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The Playlist

Review: 'The Source Family' Documentary

  • By Brandon Harris
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  • June 4, 2013 7:03 PM
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The allure of cults has always escaped me. Collectivism, communism, various forms of communal religious experience, even The Borg on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" not so much; since I don’t lump especially egregious forms of each in with the garden variety pejoratives often associated with cults and their members, perhaps I’m giving in to convention. Yet whether the flavor of the month is eastern inflected or based on the ramblings of a burly sci-fi writer, I don’t have the time of day. Especially anything proselytized by folks like Jim Jones or David Koresh or Aleister Crowley I could do without, but the extreme examples always grab all the headlines. It’s not just in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" that one may glimpse modern culthood. Where previously unforeseen spiritual clarity and emotional intelligence in some newfound way is promised alongside a simple, back to the basics lifestyle, the cynical, post-aughts side of my consciousness always veers toward thinking I’ve encountered a scam. I’m sure Father Yod would be no different.

Review: 'Venus And Serena' Offers an Intimate, Inspiring Look At The Williams Sisters

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • May 9, 2013 6:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Venus And Serena
Though it focuses primarily on the Willams’ career and personal lives in 2011, the documentary “Venus and Serena” covers their entire lives, beginning even before the elder Venus was born. Their father Richard Williams wrote an extensive plan for his daughters' success in tennis before Venus entered the world, not taking into account her abilities (or her sister Serena’s, for that matter). The film bounces between the near-present and the past, relating their training in the early ‘90s, growth and fame in the late ‘90s and maturity in the ‘00s and beyond. Footage from old interviews is interspersed with current-day interactions with the athletes to create a holistic picture of careers that are still going strong, despite opposition throughout their time as pros. Being raised in Compton doesn’t seem to fit with many people’s ideas about the normally aristocratic sport, and that resistance didn’t end once the Williams earned their fame and fortune.

Tribeca Review: Feats Of Superhuman Strength, Filmmaking Of Uncommon Heart In 'Bending Steel'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 22, 2013 5:04 PM
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You're not likely to see a more inspiring documentary this year than "Bending Steel," the story of one Chris Schoeck, an unassuming New York gentleman with one secret passion. Schoeck is a curious character, an admitted introvert with a slight stutter whom you can tell had to be coaxed to be on camera. When he travels the subway system, bundled up for the cold weather or clad in a workout t-shirt, he's just another fellow on the train, with his casual Irish boyishness on a face that doesn't seem to smile easily. And then you see in his warehouse, standing over thick metal beams, and his gentle hands seize a steel beam. Suddenly, a bit of exertion, and it bends. He isn't Chris Schoeck. He's Chris "Wonder" Schoek.

Tribeca Review: Silence On The Front Lines Of War, In 'The Kill Team'

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • April 21, 2013 10:03 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Kill Team
There's a stomach-turning sadness at the heart of "The Kill Team," Dan Krauss' austere documentary about a soldier trapped in the cycle of violence perpetrated by a group of soldiers indicted on charges of violence against innocents in 2010. While the media was more than ready to discuss a culture of violence, utilizing "Kill Team" as a fashionable headline-filler, Krauss' film places the spotlight on Pvt. Adam Winfield. Like the upcoming "We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks," which places a strong focus on walking security breach Bradley Manning as a square peg, "The Kill Team" paints a portrait of Winfield as an overly earnest young fellow far out of his league when paired with soldiers that, when armed, simply became Boys With Guns.

Watch: Massive & Detailed 7-Hour Documentary On The Original 'Star Wars' Trilogy

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • April 8, 2013 10:25 AM
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  • 1 Comment
So, you think you know every single thing there is to know about the original "Star Wars" trilogy? Well, certainly, given how well documented those movies have been in the decades since they changed the sci-fi landscape, we're not surprised by your confidence. But we're pretty sure you'll find something new to discover in this massive, seven-hour documentary trilogy covering "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return Of The Jedi."

Review: ‘American Winter’ A Devastating Portrait Of The Erosion Of The Middle Class

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 18, 2013 6:54 PM
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  • 4 Comments
With the nation’s economy continually on a knife’s edge, the past few years has seen the political discourse take a marked shift. Conservative politicians have started to lure voters with an image that they will tighten the wasteful spending in Washington, but for the most part, that has meant targeting social services. Indeed, healthcare, social security and other measures that are seen as bloated programs that will sink the country into financial ruin if they aren’t severely overhauled. And all of this is being done in the name of supposedly preserving the middle class, but as the documentary “American Winter” argues, the entire approach is not only wrong headed, it’s only making things worse for the people these policies are supposed to protect.

Watch: Alex Cox's 1999 Documentary 'Kurosawa: The Last Emperor' With Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Verhoeven & More

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 18, 2013 11:25 AM
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When you're one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, your life is likely to be thoroughly documented by others, and that's certainly the case for Akira Kurosawa. The director behind "Seven Samurai," "Rashomon," "Ran" and many, many more seminal works has been boxed, written about, discussed at and more, all at length, but his work is so rich and influential, there is always more to discover. And for those looking for a bit of a film class to start of their week, you can perhaps spend your lunch hour on this.

Exclusive: Poster & Select City Release Dates For 'The Source Family'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • March 5, 2013 10:02 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Contemporary music has its fare share of massive group ensembles, whether it's the extended Wu-Tang family, the robe-wearing The Polyphonic Spree, the numerous branches of the Elephant 6 Collective, or the various members of the Broken Social Scene club. But we'd wager few could touch the sprawl of The Source Family.

Watch: 1 Hour Documentary On Belle & Sebastian's 'If You're Feeling Sinister' Plus Trailer For Silkworm Doc 'Couldn't You Wait?'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • February 21, 2013 3:39 PM
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  • 1 Comment
If you came-of-age in the '90s, you might be feeling a huge wave of nostalgia these days. It seems every act from decade, no matter how small or marginal, is reuniting for tours, reissuing albums and are generally taking one last run at fame. And two more bands from the decade are ready to work your mixtape heart with a couple of documentaries.

Berlin Review: 'Interior. Leather Bar' Is A Surprisingly Successful James Franco Experiment On Male Sexuality & Filmic Process

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 12, 2013 3:43 PM
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  • 2 Comments
So let's clear up a few misconceptions about this film -- and of course there are misconceptions, it's a James Franco project. In fact it's the third title to boast his involvement at this Berlin Film Festival (after "Lovelace" and "Maladies"), but here he is pulling double duty as co-director with Travis Matthews, and performer, as himself (kinda). Firstly, "Interior. Leather Bar" is not a recreation/reimagining of the "censored," never-shown 40 minutes from William Friedkin's "Cruising," nor even footage inspired by that missing footage. Instead it's a semi-scripted, hour-long documentary about the production of that reimagined footage, in which much less of the actual recreated footage appears than the stories around its making, the concept behind it and the utterly self-conscious, self-referential approach. Hope you're still with us?

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