Documentaries to Watch — and Watch Out For

Posted on January 27, 2018 at 3:14 am

Patheos has a new Docs/Ology section with recommended documentaries like two of 2017’s best, “Jane” and “Faces Places.”

And Daily Dot has a great guide to the best documentaries on Amazon Prime.  Some of my favorites on the list include “Gleason,” the “Paradise Lost” trilogy, and “I Am Not Your Negro.”

Both are terrific sources for making sure you can find the best of the real stories made by the best filmmakers.

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Critics Documentary

New From Audible: Quidditch Through the Ages

Posted on January 26, 2018 at 1:00 am

New from Audible: J.K. Rowling’s new book, Quidditch Through The Ages, is now available for preorder for download this March. The audiobook, read by Andrew Lincoln, charts the history of Quidditch from its early origins to the modern-day sport loved by so many wizard and Muggle families around the world. This audio edition of Quidditch Through the Ages includes over an hour and a half of exclusive bonus content, featuring The History of the Quidditch World Cup, written by J.K. Rowling in 2014 for pottermore.com, now brought to life for the first time. Explore some of the Daily Prophet’s reports on the preliminary rounds of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup, also written by J.K. Rowling, via the voices of our two commentators, Ginny Potter and Rita Skeeter. You will feel like you’re listening to a real-life Quidditch match as they report live on the Final of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup.

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Books

Trailer: America’s Musical Journey with Morgan Freeman

Posted on January 25, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Morgan Freeman narrates “America’s Musical Journey,” a 3D documentary exploring the story of American jazz, blues, country, rock, and more.

Grammy Award®-nominated singer and songwriter Aloe Blacc traces the roots of America’s music, following the footsteps of Louis Armstrong through the colorful locales and cultures where America’s music was born. Moving through such iconic cityscapes as New Orleans, Chicago, New York City, Nashville, Memphis, Miami and more, America’s Musical Journey explores the collision of cultures that gave birth to such American art forms as jazz, the blues, country, rock and roll, hip-hop and more.

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3D Documentary Music Trailers, Previews, and Clips

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Posted on January 24, 2018 at 2:23 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and some thematic elements
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Medical tests
Violence/ Scariness: Extensive peril and violence, many characters injured and killed, zombies, guns, chases, crashes, and explosions, some graphic and disturbing images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: January 26, 2018
Date Released to DVD: April 22, 2018
Copyright 2017 20th Century Fox

These dystopian teen sagas generally run out of steam after the high concept of the first one. While this third and final chapter of “The Maze Runner” series is better than the muddled second one, it does not rise to the level of the existential drama original concept of teenage boys (and finally one girl), their memories wiped, forced to try to get through a booby-trapped maze.

Once they get out of the maze, thanks to the leadership of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), then there’s just a “Hunger Games”/”Divergent”-style race to the center of operations for the evil and corrupt regime (sometimes involving a lab with white-coated scientists torturing people) to rescue characters we know, some who make it and some who don’t, and also rescue the whole world.

The Jeremy Bentham/Trolley Problem issue of having to decide between the greatest good for the greatest number versus saving the people you care about is raised, which is intriguing, but not in a particularly thoughtful way. It also briefly raises the intriguing issue of how you can reboot a civilization to prevent the mistakes of the past, but spends most of its time on chases, explosions, zombies, evil scientists, and, as in all movies of this genre, the idea that hot teens are all that can save us. “If there’s even the slightest chance to save him, we have to take it, no matter what the cost,” Thomas says, which sounds great, but can that really be true? Doesn’t it mean risking the lives of many to save one? You can’t count on the movie-standard running through the bullets to work every time. But we cannot expect too much from a movie where the bad guys work for a corporation called WCKD.

The action scenes are dynamic and exciting, but there are too many of them and as the film edges past two hours it all gets numbing. There isn’t much help from the grim dialogue, which has a numbing effect as well: “We started this thing together. Maybe we’ll end it that way, too.” “They can only poke the hornet’s nest do long before they get stung.” “It’s amazing what people can accomplish when their survival is at risk.” This movie plays less like their survival is at risk than that they were just trying to make it to the end.

Parents should know that this movie has extended peril and violence with many characters injured and killed and some graphic and disturbing images involving zombies, guns, chases, explosions, and medical torture, as well as some strong language.

Family discussion: Who should decide whether a few get sacrificed to save the rest? What is important about the way Thomas is different from the others? In these films, “Hunger Games,” and “Divergent,” how did well-intentioned efforts to solve past problems create bigger problems?

If you like this, try: the earlier “Maze Runner” films and “The Hunger Games”

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Action/Adventure Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy movie review Series/Sequel Stories about Teens

Oscar Nominations 2018 — A Small Step Forward

Posted on January 23, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Copyright 2017 A24
The traditionally all-white male category of Best Director took a small step forward in this year’s Oscar nominations by including Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), with both films also getting nominations for Best Picture and for acting (Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf for “Lady Bird,” Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out”). It is worth pointing out that both Gerwig and Peele are young by director standards, and both are nominated for the first films they directed (Gerwig was co-director previously, but this is her first solo outing).

Copyright Universal 2017

I would like to have seen Dee Rees get nominated for “Mudbound” (and “Mudbound” nominated for Best Picture, but it was good to see Mary J. Blige get a Supporting Actress nomination for her extraordinary performance in that film. I would also like to have seen “Florida Project” get more attention, though I am glad Willem Dafoe was nominated for one of his all-time best performances, even more extraordinary because he was the only professional actor in nearly all of his scenes. I did not like “The Phantom Thread” but was mesmerized by Lesley Manville’s performance and am delighted she was recognized with a nomination.

For me, one of the most interesting line-ups this year was the Best Director category because for the first time, all five nominees also wrote their films.

I was very sorry that the following were overlooked: Michael Stuhlbarg and Armie Hammer for “Call Me By Your Name,” Tiffany Haddish for “Girls Trip,” “Wonder Woman” and “The Big Sick” for Best Picture. I’ll be looking forward to the Spirit Awards (for independent films) to correct some of these oversights.

And the toughest category to predict this year is the one at the top. “The Post” seems like the all-around likeliest candidate in terms of seriousness and broad appeal. But the preliminary indicators all seem to be going toward much more divisive films: “Three Billboards” or “Shape of Water.” “Shape of Water,” with it’s near-record 13 nominations, may just get the top prize.

Best Picture:

“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Director:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

Animated Feature:

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Animated Short:

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Adapted Screenplay:

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Original Screenplay:

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Cinematography:

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Best Documentary Feature:

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
“Faces Places,” JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda
“Icarus,” Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
“Last Men in Aleppo,” Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen
“Strong Island,” Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel
“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon
“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Best Live Action Short Film:

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

Film Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

Sound Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green
“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King
“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Sound Mixing:

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

Production Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

Original Score:

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Original Song:

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Makeup and Hair:

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

Costume Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran
“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran
“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges
“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira
“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

Visual Effects:

“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

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Awards
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