304 posts categorized "Documentary"

March 06, 2019

MADE IN SHEFFIELD

MadeThe industrial city of Sheffield, England was the birthplace for the electronic pop explosion of post punk bands like "Vice Versa," "The Human League," "Heaven 17," "ABC,” and "Cabaret Voltaire." Slick style and cultural cool pulses, heats up, and grows on an international level in a bastion of fearless creativity. Here is an essential chapter of musical history brought to relevant life and context.   

In this enthusiastic, if brief (it clocks in at only 52 minutes), documentary filmmaker Eve Wood charts the lineage of the daring young musicians who created a modern and challenging brand of utopic music that lives on today through bands like "Stereolab" and "Ladytron." 

Made In Sheffield

Through interviews with band members (such as Phil Oakey of The Human League), and rare live performance footage, "Made In Sheffield" fills an essential period that linked Punk to the British New Wave with bands intent on destroying rock music. Interview subjects like the late John Peel, The Human League’s Phil Oakey and Ian Craig Marsh, and music critic Andy Gill shed light on the indispensable influence of Sheffield’s electronic music scene. This documentary is an important film for any serious music lover.

Not rated. 52 mins. (A-)Four Stars

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February 28, 2019

HUMMUS! THE MOVIE

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More character and social study than the historically relevant document you might hope for, “Hummus! The Movie” comes up short. It doesn’t help that a stark omission of necessary subtitles will prevent English speaking audiences from understanding a significant portion of the documentary. A lack of chyrons places further distance from the viewer.

We’re introduced to several Middle East restaurateurs who feature hummus on their menu to the delight of crowds willing to wait on line for culinary delights. We learn that Christian monks in Abu Gosh, Jerusalem are big fans of hummus.  

Hummus

A tale of rival hummus shops fails to deliver a punch line. Still, the film wins points by introducing us to one hilarious individual in the guise of a man who is a teacher, mentor, hip-hop singer, DJ, rabbi, and grand master of an untitled martial arts system. This dude is a stone-cold trip. Here is one fascinating character who deserves a documentary more than hummus does, in the context of this picture anyway.  

Glaringly, the filmmakers don’t engage audience taste buds accustomed to watching Top Chef Masters. We need to hear a chef wax poetic about the fresh lemon brightness, and bite of parsley, to begin to imagine what makes this food such an ideal canvas for other flavors to harmonize.

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I love hummus; I eat it all the time. Sadly this movie doesn’t move me to understand or enjoy hummus any more than I already do. That’s not to say that this movie was obligated to do such a thing, but it didn’t hold my interest enough to not consider such details. Here is a perfunctory documentary that doesn’t inspire its audience on any level. What a waste.  

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THE REMARKABLE LIFE OF JOHN WELD

John WeldPlainly composed reenactments of sequences from actor/stuntman-turned-novelist John Weld’s picaresque life add charm to this heartfelt, if unpretentious, biopic. Peter Coyote’s familiar voice provides warm authority to the voice-over narration amid commentary from a handful of professionals whose identities get brushed over due to the filmmakers’ limited use of chyrons. Note to documentarians, chyrons should always be present when commentators are speaking if the audience is to know who is doing the editorializing.

This isn’t a flashy documentary that you’re likely to write home about, but it reflects well on a romantic soul who followed his heart and life lessons as learned from such towering acquaintances as Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, and James Joyce. Weld overcame a lack of caring or affection from his mother, by falling in love at the drop of a hat — not such a negative trait after all.   

Workaday television director Gabe Torres (“Fight to Survive”)  isn’t out to make a big splash, and that’s fine. It’s refreshing to be reminded that not every movie has to have a big budget or include A or even B-list actors.

Remarkable Life of John Weld

While “The Remarkable Life of John Weld” is modest in its approach, charming performances from Nick Tag (as John Weld), Claire Adams, and Varda Appleton provide a solid foundation for the story to unfold. John Weld’s life story is a reminder that success is what you make it.

John Weld

Weld instinctively understood what Joseph Campbell called “following your bliss.” In Weld’s case that bliss relied on the love of a woman with whom he could share his ambitions and desires. Indeed, there’s something to be said for that. Seek out this enjoyable little movie if you are so inclined; it’s still better than some Oscar-nominated movies that might come across.  

Rated TV-PG. (76 mins) (B) 

Three Stars

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