Blackfish (2013) – Review

4 Stars

It’s Free Tilly argues the riveting documentary Blackfish, which chronicles the 40 year captivity of a Killer Whale named Tilikum. This specific mammal has been responsible for at least three deaths in the last twenty years. A host of Ex-Sea-World trainers and OSHA expert witnesses recount horrifying and often touching stories about captivity conditions and a lack of safety measures for trainers in the pools with these 5,000 lb. fish.
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Room 237 (2013) – Review

3 Stars

Room 237 is an exhaustive glimpse into multiple theories examining the text and subversive sub-text of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel, The Shinning. Running nearly as long as the subject matter, this nearly 2 hour documentary is an undeniably appealing conversation starter for any cinema-head. Using a savvy mix of footage from not only the source film but all of Kubrick’s film works, Room 237 blends VFX shots to manipulate the audience and create an experience similar to viewing a Kubrick movie for the first time, captivating and confounding in equal measures.
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Once I Was a Champion (2011) – Review

3 Stars

Once I Was a Champion is a defining look at the enigmatic life and equally mysterious death of MMA star Evan Tanner. Tracing the roots of this talented collegiate wrestler into his first forays on the mixed martial arts circuit. Tanner was a philosophical introvert, a man of great intellect and the body of a Adonis. Unfortunately like most notable athletes or any fallible human for that matter, Tanner suffered from bouts of great depression punctuated with long stretches of alcohol abuse.
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The Striking Truth (2010) – Review

3 Stars

The Striking Truth is somewhere between HBO’s 24/7 series and MTV Cribs. It is a handsomely shot film with aspirations to showcase two of the most popular Canadian MMA fighters of all time, Ultimate Fighting Champion Georges St-Pierre and dynamic MMA fighter David “The Crow” Loiseau. Those unfamiliar with the background story of these two warriors will find a lot of insightful moments, mixed with footage of ST-Pierre’s early fights on the local circuit. The legions of rapid fans that support these fighters and the sport in general, may find themselves bored. Particularly because the documentary was not authorized to include footage of UFC bouts. Leaving the curious viewer wondering what exactly went wrong (in some cases) or yearning to see the moment of victory.
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The Trip (2010) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

This docu/comedy hybrid is extremely pleasing for the majority of its elongated running time. Comedians Steve Coogan and working partner Rob Brydon travel the English country side together enjoying fine food/drink while verbally sparing and comparing celebrity impersonations. After being assigned to review a number of restaurants for a magazine column, Coogan invites his pal Brydon along for the seven day journey. Neither man seems particularly happy to be spending this amount of time with each other. The level of wit and sarcasm the pair repeatedly lobby at one another is the most amusing aspect of this peculiar film.
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Catfish (2010) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Catfish is one of the most compelling, disturbing and ultimately downbeat experiences I’ve had at the movies in quite sometime. This documentary (loosely termed) follows a young good looking New York Photographer as he develops a crush on a woman he met through the social networking site Facebook. Niev is a nice guy taken aback after receiving packages of artwork based on his published photographs begin appearing in the mail. Supposedly these ‘gift’ are sent by an affectionate eight year old painter named Abby, who’s part of a large family that includes a teenage sister named Megan.
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Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008) – Review

4 Stars

An incendiary look at the lies and myths behind steroids and their users. Director Chris Bell grew up a pudgy kid during the 1980’s until he found bodybuilding, inspired by his screen idols Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Hulk Hogan all of whom were on steroids. Bell turns the camera on his own family, including two brothers both on the juice and competing in bodybuilding contests. The scenes with the Bell family are riveting, equally so are the sequences in which Harvard professionals debunk the myth that steroids are ‘bad’. (more…)

Bra Boys (2007) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

This very one-sided yet entertaining documentary chronicles the notorious Australian surf gang of the same name and the Abberton brothers involvement in a messy murder case. The Bra Boys rule Maroubra beach sometimes with a thugs tendency for violence, this is a documentary about local ism over anything else. The film veers toward propaganda on a few occasions, we are meant to believe this gang is a bunch of good guys protecting their beach from the upper class suburbanites who just as much see them displaced. It’s hard to root for these guys when a brawl with off-duty cops sends 44 police officers to the hospital. (more…)

Terror in Mumbai (2009) – Review

4 Stars

This gripping documentary chronicles in merciless detail the harrowing events of Nov.26th and the 24hr terrorist siege on the city of Mumbai. Director Dan Reed the man responsible for the similarly unsettling 2003 documentary ‘Terror in Moscow’, turns his attention to the streets of Mumbai and specifically the historic Taj Hotel. Terrorist entered the hotel and systematically killed every person they could find. The fascinating aspect of this doc. is the intercepted cell phone conversations between the attackers and their ‘controller’, who informs them to kill all hostages ‘in the name of god’. (more…)

Reclaiming the Blade (2009) – Review

3 Stars

Daniel McNicoll’s exhaustively researched and often intriguing documentary examines the history of the sword and attempts to shed light on the overlooked world of Western Martial Arts. The film traces the lineage of the weapon through its various stages of importance to prominence on the silver screen. Stars Viggo Mortensen and Karl Urban pop up to deliver amusing and insightful anecdotes about legendary fight choreographer Bob Anderson (the guy inside the Darth Vader suit!). (more…)

The English Surgeon (2007) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Following brain surgeon Henry Marsh through his desperate attempt to help those in need in the Ukraine, The English Surgeon paints an incredible picture of life and loss. This is the type of documentary that can bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes without being preachy. Mr. Marsh is an entertaining character throughout the film. The movie builds up to an amazing brain surgery scene, in which Marsh operates on a fully awake man under cramped and poor conditions. (more…)

The Way We Get By (2009) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Current documentary filmmakers have a lot to learn from Aron Gaudet’s style. Instead of preaching and shoving a view point down its viewers’ throats, ‘The Way We Get By’ simply documents the story lines of several senior citizen troop greeters. This allows for a deep and compelling story to unfold before the audience, allowing them to get out of it what they will.

These senior citizen don’t sit around at the old folks home twiddling their thumbs. They are at the airport at all hours, whenever needed to extend an open hand or give a welcoming hug. (more…)