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Out in Theaters: ‘FREE SOLO’

The amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for triggering fear, is a critical component of human evolution. It’s the thing that tells most people not to backflip off a rooftop into a pool. Or warns them not to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. Or climb the three-thousand-plus face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope. Few people see these death-defying stunts as challenges, testing the utmost limits of man. Many meet their demise in these tournaments with mortality.  Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS’ 

Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran had their lives turned upside down with the discovery that the three 19-year olds were long-lost triplets. Overnight media sensations, the long-separated trio discover a nefarious plot to settle the argument on nature vs. nurture in this stranger-than-fiction type documentary from Tim Wardle. Equally compelling and fascinating, Three Identical Strangers is a psychological tragedy that shuffles between the influences of fame, genes, and mental disease to startling effect. Runs out of steam as the surprises fade away but remains a largely arresting watch nonetheless. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?’ 

A potpourri of warmth and goodheartedness, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ explores Mr. Rogers’ overwhelming generosity of spirit and his well-concealed demons through the lens of his radically unfussy television program that ran from 1963 until 2001. Putting the unlikely star back in the spotlight, this heartwarming and tear-duct-attacking documentary from Morgan Neville dazzlingly teaches that we probably never deserved this low-spoken, child-whispering icon and yet his benevolent lessons on acceptance and kindness are more necessary today than ever. A good-natured salve for the soul and inspiring portrait of blinding decency. (A-) Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD’

Werner Herzog‘s dulcet tones ripple from the screen, warming the audience with his distinctive Herzogian accent and lolling cadence. His latest topic of interest: the internet. As can be expected of the revered German filmmaker and documentarian, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is a thoughtful study of the past, present and future of this thing we call the internet; how it originated, how it binds us, and how it could lead to the end of times. Read More

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Sundance ’16 Review: ‘LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD’

Werner Herzog‘s dulcet tones ripple from the screen, warming the audience with his distinctive Herzogian accent and lolling cadence. His latest topic of interest: the internet. As can be expected of the revered German filmmaker and documentarian, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is a thoughtful study of the past, present and future of this thing we call the internet; how it originated, how it binds us, and how it could lead to the end of times. Read More

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Documentary Dossier: ‘RACING EXTINCTION’

Racing Extinction, Louie Psihoyos’ second documentary following 2009’s Academy Award winning The Cove, is a call to action regarding humanity’s role in the currently-unfolding extinction event. As various experts explain, we are living in the so-called Anthropocene epoch, named for the measurable effect of human beings’ behavior on the various life forms and habitats on earth.

I hesitated, at first, over whether to include “so-called” or any other indications of controversy surrounding the fact-claims of the film; there is some question, limited mostly to the far right in this country, of whether or not “global warming,” for example, exists, and further whether it is the result of our behavior, or simply a natural development; however, I’d rather not sport with your intelligence, fine readers, and I think we can get to what really matters: the quality of the film itself.
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TIFF ’15 Review: ‘WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED’

Women He’s Undressed, Gillian Armstrong’s new documentary about Hollywood costume designer Orry Kelly, opens over an unnaturally-saturated view of a blue sky, with a quote from actress Fanny Brice: “Let the world know who you are because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose; then where will you be?” The stage is thus set for a bio-documentary that will reveal some hidden aspect of its subject, guaranteeing an interested viewer who will surely be surprised – and likely touched – by the revelation to come. Read More

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Documentary Dossier: LISTEN TO ME MARLON


Listen to Me Marlon
opens to an analog recording of Marlon Brando contemplating the future of movies with a crude CG rendering of his face, now aged, as his mouth moves to the words spoken: words that express his synthetic representation in a place where he feels nothing is real. The tape is titled “Self-hypnosis.” One, among bags filled with hundreds of others, is Brando’s self-diagnostic foray into inner solitude, an intimate voice with rich precedence naked for the first time. The audio recordings contain his ruminations, self-reflections, observations, and personal confessions, which are spread out over a multi-textured pastiche culled together with the cooperation of the Brando estate. Read More

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Documentary Dossier: BEST OF ENEMIES

Best of Enemies gives a gripping account of the momentous ideological clash between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential primaries. In a bid for ratings, ABC (widely considered the “budget car rental of television news”) pitted conservative political commentator Buckley against Vidal, the creator of transsexual literary icon Myra Breckinridge and the one person (bar all communists) whom Buckley had sworn never to appear on screen with. Read More

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Documentary Dossier: MERU

“Everest is for f*cking p*ssies, man.” Not an actual quote from the film, but it might be a good one for you to slip in at the next kickback when the conversation inevitably shifts to what documentaries you and your significant other have been watching on Netflix and what you think of the new season of HBO’s (fill in the blank). Meru is about serious climber bros, dudes who casually remark they’ve been to the top of Everest “four or five times” and one of them has even “skied off the top of Everest.” Hell, when you weekend warriors climb Everest “you can hire Sherpas to take most of the risks.” (And those are actual quotes.) Read More