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Reviews for September 13th, 2013

Blue Caprice

Directed by Alexandre Moors

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at IFC Center.

The Investigator

Directed by Curtis Graham

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Gabriel's Messenger Films.
Opens in select theaters.

Mother of George

Directed by Andrew Dosunmu

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Opens at Angelika Film Center.

Naked As We Came

Directed by Richard LeMay

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Centaur Entertainment.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Documentary Round-Up

      Sample This, opening at AMC Empire 25 via GoDigital, is a music doc about how producer Michael Viner formed the Incredible Bongo Band in the 1970's which created an album with an underrated yet important song entitled "Apache." What makes the song so important? Ever since 1973 when DJ Herc found the album and looped the percussion breaks which made the song the most sampled song in the history of hip-hop--and an integral part of hip-hop to boot. Director Dan Forrer provides you with many details about the 70's era and the history of the song as well as the personalities that were associated with it. There's a lot of info compacted into 85 minutes, and, admittedly, not all of it flows smoothly from one topic to the next. Fortunately, Forrer moves the film at a brisk pace with stylish editing/cinematography, so it never truly drags per se. Sample This isn't nearly as moving, crowd-pleasing or powerful as Searching for Sugar Man or Standing in the Shadows of Motown, but it's nonetheless an insightful, slick and engaging music doc for fans of hip-hop. Over at the IFC Center, you'll find the fascinating and deeply moving doc Hawking about the life of brilliant cosmologist Stephen Hawking. Everyone--famous or not--has a life backstage and front stage. Most docs shed light on its subject's front stage life, but director Stephen Finnigan sheds light on what Hawking is like backstage, so-to-speak, via interviews with Hawking himself. Sure, you learn about his childhood, how he met and feel in love with his first wife, Jane Wilde, how they ended up divorced and how he started suffering from ALS. But what Finnigan acheives with Hawking is beyond just hagiography: the interviews with Hawking bring out his humility, warmth and wit. You truly get to know him as a human being and how he struggles day by day yet remains mentally strong, optimistic and hopeful. That acheivement makes this the best doc about Stephen Hawking ever made. Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction is much more than your average one-on-one interview where so-called journalists ask boring questions like "What was it like to work so-and-so?" or "How does so and so feel?" Director Sophie Huber brings out actor Harry Dean Stanton's warmth, humility and sense of humor throughout the interviews. You learn next to nothing about Stanton in terms of his childhood or how he broke into the world of acting---mostly in supporting roles with the exception of David Lynch's Paris, Texas where he had a leading role although he didn't do much talking in it. Actor Sam Shepard hits the nail on the head when he describes what makes Stanton so unique is that his face tells a story; his face speaks volumes more than words do. Lynch also has a few anecdotes and observations to add, but the often taciturn Stanton still remains an enigma by the time the end credits roll after just 1 hour and 17 minutes. It's worth noting that the cinematography occasionally changes to black-and-white which gives the film a refreshing style that's concurrently part of its substance. Adopt Films opens Harry Dean Stanton at Village East Cinema. For those of you interested in docs about food-related issues, there's the doc GMO OMG opening at Cinema Village by Submarine Deluxe. Director Jeremy Seifert sheds light on the dangers of GMOs and raises awareness of how widespread Genetically Modified Organisms are in America and throughout the world. Like a true journalist (unlike Michael Moore), Seifert remains calm and humble as he interviews a variety of experts ranging from scientists to farmers. He even tries to get an interview with Monsanto, but, not surprisingly, they decline. The footage of him interacting with his adorable young kids serves as a form of levity and, most likely, to help make the doc relatable and accessible to those who have kids as well. After all, educating our young generations is important to ameliorate our future----in other words, knowledge is power. GMO OMG could have been more enraging and gone deeper into the dangers of GMO, but then it would have alienated and scared away it's target audience: laymen. As shown in interviews with random people on the streets, most of them don't even know what GMO means, its significance and its dangers. Fortunately, this doc will be quite eye-opening and compelling for them. For those who already have a general understanding of GMOs, it does, admittedly, preach to the choir.

A Strange Brand of Happy

Directed by Brad Wise

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Rebel Pilgrim Productions.
Opens in select theaters.


Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

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