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The Cheshire Murders (2013)
Horrific crime, so-so doc.
I'm not sure what the theory behind this doc was supposed to be (as in, why was this made other than a rehashing of the facts)... I'm so jaded after watching so many documentaries that I believed that it was going to be a turn of events and the husband was going to have something to do with it, but no... It's just a straight retelling of a horrible horrible crimenothing but the facts, ma'am. Was it to show that the Cheshire police were so inept that they should be held accountable? Was it to advocate for right-to-die laws? Who knows. Neither was presented with enough impact to make the viewer feel like that was their intention. The narrative was all over the place and all I got from this doc was a feeling of hopelessness.
"It's in Jeeeesus' hands now"
I am in no way a fan of bull ridingor really any sport where concussions are a foregone conclusion. I was hoping this doc would humanize the sport a bit more. I really enjoy a good documentary where they are able to take a subject I have no interest in and show me why the participants need to be doing it... but this documentary didn't do that. The audience is left feeling this is a sad sport (classic imagery is the shot of 4 pieces of confetti falling after the winner is crowned. Or all the empty seats in the stands. Or the fact that none of the men in the stands react to anything. Or the announcer who speaks like a Baptist preacher, begging the fans to pray for an injured rider who's being taken out of the ring on a backboard.) Was this doc sponsored by Smokeless tobacco? There were an inordinate number of cutaways of the logo, the product and people using snuff that you wonder if it was contractually obligated. I was hoping there would be something to connect the riders to the animals who essentially create their livelihoodbut there is no respect between rider and bull. Overall watchable, but not a lot of insight into what makes these men risk their lives for sport.
GMO OMG (2013)
Not as horrible as most reviewers here would lead you to believe.
OOOOO--WHEE! There are just some very passionate reviewers around here. I gave this one a good 24 hours to simmer before writing this. First off, I'm going to review the documentary, not do what most of the 1-star reviewers do and spout off about how GMO fears are all a hoax. My rating of GMO OMG is low because I felt our friendly narrator here exploited his children to tell his story. Seifert is new to making documentaries and while he creates some pretty pictures, they're a little too sentimental for his narrative. He's brave for taking on this subject and one can wonder if all these 1-star reviews are not part of some corporate public relations department's retaliation.
My soap box is: that if GMOs are so safe, then what's the big deal about labeling them? Labels give people the CHOICE to decide what they put in their bodies. (Though now labels don't really even matter because GMOs are in everything, so, moving on
How to try to make Whitey seem less evil.
Whitey is a horrible and fascinating character, but this doc moves away from Whitey the terror and poses the question: did the FBI and Boston authorities knowingly allow him to kill, extort and never be charged with so much as a misdemeanor during the 80s and 90s? My issue with this doc was since there are so many players in this saga, Berlinger did his best to remind you who they all were (doesn't help that they're all named Steve or John or Tommy or Debra) but even with Bulger he was James, Jimmy, Jim, or Whitey. I had a difficult time staying focused and I wish he kept a more linear narrative. The most powerful moment of the film is where Steve Davis learns (on camera) the fate of his friend Rakesbut what was such a huge moment fell kinda flat in where it was placed in the documentary. Berlinger overdid the sweeping helicopter shots (I think he was guilty of this in the Paradise Lost series as well). All in all, still very watchable though.
Burt's Buzz (2013)
With Mainers, what you see is what you get
I had high hopes, being that I'm a Mainer (who can relate to the quirky Mainer personality types) and a long-time user of Burt's Bees products. My aesthetic is similarI like graphic design that is simple, yet slightly old-fashioned looking; I like products that are all-natural. But this documentary left me with more questions than I came in with (not knowing anything about the history of the company, I wanted to learn why they felt Burt warranted his own documentary). First, I think it suffered from the narrative threadI wish it was told more linearly (start with early days of the company rather than hitting the audience with Burt's Taiwanese groupies in the first 2 minutes). Burt is quirky, but this doc doesn't give you enoughthere is no coda, there is no real mention of the current company's owners (Clorox), there is no mention of why Roxanne declined to participate (or if they even asked her to), Burt's manservant (or "majordomo" as he is credited) who is he, who pays him and why is he there? There are themes I wish they explored deeper: how does Burt feel about his image being on all these products, products that no longer follow his original vision. What does the son really feel about the situation (he seems to be doing the most diplomatic of answers to all his questions). here are some heart-warming moments: Burt and his dog singing together over Skype, Burt telling Taiwanese investors "we need to separate our needs from our wants", but overall this doc needs more.
Worth a watch (if you can find it), but I wanted more.
This was a good attempt at making a documentary about the Appalachian trail, but it needed a bit more focus and definitely better camera work. As it stands, it's more of "let's take the camcorder out and see who we meet today". The subjects were interesting and the premise held my attention but the stories became repetitive. I wish they delved a little more into why people were out there. The box for the DVD mentions that they were inspired by Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" (one of my favorite books), but the doc doesn't reference it once. Think they could have made a much better film if they went out with a plan to get the real stories of the trail.
Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)
I <3 LA... but not this doc.
I was intrigued by the premise, but lost my enthusiasm about 30 minutes in. For Act I, the clips he chose were from such obscure movies that I started to drift. To keep myself entertained, I started making a list of all the notable LA movies I knew and just waited to see if he was able to secure clearance rights to use them. (I was also confused, thinking the filmmaker was the narrator, but he wasn't and both of them work in the industrywhich the voice-over rails against the public's conception that "everyone who lives in LA obviously works for Hollywood". So confused.) My list of movies that he missed (in favor of such gems as: The Glitter Dome, The Howling II, and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) Speed, 2 Days in the Valley, Boogie Nights, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Beverly Hills Cop, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, City of Angels, Colors, Pulp Fiction, Training Day, Shampoo... I could go on...and on. I was angered by the random clip of Paris from "Armageddon" which netted :30 of random screen time and a clip from a Jerry Lewis movie in a grocery store that literally didn't have anything to do with Los Angeles. I was glad that he self-censored and didn't give away the ending to Chinatown...but not thirty seconds later he blew the ending of Sunset Blvd. (And then more damning, the ending of L.A. Confidential). Act III seems tacked on and overblown (why do some movies get :10 of commentary and "The Exiles" gets 8 minutes?) Overall, this whole thing seems like a college dissertation project.
Some editing issues, but a good watch nonetheless.
The mystery is interestingI've seen the tiles in NY and wondered what they could mean but they were so obscure that I would usually forget about them as soon as I walked past. These 3 amateur detectives wanted the real story so they spent years tracking down the slimmest threads...which miraculously lead them where they wanted to go. My issue with this doc were all editing choicesthe music and video fading out every 30 seconds after someone finished a thought got obnoxious very quickly. The inclusion of Justin's juvenile lapses and his love of pigeons was placed in oddly, and overall I thought it could have been laid out better. I also wish they talked to someone about the psychology of why someone would do this and how exactly the tiles were made (are they ceramic? rubber? how do they stick and become basically embedded in the roadway?) I wasn't as fussed by the "inconclusive ending" as many were; I actually appreciate them leaving the tiler in his privacy. But! It's a very interesting mystery and a fun watch.
Yes, it's almost 3 hours long. Yes, it's just 4 chemically altered characters alternating between yelling at each other and doing pages-long soliloquies. Yes, they never leave the single set. And you know what? It's amazing. This is literally master class in acting. Eugene O'Neill is a tough slog, but it was totally worth it to see these 4 inhabit the roles. I've forgotten how good an actor Peter Gallagher is and it's no small feat holding your own against Jack Lemmon. Don't try to compare it to the 1962 Katharine Hepburn film version... this one is like going to the theater, without having to leave your couch.
Garbo: El espía (2009)
Odd style makes an interesting story not believable.
I'm on a roll this week watching bad docs with subjects that should have made them much more interesting. I'm still trying to figure this one out. Obviously the interviewees think this is an amazing story, but the viewer is left wondering whythe doc takes this amazing story and tries to tell it using old movie clips whose only connection is that they were about WWII. I didn't like the fact that we are not introduced to these interviewees until midway through the film, that there are long pauses of silence (where it seems narration should have been placed but wasn't) and the music was disconcerting (to be diplomatic... to be rude, it was awful). I could see how this story would make a great Hollywood movie, but the way it was presented here, I had a hard time believing any of it was true.