Documentary filmmaker Patrick Creadon spends a year in Bertie County, North Carolina, one of the poorest counties in the state, as he follows a group of students in a new experimental education program called Studio H which stands for Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happiness. Architects Matthew Miller and Emily Pilloton goal is to teach kids how to apply design concepts and thinking to their every day lives.
Several years ago I talked with some of my business partners about the idea of creating a documentary about the experience of attending Comic-Con, one of the largest pop cultural conventions in the world. I thought it’d be fun to have a camera follow me around the show floor and showcase what it is really like to be a Journalist covering a convention that really isn’t made for Journalist. You would get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to arrange interviews, watch me have one of my legendary meltdowns and more. The funny thing is, real filmmakers had the same idea.
The documentary Bully has generated a lot of pre-release buzz due to the MPAA’s insane decision to slap an R Rating on the movie. In a brilliant bit of marketing the folks at The Weinstein company launched a massive campaign to fight back and ultimately lost. They took out the “offending” scene so that they could get a PG-13 rating.
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Did you know that today, September 29, is NATIONAL COFFEE DAY? Don’t worry, I didn’t either, despite my severe addiction to this glorious brown liquid. Whether it is the caffeine I can’t do without or the fantastic taste of a dark-brewed blend containing outrageous amounts of sugar and milk, the truth is this brown liquid keeps me company every morning. Now, I do not usually take time to discuss documentaries when we have a bright, new TV season to play with, but when I saw that CNBC will be providing an inside look to my greatest addiction, I had to take a look.
Coffee has been called The Social Drink and it is the jolt that gets us through the day, and the one we can’t seem to live without. Once just our morning fix, it has become an American cultural obsession in a nation that consumes 400 million cups of it—every day! It is also an $70 Billion global market. On National Coffee Day, CNBC presents a special one-hour documentary titled “The Coffee Addiction,” on Thursday, September 29th at 9PM ET/PT. This report allows us to see the journey of the coffee bean from the jungles of Peru as it makes its journey to ultimately end in our cup. We will get an interesting look at the major players (like Starbucks), the way this commodity is traded, and even peek into the health effects. It will be hard to look at my morning coffee in quite the same after this. And don’t worry about that 9pm time interfering with your other programs; if you check the listings, you will see multiple airings of this program. Details on it follow.
Who doesn’t like a good Bongo Drums. We know the Fonz loved him some bongos. Here’s a pretty cool clip of Big Black from Sony Classic’s upcoming concert film/documentary Soul Power. SOUL POWER is a verité documentary about this legendary music festival (dubbed “Zaire ‘74”), and it depicts the experiences and performances of such musical luminaries as James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz, among a host of others. At the peak of their talents and the height of their careers, these artists were inspired by this return to their African roots, as well as the enthusiasm of the Zairian audience, to give the performances of their lives. The concert has achieved mythological significance as the definitive Africa(n)-American musical event of the 20th Century.
Earth, the first release from the new arm of Disney, DisneyNature, may be the most beautifully shot film you will see all year – and James Earl Jones could make the phone book sound great. Unfortunately, the cinematography is really the only stellar part of the film.
The trailer for Earth says it follows three animal families. That’s only partially true. Besides the attention spent on the polar bear family, the elephant family and the whale family, we get detours to watch wolves stalk caribou, baboons having a problem with “waterfront property,” and penguins [which have their own, “built-in toboggans”]. The result is that, of the film’s ninety-six minutes, after digressions and credits, there’s about eighty minutes split between the three families – most of it on the elephants.
Josh Gates’ Destination: Truth opens its second season [Sci Fi, Wednesdays, 10/9C] by tackling two intriguing situations. First, Gates and his crew [pictured] travel to Queensland, Australia to investigate sightings of a creature called the Yowle [yow-lee] – a creature whose description is familiar to many different cultures, which have given the creature names like Sasquatch, Bigfoot and/or Yeti. The second investigation in the second season premiere concerns a haunted mosque in Malaysia.
In each case, Gates and his crew follow their tried and true protocol: journeying to the sight of their subjects; setting up their equipment, and then waiting and watching for something to happen.
On paper that sounds pretty dull, but when members of Gates’ team encounter stuff that shouldn’t be there – like the shredded trees in Queensland, or hear sounds that have no visible source in the Malaysian mosque – it does give the viewer a bit of a jolt.
Unfortunately, the screener Sci Fi sent out was a rough cut that didn’t have the final portion of the episode – the part where they got the results of their collected evidence, so I can’t really say how things play out [not that I’d give spoilers, though knowing the results might have slanted my review differently]. The documentary style of shooting does have the effect of drawing the viewer into this world, though.
While I’m not exactly a fan of reality TV, the two case studies offered here present a certain amount of potential evidence of the existence of something that may not be from the realm of current scientific thought, and it would be interesting to see whether that evidence did support the existence of the Yowle, or the Malaysian mosque ghost.
Final Grade: B-
April 6, 1968 – just over twenty-four hours after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, James Brown took the stage at the Boston Gardens for a concert that was televised live – and simulcast on radio – and what riots had been on the brink of turning the city into a conflagration, simply went away.
Shout Factory’s three DVD set I Got the Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s features The Night James Brown Saved Boston, a look back at what might just be the single most important music concert in history. Combining documentary footage of the riots that followed King’s assassination with clips from news reports of his death and interviews with members of Brown’s band, his manager, the former Mayor of Boston [who almost cancelled the concert], the Reverend Al Sharpton and more, the documentary that takes up disc one, paints a picture of an extraordinary evening that left Boston relatively unscathed while every other major city in America burned.
The seventy-five minute documentary includes television footage from Brown’s concert and shows his mastery of his music and his uncanny ability to read an audience. In one sequence, fans climb up on stage after Brown has waved the police back. Instead of showing fear, Brown shames them into leaving the stage – and carries on. The set’s first DVD also includes well over an hour of extra interview footage that adds to our understanding of the magnitude of what Brown did that night.
James Brown Live at the Apollo ’68 features performances culled from Brown’s performances at the legendary Apollo Theater and his performance of Out of sight from the acclaimed concert film, The T.A.M.I. show. One again, we can see the power that Brown had to command an audience’s attention – and devotion.
The final disc of the set is James Brown Live at the Boston Garden – April 5, 1968. Yup, it’s the concert that Brown gave the night after the Martin Luther King assassination. The DVD is a combination of the televised show plus additional audio from the FM radio simulcast. Despite the fact that the public television station remote crew had never recorded anything like the Brown concert [they had been doing classical concerts, primarily], the WGBH crew manages to capture the raw energy and power of Brown’s performance.
Besides the monumental importance of the Boston concert in terms of helping keep the city’s black population from falling into rioting, this disc shows that – even with an inexperienced crew televising the event – Brown was a masterful entertainer. His band is as tight as a band can be and yet swings like mad. Brown’s vocals pivot from a hushed moan to a full on wail in the turn of a phrase. The music is all. Brown uses his music to project hope and life into an arena – and city – where it had been thought lost only the night before. It’s a masterful performance – perhaps the best single performance of Brown’s long and illustrious career.
The set also includes a twenty-four page booklet that details the life of James Brown.
Grade: I Got the Feelin’ – James Brown in the ‘60s – A+
Grade: Features: B+
Final Grade: A