Archive for category: Documentary

Blu-ray / DVD: ‘The Unknown Known’

29 September, 2014 (08:24) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

The title of Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known, a profile of the life and career of former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, is a direct reference to Rumsfeld’s most famous TV appearance. Discussing the evidence (or rather, the glaring lack of evidence) linking Iraq with weapons of mass destruction provided to […]

Film Review: ‘20,000 Days on Earth’

26 September, 2014 (08:44) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews, Musicals | By: Robert Horton

Given his distinctive and ultra-dramatic stage presence, it makes sense that a documentary portrait of Nick Cave would not be the usual thing. And 20,000 Days on Earth is not the usual thing. At first this film appears to be a rumination on where the Australian-born rock star is these days: 20,000 days of life puts […]

Film Review: ‘Take Me to the River’

26 September, 2014 (08:39) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews, Musicals | By: Robert Horton

There’s been a steady drumbeat of music-history documentaries this century, paying proper homage to the great players of pop music. These movies are invariably tuneful and nostalgic. Actually, there have been so many of these — “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” “Muscle Shoals,” the recent Oscar winners “Searching for Sugar Man” and “Twenty Feet […]

DVD: ‘Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide’

17 September, 2014 (15:12) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

The term “video nasty” isn’t exactly a common phrase in the U.S. but in Britain it defines an era of nanny state censorship. The British Board of Film Censorship, or BBFC, determined what could be shown in British theaters and often forced cuts to content or outright banned films, but home video did not exist […]

Film Review: ‘The Dog’

14 August, 2014 (06:52) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

It would be easier to enjoy the madcap, stranger-than-fiction revelations of The Dog if it weren’t for the queasy awareness that its central subject is getting such a great kick out of all this. He is John Wojtowicz, the real-life guy whose botched 1972 bank robbery later became the basis for the Al Pacino film […]

Film Review: ‘Double Play’

7 August, 2014 (06:26) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Watching two film directors play catch is not a guarantee of interest. Put Brett Ratner and Jean-Luc Godard in a field with a couple of mitts and a baseball, and things could get ugly fast. But when the players are Richard Linklater and James Benning, the back-and-forth tossing becomes contemplative, a spur to ideas, and […]

Blu-ray: ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’

29 July, 2014 (09:35) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Film history is filled with legends and stories of what could have been great (or at least interesting) films but were never made for one reason or another. Such projects are all potential, giving fans the chance to dream of masterpieces that could have been without having to face the reality of compromise and transformation […]

DVD: ‘The People vs. Paul Crump’

12 July, 2014 (13:16) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Paul Crump, an African American Chicago man convicted of murdering a security guard during the robbery of a meatpacking plant and sentenced to death in 1953, had faced 14 stays of execution when William Friedkin, a young television producer, took on his story. The People vs. Paul Crump became his directorial debut, a documentary that […]

Videophiled: Imagining ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’

8 July, 2014 (17:33) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Jodorowsky’s Dune (Sony, Blu-ray+DVD Combo, Cable VOD) is probably not “the greatest science film never made,” as the movie poster tagline insists, but this journey through the most improbable screen epic embarked upon in the seventies isn’t really about mourning what could have been. Alejandro Jodorowsky, director of the aggressively trippy cult classics El Topo […]

DVD: ‘Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction’

6 July, 2014 (07:43) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD | By: Sean Axmaker

“Do I have any lines? I don’t want any lines. How about I do nothing? How about silence?” Harry Dean Stanton, the veteran character actor with (by his own count) over 250 film appearances to his credit, would rather not talk about himself. Or about his family, his life, his career, or the craft of […]

Film Review: ‘Life Itself’

3 July, 2014 (06:55) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

For the last 25 years of his life, Roger Ebert was the most famous film critic in America. In his final decade—he died in April 2013—Ebert became famous for something else. He faced death in a public way, with frankness and grit. Cancer altered his appearance and robbed him of the ability to speak and […]

Videophiled: ‘Bettie Page Reveals All’

22 April, 2014 (08:44) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Bettie Page Reveals All (Music Box, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand) doesn’t quite live up to its title, at least not when it comes to delving into the darkest days of her turbulent life. Bettie Page was the good girl and the bad girl all wrapped up in one package, the girl next door […]

Film Review: ‘The Unknown Known’

10 April, 2014 (07:49) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

The conceptual appeal is unmissable: Having won an Oscar for his 2003 The Fog of War, a study of Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara, documentary giant Errol Morris would naturally turn to another controversial U.S. Secretary of Defense for a bookend project. The subject here is Donald Rumsfeld, who held the job during the commencement […]

DVD: ‘I Am Divine’

7 April, 2014 (15:02) | by Sean Axmaker, Documentary, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Divine is, of course, the name of the most famous (or perhaps more accurately infamous) drag queen of the 1970s and 1980s, and the subtitle to Jeffrey Schwarz’s I Am Divine–“The True Story of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World”–comes right out of Divine’s stage show introduction. But the title is also a commentary […]

Film Review: ‘Anita: Speaking Truth to Power’

4 April, 2014 (08:42) | by Robert Horton, Documentary, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

In October 1991 the Oklahoma law-school professor Anita Hill went before a Senate hearing (and TV cameras) to give testimony in the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Oh, you remember this? The drama of the moment is difficult to forget. Hill was alleging that while working as an assistant to Thomas […]