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Discussion in 'Movies' started by JohnS, Jul 1, 2013.
This is the challenge to watch any kind of Documentry that you wish.
20 Feet from Stardom (2013) ****Whereas SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN was one of the best films of 2012, this year has another musical documentary that turns out to be a masterpiece. Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Lou Adler, Sheryl Crow, Bette Midler and Mick Jagger are just a few of the well-known singers who talk about some back-up singers who everyone will know from certain hit songs yet it's highly unlikely that you'll know their names. Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega and Judith Hill get their shot in the spotlight as they talk about why they are highly respected inside the business yet they never managed to become "stars" or lead singers on their own. Some of their reasons include them not wanting to but there are some darker ones dealing with race as well as Phil Spector simply hiding one from being famous. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM is a masterpiece in regards to music documentaries and it ranks right up there with some of the greatest ever made. It was rather amazing sitting back and hearing these stories and when you realize some of the music that these women have been involved with you certainly see why so many sing their praises. This includes Clayton who was pregnant and wearing rollers in her hair when she got a phone call in the middle of the night to help The Rolling Stones with what would become the chorus for Gimme Shelter. The film is full of wonderful and touching stories dealing with either high praise or simply hard luck. The fact that so many great songs are so memorable because of something that background singers are doing is a subject that seems to be long overdue. This film certainly makes it a very fascinating subject and it makes you wonder how many others are out there just waiting to get some credit that they deserve. The film features some terrific music from all of the artists mentioned so music fans will have a blast hearing songs from the 50s up through the 90s. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM is certainly one of the best films of 2013.
Nine for IX: Venus Vs. (2013) ***Documentary following the fight for women to gain the same amount of money as the men did in professional tennis. This film follows the career of Venus Williams who would wind up winning five Wimbledon titles but only two of them had her gaining the same amount of money as the men champion. This first entry in ESPN's NINE FOR IX series is obviously an attempt to capture the same magic as 30 FOR 30, although the stories here are going to center on women. I guess there's not too many people better fit for the first episode than Venus Williams and this documentary does a pretty good job at showing what happened to her throughout her career from her being raised in the ghetto to finally hitting the professional courts only to face various hardships. The documentary is meant to be about the difference in pay between the men and the women but I must admit that I was rather shocked to see that the difference was just $80,000 when Venus won her first title. I don't know why but I always expected that number to be a lot higher. The documentary is more about Venus and her race rather than her being a woman in a field where the men made more. The film wants to shine the spotlight on the money issue but it actually takes a back seat to Venus. Various tennis experts are interviewed about the subject including Williams, her sister Serena, Maria Sharapova, Billy Jean King and John McEnroe. Fans of Venus or the sport will certainly be entertained but this does fall short of even a weaker episode in the 30 FOR 30 series.
Nine for IX: Pat XO (2013) ***The second entry in ESPN's "Nine for IX" series takes a look at Tennessee's legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt who in 2012 had to retire after coming down with a form of dementia. This documentary, partially told through the eyes of her son Tyler, documents her early childhood, how she got into coaching and what led her to her tremendously successful career. PAT XO is a good film, there's no question about that, but at the same time you kinda have to feel that someone like Summitt deserved something stronger. Clocking in at under an hour with commercials probably isn't enough time to fully get into her story and as a result there are way too many times where one feels that everything is just being rushed. This is especially true in regards to several aspects including the hyped up relationship between Tennessee and Conneticut. Another problem is that the film also seems to lose focus of what it's trying to do. Yes, this is a documentary on Summitt and we get interviews with her players, friends and even family members but at the start we're told this is going to be seen through the eyes of her son and while he has a few comments along the way, it seems like the focus was a bit off. With that said, those who don't know much about Summitt will certainly get some very good information here and it's at least worth watching for what it does have going for it.
Life: Reptiles and Amphibians (2009) 5/5I've had Planet Earth for some time now but I recently picked up Life and Frozen Planet. To say that the BBC nature series are astounding is an understatement. I think no one does it better than them and this episode in particular brought home the dangers of being a wildlife photographer.This particular episode opens with the Komodo dragon and ends with a magnificent sequence of a buffalo slaughter at their hands. Don't get me wrong, if I was the photographer I probably would be sabotaging my shoot by continuing rescuing the various animals in peril. Unfortunately that's not their job. The 10 minute close-up at the end especially stressed how affected the crew was by what they were witnessing and the dangers of being parked among a group of dangerous predators.In this episode we saw a wide variety of animals how they mate and how they go about ensuring that their young survive. The cinematography is absolutely amazing especially when filming a one inch frog in all its grand detail. Amazing episode and amazing series.
Frozen Planet: The Last Frontier (2011) 4.5/5
This BBC documentary part of the Frozen Planet covers both the Artic and the Antarctic and man's survival in both regions. In this segment we visit native hunters and their walrus hunt, and the search for the eggs of a species of bird nesting in the high cliffs. In the Antarctic we visit the King Penguins and study underwater life using a robot submarine. Also of interest is geologists visit to Mt. Erebus and its beautiful and unique ice caves.
The Great Escape: The Untold Story (2001) 4/5
This 2001 documentary found on the bluray of The Great Escape chronicles the allies attempts at hunting down and prosecuting members of the Gestapo and SS responsible for the deaths of the 50 prisoners of war.
Planet Earth: Ocean Deep (2006) 4/5
We are shown a variety of ocean life from yellowfin tuna to a school of dolphins and sailfish feeding on a shoal of bait fish and competing with the birds above. Also of interest is the underwater volcanic chain and the colourful corals and sponges growing near the vents.
Nine for IX: Let Them Wear Towels (2013) *** 1/2Christine Brennan, Lesley Visser, Michele Himmelberg, Jane Gross and Robin Herman are among the female reporters who discuss their early careers when women weren't allowed into locker rooms and if they were it was usually followed by various forms of harassment and abuse. This third entry in ESPN's "Nine for IX" series is certainly the best one so far mainly because many of the main folks involved with the subject are on hand to discuss their feelings about the matters and what made them want to move forward and try to change the way female reporters were treated. Watching a story like this today almost makes the subject seem like science-fiction because it's so hard to believe that there was a time when this stuff went on and especially when you consider that it wasn't that long ago. I think all of the interviewees do a great job at explaining the rather logical explanation that they needed to be in the locker room to get their stories and to make a deadline. Not being allowed in a locker room effected their work. The documentary does a very good job at showing how things slowly started to change over the years and those who were around in these times will at least get a very good look at what it was like. I do wish that some of the guilty parties had been interviewed about what they were thinking or how they feel about it now but this is still an impressive film worth watching.
The Cheshire Murders (2013) ****Rather brutal and haunting documentary taking a look the brutal beating and murders of a family in Cheshire, CT. The story gained national attention as Dr. Petit was severely beaten while his wife and two young daughters were raped and eventually died from being set on fire. The culprits were two men who had just been released from prison and followed the mother and youngest girl from a grocery store. The documentary covers the family and their lives before this incident and of course we then take a look at the tragedy itself. This was the first time I had been given any great details on the subject and I must admit that it was quite ugly and brutal. I really understand why many people wouldn't want to watch anything involving a young child being raped and murdered so if people feel the subject matter is too strong then they certainly should stay away. The film is also pretty scary because it shows that you can be doing something as simple as getting groceries and not realize that there are a couple maniacs about to follow you home. The film gives us interviews with some lawyer attached to the case as well as family members of the victims as well as a couple people who knew the killers. There's also a portion of the film that follows Dr. Petit as he tries to get the state not to "kill off" the death penalty because this is what he wants the killers to get. The film is very forward and straight in regards to telling the story. I like how the director's really don't pick a side in regards to the death penalty but instead just shows the impact that everything has. I personally agreed that these two scumbags should die but then seeing what the family had to endure with a trial made me have second thoughts. THE CHESHIRE MURDERS is a terrific film but the subject matter is quite disturbing so it's certainly going to be up to the viewer on whether they can make it through.
Nine for IX: No Limit (2013) ***Documentary about the free diver Audrey Mestre who went for the longest free dive in history only to have her life taken away under some questionable events. I'll admit that I'm not overly familiar with this extreme sport but thankfully director Alison Ellwood gives those of us some background on the sport before getting into the main story. We learn all about Mestre from her early days up to the point where she married diver Pipin Ferraras. The main focus is of course the death of Mestre and we do get to see her complete dive where she died so this here might turn some viewers off. It's clear that something went horribly wrong on the dive since various safety measures weren't taken and the major one is that her life bag wasn't filled with air so this here pretty much killed her. Many people thought Ferraras could have had something to do with this and we get to see things from both sides. While the film is far from great, I think for the most part it's at least entertaining. Entertaining might be the wrong word considering you're watching someone die but the director does a nice job at making sure it's never too graphic. I thought the film did a nice job at giving viewers the details on free diving and of course explaining the various safety measures that need to be in place.
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010) *** 1/2This documentary was co-directed and narrated by Werner Herzog but it didn't gather as much attention as some of the filmmaker's previous films, which is a shame because this here is another winner. The film covers a full year with several trappers as we see what they seasonal lives are all about. This includes various traps that they must make, issues they face in the wilderness and some of the most fascinating stuff dealing with them living in the bitter cold winters where temperatures reach fifty-below zero. HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA is a really good film and nothing short of what you've come to expect from Herzog. From what I've read, co-director Dmitry Vasyukov actually spent the time in Bakhtia, Russia and the footage was then turned over to Herzog. Even though the famed Germany director wasn't actually on the ground, this here still comes across as his film and it contains that certain love and joy that some of his best work has. This film is yet another in a long line of films that take a look at people living in horrid condition yet being completely happy in their environment. Herzog has always been able to take "off" characters and make them seem normal. That's what happens here as we track these trappers as they go from one hunt to another while having to deal with nature and come up with creative ways to trap and live. Herzog offers up his typical great narration but the real people are certainly the stars here as we get to really know them and understand why they love doing what they do.
Springsteen & I (2013) ***
This documentary was pretty much made by the fans are is certainly aimed for those die-hard fans who listen to E Street Radio and like to exchange stories about their favorite songs, albums and tours. This documentary features a bunch of footage from Springsteen fans who sent in videos expressing their love of his music as well as several stories with people who were able to either meet him or get on stage to sing with him. Throughout the running time we get some extremely good stories but as you'd expect there are also a few moments where things get a tad bit creepy but this here is just fandome. I'm sure fans are really going to love hearing these stories from other fans including some of the more tender moments including a couple who have been Bruce fans their entire lives but are always broke when he's on tour so they can't see him. Another involves a man dressed as Elvis who wants to get up on stage with his idol. Then, there's a terrific story about a guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him just before the concert. The film also gives us some rare concert performances and as you'd expect the quality is quite poor at times but it's still great fun getting to see this footage. SPRINGSTEEN & I falls short of being a masterpiece and I'm not quite certain it was worth the special $15 ticket price but fans will still want to check it out.