Archive for Documentary

Lunch Box Entertainment,

Brian Wilson, Cher, Dick Clark, Glen Campbell, Lou Adler, Nancy Sinatra

Back in 2008 Denny Tedesco (son of legendary musician Tommy Tedesco) put together a top notch documentary, but it could never be released on DVD. Why? For one reason, the royalties for all the great songs that in this documentary. Back in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s the primary recording industry was based in California. Groups were being formed right and left from the legendary Beach Boys and Mama’s and the Papa’s to lesser knows bands like Gary Lewis and the Playboys. Phil Spector had invented the “Wall of Sound” and records were sounding terrific. But with the huge number of groups and recording sessions, a group of studio musicians grew more and more popular by the record companies. When they needed a drummer or a bass guitar or a keyboard player, they would find themselves calling on the same guys over and over. Pretty soon they were well known to each other and making a lot of money, but nobody outside the record business knew anything about these. Before they knew it, they were making mountains of money, and almost every song coming out of California’s music industry featured the same band. They would record for three or four different bands in a day. This fascinating documentary if filled with interviews and songs with many of the greatest musicians you every heard of, and many of the greatest session players that you never heard of.

This is a stunningly well done documentary. Now it helps me a lot because I was born in 1951 and grew up with this music and had no idea this was going on. Denny also grew up with these fabulous musicians and a lot of the film is about the lives of the families of the busiest musicians on the planet and how they survived. But the most wonderful part of this document is the part that nearly became it’s undoing, the fabulous music. This sounds like one of those PBS pledge breaks with the fabulous music of the 60’s, without the begging for money as hit after hit after hit is played filled in with reminiscing of those who still survived in 2008. Many of those on the DVD are gone now, and it’s wonderful to see and hear them again. There are hundreds of stories, and this DVD is so well done that you feel like you’re at a recording session when these folks all take a break to share stories and gags. The most fabulous this is that is now available on DVD to own, and you can purchase your own copy, if you’re a fan of the great music of this time period. It was a time for great songs, great lyrics, and great music from this secret band of highly talented people who came up on they fly the licks and phrases, and the great introductions and arrangements that we remember. This is a MUST NOT MISS for children of the 50’s and 60’s, and certainly worth watching by anyone who loves the oldies or appreciates the time when music was produced naturally and not electronically like it is today.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 


 

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A&E IndieFilms, Asylum Entertainment, Passion Pictures,

Matt Sandusky, The town of State College, Pa.

Documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev arrived in Happy Valley (the nickname for the little town in northeast Pennsylvania called State College) along with a slew of news cameras as the breaking story of Jerry Sandusky’s (an assistant coach in Penn State football) arrest on charges of child molestation. The story was huge and dominated the news for a few days and weeks, but Amir stayed. He spent over a year in State College documenting the changes, the fall-out, and the attempts to recover from this regional tragic story. He focuses on Matt Sandusky, a young man who was taken in and adopted by Jerry’s family as a child, and through the turmoil it caused him and his loss of both a Mother and a Father through the ordeal as he tried to decide whether to tell his story at the trial or to protect his father. It’s a complex story and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye initially. This documentary does a pretty decent job of telling the story while trying to be fair to the people involved.

This film really made me sad. My heart was broken at the end. I don’t have sympathy for the people involved, but the entire thing was tragic. Penn State was one of the most successful football teams in college history. Joe Paterno was the coach and father figure for the town and celebrated as a great hero as he built up the reputation of the winning-est college football coach in history. Joe knew there was something terribly wrong with Jerry Sandusky. It was obvious that something was wrong with him, and it was obvious that Joe didn’t even like Jerry very much. When it became obvious that Jerry was doing some really bad things, Joe went to the leaders of Penn State and told them what he knew. They decided not to do anything about it to avoid harming the school’s reputation. Everybody looked away. Jerry loved kids, figuratively and literally. He rescued so many young men who were suffering from poverty and broken families. He started a foundation to help them, and sent many of them through college at his expense. But was he grooming them for his perverse desires. It would appear so. Meanwhile, in a little town like State College there isn’t much to do but celebrate Football, and the school became known for it, and Joe Paterno became the king of the town with a stellar reputation. When Jerry fell, and the stories came out, the first thing everyone wanted to know is how much Joe Paterno knew, and when he knew it. Joe didn’t go to the authorities which he knew he should have done, but he was also very sick at the time. Joe died from cancer long before the trial. The school was still concerned about their reputation and who better to pin it on than a guy who was already dying. The school terminated him and tried to wipe his name out completely even tearing down any reference to the man. This was probably to satisfy the NCAA that they had dealt with the problem and Jerry was in jail and Joe Paterno had been slaughtered on the altar of shame. But the NCAA wasn’t done. They decided it was necessary to punish the school and the students as much as possible. This they did with a huge hammer, wiping out all of Joe Paterno’s wins and dropping him from the winning-est coach to third place. Is it a tragedy that the school lost good students, had their reputation destroyed in a way that they will never recover from, and creating a huge divide between those who want to remember the guy who did so much to put them on the map because of some guy that had a desire for boys? Did Joe do enough by going to the school authorities and expecting them to handle it, and not going to the authorities. I’m sure Joe would even admit that he was wrong. He passed the buck upstream and that was a cowardly thing to do, but who are the guys who sat on that and did nothing? I have no idea. They’re hiding behind the curtain and threw Joe out for the media wolves. Still when the film was done, I just felt sadness for everyone touched by this. It’s a shame they could not have put a stop to this years before. There are people who hated this story, but those I fear are mostly those who hate football, or who are just unable to get past the horrible crimes Jerry Sandusky committed. I can truly understand that. But it was a shame. I thought this was an excellent look at the whole situation and I found it extremely interesting. You may not, and we all have our own tastes. I am glad I watched it.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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Antzworks,

Anthony Powell, Genevieve Bachman, William Brotman, Michael Christiansen, Tom Hamann, George Lampman, Peter Lund, Keri Nelson, Casey O’Brien, Christine Powell, David Prutsman, Josh Swanson, Andrew Velman,

This documentary by Anthony Powell documents an entire year in Antarctica and the problems and adventures there as well as the benefits and difficulties in doing it. Basically Anthony just turned the camera on himself and the poor souls who stayed there with him. They are scientists who investigate and learn what they can from the southernmost point on the Earth. Most of the people do all the work in the very brief summer that they have, and then go home before the bad weather hits, but someone must stay and mind the store, collect data, and guard the post through the long dark winter. The sun never rises for months, and temperatures of 40 below and hurricane winds are the norm here. Besides the ultimate cold, the bad weather, and the darkness, the challenge of being cooped up in a small building with very little interaction is difficult. It’s possible to go stir crazy in there if you don’t take precautions. It’s a long cold lonely winter, but the team finds ways to keep their spirits up. Mixed with excellent and beautiful photography, including some stunning time lapse segments, plus a plethora of scientific information, I was really interested in this documentary. We get to know the people without the drama and their acting for the camera and after the feature length film you’ll feel like you know these people a bit better. One particular scene broke my heart and it involved a seal that wandered into the camp. I have been pondering since I saw this film about that moment and why they do what they do, but I haven’t found an answer. You’ll know what it is about when you see it. I have seen a lot of Mt. Everest documentaries, and some previously on Antarctica or the Arctic Circle, but this one has a wealth of information on what the day to day life is liked cooped up in an igloo basically. It goes a bit deeper than the typical IMAX adventure, and is filled with information of all kinds. I recommend this documentary if you are interested in the subzero climate of the coldest place on earth. It’s well done.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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CNN Films, Film Rites, Kartemquin Films,

Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Marlene Siskel

This documentary was requested by Robert Ebert himself prior to his death in 2013. This film chronicles his life from a young man and early work for a Chicago paper as a sportswriter, and then as one of the early movie critics. He came into his own with Gene Siskel and became on of the most well known movie critics of all times. Then Cancer came calling and we have seen the shell of the man with a quick mind and all of his wit and wisdom who worked till the last. We learn a lot about Mr Ebert, his attitude, self confidence, and self esteem. Yet he was loved and feared at the same time. With a quick slash of his pen he could devastate a directory or an actor, and wipe out a movie, yet he viewed movie criticism as conversation, where it’s is fun to disagree and yet you can never be persuaded or change your mind once you’ve chosen a side. His battles with Gene Siskel, a personal competitor since he became the critic for a competing newspaper, and what came from pure hatred turned into mutual respect, yet they still took pot shots at each other throughout.

This is a very well done movie documentary, and I learned a great deal about both Siskel and Ebert, and how their careers and legacies were created, but also a lot of personal stuff about the life of this man I thought I knew that was intensely satisfying considering I knew none of that. Roger wanted his story told, and when his wife Chaz objected, he would wait until a day when she was not around and go ahead and do it his way without her having to see it. Right until the end, which is very vividly portrayed, they followed Roger’s demand that if you’re going to tell the story, you tell ALL of it and hide nothing. Based on his memoir, this film is right to the point and quick to the punch, and after it’s over, you’ll feel like you’ve been punched in the gut, but with a greater respect and admiration for one of America’s greatest writers. If you enjoy biographies and documentaries, then this is an excellent one.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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General Film Corporation,

Chad Moffitt, Sonam Sherpa, John Wraight, Joshua Rutter, Daniel Musgrove, Erroll Shand

This dramatized documentary (with some archive footage of the real event) describes the 1953 climb of Mt Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay that climaxed in a 15 minute stop at the summit of the tallest mountain in the world. In 1953 it seemed likely that someone was about to conquer Everest, and the British, naturally, were desperate to be the first. Edmund Hillary was a British subject, though born in New Zealand, he was their last best hope to be the first. This film documents step by step, the climb along with the extreme dangers and hardships that they faced. The pride the Kingdom felt when one of their guys made it was massive. But as we learn, they were very, very lucky to survive.

This is called a documentary, although it is played, for the most part, by actors. This film was made in 3-D, but I did not see it on the big screen. I can’t comment on the 3-D effects, but it doesn’t seem to me to be a huge deal, although the conditions on the mountain are splendidly portrayed. There were other attempts as far back as the 1920’s, and the mystery that surrounds George Mallory’s attempt in 1924 ended in disaster as they were spotted very near the summit but never returned. In 1999 George Mallory’s body was found, but it is still unknown whether or not they ever made it to the summit. For a long time the mountain was unconquered until 1953 when Hillary and Norgay made, and photographed, the summit of the highest point in the world.

This film somewhat misses the mark. As you may have known, I was always fascinated by stories of Mt. Everest and the many successes and tragedies there. I have watched and reviewed a number of films about this particular trek. But this one is rather straight-forward with not a lot of emotion, explaining the technical aspects of how they made the climb, but is lacking in details about the people involved. The few news reels thrown in to authenticate things tell about as much of the story as the rest of the movie does. It does give you a pretty good feel of climbing, and uses Hillary’s own words to describe the challenges and risks they had to take. It’s an interesting story, but I don’t feel it’s even near the best account of conquering Everest. I think perhaps they put so much stock in the 3-D gimmick that they neglected to tell enough of the story to give you anything new that you don’t already know. I am very glad I watched it, as I am very interested in the subject, but I hesitate to recommend it very highly as unless you are really interested in the men on the mountain, you’ll probably be let down.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog

 

 

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