a researcher […]

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Martin Scorsese on THE IRISHMAN, Crime and Corruption in His Cinema

Martin Scorsese on THE IRISHMAN, Crime and Corruption in His Cinema

Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Irishman, releasing November 1 in theaters and available on Netflix on November 27, is the director’s eighth foray into the world of crime and corruption. Based on Charles Brandt’s investigative book, I Heard You Paint Houses, the film is a three-hour long epic drama about events spanning decades, leading up to and following the 1975 disappearance of the power-wielding, mob-associated union leader Jimmy Hoffa , a real life crime that has never been officially marked as solved. The titular Irishman is Frank Sheeran, a union leader and high-level mafia hitman who, if the film’s scenario is accurate, was the capo who carried out the mob-ordered execution of Hoffa.

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Documentary Retroview: 56 UP

Documentary Retroview: 56 UP

56 UP is the latest chapter in The UP Series, filmmaker Michael Apted’s monumental series about fourteen British citizens, following their lives since 1963, when they were seven year old boys and girls living in very different circumstances in diverse regions of the United Kingdom.

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Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2019 Nominees Announced

Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2019 Nominees Announced

The Critics Choice Association will once again be honoring the finest achievements in documentaries released in theaters, on TV and on major digital platforms, as determined by the voting of qualified CCA members (Full disclosure: I am a CCA member) . THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM leads this year with seven nominations, including Best Documentary Feature, John Chester for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Narration, and Best Science/Nature Documentary.

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DILILI IN PARIS – Movie Review

DILILI IN PARIS – Movie Review

The film’s writer/director Michel Ocelot’s distinctive style of animation and exposition has a simplicity and fluidity that allows for a beautifully rendered tour of Paris’ well known tourist spots, as well as the introduction of the leading cultural figures of the day and a surprising roster of other cultural references. And, all the while, there’s the mystery of the Male Masters, whose political leanings and agenda are, we learn, threateningly right wing and anti-female.

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Full Battle Rattle (2008) – Movie Review

Full Battle Rattle (2008) – Movie Review

Disneyland For War Games Somewhere in the Mohave Desert, the U.S. military maintains a large rural compound that contains several fake Iraqi towns. It’s here that American soldiers are sent to practice battle tactics and learn to deal with Iraqi people before their deployment to Iraq. The towns look real enough, with accurate street plans […]

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Sputnik Mania (2007) – Documentary Retroview

Sputnik Mania (2007) – Documentary Retroview

Timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of America’s moon landing, the Apollo 11 documentary reminds us that humans are capable of making miracles happen, but it also calls up memories of the fearsome USA vs USSR race to space, which was part and parcel of the cold war between two mega powers that were often on the brink of striking out to destroy each other and — since nuclear bombs were the weapons of choice — much of the rest of the world as well.

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APOLLO 11 – Documentary Review

APOLLO 11 – Documentary Review

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mankind’s first landing on the Moon, Apollo 11 is being released theatrically and on line. The new documentary, a compilation comprised entirely of previously seen archival footage, offers viewers an extraordinary ‘you are there’ experience of the moonshot, especially the film is seen on IMAX or other large screens.

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FOR SAMA – Documentary Review

FOR SAMA – Documentary Review

For Sama a harrowing first person documentary in which the filmmaker, Waad Al-Khateab, a Syrian woman journalist, chronicles her daily life and struggles to survive during the Battle of Aleppo. It is a reality-based horror film, a truly painful reminder that we humans create unbearable hardship and agony for each other. For Sama For Sama is absolutely essential viewing.

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OFFICIAL SECRETS – Movie Review

OFFICIAL SECRETS – Movie Review

If you like spy scenarios and courtroom dramas, and are interested in sorting out truthful reporting from fake news, Official Secrets, a truth-based narrative about English security whistleblower Katherine Gun, will surely satisfy. It’s entertaining and informative, and its release is quite timely.

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IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY FROM THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (2011) – Documentary Review

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY FROM THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (2011) – Documentary Review

In presenting the story of Daniel McGowan, the former Earth Liberation Front (ELF) environmental activist who’s been sentenced to life imprisonment for environmental terrorism or, more specifically, for arson committed against northwest US lumber companies and national parks, filmmakers Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman raise questions and stir public debate about the definition of terrorism, especially in the post-9/11 security environment. The documentary is now streaming on OVID.tv.

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The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2011) – Documentary Review

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2011) – Documentary Review

Performing around the world and on New Zealand television, the Topp Twins are a hilarious sister act who’ve been embraced by a vast variety of fans. Leanne Pooley’s delightful documentary profile of Lynda and Jools entertains while giving biographical background and information about their current lives, as well as side-splitting clips of their performances.

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Wish Me Away: The Chely Wright Story (2012) – Documentary Retroview

Wish Me Away: The Chely Wright Story (2012) – Documentary Retroview

Watching movies for Pride Month? Remember to include Wish Me Away. Nashville music star Chely Wright, adored by millions of conservation country and western fans, lived much of her public life and career as a lie — until she decided to match up her public and professional persona with her inner truth. Chely is gay, and she decided that she had to come out.

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Movie Review: THREE PEAKS

Movie Review: THREE PEAKS

German director Jan Zabeil’s beautifully crafted sophomore narrative feature, Three Peaks, is a truly disturbing film. It’s a horror story without any gimmicks, ghosts, ghouls or goblins. There is no paranormality of any sort.

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THE PROPOSAL – Documentary Review

THE PROPOSAL – Documentary Review

Filmmaker and artist Jill Magid became personally committed to unveiling the the legacy of legendary Mexican architect Luis Barragan (1902-1988), whose entire work record and artifacts — diaries, blueprints, photos of everything, personal memorabilia and other belongings, and copyrights — had been purchased by a powerful and wealthy Swiss conglomerate, Vitra, and were entirely withheld from public access.

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Review: ASK FOR JANE

Review: ASK FOR JANE

Ask For Jane is a must see film for women and for the men who truly love and respect us. It is essential viewing for those of us who were around pre-Roe v Wade and who fought for abortion rights and for younger women who’ve benefited from that struggle and are now at risk of having to go through the fear and anguish associated with being denied the right to choose.

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Documentary Review: ASK DR. Ruth

Documentary Review: ASK DR. Ruth

Ryan White’s Ask Dr. Ruth is a thoroughly charming and entertaining biodoc about Dr. Ruth Westheimer, America’s famously beloved sex therapist. She has been a public figure for decades, but her personal story is actually full of surprises.

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Gloria In Her Own Words (2011) – Documentary Retroview

Gloria In Her Own Words (2011) – Documentary Retroview

Peter Kunhardt’s profile of and tribute to Gloria Steinem, the famous founder of Ms. Magazine and a leading proponent of women’s equal rights, uses interviews with Steinhem, Bella Abzug and others to chronicle the career of the woman who has been the public face of feminism for decades.

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Movie Review: WINE COUNTRY

Movie Review: WINE COUNTRY

Wine Country, a Netflix original directed by Amy Poehler and scripted by Liz Cackowski and Emily Spivey, stars Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Maya Erskine, Tina Fey, Emily Spivey, Ana Gasteyer and Paula Pell in a thoroughly femme-centric turn at the familiar buddy road trip trope.

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The First Saturday in May – Documentary Review (2007)

The First Saturday in May  – Documentary Review (2007)

Directors John and Brad Hennegan follow six trainers as they put their amazing and beautiful thoroughbred horses–including the fabulous and tragic Barbaro–through the paces leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the annual race that takes place on the first Saturday of May. Think of this documentary as a cross between Seabiscuit and The Horse Whisperer, but it’s a true story told with actual footage.

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Wild Horse, Wild Ride – Documentary Review

Wild Horse, Wild Ride – Documentary Review

It may sound like a reality TV show, but it’s an annual event that has become a way of life for devoted participants. And, it’s the subject of this documentary film: The Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. The premise is simple: place 100 wild mustang horses in the hands of 100 capable trainers and give the trainers 100 days to tame the mustangs, teach them a series of tricks and perform with them as a horse and trainer team in a competitive horse show.

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Ebertfest 2019: A Glorious Celebration of Cinema

Ebertfest 2019: A Glorious Celebration of Cinema

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, aka Ebertfest, is unique in its pure and glorious celebration of cinema. The annual four-day program, which just completed its 21st edition, consists of but a dozen films, making Ebertfest quite compact, as film festivals go. But, this joyful movie event has enormous heart. It emanates influence and inspires empathy far beyond Champaign, Illinois, the college community in which it has found its soulmate.

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BUCK – Documentary Review

BUCK – Documentary Review

Buck, referring to Buck Brannaman, is all About The Original Horse Whisperer. Gentle, calm and kind, Buck Brannaman can, it seems, tame any horse, and the creatures who ride them. The cowboy who is known as the ‘original horse whisperer,’ travels around the USA to various ranches, giving horse owners workshops about how to handle their steeds, especially those that have a will of their own and insist upon expressing it.

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BLOWIN’ UP – Documentary Review

BLOWIN’ UP – Documentary Review

Filmmaker Stephanie Wang Breal’s latest documentary, Blowin’Up, takes us into New York City’s Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens, where Judge Toko Serita has presided over cases against young prostitutes since the pilot court program began in 2004.

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