The People Vs. George Lucas (11/28/12)

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The People Vs. George Lucas covers the intense feelings towards George Lucas over the years.

This documentary, loosely in the form of a courtroom debate, gives both sides of the debate about George Lucas’s recent changes to the  beloved Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Many die-hard Star Wars fans abhor the changes made to the original trilogy and also the newer prequel trilogy, but some fans argue that Lucas has artistic license to make these changes. The film also gives a brief biography of Lucas himself and the release of Star Wars.

I am a huge Star Wars fan, my basement is littered with memorabilia and I’m not ashamed of it. Since I grew up with Star Wars, many assume I hate the prequel trilogy which isn’t true. Yes, they are disappointing films and pale in comparison to the original trilogy in my mind, but I’m not going to get worked up about it. Same goes for the changes made to the original trilogy over the years. Do the changes ruin the film? Not for me. However, at its core, what The People Vs. George Lucas is really asking for is the release of the remastered original trilogy in their theatrical forms and this is a viewpoint I share.

The People Vs. George Lucas is fairly interesting, as a Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan, but for non-fans I’m not sure it would be much more than “wow, look at those nerds get so angry about nothing”. Well, even I was kind of thinking how I was glad I wasn’t at that level of nerdiness that I would throw a tantrum just talking about George Lucas. The back-and-forth between differing viewpoints in The People Vs. George Lucas is interesting and works really well given the largely strong contrast between opinions but the entire thing goes on slightly too long and the filmmakers opinions start to become evident through what is portrayed.

The only people I would recommend The People Vs. George Lucas to are fellow Star Wars nerds. The downside is that we all have our own opinions and the film does nothing to persuade, only presents the opinions on both sides. It’s interesting, for sure, but it’s probably a limited interest group that would care to watch The People Vs. George Lucas.

I give it 3 HAN SHOT FIRSTs out of 5.

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Special When Lit (9/3/12)

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Special When Lit is a documentary that showcases the forgotten world of pinball.

The basis of Special When Lit is to highlight the fact that during the 50s and 60s, the pinball industry made more money than Hollywood movies but now pinball is on its deathbed. Highlighting the history, the rise and fall, and the people that love, play, and collect pinball machines. Much of the history is given by collectors and fans of the machines through a series of interviews. The film ends with a modern-day pinball tournament.

I watched two quirky documentaries (the first was Make Believe) in one day and so by the time I made it to Special When Lit my attention span was waning. As a lifelong fan of pinball, I was really looking forward to what Special When Lit would bring to the table and was left with mixed feelings. The history of pinball I found fascinating. The people that collect the machines and have literally filled their houses with them were intriguing. There is one guy who literally has parts of pinball machines that don’t exist anywhere anymore. Much of Special When Lit that isn’t a history lesson by the fans is a love letter from the fans.

Therein also lies part of the problem I had with Special When Lit; It turns out the people that are still really into pinball are kind of weird and there were times when I thought the documentary was almost poking fun at their hobby (or hobby turned obsession). This is always part of the problem with showcasing the outliers of society, there is a fine line between giving them your attention and poking fun at them, even if unintentionally. By the end of the documentary, during the tournament, I thought much of the focus from pinball had been lost and the people who still cling to pinball were in the spotlight. Not the we are outwardly laughing at these people but there is a sense of that coming across in the way they are portrayed.

If I could rate Special When Lit in two parts, I would. The beginning of the film I loved, with the rich history of pinball and hearing about its glory days. The latter half of the film kind of just unwinds and focuses too much on people in a way that I simply didn’t find very interesting. Maybe I was just getting burned out on documentaries, but I still wanted more from the film. Pinball fans should still check Special When Lit, it will make you want to travel to the nearest arcade to play.

I give it 3 Twilight Zone pinball machines (my favorite one) out of 5.

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Forgotten Disney: White Wilderness

Forgotten Disney: White Wilderness.

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Check out my guest review for Disney’s True Life Adventures: White Wilderness over at Forgotten Films as part of his Forgotten Disney guest blogging series. Be sure to follow for more forgotten film coverage.

I had a lot of fun watching this one, actually.

Hoop Dreams (3/26/12)

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Hoop Dreams is a documentary I was not expecting to be interested in. Like all good documentaries, however, once I was hooked I had to see things through until the end.

Hoops Dreams is a film about two Chicago high school basketball players with aspirations of making it big in the NBA. The documentary film crew follows the students lives all through high school and their first year of college, as well as the lives of their immediate families. We see all the highs and lows that come with the dreams of being a superstar and every stumble the teens take we can’t help but feel for them. We want them to succeed. We want them make it big. At the very least, we want them to rise above what society expects of them; a life of gangs and drugs.

A word of warning, the film is long clocking in at just shy of three hours. I had to take a few breaks while watching it just to keep my interest from waning. That isn’t to say the material is dull or boring, but it can be. I would be very interested to see the special features that Criterion packed into Hoop Dreams since it has been close to 20 years since the film came out. Since I watched this on Netflix Instant Watch, the special features are obviously unavailable.  The two teens are adults now and I truly wonder what became of them.

Watching Hoop Dreams with Moneyball still fresh in my mind was also interesting since we see the same sort of tactics in recruiting. Knowing what Chicago is like puts the film in a fresh light since being a poor black teen in the city must be close to impossible to actually get out of. While the careers of the teens show promise, will the life of a basketball player only just be a dream? There is a reason Hoop Dreams has been called the best documentary of all time.

I give it 5 state champion victories out of 5.

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Microcosmos (3/16/12)

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Let me make one thing clear about Microcosmos: There are absolutely no praying mantises wearing sunglasses. It also has no dinosaurs, so I’m not sure why there’s a tie-in to Jurassic Park.

Microcosmos, despite the weird cover art, is a documentary-type film with closeup shots of all sorts of insects. There is no real narrative, and the soundtrack is a mix of actual sounds and ambient music. Whereas Baraka shot different events worldwide, Microcosmos seems be worldwide but only covers insects.

The film itself is fairly short and entirely enjoyable. It came out years before Planet Earth, but the idea behind it is essentially the same. If David Attenborough decided to narrate Microcosmos, it would pretty much be identical to an episode from that miniseries.

There isn’t much to say beyond what I have already said. Microcosmos is a very enjoyable film, but I am a sucker for these nature documentary shows. Considering it came out in 1996, the visuals are quite impressive and the subject matter is timeless, though the soundtrack is kind of weird.

I give it 4 dung beetle dramas out of 5.

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