WE ♥ DOCS
Last year, student debt in the United States hit a milestone $1 trillion, with no signs of slowing down as admission and tuition are steadily increasing and have been for decades. Enter director Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times) and his documentary Ivory Tower, which looks at the inefficiency and shortcomings in university education, more specifically, the lack of government funding causing a rise in tuittion, but also the unwise spending on amenities that seem to hinder, more than bolster, their students' education, and the quality of it too. While the documentary seems one-sided to the point of beating a dead horse for the first half, it does move into more neutral and analytical territory. More below!
While the Marvel comic Fantastic Four has already come to the big screen by way of 20th Century Fox (who is working on a reboot), there was another attempt just 11 years before that from legendary producer Roger Corman. Back in 1994, the producer of fare such as Piranha, Children of the Corn, Death Race 2000 and Rock N Roll High School, was working on The Fantastic Four. The adaptation was trying to cash in on the early comic book boom following Batman, Dick Tracy and other adaptations, but the film ended up being a nightmare and never saw an official release. Now the documentary DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's "The Fantastic Four" shines a light on the problems and more. Watch the trailer!
While the iconic director Alfred Hitchcock is primarily known for being the master of suspense with classic films like Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds, Psycho and Rear Window in his filmography, many have forgotten one project that was outside of his comfort zone in more ways than one. In 1984, a Hitchcock directed Holocaust documentary called Memory of the Camps was unveiled at the Berlin Film Festival and also on PBS. Now Open Culture (via The Playlist) has found the 53-minute cut of the dark documentary which has footage of Nazi concentration camps as seen by the British Army Film Unit in 1945.
At the 2013 Sundance Film Festval, the documentary Life According to Sam (shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary) highlighted Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome as it afflicted teenage boy Sam Berns and his medical doctor parents as they attempted to take all the right steps to research, test and implement a cure. For those who don't know, progeria is an extremely rare genetic condition (one in 8 million children get it) that accelerates the aging process in children from birth until their premature death around 13 years old. Sadly, THR reports the charming Sam passed away this past Friday at the age of 17.
"Everything seems amazing in retrospect." At Sundance, we'll see a documentary looking at presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he embarks on and fails to take position in the Oval Office. But later this year, a former White House employee gets a different kind of documentary. The Fog of War documentary director Errol Morris is back with The Unknown Known, which focuses on Donald Rumsfeld, and his viewpoint of certain periods during his political career, including his highly criticized time spent as the Secretary of Defense when the US decided to invade Iraq. Rumsfeld almost seems creepily jolly. Watch now!
As cinephiles, we're familiar with the big screen career of the late, great Paul Newman. But did you know that the Oscar-winning actor was also a championship race car driver? Somehow back in October, a bunch of auto and racing outlets picked up a story from Racer about comedian and podcast host Adam Carolla making a documentary about Newman's racing career, and it doesn't look like anyone in the film world picked up on it. Lucky for us, there's a trailer that arrived last month featuring interviews with other racers and car aficionados like Jay Leno and Patrick Dempsey. But Carolla has his sights set on Tom Cruise.
Everyone in the world comes into contact with little known, small diners at some point in their life, and most will never be anything more than a place for some delicious grub. However, some real-life restaurants have been fortunate enough to become iconic landmarks thanks to pop culture. One such diner is Tom's Restaurant, whose exterior was used to represent Monk's Cafe in the landmark NBC comedy series "Seinfeld." Owned and operated by the Greek-American family of Minas Zoulis since the 1940s, the NYC diner used to regularly see a younger Barack Obama and John McCain have a meal, and director Gian Franco Morini and his crew wanted to highlight the diner's history with a documentary. Watch below!
A few years ago, exec producer Ridley Scott and The Last King of Scotland/Into the Void director Kevin Macdonald teamed up for a pretty impressive crowdsourced documentary. Life in a Day collected footage from all around the world to show people what it was like to be alive on July 24th, 2010. The feature length documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is available to watch on YouTube right now, and a holiday themed variation on that idea has arrived in the form of Christmas in a Day. Macdonald scales the scope back a bit by only featuring submissions from people celebrating Christmas in the United Kingdom. It's a nice dose of genuine Yuletide joy to check out on the day after Christmas. Watch it below!
"I'm proposing an alternate history of Vermeer." Sony Pictures Classics has finally debuted the trailer for one of my favorite documentaries of 2013, Tim's Vermeer, the directorial debut of Teller, one half of the entertainment duo Penn & Teller. The two introduce us to the entrepreneur/artist/inventor Tim Jenison, documenting the many years he spent attempting to debunk the great mystery of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. He invents a device which he believes is similar to the device used by Vermeer to paint his very detailed paintings in the 1700s. It's a very fun and fascinating doc that comes highly recommended. Enjoy!
"I just can't believe you're gonna lose." Kicking off with an eerily silent room after realizing that Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was going to lose the 2012 election, the first trailer for the Sundance selected documentary Mitt has arrived. We just learned the doc will premiere on Netflix shortly after playing for audiences at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival next month. The documentary seems to paint a narrative that looks at the man and the challenge of running for president without any sort of liberal or conservative slant, which would be a nice change of pace from the bias media we're all used to seeing. Watch below now!
It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, not awards season (in fact much of the talent behind the films we love would probably agree it's one of the worst times of year), but Christmas. Whether you celebrate the holiday or partake in Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Festivus or Merlinpeen, it's just a great time for family, fun, hot chocolate, and some great movies. To ring in the holiday season, we've got this charming short documentary called Mr. Christmas, which follows Bruce Mertz, a Christmas enthusiast who decks out his home in Concord, California for people to check out form all across the country. It's perfect for Christmas. Watch!
After just being named as one of the feature documentary premieres at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival today, Greg Whiteley's film Mitt will also be hitting Netflix while the festival unfolds in Park City, Utah. As the title indicates, the documentary provides an intimate, rarely seen, behind-the-scenes look at the run of major presidential candidate Mitt Romney. King of Kong director Seth Gordon also executive produced the film which begins in Christmas of 2006 and runs all the way to his concession speech in 2012 after losing the election to President Barack Obama. Hopefully it's more of a journey into the difficulty and madness of running for President of the United States as opposed to just propaganda one way or the other.
Time for the premieres! Every new year brings us another Sundance Film Festival and with only 38 days until Sundance 2013 kicks off on January 16th, Sundance has officially announced more of their line-up following the In-Competition selection and Midnight & Spotlight last week, mainly the coveted Premieres category, 28 narrative features and docs, at the world's greatest, snowiest film festival in January. Finally this is where The Raid 2 shows up, I was expecting it in the Midnight line-up, but it's a big bad premiere. A few other gems like A Most Wanted Man and Nick Offerman's one-man show on here, too. Full lists below.
"Awe-inspiring!" Among the many fantastic documentaries of 2013, one we suggest seeking out at your earliest convenience is a fun, fascinating art doc called Tim's Vermeer. The doc is the directing debut of Teller, one half of Penn & Teller, both of whom produced this film about their friend Tim Jenison, who attempts (and pretty much does) debunk the myth of artist Johannes Vermeer and how he painted such detailed artwork. The film has been receiving rave reviews from festivals all over (I saw it in Telluride and enjoyed it quite a bit) and has made the cut for the Oscar's Best Documentary shortlist, meaning it has a chance for a nomination. I'm sure a trailer is next, but until then check out the new poster below via HitFix.