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Tag Archives: Documentary

Review: Freakonomics (2008)

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Books get made into great movies all the time. Look at Moneyball, Lord of the Rings, and Twilight! Well, I take that back. But books being made into documentary format are slightly harder to find. I read Freakonomics. Read it recently, in fact. So will this great book, “adapt” to the big screen properly?
Freakonomics delves into the minds of economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner as they look into the the “hidden side of everything”. The documentary takes the form of 6 stories, each directed by a different documentarian. They follow such topics as cheating in Sumo wrestling, what’s behind the name of a person, and the dishonesty of realtors.
If you’ve read the book, you might as well skip the movie version all together. While you would think that seeing the statistics visualized would be cool, I got absolutely nothing out of film that I didn’t get from the book. Now the question is, what about those who haven’t read the book? Well, I guess it would be okay. However, the distinct styles of each filmmaker make it for a choppy viewing experience. It isn’t a documentary as much as a bunch of 60 Minute segments cut together. So, a pretty meh movie for a pretty awesome book.

My Rating: C

Review: Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure (2011)

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Like listening in on people who are unaware? Enjoy hearing the arguments that happen everyday across this country? Do you like the sounds of homophobic slurs and incessant swearing? Go ahead and enter, if not, I’d pass on this “misadventure”.

Shut Up Little Man! is a documentary following the exploitation of two grumpy old men, Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett by two young men, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitch Deprey in 1987. The two young men resided next to Ray and Peter, and preceded to record around 9 hours of their alcohol fueled arguments. The cassette tapes would be passed along, and before the internet existed, the world had a meme on its hands. Filled with ridiculous dialogue and sometimes unrecognizable yelling. What it spawned was comic books, a play, and a race to make a major motion picture. However, we also get to see some of the dark side, from the nature of the two men’s relationship, to some of the bitterness still felt, SULM is not all raunchy laughs.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure I started watching this. The main culprit was probably the intriguing poster which kept showing up on Netflix. Whatever the case was, I wish I hadn’t started it. Besides the questionable nature of the recording without permission, at the end of the film I just felt dirty and felt really bad for these old men. The rest of the film seems to go nowhere, with many of the same clips being played over and over again. Although it was already a short 90-minutes, Shut Up Little Man could really be condensed to a 20-minute short.

My Rating: D+

Review: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

It may not be as dangerous as Supersize Me or Where in the World in Osama Bin Laden, but make no mistake, Morgan Spurlock has another entertaining and informative documentary on his hands with his look into product placement and branding in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

Sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes its unnoticeable, but no matter how it’s done, product placement in movies and television is a big deal. This time around, filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock attempts to make a movie about product placement and advertising, using product placement and advertising to fund it. The process of making the movie is the movie. As one Jimmy Kimmel states, “It’s the Inception of documentaries”. The real intrigue is how much “artistic integrity” must he give up while trying not to “sell out”.

So can he fund a movie without “selling out”? Well, you might have to answer that for yourself after viewing, but I do know one thing. Morgan Spurlock can still make a entertaining movie, without getting into “annoying-Michel Moore” territory. Could it go deeper into the system? Probably. But it still has enough content to make you notice all that goes on behind the scenes without getting too technical and in-depth.

My Rating: B+

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Review: Super Size Me (2004)

Fast food joints in 2004 were surprisingly different. Whether the changes made were due to Morgan Spurlock or not, we might never know. But this hyperbolic cautionary tale definitely started to open peoples minds about the fast food industry.

Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s feature debut, follows the filmmaker as he dines at fast food staple McDonalds for 30 days. Breakfast lunch and dinner. Plus, if they ask if he would like to “super size it”, he must oblige. Right from the get go, when he can’t stomach a super sized meal, and ends up with a mess, we know this might be harder than first imagined. While we learn plenty about the fast food industry, the real interesting tidbits come from American society, whether talking to schools or random people on the streets.

Super Size Me might not even make sense to first time viewers in a few years, after all McD’s got rid of the option not too long after the release of the film. And when was the last time you saw someone with a Big Gulp? So, maybe some good has come out of it all. While it is rediculous for anyone to eat out 90 times in a month, it does show you the power that those foods have. It may be telling us stuff we already know, but why haven’t we done anything about it?

My Rating: B

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Review: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011)

The documentary showing us the behind the scenes footage of Conan O’Brien’s Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour couldn’t have picked a better title. Through the revealing hour and half we really get to see the love/hate relationship he has with performing and his inability to ever stop making people laugh.

This BTS doc consists only of the time during Conan’s across the states tour. A short prologue of what happened with O’Brien, NBC, and Jay Leno is given, and a some text tells of what happens after the tour. Besides that, it is all Conan, all the time. He not only dominates every scene, but it basically in every scene.

I wouldn’t say this is some crazy look at the famous late night host that we have never seen before. Obviously, he is slightly different away from the bright lights, but he still has his sharp and sometimes demeaning humor not matter where he is. Some people say they lost some respect for him after watching Can’t Stop, but I don’t know why. If anything, I respect him more. Even though he is constantly signing autographs, taking pictures, and generally schmoozing it up with big wigs and fans alike, he continues. We get to see the wear and tear of this demand, and even though he hates it, he always goes out of his way to please his fans.

While I wouldn’t put this documentary on par with the likes of Man on Wire or King of Kong, if you are a fan of Conan O’Brien I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, or if you just want to see some of what celebrities have to do and the demand of their jobs and lifestyle.

My Rating: B

Review: The Fab Five (2011)

ESPN’s  30 for 30 series is the place to be if you have a thing for sports documentaries. As a not only a doc fan, but a huge follower of basketball, I was dying to check out their take on the phenomenon that hit Michigan known as The Fab Five. Since I was too young to remember the impact of the five freshman that shook the college basketball nation, the film was more informational than remembrance for me.

There have been greater teams basketball history, but the University of Michigan’s 1991 freshman class, who took over all five starting positions is one of the most influential teams; an influence that stretched past the court. Although they *SPOILER* never actually won a championship, the very way they lost was amazing (Just ask Chris Webber). Baggy shorts, black shoes and socks were just the outward stuff that others replicated. What truly was imitated was the style that just dripped off of their play.

The niche of the movie is pretty much just sports fans. There isn’t really anything endearing enough for it to go beyond that spectrum. While some commentator’s might say “it’s a story for everyone”, it really isn’t. If you are a sports fan however, it is a really good doc. For how good it is, I keep finding myself wondering how much better it would have been if aforementioned Chris Webber had chosen to participate in the development of the film. His absence, as great as his inclusion might have been, still doesn’t leaving any sort of gaping hole in the film. Although most people either love the Fab Five or hate them, you have to admit they are mesmerizing as ever even two decades later.

My Rating: B+

Review: Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

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They say truth is stranger than fiction. And Anvil: The Story of Anvil simply reeks of This is Spinal Tap. They even reference some of the classic mockumentary themselves (Hello Cleveland!).

Anvil was the biggest “could have been” rock band possibly ever. Although they played with the likes of Metallica, they were never widely popular. And now decades later, original members Robb Reiner (Not the director of Spinal Tap) and Steve “Lips” Kudlow are still trying to hit it big. A big tour across the world is the perfect opportunity to continue their dream. But like most bands, there are crappy venues, bad managers, and arguments to be had.

The best thing about this movie is the two people it features. Both Lips and Reiner have their own personality quirks, their own motivations, and their own style that becomes more and more apparent as the film progresses. Their love for the music and the band and also each other is what keeps them together throughout the bad things. I was surprised with how touching the finishing scenes were.

My Rating: A-