Sometimes the least-likely subjects make for the most engrossing documentaries.
Best Worst Movie, directed by Michael Stephenson and opening exclusively today at the Inwood in Dallas (featured interviewee George Hardy will appear for both screenings tonight), is warm, funny, insightful, affectionate, touching, and self-aware. Did I mention insightful? Stephenson, who played the child hero in 1990’s Troll 2, popularly known as ‘the worst movie ever made,’ knows the movie is terrible. What’s more, he realizes now that his dreams of movie stardom were, at best, incredibly uninformed. But, most important, he has a sense of humor about the whole thing, and that’s allowed him to grow up and make one of the best films of the year.
Shockingly dull despite a bloated wealth of detail about its subject, Casino Jack and the United States of Money makes for a plodding, too-clever examination of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The new film is directed by Alex Gibney, a talented documentarian who lacks the snark of Michael Moore and the encyclopedic view of Ken Burns (though neither of these are necessarily bad things). Gibney’s two previous efforts, Taxito the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room were so powerful and well-made that they make Casino Jack look like a rank amateur’s first try. From awkwardly obvious and blaring musical cues to a no-style film style, Gibney trudges through a case well-documented by every news outlet in America without ever shedding any new light on matters or revealing anything of interest. When, late in the film, an image starts to skew slightly (as “arch villains” were displayed on the old Batman series), you really feel like he has nothing to offer on the subject. Continue reading Review: Casino Jack and the United States of Money→
Here’s an unqualified recommendation: See this movie.
The basic premise of Racing Dreams, which opened yesterday at limited engagements in Dallas (AMC The Grand 24), Lewisville (Studio Movie Grill), Mesquite (AMC Mesquite 30), and Fort Worth (Rave North East Mall 18), may sound deceptively limited. Directed by Marshall Curry, the documentary follows three young people, aged 11, 12, and 13, in their pursuit of a national championship title in go-kart racing. But these are not the type of go-karts you can rent at your local amusement center — they zoom along at 60-70 miles per hour — and these are not ordinary kids.
Transportive. The classical music that is caught in live performance makes A Surprise in Texas essential viewing for anyone searching for great piano playing. The young musicians who travel from around the world to Fort Worth every four years for the Cliburn Competition are incredibly talented. To watch their fingers dance across the keyboard is a marvel to behold.
Beyond the considerable attraction of hearing beautiful music performed by gifted young people, however, the film may leave you wanting. Directed by Peter Rosen, the documentary, which opened tonight at the Angelika Dallas and Angelika Plano (it’s also opening in limited engagements in Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio), assumes a basic knowledge of the importance of the Cliburn Competition, and prefers to spend time listening to the music rather than delving very deeply into the lives of the competitors.
“Being drunk is a good disguise…” — from the poetry of Jim Morrison
Tom DiCillo’s When You’re Strange gives a lopsided view of ’60s- and ’70s-era rock band The Doors, and a cursory one at that. The film seems more about the gradual disintegration of front man Jim Morrison rather than the band as a whole, as it persistently circles back to arty footage of Morrison travelling alone through the desert (these scenes taken from Paul Ferrara’s 1969 film Hwy: An American Pastoral) that only serve as a stilted reminder that drug culture doesn’t age well. When You’re Strange does benefit, however, from a seemingly endless supply of archival footage that suggests the band members were never far from cameras.