Posted in: Review

Amy

Before becoming a punch line for tabloid-huffing, talkshow-loving misery vampires, Amy Winehouse wasn’t just a star talent, she was a constellation unto herself. Bursting into the moribund pop music scene of the early 2000s with verve and danger, she came on like some savvier Billie Holiday in a field of Auto-Tune tarts. There’s a heavy dose […]

Posted in: Review

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Brett Morgen’s deft and fascinating documentary about America’s last true rock star is shot through with inevitability. But that never detracts from the raw emotional power of a film made up mostly of Kurt Cobain’s nakedly confessional journals and recordings. Whether it’s Cobain’s mother Wendy O’Connor talking about how “Kurt had to be born,” or […]

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Merchants of Doubt

One watches the earnestly comic documentary Merchants of Doubt with some confusion. That’s not because the story, about the professional deceivers who make a living pretending terribly dangerous things (smoking, climate change) aren’t so bad, is hard to follow. What’s difficult to parse is the PG-13 rating. This is, after all, a film in which […]

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Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Most mysteries start with an assumption: Somebody, somewhere, cares that the killer or killers are brought to justice. The mystery at the core of Nick Broomfield’s gripping, sickening documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper is of a different sort. It’s a riveting story: A serial killer initially suspected of killing ten women in Los Angeles during […]

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Last Days in Vietnam

The stark simplicity of Rory Kennedy’s masterful and Oscar-worthy Last Days in Vietnam stands in contrast to the drama of this complex and little discussed historical moment. When modern wars end, they are normally summed up in terms of strategies and battles, of winners and losers, how they impacted the great game of geopolitical gamesmanship. […]

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Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger

Intentionally or not, the tired myth of the noble gangster gets another rigorous workout in Joe Berlinger’s promising but undercooked Whitey Bulger documentary. Fortuitously hitting theaters well before Scott Cooper’s fictional (and likely mythological) take on Bulger’s life, Whitey doesn’t try to be the feature-length nonfiction take on the South Boston crime lord. Instead, true-crime […]

Posted in: Review

Anita

Anita is a functional film about an astounding person who faced the whirlwind and didn’t blink. It doesn’t do meaningful service to the larger story of persecution and discrimination and never scratches the surface of the poisonous vituperation that swirled around it. None of these things may have been necessary, though. Director Freida Lee Mock […]

Posted in: Review

The Act of Killing

In 1965, the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military. To do their bidding afterward, the army went out and recruited what were known as “movie theater gangsters” — young men who sold movie tickets on the black market and occasionally engaged in more violent activities. These gangsters were turned into death squads, their methods […]