Reviews - Page 6

Giving you our points of view on the latest docs in release and on the circuit.

Babi Yar. Context Review: Sergei Loznitsa’s Deeply Moving Witness to Dark Days

In September 1941, on the banks of the Babi Yar ravine, some 34,000 Jewish men, women, and children were rounded up, shot, and buried in the loose sand. It was the beginning of the so-called final solution, the first time Hitler and his troops would carry out what would result in the deaths of millions upon millions of Jews and other “undesirables.” The event stands as a morbid talisman to the industrialized cruelty of the Third Reich, and with rising hatred and bloodshed, this historic wound continues to fester to this day. Celebrated and provocative director Sergei Loznitsa returns to

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JFK Revisited Review: Oliver Stone Goes Conspiracy Quack

In high school in the late 1980s, we had a visiting “JFK scholar.” (By day, he was a janitor at another local school.) He would come to give evening presentations about the bonkers events surrounding the JFK assassination. He had a copy of the Zapruder film and excited tones would speak of all the things that the Warren Commission fouled up in its investigation of the murder. We hear of magic bullet mayhem, umbrellas with secret flechettes, prostitutes dumped on the side of the road, and frame by frame analyses of the presidential headshot. It felt like we were being

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Heist Review: The True Costs of Crime Capers

Heist strikes it rich with a trio of zany true crime capers. This fun anthology of moral fables from Netflix offers three tales of cops and robbers in which the latter energetically articulate how crime doesn’t pay. The six part series covers three big scores and the high prices that the guilty parties paid while striking it rich. Directed by Derek Doneen, Martin Desmond Roe (who won an Oscar this year for the short drama Two Distant Strangers), and Nick Frew, Heist navigates the brazenness and ballsy-ness required to execute these capers. The fun, however, comes in the telling as

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Roadrunner Review: Anthony Bourdain Doc Delivers a Signature Dish

Cooking can be wonderful therapy. Few people grasped this sentiment quite like Anthony Bourdain did. Yet, tragically, food and cooking couldn’t save Bourdain, whose death by suicide in 2018 shocked the world and illustrated how large an impact he had on foodies and audiences who grew thanks to Bourdain’s wisdom. The late chef and subject of Oscar winner Morgan Neville’s Roadrunner displayed throughout his career the spirit-cleansing pleasure of preparing a mise-en-place, firing up a stove, and stirring a new creation to perfection. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a bittersweet and brilliantly unsentimental tribute to the man who

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The Sparks Brothers Review #2: I Wish You Were Fun

Fanumentaries are on the rise. These docs are generally lo-fi crowd-funded affairs that let fans share their passions with the world. The danger with these kind of fan-service documentaries, however, is that they generally assume that everyone cares about the subject as much as the filmmaker does. This challenge is not impossible to overcome: sometimes the best docs have a relatively simple premise and engage audiences creatively. On the other hand, it’s also a fact that, even in the best of hands, novel subjects don’t inherently make a great film. The latter is sort of the case with The Sparks

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Luben and Elena Review: The Art of Belonging

In 1990, Luben Boykov and Elena Pokova fled communist Bulgaria, saying goodbye to their friends and family, not knowing if they would see them again. “Traitors to Communism!” Russian KGB agents shouted after them as they disembarked a plane en route to Cuba from Moscow at its refueling station in Gander, Newfoundland. The young couple ran from the angry passengers still aboard the plane, leaving behind their checked luggage to confront the snow and Newfoundland’s howling winds. The documentary Luben and Elena is a portrait of a marriage, made by Bulgarian Newfoundland-based filmmaker Ellie Yonova in collaboration with the National

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The Adventures of Saul Bellow Review: Top of the Shelf

Saul Bellow is one of the most honoured writers of the 20th century. Over the course of a literary career that lasted well over a half century, Bellow won three National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the grandest accolade of all, the Nobel Prize. He ushered in the post-WW2 era when North American Jewish writers like Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer, and Mordecai Richler became best-selling novelists. His mixture of street wise argot and up-scale philosophizing hit the critics and the public as being utterly original; at any rate, it was a prose style that freed readers and

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The Legend of the Underground Review: Navigating Queerness in Nigeria

The Legend of the Underground (USA, 85 min.) Dir. Nneka Onuorah, Giselle Bailey   Audiences who (re)discovered Paris Is Burning thanks to the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Legendary will devour The Legend of the Underground. Much like Jennie Livingston’s acclaimed, if controversial, 1990 portrait of the New York ballroom scene, Nneka Onuorah and Giselle Bailey deliver an invigorating and necessary study of the necessity for safe spaces. The Legend of the Underground features a cast of characters with their fierce dancing skills, but the hook of the story is not the killer lewks or fabulous moves. (Which are,

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