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Altman Review


Excellent

This isn't a tell-all doc about the iconic filmmaker: it's a love letter from his friends and family. With a terrific range of film clips, home movies, behind-the-scenes footage and never-seen stills, this movie explores how Robert Altman's work has forever changed the way Hollywood makes movies, simply because his inventive filmmaking style forced everyone else to try and keep up.

After getting his start directing industrial films in Kansas City, Altman made the jump to Hollywood in the late 1950s, annoying a range of studio executives with his preference for naturalistic, overlapping dialogue in television programmes. Then he made the jump to cinema and took the world by storm with M.A.S.H. In 1970, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes and introducing the "Altmanesque" combination of earthy interaction, ensemble casts and political subtext. In his documentary, filmmaker Ron Mann cleverly asks many of Altman's actors to define the word Altmanesque, not as it relates to the movies but as it relates to the man himself.

Altman was a rare filmmaker who was loved by his casts and crews as well as the critics. Notoriously picky film journalist Pauline Kael famously wrote that "he can make film fireworks out of next to nothing", and this documentary demonstrates this with clips and backstage moments from his classics, ranging from McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976) and Popeye (1980) to The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993) and Gosford Park (2001). The film's focus is on his movies, although it's narrated through personal interviews with Altman and his widow Kathryn Reed and features some superb footage of his sons. It also traces his ongoing health issues, from his heart transplant to his death from leukaemia in 2006. But there's little mention of his lifelong anti-war efforts or his controversial efforts to legalise marijuana.

Continue reading: Altman Review

Tales Of The Rat Fink Review


Weak
This animated presentation of hot rods as redesigned by artist-specialist Ed Roth (who became the "Big Daddy" of collector cars), will appeal to car lovers, Roth followers, and automotive hobbyists. For those who don't share the obsessive compulsion about wheeled creations, it's a ho-hum but amiable history of Roth's artistry as it evolved from beat-era printed T-shirts trademarked with the green rat fink image to car model kits and auto detailing. With the advent of fiberglass, Roth's inner muse found the freedom to devise new expression in the use of the hot rod as the motif for a unique, award-winning brand of counter-culture sculpture.

Roth's story includes the elements of iconoclastic rebellion and mechanical genius right up to his death in 2001. The film is immersed in animation by Mike Roberts and a CGI boost to animate available archive stills, all of which suggests the rebel's own grand cartoonish style.

Continue reading: Tales Of The Rat Fink Review

Comic Book Confidential Review


Good
Are you really into comic books? Really really? Like Kevin Smith-really into comic books?

If you answered yes to all three questions, you'll love Comic Book Confidential -- presuming you haven't seen it at some point in the last 14 years. Now available on DVD, the documentary lightly traces the history of the comic book medium since its inception, complete with stories about censorship, underground comics, parody, women's issues, and the various genre changes the medium went through.

Continue reading: Comic Book Confidential Review

Go Further Review


Good
Noted environmentalist/vegetarian Woody Harrelson takes a road trip with his unabashed hippie friends in Go Further, a crude documentary that follows his crew from Oregon (via bikes and a bio-diesel bus) to southern California, proselytizing all the while.

Nothing wrong with that, but the film is so riddled with cliches and old information that it's hard to muster much interest in the cause or, by extension, enthusiasm for the "film."

Continue reading: Go Further Review

Twist (1992) Review


Very Good
In Ron Mann's Twist, the third of his documentaries to recently be released on DVD, the dance crazes of the 1950s and early 1960s are laid out bare, with special focus on Chubby Checker's ubiquitous Twist.

Cleverly structured with archival dance instruction footage between vignettes, we are exposed to dances like the Lindy Bop, the Hop, and the Stroll, leading up to the infamous Twist, plus dances like the Monkey and the Mashed Potato that followed. Of course, nothing ever reached the popularity of the Twist (jeez, "Let's Twist Again" was #1 on the charts for over three months!).

Continue reading: Twist (1992) Review

Grass Review


Very Good
Ron Mann's documentary on the "war on drugs" -- marijuana specifically -- gets points for style and originality, but loses a lot of credibility due to its utter lack of impartiality. But with hemp activist Woody Harrelson narrating the film, I didn't expect much less.

Grass amiably traces the war on marijuana throughout the 20th century, from old archival footage, newsreels, and propaganda films and moving on into 1960s counterculture footage and Presidential speeches. All of it works well in explaining -- to some extent -- the political underpinnings of the drug war. As well, the medical research over the decades (all of which conveniently states there is no basis for the criminalization of marijuana) is trotted out.

Continue reading: Grass Review

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Ron Mann Movies

Altman Movie Review

Altman Movie Review

This isn't a tell-all doc about the iconic filmmaker: it's a love letter from his...

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